Part 5 out of 70
idea of having such a fellow for my bed companion, I refused to let
him come, but he answered, with fearful blasphemies, that all the
devils in hell could not prevent him from taking possession of his
own bed. I was forced to make room for him, and exclaimed "Heavens,
where am I?" He told me that I was in the house of the most honest
constable in all the papal states.
Could I possibly have supposed that the peasant would have brought me
amongst those accursed enemies of humankind!
He laid himself down near me, but the filthy scoundrel soon compelled
me to give him, for certain reasons, such a blow in his chest that he
rolled out of bed. He picked himself up, and renewed his beastly
attempt. Being well aware that I could not master him without great
danger, I got out of bed, thinking myself lucky that he did not
oppose my wish, and crawling along as well as I could, I found a
chair on which I passed the night. At day-break, my tormentor,
called up by his honest comrades, joined them in drinking and
shouting, and the three strangers, taking their guns, departed. Left
alone by the departure of the vile rabble, I passed another
unpleasant hour, calling in vain for someone. At last a young boy
came in, I gave him some money and he went for a surgeon. The doctor
examined my foot, and assured me that three or four days would set me
to rights. He advised me to be removed to an inn, and I most
willingly followed his counsel. As soon as I was brought to the inn,
I went to bed, and was well cared for, but my position was such that
I dreaded the moment of my recovery. I feared that I should be
compelled to sell my coat to pay the inn-keeper, and the very thought
made me feel ashamed. I began to consider that if I had controlled
my sympathy for the young girl so ill-treated by Stephano, I should
not have fallen into this sad predicament, and I felt conscious that
my sympathy had been a mistake. If I had put up with the faults of
the friar, if this and if that, and every other if was conjured up to
torment my restless and wretched brain. Yet I must confess that the
thoughts which have their origin in misfortune are not without
advantage to a young man, for they give him the habit of thinking,
and the man who does not think never does anything right.
The morning of the fourth day came, and I was able to walk, as the
surgeon had predicted; I made up my mind, although reluctantly, to
beg the worthy man to sell my great coat for me--a most unpleasant
necessity, for rain had begun to fall. I owed fifteen paoli to the
inn-keeper and four to the surgeon. Just as I was going to proffer
my painful request, Brother Stephano made his appearance in my room,
and burst into loud laughter enquiring whether I had forgotten the
blow from his stick!
I was struck with amazement! I begged the surgeon to leave me with
the monk, and he immediately complied.
I must ask my readers whether it is possible, in the face of such
extraordinary circumstances, not to feel superstitious! What is
truly miraculous in this case is the precise minute at which the
event took place, for the friar entered the room as the word was
hanging on my lips. What surprised me most was the force of
Providence, of fortune, of chance, whatever name is given to it, of
that very necessary combination which compelled me to find no hope
but in that fatal monk, who had begun to be my protective genius in
Chiozza at the moment my distress had likewise commenced. And yet, a
singular guardian angel, this Stephano! I felt that the mysterious
force which threw me in his hands was a punishment rather than a
Nevertheless he was welcome, because I had no doubt of his relieving
me from my difficulties,--and whatever might be the power that sent
him to me, I felt that I could not do better than to submit to its
influence; the destiny of that monk was to escort me to Rome.
"Chi va piano va sano," said the friar as soon as we were alone. He
had taken five days to traverse the road over which I had travelled
in one day, but he was in good health, and he had met with no
misfortune. He told me that, as he was passing, he heard that an
abbe, secretary to the Venetian ambassador at Rome, was lying ill at
the inn, after having been robbed in Valcimara. "I came to see you,"
he added, "and as I find you recovered from your illness, we can
start again together; I agree to walk six miles every day to please
you. Come, let us forget the past, and let us be at once on our
"I cannot go; I have lost my purse, and I owe twenty paoli."
"I will go and find the amount in the name of Saint-Francis."
He returned within an hour, but he was accompanied by the infamous
constable who told me that, if I had let him know who I was, he would
have been happy to keep me in his house. "I will give you," he
continued, "forty paoli, if you will promise me the protection of
your ambassador; but if you do not succeed in obtaining it for me in
Rome, you will undertake to repay me. Therefore you must give me an
acknowledgement of the debt."
"I have no objection." Every arrangement was speedily completed; I
received the money, paid my debts, and left Seraval with Stephano.
About one o'clock in the afternoon, we saw a wretched-looking house
at a short distance from the road, and the friar said, "It is a good
distance from here to Collefiorito; we had better put up there for
the night." It was in vain that I objected, remonstrating that we
were certain of having very poor accommodation! I had to submit to
his will. We found a decrepit old man lying on a pallet, two ugly
women of thirty or forty, three children entirely naked, a cow, and a
cursed dog which barked continually. It was a picture of squalid
misery; but the niggardly monk, instead of giving alms to the poor
people, asked them to entertain us to supper in the name of Saint-
"You must boil the hen," said the dying man to the females, "and
bring out of the cellar the bottle of wine which I have kept now for
twenty years." As he uttered those few words, he was seized with
such a fit of coughing that I thought he would die. The friar went
near him, and promised him that, by the grace of Saint-Francis, he
would get young and well. Moved by the sight of so much misery, I
wanted to continue my journey as far as Collefiorito, and to wait
there for Stephano, but the women would not let me go, and I
remained. After boiling for four hours the hen set the strongest
teeth at defiance, and the bottle which I uncorked proved to be
nothing but sour vinegar. Losing patience, I got hold of the monk's
batticaslo, and took out of it enough for a plentiful supper, and I
saw the two women opening their eyes very wide at the sight of our
We all ate with good appetite, and, after our supper the women made
for us two large beds of fresh straw, and we lay down in the dark, as
the last bit of candle to be found in the miserable dwelling was
burnt out. We had not been lying on the straw five minutes, when
Stephano called out to me that one of the women had just placed
herself near him, and at the same instant the other one takes me in
her arms and kisses me. I push her away, and the monk defends
himself against the other; but mine, nothing daunted, insists upon
laying herself near me; I get up, the dog springs at my neck, and
fear compels me to remain quiet on my straw bed; the monk screams,
swears, struggles, the dog barks furiously, the old man coughs; all
is noise and confusion. At last Stephano, protected by his heavy
garments, shakes off the too loving shrew, and, braving the dog,
manages to find his stick. Then he lays about to right and left,
striking in every direction; one of the women exclaims, "Oh, God!"
the friar answers, "She has her quietus." Calm reigns again in the
house, the dog, most likely dead, is silent; the old man, who perhaps
has received his death-blow, coughs no more; the children sleep, and
the women, afraid of the singular caresses of the monk, sheer off
into a corner; the remainder of the night passed off quietly.
At day-break I rose; Stephano was likewise soon up. I looked all
round, and my surprise was great when I found that the women had gone
out, and seeing that the old man gave no sign of life, and had a
bruise on his forehead, I shewed it to Stephano, remarking that very
likely he had killed him.
"It is possible," he answered, "but I have not done it
Then taking up his batticulo and finding it empty he flew into a
violent passion; but I was much pleased, for I had been afraid that
the women had gone out to get assistance and to have us arrested, and
the robbery of our provisions reassured me, as I felt certain that
the poor wretches had gone out of the way so as to secure impunity
for their theft. But I laid great stress upon the danger we should
run by remaining any longer, and I succeeded in frightening the friar
out of the house. We soon met a waggoner going to Folligno; I
persuaded Stephano to take the opportunity of putting a good distance
between us and the scene of our last adventures; and, as we were
eating our breakfast at Folligno, we saw another waggon, quite empty,
got a lift in it for a trifle, and thus rode to Pisignano, where a
devout person gave us a charitable welcome, and I slept soundly
through the night without the dread of being arrested.
Early the next day we reached Spoleti, where Brother Stephano had two
benefactors, and, careful not to give either of them a cause of
jealousy, he favoured both; we dined with the first, who entertained
us like princes, and we had supper and lodging in the house of the
second, a wealthy wine merchant, and the father of a large and
delightful family. He gave us a delicious supper, and everything
would have gone on pleasantly had not the friar, already excited by
his good dinner, made himself quite drunk. In that state, thinking
to please his new host, he began to abuse the other, greatly to my
annoyance; he said the wine he had given us to drink was adulterated,
and that the man was a thief. I gave him the lie to his face, and
called him a scoundrel. The host and his wife pacified me, saying
that they were well acquainted with their neighbour, and knew what to
think of him; but the monk threw his napkin at my face, and the host
took him very quietly by the arm and put him to bed in a room in
which he locked him up. I slept in another room.
In the morning I rose early, and was considering whether it would not
be better to go alone, when the friar, who had slept himself sober,
made his appearance and told me that we ought for the future to live
together like good friends, and not give way to angry feelings; I
followed my destiny once more. We resumed our journey, and at Soma,
the inn-keeper, a woman of rare beauty, gave us a good dinner, and
some excellent Cyprus wine which the Venetian couriers exchanged with
her against delicious truffles found in the vicinity of Soma, which
sold for a good price in Venice. I did not leave the handsome inn-
keeper without losing a part of my heart.
It would be difficult to draw a picture of the indignation which
overpowered me when, as we were about two miles from Terni, the
infamous friar shewed me a small bag full of truffles which the
scoundrel had stolen from the amiable woman by way of thanks for her
generous hospitality. The truffles were worth two sequins at least.
In my indignation I snatched the bag from him, saying that I would
certainly return it to its lawful owner. But, as he had not
committed the robbery to give himself the pleasure of making
restitution, he threw himself upon me, and we came to a regular
fight. But victory did not remain long in abeyance; I forced his
stick out of his hands, knocked him into a ditch, and went off. On
reaching Terni, I wrote a letter of apology to our beautiful hostess
of Soma, and sent back the truffles.
From Terni I went on foot to Otricoli, where I only stayed long
enough to examine the fine old bridge, and from there I paid four
paoli to a waggoner who carried me to Castel-Nuovo, from which place
I walked to Rome. I reached the celebrated city on the 1st of
September, at nine in the morning.
I must not forget to mention here a rather peculiar circumstance,
which, however ridiculous it may be in reality, will please many of
An hour after I had left Castel-Nuovo, the atmosphere being calm and
the sky clear, I perceived on my right, and within ten paces of me, a
pyramidal flame about two feet long and four or five feet above the
ground. This apparition surprised me, because it seemed to accompany
me. Anxious to examine it, I endeavoured to get nearer to it, but
the more I advanced towards it the further it went from me. It would
stop when I stood still, and when the road along which I was
travelling happened to be lined with trees, I no longer saw it, but
it was sure to reappear as soon as I reached a portion of the road
without trees. I several times retraced my steps purposely, but,
every time I did so, the flame disappeared, and would not shew itself
again until I proceeded towards Rome. This extraordinary beacon left
me when daylight chased darkness from the sky.
