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Venetian Life by W. D. Howells

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In Venice every holiday has its appropriate viand. During carnival all the
butter and cheese shop-windows are whitened with the snow of beaten
cream--_panamontata_. At San Martino the bakers parade troops of
gingerbread warriors. Later, for Christmas, comes _mandorlato_, which
is a candy made of honey and enriched with almonds. In its season only can
any of these devotional delicacies be had; but there is a species of
cruller, fried in oil, which has all seasons for its own. On the occasion
of every _festa_, and of every _sagra_ (which is the holiday of
one parish only), stalls are erected in the squares for the cooking and
sale of these crullers, between which and the religious sentiment proper
to the whole year there seems to be some occult relation.

In the winter, the whole city appears to abandon herself to cooking for
the public, till she threatens to hopelessly disorder the law of demand
and supply. There are, to begin with, the caffè and restaurants of every
class. Then there are the cook-shops, and the poulterers', and the
sausage-makers'. Then, also, every fruit-stall is misty and odorous with
roast apples, boiled beans, cabbage, and potatoes. The chestnut-roasters
infest every corner, and men women, and children cry roast pumpkin at
every turn--till, at last, hunger seems an absurd and foolish vice, and
the ubiquitous beggars, no less than the habitual abstemiousness of every
class of the population, become the most perplexing and maddening of



I hope that it is by a not unnatural progress I pass from speaking of
dinners and diners to the kindred subject of the present chapter, and I
trust the reader will not disdain the lowly-minded muse that sings this
mild domestic lay. I was resolved in writing this book to tell what I had
found most books of travel very slow to tell,--as much as possible of the
everyday life of a people whose habits are so different from our own;
endeavoring to develop a just notion of their character, not only from the
show-traits which strangers are most likely to see, but also from
experience of such things as strangers are most likely to miss.

The absolute want of society of my own nation in Venice would have thrown
me upon study of the people for my amusement, even if I had cared to learn
nothing of them; and the necessity of economical housekeeping would have
caused me to live in the frugal Venetian fashion, even if I had been
disposed to remain a foreigner in every thing. Of bachelor lodgings I had
sufficient experience during my first year; but as most prudent travelers
who visit the city for a week take lodgings, I need not describe my own
particularly. You can tell the houses in which there are rooms to let, by
the squares of white paper fastened to the window-shutters; and a casual
glance as you pass through the streets, gives you the idea that the chief
income of the place is derived from letting lodgings. Carpetless, dreary
barracks the rooms usually are, with an uncompromising squareness of
prints upon the wall, an appalling breadth of husk-bed, a niggardness of
wash-bowl, and an obduracy of sofa, never, never to be dissociated in
their victim's mind from the idea of the villanous hard bread of Venice on
which the gloomy landlady sustains her life with its immutable purposes of
plunder. Flabbiness without softness is the tone of these discouraging
chambers, which are dear or not according to the season and the situation.
On the sunlit Riva during winter, and on the Grand Canal in summer, they
are costly enough, but they are to be found on nearly all the squares at
reasonable rates. On the narrow streets, where most native bachelors have
them, they are absurdly cheap.

As in nearly all places on the Continent, a house in Venice means a number
of rooms, including a whole story in a building, or part of it only, but
always completely separated from the story above and below, or from the
other rooms on the same floor. Every house has its own entrance from the
street, or by a common hall and stairway from the ground-floor, where are
the cellars or store-rooms, while each kitchen is usually on a level with
the other rooms of the house to which it belongs. The isolation of the
different families is secured (as perfectly as where a building is solely
appropriated to each), either by the exclusive possession of a street-
door, [Footnote: Where the street entrance is in common, every floor has
its bell, which being sounded, summons a servant to some upper window with
the demand, most formidable to strangers, "_Chi xe?_" (Who is it?)
But you do not answer with your name. You reply, "_Amici!_"
(Friends!) on which comforting reassurance, the servant draws the latch of
the door by a wire running upward to her hand, and permits you to enter
and wander about at your leisure till you reach her secret height. This
is, supposing the master or mistress of the house to be at home. If they
are not in, she answers your "_Amici!_" with "_No ghe ne xe!_"
(Nobody here!) and lets down a basket by a string outside the window, and
fishes up your card.] or by the unsocial domestic habits of Europe. You
bow and give good-day to the people whom you meet in the common hall and
on the common stairway, but you rarely know more of them than their names,
and you certainly care nothing about them. The sociability of Europe, and
more especially of Southern Europe, is shown abroad; under the domestic
roof it dwindles and disappears. And indeed it is no wonder, considering
how dispiriting and comfortless most of the houses are. The lower windows
are heavily barred with iron; the wood-work is rude, even in many palaces
in Venice; the rest is stone and stucco; the walls are not often papered,
though they are sometimes painted: the most pleasing and inviting feature
of the interior is the frescoed ceiling of the better rooms. The windows
shut imperfectly, the heavy wooden blinds imperviously (is it worth while
to observe that there are no Venetian blinds in Venice?); the doors lift
slantingly from the floor, in which their lower hinges are imbedded; the
stoves are of plaster, and consume fuel without just return of heat; the
balconies alone are always charming, whether they hang high over the
streets, or look out upon the canals, and, with the gayly painted
ceilings, go far to make the houses habitable.

It happens in the case of houses, as with nearly every thing else in
Italy, that you pay about the same price for half the comfort that you get
in America. In Venice, most of the desirable situations are on the Grand
Canal; but here the rents are something absurdly high, when taken in
consideration with the fact that the city is not made a place of residence
by foreigners like Florence, and that it has no commercial activity to
enhance the cost of living. Househunting, under these circumstances,
becomes an office of constant surprise and disconcertment to the stranger.
You look, for example, at a suite of rooms in a tumble-down old palace,
where the walls, shamelessly smarted up with coarse paper, crumble at your
touch; where the floor rises and falls like the sea, and the door-frames
and window-cases have long lost all recollection of the plumb. Madama la
Baronessa is at present occupying these pleasant apartments, and you only
gain admission to them after an embassy to procure her permission. Madama
la Baronessa receives you courteously, and you pass through her rooms,
which are a little in disorder, the Baronessa being on the point of
removal. Madama la Baronessa's hoop-skirts prevail upon the floors; and at
the side of the couch which her form lately pressed in slumber, you
observe a French novel and a wasted candle in the society of a half-bottle
of the wine of the country. A bedroomy smell pervades the whole suite, and
through the open window comes a curious stench explained as the odor of
Madama la Baronessa's guinea-pigs, of which she is so fond that she has
had their sty placed immediately under her window in the garden. It is
this garden which has first taken your heart, with a glimpse caught
through the great open door of the palace. It is disordered and wild, but
so much the better; its firs are very thick and dark, and there are
certain statues, fauns and nymphs, which weather stains and mosses have
made much decenter than the sculptor intended. You think that for this
garden's sake you could put up with the house, which must be very cheap.
What is the price of the rooms? you ask of the smiling landlord. He
answers, without winking, "If taken for several years, a thousand florins
a year." At which you suppress the whistle of disdainful surprise, and say
you think it will not suit. He calls your attention to the sun, which
comes in at every side, which will roast you in summer, and will not (as
he would have you think) warm you in winter. "But there is another
apartment,"--through which you drag languidly. It is empty now, being last
inhabited by an English Ledi,--and her stove-pipes went out of the
windows, and blackened the shabby stucco front of the villanous old

In a back court, upon a filthy canal, you chance on a house, the curiously
frescoed front of which tempts you within. A building which has a lady and
gentleman painted in fresco, and making love from balcony to balcony, on
the façade, as well as Arlecchino depicted in the act of leaping from the
second to the third story, promises something. Promises something, but
does not fulfill the promise. The interior is fresh, clean, and new, and
cold and dark as a cellar. This house--that is to say, a floor of the
house--you may have for four hundred florins a year; and then farewell the
world and the light of the sun! for neither will ever find you in that
back court, and you will never see any body but the neighboring
laundresses and their children, who cannot enough admire the front of your

_E via in seguito!_ This is of house keeping, not house-hunting.
There are pleasant and habitable houses in Venice--but they are not cheap,
as many of the uninhabitable houses also are not. Here, discomfort and
ruin have their price, and the tumble-down is patched up and sold at rates
astonishing to innocent strangers who come from countries in good repair,
where the tumble-down is worth nothing. If I were not ashamed of the idle
and foolish old superstitions in which I once believed concerning life in
Italy, I would tell how I came gradually to expect very little for a great
deal; and how a knowledge of many houses to let, made me more and more
contented with the house we had taken.

It was in one corner of an old palace on the Grand Canal, and the window
of the little parlor looked down upon the water, which had made friends
with its painted ceiling, and bestowed tremulous, golden smiles upon it
when the sun shone. The dining-room was not so much favored by the water,
but it gave upon some green and ever-rustling tree-tops, that rose to it
from a tiny garden-ground, no bigger than a pocket handkerchief. Through
this window, also, we could see the quaint, picturesque life of the canal;
and from another room we could reach a little terrace above the water. We
were not in the _appartamento signorile_, [Footnote: The noble floor
--as the second or third story of the palace is called.]--that was above,
--but we were more snugly quartered on the first story from the ground-
floor, commonly used as a winter apartment in the old times. But it had
been cut up, and suites of rooms had been broken according to the caprice
of successive landlords, till it was not at all palatial any more. The
upper stories still retained something of former grandeur, and had
acquired with time more than former discomfort. We were not envious of
them, for they were humbly let at a price less than we paid; though we
could not quite repress a covetous yearning for their arched and carven
windows, which we saw sometimes from the canal, above the tops of the
garden trees.

The gondoliers used always to point out our palace (which was called Casa
Falier) as the house in which Marino Faliero was born; and for a long time
we clung to the hope that it might be so. But however pleasant it was, we
were forced, on reading up the subject a little, to relinquish our
illusion, and accredit an old palace at Santi Apostoli with the
distinction we would fain have claimed for ours. I am rather at a loss to
explain how it made our lives in Casa Falier any pleasanter to think that
a beheaded traitor had been born in it, but we relished the superstition
amazingly as long as we could possibly believe in it. What went far to
confirm us at first in our credulity was the residence, in another part of
the palace, of the Canonico Falier, a lineal descendant of the unhappy
doge. He was a very mild-faced old priest, with a white head, which he
carried downcast, and crimson legs, on which he moved but feebly. He owned
the rooms in which he lived, and the apartment in the front of the palace
just above our own. The rest of the house belonged to another, for in
Venice many of the palaces are divided up and sold among different
purchasers, floor by floor, and sometimes even room by room.

But the tenantry of Casa Falier was far more various than its
proprietorship. Over our heads dwelt a Dalmatian family; below our feet a
Frenchwoman; at our right, upon the same floor, an English gentleman;
under him a French family; and over him the family of a marquis in exile
from Modena. Except with Mr. ----, the Englishman, who was at once our
friend and landlord (impossible as this may appear to those who know any
thing of landlords in Italy), we had no acquaintance, beyond that of
salutation, with the many nations represented in our house. We could not
help holding the French people in some sort responsible for the invasion
of Mexico; and, though opportunity offered for cultivating the
acquaintance of the Modenese, we did not improve it.

As for our Dalmatian friends, we met them and bowed to them a great deal,
and we heard them overhead in frequent athletic games, involving noise as
of the maneuvering of cavalry; and as they stood a good deal on their
balcony, and looked down upon us on ours, we sometimes enjoyed seeing them
admirably foreshortened like figures in a frescoed ceiling. The father of
this family was a little man of a solemn and impressive demeanor, who had
no other occupation but to walk up and down the city and view its
monuments, for which purpose he one day informed us he had left his native
place in Dalmatia, after forty years' study of Venetian history. He
further told us that this was by no means worth the time given it; that
whereas the streets of Venice were sepulchres in point of narrowness and
obscurity, he had a house in Zara, from the windows of which you might see
for miles uninterruptedly! This little gentleman wore a black hat, in the
last vivid polish of respectability, and I think fortune was not his
friend. The hat was too large for him, as the hats of Italians always are;
it came down to his eyes, and he carried a cane. Every evening he marched
solemnly at the head of a procession of his handsome young children, who
went to hear the military music in St. Mark's Square.

The entrance to the house of the Dalmatians--we never knew their names--
gave access also to a house in the story above them, which belonged to
some mysterious person described on his door-plate as "Co. Prata." I think
we never saw Co. Prata himself, and only by chance some members of his
family when they came back from their summer in the country to spend the
winter in the city. Prata's "Co.," we gradually learnt, meant "Conte," and
the little counts and countesses, his children, immediately on their
arrival took an active part in the exercises of the Dalmatian cavalry.
Later in the fall, certain of the count's vassals came to the _riva_
[Footnote: The gondola landing-stairs which descend to the water before
palace-doors and at the ends of streets.] in one of the great boats of the
Po, with a load of brush and corncobs for fuel--and this is all we ever
knew of our neighbors on the fourth floor. As long as he remained "Co." we
yearned to know who and what he was; being interpreted as Conte Prata, he
ceased to interest us.

