LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. XIII 1825

Chap. I 1778-1811
Ch. II: 1791-95
Ch. III 1795-98
Ch. IV 1798
Ch. V 1798
Ch. VI 1792-1803
Ch. VII 1803-05
Ch. VIII 1803-05
Ch. IX
Ch. X 1807
Ch. XI 1808
Ch. XII 1808
Ch. XII 1812
Ch. XIV 1814-15
Ch. XV 1814-17
Ch. XVI 1818
Ch. XVII 1820
Ch. XX 1821
Ch. I 1821
Ch. II 1821-22
Ch. III 1821-22
Ch. IV 1822
Ch. V 1822
Ch. VI 1822
Ch. VII 1822-23
Ch. VIII 1822
Ch. IX 1823
Ch. X 1824
Ch. XI 1825
Ch. XII 1825
‣ Ch. XIII 1825
Ch. XIV 1825
Ch. XV 1825
Ch. XVI 1825-27
Ch. XVII 1826-28
Ch. XVIII 1829-30
Ch. XX
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From Florence to Rome—Autobiography continued (February, March).

The road between Florence and Rome by Sienna is not very interesting. . . . . Shortly after you leave Florence the way becomes dreary or barren and unhealthy. Towards the close of the first day’s journey, however, we had a splendid view of the country we were to travel, which lay stretched out beneath our feet to an immense distance, as we descended into the little town of Pozzo Borgo. . . . . We did not find the accommodation on the road quite so bad as we had expected. The chief want is of milk, which is to be had only in the morning; but we remedied this defect by taking a bottle of it with us. The weather was cold enough (in the middle of March) to freeze it. . . . .

“We did not meet ten carriages on our journey, a distance of a hundred and ninety-three miles, and which it took us six days to accomplish. I may add that we paid only seven louis for our two places in the voiture (which, besides, we had entirely to ourselves),
our expenses on the road included. . . . . We stopped the third morning at the wretched inn of La Scala. . . . . Over a tremendous valley to the left we saw the distant hills of Perugia, covered with snow and blackened with clouds, and a heavy sleet was falling around us. We started on being told that the posthouse stood on the other side of the fort (at a height of 2400 feet above the level of the sea), and that we were to pass the night there. It was like being lodged in a cloud; it seemed the rocking-cradle of storms and tempests. . . . . It reminded me, by its preternatural strength and sullen aspect, of the castle of Giant Despair in the ‘
Pilgrim’s Progress.’ . . . . Never did I see anything so rugged and so stately, apparently so formidable in a former period, so forlorn in this. . . . .

“We drove into the inn-yard, which resembled a barrack (as do most of the inns on the road), with its bedrooms like hospital-wards, and its large apartments for assemblages of armed men now empty, gloomy, and unfurnished; but we found a hospitable welcome, and, by the aid of a double fee to the waiters, everything very comfortable. The first object was to procure milk for our tea (of which last article we had brought some very good from the shop of Signor Pippini at Florence), and the next thing was to lay in a stock for the remaining half of our journey. . . . .

“Aquapendente is situated on the brow of a hill, over a running stream, and the ascent to it is up the side of a steep rugged ravine, with overhanging rocks and shrubs. The mixture of wildness and luxuriance
answered to my idea of Italian scenery, but I had seen little of it hitherto. The town is old, dirty, and disagreeable; and we were driven to an inn in one of the bye-streets, where there was but one sitting-room, which was occupied by an English family, who were going to leave it immediately, but who, I suppose, on learning that some one else was waiting for it, claimed the right of keeping it as long as they pleased. . . . .

“After waiting some time we at last breakfasted in a sort of kitchen or out-house upstairs, where we had very excellent but homely fare—a dove-house, a kid, half-skinned, hanging on the walls, a loose heap of macaroni and vegetables in one corner, plenty of smoke, a Madonna carved and painted, and a map of Constantinople. The pigeons on the floor were busy with their murmuring plaints, and often fluttered their wings as if to fly. So, thought I, the nations of the earth clap their wings, and strive in vain to be free! . . . .

“The road from Aquapendente is of a deep heavy soil, over which the horses with difficulty dragged the carriage. . . . . We passed, I think, but one habitation between Aquapendente and San Lorenzo, and met but one human being, who was a gendarme! I asked our vetturino if this dreary aspect of the country was the effect of nature or of art. He pulled a handful of earth from the hedge-side, and showed a rich black loam, capable of every improvement. I asked in whose dominions we were, and received for answer, ‘In the Pope’s.’ . . . .

“The road between Bolsena and Monte-Fiascone,
which you see on an eminence before you, lies through a range of gloomy defiles. . . . . The house of
Salvator Rosa [at Viterbo] is at present let out in lodgings. I have now lived twice in houses occupied by celebrated men; once in a house that had belonged to Milton, and now in this, and find to my mortification that imagination is entirely a thing imaginary. . . . .

“‘As London is to the meanest country town, so is Rome to every other city in the world.’

“So said an old friend of mine; and I believed him till I saw it. This is not the Rome I expected to see. No one, from being in it, would know he was in the place that had been twice mistress of the world. I do not understand how Nicholas Poussin could tell, taking up a handful of earth, that it was ‘a part of the Eternal City.’ . . . . No! this is not the wall that Remus leaped over: this is not the Capitol where Julius Cæsar fell: instead of standing on seven hills, it is situated in a low valley: the golden Tiber is a muddy stream: St. Peter’s is not equal to St. Paul’s: the Vatican falls short of the Louvre as it was in my time; but I thought that here were works immovable, immortal, inimitable on earth, and lifting the soul halfway to heaven. I find them not, or only what I had seen before in different ways. . . . .

“From the window of the house where I lodge I have a view of the whole city at once; nay, I can see St. Peter’s as I lie in bed of a morning. . . . . The pleasantest walks I know are round the Via Sistina and along the Via di Quattro-Fontane.


“I was lucky enough to see the Pope here on Easter Sunday. He seems a harmless, infirm, fretful old man. . . . . I was also lucky enough to see St. Peter’s illuminated to the very top (a project of Michael Angelo’s) in the evening. It was finest at first, as the kindled lights blended with the fading twilight. . . . . I can easily conceive some of the wild groups that I saw in the streets the following day to have been led by delight and wonder from their mountain-haunts, or even from the bandits’ cave, to worship at this new starry glory, rising from the earth.

“I did not hear the Miserere which is chanted by the priests and sung by a single voice (I understand like an angel’s) in a dim religious light in the Sistine Chapel, nor did I see the exhibition of the relics, at which, I was told, all the beauty of Rome was present. . . . . I am no admirer of pontificals, but I am a slave to the picturesque. The priests talking together in St. Peter’s, or the common people kneeling at the altars, make groups that shame all art. . . . .

“The young women that come here from Gersano and Albano, and that are known by their scarlet bodices and white head-dresses and handsome good-humoured faces, are the finest specimens I have ever seen of human nature. They are like creatures that have breathed the air of heaven till the sun has ripened them into perfect beauty, health, and goodness. They are universally admired in Rome. The English women that you see, though pretty, are pieces of dough to them.


“The picture-galleries in Rome disappointed me quite. I was told there were a dozen at least equal to the Louvre; there is not one. I shall not dwell long upon them, for they gave me little pleasure. . . . .

“I had the good fortune to meet the other day, at Paris, with my old fellow-student Dr. Edwards, after a lapse of thirty years; he is older than I by a year or two, and makes it five-and-twenty. He had not been idle since we parted. He sometimes looked in after having paid La Place a visit; and I told him it was almost as if he had called on a star in his way. It is wonderful how friendship that has long lain unused accumulates like money at compound interest. We had to settle an old account, and to compare old times and new. . . . . He was particularly mortified at the degraded state of our public press—at the systematic organization of a corps of government critics, to decry every liberal sentiment, and proscribe every liberal writer as an enemy to the person of the reigning sovereign, only because he did not avow the principles of the Stuarts. I had some difficulty in making him understand the full lengths of the malice, the lying, the hypocrisy, the sleek adulation, the meanness, equivocation, and skulking concealment of a ‘Quarterly’ Reviewer, the reckless blackguardism of Mr. Blackwood, and the obtuse drivelling profligacy of the John Bull.

“He said, ‘It is worse with you than with us: here an author is obliged to sacrifice twenty mornings and twenty pair of black silk stockings in paying his court to the editors of different journals, to insure a hearing
from the public, but with you, it seems, he must give up his understanding and his character, to establish a claim to taste or learning.’ . . . .

“I told him that public opinion in England was at present governed by half a dozen miscreants, who undertook to bait, hoot, and worry every man out of his country, or into an obscure grave, with lies and nicknames, who was not prepared to take the political sacrament of the day. . . . . To be a reformer, the friend of a reformer, or the friend’s friend of a reformer, is as much as a man’s peace, reputation, or even life is worth. Answer, if it is not so, pale shade of Keats! . . . .

Dr. Edwards was unwilling to credit this statement, but the proofs were too flagrant. He asked me what became of that band of patriots that swarmed in our younger days, that were so glowing hot, desperate, and noisy in the year 1794. I said I could not tell. . . . .

“At Turin, they told me it was not wise to travel by a vetturino to Florence without arms. At Florence, I was told one could not walk out to look at an old ruin in Rome without expecting to see a Lazzaroni start from behind some part of it with a pistol in his hand. ‘There’s no such thing.’ . . . . I am at present kept from proceeding forward to Naples by imaginary bands of brigands that infest the road the whole way. . . . . As to courtezans, from which one cannot separate the name of Italy even in idea, I have seen but one person answering to this description since I came, and I do not even know that this was one.


“But I saw a girl in white (an unusual thing) standing at some distance at the corner of one of the by-streets in Rome; after looking round her for a moment, she ran hastily up the street again, as if in fear of being discovered, and a countryman who was passing with a cart at the time, stopped to look and hiss after her. . . .

“We had some thoughts of taking a lodging at L’Ariccia, at the Caffé del Piazza, for a month, but the deep sandy roads, the sentinels posted every half-mile on this, which is the route for Naples (which showed that it was not very safe, to leave them), the loose, straggling woods, sloping down to the dreary marshes, and the story of Hippolytus painted on the walls of the inn (who, it seems, was ‘native to the manner here,’) deterred us.

“L’Ariccia, besides being, after Cortona, the oldest place in Italy, is also one step towards Naples, which I had a strong desire to see—its brimming shore, its sky which glows like one entire sun, Vesuvius, the mouth of hell, and Sorrentum, like the Islands of the Blest—yet here again the reports of robbers, exaggerated alike by foreigners and natives, who wish to keep you where you are, the accounts of hogs without hair, and children without clothes to their backs, the vermin (animal as well as human), the gilded ham and legs of mutton that Forsyth speaks of, gave me a distaste to the journey, and I turned back to put an end to the question.

“I am fond of the sun, though I do not like to see him and the assassin’s knife glaring over my head together. . . . . For myself, my remittances have not been very
regular even in walled towns; how I should fare in this respect upon the forked mountain I cannot tell, and certainly I have no wish to try.

“A friend of mine said that he thought it the only romantic thing going, this of being carried off by the banditti. . . . .

“I remember once meeting Lucien Buonaparte in the streets of Paris [he has since lived in Rome], walking arm in arm with Maria Cosway, with whom I had drunk tea the evening before. He was dressed in a light drab-coloured great-coat, and was then a spirited, dashing-looking young man. I believe I am the only person in England who ever read his ‘Charlemagne.’ It is as clever a poem as can be written by a man who is not a poet. It came out in two volumes quarto, and several individuals were applied to by the publishers to translate it; among others, Sir Walter Scott, who gave for answer, ‘that as to Mister Buonaparte’s poem, he should have nothing to do with it.’

