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Naples. As the court are not at present at Casserta, we have not seen that place in all its splendour; we passed, however, one very agreeable day there, with Lady Hamilton and Sir Harry Featherston.
The palace at Casserta was begun in the year 1750, af. ter a plan of Vanvitelli; the work is now carried on un. der the direction of his son. While the present king of Spain remained at Naples, there were generally about two thousand workmen employed ; at present there are about five hundred. It will be finished in a few years, and will then, unquestionably, be one of the most spacious and magnificent palaces in Europe. It has been said, that London is too large a capital for the island of Great Bri. tain ; and it has been compared to a turgid head placed on an emaciated body. The palace of Casserta also seems out of proportion with the revenues of this kingdom. It is not, properly speaking, a head too large for the body; but rather an ornament, by much too expensive and bulky for either head or body. This palace is situated about sixteen miles north from Naples, on the plain where ancient Capua stood. It was thought prudent to found a building, on which such sums of money were to be lavished, at a considerable distance from Mount Vesuvius. It were to be wished, that the contents of the cabinet at Por. tici were removed from the same dangerous neighbourhood. That he might not be limited in ground for the gardens, may have been his Spanish majesty's motive for choosing that his palace should be at a distance from Naples; and that it might not be exposed to insult from an enemy's fleet was probably the reason that determined him to place it at a distance from the sea.
This immense building is of a rectangular form, seven hundred and fifty feet English, by five hundred and eighty; about one hundred and twelve feet high, com, prehending five habitable storeys, which contain such a number of apartments as will accommodate the most numerous court, without any accessary buildings.
The rectangle is divided into four courts, each of about two hundred and fifty-two feet by one hundred and seventy. In each of the two principal fronts, are three corresponding gates, forming three openings, which pierce the whole building. The middle gate forms the entry to a magnificent portico, through which the coaches drive. In the middle of this, and in the centre of the edifice, there is a vestibule of an octagonal form, which opens into the four grand courts at four sides of the octagon ; two other sides open into the portico, one to the staircase ; and, at the eighth side, there is a statue of Hercules, crowned by victory, with this inscription,
VIRTUS POST FORTIA FACTA CORONAT.* The grand staircase is adorned with the richest marble ; the upper vestibule, to which you ascend by this noble stair, is an octagon also, and surrounded by twenty-four pillars of yellow marble, each of which is of one piece of eighteen feet high, without including the pedestal or capital. From this upper vestibule there are entries into
But I have a notion you are tired of this description, which I assure you is likewise my case. I beg, therefore, you may take it for granted, that the apartments within, particularly their majesties, and that destined for balls and theatrical entertainments, correspond with the magnificence of the external appearance.
Among the workmen employed in finishing this palace and the gardens, there are one hundred and fifty Africans; for as the king of Naples is constantly at war with the Barbary States, he always has a number of their sailors prisoners, all of whom are immediately employed as slaves in the galleys, or at some public work. There are at present at Casserta about the same number of Christian slaves; all of these have been condemned to this servitude for some crime, some of them for the greatest of all crimes ; they are, however, better clothed and fed than
• Virtue crowns him after many great achievements.
the Africans. This is done, no doubt, in honour of the Christian religion, and to demonstrate that Christians, even after they have been found guilty of the blackest crimes, are worthier men, and more deserving of lenity, than Mahometan prisoners, however innocent they may be in all other respects.
The gardens belonging to this palace are equally extensive and magnificent. A great number of fine statues, most of them copies of the best antique, are kept in a storehouse till the gardens are finished, when they will be placed in them. The largest and finest elephant I ever saw is here at present; he is kept by African slaves : they seem to know how to manage him perfectly; he is well thriven, and goes through a number of tricks and evolutions with much docility and judgment.