Such, then, was the house, and such the neighborhood in which two little
people, just married, came to live in Venice.

They were by nature of the order of shorn lambs, and Providence, tempering
the inclemency of the domestic situation, gave them Giovanna.

The house was furnished throughout, and Giovanna had been furnished with
it. She was at hand to greet the new-comers, and "This is my wife, the new
mistress," said the young _Paron_ [Footnote: _Padrone_ in
Italian. A salutation with Venetian friends, and the title by which
Venetian servants always designate their employers.] with the bashful
pride proper to the time and place. Giovanna glowed welcome, and said,
with adventurous politeness, she was very glad of it.

"_Serva sua!_"

The _Parona_, not knowing Italian, laughed in English.

So Giovanna took possession of us, and acting upon the great truth that
handsome is that handsome does, began at once to make herself a thing of

As a measure of convenience and of deference to her feelings, we
immediately resolved to call her G., merely, when speaking of her in
English, instead of Giovanna, which would have troubled her with
conjecture concerning what was said of her. And as G. thus became the
centre around which our domestic life revolved, she must be somewhat
particularly treated of in this account of our housekeeping. I suppose
that, given certain temperaments and certain circumstances, this would
have been much like keeping play-house anywhere; in Venice it had, but for
the unmistakable florins it cost, a curious property of unreality and
impermanency. It is sufficiently bad to live in a rented house; in a house
which you have hired ready-furnished, it is long till your life takes
root, and Home blossoms up in the alien place. For a great while we
regarded our house merely as very pleasant lodgings, and we were slow to
form any relations which could take from our residence its temporary
character. Had we but thought to get in debt to the butcher, the baker,
and the grocer, we might have gone far to establish ourselves at once; but
we imprudently paid our way, and consequently had no ties to bind us to
our fellow-creatures. In Venice provisions are bought by housekeepers on a
scale surprisingly small to one accustomed to wholesale American ways, and
G., having the purse, made our little purchases in cash, never buying more
than enough for one meal at a time. Every morning, the fruits and
vegetables are distributed from the great market at the Rialto among a
hundred greengrocers' stalls in all parts of the city; bread (which is
never made at home) is found fresh at the baker's; there is a butcher's
stall in each campo with fresh meat. These shops are therefore resorted to
for family supplies day by day; and the poor lay in provisions there in
portions graduated to a soldo of their ready means. A great Bostonian whom
I remember to have heard speculate on the superiority of a state of
civilization in which you could buy two cents' worth of beef to that in
which so small a quantity was unpurchasable, would find the system
perfected here, where you can buy half a cent's worth. It is a system
friendly to poverty, and the small retail prices approximate very closely
the real value of the stuff sold, as we sometimes proved by offering to
purchase in quantity. Usually no reduction would be made from the retail
rate, and it was sufficiently amusing to have the dealer figure up the
cost of the quantity we proposed to buy, and then exhibit an exact
multiplication of his retail rate by our twenty or fifty. Say an orange is
worth a soldo: you get no more than a hundred for a florin, though the
dealer will cheerfully go under that number if he can cheat you in the
count. So in most things we found it better to let G. do the marketing in
her own small Venetian fashion, and "guard our strangeness."

But there were some things which must be brought to the house by the
dealers, such as water for drinking and cooking, which is drawn from
public cisterns in the squares, and carried by stout young girls to all
the houses. These _bigolanti_ all come from the mountains of Friuli;
they all have rosy cheeks, white teeth, bright eyes, and no waists
whatever (in the fashionable sense), but abundance of back. The cisterns
are opened about eight o'clock in the morning, and then their day's work
begins with chatter, and splashing, and drawing up buckets from the wells;
and each sturdy little maiden in turn trots off under a burden of two
buckets,--one appended from either end of a bow resting upon the right
shoulder. The water is very good, for it is the rain which falls on the
shelving surface of the campo, and soaks through a bed of sea-sand around
the cisterns into the cool depths below. The bigolante comes every morning
and empties her brazen buckets into the great picturesque jars of porous
earthenware which ornament Venetian kitchens; and the daily supply of
water costs a moderate family about a florin a month.

Fuel is likewise brought to your house, but this arrives in boats. It is
cut upon the eastern shore of the Adriatic, and comes to Venice in small
coasting vessels, each of which has a plump captain in command, whose red
face is so cunningly blended with his cap of scarlet flannel that it is
hard on a breezy day to tell where the one begins and the other ends.
These vessels anchor off the Custom House in the Guidecca Canal in the
fall, and lie there all winter (or until their cargo of fuel is sold), a
great part of the time under the charge solely of a small yellow dog of
the irascible breed common to the boats of the Po. Thither the smaller
dealers in firewood resort, and carry thence supplies of fuel to all parts
of the city, melodiously crying their wares up and down the canals, and
penetrating the land on foot with specimen bundles of fagots in their
arms. They are not, as a class, imaginative, I think--their fancy seldom
rising beyond the invention that their fagots are beautiful and sound and
dry. But our particular woodman was, in his way, a gifted man. Long before
I had dealings with him, I knew him by the superb song, or rather
incantation, with which he announced his coming on the Grand Canal. The
purport of this was merely that his bark was called the Beautiful
Caroline, and that his fagots were fine; but he so dwelt upon the hidden
beauties of this idea, and so prolonged their effect upon the mind by
artful repetition, and the full, round, and resonant roar with which he
closed his triumphal hymn, that the spirit was taken with the charm, and
held in breathless admiration. By all odds, this woodman's cry was the
most impressive of all the street cries of Venice. There may have been an
exquisite sadness and sweetness in the wail of the chimney-sweep; a
winning pathos in the voice of the vender of roast pumpkin; an oriental
fancy and splendor in the fruiterers who cried "Melons with hearts of
fire!" and "Juicy pears that bathe your beard!"--there may have been
something peculiarly effective in the song of the chestnut-man who shouted
"Fat chestnuts," and added, after a lapse in which you got almost beyond
hearing, "and well cooked!"--I do not deny that there was a seductive
sincerity in the proclamation of one whose peaches could _not_ be
called beautiful to look upon, and were consequently advertised as "Ugly,
but good!"--I say nothing to detract from the merits of harmonious chair-
menders;--to my ears the shout of the melodious fisherman was delectable
music, and all the birds of summer sang in the voices of the countrymen
who sold finches and larks in cages, and roses and pinks in pots;--but I
say, after all, none of these people combined the vocal power, the
sonorous movement, the delicate grace, and the vast compass of our
woodman. Yet this man, as far as virtue went, was _vox et praeterea
nihil_. He was a vagabond of the most abandoned; he was habitually in
drink, and I think his sins had gone near to make him mad--at any rate he
was of a most lunatical deportment. In other lands, the man of whom you
are a regular purchaser, serves you well; in Italy he conceives that his
long service gives him the right to plunder you if possible. I felt in
every fibre that this woodman invariably cheated me in measurement, and,
indeed, he scarcely denied it on accusation. But my single experience of
the more magnificent scoundrels of whom _he_ bought the wood
originally, contented me with the swindle with which I had become
familiarized. On this occasion I took a boat and went to the Custom House,
to get my fuel at first hand. The captain of the ship which I boarded
wished me to pay more than I gave for fuel delivered at my door, and
thereupon ensued the tragic scene of bargaining, as these things are
conducted in Italy. We stood up and bargained, we sat down and bargained;
the captain turned his back upon me in indignation; I parted from him and
took to my boat in scorn; he called me back and displayed the wood--good,
sound, dryer than bones; he pointed to the threatening heavens, and
declared that it would snow that night, and on the morrow I could not get
wood for twice the present price; but I laughed incredulously. Then my
captain took another tack, and tried to make the contract in obsolete
currencies, in Austrian pounds, in Venetian pounds, but as I inexorably
reduced these into familiar money, he paused desperately, and made me an
offer which I accepted with mistaken exultation. For my captain was
shrewder than I, and held arts of measurement in reserve against me. He
agreed that the measurement and transportation should not cost me the
value of his tooth-pick--quite an old and worthless one--which he showed
me. Yet I was surprised into the payment of a youth whom this man called
to assist at the measurement, and I had to give the boatman drink-money at
the end. He promised that the measure should be just: yet if I lifted my
eye from the work he placed the logs slantingly on the measure, and threw
in knotty chunks that crowded wholesome fuel out, and let the daylight
through and through the pile. I protested, and he admitted the wrong when
I pointed it out: "_Ga razon, lu!_" (He's right!) he said to his
fellows in infamy, and throwing aside the objectionable pieces, proceeded
to evade justice by new artifices. When I had this memorable load of wood
housed at home, I found that it had cost just what I paid my woodman, and
that I had additionally lost my self-respect in being plundered before my
face, and I resolved thereafter to be cheated in quiet dignity behind my
back. The woodman exulted in his restored sovereignty, and I lost nothing
in penalty for my revolt.

Among other provisioners who come to your house in Venice, are those
ancient peasant-women, who bring fresh milk in bottles carefully packed in
baskets filled with straw. They set off the whiteness of their wares by
the brownness of their sunburnt hands and faces, and bear in their general
stoutness and burliness of presence, a curious resemblance to their own
comfortable bottles. They wear broad straw hats, and dangling ear-rings of
yellow gold, and are the pleasantest sight of the morning streets of
Venice, to the stoniness of which they bring a sense of the country's
clovery pasturage, in the milk just drawn from the great cream-colored

Fishermen, also, come down the little _calli_--with shallow baskets
of fish upon their heads and under either arm, and cry their soles and
mackerel to the neighborhood, stopping now and then at some door to
bargain away the eels which they chop into sections as the thrilling drama
proceeds, and hand over as a denouement at the purchaser's own price.
"Beautiful and all alive!" is the engaging cry with which they hawk their

Besides these daily purveyors, there are men of divers arts who come to
exercise their crafts at your house: not chimney-sweeps merely, but
glaziers, and that sort of workmen, and, best of all, chair-menders,--who
bear a mended chair upon their shoulders for a sign, with pieces of white
wood for further mending, a drawing-knife, a hammer, and a sheaf of
rushes, and who sit down at your door, and plait the rush bottoms of your
kitchen-chairs anew, and make heaps of fragrant whittlings with their
knives, and gossip with your serving-woman.

But in the mean time our own serving-woman Giovanna, the great central
principle of our housekeeping, is waiting to be personally presented to
the company. In Italy, there are old crones so haggard, that it is hard
not to believe them created just as crooked, and foul, and full of fluff
and years as you behold them, and you cannot understand how so much
frowziness and so little hair, so great show of fangs and so few teeth,
are growths from any ordinary human birth. G. is no longer young, but she
is not after the likeness of these old women. It is of a middle age,
unbeginning, interminable, of which she gives you the impression. She has
brown apple-cheeks, just touched with frost; her nose is of a strawberry
formation abounding in small dints, and having the slightly shrunken
effect observable in tardy perfections of the fruit mentioned. A tough,
pleasant, indestructible woman--for use, we thought, not ornament--the
mother of a family, a good Catholic, and the flower of serving-women.

