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    From A Roman Note-Book

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    Chapter 13
    Previous Chapter
    December 28, 1872.--In Rome again for the last three days--that
    second visit which, when the first isn't followed by a fatal
    illness in Florence, the story goes that one is doomed to pay. I
    didn't drink of the Fountain of Trevi on the eve of departure the
    other time; but I feel as if I had drunk of the Tiber itself.
    Nevertheless as I drove from the station in the evening I
    wondered what I should think of it at this first glimpse hadn't I
    already known it. All manner of evil perhaps. Paris, as I passed
    along the Boulevards three evenings before to take the train, was
    swarming and glittering as befits a great capital. Here, in the
    black, narrow, crooked, empty streets, I saw nothing I would fain
    regard as eternal. But there were new gas-lamps round the
    spouting Triton in Piazza Barberini and a newspaper stall on the
    corner of the Condotti and the Corso--salient signs of the
    emancipated state. An hour later I walked up to Via Gregoriana by
    Piazza di Spagna. It was all silent and deserted, and the great
    flight of steps looked surprisingly small. Everything seemed
    meagre, dusky, provincial. Could Rome after all really be
    a world-city? That queer old rococo garden gateway at the top of
    the Gregoriana stirred a dormant memory; it awoke into a
    consciousness of the delicious mildness of the air, and very
    soon, in a little crimson drawing-room, I was reconciled and re-
    initiated.... Everything is dear (in the way of lodgings), but it
    hardly matters, as everything is taken and some one else paying
    for it. I must make up my mind to a bare perch. But it seems
    poorly perverse here to aspire to an "interior" or to be
    conscious of the economic side of life. The æesthetic is so
    intense that you feel you should live on the taste of it, should
    extract the nutritive essence of the atmosphere. For positively
    it's such an atmosphere! The weather is perfect, the sky
    as blue as the most exploded tradition fames it, the whole air
    glowing and throbbing with lovely colour.... The glitter of Paris
    is now all gaslight. And oh the monotonous miles of rain-washed
    asphalte!

    December 30th.--I have had nothing to do with the
    "ceremonies." In fact I believe there have hardly been any--no
    midnight mass at the Sistine chapel, no silver trumpets at St.
    Peter's. Everything is remorselessly clipped and curtailed--the
    Vatican in deepest mourning. But I saw it in its superbest
    scarlet in '69.... I went yesterday with L. to the Colonna
    gardens--an adventure that would have reconverted me to Rome if
    the thing weren't already done. It's a rare old place--rising in
    mouldy bosky terraces and mossy stairways and winding walks from
    the back of the palace to the top of the Quirinal. It's the grand
    style of gardening, and resembles the present natural manner as a
    chapter of Johnsonian rhetoric resembles a piece of clever
    contemporary journalism. But it's a better style in horticulture
    than in literature; I prefer one of the long-drawn blue-green
    Colonna vistas, with a maimed and mossy-coated garden goddess at
    the end, to the finest possible quotation from a last-century
    classic. Perhaps the best thing there is the old orangery with
    its trees in fantastic terra-cotta tubs. The late afternoon light
    was gilding the monstrous jars and suspending golden chequers
    among the golden-fruited leaves. Or perhaps the best thing is the
    broad terrace with its mossy balustrade and its benches; also its
    view of the great naked Torre di Nerone (I think), which might
    look stupid if the rosy brickwork didn't take such a colour in
    the blue air. Delightful, at any rate, to stroll and talk there
    in the afternoon sunshine.