In the garden, there is an artificial water and island. This, if one may venture to say so, seems a little injudicious; it brings to our memory the bay of Naples, with its islands, a recollection by no means favourable to this royal contrivance. In this island there is a kind of a castle, regularly fortified, with a ditch around it, and ramparts, bastions, sally-ports, &c. &c. and a numerous train of artillery, some of them nine or ten ouncers. I no sooner entered this fort, than I wished that Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim had been of our party ; it would have charmed the soul of the worthy veteran and his faithful servant.
I asked the man who attended us, what he imagined this fortification was intended for ?--Sir Harry Featherston said,—- The cannon were certainly designed against the frogs, who were continually attempting to scale the ramparts from the ditch.— I asked again, what was the real design of erecting this fort? The man answered, stretching out his arms, and making as wide a circle with them as he could,- Tutto, tutto per il sollazo del re.' * • Yes,' said, I, “it is surely in the highest degree reasonable, that not only this fort, but the whole kingdom, should be appropriated to the amusement of his majesty.' • Certo,'* replied the man. I wished to see how far the fellow's liberality would go Not only this kingdom,' continued I, but all Europe would be highly honoured in contributing to the amusement of his majesty.' Cettó, certo,'t said the man.
* All, all for the king's amusement,
He king and queen lately paid a visit to four of the principal nunneries in this town. Their motive was, to gratify the curiosity of the archduchess, and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxony. I ought to have informed you, that this illustrious couple left Vienna some months after us, with an intention to make the tour of Italy. We had the honour of seeing them frequently while at Rome, where they conciliated the affections of the Italian nobles by their obliging manners, as much as they commanded respect by their high rank. The archduchess is a very beautiful woman, and more distinguished by the proprietý of her conduct, than by either birth or beauty. As white, by the link of contrast, is connected with the idea of black; so this amiable duchess sometimes recals those to people's memories, whose ideas of dignity are strongly contrasted with hers. Conscious, from her infancy, of the highest rank, and accustomed to honours, it never enters into her thoughts that any person will fail in paying her a due respect; while they, eternally jealous that enough of respect is not paid them, give themselves airs which would be intolerable in an empress. A smile of benignity puts all who approach this princess perfectly at their ease, and dignity sits as smoothly on her as a wellmade garment; while, on them, it bristles out like the quills of a porcupine, or the feathers of an enraged turkeycock. A's nobody is permitted to enter those convents, except Surely,
† Surely, surely.
on such extraordinary occasions as this, when they are visited by the sovereigns, the British minister seized this opportunity of procuring an order for admitting the duke of Hamilton and me. We accordingly accompanied him, and a few others, who were in the king's suite. I have seen various nunneries in different parts of Europe, but none that could be compared even with the meanest of those four in this city, for neatness and conveniency. Each of them is provided with a beautiful garden ; and the situation of one is the happiest that can be imagined, commanding a prospect nearly as extensive as that from the Carthusian convent near the castle of St. Elmo. Those four nunneries are for the reception of young ladies of good families; and, into one in particular, none but such as are of very high rank can be admitted, either as pensioners, or to take the veil. Each of the young ladies in this splendid convent have both a summer and a winter apartment, and many other accommodations unknown in other retreats of this nature. The royal visitors were received in all of them by the lady abbess, at the head of the oldest of the sisterhood ; they were af terwards presented with nosegays, and served with fruit, sweetmeats, and a variety of cooling drinks, by the young
and her amiable sister received all very graciously; conversing familiarly with the lady abbesses, and asking a few obliging questions of each.
In one convent the company were surprised, on being led into a large parlour, to find à table covered, and every appearance of a most plentiful cold repast, consisting of several joints of meat, hams, fowl, fish, and various other dishes. It seemed rather ill-judged to have prepared a feast of such a solid nature immediately after dinner; for those royal visits were made in the afternoon, The lady abbess, however, earnestly pressed their majesties to sit down, with which they complied, and their example was followed by the archduchess and some of the ladies; the nuns stood behind, to serve their royal guests, The queen chose a slice of cold turkey, which, on being