"Last evening we were delighted with some exquisite sacred music, sung apparently by men's voices only, and slowly passing under our windows. The whole effect was enchanting; the various parts were so harmoniously adapted and the taste with which these unknown minstrels strengthened and softened their tones gave us, with the recollection of the music at the church, which we had heard in the morning, a high idea of the musical talent of this part of the world. We have observed more beautiful faces among the women in a single day in Avignon than during the two weeks we were in Paris."
After a three days' rest in Avignon, visiting the palace of the Popes and other objects of interest, and being quite charmed with the city as a whole and with the Hotel de l'Europe in particular, the little party left for Marseilles by way of Aix. The air grows balmier as they near the Mediterranean, and they are delighted with the vineyards and the olive groves. The first sight of the blue sea and of the beautiful harbor of Marseilles rouses the enthusiasm of the artist, and some days are spent in exploring the city.
The journal continues:—
"Thursday, January 28. Took our seats in the Malle Poste for Toulon and experienced one of those vexations in delay which travellers must expect sometimes to find. We had been told by the officer that we must be ready to go at one o'clock. We were, of course, ready at that time, but not only were we not called at one, but we waited in suspense until six o'clock in the evening before we were called, and before we left the city it was seven o'clock; thus consuming a half-day of daylight which we had promised ourselves to see the scenery, and bringing all our travelling in the night, which we wished specially to avoid. Besides this, we found ourselves in a little, miserable, jolting vehicle that did not, like the diligence, suffer us to sleep.
"Thus we left Marseilles, pursuing our way through what seemed to us a wild country, with many a dark ravine on our roadside and impending cliffs above us; a safe resort for bandits to annoy the traveller if they felt disposed."
At Toulon they visited the arsenal and navy yard.
"We saw many ships of all classes in various states of equipment, and every indication, from the activity which pervaded every department, that great attention is paying by the French to their marine. Their ships have not the neatness of ours; there seems to be a great deal of ornament, and such as I should suppose was worse than useless in a ship of war.
"We noticed the galley slaves at work; they had a peculiar dress to mark them. They were dressed in red frocks with the letters 'G a l' stamped on each side of the back, as they were also on their pantaloons. The worst sort, those who had committed murder, had been shipped lately to Brest. Those who had been convicted twice had on a green cap; those who were ordinary criminals had on a red cap; and those who were least criminal, a blue cap.
"A great mortality was prevailing among them. There are about five hundred at this place, and I was told by the sentinel that twenty-two had been buried yesterday. Three bodies were carried out whilst we were in the yard. We, of course, did not linger in the vicinity of the hospitals....
"On Saturday, January 30, we left Toulon in a voiture or private carriage, the public conveyances towards Italy being now uncertain, inconvenient, and expensive. There were five of us and we made an agreement in writing with a vetturino to carry us to Nice, the first city in Italy, for twenty-seven francs each, the same as the fare in the diligence, to which place he agreed to take us in two days and a half. Of course necessity obliges us in this instance to travel on the Sabbath, which we tried every means in our power to avoid.
"At twelve we stopped at the village of Cuers, an obscure, dirty place, and stopped at an inn called 'La Croix d'Or' for breakfast. We here met with the first gross imposition in charges that occurred to us in France. Our dejeuner for five consisted of three cups of miserable coffee, without milk or butter; a piece of beef stewed with olives for two; mutton chops for five; eggs for five; some cheese, and a meagre dessert of raisins, hazel nuts, and olives, with a bottle of sour vin ordinaire; and for this we were charged fifteen francs, or three francs each, while at the best hotels in Paris, and in all the cities through which we passed, we had double the quantity of fare, and of the best kind, for two francs and sometimes for one and one half francs. All parleying with the extortionate landlord had only the effect of making him more positive and even insolent; and when we at last threw him the money to avoid further detention, he told us to mark his house, and, with the face of a demon, told us we should never enter his house again. We can easily bear our punishment. As we resumed our journey we were saluted with a shower of stones."
The journal continues and tells of the slow progress along the Riviera, through Cannes, which was then but an unimportant village; Nice, at that time belonging to Italy, and where they saw in the cathedral Charles Felix, King of Sardinia. It took them many days to climb up and down the rugged road over the mountains, while now the traveller is whisked under and around the same mountains in a few hours.
"At eleven we had attained a height of at least two thousand feet and the precipices became frightful, sweeping down into long ravines to the very edge of the sea; and then the road would wind at the edge of the precipice two or three thousand feet deep. Such scenes pass so rapidly it is impossible to make note of them.
"From the heights on which La Turbia stands, with its dilapidated walls, we see the beautiful city of Monaco, on a tongue of land extending into the sea."
The great gambling establishment of Monte Carlo did not invade this beautiful spot until many years later, in 1856.
The travellers stopped for a few hours at Mentone,—"a beautiful place for an artist,"—passed the night at San Remo, and, sauntering thus leisurely along the beautiful Riviera, arrived in Genoa on the 6th of February.
FEBRUARY 6, 1880—JUNE 15, 1830
Serra Palace in Genoa.—Starts for Rome.—Rain in the mountains.—A brigand.—Carrara.—First mention of a railroad.—Pisa.—The leaning tower.—Rome at last.—Begins copying at once.—Notebooks.—Ceremonies at the Vatican.—Pope Pius VIII.—Academy of St. Luke's.—St Peter's.— Chiesa Nuova.—Painting at the Vatican.—Beggar monks.—Fata of the Annunciation.—Soiree at Palazzo Simbaldi.—Passion Sunday.—Horace Vernet.—Lying in state of a cardinal.—Miserere at Sistine Chapel.— Holy Thursday at St Peter's.—Third cardinal dies.—Meets Thorwaldsen at Signor Persianis's.—Manners of English, French, and Americans.—Landi's pictures.—Funeral of a young girl.—Trip to Tivoli, Subiaco.—Procession of the Corpus Domini.—Disagreeable experience.
The enthusiastic artist was now in Italy, the land of his dreams, and his notebooks are filled with short comments or longer descriptions of churches, palaces, and pictures in Genoa and in the other towns through which he passed on his way to Rome, or with pen-pictures of the wild country through which he and his fellow travellers journeyed.
In Genoa, where he stopped several days, he was delighted with the palaces and churches, and yet he found material for criticism:—
"The next place of interest was the Serra Palace, now inhabited by one of that family, who, we understood, was insane. After stopping a moment in the anteroom, the ceiling of which is painted in fresco by Somnio, we were ushered into the room called the most splendid in Europe, and, if carving and gilding and mirrors and chandeliers and costly colors can make a splendid room, this is certainly that room. The chandeliers and mirrored sides are so arranged as to create the illusion that the room is of indefinite extent. To me it appeared, on the whole, tawdry, seeing it in broad daylight. In the evening, when the chandeliers are lighted, I have no doubt of its being a most gorgeous exhibition, but, like some showy belle dressed and painted for evening effect, the daylight turns her gold into tinsel and her bloom into rouge.
"After having stayed nearly four days in Genoa, and after having made arrangements with our honest vetturino, Dominique, to take us to Rome, stopping at various places on the way long enough to see them, we retired late to bed to prepare for our journey in the morning.
"On Wednesday morning, February 10, we rose at five o'clock, and, after breakfast of coffee, etc., we set out at six on our journey towards Rome."
I shall not follow them every step of the way, but shall select only the more personal entries in the diary.
"A little after eleven o'clock we stopped at a single house upon a high hill overlooking the sea, to breakfast. It has the imposing title of 'Locanda della Gran Bretagna.' We expected little and got less, and had a specimen of the bad faith of these people. We enquired the price of our dejeuner before we ordered it, which is always necessary. We were told one franc each, but after our breakfast, we were told one and a half each, and no talking with the landlord would alter his determination to demand his price. There is no remedy for travellers; they must pay or be delayed.
"At one o'clock we left this hole of a place, where we were more beset with beggars and spongers than at any place since we had been in Italy."
Stopping overnight at Sestri, they set out again on the 11th at five o'clock in the morning:—
"It was as dark as the moon, obscured by thick clouds, would allow it to be, and, as we left the courtyard of the inn, it began to rain violently. Our road lay over precipitous mountains away from the shore, and the scenery became wild and grand. As the day dawned we found ourselves in the midst of stupendous mountains rising in cones from the valleys below. Deep basins were formed at the bottom by the meeting of the long slopes; clouds were seen far below us, some wasting away as they sailed over the steeps, and some gathering denseness as they were detained by the cold, snowy peaks which shot up beyond. Now and then a winding stream glittered at the bottom of some deep ravine amidst the darkness around it, and occasionally a light from the cottage of some peasant glimmered like a star through the clouds.