I do not think that Venetian servants are, as a class, given to pilfering;
but knowing ourselves subject by nature to pillage, we cannot repress a
feeling of gratitude to G. that she does not prey upon us. She strictly
accounts for all money given her at the close of each week, and to this
end keeps a kind of account-book, which I cannot help regarding as in some
sort an inspired volume, being privy to the fact, confirmed by her own
confession, that G. is not good for reading and writing. On settling with
her I have been permitted to look into this book, which is all in capital
letters,--each the evident result of serious labor,--with figures
representing combinations of the pot-hook according to bold and original
conceptions. The spelling is also a remarkable effort of creative genius.
The only difficulty under which the author labors in regard to the book is
the confusion naturally resulting from the effort to get literature right
side up when it has got upside down. The writing is a kind of pugilism--
the strokes being made straight out from the shoulder. The account-book is
always carried about with her in a fathomless pocket overflowing with the
aggregations of a housekeeper who can throw nothing away, to wit:
matchboxes, now appointed to hold buttons and hooks-and-eyes; beeswax in
the lump; the door-key (which in Venice takes a formidable size, and
impresses you at first sight as ordnance); a patch-bag; a porte-monnaie;
many lead-pencils in the stump; scissors, pincushions, and the Beata
Vergine in a frame. Indeed, this incapability of throwing things away is
made to bear rather severely upon us in some things, such as the continual
reappearance of familiar dishes at table--particularly veteran
_bifsteca_. But we fancy that the same frugal instinct is exercised
to our advantage and comfort in other things, for G. makes a great show
and merit of denying our charity to those bold and adventurous children of
sorrow, who do not scruple to ring your door-bell, and demand alms. It is
true that with G., as with every Italian, almsgiving enters into the
theory and practice of Christian life, but she will not suffer misery to
abuse its privileges. She has no hesitation, however, in bringing certain
objects of compassion to our notice, and she procures small services to be
done for us by many lame and halt of her acquaintance. Having bought my
boat (I come, in time, to be willing to sell it again for half its cost to
me), I require a menial to clean it now and then, and Giovanna first calls
me a youthful Gobbo for the work,--a festive hunchback, a bright-hearted
whistler of comic opera. Whether this blithe humor is not considered
decent, I do not know, but though the Gobbo serves me faithfully, I find
him one day replaced by a venerable old man, whom--from his personal
resemblance to Time--I should think much better occupied with an
hourglass, or engaged with a scythe in mowing me and other mortals down,
than in cleaning my boat. But all day long he sits on my riva in the sun,
when it shines, gazing fixedly at my boat; and when the day is dark, he
lurks about the street, accessible to my slightest boating impulse. He
salutes my going out and coming in with grave reverence, and I think he
has no work to do but that which G.'s wise compassion has given him from
me. Suddenly, like the Gobbo, the Veccio also disappears, and I hear
vaguely--for in Venice you never know any thing with precision--that he
has found a regular employment in Padua, and again that he is dead. While
he lasts, G. has a pleasant, even a sportive manner with this poor old
man, calculated to cheer his declining years; but, as I say, cases of
insolent and aggressive misery fail to touch her. The kind of wretchedness
that comes breathing woe and _sciampagnin_ [Footnote: Little
champagne,--the name which the Venetian populace gave to a fierce and
deadly kind of brandy drunk during the scarcity of wine. After the
introduction of coal-oil this liquor came to be jocosely known as
_petrolio_.] under our window, and there spends a leisure hour in the
rehearsal of distress, establishes no claim either upon her pity or her
weakness. She is deaf to the voice of that sorrow, and the monotonous
whine of that dolor cannot move her to the purchase of a guilty
tranquillity. I imagine, however, that she is afraid to deny charity to
the fat Capuchin friar in spectacles and bare feet, who comes twice a
month to levy contributions of bread and fuel for his convent, for we hear
her declare from the window that the master is not at home, whenever the
good brother rings; and at last, as this excuse gives out, she ceases to
respond to his ring at all.

Sometimes, during the summer weather, comes down our street a certain
tremulous old troubadour with an aged cithern, on which he strums feebly
with bones which remain to him from former fingers, and in a thin
quivering voice pipes worn-out ditties of youth and love. Sadder music I
have never heard, but though it has at times drawn from me the sigh of
sensibility without referring sympathy to my pocket, I always hear the
compassionate soldo of Giovanna clink reproof to me upon the pavement.
Perhaps that slender note touches something finer than habitual charity in
her middle-aged bosom, for these were songs she says that they used to
sing when she was a girl, and Venice was gay and glad, and different from
now--_veramente, tutt' altro, signor!_

It is through Giovanna's charitable disposition that we make the
acquaintance of two weird sisters, who live not far from us in Calle
Falier, and whom we know to this day merely as the Creatures--
_creatura_ being in the vocabulary of Venetian pity the term for a
fellow-being somewhat more pitiable than a _poveretta_. Our Creatures
are both well stricken in years, and one of them has some incurable
disorder which frequently confines her to the wretched cellar in which
they live with the invalid's husband,--a mild, pleasant-faced man, a
tailor by trade, and of batlike habits, who hovers about their dusky
doorway in the summer twilight. These people have but one room, and a
little nook of kitchen at the side; and not only does the sun never find
his way into their habitation, but even the daylight cannot penetrate it.
They pay about four florins a month for the place, and I hope their
landlord is as happy as his tenants. For though one is sick, and all are
wretchedly poor, they are far from being discontented. They are opulent in
the possession of a small dog, which they have raised from the cradle, as
it were, and adopted into the family. They are never tired of playing with
their dog,--the poor old children,--and every slight display of
intelligence on his part delights them. They think it fine in him to
follow us as we go by, but pretend to beat him; and then they excuse him,
and call him ill names, and catch him up, and hug him and kiss him. He
feeds upon their slender means and the pickings that G. carefully carries
him from our kitchen, and gives to him on our doorstep in spite of us,
while she gossips with his mistresses, who chorus our appearance at such
times with "_I miei rispetti, signori!_" We often see them in the
street, and at a distance from home, carrying mysterious bundles of
clothes; and at last we learn their vocation, which is one not known out
of Italian cities, I think. There the state is Uncle to the hard-pressed,
and instead of many pawnbrokers' shops there is one large municipal spout,
which is called the Monte di Pietà, where the needy pawn their goods. The
system is centuries old in Italy, but there are people who to this day
cannot summon courage to repair in person to the Mount of Pity, and, to
meet their wants, there has grown up a class of frowzy old women who
transact the business for them, and receive a small percentage for their
trouble. Our poor old Creatures were of this class, and as there were many
persons in impoverished, decaying Venice who had need of the succor they
procured, they made out to earn a living when both were well, and to eke
out existence by charity when one was ill. They were harmless neighbors,
and I believe they regretted our removal, when this took place, for they
used to sit down under an arcade opposite our new house, and spend the
duller intervals of trade in the contemplation of our windows.

The alarming spirit of nepotism which Giovanna developed at a later day
was, I fear, a growth from the encouragement we gave her charitable
disposition. But for several months it was merely from the fact of a boy
who came and whistled at the door until Giovanna opened it and reproved
him in the name of all the saints and powers of darkness, that we knew her
to be a mother; and we merely had her word for the existence of a husband,
who dealt in poultry. Without seeing Giovanna's husband, I nevertheless
knew him to be a man of downy exterior, wearing a canvas apron, thickly
crusted with the gore of fowls, who sat at the door of his shop and
plucked chickens forever, as with the tireless hand of Fate. I divined
that he lived in an atmosphere of scalded pullet; that three earthen cups
of clotted chickens' blood, placed upon his window-shelf, formed his idea
of an attractive display, and that he shadowed forth his conceptions of
the beautiful in symmetrical rows of plucked chickens, presenting to the
public eye rear views embellished with a single feather erect in the tail
of each bird; that he must be, through the ethics of competition, the
sworn foe of those illogical peasants who bring dead poultry to town in
cages, like singing birds, and equally the friend of those restaurateurs
who furnish you a meal of victuals and a feather-bed in the same _mezzo-
polio arrosto_. He turned out on actual appearance to be all I had
prefigured him, with the additional merit of having a large red nose, a
sidelong, fugitive gait, and a hangdog countenance. He furnished us
poultry at rates slightly advanced, I think.

As for the boy, he turned up after a while as a constant guest, and took
possession of the kitchen. He came near banishment at one time for
catching a large number of sea-crabs in the canal, and confining them in a
basket in the kitchen, which they left at the dead hour of night, to
wander all over our house,--making a mysterious and alarming sound of
snapping, like an army of death-watches, and eluding the cunningest
efforts at capture. On another occasion, he fell into the canal before our
house, and terrified us by going under twice before the arrival of the old
gondolier, who called out to him "_Petta! petta!_" (Wait! wait!) as
he placidly pushed his boat to the spot. Developing other disagreeable
traits, Beppi was finally driven into exile, from which he nevertheless
furtively returned on holidays.

The family of Giovanna thus gradually encroaching upon us, we came also to
know her mother,--a dread and loathly old lady, whom we would willingly
have seen burned at the stake for a witch. She was commonly encountered at
nightfall in our street, where she lay in wait, as it were, to prey upon
the fragrance of dinner drifting from the kitchen windows of our neighbor,
the Duchess of Parma. Here was heard the voice of cooks and of scullions,
and the ecstasies of helpless voracity in which we sometimes beheld this
old lady were fearful to witness. Nor did we find her more comfortable in
our own kitchen, where we often saw her. The place itself is weird and
terrible--low ceiled, with the stone hearth built far out into the room,
and the melodramatic implements of Venetian cookery dangling tragically
from the wall. Here is no every-day cheerfulness of cooking-range, but
grotesque andirons wading into the bristling embers, and a long crane with
villanous pots gibbeted upon it. When Giovanna's mother, then (of the
Italian hags, haggard), rises to do us reverence from the darkest corner
of this kitchen, and croaks her good wishes for our long life, continued
health, and endless happiness, it has the effect upon our spirits of the
darkest malediction.

Not more pleasing, though altogether lighter and cheerfuler, was
Giovanna's sister-in-law, whom we knew only as the Cognata. Making her
appearance first upon the occasion of Giovanna's sickness, she slowly but
surely established herself as an habitual presence, and threatened at one
time, as we fancied, to become our paid servant. But a happy calamity
which one night carried off a carpet and the window curtains of an
unoccupied room, cast an evil suspicion upon the Cognata, and she never
appeared after the discovery of the theft. We suspected her of having
invented some dishes of which we were very fond, and we hated her for
oppressing us with a sense of many surreptitious favors. Objectively, she
was a slim, hoopless little woman, with a tendency to be always at the
street-door when we opened it. She had a narrow, narrow face, with eyes of
terrible slyness, an applausive smile, and a demeanor of slavish
patronage. Our kitchen, after her addition to the household, became the
banqueting-hall of Giovanna's family, who dined there every day upon
dishes of fish and garlic, that gave the house the general savor of a low

As for Giovanna herself, she had the natural tendency of excellent people
to place others in subjection. Our servitude at first was not hard, and
consisted chiefly in the stimulation of appetite to extraordinary efforts
when G. had attempted to please us with some novelty in cooking. She held
us to a strict account in this respect; but indeed our applause was for
the most part willing enough. Her culinary execution, first revealing
itself in a noble rendering of our ideas of roast potatoes,--a delicacy
foreign to the Venetian kitchen,--culminated at last in the same style of
_polpetti_ [Footnote: I confess a tenderness for this dish, which is
a delicater kind of hash skillfully flavored and baked in rolls of a
mellow complexion and fascinating appearance.] which furnished forth the
table of our neighbor, the Duchess, and was a perpetual triumph with us.

But G.'s spirit was not wholly that of the serving-woman. We noted in her
the liveliness of wit seldom absent from the Italian poor. She was a great
babbler, and talked willingly to herself, and to inanimate things, when
there was no other chance for talk. She was profuse in maledictions of bad
weather, which she held up to scorn as that dog of a weather. The
crookedness of the fuel transported her, and she upbraided the fagots as
springing from races of ugly old curs. (The vocabulary of Venetian abuse
is inexhaustible, and the Venetians invent and combine terms of opprobrium
with endless facility, but all abuse begins and ends with the attribution
of doggishness.) The conscription was held in the campo near us, and G.
declared the place to have become unendurable--"_proprio un campo di
sospiri!_" (Really a field of sighs.) "_Staga comodo!_" she said
to a guest of ours who would have moved his chair to let her pass between
him and the wall. "Don't move; the way to Paradise is not wider than
this." We sometimes lamented that Giovanna, who did not sleep in the
house, should come to us so late in the morning, but we could not deal
harshly with her on that account, met, as we always were, with plentiful
and admirable excuses. Who were we, indeed, to place our wishes in the
balance against the welfare of the sick neighbor with whom Giovanna passed
so many nights of vigil? Should we reproach her with tardiness when she
had not closed the eye all night for a headache properly of the devil? If
she came late in the morning, she stayed late at night; and it sometimes
happened that when the Paron and Parona, supposing her gone, made a
stealthy expedition to the kitchen for cold chicken, they found her there
at midnight in the fell company of the Cognata, bibbing the wine of the
country and holding a mild Italian revel with that vinegar and the stony
bread of Venice.

