This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1888
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

good-humoured hustling and confusion. Suddenly in the midst of the uproar an ominous cracking was heard, and in the next minute the hustings swayed and came down with a crash, heaping together in a confused mass all the two or three hundreds of human beings who were on the huge platform. Some few were badly hurt. But my brother and I being young and active, and tolerably stout fellows, soon extricated ourselves, regained our legs, and found that we were none the worse. Then we began to look to our neighbours. And the first who came to hand was a priest, a little man, who was lying with two or three fellows on the top of him, horribly frightened and roaring piteously for help. So Anthony took hold of one of his arms and I of the other, and by main force dragged him from under the superincumbent mass of humanity. When we got him on his legs his gratitude was unbounded. “Tell me your names,” he shouted, “that I’ll pray for ye!” We told him laughingly that we were afraid it was no use, for we were heretics. “Tell me your names,” he shouted again, “that I’ll pray for ye all the more!”

I wonder whether he ever did! He certainly was very much in earnest while the fright was on him.

Not very long after my return from this Irish trip, we finally left Penrith on the 3rd of April, 1843; and I trust that the nymph of the holy well, whose spring we had disturbed, was appeased.

My mother and I had now “the world before us where to choose.” She had work in hand, and more in perspective. I also had some in hand and very much more in perspective, but it was work of a nature that might be done in one place as well as another. So when “Carlton Hill” (all of a sudden the name comes back to my memory!) was sold, we literally stood with no _impedimenta_ of any sort save our trunks, and absolutely free to turn our faces in whatsoever direction we pleased.

What we did in the first instance was to turn them to the house of our old and well-beloved cousin, Fanny Bent, at Exeter. There after a few days we persuaded her to accompany us to Ilfracombe, where we spent some very enjoyable summer weeks. What I remember chiefly in connection with that pleasant time, was idling rambles over the rocks and the Capstone Hill, in company with Mrs. Coker and her sister Miss Aubrey, the daughters of that Major A. who needs to the whist-playing world no further commemoration. The former of them was the wife and mother of Wykehamists (founder’s kin), and both were very charming women. Ilfracombe was in those days an unpretending sort of fishing village. There was no huge “Ilfracombe Hotel,” and the Capstone Hill was not strewed with whitey-brown biscuit bags and the fragments of bottles, nor continually vocal with nigger minstrels and ranting preachers. The “Royal Clarence” did exist in the little town, whether under that name or not, I forget. But I can testify from experience, acquired some forty years afterwards, that Mr. and Mrs. Clemow now keep there one of the best inns of its class, that I, no incompetent expert in such matters, know in all England.

Then, when the autumn days began to draw in, we returned to Exeter, and many a long consultation was held by my mother and I, sallying forth from Fanny Bent’s hospitable house for a _tete-a-tete_ stroll on Northernhay, on the question of “What next?”

It turned out to be a more momentous question than we either of us imagined it to be at the time; for the decision of it involved the shape and form of the entire future life of one of us, and still more important modification of the future life of the other. Dresden was talked of. Rome was considered. Paris was thought of. Venice was discussed. No one of them was proposed as a future permanent home. Finally Florence came on the _tapis_. We had liked it much, and had formed some much valued friendships there. It was supposed to be economical as a place to live in, which was one main point. For our plan was to make for ourselves for two or three years a home and way of living sufficiently cheap to admit of combining with it large plans of summer travel. And eventually Florence was fixed on.

As for my mother, it turned out that she was then selecting her last and final home–though the end was not, thank God, for many a long year yet. As for me, the decision arrived at during those walks on Exeter Northernhay, was more momentous still. For I was choosing the road that led not only to my home for the next half century nearly, but to two marriages, both of them so happy in all respects as rarely to have fallen to the lot of one and the same man!

How little we either of us, my mother and I, saw into the future–beyond a few immediate inches before our noses! Truly _prudens futuri temporis exitum caliginosa nocte premit Deus!_ And when I hear talk of “conduct making fate,” I often think–humbly and gratefully, I trust; marvelling, certainly,–how far it could have _a priori_ seemed probable, that the conduct of a man who, without either _oes in presenti_, or any very visible prospect of _oes in futuro_, turns aside from all the beaten paths of professional industry should have led him to a long life of happiness and content, hardly to be surpassed, and, I should fear, rarely equalled. _Deus nobis haec otia fecit!–Deus_, by the intromission of one rarely good mother, and two rarely good, and I may add rarely gifted, wives!

Not that I would have the reader translate “_otia_” by idleness. I have written enough to show that my life hitherto had been a full and active one. And it continued in Italy to be an industrious one. Translate the word rather into “independence.” For I worked at work that I liked, and did no taskwork. Nevertheless, I would not wish to be an evil exemplar, _vitiis imitabile_, and I don’t recommend you, dear boys, to do as I did. I have been quite abnormally fortunate.

Well, we thought that we were casting the die of fate on a very subordinate matter, while, lo! it was cast for us by the Supernal Powers after a more far-reaching and over-ruling fashion.

So on the 2nd of September, 1843, we turned our faces southwards and left London for Florence.

We became immediately on arriving in Firenze la gentile (after a little tour in Savoy, introduced as an interlude after our locomotive rambling fashion) the guests of Lady Bulwer, who then inhabited in the Palazzo Passerini an apartment far larger than she needed, till we could find a lodging for ourselves.

We had become acquainted with Lady Bulwer in Paris, and a considerable intimacy arose between her and my mother, whose nature was especially calculated to sympathise with the good qualities which Lady Bulwer unquestionably possessed in a high degree. She was brilliant, witty, generous, kind, joyous, good-natured, and very handsome. But she was wholly governed by impulse and unreasoning prejudice; though good-natured, was not always good-humoured; was totally devoid of prudence or judgment, and absolutely incapable of estimating men aright. She used to think me, for instance, little short of an admirable Crichton!

Of course all the above rehearsed good qualities were, or were calculated to be, immediately perceived and appreciated, while the less pleasant specialties which accompanied them were of a kind to become more perceptible only in close intimacy. And while no intimacy ever lessened that regard of my mother and myself that had been won by the first, it was not long before we were both, my mother especially, vexed by exhibitions of the second.

As, for instance:–Lady Bulwer had for some days been complaining of feeling unwell, and was evidently suffering. My mother urged her to have some medical advice, whereupon she turned on her very angrily, while the tears started to her beautiful eyes, and said, “How _can_ you tell me to do any such thing, when you know that I have not a guinea for the purpose?” (She was frequently wont to complain of her poverty.) But she had hardly got the words out of her mouth when the servant entered the room saying that the silversmith was at the door asking that the account which he laid on the table might be paid. The account (which Lady Bulwer made no attempt to conceal, for concealment of anything was not at all in her line) was for a pair of small silver spurs and an ornamented silver collar which she had ordered a week or two previously for the _ceremonial knighting of her little dog Taffy_!

On another occasion a large party of us were to visit the Boboli Gardens. It was a very hot day, and we had to climb the hill to the upper part of the gardens, from whence the view over Florence and the Val d’Arno is a charming one. But the hill, as those who have been at Florence will not have forgotten, is not only an extremely steep, but a shadeless one. The broad path runs between two wide margins of turf, which are enclosed on either side by thick but not very high shrubberies. The party sorted themselves into couples, and the men addressed themselves to facilitating as best they might the not slightly fatiguing work before the ladies. It fell to my lot to give Lady Bulwer my arm. Before long we were the last and most lagging couple on the path. It was hard work, but I did my best, and flattered myself that my companion, despite the radical moisture which she was copiously losing, was in high good humour, as indeed she seemed to be, when suddenly, without a word of warning, she dashed from the path, threw herself prone among the bushes, and burst into an uncontrollable fit of sobs and weeping. I was horrified with amazement. What had I done, or what left undone? It was long before I could get a word out of her. At last she articulated amidst her sobs, “It is TOO hot! It is cruel to bring one here!” Yes, it was _too_ hot; but that was all. Fortunately I was not the cruel bringer. I consoled her to the best of my power, and induced her to wipe her eyes. I dabbled a handkerchief in a neighbouring fountain for her to wash her streaked face, and eventually I got her to the top of the hill, where all the others had long since arrived.

The incident was entirely characteristic of her. She was furiously angry with all things in heaven above and on the earth below because she was at the moment inconvenienced.

Here is the beginning of a letter from her of a date some months anterior to the Boboli adventure:

“Illustrissimo Signor Tommaso” (that was the usual style of her address to me), “as your book is just out you must feel quite _en train_ for puffs of any description. Therefore I send you the best I have seen for a long while, _La Physiologie du Fumeur_. But even if you don’t like it, _don’t_ put it in your pipe and smoke it. _Vide_ Joseph Fume.”

A little subsequently she writes: “Signor Tommaso, the only revenge I shall take for your lecture” (probably on the matter of some outrageous extravagance) “is not to call you _illustrissimo_ and not to send you an illuminated postillion” (a previous letter having been ornamented with such a decoration at the top of the sheet), “but let you find your way to Venice in the dark as you can, and then and there, ‘On the Rialto I will rate you,’ and, being a man, you know there is no chance of my _over-rating_ you.”

The following passage from the same letter refers to some negotiations with which she had entrusted me relative to some illustrations she was bent on having in a forthcoming book she was about to publish:–“As for the immortal Cruikshank, tell him that I am sure the mighty genius which conceived Lord Bateman could not refuse to give any lady the _werry best_, and if he does I shall pass the rest of my life registering a similar _wow_ to that of the fair Sophia, and exclaiming, ‘I vish, George Cruikshank, as you vas mine.'”

The rest of the long, closely-written four-paged letter is an indiscriminate and bitter, though joking attack, upon the race of publishers. She calls Mr. Colburn an “embodied shiver,” which will bring a smile to the lips of those–few, I fear–who remember the little man.

Here are some extracts from a still longer letter written to my mother much about the same time: “I hear Lady S—- has committed another novel, called _The Three Peers_, no doubt _l’un pire que l’autre_!… I have a great many kind messages to you from that very charming person Madame Recamier, who fully intends meeting you at Venice with Chateaubriand in October, for so she told me on Sunday. I met her at Miss Clarke’s some time ago, and as I am a bad _pusher_ I am happy to say she asked to be introduced to me, and was, thanks to you, my kind friend! She pressed me to go and see her, which I have done two or three times, and am going to do again at her amiable request on Thursday. I think that her fault is that she flatters a little too much. And flattery to one whose ears have so long been excoriated by abuse does not sound safe. However, all is right when she speaks of you. And the point she most eulogised in you is that which I have heard many a servile coward who could never go and do likewise” [no indication is to be found either in this letter or elsewhere to whom she alludes], “select for the same purpose, namely, your straightforward, unflinching, courageous integrity…. Balzac is furious at having his new play suppressed by Thiers, in which Arnauld acted Louis Philippe, wig and all, to the life; but, as I said to M. Dupin, ‘_Cest tout naturel que M. Thiers ne permetterait a personne de jouer Louis Philippe que lui-meme._’ … There is a wonderful pointer here that has been advertised for sale for twelve hundred francs. A friend of mine went to see him, and after mounting up to a little garret about the size of a chessboard, _au vingt-septieme_, he interrogated the owner as to the dog’s education and acquirements, to which the man replied, ‘_Pour ca, monsieur, c’est un chien parfait. Je lui ai tout appris moi-meme dans ma chambre_'[1] After this my friend did not sing ‘Together let us range the fields!’ … Last week I met Colonel Potter M’Queen, who was warm in his praises of you, and the great good your _Michael Armstrong_” (the factory story) “had done…. Last Thursday despatches arrived and Lord Granville had to start for London at a moment’s notice. I was in hopes this beastly ministry were out! But no such luck! For they are a compound of glue, sticking-plaister, wax, and vice–the most adhesive of all known mixtures.”