What a splendid field for ignorant superstition, if there had been
any witnesses to that phenomenon, and if I had chanced to make a
great name in Rome! History is full of such trifles, and the world
is full of people who attach great importance to them in spite of the
so-called light of science. I must candidly confess that, although
somewhat versed in physics, the sight of that small meteor gave me
singular ideas. But I was prudent enough not to mention the
circumstance to any one.
When I reached the ancient capital of the world, I possessed only
seven paoli, and consequently I did not loiter about. I paid no
attention to the splendid entrance through the gate of the polar
trees, which is by mistake pompously called of the people, or to the
beautiful square of the same name, or to the portals of the
magnificent churches, or to all the stately buildings which generally
strike the traveller as he enters the city. I went straight towards
Monte-Magnanopoli, where, according to the address given to me, I was
to find the bishop. There I was informed that he had left Rome ten
days before, leaving instructions to send me to Naples free of
expense. A coach was to start for Naples the next day; not caring to
see Rome, I went to bed until the time for the departure of the
coach. I travelled with three low fellows to whom I did not address
one word through the whole of the journey. I entered Naples on the
6th day of September.
I went immediately to the address which had been given to me in Rome;
the bishop was not there. I called at the Convent of the Minims, and
I found that he had left Naples to proceed to Martorano. I enquired
whether he had left any instructions for me, but all in vain, no one
could give me any information. And there I was, alone in a large
city, without a friend, with eight carlini in my pocket, and not
knowing what to do! But never mind; fate calls me to Martorano, and
to Martorano I must go. The distance, after all, is only two hundred
I found several drivers starting for Cosenza, but when they heard
that I had no luggage, they refused to take me, unless I paid in
advance. They were quite right, but their prudence placed me under
the necessity of going on foot. Yet I felt I must reach Martorano,
and I made up my mind to walk the distance, begging food and lodging
like the very reverend Brother Stephano.
First of all I made a light meal for one fourth of my money, and,
having been informed that I had to follow the Salerno road, I went
towards Portici where I arrived in an hour and a half. I already
felt rather fatigued; my legs, if not my head, took me to an inn,
where I ordered a room and some supper. I was served in good style,
my appetite was excellent, and I passed a quiet night in a
comfortable bed. In the morning I told the inn-keeper that I would
return for my dinner, and I went out to visit the royal palace. As I
passed through the gate, I was met by a man of prepossessing
appearance, dressed in the eastern fashion, who offered to shew me
all over the palace, saying that I would thus save my money. I was
in a position to accept any offer; I thanked him for his kindness.
Happening during the conversation to state that I was a Venetian, he
told me that he was my subject, since he came from Zante. I
acknowledged his polite compliment with a reverence.
"I have," he said, "some very excellent muscatel wine 'grown in the
East, which I could sell you cheap."
"I might buy some, but I warn you I am a good judge."
"So much the better. Which do you prefer?"
"The Cerigo wine."
"You are right. I have some rare Cerigo muscatel, and we can taste
it if you have no objection to dine with me."
"I can likewise give you the wines of Samos and Cephalonia. I have
also a quantity of minerals, plenty of vitriol, cinnabar, antimony,
and one hundred quintals of mercury."
"Are all these goods here?"
"No, they are in Naples. Here I have only the muscatel wine and the
It is quite naturally and without any intention to deceive, that a
young man accustomed to poverty, and ashamed of it when he speaks to
a rich stranger, boasts of his means--of his fortune. As I was
talking with my new acquaintance, I recollected an amalgam of mercury
with lead and bismuth, by which the mercury increases one-fourth in
weight. I said nothing, but I bethought myself that if the mystery
should be unknown to the Greek I might profit by it. I felt that
some cunning was necessary, and that he would not care for my secret
if I proposed to sell it to him without preparing the way. The best
plan was to astonish my man with the miracle of the augmentation of
the mercury, treat it as a jest, and see what his intentions would
be. Cheating is a crime, but honest cunning may be considered as a
species of prudence. True, it is a quality which is near akin to
roguery; but that cannot be helped, and the man who, in time of need,
does not know how to exercise his cunning nobly is a fool. The
Greeks call this sort of wisdom Cerdaleophyon from the word cerdo;
fox, and it might be translated by foxdom if there were such a word
After we had visited the palace we returned to the inn, and the Greek
took me to his room, in which he ordered the table to be laid for
two. In the next room I saw several large vessels of muscatel wine
and four flagons of mercury, each containing about ten pounds.
My plans were laid, and I asked him to let me have one of the flagons
of mercury at the current price, and took it to my room. The Greek
went out to attend to his business, reminding me that he expected me
to dinner. I went out likewise, and bought two pounds and a half of
lead and an equal quantity of bismuth; the druggist had no more. I
came back to the inn, asked for some large empty bottles, and made
We dined very pleasantly, and the Greek was delighted because I
pronounced his Cerigo excellent. In the course of conversation he
inquired laughingly why I had bought one of his flagons of mercury.
"You can find out if you come to my room," I said.
After dinner we repaired to my room, and he found his mercury divided
in two vessels. I asked for a piece of chamois, strained the liquid
through it, filled his own flagon, and the Greek stood astonished at
the sight of the fine mercury, about one-fourth of a flagon, which
remained over, with an equal quantity of a powder unknown to him; it
was the bismuth. My merry laugh kept company with his astonishment,
and calling one of the servants of the inn I sent him to the druggist
to sell the mercury that was left. He returned in a few minutes and
handed me fifteen carlini.
The Greek, whose surprise was complete, asked me to give him back his
own flagon, which was there quite full, and worth sixty carlini. I
handed it to him with a smile, thanking him for the opportunity he
had afforded me of earning fifteen carlini, and took care to add that
I should leave for Salerno early the next morning.
"Then we must have supper together this evening," he said.
During the afternoon we took a walk towards Mount Vesuvius. Our
conversation went from one subject to another, but no allusion was
made to the mercury, though I could see that the Greek had something
on his mind. At supper he told me, jestingly, that I ought to stop
in Portici the next day to make forty-five carlini out of the three
other flagons of mercury. I answered gravely that I did not want the
money, and that I had augmented the first flagon only for the sake of
procuring him an agreeable surprise.
"But," said he, "you must be very wealthy."
"No, I am not, because I am in search of the secret of the
augmentation of gold, and it is a very expensive study for us."
"How many are there in your company?"
"Only my uncle and myself."
"What do you want to augment gold for? The augmentation of mercury
ought to be enough for you. Pray, tell me whether the mercury
augmented by you to-day is again susceptible of a similar increase."
"No, if it were so, it would be an immense source of wealth for us."
"I am much pleased with your sincerity."
Supper over I paid my bill, and asked the landlord to get me a
carriage and pair of horses to take me to Salerno early the next
morning. I thanked the Greek for his delicious muscatel wine, and,
requesting his address in Naples, I assured him that he would see me
within a fortnight, as I was determined to secure a cask of his
We embraced each other, and I retired to bed well pleased with my
day's work, and in no way astonished at the Greek's not offering to
purchase my secret, for I was certain that he would not sleep for
anxiety, and that I should see him early in the morning. At all
events, I had enough money to reach the Tour-du-Grec, and there
Providence would take care of me. Yet it seemed to me very difficult
to travel as far as Martorano, begging like a mendicant-friar,
because my outward appearance did not excite pity; people would feel
interested in me only from a conviction that I needed nothing--a very
unfortunate conviction, when the object of it is truly poor.
As I had forseen, the Greek was in my room at daybreak. I received
him in a friendly way, saying that we could take coffee together.
"Willingly; but tell me, reverend abbe, whether you would feel
disposed to sell me your secret?"
"Why not? When we meet in Naples--"
"But why not now?"
"I am expected in Salerno; besides, I would only sell the secret for
a large sum of money, and I am not acquainted with you."
"That does not matter, as I am sufficiently known here to pay you in
cash. How much would you want?"
"Two thousand ounces."
"I agree to pay you that sum provided that I succeed in making the
augmentation myself with such matter as you name to me, which I will
"It is impossible, because the necessary ingredients cannot be got
here; but they are common enough in Naples."
"If it is any sort of metal, we can get it at the Tourdu-Grec. We
could go there together. Can you tell me what is the expense of the
"One and a half per cent. but are you likewise known at the Tour-du-
Grec, for I should not like to lose my time?"
"Your doubts grieve me."
Saying which, he took a pen, wrote a few words, and handed to me this
"At sight, pay to bearer the sum of fifty gold ounces, on account of
He told me that the banker resided within two hundred yards of the
inn, and he pressed me to go there myself. I did not stand upon
ceremony, but went to the banker who paid me the amount. I returned
to my room in which he was waiting for me, and placed the gold on the
table, saying that we could now proceed together to the Tour-du-Grec,
where we would complete our arrangements after the signature of a
deed of agreement. The Greek had his own carriage and horses; he
gave orders for them to be got ready, and we left the inn; but he had
nobly insisted upon my taking possession of the fifty ounces.
When we arrived at the Tour-du-Grec, he signed a document by which he
promised to pay me two thousand ounces as soon as I should have
discovered to him the process of augmenting mercury by one-fourth
without injuring its quality, the amalgam to be equal to the mercury
which I had sold in his presence at Portici.
He then gave me a bill of exchange payable at sight in eight days on
M. Genaro de Carlo. I told him that the ingredients were lead and
bismuth; the first, combining with mercury, and the second giving to
the whole the perfect fluidity necessary to strain it through the
chamois leather. The Greek went out to try the amalgam--I do not
know where, and I dined alone, but toward evening he came back,
looking very disconsolate, as I had expected.
"I have made the amalgam," he said, "but the mercury is not perfect."
"It is equal to that which I have sold in Portici, and that is the
very letter of your engagement."
"But my engagement says likewise without injury to the quality. You
must agree that the quality is injured, because it is no longer
susceptible of further augmentation."
"You knew that to be the case; the point is its equality with the
mercury I sold in Portici. But we shall have to go to law, and you
will lose. I am sorry the secret should become public. Congratulate
yourself, sir, for, if you should gain the lawsuit, you will have
obtained my secret for nothing. I would never have believed you
capable of deceiving me in such a manner."
"Reverend sir, I can assure you that I would not willingly deceive
"Do you know the secret, or do you not? Do you suppose I would have
given it to you without the agreement we entered into? Well, there
will be some fun over this affair in Naples, and the lawyers will
make money out of it. But I am much grieved at this turn of affairs,
and I am very sorry that I allowed myself to be so easily deceived by
your fine talk. In the mean time, here are your fifty ounces."
As I was taking the money out of my pocket, frightened to death lest
he should accept it, he left the room, saying that he would not have
it. He soon returned; we had supper in the same room, but at
separate tables; war had been openly declared, but I felt certain
that a treaty of peace would soon be signed. We did not exchange one
word during the evening, but in the morning he came to me as I was
getting ready to go. I again offered to return the money I received,
but he told me to keep it, and proposed to give me fifty ounces more
if I would give him back his bill of exchange for two thousand. We
began to argue the matter quietly, and after two hours of discussion
I gave in. I received fifty ounces more, we dined together like old
friends, and embraced each other cordially. As I was bidding him
adieu, he gave me an order on his house at Naples for a barrel of
muscatel wine, and he presented me with a splendid box containing
twelve razors with silver handles, manufactured in the Tour-du-Grec.