I have said G. was the flower of serving-women; and so at first she
seemed, and it was long till we doubted her perfection. We knew ourselves
to be very young, and weak, and unworthy. The Parona had the rare gift of
learning to speak less and less Italian every day, and fell inevitably
into subjection. The Paron in a domestic point of view was naturally
nothing. It had been strange indeed if Giovanna, beholding the great
contrast we presented to herself in many respects, had forborne to abuse
her advantage over us. But we trusted her implicitly, and I hardly know
how or when it was that we began to waver in our confidence. It is certain
that with the lapse of time we came gradually to have breakfast at twelve
o'clock, instead of nine, as we had originally appointed it, and that G.
grew to consume the greater part of the day in making our small purchases,
and to give us our belated dinners at seven o'clock. We protested, and
temporary reforms ensued, only to be succeeded by more hopeless lapses;
but it was not till all entreaties and threats failed that we began to
think seriously it would be well to have done with Giovanna, as an
unprofitable servant. I give the result, not all the nice causes from
which it came. But the question was, How to get rid of a poor woman and a
civil, and the mother of a family dependent in great part upon her labor?
We solemnly resolve a hundred times to dismiss G., and we shrink a hundred
times from inflicting the blow. At last, somewhat in the spirit of Charles
Lamb's Chinaman who invented roast pig, and discovered that the sole
method of roasting it was to burn down a house in order to consume the
adjacent pig-sty, and thus cook the roaster in the flames,--we hit upon an
artifice by which we could dispense with Giovanna, and keep an easy
conscience. We had long ceased to dine at home, in despair; and now we
resolved to take another house, in which there were other servants. But
even then, it was a sore struggle to part with the flower of serving-
women, who was set over the vacated house to put it in order after our
flitting, and with whom the imprudent Paron settled the last account in
the familiar little dining-room, surrounded by the depressing influences
of the empty chambers. The place was peopled after all, though we had left
it, and I think the tenants who come after us will be haunted by our
spectres, crowding them on the pleasant little balcony, and sitting down
with them at table. G. stood there, the genius of the place, and wept six
regretful tears, each one of which drew a florin from the purse of the
Paron. She had hoped to remain with us always while we lived in Venice;
but now that she could no longer look to us for support, the Lord must
take care of her. The gush of grief was transient: it relieved her, and
she came out sunnily a moment after. The Paron went his way more
sorrowfully, taking leave at last with the fine burst of Christian
philosophy: "We are none of us masters of ourselves in this world, and
cannot do what we wish. _Ma! Come si fa? Ci vuol pazienza!_" Yet he
was undeniably lightened in heart. He had cut adrift from old moorings,
and had crossed the Grand Canal. G. did not follow him, nor any of the
long line of pensioners who used to come on certain feast-days to levy
tribute of eggs at the old house. (The postman was among these, on
Christmas and New Year's, and as he received eggs at every house, it was a
problem with us, unsolved to this hour, how he carried them all, and what
he did with them.) Not the least among the Paron's causes for self-
gratulation was the non-appearance at his new abode of two local
newspapers, for which in an evil hour he subscribed, which were delivered
with unsparing regularity, and which, being never read, formed the keenest
reproach of his imprudent outlay and his idle neglect of their contents.



The history of Venice reads like a romance; the place seems a fantastic
vision at the best, from which the world must at last awake some morning,
and find that after all it has only been dreaming, and that there never
was any such city. There our race seems to be in earnest in nothing.
People sometimes work, but as if without any aim; they suffer, and you
fancy them playing at wretchedness. The Church of St. Mark, standing so
solidly, with a thousand years under the feet of its innumerable pillars,
is not in the least gray with time--no grayer than a Greek lyric.

"All has suffered a sea-change
Into something rich and strange,"

in this fantastic city. The prose of earth has risen poetry from its
baptism in the sea.

And if, living constantly in Venice, you sometimes for a little while
forget how marvelous she is, at any moment you may be startled into vivid
remembrance. The cunning city beguiles you street by street, and step by
step, into some old court, where a flight of marble stairs leads high up
to the pillared gallery of an empty palace, with a climbing vine green and
purple on its old decay, and one or two gaunt trees stretching their heads
to look into the lofty windows,--blind long ago to their leafy
tenderness,--while at their feet is some sumptuously carven well, with the
beauty of the sculptor's soul wrought forever into the stone. Or Venice
lures you in a gondola into one of her remote canals, where you glide
through an avenue as secret and as still as if sea-deep under our work-day
world; where the grim heads carven over the water-gates of the palaces
stare at you in austere surprise, where the innumerable balconies are full
of the Absences of gay cavaliers and gentle dames, gossiping and making
love to one another, from their airy perches. Or if the city's mood is one
of bolder charm, she fascinates you in the very places where you think her
power is the weakest, and as if impatient of your forgetfulness, dares a
wilder beauty, and enthralls with a yet more unearthly and incredible
enchantment. It is in the Piazza, and the Austrian band is playing, and
the promenaders pace solemnly up and down to the music, and the gentle
Italian loafers at Florian's brood vacantly over their little cups of
coffee, and nothing can be more stupid; when suddenly every thing is
changed, and a memorable tournament flashes up in many-glittering action
upon the scene, and there upon the gallery of the church, before the
horses of bronze, sit the Senators, bright-robed, and in the midst the
bonneted Doge with his guest Petrarch at his side. Or the old Carnival,
which had six months of every year to riot in, comes back and throngs the
place with motley company,--dominoes, harlequins, pantaloni, illustrissimi
and illustrissime, and perhaps even the Doge himself, who has the right of
incognito when he wears a little mask of wax at his button-hole. Or may be
the grander day revisits Venice when Doria has sent word from his fleet of
Genoese at Chioggia that he will listen to the Senate when he has bridled
the horses of Saint Mark,--and the whole Republic of rich and poor crowds
the square, demanding the release of Pisani, who comes forth from his
prison to create victory from the dust of the crumbling commonwealth.

But whatever surprise of memorable or beautiful Venice may prepare for
your forgetfulness, be sure it will be complete and resistless. Nay, what
potenter magic needs my Venice to revivify her past whenever she will,
than the serpent cunning of her Grand Canal? Launched upon this great S
have I not seen hardened travelers grow sentimental, and has not this
prodigious sybillant, in my hearing, inspired white-haired Puritan
ministers of the gospel to attempt to quote out of the guide-book "that
line from Byron"? Upon my word, I have sat beside wandering editors in
their gondolas, and witnessed the expulsion of the newspaper from their
nature, while, lulled by the fascination of the place, they were powerless
to take their own journals from their pockets, and instead of politics
talked some bewildered nonsense about coming back with their families next
summer. For myself, I must count as half-lost the year spent in Venice
before I took a house upon the Grand Canal. There alone can existence have
the perfect local flavor. But by what witchery touched one's being suffers
the common sea-change, till life at last seems to ebb and flow with the
tide in that wonder-avenue of palaces, it would be idle to attempt to
tell. I can only take you to our dear little balcony at Casa Falier, and
comment not very coherently on the scene upon the water under us.

And I am sure (since it is either in the spring or the fall) you will not
be surprised to see, the first thing, a boat-load of those English, who go
by from the station to their hotels, every day, in well-freighted
gondolas. These parties of traveling Englishry are all singularly alike,
from the "Pa'ty" traveling alone with his opera-glass and satchel, to the
party which fills a gondola with well-cushioned English middle age, ruddy
English youth, and substantial English baggage. We have learnt to know
them all very well: the father and the mother sit upon the back seat, and
their comely girls at the sides and front. These girls all have the honest
cabbage-roses of English health upon their cheeks; they all wear little
rowdy English hats, and invariable waterfalls of hair tumble upon their
broad English backs. They are coming from Switzerland and Germany, and
they are going south to Rome and to Naples, and they always pause at
Venice a few days. To-morrow we shall see them in the Piazza, and at
Florian's, and St. Mark's, and the Ducal Palace; and the young ladies will
cross the Bridge of Sighs, and will sentimentally feed the vagabond
pigeons of St. Mark which loaf about the Piazza and defile the sculptures.
But now our travelers are themselves very hungry, and are more anxious
than Americans can understand about the table-d'hôte of their hotel. It is
perfectly certain that if they fall into talk there with any of our
nation, the respectable English father will remark that this war in
America is a very sad war, and will ask to know when it will all end. The
truth is, Americans do not like these people, and I believe there is no
love lost on the other side. But, in many things, they are travelers to be
honored, if not liked: they voyage through all countries, and without
awaking fervent affection in any land through which they pass; but their
sterling honesty and truth have made the English tongue a draft upon the
unlimited confidence of the continental peoples, and French, Germans, and
Italians trust and respect private English faith as cordially as they hate
public English perfidy.

They come to Venice chiefly in the autumn, and October is the month of the
Sunsets and the English. The former are best seen from the Public Gardens,
whence one looks westward, and beholds them glorious behind the domes and
towers of San Giorgio Maggiore and the church of the Redentore. Sometimes,
when the sky is clear, your sunset on the lagoon is a fine thing; for then
the sun goes down into the water with a broad trail of bloody red behind
him, as if, wounded far out at sea, he had dragged himself landward across
the crimsoning expanses, and fallen and died as he reached the land. But
we (upon whom the idleness of Venice grows daily, and from whom the
Gardens, therefore, grow farther and farther) are commonly content to take
our bit of sunset as we get it from our balcony, through the avenue opened
by the narrow canal opposite. We like the earlier afternoon to have been a
little rainy, when we have our sunset splendid as the fury of a passionate
beauty--all tears and fire. There is a pretty but impertinent little
palace on the corner which is formed by this canal as it enters the
Canalazzo, and from the palace, high over the smaller channel, hangs an
airy balcony. When the sunset sky, under and over the balcony, is of that
pathetic and angry red which I have tried to figure, we think ourselves
rich in the neighborhood of that part of the "Palace of Art," whereon

"The light aerial gallery, golden railed,
Burnt like a fringe of fire."

And so, after all, we do not think we have lost any greater thing in not
seeing the sunset from the Gardens, where half a dozen artists are always
painting it, or from the quay of the Zattere, where it is splendid over
and under the island church of San Giorgio in Alga.

It is only the English and the other tourist strangers who go by upon the
Grand Canal during the day. But in the hours just before the summer
twilight the gondolas of the citizens appear, and then you may see
whatever is left of Venetian gayety and looking down upon the groups in
the open gondolas may witness something of the home-life of the Italians,
who live out-of-doors.

The groups do not vary a great deal one from another: inevitably the pale-
faced papa, the fat mamma, the over-dressed handsome young girls. We
learned to look for certain gondolas, and grew to feel a fond interest in
a very mild young man who took the air in company and contrast with a
ferocious bull-dog--boule-dogue he called him, I suppose. He was always
smoking languidly, that mild young man, and I fancied I could read in his
countenance a gentle, gentle antagonism to life--the proportionate Byronic
misanthropy, which might arise from sugar and water taken instead of gin.
But we really knew nothing about him, and our conjecture was conjecture.
Officers went by in their brilliant uniforms, and gave the scene an alien
splendor. Among these we enjoyed best the spectacle of an old major, or
perhaps general, in whom the arrogance of youth had stiffened into a chill
hauteur, and who frowned above his gray overwhelming moustache upon the
passers, like a citadel grim with battle and age. We used to fancy, with a
certain luxurious sense of our own safety, that one broadside from those
fortressed eyes could blow from the water the slight pleasure-boats in
which the young Venetian idlers were innocently disporting. But again this
was merely conjecture. The general's glance may have had no such power.
Indeed, the furniture of our apartment sustained no damage from it, even
when concentrated through an opera-glass, by which means the brave officer
at times perused our humble lodging from the balcony of his own over
against us. He may have been no more dangerous in his way than two aged
sisters (whom we saw every evening) were in theirs. They represented
Beauty in its most implacable and persevering form, and perhaps they had
one day been belles and could not forget it. They were very old indeed,
but their dresses were new and their paint fresh, and as they glided by in
the good-natured twilight, one had no heart to smile at them. We gave our
smiles, and now and then our soldi, to the swarthy beggar, who, being
short of legs, rowed up and down the canal in a boat, and overhauled
Charity in the gondolas. He was a singular compromise, in his vocation and
his equipment, between the mendicant and corsair: I fear he would not have
hesitated to assume the pirate altogether in lonelier waters; and had I
been a heavily laden oyster-boat returning by night through some remote
and dark canal, I would have steered clear of that truculent-looking
craft, of which the crew must have fought with a desperation proportioned
to the lack of legs and the difficulty of running away, in case of defeat.

About nightfall came the market boats on their way to the Rialto market,
bringing heaped fruits and vegetables from the main-land; and far into the
night the soft dip of the oar, and the gurgling progress of the boats was
company and gentlest lullaby. By which time, if we looked out again, we
found the moon risen, and the ghost of dead Venice shadowily happy in
haunting the lonesome palaces, and the sea, which had so loved Venice,
kissing and caressing the tide-worn marble steps where her feet seemed to

At night sometimes we saw from our balcony one of those _freschi_,
which once formed the chief splendor of festive occasions in Venice, and
are peculiar to the city, where alone their fine effects are possible. The
fresco is a procession of boats with music and lights. Two immense barges,
illumined with hundreds of paper lanterns, carry the military bands; the
boats of the civil and military dignitaries follow, and then the gondolas
of such citizens as choose to take part in the display,--though since 1859
no Italian, unless a government official, has been seen in the procession.
No gondola has less than two lanterns, and many have eight or ten,
shedding mellow lights of blue, and red, and purple, over uniforms and
silken robes. The soldiers of the bands breathe from their instruments
music the most perfect and exquisite of its kind in the world; and as the
procession takes the width of the Grand Canal in its magnificent course,
soft crimson flushes play upon the old, weather-darkened palaces, and die
tenderly away, giving to light and then to shadow the opulent sculptures
of pillar, and arch, and spandrel, and weirdly illuminating the grim and
bearded visages of stone that peer down from doorway and window. It is a
sight more gracious and fairy than ever poet dreamed; and I feel that the
lights and the music have only got into my description by name, and that
you would not know them when you saw and heard them, from any thing I say.
In other days, people tell you, the fresco was much more impressive than
now. At intervals, rockets used to be sent up, and the Bengal lights,
burned during the progress of the boats, threw the gondoliers' spectral
shadows, giant-huge, on the palace-walls. But, for my part, I do not care
to have the fresco other than I know it: indeed, for my own selfish
pleasure, I should be sorry to have Venice in any way less fallen and
forlorn than she is.

