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  • 05/1860
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planet is the only one inhabited she spoke with disapprobation; she said she believed that the other planets might be inhabited by beings of a higher order than ourselves.

On subsequent visits, Mrs. Somerville had much to say of the Americans. She regretted that she so rarely received scientific articles from America; the papers of Lieutenant Maury alone reached her. She spoke of the late Doctor Bowditch with great interest, and said she had had some correspondence with one of his sons; of Professor Peirce as a great mathematician; and she was much interested in the successful photography of the stars by Mr. Whipple. To a traveller, thousands of miles from home, the mere mention of familiar names is cheering.

Mrs. Somerville resides in Florence on account of the health of her husband. A little garden, well-stocked with rose-bushes, which she shows with great pride to her visitors, furnishes her with a means of healthy recreation after her severe studies. Her children are a son by Mr. Greig and two daughters by Doctor Somerville. In early life, Mrs. Somerville was a fine musician: the daughters have inherited this talent; and having lived long in Florence, they speak Italian with a perfect accent. “I speak Italian,” said Mrs. Somerville; “but no one could ever take me for other than a Scotchwoman.”

No one can make the acquaintance of this remarkable woman without increased admiration for her. The ascent of the steep and rugged path of science has not unfitted her for the drawing-room circle; the hours of devotion to close study have not been incompatible with the duties of the wife and the mother; the mind that has turned to rigid demonstration has not thereby lost its faith in the truths which figures will not prove. “I have no doubt,” said she, in speaking of the heavenly bodies, “that in another state of existence we shall know more about these things.”



May has come again,–“the delicate-footed May,” her feet hidden in flowers as she wanders over the Campagna, and the cool breeze of the Campagna blowing back her loosened hair. She calls to us from the open fields to leave the wells of damp churches and shadowy streets, and to come abroad and meet her where the mountains look down from roseate heights of vanishing snow upon plains of waving grain. The hedges have put on their best draperies of leaves and flowers, and, girdled in at their waist by double osier bands, stagger luxuriantly along the road like a drunken Bacchanal procession, crowned with festive ivy, and holding aloft their snowy clusters of elder-blossoms like _thyrsi_. Among their green robes may be seen thousands of beautiful wild-flowers,–the sweet-scented laurustinus, all sorts of running vetches and wild sweet-pea, the delicate vases of dewy morning-glories, clusters of eglantine or sweetbrier roses, fragrant acacia-blossoms covered with bees and buzzing flies, the gold of glowing gorses, and scores of purple and yellow flowers, of which I know not the names. On the gray walls, vines, grass, and the humble class of flowers which go by the ignoble name of weeds straggle and cluster; and over them, held down by the green cord of the stalk, balance the bursted balloons of hundreds of flaming scarlet poppies that seem to have fed on fire. The undulating swell of the Campagna is here ablaze with them for acres, and there deepening with growing grain, or snowed over with myriads of daisies. Music and song, too, are not wanting; hundreds of birds are in the hedges. The lark, “from his moist cabinet rising,” rains down his trills of incessant song from invisible heights of blue sky; and whenever one passes the wayside groves, a nightingale is sure to bubble into song. The oranges, too, are in blossom, perfuming the air; locust-trees are tasselled with odorous flowers; and over the walls of the Campagna villa bursts a cascade of vines covered with foamy Banksia roses.

The Carnival of the kitchen-gardens is now commencing. Peas are already an old story, strawberries are abundant, and cherries are beginning to make their appearance, in these first days of May; old women sell them at every corner, tied together in tempting bunches, as in “the cherry-orchard” which Miss Edgeworth has made fairy-land in our childish memories. Asparagus also has long since come; and artichokes make their daily appearance on the table, sliced up and fried, or boiled whole, or coming up roasted and gleaming with butter, with more outside capes and coats than an ideal English coachman of the olden times. _Finocchi_, too, are here, tasting like anisette, and good to mix in the salads. And great beans lie about in piles, the _contadini_ twisting them out of their thick pods with their thumbs, to eat them raw. Nay, even the _signoria_ of the noble families do the same, as they walk through the gardens, and think them such a luxury that they eat them raw for breakfast. But over and above all other vegetables are the lettuces, which are one of the great staples of food for the Roman people, and so crisp, fresh, delicate, and high-flavored, that be who eats them once will hold Nebuchadnezzar no longer a subject for compassion, but rather of envy. Drowned in fresh olive-oil and strong with vinegar, they are a feast for the gods; and even in their natural state, without condiments, they are by no means to be despised. At the corners of the streets they lie piled in green heaps, and are sold at a _baiocco_ for five heads. At noontide, the _contadini_ and laborers feed upon them without even the condiment of salt, crunching their white teeth through the crisp, wet leaves, and alternating a bite at a great wedge of bread; and toward nightfall, one may see carts laden high up with closely packed masses of them, coming in from the Campagna for the market. In a word, the _festa_ of the vegetables, at which they do not eat, but are eaten, and the Carnival of the kitchen-garden have come.

But–a thousand, thousand pardons, O mighty Cavolo!–how have I dared omit thy august name? On my knees, O potentest of vegetables, I crave forgiveness! I will burn at thy shrine ten waxen candles, in penance, if thou wilt pardon the sin and shame of my forgetfulness! The smoke of thy altar-fires, the steam of thy incense, and the odors of thy sanctity rise from every hypaethral shrine in Rome. Out-doors and in-doors, wherever the foot wanders, on palatial stairs or in the hut of poverty, in the convent pottage and the _Lepre_ soup, in the wooden platter of the beggar and the silver tureen of the prince, thou fillest our nostrils, thou satisfiest our stomach. Thou hast no false pride; great as thou art, thou condescendest to be exchanged for a _baiocco_. Dear enchantress! to thee, and to thy glorious cousin Broccoli, that tender-hearted, efflorescent nymph, the Egeria of the _osteria con cucina_, the peerless maid that goes with the steak and accepts martyrdom without moan, to drive away the demon of Hunger from her devoted followers,–all honor! Far away, whenever I inhale thy odor, I shall think of “Roman Joys”; a whiff from thine altar in a foreign land will bear me back to the Eternal City, “the City of the Soul,” the City of the Cabbage, the home of the Dioscuri, _Cavolo_ and _Broccoli!_ Yes, as Paris is recalled by the odor of chocolate, and London by the damp steam of malt, so shall Rome come back when my nostrils are filled with thy penetrative fragrance!

Saunter out at any of the city-gates, or lean over the wall at San Giovanni, (and where will you find a more charming spot?) or look down from the windows of the Villa Negroni, and your eye will surely fall on one of the Roman kitchen-gardens, patterned out in even rows and squares of green. Nothing can be prettier or more tasteful in their arrangement than these variegated carpets of vegetables. A great cistern of running water crowns the height of the ground, which is used for the purposes of irrigation, and towards nightfall the vent is opened, and you may see the gardeners imbanking the channelled rows to let the inundation flow through hundreds of little lanes of intersection and canals between the beds, and then banking them up at the entrance when a sufficient quantity of water has entered. In this way they fertilize and refresh the soil, which else would parch under the continuous sun. And this, indeed, is all the fertilization they need,–so strong is the soil all over the Campagna. The accretions and decay of thousands of years have covered it with a loam whose richness and depth are astonishing. Dig where you will, for ten feet down, and you do not pass through its wonderfully fertile loam into gravel, and the slightest labor is repaid a hundred-fold.

As one looks from the Villa Negroni windows, he cannot fail to be impressed by the strange changes through which this wonderful city has passed. The very spot on which Nero, the insane emperor-artist, fiddled while Rome was burning has now become a vast kitchen-garden, belonging to Prince Massimo, (himself a descendant, as he claims, of Fabius Cunctator,) where men no longer, but only lettuces, asparagus, and artichokes, are ruthlessly cut down. The inundations are not for mock sea-fights among slaves, but for the peaceful purposes of irrigation. And though the fiddle of Nero is only traditional, the trumpets of the French, murdering many an unhappy strain near by, are a most melancholy fact. In the bottom of the valley, a noble old villa, covered with frescoes, has been turned into a manufactory of bricks, and the very Villa Negroni itself is now doomed to be the site of a railway station. Yet here the princely family of Negroni lived, and the very lady at whose house Lucrezia Borgia took her famous revenge may once have sauntered under the walls, which still glow with ripening oranges, to feed the gold-fish in the fountain, or walked with stately friends through the long alleys of clipped cypresses, and pic-nicked _alia Giorgione_ on lawns which are now but kitchen-gardens, dedicated to San Cavolo. It pleases me, also, descending in memories to a later time, to look up at the summer-house built above the gateway, and recall the days when Shelley and Keats came there to visit their friend Severn, the artist, (for that was his studio,) and look over the same alleys and gardens, and speak words one would have been so glad to hear,–and, coming still later down, to recall the hearty words and brave heart of America’s best sculptor and my dear friend, Crawford.

But to return to the kitchen-gardens. Pretty as they are to the eye, they are not considered to be wholesome; and no Roman will live in a house near one of them, especially if it lie on the southern and western side, so that the Sirocco and the prevalent summer winds blow over it. The daily irrigation, in itself, would be sufficient to frighten all Italians away; for they have a deadly fear of all effluvia arising from decomposing vegetable substances, and suppose, with a good deal of truth, that, wherever there is water on the earth, there is decomposition. But this is not the only reason; for the same prejudice exists in regard to all kinds of gardens, whether irrigated or not,–and even to groves of trees and clusters of bushes, or vegetation of any kind, around a house. This is the real reason why, even in their country villas, their trees are almost always planted at a distance from the house, so as to expose it to the sun and to give it a free ventilation; these they do not care for; damp is their determined foe, and therefore they will not purchase the luxury of shade from trees at the risk of the damp it is supposed to engender. On the north, however, gardens are not thought to be so prejudicial as on the south and west,–as the cold, dry winds come from the former direction. The malaria, as we call it, though the term is unknown to Romans, is never so dangerous as after a slight rain, just sufficient to wet the surface of the earth without deeply penetrating it; for decomposition is then stimulated, and the miasma arising from the Campagna is blown abroad. So long as the earth is dry, there is no danger of fever, except at morning and nightfall, and then simply because of the heavy dews which the porous and baked earth then inhales and expires. After the autumn has given a thorough, drenching rain, Rome is healthy and free from fever.

Rome has with strangers the reputation of being unhealthy; but this opinion I cannot think well founded,–to the extent, at least, of the common belief. The diseases of children there are ordinarily very light, while in America and England they are terrible. Scarlet and typhus fevers, those fearful scourges in the North, are known at Rome only under most mitigated forms. Cholera has shown no virulence there; and for diseases of the throat and lungs the air alone is almost curative. The great curse of the place is the intermittent fever, in which any other illness is apt to end. But this, except in its peculiar phase of _Perniciosa_, though a very annoying, is by no means a dangerous disease, and has the additional advantage of a specific remedy. The Romans themselves of the better class seldom suffer from it, and I cannot but think that with a little prudence it may be easily avoided. Those who are most attacked by it are the laborers and _contadini_ on the Campagna; and how can it be otherwise with them? They sleep often on the bare ground, or on a little straw under a _capanna_ just large enough to admit them on all-fours. Their labor is exhausting, and performed in the sun, and while in a violent perspiration they are often exposed to sudden draughts and checks. Their food is poor, their habits careless, and it would require an iron constitution to resist what they endure. But, despite the life they lead and their various exposures, they are for the most part a very strong and sturdy class. This intermittent fever is undoubtedly a far from pleasant thing; but Americans who are terrified at it in Rome give it no thought in Philadelphia, where it is more prevalent,–and while they call Rome unhealthy, live with undisturbed confidence in cities where scarlet and typhus fevers annually rage.