[Footnote 1: “As for that, sir, the dog is perfect. I have myself taught him everything _in my own room_!”]

Before concluding my recollections of Rosina, Lady Lytton Bulwer, I think it right to say that I consider myself to have perfectly sufficient grounds for feeling certain that the whispers which were circulated in a cowardly and malignant fashion against the correctness of her conduct as a woman were wholly unfounded. Her failings and tendency to failings lay in a quite different direction. I knew perfectly well the person whose name was mentioned scandalously in connection with hers, and knew the whole history of the relationship that existed between them. The gentleman in question was for years Lady Bulwer’s constant and steadfast friend. It is quite true that he would fain have been something more, but true also that his friendship survived the absolute rejection of all warmer sentiments by the object of it. It was almost a matter of course that such a woman as Lady Bulwer, living unprotected in the midst of such a society as that of Florence in those days, should be so slandered. And were it not that there were very few if any persons at the time, and I think certainly not one still left, able to speak upon the subject with such _connaissance de cause_ as I can, I should not have alluded to it.

She was an admirably charming companion before the footlights of the world’s stage–not so uniformly charming behind its scenes, for her unreasonableness always and her occasional violence were very difficult to deal with. But she was, as Dickens’s poor Jo says in _Bleak House_, “werry good to me!”


After some little time and trouble we found an apartment in the Palazzo Berti, in the ominously named Via dei Malcontenti. It was so called because it was at one time the road to the Florentine Tyburn. Our house was the one next to the east end of the church of Santa Croce. Our rooms looked on to a large garden, and were pleasant enough. We witnessed from our windows the building of the new steeple of Santa Croce, which was completed before we left the house.

It was built in great measure by an Englishman, a Mr. Sloane, a fervent Catholic, who was at that time one of the best-known figures in the English colony at Florence.

He was a large contributor to the recently completed facade of the Duomo in Florence, and to many other benevolent and pietistic good works. He had been tutor in the Russian Boutourlin family, and when acting in that capacity had been taken, by reason of his geological acquirements, to see some copper mines in the Volterra district, which the Grand Duke had conceded to a company under whose administration they were going utterly to the bad. Sloane came, saw, and eventually conquered. In conjunction with Horace Hall, the then well known and popular partner in the bank of Signor Emanuele Fenzi (one of whose sons married an English wife, and is still my very good and forty years old friend), he obtained a new concession of the mines from the Grand Duke on very favourable terms, and by the time I made his acquaintance had become a wealthy man. I fancy the Halls, Horace and his much esteemed brother Alfred (who survived him many years, and was the father of a family, one of the most respected and popular of the English colony during the whole of my Florence life), subsequently considered themselves to have been shouldered out of the enterprise by a certain unhandsome treatment on the part of the fortunate tutor. What may have been the exact history of the matter I do not know. But I do know that Sloane always remained on very intimate terms with the Grand Duke, and was a power in the inmost circles of the ecclesiastic world.

He used to give great dinners on Friday, the principal object of which seemed to be to show how magnificent a feast could be given without infringing by a hair’s breadth the rule of the Church. And admirably he succeeded in showing how entirely the spirit and intention of the Church in prescribing a fast could be made of none effect by a skilfully-managed observance of the letter of its law.

The only opportunity I ever had of conversing with Cardinal Wiseman was in Casa Sloane. And what I chiefly remember of His Eminence was his evident annoyance at the ultra-demonstrative zeal of the female portion of the mixed Catholic and Protestant assembly, who _would_ kneel and kiss his hand. A schoolmaster meeting boys in society, who, instantly on his appearance should begin unbuttoning their brace buttons behind, would hardly appreciate the recognition more gratefully.

Within a very few weeks of our establishment in Casa Berti my mother’s home became, as usual, a centre of attraction and pleasant intercourse, and her weekly Friday receptions were always crowded. If I were to tell everything of what I remember in connection with those days, I should produce such a book as _non di, non homines, non concessere columnae_–a book such as neither publishers, nor readers, nor the _columns_ of the critical journals would tolerate, and should fill my pages with names, which, however interesting they may still be for me, would hardly have any interest for the public, however gentle or pensive.

One specialty, and that not a pleasant one, of a life so protracted as mine has been in the midst of such a society as that of Florence in those days, is the enormous quantity of the names which turn the tablets of memory into palimpsests, not twice, but fifty times written over!–unpleasant, not from the thronging _in_ of the motley company, but from the inevitable passing _out_ of them from the field of vision. One’s recollections come to resemble those of the spectator of a phantasmagoric show. Processions of heterogeneous figures, almost all of them connected in some way or other with more or less pleasant memories, troop across the magic circle of light, only, alack! to vanish into uttermost night when they pass beyond its limit. Of course all this is inevitable from the migratory nature of such a society as that which was gathered together on the banks of the Arno.

Some fixtures–comparatively fixtures–of course there were, who gave to our moving quicksand-like society some degree of cohesion.

Chief among these was of course the British minister–at the time of our arrival in Florence, and many years afterwards–Lord Holland. A happier instance of the right man in the right place could hardly be met with. At his great _omnium-gatherum_ dinners and receptions–his hospitality was of the most catholic and generous sort–both he and Lady Holland (how pretty she then was there is her very clever portrait by Watts to testify) never failed to win golden opinions from all sorts and conditions of men and women. And in the smaller circle, which assembled in their rooms yet more frequently, they showed to yet greater advantage, for Lord Holland was one of the most amusing talkers I ever knew.

Of course many of those who ought to have been grateful for their admission to the minister’s large receptions were discontented at not being invited to the smaller ones. And it was by some of these malcontents with more wit than reason, that Lady Holland was accused of receiving in two very distinct fashions–_en menage_ and _en menagerie_. The _mot_ was a successful one, and nobody was more amused by it than the _spirituelle_ lady of whom it was said. It was too happy a _mot_ not to have been stolen by divers pilferers of such articles, and adapted to other persons and other occasions. But it was originally spoken of the time, place, and person here stated to have been the object of it.

Generally, in such societies in foreign capitals, a fruitful source of jealousy and discord is found in the necessary selection of those to be presented at the court of the reigning sovereign. But this, as far as I remember, was avoided in those halcyon days by the simple expedient of presenting all who desired it. And that Lord Holland _was_ the right man in the right place as regards this matter the following anecdote will show.

When Mr. Hamilton became British minister at Florence, it was announced that his intention was, for the avoiding of all trouble and jealousy on the subject, to adhere strictly to the proper and recognised rule. He would present everybody and anybody who had been presented at home, and nobody who had not been so presented. And he commenced his administration on these lines, and the Grand Duke’s receptions at the Pitti became notably weeded. But this had not gone, on for more than two or three weeks before it was whispered in the minister’s ear that the Grand Duke would be pleased if he were less strict in the matter of his presentations. “Oh!” said Hamilton, “that’s what he wants! _A la bonne heure!_ He shall have them all, rag, tag, and bobtail.” And so we returned to the _Saturnia regna_ of “the good old times,” and the Duke was credibly reported to have said that he “kept the worst drawing-room in Europe.” But, of course, His Highness was thinking of the pockets of his liege Florentine letters of apartments and tradesmen, and was anxious only to make his city a favourite place of resort for the gold-bringing foreigners from that distant and barbarous western isle. The Pope, you see, had the pull in the matter of gorgeous Church ceremonies, but he couldn’t have the fertilising barbarians dancing in the Vatican once a week!

One more anecdote I must find room for, because it is curiously illustrative in several ways of those _tempi passati, che non tornano piu_. Florence was full of refugees from the political rigours of the papal government, who had for some time past found there an unmolested refuge. But the aspect of the times was becoming more and more alarming to Austria, and the _Duchini_, as we called the Sovereigns of Modena and Parma; and pressure was put on the Duke by the pontifical government insisting on the demand that these refugees should be given up by Tuscany. Easy-going Tuscany, not yet in anywise alarmed for herself, fought off the demand for a while, but was at last driven to notify her intention of acceding to it. It was in these circumstances that Massino d’Azeglio came to me one morning, in the garden of our house in the Via del Giglio–the same in which the poet Milton lodged when he was in Florence–to which we had by that time moved, and told me that he wanted me to do something for him. Of course I professed all readiness, and he went on to tell me of the critical and dangerous position in which the refugees of whom I have spoken were placed, and said that I must go to Lord Holland and ask him to give them British passports. He urged that nothing could be easier, that no objection could possibly be taken to it; that the Tuscan government was by no means desirous of giving up these men, and would only be too glad to get out of it; that England both at Malta and in the Ionian Islands had plenty of Italian subjects–and in short, I undertook the mission, I confess with very small hopes of success. Lord Holland laughed aloud when I told my tale, and said he thought it was about the most audacious request that had ever been made to a British minister. But he ended by granting it. Doubtless he knew very well the truth of what d’Azeglio had stated–that the Tuscan government would be much too well pleased to ask any questions; and the passports were given.

It was not long after our establishment in the Via dei Malcontenti that a great disaster came upon Florence and its inhabitants and guests. Arno was not in the habit of following the evil example of the Tiber by treating Florence as the latter so frequently did Rome. But in the winter of the year 1844 a terrible and unprecedented flood came. The rain fell in such torrents all one night that it was feared that the Arno, already much swollen, would not be able to carry off the waters with sufficient rapidity. I went out early in the morning before breakfast, in company with a younger brother of the Dr. Nicholson of Penrith whom I have mentioned, who happened to be visiting us. We climbed to the top of Giotto’s tower, and saw at once the terrible extent and very serious character of the misfortune. One-third, at least, of Florence, was under water, and the flood was rapidly rising. Coming down from our lofty observatory, we made our way to the “Lung’ Arno,” as the river quays are called. And there the sight was truly a terrible and a magnificent one. The river, extending in one turbid, yellow, swirling mass from the walls of the houses on the quay on one side, to those of the houses opposite, was bringing down with it fragments of timber, carcases of animals, large quantities of hay and straw;–and amid the wreck we saw a cradle with a child in it, safely navigating the tumbling waters! It was drawn to the window of a house by throwing a line over it, and the infant navigator was none the worse.

But very great fears were entertained for the very ancient Ponte Vecchio, with its load of silversmiths’ and jewellers’ shops, turning it from a bridge into a street–the only remaining example in Europe, I believe, of a fashion of construction once common. The water continued to rise as we stood watching it. Less than a foot of space yet remained between the surface of the flood and the keystone of the highest arch; and it was thought that if the water rose sufficiently to beat against the solid superstructure of the bridge, it must have been swept away. But at last came the cry from those who were watching it close at hand, that for the last five minutes the surface had been stationary; and in another half hour it was followed by the announcement that the flood had begun to decrease. Then there was an immense sensation, of relief; for the Florentines love their old bridge; and the crowd began to disperse.

