[166] CHAPTER V.


THE great fair was about to be held at Munich when he arrived there. He visited the Elector's Palace and gardens, all miserably artificial. Here he joined some country people of his own, amidst company which, in their gay dresses, looked like the fine people represented upon Dresden porcelain. He visited the tea-rooms, where every distinction of rank and privilege seemed forgotten, and vanity was the order of the day. He visited the Place, but would rather have trodden the turf of the mountains, though the floor of the chapel was paved with rare and costly stones and gems. Mammon could have looked at the pavement for ever; but the young visitor was more attracted by a thumb of St. Peter, [167] enshrined amid some delicate antique cameos, such as Leda and a Sleeping Venus, a little too Pagan for an Apostle's finger. A few pieces of painting only could be seen, the gallery being under repair; but young Beckford saw and admired Rubens' Massacre of the Innocents, full of expressive horrors. Notwithstanding that he was impatient to get out into the country again, where he was delighted with the forests, the flowers, rocks, wood, mountain firs, and the mountain ash in a particular manner pleasing him. While thus admiring, a thunder-storm came on, and Mr. Beckford and his tutor passed the night in a cottage on the shore of the Walchen Lake; and proceeded from thence, the next day, to Mittenwald. Here he encountered a peasant family, who were full of kindness and hospitality towards the strangers; but they could not make themselves understood, and the waving of hands was the only mode of communication.

Mittenwald pleased the travellers so much, with the galleries of the inn, and balconies facing the mountains, the fine trout and exquisite cherries, that they remained there the night, amidst [168] the most beautiful and soul-tranquillizing scenery. This was heightened by the villagers, it being St. Anna's day, attending divine worship at the chapel. The fair dames casting a bewitching eye at the strangers, amid adorations, the fervor of which was attested by sighs and beatings of the bosom, so that the young traveller declared he was near becoming a convert to idolatry in so amiable a form, and worshipping Saint Anna on the behalf of her namesakes.

That early attachment to nature, which seemed a part of his existence, was more and more developed as he proceeded upon this journey. ln one place he encountered, in a dense wood of beech and chestnut, a tract which led him to a cascade, the sound of which he had beard for some time. How admirably he struck off the impressions it produced: -

"I struggled, until reaching a goat track, it conducted me, on the brink of the foaming waters, to the very depths of the cliff, whence issues a stream, which, dashing impetuously down, strikes against a ledge of rocks, and sprinkles the impending thicket with dew. Big [169] drops hung on every spray, and glittered on the leaves, partially gilt by the rays of the declining sun, whose mellow hues softened the rugged summits, and diffused a repose, a divine calm, over this deep retirement, which inclined me to imagine it the extremity of the earth – the portal of some other region of existence - some happy world beyond the dark groves of pine, the caves and awful mountains, where the river takes its source! Impressed with this romantic idea, I hung eagerly over the gulf, and fancied I could distinguish a voice bubbling up with the wakes; then looked into the abyss, and strained my eyes to penetrate its gloom - but all was dark and unfathomable as futurity."

