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Venetian Life by W. D. Howells

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Venetian victories over the Turks at the Dardanelles were celebrated by a
regatta, in 1658; and Morosini's brilliant reconquest of the Morea, in
1688, was the occasion of other magnificent shows.

The whole world has now adopted, with various modifications, the
picturesque and exciting pastime of the regatta, which, according to
Mutinelli, [Footnote: _Annali Urbani di Venezia_.] originated among
the lagoons at a very early period, from a peculiar feature in the
military discipline of the Republic. A target for practice with the bow
and cross-bow was set up every week on the beach at the Lido, and nobles
and plebeians rowed thither in barges of thirty oars, vying with each
other in the speed and skill with which the boats were driven. To divert
the popular discontent that followed the Serrar del Consiglio and the
suppression of Bajamonte Tiepolo's conspiracy early in the fourteenth
century, the proficiency arising from this rivalry was turned to account,
and the spectacle of the regatta was instituted. Agreeably, however, to
the aristocratic spirit of the newly established oligarchy, the patricians
withdrew from the lists, and the regatta became the affair exclusively of
the gondoliers. In other Italian cities, where horse and donkey races were
the favorite amusement, the riders were of both sexes; and now at Venice
women also entered into the rivalry of the regatta. But in gallant
deference to their weakness, they were permitted to begin the course at
the mouth of the Grand Canal before the Doganna di Mare, while the men
were obliged to start from the Public Gardens. They followed the Grand
Canal to its opposite extremity, beyond the present railway station, and
there doubling a pole planted in the water near the Ponte della Croce,
returned to the common goal before the Palazzo Foscari. Here was erected
an ornate scaffolding to which the different prizes were attached. The
first boat carried off a red banner; the next received a green flag; the
third, a blue; and the fourth, a yellow one. With each of these was given
a purse, and with the last was added, by way of gibe, a live pig, a
picture of which was painted on the yellow banner. Every regatta included
five courses, in which single and double oared boats, and single and
double oared gondolas successively competed,--the fifth contest being that
in which the women participated with two-oared boats. Four prizes like
those described were awarded to the winners in each course.

The regatta was celebrated with all the pomp which the superb city could
assume. As soon as the government announced that it was to take place, the
preparations of the champions began. "From that time the gondolier ceased
to be a servant; he became almost an adoptive son;" [Footnote: _Feste
Veneziane_.] his master giving him every possible assistance and
encouragement in the daily exercises by which he trained himself for the
contest, and his parish priest visiting him in his own house, to bless his
person, his boat, and the image of the Madonna or other saint attached to
the gondola. When the great day arrived the Canalazzo swarmed with boats
of every kind. "All the trades and callings," says Giustina Renier-
Michiel, [Footnote: _Feste Veneziane_] with that pride in the
Venetian past which does not always pass from verbosity to eloquence, "had
each its boats appropriately mounted and adorned; and private societies
filled an hundred more. The chief families among the nobility appeared in
their boats, on which they had lavished their taste and wealth." The
rowers were dressed with the most profuse and elaborate luxury, and the
barges were made to represent historical and mythological conceptions. "To
this end the builders employed carving and sculpture, together with all
manner of costly stuffs of silk and velvet, gorgeous fringes and tassels
of silver and gold, flowers, fruits, shrubs, mirrors, furs, and plumage of
rare birds.... Young patricians, in fleet and narrow craft, propelled by
swift rowers, preceded the champions and cleared the way for them,
obliging the spectators to withdraw on either side.... They knelt on
sumptuous cushions in the prows of their gondolas, cross-bow in hand, and
launched little pellets of plaster at the directors of such obstinate
boats as failed to obey their orders to retire....

"To augment the brilliancy of the regatta the nature of the place
concurred. Let us imagine that superb canal, flanked on either side by a
long line of edifices of every sort; with great numbers of marble
palaces,--nearly all of noble and majestic structure, some admirable for
an antique and Gothic taste, some for the richest Greek and Roman
architecture,--their windows and balconies decked with damasks, stuffs of
the Levant, tapestries, and velvets, the vivid colors of which were
animated still more by borders and fringes of gold, and on which leaned
beautiful women richly dressed and wearing tremulous and glittering jewels
in their hair. Wherever the eye turned, it beheld a vast multitude at
doorways, on the rivas, and even on the roofs. Some of the spectators
occupied scaffoldings erected at favorable points along the sides of the
canal; and the patrician ladies did not disdain to leave their palaces,
and, entering their gondolas, lose themselves among the infinite number of
the boats....

"The cannons give the signal of departure. The boats dart over the water
with the rapidity of lightning.... They advance and fall behind
alternately. One champion who seems to yield the way to a rival suddenly
leaves him in the rear. The shouts of his friends and kinsmen hail his
advantage, while others already passing him, force him to redouble his
efforts. Some weaker ones succumb midway, exhausted.... They withdraw, and
the kindly Venetian populace will not aggravate their shame with jeers;
the spectators glance at them compassionately, and turn again to those
still in the lists. Here and there they encourage them by waving
handkerchiefs, and the women toss their shawls in the air. Each patrician
following close upon his gondolier's boat, incites him with his voice,
salutes him by name, and flatters his pride and spirit.... The water foams
under the repeated strokes of the oars; it leaps up in spray and falls in
showers on the backs of the rowers already dripping with their own
sweat.... At last behold the dauntless mortal who seizes the red banner!
His rival had almost clutched it, but one mighty stroke of the oar gave
him the victory.... The air reverberates with a clapping of hands so loud
that at the remotest point on the canal the moment of triumph is known.
The victors plant on their agile boat the conquered flag, and instead of
thinking to rest their weary arms, take up the oars again and retrace
their course to receive congratulations and applause."

The regattas were by no means of frequent occurrence, for only forty-one
took place during some five centuries. The first was given in 1315, and
the last in 1857, in honor of the luckless Archduke Maximilian's marriage
with Princess Charlotte of Belgium. The most sumptuous and magnificent
regatta of all was that given to the city in the year 1686, by Duke Ernest
of Brunswick. This excellent prince having sold a great part of his
subjects to the Republic for use in its wars against the Turk, generously
spent their price in the costly and edifying entertainments of which
Venice had already become the scene. The Judgment of Paris, and the
Triumph of the Marine Goddesses had been represented at his expense on the
Grand Canal, with great acceptance. And now the Triumph of Neptune formed
a principal feature in the gayeties of his regatta. Nearly the whole of
the salt-water mythology was employed in the ceremony. An immense wooden
whale supporting a structure of dolphins and Tritons, surmounted by a
statue of Neptune, and drawn by sea-horses, moved from the Piazzetta to
the Palazzo Foscari, where numbers of Sirens sported about in every
direction till the Regatta began. The whole company of the deities, very
splendidly arrayed, then joined them as spectators, and behaved in the
manner affected by gods and goddesses on these occasions. Mutinelli
[Footnote: _Annali Urbani._] recounts the story with many sighs and
sneers and great exactness; but it is not interesting. The miraculous
recovery of the body of St. Mark, in 1094, after it had been lost for
nearly two centuries, created a festive anniversary which was celebrated
for a while with great religious pomp; but the rejoicings were not
separately continued in after years. The festival was consolidated (if one
may so speak) with two others in honor of the same saint, and the triple
occasions were commemorated by a single holiday. The holidays annually
distinguished by civil or ecclesiastical displays were twenty-five in
number, of which only eleven were of religious origin, though all were of
partly religious observance. One of the most curious and interesting of
the former was of the earliest date, and was continued till the last years
of the Republic. In 596 Narses, the general of the Greek Emperor, was
furnished by the Venetians with means of transport by sea from Aquieja to
Ravenna for the army which he was leading against the Ostrogoths; and he
made a vow that if successful in his campaign, he would requite their
generosity by erecting two churches in Venice. Accordingly, when he had
beaten the Ostrogoths, he caused two votive churches to be built,--one to
St. Theodore, on the site of the present St. Mark's Church, and another to
San Geminiano, on the opposite bank of the canal which then flowed there.
In lapse of time the citizens, desiring to enlarge their Piazza, removed
the church of San Geminiano back as far as the present Fabbrica Nuova,
which Napoleon built on the site of the demolished temple, between the
western ends of the New and Old Procuratie. The removal was effected
without the pope's leave, which had been asked, but was refused in these
words,--"The Holy Father cannot sanction the commission of a sacrilege,
though he can pardon it afterwards." The pontiff, therefore, imposed on
the Venetians for penance that the Doge should pay an annual visit forever
to the church. On the occasion of this visit the parish priest met him at
the door, and offered the holy water to him; and then the Doge, having
assisted at mass, marched with his Signory and the clergy of the church to
its original site, where the clergy demanded that it should be rebuilt,
and the Doge replied with the promise,--"Next year." A red stone was set
in the pavement to mark the spot where the Doge renewed this never-
fulfilled promise. [Footnote: As the author of the _Feste Veneziane_
tells this story it is less dramatic and characteristic. The clergy, she
says, reminded the Doge of the occasion of his visit, and his obligation
to renew it the following year, which he promised to do. I cling to the
version in the text, for it seems to me that the Doge's perpetual promise
to rebuild the church was a return in kind for the pope's astute answer to
the petition asking him to allow its removal. So good a thing ought to be
history.] The old church was destroyed by fire, and Sansovino built, in
1506, the temple thrown down by Napoleon to make room for his palace.

The 31st of January, on which day in 828 the body of St. Mark was brought
from Alexandria to Venice, is still observed, though the festival has lost
all the splendor which it received from civil intervention. For a thousand
years the day was hallowed by a solemn mass in St. Mark's, at which the
Doge and his Signory assisted.

The chief of the State annually paid a number of festive visits, which
were made the occasion of as many holidays. To the convent of San Zaccaria
he went in commemoration of the visit paid to that retreat by Pope
Benedict III., in 855, when the pontiff was so charmed by the piety and
goodness of the fair nuns, that, after his return to Rome, he sent them
great store of relics and indulgences. It thus became one of the most
popular of the holidays, and the people repaired in great multitude with
their Doge to the convent, on each recurrence of the day, that they might
see the relics and buy the indulgences. The nuns were of the richest and
noblest families of the city, and on the Doge's first visit, they
presented him with that bonnet which became the symbol of his sovereignty.
It was wrought of pure gold, and set with precious stones of marvelous
great beauty and value; and in order that the State might never seem
forgetful of the munificence which bestowed the gift, the bonnet was
annually taken from the treasury and shown by the Doge himself to the
Sisters of San Zaccaria. The Doge Pietro Tradonico, to whom the bonnet was
given, was killed in a popular tumult on this holiday, while going to the

There was likewise a vast concourse of people and traffic in indulgences
at the church of Santa Maria della Carita (now the Academy of Fine Arts),
on the anniversary of the day when Pope Alexander III., in 1177, flying
from the Emperor Barbarossa, found refuge in that monastery. [Footnote:
Selvatico and Lazari in their admirable _Guida Artistica e Storica di
Veneza_, say that the pope merely lodged in the monastery on the day
when he signed the treaty of peace with Barbarossa.] He bestowed great
privileges upon it, and the Venetians honored the event to the end of
their national existence.

One of the rare occasions during the year when the Doge appeared
officially in public after nightfall, was on St. Stephen's Day. He then
repaired at dusk in his gilded barge, with splendid attendance of nobles
and citizens, to the island church of San Giorgio Maggiore, whither, in
1009, the body of St. Stephen was brought from Constantinople. On the
first of May the Doge visited the Convent of the Virgins, (the convent
building now forms part of the Arsenal,) where the abbess presented him
with a bouquet, and graceful and pleasing ceremonies took place in
commemoration of the erection and endowment of the church. The head of the
State also annually assisted at mass in St. Mark's, to celebrate the
arrival in Venice of St. Isidore's body, which the Doge Domenico Michiel
brought with him from the East, at the end of twenty-six years' war
against the infidels; and, finally, after the year 1485, when the
Venetians stole the bones of San Rocco from the Milanese, and deposited
them in the newly finished Scuola di San Rocco, a ducal visit was annually
paid to that edifice.

Two only of the national religious festivals yet survive the Republic,--
that of the church of the Redentore on the Giudecca, and that of the
church of the Salute on the Grand Canal,--both votive churches, built in
commemoration of the city's deliverances from the pest in 1578 and 1630.
In their general features the celebrations of the two holidays are much
alike; but that of the Salute is the less important of the two, and is
more entirely religious in its character. A bridge of boats is annually
thrown across the Canalazzo, and on the day of the Purification, the
people throng to the Virgin's shrine to express their gratitude for her
favor. This gratitude was so strong immediately after the cessation of the
pest in 1630, that the Senate, while the architects were preparing their
designs for the present church, caused a wooden one to be built on its
site, and consecrated with ceremonies of singular splendor. On the Festa
del Redentore (the third Sunday of July) a bridge of boats crosses the
great canal of the Giudecca, and vast throngs constantly pass it, day and
night. But though the small tradesmen who deal in fried cakes, and in
apples, peaches, pears, and other fruits, make intolerable uproar behind
their booths on the long quay before the church; though the venders of
mulberries (for which the gardens of the Giudecca are famous) fill the air
with their sweet jargoning (for their cries are like the shrill notes of
so many singing-birds); though thousands of people pace up and down, and
come and go upon the bridge, yet the Festa del Redentore has now none of
the old-time gayety it wore when the Venetians thronged the gardens, and
feasted, sang, danced, and flirted the night away, and at dawn went in
their fleets of many-lanterned boats, covering the lagoon with fairy
light, to behold the sunrise on the Adriatic Sea.

Besides the religious festivals mentioned, there were five banquets
annually given by the State on the several days of St. Mark, St. Vitus,
St. Jerome, and St. Stephen, and the Day of the Ascension, all of which
were attended with religious observances. Good Friday was especially
hallowed by church processions in each of the campos; and St. Martha's Day
was occasion for junketings on the Giudecca Canal, when a favorite fish,
being in season, was devotionally eaten.

The civil and political holidays which lasted till the fall of the
Republic were eleven. One of the earliest was the anniversary of the
recapture of the Venetian Brides, who were snatched from their
bridegrooms, at the altar of San Pietro di Castello, by Triestine pirates.
The class of citizens most distinguished in the punishment of the
abductors was the trade of carpenters, who lived chiefly in the parish of
Santa Maria Formosa; and when the Doge in his gratitude bade them demand
any reasonable grace, the trade asked that he should pay their quarter an
annual visit. "But if it rains?" said the Doge. "We will give you a hat to
cover you," answered the carpenters. "And if I am hungry?" "We will give
you to eat and drink." So when the Doge made his visit on the day of the
Virgin's Purification, he was given a hat of gilded straw, a bottle of
wine, and loaves of bread. On this occasion the State bestowed dowers upon
twelve young girls among the fairest and best of Venice (chosen two from
each of the six sections of the city), who marched in procession to the
church of Santa Maria Formosa. But as time passed, the custom lost its
simplicity and purity: pretty girls were said to make eyes at handsome
youths in the crowd, and scandals occurred in public. Twelve wooden
figures were then substituted, but the procession in which they were
carried was followed by a disgusted and hooting populace, and assailed
with a shower of turnips. The festivities, which used to last eight days,
with incredible magnificence, fell into discredit, and were finally
abolished during the war when the Genoese took Chioggia and threatened
Venice, under Doria. This was the famous Festa delle Marie.

In 997 the Venetians beat the Narentines at sea, and annexed all Istria,
as far as Dalmatia, to the Republic. On the day of the Ascension, of the
same year, the Doge, for the first time, celebrated the dominion of Venice
over the Adriatic, though it was not till some two hundred years later
that the Pope Alexander III. blessed the famous espousals, and confirmed
the Republic in the possession of the sea forever. "What," cries Giustina
Renier-Michiel, turning to speak of the holiday thus established, and
destined to be the proudest in the Venetian calendar,--"what shall I say
of the greatest of all our solemnities, that of the Ascension? Alas! I
myself saw Frenchmen and Venetians, full of derision and insult, combine
to dismantle the Bucintoro and burn it for the gold upon it!" [Footnote:
That which follows is a translation of the report given by Cesare Cantù,
in his _Grande Illustrazione del Lombardo-Veneto_, of a conversation
with the author of _Feste Veneziane_. It is not necessary to remind
readers of Venetian history that Renier and Michiel were of the foremost
names in the Golden Book. She who bore them both was born before the fall
of the Republic which she so much loved and lamented, and no doubt felt
more than the grief she expresses for the fate of the last Bucintoro. It
was destroyed, as she describes, in 1796, by the French Republicans and
Venetian Democrats after the abdication of the oligarchy; but a fragment
of its mast yet remains, and is to be seen in the museum of the
Arsenal.].... (This was the nuptial-ship in which the Doge went to wed the
sea, and the patriotic lady tells us concerning the Bucintoro of her day):
"It was in the form of a galley, and two hundred feet long, with two
decks. The first of these was occupied by an hundred and sixty rowers, the
handsomest and strongest of the fleet, who sat four men to each oar, and
there awaited their orders; forty other sailors completed the crew. The
upper deck was divided lengthwise by a partition, pierced with arched
doorways, ornamented with gilded figures, and covered with a roof
supported by caryatides--the whole surmounted by a canopy of crimson
velvet embroidered with gold. Under this were ninety seats, and at the
stern a still richer chamber for the Doge's throne, over which drooped the
banner of St. Mark. The prow was double-beaked, and the sides of the
vessel were enriched with figures of Justice, Peace, Sea, Land, and other
allegories and ornaments.

"Let me imagine those times--it is the habit of the old. At midday, having
heard mass in the chapel of the Collegio, the Doge descends the Giant's
Stairs, issues from the Porta della Carta, [Footnote: The gate of the
Ducal Palace which opens upon the Piazzetta next St. Mark's.] and passes
the booths of the mercers and glass-venders erected for the fair beginning
that evening. He is preceded by eight standard-bearers with the flags of
the Republic,--red, blue, white, and purple,--given by Alexander III. to
the Doge Ziani. Six trumpets of silver, borne by as many boys, mix their
notes with the clangor of the bells of the city. Behind come the retinues
of the ambassadors in sumptuous liveries, and the fifty Comandadori in
their flowing blue robes and red caps; then follow musicians, and the
squires of the Doge in black velvet; then the guards of the Doge, two
chancellors, the secretary of the Pregadi, a deacon clad in purple and
bearing a wax taper, six canons, three parish priests in their sacerdotal
robes, and the Doge's chaplain dressed in crimson. The grand chancellor is
known by his crimson vesture. Two squires bear the Doge's chair and the
cushion of cloth of gold. And the Doge--the representative, and not the
master of his country; the executor, and not the maker of the laws;
citizen and prince, revered and guarded, sovereign of individuals, servant
of the State--comes clad in a long mantle of ermine, cassock of blue, and
vest and hose of _tocca d'oro_ [Footnote: A gauze of gold and silk.]
with the golden bonnet on his head, under the umbrella borne by a squire,
and surrounded by the foreign ambassadors and the papal nuncio, while his
drawn sword is carried by a patrician recently destined for some
government of land or sea, and soon to depart upon his mission. In the
rear comes a throng of personages,--the grand captain of the city, the
judges, the three chiefs of the Forty, the Avogodori, the three chiefs of
the Council of Ten, the three censors, and the sixty of the Senate with
the sixty of the Aggiunta, all in robes of crimson silk. "On the
Bucintoro, each takes the post assigned him, and the prince ascends the
throne. The Admiral of the Arsenal and the Lido stands in front as pilot;
at the helm is the Admiral of Malamacco, and around him the ship-
carpenters of the Arsenal. The Bucintoro, amid redoubled clamor of bells
and roar of cannon, quits the riva and majestically plows the lagoon,
surrounded by innumerable boats of every form and size.

"The Patriarch, who had already sent several vases of flowers to do
courtesy to the company in the Bucintoro, joins them at the island of
Sant' Elena, and sprinkles their course with holy water. So they reach the
port of Lido, whence they formerly issued out upon the open sea; but in my
time they paused there, turning the stern of the vessel to the sea. Then
the Doge, amid the thunders of the artillery of the fort, took the ring
blessed by the Patriarch,--who now emptied a cup of holy water into the
sea,--and, advancing into a little gallery behind his throne, threw the
ring into the waves, pronouncing the words, _Desponsamus te, mare, in
signum veri perpetuique dominii_. Proceeding then to the church of San
Nicoletto, they listened to a solemn mass, and returned to Venice, where
the dignitaries were entertained at a banquet, while the multitude
peacefully dispersed among the labyrinths of the booths erected for the
fair." [Footnote: One of the sops thrown to the populace on this occasion,
as we learn from Mutinelli, was the admission to the train of gilded
barges following the Bucintoro of a boat bearing the chief of the
Nicolotti, one of the factions into which from time immemorial the lower
classes of Venice had been divided. The distinction between the two
parties seems to have been purely geographical; for there is no apparent
reason why a man should have belonged to the Castellani except that he
lived in the eastern quarter of the city, or to the Nicolotti, except that
he lived in the western quarter. The government encouraged a rivalry not
dangerous to itself, and for a long time the champions of the two sections
met annually and beat each other with rods. The form of contest was
afterwards modified, and became a struggle for the possession of certain
bridges, in which the defeated were merely thrown into the canals. I often
passed the scene of the fiercest of these curious battles at San Barnaba,
where the Ponte de Pugni is adorned with four feet of stone let into the
pavement, and defying each other from the four corners of the bridge.
Finally, even these contests were given up and the Castellani and
Nicolotti spent their rivalry in marvelous acrobatic feats.] This fair,
which was established as early as 1180, was an industrial exhibition of
the arts and trades peculiar to Venice, and was repeated annually, with
increasing ostentation, till the end, in 1796. Indeed, the feasts of the
Republic at last grew so numerous that it became necessary, as we have
seen before, to make a single holiday pay a double or triple debt of
rejoicing. When the Venetians recovered Chioggia after the terrible war of
1380, the Senate refused to yield them another _festa_, and merely
ordered that St. Mark's Day should be thereafter observed with some added
ceremony: there was already one festival commemorative of a triumph over
the Genoese (that of San Giovanni Decollate, on whose day, in 1358, the
Venetians beat the Genoese at Negroponte), and the Senate declared that
this was sufficient. A curious custom, however, on the Sunday after
Ascension, celebrated a remoter victory over the same enemies, to which it
is hard to attach any historic probability. It is not known exactly when
the Genoese in immense force penetrated to Poveglia (one of the small
islands of the lagoons), nor why being there they stopped to ask the
islanders the best way of getting to Venice. But tradition says that the
sly Povegliesi persuaded these silly Genoese that the best method of
navigating the lagoons was by means of rafts, which they constructed for
them, and on which they sent them afloat. About the time the Venetians
came out to meet the armada, the withes binding the members of the rafts
gave way, and the Genoese who were not drowned in the tides stuck in the
mud, and were cut in pieces like so many melons. No one will be surprised
to learn that not a soul of them escaped, and that only the Povegliesi
lived to tell the tale. Special and considerable privileges were conferred
on them for their part in this exploit, and were annually confirmed by the
Doge, when a deputation of the islanders called on him in his palace, and
hugged and kissed the devoted prince.

People who _will_ sentimentalize over the pigeons of St. Mark's, may
like to know that they have been settled in the city ever since 877. After
the religious services on Palm Sunday, it was anciently the custom of the
sacristans of St. Mark's to release doves fettered with fragments of
paper, and thus partly disabled from flight, for the people to scramble
for in the Piazza. The people fatted such of the birds as they caught, and
ate them at Easter, but those pigeons which escaped took refuge in the
roof of the church, where they gradually assumed a certain sacredness of
character, and increased to enormous numbers. They were fed by provision
of the Republic, and being neglected at the time of its fall, many of them
were starved. But they now flourish on a bequest left by a pious lady for
their maintenance, and on the largess of grain and polenta constantly
bestowed by strangers. Besides the holidays mentioned, the 6th of December
was religiously observed in honor of the taking of Constantinople, the
Doge assisting at mass in the ducal chapel of St. Nicholas. He also
annually visited, with his Signory in the state barges, and with great
concourse of people, the church of San Vito on the 15th of June, in memory
of the change of the government from a democracy to an oligarchy, and of
the suppression of Bajamonte Tiepolo's conspiracy. On St. Isidore's Day he
went with his Signory, and the religious confraternities, in torchlight
procession, to hear mass at St. Mark's in celebration of the failure of
Marin Falier's plot. On the 17th of January he visited by water the
hospital erected for invalid soldiers and sailors, and thus commemorated
the famous defence of Scutari against the Turks, in 1413. For the peace of
1516, concluded after the dissolution of the League of Cambray, he went in
his barge to the church of Santa Marina, who had potently exerted her
influence for the preservation of the Republic against allied France,
Austria, Spain, and Rome. On St. Jerome's Day, when the newly-elected
members of the Council of Ten took their seats, the Doge entertained them
with a banquet, and there were great popular rejoicings over an affair in
which the people had no interest.

It is by a singular caprice of fortune that, while not only all the
Venetian holidays in anywise connected with the glory of the Republic, but
also those which peculiarly signalized her piety and gratitude, have
ceased to be, a festival common to the whole Catholic world should still
be observed in Venice with extraordinary display. On the day of Corpus
Christi there is a superb ecclesiastical procession in the Piazza.

The great splendor of the solemnization is said to date from the times
when Enrico Dandolo and his fellow-Crusaders so far forgot their purpose
of taking Palestine from the infidels as to take Constantinople from the
schismatics. Up to that period the day of Corpus Christi was honored by a
procession from what was then the Cathedral of San Pietro di Castello; but
now all the thirty parishes of the city, with their hundred churches, have
part in the procession, which is of such great length as to take some two
hours in its progress round the Piazza.

Several days before the holiday workmen begin to build, within the Place
of St. Mark, the colonnade through which the procession is to pass; they
roof it with blue cotton cloth, and adorn it with rolls of pasteboard
representing garlands of palm. At last, on the festive morning, the
dwellers on the Grand Canal are drawn to their balconies by the apparition
of boat-loads of facchini, gorgeous in scarlet robes, and bearing banners,
painted candles, and other movable elements of devotion, with which they
pass to the Piazzetta, and thence into St. Mark's. They re-appear
presently, and, with a guard of Austrian troops to clear the way before
them, begin their march under the canopy of the colonnade.

