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grew from the roots on the head to the extremity of it, at her waist, when it was let down, in the most beautiful ripples. But the great feature and glory of the face were the eyes, among the largest I ever saw, of a deep clear grey, rather deeply set, and changing in expression with every impression that passed over her mind. The forehead was wide, and largely developed both in those parts of it which are deemed to indicate imaginative and idealistic power, and those that denote strongly marked perceptive and artistic faculties. The latter perhaps were the more prominently marked. The Indian strain showed itself in the perfect gracefulness of a very slender and elastic figure, and in the exquisite elegance and beauty of the modelling of the extremities.

That is not the description of a beautiful girl. But it is the fact that the face and figure very accurately so described were eminently attractive to me physically, as well as the mind and intelligence, which informed them, were spiritually. They were much more attractive to me than those of many a splendidly beautiful girl, the immense superiority of whose beauty nobody knew better than I. Why should this have been so? That is one of the mysteries to the solution of which no moral or physical or psychical research has ever brought us an iota nearer.

I am giving here an account of the first impression my future wife made on me. I had no thought of wooing and winning her, for, as I have said, I was not in a position to marry. Meanwhile she was becoming acclimatised to Florentine society. She no longer looked _dowdy_ when entering a room, but very much the reverse; and the little Florentine world began to recognise that they had got something very much like a new Corinne among them. But of course I rarely got a chance of monopolising her as I had done during that first afternoon. We were however constantly meeting, and were becoming ever more and more close friends. When the Garrows left Florence for the summer, I visited them at Lucerne, and subsequently met them at Venice. It was the year of the meeting of the Scientific Congress in that city.

That was a pleasant autumn in Venice! By that time I had become pretty well over head and ears in love with the girl by whose side I generally contrived to sit in the gondolas, in the Piazza in the evening, etcaetera. It was lovely September weather–just the time for Venice. The summer days were drawing in, but there was the moon, quite light enough on the lagoons; and we were a great deal happier than the day was long.

Those Scientific Congresses, of which that at Venice was the seventh and the last, played a curious part, which has not been much observed or noted by historians, in the story of the winning of Italian independence. I believe that the first congress, at Pisa, I think, was really got up by men of science, with a view to furthering their own objects and pursuits. It was followed by others in successive autumns at Lucca, Milan, Genoa, Naples, Florence, and this seventh and last at Venice. But Italy was in those days thinking of other matters than science. The whole air was full of ideas, very discordant all of them, and vague most of them, of political change. The governments of the peninsula thought twice, and more than twice, before they would grant permission for the first of these meetings. Meetings of any kind were objects of fear and mistrust to the rulers. Those of Tuscany, who were by comparison liberal, and, as known to be such, were more or less objects of suspicion to the Austrian, Roman, and Neapolitan Governments, led the way in giving the permission asked for; and perhaps thought that an assembly of geologists, entomologists, astronomers, and mathematicians might act as a safety valve, and divert men’s minds from more dangerous subjects. But the current of the times was running too strongly to be so diverted, and proved too much for the authorities and for the real men of science, who were, at least some of them, anxious to make the congresses really what they professed to be.

Gradually these meetings became more and more mere social gatherings in outward appearance, and revolutionary propagandist assemblies in reality. As regards the former aspect of them, the different cities strove to outdo each other in the magnificence and generosity of their reception of their “scientific” guests. Masses of publications were prepared, especially topographical and historical accounts of the city which played Amphytrion for the occasion, and presented gratuitously to the members of the association. Merely little guide-books, of which a few hundred copies were needed in the case of the earlier meetings, they became in the case of the latter ones at Naples, Genoa, Milan, and Venice, large and magnificently printed tomes, prepared by the most competent authorities and produced at a very great expense.

Venice especially outdid all her rivals, and printed an account of the Queen of the Adriatic, embracing history, topography, science in all its branches, and artistic story, in four huge and magnificent volumes, which remains to the present day by far the best topographical monograph that any city of the peninsula possesses. This truly splendid work, which brought out in the ordinary way could not have been sold for less than six or eight guineas, was presented, together with much other printed matter–an enormous lithographed panorama of Venice and her lagoons some five feet long in a handsome roll cover, I remember among them–to every “member” on his enrolment as such.

Then there were concerts, and excursions, and great daily dinners the gayest and most enjoyable imaginable, at which both sexes were considered to be equally scientific and equally welcome. The dinners were not absolutely gratuitous, but the tickets for them were issued at a price very much inferior to the real cost of the entertainment. And all this it must be understood was done not by any subscription of members scientific or otherwise, but by the city and its municipality; the motive for such expenditure being the highly characteristic Italian one, of rivalling and outdoing in magnificence other cities and municipalities, or in the historical language of Italy, “communes.”

Old Rome, with her dependent cities, made no sign during all these autumns of ever increasing festivity. Pity that they should have come to an end before she did so; for at the rate at which things were going, we should all at least have been crowned on the Capitol, if not made Roman senators, _pour l’amour du Grec_, as the _savant_ says in the _Precieuses Ridicules_, if we had gone to the Eternal City!

But the fact was, that the _soi-disant_ ‘ologists kicked up their heels a little too audaciously at Venice under Austria’s nose; and the Government thought it high time to put an end to “science.”

For instance, Prince Canino made his appearance in the uniform of the Roman National Guard! This was a little too much; and the Prince, all prince and Buonaparte as he was, was marched off to the frontier. Canino had every right to be there as a man of science; for his acquirements in many branches of science were large and real; and specially as an entomologist he was known to be probably the first in Italy. But he was the man, who, when selling his principality of Canino, insisted on the insertion in the legal instrument of a claim to an additional five pauls (value about two shillings), for the title of prince which was attached to the possessor of the estates he was selling. He was an out-and-out avowed Republican, and was the blackest of black sheep to all the constituted governments of the peninsula. He looked as little as he felt and thought like a prince. He was a paunchy, oily-looking black haired man, whose somewhat heavy face was illumined by a brilliant black eye full of humour and a mouth expressive of good nature and _bonhomie_. His appearance in the proscribed uniform might have been considered by Austria, if her police authorities could have appreciated the fun of the thing, as wholesomely calculated to throw ridicule on the hated institution. He was utterly unassuming, and good-natured in his manner, and when seen in his ordinary black habiliments looked more like a well-to-do Jewish trader than anything else.

As for the social aspects of these Scientific Congresses, they were becoming every year more festive, and, at all events to the ignoramus outsiders who joined them, more pleasant. My good cousin and old friend, then Colonel, now General, Sir Charles Trollope, was at Venice that autumn. I said on meeting him, “Now the first thing is to, make you a member.” “Me! a member of a Scientific Congress!” said he. “God bless you! I am as ignorant as a babe of all possible ‘epteras and ‘opteras, and ‘statics and ‘matics!” “Oh! nonsense! we are all men of science here! Come along!”–_i.e._, to the ducal palace to be inscribed. “But what do you mean to tell them I am?” he asked. “Well! let’s see! You must have superintended a course of instruction in the goose-step in your day?” “Rather so!” said he. “Very well, then. You are Instructor in Military Exercises in her B.M. Forces! You are all right! Come along!” And if I had said that he was Trumpeter Major of the 600th Regiment in the British Army, it would doubtless have been equally all right. So said, so done! And I see his bewildered look now, as the four huge volumes, about a load for a porter, to which he had become entitled, together with medals and documents of many kinds, were put into his arms.

Ah! those were pleasant days! And while Italy, under the wing of science, was plotting her independence, I was busy in forging the chains of that dependence which was to be a more unmixed source of happiness to me, than the independence which Italy was compassing has yet proved to her.

Those chains, however, as regarded at all events the outward and visible signs of them, had not got forged yet. I certainly had no “proposed” to Theodosia. In fact, to the very best of my recollection I never did “propose” to her–or “pop,” as the hideous phrase is–any decisive question at all. We seem, to my recollection, to have come gradually, insensibly, and mutually to consider it a matter of course that what we wanted was to be married, and that the only matter which needed any words or consideration was the question, how the difficulties in the way of our wishes were to be overcome.

In the autumn of 1847 my mother and I went to pass the winter in Rome. My sister Cecilia’s health had been failing; and it began to be feared that there was reason to suspect the approach of the malady which had already destroyed my brother Henry and my younger sister Emily. It was decided therefore that she should pass the winter in Rome. Her husband’s avocations made it impossible for him to accompany her thither, and my mother therefore took an apartment there to receive her. It was in a small _palazzo_ in that part of the Via delle Quattro Fontane, which is now situated between the Via Nazionale and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, to the left of one going towards the latter. There was no Via Nazionale then, and the buildings which now make the Via delle Quattro Fontane a continuous line of street existed only in the case of a few isolated houses and convents. It was a very comfortable apartment, roomy, sunny, and quiet. The house exists still, though somewhat modernised in outward appearance, and is, I think, the second, after one going towards Santa Maria Maggiore has crossed the new Via Nazionale.

But the grand question was, whether it could be brought about that Theodosia Garrow should be permitted to be my mother’s guest during that winter. A hint on the matter was quite sufficient for my dear mother, although I do not think that she had yet any idea that I was minded to give her a daughter-in-law. Theodosia’s parents had certainly no faintest idea that anything more than ordinary friendship existed between me and their daughter, or, if they had had such, she would certainly have never been allowed to accept my mother’s invitation. As for Theodosia herself and her willingness to come, it seems to me, as I look back, that nothing was said between us at all, any more than anything was said about making her my wife. I think it was all taken for granted, _sans mot dire_, by both of us. But there was one person who knew all about it; knew what was in both our hearts, and was eagerly anxious that the desire of them should be fulfilled. This was the good fairy Harriet Fisher. Without the strenuous exertion of her influence on her mother and Mr. Garrow, the object would hardly have been accomplished. Of course the plea put forward was the great desirability of taking advantage of such an opportunity of seeing Rome.

My sister, whose health, alas! profited nothing by that visit to Rome, and could have been profited by no visit to any place on earth, became strongly attached to Theodosia; and the affection which grew up between them was the more to the honour of both of them, in that they were far as the poles asunder in opinions and habits of thought. My sister was what in those days was called a “Puseyite.” Her opinions were formed on the highest High Church model, and her Church opinions made the greatest part, and indeed nearly the whole of her life. Theodosia had no Church opinions at all, High or Low! All her mind and interests were, at all events at that time, turned towards poetry and art. Subsequently she interested herself keenly in political and social questions, but had hardly at that time begun to do so. But she made a conquest of my sister.

Indeed it would have been very difficult for any one to live in the same house with her without loving her. She was so bright, her sympathies so ready, her intelligence so large and varied, that day after day her presence and her conversation were a continual delight; and she was withal diffident of herself, gentle and unassuming to a fault. My mother had already learned to love her truly as a daughter, before there was any apparent probability of her becoming one.

We did not succeed in bearing down all the opposition that in the name of ordinary prudence was made to our marriage, till the spring of forty-eight. We were finally married on the 3rd of April in that year, in the British Minister’s chapel in Florence, in the quiet, comfortable way in which we used to do such things in those days.

