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ourselves; after that we were ushered into the refectory, where two or three of the monks received us with great cordiality and politeness. They offered us refreshment immediately; but, as it was near supper time, we declined it. At seven the prior came in, with a few more, about nine in all, and although it was meagre day, we had an excellent supper of various dishes, with very good fruit and wine. Three Piedmontese gentlemen were also there, and in the course of conversation I found they were of the family of the founder, and on that account were treated with great respect. They were crossing the Alps into Switzerland. This entertainment was just what you would wish to see at a religious house ; nothing like jollity, but mild, cheerful, unconstrained conversation, chiefly on politics. They, as well as the Piedmontese, spoke most handsomely of the English, and since that, I find the impression in Italy to be strongly and universally in our favour. It is not so in Switzerland. Soon after eight we rose from table, and, as it seemed expected, we retired to our bedrooms. It was dismally cold, a very hard frost, against which double windows were an inadequate protection. You know, perhaps, that it is the highest inhabited spot in the old world. Early in the morning we went out to view the site of the Temple of Jupiter, which stood near the site of the convent, and was perhaps a similar institution.'
After breakfasting with the brothers, and dropping our alms into the trunk at the church, we set out on our return, walking, or rather running, for it was extremely cold. A full hour before we caught sight of a bush or a tree. The convent is not rich—far from it, but it is supported by donations from all the States near, who have a common interest in maintaining so admirable a charity. Buonaparte was a great and constant patron. Before the battle of Marengo, he marched 80,000 men by this way into Italy. The prior told me they lodged 2000 soldiers every night for
fifteen nights successively, filling the church and every part of the building. They observed the most exact discipline. The most wonderful circumstance is the passing of artillery over the mountains, which was certainly effected, and may have been one of the causes which led that infatuated man to think that all the powers of nature must yield to him.'
I give an extract from a letter addressed to the Rev. J. E. Tyler, and dated L'Hospice de St. Bernard, for the sake of its lively description of the prior and his brethren :
Our wishes have been gratified to the utmost; the day has been almost without a cloud. We arrived in good time for the evening reception. There were three other strangers besides ourselves who supped with the pères. It has been as pleasant an evening as I ever passed. The prior, who entered most into conversation, is just what a monk ought to be, that is, just the opposite of what they are represented to be in all books—mild, well-bred, well acquainted with what is going on in the world, and, though very temperate himself, pressing his hospitality as far as decorum will allow. The younger monks give the most cheerful and kind attendance. When one considers in what a savage solitude all this scene is passing, I can hardly fancy it real. But the cold, which is bitter, now that I am retired to my bedroom forcibly reminds me of my actual existence in a spot, of which I have often read, but which, till lately, I never dreamt of seeing.'
* Thence (i. e. from the Boromean islands) we proceeded to Lac. Como, the ancient Lacus Larius. Immediately on our arrival, we took a boat and visited a place called Pliniana. It is the remarkable fountain described by Pliny, Ep. iv. 30, which I wish you would read. It answers the description even to the present day. The spot belongs to an Italian nobleman, and has very appropriate inscriptions ;
one of them is Pliny's Epistle at full length. The view from it up the beautiful lake has a peculiar character of seclusion. The woody mountains rise from the very brink of the water. You will easily conceive what a strong impression is made by classical association, when you are on the very spot described, and inherited, and loved by illustrious Romans. Pliny was a native of this part. Read his Ep. iv. 13,* and another, ü. 8, where he calls his villa here, 'altissimus iste secessus,' if you would wish to form any adequate idea of the pleasure this scene has given me. I once thought Milan would be our extreme point eastward; but the vicinity of Verona and the Lago di Garda (the ancient Benacus) tempted us to extend our plan still farther. We reckoned that three days would take us to Verona, seeing the lake in our way. We decided upon it, and have accomplished it with ease. The weather has been beautiful, the sky often without a cloud for hours together, and we timed our journey so as to take lake Garda in the evening, a circumstance which makes a vast difference everywhere, but especially here. In the map you will find a long promontory running into the lake from the southern shore. This is the promontory of Sirmio, the favourite residence of the poet Catullus, whose property it was.
The isthmus is low, long, and flat. Towards the extremity it rises in a beautiful irregular hill, covered with olives, and on this was the poet's villa, of which very large remains exist-grottoes and arches of Roman masonry in abundance. I must beg you will read his thirty-firstt poem, which is an address to the spot.
Peninsularum, Sirmio, insularumque,
These references will not be found to agree with some editions. The Didot, e.g., fails ; but ix. 7 in that edition will be to the purpose.
+ Paris, ed. Didot.
It well deserved his preference. On returning after sunset, the waters of the lake reflected a strong purple—the best possible commentary upon his 'Lydiæ lacus undæ.' From Desenzano, where we slept, it was an easy day's journey to Verona, a place which is chiefly celebrated for its vast Roman amphitheatre, the most perfect within that remains. The seats have been repaired several times—the last time by Napoleon, who has taken care to record it. There are forty-three rows from the arena to the top, which will hold twenty-three thousand, four hundred and eighty persons seated. Including the arena, near fifty thousand persons could stand within it. In 1780 it was quite filled, on the occasion of the Pope being here, who pronounced a blessing on the assembly, a ceremony that must have been highly affecting, especially as contrasted with the barbarous and horrid purposes for which it was formerly used. It is still used three or four times a year for bull-baiting. We have had a very good cicerone, who has taken us to all the Roman antiquities, and all the fine pictures and buildings, of which there are a great number, although the French have carried off to Paris two or three of the most celebrated paintings. One triumphal arch, built by Vitruvius, Massena destroyed for some military purpose. Our guide who was well instructed in his business, could not speak of it without great emotion. The palaces of the nobility, however, disappointed one much. The architecture is often good, and even elegant; but they are so filthy, so squalid, so patched with mean accompaniments of paltry window-shutters, &c., that you would fancy them, as we often did, uninhabited. But in no instance was this the case when we made the inquiry. I always used to hear of the incongruous taste exhibited in them, the preposterous mixture of grandeur and meanness; but I still believe a great deal of what we saw is the result of poverty and French oppression. No less than thirteen battles have been fought near the town within
seventeen years—some of them close to it, so that the marks of musket-balls are to be seen by hundreds to this day'
From a Letter to his Father written after leaving Verona.
• We left Verona on the 18th September, and reached Mantua about two o'clock, in time to visit all the principal objects of attention the same day. The country is a dead flat, with the exception of a little sloping ground, hardly to be called hill, near the river. Eustace is determined to find Virgil's description of his own farm in the character of the ground now called Virgiliana. But, although I see no reason to doubt that this was his property (it being certain he had a considerable estate there, and this having, by uniform tradition, been regarded as his), yet there is hardly anything to which you can bring yourself to give the name of colles. His 'antra,'' rupes,'' montes,' and other Arcadian images, are all ideal, and borrowed evidently from the pastoral poets whom he made his model. One description, however, in the opening of the Third Georgic, is so exact, that nothing more apposite could be said at the present day :
tardis ingens ubi flexibus errat
Mincius, et tenerâ prætexit arundine ripas. Every word has its force. The Mincio, just before it reaches Mantua, spreads out into a vast reedy bed, and bends slowly round the town. The water may be diverted by means of sluices, so as to flood the country on the other side of the town also, which circumstance constitutes its chief strength. The inundation was practised to a great extent this very spring, and the melancholy effects were very conspicuous, although the ground was again drained, and only the lowest parts left in the state of a marsh. Mantua is occupied by a large Austrian garrison, who observe the usual rigour of German regulations even in