The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 12/Letters from Italy/Part VII
Velletri, Feb. 22, 1787.
We arrived here in good time. The day before yesterday the weather became gloomy, and our fine days were overcast: still, some signs of the air seemed to promise that it would soon clear up again; and so, indeed, it turned out. The clouds gradually broke; here and there appeared the blue sky; and at last the sun shone full on our journey. We came through Albano, after having stopped before Genzano, at the entrance of a park, which the owner, Prince Chigi, in a very strange way holds, but does not keep up, on which account he will not allow any one to enter it. In it a true wilderness has been formed. Trees and shrubs, plants and weeds, grow, wither, fall, and rot at pleasure. That is all right, and, indeed, could not be better. The expanse before the entrance is inexpressibly fine. A high wall encloses the valley; a lattice gate affords a view into it; then the hill ascends, upon which, above you, stands the castle.
But now I dare not attempt to go on with the description; and I can merely say, that at the very moment when from the summit we caught sight of the mountains of Sezza, the Pontine Marshes, the sea and its islands, a heavy passing shower was traversing the marshes toward the sea; and the light and shade, constantly changing and moving, wonderfully enlivened and variegated the dreary plain. The effect was beautifully heightened by the sun's beams, which lit up with various hues the columns of smoke as they ascended from scattered and scarcely visible cottages.
Velletri is agreeably situated on a volcanic hill, which toward the north alone is connected with other hills, and toward three points of the heavens commands a wide and uninterrupted prospect.
We here visited the cabinet of the Cavaliere Borgia, who, favoured by his relationship with the cardinal, has managed, by means of the Propaganda, to collect some valuable antiquities and other curiosities,—Egyptian charms; idols cut out of the hardest rock; some small figures in metal, of earlier or later dates; some pieces of statuary of burnt clay, with figures in low relief, which were dug up in the neighbourhood, and on the authority of which one is almost tempted to ascribe to the ancient indigenous population a style of their own in art.
Of other kinds of varieties, there are numerous specimens in this museum. I noticed two Chinese black-painted boxes: on the sides of one, there was delineated the whole management of the silkworm, and on the other the cultivation of rice. Both subjects were very nicely conceived, and worked out with the utmost minuteness. Both the boxes and their covers are eminently beautiful, and, as well as the book in the library of the Propaganda, which I have already praised, are well worth seeing.
It is certainly inexplicable that these treasures should be within so short a distance of Rome, and yet not be more frequently visited; but perhaps the difficulty and inconvenience of getting to these regions, and the attraction of the magic circle of Rome, may serve to excuse the fact. As we arrived at the inn, some women, who were sitting before the doors of their houses, called out to us, and asked if we wished to buy any antiquities; and then, as we showed a pretty strong hankering after them, they brought out some old kettles, fire-tongs, and such like utensils, and were ready to die with laughing at having made fools of us. When we seemed a little put out, our guide assured us, to our comfort, that it was a customary joke, and that all strangers had to submit to it.
I am writing this in very miserable quarters, and feel neither strength nor humour to make it any longer: therefore, I bid you a very good night.
Fondi, Feb. 23, 1787.
We were on the road very early,—by three in the morning. As the day broke, we found ourselves on the Pontine Marshes, which have not by any means so ill an appearance as the common description in Rome would make out. Of course, by merely passing once over the marshes, it is not possible to judge of so great an undertaking as that of the intended draining of them, which necessarily requires time to test its merits: still, it does appear to me that the works, which have been commenced by the Pope's orders, will, to a great extent at least, attain the desired end. Conceive to yourself a wide valley, which, as it stretches from north to south, has but a very slight fall, but which, toward the east and the mountains, is extremely low, but rises again considerably toward the sea on the west. Running in a straight line through the whole length of it, the ancient Via Appia has been restored. On the right of the latter the principal drain has been cut, and in it the water flows with a rapid fall. By means of it the tract of land to the right has been drained, and is now profitably cultivated. As far as the eye can see, it is either already brought into cultivation, or evidently might be so if farmers could be found to take it, with the exception of one spot which lies extremely low.
The left side, which stretches toward the mountains, is more difficult to be managed. Here, however, cross-drains pass under the raised way into the chief drain: as, however, the surface sinks again toward the mountains, it is impossible by this means to carry off the water entirely. To meet this difficulty, it is proposed, I was told, to cut another leading drain along the foot of the mountains. Large patches, especially toward Terracina, are thinly planted with willows and poplars.
The posting-stations consist merely of long thatched sheds. Tischbein sketched one of them, and enjoyed for his reward a gratification which only he could enjoy. A white horse, having broken loose, had fled to the drained lands. Enjoying its liberty, it was galloping up and down on the brown turf like a flash of lightning. In truth, it was a glorious sight, rendered significant by Tischbein's rapture.
At the point where the ancient village of Meza once stood, the Pope has caused to be built a large and fine building, which indicates the centre of the level. The sight of it increases one's hopes and confidence of the success of the whole undertaking. While thus we travelled on, we kept up a lively conversation together, not forgetting the warning, that on this journey one must not go to sleep; and, in fact, we were strongly enough reminded of the danger of the atmosphere, by the blue vapour which, even in this season of the year, hangs above the ground. On this account the more delightful, as it was the more longed for, was the rocky site of Terracina; and scarcely had we congratulated ourselves at the sight of it, than we caught a view of the sea beyond. Immediately afterward the other side of the mountain city presented to our eye a vegetation quite new to us. The Indian figs were pushing their large fleshy leaves amidst the gray green of dwarf myrtles, the yellowish green of the pomegranate, and the pale green of the olive. As we passed along, we noticed some flowers and shrubs such as we had never seen before. On the meadows the narcissus and the adonis were in flower. Tor a long time the sea was on our right, while close to us on the left ran an unbroken range of limestone rocks. It is a continuation of the Apennines, running down from Tivoli and touching the sea, which they do not leave again till you reach the Campagna di Romana, where it is succeeded by the volcanic formations of Frescati, Alba, and Velletri, and lastly by the Pontine Marshes. Monte Circello, with the opposite promontory of Terracina, where the Pontine Marshes terminate, probably consists also of a system of chalk rocks.
We left the seacoast, and soon reached the charming plain of Fondi. Every one must admire this little spot of fertile and well-cultivated land, enclosed with hills, which themselves are by no means wild. Oranges in great numbers are still hanging on the trees; the crops, all of wheat, are beautifully green; olives are growing in the fields; and the little city is in the bottom. A palm-tree, which stood out a marked object in the scenery, received our greetings. So much for this evening. Pardon the scrawl. I must write without thinking, for writing's sake. The objects are too numerous, my resting-place too wretched, and yet my desire to commit something to paper too great. With nightfall we reached this place, and it is now time to go to rest.
S. Agata, Feb. 24, 1787.
Although in a wretchedly cold chamber, I must yet try and give you some account of a beautiful day. It was already nearly light when we drove out of Fondi, and we were forthwith greeted by the orange-trees which hang over the walls on both sides of our road. The trees are loaded with such numbers as can only be imagined and not expressed. Toward the top the young leaf is yellowish, but below, and in the middle, of sappy green, Mignon was quite right to long for them.
After this we travelled through clean and well-worked fields of wheat, planted at convenient distances with olive-trees. A soft breeze was moving, and brought to the light the silvery under-surface of the leaves, as the branches swayed gently and elegantly. It was a gray morning: a north wind promised soon to dispel all the clouds.
Then the road entered a valley between stony but well-dressed fields,—the crops of the most beautiful green. At certain spots one saw some roomy places, paved and surrounded with low walls: on these the corn, which is never carried home in sheaves, is thrashed out at once. The valley gradually narrows, and the road becomes mountainous, bare rocks of limestone standing on both sides of us. A violent storm followed us, with a fall of sleet, which thawed very slowly.
The walls of an ancient style, built after the pattern of net-work, charmed us exceedingly. On the heights the soil is rocky, but nevertheless planted with olive-trees wherever there is the smallest patch of soil to receive them. Next we drove over a plain covered with olive-trees, and then through a small town. We here noticed altars, ancient tombstones, and fragments of every kind, built up in the walls of the pleasure-houses in the gardens; then the lower stones of ancient villas, once excellently built, but now filled up with earth, and overgrown with olives. At last we caught a sight of Vesuvius, with a cloud of smoke resting on its brow.
Molo di Gäeta greeted us again with the richest of orange-trees: we remained there some hours. The creek before the town, which the tide flows up to, affords one of the finest views. Following the line of coast on the right, till the eye reaches at last the horn of the crescent, one sees at a moderate distance the fortress of Gäeta on the rocks. The left horn stretches out still farther, presenting to the beholder first of all a line of mountains, then Vesuvius, and, beyond all, the islands. Ischia lies before you, nearly in the centre.
Here I found on the shore, for the first time in my life, a starfish and an echinus thrown up by the sea; a beautiful green leaf (tethys foliacea), smooth as the finest bath-paper; and other remarkable rubble-stones, the most common being limestone, but occasionally also serpentine, jasper, quartz, granite, breccian pebbles, porphyry, marble of different kinds, and glass of a blue and green colour. The two last-mentioned specimens are scarcely productions of the. They are probably the debris of ancient buildings; and thus we have seen the waves before our eyes playing with the splendours of the ancient world. We tarried awhile, and pleased ourselves with meditating on the nature of man, whose hopes, whether in the civilised or savage state, are so soon disappointed.
Departing from Molo, the traveller still has a beautiful prospect, even after his quitting the sea. The last glimpse of it was a lovely bay, of which we took a sketch. We now came upon a good fruit country, with hedges of aloes. We noticed an aqueduct, which ran from the mountains over some nameless and orderless masses of ruins.
