Posts Tagged Rome

Women Writers And Italy: Mrs Piozzi Vouchsafes Her Opinion of Rome And The Romans

In April 1786 Mrs Piozzi (the former Mrs Hester Thrale) was about to depart from  Rome, the leisurely continental tour she had been enjoying with her second husband, Gabriel Piozzi, former music teacher to her children, was drawing to a close. Her final observation  on the Eternal City and its inhabitants – both natives and visitors – is characteristically sharp.

'Piazza del Popolo' from Glimpses of Italian Society in the 18th century

‘The laburnum which at this gay season (16 April) adorns the environs of London, I look for in vain about the Porta Del Popola’. ‘Piazza del Popolo’ from Glimpses of Italian Society in the 18th century

 

The air of the city is unwholesome to foreigners, but if they pass the first year, the remainder goes well enough. Many English seem very healthy who are established here without even the smallest intention of returning home to Great Britain, for which place we are setting out to-morrow, 19th April, 1786, and quit a town that still retains so many just pretences to be styled the first among the cities of the earth, to which almost as any strangers are now attracted by curiosity as were dragged thither by violence in the first stage of its dominion, impelled by superstitious zeal in the second.

The rage for antiquities now seems to have spread its contagion of connoisseurship over all those people whose predecessors tore down, levelled, and destroyed, or buried underground, their statues, pictures, every work of art; Poles, Germans, Swedes, and Germans innumerable flock daily hither in this age to admire with rapture the remains of those very fabrics which their own barbarous ancestors pulled down ten centuries ado, and give for the head of a Livia, a Probus, or Gallienus, what emperors and queens could not then use with any efficacy for the preservation of their own persons, now grown sacred by rust and valuable from their difficulty to be deciphered.

The English were wont to be the only travellers of Europe, the only dupes, too, in this way; but desire of distinction is diffused among all the northern nations, and our Romans here have it more in their power, with that prudence to assist them which it is said they do not want, if not to conquer their neighbours once again, at least to ruin them, by dint of digging up their dead heroes, and calling in the assistance of their own pagan deities, now useful to them in a new manner, and ever propitious to the city.

From Glimpses of Italian Society in the Eighteenth Century, From the ‘Journal of Mrs Piozzi’, Seeley & Co, 1892

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Women Writers and Italy: Two Englishwomen In Rome and Sarah Parker Remond

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 interesting reading.

Sarah Parker Remond c. 1865 (Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum Collection)

Sarah Parker Remond c. 1865 (Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum Collection)

The few disingenuous sentences I transcribe below would appear to delineate the discomfort that must have been endured by  Sarah Parker Remond (1824-94) , or Sarah Remond Pintor as she was by then, as she mixed in society – even  expatriate Roman society, which was by no means ruled by convention. An American free-born black woman, Sarah Remond had lived for a time in London, signing the first women’s suffrage petition in 1866, perhaps the only black woman to do so, had then travelled to Italy, where she qualified as a doctor. She had married an Italian, Lazzaro Pintor in Florence in 1877. There is some debate as to how long the marriage lasted. From the Lucas’ evidence, Pintor did not accompany his wife to this social occasion in Rome in March 1878, but Sarah was sufficiently still married to feel able to don her bridal dress.

However am I correct, I wonder, to read the passage as reflecting the curiosity and, perhaps,  also slight discomfort  felt by the gathering at the presence of a black woman in their midst? If Sarah was their aunt the P___s must surely have been the  ‘Putnams’ – the family of Sarah’s sister, Caroline Remond Putnam, who lived with her in Italy on various occasions. If so the fact that Caroline also was ‘black’ makes the passage a little difficult to interpret. Why was Sarah specifically their ‘black aunt’? Did they have any other kind? So perhaps it was only the bridal dress that was the cause for comment. A simple scene, but something of a puzzle.

March 17, 1878. Tell Madgie that the P___s were there with their black aunt. She was a bride, having just married an Italian, and wore her bridal dress of grey silk. It must have been very trying for Mrs P____. People came up to question her. One Italian said, ‘Chi e quell’Africana?’  It appears that she is very clever, and a female doctor. She was taken up a good deal in London by different people who were interested in negroes. I think she lived with the Peter Taylors. She has given lectures. I went to sit on the sofa with her, to the amusement of Franz, who cannot rise above her appearance. Dr Baedtke was much impressed to think that anyone has had the courage to marry her, and said, ‘In that I should have been a coward.’

