IT was one of the fatalities of travel, rather than any real interest in the poet, which led me to visit the prison of Tasso on the night of our arrival, which was mild and moonlit. The portier at the Stella d’Oro suggested the sentimental homage to sorrows which it is sometimes difficult to respect, and I went and paid this homage in the coal-cellar in which was never imprisoned the poet whose works I had not read.
The famous hospital of St. Anna, where Tasso was confined for seven years, is still an asylum for the infirm and sick, but it is no longer used as a mad-house. It stands on one of the long, silent Ferrarese streets, not far from the Ducal Castle, and it is said that from the window of his cell the unhappy poet could behold Leonora in her tower. It may be so ; certainly those who can believe in the genuineness of the cell will have no trouble in believing that the vision of Tasso could pierce through several brick walls and a Doric portico, and at last comprehend the lady at her casement in the castle.
We entered a modern gateway, and passed into a hall of the elder edifice, where a slim young soldier sat reading a romance of Dumas. This was the keeper of Tasso’s prison ; and knowing me, by the instinct which teaches an Italian custodian to distinguish his prey, for a seeker after the True and Beautiful, he relinquished his romance, lighted a waxen taper, unbolted a heavy door with a dramatic clang, and preceded me to the cell of Tasso. We descended a little stairway, and found ourselves in a sufficiently spacious court, which was still ampler in the poet’s time, and was then a garden planted with trees and flowers. On a low doorway to the right was inscribed the legend ” PRIGIONE DI TASSO,” and passing through this doorway into a kind of reception-cell, we entered the poet’s dungeon. It is an oblong room, with a low wagon-roof ceiling, under which it is barely possible to stand upright. A single narrow window admits the light, and the stone casing of this window has a hollow in a certain place, which might well have been worn there by the friction of the hand that for seven years passed the prisoner his food through the small opening. The young custodian pointed to this memento of suffering, without effusion, and he drew my attention to other remarkable things in the cell, without troubling himself to palliate their improbability in the least. They were his stock in trade ; you paid your money and took your choice of believing in them or not On the other hand, my portier, an ex-valet de place, pumped a softly murmuring stream of enthusiasm and expressed the freshest delight in the inspection of each object of interest.
One still faintly discerns among the vast number of names with which the walls of the ante-cell are be-written, that of Lamartine. The name of Byron, which was once deeply graven in the stucco, had been scooped away by the Grand Duke of Tuscany (so the custodian said), and there is only part of a capital B now visible. But the cell itself is still fragrant of associations with the noble bard, who, according to the story related to Valery, caused himself to be locked up in it, and there, with his head fallen upon his breast, and frequently smiting his brow, spent two hours in pacing the floor with great strides. It is a touching picture ; but its pathos becomes some-what embarrassing when you enter the cell, and see the impossibility of taking more than three generous paces without turning. When Byron issued forth, after this exercise, he said (still according to Valery) to the custodian : ” I thank thee, good man ! The thoughts of Tasso are now all in my mind and heart.” “A short time after his departure from Ferrara,” adds the Frenchman, maliciously, ” he composed his ‘ Lament of Tasso,’ a mediocre result from such inspiration.” No doubt all this is colored, for the same author adds another tint to heighten the absurdity of the spectacle : he declares that Byron spent part of his time in the cell in writing upon the ceiling Lamartine’s verses on Tasso, which he misspelled. The present visitor has no means of judging of the truth concerning this, for the lines of the poet have been so smoked by the candles of successive pil grims in their efforts to get light on them, that they are now utterly illegible. But if it is uncertain what were Baron’s emotions on visiting the prison of Tasso, there is no doubt about Lady Morgan’s : she ” experienced a suffocating emotion ; her heart failed her on entering that cell ; and she satisfied a melancholy curiosity at the cost of a most painful sensation.”