    January 2nd, 1873. --Two or three drives with A.--one to
    St. Paul's without the Walls and back by a couple of old churches
    on the Aventine. I was freshly struck with the rare distinction
    of the little Protestant cemetery at the Gate, lying in the
    shadow of the black sepulchral Pyramid and the thick-growing
    black cypresses. Bathed in the clear Roman light the place is
    heartbreaking for what it asks you--in such a world as
    this--to renounce. If it should "make one in love with
    death to lie there," that's only if death should be conscious. As
    the case stands, the weight of a tremendous past presses upon the
    flowery sod, and the sleeper's mortality feels the contact of all
    the mortality with which the brilliant air is tainted.... The
    restored Basilica is incredibly splendid. It seems a last pompous
    effort of formal Catholicism, and there are few more striking
    emblems of later Rome--the Rome foredoomed to see Victor
    Emmanuel in the Quirinal, the Rome of abortive councils and
    unheeded anathemas. It rises there, gorgeous and useless, on its
    miasmatic site, with an air of conscious bravado--a florid
    advertisement of the superabundance of faith. Within it's
    magnificent, and its magnificence has no shabby spots--a rare
    thing in Rome. Marble and mosaic, alabaster and malachite, lapis
    and porphyry, incrust it from pavement to cornice and flash back
    their polished lights at each other with such a splendour of
    effect that you seem to stand at the heart of some immense
    prismatic crystal. One has to come to Italy to know marbles and
    love them. I remember the fascination of the first great show of
    them I met in Venice--at the Scalzi and Gesuiti. Colour has in no
    other form so cool and unfading a purity and lustre. Softness of
    tone and hardness of substance--isn't that the sum of the
    artist's desire? G., with his beautiful caressing, open-lipped
    Roman utterance, so easy to understand and, to my ear, so finely
    suggestive of genuine Latin, not our horrible Anglo-Saxon and
    Protestant kind, urged upon us the charms of a return by the
    Aventine and the sight of a couple of old churches. The best is
    Santa Sabina, a very fine old structure of the fifth century,
    mouldering in its dusky solitude and consuming its own antiquity.
    What a massive heritage Christianity and Catholicism are leaving
    here! What a substantial fact, in all its decay, this memorial
    Christian temple outliving its uses among the sunny gardens and
    vineyards! It has a noble nave, filled with a stale smell which
    (like that of the onion) brought tears to my eyes, and bordered
    with twenty-four fluted marble columns of Pagan origin. The
    crudely primitive little mosaics along the entablature are
    extremely curious. A Dominican monk, still young, who showed us
    the church, seemed a creature generated from its musty shadows I
    odours. His physiognomy was wonderfully de l'emploi, and
    his voice, most agreeable, had the strangest jaded humility. His
    lugubrious salute and sanctimonious impersonal appropriation of
    my departing franc would have been a master-touch on the stage.
    While we were still in the church a bell rang that he had to go
    and answer, and as he came back and approached us along the nave
    he made with his white gown and hood and his cadaverous face,
    against the dark church background, one of those pictures which,
    thank the Muses, have not yet been reformed out of Italy. It was
    the exact illustration, for insertion in a text, of heaven knows
    how many old romantic and conventional literary Italianisms--
    plays, poems, mysteries of Udolpho. We got back into the carriage
    and talked of profane things and went home to dinner--drifting
    recklessly, it seemed to me, from aesthetic luxury to social.

    On the 31st we went to the musical vesper-service at the Gesu--
    hitherto done so splendidly before the Pope and the cardinals.
    The manner of it was eloquent of change--no Pope, no cardinals,
    and indifferent music; but a great mise-en-scène
    nevertheless. The church is gorgeous; late Renaissance, of great
    proportions, and full, like so many others, but in a pre-eminent
    degree, of seventeenth and eighteenth century Romanism. It
    doesn't impress the imagination, but richly feeds the curiosity,
    by which I mean one's sense of the curious; suggests no legends,
    but innumerable anecdotes à la Stendhal. There is a vast dome,
    filled with a florid concave fresco of tumbling foreshortened
    angels, and all over the ceilings and cornices a wonderful outlay
    of dusky gildings and mouldings. There are various Bernini saints
    and seraphs in stucco-sculpture, astride of the tablets and door-
    tops, backing against their rusty machinery of coppery
    nimbi and egg-shaped cloudlets. Marble, damask and tapers
    in gorgeous profusion. The high altar a great screen of twinkling
    chandeliers. The choir perched in a little loft high up in the
    right transept, like a balcony in a side-scene at the opera, and
    indulging in surprising roulades and flourishes.... Near me sat a
    handsome, opulent-looking nun--possibly an abbess or prioress of
    noble lineage. Can a holy woman of such a complexion listen to a
    fine operatic barytone in a sumptuous temple and receive none but
    ascetic impressions? What a cross-fire of influences does
    Catholicism provide!

