Italian Hours
Henry James

Part 2 out of 7

if ever a child was, to be the joy of an aristocratic mamma--was
the most expressively beautiful creature I had ever looked upon.
He had a smile to make Correggio sigh in his grave; and yet here
he was running wild among the sea-stunted bushes, on the lonely
margin of a decaying world, in prelude to how blank or to how
dark a destiny? Verily nature is still at odds with propriety;
though indeed if they ever really pull together I fear nature
will quite lose her distinction. An infant citizen of our own
republic, straight-haired, pale-eyed and freckled, duly darned
and catechised, marching into a New England schoolhouse, is an
object often seen and soon forgotten; but I think I shall always
remember with infinite tender conjecture, as the years roll by,
this little unlettered Eros of the Adriatic strand. Yet all
youthful things at Torcello were not cheerful, for the poor lad
who brought us the key of the cathedral was shaking with an ague,
and his melancholy presence seemed to point the moral of forsaken
nave and choir. The church, admirably primitive and curious,
reminded me of the two or three oldest churches of Rome--St.
Clement and St. Agnes. The interior is rich in grimly mystical
mosaics of the twelfth century and the patchwork of precious
fragments in the pavement not inferior to that of St. Mark's. But
the terribly distinct Apostles are ranged against their dead gold
backgrounds as stiffly as grenadiers presenting arms--intensely
personal sentinels of a personal Deity. Their stony stare seems
to wait for ever vainly for some visible revival of primitive
orthodoxy, and one may well wonder whether it finds much
beguilement in idly-gazing troops of Western heretics--
passionless even in their heresy.

I had been curious to see whether in the galleries and temples of
Venice I should be disposed to transpose my old estimates--to
burn what I had adored and adore what I had burned. It is a sad
truth that one can stand in the Ducal Palace for the first time
but once, with the deliciously ponderous sense of that particular
half-hour's being an era in one's mental history; but I had the
satisfaction of finding at least--a great comfort in a short
stay--that none of my early memories were likely to change places
and that I could take up my admirations where I had left them. I
still found Carpaccio delightful, Veronese magnificent, Titian
supremely beautiful and Tintoret scarce to be appraised. I
repaired immediately to the little church of San Cassano, which
contains the smaller of Tintoret's two great Crucifixions; and
when I had looked at it a while I drew a long breath and felt I
could now face any other picture in Venice with proper self-
possession. It seemed to me I had advanced to the uttermost limit
of painting; that beyond this another art--inspired poetry--
begins, and that Bellini, Veronese, Giorgione, and Titian, all
joining hands and straining every muscle of their genius, reach
forward not so far but that they leave a visible space in which
Tintoret alone is master. I well remember the exaltations to
which he lifted me when first I learned to know him; but the glow
of that comparatively youthful amazement is dead, and with it, I
fear, that confident vivacity of phrase of which, in trying to
utter my impressions, I felt less the magniloquence than the
impotence. In his power there are many weak spots, mysterious
lapses and fitful intermissions; but when the list of his faults
is complete he still remains to me the most interesting of
painters. His reputation rests chiefly on a more superficial
sort of merit--his energy, his unsurpassed productivity, his
being, as Théophile Gautier says, le roi des fougueux.
These qualities are immense, but the great source of his
impressiveness is that his indefatigable hand never drew a line
that was not, as one may say, a moral line. No painter ever had
such breadth and such depth; and even Titian, beside him, scarce
figures as more than a great decorative artist. Mr. Ruskin, whose
eloquence in dealing with the great Venetians sometimes outruns
his discretion, is fond of speaking even of Veronese as a painter
of deep spiritual intentions. This, it seems to me, is pushing
matters too far, and the author of "The Rape of Europa" is,
pictorially speaking, no greater casuist than any other genius of
supreme good taste. Titian was assuredly a mighty poet, but
Tintoret--well, Tintoret was almost a prophet. Before his
greatest works you are conscious of a sudden evaporation of old
doubts and dilemmas, and the eternal problem of the conflict
between idealism and realism dies the most natural of deaths. In
his genius the problem is practically solved; the alternatives
are so harmoniously interfused that I defy the keenest critic to
say where one begins and the other ends. The homeliest prose
melts into the most ethereal poetry--the literal and the
imaginative fairly confound their identity.

This, however, is vague praise. Tintoret's great merit, to my
mind, was his unequalled distinctness of vision. When once he had
conceived the germ of a scene it defined itself to his
imagination with an intensity, an amplitude, an individuality of
expression, which makes one's observation of his pictures seem
less an operation of the mind than a kind of supplementary
experience of life. Veronese and Titian are content with a much
looser specification, as their treatment of any subject that the
author of the Crucifixion at San Cassano has also treated
abundantly proves. There are few more suggestive contrasts than
that between the absence of a total character at all commensurate
with its scattered variety and brilliancy in Veronese's "Marriage
of Cana," at the Louvre, and the poignant, almost startling,
completeness of Tintoret's illustration of the theme at the
Salute church. To compare his "Presentation of the Virgin," at
the Madonna dell' Orto, with Titian's at the Academy, or his
"Annunciation" with Titian's close at hand, is to measure the
essential difference between observation and imagination. One has
certainly not said all that there is to say for Titian when one
has called him an observer. Il y mettait du sien, and I
use the term to designate roughly the artist whose apprehension,
infinitely deep and strong when applied to the single figure or
to easily balanced groups, spends itself vainly on great dramatic
combinations--or rather leaves them ungauged. It was the whole
scene that Tintoret seemed to have beheld in a flash of
inspiration intense enough to stamp it ineffaceably on his
perception; and it was the whole scene, complete, peculiar,
individual, unprecedented, that he committed to canvas with all
the vehemence of his talent. Compare his "Last Supper," at San
Giorgio--its long, diagonally placed table, its dusky
spaciousness, its scattered lamp-light and halo-light, its
startled, gesticulating figures, its richly realistic foreground-
-with the customary formal, almost mathematical rendering of the
subject, in which impressiveness seems to have been sought in
elimination rather than comprehension. You get from Tintoret's
work the impression that he felt, pictorially, the great,
beautiful, terrible spectacle of human life very much as
Shakespeare felt it poetically--with a heart that never ceased to
beat a passionate accompaniment to every stroke of his brush.
Thanks to this fact his works are signally grave, and their
almost universal and rapidly increasing decay doesn't relieve
their gloom. Nothing indeed can well be sadder than the great
collection of Tintorets at San Rocco. Incurable blackness is
settling fast upon all of them, and they frown at you across the
sombre splendour of their great chambers like gaunt twilight
phantoms of pictures. To our children's children Tintoret, as
things are going, can be hardly more than a name; and such of
them as shall miss the tragic beauty, already so dimmed and
stained, of the great "Bearing of the Cross" in that temple of
his spirit will live and die without knowing the largest
eloquence of art. If you wish to add the last touch of solemnity
to the place recall as vividly as possible while you linger at
San Rocco the painter's singularly interesting portrait of
himself, at the Louvre. The old man looks out of the canvas from
beneath a brow as sad as a sunless twilight, with just such a
stoical hopelessness as you might fancy him to wear if he stood
at your side gazing at his rotting canvases. It isn't whimsical
to read it as the face of a man who felt that he had given the
world more than the world was likely to repay. Indeed before
every picture of Tintoret you may remember this tremendous
portrait with profit. On one side the power, the passion, the
illusion of his art; on the other the mortal fatigue of his
spirit. The world's knowledge of him is so small that the
portrait throws a doubly precious light on his personality; and
when we wonder vainly what manner of man he was, and what were
his purpose, his faith and his method, we may find forcible
assurance there that they were at any rate his life--one of the
most intellectually passionate ever led.

Verona, which was my last Italian stopping-place, is in any
conditions a delightfully interesting city; but the kindness of
my own memory of it is deepened by a subsequent ten days'
experience of Germany. I rose one morning at Verona, and went to
bed at night at Botzen! The statement needs no comment, and the
two places, though but fifty miles apart, are as painfully
dissimilar as their names. I had prepared myself for your
delectation with a copious tirade on German manners, German
scenery, German art and the German stage--on the lights and
shadows of Innsbrück, Munich, Nüremberg and Heidelberg; but just
as I was about to put pen to paper I glanced into a little volume
on these very topics lately published by that famous novelist and
moralist, M. Ernest Feydeau, the fruit of a summer's observation
at Homburg. This work produced a reaction; and if I chose to
follow M. Feydeau's own example when he wishes to qualify his
approbation I might call his treatise by any vile name known to
the speech of man. But I content myself with pronouncing it
superficial. I then reflect that my own opportunities for seeing
and judging were extremely limited, and I suppress my tirade,
lest some more enlightened critic should come and hang me with
the same rope. Its sum and substance was to have been that--
superficially--Germany is ugly; that Munich is a nightmare,
Heidelberg a disappointment (in spite of its charming castle) and
even Nüremberg not a joy for ever. But comparisons are odious,
and if Munich is ugly Verona is beautiful enough. You may laugh
at my logic, but will probably assent to my meaning. I carried
away from Verona a precious mental picture upon which I cast an
introspective glance whenever between Botzen and Strassburg the
oppression of external circumstance became painful. It was a
lovely August afternoon in the Roman arena--a ruin in which
repair and restoration have been so watchfully and plausibly
practised that it seems all of one harmonious antiquity. The
vast stony oval rose high against the sky in a single clear,
continuous line, broken here and there only by strolling and
reclining loungers. The massive tiers inclined in solid monotony
to the central circle, in which a small open-air theatre was in
active operation. A small quarter of the great slope of masonry
facing the stage was roped off into an auditorium, in which the
narrow level space between the foot-lights and the lowest step
figured as the pit. Foot-lights are a figure of speech, for the
performance was going on in the broad glow of the afternoon, with
a delightful and apparently by no means misplaced confidence in
the good-will of the spectators. What the piece was that was
deemed so superbly able to shift for itself I know not--very
possibly the same drama that I remember seeing advertised during
my former visit to Verona; nothing less than La Tremenda
Giustizia di Dio
. If titles are worth anything this product
of the melodramatist's art might surely stand upon its own legs.
Along the tiers above the little group of regular spectators was
gathered a free-list of unauthorised observers, who, although
beyond ear-shot, must have been enabled by the generous breadth
of Italian gesture to follow the tangled thread of the piece. It
was all deliciously Italian--the mixture of old life and new, the
mountebank's booth (it was hardly more) grafted on the antique
circus, the dominant presence of a mighty architecture, the
loungers and idlers beneath the kindly sky and upon the sun-
warmed stones. I never felt more keenly the difference between
the background to life in very old and very new civilisations.
There are other things in Verona to make it a liberal education
to be born there, though that it is one for the contemporary
Veronese I don't pretend to say. The Tombs of the Scaligers, with
their soaring pinnacles, their high-poised canopies, their
exquisite refinement and concentration of the Gothic idea, I
can't profess, even after much worshipful gazing, to have fully
comprehended and enjoyed. They seemed to me full of deep
architectural meanings, such as must drop gently into the mind
one by one, after infinite tranquil contemplation. But even to
the hurried and preoccupied traveller the solemn little chapel-
yard in the city's heart, in which they stand girdled by their
great swaying curtain of linked and twisted iron, is one of the
most impressive spots in Italy. Nowhere else is such a wealth of
artistic achievement crowded into so narrow a space; nowhere else
are the daily comings and goings of men blessed by the presence
of manlier art. Verona is rich furthermore in beautiful
churches--several with beautiful names: San Fermo, Santa
Anastasia, San Zenone. This last is a structure of high antiquity
and of the most impressive loveliness. The nave terminates in a
double choir, that is a sub-choir or crypt into which you descend
and where you wander among primitive columns whose variously
grotesque capitals rise hardly higher than your head, and an
upper choral plane reached by broad stairways of the bravest
effect. I shall never forget the impression of majestic chastity
that I received from the great nave of the building on my former
visit. I then decided to my satisfaction that every church is
from the devotional point of view a solecism that has not
something of a similar absolute felicity of proportion; for
strictly formal beauty seems best to express our conception of
spiritual beauty. The nobly serious character of San Zenone is
deepened by its single picture--a masterpiece of the most serious
of painters, the severe and exquisite Mantegna.




