Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

established, as not to be shaken either in the opinion of their acquaintances or husbands, although their cavaliero serventes were in every respect agreeable and accomplish-. ed.

But whether the connection between them is supposed innocent or criminal, most Englishmen will be astonished how men can pass so much of their time with women. This, however, will appear less surprising, when they recollect that the Italian nobility dare not intermeddle in politics ; can find no employment in the army or navy ; and that there are no such amusements in the country as hunting or drinking. In such a situation, if a man of fortune has no turn for gaming, what can he do ? Even an Englishman, in those desperate circumstances, might be driven to the company and conversation of women, to lighten the burden of time. The Italians have persevered so long in this expedient, that, however extraordinary it may seem to those who have never tried it, there can be no doubt that they find it to succeed. They tell you, that nothing so effectually sooths the cares, and beguiles the tediousness of life, as the company of an agreeable woman ; that though the intimacy should never exceed the limits of friendship, there is something more flattering and agreeable in it than in male friendships ; that they find the female heart more sincere, less interested, and warmer in its attachments ; that women in general have more delicacy, and Well, well, all this may be true,

- , you will say ; but, may not a man enjoy all these advantages, to as great perfection, by an intimacy and friendship with his own wife, as with his neighbour's ? • Non, monsieur, point du tout,' answered a Frenchman, to whom this question was once addressed. · Et pourquoi • donc ? Parceque cela n'est pas permis.' This you will not think a very satisfactory answer to so natural and so pertinent a question-It is not the fashion ! This, how. ever, was the only answer I received all over Italy.

This system is unknown to the middle and lower ranks ; they pass their time in the exercise of their professions,

1

a

and in the society of their wives and children, as in other countries; and in that sphere of life, jealousy, which formed so strong a feature of the Italian character, is still to be found as strong as ever. He who attempts to visit the wife or mistress of any of the tradespeople without their permission, is in no small danger of a Coltellata. I have often heard it asserted, that Italian women have remarkable powers of attaching their lovers. Those powers, whatever they are, do not seem to depend entirely on personal charms, as many of them retain their ancient influence over their lovers after their beauty is much in the wane, and they themselves are considerably advanced in the vale of years.

I know an Italian nobleman, of great fortune, who has been lately married to a very beautiful young woman, and yet he continues his assiduity to his former mistress, now an old woman, as punctually as ever. I know an Englishman who is said to be in the same situation, with this difference, that his lady is still more beautiful. In both these instances, it is natural to believe that the beautiful young wives will always take care to keep their husbands in such a chaste and virtuous way of thinking, that, whatever time they may spend with their ancient mistresses, nothing criminal will ever pass between them.

Whatever satisfaction the Italians find in this kind of constancy, and in their friendly attachments to one woman, my friend the marquis de F— told me, when I last saw him at Paris, that he had tried it while he remained at Rome, and found it quite intolerable. A certain obliging ecclesiastic had taken the trouble, at the earnest request of a lady of that city, to arrange matters between her and the marquis, who was put into immediate possession of all the rights that were ever supposed to belong to a Cicisbeo. The woman nauseated her husband, which had advanced matters mightily ; and her passion for the marquis was in proportion to her abhorrence of the other. In this state things had remained but a very short time, when the marquis called one afternoon

to drive the abbč out a little into the country, but he happened to have just dined. The meals of this ecclesiastic were generally rather oppressive for two or three hours after they were finished; he therefore declined the invitation, saying, by way of apology,—- Je suis dans les horreurs de la digestion.' He then inquired how the marquis's amour went on with the lady. “Ah, pour l'amour, cela est à peu près passć,' replied the marquis, et nous sommes actuellement dans les horreurs de l'amitié.'

6

6

LETTER LXXVII.

Florence.

HE

The Florentines imputed the decay of the republic to the circumstance of their sovereign residing in another country; and they imagined, that wealth would accumulate all over Tuscany, and flow into Florence, from various quarters, as soon as they should have a residing prince, and a court established. It appears, that their hopes were too sanguine, or at least premature. Commerce is still in a languid condition, in spite of all the pains taken by the great duke to revive it.