    January 4th.--A drive with A. out of Porta San Giovanni
    and along Via Appia Nuova. More and more beautiful as you get
    well away from the walls and the great view opens out before you-
    -the rolling green-brown dells and flats of the Campagna, the
    long, disjointed arcade of the aqueducts, the deep-shadowed blue
    of the Alban Hills, touched into pale lights by their scattered
    towns. We stopped at the ruined basilica of San Stefano, an
    affair of the fifth century, rather meaningless without a learned
    companion. But the perfect little sepulchral chambers of the
    Pancratii, disinterred beneath the church, tell their own tale--
    in their hardly dimmed frescoes, their beautiful sculptured
    coffin and great sepulchral slab. Better still the tomb of the
    Valerii adjoining it--a single chamber with an arched roof,
    covered with stucco mouldings perfectly intact, exquisite figures
    and arabesques as sharp and delicate as if the plasterer's
    scaffold had just been taken from under them. Strange enough to
    think of these things--so many of them as there are--surviving
    their immemorial eclipse in this perfect shape and coming up like
    long-lost divers on the sea of time.

    January 16th.--A delightful walk last Sunday with F. to
    Monte Mario. We drove to Porta Angelica, the little gate hidden
    behind the right wing of Bernini's colonnade, and strolled thence
    up the winding road to the Villa Mellini, where one of the greasy
    peasants huddled under the wall in the sun admits you for half
    franc into the finest old ilex-walk in Italy. It is all vaulted
    grey-green shade with blue Campagna stretches in the interstices.
    The day was perfect; the still sunshine, as we sat at the twisted
    base of the old trees, seemed to have the drowsy hum of mid-
    summer --with that charm of Italian vegetation that comes to us
    as its confession of having scenically served, to weariness at
    last, for some pastoral these many centuries a classic. In a
    certain cheapness and thinness of substance--as compared with the
    English stoutness, never left athirst--it reminds me of our own,
    and it is relatively dry enough and pale enough to explain the
    contempt of many unimaginative Britons. But it has an idle
    abundance and wantonness, a romantic shabbiness and
    dishevelment. At the Villa Mellini is the famous lonely pine
    which "tells" so in the landscape from other points, bought off
    from the axe by (I believe) Sir George Beaumont, commemorated in
    a like connection in Wordsworth's great sonnet. He at least was
    not an unimaginative Briton. As you stand under it, its far-away
    shallow dome, supported on a single column almost white enough to
    be marble, seems to dwell in the dizziest depths of the blue. Its
    pale grey-blue boughs and its silvery stem make a wonderful
    harmony with the ambient air. The Villa Mellini is full of the
    elder Italy of one's imagination--the Italy of Boccaccio and
    Ariosto. There are twenty places where the Florentine story-
    tellers might have sat round on the grass. Outside the villa
    walls, beneath the over-crowding orange-boughs, straggled old
    Italy as well--but not in Boccaccio's velvet: a row of ragged and
    livid contadini, some simply stupid in their squalor, but some
    downright brigands of romance, or of reality, with matted locks
    and terribly sullen eyes.

    A couple of days later I walked for old acquaintance' sake over
    to San Onofrio on the Janiculan. The approach is one of the
    dirtiest adventures in Rome, and though the view is fine from the
    little terrace, the church and convent are of a meagre and musty
    pattern. Yet here--almost like pearls in a dunghill--are hidden
    mementos of two of the most exquisite of Italian minds. Torquato
    Tasso spent the last months of his life here, and you may visit
    his room and various warped and faded relics. The most
    interesting is a cast of his face taken after death--looking,
    like all such casts, almost more than mortally gallant and
    distinguished. But who should look all ideally so if not he? In a
    little shabby, chilly corridor adjoining is a fresco of Leonardo,
    a Virgin and Child with the donatorio. It is very small,
    simple and faded, but it has all the artist's magic, that
    mocking, illusive refinement and hint of a vague arriere-
    pensee
    which mark every stroke of Leonardo's brush. Is it the
    perfection of irony or the perfection of tenderness? What does he
    mean, what does he affirm, what does he deny? Magic wouldn't be
    magic, nor the author of such things stand so absolutely alone,
    if we were ready with an explanation. As I glanced from the
    picture to the poor stupid little red-faced brother at my side I
    wondered if the thing mightn't pass for an elegant epigram on
    monasticism. Certainly, at any rate, there is more intellect in
    it than under all the monkish tonsures it has seen coming and
    going these three hundred years.