"As we labored up the steep ascent little brawling cascades without number, from the heights far above us, in milky streams, gathering power from innumerable rills, dashed at our feet, and, passing down through the artificial passages beneath the road, swept down into the valleys in torrents, and swelling the rivers, whose broad beds were seen through the openings, rushed with irresistible power to the sea.
"We found, from the violence of the storm, that the road was heavy and much injured in some parts by the washing down of rocks from the heights. Some of great size lay at the sides recently thrown down, and now and then one of some hundred pounds' weight was found in the middle of the road.
"We continued to ascend about four hours until we came again from a region of summer into the region of snow, and the height from the sea was greater than we had at any time previously attained. The scenery around us, too, was wilder and more sterile. The Apennines here are very grand, assuming every variety of shape and color. Long slopes of clay color were interlocked with dark browns sprinkled with golden yellow; slate blue and grey, mixed with greens and purples, and the pure, deep ultramarine blue of distant peaks finished the background."
After breakfasting at Borghetto at a miserable inn, where they were much annoyed by beggars of all descriptions, they continued their journey through much the same character of country for the rest of the day, and towards dark they met with a slight adventure:—
"Our road was down a steep declivity winding much in the same way as at Finale. Precipices were at the side without a protecting barrier, and we felt some uneasiness at our situation, which was not decreased by suddenly finding our coach stopped and a man on horseback (or rather muleback) stopping by the side of the coach. It was but for a moment; our vetturino authoritatively ordered him to pass on, which he did with a 'buona sera,' and we never parted with a companion more gladly. From all the circumstances attending it we were inclined to believe that he had some design upon us, but, finding us so numerous, thought it best not to run the risk."
Spezia was their resting-place for that night, and, after an early start the next morning, they reached the banks of the Vara at nine o'clock.
"We had a singular time in passing the river in a boat. Many women of the lower orders crossed at the same time. The boat being unable to approach the shore, we were obliged to ride papoose-back upon the shoulders of the brawny watermen for some little distance; but what amused us much was the perfect sang-froid with which the women, with their bare legs, held up their clothes above the knees and waded to the boat before us....
"At half-past twelve we came in sight of Carrara. This place we went out of our course to see, and at one o'clock entered the celebrated village, prettily situated in a valley at the base of stupendous mountains. A deep ravine above the village contains the principal quarries of most exquisite marbles for which this place has for so many ages been famous. The clouds obscuring the highest peaks, and ascending from the valleys like smoke from the craters of many volcanoes, gave additional grandeur to a scene by nature so grand in itself.
"After stopping at the Hotel de Nouvelle Paros, which we found a miserable inn with bad wine, scanty fare and high charges, we took a hasty breakfast, and procuring a guide we walked out to see the curiosities of the place. It rained hard and the road was excessively bad, sometimes almost ankle-deep in mud. Notwithstanding the forbidding weather and bad road, we labored up the deep ravine on the sides of which the excavations are made. Dark peaks frowned above us capped with clouds and snow; white patches midway the sides showed the veins of the marble, and immense heaps of detritus, the accumulation of ages, mountains themselves, sloped down on each side like masses of piled ice to the very edge of the road. The road itself, white with the material of which it is made, was composed of loose pieces of the white marble of every size.... Continuing the ascent by the side of a milky stream, which rushed down its rocky bed, and which here and there was diverted off into aqueducts to the various mills, we were pointed to the top of a high hill by the roadside where was the entrance to a celebrated grotto, and at the base close by, a cavern protected a beautiful, clear, crystal fountain, which gushed from up the bottom forming a liquid, transparent floor, and then glided to mingle its pure, unsullied waters with the cloudy stream that rushed by it.
"Climbing over piles of rock like refined sugar and passing several wagons carrying heavy blocks down the road, we arrived at the mouth of the principal quarry where the purest statuary marble is obtained. I could not but think how many exquisite statues here lay entombed for ages, till genius, at various times, called them from their slumbers and bid them live....
"On our return we again passed the wagons laden with blocks, and mules with slabs on each side sometimes like the roof of a house over the mule.... The wagons and oxen deserve notice. The former are very badly constructed; they are strong, but the wheels are small, in diameter about two feet and but about three inches wide, so sharp that the roads must suffer from them. The oxen are small and, without exception, mouse-colored. The driver, and there is usually one to each pair, sits on the yoke between them, and, like the oarsman of a boat, with his back towards the point towards which he is going. Two huge blocks were chained upon one of these wagons, and behind, dragging upon the ground by a chain, was another. Three yoke of these small oxen, apparently without fatigue, drew the load thus constructed over this wretched road. An enterprising company of Americans or English, by the construction of a railroad, which is more practicable than a canal, but which latter might be constructed, would, I should think, give great activity to the operations here and make it very profitable to themselves."
It is rather curious to note that this is the first mention of a railroad made by Morse in his notes or letters, although he was evidently aware of the experiments which were being made at that time both in Europe and America, and these must have been of great interest to him. It is also well to bear in mind that the great development of transportation by rail could not occur until the invention of the telegraph had made it possible to send signals ahead, and, in other ways, to control the movement of traffic. At the present day the railroad at Carrara, which Morse saw in his visions of the future, has been built, but the ox teams are also still used, and linger as a reminder of more primitive days.
Continuing their journey, the travellers spent the night at Lucca, and in the morning explored the town, which they found most interesting as well as neat and clean. Leaving Lucca, "with much reluctance," on the 18th, the journal continues:—
"At half-past five, at sunset, Pisa with its leaning tower (the duomo of the cathedral and that of the baptistery being the principal objects in the view), was seen across the plain before us. Towards the west was a long line of horizon, unbroken, except here and there by a low-roofed tower or the little pyramidal spire of a village church. To the southeast the plain stretched away to the base of distant blue mountains, and to the east and the north the rude peaks through which we had travelled, their cold tops tinged with a warmer glow, glittered beyond the deep brown slopes, which were more advanced and confining the plain to narrower limits."
They found the Hotel Royal de l'Hussar an excellent inn, and, the next day being Sunday, they attended an English service and heard an excellent sermon by the Reverend Mr. Ford, an Englishman.
"In the evening we walked to the famous leaning tower, the cathedral, the baptistery, and Campo Santo, which are clustered together in the northern part of the city. In going there we went some distance along the quay, which was filled with carriages and pedestrians, among whom were many masques and fancy dresses of the most grotesque kind. It is the season of Carnival, and all these fooleries are permitted at this time. We merely glanced at the exterior of the celebrated buildings, leaving till to-morrow a more thorough examination."
"Monday, February 16. We rose early and went again to the leaning tower and its associated buildings. The tower, which is the campanile of the cathedral and is about one hundred and ninety feet high, leans from its perpendicular thirteen feet. We ascended to the top by a winding staircase. One ascending feels the inclination every step he takes, and, when he reaches the top and perceives that that which should be horizontal is an inclined plane, the sensation is truly startling. It is difficult to persuade one's self that the tower is not actually falling, and I could not but imagine at intervals that it moved, reasoning myself momentarily into security from the fact that it had thus stood for ages. I could not but recur also to the fact that once it stood upright; that, although ages had been passed in assuming its present inclination to the earth, the time would probably come when it would actually fall, and the idea would suggest itself with appalling force that that time might be now. The reflection suggested by one of our company that it would be a glorious death, for one thus perishing would be sure of an imperishable name, however pleasing in romantic speculation, had no great power to dispel the shrinking fear produced by the vivid thought of the possibility when on the top of the tower.... The campanile is not the only leaning tower in Pisa. We observed that several varied from the perpendicular, and the sides of many of the buildings, even parts of the cathedral and the baptistery, inclined at a considerable angle. The soil is evidently unfavorable to the erection of high, heavy buildings."
After a side trip to Leghorn and further loitering along the way, stopping but a short time in Florence, which he purposed to visit and study at his leisure later on, he saw, at nine o'clock on the morning of February 20, the dome of St. Peter's in the distance, and, at two o'clock he and his companions entered Rome through the Porta del Popolo.
