Rome, Oct. 29th.
WE set out in the dark. Morning dawned over the Lago di Vico; its waters, of a deep ultramarine blue, and its surrounding forests catching the rays of the rising sun. It was in vain I looked for the cupola of St. Peter's upon descending the mountains beyond Viterbo. Nothing but a sea of vapours was visible. At length, they rolled away; and the spacious plains began to show themselves, in which the most warlike of nations reared their seat of empire. On the left, afar off, rises the rugged chain of Apennines, and on the other side, a shining expanse of ocean terminates the view. It was upon this vast surface so many illustrious actions were performed, and I know not where a mighty people could have chosen a grander theatre. Here was space for the march of armies, and verge enough for encampments: levels for martial games, and room for that variety of roads and causeways that led from the Capital to Ostia. How many triumphant legions have trodden these pavements! how many captive kings! What throngs of cars and chariots once glittered on their surface! savage animals dragged from the interior of Africa; and the ambassadors of Indian princes, followed by their exotic train, hastening to implore the favour of the senate! During many ages, this eminence commanded almost every day such illustrious scenes; but all are vanished: the splendid tumult is passed away: silence and desolation remain. Dreary flats thinly scattered over with ilex, and barren hillocks crowned by solitary towers, were the only objects we perceived for several miles. Now and then we passed a few black ill-favoured sheep straggling by the way's side, near a ruined sepulchre, just such animals as an ancient would have sacrificed to the Manes. Sometimes we crossed a brook, whose ripplings were the only sounds which broke the general stillness, and observed the shepherds' huts on its banks, propped up with broken pedestals and marble friezes. I entered one of them, whose owner was abroad tending his herds, and began writing upon the sand and murmuring a melancholy song. Perhaps the dead listened to me from their narrow cells. The living I can answer for: they were far enough removed. You will not be surprised at the dark tone of my musings in so sad a scene, especially as the weather lowered; and you are well acquainted how greatly I depend upon skies and sunshine. To-day I had no blue firmament to revive my spirits; no genial gales, no aromatic plants to irritate my nerves and give at least a momentary animation. Heath and furze are the sole vegetation which covers this endless wilderness. Every slope is strewed with the relics of a happier period; trunks of trees, shattered columns, cedar beams, helmets of bronze, skulls and coins, are frequently dug up together. I cannot boast of having made any discoveries, nor of sending you any novel intelligence. You knew before how perfectly the environs of Rome were desolate, and how completely the papal government contrives to make its subjects miserable. But who knows that they were not just as wretched in those boasted times we are so fond of celebrating? All is doubt and conjecture in this frail existence; and I might as well attempt proving to whom belonged the mouldering bones which lay dispersed around me, as venture to affirm that one age is more fortunate than another. Very likely the poor cottager, under whose roof I reposed, is happier than the luxurious Roman upon the remains of whose palace, perhaps, his shed is raised: and yet that Roman flourished in the purple days of the empire, when all was wealth and splendour, triumph and exultation. I could have spent the whole day by the rivulet, lost in dreams and meditations; but recollecting my vow, I ran back to the carriage and drove on. The road not having been mended, I believe, since the days of the Cæsars, would not allow our motions to be very precipitate. "When you gain the summit of yonder hill, you will discover Rome," said one of the postilions: up we dragged; no city appeared. "From the next," cried out a second; and so on from height to height did they amuse my expectations. I thought Rome fled before us, such was my impatience, till at last we perceived a cluster of hills with green pastures on their summits, inclosed by thickets and shaded by flourishing ilex. Here and there a white house, built in the antique style, with open porticos, that received a faint gleam of the evening sun, just emerged from the clouds and tinting the meads below. Now domes and towers began to discover themselves in the valley, and St. Peter's to rise above the magnificent roofs of the Vatican. Every step we advanced the scene extended, till, winding suddenly round the hill, all Rome opened to our view. A spring flowed opportunely into a marble cistern close by the way; two cypresses and a pine waved over it. I leaped out, poured water upon my hands, and then, lifting them up to the sylvan Genii of the place, implored