HEADLEY'S LETTERS FROM ITALY.
ISfr. HEADLEY is an American, who intimates that he is a scholar, or, as we infer, that he has had a college education ; and from indications in his letters he seems to have sought the climate of Italy for his health. He left New York in the autumn of 1842; and, reaching Genoa in Oc- tober, remained there till the following spring. He then went to Naples, by the Mediterranean line of steamers ; whose vessels stop all day at Leghorn and Civita Vecchia, so as to allow the tourists to land and scamper over the sights, chiefly performing the voyage during the night. At Naples Mr. Headley remained a few weeks ; visiting Pompeii, Pmstum, and Vesuvius; where he tells a traveller's tale of his descent into the crater, and having to look up and dodge to avoid the red hot scoria the volcano was belching forth. The Eternal City receives him next; where lie de- voted a month to the sights, and then went on to Florence; after which his
• dates are dropped ; but he subsequently visited Pisa and Milan, where the Letters close.
Notwithstanding the "scholar's life" that he had led, Mr. Headley's learning is not of a very profound kind. He informs us that Pliny the Younger was "suffocated" at Pompeii, impelled by a "fatal curiosity ": in meditating over the "eagle" of a Roman legion he saw at Florence, he talks of its soaring amid the smoke of an ancient battle,—thinking, good man, of modern gunpowder: approaching Rome, he finds himself "in the very plain where the Sabines—the Volsci—the Pelasgi! had in their turn striven to crush the infant empire " : and on the road from Rome to Florence, he seems to mistake a tomb for a house—at least, if not "the " ultima domus," the inscription must have been by some philosophic individual, for a puff would have been in Italian. "As I was indulging in this train of bitter reflection, I looked up, and lo, there stood before me a small house perfectly buried in grape-vines and hedges and flowers, and on it painted in large capitals, PAIWA. DOMUS SED MAGNA QUIES: The singularity of the inscription, and the sweet little nest on which it was written, took me wholly by surprise, and captivated me at once. A small house but great repose': then thou art worth all Rome, ay, and the world to boot. 'Magna quies '; I wished I had the house. Rest, repose ! oh, that is heaven to the endless chase and disappointments of life ! I looked again on the little para- dise. Bah! it was written there to snake it rent well, Fleas and filth ! who ever found rest in an Italian house, unless he had the hide of a shark? "
Nor is he better informed in the history of the middle ages. In the church of San Lorenzo, at the little town of San Giovanni, he was shown a skeleton that had been found built into the wall. Over this incident he lucubrates for upwards of two closely printed pages ; fancying the whole story, and how "men of rank were engaged in it, for none other could have got the control of the church, and none but a distinguished vic- tim would have caused such great precaution in the murderers": though a poem or a novel might have taught him, that building-up a person in a niche was a regular mode of punishment in the middle ages, for offences committed by ecclesiastics, especially for breach of vows. To look for historical or antiquarian elucidation from Mr. Headley, is of course out of the question; nor in Italy is such a traveller wanted. Though not devoid of a certain nous, he is deficient both in mental train- ing and in the sobriety and discriminating acumen of the critic. He is addicted to the effusive style, so greatly in vogue with "green authors," who find it much more easy to call up the commonplaces of history, or fancy the cut and dried incidents of romance, than to describe the sober • truth, or to say nothing. Mr. Headley also exhibits some of the worst features of Young America; its unscrupulous use of names, and repeti- tion of private conversation, which may be unpleasant or possibly pain- ful to the parties—the self-content and swagger of the notnis homo—the off-band manner of passing a conclusive and claptrap opinion upon every thing complex with perhaps a deeper reason for it than appears, together with the want of regardfulness towards others, which is exceedingly likely to grow up in a democratic society, where not only all arc equal in the eye of the law, but public opinion and the newness of society enforce this equality, and the Executive and the Senate ostentatiously echo it. "Mr. Jackson, when he gets the floor
In Congress, tells us that we are all men,
And every Yankee is a citizen." These are great blotches, which frequently appear in the Letters from Italy. On the other hand, Mr. Headley is lively and rapid, and, bating • Each learned passages as we have just instanced, and the tendency to reverie native to young authors, especially to young Americans, he is unaffected enough, with little of the book-maker about him.
• His descriptive style is vivid, though sometimes inflated, and hence it does not always look quite trustworthy. But the character of the book arises from the character of the author. It gives us the impressions which Italy makes upon a fluent, goodnatnred, lively, self-confident • American, who has heard of the ancient greatness and modern beauty of the land of empire and art, just as Young Norval had "heard of battles." Often as Italy has been described, he contrives to present some new
aspect of things, or some new impression ; and his detailed style of de- scription occasionally adds fulness to what has often been told before—as the illumination and fire-works at Rome to wind up the Easter festival. He cannot, however, leave the sight when it is over, without the ready query, why does not the Pope give this money to the poor ? It never occurs to him, that to do so would deprive the poor of more bread than it would purchase. These sights form part of the attraction which draws some of the superfluous wealth of the world to Rome, and in fact main- tains the Romans. To curtail any part of the bill of fire, would be to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. The six months' residence of Mr. Headley at Genoa gave him some advantage over a common tourist, because he seems to have been enabled to mix with the Italians, at least where the Consul and officers of the squadron were received. It also allowed him time for observation upon the daily life of the people, and to pick up some gossip and anecdotes.