Italy before him, neither Inspruck, nor Schomberg, nor Steinach could arrest him. He had a desire alone to enter classic Italy. Proceeding from Brixen to Bolsano and onward, his heart beat quick on entering the Venetian state. The Brenta foaming and dashing along, and rocks mantled with vines and gardens, vases of citron and orange at every door, and the softness of the air communicating to his young feelings the impression of Italy, it was soon confirmed by [170] the antique ramparts and cypresses of Bassano. Charmed with Pachioretti [sic], he gave himself up to the enjoyment of the musical divinity of the hour, and then to the City of the Sea, of which he stated that Canaletti had rendered all verbal description superfluous. Here he went over again the history of the past splendours of Venice, dreamed of Frederick Barbarossa, and was charmed with the Marriage of Cana in Galilee, by Paul Veronese. He was so completely master of the history of the republic, by his previous reading, that he had the clue to all which was of moment to be seen in that interesting city - an advantage possessed by few youths of twenty years of age. His recorded remarks at this age, in his letters published in later life, show how well he was grounded in principles, so that he had but to prove on the spot any views that were correct, and amend his misconceptions. His youthful fancy was much struck with the Place St. Mark, and with a Loggetta or guardhouse of most finished proportions. He was so swallowed up in admiration of what he saw, that the sbirri thought him distracted. "I was stalking proudly about, like an actor in an an- [171] cient Greek tragedy, lifting up his hands to the consecrated fanes and images around, expecting the reply of his attendant chorus, and declaiming the first verses of Œdipus Tyrannus." Such, he describes, was the state of enthusiasm in which he felt himself. Yet few things among the motley population of the city seem to have escaped his observation; gondoliers, intriguers, strollers, mountebanks, the casinos, were all scrutinized with the ardent curiosity of one in the opening of existence. He entered into the better society of the city at Madam de Rosenberg's, who presented the youth to several Venetian families of note at the great cassino, where he saw "a great many ladies negligently dressed, their hair falling very freely about them, and innumerable adventures written in their eyes." He was of opinion that there was little vivacity among the Venetians, only a feverish and false activity, from the dissipated lives which they led in early youth.

In speaking of the walls of the portico front of San Giorgio Maggiore, he observed them covered with grim visages, sculptured in marble, whose mouths “gaped for accusations, and swallowed [172] every lie that malice could dictate." He was very desirous of hearing "some little dialogue within, between the Three Inquisitors and the Council of Ten." The terrors of the tribunals here had a deep effect upon his mind. What other sovereign, save him of Venice - the head of a republic - could revel in halls so polluted with tears? "However gaily disposed, could one dance," as young Beckford well inquired, "could one dance with pleasure on a pavement, beneath which lie damp and gloomy caverns, whose inhabitants waste away by painful degrees, and feel themselves whole years a-dying! Impressed with these terrible ideas, I could not regard the palace without horror, and wished for the strength of a thousand antediluvians to level it with the sea, lay open the secret recesses of punishment, and admit free gales and sunshine into every den." A hallowed wish, not fulfilled by the successors of the Council of Ten, in the iron tyranny of Austria, which has not failed to prolong there, to our own day, the reign of human calamity. The Piombi are still in worthy keeping; the Austrian is a gaoler worthy such abodes, and the Ponte del Sospiri [173] is still the monument of a tyrannic power not less execrable than that of old.

At Venice, young Beckford fell in with a M. de Viloison, an active investigator of Homer, who quoted four or five languages with fluency, but had not one idea of his own. He went to see and admire Titian's Martyrdom of St. Paul and St. Peter; visited some churches on the islands, and listened to the music at a convent, that seemed to issue "from the gates of Paradise ajar." In several instances, at Venice, he was delighted with the music. He went to the Mendicanti to hear the oratorio of Sisera, with which he was much struck. The orchestra had females among its number, who played on all sorts of instruments. "Nothing is more common than to see a delicate white hand journeying across an enormous double-bass, or a pair of roseate cheeks puffing with all their efforts at a French horn." Some that are grown old and amazonian, who have abandoned their fiddles and their lovers, take vigorously to the kettle-drums; and one poor limping lady, who had been crossed in love, made an admirable figure on the bassoon.

