A Cleric in Naples, Casanova, v2
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 1 out of 4
This etext was produced by David Widger
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
VENETIAN YEARS, Volume 1b--A CLERIC IN NAPLES
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
A CLERIC IN NAPLES
My Misfortunes in Chiozza--Father Stephano--The Lazzaretto at Ancona
--The Greek Slave--My Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Loretto--I Go to Rome
on Foot, and From Rome to Naples to Meet the Bishop--I Cannot Join
Him--Good Luck Offers Me the Means of Reaching Martorano, Which Place
I Very Quickly Leave to Return to Naples
The retinue of the ambassador, which was styled "grand," appeared to
me very small. It was composed of a Milanese steward, named
Carcinelli, of a priest who fulfilled the duties of secretary because
he could not write, of an old woman acting as housekeeper, of a man
cook with his ugly wife, and eight or ten servants.
We reached Chiozza about noon. Immediately after landing, I politely
asked the steward where I should put up, and his answer was:
"Wherever you please, provided you let this man know where it is, so
that he can give you notice when the peotta is ready to sail. My
duty," he added, "is to leave you at the lazzaretto of Ancona free of
expense from the moment we leave this place. Until then enjoy
yourself as well as you can."
The man to whom I was to give my address was the captain of the
peotta. I asked him to recommend me a lodging.
"You can come to my house," he said, "if you have no objection to
share a large bed with the cook, whose wife remains on board."
Unable to devise any better plan, I accepted the offer, and a sailor,
carrying my trunk, accompanied me to the dwelling of the honest
captain. My trunk had to be placed under the bed which filled up the
room. I was amused at this, for I was not in a position to be over-
fastidious, and, after partaking of some dinner at the inn, I went
about the town. Chiozza is a peninsula, a sea-port belonging to
Venice, with a population of ten thousand inhabitants, seamen,
fishermen, merchants, lawyers, and government clerks.
I entered a coffee-room, and I had scarcely taken a seat when a young
doctor-at-law, with whom I had studied in Padua, came up to me, and
introduced me to a druggist whose shop was near by, saying that his
house was the rendezvous of all the literary men of the place. A few
minutes afterwards, a tall Jacobin friar, blind of one eye, called
Corsini, whom I had known in Venice, came in and paid me many
compliments. He told me that I had arrived just in time to go to a
picnic got up by the Macaronic academicians for the next day, after a
sitting of the academy in which every member was to recite something
of his composition. He invited me to join them, and to gratify the
meeting with the delivery of one of my productions. I accepted the
invitation, and, after the reading of ten stanzas which I had written
for the occasion, I was unanimously elected a member. My success at
the picnic was still greater, for I disposed of such a quantity of
macaroni that I was found worthy of the title of prince of the
The young doctor, himself one of the academicians, introduced me to
his family. His parents, who were in easy circumstances, received me
very kindly. One of his sisters was very amiable, but the other, a
professed nun, appeared to me a prodigy of beauty. I might have
enjoyed myself in a very agreeable way in the midst of that charming
family during my stay in Chiozza, but I suppose that it was my
destiny to meet in that place with nothing but sorrows. The young
doctor forewarned me that the monk Corsini was a very worthless
fellow, despised by everybody, and advised me to avoid him. I
thanked him for the information, but my thoughtlessness prevented me
from profiting by it. Of a very easy disposition, and too giddy to
fear any snares, I was foolish enough to believe that the monk would,
on the contrary, be the very man to throw plenty of amusement in my
On the third day the worthless dog took me to a house of ill-fame,
where I might have gone without his introduction, and, in order to
shew my mettle, I obliged a low creature whose ugliness ought to have
been a sufficient antidote against any fleshly desire. On leaving
the place, he brought me for supper to an inn where we met four
scoundrels of his own stamp. After supper one of them began a bank
of faro, and I was invited to join in the game. I gave way to that
feeling of false pride which so often causes the ruin of young men,
and after losing four sequins I expressed a wish to retire, but my
honest friend, the Jacobin contrived to make me risk four more
sequins in partnership with him. He held the bank, and it was
broken. I did not wish to play any more, but Corsini, feigning to
pity me and to feel great sorrow at being the cause of my loss,
induced me to try myself a bank of twenty-five sequins; my bank was
likewise broken. The hope of winning back my money made me keep up
the game, and I lost everything I had.
Deeply grieved, I went away and laid myself down near the cook, who
woke up and said I was a libertine.
"You are right," was all I could answer.
I was worn out with fatigue and sorrow, and I slept soundly. My vile
tormentor, the monk, woke me at noon, and informed me with a
triumphant joy that a very rich young man had been invited by his
friends to supper, that he would be sure to play and to lose, and
that it would be a good opportunity for me to retrieve my losses.
"I have lost all my money. Lend me twenty sequins."
"When I lend money I am sure to lose; you may call it superstition,
but I have tried it too often. Try to find money somewhere else, and
I felt ashamed to confess my position to my friend, and sending for,
a money-lender I emptied my trunk before him. We made an inventory
of my clothes, and the honest broker gave me thirty sequins, with the
understanding that if I did not redeem them within three days all my
things would become his property. I am bound to call him an honest
man, for he advised me to keep three shirts, a few pairs of
stockings, and a few handkerchiefs; I was disposed to let him take
everything, having a presentiment that I would win back all I had
lost; a very common error. A few years later I took my revenge by
writing a diatribe against presentiments. I am of opinion that the
only foreboding in which man can have any sort of faith is the one
which forbodes evil, because it comes from the mind, while a
presentiment of happiness has its origin in the heart, and the heart
is a fool worthy of reckoning foolishly upon fickle fortune.
I did not lose any time in joining the honest company, which was
alarmed at the thought of not seeing me. Supper went off without any
allusion to gambling, but my admirable qualities were highly praised,
and it was decided that a brilliant fortune awaited me in Rome.
After supper there was no talk of play, but giving way to my evil
genius I loudly asked for my revenge. I was told that if I would
take the bank everyone would punt. I took the bank, lost every
sequin I had, and retired, begging the monk to pay what I owed to the
landlord, which he promised to do.
I was in despair, and to crown my misery I found out as I was going
home that I had met the day before with another living specimen of
the Greek woman, less beautiful but as perfidious. I went to bed
stunned by my grief, and I believe that I must have fainted into a
heavy sleep, which lasted eleven hours; my awaking was that of a
miserable being, hating the light of heaven, of which he felt himself
unworthy, and I closed my eyes again, trying to sleep for a little
while longer. I dreaded to rouse myself up entirely, knowing that I
would then have to take some decision; but I never once thought of
returning to Venice, which would have been the very best thing to do,
and I would have destroyed myself rather than confide my sad position
to the young doctor. I was weary of my existence, and I entertained
vaguely some hope of starving where I was, without leaving my bed.
It is certain that I should not have got up if M. Alban, the master
of the peotta, had not roused me by calling upon me and informing me
that the boat was ready to sail.
The man who is delivered from great perplexity, no matter by what
means, feels himself relieved. It seemed to me that Captain Alban
had come to point out the only thing I could possibly do; I dressed
myself in haste, and tying all my worldly possessions in a
handkerchief I went on board. Soon afterwards we left the shore, and
in the morning we cast anchor in Orsara, a seaport of Istria. We all
landed to visit the city, which would more properly be called a
village. It belongs to the Pope, the Republic of Venice having
abandoned it to the Holy See.
A young monk of the order of the Recollects who called himself Friar
Stephano of Belun, and had obtained a free passage from the devout
Captain Alban, joined me as we landed and enquired whether I felt
"Reverend father, I am unhappy."
"You will forget all your sorrow, if you will come and dine with me
at the house of one of our devout friends."
I had not broken my fast for thirty-six hours, and having suffered
much from sea-sickness during the night, my stomach was quite empty.
My erotic inconvenience made me very uncomfortable, my mind felt
deeply the consciousness of my degradation, and I did not possess a
groat! I was in such a miserable state that I had no strength to
accept or to refuse anything. I was thoroughly torpid, and I
followed the monk mechanically.
He presented me to a lady, saying that he was accompanying me to
Rome, where I intend to become a Franciscan. This untruth disgusted
me, and under any other circumstances I would not have let it pass
without protest, but in my actual position it struck me as rather
comical. The good lady gave us a good dinner of fish cooked in oil,
which in Orsara is delicious, and we drank some exquisite refosco.
During our meal, a priest happened to drop in, and, after a short
conversation, he told me that I ought not to pass the night on board
the tartan, and pressed me to accept a bed in his house and a good
dinner for the next day in case the wind should not allow us to sail;
I accepted without hesitation. I offered my most sincere thanks to
the good old lady, and the priest took me all over the town. In the
evening, he brought me to his house where we partook of an excellent
supper prepared by his housekeeper, who sat down to the table with
us, and with whom I was much pleased. The refosco, still better than
that which I had drunk at dinner, scattered all my misery to the
wind, and I conversed gaily with the priest. He offered to read to
me a poem of his own composition, but, feeling that my eyes would not
keep open, I begged he would excuse me and postpone the reading until
the following day.
I went to bed, and in the morning, after ten hours of the most
profound sleep, the housekeeper, who had been watching for my
awakening, brought me some coffee. I thought her a charming woman,
but, alas! I was not in a fit state to prove to her the high
estimation in which I held her beauty.
Entertaining feelings of gratitude for my kind host, and disposed to
listen attentively to his poem, I dismissed all sadness, and I paid
his poetry such compliments that he was delighted, and, finding me
much more talented than he had judged me to be at first, he insisted
upon treating me to a reading of his idylls, and I had to swallow
them, bearing the infliction cheerfully. The day passed off very
agreeably; the housekeeper surrounded me with the kindest attentions
--a proof that she was smitten with me; and, giving way to that
pleasing idea, I felt that, by a very natural system of reciprocity,
she had made my conquest. The good priest thought that the day had
passed like lightning, thanks to all the beauties I had discovered in
his poetry, which, to speak the truth, was below mediocrity, but time
seemed to me to drag along very slowly, because the friendly glances
of the housekeeper made me long for bedtime, in spite of the
miserable condition in which I felt myself morally and physically.
But such was my nature; I abandoned myself to joy and happiness,
when, had I been more reasonable, I ought to have sunk under my grief
But the golden time came at last. I found the pretty housekeeper
full of compliance, but only up to a certain point, and as she
offered some resistance when I shewed myself disposed to pay a full
homage to her charms, I quietly gave up the undertaking, very well
pleased for both of us that it had not been carried any further, and
I sought my couch in peace. But I had not seen the end of the
adventure, for the next morning, when she brought my coffee, her
pretty, enticing manners allured me to bestow a few loving caresses
upon her, and if she did not abandon herself entirely, it was only,
as she said, because she was afraid of some surprise. The day passed
off very pleasantly with the good priest, and at night, the house-
keeper no longer fearing detection, and I having on my side taken
every precaution necessary in the state in which I was, we passed two
most delicious hours. I left Orsara the next morning.
