Page images


cut up, turned out a large piece of lemon ice, of the shape and appearance of a roasted turkey. All the other dishes were ices of various kinds, disguised under the forms of joints of meat, fish, and fowl, as above mentioned. The gaiety and good humour of the king, the affable and engaging behaviour of the royal sisters, and the satisfaction which beamed from the plump countenance of the lady abbess, threw an air of cheerfulness on this scene; which was interrupted, however, by gleams of melancholy reflection, which failed not to dart across the mind, at sight of so many victims to the pride of family, to avarice, and superstition. Many of those victims were in the full bloom of health and youth, and some of them were remarkably handsome. There is something in a nun's dress which renders the beauty of a young woman more interesting than is in the power of the gayest, richest, and most laboured ornaments. This certainly does not proceed from any thing remarkably becoming in black and white flannel. The lady abbess and the elderly nuns made no more impression in their vestal robes, than those stale, forlorn dames whom you may see displaying their family jewels and shrivelled countenances every night at Ranelagh or in the side-boxes. The interest you take in a beautiful woman is heightened on seeing her in the dress of a nun, by the opposition which you imagine exists between the life to which her rash vows have condemned her, and that to which her own unbiassed inclinations would have led her. You are moved with pity, which you know is a-kin to love, on seeing a young blooming creature doomed to retirement and self-denial, who was formed by nature for society and enjoyment. If we may credit the ancient

young women who are confined to a cloister life on any part of this coast, are more to be pitied than they would be under the same restraint elsewhere. They tell us, the very air in this part of Italy is repugnant to that kind of constitution, and that turn of mind, of which it would be peculiarly

poets, those

happy for nuns to be possessed. Propertius entreats his Cynthia not to remain too long on a shore which he seems to think dangerous to the chastest maiden..

Tu modo quamprimum corruptas desere Baias *

[blocks in formation]

Littora quæ fuerant castis inimica puellis. Martial asserts, that a woman who came hither as chaste as Penelope, if she remained any time, would depart as licentious and depraved as Helen.

Penelope venit, abit Helene. + I have certainly met with ladies, after they resided some time at Naples, who, in point of character and constitu- . tion, were thought to have a much stronger resemblance to Helen than to Penelope ; but as I have no great faith in the sudden operation of physical causes in matters of this kind, I never doubted of those ladies having carried the same disposition to Naples that they brought from it. Though there are not wanting those who affirm, that the influence of this seducing climate is evident now in as strong a degree as it is described to have been anciently; that it pervades people of all ranks and conditions, and that in the convents themselves ;

Even there where frozen chastity retires,

Love finds an altar for forbidden fires. Others, who carry their researches still deeper, and pretend to have a distinct knowledge of the effect of aliment through all its changes on the human constitution, think, that the amorous disposition, imputed to Neapolitans, is only in part owing to their voluptuous climate, but in a far greater degree to the hot, sulphureous nature of their soil, which those profound naturalists declare communicates its fiery qualities to the juices of vegetables ; thence they are conveyed to the animals who feed on them, and particularly to man, whose nourishment consisting both of animal and vegetable food, he must have in his veins a

• I entreat you to forsake, as soon as possible, the corrupt coast of Baia.

† A coast most unfriendly to modest maids.


[ocr errors]

double dose of the stimulating particles in question. No wonder, therefore, say those nice investigators of cause and effect, that the inhabitants of this country are more given to amorous indulgences, than those who are favoured with a chaster soil and a colder climate.

For my own part, I must acknowledge, that I have seen nothing, since I came to Naples, to justify the general imputations above mentioned, or to support this very ingenius theory. On the contrary, there are circumstances from which the opposers of this system draw very different conclusions ; for every system of philosophy, like every minister of Great Britain, has an opposition. The gentlemen in opposition to the voluptuous influence of this climate, and the fiery effects of this soil, undermine the foundation of their antagonists theory, by asserting, that, so far from being of a warmer complexion than their neighbours, the Neapolitans are of colder constitutions, or more philosophic in the command of their passions, than any people in Europe. Do not the lower class of men, say they, strip themselves before the houses which front the bay, and bathe in the sea without the smallest ceremony? Are not numbers of those stout, athletic figures, during the heat of the day, seen walking and sporting on the shore perfectly naked; and with no more idea of shame, than Adam felt in his state of innocence; while the ladies from their coaches, and the servant-maids and young girls, who pass along, cortemplate this singular spectacle with as little apparent emotion as the ladies in Hyde Park behold a rı view of the horse-guards?

As Sir William and Lady Hamilton are preparing to visit England, and the duke feels no inclination to remain after they are gone, we intend to return to Rome in a few days.


Rome. We delayed visiting Tivoli, Frescati, and Albano, till our return from Naples.

The Campagna is an uninhabited plain, surrounding the city of Rome, bounded on one side by the sea, and on the other by an amphitheatre of hills, crowned with towns, villages, and villas, which form the finest land scapes that can be imagined. The ancient Romans were wont to seek shelter from the scorching heats of summer, among the woods and lakes of those hills; and the cardinals and Roman princes, at the same season, retire to their villas ; while many of the wealthier sort of citizens take lodgings in the villages, during the season of gathering the vines.

On the road from Rome to Tivoli, about three miles from the latter, strangers are desired to visit a kind of lake called Solfatara, formerly Lakus Albulus, and there shown certain substances, to which they give the name of Floating Islands. They are nothing else than bunches of bulrushes, springing from a thin soil, formed by dust and sand blown from the adjacent ground, and glued together by the bitumen which swims on the surface of this lake, and the sulphur with which its waters are impregnated. Some of these islands are twelve or fifteen yards in length; the soil is sufficiently strong to bear five or six people, who, by the means of a pole, may move to different parts of the lake, as if they were in a boat. This lake empties itself, by a whitish, muddy stream, into the Teverone, the ancient Anio; a vapour, of a sulphureous smell, arising from it as it flows. The ground near this rivulet, as also around the borders of the lake, resounds, as if it were hollow, when a horse gallops over it. The water of this lake has the singular quality of covering every substance which it touches with a hard, white, stoney matter. On throwing a bundle of small sticks or shrubs into it, they will, in a few days, be covered with a white crust ; but,



[ocr errors]

what seems still more extraordinary, this incrustating quality is not so strong in the lake itself, as in the canal, or little rivulet that runs from it; and the farther the water has flowed from the lake, till it is quite lost in the Anio, the stronger this quality is. Those small, round incrustations, which cover the sand and pebbles, resembling sugar-plumbs, are called Confetti di Tivoli.* Fishes are found in the Anio, both above and below Tivoli, till it receives the Albula ; after which, during the rest of its course to the Tiber, there are none. The waters of this lake had a high medical reputation anciently, but they are in no esteem at present.

Near the bottom of the eminence on which Tivoli stands, are the ruins of the vast and magnificent villa built by the emperor Adrian. In this were comprehended an amphitheatre, several temples, a library, a circus, a naumachia. The emperor also gave to the buildings and gardens of this famous villa the names of the most celebrated places; as the Academia, the Lycæum, the Prytaneum of Athens, the Tempe of Thessaly, and the Elysian fields and infernal regions of the poets. There were also commodious a. partments for a vast number of guests, all admirably distributed with baths, and every conveniency. Every quarter of the world contributed to ornament this famous villa, whoše spoils have since formed the principal ornaments of the Campidoglio, the Vatican, and the palaces of the Roman princes. It is said to have been three miles in length, and above a mile in breadth. Some antiquarians make it much larger; but the ruins, now remaining, do not mark a surface of a quarter of that extent.

At no great distance, they shew the place to which the eastern queen Zenobia was confined, after she was brought in triumph to Rome by the emperor Aurelian.

The town of Tivoli is now wretchedly poor; it boasts however greater antiquity than Rome itself, being the ancient Tibur, which, Horace informs us, was founded by a Grecian colony.

* Confections of Tivolų.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »