Italian Hours
Henry James

Part 3 out of 7

Genoa, as I have hinted, is the crookedest and most incoherent of
cities; tossed about on the sides and crests of a dozen hills, it
is seamed with gullies and ravines that bristle with those
innumerable palaces for which we have heard from our earliest
years that the place is celebrated. These great structures, with
their mottled and faded complexions, lift their big ornamental
cornices to a tremendous height in the air, where, in a certain
indescribably forlorn and desolate fashion, overtopping each
other, they seem to reflect the twinkle and glitter of the warm
Mediterranean. Down about the basements, in the close crepuscular
alleys, the people are for ever moving to and fro or standing in
their cavernous doorways and their dusky, crowded shops, calling,
chattering, laughing, lamenting, living their lives in the
conversational Italian fashion. I had for a long time had no such
vision of possible social pressure. I hadn't for a long time seen
people elbowing each other so closely or swarming so thickly out
of populous hives. A traveller is often moved to ask himself
whether it has been worth while to leave his home--whatever his
home may have been--only to encounter new forms of human
suffering, only to be reminded that toil and privation, hunger
and sorrow and sordid effort, are the portion of the mass of
mankind. To travel is, as it were, to go to the play, to attend a
spectacle; and there is something heartless in stepping forth
into foreign streets to feast on "character" when character
consists simply of the slightly different costume in which labour
and want present themselves. These reflections were forced upon
me as I strolled as through a twilight patched with colour and
charged with stale smells; but after a time they ceased to bear
me company. The reason of this, I think, is because--at least to
foreign eyes--the sum of Italian misery is, on the whole, less
than the sum of the Italian knowledge of life. That people should
thank you, with a smile of striking sweetness, for the gift of
twopence, is a proof, certainly, of extreme and constant
destitution; but (keeping in mind the sweetness) it also attests
an enviable ability not to be depressed by circumstances. I know
that this may possibly be great nonsense; that half the time we
are acclaiming the fine quality of the Italian smile the creature
so constituted for physiognomic radiance may be in a sullen
frenzy of impatience and pain. Our observation in any foreign
land is extremely superficial, and our remarks are happily not
addressed to the inhabitants themselves, who would be sure to
exclaim upon the impudence of the fancy-picture.

The other day I visited a very picturesque old city upon a
mountain-top, where, in the course of my wanderings, I arrived at
an old disused gate in the ancient town-wall. The gate hadn't
been absolutely forfeited; but the recent completion of a modern
road down the mountain led most vehicles away to another egress.
The grass-grown pavement, which wound into the plain by a hundred
graceful twists and plunges, was now given up to ragged contadini
and their donkeys, and to such wayfarers as were not alarmed at
the disrepair into which it had fallen. I stood in the shadow of
the tall old gateway admiring the scene, looking to right and
left at the wonderful walls of the little town, perched on the
edge of a shaggy precipice; at the circling mountains over
against them; at the road dipping downward among the chestnuts
and olives. There was no one within sight but a young man who
slowly trudged upward with his coat slung over his shoulder and
his hat upon his ear in the manner of a cavalier in an opera.
Like an operatic performer too he sang as he came; the spectacle,
generally, was operatic, and as his vocal flourishes reached my
ear I said to myself that in Italy accident was always romantic
and that such a figure had been exactly what was wanted to set
off the landscape. It suggested in a high degree that knowledge
of life for which I just now commended the Italians. I was
turning back under the old gateway when the young man overtook me
and, suspending his song, asked me if I could favour him with a
match to light the hoarded remnant of a cigar. This request led,
as I took my way again to the inn, to my falling into talk with
him. He was a native of the ancient city, and answered freely all
my inquiries as to its manners and customs and its note of public
opinion. But the point of my anecdote is that he presently
acknowledged himself a brooding young radical and communist,
filled with hatred of the present Italian government, raging with
discontent and crude political passion, professing a ridiculous
hope that Italy would soon have, as France had had, her "'89,"
and declaring that he for his part would willingly lend a hand to
chop off the heads of the king and the royal family. He was an
unhappy, underfed, unemployed young man, who took a hard, grim
view of everything and was operatic only quite in spite of
himself. This made it very absurd of me to have looked at him
simply as a graceful ornament to the prospect, an harmonious
little figure in the middle distance. "Damn the prospect, damn
the middle distance!" would have been all his philosophy.
Yet but for the accident of my having gossipped with him I should
have made him do service, in memory, as an example of sensuous

I am bound to say however that I believe a great deal of the
sensuous optimism observable in the Genoese alleys and beneath
the low, crowded arcades along the port was very real. Here every
one was magnificently sunburnt, and there were plenty of those
queer types, mahogany-coloured, bare-chested mariners with
earrings and crimson girdles, that seem to people a southern
seaport with the chorus of "Masaniello." But it is not fair to
speak as if at Genoa there were nothing but low-life to be seen,
for the place is the residence of some of the grandest people in
the world. Nor are all the palaces ranged upon dusky alleys; the
handsomest and most impressive form a splendid series on each
side of a couple of very proper streets, in which there is plenty
of room for a coach-and-four to approach the big doorways. Many
of these doorways are open, revealing great marble staircases
with couchant lions for balustrades and ceremonious courts
surrounded by walls of sun-softened yellow. One of the great
piles in the array is coloured a goodly red and contains in
particular the grand people I just now spoke of. They live indeed
on the third floor; but here they have suites of wonderful
painted and gilded chambers, in which foreshortened frescoes
also cover the vaulted ceilings and florid mouldings emboss the
ample walls. These distinguished tenants bear the name of
Vandyck, though they are members of the noble family of Brignole-
Sale, one of whose children--the Duchess of Galliera--has lately
given proof of nobleness in presenting the gallery of the red
palace to the city of Genoa.


On leaving Genoa I repaired to Spezia, chiefly with a view of .
accomplishing a sentimental pilgrimage, which I in fact achieved
in the most agreeable conditions. The Gulf of Spezia is now the
headquarters of the Italian fleet, and there were several big
iron-plated frigates riding at anchor in front of the town. The
streets were filled with lads in blue flannel, who were receiving
instruction at a schoolship in the harbour, and in the evening--
there was a brilliant moon--the little breakwater which stretched
out into the Mediterranean offered a scene of recreation to
innumerable such persons. But this fact is from the point of view
of the cherisher of quaintness of little account, for since it
has become prosperous Spezia has grown ugly. The place is filled
with long, dull stretches of dead wall and great raw expanses of
artificial land. It wears that look of monstrous, of more than
far-western newness which distinguishes all the creations of the
young Italian State. Nor did I find any great compensation in an
immense inn of recent birth, an establishment seated on the edge
of the sea in anticipation of a passeggiata which is to
come that way some five years hence, the region being in the
meantime of the most primitive formation. The inn was filled with
grave English people who looked respectable and bored, and there
was of course a Church of England service in the gaudily-frescoed
parlour. Neither was it the drive to Porto Venere that chiefly
pleased me--a drive among vines and olives, over the hills and
beside the Mediterranean, to a queer little crumbling village on
a headland, as sweetly desolate and superannuated as the name it
bears. There is a ruined church near the village, which occupies
the site according to tradition) of an ancient temple of Venus;
and if Venus ever revisits her desecrated shrines she must
sometimes pause a moment in that sunny stillness and listen to
the murmur of the tideless sea at the base of the narrow
promontory. If Venus sometimes comes there Apollo surely does as
much; for close to the temple is a gateway surmounted by an
inscription in Italian and English, which admits you to a
curious, and it must be confessed rather cockneyfied, cave among
the rocks. It was here, says the inscription, that the great
Byron, swimmer and poet, "defied the waves of the Ligurian sea."
The fact is interesting, though not supremely so; for Byron was
always defying something, and if a slab had been put up wherever
this performance came off these commemorative tablets would be in
many parts of Europe as thick as milestones.

No; the great merit of Spezia, to my eye, is that I engaged a
boat there of a lovely October afternoon and had myself rowed
across the gulf--it took about an hour and a half--to the little
bay of Lerici, which opens out of it. This bay of Lerici is
charming; the bosky grey-green hills close it in, and on either
side of the entrance, perched on a bold headland, a wonderful old
crumbling castle keeps ineffectual guard. The place is classic to
all English travellers, for in the middle of the curving shore is
the now desolate little villa in which Shelley spent the last
months of his short life. He was living at Lerici when he started
on that short southern cruise from which he never returned. The
house he occupied is strangely shabby and as sad as you may
choose to find it. It stands directly upon the beach, with
scarred and battered walls and a loggia of several arches
opening to a little terrace with a rugged parapet, which, when
the wind blows, must be drenched with the salt spray. The place
is very lonely--all overwearied with sun and breeze and brine--
very close to nature, as it was Shelley's passion to be. I can
fancy a great lyric poet sitting on the terrace of a warm evening
and feeling very far from England in the early years of the
century. In that place, and with his genius, he would as a matter
of course have heard in the voice of nature a sweetness which
only the lyric movement could translate. It is a place where an
English-speaking pilgrim himself may very honestly think thoughts
and feel moved to lyric utterance. But I must content myself with
saying in halting prose that I remember few episodes of Italian
travel more sympathetic, as they have it here, than that perfect
autumn afternoon; the half-hour's station on the little battered
terrace of the villa; the climb to the singularly felicitous old
castle that hangs above Lerici; the meditative lounge, in the
fading light, on the vine-decked platform that looked out toward
the sunset and the darkening mountains and, far below, upon the
quiet sea, beyond which the pale-faced tragic villa stared up at
the brightening moon.


I had never known Florence more herself, or in other words more
attaching, than I found her for a week in that brilliant October.
She sat in the sunshine beside her yellow river like the little
treasure-city she has always seemed, without commerce, without
other industry than the manufacture of mosaic paper-weights and
alabaster Cupids, without actuality or energy or earnestness or
any of those rugged virtues which in most cases are deemed
indispensable for civic cohesion; with nothing but the little
unaugmented stock of her mediaeval memories, her tender-coloured
mountains, her churches and palaces, pictures and statues. There
were very few strangers; one's detested fellow-pilgrim was
infrequent; the native population itself seemed scanty; the sound
of wheels in the streets was but occasional; by eight o'clock at
night, apparently, every one had gone to bed, and the musing
wanderer, still wandering and still musing, had the place to
himself--had the thick shadow-masses of the great palaces, and
the shafts of moonlight striking the polygonal paving-stones, and
the empty bridges, and the silvered yellow of the Arno, and the
stillness broken only by a homeward step, a step accompanied by a
snatch of song from a warm Italian voice. My room at the inn
looked out on the river and was flooded all day with sunshine.
There was an absurd orange-coloured paper on the walls; the Arno,
of a hue not altogether different, flowed beneath; and on the
other side of it rose a line of sallow houses, of extreme
antiquity, crumbling and mouldering, bulging and protruding over
the stream. (I seem to speak of their fronts; but what I saw was
their shabby backs, which were exposed to the cheerful flicker of
the river, while the fronts stood for ever in the deep damp
shadow of a narrow mediaeval street.) All this brightness and
yellowness was a perpetual delight; it was a part of that
indefinably charming colour which Florence always seems to wear
as you look up and down at it from the river, and from the
bridges and quays. This is a kind of grave radiance--a harmony of
high tints--which I scarce know how to describe. There are yellow
walls and green blinds and red roofs, there are intervals of
brilliant brown and natural-looking blue; but the picture is not
spotty nor gaudy, thanks to the distribution of the colours in
large and comfortable masses, and to the washing-over of the
scene by some happy softness of sunshine. The river-front of
Florence is in short a delightful composition. Part of its charm
comes of course from the generous aspect of those high-based
Tuscan palaces which a renewal of acquaintance with them has
again commended to me as the most dignified dwellings in the
world. Nothing can be finer than that look of giving up the whole
immense ground-floor to simple purposes of vestibule and
staircase, of court and high-arched entrance; as if this were all
but a massive pedestal for the real habitation and people weren't
properly housed unless, to begin with, they should be lifted
fifty feet above the pavement. The great blocks of the basement;
the great intervals, horizontally and vertically, from window to
window (telling of the height and breadth of the rooms within);
the armorial shield hung forward at one of the angles; the wide-
brimmed roof, overshadowing the narrow street; the rich old
browns and yellows of the walls: these definite elements put
themselves together with admirable art.

