« AnteriorContinuar »
two hundred yards in length. We send you some Roman inscriptions to entertain you. The first two are modern, transcribed from the Vatican library by Mr. Walpole.
Pontifices olim quem fundavere priores,
Præcipua Sixtus perficit arte tholum ;*
Quantum se Sixti nobile tollit opus :
Sed finem cæptis ponere major honos.
Sixtus et immensæ pondera molis agit.t
Hæc trahit Amphion ; Sixtus et arte trahit.
Quantum hic exsuperat cætera saxa lapis.
Et Piae, Benemeritate.
MR. GRAY TO HIS MOTHER.
Naples, June 17, 1740. Our journey hither was through the most beautiful part of the finest country in the world, and every spot of it, on some account or other, famous for these three thou
* Sixtus V. built the dome of St. Peter's.
sand years past.* The season has hitherto been just as, warm as one would wish it; no unwholesome airs, or violent heats, yet heard of: the people call it a backward year, and are in pain about their corn, wine, and oil; but we, who are neither corn, wine, nor oil, find it very agreeable. Our road was through Velletri, Cisterna, Terracina, Capua, and Aversa, and so to Naples. The minute one leaves his Holiness's dominions, the face of things begins to change from wide uncultivated plains to olive groves and well-tilled fields of corn, intermixed with ranks of elms, every one of which has its vine twining about it, and hanging in festoons between the rows from one tree to another. The great old fig-trees, the oranges in full bloom, and myrtles in every hedge, make one of the delightfullest scenes you can conceive; besides that, the roads are wide, well-kept, and full of passengers, a sight I have not beheld this long time. My wonder still increased upon entering the city, which I think, for number of people, outdoes both Paris and London. The streets are one continued market, and thronged with populace so much that a coach can hardly pass. The common sort are a jolly lively kind of animals, more industrious than Italians usually are: they work till evening; then they take their lute or guitar (for they all play) and walk about the city, or upon
the sea shore with it, to enjoy the fresco. One sees their little brown children jumping about stark naked, and the bigger ones dancing with castanets, while others play on the cymbal to them. Your maps will shew situation of Naples ; it is on the most lovely bay in the world, and one of the calmest seas : it has many
* Mr. Gray wrote a minute description of every thing he saw in this tour froin Rome to Naples; as also of the environs of Rome, Florence, &c. But as these papers are apparently only memorandums for his own use, I do not think it necessary to print them, although they abound with many uncommon remarks and pertinent classical quotations. The reader will please to observe throughout thiş Section, that it is not my intention to give him Mr. Gray's travels, but only extracts from the letters which he writ during his travels.
beauties besides those of nature. We have spent two days in visiting the remarkable places in the country round it, such as the bay of Baiæ, and its remains of antiquity; the lake Avernus, and the Solfatara, Charon's grotto, &c. We have been in the Sybils' cave and many other strange holes underground (I only name them, because you may consult Sandy's Travels); but the strangest hole I ever was in, has been to-day at a place called Portici, where his Sicilian majesty has a country seat. About a year ago, as they were digging, they discovered some parts of ancient buildings above thirty feet deep in the ground: curiosity led them on, and they have been digging ever since; the passage they have made, with all its turnings and windings, is now more than a mile long. As you walk, you see parts of an amphitheatre, many houses adorned with marble columns, and incrusted with the same; the front of a temple, several arched vaults of rooms painted in fresco. Some pieces of painting have been taken out from hence, finer than any thing of the kind before discovered, and with these the King has adorned his palace; also a number of statues, medals, and gems; and more are dug out every day. This is known to be a Roman town,* that in the Emperor Titus's time was overturned by a furious eruption of mount Vesuvius, which is hard by. The wood and beams remain so perfect that you may see the grain; but burnt to a coal, and dropping into dust upon the least touch. We were to-day at the foot of that mountain, which at present only smokes a little, where we saw the materials that fèd the stream of fire, which about four years since ran down its side. We have but a few days longer to stay here; too little in conscience for such a place. * *
* It should seem by the omission of its name, that it was not then discovered to be Herculaneum.
XXIII. MR. GRAY TO HIS FATHER.
Florence, July, 16, 1740. Ar my return to this city, the day before yesterday, I had the pleasure of finding yours dated June the 9th. The period of our voyages, at least towards the south, is come, as you wish.
wish. We have been at Naples, spent nine or ten days there, and returned to Rome, where finding no likelihood of a pope yet these three months, and quite wearied with the formal assemblies, and little society of that great city, Mr. Walpole determined to return hither to spend the summer, where he imagines he shall pass his time more agreeably than in the tedious expectation of what, when it happens, will only be a great show. For my own part, I give up the thoughts of all that with but little regret; but the city itself I do not part with so easily, which alone has amusements for whole years. However, I have passed through all that most people do, both ancient and modern; what that is you may see, better than I can tell you, in a thousand books. The Conclave we left in greater uncertainty than ever; the more than ordinary liberty they enjoy there, and the unusual coolness of the season, makes the confinement less disagreeable to them than common, and consequently, maintains them in their irresolution. There have been very high words, one or two (it is said) have come even to blows; two more are dead within this last month, Cenci and Portia; the latter died distracted; and we left another (Altieri) at the extremity: yet nobody dreams of an election till the latter end of September. All this gives great scandal to all good catholics, and every body talks very freely on the subject. The Pretender (whom you desire an account of) I have had frequent opportunities of seeing at church, at the corso, and other places; but more particularly, and that for a whole night, at a great ball given
by Count Patrizii to the Prince and Princess Caron (who were come to Rome at that time, that he might receive from the hands of the Emperor's minister there the order of the golden fleece), at which he and his two sons were present. They are good fine boys, especially the younger, who has the more spirit of the two, and both danced incessantly all night long. For him, he is a thin ill-made man, extremely tall and awkward, of a most unpromising countenance, a good deal resembling King James the Second, and has extremely the air and look of an ideot, particularly when he laughs or prays : the first he does not often, the latter continually. He lives private enough with his little court about him, consisting of Lord Dunbar, who manages every thing, and two or three of the Preston Scotch lords, who would be very glad to make their peace at home.
We happened to be at Naples on Corpus Christi day, the greatest feast in the year, so had an opportunity of seeing their Sicilian majesties to advantage. The King walked in the grand procession, and the Queen (being big with child) sat in the balcony. He followed the host to the church of St. Clara, where high mass was celebrated to a glorious concert of music. They are as ugly a little pair as one can see: she a pale girl, marked with the small-pox; and he a brown boy with a thin face, a huge nose, and us ungain as possible.
We are settled here with Mr. Mann in a charming apartment; the river Arno runs under our windows, which we can fish out of. The sky is so serene, and the air so temperate, that one continues in the open air all night long in a slight nightgown without any danger; and the marble bridge is the resort of every body, where they hear music, eat iced fruits, and sup by moonlight; though as yet (the season being extremely backward every where) these amusements are not begun. You