Chapter IX. Florence and the Brownings.

From: The Life and Letters of Christopher Pearse Cranch (1917)
Author: Leonora Cranch Scott
Published: Houghton Mifflin Company 1917 Boston


FROM the Autobiography:—

  We left Naples for Florence on September 24. We had intended returning to Rome, but affairs were getting too disturbed in that region, and we were advised not to go there. We left in a little steamer, stopping at Civita Vecchia and Leghorn; we had bad weather and a rather miserable time on the way, and were dreadfully imposed upon by the boatmen and porters, and bothered by the custom-house officers.

  As soon as possible George and I sallied out with a loquacious, stupid old valet de place who pretended he could speak English,—and made what use of our time and eyes we could. Called on Powers, found him in his workshop in working dress. He received us very cordially and seemed just as he did nine years ago when I knew him in Washington. We saw the model of his Eve, a bust of Proserpine, a bust of the Grand Duchess, his boy holding the shell to his ear, a duplicate of his Greek Slave not quite finished, and the rough model in clay of a statue of J.C. Calhoun for Charleston. His Greek Slave seems to me as near perfection as can be. I cannot imagine anything more exquisitely beautiful. . . .

  Near sunset we went into the Duomo—the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore. It was beautiful and holy at this hour, the sun illuminating all the rich old stained glass windows, and shooting down level bars of light from the dome,—the lamps on the altar and the chanting and responses of the kneeling groups scattered about over the wide floor. . . .

  One evening at twilight we all went into the San Frediano at vespers. The chanting of the boys behind the altar, answered by the voluntaries of the organ, whose softer stops were peculiarly rich, was very impressive. The kneeling crowd seemed really devotional beneath these glorious arches, this fine music and the gathering shades of evening. . . . There was one prayer, one tranquil aspiration from the hearts of all. There is something exceedingly impressive in seeing the old, the poor and infirm, come up and kneel without distinction of place, beside the rich and the beautiful. Here is one place,—and that the holiest, the most beautiful, the most fitted to awaken and keep alive devotional feeling,—where all can meet as on common ground.

  We have excellent lodgings—in a central part of the city, near the Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia dei Lanzi. From our windows looking up the street we see Michael Angelo’s “David.”1 Within a minute’s walk is this and a number of other celebrated statues.

  Looking over my journal, I find that we enjoyed Florence much. We went to the opera, heard “Saffo” by Pacini and “Don Procopio” by Fiorovanti, which we liked, but were much disgusted with the Italian fashion of introducing the ballet between the acts. I remember that sometimes we went with our friends Frank Boott and the Storys, and would go away when the ballet came to Boott’s house where we had supper, and returned to finish the opera. The ballet is intolerable enough in itself, but when it interrupts and breaks the flow of a good opera, it becomes past all endurance. So that it requires the extremest stretch of patience to sit it through, in order to hear the last act of the opera. And yet the corrupt taste of the Italians is carried so far that they will fall into the noisiest displays of enthusiasm at the dancers, surpassing all their bravos excited by the music and singing. It suffices that they are amused; that is enough for an Italian. The cause is of little consequence.

  I went one day to the studio of Bartolini, a sculptor of some reputation at that time. There was the same repetition of the antique that marks all the work of the Italians. An Eve, with the Serpent, reclining dejected after her fall, was quite good. A bust of Lord Byron interested me as expressing that curious combination of qualities in his character. There were his fine sensitiveness, his pride, his discontent, his sensuousness, his ideality, and his hard, practical worldliness, all mingled in the face. I don’t know how it ranks with Thorwaldsen’s, which I have never seen. I remember that Byron somewhere in one of his letters speaks of this bust as making him look like “a superannuated Jesuit.”

