LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The “Pope” of Holland House
Lady Holland to John Whishart, 17 December 1814

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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Rome, Dec. 17, 1814.

My Dear Mr. Whishaw,—I have been much disappointed at your silence. So long an interval has never elapsed before between your letters. This reproach should have been made sooner, but my health has been wretched, nearly thirty days of severe bilious cholic, attended with the most excruciating pain, confined me chiefly to my fireside, couch, and sometimes bed. Unwarily we trusted my precious person to the skill of a Roman physician, who administered very strong acid extracted from tamarinds. I leave you to guess the torture they inflicted. However, opium and a change of habitation produced a salutary effect, and I am now beginning to crawl in my limited way to see the wonders of this great city. The French have done less for it than for any other possession. The improvements are chiefly for the antiquary, and even these fewer than might have been expected. Ground
Lady Holland in Rome
has been removed to give the full height of the shafts to the columns. The Coliseum stands level with the soil to the base, the arches are all open, and it is seen as perfectly as when it was open for its shows; but the living Rome is as dirty and insecure as it was twenty years ago. The Napoleon code brought forward young men of talents, and the eloquence of the Bar was considerable; but they have now reverted to Latin briefs and written pleadings in that tongue. The vigilance of the French police was beginning to be of use, but severely. A man of great truth and accuracy, who was employed in it, told us that during the three years and a half he was engaged in that department, upon a population of 800,000 souls 1,600 were condemned to perpetual hard labour at the galleys, and in the town of Rome in that period, upon a population of 190,000 inhabitants, 11,000 cases of graves delits occurred; and on one Sunday, about three weeks before the French Government broke up, thirty murders happened. The murders almost always proceed from the first impulsion, from wine, or jealousy of lovers, not husbands—they, good people, are very tractable. The advantage of the French administration of justice was the promptness of punishment, blood for blood; now these offences are mitigated. A week ago a convicted murderer was pardoned, because he had formerly served a Cardinal, and it would have been derogatory to his Eminence that any person who had been in his service should perish by an ignominious death, so he was let off, after witnessing the execution of his confederate who had no such claim, and condemned to the galleys.

Lady Holland in Rome

A cruel mode of torture which was invented by that useful Pope but cruel man Sixtus V. is revived, and the horrid machine is erected in the public promenade of the town which is in the finest street, the Corso. The machine is called the Charda; it is a pole about sixty feet in height, the culprit is drawn up by pulleys, and allowed to fall upon the stones, by which his shoulders are dislocated, and if the executioners are willing his limbs broken; this is inflicted for very trifling offences. Of course the friars and monks are repeopling their convents and monasteries; to the latter their lands are restored, but as yet the faith is slack; however, it will come; already the credulous believe his Holiness has worked miracles, and his tattered garments, especially those he wore in prison at Fontainebleau, have, when properly administered, restored the blind and the halt.

Sanctuary is not yet restored, and a criminal has no means of escape but by his heels, or by the misplaced compassion of those who will conceal him; this is, so far, an abuse less than formerly.

The English are very numerous and increasing daily; they have assemblies as full and as late as those you are now suffering from in London. My health is a good plea against them, so I am at home without invitations and crowds, and see as many foreigners as I can without excluding my own countrymen. We have got a decent house, which was the habitation of poor King Louis; it is in the Corso, and I have the pleasure of seeing and hearing from my windows all the beau monde of Rome, and all the din of the market, fried fish, and
Lady Holland in Rome
various other circumstances which I enjoy in a foreign tour.

Lucien Buonaparte, who has added to that illustrious name the title of “Canino,” in order to secure to himself a pied a terre in this wide world, is a most interesting person; his appearance is grave, his manners good, and his countenance bears the same grand character of the family. He has just sent me the six first cantos of his poem, which I have not read, but see it is in a most pious strain, calculated to aid the orisons of his Holiness in his oratory, but it is probably well adapted to his views and the times. His wife is an interesting pretty woman, and they are a pattern of conjugal felicity, so perhaps he did well in renouncing a kingdom to retain her. His brother Louis, the Comte de St. Leu, is much respected, but his health and habits make him live in retirement. The other brother ex-kings have been refused an asylum here, not from any apprehension of their talents, but his Holiness did not choose this place to be the rendezvous of the family.

Cardinal Fieschi is a jolly, coarse-minded parson, as round and ruddy as many we could show in England, and to the full as worldly and attached to the fat good things of this life. Sir Humphry and Lady Davy are very obliging and amiable. He is employed in analysing the colour used by the ancients in the paintings of their baths, and he thinks he has made some discovery upon the blue colour which will be useful to our artists; but I am not blue enough in chemistry to tell you what it is, so you must wait for his paper upon the subject. Of Elba and the prodigy
Lady Holland in Rome
there I will tell you nothing, for
Mr. Vernon, who has gone over to plead his own cause in the court of love to the Archbishop,1 will give you so much more than I can. All I will say is that, to obtain a gracious reception, he stated that he was Lord Holland’s relation! and with vanity I add he was admirably received.

The English who are here would, if enumerated, fill a page, but you shall have them: our Davys, Macdonalds, Blackburnes, Rawdons, Westmoreland, Wood, Byng (Poodle), Anstruther, Lord Brownlow, Gages, Foleys, &c., Je ne sais au bout de mon latin, oh! fie! dear Rogers, Boddingtons coming from Florence, Bedfords, Lucans, Cawdor, Cunninghams, Lord Clare. The Papal territory is so full because of the fear of banditti, and the uncertain state of Murat keeps foreigners from Naples. The story is that our Princess2 has quarrelled with the Court, and Lady Oxford writes to her sister Mrs. Ord, that H.R.H. is as mad as the rest of her family. Canova is as good in society as he is excellent in sculpture, his countenance is full of genius; I admire his works, but not the Hebe for Lord Cawdor—of this you may soon judge, as it will go over—but her countenance is too old and serious, and the flutter of drapery gives an appearance of a pair of wings on her hips. His Bacchantes are delicious. A Danish artist3 is reckoned to excel him in his basso relievos and to be approaching in figures. Painters are bad, quite in the bad, stiff

1 Hon. Edward Harcourt, Archbishop of York.

2 Princess of Wales. 3 Thorwaldsen.

Napoleon in Elba
style of
David’s school, correct drawing, no colouring or expression. I will release you with apologies for this tedious scrawl.

Your affectionate
E. V. Holland.