« PreviousContinue »
and an insatiable taste for drinking. He was good security for three bottles of wine a day! and for sleep he was unrivalled! as Prior says,
“ He ate, and drank, and slept,---what then?
He slept, and drank, and ate again!"
but, when thoroughly awake, and his appetites satisfied, he was full of intelligence and anecdote, good natured, and communicative; and, heaven save the mark !—the ugliest fellow I ever beheld !
He had formerly been in the army, and after running through a small patrimony, resided with an aunt in Alsace, on the very spot where Voltaire, when travelling, was taken seriously ill. In this part of the world, Voltaire was equally unknown, as a poet or a deist; and the good people of Alsace, in whose house he was, and who spoke hardly any I'rench, thought the best thing they could do for a dying man, would be to procure for him the consolations of religion. Every one is acquainted with Voltaire's hatred for priests and monks, and may conceive how he was disposed to religion by the introduction of one of the clergy into his bed-room, without his knowledge. The unconscious offender, a simple, pious man, walked up to the bed with zeal and solemnity, and, drawing the curtains aside, said to Voltaire, in French, “ Sir, can you speak French ?” What the emphatic reply of the philopher was, I must be excused from mentioning ; suffice it to say, it was accompanied by an order to his valet to kick the priest down stairs !
After going through the purgatory of German roads and German postilions, we arrived in the Venetian States, and remained a day at Palma Nuova, to refresh ourselves, and view its celebrated fortifications, considered to be amongst the strongest in Europe. My companion, as a military man, was delighted while the serjeant who accompanied us, gave a long and perhaps learned dissertation on the art of engineering; to me it was dreadfully tiresome, for, like Mungo, in the Padlock, “ What signify me hear, when me no understand !”
My companion prevailed on me to accompany him to Padua, where he had business to transact. It was very little out of our way, and I had a strong desire to see that learned city. When we arrived, we went to an inn, called the Stella d'Oro. Padua was interesting to me, as the birth-place of Tartini ; and the two greatest singers of their time were living there retired, Pachierotti and Guadagni. The latter was a Cavaliere. He had built a house, or rather a palace, in which he had a very neat theatre, and a company of puppets, which
a represented L'Orpheo e Euridice; himself singing the part of Orpheo' behind the scenes.
It was in this character, and in singing Gluck's beautiful rondo in it, “ Che farò senza Euridice," that he distinguished himself in every theatre in Europe, and drew such immense houses in London.
His puppet-show was his hobby-horse, and as he received no money, he had always crowded houses. He had a good fortune, with which he was very liberal, and was the handsomest man of his kind I
I never was in any place so over-run with mendicants as at Padua; they allow you no peace, but torture you in the name of their patron saint, Saint Anthony. We went to see his church, a very large, old building: the inhabitants call it, Il Santo (the Saint). The interior is superb, crowded with fine paintings and sculpture. There are four fine organs, and a large choir, consisting of celebrated professors, vocal and instrumental. I heard a mass there, composed by Il Padre Vallotti, and both the composition and performance were delightful. There seemed to be a great number of students, native and foreign, in the university; but altogether I did not like the place, and at the end of three days, I left it, with great pleasure, in the common boat, filled with passengers of all sorts, for Venice.
We landed at the Piazza. My companion took leave of me, and I returned to my worthy friend and host, Zanotti, of the Regina d'Inghilterra. Zanotti had formerly been in England, in the
service of Il Cavaliere Pissani, Ambassador to St. James's, and spoke English very well, which made his house much frequented by the travelling English nobility. He had a handsome gondola, which he allowed me to make use of; his gondolier was one of the most lively and intelligent of those expert and witty fellows: they are a privileged caste, and say what they like to their masters and others, no person taking offence at the jest or repartee of a gondolier. In their style, they greatly resemble the lower order of Irish, and are faithful in the extreme, if you put trust in them. Gondoliers were usually called 6 Momolo.” it being the diminutive of St. Girolomo, or St. Jerome, their patron saint. By the way, it is strange, that those gentry, who are, to a man, adorers of the fair sex, should have chosen him, of all the saints in the calendar, for their patron, who had declared, that
a good woman was more rare than the phenix.” On this saint's day they have a fête, and not a gondolier will handle an oar if he can avoid it.
The functions in Passion Week were carried on with great solemnity. The Doge went in procession to St. Marc's, where there were six orchestras erected, and High Mass celebrated. There was also a function at St. Giovanni di Paulo. I visited both. The fair of the Ascension coming on, every one was in preparation for it.' It lasted fifteen
days: all the theatres were open, and, at night, St. Marc's was brilliantly illuminated. On the Day of the Ascension, the Doge went in grand procession to marry the sea. My host took me to see this truly singular and magnificent sight. The Doge left Venice in his beautiful Bucantore, which contained near three hundred persons. It was superbly adorned, and carried twenty-one oars on each side. There were several bands of music on board. On reaching a certain point, the Doge threw a plain gold ring into the sea ; saying, “ We marry thee, O Sea! in sign of true and perpetual dominioni.” He then returned to Venice in the same order; the sea covered with gondolas, barges, and boats, and the spectators rending the air with acclamations.
66 Mine host” related a ridiculous circumstance, which took place at this curious marriage ceremony some years before. The celebrated and witty Lord Lyttelton, and several other English gentlemen, went in a barge to see the ceremony. They had on board with them a lacquais-de-place, a talkative fellow, making a plaguy noise, explaining every thing that was going on. This unfortunate Cicerone was standing up in the barge, and leaning over it, at the moment the Doge dropped the ring into the sea ; the loquacious lacquey bawled out with all his might and strength,—“ Now, my Lord, look, look, the Doge has married the sea !"