It is a curious fact, that the French soldiers, who in 1848 made the siege of Rome, suffered no inconvenience or injury to their health from sleeping on the Campagna, and that, despite the prophecies to the contrary, very few cases of fever appeared, though the siege lasted during all the summer months. The reason of this is doubtless to be found in the fact that they were better clothed, better fed, and in every way more careful of themselves, than the _contadini_. Foreigners, too, who visit Rome, are very seldom attacked by intermittent fever; and it may truly be said, that, when they are, it is, for the most part, their own fault. There is generally the grossest inconsistency between their theories and their practice. Believing as they do that the least exposure will induce fever, they expose themselves with singular recklessness to the very causes of fever. After hurrying through the streets and getting into a violent perspiration, they plunge at once into some damp pit-like church or chill gallery, where the temperature is at least ten degrees lower than the outer air. The bald-headed, rosy John Bull, steaming with heat, doffs at once the hat which he wore in the street, and, of course, is astounded, if the result prove just what it would be anywhere else,–and if he take cold and get a fever, charges it to the climate, and not to his own stupidity and recklessness. Beside this, foreigners will always insist on carrying their home-habits with them wherever they go, and it is exceedingly difficult to persuade any one that he does not understand the climate better than the Italians themselves, whom he puts down as a poor set of timid ignoramuses. However, the longer one lives in Rome, the more he learns to value the Italian rules of health. There is probably no people so careful in these matters as the Italians, and especially the Romans. They understand their own climate, and they have a special dislike of death. In France and England suicides are very common; in Italy they are almost unknown. The American recklessness of life completely astounds the Italian. He enjoys life, studies every method to preserve it, and considers any one who risks it unnecessarily as simply a fool.

What, then, are their rules of life? In the first place, in all their habits they are very regular. They eat at stated times, and cannot be persuaded to partake of anything in the intervals. If it be not their hour for eating, they will refuse the choicest viands, and will sit at your table fasting, despite every temptation you can offer them. They are also very abstemious in their diet, and gluttony is the very rarest of vices. I do not believe there is another nation in Europe that eats so sparingly. In the morning they take a cup of coffee, generally without milk, sopping in it some light _brioche_. Later in the day they take a slight lunch of soup and macaroni, with a glass of wine. This lasts them until dinner, which begins with a watery soup; after which the _lesso_ or boiled meat comes on and is eaten with one vegetable, which is less a dish than a garnish to the meat; then comes a dish of some vegetable eaten with bread; then, perhaps, a chop, or another dish of meat, garnished with a vegetable; some light _dolce_ or fruit, and a cup of black coffee,–the latter for digestion’s sake,–finish the repast. The quantity is very small, however, compared to what is eaten in England, France, America, or, though last, not least, Germany. Late in the evening they have a supper. When dinner is taken in the middle of the day, lunch is omitted. This is the rule of the better classes. The workmen and middle classes, after their cup of coffee and bit of bread or _brioche_ in the morning, take nothing until night, except another cup of coffee and bread,–and their dinner finishes their meals after their work is done. From my own observation, I should say that an Italian does not certainly eat more than half as much as a German, or two-thirds as much as an American. The climate will not allow of gormandizing, and much less food is required to sustain the vital powers than in America, where the atmosphere is so stimulating to the brain and the digestion, or in England, where the depressing effects of the climate must be counteracted by stimulants. Go to any _table d’hote_ in the season, and you will at once know all the English who are new comers by their bottle of ale or claret or sherry or brandy; for the Englishman assimilates with difficulty, and unwillingly puts off his home-habits. The fresh American will always be recognized by the morning-dinner, which he calls a breakfast.

If you wish to keep your health in Italy, follow the example of the Italians. Eat a third less than you are accustomed to at home. Do not drink habitually of brandy, porter, ale, or even Marsala, but confine yourselves to the lighter wines of the country or of France. Do not walk much in the sun; “only Englishmen and dogs” do that, as the proverb goes; and especially take heed not to expose yourself, when warm, to any sudden changes of temperature. If you have heated yourself with walking in the sun, be careful not to go at once, and especially towards nightfall, into the lower and shaded streets, which have begun to gather the damps, and which are kept cool by the high, thick walls of the houses. Remember that the difference of temperature is very great between the narrow, shaded streets and the high, sunny Pincio. If you have the misfortune to be of the male sex, and especially if you suffer under the sorrow of the first great Caesar in being bald, buy yourself a little skullcap, (it is as good as his laurels for the purpose,) and put it on your head whenever you enter the churches and cold galleries. Almost every fever here is the result of suddenly checked transpiration of the skin; and if you will take the precaution to cool yourself before entering churches and galleries, and not to expose yourself while warm to sudden changes of temperature, you may live twenty years in Rome without a fever. Do not stand in draughts of cold air, and shut your windows when you go to bed. There is nothing an Italian fears like a current of air, and with reason. He will never sit between two doors or two windows. If he has walked to see you and is in the least warm, pray him to keep his hat on until he is cool, if you would be courteous to him. You will find that he will always use the same _gentilezza_ to you. The reason why you should shut your windows at night is very simple. The night-air is invariably damp and cold, contrasting greatly with the warmth of the day, and it is then that the miasma from the Campagna drifts into the city. And oh, my American friends! repress your national love for hot rooms and great fires, and do not make an oven of your _salon_. Bake yourselves, kiln-dry yourselves, if you choose, in your furnaced houses at home, but, if you value your health, “reform that altogether” in Italy. Increase your clothing and suppress your fires, and you will find yourselves better in head and in pocket. With your great fires you will always be cold and always have colds; for the houses are not tight, and you only create great draughts thereby. You will not persuade an Italian to sit near them;–“_Scusa, Signore_” he will say, “_mi fa male; se non gli dispiace, mi metto in questo cantone_,”–and with your permission he takes the farthest corner away from the fire. Seven winters in Rome have convinced me of the correctness of their rule. Of course, you do not believe me or them; but it would be better for you, if you did,–and for me, too, when I come to visit you.

But I must beg pardon for all this advice; and as my business is not to write a medical thesis here, let me return to pleasanter things.

Scarcely does the sun drop behind St. Peter’s on the first day of May, before bonfires begin to blaze from all the country towns on the mountain-sides, showing like great beacons. This is a custom founded in great antiquity, and common to the North and South. The first of May is the Festival of the Holy Apostles in Italy; but in Germany, and still farther north, in Sweden and Norway, it is _Walpurgisnacht_,–when goblins, witches, hags, and devils hold high holiday, mounting on their brooms for the Brocken. And it was on this night that Mephistopheles carried Faust on his wondrous ride, and showed him the spectre of Margaret with the red line round her throat. Miss Bremer, in her “Life in Dalecarlia,” gives the following account of the origin of this custom:–“It is so old,” she says, “that there is no perfect certainty either of its origin or signification. It is, however, believed that it derives its origin from a heathen sacrificatory festival; and there is ground for the acceptation that children were sacrificed alive at this very feast,–and this, in fact, in order to expel or reconcile the evil spirits, of whom the people believed, that, partly flying, partly riding, they commenced their passages over fields and woods at the beginning of spring, and which are to this day called enchanters, witches, nymphs, and so forth. It is also believed that about this time the spirits of the earth came forth from out of the bosom of the earth and the heart of the mountains in order to seek intercourse with the children of men. Fires were frequently kindled upon the sepulchral hills, and at these, sacrifices were offered, chiefly to the good powers, namely, to those who provide for a fruitful year. At present I should scarcely think there is an individual who believes in such superstitious stuff. But they still, as in days of yore, kindle fires upon the mountains on this night, and still look upon it as a bad omen, if any common or ugly-formed creature, whether beast or man, makes its appearance at the fire.”

In the Neapolitan towns great fires are built on this festival, around which the people dance, jumping through the flames, and flinging themselves about in every wild and fantastic attitude. It is probably a relic of some old sacrificatory festival to Maia, who has given her name to this month,–the custom still remaining after its significance is gone.

The month of May is the culmination of the spring and the season of seasons at Rome. No wonder that foreigners who have come when winter sets in and take wing before April shows her sky sometimes growl at the weather, and ask if this is the beautiful Italian clime. They have simply selected the rainy season for their visit; and one cannot expect to have sun the whole year through, without intermission. Where will they find more sun in the same season? where will they find milder and softer air? Days even in the middle of winter, and sometimes weeks, descend as it were from heaven to fill the soul with delight; and a lovely day in Rome is lovelier than under any other sky on earth. But just when foreigners go away in crowds, the weather is settling into the perfection of spring, and then it is that Rome is most charming. The rains are over, the sun is a daily blessing, all Nature is bursting into leaf and flower, and one may spend days on the Campagna without fear of colds and fever. Stay in Rome during May, if you wish to feel its beauty.

The best rule for a traveller who desires to enjoy the charms of every clime would be to go to the North in the winter and to the South in the spring and summer. Cold is the speciality of the North, and all its sports and gayeties take thence their tone. The houses are built to shut out the demon of Frost, and protect one from his assaults of ice and snow. Let him howl about your windows and scrawl his wonderful landscapes on your panes and pile his fantastic wreaths outside, while you draw round the blazing hearth and enjoy the artificial heat and warm in the social converse that he provokes. Your punch is all the better for his threats; by contrast you enjoy the more. Or brave him outside in a flying sledge, careering with jangling bells over white wastes of snow, while the stars, as you go, fly through the naked trees that are glittering with ice-jewels, and your blood tingles with excitement, and your breath is blown like a white incense to the skies. That is the real North. How tame he will look to you, when you go back in August and find a few hard apples, a few tough plums, and some sour little things which are apologies for grapes! He looks sneaky enough then, with his make-believe summer, and all his furs off. No, then is the time for the South. All is simmering outside, and the locust saws and shrills till he seems to heat the air. You stay in the house at noon, and know what a virtue there is in thick walls which keep out the fierce heats, in gaping windows and doors that will not shut because you need the ventilation. You will not now complain of the stone and brick floors that you cursed all winter long, and on which you now sprinkle water to keep the air cool in your rooms. The blunders and stupidities of winter are all over. The breezy _loggia_ is no longer a joke. You are glad enough to sit there and drink your wine and look over the landscape. Manuccia brings in a great basket of grapes that are grapes, which the wasp envies you as you eat, and comes to share. And here are luscious figs bursting with seedy sweetness, and apricots rusted in the sun, and velvety peaches that break into juice in your mouth, and great black-seeded _cocomeri_. Nature empties her cornucopia of fruits and flowers and vegetables all over your table. Luxuriously you enjoy them and fan yourself and take your _siesta_, with full appreciation of your _dolce far niente_. When the sun begins to slope westward, if you are in the country, you wander through the green lanes festooned with vines and pluck the grapes as you go; or, if you are in the city, you saunter the evening long through the streets, where all the world are strolling, and take your _granito_ of ice or sherbet, and talk over the things of the day and the time, and pass as you go home groups of singers and serenaders with guitars, flutes, and violins,–serenade, perhaps, sometimes, yourself; and all the time the great planets and stars palpitate in the near heavens, and the soft air full of fragrance blows against your cheek. And you can really say, This is Italy! For it is not what you do, so much as what you feel, that makes Italy.

But pray remember, when you go there, that in the South every arrangement is made for the nine hot months, and not for the three cold and rainy ones you choose to spend there, and perhaps your views may be somewhat modified in respect of this “miserable people,” who, you say, “have no idea of comfort,”–meaning, of course, English comfort. Perhaps, I say; for it is in the nature of travellers to come to sudden conclusions upon slight premises, to maintain with obstinacy preconceived notions, and to quarrel with all national traits except their own. And being English, unless you have a friend in India who has made you aware that cane-bottom chairs are India-English, you will be pretty sure to believe that there is no comfort without carpets and coal; or being an American, you will be apt to undervalue a gallery of pictures with only a three-ply carpet on the floor, and to “calculate,” that, if they could see your house in Washington Street, they would feel rather ashamed. However, there is a great deal of human nature in mankind, wherever you go,–except in Paris, perhaps, where Nature is rather inhuman and artificial. And when I instance the Englishman and American as making false judgments, let me not be misunderstood as supposing them the only nations in that category. No, no! did not my Parisian acquaintance the other day assure me very gravely, after lamenting the absurdity of the Italians’ not speaking French instead of their own language,–“But, Sir, what is this Italian? nothing but bad French!”–and did not another of that same polished nation, in describing his travels to Naples, say, in answer to the question, whether he had seen the grand old temples of Paestum,–“Ah, yes, I have seen Paestum; ’tis a detestable country!–like the Campagna of Rome”? I am perfectly aware that there are differences of opinion.

Let me, then, beg you to remain in Rome during the mouth of May, if you can possibly make your arrangements to do so.

