Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

[ocr errors]

In the museum, adjoining to the library, are a considerable number of pictures, and many natural curiosities Among these they show a human skeleton. This does not excite a great deal of attention, till you are informed that it consists of the bones of a Milanese lady, of distinguished beauty, who, by her last will

, ordained that her body should be dissected, and the skeleton placed in this museum, for the contemplation of posterity. If this lady only meant to give a proof of the transient nature of external charms, and that a beautiful woman is not more desirable after death than a homely one, she might have allowed her body to be consigned to dust in the usual way. In spite of all the cosmetics, and other auxiliaries which vanity employs to varnish and support decaying beauty and flaccid charms, the world have been long satisfied that death is not necessary to put the fair and the homely on a level; a very few years, even during life, do the business.

There is no place in Italy, perhaps I might have said in Europe, where strangers are received in such an easy, hospitable manner, as at Milan. Formerly the Milanese nobility displayed a degree of splendour and magnificence, not only in their entertainments, but in their usual style of living, unknown in any other country in Europe. They are under a necessity. at present of living at less expense, but they still shew the same obliging and hospitable disposition. This country having, not very long since, been possessed by the French, from whom it devolved to the Spaniards, and from them to the Germans, the troops of those nations have, at different periods, had their residence here, and, in the course of these vicissitudes, produced a style of manners, and stamped a character on the inhabitants of this duchy, different from what prevails in any other part of Italy; and nice observers imagine they perceive in Milanese manners the politeness, formality, and honesty imputed to those three nations, blended with the ingenuity natural to Italians. Whatever uneasiness the inhabitants of Milan may feel, from the idea of their being

under German government, they seem universally pleased with the personal character of Count Fermian, who has resided here many years as minister from Vienna, equally, to the satisfaction of the empress queen, the inhabitants of Milan, and the strangers who occasionally travel this way.

The great theatre having been burnt to the ground last year, there are no dramatic entertainments, except at a small temporary playhouse, which is little frequented ; but the company assemble every evening in their carriages on the ramparts, and drive about, in the same manner as at Naples, till it is pretty late. In Italy, the ladies have no notion of quitting their carriages at the public walks, and using their own legs, as in England and France. On seeing the number of servants, and the splendour of the equipages which appear every evening at the Corso on the ramparts, one would not suspect that degree of depopulation, and diminution of wealth, which we are assured has taken place within these few years all over the Milanese ; and which, according to my information, proceeds from the burdensome nature of some late taxes, and the insolent and oppressive manner in which they are gathered.

The natural productions of this fertile country must occasion a considerable commerce, by the exportation of grain, particularly rice; cattle, cheese, and by the various manufactures of silken and velvet stuffs, stockings, handkerchiefs, ribands, gold and silver laces and embroideries, woollen and linen cloths, as well as by some large manufactures of glass, and earthen ware in imitation of china, which are established here. But I am told monopolies are too much protected here, and that prejudices against the profession of a merchant still exist in the minds of the only people who have money. These cannot fail to check in. dustry, and depress the soul of commerce; and perhaps there is little probability that the inhabitants of Milan will overcome this unfortunate turn of mind while they remain under German dominion, and adopt German ideas. The peasants, though more at their ease than in many other

places, yet are not so much so as might be expected in so very fertile a country. Why are the inhabitants of the rich plains of Lombardy, where nature pours forth her gifts in such profusion, less opulent than those of the mountains of Switzerland ? Because freedom, whose influence is more benign than sunshine and zephyrs, who covers the rugged rock with soil, drains the sickly swamp, and clothes the brown heath in verdure; who dresses the labourer's face with smiles, and makes him behold his increasing family with delight and exultation ; freedom has abandoned the fertile fields of Lombardy, and dwells among the mountains of Switzerland.

LETTER LXXX.