[Illustration: ROMAN GATEWAY, RIMINI.]

Take a Tuscan pile of this type out of its oblique situation in
the town; call it no longer a palace, but a villa; set it down by
a terrace on one of the hills that encircle Florence, place a row
of high-waisted cypresses beside it, give it a grassy court-yard
and a view of the Florentine towers and the valley of the Arno,
and you will think it perhaps even more worthy of your esteem. It
was a Sunday noon, and brilliantly warm, when I again arrived;
and after I had looked from my windows a while at that quietly-
basking river-front I have spoken of I took my way across one of
the bridges and then out of one of the gates--that immensely
tall Roman Gate in which the space from the top of the arch to
the cornice (except that there is scarcely a cornice, it is all a
plain massive piece of wall) is as great, or seems to be, as that
from the ground to the former point. Then I climbed a steep and
winding way--much of it a little dull if one likes, being bounded
by mottled, mossy garden-walls--to a villa on a hill-top, where
I found various things that touched me with almost too fine a
point. Seeing them again, often, for a week, both by sunlight and
moonshine, I never quite learned not to covet them; not to feel
that not being a part of them was somehow to miss an exquisite
chance. What a tranquil, contented life it seemed, with romantic
beauty as a part of its daily texture!--the sunny terrace, with
its tangled podere beneath it; the bright grey olives
against the bright blue sky; the long, serene, horizontal lines
of other villas, flanked by their upward cypresses, disposed upon
the neighbouring hills; the richest little city in the world in a
softly-scooped hollow at one's feet, and beyond it the most
appealing of views, the most majestic, yet the most familiar.
Within the villa was a great love of art and a painting-room full
of felicitous work, so that if human life there confessed to
quietness, the quietness was mostly but that of the intent act. A
beautiful occupation in that beautiful position, what could
possibly be better? That is what I spoke just now of envying--a
way of life that doesn't wince at such refinements of peace and
ease. When labour self-charmed presents itself in a dull or an
ugly place we esteem it, we admire it, but we scarce feel it to
be the ideal of good fortune. When, however, its votaries move as
figures in an ancient, noble landscape, and their walks and
contemplations are like a turning of the leaves of history, we
seem to have before us an admirable case of virtue made easy;
meaning here by virtue contentment and concentration, a real
appreciation of the rare, the exquisite though composite, medium
of life. You needn't want a rush or a crush when the scene
itself, the mere scene, shares with you such a wealth of

It is true indeed that I might after a certain time grow weary of
a regular afternoon stroll among the Florentine lanes; of sitting
on low parapets, in intervals of flower-topped wall, and looking
across at Fiesole or down the rich-hued valley of the Arno; of
pausing at the open gates of villas and wondering at the height
of cypresses and the depth of loggias; of walking home in the
fading light and noting on a dozen westward-looking surfaces the
glow of the opposite sunset. But for a week or so all this was
delightful. The villas are innumerable, and if you're an aching
alien half the talk is about villas. This one has a story; that
one has another; they all look as if they had stories--none in
truth predominantly gay. Most of them are offered to rent (many
of them for sale) at prices unnaturally low; you may have a tower
and a garden, a chapel and an expanse of thirty windows, for five
hundred dollars a year. In imagination you hire three or four;
you take possession and settle and stay. Your sense of the
fineness of the finest is of something very grave and stately;
your sense of the bravery of two or three of the best something
quite tragic and sinister. From what does this latter impression
come? You gather it as you stand there in the early dusk, with
your eyes on the long, pale-brown facade, the enormous windows,
the iron cages fastened to the lower ones. Part of the brooding
expression of these great houses comes, even when they have not
fallen into decay, from their look of having outlived their
original use. Their extraordinary largeness and massiveness are
a satire on their present fate. They weren't built with such a
thickness of wall and depth of embrasure, such a solidity of
staircase and superfluity of stone, simply to afford an
economical winter residence to English and American families. I
don't know whether it was the appearance of these stony old
villas, which seemed so dumbly conscious of a change of manners,
that threw a tinge of melancholy over the general prospect;
certain it is that, having always found this note as of a myriad
old sadnesses in solution in the view of Florence, it seemed to
me now particularly strong. "Lovely, lovely, but it makes me
'blue,'" the sensitive stranger couldn't but murmur to himself
as, in the late afternoon, he looked at the landscape from over
one of the low parapets, and then, with his hands in his pockets,
turned away indoors to candles and dinner.


Below, in the city, through all frequentation of streets and
churches and museums, it was impossible not to have a good deal
of the same feeling; but here the impression was more easy to
analyse. It came from a sense of the perfect separateness of all
the great productions of the Renaissance from the present and the
future of the place, from the actual life and manners, the native
ideal. I have already spoken of the way in which the vast
aggregation of beautiful works of art in the Italian cities
strikes the visitor nowadays--so far as present Italy is
concerned--as the mere stock-in-trade of an impecunious but
thrifty people. It is this spiritual solitude, this conscious
disconnection of the great works of architecture and sculpture
that deposits a certain weight upon the heart; when we see a
great tradition broken we feel something of the pain with which
we hear a stifled cry. But regret is one thing and resentment is
another. Seeing one morning, in a shop-window, the series of
Mornings in Florence published a few years since by Mr.
Ruskin, I made haste to enter and purchase these amusing little
books, some passages of which I remembered formerly to have read.
I couldn't turn over many pages without observing that the
"separateness" of the new and old which I just mentioned had
produced in their author the liveliest irritation. With the more
acute phases of this condition it was difficult to sympathise,
for the simple reason, it seems to me, that it savours of
arrogance to demand of any people, as a right of one's own, that
they shall be artistic. "Be artistic yourselves!" is the very
natural reply that young Italy has at hand for English critics
and censors. When a people produces beautiful statues and
pictures it gives us something more than is set down in the bond,
and we must thank it for its generosity; and when it stops
producing them or caring for them we may cease thanking, but we
hardly have a right to begin and rail. The wreck of Florence,
says Mr. Ruskin, "is now too ghastly and heart-breaking to any
human soul that remembers the days of old"; and these desperate
words are an allusion to the fact that the little square in front
of the cathedral, at the foot of Giotto's Tower, with the grand
Baptistery on the other side, is now the resort of a number of
hackney-coaches and omnibuses. This fact is doubtless lamentable,
and it would be a hundred times more agreeable to see among
people who have been made the heirs of so priceless a work of art
as the sublime campanile some such feeling about it as would keep
it free even from the danger of defilement. A cab-stand is a very
ugly and dirty thing, and Giotto's Tower should have nothing in
common with such conveniences. But there is more than one way of
taking such things, and the sensitive stranger who has been
walking about for a week with his mind full of the sweetness and
suggestiveness of a hundred Florentine places may feel at last in
looking into Mr. Ruskin's little tracts that, discord for
discord, there isn't much to choose between the importunity of
the author's personal ill-humour and the incongruity of horse-
pails and bundles of hay. And one may say this without being at
all a partisan of the doctrine of the inevitableness of new
desecrations. For my own part, I believe there are few things in
this line that the new Italian spirit isn't capable of, and not
many indeed that we aren't destined to see. Pictures and
buildings won't be completely destroyed, because in that case the
forestieri, scatterers of cash, would cease to arrive and
the turn-stiles at the doors of the old palaces and convents,
with the little patented slit for absorbing your half-franc,
would grow quite rusty, would stiffen with disuse. But it's safe
to say that the new Italy growing into an old Italy again will
continue to take her elbow-room wherever she may find it.


I am almost ashamed to say what I did with Mr. Ruskin's little
books. I put them into my pocket and betook myself to Santa Maria
Novella. There I sat down and, after I had looked about for a
while at the beautiful church, drew them forth one by one and
read the greater part of them. Occupying one's self with light
literature in a great religious edifice is perhaps as bad a piece
of profanation as any of those rude dealings which Mr. Ruskin
justly deplores; but a traveller has to make the most of odd
moments, and I was waiting for a friend in whose company I was
to go and look at Giotto's beautiful frescoes in the cloister of
the church. My friend was a long time coming, so that I had an
hour with Mr. Ruskin, whom I called just now a light
littérateur because in these little Mornings in Florence
he is for ever making his readers laugh. I remembered of course
where I was, and in spite of my latent hilarity felt I had rarely
got such a snubbing. I had really been enjoying the good old city
of Florence, but I now learned from Mr. Ruskin that this was a
scandalous waste of charity. I should have gone about with an
imprecation on my lips, I should have worn a face three yards
long. I had taken great pleasure in certain frescoes by
Ghirlandaio in the choir of that very church; but it appeared
from one of the little books that these frescoes were as naught.
I had much admired Santa Croce and had thought the Duomo a very
noble affair; but I had now the most positive assurance I knew
nothing about them. After a while, if it was only ill-humour that
was needed for doing honour to the city of the Medici, I felt
that I had risen to a proper level; only now it was Mr. Ruskin
himself I had lost patience with, not the stupid Brunelleschi,
not the vulgar Ghirlandaio. Indeed I lost patience altogether,
and asked myself by what right this informal votary of form
pretended to run riot through a poor charmed flaneur's
quiet contemplations, his attachment to the noblest of pleasures,
his enjoyment of the loveliest of cities. The little books seemed
invidious and insane, and it was only when I remembered that I
had been under no obligation to buy them that I checked myself
in repenting of having done so.

Then at last my friend arrived and we passed together out of the
church, and, through the first cloister beside it, into a smaller
enclosure where we stood a while to look at the tomb of the
Marchesa Strozzi-Ridolfi, upon which the great Giotto has painted
four superb little pictures. It was easy to see the pictures were
superb; but I drew forth one of my little books again, for I had
observed that Mr. Ruskin spoke of them. Hereupon I recovered my
tolerance; for what could be better in this case, I asked
myself, than Mr. Ruskin's remarks? They are in fact excellent and
charming--full of appreciation of the deep and simple beauty of
the great painter's work. I read them aloud to my companion; but
my companion was rather, as the phrase is, "put off" by them. One
of the frescoes--it is a picture of the birth of the Virgin--
contains a figure coming through a door. "Of ornament," I quote,
"there is only the entirely simple outline of the vase which the
servant carries; of colour two or three masses of sober red and
pure white, with brown and grey. That is all," Mr. Ruskin
continues. "And if you are pleased with this you can see
Florence. But if not, by all means amuse yourself there, if you
find it amusing, as long as you like; you can never see it."
You can never see it. This seemed to my friend
insufferable, and I had to shuffle away the book again, so that
we might look at the fresco with the unruffled geniality it
deserves. We agreed afterwards, when in a more convenient place I
read aloud a good many more passages from the precious tracts,
that there are a great many ways of seeing Florence, as there are
of seeing most beautiful and interesting things, and that it is
very dry and pedantic to say that the happy vision depends upon
our squaring our toes with a certain particular chalk-mark. We
see Florence wherever and whenever we enjoy it, and for enjoying
it we find a great many more pretexts than Mr. Ruskin seems
inclined to allow. My friend and I convinced ourselves also,
however, that the little books were an excellent purchase, on
account of the great charm and felicity of much of their
incidental criticism; to say nothing, as I hinted just now, of
their being extremely amusing. Nothing in fact is more comical
than the familiar asperity of the author's style and the
pedagogic fashion in which he pushes and pulls his unhappy pupils
about, jerking their heads toward this, rapping their knuckles
for that, sending them to stand in corners and giving them
Scripture texts to copy. But it is neither the felicities nor the
aberrations of detail, in Mr. Ruskin's writings, that are the
main affair for most readers; it is the general tone that, as I
have said, puts them off or draws them on. For many persons he
will never bear the test of being read in this rich old Italy,
where art, so long as it really lived at all, was spontaneous,
joyous, irresponsible. If the reader is in daily contact with
those beautiful Florentine works which do still, in away, force
themselves into notice through the vulgarity and cruelty of
modern profanation, it will seem to him that this commentator's
comment is pitched in the strangest falsetto key. "One may read a
hundred pages of this sort of thing," said my friend, "without
ever dreaming that he is talking about art. You can say
nothing worse about him than that." Which is perfectly true. Art
is the one corner of human life in which we may take our ease. To
justify our presence there the only thing demanded of us is that
we shall have felt the representational impulse. In other
connections our impulses are conditioned and embarrassed; we are
allowed to have only so many as are consistent with those of our
neighbours; with their convenience and well-being, with their
convictions and prejudices, their rules and regulations. Art
means an escape from all this. Wherever her shining standard
floats the need for apology and compromise is over; there it is
enough simply that we please or are pleased. There the tree is
judged only by its fruits. If these are sweet the tree is
justified--and not less so the consumer.