We parted the best friends in the world and well pleased with each
I remained two days in Salerno to provide myself with linen and other
necessaries. Possessing about one hundred sequins, and enjoying good
health, I was very proud of my success, in which I could not see any
cause of reproach to myself, for the cunning I had brought into play
to insure the sale of my secret could not be found fault with except
by the most intolerant of moralists, and such men have no authority
to speak on matters of business. At all events, free, rich, and
certain of presenting myself before the bishop with a respectable
appearance, and not like a beggar, I soon recovered my natural
spirits, and congratulated myself upon having bought sufficient
experience to insure me against falling a second time an easy prey to
a Father Corsini, to thieving gamblers, to mercenary women, and
particularly to the impudent scoundrels who barefacedly praise so
well those they intend to dupe--a species of knaves very common in
the world, even amongst people who form what is called good society.
I left Salerno with two priests who were going to Cosenza on
business, and we traversed the distance of one hundred and forty-two
miles in twenty-two hours. The day after my arrival in the capital
of Calabria, I took a small carriage and drove to Martorano. During
the journey, fixing my eyes upon the famous mare Ausonaum, I felt
delighted at finding myself in the middle of Magna Grecia, rendered
so celebrated for twenty-four centuries by its connection with
Pythagoras. I looked with astonishment upon a country renowned for
its fertility, and in which, in spite of nature's prodigality, my
eyes met everywhere the aspect of terrible misery, the complete
absence of that pleasant superfluity which helps man to enjoy life,
and the degradation of the inhabitants sparsely scattered on a soil
where they ought to be so numerous; I felt ashamed to acknowledge
them as originating from the same stock as myself. Such is, however
the Terra di Lavoro where labour seems to be execrated, where
everything is cheap, where the miserable inhabitants consider that
they have made a good bargain when they have found anyone disposed to
take care of the fruit which the ground supplies almost spontaneously
in too great abundance, and for which there is no market. I felt
compelled to admit the justice of the Romans who had called them
Brutes instead of Byutians. The good priests with whom I had been
travelling laughed at my dread of the tarantula and of the crasydra,
for the disease brought on by the bite of those insects appeared to
me more fearful even than a certain disease with which I was already
too well acquainted. They assured me that all the stories relating
to those creatures were fables; they laughed at the lines which
Virgil has devoted to them in the Georgics as well as at all those I
quoted to justify my fears.
I found Bishop Bernard de Bernardis occupying a hard chair near an
old table on which he was writing. I fell on my knees, as it is
customary to do before a prelate, but, instead of giving me his
blessing, he raised me up from the floor, and, folding me in his
arms, embraced me tenderly. He expressed his deep sorrow when I told
him that in Naples I had not been able to find any instructions to
enable me to join him, but his face lighted up again when I added
that I was indebted to no one for money, and that I was in good
health. He bade me take a seat, and with a heavy sigh he began to
talk of his poverty, and ordered a servant to lay the cloth for three
persons. Besides this servant, his lordship's suite consisted of a
most devout-looking housekeeper, and of a priest whom I judged to be
very ignorant from the few words he uttered during our meal. The
house inhabited by his lordship was large, but badly built and poorly
kept. The furniture was so miserable that, in order to make up a bed
for me in the room adjoining his chamber, the poor bishop had to give
up one of his two mattresses! His dinner, not to say any more about
it, frightened me, for he was very strict in keeping the rules of his
order, and this being a fast day, he did not eat any meat, and the
oil was very bad. Nevertheless, monsignor was an intelligent man,
and, what is still better, an honest man. He told me, much to my
surprise, that his bishopric, although not one of little importance,
brought him in only five hundred ducat-diregno yearly, and that,
unfortunately, he had contracted debts to the amount of six hundred.
He added, with a sigh, that his only happiness was to feel himself
out of the clutches of the monks, who had persecuted him, and made
his life a perfect purgatory for fifteen years. All these
confidences caused me sorrow and mortification, because they proved
to me, not only that I was not in the promised land where a mitre
could be picked up, but also that I would be a heavy charge for him.
I felt that he was grieved himself at the sorry present his patronage
seemed likely to prove.
I enquired whether he had a good library, whether there were any
literary men, or any good society in which one could spend a few
agreeable hours. He smiled and answered that throughout his diocese
there was not one man who could boast of writing decently, and still
less of any taste or knowledge in literature; that there was not a
single bookseller, nor any person caring even for the newspapers.
But he promised me that we would follow our literary tastes together,
as soon as he received the books he had ordered from Naples.
That was all very well, but was this the place for a young man of
eighteen to live in, without a good library, without good society,
without emulation and literacy intercourse? The good bishop, seeing
me full of sad thoughts, and almost astounded at the prospect of the
miserable life I should have to lead with him, tried to give me
courage by promising to do everything in his power to secure my
The next day, the bishop having to officiate in his pontifical robes,
I had an opportunity of seeing all the clergy, and all the faithful
of the diocese, men and women, of whom the cathedral was full; the
sight made me resolve at once to leave Martorano. I thought I was
gazing upon a troop of brutes for whom my external appearance was a
cause of scandal. How ugly were the women! What a look of stupidity
and coarseness in the men! When I returned to the bishop's house I
told the prelate that I did not feel in me the vocation to die within
a few months a martyr in this miserable city.
"Give me your blessing," I added, "and let me go; or, rather, come
with me. I promise you that we shall make a fortune somewhere else."
The proposal made him laugh repeatedly during the day. Had he agreed
to it he would not have died two years afterwards in the prime of
manhood. The worthy man, feeling how natural was my repugnance,
begged me to forgive him for having summoned me to him, and,
considering it his duty to send me back to Venice, having no money
himself and not being aware that I had any, he told me that he would
give me an introduction to a worthy citizen of Naples who would lend
me sixty ducati-di-regno to enable me to reach my native city. I
accepted his offer with gratitude, and going to my room I took out of
my trunk the case of fine razors which the Greek had given me, and I
begged his acceptance of it as a souvenir of me. I had great
difficulty in forcing it upon him, for it was worth the sixty ducats,
and to conquer his resistance I had to threaten to remain with him if
he refused my present. He gave me a very flattering letter of
recommendation for the Archbishop of Cosenza, in which he requested
him to forward me as far as Naples without any expense to myself. It
was thus I left Martorano sixty hours after my arrival, pitying the
bishop whom I was leaving behind, and who wept as he was pouring
heartfelt blessings upon me.
The Archbishop of Cosenza, a man of wealth and of intelligence,
offered me a room in his palace. During the dinner I made, with an
overflowing heart, the eulogy of the Bishop of Martorano; but I
railed mercilessly at his diocese and at the whole of Calabria in so
cutting a manner that I greatly amused the archbishop and all his
guests, amongst whom were two ladies, his relatives, who did the
honours of the dinner-table. The youngest, however, objected to the
satirical style in which I had depicted her country, and declared war
against me; but I contrived to obtain peace again by telling her that
Calabria would be a delightful country if one-fourth only of its
inhabitants were like her. Perhaps it was with the idea of proving
to me that I had been wrong in my opinion that the archbishop gave on
the following day a splendid supper.
Cosenza is a city in which a gentleman can find plenty of amusement;
the nobility are wealthy, the women are pretty, and men generally
well-informed, because they have been educated in Naples or in Rome.
I left Cosenza on the third day with a letter from the archbishop for
the far-famed Genovesi.
I had five travelling companions, whom I judged, from their
appearance, to be either pirates or banditti, and I took very good
care not to let them see or guess that I had a well-filled purse. I
likewise thought it prudent to go to bed without undressing during
the whole journey--an excellent measure of prudence for a young man
travelling in that part of the country.
I reached Naples on the 16th of September, 1743, and I lost no time
in presenting the letter of the Bishop of Martorano. It was
addressed to a M. Gennaro Polo at St. Anne's. This excellent man,
whose duty was only to give me the sum of sixty ducats, insisted,
after perusing the bishop's letter, upon receiving me in his house,
because he wished me to make the acquaintance of his son, who was a
poet like myself. The bishop had represented my poetry as sublime.
After the usual ceremonies, I accepted his kind invitation, my trunk
was sent for, and I was a guest in the house of M. Gennaro Polo.
My Stay in Naples; It Is Short but Happy--Don Antonio Casanova--Don
Lelio Caraffa--I Go to Rome in Very Agreeable Company, and Enter the
Service of Cardinal Acquaviva--Barbara--Testaccio--Frascati
I had no difficulty in answering the various questions which Doctor
Gennaro addressed to me, but I was surprised, and even displeased, at
the constant peals of laughter with which he received my answers.
The piteous description of miserable Calabria, and the picture of the
sad situation of the Bishop of Martorano, appeared to me more likely
to call forth tears than to excite hilarity, and, suspecting that
some mystification was being played upon me, I was very near getting
angry when, becoming more composed, he told me with feeling that I
must kindly excuse him; that his laughter was a disease which seemed
to be endemic in his family, for one of his uncles died of it.
"What! "I exclaimed, "died of laughing!"
"Yes. This disease, which was not known to Hippocrates, is called li
"What do you mean? Does an hypochondriac affection, which causes
sadness and lowness in all those who suffer from it, render you
"Yes, because, most likely, my flati, instead of influencing the
hypochondrium, affects my spleen, which my physician asserts to be
the organ of laughter. It is quite a discovery."
"You are mistaken; it is a very ancient notion, and it is the only
function which is ascribed to the spleen in our animal organization."
"Well, we must discuss the matter at length, for I hope you will
remain with us a few weeks."
"I wish I could, but I must leave Naples to-morrow or the day after."
"Have you got any money?"
"I rely upon the sixty ducats you have to give me."
At these words, his peals of laughter began again, and as he could
see that I was annoyed, he said, "I am amused at the idea that I can
keep you here as long as I like. But be good enough to see my son;
he writes pretty verses enough."
And truly his son, although only fourteen, was already a great poet.
A servant took me to the apartment of the young man whom I found
possessed of a pleasing countenance and engaging manners. He gave me
a polite welcome, and begged to be excused if he could not attend to
me altogether for the present, as he had to finish a song which he
was composing for a relative of the Duchess de Rovino, who was taking
the veil at the Convent of St. Claire, and the printer was waiting
for the manuscript. I told him that his excuse was a very good one,
and I offered to assist him. He then read his song, and I found it
so full of enthusiasm, and so truly in the style of Guidi, that I
advised him to call it an ode; but as I had praised all the truly
beautiful passages, I thought I could venture to point out the weak
ones, and I replaced them by verses of my own composition. He was
delighted, and thanked me warmly, inquiring whether I was Apollo. As
he was writing his ode, I composed a sonnet on the same subject, and,
expressing his admiration for it he begged me to sign it, and to
allow him to send it with his poetry.
