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abounds with so many palaces and churches, that you can hardly place yourself any where without having some fine one in view, or at least some statue or fountain, magnificently adorned; these, undoubtedly, are far more numerous than Genoa can pretend to; yet, in its general appearance, I cannot think that Florence equals it in beauty. Mr. Walpole is just come from being presented to the Electress Palatine Dowager; she is a sister of the late Great Duke's; a stately old lady, that never goes out but to church, and then she has guards, and eight horses to her coach. She received him with much ceremony, standing under a huge black canopy, and, after a few minutes talking, she assured him of her good will, and dismissed him: she never sees any body but thus in form; and so she passes her life,* poor woman! * * *
MR. GRAY TO MR. WEST.
Florence, Jan. 15, 1740. I think I have not yet told you how we left that charming place Genoa : how we crossed a mountain, all of green marble, called Buchetto: how we came to Tortona, and waded through the mud to come to Castel St. Giovanni, and there eat mustard and sugar with a dish of crows gizzards :
* Persons of very high rank, and withal very good sense, will only feel the pathos of this exclamation.
secondly, how we passed the famous plains
Arvaque Romanis nobilitata malis.
Et suspirantes ducere mæstus aquas ;
Et pulsa Ausonidum ripa sonare fugâ.
Nor, thirdly, how we passed through Piacenza, Parma, Modena, entered the territories of the Pope; stayed twelve days at Bologna; crossed the Appennines, and afterwards arrived at Florence. None of these things have I told you, nor do I intend to tell you, till you ask me some questions concerning them. No not even of Florence itself, except that it is as fine as possible, and has every thing in it that can bless the eyes. But, before I enter into particulars, you must make your peace both with me and the Venus de Medicis, who, let me tell you, is highly and justly offended at you for not inquiring long before this, concerning her symmetry and proportions. * * *
MR. WEST TO MR. GRAY.
Et meritò : victas do tibi sponte manus.
Irata et nobis est Medicæa Venus.
* The letter which accompanied this little elegy is not extant. Probably it was only inclosed in one to Mr. Walpole.
Mene igitur statuas et inania saxa vereri!
Stultule! marmoreâ quid mihi cum Venere ? Hic veræ, hìc vivæ, Veneres, et mille per urbem,
Quarum nulla queat non placuisse Jovi. Cedite Romanæ formosæ et cedite Graiæ,
Sintquè oblita Helenæ nomen et Hermionæ ! Et, quascunque refert ætas vetus, Heroinæ :
Unus honor nostris jam venet Angliasin.
I nunc et Tuscas improbe confer opes.
Neu me adeo nullâ Pallade progenitum :
Me quoque Calliopes semper amasse choros ; Et dudum Ausonias urbes, et visere Graias
Cura est, ingenio si licet ire meo : Sive est Phidiacum marmor, seu Mentoris æra,
Seu paries Coo nobilis e calamo; Nec minus artificum magna argumenta recentûm
Romanique decus nominis et Veneti: Quà Furor et Mavors et sævo in Marmore vultus,
Quaque et formoso mollior ære Venus. Quàque loquax spirat fucus, vivique labores,
Et quicquid calamo dulciùs ausa manus : Hìc nemora, et sola mærens Melibæus in umbrâ,
Lymphaque muscoso prosiliens lapide ;
Exurgens, Divûm et numina Cælicolûm;
Et totâ Italiâ, qua patet usque, frui!
Norîtis quid sit tempora amara pati.
MR. GRAY TO HIS MOTHER.
Florence, March 19, 1740. The Pope is at last dead, and we are to set out for Rome on Monday next. The conclave is still sitting there, and likely to continue so some time longer, as the two French cardinals are but just arrived, and the German ones are still expected. It agrees mighty ill with those that remain inclosed: Ottoboni is already dead of an apoplexy; Altieri and several others are said to be dying or very bad : yet it is not expected to break up till after Easter. We shall lie at Sienna the first night, spend a day there, and in two more get to Rome. One begins to see in this country the first promises of an Italian spring, clear unclouded skies, and warm suns, such as are not often felt in England ; yet, for your sake, I hope at present you have your proportion of them, and that all your frosts, and snows, and short-breaths are, by this time, utterly vanished. I have nothing new or particular to inform you of; and if you see things at home go on much in their old course, you must not imagine them more various abroad. The diversions of a Florentine Lent are composed of a sermon in the morning, full of hell and the devil ; a dinner at noon, full of fish and meagre diet; and, in the evening, what is called a conversazione, a sort of assembly at the principal people's houses, full of I cannot tell what: besides this, there is twice a week a very grand concert. * *
* Clement the Twelfth.
MR. GRAY TO HIS MOTHER.
Rome, April 2, N. S. 1740. This is the third day since we came to Rome, but the first hour I have had to write to you in. The journey from Florence cost us four days, one of which was spent at Sienna, an agreeable, clean, old city, of no great magnificence, or extent; but in a fine situation, and good air. What it has most considerable is its cathedral, a huge pile of marble, black and white laid alternately, and laboured with a gothic niceness and delicacy in the old-fashioned way. Within too are some paintings and sculpture of considerable hands. The sight of this, and some collections that were shewed us in private houses, were a sufficient employment for the little time we were to pass there; and the next morning we set forward on our journey through a country very oddly composed: for some miles you have a continual scene of little mountains cultivated from top to bottom with rows of olive-trees, or else elms, each of which has its vine twining about it, and mixing with the branches ; and corn sown between all the ranks. This, diversified with numerous small houses and convents, makes the most agreeable prospect in the world : but, all of a sudden, it alters to black barren hills, as far as the eye can reach, that seem