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horse-tail standard set up in the midst; a party of gipsy-
women engaged in terrific conflict with a shipful of sailors ;
a man-monkey on a pole, surrounded by strange animals with
pigs' faces, and lions 1 tails, carried under their arms, or worn


gracefully over their shoulders; carriages on carriages, dresses
on dresses, colours on colours, crowds upon crowds, without
end. Not many actual characters sustained, or represented,
perhaps, considering the number dressed, but the main
pleasure of the scene consisting in its perfect good temper;
in its bright, and infinite, and flashing variety ; and in its
entire abandonment to the mad humour of the time an
abandonment so perfect, so contagious, so irresistible, that
the steadiest foreigner fights up to his middle in flowers and
sugar-plums, like the wildest Roman of them all, and thinks
of nothing else till half-past four o'clock, when he is suddenly
reminded (to his great regret) that this is not the whole
business of his existence, by hearing the trumpets sound, and
seeing the dragoons begin to clear the street.

How it ever is cleared for the race that takes place at five,
or how the horses ever go through the race, without going
over the people, is more than I can say. But the carriages
get out into the by-streets, or up into the Pidzza del Popolo,
and some people sit in temporary galleries in the latter place,
and tens of thousands line the Corso on both sides, when the
horses are brought out into the Pidzza to the foot of that
same column which, for centuries, looked down upon the
games and chariot-races in the Circus Maximus.

At a given signal they are started off. Down the live lane,
the whole length of the Corso, they fly like the wind : rider-
less, as all the world knows : with shining ornaments upon
their backs, and twisted in their plaited manes : and with
heavy little balls stuck full of spikes, dangling at their sides,
to goad them on. The jingling of these trappings, and the
rattling of their hoofs upon the hard stones ; the dash and
fury of their speed along the echoing street; nay, the very
cannon that are fired these noises are nothing to the roaring
of the multitude : their shouts : the clapping of their hands.
But it is soon over almost instantaneously. More cannon
shake the town. The horses have plunged into the carpets
put across the street to stop them ; the goal is reached ; the


prizes are won (they are given, in part, by the poor Jews,
as a compromise for not running foot-races themselves) ; and
there is an end to that day's sport.

But if the scene be bright, and gay, and crowded, on the
last day but one, it attains, on the concluding day, to such
a height of glittering colour, swarming life, and frolicsome
uproar, that the bare recollection of it makes me giddy at
this moment. The same diversions, greatly heightened and
intensified in the ardour with which they are pursued, go on
until the same hour. The race is repeated ; the cannon are
fired ; the shouting and clapping of hands are renewed ; the
cannon are fired again; the race is over; and the prizes are
won. But the carriages : ankle-deep with sugar-plums within,
and so be-flowered and dusty without, as to be hardly recog-
nisable for the same vehicles that they were, three hours ago :
instead of scampering off in all directions, throng into the
Corso, where they are soon wedged together in a scarcely
moving mass. For the diversion of the Moccoletti, the last
gay madness of the Carnival, is now at hand ; and sellers of
little tapers like what are called Christmas candles in England,
are shouting lustily on every side, " Moccoli, Moccoli ! Ecco
Moccoli ! " a new item in the tumult ; quite abolishing that
other item of " Ecco Fi6ri ! Ecco Fior r r ! " which has
been making itself audible over all the rest, at intervals, the
whole day through.

As the bright hangings and dresses are all fading into one
dull, heavy, uniform colour in the decline of the day, lights
begin flashing, here and there : in the windows, on the house-
tops, in the balconies, in the carriages, in the hands of the
foot-passengers : little by little : gradually, gradually : more
and more : until the whole long street is one great glare and
blaze of fire. Then, everybody present has but one engrossing
object ; that is, to extinguish other people's candles, and to
keep his own alight ; and everybody : man, woman, or child,
gentleman or lady, prince or peasant, native or foreigner:
yells and screams, and roars incessantly, as a taunt to the


subdued, "Senza Moccolo, Senza Moccolo!" (Without a
light! Without a light!) until nothing is heard but a
gigantic chorus of those two words, mingled with peals of