I told my good friend Mr. Plunkett (he had then become the English representative at the Court of Tuscany), that I wanted to be married the next day. “All right!” said he; “will ten o’clock do?” “Could not be better!” “Very good! Tell Robbins [the then English clergyman] I’ll be sure to be there.” So at ten the next morning we looked in at the Palazzo Ximenes, and in about ten minutes the business was done!

Of Mr. Robbins, who was as kind and good a little man as could be, I may note, since I have been led to speak of him, the following rather singular circumstance. He was, as I have been told, the son of a Devonshire farmer, and his two sisters were the wives of two of the principal Florentine nobles, one having married the Marchese Inghirami and the other the Marchese Bartolomei. What circumstances led to the accomplishment of a destiny apparently so strange for the family of a Devonshire farmer, I never heard. The clergyman and his sisters were all much my seniors.

After the expeditious ceremony we all–about half a score of us–went off to breakfast at the house of Mr. Garrow in the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, and before noon my wife and I were off on a ramble among the Tuscan cities.

CHAPTER X.

My very old friend, Colonel Grant–General Grant many years before he died–used to say that if he wished without changing his place himself, to see the greatest possible number of his friends and acquaintances, he should stand perpetually at the foot of the column in the Place Vendome. But it seems to me that at least as advantageous a post of observation for the purpose would be the foot of Giotto’s tower in Florence! Who in these days lives and dies without going to Florence; and who goes to Florence without going to gaze on the most perfectly beautiful tower that human hands ever raised?

Let me tell (quite parenthetically) a really good story of that matchless building, which yet however will hardly be appreciated at its full value by those who have never yet seen it. When the Austrian troops were occupying Florence, one of the white-coated officers had planted himself in the Piazza in front of the tower, and was gazing at it earnestly, lost in admiration of its perfect beauty. “_Si svita, signore_,” said a little street urchin, coming up behind him–“It _unscrews_, sir!” As much as to say, “Wouldn’t you like just to take it off bodily and carry it away?” But, as I said, to apprehend the aptitude of the _gamin’s_ sneer, one must have oneself looked on the absolute perfection of proportion and harmony of its every part, which really does suggest the idea that the whole might be lifted bodily in one piece from its place on the soil Whether the Austrian had the wit to answer “You are blundering, boy! you are taking me for a Frenchman,” I don’t know!

But I was saying, when the mention of the celebrated tower led me into telling, before I forgot it, the above story, that Florence was of all the cities of Europe, that in which one might be likely to see the greatest number of old, and make the greatest number of new acquaintances. I lived there for more than thirty years, and the number of persons, chiefly English, American, and Italian, whom I knew during that period is astonishing. The number of them was of course all the greater from the fact that the society, at least so far as English and Americans were concerned, was to a very great degree a floating one. They come back to my memory, when I think of those times, like a long procession of ghosts! Most of them, I suppose, _are_ ghosts by this time. They pass away out of one’s ken, and are lost!

Some, thank Heaven, are _not_ lost; and some though lost, will never pass out of ken! If I were writing only for myself, I should like to send my memory roving among all that crowd of phantoms, catch them one after another as they dodge about half eluding one when just on the point of recovering them, and, fixing them in memory’s camera, photograph them one after another. But I cannot hope that such a gallery would be as interesting to the reader as it certainly would to me. And I must content myself with recording my recollections of those among them in whom the world may be supposed to take an interest.

Theodosia Garrow, when living with her parents at “The Braddons,” at Torquay, had known Elizabeth Barrett. The latter was very much of an invalid at the time; so much so, as I think I have gathered from my wife’s talk about those times, as to have prevented her from being a visitor to “The Braddons.” But Theodosia was, I take it, to be very frequently found by the side of the sofa to which her friend was more or less confined. I fancy that Mr. Kenyon, who was an old friend and family connection of Elizabeth Barrett’s family, and was also intimately acquainted with the Garrows and with Theodosia, must have been the first means of bringing the girls together. There were assuredly _very_ few young women in England at that day to whom Theodosia Garrow in social intercourse would have had to look _up_, as to one on a higher intellectual level than her own. But Elizabeth Barrett was one of them. I am not talking of _acquirements_. Nor was my wife thinking of such when she used to speak of the poetess as she had known her at that time. I am talking, as my wife used to talk, of pure native intellectual power. And I consider it to have been no small indication of the capacity of my wife’s intelligence, that she so clearly and appreciatingly recognised and measured the distance between her friend’s intellect and her own. But this appreciation on the one side was in nowise incompatible with a large and generous amount of admiration on the other. And many a talk in long subsequent years left with me the impression of the high estimation which the gifted poetess had formed of the value of her highly, but not so exceptionally, gifted admirer.

Of course this old friendship paved the way for a new one when the Brownings came to live in Florence. I flatter myself that that would in any case have found some _raison d’etre_. But the pleasure of the two girls–girls no more in any sense–in meeting again quickened the growth of an intimacy which might otherwise have been slower in ripening.

To say that amid all that frivolous, gay, giddy, and, it must be owned, for the most part very unintellectual society (in the pleasures and pursuits of which, to speak honestly, I took, well pleased, my full share), my visits to Casa Guidi were valued by me as choice morsels of my existence, is to say not half enough. I was conscious even then of coming away from those visits a better man, with higher views and aims. And pray, reader, understand that any such effect was not produced by any talk or look or word of the nature of preaching, or anything approaching to it, but simply by the perception and appreciation of what Elizabeth Barrett Browning was; of the immaculate purity of every thought that passed through her pellucid mind, and the indefeasible nobility of her every idea, sentiment, and opinion. I hope my reader is not so much the slave of conventional phraseology as to imagine that I use the word “purity” in the above sentence in its restricted and one may say technical, sense. I mean the purity of the upper spiritual atmosphere in which she habitually dwelt; the absolute disseverance of her moral as well as her intellectual nature from all those lower thoughts as well as lower passions which smirch the human soul. In mind and heart she was _white_–stainless. That is what I mean by purity.

Her most intimate friend at Florence was a Miss Isabella Blagden, who lived for many years at Bellosguardo, in a villa commanding a lovely view over Florence and the valley of the Arno from the southern side, looking across it therefore to Fiesole and its villa-and-cypress-covered slopes. Whether the close friendship between Mrs. Browning and Isa Blagden (we all called her Isa always) was first formed in Florence, or had its commencement at an earlier date, I do not know. But Isa was also the intimate and very specially highly-valued friend of my wife and myself. And this also contributed to our common friendship. Isa was (yes, as usual, “was,” alas, though she was very much my junior) a very bright, very warm-hearted, very clever little woman, who knew everybody, and was, I think, more universally beloved than any other individual among us. A little volume of her poems was published after her untimely death. They are not such as could take by storm the careless ears of the world, which knows nothing about her, and must, I suppose, be admitted to be marked by that mediocrity which neither gods nor men can tolerate. But it is impossible to read the little volume without perceiving how choice a spirit the authoress must have been, and understanding how it came to pass that she was especially honoured by the close and warm attachment of Mrs. Browning. I have scores of letters signed “Isa,” or rather Sibylline leaves scrawled in the vilest handwriting on all sorts of abnormal fragments of paper, and despatched in headlong haste, generally concerning some little projected festivity at Bellosguardo, and advising me of the expected presence of some stranger whom she thought I should like to meet. Very many of such of these fragmentary scribblings, as were written before the Brownings left Florence, contain some word or reference to her beloved “Ba,” for such was the pet name used between them, with what meaning or origin I know not.

Dear Isa’s death was to me an especially sad one, because I thought, and think, that she need not have died. She lived alone with a couple of old servants, and though she was rich in troops of friends, and there were one or two near her during the day or two of her illness, they did not seem to have managed matters wisely. Our Isa was extremely obstinate about calling in medical advice. It could not be done at a moment’s notice, for a message had to be sent and a doctor to come from Florence. And this was not done till the second day of her illness. And I had good reason for thinking that, had she been properly attended to on the first day, her life might have been saved. She would not let her friends send for the doctor, and the friends were unable to make her do so. Unhappily, I was absent for a few days at Siena, and returned to be met by the intelligence that she was dead. It seemed the more sad in that I knew that if I had been there I could have made her call a doctor before it was too late. Browning could also have done so; but it was after the death of Mrs. Browning and his departure from Florence.

How great her sorrow was for the death of her friend, Browning knew, doubtless, but nobody else, I think, in the world save myself.

I have now before me one of her little scraps of letters, in which she encloses one from Mrs. Browning which is of the highest interest. The history and genesis of it is as follows. Shortly after the publication of the well-known and exquisite little poem on the god Pan in the _Cornhill Magazine_, my brother Anthony wrote me a letter venturing to criticise it, in which he says: “The lines are very beautiful, and the working out of the idea is delicious. But I am inclined to think that she is illustrating an allegory by a thought, rather than a thought by an allegory. The idea of the god destroying the reed in making the instrument has, I imagine, given her occasion to declare that in the sublimation of the poet the man is lost for the ordinary purposes of man’s life. It has been thus instead of being the reverse; and I can hardly believe that she herself believes in the doctrine which her fancy has led her to illustrate. A man that can be a poet is so much the more a man in becoming such, and is the more fitted for a man’s best work. Nothing is destroyed, and in preparing the instrument for the touch of the musician the gods do nothing for which they need weep. The idea however is beautiful, and it is beautifully worked.”

Then follows some verbal criticism which need not be transcribed. Going on to the seventh stanza he says, “In the third line of it, she loses her antithesis. She must spoil her man, as well as make a poet out of him–spoil him as the reed is spoilt. Should we not read the lines thus:–

“‘Yet one half beast is the great god Pan Or he would not have laughed by the river. Making a poet he mars a man;
The true gods sigh,’ &c.”?

In justice to my brother’s memory I must say that this was not written to me with any such presumptuous idea as that of offering his criticism to the poetess. But I showed the letter to Isa Blagden, and at her request left it with her. A day or two later, she writes to me: “Dear friend,–I send you back your criticism and Mrs. B.’s rejoinder. She _made_ me show it to her, and she wishes you to see her answer.” Miss Blagden’s words would seem to imply that she thought the criticism mine. And if she did, Mrs. Browning was doubtless led to suppose so too. Yet I think this could hardly have been the case.

Of course my only object in writing all this here is to give the reader the great treat of seeing Mrs. Browning’s “rejoinder.” It is very highly interesting:–

* * * * *

“DEAREST ISA,–Very gentle my critic is; I am glad I got him out of you. But tell dear Mr. Trollope he is wrong nevertheless” [here it certainly seems that she supposed the criticism to be mine]; “and that my ‘thought’ was really and decidedly _anterior_ [_sic_] to my ‘allegory.’ Moreover, it is my thought still. I meant to say that the poetic organisation implies certain disadvantages; for instance an exaggerated general susceptibility, …[1] which may be shut up, kept out of the way in every-day life, and must be (or the man is ‘_marred_’ indeed, made a Rousseau or a Byron of), but which is necessarily, for all that, cultivated in the very cultivation of art itself. There is an inward reflection and refraction of the heats of life …[1] doubling pains and pleasures, doubling therefore the motives (passions) of life. I have said something of this in A.L. [_Aurora Leigh_]. Also there is a passion for essential truth (as apprehended) and a necessity for speaking it out at all risks, inconvenient to personal peace. Add to this and much else the loss of the sweet unconscious cool privacy among the ‘reeds’ …[1] which I for one care so much for–the loss of the privilege of being glad or sorry, ill or well, without a ‘notice.’ That may have its glory to certain minds. But most people would be glad to ‘stir their tea in silence’ when they are grave, and even to talk nonsense (much too frivolously) when they are merry, without its running the round of the newspapers in two worlds perhaps. You know I don’t _invent_, Isa. In fact, I am sorely tempted to send Mr. Trollope a letter I had this morning, as an illustration of my view, and a reply to his criticism. Only this letter among many begins with too many fair speeches. Still it seems written by somebody in earnest and with a liking for me. Its main object is to complain of the cowardly morality in _Pan_. Then a stroke on the poems before Congress. The writer has heard that I ‘had been to Paris, was _feted_ by the Emperor, and had had my head turned by Imperial flatteries,’ in consequence of which I had taken to ‘praise and flatter the tyrant, and try to help his selfish ambition.’ Well! one should laugh and be wise. But somehow one doesn’t laugh. A letter beginning, ‘You are a great teacher of truth,’ and ending, ‘You are a dishonest wretch,’ makes you cold somehow, and ill disposed towards the satisfactions of literary distinction. Yes! and be sure, Isa, that the ‘true gods sigh,’ and have reason to sigh, for the cost and pain of it; sigh only … don’t haggle over the cost; don’t grudge a crazia, but…. sigh, sigh … while they pay honestly.

“On the other hand, there’s much light talking and congratulation, excellent returns to the pocket from the poem in the _Cornhill_; pleasant praise from dear Mr. Trollope…. with all drawbacks: a good opinion from Isa worth its gold–and Pan laughs.

“But he is a beast up to the waist; yes, Mr. Trollope, a beast. He is not a true god.

“And I am neither god nor beast, if you please–only a

“BA.”

* * * * *

[Footnote 1: These dots do not indicate any hiatus. They exist in the MS. as here given.]

It seems that she certainly imagined me to be the critic; but must have been subsequently undeceived. I will not venture to say a word on the question of the marring or making of a man which results from the creation of a poet; but if my brother had known Mrs. Browning as well as I knew her, he would not have written that he could “hardly believe that she herself believes in the doctrine that her fancy has led her to illustrate.” At all events, the divine afflatus had not so marred the absolutely single-minded truthfulness of the woman in her as to make it possible that she should, for the sake of illustrating, however appositely, any fancy however brilliant, put forth a “doctrine” as believing in it, which she did not believe. It may seem that this is a foolish making of a mountain out of a molehill; but she would not have felt it to be so. She had so high a conception of the poet’s office and responsibilities that nothing would have induced her to play at believing for literary purposes any position, or fancy, or imagination, which she did not in her heart of hearts accept.

There was one subject upon which both my wife and I disagreed in opinion with Mrs. Browning; and it was a subject which sat very near her heart, and was much occupying all minds at that time–the phases of Italy’s struggle for independence, and especially the part which the Emperor Napoleon the Third was taking in that struggle, and his conduct towards Italy. We were all equally “Italianissimi,” as the phrase went then; all equally desirous that Italy should accomplish the union of her _disjecta membra_, throw off the yoke of the bad governments which had oppressed her, make herself a nation, and do well as such. But we differed widely as to the ultimate utility, the probable results, and, above all, as to the motives of the Emperor’s conduct. Mrs. Browning believed in him and trusted him. We did neither. Hence the following interesting and curious letter, written to my wife at Florence by Mrs. Browning, who was passing the summer at Siena. Mrs. Browning felt very warmly upon this subject–so indeed did my wife, differing from her _toto coelo_ upon it. But the difference not only never caused the slightest suspension of cordial feeling between them, but never caused either of them to doubt for a moment that the other was with equal sincerity and equal ardour anxious for the same end. The letter was written, as only the postmark shows, on September 26th, 1859, and was as follows:–

* * * * *

“MY DEAR MRS. TROLLOPE,–I feel doubly ungrateful to you … for the music (one of the proofs of your multiform faculty) and for your kind and welcome letter, which I have delayed to thank you for. My body lags so behind my soul always, and especially of late, that you must consider my disadvantages in whatever fault is committed by me trying to forgive it.

“Certainly we differ in our estimate of the Italian situation, while loving and desiring for Italy up to the same height and with the same heart.

“For me I persist in looking to _facts_ rather than to words official or unofficial, and in repeating that, ‘whereas we were bound, now we are free.’

“‘I think, therefore, I am.’ _Cogito, ergo sum_, was, you know, an old formula. Italy thinks (aloud) at Florence and Bologna; therefore she _is_. And how did that happen? Could it have happened last year, with the Austrians at Bologna, and ready (at a sign) to precipitate themselves into Tuscany? Could it have happened previous to the French intervention? And could it happen _now_ if France used the power she has in Italy _against_ Italy? Why is it that the _Times_ newspaper, which declared … first that the elections were to be prevented by France, and next that they were to be tampered with … is not justified before our eyes? I appeal to your sober judgment … if indeed the Emperor Napoleon _desires the restoration of the Dukes!!_ Is he not all the more admirable for being loyal and holding his hand off while he has fifty thousand men ready to ‘protect’ us all and prevent the exercise of the people’s sovereignty? And he a despot (so called) and accustomed to carry out his desires. Instead of which Tuscans and Romagnoli, Parma and Modena, have had every opportunity allowed them to combine, carry their elections, and express their full minds in assemblies, till the case becomes so complicated and strengthened that her enemies for the most part despair.

“The qualities shown by the Italians–the calm, the dignity, the intelligence, the constancy … I am as far from not understanding the weight of these virtues as from not admiring them. But the _opportunity_ for exercising them comes from the Emperor Napoleon, and it is good and just for us all to remember this while we admire the most.

“So at least I think; and the Italian official bodies have always admitted it, though individuals seem to me to be too much influenced by the suspicions and calumnies thrown out by foreign journals–English, Prussian, Austrian, and others–which traduce the Emperor’s motives in diplomacy, as they traduced them in the war. A prejudice in the eye is as fatal to sight as mote and beam together. And there are things abroad _worse_ than any prejudices–yes, worse!

“It is a fact that the Emperor used his influence with England to get the Tuscan vote accepted by the English Government. Whatever wickedness he meant by _that_ the gods know; and English statesmen suspect … (or suspected a very short short time ago); but the deed itself is not wicked, and you and I shall not be severe on it whatever bad motive may be imputable.

“So much more I could write … about Villafranca, but I won’t. The Emperor, great man as he is, could not precisely anticipate the high qualities given proof of in the late development of Italian nationality. He made the best terms he could, having had his hand forced. In consequence of this treaty he has carried out his engagement to Austria in certain official forms, knowing well that the free will and choice of the Italians are hindered by none of them; and knowing besides that every apparent coldness and reserve of his towards the peninsula removes a jealousy from England, and instigates her to a more liberal and human bearing than formerly.

“Forgive me for all these words. I am much better, but still not as strong as I was before my attack; only getting strength, I hope.

“Miss Blagden and Miss Field are staying still with us, and are gone to Siena to-day to see certain pictures (which has helped to expose you to this attack). We talk of returning to Florence by the first of October, or soon after, in spite of the revival of fine weather. Mr. Landor is surprisingly improved by the good air here and the repose of mind; walks two miles, and writes alcaics and pentameters on most days … on his domestic circumstances, and … I am sorry to say … Louis Napoleon. But I tell him that I mean him to write an ode on my side of the question before we have done.

“I honour you and your husband for the good work you have both done on behalf of this great cause. But his book[1] we only know yet by the extracts in the _Athenaeum_, which brings us your excellent articles. May I not thank you for them? And when does Mr. Trollope come back?” [from a flying visit to England]. “We hope not to miss him out of Florence long.

[Footnote 1: _Tuscany in_ 1849 _and_ 1859.]

“Peni’s love to Bice.[1] He has been very happy here, galloping through the lanes on a pony the colour of his curls. Then he helps to work in the vineyards and to keep the sheep, having made close friends with the _contadini_ to whom he reads and explains Dall’ Ongaro’s poems with great applause. By the way, the poet paid us a visit lately, and we liked him much.

[Footnote 1: Browning’s boy and my girl.]

“And let me tell _Bice’s mother_ another story of Penini. He keeps a journal, be it whispered; I ventured to peep through the leaves the other morning, and came to the following notice: ‘This is the happiest day of my _hole (sic)_ life, because dearest Vittorio Emanuele is really _nostro re!_’

“There’s a true Italian for you! But his weak point is spelling.

“Believe me, with my husband’s regards,

“Ever truly and affectionately yours,

“ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.”

* * * * *

It may possibly enter into the mind of some one of those who never enjoyed the privilege of knowing Mrs. Browning the woman, to couple together the stupidly calumnious insinuations to which she refers in the first letter I have given, with the admiration she expresses for the third Napoleon in the second letter. I differed from her wholly in her estimate of the man, and in her views of his policy with regard to Italy. And many an argument have I had with her on the subject. And my opinions respecting it were all the more distasteful to her because they concerned the character of the man himself as well as his policy as a ruler. And those talks and arguments have left me probably the only man alive, save one, who knows with such certainty as I know it, and can assert as I can, the absolute absurdity and impossibility of the idea that she, being what she was, could have been bribed by any amount of Imperial or other flattery, not only to profess opinions which she did not veritably hold–this touches her moral nature, perhaps the most pellucidly truthful of any I ever knew–but to hold opinions which she would not have otherwise held. This touches her intellectual nature, which was as incapable of being mystified or modified by any suggestion of vanity, self-love, or gratified pride, as the most judicial-minded judge who ever sat on the bench. Her intellectual view on the matter _was_, I thought, mystified and modified by the intensity of her love for the Italian cause, and of her hatred for the evils from which she was watching the Italians struggling to liberate themselves.

I heard, probably from herself, of whispered calumnies, such as those she refers to in the first of the two letters given. She despised them then, as those who loved and valued her did, though the sensitive womanly gentleness of her nature made it a pain to her that any fellow-creature, however ignorant and far away from her, should so think of her. And my disgust at a secret attempt to stab has impelled me to say what I _know_ on the subject. But I really think that not only those who knew her as she lived In the flesh, but the tens of thousands who know her as she lives in her written words, cannot but feel my vindication superfluous.

The above long and specially interesting letter is written in very small characters on ten pages of extremely small duodecimo note-paper, as is also the other letter by the same writer given above. Mrs. Browning’s handwriting shows ever and anon an odd tendency to form each letter of a word separately–a circumstance which I mention for the sake of remarking that old Huntingford, the Bishop of Hereford, in my young days, between whom and Mrs. Browning there was one thing in common, namely, a love for and familiarity with Greek studies, used to write in the same manner.

The Dall’ Ongaro here spoken of was an old friend of ours–of my wife’s, if I remember right–before our marriage. He was a Venetian, or rather to speak accurately, I believe, a Dalmatian by birth, but all his culture and sympathies were Venetian. He had in his early youth been destined for the priesthood, but like many another had been driven by the feelings and sympathies engendered by Italy’s political struggles to abandon the tonsure for the sake of joining the “patriot” cause. His muse was of the drawing-room school and calibre. But he wrote very many charming little poems breathing the warmest aspirations of the somewhat extreme _gauche_ of that day, especially some _stornelli_ after the Tuscan fashion, which met with a very wide and warm acceptance. I remember one extremely happy, the _refrain_ of which still runs in my head. It is written on the newly-adopted Italian tricolour flag. After characterising each colour separately in a couplet, he ends:–

“_E il rosso, il bianco, e il verde, E un terno che si giuoca, e non si perde_.”

