Page images
PDF
EPUB

dour and show. This appears in the brilliancy of their equipages, the number of their attendants, the richness of their dress, and the grandeur of their titles,

I am assured, that the king of Naples counts a hun, dred persons with the title of prince, and still a greater number with that of duke, among his subjects. Six or seven of these have estates, which produce from ten to twelve or thirteen thousand pounds a-year; a considerable number have fortunes of about half that value; and the annual revenue of

many

is not above one or two thousand pounds. With respect to the inferior orders of nobility, they are much poprer; many counts and marquisses have not above three or four hundred pounds a-year of pater. nal estate, many still less, and not a few enjoy the title without any estate whatever.

When we consider the magnificence of their entertain. ments, the splendour of their equipages, and the number of their servants, we are surprised that the richest of them can support such expensive establishments. I dined, soon after our arrival, at the prince of Franca Villa's; there were about forty people at table ; it was meagre day; the dinner consisted entirely of fish and vegetables, and was the most magnificent entertainment I ever saw, comprehending an infinite variety of dishes, a vast profusion of fruit, and the wines of every country in Europe, I dined since at the Prince Iacci's. I shall mention two circumstances, from which you may form an idea of the grandeur of an Italian palace, and the number of domestics which some of the nobility retain. We passed through twelve or thirteen large rooms before we arrived at the dining room ; there were thirty-six persons at table; none served but the prince's domestics, and each guest had a footman behind his chair; other domestics belonging to the prince remained in the adjacent rooms, and in the hall. We afterwards passed through a considerable number of other rooms in our way to one from which there is a very commanding view.

No estate in England could support such a number of servants, paid and fed as English servants are; but here the wages are very moderate indeed, and the greater number of men-servants belonging to the first families, give their attendance through the day only, and find beds and provisions for themselves. It must be remembered, also, that few of the nobles give entertainments, and those who do not, are said to live very sparingly; so that the whole of their revenue, whatever that may be, is exhausted on articles of show.

As there is no opera at present, the people of fashion generally pass part of the evening at the Corso, on the sea-shore. This is the great scene of Neapolitan splendour and parade; and, on grand occasions, the magnifi. cence displayed here will strike a stranger very much, The finest carriages are painted, gilt, varnished, and lined, in a richer and more beautiful manner, than has yet become fashionable either in England or France; they are often drawn by six, and sometimes by eight horses. As the last is the number allotted to his Britannic majesty when he goes to parliament, some of our countrymen are offended that any individuals whatsoever should presume to drive with the same number.

It is the mode here, to have two running footmen, very gaily dressed, before the carriage, and three or four servants in rich liveries behind; these attendants are generally the handsomest young men that can be procured. The Jadies or gentlemen within the coaches, glitter in all the brilliancy of lace, embroidery, and jewels. The Neapolitan carriages, for gala days, are made on purpose, with very large windows, that the spectators may enjoy a full view of the parties within. Nothing can be more showy than the harness of the horses; their heads and manes are ornamented with the rarest plumage, and their tales set off with riband and artificial flowers, in such a graceful manner that you are apt to think they have been adorned by the same hands that dressed the heads of the ladies, and not by common grooms.

After all, you will perhaps imagine the amusement can. not be very great. The carriages follow each other in two lines, moving in opposite directions. The company within smile, and bow, and wave the hand, as they pass and repass their acquaintance; and doubtless imagine, that they are the most important figures in the procession. The horses, however, seem to be quite of a different way of thinking, and to consider themselves as the chief objects of admiration, looking on the livery servants, the volantis, the lords, and the ladies, as their natural suit on all such solemn occasions.

LETTER LVII.