May is the month of the Madonna, and on every _festa_-day you will see at the corners of the streets a little improvised shrine, or it may be only a festooned print of the Madonna hung against the walls of some house or against the back of a chair, and tended by two or three children, who hold out to you a plate, as you pass, and beg for charity, sometimes, I confess, in the most pertinacious way,–the money thus raised to be expended in oil for the lamps before the Madonna shrines in the streets. The monasteries of nuns are also busy with processions and celebrations in honor of “the Mother of God,” which are carried on pleasantly within their precincts and seen only of female friends. Sometimes you will meet a procession of ladies outside the gates following a cross on foot, while their carriages come after in a long file. These are societies which are making the pilgrimage of the Seven Basilicas outside the Walls. They set out early in the morning, stopping in each basilica for a half-hour to say their prayers, and return to Rome at Ave Maria.

Life, too, is altogether changed now. All the windows are wide open, and there is at least one head and shoulders leaning out at every house. And the poorer families are all out on their door-steps, working and chatting together, while their children run about them in the streets, sprawling, playing, and fighting. Many a beautiful theme for the artist is now to be found in these careless and characteristic groups; and curly-headed Saint Johns may be seen in every street, half naked, with great black eyes and rounded arms and legs. It is this which makes Rome so admirable a residence for an artist. All things are easy and careless in the out-of-doors life of the common people,–all poses unsought, all groupings accidental, all action unaffected and unconscious. One meets Nature at every turn,–not braced up in prim forms, not conscious in manners, not made up into the fashionable or the proper, but impulsive, free, and simple. With the whole street looking on, they are as unconscious and natural as if they were where no eye could see them,–ay, and more natural, too, than it is possible for some people to be, even in the privacy of their solitary rooms. They sing at the top of their lungs as they sit on their door-steps at their work, and often shout from house to house across the street a long conversation, and sometimes even read letters from upper windows to their friends below in the street. The men and women who cry their fruits, vegetables, and wares up and down the city, laden with baskets or panniers, and often accompanied by a donkey, stop to chat with group after group, or get into animated debates about prices, or exercise their wits and lungs at once in repartee in a very amusing way. Everybody is in dishabille in the morning, but towards twilight the girls put on their better dresses, and comb their glossy raven hair, heaping it up in great solid braids, and, hanging two long golden ear-rings in their ears and _collane_ round their full necks, come forth conquering and to conquer, and saunter bare-headed up and down the streets, or lounge about the doorways or piazzas in groups, ready to give back to any jeerer as good as he sends. You see them marching along sometimes in a broad platoon of five or six, all their brows as straight as if they had been ruled, and their great dark eyes flashing out under them, ready in a moment for a laugh or a frown. What stalwart creatures they are! What shoulders, bosoms, and backs they have! what a chance for the lungs under those stout _busti_! and what finished and elegant heads! They are certainly cast in a large mould, with nothing belittled or meagre about them, either in feature or figure.

Early in the morning you will see streaming through the streets or gathered together in picturesque groups, some standing, some couching on the pavement, herds of long-haired goats, brown and white and black, which have been driven, or rather which have followed their shepherd, into the city to be milked. The majestical, long-bearded, patriarchal rams shake their bells and parade solemnly round,–while the silken females clatter their little hoofs as they run from the hand of the milker when he has filled his can. The shepherd is kept pretty busy, too, milking at everybody’s door; and before the fashionable world is up at nine, the milk is gone and the goats are off.

You may know that it is May by the orange and lemon stands, which are erected in almost every piazza. These are little booths covered with canvas, and fantastically adorned with lemons and oranges intermixed, which, piled into pyramids and disposed about everywhere, have a very gay effect. They are generally placed near a fountain, the water of which is conducted through a _canna_ into the centre of the booth, and there, finding its own level again, makes a little spilling fountain from which the _bibite_ are diluted. Here for a _baiocco_ one buys lemonade or orangeade and all sorts of curious little drinks or _bibite_, with a feeble taste of anisette or some other herb to take off the mawkishness of the water,–or for a half-_baiocco_ one may have the lemonade without sugar, and in this way it is usually drunk. On all _festa_-days, little portable tables are carried round the streets, hung to the neck of the _limonaro_, and set down at convenient spots, or whenever a customer presents himself, and the cries of “_Acqua fresca,–limonaro, limonaro,–chi vuol bere?_” are heard on all sides; and I can assure you, that, after standing on tiptoe for an hour in the heat and straining your neck and head to get sight of some Church procession, you are glad enough to go to the extravagance of even a lemonade with sugar; and smacking your lips, you bless the institution of the _limonaro_ as one which must have been early instituted by the Good Samaritan. Listen to his own description of himself in one of the popular _canzonetti_ sung about the streets by wandering musicians to the accompaniment of a violin and guitar:–

“Ma per altro son uomo ingegnoso,
Non possiedo, ma sono padrone;
Vendo l’ acqua con spirto e limone Finche dura d’ estate il calor.

“Ho an capello di paglia,–ma bello! Un zinale di sopra fino;
Chi mi osserva nel mio tavolino,
Gli vien sete, se sete non ha.

“Spaccio spirti, siroppi, acquavite
Fo ‘ranciate di nuova invenzione; Voi vedete quante persone
Chiedon acqua,–e rispondo,–Son qua!”

The _limonaro_ is the exponent, the algebraic power, of the Church processions which abound this month; and he is as faithful to them as Boswell to Johnson;–wherever they appear, he is there to console and refresh. Nor is his office a sinecure now; and let us hope that he has his small profits, as well as the Church,–though they spell theirs differently.

The great procession of the year takes place this month on Corpus Domini, and is well worth seeing, as being the very finest and most characteristic of all the Church festivals. It was instituted in honor of the famous miracle at Bolsena, when the wafer dripped blood, and is, therefore, in commemoration of one of the cardinal doctrines of the Roman Church, Transubstantiation, and one of its most theological miracles. The Papal procession takes place in the morning, in the piazza of Saint Peter’s; and if you would be sure of it, you must be on the spot as soon as eight o’clock at the latest. The whole circle of the piazza itself is covered with an awning, festooned gayly with garlands of box, under which the procession passes; and the ground is covered with yellow sand, over which box and bay are strewn. The celebration commences with morning mass in the basilica, and that over, the procession issues from one door, and, making the whole circuit of the piazza, returns into the church. First come the _Seminaristi_, or scholars and attendants of the various hospitals and charity-schools, such as San Michele and Santo Spirito,–all in white. Then follow the brown-cowled, long-bearded Franciscans, the white Carmelites, and the black Benedictines, bearing lighted candles and chanting hoarsely as they go. You may see pass before you now all the members of these different conventual orders that there are in Rome, and have an admirable opportunity to study their physiognomies in mass. If you are a convert to Romanism, you will perhaps find in their bald beads and shaven crowns and bearded faces a noble expression of reverence and humility; but, suffering as I do under the misfortune of being a heretic, I could but remark on their heads an enormous development of the two organs of reverence and firmness, and a singular deficiency in the upper forehead, while there was an almost universal enlargement of the lower jaw and of the base of the brain. Being, unfortunately, a friend of Phrenology, as well as a heretic, I drew no very auspicious augury from these developments; and looking into their faces, the physiognomical traits were narrow-mindedness, bigotry, or cunning. The Benedictine heads showed more intellect and will; the Franciscans more dulness and good-nature.

But while I am criticizing them, they are passing by, and a picturesque set of fellows they are. Much as I dislike the conventual creed, I should be sorry to see the costume disappear. Directly on the heels of their poverty come the three splendid triple crowns of the Pope, glittering with gorgeous jewels, and borne in triumph on silken embroidered cushions, and preceded by the court jeweller. After them follow the chapters, canons, and choirs of the seven basilicas, chanting in lofty altos and solid basses and clear ringing tenors from their old Church books, each basilica bearing a typical tent of colored stripes and a wooden campanile and a bell which is constantly rung. Next come the canons of the churches and the _monsignori_, in splendid dresses and rich capes of beautiful lace falling below their waists; the bishops clad in cloth of silver with mitres on their heads; the cardinals brilliant in gold embroidery and gleaming in the sun; and at last the Pope himself, borne on a platform splendid with silver and gold, with a rich canopy over his head. Beneath this he kneels, or rather, seems to kneel; for, though his splendid draperies and train are skilfully arranged so as to present this semblance, being drawn behind him over two blocks which are so placed as to represent his heels, yet in fact he is seated on a sunken bench or chair, as any careful eye can plainly see. However, kneeling or sitting, just as you will, there he is, before an altar, holding up the _ostia_, which is the _corpus Domini_, “the body of God,” and surrounded by officers of the Swiss guards in glittering armor, chamberlains in their beautiful black and Spanish dresses with ruffs and swords, attendants in scarlet and purple costumes, and the _guardia nobile_ in their red dress uniforms. Nothing could be more striking than this group. It is the very type of the Church,–pompous, rich, splendid, imposing. After them follow the dragoons mounted,–first a company on black horses, then another on bays, and then a third on grays; foot-soldiers with flashing bayonets bring up the rear, and the procession is over. As the last soldiers enter the church, there is a stir among the gilt equipages of the cardinals which line one side of the piazza,–the horses toss their scarlet plumes, the liveried servants sway as the carriages lumber on, and you may spend a half-hour hunting out your own humble vehicle, if you have one, or throng homeward on foot with the crowd through the Borgo and over the bridge of Sant’ Angelo.

This grand procession strikes the note of all the others, and in the afternoon each parish brings out its banners, arrays itself in its choicest dresses, and with pomp and music bears the _ostia_ through the streets, the crowd kneeling before it, and the priests chanting. During the next _ottava_ or eight days, all the processions take place in honor of this festival; and when the week has passed, everything ends with the Papal procession in Saint Peter’s piazza, when, without music, and with uncovered heads, the Pope, cardinals, _monsignori_, canons, and the rest of the priests and officials, make the round of the piazza, bearing great Church banners.

One of the most striking of their celebrations took place this year at the church of San Rocco in the Ripetta, when the church was made splendid with lighted candles and gold bands, and a preacher held forth to a crowded audience in the afternoon. At Ave Maria there was a great procession, with banners, music, and torches, and all the evening the people sauntered to and fro in crowds before the church, where a platform was erected and draped with old tapestries, from which a band played constantly. Do not believe, my dear Presbyterian friend, that these spectacles fail deeply to affect the common mind. So long as human nature remains the same, this splendor and pomp of processions, these lighted torches and ornamented churches, this triumphant music and glad holiday of religion will attract more than your plain conventicles, your ugly meeting-houses, and your compromise with the bass-viol. For my own part, I do not believe that music and painting and all the other arts really belong to the Devil, or that God gave him joy and beauty to deceive with, and kept only the ugly, sour, and sad for himself. We are always better when we are happy; and we are about as sure of being good when we are happy, as of being happy when we are good. Cheerfulness and happiness are, in my humble opinion, duties and habits to be cultivated; but, if you don’t think so, I certainly would not deny you the privilege of being wretched: don’t let us quarrel about it.

Rather let us turn to the Artists’ Festival, which takes place in this month, and is one of the great attractions of the season. Formerly, this festival took place at Cerbara, an ancient Etruscan town on the Campagna, of which only certain subterranean caves remain. But during the revolutionary days which followed the disasters of 1848, it was suspended for two or three years by the interdict of the Papal government, and when it was again instituted, the place of meeting was changed to Fidenae, the site of another Etruscan town, with similar subterranean excavations, which were made the head-quarters of the festival. But the new railway to Bologna having been laid out directly over this ground, the artists have been again driven away, and this year the _festa_ was held, for the first time, in the grove of Egeria, one of the most beautiful spots on the whole Campagna,–and here it is to be hoped it will have an abiding rest.

