« AnteriorContinuar »
of the Po to Genoa; from thence take a felucca to Marseilles, and come back through Paris. If the contrary fall out, which seems not unlikely, we must make the Milanese, and those parts of Italy, in our way to Venice; from thence pass through the Tirol into Germany, and come home by the Low-countries. As for Florence, it has been gayer than ordinary for this last month, being one round of balls and entertainments, occasioned by the arrival of a great Milanese lady; for the only thing the Italians shine in, is their reception of strangers. At such times every thing is magnificence: the more remarkable, as in their ordinary course of life they are parsimonious even to a degree of nastiness. I saw in one of the vastest palaces in Rome (that of Prince Pamfilio) the apartment which he himself inhabited, a bed that most servants in England would disdain to lie in, and furniture much like that of a soph at Cambridge, for convenience and neatness. This man is worth 30,0001. sterling a year. As for eating, there are not two cardinals in Rome that allow more than six paoli, which is three shillings a day, for the expense of their table; and you may imagine they are still less extravagant here than there. But when they receive a visit from any friend, their houses and persons are set out to the greatest advantage, and appear in all their splendour; it is, indeed, from a motive of vanity, and with the hopes of having it repaid them with interest, whenever they ave occasion to return the visit. I call visits going from one city of Italy to another; for it is not so among acquaintance of the same place on common occasions. The new Pope has retrenched the charges of his own table to a sequin (ten shillings) a meal. The applause which all he says and doés meets with, is enough to encourage him really to deserve fame. They say he is an able and honest man; he is reckoned a wit too. The other day, when the senator of Rome came to wait upon
him, at the first compliments he made him the Pope pulled off his cap: his master of the ceremonies, who stood by his side, touched him softly, as to warn him that such a condescension was too great in him, and out of all manner of rule; upon which he turned to him and said, “ Oh! I cry you mercy, good master, it is true, I am but a novice of a pope; I have not yet so much as learned ill manners.
" * * *
Florence, Jan. 12, 1741.* We still continue constant at Florence, at present one of the dullest cities of Italy. Though it is the middle of the carnival there are no public diversions; nor is masquerading permitted as yet. The Emperor's obsequies are to be celebrated publicly the 16th of this month; and, after that, it is imagined every thing will go on in its usual course. In the mean time, to employ the minds of the populace, the government has thought fit to bring into the city in a solemn manner, and at a great expense, a famous statue of the Virgin, called the Madonna dell Impruneta, from the place of her residence, which is upon a mountain seven miles off. It never has been practised but at times of public calamity; and was done at present to avert the ill effects of a late great inundation, which it was feared might cause some epidemical distemper. It was introduced a fortnight ago in procession, attended by the council of regency, the senate, the nobility, and all the religous orders, on foot and bare-headed, and so carried to the great church, where it was frequented by an infinite concourse of people from all the country round. Among the rest I paid my devotions almost
* Between the date of this and the foregoing letter the reader will perceive an interval of full three months: as Mr. Gray saw no new places during this period, his letters were chiefly of news and common occurrences, and are therefore omitted.
every day, and saw numbers of people possessed with the devil, who were brought to be exorcised. It was indeed in the evening, and the church doors were always shut before the ceremonies were finished, so that I could not be eye-witness of the event; but that they were all cured is certain, for one never heard any more of them the next morning. I am to-night just returned from seeing our lady make her exit with the same solemnities she entered. The show had a finer effect than before, for it was dark; and every body (even those of the mob that could afford it) bore a white-wax flambeaux. I believe they were at least five thousand of them, and the march was near three hours in passing before the window. The subject of all this devotion is supposed to be a large tile with a rude figure in bas-relief upon it. I say supposed, because since the time it was found (for it was found in the earth in ploughing) only two people have seen it; the one was, by good-luck, a saint; the other was struck blind for his presumption. Ever since she has been covered with seven veils; nevertheless, those who approach her tabernacle cast their eyes down, for fear they should spy her ·through all her veils. Such is the history, as I had it from the lady of the house where I stood to see her pass; with many other circumstances, all which she firmly believes, and ten thousand beside.
We shall go to Venice in about six weeks, or sooner. A, number of German troops are upon their march into this state, in case the King of Naples thinks proper to attack it. It is certain he has asked the Pope's leave for his troops to pass through his country. The Tuscans in general are much discontented, and foolish enough to wish for a Spanish government, or any rather than this.
Florence, April 21, 141. I know not what degree of satisfaction it will give you to be told that we shall set out from hence the 24th of this month, and not stop above a fortnight at any place in our way. This I feel, that you are the principal pleasure I have to hope for in my own country. Try at least to make me imagine myself not indifferent to you ; for Imust own I have the vanity of desiring to be esteemed by somebody, and would choose that somebody should be one whom I esteem as much as I do you. As I am recommending myself to your love, methinks I ought to send you my picture (for I am no more what I was, some circumstances excepted, which I hope I need not particularize to you); you must add then, to your former idea, two years of age, a reasonable quantity of dulness, a great deal of silence, and something that rather resembles, than is, thinking; a confused notion of many strange and fine things that have swum before my eyes for some time, a want of love for general society, indeed an inability to it. On the good side you may add a sensibility for what others feel, and indulgence for their faults or weaknesses, a love of truth, and detestation of every thing else. Then you are to deduct a little impertinence, a little laughter, a great deal of pride, and some spirits. These are all the alterations I know of, you perhaps may find more. Think not that I have been obliged for this reformation of manners to reason or reflection, but to a severer school-mistress, Experience. One has little merit in learning her lessons, for one cannot well help it ; but they are more useful than others, and imprint themselves in the very heart. I find I have been haranguing in the style of the son of Sirach, so shall finish here, and tell you that our rout is settled as
follows: first to Bologna for a few days, to hear the Viscontina sing; next to Reggio, where is a fair. Now, you must know, a fair here is not a place where one eats gingerbread or rides upon hobby-horses; here are no musical clocks, nor tall Leicestershire women; one has nothing butņasquing, gaming, and singing. If you love operas, there will be the most splendid in Italy, four tip-top voices, a new theatre, the Duke and Duchess in all their pomps and vanities. Does not this sound magnificent? Yet is the city of Reggio but one step above Old Brentford. Well; next to Venice by the 11th of May, there to see the old Doge wed the Adriatic Whore. Then to Verona, so to Milan, so to Marseilles, so to Lyons, so to Paris, so to West, &c. in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Eleven months, at different times, have I passed at Florence; and yet (God help me) know not either people or language. Yet the place and the charming prospects demand a poetical farewell, and here it is.
Oh Fæsulæ amana
I will send you, too, a pretty little Sonnet of a Sig". Abbate Buondelmonte, with my imitation of it.
Spesso Amor sotto la forma
Sempr'egli, è l'istesso Amor.
Et benè composità vesta fefellit Amor.