Friar Stephano amused me all day with his talk, which plainly showed
me his ignorance combined with knavery under the veil of simplicity.
He made me look at the alms he had received in Orsara--bread, wine,
cheese, sausages, preserves, and chocolate; every nook and cranny of
his holy garment was full of provisions.
"Have you received money likewise?" I enquired.
"God forbid! In the first place, our glorious order does not permit
me to touch money, and, in the second place, were I to be foolish
enough to receive any when I am begging, people would think
themselves quit of me with one or two sous, whilst they dive me ten
times as much in eatables. Believe me Saint-Francis, was a very
I bethought myself that what this monk called wealth would be poverty
to me. He offered to share with me, and seemed very proud at my
consenting to honour him so far.
The tartan touched at the harbour of Pola, called Veruda, and we
landed. After a walk up hill of nearly a quarter of an hour, we
entered the city, and I devoted a couple of hours to visiting the
Roman antiquities, which are numerous, the town having been the
metropolis of the empire. Yet I saw no other trace of grand
buildings except the ruins of the arena. We returned to Veruda, and
went again to sea. On the following day we sighted Ancona, but the
wind being against us we were compelled to tack about, and we did not
reach the port till the second day. The harbour of Ancona, although
considered one of the great works of Trajan, would be very unsafe if
it were not for a causeway which has cost a great deal of money, and
which makes it some what better. I observed a fact worthy of notice,
namely, that, in the Adriatic, the northern coast has many harbours,
while the opposite coast can only boast of one or two. It is evident
that the sea is retiring by degrees towards the east, and that in
three or four more centuries Venice must be joined to the land. We
landed at the old lazzaretto, where we received the pleasant
information that we would go through a quarantine of twenty-eight
days, because Venice had admitted, after a quarantine of three
months, the crew of two ships from Messina, where the plague had
recently been raging. I requested a room for myself and for Brother
Stephano, who thanked me very heartily. I hired from a Jew a bed, a
table and a few chairs, promising to pay for the hire at the
expiration of our quarantine. The monk would have nothing but straw.
If he had guessed that without him I might have starved, he would
most likely not have felt so much vanity at sharing my room. A
sailor, expecting to find in me a generous customer, came to enquire
where my trunk was, and, hearing from me that I did not know, he, as
well as Captain Alban, went to a great deal of trouble to find it,
and I could hardly keep down my merriment when the captain called,
begging to be excused for having left it behind, and assuring me that
he would take care to forward it to me in less than three weeks.
The friar, who had to remain with me four weeks, expected to live at
my expense, while, on the contrary, he had been sent by Providence to
keep me. He had provisions enough for one week, but it was necessary
to think of the future.
After supper, I drew a most affecting picture of my position, shewing
that I should be in need of everything until my arrival at Rome,
where I was going, I said, to fill the post of secretary of
memorials, and my astonishment may be imagined when I saw the
blockhead delighted at the recital of my misfortunes.
"I undertake to take care of you until we reach Rome; only tell me
whether you can write."
"What a question! Are you joking?"
"Why should I? Look at me; I cannot write anything but my name.
True, I can write it with either hand; and what else do I want to
"You astonish me greatly, for I thought you were a priest."
"I am a monk; I say the mass, and, as a matter of course, I must know
how to read. Saint-Francis, whose unworthy son I am, could not read,
an that is the reason why he never said a mass. But as you can
write, you will to-morrow pen a letter in my name to the persons
whose names I will give you, and I warrant you we shall have enough
sent here to live like fighting cocks all through our quarantine."
The next day he made me write eight letters, because, in the oral
tradition of his order, it is said that, when a monk has knocked at
seven doors and has met with a refusal at every one of them, he must
apply to the eighth with perfect confidence, because there he is
certain of receiving alms. As he had already performed the
pilgrimage to Rome, he knew every person in Ancona devoted to the
cult of Saint-Francis, and was acquainted with the superiors of all
the rich convents. I had to write to every person he named, and to
set down all the lies he dictated to me. He likewise made me sign
the letters for him, saying, that, if he signed himself, his
correspondents would see that the letters had not been written by
him, which would injure him, for, he added, in this age of
corruption, people will esteem only learned men. He compelled me to
fill the letters with Latin passages and quotations, even those
addressed to ladies, and I remonstrated in vain, for, when I raised
any objection, he threatened to leave me without anything to eat. I
made up my mind to do exactly as he wished. He desired me to write
to the superior of the Jesuits that he would not apply to the
Capuchins, because they were no better than atheists, and that that
was the reason of the great dislike of Saint-Francis for them. It
was in vain that I reminded him of the fact that, in the time of
Saint-Francis, there were neither Capuchins nor Recollets. His
answer was that I had proved myself an ignoramus. I firmly believed
that he would be thought a madman, and that we should not receive
anything, but I was mistaken, for such a quantity of provisions came
pouring in that I was amazed. Wine was sent from three or four
different quarters, more than enough for us during all our stay, and
yet I drank nothing but water, so great was my wish to recover my
health. As for eatables, enough was sent in every day for six
persons; we gave all our surplus to our keeper, who had a large
family. But the monk felt no gratitude for the kind souls who
bestowed their charity upon him; all his thanks were reserved for
He undertook to have my men washed by the keeper; I would not have
dared to give it myself, and he said that he had nothing to fear, as
everybody was well aware that the monks of his order never wear any
kind of linen.
I kept myself in bed nearly all day, and thus avoided shewing myself
to visitors. The persons who did not come wrote letters full of
incongruities cleverly worded, which I took good care not to point
out to him. It was with great difficulty that I tried to persuade
him that those letters did not require any answer.
A fortnight of repose and severe diet brought me round towards
complete recovery, and I began to walk in the yard of the lazzaretto
from morning till night; but the arrival of a Turk from Thessalonia
with his family compelled me to suspend my walks, the ground-floor
having been given to him. The only pleasure left me was to spend my
time on the balcony overlooking the yard. I soon saw a Greek slave,
a girl of dazzling beauty, for whom I felt the deepest interest. She
was in the habit of spending the whole day sitting near the door with
a book or some embroidery in her hand. If she happened to raise her
eyes and to meet mine, she modestly bent her head down, and sometimes
she rose and went in slowly, as if she meant to say, "I did not know
that somebody was looking at me." Her figure was tall and slender,
her features proclaimed her to be very young; she had a very fair
complexion, with beautiful black hair and eyes. She wore the Greek
costume, which gave her person a certain air of very exciting
I was perfectly idle, and with the temperament which nature and habit
had given me, was it likely that I could feast my eyes constantly
upon such a charming object without falling desperately in love? I
had heard her conversing in Lingua Franca with her master, a fine old
man, who, like her, felt very weary of the quarantine, and used to
come out but seldom, smoking his pipe, and remaining in the yard only
a short time. I felt a great temptation to address a few words to
the beautiful girl, but I was afraid she might run away and never
come out again; however, unable to control myself any longer, I
determined to write to her; I had no difficulty in conveying the
letter, as I had only to let it fall from my balcony. But she might
have refused to pick it up, and this is the plan I adopted in order
not to risk any unpleasant result.
Availing myself of a moment during which she was alone in the yard, I
dropped from my balcony a small piece of paper folded like a letter,
but I had taken care not to write anything on it, and held the true
letter in my hand. As soon as I saw her stooping down to pick up the
first, I quickly let the second drop at her feet, and she put both
into her pocket. A few minutes afterwards she left the yard. My
letter was somewhat to this effect:
"Beautiful angel from the East, I worship you. I will remain all
night on this balcony in the hope that you will come to me for a
quarter of an hour, and listen to my voice through the hole under my
feet. We can speak softly, and in order to hear me you can climb up
to the top of the bale of goods which lies beneath the same hole."
I begged from my keeper not to lock me in as he did every night, and
he consented on condition that he would watch me, for if I had jumped
down in the yard his life might have been the penalty, and he
promised not to disturb me on the balcony.
At midnight, as I was beginning to give her up, she carne forward. I
then laid myself flat on the floor of the balcony, and I placed my
head against the hole, about six inches square. I saw her jump on
the bale, and her head reached within a foot from the balcony. She
was compelled to steady herself with one hand against the wall for
fear of falling, and in that position we talked of love, of ardent
desires, of obstacles, of impossibilities, and of cunning artifices.
I told her the reason for which I dared not jump down in the yard,
and she observed that, even without that reason, it would bring ruin
upon us, as it would be impossible to come up again, and that,
besides, God alone knew what her master would do if he were to find
us together. Then, promising to visit me in this way every night,
she passed her hand through the hole. Alas! I could not leave off
kissing it, for I thought that I had never in my life touched so
soft, so delicate a hand. But what bliss when she begged for mine!
I quickly thrust my arm through the hole, so that she could fasten
her lips to the bend of the elbow. How many sweet liberties my hand
ventured to take! But we were at last compelled by prudence to
separate, and when I returned to my room I saw with great pleasure
that the keeper was fast asleep.
Although I was delighted at having obtained every favour I could
possibly wish for in the uncomfortable position we had been in, I
racked my brain to contrive the means of securing more complete
enjoyment for the following night, but I found during the afternoon
that the feminine cunning of my beautiful Greek was more fertile than
Being alone in the yard with her master, she said a few words to him
in Turkish, to which he seemed to give his approval, and soon after a
servant, assisted by the keeper, brought under the balcony a large
basket of goods. She overlooked the arrangement, and in order to
secure the basket better, she made the servant place a bale of cotton
across two others. Guessing at her purpose, I fairly leaped for joy,
for she had found the way of raising herself two feet higher; but I
thought that she would then find herself in the most inconvenient
position, and that, forced to bend double, she would not be able to
resist the fatigue. The hole was not wide enough for her head to
pass through, otherwise she might have stood erect and been
comfortable. It was necessary at all events to guard against that
difficulty; the only way was to tear out one of the planks of the
floor of the balcony, but it was not an easy undertaking. Yet I
decided upon attempting it, regardless of consequences; and I went to
my room to provide myself with a large pair of pincers. Luckily the
keeper was absent, and availing myself of the opportunity, I
succeeded in dragging out carefully the four large nails which
fastened the plank. Finding that I could lift it at my will, I
replaced the pincers, and waited for the night with amorous
The darling girl came exactly at midnight, noticing the difficulty
she experienced in climbing up, and in getting a footing upon the
third bale of cotton, I lifted the plank, and, extending my arm as
far as I could, I offered her a steady point of support. She stood
straight, and found herself agreeably surprised, for she could pass
her head and her arms through the hole. We wasted no time in empty
compliments; we only congratulated each other upon having both worked
for the same purpose.
If, the night before, I had found myself master of her person more
than she was of mine, this time the position was entirely reversed.
Her hand roamed freely over every part of my body, but I had to stop
half-way down hers. She cursed the man who had packed the bale for
not having made it half a foot bigger, so as to get nearer to me.
Very likely even that would not have satisfied us, but she would have
Our pleasures were barren, yet we kept up our enjoyment until the
first streak of light. I put back the plank carefully, and I lay
down in my bed in great need of recruiting my strength.
My dear mistress had informed me that the Turkish Bairam began that
very morning, and would last three days during which it would be
impossible for her to see me.
The night after Bairam, she did not fail to make her appearance, and,
saying that she could not be happy without me, she told me that, as
she was a Christian woman, I could buy her, if I waited for her after
leaving the lazzaretto. I was compelled to tell her that I did not
possess the means of doing so, and my confession made her sigh. On
the following night, she informed me that her master would sell her
for two thousand piasters, that she would give me the amount, that
she was yet a virgin, and that I would be pleased with my bargain.
She added that she would give me a casket full of diamonds, one of
which was alone worth two thousand piasters, and that the sale of the
others would place us beyond the reach of poverty for the remainder
of our life. She assured me that her master would not notice the
loss of the casket, and that, if he did, he would never think of
I was in love with this girl; and her proposal made me uncomfortable,
but when I woke in the morning I did not hesitate any longer. She
brought the casket in the evening, but I told her that I never could
make up my mind to be accessory to a robbery; she was very unhappy,
and said that my love was not as deep as her own, but that she could
not help admiring me for being so good a Christian.
This was the last night; probably we should never meet again. The
flame of passion consumed us. She proposed that I should lift her up
to the balcony through the open space. Where is the lover who would
have objected to so attractive a proposal? I rose, and without being
a Milo, I placed my hands under her arms, I drew her up towards me,
and my desires are on the point of being fulfilled. Suddenly I feel
two hands upon my shoulders, and the voice of the keeper exclaims,
"What are you about?" I let my precious burden drop; she regains her
chamber, and I, giving vent to my rage, throw myself flat on the
floor of the balcony, and remain there without a movement, in spite
of the shaking of the keeper whom I was sorely tempted to strangle.
At last I rose from the floor and went to bed without uttering one
word, and not even caring to replace the plank.
In the morning, the governor informed us that we were free. As I
left the lazzaretto, with a breaking heart, I caught a glimpse of the
Greek slave drowned in tears.
I agreed to meet Friar Stephano at the exchange, and I took the Jew
from whom I had hired the furniture, to the convent of the Minims,
where I received from Father Lazari ten sequins and the address of
the bishop, who, after performing quarantine on the frontiers of
Tuscany, had proceeded to Rome, where he would expect me to meet him.
I paid the Jew, and made a poor dinner at an inn. As I was leaving
it to join the monk, I was so unlucky as to meet Captain Alban, who
reproached me bitterly for having led him to believe that my trunk
had been left behind. I contrived to appease his anger by telling
him all my misfortunes, and I signed a paper in which I declared that
I had no claim whatever upon him. I then purchased a pair of shoes
and an overcoat, and met Stephano, whom I informed of my decision to
make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Loretto. I said I would await there
for him, and that we would afterwards travel together as far as Rome.
He answered that he did not wish to go through Loretto, and that I
would repent of my contempt for the grace of Saint-Francis. I did
not alter my mind, and I left for Loretto the next day in the
enjoyment of perfect health.
I reached the Holy City, tired almost to death, for it was the first
time in my life that I had walked fifteen miles, drinking nothing but
water, although the weather was very warm, because the dry wine used
in that part of the country parched me too much. I must observe
that, in spite of my poverty, I did not look like a beggar.
As I was entering the city, I saw coming towards me an elderly priest
of very respectable appearance, and, as he was evidently taking
notice of me, as soon as he drew near, I saluted him, and enquired
where I could find a comfortable inn. "I cannot doubt," he said,
"that a person like you, travelling on foot, must come here from
devout motives; come with me." He turned back, I followed him, and
he took me to a fine-looking house. After whispering a few words to
a man who appeared to be a steward, he left me saying, very affably,
"You shall be well attended to."
My first impression was that I had been mistaken for some other
person, but I said nothing.
I was led to a suite of three rooms; the chamber was decorated with
damask hangings, the bedstead had a canopy, and the table was
supplied with all materials necessary for writing. A servant brought
me a light dressing-gown, and another came in with linen and a large
tub full of water, which he placed before me; my shoes and stockings
were taken off, and my feet washed. A very decent-looking woman,
followed by a servant girl, came in a few minutes after, and
curtsying very low, she proceeded to make my bed. At that moment the
Angelus bell was heard; everyone knelt down, and I followed their
example. After the prayer, a small table was neatly laid out, I was
asked what sort of wine I wished to drink, and I was provided with
newspapers and two silver candlesticks. An hour afterwards I had a
delicious fish supper, and, before I retired to bed, a servant came
to enquire whether I would take chocolate in the morning before or
As soon as I was in bed, the servant brought me a night-lamp with a
dial, and I remained alone. Except in France I have never had such a
good bed as I had that night. It would have cured the most chronic
insomnia, but I was not labouring under such a disease, and I slept
for ten hours.
This sort of treatment easily led me to believe that I was not in any
kind of hostelry; but where was I? How was I to suppose that I was
in a hospital?
When I had taken my chocolate, a hair-dresser--quite a fashionable,
dapper fellow--made his appearance, dying to give vent to his
chattering propensities. Guessing that I did not wish to be shaved,
he offered to clip my soft down with the scissors, saying that I
would look younger.
"Why do you suppose that I want to conceal my age?"
"It is very natural, because, if your lordship did not wish to do so,
your lordship would have shaved long ago. Countess Marcolini is
here; does your lordship know her? I must go to her at noon to dress
I did not feel interested in the Countess Marcolini, and, seeing it,
the gossip changed the subject.
"Is this your lordship's first visit to this house? It is the
finest hospital throughout the papal states."
"I quite agree with you, and I shall compliment His Holiness on the
"Oh! His Holiness knows all about it, he resided here before he
became pope. If Monsignor Caraffa had not been well acquainted with
you, he would not have introduced you here."
Such is the use of barbers throughout Europe; but you must not put
any questions to them, for, if you do, they are sure to threat you to
an impudent mixture of truth and falsehood, and instead of you
pumping them, they will worm everything out of you.
Thinking that it was my duty to present my respectful compliments to
Monsignor Caraffa, I desired to be taken to his apartment. He gave
me a pleasant welcome, shewed me his library, and entrusted me to the
care of one of his abbes, a man of parts, who acted as my cicerone
every where. Twenty years afterwards, this same abbe was of great
service to me in Rome, and, if still alive, he is a canon of St. John
On the following day, I took the communion in the Santa-Casa. The
third day was entirely employed in examining the exterior of this
truly wonderful sanctuary, and early the next day I resumed my
journey, having spent nothing except three paoli for the barber.
Halfway to Macerata, I overtook Brother Stephano walking on at a very
slow rate. He was delighted to see me again, and told me that he had
left Ancona two hours after me, but that he never walked more than
three miles a day, being quite satisfied to take two months for a
journey which, even on foot, can easily be accomplished in a week.
"I want," he said, "to reach Rome without fatigue and in good health.
I am in no hurry, and if you feel disposed to travel with me and in
the same quiet way, Saint-Francis will not find it difficult to keep
us both during the journey."
This lazy fellow was a man about thirty, red-haired, very strong and
healthy; a true peasant who had turned himself into a monk only for
the sake of living in idle comfort. I answered that, as I was in a
hurry to reach Rome, I could not be his travelling companion.
"I undertake to walk six miles, instead of three, today," he said,
"if you will carry my cloak, which I find very heavy."
The proposal struck me as a rather funny one; I put on his cloak, and
he took my great-coat, but, after the exchange, we cut such a comical
figure that every peasant we met laughed at us. His cloak would
truly have proved a load for a mule. There were twelve pockets quite
full, without taken into account a pocket behind, which he called 'il
batticulo', and which contained alone twice as much as all the
others. Bread, wine, fresh and salt meat, fowls, eggs, cheese, ham,
sausages--everything was to be found in those pockets, which
contained provisions enough for a fortnight.
I told him how well I had been treated in Loretto, and he assured me
that I might have asked Monsignor Caraffa to give me letters for all
the hospitals on my road to Rome, and that everywhere I would have
met with the same reception. "The hospitals," he added, "are all
under the curse of Saint-Francis, because the mendicant friars are
not admitted in them; but we do not mind their gates being shut
against us, because they are too far apart from each other. We prefer
the homes of the persons attached to our order; these we find
"Why do you not ask hospitality in the convents of your order?"
"I am not so foolish. In the first place, I should not be admitted,
because, being a fugitive, I have not the written obedience which
must be shown at every convent, and I should even run the risk of
being thrown into prison; your monks are a cursed bad lot. In the
second place, I should not be half so comfortable in the convents as
I am with our devout benefactors."
"Why and how are you a fugitive?"
He answered my question by the narrative of his imprisonment and
flight, the whole story being a tissue of absurdities and lies. The
fugitive Recollet friar was a fool, with something of the wit of
harlequin, and he thought that every man listening to him was a
greater fool than himself. Yet with all his folly he was not went in
a certain species of cunning. His religious principles were
singular. As he did not wish to be taken for a bigoted man he was
scandalous, and for the sake of making people laugh he would often
make use of the most disgusting expressions. He had no taste
whatever for women, and no inclination towards the pleasures of the
flesh; but this was only owing to a deficiency in his natural
temperament, and yet he claimed for himself the virtue of continence.
On that score, everything appeared to him food for merriment, and
when he had drunk rather too much, he would ask questions of such an
indecent character that they would bring blushes on everybody's
countenance. Yet the brute would only laugh.
As we were getting within one hundred yards from the house of the
devout friend whom he intended to honour with his visit, he took back
his heavy cloak. On entering the house he gave his blessing to
everybody, and everyone in the family came to kiss his hand. The
mistress of the house requested him to say mass for them, and the
compliant monk asked to be taken to the vestry, but when I whispered
in his ear,---
"Have you forgotten that we have already broken our fast to-day?" he
"Mind your own business."
I dared not make any further remark, but during the mass I was indeed
surprised, for I saw that he did not understand what he was doing. I
could not help being amused at his awkwardness, but I had not yet
seen the best part of the comedy. As soon as he had somehow or other
finished his mass he went to the confessional, and after hearing in
confession every member of the family he took it into his head to
refuse absolution to the daughter of his hostess, a girl of twelve or
thirteen, pretty and quite charming. He gave his refusal publicly,
scolding her and threatening her with the torments of hell. The poor
girl, overwhelmed with shame, left the church crying bitterly, and I,
feeling real sympathy for her, could not help saying aloud to
Stephano that he was a madman. I ran after the girl to offer her my
consolations, but she had disappeared, and could not be induced to
join us at dinner. This piece of extravagance on the part of the
monk exasperated me to such an extent that I felt a very strong
inclination to thrash him. In the presence of all the family I told
him that he was an impostor, and the infamous destroyer of the poor
child's honour; I challenged him to explain his reasons for refusing
to give her absolution, but he closed my lips by answering very
coolly that he could not betray the secrets of the confessional.