While I was correcting and recopying my manuscript, he went to his
father to find out who I was, which made the old man laugh until
supper-time. In the evening, I had the pleasure of seeing that my
bed had been prepared in the young man's chamber.
Doctor Gennaro's family was composed of this son and of a daughter
unfortunately very plain, of his wife and of two elderly, devout
sisters. Amongst the guests at the supper-table I met several
literary men, and the Marquis Galiani, who was at that time
annotating Vitruvius. He had a brother, an abbe whose acquaintance I
made twenty years after, in Paris, when he was secretary of embassy
to Count Cantillana. The next day, at supper, I was presented to the
celebrated Genovesi; I had already sent him the letter of the
Archbishop of Cosenza. He spoke to me of Apostolo Zeno and of the
Abbe Conti. He remarked that it was considered a very venial sin for
a regular priest to say two masses in one day for the sake of earning
two carlini more, but that for the same sin a secular priest would
deserve to be burnt at the stake.
The nun took the veil on the following day, and Gennaro's ode and my
sonnet had the greatest success. A Neapolitan gentleman, whose name
was the same as mine, expressed a wish to know me, and, hearing that
I resided at the doctor's, he called to congratulate him on the
occasion of his feast-day, which happened to fall on the day
following the ceremony at Sainte-Claire.
Don Antonio Casanova, informing me of his name, enquired whether my
family was originally from Venice.
"I am, sir," I answered modestly, "the great-grandson of the
unfortunate Marco Antonio Casanova, secretary to Cardinal Pompeo
Colonna, who died of the plague in Rome, in the year 1528, under the
pontificate of Clement VII." The words were scarcely out of my lips
when he embraced me, calling me his cousin, but we all thought that
Doctor Gennaro would actually die with laughter, for it seemed
impossible to laugh so immoderately without risk of life. Madame
Gennaro was very angry and told my newly-found cousin that he might
have avoided enacting such a scene before her husband, knowing his
disease, but he answered that he never thought the circumstance
likely to provoke mirth. I said nothing, for, in reality, I felt
that the recognition was very comic. Our poor laugher having
recovered his composure, Casanova, who had remained very serious,
invited me to dinner for the next day with my young friend Paul
Gennaro, who had already become my alter ego.
When we called at his house, my worthy cousin showed me his family
tree, beginning with a Don Francisco, brother of Don Juan. In my
pedigree, which I knew by heart, Don Juan, my direct ancestor, was a
posthumous child. It was possible that there might have been a
brother of Marco Antonio's; but when he heard that my genealogy began
with Don Francisco, from Aragon, who had lived in the fourteenth
century, and that consequently all the pedigree of the illustrious
house of the Casanovas of Saragossa belonged to him, his joy knew no
bounds; he did not know what to do to convince me that the same blood
was flowing in his veins and in mine.
He expressed some curiosity to know what lucky accident had brought
me to Naples; I told him that, having embraced the ecclesiastical
profession, I was going to Rome to seek my fortune. He then
presented me to his family, and I thought that I could read on the
countenance of my cousin, his dearly beloved wife, that she was not
much pleased with the newly-found relationship, but his pretty
daughter, and a still prettier niece of his, might very easily have
given me faith in the doctrine that blood is thicker than water,
however fabulous it may be.
After dinner, Don Antonio informed me that the Duchess de Bovino had
expressed a wish to know the Abbe Casanova who had written the sonnet
in honour of her relative, and that he would be very happy to
introduce me to her as his own cousin. As we were alone at that
moment, I begged he would not insist on presenting me, as I was only
provided with travelling suits, and had to be careful of my purse so
as not to arrive in Rome without money. Delighted at my confidence,
and approving my economy, he said, "I am rich, and you must not
scruple to come with me to my tailor;" and he accompanied his offer
with an assurance that the circumstance would not be known to anyone,
and that he would feel deeply mortified if I denied him the pleasure
of serving me. I shook him warmly by the hand, and answered that I
was ready to do anything he pleased. We went to a tailor who took my
measure, and who brought me on the following day everything necessary
to the toilet of the most elegant abbe. Don Antonio called on me,
and remained to dine with Don Gennaro, after which he took me and my
friend Paul to the duchess. This lady, according to the Neapolitan
fashion, called me thou in her very first compliment of welcome. Her
daughter, then only ten or twelve years old, was very handsome, and a
few years later became Duchess de Matalona. The duchess presented me
with a snuff-box in pale tortoise-shell with arabesque incrustations
in gold, and she invited us to dine with her on the morrow, promising
to take us after dinner to the Convent of St. Claire to pay a visit
to the new nun.
As we came out of the palace of the duchess, I left my friends and
went alone to Panagiotti's to claim the barrel of muscatel wine. The
manager was kind enough to have the barrel divided into two smaller
casks of equal capacity, and I sent one to Don Antonio, and the other
to Don Gennaro. As I was leaving the shop I met the worthy
Panagiotti, who was glad to see me. Was I to blush at the sight of
the good man I had at first deceived? No, for in his opinion I had
acted very nobly towards him.
Don Gennaro, as I returned home, managed to thank me for my handsome
present without laughing, and the next day Don Antonio, to make up
for the muscatel wine I had sent him, offered me a gold-headed cane,
worth at least fifteen ounces, and his tailor brought me a travelling
suit and a blue great coat, with the buttonholes in gold lace. I
therefore found myself splendidly equipped.
At the Duchess de Bovino's dinner I made the acquaintance of the
wisest and most learned man in Naples, the illustrious Don Lelio
Caraffa, who belonged to the ducal family of Matalona, and whom King
Carlos honoured with the title of friend.
I spent two delightful hours in the convent parlour, coping
successfully with the curiosity of all the nuns who were pressing
against the grating. Had destiny allowed me to remain in Naples my
fortune would have been made; but, although I had no fixed plan, the
voice of fate summoned me to Rome, and therefore I resisted all the
entreaties of my cousin Antonio to accept the honourable position of
tutor in several houses of the highest order.
Don Antonio gave a splendid dinner in my honour, but he was annoyed
and angry because he saw that his wife looked daggers at her new
cousin. I thought that, more than once, she cast a glance at my new
costume, and then whispered to the guest next to her. Very likely
she knew what had taken place. There are some positions in life to
which I could never be reconciled. If, in the most brilliant circle,
there is one person who affects to stare at me I lose all presence of
mind. Self-dignity feels outraged, my wit dies away, and I play the
part of a dolt. It is a weakness on my part, but a weakness I cannot
Don Lelio Caraffa offered me a very liberal salary if I would
undertake the education of his nephew, the Duke de Matalona, then ten
years of age. I expressed my gratitude, and begged him to be my true
benefactor in a different manner--namely, by giving me a few good
letters of introduction for Rome, a favour which he granted at once.
He gave me one for Cardinal Acquaviva, and another for Father Georgi.
I found out that the interest felt towards me by my friends had
induced them to obtain for me the honour of kissing the hand of Her
Majesty the Queen, and I hastened my preparations to leave Naples,
for the queen would certainly have asked me some questions, and I
could not have avoided telling her that I had just left Martorano and
the poor bishop whom she had sent there. The queen likewise knew my
mother; she would very likely have alluded to my mother's profession
in Dresden; it would have mortified Don Antonio, and my pedigree
would have been covered with ridicule. I knew the force of
prejudice! I should have been ruined, and I felt I should do well to
withdraw in good time. As I took leave of him, Don Antonio presented
me with a fine gold watch and gave me a letter for Don Gaspar
Vidaldi, whom he called his best friend. Don Gennaro paid me the
sixty ducats, and his son, swearing eternal friendship, asked me to
write to him. They all accompanied me to the coach, blending their
tears with mine, and loading me with good wishes and blessings.
From my landing in Chiozza up to my arrival in Naples, fortune had
seemed bent upon frowning on me; in Naples it began to shew itself
less adverse, and on my return to that city it entirely smiled upon
me. Naples has always been a fortunate place for me, as the reader
of my memoirs will discover. My readers must not forget that in
Portici I was on the point of disgracing myself, and there is no
remedy against the degradation of the mind, for nothing can restore
it to its former standard. It is a case of disheartening atony for
which there is no possible cure.
I was not ungrateful to the good Bishop of Martorano, for, if he had
unwittingly injured me by summoning me to his diocese, I felt that to
his letter for M. Gennaro I was indebted for all the good fortune
which had just befallen me. I wrote to him from Rome.
I was wholly engaged in drying my tears as we were driving through
the beautiful street of Toledo, and it was only after we had left
Naples that I could find time to examine the countenance of my
travelling companions. Next to me, I saw a man of from forty to
fifty, with a pleasing face and a lively air, but, opposite to me,
two charming faces delighted my eyes. They belonged to two ladies,
young and pretty, very well dressed, with a look of candour and
modesty. This discovery was most agreeable, but I felt sad and I
wanted calm and silence. We reached Avessa without one word being
exchanged, and as the vetturino stopped there only to water his
mules, we did not get out of the coach. From Avessa to Capua my
companions conversed almost without interruption, and, wonderful to
relate! I did not open my lips once. I was amused by the Neapolitan
jargon of the gentleman, and by the pretty accent of the ladies, who
were evidently Romans. It was a most wonderful feat for me to remain
five hours before two charming women without addressing one word to
them, without paying them one compliment.
At Capua, where we were to spend the night, we put up at an inn, and
were shown into a room with two beds--a very usual thing in Italy.
The Neapolitan, addressing himself to me, said,
"Am I to have the honour of sleeping with the reverend gentleman?"
I answered in a very serious tone that it was for him to choose or to
arrange it otherwise, if he liked. The answer made the two ladies
smile, particularly the one whom I preferred, and it seemed to me a
We were five at supper, for it is usual for the vetturino to supply
his travellers with their meals, unless some private agreement is
made otherwise, and to sit down at table with them. In the desultory
talk which went on during the supper, I found in my travelling
companions decorum, propriety, wit, and the manners of persons
accustomed to good society. I became curious to know who they were,
and going down with the driver after supper, I asked him.
"The gentleman," he told me, "is an advocate, and one of the ladies
is his wife, but I do not know which of the two."
I went back to our room, and I was polite enough to go to bed first,
in order to make it easier for the ladies to undress themselves with
freedom; I likewise got up first in the morning, left the room, and
only returned when I was called for breakfast. The coffee was
delicious. I praised it highly, and the lady, the one who was my
favourite, promised that I should have the same every morning during
our journey. The barber came in after breakfast; the advocate was
shaved, and the barber offered me his services, which I declined, but
the rogue declared that it was slovenly to wear one's beard.
When we had resumed our seats in the coach, the advocate made some
remark upon the impudence of barbers in general.
"But we ought to decide first," said the lady, "whether or not it is
slovenly to go bearded."