There are times and places that come back yet again, but that,
when the brooding tourist puts out his hand to them, meet it a
little slowly, or even seem to recede a step, as if in slight
fear of some liberty he may take. Surely they should know by this
time that he is capable of taking none. He has his own way--he
makes it all right. It now becomes just a part of the charming
solicitation that it presents precisely a problem--that of giving
the particular thing as much as possible without at the same time
giving it, as we say, away. There are considerations,
proprieties, a necessary indirectness--he must use, in short, a
little art. No necessity, however, more than this, makes him warm
to his work, and thus it is that, after all, he hangs his three


The evening that was to give me the first of them was by no means
the first occasion of my asking myself if that inveterate "style"
of which we talk so much be absolutely conditioned--in dear old
Venice and elsewhere--on decrepitude. Is it the style that has
brought about the decrepitude, or the decrepitude that has, as it
were, intensified and consecrated the style? There is an
ambiguity about it all that constantly haunts and beguiles. Dear
old Venice has lost her complexion, her figure, her reputation,
her self-respect; and yet, with it all, has so puzzlingly not
lost a shred of her distinction. Perhaps indeed the case is
simpler than it seems, for the poetry of misfortune is familiar
to us all, whereas, in spite of a stroke here and there of some
happy justice that charms, we scarce find ourselves anywhere
arrested by the poetry of a run of luck. The misfortune of Venice
being, accordingly, at every point, what we most touch, feel and
see, we end by assuming it to be of the essence of her dignity; a
consequence, we become aware, by the way, sufficiently
discouraging to the general application or pretension of style,
and all the more that, to make the final felicity deep, the
original greatness must have been something tremendous. If it be
the ruins that are noble we have known plenty that were not, and
moreover there are degrees and varieties: certain monuments,
solid survivals, hold up their heads and decline to ask for a
grain of your pity. Well, one knows of course when to keep one's
pity to oneself; yet one clings, even in the face of the colder
stare, to one's prized Venetian privilege of making the sense of
doom and decay a part of every impression. Cheerful work, it may
be said of course; and it is doubtless only in Venice that you
gain more by such a trick than you lose. What was most beautiful
is gone; what was next most beautiful is, thank goodness, going--
that, I think, is the monstrous description of the better part of
your thought. Is it really your fault if the place makes you want
so desperately to read history into everything?

You do that wherever you turn and wherever you look, and you do
it, I should say, most of all at night. It comes to you there
with longer knowledge, and with all deference to what flushes and
shimmers, that the night is the real time. It perhaps even
wouldn't take much to make you award the palm to the nights of
winter. This is certainly true for the form of progression that
is most characteristic, for every question of departure and
arrival by gondola. The little closed cabin of this perfect
vehicle, the movement, the darkness and the plash, the
indistinguishable swerves and twists, all the things you don't
see and all the things you do feel--each dim recognition and
obscure arrest is a possible throb of your sense of being floated
to your doom, even when the truth is simply and sociably that you
are going out to tea. Nowhere else is anything as innocent so
mysterious, nor anything as mysterious so pleasantly deterrent to
protest. These are the moments when you are most daringly
Venetian, most content to leave cheap trippers and other aliens
the high light of the mid-lagoon and the pursuit of pink and
gold. The splendid day is good enough for them; what is
best for you is to stop at last, as you are now stopping, among
clustered pali and softly-shifting poops and prows, at a
great flight of water-steps that play their admirable part in the
general effect of a great entrance. The high doors stand open
from them to the paved chamber of a basement tremendously tall
and not vulgarly lighted, from which, in turn, mounts the slow
stone staircase that draws you further on. The great point is,
that if you are worthy of this impression at all, there isn't a
single item of it of which the association isn't noble. Hold to
it fast that there is no other such dignity of arrival as arrival
by water. Hold to it that to float and slacken and gently bump,
to creep out of the low, dark felze and make the few
guided movements and find the strong crooked and offered arm, and
then, beneath lighted palace-windows, pass up the few damp steps
on the precautionary carpet--hold to it that these things
constitute a preparation of which the only defect is that it may
sometimes perhaps really prepare too much. It's so stately that
what can come after?--it's so good in itself that what, upstairs,
as we comparative vulgarians say, can be better? Hold to it, at
any rate, that if a lady, in especial, scrambles out of a
carriage, tumbles out of a cab, flops out of a tram-car, and
hurtles, projectile-like, out of a "lightning-elevator," she
alights from the Venetian conveyance as Cleopatra may have
stepped from her barge. Upstairs--whatever may be yet in store
for her--her entrance shall still advantageously enjoy the
support most opposed to the "momentum" acquired. The beauty of
the matter has been in the absence of all momentum--elsewhere so
scientifically applied to us, from behind, by the terrible life
of our day--and in the fact that, as the elements of slowness,
the felicities of deliberation, doubtless thus all hang together,
the last of calculable dangers is to enter a great Venetian room
with a rush.

Not the least happy note, therefore, of the picture I am trying
to frame is that there was absolutely no rushing; not only in the
sense of a scramble over marble floors, but, by reason of
something dissuasive and distributive in the very air of the
place, a suggestion, under the fine old ceilings and among types
of face and figure abounding in the unexpected, that here were
many things to consider. Perhaps the simplest rendering of a
scene into the depths of which there are good grounds of
discretion for not sinking would be just this emphasis on the
value of the unexpected for such occasions--with due
qualification, naturally, of its degree. Unexpectedness pure and
simple, it is needless to say, may easily endanger any social
gathering, and I hasten to add moreover that the figures and
faces I speak of were probably not in the least unexpected to
each other. The stage they occupied was a stage of variety--
Venice has ever been a garden of strange social flowers. It is
only as reflected in the consciousness of the visitor from afar--
brooding tourist even call him, or sharp-eyed bird on the branch-
-that I attempt to give you the little drama; beginning with the
felicity that most appealed to him, the visible, unmistakable
fact that he was the only representative of his class. The whole
of the rest of the business was but what he saw and felt and
fancied--what he was to remember and what he was to forget.
Through it all, I may say distinctly, he clung to his great
Venetian clue--the explanation of everything by the historic
idea. It was a high historic house, with such a quantity of
recorded past twinkling in the multitudinous candles that one
grasped at the idea of something waning and displaced, and might
even fondly and secretly nurse the conceit that what one was
having was just the very last. Wasn't it certainly, for instance,
no mere illusion that there is no appreciable future left for
such manners--an urbanity so comprehensive, a form so
transmitted, as those of such a hostess and such a host? The
future is for a different conception of the graceful altogether--
so far as it's for a conception of the graceful at all. Into that
computation I shall not attempt to enter; but these
representative products of an antique culture, at least, and one
of which the secret seems more likely than not to be lost, were
not common, nor indeed was any one else--in the circle to which
the picture most insisted on restricting itself.

Neither, on the other hand, was anyone either very beautiful or
very fresh: which was again, exactly, a precious "value" on an
occasion that was to shine most, to the imagination, by the
complexity of its references. Such old, old women with such old,
old jewels; such ugly, ugly ones with such handsome, becoming
names; such battered, fatigued gentlemen with such inscrutable
decorations; such an absence of youth, for the most part, in
either sex--of the pink and white, the "bud" of new worlds; such
a general personal air, in fine, of being the worse for a good
deal of wear in various old ones. It was not a society--that was
clear--in which little girls and boys set the tune; and there was
that about it all that might well have cast a shadow on the path
of even the most successful little girl. Yet also--let me not be
rudely inexact--it was in honour of youth and freshness that we
had all been convened. The fiançailles of the last--unless
it were the last but one--unmarried daughter of the house had
just been brought to a proper climax; the contract had been
signed, the betrothal rounded off--I'm not sure that the civil
marriage hadn't, that day, taken place. The occasion then had in
fact the most charming of heroines and the most ingenuous of
heroes, a young man, the latter, all happily suffused with a fair
Austrian blush. The young lady had had, besides other more or
less shining recent ancestors, a very famous paternal
grandmother, who had played a great part in the political history
of her time and whose portrait, in the taste and dress of 1830,
was conspicuous in one of the rooms. The grand-daughter of this
celebrity, of royal race, was strikingly like her and, by a
fortunate stroke, had been habited, combed, curled in a manner
exactly to reproduce the portrait. These things were charming and
amusing, as indeed were several other things besides. The great
Venetian beauty of our period was there, and nature had equipped
the great Venetian beauty for her part with the properest sense
of the suitable, or in any case with a splendid generosity--
since on the ideally suitable character of so brave a
human symbol who shall have the last word? This responsible agent
was at all events the beauty in the world about whom probably,
most, the absence of question (an absence never wholly
propitious) would a little smugly and monotonously flourish: the
one thing wanting to the interest she inspired was thus the
possibility of ever discussing it. There were plenty of
suggestive subjects round about, on the other hand, as to which
the exchange of ideas would by no means necessarily have dropped.
You profit to the full at such times by all the old voices,
echoes, images--by that element of the history of Venice which
represents all Europe as having at one time and another revelled
or rested, asked for pleasure or for patience there; which gives
you the place supremely as the refuge of endless strange secrets,
broken fortunes and wounded hearts.


There had been, on lines of further or different speculation, a
young Englishman to luncheon, and the young Englishman had proved
"sympathetic"; so that when it was a question afterwards of some
of the more hidden treasures, the browner depths of the old
churches, the case became one for mutual guidance and gratitude--
for a small afternoon tour and the wait of a pair of friends in
the warm little campi, at locked doors for which the
nearest urchin had scurried off to fetch the keeper of the key.
There are few brown depths to-day into which the light of the
hotels doesn't shine, and few hidden treasures about which pages
enough, doubtless, haven't already been printed: my business,
accordingly, let me hasten to say, is not now with the fond
renewal of any discovery--at least in the order of impressions
most usual. Your discovery may be, for that matter, renewed every
week; the only essential is the good luck--which a fair amount of
practice has taught you to count upon-of not finding, for the
particular occasion, other discoverers in the field. Then, in the
quiet corner, with the closed door--then in the presence of the
picture and of your companion's sensible emotion--not only the
original happy moment, but everything else, is renewed. Yet once
again it can all come back. The old custode, shuffling about in
the dimness, jerks away, to make sure of his tip, the old curtain
that isn't much more modern than the wonderful work itself. He
does his best to create light where light can never be; but you
have your practised groping gaze, and in guiding the young eyes
of your less confident associate, moreover, you feel you possess
the treasure. These are the refined pleasures that Venice has
still to give, these odd happy passages of communication and

But the point of my reminiscence is that there were other
communications that day, as there were certainly other responses.
I have forgotten exactly what it was we were looking for--without
much success--when we met the three Sisters. Nothing requires
more care, as a long knowledge of Venice works in, than not to
lose the useful faculty of getting lost. I had so successfully
done my best to preserve it that I could at that moment
conscientiously profess an absence of any suspicion of where we
might be. It proved enough that, wherever we were, we were where
the three sisters found us. This was on a little bridge near a
big campo, and a part of the charm of the matter was the theory
that it was very much out of the way. They took us promptly in
hand--they were only walking over to San Marco to match some
coloured wool for the manufacture of such belated cushions as
still bloom with purple and green in the long leisures of old
palaces; and that mild errand could easily open a parenthesis.
The obscure church we had feebly imagined we were looking for
proved, if I am not mistaken, that of the sisters' parish; as to
which I have but a confused recollection of a large grey void and
of admiring for the first time a fine work of art of which I have
now quite lost the identity. This was the effect of the charming
beneficence of the three sisters, who presently were to give our
adventure a turn in the emotion of which everything that had
preceded seemed as nothing. It actually strikes me even as a
little dim to have been told by them, as we all fared together,
that a certain low, wide house, in a small square as to which I
found myself without particular association, had been in the far-
off time the residence of George Sand. And yet this was a fact
that, though I could then only feel it must be for another day,
would in a different connection have set me richly

Madame Sand's famous Venetian year has been of late immensely in
the air--a tub of soiled linen which the muse of history, rolling
her sleeves well up, has not even yet quite ceased energetically
and publicly to wash. The house in question must have been the
house to which the wonderful lady betook herself when, in 1834,
after the dramatic exit of Alfred de Musset, she enjoyed that
remarkable period of rest and refreshment with the so long
silent, the but recently rediscovered, reported, extinguished,
Doctor Pagello. As an old Sandist--not exactly indeed of the
première heure, but of the fine high noon and golden
afternoon of the great career--I had been, though I confess too
inactively, curious as to a few points in the topography of the
eminent adventure to which I here allude; but had never got
beyond the little public fact, in itself always a bit of a thrill
to the Sandist, that the present Hotel Danieli had been the scene
of its first remarkable stages. I am not sure indeed that the
curiosity I speak of has not at last, in my breast, yielded to
another form of wonderment--truly to the rather rueful question
of why we have so continued to concern ourselves, and why the
fond observer of the footprints of genius is likely so to
continue, with a body of discussion, neither in itself and in its
day, nor in its preserved and attested records, at all positively
edifying. The answer to such an inquiry would doubtless reward
patience, but I fear we can now glance at its possibilities only
long enough to say that interesting persons--so they be of a
sufficiently approved and established interest--render in some
degree interesting whatever happens to them, and give it an
importance even when very little else (as in the case I refer to)
may have operated to give it a dignity. Which is where I leave
the issue of further identifications.

For the three sisters, in the kindest way in the world, had asked
us if we already knew their sequestered home and whether, in case
we didn't, we should be at all amused to see it. My own
acquaintance with them, though not of recent origin, had hitherto
lacked this enhancement, at which we both now grasped with the
full instinct, indescribable enough, of what it was likely to
give. But how, for that matter, either, can I find the right
expression of what was to remain with us of this episode? It is
the fault of the sad-eyed old witch of Venice that she so easily
puts more into things that can pass under the common names that
do for them elsewhere. Too much for a rough sketch was to be seen
and felt in the home of the three sisters, and in the delightful
and slightly pathetic deviation of their doing us so simply and
freely the honours of it. What was most immediately marked was
their resigned cosmopolite state, the effacement of old
conventional lines by foreign contact and example; by the action,
too, of causes full of a special interest, but not to be
emphasised perhaps--granted indeed they be named at all--without
a certain sadness of sympathy. If "style," in Venice, sits among
ruins, let us always lighten our tread when we pay her a visit.

Our steps were in fact, I am happy to think, almost soft enough
for a death-chamber as we stood in the big, vague sala of
the three sisters, spectators of their simplified state and their
beautiful blighted rooms, the memories, the portraits, the
shrunken relics of nine Doges. If I wanted a first chapter it was
here made to my hand; the painter of life and manners, as he
glanced about, could only sigh--as he so frequently has to--over
the vision of so much more truth than he can use. What on earth
is the need to "invent," in the midst of tragedy and comedy that
never cease? Why, with the subject itself, all round, so
inimitable, condemn the picture to the silliness of trying not to
be aware of it? The charming lonely girls, carrying so simply
their great name and fallen fortunes, the despoiled
decaduta house, the unfailing Italian grace, the space so
out of scale with actual needs, the absence of books, the
presence of ennui, the sense of the length of the hours and the
shortness of everything else--all this was a matter not only for
a second chapter and a third, but for a whole volume, a
dénoûment and a sequel.

This time, unmistakably, it was the last--Wordsworth's
stately "shade of that which once was great"; and it was
almost as if our distinguished young friends had consented
to pass away slowly in order to treat us to the vision. Ends are
only ends in truth, for the painter of pictures, when they are
more or less conscious and prolonged. One of the sisters had been
to London, whence she had brought back the impression of having
seen at the British Museum a room exclusively filled with books
and documents devoted to the commemoration of her family. She
must also then have encountered at the National Gallery the
exquisite specimen of an early Venetian master in which one of
her ancestors, then head of the State, kneels with so sweet a
dignity before the Virgin and Child. She was perhaps old enough,
none the less, to have seen this precious work taken down from
the wall of the room in which we sat and--on terms so far too
easy--carried away for ever; and not too young, at all events, to
have been present, now and then, when her candid elders,
enlightened too late as to what their sacrifice might really have
done for them, looked at each other with the pale hush of the
irreparable. We let ourselves note that these were matters to put
a great deal of old, old history into sweet young Venetian faces.


In Italy, if we come to that, this particular appearance is far
from being only in the streets, where we are apt most to observe
it--in countenances caught as we pass and in the objects marked
by the guide-books with their respective stellar allowances. It
is behind the walls of the houses that old, old history is thick
and that the multiplied stars of Baedeker might often best find
their application. The feast of St. John the Baptist is the feast
of the year in Florence, and it seemed to me on that night that I
could have scattered about me a handful of these signs. I had the
pleasure of spending a couple of hours on a signal high terrace
that overlooks the Arno, as well as in the galleries that open
out to it, where I met more than ever the pleasant curious
question of the disparity between the old conditions and the new
manners. Make our manners, we moderns, as good as we can, there
is still no getting over it that they are not good enough for
many of the great places. This was one of those scenes, and its
greatness came out to the full into the hot Florentine evening,
in which the pink and golden fires of the pyrotechnics arranged
on Ponte Carraja--the occasion of our assembly--lighted up the
large issue. The "good people" beneath were a huge, hot, gentle,
happy family; the fireworks on the bridge, kindling river as well
as sky, were delicate and charming; the terrace connected the two
wings that give bravery to the front of the palace, and the
close-hung pictures in the rooms, open in a long series, offered
to a lover of quiet perambulation an alternative hard to resist.

Wherever he stood--on the broad loggia, in the cluster of
company, among bland ejaculations and liquefied ices, or in the
presence of the mixed masters that led him from wall to wall--
such a seeker for the spirit of each occasion could only turn it
over that in the first place this was an intenser, finer little
Florence than ever, and that in the second the testimony was
again wonderful to former fashions and ideas. What did they do,
in the other time, the time of so much smaller a society, smaller
and fewer fortunes, more taste perhaps as to some particulars,
but fewer tastes, at any rate, and fewer habits and wants--what
did they do with chambers so multitudinous and so vast? Put their
"state" at its highest--and we know of many ways in which it must
have broken down--how did they live in them without the aid of
variety? How did they, in minor communities in which every one
knew every one, and every one's impression and effect had been
long, as we say, discounted, find representation and emulation
sufficiently amusing? Much of the charm of thinking of it,
however, is doubtless that we are not able to say. This leaves us
with the conviction that does them most honour: the old
generations built and arranged greatly for the simple reason that
they liked it, and they could bore themselves--to say nothing of
each other, when it came to that--better in noble conditions than
in mean ones.

It was not, I must add, of the far-away Florentine age that I
most thought, but of periods more recent and of which the sound
and beautiful house more directly spoke. If one had always been
homesick for the Arno-side of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, here was a chance, and a better one than ever, to
taste again of the cup. Many of the pictures--there was a
charming quarter of an hour when I had them to myself--were bad
enough to have passed for good in those delightful years. Shades
of Grand-Dukes encompassed me--Dukes of the pleasant later sort
who weren't really grand. There was still the sense of having
come too late--yet not too late, after all, for this glimpse and
this dream. My business was to people the place--its own business
had never been to save us the trouble of understanding it. And
then the deepest spell of all was perhaps that just here I was
supremely out of the way of the so terribly actual Florentine
question. This, as all the world knows, is a battle-ground, to-
day, in many journals, with all Italy practically pulling on one
side and all England, America and Germany pulling on the other: I
speak of course of the more or less articulate opinion. The
"improvement," the rectification of Florence is in the air, and
the problem of the particular ways in which, given such
desperately delicate cases, these matters should be understood.
The little treasure-city is, if there ever was one, a delicate
case-- more delicate perhaps than any other in the world save
that of our taking on ourselves to persuade the Italians that
they mayn't do as they like with their own. They so absolutely
may that I profess I see no happy issue from the fight. It will
take more tact than our combined tactful genius may at all
probably muster to convince them that their own is, by an
ingenious logic, much rather ours. It will take more
subtlety still to muster for them that dazzling show of examples
from which they may learn that what in general is "ours" shall
appear to them as a rule a sacrifice to beauty and a triumph of
taste. The situation, to the truly analytic mind, offers in
short, to perfection, all the elements of despair; and I am
afraid that if I hung back, at the Corsini palace, to woo
illusions and invoke the irrelevant, it was because I could
think, in the conditions, of no better way to meet the acute
responsibility of the critic than just to shirk it.



Invited to "introduce" certain pages of cordial and faithful
reminiscence from another hand, [1]

[1] "Browning in Venice," being Recollections of the late
Katharine De Kay Bronson, with a Prefatory Note by H. J.
(Cornhill Magazine, February, 1902).]

in which a frankly predominant presence seems to live again, I
undertook that office with an interest inevitably somewhat sad--
so passed and gone to-day is so much of the life suggested.
Those who fortunately knew Mrs. Bronson will read into her notes
still more of it--more of her subject, more of herself too, and
of many things--than she gives, and some may well even feel
tempted to do for her what she has done here for her
distinguished friend. In Venice, during a long period, for many
pilgrims, Mrs. Arthur Bronson, originally of New York, was, so
far as society, hospitality, a charming personal welcome were
concerned, almost in sole possession; she had become there, with
time, quite the prime representative of those private amenities
which the Anglo-Saxon abroad is apt to miss just in proportion as
the place visited is publicly wonderful, and in which he
therefore finds a value twice as great as at home. Mrs. Bronson
really earned in this way the gratitude of mingled generations
and races. She sat for twenty years at the wide mouth, as it
were, of the Grand Canal, holding out her hand, with endless
good-nature, patience, charity, to all decently accredited
petitioners, the incessant troop of those either bewilderedly
making or fondly renewing acquaintance with the dazzling city.

[Illustration: CASA ALVISI, VENICE]

Casa Alvisi is directly opposite the high, broad-based florid
church of S. Maria della Salute--so directly that from the
balcony over the water-entrance your eye, crossing the canal,
seems to find the key-hole of the great door right in a line with
it; and there was something in this position that for the time
made all Venice-lovers think of the genial padrona as thus
levying in the most convenient way the toll of curiosity and
sympathy. Every one passed, every one was seen to pass, and few
were those not seen to stop and to return. The most generous of
hostesses died a year ago at Florence; her house knows her no
more--it had ceased to do so for some time before her death; and
the long, pleased procession--the charmed arrivals, the happy
sojourns at anchor, the reluctant departures that made Ca'
Alvisi, as was currently said, a social porto di mare--is,
for remembrance and regret, already a possession of ghosts; so
that, on the spot, at present, the attention ruefully averts
itself from the dear little old faded but once familiarly bright
façade, overtaken at last by the comparatively vulgar uses that
are doing their best to "paint out" in Venice, right and left, by
staring signs and other vulgarities, the immemorial note of
distinction. The house, in a city of palaces, was small, but the
tenant clung to her perfect, her inclusive position--the one
right place that gave her a better command, as it were, than a
better house obtained by a harder compromise; not being fond,
moreover, of spacious halls and massive treasures, but of compact
and familiar rooms, in which her remarkable accumulation of
minute and delicate Venetian objects could show. She adored--in
the way of the Venetian, to which all her taste addressed itself-
-the small, the domestic and the exquisite; so that she would
have given a Tintoretto or two, I think, without difficulty, for
a cabinet of tiny gilded glasses or a dinner-service of the right
old silver.

The general receptacle of these multiplied treasures played at
any rate, through the years, the part of a friendly private-box
at the constant operatic show, a box at the best point of the
best tier, with the cushioned ledge of its front raking the whole
scene and with its withdrawing rooms behind for more detached
conversation; for easy--when not indeed slightly difficult--
polyglot talk, artful bibite, artful cigarettes too,
straight from the hand of the hostess, who could do all that
belonged to a hostess, place people in relation and keep them so,
take up and put down the topic, cause delicate tobacco and little
gilded glasses to circulate, without ever leaving her sofa-
cushions or intermitting her good-nature. She exercised in these
conditions, with never a block, as we say in London, in the
traffic, with never an admission, an acceptance of the least
social complication, her positive genius for easy interest, easy
sympathy, easy friendship. It was as if, at last, she had taken
the human race at large, quite irrespective of geography, for her
neighbours, with neighbourly relations as a matter of course.
These things, on her part, had at all events the greater
appearance of ease from their having found to their purpose--and
as if the very air of Venice produced them--a cluster of forms so
light and immediate, so pre-established by picturesque custom.
The old bright tradition, the wonderful Venetian legend had
appealed to her from the first, closing round her house and her
well-plashed water-steps, where the waiting gondolas were thick,
quite as if, actually, the ghost of the defunct Carnival--since
I have spoken of ghosts--still played some haunting part.

Let me add, at the same time, that Mrs. Bronson's social
facility, which was really her great refuge from importunity, a
defence with serious thought and serious feeling quietly
cherished behind it, had its discriminations as well as its
inveteracies, and that the most marked of all these, perhaps, was
her attachment to Robert Browning. Nothing in all her beneficent
life had probably made her happier than to have found herself
able to minister, each year, with the returning autumn, to his
pleasure and comfort. Attached to Ca' Alvisi, on the land side,
is a somewhat melancholy old section of a Giustiniani palace,
which she had annexed to her own premises mainly for the purpose
of placing it, in comfortable guise, at the service of her
friends. She liked, as she professed, when they were the real
thing, to have them under her hand; and here succeeded each
other, through the years, the company of the privileged and the
more closely domesticated, who liked, harmlessly, to distinguish
between themselves and outsiders. Among visitors partaking of
this pleasant provision Mr. Browning was of course easily first.
But I must leave her own pen to show him as her best years knew
him. The point was, meanwhile, that if her charity was great even
for the outsider, this was by reason of the inner essence of it--
her perfect tenderness for Venice, which she always recognised as
a link. That was the true principle of fusion, the key to
communication. She communicated in proportion--little or much,
measuring it as she felt people more responsive or less so; and
she expressed herself, or in other words her full affection for
the place, only to those who had most of the same sentiment. The
rich and interesting form in which she found it in Browning may
well be imagined--together with the quite independent quantity of
the genial at large that she also found; but I am not sure that
his favour was not primarily based on his paid tribute of such
things as "Two in a Gondola" and "A Toccata of Galuppi." He had
more ineffaceably than anyone recorded his initiation from of

She was thus, all round, supremely faithful; yet it was perhaps
after all with the very small folk, those to the manner born,
that she made the easiest terms. She loved, she had from the
first enthusiastically adopted, the engaging Venetian people,
whose virtues she found touching and their infirmities but such
as appeal mainly to the sense of humour and the love of anecdote;
and she befriended and admired, she studied and spoiled them.
There must have been a multitude of whom it would scarce be too
much to say that her long residence among them was their settled
golden age. When I consider that they have lost her now I fairly
wonder to what shifts they have been put and how long they may
not have to wait for such another messenger of Providence. She
cultivated their dialect, she renewed their boats, she piously
relighted--at the top of the tide-washed pali of traghetto
or lagoon--the neglected lamp of the tutelary Madonnetta; she
took cognisance of the wives, the children, the accidents, the
troubles, as to which she became, perceptibly, the most prompt,
the established remedy. On lines where the amusement was happily
less one-sided she put together in dialect many short comedies,
dramatic proverbs, which, with one of her drawing-rooms
permanently arranged as a charming diminutive theatre, she caused
to be performed by the young persons of her circle--often, when
the case lent itself, by the wonderful small offspring of humbler
friends, children of the Venetian lower class, whose aptitude,
teachability, drollery, were her constant delight. It was
certainly true that an impression of Venice as humanly sweet
might easily found itself on the frankness and quickness and
amiability of these little people. They were at least so much to
the good; for the philosophy of their patroness was as Venetian
as everything else; helping her to accept experience without
bitterness and to remain fresh, even in the fatigue which finally
overtook her, for pleasant surprises and proved sincerities. She
was herself sincere to the last for the place of her
predilection; inasmuch as though she had arranged herself, in the
later time--and largely for the love of "Pippa Passes"--an
alternative refuge at Asolo, she absented herself from Venice
with continuity only under coercion of illness.

At Asolo, periodically, the link with Browning was more confirmed
than weakened, and there, in old Venetian territory, and with the
invasion of visitors comparatively checked, her preferentially
small house became again a setting for the pleasure of talk and
the sense of Italy. It contained again its own small treasures,
all in the pleasant key of the homelier Venetian spirit. The
plain beneath it stretched away like a purple sea from the lower
cliffs of the hills, and the white campanili of the
villages, as one was perpetually saying, showed on the expanse
like scattered sails of ships. The rumbling carriage, the old-
time, rattling, red-velveted carriage of provincial, rural Italy,
delightful and quaint, did the office of the gondola; to Bassano,
to Treviso, to high-walled Castelfranco, all pink and gold, the
home of the great Giorgione. Here also memories cluster; but it
is in Venice again that her vanished presence is most felt, for
there, in the real, or certainly the finer, the more sifted
Cosmopolis, it falls into its place among the others evoked,
those of the past seekers of poetry and dispensers of romance. It
is a fact that almost every one interesting, appealing,
melancholy, memorable, odd, seems at one time or another, after
many days and much life, to have gravitated to Venice by a happy
instinct, settling in it and treating it, cherishing it, as a
sort of repository of consolations; all of which to-day, for the
conscious mind, is mixed with its air and constitutes its
unwritten history. The deposed, the defeated, the disenchanted,
the wounded, or even only the bored, have seemed to find there
something that no other place could give. But such people came
for themselves, as we seem to see them--only with the egotism of
their grievances and the vanity of their hopes. Mrs. Bronson's
case was beautifully different--she had come altogether for


Your truly sentimental tourist will never take it from any
occasion that there is absolutely nothing for him, and it was at
Chambéry--but four hours from Geneva--that I accepted the
situation and decided there might be mysterious delights in
entering Italy by a whizz through an eight-mile tunnel, even as a
bullet through the bore of a gun. I found my reward in the
Savoyard landscape, which greets you betimes with the smile of
anticipation. If it is not so Italian as Italy it is at least
more Italian than anything but Italy--more Italian, too, I
should think, than can seem natural and proper to the swarming
red-legged soldiery who so publicly proclaim it of the empire of
M. Thiers. The light and the complexion of things had to my eyes
not a little of that mollified depth last loved by them rather
further on. It was simply perhaps that the weather was hot and
the mountains drowsing in that iridescent haze that I have seen
nearer home than at Chambéry. But the vegetation, assuredly, had
an all but Transalpine twist and curl, and the classic wayside
tangle of corn and vines left nothing to be desired in the line
of careless grace. Chambéry as a town, however, constitutes no
foretaste of the monumental cities. There is shabbiness and
shabbiness, the fond critic of such things will tell you; and
that of the ancient capital of Savoy lacks style. I found a
better pastime, however, than strolling through the dark dull
streets in quest of effects that were not forthcoming. The first
urchin you meet will show you the way to Les Charmettes and the
Maison Jean-Jacques. A very. pleasant way it becomes as soon as
it leaves the town--a winding, climbing by-road, bordered with
such a tall and sturdy hedge as to give it the air of an English
lane--if you can fancy an English lane introducing you to the
haunts of a Madame de Warens.

The house that formerly sheltered this lady's singular ménage
stands on a hillside above the road, which a rapid path connects
with the little grass-grown terrace before it. It is a small
shabby, homely dwelling, with a certain reputable solidity,
however, and more of internal spaciousness than of outside
promise. The place is shown by an elderly competent dame who
points out the very few surviving objects which you may touch
with the reflection--complacent in whatsoever degree suits you--
that they have known the familiarity of Rousseau's hand. It was
presumably a meagrely-appointed house, and I wondered that on
such scanty features so much expression should linger. But the
structure has an ancient ponderosity, and the dust of the
eighteenth century seems to lie on its worm-eaten floors, to
cling to the faded old papiers à ramages on the walls and
to lodge in the crevices of the brown wooden ceilings. Madame de
Warens's bed remains, with the narrow couch of Jean-Jacques as
well, his little warped and cracked yellow spinet, and a
battered, turnip-shaped silver timepiece, engraved with its
master's name--its primitive tick as extinct as his passionate
heart-beats. It cost me, I confess, a somewhat pitying
acceleration of my own to see this intimately personal relic of
the genius loci--for it had dwelt; in his waistcoat-
pocket, than which there is hardly a material point in space
nearer to a man's consciousness--tossed so the dog's-eared
visitors' record or livre de cuisine recently denounced by
Madame George Sand. In fact the place generally, in so far as
some faint ghostly presence of its famous inmates seems to linger
there, is by no means exhilarating. Coppet and Ferney tell, if
not of pure happiness, at least of prosperity and, honour, wealth
and success. But Les Charmettes is haunted by ghosts unclean and
forlorn. The place tells of poverty, perversity, distress. A
good deal of clever modern talent in France has been employed in
touching up the episode of which it was the scene and tricking
it out in idyllic love-knots. But as I stood on the charming
terrace I have mentioned--a little jewel of a terrace, with
grassy flags and a mossy parapet, and an admirable view of great
swelling violet hills--stood there reminded how much sweeter
Nature is than man, the story looked rather wan and unlovely
beneath these literary decorations, and I could pay it no
livelier homage than is implied in perfect pity. Hero and heroine
have become too much creatures of history to take up attitudes as
part of any poetry. But, not to moralise too sternly for a
tourist between trains, I should add that, as an illustration,
to be inserted mentally in the text of the "Confessions," a
glimpse of Les Charmettes is pleasant enough. It completes the
rare charm of good autobiography to behold with one's eyes the
faded and battered background of the story; and Rousseau's
narrative is so incomparably vivid and forcible that the sordid
little house at Chambéry seems of a hardly deeper shade of
reality than so many other passages of his projected truth.

If I spent an hour at Les Charmettes, fumbling thus helplessly
with the past, I recognised on the morrow how strongly the Mont
Cenis Tunnel smells of the time to come. As I passed along the
Saint-Gothard highway a couple of months since, I perceived, half
up the Swiss ascent, a group of navvies at work in a gorge
beneath the road. They had laid bare a broad surface of granite
and had punched in the centre of it a round black cavity, of
about the dimensions, as it seemed to me, of a soup-plate. This
was to attain its perfect development some eight years hence. The
Mont Cenis may therefore be held to have set a fashion which will
be followed till the highest Himalaya is but the ornamental apex
or snow-capped gable-tip of some resounding fuliginous corridor.
The tunnel differs but in length from other tunnels; you spend
half an hour in it. But you whirl out into the blest peninsula,
and as you look back seem to see the mighty mass shrug its
shoulders over the line, the mere turn of a dreaming giant in his
sleep. The tunnel is certainly not a poetic object, out there is
no perfection without its beauty; and as you measure the long
rugged outline of the pyramid of which it forms the base you
accept it as the perfection of a short cut. Twenty-four hours
from Paris to Turin is speed for the times--speed which may
content us, at any rate, until expansive Berlin has succeeded in
placing itself at thirty-six from Milan.

