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be perfect. But it is far otherwise ; and the finest part of Florence is consequently a failure, and only redeemed by the rich colouring and grotesque deformity of those very houses from being hideous. It is not one part alone, but everything is strangely unfinished in this city: the sturdy citizens were too occupied in domestic broils to carry out any of the majestic plans formed for its embellishment. The Duomo, that stupendous piece of mosaic, inlaid like a monstrous cabinet, has no façade; whitewash and mortar alone indicate the principal entrance, and meet the eye as it surveys the beautiful baptistery close by. Santa Croce
—that venerable church where repose the ashes of Michael Angelo, Galileo, and Alfieri, and the noblest monument of modern times is reared to the memory of Dante--Santa Croce wants an entrance. San Lorenzo and the Medicean Chapel, with its marbles and rich stones, and great dome vieing with the cathedral, is in no part completed. The works of Michael Angelo that adorn its walls are in the same condition ; mere sketches of what they were to be-all unfinished.
But we won't talk of the churches now, but turn towards that delicious old mediæval Ponte Vecchio, covered, like old London-bridge, with small shops, and surmounted by a long passage, tiled at the top, and pierced by windows, leading from the Uffigi, with its Medicean Venus and all its other fabled treasures, to the Pitti palace, the residence of the grand duke, boasting a rival collection almost as rich and rare—those Raphaels, those Murillos, those Titians !
Everybody who ever passed a day in Florence knows the Ponte Vecchio and its tempting jewellers' shops ranged on either side of the streetsuch places of sweet temptation! Bracelets fit for a princess_brooches worthy to clasp the girdle of a sultana-studs that might confine the transparent muslin on a Guiccioli's bosom! What a display there always is on that dear old Ponte Vecchio. They never seem to sell anything, or their stores are legion, for the treasures are like the widow's cruise-ever undiminished.
Crowds are leaning over the parapets, gazing at the swollen river, and speculating on all the mischief it will do, as it rolls by in turbid, angry waves, darkened by lines of tremendous currents at either side. Above, to the left, is the beautifully-situated church of San Miniato, crowning its graceful hill, enveloped like a flower amid large leaves by a grove of dark cypress-trees, whose tall stems rise towards the deep blue sky. A perfect emerald setting to the venerable old church of black and white marble is that cypress-grove and long avenue shooting up the hill-side to the great portico. Beyond are the blue hills, dotted with villas and casinos, a shade fainter in colour than their neighbour the sky, with which they blend in one sweet harmonious whole under the mellowing influence of the bright sunshine.
On the other side, at a little distance, the elegant bridge of the Trinità spans the river, which widens considerably below it, and stretching along in a graceful bend displays the deep woody shades of the Cascine, now just tinted with the ruddy hues of autumn, deepening the tints of the branches that overhang and dip into the yellow Amo.
Those Cascine so redolent of gossip, where every leaf might, if audible, tell some separate tale, and every branch of those old elms relate a perfect compendium of scandal—where so many characters are lost and so few won—where beauty and not virtue—Venus rather than Diana-has long reigned,-how beautiful they look as I lean over the bridge, gazing at their lengthening lines of forest scenery, with the light graceful suspension-bridge marking the entrance to this mysterious and fatal woodas dangerous as the gardens of Armida, and scarcely less beautiful. Bordered by the river, edged with deep shady avenues, impenetrable thickets, broad grassy spaces, and pretty central square, where the gay heart of Florence palpitates in audible pulsations—of faultless drags, unexceptionable dog-carts, gay equipages, dashing chasseurs, brilliant britschkas, gay cavaliers, elegant Amazons, forming an ensemble infinitely more sprightly, picturesque, and enchanting than our old jog-trot Hyde Park, where people drive round and round with all the solemnity and melancholy of criminals undergoing punishment on a treadmill.
Nothing interrupts the gay throng at the Cascine unless the grand duke and duchess make their appearance in an open carriage, which they do nearly every day when at the Pitti Palace. Then there is a pause and a hush, and people take off their hats and look askance at the sovereign, who is quite hated by his subjects since he has imported 1500 Austrian troops to keep himself firmly seated on the throne, and given up to them as a barrack the superb palace of Poggio Reale. Gavazzi's trial has done him no good in every one's opinion, for imprisoning the poor man until he was half dead, and then letting him go by way of an act of mercy when he had never done any harm at all. Poor Gavazzi ! no one could ever forget his face of suffering as he appeared at the trial and pleaded his own cause with such consummate eloquence and tact. The late affair of Miss Cunninghame, who was arrested at the Baths of Lucca, has been thoroughly unpopular. She was denounced at the English church there, being pointed out by the contadina to whom she gave some Italian tracts while attending divine service. The very priests at the Baths cried shame; but she was taken off, ill and alone, to the prisons at Lucca, and confined in Rosa Madiai's cell! Spite of the illustrious Leopola, she is now free; and he may bite his nails in impotent rage at his failure in oppressing British subjects! To be sure, he is the most hideous man ove ever beheld : his face, the index of his mind, is overgrown with grey hair, something after the fashion of a white polar bear.