[174] Leaving Venice, and continuing his course along the peaceflul Brenta, he proceeded to Padua, where he visited the shrine of St. Anthony, one of his own saints, as he styled him. Here he found decrepit women and feeble children praying the saint to afford them a propitious market for their wares that day; in other parts of the edifice were penitents smiting their breasts, and, in yet darker recesses, several prostrate, desperate sinners, all invoking St Anthony, whose lofty altar was decked with lavish magnificence. The sculptures about the altar were fine, Sansovino having executed the carvings. Tombs, churches, pictures, and music took up the traveller's time here. He heard high mass in the church of St. Anthony, and soon after set off for Vicenza. Continuing his journey by Reggio, be came in sight of the Apennines, and was at once absorbed, in conjecturing what was then going forward in their recesses. Hermits at prayers, beautiful Contadine fetching water from the purest of springs, banditti dragging their victims to caverns and fastnesses - such were the illusions of his fancy on first observing those far-famed mountains at a distance. In [175] such illusions the time passed, until the sun went down, and the moon rising, lit the carriage into Modena. From thence he proceeded to Bologna, renowned for sausages and lapdogs. He was struck with the view of the convent of Madonna del Monte, joined to the town by a long corridor; but he soon quitted the place, as an earthquake had just before put the land and people much out of humour.

As he approached the Apennines, a chill wind blew down upon the travellers, and made melancholy music in the chestnut woods that covered the mountain sides. Young Beckford amused himself with trying to interpret the language of the leaves, not greatly to his own satisfaction. It serves to show how active his imagination was at that period of life. His reverie ended in a wretched hamlet, on the bleak brow of a mountain, where a few eggs alone, and some faggots for making a fire, were all that could be obtained; but pitching his bed in a warm corner, he soon contrived to forget in sleep all his illusions and inquietudes. He and his companion quitted their miserable shelter soon after daydawn, and proceeded along a miserable road until they [176] descended into a milder climate, until they obtained a distant view of Florence, surrounded with gardens and terraces. The moon lit up a fairy scene, which was too soon exchanged for the gates of the city of Florence; where, to use his own expressive words, he knew not "on what first to bend attention, and ran childishly by the ample ranks of sculptures, like a butterfly in a parterre, that skims, before he fixes, over ten thousand flowers."

Here the Olympic Jove, the Minerva breathing of divinity, and Cybele, with her "tiara of proud towers," fixed his youthful attention; and a representation of Somnus drew forth his censures, from the statue not being coincident with his ideas of the drowsy god, who seems to have been a favourite subject with the young connoisseur. Chamber after chamber displayed their contexts to the admiring young Englishman. Perfumed cabinets, and alabaster columns, and roofs glittering in arabesque work of azure and gold. Collections of small paintings, and among them a head of Medusa, by Leonardo da Vinci, of a deadly paleness of countenance, and the mouth exhaling a pestilential vapour. The [177] snakes beginning to untwist their folds, one or two creeping away, or crawling up the rocks, struck him very forcibly, indeed much more than anything else in the apartment. There was a Polemberg, which he described as one of the strangest he ever beheld. It represented Virgil ushering Dante into the regions of eternal punishment, amid the ruins of burning edifices that glared across the infernal waters, executed in the artist's softest manner. Innumerable shapes were represented as in the act of preying upon the damned, and one devil, in the shape of an enormous lobster, was busy at work, pinching up and making a meal of the writhing mortal who, in vain, endeavoured to escape from his ravening claws. Such are the disgusting subjects upon which the Catholic superstition induced men of talent to squander their time, and aid in leading the human mind astray from truth, to subject it to the designs of priestcraft.