"Of course it is," said the advocate. "Beard is nothing but a dirty
"You may think so," I answered, "but everybody does not share your
opinion. Do we consider as a dirty excrescence the hair of which we
take so much care, and which is of the same nature as the beard? Far
from it; we admire the length and the beauty of the hair."
"Then," remarked the lady, "the barber is a fool."
"But after all," I asked, "have I any beard?"
"I thought you had," she answered.
"In that case, I will begin to shave as soon as I reach Rome, for
this is the first time that I have been convicted of having a beard."
"My dear wife," exclaimed the advocate, "you should have held your
tongue; perhaps the reverend abbe is going to Rome with the intention
of becoming a Capuchin friar."
The pleasantry made me laugh, but, unwilling that he should have the
last word, I answered that he had guessed rightly, that such had been
my intention, but that I had entirely altered my mind since I had
seen his wife.
"Oh! you are wrong," said the joyous Neapolitan, "for my wife is very
fond of Capuchins, and if you wish to please her, you had better
follow your original vocation." Our conversation continued in the
same tone of pleasantry, and the day passed off in an agreeable
manner; in the evening we had a very poor supper at Garillan, but we
made up for it by cheerfulness and witty conversation. My dawning
inclination for the advocate's wife borrowed strength from the
affectionate manner she displayed towards me.
The next day she asked me, after we had resumed our journey, whether
I intended to make a long stay in Rome before returning to Venice. I
answered that, having no acquaintances in Rome, I was afraid my life
there would be very dull.
"Strangers are liked in Rome," she said, "I feel certain that you
will be pleased with your residence in that city."
"May I hope, madam, that you will allow me to pay you my respects?"
"We shall be honoured by your calling on us," said the advocate.
My eyes were fixed upon his charming wife. She blushed, but I did
not appear to notice it. I kept up the conversation, and the day
passed as pleasantly as the previous one. We stopped at Terracina,
where they gave us a room with three beds, two single beds and a
large one between the two others. It was natural that the two
sisters should take the large bed; they did so, and undressed
themselves while the advocate and I went on talking at the table,
with our backs turned to them. As soon as they had gone to rest, the
advocate took the bed on which he found his nightcap, and I the
other, which was only about one foot distant from the large bed. I
remarked that the lady by whom I was captivated was on the side
nearest my couch, and, without much vanity, I could suppose that it
was not owing only to chance.
I put the light out and laid down, revolving in my mind a project
which I could not abandon, and yet durst not execute. In vain did I
court sleep. A very faint light enabled me to perceive the bed in
which the pretty woman was lying, and my eyes would, in spite of
myself, remain open. It would be difficult to guess what I might
have done at last (I had already fought a hard battle with myself for
more than an hour), when I saw her rise, get out of her bed, and go
and lay herself down near her husband, who, most likely, did not wake
up, and continued to sleep in peace, for I did not hear any noise.
Vexed, disgusted.... I tried to compose myself to sleep, and I woke
only at day-break. Seeing the beautiful wandering star in her own
bed, I got up, dressed myself in haste, and went out, leaving all my
companions fast asleep. I returned to the inn only at the time fixed
for our departure, and I found the advocate and the two ladies
already in the coach, waiting for me.
The lady complained, in a very obliging manner, of my not having
cared for her coffee; I pleaded as an excuse a desire for an early
walk, and I took care not to honour her even with a look; I feigned
to be suffering from the toothache, and remained in my corner dull
and silent. At Piperno she managed to whisper to me that my
toothache was all sham; I was pleased with the reproach, because it
heralded an explanation which I craved for, in spite of my vexation.
During the afternoon I continued my policy of the morning. I was
morose and silent until we reached Serinonetta, where we were to pass
the night. We arrived early, and the weather being fine, the lady
said that she could enjoy a walk, and asked me politely to offer her
my arm. I did so, for it would have been rude to refuse; besides I
had had enough of my sulking fit. An explanation could alone bring
matters back to their original standing, but I did not know how to
force it upon the lady. Her husband followed us at some distance
with the sister.
When we were far enough in advance, I ventured to ask her why she had
supposed my toothache to have been feigned.
"I am very candid," she said; "it is because the difference in your
manner was so marked, and because you were so careful to avoid
looking at me through the whole day. A toothache would not have
prevented you from being polite, and therefore I thought it had been
feigned for some purpose. But I am certain that not one of us can
possibly have given you any grounds for such a rapid change in your
"Yet something must have caused the change, and you, madam, are only
"You are mistaken, sir, I am entirely sincere; and if I have given
you any motive for anger, I am, and must remain, ignorant of it. Be
good enough to tell me what I have done."
"Nothing, for I have no right to complain."
"Yes, you have; you have a right, the same that I have myself; the
right which good society grants to every one of its members. Speak,
and shew yourself as sincere as I am."
"You are certainly bound not to know, or to pretend not to know the
real cause, but you must acknowledge that my duty is to remain
"Very well; now it is all over; but if your duty bids you to conceal
the cause of your bad humour, it also bids you not to shew it.
Delicacy sometimes enforces upon a polite gentleman the necessity of
concealing certain feelings which might implicate either himself or
others; it is a restraint for the mind, I confess, but it has some
advantage when its effect is to render more amiable the man who
forces himself to accept that restraint." Her close argument made me
blush for shame, and carrying her beautiful hand to my lips, I
confessed my self in the wrong.
"You would see me at your feet," I exclaimed, "in token of my
repentance, were I not afraid of injuring you---"
"Do not let us allude to the matter any more," she answered.
And, pleased with my repentance, she gave me a look so expressive of
forgiveness that, without being afraid of augmenting my guilt, I took
my lips off her hand and I raised them to her half-open, smiling
mouth. Intoxicated with rapture, I passed so rapidly from a state of
sadness to one of overwhelming cheerfulness that during our supper
the advocate enjoyed a thousand jokes upon my toothache, so quickly
cured by the simple remedy of a walk. On the following day we dined
at Velletri and slept in Marino, where, although the town was full of
troops, we had two small rooms and a good supper. I could not have
been on better terms with my charming Roman; for, although I had
received but a rapid proof of her regard, it had been such a true
one--such a tender one! In the coach our eyes could not say much;
but I was opposite to her, and our feet spoke a very eloquent
The advocate had told me that he was going to Rome on some
ecclesiastical business, and that he intended to reside in the house
of his mother-in-law, whom his wife had not seen since her marriage,
two years ago, and her sister hoped to remain in Rome, where she
expected to marry a clerk at the Spirito Santo Bank. He gave me
their address, with a pressing invitation to call upon them, and I
promised to devote all my spare time to them.
We were enjoying our dessert, when my beautiful lady-love, admiring
my snuff-box, told her husband that she wished she had one like it.
"I will buy you one, dear."
"Then buy mine," I said; "I will let you have it for twenty ounces,
and you can give me a note of hand payable to bearer in payment. I
owe that amount to an Englishman, and I will give it him to redeem my
"Your snuff-box, my dear abbe, is worth twenty ounces, but I cannot
buy it unless you agree to receive payment in cash; I should be
delighted to see it in my wife's possession, and she would keep it as
a remembrance of you."
His wife, thinking that I would not accept his offer, said that she
had no objection to give me the note of hand.
"But," exclaimed the advocate, "can you not guess the Englishman
exists only in our friend's imagination? He would never enter an
appearance, and we would have the snuff-box for nothing. Do not
trust the abbe, my dear, he is a great cheat."
"I had no idea," answered his wife, looking at me, "that the world
contained rogues of this species."
I affected a melancholy air, and said that I only wished myself rich
enough to be often guilty of such cheating.
When a man is in love very little is enough to throw him into
despair, and as little to enhance his joy to the utmost. There was
but one bed in the room where supper had been served, and another in
a small closet leading out of the room, but without a door. The
ladies chose the closet, and the advocate retired to rest before me.
I bid the ladies good night as soon as they had gone to bed; I looked
at my dear mistress, and after undressing myself I went to bed,
intending not to sleep through the night. But the reader may imagine
my rage when I found, as I got into the bed, that it creaked loud
enough to wake the dead. I waited, however, quite motionless, until
my companion should be fast asleep, and as soon as his snoring told
me that he was entirely under the influence of Morpheus, I tried to
slip out of the bed; but the infernal creaking which took place
whenever I moved, woke my companion, who felt about with his hand,
and, finding me near him, went to sleep again. Half an hour after, I
tried a second time, but with the same result. I had to give it up
Love is the most cunning of gods; in the midst of obstacles he seems
to be in his own element, but as his very existence depends upon the
enjoyment of those who ardently worship him, the shrewd, all-seeing,
little blind god contrives to bring success out of the most desperate
I had given up all hope for the night, and had nearly gone to sleep,
when suddenly we hear a dreadful noise. Guns are fired in the
street, people, screaming and howling, are running up and down the
stairs; at last there is a loud knocking at our door. The advocate,
frightened out of his slumbers, asks me what it can all mean; I
pretend to be very indifferent, and beg to be allowed to sleep. But
the ladies are trembling with fear, and loudly calling for a light.
I remain very quiet, the advocate jumps out of bed, and runs out of
the room to obtain a candle; I rise at once, I follow him to shut the
door, but I slam it rather too hard, the double spring of the lock
gives way, and the door cannot be reopened without the key.
I approach the ladies in order to calm their anxiety, telling them
that the advocate would soon return with a light, and that we should
then know the cause of the tumult, but I am not losing my time, and
am at work while I am speaking. I meet with very little opposition,
but, leaning rather too heavily upon my fair lady, I break through
the bottom of the bedstead, and we suddenly find ourselves, the two
ladies and myself, all together in a heap on the floor. The advocate
comes back and knocks at the door; the sister gets up, I obey the
prayers of my charming friend, and, feeling my way, reach the door,
and tell the advocate that I cannot open it, and that he must get the
key. The two sisters are behind me. I extend my hand; but I am
abruptly repulsed, and judge that I have addressed myself to the
wrong quarter; I go to the other side, and there I am better
received. But the husband returns, the noise of the key in the lock
announces that the door is going to be opened, and we return to our
The advocate hurries to the bed of the two frightened ladies,
thinking of relieving their anxiety, but, when he sees them buried in
their broken-down bedstead, he bursts into a loud laugh. He tells me
to come and have a look at them, but I am very modest, and decline
the invitation. He then tells us that the alarm has been caused by a
German detachment attacking suddenly the Spanish troops in the city,
and that the Spaniards are running away. In a quarter of an hour the
noise has ceased, and quiet is entirely re-established.
The advocate complimented me upon my coolness, got into bed again,
and was soon asleep. As for me, I was careful not to close my eyes,
and as soon as I saw daylight I got up in order to perform certain
ablutions and to change my shirt; it was an absolute necessity.
I returned for breakfast, and while we were drinking the delicious
coffee which Donna Lucrezia had made, as I thought, better than ever,
I remarked that her sister frowned on me. But how little I cared for
her anger when I saw the cheerful, happy countenance, and the
approving looks of my adored Lucrezia! I felt a delightful sensation
run through the whole of my body.