When you have seen the Place of St. Mark by night your eye has tasted its
most delicate delight, but then it is the delight given by a memory only,
and it touches you with sadness. You must see the Piazza to-day,--every
window fluttering with rich stuffs and vivid colors; the three great flag
staffs [Footnote: Once bearing the standards of Cyprus, Candia, and
Venice.] hanging their heavy flags; the brilliant square alive with a
holiday population, with resplendent uniforms, with Italian gesture and
movement, and that long glittering procession, bearing slowly on the
august paraphernalia of the Church--you must see all this before you can
enter into the old heart of Venetian magnificence, and feel its life about

To-day, the ancient church of San Pietro di Castello comes first in the
procession, and, with a proud humility, the Basilica San Marco last.
Before each parochial division goes a banner displaying the picture or
distinctive device of its titular saint, under the shadow of which chants
a priest; there are the hosts of the different churches, and the gorgeous
canopies under which they are elevated; then come facchini dressed in
scarlet and bearing the painted candles, or the long carved and gilded
candlesticks; and again facchini delicately robed in vestments of the
purest white linen, with caps of azure, green, and purple, and shod with
sandals or white shoes, carrying other apparatus of worship. Each banner
and candlestick has a fluttering leaf of tinsel paper attached to it, and
the procession makes a soft rustling as it passes. The matter-of-fact
character of the external Church walks between those symbolists, the
candle-bearers,--in the form of persons who gather the dropping fatness of
the candles, and deposit it in a vase carried for that purpose. Citizens
march in the procession with candles; and there are charity-schools which
also take part, and sing in the harsh, shrill manner, of which I think
only little boys who have their heads closely shorn are capable.

On all this we looked down from a window of the Old Procuratie--of course
with that calm sense of superiority which people are apt to have in
regarding the solemnities of a religion different from their own. But that
did not altogether prevent us from enjoying what was really beautiful and
charming in the scene. I thought most of the priests, very good and gentle
looking,--and in all respects they were much pleasanter to the eye than
the monks of the Carmelite order, who, in shaving their heads to simulate
the Saviour's crown of thorns, produce a hideous burlesque of the divine
humiliation. Yet many even of these had earnest and sincere faces, and I
could not think so much as I ought, perhaps, of their idle life, and the
fleas in their coarse brown cloaks. I confess, indeed, I felt rather a
sadness than an indignation at all that self-sacrifice to an end of which
I could but dimly see the usefulness. With some things in this grand
spectacle we were wholly charmed, and doubtless had most delight in the
little child who personated John the Baptist, and who was quite naked, but
for a fleece folded about him: he bore the cross-headed staff in one small
hand, and led with the other a lamb much tied up with blue ribbon. Here
and there in the procession little girls, exquisitely dressed, and gifted
by fond mothers with wings and aureoles, walked, scattering flowers. I
likewise greatly relished the lively holiday air of a company of airy old
men, the pensioners of some charity, who, in their white linen trousers
and blue coats, formed a prominent feature of the display. Far from being
puffed up with their consequence, they gossiped cheerfully with the
spectators in the pauses of the march, and made jests to each other in
that light-hearted, careless way observable in old men taken care of, and
with nothing before them to do worth speaking of but to die. I must own
that the honest facchini who bore the candles were equally affable, and
even freer with their jokes. But in this they formed a fine contrast to
here and there a closely hooded devotee, who, with hidden face and silent
lips, was carrying a taper for religion, and not, like them, for money. I
liked the great good-natured crowd, so orderly and amiable; and I enjoyed
even that old citizen in the procession who, when the Patriarch gave his
blessing, found it inconvenient to kneel, and compromised by stretching
one leg a great way out behind him. These things, indeed, quite took my
mind off of the splendors; and I let the canopy of the Scuola di San Rocco
(worth 40,000 ducats) go by with scarce a glance, and did not bestow much
more attention upon the brilliant liveries of the Patriarch's servants,--
though the appearance of these ecclesiastical flunkies is far more
impressive than that of any of their secular brethren. They went
gorgeously before the Patriarch, who was surrounded by the richly dressed
clergy of St. Mark's, and by clouds of incense rising from the smoking
censers. He walked under the canopy in his cardinal's robes, and with his
eye fixed upon the Host.

All at once the procession halted, and the Patriarch blessed the crowd,
which knelt in a profound silence. Then the military band before him
struck up an air from "Un Ballo in Maschera;" the procession moved on to
the cathedral, and the crowd melted away.

The once-magnificent day of the Ascension the Venetians now honor by
closing all shop-doors behind them and putting all thought of labor out of
their minds, and going forth to enjoy themselves in the mild, inexplosive
fashion which seems to satisfy Italian nature. It is the same on all the
feast-days: then the city sinks into profounder quiet; only bells are
noisy, and where their clangor is so common as in Venice, it seems at last
to make friends with the general stillness, and disturbs none but people
of untranquil minds. We always go to the Piazza San Marco when we seek
pleasure, and now, for eight days only of all the year, we have there the
great spectacle of the Adoration of the Magi, performed every hour by
automata within the little golden-railed gallery on the facade of the
Giant's Clock Tower. There the Virgin sits above the azure circle of the
zodiac, all heavily gilded, and holding the Child, equally splendid.
Through the doors on either side, usually occupied by the illuminated
figures of the hours, appears the procession and disappears. The stately
giant on the summit of the tower, at the hither side of the great bell,
solemnly strikes the hour--as a giant should who has struck it for
centuries--with a grand, whole-arm movement, and a slow, muscular pride.
We look up--we tourists of the red-backed books; we peasant-girls radiant
with converging darts of silver piercing the masses of our thick black
hair; we Austrian soldiers in white coats and blue tights; we voiceful
sellers of the cherries of Padua, and we calm loafers about the many-
pillared base of the church--we look up and see the Adoration. First, the
trumpeter, blowing the world news of the act; then the first king, turning
softly to the Virgin, and bowing; then the second, that enthusiastic
devotee,--the second who lifts his crown quite from his head; last the
Ethiopian prince, gorgeous in green and gold, who, I am sorry to say,
burlesques the whole solemnity. His devotion may be equally heart-felt,
but it is more jerky than that of the others. He bows well and adequately,
but recovers his balance with a prodigious start, altogether too
suggestive of springs and wheels. Perhaps there is a touch of the pathetic
in this grotesque fatality of the black king, whose suffering race has
always held mankind between laughter and tears, and has seldom done a fine
thing without leaving somewhere the neutralizing absurdity; but if there
is, the sentimental may find it, not I. When the procession has
disappeared, we wait till the other giant has struck the hour, and then we

If it is six o'clock, and the sea has begun to breathe cool across the
Basin of St. Mark, we find our account in strolling upon the long Riva
degli Schiavoni towards the Public Gardens. One would suppose, at first
thought, that here, on this magnificent quay, with its glorious lookout
over the lagoons, the patricians would have built their finest palaces;
whereas there is hardly any thing but architectural shabbiness from the
Ponte della Paglia at one end, to the Ponte Santa Marina at the other. But
there need be nothing surprising in the fact, after all. The feudal wealth
and nobility of other cities kept the base at a respectful distance by
means of lofty stone walls, and so shut in their palaces and gardens. Here
equal seclusion could only be achieved by building flush upon the water,
and therefore all the finest palaces rise sheer from the canals; and
caffè, shops, barracks, and puppet-shows occupy the Riva degli Schiavoni.
Nevertheless, it is the favorite promenade of the Venetians for the winter
sunshine, and at such times in the summer as when the sun's rage is
tempered. There is always variety in the throng on the Riva, but the
fashionable part of it is the least interesting: here and there a
magnificent Greek flashes through the crowd, in dazzling white petticoats
and gold-embroidered leggings and jacket; now and then a tall Dalmat or a
solemn Turk; even the fishermen and the peasants, and the lower orders of
the people, are picturesque; but polite Venice is hopelessly given to the
pride of the eyes, and commits all the excesses of the French modes. The
Venetian dandy, when dressed to his own satisfaction, is the worst-dressed
man in the world. His hat curls outrageously in brim and sides; his coat-
sleeves are extremely full, and the garment pinches him at the waist; his
pantaloons flow forth from the hips, and contract narrowly at the boot,
which is square-toed and made too long. The whole effect is something not
to be seen elsewhere, and is well calculated to move the beholder to
desperation. [Footnote: These exaggerations of the fashions of 1862 have
been succeeded by equal travesties of the present modes.] The Venetian
fine lady, also, is prone to be superfine. Her dress is as full of color
as a Paolo Veronese; in these narrow streets, where it is hard to expand
an umbrella, she exaggerates hoops to the utmost; and she fatally hides
her ankles in pantalets.

In the wide thoroughfare leading from the last bridge of the Riva to the
gate of the gardens there is always a clapping of wooden shoes on the
stones, a braying of hand-organs, a shrieking of people who sell fish and
fruit, at once insufferable and indescribable. The street is a _rio
terrà_,--a filled-up canal,--and, as always happens with _rii
terrai_, is abandoned to the poorest classes who manifest themselves,
as the poorest classes are apt to do always, in groups of frowzy women,
small girls carrying large babies, beggars, of course, and soldiers. I
spoke of fruit-sellers; but in this quarter the traffic in pumpkin-seeds
is the most popular,--the people finding these an inexpensive and pleasant
excess, when taken with a glass of water flavored with anise.

The Gardens were made by Napoleon, who demolished to that end some
monasteries once cumbering the ground. They are pleasant enough, and are
not gardens at all, but a park of formally-planted trees--sycamores,
chiefly. I do not remember to have seen here any Venetians of the better
class, except on the Mondays-of-the-Garden, in September. Usually the
promenaders are fishermen, Austrian corporals, loutish youth of low
degree, and women too old and too poor to have any thing to do. Strangers
go there, and the German visitors even drink the exceptionable beer which
is sold in the wooden cottage on the little hillock at the end of the
Gardens. There is also a stable--where are the only horses in Venice. They
are let at a florin an hour, and I do not know why the riders are always
persons of the Hebrew faith. In a word, nothing can be drearier than the
company in the Gardens, and nothing lovelier than the view they command,--
from the sunset on the dome of the church of the Salute, all round the
broad sweep of lagoon, to the tower at the port of San Nicolò, where you
catch a glimpse of the Adriatic.

The company is commonly stupid, but one evening, as we strolled idly
through the walks, we came upon an interesting group--forty or fifty
sailors, soldiers, youth of the people, gray-haired fishermen and
contadini--sitting and lying on the grass, and listening with rapt
attention to an old man reclining against a tree. I never saw a manner of
sweeter or easier dignity than the speaker's. Nature is so lavish of her
grace to these people that grow near her heart--the sun! Infinite study
could not have taught one northern-born the charm of oratory as this old
man displayed it. I listened, and heard that he was speaking Tuscan. Do
you guess with what he was enchanting his simple auditors? Nothing less
than "Orlando Furioso." They listened with the hungriest delight, and when
Ariosto's interpreter raised his finger and said, "Disse l'imperatore,"
or, "Orlando disse, Carlomano mio," they hardly breathed.

On the _Lunedì dei Giardini_, already mentioned, all orders of the
people flock thither, and promenade, and banquet on the grass. The trees
get back the voices of their dryads, and the children fill the aisles with
glancing movement and graceful sport.

Of course, the hand-organ seeks here its proper element, the populace,--
but here it brays to a peculiarly beautiful purpose. For no sooner does it
sound than the young girls of the people wreathe themselves into dances,
and improvise the poetry of motion. Over the grass they whirl, and up and
down the broad avenues, and no one of all the gentle and peaceable crowd
molests or makes them afraid. It is a scene to make you believe in Miriam
dancing with Donatello there in that old garden at Rome, and reveals a
simple beauty in the nature of the Italian poor, which shall one day, I
hope, be counted in their favor when they are called to answer for lying
and swindling.



It often happens, even after the cold has announced itself in Venice, that
the hesitating winter lingers in the Tyrol, and a mellow Indian-summer
weather has possession of the first weeks of December. There was nothing
in the December weather of 1863 to remind us Northerners that Christmas
was coming. The skies were as blue as those of June, the sun was warm, and
the air was bland, with only now and then a trenchant breath from the
Alps, coming like a delicate sarcasm from loveliness unwilling to be
thought insipidly amiable. But if there was no warning in the weather,
there were other signs of Christmas-time not to be mistaken: a certain
foolish leaping of the heart in one's own breast, as if the dead raptures
of childhood were stirred in their graves by the return of the happy
season; and in Venice, in weary, forlorn Venice, there was the half-
unconscious tumult, the expectant bustle which cities feel at the approach
of holidays. The little shops put on their gayest airs; there was a great
clapping and hammering on the stalls and booths which were building in the
campos; the street-cries were more shrill and resonant than ever, and the
air was shaken with the continual clangor of the church bells. All this
note of preparation is rather bewildering to strangers, and is apt to
disorder the best-disciplined intentions of seeing Christmas as the
Venetians keep it. The public observance of the holiday in the churches
and on the streets is evident and accessible to the most transient
sojourner; but it is curious proof of the difficulty of knowledge
concerning the in-door life and usages of the Italians, that I had already
spent two Christmases in Venice without learning any thing of their home
celebration of the day. Perhaps a degree of like difficulty attends like
inquiry everywhere, for the happiness of Christmas contracts the family
circle more exclusively than ever around the home hearth, or the domestic
scaldino, as the case may be. But, at any rate, I was quite ready to say
that the observance of Christmas in Venice was altogether public, when I
thought it a measure of far-sighted prudence to consult my barber.