I could eat nothing, and was fully determined to leave the scoundrel.
As we left the house I was compelled to accept one paolo as the price
of the mock mass he had said. I had to fulfil the sorry duty of his
The moment we were on the road, I told him that I was going to part
company, because I was afraid of being sent as a felon to the galleys
if I continued my journey with him. We exchanged high words; I
called him an ignorant scoundrel, he styled me beggar. I struck him
a violent slap on the face, which he returned with a blow from his
stick, but I quickly snatched it from him, and, leaving him, I
hastened towards Macerata. A carrier who was going to Tolentino took
me with him for two paoli, and for six more I might have reached
Foligno in a waggon, but unfortunately a wish for economy made me
refuse the offer. I felt well, and I thought I could easily walk as
far as Valcimare, but I arrived there only after five hours of hard
walking, and thoroughly beaten with fatigue. I was strong and
healthy, but a walk of five hours was more than I could bear, because
in my infancy I had never gone a league on foot. Young people cannot
practise too much the art of walking.
The next day, refreshed by a good night's rest, and ready to resume
my journey, I wanted to pay the innkeeper, but, alas! a new
misfortune was in store for me! Let the reader imagine my sad
position! I recollected that I had forgotten my purse, containing
seven sequins, on the table of the inn at Tolentino. What a
thunderbolt! I was in despair, but I gave up the idea of going back,
as it was very doubtful whether I would find my money. Yet it
contained all I possessed, save a few copper coins I had in my
pocket. I paid my small bill, and, deeply grieved at my loss,
continued my journey towards Seraval. I was within three miles of
that place when, in jumping over a ditch, I sprained my ankle, and
was compelled to sit down on one side of the road, and to wait until
someone should come to my assistance.
In the course of an hour a peasant happened to pass with his donkey,
and he agreed to carry me to Seraval for one paolo. As I wanted to
spend as little as possible, the peasant took me to an ill-looking
fellow who, for two paoli paid in advance, consented to give me a
lodging. I asked him to send for a surgeon, but I did not obtain one
until the following morning. I had a wretched supper, after which I
lay down in a filthy bed. I was in hope that sleep would bring me
some relief, but my evil genius was preparing for me a night of
Three men, armed with guns and looking like banditti, came in shortly
after I had gone to bed, speaking a kind of slang which I could not
make out, swearing, raging, and paying no attention to me. They
drank and sang until midnight, after which they threw themselves down
on bundles of straw brought for them, and my host, who was drunk,
came, greatly to my dismay, to lie down near me. Disgusted at the
idea of having such a fellow for my bed companion, I refused to let
him come, but he answered, with fearful blasphemies, that all the
devils in hell could not prevent him from taking possession of his
own bed. I was forced to make room for him, and exclaimed "Heavens,
where am I?" He told me that I was in the house of the most honest
constable in all the papal states.
Could I possibly have supposed that the peasant would have brought me
amongst those accursed enemies of humankind!
He laid himself down near me, but the filthy scoundrel soon compelled
me to give him, for certain reasons, such a blow in his chest that he
rolled out of bed. He picked himself up, and renewed his beastly
attempt. Being well aware that I could not master him without great
danger, I got out of bed, thinking myself lucky that he did not
oppose my wish, and crawling along as well as I could, I found a
chair on which I passed the night. At day-break, my tormentor,
called up by his honest comrades, joined them in drinking and
shouting, and the three strangers, taking their guns, departed. Left
alone by the departure of the vile rabble, I passed another
unpleasant hour, calling in vain for someone. At last a young boy
came in, I gave him some money and he went for a surgeon. The doctor
examined my foot, and assured me that three or four days would set me
to rights. He advised me to be removed to an inn, and I most
willingly followed his counsel. As soon as I was brought to the inn,
I went to bed, and was well cared for, but my position was such that
I dreaded the moment of my recovery. I feared that I should be
compelled to sell my coat to pay the inn-keeper, and the very thought
made me feel ashamed. I began to consider that if I had controlled
my sympathy for the young girl so ill-treated by Stephano, I should
not have fallen into this sad predicament, and I felt conscious that
my sympathy had been a mistake. If I had put up with the faults of
the friar, if this and if that, and every other if was conjured up to
torment my restless and wretched brain. Yet I must confess that the
thoughts which have their origin in misfortune are not without
advantage to a young man, for they give him the habit of thinking,
and the man who does not think never does anything right.
The morning of the fourth day came, and I was able to walk, as the
surgeon had predicted; I made up my mind, although reluctantly, to
beg the worthy man to sell my great coat for me--a most unpleasant
necessity, for rain had begun to fall. I owed fifteen paoli to the
inn-keeper and four to the surgeon. Just as I was going to proffer
my painful request, Brother Stephano made his appearance in my room,
and burst into loud laughter enquiring whether I had forgotten the
blow from his stick!
I was struck with amazement! I begged the surgeon to leave me with
the monk, and he immediately complied.
I must ask my readers whether it is possible, in the face of such
extraordinary circumstances, not to feel superstitious! What is
truly miraculous in this case is the precise minute at which the
event took place, for the friar entered the room as the word was
hanging on my lips. What surprised me most was the force of
Providence, of fortune, of chance, whatever name is given to it, of
that very necessary combination which compelled me to find no hope
but in that fatal monk, who had begun to be my protective genius in
Chiozza at the moment my distress had likewise commenced. And yet, a
singular guardian angel, this Stephano! I felt that the mysterious
force which threw me in his hands was a punishment rather than a
Nevertheless he was welcome, because I had no doubt of his relieving
me from my difficulties,--and whatever might be the power that sent
him to me, I felt that I could not do better than to submit to its
influence; the destiny of that monk was to escort me to Rome.
"Chi va piano va sano," said the friar as soon as we were alone. He
had taken five days to traverse the road over which I had travelled
in one day, but he was in good health, and he had met with no
misfortune. He told me that, as he was passing, he heard that an
abbe, secretary to the Venetian ambassador at Rome, was lying ill at
the inn, after having been robbed in Valcimara. "I came to see you,"
he added, "and as I find you recovered from your illness, we can
start again together; I agree to walk six miles every day to please
you. Come, let us forget the past, and let us be at once on our
"I cannot go; I have lost my purse, and I owe twenty paoli."
"I will go and find the amount in the name of Saint-Francis."
He returned within an hour, but he was accompanied by the infamous
constable who told me that, if I had let him know who I was, he would
have been happy to keep me in his house. "I will give you," he
continued, "forty paoli, if you will promise me the protection of
your ambassador; but if you do not succeed in obtaining it for me in
Rome, you will undertake to repay me. Therefore you must give me an
acknowledgement of the debt."
"I have no objection." Every arrangement was speedily completed; I
received the money, paid my debts, and left Seraval with Stephano.
About one o'clock in the afternoon, we saw a wretched-looking house
at a short distance from the road, and the friar said, "It is a good
distance from here to Collefiorito; we had better put up there for
the night." It was in vain that I objected, remonstrating that we
were certain of having very poor accommodation! I had to submit to
his will. We found a decrepit old man lying on a pallet, two ugly
women of thirty or forty, three children entirely naked, a cow, and a
cursed dog which barked continually. It was a picture of squalid
misery; but the niggardly monk, instead of giving alms to the poor
people, asked them to entertain us to supper in the name of Saint-
"You must boil the hen," said the dying man to the females, "and
bring out of the cellar the bottle of wine which I have kept now for
twenty years." As he uttered those few words, he was seized with
such a fit of coughing that I thought he would die. The friar went
near him, and promised him that, by the grace of Saint-Francis, he
would get young and well. Moved by the sight of so much misery, I
wanted to continue my journey as far as Collefiorito, and to wait
there for Stephano, but the women would not let me go, and I
remained. After boiling for four hours the hen set the strongest
teeth at defiance, and the bottle which I uncorked proved to be
nothing but sour vinegar. Losing patience, I got hold of the monk's
batticaslo, and took out of it enough for a plentiful supper, and I
saw the two women opening their eyes very wide at the sight of our
We all ate with good appetite, and, after our supper the women made
for us two large beds of fresh straw, and we lay down in the dark, as
the last bit of candle to be found in the miserable dwelling was
burnt out. We had not been lying on the straw five minutes, when
Stephano called out to me that one of the women had just placed
herself near him, and at the same instant the other one takes me in
her arms and kisses me. I push her away, and the monk defends
himself against the other; but mine, nothing daunted, insists upon
laying herself near me; I get up, the dog springs at my neck, and
fear compels me to remain quiet on my straw bed; the monk screams,
swears, struggles, the dog barks furiously, the old man coughs; all
is noise and confusion. At last Stephano, protected by his heavy
garments, shakes off the too loving shrew, and, braving the dog,
manages to find his stick. Then he lays about to right and left,
striking in every direction; one of the women exclaims, "Oh, God!"
the friar answers, "She has her quietus." Calm reigns again in the
house, the dog, most likely dead, is silent; the old man, who perhaps
has received his death-blow, coughs no more; the children sleep, and
the women, afraid of the singular caresses of the monk, sheer off
into a corner; the remainder of the night passed off quietly.
At day-break I rose; Stephano was likewise soon up. I looked all
round, and my surprise was great when I found that the women had gone
out, and seeing that the old man gave no sign of life, and had a
bruise on his forehead, I shewed it to Stephano, remarking that very
likely he had killed him.
"It is possible," he answered, "but I have not done it
Then taking up his batticulo and finding it empty he flew into a
violent passion; but I was much pleased, for I had been afraid that
the women had gone out to get assistance and to have us arrested, and
the robbery of our provisions reassured me, as I felt certain that
the poor wretches had gone out of the way so as to secure impunity
for their theft. But I laid great stress upon the danger we should
run by remaining any longer, and I succeeded in frightening the friar
out of the house. We soon met a waggoner going to Folligno; I
persuaded Stephano to take the opportunity of putting a good distance
between us and the scene of our last adventures; and, as we were
eating our breakfast at Folligno, we saw another waggon, quite empty,
got a lift in it for a trifle, and thus rode to Pisignano, where a
devout person gave us a charitable welcome, and I slept soundly
through the night without the dread of being arrested.
Early the next day we reached Spoleti, where Brother Stephano had two
benefactors, and, careful not to give either of them a cause of
jealousy, he favoured both; we dined with the first, who entertained
us like princes, and we had supper and lodging in the house of the
second, a wealthy wine merchant, and the father of a large and
delightful family. He gave us a delicious supper, and everything
would have gone on pleasantly had not the friar, already excited by
his good dinner, made himself quite drunk. In that state, thinking
to please his new host, he began to abuse the other, greatly to my
annoyance; he said the wine he had given us to drink was adulterated,
and that the man was a thief. I gave him the lie to his face, and
called him a scoundrel. The host and his wife pacified me, saying
that they were well acquainted with their neighbour, and knew what to
think of him; but the monk threw his napkin at my face, and the host
took him very quietly by the arm and put him to bed in a room in
which he locked him up. I slept in another room.
