Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

The diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) online

. (page 27 of 33)
Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


silent for a moment she pounced down upon him and
asked him why he did not make himself more agree-
able, and talk. Madame Benzoni called those men,
whom she wished to introduce to me, by their names
aloud, often from the other end of the room ; and, in
an equally loud tone of voice, gave me a description of
each one, loud enough to reach the ears of all. Thus
one had beaucoup a" esprit', another was a savant, had
published such and such a book ; another had des
qualite's, des malheurs, and so on. I never met with
so agreeable a custom, which supplies one at once
with a topic for conversation. I passed two hours
there very pleasantly. Madame Benzoni had an
almost world-wide celebrity for her beauty. Alas !
now she is sixty. The Princess of Wales, when she
saw her, exclaimed : "Je reconnais Madame Benzoni
par l'eclat de sa beaute." Those words can no longer
be said ; but, in regard to the beauty of women, it is
better to be a " has been," than a " never was." The
society at this house seldom assembles before eleven
or twelve o'clock.

A Venetian lady's day is thus passed : She rises
about twelve o'clock, when the cavalier servente, who
waits until she is awake, attends her to Mass : few of
them read anything except their prayer books. The
lady then takes a few turns on the Piazza San Marco ;
either pays visits or receives them, and dines between
three and four o'clock. She then undresses, and goes

1 Countess Marina Benzoni was the heroine of " La Biondina in Gondoletta"
— the last of the Venetian ladies of the old school of nobility.



i8i6] ALONG THE BRENTA 335

to bed completely. At about eight o'clock she arises
for her toilette, spends until three or four o'clock in
the morning at the theatre and the casino, or, during
the summer, in the cafes on the Piazza.

In summer the air of Venice is so oppressive that it
makes people melancholy, and one fancies oneself ill,
until one becomes so. For that reason all those who
can afford it go into the country. At that season the
stench of the canals is dreadful. During the French
occupation they were neglected ; and are all now very
much choked up. During the time of the Republic
they were all cleaned out every ten years.

We left Venice earl}' in the morning, and crossed
to Fusina, where our carriage awaited us. Near the
shore the lagune was covered with ice. Our road,
which followed the course of the Brenta, has been much
praised for its beauty. But whether the difference
between winter and summer in these climates is so
great, that no imagination can supply its place, I know
not. To me the Brenta appeared no better than a
dirty canal, with vulgar citizens' houses (all out of
repair) standing on each side. The country is set
with deep ditches ; vines hang in festoons upon mul-
berry and fig trees. This is picturesque, it is true.
But the country is ugly, flat, and almost destitute of
trees. After the first post at Dolo, the Palazzo Pisani,
now belonging to the Emperor, which Monsieur de
Goetz inhabits in summer, is certainly very fine, and
its delicious garden is full of shade. Padua is immense,
and thinly inhabited, but it is full of treasures. We
visited the Grande Salle, the University, now almost
deserted, and the church of Sant' Antonio. It is in
the Gothic style, rich beyond belief, and entirely lined
with marble. It happened to be a fete day, and the
service was performed by candle-light. This church
is always very dark, so we lost much of the beauty of
the bas-reliefs. After making pilgrimages to other
churches, we returned home to an excellent dinner,



336 VILLA CAPRA [ch. xviii

but in a very cold room, where we saw our breath as
plainly as out of doors.

December n. — A very short day to Vicenza ; where
we stopped, in consequence of being told that the
road to Verona by the side of the mountains is
dangerous. The road hither is straight, and unin-
teresting, but good ; we saw the vines hanging in
luxurious festoons from fig trees. Vicenza, which is
beautifully situated, is full of buildings by Palladio.
We walked to the Villa Capra, 1 about a couple of miles
from the town up a hill. It is very handsome, and
has four pavilions which are united by a cupola ; it
was on the model of this villa that the house at
Chiswick was built. But how different the situation !
From each of the four great doors there is a magni-
ficent view — one towards the mountains, and the
others over a richly varied country, set with handsome
villas. The day was foggy and unfavourable, but I
can conceive nothing so beautiful on a clear day. One
view is towards the arcades which lead to a church
on the summit of a mountain, a walk of half a mile,
under cover. Each family in the town contributed
handsomely to the cost. We descended into the
" Champ de Mars." After passing through a fine Arc
de Triomphe, we re-entered the town by the Verona
gate. At Capra we made the acquaintance of Count
Leonardo Trissino, a savant, and a friend of Cigog-
nera. He led us about the town, and exercised my
Italian, as he spoke very little French. The inhabi-
tants of this town seem, if possible, more wretched
than those in other towns. I never saw such miserable
objects, or such clamorous beggars.

