Part 5 out of 5
and ornamented with stuccoes in relief, is in perfect keeping with the
style of the rest of the ornamentation. Next to the dining-room is
a reading-room well furnished with papers and books: then comes a
so-called ladies' drawing-room, though I do not observe that that
better half of the creation has the smallest wish to monopolize it.
Next to that is the very handsome general drawing-room; then a large
music-room with a grand pianoforte and harmonium; then an equally
spacious smoking-room; and, lastly, a billiard-room;--truly a princely
suite of rooms. The manager speaks English perfectly, and the results
of his English education may be seen in the admirably comfortable and
clean arrangements of the chambers and every part of the house. The
bedrooms are all warmed with hot air, and really nothing has been
neglected which can contribute to ensure the comfort of the inmates.
And all this can be enjoyed for nine francs per diem! A palace to live
in, placed in one of the choicest spots in the world, abundant and
well-skilled service, an excellently well-kept and well-served table,
charming gardens, and all for about two dollars a day! Truly wonderful
are the possibilities brought within our reach by _co-operation!_
Still, I do not suppose that quite the same results could be attained
without the fortunate chance which placed a magnificent palace at the
disposal of the present proprietors at doubtless a comparatively very
small cost. _Morosini "nobis haec otra fecit"_ The princely expenditure
of that noble family in days long since gone by provided for us nomads
these enjoyments; for one is afraid to guess what the cost at the
present day of erecting such a pile would be. Throughout a large part
of the house, in the huge corridors and antechambers, a great deal
of the old furniture and the vast marble chimney-pieces and mural
decorations remain as the Morosini left them, and contribute their
part toward persuading us that we are not dwellers in a vulgar inn,
but the guests of some magnificent old doge, who leaves his friends
the most complete liberty and independence, and merely gratifies the
commercial traditions of his race by requesting us _pro forma_ to drop
a small present to his domestics at parting.
There are a great variety of charming drives and walks in the
neighborhood in every direction; and the whole district is full of
the villas and well-kept gardens of the rich Milanese, who have
chosen this favored spot for their country residences. I have said
_well-kept_ gardens advisedly; and it is worth noting that the love
of gardens and gardening seems to be a specialty of the Milanese among
all the Italians. One sees in other parts of Italy the remains of care
and magnificence of this sort--at Rome especially; but all (though
in many cases belonging to owners still wealthy as well as noble)
dilapidated, little cared for, and speaking in melancholy tones of
decay and perished splendor. A ruined building may be an extremely
picturesque object, but a ruined garden can never be other than a
melancholy and repulsive one. But the whole of this district testifies
to the love of the Milanese for their gardens; and most of them are
on a truly princely scale of magnificence. There is one villa which I
will mention, because the owner of it is doing there what recalls
to our minds strikingly the old days which saw the creation of that
Italian splendor the remains of which we still admire, and suggests
that it is not beyond hope that the privileged soil of Italy and the
genius for the arts which seems inherent in this people may, under
their new political circumstances, lead to yet another renaissance.
The villa I am alluding to is in the immediate neighborhood of Varese,
on a rising ground above the town, commanding the most magnificent
views of Monte Rosa, Monte Viso and the country between the lakes of
Como and Maggiore. It is a new creation, and is the property and the
work of the Milanese banker, Signor Ponti. The house and gardens
are well worth a visit--if the traveler is fortunate enough to be
permitted to see them--for the sake of the happy originality of idea
which has inspired the architecture of the former and the excellent
taste which has turned the favorable circumstances of the ground to
the best account in laying out the latter. But the feature which I
specially wished to mention is the ornamentation of the principal
_salon_ or ball-room in the villa. When permitted to visit it we found
Signor Bertini, a Milanese artist well known in all parts of Italy,
engaged in putting the last touches to a series of frescoes which form
the principal ornamentation of the room. The four largest paintings
commemorate the glories of Italy in the history of human discovery.