Taking lodgings at No. 17 Via de Prefetti, he spent the first few days in a cursory examination of the treasures by which he was surrounded, but he was eager to begin at once the work for which he had received commissions, and on March 7 he writes home:—
"I have begun to copy the 'School of Athens' from Raphael for Mr. R. Donaldson. The original is on the walls of one of the celebrated Camera of Raphael in the Vatican. It is in fresco and occupies one entire side of the room. It is a difficult picture to copy and will occupy five or six weeks certainly. Every moment of my time, from early in the morning until late at night, when not in the Vatican, is occupied in seeing the exhaustless stores of curiosities in art and antiquities with which this wonderful city abounds.
"I find I can endure great fatigue, and my spirits are good, and I feel strong for the pleasant duties of my profession. I feel particularly anxious that every gentleman who has given me a commission shall be more than satisfied that he has received an equivalent for the sum generously advanced to me. But I find that, to accomplish this, I shall need all my strength and time for more than a year to come, and that will be little enough to do myself and them justice. I am delighted with my situation and more than ever convinced of the wisdom of my course in coming to Italy."
Morse's little notebooks and sketch-books are filled with short, abrupt notes on the paintings, religious ceremonies, and other objects of interest by which he is surrounded, but sometimes he goes more into detail. I shall select from these voluminous notes only those which seem to me to be of the greatest interest.
"March 17. Mr. Fenimore Cooper and family are here. I have passed many pleasant hours with them, particularly one beautiful moonlight evening visiting the Coliseum. After the Holy Week I shall visit Naples, probably with Mr. Theodore Woolsey, who is now in Rome.
"March 18. Ceremonies at the Consistory; delivery of the cardinals' hats. At nine o'clock went to the Vatican; two large fantails with ostrich feathers; ladies penned up; Pope; cardinals kiss his hand in rotation; address in Latin, tinkling, like water gurgling from a bottle. The English cardinal first appeared, went up and was embraced and kissed on each cheek by the Pope; then followed the others in the same manner; then each new cardinal embraced in succession all the other cardinals; after this, beginning with the English cardinal, each went to the Pope, and he, putting on their heads the cardinal's hat, blessed them in the name of the Trinity. They then kissed the ring on his hand and his toe and retired from the throne. The Pope then rose, blessed the assembly by making the sign of the cross three times in the air with his two fingers, and left the room. His dress was a plain mitre of gold tissue, a rich, garment of gold and crimson, embroidered, a splendid clasp of gold, about six inches long by four wide, set with precious stones, upon his breast. He is very decrepit, limping or tottering along, has a defect in one eye, and his countenance has an expression of pain, especially as the new cardinals approached his toe.
[Footnote 1: This was Pope Pius VIII.]
"The cardinals followed the Pope two and two with their train-bearers. After a few minutes the doors opened again and a procession, headed by singers, entered chanting as they went. The cardinals followed them with their train-bearers; they passed through the Consistory, and thus closed the ceremony of presenting the cardinals' hats.
"A multitude of attendants, in various costumes, surrounded the pontiff's throne during the ceremony, among whom was Bishop Dubois of New York....
"Academy of St. Luke's: Raphael's skull; Harlow's picture of the making of a cardinal; said to have been painted in twelve days; I don't believe it. 'The Angels appearing to the Shepherds,' by Bassan—good for color; much trash in the way of portraits. Lower rooms contain the pictures for the premiums; some good; all badly colored. Third Room: Bas-reliefs for the premiums. Fourth Room: Smaller premium pictures; bad. Fifth Room: Drawings; the oldest best, modern bad.
"Friday, March 19. We went to St. Peter's to see the procession of cardinals singing in the Capella. Cardinals walked two and two through St. Peter's, knelt on purple velvet cushions before the Capella in prayer, then successively kissed the toe of the bronze image of St. Peter as they walked past it.
"This statue of St. Peter, as a work of art, is as execrable as possible. Part of the toe and foot is worn away and polished, not by the kisses, but by the wiping of the foot after the kisses by the next comer preparatory to kissing it; sometimes with the coat-sleeve by a beggar; with the corner of the cloak by the gentlemen; the shawl by the females; and with a nice cambric handkerchief by the attendant at the ceremony, who wiped the toe after each cardinal's performance. This ceremony is variously performed. Some give it a single kiss and go away; others kiss the toe and then touch the forehead to it and kiss the toe again, repeating the operation three times."
The ceremonies and ritual of the Roman Catholic Church, while appealing to the eye of the artist, were repugnant to his Puritan upbringing, and we find many scornful remarks among his notes. In fact he was, all his life, bitterly opposed to the doctrines of Rome, and in later years, as we shall see, he entered into a heated controversy with a prominent ecclesiastic of that faith in America.
"March 21. Chiesa Nuova at seven o'clock in the evening; a sacred opera called 'The Death of Aaron.' Church dark; women not admitted; bell rings and a priest before the altar chants a prayer, after which a boy, about twelve years old apparently, addresses the assembly from the pulpit. I know not the drift of his discourse, but his utterance was like the same gurgling process which I noticed in the orator who addressed the Pope. It was precisely like the fitful tone of the Oneida interpreter.
"Tuesday, March 23. At the Vatican all the morning. While preparing my palette a monk, decently habited for a monk, who seemed to have come to the Vatican for the purpose of viewing the pictures, after a little time approached me and, with a very polite bow, offered me a pinch of snuff, which, of course, I took, bowing in return, when he instantly asked me alms. I gave him a bajocco for which he seemed very grateful. Truly this is a nation of beggars.
"Wednesday, March 24. Vatican all the morning. Saw in returning a great number of priests with a white bag over the left shoulder and begging of the persons they met. This is another instance of begging and robbing confined to one class.
"Thursday, March 25. Festa of the Annunciation; Vatican shut. Doors open at eight of the Chiesa di Minerva; obtained a good place for seeing the ceremony. At half-past nine the cardinals began to assemble; Cardinal Barberini officiated in robes, white embroidered with gold; singing; taking off and putting on mitres, etc.; jumping up and bowing; kissing the ring on the finger of the cardinal; putting incense into censers; monotonous reading, or rather whining, of a few lines of prayer in Latin; flirting censers at each cardinal in succession; cardinals bowing to one another; many attendants at the altar; cardinals embrace one another; after mass a contribution among the cardinals in rich silver plate. Enter the virgins in white, with crowns, two and two, and candles; they kiss the hem of the garment of one of the cardinals; they are accompanied by three officers and exit. Cardinals' dresses exquisitely plaited; sixty-two cardinals in attendance....
"Palazzo Simbaldi: At half-past eight the company began to assemble in the splendid saloon of this palace, to which I was invited. The singers, about forty in number, were upon a stage erected at the end of the room; white drapery hung behind festoons with laurel wreaths (the walls were painted in fresco). Four female statues standing on globes upheld seven long wax-lights; the instrumental musicians, about forty, were arranged at the foot of these statues; sala was lighted principally by six glass chandeliers; much female beauty in the room; dresses very various.
"Signora Luigia Tardi sang with much judgment and was received with great applause. A little girl, apparently about twelve years old, played upon the harp in a most exquisite manner, and called forth bravas of the Italians and of the foreigners bountifully.
"The manners of the audience were the same as those of fashionable society in our own country, and indeed in any other country; the display in dress, however, less tasteful than I have seen in New York. But, in truth, I have not seen more beauty and taste in any country, combined with cultivation of mind and delicacy of manner, than in our own. At one o'clock in the morning, or half-past six Italian time, the concert was over.
"Saturday, March 27. On returning to dinner I found at the post-office, to my great joy, the first letter from America since I left it.
"Sunday, March 28. Passion Sunday. Kept awake nearly all last night by a severe toothache; sent for a dentist and had the tooth extracted, for which he had the conscience to ask me three dollars—he took two. Was prevented by this circumstance from going to church this morning; went in the afternoon, and, after church, to St. Peter's; found all the crosses covered with black and all the pictures veiled. There were a great many in the church to hear the music which is considered very fine; some of it I was well pleased with, but it is by no means so impressive as the singing of the nuns at the Trinita di Monti, to which church we repaired at vespers.
"In St. Peter's we found a procession of about forty nuns; some of them were very pretty and their neat white headdresses, and kerchiefs, and hair dressed plain, gave a pleasing simplicity to their countenances. Some, looked arch enough and far from serious.
"Monday, March 29. Early this morning was introduced to the Chevalier Horace Vernet, principal of the French Academy; found him in the beautiful gardens of the Academy. He came in a neglige dress, a cap, or rather turban, of various colors, a parti-colored belt, and a cloak. He received me kindly, walked through the antique gallery of casts, a long room and a splendid collection selected with great judgment.