The Jews are not held in that degree of odium, or subjected to the same humiliating distinctions here, as in most other cities of Europe. , I am told, some of the richest merchants are of that religion. Another class of mankind, who are also reprobated in some countries, are in this looked on in the same light with other citizens. I mean the actors and singers at the different theatres. Why Christians, in any country, should have the same prejudice against them as against Jews, many are at a loss to know; it cannot, certainly, be on the same account. Actors and actresses have never been accused of an obstinate, or superstitious adherence to the principles or ceremonies of any false religion whatever.

To attempt at a description of the churches, palaces, and other public buildings, would lead, in my opinion, to a very unentertaining detail. Few cities, of its size, in Europe, however, afford so fine a field of amusement to those who are fond of such subjects; though the lovers of architecture will be shocked to find several of the finest churches without fronts, which, according to some, is owing to a real deficiency of money; while others assert, they are left in this condition, as a pretext for levying contributions to finish them.

The chapel of St. Lorenzo is, perhaps, the finest and most expensive habitation that ever was reared for the dead; it is encrusted with precious stones, and adorned by the workmanship of the best modero sculptors. Some complain that, after all, it has a gloomy appearance. There seems to be no impropriety in that, considering what the building was intended for; though, certainly, the same effect might have been produced at less expense. Mr. Addison remarked, that this chapel advanced so very slowly, that it is not impossible but the family of Medicis may be extinct before their burial-place is finish. ed. This has actually taken place: The Medici family is extinct, and the chapel remains still unfinished.

Of all the methods by which the vanity of the great has distinguished them from the rest of mankind, this of erecting splendid receptacles for their bones excites the least envy. The sight of the most superb edifice of this

. kind, never drew a repining sigh from the bosom of one poor person ; nor do the unsuccessful complain, that the bodies of Fortune's favourites rot under Parian marble, while their own will, in all probability, be allowed to moulder beneath a plain turf.

I have already mentioned the number of statues which ornament the streets and squares of Florence, and how much they are respected by the common people. I am told, they amount in all to above one hundred and fifty, many of them of exquisite workmanship, and admired by those of the best taste. Such a number of statues, without any drapery, continually exposed to the public eye, with the far greater number of pictures, as well as staques, in the same state, to be seen in the palaces, have

a

produced, in both sexes, the most perfect insensibility to nudities.

Ladies who have remained sometime at Rome and Flo, rence, particularly those who affect a taste for virtù, ac, quire an intrepidity and a cool minuteness, in examining and criticising naked figures, which is unknown to those who have never passed the Alps. There is something in the figure of the God of Gardens, which is apt to alarm the modesty of a novice; but I have heard of female di, lettantes who minded it no more than a straw,

The Palazzo Pitti, where the great duke resides, is on the opposite side of the Arno from the gallery. It has been enlarged since it was purchased from the ruined family of Pitti. The furniture of this palace is rich and curious, particularly some tables of Florentine work, which are much admired. The most precious ornaments, however, are the paintings. The walls of what is called the imperial chamber, are painted in fresco, by various painters; the subjects are allegorical, and in honour of Lorenzo of Medicis, distinguished by the name of the Magnificent. There is more fancy than taste displayed in those paintings. The other principal rooms are distinguished by the names of heathen deities, as Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, Venus, and by paintings in fresco, mostly by Pietro da Cortona. In the last mentioned, the subjects are different from what is naturally expected from the name of the room, being representations of the triumphs of virtue over love, or some memorable instance of continency. As the Medici family have been more distinguished for the protection they afforded the arts, than for the virtues of continency or self-denial, it is probable the subject, as well as the execution of these pieces, was left entirely to the painter,

I happened lately to be at this palace, with a person who is perfectly well acquainted with all the pictures of any merit in Florence. While he explained the peculiar excellences of Pietro's manner, a gentleman in company, who, although he does not pretend to the smallest sķill

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »