Chapter VI. First Visit to Europe — The Voyage — Rome.

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


WE come now to a very interesting period in my father’s life,—his first experiences at sea, with my mother and his friend, George William Curtis; and the opening of that life of romance and of art, so fascinating to one of his temperament. It was a slow voyage of nearly seven weeks’ duration; but one of great charm to these three friends.

  I give some extracts from my father’s Journal at Sea. “We left New York, Lizzie and myself, with George William Curtis, August the first, 1846, in the packet ship Nebraska, bound for Marseilles. We number, I believe, fourteen passengers, including five children.” One of the passengers was a “strong English woman, who has crossed the Atlantic twenty-four times, and boasts of never having been seasick in her life. She seems able to take command of the ship, should any accident befall the Captain! and she was dubbed by our party the ‘Commodore.’” She and the other passengers made “a very pleasant company.” Later my father says, “We left at twelve o’clock M. and had a pleasant afternoon and evening on deck,—passed Fort Hamilton, where Mrs. Curtis1 is staying. We saw her waving her handkerchief from shore, and responded from the poop deck; passed the Narrows, Coney Island, Sandy Hook, and the Highlands of Neversink. Saw the city and all the spires and houses on shore diminish to white dots against the blue, misty distance. Night set in ere we took our last leave of shore. We sailed slowly out. We sang several duets on deck in the moonlight, and so our dear native land was left behind with music on our lips.”

  August 2. One long horrid day of seasickness to almost all the passengers. It all seems one day of cheerless blank. A day of desperate abandonment to the sway of the grim sea. What I recollect most vividly was on staggering up the gangway, from my berth in the morning; the view from the stern windows looked somewhat thus:

[Cranch sketched an image of windows on a ship showing water at an angle]

  My wonderment was great, how the sea ran its horizon so at an angle of forty-five degrees, till I got on deck and found the ship all on one side, leaning on her elbow, and like a duck along the green, foamy water.

  August 3. Woke up well and have kept well all day. Praised be Providence! Perhaps it was the “Petroleum” did it; perhaps the stomach got disgusted with its day’s work and took a new tack; which, pray Heaven, it may not deviate from until we get safely into port . . .. The Captain is a nice man, very sociable and entertaining, fond of talking, simple-hearted and honest and good-natured; a regular Yankee, withal, in his speech. One of the most remarkable things about him is his pronunciation of the French,—“Mr, Goozoot,” Guizot; and the “table dot.”

  August 4. A warm, still day. Scarcely any breeze stirring, so we crept along at a snail’s pace, our sails flapping, sailors doing little, passengers dozing and enjoying the dolce far niente. We sat, all of us, on deck under the awning, looking on the calmly swelling waters, the petrels skimming about and faintly chirping about the ship and picking up the crumbs, and diving after them—now and then in flocks resting on the waves for a moment at a distance from us. Saw a nautilus floating by with its pink-edged sail, which it now and then furled, then spread again. A school of large, black fish, resembling the porpoise, looking as hard and black and smooth as if they were turned out of wood in a lathe, sailing by in pairs, sticking up their sharp fins now and then and their hippopotamus, pig heads, and snorting like horses. And once we caught sight of a young whale, a grampus, I suppose.

  August 5. A beautiful morning; wind fair, course east, going at eight knots an hour. On going on deck the air was as soft and summery as if it came over a clover field in a green island. The waves swell and toss and break gloriously. ‘T is surely a pure delight, a blessing, for which we cannot he too grateful to heaven that we have been so far favored with such a prosperous voyage. . . .

  To-day we passed two sails; a topsail schooner and a ship. The latter came near enough for us to hoist a signal and receive an answer. . . . It was beautiful, this telegraphing on the seas. They will announce us on arriving, and our friends will know that so far we are safe.

  August 8. The other day we fished with a long piece of black thread for Mother Carey’s chickens in the stem of the ship. We caught three or four and let them go. They catch themselves by getting entangled in the thread which they cannot see, and so we draw them up.

  With us three, checkers, backgammon, novels, eating and sleeping, with a little promenading and music, are the chief beguilers of our time. We are now exactly a week out and have come near a thousand miles. But as to our latitude and longitude, I am ignorant. One of the important items which I forgot, was to bring a map of the world.

