Abbildungen der Seite

most part brick, many of them crazy, and supported upon props, and that such as belonged to a patrician himself, had often the ground-floor assigned to a huckster or a dealer in oil; that in the windows (which were few in number) glass was seldom if ever to be seen, but in its stead a dimly transparent stone, or shutter of wood; that, from a want of chimneys, the rooms were full of smoke, which was left to make its escape by the tiles, the windows, and the door ; that on this account Vitruvius expressly forbade carved work or moulding, except in the summer apartments, where no fire was admitted, because in the others they would be covered with soot (lib. vii. c. 4.); that amongst the accomplishments of a cook, it was expected that he should be skilful in detecting which way the wind blew, lest, if he opened the wrong kitchen-window, the smoke should be driven into the broth ;-that, under these circumstances, the ancestors of a Roman gentleman, when they had occupied the niches of his hall for a few years, bore a very striking resemblance to modern chimney-sweepers; that the Romans made as much use of their fingers at a meal as Englishmen do of their forks; and that Ovid, in his Art of Love, gives it as a piece of Chesterfield advice to the young gallants of his time, not to smear their mouths with their greasy hands' more than necessary; that a mappa, or napkin, for each individual, was thus absolutely requisite; that every guest brought his own, and, lest the gravy and sauce-boats overturned should not do it full justice, it was made further serviceable as a pocket handkerchief! They might have learned, moreover, from the same authorities, that the middle ranks of the citizens were clad in white woollen vestures, which were of course as habitually dirty as might be expected from the general poverty of the wearers, whilst the baser plebeians, not able to affect this shabby gentility, contented themselves


with garments of the colour, and quality, and neatness of a mendicant friar's; that their shirts, too, were composed of the same material; and that from these causes, aided by the blessing of a warm climate, and the plentiful use of garlic, the effluvia of their public assemblies was so offensive, that even in a roofless theatre the emperor found it expedient to sprinkle his faithful subjects with showers of rose-water :--and having duly weighed these, and similar points of minute history, they might certainly have brought themselves to adopt more sober views of the magnificence of ancient Rome, and an ancient Roman, and have advanced to the Porta del Popolo with the reasonable chance of having their antici. pations, in many respects at least, completely fulfilled.”

“ But,” resumed Egeria, “ although this account of the state of ancient Rome is, I doubt not, perfectly just, it would seem that the condition of the modern city is not much better. Without looking farther than the appearance of things as they are, travellers ascribe the slovenliness of the Italians, and chiefly that of the Romans, to the decline of moral energy among them,--which same moral energy is one of those vague generalities that are admitted as things understood ; whereas, if I mistake not, they are, for the most part, terms without any

distinct or accurate meaning. However, it would be difficult to prove that the slovenliness of the modern Romans is owing to any such cause, as either a failing in their powers of reasoning or in their faculty of intellectual taste; for the probability is, that Rome at present, in what respects the accommodation and comfort of the inhabitants, is superior to what she ever was, even in the palmiest period of her magnificence. In truth, I have a notion that the dryness of the Italian air is not favourable to cleanliness. The neatest people, in all their household concerns, are the Dutch,and, beyond all question, they are incited to the industry which makes them so to their mud and their moist climate. The English are perhaps more delicate than the Dutch; they have, generally speaking, the same love of neatness, but they have also a degree of taste for greater elegance, which I attribute to our climate being more variable than that of Holland; our love of the neat, if I may be permitted so to speak, considering it as a quality different from the bountiful, I would ascribe to the foggy humidity of our climate—the Dutch days—which are not so numerous in the course of the year as to make neatness the sole object of household thrift,--and our taste for the elegant to those bright and sunny intervals, though few and far between, which occasionally exalt the temperament of our sensations and perceptions to a degree of Italian delicacy. But not to descant on a topic so pregnant with controversy and metaphysics, I will read to you, from a clever female work, entitled, Rome in the Nineteenth Century," an account of the state of her palaces, as illustrative of what I have just been saying with regard to the domestic comforts of her inhabitants."

ROMAN PALACES. “ Palaces, to an English ear, convey an idea of all that the imagination can figure of elegance and splendour. But after a certain residence in Italy, even this obstinate early association is conquered, and the word immediately brings to our mind images of dirt, neglect, and decay. The palaces of Rome are innumerable ;

but then, every gentleman's house is a palace, I should say, every nobleman's,-for there are no gentlemen in Italy except noblemen; society being, as of old, divided into two classes, the Patricians and the Plebeians : but though every gentleman is a nobleman, I am sorry to say, every nobleman is not a gentleman; neither would many of their palaces be considered by any means fit residences for gentlemen in our country. The legitimate application of the word, which, with us, is confined to a building forming a quadrangle, and enclosing a court within itself, is by no means adhered to here. Every house that has a porte côcher, and many that have not, are called palaces; and, in short, under that high-sounding appellation, are comprehended places, whose wretchedness far surpasses the utmost stretch of an English imagination to conceive.

Rome, however, contains real palaces, whose magni. tude and magnificence are astonishing to transalpine eyes; but their tasteless architecture is more astonish

ing still.

Though they have the great names of Michael Angelo, Bramante, Versopi, Bernini, &c. &c. among their architects; though they are built of travertine stone, which, whether viewed with the deepened hues of age in the Colosseum, or the brightness of recent finish in St Peter's, is, I think, by far the finest material for building in the world, and though, from the grandeur of their scale, and the prodigality of their decoration, they admitted of grand combinations and striking effect yet they are lamentably destitute of architectural beauty in the exterior; and in the interior, though they are filled with vast ranges of spacious apartments-though the polished marbles and precious spoils of antiquity have not been spared to embellish them-though the genius of painting has made them her modern temples, and sculpture adorned them with the choicest remains of ancient art, yet they are, generally speaking, about the most incommodious, unenviable, uncomfortable dwellings you can imagine.

I know it may said, that comfort in England and in Italy is not the same thing ; but it never can consist in dulness, dirt, and dilapidation, any where. Italian comfort

may not require thick carpets, warm fires, or close rooms; but it can be no worse of clean floors, commodious furniture, and a house in good repair.

“ In habitations of such immense size and costly decorations as these, you look for libraries, baths, musicrooms, and every appendage of refinement and luxury ; but these things are rarely to be found in Italian palaces. If they were arranged and kept up, indeed, with any thing of English propriety, consistency, order, or cleanliness, many of them would be noble habitations ; but in the best of them, you see a barrenness, a neglect, an all-prevailing look of misery-deficiencies every where -and contemptible meannesses adhering to grasping magnificence. But nothing is so offensive as the dirt. Amongst all the palaces, there is no such thing as a palace of cleanliness. You see—and that is not the worst-you smell abominable dunghills heaped up against the walls of splendid palaces, and foul heaps of ordure defiling their columned courts ;-you ascend noble marble staircases, whose costly materials are invisible beneath the accumulated filth that covers them ; and you are sickened with the noxious odours that assail you at every turn. You pass through long suites of ghastly rooms, with a few crazy old tables and chairs, thinly scattered through them, and behold around you nothing but gloom and discomfort.

The custom of abandoning the ground floor to menial purposes, except when used for shops, which is almost universal throughout Italy, and covering its windows, both for security and economy, with a strong iron grate

« ZurückWeiter »