    January 21st.--The last three or four days I have
    regularly spent a couple of hours from noon baking myself in the
    sun of the Pincio to get rid of a cold. The weather perfect and
    the crowd (especially to-day) amazing. Such a staring, lounging,
    dandified, amiable crowd! Who does the vulgar stay-at-home work
    of Rome? All the grandees and half the foreigners are there in
    their carriages, the bourgeoisie on foot staring at them
    and the beggars lining all the approaches. The great difference
    between public places in America and Europe is in the number of
    unoccupied people of every age and condition sitting about early
    and late on benches and gazing at you, from your hat to your
    boots, as you pass. Europe is certainly the continent of the
    practised stare. The ladies on the Pincio have to run the
    gauntlet; but they seem to do so complacently enough. The
    European woman is brought up to the sense of having a definite
    part in the way of manners or manner to play in public. To lie
    back in a barouche alone, balancing a parasol and seeming to
    ignore the extremely immediate gaze of two serried ranks of male
    creatures on each side of her path, save here and there to
    recognise one of them with an imperceptible nod, is one of her
    daily duties. The number of young men here who, like the
    coenobites of old, lead the purely contemplative life is
    enormous. They muster in especial force on the Pincio, but the
    Corso all day is thronged with them. They are well-dressed, good-
    humoured, good-looking, polite; but they seem never to do a
    harder stroke of work than to stroll from the Piazza Colonna to
    the Hotel de Rome or vice versa. Some of them don't even
    stroll, but stand leaning by the hour against the doorways,
    sucking the knobs of their canes, feeling their back hair and
    settling their shirt-cuffs. At my cafe in the morning several
    stroll in already (at nine o'clock) in light, in "evening"
    gloves. But they order nothing, turn on their heels, glance at
    the mirrors and stroll out again. When it rains they herd under
    the portes-cochères and in the smaller cafes.... Yesterday
    Prince Humbert's little primogenito was on the Pincio in
    an open landau with his governess. He's a sturdy blond little man
    and the image of the King. They had stopped to listen to the
    music, and the crowd was planted about the carriage-wheels,
    staring and criticising under the child's snub little nose. It
    appeared bold cynical curiosity, without the slightest
    manifestation of "loyalty," and it gave me a singular sense of
    the vulgarisation of Rome under the new regime. When the Pope
    drove abroad it was a solemn spectacle; even if you neither
    kneeled nor uncovered you were irresistibly impressed. But the
    Pope never stopped to listen to opera tunes, and he had no little
    popelings, under the charge of superior nurse-maids, whom you
    might take liberties with. The family at the Quirinal make
    something of a merit, I believe, of their modest and inexpensive
    way of life. The merit is great; yet, representationally, what a
    change for the worse from an order which proclaimed stateliness a
    part of its essence! The divinity that doth hedge a king must be
    pretty well on the wane. But how many more fine old traditions
    will the extremely sentimental traveller miss in the Italians
    over whom that little jostled prince in the landau will have come
    into his kinghood? ... The Pincio continues to beguile; it's a
    great resource. I am for ever being reminded of the "aesthetic
    luxury," as I called it above, of living in Rome. To be able to
    choose of an afternoon for a lounge (respectfully speaking)
    between St. Peter's and the high precinct you approach by the
    gate just beyond Villa Medici--counting nothing else--is a proof
    that if in Rome you may suffer from ennui, at least your ennui
    has a throbbing soul in it. It is something to say for the
    Pincio that you don't always choose St. Peter's. Sometimes I lose
    patience with its parade of eternal idleness, but at others this
    very idleness is balm to one's conscience. Life on just these
    terms seems so easy, so monotonously sweet, that you feel it
    would be unwise, would be really unsafe, to change. The Roman air
    is charged with an elixir, the Roman cup seasoned with some
    insidious drop, of which the action is fatally, yet none the less
    agreeably, "lowering."