All this time I had had not a mouthful of breakfast, and we betook ourselves to Doney’s _bottega_ to get a cup of coffee before going home. But when we attempted this we found that it was more easily said than done. The Via dei Malcontenti as well as the whole of the Piazza di Santa Croce was some five feet under water! We succeeded, however, in getting aboard a large boat, which was already engaged in carrying bread to the people in the most deeply flooded parts of the town. But all difficulty was not over. Of course the street door of the Palazzo Berti was shut, and no earthly power could open it. Our apartment was on the second floor. Our landlord’s family occupied the _primo_. Of course I could get in at their windows and then go up stairs. And we had a ladder in the boat; but the mounting to the first floor by this ladder, placed on the little deck of the boat, as she was rocked by the torrent, was no easy matter, especially for me, who went first. Eventually, however, Nicholson and I both entered the window, hospitably opened to receive us, in safety.

But it was one or two days before the flood subsided sufficiently for us to be provisioned in any other manner than by the boat; and for long years afterwards social events were dated in Florence as having happened “before or after the flood.” In those days, and for many days subsequently to them, Florence did indeed–as I have observed when speaking of the motives which induced us to settle there–join to its other attractions that of being an economical place of residence. Our money consisted of piastres, pauls, and crazie. Eight of the latter were equal to a paul, ten of which were equivalent to a piastre. The value of the paul was, as nearly as possible, equal to fivepence-halfpenny English. The lira–the original representative of the leading denomination of our own _l.s.d._–no longer existed in–the flesh I was going to say, but rather in–the metal. And it is rather curious, that just as the guinea remained, and indeed remains, a constantly-used term of speech after it has ceased to exist as current coin, so the scudo remained, in Tuscany, no longer visible or current, but retained as an integer in accounts of the larger sort. If you bought or sold house or land, for instance, you talked of scudi. In more every-day matters piastre or “francesconi” were the integers used, the latter being only a synonym for the former. And the proportion in value of the scudo and the piastre was exactly the same as that of the guinea and the sovereign, the former being worth ten and a half pauls, and the latter ten. The handsomest and best preserved coin ordinarily current was the florin, worth two pauls and a half. Gold we rarely saw, but golden sequins (_zecchini_) were in existence, and were traditionally used, as it was said, for I have no experience in the matter, in the payment by the government of prizes won in the lottery.

Now, after this statement the reader will be in a position to appreciate the further information that a flask of excellent Chianti, of a quality rarely met with nowadays, was ordinarily sold for one paul. The flask contained (legal measure) seven troy pounds weight of liquid, or about three bottles. The same sum purchased a good fowl in the market. The subscription (_abbuonamento_) to the Pergola, the principal theatre, came to exactly two crazie and a half for each night of performance. This price admitted you only to the pit, but as you were perfectly free to enter any box in which there were persons of your acquaintance, the admission in the case of a bachelor, permanently or temporarily such, was all that was necessary to him. And the price of the boxes was small in proportion.

These boxes were indeed the drawing-rooms in which very much of the social intercourse of the _beau monde_ was carried on. The performances were not very frequently changed (two operas frequently running through an entire season), and people went four or five times a week to hear, or rather to be present at, the same representation. And except on first nights or some other such occasion, or during the singing of the well-known tit-bits of any opera, there was an amount of chattering in the house which would have made the hair of a _fanatico per la musica_ stand on end. There was also an exceedingly comfortable but very parsimoniously-lighted large room, which was a grand flirting place, where people sat very patiently during the somewhat long operation of having their names called aloud, as their carriages arrived, by an official, who knew the names and addresses of us all. We also knew _his_ mode of adapting the names of foreigners to his Italian organs. “Hasa” (Florentine for _casa_) “Tro-lo-pe,” with a long-drawn-out accent on the last vowel, was the absolutely fatal signal for the sudden breaking up of many a pleasant chat.

Florence was also, in those days, an especially economical place for those to whom it was pleasant to enjoy during the whole of the gay season as many balls, concerts, and other entertainments as they could possibly desire, without the necessity, or indeed the possibility, of putting themselves to the expense of giving anything in return. There was a weekly ball at the Pitti Palace, and another at the Casino dei Nobili, which latter was supported entirely by the Florentine aristocracy. There were two or three balls at the houses of the foreign ministers, and generally one or two given by two or three wealthy Florentine nobles–there were a few, but very few such.

Perhaps the pleasantest of all these were the balls at the Pitti. They were so entirely _sans gene_. No court dress was required save on the first day of the year, when it was _de rigueur_. But absence on that occasion in no way excluded the absentee from the other balls. Indeed, save to a new comer, no invitations to foreigners were issued, it being understood that all who had been there once were welcome ever after. The Pitti balls were not by any means concluded by, but rather divided into two, by a very handsome and abundant supper, at which, to tell tales out of school (but then the offenders have no doubt mostly gone over to the majority), the guests used to behave abominably. The English would seize the plates of _bonbons_ and empty the contents bodily into their coat pockets. The ladies would do the same with their pocket-handkerchiefs. But the Duke’s liege subjects carried on their depredations on a far bolder scale. I have seen large portions of fish, sauce and all, packed up in a newspaper, and deposited in a pocket. I have seen fowls and ham share the same fate, without any newspaper at all. I have seen jelly carefully wrapped in an Italian countess’s laced _mouchoir_! I think the servants must have had orders not to allow entire bottles of wine to be carried away, for I never saw that attempted, and can imagine no other reason why. I remember that those who affected to be knowing old hands used to recommend one to specially pay attention to the Grand Ducal Rhine wine, and remember, too, conceiving a suspicion that certain of these connoisseurs based their judgment in this matter wholly on their knowledge that the Duke possessed estates in Bohemia!

The English were exceedingly numerous in Florence at that time, and they were reinforced by a continually increasing American contingent, though our cousins had not yet begun to come in numbers rivalling our own, as has been the case recently. By the bye, it occurs to me, that I never saw an American pillaging the supper table; though, I may add, that American ladies would accept any amount of _bonbons_ from English blockade runners.

And the mention of American ladies at the Pitti reminds me of a really very funny story, which may be told without offence to any one now living. I have a notion that I have seen this story of mine told somewhere, with a change of names and circumstances that spoil it, after the fashion of the people “who steal other folks’ stories and disfigure them, as gipsies do stolen children to escape detection.”

I had one evening at the Pitti, some years however after my first appearance there, a very pretty and naively charming American lady on my arm, whom I was endeavouring to amuse by pointing out to her all the personages whom I thought might interest her, as we walked through the rooms. Dear old Dymock, the champion, was in Florence that winter, and was at the Pitti that night.–I dare say that there may be many now who do not know without being told, that Dymock, the last champion, as I am almost afraid I must call him–though doubtless Scrivelsby must still be held by the ancient tenure–was a very small old man, a clergyman, and not at all the sort of individual to answer to the popular idea of a champion. He was sitting in a nook all by himself, and not looking very heroic or very happy as we passed, and nudging my companion’s arm, I whispered, “That is the champion.” The interest I excited was greater than I had calculated on, for the lady made a dead stop, and facing round to gaze at the old gentleman, said “Why, you don’t tell me so! I should never have thought that that could be the fellow who licked Heenan! _But he looks a plucky little chap!_”

Perhaps the reader may have forgotten, or even never known, that the championship of the pugilistic world had then recently been won by Sayers–I think that was the name–in a fight with an antagonist of the name of Heenan. In fact it was I, and not my fair companion, who was a muff, for having imagined that a young American woman, nearly fresh from the other side of the Atlantic, was likely to know or ever have heard anything about the Champion of England.

There happened to be several Lincolnshire men that year in Florence, and there was a dinner at which I, as one of the “web-footed,” by descent if not birth, was present, and I told them the story of my Pitti catastrophe. The lady’s concluding words produced an effect which may be imagined more easily than described.

The Grand Duke at these Pitti balls used to show himself, and take part in them as little as might be. The Grand Duchess used to walk through the rooms sometimes. The Grand Duchess, a Neapolitan princess, was not beloved by the Tuscans; and I am disposed to believe that she did not deserve their affection. But there was at that time another lady at the Pitti, the Dowager Grand Duchess, the widow of the late Grand Duke. She had been a Saxon princess, and was very favourably contrasted with the reigning Duchess in graciousness of manner, in appearance–for though a considerably older, she was still an elegant-looking woman–and, according to the popular estimate, in character. She also would occasionally walk through the rooms; but her object, and indeed that of the Duke, seemed to be to attract as little attention as possible.

Only on the first night of the year, when we were all in _gran gala_, _i.e._ in court suits or uniform, did any personal communication with the Grand Duke take place. His manner, when anybody was presented to him on these or other occasions, was about as bad and imprincely as can well be conceived. His clothes never fitted him. He used to support himself on one foot, hanging his head towards that side, and occasionally changing the posture of both foot and head, always simultaneously. And he always appeared to be struggling painfully with the consciousness that he had nothing to say. It was on one of these occasions that an American new arrival was presented to him by Mr. Maquay, the banker, who always did that office for Americans, the United States having then no representative at the Grand Ducal court. Maquay, thinking to help the Duke, whispered in his ear that the gentleman was connected by descent with the great Washington, upon which the Duke, changing his foot, said, “_Ah! le grand Vash_!” His manner was that of a lethargic and not wide-awake man. When strangers would sometimes venture some word of compliment on the prosperity and contentment of the Tuscans, his reply invariably was, “_Sono tranquilli_”–they are quiet. But in truth much more might have been said; for assuredly Tuscany was a Land of Goshen in the midst of the peninsula. There was neither want nor discontent (save among a very small knot of politicians, who might almost have been counted on the hand), nor crime. There was at Florence next to no police of any kind, but the streets were perfectly safe by night or by day.

There was a story, much about that time, which made some noise in Europe, and was very disingenuously made use of, as such stories are, of a certain Florentine and his wife, named Madiai, who had been, it was asserted, persecuted for reading the Bible. It was not so. They were “persecuted” for, _i.e._ restrained from, preaching to others that they ought to read it, which is, though doubtless a bad, yet a very different thing.

I believe the Grand Duke (_gran ciuco_–great ass–as his irreverent Tuscans nicknamed him) was a good and kindly man, and under the circumstances, and to the extent of his abilities, not a bad ruler. The phrase, which Giusti applied to him, and which the inimitable talent of the satirist has made more durable than any other memorial of the poor _gran ciuco_ is likely to be, “_asciuga tasche e maremme_”–he dries up pockets and marshes–is as unjust as such _mots_ of satirists are wont to be. The draining of the great marshes of the Chiana, between Arezzo and Chiusi, was a well-considered and most beneficent work on a magnificent scale, which, so far from “drying pockets,” added enormously to the wealth of the country, and is now adding very appreciably to the prosperity of Italy. Nor was Giusti’s reproach in any way merited by the Grand Ducal government. The Grand Duke personally was a very wealthy man, as well as, in respect to his own habits, a most simple liver. The necessary expenses of the little state were small; and taxation was so light that a comparison between that of the Saturnian days in question and that under which the Tuscans of the present day not unreasonably groan, might afford a text for some very far-reaching speculations. The Tuscans of the present day may preach any theological doctrines they please to any who will listen to them, or indeed to those who won’t, but it would be curious to know how many individuals among them consider that, or any other recently-acquired liberty, well bought at the price they pay for it.

