Travel Letters: Hotel De L’europe, Avignon, France (1866)

DEAR FATHER, — I believe it is two weeks since I have written to any of you at home, though I wrote to Fred from Venice. My excuse must be that these have been two of the busiest weeks of my journeying. Before I plunge into Paris, however, I will let you hear of me from this queer old French town. I went from Venice to Verona, where I spent a night ; a very interesting town, with one of the most remarkable Roman amphitheatres, in better preservation than any other. It is one of Shakespeare’s great towns, too, ” Romeo and Juliet,” you know, and The Two Gentlemen.” The old house of the Capulets, where the pretty Juliet lived, is still there. From Verona to Brescia, a delightful old place, Roman remains, mediaeval architecture, and pictures ; everywhere the quaintness, simplicity, and unlike-anything-else-ness of modern Italy. Few places have given me more pleasure than Brescia. From there to Milan, as bright, and gay, and pretty a modern town as there is in the world. In the midst of it stands the wonderful cathedral, that everybody knows all his life in pictures, a bit of most delicate and beautiful lace work, done in white marble, a forest of statues and elaborate carvings, not done yet, and not likely to be finished for many years to come. There are superb pictures in Milan, too, and the almost-gone remains of one of the greatest pictures of the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco of the Last Supper. Then to Turin by a splendid road, close under the shadow of the Alps, with Monte Rosa and a hundred other white peaks looking at you all the way. Turin is a hand-some town, but has not much to be seen except some good pictures. Then to Genoa, the city of palaces, splendid structures, with magnificent architecture and paintings. The whole situation of the town, too, is very striking. There I took a steamer and sailed to Marseilles. Good-by to Italy, and into the domains of Napoleon the Little ; red-legged soldiers and big gendarmes everywhere. Marseilles is a big city, but not very interesting, and I was soon off to Nîmes, a French town as old as the Roman empire, and older. It has fine Roman remains, another amphitheatre, temples, etc. From there to Avignon, the place where the Popes ran in the fourteenth century, when they had to clear out of Rome, and the dearest, French-lest of old towns. The old Papal castle, a grim, thick-walled great affair, is now a barrack for soldiers. From here I go to-morrow to Lyons, and the next day to Paris, where you may think of me when you get this. There is this bit of my biography which you must fill out with ever so much enjoyment every day, and be thankful for, as I am.

I received letters from you at Venice to March 23. I am depending much on getting some more at Paris. You are all as good as can be about writing. I will try to pay you up when any of you come to Europe. Meanwhile, forgive my shortcomings. I see papers now more frequently ; I am so glad that Congress has passed the Civil Rights Bill. Let them go on and do their duty, firmly, but without passion or exasperation, and all will be well in spite of Jolmson.

All Europe is wondering whether there is going to be war. Italy was in great excitement, and is longing for Venetia, which she ought to have. My opinion is not worth anything, for Bismarck hasn’t sent me word. But I believe the storm will blow over.

I expect to meet Strong in Paris in the course of a week. How long our plans will run together, I cannot tell till we meet. Only four or five months more, and I am with you. It will be a glad day. A million thanks for all your goodness in writing. You do not know how glad I am to get letters. No end of love to you all.

PHILLIPS.