Without doubt the most picturesque craft ever seen on the Grand Canal are
the great boats of the river Po, which, crossing the lagoons from
Chioggia, come up to the city with the swelling sea. They are built with a
pointed stern and bow rising with the sweep of a short curve from the
water high above the cabin roof, which is always covered with a straw
matting. Black is not the color of the gondolas alone, but of all boats in
Venetia; and these of the Po are like immense funeral barges, and any one
of them might be sent to take King Arthur and bear him to Avilon, whither
I think most of them are bound. A path runs along either gunwale, on which
the men pace as they pole the boat up the canal,--her great sail folded
and lying with the prostrate mast upon the deck. The rudder is a
prodigious affair, and the man at the helm is commonly kind enough to wear
a red cap with a blue tassel, and to smoke. The other persons on board are
no less obliging and picturesque, from the dark-eyed young mother who sits
with her child in her arms at the cabin-door, to the bronze boy who
figures in play at her feet with a small yellow dog of the race already
noticed in charge of the fuel-boats from Dalmatia. The father of the
family, whom we take to be the commander of the vessel, occupies himself
gracefully in sitting down and gazing at the babe and its mother. It is an
old habit of mine, formed in childhood from looking at rafts upon the
Ohio, to attribute, with a kind of heart-ache, supreme earthly happiness
to the navigators of lazy river craft; and as we glance down upon these
people from our balcony, I choose to think them immensely contented, and
try, in a feeble, tacit way, to make friends with so much bliss. But I am
always repelled in these advances by the small yellow dog, who is rendered
extremely irascible by my contemplation of the boat under his care, and
who, ruffling his hair as a hen ruffles her feathers, never fails to bark
furious resentment of my longing.

Far different from the picture presented by this boat's progress--the
peacefulness of which even the bad temper of the small yellow dog could
not mar--was another scene which we witnessed upon the Grand Canal, when
one morning we were roused from our breakfast by a wild and lamentable
outcry. Two large boats, attempting to enter the small canal opposite at
the same time, had struck together with a violence that shook the boatmen
to their inmost souls. One barge was laden with lime, and belonged to a
plasterer of the city; the other was full of fuel, and commanded by a
virulent rustic. These rival captains advanced toward the bows of their
boats, with murderous looks,

"Con la test'alta e con rabbiosa fame,
Sì che parea che l'aer ne temesse,"

and there stamped furiously, and beat the wind with hands of deathful
challenge, while I looked on with that noble interest which the
enlightened mind always feels in people about to punch each other's heads.

But the storm burst in words.

"Figure of a pig!" shrieked the Venetian, "you have ruined my boat

"Thou liest, son of an ugly old dog!" returned the countryman, "and it was
my right to enter the canal first."

They then, after this exchange of insult, abandoned the main subject of
dispute, and took up the quarrel laterally and in detail. Reciprocally
questioning the reputation of all their female relatives to the third and
fourth cousins, they defied each other as the offspring of assassins and
prostitutes. As the peace-making tide gradually drifted their boats
asunder, their anger rose, and they danced back and forth and hurled
opprobrium with a foamy volubility that quite left my powers of
comprehension behind. At last the townsman, executing a _pas seul_ of
uncommon violence, stooped and picked up a bit of lime, while the
countryman, taking shelter at the stern of his boat, there attended the
shot. To my infinite disappointment it was not fired. The Venetian seemed
to have touched the climax of his passion in the mere demonstration of
hostility, and gently gathering up his oar gave the countryman the right
of way. The courage of the latter rose as the danger passed, and as far as
he could be heard, he continued to exult in the wildest excesses of
insult: "Ah-heigh! brutal executioner! Ah, hideous headsman!" _Da
capo._ I now know that these people never intended to do more than
quarrel, and no doubt they parted as well pleased as if they had actually
carried broken heads from the encounter. But at the time I felt affronted
and trifled with by the result, for my disappointments arising out of the
dramatic manner of the Italians had not yet been frequent enough to teach
me to expect nothing from it.

There was some compensation for me--coming, like all compensation, a long
while after the loss--in the spectacle of a funeral procession on the
Grand Canal, which had a singular and imposing solemnity only possible to
the place. It was the funeral of an Austrian general, whose coffin,
mounted on a sable catafalco, was borne upon the middle boat of three that
moved abreast. The barges on either side bristled with the bayonets of
soldiery, but the dead man was alone in his boat, except for one strange
figure that stood at the head of the coffin, and rested its glittering
hand upon the black fall of the drapery. This was a man clad cap-a-pie in
a perfect suit of gleaming mail, with his visor down, and his shoulders
swept by the heavy raven plumes of his helm. As at times he moved from
side to side, and glanced upward at the old palaces, sad in the yellow
morning light, he put out of sight, for me, every thing else upon the
Canal, and seemed the ghost of some crusader come back to Venice, in
wonder if this city, lying dead under the hoofs of the Croat, were indeed
that same haughty Lady of the Sea who had once sent her blind old Doge to
beat down the pride of an empire and disdain its crown.



One summer morning the mosquitoes played for me with sleep, and won. It
was half-past four, and as it had often been my humor to see Venice at
that hour, I got up and sallied forth for a stroll through the city.

This morning walk did not lay the foundation of a habit of early rising in
me, but I nevertheless advise people always to get up at half-past four,
if they wish to receive the most vivid impressions, and to take the most
absorbing interest in every thing in the world. It was with a feeling
absolutely novel that I looked about me that morning, and there was a
breezy freshness and clearness in my perceptions altogether delightful,
and I fraternized so cordially with Nature that I do not think, if I had
sat down immediately after to write out the experience, I should have at
all patronized her, as I am afraid scribbling people have sometimes the
custom to do. I know that my feeling of brotherhood in the case of two
sparrows, which obliged me by hopping down from a garden wall at the end
of Calle Falier and promenading on the pavement, was quite humble and
sincere; and that I resented the ill-nature of a cat,

"Whom love kept wakeful and the muse,"

and who at that hour was spitefully reviling the morn from a window
grating. As I went by the gate of the Canonico's little garden, the
flowers saluted me with a breath of perfume,--I think the white honey-
suckle was first to offer me this politeness,--and the dumpy little
statues looked far more engaging than usual.

After passing the bridge, the first thing to do was to drink a cup of
coffee at the Caffè Ponte di Ferro, where the eyebrows of the waiter
expressed a mild surprise at my early presence. There was no one else in
the place but an old gentleman talking thoughtfully to himself on the
subject of two florins, while he poured his coffee into a glass of water,
before drinking it. As I lingered a moment over my cup, I was reinforced
by the appearance of a company of soldiers, marching to parade in the
Campo di Marte. Their officers went at their head, laughing and chatting,
and one of the lieutenants smoking a long pipe, gave me a feeling of
satisfaction only comparable to that which I experienced shortly afterward
in beholding a stoutly built small dog on the Ponte di San Moisè. The
creature was only a few inches high, and it must have been through some
mist of dreams yet hanging about me that he impressed me as having
something elephantine in his manner. When I stooped down and patted him on
the head, I felt colossal.

On my way to the Piazza, I stopped in the church of Saint Mary of the
Lily, where, in company with one other sinner, I found a relish in the
early sacristan's deliberate manner of lighting the candles on the altar.
Saint Mary of the Lily has a façade in the taste of the declining
Renaissance. The interior is in perfect keeping, and all is hideous,
abominable, and abandoned. My fellow-sinner was kneeling, and repeating
his prayers. He now and then tapped himself absent-mindedly on the breast
and forehead, and gave a good deal of his attention to me as I stood at
the door, hat in hand. The hour and the place invested him with so much
interest, that I parted from him with emotion. My feelings were next
involved by an abrupt separation from a young English East-Indian, whom I
overheard asking the keeper of a caffè his way to the Campo di Marte. He
was a claret-colored young fellow, tall, and wearing folds of white muslin
around his hat. In another world I trust to know how he liked the parade
that morning.

I discovered that Piazza San Marco is every morning swept by troops of
ragged facchini, who gossip noisily and quarrelsomely together over their
work. Boot-blacks, also, were in attendance, and several followed my
progress through the square, in the vague hope that I would relent and
have my boots blacked. One peerless waiter stood alone amid the desert
elegance of Caffè Florian, which is never shut, day or night, from year to
year. At the Caffè of the Greeks, two individuals of the Greek nation were
drinking coffee.

I went upon the Molo, passing between the pillars of the Lion and the
Saint, and walked freely back and forth, taking in the glory of that
prospect of water and of vague islands breaking the silver of the lagoons,
like those scenes cunningly wrought in apparent relief on old Venetian
mirrors. I walked there freely, for though there were already many
gondoliers at the station, not one took me for a foreigner or offered me a
boat. At that hour, I was in myself so improbable, that if they saw me at
all, I must have appeared to them as a dream. My sense of security was
sweet, but it was false, for on going into the church of St. Mark, the
keener eye of the sacristan detected me. He instantly offered to show me
the Zeno Chapel; but I declined, preferring the church, where I found the
space before the high altar filled with market-people come to hear the
early mass. As I passed out of the church, I witnessed the partial awaking
of a Venetian gentleman who had spent the night in a sitting posture,
between the columns of the main entrance. He looked puffy, scornful, and
uncomfortable, and at the moment of falling back to slumber, tried to
smoke an unlighted cigarette, which he held between his lips. I found none
of the shops open as I passed through the Merceria, and but for myself,
and here and there a laborer going to work, the busy thoroughfare seemed
deserted. In the mere wantonness of power, and the security of solitude, I
indulged myself in snapping several door-latches, which gave me a pleasure
as keen as that enjoyed in boyhood from passing a stick along the pickets
of a fence. I was in nowise abashed to be discovered in this amusement by
an old peasant-woman, bearing at either end of a yoke the usual basket
with bottles of milk packed in straw.

Entering Campo San Bartolomeo, I found trade already astir in that noisy
place; the voice of cheap bargains, which by noonday swells into an
intolerable uproar, was beginning to be heard. Having lived in Campo San
Bartolomeo, I recognized several familiar faces there, and particularly
noted among them that of a certain fruit-vender, who frequently swindled
me in my small dealings with him. He now sat before his stand, and for a
man of a fat and greasy presence, looked very fresh and brisk, and as if
he had passed a pleasant night.

On the other side of the Rialto Bridge, the market was preparing for the
purchasers. Butchers were arranging their shops; fruit-stands, and stands
for the sale of crockery, and--as I must say for want of a better word, if
there is any--notions, were in a state of tasteful readiness. The person
on the steps of the bridge who had exposed his stock of cheap clothing and
coarse felt hats on the parapet, had so far completed his preparations as
to have leisure to be talking himself hot and hoarse with the neighboring
barber. He was in a perfectly good humor, and was merely giving a dramatic
flavor to some question of six soldi.

At the landings of the market-place squadrons of boats loaded with
vegetables were arriving and unloading. Peasants were building cabbages
into pyramids; collective squashes and cucumbers were taking a picturesque
shape; wreaths of garlic and garlands of onions graced the scene. All the
people were clamoring at the tops of their voices; and in the midst of the
tumult and confusion, resting on heaps of cabbage-leaves and garbage, men
lay on their bellies sweetly sleeping. Numbers of eating-houses were
sending forth a savory smell, and everywhere were breakfasters with bowls
of sguassetto. In one of the shops, somewhat prouder than the rest, a
heated brunette was turning sections of eel on a gridiron, and hurriedly
coqueting with the purchasers. Singularly calm amid all this bustle was
the countenance of the statue called the Gobbo, as I looked at it in the
centre of the market-place. The Gobbo (who is not a hunchback, either) was
patiently supporting his burden, and looking with a quiet, thoughtful
frown upon the ground, as if pondering some dream of change that had come
to him since the statutes of the haughty Republic were read aloud to the
people from the stone tribune on his shoulders.

Indeed, it was a morning for thoughtful meditation; and as I sat at the
feet of the four granite kings shortly after, waiting for the gate of the
ducal palace to be opened, that I might see the girls drawing the water, I
studied the group of the Judgment of Solomon, on the corner of the palace,
and arrived at an entirely new interpretation of that Bible story, which I
have now wholly forgotten.

The gate remained closed too long for my patience, and I turned away from
a scene momently losing its interest. The brilliant little shops opened
like hollyhocks as I went home; the swelling tide of life filled the
streets, and brought Venice back to my day-time remembrance, robbing her
of that keen, delightful charm with which she greeted my early morning



Wishing to tell the story of our Mouse, because I think it illustrates
some amusing traits of character in a certain class of Italians, I explain
at once that he was not a mouse, but a man so called from his wretched,
trembling little manner, his fugitive expression, and peaked visage.