WEATHER AND FUEL AT GENOA.
The females of the ordinary classes wear no bonnets in the streets; but in their stead a piece of muslin folded across the top of the head, called a mazzro and descending around the neck and over the shoulders in the form of a shawl. 'With only this protection, I have seen them lounging along the streets when the Tea- montane, blowing fresh from the Alps, made me shiver with my cloak wrapped close around me. This tramontane or North wind is very cold, and blows so furiously that ships lying in port are often compelled to heave out both a bow and stern anchor: but notwithstanding, this and the vicinity of the mountains, and the high latitude of Genoa, being above 44°, there is no snow in winter, and the poorer classes do without fuel the year round. This is partly owing to its dear- ness : even the little necessary for cooking is hoarded with the greatest care. One day, being in the country when a strong South-west wind was rolling a heavy surf on the shore, I saw groups of persons along the beach watching the approach of every wave, and, rushing after it as it retired, snatch something from the water. I could not imagine what prize could create so much interest. On approaching nearer, I saw that the objects of their eager struggles were small chips, some not bigger than half your hand, and small twigs the sea was throwing ashore. These they were gathering, for fuel. So scarce and dear is it that none is used to heat water for washing clothes. They take all their garments out to the fresh streams; and on a pleasant day you will see groups of women, from four to fifteen, lining the creek on every side of the city. They tuck their dresses up above the knees, and kneeling down among the pebbles, take one large smooth stone for a wash,- board, wrap it up in the article to be cleansed, and then begin to knead it. Al- though there is a great deal of wealth in Genoa, the poor are but little the better for it.
STORIES OF BYRON.
His Italian teacher has been mine; and I often question him of Byron's habits and character. Ile fully confirms the assertion of Hunt, that Byron was a penu- rious man, and capable of great littleness. His generous actions were usually done for efect ; and, if followed out, Were found to be so managed as not to bring personal loss in the end. Shelley, lie says, was a nobler man than either Hunt or Byron. Hunt was cold and repulsive; Byron irritable, and often very unjust; while Shelley was generous and open-hearted. He had a copy of the Liberal, which they presented to him, and which I looked over with no ordinary feelings. In visiting Byron in his room, he said that he noticed four books always lying on the table: no matter what others might have been with them and taken away, these four always remained. It struck him they must be peculiar favourites of the poet; and so he had the curiosity to examine them, and found them to be the
Bible, Machiavelli, Shakspeare, and Alder's Tragedies. * •
On my return from Byron's mansion, I called on the Marquis Di Negro. His " cilettan occupies a hill that overlooks the sea, and presents from every point you view it a most picturesque appearance. The hill is walled up on every side, so that it looks like an old castle; while the top is converted into a most beautiful garden. The Marquis knew Byron well, admired his genius, but shook his head when he spoke of his heart.
MR. BRADLEY ON ITALIAN BEAUTY*.
The streets were filled with loungers, all expressing in their manners and looks the Neapolitan maxim, " Dolce far niente," (it is sweet to do nothing.) You have heard of the bright eyes and raven tresses and music-like language of the Neapolitans; but I can assure you there is nothing like it here, s. e. among the lower classes. The only difference that I can detect between them and our In- dians is, that our wild bloods are the more beautiful of the two. The colour is the same' the hair very like indeed; and as to the "soft bastard Latin" they speak, it is one of the most abominable dialects I ever heard. I know this is rather shocking to one's ideas of Italian women. I am sure I was prepared to view them in a favourable, nay in a poetical light; but amid all the charms and excitements of this romantic land, I cannot see otherwise. The old women are hags, and the young women dirty slipshod slatterns. Talk about "bright-eyed Italian maids"! among our lower classes there are five beauties to one good- looking woman here. It is nonsense to expect beauty among a population that live in filth, and eat the vilest substances to escape the horrors of starvation. Wholesome food, comfortable apartments, and cleanly clothing, are indispensable to physical beauty; and these the Italians, except the upper chasm, do not have.
FIELD-LABOUR NEAR SALERNO.
The fields, being without fences, have an open look; and the mingling of men and women together in their cultivation give them a chequered appearance, and render them very picturesque. In the middle of a large green wheat-field would be a group of men and women weeding the grain; the red petticoats and blue spencers of the latter contrasting beautifully with the colour of the fields. In one plat of ground I saw a team and a mode of ploughing quite unique, yet withal very simple. The earth was soft as if already broken up, and needed only a little mellowing: to effect this, a man had harnessed his wife to a plough, which she dragged to and fro with all the patience of an ox, he the mean time holding it behind, as if he had been accustomed to drive and she to go. This was literally "ploughing with the heifer." She' with a strap around her breast, lean- ing gently. forward, and he, bowed over the plough behind, presented a most curious picture in the middle of a field. The plough here is a very simple instru- ment, having but one handle and no share, but in its place a pointed piece of wood, sometimes shod with iron, projecting forward like a spur; and merely passes through the ground like a sharp-pointed stick, without turning a smooth furrow like our own.