LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. XIV 1825

Chap. I 1778-1811
Ch. II: 1791-95
Ch. III 1795-98
Ch. IV 1798
Ch. V 1798
Ch. VI 1792-1803
Ch. VII 1803-05
Ch. VIII 1803-05
Ch. IX
Ch. X 1807
Ch. XI 1808
Ch. XII 1808
Ch. XII 1812
Ch. XIV 1814-15
Ch. XV 1814-17
Ch. XVI 1818
Ch. XVII 1820
Ch. XX 1821
Ch. I 1821
Ch. II 1821-22
Ch. III 1821-22
Ch. IV 1822
Ch. V 1822
Ch. VI 1822
Ch. VII 1822-23
Ch. VIII 1822
Ch. IX 1823
Ch. X 1824
Ch. XI 1825
Ch. XII 1825
Ch. XIII 1825
‣ Ch. XIV 1825
Ch. XV 1825
Ch. XVI 1825-27
Ch. XVII 1826-28
Ch. XVIII 1829-30
Ch. XX
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
From Rome, through Florence, to Venice—Impressions of Venice—From Venice to Milan—Autobiography continued (April, May).

I have already described the road between Florence and Bologna. I found it much the same on returning. . . . . We stopped the first night at Traversa, a miserable inn or almost hovel on the road-side, in the most desolate part of this track; and found, amidst scenes which the imagination and the pen of travellers have peopled with ghastly phantoms and the assassin’s midnight revelry, a kind but simple reception, and the greatest sweetness of manners. . . . .

“The second morning we reached the last of the Apennines that overlook Bologna, and saw stretched out beneath our feet a different scene, the vast plain of Lombardy, and almost the whole of the North of Italy, like a rich sea of boundless verdure, with towns and villages spotting it like the sails of ships. . . . . We presently descended into this plain (which formed a perfect contrast to the country we had lately passed), and it answered fully to the promise it had given us.
We travelled for days—for weeks—through it, and found nothing but ripeness, plenty, and beauty. It may well be called the Garden of Italy, or of the world. The whole way, from Bologna to Venice, from Venice to Milan, it is literally so. . . . .

“We went to our old inn at Bologna, which we liked better the second time than the first . . . . We set out early the next morning on our way to Venice, turning off to Ferrara.

“It was a fine spring morning. The dew was on the grass, and shone like diamonds in the sun. A refreshing breeze fanned the light-green, odorous branches of the trees, which spread their shady screen on each side the road, which lay before us as straight as an arrow for miles. Venice was at the end of it; Padua, Ferrara, mid-way.

“The prospect (both to the sense and the imagination) was exhilarating; and we enjoyed it for some hours, till we stopped to breakfast at a smart-looking detached inn at a turning of the road, called, I think, the Albergo di Venezia. This was one of the pleasantest places we came to during the whole of our route.

“We were shown into a long saloon, into which the sun shone at one extremity, and we looked out upon the green fields and trees at the other. There were flowers in the room. An excellent breakfast of coffee, bread, butter, eggs, and slices of Bologna sausages was served up with neatness and attention. . . . .

“At Ferrara we were put on short allowance, and as we found remonstrance vain, we submitted in silence.
We were the more mortified at this treatment as we had begun to hope for better things; but Mr. Henry Waister, our commissary on the occasion, was determined to make a good thing of his three napoleons a-day; he had strained a point in, procuring us a tolerable supper and breakfast at the two last stages, which must serve for some time to come; and as he would not pay for our dinner, the landlord would not let us have one, and there the matter rested.

“We walked out in the evening, and found Ferrara enchanting. Of all the places I have seen in Italy, it is the one by far I should most covet to live in. . . . .

“From Ferrara we proceeded through Rovigo to Padua the Learned, where we were more fortunate in our inn. . . . . Soon after leaving Padua, you begin to cross the canals and rivers which intersect this part of the country bordering upon the sea, and for some miles you follow the course of the Brenta, along a flat, dusty, and unprofitable road. This is a period of considerable and painful suspense, until you arrive at Fusina, where you are put into a boat and rowed down one of the Lagunas, where, over banks of high rank grass and reeds, and between solitary sentry-boxes at different intervals, you see Venice rising from the sea. . . . . I do not know what Lord Byron and Lady Morgan could mean by quarrelling about the question, who first called Venice ‘the Rome of the sea’—since it is perfectly unique in its kind. . . . .

“I never saw palaces anywhere but at Venice. Those at Rome are dungeons compared to them. . . . . The
richest in interior decoration that I saw was the Grimani palace,* which answered to all the imaginary conditions of this sort of thing. Aladdin might have exchanged his for it, and given his lamp into the bargain. The floors are of marble, the tables of precious stones, the chairs and curtains of rich silk, the walls covered with looking-glasses, and it contains a cabinet of invaluable antique sculpture, and some of Titian’s finest portraits I saw no other mansion equal to this. The Pisani is the next to it for elegance and splendour; and from its situation on the Grand Canal, it admits a flood of bright day through glittering curtains of pea-green silk, into a noble saloon, enriched with an admirable family-picture by
Paul Veronese, with heads equal to Titian in all but the character of thought.†

Titian was ninety-nine when he died, and was at last carried off by the plague. My guide, who was enthusiastic on the subject of Venetian art, would not allow of any falling-off in these latest efforts of his mighty pencil, but represented him as prematurely cut off in the height of his career. He knew, he said, an old man, who died a year ago, at one hundred and twenty. The Venetians may still live to be old, but they do not paint like Titian!

* The Grimani family is, I believe, extinct. The daughter of a Signor Grimani (who was teacher of languages in England for many years) married Thomas Hornby, Esq., and was the mother of my old acquaintance, Sir Edmund Grimani Hornby.

† This is the picture which is now in the National Gallery; it was bought for England a few years ago at a cost of 14,000l.


“I teased my valet-de-place (Mr. Andrew Wyche, a Tyrolese, a very pleasant, companionable, and patriotic sort of person) the whole of the first morning at every fresh landing or embarkation by asking, ‘But are we going to see the St. Peter Martyr?’ When we reached the church of St. John and St. Paul, the light did not serve, and we got reprimanded by the priest for turning our backs on the Host, in our anxiety to find a proper point of view. We returned to the church about five in the afternoon, when the light fell upon it through a high-arched Gothic window. . . . . I found everything in its place, and as I expected; yet I am unwilling to say that I saw it through my former impressions. . . . . Most probably, as a picture, it is the finest in the world; or if I cannot say it is the picture which I would the soonest have painted, it is at least the one which I would the soonest have. . . . . I left this admirable performance with regret; yet I do not see why; for I have it present with me, ‘in my mind’s eye,’ and swear, in the wildest scenes of the Alps, that the St. Peter Martyr is finer. That and the man [with the Glove] in the Louvre are my standards of perfection: my taste may be wrong, nay, even ridiculous—yet such it is.

“Daniell’s Hotel, at which we were. . . . commands a superb view of the bay, and the scene (particularly by moonlight) is delicious. I heard no music at Venice, neither voice nor lute; saw no group of dancers or maskers; I saw the Rialto, which is no longer an Exchange. . . . .


Horas non numero nisi serenas, is the motto of a sundial near Venice. There is a softness and a harmony in the words and in the thought unparalleled. . . . . For myself, as I rode through the Brenta, while the sun shone hot upon its sluggish, shiny waves, my sensations were far from comfortable; but the reading this inscription on the side of a glaring wall in an instant restored me to myself; still, whenever I think of or repeat it, it has the power of wafting me into the region of pure and blissful abstraction It (the dial) stands sub dio, under the marble air, and there is some connection between the image of infinity and eternity. I should also like to have a sunflower growing near it, with bees fluttering round. Is this a verbal fallacy? or in the close, retired, sheltered soul which I have imagined to myself, is not the sunflower a natural accompaniment of the sundial?