Next comes the ferry over the Garigliano. After crossing it, you pass through tolerably fruitful districts, till you reach the mountains. Nothing striking. At length the first hill of lava. Here begins an extensive and glorious district of hill and vale, over which the snowy summits are towering in the distance. On the nearest eminence, lies a long town, which strikes the eye with an agreeable effect. In the valley lies S. Agata, a considerable inn, where a cheerful fire was burning in a chimney arranged as a cabinet: however, our room is cold,—no window, only shutters, which I am just hastening to close.
Naples, Feb. 25, 1787.
And here we are happily arrived at last, and with good omens. Of our day's journey thus much only. We left S. Agata at sunrise, a violent northeast wind blowing on our backs, which continued the whole day through. It was not till noon that it was master of the clouds. We suffered much from the cold.
Our road again lay among and over volcanic hills, among which I did not notice many limestone rocks. At last we reached the plains of Capua, and shortly afterward Capua itself, where we halted at noon. In the afternoon a beautiful but flat country lay stretched before us. The road is broad, and runs through fields of green corn, so even that it looked like a carpet, and was at least a span high. Along the fields are planted rows of poplars; from which the branches are lopped to a great height, that the vines may run up them; this is the case all the way to Naples. The soil is excellent, light, loose and well worked. The vine-stocks are of extraordinary strength and height, and their shoots hang in festoons like nests from tree to tree.
Vesuvius was all the while on our left, with a strong smoke; and I felt a quiet joy to think that at last I beheld with my own eyes this most remarkable object. The sky became clearer and clearer, and at length the sun shone quite hot into our narrow, rolling lodging. The atmosphere was perfectly clear and bright as we approached Naples; and we now found ourselves, in truth, in quite another world. The houses, with flat roofs, at once bespeak a different climate. Inside, perhaps, they may not be very comfortable. Every one is in the streets, or sitting in the sun as long as it shines. The Neapolitan believes himself to be in possession of Paradise, and entertains a very melancholy opinion of our northern lands. "Sempre neve, caso di legno, gran ignoranza, ma danari assai." Such is the picture they draw of our condition. Interpreted for the benefit of all our German folk, it means, "Always snow, wooden houses, great ignorance, but money enough."
Naples at first sight leaves a free, cheerful, and lively impression. Numberless beings are passing and repassing each other: the king is gone hunting, the queen promising; and so things could not be better.
Naples, Monday, Feb. 26, 1787.
"Alla Locanda del Sgr. Moriconi al Largo del Castello." Under this address, no less cheerful than high-sounding, letters from all the four quarters of heaven will henceforth find us. Round the castle, which lies by the sea, there stretches a large open space, which, although surrounded on all sides with houses, is not called a square, or piazza, but a largo, or expanse. Perhaps the name is derived from ancient times, when it was still an open and unenclosed country. Here, in a corner house on one side of the largo, we have taken up our lodgings in a corner room, which commands a free and lively view of the ever moving surface. An iron balcony runs before several windows, and even round the corner. One would never leave it if the sharp wind were not extremely cutting.
The room is cheerfully decorated, especially the ceiling, whose arabesques of a hundred compartments bear witness to the proximity of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Now, all this is very well and very fine; but there is no fireplace, no chimney, and yet February exercises even here its rights. I expressed a wish for something to warm me. They brought in a tripod of sufficient height from the ground for one conveniently to hold one's hands over it; on it was placed a shallow brasier, full of extremely fine charcoal, red-hot, but covered smoothly over with ashes. We now found it an advantage to be able to manage this process of domestic economy: we had learned that at Rome. With the ring of a key, from time to time, one cautiously draws away the ashes of the surface, so that a few of the embers may be exposed to the free air. Were you impatiently to stir up the glowing coals, you would no doubt experience for a few moments great warmth; but you would in a short time exhaust the fuel, and then you must pay a certain sum to have the brasier filled again.
I did not feel quite well, and could have wished for more of ease and comfort. A reed matting was all there was to protect one's feet from the stone floor: skins are not usual. I determined to put on a sailor's cloak which we had brought with us in fun; and it did me good service, especially when I tied it round my body with the rope of my box. I must have looked very comical, something between a sailor and a Capuchin. When Tischbein came back from visiting some of his friends, and found me in this dress, he could not refrain from laughing.
Naples, Feb. 27, 1787.
Yesterday I kept quietly at home, in order to get rid of a slight bodily ailment. To-day has been a regular carouse, and the time passed rapidly while we visited the most glorious objects. Let man talk, describe, and paint as he may,—to be here is more than all. The shore, the creeks, and the bay, Vesuvius, the city, the suburbs, the castles, the atmosphere! In the evening, too, we went into the Grotto of Posilippo, while the setting sun was shining into it from the other side. I can pardon all who lose their senses in Naples; and I remember with emotion my father, who retained to the last an indelible impression of those objects which to-day I have cast eyes upon for the first time. Just as it is said, that people who have once seen a ghost are never afterward seen to smile, so in the opposite sense it may be said of him, that he never could become perfectly miserable so long as he remembered Naples. According to my fashion, I am quite still and calm; and when anything happens too absurd, only open my eyes widely,—very widely.
Naples, Feb. 28, 1787.
To-day we visited Philip Hackert, the famous landscape painter, who enjoys the special confidence and peculiar favour of the king and queen. A wing of the palace Franca Villa has been assigned to him. Having furnished it with true artistic taste, he feels great satisfaction in inhabiting it. He is a very precise and prudent man, who, with untiring industry, manages, nevertheless, to enjoy life.
After that we took a sail, and saw all kinds of fish and wonderful shapes drawn out of the waves. The day was glorious, the tramontane (north winds) tolerable.
Naples, March 1, 1787.
Even in Rome my self-willed, hermit-like humour was forced to assume a more social aspect than I altogether liked. No doubt it appears a strange mode of proceeding, to go into the world in order to be alone: accordingly, I could not resist Prince von Waldeck, who most kindly invited me, and by his rank and influence has procured me the enjoyment of many privileges. We had scarcely reached Naples, where he has been residing a long while, when he sent us an invitation to pay a visit with him to Puzzuoli and the neighbourhood. I was thinking already of Vesuvius for to-day; but Tischbein has forced me to take this journey, which, agreeable enough of itself, promises from the fine weather, and the society of a perfect gentleman and well-educated prince, very much both of pleasure and profit. We had also seen in Rome a beautiful lady, who, with her husband, is inseparable from the prince. She also is to be of the party, and we hope for a most delightful day.
Moreover, I was intimately known to this noble society, having met them previously. The prince, upon our first acquaintance, had asked me what I was then busy with; and the plan of my "Iphigenia" was so fresh in my recollection, that I was able one evening to relate it to them circumstantially. They entered into it: still, I fancied I could observe that something livelier and wilder was expected of me.
It would be difficult to give an account of this day. How often has the cursory reading of a book which irresistibly carries one with it exercised the greatest influence on a man's whole life, and produced at once a decisive effect, which neither a second perusal nor earnest reflection can either strengthen or modify. This I experienced in the case of the "Sakuntala." And do not great men affect us somewhat in the same way ? A sail to Puzzuoli, little trips by land, cheerful walks through the most wonderful regions in the world! Beneath the purest sky, the most treacherous soil; ruins of inconceivable opulence, oppressive and saddening; boiling waters, clefts exhaling sulphur, rocks of slag defying vegetable life, bare, forbidding tracts; and then, at last, on all sides the most luxuriant vegetation, seizing every spot and cranny possible, running over every lifeless object, edging the lakes and brooks, and nourishing a glorious wood of oak on the brink of an ancient crater!
And thus one is driven to and fro between nature and the history of nations: one wishes to meditate, and soon feels himself quite unfit for it. In the meantime, however, the living live on merrily, with a joyousness which we, too, would share. Educated persons, belonging to the world and the world's ways, but warned by serious events, become, nevertheless, disposed for reflection. A boundless view of land, sea, and sky,—and then called away to the side of a young and amiable lady, accustomed and delighted to receive homage.
Amidst all this giddy excitement, however, I failed not to make many notes. The future reduction of these will be greatly facilitated by the map we consulted on the spot, and by a hasty sketch of Tischbein's. To-day it is not possible for me to make the least addition to these.
Thursday I ascended Vesuvius; although the weather was unsettled, and the summit of the mountain surrounded by clouds. I took a carriage as far as Resina, and then, on the back of a mule, began the ascent, having vineyards on both sides. Next, on foot, I crossed the lava of the year '71, on the surface of which a fine but compact moss was already growing; then upward on the side of the lava. The hut of the hermit on the height was on my left hand. After this we climbed the Ash-hill, which is wearisome walking: two-thirds of the summit were enveloped in clouds. At last we reached the ancient crater, now filled up, where we found recent lava, only two months and fourteen days old, and also a slight streak of only five days, which was, however, already cold. Passing over these, we next ascended a height which had been thrown up by volcanic action: it was smoking from all its points. As the smoke rolled away from us, I essayed to approach the crater. Scarcely, however, had we taken fifty steps in the steam, when it became so dense that I could scarcely see my shoes. It was to no purpose that we held snuff continually before our nostrils. My guide had disappeared, and the footing on the lava lately thrown up was very unsteady. I therefore thought it right to turn round, and reserve the sight for a finer day and for less of smoke. However, I now know how difficult it is to breathe in such an atmosphere.
Otherwise the mountain was quite still. There was no flame, no roaring, no stones thrown up,—all which it usually does at most times. I reconnoitred it well, with the intention of regularly storming it as soon as the weather shall improve. What specimens of lava I found were mostly of well-known kinds. I noticed, however, a phenomenon which appeared to me very strange: I intend to examine it again still more closely, and also to consult connoisseurs and collectors about it. It is a stalactite incrustation of a part of the volcanic funnel, which has been thrown down, and now rears itself in the centre of the old choked-up crater. This mass of solid grayish stalactite appears to have been formed by the sublimation of the very finest volcanic evaporation, without the coöperation of either moisture or fusion. It will furnish occasion for further thinking.