The Grand Duke was certainly not a great or a wise man. He was one of those men of whom their friends habitually say that they are “no fools,” or “not such fools as they look,” which generally may be understood to mean that the individual spoken of cannot with physiological accuracy be considered a _cretin_. Nevertheless, in his case the expression was doubtless accurately true. He was not such a fool as he looked, for his appearance was certainly not that of a wise, or even an intelligent man.

One story is told of him, which I have reason to believe perfectly true, and which is so characteristic of the man, and of the time, that I must not deprive the reader of it.

It was the custom that on St. John’s Day the Duke should visit and inspect the small body of troops who were lodged in the Fortezza di San Giovanni, or Fortezza da Basso, as it was popularly called, in contradistinction from another fort on the high ground above the Boboli Gardens. And it was expected that on these occasions the sovereign should address a few words to his soldiers. So the Duke, resting his person first on one leg and then on the other, after his fashion, stood in front of the two or three score of men drawn up in line before him, and after telling them that obedience to their officers and attachment to duty were the especial virtues of a soldier, he continued, “Above all, my men, I desire that you should remember the duties and observances of our holy religion, and–and–” (here, having said all he had to say, His Highness was at a loss for a conclusion to his harangue. But looking down on the ground as he strove to find a fitting peroration, he observed that the army’s shoes were sadly in want of the blacking brush, so he concluded with more of animation and significance than he had before evinced) “and keep your shoes clean!”

I may find room further on to say a few words of what I remember of the revolution which dethroned poor _gran ciuco_. But I may as well conclude here what I have to say of him by relating the manner of his final exit from the soil of Tuscany, of which the malicious among the few who knew the circumstances were wont to say–very unjustly–that nothing in his reign became him like the leaving of it. I saw him pass out from the Porta San Gallo on his way to Bologna among a crowd of his late subjects, who all lifted their hats, though not without some satirical cries of “_Addio, sai” “Buon viaggio_!” But a few, a very few, friends accompanied his carriage to the papal frontier, an invisible line on the bleak Apennines, unmarked by any habitation. There he descended from his carriage to receive their last adieus, and there was much lowly bowing as they stood on the highway. The Duke, not unmoved, bowed lowly in return, but unfortunately backing as he did so, tripped himself up with characteristic awkwardness, and tumbled backwards on a heap of broken stones prepared for the road, with his heels in the air, and exhibiting to his unfaithful Tuscans and ungrateful Duchy, as a last remembrance of him, a full view of a part of his person rarely put forward on such occasions.

And so _exeunt_ from the sight of men and from history a Grand Duke and a Grand Duchy.


It was not long after the flood in Florence–it seems to me, as I write, that I might almost leave out the two last words!–that I saw Dickens for the first time. One morning in Casa Berti my mother was most agreeably surprised by a card brought in to her with “Mr. and Mrs. Charles Dickens” on it. We had been among his heartiest admirers from the early days of _Pickwick_. I don’t think we had happened to see the _Sketches by Boz_. But my uncle Milton used to come to Hadley full of “the last _Pickwick_,” and swearing that each number out-Pickwicked Pickwick. And it was with the greatest curiosity and interest that we saw the creator of all this enjoyment enter in the flesh.

We were at first disappointed, and disposed to imagine there must be some mistake! No! _that_ is not the man who wrote _Pickwick_! What we saw was a dandified, pretty-boy-looking sort of figure, singularly young looking, I thought, with a slight flavour of the whipper-snapper genus of humanity.

Here is Carlyle’s description of his appearance at about that period of his life, quoted from Froude’s _History of Carlyle’s Life in London_:

“He is a fine little fellow–Boz–I think. Clear blue, intelligent eyes, eyebrows that he arches amazingly, large, protrusive, rather loose mouth, a face of most extreme mobility, which he shuttles about–eyebrows, eyes, mouth and all–in a very singular manner when speaking. Surmount this with a loose coil of common-coloured hair, and set it on a small compact figure, very small, and dressed _a la_ D’Orsay rather than well–this is Pickwick. For the rest, a quiet, shrewd-looking little fellow, who seems to guess pretty well what he is and what others are.”

One may perhaps venture to suppose that had the second of these guesses been less accurate, the description might have been a less kindly one.

But there are two errors to be noted in this sketch, graphic as it is. Firstly, Dickens’s eyes were not blue, but of a very distinct and brilliant hazel–the colour traditionally assigned to Shakspeare’s eyes. Secondly, Dickens, although truly of a slight, compact figure, was _not a very_ small man. I do not think he was below the average middle height. I speak from my remembrance of him at a later day, when I had become intimate with him; but curiously enough, I find on looking back into my memory, that if I had been asked to describe him, as I first saw him, I too should have said that he was very small. Carlyle’s words refer to Dickens’s youth soon after he had published _Pickwick_; and no doubt at this period he had a look of delicacy, almost of effeminacy, if one may accept Maclise’s well-known portrait as a truthful record, which might give those who saw him the impression of his being smaller and more fragile in build than was the fact. In later life he lost this D’Orsay look completely, and was bronzed and reddened by wind and weather like a seaman.

In fact, when I saw him subsequently in London, I think I should have passed him in the street without recognising him. I never saw a man so changed.

Any attempt to draw a complete pen-and-ink portrait of Dickens has been rendered for evermore superfluous, if it were not presumptuous, by the masterly and exhaustive life of him by John Forster. But one may be allowed to record one’s own impressions, and any small incident or anecdote which memory holds, on the grounds set forth by the great writer himself, who says in the introduction to the _American Notes_ (first printed in the biography)–“Very many works having just the same scope and range have been already published. But I think that these two volumes stand in need of no apology on that account. The interest of such productions, if they have any, lies in the varying impressions made by the same novel things on different minds, and not in new discoveries or extraordinary adventures.”

At Florence Dickens made a pilgrimage to Landor’s villa, the owner being then absent in England, and gathered a leaf of ivy from Fiesole to carry back to the veteran poet, as narrated by Mr. Forster. Dickens is as accurate as a topographer in his description of the villa, as looked down on from Fiesole. How often–ah, _how_ often!–have I looked down from that same dwarf wall over the matchless view where Florence shows the wealth of villas that Ariosto declares made it equivalent to two Romes!

Dickens was only thirty-three when I first saw him, being just two years my junior. I have said what he appeared to me then. As I knew him afterwards, and to the end of his days, he was a strikingly manly man, not only in appearance but in bearing. The lustrous brilliancy of his eyes was very striking. And I do not think that I have ever seen it noticed, that those wonderful eyes which saw so much and so keenly, were appreciably, though to a very slight degree, near-sighted eyes. Very few persons, even among those who knew him well, were aware of this, for Dickens never used a glass. But he continually exercised his vision by looking at distant objects, and making them out as well as he could without any artificial assistance. It was an instance of that force of will in him, which compelled a naturally somewhat delicate frame to comport itself like that of an athlete. Mr. Forster somewhere says of him, “Dickens’s habits were robust, but his health was not.” This is entirely true as far as my observation extends.

Of the general charm of his manner I despair of giving any idea to those who have not seen or known him. This was a charm by no means dependent on his genius. He might have been the great writer he was and yet not have warmed the social atmosphere wherever he appeared with that summer glow which seemed to attend him. His laugh was brimful of enjoyment. There was a peculiar humorous protest in it when recounting or hearing anything specially absurd, as who should say “‘Pon my soul this is _too_ ridiculous! This passes all bounds!” and bursting out afresh as though the sense of the ridiculous overwhelmed him like a tide, which carried all hearers away with it, and which I well remember. His enthusiasm was boundless. It entered into everything he said or did. It belonged doubtless to that amazing fertility and wealth of ideas and feeling that distinguished his genius.

No one having any knowledge of the profession of literature can read Dickens’s private letters and not stand amazed at the unbounded affluence of imagery, sentiment, humour, and keen observation which he poured out in them. There was no stint, no reservation for trade purposes. So with his conversation–every thought, every fancy, every feeling was expressed with the utmost vivacity and intensity, but a vivacity and intensity compatible with the most singular delicacy and nicety of touch when delicacy and nicety of touch were needed.

What were called the exaggerations of his writing were due, I have no doubt, to the extraordinary luminosity of his imagination. He saw and rendered such an individuality as Mr. Pecksniff’s or Mrs. Nickleby’s for instance, something after the same fashion as a solar microscope renders any object observed through it. The world in general beholds its Pecksniffs and its Mrs. Nicklebys through a different medium. And at any rate Dickens got at the quintessence of his creatures, and enables us all, in our various measures, to perceive it too. The proof of this is that we are constantly not only quoting the sayings and doings of his immortal characters, but are recognising other sayings and doings as what _they_ would have said or done.

But it is impossible for one who knew him as I did to confine what he remembers of him either to traits of outward appearance or to appreciations of his genius. I must say a few, a very few words of what Dickens appeared to me as a man. I think that an epithet, which, much and senselessly as it has been misapplied and degraded, is yet, when rightly used, perhaps the grandest that can be applied to a human being, was especially applicable to him. He was a _hearty_ man, a large-hearted man that is to say. He was perhaps the largest-hearted man I ever knew. I think he made a nearer approach to obeying the divine precept, “Love thy neighbour as thyself,” than one man in a hundred thousand. His benevolence, his active, energising desire for good to all God’s creatures, and restless anxiety to be in some way active for the achieving of it, were unceasing and busy in his heart ever and always.

But he had a sufficient capacity for a virtue, which, I think, seems to be moribund among us–the virtue of moral indignation. Men and their actions were not all much of a muchness to him. There was none of the indifferentism of that pseudo-philosophic moderation, which, when a scoundrel or a scoundrelly action is on the _tapis_, hints that there is much to be said on both sides. Dickens hated a mean action or a mean sentiment as one hates something that is physically loathsome to the sight and touch. And he could be angry, as those with whom he had been angry did not very readily forget.

And there was one other aspect of his moral nature, of which I am reminded by an observation which Mr. Forster records as having been made by Mrs. Carlyle. “Light and motion flashed from every part of it [his face]. It was as if made of steel.” The first part of the phrase is true and graphic enough, but the image offered by the last words appears to me a singularly infelicitous one. There was nothing of the hardness or of the (moral) sharpness of steel about the expression of Dickens’s face and features. Kindling mirth and genial fun were the expressions which those who casually met him in society were habituated to find there, but those who knew him well knew also well that a tenderness, gentle and sympathetic as that of a woman, was a mood that his surely never “steely” face could express exquisitely, and did express frequently.

I used to see him very frequently in his latter years. I generally came to London in the summer, and one of the first things on my list was a visit to 20, Wellington Street. Then would follow sundry other visits and meetings–to Tavistock House, to Gadshill, at Verey’s in Regent Street, a place he much patronised, &c., &c. I remember one day meeting Chauncy Hare Townsend at Tavistock House and thinking him a very singular and not particularly agreeable man. Edwin Landseer I remember dined there the same day. But he had been a friend of my mother’s, and was my acquaintance of long long years before.