We reached Rome very early. We had taken breakfast at the Tour, and
the advocate being in a very gay mood I assumed the same tone,
loading him with compliments, and predicting that a son would be born
to him, I compelled his wife to promise it should be so. I did not
forget the sister of my charming Lucrezia, and to make her change her
hostile attitude towards me I addressed to her so many pretty
compliments, and behaved in such a friendly manner, that she was
compelled to forgive the fall of the bed. As I took leave of them, I
promised to give them a call on the following day.
I was in Rome! with a good wardrobe, pretty well supplied with money
and jewellery, not wanting in experience, and with excellent letters
of introduction. I was free, my own master, and just reaching the
age in which a man can have faith in his own fortune, provided he is
not deficient in courage, and is blessed with a face likely to
attract the sympathy of those he mixes with. I was not handsome, but
I had something better than beauty--a striking expression which
almost compelled a kind interest in my favour, and I felt myself
ready for anything. I knew that Rome is the one city in which a man
can begin from the lowest rung, and reach the very top of the social
ladder. This knowledge increased my courage, and I must confess that
a most inveterate feeling of self-esteem which, on account of my
inexperience, I could not distrust, enhanced wonderfully my
confidence in myself.
The man who intends to make his fortune in this ancient capital of
the world must be a chameleon susceptible of reflecting all the
colours of the atmosphere that surrounds him--a Proteus apt to assume
every form, every shape. He must be supple, flexible, insinuating;
close, inscrutable, often base, sometimes sincere, some times
perfidious, always concealing a part of his knowledge, indulging in
one tone of voice, patient, a perfect master of his own countenance.
as cold as ice when any other man would be all fire; and if
unfortunately he is not religious at heart--a very common occurrence
for a soul possessing the above requisites--he must have religion in
his mind, that is to say, on his face, on his lips, in his manners;
he must suffer quietly, if he be an honest man the necessity of
knowing himself an arrant hypocrite. The man whose soul would loathe
such a life should leave Rome and seek his fortune elsewhere. I do
not know whether I am praising or excusing myself, but of all those
qualities I possessed but one--namely, flexibility; for the rest, I
was only an interesting, heedless young fellow, a pretty good blood
horse, but not broken, or rather badly broken; and that is much
I began by delivering the letter I had received from Don Lelio for
Father Georgi. The learned monk enjoyed the esteem of everyone in
Rome, and the Pope himself had a great consideration for him, because
he disliked the Jesuits, and did not put a mask on to tear the mask
from their faces, although they deemed themselves powerful enough to
He read the letter with great attention, and expressed himself
disposed to be my adviser; and that consequently I might make him
responsible for any evil which might befall me, as misfortune is not
to be feared by a man who acts rightly. He asked me what I intended
to do in Rome, and I answered that I wished him to tell me what to
"Perhaps I may; but in that case you must come and see me often, and
never conceal from me anything, you understand, not anything, of what
interests you, or of what happens to you."
"Don Lelio has likewise given me a letter for the Cardinal
"I congratulate you; the cardinal's influence in Rome is greater even
than that of the Pope."
"Must I deliver the letter at once?"
"No; I will see him this evening, and prepare him for your visit.
Call on me to-morrow morning, and I will then tell you where and when
you are to deliver your letter to the cardinal. Have you any money?"
"Enough for all my wants during one year."
"That is well. Have you any acquaintances?"
"Do not make any without first consulting me, and, above all, avoid
coffee-houses and ordinaries, but if you should happen to frequent
such places, listen and never speak. Be careful to form your
judgment upon those who ask any questions from you, and if common
civility obliges you to give an answer, give only an evasive one, if
any other is likely to commit you. Do you speak French?"
"Not one word."
"I am sorry for that; you must learn French. Have you been a
"A poor one, but I have a sufficient smattering to converse with
"That is enough; but be very prudent, for Rome is the city in which
smatterers unmask each other, and are always at war amongst
themselves. I hope you will take your letter to the cardinal,
dressed like a modest abbe, and not in this elegant costume which is
not likely to conjure fortune. Adieu, let me see you to-morrow."
Highly pleased with the welcome I had received at his hands, and with
all he had said to me, I left his house and proceeded towards Campo-
di-Fiore to deliver the letter of my cousin Antonio to Don Gaspar
Vivaldi, who received me in his library, where I met two respectable-
looking priests. He gave me the most friendly welcome, asked for my
address, and invited me to dinner for the next day. He praised
Father Georgi most highly, and, accompanying me as far as the stairs,
he told me that he would give me on the morrow the amount his friend
Don Antonio requested him to hand me.
More money which my generous cousin was bestowing on me! It is easy
enough to give away when one possesses sufficient means to do it, but
it is not every man who knows how to give. I found the proceeding of
Don Antonio more delicate even than generous; I could not refuse his
present; it was my duty to prove my gratitude by accepting it.
Just after I had left M. Vivaldi's house I found myself face to face
with Stephano, and this extraordinary original loaded me with
friendly caresses. I inwardly despised him, yet I could not feel
hatred for him; I looked upon him as the instrument which Providence
had been pleased to employ in order to save me from ruin. After
telling me that he had obtained from the Pope all he wished, he
advised me to avoid meeting the fatal constable who had advanced me
two sequins in Seraval, because he had found out that I had deceived
him, and had sworn revenge against me. I asked Stephano to induce
the man to leave my acknowledgement of the debt in the hands of a
certain merchant whom we both knew, and that I would call there to
discharge the amount. This was done, and it ended the affair.
That evening I dined at the ordinary, which was frequented by Romans
and foreigners; but I carefully followed the advice of Father Georgi.
I heard a great deal of harsh language used against the Pope and
against the Cardinal Minister, who had caused the Papal States to be
inundated by eighty thousand men, Germans as well as Spaniards. But
I was much surprised when I saw that everybody was eating meat,
although it was Saturday. But a stranger during the first few days
after his arrival in Rome is surrounded with many things which at
first cause surprise, and to which he soon gets accustomed. There is
not a Catholic city in the world in which a man is half so free on
religious matters as in Rome. The inhabitants of Rome are like the
men employed at the Government tobacco works, who are allowed to take
gratis as much tobacco as they want for their own use. One can live
in Rome with the most complete freedom, except that the 'ordini
santissimi' are as much to be dreaded as the famous Lettres-de-cachet
before the Revolution came and destroyed them, and shewed the whole
world the general character of the French nation.
The next day, the 1st of October, 1743, I made up my mind to be
shaved. The down on my chin had become a beard, and I judged that it
was time to renounce some of the privileges enjoyed by adolescence.
I dressed myself completely in the Roman fashion, and Father Georgi
was highly pleased when he saw me in that costume, which had been
made by the tailor of my dear cousin, Don Antonio.
Father Georgi invited me to take a cup of chocolate with him, and
informed me that the cardinal had been apprised of my arrival by a
letter from Don Lelio, and that his eminence would receive me at noon
at the Villa Negroni, where he would be taking a walk. I told Father
Georgi that I had been invited to dinner by M. Vivaldi, and he
advised me to cultivate his acquaintance.
I proceeded to the Villa Negroni; the moment he saw me the cardinal
stopped to receive my letter, allowing two persons who accompanied
him to walk forward. He put the letter in his pocket without reading
it, examined me for one or two minutes, and enquired whether I felt
any taste for politics. I answered that, until now, I had not felt
in me any but frivolous tastes, but that I would make bold to answer
for my readiness to execute all the orders which his eminence might
be pleased to lay upon me, if he should judge me worthy of entering
"Come to my office to-morrow morning," said the cardinal, "and ask
for the Abbe Gama, to whom I will give my instructions. You must
apply yourself diligently to the study of the French language; it is
indispensable." He then enquired after Don Leilo's health, and after
kissing his hand I took my leave.
I hastened to the house of M. Gaspar Vivaldi, where I dined amongst a
well-chosen party of guests. M. Vivaldi was not married; literature
was his only passion. He loved Latin poetry even better than
Italian, and Horace, whom I knew by heart, was his favourite poet.
After dinner, we repaired to his study, and he handed me one hundred
Roman crowns, and Don Antonio's present, and assured me that I would
be most welcome whenever I would call to take a cup of chocolate with
After I had taken leave of Don Gaspar, I proceeded towards the
Minerva, for I longed to enjoy the surprise of my dear Lucrezia and
of her sister; I inquired for Donna Cecilia Monti, their mother, and
I saw, to my great astonishment, a young widow who looked like the
sister of her two charming daughters. There was no need for me to
give her my name; I had been announced, and she expected me. Her
daughters soon came in, and their greeting caused me some amusement,
for I did not appear to them to be the same individual. Donna
Lucrezia presented me to her youngest sister, only eleven years of
age, and to her brother, an abbe of fifteen, of charming appearance.
I took care to behave so as to please the mother; I was modest,
respectful, and shewed a deep interest in everything I saw. The good
advocate arrived, and was surprised at the change in my appearance.
He launched out in his usual jokes, and I followed him on that
ground, yet I was careful not to give to my conversation the tone of
levity which used to cause so much mirth in our travelling coach; so
that, to, pay me a compliment, he told nee that, if I had had the
sign of manhood shaved from my face, I had certainly transferred it
to my mind. Donna Lucrezia did not know what to think of the change
in my manners.
Towards evening I saw, coming in rapid succession, five or six
ordinary-looking ladies, and as many abbes, who appeared to me some
of the volumes with which I was to begin my Roman education. They
all listened attentively to the most insignificant word I uttered,
and I was very careful to let them enjoy their conjectures about me.
Donna Cecilia told the advocate that he was but a poor painter, and
that his portraits were not like the originals; he answered that she
could not judge, because the original was shewing under a mask, and I
pretended to be mortified by his answer. Donna Lucrezia said that
she found me exactly the same, and her sister was of opinion that the
air of Rome gave strangers a peculiar appearance. Everybody
applauded, and Angelique turned red with satisfaction. After a visit
of four hours I bowed myself out, and the advocate, following me,
told me that his mother-in-law begged me to consider myself as a
friend of the family, and to be certain of a welcome at any hour I
liked to call. I thanked him gratefully and took my leave, trusting
that I had pleased this amiable society as much as it had pleased me.
The next day I presented myself to the Abbe Gama. He was a
Portuguese, about forty years old, handsome, and with a countenance
full of candour, wit, and good temper. His affability claimed and
obtained confidence. His manners and accent were quite Roman. He
informed me, in the blandest manner, that his eminence had himself
given his instructions about me to his majordomo, that I would have a
lodging in the cardinal's palace, that I would have my meals at the
secretaries' table, and that, until I learned French, I would have
nothing to do but make extracts from letters that he would supply me
with. He then gave me the address of the French teacher to whom he
had already spoken in my behalf. He was a Roman advocate, Dalacqua
by name, residing precisely opposite the palace.