their protection. I wished to have run wild in the fresh fields and copses above the Vatican, there to have remained, till fauns might peep out of their concealments, and satyrs begin to touch their flutes in the twilight; for the place looks still so wonderous classical, that I could never persuade myself, either Constantine, Attila, or the Popes themselves, have chased them all away. I think I should have found some out, who would have fed me with milk and chesnuts, have sung me a Latian ditty, and mourned the woeful changes which have taken place, since their sacred groves were felled, and Faunus ceased to be oracular. Who can tell but they would have given me some mystic skin to sleep on, that I might have looked into futurity? Shall I ever forget the sensations I experienced upon slowly descending the hills, and crossing the bridge over the Tyber; when I entered an avenue between terraces and ornamented gates of villas, which leads to the Porto del Popolo, and beheld the square, the domes, the obelisk, the long perspective of streets and palaces opening beyond, all glowing with the vivid red of sunset? You can imagine how I enjoyed my beloved tint, my favourite hour, surrounded by such objects. You can fancy me ascending Monte Cavallo, leaning against the pedestal which supports Bucephalus; then, spite of time and distance, hurrying to St. Peter's in performance of my vow. I met the Holy Father in all his pomp returning from vespers. Trumpets flourishing, and a legion of guards drawn out upon Ponte St. Angelo. Casting a respectful glance upon the Moles Adriani, I moved on till the full sweep of St. Peter's colonnade opened upon me, and fixed me, as if spell-bound, under the obelisk, lost in wonder. The edifice appears to have been raised within the year, such is its freshness and preservation. I could hardly take my eyes from off the beautiful symmetry of its front, contrasted with the magnificent, though irregular courts of the Vatican towering over the colonnade, till, the sun sinking behind the dome, I ran up the steps and entered the grand portal, which was on the very point of being closed. I knew not where I was, or to what scene transported. A sacred twilight concealing the extremities of the structure, I could not distinguish any particular ornament, but enjoyed the effect of the whole. No damp air or fætid exhalation offended me. The perfume of incense was not yet entirely dissipated. No human being stirred. I heard a door close with the sound of thunder, and thought I distinguished some faint whisperings, but am ignorant whence they came. Several hundred lamps twinkled round the high altar, quite lost in the immensity of the pile. No other light disturbed my reveries but the dying glow still visible through the western windows. Imagine how I felt upon finding myself alone in this vast temple at so late an hour; and think whether I had not revelations. It was almost eight o'clock before I issued forth, and, pausing a few minutes under the porticos, listened to the rush of the fountains: then traversing half the town, I believe, in my way to the Villa Medici, under which I am lodged, fell into a profound repose, which my zeal and exercise may be allowed, I think, to have merited.
October 30th. It was a clear morning; I mounted up to the roof of the house, and sat under a set of open pavilions, surveying the vast group of stately buildings below; then repaired, immediately after breakfast, to St. Peter's, which even exceeded the height of my expectations. I could hardly quit it. I wished his Holiness would allow me to erect a little tabernacle under the dome, I should desire no other prospect during the winter; no other sky than the vast arches glowing with golden ornaments, so lofty as to lose all glitter or gaudiness. But I cannot say I should be perfectly contented, unless I could obtain another tabernacle for you. Thus established, we would take our evening walks on the field of marble; for is not the pavement vast enough for the extravagance of the appellation? Sometimes, instead of climbing a mountain, we should ascend the cupola, and look down on our little encampment below. At night I should wish for a constellation of lamps dispersed about in clusters, and so contrived as to diffuse a mild equal light for us to read or draw by. Music should not be wanting: one day, to breathe in the subterraneous chapels, at another, to mount high in the dome. The doors should be closed, and not a mortal admitted. No priests, no cardinals: God forbid! We would have all the space to ourselves, and to such creatures too as resemble us. The windows I should shade with transparent curtains of yellow silk, to admit the glow of perpetual summer. Lanterns, as many as you please, of all forms and sizes; they would remind us of China, and, depending from the roofs of the palace, bring before us that of the emperor Ki, which was twice as large as St. Peter's (if we may credit the grand