Florence, October 5th.
IT was not without regret that I forced myself from Lucca. We had all the same road to go over again, that brought us to this important republic, but we broke down by way of variety. The wind was chill, the atmosphere damp and clogged with unwholesome vapours, through which we were forced to walk for a league, whilst our chaise lagged after us. Taking shelter in a miserable cottage, we remained shivering and shaking till the carriage was in some sort of order, and then proceeded so slowly that we did not arrive at Florence till late in the evening. We found an apartment over the Arno prepared for our reception. The river, swollen with rains, roared like a mountain torrent. Throwing open my windows, I viewed its agitated course by the light of the moon, half concealed in stormy clouds, which hung above the fortress of the Belvedere, and cast a lowering gleam over the hills, which rise above the town, and wave with cypress. I sat contemplating the effect of the shadows on the bridge, on the heights of Boboli, and the mountain covered with pale olive-groves, amongst which a convent is situated, till the moon sank into the darkest quarter of the sky, and a bell began to toll. Its sullen sound filled me with sadness: I closed the casements, called for lights, ran to a harpsichord Vannini had prepared for me, and played somewhat in the strain of Jomelli's Miserere.
October 6th. Every cloud was dispersed when I arose; the sunbeams glittered on the stream, and the purity and transparence of the æther added new charms to the woody eminences around. Such was the clearness of the air, that even objects on the distant mountains were distinguishable. I felt quite revived by this exhilarating prospect, and walked in the splendour of sunshine to the porticos beneath the famous gallery, then to an antient castle, raised in the days of the Republic, which fronts the grand piazza. Colossal statues and venerable terms are placed before it. On one side a fountain, clung round with antick figures of bronze, by John of Bologna, so admirably wrought as to hold me several minutes in astonishment. On the other, three lofty Gothic arches, and under one of them the Perseus of Benvenuto Cellini raised on a pedestal, incomparably designed and executed; which I could not behold uninterested, since its author has ever occupied a distinguished place in my kalendar of genius. Having examined some groups of sculptures by Baccio Bandinelli and other mighty artists, I entered the court of the castle, dark and deep, as if hewn out of a rock, surrounded by a vaulted arcade covered with arabesque ornaments and supported by pillars almost as uncouthly carved as those of Persepolis. In the midst appears a marble fount with an image of bronze, that looks quite strange and cabalistic. I leaned against it to look up to the summits of the walls, which rise to a vast height, from whence springs a slender tower. Above, in the apartments of the castle, are still preserved numbers of curious cabinets, tables of inlaid gems, and a thousand rarities, collected by the house of Medici, but exposed by the present sovereign of Tuscany to public sale. It was not without indignation that I learnt this new mark of contempt which the Austrians bestow on the memory of those illustrious patrons of the Arts; whom, being unwilling to imitate, they affect to despise as a race of merchants whose example it would be abasing their dignity to follow. I could have stayed much longer to enjoy the novelty and strangeness of the place; but it was right to pay some compliments of form. That duty over, I dined in peace and solitude, read over your letters, and repaired, as evening drew on, to the thickets of Boboli. What a serene sky! what mellowness in the tints of the mountains! A purple haze concealed the bases, whilst their summits were invested with saffron light, discovering every white cot and every copse that clothed their declivities. The prospect widened as I ascended the terraces of the garden. After traversing many long alleys, brown with impending foliage, I reached the opening on the brow of the hill, and seated myself under the statue of Ceres. I surveyed the mosaic cupolas of the Duomo, its quaint turret, and one still more grotesque in its neighbourhood, built not improbably in the style of ancient Etruria. Beyond this singular group of buildings a plain stretches itself far and wide, scattered over with villas, gardens, and groves of pine and olive, quite to the feet of the mountains. After I had marked the sun's going down, I went through a plat of vines hanging on the steeps to a little eminence, round which the wood grows wilder and more luxuriant, and the cypresses shoot up to a surprising elevation. The pruners have spared this sylvan corner, and suffered the bays to put forth their branches, and the ilex to dangle over the walks, many of whose entrances are nearly over-grown. I enjoyed the gloom of these shady arbours, in the midst of which rises a lofty pavilion with galleries running round it, not unlike the idea one forms of Turkish Chiosks. Beneath, lies a garden of vines and rose trees, which I visited, and found a spring under a rustic arch of grotto-work fringed round with ivy. Millions of fish inhabit here, of that beautiful glittering species which comes from China. This golden nation were leaping after insects as I stood gazing upon the deep clear water, and listening to the drops that trickle from the cove. Opposite to which, at the end of an alley of vines, you discover an oval basin, and in the midst of it a statue of Ganymede, sitting reclined upon the eagle, full of that graceful langour so peculiarly Grecian. Whilst I was musing on the margin of the spring (for I returned to it after casting a look upon the sculpture), the moon rose above the tufted foliage of the terraces. Her silver brightness was strongly contrasted by the deep green of the holm-oak and bay, amongst which I descended by several flights of stairs, with neat marble balustrades crowned by vases of aloes. It was about seven o'clock, and everybody was jumbling to my Lord T – 's, who lives in a fine house all over blue and silver, with stuffed birds, alabaster Cupids, and a thousand prettinesses more; but, after all, neither he nor his abode are worth mentioning. I found a deal of slopping and sipping of tea going forwards, and many dawdlers assembled. As I can say little good of the party, I had better shut the door, and conduct you to the opera, which is really a striking spectacle. However, it being addressed to the sight alone, I was soon tired, and gave myself up to conversation. Bedini, first Soprano, put my patience to severe proof, during the few minutes I attended. You never beheld such a porpoise. If these animals were to sing, I should conjecture it would be in his style. You may suppose how often I invoked Pacchierotti, and regretted the lofty melody of Quinto Fabio. Everybody seemed as well contented as if there were no such thing as good singing in the world, except a Neapolitan duchess who delighted me by her vivacity. We took our fill of maledictions, and went home equally pleased with each other for having mutually execrated both singers and audience. This, you will say, is not infinitely to our advantage. That I allow; but tell you truth I must, whether I will or not. Some dæmon, envious of your having too favorable an opinion of me, forces me every now and then to confessions, which ought to go great lengths to destroy it. Left, therefore, I should transgress all bounds during this communicative moment, and disclose adventures, sacred as the mysteries of Eleusis, I had better fold up my letter, and assure you abruptly of my remaining ever, your affectionate

&c. &c.

Letter I ::: Letter II ::: Letter III ::: Letter IV ::: Letter V ::: Letter VI ::: Letter VII ::: Letter VIII ::: Letter IX ::: Letter X ::: Letter XI ::: Letter XII ::: Letter XIII ::: Letter XIV ::: Letter XV ::: Letter XVI ::: Letter XVII ::: Letter XVIII ::: Letter XIX ::: Letter XX ::: Letter XXI ::: Letter XXII ::: Letter XXIII ::: Letter XXIV ::: Letter XXV ::: Letter XXVI ::: Letter XXVII
Additional letters, I-VII
An Excursion to the Grande Chartreuse in the year 1778