Click here for Sarah Parker Remond: A Daughter of Salem, Massachusetts  – a very interesting website

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Women Writers and Italy: Charlotte Eaton: St Peter’s Through Protestant Eyes

Scottish- born Charlotte Waldie (1788-1859), with her sister, Jane, and brother, John, travelled to Europe – as did so many others – in 1816/17, after the final defeat of Napoleon. For at least some of the time the two sisters travelled alone, when John was otherwise occupied. They each kept detailed notes of their journeys and sojourns: Charlotte turned her experience into Rome in the Nineteenth Century, first published privately and then, in 1820, by Archibald Constable.

Charlotte’s view of  St Peter’s, recorded in these extracts, was reflected through a prism of Protestantism.

Colonnade of St PEter's from 'Rome in the Nineteenth Century'

Colonnade of St PEter’s from ‘Rome in the Nineteenth Century’

It is impossible to express my disappointment I felt on seeing what seemed to me to be – not a church, but a large house or palace, three stories high, with little attic windows at the top. The dome is placed so far back, in consequence of the length of the Latin cross, that in the front view its grandeur is lost. Its design is irredeemably faulty, in giving to the front of the greatest temple in the world the frittering littleness of the exterior of a dwelling-house, and the effect, in producing apparent mediocrity of size, is as striking to the eye, that I could scarcely recognise in it any character of a church, much less of St Peter’s, that boast of modern architecture, and latest wonder of the world.

The crowded courts and irregular angles of that huge, unwieldy pile of building, the Vatican Palace, which adhere to it on one side like a monstrous excresence, are a great deformity. They overlook the top of the colonnade, depress the elevation, destroy its uniformity, and injure its general effect.

Having ventured inside, Charlotte found ‘The interior, on the whole, as far surpassed my highly-raised expectations, as the exterior fell short of them. Yet notwithstanding its beauty, I was conscious of a species of disappointment too commonly felt, when what we have long dwelt on in fancy is seen in reality. I had pictured it to myself less beautiful, and far less magnificent but more sublime. With an imagination deeply impressed with the imposing effects of the Gothic cathedrals of our own country, I expected, from the immensity of St Peter’s, even more of that religious awe and deep solemn melancholy, which they never fail to inspire: and I was unprepared for its lightness, decoration, and brilliance; – and, above all, for that impression of gaiety, which the first sight of its interior produces.

Charlotte condemns the use of Corinthian pilaster and, particularly, the Grecian arch which ‘has the unfortunate effect of diminishing the apparent length, which the the perspective of a Grecian colonnade, or a Gothic aisle, uniformly appears to increase….The windows, too, are mean and poor-looking, and offensive to the eye. It is easier, however, to point out the fault than the remedy; for windows do not enter gracefully into the beautiful combinations of Grecian architecture. In Gothic churches, on the contrary, how grand and majestic an object is the arched and shafted window! Indeed, if I may venture to own to you the truth, it is my humble opinion, that though Grecian architecture is admirably adapted to palaces and theatres, and places of public assembly, and public buildings of almost every other kind, it is not suited to churches….it does not accord with the solemn purposes of Christian worship, to which the simplicity and grandeur of the Gothic, and its impressive effect upon the mind, are so peculiarly fitted.

Certainly some apology may be found for its defects in the frequent changes of plans, and architects, and Popes during the building of [St Peter’s]; and in the real and imaginary necessity of having an upper balcony for the purpose of giving the benediction; a circumstance which has been so ruinous to its beauty, that we might say with truth, that the blessings of the Popes have been the perdition of the Church. But whatever the cause, the faults of the front of St Peter’s are unredeemable and unpardonable.

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Women Writers and Italy: Charlotte Eaton’s First Sight of Rome

Scottish- born Charlotte Waldie (1788-1859), with her sister, Jane, and brother, John, travelled to Europe – as did so many others – in 1816/17, after the final defeat of Napoleon. For at least some of the time the two sisters travelled alone, when John was otherwise occupied. They each kept detailed notes of their journeys and sojourns: Charlotte turned her experience into Rome in the Nineteenth Century, first published privately and then, in 1820, by Archibald Constable.