How the Venus de Medicis affected him he has left on record; and his delight at a figure of Morpheus, in the form of a graceful child, holding a bunch of poppies. All the lions of Florence [178] seem to have been searched out and examined with that youthful ardour, and enjoyed with that zest, which is always experienced on first placing similar objects before eyes of taste - the freshness of the novelty yielding an enjoyment like that of a draught of a crystal spring in a dry and weary land. The desire to hear Pacchierotti arrested his explorations in Florence to visit Lucca, which he reached in the afternoon, along a clean road, through copses of chestnut, and the loveliest environs to a city exceedingly ugly, with dungeon-like houses and grated windows. Here he met with disappointments and annoyances in place of pleasure. He made amends by rambling among the hills covered with the arbutus, and stretching himself on the grass with a tablet and pencil, a basket of grapes by his side, and a crooked stick to hook down chest-nuts. He mingled in the town only to attend the concerts and musical meetings, and got into a scrape with the Lucchese by prevailing upon Pacchierotti to ramble among the mountains, to the ruin of their opera, in case he should chance to get a cold or hoarseness. A whole Italian city was disturbed, and thrown into commotion, [179] and the prime ministers of the republic deputed to lecture the great Tweedledum on the hazard he ran in such excursions as those into which the young Englishman led him. Some of these excursions were directed to scenes of exquisite rural beauty, the azure tints of the distances in which, made him almost think that Velvet Breughel's blue landscapes were scarcely exaggerations. In his rides, young Beckford visited the noble chateau of Garzoni, which he has described so bewitchingly in his youthful notes, as surrounded with everything that could charm the vision, regale the palate in the pendent grape, or perfume the atmosphere. He relates how he fell upon the purple clusters, like a native of the north, unaccustomed to such affluence of nature's productions, one of those Goths who

"Scent the new fragrance of the breathing rose,
And quaff the pendant vintage as it grows."

There he visited the Conte Nobili, and drank, on the spot, of his wine, which might have defied Constantia. On returning and entering Lucca, Pacchierotti coughed, and half the city [180] wished the young Englishman at the devil. What a characteristic of a people that are for ever talking of achieving their independence! To this day, as before, they send forth fiddlers for heroes, supplying with the thunders of the orchestran base the roar of the cannon, that can alone realize that of which they dream, and then waking, betake themselves to the most effeminate of the sciences for their consolation. Young Beckford's experiences of 1780, and those of threescore years afterwards he could not then perceive, would not differ much from each other.

He left Lucca for Pisa, and was set down opposite the Duomo. He characterized it as somewhat oriental in appearance, perhaps from the strong hold all belonging to the East had upon his imagination. The cupolas appeared to have given rise to this idea. The leaning tower did not seem to strike him so much as other travellers. He was more pleased with the decorations of the interior, the mosaic pavement, the porphyry columns, and rare marbles it displayed, independently of the sculptures of Michael Angelo, and the many fine paintings. [181] The Campo Santo, with the hallowed earth from Jerusalem, conveyed there when Pisa was in its high and palmy state, produced only a rank crop of weeds, except where the pavement was laid, richly covered with monumental inscriptions. In the same building he found rows of Pagan sarcophagi, all within the consecrated limits. There, seated on a slab of giallo antico, he contemplated the domes and tracery of the cathedral, so exotic on the whole, that it was easy for the beholder to credit he was in fairy land. From Pisa he proceeded to Leghorn, on the way luxuriating in all the genial sensations of spring in October. Vast hushes of myrtle in luxuriant bloom grew on every side; the air was soft, the sound of the distant surges came upon the traveller's ear, and a calm, like that of infant hours, stole over him. Stretched on the turf, he seemed for a few minutes to have forgotten every care; but when he began to inquire into happiness, he found it vanish. "I felt myself without those I loved the most, in situations they would have warmly admired;" and without those, the woodlands looked pleasant in vain. Soon afterwards, he reached his des- [182] tination. The fresh gales of the Mediterranean charmed him; and hurrying to the port, he sat on a rocky reef, and listened in silence to the waves that broke over them, until he forgot himself.