annals) and lighted alone by tapers; for his imperial majesty, being tired of the sun, would absolutely have a new firmament of his own creation, and an artificial day. Was it not a rare fantastic idea? For my part, I should like of all things to immure myself, after his example, with those I love; forget the divisions of time, have a moon at command, and a theatrical sun to rise and set, at pleasure. I was so absorbed in my imaginary palace, and exhausted with contriving plans for its embellishment, as scarcely to have spirits left for the Pantheon, which I visited late in the evening, and entered with a reverence approaching to superstition. The whiteness of the dome offending me, I slunk into one of the recesses, closed my eyes, transported myself into antiquity; then opened them again, tried to persuade myself the Pagan gods were in their niches, and the saints out of the question; was vexed at coming to my senses, and finding them all there, St. Andrew with his cross, and St. Agnes with her lamb, &c. &c. Then I paced disconsolately into the portico, which shows the name of Agrippa on its pediment. I leaned a minute against a Corinthian column, and lamented that no pontiff arrived with victims and aruspices, of whom I might enquire, what, in the name of birds and garbage, put me so terribly out of humour! for you must know I was very near being disappointed, and began to think Piranesi and Paolo Panini had been a great deal too colossal in their view of this venerable structure. But though it is not so immense as I expected, yet a certain venerable air, an awful gloom, breathed inspiration, though of the sorrowful kind. I left the column, walked in the centre of the temple, and, folding my arms, stood as fixed as a statue. Some architects have celebrated the effect of light from the opening above, and pretended it to be so equally distributed around, as to give those who walk beneath, the appearance of mystic substances beaming with radiance. Mighty fine, if that were the case! I appeared, to be sure, a luminous figure, and never stood I more in need of something to distinguish me, being forlorn and dismal in the supreme degree. I had expected a heap of Venetian letters, but could not discover one. I had received no intelligence from England, this many a tedious day; and for aught I can tell to the contrary, you may have been dead these three weeks. I think I shall wander soon in the Catacombs, which I am half inclined to imagine communicate with the lower world; and perhaps I may find some letter there from you lying upon a broken sarcophagus, dated from the realms of Night, and giving an account of your descent into her bosom. Yet, I pray continually, notwithstanding my curiosity to learn what passes in the dark regions beyond the tomb, that you will remain a few years longer on our planet; for what would become of me should I lose sight of you? Stay, therefore, as long as you can, and let us have the delight of dozing a little more of this poor existence away together, and steeping ourselves in pleasant dreams.
October 31st. I absolutely will have no antiquary to go prating from fragment to fragment, and tell me, that were I to stay five years at Rome, I should not see half it contained. The thought alone of so much to look at, is quite dictracting, and makes me resolve to view nothing at all in a scientific way, but straggle and wander about, just as the spirit chuses. This evening, it led me to the Coliseo, and excited a vehement desire in me to break down and pulverize the whole circle of saints' nests and chapels, which disgrace the arena. You recollect, I dare say, the vile effect of this holy trumpery, and would join with all your heart in kicking it into the Tyber. A few lazy abbots were at their devotion before them, such as would have made a lion's mouth water, fatter, I dare say, than any saint in the whole martyrology, and ten times more tantalizing. I looked first, at the dens where wild bears used to be kept, to divert the magnanimous people of Rome with devastation and murder; then, at the tame cattle before the altars. Heavens! thought I to myself, how times are changed! Could ever Vespasian have imagined his amphitheatre would have been thus inhabited? I passed on, making these reflections, to a dark arcade, overgrown with ilex. In the openings which time and violence have made, a distant grove of cypresses discover themselves, springing from heaps of mouldering ruins, relieved by a clear transparent sky, strewed with a few red clouds. This was the sort of prospect I desired, and I sat down on a shattered frieze to enjoy it. Many stories of antient Rome thronged into my mind as I mused; triumphal scenes, but tempered by sadness, and the awful thoughts of their being all passed away. It would be in vain to recapitulate the ideas which chased one another along. Think where I sat, and you may easily conjecture the series. When the procession was fleeted by, (for I not