  I find that I was much impressed by the busts of our countryman, Hiram Powers. I thought I had seen nothing to compare with them for truth and expression. With Powers himself as a bright, genial, friendly man, I was much taken. He was full of pleasant anecdote and fun. His wife too, we found very agreeable. We saw a good deal also of Horatio Greenough, who stood high as a sculptor, and enjoyed much his society and that of his wife. With the Storys we were intimate.

  It is needless to say how we enjoyed the fine galleries, the Pitti, and the Uffizzi. We were much impressed with the grand statues of Michael Angelo at the Chapel of the Medici family in the Church of San Lorenzo; and with the frescoes of Masaccio in the Carmelite Chapel or Church of the Brancacci. They are truly wonderful. For simplicity and truth to nature I have seen nothing of Raphael which surpasses the marked individuality and character of these figures and faces. Every head seemed a portrait, and no single figure or face but tells part of the story. And yet these were painted before the time of, Leonardo da Vinci and almost a century before Raphael. They furnished studies and subjects for all the best masters who succeeded Masaccio; and showed a tremendous stride in advance of the dry, stiff compositions of his predecessors in art. Yet they were painted by a young man who died at the age of twenty-seven.

  January 13, 1849.2 They call this the season of the Carnival in Florence. It extends, I believe, from Christmas to Lent. But I see nothing that seems like that season to me, but the opening of the theatres. Everything goes on just as usual. How different such a diluted and watery Carnival from the almost too spicy and condensed festival of Rome, where all is crowded into nine days of entire abandonment to the spirit of frolic and gay masquerade. Here is no masking, here no gaily decked balconies and crowded windows looking down on the great thronging multitude, emancipated from form and exulting in the liberty of children; no lines of men and women in carriages, and dense masses of foot-passengers; no whirl of revelry; no blight of flowers and raining of confetti, no race of riderless horses at sunset; no glorious moccoletti suggestive of Oriental feasts! Rome alone for all this! Ah, what can ever imitate it? A few old tarnished masquerade dresses hang here and there in some poor Jew-pedlar’s stall—like soiled and trampled rose-leaves, that have seen their night of ballroom splendor, and are thrown into the muddy street. That short-lived and splendid flower, the Roman Carnival, which waits the whole year for its blooming, and in nine days shrivels up and falls, leaving nothing but the dry old stalk which held it, cannot bloom anywhere but in its native soil. Transplant it, and it becomes a common flower.

  January 14. What queer things are constantly passing here in Italy in the streets, which go unnoticed because so common! How odd they would be in America! Just now I passed a man (Sunday morning) with a large hen in one hand, hanging by the legs. In the other was a paper containing I suppose numbers for chances for a raffle of the said hen,—while he cried “Signori! ecc’ una bella femina! bella, bella!” I have seen them driving along a solitary turkey in the same way.

  The common street-cries are sometimes alarming at first to a stranger. You are sitting quietly in your room, when you are roused by what seems a violent altercation in the street. Two or three persons are vociferating at the top of their lungs, and apparently in such a state of excitement that you expect something dreadful. Perhaps the Grand Duke has ordered out his soldiers to clear the streets; or a policeman is apprehending a thief; or there is a street-fight which hundreds are rushing to see; what can it be! The streets are nearly empty, and all this hollaballoo comes from two or three pedlars who are anxious to dispose of their commodities. But no one seems to regard them or wonder at their vociferation. You see men every day selling buttons, tape and handkerchiefs, standing at a comer of a street, exclaiming, “Un pauolo, un pauolo!” in a tone as if they were screaming, “Fire, fire!” or, “Stand out of the way! the house is tumbling down!”

  One day I met an old man rolling along a sort of hand-cart in which he had, I believe, shoe-blacking for sale. Suddenly he stopped short, and with the utmost rage depicted on his countenance, seemed abusing somebody a good way ahead of him, for he looked steadily down the street, and seemed to be expending his wrath on some invisible object in that quarter. I looked that way and could see no one. I thought some one might have robbed him, or perhaps some small boy in his service had run away, and he was ordering him back. No such thing! He was only extolling the excellence of his superior blacking. The constant effort of bawling as loud as possible must have communicated to his features that excessively irascible look, till it had become the habitual cast of his face.