    January 26th.--With S. to the Villa Medici--perhaps on the
    whole the most enchanting place in Rome. The part of the garden
    called the Boschetto has an incredible, impossible charm; an
    upper terrace, behind locked gates, covered with a little dusky
    forest of evergreen oaks. Such a dim light as of a fabled,
    haunted place, such a soft suffusion of tender grey-green tones,
    such a company of gnarled and twisted little miniature trunks--
    dwarfs playing with each other at being giants--and such a
    shower of golden sparkles drifting in from the vivid west! At the
    end of the wood is a steep, circular mound, up which the short
    trees scramble amain, with a long mossy staircase climbing up to
    a belvedere. This staircase, rising suddenly out of the leafy
    dusk to you don't see where, is delightfully fantastic. You
    expect to see an old woman in a crimson petticoat and with a
    distaff come hobbling down and turn into a fairy and offer you
    three wishes. I should name for my own first wish that one didn't
    have to be a Frenchman to come and live and dream and work at the
    Académie de France. Can there be for a while a happier destiny
    than that of a young artist conscious of talent and of no errand
    but to educate, polish and perfect it, transplanted to these
    sacred shades? One has fancied Plato's Academy--his gleaming
    colonnades, his blooming gardens and Athenian sky; but was it as
    good as this one, where Monsieur Hebert does the Platonic? The
    blessing in Rome is not that this or that or the other isolated
    object is so very unsurpassable; but that the general air so
    contributes to interest, to impressions that are not as any other
    impressions anywhere in the world. And from this general air the
    Villa Medici has distilled an essence of its own--walled it in
    and made it delightfully private. The great façade on the gardens
    is like an enormous rococo clock-face all incrusted with images
    and arabesques and tablets. What mornings and afternoons one
    might spend there, brush in hand, unpreoccupied, untormented,
    pensioned, satisfied--either persuading one's self that one would
    be "doing something" in consequence or not caring if one
    shouldn't be.

    At a later date--middle of March.--A ride with S. W. out
    of the Porta Pia to the meadows beyond the Ponte Nomentana--
    close to the site of Phaon's villa where Nero in hiding had
    himself stabbed. It all spoke as things here only speak, touching
    more chords than one can now really know or say. For these
    are predestined memories and the stuff that regrets are made of;
    the mild divine efflorescence of spring, the wonderful landscape,
    the talk suspended for another gallop.... Returning, we
    dismounted at the gate of the Villa Medici and walked through the
    twilight of the vaguely perfumed, bird-haunted alleys to H.'s
    studio, hidden in the wood like a cottage in a fairy tale. I
    spent there a charming half-hour in the fading light, looking at
    the pictures while my companion discoursed of her errand. The
    studio is small and more like a little salon; the painting
    refined, imaginative, somewhat morbid, full of consummate French
    ability. A portrait, idealised and etherealised, but a likeness
    of Mme. de---(from last year's Salon) in white satin, quantities
    of lace, a coronet, diamonds and pearls; a striking combination
    of brilliant silvery tones. A "Femme Sauvage," a naked dusky girl
    in a wood, with a wonderfully clever pair of shy, passionate
    eyes. The author is different enough from any of the numerous
    American artists. They may be producers, but he's a product as
    well--a product of influences of a sort of which we have as yet
    no general command. One of them is his charmed lapse of life in
    that unprofessional-looking little studio, with his enchanted
    wood on one side and the plunging wall of Rome on the other.

    January 30th.--A drive the other day with a friend to
    Villa Madama, on the side of Monte Mario; a place like a page out
    of one of Browning's richest evocations of this clime and
    civilisation. Wondrous in its haunting melancholy, it might have
    inspired half "The Ring and the Book" at a stroke. What a grim
    commentary on history such a scene--what an irony of the past!
    The road up to it through the outer enclosure is almost
    impassable with mud and stones. At the end, on a terrace, rises
    the once elegant Casino, with hardly a whole pane of glass in its
    façade, reduced to its sallow stucco and degraded ornaments. The
    front away from Rome has in the basement a great loggia, now
    walled in from the weather, preceded by a grassy be littered
    platform with an immense sweeping view of the Campagna; the sad-
    looking, more than sad-looking, evil-looking, Tiber beneath (the
    colour of gold, the sentimentalists say, the colour of mustard,
    the realists); a great vague stretch beyond, of various
    complexions and uses; and on the horizon the ever-iridescent
    mountains. The place has become the shabbiest farm-house, with
    muddy water in the old pièces d'eau and dunghills on the
    old parterres. The "feature" is the contents of the loggia: a
    vaulted roof and walls decorated by Giulio Romano; exquisite
    stucco-work and still brilliant frescoes; arabesques and
    figurini, nymphs and fauns, animals and flowers--gracefully
    lavish designs of every sort. Much of the colour--especially the
    blues--still almost vivid, and all the work wonderfully
    ingenious, elegant and charming. Apartments so decorated can have
    been meant only for the recreation of people greater than any we
    know, people for whom life was impudent ease and success.
    Margaret Farnese was the lady of the house, but where she trailed
    her cloth of gold the chickens now scamper between your legs over
    rotten straw. It is all inexpressibly dreary. A stupid peasant
    scratching his head, a couple of critical Americans picking their
    steps, the walls tattered and befouled breast-high, dampness and
    decay striking in on your heart, and the scene overbowed by these
    heavenly frescoes, moulering there in their airy artistry! It's
    poignant; it provokes tears; it tells so of the waste of effort.
    Something human seems to pant beneath the grey pall of time and
    to implore you to rescue it, to pity it, to stand by it somehow.
    But you leave it to its lingering death without compunction,
    almost with pleasure; for the place seems vaguely crime-haunted--
    paying at least the penalty of some hard immorality. The end of
    a Renaissance pleasure-house. Endless for the didactic observer
    the moral, abysmal for the storyseeker the tale.

