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Death of Goethe Rome Memoranda by Sir
W. Gell and Mr Edward Cheney - Journey to Frankfort — The Rhine Steam-boat - Fatal seizure at Nimeguen - Arrival in London Jermyn Street — Edinburgh – Abbotsford – Death and Burial.
His friend Sir Frederick Adam had urgently invited Sir Walter to visit the Ionian Islands, and he had consented to do so. But Sir Frederick was suddenly recalled from that government, and appointed to one in India, and the Greek scheme dropt. From that time his companions ceased to contend against his wishes for returning home. Since he would again work, what good end could it serve to keep him from working at his own desk? And as their entreaties, and the warnings of foreign doctors, proved alike unavailing as to the regulation of his diet, what remaining chance could there be on that score, unless from replacing him under the eye of the friendly physicians whose authority had formerly seemed to have due influence on his mind ? He had wished to return by the route of the Tyrol and Germany, partly for the sake of the remarkable chapel and monuments of the old Austrian princes at Inspruck, and the feudal ruins upon the Rhine, but chiefly that he might have an interview with Goethe at Weimar. That poet died on the 22d of March, and the news seemed to act upon Scott exactly as the illness of Borthwickbrae had done in the August before. His impatience redoubled: all his fine dreams of recovery seemed to vanish at once- .“ Alas for Goethe !” he exclaimed: “ but he at least died at home - Let us to Abbotsford.” And he quotes more than once in his letters the first hemistick of the line from Politian with which he had closed his early memoir of Leyden-“ Grata quies Patriæ."
When the season was sufficiently advanced, then, the party set out, Mr Charles Scott having obtained leave to accompany his father; which was quite necessary, as his elder brother had already been obliged to rejoin his regiment. They quitted Naples on the 16th of April, in an open barouche, which could at pleasure be converted into a bed.
It will be seen from notes about to be quoted,
that Sir Walter was somewhat interested by a few of the objects presented to him in the earlier stages of his route. The certainty that he was on his way home, for a time soothed and composed him; and amidst the agreeable society which again surrounded him on his arrival in Rome, he seemed perhaps as much of himself as he had ever been in Malta or in Naples. For a moment even his literary hope and ardour appear to have revived. But still his daughter entertained no doubt, that his consenting to pause for even a few days in Rome, was dictated mainly by consideration of her natural curiosity. Sir William Gell went to Rome about the same time; and Sir Walter was introduced there to another accomplished countryman, who,exerted himself no less than did Sir William, to render bis stay agreeable to him. This was Mr Edward Cheney — whose family had long been on terms of very strict intimacy with the Maclean Clephanes of Torloisk, so that Sir Walter was ready to regard him at first sight as a friend. I proceed to give some extracts from these gentlemen's memoranda.
“ At Rome” (says Gell) “ Sir Walter found an apartment provided for him in the Casa Bernini. On his arrival, he seemed to have suffered but little from the journey ; though I believe the length of time he was obliged to sit in a carriage had been
occasionally the cause of troublesome symptoms. I found him, however, in very good spirits, and as he was always eager to see any spot remarkable as the scene of particular events recorded in history, so he was keenly bent on visiting the house where Benvenuto Cellini writes that he slew the Constable of Bourbon with a bullet fired from the Castle of St Angelo. The Chevalier Luigi Chiaveri took him to the place, of which, though he quickly forgot the position, he yet retained the history firmly fixed in his mind, and to which he very frequently recurred.
“ The introduction of Mr Cheney was productive of great pleasure to Sir Walter, as he possessed at that moment the Villa Muti, at Frescati, which had been for many years the favourite residence of the Cardinal of York, who was Bishop of Tusculum.
“ Soon after his arrival I took Sir Walter to St Peter's, which he had resolved to visit, that he might see the tomb of the last of the Stuarts. I took him to one of the side doors, in order to shorten the walk, and by great good fortune met wi Colonel Blair* and Mr Phillips, under whose protection he accomplished his purpose. We contrived to tie a glove round the point of his stick, to prevent his slipping in some degree; but to conduct him was really a service of danger and alarm, owing to his infirmity and total want of caution. He has been
* See ante, Vol. IX.
censured for not having frequently visited the treasures of the Vatican — but by those only who were unacquainted with the difficulty with which he moved. Days and weeks must have been passed in this immense museum, in order to have given him any
idea of its value, nor do I know that it would have been possible for him to have ascended the rugged stairs, or to have traced its corridors and interminable galleries, in the state of reduced strength and dislike to being assisted under which he then laboured.
« On the 8th of May we all dined at the Palace of the Duchess Torlonia with a very large company. The dinner was very late and very splendid, and from the known hospitality of the family it was probable that Sir Walter, in the heat of conversation, and with servants on all sides pressing him to eat and drink, as is their custom at Rome, might be induced to eat more than was safe for his malady. Colonel Blair, who sat next him, was requested to take care that this should not happen.
Whenever I observed him, however, Sir Walter appeared always to be eating ; while the Duchess, who had discovered the nature of the office imposed on the Colonel, was by no means satisfied, and after dinner observed that it was an odd sort of friendship which consisted in starving one's neighbour to death — when he had a good appetite, and there was dinner enough.
“ It was at this entertainment that Sir Walter