only thought, but seemed to see warriors moving amongst the cypresses, and consuls returning from Parthian expeditions, loaded with strange spoils, and received with the acclamations of millions upon entering the theatre) I arose, crossed the arena, paced several times round and round, looked up to arcade rising above arcade, and admired the stately height and masses of the structure, considered it in various points of view, and felt, as if I never should be satisfied with gazing, hour after hour, and day after day. Next, directing my steps to the arch of Constantine, I surveyed the groups of ruins which surrounded me. The cool breeze of the evening played in the beds of canes and oziers, which flourished under the walls of the Coliseo. A cloud of birds were upon the wing to regain their haunts in its crevices; and, except the sound of their flight, all was silent, for happily no carriages were rattling along. I observed the palace and obelisk of Saint John of Lateran, at a distance; but it was too late to take a nearer survey; so, returning leisurely home, I traversed the Campo Vaccino, and leaned a moment against one of the columns which supported the temple of Jupiter Stator. Some women were fetching water from the fountain hard by, whilst another group had kindled a fire under the shrubs and twisted fig-trees which cover the Palatine hill. Innumerable vaults and arches peep out of the vegetation. It was upon these, in all probability, the splendid palace of the Cæsars was raised. Confused fragments of marble, and walls of lofty terraces, are the sole traces of its antient magnificence. A wretched rabble were roasting their chesnuts, on the very spot, perhaps, where Domitian convened a senate, to harangue upon the delicacies of his entertainment. The light of the flame cast upon the figures around it, and the mixture of tottering wall with foliage impending above their heads, formed a striking picture, which I staid contemplating from my pillar till the fire went out, the assembly dispersed, and none remained but a withered hag, raking the embers and muttering to herself. I thought also it was high time to retire, lest the unwholesome mists, which were streaming from the opening before the Coliseo, might make me repent my stay. Whether they had already taken effect or no, I will not absolutely determine; but, something or other had grievously discouraged me. A few centuries ago, I should have taxed the old hag with my headache, and have attributed the uncommon oppression I experienced to her baleful power. Hastening to my hotel, I mounted into the open portico upon its summit, nearly upon a level with the Villa Medici, and sat several hours, with my arms folded in one another, listening to the distant rumours of the town. It had been a fine moment to have bestrode one of the winds which piped around me, offering, no doubt, some compact from Lucifer.
November 1st. Though you find I am not yet snatched away from the earth, according to my last night's bodings, I was far too restless and dispirited to deliver my recommendatory letters. St. Carlos, a mighty day of gala at Naples, was an excellent excuse for leaving Rome, and indulging my roving disposition. After spending my morning at St. Peter's, we set off about four o'clock, and drove by the Coliseo and a Capuchin convent, whose monks were all busied in preparing the skeletons of their order, to figure by torch-light in the evening. St. John's of Lateran astonished me. I could not help walking several times round the obelisk, and admiring the noble open space in which the palace is erected, and the extensive scene of towers and aqueducts discovered from the platform in front. We went out at the Porta Appia, and began to perceive the plains which surround the city opening on every side. Long reaches of walls and arches, but seldom interrupted, stretch across them. Sometimes, indeed, a withered pine, lifting itself up to the mercy of every blast that sweeps the champagne, breaks their uniformity. Between the aqueducts to the left, nothing but wastes of fern, and tracts of ploughed land, dark and desolate, are visible, the corn not being yet sprung up. On the right, several groups of ruined fanes and sepulchres diversify the levels, with here and there a garden or woody enclosure. Such objects are scattered over the landscape, that, towards the horizon, bulges into gentle ascents, and, rising by degrees, swells at length into a chain of mountains, which received the pale gleams of the sun setting in watery clouds. By this uncertain light we discovered the white buildings of Albano, sprinkled about the steeps. We had not many moments to contemplate them, for it was night when we passed the Torre di mezza via, and began breathing a close pestilential vapour. Half suffocated, and recollecting a variety of terrifying tales about the malaria, we advanced, not without fear, to Veletri, and hardly ventured to fall asleep when arrived there.