We proceeded on our way to Verona. We passed
beautiful ranges of hills on the right, ornamented with
villages and country houses, and richly cultivated with
figs and vines. We crossed several rivers, at least
their beds, for now they are quite dry. The post-horses

1 Now known as Villa Rotunda Palladiana.



i8i6] VERONA 337

are very bad. The approach to Verona, by the side of
the Adige, is beautiful. Michele's fortifications run up
the side of a hill. 1 The town is clean ; the people look
happy, with smiling faces, and there are few beggars.

It is market-day, and we are much struck by the
beauty of the women, who wear a picturesque peasant's
hat, quite round, and a variety of long pins sticking
out behind their ears, with ornaments of coral, and
Venetian chains. They have fine countenances, and
are as lightly dressed as in summer ; while the men
are wrapped in long cloaks, which they throw over
their shoulders, covering their mouths.

We left our letter of introduction for the Governor,
Baron de Lederer, and then proceeded under the Arch
of Galileo to the Arena. The amphitheatre is decidedly
fine. From the upper steps we obtained a view of the
surrounding country, thickly dotted with villas on
picturesque hills, backed on one side by the Alps. I
am sorry to say that the French have cleaned and
smoothed the stones on the benches, removing the
moss which gave picturesqueness, and a look of
age. They have also committed another sacrilege, in
destroying the triumphal Arch of Vitruvius to make
the fortress more secure, although even now it is not
in a condition to hold out against the enemy.

After dinner we received a visit from the Governor.
He is a fussy, little old man, and very talkative. He
mentioned the supposed tomb of Juliet, to which all
the English hasten the moment they arrive. He also
frightened us very much about robbers. It seems
that a carriage was stopped yesterday morning, at
the last post nearest to the town, and eleven men
were arrested the day before. The fact is, that all
the rogues are assembled here on this side of the
Mincio, where the laws are administered, as in
German}', slowly, and with too much Unity to the

1 Michele Sammichcli (1484-1559;, the greatest military architect of Upper
Italy.

I — 22



338 ON THE ROAD TO MANTUA [ch. xvhi

prisoner. This does very well at Vienna, with quiet,
stupid Germans, but with those nimble-witted, ani-
mated Italians it is fatal. Round Mantua the Emperor
has granted a separate tribunal to try, condemn, and
hang highway robbers in twenty-four hours. This
has driven all the rascals to this part of the country,
where they are almost sure to escape. As there is
no solitary confinement here, they return, after passing
some months in prison, to their mountains, greater
rascals than before, acquainted with each other, and
knowing how to escape justice. One of the banditti
has taken great pains to master the German law, which
he has explained to his fellow prisoners. The Governor
has established a poor-house here, and the idle beggars
are put in prison ; the consequence is that you see
fewer beggars than in any town in Italy.

Our fine weather has departed, and we are on the
road to Mantua, which lies over a rich, extremely
fertile plain. Rows of trees, deep ditches, and a corn
country, very uninteresting until you behold Mantua,
which rises from out of the waters of the Mincio.
Mantua is surrounded by three large lakes, over whose
surface flew large flocks of wild fowl. We approached
it by a fine gate, which commands a narrow causeway,
and over a very long bridge, like a gallery. We
skirted the citadel through a road full of water, and
entered the town, which looked perhaps more dirty
and dismal than usual owing to the bad weather.
Mantua can never have been imposing. The appear-
ance of the inn, the Leone d'oro, is bad, but the
interior better than the Due Torri, the inn at Verona.
In spite of the rain we immediately set out to see
the Palazzo del Te, which was erected by Giulio
Romano. The palace is just outside the gate to Parma.
It is situated close to some marshes, and so unwhole-
some to inhabit that it is abandoned to the care of a
concierge. Many of the paintings are injured by damp.

Many of the rooms in this palace are ruined. They



i8i6] SIEGE OF MANTUA 339

were on several occasions used as hospital wards. In
other respects, during all the wars, this ancient palace
of the Dukes has been respected. There are many
marks of the siege of Mantua, which lasted eight
months, in 1796. The place at last surrendered through
famine. 1 The garrison had lived for some time on
horse-flesh, but they would have held out longer if
it had not been that they had nothing for the horses
except Indian corn, which was too sweet, so the
horses died, and the garrison was obliged to capitu-
late. There are marks of war on all sides. A bomb
burst through the ceiling of the beautiful portico of
the palace, opposite to the main entrance.

As we returned, we passed the market, under which
there are shambles, through which the river runs,
sweeping away the offal. This was designed by
Giulio Romano, and gives this market a cleanliness
seldom seen in Italy.

We met some deserters, handcuffed, and shoals of
ill-looking people. One of them, staring under my
bonnet, said, " Andate a Bologna," which frightened
me, for I believe he is a robber who will wait for
us. The stories we hear of these gentlemen are
dreadful. We have had much conversation with our
innkeeper, an intelligent man, who is strongly opposed
to the present order of things. He says that the
number of travellers do not make up to him for
the departure of the French officers. He says that
the Austrians, though very quiet and good, spend
nothing except at play. They are always gambling.
In a French soldier that would have been remarked,
and he would have been set down as an idle fellow,
and one not likely to distinguish himself. Under the
French regime the thirty millions of revenue drawn
from Italy was spent in the country. Commerce,
which might have supplied the place of French gold,
is now so hampered by the number of different duties

1 February 2, 1797.



34$ A REMINISCENCE OF HOME [ch. xviii

it pays, that trade is almost stamped out. Under the
French the merchant paid a duty in Paris for his
goods, which cleared him all the way to Naples.
Now he has to pay the King of Sardinia, the Austrian
States, the Duke of Modena, the Grand Duke of
Florence, and the Pope. In these circumstances,
where the merchant formerly paid five francs, he
now pays twenty-five francs. Moreover, the con-
tributions which the country people pay to the
Austrian Government are transmitted to Vienna.
As the Austrians are too poor to spend the money
here, the number of people thrown out of employment
is the main cause of the universal brigandage which
exists. The country here is so fertile that it often pro-
duces enough for six years' consumption. This year,
although the harvest has not failed, bread is enor-
mously dear. The loaf, which used to cost two sols,
now costs eight sols. Under the French the pro-
prietors were obliged, under pain of being called
upon for a requisition, to sell at a fixed price. To
show how little idea our friend the innkeeper has
of the liberty of the subject, he told us that it was
a great shame this Government did not employ the
same force as the French did, and that the peasants
had in several places burned stacks of corn.

While we were at dinner a Savoyard came along
the road with his organ, and played an air which
reminded me so forcibly of home that I burst into
tears. How strange is this effect of music ! I can
think of England without being affected, without
even wishing to be there, and yet a few simple bars
at once give me the maladie dn pays. I now under-
stand the effect of the " Ranz des Vaches " upon the
Swiss. Their sorrows are very real.

The Governor sometimes gives a great chasse on
the lakes, which are preserved. The party often
kill two or three thousand wild-fowl in a day.
We left Mantua at seven o'clock in the morning.



iSi6] BOLOGNA 341

It was scarcely daylight, and there was a soaking
mist, which developed later to a decided rain. The mist
was so thick that when we arrived at the Po we could
not see halfway across it. The banks of the river are
composed of nasty black sand, and the river itself is
dull and muddy, but very broad. The country on each
side is marshy, flat, and ugly the whole way to Modena.
There are some oak trees close to the entrance to the
town, which is clean, with broad, arcaded streets.

On leaving Modena we crossed a fine new bridge,
and came upon the Duke of Modena's douanc. Only
a quarter of a mile farther on we were stopped by the
douaniers of the Pope. Here they were decidedly
troublesome. There seems to be no end to these
douanes — those weighty shackles which commerce
has to bear !

The Albergo Reale at Bologna is very good, and
has fixed prices, which is a great comfort, as poor
travellers are much imposed upon by being asked to
pay more than double the sum that the innkeepers
are prepared (after haggling) to take !

At Bologna I have seen some of the noblest pictures
in the world. The twelve which were returned from
Paris are all chefs dccuvre. Raffaele's " St. Cecilia,"
Guido's " Murder of the Innocents," two Domenichinos,
one by each of the Caraccis, one Guercino, and one
Cavedone, all of the Bolognese school. In one of the
galleries we saw a girl making a wonderfully good copy
of Raffaele's " St. Cecilia." She has managed to catch
the expression, and I am much mistaken if she does not
eventually make a name in the artistic world. I find that
she is a Signora Gargani, only twenty-two years old.

I have seen so many fine pictures that I feel some-
thing akin to a mental indigestion. I hope that this
confusion in my head will soon evaporate! It is
painful not to have as distinct an impression of all
that is good in Bologna, as I carried away from other
towns where there were fewer things to admire.



342 THE CARDINAL-GOVERNOR [ch. xvm

I am, so to speak, intoxicated by beauty. But, as
bibblers say that provided the wine is good the evil
effects will not be permanent, I trust that this con-
fusion in my head will soon evaporate !

It strikes me that, in point of drapery, Italian
painters had a great advantage. Every peasant has
his cloak thrown across his shoulder, forming the
finest folds, and the women are beautiful. I saw a
young girl to-day, taking care of some sheep in the
road. She would have made the finest study for a
painter. Her black hair, which hung in ringlets,
resembled the Sibyl of Guercino. Others wear a veil
of white muslin, their usual dress even in winter ; they
do not cover their heads, which reminds one of the
various Madonnas. One perpetually meets men whose
countenances resemble the tormentors of the different
Martyrs, or, say, the murderers of the Innocents,
whose dark fierce eyes droop beneath your glance.

The Pope has now in his pay the troops of the
Viceroy. There are about six hundred men in
garrison here. To-day we met the carriage of the
Cardinal-Governor, escorted by soldiers. He does
not perform Church functions. We were told that
he was going to shoot at his country house. As he
returns in the night, guards are necessary for his
protection. He has a soiree every night. There
is much misery here among the lower classes, and
the streets swarm with beggars. The Pope has just
given an order for a poor-house to be established,
where they may have work. Meanwhile they starve,
and steal. The prisons are full. For common offences,
such as larceny, they have brief periods of imprison-
ment, but assassination is punished by death.

December 15. — It is lovely and quite warm ; the
sun is so hot that we have the two windows open.
Leaves are on the oaks, and some of them are still
green. The country is covered with mulberry trees
and vines, and we are moving along the Emilian Way,



i8i6] THE RUBICON 343

after crossing many rivers. The hills around Bologna
are studded with villas. They say that there is no
danger of robbers during the day, but that early in
the morning, and late at night, we are sure to be
stopped. Our fate in these short days therefore
depends upon good driving, and no accident to the
carriage. As a thick fog came on at three o'clock
we were glad to stop at Forli. The roads are bad,
and we were badly driven. At the inn they began by
asking forty francs for one room ; and as they after-
wards agreed to accept fifteen, it was a sure sign that
the inn was bad. And so it was ! There was literally
nothing we could eat ; the soup, which Walmoden
had given us, saved us from starvation. We were
nearly frozen to death in an immense room, which
seemed to be all doors and windows. On being
informed that there was no danger to be feared from
robbers, we resolved to make a dash for Pesaro, and
set off at half-past six, quite dark and in a dense fog.
Our anxiety was great until daybreak, for we had
been warned to expect to be stopped on the road,
but fortunately we have escaped ! The whole country
is famous for hemp, which might come in useful for
the brigands. During the following day we passed
several small plantations of a sort of bamboo, which
resembled sugar canes. The sticks are used to
support the young vines. Just before Rimini we
passed a river which is supposed to be the ancient
Rubicon. In the centre of the town we passed the
stone block, or tribune, from whence Caesar is said
to have harangued his troops. Although the troubles
of modern times have a tendency to efface the interest
which is attached to events of antiquity, we could
not pass this classic spot without deep interest.
The whole of the Emilian and Flaminian Way
recalls a thousand historical events which, alas!
have grown faint in my memory. 1 much regrettrd the
loss of Eustace's " Travels," which we left at Vienna.



344 RIMINI [ch. xvm

A fine bridge of white marble stands at the entrance
of Rimini ; and a Triumphal Arch of Augustus forms
the gate to Pesaro. I saw little of the town, owing
to the fog. The post-master assured us that the
road was bad ; that a bridge was broken ; and that we
should be obliged to ford a deep river. He said this so
that we might take another horse. As a matter of fact,
the road was nowhere really bad, was often good, and
the water at the ford did not rise above the horse's
fetlocks. This was merely one of the numerous im-
positions to which travellers have to submit.