He first appeared to us on the driver's seat of that carriage in which we
posted so splendidly one spring-time from Padua to Ponte Lagoscuro. But
though he mounted to his place just outside the city gate, we did not
regard him much, nor, indeed, observe what a mouse he was, until the
driver stopped to water his horses near Battaglia, and the Mouse got down
to stretch his forlorn little legs. Then I got down too, and bade him
good-day, and told him it was a very hot day--for he was a mouse
apparently so plunged in wretchedness that I doubted if he knew what kind
of day it was.

When I had spoken, he began to praise (in the wary manner of the Venetians
when they find themselves in the company of a foreigner who does not look
like an Englishman) the Castle of the Obiza near by, which is now the
country-seat of the ex-Duke of Modena; and he presently said something to
imply that he thought me a German.

"But I am not a German," said I.

"As many excuses," said the Mouse sadly, but with evident relief; and then
began to talk more freely, and of the evil times.

"Are you going all the way with us to Florence?" I asked.

"No, signor, to Bologna; from there to Ancona."

"Have you ever been in Venice? We are just coming from there."

"Oh, yes."

"It is a beautiful place. Do you like it?"

"Sufficiently. But one does not enjoy himself very well there."

"But I thought Venice interesting."

"Sufficiently, signor. _Ma!_" said the Mouse, shrugging his
shoulders, and putting on the air of being luxuriously fastidious in his
choice of cities, "the water is so bad in Venice."

The Mouse is dressed in a heavy winter overcoat, and has no garment to
form a compromise with his shirt-sleeves, if he should wish to render the
weather more endurable by throwing off the surtout. In spite of his
momentary assumption of consequence, I suspect that his coat is in the
Monte di Pietà. It comes out directly that he is a ship-carpenter who has
worked in the Arsenal of Venice, and at the ship-yards in Trieste.

But there is no work any more. He went to Trieste lately to get a job on
the three frigates which the Sultan had ordered to be built there.
_Ma!_ After all, the frigates are to be built in Marseilles instead.
There is nothing. And every thing is so dear. In Venetia you spend much
and gain little. Perhaps there is work at Ancona.

By this time the horses are watered; the Mouse regains his seat, and we
almost forget him, till he jumps from his place, just before we reach the
hotel in Rovigo, and disappears--down the first hole in the side of a
house, perhaps. He might have done much worse, and spent the night at the
hotel, as we did.

The next morning at four o'clock, when we start, he is on the box again,
nibbling bread and cheese, and glancing furtively back at us to say good
morning. He has little twinkling black eyes, just like a mouse, and a
sharp moustache, and sharp tuft on his chin--as like Victor Emanuel's as a
mouse's tuft can be.

The cold morning air seems to shrivel him, and he crouches into a little
gelid ball on the seat beside the driver, while we wind along the Po on
the smooth gray road; while the twilight lifts slowly from the distances
of field and vineyard; while the black boats of the Po, with their gaunt
white sails, show spectrally through the mists; while the trees and the
bushes break into innumerable voice, and the birds are glad of another day
in Italy; while the peasant drives his mellow-eyed, dun oxen afield; while
his wife comes in her scarlet bodice to the door, and the children's faces
peer out from behind her skirts; while the air freshens, the east flushes,
and the great miracle is wrought anew.

Once again, before we reach the ferry of the Po, the Mouse leaps down and
disappears as mysteriously as at Rovigo. We see him no more till we meet
in the station on the other side of the river, where we hear him
bargaining long and earnestly with the ticket-seller for a third-class
passage to Bologna. He fails to get it, I think, at less than the usual
rate, for he retires from the contest more shrunken and forlorn than ever,
and walks up and down the station, startled at a word, shocked at any
sudden noise.

For curiosity, I ask how much he paid for crossing the river, mentioning
the fabulous sum it had cost us.

It appears that he paid sixteen soldi only. "What could they do when a man
was in misery? I had nothing else."

Even while thus betraying his poverty, the Mouse did not beg, and we began
to respect his poverty. In a little while we pitied it, witnessing the
manner in which he sat down on the edge of a chair, with a smile of meek

It is a more serious case when an artisan is out of work in the Old World
than one can understand in the New. There the struggle for bread is so
fierce and the competition so great; and, then, a man bred to one trade
cannot turn his hand to another as in America. Even the rudest and least
skilled labor has more to do it than are wanted. The Italians are very
good to the poor, but the tradesman out of work must become a beggar
before charity can help him.

We, who are poor enough to be wise, consult foolishly together concerning
the Mouse. It blesses him that gives, and him that takes--this business of
charity. And then, there is something irresistibly relishing and splendid
in the consciousness of being the instrument of a special providence! Have
I all my life admired those beneficent characters in novels and comedies
who rescue innocence, succor distress, and go about pressing gold into the
palm of poverty, and telling it to take it and be happy; and now shall I
reject an occasion, made to my hand, for emulating them in real life?

"I think I will give the Mouse five francs," I say.

"Yes, certainly."

"But I will be prudent," I continue. "I will not give him this money. I
will tell him it is a loan which he may pay me back again whenever he can.
In this way I shall relieve him now, and furnish him an incentive to

I call to the Mouse, and he runs tremulously toward me.

"Have you friends in Ancona?"

"No, signor."

"How much money have you left?"

He shows me three soldi. "Enough for a coffee."

"And then?"

"God knows."

So I give him the five francs, and explain my little scheme of making it a
loan, and not a gift; and then I give him my address.

He does not appear to understand the scheme of the loan; but he takes the
money, and is quite stunned by his good fortune. He thanks me absently,
and goes and shows the piece to the guards, with a smile that illumines
and transfigures his whole person. At Bologna, he has come to his senses;
he loads me with blessings, he is ready to weep; he reverences me, he
wishes me a good voyage, endless prosperity, and innumerable days; and
takes the train for Ancona.

"Ah, ah!" I congratulate myself,--"is it not a fine thing to be the
instrument of a special providence?"

It is pleasant to think of the Mouse during all that journey, and if we
are never so tired, it rests us to say, "I wonder where the Mouse is by
this time?" When we get home, and coldly count up our expenses, we rejoice
in the five francs lent to the Mouse. "And I know he will pay it back if
ever he can," I say. "That was a Mouse of integrity."

Two weeks later comes a comely young woman, with a young child--a child
strong on its legs, a child which tries to open every thing in the room,
which wants to pull the cloth off the table, to throw itself out of the
open window--a child of which I have never seen the peer for restlessness
and curiosity. This young woman has been directed to call on me as a
person likely to pay her way to Ferrara. "But who sent you? But, in fine,
why should I pay your way to Ferrara? I have never seen you before."

"My husband, whom you benefited on his way to Ancona, sent me. Here is his
letter and the card you gave him."

I call out to my fellow-victim,--"My dear, here is news of the Mouse!"

"Don't _tell_ me he's sent you that money already!"

"Not at all. He has sent me his wife and child, that I may forward them to
him at Ferrara, out of my goodness, and the boundless prosperity which has
followed his good wishes--I, who am a great signor in his eyes, and an
insatiable giver of five-franc pieces--the instrument of a perpetual
special providence. The Mouse has found work at Ferrara, and his wife
comes here from Trieste. As for the rest, I am to send her to him, as I

"You are deceived," I say solemnly to the Mouse's wife. "I am not a rich
man. I lent your husband five francs because he had nothing. I am sorry
but I cannot spare twenty florins to send you to Ferrara. If _one_
will help you?"

"Thanks the same," said the young woman, who was well dressed enough; and
blessed me, and gathered up her child, and went her way.

But her blessing did not lighten my heart, depressed and troubled by so
strange an end to my little scheme of a beneficent loan. After all,
perhaps the Mouse may have been as keenly disappointed as myself. With the
ineradicable idea of the Italians, that persons who speak English are
wealthy by nature, and _tutti originali_, it was not such an absurd
conception of the case to suppose that if I had lent him five francs once,
I should like to do it continually. Perhaps he may yet pay back the loan
with usury. But I doubt it. In the mean time, I am far from blaming the
Mouse. I merely feel that there is a misunderstanding, which I can pardon
if he can.



One day in the gallery of the Venetian Academy a family party of the
English, whom we had often seen from our balcony in their gondolas, were
kind enough to pause before Titian's John the Baptist. It was attention
that the picture could scarcely demand in strict justice, for it hangs at
the end of a suite of smaller rooms through which visitors usually return
from the great halls, spent with looking at much larger paintings. As
these people stood gazing at the sublime figure of the Baptist,--one of
the most impressive, if not the most religious, that the master has
painted,--and the wild and singular beauty of the landscape made itself
felt through the infinite depths of their respectability, the father of
the family and the head of the group uttered approval of the painter's
conception: "Quite my idea of the party's character," he said; and then
silently and awfully led his domestic train away.

I am so far from deriding the criticism of this honest gentleman that I
would wish to have equal sincerity and boldness in saying what I thought--
if I really thought any thing at all--concerning the art which I spent so
great a share of my time at Venice in looking at. But I fear I should fall
short of the terseness as well as the candor I applaud, and should
presently find myself tediously rehearsing criticisms which I neither
respect for their honesty, nor regard for their justice. It is the sad
fortune of him who desires to arrive at full perception of the true and
beautiful in art, to find that critics have no agreement except upon a few
loose general principles; and that among the artists, to whom he turns in
his despair, no two think alike concerning the same master, while his own
little learning has made him distrust his natural likings and mislikings.
Ruskin is undoubtedly the best guide you can have in your study of the
Venetian painters; and after reading him, and suffering confusion and
ignominy from his theories and egotisms, the exercises by which you are
chastised into admission that he has taught you any thing cannot fail to
end in a humility very favorable to your future as a Christian. But even
in this subdued state you must distrust the methods by which he pretends
to relate the aesthetic truths you perceive to certain civil and religious
conditions: you scarcely understand how Tintoretto, who genteelly disdains
(on one page) to paint well any person baser than a saint or senator, and
with whom "exactly in proportion to the dignity of the character is the
beauty of the painting,"--comes (on the next page) to paint a very "weak,
mean, and painful" figure of Christ; and knowing a little the loose lives
of the great Venetian painters, you must reject, with several other
humorous postulates, the idea that good colorists are better men than bad
colorists. Without any guide, I think, these painters may be studied and
understood, up to a certain point, by one who lives in the atmosphere of
their art at Venice, and who, insensibly breathing in its influence,
acquires a feeling for it which all the critics in the world could not
impart where the works themselves are not to be seen. I am sure that no
one strange to the profession of artist ever received a just notion of any
picture by reading the most accurate and faithful description of it:
stated dimensions fail to convey ideas of size; adjectives are not
adequate to the ideas of movement; and the names of the colors, however
artfully and vividly introduced and repeated, cannot tell the reader of a
painter's coloring. I should be glad to hear what Titian's "Assumption" is
like from some one who knew it by descriptions. Can any one who has seen
it tell its likeness, or forget it? Can any cunning critic describe
intelligibly the difference between the styles of Titian, of Tintoretto,
and of Paolo Veronese,--that difference which no one with the slightest
feeling for art can fail to discern after looking thrice at their works?
It results from all this that I must believe special criticisms on art to
have their small use only in the presence of the works they discuss. This
is my sincere belief, and I could not, in any honesty, lumber my pages
with descriptions or speculations which would be idle to most readers,
even if I were a far wiser judge of art than I affect to be. As it is,
doubting if I be gifted in that way at all, I think I may better devote
myself to discussion of such things in Venice as can be understood by
comparison with things elsewhere, and so rest happy in the thought that I
have thrown no additional darkness on any of the pictures half obscured
now by the religious dimness of the Venetian churches.

Doubt, analogous to that expressed, has already made me hesitate to spend
the reader's patience upon many well-known wonders of Venice; and, looking
back over the preceding chapters, I find that some of the principal
edifices of the city have scarcely got into my book even by name. It is
possible that the reader, after all, loses nothing by this; but I should
regret it, if it seemed ingratitude to that expression of the beautiful
which beguiled many dull hours for me, and kept me company in many
lonesome ones. For kindnesses of this sort, indeed, I am under obligations
to edifices in every part of the city; and there is hardly a bit of
sculptured stone in the Ducal Palace to which I do not owe some pleasant
thought or harmless fancy. Yet I am shy of endeavoring in my gratitude to
transmute the substance of the Ducal Palace into some substance that shall
be sensible to the eyes that look on this print; and I forgive myself the
reluctance the more readily when I remember how, just after reading Mr.
Ruskin's description of St. Mark's Church, I, who had seen it every day
for three years, began to have dreadful doubts of its existence.