This festival was instituted by the German artists, and, though the artists of all nations now join in it, the Germans still remain its special patrons and directors. Early in the morning, the artists rendezvous at an appointed _osteria_ outside the walls, dressed in every sort of grotesque and ludicrous costume which can be imagined. All the old dresses which can be rummaged out of the studios or theatres, or pieced together from masking wardrobes, are now in requisition. Indians and Chinese, ancient warriors and mediaeval heroes, militia-men and Punches, generals in top-boots and pigtails, doctors in gigantic wigs and small-clothes, Falstaffs and justices “with fair round belly with good capon lined,” magnificent foolscaps, wooden swords with terrible inscriptions, gigantic chapeaus with plumes made of vegetables, in a word, every imaginable absurdity is to be seen. Arrived at the place of rendezvous, they all breakfast, and then the line of march is arranged. A great wooden cart, adorned with quaint devices, garlanded with laurel and bay, bears the president and committee. This is drawn by great white oxen, who are decorated with wreaths and flowers and gay trappings, and from it floats the noble banner of Cerbara or Fidenae. After this follows a strange and motley train,–some mounted on donkeys, some on horses, and some afoot,–and the line of march is taken up for the grove of Egeria. What mad jests and wild fun now take place it is impossible to describe; suffice it to say, that all are right glad of a little rest when they reach their destination.

Now begin to stream out from the city hundreds of carriages,–for all the world will be abroad to-day to see,–and soon the green slopes are swarming with gay crowds. Some bring with them a hamper of provisions and wine, and, spreading them on the grass, lunch and dine when and where they will; but those who would dine with the artists must have the order of the _mezzo baiocco_ hanging to their buttonhole, which is distributed previously in Rome to all the artists who purchase tickets. Some few there are who also bear upon their breasts the nobler medal of _troppo merito_, gained on previous days, and those are looked upon with due reverence.

But before dinner or lunch there is a high ceremony to take place,–the great feature of the day. It is the mock-heroic play. This year it was the meeting of Numa with the nymph Egeria at the grotto; and thither went the festive procession; and the priest, befilletted and draped in white, burned upon the altar as a sacrifice a great toy sheep, whose offence “smelt to heaven”; and then from the niches suddenly appeared Numa, a gallant youth in spectacles, and Egeria, a Spanish artist with white dress and fillet, who made vows over the smoking sheep, and then were escorted back to the sacred grove with festal music by a joyous, turbulent crowd.

Last year, however, at Fidenae, it was better. We had a travesty of the taking of Troy, which was eminently ludicrous, and which deserves a better description than I can give. Troy was a space inclosed within paper barriers, about breast-high, painted “to present a wall,” and within these were the Trojans, clad in red, and all wearing gigantic paper helmets. There was old Priam, in spectacles, with his crown and robes,–Laocooen, in white, with a white wool beard and wig,–Ulysses, in a long, yellow beard and mantle,–and Aeneas, with a bald head, in a blue, long-tailed coat, and tall dickey, looking like the traditional Englishman in the circus who comes to hire the horse. The Grecians were encamped at a short distance. All had round, basket-work shields,–some with their names painted on them in great letters, and some with an odd device, such as a cat or pig. There were Ulysses, Agamemnon, Ajax, Nestor, Patroclus, Diomedes, Achilles, “all honorable men.” The drama commenced with the issuing of Paris and Helen from the walls of Troy,–he in a tall, black French hat, girdled with a gilt crown, and she in a white dress, with a great wig hanging round her face in a profusion of carrotty curls. Queer figures enough they were, as they stepped along together, caricaturing love in a pantomime, he making terrible demonstrations of his ardent passion, and she finally falling on his neck in rapture. This over, they seated themselves near by two large pasteboard rocks, he sitting on his shield and taking out his flute to play to her, while she brought forth her knitting and ogled him as he played. While they were thus engaged, came creeping up with the stage stride of a double step, and dragging one foot behind him, Menelaus, whom Thersites had, meantime, been taunting, by pointing at him two great ox-horns. He walked all round the lovers, pantomiming rage and jealousy in the accredited ballet style, and then, suddenly approaching, crushed poor Paris’s great black hat down over his eyes. Both, very much frightened, then took to their heels and rushed into the city, while Menelaus, after shaking Paris’s shield, in defiance, at the walls, retired to the Grecian camp. Then came the preparations for battle. The Trojans leaned over their paper battlements, with their fingers to their noses, twiddling them in scorn, while the Greeks shook their fists back at them. The battle now commenced on the “ringing-plains of Troy,” and was eminently absurd. Paris, in hat and pantaloons, (_a la mode de Paris_,) soon showed the white feather, and incontinently fled. Everybody hit nowhere, fiercely striking the ground or the shields, and always carefully avoiding, as on the stage, to hit in the right place. At last, however, Patroclus was killed, whereupon the battle was suspended, and a grand _tableau_ of surprise and horror took place, from which at last they recovered, and the Greeks prepared to carry him off on their shoulders. Then terrible to behold was the grief of Achilles. Homer himself would have wept to see him. He flung himself on the body, and shrieked, and tore his hair, and violently shook the corpse, which, under such demonstrations, now and then kicked up. Finally, he rises and challenges Hector to single combat, and out comes the valiant Trojan, and a duel ensues with wooden axes. Such blows and counter blows were never seen, only they never hit, but often whirled the warrior who dealt them completely round; they tumbled over their own blows, panted with feigned rage, lost their robes and great pasteboard helmets, and were even more absurd than Richmond and Richard ever were on the country boards at a fifth-rate theatre. But Hector is at last slain and borne away, and a ludicrous lay figure is laid out to represent him, with bunged-up eyes and a general flabbiness of body and want of features, charming to behold. On their necks the Trojans bear him to their walls, and with a sudden jerk pitch him over them head first, and he tumbles, in a heap, into the city. Then Ulysses harangues the Greeks. He has brought out a _quarteruola_ barrel of wine, which, with most expressive pantomime, he shows to be the wooden horse that must be carried into Troy. His proposition is joyfully accepted, and, accompanied by all, he rolls the cask up to the walls, and, flourishing a tin cup in one hand, invites the Trojans to partake. At first there is confusion in the city, and fingers are twiddled over the walls, but after a time all go out and drink, and become ludicrously drunk, and stagger about, embracing each other in the most maudlin style. Even Helen herself comes out, gets tipsy with the rest, and dances about like the most disreputable of Maenades. A great scena, however, takes place as they are about to drink. Laocooen, got up in white wool, appears, and violently endeavors to dissuade them, but in vain. In the midst of his harangue, a long string of blown up sausage-skins is dragged in for the serpent, and suddenly cast about his neck. His sons and he then form a group, the sausage-snake is twined about them,–only the old story is reversed, and he bites the serpent instead of the serpent biting him,–and all die in agony, travestying the ancient group.

All, being now drunk, go in, and Ulysses with them. A quantity of straw is kindled, the smoke rises, the Greeks approach and dash in the paper walls with clubs, and all is confusion. Then Aeneas, in his blue long-tailed circus-coat, broad white hat, and tall shirt-collar, carries off old Anchises on his shoulders with a cigar in his mouth, and bears him to a painted section of a vessel, which is rocked to and fro by hand, as if violently agitated by the waves. Aeneas and Anchises enter the boat, or rather stand behind it so as to conceal their legs, and off it sets, rocked to and fro constantly,–Aeolus and Tramontana following behind, with bellows to blow up a wind, and Fair Weather, with his name written on big back, accompanying them. The violent motion, however, soon makes Aeneas sick, and as he leans over the side in a helpless and melancholy manner, and almost gives up the ghost, as well as more material things, the crowd burst into laughter. However, at last they reach two painted rocks, and found Latium, and a general rejoicing takes place.–The donkey who was to have ended all by dragging the body of Hector round the walls came too late, and this part of the programme did not take place.

So much of the entertainment over, preparations are made for dinner. In the grove of Egeria the plates are spread in circles, while all the company sing part-songs and dance. At last all is ready, the signal is given, and the feast takes place after the most rustic manner. Great barrels of wine covered with green branches stand at one side, from which flagons are filled and passed round, and the good appetites soon make direful gaps in the beef and mighty plates of lettuce. After this, and a little sauntering about for digestion’s sake, come the afternoon sports. And there are donkey races, and tilting at a ring, and foot-races, and running in sacks. Nothing can be more picturesque than the scene, with its motley masqueraders, its crowds of spectators seated along the slopes, its little tents here and there, its races in the valley, and, above all, the glorious mountains looking down from the distance. Not till the golden light slopes over the Campagna, gilding the skeletons of aqueducts, and drawing a delicate veil of beauty over the mountains, can we tear ourselves away, and rattle back in our carriage to Rome.

The wealthy Roman families, who have villas in the immediate vicinity of Rome, now leave the city to spend a month in them and breathe the fresh air of spring. Many and many a tradesman who is well to do in the world has a little _vigna_ outside the gates, where he raises vegetables and grapes and other fruits; and every _festa_-day you will be sure to find him and his family out in his little _villetta_, wandering about the grounds or sitting beneath his arbors, smoking and chatting with his children around him. His friends who have no villas of their own here visit him, and often there is a considerable company thus collected, who, if one may judge from their cheerful countenances and much laughter, enjoy themselves mightily. Knock at any of these villa-gates, and, if you happen to have the acquaintance of the owner, or are evidently a stranger of respectability, you will be received with much hospitality, invited to partake of the fruit and wine, and overwhelmed with thanks for your _gentilezza_ when you take your leave; for the Italians are a most good-natured and social people, and nothing pleases them better than a stranger who breaks the common round of topics by accounts of his own land. Everything new is to them wonderful, just as it is to a child. They are credulous of everything you tell them about America, which is to them in some measure what it was to the English in the days of Raleigh, Drake, and Hawkins, and say “_Per Bacco!_” to every new statement. And they are so magnificently ignorant, that you have _carte blanche_ for your stories. Never did I know any one staggered by anything I chose to say, but once. I was walking with my respectable old _padrone_, Nisi, about his little garden one day, when an ambition to know something about America inflamed his breast.

“Are there any mountains?” he asked.

I told him “Yes,” and, with a chuckle of delight, he cried,–

“_Per Bacco!_ And have you any cities?”

“Yes, a few little ones,”–for I thought I would sing small, contrary to the general “‘Ercles vein” of my countrymen. He was evidently pleased that they were small, and, swelling with natural pride, said,–

“Large as Rome, of course, they could not be”; then, after a moment, he added, interrogatively, “And rivers, too,–have you any rivers?”

“A few,” I answered.

“But not as large as our Tiber,” he replied,–feeling assured, that, if the cities were smaller than Rome, as a necessary consequence, the rivers that flowed by them must be in the same category.

The bait now offered was too tempting. I measured my respectable and somewhat obese friend carefully with my eye, for a moment, and then hurled this terrible fact at him:–

“We have some rivers three thousand miles long.”

The effect was awful. He stood and stared at me, as if petrified, for a moment. Then the blood rushed into his face, and, turning on his heel, he took off his hat, said suddenly, “_Buona sera_,” and carried my fact and his opinions together up into his private room. I am afraid that Don Pietro decided, on consideration, that I had been taking unwarrantable liberties with him, and exceeding all proper bounds, in my attempt to impose on his good-nature. From that time forward he asked me no more questions about America.

And here, by the way, I am reminded of an incident, which, though not exactly pertinent, may find here a parenthetical place, merely as illustrating some points of Italian character. One fact and two names relating to America they know universally,–Columbus and his discovery of America, and Washington.

“_Si, Signore_,” said a respectable person some time since, as he was driving me to see a carriage which he wished to sell me, and therefore desired to be particularly polite to me and my nation,–“a great man, your Vashintoni! but I was sorry to hear, the other day, that his father had died in London.”

“His father dead, and in London?” I stammered, completely confounded at this extraordinary news, and fearing lest I had been too stupid in misunderstanding him.

“Yes,” he said, “it is too true that his father Vellintoni is dead. I read it in the _Diario di Roma_.”

But better than this was the ingenious argument of a _Frate_, whom I met on board a steamer in going from Leghorn to Genoa, and who, having pumped out the fact that I was an American, immediately began to “improve” it in a discourse on Columbus. So he informed me that Columbus was an Italian, and that he had discovered America, and was a remarkable man; to all of which I readily assented, as being true, if not new. But now a severe abstract question began to tax my friend’s powers. He said, “But how could he ever have imagined that the continent of America was there? That’s the question. It is extraordinary indeed!” And so he sat cogitating, and saying, at intervals, “_Curioso! Straordinario!_” At last “a light broke in upon his brain.” Some little bird whispered the secret. His face lightened, and, looking at me, he said, “Perhaps he may have read that it was there in some old book, and so went to see if it were or no.” Vainly I endeavored to show him that this view would deprive Columbus of his greatest distinction. He answered invariably, “But without having read it, how could he ever have known it?”–thus putting the earth upon the tortoise and leaving the tortoise to account for his own support.

Imagine that I have told you these stories sitting under the vine and fig-tree of some _villetta_, while Angiolina has gone to call the _padrone_, who will only be too glad to see you. But, _ecco!_ at last our _padrone_ comes. No, it is not the _padrone_, it is the _vignarualo_, who takes care of his grapes and garden, and who recognizes us as friends of the _padrone_, and tells us that we are ourselves _padroni_ of the whole place, and offers us all sorts of fruits.

One old custom, which existed in Rome some fifteen years ago, has now passed away with other good old things. It was the celebration of the _Fravolata_ or Strawberry-Feast, when men in gala-dress at the height of the strawberry-season went in procession through the streets, carrying on their heads enormous wooden platters heaped with this delicious fruit, accompanied by girls in costume, who, beating their _tamburelli_, danced along at their sides and sung the praises of the strawberry. After threading the streets of the city, they passed singing out of the gates, and at different places on the Campagna spent the day in festive sports and had an out-door dinner and dance.

One of these festivals still exists, however, in the picturesque town of Genzano, which lies above the old crater now filled with the still waters of Lake Nemi, and is called the _Infiorata di Genzano_, “The Flower-Festival of Genzano.” It takes place on the eighth day of the Corpus Domini, and receives its name from the popular custom of spreading flowers upon the pavements of the streets so as to represent heraldic devices, figures, arabesques, and all sorts of ornamental designs. The people are all dressed in their effective costumes,–the girls in _busti_ and silken skirts, with all their corals and jewels on, and the men with white stockings on their legs, their velvet jackets dropping over one shoulder, and flowers and rosettes in their conical hats. The town is then very gay, the bells clang, the incense steams from the censer in the church, where the organ peals and mass is said, and a brilliant procession marches over the strewn flower-mosaic, with music and crucifixes and Church-banners. Hundreds of strangers, too, are there to look on; and on the Cesarini Piazza and under the shadow of the long avenues of ilexes that lead to the tower are hundreds of handsome girls, with their snowy _tovaglie_ peaked over their heads. The rub and thrum of _tamburelli_ and the clicking of castanets are heard, too, as twilight comes on, and the _salterello_ is danced by many a group. This is the national Roman dance, and is named from the little jumping step which characterizes it. Any number of couples dance it, though the dance is perfect with two. Some of the movements are very graceful and piquant, and particularly that where one of the dancers kneels and whirls her arms on high, clicking her castanets, while the other circles her round and round, striking his hands together, and approaching nearer and nearer, till he is ready to give her a kiss, which she refuses: of course it is the old story of every national dance,–love and repulse, love and repulse, until the maiden yields. As one couple panting and rosy retires, another fresh one takes its place, while the bystanders play on the accordion the whirling, circling, never-ending tune of the Tarantella, which would “put a spirit of youth in everything.”

If you are tired of the festival, roam up a few paces out of the crowd, and you stand upon the brink of Lake Nemi. Over opposite, and crowning the height where the little town of Nemi perches, frowns the old feudal castle of the Colonna, with its tall, round tower, where many a princely family has dwelt and many an unprincely act has been done. There, in turn, have dwelt the Colonna, Borgia, Piccolomini, Cenci, Frangipani, and Braschi, and there the descendants of the last-named family still pass a few weeks in the summer.[1] Below you, silent and silvery, lies the lake itself,–and rising around it, like a green bowl, tower its richly wooded banks, covered with gigantic oaks, ilexes, and chestnuts. This was the ancient grove dedicated to Diana, which extended to L’Ariccia; and here are still to be seen the vestiges of an ancient villa built by Julius Caesar. Here, too, if you trust some of the antiquaries, once stood the temple of Diana Nemorensis,[2] where human sacrifices were offered, and whose chief-priest, called _Rex Nemorensis_, obtained his office by slaying his predecessor, and reigned over these groves by force of his personal arm. Times have, indeed, changed since the priesthood was thus won and baptized by blood; and as you stand there, and look, on the one side, at the site of this ancient temple, which some of the gigantic chestnut-trees may almost have seen in their youth, and, on the other side, at the campanile of the Catholic church at Genzano, with its flower-strewn pavements, you may have as sharp a contrast between the past and the present as can easily be found.

[Footnote 1: On the Genzano side stands the castellated villa of the Cesarini Sforza, looking peacefully across the lake at the rival tower, which in the old baronial days it used to challenge,–and in its garden-pond you may see stately white swans oaring their way with rosy feet along.]

[Footnote 2: The better opinion of late seems to be that it was on the slopes of the Val d’Ariccia. But “who shall decide, when doctors disagree?”]



I heard you In your English home,–
I read you by my little brook,
Thousands of miles from British foam, Hid in my dear New England nook:
But heard you with a sullen look;
But read you with a gloomy brow;
And thus unto my Muse I spoke:–
Who is there to write history now?

Hallam is dead! and Prescott gone!
And Irving sleeps at Sunnyside!
And now that Lord has wandered on, Whose laurels must with theirs abide:
I greatly mourned the man who died
First on this dismal roll of death,– And him, of all observers eyed,
My townsman here, who spent his breath

In telling of the things of Spain,
And doing friendly things to friends, Prescott, well known beyond the main
And past the Pillars, to earth’s ends: Both had my tears: but England sends
Another word across the seas,
Might rouse the dying from his bed: Oh, bear it gently, ocean-breeze!
That bitter word,–Thy friend is dead!

Macaulay dead, who made to live
Past kingdoms, with his vivid brain! Who could such warmth to shadows give,
By the mere magic of his pen,
That Charles and England rose again! Well sleeps he ‘mid the Abbey’s dust:
And, Laureate! thy funereal verse
Shall have such echo as it must
From hearts just wrung at Irving’s hearse.

These are two names to mark the year As one of memorable woe,
Two men to the two nations dear
Laid in one fatal winter low!
About the streets the mourners go;
But I within my chamber rest,
Or walk the room with measured tread, Murmuring, with head upon my breast,
My God! and is Macaulay dead?


In November, 1805, a good-looking foreigner, gentlemanlike in dress and in manner, and apparently fifty years of age, arrived in New York from England, and took lodgings at Mrs. Avery’s, State Street. He called himself George Martin; but this incognito was intended only for the vulgar. Some of the principal citizens of New York, who recollected his first visit to this country twenty years before, knew him as Don Francisco de Miranda of Caracas, one of the most distinguished adventurers of that revolutionary era,–a favorite of the Empress of Russia, a friend of Mr. Pitt, and second in command under Dumouriez in the Belgian campaign of 1793. To these gentlemen he avowed that for many years he had meditated the independence of the Spanish-American Colonies, and meant to make an attempt to carry out his plans. On Evacuation Day, a New York festival, which is now nearly worn out, they invited him to a Corporation dinner, as a foreign officer of rank, and toasted him, wishing him the same success in South America that we had had here. He then went to Washington, under the name of Molini. There, as everywhere, he was received by the best society as General Miranda. The President and the Secretary of State, Mr. Madison, granted him several private interviews. In January he returned to New York,–and on the 2d of February departed thence mysteriously in the Leander, a ship belonging to Mr. Samuel G. Ogden, merchant.

While the Leander lay at anchor off Staten Island, a gentleman notified the Naval Officer of the Port, that large quantities of arms and ammunition had been taken on board of her in boats, at night. He was informed in return, that the Leander was cleared for Jacquemel, and that no law existed to prevent her from sailing. No other attempt was made to detain her; but a few weeks later, rumors affecting the character of the ship broke out in a more decided form. It was generally believed at the Tontine Coffee-House that the Leander had been fitted out by Miranda to attack the Spanish possessions in the West India Islands or on the Main. And yet the New York journals took no notice of her until the 21st of February, nineteen days after she sailed. In the mean time the Marquis Yrujo, backed by the French Ambassador, had made a formal complaint to Government, and had caused the insertion in the “Philadelphia Gazette” of a series of interrogatories to Mr. Madison, which indirectly accused the Administration of encouraging Miranda’s preparations, or at least of conniving at the expedition. This perverse Marquis, who gave Mr. Jefferson a taste of the annoyance which Genet, Adet, and Fauchet had inflicted upon the previous administrations, was clamorous and persisting. The authorities in Washington thought it proper to order the arrest of Mr. Ogden, and of Colonel William Smith, son-in-law of John Adams and Surveyor of the Port of New York, under the Act of 1794. The prisoners were taken before Judge Tallmadge of the United States District Court. They were refused counsel, and were forced by threats of imprisonment to submit to a searching examination. They were then held to bail, both as principals and witnesses, in the sum of twenty thousand dollars. Soon after, the President removed Colonel Smith from his office.

Such a waste of editorial raw-material appears very singular to newspaper-readers of the present day, accustomed as they are to see in print everything that has happened or that might have happened; but we must recollect that our grandfathers found the excitement necessary to civilized man in party politics, national and local. This game they played with a fierce eagerness which is now limited to a small class of inferior men.

To the violence and personal spitefulness of their newspaper articles we have fortunately nothing comparable, even in the speeches of Honorable Members on Helper and John Brown. The “_Tu quoque_” and the “_Vos damnamini_” were their favorite logical processes, and “Fool” and “Liar” the simple and conclusive arguments with which they established a principle. Not that these ancients suffered at all from a lack of stirring news. Bonaparte’s wonderful campaigns, (Austerlitz had just been heard of in New York,) the outrages on our sailors by English cruisers, our merchantmen plundered by French and Spanish privateers, the irritating behavior of the Dons in Louisiana, kept them abundantly supplied with this staff of mental life. But they did not care much for news in the abstract as news, unless they could work it up into political ammunition and discharge it at each other’s heads. We must not forget, too, that newspaper-editing, the “California of the spiritually vagabond,” as Carlyle calls it, was a recent discovery, and that the rich mine was but surface-worked. “Our own Reporter” was, like Milton’s original lion, only half unearthed; and deep hidden from mortal eyes as yet lay the sensation-items-man, who has made the last-dying-speech-and-confession style of literature the principal element of our daily press.

At last the Federal editors gave tongue. It was high time; the town was in an uproar. They perceived that Miranda might become a useful ally against Mr. T. Jefferson. His expedition came opportunely, as the Mammoth Cheese and Black Sally were beginning to grow stale. Mr. Lang opened the cry in the “New York Gazette” by asserting the complicity of Government, on the authority of a “gentleman of the first respectability,”–meaning Mr. Rufus King.–Cheetham, of the “Citizen,” barked back at Lang, a would-be “Solomon,” “a foul and abominable slanderer.” Mr. King, he could prove, had been examined, and had nothing to reveal.–Tom Paine wrote to the “Citizen” to mention that he had known Miranda in New York in 1783 and in Paris in 1793. Mr. Littlepage of Virginia, Chamberlain to the King of Poland, had then informed him that the Empress Catharine had given Miranda four thousand pounds “as a retaining fee,” and that Mr. Pitt had also paid him twelve hundred pounds for his services in the Nootka Sound business.–All the Federal papers charged the Government with connivance. You knew the destination of the Leander; you did not prevent her from sailing; you nourished the offence until it attained maturity, and then, after permitting the principals to go upon this expedition, you seize upon the accessories who remain at home. And in how shameful and illegal a way! You examine them before a single judge, with no counsel to advise them. You force them to criminate themselves, and to sign their confessions, by the threat of imprisonment; and you punish Colonel Smith before you have tried him, by depriving him of his office. Why, such a proceeding is worse than any “Inquisitorial Tribunal” or “Star-Chamber Court.”–Nonsense! answered the Democrats. Ogden’s and Smith’s testimony does not implicate the Government in the least. It only proves that Smith has been the dupe of Miranda. The President knew nothing about the matter. If the object of the Leander’s outfit was so generally spoken of, why did it escape the notice of the Marquis Yrujo? Why did he not demand her seizure before she sailed? This charge against the Government is a mere Federal trick. Your friends, the British, are at the bottom of the expedition, and they have artfully employed Rufus King, a Federal chief, to throw the blame upon the Executive of the United States. By ascribing to those who administer the government the atrocities committed by Transatlantic rulers, you aim a deadly blow at the character of our system; and your conduct, base in any view we can take of it, is particularly reprehensible in the delicate state of our relations with Spain.

Mr. Cadwallader Golden, of counsel for the defendants, made a motion before Judge Tallmadge for an order to prevent the District Attorney from using the preliminary evidence taken at the private examinations. “It was a proceeding,” he said, “arbitrary and subversive of the first principles of law and liberty,”–“which would have disgraced the reign of Charles and stained the character of Jeffries.” The District Attorney was heard in opposition, and was successful.

On the 7th of April, the Grand Jury found a bill against Smith, Ogden, Miranda, and Thomas Lewis, captain of the Leander, for “setting on foot and beginning with force and arms a certain military enterprise or expedition, to be carried on from the United States against the dominions of a foreign prince: to wit, the dominions of the King of Spain; the said King of Spain then and there being at peace with the United States.” The Grand Jury, as an evidence of their impartiality, or of the public feeling, also handed the Judge a presentment of himself, which he put into his pocket, censuring his conduct in the private examinations, because “unusual, oppressive, and contrary to law.”

The trial was set down for the 14th of July. Messrs. Ogden and Smith did not wait so long for a hearing. They laid their case at once before the public, in two memorials addressed to Congress, complaining bitterly of the prosecution, not to say persecution, instituted against them by the authorities in Washington, and of the cruel and oppressive measures taken by Judge Tallmadge to carry out the mandates of his superiors. If they had done wrong, they urged, it was innocently. A war with Spain was imminent. The critical position of the Louisiana Boundary question, the President’s Message of the 6th of December, and the documents accompanying it, left no doubts on that point. Were they not right, then, in supposing, that, under these circumstances, the President would encourage an expedition against the colonies of a hostile power? As evidence of Mr. Jefferson’s knowledge of Miranda’s schemes, they stated that the General had brought with him from England a letter to “a gentleman of the first consequence in New York,” (Mr. King,) which contained a sketch of his project: this letter was forwarded to the Secretary of State and laid before the President by him. Miranda then went to Washington, saw the President and the Secretary, and wrote to the memorialists that he had fully unfolded his plans to both. In the course of a long conversation with Mr. Madison, he asked for pecuniary assistance and for open encouragement, on the ground that individuals might not be willing to join in the enterprise, if Government did not approve it,–particularly as a bill was then before Congress to prohibit the exportation of arms. He also requested leave of absence for Colonel Smith, who wished to accompany him. Mr. Madison answered, that the sentiments of the President could not be doubted, but that the Government of the United States could afford no assistance of any kind. Private individuals were at liberty to act as they pleased, provided they did not violate the laws; and New York merchants would always advance money, if they saw their advantage in it. As to the bill Miranda had spoken of, it was unlikely that it would pass,–and, in fact, it did not. It was impossible, Mr. Madison added, to grant leave of absence to Colonel Smith, although he thought him better fitted for military employment than for the custom-house. He closed the interview by recommending the greatest discretion.

Miranda, continued the memorialists, remained fourteen days in Washington after this conversation, and returned to New York confident of the silent approval of Government. Eleven days before the Leander sailed, he sent a letter to Mr. Madison, inclosing another to Mr. Jefferson, both of which he read to Ogden and to Smith. He assured Mr. Madison that he had conformed in every way to the intentions of Government, and requested him to keep the secret. To Mr. Jefferson he wrote in a strain more fashionable ten years before than then, but well adapted to the sentimentality, both scientific and political, of the “Philosophic President.” Here it is:–

“I have the honor to send you, inclosed, the ‘Natural and Civil History of Chili,’ of which we conversed at Washington,–and in which you will, perhaps, find more than in those which have been before published on the same subject, concerning this beautiful country.

“If ever the happy prediction, which you have pronounced on the future destiny of our dear Columbia, is to be accomplished in our day, may Providence grant that it may be under your auspices, and by the generous efforts of her own children! We shall then, in some sort, behold the revival of that age, the return of which the Roman bard invoked in favor of the human race:–

“‘The last great age foretold by sacred rhymes Renews its finished course; Saturnian times Roll round again; and mighty years, begun From this first orb, in radiant circles run.'”

On Miranda’s reports, these letters, and the fact that the Leander had not been seized, they rested their case, and prayed for the interference of Congress in their behalf.

Congress unanimously granted the petitioners leave to withdraw. Such evidence as this, not only hearsay, but heard from the party most interested in misrepresenting the Administration, was not entitled to much consideration. It had, moreover, the additional disadvantage of proving nothing against the President and Secretary, even if every word of it were admitted as true.

Public attention was diverted from the Leander, Captain Lewis, to the Leander, Captain Whitby. This English frigate was cruising off Sandy Hook, bringing to inward and outward bound vessels, searching them for articles contraband of war, and helping herself to able-bodied seamen who looked like British subjects. All of which was meekly submitted to in 1806. Mr. Jefferson could not overcome his doubts as to the constitutionality of a fleet, and the Opposition had the twofold pleasure of chuckling over the insults offered by John Bull to a government with French proclivities, and of reproaching the party in power with its supineness and want of spirit.

But the accident of the 25th of April brought the American people to a proper sense of their situation, for the moment. On that day, His British Majesty’s ship Leander fired a round-shot into the sloop Richard, bound to New York, and killed the man at the helm, John Pierce. The body was brought to the city and borne through the principal streets, in the midst of universal excitement, anger, and cries for vengeance. Black streamers were displayed from the houses; shops were closed; the newspapers appeared in mourning. A public funeral was attended by the whole population. Captain Whitby was indicted for murder, and took care to keep out of the reach of United States law-officers. This homicide happened just in time for the May election in New York. Both parties attempted to make use of it. The Federalists proclaimed that the blood of Pierce was on the head of Jefferson and his followers. These retorted, that the English pirates were the friends and comrades of the Federalists. Cheetham had seen the first lieutenant of the Leander, disguised, in company with eight or ten of them, some days after the murder!!! And the Democratic Republicans, as was and is still usual, had a majority at the polls.

From time to time short paragraphs appeared in the papers, advertising Miranda’s success. “His flag was flying on every fort from Cumana to Laguayra.” “The whole of this fine country may be considered as lost to Spain.” Then came tidings of sadder complexion. He had been beaten off with the loss of forty men, taken prisoners. The Spaniards had threatened to hang them as pirates, but they would not dare to do it. The British had furnished Miranda with forty Spanish prisoners, as hostages, “to avenge the threatened insult to the feelings of every friend to the rights of self-government in every part of the world.” At last, news arrived from the Gulf which left Miranda’s failure in his first attempt to land no longer doubtful. This, of course, made the position of Ogden and Smith more dangerous, and their case more difficult to manage.

When the trial of Colonel Smith came on, public interest revived, and became stronger than before. The court-room was crowded by intelligent spectators during the whole course of the proceedings, The case was peculiar, and had almost a dramatic interest. Here was a Government prosecution against a man well known in the community, for an offence new to our courts; and the heads of that Government, Jefferson and Madison, were indirectly on trial at the same time:–“For, if Smith and Ogden are acquitted,” said the Federal papers, “then must the whole guilt rest on the Administration.” Apart from the political interest of the trial, the eminence of the counsel employed would have commanded an audience anywhere. Never, since New York has had courts of justice, have so many distinguished lawyers adorned and dignified her bar as in the first twenty years of this century. In this case, nearly all of the leaders were retained: Nathan Sandford, District Attorney, and Pierrepoint Edwards, for the prosecution; for the defence, Cadwallader Colden, Josiah Ogden Hoffman, Thomas Addis Emmet, Richard Harrison, and Washington Morton.[*]

[Footnote *: Judge Patterson, of the United States Court, occupied the bench with Judge Tallmadge, until ill-health obliged him to withdraw. He died soon after.]

Mr. Colden handed the Clerk a list of his witnesses, and requested him to call their names. Among them were those of Madison, Dearborn, Gallatin, Granger, and Robert Smith, all members of the Government. He then read the affidavit of service of subpoenas upon them on the 25th of May, and, inasmuch as these gentlemen had not obeyed the subpoena, and as Colonel Smith could not safely proceed to trial without their testimony, he moved that an attachment issue against them.

The District Attorney opposed the motion, on the ground that the testimony of these witnesses could not possibly be of any use to the defendant. None of them were present in New York when the Leander was fitted out. And even if it could be shown by these witnesses that the Administration had approved of this illegal expedition, it would not help the defendant. This is a country governed by laws, and not by arbitrary edicts. If Colonel Smith had violated these laws, he had rendered himself liable to punishment. He could not escape by making the President a _particeps criminis_. An amusing letter was read from Madison, Dearborn, and Smith, which stated, “that the President, taking into view the state of our public affairs, has specially signified to us that our official duties cannot consistently therewith be at this juncture dispensed with.” They suggested that a commission should issue for the purpose of taking their respective testimonies.

Colden insisted that this was an attempt of the Executive to interfere with the Judiciary, which ought not to be tolerated. Counsel in criminal cases had always the right to stand face to face with witnesses. It was outrageous that the President should first approve of the conduct of Colonel Smith, then order a prosecution against him and forbid his witnesses to attend the trial.

The Court refused to grant an attachment. And later in the trial, when the defence offered Rufus King to prove the President’s knowledge and approbation of the enterprise, the Court decided against the admission of the evidence.

The history of the expedition in New York, as shown by the testimony, was briefly this:–Colonel Smith introduced Miranda to Ogden; and Ogden agreed to furnish his armed ship Leander, and to load her with the necessary provisions, stores, arms, and ammunition. He estimated his expenditure at seventy thousand dollars. Miranda had brought with him from London a bill of exchange on New York for eight hundred pounds, which had been paid, and had drawn bills on England and on Trinidad for seven thousand pounds, which had not been paid. This was all that Ogden had received. But if the enterprise were successful, he was to be paid two hundred per cent, advance on the ship and cargo. Smith had engaged fifteen or twenty officers, without informing them of the object of the expedition, but expressly stipulating in writing that they would not be employed against England or France, and giving them a general verbal assurance that they would speedily make their fortunes. In this he was sincere, for he took his son from college and sent him with Miranda. Smith had employed John Fink, a Bowery butcher, to engage men who could serve on horseback. Fink enlisted twenty-three at fifteen dollars a month, and fifteen more as a bounty. They were not to be taken out of the territory of the United States. Some of them were told that the President was raising a mounted guard; others, that they were to guard the mail from Washington to New Orleans. One of Fink’s papers was shown on the trial, indorsed, “Muster-Roll for the President’s Guard.” Smith had furnished the bounty-money, but it did not appear that he had authorized these misrepresentations of Fink, who developed a talent in this business which forty years later would have made his fortune as an emigrant-runner. Abundant proofs of the purchase of military clothing, arms, powder, shot, and cannon were produced.

The Counsel for Colonel Smith, unable to get the connivance of the Administration before the Jury in the shape of evidence, coolly assumed it as established, and urged it in defence of their client. They used his memorial to Congress as their brief, enlarged upon the arbitrary conduct of the Judge in the examinations and upon the tyrannical interference of the President with their witnesses. As Mr. Emmet cleverly and classically remarked, quoting from Tacitus’s description of the funeral of Junia, “Perhaps their very absence rendered them more decided witnesses in our favor.” They also maintained that the Act of 1794, under which the prisoner was indicted, did not prohibit an enterprise of this character. Even if it did, no proof existed that this expedition was organized in New York. On the contrary, it was known that Miranda had gone hence to Jacquemel, and had made his preparations there, in a port out of our jurisdiction.

This point made, they boldly went a step farther, and declared that the United States were actually at war with Spain. The affair of the Kempers, and of Flanagan in Louisiana, the obstruction of the Mobile Kiver, the depredations upon our commerce by Spanish privateers, were sufficient proof of a state of war. We had a right to meet force by force. The President must have been of this opinion, else he could not have violated his trust by authorizing this expedition.

The case for the defence, considered in a logical point of view, was desperate; but no case is desperate before a Jury; and when Mr. Colden, Mr. Hoffman, and Mr. Emmet had each in his own peculiar mode of eloquence appealed to the Jury to protect their client, already punished by removal from his place, without a trial or even a hearing, for an offence committed with, the sanction of his superior officers,–when they compared this State prosecution to the attempts made by despotic European governments to crush innocent men by the machinery of law, and asserted that it was instituted solely to gratify the malice of the King of Spain, a bitter enemy to the United States,–and when they enlarged upon the grandeur of an undertaking to give liberty to the down-trodden victims of Colonial tyranny, comparing Miranda and his friends to our own Revolutionary heroes, there could be but little doubt of the verdict. But there was an uneasy feeling after the District Attorney had closed. He demolished with ease the arguments of the other side, for not one of them had sufficient strength to stand alone. Smith’s perpetual excuse, that he had been led astray by the belief of connivance in Washington, was preposterous. If he had been anxious to know the sentiments of Government on the subject, he might at any time within six days have ascertained whether Miranda told him truth or not. He spoke of the cruelty and reckless folly of all such attempts upon a neighboring people; asked the Jury how they would like to see an armed force landed upon our shores to take part with one or the other of the great political parties; and closed with a few strong words, as true at this day as then:–“If you acquit the defendant, you say to the world that the United States have renounced the law of nations,–that they permit their citizens not only to violate their own laws with impunity, but to invade the people of other countries with hostile force in a time of peace, as avarice, ambition, or the thought of plunder may dictate. Such a decision would justify the acts of the pirate on the ocean, and would sink our national character to the barbarism of savage tribes.”

The Jury were out two hours, and brought in a verdict of not guilty, which gave great satisfaction to Federal editors. A few days afterward, Mr. Ogden was acquitted.[1]

[Footnote 1: Mr. Jefferson, after the expiration of his second term, wrote to Don Valentino de Fornonda as follows:–

“Your predecessor [Yrujo] wished it to be believed that we were in unjustifiable cooeperation in Miranda’s expedition.

“I solemnly and on my personal truth and honor declare to you that this was entirely without foundation, and that there was neither cooeperation nor connivance on our part. He informed us he was about to attempt the liberation of his native country from bondage, and intimated a hope of our aid, or connivance at least. He was at once informed, that, though we had great cause of complaint against Spain, and even of war, yet, whenever we should think proper to act as her enemy, it should be openly and aboveboard, and that our hostility should never be exercised by such petty means. We had no suspicion that he expected to engage men here, but merely to purchase military stores. Against this there was no law, nor, consequently, any authority for us to interpose. On the other hand, we deemed it improper to betray his voluntary communication to the agents of Spain. Although his measures were many days in preparation at New York, we never had the least intimation or suspicion of his engaging men in his enterprise until he was gone; and I presume that the secrecy of his proceedings kept them equally unknown to the Marquis Yrujo and to the Spanish Consul at New York, since neither of them gave us any information of the enlistment of men until it was too late for any measures taken at Washington to prevent their departure.”]

This is a brief account of the first filibuster-trial in the United States. Other heroes of this profession, compared with whom Smith and Ogden were spotless, have since come before our courts only to be turned loose upon the world again. No other result is to be anticipated. It is an established principle with our fellow-citizens, that no man is happy, or ought to be, who lives under any other system of government than our own. Let a lawyer pronounce the magic formula, “Liberty to the oppressed,” or “Free institutions to the victims of despotism,” and, _presto!_–rascality is metamorphosed into merit. After all, it makes such a difference, when it is only our neighbor’s ox that is gored!

Here closed the first act of the expedition. Colonel Smith lost his office, and Mr. Ogden stopped payment. The passengers by the Leander fared worse. There were two hundred men on board: one hundred and twenty belonged to the ship; the others had been engaged by Smith and his agent Fink as officers, dragoons, printers, and armorers. With the exception of two or three, none of them had seen their commander or knew their destination. The officers, all gentlemen “of crooked fortunes,” supposed that they were sailing to enlarge the area of freedom somewhere in America; but what particular region of the Spanish dominions was to be subjected to this wholesome treatment they neither knew nor cared, provided they could improve their own financial condition. Both officers and privates were for the most part serviceable, steady men, worthy of a more efficient leader.

On the 12th of February, they were overhauled and searched by H.B.M. ship Cleopatra. Nineteen men with American protections were carried off in the frigate’s boat, and twelve native Americans taken out of prizes sent back to replace them. The Leander’s papers were examined and pronounced unsatisfactory. Miranda was obliged to go on board the Cleopatra, where he had a long private conversation with the captain. He returned with full liberty to proceed, and with a written pass to prevent detention or search by British cruisers. This adventure was made to give an air of respectability to the enterprise; and Miranda hinted to his suite that the English captain had promised to join him with his frigate. A day or two later, the Leander took other airs upon herself. Meeting a small Spanish schooner, laden with logwood, off the Haytian coast, Lewis fired into her, and ordered the captain on board with his papers, for the mere pleasure of exercising power. The Spaniard, as soon as he got back to his own craft, made the best of his way home and gave the first alarm.

On the 18th of February, they cast anchor at Jacquemel. Lewis went immediately to Port au-Prince, to engage the Emperor, a ship commanded by his brother, to join the expedition. Miranda remained behind to organize his followers. He at last announced to them that he intended to land near Caracas; the whole country would rise at his name; his brave Americans would form the nucleus and the heart of a great army; there was no Spanish force in the province to resist him. In a general order, “Parole, America; Countersign, Liberty,” he assigned to his officers their rank in the Columbian army, distributing them into the Engineers, Artillery, Dragoons, Riflemen, and Foot. Another general order, “Parole, Warren; Countersign, Bunker’s Hill,” fixed the uniforms of the different corps,–to be distinguished by blue, yellow, or green facings. All hands were set to work upon the crowded deck. Printers struck off proclamations and blank commissions in the name of “Don Francisco de Miranda, Commander-in-Chief of the Columbian Army”; carpenters made pike-handles; armorers repaired the arms bought in New York; (they had cost little, and were worth less;) the regimental tailor and his disciples stitched the gay facings upon the new uniforms; files of awkward fellows were put through the manual exercise by an old drill-sergeant; and the young gentlemen officers read diligently in treatises on war, or listened to the discourses of their general upon the noble art. In the midst of this stir of preparation, Lewis returned unsuccessful, without the ship Emperor; but Miranda seemed in no hurry to depart. He continued his lectures and his drilling until the 28th of March. At last he hoisted the new Columbian flag,–a tricolor, blue, yellow, and red,–fired a grand salute, and stood gallantly out of the harbor, where he had wasted six precious weeks.

Captain Lewis had chartered at Port-au-Prince the Bee, a small, unarmed schooner, and had bought the Bacchus, a vessel of the same class, last from Laguayra, whose captain and men disappeared mysteriously after their arrival at Jacquemel. Some of the Leander’s hands volunteered for the schooners, to get out of the crowded ship; others were forced on board, to make up a crew. The little fleet steered for Bonair, but, through the ignorance of their pilot, or of their captain, found themselves, after a ten-days’ cruise, seventy miles to leeward, off the Gulf of Venezuela. The Leander was a dull sailer; and, with the wind and current against her, it took them four days to beat up to the Island of Aruba, and seven more to reach Bonair. On the evening of the 27th of April, they were lying to off Puerto Cabello, preparing to land, and sure of success, when they made out two Spanish _guardacostas_ close in shore, beating up to windward. Miranda thought them unworthy of attention, and gave the order to stand in. But the pilot mistook the landmarks, owing to the darkness, and missed the point agreed upon for landing. The Bacchus was sent in to reconnoitre and did not return, although signals of recall were repeated throughout the night. About midnight signals were noticed passing between the fort at Puerto Cabello and the _guardacostas_; Captain Lewis beat to quarters, and kept his men at their guns until morning. At daybreak the Bacchus was seen close in shore, carrying a press of sail and closely pursued by the Spanish vessels. The Leander bore down with a flowing sheet upon the enemy, fired a few ineffective shot, and then, for some reason best known to her captain, or to Miranda, hauled on to the wind, and sailed away, leaving the schooners to take care of themselves. The _guardacostas_ soon took possession of both, and carried their prizes, with sixty prisoners, into Puerto Cabello,[1] before the eyes of their astonished and indignant comrades, who could not understand such a want of courage or conduct on the part of their chief.

[Footnote 1: The unfortunate men taken in the schooners were tried at Puerto Cabello for piracy. Ten officers were hanged, their heads cut off and stuck upon poles, and six of them sent to Caracas, two to Laguayra, and two set up at Puerto Cabello. The other prisoners were sentenced to the chain-gang. The execution took place on the 21st of July, the day before Smith was acquitted in New York.]

After this disaster, the Leander sailed for Bonair for water. Miranda still assumed a confident tone, and called a council of war to deliberate whether they should attempt a landing at Coro. The council decided, that, in view of the loss they had sustained, it would be advisable to make for Trinidad in search of reinforcements. With wind and tide against them, and a slow ship, the voyage was long. They were reduced to their last barrel of bread, when they fell in with the English sloop-of-war Lily, Captain Campbell, who was looking for Miranda, and who sent supplies of all kinds on board. On the 6th of June, they ran into Bridgetown, Barbadoes. Admiral Cochrane, who commanded on that station, gave Miranda every assistance in his power, and offered to put some of his smaller vessels under his orders, upon condition that all goods imported into the new state of Columbia in British bottoms should be assessed ten per cent, lower than the products of any other nation, except the United States. Miranda signed a formal agreement to this effect, and sailed for Trinidad, accompanied by H.B.M. ships Lily and Express, and the Trimmer, a transport schooner. Captain Lewis, whose repeated quarrels with Miranda had affected the discipline of the force, resigned at Barbadoes. He was succeeded by Captain Johnson, a daring fellow, who risked and lost life and property in this expedition.

The Governor of Trinidad, like all the English of the Gulf, was well disposed to aid in an attack on the Spanish Provinces. Eighty volunteers of all nations, most of them worthless fellows and candidates for a commission, joined the fleet at this place. Miranda was once more in high spirits. His army amounted to four hundred men, and he had secured the cooperation of the English. Success seemed certain. He issued a new proclamation to his followers, headed “To Victory and Wealth,” and set sail, accompanied by seven small British war-vessels and three transports.

On the 2d of August, the fleet anchored within nine miles of La Vela de Coro. The next day two hundred and ninety men were landed in the boats of the squadron. They were all “Mirandanians,” the English furnishing only the means of transportation and the necessary supplies. As the boats approached the shore, they were fired upon from the bushes which lined the beach. The Columbians jumped into the water and charged; the Spaniards retreated to a fort near the shore. This was carried, sword in hand,–the Spaniards leaping from the walls and flying in all directions. Miranda then formed his party, and marched to the town, a quarter of a mile distant, which was evacuated by the Spaniards with such precipitation that they left their cannon loaded. The inhabitants had fled, as well as the military, carrying off all their movable property. The Columbian colors were hoisted, flags of truce sent in all directions, the printed proclamations distributed about the neighboring country; but in vain; nobody appeared.

The same evening the Liberators marched twelve miles in a northwesterly direction to Coro. They arrived an hour before dawn, and found the town silent and deserted. Dividing themselves into two parties, they entered cautiously on opposite sides, for fear of an ambuscade,–but, unfortunately, when the detachments met in the Grand Plaza, they mistook each other, in the dusk of the morning, for the enemy, and fired. Miranda’s most efficient officer fell, shot through both thighs. One man was killed, and seven others badly wounded. Not a soul was found in the place, except those who were too old or too ill to move, and the occupants of the prison. The jailer presented himself, surrendered his keys, and informed the General that the Governor had forced the citizens to leave their homes. Miranda remained in the deserted town for five days, endeavoring, by the most alluring proclamations, to bring the inhabitants back. But it was useless. Not a man presented himself. He then lost heart, and, instead of advancing into the country, ordered a retreat to La Vela, and reembarked on the 19th.

Those he left behind in the Leander had been still more unfortunate. Captain Johnson had gone in the boats to a river three or four miles to the eastward, for water, and, while filling his casks, was set upon by a party of Spanish soldiers. He was killed, fighting bravely, with fifteen of his men. The remainder escaped with difficulty.

The discomfited invaders sailed for the Island of Aruba, where their English allies, pretty well satisfied that nothing could be done with this expedition, left them. Miranda landed his men and took formal possession of the island. He sent an ambassador to the Governor of the neighboring island of Curacoa, requesting him to surrender. This request was declined. He was equally unsuccessful in a mission to Jamaica, begging for assistance from Admiral Dacres. Dacres refused, on the ground that he had no orders from his Government.