"Wednesday, March 31. Early this morning was waked by the roar of a cannon; learned that it was the anniversary of the present Pope's election. Went to the Vatican; the colonnade was filled with the carriages of the cardinals; that of the new English cardinal, Weld, was the most showy.
"Thursday, April 1. Went in the evening to the soiree of the Chevalier Vernet, director of the French Academy. He is a gentleman of elegant manners and sees at his soirees the first society in Rome. His wife is highly accomplished and his daughter is a beautiful girl, full of vivacity, and speaks English fluently.... During the evening there was music; his daughter played on the piano and others sang. There was chess, and, at a sideboard, a few played cards. The style was simple, every one at ease like our soirees in America. Several noblemen and dignitaries of the Church were present."
On April 4, Palm Sunday, he attended the services at the Sistine Chapel, which he found rather tedious, with much mummery. Going from there to the cancellerie he describes the following scene:—
"Cardinal Giulio Maria della Somaglia in state on an elevated bed of cloth-of-gold and black embroidered with gold, his head on a black velvet cushion embroidered with gold, dressed in his robes as when alive. He officiated, I was told, on Ash Wednesday. Four wax-lights, two on each side of the bed; great throng of people of all grades through the suite of apartments—the cancellerie—in which he lived; they were very splendid, chiefly of crimson and gold. The cardinal has died unpopular, for he has left nothing to his servants by his will; he directed, however, that no expense should be spared in his funeral, wishing that it might be splendid, but, unfortunately for him, he has died precisely at that season of the year (the Holy Week) when alone it is impossible, according to the church customs, to give him a splendid burial."
"Wednesday, April 7. Went to the Piazza Navone, being market-day, in search of prints. The scene here is very amusing; the variety of wares exposed, and the confusion of noises and tongues, and now and then a jackass swelling the chorus with his most exquisite tones.
"At three o'clock went to St. Peter's to see ceremonies at the Sistine Chapel. Cardinals asleep; monotonous bawling, long and tedious; candles put out one by one, fifteen in number; no ceremonies at the altar; cardinals present nineteen in number; seven yawns from the cardinals; tiresome and monotonous beyond description.
"After three hours of this most tiresome chant, all the candles having been extinguished, the celebrated Miserere commenced. It is, indeed, sublime, but I think loses much of its effect from the fatigue of body, and mind, too, in which it is heard by the auditors. The Miserere is the composition of the celebrated Allegri, and for giving the effect of wailing and lamentation, without injury to harmony, it is one of the most perfect of compositions. The manner of sustaining a strain of concord by new voices, now swelling high, now gradually dying away, now sliding imperceptibly into discord and suddenly breaking into harmony, is admirable. The imagination is alive and fancies thousands of people in the deepest contrition. It closed by the cardinals clapping their hands for the earthquake."
On April 8 (Holy Thursday), Morse went early with Mr. Fenimore Cooper and other Americans to St. Peter's. After describing some of the preliminary ceremonies he continues:—
"Having examined the splendid chair in which he was to be borne, and while he was robing in another apartment, we found that, although we might have a complete view of the Pope and the ceremonies before and after the benediction, yet the principal effect was to be seen below. We therefore left our place at the balcony, where we could see nothing but the crowd, and hastened below. On passing into the hall we were so fortunate as to be just in season for the procession from the Sistine Chapel to the Pauline. The cardinals walked in procession, two and two, and one bore the host, while eight bearers held over him a rich canopy of silver tissue embroidered with gold.
"Thence we hastened to the front of St. Peter's, where, in the centre upon the highest step, we had an excellent view of the balcony, and, turning round, could see the immense crowd which had assembled in the piazza and the splendid square of troops which were drawn up before the steps of the church. Here I had scarcely time to make a hasty sketch, in the broiling sun, of the window and its decorations, before the precursors of the Pope, the two large feather fans, made their appearance on each side of the balcony, which was decorated with crimson and gold, and immediately after the Pope, with his mitre of gold tissue and his splendid robes of gold and jewels, was borne forward, relieving finely from the deep crimson darkness behind him. He made the usual sign of blessing, with his two fingers raised. A book was then held before him in which he read, with much motion of his head, for a minute. He then rose, extending both his arms—this was the benediction—while at the same moment the soldiers and crowd all knelt; the cannon from the Castle of St. Angelo was discharged, and the bells in all the churches rang a simultaneous peal.
"The effect was exceedingly grand, the most imposing of all the ceremonies I have witnessed. The Pope was then borne back again. Two papers were thrown from the balcony for which there was a great scramble among the crowd."
On Friday, April 9 (Good Friday), many of the ceremonies so familiar to visitors to Rome during Holy Week are described at length in the notebooks, but I shall omit most of these. The following note, however, seems worthy of being recorded:—
"On our way to St. Peter's I ought to have noticed our visit to a palace in which another cardinal (the third who has died within a few days) was lying in state—Cardinal Bertazzoli.
"It is a singular fact, of which I was informed, that about the same time last year three cardinals died, and that it was a common remark that when one died two more soon followed, and the Pope always created three cardinals at a time."
"Friday, April 16. At the Vatican all day. I went to the soiree of the Signor Persianis in the evening. Here I had the pleasure of meeting for the first line with the Chevalier Thorwaldsen, the great Danish sculptor, the first now living. He is an old man in appearance having a profusion of grey hair, wildly hanging over his forehead and ears. His face has a strong Northern character, his eyes are light grey, and his complexion sandy; he is a large man of perfectly unassuming manners and of most amiable deportment. Daily receiving homage from all the potentates of Europe, he is still without the least appearance of ostentation. He readily assented to a request to sit for his portrait which I hope soon to take.
"Tuesday, April 27. My birthday. How time flies and to how little purpose have I lived!!
"Wednesday, April 28. I have noticed a difference in manners between the English, French, and Americans. If you are at the house of a friend and should happen to meet Englishmen who are strangers to you, no introduction takes place unless specially requested. The most perfect indifference is shown towards you by these strangers, quite as much as towards a chair or table. Should you venture a word in the general conversation, they might or might not, as the case may be, take notice of it casually, but coldly and distantly, and even if they should so far relax as to hold a conversation with you through the evening, the moment they rise to go all recognition ceases; they will take leave of every one else, but as soon think of bowing to the chair they had left as to you.
"A Frenchman, on the contrary, respectfully salutes all in the room, friends and strangers alike. He seems to take it for granted that the friends of his friend are at least entitled to respect if not to confidence, and without reserve he freely enters into conversation with you, and, when he goes, he salutes all alike, but no acquaintance ensues.
"An American carries his civility one step further; if he meets you afterwards, in other company, the fact that he has seen you at this friend's and had an agreeable chit-chat is introduction enough, and, unless there is something peculiar in your case, he will ever after know you and be your friend. This is not the case with the two former.
"The American is in this, perhaps, too unsuspicious and the others may have good reasons for their mode, but that of the Americans has more of generous sincerity and frankness and kindness in it.
"Friday, April 30. Painting all day except two hours at the Colonna Palace—Landi's pictures—horrible!! How I was disappointed. I had heard Landi, the Chevalier Landi, lauded to the skies by the Italians as the greatest modern colorist. He was made a chevalier, elected a member of the Academy at Florence and of the Academy of St. Luke in Rome, and there were his pictures which I was told I must by all means see. They are not merely bad, they are execrable. There is not a redeeming point in a single picture that I saw, not one that would have placed him on a level with the commonest sign-painter in America. His largest work in his rooms at present is the 'Departure of Mary Queen of Scots from Paris.' The story is not told; the figures are not grouped but huddled together; they are not well-drawn individually; the character is vulgar and tame; there is no taste in the disposal of the drapery and ornaments, no effect of chiaroscuro. It is flimsy and misty, and, as to color, the quality to which I was specially directed, if total disregard of arrangement, if the scattering of tawdry reds and blues and yellows over the picture, all quarrelling for the precedence; if leather complexions varied by those of chalk, without truth or depth or tone, constitute good color, then are they finely colored. But, if Landi is a colorist, then are Titian and Veronese never more to be admired. In short, I have never met with the works of an artist who had a name like Landi's so utterly destitute of even the shadow of merit. There is but one word which can express their character, they are execrable!
"It is astonishing that with such works of the old masters before them as the Italians have, they should not perceive the defects of their own painters in this particular. Cammuccini is the only one among them who possesses genius in the higher departments, and he only in drawing; his color is very bad.
