Изображения страниц

laboured descriptions, or the greatest historical accuracy.

“ The morning after our arrival at Bracciano, when I left my room, I found Sir Walter already dressed, and seated in the deep recess of a window which commands an extensive view over the lake and surrounding country. He speculated on the lives of the turbulent lords of this ancient fortress, and listened with interest to such details as I could give him of their history. He drew a striking picture of the contrast between the calm and placid scene before us, and the hurry, din, and tumult of other days.

“ Insensibly we strayed into more modern times. I never saw him more animated and agreeable. He was exactly what I could imagine him to have been in his best moments. Indeed I have several times heard him complain that his disease sometimes confused and bewildered his senses, while at others he was left with little remains of illness, except a consciousness of his state of infirmity. He talked of his Northern journey — of Manzoni, for whom he expressed a great admiration —of Lord Byron—and lastly, of himself. Of Lord Byron he spoke with admiration and regard, calling him always 'poor Byron.' He considered him, he said, the only poet we have had, since Dryden, of transcendent talents, and possessing more amiable qualities than the world in general gave him credit for.

“ In reply to my question if he had never seriously thought of complying with the advice so often given him to write a tragedy, he answered — Often, but the difficulty deterred me my turn was not dramatic. Some of the mottoes, I urged, prefixed to the chapters of his novels, and subscribed • old play,' were eminently in the taste of the old dramatists, and seemed to ensure success. Nothing so easy,' he replied, when you are full of an author, as to write a few lines in his taste and style; the difficulty is to keep it up — besides,' he added, the greatest success would be but a spiritless imitation, or, at best, what the Italians call a centone from Shakspeare. No author has ever had so much cause to be grateful to the public as I have. All I have written has been received with indulgence.'

“ He said he was the more grateful for the flattering reception he had met with in Italy, as he had not always treated the Catholic religion with respect. I observed, that though he had exposed the hypocrites of all sects, no religion had any cause to complain of him, as he had rendered them all interesting by turns. Jews, Catholics, and Puritans, had all their saints and martyrs in his works. He was much pleased with this.

“ He spoke of Goethe with regret; he had been in correspondence with him before his death, and had purposed visiting him at Weimar in returning to England. I told him I had been to see Goethe the year before, and that I had found him well, and though very old, in the perfect possession of all his faculties. -- Of all his faculties!' he replied; it is much better to die than to survive them, and better still to die than live in the apprehension of it; but the worst of all,' he added, thoughtfully, • would have been to have survived their partial loss, and yet to be conscious of his state.' — He did not seem to be, however, a great admirer of some of Goethe's works. Much of his popularity, he observed, was owing to pieces which, in his latter moments, he might have wished recalled. He spoke with much feeling. I answered, that he must derive great consolation in the reflection that his own popularity was owing to no such cause. He remained silent for a moment, with his eyes fixed on the ground; when he raised them, as he shook me by the hand, I perceived the light blue eye sparkled with unusual moisture. He added — I am drawing near to the close of my career; I am fast shuffling off the stage. I have been perhaps the most voluminous author of the day; and it is a comfort to me to think that I have tried to unsettle no man's faith, to corrupt no man's principle, and that I have written nothing which on my deathbed I should wish blotted. I made no reply; and while we were yet silent, Don Michele Gaetani joined us, and we walked through the vast hall into the court of the castle, where our friends were expecting us.

“ After breakfast, Sir Walter returned to Rome. The following day he purposed setting out on his northern journey. It was Friday. I was anxious that he should prolong his stay in Rome; and reminding him of his superstition, I told him he ought not to set out on the unlucky day. He answered, laughing — Superstition is very picturesque, and I make it at times stand me in great stead; but I never allow it to interfere with interest or convenience.'

As I helped him down the steep court to his carriage, he said, as he stepped with pain and difficulty —• This is a sore change with me.

Time was when I would hunt and shoot with the best of them, and thought it but a poor day's sport when I was not on foot from ten to twelve hours; but we must be patient.'

“ I handed him into his carriage; and in taking leave of me, he pressed me, with eager hospitality, to visit him at Abbotsford. The door closed upon him, and I stood for some moments watching the carriage till it was out of sight, as it wound through the portal of the Castle of Bracciano.

“ Next day, Friday, May 11, Sir Walter left Rome.

During his stay there he had received every mark of attention and respect from the Italians, who in not crowding to visit him, were deterred only by their delicacy and their dread of intruding on an invalid. The use of villas, libraries, and museums, was pressed upon

him. This enthusiasm was by no means confined to the higher orders. His fame, and even his works, are familiar to all classes — the stalls are filled with translations of his novels, in the cheapest forms; and some of the most popular plays and operas have been founded upon them. Some time after he left Italy, when I was travelling in the mountains of Tuscany, it has more than once occurred to me to be stopped in little villages, hardly accessible to carriages, by an eager admirer of Sir Walter, to enquire after the health of my illustrious countryman."

The last jotting of Sir Walter's Diary—perhaps the last specimen of his handwriting* — records his starting from Naples on the 16th of April. After the 11th of May the story can hardly be told too briefly.

The irritation of impatience, which had for a moment been suspended by the aspect and society of

* A gentleman who lately travelled from Rome to the Tyrol, informs me, that in the Book of Guests, kept at one of the Inns on the road, Sir Walter's autograph remains as follows: Walter Scott - for Scotland.[1839.]

" Sir

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »