Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

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and a letter from you which brightens the prospects of
our early meeting, and makes me quite happy.

1 Lady Jersey.


" Metternich gave us letters for every town through
which we passed, and here in particular. We have
been introduced to some charming people, the Austrian
Minister and his wife, who receive every night, in the
Vienna fashion. They have a very pleasant society at
their house.

" I must now tell you that 1 was bored to death at
Rome. The Cardinals and Bishops overshadow and
gene society. We found the Queen, 1 surrounded by
her Court, having a reception every night. At Rome
she established the same system of tyranny and exclu-
sion as she practised in London. She affected to
despise the Italians, and declared that the Austrian
Minister and his wife were the only foreigners worth
speaking to, always excepting the immaculate Pauline
Borghese, and the Bonaparte family, who receive the
homage of the Jerseys, the Lansdownes, the Cowpers,
the Kings, in short the regular Opposition. They have
made Pauline Borghese their bosom friend. This
causes surprise to the foreigners generally, who do
not understand that, with us, politics play a grand
role, in cementing or destroying friendships. They
are astonished at the exclusion of Lady Westmorland
— she and Lady Jersey are all but brouille.

" In the midst of all this, the Apponyis, having
received a letter from Metternich, received us with
open arms, so Lady Jersey, I suppose, begins to think
that it would be well to be on good terms with us.
Lord Jersey spoke to Shelley about our estrangement,
and said that though I had behaved very ill to his
wife, by preventing her reconciliation with Burghersh,
Lady Jersey wished to be friendly with me.

" You ask what objection Lady Jersey has to me. I
cannot say, for I do not know. But I am not a good
courtier, which accounts for much. But the ostensible
reason given is that I prevented Burghersh's reconcilia-
tion with her. This does me too much honour, and is
wide of the mark. The real reason is, that I never
have, and never will bow to her autocratic decrees,
and continued to see Lord Westmorland after she
had quarrelled with him. It is too ridiculous !

" Believe me,

" Ever your attached

" Frances Shelley/'

' Lady Jersey. >

360 VILLA LUDOVISI [ch. xviii

We have been along the Via Appia, and visited the
tomb of Cecilia Metella. She appears to have been
the wife of Crassus, and a friend of Cicero. Her
tomb is in good preservation, although the Goths
used it as a fortress. 1

January i, 1817. — Shelley went out shooting, and
killed twenty-three snipe on the marshes towards

January 3. — Went to Canova's studio, and saw the
preparations for the mould of the Mars and Venus ;
the model is now broken into little bits. Canova
accompanied us to see the great horse he has made,
and which was intended for an equestrian statue of
Napoleon. It is wonderfully fine. Canova wishes
to put the figure of the Duke of Wellington upon
it ; and it is certainly worthy of him. He then took
us to the Villa Ludovisi, belonging to the Prince
Piombino. 2 In a small gallery are three chefs d'ceuvres,
amongst some inferior statues. We walked for some
time in the garden, which is composed of walls of
evergreens, bordering long alleys interspersed with
statues, upon which the damp has had the same
effect as in England. Canova then took us to the
Palazzo Torloni, which belongs to a man of whom it is
said that the ruin of the Roman nobility has made
him rich. There are many stories told as to the
means he employed. It is even hinted that the spoils
of the sanctuaries, which were given to the French
as the price of peace, passed into his hands and
remained there. Canova told us that when the
Duchesse Torloni appeared one night in splendour

1 The tomb was entire in 1402, when Poggio was received into the service
of the Roman curia. It was reduced to its present condition in the time of
Urban VIII. (1623-44).

2 The Princess of Piombino — Marie Elisa Bonaparte— was a sister of
Napoleon. She married a simple Captain of Infantry, Felix Bacciochi. In
1805, Lucca and Piombino were erected into a principality for her. She was
commonly called the Semiramus of Lucca. Born 1777, she died in 1820, in
comparative obscurity.


at the Opera, the audience saluted her with the cry
" Madonna del Loretto." Be that as it may, the palace
is splendid. It contains a " Hercules and Lion " by
Canova, which I do not like. The palace is full of
antiquities, and the finest porphyry tables in the world.

* • • ♦ •

We have visited all the wonders of old Rome, and
I begin to be impatient to get to Naples, where I
hope to receive letters from home. I have never
felt so anxious about the children ; and I trust that
it is not a presentiment.

Since I came here Lady Jersey has been making
advances towards a reconciliation. She has written
and called on me, and I trust that in the future we
shall meet like other people.

We went to the Villa Borghese. It is now entirely
neglected, and does not contain any good statue, except
that of Esculapius. In the grounds are some of the
finest evergreen oaks I ever saw. That evening we
dined with the Apponyis — a most agreeable dinner ;
afterwards we were joined by Cardinal Gonsalvo.
He brought Madame Apponyi the Order of Malta,
and gave me letters for the whole road to Naples. I
went to Lady Jersey's to complete our reconciliation.
It passed off very well.

Owing to these Italian hours which begin at sunset,
count to twenty-four, and change every ten days,
there is nothing so uncertain as fixing an appointment
with an Italian. Cardinal Gonsalvo ordered the
dragoons who were to attend us on the road to
come to our house. We expected them at three
o'clock in the morning, instead of which they arrived
at twelve o'clock at night ! As they roused the whole
house, we were obliged to get up and set off at exactly
three o'clock in the morning. A bright moon, and
perfect stillness, accompanied our departure from
Rome. As we drove through the deserted streets,
the buildings appeared to be gigantic, especially

362 A DANGEROUS ROAD [ch. xviii

the Coliseum, which, with the ruins of the Forum,
spoke of ancient Rome. I imagined the genius of the
city hovering above its ruins, and weeping over the
degraded inhabitants of a once powerful capital.

We reached Villetri in broad daylight. From here,
for two posts, especially near the wood of Cisterna, is
very dangerous ; for though many of the brigands
have been taken, it is known that several still remain
at liberty. The wood on each side of the road has
been burnt, to prevent their concealment. If the
present energetic measures continue, the danger may
soon cease. We now entered the Pontine Marshes.
The air at this season is not unhealthy, and the
inhabitants do not look so sickly as I had expected ;
nor are the postilions convicts, as they once were.
The draining of the marshes by Pius VI. has destroyed
the malaria, except during the heat of summer. They
are now covered with corn and pasture land, upon
which as we passed many herds of cattle were feeding.
The cattle are in a wild state, and when they are
wanted the shepherds hunt them with dogs. Count-
less flocks of wild-fowl of every kind and description
wheeled in the air within gun-shot of our carriage.
They seemed to cover the earth like flies upon a
window ; or — to employ a homely simile — like fleas
upon a Roman bed.

On the right appeared Circe's promontory, no longer
an island ; though it appears such from Terracina, a
beautiful town situated on a bay. We slept there,
and enjoyed the first view of the Mediterranean.

On the following day we had plenty of time to admire
this enchanting spot, which has " fallen from its high
estate," and is now little more than a fishing town.
Its mountains are infested with robbers ; one band
being known to be composed of twenty-five desperate
men. Three hundred troops are now pursuing them
in the mountains. Gonsalvo told me that seventy-five
were executed last year, and two hundred sent to the


galleys. Some of the most desperate are the discarded
Sbirri, whom gendarmes have replaced. The police
are much better organised than they were, and are
now under the direction of Roman Princes. Until
recent times the post of Head of the Police was so
odious that it was difficult to find any respectable man
to fill it.

At Terracina, a short time ago, the banditti carried
off some women who were working in the fields, and
having taken them into the mountains they demanded
a ransom. They threatened to murder their captives
unless the poor peasants gave up all the money they
possessed. They did so, and were completely ruined.
On another occasion some men were taken, and the
brigands cut off the ear of one of them, sent it to his
friends, and demanded a ransom. The Austrian Com-
mander, for whom we had a letter, actually saw the
man to whom this happened. Were it not for these
little accidents, Terracina would be a delightful place
to stay at. There are wild boars, stags, and chamois
in the mountains ; and as the town stands at the
extremity of the Pontine Marshes, and is sheltered by
fine rocks, the situation is healthy.

After passing the gate of Terracina we wound round
the rocks. On one side stood hills covered with
evergreens, on the other the sea was dashing over
rocks, and all that remains of the ancient Via Appia.
We now arrived at one of the most dangerous places
on the road. Fortunately we were accompanied by four
dragoons, who with their long cloaks and fine horses
made a scene which Salvator Rosa would have chosen
for one of his immortal pictures. Every now and then
they would gallop forward to see that all was safe.
The sensation which these precautionary measures
gave us may be imagined. It certainly was not fear,
for we felt certain that they would not attack us while
guarded by dragoons, but the whole affair gave a wild
and romantic character to the scene.

364 ARRIVAL AT NAPLES [ch. xviii

A gateway across the road announced our entrance
into the Kingdom of Naples. As the Austrian posts
are stationed every half mile, we no longer thought
it necessary to keep our escort, though we found out
afterwards that robberies have actually been committed
between the posts.

The inhabitants of the small places we passed are at
once the most squalid and villainous-looking people I
have ever seen, but the country is lovely the whole
way to the spot where remains exist of Cicero's
Formiasn Villa. 1 The bay is lovely, and the sharp
point running into the sea is crowned by the citadel of

It was dusk before we reached Capua, where we took
an escort, and travelled by the light of the stars. I
never saw Jupiter so fine. We saw his reflection in
every pool of water. We were constantly annoyed
by a change of escort, which caused much delay, and
we did not arrive at Naples until ten o'clock at
night. At Santa Lucia we beheld Vesuvius emitting
flames. The light-house, and torches in the passing
boats, while the moon burst from a dark cloud above
the burning mountain, formed a sublime effect. I
stood at my window and watched the trembling
lights reflected upon the bay. I really could not
tear myself away from all the wonders of a Naples

January 9, 18 17. — I have received letters from my
children, which have eased my heart's anxiety. The
moment that I left my bed I went to the window again.
The scene before me was so beautiful that I could not
repress a scream of delight. Our inn faces Vesuvius,
which is partly covered with snow. From its summit
the smoke, resembling white wreathed clouds, sloped
gracefully down and faded into the clear blue sky.

As I entered my carriage I saw an English frigate
enter the bay under full sail. The sea was studded

1 The villa was near Formiae. See Cicero's letter to Atticus, April 59 B.C.


with fishing-boats. Birds were singing over my head,
while waves dashed against the rocks at my feet.

Three days after our arrival at Naples I paid my
respects at Court. The Marquis St. Clair gave me his
box for the opening of San Carlo. We were seated
before the King's arrival. The house was brilliantly
lit, and the general effect was good. But Meyer's
music was very tiresome, and badly executed.

The ballet of " Cendrillon " was exceedingly pretty.
The ices which the Marquis procured for us were
made of snow instead of ice, which makes them feel
warm. They call them " winter ices."

Naples swarms with beggars afflicted with every kind
of deformity, who torment one to death.

Visitors at Naples quickly deteriorate and, so I am
told, eventually become as bad as the natives.

It is a curious fact that Naples has always been
conquered by a mere handful of men, who, as soon as
they have got possession of the country, become ener-
vated, until they are conquered in their turn. Such is
the influence of this climate, from whose ill effects few
escape. It creates a volupte and a laisser alter, fatal to
energy and good principles. Prince Tablowowski and
Count Gonfaloniere both experience and deplore this
fatal influence. They say that they are always fighting
against it. The former confesses that the difficulty is
almost insurmountable. It is worse in summer, when
the luxuriousness of the air, rich with perfume and
refreshed by the sea breeze, must be felt to be fully

My companion, a Neapolitan, told me that he could
not understand the peasants. The language they
speak is more like Latin than Italian, and yet it was
very soon understood by the German troops, many of
whom were Wallachians and Roumanians, once Roman
colonies. The natives of that part of Germany preserve
for their dialect a corrupt Latin, which resembles the
Neapolitan dialect.

366 ASCENT OF VESUVIUS [ch. xviii

Shelley, who walked home from the Chiaja, was
disgusted and oppressed by the number and wretched-
ness of the beggars, who groan at every corner of the
streets and divest themselves of insects on the door-
steps. How completely this state of things destroys
the natural romance of Italian life ! I never wish to
return to Naples.

One evening a ball was given by the Neapolitan
nobility. I danced. a great deal and passed a pleasant
evening. At that ball we arranged to make a party
for Vesuvius for the following day.