In the morning I rose early, and was considering whether it would not
be better to go alone, when the friar, who had slept himself sober,
made his appearance and told me that we ought for the future to live
together like good friends, and not give way to angry feelings; I
followed my destiny once more. We resumed our journey, and at Soma,
the inn-keeper, a woman of rare beauty, gave us a good dinner, and
some excellent Cyprus wine which the Venetian couriers exchanged with
her against delicious truffles found in the vicinity of Soma, which
sold for a good price in Venice. I did not leave the handsome inn-
keeper without losing a part of my heart.
It would be difficult to draw a picture of the indignation which
overpowered me when, as we were about two miles from Terni, the
infamous friar shewed me a small bag full of truffles which the
scoundrel had stolen from the amiable woman by way of thanks for her
generous hospitality. The truffles were worth two sequins at least.
In my indignation I snatched the bag from him, saying that I would
certainly return it to its lawful owner. But, as he had not
committed the robbery to give himself the pleasure of making
restitution, he threw himself upon me, and we came to a regular
fight. But victory did not remain long in abeyance; I forced his
stick out of his hands, knocked him into a ditch, and went off. On
reaching Terni, I wrote a letter of apology to our beautiful hostess
of Soma, and sent back the truffles.
From Terni I went on foot to Otricoli, where I only stayed long
enough to examine the fine old bridge, and from there I paid four
paoli to a waggoner who carried me to Castel-Nuovo, from which place
I walked to Rome. I reached the celebrated city on the 1st of
September, at nine in the morning.
I must not forget to mention here a rather peculiar circumstance,
which, however ridiculous it may be in reality, will please many of
An hour after I had left Castel-Nuovo, the atmosphere being calm and
the sky clear, I perceived on my right, and within ten paces of me, a
pyramidal flame about two feet long and four or five feet above the
ground. This apparition surprised me, because it seemed to accompany
me. Anxious to examine it, I endeavoured to get nearer to it, but
the more I advanced towards it the further it went from me. It would
stop when I stood still, and when the road along which I was
travelling happened to be lined with trees, I no longer saw it, but
it was sure to reappear as soon as I reached a portion of the road
without trees. I several times retraced my steps purposely, but,
every time I did so, the flame disappeared, and would not shew itself
again until I proceeded towards Rome. This extraordinary beacon left
me when daylight chased darkness from the sky.
What a splendid field for ignorant superstition, if there had been
any witnesses to that phenomenon, and if I had chanced to make a
great name in Rome! History is full of such trifles, and the world
is full of people who attach great importance to them in spite of the
so-called light of science. I must candidly confess that, although
somewhat versed in physics, the sight of that small meteor gave me
singular ideas. But I was prudent enough not to mention the
circumstance to any one.
When I reached the ancient capital of the world, I possessed only
seven paoli, and consequently I did not loiter about. I paid no
attention to the splendid entrance through the gate of the polar
trees, which is by mistake pompously called of the people, or to the
beautiful square of the same name, or to the portals of the
magnificent churches, or to all the stately buildings which generally
strike the traveller as he enters the city. I went straight towards
Monte-Magnanopoli, where, according to the address given to me, I was
to find the bishop. There I was informed that he had left Rome ten
days before, leaving instructions to send me to Naples free of
expense. A coach was to start for Naples the next day; not caring to
see Rome, I went to bed until the time for the departure of the
coach. I travelled with three low fellows to whom I did not address
one word through the whole of the journey. I entered Naples on the
6th day of September.
I went immediately to the address which had been given to me in Rome;
the bishop was not there. I called at the Convent of the Minims, and
I found that he had left Naples to proceed to Martorano. I enquired
whether he had left any instructions for me, but all in vain, no one
could give me any information. And there I was, alone in a large
city, without a friend, with eight carlini in my pocket, and not
knowing what to do! But never mind; fate calls me to Martorano, and
to Martorano I must go. The distance, after all, is only two hundred
I found several drivers starting for Cosenza, but when they heard
that I had no luggage, they refused to take me, unless I paid in
advance. They were quite right, but their prudence placed me under
the necessity of going on foot. Yet I felt I must reach Martorano,
and I made up my mind to walk the distance, begging food and lodging
like the very reverend Brother Stephano.
First of all I made a light meal for one fourth of my money, and,
having been informed that I had to follow the Salerno road, I went
towards Portici where I arrived in an hour and a half. I already
felt rather fatigued; my legs, if not my head, took me to an inn,
where I ordered a room and some supper. I was served in good style,
my appetite was excellent, and I passed a quiet night in a
comfortable bed. In the morning I told the inn-keeper that I would
return for my dinner, and I went out to visit the royal palace. As I
passed through the gate, I was met by a man of prepossessing
appearance, dressed in the eastern fashion, who offered to shew me
all over the palace, saying that I would thus save my money. I was
in a position to accept any offer; I thanked him for his kindness.
Happening during the conversation to state that I was a Venetian, he
told me that he was my subject, since he came from Zante. I
acknowledged his polite compliment with a reverence.
"I have," he said, "some very excellent muscatel wine 'grown in the
East, which I could sell you cheap."
"I might buy some, but I warn you I am a good judge."
"So much the better. Which do you prefer?"
"The Cerigo wine."
"You are right. I have some rare Cerigo muscatel, and we can taste
it if you have no objection to dine with me."
"I can likewise give you the wines of Samos and Cephalonia. I have
also a quantity of minerals, plenty of vitriol, cinnabar, antimony,
and one hundred quintals of mercury."
"Are all these goods here?"
"No, they are in Naples. Here I have only the muscatel wine and the
It is quite naturally and without any intention to deceive, that a
young man accustomed to poverty, and ashamed of it when he speaks to
a rich stranger, boasts of his means--of his fortune. As I was
talking with my new acquaintance, I recollected an amalgam of mercury
with lead and bismuth, by which the mercury increases one-fourth in
weight. I said nothing, but I bethought myself that if the mystery
should be unknown to the Greek I might profit by it. I felt that
some cunning was necessary, and that he would not care for my secret
if I proposed to sell it to him without preparing the way. The best
plan was to astonish my man with the miracle of the augmentation of
the mercury, treat it as a jest, and see what his intentions would
be. Cheating is a crime, but honest cunning may be considered as a
species of prudence. True, it is a quality which is near akin to
roguery; but that cannot be helped, and the man who, in time of need,
does not know how to exercise his cunning nobly is a fool. The
Greeks call this sort of wisdom Cerdaleophyon from the word cerdo;
fox, and it might be translated by foxdom if there were such a word
After we had visited the palace we returned to the inn, and the Greek
took me to his room, in which he ordered the table to be laid for
two. In the next room I saw several large vessels of muscatel wine
and four flagons of mercury, each containing about ten pounds.
My plans were laid, and I asked him to let me have one of the flagons
of mercury at the current price, and took it to my room. The Greek
went out to attend to his business, reminding me that he expected me
to dinner. I went out likewise, and bought two pounds and a half of
lead and an equal quantity of bismuth; the druggist had no more. I
came back to the inn, asked for some large empty bottles, and made
We dined very pleasantly, and the Greek was delighted because I
pronounced his Cerigo excellent. In the course of conversation he
inquired laughingly why I had bought one of his flagons of mercury.
"You can find out if you come to my room," I said.
After dinner we repaired to my room, and he found his mercury divided
in two vessels. I asked for a piece of chamois, strained the liquid
through it, filled his own flagon, and the Greek stood astonished at
the sight of the fine mercury, about one-fourth of a flagon, which
remained over, with an equal quantity of a powder unknown to him; it
was the bismuth. My merry laugh kept company with his astonishment,
and calling one of the servants of the inn I sent him to the druggist
to sell the mercury that was left. He returned in a few minutes and
handed me fifteen carlini.
The Greek, whose surprise was complete, asked me to give him back his
own flagon, which was there quite full, and worth sixty carlini. I
handed it to him with a smile, thanking him for the opportunity he
had afforded me of earning fifteen carlini, and took care to add that
I should leave for Salerno early the next morning.
"Then we must have supper together this evening," he said.
During the afternoon we took a walk towards Mount Vesuvius. Our
conversation went from one subject to another, but no allusion was
made to the mercury, though I could see that the Greek had something
on his mind. At supper he told me, jestingly, that I ought to stop
in Portici the next day to make forty-five carlini out of the three
other flagons of mercury. I answered gravely that I did not want the
money, and that I had augmented the first flagon only for the sake of
procuring him an agreeable surprise.
"But," said he, "you must be very wealthy."
"No, I am not, because I am in search of the secret of the
augmentation of gold, and it is a very expensive study for us."
"How many are there in your company?"
"Only my uncle and myself."
"What do you want to augment gold for? The augmentation of mercury
ought to be enough for you. Pray, tell me whether the mercury
augmented by you to-day is again susceptible of a similar increase."
"No, if it were so, it would be an immense source of wealth for us."
"I am much pleased with your sincerity."
Supper over I paid my bill, and asked the landlord to get me a
carriage and pair of horses to take me to Salerno early the next
morning. I thanked the Greek for his delicious muscatel wine, and,
requesting his address in Naples, I assured him that he would see me
within a fortnight, as I was determined to secure a cask of his
We embraced each other, and I retired to bed well pleased with my
day's work, and in no way astonished at the Greek's not offering to
purchase my secret, for I was certain that he would not sleep for
anxiety, and that I should see him early in the morning. At all
events, I had enough money to reach the Tour-du-Grec, and there
Providence would take care of me. Yet it seemed to me very difficult
to travel as far as Martorano, begging like a mendicant-friar,
because my outward appearance did not excite pity; people would feel
interested in me only from a conviction that I needed nothing--a very
unfortunate conviction, when the object of it is truly poor.
As I had forseen, the Greek was in my room at daybreak. I received
him in a friendly way, saying that we could take coffee together.
"Willingly; but tell me, reverend abbe, whether you would feel
disposed to sell me your secret?"
"Why not? When we meet in Naples--"
"But why not now?"
"I am expected in Salerno; besides, I would only sell the secret for
a large sum of money, and I am not acquainted with you."
"That does not matter, as I am sufficiently known here to pay you in
cash. How much would you want?"
"Two thousand ounces."
"I agree to pay you that sum provided that I succeed in making the
augmentation myself with such matter as you name to me, which I will
"It is impossible, because the necessary ingredients cannot be got
here; but they are common enough in Naples."
"If it is any sort of metal, we can get it at the Tourdu-Grec. We
could go there together. Can you tell me what is the expense of the
"One and a half per cent. but are you likewise known at the Tour-du-
Grec, for I should not like to lose my time?"
"Your doubts grieve me."