Here follows her report of arriving – at last – in sight of Rome. The night before their arrival was spent at Monterosi. I particularly relish descriptions of gothic-horror inns.

Jervis McEntee, Journey's Pause in the Roman Campagna

Jervis McEntee, Journey’s Pause in the Roman Campagna

‘After considerable delay we did get into a bed-room, more wretched than language can describe: open in many a cranny to the weather, unswept, unplastered, and unfurnished except by two such beds as it is impossible for you to form any idea of; but as the surly people of the house could or would shew us no other, we had no remedy. A fire, that grand consoler of discomforts, was not to be had. The wood was so wet, the wind so high, and the chimney so wide, that while we were blinded and suffocated with wreaths of pungent smoke, and while the wind whistled at its pleasure through the hundred chinks of the unglazed windows, our most persevering efforts failed to make a blaze. Though something swimming in oil, and smelling of garlic, was set before us its appearance was so disgusting, that, after a fast of more than twelve hours, not even hunger could persuade us to touch it. If we did not eat, however, we were eaten; whole hosts made us their prey during the night, while we lay shivering and defenceless.

First view of Rome from Eaton, Rome in the 19th century

First view of Rome from Eaton, Rome in the 19th century

We got up – I believe in the middle of the night..and we were dragged along at a foot-pace.. for about three hours in darkness, til we approached Baccano, when the sun rose in splendour and we found ourselves on the deserted Campagna of Rome. In answer to our eager inquiries of when we should see Rome, our phlegmatic Vetturino  only replied, ‘Adesso! adesso!!’ unable to conceive any other cause for our anxiety than the very natural impatience to get to the end of our tedious journey. Our longing eyes were intently fixed on the spot where we were told that it would first appear; when, at length, the carriage having toiled up to the top of a long hill, the Vetturino  exclaimed, ‘Eccola!’ The dome of St Peter’s appeared in view; and, springing out of the carriage, and up a bank by the road side, we beheld from its summit, Rome!’

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Women Writers and Italy: Two Englishwomen in Rome, Garibaldi And Rheumatism

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.

Garibaldi and family c 1875

Garibaldi and family c 1875

Rome. Hotel Milano. February 27, 1875.

We have not seen Garibaldi yet. He is quite a cripple and goes about on crutches. He seems quite taken up with his scheme of draining the Campagna and turning the Tiber. I think it very well that he should be harmlessly busy; it keeps him quiet. I have not heard of his baptizing any one here. It seems to be one of his ideas to think he can do those sort of things instead of a priest.

Rome. March 14, 1875.

This morning I paid a call of sympathy on Miss Pagan. She spent yesterday in bed with rheumatism and was rather feverish. Tomorrow she is going with some others to call on Garibaldi. The poor General’s hands are quite drawn with rheumatism and he often cannot sleep at night; so I tell her she had better take some of her pills with her. I am thinking of calling on him with a small bottle of colchicum and a little laudanum for outward application.

Rome. March 21, 1875.

As it was Garibaldi’s Saint’s day, Villa Casalini was crowded with people. Just as the Irvings came by the General threw up a window and appeared in his red shirt, waving his rheumatic hand.

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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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La Bella Libertà: Anna Miller

‘I love the sun and the hotter he shines, the more health and spirits are dealt me. However, this luminary is no friend to the complexion, and I have contrived to make a hat of pasteboard, and trimmed it with blond and pink ribbon. I believe I shall find it extremely convenient in the mornings when we are walking among the Ruins, for constantly going out in the Roman Fashion, with nothing to shade my face, has tanned me to such a degree, that I know not whether all the strawberry-water in Rome will be able to whiten me again.’ How different from the preoccupations of those – men – undertaking the Grand Tour was this observation, made by the first Englishwoman to publish an account of her travels in Italy, – in Letters from Italy Describing the Customs, Antiquities, Paintings etc of that Country, in the years MDCCLXX and MDCCLXXI to a Friend Residing in France (E & C Dilly, 1776). How such comments irritated the literati of her day; how they appeal to me.