To enter Turin then of a lovely August afternoon was to find a
city of arcades, of pink and yellow stucco, of innumerable cafes,
of blue-legged officers, of ladies draped in the North-Italian
mantilla. An old friend of Italy coming back to her finds an easy
waking for dormant memories. Every object is a reminder and every
reminder a thrill. Half an hour after my arrival, as I stood at
my window, which overhung the great square, I found the scene,
within and without, a rough epitome of every pleasure and every
impression I had formerly gathered from Italy: the balcony and
the Venetian-blind, the cool floor of speckled concrete, the
lavish delusions of frescoed wall and ceiling, the broad divan
framed for the noonday siesta, the massive medieval Castello in
mid-piazza, with its shabby rear and its pompous Palladian
front, the brick campaniles beyond, the milder, yellower light,
the range of colour, the suggestion of sound. Later, beneath the
arcades, I found many an old acquaintance: beautiful officers,
resplendent, slow-strolling, contemplative of female beauty;
civil and peaceful dandies, hardly less gorgeous, with that
religious faith in moustache and shirt-front which distinguishes
the belle jeunesse of Italy; ladies with heads artfully
shawled in Spanish-looking lace, but with too little art--or too
much nature at least--in the region of the bodice; well-
conditioned young abbati with neatly drawn stockings.
These indeed are not objects of first-rate interest, and with
such Turin is rather meagrely furnished. It has no architecture,
no churches, no monuments, no romantic street-scenery. It has the
great votive temple of the Superga, which stands on a high
hilltop above the city, gazing across at Monte Rosa and lifting
its own fine dome against the sky with no contemptible art. But
when you have seen the Superga from the quay beside the Po, a
skein of a few yellow threads in August, despite its frequent
habit of rising high and running wild, and said to yourself that
in architecture position is half the battle, you have nothing
left to visit but the Museum of pictures. The Turin Gallery,
which is large and well arranged, is the fortunate owner of three
or four masterpieces: a couple of magnificent Vandycks and a
couple of Paul Veroneses; the latter a Queen of Sheba and a Feast
of the House of Levi--the usual splendid combination of brocades,
grandees and marble colonnades dividing those skies de
turquoise malade
to which Théophile Gautier is fond of
alluding. The Veroneses are fine, but with Venice in prospect the
traveller feels at liberty to keep his best attention in reserve.
If, however, he has the proper relish for Vandyck, let him linger
long and fondly here; for that admiration will never be more
potently stirred than by the adorable group of the three little
royal highnesses, sons and the daughter of Charles I. All the
purity of childhood is here, and all its soft solidity of
structure, rounded tenderly beneath the spangled satin and
contrasted charmingly with the pompous rigidity. Clad
respectively in crimson, white and blue, these small scions stand
up in their ruffs and fardingales in dimpled serenity, squaring
their infantine stomachers at the spectator with an innocence, a
dignity, a delightful grotesqueness, which make the picture a
thing of close truth as well as of fine decorum. You might kiss
their hands, but you certainly would think twice before pinching
their cheeks--provocative as they are of this tribute of
admiration--and would altogether lack presumption to lift them
off the ground or the higher level or dais on which they stand so
sturdily planted by right of birth. There is something inimitable
in the paternal gallantry with which the painter has touched off
the young lady. She was a princess, yet she was a baby, and he
has contrived, we let ourselves fancy, to interweave an
intimation that she was a creature whom, in her teens, the
lucklessly smitten--even as he was prematurely--must vainly sigh
for. Though the work is a masterpiece of execution its merits
under this head may be emulated, at a distance; the lovely
modulations of colour in the three contrasted and harmonised
little satin petticoats, the solidity of the little heads, in
spite of all their prettiness, the happy, unexaggerated
squareness and maturity of pose, are, severally, points to
study, to imitate, and to reproduce with profit. But the taste of
such a consummate thing is its great secret as well as its great
merit--a taste which seems one of the lost instincts of mankind.
Go and enjoy this supreme expression of Vandyck's fine sense, and
admit that never was a politer production.

Milan speaks to us of a burden of felt life of which Turin is
innocent, but in its general aspect still lingers a northern
reserve which makes the place rather perhaps the last of the
prose capitals than the first of the poetic. The long Austrian
occupation perhaps did something to Germanise its physiognomy;
though indeed this is an indifferent explanation when one
remembers how well, temperamentally speaking, Italy held her own
in Venetia. Milan, at any rate, if not bristling with the
æsthetic impulse, opens to us frankly enough the thick volume of
her past. Of that volume the Cathedral is the fairest and fullest
page--a structure not supremely interesting, not logical, not
even, to some minds, commandingly beautiful, but grandly curious
and superbly rich. I hope, for my own part, never to grow too
particular to admire it. If it had no other distinction it would
still have that of impressive, immeasurable achievement. As I
strolled beside its vast indented base one evening, and felt it,
above me, rear its grey mysteries into the starlight while the
restless human tide on which I floated rose no higher than the
first few layers of street-soiled marble, I was tempted to
believe that beauty in great architecture is almost a secondary
merit, and that the main point is mass--such mass as may make it
a supreme embodiment of vigorous effort. Viewed in this way a
great building is the greatest conceivable work of art. More than
any other it represents difficulties mastered, resources
combined, labour, courage and patience. And there are people who
tell us that art has nothing to do with morality! Little enough,
doubtless, when it is concerned, even ever so little, in painting
the roof of Milan Cathedral within to represent carved stone-
work. Of this famous roof every one has heard--how good it is,
how bad, how perfect a delusion, how transparent an artifice. It
is the first thing your cicerone shows you on entering the
church. The occasionally accommodating art-lover may accept it
philosophically, I think; for the interior, though admirably
effective as a whole, has no great sublimity, nor even purity, of
pitch. It is splendidly vast and dim; the altarlamps twinkle afar
through the incense-thickened air like foglights at sea, and the
great columns rise straight to the roof, which hardly curves to
meet them, with the girth and altitude of oaks of a thousand
years; but there is little refinement of design--few of those
felicities of proportion which the eye caresses, when it finds
them, very much as the memory retains and repeats some happy
lines of poetry or some haunting musical phrase. Consistently
brave, none the less, is the result produced, and nothing braver
than a certain exhibition that I privately enjoyed of the relics
of St. Charles Borromeus. This holy man lies at his eternal rest
in a small but gorgeous sepulchral chapel, beneath the boundless
pavement and before the high altar; and for the modest sum of
five francs you may have his shrivelled mortality unveiled and
gaze at it with whatever reserves occur to you. The Catholic
Church never renounces a chance of the sublime for fear of a
chance of the ridiculous--especially when the chance of the
sublime may be the very excellent chance of five francs. The
performance in question, of which the good San Carlo paid in the
first instance the cost, was impressive certainly, but as a
monstrous matter or a grim comedy may still be. The little
sacristan, having secured his audience, whipped on a white tunic
over his frock, lighted a couple of extra candles and proceeded
to remove from above the altar, by means of a crank, a sort of
sliding shutter, just as you may see a shop-boy do of a morning
at his master's window. In this case too a large sheet of plate-
glass was uncovered, and to form an idea of the étalage
you must imagine that a jeweller, for reasons of his own, has
struck an unnatural partnership with an undertaker. The black
mummified corpse of the saint is stretched out in a glass coffin,
clad in his mouldering canonicals, mitred, crosiered and gloved,
glittering with votive jewels. It is an extraordinary mixture of
death and life; the desiccated clay, the ashen rags, the hideous
little black mask and skull, and the living, glowing, twinkling
splendour of diamonds, emeralds and sapphires. The collection is
really fine, and many great historic names are attached to the
different offerings. Whatever may be the better opinion as to the
future of the Church, I can't help thinking she will make a
figure in the world so long as she retains this great fund of
precious "properties," this prodigious capital decoratively
invested and scintillating throughout Christendom at effectively-
scattered points. You see I am forced to agree after all, in
spite of the sliding shutter and the profane swagger of the
sacristan, that a certain pastoral majesty saved the situation,
or at least made irony gape. Yet it was from a natural desire to
breathe a sweeter air that I immediately afterwards undertook the
interminable climb to the roof of the cathedral. This is another
world of wonders, and one which enjoys due renown, every square
inch of wall on the winding stairways being bescribbled with a
traveller's name. There is a great glare from the far-stretching
slopes of marble, a confusion (like the masts of a navy or the
spears of an army) of image-capped pinnacles, biting the
impalpable blue, and, better than either, the goodliest view of
level Lombardy sleeping in its rich transalpine light and
resembling, with its white-walled dwellings and the spires on its
horizon, a vast green sea spotted with ships. After two months of
Switzerland the Lombard plain is a rich rest to the eye, and the
yellow, liquid, free-flowing light--as if on favoured Italy the
vessels of heaven were more widely opened--had for mine a charm
which made me think of a great opaque mountain as a blasphemous
invasion of the atmospheric spaces.


I have mentioned the cathedral first, but the prime treasure of
Milan at the present hour is the beautiful, tragical Leonardo.
The cathedral is good for another thousand years, but we ask
whether our children will find in the most majestic and most
luckless of frescoes much more than the shadow of a shadow. Its
fame has been for a century or two that, as one may say, of an
illustrious invalid whom people visit to see how he lasts, with
leave-taking sighs and almost death-bed or tiptoe precautions.
The picture needs not another scar or stain, now, to be the
saddest work of art in the world; and battered, defaced, ruined
as it is, it remains one of the greatest. We may really compare
its anguish of decay to the slow conscious ebb of life in a human
organism. The production of the prodigy was a breath from the
infinite, and the painter's conception not immeasurably less
complex than the scheme, say, of his own mortal constitution.
There has been much talk lately of the irony of fate, but I
suspect fate was never more ironical than when she led the most
scientific, the most calculating of all painters to spend fifteen
long years in building his goodly house upon the sand. And yet,
after all, may not the playing of that trick represent but a
deeper wisdom, since if the thing enjoyed the immortal health and
bloom of a first-rate Titian we should have lost one of the most
pertinent lessons in the history of art? We know it as hearsay,
but here is the plain proof, that there is no limit to the amount
of "stuff" an artist may put into his work. Every painter ought
once in his life to stand before the Cenacolo and decipher its
moral. Mix with your colours and mess on your palette every
particle of the very substance of your soul, and this lest
perchance your "prepared surface" shall play you a trick! Then,
and then only, it will fight to the last--it will resist even in
death. Raphael was a happier genius; you look at his lovely
"Marriage of the Virgin" at the Brera, beautiful as some first
deep smile of conscious inspiration, but to feel that he foresaw
no complaint against fate, and that he knew the world he wanted
to know and charmed it into never giving him away. But I have
left no space to speak of the Brera, nor of that paradise of
book-worms with an eye for their background--if such creatures
exist--the Ambrosian Library; nor of that mighty basilica of St.
Ambrose, with its spacious atrium and its crudely solemn mosaics,
in which it is surely your own fault if you don't forget Dr.
Strauss and M. Renan and worship as grimly as a Christian of the
ninth century.

It is part of the sordid prose of the Mont Cenis road that,
unlike those fine old unimproved passes, the Simplon, the Splügen
and--yet awhile longer--the Saint-Gothard, it denies you a
glimpse of that paradise adorned by the four lakes even as that
of uncommented Scripture by the rivers of Eden. I made, however,
an excursion to the Lake of Como, which, though brief, lasted
long enough to suggest to me that I too was a hero of romance
with leisure for a love-affair, and not a hurrying tourist with a
Bradshaw in his pocket. The Lake of Como has figured largely in
novels of "immoral" tendency--being commonly the spot to which
inflamed young gentlemen invite the wives of other gentlemen to
fly with them and ignore the restrictions of public opinion. But
even the Lake of Como has been revised and improved; the fondest
prejudices yield to time; it gives one somehow a sense of an
aspiringly high tone. I should pay a poor compliment at least to
the swarming inmates of the hotels which now alternate
attractively by the water-side with villas old and new were I to
read the appearances more cynically. But if it is lost to florid
fiction it still presents its blue bosom to most other refined
uses, and the unsophisticated tourist, the American at least, may
do any amount of private romancing there. The pretty hotel at
Cadenabbia offers him, for instance, in the most elegant and
assured form, the so often precarious adventure of what he calls
at home summer board. It is all so unreal, so fictitious, so
elegant and idle, so framed to undermine a rigid sense of the
chief end of man not being to float for ever in an ornamental
boat, beneath an awning tasselled like a circus-horse, impelled
by an affable Giovanni or Antonio from one stately stretch of
lake-laved villa steps to another, that departure seems as harsh
and unnatural as the dream-dispelling note of some punctual voice
at your bedside on a dusky winter morning. Yet I wondered, for my
own part, where I had seen it all before--the pink-walled villas
gleaming through their shrubberies of orange and oleander, the
mountains shimmering in the hazy light like so many breasts of
doves, the constant presence of the melodious Italian voice.
Where indeed but at the Opera when the manager has been more than
usually regardless of expense? Here in the foreground was the
palace of the nefarious barytone, with its banqueting-hall
opening as freely on the stage as a railway buffet on the
platform; beyond, the delightful back scene, with its operatic
gamut of colouring; in the middle the scarlet-sashed
barcaiuoli, grouped like a chorus, hat in hand, awaiting
the conductor's signal. It was better even than being in a novel-
-this being, this fairly wallowing, in a libretto.


Berne, September, 1873.--In Berne again, some eleven
weeks after having left it in July. I have never been in
Switzerland so late, and I came hither innocently supposing the
last Cook's tourist to have paid out his last coupon and
departed. But I was lucky, it seems, to discover an empty cot in
an attic and a very tight place at a table d'hôte. People are all
flocking out of Switzerland, as in July they were flocking in,
and the main channels of egress are terribly choked. I have been
here several days, watching them come and go; it is like the
march-past of an army. It gives one, for an occasional change
from darker thoughts, a lively impression of the numbers of
people now living, and above all now moving, at extreme ease in
the world. Here is little Switzerland disgorging its tens of
thousands of honest folk, chiefly English, and rarely, to judge
by their faces and talk, children of light in any eminent degree;
for whom snow-peaks and glaciers and passes and lakes and chalets
and sunsets and a café complet, "including honey," as the
coupon says, have become prime necessities for six weeks every
year. It's not so long ago that lords and nabobs monopolised
these pleasures; but nowadays i a month's tour in Switzerland is
no more a jeu de prince than a Sunday excursion. To watch
this huge Anglo-Saxon wave ebbing through Berne suggests, no
doubt most fallaciously, that the common lot of mankind isn't
after all so very hard and that the masses have reached a high
standard of comfort. The view of the Oberland chain, as you see
it from the garden of the hotel, really butters one's bread most
handsomely; and here are I don't know how many hundred Cook's
tourists a day looking at it through the smoke of their pipes. Is
it really the "masses," however, that I see every day at the
table d'hôte? They have rather too few h's to the dozen, but
their good-nature is great. Some people complain that they
"vulgarise" Switzerland; but as far as I am concerned I freely
give it up to them and offer them a personal welcome and take a
peculiar satisfaction in seeing them here. Switzerland is a "show
country"--I am more and more struck with the bearings of that
truth; and its use in the world is to reassure persons of a
benevolent imagination when they begin to wish for the drudging
millions a greater supply of elevating amusement. Here is
amusement for a thousand years, and as elevating certainly as
mountains three miles high can make it. I expect to live to see
the summit of Monte Rosa heated by steam-tubes and adorned with a
hotel setting three tables d'hôte a day.

[Illustration: THE CLOCK TOWER, BERNE]

I have been walking about the arcades, which used to bestow a
grateful shade in July, but which seem rather dusky and chilly in
these shortening autumn days. I am struck with the way the
English always speak of them--with a shudder, as gloomy, as
dirty, as evil-smelling, as suffocating, as freezing, as anything
and everything but admirably picturesque. I take us Americans for
the only people who, in travelling, judge things on the first
impulse--when we do judge them at all--not from the standpoint of
simple comfort. Most of us, strolling forth into these bustling
basements, are, I imagine, too much amused, too much diverted
from the sense of an alienable right to public ease, to be
conscious of heat or cold, of thick air, or even of the universal
smell of strong charcuterie. If the visible romantic were
banished from the face of the earth I am sure the idea of it
would still survive in some typical American heart....

Lucerne, September. --Berne, I find, has been filling with
tourists at the expense of Lucerne, which I have been having
almost to myself. There are six people at the table d'hôte; the
excellent dinner denotes on the part of the chef the easy
leisure in which true artists love to work. The waiters have
nothing to do but lounge about the hall and chink in their
pockets the fees of the past season. The day has been lovely in
itself, and pervaded, to my sense, by the gentle glow of a
natural satisfaction at my finding myself again on the threshold
of Italy. I am lodged en prince, in a room with a balcony
hanging over the lake--a balcony on which I spent a long time
this morning at dawn, thanking the mountain-tops, from the depths
of a landscape-lover's heart, for their promise of superbly fair
weather. There were a great many mountain-tops to thank, for the
crags and peaks and pinnacles tumbled away through the morning
mist in an endless confusion of grandeur. I have been all day in
better humour with Lucerne than ever before--a forecast
reflection of Italian moods. If Switzerland, as I wrote the other
day, is so furiously a show-place, Lucerne is certainly one of
the biggest booths at the fair. The little quay, under the trees,
squeezed in between the decks of the steamboats and the doors of
the hotels, is a terrible medley of Saxon dialects--a jumble of
pilgrims in all the phases of devotion, equipped with book and
staff, alpenstock and Baedeker. There are so many hotels and
trinket-shops, so many omnibuses and steamers, so many Saint-
Gothard vetturini, so many ragged urchins poking
photographs, minerals and Lucernese English at you, that you feel
as if lake and mountains themselves, in all their loveliness,
were but a part of the "enterprise" of landlords and pedlars, and
half expect to see the Righi and Pilatus and the fine weather
figure as items on your hotel-bill between the bougie and
the siphon. Nature herself assists you to this conceit;
there is something so operatic and suggestive of footlights and
scene-shifters in the view on which Lucerne looks out. You are
one of five thousand--fifty thousand--"accommodated" spectators;
you have taken your season-ticket and there is a responsible
impresario somewhere behind the scenes. There is such a luxury of
beauty in the prospect--such a redundancy of composition and
effect--so many more peaks and pinnacles than are needed to make
one heart happy or regale the vision of one quiet observer, that
you finally accept the little Babel on the quay and the looming
masses in the clouds as equal parts of a perfect system, and feel
as if the mountains had been waiting so many ages for the hotels
to come and balance the colossal group, that they show a right,
after all, to have them big and numerous. The scene-shifters have
been at work all day long, composing and discomposing the
beautiful background of the prospect--massing the clouds and
scattering the light, effacing and reviving, making play with
their wonderful machinery of mist and haze. The mountains rise,
one behind the other, in an enchanting gradation of distances and
of melting blues and greys; you think each successive tone the
loveliest and haziest possible till you see another loom dimly
behind it. I couldn't enjoy even The Swiss Times, over my
breakfast, till I had marched forth to the office of the Saint-
Gothard service of coaches and demanded the banquette for to-
morrow. The one place at the disposal of the office was taken,
but I might possibly m'entendre with the conductor for his
own seat--the conductor being generally visible, in the intervals
of business, at the post-office. To the post-office, after
breakfast, I repaired, over the fine new bridge which now spans
the green Reuss and gives such a woeful air of country-cousinship
to the crooked old wooden structure which did sole service when I
was here four years ago. The old bridge is covered with a running
hood of shingles and adorned with a series of very quaint and
vivid little paintings of the "Dance of Death," quite in the
Holbein manner; the new sends up a painful glare from its white
limestone, and is ornamented with candelabra in a meretricious
imitation of platinum. As an almost professional cherisher of
the quaint I ought to have chosen to return at least by the dark
and narrow way; but mark how luxury unmans us. I was already
demoralised. I crossed the threshold of the timbered portal, took
a few steps, and retreated. It smelt badly! So I marched
back, counting the lamps in their fine falsity. But the other,
the crooked and covered way, smelt very badly indeed; and no good
American is without a fund of accumulated sensibility to the
odour of stale timber.

Meanwhile I had spent an hour in the great yard of the
postoffice, waiting for my conductor to turn up and seeing the
yellow malles-postes pushed to and fro. At last, being told my
man was at my service, I was brought to speech of a huge, jovial,
bearded, delightful Italian, clad in the blue coat and waistcoat,
with close, round silver buttons, which are a heritage of the old
postilions. No, it was not he; it was a friend of his; and
finally the friend was produced, en costume de ville, but
equally jovial,and Italian enough--a brave Lucernese, who had
spent half of his life between Bellinzona and Camerlata. For ten
francs this worthy man's perch behind the luggage was made mine
as far as Bellinzona, and we separated with reciprocal wishes for
good weather on the morrow. To-morrow is so manifestly determined
to be as fine as any other 30th of September since the weather
became on this planet a topic of conversation that I have had
nothing to do but stroll about Lucerne, staring, loafing and
vaguely intent on regarding the fact that, whatever happens, my
place is paid to Milan. I loafed into the immense new Hotel
National and read the New York Tribune on a blue satin
divan; after which I was rather surprised, on coming out, to find
myself staring at a green Swiss lake and not at the Broadway
omnibuses. The Hotel National is adorned with a perfectly
appointed Broadway bar--one of the "prohibited" ones seeking
hospitality in foreign lands after the manner of an old-fashioned
French or Italian refugee.

Milan, October.--My journey hither was such a pleasant
piece of traveller's luck that I feel a delicacy for taking it to
pieces to see what it was made of. Do what we will, however,
there remains in all deeply agreeable impressions a charming
something we can't analyse. I found it agreeable even, given the
rest of my case, to turn out of bed, at Lucerne, by four o'clock,
into the chilly autumn darkness. The thick-starred sky was
cloudless, and there was as yet no flush of dawn; but the lake
was wrapped in a ghostly white mist which crept halfway up the
mountains and made them look as if they too had been lying down
for the night and were casting away the vaporous tissues of their
bedclothes. Into this fantastic fog the little steamer went
creaking away, and I hung about the deck with the two or three
travellers who had known better than to believe it would save
them francs or midnight sighs--over those debts you "pay with
your person"--to go and wait for the diligence at the Poste at
Fliielen, or yet at the Guillaume Tell. The dawn came sailing up
over the mountain-tops, flushed but unperturbed, and blew out
the little stars and then the big ones, as a thrifty matron after
a party blows out her candles and lamps; the mist went melting
and wandering away into the duskier hollows and recesses of the
mountains, and the summits defined their profiles against the
cool soft light.

At Flüelen, before the landing, the big yellow coaches were
actively making themselves bigger, and piling up boxes and bags
on their roofs in a way to turn nervous people's thoughts to the
sharp corners of the downward twists of the great road. I climbed
into my own banquette, and stood eating peaches--half-a-dozen
women were hawking them about under the horses' legs--with an air
of security that might have been offensive to the people
scrambling and protesting below between coupé and intérieur. They
were all English and all had false alarms about the claim of
somebody else to their place, the place for which they produced
their ticket, with a declaration in three or four different
tongues of the inalienable right to it given them by the
expenditure of British gold. They were all serenely confuted by
the stout, purple-faced, many-buttoned conductors, patted on the
backs, assured that their bath-tubs had every advantage of
position on the top, and stowed away according to their dues.
When once one has fairly started on a journey and has but to go
and go by the impetus received, it is surprising what
entertainment one finds in very small things. We surrender to the
gaping traveller's mood, which surely isn't the unwisest the
heart knows. I don't envy people, at any rate, who have outlived
or outworn the simple sweetness of feeling settled to go
somewhere with bag and umbrella. If we are settled on the top of
a coach, and the "somewhere" contains an element of the new and
strange, the case is at its best. In this matter wise people are
content to become children again. We don't turn about on our
knees to look out of the omnibus-window, but we indulge in very
much the same round-eyed contemplation of accessible objects.
Responsibility is left at home or at the worst packed away in the
valise, relegated to quite another part of the diligence with the
clean shirts and the writing-case. I sucked in the gladness of
gaping, for this occasion, with the somewhat acrid juice of my
indifferent peaches; it made me think them very good. This was
the first of a series of kindly services it rendered me. It made
me agree next, as we started, that the gentleman at the booking-
office at Lucerne had but played a harmless joke when he told me
the regular seat in the banquette was taken. No one appeared to
claim it; so the conductor and I reversed positions, and I found
him quite as conversible as the usual Anglo-Saxon.

He was trolling snatches of melody and showing his great yellow
teeth in a jovial grin all the way to Bellinzona--and this in
face of the sombre fact that the Saint-Gothard tunnel is scraping
away into the mountain, all the while, under his nose, and
numbering the days of the many-buttoned brotherhood. But he
hopes, for long service's sake, to be taken into the employ of
the railway; he at least is no cherisher of quaintness and
has no romantic perversity. I found the railway coming on,
however, in a manner very shocking to mine. About an hour short
of Andermatt they have pierced a huge black cavity in the
mountain, around which has grown up a swarming, digging,
hammering, smoke-compelling colony. There are great barracks,
with tall chimneys, down in the gorge that bristled the other day
but with natural graces, and a wonderful increase of wine-shops
in the little village of Göschenen above. Along the breast of the
mountain, beside the road, come wandering several miles of very
handsome iron pipes, of a stupendous girth--a conduit for the
water-power with which some of the machinery is worked. It lies
at its mighty length among the rocks like an immense black
serpent, and serves, as a mere detail, to give one the measure
of the central enterprise. When at the end of our long day's
journey, well down in warm Italy, we came upon the other aperture
of the tunnel, I could but uncap with a grim reverence. Truly
Nature is great, but she seems to me to stand in very much the
shoes of my poor friend the conductor. She is being superseded at
her strongest points, successively, and nothing remains but for
her to take humble service with her master. If she can hear
herself think amid that din of blasting and hammering she must be
reckoning up the years to elapse before the cleverest of Ober-
Ingénieurs decides that mountains are mere obstructive matter
and has the Jungfrau melted down and the residuum carried away in
balloons and dumped upon another planet.

The Devil's Bridge, with the same failing apparently as the good
Homer, was decidedly nodding. The volume of water in the torrent
was shrunken, and I missed the thunderous uproar and far-leaping
spray that have kept up a miniature tempest in the neighbourhood
on my other passages. It suddenly occurs to me that the fault is
not in the good Homer's inspiration, but simply in the big black
pipes above-mentioned. They dip into the rushing stream higher
up, presumably, and pervert its fine frenzy to their prosaic
uses. There could hardly be a more vivid reminder of the standing
quarrel between use and beauty, and of the hard time poor beauty
is having. I looked wistfully, as we rattled into dreary
Andermatt, at the great white zigzags of the Oberalp road which
climbed away to the left. Even on one's way to Italy one may
spare a throb of desire for the beautiful vision of the castled
Grisons. Dear to me the memory of my day's drive last summer
through that long blue avenue of mountains, to queer little
mouldering Ilanz, visited before supper in the ghostly dusk. At
Andermatt a sign over a little black doorway flanked by two dung-
hills seemed to me tolerably comical: Mineraux,
Quadrupedes, Oiseaux, OEufs, Tableaux
. We bundled in to dinner and the American gentleman
in the banquette made the acquaintance of the Irish lady in the
coupé, who talked of the weather as foine and wore a
Persian scarf twisted about her head. At the other end of the
table sat an Englishman, out of the intérieur, who bore an
extraordinary resemblance to the portraits of Edward VI's and
Mary's reigns. He walking, a convincing Holbein. The impression
was of value to a cherisher of quaintness, and he must have
wondered--not knowing me for such a character--why I stared at
him. It wasn't him I was staring at, but some handsome Seymour or
Dudley or Digby with a ruff and a round cap and plume.

From Andermatt, through its high, cold, sunny valley, we passed
into rugged little Hospenthal, and then up the last stages of the
ascent. From here the road was all new to me. Among the summits
of the various Alpine passes there is little to choose. You wind
and double slowly into keener cold and deeper stillness; you put
on your overcoat and turn up the collar; you count the nestling
snow-patches and then you cease to count them; you pause, as you
trudge before the lumbering coach, and listen to the last-heard
cow-bell tinkling away below you in kindlier herbage. The sky was
tremendously blue, and the little stunted bushes on the snow-
streaked slopes were all dyed with autumnal purples and crimsons.
It was a great display of colour. Purple and crimson too, though
not so fine, were the faces thrust out at us from the greasy
little double casements of a barrack beside the road, where the
horses paused before the last pull. There was one little girl in
particular, beginning to lisser her hair, as civilisation
approached, in a manner not to be described, with her poor little
blue-black hands. At the summit are the two usual grim little
stone taverns, the steel-blue tarn, the snow-white peaks, the
pause in the cold sunshine. Then we begin to rattle down with two
horses. In five minutes we are swinging along the famous zigzags.
Engineer, driver, horses--it's very handsomely done by all of
them. The road curves and curls and twists and plunges like the
tail of a kite; sitting perched in the banquette, you see it
making below you and in mid-air certain bold gyrations which
bring you as near as possible, short of the actual experience, to
the philosophy of that immortal Irishman who wished that his fall
from the house-top would only last. But the zigzags last no more
than Paddy's fall, and in due time we were all coming to our
senses over cafe au lait in the little inn at Faido. After
Faido the valley, plunging deeper, began to take thick afternoon
shadows from the hills, and at Airolo we were fairly in the
twilight. But the pink and yellow houses shimmered through the
gentle gloom, and Italy began in broken syllables to whisper that
she was at hand. For the rest of the way to Bellinzona her voice
was muffled in the grey of evening, and I was half vexed to lose
the charming sight of the changing vegetation. But only half
vexed, for the moon was climbing all the while nearer the edge of
the crags that overshadowed us, and a thin magical light came
trickling down into the winding, murmuring gorges. It was a most
enchanting business. The chestnut-trees loomed up with double
their daylight stature; the vines began to swing their low
festoons like nets to trip up the fairies. At last the ruined
towers of Bellinzona stood gleaming in the moonshine, and we
rattled into the great post-yard. It was eleven o'clock and I had
risen at four; moonshine apart I wasn't sorry.

All that was very well; but the drive next day from Bellinzona to
Como is to my mind what gives its supreme beauty to this great
pass. One can't describe the beauty of the Italian lakes, nor
would one try if one could; the floweriest rhetoric can recall it
only as a picture on a fireboard recalls a Claude. But it lay
spread before me for a whole perfect day: in the long gleam of
the Major, from whose head the diligence swerves away and begins
to climb the bosky hills that divide it from Lugano; in the
shimmering, melting azure of the southern slopes and masses; in
the luxurious tangle of nature and the familiar amenity of man;
in the lawn-like inclinations, where the great grouped chestnuts
make so cool a shadow in so warm a light; in the rusty vineyards,
the littered cornfields and the tawdry wayside shrines. But most
of all it's the deep yellow light that enchants you and tells you
where you are. See it come filtering down through a vine-covered
trellis on the red handkerchief with which a ragged contadina has
bound her hair, and all the magic of Italy, to the eye, makes an
aureole about the poor girl's head. Look at a brown-breasted
reaper eating his chunk of black bread under a spreading
chestnut; nowhere is shadow so charming, nowhere is colour so
charged, nowhere has accident such grace. The whole drive to
Lugano was one long loveliness, and the town itself is admirably
Italian. There was a great unlading of the coach, during which I
wandered under certain brown old arcades and bought for six sous,
from a young woman in a gold necklace, a hatful of peaches and
figs. When I came back I found the young man holding open the
door of the second diligence, which had lately come up, and
beckoning to me with a despairing smile. The young man, I must
note, was the most amiable of Ticinese; though he wore no buttons
he was attached to the diligence in some amateurish capacity, and
had an eye to the mail-bags and other valuables in the boot. I
grumbled at Berne over the want of soft curves in the Swiss
temperament; but the children of the tangled Tessin are cast in
the Italian mould. My friend had as many quips and cranks as a
Neapolitan; we walked together for an hour under the chestnuts,
while the coach was plodding up from Bellinzona, and he never
stopped singing till we reached a little wine-house where he got
his mouth full of bread and cheese. I looked into his open door,
a la Sterne, and saw the young woman sitting rigid and grim,
staring over his head and with a great pile of bread and butter
in her lap. He had only informed her most politely that she was
to be transferred to another diligence and must do him the favour
to descend; but she evidently knew of but one way for a
respectable young insulary of her sex to receive the politeness
of a foreign adventurer guilty of an eye betraying latent
pleasantry. Heaven only knew what he was saying! I told her, and
she gathered up her parcels and emerged. A part of the day's
great pleasure perhaps was my grave sense of being an instrument
in the hands of the powers toward the safe consignment of this
young woman and her boxes. When once you have really bent to the
helpless you are caught; there is no such steel trap, and it
holds you fast. My rather grim Abigail was a neophyte in foreign
travel, though doubtless cunning enough at her trade, which I
inferred to be that of making up those prodigious chignons worn
mainly by English ladies. Her mistress had gone on a mule over
the mountains to Cadenabbia, and she herself was coming up with
the wardrobe, two big boxes and a bath-tub. I had played my part,
under the powers, at Bellinzona, and had interposed between the
poor girl's frightened English and the dreadful Ticinese French
of the functionaries in the post-yard. At the custom-house on the
Italian frontier I was of peculiar service; there was a kind of
fateful fascination in it. The wardrobe was voluminous; I
exchanged a paternal glance with my charge as the douanier
plunged his brown fists into it. Who was the lady at Cadenabbia?
What was she to me or I to her? She wouldn't know, when she
rustled down to dinner next day, that it was I who had guided the
frail skiff of her public basis of vanity to port. So unseen but
not unfelt do we cross each other's orbits. The skiff however may
have foundered that evening in sight of land. I disengaged the
young woman from among her fellow-travellers and placed her boxes
on a hand-cart in the picturesque streets of Como, within a
stone's throw of that lovely striped and toned cathedral which
has the facade of cameo medallions. I could only make the
facchino swear to take her to the steamboat. He too was a
jovial dog, but I hope he was polite with precautions.




I waited in Paris until after the elections for the new Chamber
(they took place on the 14th of October); as only after one had
learned that the famous attempt of Marshal MacMahon and his
ministers to drive the French nation to the polls like a flock of
huddling sheep, each with the white ticket of an official
candidate round his neck, had not achieved the success which the
energy of the process might have promised--only then it was
possible to draw a long breath and deprive the republican party
of such support as might have been conveyed in one's sympathetic
presence. Seriously speaking too, the weather had been
enchanting--there were Italian fancies to be gathered without
leaving the banks of the Seine. Day after day the air was filled
with golden light, and even those chalkish vistas of the Parisian
beaux quartiers assumed the iridescent tints of autumn.
Autumn weather in Europe is often such a very sorry affair that a
fair-minded American will have it on his conscience to call
attention to a rainless and radiant October.

The echoes of the electoral strife kept me company for a while
after starting upon that abbreviated journey to Turin which, as
you leave Paris at night, in a train unprovided with
encouragements to slumber, is a singular mixture of the odious
and the charming. The charming indeed I think prevails; for the
dark half of the journey is the least interesting. The morning
light ushers you into the romantic gorges of the Jura, and after
a big bowl of cafe au lait at Culoz you may compose
yourself comfortably for the climax of your spectacle. The day
before leaving Paris I met a French friend who had just returned
from a visit to a Tuscan country-seat where he had been watching
the vintage. "Italy," he said, "is more lovely than words can
tell, and France, steeped in this electoral turmoil, seems no
better than a bear-garden." The part of the bear-garden through
which you travel as you approach the Mont Cenis seemed to me that
day very beautiful. The autumn colouring, thanks to the absence
of rain, had been vivid and crisp, and the vines that swung their
low garlands between the mulberries round about Chambery looked
like long festoons of coral and amber. The frontier station of
Modane, on the further side of the Mont Cenis Tunnel, is a very
ill-regulated place; but even the most irritable of tourists,
meeting it on his way southward, will be disposed to consider it
good-naturedly. There is far too much bustling and scrambling,
and the facilities afforded you for the obligatory process of
ripping open your luggage before the officers of the Italian
custom-house are much scantier than should be; but for myself
there is something that deprecates irritation in the shabby green
and grey uniforms of all the Italian officials who stand loafing
about and watching the northern invaders scramble back into
marching order. Wearing an administrative uniform doesn't
necessarily spoil a man's temper, as in France one is sometimes
led to believe; for these excellent under-paid Italians carry
theirs as lightly as possible, and their answers to your
inquiries don't in the least bristle with rapiers, buttons and
cockades. After leaving Modane you slide straight downhill into
the Italy of your desire; from which point the road edges, after the
grand manner, along those It precipices that stand shoulder to
shoulder, in a prodigious perpendicular file, till they finally
admit you to a distant glimpse he ancient capital of Piedmont.