  From the Autobiography:—

  I shall never forget the gesticulations of the common class of Romans and Neapolitans. The Roman, especially when excited by wine, when conversing with animation, will raise not only his shoulders but both arms, and with all the fingers of both hands spread, make them quiver like heat-lightning over his head. The Neapolitan is still more extreme and various in his natural language.3 The mariners when excited in conversation sometimes seem as if they would fly out of their skins. Ariel himself could not be more nimble. In caricature of rapid enunciation and grotesque gesture they eclipse their very Polcinellos—shoulders up to their ears, heads thrust forward, eyes starting from their sockets, their fingers all drawn together to their tips, and both hands in this manner quivering with electric life, and thrust almost into the faces of the party addressed, the voice meanwhile squeaking in the highest possible falsetto, and the outlandish Neapolitan patois rattling off with such volubility from their tongues, so that it is said they often cannot understand each other when excited; such is nothing uncommon.

  There is hardly less moderation in the jabbering of the Roman peasants. A stranger passing a wine-shop or osteria, filled with men and women at their noonday meal, might easily suspect that some fierce quarrel was going on. It is only the ordinary way of these people. We enjoyed greatly this winter in Florence. Our rooms were in the Via val Fonda, not far from the Church Santa Maria Novella. It was there I began my poem “The Bird and the Bell.”

  December 20, 1848.4 We called yesterday at the Casa Guidi to see Robert Browning and his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Pound her a small, delicate, not handsome invalid, who did not impress me at all at first as the poetess and woman of learning and genius she is, till she warmed into conversation on some interesting theme, such as Italy and the Pope and France. Then her eyes shone with a true inward lustre. Her enthusiasm in speaking of children and her general goodness of heart impressed me most. I thought her somewhat diffident, and like one who had lived in retirement most of her life.

  Browning is very different; he seems a man who has lived in society—a true, social, healthy, open, frank nature, entering into life and associating with men, while inwardly delicate and poetic.

  Just the man for a dramatist. There is something vigorous and terse and strong in his speech. I should judge him a truly warmhearted man, with a great deal of magnetism in his nature.

  December 13. Browning called to see us at the house and to-day at my studio. Both were good, long, real and not formal visits. He seems much interested in pictures.

  I was much indebted to Mrs. Browning this winter for her criticism on some lines in my poem “The Bird and the Bell”, which I had then partly written, and ventured to show her. The tone of the poem seemed to please them both; but as I had requested criticism from Mrs. Browning, she gave it, in a letter which I have from her, and I profited by it in my subsequent re-writing of the poem during the Italian Revolution.5

  January.6 Browning came again to my studio. He looked over my sketches with a great deal of interest and talked on art and literature and a variety of subjects: a most genial man to whom I feel drawn exceedingly. Afterwards I went with him to Story,s studio, where we sat talking for some time. He has a most rounded and complete culture; shows great knowledge and appreciation of works of art, of which he talked a good deal. Ruskin’s book on the old landscape painters, we discussed freely. We talked of the works of various old masters. Turner he criticised severely; liked Gainsborough and Wilson. I find also that he is a musician, plays on the piano and shows a great appreciation of the best composers.

To Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  I write to ask of you a favor, but before I do so I must make a little preface.

  First, be assured that I am speaking sincerely and not complimentarily, when I say that ever since I have known your poems, I have felt the deepest interest in them, and in their author. They have appealed to me, as all the best poetry has and ever will; and it is because I have never expressed, as I long to, this sympathy; because in conversation we have never met on this enchanted ground, so dear to me also; and because so very soon I shall be thousands of miles distant from you,—that I am emboldened to write to you now.

