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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsPassages From The French And Italian Notebooks - Volume 2 - VILLA MONTANTO. MONTE BENI
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Passages From The French And Italian Notebooks - Volume 2 - VILLA MONTANTO. MONTE BENI Post by :outsourcing Category :Nonfictions Author :Nathaniel Hawthorne Date :April 2012 Read :2278

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Passages From The French And Italian Notebooks - Volume 2 - VILLA MONTANTO. MONTE BENI

August 2d.--We had grown weary of the heat of Florence within the walls, . . . . there being little opportunity for air and exercise except within the precincts of our little garden, which, also, we feared might breed malaria, or something akin to it. We have therefore taken this suburban villa for the two next months, and, yesterday morning, we all came out hither. J----- had preceded us with B. P------. The villa is on a hill called Bellosguardo, about a mile beyond the Porta Romana. Less than half an hour's walk brought us, who were on foot, to the iron gate of our villa, which we found shut and locked. We shouted to be let in, and while waiting for somebody to appear, there was a good opportunity to contemplate the external aspect of the villa. After we had waited a few minutes, J----- came racing down to the gate, laughing heartily, and said that Bob and he had been in the house, but had come out, shutting the door behind them; and as the door closed with a springlock, they could not get in again. Now as the key of the outer gate as well as that of the house itself was in the pocket of J-----'s coat, left inside, we were shut out of our own castle, and compelled to carry on a siege against it, without much likelihood of taking it, although the garrison was willing to surrender. But B. P------ called in the assistance of the contadini who cultivate the ground, and live in the farm-house close by; and one of them got into a window by means of a ladder, so that the keys were got, the gates opened, and we finally admitted. Before examining any other part of the house, we climbed to the top of the tower, which, indeed, is not very high, in proportion to its massive square. Very probably, its original height was abbreviated, in compliance with the law that lowered so many of the fortified towers of noblemen within the walls of Florence. . . . The stairs were not of stone, built in with the original mass of the tower, as in English castles, but of now decayed wood, which shook beneath us, and grew more and more crazy as we ascended. It will not be many years before the height of the tower becomes unattainable. . . . Near at hand, in the vicinity of the city, we saw the convent of Monte Olivetto, and other structures that looked like convents, being built round an enclosed square; also numerous white villas, many of which had towers, like that we were standing upon, square and massive, some of them battlemented on the summit, and others apparently modernized for domestic purposes. Among them U---- pointed out Galileo's tower, whither she made an excursion the other day. It looked lower than our own, but seemed to stand on a higher elevation. We also saw the duke's villa, the Poggio, with a long avenue of cypresses leading from it, as if a funeral were going forth. And having wasted thus much of description on the landscape, I will finish with saying that it lacked only water to be a very fine one. It is strange what a difference the gleam of water makes, and how a scene awakens and comes to life wherever it is visible. The landscape, moreover, gives the beholder (at least, this beholder) a sense of oppressive sunshine and scanty shade, and does not incite a longing to wander through it on foot, as a really delightful landscape should. The vine, too, being cultivated in so trim a manner, does not suggest that idea of luxuriant fertility, which is the poetical notion of a vineyard. The olive-orchards have a pale and unlovely hue. An English view would have been incomparably richer in its never-fading green; and in my own country, the wooded hills would have been more delightful than these peaks and ridges of dreary and barren sunshine; and there would have been the bright eyes of half a dozen little lakes, looking heavenward, within an extent like that of the Val d' Arno.

By and by mamma's carriage came along the dusty road, and passed through the iron gateway, which we had left open for her reception. We shouted down to her and R-----, and they waved their handkerchiefs upward to us; and, on my way down, I met R----- and the servant coming up through the ghostly rooms.

The rest of the day we spent mostly in exploring the premises. The house itself is of almost bewildering extent, insomuch that we might each of us have a suite of rooms individually. I have established myself on the ground-floor, where I have a dressing-room, a large vaulted saloon, hung with yellow damask, and a square writing-study, the walls and ceilings of the two latter apartments being ornamented with angels and cherubs aloft in fresco, and with temples, statues, vases, broken columns, peacocks, parrots, vines, and sunflowers below. I know not how many more saloons, anterooms, and sleeping-chambers there are on this same basement story, besides an equal number over them, and a great subterranean establishment. I saw some immense jars there, which I suppose were intended to hold oil; and iron kettles, for what purpose I cannot tell. There is also a chapel in the house, but it is locked up, and we cannot yet with certainty find the door of it, nor even, in this great wilderness of a house, decide absolutely what space the holy precincts occupy. Adjoining U----'s chamber, which is in the tower, there is a little oratory, hung round with sacred prints of very ancient date, and with crucifixes, holy-water vases, and other consecrated things; and here, within a glass case, there is the representation of an undraped little boy in wax, very prettily modelled, and holding up a heart that looks like a bit of red sealing-wax. If I had found him anywhere else I should have taken him for Cupid; but, being in an oratory, I presume him to have some religious signification. In the servants' room a crucifix hung on one side of the bed, and a little vase for holy water, now overgrown with a cobweb, on the other; and, no doubt, all the other sleeping-apartments would have been equally well provided, only that their occupants were to be heretics.

The lower floor of the house is tolerably furnished, and looks cheerful with its frescos, although the bare pavements in every room give an impression of discomfort. But carpets are universally taken up in Italy during summer-time. It must have been an immense family that could have ever filled such a house with life. We go on voyages of discovery, and when in quest of any particular point, are likely enough to fetch up at some other. This morning I had difficulty in finding my way again to the top of the tower. One of the most peculiar rooms is constructed close to the tower, under the roof of the main building, but with no external walls on two sides! It is thus left open to the air, I presume for the sake of coolness. A parapet runs round the exposed sides for the sake of security. Some of the palaces in Florence have such open loggias in their upper stories, and I saw others on our journey hither, after arriving in Tuscany.

The grounds immediately around the house are laid out in gravel-walks, and ornamented with shrubbery, and with what ought to be a grassy lawn; but the Italian sun is quite as little favorable to beauty of that kind as our own. I have enjoyed the luxury, however, almost for the first time since I left my hill-top at the Wayside, of flinging myself at full length on the ground without any fear of catching cold. Moist England would punish a man soundly for taking such liberties with her greensward. A podere, or cultivated tract, comprising several acres, belongs to the villa, and seems to be fertile, like all the surrounding country. The possessions of different proprietors are not separated by fences, but only marked out by ditches; and it seems possible to walk miles and miles, along the intersecting paths, without obstruction. The rural laborers, so far as I have observed, go about in their shirt-sleeves, and look very much like tanned and sunburnt Yankees.