Of the party Prince Tablowowski and ourselves
were novices, whereas Conte Gonfaloniere and another
gentleman had often ascended the mountain. They
told us as we were leaving the house next morning,
that they had never seen Vesuvius in such beauty, or
under such favourable conditions for an ascent. An
hour's drive brought us to Resina, where beggars,
drivers of asses, and guides all began to fight for the
honour of conducting us. Our own party were in fits
of laughter at the obstinacy displayed by the donkeys,
and we were at least half an hour getting under way,
but afterwards all went on prosperously.

Although it was January 17, it was as hot as in the
middle of an English summer, and between the vineyard
walls the heat was oppressive.

When we had passed the house of the King's Chasseur
(all this part of the country is full of game, and is a
Royal preserve), the air became very soft. We passed
over black lava six years old, and saw the remains of a
cottage that had been destroyed by it. As we
ascended, the view expanded. We stopped a short
time at the hermit's house to refresh our beasts.
H.M.S. Tagus, an English frigate, which had sailed in
the morning, lay becalmed in the bay. The sun lay
low on the horizon, and was finely reflected in the
water ; while, from the elevated spot upon which we
stood, we saw the sea beyond the island of Capri, the



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isles of Procida and Ischia, with Cape Miseno.
Beneath us lay the Plain of Capua, the grave of
Hannibal's army, now rich with vines and fruit trees.
Clusters of towns spread over it to the foot of the
mountains of Calabria, which were clothed in snow.
Caserta, with its fine palace, and the Champ de Mars,
were also very distinct. We remounted our mules
and continued to the steep part, and met several
parties returning. The ascent was painful, but not so
much as I had expected, and I became less fatigued
as the wonders of these infernal regions filled my
thoughts. We passed the old crater, which was
closed three years ago, when the new one broke out,
but it is still smoking, and burnt our shoes as we
passed. After a time, the road became more perilous.
We passed over deep cracks, upon the uncertain
footing of single bits of lava, while the sulphurous
smoke which issued from the cracks over which we
passed took away my breath, and I was obliged to
cover my mouth with my handkerchief. At last we
reached a place which overlooks both craters. The
lava on which we stood was covered with flakes of
pure sulphur thrown from the crater, and some
tremendous showers of stones came very near us, but
fortunately the smoke set the other way.

We descended by a very bad road, with great cracks
through the upper part of the old crater. The lava
had unfortunately taken its course towards Pompeii.
As it ran for some distance underground, the guides
tried to persuade us that it would not be safe to go
to see it. However, as we were all of good courage,
we persisted ; and the descent, though very fine, was
extremely painful. My shoes were literally cut in
pieces. Through cracks in the lava we saw the
glowing fire burning underneath, and sometimes the
stones on which we stood gave way, and I fell to the
ground. As this happened also to the guide, it cannot
have been my awkwardness alone. Although my legs

368 A DELIGHTFUL HOUR [ch. xviii

were much bruised, we had succeeded, and were fully-
rewarded by seeing three streams of liquid lava
issuing from the old black lava like a millstream,
running with great rapidity down a steep descent. To
employ a homely simile, the lava appeared to be of the
consistency of " hasty pudding," and we stirred it with
our sticks, and dipped money into it.

It was now quite dark, and we retraced our steps by
torch-light. The dining place was so hot that we
could scarcely bear to sit, and were obliged to put
great-coats under us. We had an excellent dinner,
and our coffee was heated in the lava. While we were
enjoying the grand spectacle made by the crater
(which was making a tremendous noise), fragments of
red-hot lava came very near to us, and, as the wind
changed, the guide advised our removal. Although
he tried to impress us with the danger, we could not
tear ourselves away. In a few minutes the wind again
changed, so we were able to enjoy the awful grandeur
of this scene in security and comfort. I never passed
an hour more delightfully. The picturesque, banditti
countenances of our guides were lit up by the torches
they carried. We watched the glare produced by
frequent eruptions, the black foreground, the murky
sky, with here and there an emerald star, which
became greener as the red glow paled their ineffectual
fires. Towards the sea, the distant view was tinged
by the light of volcanic fire. Then there fell a sudden
darkness, while the deep roar of the mountain, as it
gathered strength for another eruption, produced an
effect upon my mind which I cannot pretend to
describe, and which will live in my memory for ever.