In one the monk, Guido of Arezzo, the inventor of modern musical
notation, is teaching a class of four boys to sing from the page of an
illuminated missal--a really charming composition. In another Columbus
is showing to the Spanish monarchs the natives of the newly-found
world whom he had brought home with him. In a third Galileo is showing
to the astonished pope, by means of a telescope, the wonders of that
other newly-found world of which he was the discoverer. The fourth
shows us the very striking and lifelike figure of Volta explaining
the wonders of the "pile" to which he has given his name to the First
Napoleon. The whole of these, as well as of the other decorations of
the room, are in "real fresco"--that is to say, the colors are laid
on while the mortar is yet wet (whence the name _fresco_), and thus
become so entirely incorporated with the substance of the wall that
the painting is indestructible save by the destruction of at least
the coating of the latter. Of course, it is evident that a painting so
executed admits of no second touch. The hand of the artist must
obey his thought with absolutely unfailing fidelity or the work is
worthless. Hence the special difficulty of this description of art,
and the necessity of a very high degree of mastery in him who attempts
it. In the present case Signor Bertini has succeeded admirably. But
I was especially struck by the taste and liberality of the Milanese
banker, who, instead of making his room gorgeous with damask hangings
and satin and velvet, which any man who has cash in his pocket may
have, is giving encouragement to the art of his country, and doing at
this day exactly that which the Strozzi, the Borghesi, the Medici and
so many other bankers and merchants did three hundred and odd years
ago, and by doing made Italy what it was.
A STATE GOVERNOR IN THE ROLE OF ENOCH ARDEN.
The conventional romance of the long-lost husband returning home just
in time to interrupt the second nuptials of his wife is told of Samuel
Cranston, governor of Rhode Island, who died in 1727, after being
elected to that office thirty-two times in succession.
It appears that when quite a young man Mr. Cranston married Mary, a
granddaughter of Roger Williams. Soon after the marriage he went to
sea, was captured by pirates and carried to some country--Algiers,
it is supposed--where he was detained for several years without
being able to communicate with his family. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cranston,
believing him to be dead, accepted an offer of marriage, and was on
the eve of the nuptial ceremonies when her first husband arrived in
Boston. There he heard the news of the proposed marriage, but there
being no such thing then as telegraphs or railroads, he started for
home by means of post-horses as fast as they could carry him. When he
reached Howland's Ferry, just before night, he learned that his wife
was to be married that very evening. "With increased speed he flew to
Newport, but not until the wedding-guests had begun to assemble. She
was called by a servant into the kitchen, 'a person being there
who wished to speak with her.' A man in sailor's habit advanced and
informed her that her husband had arrived in Boston, and requested him
to inform her that he was on his way to Newport." It does not appear
that the hero of this romance made any attempt to find out if his wife
had become more attached to his rival, with the purpose of remaining
incognito should he find this to be the fact. On the contrary, after
being questioned very closely by her, he advanced toward her, "raised
his cap, and pointing to a scar on his forehead, said, 'Do you
recollect that scar?'" Whereupon she at once recognized him, though
the romance is marred by the absence of the assurance that she "flew
into his arms." This may be inferred, however, for the returned
wanderer became the hero of the evening, entertaining the
wedding-guests with an account of his adventures and sufferings among
THE PALATINE LIGHT.
This phenomenon appeared off the northern coast of Block Island about
1720, and reappeared at irregular intervals down to the year 1832,
since which it has not been seen. A common impression of those seeing
it for the first time was that it was a light on board of some ship,
or a ship on fire when very bright. Arnold, in his _History of Rhode
Island_, gives an account of it, and also of the tradition which
assigned to it a strange origin. "This light," he remarks, "has been
the theme of much learned discussion within the present century,
and, while the superstition connected with it is of course rejected,
science has failed thus far in giving it a satisfactory explanation."