I find this amusing fact stated in a translation of her ladyship’s own language, in a clever guide-book called Il Servitore di Piazza, which I bought at Ferrara, and from which, I confess, I have learnt all I know to confirm me in my doubt of Tasso’s prison. The Count Avventi, who writes this book, prefaces it by saying that he is a valet de place who knows how to read and write, and he employs these unusual gifts with singular candor and clearness. No one, he says, before the nineteenth century, ever dreamed of calling the cellar in question Tasso’s prison, and it was never before that time made the shrine of sentimental pilgrimage, though it has since been visited by every traveller who has passed through Ferrara. It was used during the poet’s time to hold charcoal and lime ; and not long ago died an old servant of the hospital, who remembered its use for that purpose. It is damp, close, and dark, and Count Avventi thinks it hardly possible that a delicate courtier could have lived seven years in a place unwholesome enough to kill a stout laborer in two months ; while t seems to him not probable that Tasso should have received there the visits of princes and other distinguished persons whom Duke Alfonso allowed to see him, or that a prisoner who was often permitted to ride about the city in a carriage should have been thrust back into such a cavern on his return to the hospital. “After this,” says our valet de place who knows how to read and write, ” visit the prison of Tasso, certain that in the hospital of St. Anna that great man was confined for many years ; ” and, with this chilly warning, leaves his reader to his emotions.
I am afraid that if as frank caution were uttered in regard to other memorable places, the objects of interest in Italy would dwindle sadly in number, and the valets de place, whether they know how to read and write or not, would be starved to death. Even the learning of Italy is poetic ; and an Italian would rather enjoy a fiction than know a fact in which preference I am not ready to pronounce him unwise. But this characteristic of his embroiders the stranger’s progress throughout the whole land with fanciful improbabilities; so that if one use his eyes half as much as his wonder, he must see how much better it would have been to visit, in fancy, scenes that have an interest so largely imaginary. The utmost he can make out of the most famous place is, that it is possibly what it is said to be, and is more probably as near that as any thing local enterprise could furnish. He visits the very cell in which Tasso was confined, and has the satisfaction of knowing that it was the charcoal-cellar of the hospital in which the poet dwelt. And the genius loci where is that? Away an the American woods, very likely, whispering some dreamy, credulous youth, telling him charming fables of its locus, and proposing to itself to abandon him as soon as he sets foot upon its native ground. You see, though I cared little about Tasso, and nothing about his prison, I was heavily disappointed in not being able to believe in it, and felt somehow that I had been awakened from a cherished dream.
BUT I have no right to cast the unbroken shadow of my skepticism upon the reader, and so I tell him a story about Ferrara which I actually believe. He must know that in Ferrara the streets are marvelous long and straight. On the corners formed by the crossing of two of the longest and straightest of these streets stand four palaces, in only one of which we have a present interest. This palace my guide took me to see, after our visit to Tasso’s prison, and, standing in its shadow, he related to me the occurrence which has given it a sad celebrity. It was, in the time of the gifted toxicologist, the residence of Lucrezia Borgia, who used to make poisonous little suppers there, and ask the best families of Italy to partake of them. It happened on one occasion that Lucrezia Borgia was thrust out of a ball-room at Venice as a disreputable character, and treated with peculiar indignity. She determined to make the Venetians repent their unwonted accession >f virtue, and she therefore allowed the occurrence to be forgotten till the proper moment of her revenge arrived, when she gave a supper, and invited to her board eighteen young and handsome Venetian nobles. Upon the preparation of this repast she bestowed all the resources of her skillful and exquisite knowledge ; and the result was, the Venetians were so felicitously poisoned that they had just time to listen to a speech from the charming and ingenious lady of the house before expiring. In this address she reminded her guests of the occurrence in the Venetian ballroom, and perhaps exulted a little tediously in her present vengeance. She was surprised and pained when one of the guests interrupted her, and, justifying the treatment she had received at Venice, declared himself her natural son. The lady instantly recognized him, and in the sudden revulsion of maternal feeling, begged him to take an antidote. This he not only refused to do, but continued his dying reproaches, till his mother, losing ,her self-command, drew her poniard and plunged it into his heart.
The blood of her son fell upon the table-cloth, and this being hung out of the window to dry, the wall received a stain, which neither the sun nor rain of centuries sufficed to efface, and which was only removed with the masonry, when it became necessary to restore the wall under that window, a few months before the time of my visit to Ferrara. Accordingly the blood-stain has now disappeared ; but the conscientious artist who painted the new wall has faithfully restored the tragic spot, by bestowing upon the sweet a bloody dash of Venetian red.