His impressions on seeing the Mole, and the miserable Corsican galleys it sheltered, were by no means prepossessing. On one occasion he saw a figure step out of a boat, which bore a resemblance to one of Neptune's train, dripping with water; the stranger carried some specimens of coral for sale, of a rare species, which were at once purchased, and carried off to his carriage, basket and all; and he then drove back to Pisa, revisited the Campo Santo, and so returned to Lucca, the town staring at his speedy re-arrival. From thence he proceeded again to Florence, to an apartment over the Arno, which, swollen by rain, had become a roaring torrent. Watching it by moonlight, and the deep shadows around, the bell of the convent of Boboli began to toll, and the sound filled him with gloomy recollections. He closed the casement, and read till midnight of the Guelphs and Ghibelines, of conspiracies and assassinations, and of the black [183] story of ancient Florence. He again went over the noble remnants of ancient, and the fine specimens of modern art. Bronzes by John of Bologna, works of Cellini, sculptures by Bondinelli, were all resurveyed, together with the curiosities of the Castle, and the rarities collected by the Medici. Even in that year, in 1780, the stolid Austrians, the blight, and blast, and pest of fair Italy, exhibited their contempt for the memory of the Medici, whom they were too ignorant and unrefined to imitate. They affected to despise them as having been merchants.

The same love of nature, which ever marked Mr. Beckford through life, appeared even in the midst of the rare works of art in Florence. After dinner, he stole away, as evening drew on, to the thickets of Boboli. There, reaching the brow of a hill, he seated himself under a statue of Ceres, and sketched the cupola of the Duomo, and other objects in the neighbourhood, until the sun went down, and then he repaired to Lord T ––-'s, who lived in a fine house, covered with blue and silver, full of stuffed birds, alabaster Cupids, and prettinesses without end. [184] Neither his lordship nor his abode were worthy of notice. Slopping and sipping tea, and dawdling being the order of the time, he walked off from thence to the Opera. There the first soprano was an enormous porpoise of a being; and could a porpoise sing, it would have been in his style. After hearing Pacchierotti so lately, it was no wonder young Beckford uttered with others his bag of maledictions, and retired.

The malaria was reported to be very bad at Rome – a disappointment the greater, as the traveller was heartily tired of Florence. He had no resource but the woods of the Cascini in the morning, and the thickets of Boboli. He scrambled to the summits of the hills noted by Dante, admired that of Fiesole, and the Val d'Arno lost in the distant haze. He visited a Franciscan convent buried in cypresses, and a chapel designed by Michael Angelo. Thus engaged, it appeared that his reveries were interrupted by the necessity of paying a visit of ceremony to the Grand Duke's palace. The Grand Duchess having given birth to a princess in the night, there was a grand gala in the [185] morning, and every body went to see the christening. The Grand Duke having for some time talked politics, the doors of a temporary chapel were flung open, and the ceremony began with a flourish of trumpets, the whole very theatrical, as usual on such occasions. Dining at Lord T ––-'s, the young traveller stole away, as usual, to the woods of Boboli, from whence he saw the Duomo lit up at a distance. In the city, fish were frying to rejoice the Grand Duke's subjects, bonfires lit in the streets, and "hubbubs and stinks" of every denomination so prevalent, that he took refuge at last in the theatre, where he found all bad, "no taste, no arrangement, paltry looking-glasses, and rat's-tail candles."

On resolving upon a pilgrimage to Vallombrosa, the people of Florence declared he would be frozen. He proceeded with a friend on horseback, and encountering a chill blast or two among the groves of pines, they galloped on through lawns and meadows beautifully green, and cliffs and mountains clothed with beech to their summits. The verdure was everywhere equal to that of England, moistened by streams that [186] never dry up. The visitors alighted before the entrance of the convent; a blazing fire was within, and five or six overgrown friars, sleek and rosy, seemed to have no ill opinion of their existing state. Letters of introduction produced the heads of the Order, round and plump as Chinese. At dinner they put all sorts of foolish questions to the visitors, so that, when the repast was concluded, young Beckford and his companion repaired to the forest; the fathers, waddling after them, were soon left behind. Milton's description of Vallombrosa had come to mind, just as some of the fathers, puffing and blowing, who had arrived by a short cut, interrupted the thought.

"You have missed the way; the hermitage, with the fine picture by Andrea del Sarto, which all the English admire, is on the opposite side of the wood; there, don't you see it on the point of the cliff?"

