Things and Thoughts in Europe . . . XXVI.

Things and Thoughts in Europe

Special Correspondence of The Tribune[XXVI.

Thoughts of the Italian Race, the Seasons, and Rome . . . . Changes . . . . The Death of Minister Rossi . . . . The Church of San Luigi del Francesi . . . . St. Cecilia and the Domenichino Chapel . . . . The Piazza del Popolo; The Troops; Preparatory Movements toward the Quirinal . . . . The Demonstration on the Palace . . . . The Church; Its Position and Aims . . . . The Pope’s Fight, &c . . . . Social Life . . . . Communications with America . . . . The New Year.
ROME, December 2, 1848.

Messrs. Greeley & McElrath:

  Not till I saw the snow on the mountains grow rosy in the Autumn sunset did I turn my steps again toward Rome. I was very ready to return. After three or four years of constant excitement this six months of seclusion had been welcome; but now I felt the need of meeting other eyes beside those, so bright and so shallow, of the Italian peasant. Indeed, I left what was most precious that I could not take with me; still it was a compensation that I was again to see Rome. Rome that almost killed me with her cold breath of last Winter, yet still with that cold breath whispered a tale of import so divine. Rome so beautiful, so great; her presence stupefies and one has to withdraw to prize the treasure she has given. City of the Soul! yes, it is that; the very dust magnetizes you, and thousand spells have been chaining you in every careless, every murmuring moment. Rome, however seen, thou must be still adored; and every hour of absence or presence must deepen love with one who has known what it is to repose in thy arms.

  Repose! for whatever be the revolutions, tumults, panics, hopes of the present day, still the temper of life here is Repose. The great Past enfolds us, and the emotions of the moment cannot here importantly disturb that impression. From the wild shout and throng of the streets the setting sun recalls us as it rests on a hundred domes and temples—rests on the Campagna, whose grass is rooted in departed human greatness. Burial-place so full of spirit that Death itself seems no longer cold; oh let me rest here too! Rest, here, seems possible; meseems myriad lives still linger here, awaiting some one great summons.

  The rivers had burst their bounds, and beneath the moon the fields round Rome lay, one sheet of silver. Entering the gate while the baggage was under examination, I walked to the gate of a villa. Far stretched its overarching shrubberies, its deep-green bowers; two statues with foot advanced and uplifted finger, seemed to greet me; it was near the scene of great revels, great splendors in the old time; there lay the gardens of Sallust, where were combined palace, theater, library, bath and villa. Strange things have happened now, the most attractive part of which—the secret heart—lies buried or has fled to animate other forms; for of that part historians have rarely given a hint, more than they do now of the truest life of our day, that refuses to be embodied by the pen; it craves forms more mutable, more eloquent than the pen can give.

  I found Rome empty of foreigners; most of the English had fled in affright—the Germans and French are wanted at home—the Czar has recalled many of his younger subjects; he does not like the schooling they get here. That large part of the population which lives by the visits of foreigners was suffering very much—trade, industry, for every reason, stagnant. The people were every moment becoming more exasperated by the impudent measures of Minister Rossi, and their mortification at seeing Rome represented and betrayed by a foreigner. And what foreigner? A pupil of Guizot and Louis Philippe. The news had just reached them of the bombardment and storm of Vienna. Zucchi, the Minister-of-War, left Rome to put down over-free manifestations in the Provinces, and impede the entrance of the troops of the Patriot Chief, Garribaldi, into Bologna. From the Provinces came soldiery, called by Rossi to keep order at the opening of the Chamber of Deputies. He reviewed them in the face of the Civic Guard; the Press began to be restrained; men were arbitrarily seized and sent out of the kingdom; the public indignation rose to its hight; the cup overflowed.

  The 15th was a beautiful day and I had gone out for a long walk. Returning at night, the old Padrona met me with her usual smile a little clouded, “Do you know,” said she, “that the Minister Rossi has been killed?” [No Roman said murdered.]


  “Yes—with a thrust in the back. A wicked man, surely, but is that the way to punish CHRISTIANS?”

  “I cannot,” observed a Philosopher, “sympathize under any circumstances with so immoral a deed; but surely the manner of doing it was grandiose.”

  The people at large was not so refined in their comments as either the Padrona or the Philosopher; but soldiers and populace alike ran up and down signing “Blessed the hand that rids the earth of a tyrant.”

  “Certainly, the manner was grandiose.”

  The Chamber was awaiting the entrance of Rossi. Had he lived to enter, he would have found the Assembly, without a single exception, ranged upon the Opposition benches. His carriage approached, attended by a howling, hissing multitude. He smiled, affected unconcern, but must have felt relieved when his horses entered the courtyard gate of the Cancelleria. He did not know he was entering the place of his execution. The horses stopped; he alighted in the midst of a crowd; it jostled him as if for the purpose of insult; he turned abruptly and received as he did so the fatal blow. It was dealt by a resolute, perhaps experienced hand; he fell and spoke no word more.

  The crowd, as if all previously acquainted with the plan, as no doubt most of them were, issued quietly from the gate and passed through the outside crowd—its members, among whom was he who dealt the blow, dispersing in all directions.—For two or three minutes this outside crowd did not know that anything special had happened.—When they did, the news was at the moment received in silence. The soldiers in whom Rossi had trusted, whom he had hoped to flatter and bribe, stood at their posts and said not a word.—Neither they nor any one asked “Who did this? Where is he gone?” The sense of the people certainly was that it was an act of summary justice on an offender whom the laws could not reach, but they felt it to be indecent to shout or exult on the spot where he was breathing his last. Rome, so long supposed the Capital of Christendom, certainly took a very pagan view of this act, and the piece represented on the occasion at the theaters was “The Death of Nero.”

  The next morning I went to the church of St. Andrea delia Valle, where was to be performed a funeral service, with fine music, in honor of the victims of Vienna; for this they do here for the victims all round—“victims of Milan,” “victims of Paris,” “victims of Naples,” and now “victims of Vienna.” But to-day I found the church closed, the service put off—Rome was thinking about her own victims.

  I passed into the Ripetta, and entered the church of San Luigi del Francesi. The Republican flag was flying at the door; the young Sacristan said the fine musical service which this church gave formerly on St. Philip’s day, in honor of Louis Philippe, would now be transferred to the Republican Anniversary, the 25th of February. I looked at the monument Chateaubriand erected when here, to a poor girl who died last of her family, having seen all the others perish around her. I entered the Domenichino Chapel, and gazed anew on those magnificent representations of the Life and Death of St. Cecilia. She and St. Agnes are my favorite saints. I love to think of those angel visits which her husband knew by the fragrance of roses and lilies left behind in the apartment. I love to think of his visit to the Catacombs, and all that followed. In this picture St. Cecilia, as she stretches out her arms toward the suffering multitude, seems as if an immortal fount of purest love sprung from her heart. She gives very strongly the sense of an inexhaustible love—the only love that is much worth thinking about.

  Leaving the church I passed along toward the Piazza del Popolo, “Yellow Tiber rose,” but not high enough to cause “distress,” as he does when in a swelling mood rather than “mantle” it. I heard the drums beating, and, entering the Piazza I found the troops of the line already assembled, and the Civic Guard marching in by platoons; each battaglione saluted as it entered by trumpets and a fine strain from the hand of the Carbineers.

  I climbed the Pincian to see better. There is no place so fine for anything of this kind as the Piazza del Popolo, it is so full of light, so fair and grand, the obelisk and fountain make so fine a center to all kinds of groups.

  The object of the present meeting was for the Civic Guard and troops of the line to give pledges of sympathy preparatory to going to the Quirinal to demand a change of Ministry and of measures. The flag of the Union was placed in front of the obelisk; all present saluted it; some officials made addresses; the trumpets sounded, and all moved toward the Quirinal.

  Nothing could be gentler than the disposition of the crowd. They were resolved to be played with no longer, but no threat was heard or thought.—They believed that the Court would be convinced by the fate of Rossi that the retrograde movement it had attempted was impracticable. They knew the retrograde party were panic-stuck, and hoped to use the occasion to free the Pope from their meshes. All felt that Pius IX had fallen irrevocably from his high place of the friend of Progress and father of Italy; but still he was personally beloved, and still his name, so often shouted in hope and joy, had not quite lost its prestige.

  I returned to the house, which is very near the Quirinal. On one side I could see the Palace and gardens of the Pope, on the other the Piazza Barberini and street of the Four Fountains. Presently I saw the carriage of Prince Barberini drive hurriedly into his court-yard gate, the footman signing to close it, a discharge of firearms was heard, and the drums of the Civic Guard beat to arms.

  The Padrona ran up and down crying with every round of shot, “Jesu Maria, they are killing the Pope! O! poor Holy Father—Tita, Tita, (out of the window to her husband,) what is the matter?”

The lord of creation disdained to reply.

  “Oh! Signora, pry, pray, ask Tita what is the matter?” I did so. “I do n’t know, Signora; nobody knows.”

  “Why do n’t you go on the mount and see?”

  “It would be an imprudence, Signora; nobody will go.”

  I was just thinking to go myself when I saw a poor man borne by, badly wounded, and heard that the Swiss were firing on the people. Their doing so was the cause of whatever violence there was, and it was not much.