The spectacle, at this time, is one of the most extraordinary
that can be imagined. Carriages coming slowly by, with
everybody standing on the seats or on the box, holding up
their lights at arms 1 length, for greater safety ; some in paper
shades ; some with a bunch of undefended little tapers, kindled
altogether ; some with blazing torches ; some with feeble little
candles; men on foot, creeping along, among the wheels,
watching their opportunity, to make a spring at some par-
ticular light, and dash it out ; other people climbing up into
carriages, to get hold of them by main force ; others, chasing
some unlucky wanderer, round and round his own coach, to
blow out the light he has begged or stolen somewhere, before
he can ascend to his own company, and enable them to light
their extinguished tapers; others, with their hats off, at a
carriage-door, humbly beseeching some kind-hearted lady to
oblige them with a light for a cigar, and when she is in the
fulness of doubt whether to comply or no, blowing out the
candle she is guarding so tenderly with her little hand ; other
people at the windows, fishing for candles with lines and
hooks, or letting down long willow-wands with handkerchiefs
at the end, and flapping them out, dexterously, when the
bearer is at the height of his triumph ; others, biding their
time in corners, with immense extinguishers like halberds,
and suddenly coming down upon glorious torches ; others,
gathered round one coach, and sticking to it ; others, raining
oranges and nosegays at an obdurate little lantern, or regu-
larly storming a pyramid of men, holding up one man among
them, who carries one feeble little wick above his head, with
which he defies them all ! Senza Moccolo ! Senza Moccolo !
Beautiful women, standing up in coaches, pointing in derision
at extinguished lights, and clapping their hands, as they pass
on, crying, ** Senza Moccolo ! Senza Moccolo ! " ; low balconies


full of lovely faces and gay dresses, struggling with assailants
in the streets ; some repressing them as they climb up, some
bending down, some leaning over, some shrinking back
delicate arms and bosoms graceful figures glowing lights,
fluttering dresses, Senza Moccolo, Senza Moccoli, Senza Moc-
co-lo-o-o-o ! when in the wildest enthusiasm of the cry, and
fullest ecstasy of the sport, the Ave Maria rings from the
church steeples, and the Carnival is over in an instant put
out like a taper, with a breath !

There was a masquerade at the theatre at night, as dull
and senseless as a London one, and only remarkable for the
summary way in which the house was cleared at eleven
o'clock : which was done by a line of soldiers forming along
the wall, at the back of the stage, and sweeping the whole
company out before them, like a broad broom. The game
of the Moccoletti (the word, in the singular, Moccoletto, is
the diminutive of Moccolo, and means a little lamp or candle-
snuff) is supposed by some to be a ceremony of burlesque
mourning for the death of the Carnival : candles being indis-
pensable to Catholic grief. But whether it be so, or be a
remnant of the ancient Saturnalia, or an incorporation of
both, or have its origin in anything else, I shall always re-
member it, and the frolic, as a brilliant and most captivating
sight : no less remarkable for the unbroken good-humour
of all concerned, down to the very lowest (and among those
who scaled the carriages, were many of the commonest men
and boys), than for its innocent vivacity. For, odd as it
may seem to say so, of a sport so full of thoughtlessness and
personal display, it is as free from any taint of immodesty as
any general mingling of the two sexes can possibly be; and
there seems to prevail, during its progress, a feeling of general,
almost childish, simplicity and confidence, which one thinks of
with a pang, when the Ave Maria has rung it away, for a
whole year.

Availing ourselves of a part of the quiet interval between


the termination of the Carnival and the beginning of the
Holy Week : when everybody had run away from the one,
and few people had yet begun to run back again for the
other : we went conscientiously to work, to see Rome. And,
by dint of going out early every morning, and coming back
late every evening, and labouring hard all day, I believe we
made acquaintance with every post and pillar in the city,
and the country round ; and, in particular, explored so many
churches, that I abandoned that part of the enterprise at
last, before it was half finished, lest I should never, of my
own accord, go to church again, as long as I lived. But, I
managed, almost every day, at one time or other, to get back
to the Coliseum, and out upon the open Campagna, beyond
the Tomb of Cecilia Metella.