Saying which, he took a pen, wrote a few words, and handed to me this
"At sight, pay to bearer the sum of fifty gold ounces, on account of
He told me that the banker resided within two hundred yards of the
inn, and he pressed me to go there myself. I did not stand upon
ceremony, but went to the banker who paid me the amount. I returned
to my room in which he was waiting for me, and placed the gold on the
table, saying that we could now proceed together to the Tour-du-Grec,
where we would complete our arrangements after the signature of a
deed of agreement. The Greek had his own carriage and horses; he
gave orders for them to be got ready, and we left the inn; but he had
nobly insisted upon my taking possession of the fifty ounces.
When we arrived at the Tour-du-Grec, he signed a document by which he
promised to pay me two thousand ounces as soon as I should have
discovered to him the process of augmenting mercury by one-fourth
without injuring its quality, the amalgam to be equal to the mercury
which I had sold in his presence at Portici.
He then gave me a bill of exchange payable at sight in eight days on
M. Genaro de Carlo. I told him that the ingredients were lead and
bismuth; the first, combining with mercury, and the second giving to
the whole the perfect fluidity necessary to strain it through the
chamois leather. The Greek went out to try the amalgam--I do not
know where, and I dined alone, but toward evening he came back,
looking very disconsolate, as I had expected.
"I have made the amalgam," he said, "but the mercury is not perfect."
"It is equal to that which I have sold in Portici, and that is the
very letter of your engagement."
"But my engagement says likewise without injury to the quality. You
must agree that the quality is injured, because it is no longer
susceptible of further augmentation."
"You knew that to be the case; the point is its equality with the
mercury I sold in Portici. But we shall have to go to law, and you
will lose. I am sorry the secret should become public. Congratulate
yourself, sir, for, if you should gain the lawsuit, you will have
obtained my secret for nothing. I would never have believed you
capable of deceiving me in such a manner."
"Reverend sir, I can assure you that I would not willingly deceive
"Do you know the secret, or do you not? Do you suppose I would have
given it to you without the agreement we entered into? Well, there
will be some fun over this affair in Naples, and the lawyers will
make money out of it. But I am much grieved at this turn of affairs,
and I am very sorry that I allowed myself to be so easily deceived by
your fine talk. In the mean time, here are your fifty ounces."
As I was taking the money out of my pocket, frightened to death lest
he should accept it, he left the room, saying that he would not have
it. He soon returned; we had supper in the same room, but at
separate tables; war had been openly declared, but I felt certain
that a treaty of peace would soon be signed. We did not exchange one
word during the evening, but in the morning he came to me as I was
getting ready to go. I again offered to return the money I received,
but he told me to keep it, and proposed to give me fifty ounces more
if I would give him back his bill of exchange for two thousand. We
began to argue the matter quietly, and after two hours of discussion
I gave in. I received fifty ounces more, we dined together like old
friends, and embraced each other cordially. As I was bidding him
adieu, he gave me an order on his house at Naples for a barrel of
muscatel wine, and he presented me with a splendid box containing
twelve razors with silver handles, manufactured in the Tour-du-Grec.
We parted the best friends in the world and well pleased with each
I remained two days in Salerno to provide myself with linen and other
necessaries. Possessing about one hundred sequins, and enjoying good
health, I was very proud of my success, in which I could not see any
cause of reproach to myself, for the cunning I had brought into play
to insure the sale of my secret could not be found fault with except
by the most intolerant of moralists, and such men have no authority
to speak on matters of business. At all events, free, rich, and
certain of presenting myself before the bishop with a respectable
appearance, and not like a beggar, I soon recovered my natural
spirits, and congratulated myself upon having bought sufficient
experience to insure me against falling a second time an easy prey to
a Father Corsini, to thieving gamblers, to mercenary women, and
particularly to the impudent scoundrels who barefacedly praise so
well those they intend to dupe--a species of knaves very common in
the world, even amongst people who form what is called good society.
I left Salerno with two priests who were going to Cosenza on
business, and we traversed the distance of one hundred and forty-two
miles in twenty-two hours. The day after my arrival in the capital
of Calabria, I took a small carriage and drove to Martorano. During
the journey, fixing my eyes upon the famous mare Ausonaum, I felt
delighted at finding myself in the middle of Magna Grecia, rendered
so celebrated for twenty-four centuries by its connection with
Pythagoras. I looked with astonishment upon a country renowned for
its fertility, and in which, in spite of nature's prodigality, my
eyes met everywhere the aspect of terrible misery, the complete
absence of that pleasant superfluity which helps man to enjoy life,
and the degradation of the inhabitants sparsely scattered on a soil
where they ought to be so numerous; I felt ashamed to acknowledge
them as originating from the same stock as myself. Such is, however
the Terra di Lavoro where labour seems to be execrated, where
everything is cheap, where the miserable inhabitants consider that
they have made a good bargain when they have found anyone disposed to
take care of the fruit which the ground supplies almost spontaneously
in too great abundance, and for which there is no market. I felt
compelled to admit the justice of the Romans who had called them
Brutes instead of Byutians. The good priests with whom I had been
travelling laughed at my dread of the tarantula and of the crasydra,
for the disease brought on by the bite of those insects appeared to
me more fearful even than a certain disease with which I was already
too well acquainted. They assured me that all the stories relating
to those creatures were fables; they laughed at the lines which
Virgil has devoted to them in the Georgics as well as at all those I
quoted to justify my fears.
I found Bishop Bernard de Bernardis occupying a hard chair near an
old table on which he was writing. I fell on my knees, as it is
customary to do before a prelate, but, instead of giving me his
blessing, he raised me up from the floor, and, folding me in his
arms, embraced me tenderly. He expressed his deep sorrow when I told
him that in Naples I had not been able to find any instructions to
enable me to join him, but his face lighted up again when I added
that I was indebted to no one for money, and that I was in good
health. He bade me take a seat, and with a heavy sigh he began to
talk of his poverty, and ordered a servant to lay the cloth for three
persons. Besides this servant, his lordship's suite consisted of a
most devout-looking housekeeper, and of a priest whom I judged to be
very ignorant from the few words he uttered during our meal. The
house inhabited by his lordship was large, but badly built and poorly
kept. The furniture was so miserable that, in order to make up a bed
for me in the room adjoining his chamber, the poor bishop had to give
up one of his two mattresses! His dinner, not to say any more about
it, frightened me, for he was very strict in keeping the rules of his
order, and this being a fast day, he did not eat any meat, and the
oil was very bad. Nevertheless, monsignor was an intelligent man,
and, what is still better, an honest man. He told me, much to my
surprise, that his bishopric, although not one of little importance,
brought him in only five hundred ducat-diregno yearly, and that,
unfortunately, he had contracted debts to the amount of six hundred.
He added, with a sigh, that his only happiness was to feel himself
out of the clutches of the monks, who had persecuted him, and made
his life a perfect purgatory for fifteen years. All these
confidences caused me sorrow and mortification, because they proved
to me, not only that I was not in the promised land where a mitre
could be picked up, but also that I would be a heavy charge for him.
I felt that he was grieved himself at the sorry present his patronage
seemed likely to prove.
I enquired whether he had a good library, whether there were any
literary men, or any good society in which one could spend a few
agreeable hours. He smiled and answered that throughout his diocese
there was not one man who could boast of writing decently, and still
less of any taste or knowledge in literature; that there was not a
single bookseller, nor any person caring even for the newspapers.
But he promised me that we would follow our literary tastes together,
as soon as he received the books he had ordered from Naples.
That was all very well, but was this the place for a young man of
eighteen to live in, without a good library, without good society,
without emulation and literacy intercourse? The good bishop, seeing
me full of sad thoughts, and almost astounded at the prospect of the
miserable life I should have to lead with him, tried to give me
courage by promising to do everything in his power to secure my
The next day, the bishop having to officiate in his pontifical robes,
I had an opportunity of seeing all the clergy, and all the faithful
of the diocese, men and women, of whom the cathedral was full; the
sight made me resolve at once to leave Martorano. I thought I was
gazing upon a troop of brutes for whom my external appearance was a
cause of scandal. How ugly were the women! What a look of stupidity
and coarseness in the men! When I returned to the bishop's house I
told the prelate that I did not feel in me the vocation to die within
a few months a martyr in this miserable city.
"Give me your blessing," I added, "and let me go; or, rather, come
with me. I promise you that we shall make a fortune somewhere else."
The proposal made him laugh repeatedly during the day. Had he agreed
to it he would not have died two years afterwards in the prime of
manhood. The worthy man, feeling how natural was my repugnance,
begged me to forgive him for having summoned me to him, and,
considering it his duty to send me back to Venice, having no money
himself and not being aware that I had any, he told me that he would
give me an introduction to a worthy citizen of Naples who would lend
me sixty ducati-di-regno to enable me to reach my native city. I
accepted his offer with gratitude, and going to my room I took out of
my trunk the case of fine razors which the Greek had given me, and I
begged his acceptance of it as a souvenir of me. I had great
difficulty in forcing it upon him, for it was worth the sixty ducats,
and to conquer his resistance I had to threaten to remain with him if
he refused my present. He gave me a very flattering letter of
recommendation for the Archbishop of Cosenza, in which he requested
him to forward me as far as Naples without any expense to myself. It
was thus I left Martorano sixty hours after my arrival, pitying the
bishop whom I was leaving behind, and who wept as he was pouring
heartfelt blessings upon me.
The Archbishop of Cosenza, a man of wealth and of intelligence,
offered me a room in his palace. During the dinner I made, with an
overflowing heart, the eulogy of the Bishop of Martorano; but I
railed mercilessly at his diocese and at the whole of Calabria in so
cutting a manner that I greatly amused the archbishop and all his
guests, amongst whom were two ladies, his relatives, who did the
honours of the dinner-table. The youngest, however, objected to the
satirical style in which I had depicted her country, and declared war
against me; but I contrived to obtain peace again by telling her that
Calabria would be a delightful country if one-fourth only of its
inhabitants were like her. Perhaps it was with the idea of proving
to me that I had been wrong in my opinion that the archbishop gave on
the following day a splendid supper.
Cosenza is a city in which a gentleman can find plenty of amusement;
the nobility are wealthy, the women are pretty, and men generally
well-informed, because they have been educated in Naples or in Rome.
I left Cosenza on the third day with a letter from the archbishop for
the far-famed Genovesi.
I had five travelling companions, whom I judged, from their
appearance, to be either pirates or banditti, and I took very good
care not to let them see or guess that I had a well-filled purse. I
likewise thought it prudent to go to bed without undressing during
the whole journey--an excellent measure of prudence for a young man
travelling in that part of the country.
I reached Naples on the 16th of September, 1743, and I lost no time
in presenting the letter of the Bishop of Martorano. It was
addressed to a M. Gennaro Polo at St. Anne's. This excellent man,
whose duty was only to give me the sum of sixty ducats, insisted,
after perusing the bishop's letter, upon receiving me in his house,
because he wished me to make the acquaintance of his son, who was a
poet like myself. The bishop had represented my poetry as sublime.
