Page images

but then, every gentleman's house is a palace, I should say, every nobleman's,-for there are no gentlemen in Italy except noblemen ; society being, as of old, die vided into two classes, the Patricians and the Plebeians : but though every gentleman is a nobleman, I am sorry to say, every nobleman is not a gentleman; neither would many of their palaces be considered by any means fit residences for gentlemen in our country. The legitimate application of the word, which, with us, is confined to a building forming a quadrangle, and enclosing a court within itself, is by no means adhered to here. Every house that has a porte côcher, and many that have not, are called palaces; and, in short, under that high-sounding appellation, are comprehended places, whose wretchedness far surpasses the utmost stretch of an English imagination to conceive.

“Rome, however, contains real palaces, whose magnitude and magnificence are astonishing to transalpine eyes; but their tasteless architecture is more astonishing still.

“ Though they have the great names of Michael Angelo, Bramante, Versopi, Bernini, &c. &c. among their architects; though they are built of travertine stone, which, whether viewed with the deepened hues of age in the Colosseum, or the brightness of recent finish in St Peter's, is, I think, by far the finest material for building in the world; and though, from the grandeur of their scale, and the prodigality of their decoration, they admitted of grand combinations and striking effect, yet they are lamentably destitute of architectural beauty in the exterior; and in the interior, though they are filled with vast ranges of spacious apartments—though the polished marbles and precious spoils of antiquity have not been spared to embellish them--though the genius of painting has made them her modern temples, and sculpture adorned them with the choicest remains of ancient art, yet they are, generally speaking, about the most incommodious, unenviable, uncomfortable dwellings you can imagine.

“ I know it may said, that comfort in England and in Italy is not the same thing; but it never can consist in dulness, dirt, and dilapidation, any where. Italian comfort may not require thick carpets, warm fires, or close rooms; but it can be no worse of clean floors, com. modious furniture, and a house in good repair.

“ In habitations of such immense size and costly deco. rations as these, you look for libraries, baths, musicrooms, and every appendage of refinement and luxury ; but these things are rarely to be found in Italian palaces. If they were arranged and kept up, indeed, with any thing of English propriety, consistency, order, or cleanliness, many of them would be noble habitations ; but in the best of them, you see a barrenness, a neglect, an all-prevailing look of misery_deficiencies every where

-and contemptible meannesses adhering to grasping magnificence. But nothing is so offensive as the dirt. Amongst all the palaces, there is no such thing as a palace of cleanliness. You see and that is not the worst,-you smell abominable dunghills heaped up against the walls of splendid palaces, and foul heaps of ordure defiling their columned courts ;-you ascend noble marble staircases, whose costly materials are invisible beneath the accumulated filth that covers them ; and you are sickened with the noxious odours that assail you at every turn. You pass through long suites of ghastly rooms, with a few crazy old tables and chairs, thinly scattered through them, and behold around you nothing but gloom and discomfort.

“The custom of abandoning the ground-floor to menial purposes, except when used for shops, which is almost universal throughout Italy, and covering its windows, both for security and economy, with a strong iron grate without any glass behind it, contributes to give the houses and palaces a wretched and dungeon-like appearance.

“ It is no uncommon thing for an Italian nobleman to go up into the attics of his own palace himself, and to let the principal rooms to lodgers. Proud as he is, he thinks this no degradation; though he would spurn the idea of allowing his sons to follow any profession, save that of arms or of the church. He would sooner see them dependants, flatterers, eaves-droppers, spies, gamblers, cavalieri servanti, polite rogues of any kind-or even beggars,-than honest merchants, lawyers, or physicians.

“ The Fiano Palace has its lower story let out into shops, and its superior ones occupied by about twenty different families—among which, the duke and duchess live in a corner of their own palace.

“It is the same case with more than half the nobles of Rome and Naples. But the Doria, the Borghese, and the Colonna, possess enough of their ancient wealth to support their hereditary dignity, and their immense palaces are filled only with their own families and dependants. Not but that, though lodgings are not let at the Doria Palace, butter is regularly sold there every week; which, in England, would seem rather an extraordinary trade for one of the first noblemen in the land to carry on in his own house. Yet this very butterselling prince looks down with a species of contempt upon a great British merchant.

“ Commerce seems to be no longer respected in Italy, not even in Florence, where its reigning princes were merchants. Yet the proudest Florentine noblemen sell wine, by the flask, at their own palaces. I wonder the profits of this little huckstering trade never induced them to think of entering into larger concerns, that they might have larger returns. I wonder it never led them

to remember that commerce was the source of the modern prosperity of Italy. But commerce cannot exist without freedom-a truth that princes and people have yet to learn here.

“The palaces of all the ancient Roman nobility have, in the entrance hall, a crimson canopy of state, beneath which the prince sits on a raised throne to receive his vassals, hear their complaints, redress their grievances, and administer justice. Perhaps I ought to speak in the past, rather than the present tense ; but they still exercise a sort of feudal jurisdiction over their numerous tenantry—among whom their will is law.

“Above the door of every palace, upon the escutcheon of the family arms, we seldom fail to see the S. P.Q. R. all that is left of the senate and people of Rome.”



In the summer of 1823, the Bachelor and his Nymph projected a tour to Scotland; but in what vehicle was a question that occasioned some discussion between them. Benedict was strongly in favour of a steamer, and urged many reasons, as to speed, novelty, and economy, why they ought to prefer that mode of conveyance. The Nymph, however, pled not only her feminine timidity against all the agencies of fire and water, but contended that the state of the machinery in those sort of vessels was still in so rude a condition, that no person of a true philosophical mind would risk himself in them. “ They may do very well,” said she, “ for people of practical feelings, and habituated experience, but to those who have a correct theoretical conception of the accidents to which the machinery is liable,—the brittleness of the iron, the explosive powers of the steam, the negligence of the engineers, the unknown gaseous substances in the fuel,--the risk of unsoundness in the timber work,—the uncertainty of the winds, the hazards of the waves, and all the manifold ordinary perils of navigation, besides those that peculiarly attach to machinery, and particularly to that of the steamengine, it would argue almost a brute disregard of consequences, to prefer a steamer to a smack; and who would not prefer a carriage to all the aquatic vessels that have been built since the time of Noah's ark ?"

“ You are indulging yourself in fears little more creditable than hypochondriacal terrors,” replied the Bachelor. “I am assured, on the most perfect report, that the steamers are as safe and safer than any other mode of conveyance whatever.”

“ The thing is quite impossible,” said Egeria. 6. The invention is but still in its infancy. Give me the thirteenth volume of the Edinburgh Review from the shelf behind, and I will convince you by its history.”

“ The first idea of the steam-engine is found in the writings of that celebrated projector, the Marquis of Worcester, who, in the year 1663, published a small tract, entitled, “ A Century of Inventions,".consisting of short heads, or notices of schemes, many of them obvi

« PreviousContinue »