Of course we had much and frequent talk about Italy, and I may say that our ideas and opinions, and especially feelings on that subject, were always, I think, in unison. Our agreement respecting English social and political matters was less perfect. But I think that it would have become more nearly so had his life been prolonged as mine has been. And the approximation would, if I am not much mistaken, have been brought about by a movement of mind on his part, which already I think those who knew him best will agree with me in thinking had commenced. We differed on many points of politics. But there is one department of English social life–one with which I am probably more intimately acquainted than with any other, and which has always been to me one of much interest–our public school system, respecting which our agreement was complete. And I cannot refrain from quoting. The opinion which he expresses is as true as if he had, like me, an eight years’ experience of the system he is speaking of. And the passage, which I am about to give, is very remarkable as an instance of the singular acumen, insight, and power of sympathy which enabled him to form so accurately correct an opinion on a matter of which he might be supposed to know nothing.

“In July,” says Mr. Forster, writing of the year 1858-9, “he took earnest part in the opening efforts on behalf of the Royal Dramatic College, which he supplemented later by a speech for the establishment of schools for actors’ children, in which he took occasion to declare his belief that there were no institutions in England so socially liberal as its public schools, and that there was nowhere in the country so complete an absence of servility to mere rank, position, and riches. ‘A boy there'” (Mr. Forster here quotes Dickens’s own words) “‘is always what his abilities and personal qualities make him. We may differ about the curriculum and other matters, but of the frank, free, manly, independent spirit preserved in our public schools I apprehend there can be no kind of question.'”

I have in my possession a great number of letters from Dickens, some of which might probably have been published in the valuable collection of his letters published by his sister-in-law and eldest daughter had they been get-at-able at the time when they might have been available for that publication.[1] But I was at Rome, and the letters were safely stowed away in England in such sort that it would have needed a journey to London to get at them.

[Footnote 1: Some of the letters in question–such as I had with me–were sent to London for that purpose. I do not remember now which were and which were not. But if it should be the case that any of those printed here have been printed before, I do not think any reader will object to having them again brought under his eye.]

I was for several years a frequent contributor to _Household Words_, my contributions for the most part consisting of what I considered tit-bits from the byways of Italian history, which the persevering plough of my reading turned up from time to time.

In one case I remember the article was sent “to order,” I was dining with him after I had just had all the remaining hairs on my head made to stand on end by the perusal of the officially published _Manual for Confessors_, as approved by superior authority for the dioceses of Tuscany. I was full of the subject, and made, I fancy, the hairs of some who sat at table with me stand on end also. Dickens said, with nailing forefinger levelled at me, “Give us that for _Household Words_. Give it us just as you have now been telling it to us”–which I accordingly did. Whether the publication of that article was in anywise connected with the fact that when I wished to purchase a second copy of that most extraordinary work I was told that it was out of print, and not to be had, I do not know. Of course it was kept as continually in print as the _Latin Grammar_, for the constant use of the class for whom it was provided, and who most assuredly could not have found their way safely through the wonderful intricacies of the Confessional without it. And equally, of course, the publishers of so largely-circulated a work did not succeed in preventing me from obtaining a second copy of it.

Many of the letters addressed to me by Dickens concerned more or less my contributions to his periodical, and many more are not of a nature to interest the public even though they came from him. But I may give a few extracts from three or four of them.[1]

[Footnote 1: I wish it to be observed that any letters, or parts of letters, from Dickens here printed are published with the permission and authorisation of his sister-in-law, Miss Georgina Hogarth.]

Here is a passage from a letter dated 3rd December, 1861, which my vanity will not let me suppress.

“Yes; the Christmas number _was_ intended as a conveyance of all friendly greetings in season and out of season. As to its lesson, you need it almost as little as any man I know; for all your study and seclusion conduce to the general good, and disseminate truths that men cannot too earnestly take to heart. Yes, a capital story that of ‘The Two Seaborn Babbies,’ and wonderfully droll, I think. I may say so without blushing, for it is not by me. It was done by Wilkie Collins.”

Here is another short note, not a little gratifying to me personally, but not without interest of a larger kind to the reader:–

* * * * *

“_Tuesday, 15th November, 1859._

“MY DEAR TROLLOPE,–I write this hasty word, just as the post leaves, to ask you this question, which this moment occurs to me.

“Montalembert, in his suppressed treatise, asks, ‘What wrong has Pope Pius the Ninth done?’ Don’t you think you can very pointedly answer that question in these pages? If you cannot, nobody in Europe can. Very faithfully yours always,


* * * * *

Some, some few, may remember the interest excited by the treatise to which the above letter refers. No doubt I could, and doubtless did, though I forget all about it, answer the question propounded by the celebrated French writer. But there was little hope of my doing it as “pointedly” as my correspondent would have done it himself. The answer, which might well have consisted of a succinct statement of all the difficulties of the position with which Italy was then struggling, had to confine itself to the limits of an article in _All The Year Round_, and needed in truth to be pointed. I have observed that, in all our many conversations on Italian matters, Dickens’s views and opinions coincided with my own, without, I think, any point of divergence. Very specially was this the case as regards all that concerned the Vatican and the doings of the Curia. How well I remember his arched eyebrows and laughing eyes when I told him of Garibaldi’s proposal that all priests should be summarily executed! I think it modified his ideas of the possible utility of Garibaldi as a politician.

Then comes an invitation to “my Falstaff house at Gadshill.”

Here is a letter of the 17th February, 1866, which I will give _in extenso_, bribed again by the very flattering words in which the writer speaks of our friendship:–

* * * * *

“MY DEAR TROLLOPE,–I am heartily glad to hear from you. It was such a disagreeable surprise to find that you had left London” [I had been called away at an hour’s notice] “on the occasion of your last visit without my having seen you, that I have never since got it out of my mind. I felt as if it were my fault (though I don’t know how that can have been), and as if I had somehow been traitorous to the earnest and affectionate regard with which you have inspired me.

“The lady’s verses are accepted by the editorial potentate, and shall presently appear.” [I am ashamed to say that I totally forget who the lady was.]

“I am not quite well, and am being touched up (or down) by the doctors. Whether the irritation of mind I had to endure pending the discussions of a preposterous clerical body called a Convocation, and whether the weakened hopefulness of mankind which such a dash of the middle ages in the colour and pattern of 1866 engenders, may have anything to do with it, I don’t know.

“What a happy man you must be in having a new house to work at. When it is quite complete, and the roc’s egg hung up, I suppose you will get rid of it bodily and turn to at another.” [_Absit omen!_ At this very moment, while I transcribe this letter, I _am_ turning to at another.]

“_Daily News_ correspondent” [as I then for a short time was], “Novel, and Hospitality! Enough to do indeed! Perhaps the day _might_ be advantageously made longer for such work–or say life.” [Ah! if the small matters rehearsed had been all, I could more contentedly have put up with the allowance of four-and-twenty hours.] “And yet I don’t know. Like enough we should all do less if we had time to do more in.

“Layard was with us for a couple of days a little while ago, and brought the last report of you, and of your daughter, who seems to have made a great impression on him. I wish he had had the keepership of the National Gallery, for I don’t think his Government will hold together through many weeks.

“I wonder whether you thought as highly of Gibson’s art as the lady did who wrote the verses. I must say that I did _not_, and that I thought it of a mechanical sort, with no great amount of imagination in it. It seemed to me as if he ‘didn’t find me’ in that, as the servants say, but only provided me with carved marble, and expected me to furnish myself with as much idea as I could afford.

“Very faithfully yours,


* * * * *

I do not remember the verses, though I feel confident that the lady who sent them through me must have been a very charming person. As to Gibson, no criticism could be sounder. I had a considerable liking for Gibson as a man, and admiration for his character, but as regards his ideal productions I think Dickens hits the right nail on the head.

In another letter of the same year, 25th July, after a page of remarks on editorial matters, he writes:–

* * * * *

“If Italy could but achieve some brilliant success in arms! That she does not, causes, I think, some disappointment here, and makes her sluggish friends more sluggish, and her open enemies more powerful. I fear too that the Italian ministry have lost an excellent opportunity of repairing the national credit in London city, and have borrowed money in France for the poor consideration of lower interest, which” _[sic_, but I suspect _which_ must be a slip of the pen for _than_] “they could have got in England, greatly to the re-establishment of a reputation for public good faith. As to Louis Napoleon, his position in the whole matter is to me like his position in Europe at all times, simply disheartening and astounding. Between Prussia and Austria there is, in my mind (but for Italy), not a pin to choose. If each could smash the other I should be, as to those two Powers, perfectly satisfied. But I feel for Italy almost as if I were an Italian born. So here you have in brief my confession of faith.

“Mr. Home” [as he by that time called himself,–when he was staying in my house his name was Hume], “after trying to come out as an actor, first at Fechter’s (where I had the honour of stopping him short), and then at the St. James’s Theatre under Miss Herbert (where he was twice announced, and each time very mysteriously disappeared from the bills), was announced at the little theatre in Dean Street, Soho, as a ‘great attraction for one night only,’ to play last Monday. An appropriately dirty little rag of a bill, fluttering in the window of an obscure dairy behind the Strand, gave me this intelligence last Saturday. It is like enough that even that striking business did not come off, for I believe the public to have found out the scoundrel; in which lively and sustaining hope this leaves me at present.

“Ever faithfully yours,


* * * * *

Here is a letter which, as may be easily imagined, I value much. It was written on the 2nd of November, 1866, and reached me at Brest. It was written to congratulate me on my second marriage, and among the great number which I received on that occasion is one of the most warm-hearted:–

* * * * *

“MY DEAR TROLLOPE,–I should have written immediately to congratulate you on your then approaching marriage, and to assure you of my most cordial and affectionate interest in all that nearly concerns you, had I known how best to address you.

“No friend that you have can be more truly attached to you than I am. I congratulate you with all my heart, and believe that your marriage will stand high upon the list of happy ones. As to your wife’s winning a high reputation out of your house–if you care for that; it is not much as an addition to the delights of love and peace and a suitable companion for life–I have not the least doubt of her power to make herself famous.

“I little thought what an important master of the ceremonies I was when I first gave your present wife an introduction to your mother. Bear me in your mind then as the unconscious instrument of your having given your best affection to a worthy object, and I shall be the best paid master of the ceremonies since Nash drove his coach and six through the streets of Bath.

“Faithfully yours,


* * * * *

Among a heap of others I find a note of invitation written on the 9th of July, 1867, in which he says: “My ‘readings’ secretary, whom I am despatching to America at the end of this week, will dine with me at Verey’s in Regent Street at six exact to be wished God-speed. There will only be besides, Wills, Wilkie Collins, and Mr. Arthur Chappell. Will you come? No dress. Evening left quite free.”

I went, and the God-speed party was a very pleasant one. But I liked best to have him, as I frequently had, all to myself. I suppose I am not, as Johnson said, a “clubbable” man. At all events I highly appreciate what the Irishman called a tatur-tatur dinner, whether the gender in the case be masculine or feminine; and I incline to give my adherence to the philosophy of the axiom that declares “two to be company, and three none.” But then I am very deaf, and that has doubtless much to do with it.

