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Now, waked by my countrymen's voice once again
To enjoyment of pleasures long past;
And recall her original taste.
Among metals which glittered around;
When the ore correspondent was found.
To these lines Mr. Parsons brought the following very flattering answer, which he repeated after dinner :
“To Mrs. Piozzi.
And blest with reciprocal love ;
For still friends to the Muses they prove.
Let us all with glad sympathy view
This union of wit and virtù.
In full confidence, love, and esteem,
And be Hymen your favorite theme !
Each thought of stagnation dispel ;
A Piozzi alone shall excel.
" As the ore must for ever obedient be found
By the loadstone attracted along :
By the magical force of your song:
Your talents with wonder we see;
Though like magnets — in smaller degree.”.
Now if I should live to add any more anecdotes of my life, or any more verses to amuse you, they would come best at the end of my Journey-Book; and if you will send it, perhaps I may add a leaf or two. — 18th December, 1815.
RESIDENCE IN ITALY.
(A separate and detached manuscript.)
Before we began our journey, my good husband bespoke a magnificent carriage, capable of containing every possible accommodation, and begged me to take tea enough and books enough ; but when looking over the last article he saw " Diodati's Italian Bible, with Notes” (this was in 1784, I remember). “Ah ciel ! ” he exclaimed, “ this will bring us into trouble. Be content, my dear creature, with an English Bible, and reflect that you are not travelling as you ought to be, like a Protestant lady of quality, but as the wife of a native, an acknowledged Papist, and one determined to remain so." I replied, from my heart, that I desired to appear in his country in no other character than that of his wife; that I would preserve my religious opinions inviolate at Milan, as he did his at London ; and that all would go on, to use his own phrase, all ottima perfezzione. Observing an undertoned expression, however, saying, “They shall tease quesť anima bella as little as I can help,” my heart felt (though I changed the conversation) that my mind must prepare itself for controversy. The account of temptations he told me I should undergo of another kind I drove from me with unaffected laughter, but perceived that he was best pleased when I replied to them with equally unaffected but more serious protestations of exclusive and unalterable love.
He was right all the while. When we arrived at Milan, our abiding-place, I perceived the men of quality and bon ton considered me as fair game to shoot their senseless attentions at ; and my sometimes cold, sometimes indignant, reception of their odd complimentary addresses was received at first with most unmerited displeasure, and in a short time with admiration no less undeserved. Conjugal fidelity being a thing they had no conception of, and each concluding I kept my favors for some one else, nothing undeceived them but my strictly-adhered-to resolution of never suffering a tête-à-tête with any man whatever except my husband, and laughing with them in company, saying we inhabited a Casa Fidele, and should do honor to the residence.
The truth is, old Comte Fidele, a widower of seventy years old, said his house was too big for him (an invalid), and gave us up the winter side of his palace for a year, paying only £ 80. My bedchamber, twenty-seven feet long and eighteen feet high, was lighted by one immense window at the end, and looked over the naviglio to the beautiful mountains of Brianza. Out of this went a handsome square room, where I received my company in common. Out of that we walked into a large dinner apartment, next to which was the servants' hall (as we should call it, but known in Italy by name of anticamera), where and from whence the servants answered the bell. Through this opened the best drawing-room, with two fireplaces, two large glass lustres, four enormous windows with yellow damask curtains I am ashamed to say how long, but my maid always said they were eight yards from top to bottom. Her apartment opened through this; for all were passage-rooms, and a small pair of stairs led to a lovely cold bath. I have not done yet. Behind my magnificent bed of white-watered tabby, and very clean, a door opened into a large light closet where I kept my books; and through that a commodious staircase led to Mr. Piozzi's bedchamber, and a beautiful dressing-room or study, where he was supposed to receive company, people on business, &c. All this very well furnished indeed for fourscore pounds a year!! A. D. 1784.
