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CIETY seems to be on an easy and
agreeable footing in this city. Besides the conversazionis which they have here, as in other towns of Italy, a number of the nobility meet every day at a house called the Casino. This society is pretty much on the same footing with the clubs in London. The members are elected by ballot. They meet at no particular hour, but go at any time that is convenient. They play at billiards, cards, and other games, or continue conversing the whole evening, as they think proper. They are served with tea, coffee, lemonade, ices, or what other refreshments they choose ; and each person pays for what he calls for. There is one material difference between this and the English clubs, that women as well as men are members.
The company of both fexes behave with more frankness and familiarity to strangers, as well as to each other, than is customary in public assemblies in other parts of Italy.
The Opera at Florence is a place where the people of quality pay and receive visits, and converse as freely as at the Casino above mentioned. This occasions a continual passing and repassing to and from the boxes, except in those where there is a party of cards formed; it is then looked on as a piece of ill manners to disturb the players. I never was more surprised, than when it was proposed to me to make one of a whist party, in a box which seemed to have been made for the purpose, with a little table in the middle. I hinted that it would be full as convenient to have the party somewhere else; but I was told, good music added greatly to the pleasure of a whist party ; that it increased the joy of good fortune, and soothed the affliction of bad, As I thought the people of this
country better acquainted than myself with the power
of music, I contested the point no longer ; but have generally played two or three rubbers at whist in the stage-box every opera night.
From this you may guess, that, in this city, as in some other towns in Italy, little attention is paid to the music by the company in the boxes, except at a new opera, or during some favourite air.
But the dancers command a general attention : as soon as they begin, conversation ceases; even the card-players lay down their cards, and fix their eyes on the Ballette. Yet the excellence of Italian dancing seems to confist in feats of strength, and a kind of jerking agility, more than in graceful movement. There is a continual contest among the performers who shall spring highest. You see here none of the sprightly, alluring gaiety of the French comic dancers, nor of the graceful attitudes, and smooth flowing motions, of the performers in the serious
opera at Paris.
It is surprising, that a people of such taste and sensibility as the Italians, should prefer a parcel of athletic jumpers to elegant dancers.
On the evenings on which there is no opera, it is usual for the genteel company to drive to a public walk immediately without the city, where they remain till it begins to grow duskish. Soon after our arrival at Florence, in one of the avenues of this walk we observed two men and two ladies, followed by four servants in livery. One of the men wore the insignia of the garter. We were told this was the Count Albany, and that the Lady next to him was the Countess. We yielded the walk, and pulled off our hats. The gentleman along with them was the Envoy from the King of Prussia to the Court of Turin. He whispered the Count, who returning the falutation, looked very earnestly at the Duke of Hamilton. We have seen them almost every evening fince, either at the opera or on the
public walk. His Grace does not affect to fhun the avenue in which they happen to be; and as often as we pass near them, the Count fixes his eyes in a most expressive manner upon the Duke, as if he meant to say-our ancestors were better acquainted.
You know, I suppose, that the Count Albany is the unfortunate Charles Stuart, who left Rome some time since on the death of his father, because the Pope did not think proper to acknowledge him by the title which he claimed on that event. He now lives at Florence, on a small revenue allowed him by his brother. The Countess is a beautiful woman, much beloved by those who know her, who universally defcribe her as lively, intelligent, and agreeable. Educated as I was in Revolution principles, and in a part of Scotland where the religion of the Stuart family, and the maxims by which they governed, are more reprobated than perhaps in any part of Great Britain, I could not behold this un