  The people had assembled, as usual, at the Quirinal, only with more form and solemnity than usual. They had taken with them several of the Chamber of Deputies, and they sent an embassy, headed by Galetti, who had been in the late Ministry, to state their wishes. They received a peremptory negative. They then insisted on seeing the Pope, and pressed on the palace. The Swiss became alarmed, and fired from the windows, from the roof. They did this, it is said, without orders, but who could, at the time, suppose that? If it had been planned to exasperate the people to blood, what more could have been done? As it was, very little was shed; but the Pope, no doubt, felt great panic. He heard the report of fire-arms – heard that they tried to burn a door of the palace. I would lay my life that he could have shown himself without the slightest danger; nay, that the habitual respect for his presence would have prevailed, and hushed all tumult. He did not think so, and to still it once more degraded himself and injured his people, by making promises he did not mean to keep.

  He protests now against those promises as extorted by violence, a strange plea, indeed, for the representative of St. Peter!

  Rome is all full of the effigies of those over whom violence had no power. There is an early Pope about to be thrown into the Tiber; violence had no power to make him say what he did not mean. Delicate girls, men in the prime of hope and pride of power—they were all alike about that. They could be done to death in boiling oil, roasted on coals, or cut to pieces; but they could not say what they did not mean. These formed the true Church; it was these who had power to disseminate the religion of Him, the Prince of Peace, who died a bloody death of torture between sinners, because He never could say what He did not mean.

  A little church outside the gate of St. Sebastias commemorates this affecting tradition of the Church; Peter, alarmed at the persecution of the Christians, had gone forth to fly, when in this spot he saw a bright figure in his path and recognized his Master traveling toward Rome.

  “Lord,” he ssid, “whithcer goes thou?”

  “I go,” replied Jesus, “to die, with my people.”

  Peter comprehended the reproof. He felt that he must not a fourth time deny his Master, yet hope for salvation. He returned to Rome to offer his life in attestation of his faith.

  The Roman Catholic Church has risen a monument to the memory of such facts. And has the present Head of that Church quite failed to understand their monition?

  Not all the Popes have so failed, though the majority have been intriguing, ambitious men of the world. But even the mob of Rome—and in Rome there is true mob of unheeding cabbage-sellers, who never had a thought before contriving how to satisfy their animal instincts for the day—said on hearing the protest, “There was another Pius, not long since, who talked in a very different style. When the French threatened him, he said, “You may do with me as you see fit, but I cannot consent to act against my convictions.”

  In fact, the only dignified course for the Pope to pursue was to resign his temporal power. He could no longer hold it on his own terms; but to that he clung; and the counselors around him were men to wish him to regard that as the first of duties. When the question was of waging war for the independence of Italy, they regarded him solely the head of the Church; but when the demand was to satisfy the wants of his people, and ecclesiastical goods were threatened with taxes, then he was the Prince of the State, bound to maintain all the selfish prerogative of by gone days for the benefits of his successors. Poor Pope! how has his mind been torn to pieces in these later days. It moves compassion. There can be no doubt that all his natural impulses are generous and kind, and in a more private station he would have died beloved and honored; but to this he was unequal; he has suffered bad men to surround; and by their misrepresentations and insidious suggestions, at last entirely to cloud his mind. I believe he really thinks now the Progress movement tens to anarchy, blood, all that looked worst in the French Revolution. However that may be I cannot forgive him some of the circumstances of this flight. To fly to Naples to throw himself in the arms of the bombarding monarch, blessing him and thanking his soldiery for preserving that part of Italy from anarchy—to protest that all his promises at Rome were null and void, when he thought himself in safety to choose a commission for governing in his absence, composed of men of princely blood, but as to character so null that everybody laughed and said he chose those who could best be spared if they were killed; (but they all ran away directly;) when Rome was thus left without any Government, to refuse to see any deputation, even the Senator of Rome, whom he had so gladly sanctioned,—these are the acts either of a fool or a foe. They are not his acts, to be sure, but he is responsible, he lets them stand as such in the face of the world, and weeps and prays for their success.

  No more of him! His day is over. He has been made, it seems unconsciously, an instrument of good his regrets cannot destroy. Nor can he be made so important an instrument of ill. These acts have not had the effect the foes of freedom hoped. Rome remained quite cool and composed; all felt that they had not demanded more than was their duty to demand, and were willing to accept what might follow. In a few days all began to say, “Well, who would have thought it? The Pope, the Cardinals, the Princes are gone, and Rome is perfectly tranquil, and one does not miss anything, except that there are not so many rich carriages and liveries.”

  The Pope may regret too late that he ever gave the people a chance to make this reflection. Yet the best fruits of the movement may not ripen for long. It is one which requires radical measures, clear-sighted, resolute men; these last, as yet, do not show themselves in Rome. The new Tuscan Ministry has three men of superior force in various ways: Montanello, Guerazzi, D’Aguila; such are not as yet to be found in Rome.

  But should she fall this time, (and she must either advance with decision and force, or fall—since to stand still is impossible,) the people have learned much; ignorance and servility of thought are lessened—the way is paving for a final triumph.

  And, my country, what does she? You have chosen a new President from a Slave State, representative of the Mexican War. But he seems to be honest, a man than can be esteemed, and is one really known to the people; which is a step upward, after having sunk last time to choosing a mere tool of party.

  Pray send here a good Ambassador—one that has experience of foreign life, that he may act with good judgment; and, if possible, a man that has knowledge and views which extend beyond the cause of party politics in the United States; a man of unity in principles, but capable of understanding variety in forms. And send a man capable to prize the luxury of living in, or knowing, Rome; it is one that should not be thrown away on a person who cannot prize or use it. Another century, and I might ask to be made Ambassador myself, (‘tis true, like other Ambassadors, I would employ clerks to do most of the duty,) but woman’s day has not come yet. They hold their clubs in Paris, but even George Sand will not act with women as they are. They say she pleads they are too mean, too treacherous. She should not abandon them for that, which is not nature but misfortune. How much I shall have to say on that subject if I live, which I hope I shall not, for I am very tired of the battle with giant wrongs, and would like to have some one younger and stronger arise to say what ought to be said, still more to do what ought to be done. Enough! if I felt these things in privileged America, the cries of mothers and wives beaten at night by sons and husbands for their diversion after drinking, as I have repeatedly heard them these past months, the excuse for falsehood, “I dare not tell my husband, he would be ready to kill me,” have sharpened my perceptions as to the ills of Woman’s condition and remedies that must be applied. Had I but genius, had I but energy, to tell what I know as it ought to be told! God grant them me, or some other more worthy woman, I pray.

  But the hour of sending to the post approaches, and I must leave these great matters for some practical details. I wish to observe to my friends and all others, whom it may concern, that a banking-house here having taken Mr. Hooker, an American, into partnership, some facilities are presented for intercourse with Rome, which they may value. Mr. Hooker undertakes to have pictures copied, and to purchase those little objects of virtu peculiar to Rome, for those who cannot come themselves, as I suppose few would wish to at this time. He has the advantage of a general acquaintance with the artists to be employed, and an experience, that, no doubt, would enable him to do all this with better advantage than any stranger can for himself. It is also an excellent house to have to do with in money matters, reasonable, exact, and where none of the petty trickery or neglect so common at Torlonia’s need be apprehended. They have now made arrangements with Livingston, Wells, & Co. for the transmission of letters. Many addressed to me have been lost, I know not how; and I should like my friends to send to me when they can through this channel. Men who feel able can pay their letters through in this way, which has been impossible before. I have received many letters marked paid through, and I fear my friends in America have often paid what was quite useless, as no arrangements have been made for forwarding the letters post-paid to Rome. Those who write now can pay their letters to Florence, if they have friends there, through Livingston, Wells & Co. to care Muquay, Pakenham & Co. Florence. To us of Rome they can be sent through the same, to care of Pakenham, Hooker & Co. Rome.

  Those of our friends, (I speak of the poor artists as well as myself,) who cannot afford to pay, should at least forbear to write on thick paper and under an envelop, the unnecessary use of which doubles the expense of the letter. I am surprised to find even those who have been abroad so negligent in these respects. I might have bought all the books of reference I needed, and have been obliged to do without money that could have been saved by attention from my friends to these particulars.

  Write us two, three, four sheets if you will, on this paper, without crossing. Then if one pays a couple of dollars for a letter, at least one has something for the money; and letters are too important to happiness; we cannot afford to be without knowledge of your thoughts, your lives; but it is hard, in people who can scarcely find bread, to pay for coarse paper and an envelop the price of a beautiful engraving, and know at the same time that they are doomed to leave Rome unable to carry away a single copy of what they have most loved here, for possession or for gift. So write, dear friends, much and often, but don’t ruin us for nothing.

  Don Tirlone, the Punch of Rome, has just come in. This number represents the Fortress of Gaeta; outside hangs a cage containing a parrot (Pappagallo), the plump body of the bird is surmounted by a noble large head with benign face and Papal head-dress. He sits on the perch now with folded wings, but the cage door, in likeness of a loggia, shows there is convenience to come forth for the purposes of benediction, when wanted. Outside, the King of Naples, dressed as Harlequin, plays the organ for instruction of the bird (unhappy penitent, doomed to penance,) and grinning with sharp teeth observes: “He speaks in any way now.” In the background a young Republican holds ready the match for a barrel of gunpowder, but looks at his watch waiting the moment to ignite it.

  A happy New-Year to my country! may she be worthy of the privileges she possesses, while others are lavishing their blood to win them—that is all that need be wished for her at present.


“Things and Thoughts in Europe . . . XXVI.” New-York Daily Tribune, 26 January 1849, p. 1.