  Ten o’clock. To-night I have been up on deck with G., singing duets in the moonlight. It is one of those magic moonlights standing out by itself, not connected in association with anything of the past, but like a dream. Under the sail we stood and looked out as from a tent or protecting roof, abroad over the mild ocean, the horizon a long, dark, shorelike-looking black cloud, but above it the large, unclouded moon, just edging the extreme distance with the intensest silver fire, then interrupted by the dark shadow of a cloud, then bursting out again, and flaking the restless waves for miles and miles with its glorious alchemy. Both to eye and heart it was a scene, which I never remember to have seen before, made still more romantic and wild by the harmonies we awoke. ‘T was more like the old moon which used to enchant me, and keep me awake at night, when just emerging from boyhood. I used to feel music, poetry and the company of young girls with a vividness of delight which hardly comes in after years.

  Monday, August 10. Met a Danish brig; attempted to come within speaking distance of her, but she rounded to in an unmannerly way, as if she wished to have nothing to do with us. So we merely showed our flag, and she hers. The second mate says she is a hog.

  Last night was very beautiful in the moonlight: The sails, filled with the wind, were rounded like great seashells; on their wide, white curves lay the shadows of her masts and intricate rigging, looking like the shadows of the forest trees and branches in winter against the moonlit snows.

  Tuesday, 11th. To-day I feel as if I had really seen the sea,—the great, heaving, restless, foaming sea! A stiff breeze has been blowing all day, which has ruffled up the water tremendously: all hands staggering and pitching about. The ship plunged and tossed up the foam and flung the soft spray over herself, as if she really felt it all. The waves rolled around her magnificently.

  Thursday, August 13. We are still sailing on with a fair wind, clear skies and soft temperature. To-day I went up into the mizzentop and sat some time, looking out on the sea. One sees something of the ship and her motion from this point.

  That most doughty mariner B. has been telling me a long yarn to-night of a sea adventure which once befell him between New York and Boston, to which I have been “listening like a three years child.” He seems perfectly inexhaustible in his stories of legendary sea-lore. The Captain is also very entertaining, and what is better, quite reliable in his facts. He is not gifted with Mr. B.’s imagination and conceit. We derive quite a stock of useful information from the Captain’s yarns. They are solid stuff that will wear, but B. touches somewhat on fairyland; his soaring fancy scorneth the dry limitations of the actual.

  Two glorious sunsets I have seen from the mizzentop. From this point I get an idea of the vastness and loneliness of the ocean, which I cannot on deck. I am not sailor enough yet, however, to climb to the crosstrees. The days glide by pleasantly enough with such favoring breezes and skies as these. We are now about fifty miles north of Corvo, one of the Azores. This afternoon I am sitting on one of the quarter boats which hang from the ship’s side over the water. I look out over and over the wide, blue, wrinkling expanse of ocean, now rippled by a gentle breeze which flaps the sails above me, which shade me beneath their ample wings. A delicious sensation of quiet summer joy almost lulls me to sleep,—

“The sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky,”—

around me, with only here and there a few white sea birds, skimming about in search of their prey. Could anything be more calm and holy than this loneliness, this stillness!

  August 19. For a day or two we have been almost becalmed, just moving along as slowly as possible under the most delightful skies. . . .

  These still, warm nights are beautiful on the ocean. The stars seem so thick and multitudinous. The Milky Way seems brighter and more distinct than ever I saw it. This motionless group of star clouds casts a bright reflection on the waves, and makes a pathway of dim light almost to the vessel. In the wake, the foam streams off in the dark water like smoke, and the phosphoric sparkles seem to spring from some hidden fire under the ship.

  August 28. We are not more than forty or fifty miles from the Straits of Gibraltar, but are almost becalmed. The day, however, though warm, is beautiful. A splendid pilot fish has been swimming about the ship; he is the forerunner of the shark. His gambols and perpetual motion, his striped pied coat, and his life of perfect immunity and safety, make him the harlequin of the ocean. A sharp hook is thrown out, but the pirate of the deep remains uncaptured.

  August 29. This morning at sunrise we entered the Straits with a fine, fresh breeze, and hearts bounding with delight. Long before the sun was up we were summoned on deck and saw the first dim blue of the welcome land before us, at first like a cloud, then gradually shaping itself into distinct and substantial forms. Oh, what a gust of fresh pleasure to see that we were, indeed, fast nearing dry land, and that land, the grand mountains of Spain and Africa I There stood the shores of the two great continents before us, and we about to enter between them by a narrow strait, ten miles wide. Right over this strait, these old classic waters of the Mediterranean, rose a cloudless sun. As we neared, faster and faster, the blue mountains on either side were more and more sketched in detail. We all crowded on the forecastle; myself, for one, using my whole concentrated power of eyes in my eagerness to lose nothing. Here was at length the Old World. Spain, Barbary were before us. At night, as I recall it all,—now that we have left the land again behind us,—it all seems like a dream. On the right was Cape Spartel and all the rugged African mountains heaped and crowded one behind another.

