« PreviousContinue »
markable for their paintings than architecture, being mostly old structures of brick; but the palaces are numerous, and fine enough to supply us with somewhat worth seeing from morning till night. The country of Lombardy, hitherto, is one of the most beautiful imaginable; the roads broad, and exactly straight, and on either hand vast plantations of trees, chiefly mulberries and olives, and not a tree without a vine twining about it and spreading among its branches. This scene, indeed, which must be the most lovely in the world during the
proper season, is at present all deformed by the winter, which here is rigorous enough for the time it lasts; but one still sees the skeleton of a charming place, and reaps the benefit of its product, for the fruits and provisions are admirable; in short, you find every thing, that luxury can desire, in perfection. We have now been here a week, and shall stay some little time longer. We are at the foot of the Appennine mountains; it will take up three days to cross them, and then we shall come to Florence, where we shall pass the Christmas. Till then we must remain in a state of ignorance as to what is doing in England, for our letters are to meet us there: if I do not find four or five from you alone, I shall wonder.
MR. GRAY TO HIS MOTHER.
Florence, Dec. 19, N. S. 1739.
We spent twelve days at Bologna (chiefly as most travellers do), in seeing sights; for as we knew no mortal there, and as it is no easy matter to get admission into any
Italian house, without very particular recommendations, we could see no company but in public places; and there are none in that city but the churches. We saw, therefore, churches, palaces, and pictures from morning to night; and the 15th of this month set
out for Florence, and began to cross the Appennine mountains; we travelled among and upon them all that day, and, as it was but indifferent weather, were commonly in the middle of thick clouds, that utterly deprived us of a sight of their beauties: for this vast chain of hills has its beauties, and all the vallies are cultivated; even the mountains themselves are many of them so within a little of their very tops. They are not so horrid as the Alps, though pretty near as high; and the whole road is admirably well kept, and paved throughout, which is a length of fourscore miles, and more: we left the Pope's dominions, and lay that night in those of the Grand Duke at Fiorenzuola; a paltry little town, at the foot of mount Giogo, which is the highest of them all. Next morning we went up it; the post-house is upon its very top, and usually involved in clouds, or half burried in the snow. Indeed there was none of the last at the time we were there, but it was still a dismal habitation. The descent is most excéssively steep, and the turnings very short and frequent; however, we performed it without any danger, and in coming down could dimly discover Florence, and the beautiful plain about it, through the mists; but enough to convince us, it must be one of the noblest prospects upon earth in summer.
That afternoon we got thither; and Mr. Mann,* the resident, had sent his servant to meet us at the gates, and conduct us to his house. He is the best and most obliging person in the world. The next night we were introduced at the Prince of Craon's assembly (he has the chief power here in the Grand Duke's absence). The Princess, and he, were extremely civil to the name of Walpole, so we were asked to stay supper, which is as much as to say, you may come and sup here whenever you please; for after the first invitation this is always understood. We have also been at the
* Now Sir Horace Mann, and envoy extraordinary at the same court.
Countess Suarez's, a favourite of the late Duke, and one that gives the first movement to every thing gay that is going forward here. The news is every day expected from Vienna, of the Great Duchess's delivery; if it be a boy, here will be all sorts of balls, masquerades, operas, and illuminations; if not, we must wait for the carnival, when all those things come of course.
In the mean time it is impossible to want entertainment: the famous gallery, alone, is an amusement for months; we commonly pass two or three hours every morning in it, and one has perfect leisure to consider all its beauties. You know it contains many hundred antique statues, such as the whole world cannot match, besides the vast collection of paintings, medals, and precious stones, such as no other prince was ever master of; in short, all that the rich and powerful house of Medicis has in so many years got together.* And besides this city abounds with so many palaces and churches, that you can hardly place yourself any where without having some fine one in view, or at least some statue or fountain, magnificently adorned; these, undoubtedly, are far more numerous than Genoa can pretend to; yet, in its general appearance, I cannot think that Florence equals it in beauty. Mr. Walpole is just come from being presented to the Electress Palatine Dowager; she is a sister of the late Great Duke's; a stately old lady, that never goes out but to church, and then she has guards, and eight horses to her coach. She received him with much ceremony, standing under a huge black canopy, and, after a few minutes talking, she assured him of her good will, and dismissed him: she never sees any body but thus in form; and so she passes her life,f poor woman! ***
* He catalogued and made occasional short remarks on the pictures, &c. which he saw here, as well as at other places, many of which are in my possession, but it would have swelled this work too much if I had inserted them.
+ Persons of very high rank, and withal very good sense, will only feel the pathos of this exclamation.
MR. GRAY TO MR. WEST.
Florence, Jan. 15, 1740. I THINK I have not yet told you how we left that charming place Genoa: how we crossed a mountain, all of green marble, called Buchetto: how we came to Tortona, and waded through the mud to come to Castel St. Giovanni, and there eat mustard and sugar with a dish of crows gizzards : secondly, how we passed the famous plains
Quà Trebie glaucas salices intersecat undâ,
Arvaque Romanis nobilitata malis.
Et suspirantes ducere mæstus aquas ;
Et pulsa Ausonidum ripa sonare fugâ. Nor, thirdly, how we passed through Piacenza, Parma, Modena, entered the territories of the Pope; stayed twelve days at Bologna; crossed the Appennines, and afterward arrived at Florence. None of these things have I told you, nor do I intend to tell
ask me some questions concerning them. No not even of Florence itself, except that it is as fine as possible, and has every thing in it that can bless the eyes. But, before I enter into particulars, you must make your peace both with me and the Venus de Medicis, who, let me tell you, is highly and justly offended at you for not inquiring long before this, concerning her symmetry and proportions. *
MR. WEST TO MR. GRAY.
Et meritò : victas do tibi sponte manus.
Irata et nobis est Medicæa Venus.
* The letter which accompanied this little elegy is not extant. Probably it was only inclosed in one to Mr. Walpole.
Mene igitur statuas et inania saxa vereri !
Stultule! marmoreà quid mihi cum Venere ?
Quarum nulla queat non placuisse Jovi.
Sintque oblita Helenæ nomen et Hermione!
Unus honor nostris jam venet Angliasin.
I nunc et Tuscas improbe confer opes..
Neu me adeo nullâ Pallade progenitum :
Me quoque Calliopes semper amasse choros;
Cura est, ingenio si licet ire meo :
Seu paries Coo nobilis e calamo;
Romanique decus nominis et Veneti ;
Quaque et formoso mollior ære Venus.
Et quicquid calamo dulciùs ausa manus:
Lymphaque muscoso prosiliens lapide ;
Exurgens, Divûm et numina Cælicolûm ;
Et totâ Italià, qua patet usque, frui !
Norîtis quid sit tempora amara pati.
MR. GRAY TO HIS MOTHER.
Florence, March 19, 1740. The Pope* is at last dead, and we are to set out for Rome on Monday next. The conclave is still sitting there, and likely to continue so some time longer, as the two French cardinals are but just arrived, and the German ones are still expected. It agrees mighty ill with those that remain inclosed : Ottoboni is already dead of an apoplexy; Altieri and several others are said to be dying or very bad: yet it is not expected to break up till after Easter. We shall lie at Sienna the first night,
Clement the Twelfth.