Item No: cdc275501
Title: ALs to Lady Blessington
Palazzo Peschiere, Genoa. Ninth May 1845.
My Dear Lady Blessington.
Once more in my old quarters; and, unlike the Dove of the Ark, with rather a tired sole to my foot, from having found such an immense number of different resting-places for it since I went away; I write you my last Italian letter for this bout – designing to leave here, please God, on the Ninth of next month, and to be in London again, by the end of June. I am looking forward, with great delight , to the pleasure of seeing you once more: and mean to come on Gore House with such a swoop as shall astonish the Poodle, if, after being accustomed to his own size and sense, he retain the power of being astonished at anything in the wide world.
You know where I have been, and every inch of ground I have travelled over, and every object I have seen. It is next to impossible, surely, to exaggerate the interest of Rome: though I think it is very possible to find the main source of interest in the wrong things – and very often done, moreover. Naples disappointed me, greatly. The weather was bad during a great part of my stay there, to be sure. But if I had not had mud, I should have had dust. And though I had had Sun, I must still have had the Lazzaroni; and they are so ragged, so dirty, so abject, so full of degradation, so sunk and steeped in utter hopelessness of better things, that they would make Heaven uncomfortable, if they could ever get there. I didn’t expect to see a handsome City, but I expected something better than that long dull line of squalid houses which stretches from the Chiaja to the Quarter of the Porta Capuana; and while I was quite prepared for a miserable populace, I had some dim belief that there were bright rags among them, and dancing legs, and shining sun-browned faces. Whereas the honest truth is, that connected with Naples itself, I have not one solitary pleasant recollection. The country round it, charmed me, I need not say. Who can forget Herculaneum and Pompeii? As to Vesuvius, it burns away, in my thoughts, beside the roaring waters of Niagara; and not a splash of the water extinguishes a spark of the fire; but there they go on tumbling and flaming, night and day, each in its fullest glory.
I have seen so many wonders, and each of them has such a voice of its own, that I sit all day listening to the roar they make, as if it were in a seashell; and have fallen into an idleness so complete, that I can’t rouse myself sufficiently, to go to Pisa on the Twenty Fifth, when the triennial illumination of the Cathedral and Leaning Tower, and Bridges, and what not, takes place. But I have already been there once; and it cannot beat St. Peters, I suppose. So I don’t think I shall pluck myself up by the roots, and go aboard a Steamer for Leghorn.
There were some wonderful people in Rome for the Holy week, of course; both French and English. The latter especially. There was one Mrs. Davis – I know her name from her being always in great request among her party, and her party being everywhere – who was in every part of every scene of every ceremony; and who for a fortnight before, had been in every tomb, and every church, and every ruin, and every Picture Gallery; and who never for one instant held her tongue. Deep underground, high up in St. Peters, out on the Campagna, and in the Jews quarter, Mrs. Davis turned up all the same. I don’t think she saw anything or ever looked at anything; and she had always lost something out of a straw hand-basket, and was trying to find it with all her might and main, among an immense quantity of English halfpence which lay, like sands upon the seashore, at the bottom of it. There was a Cicerone always attached to the party (which had been brought over from London some fifteen or twenty strong, by contract I believe); and if he so much as looked at Mrs. Davis, she invariably cut him short by saying, “there! God bless the man, don’t worrit me: I don’t understand a word you say, and shouldn’t if you was to talk ‘till you was black in the face!” Mr. Davis always had a snuff-colored great coat on, and an umbrella in his hand: and had a sort of slow curiosity always devouring him: which prompted him to do extraordinary things, such as taking the covers off Urns, and looking in at the ashes as if they were Pickles – and tracing out Inscriptions with his umbrella, and saying with intense thoughtfulness, “here’s a B, you see – and a R – and this is the way we goes on in!” His antiquarian habits occasioned his being frequently in the rear of the rest; and one of the agonies of Mrs. Davis and the party in general, was, an ever-present fear that Davis would be lost: causing them to scream for him in the strongest places and at the most improper seasons. And when he came slowly emerging out of some Sepulchre or other, like a peaceful Ghoul, saying “Here I am!” – Mrs. Davis invariably replied “You’ll be buried alive in a foreign country Davis; and it’s no use trying to prevent you!”
It would be idle to endeavour to thank you my dear Lady Blessington, for all your enthusiasm and friendship in behalf of the Chimes. Trust me, I am deeply and truly sensible of it; and that is far from being the least of the pleasures which that book has yielded me. Forster will have told you of its prodigious success; and how, from the time of the subscription to this hour, it has, in its results to me, left its Predecessors far behind.
Let me thank you heartily, for the Keepsake and the Book of Beauty. They reached me a week or two ago. I have been very much struck by two papers in them. One, Landor’s conversation; among the most charming, profound, and delicate productions I have ever read. The other, Your lines on Byron’s Room at Venice. I am as sure that you wrote them from your heart, as I am that they found their way, immediately, to Mine. They are as full of Strength, and Truth, and Feeling, as anything can be. I cannot say how much they moved me.
Poor Forster must have had a sad winter of it, but I hope to find him quite well when I return. He tells me in his last letter, that you had Lord Robertson with you the other day. He is a good creature, and (out of Edinburgh where they spoil him) very humourous. We had a happy day together here, last Autumn, when he passed through Genoa on his way home. —
It delights me to receive accounts of Maclise’s fresco. If he will only give his magnificent Genius fair play, there is not enough of Cant and Dulness even in Criticism – the Criticism of art; from which Sterne prayed kind Heaven to defend him, as ‘the worst of all the Cants continually canted in this Canting World’ – to keep the Giant down, an hour.
Do you recollect a Picture by VanDyke in the Durazzo Palace here, commonly known as The Boy in White Satin? – a picture of a child standing near an old chair. It is a noble painting, and is such a curious accidental likeness of my Son and Heir that I have written to Paris (where I understand a good one is to be had) for a Copy. Old Di Negro is gone to his country house. For which I am very grateful . . He wanted to improvise here, one night; but I couldn’t stand it. I respect the old man for his goodness to the poor followers of the Muses here (despised of Genoa Nobles, whose Nature and cultivation you know), but I could not bear it.
Poor Tracey has lost his wife, I am sorry to hear, since you and I spoke of his pleasant face. And Blanchard – what a terrible history that was! Forster did himself enduring honor by his manly and zealous devotion to the interests of that Orphan Family, in the midst of all his pains and troubles. It was very good of him.
Do not let your Nieces forget me, if you can help it. And give my love to Count D’Orsay, with many thanks to him for his charming letter. I was greatly amused by his account of Bulwer. There was a “cold shade of aristocracy” about it, and a dampness of cold water; which entertained me, beyond measure.
Everybody in England is mad, it seems to me, about Maynooth. And long memories are shaking off their slumbers, I see, and besetting D’Israeli a little. He has certainly done his best to be attacked – and done it well too.
Has the Sybil spoken yet?
Believe me always my Dear Lady Blessington
With the truest Regard
Do you know Mr. Temple, the Minister at Naples? I like him exceedingly.
Ninth May 1845
Rare Book Department
Blessington, Marguerite, Countess of, 1789-1849
Gift of Mrs. D. Jacques Benoliel, 12/6/55.
Volume 4, pp. 302-305, The Letters of Charles Dickens, edited by Madeline House & Graham Storey ; associate editors, W.J. Carlton … [et al.].
Creation Place Note:Palazzo Peschiere
DL B617m 1845-05-09
Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870 - Author
- Maclise, Daniel, 1806-1870
- Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield, 1804-1881
- Robertson, Patrick Robertson, Lord, 1794-1855
- Blanchard, Laman, 1804-1845
- Blessington, Marguerite, Countess of, 1789-1849
- Orsay, Alfred Guillaume Gabriel, comte d’, 1801-1852
- Forster, John, 1812-1876
- Palazzo Peschiere
- Tracey, Augustus Frederick, 1798-1878