In all Latin countries the barber is a source of information, which,
skillfully tapped, pours forth in a stream of endless gossip and local
intelligence. Every man talks with his barber; and perhaps a lingering
dignity clings to this artist from his former profession of surgeon: it is
certain the barber here prattles on with a freedom and importance
perfectly admitted and respected by the interlocutory count under his
razor. Those who care to know how things passed in an Italian barber shop
three hundred years ago, may read it in Miss Evans's "Romola;" those who
are willing to see Nello alive and carrying on his art in Venice at this
day, must go to be shaved at his shop in the Frezzaria. Here there is a
continual exchange of gossip, and I have often listened with profit to the
sage and piquant remarks of the head barber and chief _ciarlone_, on
the different events of human life brought to his notice. His shop is well
known as a centre of scandal, and I have heard a fair Venetian declare
that she had cut from her list all acquaintance who go there, as persons
likely to become infected with the worst habits of gossip.

To this Nello, however, I used to go only when in the most brilliant humor
for listening, and my authority on Christmas observances is another and
humbler barber, but not less a babbler, than the first. By birth, I
believe, he is a Mantuan, and he prides himself on speaking Italian
instead of Venetian. He has a defective eye, which obliges him to tack
before bringing his razor to bear, but which is all the more favorable to
conversation. On the whole, he is flattered to be asked about Christmas in
Venice, and he first tells me that it is one of the chief holidays of the

"It is then, Signore, that the Venetians have the custom to make three
sorts of peculiar presents: Mustard, Fish, and Mandorlato. You must have
seen the mustard in the shop windows: it is a thick conserve of fruits,
flavored with mustard; and the mandorlato is a candy made of honey, and
filled with almonds. Well, they buy fish, as many as they will, and a vase
of mustard, and a box of mandorlato, and make presents of them, one family
to another, the day before Christmas. It is not too much for a rich family
to present a hundred boxes of mandorlato and as many pots of mustard.
These are exchanged between friends in the city, and Venetians also send
them to acquaintance in the country, whence the gift is returned in cakes
and eggs at Easter. Christmas Eve people invite each other to great
dinners, and eat and drink, and make merry; but there are only fish and
vegetables, for it is a meagre day, and meats are forbidden. This dinner
lasts so long that, when it is over, it is almost time to so to midnight
mass, which all must attend, or else hear three masses on the morrow; and
no doubt it was some delinquent who made our saying,--'Long as a Christmas
mass.' On Christmas Day people dine at home, keeping the day with family
reunions. But the day after! Ah-heigh! That is the first of Carnival, and
all the theatres are opened, and there is no end to the amusements--or was
not, in the old time. Now, they never begin. A week later comes the day of
the Lord's Circumcision, and then the next holiday is Easter. The
Nativity, the Circumcision, and the Resurrection--behold! these are the
three mysteries of the Christian faith. Of what religion are the
Americans, Signore?"

I think I was justified in answering that we were Christians. My barber
was politely surprised. "But there are so many different religions," he
said, in excuse.

On the afternoon before Christmas I walked through the thronged Merceria
to the Rialto Bridge, where the tumultuous mart which opens at Piazza San
Marco culminates in a deafening uproar of bargains. At this time the
Merceria, or street of the shops, presents the aspect of a fair, and is
arranged with a tastefulness and a cunning ability to make the most of
every thing, which are seldom applied to the abundance of our fairs at
home. The shops in Venice are all very small, and the streets of lofty
houses are so narrow and dark, that whatever goods are not exposed in the
shop-windows are brought to the door to be clamored over by purchasers; so
that the Merceria is roused by unusual effort to produce a more pronounced
effect of traffic and noise than it always wears; but now the effort had
been made and the effect produced. The street was choked with the throngs,
through which all sorts of peddlers battled their way and cried their
wares. In Campo San Bartolomeo, into which the Merceria expands, at the
foot of Rialto Bridge, holiday traffic had built enormous barricades of
stalls, and entrenched itself behind booths, whence purchasers were
assailed with challenges to buy bargains. More than half the campo was
paved with crockery from Rovigo and glass-ware from Murano; clothing of
every sort, and all kinds of small household wares, were offered for sale;
and among the other booths, in the proportion of two to one, were stalls
of the inevitable Christmas mustard and mandorlato.

But I cared rather for the crowd than what the crowd cared for. I had been
long ago obliged to throw aside my preconceived notions of the Italian
character, though they were not, I believe, more absurd than the
impressions of others who have never studied Italian character in Italy. I
hardly know what of bacchantic joyousness I had not attributed to them on
their holidays: a people living in a mild climate under such a lovely sky,
with wine cheap and abundant, might not unreasonably have been expected to
put on a show of the greatest jollity when enjoying themselves. Venetian
crowds are always perfectly gentle and kindly, but they are also as a
whole usually serious; and this Christmas procession, moving up and down
the Merceria, and to and fro between the markets of Rialto, was in the
fullest sense a solemnity. It is true that the scene was dramatic, but the
drama was not consciously comic. Whether these people bought or sold, or
talked together, or walked up and down in silence, they were all equally
in earnest. The crowd, in spite of its noisy bustle and passionate uproar,
did not seem to me a blithe or light-hearted crowd. Its sole activity was
that of traffic, for, far more dearly than any Yankee, a Venetian loves a
bargain, and puts his whole heart into upholding and beating down demands.

Across the Bridge began the vegetable and fruit market, where whole
Hollands of cabbage and Spains of onions opened on the view, with every
other succulent and toothsome growth; and beyond this we entered the glory
of Rialto, the fish-market, which is now more lavishly supplied than at
any other season. It was picturesque and full of gorgeous color for the
fish of Venice seem all to catch the rainbow hues of the lagoon. There is
a certain kind of red mullet, called _triglia_, which is as rich and
tender in its dyes as if it had never swam in water less glorious than
that which crimsons under October sunsets. But a fish-market, even at
Rialto, with fishermen in scarlet caps and _triglie_ in sunset
splendors, is only a fish-market after all: it is wet and slimy under
foot, and the innumerable gigantic eels, writhing everywhere, set the soul
asquirm, and soon-sated curiosity slides willingly away.

We had an appointment with a young Venetian lady to attend midnight mass
at the church of San Moisè, and thither about half-past eleven we went to
welcome in Christmas. The church of San Moisè is in the highest style of
the Renaissance art, which is, I believe, the lowest style of any other.
The richly sculptured façade is divided into stories; the fluted columns
are stilted upon pedestals, and their lines are broken by the bands which
encircle them like broad barrel-hoops. At every possible point theatrical
saints and angels, only sustained from falling to the ground by iron bars
let into their backs, start from the niches and cling to the sculpture.
The outside of the church is in every way detestable, and the inside is
consistently bad. All the side-altars have broken arches, and the high
altar is built of rough blocks of marble to represent Mount Sinai, on
which a melodramatic statue of Moses receives the tables of the law from
God the Father, with frescoed seraphim in the background. For the same
reason, I suppose, that the devout prefer a hideous Bambino and a Madonna
in crinoline to the most graceful artistic conception of those sacred
personages, San Moisè is the most popular church for the midnight mass in
Venice, and there is no mass at all in St. Mark's, where its magnificence
would be so peculiarly impressive.

On Christmas Eve, then, this church was crowded, and the door-ways were
constantly thronged with people passing in and out. I was puzzled to see
so many young men present, for Young Italy is not usually in great number
at church; but a friend explained the anomaly: "After the guests at our
Christmas Eve dinners have well eaten and drunken, they all go to mass in
at least one church, and the younger offer a multiplied devotion by going
to all. It is a good thing in some ways, for by this means they manage to
see every pretty face in the city, which that night has specially prepared
itself to be seen;" and from this slender text my friend began to
discourse at large about these Christmas Eve dinners, and chiefly how
jollily the priests fared, ending with the devout wish, "Would God had
made me nephew of a canonico!" The great dinners of the priests are a
favorite theme with Italian talkers; but I doubt it is after all only a
habit of speech. The priests are too numerous to feed sumptuously in most

We had a good place to see and hear, sitting in the middle of the main
aisle, directly over the dust of John Law, who alighted in Venice when his
great Mississippi bubble burst, and died here, and now sleeps peacefully
under a marble tablet in the ugly church of San Moisè. The thought of that
busy, ambitious life, come to this unscheming repose under our feet,--so
far from the scene of its hopes, successes, and defeats,--gave its own
touch of solemnity to the time and place, and helped the offended sense of
propriety through the bursts of operatic music, which interspersed the
mass. But on the whole, the music was good and the function sufficiently
impressive,--what with the gloom of the temple everywhere starred with
tapers, and the grand altar lighted to the mountain-top. The singing of
the priests also was here much better than I had found it elsewhere in

The equality of all classes in church is a noticeable thing always in
Italy, but on this Christmas Eve it was unusually evident. The rags of the
beggar brushed the silks of luxury, as the wearers knelt side by side on
the marble floor; and on the night when God was born to poverty on earth,
the rich seemed to feel that they drew nearer Him in the neighborhood of
the poor. In these costly temples of the eldest Christianity, the poor
seem to enter upon their inheritance of the future, for it is they who
frequent them most and possess them with the deepest sense of ownership.
The withered old woman, who creeps into St Mark's with her scaldino in her
hand, takes visible possession of its magnificence as God's and hers, and
Catholic wealth and rank would hardly, if challenged, dispute her claim.

Even the longest mass comes to an end at last, and those of our party who
could credit themselves with no gain of masses against the morrow,
received the benediction at San Moisè with peculiar unction. We all issued
forth, and passing through the lines of young men who draw themselves up
on either side of the doors of public places in Venice, to look at the
young ladies as they come out, we entered the Place of St. Mark. The
Piazza was more gloriously beautiful than ever I saw it before, and the
church had a saintly loveliness. The moon was full, and snowed down the
mellowest light on the gray domes, which in their soft, elusive outlines,
and strange effect of far-withdrawal, rhymed like faint-heard refrains to
the bright and vivid arches of the façade. And if the bronze horses had
been minded to quit their station before the great window over the central
arch, they might have paced around the night's whole half-world, and found
no fairer resting-place.

As for Christmas Day in Venice, it amounted to very little; every thing
was closed, and whatever merry-making went on was all within doors.
Although the shops and the places of amusement were opened the day
following, the city entered very sparingly on the pleasures of Carnival,
and Christmas week passed off in every-day fashion. It will be remembered
that on St. Stephen's Day--the first of Carnival--one of the five annual
banquets took place at the Ducal Palace in the time of the Republic. A
certain number of patricians received invitations to the dinner, and those
for whom there was no room were presented with fish and poultry by the
Doge. The populace were admitted to look on during the first course, and
then, having sated their appetites with this savory observance, were
invited to withdraw. The patriotic Giustina Renier-Michiel of course makes
much of the courtesy thus extended to the people by the State, but I
cannot help thinking it must have been hard to bear. The banquet, however,
has passed away with the Republic which gave it, and the only savor of
dinner which Venetian poverty now inhales on St. Stephen's Day, is that
which arises from its own proper pot of broth.

New Year's is the carnival of the beggars in Venice. Their business is
carried on briskly throughout the year, but on this day it is pursued with
an unusual degree of perseverance, and an enterprise worthy of all
disinterested admiration. At every corner, on every bridge, under every
door-way, hideous shapes of poverty, mutilation, and deformity stand
waiting, and thrust out palms, plates, and pans, and advance good wishes
and blessings to all who pass, It is an immemorial custom, and it is one
in which all but the quite comfortable classes participate. The facchini
in every square take up their collections; the gondoliers have their
plates prepared for contribution at every ferry; at every caffè and
restaurant begging-boxes appeal to charity. Whoever has lifted hand in
your service in any way during the past year expects a reward on New
Year's for the complaisance, and in some cases the shop-keepers send to
wish you a _bel capo d'anno_, with the same practical end in view. On
New Year's Eve and morning bands of facchini and gondoliers go about
howling _vivas_ under charitable windows till they open and drop
alms. The Piazza is invaded by the legions of beggary, and held in
overpowering numbers against all comers; and to traverse it is like a
progress through a lazar-house.

Beyond encouraging so gross an abuse as this, I do not know that Venice
celebrates New Year's in a peculiar manner. It is a _festa_, and
there are masses, of course. Presents are exchanged, which consist chiefly
of books--printed for the season, and brilliant outside and dull within,
like all annuals.



The Venetians have had a practical and strictly business-like way of
arranging marriages from the earliest times. The shrewdest provision has
always been made for the dower and for the good of the State; private and
public interest being consulted, the small matters of affections have been
left to the chances of association; and it does not seem that Venetian
society has ever dealt severely with husbands or wives whom
incompatibilities forced to seek consolation outside of matrimony.
Herodotus relates that the Illyrian Veneti sold their daughters at auction
to the highest bidder; and the fair being thus comfortably placed in life,
the hard-favored were given to whomsoever would take them, with such dower
as might be considered a reasonable compensation. The auction was
discontinued in Christian times, but marriage contracts still partook of
the form of a public and half-mercantile transaction. At a comparatively
late period Venetian fathers went with their daughters to a great annual
matrimonial fair at San Pietro di Castello Olivolo, and the youth of the
lagoons repaired thither to choose wives from the number of the maidens.
These were all dressed in white, with hair loose about the neck, and each
bore her dower in a little box, slung over her shoulder by a ribbon. It is
to be supposed that there was commonly a previous understanding between
each damsel and some youth in the crowd: as soon as all had paired off,
the bishop gave them a sermon and his benediction, and the young men
gathered up their brides and boxes, and went away wedded. It was on one of
these occasions, in the year 944, that the Triestine pirates stole the
Brides of Venice with their dowers, and gave occasion to the Festa delle
Marie, already described, and to Rogers's poem, which every body pretends
to have read.

