From: At Home and Abroad, or Things and Thoughts in Europe (1856)
Author: Margaret Fuller Ossoli
Published: and Company 1856 Boston
I AM again in Rome, situated for the first time entirely to my mind, I have only one room, but large; and everything about the bed so gracefully and adroitly disposed that it makes a beautiful parlor,—and of course I pay much less. I have the sun all day, and an excellent chimney. It is very high, and has pure air and the most beautiful view all around imaginable. Add, that I am with the dearest, delightful old couple one can imagine,—quick, prompt, and kind, sensible and contented. Having no children. they like to regard me and the Prussian sculptor, my neighbor, as such; yet are too delicate and too busy ever to intrude. In the attic dwells a priest, who insists on making my fire when Antonia is away. To be sure, he pays himself fur his trouble by asking a great many questions. . . . . .
You cannot conceive the enchantment of this place. So much I suffered here last Janary and February, I thought myself a little weaned; but returning, my heart swelled even to tears with the cry of the poet,
“O Rome, my country, city of the soul!”
Those have not lived who have not seen Rome. Warned, however, by the last winter, I dared not rent my lodgings for the year. I hope I am acclimated. I have been through what is called the grape-cure, much more charming, certainly, than the water-cure. At present I am very well, but, alas! because I have gone to bed early, and done very little. I do not know if I can maintain any labor. As to my life, I think it is not the will of Heaven it should terminate very soon. I have had another strange escape.
I had taken passage in the diligence to come to Rome; two rivers were to be passed, the Turano and the Tiber, but passed by good bridges, and a road excellent when not broken unexpectedly by torrents from the mountains. The diligence sets out between three and four in the morning, long before light. The director sent me word that the Marchioness Crispoldi had taken for herself and family a coach extraordinary, which would start two hours later, and that I could have a place in that if I liked; so I accepted. The weather had been beautiful, but on the eve of the day fixed for my departure, the wind rose, and the rain fell in torrents. I observed that the river, which passed my window, was much swollen, and rushed with great violence. In the night I heard its voice still stronger, and felt glad I had not to set out in the dark. I rose at twilight and was expecting my carriage, and wondering at its delay, when I heard that the great diligence, several miles below, had been seized by a torrent; the horses were up to their necks in water, before any one dreamed of danger. The postilion called on all the saints, and threw himself into the water. The door of the diligence could not be opened, and the passengers forced themselves, one after another, into the cold water; it was dark too. Had I been there, I had fared ill. A pair of strong men were ill after it, though all escaped with life.
For several days there was no going to Rome; but at last we set forth in two great diligences with all the horses of the route. For many miles the mountains and ravines were covered with snow; I seemed to have returned to my own country and climate. Few miles were passed before the conductor injured his leg under the wheel, and I had the pain of seeing him suffer all the way, while “Blood of Jesus!” and “Souls in Purgatory!” was the mildest beginning of an answer to the jeers of the postilions upon his paleness. We stopped at a miserable osteria, in whose cellar we found a magnificent relic of Cyclopean architecture,—as indeed in Italy one is paid at every step for discomfort and danger, by some precious subject of thought. We proceeded very slowly, and reached just at night a solitary little inn which marks the site of the ancient homo of the Sabine Virgins, snatched away to become the mothers of Rome. We were there saluted with the news that the Tiber also had overflowed its banks, and it was very doubtful if we could pass. But what else to do? There were no accommodations in the house for thirty people, or even for three; and to sleep in the carriages, in that wet air of the marshes, was a more certain danger than to attempt the passage. So we set forth; the moon, almost at the full, smiling sadly on the ancient grandeurs half draped in mist, and anon drawing over her face a thin white veil. As we approached the Tibur, the towers and domes of Rome could be seen, like a cloud lying low on the horizon. The road and the meadows, alike under water, lay between us and it, one sheet of silver. The horses entered; they behaved nobly. We proceeded, every moment uncertain if the water would not become deep; but the scene was beautiful, and I enjoyed it highly. I have never yet felt afraid, when really in the presence of danger, though sometimes in its apprehension.
At last we entered the gate; the diligence stopping to be examined, I walked to the gate of Villa Ludovisi, and saw its rich shrubberies of myrtle, so pale and eloquent in the moonlight. . . . . .
My dear friend, Madame Arconati, has shown me generous love; a Contadina, whom I have known this summer, hardly less. Every Sunday she came in her holiday dress, a beautiful corset of red silk, richly embroidered, rich petticoat, nice shoes and stockings, and handsome coral necklace, on one arm an immense basket of grapes, on the other a pair of live chickens to be eaten by me for her sake (“per amore mio”), and wanted no present, no reward: it was, as she said, “for the honor and pleasure of her acquaintance.” The old father of the family never met me but he took off his hat, and said, “Madame, it is to me a consolation to see you.” Are there not sweet flowers of affection in life, glorious moments, great thoughts? Why must they be so dearly paid for?
Many Americans have shown me great and thoughtful kindness, and none more so than William Story and his wife. They are now in Florence, but may return. I do not know whether I shall stay here or not: I shall be guided much by the state of my health.
All is quieted now in Rome. Late at night the Pope had to yield, but not till the door of his palace was half burned, and his confessor killed. This man, Parma, provoked his fate by firing on the people from a window. It seems the Pope never gave order to fire; his guard acted from a sudden impulse of their own. The new ministry chosen are little inclined to accept. It is almost impossible for any one to act, unless the Pope is stripped of his temporal power, and the hour for that is not yet quite ripe; though they talk more and more of proclaiming the Republic, and even of calling to Rome my friend Mazzini.
If I came home at this moment, I should feel as if forced to leave my own house, my own people, and the hour which I had always longed for. If I do come in this way, all I can promise is to plague other people as little as possible. My own plans and desires will be postponed to another world.
Do not feel anxious about me. Some higher Power leads me through strange, dark, thorny paths, broken at times by glades opening down into prospects of sunny beauty, into which I am not permitted to enter. If God disposes for us, it is not for nothing. This I can say: my heart is in some respects better, it is kinder, and more humble. Also, my mental acquisitions have certainly been great, however inadequate to my desires.
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