  On the left, the hills of Spain, the heights of Meca, equally fine, some of them splintered and jagged at their summit. Drawing nearer, houses, castles, and the town of Tangier, on one side; on the other, the town of Tarifa, with its square fortification and military aspect; above it, the hills, brown as autumn, and studded over with olive and other small trees in rows; the old watch-towers peeping out, here and there, square and Moorish-looking; and at length, the grand heights of Sierra Bullones,—vulgarly, Apes Hill,—and farther on, the great rock, fortresses and town of Gibraltar, looming up gray, grim, defiant, impregnable: its steep sides all bristling in guns and caves and portholes, ready, at the least sign of remissness in the customary courtesy of raising a flag, to fire at any ship that passes. Before and behind us, other vessels, all bound the same way with us, some of them picturesque-looking, Spanish feluccas, with their triangular, lateen sails, winging along like large birds, over the deep. All this and much more, which cannot now be distinctly recalled, have made this morning one of the most delightful in my life. The occasion seemed to cliff use a social and friendly feeling through the whole ship. On the forecastle, sailors and passengers were all mingled, and seemed to take in the spectacle as one.

  The whole day has been cloudless and beautiful. A fine breeze, joined with the current which sets into the Mediterranean, has carried the good ship along at the rate of twelve knots an hour. To-night, a glorious moon, in a most perfectly cloudless sky, makes these beautiful waves still more romantic and classic. For a little while a watch-tower lit its red star on the shore, which, as yet, we have, however, but dimly seen.

  August 30. It has been too hazy to-day to permit us to see the coast. The great, towering mountains of old, romantic Spain seem to have drawn over their faces a thick and jealous veil of mist and cloud, as if unwilling to reveal to us, eager and curious searchers for the picturesque, their steep sides of broken summits, their dark ravines and rocky fortresses, and all that they contain which would delight the eye and stimulate the imagination.

  This afternoon, however, the haze partly thinned away, and showed us the bold mountainous shore of Cape De Gat, with here and there, on the steep sides, a solitary watch-tower overlooking the sea. These towers at night are lit up, as a signal for the detection of smuggling vessels. Two soldiers are stationed at each of them. They add much to the picturesque appearance of the cliffs. On our left we had a dim, far-off view of the mountains of Granada, the Sierra Nevadas, which are very lofty. The Pyrenees I missed, owing to the second mate’s hesitation to wake me up at daylight. I would have sat up all night rather than miss them.

  September 6. . . . We have been blessed with fine glimpses of the rugged, mountainous coast of Spain. The mountains all along retain their brown, severe, hare, broken aspect. So bleak and lonely they seem as if they could give shelter to none, save to beggarly shepherds or desperate brigands. Yet there are cities with ships and commercial relations, shut in there. They make me think often of Don Quixote, these bare mountains. So must they have seemed to his fancy as they do to ours, as they lie afar off in the dim distance, a kind of fairyland.

  These islands in the sea seem to bask so dreamily. Beyond Ivica we had a glimpse of Majorca. To-day we saw a rock, strongly resembling a sail. There are others near it; among them, one, quite an island: in it there is a harbor, which, they say, formerly gave shelter to Corsairs.

  Thursday, September 10. Calms, calms, nothing but calms! Making no headway, but rather drifting backward with the force of the current. To-day we are passing Barcelona, with its fortress of Montjui. We are about twelve miles from the shore; but with a glass can see towers, houses, churches, monasteries, fishing smacks.

  Perhaps, after all, it is best that we can only see these shores from a distance, and through the soft-tinted veil of romance which the name Spain throws over all. A nearer view might destroy some of our visions. Yet I think not, for all would be so new and foreign, and even bad inns, fleas, beggarly priests and thieves, the lazy muleteers and abominable roads, would remind us of Gil Blas and the Knight of La Mancha.

  We have at length got fairly round Cape Sebastian, and are to-day crossing the Gulf of Lyons and beating up to Marseilles. Here it is always windy. It is Sunday,—our seventh Sunday aboard,—and a glorious day it has been! The wind has been blowing hard from the north all day, but as soft and mild a breath as France ever breathed, and laden, too, with a delicious perfume of the fields. This fragrance of clover and hay, fifty miles off from shore, was to me something exceedingly new and delightful. France surely has sent out a sweet, subtle spirit of health and greeting, to welcome us into our long-desired harbor. The waves pitch us about somewhat, but as in joyous sportiveness, as if they were pleased at bearing us in. The air has been perfect today, warm, yet bracing.