One may read a great many pages of Mr. Ruskin without getting a
hint of this delightful truth; a hint of the not unimportant fact
that art after all is made for us and not we for art. This idea
that the value of a work is in the amount of illusion it yields
is conspicuous by its absence. And as for Mr. Ruskin's world's
being a place--his world of art--where we may take life easily,
woe to the luckless mortal who enters it with any such
disposition. Instead of a garden of delight, he finds a sort of
assize court in perpetual session. Instead of a place in which
human responsibilities are lightened and suspended, he finds a
region governed by a kind of Draconic legislation. His
responsibilities indeed are tenfold increased; the gulf between
truth and error is for ever yawning at his feet; the pains and
penalties of this same error are advertised, in apocalyptic
terminology, upon a thousand sign-posts; and the rash intruder
soon begins to look back with infinite longing to the lost
paradise of the artless. There can be no greater want of tact in
dealing with those things with which men attempt to ornament life
than to be perpetually talking about "error." A truce to all
rigidities is the law of the place; the only thing absolute there
is that some force and some charm have worked. The grim old
bearer of the scales excuses herself; she feels this not to be
her province. Differences here are not iniquity and
righteousness; they are simply variations of temperament, kinds
of curiosity. We are not under theological government.


It was very charming, in the bright, warm days, to wander from
one corner of Florence to another, paying one's respects again to
remembered masterpieces. It was pleasant also to find that memory
had played no tricks and that the rarest things of an earlier
year were as rare as ever. To enumerate ,these felicities would
take a great deal of space; for I never had been more struck with
the mere quantity of brilliant Florentine work. Even giving up
the Duomo and Santa Croce to Mr. Ruskin as very ill-arranged
edifices, the list of the Florentine treasures is almost
inexhaustible. Those long outer galleries of the Uffizi had never
beguiled me more; sometimes there were not more than two or three
figures standing there, Baedeker in hand, to break the charming
perspective. One side of this upstairs portico, it will be
remembered, is entirely composed of glass; a continuity of old-
fashioned windows, draped with white curtains of rather primitive
fashion, which hang there till they acquire a perceptible tone.
The light, passing through them, is softly filtered and diffused;
it rests mildly upon the old marbles--chiefly antique Roman
busts--which stand in the narrow intervals of the casements. It
is projected upon the numerous pictures that cover the opposite
wall and that are not by any means, as a general thing, the gems
of the great collection; it imparts a faded brightness to the old
ornamental arabesques upon the painted wooden ceiling, and it
makes a great soft shining upon the marble floor, in which, as
you look up and down, you see the strolling tourists and the
motionless copyists almost reflected. I don't know why I should
find all this very pleasant, but in fact, I have seldom gone into
the Uffizi without walking the length of this third-story
cloister, between the (for the most part) third-rate canvases and
panels and the faded cotton curtains. Why is it that in Italy we
see a charm in things in regard to which in other countries we
always take vulgarity for granted? If in the city of New York a
great museum of the arts were to be provided, by way of
decoration, with a species of verandah enclosed on one side by a
series of small-paned windows draped in dirty linen, and
furnished on the other with an array of pictorial feebleness, the
place being surmounted by a thinly-painted wooden roof, strongly
suggestive of summer heat, of winter cold, of frequent leakage,
those amateurs who had had the advantage of foreign travel would
be at small pains to conceal their contempt. Contemptible or
respectable, to the judicial mind, this quaint old loggia of the
Uffizi admitted me into twenty chambers where I found as great a
number of ancient favourites. I don't know that I had a warmer
greeting for any old friend than for Andrea del Sarto, that most
touching of painters who is not one of the first. But it was on
the other side of the Arno that I found him in force, in those
dusky drawing-rooms of the Pitti Palace to which you take your
way along the tortuous tunnel that wanders through the houses of
Florence and is supported by the little goldsmiths' booths on the
Ponte Vecchio. In the rich insufficient light of these beautiful
rooms, where, to look at the pictures, you sit in damask chairs
and rest your elbows on tables of malachite, the elegant Andrea
becomes deeply effective. Before long he has drawn you close. But
the great pleasure, after all, was to revisit the earlier
masters, in those specimens of them chiefly that bloom so
unfadingly on the big plain walls of the Academy. Fra Angelico
and Filippo Lippi, Botticelli and Lorenzo di Credi are the
clearest, the sweetest and best of all painters; as I sat for an
hour in their company, in the cold great hall of the institution
I have mentioned--there are shabby rafters above and an immense
expanse of brick tiles below, and many bad pictures as well as
good--it seemed to me more than ever that if one really had to
choose one couldn't do better than choose here. You may rest at
your ease at the Academy, in this big first room--at the upper
end especially, on the left--because more than many other places
it savours of old Florence. More for instance, in reality, than
the Bargello, though the Bargello makes great pretensions.
Beautiful and masterful though the Bargello is, it smells too
strongly of restoration, and, much of old Italy as still lurks in
its furbished and renovated chambers, it speaks even more
distinctly of the ill-mannered young kingdom that has--as
"unavoidably" as you please--lifted down a hundred delicate works
of sculpture from the convent-walls where their pious authors
placed them. If the early Tuscan painters are exquisite I can
think of no praise pure enough for the sculptors of the same
period, Donatello and Luca della Robbia, Matteo Civitale and Mina
da Fiesole, who, as I refreshed my memory of them, seemed to me
to leave absolutely nothing to be desired in the way of
straightness of inspiration and grace of invention. The Bargello
is full of early Tuscan sculpture, most of the pieces of which
have come from suppressed religious houses; and even if the
visitor be an ardent liberal he is uncomfortably conscious of the
rather brutal process by which it has been collected. One can
hardly envy young Italy the number of odious things she has had
to do.

The railway journey from Florence to Rome has been altered both
for the better and for the worse; for the better in that it has
been shortened by a couple of hours; for the worse inasmuch as
when about half the distance has been traversed the train
deflects to the west and leaves the beautiful old cities of
Assisi, Perugia, Terni, Narni, unvisited. Of old it was possible
to call at these places, in a manner, from the window of the
train; even if you didn't stop, as you probably couldn't, every
time you passed, the immensely interesting way in which, like a
loosened belt on an aged and shrunken person, their ample walls
held them easily together was something well worth noting. Now,
however, for compensation, the express train to Rome stops at
Orvieto, and in consequence... In consequence what? What is the
result of the stop of an express train at Orvieto? As I glibly
wrote that sentence I suddenly paused, aware of the queer stuff I
was uttering. That an express train would graze the base of the
horrid purple mountain from the apex of which this dark old
Catholic city uplifts the glittering front of its cathedral--
that might have been foretold by a keen observer of contemporary
manners. But that it would really have the grossness to hang
about is a fact over which, as he records it, an inveterate, a
perverse cherisher of the sense of the past order, the order
still largely prevailing at the time of his first visit to Italy,
may well make what is vulgarly called an ado. The train does stop
at Orvieto, not very long, it is true, but long enough to let you
out. The same phenomenon takes place on the following day, when,
having visited the city, you get in again. I availed myself
without scruple of both of these occasions, having formerly
neglected to drive to the place in a post-chaise. But frankly,
the railway-station being in the plain and the town on the summit
of an extraordinary hill, you have time to forget the puffing
indiscretion while you wind upwards to the city-gate. The
position of Orvieto is superb--worthy of the "middle distance"
of an eighteenth-century landscape. But, as every one knows, the
splendid Cathedral is the proper attraction of the spot, which,
indeed, save for this fine monument and for its craggy and
crumbling ramparts, is a meanly arranged and, as Italian cities
go, not particularly impressive little town. I spent a beautiful
Sunday there and took in the charming church. I gave it my best
attention, though on the whole I fear I found it inferior to its
fame. A high concert of colour, however, is the densely carved
front, richly covered with radiant mosaics. The old white marble
of the sculptured portions is as softly yellow as ancient ivory;
the large exceedingly bright pictures above them flashed and
twinkled in the glorious weather. Very striking and interesting
the theological frescoes of Luca Signorelli, though I have seen
compositions of this general order that appealed to me more.
Characteristically fresh, finally, the clear-faced saints and
seraphs, in robes of pink and azure, whom Fra Angelico has
painted upon the ceiling of the great chapel, along with a noble
sitting figure--more expressive of movement than most of the
creations of this pictorial peace-maker--of Christ in judgment.
Yet the interest of the cathedral of Orvieto is mainly not the
visible result, but the historical process that lies behind it;
those three hundred years of the applied devotion of a people of
which an American scholar has written an admirable account.[1]


[1] Charles Eliot Norton, Notes of Travel and Study in


It is certainly sweet to be merry at the right moment; but the
right moment hardly seems to me the ten days of the Roman
Carnival. It was my rather cynical suspicion perhaps that they
wouldn't keep to my imagination the brilliant promise of legend;
but I have been justified by the event and have been decidedly
less conscious of the festal influences of the season than of the
inalienable gravity of the place. There was a time when the
Carnival was a serious matter--that is a heartily joyous one;
but, thanks to the seven-league boots the kingdom of Italy has
lately donned for the march of progress in quite other
directions, the fashion of public revelry has fallen woefully out
of step. The state of mind and manners under which the Carnival
was kept in generous good faith I doubt if an American can
exactly conceive: he can only say to himself that for a month in
the year there must have been things--things considerably of
humiliation--it was comfortable to forget. But now that Italy is
made the Carnival is unmade; and we are not especially tempted to
envy the attitude of a population who have lost their relish for
play and not yet acquired to any striking extent an enthusiasm
for work. The spectacle on the Corso has seemed to me, on the
whole, an illustration of that great breach with the past of
which Catholic Christendom felt the somewhat muffled shock in
September, 1870. A traveller acquainted with the fully papal
Rome, coming back any time during the past winter, must have
immediately noticed that something momentous had happened--
something hostile to the elements of picture and colour and
"style." My first warning was that ten minutes after my arrival I
found myself face to face with a newspaper stand. The
impossibility in the other days of having anything in the
journalistic line but the Osservatore Romano and the
Voce della Verità used to seem to me much connected with
the extraordinary leisure of thought and stillness of mind to
which the place admitted you. But now the slender piping of the
Voice of Truth is stifled by the raucous note of eventide vendors
of the Capitale, the Libertà and the
Fanfulla; and Rome reading unexpurgated news is another
Rome indeed. For every subscriber to the Libertà there may
well be an antique masker and reveller less. As striking a sign
of the new régime is the extraordinary increase of population.
The Corso was always a well-filled street, but now it's a
perpetual crush. I never cease to wonder where the new-comers are
lodged, and how such spotless flowers of fashion as the gentlemen
who stare at the carriages can bloom in the atmosphere of those
camere mobiliate of which I have had glimpses. This,
however, is their own question, and bravely enough they meet it.
They proclaimed somehow, to the first freshness of my wonder, as
I say, that by force of numbers Rome had been secularised. An
Italian dandy is a figure visually to reckon with, but these
goodly throngs of them scarce offered compensation for the absent
monsignori, treading the streets in their purple stockings and
followed by the solemn servants who returned on their behalf the
bows of the meaner sort; for the mourning gear of the cardinals'
coaches that formerly glittered with scarlet and swung with the
weight of the footmen clinging behind; for the certainty that
you'll not, by the best of traveller's luck, meet the Pope
sitting deep in the shadow of his great chariot with uplifted
fingers like some inaccessible idol in his shrine. You may meet
the King indeed, who is as ugly, as imposingly ugly, as some
idols, though not so inaccessible. The other day as I passed the
Quirinal he drove up in a low carriage with a single attendant;
and a group of men and women who had been waiting near the gate
rushed at him with a number of folded papers. The carriage
slackened pace and he pocketed their offerings with a business-
like air--hat of a good-natured man accepting handbills at a
street-corner. Here was a monarch at his palace gate receiving
petitions from his subjects--being adjured to right their wrongs.
The scene ought to have thrilled me, but somehow it had no more
intensity than a woodcut in an illustrated newspaper. Homely I
should call it at most; admirably so, certainly, for there were
lately few sovereigns standing, I believe, with whom their people
enjoyed these filial hand-to-hand relations. The King this year,
however, has had as little to do with the Carnival as the Pope,
and the innkeepers and Americans have marked it for their own.

It was advertised to begin at half-past two o'clock of a certain
Saturday, and punctually at the stroke of the hour, from my room
across a wide court, I heard a sudden multiplication of sounds
and confusion of tongues in the Corso. I was writing to a friend
for whom I cared more than for any mere romp; but as the minutes
elapsed and the hubbub deepened curiosity got the better of
affection, and I remembered that I was really within eye-shot of
an affair the fame of which had ministered to the daydreams of my
infancy. I used to have a scrap-book with a coloured print of the
starting of the bedizened wild horses, and the use of a library
rich in keepsakes and annuals with a frontispiece commonly of a
masked lady in a balcony, the heroine of a delightful tale
further on. Agitated by these tender memories I descended into
the street; but I confess I looked in vain for a masked lady who
might serve as a frontispiece, in vain for any object whatever
that might adorn a tale. Masked and muffled ladies there were in
abundance; but their masks were of ugly wire, perfectly
resembling the little covers placed upon strong cheese in German
hotels, and their drapery was a shabby water-proof with the hood
pulled over their chignons. They were armed with great tin scoops
or funnels, with which they solemnly shovelled lime and flour
out of bushel-baskets and down on the heads of the people in the
street. They were packed into balconies all the way along the
straight vista of the Corso, in which their calcareous shower
maintained a dense, gritty, unpalatable fog. The crowd was
compact in the street, and the Americans in it were tossing back
confetti out of great satchels hung round their necks. It was
quite the "you're another" sort of repartee, and less seasoned
than I had hoped with the airy mockery tradition hangs about
this festival. The scene was striking, in a word; but somehow not
as I had dreamed of its being. I stood regardful, I suppose, but
with a peculiarly tempting blankness of visage, for in a moment I
received half a bushel of flour on my too-philosophic head.
Decidedly it was an ignoble form of humour. I shook my ears like
an emergent diver, and had a sudden vision of how still and sunny
and solemn, how peculiarly and undisturbedly themselves, how
secure from any intrusion less sympathetic than one's own,
certain outlying parts of Rome must just then be. The Carnival
had received its deathblow in my imagination; and it has been
ever since but a thin and dusky ghost of pleasure that has
flitted at intervals in and out of my consciousness.

I turned my back accordingly on the Corso and wandered away to
the grass-grown quarters delightfully free even from the
possibility of a fellow-countryman. And so having set myself an
example I have been keeping Carnival by strolling perversely
along the silent circumference of Rome. I have doubtless lost a
great deal. The Princess Margaret has occupied a balcony opposite
the open space which leads into Via Condotti and, I believe, like
the discreet princess she is, has dealt in no missiles but
bonbons, bouquets and white doves. I would have waited half an
hour any day to see the Princess Margaret hold a dove on her
forefinger; but I never chanced to notice any preparation for
that effect. And yet do what you will you can't really elude the
Carnival. As the days elapse it filters down into the manners of
the common people, and before the week is over the very beggars
at the church-doors seem to have gone to the expense of a domino.
When you meet these specimens of dingy drollery capering about in
dusky back-streets at all hours of the day and night, meet them
flitting out of black doorways between the greasy groups that
cluster about Roman thresholds, you feel that a love of "pranks,"
the more vivid the better, must from far back have been implanted
in the Roman temperament with a strong hand. An unsophisticated
American is wonderstruck at the number of persons, of every age
and various conditions, whom it costs nothing in the nature of an
ingenuous blush to walk up and down the streets in the costume of
a theatrical supernumerary. Fathers of families do it at the head
of an admiring progeniture; aunts and uncles and grandmothers do
it; all the family does it, with varying splendour but with the
same good conscience. "A pack of babies!" the doubtless too self-
conscious alien pronounces it for its pains, and tries to imagine
himself strutting along Broadway in a battered tin helmet and a
pair of yellow tights. Our vices are certainly different; it
takes those of the innocent sort to be so ridiculous. A self-
consciousness lapsing so easily, in fine, strikes me as so near a
relation to amenity, urbanity and general gracefulness that, for
myself, I should be sorry to lay a tax on it, lest these other
commodities should also cease to come to market.

I was rewarded, when I had turned away with my ears full of
flour, by a glimpse of an intenser life than the dingy foolery of
the Corso. I walked down by the back streets to the steps
mounting to the Capitol--that long inclined plane, rather, broken
at every two paces, which is the unfailing disappointment, I
believe, of tourists primed for retrospective raptures. Certainly
the Capitol seen from this side isn't commanding. The hill is so
low, the ascent so narrow, Michael Angelo's architecture in the
quadrangle at the top so meagre, the whole place somehow so much
more of a mole-hill than a mountain, that for the first ten
minutes of your standing there Roman history seems suddenly to
have sunk through a trap-door. It emerges however on the other
side, in the Forum; and here meanwhile, if you get no sense of
the sublime, you get gradually a sense of exquisite composition.
Nowhere in Rome is more colour, more charm, more sport for the
eye. The mild incline, during the winter months, is always
covered with lounging sun-seekers, and especially with those more
constantly obvious members of the Roman population--beggars,
soldiers, monks and tourists. The beggars and peasants lie
kicking their heels along that grandest of loafing-places the
great steps of the Ara Coeli. The dwarfish look of the Capitol is
intensified, I think, by the neighbourhood of this huge blank
staircase, mouldering away in disuse, the weeds thick in its
crevices, and climbing to the rudely solemn facade of the church.
The sunshine glares on this great unfinished wall only to light
up its featureless despair, its expression of conscious,
irremediable incompleteness. Sometimes, massing its rusty screen
against the deep blue sky, with the little cross and the
sculptured porch casting a clear-cut shadow on the bricks, it
seems to have even more than a Roman desolation, it confusedly
suggests Spain and Africa--lands with no latent
risorgimenti, with absolutely nothing but a fatal past.
The legendary wolf of Rome has lately been accommodated with a
little artificial grotto, among the cacti and the palms, in the
fantastic triangular garden squeezed between the steps of the
church and the ascent to the Capitol, where she holds a perpetual
levee and "draws" apparently as powerfully as the Pope himself.
Above, in the piazzetta before the stuccoed palace which rises so
jauntily on a basement of thrice its magnitude, are more loungers
and knitters in the sun, seated round the massively inscribed
base of the statue of Marcus Aurelius. Hawthorne has perfectly
expressed the attitude of this admirable figure in saying that it
extends its arm with "a command which is in itself a
benediction." I doubt if any statue of king or captain in the
public places of the world has more to commend it to the general
heart. Irrecoverable simplicity--residing so in irrecoverable
Style--has no sturdier representative. Here is an impression
that the sculptors of the last three hundred years have been
laboriously trying to reproduce; but contrasted with this mild
old monarch their prancing horsemen suggest a succession of
riding-masters taking out young ladies' schools. The admirably
human character of the figure survives the rusty decomposition of
the bronze and the slight "debasement" of the art; and one may
call it singular that in the capital of Christendom the portrait
most suggestive of a Christian conscience is that of a pagan

You recover in some degree your stifled hopes of sublimity as you
pass beyond the palace and take your choice of either curving
slope to descend into the Forum. Then you see that the little
stuccoed edifice is but a modern excrescence on the mighty cliff
of a primitive construction, whose great squares of porous tufa,
as they underlie each other, seem to resolve themselves back into
the colossal cohesion of unhewn rock. There are prodigious
strangenesses in the union of this airy and comparatively fresh-
faced superstructure and these deep-plunging, hoary foundations;
and few things in Rome are more entertaining to the eye than to
measure the long plumb-line which drops from the inhabited
windows of the palace, with their little over-peeping balconies,
their muslin curtains and their bird-cages, down to the rugged
constructional work of the Republic. In the Forum proper the
sublime is eclipsed again, though the late extension of the
excavations gives a chance for it.

Nothing in Rome helps your fancy to a more vigorous backward
flight than to lounge on a sunny day over the railing which
guards the great central researches. It "says" more things to you
than you can repeat to see the past, the ancient world, as you
stand there, bodily turned up with the spade and transformed from
an immaterial, inaccessible fact of time into a matter of soils
and surfaces. The pleasure is the same--in kind--as what you
enjoy of Pompeii, and the pain the same. It wasn't here, however,
that I found my compensation for forfeiting the spectacle on the
Corso, but in a little church at the end of the narrow byway
which diverges up the Palatine from just beside the Arch of
Titus. This byway leads you between high walls, then takes a bend
and introduces you to a long row of rusty, dusty little pictures
of the stations of the cross. Beyond these stands a small church
with a front so modest that you hardly recognise it till you see
the leather curtain. I never see a leather curtain without
lifting it; it is sure to cover a constituted scene of
some sort--good, bad or indifferent. The scene this time was
meagre--whitewash and tarnished candlesticks and mouldy muslin
flowers being its principal features. I shouldn't have remained
if I hadn't been struck with the attitude of the single
worshipper--a young priest kneeling before one of the sidealtars,
who, as I entered, lifted his head and gave me a sidelong look so
charged with the languor of devotion that he immediately became
an object of interest. He was visiting each of the altars in turn
and kissing the balustrade beneath them. He was alone in the
church, and indeed in the whole region. There were no beggars
even at the door; they were plying their trade on the skirts of
the Carnival. In the entirely deserted place he alone knelt for
religion, and as I sat respectfully by it seemed to me I could
hear in the perfect silence the far-away uproar of the maskers.
It was my late impression of these frivolous people, I suppose,
joined with the extraordinary gravity of the young priest's face-
-his pious fatigue, his droning prayer and his isolation--that
gave me just then and there a supreme vision of the religious
passion, its privations and resignations and exhaustions and its
terribly small share of amusement. He was young and strong and
evidently of not too refined a fibre to enjoy the Carnival; but,
planted there with his face pale with fasting and his knees stiff
with praying, he seemed so stern a satire on it and on the crazy
thousands who were preferring it to his way, that I half
expected to see some heavenly portent out of a monastic legend
come down and confirm his choice. Yet I confess that though I
wasn't enamoured of the Carnival myself, his seemed a grim
preference and this forswearing of the world a terrible game--a
gaining one only if your zeal never falters; a hard fight when it
does. In such an hour, to a stout young fellow like the hero of
my anecdote, the smell of incense must seem horribly stale and
the muslin flowers and gilt candlesticks to figure no great
bribe. And it wouldn't have helped him much to think that not so
very far away, just beyond the Forum, in the Corso, there was
sport for the million, and for nothing. I doubt on the other hand
whether my young priest had thought of this. He had made himself
a temple out of the very elements of his innocence, and his
prayers followed each other too fast for the tempter to slip in a
whisper. And so, as I say, I found a solider fact of human nature
than the love of coriandoli.

One of course never passes the Colosseum without paying it one's
respects--without going in under one of the hundred portals and
crossing the long oval and sitting down a while, generally at
the foot of the cross in the centre. I always feel, as I do so,
as if I were seated in the depths of some Alpine valley. The
upper portions of the side toward the Esquiline look as remote
and lonely as an Alpine ridge, and you raise your eyes to their
rugged sky-line, drinking in the sun and silvered by the blue
air, with much the same feeling with which you would take in a
grey cliff on which an eagle might lodge. This roughly
mountainous quality of the great ruin is its chief interest;
beauty of detail has pretty well vanished, especially since the
high-growing wild-flowers have been plucked away by the new
government, whose functionaries, surely, at certain points of
their task, must have felt as if they shared the dreadful trade
of those who gather samphire. Even if you are on your way to the
Lateran you won't grudge the twenty minutes it will take you, on
leaving the Colosseum, to turn away under the Arch of
Constantine, whose noble battered bas-reliefs, with the chain of
tragic statues--fettered, drooping barbarians--round its summit,
I assume you to have profoundly admired, toward the piazzetta of
the church of San Giovanni e Paolo, on the slope of Caelian. No
spot in Rome can show a cluster of more charming accidents. The
ancient brick apse of the church peeps down into the trees of the
little wooded walk before the neighbouring church of San
Gregorio, intensely venerable beneath its excessive
modernisation; and a series of heavy brick buttresses, flying
across to an opposite wall, overarches the short, steep, paved
passage which leads into the small square. This is flanked on one
side by the long mediaeval portico of the church of the two
saints, sustained by eight time-blackened columns of granite and
marble. On another rise the great scarce-windowed walls of a
Passionist convent, and on the third the portals of a grand
villa, whose tall porter, with his cockade and silver-topped
staff, standing sublime behind his grating, seems a kind of
mundane St. Peter, I suppose, to the beggars who sit at the
church door or lie in the sun along the farther slope which leads
to the gate of the convent. The place always seems to me the
perfection of an out-of-the-way corner--a place you would think
twice before telling people about, lest you should find them
there the next time you were to go. It is such a group of
objects, singly and in their happy combination, as one must come
to Rome to find at one's house door; but what makes it peculiarly
a picture is the beautiful dark red campanile of the church,
which stands embedded in the mass of the convent. It begins, as
so many things in Rome begin, with a stout foundation of antique
travertine, and rises high, in delicately quaint mediaeval
brickwork--little tiers and apertures sustained on miniature
columns and adorned with small cracked slabs of green and yellow
marble, inserted almost at random. When there are three or four
brown-breasted contadini sleeping in the sun before the convent
doors, and a departing monk leading his shadow down over them, I
think you will not find anything in Rome more sketchable.

If you stop, however, to observe everything worthy of your water-
colours you will never reach St. John Lateran. My business was
much less with the interior of that vast and empty, that cold
clean temple, which I have never found peculiarly interesting,
than with certain charming features of its surrounding precinct--
the crooked old court beside it, which admits you to the
Baptistery and to a delightful rear-view of the queer
architectural odds and ends that may in Rome compose a florid
ecclesiastical façade. There are more of these, a stranger jumble
of chance detail, of lurking recesses and wanton projections and
inexplicable windows, than I have memory or phrase for; but the
gem of the collection is the oddly perched peaked turret, with
its yellow travertine welded upon the rusty brickwork, which was
not meant to be suspected, and the brickwork retreating beneath
and leaving it in the odd position of a tower under which
you may see the sky. As to the great front of the church
overlooking the Porta San Giovanni, you are not admitted behind
the scenes; the term is quite in keeping, for the architecture
has a vastly theatrical air. It is extremely imposing--that of
St. Peter's alone is more so; and when from far off on the
Campagna you see the colossal images of the mitred saints along
the top standing distinct against the sky, you forget their
coarse construction and their inflated draperies. The view from
the great space which stretches from the church steps to the city
wall is the very prince of views. Just beside you, beyond the
great alcove of mosaic, is the Scala Santa, the marble staircase
which (says the legend) Christ descended under the weight of
Pilate's judgment, and which all Christians must for ever ascend
on their knees; before you is the city gate which opens upon the
Via Appia Nuova, the long gaunt file of arches of the Claudian
aqueduct, their jagged ridge stretching away like the vertebral
column of some monstrous mouldering skeleton, and upon the
blooming brown and purple flats and dells of the Campagna and the
glowing blue of the Alban Mountains, spotted with their white,
high-nestling towns; while to your left is the great grassy
space, lined with dwarfish mulberry-trees, which stretches across
to the damp little sister-basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.
During a former visit to Rome I lost my heart to this idle

[1] Utterly overbuilt and gone--1909.]

and wasted much time in sitting on the steps of the church and
watching certain white-cowled friars who were sure to be passing
there for the delight of my eyes. There are fewer friars now, and
there are a great many of the king's recruits, who inhabit the
ex-conventual barracks adjoining Santa Croce and are led forward
to practise their goose-step on the sunny turf. Here too the poor
old cardinals who are no longer to be seen on the Pincio descend
from their mourning-coaches and relax their venerable knees.
These members alone still testify to the traditional splendour of
the princes of the Church; for as they advance the lifted black
petticoat reveals a flash of scarlet stockings and makes you
groan at the victory of civilisation over colour.


If St. John Lateran disappoints you internally, you have an easy
compensation in pacing the long lane which connects it with Santa
Maria Maggiore and entering the singularly perfect nave of that
most delightful of churches. The first day of my stay in Rome
under the old dispensation I spent in wandering at random through
the city, with accident for my valet-de-place. It served
me to perfection and introduced me to the best things; among
others to an immediate happy relation with Santa Maria Maggiore.
First impressions, memorable impressions, are generally
irrecoverable; they often leave one the wiser, but they rarely
return in the same form. I remember, of my coming uninformed and
unprepared into the place of worship and of curiosity that I have
named, only that I sat for half an hour on the edge of the base
of one of the marble columns of the beautiful nave and enjoyed a
perfect revel of--what shall I call it?--taste, intelligence,
fancy, perceptive emotion? The place proved so endlessly
suggestive that perception became a throbbing confusion of
images, and I departed with a sense of knowing a good deal that
is not set down in Murray. I have seated myself more than once
again at the base of the same column; but you live your life only
once, the parts as well as the whole. The obvious charm of the
church is the elegant grandeur of the nave--its perfect
shapeliness and its rich simplicity, its long double row of white
marble columns and its high flat roof, embossed with intricate
gildings and mouldings. It opens into a choir of an extraordinary
splendour of effect, which I recommend you to look out for of a
fine afternoon. At such a time the glowing western light,
entering the high windows of the tribune, kindles the scattered
masses of colour into sombre bright-ness, scintillates on the
great solemn mosaic of the vault, touches the porphyry columns of
the superb baldachino with ruby lights, and buries its shining
shafts in the deep-toned shadows that hang about frescoes and
sculptures and mouldings. The deeper charm even than in such
things, however, is the social or historic note or tone or
atmosphere of the church--I fumble, you see, for my right
expression; the sense it gives you, in common with most of the
Roman churches, and more than any of them, of having been prayed
in for several centuries by an endlessly curious and complex
society. It takes no great attention to let it come to you that
the authority of Italian Catholicism has lapsed not a little in
these days; not less also perhaps than to feel that, as they
stand, these deserted temples were the fruit of a society
leavened through and through by ecclesiastical manners, and that
they formed for ages the constant background of the human drama.
They are, as one may say, the churchiest churches in
Europe--the fullest of gathered memories, of the experience of
their office. There's not a figure one has read of in old-world
annals that isn't to be imagined on proper occasion kneeling
before the lamp-decked Confession beneath the altar of Santa
Maria Maggiore. One sees after all, however, even among the most
palpable realities, very much what the play of one's imagination
projects there; and I present my remarks simply as a reminder
that one's constant excursions into these places are not the
least interesting episodes of one's walks in Rome.

I had meant to give a simple illustration of the church-habit, so
to speak, but I have given it at such a length as leaves scant
space to touch on the innumerable topics brushed by the pen that
begins to take Roman notes. It is by the aimless flânerie
which leaves you free to follow capriciously every hint of
entertainment that you get to know Rome. The greater part of the
life about you goes on in the streets; and for an observer fresh
from a country in which town scenery is at the least monotonous
incident and character and picture seem to abound. I become
conscious with compunction, let me hasten to add, that I have
launched myself thus on the subject of Roman churches and Roman
walks without so much as a preliminary allusion to St. Peter's.
One is apt to proceed thither on rainy days with intentions of
exercise--to put the case only at that--and to carry these out
body and mind. Taken as a walk not less than as a church, St.
Peter's of course reigns alone. Even for the profane
"constitutional" it serves where the Boulevards, where Piccadilly
and Broadway, fall short, and if it didn't offer to our use the
grandest area in the world it would still offer the most
diverting. Few great works of art last longer to the curiosity,
to the perpetually transcended attention. You think you have
taken the whole thing in, but it expands, it rises sublime again,
and leaves your measure itself poor. You never let the ponderous
leather curtain bang down behind you--your weak lift of a scant
edge of whose padded vastness resembles the liberty taken in
folding back the parchment corner of some mighty folio page--
without feeling all former visits to have been but missed
attempts at apprehension and the actual to achieve your first
real possession. The conventional question is ever as to whether
one hasn't been "disappointed in the size," but a few honest folk
here and there, I hope, will never cease to say no. The place
struck me from the first as the hugest thing conceivable--a real
exaltation of one's idea of space; so that one's entrance, even
from the great empty square which either glares beneath the deep
blue sky or makes of the cool far-cast shadow of the immense
front something that resembles a big slate-coloured country on a
map, seems not so much a going in somewhere as a going out. The
mere man of pleasure in quest of new sensations might well not
know where to better his encounter there of the sublime shock
that brings him, within the threshold, to an immediate gasping
pause. There are days when the vast nave looks mysteriously
vaster than on others and the gorgeous baldachino a longer
journey beyond the far-spreading tessellated plain of the
pavement, and when the light has yet a quality which lets things
loom their largest, while the scattered figures--I mean the
human, for there are plenty of others--mark happily the scale of
items and parts. Then you have only to stroll and stroll and gaze
and gaze; to watch the glorious altar-canopy lift its bronze
architecture, its colossal embroidered contortions, like a temple
within a temple, and feel yourself, at the bottom of the abysmal
shaft of the dome, dwindle to a crawling dot.

Much of the constituted beauty resides in the fact that it is all
general beauty, that you are appealed to by no specific details,
or that these at least, practically never importunate, are as
taken for granted as the lieutenants and captains are taken for
granted in a great standing army--among whom indeed individual
aspects may figure here the rather shifting range of decorative
dignity in which details, when observed, often prove poor (though
never not massive and substantially precious) and sometimes prove
ridiculous. The sculptures, with the sole exception of Michael
Angelo's ineffable "Pieta," which lurks obscurely in a side-
chapel--this indeed to my sense the rarest artistic
combination of the greatest things the hand of man has
produced--are either bad or indifferent; and the universal
incrustation of marble, though sumptuous enough, has a less
brilliant effect than much later work of the same sort, that for
instance of St. Paul's without the Walls. The supreme beauty is
the splendidly sustained simplicity of the whole. The thing
represents a prodigious imagination extraordinarily strained, yet
strained, at its happiest pitch, without breaking. Its happiest
pitch I say, because this is the only creation of its strenuous
author in presence of which you are in presence of serenity. You
may invoke the idea of ease at St. Peter's without a sense of
sacrilege--which you can hardly do, if you are at all spiritually
nervous, in Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame. The vast enclosed
clearness has much to do with the idea. There are no shadows to
speak of, no marked effects of shade; only effects of light
innumerably--points at which this element seems to mass itself in
airy density and scatter itself in enchanting gradations and
cadences. It performs the office of gloom or of mystery in Gothic
churches; hangs like a rolling mist along the gilded vault of the
nave, melts into bright interfusion the mosaic scintillations of
the dome, clings and clusters and lingers, animates the whole
huge and otherwise empty shell. A good Catholic, I suppose, is
the same Catholic anywhere, before the grandest as well as the
humblest altars; but to a visitor not formally enrolled St.
Peter's speaks less of aspiration than of full and convenient
assurance. The soul infinitely expands there, if one will, but
all on its quite human level. It marvels at the reach of our
dreams and the immensity of our resources. To be so impressed and
put in our place, we say, is to be sufficiently "saved"; we can't
be more than the heaven itself; and what specifically celestial
beauty such a show or such a substitute may lack it makes up for
in certainty and tangibility. And yet if one's hours on the scene
are not actually spent in praying, the spirit seeks it again as
for the finer comfort, for the blessing, exactly, of its example,
its protection and its exclusion. When you are weary of the
swarming democracy of your fellow-tourists, of the unremunerative
aspects of human nature on Corso and Pincio, of the oppressively
frequent combination of coronets on carriage panels and stupid
faces in carriages, of addled brains and lacquered boots, of ruin
and dirt and decay, of priests and beggars and takers of
advantage, of the myriad tokens of a halting civilisation, the
image of the great temple depresses the balance of your doubts,
seems to rise above even the highest tide of vulgarity and make
you still believe in the heroic will and the heroic act. It's a
relief, in other words, to feel that there's nothing but a cab-
fare between your pessimism and one of the greatest of human