We often encountered, in these expeditions, a company of
English Tourists, with whom I had an ardent, but ungratified
longing, to establish a speaking acquaintance. They were
one Mr. Davis, and a small circle of friends. It was impos-
sible not to know Mrs. Davis"s name, from her being always
in great request among her party, and her party being every-
where. During the Holy Week, they were in every part of
every scene of every ceremony. For a fortnight or three
weeks before it, they were in every tomb, and every church,
and every ruin, and every Picture Gallery ; and I hardly ever
observed Mi's. Davis to be silent for a moment. Deep under-
ground, high up in St. Peter's, out on the Campagna, and
stifling in the Jews'" quarter, Mrs. Davis turned up, all the
same. I don't think she ever saw anything, or ever looked
at anything ; and she had always lost something out of a
straw hand-basket, and was trying to find it, with all her
might and main, among an immense quantity of English
halfpence, which lay, like sands upon the sea-shore, at the
bottom of it. There was a professional Cicerone always
attached to the party (which had been brought over from
London, fifteen or twenty strong, by contract), and if he so
much as looked at Mrs. Davis, she invariably cut him short


by saying, " There, God bless the man, don't worrit me ! I
don't understand a word you say, and shouldn't if you was
to talk till you was black in the face ! " Mr. Davis always
had a snuff-coloured great-coat on, and earned a great green
umbrella in his hand, and had a slow curiosity constantly
devouring him, which prompted him to do extraordinary
things, such as taking the covers off urns in tombs, and
looking in at the ashes as if they were pickles and tracing
out inscriptions with the ferrule of his umbrella, and saying,
with intense thoughtfulness, " Here's a B you see, and there's
a R, and this is the way we goes on in ; is it ! " His anti-
quarian habits occasioned his being frequently in the rear of
the rest; and one of the agonies of Mrs. Davis, and the
party in general, was an ever-present fear that Davis would
be lost. This caused them to scream for him, in the strangest
places, and at the most improper seasons. And when he
came, slowly emerging out of some sepulchre or other, like a
peaceful Ghoule, saying " Here I am ! " Mrs. Davis invariably
replied, " You'll be buried alive in a foreign country, Davis,
and it's no use trying to prevent you ! "

Mr. and Mrs. Davis, and their party, had, probably, been
brought from London in about nine or ten days. Eighteen
hundred years ago, the Roman legions under Claudius, pro-
tested against being led into Mr. and Mrs. Davis's country,
urging that it lay beyond the limits of the world.

Among what may be called the Cubs or minor Lions of
Rome, there was one that amused me mightily. It is always
to be found there ; and its den is on the great flight of steps
that lead from the Piazza di Spagna, to the church of Trinita
del Monte. In plainer words, these steps are the great place
of resort for the artists' " Models," and there they are con-
stantly waiting to be hired. The first time I went up there,
I could not conceive why the faces seemed familiar to me;
why they appeared to have beset me, for years, in every
possible variety of action and costume ; and how it came to
pass that they started up before me, in Rome, in the broad,


day, like so many saddled and bridled nightmares. I soon
found that we had made acquaintance, and improved it, for
several years, on the walls of various Exhibition Galleries.
There is one old gentleman, with long white hair and an
immense beard, who, to my knowledge, has gone half through
the catalogue of the Royal Academy. This is the venerable,
or patriarchal model. He carries a long staff; and every
knot and twist in that staff I have seen, faithfully delineated,
innumerable times. There is another man in a blue cloak,
who always pretends to be asleep in the sun (when there is
any), and who, I need not say, is always very wide awake,
and very attentive to the disposition of his legs. This is the
dtlcejm* nwnte model. There is another man in a brown
cloak, who leans against a wall, with his arms folded in his
mantle, and looks out of the corners of his eyes: which are
just visible beneath his broad slouched hat. This is the
assassin model. There is another man, who constantly looks
over his own shoulder, and is always going away, but never
does. This is the haughty, or scornful model. As to
Domestic Happiness, and Holy Families, they should come
very cheap, for there are lumps of them, all up the steps ;
and the cream of the thing is, that they are all the falsest
vagabonds in the world, especially made up for the purpose,
and having no counterparts in Rome or any other part of
the habitable globe.