  To-night the sea stars are flashing in the foam behind the ship. I have never seen these pure, cold fires under the salt waves kindle and float on so vividly before. They seem like sparks from some submarine furnace, struck from the ship’s keel by the foaming waters.

  Arrived at Marseilles on the morning of September 16.

  Left on the afternoon of the 17th in the Poliphemus, a miserable old Italian steamer. We were landed at Genoa, the evening of the 18th, and were shown to the Hotel di Felicita.

  Genoa. Our room looks upon the harbor; shipping, customs offices, villas, churches, vineyards, lie in the distance, rising behind one another on our right; right under us is an immense court, where the market people seem to be collected. Carts with enormous wheels, drawn by mules, and donkeys with loaded paniers, and noses stuck down into straw muzzles, where it may be supposed they are feeding, not suffocating. . . . Here, Genoa, we spent the greater part of the day in sight-seeing. Hired a cicerone for four francs, who showed us four or five churches—San Lucca, San Ciro, the chapel of Andrea Doria and the Cathedral. . . . These churches are very splendid. We visited three palaces: the Palazzo Brignole, the royal palace, and the Palazzo Durazzo. Here we saw some of the finest of the works of the old masters, Rubens, Vandyke (the Italians spell his name Wandik), Titian, Paul Veronese, Carlo Dolce, Guido, the Carraccis, Andrea del Sarto, etc., etc. I think I was most struck with the Vandykes and Guidos. Two full-length portraits of the Marquis Brignole on horseback and the Marchesa Brignole, and some of his portraits of children seemed to me his best . . . .

  Saw a statue of Christopher Columbus and a house erected in his honor, also the place on which it is supposed his house stood. A monument is to be erected on this spot, with a statue of the great world discoverer, by Bartolini, upon it. The first stone of this was not long since laid by the King of Sardinia and consecrated by the Archbishop. The exterior of the Palazzo Doria we saw, but the bw1ding was undergoing repairs and we could not enter. A statue of Andrea Doria as Neptune, of gigantic dimensions, stands in a niche in the sloping gardens of the palace.

  In another place, in niches on the side of two houses stand, not far asunder, a statue of Columbus and another of Doria. Under the former stands this inscription:-

“Dissi, volli, ii crea.i
Ecco un aecondo
Sorger nuovo dall’ onde
Ignoto mondo.”2

   . . . Columbus and Doria are the gods of the Genoese. . . . In the narrow streets, under the tall houses, we were constantly at almost every turn coming upon old doorways and shrines and bas-reliefs of exquisite and quaint workmanship—old melancholy relics, which were forever, in the midst of modern poverty and degradation, pointing back to days of serene and palmy splendor. Up these broad steps the old doges once stepped, robed and crowned, to their thrones and council chambers. Before these shrines knelt men of the stamp of Doria and Columbus. Merchant princes once looked from these balconies over this most beautiful of harbors, where their spice-laden argosies lay riding at anchor.

  The following brief extracts are from the Autobiography:-

  Reached Leghorn the 20th; from there we went by vettura to Florence. Then (after about a month there) we went by vettura to Rome, taking five or six days for a journey of a hundred and eighty miles. We arrived in Rome about the last of October. We had intended making only a short visit, and expected to return to Florence. Besides the wonderful attractions for us, in which Rome stood alone, I found that this was the place of all others in Italy for the life of an artist. There is nothing in the world like Rome. Here was picturesque material on every side in superabundance. And here were American friends and artists. The famous places to be seen, St. Peter’s, the Coliseum, and other celebrated ruins, the Vatican, the Capitoline and other galleries, the villas outside the walls, the Carnival,—the endless sights to be seen,—these in themselves were enough to occupy us from day to day. But there were open-air pictures waiting to be painted everywhere around us, and on the wonderful Campagna, so that there was a perpetual stimulus to draw and paint. The climate was so mild that working out of doors was usually practicable. And I soon joined a night-school where students drew and painted in water colors from costumed models. The cost was about a dollar and a half per month! During the two winters we were in Rome I made a large number of studies.