"A funeral procession passed the house to-day. On the bier, exposed as is customary here, was a beautiful young girl, apparently of fifteen, dressed in rich laces and satins embroidered with gold and silver and flowers tastefully arranged, and sprinkled also with real flowers, and at her head was placed a coronet of flowers. She had more the appearance of sleep than of death. No relative appeared near her; the whole seemed to be conducted by the priests and monks and those hideous objects in white hoods, with faces covered except two holes for the eyes."
In early May, Morse, in company with other artists, went on a sketching trip to Tivoli, Subiaco, Vico, and Vara. This must have been one of the happiest periods of his life. He was in Italy, the cradle of the art he loved; he was surrounded by beauty, both natural and that wrought by the hand of man; he had daily intercourse with congenial souls, and home, with its cares and struggles, seemed far away. His notebooks are largely filled with simple descriptions of the places visited, but now and then he indulges in rhapsody. At Subiaco he comes upon this scene:—
"Upon a solitary seat (a fit place for meditation and study), by a gate which shut the part of the terrace near the convent from that which goes round the hill, sat a monk with his book. He seemed no further disturbed by my passing than to give me the usual salutation.
"I stopped at a little distance from him to look around and down into the chasm below. It was enchanting in spite of the atmosphere of the sirocco. The hills covered with woods, at a distance, reminded me of my own country, fresh and variegated; the high peaks beyond were grey from distance, and the sides of the nearer mountains were marked with many a winding track, down one of which a shepherd and his sheep were descending, looking like a moving pathway. No noise disturbed the silence but the distant barking of the shepherd's dog (as he, like a busy marshal, kept the order of his procession unbroken) mixing with the faint murmuring of the waterfall and the song of the birds that inhabited the ilex grove. It was altogether a place suited to meditation, and, were it consistent with those duties which man owes his fellow man, here would be the spot to which one, fond of study and averse to the noise and bustle of the world, would love to retire."
Returning to Rome on June 3, after enjoying to the full this excursion, from which he brought back many sketches, he found the city given over to ceremony after ceremony connected with the Church. Saint's day followed saint's day, each with its appropriate (or, from the point of view of the New Englander, inappropriate) pageant; or some new church was dedicated and the nights made brilliant with wonderful pyrotechnical displays. He went often with pleasure to the Trinita di Monti, where the beautiful singing of the nuns gave him special pleasure.
Commenting sarcastically on a display of fireworks in honor of St. Francesco Caracciolo, he says:—
"As far as whizzing serpents, wheels, port-fires, rockets, and other varieties of pyrotechnic art could set forth the humility of the saint, it was this night brilliantly displayed."
And again, in describing the procession of the Corpus Domini, "the most splendid of all the church ceremonies," it is this which particularly impresses him:—
"Next came monks of the Franciscan and Capuchin orders, with their brown dresses and heads shaved and such a set of human faces I never beheld. They seemed, many of them, like disinterred corpses, for a moment reanimated to go through this ceremony, and then to sink back again into their profound sleep. Pale and haggard and unearthly, the wild eye of the visionary and the stupid stare of the idiot were seen among them, and it needed no stretch of the imagination to find in most the expression of the worst passions of our nature. They chanted as they went, their sepulchral voices echoing through the vaulted piazza, while the bell of St. Peter's, tolling a deep bass drone, seemed a fitting accompaniment for their hymns."
Later, on this same day, while watching a part of the ceremonies on the Gorso, he has this rather disagreeable experience:—
"I was standing close to the side of the house when, in an instant, without the slightest notice, my hat was struck off to the distance of several yards by a soldier, or rather a poltroon in a soldier's costume, and this courteous manoeuvre was performed with his gun and bayonet, accompanied with curses and taunts and the expression of a demon in his countenance.
"In cases like this there is no redress. The soldier receives his orders to see that all hats are off in this religion of force, and the manner is left to his discretion. If he is a brute, as was the case in this instance, he may strike it off; or, as in some other instances, if the soldier be a gentleman, he may ask to have it taken off. There was no excuse for this outrage on all decency, to which every foreigner is liable and which is not of infrequent occurrence. The blame lies after all, not so much with the pitiful wretch who perpetrates this outrage, as it does with those who gave him such base and indiscriminate orders."
JUNE 17, 1830—FEBRUARY 2, 1831
Working hard.—Trip to Genzano.—Lake of Nemi.—Beggars.—Curious festival of flowers at Genzano.—Night on the Campagna.—Heat in Rome.— Illumination of St. Peter's.—St. Peter's Day.—Vaults of the Church.— Feebleness of Pope.—Morse and companions visit Naples, Capri, and Amalfi.—Charms of Amalfi.—Terrible accident.—Flippancy at funerals.— Campo Santo at Naples.—Gruesome conditions.—Ubiquity of beggars.— Convent of St. Martino.—Masterpiece of Spagnoletto.—Returns to Rome.— Faints portrait of Thorwaldsen.—Presented to him in after years by John Taylor Johnston.—Given to King of Denmark.—Reflections on the social evil and the theatre.—Death of the Pope.—An assassination.—The Honorable Mr. Spencer and Catholicism.—Election of Pope Gregory XVI.
During all these months Morse was diligently at work in the various galleries, making the copies for which he had received commissions, and the day's record almost invariably begins with "At the Colonna Palace all day"; or, "At the Vatican all day"; or wherever else he may have been working at the time.
The heat of the Roman summer seems not yet to have inconvenienced him, for he does not complain, but simply remarks: "Sun almost vertical,... houses and shops shut at noon." He has this to say of an Italian institution: "Lotteries in Rome make for the Government eight thousand scudi per week; common people venture in them; are superstitious and consult cabaliste or lucky numbers; these tolerated as they help sell the tickets."
While working hard, he occasionally indulged himself in a holiday, and on June 16 he, in company with three other artists, engaged a carriage for an excursion to Albano, Aricia, and Genzano, "to witness at the latter place the celebrated festa infiorata, which occurs every year on the 17th of June."
After spending the night at Albano, which they found crowded with artists of various nationalities and with other sight-seers, "We set out for Genzano, a pleasant walk of a little more than a mile through a winding carriage-road, thickly shaded with fine trees of elm and chestnut and ilex. A little fountain by the wayside delayed us for a moment to sketch it, and we then continued our way through a straight, level, paved road, shaded on each side with trees, into the pretty village of Genzano."
Finding that the principal display was not until the afternoon, they strolled to the Lake of Nemi, "situated in a deep basin, the crater of a volcano." Those Italian lakes which he had so far seen, while lovely and especially interesting from their historical or legendary associations and the picturesque buildings on their shores, seemed to the artist (ever faithful to his native land) less naturally attractive than the lakes with which he was familiar at home—Lake George, Otsego Lake, etc. He had not yet seen Como or Maggiore. Then he touches upon the great drawback to all travelling in Italy:—
"Throughout the day, wherever we went, beggars in every shape annoyed us, nor could we scarcely hear ourselves talk when on the borders of the lake for the swarms which importuned us. A foolish Italian, in the hope probably of getting rid of them, commenced giving a mezzo biochi to each, and such a clamor, such devouring eyes, such pushing and bawling, such teasing importunity for more, and from some who had received and concealed their gift, I could not have conceived, nor do I ever wish again to see so disgusting a sight. The foolish fellow who invented this plan of satisfying an Italian beggar's appetite found to his sorrow that, instead of thanks, he obtained curses and an increase of importunity....
"After dinner we again walked to Genzano, whither we found were going great multitudes of every class; elegant equipages and vetture racing with each other; donkeys and horses and foot travellers; and not among the least striking were the numbers of women, some of whom were splendidly dressed, all riding on horseback, a foot in each stirrup, and riding with as much ease and fine horsemanship as the men.
"When we arrived at Genzano the decoration of the streets had commenced. Two of the principal and wide streets ascend a little, diverging from each other, from the left side of the common street which goes through the village. The middle of these streets was the principal scene of decoration. On each side of the centre of the street, leaving a good-sized sidewalk, were pillars at a distance of eight or nine feet from each other composed of the evergreen box and tufted at the top with every variety of flowers. They were in many places also connected by festoons of box. The pavement of the street between the pillars in both streets, and for a distance of at least one half a mile, was most exquisitely figured with flowers of various colors, looking like an immense and gorgeously figured carpet.
