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MR. GRAY TO HIS MOTHER.
Florence, Aug. 21, N. S. 1740. It is some time since I have had the pleasure of writing to you, having been upon a little excursion cross the mountains to Bologna. We set out from hence at sunset, passed the Appennines by moon-light, travelling incessantly till we came to Bologna at four in the afternoon next day. There we spent a week agreeably enough, and returned as we came. The day before yesterday arrived the news of a pope ; and I have the mortification of being within four days' journey of Rome, and not seeing his coronation, the heats being violent, and the infectious air now at its height. We had an instance, the other day, that it is not only fancy. Two country fellows, strong men, and used to the country about Rome, having occasion to come from thence hither, and travelling on foot, as common with them, one died suddenly on the road; the other got hither, but extremely weak, and in a manner stupid : he was carried to the hospital, but died in two days. So, between fear and laziness, we remain here, and must be satisfied with the accounts other people give us of the matter. The new pope is called Benedict XIV. being created cardinal by Benedict XIII. the last pope
His name is Lambertini, a noble Bolognese, and archbishop of that city. When I was first there, I remember to have seen him two or three times; he is a short fat man, about sixty-five years of age, of a hearty merry countenance, and likely to live some years. He bears a good character for generosity, affability, and other virtues : and, they say, wants neither knowledge nor capacity. The worst side of him is, that he has a nephew or two; besides a certain young favourite, called Melara, who is said to have had, for some time,
the arbitrary disposal of his purse and family. He is reported to have made a little speech to the cardinals in the Conclave, while they were undetermined about an election, as follows : “Most eminent lords, here are three Bolognese of different characters, but all equally proper for the popedom. Ifit be your pleasures to pitch upon a saint, there is Cardinal Gotti ; if upon a politician, there is Aldrovandi; if upon a booby, here am I.” The Italian is much more expressive, and indeed, not to be translated; wherefore, if you meet with any body that understands it, you may shew them what he said in the language he spoke it.
“ Eminimi. Sigr. Ci siamo tré, diversi sì, mà tutti idonei al Papato. Se vi piace un santo, c' è l'Gotti; se volete una testa scaltra, e politica, c' è l'Aldrovandé; se un coglione, eccomi !" Cardinal Coscia is restored to his liberty, and, it is said, will be to all his benefices. Corsini (the late Pope's nephew) as he has had no hand in this election, it is hoped will be called to account for all his villanous practices. The Pretender, they say, has resigned all his pretensions to his eldest boy, and will accept of the grand chancellorship, which is thirty thousand crowns a-year; the pension he has at present is only twenty thousand. I do not affirm the truth of this last article; because, if he does, it is necessary he should take the ecclesiastical habit, and it will sound mighty odd to be called his Majesty the Chancellor.-So ends my gazette.
Florence, Sept. 25, N. S. 1740, What I send you now, as long as it is, is but a piece of a poem. It has the advantage of all fragments, to need neither introduction nor conclusion: besides, if you do not like it, it is but imagining that which went before
and came after, to be infinitely better. Look in Sandy's Travels for the history of Monte Barbaro, and Monte Nuovo.*
Nec procul infelix se tollit in æthera Gaurus,
Nam fama est olim, mediâ dum rura silebant
* To save the reader trouble, I here insert the passage referred to.—“West of Cicero's Villa stands the eminent Gaurus, a stony and desolate mountain, in which there are diverse obscure caverns, choaked almost with earth, where many have consumed much fruitless industry in searching for treasure. The famous Lucrine lake extended formerly from Avernus to the aforesaid Gaurus : but is now no other than a little sedgy plash, choaked up by the borrible and astonishing eruption of the new mountain ; whereof, as oft as I think, I am easy to credit whatsoever is wonderful. For who here knows not, or who elsewhere will believe, that a moun. tain should arise (partly out of a lake and partly out of the sea), in one day and a night, unto such a height as to contend in altitude with the high mountains adjoining ? In the year of our Lord 1538, on the 29th of September, when for certain days foregoing, the country hereabout was so vexed with perpetual earthquakes, as no one house was left so entire as not to expect an immediate ruin ; after that the sea had retired two hundred paces from the shore (leaving abundance of fish, and springs of fresh water rising in the bottom), this mountain visibly ascended, about the second hour of the night, with an hideous roaring, horribly vomiting stones and such store of cinders as overwhelmed all the building thereabout, and the salubrious baths of Tripergula, for so many ages celebrated ; consumed the vines to ashes, killing birds and beasts: the fearful inhabitants of Puzzol flying through the dark with their wives and children ; naked, defiled, crying out, and detesting their calamities. Manifold mischiefs have they suffered by the barbarous, yet none like this which Nature inflicted.---This new mountain, when newly raised, had a number of issues ; at some of them smoking and sometimes fiaming; at others disgorging rivulets of hot waters; keeping within a terrible rumbling; and many miserably perished that ventured to descend into the hollowness above. But that hollow on the top is at present an orchard, and the mountain througbout is bereft of bis terrors.”--Sandy's Travels, book iv. page 275. 277, and 278.
Respectans notasque domos, et dulcia regna,
Quin ubi detonuit fragor, et lux' reddita cælo:
Uxorum cineres, miserorumve ossa parentum,
Hinc infame loci nomen, multosque per annos
Montis adhuc facies manet hirta atque aspera saxis :
clivos haud secius ordine vidi Canescentem oleam : longum post tempus amicti Vite virent tumuli; patriamque revisere gaudens Bacchus in assuetis tenerum caput exerit arvis
Vix tandem, infidoque audet se credere cælo. There was a certain little ode* set out from Rome, in a letter of recommendation to you, but possibly fell into the enemies' hands, for I never heard of its arrival. It is a little impertinent to inquire after its welfare; but you,
that are a father, will excuse a parent's foolish fondness, Last post I received a very diminutive letter; it
The Alcaic Ode inserted in Letter XXI.
made excuses for its unentertainingness, very little to the
purpose; since it assured me, very strongly, of your esteem, which is to me the thing; all the rest appear but as the petits agrémens, the garnishing of the dish. P. Bougeant, in his Langage des Bétes, fancies that your birds, who continually repeat the same note, say only in plain terms, “ Je vous aime, ma chere; ma chere, je vous aime;" and that those of greater genius indeed, with various trills, run divisions upon the subject; but that the fond, from whence it all proceeds, is
toujours je vous aime.” Now you may, as you find yourself dull or in humour, either take me for a chaffinch or nightingale; sing your plain song, or shew your skill in music, but in the bottom let there be, toujours, toujours de l'Amitié.
As to what you call my serious letter, be assured, that your future state is to me entirely indifferent. Do not be angry, but hear me; I mean with respect to myself. For whether you be at the top of Fame, or entirely unknown to mankind; at the council-table, or at Dick's Coffee-house; sick and simple, or well and wise; whatever alteration mere accident works in you (supposing it utterly impossible for it to make any change in your sincerity and honesty, since these are conditions sine quá non), I do not see any likelihood of my not being yours ever.
MR. GRAY TO HIS FATHER.
Florence, Oct. 9, 1740.
The beginning of next spring is the time determined for our return at farthest; possibly it may be before that time. How the interim will be employed, or what route we shall take, is not so certain. If we remain friends with France, upon leaving this country we shall cross over to Venice, and so return through the cities north