Imágenes de páginas


In the mean time the good Pope is given up to prayer and religious observances leading the simplest and purest life consistent with mortal flesh and blood ; and Antonelli alone guides the helm of state, amid the angry breakers and sunken rocks of the stormy sea that beats furiously against the aged and rotten timbers of the fisherman's “navicella,” weakened, crazy, and disjointed by the tempests of accumulated centuries.

On the occasion of our visit to the cardinal, on whom fortune smiles, we entered the labyrinth of courts forming that part of the Vatican in which the Pope resides, by a private entrance, after making the circuit of St. Peter's, whose colossal proportions can only be rightly estimated by such a giro, or by mounting the cupola. Our carriage dashed through entrance after entrance into a succession of courts, all guarded by mounted sentinels, until reaching the spacious and beautiful cortile, decorated by Raphael, where we dismounted. An interminable staircase of perhaps one hundred steps appeared, something like a nightmare, for there was no end of it. Up and up we climbed, encountering Swiss guards at due intervals; at last, having gained the fourth story-quite the piano nobile at Rome—came the ante-room, with its allowance of cringing menials, who, as we were honoured guests, bowed us at once into a handsome apartment, furnished like a dining-room.

As the cardinal was engaged at the moment, we were here entertained by an old French Monsignore, Chanoin of St. Peter's, a rabid Légitimiste, as he informed us—at all events not so overburdened by brains as to make him an acquisition to any party. I can only say he seemed worthy of the petticoat he wore.

My Italian companion, the Contessa is a perfect worshipper of the Emperor Louis Napoleon, and of the Bonapartes collectively and generally. This she was too cunning and acute to declare openly, but drove the poor old monsignore skilfully into a corner, forcing him to acknowledge how much its present Emperor had done for France

“Mais oui, mais oui; la Providence a agi il faut l'avouer,” replied he. “Enfin la Providence se sert de tous les moyens ”-in. a whining tone.

“ Was not Marshal St. Arnaud a great general ?”
“ Mais oui; un homme de talent, cependant mondain.”

“ Ah !” said my friend, “ France is prosperous ; cela suffit ; ses beaux jours sont revenus;" at which undeniable fact the chanoin. looked glum, although the pink of old-fashioned French politesse.

Feeling himself worsted, he broke out into an enumeration of all the old English families to whom he was allied for my edification. From this he passed to a tremendous eulogy of the cardinal, a man, according to him, "take him for all in all, we ne'er shall look upon his like again.

“ Mais il fait tout, ce cher cardinal; il a des talents universels; il pense à la finance à la diplomatie, au gouvernement intérieur; enfin c'est un homme miraculeux, et si bon, si amable !"

As this “universal” character is the very thing for which Cardinal Antonelli is reproached by his enemies, who stigmatise his ministry precisely because he insists on doing everything, I could scarcely suppress & smile at the ill-timed enthusiasm of the chanoin.

“Ce cher homme," continued he, "vous savez qu'il a manqué d'être tué lorsque le saint Père s'est enfui --comment aurait-il jamais échappé ?



Ah ! il faut adorer la Providence !" Saying which, he folded his hands and assumed an unctuous look of devotion.

I was growing weary of this old man, with his providential" tirades, when the major-domo entered and announced that the cardinal would receive us.

We passed through a suite of rooms to the writing apartment of his Eminence, overlaid with letters and papers, all arranged with the nicest order. Here stood the cardinal, a tall

, handsome man, of about thirty-five, of a

grave and majestic presence, which at once, without any effort on his part, inspires respect. He was dressed, as I had seen Cardinal Wiseman, in a purple robe, or “sottana,” edged and trimmed with red, a red skullcap on his head, stockings to match of red silk, with the nattiest shoes on the neatest feet, set off by gold buckles, any Parisian élégant could desire.

I cannot positively assert that Antonelli is handsome, but he has a fine Roman face, almost Zingaro in character, with brilliant black eyes, and that rich sunburnt complexion common to Italians. The expression of his countenance is excellent; and the suavity and kindness of his manner in receiving a party of ladies (who must have been a great nuisance to him) admirable.

My companion the countess was intimately acquainted with him and his family ; nevertheless her reverence for a cardinal prince operated on her so strongly, that she cast herself on her knees before him and kissed the hem of his robe-a proceeding he vigorously opposed, but without succeeding. My genuflections were also profound, but of a more moderate character, as became a protester, or Protestant, within the precincts of the Vatican.