"The devices were in the following order which I took note of on the spot: first, a temple with four columns of yellow flowers (the flower of the broom) containing an altar on which was the Holy Sacrament. In the pediment of the temple a column surmounted by a halfmoon, which is the arms of the Colonna family. Second was a large crown. Third, the Holy Sacrament again with various rich ornaments. Fourth, stars and circles. Fifth, a splendid coat-of-arms as accurate and rich as if emblazoned in permanent colors, with a cardinal's hat and a shield with the words 'prudens' and 'fidelis' upon it."
There were twenty of these wonderful floral decorations on the pavement of one street and fourteen on that of the other and all are described in the notes, but I have particularized enough to show their character. The journal continues:—
"All these figures were as elegantly executed as if made for permanency, some with a minuteness truly astonishing. Among other decorations of the day was the free-will offering of one of the people who had it displayed at the side of his shop on a rude pedestal. It was called the 'Flight into Egypt,' and represented Joseph and Mary and the infant on an ass, and all composed of shrubs and flowers. It was, indeed, a most ludicrous-looking affair; Joseph with a face (if such it might be called) of purple flowers and a flaxen wig, dressed in a coarse pilgrim's cape studded over with yellow flowers, was leading by a hay band a green donkey, made of a kind of heath grass, with a tail of lavender and hoofs of cabbage leaves. Of this latter composition were also the sandals of Mary, whose face, as well as that of the bambino, was also of purple flowers and shapeless. The frock of the infant was of the gaudiest red poppy. It excited the laughter of almost all who saw it, except now and then some of the ignorant lower classes would touch their hats, cross themselves, and mumble a prayer."
After describing some of the picturesque costumes of the contadini, he continues:—
"It was nearly dark before the procession, to which all these preparations had reference, began to move. At length the band of music was heard at the lower end of one of the streets, and a man, in ample robes of scarlet and blue, with a staff, was seen leading the procession, which need be no further described than to say it consisted of the usual quantity of monks chanting, with wax-tapers in their hands, crosses, and heavy, unwieldy banners which endanger the heads of the multitude as they pass; of a fine band of music playing beautiful waltzes and other compositions, and a quantum suff. of men dressed in the garb of soldiers to keep the good people uncovered and on their knees.
"The head of the procession had arrived at the top of the street when— crack! pop!—went forty or fifty crackers, which had been placed against the walls of a house near us, and which added wonderfully to the solemnity of the scene, and, accordingly, were repeated every few seconds, forming a fine accompaniment to the waltzes and the chanting of the monks. In a few minutes all the beauty of the flower-carpeted street was trodden out, and the last of the procession had hardly passed before all the flowers disappeared from the pillars, and all was ruin and disorder.
"The procession halted at a temporary altar at the top of the street, and we set out on our return at the same moment down the street, facing the immense multitude which filled the whole street. We had scarcely proceeded a third of the distance down when we suddenly saw all before us uncovered and upon their knees. We alone formed an exception, and we continued our course with various hints from those around us to stop and kneel, which we answered by talking English to each other in a louder tone, and so passed for unchristian forestieri, and escaped unmolested, especially as the soldiers were all at the head of the street.
"The effect, however, was exceedingly grand of such a multitude upon their knees, and, could I have divested myself of the thought of the compulsory measures which produced it and the object to which they knelt, the picture of the Virgin, I should have felt the solemnity of a scene which seemed in the outward act to indicate such a universal reverence for Him who alone rightfully claims the homage and devotion of the heart."
Whether this curious custom still persists in Genzano I know not; Baedeker is silent on the subject.
It was nearly dark before they started on the drive back to Rome, and quite dark after they had gone a short distance.
"We passed the tombs of the Horatii and Curiatii, which looked much grander in the light of the torches than in the day, and, driving hastily through Albano, came upon the Campagna once more. It was still more like a desert in the night than in the day, for it was an interminable ocean, and the masses of ruins, coming darker than the rest, seemed like deserted wrecks upon its bosom.
"It is considered dangerous in the summer to sleep while crossing the Campagna; indeed, in certain parts of it, over the Pontine Marshes in July and August, it is said to be certain, death, but, if the traveller can keep awake, there is no danger. In spite of the fears which we naturally entertained lest it might be already dangerous, most of us could not avoid sleeping, nor could I, with every effort made for that purpose."
The days following his return to Rome were employed chiefly in copying at the Colonna Palace. The heat was now beginning to grow more oppressive, and we find this note on June 21:—
"In the cool of the morning you see the doors of the cafes thronged with people taking their coffee and sitting on chairs in the streets for some distance round. At mezzo giorno the streets are deserted, the shop-doors are closed, and all is still; they have all gone to their siesta, their midday sleep. At four o'clock all is bustle again; it seems a fresh morning; the streets and cafes are thronged and the Corso is filled with the equipages of the wealthy, enjoying till quite dark the cool of the evening air.
"The sun is now oppressively warm; the heat is unlike anything I have felt in America. There is a scorching character about it which is indescribable, and the glare of the light is exceedingly painful to the eyes. The evenings are delightful, cool and clear, showing the lustre of the stars gloriously.
"June 28. In the evening went to the piazza of St. Peter's to witness the illumination of its magnificent dome and the piazza. The change from the smaller to the larger illumination is one of the grandest spectacles I ever beheld.
"The lanterns which are profusely scattered over it, showing its whole form in lines of fire, glow brighter and brighter as the evening advances from twilight to dark, till it seems impossible for its brilliance to increase. The crowds below, on foot and in carriages, are in breathless expectation. The great bell of St. Peter's at length strikes the hour of nine, and, at the first stroke, a great ball of light is seen ascending the cross to its pinnacle. This is the signal for thousands of assistants, who are concealed over its vast extent, to light the great lamps, and in an instant all is motion, the whole mass is like a living thing, fire whirling and flashing over it in all directions, till the vast pile blazes as if lighted with a thousand suns. The effect is truly magical, for the agents by whom this change is wrought are invisible."
After the illumination of St. Peter's he went to the Castle of St. Angelo where he witnessed what he describes as the grandest display of fireworks he had ever seen.
"Tuesday, June 29. This day is St. Peter's day, the grandest festa of the Romish Church. I went with Mr. B. early to St. Peter's to see the ceremonies. The streets were filled with equipages, among which the splendid scarlet-and-gold equipages of the cardinals made the most conspicuous figure. Cardinal Weld's carriage was the richest, and next in magnificence was that of Cardinal Barberini.
"On entering St. Peter's we found it hung throughout with crimson damask and gold and filled with people, except a wide space in the centre with soldiers on each side to keep it open for the procession. We passed up near the statue of St. Peter, who was to-day dressed out in his papal robes, his black face (for it is of bronze) looking rather frightful from beneath the splendid tiara which crowned his head, and the scarlet-and-gold tissue of his robes.
"Having a little time to spare, we followed a portion of the crowd down the steps beside the pedestal of the statue of St. Veronica into the vaults beneath the church, which are illuminated on this festival. Mass was performing in several of the splendid chapels, whose rich decorations of paintings and sculpture are but once a year revealed to the light, save from the obscure glimmering of the wax-taper, which is carried by the guide, to occasional visitors. It is astonishing what a vast amount of expense is here literally buried.
"The ornamented parts are beneath the dome; the other parts are plain, heavy arches and low, almost numberless, and containing the sarcophagi of the Popes and other distinguished characters. The illumination here was confined to a single lamp over each arch, which rather made darkness visible and gave an awful effect to some of the gloomier passages.
"In one part we saw, through a long avenue of arches, an iron-grated door; within was a dim light which just sent its feeble rays upon some objects in its neighborhood, not strong enough to show what they were. It required no great effort of the imagination to fancy an emaciated, spectral figure of a monk poring over a large book which lay before him. It might have been as we imagined; we had not time to examine, for the sound of music far above us summoned us into the regions of day again, and we arrived in the body of the church just as the trumpets were sounding from the balcony within the church over the great door of entrance. The effect of the sound was very grand, reverberating through the lofty arches and aisles of the church.
"We got sight of the head of the procession coming in at the great door, and soon after the Pope, borne in his crimson chair of state, and with the triple crown upon his head and a crimson, gold-embroidered mantilla over his shoulders, was seen entering accompanied by his fan-bearers and other usual attendants, and after him the cardinals and bishops. The Pope, as usual, made the sign of the cross as he went.
