« PreviousContinue »
this country have long been sufficiently civilized, these qualities may in them be supposed to have given place to the arts which embellish a polished age; to gaming, gallantry, music, the parade of equipage, the refinements of dress, and other nameless refinements.
Naples. He citizens of Naples form a society of their own, per. fectly distinct from the nobility; and although they are not the most industrious people in the world, yet, having some degree of occupation, and their time being divided between business and pleasure, they probably have more enjoyment than those, who, without internal resources, or opportunities of active exertion, pass their lives in sensual gratifications, and in waiting the returns of appetite around a gaming table. In the most respectable class of citizens, are comprehended the lawyers, of whom there are an incredible number in this town. The most eminent of this profession hold, indeed, a kind of intermediate rank between the nobility and citizens; the rest are on a level with the physicians, the principal merchants, and the artists; none of whom can inake great fortunes, however in. dustrious they may be ; but a moderate income enables them to support their rank in society, and to enjoy all the conveniences, and many of the luxuries, of life.
Englandis perhaps the only nation in Europe where some individuals, of every profession, even of the lowest, find it possible to accumulate great fortunes; the effect of this very frequently is, that the son despises the profession of the father, commences gentleman, and dissipates, in a few years, what cost a life to gather. In the principal cities of Germany and Italy, we find, that the ancestors of many of those citizens who are the most eminent in their particular businesses, have transmitted the art to them through several generations. It is natural to imagine, that this will tend to the improvement of the art, or science, or pro
fession, as well as the family fortune ; and that the third generation will acquire knowledge from the experience, as well as wealth from the industry, of the former two; whereas, in the cases alluded to above, the wheel of fortune moves differently. A man, by assiduity in a particular business, and by genius, acquires a great fortune and a high reputation; the son throws away the fortune and ruins his own character by extravagance; and the grandson is obliged to recommence the business, unaided by the wealth or experience of his ancestors. This, however, is pointing out an evil which I should be sorry to see remedied ; because it certainly originates in the riches and prosperity of the country in which it exists.
The number of priests, monks, and ecclesiastics of all the various orders that swarm in this city, is prodigious; and the provision appropriated for their use, is as ample. I am assured, that the clergy are in possession of considerably above one-third of the revenue of the whole kingdom, over and above what some particular orders among them acquire by begging for the use of their convents, and what is gotten in legacies by the address and assiduity of the whole. The unproductive wealth, which is lodged in the churches and convents of this city, amounts also to an amazing value. Not to be compared in point of architecture to the churches and convents of Rome, those of Naples surpass them in riches, in the value of their jewels, and in the quantity of silver and golden crucifixes, vessels, and implements of various kinds. I have often heard these estimated at a sum so enormous as to surpass all credibility; and which, as I have no opportunity of ascertaining with any degree of precision, I shall not menlion. This wealth, whatever it amounts to, is of as little use to the kingdom, as if it still remained in the mines of Perù ; and the greater part of it, surely, affords as little comfort to the clergy and monks as to any other part of the community; for though it belongs to their church, or their convent, yet it can no more be converted to the use of the priests and monks of such churches and con
vents, than to the tradesmen who inhabit the adjacent streets. For this reason I am a good deal surprised, that no pretext, or subterfuge, has been found, no expedient fallen on, no treaty or convention made, for appropriating part of this at least, to the use of some set of people or other. If the clergy were to lay their hands on it, this might be found fault with by the king; if his majesty dreamt of taking any part of it for the exigencies of the state, the clergy would undoubtedly raise a clamour; and if both united, the pope would think he had a right to pronounce his vote : but if all these three powers could come to an understanding, and settle their proportions, I am apt to think a partition might be made as quietly as that of Poland.