    February 12th.--Yesterday to the Villa Albani. Over-formal
    and (as my companion says) too much like a tea-garden; but with
    beautiful stairs and splendid geometrical lines of immense box-
    hedge, intersected with high pedestals supporting little antique
    busts. The light to-day magnificent; the Alban Hills of an
    intenser broken purple than I had yet seen them--their white
    towns blooming upon it like vague projected lights. It was like a
    piece of very modern painting, and a good example of how Nature
    has at times a sort of mannerism which ought to make us careful
    how we condemn out of hand the more refined and affected artists.
    The collection of marbles in the Casino (Winckelmann's) admirable
    and to be seen again. The famous Antinous crowned with lotus a
    strangely beautiful and impressive thing. The "Greek manner," on
    the showing of something now and again encountered here, moves
    one to feel that even for purely romantic and imaginative effects
    it surpasses any since invented. If there be not imagination,
    even in our comparatively modern sense of the word, in the
    baleful beauty of that perfect young profile there is none in
    "Hamlet" or in "Lycidas." There is five hundred times as much as
    in "The Transfiguration." With this at any rate to point to it's
    not for sculpture not professedly to produce any emotion
    producible by painting. There are numbers of small and delicate
    fragments of bas-reliefs of exquisite grace, and a huge piece
    (two combatants--one, on horseback, beating down another--murder
    made eternal and beautiful) attributed to the Parthenon and
    certainly as grandly impressive as anything in the Elgin marbles.
    S. W. suggested again the Roman villas as a "subject." Excellent
    if one could find a feast of facts à la Stendhal. A lot of vague
    ecstatic descriptions and anecdotes wouldn't at all pay. There
    have been too many already. Enough facts are recorded, I suppose;
    one should discover them and soak in them for a twelvemonth. And
    yet a Roman villa, in spite of statues, ideas and atmosphere,
    affects me as of a scanter human and social portee, a
    shorter, thinner reverberation, than an old English country-
    house, round which experience seems piled so thick. But this
    perhaps is either hair-splitting or "racial" prejudice.

    [Illustration: ENTRANCE TO THE VATICAN, ROME]

    March 9th. --The Vatican is still deadly cold; a couple of
    hours there yesterday with R. W. E. Yet he, illustrious and
    enviable man, fresh from the East, had no overcoat and wanted
    none. Perfect bliss, I think, would be to live in Rome without
    thinking of overcoats. The Vatican seems very familiar, but
    strangely smaller than of old. I never lost the sense before of
    confusing vastness. Sancta simplicitas! All my old friends
    however stand there in undimmed radiance, keeping most of them
    their old pledges. I am perhaps more struck now with the enormous
    amount of padding--the number of third-rate, fourth-rate things
    that weary the eye desirous to approach freshly the twenty and
    thirty best. In spite of the padding there are dozens of
    treasures that one passes regretfully; but the impression of the
    whole place is the great thing--the feeling that through these
    solemn vistas flows the source of an incalculable part of our
    present conception of Beauty.