  You bear a celebrated name, no less than your husband. I little dreamed a short time ago I should ever be honored so far as to know you both personally. In America there are many who would envy me the privilege of having known you both. Believe me that I say these things from no feeling but of love and admiration for your writings and Mr. Browning’s. What I say is from one who feels and loves poetry as the finest intellectual tie that can exist between men. I could not leave Florence and not strive to express what has lain so long in my heart.

  You were kind in expressing so favorable an opinion on my lines on Vesuvius. I have lately written something better, and the request I have to make, is, that you will allow me some day to read it to you, and to give me the benefit of any suggestions you may make with regard to an improvement on it.

  I ask it, not to seek praise, but candid criticism, and as it were to antedate the privileges of an acquaintance, which I so much regret must end so soon. Pardon my presumption. I could not say what I have, did I not feel I was addressing a poet.

From Mrs. Browning to Mrs. Cranch

  I write to explain to you, my dear Mrs. Cranch, the apparent negligence with which Mr. Cranch’s letter has been treated by us. I am sure you will both forgive us, when you know that we have been in affliction,—that my husband has lost his mother and been in great anguish of mind, to which I, in my weakness of body could do little towards helping to alleviate. Thank God, who has helped us both, for he is better and calmer now, and his first thought has turned on you, lest you should think him unkind. So I write to tell you his opinion of the poem,—that nothing in the versification justifies the rejection by the American editor, the only exceptionable line appearing to him to be the last but one, where the rhythm forces you into a false emphasis “As I do.” For the rest, the poem is full of poetical feeling, and if magazines in America can afford to reject such, so much the better for them, or the worse! The editor probably holds to exploded systems of versification which would explain something.

  I am sure you will feel for us, dear Mrs. Cranch. There was no time to go to England. My poor husband, strong in all his affections, adored his mother. See how near death and life we are! Our little babe grows fat and strong, as if there were no sorrow in the world. God bless you!

Mrs. Browning to Mr. Cranch

PALAZZO GUIDI, May 3 (1849).
  We have read your poem with great attention, and will set down whatever remarks occur to us, since you insist on such a piece of impertinence.
“Sweet bird, the fresh, clear sparkle of thy voice
Came quickening all the fountains,” etc.

A beautiful metaphor taken from rain. I particularly like it. Why in the next line, not “list to thee”—rather than “listen thee “?
“Fresh message from the beauty infinite
That wraps the universe in wonder and delight.”

If beauty wraps the universe, there is no need to send messages. Therefore the figure does not appear happy.
“That lives above the world”i or,
“Reigns above the world.”
and so also you get the other advantage of the pause in the long line, which strikes us as being too much neglected throughout the poem. In exceptional cases an effect is produced by this neglect of this pause, only the cases ought to be exceptional.

  The “bell” is effectually described, but my husband objects to the “nerve of nature struck by a wound,” and observes that nobody is struck by a wound, but by a blow,—quære, “felt a wound” or “suffered wound”? Also in the long line of the same stanza can “lightning” be supposed to “catch a living breath”? The expression seems vague and not happy.

  “For one who loves to dwell,” etc.; these two stanzas are excellent, the language full and emphatic. I like too (farther on) the “sitting in altar nooks and burning candles to its god,” though the syllables are too many. I like the thought, the image.

  “By a rude populace,” “languished beneath a frown,” is not a good line, we both think, and it might so easily be improved. The accentuation is wrong, and no good effect is produced by the license.

“Take the poet’s verse
But not the poet.”
  All this has much truth and beauty.

  Do “vampire pinions” work “enchanted sleep”? Is the metaphor right?

  “Lies stereotyped,” etc.; very good the expression is.

  “The angel smiles,” etc.; beautiful lines.

  “Of nature, along whose endless arc are strown”—

  Why not “o’er” or “on whose endless,” etc.?—on account of the structure of the line which does not bear “along”; also this same “along” occurs afterward in the final line.