To-day, the 3d of March, the sky is covered with clouds, and a sirocco is blowing. For post-day, good weather.
A very strange medley of men, beautiful houses, and most singular fishes, are here to be seen in abundance.
Of the situation of the city, and of its glories, which have been so often described and commended, not a word from me. "Vedi Napoli e poi muori," is the cry here. "See Naples, and die."
Naples, March 2, 1787.
That no Neapolitian will allow the merits of his city to be questioned, that their poets should sing in extravagant hyperbole of the blessings of its site, are not matters to quarrel about, even though a pair of Vesuviuses stood in its neighbourhood. Here one almost casts aside all remembrances, even of Rome. As compared with this free, open situation, the capital of the world, in the basin of the Tiber, looks like a cloister built on a bad site.
The sea, with its vessels and their destinations, presents wholly new matters for reflection. The frigate for Palermo started yesterday, with a strong, direct north wind. This time it certainly will not be more than six and thirty hours on the passage. With what longing I watched the full sails as the vessel passed between Capri and Cape Minerva, until at last it disappeared. Who could see one's beloved thus sailing away and survive? The sirocco (south wind) is now blowing: if the wind becomes stronger, the breakers over the Mole will be glorious.
To-day being Friday, the grand promenade of the nobility came on, when every one displays his equipages, and especially his stud. It is almost impossible to see finer horses anywhere than in Naples. For the first time in my life I have felt an interest in these animals.
Naples, March 3, 1787.
Here you have a few leaves, as reporters of the entertainment I have met with in this place; also a corner of the cover of your letter, stained with smoke, in testimony of its having been with me on Vesuvius. You must not, however, fancy, either in your waking thoughts or in your dreams, that I am surrounded by perils. Be assured that wherever I venture, there is no more danger than on the road to Belvedere. "The earth is the Lord's everywhere," may well be said in reference to such objects, I never seek adventure out of a mere rage for singularity; but because I am mostly cool, and can catch at a glance the peculiarities of any object, I may well do and venture more than many others. The passage to Sicily is anything but dangerous. A few days ago the frigate sailed for Palermo with a favourable breeze from the north, and leaving Capri on the right, has, no doubt, accomplished the voyage in six and thirty hours. In all such expeditions, one finds the danger to be far less in reality than, at a distance, one is apt to imagine.
Of earthquakes, there is not at present a vestige in Lower Italy. In the upper provinces, Rimini and its neighbourhood have lately suffered. Thus the earth has strange humours; and people talk of earthquakes here just as we do of wind and weather, and as in Thuringia they talk of conflagrations.
I am delighted to find that you are now familiar with the two editions of my "Iphigenia," but still more pleased should I be had you been more sensible of the difference between them. I know what I have done for it, and may well speak thereof : since I feel that I could make still further improvements. If it be a bliss to enjoy the good, it is still greater happiness to discern the better; for in art the best only is good enough.
Naples, March 5, 1787.
We spent the second Sunday of Lent in visiting church after church. As in Rome all is highly solemn, so here every hour is merry and cheerful. The Neapolitan school of painting, too, can only be understood in Naples. One is astonished to see the whole front of a church painted from top to bottom. Over the door of one, Christ is driving out of the temple the buyers and sellers, who, terribly frightened, are nimbly huddling up their wares, and hurrying down the steps on both sides. In another church there is a room over the entrance, which is richly ornamented with frescoes representing the deprivation of Heliodorus. Luca Giordano must indeed have painted rapidly, to fill such large areas in a lifetime. The pulpit, too, is here not always a mere cathedra, as it is in other places,—a place where one only may teach at a time,—but a gallery. Along one of these I once saw a Capuchin walking up down, and, now from one end, now from another, reproaching the people with their sins. What a deal I could say about it!
But neither to be told nor to be described is the glory of a night of the full moon such as we have enjoyed here. Wandering through the streets and squares, and on the quay, with its long promenade, and then backward and forward on the beach, one felt really possessed with the feeling of the infinity of space. So to dream is really worth all trouble.
Naples, March 5, 1787.
I made to-day the acquaintance of an excellent individual, and I must briefly give you a general description of him. It is the Chevalier Filangieri, famous for his work on legislation. He belongs to those noble young men who wish to promote the happiness and the moderate liberty of mankind. In his bearing you recognise at once the soldier, the chevalier, and the man of the world; but this appearance is softened by an expression of tender moral sensibility, which is diffused over his whole countenance, and shines forth most agreeably in his character and conversation. He is, moreover, heartily attached to his sovereign and country, even though he cannot approve of all that goes on. He is also oppressed with a fear of Joseph II. The idea of a despot, even though it only floats as a phantom in the air, excites the apprehensions of every noble-minded man. He spoke to me without reserve, of what Naples had to fear from him; but in particular he was delighted to speak of Montesquieu, Beccaria, and of some of his own writings,—all in the same spirit of the best intention, and of a heart full of youthful enthusiasm of doing good. And yet he may one day be classed with the Thirty. He has also made me acquainted with an old writer, from whose inexhaustible depths these new Italian friends of legislation derive intense encouragement and edification. He is called Giambattista Vico, and is preferred even to Montesquieu. After a hasty perusal of his book, which-was lent to me as a sacred deposit, I laid it down, saying to myself, Here are sublime anticipations of good and right, which once must, or ought to be, realised, drawn apparently from a serious contemplation both of the past and of the present. It is well when a nation possesses such a forefather: the Germans will one day receive a similar codex from Hamann.
Naples, March 6, 1787.
Most reluctantly, yet for the sake of good-fellowship, Tischbein accompanied me to Vesuvius. To him,—the artist of form, who concerns himself with none but the most beautiful of human and animal shapes, and one also whose taste and judgment lead to humanise even the formless rock and landscape—such a frightful and shapeless conglomeration of matter, which, moreover, is continually preying on itself, and proclaiming war against every idea of the beautiful, must have appeared utterly abominable.
We started in two calèches, as we did not trust ourselves to drive through the crowd and whirl of the city. The drivers kept up an incessant shouting at the top of their voice whenever donkeys, with their loads of wood or rubbish, or rolling calèches, met us, or else warning the porters with their burdens, or other pedestrians, whether children or old people, to get out of the way. All the while, however, they drove at a sharp trot, without the least stop or check.
As you get into the remoter suburbs and gardens, the road soon begins to show signs of a Plutonic action. For as we had not had rain for a long time, the naturally ever-green leaves were covered with a thick gray and ashy dust; so that the glorious blue sky, and the scorching sun which shone down upon us, were the only signs that we were still among the living.
At the foot of the steep ascent, we were received by two guides, one old, the other young, but both active fellows. The first pulled me up the path, the other, Tischbein,—pulled I say: for these guides are girded round the waist with a leathern belt, which the traveller takes hold of; and when drawn up by his guide, he makes his way the more easily with foot and staff. In this manner we reached the flat from which the cone rises. Toward the north lay the ruins of the Somma.
A glance westward over the country beneath us, removed, as well as a bath could, all feeling of exhaustion and fatigue; and we now went round the ever-smoking cone, as it threw out its stones and ashes. Wherever the space allowed of our viewing it at a sufficient distance, it appeared a grand and elevating spectacle. In the first place, a violent thundering resounded from its deepest abyss; then stones of larger and smaller sizes were showered into the air by thousands, and enveloped by clouds of ashes. The greatest part fell again into the gorge: the rest of the fragments, receiving a lateral inclination, and falling on the outside of the crater, made a marvellous rumbling noise. First of all, the larger masses plumped against the side, and rebounded with a dull, heavy sound; then the smaller came rattling down; and last of all, a shower of ashes was trickling down. All this took place at regular intervals, which, by slowly counting, we were able to measure pretty accurately.
Between the Somma, however, and the cone, the space is narrow enough: moreover, several stones fell around us, and made the circuit anything but agreeable. Tischbein now felt more disgusted than ever with Vesuvius; as the monster, not content with being hateful, showed inclination to become mischievous also.
As, however, the presence of danger generally exercises on man a kind of attraction, and calls forth a spirit of opposition in the human breast to defy it, I bethought myself, that, in the interval of the eruptions, it would be possible to climb up the cone to the crater, and to get back before it broke out again. I held a council on this point with our guides, under one of the overhanging rocks of the Somma, where, encamped in safety, we refreshed ourselves with the provisions we had brought with us. The younger guide was willing to run the risk with me. We stuffed our hats full of linen and silk handkerchiefs, and, staff in hand, prepared to start, I holding on to his girdle.
The little stones were yet rattling round us, and the ashes still drizzling, as the stalwart youth hurried forth with me across the hot, glowing rubble. We soon stood on the brink of the vast chasm, the smoke of which, although a gentle air was bearing it away from us, unfortunately veiled the interior of the crater, which smoked all round from a thousand crannies. At intervals, however, we caught sight, through the smoke, of the cracked walls of the rock. The view was neither instructive nor delightful; but for the very reason that one saw nothing, one lingered in the hope of catching a glimpse of something more; and so we forgot our slow counting. We were standing on a narrow ridge of the vast abyss: of a sudden the thunder pealed aloud; we ducked our heads involuntarily, as if that would have rescued us from the precipitated masses. The smaller stones soon rattled; and without considering that we had again an interval of cessation before us, and only too much rejoiced to have outstood the danger, we rushed down, and reached the foot of the hill, together with the drizzling ashes, which pretty thickly covered our heads and shoulders.
Tischbein was heartily glad to see me again. After a little scolding and a little refreshment, I was able to give my especial attention to the old and new lava. And here the elder of the guides was able to instruct me accurately in the signs by which the ages of the several strata were indicated. The older were already covered with ashes, and rendered quite smooth: the newer, especially those which had cooled slowly, presented a singular appearance. As, sliding along, they carried away with them the solid objects which lay on the surface, it necessarily happened, that, from time to time, several would come into contact with each other; and these again being swept still farther by the molten stream, and pushed one over the other, would eventually form a solid mass, with wonderful jags and corners, still more strange even than the somewhat similarly formed piles of the icebergs. Among this fused and waste matter I found many great rocks, which, being struck with a hammer, present on the broken face a perfect resemblance to the primeval rock formation. The guides maintained that these were old lava from the lowest depths of the mountain, which are very often thrown up by the volcano.
Upon our return to Naples, we noticed some small houses of only one story, and of a remarkable appearance and singular build, without windows, and receiving all their light from the doors, which opened on the road. The inhabitants sit before them at the door from the morning to the night, when they at last retire to their holes.
The city, which in the evening is all of a tumult, though in a somewhat different manner, extorted from me the wish that I might be able to stay here for some time, in order to sketch, to the best of my powers, the moving scene. It will not, however, be possible.
Naples, Wednesday, March 7, 1787.
This week Tischbein has shown to me, and without reserve commented upon, the greater part of the artistic treasures of Naples. An excellent judge and drawer of animals, he had long before called my attention to a horse's head in brass in the Palace Columbrano. We went there to-day. This relic of art is placed in the court, right opposite the gateway, in a niche over a well, and really excites one's astonishment. What must have been the effect of the whole head and body together? The perfect horse must have been far larger than those at St. Mark's: moreover, the head alone, when closely viewed, enables you distinctly to recognise and admire the character and spirit of the animal. The splendid frontal bones, the snorting nostrils, the pricked ears, the stiff mane,—a strong, excited, and spirited creature!
We turned round to notice a female statue which stands in a niche over the gateway. It has been already described by Winckelmann as an imitation of a dancing-girl, with the remark, that such artistes represent to us in living movement, and under the greatest variety, that beauty of form which the masters of statuary exhibit in the (as it were) petrified nymphs and goddesses. It is very light and beautiful. The head, which had been broken off, has been skilfully set on again: otherwise it is nowise injured, and most assuredly deserves a better place.
Naples, March 9, 1787.
To-day I received your dear letter of the 16th of February; only, keep on writing. I have made arrangements for the forwarding of my letters, and I shall continue to do so if I move farther. Quite strange does it seem to me to read that my friends do not often see each other; and yet perhaps nothing is more common than for men not to meet who are living close together.
The weather here has become dull: a change is at hand. Spring is commencing, and we shall soon have some rainy days. The summit of Vesuvius has not been clear since I paid it a visit. These few last nights flames have been seen to issue from it; to-day it is keeping quiet, and therefore more violent eruptions are expected.
The storms of these last few days have shown to us a glorious sea: it is at such times that the waves may be studied in their worthiest style and shape. Nature, indeed, is the only book which presents important matter on all its pages. On the other hand, the theatres have ceased to furnish any amusement. During Lent nothing but operas, which differ in no respect from more profane ones but by the absence of ballets between the acts. In all other respects they are as gay as possible. In the theatre of S. Carlo they are representing the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. To me it is only a great raree-show: my taste is quite spoilt for such things.
To-day we were with the Prince von Waldeck at Capo di Monte, where there is a great collection of paintings, coins, etc. It is not well arranged, but the things themselves are above praise. We can now correct and confirm many traditional ideas. Those coins. gems, and vases, which, like the stunted citron-trees, come to us in the North one by one, have quite a different look here, in the mass, and, so to speak, in their own home and native soil. For where works of art are rare, their very rarity gives them a value: here we learn to treasure none but the intrinsically valuable.
A very high price is at present given for Etruscan vases, and certainly beautiful and excellent pieces are to be found among them. Not a traveller but wishes to possess some specimen or other of them. One does not seem to value money here at the same rate as at home: I fear that I myself shall yet be tempted.
Naples, Friday, March 9, 1787.
This is the pleasant part of travelling, that even ordinary matters, by their novelty and unexpectedness, often acquire the appearance of an adventure. As I came back from Capo di Monte, I paid an evening visit to Filangieri, and saw sitting on the sofa, by the side of the mistress of the house, a lady whose external appearance seemed to agree but little with the familiarity and easy manner she indulged in. In a light striped silk gown, of very ordinary texture, and a most singular cap by way of head-dress, but being of a pretty figure, she looked like some poor dressmaker, who, taken up with the care of adorning the persons of others, had little time to bestow on her own external appearance. Such people are so accustomed to expect their labours to be remunerated, that they seem to have no idea of working gratis for themselves. She did not allow her gossip to be at all checked by my arrival, but went on talking of a number of ridiculous adventures which had happened to her, that day, or which had been occasioned by her own brusquerie and impetuosity.
The lady of the house wished to help me to get in a word or two, and spoke of the beautiful site of Capo di Monte, and of the treasures there. Upon this the lively lady sprang up with a good high jump from the sofa, and as she stood on her feet seemed still prettier than before. She took leave, and running to the door, said as she passed me, "The Filangieri are coming one of these days to dine with me. I hope to see you also." She was gone before I could say yes. I now learned that she was the Princess ————, a near relative to the master of the house. The Filangieri were not rich, and lived in a becoming but moderate style; and such I presumed was the case with my little princess, especially as such titles are anything but rare in Naples. I set down the name, and the day and hour, and left them, without any doubt but that I should be found at the right place in due time.
Naples, Sunday, March 11, 1787.
As my stay in Naples cannot be long, I take my most remote points first of all: the near throw themselves, as it were, in one's way. I have been with Tischbein to Pompeii; and on our road all those glorious prospects which were already well known to us from many a landscape-drawing, lay right and left, dazzling us by their number and unbroken succession.
Pompeii amazes one by its narrowness and littleness,—confined streets, but perfectly straight, and furnished on both sides with a foot pavement; little houses without windows, the rooms being lit only by the doors, which opened on the atrium and the galleries. Even the public edifices, the tomb at the gate, a temple, and also a villa in its neighbourhood, are like models and dolls' houses, rather than real buildings. The rooms—corridors, galleries, and all—are painted with bright and cheerful colours, the wall-surfaces uniform; in the middle some elaborate painting (most of these have been removed); on the borders and at the corners, light, tasteful arabesques, terminating in the pretty figures of nymphs or children; while in others, from out of garlands of flowers, beasts, wild and tame, are issuing. Thus does the city, which first of all the hot shower of stones and ashes overwhelmed, and afterward the excavators plundered, still bear witness, even in its present utterly desolate state, to a taste for painting and the arts common to the whole people, of which the most enthusiastic dilettante of the present day has no idea; nor has he any feeling nor desire for it.
When one considers the distance of this town from Vesuvius, it is clear that the volcanic matter which overwhelmed it could not have been carried hither either by any sudden impetus of the mountain or by the wind. We must rather suppose that these stones and ashes had been floating for a time in the air, like clouds, until at last they fell upon the doomed city.
In order to form a clear and precise idea of this event, one has only to think of a mountain village buried in snow. The spaces between the houses, and indeed the crushed houses themselves, were filled up; however, it is not improbable that some of the mason-work may at different points have peeped above the surface, and in this way have excited the notice of those by whom the hill was broken up for vineyards and gardens. And, no doubt, many an owner, on digging up his own portion, must have made valuable gleanings. Several rooms were found quite empty; and in the corner of one a heap of ashes was observed, under which a quantity of household articles and works of art was concealed.
The strange, and in some degree unpleasant, impression which this mummied city leaves on the mind, we got rid of, as, sitting in the arbour of a little inn close to the sea (where we partook of a frugal meal), we revelled in the blue sky, the glaring ripple of the sea,
"Pompeii and Vesuvius"
Photogravure from a photograph
As we approached the city, we again came upon the little cottages, which now appeared to us perfectly to resemble those in Pompeii. We obtained permission to enter one, and found it extremely clean,—neatly platted, rush-bottomed chairs, a buffet, covered all over with gilding, or painted with variegated flowers, and highly varnished. Thus, after so many centuries, and such numberless changes, this country instils into its inhabitants the same customs and habits of life, the same inclinations and tastes.
Naples, Monday, March 12, 1787.
To-day, according to my custom, I have gone slowly through the city, noting for future description several points, but about which, I am sorry to say, I cannot communicate anything to-day. All tends to this one conclusion: that a highly favoured land, which furnishes in abundance the chief necessaries of existence, produces men also of a happy disposition, who, without trouble or anxiety, trust to to-morrow to bring them what to-day has been wanting, and consequently live on in a light-hearted, careless sort of life. Momentary gratification, moderate enjoyments, a passing sorrow, and a cheerful resignation.
The morning has been cold and damp, with a little rain. In my walk I came upon a spot where the great slabs of the pavement appeared swept quite clean. To my great surprise, I saw, on this smooth and even spot, a number of ragged boys, squatting in a circle, and spreading out their hands over the ground as if to warm them. At first I took it to be some game that they were playing. When, however, I noticed the perfect seriousness and composure of their countenances, with an expression on it of a gratified want, I therefore put my brains to the utmost stretch, but they refused to enlighten me as I desired. I was, therefore, obliged to ask what it could be that had induced these little imps to take up this strange position, and had collected them in so regular a circle.
Upon this I was informed that a neighbourmg smith had been heating the tire of a wheel, and that this is done in the following manner. The iron tire is laid on the pavement, and around it as much of oak chips as is considered sufficient to soften the iron to the required degree: the lighted wood burns away, the tire is riveted to the wheel, and the ashes carefully swept up. The little vagabonds take advantage of the heat communicated to the pavement, and do not leave the spot till they have drawn from it the last radiation of warmth. Similar instances of contentedness, and sharp-witted profiting by what otherwise would be wasted, occur here in great number. I notice in this people the most shrewd and active industry, not to get rich, but to live free from care.