November 2d. I arose at day-break, and, forgetting fevers and mortalities, ran into a level meadow without the town, whilst the horses were putting to the carriage. Why should I calumniate the air? it seemed purer and more transparent than any I had before inhaled. The mountains were covered with thin mists, and the morning star sparkled above their summits. Birds were twittering amongst some sheds and bushes, which border the sides of the road. A chesnut hung over it, against which I leaned till the chaise came up. Being perfectly alone, and not discovering any trace of the neighbouring city, I fancied myself existing in the ancient days of Hesperia, and hoped to meet Picus in his woods before the evening. But, instead of those shrill clamours which used to echo through the thickets when Pan joined with mortals in the chase, I heard the rumbling of our carriage, and the curses of its postilions. Mounting an horse I flew before them, and seemed to catch inspiration from the breezes. Now, I turned my eyes to the ridge of precipices, in whose grots and caverns Saturn and his people passed their life; then, to the distant ocean. Afar off rose the cliff, so famous for Circe's incantations, and the whole line of coasts, which was once covered with her forests. Whilst I was advancing with full speed, the sun-beams began to shoot athwart the mountains, the plains to light up by degrees, and their shrubberies of myrtle to glisten with dewdrops. The sea brightened, and the Circean rock soon glowed with purple. I never felt my spirits so exhilarated, and they could not have flowed with more vivacity, even had I tasted the cup which Helen gave Telemachus. You will think me gone wild, when I tell you I was, in a manner, drunk with the dews of the morning, and so enraptured with the prospects which lay before me, as to address them in verse, and compose charms to dispel the enchantments of Circe. All day we were approaching her rock; towards evening Terracina appeared before us, in a bold romantic site; house above house, and turret looking over turret, on the steeps of a mountain, enclosed with mouldering walls, and crowned by the ruined terraces of a delightful palace; one of those, perhaps, which the luxurious Romans inhabited during the summer, when so free and lofty an exposition (the sea below, with its gales and murmurs) must have been exquisitely agreeable. Groves of orange and citrons hang on the declivity, rough with the Indian fig, whose bright red flowers, illuminated by the sun, had a magic splendour. A palm-tree, growing on the highest crag, adds not a little to its singular appearance. Being the largest I had ever seen, and clustered with fruit, I climbed up the rocks to take a close survey of it; and found a spring trickling near its trunk, bordered by fresh herbage. On this I stretched myself by the very edge of the precipice, and, looking down upon the beach and glassy plains of ocean, exclaimed with Martial:

O nemus! O fontes! solidumque madentis arenæ
Littus, et æquoreis splendidus Anxur aquis!

Glancing my eyes athwart the sea, I fixed them on the Circean promontory, which lies right opposite to Terracina, joined to the continent by a very narrow strip of land, and appearing like an island. The roar of the waves lashing the base of the precipices might still be thought the howl of savage monsters; but where are those woods which shaded the dome of the goddess? Scarce a tree appears. A few thickets, and but a few, are the sole remains of this once impenetrable vegetation; yet even these I longed to visit, such was my predilection for the spot. Who knows, but Circe might have led me to some other palace, in a more secret and retired vale, where she dwells, remote from modern mariners, and the present inhabitants of her environs; universally changed to swine for these many ages? Their metamorphosis being so thoroughly established as to leave no future pretence for her operations; I can imagine her given up to solitude, and the consciousness of her potent influence. Notwithstanding the risks of the adventure, I wished to have attempted it, and seen, whether she would have allowed me, as night came on, to warm myself by her cedar fire, and hear her captivating song. Perhaps, had the goddess been propitious, I might have culled some herbs of wonderous efficacy. You recollect, I dare say, how renowned the cliff was for them, and remember that Circe's attendants, deeply skilled like their mistress in pharmacy*, were continually gathering plants, in the woods and wilds which enriched her abode. It was thus, the companions of Ulysses found them employed, when, entering her palace, they unwarily drank the beverage she offered. Ovid has told this story in a masterly manner, and formed a lively picture of the magic dome, with the occupations of its inhabitants. We see them judiciously arranging their plants, whilst Circe directs, and points out, with the nicest discernment, the simple and compound virtues of every flower. Descending the cliff, and pursuing our route to Mola along the shore, by a grand road formed on the ruins of the Appian Way, we drove under an enormous perpendicular rock, standing detached, like a watch tower, and cut into arsenals and magazines. Day closed just as we got beyond it, and a new moon gleamed faintly on the waters. We saw fires afar off in the bay, some twinkling on the coast, others upon the waves, and heard the murmur of voices; for the night was still and solemn, like that of Cajetas's funeral. I looked anxiously on a sea, where the heroes of the Odyssey and Æneid had sailed, in search of fate and empire; then, closed my eyes, and dreamed of those illustrious wanderers.