“A young Englishman returned the other day to Italy with a horse that he had brought with him for more than two thousand miles on the other side of Grand Cairo, and poor Bowdich gave up the ghost in a second attempt to penetrate to the source of the Nile. . . . . I am myself somewhat effeminate, and would rather ‘the primrose path of dalliance tread;’ or the height of my ambition in this line would be to track the ancient route up the valley of the Simplon, leaving the modern road (much as I admire the work and the workman), and clambering up the ledges of rocks, and over broken
bridges, at the risk of a sprained ankle or a broken limb, to return to a late but excellent dinner at the post-house at Brigg! . . . .

“Before leaving Borne, we went to Tivoli, of which so much has been said. The morning was bright and cloudless; but a thick mist rose from the low, rank, marshy grounds of the Campagna, and enveloped a number of curious objects to the right and left, till we approached the sulphurous stream of Solfatara, which we could distinguish at some distance by its noise and smell. . . . .

“Tivoli is an enchanting, a fairy spot. . . . . As I have got so far on my way, I may as well jump the intermediate space, and proceed with my statistics here, as there was nothing on the road between this and Rome worth mentioning, except Narni (ten miles from Terni), the approach to which overlooks a fine, bold, woody, precipitous valley. We stopped at Terni for the express purpose of visiting the Fall, which is four or five miles from it. . . . . The prospect of the cold, blue mountain-tops, and other prospects which the sight of this road recalled, chilled me, and I hastened down the side-path to lose, in the roar of the Velino tumbling from its rocky height, and the wild freedom of nature, my recollection of tyranny and tyrants.

“On a green bank far below, so as to be just discernible, a shepherd boy was sleeping under the shadow of a tree, surrounded by his flock, enjoying peace and freedom, scarce knowing their names. That’s something. . . . .

“We returned to the inn at Terni too late to proceed
on our journey, and were thrust, as a special favour, into a disagreeable apartment. . . . . I was foolish enough to travel twice in this manner, and pay three napoleons a day, for which I might have gone post, and fared in the most sumptuous manner. I ought to add in justice that, when I have escaped from the guardianship of Monsieur le Vetturino, and have stopped at inns on my own account, as was the case at Venice, Milan, and at Florence twice, I have no reason to complain either of the treatment or the expense. . . . .

“We proceeded next morning (in no very good humour) on our way to Spoleto. The way was brilliant, and our road lay through steep and narrow defiles for several hours. . . . . We arrived at Foligno early in the evening, and as a memorable exception to the rest of our route, found there an inn equally clean and hospitable.

“From the windows of our room we could see the young people of the town walking out in a fine open country, to breathe the clear fresh air, and the priests sauntering in groups and enjoying the otium cum dignitate. . . . .

“We turned off at Assizi to view the triple Franciscan church and monastery. . . . . I forgot to mention, in the proper place, that I was quite delighted with the external deportment of the ecclesiastics in Rome. It was marked by a perfect propriety, decorum, and humanity, from the highest to the lowest.

“At Perugia, when looking at some panels in a church, painted by Pietro Perugino, we met with a young Irish priest, who claimed acquaintance with us
as country-folks, and recommended our staying six days, to see the ceremonies and finery attending the translation of the deceased head of his order from the church where he lay to his final resting-place. We were obliged by this proposal, but declined it. It was curious to hear English spoken by the inmate of a Benedictine monastery. . . . .

“Perugia is situated on a lofty hill, and is in appearance the most solid mass of building I ever beheld. . . . . Travelling this road from Rome to Florence is like an eagle’s flight—from hill-top to hill-top, from towered city to city, and your eye devours your way before you over hill or plain. We saw Cortona on our right, looking over its wall of ancient renown, conscious of its worth, not obtruding itself on superficial notice, and passed through Arezzo, the reputed birth-place of Petrarch. All the way we were followed (hard upon) by another vetturino, with an English family, and we had a scramble, whenever we stopped, for supper, beds, or milk. At Incisa, the last stage before we arrived at Florence, an intimation was conveyed that we should give up our apartments in the inn, and seek for lodgings elsewhere. . . . . Near Perugia, we passed the celebrated Lake of Thrasymene, where Hannibal defeated the Roman consul Flaminius. It struck me as not unlike Windermere in character and scenery, but I have seen other lakes since, which have driven it out of my head. . . . .”