In order not to make a mistake yesterday as to the house of my odd little princess, and to be there in time, I called a hackney-carriage. It stopped before the grand entrance of a spacious palace. As I had no idea of coming to so splendid a dwelling, I repeated to him most distinctly the name: he assured me it was quite right. I soon found myself in a spacious court, still and lonesome, empty and clean, enclosed by the principal edifice and side buildings. The architecture was the well-known light Neapolitan style, as was also the colouring. Right before me was a grand porch, and a broad but not very high flight of steps. On both sides of it stood a line of servants in splendid liveries, who, as I passed them, bowed very low. I thought myself the Sultan in Wieland's fairy tale, and, after his example, took courage. Next I was received by the upper domestics, till at last the most courtly of them opened a door, and introduced me into a spacious apartment, which was as splendid, but also as empty of people, as all before. In passing up and down, I observed in a side-room a table laid out for about forty persons, with a splendour corresponding with all around. A secular priest now entered, and without asking who I was, or whence I came, approached me as if I were already known to him, and conversed on the most general topics.
A pair of folding doors were now thrown open, and immediately closed again, when a gentleman rather advanced in years had entered. The priest immediately proceeded toward him, as I also did. We greeted him with a few words of courtesy, which he returned in a barking, stuttering tone, so that I could scarcely make out a syllable of his Hottentot dialect. When he had taken his place by the stove, the priest moved away, and I accompanied him. A portly Benedictine entered, accompanied by a younger member of his order. He went to salute the host, and, after being also barked at, retired to a window. The regular clergy, especially those whose dress is becoming, have great advantage in society: their costume is a mark of humility and renunciation of self, while, at the same time, it lends to its wearers a decidedly dignified appearance. In their behaviour they may easily, without degrading themselves, appear submissive and complying; and then again, when they stand upon their own dignity, their self-respect is well becoming to them, although in others it would not be so readily allowed to pass. This was the case with this person. When I asked him about Monte Cassino, he immediately gave me an invitation thither, and promised me the best of welcomes. In the meantime the room had become full of people: officers, people of the court, more regulars, and even some Capuchins, had arrived. Once more a set of folding-doors opened and shut: an aged lady, somewhat older than my host, had entered; and now the presence of what I took to be the lady of the house made me feel perfectly confident that I was in a strange mansion, and wholly unknown to its inmates. Dinner was now served; and I was keeping close to the side of my friends, the monks, in order to slip with them into the paradise of the dining-room, when all at once I saw Filangieri, with his wife, enter and make his excuses for being so late. Shortly after this my little princess came into the room, and with nods, and winks, and bows, to all as she passed, came straight to me. "It is very good of you to keep your word," she exclaimed: "mind you sit by me,—you shall have the best bits,—wait a minute, though; I must find out which is my proper place, then mind and take your place by me." Thus commanded, I followed the various windings she made, and at last we reached our seats, Benedictine sitting right opposite, and Filangieri on my other side. "The dishes are all good," she observed,—"all Lenten fare, but choice: I'll point out to you the best. But now I must rally the priests,—the churls! I can't bear them: every day they are cutting a fresh slice off our estate. What we have, we should like to spend on ourselves and our friends." The soup was now handed round,—the Benedictine was sipping his very deliberately. "Pray don't put yourself out of your way,—the spoon is too small, I fear: I will bid them bring you a larger one. Your reverences are used to a good mouthful." The good father replied, "In your house, lady, everything is so excellent, and so well arranged, that much more distinguished guests than your humble servant would find everything to their heart's content."
Of the pasties the Benedictine took only one. She called out to him, "Pray take half a dozen: pastry, your reverence surely knows, is easy of digestion." With good sense he took another pasty, thanking the princess for her attention just as if he had not seen through her malicious raillery. And so, also, some solid paste-work furnished her with occasion for venting her spite; for, as the monk helped himself to a piece, a second rolled off the dish toward his plate. "A third! your reverence: you seem anxious to lay a foundation." "When such excellent materials are furnished to his hand, the architect's labours are easy," rejoined his reverence. Thus she went on continually, only pausing awhile to keep her promise of pointing out to me the best dishes.
All this while I was conversing with my neighbour on the gravest topics. Absolutely, I never heard Filangieri utter an unmeaning sentence. In this respect, and indeed in many others, he resembles our worthy friend, George Schlosser; with this difference, that the former, as a Neapolitan and a man of the world, had a softer nature and an easier manner.
During the whole of this time my roguish neighbour allowed the clerical gentry not a moment's truce. Above all, the fish at this Lenten meal, dished up in imitation of flesh of all kinds, furnished her with inexhaustible opportunities for all manner of irreverent and ill-natured observations. Especially in justification and defence of a taste for flesh, she observed that people would have the form, to give a relish, even when the essence was prohibited.
Many more such jokes were noticed by me at the time, but I am not in the humour to repeat them. Jokes of this kind, when first spoken, and falling from beautiful lips, may be tolerable, not to say amusing; but, set down in black and white, they lose all charm,—for me at least. Then again, the boldly hazarded stroke of wit has this peculiarity, that, at the moment, it pleases us while it astonishes us by its boldness; but when told afterward, it sounds offensive, and disgusts us.
The dessert was brought in, and I was afraid that the cross-fire would still be kept up, when suddenly my fair neighbour turned quite composedly to me and said, "The priests may gulp their Syracusan wine in peace, for I cannot succeed in worrying a single one to death,— no, not even in spoiling their appetites. Now, let me have some rational talk with you; for what a heavy sort of thing must a conversation with Filangieri be! The good creature! he gives himself a great deal of trouble for nothing. I often say to him, 'If you make new laws, we must give ourselves fresh pains to find out how we can forthwith transgress them, just as we have already set at nought the old.' Only look now, how beautiful Naples is! For these many years the people have lived free from care and contented; and if now and then some poor wretch is hanged, all the rest still pursue their own merry course." She then proposed that I should pay a visit to Sorrento, where she had a large estate. Her steward would feast me with the best of fish, and the delicious mungana (flesh of a sucking calf). The mountain air, and the unequalled prospect, would be sure to cure me of all philosophy. Then she would come herself, and not a trace should remain of all my wrinkles,—which at any rate I had allowed to come on before their time,—and together we would have a right merry time of it.
Naples, March 13, 1787.
To-day also I write you a few hues, in order that letter may provoke letter. Things go well with me: however, I see less than I ought. The place induces an indolent and easy sort of life: nevertheless, my idea of it is gradually becoming more and more complete.
On Sunday we were in Pompeii. Many a calamity has happened in the world, but never one that has caused so much entertainment to posterity as this one. I scarcely know of anything that is more interesting. The houses are small and close together, but within they are all most exquisitely painted. The gate of the city is remarkable, with the tombs close to it. The tomb of a priestess, a semicircular bench, with a stone back, on which was the inscription cut in large characters. Over the back you have a sight of the sea and the setting sun,—a glorious spot, worthy of the beautiful idea.
We found there good and merry company from Naples: the men are perfectly natural, and light-hearted. We took dinner at "Torre dell' Annunziata," with our table placed close to the sea. The day was extremely fine. The view toward Castellamare and Sorrento, near and incomparable. My companions were quite rapturous in praise of their native place: some asserted that without a sight of the sea it was impossible to live. To me it is quite enough that I have its image in my soul, and so, when the time comes, may safely return to my mountain home.
Fortunately, there is here a very honest painter of landscapes, who imparts to his pieces the impression of the rich and open country around. He has already executed some sketches for me.
The Vesuvian productions I have now pretty well studied: things, however, assume a different signification when one sees them in connection. Properly, I ought to devote the rest of my life to observation: I should discover much that would enlarge man's knowledge. Pray tell Herder that my botanical discoveries are continually advancing: it is still the same principle, but it requires a whole life to work it out. Perhaps I am already in a situation to draw the leading lines of it.
I can now enjoy myself at the museum of Portici. Usually people make it the first object: we mean to make it our last. As yet I do not know whether I shall be able to extend my tour: all things tend to drive me back to Rome at Easter. I shall let things take their course.
Angelica has undertaken to paint a scene of my "Iphigenia." The thought is a very happy subject for a picture, and she will delineate it excellently. It is the moment when Orestes finds himself again in the presence of his sister and his friend. What the three characters are saying to each other she has indicated by the grouping, and given their words in the expressions of their countenances. From this description you may judge how keenly sensitive she is, and how quick she is to seize whatever is adapted to her nature. And it is really the turning-point of the whole drama.
Farewell, and love me! Here the people are all very good, even though they do not know what to make of me. Tischbein, on the other hand, pleases them far better. This evening he hastily painted some heads of the size of life, at and about which they disported themselves as strangely as the New Zealanders at the sight of a ship of war. Of this an amusing anecdote.
Tischbein has a great knack of etching with a pen the shapes of gods and heroes, of the size of life, and even more. He uses very few hues, but cleverly puts in the shades with a broad pencil, so that the heads stand out roundly and nobly. The bystanders looked on with amazement, and were highly delighted. At last an itching seized their fingers to try and paint: they snatched the brushes, and painted—one another's beards, daubing each other's faces. Was not this an original trait of human nature? And this was done in an elegant circle, in the house of one who was himself a clever draughtsman and painter! It is impossible to form an idea of this race without having seen them.
I am here on a visit to Hackert, in his highly agreeable apartments which have been assigned him in the ancient castle. The new palace, somewhat huge and Escurial-like, of a quadrangular plan, with many courts, is royal enough. The site is uncommonly fine, on one of the most fertile plains in the world, and yet the gardens trench on the mountains. From these an aqueduct brings down an entire river to supply water to the palace and the district; and the whole can, on occasion, be thrown on some artificially arranged rocks, to form a most glorious cascade. The gardens are beautifully laid out, and suit well with a district which itself is thought a garden.
The castle is truly kingly. It appears to me, however, particularly gloomy; and no one of us could bring himself to think the vast and empty rooms comfortable. The king probably is of the same opinion; for he has caused a house to be built on the mountains, which, smaller and more proportioned to man's littleness, is intended for a hunting-box and country-seat.