The Grand Duchess Antonina of Naples is a handsome, buxom, smiling dame, who looks as if she fed on the fat of the land, and enjoyed it; a striking contrast to her consort, the lugubrious Leopold, well benamed the Tuscan Morpheus. Their carriage is generally followed by one or two others filled with fat, chubby princes and princesses, and still fatter ladies in waiting. Indeed, the whole court, with the exception of the grand duke, are as jolly and convivial-looking a circle as can well be conceived.
As to remaining long on the Ponte Vecchio—"in meditating musing rapt”—the thing is impossible ; such a crowd perpetually pushes and elbows one, to say nothing of being momentarily run over by the baroccios and their peasant drivers, who dash along regardless even of the Austrian officers who are lounging about the shops—which is being very bold indeed. Then there are the voitures de place, swarming with
strangers, all bound to the gallery of the Pitti, on the opposite side of the river, the English all distinguished by their red-bound Murray's “Guide," become quite a national badge, yclept “the Englishman's Bible.” There, too, are the ambulating vendors of cakes and roasted chestnuts, all screaming, shouting, cursing, and gesticulating in an animated chorus perfectly meridional in passion and vehemence.
Just as I turn from contemplating the enchanting distance, I am stopped. “Signora, comanda, un mayetto," says in a melodious voice a Fiorinaja, or Aower-girl, her handsome face and bright eyes turned towards me with a beseeching look, an immense flapping Leghorn hat placed on the back of her head, her hair beautifully braided, with long gold earrings dangling from her ears, and a large cross suspended round her neck—" comanda, signora,” she repeats, " vedi che son belli, ne vuole?" as she uncovers her basket and displays the treasures it contains. What lovely flowers ! Huge bouquets of carnations, gaudy in varied tints, mixed with heliotrope and geranium leaves in the most artistic fashion; sprigs of orange-flowers and myrtle leaves; piles of magnificent tuberoses, scenting the air with overpowering perfume; hanzias lying beside them, contrasting their waxy blossoms with the marble whiteness of the graceful lily-form of the tuberose. Then the roses, the lovely roses of every colour, every shade from white to red, from red to yellow and buff. I declare I must buy them all. To think we are in the month of November makes them all the sweeter, and that the poor girl will gladly make over to me her whole morning's stock in trade, enough to perfume an entire garden, for about two shillings! O Italy, thou art a glorious land! Well might old Sam Rogers, in his ecstasy at finding himself on the classical side of the Alps, exclaim, “ How beautiful thou art !” for every creature who ever followed in his footsteps has echoed the same sentiment from their very souls!
But I must not forget the fruit in my rhapsodies about the flowers ; and to fill up the sum of your discontent, good Mr. Editor, which I see increasing with every line I write, “that you, too, are not in Arcadia,” I must give you a word on that subject. On the bridges in the Loggie, or arched-covered spaces in the various markets, at the corner of every street, behold choice altars raised to the fair Pomona, loaded with exquisite grapes, as luscious as ever grew on the Thessalian plains, figs, peaches, fine pears, apples, medlars, and numbers of other kind of fruit quite strange to me. “And all," as Hamlet says, "for nothing,"-yes, absolutely nothing.
When in the morning I wend my way to the Piazza Gran Duca, which I never enter without a feeling of awe as I glance at the mighty monuments around Michael Angelo's David, so imposing in its grand simplicity, unlike the usual anatomical “poses" the great artist usually preferred. Beside it the exquisite bronze statue of Perseus holding Medusa’s head, just severed from the body aloft, blood streaming from the neck, which statue proves what a rival to Michael Angelo would Cellini have been had he followed the natural bent of his genius, instead of carving cups and goblets for the imperious Grand Duchess Eleanor, of whom in his memoirs he so bitterly complains; this, his solitary statue, being an earnest of the finished execution and original design of which he was capable. Then there is his great rival Bandinelli's Hercules, keeping guard with the David over the entrance to the huge frowning palazzo itself, covered with escutcheons, at once the fortress and the residence of the mighty Medicean line, with its great halls, and cortiles, and frescos, such a charming old mediæval specimen, each room suggesting some historical reminiscence. In a corner of the piazza, hard by the palace, is the great fountain, Dei Giganti, about which Cellini nearly broke his heart, when the imperious Eleanor and her husband Cosimo, the first grand duke, gave the commission to Ammanati, and rejected his own design. In this piazza was Savonarola burnt; and here, on the 1st of May, some who still believe the doctrines he preached, spread violets on the pavement in memory of his death; but that must be done very early in the morning indeed, for fear of the Austrian soldiers.