On the 10th of September, 1868, Dickens writes:–

* * * * *

“The madness and general political bestiality of the General Elections will come off in the appropriate Guy Fawkes days. It was proposed to me, under very flattering circumstances indeed, to come in as the third member for Birmingham; I replied in what is now my stereotyped phrase, ‘that no consideration on earth would induce me to become a candidate for the representation of any place in the House of Commons.’ Indeed it is a dismal sight, is that arena altogether. Its irrationality and dishonesty are quite shocking.” [What would he have said now!] “How disheartening it is, that in affairs spiritual or temporal mankind will not begin at the beginning, but _will_ begin with assumptions. Could one believe without actual experience of the fact, that it would be assumed by hundreds of thousands of pestilent boobies, pandered to by politicians, that the Established Church in Ireland has stood between the kingdom and Popery, when as a crying grievance it has been Popery’s trump-card!

“I have now growled out my growl, and feel better.

“With kind regards, my dear Trollope,

“Faithfully yours,


* * * * *

In the December of that year came another growl, as follows:–

* * * * *


“MY DEAR TROLLOPE,–I am reading here, and had your letter forwarded to me this morning. The MS. accompanying it was stopped at _All The Year Round_ office (in compliance with general instructions referring to any MS. from you) and was sent straight to the printer.

“Oh dear no! Nobody supposes for a moment that the English Church will follow the Irish Establishment. In the whole great universe of shammery and flummery there is no such idea floating. Everybody knows that the Church of England as an endowed establishment is doomed, and would be, even if its hand were not perpetually hacking at its own throat; but as was observed of an old lady in gloves in one of my Christmas books, ‘Let us be polite or die!’

“Anthony’s ambition” [in becoming a candidate for Beverley] “is inscrutable to me. Still, it is the ambition of many men; and the honester the man who entertains it, the better for the rest of us, I suppose.

“Ever, my dear Trollope,

“Most cordially yours,


* * * * *

Here is another “growl,” provoked by a species of charlatan, which he, to whom all charlatans were odious, especially abominated–the pietistic charlatan:–

* * * * *

“Oh, we have such a specimen here! a man who discourses extemporaneously, positively without the power of constructing one grammatical sentence; but who is (ungrammatically) deep in Heaven’s confidence on the abstrusest points, and discloses some of his private information with an idiotic complacency insupportable to behold.

“We are going to have a bad winter in England too probably. What with Ireland, and what with the last new Government device of getting in the taxes before they are due, and what with vagrants, and what with fever, the prospect is gloomy.”

The last letter I ever received from him is dated the 10th of November, 1869. It is a long letter, but I will give only one passage from it, which has, alas! a peculiarly sad and touching significance when read with the remembrance of the catastrophe then hurrying on, which was to put an end to all projects and purposes. I had been suggesting a walking excursion across the Alps. He writes:–

“Walk across the Alps? Lord bless you, I am ‘going’ to take up my alpenstock and cross all the passes. And, I am ‘going’ to Italy. I am also ‘going’ up the Nile to the second cataract; and I am ‘going’ to Jerusalem, and to India, and likewise to Australia. My only dimness of perception in this wise is, that I don’t know _when_. If I did but know when, I should be so wonderfully clear about it all! At present I can’t see even so much as the Simplon in consequence of certain farewell readings and a certain new book (just begun) interposing their dwarfish shadow. But whenever (if ever) I change ‘going’ into ‘coming,’ I shall come to see you.

“With kind regards, ever, my dear Trollope,

“Your affectionate friend,


* * * * *

And those were the last words I ever had from him!


In those days–_temporibus illis_, as the historians of long-forgotten centuries say–there used to be a very general exodus of the English colony at Florence to the baths of Lucca during the summer months. Almost all Italians, who can in anywise afford to do so, leave the great cities nowadays for the seaside, even as those do who have preceded them in the path of modern luxurious living. But at the time of which I am writing the Florentines who did so were few, and almost confined to that inner circle of the fashionable world which partly lived with foreigners, and had adopted in many respects their modes and habits. Those Italians, however, who did leave their Florence homes in the summer, went almost all of them to Leghorn. The baths of Lucca were an especially and almost exclusively English resort.

It was possible to induce the _vetturini_ who supplied carriages and horses for the purpose, to do the journey to the baths in one day, but it was a very long day, and it was necessary to get fresh horses at Lucca. There was no good sleeping-place between Florence and Lucca–nor indeed is there such now–and the journey from the capital of Tuscany to that of the little Duchy of Lucca, now done by rail in less than two hours, was quite enough for a _vetturino’s_ pair of horses. And when Lucca was reached there were still fourteen miles, nearly all collar work, between that and the baths, so that the plan more generally preferred was to sleep at Lucca.

The baths (well known to the ancient Romans, of course, as what warm springs throughout Europe were not?) consisted of three settlements, or groups of houses–as they do still, for I revisited the well-remembered place two or three years ago. There was the “Ponte,” a considerable village gathered round the lower bridge over the Lima, at which travellers from Florence first arrived. Here were the assembly rooms, the reading room, the principal baths, _and_ the gaming-tables–for in those pleasant wicked days the remote little Lucca baths were little better than Baden subsequently and Monte Carlo now. Only we never, to the best of my memory, suicided ourselves, though it might happen occasionally, that some innkeeper lost the money which ought to have gone to him, because “the bank” had got hold of it first.

Then secondly there was the “Villa,” about a mile higher up the lovely little valley of the Lima, so called because the Duke’s villa was situated there. The Villa had more the pretension–a very little more–of looking something like a little bit of town. At least it had its one street paved. The ducal villa was among the woods immediately above it.

The third little group of buildings and lodging-houses was called the “Bagni Caldi.” The hotter, and, I fancy, the original springs were there, and it was altogether more retired and countrified, nestling closely among the chesnut woods. The whole surrounding country indeed is one great chesnut forest, and the various little villages, most of them picturesque in the highest degree, which crown the summits of the surrounding hills, are all of them closely hedged in by the chesnut woods, which clothe the slopes to the top. These villages burrow in what they live on like mice in a cheese, for many of the inhabitants never taste any other than chesnut flour bread from year’s end to year’s end.

The inhabitants of these hills, and indeed those of the duchy generally, have throughout Italy the reputation of being morally about the best population in the peninsula. Servants from the Lucchese, and especially from the district I am here speaking of, were, and are still, I believe, much prized. Lucca, as many readers will remember, enjoys among all the descriptive epithets popularly given to the different cities of Italy, that of _Lucca la industriosa_.

To us migratory English those singularly picturesque villages which capped all the hills, and were reached by curiously ancient paved mule paths zig-sagging up among the chesnut woods, seemed to have been created solely for artistic and picnic purposes. The Saturnian nature of the life lived in them may be conceived from the information once given me by the inhabitants of one of these mountain settlements in reply to some inquiry about the time of day, that it was always noon there when the priest was ready for his dinner.

Such were the summer quarters of the English Florentine colony, _temporibus illis_. There used to be, I remember, a somewhat amusingly distinctive character attributed, of course in a general way subject to exceptions, to the different groups of the English rusticating world, according to the selection of their quarters in either of the above three little settlements. The “gay” world preferred the “Ponte,” where the gaming-tables and ballrooms were. The more strictly “proper” people went to live at the “Villa,” where the English Church service was performed. The invalid portion of the society, or those who wished quiet, and especially economy, sought the “Bagni Caldi.”

In a general way we all desired economy, and found it. The price at the many hotels was nine pauls a day for board and lodging, including Tuscan wine, and was as much a fixed and invariable matter as a penny for a penny bun. Those who wanted other wine generally brought it with them, by virtue of a ducal ordinance which specially exempted from duty all wine brought by English visitors to the Baths.

I dare say, if I were to pass a summer there now, I should find the atmosphere damp, or the wine sour, or the bread heavy, or the society heavier, or indulge in some such unreasonable and unseasonable grumbles as the near neighbourhood of four-score years is apt to inspire one with; but I used to find it amazingly pleasant once upon a time. It is a singular fact, which the remembrance of those days suggests to me, and which I recommend to the attention of Mr. Galton and his co-investigators, that the girls were prettier then than they are in these days, or that there were more of them! The stupid people, who are always discovering subjective reasons for objective observations, are as impertinent as stupid!

The Duke of Lucca used to do his utmost to make the baths attractive and agreeable. There is no Duke of Lucca now, as all the world knows. The Congress of Vienna put an end to him by ordaining that, when the ducal throne of Parma should become vacant, the reigning Duke of Lucca should succeed to it, while his duchy of Lucca should be united to Florence. This change took place while I was still a Florentine. The Duke of Lucca would none of the new dukedom proposed to him. He abdicated, and his son became Duke of Parma. This son was, in truth, a great ne’er-do-well, and very shortly got murdered in the streets of his new capital by an offended husband.

The change was most unwelcome to Lucca, and especially to the baths, which had thriven and prospered under the fostering care of the old Duke. He used to pass every summer there, and give constant very pleasant, but very little royal, balls at his villa. The Tuscan satirist Giusti, in the celebrated little poem in which he characterises the different reigning sovereigns in the peninsula, calls him the Protestant Don Giovanni, and says that in the roll of tyrants he is neither fish nor flesh.

Of the first two epithets I take it he deserved the second more than the first. His Protestantising tendencies might, I think, have been more accurately described as non-Catholicising. But people are very apt to judge in this matter after the fashion of the would-be dramatist, who, on being assured that he had no genius for tragedy, concluded that he must therefore have one for comedy. The Duke’s Protestantism, I suspect, limited itself to, and showed itself in, his dislike and resistance to being bothered by the rulers of neighbouring states into bothering anybody else about their religious opinions. As for his place in the “roll of tyrants,” he was always accused of (or praised for) liberalising ideas and tendencies, which would in those days have very soon put an end to him and his tiny duchy, if he had attempted to govern it in accordance with them. As matters were, his “policy,” I take it, was pretty well confined to the endeavour to make his sovereignty as little troublesome to himself or anybody else as possible. His subjects were _very_ lightly taxed, for his private property rendered him perfectly independent of them as regarded his own personal expenditure.

The “gayer” part of our little world at the baths used, as I have said, more especially to congregate at the “Ponte,” and the more “proper” portion at the “Villa,” for, as I have also said, the English Church service was performed there, in a hired room, as I remember, when I first went there. But a church was already in process of being built, mainly by the exertions of a lady, who assuredly cannot be forgotten by any one who ever knew the Baths in those days, or for many years afterwards–Mrs. Stisted. Unlike the rest of the world she lived neither at the “Ponte,” nor at the “Villa,” nor at the “Bagni Caldi,” but at “The Cottage,” a little habitation on the bank of the stream about half-way between the “Ponte” and the “Villa.” Also unlike all the rest of the world she lived there permanently, for the place was her own, or rather the property of her husband, Colonel Stisted. He was a long, lean, grey, faded, exceedingly mild, and perfectly gentlemanlike old man; but she was one of the queerest people my roving life has ever made me acquainted with.