Hackert is lodged very comfortably in the old castle: it is quite roomy enough for all his guests. Constantly busy with drawing and painting, he, nevertheless, is very social, and easily draws men around him, as in the end he generally makes every one become his scholar. He has also quite won me by putting up patiently with my weaknesses, and insists, above all things, on distinctness of drawing, and marked and clear keeping. When he paints, he has three colours always ready; and as he works on, and uses one after another, a picture is produced, one knows not how or whence. I wish the execution were as easy as it looks. With his usual blunt honesty he said to ———, "You have capacity, but you are unable to accomplish anything: stay with me a year and a half, and you shall be able to produce such works as shall be a delight to yourself and to others." Is not this a text on which one might preach eternally to dilettanti? "We would like to see what sort of a pupil we can make of you."
The special confidence with which the queen honours him is evinced not merely by the fact that he gives lessons in practice to the princesses, but still more so by his being frequently summoned of an evening to talk with, and instruct them on art and kindred subjects. He makes Sulzer's book the basis of such lectures, selecting the articles as entertainment or conviction may be his subject.
I was obliged to approve of this, and, in consequence, to laugh at myself. What a difference is there between him who wishes to investigate principles, and one whose highest object is to work on the world and to teach them for their mere private amusement. Sulzer's theory was always odious to me on account of the falseness of its fundamental maxim, but now I saw that the book contained much more than the multitude require. The varied information which is here communicated, the mode of thinking with which alone so active a mind as Sulzer's could be satisfied, must have been quite sufficient for the ordinary run of people.
Many happy and profitable hours have I spent with the picture-restorer Anders, who has been summoned hither from Rome, and resides in the castle, and industriously pursues his work, in which the king takes a great interest. Of his skill in restoring old paintings, I dare not begin to speak; since it would be necessary to describe the whole process of this yet difficult craft, and wherein consists the difficulty of the problem, and the merit of success.
Caserta, March 16, 1787.
Your dear letter of the 19th February reached me to-day, and I must forthwith despatch a word or two in reply. How glad should I be to come to my senses again, by thinking of my friends!
Naples is a paradise: in it every one lives in a sort of intoxicated self-forgetfulness. It is even so with me: I scarcely know myself; I seem to myself quite an altered man. Yesterday I said to myself, "Either you have always been mad, or you are so now."
I have paid a visit to the ruins of ancient Capua, and all that is connected with it.
In this country one first begins to have a true idea of what vegetation is, and why man tills the fields. The flax here is already near to blossoming, and the wheat a span and a half high. Around Caserta the land is perfectly level, the fields worked as clean and as fine as the beds of a garden. All of them are planted with poplars, and from tree to tree the vine spreads; and yet, notwithstanding this shade, the soil below produces the finest and most abundant crops possible. What will they be when the spring shall come in power? Hitherto we have had very cold winds, and there has been snow on the mountains.
Within a fortnight I must decide whether to go to Sicily or not. Never before have I been so tossed backward and forward in coming to a resolution: every day something will occur to recommend the trip; the next morning some circumstance will be against it. Two spirits are contending for me.
I say this in confidence, and for my female friends alone: speak not a word of it to my male friends. I am well aware that my "Iphigenia" has fared strangely. The public were so accustomed to the old form, expressions which they had adopted from frequent hearing and reading were familiar to them; and now quite a different tone is sounding in their ears, and I clearly see that no one, in fact, thanks me for the endless pains I have been at. Such a work is never finished: it must, however, pass for such, as soon as the author has done his utmost, considering time and circumstances.
All this, however, will not be able to deter me from trying a similar operation with "Tasso." Perhaps it would be better to throw it into the fire; however, I shall adhere to my resolution; and since it must be what it is, I shall make a wonderful work of it. On this account, I am pleased to find that the printing of my works goes on so slowly; and then, again, it is well to be at a distance from the murmurs of the compositor. Strange enough, that, even in one's most independent actions, one expects—nay, requires—a stimulus.
Caserta, March 16, 1787.
If in Rome one can readily set one's self to study, here one can do nothing but live. You forget yourself and the world; and to me it is a strange feeling to go about with people who think of nothing but enjoying themselves. Sir William Hamilton, who still resides here as ambassador from England, has at length, after his long love of art and long study, discovered the most perfect of admirers of nature and art in a beautiful young woman. She lives with him,—an English woman about twenty years old. She is very handsome, and of a beautiful figure. The old knight has had made for her a Greek costume, which becomes her extremely. Dressed in this, and letting her hair loose, and taking a couple of shawls, she exhibits every possible variety of posture, expression, and look, so that at the last the spectator almost fancies it is a dream. One beholds here in perfection, in movement, in ravishing variety, all that the greatest of artists have rejoiced to be able to produce. Standing, kneeling, sitting, lying down, grave or sad, playful, exulting, repentant, wanton, menacing, anxious,—all mental states follow rapidly, one after another. With wonderful taste she suits the folding of her veil to each expression, and with the same handkerchief makes every kind of head-dress. The old knight holds the light for her, and enters into the exhibition with his whole soul. He thinks he can discern in her a resemblance to all the most famous antiques, all the beautiful profiles on the Sicilian coins,—ay, of the Apollo Belvedere itself. This much at any rate is certain,—the entertainment is unique. We spent two evenings on it with thorough enjoyment. To-day Tischbein is engaged in painting her.
What I have seen and inferred of the personnel of the court requires to be further tested, before I set it down. To-day the king is gone hunting the wolves: they hope to kill at least five.
Naples, March 17, 1787.
When I would write words, images only start before my eyes,—the beautiful land, the free sea, the hazy islands, the roaring mountain! Powers to delineate all this fail me.
Here in this country one at last understands how man could ever take it into his head to till the ground,—here, where it produces everything, and where one may look for as many as from three to five crops in the year.
I have seen much, and reflected still more. The world opens itself to me more and more: all even that I have long known is at last becoming my own. How quick to know, but how slow to put in practice, is the human creature!
The only pity is, that I cannot at each moment communicate to others my observations. But, both as man and artist, one is here driven backward and forward by a hundred ideas of his own, while his services are put in requisition by hundreds of persons. His situation is peculiar and strange: he cannot freely sympathise with another's being, because he finds his own exertions so put to the stretch.
And, after all, the world is nothing but a wheel. In its whole periphery it is everywhere similar; but, nevertheless, it appears to us so strange, because we ourselves are carried round with it.
What I always said has actually come to pass: in this land alone do I begin to understand and to unravel many a phenomenon of nature, and complication of opinion. I am gathering from every quarter, and shall bring back with me a great deal,—certainly much love of my own native land, and joy to live with a few dear friends.
With regard to my Sicilian tour, the gods still hold the scales in their hands: the index still wavers.
Who can the friend be who has been thus mysteriously announced? Only, may I not neglect him in my pilgrimage and tour in the island!
The frigate from Palermo has returned: in eight days she sets sail again. Whether I shall sail with it, and be back at Rome by Passion Week, I have not as yet determined. Never in my life have I been so undecided: a trifle will turn the scale.
With men I get on rather better: for I feel that one must weigh them by avoirdupois weight, and not by the jeweller's scales; as, unfortunately, friends too often weigh one another in their hypochondriacal humours and in an overexacting spirit.
Here men know nothing of one another. They scarcely observe that others are also going on their way, side by side with them. They run all day backward and forward in a paradise, without looking around them; and, if the neighbouring jaws of hell begin to open and to rage, they have recourse to St. Januarius.
To pass through such a countless multitude, with its restless excitement, is strange, but salutary. Here they are all crossing and recrossing one another, and yet every one finds his way and his object. In so great a crowd and bustle I feel more calm and solitary than on other occasions: the more bustling the streets become, the more quietly I move.
Often do I think of Rousseau and his hypochondriacal discontent; and I can thoroughly understand how so fine an organisation may have been deranged. Did I not myself feel such sympathy with natural objects; and did I not see, that, in the apparent perplexity, a hundred seemingly contrary observations admit of being reconciled, and arranged side by side, just as the geometer by across line tests many measurements, I should often think myself mad.
Naples, March 18, 1787.
We must not any longer put off our visit to Herculaneum, and the Museum of Portici, where the curiosities which have been dug out of it are collected and preserved. That ancient city, lying at the foot of Vesuvius, was entirely covered with lava, which subsequent eruptions successively raised so high that the buildings are at present sixty feet below the surface. The city was discovered by some men coming upon a marble pavement, as they were digging a well. It is a great pity that the excavation was not executed systematically by German miners; for it is admitted that the work, which was carried on at random, and with the hope of plunder, has spoilt many a noble monument of ancient art. After descending sixty steps into a pit, by torchlight, you gaze in admiration at the theatre which once stood beneath the open sky, and listen to the guide recounting all that was found there, and carried off.
We entered the museum well recommended, and were well received: nevertheless, we were not allowed to take any drawings. Perhaps on this account we paid the more attention to what we saw, and the more vividly transported ourselves into those long-passed times, when all these things surrounded their living owners, and ministered to the use and enjoyment of life. The little houses and rooms of Pompeii now appeared to me at once more spacious and more confined,—more confined, because I fancied them to myself crammed full of so many precious objects; more spacious, because these very objects could not have been furnished merely as necessaries, but, being decorated with the most graceful and ingenious devices of the imitative arts, must, while they delighted the taste, also have enlarged the mind far beyond what the amplest house-room could ever have done.
One sees here, for instance, a nobly shaped pail, mounted at the top with a highly ornamented edge. When you examine it more closely, you find that this rim rises on two sides, and so furnishes convenient handles by which the vessel may be lifted. The lamps, according to the number of their wicks, are ornamented with masks and mountings, so that each burner illuminates a genuine figure of art. We also saw some high and gracefully slender stands of iron for holding lamps, the pendent burners being suspended with figures of all kinds, which display a wonderful fertility of invention; and as, in order to please and delight the eye, they sway and oscillate, the effect surpasses all description.
In the hope of being able to pay a second visit, we followed the usher from room to room, and snatched all the delight and instruction that was possible from a cursory view.
Within these last few days I have formed a new connection. Tischbein has for three or four weeks faithfully lent me all the assistance in his power, and diligently explained to me the works both of nature and art. Yesterday, however, after being at the Museum of Portici, we had some conversation together, and came to the conclusion, that, considering his own artistic objects, he could not perform, with credit to himself, the works which, in the hope of some future appointment in Naples, he has undertaken for the court and for several persons in the city; nor do justice to my views, wishes, and fancies. With sincere good wishes for my success, he has therefore recommended to me for my constant companion a young man, whom, since I arrived here, I have often seen, not without feeling some interest and liking for him. His name is Kniep, who, after a long stay at Rome, has come to Naples as the true field and element of the landscape-painter. Even in Rome I had heard him highly spoken of as a clever draughtsman, only his industry was not much commended. I have tolerably studied his character, and think the ground of this censure arises rather from a want of a decision, which certainly may be overcome if we are long together. A favourable beginning confirms me in this hope; and, if he continues to go on thus, we shall continue good companions for some time.
Naples, March 19, 1787.
One needs only walk along the streets, and keep his eyes well open, and he is sure to see the most unequalled scenes. At the Mole, one of the noisiest quarters of the city, I saw yesterday a Pulcinello, who, on a temporary stage of planks, was quarrelling with an ape; while from a balcony above, a right pretty maiden was exposing her charms to every eye. Not far from the ape and his stage, a quack doctor was recommending to the credulous crowd his nostrums for every evil. Such a scene painted by a Gerard Dow would not fail to charm contemporaries and posterity.
To-day, moreover, was the festival of St. Joseph. He is the patron of all Fritaruoli,—that is, pastry-cooks,—and understands baking in a very extensive sense. Because beneath the black and seething oil hot flames will of course rage, therefore every kind of torture by fire falls within his province. Accordingly, yesterday evening being the eve of the saint's day, the fronts of the houses were adorned with pictures, to the best of the inmates' skill, representing souls in Purgatory, or the Last Judgment, with plenty of fire and flame. Before the doors, frying-pans were hissing on hastily constructed hearths. One partner was working the dough; another shaped it into twists, and threw it into the boiling lard; a third stood by the frying-pan, holding a short skewer, with which he drew out the twists as soon as they were done, and shoved them off on another skewer to a fourth party, who offered them to the bystanders. The two last were generally young apprentices, and wore white curly wigs; this head-dress being the Neapolitan symbol of an angel. Other figures besides completed the group; and these were busy in presenting wine to the busy cooks, or in drinking themselves, shouting, and puffing the article all the while. The angels, too, and cooks, were all clamouring. The people crowded to buy; for all pastry is sold cheap on this evening, and a part of the profits given to the poor.
Scenes of this kind may be witnessed without end. Thus fares it every day,—always something new, some fresh absurdity. The variety of costume, too, that meets you in the streets ; the multitude, too, of passages in the Toledo Street alone!
Thus there is plenty of most original entertainment, if only one will live with the people: it is so natural, that one almost becomes natural one's self. For this is the original birthplace of Pulcinello, the true national mask,—the Harlequin of Pergamo, and the Hanswurst of the Tyrol. This Pulcinello, now, is a thoroughly easy, sedate, somewhat indifferent, perhaps lazy, and yet humourous fellow. And so one meets everywhere with a "Kellner" and a "Hausknecht." With ours I had special fun yesterday, and yet there was nothing more than my sending him to fetch some paper and pens. A half misunderstanding, a little loitering, good humour and roguery, produced a most amusing scene, which might be very successfully brought out on any stage.
Naples, Tuesday, March 20, 1787.
The news that an eruption of lava had just commenced, which, taking the direction of Ottajano, was invisible at Naples, tempted me to visit Vesuvius for the third time. Scarcely had I jumped out of my cabriolet (zweirädrigen einpferdigen Fuhrwerk), at the foot of the mountain, when immediately appeared the two guides who had accompanied us on our previous ascent. I had no wish to do without either, but took one out of gratitude and custom, the other for reliance on his judgment, and the two for the greater convenience. Having ascended the summit, the older guide remained with our cloaks and refreshment, while the younger followed me; and we boldly went straight toward a dense volume of smoke, which broke forth from the bottom of the funnel: then we quickly went downwards by the side of it, till at last, under the clear heaven, we distinctly saw the lava emitted from the rolling clouds of smoke.
We may hear an object spoken of a thousand times, but its peculiar features will never be caught till we see it with our own eyes. The stream of lava was narrow, not broader perhaps then ten feet, but the way in which it flowed down a gentle and tolerably smooth plain was remarkable. As it flowed along, it cooled both on the sides and on the surface, so that it formed a sort of canal, the bed of which was continually raised in consequence of the molten mass congealing even beneath the fiery stream, which, with uniform action, precipitated right and left the scoria which were floating on its surface. In this way a regular dam was at length thrown up, which the glowing stream flowed on as quietly as any mill-stream. We passed along the tolerably high dam, while the scoria rolled regularly off the sides at our feet. Some cracks in the canal afforded opportunity of looking at the living stream from below; and, as it rushed onward, we observed it from above.
A very bright sun made the glowing lava look dull, but a moderate steam rose from it into the pure air. I felt a great desire to go nearer to the point where it broke out from the mountain: there, my guide averred, it at once formed vaults and roofs above itself, on which he had often stood. To see and experience this phenomenon, we again ascended the hill, in order to come from behind to this point. Fortunately at this moment the place was cleared by a pretty strong wind, but not entirely, for all round it the smoke eddied from a thousand crannies; and now we actually stood on the top of the solid roof, which looked like a hardened mass of twisted dough, but projected so far outward, that it was impossible to see the welling lava.
We ventured about twenty steps farther; but the ground on which we stepped became hotter and hotter, while around us rolled an oppressive steam, which obscured and hid the sun. The guide, who was a few steps in advance of me, presently turned back, and seizing hold of me, hurried out of this Stygian exhalation.
After we had refreshed our eyes with the clear prospect, and washed our gums and throat with wine, we went round again to notice any other peculiarities which might characterise this peak of hell, thus rearing itself in the midst of a paradise. I again observed attentively some chasms, in appearance like so many Vulcanic forges, which emitted no smoke, but continually shot out a steam of hot, glowing air. They were all tapestried, as it were, with a kind of stalactite, which covered the funnel to the top with its knobs and chintz-like variation of colours. In consequence of the irregularity of the forges, I found many specimens of this sublimation hanging within reach, so that, with our staves and a little contrivance, we were able to hack off a few and secure them. I had seen in the shop of the lava-dealer similar specimens, labelled simply "Lava;" and was delighted to have discovered that it was volcanic soot precipitated from the hot vapour, and distinctly exhibiting the sublimated mineral particles it contained.
The most glorious sunset, a heavenly evening, refreshed me on my return: still, I felt how all great contrasts confound the mind and senses. From the terrible to the beautiful—from the beautiful to the terrible: each destroys the other, and produces a feeling of indifference. Assuredly, the Neapolitan would be quite a different creature, did he not feel himself thus hemmed in between Elysium and Tartarus.
Naples, March 22, 1787.
Were I not impelled by the German spirit and desire to learn and do rather than to enjoy, I should tarry a little longer in this school of a light-hearted and merry life, and try to profit by it still more. Here it is enough for contentment, if a man has never so small an income. The situation of the city, the mildness of the climate, can never be sufficiently extolled; but it is almost exclusively to these that the stranger is referred.
No doubt one who has abundance of time, tact, and means, might remain here for a long time with profit to himself. Thus Sir William Hamilton has contrived highly to enjoy a long residence in this city, and now, in the evening of his life, is reaping the fruits of it. The rooms, which he has had furnished in the English style, are most delightful, and the view from the corner room perhaps unique. Below you is the sea, with a view of Capri; Posilippo on the right, with the promenade of Villa Real between you and the grotto; on the left an ancient building belonging to the Jesuits; and beyond it the coast stretching from Sorrento to Cape Minerva. Another prospect equal to this is scarcely to be found in Europe,—at least, not in the centre of a great and populous city.
Hamilton is a person of universal taste, and, after having wandered through the whole realm of creation, has found rest at last in a most beautiful wife, a masterpiece of the great artist,—Nature.
And now after all this, and a hundredfold more of enjoyment, the Sirens from over the sea are beckoning me; and if the wind is favourable, I shall start at the same time with this letter,—it for the north, I for the south. The human mind will not be confined to any limits: I especially require breadth and extent in an eminent degree; however, I must content myself on this occasion with a rapid survey, and must not think of a long, fixed look. If by hearing and thinking, I can only attain to as much of any object as a finger's tip, I shall be able to make out the whole hand.
Singularly enough, within these few days a friend has spoken to me of "Wilhelm Meister," and urged me
Photogravure from the painting by J. Schoyerer
Yesterday we saw a picture of Correggio's, which is for sale. It is not, indeed, in very good preservation: however, it still retains the happiest stamp of all the peculiar charms of this painter. It represents a Madonna, with the infant hesitating between the breast and some pears which an angel is offering it: the subject, therefore, is the weaning of Christ. To me the idea appears extremely tender; the composition easy and natural, and happily and charmingly executed. It immediately reminded me of the Vow of St. Catherine; and, in my opinion, the painting is unquestionably from the hand of Correggio.