This going to San Pietro's, selecting a wife and marrying her on the spot,
out of hand, could only have been the contrivance of a straightforward,
practical race. Among the common people betrothals were managed with even
greater ease and dispatch, till a very late day in history; and in the
record of a certain trial which took place in 1443 there is an account of
one of these brief and unceremonious courtships. Donna Catarussa, who
gives evidence, and whom I take to have been a worthless, idle gossip, was
one day sitting at her door, when Piero di Trento passed, selling brooms,
and said to her, "Madonna, find me some nice girl." To which Donna
Catarussa replied, "Ugly fool! do you take me for a go-between?" "No,"
said Piero, "not that; I mean a girl to be my wife." And as Donna
Catarussa thought at once of a suitable match, she said, "In faith of God,
I know one for you. Come again to-morrow." So they both met next day, and
the woman chosen by Donna Catarussa being asked, "Wouldst thou like to
have Piero for thy husband, as God commands and holy Church?" she
answered, "Yes." And Peter being asked the like question, answered, "Why,
yes, certainly." And they went off and had the wedding feast. A number of
these betrothals takes place in the last scene of Goldoni's "Baruffe
Chiozzotte," where the belligerent women and their lovers take hands in
the public streets, and saluting each other as man and wife, are
affianced, and get married as quickly as possible:--

"_Checa_ (to Tofolo). Take my hand.

"_Tofolo_. Wife!

"_Checa_. Husband!

"_Tofolo_. Hurra!"

The betrothals of the Venetian nobles were celebrated with as much pomp
and ceremony as could possibly distinguish them from those of the people,
and there was much more polite indifference to the inclinations of the
parties immediately concerned. The contract was often concluded before the
betrothed had seen each other, by means of a third person, when the amount
of the dower was fixed. The bridegroom elect having verbally agreed with
the parents of the bride, repaired at an early day to the court-yard of
the Ducal Palace, where the match was published, and where he shook hands
with his kinsmen and friends. On the day fixed for signing the contract
the bride's father invited to his house the bridegroom and all his
friends, and hither came the high officers of state to compliment the
future husband. He, with the father of his betrothed, met the guests at
the door of the palace, and conducted them to the grand saloon, which no
woman was allowed (_si figuri!_) at this time to enter. When the
company was seated, the bride, clad in white, was led from her rooms and
presented. She wore a crown of pearls and brilliants on her head, and her
hair, mixed with long threads of gold, fell loose about her shoulders, as
you may see it in Carpaccio's pictures of the Espousals of St. Ursula. Her
ear-rings were pendants of three pearls set in gold; her neck and throat
were bare but for a collar of lace and gems, from which slid a fine
jeweled chain into her bosom. Over her breast she wore a stomacher of
cloth of gold, to which were attached her sleeves, open from the elbow to
the hand. The formal words of espousal being pronounced, the bride paced
slowly round the hall to the music of fifes and trumpets, and made a
gentle inclination to each of the guests; and then returned to her
chamber, from which she issued again on the arrival of any tardy friend,
and repeated the ceremony. After all this, she descended to the courtyard,
where she was received by gentlewomen, her friends, and placed on a raised
seat (which was covered with rich stuffs) in an open gondola, and thus,
followed by a fleet of attendant gondolas, went to visit all the convents
in which there were kinspeople of herself or her betrothed. The excessive
publicity of these ceremonies was supposed to strengthen the validity of
the marriage contract. At an early day after the espousals the betrothed,
preceded by musicians and followed by relatives and friends, went at dawn
to be married in the church,--the bridegroom wearing a toga, and the bride
a dress of white silk or crimson velvet, with jewels in her hair, and
pearls embroidered on her robes. Visits of congratulation followed, and on
the same day a public feast was given in honor of the wedding, to which at
least three hundred persons were always invited, and at which the number,
quality, and cost of the dishes were carefully regulated by the Republic's
laws. On this occasion, one or more persons were chosen as governors of
the feast, and after the tables were removed, a mock-heroic character
appeared, and recounted with absurd exaggeration the deeds of the
ancestors of the bride and groom. The next morning _ristorativi_ of
sweetmeats and confectionery were presented to the happy couple, by whom
the presents were returned in kind.

A splendor so exceptional, even in the most splendid age of the most
splendid city, as that which marked the nuptial feasts of the unhappy
Jacopo Foscari, could not be left unnoticed in this place. He espoused
Lucrezia, daughter of Lionardo Contarini, a noble as rich and magnificent
as Jacopo's own father, the Doge; and, on the 29th of January 1441, the
noble Eustachio Balbi being chosen lord of the feasts, the bridegroom, the
bride's brother and eighteen other patrician youths, assembled in the
Palazzo Balbi, whence they went on horseback to conduct Lucrezia to the
Ducal Palace. They were all sumptuously dressed in crimson velvet and
silver brocade of Alexandria, and rode chargers superbly caparisoned.
Other noble friends attended them; musicians went before; a troop of
soldiers brought up the rear. They thus proceeded to the court-yard of the
Ducal Palace, and then, returning, traversed the Piazza, and threading the
devious little streets to the Campo San Samuele, there crossed the Grand
Canal upon a bridge of boats, to San Barnaba opposite, where the Contarini
lived. On their arrival at this place the bride, supported by two
Procuratori di San Marco, and attended by sixty ladies, descended to the
church and heard mass, after which an oration was delivered in Campo San
Barnaba before the Doge, the ambassadors, and a multitude of nobles and
people, in praise of the spouses and their families. The bride then
returned to her father's house, and jousts took place in the campos of
Santa Maria Formosa and San Polo (the largest in the city), and in the
Piazza San Marco. The Doge gave a great banquet, and at its close one
hundred and fifty ladies proceeded to the bride's palace in the Bucintoro,
where one hundred other ladies joined them, together with Lucrezia, who,
seated between Francesco Sforza (then General-in-chief of the Republic's
armies) and the Florentine ambassador, was conducted, amid the shouts of
the people and the sound of trumpets, to the Ducal Palace. The Doge
received her at the riva of the Piazzetta, and, with Sforza and Balbi led
her to the foot of the palace stairs, where the Dogaressa, with sixty
ladies, welcomed her. A state supper ended this day's rejoicings, and on
the following day a tournament took place in the Piazza, for a prize of
cloth of gold, which was offered by Sforza. Forty knights contested the
prize and supped afterward with the Doge. On the next day there were
processions of boats with music on the Grand Canal; on the fourth and last
day there were other jousts for prizes offered by the jewelers and
Florentine merchants; and every night there were dancing and feasting in
the Ducal Palace. The Doge was himself the giver of the last tournament,
and with this the festivities came to an end.

I have read an account by an old-fashioned English traveler of a Venetian
marriage which he saw, sixty or seventy years ago, at the church of San
Giorgio Maggiore: "After a crowd of nobles," he says, "in their usual
black robes, had been some time in attendance, the gondolas appearing,
exhibited a fine show, though all of them were painted of a sable hue, in
consequence of a sumptuary law, which is very necessary in this place, to
prevent an expense which many who could not bear it would incur;
nevertheless the barcarioli, or boatmen, were dressed in handsome
liveries; the gondolas followed one another in a line, each carrying two
ladies, who were likewise dressed in black. As they landed they arranged
themselves in order, forming a line from the gate to the great altar. At
length the bride, arrayed in white as the symbol of innocence, led by the
bridesman, ascended the stairs of the landing-place. There she received
the compliments of the bridegroom, in his black toga, who walked at her
right hand to the altar, where they and all the company kneeled. I was
often afraid the poor young creature would have sunk upon the ground
before she arrived, for she trembled with great agitation, while she made
her low courtesies from side to side: however, the ceremony was no sooner
performed than she seemed to recover her spirits, and looked matrimony in
the face with a determined smile. Indeed, in all appearance she had
nothing to fear from her husband, whose age and aspect were not at all
formidable; accordingly she tripped back to the gondola with great
activity and resolution, and the procession ended as it began. Though
there was something attractive in this aquatic parade, the black hue of
the boats and the company presented to a stranger, like me, the idea of a
funeral rather than a wedding. My expectation was raised too high by the
previous description of the Italians, who are much given to hyperbole, who
gave me to understand that this procession would far exceed any thing I
had ever seen. When I reflect upon this rhodomontade," disdainfully adds
Mr. Drummond, "I cannot help comparing, in my memory, the paltry
procession of the Venetian marriage with a very august occurrence of which
I was eyewitness in Sweden," and which being the reception of their
Swedish Majesties by the British fleet, I am sure the reader will not ask
me to quote. With change of government, changes of civilization following
the revolutions, and the decay of wealth among the Venetian nobles, almost
all their splendid customs have passed away, and the habit of making
wedding presents of sweetmeats and confectionery is perhaps the only relic
which has descended from the picturesque past to the present time. These
gifts are still exchanged not only by nobles, but by all commoners
according to their means, and are sometimes a source of very profuse
outlay. It is the habit to send the candies in the elegant and costly
paper caskets which the confectioners sell, and the sum of a thousand
florins scarcely suffices to pass the courtesy round a moderately large
circle of friends.

With the nobility and with the richest commoners marriage is still greatly
a matter of contract, and is arranged without much reference to the
principals, though it is now scarcely probable in any case that they have
not seen each other. But with all other classes, except the poorest, who
cannot and do not seclude the youth of either sex from each other, and
with whom, consequently, romantic contrivance and subterfuge would be
superfluous, love is made to-day in Venice as in the _capa y espada_
comedies of the Spaniards, and the business is carried on with all the
cumbrous machinery of confidants, billets-doux, and stolen interviews.

Let us take our nominal friends, Marco and Todaro, and attend them in
their solemn promenade under the arcades of the Procuratie, or upon the
Molo, whither they go every evening to taste the air and to look at the
ladies, while the Austrians and the other foreigners listen to the
military music in the Piazza. They are both young, our friends; they have
both glossy silk hats; they have both light canes and an innocent swagger.
Inconceivably mild are these youth, and in their talk indescribably small
and commonplace.

They look at the ladies, and suddenly Todaro feels the consuming ardors of

_Todaro_ (to Marco). Here, dear! Behold this beautiful blonde here!
Beautiful as an angel! But what loveliness!

_Marco_. But where?

_Todaro_. It is enough. Let us go. I follow her.

Such is the force of the passion in southern hearts. They follow that
beautiful blonde, who, marching demurely in front of the gray-moustached
papa and the fat mamma, after the fashion in Venice, is electrically
conscious of pursuit. They follow her during the whole evening, and, at a
distance, softly follow her home, where the burning Todaro photographs the
number of the house upon the sensitized tablets of his soul.

This is the first great step in love: he has seen his adored one, and he
knows that he loves her with an inextinguishable ardor. The next advance
is to be decided between himself and the faithful Marco, and is to be
debated over many cups of black coffee, not to name glasses of sugar-and-
water and the like exciting beverages. The friends may now find out the
caffè which the Biondina frequents with her parents, and to which Todaro
may go every evening and feast his eyes upon her loveliness, never making
his regard known by any word, till some night, when he has followed her
home, he steals speech with her as he stands in the street under her
balcony,--and looks sufficiently sheepish as people detect him on their
late return from the theatre. [Footnote: The love-making scenes in
Goldoni's comedy of _Il Bugiarda_ are photographically faithful to
present usage in Venice.] Or, if the friends do not take this course in
their courtship (for they are both engaged in the wooing), they decide
that Todaro, after walking back and forth a sufficient number of times in
the street where the Biondina lives, shall write her a tender letter, to
demand if she be disposed to correspond his love. This billet must always
be conveyed to her by her serving-maid, who must be bribed by Marco for
the purpose. At every juncture Marco must be consulted, and acquainted
with every step of progress; and no doubt the Biondina has some lively
Moretta for her friend, to whom she confides her part of the love-affair
in all its intricacy.

It may likewise happen that Todaro shall go to see the Biondina in church,
whither, but for her presence, he would hardly go, and that there, though
he may not have speech with her, he shall still fan the ardors of her
curiosity and pity by persistent sighs. It must be confessed that if the
Biondina is not pleased with his looks, his devotion must assume the
character of an intolerable bore to her; and that to see him everywhere at
her heels--to behold him leaning against the pillar near which she kneels
at church, the head of his stick in his mouth, and his attitude carefully
taken with a view to captivation--to be always in deadly fear lest she
shall meet him in promenade, or, turning round at the caffè encounter his
pleading gaze--that all this must drive the Biondina to a state bordering
upon blasphemy and finger-nails. _Ma, come si fa? Ci vuol pazienza!_
This is the sole course open to ingenuous youth in Venice, where confessed
and unashamed acquaintance between young people is extremely difficult;
and so this blind pursuit must go on, till the Biondina's inclinations are
at last laboriously ascertained.

Suppose the Biondina consents to be loved? Then Todaro has just and proper
inquiries to make concerning her dower, and if her fortune is as pleasing
as herself, he has only to demand her in marriage of her father, and after
that to make her acquaintance.