But how I am running. I began about the fruit, and somehow or other have wandered to Savonarola. When, as I was saying—when in the morning I cross this fabled region, the Gran Piazza, in my way to the Distribuzione delle Corrispondenze (the pompous name given to the post-office in the high-sounding Italian), occupying one entire side of the square, with its sloping roof and shady curtains, under which “ the foresters,” bent on the same errand as myself, daily congregate, and the Saxon tongue is heard in every dialect-I always return laden, if not with letters, at least with fruit, for which indiscretion I am diurnally reprimanded by papa, who sternly inquires “ why I load myself like a facchino."
Now, Mr. Editor, methinks at this distance I hear you grumblingalthough to be sure the Apennines, and the Alps, and the Mediterranean, all France, and the horrid Channel, “that dreary sea that flows between" -divides us. Still editors' voices are loud and awful, like the muffled roar of Etna in its present active state—and they reach a prodigious way, too-so I really quite fancy I hear you saying, “ What is the use of all this trash to me? What do I care for all this jargon about glorious sunshine, jewellers' shops, flowers, roses, lovely Italy, and the fruit? Confound the fruit! I don't eat fruit. I am afraid of it in these cholera times. What does the girl mean by all this rambling ? She promises me news from Florence, and then gives me this rhodomontade instead. I want to hear about the opera society, the winter visitors—that is what I bargained for."
Softly, now—softly, Mr. Editor; don't be angry; you shall have it all, only be patient. I have given you the outward and visible of our lovely city at the beginning of winter, and having done so, proceed to what is going on among those modern Sybarites—its inhabitants. First, let me mention, it is not likely to be a brilliant season, as people are all afraid of war, and Florence, with that stupid old grand duke, with his popish prejudices and his Austrians, would not be, under those circumstances, quite agreeable. Rome is the place for safety-Rome, garrisoned by our dear brothers the French. They must take care of the poor Pope, and so the English will come in for their chivalrous protection. Two operas are, however, open, and various minor theatres." Rigoletto" has had a prodigious run, and is even now drawing immense houses at a small theatre. It is the sweetest, most entrainante music ever written, and full of the finest dramatic situations ; with the exception of “ Macbeth,” decidedly Verdi's latest chef-d'ouvre. Whenever that song, “La donna è mobile"
is sung, a perfect furore is invariably created. If the English have any musical souls left, their insane prejudice against modern Italian music will yield to the sparkling charm of this fascinating opera.
All the world lately has been ballet mad, for and because of a certain young American danseuse, a Miss Maywood by name, who has literally taken the city of the Medici by storm--a feat many a great commander has failed in effecting. She certainly has the merit of great originality, being unlike Ferraris, Carlotta Grisi, or Cerito, and yet combining many perfections peculiar to them. Her style is bold, daring, and impassioned, appealing more to the senses than aspiring to the poetry of motion, which I presume is the reason the Florentines are so wild about her. In face she is far from pretty; her pantomime is marvellously graphic and expressive, and would be remarkable even for a Neapolitan; how American limbs and features can ever have acquired such speaking eloquence is quite an enigma. The roaring and shouting when she appears attitudinising at the back of the stage, seen between parting clouds of misty obscurity, are really deafening, and the recals, and the bouquets, and the garlands at the conclusion, positively wearisome. The ballet, well put on the stage, at the Pergola, is the story of Faust, with alterations—told as the dream of an old man, who, in a series of effective tableaux, has his renowned life represented to him by the wand of Mephistophiles, to whom he afterwards sells himself, in order to obtain the invigorating elixir vitæ, and realise the agreeable dream. This same wicked Mephistophiles (who in his red cloak, outstretched arms, and wonderful contortions of countenance, reminds one of Formès, as Bertrand, in “ Robert le Diable”) induces Margaret, by mistake, to poison her mother, by which means he acquires infernal rights over her soul.
The acting of the Maywood, in the scene where she discovers what she has done, is really something not to be forgotten--a union of dancing and pantomime, horrific in its vivid and picturesque passion, altogether displaying powers unrivalled by any other living dancer. In the last scene she and the respectable Dr. Faustus are united in the lower regions, after the audience have witnessed her decapitation on terra firma for the murder of her mother. An infernal dance takes place, which is very effective, and forms a spirited finale ; but is not to be compared in suggestive expression and grace to a “ pas de fascination” in the earlier part of the ballet, when she solicits and obtains the love of the venerable doctor, not yet vivified into the gay young cavalier, by a series of attitudes and tours de force, trenching on the extremest confines of the allowable, executed with a passionate voluptuousness all her own.
I fancy if she comes to London the Lord Chamberlain will oblige the young lady to reform altogether, or certainly modify her style, as also to wear more ample clothing, before she displays her charms to the sternly moral subjects of Queen Victoria. These little omissions and commissions may pass current in the modern Pompeii, but will hardly do at home, Mr. Editor, where, at least, “people assume a virtue if they have it not.” So much for Miss Maywood, who is certainly a great fact in her department. It is an odd jumble that Donizetti's version of the sufferings of the early Christians, in the opera of “Poluito,” should preface Miss Maywood's attitudinisings; but so it is, and the same evening beholds