The showy valet was a Frenchman hired at Paris, the gaudy butler out of livery resembling nothing but a gold fish, had eighteen pence a day, and the man cook no less. One woman, besides my own English Abigail, formed our household; a word I should not have used, for they all walked home in the evening, after the wives and children, &c., had been brought into the kitchen almost literally to lick the plates. It seemed very odd, but I believe Mr. Piozzi paid everybody every night of his life. I remember his asking me one day what I thought our dinner came to; we were eight at table, the dishes seven and nine. When I had made some ridiculous conjectures, he showed me that the whole expense, wine included, was thirteen shillings of our money, no more, and I expected to hear him say how happy he was. Not a bit; he was happy only in my attachment and society; his countrymen were his scourge. They told him, as I was a Protestant I was of course an infidel, and should be a favorite at the German court which the Emperor kept at Milan. So I was ; but one day when some of our Italian ecclesiastics dined with us and met the Austrian Count Kinigh, the Viennese librarian, &c., who endeavored to play upon the natives, ridiculing their superstitions, &c., I could bear no more of what they called philosophy, the less, perhaps, because they hoped I should be pleased with such discourse, and much amazed our Milanese friends by saying, when applied to, that I really thought the thorns of ancient philosophy were now only fit to burn in the fire, unless we could make a hedge of them to fence in the possession of Christian truth.
This speech won all the old abates' hearts at once, and was echoed about with ten times the praise it deserved. I was now assailed on every side to become a Romanist, for Catholics I never would submit to call them who excluded from salvation every sect of our religion but their own. Dear Piozzi grew more and more weary of this controversial chat ; but it was comical to see with how much pleasure he witnessed my gaining even a momentary triumph over these men, skilled in disputation and masters of their own language. “Are you a Calvinist, Madam?” said one of the Monsignori. “ Certainly not,” was the reply. “Do you kneel to receive the Sacrament?” “ I do.”
And are not those fellows damned who do receive it standing or sitting ?” “I believe not,” said I. “Our blessed Lord did not himself eat the passover according to the strict rules of the Mosaical law, which insists on its being eaten standing; whereas we know that Jesus Christ reclined on a triclinium, as was the usage of Rome and of the times. Nay, perhaps he was pleased to do so, that such disputes should not arise; or, if arising, that his example might be appealed to.” “What proof have you of our Saviour's reclining on a triclinium ?” “ St. John's leaning on his breast at supper,” said I. “O, that was at common meals ; not at the passover.” “Excuse me, my lord, it was at
the last solemn supper, which we all commemorate with our best intentions, some one way, some another. Their method is not yours, neither is it mine ; let us beware of judging, lest we ourselves be judged.” “ Fetch me a Bible, Sir,” said Monsignore. “I will bring mine," said I. " Excuse me now, Madam,” replied my antagonist; “ we cannot abide but by the Vulgate.” Canonico Palazzi offered to go; I begged of him to buy me one at the next bookseller's, three doors off. My victory was complete, and I have the Bible still which won it for me.
All this, however delightful, grew very wearisome and a little dangerous; and we were glad when springtime came, that we might set out upon our travels.
Every new comer from that country (England) told us how all ill-reports had subsided, how the Cardinal Prince d'Orini's civilities had been related up and down, and in short that we had but to return, secure of every comfort Great Britain could afford. Mr. Piozzi said, the moment every debt should be discharged, that he would turn his horses' heads towards the island he had always preferred to every other place; and, so saying, we travelled on, as happy in leaving Milan as in arriving there. Au reste, as the French say, few things befell us worth recording, except Count Manucci's visit. He had been intimate with Mr. Thrale in England, as Johnson's letters abundantly testify, and had taken a fancy to Mr. Piozzi at Paris, when he was there with Sacchini. Hearing, therefore, of this marriage, he came one morning, but never had a notion that it was with me he had connected himself. • Ah, Madame!' exclaimed the Count, quel coûp de Théâtre !'. when the door opened, and showed him an old acquaintance with a new name. This was the nobleman who, I told you, lamented so tenderly that his sister's children were counterfeited.
We return to the Biographical Anecdotes.
The letters from our daughters had been cold and unfrequent during the whole absence; a little more so as we approached nearer home. The newspapers had told of our exploits at Brussels, and public good-humor seemed disposed to wait and even to meet our return. Fector, the government officer at Dover, would not even look into our portmanteaus, trunks, &c.; and I saw in