“Whose only crime was that ye were awake,
Too soon,” etc.
  I admire this and the winding up is full of beautiful truth.

  The next time the bird sings we both of us hope, dear Mr. Cranch, that he may not be interrupted. Once more allow us to thank you for the proof of confidence, which, believe us, is responded to by my husband’s regard and that of yours most truly

  My love to Mrs. Cranch; am I not to see her soon?

  Mrs. Cranch used to tell this little story about the Brownings and the Browning baby:—

  While we were living in the Via val Fonda in Florence in 1849, we wished to present our letter of introduction from Margaret Fuller to Mr. and Mrs. Browning. Asking William Story the etiquette in Italy in such matters, we were informed it was proper to leave the letter first with our cards, and call a few days later.

  Three days later, Pearse and I went to the Casa Guidi and were received most cordially in a beautiful large room, by both the Brownings.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

  Browning would occasionally walk up and down the room with energy, as he talked, while Mrs. Browning spoke through her eyes, which were large dark-gray eyes, and fine. Later, in the winter, coming into our apartment towards evening, Domenica, who was nurse and maid, told us that Signor Browning had called. “Oh,” I said, “what did the Signor say?” “Che cosa disse il Signore?” “Niente, Signora,” answered Domenica, “non camminava, ballava.” “Nothing, Madam, he did not walk, he danced”; and then repeated what Browning had said, “la Signora Browning a fatto un figlio maschio” (“Mrs. Browning has given birth to a male child”). This must have been delivered with great unction, to judge from Domenica’s gesticulations.

  After a proper length of time I decided to call and inquire for Mrs. Browning. I rang the doorbell at the Casa Guidi, when Browning himself came to the door, and seeing who it was, said, in his heartiest tones, “Mrs. Cranch, come right in!” and as he said this he drew me into the house with both hands. As there was no refusing him, I consented to let him ask the nurse if I could see the baby, to which answer was brought in the affirmative. I entered a darkened room, and there lay Mrs. Browning, looking like an angel, with her sweet gray eyes and profusion of dark curls. I kissed her hand and murmured some kind wish for her health, while Browning, eager to show me the little blossom, drew me to a comer covered with white muslin and pink curtains, saying, “Now, you must see the baby!”

  I gazed into this bower of rose-color and lace, unable to distinguish anything beside the soft color and dainty fabric. But something must be said, so I murmured, “How beautiful!” But Browning was not to be put off in this way.

  “Do you see him?” said he.

  “No, truly,” I was forced to answer.

  He then went and brought a cerina, a little wax taper, and by its soft, flickering light, I was at last able to behold the Browning baby. . . . Later on, when Browning happened into our rooms one day, and our own dear baby lay asleep in her cradle, Browning stooped over, and kissing her on the forehead without awakening her, said, “Now she has a poet’s blessing!”

George William Curtis to Mrs. Cranch

PARIS, February 15, 1849.
  Yesterday the Republic completed its first and I my twenty-fifth year! Think of it, Lizzie, a quarter of a century! I begin already to totter and feel grey hairs on my head, and Burrill groans because every birthday of mine sets him so sadly forward. The day was celebrated by these Frenchmen very coldly. The crowds were small. The cry was “Vive Napoléon!” and nothing was striking except the front of the beautiful Madeleine draped in black and along the broad street which is its avenue from the Place de la Concorde, huge funeral vases and urns flaring and smoking with incense. This and the Temple itself was Greek. But the French genius does so travesty everything it touches. And then Lamartine says in a gush of enthusiasm, “If God has a great work to do he elects a Frenchman to do it.” In saying that, he speaks for France and that is the reason he is so really popular. . . .

