Posts Tagged Matilda Lucas

Women Writers and Italy: Two Englishwomen in Rome: The Tiber Flooded, 1875

Anne and Matilda LucasAnne ( 1841-1928) and Matilda Lucas (1849-1943) were the daughters of  Samuel Lucas, a brewer with land and influence in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. The Lucas family were Quakers. Their mother had died when they were young and after their father’s death in 1870 the sisters continued to live for a short time with their step-mother. But then, in mid-1871, they left England for Rome, where,  for the next 29 years, they were to spend much of the year. Ten years after her sister’s death, Matilda Lucas published excerpts from the letters sent over the years by the sisters to friends and relations back in England. Two Englishwomen in Rome, 1871-1900 (Methuen, 1938)  makes very entertaining reading.

Rome. November 23, 1878.

There is no reason now to complain that events do not happen, for with thunderstorms, floods, popular demonstrations, and Orsini bombs, we are living in a perpetual whirl of excitement; so that a woman going mad last Sunday on the Spanish Steps, and a man killed yesterday in sight of our windows, seem quite in the natural order of things.

First the thunder-storm last Wednesday week. It was terrific and raged all night. The rain came down like a water-spout, as it only can rain in Rome. It came through our roof, and basins and pans were put all about to catch it; the staircase was a cascade. Our ruffian Augusto was had in to help and was quite in his element.

In spite of the rain, as soon as lunch was over we put on our ulsters and rushed out to see the river. It was coming down tremendously. The people were crowding the bridges. The water had got into some of the streets, but the flood had not reached its height. On friday the floods were much higher and on Saturday still higer. The Bowen’s palazzo was invaded by the water. Shops were shut on the Corso, and people saved their goods. All night the latest telegrams from Orte were being shouted in the streets. The Tiber works were so much money thrown away. The people were hard at work down by the Farnesina strengthening part of the works, but the water burst in on them and they had to run for their lives. One if not more bodies were carried into Rome from the Campagna. I suppose peasants who had been surprised by the water. It was not so bad as in 1870, when bodies of men and animals came down the Corso, and people could not get out of their houses to buy provisions.

Roesler: Tiber Flooded, c 1880

Roesler: Tiber Flooded, c 1880

We called together our walking academy on Saturday and made the round of the different bridges, the Ghetto, and the ruins. Carts were acting as ferry-boats and taking people through the flood for a soldo a crossing. The Pantheon looked very grand reflected in the water. Victor Emmanuel’s grave was under water, but Pio Nono was quite safe over his doorway. We had no difficulty in getting about, having to make only a few detours to avoid the inundations. The Temple of Vesta and the Arch of Janus had water round them, and there was a good deal in the Forum.

See here for more about the flooding Tiber

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Women Writers and Italy: Two Englishwomen in Rome

Anne ( 1841-1928) and Matilda Lucas (1849-1943) were the daughters of  Samuel Lucas, a brewer with land and influence in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. The Lucas family were Quakers. Their mother had died when they were young and after their father’s death in 1870 the sisters continued to live for a short time with their step-mother. But then, in mid-1871, they left England for Rome, where,  for the next 29 years, they were to spend much of the year. Ten years after her sister’s death, Matilda Lucas published excerpts from the letters sent over the years by the sisters to friends and relations back in England. Two Englishwomen in Rome, 1871-1900 (Methuen, 1938)  makes very entertaining reading.

Artistic talent clearly ran in the family. Here is a study of Matilda Lucas by her niece, Rose Lucas. Samuel Lucas had been a renowned amateur artist and his daughters, too, had evidently inherited a measure of his talent. They spent much of their time in Rome engaged with their sketchbooks and easels, working both in the studio and plein air.

”Rome. February 14, 1875. On Saturday morning I went off my myself round by the Capitol, Forum, and Arch of Janus and out to the place where the Campagna oxen stand not far from the Temple of Vesta. I had taken my sketch-book, and, as I was walking down the road looking out for some cattle to draw, a splendid pair drew up with a very picturesque cart loaded with fodder and logs. So I set to work on that and stood there, surrounded by some villainous-looking roughs and a beggar. I gave out that I had no money and had left my watch at home, so I did not think they could do me much harm. They were much interested in my performance, and I talked to them. But when I shut up my book to go, the owner of the cattle demanded brandy and began to get excited, at which the others said, ‘Quella non ha denaro’. He seemed much disgusted,  but I got away all right, and walked on to the Temple of Vesta and Santa Maria in Cosmedin.’

‘Rome. 1879. Augusto sat very well. The first day he arrived long before time, so that Anne and I might have a private view and see whether he had shaved properly and arranged his curls. When we arranged the red doublet and short mantle on him it was most amusing to see the satisfaction with which he looked at himself in the glass.’

Corrodi: Tasso’s Oak and view of Rome from the Janiculum (mid-19th century)

‘Rome. May 20, 1878. By Tasso’s Oak are the remains of an amphitheatre with cypresses at the top and a small grass plot at the bottom. The singers were on the steps above us. By day the view of the distant city is grand; by night we could see where the city was by the lights, and could make out the line of Monte Cavo. Carlandi [the art master] was very indignant with the moon for being so late, but I told him I thought the stars and fireflies did very well. It was most beautiful to see the moon rise behind the Alban hills; it came up quite golden and made the mists look red. The singers were Carlandi’s sisters, the Professor, and Monsieur Thouron. They have good voices and sang with good taste; the mandolines were very sweet in the open air.

It was charming. Carlandi could not have given us a more artistic entertainment. The frogs, which Anne said had been awoken out of their beauty sleep, encored loudly from the Corsini gardens. The last son was Mendelssohn’s Adieu, which we generally call ‘Mourn Not’after which we made the best of our way home, delighted with our entertainment and the Carlandis.’

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