The phrase is borrowed from the language of the lottery. “And the red, and the white, and the green, are a threefold combination” [I am obliged to be horribly prosaic in order to make the allusion intelligible to non-Italian ears!] “on which we may play and be sure not to lose!”

I am tempted to give here another of Mrs. Browning’s letters to my first wife, partly by the persuasion that any letter of hers must be a matter of interest to a very large portion of English readers, and partly for the sake of the generously appreciative criticism of one of my brother’s books, which I also always considered to be one of his best. I must add that Mrs. Browning’s one bit of censure coincides as perfectly with my own judgment. The letter as usual is dateless, but must have been written very shortly after the publication of my brother’s novel called _The Three Clerks_.

“My dear Mrs. Trollope,–I return _The Three Clerks_ with our true thanks and appreciation. We both quite agree with you in considering it the best of the three clever novels before the public. My husband, who can seldom get a novel to hold him, has been held by all three, and by this the strongest. Also it has qualities which the others gave no sign of. For instance, I was wrung to tears by the third volume. What a thoroughly _man’s_ book it is! I much admire it, only wishing away, with a vehemence which proves the veracity of my general admiration, the contributions to the _Daily Delight_–may I dare to say it?

“I do hope you are better. For myself, I have not suffered more than was absolutely necessary in the late unusual weather.

“I heard with concern that Mrs. Trollope” [my mother] “has been less well than usual. But who can wonder, with such cold?

“Most truly yours,

“Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

“_Casa Guidi, Wednesday._”

Here is also one other little memorial, written not by “Elizabeth Barrett Browning,” but by “Elizabeth Barrett.” It is interesting on more than one account. It bears no date, save “Beacon Terrace [Torquay], Thursday,” But it evidently marks the beginning of acquaintanceship between the two exceptionally, though not equally gifted girls–Elizabeth Barrett and Theodosia Garrow. It is written on a sheet of the very small duodecimo note paper which she was wont to use many years subsequently, but in far more delicate and elegant characters than she used, when much pen-work had produced its usual deteriorating effect on her caligraphy.

* * * * *

“I cannot return the _Book of Beauty_” [Lady Blessington’s annual] “to Miss Garrow without thanking her for allowing me to read in it sooner than I should otherwise have done, those contributions of her own which help to justify its title, and which are indeed sweet and touching verses.

“It is among the vexations brought upon me by my illness, that I still remain personally unacquainted with Miss Garrow, though seeming to myself to know her through those who actually do so. And I should venture to hope that it might be a vexation the first to leave me, if a visit to an invalid condemned to the _peine forte et dure_ of being very silent, notwithstanding her womanhood, were a less gloomy thing. At any rate I am encouraged to thank Miss Fisher and Miss Garrow for their visits of repeated inquiry, and their other very kind attentions, by these written words, rather than by a message. For I am sure that wherever kindness _can_ come thankfulness _may_, and that whatever intrusion my note can be guilty of, it is excusable by the fact of my being Miss Garrow’s

“Sincerely obliged,

“E. BARRETT.”

* * * * *

Could anything be more charmingly girlish, or more prettily worded! The diminutive little note seems to have been preserved, an almost solitary survival of the memorials of the days to which it belongs. It must doubtless have been followed by sundry others, but was, I suppose, specially treasured as having been the first step towards a friendship which was already highly valued.

Of course, in the recollections of an Englishman living during those years in Florence, Robert Browning must necessarily stand out in high relief, and in the foremost line. But very obviously this is neither the time nor the place, nor is my dose of presumption sufficient for any attempt at a delineation of the man. To speak of the poet, since I write for Englishmen, would be very superfluous. It may be readily imagined that the “tag-rag and bobtail” of the men who mainly constituted that very pleasant but not very intellectual society, were not likely to be such as Mr. Browning would readily make intimates of. And I think I see in memory’s magic glass that the men used to be rather afraid of him. Not that I ever saw him rough or uncourteous with the most exasperating fool that ever rubbed a man’s nervous system the wrong way; but there was a quiet, lurking smile which, supported by very few words, used to seem to have the singular property of making the utterers of platitudes and the mistakers of _non-sequiturs_ for _sequiturs_, uncomfortably aware of the nature of their words within a very few minutes after they had uttered them. I may say, however, that I believe that in any dispute on any sort of subject between any two men in the place, if it had been proposed to submit the matter in dispute for adjudication to Mr. Browning, the proposal would have been jumped at with a greater readiness of _consensus_ than in the case of any other man there.

CHAPTER XI

The Italians, I believe, were “thinking” at a considerably earlier period than that which in the second letter transcribed in the preceding chapter Mrs. Browning seems to have considered as the beginning of their “cogitating” existence, and thinking on the subjects to which she is there adverting. They were “thinking,” perhaps, less in Tuscany than in any other part of the peninsula, for they were eating more and better there. They were very lightly taxed. The _mezzeria_ system of agriculture, which, if not absolutely the same, is extremely similar to that which is known as “conacre,” rendered the lot of the peasant population very far better and more prosperous than that of the tillers of the earth in any of the other provinces. And upon the whole the people were contented. The Tuscan public was certainly not a “pensive public.” They ate their bread not without due condiment of _compagnatico_,[1] or even their chesnuts in the more remote and primitive mountain districts, drank their sound Tuscan wine from the generous big-bellied Tuscan flasks holding three good bottles, and sang their _stornelli_ in cheerfulness of heart, and had no craving whatsoever for those few special liberties which were denied them.

[Footnote 1: Anything to make the bread “go down,” as our people say–a morsel of bacon or sausage, a handful of figs or grapes, or a bit of cheese.]

_Epicuri de grege porci!_ No progress! Yes, I know all that, and am not saying what should have been, but what was. There _was_ no progress! The _contadini_ on the little farm which I came to possess before I left Tuscany cultivated it precisely after the fashion of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, and strenuously resisted any suggestion that it could, should, or might be cultivated in any other way. But my _contadino_ inhabited a large and roomy _casa colonica_; he and his buxom wife, had six stalwart sons, and was the richer man in consequence of having them. No, in my early Florentine days the _cogito, ergo sum_ could not have been predicated of the Tuscans.

But the condition of things in the other states of the peninsula, in Venice and Lombardy under the Austrians, in Naples under the Bourbon kings, in Romagna under the Pope, and very specially in Modena under its dukes of the House of Este, was much otherwise. In those regions the Italians were “thinking” a great deal, and had been thinking for some time past. And somewhere about 1849, those troublesome members of the body social who are not contented with eating, drinking, and singing–cantankerous reading and writing people living in towns, who wanted most unreasonably to say, as the phrase goes, that “their souls were their own” (as if such fee-simple rights ever fall to the lot of any man!)–began in Tuscany to give signs that they also were “thinking.”

I remember well that Alberi, the highly accomplished and learned editor of the _Reports of the Venetian Ambassadors_, and of the great edition of Galileo’s works, was the first man who opened my altogether innocent eyes to the fact, that the revolutionary leaven was working in Tuscany, and that there were social breakers ahead! This must have been as early as 1845, or possibly 1844. Alberi himself was a Throne-and-Altar man, who thought for his part, that the amount of proprietorship over his own soul which the existing _regime_ allowed him was enough for his purposes. But, as he confided to me, a very strong current of opinion was beginning to run the other way in Florence, in Leghorn, in Lucca, and many smaller cities–not in Siena, which always was, and is still, a nest of conservative feeling.

Nevertheless there never was, at least in Florence, the strength and bitterness of revolutionary feeling that existed almost everywhere else throughout Italy. I remember a scene which furnished a very remarkable proof of this, and which was at the same time very curiously and significantly characteristic of the Florentine character, at least as it then existed.

It was during the time of the Austrian occupation of Florence. On the whole the Austrian troops behaved well; and their doings, and the spirit in which the job they had in hand was carried out, were very favourably contrasted with the tyranny, the insults, and the aggressive arrogance, with which the French army of occupation afflicted the Romans. The Austrians accordingly were never hated in Florence with the bitter intensity of hate which the French earned in the Eternal City. Nevertheless, there were now and then occasions when the Florentine populace gratified their love of a holiday and testified to the purity of their Italian patriotism by turning out into the streets and kicking up a row.

It was on an occasion of this sort, that the narrow street called Por’ Santa Maria, which runs up from the Ponte Vecchio to the Piazza, was thickly crowded with people. A young lieutenant had been sent to that part of the town with a small detachment of cavalry to clear the streets. Judging from the aspect of the people, as his men, coming down the Lung’ Arno, turned into the narrow street, he did not half like the job before him. He thought there certainly would be bloodshed. And just as his men were turning the corner and beginning to push their horses into the crowd, one of them slipped sideways on the flagstones, with which, most distressingly to horses not used to them, the streets of Florence are paved, and came down with his rider partly under him.

The officer thought, “Now for trouble! That man will be killed to a certainty!” The crowd–who were filling the air with shouts of “_Morte!” “Abbasso l’Austria!” “Morte agli Austriaci_!”[1]–crowded round the fallen trooper, while the officer tried to push forward towards the spot. But when he got within earshot, and could see also what was taking place, he saw the people immediately round the fallen man busily disengaging him from his horse! “_O poverino! Ti sei fatto male? Orsu! Non sara niente! Su! A cavallo, eh?_”[2] And having helped the man to remount, they returned to their amusement of roaring “_Morte agli Austriaci!_” The young officer perceived that he had a very different sort of populace to deal with from an angry crowd on the other side of the Alps, or indeed on the other side of the Apennines.

[Footnote 1: “Death! Down with Austria! Death to the Austrians!”]

[Footnote 2: “Oh! Poor fellow! Have you hurt yourself? Up with you! It will be nothing! Up again on your horse, eh?”]

I remember another circumstance which occurred a few years previously to that just mentioned, and which was in its way equally characteristic. In one of the principal _cafes_ of Florence, situated on the Piazza del Duomo–the cathedral yard–a murder was committed. The deed was done in full daylight, when the _cafe_ was full of people. Such crimes, and indeed violent crimes of any sort, were exceedingly rare in Florence. That in question was committed by stabbing, and the motive of the criminal who had come to Florence for the express purpose of killing his enemy was vengeance for a great wrong. Having accomplished his purpose he quietly walked out of the _cafe_ and went away. I happened to be on the spot shortly afterwards, and inquired, with some surprise at the escape of the murderer, why he had not been arrested red-handed. “He had a sword in his hand!” said the person to whom I had addressed myself, in a tone which implied that that quite settled the matter–that of course it was absolutely out of the question to attempt to interfere with a man who had a sword in his hand!