My recent mention of the Carnival, reminds me of its
being said to be a mock mourning (in the ceremony with
which it closes), for the gaieties and merry-makings before
Lent; and this again reminds me of the real funerals and
mourning processions of Rome, which, like those in most
other parts of Italy, are rendered chiefly remarkable to a
Foreigner, by the indifference with which the mere clay is
universally regarded, after life has left it. And this is not
from the survivors having had time to dissociate the memory
of the dead from their well-remembered appearance and form
on earth ; for the interment follows too speedily after death,


for that : almost always taking place within four-and-twenty
hours, and, sometimes, within twelve.

At Rome, there is the same arrangement of Pits in a great,
bleak, open, dreary space, that I have already described as
existing in Genoa. When I visited it, at noonday, I saw a
solitary coffin of plain deal : uncovered by any shroud or pall,
and so slightly made, that the hoof of any wandering mule
would have crushed it in : carelessly tumbled down, all on one
side, on the door of one of the pits and there left, by itself,
in the wind and sunshine. " How does it come to be left
here ? " I asked the man who showed me the place. " It was
brought here half an hour ago, Signore," he said. I remem-
bered to have met the procession, on its return : straggling
away at a good round pace. " When will it be put in the
pit?" I asked him. "When the cart comes, and it is opened
to-night," he said. " How much does it cost to be brought
here in this way, instead of coming in the cart ? " I asked him.
"Ten scudi," he said (about two pounds, two-and-sixpence,
English). "The other bodies, for whom nothing is paid, are
taken to the church of the Santa Maria della Consol&zione,"
he continued, "and brought here altogether, in the cart at
night." I stood, a moment, looking at the coffin, which had
two initial letters scrawled upon the top ; and turned away,
with an expression in my face, I suppose, of not much liking
its exposure in that manner : for he said, shrugging his
shoulders with great vivacity, and giving a pleasant smile,
" But he's dead, Signore, he^s dead. Why not ? "

Among the innumerable churches, there is one I must select
for separate mention. It is the church of the Ara Coeli,
supposed to be built on the site of the old Temple of Jupiter
Feretrius ; and approached, on one side, by a long steep
flight of steps, which seem incomplete without some group of
bearded soothsayers on the top. It is remarkable for the
possession of a miraculous Bambino, or wooden doll, repre-
senting the Infant Saviour ; and I first saw this miraculous


Bambino, in legal phrase, in manner following, that is
to say:

We had strolled into the church one afternoon, and were
looking down its long vista of gloomy pillars (for all these
ancient churches built upon the ruins of old temples, are
dark and sad), when the Brave came running in, with a grin
upon his face that stretched it from ear to ear, and implored
us to follow him, without a moment's delay, as they were
going to show the Bambino to a select party. We accord-
ingly hurried off to a sort of chapel, or sacristy, hard by the
chief altar, but not in the church itself, where the select
party, consisting of two or three Catholic gentlemen and
ladies (not Italians), were already assembled : and where one
hollow-cheeked young monk was lighting up divers candles,
while another was putting on some clerical robes over his
coarse brown habit. The candles were on a kind of altar,
and above it were two delectable figures, such as you would
see at any English fair, representing the Holy Virgin, and
Saint Joseph, as I suppose, bending in devotion over a wooden
box, or coffer ; which was shut.

The hollow-cheeked monk, number One, having finished
lighting the candles, went down on his knees, in a corner,
before this set-piece ; and the monk number Two, having
put on a pair of highly ornamented and gold-bespattered
gloves, lifted down the coffer, with great reverence, and set it
on the altar. Then, with many genuflexions, and muttering
certain prayers, he opened it, and let down the front, and took
off sundry coverings of satin and lace from the inside. The
ladies had been on their knees from the commencement; and
the gentlemen now dropped down devoutly, as he exposed to
view a little wooden doll, in face very like General Tom
Thumb, the American Dwarf: gorgeously dressed in satin
and gold lace, and actually blazing with rich jewels. There
was scarcely a spot upon its little breast, or neck, or stomach,
but was sparkling with the costly offerings of the Faithful.
Presently, he lifted it out of the box, and carrying it round


among the kneelers, set its face against the forehead of every
one, and tendered its elnmsy foot to them to kiss a ceremony
which they all performed down to a dirty little ragamuffin of
a boy who had walked in from the street. When this was
done, he laid it in the box again : and the company, rising,
drew near, and commended the jewels in whispers. In good
time, he replaced the coverings, shut up the box, put it back
in its place, locked up the whole concern (Holy Family and
all) behind a pair of folding-doors ; took off his priestly vest-
ments ; and received the customary " small charge," while his
companion, by means of an extinguisher fastened to the end
of a long stick, put out the lights, one after another. The
candles being all extinguished, and the money all collected,
they retired, and so did the spectators.