  Now I am going to plunge into gossip, because it is a shame for me to be seeing and hearing Paris and not tell you about it. So we’ll go to the opera where Alboni is singing with Ronconi, and where I heard Lablache. The house is small but very rich, not so spacious and tasteful and unique as the Berlin opera house, which is the first I have seen in Europe, St. Carlo and La Scala not excepted altho’ they are much larger. Alboni is a young fat Italian, singing for her third season. She has no genius, and cannot act, but her voice is the most exquisite contralto I can fancy. It is precisely the voice you would imagine in an easy handsome Italian woman, if it was first rate and contralto. The sweetness and purity and power are delicious. She crushes her eyes together as she sings, though never making faces, just as your soul smiles and folds itself together in the listening. Your sense becomes a great serpent which stretches and rolls and doubles up in the great gush of golden sunshine. Her soprano part is very true and clear and sweet, only not so singularly strong and rich as the contralto. In some songs she comes from a pure point of soprano height floating down through strange and true intervals, until the pyramid of sound is completed in your thought by grand massive sweeps of contralto which build the base, and you feel as if you saw the angels on Jacob’s dream-ladder descending from heaven indeed, but with every step into more perceptible beauty. If you lose yourself and laugh in this extraordinary pot-pourri of metaphor, you can imagine the better how deliciously you lose yourself in the sweet whirlpool of sound, and if you laugh, so much the better resemblance. . . .

  Walter Savage Landor, who, by the way, in a sonnet to Robert Browning compares his firm tread and cheerful eye to Chaucer, says that imagination shines even more “gloriously” in Tennyson than in Keats. That is perceptive praise, the criticism of a sympathetic soul. Keats died a boy. He was tangled in his own magnificent luxuriance. How I do love these men, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, and Browning. On the other hand is Taylor, whose “Philip van Artevelde” I have just happened to read for the first time, more’s the shame and pity. It seems as if it must have come, independent of the man. The preface is puerile, the interlude diluted. Wordsworth, and all his other poems that I have read, hard and bare and dead. But the character of Philip van Artevelde is carved with a sculptor’s cunning. It is so simple and great that it reveals how in statesmanship, as everywhere else, the elements are few. A little light, color; and quantity makes the world. He is always strong, but sweet and always a man, but a man of his own time. That is an artistic success not always accomplished. Adriana is a deep sketch and delicate as deep. A few strokes, but the soul, the individual soul, shines through. Then what a natural tragedy the book is. How it shows him stepping from obscurity to success, loving the state much, but his wife more. Then after the death of his wife, his whole nature not sapped nor broken nor soured, but subdued—all his strength saddened. That was a fine thing. Such strength does not wither, but just as sweet and still, it is mournful forever after. Sorrow sweeps over it as twilight closes over the landscape. Everywhere the same forms and colors—nothing changed—yet all different, even the flowers, sad.

  Besides, I have been reading “La Nouvelle Héloise” and Lamartine’s “Girondins,” also his “Raphael” and “Confidences.” The latter is his” Confessions,” although not an entire autobiography. It is rather a series of romantic and picturesque passages from the experience as a poet. They are very beautiful and interesting. The notices of certain men are striking, though not many, and the romance of Graziella, a Naples fisher girl, who died for love of Lamartine, is truly delicious. But the whole book is drenched in tears of the author. He believes that all great things in life begin and end with larmes. This becomes ridiculous at last. It is the purest, most transparent French I know. I saw Lamartine at the opera the other evening. He looks older than I thought (he is fifty-nine) and around his mouth, whose lips are fallen, flits and fades a phantom of vanity. Lamartine is vain, but he is moulded in a happy mood of nature. The brow, eyes and nose are most generous. They are full of lofty sentiment, and you feel magnetically that he is capable of great acts, like his resisting the red flag with the guns of a French mob pointed at him,—when they are the inspirations of great ideas. He is not great in the general sense, because his best things are emotions and enthusiasms. But unlike most men, he is silent when he is not soaring.