Yesterday we experienced a singular one, which
did not redound to the credit or the brilliancy of
our courier, who, though a good fellow, is dull.
They made him pay an additional charge as courier.
He had looked at the tariff, and yet had not dis-
covered that this rule applied only to the Govern-
ment couriers. After he had gone, and when it
was too late, I examined the tariff myself and dis-
covered the blunder. We seem destined to be
unlucky in these gentlemen. It was by our courier's
advice, and after a great deal of consultation and
debate, that we took this road, on which the posts
are ten miles instead of eight, and we have to make
a circuit of sixty miles. Prince Rufo and Prince
Esterhazy also advised our coming by this road,
which is very strange.

Soon after leaving St. Cattolica, where they made
us take six horses for the mountain, we soon got
above the fog. The scene was lovely. The blue
Apennines rose above the fog, which lay like a sea in
the valleys, while the hills over which we passed were
sprinkled with neat farms, cottages, and olive groves.
The peasants appear extremely industrious, and were
working at a most inconvenient plough, which obliges
them to walk bent nearly double. A woman guided
four oxen, yoked like ours, but without cloths on their
backs. We find few travellers come this way.



i8i6] IN RAFFAELE'S COUNTRY 345

Leaving the valley of Pesaro, with its dense fog, we
found a fine clear morning on the hills. As I write this
the sun is rising out of the sea, which reflects its golden
bars. The town of Fano stands on a point, with its
lighthouse and steeples ; the foreground is broken,
and there is a steep descent to the seashore along the
road we are now passing. It is perfectly calm, rolling
clouds of fog envelope the distance, and give it the
appearance of a lake.

Fano is ancient, and its streets extremely narrow.
Our carriage excited the wonder and amusement of
the people, who seemed to be merry and happy
mountaineers.

Nothing can be finer than the situation of Fossom-
brone at the entrance of the pass leading to the Furlo.
We entered the town known in classic times by the
name Forum Sempronii. Here they put on six horses,
and off we went, at full gallop, through a narrow high
street at the end of which was a gate. After a steep
ascent by the side of a deep precipice, the road became
too narrow for a mule to pass our carriage. As we
advanced we saw Urbino, the birthplace of Raffaele,
and realised that this wild lovely scenery must have
given those first impressions to his mind which he
afterwards brought to such perfection. The land-
scapes in his early pictures bear evident marks of his
birthplace, so familiar to those who have studied his
sublime creations. Presently we passed the mount
where Asdrubal was defeated by the Romans, 1 and
soon arrived at the mountain of the Furlo.

As we pass through the villages, from every window
a head pokes out to see us go by. 1 believe the
courier's smart jacket tells these people that we are
great persons, as many carriages do not pass this way.
From Acqualagna to Cagli we went a great part of the

1 The celebrated Battle of the Metaurus, when Asdrubal, at the head of
60,000 men, marched to the relief of his brother Hannibal. This event —
B.C. 207 — decided the Second Punic War in favour of Rome.



346 A PLEASANT SURPRISE [ch. xvmi

way at full gallop ; how we escaped an overturn is a
mystery, but I have no longer any fears. Cagli is
remarkable for the passage of the Scaletti across a
deep ravine, which I suppose is a Roman work.

I was much pleased by the enthusiasm with which
one of our post-boys pointed out Urbino; and the
pride with which he cried " Bravo ! " when I exclaimed
" The birthplace of Raffaele." The drivers sing to their
horses, as in Spain, and are very merry, laughing and
talking with every passenger on the road. At Cagli the
whole population stood at their doors, and then collected
round the post-house. I own that at one moment my
heart seemed to come into my mouth. Fortunately we
were not obliged to stay there. The inn looked horrid.

Later in the day a violent! storm came on, and,
while we were crossing a bridge, without a parapet,
I thought our caliche must have been overturned.
We alighted at the Cangiana post-house and ascended
a steep narrow staircase belonging to an old building
which seemed most uninviting. When we reached
the top of the stairs, we were shown into a room
which, even in England, would be thought comfort-
able. The walls and the ceiling were prettily painted
and what was stranger still, the doors and windows
could be made to open and shut. A fire was burning
and candles were lighted. In the bedroom we found
a snow-white quilt. The people of the house were



Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 33)