Last night it was really a work of time and toil to go about making our defensive preparations for the night; first closing the iron gate, then the ponderous and complicated fastenings of the house door, then the separate barricadoes of each iron-barred window on the lower floor, with a somewhat slighter arrangement above. There are bolts and shutters, however, for every window in the house, and I suppose it would not be amiss to put them all in use. Our garrison is so small that we must depend more upon the strength of our fortifications than upon our own active efforts in case of an attack. In England, in an insulated country house, we should need all these bolts and bars, and Italy is not thought to be the safer country of the two.

It deserves to be recorded that the Count Montanto, a nobleman, and seemingly a man of property, should deem it worth while to let his country seat, and reside during the hot months in his palace in the city, for the consideration of a comparatively small sum a month. He seems to contemplate returning hither for the autumn and winter, when the situation must be very windy and bleak, and the cold death-like in these great halls; and then, it is to be supposed, he will let his palace in town. The Count, through the agency of his son, bargained very stiffly for, and finally obtained, three dollars in addition to the sum which we at first offered him. This indicates that even a little money is still a matter of great moment in Italy. Signor del Bello, who, I believe, is also a nobleman, haggled with us about some cracked crockery at our late residence, and finally demanded and received fifty cents in compensation. But this poor gentleman has been a spendthrift, and now acts as the agent of another.

August 3d.--Yesterday afternoon William Story called on me, he being on a day or two's excursion from Siena, where he is spending the summer with his family. He was very entertaining and conversative, as usual, and said, in reply to my question whether he were not anxious to return to Cleopatra, that he had already sketched out another subject for sculpture, which would employ him during next winter. He told me, what I was glad to hear, that his sketches of Italian life, intended for the "Atlantic Monthly," and supposed to be lost, have been recovered. Speaking of the superstitiousness of the Italians, he said that they universally believe in the influence of the evil eye. The evil influence is supposed not to be dependent on the will of the possessor of the evil eye; on the contrary, the persons to whom he wishes well are the very ones to suffer by it. It is oftener found in monks than in any other class of people; and on meeting a monk, and encountering his eye, an Italian usually makes a defensive sign by putting both hands behind him, with the forefingers and little fingers extended, although it is a controverted point whether it be not more efficacious to extend the hand with its outspread fingers towards the suspected person. It is considered an evil omen to meet a monk on first going out for the day. The evil eye may be classified with the phenomena of mesmerism. The Italians, especially the Neapolitans, very generally wear amulets. Pio Nono, perhaps as being the chief of all monks and other religious people, is supposed to have an evil eye of tenfold malignancy; and its effect has been seen in the ruin of all schemes for the public good so soon as they are favored by him. When the pillar in the Piazza de' Spagna, commemorative of his dogma of the Immaculate Conception, was to be erected, the people of Rome refused to be present, or to have anything to do with it, unless the pope promised to abstain from interference. His Holiness did promise, but so far broke his word as to be present one day while it was being erected, and on that day a man was killed. A little while ago there was a Lord Clifford, an English Catholic nobleman, residing in Italy, and, happening to come to Rome, he sent his compliments to Pio Nono, and requested the favor of an interview. The pope, as it happened, was indisposed, or for some reason could not see his lordship, but very kindly sent him his blessing. Those who knew of it shook their heads, and intimated that it would go ill with his lordship now that he had been blessed by Pio Nono, and the very next day poor Lord Clifford was dead! His Holiness had better construe the scriptural injunction literally, and take to blessing his enemies.

I walked into town with J------ this morning, and, meeting a monk in the Via Furnace, I thought it no more than reasonable, as the good father fixed his eyes on me, to provide against the worst by putting both hands behind me, with the forefingers and little fingers stuck out.

In speaking of the little oratory connected with U----'s chamber, I forgot to mention the most remarkable object in it. It is a skull, the size of life (or death). . . . This part of the house must be very old, probably coeval with the tower. The ceiling of U----'s apartment is vaulted with intersecting arches; and adjoining it is a very large saloon, likewise with a vaulted and groined ceiling, and having a cushioned divan running all round the walls. The windows of these rooms look out on the Val d' Arno.

The apartment above this saloon is of the same size, and hung with engraved portraits, printed on large sheets by the score and hundred together, and enclosed in wooden frames. They comprise the whole series of Roman emperors, the succession of popes, the kings of Europe, the doges of Venice, and the sultans of Turkey. The engravings bear different dates between 1685 and thirty years later, and were executed at Rome.

August 4th.--We ascended our tower yesterday afternoon to see the sunset. In my first sketch of the Val d' Arno I said that the Arno seemed to hold its course near the bases of the hills. I now observe that the line of trees which marks its current divides the valley into two pretty equal parts, and the river runs nearly east and west. . . . At last, when it was growing dark, we went down, groping our way over the shaky staircases, and peeping into each dark chamber as we passed. I gratified J----- exceedingly by hitting my nose against the wall. Reaching the bottom, I went into the great saloon, and stood at a window watching the lights twinkle forth, near and far, in the valley, and listening to the convent bells that sounded from Monte Olivetto, and more remotely still. The stars came out, and the constellation of the Dipper hung exactly over the Val d' Arno, pointing to the North Star above the hills on my right.