  . . . They were singing Sémiramide with Alboni, whose voice seems an accident like the beauty of many women. I mean you do not feel the presence of greatness of soul which must have some sort of expression. . . . Jenny Lind’s voice was the hand of her genius. It is not so much any one thing, as the charm of her entire personality which makes her greatness. She acts as well as she sings, and both acting and singing are only flowers of a life which is deep and sweet as her nature. When Alboni cannot sing she will be only a memory. But any present of Jenny Lind’s must be as beautiful as any past.

  Then I heard Lablache, great, wonderful man, full of fun, full of sound, the largest man and the largest voice in the world. When he pours it out you forget everything else. The theatre, the orchestra, singers, Alboni, Ronconi, and chorus are all merged. It is a deluge in which we are all lost. But he is too good an artist, too much a lover of music ever to sport wantonly with his might. He “roars you as ‘t were any sucking dove,” so melodiously he thunders. And such ease and sweetness withal, and so distinct a pronunciation, that you feel how inadequate fame is to really great and good things . . . .

  Cerrito dances at the French opera, too, with her remarkable husband Saint-Léon. They have produced a ballet called “Le viol on du Diable” in which they both dance and he plays the violin, with a pathetic power which amazed me. I was not surprised to hear that in Germany he had been entirely a musician. He is a man of singular talent, and is the only male dancer that is not disgusting. His feats are wonderful, and better,—they are graceful. He composed the ballet which is full of delicately designed tableaux. One I remember in which Cerrito stands elevated like the figure of Apollo in the “Aurora” holding high the golden ·reins, which confine several of the ballet dancers, while others surround her as the hours. She is most feminine and fascinating. Not queenly like Fanny Ellsler, nor stately like Lucile Grahn, nor voluptuous like Carlotta Grisi, she streams like sunshine over the stage rather than bounds, and is always the affectionate woman.

  Rachel, too, in the intense paroxysms of passionate tragedy, is terrible and sublime. She is young and wasted and her eyes are worn with bitter sorrow. She plays in Racine’s tragedies, which are Greek, you know, and as Phèdre, Rachel is marvellous. It is the pure suffering woman, but a woman of the elder Grecian mould, the victim of Fate, and of a passion which loses her soul. Rachel is young and slight. Her features are very delicate, her mouth a little coarse, and her figure of a stately, proud grace. Her voice is very sweet and solemn and still, of a low tone, and because it is the silence, not the sound of passion, there can never be a suspicion of rant. In the French drama the unities are strictly observed. The curtain never falls, the attention is undistracted to the end. Never for a moment is she other than the person she represents. So perfect is this artistic skill that I cannot conceive her as an actual Parisian person. If I think of her, my imagination recedes over great waste dead ages, and in front of a Grecian or Persian temple, like the genius of that Fate, tearless because too terrible for tears, she stands, and if she speaks, it is like the Sphinx speaking-words, coining feelings, of which we suspect the substance from the mighty shadow.

  . . . Shall you certainly go as soon as April? Why not wait until softer, sweeter May? more propitious to Mediterranean voyaging. Let me hear at least a month before you are resolved to go, that I may come and have some final weeks with you, and so get myself associated with your last, as your first, European days. It would be good too that they should be in Florence. If you can, put off Vallombrosa, etc., until I can go with you, for although I cannot promise absolutely to come, yet it is rare that I hold anything so near my heart as this plan, without its being warmed into life.

Margaret Fuller to Mrs. Cranch

ROME, 9th March, 1849.
  I was very glad to have you write that you are going home, for, though I sympathize most deeply with any one who is fitted to prize Italy and has to leave her, and know how much I shall suffer myself, yet this is no time for an artist to be here, nor is there any strong probability of tranquillity at present. Few people would come, Pearse would have but few and scanty orders, and with these two young children, and your constitution so delicate, you might have too trying a time, and become old! That is the poison of care; one might bear the strongest dose, just for the time, but it makes youth grey-haired. I hope you will find many friends, new and old, who will carry about Georgie and Nora in their arms, and prize the genius of Pearse and that some few years hence you will return, under happier circumstances, to Venice, to Florence, to Rome.

  O Rome, seat of the gods! I do regret you have not been here this winter of perpetual sunshine: The Cropseys will be disappointed at not finding you. They go from here the eighteenth, and Mr. Cropsey had expected to enjoy sketching excursions with Pearse in the neighborhood of Florence . . . .

  Also I hope when you are well refreshed at home, you will write me a joint letter telling me of yourselves and all other persons and things you think will interest me. It will be a great boon; write fine and much, and tell me of my friend Carrie Tappan anything you may know. I hear little from herself. If you do write me a line now, let me know how it has gone with Mrs. Browning. I am very glad you had such pleasure in their acquaintance; a little of the salt of the earth is more than ever needed in this hot climate. It is a shame I cannot have the “Bells.” It is here I want to read the Italian things again, half memories of them keep tormenting me.

  Pearse’s Colonna poem was incorporated into one of my letters, with mention of the picture, and, no doubt, printed, though I never received the number of the “Tribune” which contained it. The poem from Naples I never sent; that needs the clear type and margins of a magazine, or perhaps he will publish a volume on his return. Now you are going, I wish you would send me Emerson’s poems, else I may see them no more for a long time, unless you have made pencil marks, or for some other reason are anxious to keep that particular copy.

  The Storys have been here a week, after a doleful detention at Leghorn, and a very sick night on the steamer. They have a tolerably pleasant apartment, and enjoy themselves as usual. The first day they were seeking the apartment, Sunday, we had luncheon at Mr. Crawford’s and afterwards went to St. Peter’s where the only time this winter was not fine music. The second day, I passed with them, and in the afternoon we walked about Villa Borghese; Wednesday evening we saw the Vatican by torch light; it is now my third enjoyment of this always greater delight. Since, I have not seen them.

  My friend, Mazzini, is now here; his proper great occasion has come to him at last, whether he can triumph over the million difficulties with which it is beset I know not, but he will do all that may become a man. Good-bye, and may your homeward course be every way prosperous. We shall meet again probably in a year or two, meanwhile I pray you keep your hearts ever open for your friend


  Mr. and Mrs. Cranch and the nurse and children left Florence in the summer for Paris. They were rejoiced to meet again George and Burrill Curtis and Tom Hicks. The cholera was raging in Paris, two hundred persons dying a day. They were careful about exposing themselves to the sun, and of their diet, and remained well. George Curtis accompanied them to Havre and to the ship, seeing them aboard. Harriet, the black nurse, was stricken with cholera. Here was a quandary. They could not leave her to die nor be sure she would be taken aboard. The captain solved the difficulty by calling it inflammatory rheumatism. She was taken aboard, isolated, and in a week got well.

  The following extracts are from Mrs. Cranch’s Journal:—

  July 8, 1849. On board the St. Denis on our homeward passage from Havre. We are now nearly halfway across the ocean, and this afternoon, the sea being tranquil, I can record a word or so of the past. . . . We arrived in Paris late in the evening of the 1st of June, after riding in diligence all through France by night and day with our two little ones . . . never shall I forget our satisfaction when arriving late at Paris . . . we found George and Hicks waiting for us at the diligence office. We had nothing to do but to get into a carriage and ride to No. 50 Rue de Rivoli, where were rooms all ready that George had taken for us in the same house that he was in; and a very nice one too it was—just opposite the garden of the Tuilleries and very near the beautiful Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysées, where we used to walk in the cool of the evening. We were a fortnight in Paris and the time did gallop withal. Good times were those, happy times with fun and frolic, and tender moments too—never to be forgotten.

1 This statue used to stand in front of the old royal palace. It was removed to the Accademia dei Belle Arte to preserve it from the elements.
2 From the Journal.
3 The beggars rap their chins and twirl their hands before their mouths to express hunger.
4 From the Journal.
5 Autobiography.
6 Journal.

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