Dr. Aaron C. Willey, a resident physician of Block Island, wrote a
careful account of the phenomenon in 1811, which was published at the
time in the _Parthenon_, whatever that may have been. He says: "Its
appellation originated from that of a ship called the Palatine, which
was designedly cast away at this place in the beginning of the last
century, in order to conceal, as tradition reports, the inhuman
treatment and murder of some of its unfortunate passengers." This was
an emigrant ship bound from Holland to Pennsylvania. Some seventeen
of the survivors were landed on the island, but they all died except
three. One lady, it was said, having "much gold and silver plate on
board," refused to land. The ship floated off the rocks, and soon
after disappeared for ever. Dr, Willey says he saw this light in
February, 1810. "It was twilight, and the light was then large and
greatly lambent, very bright, broad at the bottom and terminating
acutely upward. From each side seemed to issue rays of faint light
similar to those perceptible in any blaze placed in the open air
at night. It continued about fifteen minutes from the time I first
observed it, then gradually became smaller and more dim until it
was entirely extinguished." The same gentleman saw it again in the
following December, when he thought it was a light on board of some
vessel until undeceived. It moved along apparently parallel to the
shore on this occasion, after a time falling behind the doctor, who
was riding along the coast. Finally, it stopped, then moved off some
rods and stopped again. The same authority declares that he had been
told by a gentleman living near the sea that it had often been so
bright as to "illuminate considerably the walls of his room through
the windows." This happened only when the light was within half a mile
from the shore, for it was "often seen blazing at six or seven miles'
distance, and strangers supposed it to be a vessel on fire."
It is not very extraordinary that printers' ink is a poor pigment for
painting sunsets or sunrises. The strange thing is that travelers and
sentimentalizers obstinately ignore the fact, and hang their paper
walls with more scenery of that description than any other. What a
gallery of alpine, arctic and marine sunsets we have, and how blank an
impression do they all produce! From any of them, done with a clever
pen by one who undertakes to describe what he has freshly seen, we
gather that the spectacle must have been very fine, and must have
deeply delighted the spectator. We can even catch some tints here
and there, but they are fugitive, and each escapes the eye before it
grasps the next one. If we shut our eyes on Tennyson's page we may
realize a glimpse of Mont Blanc blushing through "a thousand shadowy
penciled valleys," and have a momentary pleasure; but the poet's
picture does not abide with us. Some one devotes a couple of pages
to mapping out the infinitude of half-tints that composed a summer's
evening view looking seaward from the North Cape--a good subject
faithfully gone into, but still not a satisfactory sketch even of the
reality. The pen and type will outline and shade, but cannot color.
They give us some fair landscapes made up of form and effect; they can
compass a cavernous bit of Rembrandt, a curtain of fog or shower, or
a staircase of wood and rock climbing into the distance, just as they
can sometimes faintly depict the infinite chiaroscuro of the Miserere
in St. Peter's; but the monochrome, in music as in painting, is their
* * * * *
Has photography dealt hardly with portrait-painting as a branch of
art, or has it benefited it by weeding out the feeble? The Memorial
Exhibition will assist in determining. It will, we hope, allow the
best living painters in this department to be fully represented by the
side of their predecessors. We shall then see if the Inmans, Neagles,
and Sullys are an extinct species, and if the ranks of their pupils
have melted away before the cannon-like camera. We cannot believe that
the sun, always exaggerating perspective except when rectified by
the stereoscope, and more or less falsifying light and shade by the
chemical effect of different rays, is to be the only limner of faces.
Thus imperfect even in mechanical execution, it seems impossible that
he should supersede future Vandycks. As Webster used to say to young
lawyers, there is plenty of room up stairs. Painters may fearlessly
aim to get above the sun. Take one of Sully's women and compare it
with the smoothest print softened into inanity by the dots of the
retoucher of negatives--the representative of the element of art in
the process. A difference exists equivalent to that between brain and
no brain. No woman, "primp" herself for the sitting as she may, can
present her soul to the dapper gentleman under the canopy of black
velvet as Sully saw it. She does not know herself, as reflected in her
lineaments, as he did; and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the
knight of the tripod does not know her at all.
The same is true of John Neagle as a perpetuator of character with the
pencil. Men were his best subjects. In individualizing them he has had
no superior, if an equal, among American artists. His finish was not
always good, and his coloring for that reason occasionally crude.
In female heads he was less happy: character-painters generally are.
Stuart's women are equally defective, but in a rather different way,
being hard and angular in drawing.