To be sure, this was only for a moment, and I do not think all the
descriptive talent in the world could make me again doubt St. Mark's,
which I remember with no less love than veneration. This church indeed has
a beauty which touches and wins all hearts, while it appeals profoundly to
the religious sentiment. It is as if there were a sheltering friendliness
in its low-hovering domes and arches, which lures and caresses while it
awes; as if here, where the meekest soul feels welcome and protection, the
spirit oppressed with the heaviest load of sin might creep nearest to
forgiveness, hiding the anguish of its repentance in the temple's dim
cavernous recesses, faintly starred with mosaic, and twilighted by
twinkling altar-lamps. Though the temple is enriched with incalculable
value of stone and sculpture, I cannot remember at any time to have been
struck by its mere opulence Preciousness of material has been sanctified
to the highest uses, and there is such unity and justness in the solemn
splendor, that wonder is scarcely appealed to. Even the priceless and
rarely seen treasures of the church--such as the famous golden altar-
piece, whose costly blaze of gems and gold was lighted in Constantinople
six hundred years ago--failed to impress me with their pecuniary worth,
though I

"Value the giddy pleasure of the eyes,"

and like to marvel at precious things. The jewels of other churches are
conspicuous and silly heaps of treasure; but St. Mark's, where every line
of space shows delicate labor in rich material, subdues the jewels to
their place of subordinate adornment. So, too, the magnificence of the
Romish service seems less vainly ostentatious there. In other churches the
ceremonies may sometimes impress you with a sense of their grandeur, and
even spirituality, but they all need the effect of twilight upon them. You
want a foreground of kneeling figures, and faces half visible through
heavy bars of shadow; little lamps must tremble before the shrines; and in
the background must rise the high altar, all ablaze with candles from
vault to pavement, while a hidden choir pours music from behind, and the
organ shakes the heart with its heavy tones. But with the daylight on its
splendors even the grand function of the _Te Deum_ fails to awe, and
wearies by its length, except in St. Mark's alone, which is given grace to
spiritualize what elsewhere would be mere theatric pomp. [Footnote: The
cardinal-patriarch officiates in the Basilica San Marco with some
ceremonies which I believe are peculiar to the patriarchate of Venice, and
which consist of an unusual number of robings and disrobings, and putting
on and off of shoes. All this is performed with great gravity, and has, I
suppose, some peculiar spiritual significance. The shoes are brought by a
priest to the foot of the patriarchal throne, when a canon removes the
profane, out-of-door _chaussure_, and places the sacred shoes on the
patriarch's feet. A like ceremony replaces the patriarch's every-day
gaiters, and the pious rite ends.] The basilica, however, is not in every
thing the edifice best adapted to the Romish worship; for the incense,
which is a main element of the function, is gathered and held there in
choking clouds under the low wagon-roofs of the cross-naves.--Yet I do not
know if I would banish incense from the formula of worship even in St.
Mark's. There is certainly a poetic if not a religious grace in the
swinging censer and its curling fumes; and I think the perfume, as it
steals mitigated to your nostrils, out of the open church door, is the
reverendest smell in the world.

The music in Venetian churches is not commonly very good: the best is to
be heard at St. Mark's, though the director of the choir always contrives
to make so odious a slapping with his _bâton_ as nearly to spoil your
enjoyment. The great musical event of the year is the performance
(immediately after the _Festa del Redentore_) of the Soldini Masses.
These are offered for the repose of one Guiseppe Soldini of Verona, who,
dying possessed of about a million francs, bequeathed a part (some six
thousand francs) annually to the church of St. Mark, on conditions named
in his will. The terms are, that during three successive days, every year,
there shall be said for the peace of his soul a certain number of masses,
--all to be done in the richest and costliest manner. In case of
delinquency, the bequest passes to the Philharmonic Society of Milan; but
the priesthood of the basilica so strictly regard the wishes of the
deceased that they never say less than four masses over and above the
prescribed number. [Footnote: After hearing these masses, curiosity led me
to visit the _Casa di Ricovero_, in order to look at Soldini'a will,
and there I had the pleasure of recognizing the constantly recurring fact,
that beneficent humanity is of all countries and religions. The Casa di
Ricovero is an immense edifice dedicated to the shelter and support of the
decrepit and helpless of either sex, who are collected there to the number
of five hundred. The more modern quarter was erected from a bequest by
Soldini; and eternal provision is also made by his will for ninety of the
inmates. The Secretary of the Casa went through all the wards and
infirmaries with me, and everywhere I saw cleanliness and comfort (and
such content as is possible to sickness and old age), without surprise;
for I had before seen the Civil Hospital of Venice, and knew something of
the perfection of Venetian charities.

At last we came to the wardrobe, where the clothes of the pensioners are
made and kept. Here we were attended by a little, slender, pallid young
nun, who exhibited the dresses with a simple pride altogether pathetic.
She was a woman still, poor thing, though a nun, and she could not help
loving new clothes. They called her Madre, who would never be it except in
name and motherly tenderness. When we had seen all, she stood a moment
before us, and as one of the coarse woolen lappets of her cape had hidden
it, she drew out a heavy crucifix of gold, and placed it in sight, with a
heavenly little ostentation, over her heart. Sweet and beautiful vanity!
An angel could have done it without harm, but she blushed repentance, and
glided away with downcast eyes Poor little mother!]

As there is so little in St. Mark's of the paltry or revolting character
of modern Romanism, one would form too exalted an idea of the dignity of
Catholic worship if he judged it there. The truth is, the sincerity and
nobility of a spirit well-nigh unknown to the Romish faith of these times,
are the ruling influences in that temple: the past lays its spell upon the
present, transfiguring it, and the sublimity of the early faith honors the
superstition which has succeeded it. To see this superstition in all its
proper grossness and deformity you must go into some of the Renaissance
churches,--fit tabernacles for that droning and mumming spirit which has
deprived all young and generous men in Italy of religion; which has made
the priests a bitter jest and byword; which has rendered the population
ignorant, vicious, and hopeless; which gives its friendship to tyranny and
its hatred to freedom; which destroys the life of the Church that it may
sustain the power of the Pope. The idols of this superstition are the
foolish and hideous dolls which people bow to in most of the Venetian
temples, and of which the most abominable is in the church of the
Carmelites. It represents the Madonna with the Child, elevated breast-high
to the worshipers. She is crowned with tinsel and garlanded with paper
flowers; she has a blue ribbon about her tightly corseted waist; and she
wears an immense spreading hoop. On her painted, silly face of wood, with
its staring eyes shadowed by a wig, is figured a pert smile; and people
come constantly and kiss the cross that hangs by a chain from her girdle,
and utter their prayers to her; while the column near which she sits is
hung over with pictures celebrating the miracles she has performed.

These votive pictures, indeed, are to be seen on most altars of the
Virgin, and are no less interesting as works of art than as expressions of
hopeless superstition. That Virgin who, in all her portraits, is dressed
in a churn-shaped gown and who holds a Child similarly habited, is the
Madonna most efficacious in cases of dreadful accident and hopeless
sickness, if we may trust the pictures which represent her interference.
You behold a carriage overturned and dragged along the ground by frantic
horses, and the fashionably dressed lady and gentleman in the carriage
about to be dashed into millions of pieces, when the havoc is instantly
arrested by this Madonna who breaks the clouds, leaving them with jagged
and shattered edges, like broken panes of glass, and visibly holds back
the fashionable lady and gentleman from destruction. It is the fashionable
lady and gentleman who have thus recorded their obligation; and it is the
mother, doubtless, of the little boy miraculously preserved from death in
his fall from the second-floor balcony, who has gratefully caused the
miracle to be painted and hung at the Madonna's shrine. Now and then you
also find offerings of corn and fruits before her altar, in acknowledgment
of good crops which the Madonna has made to grow; and again you find rows
of silver hearts, typical of the sinful hearts which her intercession has
caused to be purged. The greatest number of these, at any one shrine, is
to be seen in the church of San Nicolò dei Tolentini, where I should think
there were three hundred.

Whatever may be the popularity of the Madonna della Salute in pestilent
times, I do not take it to be very great when the health of the city is
good, if I may judge from the spareness of the worshipers in the church of
her name: it is true that on the annual holiday commemorative of her
interposition to save Venice from the plague, there is an immense
concourse of people there; but at other times I found the masses and
vespers slenderly attended, and I did not observe a great number of votive
offerings in the temple,--though the great silver lamp placed there by the
city, in memory of the Madonna's goodness during the visitation of the
cholera in 1849, may be counted, perhaps, as representative of much
collective gratitude. It is a cold, superb church, lording it over the
noblest breadth of the Grand Canal; and I do not know what it is saves it
from being as hateful to the eye as other temples of the Renaissance
architecture. But it has certainly a fine effect, with its twin bell-
towers and single massive dome, its majestic breadth of steps rising from
the water's edge, and the many-statued sculpture of its façade. Strangers
go there to see the splendor of its high altar (where the melodramatic
Madonna, as the centre of a marble group, responds to the prayer of the
operatic Venezia, and drives away the haggard, theatrical Pest), and the
excellent Titians and the grand Tintoretto in the sacristy.

The Salute is one of the great show-churches, like that of San Giovanni e
Paolo, which the common poverty of imagination has decided to call the
Venetian Westminster Abbey, because it contains many famous tombs and
monuments. But there is only one Westminster Abbey; and I am so far a
believer in the perfectibility of our species as to suppose that vergers
are nowhere possible but in England. There would be nothing to say, after
Mr. Ruskin, in praise or blame of the great monuments in San Giovanni e
Paolo, even if I cared to discuss them; I only wonder that, in speaking of
the bad art which produced the tomb of the Venieri, he failed to mention
the successful approach to its depraved feeling, made by the single figure
sitting on the case of a slender shaft, at the side of the first altar on
the right of the main entrance. I suppose this figure typifies Grief, but
it really represents a drunken woman, whose drapery has fallen, as if in
some vile debauch, to her waist, and who broods, with a horrible, heavy
stupor and chopfallen vacancy, on something which she supports with her
left hand upon her knee. It is a round of marble, and if you have the
daring to peer under the arm of the debauchee, and look at it as she does,
you find that it contains the bass-relief of a skull in bronze. Nothing
more ghastly and abominable than the whole thing can be conceived, and it
seemed to me the fit type of the abandoned Venice which produced it; for
one even less Ruskinian than I might have fancied that in the sculptured
countenance could be seen the dismay of the pleasure-wasted harlot of the
sea when, from time to time, death confronted her amid her revels.

People go into the Chapel of the Rosary here to see the painting of
Titian, representing The Death of Peter Martyr. Behind it stands a
painting of equal size by John Bellini,--the Madonna, Child, and Saints,
of course,--and it is curious to study in the two pictures those points in
which Titian excelled and fell short of his master. The treatment of the
sky in the landscape is singularly alike in both, but where the greater
painter has gained in breadth and freedom, he has lost in that indefinable
charm which belonged chiefly to Bellini, and only to that brief age of
transition, of which his genius was the fairest flower and ripest fruit. I
have looked again and again at nearly every painting of note in Venice,
having a foolish shame to miss a single one, and having also a better wish
to learn something of the beautiful from them; but at last I must say,
that, while I wondered at the greatness of some, and tried to wonder at
the greatness of others, the only paintings which gave me genuine and
hearty pleasure were those of Bellini, Carpaccio, and a few others of that
school and time.

Every day we used to pass through the court of the old Augustinian convent
adjoining the church of San Stefano. It is a long time since the monks
were driven out of their snug hold; and the convent is now the head-
quarters of the Austrian engineer corps, and the colonnade surrounding the
court is become a public thoroughfare. On one wall of this court are
remains--very shadowy remains indeed--of frescos painted by Pordenone at
the period of his fiercest rivalry with Titian; and it is said that
Pordenone, while he wrought upon the scenes of scriptural story here
represented, wore his sword and buckler, in readiness to repel an attack
which he feared from his competitor. The story is very vague, and I hunted
it down in divers authorities only to find it grow more and more
intangible and uncertain. But it gave a singular relish to our daily walk
through the old cloister, and I added, for my own pleasure (and chiefly
out of my own fancy, I am afraid, for I can nowhere localize the fable on
which I built), that the rivalry between the painters was partly a love-
jealousy, and that the disputed object of their passion was that fair
Violante, daughter of the elder Palma, who is to be seen in so many
pictures painted by her father, and by her lover, Titian. No doubt there
are readers will care less for this idleness of mine than for the fact
that the hard-headed German monk, Martin Luther, once said mass in the
adjoining church of San Stefano, and lodged in the convent, on his way to
Rome. The unhappy Francesco Carrara, last Lord of Padua, is buried in this
church; but Venetians are chiefly interested there now by the homilies of
those fervent preacher-monks, who deliver powerful sermons during Lent.
The monks are gifted men, with a most earnest and graceful eloquence, and
they attract immense audiences, like popular and eccentric ministers among
ourselves. It is a fashion to hear them, and although the atmosphere of
the churches in the season of Lent is raw, damp, and most uncomfortable,
the Venetians then throng the churches where they preach. After Lent the
sermons and church-going cease, and the sanctuaries are once more
abandoned to the possession of the priests, droning from the altars to the
scattered kneelers on the floor,--the foul old women and the young girls
of the poor, the old-fashioned old gentlemen and devout ladies of the
better class, and that singular race of poverty-stricken old men proper to
Italian churches, who, having dabbled themselves with holy water, wander
forlornly and aimlessly about, and seem to consort with the foreigners
looking at the objects of interest. Lounging young fellows of low degree
appear with their caps in their hands, long enough to tap themselves upon
the breast and nod recognition to the high-altar; and lounging young
fellows of high degree step in to glance at the faces of the pretty girls,
and then vanish. The droning ends, presently, and the devotees disappear,
the last to go being that thin old woman, kneeling before a shrine, with a
grease-gray shawl falling from her head to the ground. The sacristan, in
his perennial enthusiasm about the great picture of the church, almost
treads upon her as he brings the strangers to see it, and she gets meekly
up and begs of them in a whispering whimper. The sacristan gradually
expels her with the visitors, and at one o'clock locks the door and goes

By chance I have got a fine effect in churches at the five o'clock mass in
the morning, when the worshipers are nearly all peasants who have come to
market, and who are pretty sure, each one, to have a bundle or basket. At
this hour the sacristan is heavy with sleep; he dodges uncertainly at the
tapers as he lights and extinguishes them; and his manner to the
congregation, as he passes through it to the altar, is altogether rasped
and nervous. I think it is best to be one's self a little sleepy,--when
the barefooted friar at the altar (if it is in the church of the Scalzi,
say) has a habit of getting several centuries back from you, and of saying
mass to the patrician ghosts from the tombs under your feet and there is
nothing at all impossible in the Renaissance angels and cherubs in marble,
floating and fatly tumbling about on the broken arches of the altars.