After the usual ceremonies, I accepted his kind invitation, my trunk
was sent for, and I was a guest in the house of M. Gennaro Polo.
My Stay in Naples; It Is Short but Happy--Don Antonio Casanova--Don
Lelio Caraffa--I Go to Rome in Very Agreeable Company, and Enter the
Service of Cardinal Acquaviva--Barbara--Testaccio--Frascati
I had no difficulty in answering the various questions which Doctor
Gennaro addressed to me, but I was surprised, and even displeased, at
the constant peals of laughter with which he received my answers.
The piteous description of miserable Calabria, and the picture of the
sad situation of the Bishop of Martorano, appeared to me more likely
to call forth tears than to excite hilarity, and, suspecting that
some mystification was being played upon me, I was very near getting
angry when, becoming more composed, he told me with feeling that I
must kindly excuse him; that his laughter was a disease which seemed
to be endemic in his family, for one of his uncles died of it.
"What! "I exclaimed, "died of laughing!"
"Yes. This disease, which was not known to Hippocrates, is called li
"What do you mean? Does an hypochondriac affection, which causes
sadness and lowness in all those who suffer from it, render you
"Yes, because, most likely, my flati, instead of influencing the
hypochondrium, affects my spleen, which my physician asserts to be
the organ of laughter. It is quite a discovery."
"You are mistaken; it is a very ancient notion, and it is the only
function which is ascribed to the spleen in our animal organization."
"Well, we must discuss the matter at length, for I hope you will
remain with us a few weeks."
"I wish I could, but I must leave Naples to-morrow or the day after."
"Have you got any money?"
"I rely upon the sixty ducats you have to give me."
At these words, his peals of laughter began again, and as he could
see that I was annoyed, he said, "I am amused at the idea that I can
keep you here as long as I like. But be good enough to see my son;
he writes pretty verses enough."
And truly his son, although only fourteen, was already a great poet.
A servant took me to the apartment of the young man whom I found
possessed of a pleasing countenance and engaging manners. He gave me
a polite welcome, and begged to be excused if he could not attend to
me altogether for the present, as he had to finish a song which he
was composing for a relative of the Duchess de Rovino, who was taking
the veil at the Convent of St. Claire, and the printer was waiting
for the manuscript. I told him that his excuse was a very good one,
and I offered to assist him. He then read his song, and I found it
so full of enthusiasm, and so truly in the style of Guidi, that I
advised him to call it an ode; but as I had praised all the truly
beautiful passages, I thought I could venture to point out the weak
ones, and I replaced them by verses of my own composition. He was
delighted, and thanked me warmly, inquiring whether I was Apollo. As
he was writing his ode, I composed a sonnet on the same subject, and,
expressing his admiration for it he begged me to sign it, and to
allow him to send it with his poetry.
While I was correcting and recopying my manuscript, he went to his
father to find out who I was, which made the old man laugh until
supper-time. In the evening, I had the pleasure of seeing that my
bed had been prepared in the young man's chamber.
Doctor Gennaro's family was composed of this son and of a daughter
unfortunately very plain, of his wife and of two elderly, devout
sisters. Amongst the guests at the supper-table I met several
literary men, and the Marquis Galiani, who was at that time
annotating Vitruvius. He had a brother, an abbe whose acquaintance I
made twenty years after, in Paris, when he was secretary of embassy
to Count Cantillana. The next day, at supper, I was presented to the
celebrated Genovesi; I had already sent him the letter of the
Archbishop of Cosenza. He spoke to me of Apostolo Zeno and of the
Abbe Conti. He remarked that it was considered a very venial sin for
a regular priest to say two masses in one day for the sake of earning
two carlini more, but that for the same sin a secular priest would
deserve to be burnt at the stake.
The nun took the veil on the following day, and Gennaro's ode and my
sonnet had the greatest success. A Neapolitan gentleman, whose name
was the same as mine, expressed a wish to know me, and, hearing that
I resided at the doctor's, he called to congratulate him on the
occasion of his feast-day, which happened to fall on the day
following the ceremony at Sainte-Claire.
Don Antonio Casanova, informing me of his name, enquired whether my
family was originally from Venice.
"I am, sir," I answered modestly, "the great-grandson of the
unfortunate Marco Antonio Casanova, secretary to Cardinal Pompeo
Colonna, who died of the plague in Rome, in the year 1528, under the
pontificate of Clement VII." The words were scarcely out of my lips
when he embraced me, calling me his cousin, but we all thought that
Doctor Gennaro would actually die with laughter, for it seemed
impossible to laugh so immoderately without risk of life. Madame
Gennaro was very angry and told my newly-found cousin that he might
have avoided enacting such a scene before her husband, knowing his
disease, but he answered that he never thought the circumstance
likely to provoke mirth. I said nothing, for, in reality, I felt
that the recognition was very comic. Our poor laugher having
recovered his composure, Casanova, who had remained very serious,
invited me to dinner for the next day with my young friend Paul
Gennaro, who had already become my alter ego.
When we called at his house, my worthy cousin showed me his family
tree, beginning with a Don Francisco, brother of Don Juan. In my
pedigree, which I knew by heart, Don Juan, my direct ancestor, was a
posthumous child. It was possible that there might have been a
brother of Marco Antonio's; but when he heard that my genealogy began
with Don Francisco, from Aragon, who had lived in the fourteenth
century, and that consequently all the pedigree of the illustrious
house of the Casanovas of Saragossa belonged to him, his joy knew no
bounds; he did not know what to do to convince me that the same blood
was flowing in his veins and in mine.
He expressed some curiosity to know what lucky accident had brought
me to Naples; I told him that, having embraced the ecclesiastical
profession, I was going to Rome to seek my fortune. He then
presented me to his family, and I thought that I could read on the
countenance of my cousin, his dearly beloved wife, that she was not
much pleased with the newly-found relationship, but his pretty
daughter, and a still prettier niece of his, might very easily have
given me faith in the doctrine that blood is thicker than water,
however fabulous it may be.
After dinner, Don Antonio informed me that the Duchess de Bovino had
expressed a wish to know the Abbe Casanova who had written the sonnet
in honour of her relative, and that he would be very happy to
introduce me to her as his own cousin. As we were alone at that
moment, I begged he would not insist on presenting me, as I was only
provided with travelling suits, and had to be careful of my purse so
as not to arrive in Rome without money. Delighted at my confidence,
and approving my economy, he said, "I am rich, and you must not
scruple to come with me to my tailor;" and he accompanied his offer
with an assurance that the circumstance would not be known to anyone,
and that he would feel deeply mortified if I denied him the pleasure
of serving me. I shook him warmly by the hand, and answered that I
was ready to do anything he pleased. We went to a tailor who took my
measure, and who brought me on the following day everything necessary
to the toilet of the most elegant abbe. Don Antonio called on me,
and remained to dine with Don Gennaro, after which he took me and my
friend Paul to the duchess. This lady, according to the Neapolitan
fashion, called me thou in her very first compliment of welcome. Her
daughter, then only ten or twelve years old, was very handsome, and a
few years later became Duchess de Matalona. The duchess presented me
with a snuff-box in pale tortoise-shell with arabesque incrustations
in gold, and she invited us to dine with her on the morrow, promising
to take us after dinner to the Convent of St. Claire to pay a visit
to the new nun.
As we came out of the palace of the duchess, I left my friends and
went alone to Panagiotti's to claim the barrel of muscatel wine. The
manager was kind enough to have the barrel divided into two smaller
casks of equal capacity, and I sent one to Don Antonio, and the other
to Don Gennaro. As I was leaving the shop I met the worthy
Panagiotti, who was glad to see me. Was I to blush at the sight of
the good man I had at first deceived? No, for in his opinion I had
acted very nobly towards him.
Don Gennaro, as I returned home, managed to thank me for my handsome
present without laughing, and the next day Don Antonio, to make up
for the muscatel wine I had sent him, offered me a gold-headed cane,
worth at least fifteen ounces, and his tailor brought me a travelling
suit and a blue great coat, with the buttonholes in gold lace. I
therefore found myself splendidly equipped.
At the Duchess de Bovino's dinner I made the acquaintance of the
wisest and most learned man in Naples, the illustrious Don Lelio
Caraffa, who belonged to the ducal family of Matalona, and whom King
Carlos honoured with the title of friend.
I spent two delightful hours in the convent parlour, coping
successfully with the curiosity of all the nuns who were pressing
against the grating. Had destiny allowed me to remain in Naples my
fortune would have been made; but, although I had no fixed plan, the
voice of fate summoned me to Rome, and therefore I resisted all the
entreaties of my cousin Antonio to accept the honourable position of
tutor in several houses of the highest order.
Don Antonio gave a splendid dinner in my honour, but he was annoyed
and angry because he saw that his wife looked daggers at her new
cousin. I thought that, more than once, she cast a glance at my new
costume, and then whispered to the guest next to her. Very likely
she knew what had taken place. There are some positions in life to
which I could never be reconciled. If, in the most brilliant circle,
there is one person who affects to stare at me I lose all presence of
mind. Self-dignity feels outraged, my wit dies away, and I play the
part of a dolt. It is a weakness on my part, but a weakness I cannot
Don Lelio Caraffa offered me a very liberal salary if I would
undertake the education of his nephew, the Duke de Matalona, then ten
years of age. I expressed my gratitude, and begged him to be my true
benefactor in a different manner--namely, by giving me a few good
letters of introduction for Rome, a favour which he granted at once.
He gave me one for Cardinal Acquaviva, and another for Father Georgi.
I found out that the interest felt towards me by my friends had
induced them to obtain for me the honour of kissing the hand of Her
Majesty the Queen, and I hastened my preparations to leave Naples,
for the queen would certainly have asked me some questions, and I
could not have avoided telling her that I had just left Martorano and
the poor bishop whom she had sent there. The queen likewise knew my
mother; she would very likely have alluded to my mother's profession
in Dresden; it would have mortified Don Antonio, and my pedigree
would have been covered with ridicule. I knew the force of
prejudice! I should have been ruined, and I felt I should do well to
withdraw in good time. As I took leave of him, Don Antonio presented
me with a fine gold watch and gave me a letter for Don Gaspar
Vidaldi, whom he called his best friend. Don Gennaro paid me the
sixty ducats, and his son, swearing eternal friendship, asked me to
write to him. They all accompanied me to the coach, blending their
tears with mine, and loading me with good wishes and blessings.
From my landing in Chiozza up to my arrival in Naples, fortune had
seemed bent upon frowning on me; in Naples it began to shew itself
less adverse, and on my return to that city it entirely smiled upon
me. Naples has always been a fortunate place for me, as the reader
of my memoirs will discover. My readers must not forget that in
Portici I was on the point of disgracing myself, and there is no
remedy against the degradation of the mind, for nothing can restore
it to its former standard. It is a case of disheartening atony for
which there is no possible cure.