    April 10th. --Last night, in the rain, to the Teatro Valle
    to see a comedy of Goldoni in Venetian dialect--"I Quattro
    Rustighi." I could but half follow it; enough, however, to be
    sure that, for all its humanity of irony, it wasn't so good as
    Molière. The acting was capital--broad, free and natural; the
    play of talk easier even than life itself; but, like all the
    Italian acting I have seen, it was wanting in finesse,
    that shade of the shade by which, and by which alone, one really
    knows art. I contrasted the affair with the evening in December
    last that I walked over (also in the rain) to the Odeon and saw
    the "Plaideurs" and the "Malade lmaginaire." There, too, was
    hardly more than a handful of spectators; but what rich, ripe,
    fully representational and above all intellectual comedy, and
    what polished, educated playing! These Venetians in particular,
    however, have a marvellous entrain of their own; they seem
    even less than the French to recite. In some of the women--ugly,
    with red hands and shabby dresses--an extraordinary gift of
    natural utterance, of seeming to invent joyously as they go.

    Later.--Last evening in H.'s box at the Apollo to hear
    Ernesto Rossi in "Othello." He shares supremacy with Salvini in
    Italian tragedy. Beautiful great theatre with boxes you can walk
    about in; brilliant audience. The Princess Margaret was there--I
    have never been to the theatre that she was not--and a number of
    other princesses in neighbouring boxes. G. G. came in and
    instructed us that they were the M., the L., the P., &c. Rossi is
    both very bad and very fine; bad where anything like taste and
    discretion is required, but "all there," and more than there, in
    violent passion. The last act reduced too much, however, to mere
    exhibitional sensibility. The interesting thing to me was to
    observe the Italian conception of the part--to see how crude it
    was, how little it expressed the hero's moral side, his depth,
    his dignity--anything more than his being a creature terrible in
    mere tantrums. The great point was his seizing Iago's head and
    whacking it half-a-dozen times on the floor, and then flinging
    him twenty yards away. It was wonderfully done, but in the doing
    of it and in the evident relish for it in the house there was I
    scarce knew what force of easy and thereby rather cheap
    expression.

    April 27th.--A morning with L. B. at Villa Ludovisi, which
    we agreed that we shouldn't soon forget. The villa now belongs to
    the King, who has lodged his morganatic wife there. There is
    nothing so blissfully right in Rome, nothing more
    consummately consecrated to style. The grounds and gardens are
    immense, and the great rusty-red city wall stretches away behind
    them and makes the burden of the seven hills seem vast without
    making them seem small. There is everything--dusky avenues
    trimmed by the clippings of centuries, groves and dells and
    glades and glowing pastures and reedy fountains and great
    flowering meadows studded with enormous slanting pines. The day
    was delicious, the trees all one melody, the whole place a
    revelation of what Italy and hereditary pomp can do together.
    Nothing could be more in the grand manner than this garden view
    of the city ramparts, lifting their fantastic battlements above
    the trees and flowers. They are all tapestried with vines and
    made to serve as sunny fruit-walls--grim old defence as they once
    were; now giving nothing but a splendid buttressed privacy. The
    sculptures in the little Casino are few, but there are two great
    ones--the beautiful sitting Mars and the head of the great Juno,
    the latter thrust into a corner behind a shutter. These things
    it's almost impossible to praise; we can only mark them well and
    keep them clear, as we insist on silence to hear great music....
    If I don't praise Guercino's Aurora in the greater Casino, it's
    for another reason; this is certainly a very muddy masterpiece.
    It figures on the ceiling of a small low hall; the painting is
    coarse and the ceiling too near. Besides, it's unfair to pass
    straight from the Greek mythology to the Bolognese. We were left
    to roam at will through the house; the custode shut us in and
    went to walk in the park. The apartments were all open, and I had
    an opportunity to reconstruct, from its milieu at least,
    the character of a morganatic queen. I saw nothing to indicate
    that it was not amiable; but I should have thought more highly of
    the lady's discrimination if she had had the Juno removed from
    behind her shutter. In such a house, girdled about with such a
    park, me thinks I could be amiable--and perhaps discriminating
    too. The Ludovisi Casino is small, but the perfection of the life
    of ease might surely be led there. There are English houses
    enough in wondrous parks, but they expose you to too many small
    needs and observances--to say nothing of a red-faced butler
    dropping his h's. You are oppressed with the detail of
    accommodation. Here the billiard-table is old-fashioned, perhaps
    a trifle crooked; but you have Guercino above your head, and
    Guercino, after all, is almost as good as Guido. The rooms, I
    noticed, all pleased by their shape, by a lovely proportion, by a
    mass of delicate ornamentation on the high concave ceilings. One
    might live over again in them some deliciously benighted life of
    a forgotten type--with graceful old sale, and immensely
    thick walls, and a winding stone staircase, and a view from the
    loggia at the top; a view of twisted parasol-pines balanced, high
    above a wooden horizon, against a sky of faded sapphire.