IT would be pleasant and merciful, I think, if old towns, after having served a certain number of centuries for the use and pride of men, could be released to a gentle, unmolested decay. I, for my part, would like to have the ducal cities of North Italy, such as Mantua, Modena, Parma, and Ferrara, locked up quietly within their walls, and left to crumble and totter and fall, without any harder presence to vex them in their decrepitude than that of some gray custodian, who should come to the gate with clanking keys, and admit the wandering stranger, if he gave signs of a reverent sympathy, to look for a little while upon the reserved and dignified desolation. It is a shame to tempt these sad old cities into unnatural activity, when they long ago made their peace with the world, and would fain be mixing their weary brick and mortar with the earth’s unbuilded dust ; and it is hard for the emotional traveller to restrain his sense of outrage at finding them inhabited, and their rest broken by sounds of toil, traffic, and idleness ; at seeing places that would gladly have had done with history still doomed to be parts of political systems, to read the newspapers, and to expose railway guides and caricatures of the Pope and of Napoleon in their shop windows.
Of course, Ferrara was not incorporated into a living nation against her will, and I therefore marveled the more that she had become a portion of the present kingdom of Italy. The poor little State had its day long before ours ; it had been a republic, and then subject to lords ; and then, its lords becoming dukes, it had led a life of gayety and glory till its fall, and given the world such names and memories as had fairly won it the right to rest forever from making history. Its individual existence ended with that of Alfonso II., in 1597, when the Pope declared it reverted to the Holy See ; and I always fancied that it must have received with a spectral, yet courtly kind of surprise, those rights of man which bloody-handed France distributed to the Italian cities in 1796 ; that it must have experienced a ghostly bewilderment in its rapid transformation, thereafter, under Napoleon, into part of the Cispadan Republic, the Cisalpine Republic, the Italian Republic, and the Kingdom of Italy, and that it must have sunk back again under the rule of the Popes with gratitude and relief at last as phantoms are reputed to be glad when released from haunting the world where they once dwelt. I speak of all this, not so much from actual knowledge of facts as from personal feeling; for it seems to me that if I were a city of the past, and must be inhabited at all, I should choose just such priestly domination, assured that though it consumed my substance, yet it would be well for my fame and final repose. I should like to feel that my old churches were safe from demolition ; that my old convents and monasteries should always shelter the pious indolence of friars and nuns. It would be pleasant to have studious monks exploring quaint corners of my unphilosophized annals, and gentle, snuff-taking abbes writing up episodes in the history of my noble families, and dedicating them to the present heirs of past renown ; while the thinker and the reviewer should never penetrate my archives. Being myself done with war, I should be glad to have my people exempt, as they are under the Pope, from military service ; and I should hope that if the Legates taxed them, the taxes paid would be as so many masses said to get my soul out of the purgatory of perished capitals. Finally, I should trust that in the sanctified keeping of the Legates my mortal part would rest as sweetly as bones laid in hallowed earth brought from Jerusalem ; and that under their serene protection I should be forever secure from being in any way exhumed and utilized by the ruthless hand of Progress.
However, as I said, this is a mere personal preference, and other old cities might feel differently. In-deed, though disposed to condole with Ferrara upon the fact of her having become part of modern Italy, I could not deny, on better acquaintance with her, that she was still almost entirely of the past. She has certainly missed that ideal perfection of non-existence under the Popes which I have just depicted, but she is practically almost as profoundly at rest under the King of Italy. One may walk long through the longitude and rectitude of many of her streets with-out the encounter of a single face : the place, as a whole, is by no means as lively as Pompeii, where there are always strangers ; perhaps the only cities in the world worthy to compete with Ferrara in point of agreeable solitude are Mantua and Herculaneum. It is the newer part of the town the modern quarter built before Boston was settled or Ohio was known which is loneliest ; and whatever motion and cheerfulness are still felt in Ferrara linger fondly about the ancient holds of life about the street before the castle of the Dukes, and in the elder and narrower streets branching away from the piazza of the Duomo, where, on market days, there is a kind of dreamy tumult. In the Ghetto we were almost crowded, and people wanted to sell us things, with an enterprise that contrasted strangely with shop-keeping apathy elsewhere. Indeed, surprise at the presence of strangers spending two days in Ferrara when they could have got away sooner, was the only emotion which the whole population agreed in ex-pressing with any degree of energy, but into this they seemed to throw their whole vitality. The Italians are everywhere an artless race, so far as concerns the gratification of their curiosity, from which no consideration of decency deters them. Here in Ferrara they turned about and followed us with their eyes, came to windows to see us, lay in wait for us at street-corners, and openly and audibly debated whether we were English or German. We might. have thought this interest a tribute to something peculiar in our dress or manner, had it not visibly attended other strangers who arrived with us. It rose almost into a frenzy of craving to know more of us all, when on the third day the whole city assembled before our hotel, and witnessed, with a sort of desperate cry, the departure of the heavy-laden rim. nibus which bore us and our luggage from their midst.