August 12th.--We drove into town yesterday afternoon, with Miss Blagden, to call on Mr. Kirkup, an old Englishman who has resided a great many years in Florence. He is noted as an antiquarian, and has the reputation of being a necromancer, not undeservedly, as he is deeply interested in spirit-rappings, and holds converse, through a medium, with dead poets and emperors. He lives in an old house, formerly a residence of the Knights Templars, hanging over the Arno, just as you come upon the Ponte Vecchio; and, going up a dark staircase and knocking at a door on one side of the landing-place, we were received by Mr. Kirkup. He had had notice of our visit, and was prepared for it, being dressed in a blue frock-coat of rather an old fashion, with a velvet collar, and in a thin waistcoat and pantaloons fresh from the drawer; looking very sprucely, in short, and unlike his customary guise, for Miss Blagden hinted to us that the poor gentleman is generally so untidy that it is not quite pleasant to take him by the hand. He is rather low of stature, with a pale, shrivelled face, and hair and beard perfectly white, and the hair of a particularly soft and silken texture. He has a high, thin nose, of the English aristocratic type; his eyes have a queer, rather wild look, and the eyebrows are arched above them, so that he seems all the time to be seeing something that strikes him with surprise. I judged him to be a little crack-brained, chiefly on the strength of this expression. His whole make is delicate, his hands white and small, and his appearance and manners those of a gentleman, with rather more embroidery of courtesy than belongs to an Englishman. He appeared to be very nervous, tremulous, indeed, to his fingers' ends, without being in any degree disturbed or embarrassed by our presence. Finally, he is very deaf; an infirmity that quite took away my pleasure in the interview, because it is impossible to say anything worth while when one is compelled to raise one's voice above its ordinary level.

He ushered us through two or three large rooms, dark, dusty, hung with antique-looking pictures, and lined with bookcases containing, I doubt not, a very curious library. Indeed, he directed my attention to one case, and said that he had collected those works, in former days, merely for the sake of laughing at them. They were books of magic and occult sciences. What he seemed really to value, however, were some manuscript copies of Dante, of which he showed us two: one, a folio on parchment, beautifully written in German text, the letters as clear and accurately cut as printed type; the other a small volume, fit, as Mr. Kirkup said, to be carried in a capacious mediaeval sleeve. This also was on vellum, and as elegantly executed as the larger one; but the larger had beautiful illuminations, the vermilion and gold of which looked as brilliant now as they did five centuries ago. Both of these books were written early in the fourteenth century. Mr. Kirkup has also a plaster cast of Dante's face, which he believes to be the original one taken from his face after death; and he has likewise his own accurate tracing from Giotto's fresco of Dante in the chapel of the Bargello. This fresco was discovered through Mr. Kirkup's means, and the tracing is particularly valuable, because the original has been almost destroyed by rough usage in drawing out a nail that had been driven into the eye. It represents the profile of a youthful but melancholy face, and has the general outline of Dante's features in other portraits.

Dante has held frequent communications with Mr. Kirkup through a medium, the poet being described by the medium as wearing the same dress seen in the youthful portrait, but as hearing more resemblance to the cast taken from his dead face than to the picture from his youthful one.

There was a very good picture of Savonarola in one of the rooms, and many other portraits, paintings, and drawings, some of them ancient, and others the work of Mr. Kirkup himself. He has the torn fragment of an exquisite drawing of a nude figure by Rubens, and a portfolio of other curious drawings. And besides books and works of art, he has no end of antique knick-knackeries, none of which we had any time to look at; among others some instruments with which nuns used to torture themselves in their convents by way of penance. But the greatest curiosity of all, and no antiquity, was a pale, large-eyed little girl, about four years old, who followed the conjurer's footsteps wherever he went. She was the brightest and merriest little thing in the world, and frisked through those shadowy old chambers, among the dead people's trumpery, as gayly as a butterfly flits among flowers and sunshine.

The child's mother was a beautiful girl named Regina, whose portrait Mr. Kirkup showed us on the wall. I never saw a more beautiful and striking face claiming to be a real one. She was a Florentine, of low birth, and she lived with the old necromancer as his spiritual medium. He showed us a journal, kept during her lifetime, and read from it his notes of an interview with the Czar Alexander, when that potentate communicated to Mr. Kirkup that he had been poisoned. The necromancer set a great value upon Regina, . . . . and when she died he received her poor baby into his heart, and now considers it absolutely his own. At any rate, it is a happy belief for him, since he has nothing else in the world to love, and loves the child entirely, and enjoys all the bliss of fatherhood, though he must have lived as much as seventy years before he began to taste it.

The child inherits her mother's gift of communication with the spiritual world, so that the conjurer can still talk with Regina through the baby which she left, and not only with her, but with Dante, and any other great spirit that may choose to visit him. It is a very strange story, and this child might be put at once into a romance, with all her history and environment; the ancient Knight Templar palace, with the Arno flowing under the iron-barred windows, and the Ponte Vecchio, covered with its jewellers' shops, close at hand; the dark, lofty chambers with faded frescos on the ceilings, black pictures hanging on the walls, old books on the shelves, and hundreds of musty antiquities, emitting an odor of past centuries; the shrivelled, white-bearded old man, thinking all the time of ghosts, and looking into the child's eyes to seek them; and the child herself, springing so freshly out of the soil, so pretty, so intelligent, so playful, with never a playmate save the conjurer and a kitten. It is a Persian kitten, and lay asleep in a window; but when I touched it, it started up at once in as gamesome a mood as the child herself.

The child looks pale, and no wonder, seldom or never stirring out of that old palace, or away from the river atmosphere. Miss Blagden advised Mr. Kirkup to go with her to the seaside or into the country, and he did not deny that it might do her good, but seemed to be hampered by an old man's sluggishness and dislike of change. I think he will not live a great while, for he seems very frail. When he dies the little girl will inherit what property he may leave. A lady, Catharine Fleeting, an Englishwoman, and a friend of Mr. Kirkup, has engaged to take her in charge. She followed us merrily to the door, and so did the Persian kitten, and Mr. Kirkup shook hands with us, over and over again, with vivacious courtesy, his manner having been characterized by a great deal of briskness throughout the interview. He expressed himself delighted to have met one (whose books he had read), and said that the day would be a memorable one to him,--which I did not in the least believe.

Mr. Kirkup is an intimate friend of Trelawny, author of "Adventures of a Younger Son," and, long ago, the latter promised him that, if he ever came into possession of the family estate, he would divide it with him. Trelawny did really succeed to the estate, and lost no time in forwarding to his friend the legal documents, entitling him to half of the property. But Mr. Kirkup declined the gift, as he himself was not destitute, and Trelawny had a brother. There were two pictures of Trelawny in the saloons, one a slight sketch on the wall, the other a half-length portrait in a Turkish dress; both handsome, but indicating no very amiable character. It is not easy to forgive Trelawny for uncovering dead Byron's limbs, and telling that terrible story about them,--equally disgraceful to himself, be it truth or a lie.