    May 17th.--It was wonderful yesterday at St. John Lateran.
    The spring now has turned to perfect summer; there are cascades
    of verdure over all the walls; the early flowers are a fading
    memory, and the new grass knee-deep in the Villa Borghese. The
    winter aspect of the region about the Lateran is one of the best
    things in Rome; the sunshine is nowhere so golden and the lean
    shadows nowhere so purple as on the long grassy walk to Santa
    Croce. But yesterday I seemed to see nothing but green and blue.
    The expanse before Santa Croce was vivid green; the Campagna
    rolled away in great green billows, which seemed to break high
    about the gaunt aqueducts; and the Alban Hills, which in January
    and February keep shifting and melting along the whole scale of
    azure, were almost monotonously fresh, and had lost some of their
    finer modelling. But the sky was ultramarine and everything
    radiant with light and warmth--warmth which a soft steady breeze
    kept from excess. I strolled some time about the church, which
    has a grand air enough, though I don't seize the point of view of
    Miss----, who told me the other day how vastly finer she thought
    it than St. Peter's. But on Miss----'s lips this seemed a very
    pretty paradox. The choir and transepts have a sombre splendour,
    and I like the old vaulted passage with its slabs and monuments
    behind the choir. The charm of charms at St. John Lateran is the
    admirable twelfth-century cloister, which was never more charming
    than yesterday. The shrubs and flowers about the ancient well
    were blooming away in the intense light, and the twisted pillars
    and chiselled capitals of the perfect little colonnade seemed to
    enclose them like the sculptured rim of a precious vase. Standing
    out among the flowers you may look up and see a section of the
    summit of the great façade of the church. The robed and mitred
    apostles, bleached and rain-washed by the ages, rose into the
    blue air like huge snow figures. I spent at the incorporated
    museum a subsequent hour of fond vague attention, having it quite
    to myself. It is rather scantily stocked, but the great cool
    halls open out impressively one after the other, and the wide
    spaces between the statues seem to suggest at first that each is
    a masterpiece. I was in the loving mood of one's last days in
    Rome, and when I had nothing else to admire I admired the
    magnificent thickness of the embrasures of the doors and windows.
    If there were no objects of interest at all in the Lateran the
    palace would be worth walking through every now and then, to keep
    up one's idea of solid architecture. I went over to the Scala
    Santa, where was no one but a very shabby priest sitting like a
    ticket-taker at the door. But he let me pass, and I ascended one
    of the profane lateral stairways and treated myself to a glimpse
    of the Sanctum Sanctorum. Its threshold is crossed but once or
    twice a year, I believe, by three or four of the most exalted
    divines, but you may look into it freely enough through a couple
    of gilded lattices. It is very sombre and splendid, and conveys
    the impression of a very holy place. And yet somehow it suggested
    irreverent thoughts; it had to my fancy--perhaps on account of
    the lattice--an Oriental, a Mahometan note. I expected every
    moment to see a sultana appear in a silver veil and silken
    trousers and sit down on the crimson carpet.

    Farewell, packing, the sharp pang of going. One would like to be
    able after five months in Rome to sum up for tribute and homage,
    one's experience, one's gains, the whole adventure of one's
    sensibility. But one has really vibrated too much--the addition
    of so many items isn't easy. What is simply clear is the sense of
    an acquired passion for the place and of an incalculable number
    of gathered impressions. Many of these have been intense and
    momentous, but one has trodden on the other--there are always the
    big fish that swallow up the little--and one can hardly say what
    has become of them. They store themselves noiselessly away, I
    suppose, in the dim but safe places of memory and "taste," and we
    live in a quiet faith that they will emerge into vivid relief if
    life or art should demand them. As for the passion we needn't
    perhaps trouble ourselves about that. Fifty swallowed palmfuls of
    the Fountain of Trevi couldn't make us more ardently sure that we
    shall at any cost come back.

    1873.
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