Nine struck when we arrived at Mola di Gaeta. The boats were just coming in (whose lights we had seen out upon the main), and brought such fish as Neptune, I dare say, would have grudged Æneas and Ulysses.
November 3d. The morning was soft, but hazy. I walked in a grove of oranges, white with blossoms, and at the same time glowing with fruit. The spot sloped pleasantly toward the sea, and here I amused myself with my agreeable occupation, till the horses were ready; then, set off on the Appian, between hedges of myrtle and aloes, catching fresh gales from the sea as I flew along, and breathing the perfume of an aromatic vegetation, which covers the fields on the shore. We observed a variety of towns, with battlemented walls and ancient turrets, crowning the pinnacles of rocky steeps, surrounded by wilds, and rude uncultivated mountains. The Liris, now Garigliano, winds its peaceful course through wide extensive meadows, scattered over with the remains of aqueducts, and waters the base of the rocks I have just mentioned. Such a prospect could not fail of bringing Virgil's panegyric of Italy full in my mind:

Tot congesta manu præruptis oppida saxis
Fluminaque antiquos subterlabentia muros.

As soon as we arrived in sight of Capua, the sky darkened, clouds covered the horizon, and presently poured down such deluges of rain as floated the whole country. The gloom was general; Vesuvius disappeared, just after we had the pleasure of discovering it. Lightning began to flash with dreadful rapidity, and people to run frightened to their homes. At four o'clock darkness universally prevailed, except when a livid glare of lightning presented instantaneous glimpses of the bay and mountains. We lighted torches, and forded several torrents almost at the hazard of our lives. The plains of Aversa were filled with herds, lowing most piteously, and yet not half so much scared as their masters, who ran about, cursing and swearing, like Indians during the eclipse of the moon. I knew Vesuvius had often put their courage to proof, but little thought of an inundation occasioning such commotions. For three hours the storm increased in violence, and instead of entering Naples on a calm evening, and viewing its delightful shores by moonlight; instead of finding the squares and terraces thronged with people and animated by music, we advanced with fear and terror through dark streets totally deserted, every creature being shut up in their houses, and we heard nothing but driving rain, rushing torrents, and the fall of fragments beaten down by their violence. Our inn, like every other habitation, was in great disorder, and we waited a long while before we could settle in our apartments with any comfort. All night the waves roared round the rocky foundations of a fortress beneath my windows, and the lightning played clear in my eyes. I could not sleep, and was full as disturbed as the elements.
November 4th. Peace was restored to nature in the morning, but every mouth was full of the dreadful accidents which had happened in the night. The sky was cloudless when I awoke, and such was the transparence of the atmosphere that I could clearly discern the rocks, and even some white buildings on the island of Caprea, though at the distance of several miles. A large window fronts my bed, and its casements being thrown open, gives me a vast prospect of ocean, uninterrupted, except by the peaks of Caprea and the Cape of Sorento. I lay half an hour gazing on the smooth level waters, and listening to the confused voices of the fishermen, passing and repassing in light skiffs, which came and disappeared in an instant. Running to the balcony the moment my eyes were fairly open (for till then I saw objects, I know not how, as one does in dreams), I leaned over its rails and viewed Vesuvius rising distinct into the blue æther, with all that world of gardens and casinos which are scattered about its base; then looked down into the street, deep below, thronged with people in holiday garments, and carriages, and soldiers in full parade. The woody, variegated shore of Posilipo next drew my attention. It was on those very rocks, under those tall pines, Sannazaro was wont to sit by moonlight, or at peep of dawn, holding converse with the Nereids. 'Tis there he still sleeps; and I wished to have gone immediately and strewed coral over his tomb, but I was obliged to check my impatience and hurry to the palace in form and gala. A courtly mob had got thither upon the same errand, daubed over with lace and most notably be-periwigged. Nothing but bows and salutations were going forward on the staircase, one of the largest I ever beheld, and which a multitude of prelates and friars were ascending, in all the pomp of awkwardness. I jostled along to the presence chamber, where his Majesty was dining alone, in a circular enclosure of fine clothes and smirking faces. The moment he had finished, twenty long necks were poked forth, and it was a glorious struggle, amongst some of the most decorated, who first should kiss his hand. Doing so was the great business of the day, and everybody pressed forward to the best of their abilities. His Majesty seemed to eye nothing but the end of his nose, which is doubtless a capital object. Though people have imagined him a weak monarch, I beg leave to differ in opinion, since he has the boldness to prolong his childhood and be happy, in spite of years and conviction. Give him a boar to stab, and a pigeon to shoot at, a battledore or an angling rod, and he is better contented than Solomon in all his glory, and will never discover, like that sapient sovereign, that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. His courtiers in general have rather a barbaric appearance, and differ little in the character of their physiognomies from the most savage nations. I should have taken them for Calmucks or Samoieds, had it not been for their dresses and European finery. You may suppose I was not sorry, after my presentation was over, to return to Sir W.'s, and hear Lady H. play; whose music breathes the most pastoral Sicilian ideas, and transports me to green meads on the sea-coast, where I wander with Theocritus.
The evening was passing swiftly away in this delightful excursion of fancy, and I had almost forgotten there was a grand illumination at the theatre of St. Carlo. After traversing a number of dark streets, we suddenly entered this enormous edifice, whose six rows of boxes blazed with tapers. I never beheld such lofty walls of light, nor so pompous a decoration as covered the stage. Marchesi was singing in the midst of all these splendours some of the poorest music imaginable, with the clearest and most triumphant voice, perhaps, in the universe. It was some time before I could look to any purpose around me, or discover what animals inhabited this glittering world: such was its size and glare. At last I perceived vast numbers of ugly beings, in gold and silver raiment, peeping out of their boxes. The court being present, a tolerable silence was maintained, but the moment his Majesty withdrew (which great event took place at the beginning of the second act) every tongue broke loose, and nothing but buzz and hubbub filled up the rest of the entertainment. The last ballet, formed upon the old story of Le Festin de Pierre, had wonderful effect, and terminated in the most striking perspective of the infernal region. Picq danced incomparably, and Signora Rossi led the Fandango, with a grace and activity that pleased me beyond idea. Music was never more rapturous than that which accompanies this dance. It quite enchanted me, and I longed to have sprung upon the stage. The cadence is so strongly marked by the castanets, that it is almost impossible to be out of time; and the rapidity of steps, and varied movements, scarcely allows a moment to think of being tired. I should imagine the eternal dance, with which certain tribes of American savages fancy they are to be rewarded in a future existence, might be formed somewhat on this model. Indeed, the Fandango arrived in Spain with the conquerors of the other hemisphere; and is far too lively and extatic to be of European original.