"The procession passing up the great aisle went round to the back of the great altar, where was the canopy for the Pope and seats for the cardinals and bishops. The Pope is too feeble to go through the ceremony of high mass; it was, therefore, performed before him by one of the cardinals. There was nothing in this ceremony that was novel or interesting; it was the same monotonous chant from the choir, the same numberless bowings, and genuflections, and puffings of incense, and change of garments, and fussing about the altar. All that was new was the constant bustle about the Pope, kissing of his toe and his hand, helping him to rise and to sit again, bringing and taking away of cushions and robes and tiaras and mitres, and a thousand other little matters that would have enraged any man of weak nerves, if it did not kill him. After two hours of this tedious work (the people in the mean time perfectly inattentive), the ceremony ended, and the Pope was again borne through the church and the crowd returned."
On July 7, Morse, with four friends, left Rome at four o'clock in the morning for Naples, where they arrived on the 11th after the usual experiences; beggars continually marring the peaceful beauty of every scene by their importunities; good inns, with courteous landlords and servants, alternating with wretched taverns and insolent attendants. The little notebook detailing the first ten days' experiences in Naples is missing, and the next one takes up the narrative on July 24, when he and his friends are in Sorrento. I shall not transcribe his impressions of that beautiful town or those of the island of Capri. These places are too familiar to the visitor to Italy and have changed but little in the last eighty years.
Prom Capri they were rowed over to Amalfi, and narrowly escaped being dashed on the rocks by the sudden rising of a violent gale. At Amalfi they found lodgings in the Franciscan monastery, which is still used as an inn, and here I shall again quote from the journal:—
"The place is in decay and is an excellent specimen of their monastic buildings. It is now in as romantic a state as the most poetic imagination could desire. Here are gloomy halls and dark and decayed rooms; long corridors of chambers, uninhabited except by the lizard and the bat; terraces upon the brow of stupendous precipices; gloomy cells with grated windows, and subterranean apartments and caverns. Remains of rude frescoes stain the crumbling ceiling, and ivy and various wild plants hang down from the opening crevices and cover the tops of the broken walls.
"A rude sundial, without a gnomon, is almost obliterated from the wall of the cloisters, but its motto, 'Dies nostri quasi umbra super terram et nulli est mora', still resists the effects of decay, as if to serve the appropriate purpose of the convent's epitaph. At the foot of the long stairs in the great hall is the ruined chapel, its altar broken up and despoiled of its pictures and ornaments.
"We were called to dinner by our host, who was accompanied by his wife, a very pretty woman, two children, the elder carried by the mother, the younger by the old grandparent, an old man of upwards of eighty, who seemed quite pleased with his burden and delighted to show us his charge. The whole family quite prepossessed us in their favor; there seemed to be an unusual degree of affection displayed by the members towards each other which we could not but remark at the time. Our dining apartment was the old domus refectionis of the convent, as its name, written over the door which led into the choir, manifested. After an excellent dinner we retired to our chambers for the night.
"Tuesday, July 27. We all rested but badly last night. The heat was excessive, the insects, especially mosquitoes, exceedingly troublesome, and the sound of the waves, as they beat against the rocks and chafed the beach in the gusty night, and the howling of the wind, which for a time moaned through the deserted chambers of the convent, all made us restless. I rose several times in the night and, opening my window, looked out on the dark waters of the bay, till the dawn over the mountains warned me that the time for sleep was passing away, and I again threw myself on the bed to rest. But scarcely had I lost myself in sleep before the sound of loud voices below and wailings again waked me. I looked out of my window on the balcony below; it was filled with armed men; soldiers and others like brigands with muskets were in hurried commotion, calling to each other from the balcony and from the terraced steps below.
"While perplexed in conjecturing the meaning of what I saw, Mr. C. called at my door requesting me to rise, as the whole house was in agitation at a terrible accident which had occurred in the night. Dressing in great haste, I went into the contiguous room and, looking out of the window down upon a terrace some thirty feet below, saw the lifeless body of a man, with spots of blood upon his clothes, lying across the font of water. A police officer with a band of men appeared, taking down in writing the particulars for a report. On enquiry I found that the body was that of the old man, the father of our host, whom we had seen the evening before in perfect health. He had the dangerous habit of walking in his sleep and had jumped, it is supposed, in that state out of his chamber window which was directly beneath us; at what time in the night was uncertain. His body must have been beneath me while I was looking from my window in the night.
"Our host, but particularly his brother, seemed for a time almost inconsolable. The lamentations of the latter over the bloody body (as they were laying it out in the room where we had the evening before dined), calling upon his father and mingling his cries with a chant to the Virgin and to the saints, were peculiarly plaintive, and, sounding through the vacant halls of the convent, made a melancholy impression upon us all.... Soon after breakfast we went downstairs; several priests and funeral attendants had arrived; the poor old man was laid upon a bed, the room darkened, and four wax-lights burned, two each side of the bed. A short time was taken in preparation, and then upon a bier borne by four bearers, a few preceding it with wax-lights, the body, with the face exposed, as is usual in Italy, was taken down the steep pathway to its long home.
"I could not help remarking the total want of that decent deportment in all those officiating which marks the conduct of those that attend the interment of the dead in our own country. Even the priests 'seemed to be in high glee, talking and heartily laughing with each other; at what it perplexed me to conjecture.
"I went into the room in which the old man had slept; all was as he had left it. Over the head of the bed were the rude prints of the Virgin and saints, which are so common in all the houses of Italy, and which are supposed to act as charms by these superstitious people. The lamp was on the window ledge where he had placed it, and his scanty wardrobe upon a chair by the bedside. Over the door was a sprig of laurel, placed there since his death.
"The accident of the morning threw a gloom over the whole day; we, however, commenced our sketches from different parts of the convent, and I commenced a picture, a view of Amalfi from the interior of the grotto."
Several of the notebooks are here missing, and from the next in order we find that the travellers must have lingered in or near Sorrento until August 30, when they returned to Naples.
The next entry of interest, while rather gruesome, seems to be worth recording.
"Wednesday, September 1. Morning painting. In the afternoon took a ride round the suburbs and visited the Campo Santo. The Campo Santo is the public burial-place. It is a large square enclosure having high walls at the sides and open at the top. It contains three hundred and sixty vaults, one of which is opened every day to receive the dead of that day, and is not again opened until all the others in rotation have been opened.
"As we entered the desolate enclosure the only living beings were three miserable-looking old women gathered together upon the stone of one of the vaults. They sat as if performing some incantation, mumbling their prayers and counting their beads; and one other of the same fraternity, who had been kneeling before a picture, left her position as we entered and knelt upon another of the vaults, where she remained all the time we were present, telling her beads.
"At the farther end of the enclosure was a large portable lever to raise the stones which covered the vaults. Upon the promise of a few grains the stone of the vault for the day was raised, and, with the precaution of holding our kerchiefs to our noses, we looked down into the dark vault. Death is sufficiently terrible in itself, and the grave in its best form has enough of horror to make the stoutest heart quail at the thought, but nothing I have seen or read of can equal the Campo Santo for the most loathsome and disgusting mode of burial. The human, carcasses of all ages and sexes are here thrown in together to a depth of, perhaps, twenty feet, without coffins, in heaps, most of them perfectly naked, and left to corrupt in a mass, like the offal from a slaughter house. So disgusting a spectacle I never witnessed. There were in sight about twenty bodies, men, women, and children. A child of about six years, with beautiful fair hair, had fallen across the body of a man and lay in the attitude of sleeping.
"But I cannot describe the positions of all without offence, so I forbear. We were glad to turn away and retrace our steps to our carriage. Never, I believe, in any country, Christian or pagan, is there an instance of such total want of respect for the remains of the dead."
On September 5, he again reverts to the universal plague of beggars in Italy:—
"In passing through the country you may not take notice of a pretty child or seem pleased with it; so soon as you do the mother will instantly importune you for 'qualche cosa' for the child. Neither can you ask for a cup of cold water at a cottage door, nor ask the way to the next village, nor even make the slightest inquiry of a peasant on any subject, but the result will be 'qualche cosa, signore.' The first act which a child is taught in Italy is to hold out its hand to beg. Children too young to speak I have seen holding out their little hands for that purpose, and so mechanical is this action that I have seen, in one instance, a boy of nine years nodding in his sleep and yet at regular intervals extending his hand to beg. Begging is here no disgrace; on the contrary, it is made respectable by the customs of the Church."
On September 6, after visiting the catacombs, he goes to the Convent of St. Martino, and indulges in this rhapsody:—
"From a terrace and balcony two views of the beautiful scenery of the city and bay are obtained. From the latter place especially you look down upon the city which is spread like a model far beneath you. There is a great deal of the sublime in thus looking down upon a populous city; one feels for the time separated from the concerns of the world.