Turin is no city of a name to conjure with, and I pay an
extravagant tribute to subjective emotion in speaking of it as
ancient. if the place is less bravely peninsular than Florence
and Rome, at least it is more in the scenic tradition than New
York Paris; and while I paced the great arcades and looked at the
fourth-rate shop windows I didn't scruple to cultivate a
shameless optimism. Relatively speaking, Turin touches a chord;
but there is after all no reason in a large collection of
shabbily-stuccoed houses, disposed in a rigidly rectangular
manner, for passing a day of deep, still gaiety. The only reason,
I am afraid, is the old superstition of Italy--that property in
the very look of the written word, the evocation of a myriad
images, that makes any lover of the arts take Italian
satisfactions on easier terms than any others. The written word
stands for something that eternally tricks us; we juggle to our
credulity even with such inferior apparatus as is offered to our
hand at Turin. I roamed all the morning under the tall porticoes,
thinking it sufficient joy to take note of the soft, warm air, of
that local colour of things that is at once so broken and so
harmonious, and of the comings and goings, the physiognomy and
manners, of the excellent Turinese. I had opened the old book
again; the old charm was in the style; I was in a more delightful
world. I saw nothing surpassingly beautiful or curious; but your
true taster of the most seasoned of dishes finds well-nigh the
whole mixture in any mouthful. Above all on the threshold of
Italy he knows again the solid and perfectly definable pleasure
of finding himself among the traditions of the grand style in
architecture. It must be said that we have still to go there to
recover the sense of the domiciliary mass. In northern cities
there are beautiful houses, picturesque and curious houses;
sculptured gables that hang over the street, charming bay-
windows, hooded doorways, elegant proportions, a profusion of
delicate ornament; but a good specimen of an old Italian palazzo
has a nobleness that is all its own. We laugh at Italian
"palaces," at their peeling paint, their nudity, their
dreariness; but they have the great palatial quality--elevation
and extent. They make of smaller things the apparent abode of
pigmies; they round their great arches and interspace their huge
windows with a proud indifference to the cost of materials. These
grand proportions--the colossal basements, the doorways that seem
meant for cathedrals, the far away cornices--impart by contrast
a humble and bourgeois expression to interiors founded on
the sacrifice of the whole to the part, and in which the air of
grandeur depends largely on the help of the upholsterer. At Turin
my first feeling was really one of renewed shame for our meaner
architectural manners. If the Italians at bottom despise the rest
of mankind and regard them as barbarians, disinherited of the
tradition of form, the idea proceeds largely, no doubt, from our
living in comparative mole-hills. They alone were really to build
their civilisation.


An impression which on coming back to Italy I find even stronger
than when it was first received is that of the contrast between
the fecundity of the great artistic period and the vulgarity
there of the genius of to-day. The first few hours spent on
Italian soil are sufficient to renew it, and the question I
allude to is, historically speaking, one of the oddest. That the
people who but three hundred years ago had the best taste in the
world should now have the worst; that having produced the
noblest, loveliest, costliest works, they should now be given up
to the manufacture of objects at once ugly and paltry; that the
race of which Michael Angelo and Raphael, Leonardo and Titian
were characteristic should have no other title to distinction
than third-rate genre pictures and catchpenny statues--
all this is a frequent perplexity to the observer of actual
Italian life. The flower of "great" art in these latter years
ceased to bloom very powerfully anywhere; but nowhere does it
seem so drooping and withered as in the shadow of the immortal
embodiments of the old Italian genius. You go into a church or a
gallery and feast your fancy upon a splendid picture or an
exquisite piece of sculpture, and on issuing from the door that
has admitted you to the beautiful past are confronted with
something that has the effect of a very bad joke. The aspect of
your lodging--the carpets, the curtains, the upholstery in
general, with their crude and violent colouring and their vulgar
material--the trumpery things in the shops, the extreme bad taste
of the dress of the women, the cheapness and baseness of every
attempt at decoration in the cafes and railway-stations, the
hopeless frivolity of everything that pretends to be a work of
art--all this modern crudity runs riot over the relics of the
great period.

We can do a thing for the first time but once; it is but once for
all that we can have a pleasure in its freshness. This is a law
not on the whole, I think, to be regretted, for we sometimes
learn to know things better by not enjoying them too much. It is
certain, however, at the same time, that a visitor who has worked
off the immediate ferment for this inexhaustibly interesting
country has by no means entirely drained the cup. After thinking
of Italy as historical and artistic it will do him no great harm
to think of her for a while as panting both for a future and for
a balance at the bank; aspirations supposedly much at variance
with the Byronic, the Ruskinian, the artistic, poetic, aesthetic
manner of considering our eternally attaching peninsula. He may
grant--I don't say it is absolutely necessary--that its actual
aspects and economics are ugly, prosaic, provokingly out of
relation to the diary and the album; it is nevertheless true
that, at the point things have come to, modern Italy in a manner
imposes herself. I hadn't been many hours in the country before
that truth assailed me; and I may add that, the first irritation
past, I found myself able to accept it. For, if we think, nothing
is more easy to understand than an honest ire on the part of the
young Italy of to-day at being looked at by all the world as a
kind of soluble pigment. Young Italy, preoccupied with its
economical and political future, must be heartily tired of being
admired for its eyelashes and its pose. In one of Thackeray's
novels occurs a mention of a young artist who sent to the Royal
Academy a picture representing "A Contadino dancing with a
Trasteverina at the door of a Locanda, to the music of a
Pifferaro." It is in this attitude and with these conventional
accessories that the world has hitherto seen fit to represent
young Italy, and one doesn't wonder that if the youth has any
spirit he should at last begin to resent our insufferable
aesthetic patronage. He has established a line of tram-cars in
Rome, from the Porta del Popolo to the Ponte Molle, and it is on
one of these democratic vehicles that I seem to see him taking
his triumphant course down the vista of the future. I won't
pretend to rejoice with him any more than I really do; I won't
pretend, as the sentimental tourists say about it all, as if it
were the setting of an intaglio or the border of a Roman scarf,
to "like" it. Like it or not, as we may, it is evidently destined
to be; I see a new Italy in the future which in many important
respects will equal, if not surpass, the most enterprising
sections of our native land. Perhaps by that time Chicago and San
Francisco will have acquired a pose, and their sons and daughters
will dance at the doors of locande.

However this may be, the accomplished schism between the old
order and the new is the promptest moral of a fresh visit to this
ever-suggestive part of the world. The old has become more and
more a museum, preserved and perpetuated in the midst of the new,
but without any further relation to it--it must be admitted
indeed that such a relation is considerable--than that of the
stock on his shelves to the shopkeeper, or of the Siren of the
South to the showman who stands before his booth. More than once,
as we move about nowadays in the Italian cities, there seems to
pass before our eyes a vision of the coming years. It represents
to our satisfaction an Italy united and prosperous, but
altogether scientific and commercial. The Italy indeed that we
sentimentalise and romance about was an ardently mercantile
country; though I suppose it loved not its ledgers less, but its
frescoes and altar-pieces more. Scattered through this paradise
regained of trade--this country of a thousand ports--we see a
large number of beautiful buildings in which an endless series of
dusky pictures are darkening, dampening, fading, failing, through
the years. By the doors of the beautiful buildings are little
turnstiles at which there sit a great many uniformed men to whom
the visitor pays a tenpenny fee. Inside, in the vaulted and
frescoed chambers, the art of Italy. lies buried as in a thousand
mausoleums. It is well taken care of; it is constantly copied;
sometimes it is "restored"--as in the case of that beautiful
boy-figure of Andrea del Sarto at Florence, which may be seen at
the gallery of the Uffizi with its honourable duskiness quite
peeled off and heaven knows what raw, bleeding cuticle laid bare.
One evening lately, near the same Florence, in the soft twilight,
I took a stroll among those encircling hills on which the massive
villas are mingled with the vaporous olives. Presently I arrived
where three roads met at a wayside shrine, in which, before some
pious daub of an old-time Madonna, a little votive lamp glimmered
through the evening air. The hour, the atmosphere, the place, the
twinkling taper, the sentiment of the observer, the thought that
some one had been rescued here from an assassin or from some
other peril and had set up a little grateful altar in
consequence, against the yellow-plastered wall of a tangled
podere; all this led me to approach the shrine with a
reverent, an emotional step. I drew near it, but after a few
steps I paused. I became aware of an incongruous odour; it seemed
to me that the evening air was charged with a perfume which,
although to a certain extent familiar, had not hitherto
associated itself with rustic frescoes and wayside altars. I
wondered, I gently sniffed, and the question so put left me no
doubt. The odour was that of petroleum; the votive taper was
nourished with the essence of Pennsylvania. I confess that I
burst out laughing, and a picturesque contadino, wending his
homeward way in the dusk, stared at me as if I were an
iconoclast. He noticed the petroleum only, I imagine, to snuff it
fondly up; but to me the thing served as a symbol of the Italy of
the future. There is a horse-car from the Porta del Popolo to the
Ponte Molle, and the Tuscan shrines are fed with kerosene.


If it's very well meanwhile to come to Turin first it's better
still to go to Genoa afterwards. Genoa is the tightest
topographic tangle in the world, which even a second visit helps
you little to straighten out. In the wonderful crooked, twisting,
climbing, soaring, burrowing Genoese alleys the traveller is
really up to his neck in the old Italian sketchability. The pride
of the place, I believe, is a port of great capacity, and the
bequest of the late Duke of Galliera, who left four millions of
dollars for the purpose of improving and enlarging it, will
doubtless do much toward converting it into one of the great
commercial stations of Europe. But as, after leaving my hotel the
afternoon I arrived, I wandered for a long time at hazard through
the tortuous by-ways of the city, I said to myself, not without
an accent of private triumph, that here at last was something it
would be almost impossible to modernise. I had found my hotel, in
the first place, extremely entertaining--the Croce di Malta, as
it is called, established in a gigantic palace on the edge of the
swarming and not over-clean harbour. It was the biggest house I
had ever entered--the basement alone would have contained a
dozen American caravansaries. I met an American gentleman in the
vestibule who (as he had indeed a perfect right to be) was
annoyed by its troublesome dimensions--one was a quarter of an
hour ascending out of the basement--and desired to know if it
were a "fair sample" of the Genoese inns. It appeared an
excellent specimen of Genoese architecture generally; so far as I
observed there were few houses perceptibly smaller than this
Titanic tavern. I lunched in a dusky ballroom whose ceiling was
vaulted, frescoed and gilded with the fatal facility of a couple
of centuries ago, and which looked out upon another ancient
housefront, equally huge and equally battered, separated from it
only by a little wedge of dusky space--one of the principal
streets, I believe, of Genoa--whence out of dim abysses the
population sent up to the windows (I had to crane out very far
to see it) a perpetual clattering, shuffling, chaffering sound.
Issuing forth presently into this crevice of a street I found
myself up to my neck in that element of the rich and strange--as
to visible and reproducible "effect," I mean--for the love of
which one revisits Italy. It offered itself indeed in a variety
of colours, some of which were not remarkable for their freshness
or purity. But their combined charm was not to be resisted, and
the picture glowed with the rankly human side of southern


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