I DOUBT if. after St. Mark’s in Venice, the Duomo at Parma, and the Four Fabrics at Pisa, there is a church more worthy to be seen for its quaint, rich architecture, than the Cathedral at Ferrara. It is of that beloved Gothic of which eye or soul cannot weary, and we continually wandered back to it from other more properly interesting objects. It is horribly restored in-doors, and its Renaissance splendors soon drove us forth, after we had looked at the Last Judgment by Bastianino. The style of this painting is muscular and Michelangelic, and the artist’s notion of putting his friends in heaven and his foes in hell is by no means novel ; but he has achieved fame for his picture by the original thought of making it his revenge for a disappointment in love. The unhappy lady who refused his love is represented in the depths, in the attitude of supplicating the pity and interest of another maiden in Paradise who accepted Bastianino, and who consequently has no mercy on her that snubbed him. But I counted of far more value than this fresco the sincere old sculptures on the Façade of the cathedral, in which the same subject is reated, beginning from the moment the archangel’s trump has sounded. The people getting suddenly out of their graves at the summons are all admirable ; tut the best among them is the excellent man with one leg over the side of his coffin, and tugging with both hands to pull himself up, while the coffin-lid tumbles off behind. One sees instantly that the conscience of this early riser is clean, for he makes no miserable attempt to turn over for a nap of a few thousand years more, with the pretense that it was not the trump of doom, but some other and unimportant noise he had heard. The final reward of the blessed is expressed by the repose of one small figure in the lap of a colossal effigy, which I under-stood to mean rest in Abraham’s bosom ; but the artist has bestowed far more interest and feeling upon the fate of the damned, who are all boiling in rows of immense pots. It is doubtful (considering the droll aspect of heavenly bliss as figured in the one small saint and the large patriarch) whether the artist intended the condition of his sinners to be so horribly comic as it is ; but the effect is just as great, for all that, and the slowest conscience might well take alarm from the spectacle of fate so grotesque and ludicrous ; for, wittingly or unwittingly, the artist here punishes, as Dante knew best how to do, the folly of sinners as well as their wickedness. Boiling is bad enough ; but to be boiled in an undeniable dinner-pot, like a leg of mutton, is to suffer shame as well as agony.
We turned from these horrors, and walked down by the side of the Duomo toward the Ghetto, which to not so foul as one could wish a Ghetto to be. The Jews were admitted to Ferrara in 1275, and throughout the government of the Dukes, were free to live where they chose in the city ; but the Pope’s Legate assigned them afterward a separate quarter, which was closed with gates. Large numbers of Spanish Jews fled hither during the persecutions, and there are four synagogues for the four languages, — Spanish, German, French, and Italian. Avventi mentions, among other interesting facts concerning the Ferrarese Jews, that one of their Rabbins, Isaaco degli Abranelli, a man of excellent learning in the Scriptures, claimed to be descended from David. His children still abide in Ferrara; and it may have been one of his kingly line that kept the tempting antiquarian’s shop on the corner from which you turn up toward the Library. I should think such a man would find a sort of melancholy solace in such a place : filled with broken and fragmentary glories of every kind, it would serve him for that chamber of desolation, set apart in the houses of the Oriental Hebrews as a place to bewail themselves in ; and, indeed, this idea may go far to explain the universal Israelitish fondness for dealing in relics and ruins.
The Ghetto was in itself indifferent to us ; it was merely our way to the Library, whither the great memory of Ariosto invited us to see his famous relics treasured there.