It seems that Regina had a lover, and a sister who was very disreputable It rather adds than otherwise to the romance of the affair,--the idea that this pretty little elf has no right whatever to the asylum which she has found. Her name is Imogen.

The small manuscript copy of Dante which he showed me was written by a Florentine gentleman of the fourteenth century, one of whose ancestors the poet had met and talked with in Paradise.

August 19th.--Here is a good Italian incident, which I find in Valery. Andrea del Castagno was a painter in Florence in the fifteenth century; and he had a friend, likewise a painter, Domenico of Venice. The latter had the secret of painting in oils, and yielded to Castagno's entreaties to impart it to him. Desirous of being the sole possessor of this great secret, Castagno waited only the night to assassinate Domenico, who so little suspected his treachery, that he besought those who found him bleeding and dying to take him to his friend Castagno, that he might die in his arms. The murderer lived to be seventy-four years old, and his crime was never suspected till he himself revealed it on his death-bed. Domenico did actually die in Castagno's arms. The death scene would have been a good one for the latter to paint in oils.

September 1st.--Few things journalizable have happened during the last month, because Florence and the neighborhood have lost their novelty; and furthermore, I usually spend the whole day at home, having been engaged in planning and sketching out a romance. I have now done with this for the present, and mean to employ the rest of the time we stay here chiefly in revisiting the galleries, and seeing what remains to be seen in Florence.

Last Saturday, August 28th, we went to take tea at Miss Blagden's, who has a weekly reception on that evening. We found Mr. Powers there, and by and by Mr. Boott and Mr. Trollope came in. Miss ------ has lately been exercising her faculties as a spiritual writing-medium; and, the conversation turning on that subject, Mr. Powers related some things that he had witnessed through the agency of Mr. Home, who had held a session or two at his house. He described the apparition of two mysterious hands from beneath a table round which the party were seated. These hands purported to belong to the aunt of the Countess Cotterel, who was present, and were a pair of thin, delicate, aged, lady-like hands and arms, appearing at the edge of the table, and terminating at the elbow in a sort of white mist. One of the hands took up a fan and began to use it. The countess then said, "Fan yourself as you used to do, dear aunt"; and forthwith the hands waved the fan back and forth in a peculiar manner, which the countess recognized as the manner of her dead aunt. The spirit was then requested to fan each member of the party; and accordingly, each separate individual round the table was fanned in turn, and felt the breeze sensibly upon his face. Finally, the hands sank beneath the table, I believe Mr. Powers said; but I am not quite sure that they did not melt into the air. During this apparition, Mr. Home sat at the table, but not in such a position or within such distance that he could have put out or managed the spectral hands; and of this Mr. Powers satisfied himself by taking precisely the same position after the party had retired. Mr. Powers did not feel the hands at this time, but he afterwards felt the touch of infant hands, which were at the time invisible. He told of many of the wonders, which seem to have as much right to be set down as facts as anything else that depends on human testimony. For example, Mr. K------, one of the party, gave a sudden start and exclamation. He had felt on his knee a certain token, which could have been given him only by a friend, long ago in his grave. Mr. Powers inquired what was the last thing that had been given as a present to a deceased child; and suddenly both he and his wife felt a prick as of some sharp instrument, on their knees. The present had been a penknife. I have forgotten other incidents quite as striking as these; but, with the exception of the spirit-hands, they seemed to be akin to those that have been produced by mesmerism, returning the inquirer's thoughts and veiled recollections to himself, as answers to his queries. The hands are certainly an inexplicable phenomenon. Of course, they are not portions of a dead body, nor any other kind of substance; they are impressions on the two senses, sight and touch, but how produced I cannot tell. Even admitting their appearance,--and certainly I do admit it as freely and fully as if I had seen them myself,--there is no need of supposing them to come from the world of departed spirits.

Powers seems to put entire faith in the verity of spiritual communications, while acknowledging the difficulty of identifying spirits as being what they pretend to be. He is a Swedenborgian, and so far prepared to put faith in many of these phenomena. As for Home, Powers gives a decided opinion that he is a knave, but thinks him so organized, nevertheless, as to be a particularly good medium for spiritual communications. Spirits, I suppose, like earthly people, are obliged to use such instruments as will answer their purposes; but rather than receive a message from a dead friend through the organism of a rogue or charlatan, methinks I would choose to wait till we meet. But what most astonishes me is the indifference with which I listen to these marvels. They throw old ghost stories quite into the shade; they bring the whole world of spirits down amongst us, visibly and audibly; they are absolutely proved to be sober facts by evidence that would satisfy us of any other alleged realities; and yet I cannot force my mind to interest myself in them. They are facts to my understanding, which, it might have been anticipated, would have been the last to acknowledge them; but they seem not to be facts to my intuitions and deeper perceptions. My inner soul does not in the least admit them; there is a mistake somewhere. So idle and empty do I feel these stories to be, that I hesitated long whether or no to give up a few pages of this not very important journal to the record of them.

We have had written communications through Miss ------ with several spirits; my wife's father, mother, two brothers, and a sister, who died long ago, in infancy; a certain Mary Hall, who announces herself as the guardian spirit of Miss ------; and, queerest of all, a Mary Runnel, who seems to be a wandering spirit, having relations with nobody, but thrusts her finger into everybody's affairs. My wife's mother is the principal communicant; she expresses strong affection, and rejoices at the opportunity of conversing with her daughter. She often says very pretty things; for instance, in a dissertation upon heavenly music; but there is a lack of substance in her talk, a want of gripe, a delusive show, a sentimental surface, with no bottom beneath it. The same sort of thing has struck me in all the poetry and prose that I have read from spiritual sources. I should judge that these effusions emanated from earthly minds, but had undergone some process that had deprived them of solidity and warmth. In the communications between my wife and her mother, I cannot help thinking that (Miss ------ being unconsciously in a mesmeric state) all the responses are conveyed to her fingers from my wife's mind. . . .