"Yes, yes," I said, a little peevishly; "I wonder the devil has not pushed it down long ago; it seems to invite his kick."

"Satan," answered the old Pagod, very dryly, "is full of malice; but whoever drinks of a [187] spring which the Lord causeth to flow near the hermitage, is freed from his illusions."

"Are they so? – then, I pray thee, conduct me thither, for I have great need of such salutary waters."

The senior then related some legendary stories of the nature in which young Beckford delighted. He pointed out where "Gualbertus used to sleep; and, turning himself to the west, saw a long succession of saints and martyrs sweeping athwart the sky, and gilding the clouds with far brighter splendours than the setting sun."

A consecrated cleft was shown in the mountain, a hard penitential couch. The visitor drank of the holy fountain, but could form no opinion of the picture so much boasted of, being too much absorbed in admiration of external nature. As he was returning, he heard the sound of a bell. The young boys of the seminary there, dressed in black, and looking pale and wan, were moving to their dwelling, under the superintendence of a gaunt priest, who drove them along like a herd, so that there was no opportunity of asking them whether the soli- [188] tude of Vallombrosa suited their age and vivacity. The night was chill. The next day the convent was surveyed, and young Beckford played on the organ - one of the most harmonious he ever touched. He and his companion then mounted their horses, and, in a few hours, found themselves in Florence, clear of

––– “the autumnal leaves
That strew the brooks in Vallombrosa."

Sienna was the next Italian city that attracted the young traveller, and the cathedral the first object in the town. The front he characterized as covered with statues and relievos, without end or meaning. Bustos of all the sovereign pontiffs, from the first bishop to Adrian IV., formed the cornice. It was said that Pope Joan was among them, between Leo IV. and Benedict III., until the year 1600, when the Lady Pope was turned out, at the request of Clement VIII., to make room for Zecharias I.

Some missals here were exquisitely illuminated, and there were barbarous paintings in fresco. He did not linger long at Sienna, but passing by Radicofani, entered the papal territory, [189] admiring, as he passed Aquapendente, the cliffs mounted with ilex and chestnut. He then proceeded to Viterbo, setting out in the dark. Day broke over the Lago di Vico, and the rugged chain of the Apennines was seen in one direction, and the shining ocean in another. Young Beckford's remarks upon reaching this spot are highly characteristic of the man, and that reflective and imaginative tendency which was so peculiarly his own characteristic. "It was," said he, "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 enough 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!

[190] "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 with 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 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 that 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 observed 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. [191] To-day I had no blue firmament to revive my spirits; no genial gales, no aromatic plants to irritate my nerves, and lend at least a momentary animation. Heath and a greyish kind of moss 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.”*

How well the foregoing description tallies with fact, how pregnant it is with reflections that occur only to first-rate minds, need not be repeated. It is a picture in words; it is a [192] landscape addressing the vision, the mind showing nature not only as she is, but as she was, and at the same time relating the history of ages past, and its conclusion in the common desolation of empires. The adjuncts to that history, the waste scene, the shattered column, the decaying cedar, and the helmets, skulls, and coins, make up a picture so faithful, so admirably addressed to the attention of the observer, that few descriptions in any language, so thrown off in a travelling journal, will be found to vie with it in fidelity, or in the beauty of the language in which it is conveyed. The mind of its author must have been exquisitely susceptible of the slightest vibrations which struck upon it, and the high degree of mental culture he had received enabled him to turn them to account, in describing the scenes presented to him while travelling - detailing, too, those minutiæ which escape the mass of persons who, hurrying over highways, or in railway carriages, and dining at hotels, imagine they know the country through which they pass.

Young Beckford's sensations in obtaining the first view of the "Eternal City," he stated he [193] could never forget. This was no doubt true not only of him, but of those few in comparison with the multitudes who visit it, who carry in their memory the mighty deeds, the heroic characters, the triumphs, and the decadence of that renowned "mother of dead empires." How dome and tower peered above the vulgar roof, and St. Peter's rose above the summit of the Vatican! He met the God's self-assumed vicegerent returning from vespers, like a conqueror from his triumph, with a flourish of trumpets. His feelings and observations on entering St. Peter's with all the vivid susceptibility of youth, he has recorded, in that elegant style so little like any other in the language, and which most persons have ascribed to his declining years, in place of the youthful period within a twelvemonth of which he produced "Vathek."

Among the architects and painters of Rome; he went not only to view but to criticise. His tutor, an excellent scholar, and pains-taking, conscientious man, seems to have possessed little taste for the fine arts. The noble collection of pictures at old Fonthill, the artists whom his father [194] continually invited to his table, and a natural regard for works of art, seems to have led him to their study. It has been already stated that his love for Oriental learning, and his acquirement of the Persian and Arabic were his own work. These met no encouragement from his instructors, and it is possible his fondness for the fine arts grew out of a spirit of opposition to the course which his friends wished him to take in public life, a course for which he had not the slightest relish. He was too proud to play off the tricks of the statesman, and to use any means to an end. He did not want to make a fortune, and there was from his earliest youth something retiring in his character, a shyness, a feeling no doubt increased by his private education, and want of collision with youths of his own age, which would have hardened him to the boldness and roughness, as well as to the habits of a public school. The advance he made in learning and general acquirements, he would then have exchanged for a better knowledge of Greek, in which he professed to be no great adept, and the art of making bad Greek and Latin verses until he went to a university, on leaving which [195] his knowledge at twenty years of age would have been miserably limited, except as to longs and shorts, to what it was when he entered Rome, feasted his vision with the glories of St. Peter's and lamented the whitewashed roof of the venerable Pantheon.

From Rome, after exploring the vicinity, young Beckford proceeded to Naples. He lodged at Veletri, not without some notice of the malaria, and many of the various spots renowned in the historic or poetic page, as the rock of Circe, and the Appian Way. At the Mola di Gaeta they welcomed in the fishing boats, with cargoes such as Neptune would have grudged Æneas and Ulysses, and finally entered Naples during a storm, and were rocked to slumber by the breaking of the waves on the rocky foundation of a fortress beneath their windows, around which the lightning played.

Impatient for the dawn of day, it came at last with a cloudless sky, so that the white buildings of Caprea were distinctly visible at the distance of thirty miles. Here the young traveller states that he drank fully of the beauties of the scene around him. Nor was this all. He went to [196] the palace, where he found a courtly mob, daubed with lace, and be-perriwigged prelates, friars, all the world, hurrying to the presence- chamber, to see the king eat, as people go now-a-days to see wild beasts fed. The king devoured his food in a circular enclosure, with fine clothes and smiling faces around him, and when he had finished, twenty poking necks were protruded in a struggle as to who should first kiss the royal hand, the desirable object of the company. What a dereliction of all that is manly and noble is such an exhibition! His Majesty all the time looked at the end of his own nose. He seems to have been a very fair representative of majesty as it flourished in 1780. He loved to stab boars, to shoot down pigeons, and no Windsor huntsman cheering on the royal hounds after a poor tame stag, could enjoy himself more than this specimen of the "Lord's anointed," when he could get a battledore or an angling-rod into the hands of divine right.

It was at Naples, upon this youthful tour, that Mr. Beckford made the acquaintance of the first Lady Hamilton, the wife of Sir William, at that time British Ambassador at the court. She [197] was an excellent performer on the piano. No one Mr. Beckford ever heard could produce such soothing effects; - they seemed an emanation from her pure mind. She died in 1782. It was thought that if she had lived, she might have been the means of arresting that tide of baseness and corruption which at last drove the court to Sicily. At the house of Sir William Hamilton, whose second marriage is an historical event, there were often assembled a number of lovely females, artists, and literati, of whom Mr. Beckford has recorded some of the names. Of one Gagliani he relates that he found him outvie Polichinello in loquacity and gesticulation; and that to give an idea of the Neapolitan fashionables, it was sufficient to allude to the gross licentiousness of his stories, exceeding all those bounds of decency and decorum to which Englishmen are accustomed to pay honour. Visiting the theatre of San Carlo the traveller heard Marchesi sing to very miserable music. The court was present; and when royalty withdrew, noise and hubbub made up the rest of the entertainment.