We found that the dead literati of Ferrara had the place wholly to themselves ; not a living soul disputed the solitude of the halls with the custodians, and the bust of Ariosto looked down from his monument upon rows of empty tables, idle chairs, and dusty inkstands.
The poet, who was painted by Titian, has a tomb of abandoned ugliness, and sleeps under three epitaphs ; while cherubs frescoed on the wall behind affect to disclose the mausoleum, by lifting a frescoed curtain, but deceive no one who cares to consider how impossible it would be for them to perform this service, and caper so ignobly as they do at the same time. In fact this tomb of Ariosto shocks with its hideousness and levity. It stood formerly in the Church of San Benedetto, where it was erected shortly after the poet’s death, and it was brought to the Library by the French, when they turned the church into a barracks for their troops. The poet’s dust, therefore, rests here, where the worm, working silently through the vellum volumes on the shelves, feeds upon the immortality of many other poets. In the adjoining hall are the famed and precious manuscripts of Ariosto and of Tasso. A special, application must be made to the librarian, in order to see the fragment of the Furioso in Ariosto’s hand, and the manuscript copy of the Gerusalemma, with the corrections by Tasso. There are some pages of Ariosto’s Satires, framed and glazed for the satisfaction of the less curious ; as well as a letter of Tasso’s, written from the Hospital of St. Anna, which the poet sends to a friend, with twelve shirts, and in which he begs that his friend will have the shirts mended, and cautions him ” not to let them be mixed with others.” But when the slow custodian had at last unlocked that more costly fragment of the Furioso, and placed it in my hands, the other manuscripts had no value for me. It seems to me that the one privilege which travel has reserved to itself, is that of making each traveller, in presence of its treasures, forget whatever other travellers have said or written about them. I had read so much of Ariosto’s industry, and of the proof of it in this manuscript, that I doubted if I should at last marvel at it. But the wonder remains with the relic, and I paid it my homage devoutly and humbly, and was disconcerted afterward to read again in my Valery how sensibly all others had felt the preciousness of that famous page, which, filled with half a score of previous failures, contains in a little open space near’ the margin, the poet’s final triumph in’ a clearly writ-ten stanza. Scarcely less touching and interesting than Ariosto’s painful work on these yellow leaves, is the grand and simple tribute which another Italian poet was allowed to inscribe on one of them : ” Vitorio Alfieri beheld and venerated:” and I think, counting over the many memorable things I saw on the road to Rome and the way home again, this manuscript was the noblest thing and best worthy to be remembered.
When at last I turned front it, however, I saw that the custodian had another retie of Messer Lodovico, which he m as not ashamed to match with the manuscript in my interest. This was the bone of one of the poet’s fingers, which the pious care of Ferrara had picked up from his dust (when it was removed from the church to the Library), and neatly bottled and labeled. In like manner, they keep a great deal of sanctity in bottles with the bones of saints in Italy ; but I found very little savor of poesy hanging about this literary relic.
As if the melancholy fragment of mortality had marshaled us the way, we went from the Library to the house of Ariosto, which stands at the end of a long, long street, not far from the railway station. There was not a Christian soul, not a boy, not a cat nor a dog to be seen in all that long street, at high noon, as we looked down its narrowing perspective, and if the poet and his friends have ever a mind for a posthumous meeting in his little reddish brick house, there is nothing to prevent their assembly, in broad daylight, from any part of the neighborhood. There was no presence, however, more spiritual than a comely country girl to respond to our summons at the door, and nothing but a tub of corn-meal disputed our passage inside. Directly I found the house inhabited by living people, I began to be sorry that it was not as empty as the Library and the street. In-deed, it is much better with Petrarch’s house at Arqua, where the grandeur of the past is never moested by the small household joys and troubles of ‘he present. That house is vacant, and no eyes less tender and fond than the poet’s visitors may look down from its windows over the slope of vines and lives which it crowns ; and it seemed hard, here it Ferrara, where the houses are so many and the people are so few, that Ariosto’s house could not be left to him. Parva sed apta mihi, he has contentedly written upon the front; but I doubt if he finds it large enough for another family, though his modern housekeeper reserves him certain rooms for visitors. To gain these, you go up to the second story there are but two floors and cross to the rear of the building, where Ariosto’s chamber opens out of an ante-room, and looks down upon a pinched and faded bit of garden. In this chamber they say the poet died. It is oblong, and not large. I should think the windows and roof were of the poet’s time, and that every thing else had been restored ; I am quite sure the chairs and inkstand are kindly-meant inventions ; for the poet’s burly great arm-chair and graceful inkstand are both preserved in the Library. But the house is ‘otherwise decent and probable; and I do not question but it was in the hall where we encountered the meal-tub that the poet kept a copy of his ” Furioso,” subject to the corrections and advice of his visitors.