I was not ungrateful to the good Bishop of Martorano, for, if he had
unwittingly injured me by summoning me to his diocese, I felt that to
his letter for M. Gennaro I was indebted for all the good fortune
which had just befallen me. I wrote to him from Rome.
I was wholly engaged in drying my tears as we were driving through
the beautiful street of Toledo, and it was only after we had left
Naples that I could find time to examine the countenance of my
travelling companions. Next to me, I saw a man of from forty to
fifty, with a pleasing face and a lively air, but, opposite to me,
two charming faces delighted my eyes. They belonged to two ladies,
young and pretty, very well dressed, with a look of candour and
modesty. This discovery was most agreeable, but I felt sad and I
wanted calm and silence. We reached Avessa without one word being
exchanged, and as the vetturino stopped there only to water his
mules, we did not get out of the coach. From Avessa to Capua my
companions conversed almost without interruption, and, wonderful to
relate! I did not open my lips once. I was amused by the Neapolitan
jargon of the gentleman, and by the pretty accent of the ladies, who
were evidently Romans. It was a most wonderful feat for me to remain
five hours before two charming women without addressing one word to
them, without paying them one compliment.
At Capua, where we were to spend the night, we put up at an inn, and
were shown into a room with two beds--a very usual thing in Italy.
The Neapolitan, addressing himself to me, said,
"Am I to have the honour of sleeping with the reverend gentleman?"
I answered in a very serious tone that it was for him to choose or to
arrange it otherwise, if he liked. The answer made the two ladies
smile, particularly the one whom I preferred, and it seemed to me a
We were five at supper, for it is usual for the vetturino to supply
his travellers with their meals, unless some private agreement is
made otherwise, and to sit down at table with them. In the desultory
talk which went on during the supper, I found in my travelling
companions decorum, propriety, wit, and the manners of persons
accustomed to good society. I became curious to know who they were,
and going down with the driver after supper, I asked him.
"The gentleman," he told me, "is an advocate, and one of the ladies
is his wife, but I do not know which of the two."
I went back to our room, and I was polite enough to go to bed first,
in order to make it easier for the ladies to undress themselves with
freedom; I likewise got up first in the morning, left the room, and
only returned when I was called for breakfast. The coffee was
delicious. I praised it highly, and the lady, the one who was my
favourite, promised that I should have the same every morning during
our journey. The barber came in after breakfast; the advocate was
shaved, and the barber offered me his services, which I declined, but
the rogue declared that it was slovenly to wear one's beard.
When we had resumed our seats in the coach, the advocate made some
remark upon the impudence of barbers in general.
"But we ought to decide first," said the lady, "whether or not it is
slovenly to go bearded."
"Of course it is," said the advocate. "Beard is nothing but a dirty
"You may think so," I answered, "but everybody does not share your
opinion. Do we consider as a dirty excrescence the hair of which we
take so much care, and which is of the same nature as the beard? Far
from it; we admire the length and the beauty of the hair."
"Then," remarked the lady, "the barber is a fool."
"But after all," I asked, "have I any beard?"
"I thought you had," she answered.
"In that case, I will begin to shave as soon as I reach Rome, for
this is the first time that I have been convicted of having a beard."
"My dear wife," exclaimed the advocate, "you should have held your
tongue; perhaps the reverend abbe is going to Rome with the intention
of becoming a Capuchin friar."
The pleasantry made me laugh, but, unwilling that he should have the
last word, I answered that he had guessed rightly, that such had been
my intention, but that I had entirely altered my mind since I had
seen his wife.
"Oh! you are wrong," said the joyous Neapolitan, "for my wife is very
fond of Capuchins, and if you wish to please her, you had better
follow your original vocation." Our conversation continued in the
same tone of pleasantry, and the day passed off in an agreeable
manner; in the evening we had a very poor supper at Garillan, but we
made up for it by cheerfulness and witty conversation. My dawning
inclination for the advocate's wife borrowed strength from the
affectionate manner she displayed towards me.
The next day she asked me, after we had resumed our journey, whether
I intended to make a long stay in Rome before returning to Venice. I
answered that, having no acquaintances in Rome, I was afraid my life
there would be very dull.
"Strangers are liked in Rome," she said, "I feel certain that you
will be pleased with your residence in that city."
"May I hope, madam, that you will allow me to pay you my respects?"
"We shall be honoured by your calling on us," said the advocate.
My eyes were fixed upon his charming wife. She blushed, but I did
not appear to notice it. I kept up the conversation, and the day
passed as pleasantly as the previous one. We stopped at Terracina,
where they gave us a room with three beds, two single beds and a
large one between the two others. It was natural that the two
sisters should take the large bed; they did so, and undressed
themselves while the advocate and I went on talking at the table,
with our backs turned to them. As soon as they had gone to rest, the
advocate took the bed on which he found his nightcap, and I the
other, which was only about one foot distant from the large bed. I
remarked that the lady by whom I was captivated was on the side
nearest my couch, and, without much vanity, I could suppose that it
was not owing only to chance.
I put the light out and laid down, revolving in my mind a project
which I could not abandon, and yet durst not execute. In vain did I
court sleep. A very faint light enabled me to perceive the bed in
which the pretty woman was lying, and my eyes would, in spite of
myself, remain open. It would be difficult to guess what I might
have done at last (I had already fought a hard battle with myself for
more than an hour), when I saw her rise, get out of her bed, and go
and lay herself down near her husband, who, most likely, did not wake
up, and continued to sleep in peace, for I did not hear any noise.
Vexed, disgusted.... I tried to compose myself to sleep, and I woke
only at day-break. Seeing the beautiful wandering star in her own
bed, I got up, dressed myself in haste, and went out, leaving all my
companions fast asleep. I returned to the inn only at the time fixed
for our departure, and I found the advocate and the two ladies
already in the coach, waiting for me.
The lady complained, in a very obliging manner, of my not having
cared for her coffee; I pleaded as an excuse a desire for an early
walk, and I took care not to honour her even with a look; I feigned
to be suffering from the toothache, and remained in my corner dull
and silent. At Piperno she managed to whisper to me that my
toothache was all sham; I was pleased with the reproach, because it
heralded an explanation which I craved for, in spite of my vexation.
During the afternoon I continued my policy of the morning. I was
morose and silent until we reached Serinonetta, where we were to pass
the night. We arrived early, and the weather being fine, the lady
said that she could enjoy a walk, and asked me politely to offer her
my arm. I did so, for it would have been rude to refuse; besides I
had had enough of my sulking fit. An explanation could alone bring
matters back to their original standing, but I did not know how to
force it upon the lady. Her husband followed us at some distance
with the sister.
When we were far enough in advance, I ventured to ask her why she had
supposed my toothache to have been feigned.
"I am very candid," she said; "it is because the difference in your
manner was so marked, and because you were so careful to avoid
looking at me through the whole day. A toothache would not have
prevented you from being polite, and therefore I thought it had been
feigned for some purpose. But I am certain that not one of us can
possibly have given you any grounds for such a rapid change in your
"Yet something must have caused the change, and you, madam, are only
"You are mistaken, sir, I am entirely sincere; and if I have given
you any motive for anger, I am, and must remain, ignorant of it. Be
good enough to tell me what I have done."
"Nothing, for I have no right to complain."
"Yes, you have; you have a right, the same that I have myself; the
right which good society grants to every one of its members. Speak,
and shew yourself as sincere as I am."
"You are certainly bound not to know, or to pretend not to know the
real cause, but you must acknowledge that my duty is to remain
"Very well; now it is all over; but if your duty bids you to conceal
the cause of your bad humour, it also bids you not to shew it.
Delicacy sometimes enforces upon a polite gentleman the necessity of
concealing certain feelings which might implicate either himself or
others; it is a restraint for the mind, I confess, but it has some
advantage when its effect is to render more amiable the man who
forces himself to accept that restraint." Her close argument made me
blush for shame, and carrying her beautiful hand to my lips, I
confessed my self in the wrong.
"You would see me at your feet," I exclaimed, "in token of my
repentance, were I not afraid of injuring you---"
"Do not let us allude to the matter any more," she answered.
And, pleased with my repentance, she gave me a look so expressive of
forgiveness that, without being afraid of augmenting my guilt, I took
my lips off her hand and I raised them to her half-open, smiling
mouth. Intoxicated with rapture, I passed so rapidly from a state of
sadness to one of overwhelming cheerfulness that during our supper
the advocate enjoyed a thousand jokes upon my toothache, so quickly
cured by the simple remedy of a walk. On the following day we dined
at Velletri and slept in Marino, where, although the town was full of
troops, we had two small rooms and a good supper. I could not have
been on better terms with my charming Roman; for, although I had
received but a rapid proof of her regard, it had been such a true
one--such a tender one! In the coach our eyes could not say much;
but I was opposite to her, and our feet spoke a very eloquent
The advocate had told me that he was going to Rome on some
ecclesiastical business, and that he intended to reside in the house
of his mother-in-law, whom his wife had not seen since her marriage,
two years ago, and her sister hoped to remain in Rome, where she
expected to marry a clerk at the Spirito Santo Bank. He gave me
their address, with a pressing invitation to call upon them, and I
promised to devote all my spare time to them.
We were enjoying our dessert, when my beautiful lady-love, admiring
my snuff-box, told her husband that she wished she had one like it.
"I will buy you one, dear."
"Then buy mine," I said; "I will let you have it for twenty ounces,
and you can give me a note of hand payable to bearer in payment. I
owe that amount to an Englishman, and I will give it him to redeem my
"Your snuff-box, my dear abbe, is worth twenty ounces, but I cannot
buy it unless you agree to receive payment in cash; I should be
delighted to see it in my wife's possession, and she would keep it as
a remembrance of you."
His wife, thinking that I would not accept his offer, said that she
had no objection to give me the note of hand.
"But," exclaimed the advocate, "can you not guess the Englishman
exists only in our friend's imagination? He would never enter an
appearance, and we would have the snuff-box for nothing. Do not
trust the abbe, my dear, he is a great cheat."
"I had no idea," answered his wife, looking at me, "that the world
contained rogues of this species."
I affected a melancholy air, and said that I only wished myself rich
enough to be often guilty of such cheating.
When a man is in love very little is enough to throw him into
despair, and as little to enhance his joy to the utmost. There was
but one bed in the room where supper had been served, and another in
a small closet leading out of the room, but without a door. The
ladies chose the closet, and the advocate retired to rest before me.
I bid the ladies good night as soon as they had gone to bed; I looked
at my dear mistress, and after undressing myself I went to bed,
intending not to sleep through the night. But the reader may imagine
my rage when I found, as I got into the bed, that it creaked loud
enough to wake the dead. I waited, however, quite motionless, until
my companion should be fast asleep, and as soon as his snoring told
me that he was entirely under the influence of Morpheus, I tried to
slip out of the bed; but the infernal creaking which took place
whenever I moved, woke my companion, who felt about with his hand,
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