We have tried the spirits by various test questions, on every one of which they have failed egregiously. Here, however, the aforesaid Mary Runnel comes into play. The other spirits have told us that the veracity of this spirit is not to be depended upon; and so, whenever it is possible, poor Mary Runnel is thrust forward to bear the odium of every mistake or falsehood. They have avowed themselves responsible for all statements signed by themselves, and have thereby brought themselves into more than one inextricable dilemma; but it is very funny, where a response or a matter of fact has not been thus certified, how invariably Mary Runnel is made to assume the discredit of it, on its turning out to be false. It is the most ingenious arrangement that could possibly have been contrived; and somehow or other, the pranks of this lying spirit give a reality to the conversations which the more respectable ghosts quite fail in imparting.

The whole matter seems to me a sort of dreaming awake. It resembles a dream, in that the whole material is, from the first, in the dreamer's mind, though concealed at various depths below the surface; the dead appear alive, as they always do in dreams; unexpected combinations occur, as continually in dreams; the mind speaks through the various persons of the drama, and sometimes astonishes itself with its own wit, wisdom, and eloquence, as often in dreams; but, in both cases, the intellectual manifestations are really of a very flimsy texture. Mary Runnel is the only personage who does not come evidently from dream-land; and she, I think, represents that lurking scepticism, that sense of unreality, of which we are often conscious, amid the most vivid phantasmagoria of a dream. I should be glad to believe in the genuineness of these spirits, if I could; but the above is the conclusion to which my soberest thoughts tend. There remains, of course, a great deal for which I cannot account, and I cannot sufficiently wonder at the pigheadedness both of metaphysicians and physiologists, in not accepting the phenomena, so far as to make them the subject of investigation.

In writing the communications, Miss ------ holds the pencil rather loosely between her fingers; it moves rapidly, and with equal facility whether she fixes her eyes on the paper or not. The handwriting has far more freedom than her own. At the conclusion of a sentence, the pencil lays itself down. She sometimes has a perception of each word before it is written; at other times, she is quite unconscious what is to come next. Her integrity is absolutely indubitable, and she herself totally disbelieves in the spiritual authenticity of what is communicated through her medium.

September 3d.--We walked into Florence yesterday, betimes after breakfast, it being comfortably cool, and a gray, English sky; though, indeed, the clouds had a tendency to mass themselves more than they do on an overcast English day. We found it warmer in Florence, but, not inconveniently so, even in the sunniest streets and squares.

We went to the Uffizi gallery, the whole of which with its contents is now familiar to us, except the room containing drawings; and our to-day's visit was especially to them. The door giving admittance to them is the very last in the gallery; and the rooms, three in number, are, I should judge, over the Loggia de' Lanzi, looking on the Grand Ducal Piazza. The drawings hang on the walls, framed and glazed; and number, perhaps, from one to two hundred in each room; but this is only a small portion of the collection, which amounts, it is said, to twenty thousand, and is reposited in portfolios. The sketches on the walls are changed, from time to time, so as to exhibit all the most interesting ones in turn. Their whole charm is artistic, imaginative, and intellectual, and in no degree of the upholstery kind; their outward presentment being, in general, a design hastily shadowed out, by means of colored crayons, on tinted paper, or perhaps scratched rudely in pen and ink; or drawn in pencil or charcoal, and half rubbed out; very rough things, indeed, in many instances, and the more interesting on that account, because it seems as if the artist had bestirred himself to catch the first glimpse of an image that did but reveal itself and vanish. The sheets, or sometimes scraps of paper, on which they are drawn, are discolored with age, creased, soiled; but yet you are magnetized by the hand of Raphael, Michael Angelo, Leonardo, or whoever may have jotted down those rough-looking master-touches. They certainly possess a charm that is lost in the finished picture; and I was more sensible of forecasting thought, skill, and prophetic design, in these sketches than in the most consummate works that have been elaborated from them. There is something more divine in these; for I suppose the first idea of a picture is real inspiration, and all the subsequent elaboration of the master serves but to cover up the celestial germ with something that belongs to himself. At any rate, the first sketch is the more suggestive, and sets the spectator's imagination at work; whereas the picture, if a good one, leaves him nothing to do; if bad, it confuses, stupefies, disenchants, and disheartens him. First thoughts have an aroma and fragrance in them, that they do not lose in three hundred years; for so old, and a good deal more, are some of these sketches.

None interested me more than some drawings, on separate pieces of paper, by Perugino, for his picture of the mother and friends of Jesus round his dead body, now at the Pitti Palace. The attendant figures are distinctly made out, as if the Virgin, and John, and Mary Magdalen had each favored the painter with a sitting; but the body of Jesus lies in the midst, dimly hinted with a few pencil-marks.

There were several designs by Michael Angelo, none of which made much impression on me; the most striking was a very ugly demon, afterwards painted in the Sistine Chapel. Raphael shows several sketches of Madonnas,--one of which has flowered into the Grand Duke's especial Madonna at the Pitti Palace, but with a different face. His sketches were mostly very rough in execution; but there were two or three designs for frescos, I think, in the Vatican, very carefully executed; perhaps because these works were mainly to be done by other hands than his own. It seems to one that the Pre-Raphaelite artists made more careful drawings than the later ones; and it rather surprised me to see how much science they possessed.

We looked at few other things in the gallery; and, indeed, it was not one of the days when works of art find me impressible. We stopped a little while in the Tribune, but the Venus de' Medici seemed to me to-day little more than any other piece of yellowish white marble. How strange that a goddess should stand before us absolutely unrecognized, even when we know by previous revelations that she is nothing short of divine! It is also strange that, unless when one feels the ideal charm of a statue, it becomes one of the most tedious and irksome things in the world. Either it must be a celestial thing or an old lump of stone, dusty and time-soiled, and tiring out your patience with eternally looking just the same. Once in a while you penetrate through the crust of the old sameness, and see the statue forever new and immortally young.

Leaving the gallery we walked towards the Duomo, and on our way stopped to look at the beautiful Gothic niches hollowed into the exterior walls of the Church of San Michele. They are now in the process of being cleaned, and each niche is elaborately inlaid with precious marbles, and some of them magnificently gilded; and they are all surmounted with marble canopies as light and graceful as frost-work. Within stand statues, St. George, and many other saints, by Donatello and others, and all taking a hold upon one's sympathies, even if they be not beautiful. Classic statues escape you with their slippery beauty, as if they were made of ice. Rough and ugly things can be clutched. This is nonsense, and yet it means something. . . . The streets were thronged and vociferative with more life and outcry than usual. It must have been market-day in Florence, for the commerce of the streets was in great vigor, narrow tables being set out in them, and in the squares, burdened with all kinds of small merchandise, such as cheap jewelry, glistening as brightly as what we had just seen in the gem-room of the Uffizi; crockery ware; toys, books, Italian and French; silks; slippers; old iron; all advertised by the dealers with terribly loud and high voices, that reverberated harshly from side to side of the narrow streets. Italian street-cries go through the head; not that they are so very sharp, but exceedingly hard, like a blunt iron bar.

