LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Samuel Rogers and his Contemporaries
Charles Dickens to Samuel Rogers, 1 September 1844

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I. 1803-1805.
Chapter II. 1805-1809.
Chapter III. 1810-1812.
Chapter IV. 1813-1814.
Chapter V. 1814-1815.
Chapter VI. 1815-1816.
Chapter VII. 1816-1818.
Chapter VIII. 1818-19.
Chapter IX. 1820-1821.
Chapter X. 1822-24.
Chapter XI. 1825-1827.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I. 1828-1830.
Chapter II. 1831-34.
Chapter III. 1834-1837.
Chapter IV. 1838-41.
Chapter V. 1842-44.
Chapter VI. 1845-46.
Chapter VII. 1847-50.
Chapter VIII. 1850
Chapter IX. 1851.
Chapter X. 1852-55.
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‘Albaro, near Genoa: Sunday, First September, 1844.

‘My dear Mr. Rogers,—We have been greatly concerned to hear through Mr. Forster of your having been unwell, and seriously so. But hearing from the same source that you had recovered, we were, like the town ladies in the “Vicar of Wakefield” (with a small difference in respect of sincerity), extremely glad again, and to the end that we may not be made sorry once more by any flying rumours that may shape their course this way, we entreat you to let us know, under your own hand, that you are in as good health, heart, and spirits as we would have you. Believe me, dear friend, you need not desire to be in better condition than that.

‘We are living very quietly out here, close to the seashore. I have taken a very commodious and spacious apartment in the Palazzo Peschiere for the next six months. Do you know that Palace? It is splendidly situated in the midst of beautiful gardens, and on the side of a steep hill. The grounds being open to the public for their recreation, I may say of it, altering three words of yours,
‘’Tis in the heart of Genoa (he who comes
Should come on foot), and in a place of stir;
Men on their daily pleasure, early and late,
Thronging its very threshold.

‘I wish you would come and pluck an orange from the tree at Christmas time. You should walk on the terrace
as early in the morning as you pleased, and there are brave breezy places in the neighbourhood to which you could transfer those stalwart Broadstairs walks of yours, and hear the sea, too, roaring in your ears. I could show you an old chest in a disused room upstairs where Ginevra’s sister may have hidden—alas, she was an only child! But where she might have hidden, had she ever lived and died, and left her memory to you. Come and see it.

‘A little, patient, revolutionary officer, exiled in England during many years, comes to and fro three times a week, to read and speak Italian with me. A poor little lame butterfly of a man, fluttering a little bit at one time, and hopping a little bit at another, and getting through life at some disadvantage or other always. If I question him closely on some idiom which he is not in a condition to explain, he usually shakes his head dolefully and begins to cry. But this is not what I meant to say just now, when I began to allude to him. He has initiated me in the “Promessi Sposi”—the book which Violetta read that night. And what a clever book it is! I have not proceeded far into the story, but am quite charmed with it. The interviews between the bridegroom and the priest, on the morning of the disappointment—and between the bridegroom and the bride and her mother, and the description of poor ’renzo’s walk to the house of the learned doctor, with the fowls and the scene between them, and the whole idea of the character and story of Padre Cristoforo, are touched, I think, by a most delicate and charming hand. I have just left the good father in Don Rodrigo’s boisterous
eating hall, and am in no little anxiety, I assure you.

‘You recollect the Church of the Cappuccini—l’Annunciata? It is being entirely repainted and regilded; and a marble portico is building over the great entrance. That part of the interior—some two-thirds—the redecoration of which is finished, is the most gorgeous work imaginable. Standing on a bright day before the Great Altar, and looking up into the three Domes, one is made giddy by the flash and glory of the place. The contrast between this temple and its ministers is the most singular and complete that the whole world could furnish, surely. But it is a land of contradictions in everything, this Italy.

‘Do you know of the Marriage Brokers among the Genoese? Sometimes they are old women—queer old women who are always presenting themselves mysteriously at unexpected times, like their sisterhood in the “Arabian Nights.” But there are men brokers: shrewd, hard, thorough-paced men of business. They keep formal registers of marriageable young gentlemen and marriageable young ladies; and when they find a very good match on their books—or rather, when one of these gentry does—he goes to the young lady’s father, and says, “Signore, you have a daughter to dispose of?” “I have,” says the father. “And you will give her,” says the broker, “fifty thousand francs?” “On fair terms,” replies the father. “Signore,” says the broker, “I know a young gentleman with fifty thousand francs embarked in business, who will take fifty thousand francs, and the clothes.” “Clothes to what value?” asks the father. “Clothes to the value of
five hundred francs,” says the broker, “and a gold watch. She must have a gold watch.” “His terms are too high,” says the father. “My daughter hasn’t got a gold watch.” “But, Signore, she has a cast in her eye,” says the broker; “and a cast in the eye is cheap at a gold watch.” “Say clothes worth two hundred and fifty francs,” retorts the father, “and a silver bracelet. I admit the cast in the eye, and will throw in the bracelet; though it is too much.” “We couldn’t do it, Signore,” says the broker, “under a gold watch. The young gentleman might have done better in his last negotiation; but he stood out for a watch. Besides, Signore, as a fair-dealing man, you must make some allowance for the ankles; which,” says the broker, referring to his books, “are thick. If I did rigid justice to my employer, Signore, and hadn’t a personal regard for you, I should require a hundred and fifty francs at least for each leg.” On such terms the bargain is discussed and the balance struck; and the young people don’t see each other until it is all settled.

‘In short, it’s very like the system of our own dear dowagers at home; except that the broker boldly calls himself a Marriage-Broker, and has his regular percentage on the fortune, which some of our own revered merchants in such wares wouldn’t object to, I dare say. I should like to start somebody I know at Fulham in business on those terms.

‘My dear Mr. Rogers, if you ever get to the end of this letter without leaping over the middle, forgive me. If you get to the end by a short cut, remember me not the less kindly; and however you get to the end, believe
me that, although it is all true, the truest part of the whole is the assurance that I am always, with great regard, your affectionate friend,

Charles Dickens.

‘P.S. Kate and her sister rebel at not being mentioned by name; I’m pretending to write long messages which would take another sheet at least.’