« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
laid her. She is the child of a Buccleuch ; he, you know, is my chief, and all that comes from that house is dear to me.' He looked on the ground and sighed, and for a moment there was a silence between us.
“ We spoke of politics, and of the reform in Parliament, which at that time was pending. I asked his opinion of it; he said he was no enemy to reform - If the machine does not work well, it must be mended - but it should be by the best workmen ve have.'
“ He regretted not having been at Holland House as he passed through London. • Lord Holland,' he said, “is the most agreeable man I ever knew. In criticism, in poetry, he beats those whose whole study they have been. No man in England has a more thorough knowledge of English authors, and he expresses himself so well, that his language illustrates and adorns his thoughts, as light streaming through coloured glass heightens the brilliancy of the objects it falls upon.'
On the 4th of May he accepted a dinner at our house, and it gave my brother and myself unfeigned satisfaction to have again the pleasure of entertaining him. We collected a party to meet him, and amongst others livvota Don Luigi Santa Croce, one of his most ardent admirers, who had long desired an introduction. He is a man of much ability, and has
played his part in the political changes of his country. When I presented him to Sir Walter, he bade me tell him (for he speaks no English) how long and how earnestly he had desired to see him, though he had hardly dared to hope it. • Tell him, he added, with warmth, that in disappointment, in sorrow, and in sickness, his works have been my chief comfort ; and while living amongst his imaginary personages, I have succeeded for a moment in forgetting the vexations of blighted hopes, and have found relief in public and private distress.' The Marchesa Loughi, the beautiful sister of Don Michele Gaetani, whom I also presented to him this evening, begged me to thank him, in her name, for some of the most agreeable moments of her life. • She had had,' she said, • though young, her share of sorrows, and in his works she had found not only amusement, but lessons of patience and resignation, which she hoped had not been lost upon her.' To all these flattering compliments, as well as to the thousand others that were daily showered upon him, Sir Walter replied with unfeigned humility, expressing himself pleased and obliged by the good opinion entertained of him, and delighting his admirers with the good-humour and urbanity with which he received them. Don Luigi talked of the plots of some of the novels, and earnestly remonstrated against the fate of Clara Mowbray, in St. Ronan's Well. “I am much obliged to the gentleman for the interest he takes in her,' said Sir Walter, “but I could not save her, poor thing it is against the rules -she had the bee in her bonnet.' Don Luigi still insisted. Sir Walter replied — No; but of all the murders that I have committed in that way, and few men have been guilty of more, there is none that went so much to my heart as the poor Bride of Lammermoor; but it could not be helped it is all true.
“Sir Walter always showed much curiosity about the Constable Bourbon. I said that a suit of armour belonging to him was preserved in the Vatican. He eagerly asked after the form and construction, and enquired if he wore it on the day of the capture of Rome. That event had greatly struck his imagination. He told me he had always had an idea of weaving it into the story of a romance, and of introducing the traitor Constable as an actor. Cæsar Borgia was also a character whose vices and whole career appeared to him singularly romantic. Having heard him say this, I begged Don Michele Gaetani, whose ancestors had been dispossessed of their rich fiefs by that ambitious upstart, to show Sir Walter a sword, now in the possession of his family, which had once belonged to Borgia. The blade, which is very long and broad, is richly ornamented, and the arms of the Borgias are inlaid upon it, bearing the favourite motto of that tremendous personage—' Aut Cæsar, aut nihil. Sir Walter examined it with attention, commenting on the character of Borgia, and congratulating Don Michele on the possession of a relic doubly interesting in his hands.
“ I continued a constant visiter at his house whilst he remained in Rome, and I also occasionally dined in his company, and took every opportunity of conversing with him. I observed with extreme pleasure, that he accepted willingly from me those trifling attentions which his infirmities required, and which all would have been delighted to offer. I found him always willing to converse on any topic. He spoke of his own works and of himself without reserve; never, however, introducing the subject nor dwelling
His conversation had neither affectation nor restraint, and he was totally free from the morbid egotism of some men of genius. What surprised me most, and in one too who had so long been the object of universal admiration, was the unaffected humility with which he spoke of his own merits, and the sort of surprise with which he surveyed his own
That this was a real feeling, none could doubt. The natural simplicity of his manner must have convinced the most incredulous. He was courteous and obliging to all, and towards women there was a dignified simplicity in his manner that was singularly pleasing. He would not allow even his infirmities to exempt him from the little courtesies
of society. He always endeavoured to rise to address those who approached him, and once when my brother and myself accompanied him in his drive, it was not without difficulty that we could prevail on him not to seat himself with his back to the horses.
“ I asked him if he meant to be presented at the Vatican, as I knew that his arrival had been spoken of, and that the Pope had expressed an interest about him. He said he respected the Pope as the most ancient sovereign of Europe, and should have great pleasure in paying his respects to him, did his state of health permit it.
We talked of the ceremonies of the Church. He had been struck with the benediction from the balcony of St Peter's. I advised him to wait to see the procession of the Corpus Domini, and to hear the Pope
• Saying the high, high mass,
He smiled, and said those things were more poetical in description than in reality, and that it was all the better for him not to have seen it before he wrote about it — that any attempt to make such scenes more exact, injured the effect without conveying a clearer image to the mind of the reader Utopian scenes and manners of Mrs Radcliffe's Novels captivated the imagination more than the most