She was the Queen of the Baths. On one occasion at the ducal villa, his Highness, who spoke English perfectly, said as she entered the room, “Here comes the Queen of the Baths!” “He calls me his Queen,” said she, turning to the surrounding circle with a magnificent wave of the hand and delightedly complacent smile. It was not exactly _that_ that the Duke had said, but he was immensely amused, as were we all, for some days afterwards.

She was a stout old lady, with large rubicund face and big blue eyes, surrounded by very abundant grey curls. She used to play, or profess to play, the harp, and adopted, as she explained, a costume for the purpose. This consisted of a loose, flowing garment, much like a muslin surplice, which fell back and allowed the arm to be seen when raised for performance on her favourite instrument. The arm probably was, or had once been, a handsome one. The large grey head, and the large blue eyes, and the drooping curls, were also raised simultaneously, and the player looked singularly like the picture of King David similarly employed, which I have seen as a frontispiece in an old-fashioned prayer-book. But the specialty of the performance was that, as all present always said, no sound whatever was heard to issue from the instrument! “Attitude is everything,” as we have heard in connection with other matters; but with dear old Mrs. Stisted at her harp it was absolutely and literally so to the exclusion of all else!

She and the good old colonel–he _was_ a truly good and benevolent man, and, indeed, I believe she was a good and charitable woman, despite her manifold absurdities and eccentricities–used to drive out in the evening among her subjects–_her_ subjects, for neither I nor anybody else ever heard him called King of the Baths!–in an old-fashioned, very shabby and very high-hung phaeton, sometimes with her niece Charlotte–an excellent creature and universal favourite–by her side, and the colonel on the seat behind, ready to offer the hospitality of the place by his side to any mortal so favoured by the queen as to have received such an invitation.

The poor dear old colonel used to play the violoncello, and did at least draw some more or less exquisite sounds from it. But one winter they paid a visit to Rome, and the old man died there. She wished, in accordance doubtless with his desire, to bring back his body to be buried in the place they had inhabited for so many years, and with which their names were so indissolubly entwined in the memory of all who knew them–which means all the generations of nomad frequenters of the Baths for many, many years. The Protestant burial-ground also was recognised as _quasi_ hers, for it is attached to the church which she was mainly instrumental in building. The colonel’s body therefore was to be brought back from Rome to be buried at Lucca Baths.

But such an enterprise was not the simplest or easiest thing in the world. There were official difficulties in the way, ecclesiastical difficulties and custom-house difficulties of all sorts. Where there is a will, however, there is a way. But the way which the determined will of the Queen of the Baths discovered for itself upon this occasion was one which would probably have occurred to few people in the world save herself. She hired a _vetturino_, and told him that he was to convey a servant of hers to the baths of Lucca, who would be in charge of goods which would occupy the entire interior of the carriage. She then obtained, what was often accorded without much difficulty in those days, from both the Pontifical and the Tuscan Governments, a _lascia passare_ for the contents of the carriage as _bona fide roba usata_–“used up, or second-hand goods.” And under this denomination the poor old colonel, packed in the carriage together with his beloved violoncello, passed the gates of Rome and the Tuscan frontier, and arrived safely at the place of his latest destination. The servant who was employed to conduct this singular operation did not above half like the job entrusted to him, and used to tell afterwards how he was frightened out of his wits, and the driver exceedingly astonished, by a sudden _pom-m-m_ from the interior of the carriage, caused by the breaking, in consequence of some atmospheric change, of one of the strings of the violoncello.

Malicious people used to say that the Queen of the Baths was innocent of all deception as regarded the custom-house officials; for that if any article was ever honestly described as _roba usata_, the old colonel might be so designated.

The queen herself shortly followed (by another conveyance), and was present at the interment, on which occasion she much impressed the population by causing a superb crimson chair to be placed at the head of the grave, in order that she might be present without standing during the service. The chair was well known, because the queen, both at the Baths and at Florence, was in the habit of sending it about to the houses at which she visited, since she preferred doing so to incurring the risk of the less satisfactory accommodation her friends might offer her!

If space and the reader’s patience would allow of it, I might gossip on of many more reminiscences of the baths of Lucca, all pleasant or laughable. But I must conclude by the story of a tragedy, which I will tell, because it is, in many respects, curiously characteristic of the time and place.

The Duke, who, as I have said, spoke English perfectly well, was fond of surrounding himself with foreign, and specially English, dependents. He had at the time of which I am speaking, two English–or rather, one English and one Irish–chamberlains, and a third, who, though a German, was, from having married an Englishwoman, and habitually speaking English, and living with Englishmen, much the same, at least to the Duke, as an Englishman. The Englishman was a young man; the German an older man, and the father of a family. And both were good, upright, and honourable men; both long since gone over to the majority.

The Irishman, also a young man, was a bad fellow; but he was an especial favourite with the Duke, who was strongly attached to him. It is not necessary to print his name. He has gone to his account. But it might nevertheless happen that the printing of my story with his name in these pages might still give pain to somebody.

There was also that year an extremely handsome and attractive lady, a widow, at the Baths. I will not give her name either. For though there was no sort of blame or discredit of any kind attached or attachable to her from any part of my story, as she is, I believe, still living, and as the memory of that time cannot but be a painful one to her, it is as well to suppress it. The lady, as I have said, was handsome and young, and of course all the young fellows who got a chance flirted with her–_en tout bien tout honneur_. But the Irish chamberlain attached himself to her, not with any but perfectly avowable intentions, but more seriously than the other youngsters, and with an altogether serious eye to her very comfortable dower.

Now during that same summer there was at the Baths Mr. Plowden, the banker from Rome. He was then a young man; he has recently died an old one in the Eternal City. His name I mention in telling my story because much blame was cast upon him at the time by people in Rome, in Florence, and at the Baths, who did not know the facts as entirely and accurately as I knew them; and I am able here to declare publicly what I have often declared privately, that he behaved well and blamelessly in the whole matter.

And probably, though I have no distinct recollection that it was so, Plowden may have also been smitten by the lady. Now, whether the Irishman imagined that the young banker was his most formidable rival, or whether there may have been some previous cause of ill-will between the two men, I cannot say, but so it was that the chamberlain sent a challenge to the banker. The latter declined to accept it on the ground that he _was_ a banker and not a fighting man, and that his business position would have been materially injured by his fighting a duel. The Irishman might have made the most of this triumph, such as it was. But he was not content with doing so, and lost none of the opportunities, which the social habits of such a place daily afforded him, for insulting and outraging his enemy. And he was continually boasting to his friends that before the end of the season he would compel him to come out and be shot at.

And before the end of the season came, his persistent efforts were crowned with success. Plowden finding his life altogether intolerable under the harrow of the bully’s insolence, at length one day challenged _him_. Then arose the question of the locality where the duel was to take place. The laws of the duchy were very strict against duelling, and the Duke himself was personally strongly opposed to it. In the case of his own favourite chamberlain, too, his displeasure was likely to be extreme. But in the neighbourhood of the Baths the frontier line which divides the Duchy of Modena from that of Lucca is a very irregular and intricate one. A little below the “Ponte” at the Baths, the Lima falls into the Serchio, and the upper valley of the latter river is of a very romantic and beautiful character. Now we all knew that hereabouts there were portions of Modenese territory interpenetrating that of the Duchy of Lucca, but none of us knew the exact line of the boundary. And the favourite chamberlain, with true Irish impudence, undertook to obtain exact information from the Duke himself.

There was a ball that night, at which the whole of the society were present, and, strange as It may seem, I do not think there was a man there who did not know that the duel was to be fought on the morrow, except the Duke himself. Many of the women even knew it perfectly well. The chamberlain getting the Duke into conversation on the subject of the frontier, learned from him that a certain highly romantic gorge, opening out from the valley of the Serchio, and called Turrite Cava, which he pretended to take an interest in as a place fitted for a picnic, was within the Modenese frontier.

All was arranged, therefore, for the meeting with pistols on the following morning; and the combatants proceeded to the spot fixed on, some five or six miles, I think, from the Baths. Plowden, who, as a sedate business man was less intimate with the generality of the young men at the Baths, was accompanied only by his second; his adversary was attended by a whole cohort of acquaintances–really far more after the fashion of a party going to a picnic, or some other party of pleasure, than in the usual guise of men bent on such an errand.

Plowden had never fired a pistol in his life, and knew about as much of the management of one as an archbishop. The other was an old duellist, and a practised performer with the weapon. All this was perfectly well known, and the young men around the Irishman were earnest with him during their drive to the ground not to take his adversary’s life, beseeching him to remember how heavy a load on his mind would such a deed be during the whole future of his own. Not a soul of the whole society of the Baths, who by this time knew what was going on to a man, and almost to a woman (my mother, it may be observed, had not been at the ball, and knew nothing about it), doubted that Plowden was going out to be shot as certainly as a bullock goes into the slaughter house to be killed.

The Irishman, in reply to all the exhortations of his companions, jauntily told them not to distress themselves; he had no intention of killing the fellow, but would content himself with “winging” him. He would have his right arm off as surely as he now had it on!

In the midst of all this the men were put up. At the first shot the Irishman’s well-directed bullet whistled close to Plowden’s head, but the random shot of the latter struck his adversary full in the groin!

He was hastily carried to a little _osteria_, which stood (and still stands) by the side of the road which runs up the valley of the Serchio, at no great distance from the mouth of the Turrite Cava gorge. There was a young medical man among those gathered there, who shook his head over the victim, but did not, I thought, seem very well up to dealing with the case.

One of my mother’s earliest and most intimate friends at Florence was a Lady Sevestre, who was then at the Baths with her husband, Sir Thomas Sevestre, an old Indian army surgeon. He was a very old man, and was not much known to the younger society of the place. But it struck me that _he_ was the man for the occasion. So I rushed off to the Baths in one of the _bagherini_ (as the little light gigs of the country are called) which had conveyed the parties to the ground, and knocked up Sir Thomas. Of course all the story came new to him, and he was very much inclined to wash his hands of it. But on my representations that a life was at stake, his old professional habits prevailed, and he agreed to go back with me to Turrite Cava.

But no persuasions could induce him to trust himself to a _bagherino_. And truly it would have shaken the old man well-nigh to pieces. There was no other carriage to be had in a hurry. And at last he allowed me to get an arm-chair rigged with a couple of poles for bearers, and placed himself in it–not before he had taken the precaution of slinging a bottle of pale ale to either pole of his equipage. He wore a very wide-brimmed straw hat, a suit of professional black, and carried a large white sunshade. And thus accoutred, and accompanied by four stalwart bearers, he started, while I ran by the side of the chair, as queer-looking a party as can well be imagined. I can see it all now; and should have been highly amused at the time had I not very strongly suspected that I was taking him to the bedside of a dying man.

And when he reached his patient, a very few minutes sufficed for the old surgeon to pronounce the case an absolutely hopeless one. After a few hours of agony, the bully, who had insisted on bringing this fate on himself, died that same afternoon.

Then came the question who was to tell the Duke. Who it was that undertook that disagreeable but necessary task, I forget. But the Duke came out to the little _osteria_ immediately on hearing of the catastrophe; also the English clergyman officiating at the Baths came out. And the scene in that large, nearly bare, upper chamber of the little inn was a strange one. The clergyman began praying by the dying man’s bedside, while the numerous assemblage in the room all kneeled, and the Duke kneeled with them, interrupting the prayers with his sobs after the uncontrolled fashion of the Italians.