  Rome, November, 1846. We took advantage of the first fine moonlight to visit the Coliseum, steering our course by the map, and without that troublesome and expensive appendage, a cicerone. We took our way toward the ruins, stopped to contemplate the old Forum, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Pillar of Phocas, and all the ruins in that vicinity,—all steeped in the loveliest of moonlights. We passed under the small Arch of Titus, and stood before the Coliseum. For some time we stood, or walked around on the outside, reserving the impression of entering, like something too rare and sacred to be hastily snatched. But the temptation proved to be too strong to be long resisted, and entering by one of the smaller arches, before we reached the open area, ·we enjoyed through the openings of the walls and arches glorious gleams of the opposite walls. At last we drew slowly to the centre, and never have I beheld before anything to compare with that scene. First, the night was perfect and unclouded, the air mild, the moon nearly full and brimming over with light. Around us stretched and towered up the solemn, imperial, old ruin, circling us like a gigantic spell of the hoary past. Ages on ages seemed looking down on us. We walked around in the deep shadows, with feelings hushed into silent reverence. We climbed up and saw the moon looking through the rifts and bare, desolate arches, and “the stars twinkling through the loops of time.”

  From Mrs. Cranch’s Journal:—

  Rome, November 1, 1846. This morning we went to St. Peter’s. Never shall I forget the impression that the vastness and richness and its harmonious grandeur made upon me. I had never seen any descriptions of it, and only heard of its immensity, so that I was totally unprepared for the elaborate design and rich finish of the interior. The proportions are so perfect that its size does not at first strike you; until you measure some single object, you are not aware of the greatness of the whole. There was no service when we entered, and it was more agreeable to me to see it thus than to have the beauty marred by some of those nasal chants of the priests,—a fine old mass, a fugue, would be consistent to listen to there, but nothing less. As we walked around this grand pile of architecture, it seemed hard to realize that it was built by man; it seems as eternal as the mountains and hills; as if God had made it.

  The pictures behind all the altars were of mosaic, except one, which is an oil; the statues, all of which are colossal though they do not look so, are not the finest. However, there is one by Canova with two dying lions, which is said to be the masterpiece. “The Genius of Death,” with reversed torch, is beautiful, while the lions—especially one sleeping one—are perfect. One group of Thorwaldsen did not please me so much; it is not counted as one of the best. The whole interior of the church is less expressive of genius than of grandeur and a display of the papal emblems and riches. But how it overwhelms an American taste like mine to see such splendor! My head was fairly heavy with the weight of all this magnificence. One is lost in wonder and surprise and can only wander around among the niches and altars breathless and mute with astonishment.

  Pearse has already commenced his costume school, and goes regularly with thirty or forty young artists to draw and paint from models of Italian costume, every evening at eight o’clock. We have nearly-indeed, I may say, quite-decided to pass the winter here in Rome, instead of at Florence, as we had at first intended. There are many more advantages here for Pearse as an artist, and we both prefer Rome much, though we shall not be nearly as comfortable as to domestic arrangements, but, thank fortune, I do not make them of great importance and am willing to put up with anything for the sake of living in Rome.

  We are domiciled in the house of a kind-hearted little woman named Bordoni, who is most attentive to all my wants, and who is honest and simple. We take our dinners at the Lepre, the largest trattoria in Rome, though not the most elegant. We have very good cooking and quite cheap too. Then we meet some three or four American artists and have pleasant talks. Mr. Freeman, Mr. Hicks, and Kensett are interesting young artists whom we like much. Altogether the life here is very pleasant, apart from the great attractions of the place. The air on the hill of the Quirinal Palace, which we are quite near, is very fresh and good.

  We have seen the new Pope, who is so much beloved, and with good reason, for he has liberated all political offenders, and has commenced his reign with benevolence and justice. To-morrow is to be a great procession, which the Pope leads through several streets to the oldest church in Rome, St. John of Lateran. There, some grand ceremony is to take place, he is to receive the keys of the church, after which Pope, cardinals, military, and all are to march back again through the city to the Quirinal Palace. We are going to try to get a sight of the procession, and see some of the enthusiasm of the Romans en masse. The city is full of people who come to be present at this festival, and I hope to see something quite grand in the way of a show.

  As yet, we have received no letters from home, and it is three months, and more, since we left New York. . . . The seventh of November blows coldly in America, while we are living without fires, and sit half the day with windows open. Honeysuckles and roses in full bloom in the open air, and orange and lemon trees hanging full of fruit in all the gardens. I have bought a little Roman vase, and have it filled with honeysuckle and flowers that we picked at the Baths of Caracalla.

  November 12. This evening I feel very tired, for we have been through the Vatican, and walked home afterwards. Yes, we have made our first visit to the Vatican, but my memory is confused with its treasures. I remember quite distinctly, however, the Apollo, the Laocoon, and Domenichino’s picture of the Last Communion of St. Gerome. . . .

  We got lost once or twice in the infinite number of rooms, and our heads were fairly heavy with the weight of riches and beauty around us. We could look at nothing well, but walked on, feeling almost dizzy with the variety and countless numbers of rare objects of antique beauty on all sides of us. The Sistine Chapel, where live the frescoes of Michael Angelo, we did not see.