It is a very singular thing, and one for which it is difficult to offer any satisfactory explanation, that the change in Florence in respect to the prevalence of crime has been of late years very great indeed I have mentioned more than once, I think, the very remarkable absence of all crimes of violence which characterised Florence in the earlier time of my residence there. It was not due to rigorous repression or vigilance of the police, as may be partly judged by the above anecdote. There was, in fact, _no_ police that merited the name. But anything in the nature of burglary was unheard of. The streets were so absolutely safe that any lady might have traversed them alone at any hour of the day or night. And I might add to the term “crimes of violence” the further statement that pocket-picking was equally unheard of.

_Now_ there is perhaps more crime of a heinous character in Florence, in proportion to the population, than in any city in the peninsula. I think that about the first indication that all that glittered in the mansuetude of _Firenze la Gentile_ was not gold, showed itself on the occasion of an attempt to naturalise at Florence the traditional sportiveness of the Roman Carnival. There and then, as all the world knows, it has been the immemorial habit for the population, high and low, to pelt the folks in the carriages during their Corso procession with _bonbons, bouquets_, and the like. Gradually at Rome this exquisite fooling has degenerated under the influence of modern notions, till the _bouquets_ having become cabbage stalks, very effective as offensive missiles, and the _bonbons_ plaster of Paris pellets, with an accompanying substitution of a spiteful desire to inflict injury for the old horse-play, it has become necessary to limit the duration of the Saturnalia to the briefest span, with the sure prospect of its being very shortly altogether prohibited. But at Florence on the first occasion, now several years ago, of an attempt to imitate the Roman practice, the conduct of the populace was such as to demand imperatively the immediate suppression of it. The carriages and the occupants of them were attacked by such volleys of stones and mud, and the animus of the people was so evidently malevolent and dangerous, that they were at once driven from the scene, and any repetition of the practice was forbidden.

It is so remarkable as to be, at all events, worth noting, that contemporaneously with this singular deterioration in respect to crime, another social change has taken place in Florence. _La Gentile Firenze_ has of late years become very markedly the home of clericalism of a high and aggressive type. This is an entirely new feature in the Florentine social world. In the old time clerical views were sufficiently supported by the Government to give rise to the famous Madiai incident, which has been before alluded to. But clericalism in its more aggressive aspects was not in the ascendant either bureaucratically or socially. The spirit which had informed the policy and government of the famous Leopoldine laws was still sufficiently alive in the mental habitudes of both governors and governed to render Tuscany a rather suspected and disliked region in the mind of the Vatican and of the secular governments which sympathised with the Vatican’s views and sentiments. The change that has taken place is therefore a very notable one. I have no such sufficiently intimate knowledge of the subject as would justify me in linking together the two changes I have noticed in the connection of cause and effect. I only note the synchronism.

On the other hand there are not wanting sociologists who maintain that the cause of the outburst of lawlessness and crime which has undeniably characterised Florence of late years is to be sought for exactly in that old-time, easy-going tolerance in religious matters, which they say is now producing a tardy but sure crop from seeds that, however long in disclosing the true nature of the harvest to be expected from them, ought never to have been expected by wise legislators to produce any other.

_Non nostrum est tantas componere lites!_ But Florence is certainly no longer _Firenze la Gentile_ as she so eminently was in the days when I knew her so well.

Whether any of the other cities of Italy have in any degree ceased to merit the traditional epithets which so many successive generations assigned to them–how far Genoa is still _la Superba_, Bologna _la Grassa_, Padua _la Dotta_, Lucca _la Industriosa_–I cannot say. Venezia is unquestionably still _la Bella_. And as for old Rome, she vindicates more than ever her title to the epithet _Eterna_, by her similitude to those nursery toys which, throw them about as you will, still with infallible certitude come down heads uppermost.

As for the Florence of my old recollections, there were in the early days of them many little old-world sights and sounds which are to be seen and heard no longer, and which differentiated the place from other social centres.

I remember a striking incident of this sort which happened to my mother and myself “in the days before the flood,” therefore very shortly after our arrival there.

It was the practice in those days to carry the bodies of the dead on open biers, with uncovered faces, to their burial. It had doubtless been customary in old times so to carry all the dead; but the custom was retained at the time of which I am writing only in the case of distinguished persons, and very generally of the priesthood. I remember, for instance, a poor little humpbacked Grand Duchess being so carried through the street magnificently bedecked as if she were going to a ball, and with painted cheeks. She had been a beneficent little body, and the people, as far as they knew anything about her, revered her, and looked on her last presentation to them with sympathetic feelings. But it was a sorry sight to see the poor little body, looking much like a bedizened monkey, so paraded.

Well, my mother and I were, aimlessly but much admiringly, wandering about the vast spaces of the cathedral when we became aware of a _funzione_ of some sort–a service as we should say–being conducted in a far part of the building. There was no great crowd, but a score or two of spectators, mainly belonging to the _gamin_ category, were standing around the officiating priests and curiously looking on. We went towards the spot, and found that the burial service was being performed over the body of a young priest. The body lay on its back on the open bier, clad in full canonicals and with the long tasselled cap of the secular clergy on his head. We stood and gazed with the others, when suddenly I saw the dead man’s head slightly move! A shiver, I confess, ran through me. A moment’s reflection, however, reminded me of the recognised deceitfulness of the eyes in such matters, and I did not doubt that I had been mistaken. But the next minute I again saw the dead priest slightly shake his head, and this time I was sure that I was not mistaken. I clutched my mother’s arm and pointed, and again saw the awful phenomenon, which sent a cold wave through both of us from head to foot. But nobody save ourselves seemed to have seen anything unusual. The service was proceeding in its wonted order. Doubting whether it might possibly be one of those horrible cases of suspended animation and mistaken death, I was thinking whether it were not my duty to call attention to the startling thing we had seen, and had with outstretched neck and peering eyes advanced a step for further observation, and with the half-formed purpose of declaring aloud that the man was not dead, when I spied crouched beneath the bier a little monkey, some nine or ten years old, who had taken in his hand the tassel of the cap, which hung down between the wooden bars which formed the bier, and was amusing himself with slowly swaying it forwards and backwards, and had thus communicated the motion to the dead man’s head! It was almost impossible to believe that the little urchin had been able to reach the position he occupied without having been observed by any of the clerical attendants, of whom several were present, and still more difficult to suppose that no one of them had seen what we saw, standing immediately in front of the corpse while one of them performed the rite of lustration with holy water, the vessel containing which was held by another. But no one interfered, and none but those who know the Florentines as well as I know them can feel how curiously and intensely characteristic of them was the fact that no one did so. The awful reverence for death which would have impelled an Englishman of almost any social position to feel indignation and instantly put a stop to what he would consider a profanation, was absolutely unknown to all those engaged in that perfunctory rite. A certain amount of trouble and disturbance would have been caused by dislodging the culprit, and each man there felt only this; that it didn’t matter a straw, and that there was no reason for _him_ to take the trouble of noticing it. As far as I could observe, the amusement the little wretch derived from his performance was entirely unsocial, and confined to his own breast; for I could not see that any of the _gamin_ fraternity noticed it, or cared about it, any more than their seniors.

I remember another somewhat analogous adventure of mine, equally illustrative of the Florentine habits of those days. I saw a man suddenly stagger and fall in the street. It was in the afternoon, and there were many persons in the street, some of them nearer to the fallen man than I was, but nobody, attempted to help him. I stepped forward to do so, and was about to take hold of him and try to raise him, when one of the by-standers eagerly caught me by the arm, saying, “He is dying, he is dying!” “Let us try to raise him,” said I, still pressing forward. “You mustn’t, you mustn’t! It is not permitted,” he added, as he perceived that he was speaking to a foreigner, and then went on to explain to me that what must be done was to call the Misericordia, for which purpose one must run and ring a certain bell attached to the chapel of that brotherhood in the Piazza del Duomo.

Among the many things that have been written of the Florentine Misericordia, I do not think that I have met with the statement that it used to be universally believed in Florence that the law gave the black brethren the privilege and the monopoly of picking up any dying or dead person in the streets, and that it was forbidden to any one else to do so. Whether any such _law_ really existed I much doubt, but the custom of acting in accordance with it, and the belief that such practice was imperative, undoubtedly did. And I have no doubt that many a life has been sacrificed to it. The half hour or twenty minutes which necessarily elapsed before the Misericordia could be called and answer the call, must often have been supremely important, and in many cases ought to have been employed in the judicious use of the lancet.

The sight of the black robed and black cowled brethren, as they went about the streets on their errands of mercy, was common enough in Florence. But the holiday visitor had very little opportunity of hearing anything of the internal management and rules of that peculiar mediaeval society or of the nature of the work it did.

The Florentine Misericordia was founded in the days when pestilence was ravaging the city so fiercely that the dead lay uncared for in the streets, because there was no man sufficiently courageous to bury or to touch them. The members of the association, which was formed for the performance of this charitable and arduous duty, chose for themselves a costume, the object of which was the absolute concealment of the individual performing it. A loose black linen gown drapes the figure from the neck to the heels, and a black cowl, with two holes cut for the eyes, covers and effectually conceals the head and face. For more than five hundred years, up to the present day, the dress remains the same, and no human being, either of those to whom their services are rendered, or of the thousands who see them going about in the performance of their self-imposed duty, can know whether the mysterious weird-looking figure he sees be prince or peasant. He knows that he may be either, for the members of the brotherhood are drawn from all classes of society.

It used to be whispered, and I have good reasons for believing the whisper to have been true, that the late Grand Duke was a member, and took his turn of duty with his brethren. Some indiscreet personal attendant blabbed the secret, for assuredly the Duke himself was never untrue to the oath which binds the members to secrecy.

The whole society is divided into a number of companies, one of which is by turns on duty. There is a large, most melancholy and ominously sounding bell in the chapel of the brotherhood (not that already mentioned by which anybody can call the attention of the brother in permanent attendance, but a much larger one), which is heard all over the city. This summons the immediate attendance of every member of the company on duty, and the mysterious black figures may any day be seen hurrying to the rendezvous. There they learn the nature of the call, and the place at which their presence is required.

I remember the case of an English girl who was fearfully burned at a villa at some little distance from the city. The injuries were so severe that, while it was extremely desirable that she should be removed to a hospital, there was much doubt as to the possibility of moving her. In this difficulty the Misericordia were summoned. They came, five or six of them, bringing with them their too well-known black covered litter, and transported the patient to the hospital, lifting her from her bed and placing her in the litter with an exquisitely delicate and skilled gentleness of handling which spared her suffering to the utmost, and excited the surprise and admiration of the English medical man who witnessed the operation. Every part of the work, every movement, was executed in absolute silence and with combined obedience to signalled orders from the leader of the company.

Another case which was brought under my notice was that of a woman suffering from dropsy, which made the necessary removal of her a very arduous and difficult operation. It would probably have been deemed impossible save by the assistance of the Misericordia, who managed so featly and deftly that those who saw it marvelled at the skill and accurately co-operating force, which nothing but long practice could have made possible.

It is a law of the brotherhood, never broken, that they are to accept nothing, not so much as a glass of water, in any house to which they are called. The Florentines well know how much they owe as a community, and how much each man may some day come to owe personally to the Misericordia; and when the doleful clang of their well-known bell is heard booming over the city, women may be seen to cross themselves with a muttered prayer, while men, ashamed of their religiosity, but moved by feeling as well as habit, will furtively do the same.