"We forget, while we consider the insignificance of that individual man, moving in yonder street and who is scarcely visible to us, that we ourselves are equally insignificant. It is in such a situation that the superiority of the mind over the body is felt. Paradoxical as it may at first seem, its greatness is evinced in the feeling of its own littleness.... After gazing here for a while we were shown into the chapel through the choir.... In the sacristy is a picture of a dead Christ with the three Marys and Joseph, by Spagnoletto, not only the finest picture by that master, but I am quite inclined to say that it is the finest picture I have yet seen. There is in it a more perfect union of the great qualities of art,—fine conception, just design, admirable disposition of chiaroscuro, exquisite color,—whether truth is considered or choice of tone in congruity with the subject's most masterly execution and just character and expression. If any objection were to be made it would, perhaps, be in the particular of character, which, in elevation, in ideality, falls far short of Raphael. In other points it has not its superior."
Returning to Rome on September 14, the only entries I find in the journal for the first few days are, "Painting all day at home," and a short account of a soiree at the Persianis'.
"Monday, September 20. Began the portrait of the celebrated sculptor Thorwaldsen. He is a most amiable man and is universally respected. He was never married. In early life he had two children by a mistress; one, a daughter, is now in a convent. It was said that a noble lady of England, of great fortune, became attached to him, and he no less to her, but that the circumstance of his having two illegitimate children prevented a marriage. He is the greatest sculptor of the age. I have studied his works; they are distinguished for simple dignity, just expression, and truth in character and design. The composition is also characterized by simplicity. These qualities combined endow them with that beauty which we so much admire in the works of Greece, whether in literature or art. Thorwaldsen cannot be said to imitate the antique; he rather seems to be one born in the best age of Grecian art; imbued with the spirit of that age, and producing from his own resources kindred works."
The following letter was written by Morse before he left Rome for Naples, but can be more appropriately introduced at this point:—
TO THE CAVALIER THORWALDSEN,
MY DEAR SIR,—I had hoped to have the pleasure of painting your portrait, for which you were so good as to promise to sit, before I left Rome for Naples; but the weather is becoming so oppressive, and there being a party of friends about to travel the same road, I have consented to join them. I shall return to Rome in September or October, and I therefore beg you will allow me then to claim the fulfilment of your kind promise.
What a barrier, my dear sir, is difference of language to social intercourse! I never felt the curse that befell the architects of Babel so sensibly as now, since, as one of the effects of their folly, I am debarred from the gratification and profit which I had promised myself in being known to you.
With highest respect, etc.
Curiously enough, Morse never learned to speak a foreign language fluently, although he could read quite easily French and, I believe, German and Italian, and from certain passages in his journal we infer that he could make himself understood by the Italians.
The portrait of Thorwaldsen was completed and became the property of Philip Hone, Esq., who had given Morse a commission to paint a picture for one hundred dollars, the subject to be left to the discretion of the artist. Mr. Hone valued the portrait highly, and it remained in his gallery until his death. It was then sold and Morse lost track of it for many years. In 1868, being particularly desirous of gaining possession of it again, for a purpose which is explained in a letter quoted a little farther on, he instituted a search for it, and finally learned that it had been purchased by Mr. John Taylor Johnston for four hundred dollars. Before he could enter into negotiations for its purchase, Mr. Johnston heard of his desire to possess it, and of his reasons for this wish, and he generously insisted on presenting it to Morse.
I shall now quote the following extracts from a letter written in Dresden, on January 23, 1868, to Mr. Johnston:—
MY DEAR SIR,—Your letter of the 6th inst. is this moment received, in which I have been startled by your most generous offer presenting me with my portrait of the renowned Thorwaldsen, for which he sat to me in Rome in 1831.
I know not in what terms, my dear sir, to express to you my thanks for this most acceptable gift. I made an excursion to Copenhagen in the summer of 1856, as a sort of devout pilgrimage to the tombs of two renowned Danes, whose labors in their respective departments—the one, Oersted, of science, the other, Thorwaldsen, of art—have so greatly enriched the world.
The personal kindness of the late King Frederick VII, who courteously received me at his castle of Fredericksborg, through the special presentation of Colonel Raslof (more recently the Danish Minister at Washington); the hospitalities of many of the principal citizens of Copenhagen; the visits to the tomb and museum of the works of Thorwaldsen, and to the room in which the immortal Oersted made his brilliant electro-magnetic discovery; the casual and accidental introduction and interview with a daughter of Oersted,—all created a train of reflection which prompted me to devise some suitable mode of showing to these hospitable people my appreciation of their friendly attentions, and I proposed to myself the presentation to His Majesty the King of Denmark of this portrait of Thorwaldsen, for which he sat to me in Rome, and with which I knew he was specially pleased.
My desire to accomplish this purpose was further strengthened by the additional attention of the King at a later period in sending me the decoration of his order of the Danebrog. From the moment this purpose was formed, twelve years ago, I have been desirous of obtaining this portrait, and watching for the opportunity of possessing it again.
Here follows a detailed account of the circumstances of the painting of the portrait and of its disappearance, with which we are familiar, and he closes by saying:—
"This brief history will show you, my dear sir, what a boon you have conferred upon me. Indeed, it seems like a dream, and if my most cordial thanks, not merely for the gift, but for the graceful and generous manner in which it has been offered, is any compensation, you may be sure they are yours.
"These are no conventional words, but they come from a heart that can gratefully appreciate the noble sentiments which have prompted your generous act."
Returning from this little excursion into later years, I shall take up the narrative again as revealed in the notebooks. While occasionally visiting the opera and the theatre, Morse does not altogether approve of them, and, on September 21, he indulges in the following reflections on them and on the social evil:—
"No females of openly dissolute character were seen, such as occupy particular parts of the theatre in England and America. Indeed, they never appear on the streets of Rome in that unblushing manner as in London, and even in New York and Philadelphia. It must not from hence be inferred that vice is less frequent here than elsewhere; there is enough of it, but it is carried on in secret; it is deeper and preys more on the vitals of society than with us. This vice with us, like a humor on the skin, deforms the surface, but here it infects the very heart; the whole system is affected; it is rotten to the core.
"Theatres here and with us are different institutions. Here, where thousands for want of thought, or rather matter for thought, would die of ennui, where it is an object to escape from home and even from one's self, the theatre serves the purpose of a momentary excitement. A new piece, a new performer, furnishes matter for conversation and turns off the mind from the discussion of points of theology or politics. The theatre is therefore encouraged by the Government and is guarded against the abuses of popular assemblage by strong military guards.
"But what have we to do with theatres in America? Have we not the whole world of topics for discussion or conversation open to us? Is not truth in religion, politics, and science suffered to be assailed by enemies freely, and does it not, therefore, require the time of all intelligent men to study, and understand, and defend, and fortify themselves in truth? Have we time to throw away?
"More than this, have we not homes where domestic endearments charm us, where domestic duties require our attention, where the relations of wife, of husband, of children have the ties of mutual affection and mutual confidence to attach us to our firesides? Need we go abroad for amusement? Can the theatre, with all its tinsel finery, attract away from home the man who has once tasted the bliss of a happy family circle? Is there no pleasure in seeing that romping group of children, in the heyday of youth, amuse themselves ere they go to rest; is there no pleasure in studying the characters of your little family as they thus undisguisedly display themselves, and so give you the opportunity of directing their minds to the best advantage? Is there no amusement in watching the development of the infant mind and in assisting its feeble efforts?
"He must be of most unsocial mould who can leave the thousand charms of home to pass those precious hours in the noxious atmosphere of a theatre, there to be excited, to return at midnight, to rise from a late bed, to pass the best hours of the day in a feverish reverie succeeded by the natural depression which is sure to follow, and to crave a renewed indulgence. Repeated renewal causes indifference and ennui to succeed, till excitement is no longer produced, but gives place to a habit of listless indifference, or a spirit of captious criticism.
"Monday, November 8, 1830. A year to-day since I left home.
"Tuesday, November 9. Ignorance at post-office. Sent letters for United States to England, because the United States belong to England!
"Wednesday, December 1. Many reports for some days past prepared us for the announcement of the death of the Pope, Pius VIII, who died last evening at nine o'clock at the Quirinal Palace."
The ceremonies connected with the funeral of the dead Pope and with the choice of his successor are described at great length, and the eye of the artist was fascinated by the wealth of color and the pomp, while his Protestant soul was wearied and disgusted by the tediousness and mummery of the ceremonials.