The ancestral house of the Ariosti has been with-in a few years restored out of all memory and semblance of itself; and my wish to see the place in which the poet was born and spent his childhood resulted, after infinite search, in finding a building faced newly with stucco and newly French-windowed.
Our portier said it was the work of the late English Vice-Consul, who had bought the house. When I complained of the sacrilege, he said : ” Yes, it is true. But then, you must know, the Ariosti were not one of the noble families of Ferrara.”
THE castle of the Dukes of Ferrara, about which cluster so many sad and splendid memories, stands in the heart of the city. I think that the moonlight which, on the night of our arrival, showed me its massive walls rising from the shadowy moat that surrounds them, and its four great towers, heavily but-tressed, and expanding at the top into bulging cornices of cavernous brickwork, could have fallen on nothing else in all Italy so picturesque, and so full of the proper dread charm of feudal times, as this pile of gloomy and majestic strength. The daylight took nothing of this charm from it ; for the castle stands isolated in the midst of the city, as its founder meant that it should, and modern civilization has not crossed the castle moat, to undignify its exterior with any visible touch of the present. To be sure, when you enter it, the magnificent life is gone out of the old edifice ; it is no stately halberdier who stands on guard at the gate of the drawbridge, but a stumpy Italian soldier in baggy trousers. The castle is full of public offices, and one sees in its courts and on its stairways, not brilliant men-at-arms, nor gay squires and pages, but whistling messengers going from one office to another with docketed papers, and slipshod serving-men carrying the clerks their coffee in very dirty little pots. Dreary-looking suitors, slowly grinding through the mills of law, or passing in the routine of the offices, are the guests encountered in the corridors ; and all that bright-colored throng of the old days, ladies and lords, is passed from the scene. The melodrama is over, friends, and now we have a play of real life, founded on fact and inculcating a moral,
Of course the custodians were slow to admit any change of this kind. If you could have believed them, and the poor people told as many lies as they could to make you, you would believe that nothing had ever happened of a commonplace nature in this castle. The taking-off of Hugo and Parisina they think the great merit of the castle ; and one of them, seeing us, made haste to light his taper and conduct us down to the dungeons where those un-happy lovers were imprisoned. It is the misfortune of memorable dungeons to acquire, when put upon show, just the reverse of those properties which should raise horror and distress in the mind of the beholder. It was impossible to deny that the cells of Parisina and of Hugo were both singularly warm, dry, and comfortable ; and we, who had never been imprisoned in them, found it hard to command, for our sensation, the terror and agony of the miserable ones who suffered there. We, happy and secure in these dungeons, could not think of the guilty and wretched pair bowing themselves to the headsman’s stroke in the gloomy chamber under the Hall of Aurora ; nor of the Marquis, in his night-long walk, breaking at last into frantic remorse and tears to know that his will had been accomplished. Nay, there upon its very scene, the whole tragedy faded from us ; and, seeing our wonder so cold, the custodian tried to kindle it by saying that in the time of the event these cells were much dreadfuller than now, which was no doubt true. The floors of the dungeons are both below the level of the moat, and the narrow windows, or rather crevices to admit the light, were cut in the prodigiously thick avail just above the water, and were defended with four succesive iron gratings. The dungeons are some distance apart: that of Hugo was separated from the outer wall of the castle by a narrow passage-way, while Parisina’s window opened directly upon the moat.
When we ascended again to the court of the castle, the custodian, abetted by his wife, would have interested us in two memorable wells there, between which, he said, Hugo was beheaded ; and unabashed by the small success of this fable, he pointed out two windows in converging angles overhead, from one of which the Marquis, looking into the other, discovered the guilt of the lovers. The windows are now walled up, but are neatly represented to the credu lous eye by a fresco of lattices.