There is an association at Rome copied from that at Florence, and vowed to the performance of very similar duties. I once had an opportunity of seeing the registers of this Roman Misericordia, and was much impressed by the frequently recurring entry of excursions into the Campagna to bring in the corpses of men murdered and left there!

CHAPTER XII.

Among the other things that contributed to make those Florence days very pleasant ones, we did a good deal in the way of private theatricals. Our _impresario_ at least in the earlier part of the time, was Arthur Vansittart. He engaged the Cocomero Theatre for our performances, and to the best of my remembrance defrayed the whole of the expense out of his own pocket. Vansittart was an exceptionally tall man, a thread-paper of a man, and a very bad actor. He was exceedingly noisy, and pushed vivacity to its extreme limits. I remember well his appearance in some play–I fancy it was in _The Road to Ruin_, in which I represented some character, I entirely forget what–where he comes on with a four-in-hand whip in his hand; and I remember, too, that for the other performers in that piece, their appearance on the stage was a service of danger, from which the occupants of the stage boxes were not entirely free. But he was inexhaustibly good-natured and good-humoured, and gave us excellent suppers after the performance.

Then there was Edward Hobhouse, with–more or less with–his exceedingly pretty and clever wife, and her sister, the not at all pretty but still more clever and very witty Miss Graves. Hobhouse was a man abounding in talent of all sorts, extremely witty, brim full of humour, a thorough good fellow and very popular. He and his wife, though very good friends did not entirely pull together; and it used to be told of him, that replying to a man, who asked him “How’s your wife?” he answered with much humorous semblance of indignation, “Well! if you come to that, how’s yours?” Hobhouse was far and away the cleverest and best educated man of the little set (these dramatic reminiscences refer to the early years of my Florence life), and in truth was somewhat regrettably wasted in the midst of such a frivolous and idle community. But I take it that he was much of an invalid.

Of course we got up _The Rivals_. I was at first Bob Acres, with an Irishman of the name of Torrens for my Sir Lucius, which he acted, when we could succeed in keeping him sober, to the life. My Bob Acres was not much of a success. And I subsequently took Sir Anthony, which remained my stock part for years, and which I was considered to do well.

Sir Francis Vincent, a resident in Florence for many years, with whom I was for several of them very intimate, played the ungrateful part of Falkland. He was a heavy actor with fairly good elocution and delivery, and not unfitted for a part which it might have been difficult to fill without him. He was to a great degree a reading man, and had a considerable knowledge of the byeways of Florentine history.

My mother “brought the house down” nightly as Mrs. Malaprop; and a very exceptionally beautiful Madame de Parcieu (an Englishwoman married to a Frenchman) was in appearance, _maniere d’etre_, and deportment the veritable _beau ideal_ of Lydia Languish, and might have made _a furore_ on any stage, if it had been possible to induce her to raise her voice sufficiently. She was most good-naturedly amenable. But when she was thus driven against her nature and habits to speak out, all the excellence of her acting was gone. The meaning of the words was taken out of them.

Sir Anthony Absolute became, as I said, my stock part. And the phrase is justified by my having acted it many years afterwards in a totally different company–I the only remaining brick of the old edifice–and to audiences not one of whom could have witnessed the performances of those earlier days. Mrs. Richie, an American lady–who had, I think, been known on a London stage under the name of “Mowatt”–was in those latter days, now so far away in the dim past, our manageress. Mrs. Proby, the wife, now I am sorry to say the widow, of the British Consul, was on that occasion our Mrs. Malaprop, and was an excellent representative of that popular lady, though she will, I am sure, forgive me for saying not so perfect a one as my mother.

Quite indescribably strange is the effect on my mind of looking back at my three Thespian avatars–Falstaff at Cincinnati, Acres and Sir Anthony in Grand Ducal Florence, and Sir Anthony again in a liberated Tuscany! I seem to myself like some old mail-coach guard, who goes through the whole long journey, while successive coachmen “Leave you here, sir!” But then in my case the passengers are all changed too; and I arrive at the end of the journey without one “inside” or “outside” of those who started with me! I can still blow my horn cheerily, however, and chat with the passengers, who joined the coach when my journey was half done, as if they were quite old fellow travellers!

It must not be imagined, however, that that pleasant life at Florence was all cakes and ale.

I was upon the whole a hard worker. I wrote a series of volumes on various portions of Italian, and especially Florentine, history, beginning with _The Girlhood of Catherine de Medici_. They were all fairly well received, the _Life of Filippo Strozzi_ perhaps the most so. But the volume on the story of the great quarrel between the Papacy and Venice, entitled _Paul the Pope and Paul the Friar_, was, I think, the best. The volumes entitled _A Decade of Italian Women_, and dealing with ten typical historic female figures, has attained, I believe, to some share of public favour. I see it not unfrequently quoted by writers on Italian subjects. Then I made a more ambitious attempt, and produced a _History of the Commonwealth of Florence_, in four volumes.

Such a work appeals, of course, to a comparatively limited audience. But that it was recognised to have some value among certain Anglo-Saxons whose favourable judgment in the matter was worth having, may be gathered from the fact that it has been a text-book in our own and in transatlantic universities; while a verdict perhaps still more flattering (though I will not say more gratifying) was given by Professor Pasquale Villari (now senator of the kingdom of Italy), who, in a letter in my possession, pronounces my history of Florence to be in his opinion the best work on the subject extant.

Professor Villari is not only an accomplished scholar of a wide range of culture, but his praise of any work on Italian–and perhaps especially on Tuscan–history comes from no “prentice han’.” His masterly _Life of Macchiavelli_ is as well known in our country as in his own, through the translation of it into English by his gifted wife, Linda Villari, whilom Linda White, and my very valued friend. All these historical books were written _con amore_. The study of bygone Florentines had an interest for me which was quickened by the daily and hourly study of living Florentines. It was curious to mark in them resemblances of character, temperament, idiosyncrasy, defects, and merits, to those of their forefathers who move and breathe before us in the pages of such old chroniclers as Villani, Segni, Varchi, and the rest, and in sundry fire-graven strophes and lines of their mighty poet. Dante’s own local and limited characteristics, as distinguished from the universality of his poetic genius, have always seemed to me quintessentially Tuscan.

Of course it is among the lower orders that such traits are chiefly found, and among the lower orders in the country more than those in the towns. But there is, or was, for I speak of years ago, a considerable conservative pride in their own inherited customs and traditions common to all classes.

Especially this is perceived in the speech of the genuine Florentine. Quaint proverbs, not always of scrupulous refinement, old-world phrases, local allusions, are stuffed into the conversation of your real citizen or citizeness of _Firenze la Gentile_ as thickly as the beads in the _vezzo di corallo_ on the neck of a _contadina_. And above all, the accent–the soft (not to say slobbering) _c_ and _g_, and the guttural aspirate which turns _casa_ into _hasa_ and _capitale_ into _hapitale_, and so forth–this is cherished with peculiar fondness. I have heard a young, elegant, and accomplished woman discourse in very choice Italian with the accent of a market-woman, and on being remonstrated with for the use of some very pungent proverbial illustration in her talk, she replied with conviction, “That is the right way to speak Tuscan. I have nothing to do with what Italians from other provinces may prefer. But pure, racy Tuscan–the Tuscan tongue that we have inherited–is spoken as I speak it–or ought to be!”

I had gathered together, partly for my own pleasure, and partly in the course of historical researches, a valuable collection of works on _Storia Patria_, which were sold by me when I gave up my house there. The reading of Italian, even very crabbed and ancient Italian which might have puzzled more than one “elegant scholar,” became quite easy and familiar to me, but I have never attained a colloquial mastery over the language. I can talk, to be sure, with the most incorrect fluency, and I can make myself understood–at all events by Italians, whose quick, sympathetic apprehension of one’s meaning, and courteous readiness to assist a foreigner in any linguistic straits, are deserving of grateful recognition from all of us who, however involuntarily, maltreat their beautiful language.

But the colloquial use of a language must be acquired when the organs are young and lissom. I began too late. And besides, I have laboured under the great disadvantage that my deafness prevents me from sharing in the hourly lessons which those who hear all that is going on around them profit by.

Besides the above-mentioned historical works, I wrote well nigh a score, I think, of novels, which also had no great, but a fair, share of success. The majority of them are on Italian subjects; and these, if I may be allowed to say so, are good. The pictures they give of Italian men and women and things and habits are true, vivid, and accurate. Those which I wrote on English subjects are unquestionably bad. I had been living the best part of a life-time out of England; I knew but little comparatively of English life, and I had no business to meddle with such subjects. But besides all this, I was always writing in periodical publications of all sorts, English and American, to such an extent that I should think the bulk of it, if brought together, would exceed that of all the many volumes I am answerable for. No! my life in that Castle of Indolence–Italy–was not a _far-niente_ one!

We were great at picnics in those Florence days. Perhaps the most favourite place of all for such parties was Pratolino, a park belonging to the Grand Duke, about seven miles from Florence, on the Bologna road. These seven miles wave almost all more or less up hill, and when the high ground on which the park is situated has been reached, there is a magnificent view over the Val d’Arno, its thousand villas, and Florence, with its circle of surrounding hills.

There was once a grand ducal residence there, which was famous in the later Medicean days for the multiplicity and ingenuity of its water-works. All kinds of surprises, picturesque and grotesque effects, and practical jokes, had been prepared by the ingenious, but somewhat childish skill of the architect. Turning the handle of a door would produce a shower-bath, sofas would become suddenly boats surrounded by water, and such like more or less disagreeable surprises to visitors, who were new to the specialties of the place. But all this practical joking was at length fatal to the scene of it. The pipes and conduits got out of order, and eventually so ruined the edifice that it had to be taken down, and has never been replaced.

But the principal object of attraction–besides the view, the charming green turf for dining on, the facility for getting hot water, plates, glasses, &c., from a gardeners house, and a large hall in the same, good for dancing–was the singular colossal figure, representing “The Apennine,” said to have been designed by Michael Angelo. One used to clamber up inside this figure, which sits in a half crouching attitude, and reach on the top of the head a platform, on which four or five persons could stand and admire the matchless view.

About three miles further, still always ascending the slope of the Apennine, is a Servite monastery which is the cradle and mother establishment of the order. Sometimes we used to extend our rambles thither. The brethren had the reputation, I remember, of possessing a large and valuable collection of prints. They were not very willing to exhibit it; but I did once succeed in examining it, and, as I remember, found that it contained nothing much worth looking at.

A much more favourite amusement of mine was a picnic arranged to last for two or three days, and intended to embrace objects further afield. Vallombrosa was a favourite and admirably well selected locality for this purpose. And many a day and moonlight night never to be forgotten, have I spent there. Sometimes we pushed our expeditions to the more distant convents–or “Sanctuaries” as they were called–of Camaldoli and Lavernia. And of one very memorable excursion to these two places I shall have to speak in a subsequent chapter.

Meantime those dull mutterings as of distant thunder, which Signor Alberi had, as mentioned at a former page, first signalised to me, were gradually growing into a roar which was attracting the attention and lively interest of all Europe.

Of the steady increase in the volume of this roar, and of the results in which it eventuated, I need say little here, for I have already said enough in a volume entitled _Tuscany in 1849 and in 1859_. But I may jot down a few recollections of the culminating day of the Florentine revolution.

I had been out from an early hour of that morning, and had assisted at sundry street discussions of the question, What would the troops do? Such troops as were in Florence were mainly lodged in the forts, the Fortezza da Basso, which I have had occasion to mention in a former chapter, and the other situated on the high ground beyond the Boboli Gardens, and therefore immediately above the Pitti Palace. My house at the corner of the large square, now the Piazza dell Indipendenza, was almost immediately under the walls and the guns of the Fortezza da Basso; but I felt sure that the troops would simply do nothing; might very possibly fraternise with the people; but would in no case burn a cartridge for the purpose of keeping the Grand Duke on his throne.

A short wide street runs in a straight line from the middle of one side of the Piazza to the fort; and a considerable crowd of people, at about ten o’clock, I think, began to advance slowly up this street towards the _fortezza_, and I went with them. High above our heads on the turf-covered top of the lofty wall, there were a good number, perhaps thirty or forty soldiers, not drawn up in line, but apparently merely lounging and enjoying the air and sunshine. They had, I think all of them, their muskets in their hands, but held them idly and with apparently no thought whatever of using them. I felt confirmed in my opinion that they had no intention of doing so.

Arrived at the foot of the fortress wall, the foremost of the people began calling out to the soldiers, “_Abbasso l’Austria! Siete per Italia o per l’Austria?_” I did not–and it is significant–hear any cries of “_Abbasso il Gran Duca!_” The soldiers, as far as I could see at that distance, appeared to be lazily laughing at the people. One man called out “_Ecco un bel muro per fracassare il capo contro!_”–“That is an excellent wall to break your heads against!” It was very plain that they had no intention of making any hostile demonstration against the crowd. At the same time there was no sort of manifestation of any inclination to fraternise with the revolutionists. They were simply waiting to see how matters would go; and under the circumstances they can hardly be severely blamed for doing so. But there can be no doubt that, whichever way things might go, their view of the matter would be strongly influenced by the very decided opinion that that course would be best which should not imply the necessity for _doing_ anything. I think that the feeling generally in “the army,” if such it could be called, was on the whole kindly to the Grand Duke, but not to the extent of being willing to fight anybody, least of all the Florentines, in his defence!

How matters _did_ go it is not necessary to tell here. If ever there was a revolution “made with rose-water,” it was the revolution which deposed the poor _gran ciuco_. I don’t think it cost any human being in all Florence a scratch or a bloody nose. It cost an enormous amount of talking and screaming, but nothing else. At the same time it is fair to remember that the popular leaders could not be sure that matters might not have taken another turn, and that it _might_ have gone hard with some of them. In any case, however, it would not have gone _very_ hard with any of them. Probably exile would have been the worst fate meted out to them. It is true that exile from Tuscany just then would have been attended by a similar difficulty to that which caused the old Scotch lady, when urged to run during an earthquake, to reply, “Ay! but whar wull I run to?”

I do not think there was any bitter, or much even unkind, feeling on the part of the citizens towards the sovereign against whom they rebelled. If any fact or circumstance could be found which was calculated to hold him up to ridicule, it was eagerly laid hold of, but there was no fiercer feeling.

A report was spread during the days that immediately followed the Duke’s departure that orders had been given to the officers in the upper fortress to turn their cannon on the city at the first sign of rising. Such reports were very acceptable to those who for political purposes would fain have seen somewhat of stronger feeling against the Duke. I have good reason to believe that such orders _had_ been given. But I have still stronger reasons for doubting that they were ever given by the Grand Duke. And I am surest of all, that let them have been given by whom they may, there was not the smallest chance of their being obeyed. As for the Duke himself, I am very sure that he would have given or even done much to prevent any such catastrophe.

But perhaps the most remarkable and most singular scene of all that rose-water revolution was the Duke’s departure from his capital and his duchy. Other sovereigns in similar plight have hidden themselves, travestied themselves, had hairbreadth escapes, or have not escaped at all. In Tuscany the fallen ruler went forth in his own carriage with one other following it, both rather heavily laden with luggage. The San Gallo gate is that by which the hearse that conveys the day’s dead to the cemetery on the slope of the Apennine leaves the city every night. And the Duke passed amid the large crowd assembled at the gate to see him go, as peaceably as the vehicle conveying those whose days in Florence, like his, were at an end, went out a few hours later by the same road.

CHAPTER XIII.

Among the very great number of men and women whom I have known during my life in Italy–some merely acquaintances, and many whom I knew to be, and a few, alas! a very few, whom I still know to be trusty friends–there were many of whom the world has heard, and some perhaps of whom it would not unwillingly hear something more. But time and space are limited, and I must select as best I may.

I have a very pleasant recollection of “Garibaldi’s Englishman,” Colonel Peard. Peard had many more qualities and capabilities than such as are essential to a soldier of fortune. The phrase, however, is perhaps not exactly that which should be used to characterise him. He had qualities which the true soldier of fortune should not possess. His partisanship was with him in the highest degree a matter of conviction and conscientious opinion, and _nothing_ would have tempted him to change his colours or draw his sword on the other side. I am not sure either, whether a larger amount of native brain power, and (in a much greater degree) a higher quality of culture, than that of the general under whom it may be his fortune to serve, is a good part of the equipment of a soldier of fortune. And Peard’s relation to Garibaldi very notably exemplified this.

He was a native of Devonshire, as was my first wife; we saw a good deal of him in Florence, and I have before me a letter written to her by him from Naples on the 28th of January, 1861, which is interesting in more respects than one. Peard was a man who _would_ have all that depended on him ship-shape. And this fact, taken in conjunction with the surroundings amid which he had to do his work, is abundantly sufficient to justify the growl he indulges in.

* * * * *
“My dear Mrs. Trollope,” he writes, “I am ashamed to think either of you or of other friends at Florence; it is such an age since I have written to any of you. But I have been daily, from morning to night, hard at work for weeks. The _honour_ of having a command is all very well, but the trouble and worry are unspeakable. Besides, I had such a set under me that it was enough to rile the sweetest tempered man. Volunteers may be very well in their way. I doubt not their efficiency in repelling an attack in their own country. But defend me from ever again commanding a brigade of English volunteers in a foreign country. As to the officers, many were most mutinous, and some something worse. Thank goodness the brigade is at an end. All I now wait for is the settlement of the accounts. If I can get away by the second week in February, I at present think of taking a run as far as Cairo, then crossing to Jerusalem, and back by Jaffa, Beyrout, Smyrna, and Athens to Italy, when I shall hope once more to see you and yours.

“Politics do not look well in Southern Italy, I fear. The Mazzinists have been most active, and have got up a rather strong feeling against Cavour and what they think the peace party. Now Italy must have a little rest for organisation, civil as well as military. They do not give the Government time to do or even propose good measures for the improvement of the country. No sooner are one set of ministers installed than intrigues are on foot to upset them. I firmly believe that the only hope for Southern Italy and Sicily is in a strong military Government. These districts must be treated as _conquered provinces_, and the people educated and taught habits of industry, whether they like it or not. The country is at present in a state of barbarism, and must be saved from that. All that those who are _supposed to be educated_ seem to think about is how they can get a few dollars out of Government.” [I fear the honest Englishman would find that those supposed to be educated in those provinces are as much in a state of barbarism in the matters that offended him as ever.] “I never saw such a set of harpies in my life. One had the assurance to come to me a few days since, asking if I could not take him on the strength of the brigade, so as to enable him to get six months pay out of the Government. As to peculation, read _Gil Blas_, and that will give you a faint sketch of the customs and habits of all _impiegati_ [civil servants] in this part of Italy. I do not believe that the Southern Italians, taken as a body, know what honesty is.” [All that he says is true to the present day. But the distinction which he makes between the Southern Italians and those of the other provinces is most just, and must be remembered.] “But that is the fault of the horrid system of tyranny under which they have so long lived. I do not say that the old system must be reformed, it must be totally changed. Solomon might make laws, but so corrupt are all the _impiegati_, that I doubt if he could get them carried out. Poor Garibaldi is made a tool of by a set of designing intriguers, who will sacrifice him at any moment. He is too honest to see or believe of dishonesty in others. He has no judgment of character. He has been surrounded by a set of blacklegs and swindlers, many among them, I regret to say, English. How I look forward to seeing you all again! Till we meet, believe me

“Most truly yours,

“GIO. [_sic_] PEARD.”

The last portion of this letter is highly interesting and historically well worth preserving. It is entirely and accurately true. And there was no man in existence more fitted by native integrity and hatred of dishonesty on the one hand, and close intimacy with the subject of his remarks on the other, to speak authoritatively on the matter than “Garibaldi’s Englishman.”

The following letter, written, as will be seen, on the eve of his departure for the celebrated expedition to Sicily, is also interesting. It is dated Genoa.

* * * * *

“DEAR MRS. TROLLOPE,–I have been thinking over your observations about _terno_. I don’t give up my translation; but would it not be literal enough to translate it, ‘the bravest three colours’?

[This refers to the rendering of the lottery phrase _terno_ in a translation by my wife of the _stornello_ of Dall’ Ongaro previously mentioned. In the Italian lottery, ninety numbers, 1-90, are always put into the wheel. Five only of these are drawn out. The player bets that a number named by him shall be one of these (_semplice estratto_); or that it shall be the first drawn (_estratto determinato_); or that two numbers named by him shall be two of the five drawn (_ambo_); or that three so named shall be drawn (_terno_). It will be seen, therefore, that the winner of an _estratto determinato_, ought, if the play were quite even, to receive ninety times his stake. But, in fact, such a player would receive only seventy-five times his stake, the profit of the Government consisting of this pull of fifteen per ninety against the player. Of course, what he ought to receive in any of the other cases is easily (not by me, but by experts) calculable. It will be admitted that the difficulty of translating the phrase in Dall’ Ongaro’s little poem, so as to be intelligible to English readers, was considerable. The letter then proceeds]:

“I did not start, you will see, direct from Livorno [Leghorn], for Medici wrote me to join him here. Moreover, the steamer by which I expected to have gone, did not make the trip, but was sent back to this city. I will worry you with a letter when anything stirring occurs. We sail to-night. Part went off last evening–1,500. We go in three steamers, and shall overtake the others.

“With kind regards to all friends, believe me,

“Yours very faithfully,

“JOHN PEARD.”

* * * * *

The remarks contained in the former of the two letters here transcribed seem to make this a proper place for recording “what I remember” of Garibaldi.

My first acquaintance with him was through my very old, and very highly valued, loved, and esteemed friend, Jessie White Mario. The Garibaldi _culte_ has been with her truly and literally the object (apart from her devoted love for her husband, an equally ardent worshipper at the same shrine) for which she has lived, and for which she has again and again affronted death. For she accompanied him in all his Italian campaigns as a hospital nurse, and on many occasions rendered her inestimable services in that capacity under fire. If Peard has been called “Garibaldi’s Englishman,” truly Jessie White Mario deserves yet more emphatically the title of “Garibaldi’s Englishwoman.” She has published a large life of Garibaldi, which is far and away the best and most trustworthy account of the man and his wonderful works. She is not blind to the spots on the sun of her adoration, nor does she seek to conceal the fact that there were such spots, but she is a true and loyal worshipper all the same.