Whatever scruples the Neapolitan clergy may have to such a project, they certainly have none to the full enjoyment of their revenues. No class of men can be less disposed to offend providence by a peevish neglect of the good things which the bounty of heaven has bestowed. Selfdenial is a virtue, which I will not say they possess in & smaller degree, but which, I am sure, they affect less than any other ecclesiastics I know; they live very much in society, both with the nobles and citizens. All of them, the monks not excepted, attend the theatre, and seem to join most cordially in other diversions and amusements; the common people are no ways offended at this, or ima. gine that they ought to live in a more 'recluse manner. Some of the orders have had the address to make a concern for their temporal interest, and a desire of seeing them live full, and in something of a jolly manner, be regarded by the common people as a proof of zeal for religion. I am informed, that a very considerable diminution in the number of monks has taken place in the kingdom of Naples since the suppression of the Jesuits, and since a liberty of quitting the cowl was granted by the late pope ; but still there is no reason to complain of a deficiency in this order of men. The richest and most com. modious convents in Europe, both for male and female
Notaries, are in this city; the most fertile and beautiful hills of the environs are covered with them; a small part of their revenue is spent in feeding the poor, the monks distributing bread and soup to a certain number every day before the doors of the convents. Some of the friars study physic and surgery, and practise these arts with great applause. Each convent has an apothecary's shop belonging to it, where medicines are delivered gratis to the poor, and sold to those who can afford to pay. On all these accounts the monks in general are greater favourites with the common people than even the secular clergy; all the charity of the friars, however, would not be able to cover their sins, if the stories circulated by their enemies were true-by which they are represented as the greatest profligates and debauchees in the world. Without giving credit to all that is reported on this subject, as the Neapolitan monks are very well fed, as this climate is not the most favourable to continency (a virtue which in this place is by no means estimated in proportion to its rarity), it is most likely that the inhabitants of the convents, like the inhabitants in general, indulge in certain pleasures with less scruple or restraint than is usual in some other places. Be that as it may, it is certain that they are the most superstitious of mankind; a turn of mind which they communicate with equal zeal and success to a people remarkably ignorant, and remarkably amorous. The seeds of superstition thus zealously sown on such a warm and fertile, though uncultivated, soil, sometimes produce the most extraordinary crops of sensuality and devotion that ever were seen in any country:
The lazzaroni, or black-guards, as has been already observed, form a considerable part of the inhabitants of Naples; and have, on some well-known occasions, had the government for a short time in their own hands. They are computed at above thirty thousand; the greater part of them have no dwelling-houses, but sleep every night under porticos, piazzas, or any kind of shelter they can find. Those of them who have wives and children, live in the
suburbs of Naples near Pausilippo, in huts, or in caverns or chambers dug out of that mountain. Some gain a livelihood by fishing, others by carrying burdens to and from the shipping; many walk about the streets ready to run on errands, or to perform any labour in their power for a very small recompense. As they do not meet with con : stant employment, their wages are not sufficient for their maintenance; the soup and bread distributed at the doors of the convents supply the deficiency. The lazzaroni are generally represented as a lazy, licentious, and turbulent set of people ; what I have observed gives me a very different idea of their character. Their idleness is evidently the effect of necessity, not of choice; they are always ready to perform any work, however laborious, for a very reasonable gratification. It must proceed from the fault of government, when such a number of stout active citizens remain unemployed ; and so far are they from being licentious and turbulent, that I cannot help thinking they are by much too tame and submissive. Though the inhabitants of the Italian cities were the first who shook off the feudal yoke, and though in Naples they have long enjoyed the privilege of municipal jurisdiction, yet the external splendour of the nobles, and the authority they still exercise over the peasants, impose upon the minds of the lazzaroni; and however bold and resentful they may be of in. juries offered by others, they bear the insolence of the no. bility as passively as peasants fixed to the soil. A coxcomb of a volanti tricked out in his fantastical dress, or any
of the liveried slaves of the great, make no ceremony of treating these poor fellows with all the insolence and insensibility natural to their masters; and for no visible reason, but because he is dressed in lace and the others in rags. Instead of calling to them to make way, when the noise in the streets prevents the common people from hearing the approach of the carriage, a stroke across the shoulders with the cane of the running footman, is the usual warning they receive. Nothing animates this people to insurrection, but some very pressing and very universal