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LE T TER XXII.
VI E have not yet quitted Parma, owing to
W a most agreeable accident, I assure you. Fortune has thrown in our way a few excellent pictures. M— has not let slip this opportunity to make the purchase, though most unexpected, as well as the manner we came by them. Here are the subjects and the painters names **** * * * * * * * * * * * * The genteel and honourable conduct of the gentleman from whom he has bought them, will appear strongly in the following anecdotes of him and his family, and the reasons for his disposing of them. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Sincerity, frankness, and honourability are not confined to any country; and I think one very considerable benefit arising from seeing other countries besides our own, is the eradication (by the testimony of one's own senses) of many prejudices and littleneffes of thinking, which inlenfibly have taken so deep a root in our minds, as to render it almost impossible to judge in an impartial and liberal manner of our fellow-creatures, who happen to live at a great distance from us, and whom we imagine must differ from us in every respect, in proportion to the number of leagues that separate us from them.
We have ourselves been affisting, as you may suppose, at the packing our pictures. They are to set out with all possible expedition, and by the best means of conveyance, from hence to Bologna, thence to Florence and to Leghorn, from whence they will fail by the first opportunity for London. The little delay the pictures have caused, I deter
mined to employ in writing to you again from : this place, left you should be uneasy at not heari ing from us from Modena as soon as you might
have expected. In my last I mentioned to you with some surprise the downfal of the Inquisition. I now wonder the Parmesans could bear priestly oppression so long as they have done ; for this town, no longer fince than the year 1744, was a Disturbscene of such riot and assassination as nothing but ances by
'the late priests could have promoted. The commence- Pope. ment of this disturbance was the late Pope's impolitically, as well as vainly, contending with Don Philip for the possession of Parma, which haftened the destruction of several orders of Monks, and the abolition of their convents. At that period the Priests carried about with them pocket-pistols; the Bourgeoise went always armed, and the populace were never without stillettos : not a week paffed unmarked by one, and sometimes more assassinations. The stilletto and piftols made their appearance upon the most trifling difputes; it was dangerous to walk the streets at night; robberies were frequent; Holy Church opened her kind protecting bosom to all ranks of
villains; the church-porches were their sure asylum. The devots charitably esteemed it one of their firit duties to supply the refuged robbers and murderers with provisions; they even frequently aided their efcape, or procured their pardon. The streets were infested with disorderly women, and every sort of crime was practised in the most licentious manner. At present the churches afford no longer an asylum, more than those of Turin. Assassinations and robberies are now very rare; not above three or four have been committed in the course of the last year. They are not always punished with death, unless it can be proved the provocation had been of a considerable standing; in that case pardon feldom follows: but if a man is killed through an act of sudden pasiion, the galleys or a long imprisonment is generally the punishment. They discourage as much as pos. fible, both here and at Placentia, all women of the profcfion of street-walkers; an Inn-keeper being punishable for suffering them to lodge in his house. The governor of Placentia is extremely vigilant in regard to them, and as soon as they are discovered, has them driven out of the town.
The Police here and at Placentia (and we are, told at Reggio and Modena also) strictly examine all who enter or go out of these towns: they not only take your name in writing, but also whence you come and where you are going; make a short description of your person, and in so accurate a manner, that you are knowable from it. They
are so clever at this, that the shortest time is sufficient for their purpose. When you arrive at the gates, a Commis thrusts his head in at the window of the carriage, and looking in the faces of the travellers, with the greatest eagerness and penetration, makes immediate entries of them, in his pocket-book. Each person pays a toll of half a Paul; not excepting poor strangers who travel on foot. The Commis of the gates having taken the names, descriptions and number of perfons, not excepting the servants, enter them at a bureau or office for that purpose. The inn-keeper also takes the names down, and sends them to the same bureau, where if the entry made at the gate does not tally with that sent from the inn, a bustle immediately ensues, and an examination into the mistake. These precautions are also repeated upon leaving the town, and the entries immediately sent to the governor for his inspection, &c.
We are told that an English gentleman, by way of fun, tired of repeating his own name so often, chose to vary it, by saying he was called Punchinello ; this gave such an alarm to the Police, that he was pursued, taken, and imprisoned (I think) at St. Marino, where he remained till one of our English residents, being apprised of his mauvaise plaisanterie, cleared up the matter, and procured his enlargement. I recollect an odd adventure which happened at Piacenza, not long ago; a Venetian Count, of the name of Carera, carried
off, off the daughter of an inn-keeper, of what place I cannot inform you; suffice it, that he gave in his true name at one of the gates of Piacenza, and lodged at St. Mark's, which was really the case. The chief waiter, or Cameriere, being his countryman, for a small bounty, omitted (purposely) the sending his naine to the bureau at night; a rigid inquiry was immediately set on foot by the officers of the Police. The next day by eleven o'clock it was discovered at what inn this stranger lodged; the inn-keeper had sentence passed upon him (agreeable to the law in such cases) to suffer the punishment called the cord, and three months imprisonment, although they had no fufpicion of the elopement of the girl with the Count; conse. quently there was no search as yet made for them. The waiter, to screen his master, confessed it was entirely his fault, and that the not sending the stranger's name to the bureau was owing to mere accident, he having been in so great a hurry the whole of the preceding day, that he had quite forgot it. They accepted his excuse upon this condition, that if within the next three years the smallest omission or neglect should happen of this nature, he should be sent to the gallies for life ; and even upon the flightest complaint lodged against him by the Police, no further indulgence was to be shewn him. He spoke so well in his own behalf, that they did not even give him the cord; and was sentenced only to a three months