After this short explanation, and an assurance that I could at all
times rely upon his friendship, he had me taken to the major-domo,
who made me sign my name at the bottom of a page in a large book,
already filled with other names, and counted out sixty Roman crowns
which he paid me for three months salary in advance. After this he
accompanied me, followed by a 'staffiere' to my apartment on the
third floor, which I found very comfortably furnished. The servant
handed me the key, saying that he would come every morning to attend
upon me, and the major-domo accompanied me to the gate to make me
known to the gate-keeper. I immediately repaired to my inn, sent my
luggage to the palace, and found myself established in a place in
which a great fortune awaited me, if I had only been able to lead a
wise and prudent life, but unfortunately it was not in my nature.
'Volentem ducit, nolentem trahit.'
I naturally felt it my duty to call upon my mentor, Father Georgi, to
whom I gave all my good news. He said I was on the right road, and
that my fortune was in my hands.
"Recollect," added the good father, "that to lead a blameless life
you must curb your passions, and that whatever misfortune may befall
you it cannot be ascribed by any one to a want of good luck, or
attributed to fate; those words are devoid of sense, and all the
fault will rightly fall on your own head."
"I foresee, reverend father, that my youth and my want of experience
will often make it necessary for me to disturb you. I am afraid of
proving myself too heavy a charge for you, but you will find me
docile and obedient."
"I suppose you will often think me rather too severe; but you are not
likely to confide everything to me."
"Everything, without any exception."
"Allow me to feel somewhat doubtful; you have not told me where you
spent four hours yesterday."
"Because I did not think it was worth mentioning. I made the
acquaintance of those persons during my journey; I believe them to be
worthy and respectable, and the right sort of people for me to visit,
unless you should be of a different opinion."
"God forbid! It is a very respectable house, frequented by honest
people. They are delighted at having made your acquaintance; you are
much liked by everybody, and they hope to retain you as a friend; I
have heard all about it this morning; but you must not go there too
often and as a regular guest."
"Must I cease my visits at once, and without cause?"
"No, it would be a want of politeness on your part. You may go there
once or twice every week, but do not be a constant visitor. You are
sighing, my son?"
"No, I assure you not. I will obey you."
"I hope it may not be only a matter of obedience, and I trust your
heart will not feel it a hardship, but, if necessary, your heart must
be conquered. Recollect that the heart is the greatest enemy of
"Yet they can be made to agree."
"We often imagine so; but distrust the animism of your dear Horace.
You know that there is no middle course with it: 'nisi paret,
"I know it, but in the family of which we were speaking there is no
danger for my heart."
"I am glad of it, because in that case it will be all the easier for
you to abstain from frequent visits. Remember that I shall trust
"And I, reverend father; will listen to and follow your good advice.
I will visit Donna Cecilia only now and then." Feeling most unhappy,
I took his hand to press it against my lips, but he folded me in his
arms as a father might have done, and turned himself round so as not
to let me see that he was weeping.
I dined at the cardinal's palace and sat near the Abbe Gama; the
table was laid for twelve persons, who all wore the costume of
priests, for in Rome everyone is a priest or wishes to be thought a
priest and as there is no law to forbid anyone to dress like an
ecclesiastic that dress is adopted by all those who wish to be
respected (noblemen excepted) even if they are not in the
I felt very miserable, and did not utter a word during the dinner; my
silence was construed into a proof of my sagacity. As we rose from
the table, the Abbe Gama invited me to spend the day with him, but I
declined under pretence of letters to be written, and I truly did so
for seven hours. I wrote to Don Lelio, to Don Antonio, to my young
friend Paul, and to the worthy Bishop of Martorano, who answered that
he heartily wished himself in my place.
Deeply enamoured of Lucrezia and happy in my love, to give her up
appeared to me a shameful action. In order to insure the happiness
of my future life, I was beginning to be the executioner of my
present felicity, and the tormentor of my heart. I revolted against
such a necessity which I judged fictitious, and which I could not
admit unless I stood guilty of vileness before the tribunal of my own
reason. I thought that Father Georgi, if he wished to forbid my
visiting that family, ought not to have said that it was worthy of
respect; my sorrow would not have been so intense. The day and the
whole of the night were spent in painful thoughts.
In the morning the Abbe Gama brought me a great book filled with
ministerial letters from which I was to compile for my amusement.
After a short time devoted to that occupation, I went out to take my
first French lesson, after which I walked towards the Strada-
Condotta. I intended to take a long walk, when I heard myself called
by my name. I saw the Abbe Gama in front of a coffee-house.
I whispered to him that Minerva had forbidden me the coffee-rooms of
Rome. "Minerva," he answered, "desires you to form some idea of such
places. Sit down by me."
I heard a young abbe telling aloud, but without bitterness, a story,
which attacked in a most direct manner the justice of His Holiness.
Everybody was laughing and echoing the story. Another, being asked
why he had left the services of Cardinal B., answered that it was
because his eminence did not think himself called upon to pay him
apart for certain private services, and everybody laughed outright.
Another came to the Abbe Gama, and told him that, if he felt any
inclination to spend the afternoon at the Villa Medicis, he would
find him there with two young Roman girls who were satisfied with a
'quartino', a gold coin worth one-fourth of a sequin. Another abbe
read an incendiary sonnet against the government, and several took a
copy of it. Another read a satire of his own composition, in which
he tore to pieces the honour of a family. In the middle of all that
confusion, I saw a priest with a very attractive countenance come in.
The size of his hips made me take him for a woman dressed in men's
clothes, and I said so to Gama, who told me that he was the
celebrated castrato, Bepino delta Mamana. The abbe called him to us,
and told him with a laugh that I had taken him for a girl. The
impudent fellow looked me full in the face, and said that, if I
liked, he would shew me whether I had been right or wrong.
At the dinner-table everyone spoke to me, and I fancied I had given
proper answers to all, but, when the repast was over, the Abbe Gama
invited me to take coffee in his own apartment. The moment we were
alone, he told me that all the guests I had met were worthy and
honest men, and he asked me whether I believed that I had succeeded
in pleasing the company.
"I flatter myself I have," I answered.
"You are wrong," said the abbe, "you are flattering yourself. You
have so conspicuously avoided the questions put to you that everybody
in the room noticed your extreme reserve. In the future no one will
ask you any questions."
"I should be sorry if it should turn out so, but was I to expose my
"No, but there is a medium in all things."
"Yes, the medium of Horace, but it is often a matter of great
difficulty to hit it exactly."
"A man ought to know how to obtain affection and esteem at the same
"That is the very wish nearest to my heart."
"To-day you have tried for the esteem much more than for the
affection of your fellow-creatures. It may be a noble aspiration,
but you must prepare yourself to fight jealousy and her daughter,
calumny; if those two monsters do not succeed in destroying you, the
victory must be yours. Now, for instance, you thoroughly refuted
Salicetti to-day. Well, he is a physician, and what is more a
Corsican; he must feel badly towards you."
"Could I grant that the longings of women during their pregnancy have
no influence whatever on the skin of the foetus, when I know the
reverse to be the case? Are you not of my opinion?"
"I am for neither party; I have seen many children with some such
marks, but I have no means of knowing with certainty whether those
marks have their origin in some longing experienced by the mother
while she was pregnant."
"But I can swear it is so."
"All the better for you if your conviction is based upon such
evidence, and all the worse for Salicetti if he denies the
possibility of the thing without certain authority. But let him
remain in error; it is better thus than to prove him in the wrong and
to make a bitter enemy of him."
In the evening I called upon Lucrezia. The family knew my success,
and warmly congratulated me. Lucrezia told me that I looked sad, and
I answered that I was assisting at the funeral of my liberty, for I
was no longer my own master. Her husband, always fond of a joke,
told her that I was in love with her, and his mother-in-law advised
him not to show so much intrepidity. I only remained an hour with
those charming persons, and then took leave of them, but the very air
around me was heated by the flame within my breast. When I reached
my room I began to write, and spent the night in composing an ode
which I sent the next day to the advocate. I was certain that he
would shew it to his wife, who loved poetry, and who did not yet know
that I was a poet. I abstained from seeing her again for three or
four days. I was learning French, and making extracts from
His eminence was in the habit of receiving every evening, and his
rooms were thronged with the highest nobility of Rome; I had never
attended these receptions. The Abbe Gama told me that I ought to do
so as well as he did, without any pretension. I followed his advice
and went; nobody spoke to me, but as I was unknown everyone looked at
me and enquired who I was. The Abbe Gama asked me which was the lady
who appeared to me the most amiable, and I shewed one to him; but I
regretted having done so, for the courtier went to her, and of course
informed her of what I had said. Soon afterwards I saw her look at
me through her eye-glass and smile kindly upon me. She was the
Marchioness G----, whose 'cicisbeo' was Cardinal S---- C----.
On the very day I had fixed to spend the evening with Donna Lucrezia
the worthy advocate called upon me. He told me that if I thought I
was going to prove I was not in love with his wife by staying away I
was very much mistaken, and he invited me to accompany all the family
to Testaccio, where they intended to have luncheon on the following
Thursday. He added that his wife knew my ode by heart, and that she
had read it to the intended husband of Angelique, who had a great
wish to make my acquaintance. That gentleman was likewise a poet,
and would be one of the party to Testaccio. I promised the advocate
I would come to his house on the Thursday with a carriage for two.
At that time every Thursday in the month of October was a festival
day in Rome. I went to see Donna Cecilia in the evening, and we
talked about the excursion the whole time. I felt certain that Donna
Lucrezia looked forward to it with as much pleasure as I did myself.
We had no fixed plan, we could not have any, but we trusted to the
god of love, and tacitly placed our confidence in his protection.
I took care that Father Georgi should not hear of that excursion
before I mentioned it to him myself, and I hastened to him in order
to obtain his permission to go. I confess that, to obtain his leave,
I professed the most complete indifference about it, and the
consequence was that the good man insisted upon my going, saying that
it was a family party, and that it was quite right for me to visit
the environs of Rome and to enjoy myself in a respectable way.
I went to Donna Cecilia's in a carriage which I hired from a certain
Roland, a native of Avignon, and if I insist here upon his name it is
because my readers will meet him again in eighteen years, his
acquaintance with me having had very important results. The charming
widow introduced me to Don Francisco, her intended son-in-law, whom
she represented as a great friend of literary men, and very deeply
learned himself. I accepted it as gospel, and behaved accordingly;
yet I thought he looked rather heavy and not sufficiently elated for
a young man on the point of marrying such a pretty girl as Angelique.
But he had plenty of good-nature and plenty of money, and these are
better than learning and gallantry.