* * * * *
England is determined not to shrink from the solution of the
time-honored problem of the result of the meeting between an
irresistible force and an impregnable target. Her iron-clads have
piled pellicle on pellicle of iron till two feet thick has become
their normal shell. Everything thinner has been punctured, and now
an eighty-ton gun, to cost sixty thousand pounds, is getting ready to
perforate that. There must be a stopping-point for all this somewhere.
Perhaps the fate of armor afloat may soon be settled finally by the
torpedo, as its efficiency on land was disposed of by the bullet,
and the men-at-arms of the sea no longer lord it over hosts of wooden
yeomanry. Happy the nation that can look on with its hands firmly
in its pockets while others lavish their treasure in seeking the new
LITERATURE OF THE DAY.
Nero: An Historical Play. By W.W. Story. Edinburgh and London: Wm.
Blackwood & Sons; New York: Scribner, Welford & Armstrong,
The fashion of so-called historical dramas is spreading, but the
standard is lowering. When Mr. Swinburne wrote _Chastelard_, whatever
its faults, it was entitled to the name of drama: last year he
published _Bothwell_, which, whatever its beauties, does not deserve
to be so ranked. Tennyson's _Queen Mary_ followed during the
past summer, and many similar attempts may be expected from less
illustrious pens. It is an unfortunate direction for dramatic and
poetic composition to have taken, tending to impair the excellence of
both styles, while fulfilling the exigencies of neither. _Bothwell_
and _Queen Mary_ are not historical dramas, but versified chronicles,
a certain number of pages of the annals of Scotland and England in
metre, divided into acts and scenes and distributed into parts. Such
a production, be it called what it may, must necessarily lack the
essential qualities of the true drama, while it introduces into a
branch of literature which belongs to the imagination the realism
against which art is struggling. The latest specimen of this new
school is Mr. Story's _Nero_, for, although by his preface it appears
that the publication did not follow the writing for several years, it
comes to the world in the wake of the aforementioned works. It is to
be remembered that Mr. Story's pen is as versatile as his talent is
various. He has given the public two law-books, commonly attributed to
his eminent father; the delightful _Roba di Roma_, which embodies the
actual animate beauty and interest of Roman life; a volume of poems,
_Graffiti d'Italia_, full of fine dramatic fragments and studies of
character in the manner of Browning, descriptions which are pictures,
and sweet verses which live in the heart; and a number of essays in
the pleasantest style of table-talk. Moreover, we are to bear in mind
that this gentleman is not an author by profession, but one of
the most distinguished living sculptors. But the very merit of his
productions subjects them to a code of criticism more severe than that
by which amateur performances are usually judged, and the faults one
finds are by comparison with a standard which makes fault-finding
flattery. In the first place, one cannot turn over a few pages of Mr.
Story's _Nero_ without perceiving that he is imbued with the knowledge
of classical things and times, and with the study of Shakespeare and
the old English playwrights. The turn of the phrases and the march of
the passages recall those best models, though without imitation. As
in them, there is less beauty than vigor and spirit: the dialogue is
strewn with expressions as striking as they are simple. Speaking of
Claudius's murder, Burrhus says:
And Agrippina, startled, pushed him down
The dark declivity to death.
Agrippina herself to Nero:
Oh what a day it was
When, with a shout that seemed to rend the air,
The army hailed you Caesar! _My poor heart
Shook like the standards straining to the breeze
With that great cheer of triumph_.
The finest portions of the play are those in which Agrippina has the
principal part, and, notwithstanding some flaws and inconsistencies
in the character, which is evidently meant to be complete and
homogeneous, the whole impression is very forcible and _single_. Her
final menace (Act ii., Scene 5) when Nero defies her, the terrible
scene in which she tries to regain her failing influence by kindling
unholy fire in his blood, her rage at the inaction and ignorance of
her forced retirement, her monologue when she knows that her last
hour has come, are all of a piece and exceedingly well sustained. The
dramatic ends of the play would have been better answered if she and
her son had been the central figures, and the tragedy had ended with
her death. Poppaea is closely studied: her petty, feline personality
contrasts well with the large, imperial presence of Agrippina. Nero
himself is not so successful as a whole: his puerility in the first
part is overdone, though as the play goes on the creation takes
definite shape, and becomes at once more complex and more distinct.