We ran almost the whole way down the mountain
to the place where the mules awaited us. I held tight
to the dirtiest and gayest of guides, but my tumbling
about was so ludicrous that the whole party laughed.
After we had mounted our mules, we rode for two
hours in total darkness. The mules would not walk


side by side, so conversation was out of the question.
Meanwhile, our guides chattered incessantly in their
incomprehensible Neapolitan jargon. Now and then
we made them talk in an Italian which we could
understand. My guide informed me that he had killed
a man who had ill-treated his aunt. He told me that
as the man was pulling the old lady by the nose, he
gave him a dig with his stiletto. He seemed very
proud of the feat. I suspect that the other guides
were equally bad. At last we reached Resina. The
pavement here was excessively slippery, which my
guide told me meant a wet day to-morrow. This
phenomenon appears to be an infallible sign of bad
weather in the neighbourhood of Naples.

The following day was very wet, and we were glad
that we had made our excursion when we did. In the
evening I went to the Opera, to hear Rossini's "Otello,"
which is very fine, and I was pleased with Madame
Colbrun's acting and singing. 1 Next evening there
was a masked ball at the Opera House, which was the
stupidest thing I ever saw. We took a few turns in
the salle de jeu. It is through gambling that the
Marquis, who built the theatre on speculation, hopes
to repay himself. He has the privilege of gaming
tables throughout the whole of Naples. Next day
Count Gonfaloniere accompanied me to Pompeii. The
Count is more full of information than any man I
ever met with.

On leaving the port of Naples, he showed me the
place where so many young noblemen were beheaded
by the Queen's orders, after her return from Sicily.

1 Madame Colbrun was long esteemed the finest singer and actress in
Italy. In 1822 she married Rossini. They came to London together in
1824, and were engaged on high terms, she to sing, and Rossini to compose ;
but both disappointed public expectation. Colbrun's taste was acknowledged
to be excellent, and she was much admired in private concerts. She appeared
also in Rossini's opera " Xelmira," which was not liked. Madame ColbrUD
was then entirely passee. (See "Musical Reminiscences" by the Earl of
Mount Edgctunbe, p. 143, edition 1828.)

370 CARACCIOLO [ch. xviii

Count Gonfaloniere has made every possible inquiry
about Caracciolo, with the following result.
Caracciolo was a distinguished naval officer, at the
head of the Marine. When the King was driven into
Sicily, Caracciolo followed him. After some time, as
there did not seem to be any likelihood of the King's
return, he asked, and obtained, permission from the
King to reside with his family at Naples. He lived
there quietly for above a year. Then, tired of leading
an inactive life, he was persuaded to serve under the
Government, which at that time appeared likely to
remain permanently in office. On the King's unex-
pected return to Naples, Caracciolo was sacrificed to
the Queen's hatred of him, and he was, with Nelson's
connivance, put to death. 1 He was then seventy years
of age. We now inhabit Caracciolo's palace.
Gonfaloniere mentioned another blot on Nelson's
character. When the French garrison retired into the
Castle of St. Elmo and the Castle of Ovo, where they
could have held out for some time, they were
persuaded to capitulate under a promise of pardon.
The terms of this capitulation were violated, and, with
Nelson's concurrence, they were all beheaded. 2 The

1 Admiral Prince Caracciolo was head of the Marine at Naples. He had
been trained for the Navy in England. Count Gonfaloniere, if correctly
reported, has made many blunders in his prejudiced report. He was not
seventy years of age when he was put to death. He was still in the prime of
life, forty-eight. He was powerful, he was trusted, and he betrayed the King.
He had fired on his own flagship. He was tried by a court-martial composed
of his own countrymen, and he admitted having been one of those who went
out to stop his Sovereign's troops by sea. His own peers pronounced him
guilty of death, and Nelson merely confirmed the sentence. He was hanged
at the yard-arm of his own flagship, the Minerva, as a warning to others, in
very trying times. It cannot be said, with any regard to ascertained facts,
that Caracciolo was the victim of the Queen's hatred. His acts are now a
matter of history, and his punishment is regarded as just.

2 It was Nelson's view that the presence of his ships, which were not at
Naples to relieve the garrisons, annulled the armistice. With regard to the
capitulation, Nelson plainly told the rebels that if they came out of the castles
it would not be with any of the honours of war. He told them that they must
submit to the judgment of their Sovereign. They seem to have had the choice

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 33)