“We left Venice with mingled satisfaction and regret. We had to retrace our steps as far as Padua, on our way to Milan. For four days’ journey, from Padua to Verona, to Brescia, to Treviglio, to Milan, the whole way was cultivated beauty and smiling vegetation. . . . . The Northern Italians are as fine a race of people as walk the earth; and all that they want, to be what they once were, is neither English abuse nor English assistance, but three words spoken to the other powers; ‘Let them alone!’

“We reached Verona the second day: it is delightfully situated. . . . . They here show you the tomb of Juliet. . . . . The guide also points to the part of the
wall that Romeo leaped over, and takes you to the spot in the garden where he fell. This gives an air of trick and fiction to the whole. . . . .

“On returning from this spot, which is rather low and gloomy, we witnessed the most brilliant sight we had seen in Italy; the sun setting in a flood of gold behind the Alps that overlook the lake of Garda. The Adige foamed at our feet below; the bank opposite was of pure emerald; the hills which rose directly behind it in the most fantastic forms were of perfect purple, and the arches of the bridge to the left seemed plunged in ebon darkness by the flames of light that darted round them.

“We met with nothing remarkable the rest of the way to Milan, except the same rich, unvaried face of the country. . . . . I think I never saw so many well-grown, well-made, good-looking women as at Milan. I did not, however, see one face strikingly beautiful, or with a very fine expression. . . . . We saw the celebrated theatre of the Gran Scala, which is of an immense size, and of extreme beauty, but it was not full, nor was the performance striking. The manager is the proprietor of the Cobourg Theatre (Mr. Glossop), and his wife (formerly our Miss Fearon) the favourite singer of the Milanese circles.

“I inquired after the great pantomime actress, Pallarini, but found she had retired from the stage on a fortune. The name of Vigano was not known to my informant. I did not see the great picture of the Last Supper, by Leonardo, nor the little Luini, two miles out
of Milan, which my friend
Mr. Beyle charged me particularly to see.

“We left Milan in a calash or small open carriage, to proceed to the Isles Borronees. The first day it rained violently, and the third day the boy drove us wrong, pretending to mistake Laveno for Baveno; so I got rid of him.

“We had a delightful morning at Corno, and a fine view of the lake and surrounding hills. . . . . I had a hankering after Cadenobia; but the Simplon still lay before me. We were utterly disappointed in the Isles Borronees. Isola Bella, belonging to the Marquis Borromeo, indeed resembles ‘a pyramid of sweetmeats ornamented with green festoons and flowers.’ I had supposed this to be a heavy German conceit; but it is a literal description. The pictures in the palace are trash. We were accosted by a beggar in an island which contains only a palace and an inn.

“We proceeded to the inn at Baveno, situated on the high road, close to the lake, and enjoyed for some days the enchanting and varied scenery along its banks. . . . .

“We were tempted to stop here for the summer in a suite of apartments (not ill furnished) that command a panoramic view of the lake, hidden by woods and vineyards from all curious eyes, or in a similar set of rooms at Intra on the other side of the lake, with a garden and the conveniences of a market-town, for six guineas the half-year. The temptation was great. . . . . We wished, however, to pass the Simplon first. . . . .

“We proceeded to Domo d’Ossola for this purpose,
and the next day began the ascent. I have already attempted to describe the passage of Mont Cenis; this is said to be finer, and I believe it; but it impressed me less, I believe, owing to circumstances.

“We passed under one or two sounding arches, and over some lofty bridges. At length we reached the village of the Simplon, and stopped there at a most excellent inn, where we had a supper that might vie, for taste and elegance, with that with which Chiffinch entertained Peveril of the Peak and his companion at the little inn in the wilds of Derbyshire.

“The next day we proceeded onwards, and passed the commencement of the tremendous glacier of the Flech Horr. . . . . This mountain is only a few hundred feet lower than Mont Blanc, yet its name is hardly known. So a difference of a hair’s-breadth in talent often makes all the difference between total obscurity and endless renown.

“We soon after passed the barrier, and found ourselves involved in fog and driving sleet upon the brink of precipices; the view was hidden, the road dangerous. On our right were drifts of snow, left there by the avalanches. Soon after the mist dispersed, or we had perhaps passed below it, and a fine sunny morning disclosed the whole amazing scene above, about, below us. . . . . We wound round the valley at the other extremity of it; the road on the opposite side, which we could plainly distinguish, seemed almost on the level ground, and when we reached it, we found it at a still greater depth below us. . . . . I think the finest part
of the descent of the Simplon is about four or five miles, before you come to Brigg. . . . .

“We left the inn at Brigg, after having stopped there above a week, and proceeded on our way to Vevey, which had always been an interesting point in the horizon, and a resting-place to the imagination. . . . Vevey is the scene of the ‘New Héloise.’ In spite of Mr. Burke’s philippic against this performance, the contempt of the ‘Lake School,’ and Mr. Moore’sRhymes on the Road,’ I had still some overmastering recollections on that subject, which I proposed to indulge at my leisure on the spot, which was supposed to give them birth, and which I accordingly did.

“I did not, on re-perusal, find my once favourite work quite so rapid, quite so void of eloquence or sentiment as some critics would insinuate. [The writer here quotes a passage, commencing—Mais vois la rapidité de cet astre, &c.] What a difference between the sound of this passage and of Mr. Moore’s verse or prose! Nay, there is more imagination in the single epithet astre, applied as it is here to this brilliant and fleeting scene of things, than in all our fashionable poet’s writings! At least, I thought so, reading St. Preux’s letter in the wood near Clarens, and stealing occasional glances at the lake and rocks of Meillerie. . . . .

“As we advanced farther on beyond Tortomania, the whole breadth of the valley was sometimes covered with pine-forests, which gave a relief to the eye, and afforded scope to the imagination. . . . . In this part of our
journey, however, besides the natural wildness and grandeur of the scenery, the road was rough and uneven. . . . .

“We reached Sion that evening. It is one of the dirtiest and least comfortable towns on the road. . . . . It was here that Rousseau, in one of his early peregrinations, was recommended by his landlord to an iron-foundry in the neighbourhood (the smoke of which, I believe, we saw at a little distance), where he would be likely to procure employment, mistaking the ‘pauper lad’ for a journeyman blacksmith. . . . . Haunted by some indistinct recollection of this adventure, I asked at the inn ‘if Jean Jacques Rousseau had ever resided in the town?’ The waiter himself could not tell, but soon after brought back for answer, ‘that Monsieur Rousseau had never lived there, but that he had passed through about fourteen years before on his way to Italy, when he had only time to stop to take tea!’ Was this a mere stupid blunder, or one of the refractions of fame, founded on his mission as secretary to the Venetian ambassador a hundred years before? There is a tradition in the neighbourhood of Milton’s house in York Street, Westminster, that ‘one Mr. Milford, a celebrated poet, formerly lived there!’

“We set forward the next morning on our way to Martigny. . . . . It was a most unpleasant ride. The wind poured down from these tremendous hills, and blew with unabated fury in our faces the whole way. Nor did the accommodation at the inn (the Swan, I think) make us amends. The rooms were cold and
empty. . . . . The only picturesque objects between this and Bex are a waterfall about two hundred feet in height and the romantic bridge of St. Maurice. . . . .

“Bex itself is delicious. . . . . There is an excellent inn, a country church before it, a large ash tree, a circulating library, a rookery, everything useful and comfortable for the life of man. . . . . Our reception at the inn was every way what we could wish, and we were half disposed to stop here for some months. But something whispered me on to Vevey; this we reached the next day in a drizzling shower of rain, which prevented our seeing much of the country. . . . . The day after my arrival I found a lodging at a farm-house a mile out of Vevey, so ‘lapped in luxury,’ so retired, so reasonable, and in every respect convenient, that we remained here for the rest of the summer, and felt no small regret at leaving it.”