This might serve as a Lenten peroration to these remarks of mine
which have strayed so woefully from their jovial text, save that
I ought fairly to confess that my last impression of the Carnival
was altogether Carnivalesque.. The merry-making of Shrove Tuesday
had life and felicity; the dead letter of tradition broke out
into nature and grace. I pocketed my scepticism and spent a long
afternoon on the Corso. Almost every one was a masker, but you
had no need to conform; the pelting rain of confetti effectually
disguised you. I can't say I found it all very exhilarating; but
here and there I noticed a brighter episode--a capering clown
inflamed with contagious jollity, some finer humourist forming a
circle every thirty yards to crow at his indefatigable sallies.
One clever performer so especially pleased me that I should have
been glad to catch a glimpse of the natural man. You imagined for
him that he was taking a prodigious intellectual holiday and that
his gaiety was in inverse ratio to his daily mood. Dressed as a
needy scholar, in an ancient evening-coat and with a rusty black
hat and gloves fantastically patched, he carried a little volume
carefully under his arm. His humours were in excellent taste, his
whole manner the perfection of genteel comedy. The crowd seemed
to relish him vastly, and he at once commanded a glee-fully
attentive audience. Many of his sallies I lost; those I caught
were excellent. His trick was often to begin by taking some one
urbanely and caressingly by the chin and complimenting him on the
intelligenza della sua fisionomia. I kept near him as long
as I could; for he struck me as a real ironic artist, cherishing
a disinterested, and yet at the same time a motived and a moral,
passion for the grotesque. I should have liked, however--if
indeed I shouldn't have feared--to see him the next morning, or
when he unmasked that night over his hard-earned supper in a
smoky trattoria. As the evening went on the crowd
thickened and became a motley press of shouting, pushing,
scrambling, everything but squabbling, revellers. The rain of
missiles ceased at dusk, but the universal deposit of chalk and
flour was trampled into a cloud made lurid by flaring pyramids of
the gas-lamps that replaced for the occasion the stingy Roman
luminaries. Early in the evening came off the classic exhibition
of the moccoletti, which I but half saw, like a languid
reporter resigned beforehand to be cashiered for want of
enterprise. From the mouth of a side-street, over a thousand
heads, I caught a huge slow-moving illuminated car, from which
blue-lights and rockets and Roman candles were in course of
discharge, meeting all in a dim fuliginous glare far above the
house-tops. It was like a glimpse of some public orgy in ancient
Babylon. In the small hours of the morning, walking homeward from
a private entertainment, I found Ash Wednesday still kept at bay.
The Corso, flaring with light, smelt like a circus. Every one was
taking friendly liberties with every one else and using up the
dregs of his festive energy in convulsive hootings and
gymnastics. Here and there certain indefatigable spirits, clad
all in red after the manner of devils and leaping furiously about
with torches, were supposed to affright you. But they shared the
universal geniality and bequeathed me no midnight fears as a
pretext for keeping Lent, the carnevale dei preti, as I
read in that profanely radical sheet the Capitale. Of this
too I have been having glimpses. Going lately into Santa
Francesca Romana, the picturesque church near the Temple of
Peace, I found a feast for the eyes--a dim crimson-toned light
through curtained windows, a great festoon of tapers round the
altar, a bulging girdle of lamps before the sunken shrine
beneath, and a dozen white-robed Dominicans scattered in the
happiest composition on the pavement. It was better than the



I shall always remember the first I took: out of the Porta del
Popolo, to where the Ponte Molle, whose single arch sustains a
weight of historic tradition, compels the sallow Tiber to flow
between its four great-mannered ecclesiastical statues, over the
crest of the hill and along the old posting-road to Florence. It
was mild midwinter, the season peculiarly of colour on the Roman
Campagna; and the light was full of that mellow purple glow, that
tempered intensity, which haunts the after-visions of those who
have known Rome like the memory of some supremely irresponsible
pleasure. An hour away I pulled up and at the edge of a meadow
gazed away for some time into remoter distances. Then and there,
it seemed to me, I measured the deep delight of knowing the
Campagna. But I saw more things in it than I can easily tell. The
country rolled away around me into slopes and dells of long-drawn
grace, chequered with purple and blue and blooming brown. The
lights and shadows were at play on the Sabine Mountains--an
alternation of tones so exquisite as to be conveyed only by some
fantastic comparison to sapphire and amber. In the foreground a
contadino in his cloak and peaked hat jogged solitary on his ass;
and here and there in the distance, among blue undulations, some
white village, some grey tower, helped deliciously to make the
picture the typical "Italian landscape" of old-fashioned art. It
was so bright and yet so sad, so still and yet so charged, to the
supersensuous ear, with the murmur of an extinguished life, that
you could only say it was intensely and adorably strange, could
only impute to the whole overarched scene an unsurpassed secret
for bringing tears of appreciation to no matter how ignorant--
archaeologically ignorant--eyes. To ride once, in these
conditions, is of course to ride again and to allot to the
Campagna a generous share of the time one spends in Rome.

It is a pleasure that doubles one's horizon, and one can scarcely
say whether it enlarges or limits one's impression of the city
proper. It certainly makes St. Peter's seem a trifle smaller and
blunts the edge of one's curiosity in the Forum. It must be the
effect of the experience, at all extended, that when you think of
Rome afterwards you will think still respectfully and regretfully
enough of the Vatican and the Pincio, the streets and the
picture-making street life; but will even more wonder, with an
irrepressible contraction of the heart, when again you shall feel
yourself bounding over the flower-smothered turf, or pass from
one framed picture to another beside the open arches of the
crumbling aqueducts. You look back at the City so often from some
grassy hill-top--hugely compact within its walls, with St.
Peter's overtopping all things and yet seeming small, and the
vast girdle of marsh and meadow receding on all sides to the
mountains and the sea--that you come to remember it at last as
hardly more than a respectable parenthesis in a great sweep of
generalisation. Within the walls, on the other hand, you think of
your intended ride as the most romantic of all your
possibilities; of the Campagna generally as an illimitable
experience. One's rides certainly give Rome an inordinate scope
for the reflective--by which I suppose I mean after all the
aesthetic and the "esoteric"--life. To dwell in a city which,
much as you grumble at it, is after all very fairly a modern
city; with crowds and shops and theatres and cafes and balls and
receptions and dinner-parties, and all the modern confusion of
social pleasures and pains; to have at your door the good and
evil of it all; and yet to be able in half an hour to gallop away
and leave it a hundred miles, a hundred years, behind, and to
look at the tufted broom glowing on a lonely tower-top in the
still blue air, and the pale pink asphodels trembling none the
less for the stillness, and the shaggy-legged shepherds leaning
on their sticks in motionless brotherhood with the heaps of ruin,
and the scrambling goats and staggering little kids treading out
wild desert smells from the top of hollow-sounding mounds; and
then to come back through one of the great gates and a couple of
hours later find yourself in the "world," dressed, introduced,
entertained, inquiring, talking about "Middlemarch" to a young
English lady or listening to Neapolitan songs from a gentleman in
a very low-cut shirt--all this is to lead in a manner a double
life and to gather from the hurrying hours more impressions than
a mind of modest capacity quite knows how to dispose of.

I touched lately upon this theme with a friend who, I fancied,
would understand me, and who immediately assured me that he had
just spent a day that this mingled diversity of sensation made to
the days one spends elsewhere what an uncommonly good novel may
be to the daily paper. "There was an air of idleness about it, if
you will," he said, "and it was certainly pleasant enough to have
been wrong. Perhaps, being after all unused to long stretches of
dissipation, this was why I had a half-feeling that I was reading
an odd chapter in the history of a person very much more of a
héros de roman than myself." Then he proceeded to relate
how he had taken a long ride with a lady whom he extremely
admired. "We turned off from the Tor di Quinto Road to that
castellated farm-house you know of--once a Ghibelline fortress--
whither Claude Lorraine used to come to paint pictures of which
the surrounding landscape is still so artistically, so
compositionally, suggestive. We went into the inner court, a
cloister almost, with the carven capitals of its loggia columns,
and looked at a handsome child swinging shyly against the half-
opened door of a room whose impenetrable shadow, behind her, made
her, as it were, a sketch in bituminous water-colours. We talked
with the farmer, a handsome, pale, fever-tainted fellow with a
well-to-do air that didn't in the least deter his affability from
a turn compatible with the acceptance of small coin; and then we
galloped away and away over the meadows which stretch with hardly
a break to Veii. The day was strangely delicious, with a cool
grey sky and just a touch of moisture in the air stirred by our
rapid motion. The Campagna, in the colourless even light, was
more solemn and romantic than ever; and a ragged shepherd,
driving a meagre straggling flock, whom we stopped to ask our way
of, was a perfect type of pastoral, weather-beaten misery. He was
precisely the shepherd for the foreground of a scratchy etching.
There were faint odours of spring in the air, and the grass here
and there was streaked with great patches of daisies; but it was
spring with a foreknowledge of autumn, a day to be enjoyed with a
substrain of sadness, the foreboding of regret, a day somehow to
make one feel as if one had seen and felt a great deal--quite, as
I say, like a heros de roman. Touching such characters, it
was the illustrious Pelham, I think, who, on being asked if he
rode, replied that he left those violent exercises to the ladies.
But under such a sky, in such an air, over acres of daisied turf,
a long, long gallop is certainly a supersubtle joy. The elastic
bound of your horse is the poetry of motion; and if you are so
happy as to add to it not the prose of companionship riding comes
almost to affect you as a spiritual exercise. My gallop, at any
rate," said my friend, "threw me into a mood which gave an
extraordinary zest to the rest of the day." He was to go to a
dinner-party at a villa on the edge of Rome, and Madam X--, who
was also going, called for him in her carriage. "It was a long
drive," he went on, "through the Forum, past the Colosseum. She
told me a long story about a most interesting person. Toward the
end my eyes caught through the carriage window a slab of rugged
sculptures. We were passing under the Arch of Constantine. In the
hall pavement of the villa is a rare antique mosaic--one of the
largest and most perfect; the ladies on their way to the drawing-
room trail over it the flounces of Worth. We drove home late, and
there's my day."

On your exit from most of the gates of Rome you have generally
half-an-hour's progress through winding lanes, many of which are
hardly less charming than the open meadows. On foot the walls and
high hedges would vex you and spoil your walk; but in the saddle
you generally overtop them, to an endless peopling of the minor
vision. Yet a Roman wall in the springtime is for that matter
almost as interesting as anything it conceals. Crumbling grain by
grain, coloured and mottled to a hundred tones by sun and storm,
with its rugged structure of brick extruding through its coarse
complexion of peeling stucco, its creeping lacework of wandering
ivy starred with miniature violets, and its wild fringe of
stouter flowers against the sky--it is as little as possible a
blank partition; it is practically a luxury of landscape. At the
moment at which I write, in mid-April, all the ledges and
cornices are wreathed with flaming poppies, nodding there as if
they knew so well what faded greys and yellows are an offset to
their scarlet. But the best point in a dilapidated enclosing
surface of vineyard or villa is of course the gateway, lifting
its great arch of cheap rococo scroll-work, its balls and shields
and mossy dish-covers--as they always perversely figure to me--
and flanked with its dusky cypresses. I never pass one without
taking out my mental sketch-book and jotting it down as a
vignette in the insubstantial record of my ride. They are as sad
and dreary as if they led to the moated grange where Mariana
waited in desperation for something to happen; and it's easy to
take the usual inscription over the porch as a recommendation to
those who enter to renounce all hope of anything but a glass of
more or less agreeably acrid vino romano. For what you
chiefly see over the walls and at the end of the straight short
avenue of rusty cypresses are the appurtenances of a
vigna--a couple of acres of little upright sticks
blackening in the sun, and a vast sallow-faced, scantily windowed
mansion, whose expression denotes little of the life of the mind
beyond what goes to the driving of a hard bargain over the tasted
hogsheads. If Mariana is there she certainly has no pile of old
magazines to beguile her leisure. The life of the mind, if the
term be in any application here not ridiculous, appears to any
asker of curious questions, as he wanders about Rome, the very
thinnest deposit of the past. Within the rococo gateway, which
itself has a vaguely esthetic self-consciousness, at the end of
the cypress walk, you will probably see a mythological group in
rusty marble--a Cupid and Psyche, a Venus and Paris, an Apollo
and Daphne--the relic of an age when a Roman proprietor thought
it fine to patronise the arts. But I imagine you are safe in
supposing it to constitute the only allusion savouring of culture
that has been made on the premises for three or four generations.