One day a Venetian friend of mine, who spoke a little English, came to me
with a joyous air and said:

"I am in lofe."

The recipient of repeated confidences of this kind from the same person, I
listened with tempered effusion.

"It is a blonde again?"

"Yes, you have right; blonde again."

"And pretty?"

"Oh, but beautiful. I lofe her--_come si dice!--immensamente."_
"And where did you see her? Where did you make her acquaintance?"

"I have not make the acquaintance. I see her pass with his fazer every
night on Rialto Bridge We did not spoke yet--only with the eyes. The lady
is not of Venice. She has four thousand florins. It is not much--no. But!"

Is not this love at first sight almost idyllic? Is it not also a sublime
prudence to know the lady's fortune better than herself, before herself?
These passionate, headlong Italians look well to the main chance before
they leap into matrimony, and you may be sure Todaro knows, in black and
white, what the Biondina has to her fortune before he weds her. After that
may come the marriage, and the sonnet written by the next of friendship,
and printed to hang up in all the shop-windows, celebrating the auspicious
event. If he be rich, or can write _nobile_ after his Christian name,
perhaps some abbate, elegantly addicted to verses and alive to grateful
consequences, may publish a poem, elegantly printed by the matchless
printers at Rovigo, and send it to all the bridegroom's friends. It is not
the only event which the facile Venetian Muse shall sing for him. If his
child is brought happily through the measles by Dottor Cavasangue, the
Nine shall celebrate the fact. If he takes any public honor or scholastic
degree, it is equal occasion for verses; and when he dies the mortuary
rhyme shall follow him. Indeed, almost every occurrence--a boy's success
at school, an advocate's triumphal passage of the perils of examination at
Padua, a priest's first mass, a nun's novitiate, a birth, an amputation--
is the subject of tuneful effusion, and no less the occasion of a visit
from the facchini of the neighboring campo, who assemble with blare of
trumpets and tumult of voices around the victim's door, and proclaim his
skill or good fortune, and break into _vivas_ that never end till he
bribes their enthusiasm into silence. The naïve commonplaceness of feeling
in all matrimonial transactions, in spite of the gloss which the operatic
methods of courtship threw about them, was a source of endless amusement,
as it stole out in different ways. "You know my friend Marco?" asked an
acquaintance one day. "Well, we are looking out a wife for him. He doesn't
want to marry, but his father insists; and he has begged us to find
somebody. There are three of us on the look-out. But he hates women, and
is very hard to suit. _Ben! Ci vuol pazienza!"_

It rarely happens now that the religious part of the marriage ceremony is
not performed in church, though it may be performed at the house of the
bride. In this case, it usually takes place in the evening, and the
spouses attend five o'clock mass next morning. But if the marriage takes
place at church, it must be between five and eleven in the morning, and
the blessing is commonly pronounced about six o'clock. Civil marriage is
still unknown among the Venetians. It is entirely the affair of the
Church, in which the bans are published beforehand, and which exacts from
the candidates a preliminary visit to their parish priest, for examination
in their catechism, and for instruction in religion when they are
defective in knowledge of the kind. There is no longer any civil
publication of the betrothals, and the hand-shaking in the court of the
Ducal Palace has long been disused. I cannot help thinking that the
ceremony must have been a great affliction, and that, in the Republican
times at Venice, a bridegroom must have fared nearly as hard as a
President elect in our times at home.

There was a curious display on occasion of births among the nobility in
former times. The room of the young mother was decorated with a profusion
of paintings, sculpture, and jewelry; and, while yet in bed, she received
the congratulations of her friends, and regaled them with sweetmeats
served in vases of gold and silver.

The child of noble parents had always at least two godfathers, and
sometimes as many as a hundred and fifty; but in order that the
relationship of godfather (which is the same according to the canonical
law as a tie of consanguinity) should not prevent desirable matrimony
between nobles, no patrician was allowed to be godfather to another's
child. Consequently the _compare_ was usually a client of the noble
parent, and was not expected to make any present to the godchild, whose
father, on the day following the baptism, sent him a piece of marchpane,
in acknowledgment of their relationship. No women were present at the
baptism except those who had charge of the babe. After the fall of the
Republic the French custom of baptism in the parents' house was
introduced, as well as the custom, on the godfather's part, of giving a
present,--usually of sugarplums and silver toys. But I think that most
baptisms still take place in church, if I may judge from the numbers of
tight little glass cases I have noticed,--half bed and half coffin,--
containing little eight-day-old Venetians, closely swathed in mummy-like
bandages, and borne to and from the churches by mysterious old women. The
ceremony of baptism itself does not apparently differ from that in other
Catholic countries, and is performed, like all religious services in
Italy, without a ray of religious feeling or solemnity of any kind.

For many centuries funeral services in Venice have been conducted by the
_Scuole del Sacramento,_ instituted for that purpose. To one of these
societies the friends of the defunct pay a certain sum, and the
association engages to inter the dead, and bear all the expenses of the
ceremony, the dignity of which is regulated by the priest of the parish in
which the deceased lived. The rite is now most generally undertaken by the
Scuola di San Rocco. The funeral train is of ten or twenty facchini,
wearing tunics of white, with caps and capes of red, and bearing the
society's long, gilded candlesticks of wood with lighted tapers. Priests
follow them chanting prayers, and then comes the bier,--with a gilt crown
lying on the coffin, if the dead be a babe, to indicate the triumph of
innocence. Formerly, hired mourners attended, and a candle, weighing a
pound, was given to any one who chose to carry it in the procession.

Anciently there was great show of mourning in Venice for the dead, when,
according to Mutinelli, the friends and kinsmen of the deceased, having
seen his body deposited in the church, "fell to weeping and howling, tore
their hair and rent their clothes, and withdrew forever from that church,
thenceforth become for them a place of abomination." Decenter customs
prevailed in after-times, and there was a pathetic dignity in the ceremony
of condolence among patricians: the mourners, on the day following the
interment, repaired to the porticos of Rialto and the court of the Ducal
Palace, and their friends came, one after one, and expressed their
sympathy by a mute pressure of the hand.

Death, however, is hushed up as much as possible in modern Venice. The
corpse is hurried from the house of mourning to the parish church, where
the friends, after the funeral service, take leave of it. Then it is
placed in a boat and carried to the burial-ground, where it is quickly
interred. I was fortunate, therefore, in witnessing a cheerful funeral at
which I one day casually assisted at San Michele. There was a church on
this island as early as the tenth century, and in the thirteenth century
it fell into the possession of the Comandulensen Friars. They built a
monastery on it, which became famous as a seat of learning, and gave much
erudite scholarship to the world. In later times Pope Gregory XVI. carried
his profound learning from San Michele to the Vatican. The present church
is in the Renaissance style, but not very offensively so, and has some
indifferent paintings. The arcades and the courts around which it is built
contain funeral monuments as unutterably ugly and tasteless as any thing
of the kind I ever saw at home; but the dead, for the most part, lie in
graves marked merely by little iron crosses in the narrow and roofless
space walled in from the lagoon, which laps sluggishly at the foot of the
masonry with the impulses of the tide. The old monastery was abolished in
1810, and there is now a convent of Reformed Benedictines on the island,
who perform the last service for the dead.

On the day of which I speak, I was taking a friend to see the objects of
interest at San Michele, which I had seen before, and the funeral
procession touched at the riva of the church just as we arrived. The
procession was of one gondola only, and the pallbearers were four pleasant
ruffians in scarlet robes of cotton, hooded, and girdled at the waist.
They were accompanied by a priest of a broad and jolly countenance, two
grinning boys, and finally the corpse itself, severely habited in an
under-dress of black box, but wearing an outer garment of red velvet,
bordered and tasseled gayly. The pleasant ruffians (who all wore smoking-
caps with some other name) placed this holiday corpse upon a bier, and
after a lively dispute with our gondolier, in which the compliments of the
day were passed in the usual terms of Venetian chaff, lifted the bier on
shore and set it down. The priest followed with the two boys, whom he
rebuked for levity, simultaneously tripping over the Latin of a prayer,
with his eyes fixed on our harmless little party as if we were a funeral,
and the dead in the black box an indifferent spectator Then he popped down
upon his knees, and made us a lively little supplication, while a blind
beggar scuffled for a lost soldo about his feet, and the gondoliers
quarreled volubly. After which, he threw off his surplice with the air of
one who should say his day's work was done, and preceded the coffin into
the church.

We had hardly deposited the bier upon the floor in the centre of the nave,
when two pale young friars appeared, throwing off their hooded cloaks of
coarse brown, as they passed to the sacristy, and reappearing in their
rope-girdled gowns. One of them bore a lighted taper in his right hand and
a book in his left; the other had also a taper, but a pot of holy water
instead of the book.

They are very handsome young men, these monks, with heavy, sad eyes, and
graceful, slender figures, which their monastic life will presently
overload with gross humanity full of coarse appetites. They go and stand
beside the bier, giving a curious touch of solemnity to a scene composed
of the four pleasant ruffians in the loaferish postures which they have
learned as facchini waiting for jobs; of the two boys with inattentive
grins, and of the priest with wandering eyes, kneeling behind them.

A weak, thin-voiced organ pipes huskily from its damp loft: the monk
hurries rapidly over the Latin text of the service, while

"His breath to heaven like vapor goes"

on the chilly, humid air; and the other monk makes the responses, giving
and taking the sprinkler, which his chief shakes vaguely in the direction
of the coffin. They both bow their heads--shaven down to the temples, to
simulate His crown of thorns. Silence. The organ is still, the priest has
vanished; the tapers are blown out; the pall-bearers lay hold of the bier,
and raise it to their shoulders; the boys slouch into procession behind
them; the monks glide softly and dispiritedly away. The soul is prepared
for eternal life, and the body for the grave.

The ruffians are expansively gay on reaching the open air again. They
laugh, they call "Ciò!" [Footnote: Literally, _That_ in Italian, and
meaning in Venetian, _You! Heigh!_ To talk in _Ciò ciappa_ is to
assume insolent familiarity or unbounded good fellowship with the person
addressed. A Venetian says _Ciò_ a thousand times in a day, and hails
every one but his superior in that way. I think it is hardly the Italian
pronoun, but rather a contraction of _Veccio_ (vecchio), _Old
fellow!_ It is common with all classes of the people: parents use it in
speaking to their children, and brothers and sisters call one mother
_Ciò_. It is a salutation between friends, who cry out, _Ciò!_
as they pass in the street. Acquaintances, men who meet after separation,
rush together with _"Ah Ciò!"_ Then they kiss on the right cheek
_"Ciò!"_ on the left, _"Ciò!"_ on the lips, _"Ciò! Bon di
Ciò!"_] continually, and banter each other as they trot to the grave.

The boys follow them, gamboling among the little iron crosses, and trying
if here and there one of them may not be overthrown.

We two strangers follow the boys.

But here the pall-bearers become puzzled: on the right is an open trench,
on the left is an open trench.

"Presence of the Devil! To which grave does this dead belong?" They
discuss, they dispute, they quarrel.

From the side of the wall, as if he rose from the sea, appears the grave-
digger, with his shovel on his shoulder--slouching toward us.

"Ah heigh! Ciò, the grave-digger! Where does this dead belong?"

"Body of Bacchus, what potatoes! Here, in this trench to the right."

They set down the bier there, gladly. They strip away the coffin's gay
upper garment; they leave but the under-dress of black box, painted to
that favor with pitch. They shove it into the grave-digger's arms, where
he stands in the trench, in the soft earth, rich with bones. He lets it
slide swiftly to the ground--thump! _Ecco fatto!_

The two boys pick up the empty bier, and dance merrily away with it to the
riva-gate, feigning a little play after the manner of children,--"Oh, what
a beautiful dead!"

The eldest of the pleasant ruffians is all the pleasanter for
_sciampagnin_, and can hardly be persuaded to go out at the right

We strangers stay behind a little, to consult with mother spectator--
Venetian, this. "Who is the dead man, signore?"

"It is a woman, poor little thing! Dead in child-bed. The baby is in there
with her."

It has been a cheerful funeral, and yet we are not in great spirits as we
go back to the city.

For my part, I do not think the cry of sea-gulls on a gloomy day is a
joyous sound; and the sight of those theatrical angels, with their
shameless, unfinished backs, flying off the top of the rococo façade of
the church of the Jesuits, has always been a spectacle to fill me with
despondency and foreboding.



On a small canal, not far from the railroad station, the gondoliers show
you a house, by no means notable (except for the noble statue of a knight,
occupying a niche in one corner), as the house of Othello. It was once the
palace of the patrician family Moro, a name well known in the annals of
the Republic, and one which, it has been suggested, misled Shakespeare
into the invention of a Moor of Venice. Whether this is possibly the fact,
or whether there is any tradition of a tragic incident in the history of
the Moro family similar to that upon which the play is founded, I do not
know; but it is certain that the story of Othello, very nearly as
Shakespeare tells it, is popularly known in Venice; and the gondoliers
have fixed upon the Casa Moro in question as the edifice best calculated
to give satisfaction to strangers in search of the True and the Memorable.
The statue is happily darkened by time, and thus serves admirably to
represent Othello's complexion, and to place beyond the shadow of a doubt
the fact of his residence in the house. Indeed, what can you say to the
gondolier, who, in answer to your cavils, points to the knight, with the
convincing argument, "There is his statue!"

One day I was taken to see this house, in company with some friends, and
when it had been victoriously pointed out, as usual, we asked meekly, "Who
was Othello?"

"Othello, Signori," answered the gondolier, "was a general of the
Republic, in the old times. He was an African, and black; but nevertheless
the State valued him, and he beat the Turks in many battles. Well,
Signori, this general Othello had a very young and beautiful wife, and his
wife's cousin (_sic!_), Cassio was his major-domo, or, as some say,
his lieutenant. But after a while happens along (_capita_) another
soldier of Othello, who wants Cassio's employment, and so accuses him to
the general of corrupting his wife. Very well, Signori! Without thinking
an instant, Othello, being made so, flew into a passion (_si riscaldò là
tèsta_), and killed his wife; and then when her innocence came out, he
killed himself and that liar; and the State confiscated his goods, he
being a very rich man. There has been a tragedy written about all this,
you know."

"But how is it called? Who wrote it?"

"Oh! in regard to that, then, I don't know. Some Englishman."


"I don't know, Signori. But if you doubt what I tell you, go to any
bookseller, and say, 'Favor me with the tragedy of "Othello."' He will give
it you, and there you will find it all written out just as I tell it."

This gondolier confirmed the authenticity of his story, by showing us the
house of Cassio near the Rialto Bridge, and I have no doubt he would also
have pointed out that of Iago if we had wished it.

But as a general thing, the lore of the gondoliers is not rich nor very
great. They are a loquacious and a gossiping race, but they love better to
have a quiet chat at the tops of their voices, as they loaf idly at the
ferries, or to scream repartees across the Grand Canal, than to tell
stories. In all history that relates to localities they are sufficiently
versed to find the notable places for strangers, but beyond this they
trouble themselves as little with the past as with the future. Three
tragic legends, however, they know, and will tell with the most amusing
effect, namely: Biasio, _luganegher_; the Innocent Baker-Boy, and
Veneranda Porta.

The first of these legends is that of a sausage-maker who flourished in
Venice some centuries ago, and who improved the quality of the broth which
the _luganegheri_ make of their scraps and sell to the gondoliers, by
cutting up into it now and then a child of some neighbor. He was finally
detected by a gondolier who discovered a little finger in his broth, and
being brought to justice, was dragged through the city at the heels of a
wild horse. This most uncomfortable character appears to be the first hero
in the romance of the gondoliers, and he certainly deserves to rank with
that long line of imaginary personages who have made childhood so wretched
and tractable. The second is the Innocent Baker-Boy already named, who was
put to death on suspicion of having murdered a noble, because in the dead
man's heart was found a dagger fitting a sheath which the baker had picked
up in the street, on the morning of the murder, and kept in his
possession. Many years afterwards, a malefactor who died in Padua
confessed the murder, and thereupon two lamps were lighted before a shrine
in the southern façade of St. Mark's Church,--one for the murdered
nobleman's soul, and the other for that of the innocent boy. Such is the
gondoliers' story, and the lamps still burn every night before the shrine
from dark till dawn, in witness of its truth. The fact of the murder and
its guiltless expiation is an incident of Venetian history, and it is said
that the Council of the Ten never pronounced a sentence of death
thereafter, till they had been solemnly warned by one of their number with
_"Ricordatevi del povero Fornaretto!"_ (Remember the poor Baker-Boy!)
The poet Dall 'Ongaro has woven the story into a beautiful and touching
tragedy; but I believe the poet is still to be born who shall take from
the gondoliers their Veneranda Porta, and place her historic figure in
dramatic literature. Veneranda Porta was a lady of the days of the
Republic, between whom and her husband existed an incompatibility. This
was increased by the course of Signora Porta in taking a lover, and it at
last led to the assassination of the husband by the paramours. The head of
the murdered man was found in one of the canals, and being exposed, as the
old custom was, upon the granite pedestal at the corner of St. Mark's
Church, it was recognized by his brother who found among the papers on
which the long hair was curled fragments of a letter he had written to the
deceased. The crime was traced to the paramours, and being brought before
the Ten, they were both condemned to be hanged between the columns of the
Piazzetta. The gondoliers relate that when the sentence was pronounced,
Veneranda said to the Chief of the Ten, "But as for me this sentence will
never be carried out. You cannot hang a woman. Consider the impropriety!"
The Venetian rulers were wise men in their generation, and far from being
balked by this question of delicacy, the Chief replied, solving it, "My
dear, you shall be hanged in my breeches."

It is very coarse salt which keeps one of these stories; another is
remembered because it concerns one of the people; and another for its
abomination and horror. The incidents of Venetian history which take the
fancy and touch the sensibility of the world seem hardly known to the
gondoliers, the most intelligent and quick-witted of the populace, and
themselves the very stuff that some romantic dreams of Venice are made of.
However sad the fact, it is undeniable that the stories of the sausage-
maker whose broth was flavored with murder, and the baker-boy who suffered
guiltlessly, and that savage jest at the expense of the murderess,
interest these people more than the high-well-born sorrows of the Foscari,
the tragic fate of Carmagnola, or the story of Falier,--which last they
know partly, however, because of the scandal about Falier's wife. Yet
after all, though the gondoliers are not the gondoliers of imaginative
literature, they have qualities which recommended them to my liking, and I
look back upon my acquaintance with two or three of them in a very
friendly spirit. Compared with the truculent hackmen, who prey upon the
traveling public in all other cities of the civilized world, they are
eminently intelligent and amiable. Rogues they are, of course, for small
dishonesties are the breath in the nostrils of common carriers by land or
water, everywhere; but the trickery of the gondoliers is so good-natured
and simple that it can hardly offend. A very ordinary jocular sagacity
defeats their profoundest purposes of swindling, and no one enjoys their
exposure half so much as themselves, while a faint prospect of future
employment purifies them of every trait of dishonesty. I had only one
troublesome experience with them, and that was in the case of the old
gondolier who taught me to row. He, when I had no longer need of his
services, plunged into drunkenness, and came and dismissed me one day with
every mark of ignominy. But he afterwards forgave me, and saluted me
kindly when we met.

The immediate goal of every gondolier's ambition is to serve, no matter
for how short a time, an Inglese, by which generic title nearly all
foreigners except Germans are known to him. The Inglese, whether he be
English or American, is apt to make the tour of the whole city in a
gondola, and to give handsome drink money at the end, whereas your Tedesco
frugally walks to every place accessible by land, or when, in a party of
six or eight, he takes a gondola, plants himself upon the letter of the
tariff, and will give no more than the rate fixed by law. The gondolier is
therefore flowingly polite to the Inglese, and he is even civil to the
Tedesco; but he is not at all bound in courtesy to that provincial Italian
who comes from the country to Venice, bargains furiously for his boat, and
commonly pays under the tariff. The Venetian who does not himself keep a
gondola seldom hires one, and even on this rare occasion makes no lavish
demand such as "How much do you want for taking me to the rail-way
station?" Lest the fervid imagination of the gondolier rise to zwanzigers
and florins, and a tedious dispute ensue, he asks: "How many centissimi do
you want?" and the contract is made, for a number of soldi.

The number of private gondolas owned in Venice is not very great. The
custom is rather to hire a gondolier with his boat. The exclusive use of
the gondola is thus secured, and the gondolier gives his services as a
domestic when off his special duty. He waits at table, goes marketing,
takes the children to school, and serves the ladies as footman, for five
francs a day, himself paying the proprietor of the gondola about a franc
daily for the boat. In former times, when Venice was rich and prosperous,
many noble families kept six or seven gondolas; and what with this
service, and the numerous gala-days of the Republic, when the whole city
took boat for the Lido, or the Giudecca, or Murano, and the gondoliers
were allowed to exact any pay they could, they were a numerous and
prosperous class. But these times have passed from Venice forever, and
though the gondoliers are still, counting the boatmen of the Giudecca and
Lido, some thousands in number, there are comparatively few young men
among them, and their gains are meagre.

In the little city of Venice, where the dialect spoken at Canareggio or
Castello is a different tongue from that heard under the Procuratie of St.
Mark's Place, the boatmen of the several quarters of the city of course
vary greatly in character and appearance; and the gondolier who lounges at
the base of the columns of the Piazzetta, and airily invites the Inglesi
to tours of the Grand Canal, is of quite a different type from the
weather-beaten _barcaiuolo_, who croaks _"Barca!"_ at the
promenaders on the Zattere. But all, as I say, are simple and harmless
enough, and however loudly they quarrel among themselves, they never pass
from the defamation of their female relatives to blows. As for the game of
knives, as it is said to be played at Naples, and as About describes it at
Rome, I doubt if it is much known to the populace of Venice. Only the
doctors let blood there--though from their lancets it flows pretty freely
and constantly.

It is true that the gondolier loves best of everything a clamorous
quarrel, carried on with the canal between him and his antagonist; but
next to this, he loves to spend his leisure at the ferry in talking of
eating and of money, and he does not differ from many of his fellow-
citizens in choice of topics. I have seldom caught a casual expression
from passers in the streets of Venice which did not relate in some way to
gold Napoleons, zwanzigers, florins, or soldi, or else to wine and
polenta. I note this trait in the Venetians, which Goldoni observed in the
Milanese a hundred years ago, and which I incline to believe is common to
all Italians. The gondoliers talk a great deal in figure and hyperbole,
and their jocose chaff is quite inscrutable even to some classes of
Venetians. With foreigners, to whom the silence and easy progress of the
gondola gives them the opportunity to talk, they are fond of using a word
or two of French. They are quick at repartee, and have a clever answer
ready for most occasions. I was one day bargaining for a boat to the Lido,
whither I refused to be taken in a shabby gondola, or at a rate higher
than seventy-five soldi for the trip. At last the patience of the
gondoliers was exhausted, and one of them called out, "Somebody fetch the
Bucintoro, and take this gentleman to the Lido for seventy-five soldi!"
(The Bucintoro being the magnificent barge in which the Doge went to wed
the Adriatic.)

The skill with which the gondoliers manage their graceful craft is always
admired by strangers, and is certainly remarkable. The gondola is very
long and slender, and rises high from the water at either end. Both bow
and stern are sharp, the former being ornamented with that deeply serrated
blade of steel, which it is the pride of the gondolier to keep bright is
silver, and the poop having a small platform, not far behind the cabin, on
which he stands when he rows. The danger of collision has always obliged
Venetian boatmen to face the bow, and the stroke with the oar (for the
gondolier uses only a single oar) is made by pushing, and not by pulling.
No small degree of art (as I learnt from experience) is thus required to
keep the gondola's head straight,--all the strokes being made on one
side,--and the sculling return of the oar-blade, preparatory for each new
stroke, is extremely difficult to effect. Under the hands of the
gondolier, however, the gondola seems a living thing, full of grace and
winning movement. The wood-work of the little cabin is elaborately carved,
and it is usually furnished with mirrors and seats luxuriously cushioned.
The sensation of the gondola's progress, felt by the occupant of the
cabin, as he falls back upon these cushions, may be described, to the
female apprehension at least, as "_too_ divine." The cabin is
removable at pleasure, and is generally taken off and replaced by awnings
in summer. But in the evening, when the fair Venetians go out in their
gondolas to take the air, even this awning is dispensed with, and the long
slender boat glides darkly down the Grand Canal, bearing its dazzling
freight of white _tulle_, pale-faced, black-eyed beauty, and flashing
jewels, in full view.

As for the singing of the gondoliers, they are the only class of Venetians
who have not good voices, and I am scarcely inclined to regret the silence
which long ago fell upon them. I am quite satisfied with the peculiar note
of warning which they utter as they approach the corner of a canal, and
which meaning simply, "To the Right," or "To the Left," is the most
pathetic and melancholy sound in the world. If, putting aside my own
comfort, I have sometimes wished for the sake of a dear, sentimental old
friend at home, who loves such idle illusions with an ardor unbecoming his
years, that I might hear the voice

"of Adria's gondolier,
By distance mellowed, o'er the waters sweep,"

I must still confess that I never did hear it under similar circumstances,
except in conversation across half a mile of lagoon, when, as usual, the
burden of the lay was polenta or soldi.

A recent Venetian writer, describing the character of the lower classes of
Venice, says: "No one can deny that our populace is loquacious and
quickwitted; but, on the other hand, no one can deny that it is regardless
of improvement. Venice, a city exceptional in its construction, its
customs, and its habits, has also an exceptional populace. It still feels,
although sixty-eight years have passed, the influence of the system of the
fallen Republic, of that oligarchic government, which, affording almost
every day some amusement to the people, left them no time to think of
their offended rights.... Since 1859 Venice has resembled a sepulchre of
the living,--squalor and beggary gaining ground with each day, and
commerce, with few exceptions, converted into monopoly; yet the populace
remains attached to its old habits, and will have its pleasure. If the
earnings are little, what then? Must one die of ennui? The caffè is
depopulated: not so the drinking-house. The last day before the drawing of
the lottery, the offices are thronged with fathers and mothers of
families, who stint their children of bread to buy dearly a few hours of
golden illusion.... At the worst, there is the Monte di Pietà, as a last

It is true, as this writer says, that the pleasure-loving populace still
looks back fondly to the old Republican times of feasting and holidays;
but there is certainly no truth any more in the old idea that any part of
Italy is a place where people may be "idle with impunity," or make
amusement the serious business of life. I can remember that the book from
which I received my first impressions of geography was illuminated with a
picture professing to represent Italian customs. The spirit of inquiry had
long before caused me to doubt the exact fidelity of this representation;
but it cost me a pang to learn that the picture was utterly delusive. It
has been no part of my experience in Venice to see an Italian sitting upon
the ground, and strumming the guitar, while two gayly dressed peasants
danced to the music. Indeed, the indolence of Venetians is listless and
silent, not playful or joyous; and as I learned to know their life more
intimately, I came to understand that in many cases they are idle from
despair of finding work, and that indolence is as much their fate as their
fault. Any diligence of theirs is surprising to us of northern and free
lands, because their climate subdues and enervates us, and because we can
see before them no career open to intelligent industry. With the poorest,
work is necessarily a hand-to-hand struggle against hunger; with those who
would not absolutely starve without it, work is an inexplicable passion.