  November 18. Evening. Pearse and George at the Lepre. I prefer now to dine at my room. Our little padrona cooks me a bistecca, as they Italianize beefsteak, and I make various nice dishes of tomatoes, rice, etc., on my small stove, so that I get a simple dinner for eight or ten baiocchi, without the trouble of a long walk to the trattoria. Indeed, it is surprising how comfortably we can live here in one room, and with what little expense.

  I have a lovely bunch of roses in my black vase, which was picked from Tenerani’s garden—the Italian sculptor—yesterday morning, blooming in the open air, and for which I only gave one baioc.

  Since I last wrote here, I had a nice letter from home, yes, a nice letter from Carry (Mrs. Downing), but not half minute enough; she forgets I am three or four thousand miles off, and writes as if I were in New York. Grandma and Aunty are enjoying good health. I can see them in their quiet little home, on the banks of the glorious Hudson. There is no place I have yet seen seems to me more beautiful than the shores of the North River, with its clear, bracing, fine air, and strong, rich scenery; although it wants the noble, picturesque, old ruins of Rome, to give it poetical and classic associations. On Sunday last we walked out to San Giovanni di Laterani, and saw at sunset the grand view from its porch, with the ruined and broken arches of the ancient Aqueduct, lit up by the soft, mellow rays of an Italian sun. Behind the arches, as they went stretching along for miles on the Campagna, rose the blue, distant mountains called the Sabine Hills, and still above them were piled the snowy-topped Apennines, all bathed in a golden and purplish mist. It was indeed exquisitely beautiful, and we walked home in the quiet, cool evening, with our minds full of the beauty we had seen. That same evening Kensett and Hicks came to see us, and I had prepared for them some good, strong tea, and some American apple sauce, which they seemed to relish much, and we had a merry time around our table, that night.

  A young American, Mr. Boardman, has died, since I last wrote; his death and sickness were quite touching from their loneliness. George was with him the night he died, and was very busy the day after, attending to things which were necessary for the arrangement of his funeral. On Saturday last he was buried in the English burying-ground, where rest Shelley and Keats. Almost all the Americans in Rome attended his funeral; and there they left him, or only what was mortal of him, who had but a week or two before been dining with us at the trattoria, and who was as unconscious of his own dangerous state of health as it was possible for him to be.

  To-night, as usual, Christopher is at the costume school. George went to take tea with Mrs. Crawford. I was to have gone with him, but was too tired to attempt such a long walk, and am sorry, for I like Mr. C.’s looks better every time I see him, and should like to know more of him. He reminds me a little of William Channing, and how could I help liking him, if he reminds me of one I admire so much? Pearse and I will go there soon together, for Mrs. C. has invited us to come whenever we feel inclined to.

  November 26. George and Pearse have gone to take a Thanksgiving dinner with Terry, who has invited some half-dozen other Americans to keep this New England festival at his rooms; no doubt they will have a merry time, and I am sorry I could not join them. . . . Mr. Terry sent me word he was sorry he had not a wife; if he had, he would invite me. I sent him word I hoped he would not fail to have one before next Thanksgiving, for my sake as well as his own.

  Since Monday last, I have been out very little, as it has rained often; though I went with George to see the Casino in the garden of the Rospigliosi, which has Guido’s Aurora, painted in fresco on the ceiling. We enjoyed it highly, though it nearly broke our necks to look at it. The coloring is exquisite; nothing can be more beautiful than the figures of the hours, which surround the car of Apollo. The horses are splendid, so full of fire and life; indeed there is a sort of rhythm in the picture; one almost fancies as one looks at it, to hear a burst of music from it. It is as full of freshness and of poetry as the morning, which it represents.

  We have a hive of artists here, of all nations, too: Italian, French, Scotch, German, and American. Besides there is a variety of music; there are three guitars, one grand piano, a violoncello, two flutes, and an accordion. Some mornings I hear the German in the room opposite, sounding some fine chords on his piano, or playing some of the good German music, which he plays finely. Then again as I sit at my painting, sometimes I hear a groaning and sighing of the Frenchman’s violoncello upstairs; it sounds like a mighty musical wind blowing through the forests. In the afternoon or evening, the Scotchman’s guitar tinkles an accompaniment to some pretty little Neapolitan song that his master is teaching him. When Christopher comes in tired, he seizes his flute and warbles some sweet air upon it,—some of Schubert’s songs or some sweet Italian air; so that we have music, painting, and sculpture in the house,—two young sculptors have their studio on the ground floor,—then George is the poet, and Pearse another, though he has not written a line for many months now. Still, the muse will visit him again at the fitting time. We have all the arts here, it is quite a little Parnassus.

  Last night George came in and read me some extracts of Browning’s poems. One called “Christina,” and a love-song to a Spanish girl, walking in a garden, were both full of quaintness and originality, and brimful of beauty. I only wish we had his poems, and George to read them to me, for it requires some study to discover their meaning, his style is so involved. I feel very much the want of books here. Monaldini’s circulating library has very little but novels in it, and his books are too expensive to buy, so that I shall have to hunt up, in some other way, some French or English books, for I must read something. I have just finished Beckford’s “Sketches in Italy,” without much enjoyment. Sir Francis Head’s “Bubbles from the Brunnen,” are sprightly, pleasant reading, and now I. am skimming over “Corinne,” to see what Madame de Stael says of the antiquities of Rome, having read it always before for the love part of it.

  December 4. Burrill [Curtis] has arrived since my last record here. He came more than a week ago, after we had been expecting him for many days. Indeed, I had begun to feel very anxious about him, as we knew he had sailed from America the first of October, and when the 26th of November came, and still no tidings of him, I felt somewhat alarmed. It was late one night. George and Pearse were singing, when we were startled by a loud cry from the street, of “George, George,” and many bangs and thumps accompanying the voice. After some moments we ran to the window, and there by the side of an Italian, with a great black trunk on his head, stood Burrill, looking up at us, and wondering how to get into the house, not yet being accustomed to Italian entrances, which are rather peculiar. He had arrived late in the diligence from Civita Vecchia, and could not bear the idea of going to a hotel without seeing us that night, so had set out in search of us, and the song had directed him, as he knew the voices, though he could not tell from what house they proceeded. We listened to the account of his voyage, and of all our friends across the water. He brought me letters from home, with mostly good news.

  Yesterday was an exciting day for all within the walls of Rome, for it was the day of the great inundation, such as has not been known for forty years or more. The Tiber, owing to the great rains of late, grew riotous, and leaping all bounds, came flowing into the city, filling up the lower stories of the houses with water and malting prisoners of the upper inmates. Many streets have been, and are still, impassable, except with boats. The Ghetto, or Jews’ quarter, is all afloat, and it is said there must be much suft’ering there. They are all locked up in that quarter every night, and cannot escape from it, except to the tops of the houses. We are so much on the hill, being halfway up the Monte Cavallo, we have not suffered any inconvenience from it, and except for the excitement and interest we have felt, have not been participators in the general commotion.

  December 27. Christmas has passed with us in this city of churches and of priests, and we have seen several of the fine shows of cardinals in their rich dresses; a procession in Santa Maria Maggiore in which the Pope is carried in a rich chair, or canopy, and followed by the holy Bambino. The church, which is a very rich one, was most elegantly illuminated with wax candles and ornamented with rich and tasteful draperies. The middle of the church was guarded by a line of Swiss soldiers. The Pope’s bodyguard, who kept a free passageway for the procession, all kneeled as the Pope passed, and outside were thousands of people, crowding close upon the guard. We had a good view of the ceremony, heard the chanting, which was not very fine, and after staying from two to three hours, we came home with a party of our friends, who stayed with us till twelve, and then left to go to the midnight mass at San Luigi, where they heard good music. Pearse did not get home until two o’clock in the morning, when he slept some five hours, and set out for St. Peter’s, to see the great display there for Christmas Day. I suppose this is the greatest church show that is to be seen in the world.

  On Christmas night, Pearse and I went to the American consul’s, Mr. Brown’s. Yesterday Mrs. Crawford called in her carriage, attended by baby, nurse, and all the accessories of a grand lady, and invited me to ride with her to St. Peter’s. So we arrived there just in time for vespers, and I heard some of the finest church music I ever listened to, and we walked around the church. Mrs. C. invited us to a party at her house on New Year’s, to hear Mr. Solyman play the piano. I suppose it will be a large party, and having no party dress I shall probably not go.

  December 30. Last night, being a beautiful moonlit evening, I went with a party of gentlemen to see the Coliseum by moonlight. Pearse did not go, as he had been there twice before, at night, and besides was busy at his costume school. Our party was entirely American; it consisted of George and Burrill, Hicks, Terry, and Schlossen, all those whom I meet every day at the Lepre. I see so few ladies that I am becoming quite accustomed to living without them. We went from the Lepre, where we dine daily at five, to the Caffee Nuovo, a large and handsome café, where smoking was not allowed, and after the gentlemen had taken their cup of caffee nero, we set out for the Coliseum, crossing the Capitoline Hill, down past the Forum, through the Arch of Titus, to that grandest of all ruins, which looked so desolate and grim in the moonlight, its time-worn arches and galleries speaking so strongly of the past, that one could linger and dream there for hours. . . .

  From Mr. Cranch’s Journal:—

  The benediction I would not have missed for a good deal. It was very fine. A large space immediately under the great Balcony was occupied by the soldiers, and outside of them was an immense crowd. When the Pope came forward, borne upon his throne, and chanted out the blessing in a clear, loud voice, the soldiers and people all kneeled or stood uncovered; and at the close of each verse and of the benediction, the drums and cannon answered.

  November 22. We went the other day into the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. It was built by Michael Angelo, and is the most beautiful church, I think, I ever saw. The paintings are, many of them, very fine. Here I saw Domenichino’s St. Sebastian, a fresco of wonderful power and beauty.

  Visited “Propagandi” College to see McNeal, a fellow passenger on the Nebraska,—a cold, formal, prisonlike place. The library, however, is very rich and fine; full of the most rare and valuable old tomes.

  The most beautiful of places about Rome are the grounds of the Borghese Villa. Here you have the finest combination of nature and art. Shady lanes, half covered at this mellow season with fallen leaves, leading to stately palaces and antique temples; Grecian and Egyptian gateways; statues; fountains and artificial lakes. Deep groves of ilex and tall Italian pines surround you; and from one hill, crowned with a ruined summer house, you look back on gardens and groves, over to St. Peter’s, and in another direction on the Campagna and Mount Soracte. This hill is one of the loveliest spots. We spent half a day in wandering over the grounds, and returning by sunset, saw the dome of St. Peter’s suffused in purple haze against the sun, with an arch and fountain in the foreground, for a frame to the picture, forming a most picturesque combination.

  January 11. Christmas Eve,—great doings and most brilliant illumination in the Sta. Maria Maggiore, and the church of San Luigi in Francese, at midnight, when we heard fine music.

  On Christmas Day at St. Peter’s, an immense crowd, and a gorgeous show of costume, among the great of the Church and State, the Pope performing high mass, in the body of the church. The singing by the Pope’s choir was very fine; and at the elevation of the Host, a slow, solemn strain from a band of wind instruments, was exceedingly impressive.—

  On Twelfth Night went to the Fair. Great crowd, and a tremendous noise; everybody pushing, talking, and screaming; bands of boys and men with horns and whistles, penny trumpets and rattles, parading about; each one trying to blow his loudest, the whole perfectly deadening. What singular and apparently childish forms the Italians’ fondness for excitement and amusement takes!

  Miserere and other fine music, sung at a concert by the Pope’s choir, February 4. This was the richest music of this character. Nothing could be grander than the harmonies, or more sweet and tender. The execution was wonderful.

  Born in Rome a son, George William Cranch, March 11, 1847, named for George William Curtis.

  From the Autobiography:—

  Easter Sunday, April 4, I attended the services at St. Peter’s, after which Pope Pio Nono gave his benediction, from a high balcony to the crowd. . . . The great Piazza San Pietro was one dense black mass of human beings, mingled with carriages and the bristling bayonets and gay uniform of soldiers. At night was the wonderful illumination of the great dome. The first blaze of splendor was impressive, but the glory of this was dimmed by the second-the lesser lights being swallowed up in the blaze, like stars at sunrise. It was a glorious sight!

  The next evening we had the famous Girandola, or fireworks, at the Castle of St. Angelo, a spectacle which rivals the illumination of St. Peter’s. The whole castle was at first illuminated with a thousand intense lights, which studded it thickly all over, and burned with the splendor of daylight, lighting up the whole landscape far and near, and turning the very Tiber into reflected fire. Then burst out thousands of rockets in all directions like a tree of fire. Some of these bursting in the air sent out multitudes of fiery serpents, which hissed and twisted and writhed in the air. Then magnificent fire-wheels revolved. Then the whole castle was illuminated with glorious crimson lights, while the windows were the most delicate green. Then a cascade of fire fell rushing steadily like water, for some minutes, in three sheets, from the top to the bottom of the castle. And all between the sights, such a roar of cannon and rushing of rockets that the whole sky seemed to be on fire!

  The whole show was on such an immense scale, and so perfectly bewildering in its beautiful execution, that I thought the contriver of these pyrotechnics must surely be a man of genius, and truly deserving the name of artist.

1 Mr. Curtis’s mother.
2 He spoke, he willed, be created.
Behold a second unknown world
Rise from the sea.

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