There is a franker cheerfulness--though certainly a proper amount
of that forlornness which lurks about every object to which the
Campagna forms a background--in the primitive little taverns
where, on the homeward stretch, in the waning light, you are
often glad to rein up and demand a bottle of their best. Their
best and their worst are indeed the same, though with a shifting
price, and plain vino bianco or vino rosso (rarely
both) is the sole article of refreshment in which they deal.
There is a ragged bush over the door, and within, under a dusky
vault, on crooked cobble-stones, sit half-a-dozen contadini in
their indigo jackets and goatskin breeches and with their elbows
on the table. There is generally a rabble of infantile beggars at
the door, pretty enough in their dusty rags, with their fine eyes
and intense Italian smile, to make you forget your private vow of
doing your individual best I to make these people, whom you like
so much, unlearn their old vices. Was Porta Pia bombarded three
years ago that Peppino should still grow up to whine for a
copper? But the Italian shells had no direct message for
Peppino's stomach--and you are going to a dinner-party at a
villa. So Peppino "points" an instant for the copper in the dust
and grows up a Roman beggar. The whole little place represents
the most primitive form of hostelry; but along any of the roads
leading out of the city you may find establishments of a higher
type, with Garibaldi, superbly mounted and foreshortened, painted
on the wall, or a lady in a low-necked dress opening a fictive
lattice with irresistible hospitality, and a yard with the
classic vine-wreathed arbour casting thin shadows upon benches
and tables draped and cushioned with the white dust from which
the highways from the gates borrow most of their local colour.
None the less, I say, you avoid the highroads, and, if you are a
person of taste, don't grumble at the occasional need of
following the walls of the city. City walls, to a properly
constituted American, can never be an object of indifference; and
it is emphatically "no end of a sensation" to pace in the shadow
of this massive cincture of Rome. I have found myself, as I
skirted its base, talking of trivial things, but never without a
sudden reflection on the deplorable impermanence of first
impressions. A twelvemonth ago the raw plank fences of a Boston
suburb, inscribed with the virtues of healing drugs, bristled
along my horizon: now I glance with idle eyes at a compacted
antiquity in which a more learned sense may read portentous dates
and signs--Servius, Aurelius, Honorius. But even to idle eyes
the prodigious, the continuous thing bristles with eloquent
passages. In some places, where the huge brickwork is black with
time and certain strange square towers look down at you with
still blue eyes, the Roman sky peering through lidless loopholes,
and there is nothing but white dust in the road and solitude in
the air, I might take myself for a wandering Tartar touching on
the confines of the Celestial Empire. The wall of China must have
very much such a gaunt robustness. The colour of the Roman
ramparts is everywhere fine, and their rugged patchwork has been
subdued by time and weather into a mellow harmony that the brush
only asks to catch up. On the northern side of the city, behind
the Vatican, St. Peter's and the Trastevere, I have seen them
glowing in the late afternoon with the tones of ancient bronze
and rusty gold. Here at various points they are embossed with the
Papal insignia, the tiara with its flying bands and crossed keys;
to the high style of which the grace that attaches to almost any
lost cause--even if not quite the "tender" grace of a day that is
dead--considerably adds a style. With the dome of St. Peter's
resting on their cornice and the hugely clustered architecture of
the Vatican rising from them as from a terrace, they seem indeed
the valid bulwark of an ecclesiastical city. Vain bulwark, alas!
sighs the sentimental tourist, fresh from the meagre
entertainment of this latter Holy Week. But he may find
monumental consolation in this neighbourhood at a source where,
as I pass, I never fail to apply for it. At half-an-hour's walk
beyond Porta San Pancrazio, beneath the wall of the Villa Doria,
is a delightfully pompous ecclesiastical gateway of the
seventeenth century, erected by Paul V to commemorate his
restoration of the aqueducts through which the stream bearing his
name flows towards the fine florid portico protecting its clear-
sheeted outgush on the crest of the Janiculan. It arches across
the road in the most ornamental manner of the period, and one can
hardly pause before it without seeming to assist at a ten
minutes' revival of old Italy--without feeling as if one were in
a cocked hat and sword and were coming up to Rome, in another
mood than Luther's, with a letter of recommendation to the
mistress of a cardinal.

The Campagna differs greatly on the two sides of the Tiber; and
it is hard to say which, for the rider, has the greater charm.
The half-dozen rides you may take from Porta San Giovanni possess
the perfection of traditional Roman interest and lead you through
a far-strewn wilderness of ruins--a scattered maze of tombs and
towers and nameless fragments of antique masonry. The landscape
here has two great features; close before you on one side is the
long, gentle swell of the Alban Hills, deeply, fantastically blue
in most weathers, and marbled with the vague white masses of
their scattered towns and villas. It would be difficult to draw
the hard figure to a softer curve than that with which the
heights sweep from Albano to the plain; this a perfect example of
the classic beauty of line in the Italian landscape--that beauty
which, when it fills the background of a picture, makes us look
in the foreground for a broken column couched upon flowers and a
shepherd piping to dancing nymphs. At your side, constantly, you
have the broken line of the Claudian Aqueduct, carrying its broad
arches far away into the plain. The meadows along which it lies
are not the smoothest in the world for a gallop, but there is no
pleasure greater than to wander near it. It stands knee-deep in
the flower-strewn grass, and its rugged piers are hung with ivy
as the columns of a church are draped for a festa. Every archway
is a picture, massively framed, of the distance beyond--of the
snow-tipped Sabines and lonely Soracte. As the spring advances
the whole Campagna smiles and waves with flowers; but I think
they are nowhere more rank and lovely than in the shifting shadow
of the aqueducts, where they muffle the feet of the columns and
smother the half-dozen brooks which wander in and out like silver
meshes between the legs of a file of giants. They make a niche
for themselves too in every crevice and tremble on the vault of
the empty conduits. The ivy hereabouts in the springtime is
peculiarly brilliant and delicate; and though it cloaks and
muffles these Roman fragments far less closely than the castles
and abbeys of England it hangs with the light elegance of all
Italian vegetation. It is partly doubtless because their mighty
outlines are still unsoftened that the aqueducts are so
impressive. They seem the very source of the solitude in which
they stand; they look like architectural spectres and loom
through the light mists of their grassy desert, as you recede
along the line, with the same insubstantial vastness as if they
rose out of Egyptian sands. It is a great neighbourhood of ruins,
many of which, it must be confessed, you have applauded in many
an album. But station a peasant with sheepskin coat and bandaged
legs in the shadow of a tomb or tower best known to drawing-room
art, and scatter a dozen goats on the mound above him, and the
picture has a charm which has not yet been sketched away.

The other quarter of the Campagna has wider fields and smoother
turf and perhaps a greater number of delightful rides; the earth
is sounder, and there are fewer pitfalls and ditches. The land
for the most part lies higher and catches more wind, and the
grass is here and there for great stretches as smooth and level
as a carpet. You have no Alban Mountains before you, but you have
in the distance the waving ridge of the nearer Apennines, and
west of them, along the course of the Tiber, the long seaward
level of deep-coloured fields, deepening as they recede to the
blue and purple of the sea itself. Beyond them, of a very clear
day, you may see the glitter of the Mediterranean. These are the
occasions perhaps to remember most fondly, for they lead you to
enchanting nooks, and the landscape has details of the highest
refinement. Indeed when my sense reverts to the lingering
impressions of so blest a time, it seems a fool's errand to have
attempted to express them, and a waste of words to do more than
recommend the reader to go citywards at twilight of the end of
March, making for Porta Cavalleggieri, and note what he sees. At
this hour the Campagna is to the last point its melancholy self,
and I remember roadside "effects" of a strange and intense
suggestiveness. Certain mean, mouldering villas behind grass-
grown courts have an indefinably sinister look; there was one in
especial of which it was impossible not to argue that a
despairing creature must have once committed suicide there,
behind bolted door and barred window, and that no one has since
had the pluck to go in and see why he never came out. Every
wayside mark of manners, of history, every stamp of the past in
the country about Rome, touches my sense to a thrill, and I may
thus exaggerate the appeal of very common things. This is the
more likely because the appeal seems ever to rise out of heaven
knows what depths of ancient trouble. To delight in the aspects
of sentient ruin might appear a heartless pastime, and the
pleasure, I confess, shows the note of perversity. The sombre and
the hard are as common an influence from southern things as the
soft and the bright, I think; sadness rarely fails to assault a
northern observer when he misses what he takes for comfort.
Beauty is no compensation for the loss, only making it more
poignant. Enough beauty of climate hangs over these Roman
cottages and farm-houses--beauty of light, of atmosphere and of
vegetation; but their charm for the maker-out of the stories in
things is the way the golden air shows off their desolation. Man
lives more with Nature in Italy than in New or than in Old
England; she does more work for him and gives him more holidays
than in our short-summered climes, and his home is therefore much
more bare of devices for helping him to do without her, forget
her and forgive her. These reflections are perhaps the source of
the character you find in a moss-coated stone stairway climbing
outside of a wall; in a queer inner court, befouled with rubbish
and drearily bare of convenience; in an ancient quaintly carven
well, worked with infinite labour from an overhanging window; in
an arbour of time-twisted vines under which you may sit with your
feet in the dirt and remember as a dim fable that there are races
for which the type of domestic allurement is the parlour hearth-
rug. For reasons apparent or otherwise these things amuse me
beyond expression, and I am never weary of staring into gateways,
of lingering by dreary, shabby, half-barbaric farm-yards, of
feasting a foolish gaze on sun-cracked plaster and unctuous
indoor shadows. I mustn't forget, however, that it's not for
wayside effects that one rides away behind St. Peter's, but for
the strong sense of wandering over boundless space, of seeing
great classic lines of landscape, of watching them dispose
themselves into pictures so full of "style" that you can think of
no painter who deserves to have you admit that they suggest him--
hardly knowing whether it is better pleasure to gallop far and
drink deep of air and grassy distance and the whole delicious
opportunity, or to walk and pause and linger, and try and grasp
some ineffaceable memory of sky and colour and outline. Your pace
can hardly help falling into a contemplative measure at the time,
everywhere so wonderful, but in Rome so persuasively divine, when
the winter begins palpably to soften and quicken. Far out on the
Campagna, early in February, you feel the first vague earthly
emanations, which in a few weeks come wandering into the heart of
the city and throbbing through the close, dark streets.
Springtime in Rome is an immensely poetic affair; but you must
stand often far out in the ancient waste, between grass and sky,
to measure its deep, full, steadily accelerated rhythm. The
winter has an incontestable beauty, and is pre-eminently the time
of colour--the time when it is no affectation, but homely verity,
to talk about the "purple" tone of the atmosphere. As February
comes and goes your purple is streaked with green and the rich,
dark bloom of the distance begins to lose its intensity. But your
loss is made up by other gains; none more precious than that
inestimable gain to the ear--the disembodied voice of the lark.
It comes with the early flowers, the white narcissus and the
cyclamen, the half-buried violets and the pale anemones, and
makes the whole atmosphere ring like a vault of tinkling glass.
You never see the source of the sound, and are utterly unable to
localise his note, which seems to come from everywhere at once,
to be some hundred-throated voice of the air. Sometimes you fancy
you just catch him, a mere vague spot against the blue, an
intenser throb in the universal pulsation of light. As the weeks
go on the flowers multiply and the deep blues and purples of the
hills, turning to azure and violet, creep higher toward the
narrowing snow-line of the Sabines. The temperature rises, the
first hour of your ride you feel the heat, but you beguile it
with brushing the hawthorn-blossoms as you pass along the hedges,
and catching at the wild rose and honeysuckle; and when you get
into the meadows there is stir enough in the air to lighten the
dead weight of the sun. The Roman air, however, is not a tonic
medicine, and it seldom suffers exercise to be all exhilarating.
It has always seemed to me indeed part of the charm of the latter
that your keenest consciousness is haunted with a vague languor.
Occasionally when the sirocco blows that sensation becomes
strange and exquisite. Then, under the grey sky, before the dim
distances which the south-wind mostly brings with it, you seem to
ride forth into a world from which all hope has departed and in
which, in spite of the flowers that make your horse's footfalls
soundless, nothing is left save some queer probability that your
imagination is unable to measure, but from which it hardly
shrinks. This quality in the Roman element may now and then
"relax" you almost to ecstasy; but a season of sirocco would be
an overdose of morbid pleasure. You may at any rate best feel the
peculiar beauty of the Campagna on those mild days of winter when
the mere quality and temper of the sunshine suffice to move the
landscape to joy, and you pause on the brown grass in the sunny
stillness and, by listening long enough, almost fancy you hear
the shrill of the midsummer cricket. It is detail and ornament
that vary from month to month, from week to week even, and make
your returns to the same places a constant feast of
unexpectedness; but the great essential features of the prospect
preserve throughout the year the same impressive serenity.
Soracte, be it January or May, rises from its blue horizon like
an island from the sea and with an elegance of contour which no
mood of the year can deepen or diminish. You know it well; you
have seen it often in the mellow backgrounds of Claude; and it
has such an irresistibly classic, academic air that while you
look at it you begin to take your saddle for a faded old arm-
chair in a palace gallery. A month's rides in different
directions will show you a dozen prime Claudes. After I had seen
them all I went piously to the Doria gallery to refresh my memory
of its two famous specimens and to enjoy to the utmost their
delightful air of reference to something that had become a part
of my personal experience. Delightful it certainly is to feel the
common element in one's own sensibility and those of a genius
whom that element has helped to do great things. Claude must have
haunted the very places of one's personal preference and adjusted
their divine undulations to his splendid scheme of romance, his
view of the poetry of life. He was familiar with aspects in which
there wasn't a single uncompromising line. I saw a few days ago a
small finished sketch from his hand, in the possession of an
American artist, which was almost startling in its clear
reflection of forms unaltered by the two centuries that have
dimmed and cracked the paint and canvas.

This unbroken continuity of the impressions I have tried to
indicate is an excellent example of the intellectual background
of all enjoyment in Rome. It effectually prevents pleasure from
becoming vulgar, for your sensation rarely begins and ends with
itself; it reverberates--it recalls, commemorates, resuscitates
something else. At least half the merit of everything you enjoy
must be that it suits you absolutely; but the larger half here is
generally that it has suited some one else and that you can never
flatter yourself you have discovered it. It has been addressed to
some use a million miles out of your range, and has had great
adventures before ever condescending to please you. It was in
admission of this truth that my discriminating friend who showed
me the Claudes found it impossible to designate a certain
delightful region which you enter at the end of an hour's riding
from Porta Cavalleggieri as anything but Arcadia. The exquisite
correspondence of the term in this case altogether revived its
faded bloom; here veritably the oaten pipe must have stirred the
windless air and the satyrs have laughed among the brookside
reeds. Three or four long grassy dells stretch away in a chain
between low hills over which delicate trees are so discreetly
scattered that each one is a resting place for a shepherd. The
elements of the scene are simple enough, but the composition has
extraordinary refinement. By one of those happy chances which
keep observation in Italy always in her best humour a shepherd
had thrown himself down under one of the trees in the very
attitude of Meliboeus. He had been washing his feet, I suppose,
in the neighbouring brook, and had found it pleasant afterwards
to roll his short breeches well up on his thighs. Lying thus in
the shade, on his elbow, with his naked legs stretched out on the
turf and his soft peaked hat over his long hair crushed back like
the veritable bonnet of Arcady, he was exactly the figure of the
background of this happy valley. The poor fellow, lying there in
rustic weariness and ignorance, little fancied that he was a
symbol of old-world meanings to new-world eyes.

Such eyes may find as great a store of picturesque meanings in
the cork-woods of Monte Mario, tenderly loved of all equestrians.
These are less severely pastoral than our Arcadia, and you might
more properly lodge there a damosel of Ariosto than a nymph of
Theocritus. Among them is strewn a lovely wilderness of flowers
and shrubs, and the whole place has such a charming woodland air,
that, casting about me the other day for a compliment, I
declared that it. reminded me of New Hampshire. My compliment had
a double edge, and I had no sooner uttered it than I smiled--or
sighed--to perceive in all the undiscriminated botany about me
the wealth of detail, the idle elegance and grace of Italy alone,
the natural stamp of the land which has the singular privilege of
making one love her unsanctified beauty all but as well as those
features of one's own country toward which nature's small
allowance doubles that of one's own affection. For this effect of
casting a spell no rides have more value than those you take in
Villa Doria or Villa Borghese; or don't take, possibly, if you
prefer to reserve these particular regions--the latter in
especial--for your walking hours. People do ride, however, in
both villas, which deserve honourable mention in this regard.
Villa Doria, with its noble site, its splendid views, its great
groups of stone-pines, so clustered and yet so individual, its
lawns and flowers and fountains, its altogether princely
disposition, is a place where one may pace, well mounted, of a
brilliant day, with an agreeable sense of its being rather a more
elegant pastime to balance in one's stirrups than to trudge on
even the smoothest gravel. But at Villa Borghese the walkers have
the best of it; for they are free of those adorable outlying
corners and bosky byways which the rumble of barouches never
reaches. In March the place becomes a perfect epitome of the
spring. You cease to care much for the melancholy greenness of
the disfeatured statues which has been your chief winter's
intimation of verdure; and before you are quite conscious of the
tender streaks and patches in the great quaint grassy arena round
which the Propaganda students, in their long skirts, wander
slowly, like dusky seraphs revolving the gossip of Paradise, you
spy the brave little violets uncapping their azure brows beneath
the high-stemmed pines. One's walks here would take us too far,
and one's pauses detain us too long, when in the quiet parts
under the wall one comes across a group of charming small school-
boys in full-dress suits and white cravats, shouting over their
play in clear Italian, while a grave young priest, beneath a
tree, watches them over the top of his book. It sounds like
nothing, but the force behind it and the frame round it, the
setting, the air, the chord struck, make it a hundred wonderful



I made a note after my first stroll at Albano to the effect that
I had been talking of the "picturesque" all my life, but that now
for a change I beheld it. I had been looking all winter across
the Campagna at the free-flowing outline of the Alban Mount, with
its half-dozen towns shining on its purple side even as vague
sun-spots in the shadow of a cloud, and thinking it simply an
agreeable incident in the varied background of Rome. But now that
during the last few days I have been treating it as a foreground,
have been suffering St. Peter's to play the part of a small
mountain on the horizon, with the Campagna swimming mistily
through the ambiguous lights and shadows of the interval, I find
the interest as great as in the best of the by-play of Rome. The
walk I speak of was just out of the village, to the south, toward
the neighbouring town of L'Ariccia, neighbouring these twenty
years, since the Pope (the late Pope, I was on the point of
calling him) threw his superb viaduct across the deep ravine
which divides it from Albano. At the risk of seeming to
fantasticate I confess that the Pope's having built the viaduct--
in this very recent antiquity--made me linger there in a pensive
posture and marvel at the march of history and at Pius the
Ninth's beginning already to profit by the sentimental allowances
we make to vanished powers. An ardent nero then would have
had his own way with me and obtained a frank admission that the
Pope was indeed a father to his people. Far down into the
charming valley which slopes out of the ancestral woods of the
Chigis into the level Campagna winds the steep stone-paved road
at the bottom of which, in the good old days, tourists in no
great hurry saw the mules and oxen tackled to their carriage for
the opposite ascent. And indeed even an impatient tourist might
have been content to lounge back in his jolting chaise and look
out at the mouldy foundations of the little city plunging into
the verdurous flank of the gorge. Questioned, as a cherisher of
quaintness, as to the best "bit" hereabouts, I should certainly
name the way in which the crumbling black houses of these
ponderous villages plant their weary feet on the flowery edges of
all the steepest chasms. Before you enter one of them you
invariably find yourself lingering outside its pretentious old
gateway to see it clutched and stitched to the stony hillside by
this rank embroidery of the wildest and bravest things that grow.
Just at this moment nothing is prettier than the contrast between
their dusky ruggedness and the tender, the yellow and pink and
violet fringe of that mantle. All this you may observe from the
viaduct at the Ariccia; but you must wander below to feel the
full force of the eloquence of our imaginary papalino. The
pillars and arches of pale grey peperino arise in huge tiers with
a magnificent spring and solidity. The older Romans built no
better; and the work has a deceptive air of being one of their
sturdy bequests which help one to drop another sigh over the
antecedents the Italians of to-day are so eager to repudiate.
Will those they give their descendants be as good?

At the Ariccia, in any case, I found a little square with a
couple of mossy fountains, occupied on one side by a vast dusky-
faced Palazzo Chigi and on the other by a goodly church with an
imposing dome. The dome, within, covers the whole edifice and is
adorned with some extremely elegant stucco-work of the
seventeenth century. It gave a great value to this fine old
decoration that preparations were going forward for a local
festival and that the village carpenter was hanging certain
mouldy strips of crimson damask against the piers of the vaults.
The damask might have been of the seventeenth century too, and a
group of peasant-women were seeing it unfurled with evident awe.
I regarded it myself with interest--it seemed so the tattered
remnant of a fashion that had gone out for ever. I thought again
of the poor disinherited Pope, wondering whether, when such
venerable frippery will no longer bear the carpenter's nails, any
more will be provided. It was hard to fancy anything but shreds
and patches in that musty tabernacle. Wherever you go in Italy
you receive some such intimation as this of the shrunken
proportions of Catholicism, and every church I have glanced into
on my walks hereabouts has given me an almost pitying sense of
it. One finds one's self at last--without fatuity, I hope--
feeling sorry for the solitude of the remaining faithful. It's as
if the churches had been made so for the world, in its social
sense, and the world had so irrevocably moved away. They are in
size out of all modern proportion to the local needs, and the
only thing at all alive in the melancholy waste they collectively
form is the smell of stale incense. There are pictures on all the
altars by respectable third-rate painters; pictures which I
suppose once were ordered and paid for and criticised by
worshippers who united taste with piety. At Genzano, beyond the
Ariccia, rises on the grey village street a pompous Renaissance
temple whose imposing nave and aisles would contain the
population of a capital. But where is the taste of the
Ariccia and Genzano? Where are the choice spirits for whom
Antonio Raggi modelled the garlands of his dome and a hundred
clever craftsmen imitated Guido and Caravaggio? Here and there,
from the pavement, as you pass, a dusky crone interlards her
devotions with more profane importunities, or a grizzled peasant
on rusty-jointed knees, tilted forward with his elbows on a
bench, reveals the dimensions of the patch in his blue breeches.
But where is the connecting link between Guido and Caravaggio and
those poor souls for whom an undoubted original is only a
something behind a row of candlesticks, of no very clear meaning
save that you must bow to it? You find a vague memory of it at
best in the useless grandeurs about you, and you seem to be
looking at a structure of which the stubborn earth-scented
foundations alone remain, with the carved and painted shell that
bends above them, while the central substance has utterly
crumbled away.

I shall seem to have adopted a more meditative pace than befits a
brisk constitutional if I say that I also fell a-thinking before
the shabby façade of the old Chigi Palace. But it seemed somehow
in its grey forlornness to respond to the sadly superannuated
expression of the opposite church; and indeed in any condition
what self-respecting cherisher of quaintness can forbear to do a
little romancing in the shadow of a provincial palazzo? On the
face of the matter, I know, there is often no very salient peg to
hang a romance on. A sort of dusky blankness invests the
establishment, which has often a rather imbecile old age. But a
hundred brooding secrets lurk in this inexpressive mask, and the
Chigi Palace did duty for me in the suggestive twilight as the
most haunted of houses. Its basement walls sloped outward like
the beginning of a pyramid, and its lower windows were covered
with massive iron cages. Within the doorway, across the court, I
saw the pale glimmer of flowers on a terrace, and I made much,
for the effect of the roof, of a great covered loggia or
belvedere with a dozen window-panes missing or mended with paper.
Nothing gives one a stronger impression of old manners than an
ancestral palace towering in this haughty fashion over a shabby
little town; you hardly stretch a point when you call it an
impression of feudalism. The scene may pass for feudal to
American eyes, for which a hundred windows on a facade mean
nothing more exclusive than a hotel kept (at the most invidious)


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