We stood at the base of the Campanile, and looked at the bas-reliefs which wreathe it round; and, above them, a row of statues; and from bottom to top a marvellous minuteness of inlaid marbles, filling up the vast and beautiful design of this heaven-aspiring tower. Looking upward to its lofty summit,--where angels might alight, lapsing downward from heaven, and gaze curiously at the bustle of men below,--I could not but feel that there is a moral charm in this faithful minuteness of Gothic architecture, filling up its outline with a million of beauties that perhaps may never be studied out by a single spectator. It is the very process of nature, and no doubt produces an effect that we know not of. Classic architecture is nothing but an outline, and affords no little points, no interstices where human feelings may cling and overgrow it like ivy. The charm, as I said, seems to be moral rather than intellectual; for in the gem-room of the Uffizi you may see fifty designs, elaborated on a small scale, that have just as much merit as the design of the Campanile. If it were only five inches long, it might be a case for some article of toilet; being two hundred feet high, its prettiness develops into grandeur as well as beauty, and it becomes really one of the wonders of the world. The design of the Pantheon, on the contrary, would retain its sublimity on whatever scale it might be represented.

Returning homewards, we crossed the Ponte Vecchio, and went to the Museum of Natural History, where we gained admittance into the rooms dedicated to Galileo. They consist of a vestibule, a saloon, and a semicircular tribune, covered with a frescoed dome, beneath which stands a colossal statue of Galileo, long-bearded, and clad in a student's gown, or some voluminous garb of that kind. Around the tribune, beside and behind the statue, are six niches,--in one of which is preserved a forefinger of Galileo, fixed on a little gilt pedestal, and pointing upward, under a glass cover. It is very much shrivelled and mummy-like, of the color of parchment, and is little more than a finger-bone, with the dry skin or flesh flaking away from it; on the whole, not a very delightful relic; but Galileo used to point heavenward with this finger, and I hope has gone whither he pointed.

Another niche contains two telescopes, wherewith he made some of his discoveries; they are perhaps a yard long, and of very small calibre. Other astronomical instruments are displayed in the glass cases that line the rooms; but I did not understand their use any better than the monks, who wished to burn Galileo for his heterodoxy about the planetary system. . . .

After dinner I climbed the tower. . . . Florence lay in the sunshine, level, compact, and small of compass. Above the tiled roofs rose the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, the loftiest and the most picturesque, though built, I suppose, with no idea of making it so. But it attains, in a singular degree, the end of causing the imagination to fly upward and alight on its airy battlements. Near it I beheld the square mass of Or San Michele, and farther to the left the bulky Duomo and the Campanile close beside it, like a slender bride or daughter; the dome of San Lorenzo too. The Arno is nowhere visible. Beyond, and on all sides of the city, the hills pile themselves lazily upward in ridges, here and there developing into a peak; towards their bases white villas were strewn numerously, but the upper region was lonely and bare.

As we passed under the arch of the Porta Romana this morning, on our way into the city, we saw a queer object. It was what we at first took for a living man, in a garb of light reddish or yellowish red color, of antique or priestly fashion, and with a cowl falling behind. His face was of the same hue, and seemed to have been powdered, as the faces of maskers sometimes are. He sat in a cart, which he seemed to be driving into the Deity with a load of earthen jars and pipkins, the color of which was precisely like his own. On closer inspection, this priestly figure proved to be likewise an image of earthenware, but his lifelikeness had a very strange and rather ghastly effect. Adam, perhaps, was made of just such red earth, and had the complexion of this figure.

September 7th.--I walked into town yesterday morning, by way of the Porta San Frediano. The gate of a city might be a good locality for a chapter in a novel, or for a little sketch by itself, whether by painter or writer. The great arch of the gateway, piercing through the depth and height of the massive masonry beneath the battlemented summit; the shadow brooding below, in the immense thickness of the wall and beyond it, the vista of the street, sunny and swarming with life; outside of the gate, a throng of carts, laden with fruits, vegetables, small flat barrels of wine, waiting to be examined by the custom-house officers; carriages too, and foot-passengers entering, and others swarming outward. Under the shadowy arch are the offices of the police and customs, and probably the guard-room of the soldiers, all hollowed out in the mass of the gateway. Civil officers loll on chairs in the shade, perhaps with an awning over their heads. Where the sun falls aslantwise under the arch a sentinel, with musket and bayonet, paces to and fro in the entrance, and other soldiers lounge close by. The life of the city seems to be compressed and made more intense by this barrier; and on passing within it you do not breathe quite so freely, yet are sensible of an enjoyment in the close elbowing throng, the clamor of high voices from side to side of the street, and the million of petty sights, actions, traffics, and personalities, all so squeezed together as to become a great whole.

The street by which I entered led me to the Carraja Bridge; crossing which, I kept straight onward till I came to the Church of Santa Maria Novella. Doubtless, it looks just the same as when Boccaccio's party stood in a cluster on its broad steps arranging their excursion to the villa. Thence I went to the Church of St. Lorenzo, which I entered by the side door, and found the organ sounding and a religious ceremony going forward. It is a church of sombre aspect, with its gray walls and pillars, but was decked out for some festivity with hangings of scarlet damask and gold. I sat awhile to rest myself, and then pursued my way to the Duomo. I entered, and looked at Sir John Hawkwood's painted effigy, and at several busts and statues, and at the windows of the chapel surrounding the dome, through which the sunshine glowed, white in the outer air, but a hundred-hued splendor within. I tried to bring up the scene of Lorenzo de' Medici's attempted assassination, but with no great success; and after listening a little while to the chanting of the priests and acolytes, I went to the Bank. It is in a palace of which Raphael was the architect, in the Piazza Gran Duca.