 The woman who had the temerity so publicly to set herself – and her complexion – amidst the glories of Italy was Anna Miller, wife of a somewhat impoverished Irishman.  Her portrait, above, was painted by another Italophile Englishwoman, Ellis Cornelia Knight. Having exhausted her small fortune in building a villa near Bath, the Millers had, for reasons of economy, retired to the Continent. Leaving their infant children in France in the care of her mother, to whom the original letters were written, they then repaired to Italy. The Letters were published five years after their return to England. In the interim Mrs Miller’s reign over her literary salon at Batheaston had resulted in several volume of Poetical Amusements, published by the Dilly brothers.

It is likely that Anna Miller, as well as prizing her inclusion in the Dilly list alongside such bluestockings as Elizabeth Montagu and Catherine Macaulay, saw the publication of her Letters  as an opportunity to aid the family finances. The book clearly enjoyed some success, being bought in numbers sufficient for Dilly to issue a slightly revised two-volume edition in 1777. Mrs Miller was soon identified as the author and her work received some attention, not least from that waspish derider, Horace Walpole, to whom, of the book, Mrs Delaney commented, ‘very conceited, they say, and not worth buying.’ It was doubtless considered ‘conceited’ for a woman such as Mrs Miller to propound her views on taste, interposing herself between the reader and the art canon. In addition one can imagine Walpole’s reaction to the description of the pasteboard hat or to Anna Miller’s comment of the passage into Italy over Mon Cenis: ‘At some moments during the descent, I could not help fancying myself a witch upon a broomstick.’

Today, looking at Italy through Mrs Miller’s keen and sympathetic eyes, we bridge the centuries, experiencing everyday details of the traveller’s life and relishing the people and sights she encountered. She is a diligent reporter, telling us that ‘for fear of error, I take my notes upon the spot, which I assure you is often very troublesome, as I am frequently obliged to write in my pocket-books standing, and at times placing it on the pedestal of a statue, or the moulding of a surbase’. She displays all the inquisitiveness of a tabloid hack. In the Queen’s apartments in the Royal Palace in Turin, noticing shelves of books, ‘My curiosity urged me to open two or three, amongst which I found the Female Spectator  translated from English; a book enitled A Monitor for Sovereigns, doubled down and marked in several places.’ She brings immediacy to every experience, detailing the food, furnishings and service at inns the length of Italy. Dining at ‘a village called Maschieri in the dirtiest of all possible inns [we] supped upon, what think you? A pork soup with the Bouilliée in it, namely a hog’s head, with the eye-lashes, eyes, and nose on ; the very food the wretched animal and last eat of before he made his exit remained sticking about its teeth.’

A theatrical costumier could treat as patterns Anna Miller’s descriptions of dress. At a wedding in Venice, ‘The ladies walked two and two; they were all dressed in thin black silk gowns (excepting the bride), with large hoops; the gowns were strait-bodies, with very long trains…tucked up on one side of the hoop, with a prodigious large tassel of diamonds. Their sleeves were covered up to the shoulders with falls of the finest Brussels lace, a drawn tucker of the same round the bosom, adorned with rows of the finest pearl, such as large as a moderate gooseberry, till the rows descended below the top of the stomacher; then two ropes of pearl, which came from the back of the neck, were caught up at the left side of the stomacher, and finished in two fine tassels.’

Piazza di Spagna as Anna Miller would have known it

Of Rome Mrs Miller wrote: ‘’The part of the town we are in is by much the best for strangers, and the accommodation any where else extremely bad; for you know one cannot occupy the palaces nor the churches, which latter abound’. They were staying ‘at Pio’s Hotel, strada della Croce, Piazza di Spagna. Our table is served rather in the English style, at least there abounds three or four homely English dishes (thanks to some kind English predecesssors who have taught them), such as bacon and cabbage, boiled mutton..’ To Mrs Miller’s pleasure, they mingled with Roman nobility. On one occasion when the Pope was due to appear her hostess asked her not to speak to him as the Pope did not wish any stranger, particularly an English stranger to speak to him. ’I assured her my principles were diametrically opposite to those of the Stuart family and their party.. but concluded with saying, that if he spoke to me, I could not, as a gentlewoman, refrain from answering him.. and should treat him as I would do any other foreigner or native, with that general civility requisite on such occasions.’ And that put the Pope in his place. For Mrs Miller took a light-hearted approach to religion – writing at the end of Holy Week, on 4 April 1771: ’ At length the functions are finished; and now I may avail myself of the indulgence of sinning for three hundred years to come, having been in St Peter’s church every day during the Santa Settimana.’ 

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