Naples The greatest part of kings, whatever may be thought of them after their death, have the good fortune to be represented, at some period of their lives, generally at the be. ginning of their reigns, as the greatest and most virtuous of mankind. They are never compared to characters of less dignity than Solomon, Alexander, Cæsar, or Titus; and the comparison usually concludes to the advantage of the living monarch. They differ in this, as in many other particulars, from those of the most distinguished genius and exalted merit among their subjects, That the fame of the latter, if any awaits them, seldom arrives at its meridian till many years after their death ; whereas the glory of the former is at its fullest splendour during their lives; and most of them have the satisfaction of hearing all their praises with their own ears. Each particular monarch, taken separately, is, or has been, considered as a star of great lustre ; yet any number of them, taken without selection, and placed in the historical galaxy, add little to its brightness, and are often contemplated with disgust. When we have occasion to mention kings in general, the expression certainly does not awaken a recollection of the most amiable or most deserving part of the human species; and tyranny in no country is pushed so far, as to constrain men to speak of them, when we speak in general

[merged small][ocr errors]

terms, as if they were. It would revolt the feelings, and rouse the indignation, even of slaves. Full freedom is allowed therefore on this topic; and, under the most arbitrary government, if you choose to declaim on the imbecility, profligacy, or corruption of human nature, you may draw your illustrations from the kings of any country, provided you take them in groupes, and hint nothing to the detriment of the reigning monarch. But, when we talk of any one living sovereign, we should never allow it to escape from our memory, that he is wise, valiant, ge. nerous, and good; and we ought always to have Solomon, Alexander, Cæsar, and Titus, at our elbow, to introduce them apropos when occasion offers. We may have what opinion we please of the whole race of Bourbon ; but it would be highly indecent to deny, that the reigning kings of Spain and Naples are very great princes. As I never had the happiness of seeing the father, I can only speak of the son.

His Neapolitan majesty seems to be about the age of six or seven and twenty. He is a prince of great activity of body, and a good constitution; he indulges in frequent relaxations from the cares of government and the fatigue of thinking, by hunting and other exercises ; and (which ought to give a high idea of his natural talents) he never fails to acquire a very considerable degree of perfec. tion in those things to which he applies. He is very fond, like the king of Prussia, of reviewing his troops, and is perfectly master of the whole mystery of the manual exercise. I have had the honour, oftener than once, of seeing him exercise the different regiments which form the garrison here: he always gave the word of command with his own royal mouth, and with a precision which seemed to astonish the whole court. This monarch is also a very excellent shot ; his uncommon success at this diversion is thought to have roused the jealousy of his most Catholic majesty, who also values himself on his skill as a marks. man. The correspondence between those two great personages

often relates to their favourite amusement.--Ą gentleman, who came lately from Madrid, told me, that

.

the king, on some occasion, had read a letter which he had just received from his son at Naples, wherein he complained of his bad success on a shooting party, having killed no more than eighty birds in a day : and the Spanish monarch, turning to his courtiers, said, in a plaintive tone of voice, - Mio filio piange di non aver' fatto piu di ottante beccacie in uno giorno, quando mi crederei l'uomo il piu felice del mondo se potesse fare quaranta.'* All who take a becoming share in the afflictions of a royal bosom, will no doubt join with me, in wishing better success to this good monarch, for the future. Fortunate would it be for mankind, if the happiness of their princes could be purchased at so easy a rate! and thrice fortunate for the generous people of Spain, if the family connexions of their monarch, often at variance with the real interest of that country, should never seduce him into a more ruinous war, than that which he now wages against the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. His Neapolitan majes, ty, as I am informed, possesses many other accomplishments; I particularize those only to which I have myself been a witness. No king in Europe is supposed to under, stand the game of billiards better. I had the pleasure of seeing him strike the most brilliant stroke that perhaps ever was struck by a crowned head. The ball of his an. tagonist was near one of the middle pockets, and his own in such a situation, that it was absolụtely necessary to make it rebound from two different parts of the cushion, before it could pocket the other. A person of less enterprise would have been contented with placing himself in a safe situation, at a small loss, and never have risked any offensive attempt against the enemy; but the difficulty and danger, instead of intimidating, seemed rather to animate the ambition of this prince. He summoned all his address; he estimated, with a mathematical eye, the angles at which the ball must fly off ; and he struck it

My son laments, that he has not killed more than eighty birds in one day, whereas I should think myself the happiest man in the world, if I could kill forty.

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »