LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The “Pope” of Holland House
Henry Holland to John Whishaw 30 December 1814

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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Produced by CATH
Dec. 30, 1814.

I ought and had intended, my dear Sir, to have written to you at an earlier period, but the multiplicity of objects and events on our journey, and the necessity of completing the manuscript on which I was engaged when leaving England, put aside the performance of this intention for some time.

I do not retrace to you any part of our long journey through Germany, France, or Switzerland, as the keenest appetite for foreign novelties must be glutted with all that has been recently seen and written about these countries. Italian information, too, must now be crowding upon you from the host of travellers who have taken up their winter quarters in Florence,
Dr. Holland in Italy
Rome, or Naples; but there is more of novelty left here, and certainly much that is important to the present and future condition of Europe.

We entered Italy in the beginning of October, amidst the unparalleled scenery of the Lago Maggiore, and the marvellous road of the Simplon, which better accredits the Government that executed it than could have done the successful issue of twenty Russian campaigns. A fortnight’s residence at Milan was interesting and instructive, as well in reference to the society of the place as to the condition of political feeling in one of the principal centres of Italy.

You must not suppose that the French Government, as such, was popular in this part of Italy. I think I saw the evidence (as far as a fortnight would supply it) that it was otherwise. But the fact stood thus. The events of the preceding years had awakened, and in part called into action the natural spirit of the Italians. The name of kingdom of Italy, partial as were its limits and subordinate its influence, flattered their desires of independence. Napoleon was in some degree regarded as a countryman. It was believed that he had great designs for Italy, and the French jealousy for the moment prevented his giving further extension to his designs. At all events he had created a national name and army, had made Milan a metropolis, and beautified it with public works on a large scale. The changes which have brought back Lombardy to the condition of a province, and which threaten to make it the theatre of future contests to other Powers, have
Dr. Holland in Italy
thrown a gloom over every expectation. The unpopularity of the Austrian Government could not be mistaken. There is an uncongeniality between their character and that of the Italians which was manifest in a thousand circumstances, and which, doubtless, enhances the feeling of the latter in the loss of their expected independence.

The Austrian Army stood at Milan an insulated mass, sombre itself from national habit, regarded by the Italians with silent or sullen indifference. Society frames no links between them. If Austria is to keep these countries I hope she will be wise enough to appreciate the change which has taken place in the national sentiment for Italy, and to model her manner of government on this basis.

At Florence we remained too short a time, too short for the place, for the Society, and for the memorials of Science and Art which are profusely afforded there. I saw much at this place of our friends Lord Holland and his family, much also of Mr. Ward,1 the Davys, &c. It was gratifying to me to go through the venerable museum of the Academy with Sir H. Davy, and with him to examine some of the earliest apparatus employed by the experts of the Florentine Academicians. As far as I could judge he has made himself very popular with the men of science of Italy, and I find that his peculiar opinions, still only partially received in England, are generally admitted on the Continent.

At Rome still, more than at Florence, there was cause to be disappointed with the shortness of our

1 Afterwards first Earl of Dudley.

Dr. Holland in Italy
stay. No human industry could crowd into five days all that belongs to ancient and modern Rome, the less so as we had much society there, and much courtly visitation among the shreds and remnants of royalty which have settled themselves in this metropolis of the Old World. I know not whether I may venture to say that I was disappointed with ancient Rome, yet in its comparison to Athens I undoubtedly was so. In situation everything is greatly inferior, in material, in the taste and beauty of the workmanship even still more so. In number and mass alone the Roman ruins have superiority, but what they gain from the former circumstance they in part lose again by that dispersion over a large extent of surface. There is no feature in Athens that resembles the Campo Vaccino, but there are features the character and effect of which are more imposing both to eye and imagination. Above all there is a majestic simplicity in what remains of Athens which is comparatively wanting in Rome, partly from the appropriation of what is ancient for new and ordinary purposes, still more, perhaps, from the radical differences of the Greek and Roman architecture. Modern Rome on the whole exceeds my expectations, in the splendour of its edifices, and the still greater magnitude of the galleries of the Vatican and Capitol, which we saw under every advantage under the admirable guidance of
Canova. This man is an ornament to modern Italy, abounding in genius and enthusiasm for the fine arts and with a simplicity of carriage which is but rarely to be found among his countrymen of the
Dr. Holland at Naples
present day. His works are now known throughout Europe. One of the greatest of them has been arrested in the midst of these events which have torn down
Napoleon from his throne. And together with the triumphal arch of Milan and other works of similar destination at Naples, it remains as a proof how much slower are the steps of Art than those of Ambition, which showed its sequel while mankind were yet marvelling at its advancement.

We have now been settled about two months at Naples, where H.R.H. has taken a large palace in one of the most agreeable situations within the city, the beautiful bay and its barrier, the Isle of Capri, directly in front of us. Of the actual political state of this country I hardly know what to tell you, and perhaps it were better to say nothing. The city of Naples, as usual, has a fair and luxurious aspect, is crowded with nobility who have never seen their estates, and by a multitude of soldiers, maintained under the military system that now dominates this country.

The Court is at this moment, perhaps, the most splendid in Europe, Ministers, Marshals, Chamberlains, Equerries, and Pages crowd every avenue; costumes are fetched from past centuries, and contend with each other in gorgeous richness of apparel; form and ceremony are stretched to their utmost point of human endurance.

All this is a side-shoot of the late régime in France. It is the exaggerated effort of a new dynasty to make itself like to the old ones. is perfectly true in its application
Dr. Holland at Naples
here. The whole is like a far-fetched masquerade, and dignity is lost in the too great effort to be dignified.

It is the system (perhaps not wholly an unwise one under present circumstances) to engross about the Court the personal services of the first nobility of the country, and without a fit appreciation of what constitutes the real value of an aristocracy.

One evil that at this moment hangs over the country is the disproportionate magnitude of the Army, swelled to 70,000 or 80,000 men, with appointments that might accredit a country with twice the population and wealth. This is evidently the favourite object of the King, and it may be doubted whether he will ever be inclined to diminish it to the level proper for the country, which at this time is taxed to the last degree for the support of this unwholesome excrescence.

The French are extremely unpopular. It does not seem to me that the King is personally disliked, his character would appear to be that of a good soldier, somewhat too fond of personal finery, by no means cruel, generous to those around him, perhaps not very adroit in his political capacity, but well served by his Ministers, who are themselves exceedingly well paid. Queen Caroline is obviously a woman of great cleverness and masculine intrepidity; to her it is said that much of the stateliness of the Court is due.1

1Joachim Murat and his wife, Caroline, the sister of Napoleon, had reigned in Naples from 1808. In 1812 he headed the cavalry of the grand army that invaded Russia. After the battle of Leipsic

Dr. Holland at Naples

The number of English residents here at present is very considerable. Lord Holland, the Westmorelands, and Davys are expected in the course of the winter from Rome. I had a letter yesterday from Mr. Rogers, begging me to seek lodgings for him in this city, to get which at this time it is necessary to pay higher prices than in the midst of London. The English here are excessively courted at Court and loaded with every sort of civility.

There is an obvious policy in this, and perhaps in the king something of liking also.

I must hasten to a conclusion, my dear Sir, as the gentleman by whom I send this letter is about immediately to depart. I trust it will arrive in safety.

Believe, my dear Sir, most truly yours,
H. Holland.