As we were ready to get into the carriages, the advocate told me that
he would ride with me in my carriage, and that the three ladies would
go with Don Francisco in the other. I answered at once that he ought
to keep Don Francisco company, and that I claimed the privilege of
taking care of Donna Cecilia, adding that I should feel dishonoured
if things were arranged differently. Thereupon I offered my arm to
the handsome widow, who thought the arrangement according to the
rules of etiquette and good breeding, and an approving look of my
Lucrezia gave me the most agreeable sensation. Yet the proposal of
the advocate struck me somewhat unpleasantly, because it was in
contradiction with his former behaviour, and especially with what he
had said to me in my room a few days before. "Has he become
jealous?" I said to myself; that would have made me almost angry,
but the hope of bringing him round during our stay at Testaccio
cleared away the dark cloud on my mind, and I was very amiable to
Donna Cecilia. What with lunching and walking we contrived to pass
the afternoon very pleasantly; I was very gay, and my love for
Lucrezia was not once mentioned; I was all attention to her mother.
I occasionally addressed myself to Lucrezia, but not once to the
advocate, feeling this the best way to shew him that he had insulted
As we prepared to return, the advocate carried off Donna Cecilia and
went with her to the carriage in which were already seated Angelique
and Don Francisco. Scarcely able to control my delight, I offered my
arm to Donna Lucrezia, paying her some absurd compliment, while the
advocate laughed outright, and seemed to enjoy the trick he imagined
he had played me.
How many things we might have said to each other before giving
ourselves up to the material enjoyment of our love, had not the
instants been so precious! But, aware that we had only half an hour
before us, we were sparing of the minutes. We were absorbed in
voluptuous pleasure when suddenly Lucrezia exclaims,---
"Oh! dear, how unhappy we are!"
She pushes me back, composes herself, the carriage stops, and the
servant opens the door. "What is the matter?" I enquire. "We are at
home." Whenever I recollect the circumstance, it seems to me
fabulous, for it is not possible to annihilate time, and the horses
were regular old screws. But we were lucky all through. The night
was dark, and my beloved angel happened to be on the right side to
get out of the carriage first, so that, although the advocate was at
the door of the brougham as soon as the footman, everything went
right, owing to the slow manner in which Lucrezia alighted. I
remained at Donna Cecilia's until midnight.
When I got home again, I went to bed; but how could I sleep? I felt
burning in me the flame which I had not been able to restore to its
original source in the too short distance from Testaccio to Rome. It
was consuming me. Oh! unhappy are those who believe that the
pleasures of Cythera are worth having, unless they are enjoyed in the
most perfect accord by two hearts overflowing with love!
I only rose in time for my French lesson. My teacher had a pretty
daughter, named Barbara, who was always present during my lessons,
and who sometimes taught me herself with even more exactitude than
her father. A good-looking young man, who likewise took lessons, was
courting her, and I soon perceived that she loved him. This young
man called often upon me, and I liked him, especially on account of
his reserve, for, although I made him confess his love for Barbara,
he always changed the subject, if I mentioned it in our conversation.
I had made up my mind to respect his reserve, and had not alluded to
his affection for several days. But all at once I remarked that he
had ceased his visits both to me and to his teacher, and at the same
time I observed that the young girl was no longer present at my
lessons; I felt some curiosity to know what had happened, although it
was not, after all, any concern of mine.
A few days after, as I was returning from church, I met the young
man, and reproached him for keeping away from us all. He told me
that great sorrow had befallen him, which had fairly turned his
brain, and that he was a prey to the most intense despair. His eyes
were wet with tears. As I was leaving him, he held me back, and I
told him that I would no longer be his friend unless he opened his
heart to me. He took me to one of the cloisters, and he spoke thus:
"I have loved Barbara for the last six months, and for three months
she has given me indisputable proofs of her affection. Five days
ago, we were betrayed by the servant, and the father caught us in a
rather delicate position. He left the room without saying one word,
and I followed him, thinking of throwing myself at his feet; but, as
I appeared before him, he took hold of me by the arm, pushed me
roughly to the door, and forbade me ever to present myself again at
his house. I cannot claim her hand in marriage, because one of my
brothers is married, and my father is not rich; I have no profession,
and my mistress has nothing. Alas, now that I have confessed all to
you, tell me, I entreat you, how she is. I am certain that she is as
miserable as I am myself. I cannot manage to get a letter delivered
to her, for she does not leave the house, even to attend church.
Unhappy wretch! What shall I do?"
I could but pity him, for, as a man of honour, it was impossible for
me to interfere in such a business. I told him that I had not seen
Barbara for five days, and, not knowing what to say, I gave him the
advice which is tendered by all fools under similar circumstances; I
advised him to forget his mistress.
We had then reached the quay of Ripetta, and, observing that he was
casting dark looks towards the Tiber, I feared his despair might lead
him to commit some foolish attempt against his own life, and, in
order to calm his excited feelings, I promised to make some enquiries
from the father about his mistress, and to inform him of all I heard.
He felt quieted by my promise, and entreated me not to forget him.
In spite of the fire which had been raging through my veins ever
since the excursion to Testaccio, I had not seen my Lucrezia for four
days. I dreaded Father Georgi's suave manner, and I was still more
afraid of finding he had made up his mind to give me no more advice.
But, unable to resist my desires, I called upon Lucrezia after my
French lesson, and found her alone, sad and dispirited.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, as soon as I was by her side, "I think you might
find time to come and see me!"
"My beloved one, it is not that I cannot find time, but I am so
jealous of my love that I would rather die than let it be known
publicly. I have been thinking of inviting you all to dine with me
at Frascati. I will send you a phaeton, and I trust that some lucky
accident will smile upon our love."
"Oh! yes, do, dearest! I am sure your invitation will be accepted:"
In a quarter of an hour the rest of the family came in, and I
proffered my invitation for the following Sunday, which happened to
be the Festival of St. Ursula, patroness of Lucrezia's youngest
sister. I begged Donna Cecilia to bring her as well as her son. My
proposal being readily accepted, I gave notice that the phaeton would
be at Donna Cecilia's door at seven o'clock, and that I would come
myself with a carriage for two persons.
The next day I went to M. Dalacqua, and, after my lesson, I saw
Barbara who, passing from one room to another, dropped a paper and
earnestly looked at me. I felt bound to pick it up, because a
servant, who was at hand, might have seen it and taken it. It was a
letter, enclosing another addressed to her lover. The note for me
ran thus: "If you think it to be a sin to deliver the enclosed to
your friend, burn it. Have pity on an unfortunate girl, and be
The enclosed letter which was unsealed, ran as follows: "If you love
me as deeply as 'I love you, you cannot hope to be happy without me;
we cannot correspond in any other way than the one I am bold enough
to adopt. I am ready to do anything to unite our lives until death.
Consider and decide."
The cruel situation of the poor girl moved me almost to tears; yet I
determined to return her letter the next day, and I enclosed it in a
note in which I begged her to excuse me if I could not render her the
service she required at my hands. I put it in my pocket ready for
delivery. The next day I went for my lesson as usual, but, not
seeing Barbara, I had no opportunity of returning her letter, and
postponed its delivery to the following day. Unfortunately, just
after I had returned to my room, the unhappy lover made his
appearance. His eyes were red from weeping, his voice hoarse; he
drew such a vivid picture of his misery, that, dreading some mad
action counselled by despair, I could not withhold from him the
consolation which I knew it was in my power to give. This was my
first error in this fatal business; I was the victim of my own
The poor fellow read the letter over and over; he kissed it with
transports of joy; he wept, hugged me, and thanked me for saving his
life, and finally entreated me to take charge of his answer, as his
beloved mistress must be longing for consolation as much as he had
been himself, assuring me that his letter could not in any way
implicate me, and that I was at liberty to read it.
And truly, although very long, his letter contained nothing but the
assurance of everlasting love, and hopes which could not be realized.
Yet I was wrong to accept the character of Mercury to the two young
lovers. To refuse, I had only to recollect that Father Georgi would
certainly have disapproved of my easy compliance.
The next day I found M. Dalacqua ill in bed; his daughter gave me my
lesson in his room, and I thought that perhaps she had obtained her
pardon. I contrived to give her her lover's letter, which she
dextrously conveyed to her pocket, but her blushes would have easily
betrayed her if her father had been looking that way. After the
lesson I gave M. Dalacqua notice that I would not come on the morrow,
as it was the Festival of St. Ursula, one of the eleven thousand
princesses and martyr-virgins.
In the evening, at the reception of his eminence, which I attended
regularly, although persons of distinction seldom spoke to me, the
cardinal beckoned to me. He was speaking to the beautiful
Marchioness G----, to whom Gama had indiscreetly confided that I
thought her the handsomest woman amongst his eminence's guests.
"Her grace," said the Cardinal, "wishes to know whether you are
making rapid progress in the French language, which she speaks
I answered in Italian that I had learned a great deal, but that I was
not yet bold enough to speak.
"You should be bold," said the marchioness, "but without showing any
pretension. It is the best wav to disarm criticism."
My mind having almost unwittingly lent to the words "You should be
bold" a meaning which had very likely been far from the idea of the
marchioness, I turned very red, and the handsome speaker, observing
it, changed the conversation and dismissed me.
The next morning, at seven o'clock, I was at Donna Cecilia's door.
The phaeton was there as well as the carriage for two persons, which
this time was an elegant vis-a-vis, so light and well-hung that Donna
Cecilia praised it highly when she took her seat.
"I shall have my turn as we return to Rome," said Lucrezia; and I
bowed to her as if in acceptance of her promise.
Lucrezia thus set suspicion at defiance in order to prevent suspicion
arising. My happiness was assured, and I gave way to my natural flow
of spirits. I ordered a splendid dinner, and we all set out towards
the Villa Ludovisi. As we might have missed each other during our
ramblings, we agreed to meet again at the inn at one o'clock. The
discreet widow took the arm of her son-in-law, Angelique remained
with her sister, and Lucrezia was my delightful share; Ursula and her
brother were running about together, and in less than a quarter of an
hour I had Lucrezia entirely to myself.
"Did you remark," she said, "with what candour I secured for us two
hours of delightful 'tete-a-tete', and a 'tete-a-tete' in a 'vis-a-
vis', too! How clever Love is!"
"Yes, darling, Love has made but one of our two souls. I adore you,
and if I have the courage to pass so many days without seeing you it
is in order to be rewarded by the freedom of one single day like
"I did not think it possible. But you have managed it all very well.
You know too much for your age, dearest."
"A month ago, my beloved, I was but an ignorant child, and you are
the first woman who has initiated me into the mysteries of love.
Your departure will kill me, for I could not find another woman like
you in all Italy."
"What! am I your first love? Alas! you will never be cured of it.
Oh! why am I not entirely your own? You are also the first true love
of my heart, and you will be the last. How great will be the
happiness of my successor! I should not be jealous of her, but what
suffering would be mine if I thought that her heart was not like
Lucrezia, seeing my eyes wet with tears, began to give way to her
own, and, seating ourselves on the grass, our lips drank our tears
amidst the sweetest kisses. How sweet is the nectar of the tears
shed by love, when that nectar is relished amidst the raptures of
mutual ardour! I have often tasted them--those delicious tears, and
I can say knowingly that the ancient physicians were right, and that
the modern are wrong.