Chamberry. We made so short a stay at Turin that I did not think of writing from thence. I shall now give you a sketch of our progress since

my

last. We left Milan at midnight, and arrived the next evening at Turin before the shutting of the gates. All the approaches to that city are magnificent. It is situated at the bottom of the Alps, in a fine plain watered by the Po. Most of the streets are well built, uniform, clean, straight, and terminating on some agreeable object. The Strada di Po, leading to the palace, the finest and largest in the city, is adorned with porticoes equally beautiful and convenient. The four gates are also highly ornamental. There can be no more agreeable walk than that around the ramparts. The fortifications are regular and in good repair, and the citadel is reckoned one of the strongest in Europe. The royal palace and the gardens are admired by some. The apartments display neatness, rather than magnificence. The rooms are small, but numerous. The furniture is rich and elegant; even the floors attract attention, and must peculiarly strike strangers who come from Rome and Bologna ; they are curiously inlaid with various kinds of wood, and kept always in a state of shin

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ing brightness. The pictures, statues, and antiquities in the palace are of great value ; of the former there are some by the greatest masters, but those of the Flemish school predominate.

No royal family in Europe are more rigid observers of the laws of etiquette, than that of Sardinia ; all their movements are uniform and invariable. The hour of rising, of going to mass, of taking the air ; every thing is regulated like clock-work. Those illustrious persons must have a vast fund of natural good-humour, to enable them to persevere in such a wearisome routine, and support their spirits under such a continued weight of oppressive formality.

We had the satisfaction of seeing them all at mass; but as the duke of Hamilton grows more impatient to get to England the nearer we approach it, he declined being presented at court, and we left Turin two days after our arrival.

We stopped a few hours, during the heat of the day, at a small village, called. St. Ambrose, two or three posts from Turin. I never experienced more intense heat than during this day, while we were tantalized with a view of the snow on the top of the Alps, which seem to overhang this place, though, in reality, they are some leagues distant. While we remained at. St. Ambrose there was a grand procession. All the men, women, and children, who were able to crawl, attended ; several old women carried crucifixes, others pictures of the saint, or flags fixed to the ends of long poles ; they seemed to have some difficulty in wielding them, yet the good old women tottered along as happy as so many young ensigns the first time they bend under the regimental colours. Four men, carrying a box upon their shoulders, walked before the rest. I asked what the box contained, and was informed by a sagacious looking old man, that it contained the bones of St. John. I inquired if all the saint's bones were there ; he assured me, that not even a joint of his little finger was wanting : Because,' continued I, I have seen a considerable num

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ber of bones in different parts of Italy, which are said to be the bones of St. John.' He smiled at my simplicity, and said the world was full of imposition; but nothing could be more certain, than that those in the box were the true bones of the saint; he had remembered them ever since he was a child--and his father, when on his deathbed, had told him, on the word of a dying man, that they belonged to St. John and no other body.

At Novalezza, a village at the bottom of Mount Cenis, our carriages were taken to pieces, and delivered to muleteers to be carried to Lanebourg. I had bargained with the vitturino, before we left Turin, for our passage over the mountain in the chairs commonly used on such occasions. The fellow had informed us there was no possibility of going in any other manner ; but when we came to this place, I saw no difficulty in being carried up by mules, which we all preferred, to the great satisfaction of our knavish conductor, who thereby saved the expense of one half the chairmen, for whose labour he was already paid.

Wė rode up this mountain, which has been described in such formidable terms, with great ease. there is a fine verdant plain of five or six miles in length; we halted at an inn, called Santa Croce, where Piedmont ends and Savoy begins. Here we were regaled with fried trout, catched in a large lake within sight, from which the river Doria arises, which runs to Turin in conjunction with the Po. Though we ascend no higher than this plain, which is the summit of Mount Cenis, the mountains around are much higher; in passing the plain we felt the air so keen, that we were glad to have recourse to our great-coats; which, at the bottom of the hill, we had considered as a very superfluous part of our baggage. I had a great deal of conversation in passing the mountain with a poor boy, who accompanied us from Novalezza to take back the mules; he told me he could neither read nor write, and had never been farther than Suza on one side of the mountain, and Laneburg on the other. He spoke four languages, Piedmontese, which is his native lan

At the top

a

« PreviousContinue »