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position in which I was placed, gave me courage to touch the arm of the first speaker, and to state to him, that being separated from my party, I must request the protection of my countryman. He turned round, saluted me graciously, said, that though not my countryman he would gladly assist me to rejoin my party; and immediately placed me between him and his companion.
“ You speak English perfectly, yet are not an Englishman,” said I, “ then you can be no other than Professor Mezzofanti?”
Both he and his companion smiled ; and he answered, “ My name is Mezzofanti.”
I had a letter of introduction to the Professor from a mutual friend, and intending to leave it for him in the course of the day, I had put reticule, whence I immediately drew it and gave it to him. He knew the handwriting at a single glance, and with great good-breeding put the letter unopened into his pocket, saying something, too flattering for me to repeat; in which the remark that a good countenance was the best recommendation was neatly turned. He presented his companion to me, who happened to be the Abbé Scandalaria, of Rome, then staying on a visit to him, and who speaks English remarkably well.
My party were not a little surprised to see me rejoin them, accompanied by and in conversation with two strangers. When I presented them to my new acquaintances, they were much amused at
it into my the recital of my unceremonious rencounter and selfintroduction to Mezzofanti ; who not only devoted a
. considerable portion of the day to us, but promised to spend the evening at our hotel, and invited us to breakfast with him to-morrow.
The countenance of this wonderful linguist is full of intelligence, his manner well bred, unaffected, and highly agreeable. His facility and felicity in speaking French, German, and English, is most extraordinary, and I am told it is not less so in various other languages. He is a younger man than I expected to find him; and, with the vast erudition he has acquired, is totally exempt from pretension or pedantry.
As our stay here will be short, we have crowded into a few hours the view of palaces and churches, the inspection of which, with the treasures they contain, might well occupy many days: and now that I have hurried through them, so indistinct are the impressions they have left on my mind, that I am hardly able to recollect to which palace or church the pictures that most struck me appertain.
The Fava Palace, with its beautiful ceilings by Agostino, Annibal Caracci, and Albano, cannot be forgotten. The Aldrovandi Palace no longer contains the treasures it once boasted ; and the Marescalchi collection has been stripped of nearly all its best pictures. The Zampierri Palace has still some very fine ceilings by Guercino and the Caraccis. The Bacciocchi Palace has been recently repaired and newly furnished, and in point of comfort and elegance cannot be surpassed by any private residence in Europe. Its front is by Palladio, and reflects credit on him.
Two objects I more distinctly remember than the others, though they were certainly not among the most rare or valuable of the vast mass I beheld. One was a copy of the Medician Venus, dressed in a robe-de-bal à la mode de Paris ! Never did I gaze on a more extraordinary figure than this fashionably attired Venus presented 1 and, hear it ye
fair ladies, who value yourselves on the smallness of your waists, the compression of which, by tightlacing, has often proved as injurious to health as it always does to grace, the Venus looked not more unlike you, when dressed for a ball, than she does, when standing unattired, her gracefully curved, but not unnaturally slim waist, constitutes the very opposite to your constrained, and artificial figures. “ The statue that enchants the world" appeared, en robe-de-bal, to have an embonpoint that would cause the despair of most young ladies of the present day; and, in short, looked as unlike a modern belle as possible, though her robe was of la derniere mode. There was something positively ludicrous in the ensemble. All the beauty, elegance, and purity of the charming statue was lost; and Eve, when she first knew shame, and clothed herself, could not have looked more gauche than did this statue in its fine dress. There is but one step
from the sublime to the ridiculous; and the owner of this copy of the Venus has made it.
. The other object that I most distinctly remember, though its “whereabout” I have forgotten, was a picture representing a youthful couple in the bloom of health and beauty, surrounded by all appliances of luxury that wealth can furnish. Jewels, flowers, musical instruments, and favourite domestic animals are there; and the young pair seem wholly occupied
; by futile pleasures. Suddenly the custode touched a spring, the gay group retreated, and a second picture, representing the grinning skeletons of the persons and animals pourtrayed in the first, was revealed. This quick transition from a luxurious life to ghastly and hideous death, was very striking; and the jewels and other objects scattered around contrasted fearfully with the grinning skeletons near to which they were represented.
The Fountain of Neptune, by John of Bologna, is a fine work, and offers a curious example of the difference between the opinions of the man reputed the most pious of his time, and the owner of the dressed copy of the Venus de' Medici; for the fountain and its decorations were ordered by Saint Carlo Borromeo, when Legate at Bologna. Neptune is even more nude than the men of the present day in Italy and France, when they bathe ; and the syrens who surround him are wholly undressed. I wonder that he who has commanded the Venus to be dressed, has not endeavoured to have Neptune and the syrens clothed ! The modesty of some people is very immodest.
I resisted the entreaties of our cicerone to mount the Asinelli Tower, said to be the highest in Italy; a reason urged by him for ascending it. “Consider, Signora, the satisfaction of being able to say that you stood on the top of the highest tower in Italy, ay, in all Italy!” I was tempted to answer him, as a wit of modern times replied to a friend who urged him to descend into a lead or coal mine, I forget which, in order to be able to say that he had so done; adding, “I should not descend but for
2 this purpose.”—“O! if that is all,” rejoined the
.” wit, “ why not affirm, as I shall do, that you did descend the mine. Thus you will have all the credit, without the risk or trouble of the undertaking."
The Garisenda Tower, not far from the Asinelli, inclines considerably from the perpendicular. This is said to have been caused by the sinking of the ground; but whether or not, for people maintain
! different opinions on the subject, it must be looked on with unusual interest, as having furnished a simile to Dante, who has beautifully used it.
Mezzofanti does not disappoint on acquaintance. He spent last evening with us, and his conversation is pregnant with information, modesty, and good
I should, however, be inclined to think that the facility in reading and speaking so many various languages which he has acquired, precludes his pos