The terms of my engagement with Kniep are now settled, and it has commenced in a right practical way. We went together to Pæstum, where, and also on our journey thither and back, he showed the greatest industry with his pencil. He has made some of the most glorious outlines. He seems to relish this moving but busy sort of life, which has called forth a talent he was scarcely conscious of. This comes of being resolute, but it is exactly here that his accurate and nice skill shows itself. He never stops to surround the paper on which he is about to draw, with the usual rectangular hues: however, he seems to take as much pleasure in cutting points to his pencil, which is of the best English lead, as in drawing itself. Thus his outlines are just what one would wish them to be.
Now we have come to the following arrangement: From this day forward, we are to live and travel together; while he is to have nothing to trouble himself about but drawing, as he has done for the last few days.
All the sketches are to be mine: but in order to a further profit, after our return from our connection, he is to finish, for a certain sum, a number of them, which I am to select; and then, remuneration for the others is to be settled according to his skill, the importance of the views taken, and other considerations. This arrangement has made me quite happy; and now at last I can give you an account of our journey.
Sitting in a light two-wheeled carriage, and driving in turn, with a rough, good-natured boy behind, we rolled through the glorious country, which Kniep greeted with a true artistic eye. We now reached the mountain stream, which, running along a smooth, artificial channel, skirts most delightful rocks and woods. At last, in the district of Alla Cava, Kniep could not contain himself, but set to work to fix on paper a splendid mountain, which right before us stood out boldly against the blue sky; and with a clever and characteristic touch drew the outlines of the summit, with the sides also, down to its very base. We both made merry with it, as the earnest of our contract.
A similar sketch was taken in the evening, from the window, of a singularly lovely and rich country, which passes all my powers of description. Who would not have been disposed to study at such a spot, in those bright times, when a high school of art was flourishing? Very early in the morning we set off by an untrodden path, coming occasionally on marshy spots, toward two beautifully shaped hills. We crossed brooks and pools, where the wild bulls, like hippopotamuses, were wallowing, and looking upon us with their wild, red eyes.
The country grew flatter, and more desolate: the scarcity of the buildings bespoke a sparing cultivation. At last, when we were doubting whether we were passing through rocks or ruins, some great oblong masses enabled us to distinguish the remains of temples, and other monuments of a once splendid city. Kniep, who had already sketched on the way the two picturesque limestone hills, suddenly stopped to find a spot from which to seize and exhibit the peculiarity of this most unpicturesque country.
A countryman, whom I took for my guide, led me, meanwhile, through the buildings. The first sight of them excited nothing but astonishment. I found myself in a perfectly strange world; for, as centuries pass from the severe to the pleasing, they form man's taste at the same time,—indeed, create him after the same law. But now our eyes, and through them our whole inner being, have been used to, and decidedly prepossessed in favour of, a lighter style of architecture; so that these crowded masses of stumpy conical pillars appear heavy, not to say frightful. But I soon recollected myself, called to mind the history of art, thought of the times when the spirit of the age was in unison with this style of architecture, and realised the severe style of sculpture; and in less than an hour found myself reconciled to it,—nay, I went so far as to thank my genius for permitting me to see, with my own eyes, such well-preserved remains, since drawings give us no true idea of them; for in architectural sketches they seem more elegant, and in perspective views even more stumpy, than they actually are. It is only by going round them, and passing through them, that you can impart to them their real character: you evoke for them, not to say infuse into them, the very feeling which the architect had in contemplation. And thus I spent the whole day, Kniep the while working away most diligently in taking very accurate sketches. How delighted was I to be exempt from that care, and yet to acquire such unfailing tokens for the aid of memory! Unfortunately, there was no accommodation for spending the night here. We returned to Sorrento, and started early next morning for Naples. Vesuvius, seen from the back, is a rich country: poplars, with their colossal pyramids, on the roadside, in the foreground. These, too, formed an agreeable feature, which we halted a moment to take.
We now reached an eminence. The most extensive area in the world opened before us. Naples, in all its splendour: its mile-long line of houses on the flat shore of the bay; the promontories, tongues of land and walls of rock; then the islands; and, behind all, the sea;—the whole was a ravishing sight!
A most hideous singing, or rather exulting cry and howl of joy, from the boy behind, frightened and disturbed us. Somewhat angrily I called out to him: he had never had any harsh words from us,—he had been a very good boy.
For awhile he did not move; then he patted me lightly on the shoulder, and pushing between us both his right arm, with thestretched out, exclaimed, "Signor, perdonate! questa è la mia patria!"—which, being interpreted, runs, "Forgive me, sir, for that is my native land!" And so I was ravished a second time. Something like a tear stood in the eyes of the phlegmatic child of the North.
Naples, March 25, 1787.
Although I saw that Kniep was delighted to go with me to the Festival of the Annunciation, still I could not fail to observe that there was something he was sorry to part from. His candour could not let him conceal from me long the fact, that he had formed here a close and faithful attachment. It was a pretty tale to listen to,—the story of their first meeting, and the description of the fair one's behaviour up to this time, told in her favour. Kniep, moreover, insisted on my going and seeing for myself how pretty she really was. Accordingly, an opportunity was contrived, and so as to afford me the enjoyment of one of the most agreeable views over Naples. He took me to the flat roof of a house which commanded a survey of the lower town, near the Mole, the bay, and the shore of Sorrento. All that lay beyond on the left became foreshortened in the strangest way possible; and which, except from this particular spot, was never witnessed. Naples is everywhere beautiful and glorious.
While we were admiring the country, suddenly (although expected) a very beautiful face presented itself above the roof,—for the entrance to these flat roofs is generally an oblong opening in the roof, which can be covered, when not used, by a trap-door. While, then, the little angel appeared in full figure, above the opening, it occurred to me that ancient painters usually represent the Annunciation by making the angel ascend by a similar trap-door. But the angel on this occasion was really of a very fine form, of a very pretty face, and good natural carriage. It was a real joy to me to see my new friend so happy beneath this magnificent sky, and in presence of the finest prospect in the world. After her departure, he confessed to me that he had hitherto voluntarily endured poverty, as by that means he had enjoyed her love and, at the same time, had learned to appreciate her contented disposition; and now his better prospects and improved condition were chiefly prized, because they procured him the means for making her days more comfortable.
After this pleasant little incident I walked on the shore, calm and happy. There a good insight into botanical matters opened on me. Tell Herder that I am very near finding the primal vegetable type; only I fear that no one will be able to trace in it the rest of the vegetable kingdom. My famous theory of the cotyledons is so refined that perhaps it is impossible to go farther with it.
Naples, March 26, 1787.
To-morrow this letter will leave this for you. On Thursday, the 29th, I go to Palermo in the corvette which formerly, in my ignorance of sea matters, I promoted to the rank of a frigate. The doubt whether I should go or remain made me unsettled even in the use of my stay here: now I have made up my mind, things go on better. For my mental state this journey is salutary,—indeed, necessary. I see Sicily pointing to Africa, and to Asia, and to the wonderful, whither so many rays of the world's history are directed: even to stand still is no trifle!
I have treated Naples quite in its own style: I have been anything but industrious. And yet I have seen a great deal and formed a pretty general idea of the land, its inhabitants, and condition. On my return, there is much that I shall have to go over again,—indeed, only "go over," for by the 29th of June I must be in Rome again. As I have missed the Holy Week, I must not fail to be present at the festivities of St. Peter's Day. My Sicilian expedition must not altogether draw me off from my original plan.
The day before yesterday we had a violent storm, with thunder, lightning, and rain. Now it is clear again: a glorious tramontane is blowing; if it lasts we shall have a rapid passage.
Yesterday I went with my fellow traveller to see the vessel, and to take our cabin. A sea-voyage is utterly out of the pale of my ideas: this short trip, which will probably be a mere sail along the coast, will help my imagination, and enlarge my world. The captain is a young, lively fellow; the ship, trim and clean, built in America, and a good sailer.
Here every spot begins to look green: Sicily, they tell me, I shall find still more so. By the time you get this letter I shall be on my return, leaving Trinacria behind me. Such is man; he is always either anticipating or recalling: I have not yet been there; and yet I now am, in thought, back again with you! However, for the confusion of this letter I am not to blame. Every moment I am interrupted; and yet I would, if possible, fill this sheet to the very corner.
Just now I have had a visit from a Marchese Berio, a young man who appears to be well informed. He was anxious to make the acquaintance of the author of "Werther." Generally, indeed, the people here evince a great desire for, and delight in, learning and accomplishments; only they are too happy to go the right way to acquire them. Had I more time, I would willingly devote it to observing the Neapolitans. These four weeks—what are they compared with the endless variety of life?
Now, farewell. On these travels I have learnt one thing at least,—how to travel well: whether I am learning to live I know not. The men who pretend to understand that art, are, in nature and manner, too widely different from me for setting up any claim to such a talent.
Farewell, and love me as sincerely as I from my heart remember you.
Naples, March 28, 1787.
These few days have been entirely passed in packing and leave-taking; with making all necessary arrangements, and paying bills; looking for missing articles; and with preparations of all kinds. I set the time down as lost.
The Prince of Walbeck has, just at my departure, unsettled me again. For he has been talking of nothing less than that I should arrange, on my return, to go with him to Greece and Dalmatia. When one enters once into the world and takes up with it, let him beware lest he be driven aside, not to say driven mad by it. I am utterly incapable of adding another syllable.
Naples, March 29, 1787.
For some days the weather has been very unsettled. To-day (the appointed time for our sailing) it is again as fine as possible; a favourable north wind; a bright sunny sky, beneath which one wishes one's self in the wide world. Now I bid an affectionate farewell to all my friends in Weimar and Gotha. Your love accompanies me, for wherever I am I feel my need of you. Last night I dreamt I was again among old familiar faces. It seems as if I could not unload my boat of pheasants' feathers anywhere but among you. May it be well loaded!
- Heliodorus, Bishop of Tricca, in Thessaly, in the fourth century, author of the "Œthiopics, or, the Amours of Theagenes and Chariclea," was, it is said, deprived of his bishopric for writing this work.—A. W. M.
- Filangieri's sister.