The cardinal led us into a charming boudoir, or drawing-room beyond, exquisitely furnished. Sofas and chairs of the richest Berlin work ; carpets, into which one's feet sank, as it were, to rise no more ; walls covered with valuable paintings in glowing frames; and crystal cabinets enshrining collections of those articles named “of bigotry and virtue," in coral, alabaster, mosaic, and gold, such as one admires in the jewelroom at the Louvre or at Florence, opening from that stupendous Uffizzi gallery, where are preserved those graceful cinque cento toys that wasted Cellini's best years. The windows looked out over the great Piazza of St. Peter's, and formed part of the façade that faces high up over the colonnades to the right. Sure never were fairer apartments wherein a favoured cardinal kept his state; not even Wolsey at Hampton Court in all his glory was better or more nobly lodged.

We two ladies were seated on the sofa, while the cardinal placed himself opposite, and it was then I fell to admiring the extreme beauty of his foot and the almost feminine whiteness and delicacy of his hands, where on one finger sparkled a superb emerald. A conversation now began with the contessa, who rattled away in a lively, sparkling way on a variety of subjects. She spoke of her desire to make converts to the Catholic faith. Antonelli received her remarks with a silent smile.

“I,” said he, after a pause, “ being a Catholic and a cardinal, naturally would desire to see all the world even as myself—(come son io stesso) --but such a change should arise from deep conviction and mature reflec


[ocr errors]


tion in order to be acceptable to God. I little admire the violent efforts of those who think that by promiscuously making converts they perform a good and acceptable work. For worldly motives to operate in such a

a question is obviously most improper, and I much fear many sudden conversions of inconsiderate persons arise from that cause.

These were noble sentiments, and came with double force from Rome and the Vatican in the nineteenth century. After this little rebuff to the good-natured but over zealous countess, who so eagerly desires to see the whole world within the embrace of the "one true church,” the conversation turned on England-of that country the cardinal professes himself a great admirer. And the extraordinary memory which he possesses! All he reads he remembers, even to the most minute descriptions of public buildings, streets, &c. He told us that he had astonished the D- - by describing to her exactly the exterior of her London mansion.

Why you never told me you had been in London," exclaimed she. “ I never have been,” replied the cardinal to her ; “but I read some years ago a description of the great London houses, and I remembered your grace's was so and so. And,” continued he, “I have surprised Germans and French too with my accurate descriptions of certain marked features in their capitals.”

One can quite believe all this—his bright, intellectual countenance looking through men and events by intuition, and at once deducting his own conclusions.

He inquired particularly about myself, taking really a lively interest in much I told him.

“ Come to me,” said he, “ if I can serve you. Mi farebbe un piacer di poter esserle utile."

Twenty requests were on my lips in a moment-(specially an introduction to a certain unapproachable ambassadress)—but I reflected that the offers of princes were sufficiently complimentary and gracious in themselves, and like relics should be hung up to be venerated and admired, but not to be used. However, I must observe, en parenthèse, respecting Cardinal Antonelli, that I knew an English lady really in distress to whom his kindness and protection, when invoked, were quite Samaritan, and induce me fully to believe in his genuine good-heartedness.

We chatted on in the most agreeable way for more than half an hour, and, although prepared to move, the cardinal did not allow conversation to flag for an instant. He made the contessa quite happy by promising her the consecrated candle which he was to bear at the approaching feast of the Purification, one of the grandest in the Roman calendar ; and

; charmed me by the paternal kindness with which he addressed her daughter, calling her mia figlia, with the most graceful tact possible, assuming thus his own position while he indicated hers.

At last we rose to depart, when the contessa, spite of all opposition, would perform the same genuflections, although he exclaimed" Male prego-Davvero mi duole-Come mai," &c. He shook hands with me, and actually conducted us to the outer door of his private rooms--an attention duly observed by the servitù in waiting, who received us with all manner of homage in consequence. So we retreated-quite comblées d'honneurs—and descended to our carriage in the best possible humour with ourselves and all the great universal world. Oct.-VOL. CII. NO. CCCCVI.


[ocr errors]

A RIGHI DAY. I CAN truly affirm that my last chapter was written before Mr. Albert Smith had freshened my recollections, and made my sides ache with laughter, by his lively enactment of the scene at the long Righi “ supper table," and of his own after sleepless night, under the cross fire of interrogatories carried on through the chip partitions of the Righi Culm Hotel, while the “tin fiddle” of his omnipresent vagabond friend in the attics sounded the charge to the air of " Le Moulin du Village.”

I don't think I met Mr. Smith at the Righi Culm Hotel in 1851. If I did, I take shame to myself for my stupidity in being unaware of the presence of a companion so intelligent and agreeable. Yet I should be afraid to swear I did not, because he brought the whole scene, of what may be an any day, or every day,"réunion," so vividly before ine, that I began to think “gushing Augusta Effingham” must have been my vis-àvis at table; and I feel almost convinced that “undecided Mr. Parker" sat within two or three of me. There is but one part of Mr. Smith's reminiscences to which I must return a complete “non mi ricordo.Of any nocturnal disturbances I must avow myself utterly oblivious, for just as I had composed myself for a most intense and abstracted moonlight meditation, having my eyes fixed on a snow patch before the window, which lay crisping in a hoar frost, even in “ leafy June," my abstraction became somehow or other more complete than I intended. Sleep surprised me, and I lay insensible to “ Jack's” inquiry from No. 18, whether

Harry was asleep in 34 ?”—whether he “had Keller's map ?”—and to all and sundry the other interlocutory annoyances which interfered with Mr. Albert Smith's enjoyment of the balmy,” save and except the summons from the Alp horn in the grey morning, and, as Tony Lumpkin says, " I'll bear witness to that.” It did sound through and about the house, in a fashion which left it scarce a matter of choice to get up; for to sleep, or lie still, under the infliction, was an utter impossibility. The Alp horn reduces the turn-out at morning muster to a

" matter of course.”

A tariff posted in every bedroom proclaims a prohibitory duty on the conversion of blankets or counterpanes into morning wrappers! This is sometimes understood as a hint to take the comfort and


the penalty, but on the morning of the 10th of June, 1851, we saw no instance of

Cloths contrived a double debt to pay

Blankets by night, made mantles of by day. My girls and I had come adequately provided with sundry appliances, to meet that biting blast which swept along, heralding the sun's approach, and realising the magical artistic effect of the “Rospigliosi Aurora,” of which wonderful fresco the leading idea seems to be, to express the rapidity with which the god of day sweeps on to his rising,

And leaves the breezes of the moon behind. We all three took the field, in suitable hirsute garments of endurance, but others emerged from the hotel in most grotesque variety of habiliment; among the rest, there remains indelibly fixed on my memory (and rises

[ocr errors]




before the mind's eye” as I write) one figure, which even in the glowing subset of the last evening, I had admired as an exemplification of the triumph of—soul over substance of mind making light of physical impediments which would have weighed down, and detained in the lower world, any one with but the ordinary desire for the grand and picturesque : in plain prose, this was a German lady, of that square, substantial build which renders the term "sylphid," as applied to dames of Teutonic race, a mere phrase of form, if not of ridicule. By what route, or by what mode of conveyance the lady in question attained the Righi top, quite passes my comprehension. If carried by “porteurs,” they must have been of " the race of the Anakim ;” if borne by a horse, the animal must have had the preternatural qualities of the fabled hippogriff! There however she stood“ in the flesh,” her age sixty, if a day; her weight twenty stone! if a pound; and yet full of activity to explore, and enthusiasm to admire, everything. In the nipping morning air she was by no means the last to emerge from the hotel

, presenting in the twilight the most extraordinary appearance conceivable-her square, solid person, wrapped in a grey horseman's coat, not worn cloak-wise, but put on after manly fashion ! her round, firm face, hedged about with papillottes, her bonnet surmounting her unremoved night head-gear! I am sure she divided for some moments the attention of the whole company with the glorious panorama emerging into view around us ; our American friend, among the rest, greeted her appearance with a long whistle, and after a steady stare with arms a-kimbo, concluded his survey with the following suggestion, evincing at once his appreciation of the object before him, and his lively interest in the phenomena of nature-"By Jove ! what an avalanche she would make !"

While the hotel thus yielded up its inmates, and “the Staffelhaus” below sent up its contingent of shivering enthusiasts to the sun's levee, the day-dawn was rapidly coming up from eastwards, in the direction of the Rossberg, which seemed to sink into still deeper shadow as the snow peaks above and behind it began to blush through the grey light of morning

Pages might be filled with descriptions of the Righi sunrise, and yet tell nothing. We might detail with guide-book accuracy the names of the giant mountains which began to show in the distance of the Oberland and the Grisons, as the sun touches each successively, and seems to call it in to being out of the chaos of darkness ; but when all is done, what do such descriptions convey ? Nothing! Names, and no more. There is no travelled impertinence in the assertion, that when you can understand a description of the Righi panorama at sunrise, you do not want it ; pictures will be superfluous, for you must have seen the original to form any conception of that snowy ocean, which loses itself in distance to the south and westward, in which every billow is a separate mountain, while Mont Blanc, the “monarch” of all, shows only like a “crowning tenth wave” in the vastness of that undefined expanse.

Upon one grace of the scene we can dwell, if only to confess the impossibility of fixing it in description-I mean that exquisite and everchanging blush with which the cold, virgin purity of the snow acknowledges the approaches of the day.god. A student of the laws of colour would, I have no doubt, find interest and information in observing the

« AnteriorContinuar »