Valery mentions another claim upon the interest of the tourist which this castle may make, in the fact that it once sheltered John Calvin, who was protected by the Marchioness Renee, wife of Hercules II. ; and my Servitore di Piazza (the one who knows how to read and write) gives the following account of the matter, in speaking of the domestic chapel which Renee had built in the castle : ” This lady was learned in belles-lettres and in the schismatic doctrines which at that time were insinuating them-selves throughout France and Germany, and with which Calvin, Luther, and other proselytes, agitated the people, and threatened war to the Catholic religion. Nationally fond of innovation, and averse to the court of Rome on account of the dissensions between her father and Pope Julius II., Renee began to receive the teachings of Calvin, with whom she maintained correspondence. Indeed, Calvin himself, under the name of Huppeville, visited her in Ferrara, in 1536, and ended by corrupting her mind and seducing her into his own errors, which produced discord between her and her religious husband, and resulted in his placing her in temporary seclusion, in order to attempt her conversion. Hence, the chapel is faced with marble, paneled in relief, and studied to avoid giving place to saints or images, which were disapproved by the almost Anabaptist doctrines of Calvin, then fatally imbibed by the princess.”
We would willingly, as Prostestants, have visited this wicked chapel ; but we were prevented from seeing it, as well as the famous frescoes of Dosso Dossi in the Hall of Aurora, by the fact that the prefect was giving a little dinner (pranzetto) in that part of the castle. We were not so greatly disappointed in reality as we made believe; but our servi-tore di piazza (the unlettered one) was almost moved to lesa maestâ with vexation. He had been full of scorching patriotism the whole morning ; but now electing the unhappy and apologetic custodian representative of Piedmontese tyranny, he bitterly assailed the government of the king. In the times of His Holiness the Legates had made it their pleasure and duty to show the whole castle to strangers. But now strangers must be sent away without seeing its chief beauties, because, forsooth, the prefect was giving a little dinner. Presence of the Devil !
IN our visits to the different churches in Ferrara we noticed devotion in classes of people who are devout nowhere else in Italy. Not only came solid-looking business men to say their prayers, but gay young dandies, who knelt and repeated their orisons and then rose and went seriously out. In Venice they would have posted themselves against a pillar, sucked the heads of their sticks, and made eyes at the young ladies kneeling near them. This degree of religion was all the more remarkable in Ferrara, because that city had been so many years under the Pope, and His Holiness contrives commonly to prevent the appearance of religion in young men throughout his dominions.
Valery speaks of the delightful society which he met in the gray old town ; and it is said that Ferrara has an unusual share of culture in her wealthy class, which is large. With such memories of learning and literary splendor as belong to her, it would be strange if she did not in some form keep alive the sacred flame. But, though there may be refinement and erudition in Ferrara, she has given no great name to modern Italian literature. Her men of letters seem to be of that race of grubs singularly abundant in Italy, — men who dig out of archives and libraries some topic of special and momentary interest and print it, unstudied and uphilosophized. Their oooks are material, not literature, and it is marvelous how many of them are published. A writer on any given subject can heap together from them a mass of fact and anecdote invaluable in its way ; but it is a mass without life or light, and must be vivified by him who uses it before it can serve the world, which does not care for its dead local value. It re-mains to be seen whether the free speech and free press of Italy can reawaken the intellectual activity of the cities which once gave the land so many literary capitals.
What numbers of people used to write verses in Ferrara ! By operation of the principle which causes things concerning whatever subject you happen to be interested in to turn up in every direction, I found a volume of these dead-and-gone immortals at a book-stall, one day, in Venice. It is a curiously yellow and uncomfortable volume of the year 1703, printed all in italics. I suppose there are two hundred odd rhymers selected from in that book, and how droll the most of them are, with their unmistakable traces of descent from Ariosto, Tasso, and Guarini ! What acres of enameled meadow there are in those pages ! Brooks enough to turn all the mills in the world go purling through them. I should say some thou-sands of nymphs are constantly engaged in weaving garlands there, and the swains keep such a piping on those familiar notes, Amore, dolore, crudele, and miele. Poor little poets ! they knew no other tunes Do not now weak voices twitter from a hundred books, in unconscious imitation of the hour’s great singers ?
I THINK some of the pleasantest people in Italy are the army gentlemen. There is the race’s gentleness in their ways, in spite of their ferocious trade, and an American freedom of style. They brag in a manner that makes one feel at home immediately ; and met in travel, they are ready to render any little kindness.
The other year at Reggio (which is not far from Modena) we stopped to dine at a restaurant where the whole garrison had its coat off and was playing billiards, with the exception of one or two officers, who were dining. These rose and bowed as we entered their room, and when the waiter pretended that such and such dishes were out (in Italy the waiter, for some mysterious reason, always pretends that the best dishes are out), they bullied him for the honor of Italy, and made him bring them to us. Indeed, I am afraid his life was sadly harassed by those brave men. We were in deep despair at finding no French bread, and the waiter swore with the utmost pathos that there was none ; but as soon as his back was turned, a tightly laced little captain rose and began to forage for the bread. He opened every drawer and cupboard in the room, and finding none, invaded another room, captured several loaves from the plates laid there, and brought them back in triumph, presenting them to us amid the applause of his comrades. The dismay of the waiter, on his return, was ineffable.
Three officers, who dined with us at the table d’hôte of the Stella d’Oro in Ferrara (and excellent dinners were those we ate there), were visibly anxious to address us, and began not uncivilly, but still in order that we should hear, to speculate on our nationality among themselves. It appeared that we were Germans ; for one of these officers, who had formerly been in the Austrian service at Vienna, recognized the word bitter in our remarks on the beccafichi. As I did not care to put these fine fellows to the trouble of hating us for others’ faults, I made bold to say that we were not Germans, and to add that bitter was also an English word. Ah ! yes, to be sure, one of them admitted ; when he was with the Sardinian army in the Crimea, he had frequently heard the word used by the English soldiers. He nodded confirmation of what he said to his comrades, and then was good enough to display what English he knew. It was barely sufficient to impress his comrades ; but it led the way to a good deal of talk in Italian.
” I suppose you gentlemen are all Piedmontese ? ” I said.
” Not at all,” said our Crimean. “I am from Como; this gentleman, il signor Conte, (il signor Conte bowed,) is of Piacenza ; and our friend across the table is Genoese. The army is doing a great dead to unify Italy. We are all Italians now, and you see we speak Italian, and not our dialects, together.”
My cheap remark that it was a fine thing to see them all united under one flag, after so many ages of mutual hate and bloodshed, turned the talk upon the origin of the Italian flag ; and that led our Crimean to ask what was the origin of the English colors.
” I scarcely know,” I said. ” We are Americans.”
Our friends at once grew more cordial. ” Oh, Americani ! ” They had great pleasure of it. Did we think Signor Leencolen would be reelected ?
I supposed that he had been elected that day, I said.
Ah ! this was the election day, then. Cospetto !
At this the Genoese frowned superior intelligence, and the Crimean gazing admiringly upon him, said he had been nine months at Nuova York, and that he had a brother living there. The poor Crimean boastfully added that he himself had a cousin in America, and that the Americans generally spoke Spanish. The count from Piacenza wore an air of pathetic discomfiture, and tried to invent a trans-atlantic relative, as I think, but failed.
I am persuaded that none of these warriors really had kinsmen in America, but that they all pretended to have them, out of politeness to us, and that they believed each other. It was very kind of them, and we were so grateful that we put no embarrassing questions. Indeed, the conversation presently took another course, and grew to include the whole table.
There was an extremely pretty Italian present with her newly wedded husband, who turned out to be a retired officer. He fraternized at once with our soldiers, and when we left the table they all rose and made military obeisances. Having asked leave to light their cigars, they were smoking the sweet young bride blowing a fairy cloud from her rosy lips with the rest. ” Indeed,” I heard an Italian lady once remark, ” why should men pretend to deny us the privilege of smoking ? It is so pleasant and innocent.” It is but just to the Italians to say that they do not always deny it; and there is, without doubt, a certain grace and charm in a pretty fuma-trice. I suppose it is a habit not so pleasing in an ugly or middle-aged woman.