Miranda remained at Aruba, drilling, issuing proclamations, and holding courts martial, until the want of provisions brought the enterprise to an end. An English ship-of-war, which touched at the island, offered him a safe means of escape. On the 29th of October, after a passage of twenty-five days, the Liberators arrived at Trinidad, and disbanded in disgrace. The blue and yellow uniforms they had worn with pride, as “Columbians,” on their last visit, were hastily laid aside to escape the scoff of the rabble, who jeered them as adventurers and merry-andrews. Miranda kept out of sight until he could get the opportunity of a passage to England. All his followers who could find means to quit the island made their way home as best they could. To conclude the business, the Leander was sold by order of the courts, and the few poor fellows who had remained by her received a small share of the proceeds. Nobody else was paid the smallest fraction of the sums the General had so liberally promised.

That a commander, safely landed with three hundred fighting men, in possession of Coro, whose peninsular situation might have afforded him an inexpugnable position, master of the sea, and backed by an English fleet, should have retreated, without effecting anything, from a country ripe for rebellion since the conspiracy of 1797, can be explained only in one way: he must have been ignorant of the real feelings of the people, and totally unfit to lead such an expedition. Miranda had what we may call a pretty talent for war. He had studied the principles of the art, and had seen some service. Excited by the splendid career of Washington, he, like a certain distinguished Frenchman, determined to imitate him and become the liberator of his country. When the Giant at a show bends the iron bar, it seems so easy that every strong man in the crowd thinks he can do as much, until he tries. It needs a Giant of the first class to handle a people in revolution. Miranda was not made of that kind of stuff. He was weak and inefficient, fond of mystery and pomp, easily affected by flattery, loving dearly to hear himself talk, and unable to control his temper. His incessant quarrels with Captain Lewis were one cause of the loss of the schooners off Puerto Cabello. A want of quickness and energy was felt in all his operations. Delays are proverbially dangerous, but in a _coup de main_ fatal. The time wasted by him at Jacquemel and at Aruba was employed by the Spaniards in making preparations for defence. They had few troops, and did not dare to trust the natives with arms, but they succeeded in persuading them that Miranda and his men were pagans and pirates, whose triumph would be ten times more insufferable than the rule of the mother country.

If Miranda was incompetent to carry out a liberating expedition, he had wonderful success in talking it up. For twenty years he had carried this project about with him in America and in Europe. It was elaborated to perfection in every part, and there were answers prepared to every objection. The new government was to be modelled upon the English Constitution,–an hereditary chief, to be called Inca,–a senate, nominated by the chief, composed of nobles, but not hereditary,–and a chamber elected by suffrage, limited by a property qualification. He had collected all the statistics of population and of trade, to show what commercial advantages the world might expect from a free South American government. And, “rising upon a wind of prophecy,” he already saw in the future a ship-canal across the Isthmus of Panama, and the Nicaragua route opened. He had laid these plans before Catharine of Russia, who gave him money to help them on. Mr. Pitt listened, promised him assistance in return for commercial privileges, and kept him in pay for years. The French Revolutionists were eager to furnish him with an army and a fleet. Rufus King, American Ambassador at London, sent word of the scheme to Hamilton and Knox, who both approved of it. Miranda seems to have made the same impression upon everybody. His extensive travels and acquaintance with distinguished men, his knowledge of facts, dates, and figures, his retentive and ready memory, his wonderful cleverness in persuading his hearers, are spoken of in the same terms by all. Dr. Rush wrote to a friend, that Miranda had dined with him, and had talked about European politics as if he had been “in the inside of all the kings and princes.” He might have been a second Count de St. Germain, if he had lived in the reign of Louis XIV., instead of in an era when men had abandoned the philosopher’s stone, and were seeking in politics for a new _magnum opus_, Constitutions, as the certain means of perfecting the human species.

Everybody was mistaken in him. Although he talked “like an angel,” in action he was worthless. If he had never undertaken to carry out his plans, he might have left an excellent reputation, and have remained in South American memory as the possible Father of his Country: _Capax imperii, nisi imperasset_. A short sketch of his career may be interesting, before we dismiss him again to the oblivion from which we have evoked him for this month.

Miranda entered the Spanish army in America at the age of seventeen, and was advanced to be Colonel, a grade seldom or never before reached by a Creole. He left the service before the close of the Revolutionary War, travelled in the United States, and was admitted to the society of Washington and of the leading men of the day. Here, his attainments, quickness, and insatiable curiosity attracted attention. He knew the topography and strategy of every battle fought during the war better than our officers who had been on the field, and soon made himself familiar with parties, and even with family connections in this country. His constant topic was the independence of South America. After the peace of 1783, Miranda went to England: Colonel Smith was then Secretary of John Adams, the American Minister, and the acquaintance between them began in London, which ended so disastrously twenty years later in New York. Leaving England, he travelled over Europe. At Cherson, he attracted the notice of Prince Potemkin, who presented him to the Empress at Kiew. In 1790, when the dispute about Nootka Sound[*] threatened to produce a war between Great Britain and Spain, he reappeared in London, and proposed to Mr. Pitt his scheme for revolutionizing the American Colonies. Pitt at once engaged his services, but Spain yielded, and the project could not be carried out. Miranda crossed to France, accepted a command in the Republican army, and served, with credit, in the Netherlands, under Dumouriez, until the Battle of Neerwinden. In November, 1792, the French rulers conceived the idea of revolutionizing Spain, both in Europe and in America. Brissot suggested Miranda as the fittest person for this purpose. He was to take twelve thousand troops of the line from St. Domingo, enlist, in addition, ten or fifteen thousand “_braves mulatres_,” and make a descent, with this force, upon the Main. “_Le nom de Miranda_,” wrote Brissot to Dumouriez, “_lui vaudra une armee; et ses talens, son courage, son genie, tout nous repond du succes_.” Monge, Gensonne, Claviere, Petion, were pleased with the plan, but Miranda started difficulties. The French system was too democratic for his taste, and the pressure of affairs in Europe soon turned the attention of Brissot and his friends in another direction.

[Footnote *: In May, 1789, the Spanish sloop-of-war Princesa seized four English vessels engaged in a trade with the natives of Vancouver’s Island, and took them into a Mexican port as prizes, on the ground that they had violated the Spanish Colonial laws. The English government denied the claim of Spain to those distant regions, and insisted upon ample satisfaction. The King of Spain was obliged to submit to avoid war, but the question of territory was left open.]

After the disastrous affair of Neerwinden, Miranda was accused of misconduct, arrested, and sent to Paris for trial, but was acquitted by the _Tribunal Revolutionnaire_, and conducted home in triumph. He was again imprisoned for _incivisme_, during the Reign of Terror, and did not recover his liberty until the general jail-delivery which followed the death of Robespierre. He was seized for the third time in 1797, by the Directory, as an adherent of the Pichegru faction, and banished from France.

In January, 1798, Mr. Pitt again sent for Miranda, and a new plan was arranged for the emancipation of South America. On this occasion, the cooeperation of the United States was confidently relied upon. Both Pitt and our own rulers foresaw that Spain must inevitably fall a prey to France, and that the whole of her American possessions would probably share her fate. Our relations with France were in so critical a condition, that we were making preparations for defence; and it was, of course, of the highest importance to our safety, that the Floridas and Louisiana should not fall into the hands of a powerful enemy. It was proposed, consequently, to form a commercial and defensive alliance between England, the United States, and South America. We were to get the Floridas and Louisiana to the Mississippi, and in return to furnish a land-force of ten thousand men. Great Britain would provide the fleet, in consideration of certain important advantages in trade. Miranda kept his friends in the United States fully advised of the progress of affairs. Hamilton and Knox were in favor of the project, provided war were declared. Our provisional army might then have played a brilliant part. But there was no war. President Adams refused to listen to Miranda’s communications, and patched up our difficulties with France. Nothing was done by the English.

In 1801 Lord Sidmouth revived Miranda’s hopes, but the Peace of Amiens put a stop to the preparations. In 1804 Mr. Pitt was again at the head of affairs, and renewed his intercourse with Miranda. Orders were given to prepare ships and to enrol men, when the hopes of the third coalition again suspended the execution of the project.

It was after this last blow from Fortune that Miranda came to New York and fitted out the expedition we have undertaken to describe. His disastrous failure seemed neither to destroy his hopes, nor to shake the confidence of his English friends in his pretensions. When he returned to England from Trinidad, he found ministers prepared to embark with energy in the South American scheme. This time a fleet and an army were really assembled at Cork, and Sir Arthur Wellesley was to command them,–when the Spanish Revolution broke out, altered at once the face of affairs in Europe, and turned Sir Arthur and his army toward Portugal, to begin that brilliant series of campaigns which drove the French out of the Peninsula.

Few men fix their minds pertinaciously upon an object, and adhere to the pursuit through life, without at least a partial attainment of it. Miranda, the victim of so many bitter disappointments, at last found himself for a few months in the position he had so often dreamed of. When the news of the fall of Seville, and of the dispersion of the Junta who governed in the name of Ferdinand VII., reached South America, open rebellion broke out at Caracas. King Joseph Bonaparte had sent over a proclamation, imploring his trusty and well-beloved South Americans to come to his paternal arms,–or, if they would not do that, at least to set up a government for themselves, and not take part with Ferdinand and England. His emissaries were hunted down and hanged, wherever caught. Revolutionary Juntas were established all over the country. On the 19th of April, 1810, the American Confederation of Venezuela, in Congress assembled, undertook to rule in the name of Ferdinand VII., but in reality as an independent government. Miranda was called to the command of the native army. On the 5th of July, 1811, the Congress published their Declaration of Independence, and a Constitution, both of them remarkable state-papers. In point of liberality of sentiment and elegance of style they will bear comparison with our own celebrated documents of ’76 and ’87. Indeed, in all these Spanish political plays, the plot has been good, the text admirable, but the actors so poor as to spoil the piece. So it fell out in Venezuela. At first the Patriots were successful; Miranda defeated the Royalists and took Valencia. The principal towns fell into the hands of the insurgents. Then, came the terrible earthquake of 1812, which not only shattered the resources of the Patriots, but was skilfully used by the Church as a proof that Providence had taken sides against the rebels. Monteverde, the Spanish general, recaptured Valencia. Congress placed the dictatorship with unlimited power in Miranda’s hands, but he was not the man for desperate situations. On the 6th of July, the Royalists took Puerto Cabello; Caracas fell on the 28th; and Miranda, betrayed by his own party into the hands of the Spaniards, was sent a prisoner to Cadiz in October. Simon Bolivar and others, men of different mettle, regained all that had been lost, and cut loose the Colonies from Spain. From California to Cape Horn the inestimable system of self-government was established. According to the theory, the South Americans should have been prosperous and happy; but, unfortunately, the result has been murder, robbery, and general ruin. The burden of taking care of one’s self, which the North American had the strength to bear, has crushed the poor half-caste Spaniard. There are persons who assert that a political regimen which agrees so well with us must therefore be good for all others. It may be instructive to such believers in system to compare Humboldt’s narrative of the cultivation shown by the great Colonial Universities of Mexico, Quito, and Lima, of the pleasing Creole society that entertained him, and the peaceful quiet and security he noticed throughout country, with the relations of modern travellers or newspaper-correspondents who visit those semi-barbarous regions.

Don Francisco de Miranda did not live to hear of the freedom of his “Columbia.” Before the close of the year 1812 he died in prison, at Cadiz. Thus perished the most gentlemanlike of filibusters, since the days when Jason sailed in the Argo to extend the blessing of Greek institutions over Colchis and to appropriate the Golden Fleece.

* * * * *




Colonel Sprowle’s family arose late the next morning. The fatigues and excitements of the evening and the preparation for it were followed by a natural collapse, of which somnolence was a leading symptom. The sun shone into the window at a pretty well opened angle when the Colonel first found himself sufficiently awake to address his yet slumbering spouse.

“Sally!” said the Colonel, in a voice that was a little husky,–for he had finished off the evening with an extra glass or two of “Madary,” and had a somewhat rusty and headachy sense of renewed existence, on greeting the rather advanced dawn,–“Sally!”