Partly because the ways of these people are so childlike and simple in
many things, and partly from one's own swindling tendency to take one's
self in (a tendency really fatal to all sincerity of judgment, and
incalculably mischievous to such downfallen peoples as have felt the
baleful effects of the world's sentimental, impotent sympathy), there is
something pathetic in the patient content with which Italians work. They
have naturally so large a capacity for enjoyment, that the degree of self-
denial involved in labor seems exorbitant, and one feels that these
children, so loved of Nature, and so gifted by her, are harshly dealt with
by their stepmother Circumstance. No doubt there ought to be truth in the
silly old picture, if there is none, and I would willingly make-believe to
credit it, if I could. I am glad that they at least work in old-world,
awkward, picturesque ways, and not in commonplace, handy, modern fashion.
Neither the habits nor the implements of labor are changed since the
progress of the Republic ceased, and her heart began to die within her.
All sorts of mechanics' tools are clumsy and inconvenient: the turner's
lathe moves by broken impulses; door-hinges are made to order, and lift
the door from the ground as it opens upon them; all nails and tacks we
hand-made; window-sashes are contrived to be glazed without putty, and the
panes are put in from the top, so that to repair a broken glass the whole
sash is taken apart; cooking-stoves are unknown to the native cooks, who
work at an open fire, with crane and dangling pot-hooks; furniture is put
together with wooden pegs instead of screws; you do not buy a door-lock at
a hardware store,--you get a _fabbro_ to make it, and he comes with a
leathern satchel full of tools to fit and finish it on the door. The
wheelbarrow of this civilization is peculiarly wonderful in construction,
with a prodigious wooden wheel, and a ponderous, incapable body. The
canals are dredged with scoops mounted on long poles, and manned each by
three or four Chiozzotti. There never was a pile-driving machine known in
Venice; nor a steam-tug in all the channels of the lagoons, through which
the largest craft are towed to and from the ports by row-boats. In the
model of the sea-going vessels there has apparently been little change
from the first. Yet in spite of all this backwardness in invention, the
city is full of beautiful workmanship in every branch of artificing, and
the Venetians are still the best sailors in the Adriatic.

I do not offer the idea as a contribution to statistics, but it seems to
me that the most active branch of industry in Venice is plucking fowls. In
summer the people all work on their thresholds, and in their windows, and
as nearly out of doors as the narrowness of the streets will let them,--
and it is hard to pass through any part of the city without coming to a
poulterer's shop, in the door of which inevitably sits a boy, tugging at
the plumage of some wretched bird. He is seldom to be seen except in that
crisis of plucking when he seems to have all but finished; yet he seems
never to accomplish the fact perfectly. Perhaps it is part of his hard
fate that the feathers shall grow again under his hand as fast as he
plucks them away: at the restaurants, I know, the quantity of plumage one
devours in consuming roast chicken is surprising--at first. The birds are
always very lean, too, and have but a languid and weary look, in spite of
the ardent manner in which the boy clasps them while at work. It may be
that the Venetians do not like fat poultry. Their turkeys, especially, are
of that emaciation which is attributed among ourselves only to the turkey
of Job; and as for the geese and ducks, they can only interest anatomists.
It is as if the long ages of incursion and oppression which have
impoverished and devastated Italy had at last taken effect upon the
poultry, and made it as poor as the population.

I do not want to give too exclusive an impression of Venetian industry,
however, for now I remember the Venetian _lasagnoni_, whom I never
saw doing any thing, and who certainly abound in respectable numbers.

The lasagnone is a loafer, as an Italian can be a loafer, without the
admixture of ruffianism, which blemishes most loafers of northern race. He
may be quite worthless, and even impertinent, but he cannot be a rowdy,--
that pleasing blossom on the nose of our fast, high-fed, thick-blooded
civilization. In Venice he must not be confounded with other loiterers at
the caffè; not with the natty people who talk politics interminably over
little cups of black coffee; not with those old habitués, who sit forever
under the Procuratie, their hands folded upon the tops of their sticks,
and staring at the ladies who pass with a curious steadfastness and
knowing skepticism of gaze, not pleasing in the dim eyes of age;
certainly, the last persons who bear any likeness to the lasagnone are the
Germans, with their honest, heavy faces comically anglicized by leg-of-
mutton whiskers. The truth is, the lasagnone does not flourish in the best
caffè; he comes to perfection in cheaper resorts, for he is commonly not
rich. It often happens that a glass of water, flavored with a little
anisette, is the order over which he sits a whole evening. He knows the
waiter intimately, and does not call him "Shop!" (Bottega,) as less
familiar people do, but Gigi, or Beppi, as the waiter is pretty sure to be
named. "Behold!" he says, when the servant places his modest drink before
him, "who is that loveliest blonde there?" Or to his fellow-lasagnone:
"She regards me! I have broken her the heart!" This is his sole business
and mission, the cruel lasagnone--to break ladies the heart. He spares no
condition,--neither rank nor wealth is any defense against him. I often
wonder what is in that note he continually shows to his friend. The
confession of some broken heart, I think. When he has folded it, and put
it away, he chuckles _"Ah, cara!"_ and sucks at his long, slender
Virginia cigar. It is unlighted, for fire consumes cigars. I never see him
read the papers,--neither the Italian papers nor the Parisian journals,
though if he can get "Galignani" he is glad, and he likes to pretend to a
knowledge of English, uttering upon occasion, with great relish, such
distinctively English words as "Yes" and "Not," and to the waiter, "A-
little-fire-if-you-please." He sits very late in the caffè, and he touches
his hat--his curly French hat--to the company as he goes out with a mild
swagger, his cane held lightly in his left hand, his coat cut snugly to
show his hips, and genteelly swaying with the motion of his body. He is a
dandy, of course,--all Italians are dandies,--but his vanity is perfectly
harmless, and his heart is not bad. He would go half an hour out of his
way to put you in the direction of the Piazza. A little thing can make him
happy,--to stand in the pit at the opera, and gaze at the ladies in the
lower boxes--to attend the Marionette, or the Malibran Theatre, and
imperil the peace of pretty seamstresses and contadinas--to stand at the
church doors and ogle the fair saints as they pass out. Go, harmless
lasagnone, to thy lodging in some mysterious height, and break hearts if
thou wilt. They are quickly mended.

Of other vagabonds in Venice, if I had my choice, I think I must select a
certain ruffian who deals in dog-flesh, as the nearest my ideal of what a
vagabond should be in all respects. He stands habitually under the Old
Procuratie, beside a basket of small puppies in that snuffling and
quivering state which appears to be the favorite condition of very young
dogs, and occupies himself in conversation with an adjacent dealer in
grapes and peaches, or sometimes fastidiously engages in trimming the hair
upon the closely shaven bodies of the dogs; for in Venice it is the
ambition of every dog to look as much like the Lion of St. Mark as the
nature of the case will permit. My vagabond at times makes expeditions to
the groups of travelers always seated in summer before the Caffè Florian,
appearing at such times with a very small puppy,--neatly poised upon the
palm of his hand, and winking pensively,--which he advertises to the
company as a "Beautiful Beast," or a "Lovely Babe," according to the
inspiration of his light and pleasant fancy. I think the latter term is
used generally as a means of ingratiation with the ladies, to whom my
vagabond always shows a demeanor of agreeable gallantry. I never saw him
sell any of these dogs, nor ever in the least cast down by his failure to
do so. His air is grave, but not severe; there is even, at times, a
certain playfulness in his manner, possibly attributable to sciampagnin.
His curling black locks, together with his velveteen jacket and
pantaloons, are oiled and glossy, and his beard is cut in the French-
imperial mode. His personal presence is unwholesome, and it is chiefly his
moral perfection as a vagabond that makes him fascinating. One is so
confident, however, of his fitness for his position and business, and of
his entire contentment with it, that it is impossible not to exult in him.

He is not without self-respect. I doubt, it would be hard to find any
Venetian of any vocation, however base, who forgets that he too is a man
and a brother. There is enough servility in the language,--it is the
fashion of the Italian tongue, with its _Tu_ for inferiors,
_Voi_ for intimates and friendly equals, and _Lei_ for
superiors,--but in the manner there is none, and there is a sense of
equality in the ordinary intercourse of the Venetians, at once apparent to

All ranks are orderly; the spirit of aggression seems not to exist among
them, and the very boys and dogs in Venice are so well-behaved, that I
have never seen the slightest disposition in them to quarrel. Of course,
it is of the street-boy--the _biricchino_, the boy in his natural,
unreclaimed state--that I speak. This state is here, in winter, marked by
a clouded countenance, bare head, tatters, and wooden-soled shoes open at
the heels; in summer by a preternatural purity of person, by abandon to
the amphibious pleasure of leaping off the bridges into the canals, and by
an insatiable appetite for polenta, fried minnows, and water-melons.

When one of these boys takes to beggary, as a great many of them do, out
of a spirit of adventure and wish to pass the time, he carries out the
enterprise with splendid daring. A favorite artifice is to approach
Charity with a slice of polenta in one hand, and, with the other extended,
implore a soldo to buy cheese to eat with the polenta. The street-boys
also often perform the duties of the _gransieri_, who draw your
gondola to shore, and keep it firm with a hook. To this order of beggar I
usually gave; but one day at the railway station I had no soldi, and as I
did not wish to render my friend discontented with future alms by giving
silver, I deliberately apologized, praying him to excuse me, and promising
him for another time. I cannot forget the lofty courtesy with which he
returned,--"_S'accomodi pur, Signor!_" They have sometimes a sense of
humor, these poor swindlers, and can enjoy the exposure of their own
enormities. An amiable rogue drew our gondola to land one evening when we
went too late to see the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. The sacristan
made us free of a perfectly dark church, and we rewarded him as if it had
been noonday. On our return to the gondola, the same beggar whom we had
just feed held out his hat for another alms. "But we have just paid you,"
we cried in an agony of grief and desperation. _"Sì, signori!"_ he
admitted with an air of argument, _"è vero. Ma, la chiesa!"_ (Yes,
gentlemen, it is true. But the church!) he added with confidential
insinuation, and a patronizing wave of the hand toward the edifice, as if
he had been San Giorgio himself, and held the church as a source of
revenue. This was too much, and we laughed him to scorn; at which,
beholding the amusing abomination of his conduct, he himself joined in our
laugh with a cheerfulness that won our hearts.

Beggary is attended by no disgrace in Italy, and it therefore comes that
no mendicant is without a proper degree of the self-respect common to all
classes. Indeed, the habit of taking gifts of money is so general and
shameless that the street beggars must be diffident souls indeed if they
hesitated to ask for it. A perfectly well-dressed and well-mannered man
will take ten soldi from you for a trifling service, and not consider
himself in the least abased. The detestable custom of largess, instead of
wages, still obtains in so great degree in Venice that a physician, when
asked for his account, replies: "What you please to give." Knowing these
customs, I hope I have never acted discourteously to the street beggars of
Venice even when I gave them nothing, and I know that only one of them
ever so far forgot himself as to curse me for not giving. Him, however, I
think to have been out of his right mind at the time.

There were two mad beggars in the parish of San Stefano, whom I should be
sorry to leave unmentioned here. One, who presided chiefly over the Campo
San Stefano, professed to be also a facchino, but I never saw him
employed, except in addressing select circles of idlers whom a brawling
noise always draws together in Venice. He had been a soldier, and he
sometimes put himself at the head of a file of Croats passing through the
campo, and gave them the word of command, to the great amusement of those
swarthy barbarians. He was a good deal in drink, and when in this state
was proud to go before any ladies who might be passing, and clear away the
boys and idlers, to make room for them. When not occupied in any of these
ways, he commonly slept in the arcades of the old convent.

But the mad beggar of Campo Sant' Angelo seemed to have a finer sense of
what became him as a madman and a beggar, and never made himself obnoxious
by his noise. He was, in fact, very fat and amiable, and in the summer lay
asleep, for the most part, at a certain street corner which belonged to
him. When awake he was a man of extremely complaisant presence, and
suffered no lady to go by without a compliment to her complexion, her
blond hair, or her beautiful eyes, whichever it might be. He got money for
these attentions, and people paid him for any sort of witticism. One day
he said to the richest young dandy of the city,--"Pah! you stomach me with
your perfumes and fine airs;" for which he received half a florin. His
remarks to gentlemen had usually this sarcastic flavor. I am sorry to say
that so excellent a madman was often drunk and unable to fulfill his
duties to society.

There are, of course, laws against mendicancy in Venice, and they are, of
course, never enforced. Beggars abound everywhere, and nobody molests
them. There was long a troop of weird sisters in Campo San Stefano, who
picked up a livelihood from the foreigners passing to and from the Academy

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