Young Beckford visited Virgil's tomb at [198] Pausillipo, clambered the neighbouring rocks, and was enraptured with the Bay of Naples - the distant view of Vesuvius - and the far off town of Capræ. He rambled over the shore at Baii, having with him a guide, recommended by Sir William Hamilton. He feasted his vision on the Isles of Procida and Ischia, which were seen clothed in that purple bloom so exquisitely beautiful, and so peculiar to the climate. He could not help taking a boat at Pozzuoli, and getting rowed out upon that blue ocean, on the shore of which his fancy shaped out of the ruins yet extant the bay as it was in the old Roman ages, with rows of columns and pavilions upon its shores, and taper cypresses spiring above the ballustrades. Landing near the fragments of a temple, he found himself alone, being free from those plagues on similar excursions, English travellers and English connoisseurs. He wandered to the reservoir constructed by Nero to supply his fleet with water. He entered all kinds of grots and excavations, and stood contemplating from an eminence the Mare Morto, or Dead Lake. He hurried off from thence to the promontory of Misenus, at the base of which he found springs [199] issuing from rocks of pumice, and hillocks concealed by thickets of bay. Despite a hot sun, he attained the summit of the promontory. On one occasion he took shelter in a hut inhabited by an old woman, who beckoned him into her cottage. After some preliminary conversation, he succeeded in persuading her to tell him her history, to which she had alluded. Among other things, she related to him an adventure which had occurred since she had been living on that spot. It will be found in Mr. Beckford's published letters, but is too long to extract. The impression it left upon his mind was such that, using his own words, "My blood thrilled as I walked by the gulph to call my guide, who stood aloof under the cliffs. He seemed to think, from the paleness of my countenance, that I had heard some gloomy prediction, and shook his head, when I turned round to bid my old hostess adieu. It was a melancholy evening, and I could not refrain from tears, and whilst winding through the defiles of the rocks, he [sic] sad scenes which had passed among them recurred to my memory.”*

From Naples young Beckford bent his course homeward. Up to the time of leaving the south of Italy, his mornings were spent in visiting palaces, churches, antiquities, paintings, and works of sculpture, as before under the guidance of his tutor. The progress of the young traveller was rapid for the first ten days; writing from Augsburg, under the date of January, 1781, he said, "I have been traversing Lapland; the winds whistling, and the cones in the pine forest showering down upon my head." Travelling sometimes by moonlight, he could not help being struck with the awful aspect of the Tyrolese mountains, now buried in snow, the streams frozen, and every thing human appearing petrified.


[p. 191] * There is little doubt but the writings of Mr. Beckford relating to Italy and Switzerland that bear a date antecedent to 1780, and were published between 1834 and 1836, were almost verbatim from the youthful work already mentioned as having been suppressed, to oblige his friends, just before he came of age. The extract here given relative to the Grand Chartreuse, from that suppressed work, may be compared with what he published in 1834, and it will be found similar. That extract was from the quarto alluded to, and not from what Mr. Beckford himself published. Such reflective writing from a youth, renders its author an extraordinay instance of precocious talent.
[p. 199] * See vol. i. "Italy and Spain, 1834," for the particulars of this story.

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Vesuvius from the Myrtle Plantation at Sir William Hamilton's Villa at Portici, by John Robert Cozens (1782). Another detail.
Vesuvius from the Myrtle Plantation at Sir William Hamilton's Villa at Portici, by John Robert Cozens (1782). Detail.