I have sometimes been puzzled in Venice to know why churches should keep
cats, church-mice being proverbially so poor, and so little capable of
sustaining a cat in good condition; yet I have repeatedly found sleek and
portly cats in the churches, where they seem to be on terms of perfect
understanding with the priests, and to have no quarrel even with the
little boys who assist at mass. There is, for instance, a cat in the
sacristy of the Frari, which I have often seen in familiar association
with the ecclesiastics there, when they came into his room to robe or
disrobe, or warm their hands, numb with supplication, at the great brazier
in the middle of the floor. I do not think this cat has the slightest
interest in the lovely Madonna of Bellini which hangs in the sacristy; but
I suspect him of dreadful knowledge concerning the tombs in the church. I
have no doubt he has passed through the open door of Canova's monument,
and that he sees some coherence and meaning in Titian's; he has been all
over the great mausoleum of the Doge Pesaro, and he knows whether the
griffins descend from their perches at the midnight hour to bite the naked
knees of the ragged black caryatides. This profound and awful animal I
take to be a blood relation of the cat in the church of San Giovanni e
Paolo, who sleeps like a Christian during divine service, and loves a
certain glorious bed on the top of a bench, where the sun strikes upon him
through the great painted window, and dapples his tawny coat with lovely
purples and crimsons.

The church cats are apparently the friends of the sacristans, with whom
their amity is maintained probably by entire cession of the spoils of
visitors. In these, therefore, they seldom take any interest, merely
opening a lazy eye now and then to wink at the sacristans as they drag the
deluded strangers from altar to altar, with intense enjoyment of the
absurdity, and a wicked satisfaction in the incredible stories rehearsed.
I fancy, being Italian cats, they feel something like a national antipathy
toward those troops of German tourists, who always seek the
Sehenswürdigkeiten in companies of ten or twenty,--the men wearing their
beards, and the women their hoops and hats, to look as much like English
people as possible; while their valet marshals them forward with a stream
of guttural information, unbroken by a single punctuation point. These
wise cats know the real English by their "Murrays;" and I think they make
a shrewd guess at the nationality of us Americans by the speed with which
we pass from one thing to another, and by our national ignorance of all
languages but English. They must also hear us vaunt the superiority of our
own land in unpleasant comparisons, and I do not think they believe us, or
like us, for our boastings. I am sure they would say to us, if they could,
"_Quando finirà mai quella guerra? Che sangue! che orrore_!"
[Footnote: "When will this war ever be ended? what blood! what horror!" I
have often heard the question and the comment from many Italians who were
not cats.] The French tourist they distinguish by his evident skepticism
concerning his own wisdom in quitting Paris for the present purpose; and
the traveling Italian, by his attention to his badly dressed, handsome
wife, with whom he is now making his wedding trip.

I have found churches undergoing repairs (as most of them always are in
Venice) rather interesting. Under these circumstances, the sacristan is
obliged to take you into all sorts of secret places and odd corners, to
show you the objects of interest; and you may often get glimpses of
pictures which, if not removed from their proper places, it would be
impossible to see. The carpenters and masons work most deliberately, as if
in a place so set against progress that speedy workmanship would be a kind
of impiety. Besides the mechanics, there are always idle priests standing
about, and vagabond boys clambering over the scaffolding. In San Giovanni
e Paolo I remember we one day saw a small boy appear through an opening in
the roof, and descend by means of some hundred feet of dangling rope. The
spectacle, which made us ache with fear, delighted his companions so much
that their applause was scarcely subdued by the sacred character of the
place. As soon as he reached the ground in safety, a gentle, good-natured
looking priest took him by the arm and cuffed his ears. It was a scene for
a painter.



Nothing can be fairer to the eye than these "summer isles of Eden" lying
all about Venice, far and near. The water forever trembles and changes,
with every change of light, from one rainbow glory to another, as with the
restless hues of an opal; and even when the splendid tides recede, and go
down with the sea, they leave a heritage of beauty to the empurpled mud of
the shallows, all strewn with green, disheveled sea-weed. The lagoons have
almost as wide a bound as your vision. On the east and west you can see
their borders of sea-shore and main-land; but looking north and south,
there seems no end to the charm of their vast, smooth, all-but melancholy
expanses. Beyond their southern limit rise the blue Euganean Hills, where
Petrarch died; on the north loom the Alps, white with snow. Dotting the
stretches of lagoon in every direction lie the islands--now piles of airy
architecture that the water seems to float under and bear upon its breast,

"Sunny spots of greenery,"

with the bell-towers of demolished cloisters shadowily showing above their
trees;--for in the days of the Republic nearly every one of the islands
had its monastery and its church. At present the greater number have been
fortified by the Austrians, whose sentinel paces the once-peaceful shores,
and challenges all passers with his sharp "_Halt! Wer da_!" and warns
them not to approach too closely. Other islands have been devoted to
different utilitarian purposes, and few are able to keep their distant
promises of loveliness. One of the more faithful is the island of San
Clemente, on which the old convent church is yet standing, empty and
forlorn within, but without all draped in glossy ivy. After I had learned
to row in the gondolier fashion, I voyaged much in the lagoon with my
boat, and often stopped at this church. It has a curious feature in the
chapel of the Madonna di Loreto, which is built in the middle of the nave,
faced with marble, roofed, and isolated from the walls of the main edifice
on all sides. On the back of this there is a bass-relief in bronze,
representing the Nativity--a work much in the spirit of the bass-reliefs
in San Giovanni e Paolo; and one of the chapels has an exquisite little
altar, with gleaming columns of porphyry. There has been no service in the
church for many years; and this altar had a strangely pathetic effect, won
from the black four-cornered cap of a priest that lay before it, like an
offering. I wondered who the priest was that wore it, and why he had left
it there, as if he had fled away in haste. I might have thought it looked
like the signal of the abdication of a system; the gondolier who was with
me took it up and reviled it as representative of _birbanti
matricolati_, who fed upon the poor, and in whose expulsion from that
island he rejoiced. But he had little reason to do so, since the last use
of the place was for the imprisonment of refractory ecclesiastics. Some of
the tombs of the Morosini are in San Clemente--villanous monuments, with
bronze Deaths popping out of apertures, and holding marble scrolls
inscribed with undying deeds. Indeed, nearly all the decorations of the
poor old church are horrible, and there is one statue in it meant for an
angel, with absolutely the most lascivious face I ever saw in marble.

The islands near Venice are all small, except the Giudecca (which is
properly a part of the city), the Lido, and Murano. The Giudecca, from
being anciently the bounds in which certain factious nobles were confined,
was later laid out in pleasure-gardens, and built up with summer-palaces.
The gardens still remain to some extent; but they are now chiefly turned
to practical account in raising vegetables and fruits for the Venetian
market, and the palaces have been converted into warehouses and factories.
This island produces a variety of beggar, the most truculent and tenacious
in all Venice, and it has a convent of lazy Capuchin friars, who are
likewise beggars. To them belongs the church of the Redentore, which only
the Madonnas of Bellini in the sacristy make worthy to be seen,--though
the island is hardly less famed for this church than for the difficult
etymology of its name.

At the eastern extremity of the Giudecca lies the Island of San Giorgio
Maggiore, with Palladio's church of that name. There are some great
Tintorettos in the church, and I like the beautiful wood-carvings in the
choir. The island has a sad interest from the political prison into which
part of the old convent has been perverted; and the next island eastward
is the scarcely sadder abode of the mad. Then comes the fair and happy
seat of Armenian learning and piety, San Lazzaro, and then the Lido.

The Lido is the sea-shore, and thither in more cheerful days the Venetians
used to resort in great numbers on certain holidays, called the Mondays of
the Lido, to enjoy the sea-breeze and the country scenery, and to lunch
upon the flat tombs of the Hebrews, buried there in exile from the
consecrated Christian ground. On a summer's day there the sun glares down
upon the sand and flat gravestones, and it seems the most desolate place
where one's bones might be laid. The Protestants were once also interred
on the Lido, but now they rest (apart from the Catholics, however) in the
cemetery of San Michele.

The island is long and narrow: it stretches between the lagoons and the
sea, with a village at either end, and with bath-houses on the beach,
which is everywhere faced with forts. There are some poor little trees
there, and grass,--things which we were thrice a week grateful for, when
we went thither to bathe. I do not know whether it will give the place
further interest to say, that it was among the tombs of the Hebrews
Cooper's ingenious Bravo had the incredible good luck to hide himself from
the _sbirri_ of the Republic; or to relate that it was the habit of
Lord Byron to gallop up and down the Lido in search of that conspicuous
solitude of which the sincere bard was fond.

One day of the first summer I spent in Venice (three years of Venetian
life afterward removed it back into times of the remotest antiquity), a
friend and I had the now-incredible enterprise to walk from one end of the
Lido to the other,--from the port of San Nicolò (through which the
Bucintoro passed when the Doges went to espouse the Adriatic) to the port
of Malamocco, at the southern extremity.

We began with that delicious bath which you may have in the Adriatic,
where the light surf breaks with a pensive cadence on the soft sand, all
strewn with brilliant shells. The Adriatic is the bluest water I have ever
seen; and it is an ineffable, lazy delight to lie and watch the fishing
sails of purple and yellow dotting its surface, and the greater ships
dipping down its utmost rim. It was particularly good to do this after
coming out of the water; but our American blood could not brook much
repose, and we got up presently, and started on our walk to the little
village of Malamocco, some three miles away. The double-headed eagle keeps
watch and ward from a continuous line of forts along the shore, and the
white-coated sentinels never cease to pace the bastions, night or day.
Their vision of the sea must not be interrupted by even so much as the
form of a stray passer; and as we went by the forts, we had to descend
from the sea-wall, and walk under it, until we got beyond the sentry's
beat. The crimson poppies grow everywhere on this sandy little isle, and
they fringe the edges of the bastions with their bloom, as if the "blood-
red blossoms of war" had there sprung from the seeds of battle sown in old
forgotten fights. But otherwise the forts were not very engaging in
appearance. A sentry-box of yellow and black, a sentry, a row of seaward
frowning cannon--there was not much in all this to interest us; and so we
walked idly along, and looked either to the city rising from the lagoons
on one hand, or the ships going down the sea on the other. In the fields,
along the road, were vines and Indian corn; but instead of those effigies
of humanity, doubly fearful from their wide unlikeness to any thing human,
which we contrive to scare away the birds, the devout peasant-folks had
here displayed on poles the instruments of the Passion of the Lord--the
hammer, the cords, the nails--which at once protected and blessed the
fields. But I doubt if even these would save them from the New-World pigs,
and certainly the fences here would not turn pork, for they are made of a
matting of reeds, woven together, and feebly secured to tremulous posts.
The fields were well cultivated, and the vines and garden vegetables
looked flourishing; but the corn was spindling, and had, I thought, a
homesick look, as if it dreamed vainly of wide ancestral bottom-lands, on
the mighty streams that run through the heart of the Great West. The
Italians call our corn _gran turco_, but I knew that it was for the
West that it yearned, and not for the East.

No doubt there were once finer dwellings than the peasants' houses which
are now the only habitations on the Lido; and I suspect that a genteel
villa must formerly have stood near the farm-gate, which we found
surmounted by broken statues of Venus and Diana. The poor goddesses were
both headless, and some cruel fortune had struck off their hands, and they
looked strangely forlorn in the swaggering attitudes of the absurd period
of art to which they belonged: they extended their mutilated arms toward
the sea for pity, but it regarded them not; and we passed before them
scoffing at their bad taste, for we were hungry, and it was yet some

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