November 6th. Till to-day we have had nothing but rains; the sea covered with mists, and Caprea invisible. Would you believe it? I have not yet been able to mount to St. Elmo and the Capo di Monte, in order to take a general view of the town. This morning, a bright gleam of sunshine roused me from my slumbers, and summoned me to the broad terrace of Chiaja, directly above the waves, and commanding the whole coast of Posilipo. Insensibly I drew towards it, and (you know the pace I run when out upon discoveries) soon reached the entrance of the coast, which lay in dark shades, whilst the crags that lower over it were brightly illumined. Shrubs and vines grow luxuriantly in the crevices of the rock; and its fresh yellow colours, variegated with ivy, have a beautiful effect. To the right, a grove of pines sprung from the highest pinnacles: on the left, bay and chesnut conceal the tomb of Virgil, placed on the summit of a cliff which impends over the opening of the grotto, and is fringed with vegetation. Beneath, are several wide apertures hollowed in the solid stone, which lead to caverns sixty or seventy feet in depth, where a number of peasants, who were employed in quarrying, made such a noise with their tools and their voices, as almost inclined me to wish the Cimmerians would start from their subterraneous habitation, and sacrifice these profane to the Manes. Walking out of the sunshine, I set myself on a loose stone immediately beneath the first gloomy arch of the grotto, and looking down the long and solemn perspective, terminated by a speck of gray uncertain light, venerated a work which some old chroniclers have imagined as ancient as the Trojan war. 'Twas here the mysterious race I have just mentioned performed their infernal rites; and it was this excavation perhaps which led to their abode. The Neapolitans attribute a more modern, though full as problematical an origin to their famous cavern, and most piously believe it to have been formed by the enchantments of Virgil, who, as Mr. Addison very justly observes, is better known at Naples in his magical character than as the author of the Æneid. This strange infatuation most probably arose from the vicinity of the tomb in which his ashes are supposed to have been deposited; and which, according to popular tradition, was guarded by those very spirits who assisted in constructing the cave. But whatever may have given rise to these ideas, certain it is they were not confined to the lower ranks alone, King Robert*, a wise though far from poetical monarch, conducted his friend Petrarch with great solemnity to the spot; and, pointing to the entrance of the grotto, very gravely asked him, whether he did not adopt the general belief, and conclude this stupendous passage derived its origin from Virgil's powerful incantations? The answer, I think, may easily be conjectured. When I had sat for some time, contemplating this dusky avenue, and trying to persuade myself that it was hewn by the Cimmerians, I retreated without proceeding any farther, and followed a narrow path which led me, after some windings and turnings, along the brink of the precipice, across a vineyard, to that retired nook of the rocks which shelters Virgil's tomb, most venerably mossed over and more than half concealed by bushes and vegetation. Drops of dew were distilling from the niches of the little chamber which once contained his urn, and heaps of withered leaves had gathered on the pavement. Amongst these I crept, to eat some grapes and biscuit; having duly scattered a few crumbs, as a sort of offering to the invisible guardians of the place. I believe they were sensible of my piety, and, as a reward, kept vagabonds and clowns away. The one who conducted me remained aloof, at awful distance, whilst I sat commercing with the manes of my beloved Poet, or straggling about the shrubbery which hangs directly above the mouth of the grot. I wonder I did not visit the eternal shades sooner than I expected; for no squirrel ever skipped from bough to bough more venturously. One instant, I climbed up the branches of a chesnut, and sat almost on its extremity, my feet impending over the chasm below; another I advanced to the edge of the rock, and saw crowds of people and carriages, diminished by distance, issuing from the bosom of the mountain and disappearing almost as soon as discovered in the windings of its road. Clambering high above the cavern, I hazarded my neck on the top of one of the pines, and looked contemptuously down on the race of pigmies that were so busily moving to and fro. The sun was fiercer than I could have wished, but the sea-breezes fanned me in my aerial situation, which commanded the grand sweep of the bay, varied by convents, palaces, and gardens mixed with huge masses of rock and crowned by the stately buildings of the Carthusians and fortress of Saint Elmo. Add a glittering blue sea to this perspective, with Caprea rising from its bosom and Vesuvius breathing forth a white column of smoke into the æther; you will then have a scene upon which I gazed with delight, for more than an hour, almost forgetting that I was perched upon the head of a pine with nothing but a frail branch to uphold me. However, I descended alive, as Virgil's genii, I am resolved to believe, were my protectors.

* [Greek characters removed for the purposes of this online edition]. Schol. in Apoll. Argon. Lib. iv. v. 311. Theophrast. de Plant. 1. viii. c. 15.
* Mem. pour la Vie de Petrarque, vol. i. p. 439.

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