The invariable recurrence of his vanity at the most tremendous moments
is admirably managed: it is like an unconscious trick of look or
gesture for which we watch. In his first outburst of grief at Poppaea's
death he cries:
How still she lies!
How perfect in her calm! No more distress,
No agitations more, no joy, no pain.
I'll keep her as she is. Fire shall not burn
That lovely shape; but it shall sleep embalmed--
Thus, thus for ever in the Julian tomb,
And she shall be enrolled among the gods.
A splendid temple shall be raised to her,
A public funeral be hers, _and I
The funeral eulogy myself will speak_.
There are some impressive dramatic situations, the finest of which is
at the close of the second act, after the murder of Britannicus, the
result of a threat from Agrippina to dethrone her refractory son in
behalf of the rightful heir:
_Nero_. How is Britannicus?
_Nero_. Are you sure?
_Agrip_. Go see his corpse there, and assure yourself.
_Nero_. Dead? Poor Britannicus! who might have sat
Upon this very throne instead of me!
_Nero_. My mother!
_Agrip_. Ah! I understand.
_Nero_. Take him and make him emperor--if you can.
This has what the French call the _coup de fouet_. But the power and
progress of the play are clogged by two faults--defective construction
and a curious diffuseness and lack of concentration in many of the
scenes and speeches. The action is sadly impeded, for instance, by the
author's not making one business of Seneca's death, but spinning it
out through four scenes of going and coming, as also with Poppaea's,
and even more with Nero's, where the intercalation of long
conversations with changes of places and personages is hurtful, almost
destructive, to the effect. This appears to be the result of too close
an adherence to fact, which brings us back to our original grievance
against dramatizing history. The loss of force from lack of
concentration probably arises from carelessness, haste or want of
revision. From the same causes may spring, too, sundry anachronisms of
expression, such as "For God's sake;" vulgarisms like "Leave me alone"
for "Let me alone;" extraordinary commonplaces, as in the comparison
of popular favor to a weathercock, and of woman's love to a flower
worn, then thrown aside; and a constant lapsing from the energy and
spirit of the dialogue into flatness, familiarity and triviality.
There is an occasional not unwholesome coarseness which recalls Mr.
Story's Elizabethan masters, as in the following passage:
What a crew is this
Which just have fled! Foul suckers that drop off
When they no more can on their victims gorge!
Within his sunshine basked and buzzed and stung;
And, now the shadow comes, off, like a fly--
A pestilent and stinking fly--he goes!
But it is unpardonable to make even Nero say, "I have to rinse my
mouth after her kiss."
The fine qualities of the composition give the blemishes relief, and
the material deserved that Mr. Story should work it up to its utmost
* * * * *
Autobiography of Mrs. Fletcher. With Letters and other Family
Memorials. Edited by the Survivor of her Family. Boston: Roberts
There are in this work several elements of a gentle but unfailing
interest, such as generally attaches to the class of books to which
it belongs. It gives us some delineations of bygone manners and social
changes, glimpses of many more or less notable persons, and above all
the record of a life which, without being in the usual sense of these
terms eventful or distinguished, stands forth as one in a great degree
self-determined and bearing a strong impress of individuality. Mrs
Fletcher was one of those women who easily become the central figures
of the circles in which they move, and who owe this position, not
to any transcendent qualities, but to the combined and irresistible
influence of great personal charms, a high degree of mental vivacity,
and those sympathetic and harmonizing qualities which it is so
difficult to define, but which are equally distinct from mere
amiability on the one hand and intense self-devotion on the other.
There seems to be in such characters a hint of heroic possibilities
that would only be narrowed and despoiled of some of their charm if
put to the test of action. Lord Brougham compared Mrs. Fletcher to
Madame Roland, but she had neither the soaring intellect nor the
self-assertive tendencies that mark the representative of a cause.
Principle, however, counted for much more with her than with the sex
generally, and one can easily believe that her tenacity in adhering to
it would have been proof against any ordeal whether of persecution
or persuasion. This trait was not more strikingly illustrated by
the strength and fervency of her Whiggism amid the reactionary
tide produced by the excesses of the French Revolution than by the
circumstances of her marriage. The only child of a small landed
proprietor in Yorkshire, she had no lack of opportunities for
gratifying her father's ambition by marrying in a rank far above her
own. Nor was it her ardent affection for the man of her choice that
made her strong against entreaties and reproaches. She would probably
have been capable of any sacrifice of feeling imposed by her sense of
duty, but it was this latter sentiment that forbade the sacrifice.
"I was not, perhaps," she writes, "what in the language of romance
is called in love with Mr. Fletcher, but I was deeply and tenderly
attached to him. He had inspired a confidence and regard I had never
felt for any other man. I could not bear the thought of marrying in
opposition to my father's will, but I was resolved _on principle_
never to marry so long as Mr. Fletcher remained single." He was twenty
years her senior, without fortune, and hindered, instead of aided, in
his struggle at the Scottish bar by his prominence as an advocate of
reform. These, she admits, were "sound and rational objections,"
and could she have prevailed on Mr. Fletcher to release her from the
engagement, this solution, she confesses, would have been less painful
to her than offending her father. But her lover remaining firm, she
decided after two years, having come of age in the interval, to take
the step dictated by honor as well as inclination, and which the event
proved to have been, as she anticipated, "best for the interest and
happiness of all parties."
Her married life lasted thirty-seven years, and she survived her
husband nearly thirty more, dying in 1858 at the age of eighty-seven.
Her career was, on the whole, one of singular happiness and
prosperity, made so in part by fortunate circumstances, but in a still
greater degree by her sunny temperament, her power of attracting and
retaining friends, her unflagging interest in public affairs and her
unshaken belief in human progress. Jeffrey and Brougham were among her
earliest friends, Carlyle and Mazzini among her latest, and there have
been few Englishmen of note in the present century whose names do not
appear in the list. Unfortunately, they appear for the most part as
names only. They occur incidentally in a record intended not for
the public, but for the writer's own family, whose interest in her
personal history needed no stimulant and called for no extraneous
details. Here and there we find a passage calculated to whet if not
to satisfy a more general curiosity, such as the account of a
conversation with Wordsworth after his return from Italy in 1837,
and some letters from Mazzini written soon after his first arrival in
England, But even these belong not to the memoir itself, but to the
editor's additions. The book is therefore not to be judged by a mere
literary standard, or read with expectations founded on a general
knowlege of the writer's position and associations. On all with
whom she came in contact Mrs. Fletcher produced the impression of
a character singularly round and complete. Something of the same
influence is felt in the perusal of her unaffected narrative, and with
readers of a reflective turn may prove a sufficient compensation for
the lack of more ordinary attractions.
* * * * *
Notes on the Manufacture of Pottery among Savage Races. By Ch. Fred.
Hartt, A.M. Rio de Janeiro: Printed at the office of the "South
The History of My Friends; or, Home-Life with Animals. Translated from
the French of Emile Achard. New York; G.P. Putnam's Sons.
The Cultivation of Art, and its Relations to Religious Puritanism and
Money-Getting. By A.R. Cooper. New York: Chas. P. Somerby.
Health Fragments; or, Steps toward a True Life. By Geo. H. Everett,
M.D. New York: Chas. P. Somerby.
Sewerage and Sewage Utilization. By Prof. W.H. Corfield, M.A. New
York: D. Van Nostrand.
Notes of Travel in South-western Africa. By C.J. Andersson. New York:
G.P. Putnam's Sons.
St. George and St. Michael: A Novel. By George Macdonald. New York:
J.B. Ford & Co.
Water and Water-Supply. By W.H. Corfield, M.A., M.D. New York: D. Van
Home Pastorals, Ballads and Lyrics. By Bayard Taylor. Boston: James R.
Osgood & Co.
Soul Problems, with other Papers. By Joseph E. Peck. New York: Chas.
Scripture Speculations. By Halsey R. Stevens. New York: Charles P.
Antiquity of Christianity. By John Alberger. New York: Chas. P.
The Ship in the Desert. By Joaquin Miller. Boston: Roberts Brothers.