I next went, as a matter of course, to the Uffizi gallery, and, in the first place, to the Tribune, where the Venus de' Medici deigned to reveal herself rather more satisfactorily than at my last visit. . . . I looked into all the rooms, bronzes, drawings, and gem-room; a volume might easily be written upon either subject. The contents of the gem-room especially require to be looked at separately in order to convince one's self of their minute magnificences; for, among so many, the eye slips from one to another with only a vague outward sense that here are whole shelves full of little miracles, both of nature's material and man's workmanship. Greater (larger) things can be reasonably well appreciated with a less scrupulous though broader attention; but in order to estimate the brilliancy of the diamond eyes of a little agate bust, for instance, you have to screw your mind down to them and nothing else. You must sharpen your faculties of observation to a point, and touch the object exactly on the right spot, or you do not appreciate it at all. It is a troublesome process when there are a thousand such objects to be seen.

I stood at an open window in the transverse corridor, and looked down upon the Arno, and across at the range of edifices that impend over it on the opposite side. The river, I should judge, may be a hundred or a hundred and fifty yards wide in its course between the Ponte alle Grazie and the Ponte Vecchio; that is, the width between strand and strand is at least so much. The river, however, leaves a broad margin of mud and gravel on its right bank, on which water-weeds grow pretty abundantly, and creep even into the stream. On my first arrival in Florence I thought the goose-pond green of the water rather agreeable than otherwise; but its hue is now that of unadulterated mud, as yellow as the Tiber itself, yet not impressing me as being enriched with city sewerage like that other famous river. From the Ponte alle Grazie downward, half-way towards the Ponte Vecchio, there is an island of gravel, and the channel on each side is so shallow as to allow the passage of men and horses wading not overleg. I have seen fishermen wading the main channel from side to side, their feet sinking into the dark mud, and thus discoloring the yellow water with a black track visible, step by step, through its shallowness. But still the Arno is a mountain stream, and liable to be tetchy and turbulent like all its kindred, and no doubt it often finds its borders of hewn stone not too far apart for its convenience.

Along the right shore, beneath the Uffizi and the adjacent buildings, there is a broad paved way, with a parapet; on the opposite shore the edifices are built directly upon the river's edge, and impend over the water, supported upon arches and machicolations, as I think that peculiar arrangement of buttressing arcades is called. The houses are picturesquely various in height, from two or three stories to seven; picturesque in hue likewise,--pea-green, yellow, white, and of aged discoloration,--but all with green blinds; picturesque also in the courts and galleries that look upon the river, and in the wide arches that open beneath, intended perhaps to afford a haven for the household boat. Nets were suspended before one or two of the houses, as if the inhabitants were in the habit of fishing out of window. As a general effect, the houses, though often palatial in size and height, have a shabby, neglected aspect, and are jumbled too closely together. Behind their range the city swells upward in a hillside, which rises to a great height above, forming, I believe, a part of the Boboli Gardens.

I returned homewards over the Ponte Vecchio, which is a continuous street of ancient houses, except over the central arch, so that a stranger might easily cross the river without knowing it. In these small, old houses there is a community of goldsmiths, who set out their glass cases, and hang their windows with rings, bracelets, necklaces, strings of pearl, ornaments of malachite and coral, and especially with Florentine mosaics; watches, too, and snuff-boxes of old fashion or new; offerings for shrines also, such as silver hearts pierced with swords; an infinity of pretty things, the manufacture of which is continually going on in the little back-room of each little shop. This gewgaw business has been established on the Ponte Vecchio for centuries, although, long since, it was an art of far higher pretensions than now. Benvenuto Cellini had his workshop here, probably in one of these selfsame little nooks. It would have been a ticklish affair to be Benvenuto's fellow-workman within such narrow limits.

Going out of the Porta Romana, I walked for some distance along the city wall, and then, turning to the left, toiled up the hill of Bellosguardo, through narrow zigzag lanes between high walls of stone or plastered brick, where the sun had the fairest chance to frizzle me. There were scattered villas and houses, here and there concentrating into a little bit of a street, paved with flag-stones from side to side, as in the city, and shadowed quite across its narrowness by the height of the houses. Mostly, however, the way was inhospitably sunny, and shut out by the high wall from every glimpse of a view, except in one spot, where Florence spread itself before my eyes, with every tower, dome, and spire which it contains. A little way farther on my own gray tower rose before me, the most welcome object that I had seen in the course of the day.

September 10th.--I went into town again yesterday, by way of the Porta San Frediano, and observed that this gate (like the other gates of Florence, as far as I have observed) is a tall, square structure of stone or brick, or both, rising high above the adjacent wall, and having a range of open loggie in the upper story. The arch externally is about half the height of the structure. Inside, towards the town, it rises nearly to the roof. On each side of the arch there is much room for offices, apartments, storehouses, or whatever else. On the outside of the gate, along the base, are those iron rings and sockets for torches, which are said to be the distinguishing symbol of illustrious houses. As contrasted with the vista of the narrow, swarming street through the arch from without, the view from the inside might be presented with a glimpse of the free blue sky.

I strolled a little about Florence, and went into two or three churches; into that of the Annunziata for one. I have already described this church, with its general magnificence, and it was more magnificent than ever to-day, being hung with scarlet silk and gold-embroidery. A great many people were at their devotions, thronging principally around the Virgin's shrine. I was struck now with the many bas-reliefs and busts in the costume of their respective ages, and seemingly with great accuracy of portraiture, in the passage leading from the front of the church into the cloisters. The marble was not at all abashed nor degraded by being made to assume the guise of the mediaeval furred robe, or the close-fitting tunic with elaborate ruff, or the breastplate and gorget, or the flowing wig, or whatever the actual costume might be; and one is sensible of a rectitude and reality in the affair, and respects the dead people for not putting themselves into an eternal masquerade. The dress of the present day will look equally respectable in one or two hundred years.