He was very, very angry. But in unblushing defiance of all equity and reason, his anger turned wholly against Plowden, who, of course, had placed himself out of the small potentate’s reach within a very few minutes after the catastrophe. But the Duke strove by personal application to induce the Grand Duke of Tuscany to banish Plowden from his dominions, which, to the young banker, one branch of whose business was at Florence and one at Rome, would have been a very serious matter. But this, poor old _ciuco_, more just and reasonable in this case than his brother potentate, the Protestant Don Giovanni of Lucca, refused to do.

So our pleasant time at the Baths, for that season at least, ended tragically enough; and whenever I have since visited that singularly romantic glen of Turrite Cava, its deep rock-sheltered shadows have been peopled for me by the actors in that day’s bloody work.


It was, to the best of my recollection, much about the same time as that visit of Charles Dickens which I have chronicled in the last chapter but one, which turned out to be eventually so fateful a one to me, as the correspondence there given shows, that my mother received another visit, which was destined to play an equally influential part in the directing and fashioning of my life. Equally influential perhaps I ought not to say, inasmuch as one-and-twenty years (with the prospect I hope of more) are more important than seventeen. But both the visits I am speaking of, as having occurred within a few days of each other, were big with fate, to me, in the same department of human affairs.

The visit of Dickens was destined eventually to bring me my second wife, as the reader has seen. The visit of Mr. and Mrs. Garrow to the Via dei Malcontenti, much about the same time, brought me my first.

The Arno and the Tiber both take their rise in the flanks of Falterona. It was on the banks of the first that my first married life was passed; on those of the more southern river that the largest portion of my second wedded happiness was enjoyed.

Why Mr. and Mrs. Garrow called on my mother I do not remember. Somebody had given them letters of introduction to us, but I forget who it was. Mr. Garrow was the son of an Indian officer by a high caste Brahmin woman, to whom he was married. I believe that unions between Englishmen and native women are common enough. But a marriage, such as that of my wife’s grandfather I am assured was, is rare, and rarer still a marriage with a woman of high caste. Her name was Sultana. I have never heard of any other name. Joseph Garrow, my father-in-law, was sent to England at an early age, and never again saw either of his parents, who both died young. His grandfather was an old Scotch schoolmaster at Hadley, near Barnet, and his great-uncle was the well known Judge Garrow. My father-in-law carried about with him very unmistakable evidence of his eastern origin in his yellow skin, and the tinge of the white of his eyes, which was almost that of an Indian. He had been educated for the bar, but had never practised, or attempted to do so, having while still a young man married a wife with considerable means. He was a decidedly clever man, especially in an artistic direction, having been a very good musician and performer on the violin, and a draughtsman and caricaturist of considerable talent. The lady he married had been a Miss Abrams, but was at the time he married her the widow of (I believe) a naval officer named Fisher. She had by her first husband one son and one daughter. There had been three Misses Abrams, Jewesses by race undoubtedly, but Christians by baptism, whose parent or parents had come to this country in the suite of some Hanoverian minister, in what capacity I never heard. They were all three exceptionally accomplished musicians, and seem to have been well known in the higher social circles of the musical world. One of the sisters was the authoress of many once well known songs, especially of one song called “Crazy Jane,” which had a considerable vogue in its day. I remember hearing old John Cramer say that my mother-in-law could, while hearing a numerous orchestra, single out any instrument which had played a false note–and this he seemed to think a very remarkable and exceptional feat. She was past fifty when Mr. Garrow married her, but she bore him one daughter, and when they came to Florence both girls, Theodosia, Garrow’s daughter, and Harriet Fisher, her elder half-sister, were with them, and at their second morning call both came with them.

The closest union and affection subsisted between the two girls, and ever continued till the untimely death of Harriet. But never were two sisters, or half-sisters, or indeed any two girls at all, more unlike each other.

Harriet was neither specially clever nor specially pretty, but she was, I think, perhaps the most absolutely unselfish human being I ever knew, and one of the most loving hearts. And her position was one, that, except in a nature framed of the kindliest clay, and moulded by the rarest perfection of all the gentlest and self-denying virtues, must have soured, or at all events crushed and quenched, the individual placed in such circumstances. She was simply nobody in the family save the ministering angel in the house to all of them. I do not mean that any of the vulgar preferences existed which are sometimes supposed to turn some less favoured member of a household into a Cinderella. There was not the slightest shadow of anything of the sort. But no visitors came to the house or sought the acquaintance of the family for _her_ sake. She had the dear, and, to her, priceless love of her sister. But no admiration, no pride of father or mother fell to _her_ share. _Her_ life was not made brilliant by the notice and friendship of distinguished men. Everything was for the younger sister. And through long years of this eclipse, and to the last, she fairly worshipped the sister who eclipsed her. Garrow, to do him justice, was equally affectionate in his manner to both girls, and entirely impartial in every respect that concerned the material well-being of them. But Theodosia was always placed on a pedestal on which there was no room at all for Harriet. Nor could the closest intimacy with the family discover any faintest desire on her part to share the pedestal She was content and entirely happy in enjoying the reflected brightness of the more gifted sister.

Nor would perhaps a shrewd judge, whose estimate of men and women had been formed by observation of average humanity, have thought that the position which I have described as that of the younger of these two sisters, was altogether a morally wholesome one for her. But the shrewd judge would have been wrong. There never was a humbler, as there never was a more loving soul, than that of the Theodosia Garrow who became, for my perfect happiness, Theodosia Trollope. And it was these two qualities of humbleness and lovingness that, acting like invincible antiseptics on the moral nature, saved her from all “spoiling,”–from any tendency of any amount of flattery and admiration to engender selfishness or self-sufficiency. Nothing more beautiful in the way of family affection could be seen than the tie which united in the closest bonds of sisterly affection those two so differently constituted sisters. Very many saw and knew what Theodosia was as my wife. Very few indeed ever knew what she was in her own home as a sister.

When I married Theodosia Garrow she possessed just one thousand pounds in her own right, and little or no prospect of ever possessing any more; while I on my side possessed nothing at all, save the prospect of a strictly bread and cheese competency at the death of my mother, and “the farm which I carried under my hat,” as somebody calls it. The marriage was not made with the full approbation of my father-in-law; but entirely in accordance with the wishes of my mother, who simply, dear soul, saw in it, what she said, that “Theo” was of all the girls she knew, the one she should best like as a daughter-in-law. And here again the wise folks of the world (and I among them!) would hardly have said that the step I then took was calculated, according to all the recognised chances and probabilities of human affairs, to lead to a life of contentment and happiness. I suppose it ought not to have done so! But it did! It would be monstrously inadequate to say that I never repented it. What should I not have lost had I not done it!

As usual my cards turned up trumps! but they began to do so in a way that caused me much, and my wife more, grief at the time. Within two years after my marriage, poor, dear, good, loving Harriet caught small-pox and died! She was much more largely endowed than her half-sister, to whom she bequeathed all she had.

She had a brother, as I have said above. But he had altogether alienated himself from his family by becoming a Roman Catholic priest There was no open quarrel. I met him frequently in after years at Garrow’s table at Torquay, and remember his bitter complaints that he was tempted by the appearance of things at table which he ought not to eat. It would have been of no use to give or bequeath money to him, for it would have gone immediately to Romanist ecclesiastical purposes. He had nearly stripped himself of his own considerable means, reserving to himself only the bare competence on which a Catholic priest might live. He was altogether a very queer fish! I remember his coming to me once in tearful but very angry mood, because, as he said, I had guilefully spread snares for his soul! I had not the smallest comprehension of his meaning till I discovered that his woe and wrath were occasioned by my having sent him as a present Berington’s _Middle Ages_. I had fancied that his course of studies and line of thought would have made the book interesting to him, utterly ignorant or oblivious of the fact that it laboured under the disqualification of appearing in the _Index_.

I take it I knew little about the _Index_ in those days. In after years, when three or four of my own books had been placed in its columns, I was better informed. I remember a very elegant lady who having overheard my present wife mention the fact that a recently published book of mine had been placed in the _Index_, asked her, with the intention of being extremely polite and complimentary, whether _her_ (my wife’s) books had been put in the _Index_. And when the latter modestly replied that she had not written anything that could merit such a distinction, her interlocutor, patting her on the shoulder with a kindly and patronising air, said “Oh! my dear, I am _sure_ they will be placed there. They certainly ought to be!”

Mrs. Garrow, my wife’s mother, was not, I think, an amiable woman. She must have been between seventy and eighty when I first knew her; but she was still vigorous, and had still a pair of what must once have been magnificent, and were still brilliant and fierce black eyes. She was in no wise a clever woman, nor was our dear Harriet a clever girl. Garrow on the other hand and _his_ daughter were both very markedly clever, and this produced a closeness of companionship and alliance between the father and daughter which painfully excited the jealousy of the wife and mother. But it was totally impossible for her to cabal with her daughter against the object of her jealousy. Harriet always seeking to be a peacemaker, was ever, if peace could not be made, stanchly on Theo’s side. I am afraid that Mrs. Garrow did not love her second daughter at all; and I am inclined to suspect that my marriage was in some degree facilitated by her desire to get Theo out of the house. She was a very fierce old lady, and did not, I fear, contribute to the happiness of any member of her family.

How well I remember the appearance of Mr. and Mrs. Garrow, and those two girls in my mother’s drawing-room in the Via dei Malcontenti. The two girls, I remember, were dressed exactly alike and very _dowdily_. They had just arrived in Florence from Tours, I think, where they had passed a year, or perhaps two, since quitting “The Braddons” at Torquay; and everything about them from top to toe was provincial, not to say shabby. It was a Friday, my mother’s reception day, and the room soon filled with gaily dressed and smart people, with more than one pretty girl among them. But I had already got into conversation with Theodosia Garrow, and, to the gross neglect of my duties as master of the house, and to the scandal of more than one fair lady, so I remained, till a summons more than twice repeated by her father took her away.

It was not that I had fallen in love at first sight, as the phrase is, by any means. But I at once felt that I had got hold of something of a quite other calibre of intelligence from anything I had been recently accustomed to meet with in those around me, and with a moral nature that was sympathetic to my own. And I found it very delightful. It is no doubt true that, had her personal appearance been other than it was, I should not probably have found her conversation equally delightful. But I am sure that it is equally true that had she been in face, figure, and person all she was, and at the same time stupid, or even not sympathetic, I should not have been equally attracted to her.

She was by no means what would have been recognised by most men as a beautiful girl. The specialties of her appearance, in the first place, were in a great measure due to the singular mixture of races from which she had sprung. One half of her blood was Jewish, one quarter Scotch, and one quarter pure Brahmin. Her face was a long oval, too long and too lanky towards the lower part of it for beauty. Her complexion was somewhat dark, and not good. The mouth was mobile, expressive, perhaps more habitually framed for pathos and the gentler feelings, than for laughter. The jaw was narrow, the teeth good and white, but not very regular. She had a magnificent wealth of very dark brown hair, not without a gleam here and there of what descriptive writers, of course, would call gold, but which really was more accurately copper colour. And this grand and luxuriant wealth of hair