I met this same Bambino, in the street a short time after-
wards, going, in great state, to the house of some sick person.
It is taken to all parts of Rome for this purpose, constantly ;
but, I understand that it is not always as successful as could
be wished ; for, making its appearance at the bedside of weak
and nervous people in extremity, accompanied by a numerous
escort, it not unfrequently frightens them to death. It is
most popular in cases of child-birth, where it has done such
wonders, that if a lady be longer than usual in getting
through her difficulties, a messenger is despatched, with all
speed, to solicit the immediate attendance of the Bambino.
It is a very valuable property, and much confided in
especially by the religious body to whom it belongs.

I am happy to know that it is not considered immaculate,
by some who are good Catholics, and who are behind the
scenes, from what was told me by the near relation of a
Priest, himself a Catholic, and a gentleman of learning and
intelligence. This Priest made my informant promise that
he would, on no account, allow the Bambino to be borne
into the bedroom of a sick lady, in whom they were both
interested. For,' 1 said he, " if they (the monks) trouble her
with it, and intrude themselves into her room, it will certainly


kill her/ 1 My informant accordingly looked out of the window
when it came ; and, with many thanks, declined to open the
door. He endeavoured, in another case of which he had no
other knowledge than such as he gained as a passer-by at
the moment, to prevent its being carried into a small un-
wholesome chamber, where a poor girl was dying. But, he
strove against it unsuccessfully, and she expired while the
crowd were pressing round her bed.

Among the people who drop into St. Peter's at their
leisure, to kneel on the pavement, and say a quiet prayer,
there are certain schools and seminaries, priestly and other-
wise, that come in, twenty or thirty strong. These boys
always kneel down in single file, one behind the other, with
a tall grim master in a black gown, bringing up the rear:
like a pack of cards arranged to be tumbled down at a touch,
with a disproportionately large Knave of clubs at the end.
When they have had a minute or so at the chief altar, they
scramble up, and filing off to the chapel of the Madonna, or
the sacrament, flop down again in the same order; so that
if anybody did stumble against the master, a general and
sudden overthrow of the whole line must inevitably ensue.

The scene in all the churches is the strangest possible.
The same monotonous, heartless, drowsy chaunting, always
going on ; the same dark building, darker from the brightness
of the street without; the same lamps dimly burning; the
self-same people kneeling here and there; turned towards
you, from one altar or other, the same priest's back, with
the same large cross embroidered on it; however different in
size, in shape, in wealth, in architecture, this church is from
that, it is the same thing still. There are the same dirty
beggars stopping in their muttered prayers to beg ; the same
miserable cripples exhibiting their deformity at the doors;
the same blind men, rattling little pots like kitchen pepper-
castors: their depositories for alms; the same preposterous
crowns of silver stuck upon the painted heads of single saints
and Virgins in crowded pictures, so that a little figure on a


mountain has a head-dress bigger than the temple in the fore-
ground, or adjacent miles of landscape ; the same favourite
shrine or figure, smothered with little silver hearts and crosses,
and the like : the staple trade and show of all the jewellers ;
the same odd mixture of respect and indecorum, faith and
phlegm : kneeling on the stones, and spitting on them, loudly ;
getting up from prayers to beg a little, or to pursue some
other worldly matter: and then kneeling down again, to
resume the contrite supplication at the point where it was
interrupted. In one church, a kneeling lady got up from
her prayer, for a moment, to offer us her card, as a teacher
of Music ; and in another, a sedate gentleman with a very
thick walking-staff, arose from his devotions to belabour his
dog, who was growling at another dog : and whose yelps and
howls resounded through the church, as his master quietly
relapsed into his former train of meditation keeping his eye
upon the dog, at the same time, nevertheless.

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 28) → online text (page 37 of 43)