The Fair is still going on, and one of its principal centres is before this church, in the Piazza of the Annunziata. Cloth is the chief commodity offered for sale, and none of the finest; coarse, unbleached linen and cotton prints for country-people's wear, together with yarn, stockings, and here and there an assortment of bright-colored ribbons. Playthings, of a very rude fashion, were also displayed; likewise books in Italian and French; and a great deal of iron-work. Both here and in Rome they have this odd custom of offering rusty iron implements for sale, spread out on the pavements. There was a good deal of tinware, too, glittering in the sunshine, especially around the pedestal of the bronze statue of Duke Ferdinand, who curbs his horse and looks down upon the bustling piazza in a very stately way. . . . The people attending the fair had mostly a rustic appearance; sunburnt faces, thin frames; no beauty, no bloom, no joyousness of young or old; an anxious aspect, as if life were no easy or holiday matter with them; but I should take them to be of a kindly nature, and reasonably honest. Except the broad-brimmed Tuscan hats of the women, there was no peculiarity of costume. At a careless glance I could very well have mistaken most of the men for Yankees; as for the women, there is very little resemblance between them and ours,--the old being absolutely hideous, and the young ones very seldom pretty. It was a very dull crowd. They do not generate any warmth among themselves by contiguity; they have no pervading sentiment, such as is continually breaking out in rough merriment from an American crowd; they have nothing to do with one another; they are not a crowd, considered as one mass, but a collection of individuals. A despotic government has perhaps destroyed their principle of cohesion, and crumbled them to atoms. Italian crowds are noted for their civility; possibly they deserve credit for native courtesy and gentleness; possibly, on the other hand, the crowd has not spirit and self-consciousness enough to be rampant. I wonder whether they will ever hold another parliament in the Piazza of Santa Croce!

I paid a visit to the gallery of the Pitti Palace. There is too large an intermixture of Andrea del Sarto's pictures in this gallery; everywhere you see them, cold, proper, and uncriticisable, looking so much like first-rate excellence, that you inevitably quarrel with your own taste for not admiring them. . . .

It was one of the days when my mind misgives me whether the pictorial art be not a humbug, and when the minute accuracy of a fly in a Dutch picture of fruit and flowers seems to me something more reliable than the master-touches of Raphael. The gallery was considerably thronged, and many of the visitors appeared to be from the country, and of a class intermediate between gentility and labor. Is there such a rural class in Italy? I saw a respectable-looking man feeling awkward and uncomfortable in a new and glossy pair of pantaloons not yet bent and creased to his natural movement.

Nothing pleased me better to-day than some amber cups, in one of the cabinets of curiosities. They are richly wrought, and the material is as if the artist had compressed a great deal of sunshine together, and when sufficiently solidified had moulded these cups out of it and let them harden. This simile was suggested by ------.

Leaving the palace, I entered the Boboli Gardens, and wandered up and down a good deal of its uneven surface, through broad, well-kept edges of box, sprouting loftily, trimmed smoothly, and strewn between with cleanly gravel; skirting along plantations of aged trees, throwing a deep shadow within their precincts; passing many statues, not of the finest art, yet approaching so near it, as to serve just as good a purpose for garden ornament; coming now and then to the borders of a fishpool, or a pond, where stately swans circumnavigated an island of flowers;--all very fine and very wearisome. I have never enjoyed this garden; perhaps because it suggests dress-coats, and such elegant formalities.

September 11th.--We have heard a good deal of spirit matters of late, especially of wonderful incidents that attended Mr. Home's visit to Florence, two or three years ago. Mrs. Powers told a very marvellous thing; how that when Mr. Home was holding a seance in her house, and several persons present, a great scratching was heard in a neighboring closet. She addressed the spirit, and requested it not to disturb the company then, as they were busy with other affairs, promising to converse with it on a future occasion. On a subsequent night, accordingly, the scratching was renewed, with the utmost violence; and in reply to Mrs. Powers's questions, the spirit assured her that it was not one, but legion, being the ghosts of twenty-seven monks, who were miserable and without hope! The house now occupied by Powers was formerly a convent, and I suppose these were the spirits of all the wicked monks that had ever inhabited it; at least, I hope that there were not such a number of damnable sinners extant at any one time. These ghostly fathers must have been very improper persons in their lifetime, judging by the indecorousness of their behavior even after death, and in such dreadful circumstances; for they pulled Mrs. Powers's skirts so hard as to break the gathers. . . . It was not ascertained that they desired to have anything done for their eternal welfare, or that their situation was capable of amendment anyhow; but, being exhorted to refrain from further disturbance, they took their departure, after making the sign of the cross on the breast of each person present. This was very singular in such reprobates, who, by their own confession, had forfeited all claim to be benefited by that holy symbol: it curiously suggests that the forms of religion may still be kept up in purgatory and hell itself. The sign was made in a way that conveyed the sense of something devilish and spiteful; the perpendicular line of the cross being drawn gently enough, but the transverse one sharply and violently, so as to leave a painful impression. Perhaps the monks meant this to express their contempt and hatred for heretics; and how queer, that this antipathy should survive their own damnation! But I cannot help hoping that the case of these poor devils may not be so desperate as they think. They cannot be wholly lost, because their desire for communication with mortals shows that they need sympathy, therefore are not altogether hardened, therefore, with loving treatment, may be restored.

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Passages From The French And Italian Notebooks - Volume 2 - VILLA MONTANTO. MONTE BENI Continued Passages From The French And Italian Notebooks - Volume 2 - VILLA MONTANTO. MONTE BENI Continued

Passages From The French And Italian Notebooks - Volume 2 - VILLA MONTANTO. MONTE BENI Continued
A great many other wonders took place within the knowledge and experience of Mrs. P------. She saw, not one pair of hands only, but many. The head of one of her dead children, a little boy, was laid in her lap, not in ghastly fashion, as a head out of the coffin and the grave, but just as the living child might have laid it on his mother's knees. It was invisible, by the by, and she recognized it by the features and the character of the hair, through the sense of touch. Little hands grasped hers. In short, these soberly

Passages From The French And Italian Notebooks - Volume 2 - FLORENCE Continued 3 Passages From The French And Italian Notebooks - Volume 2 - FLORENCE Continued 3

Passages From The French And Italian Notebooks - Volume 2 - FLORENCE Continued 3
All the time we were in the church some great religious ceremony had been going forward; the organ playing and the white-robed priests bowing, gesticulating, and making Latin prayers at the high altar at least a hundred wax tapers were burning in constellations. Everybody knelt, except ourselves, yet seemed not to be troubled by the echoes of our passing footsteps, nor to require that we should pray along with them. They consider us already lost irrevocably, no doubt, and therefore right enough in taking no heed of their devotions; not but what we took so much heed, however, as to