Her husband was–alas! that I should write so; for no Indian wife’s life was ever more ended by her suttee than Jessie Mario’s life has practically been ended by her husband’s untimely death!–Alberto Mario was among the, I fear, few exceptions to Peard’s remarks on the men who were around Garibaldi. He was not only a man of large literary culture, a brave soldier, an acute politician, a formidable political adversary, and a man of perfect and incorruptible integrity, but he would have been considered in any country and in any society in Europe a very perfect gentleman. He was in political opinion a consistent and fearlessly outspoken Republican. He and I therefore differed _toto coelo_. But our differences never diminished our, I trust, mutual esteem, nor our friendly intercourse. But he was a born _frondeur_. He edited during his latter years a newspaper at Rome, which was a thorn in the side of the authorities. I remember his being prosecuted and condemned for persistently speaking of the Pope in his paper as “Signor Pecci.” He was sentenced to imprisonment. But all the Government wanted was his condemnation; and he was never incarcerated. But he used to go daily to the prison and demand the execution of his sentence. The gaoler used to shut the door in his face, and he narrated the result of his visit in the next day’s paper!

It was as Jessie Mario’s friend then, that I first knew Garibaldi.

One morning at the villa I then possessed, at Ricorboli, close to Florence, a maid-servant came flying into the room, where I was still in bed at six o’clock in the morning, crying out in the utmost excitement, “_C’e il Generale! c’e il Generale; e chiede di lei, signore!_”–“Here’s the General! here’s the General! And he is asking for you, sir!” She spoke as if there was but one general in all the world. But there was hardly any room in Florence at that time where her words would not have been understood as well as I understood them.

I jumped out of bed, got into a dressing-gown, and ran out to where the “General” was on the lawn before the door, just as I was, and hardly more than half awake. There he was, all alone. But if there had been a dozen other men around him, I should have had no difficulty in recognising him. There was the figure as well known to every Italian from Turin to Syracuse as that of his own father–the light grey trousers, the little foraging cap, the red shirt, the bandana handkerchief loosely thrown over his shoulders and round his neck.

Prints, photographs, portraits of all kinds, have made the English public scarcely less familiar than the Italian, with the physiognomy of Giuseppe Garibaldi. But no photograph, of course, and no painting which I have ever seen, gives certain peculiarities of that striking head and face, as I first saw it, somewhere about twenty years ago.

The pose of the head, and the general arrangement and colour of the tawny hair (at that time but slightly grizzled) justified the epithet “leonine” so often applied to him. His beard and moustache were of the same hue, and his skin was probably fair by nature, but it had been tanned by wind and weather. The clear blue eyes were surrounded by a network of fine lines. This had no trace or suggestion of _cunning_, as is often the case with wrinkles round the setting of the eyes, but was obviously the result of habitual contraction of the muscles in gazing at very distant objects. In short, Garibaldi’s eyes, both in this respect and in respect of a certain, steadfast, far-away look in them, were the eyes of a sailor. Seamanship, as is generally known, was his first profession. Another physical peculiarity of his which I do not remember to have seen noticed in print was a remarkably beautiful voice. It was fine in quality and of great range; sweet, yet manly, and with a suggestion of stored-up power which harmonised with the man. It seemed to belong, too, to the benevolence, which was the habitual expression of his face when in repose.

“Jessie [pronounced Jessee] told me I should find you up; but you are not so early as I am!” was his salutation. I said he had _dans le temps_ been beforehand with others as well as with me! At which he laughed, not, I thought, ill-pleased. And then we talked–about Italy of course. One subject of his talk I specially remember, because it gave rise to a little discussion, and in a great degree gave me the measure of the man.

“As for the priests,” said he, “they ought all to be put to death, without exception and without delay!”

“Rather a strong measure!” I ventured to say.

“Not a bit too strong! not a bit!” he rejoined warmly. “Do we not put assassins to death? And is not the man who murders your soul worse than the man who only kills your body?”

I attempted to say that the difference of the two cases lay in the fact, that as to the killing of the body there was no doubt about the matter, whereas mankind differed very widely as to the killing of the soul; and that as long as it remained a moot point whether priests did so or not, it would hardly be practicable or even politic to adopt the measure he suggested.

But he would not listen to me–only repeated with increasing excitement that no good could come to humanity till all priests were destroyed.

Then we talked about the Marries, of both of whom he spoke with the greatest affection; and of the prospects of “going to Rome,” which of course he considered the simplest and easiest thing possible.

I saw Garibaldi on many subsequent occasions, but never again _tete-a-tete_, or _a Quattro Oct_, as the Italians more significantly phrase it. The last time I ever saw him was under melancholy circumstances enough, though the occasion professed to be one of rejoicing. It was at the great gathering at Palermo for celebrating the anniversary of the Sicilian Vespers. Of course such a celebration would have brought Garibaldi to partake in it, wherever he might have been, short of in his grave. And truly he was then very near that. It was a melancholy business. He was brought from the steamer to his bed in the hotel on a litter through the streets lined by the thousands who had gathered to see him, but who had been warned that his condition was such, that the excitement occasioned by any shouting would be perilous to him. Amid dead silence his litter passed through the crowds who were longing to welcome him to the scene of his old triumphs! Truly it was more like a funeral procession than one of rejoicing.

It was very shortly before his death, which many people thought had been accelerated by that last effort to make his boundless popularity available for the propagation of Radicalism.

Peard’s words reveal with exactitude the deficiency which lay at the root of all the blunders, follies, and imprudence which rendered his career less largely beneficent for Italy than it might have been. “He had no judgment of character,” and was too honest to believe in knavery. It must be added that he was too little intelligent to detect it, or to estimate the consequences of it. Of any large views of social life, or of the means by which, and the objects for which, men should be governed, he was as innocent as a baby. In a word, he was not an intellectual man. All the high qualities which placed him on the pinnacle he occupied were qualities of the heart and not of the head. They availed with admirable success to fit him for exercising a supreme influence over men, especially young men, in the field, and for all the duties of a guerilla leader. They would not have sufficed to make him a great commander of armies; and did still less fit him for becoming a political leader.

Whom next shall I present to the reader from the portrait gallery of my reminiscences?

Come forward, Franz Pulszky, most genial, most large-hearted of philosophers and friends!–I can’t say “guides,” for though he was both the first, he was not the last, differing widely as we did upon–perhaps not most, but at all events–many large subjects.

I had known the lady whom Pulszky married in Vienna many years previously, and long before he knew her. She was the daughter of that highly cultivated Jewish family of whom I have spoken before. When I first knew her she was as pretty and charming a young girl as could be imagined. She was possessed then of all the accomplishments that can adorn a girl at that period of life. Later on she showed that she was gifted with sense, knowledge, energy, firmness, courage and _caractere_ in a degree very uncommon. Since leaving Vienna I had neither seen nor heard more of her, till she came to live with her husband and family of children in Florence. But our old acquaintanceship was readily and naturally renewed, and his villa near the city became one of the houses I best loved to frequent. She had at that time, and even well-nigh I take it in those old days at Vienna, abandoned all seeming of conformity to the practices of the faith she was born in.

I used to say of Pulszky that he was like a barrel full to the bung with generous liquor, which flowed in a full stream, stick the spigot in where you would. He was–is, I am happy to say is the proper tense In his case–a most many-sided man. His talk on artistic subjects, mainly historical and biographical, was abundant and most amusing. His antiquarian knowledge was large. His ethnographical learning, theories, and speculations were always interesting and often most suggestive. Years had, I think, put some water in the wine of his political ideas, but not enough to prevent differences between us on such subjects. He was withal–there again I mean “is,” for I am sure that years and the air of his beloved Pesth cannot have put any water in _that_ generous and genial wine–a fellow of infinite jest, and full of humour; in a word, one of the fullest and most delightful companions I have ever known. He talked English with no further accent than served to add a raciness to the flavour of his conversation; and every morning of one fixed day in the week he used to come to Ricorboli for what he called a tobacco parliament.

I used frequently to spend the evening at his villa, where one met a somewhat extraordinary cosmopolitan gathering. Generally we had some good music; for Madame Pulszky was–unhappily in her case the past tense is needed–a very perfect musician. Among other people more or less off the world’s beaten track, I used to meet there a very extraordinary Russian, who had accomplished the rare feat of escaping from Siberia. He was a Nihilist of the most uncompromising type; a huge, shaggy man, with an unkempt head and chest like those of a bear; and by his side–more or less–there was a pretty, _petite_, dainty little young wife–beauty and the beast, if ever that storied couple were seen in the flesh!

Many years afterwards when I and my wife saw Pulszky at Pesth, and were talking of old times, he reminded me of this person; and on my doubting that any man in his senses could believe in the practicability of the extreme Nihilist theories, he instanced our old acquaintance, saying, “Yes, there is a man, who in his very inmost conscience believes that no good of any sort can be achieved for humanity till the sponge shall have been passed over _all_ that men have instituted and done, and a perfect _tabula rasa_ has been substituted for it!”

I have many letters from Pulszky, written most of them after his return to Pesth, and for the most part too much occupied with the persons and politics of that recent day to be fit for publication.

Here is one, written before he left Florence, which may be given:

* * * * *

“VILLA PETROVICH.

“MY DEAR TROLLOPE,–I am just returned from a long excursion with Boxall to Arezzo, Cortona, Borgo San Sepolcro, Citta di Castello, Perugia, and Assisi. We were there for a week, and enjoyed it amazingly. I am sorry to say that I am not now able to join your party to Camaldoli, since I must see Garibaldi, and do not know as yet what I shall do when the war begins, which might happen during your excursion. I hope you will drink a glass of water to my remembrance at La Vernia from the miraculous well, called from the rocks by my patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. I shall come to you on Sunday, and will tell you more about him. I studied him at Assisi.

“Yours sincerely,

“FR. PULSZKY.”

* * * * *

The following passages may be given from a long letter, written from Pesth on the 27th of March, 1869. It is for the most part filled with remarks on the party politics of the hour, and persons, many of them still on the scene:–

* * * * *

“MY DEAR MRS. AND MR. TROLLOPE,–You don’t believe how glad I was to get a token of remembrance from you. It seems to me quite an age since I left Florence, and your letter was like a voice from a past period. I live here as a stranger; you would not recognise me. I talk nothing but politics and business. There is not a man with whom I could speak in the way that we did on Sundays at your villa. I am of course much with old Deak. I often dine with him. I know all his anecdotes and jokes by heart. He likes it, if I visit him; but our conversation remains within the narrow limits of party politics and the topics of the day. Sometimes I spend an evening with Baron Eotvoes, the Minister of Public Instruction, my old friend; and there only we get both warm in remembering the days of our youth, and building _chateaux en Espagne_ for the future of the country. Eotvoes has appointed me Director of the National Museum, which contains a library of 180,000 volumes, mostly Hungarian; a very indifferent picture gallery, with a few good pictures and plenty of rubbish; a poor collection of antiquities; splendid mediaeval goldsmith work; arms, coins, and some miserable statues; a good collection of stuffed birds; an excellent one of butterflies; a celebrated one of beetles, and good specimens for geology and mineralogy. But all this collection is badly, if at all, catalogued; badly arranged; and until now we have in a great palace an appropriation of only 1,200_l._ a year. I shall have much to do there–as much as any minister in his office, if politics leave me the necessary time for it.