« PreviousContinue »
and danger. But in Germany, where the passions are annihilated, and a man is modelled into a machine before he is thought a good soldier, where his blood is sold by the prince to the highest bidder, where he has no quarrel with the enemy he murders, and no allegiance to the monarch for whom he fights, the being liable to be forced into such a service, is one of the most dreadful of all calamities. Yet a regiment of such compelled soldiers, dressed in gaudy uniform, and powdered for a review, with music sounding and colours flying, makes a far more brilliant appearance than a cluster of peasants with their wives and children upon a holiday. But if we could examine the breasts of the individuals, we should find in those of the former no. thing but the terror of punishment, hatred of their officers, distrust of each other, and life itself supported only by the hope of desertion ; while the bosoms of the latter are filled with all the affections of humanity, undisturbed by fear or
Society seems to be on an easy and agreeable footing in this city. Desides the conversazionis which they have here, as in other towns of Italy, a number of the nobility meet every day at a house called the Casino. This society is pretty much on the same footing with the clubs in London. The members are elected by ballot. They meet at no particular hour, but go at any time that is con
‘ venient. They play at billiards, cards, and other games, or continue 'conversing the whole evening, as they think proper. They are served with tea, coffee, lemonade, ices, or what other refreshments they choose ; and each person pays for what he calls for. There is one material differ
. ence between this and the English clubs, that women as well as men are members. The company
of both sexes behave with more frankness and familiarity to strangers, as well as to each other,
than is customary in public assemblies in other parts of Italy.
The opera at Florence is a place where the people of quality pay and receive visits, and converse as freely as at the Casino above mentioned. This occasions a continual passing and repassing to and from the boxes, except in those where there is a party of cards formed; it is then looked on as a piece of ill manners to disturb the players. I never was more surprised, than when it was proposed to me to make one of a whist party, in a box which seemed to have been made for the purpose, with a little table in the middle. I hinted that it would be full as convenient to have the party somewhere else ; but I was told, good music added greatly to the pleasure of a whist party ; that it increased the joy of good fortune, and soothed the affliction of bad. As I thought the people of this country better acquainted than myself with the power of music, I contested the point no longer; but have generally played two or three rubbers at whist in the stage-box every opera night.
From this you may guess, that, in this city, as in some other towns in Italy, little attention is paid to the music by the company in the boxes, except at a new opera, or
a during some favourite air. But the dancers command a general attention: as soon as they begin, conversation ceases; even the card-players lay down their cards, and fix their eyes on the ballette. Yet the excellence of Italian dancing seems to consist in feats of strength, and a kind of jerking agility, more than in graceful movement. There is a continual contest among the performers, who shall spring highest. You see here none of the sprightly, alluring gaiety of the French comic dancers, nor of the graceful attitudes, and smooth flowing motions of the performers in the serious opera at Paris. It is surprising, that a people of such taste and sensibility as the Italians, should prefer a parcel of athletic jumpers to elegant dancers.
On the evenings on which there is no opera, it is usual for the genteel company to drive to a public walk immediately without the city, where they remain till it begins
duskish. Soon after our arrival at Florence, in one of the avenues of this walk we observed two men and two ladies, followed by four servants in livery. One of the men wore the insignia of the garter. We were told this was the count Albany, and that the lady next to him was the countess. We yielded the walk, and pulled off our hats. The gentleman along with them was the envoy from the king of Prussia to the court of Turin. He whispered the count, who, returning the salutation, looked very earnestly at the duke of Hamilton. We have seen them almost every evening since, either at the opera or on the public walk. His Grace does not affect to shun the avenue in which they happen to be; and as often as we pass near them, the count fixes his
a most expressive manner upon the duke, as if he meant to say-our ancestors were better acquainted.
You know, I suppose, that the count Albany is the unfortunate Charles Stuart, who left Rome sometime since on the death of his father, because the pope did not think proper to acknowledge him by the title which he claimed on that event. He now lives at Florence, on a small revenue allowed him by his brother. The countess is a beautiful woman, much beloved by those who know her, who universally describe her as lively, intelligent, and agreeable. Educated as I was in revolution principles, and in a part of Scotland where the religion of the Stuart family, and the maxims by which they governed, are more reprobated than perhaps in any part of Great Britain, I could not behold this unfortunate person without the warmest emotion and sympathy. What must a man's. feelings be, who finds himself excluded from the most brilliant situation, and noblest inheritance that this world affords, and reduced to an humiliating dependence on those, who, in the natural course of events, should have looked up to him for protection and support? What must his feelings be, when on a retrospective view he beholds a series of calamities attending his family, that is without example in the annals of the unfortunate ; calamities, of
which those they experienced after their accession to the throne of England, were only a continuation ? Their misfortunes began with their royalty, adhered to them through ages, increased with the increase of their dominions, did not forsake them when dominion was no more ; and, as he has reason to dread, from his own experience, are not yet terminated. It will afford no alleviation or comfort, to recollect that part of this black list of calami. ties arose from the imprudence of his ancestors; and that many gallant men, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, have at different periods been involved in their ruin.
Our sympathy for this unfortunate person is not checked by any blame which can be thrown on himself. He surely had no share in the errors of the first Charles, the profligacy of the second, or the impolitic and bigotted attempts of James against the laws and established religion of Great Britain and Ireland ; therefore, whilst I contemplate with approbation and gratitude the conduct of those patriots who resisted and expelled that infatuated monarch, ascertained the rights of the subject, and settled the constitution of Great Britain on the firm basis of freedom on which it has stood ever since the revolution, and on which I hope it will ever stand, yet I freely acknowledge, that I never could see the unfortunate Count Albany without sentiments of compassion, and the most lively sympathy.
I write with the more warmth, as I have heard of some of our countrymen, who, during their tours through Italy, made the humble state to which he is reduced a frequent theme of ridicule, and who, as often as they met him in public, affected to pass by with an air of sneering insult. The motive to this is as base and abject as the behaviour is unmanly; those who endeavour to make misfortune an object of ridicule, are themselves the objects of detestation. A British nobleman or gentleman has certainly no occasion to form an intimacy with the count Albany ; but while he appears under that name, and claims no other title, it is ungenerous, on every accidental meeting, not to
behave to him with the respect due to a man of high rank, and the delicacy due to a man highly unfortunate.
One thing is certain ; that the same disposition which makes men insolent to the weak, renders them slaves to the powerful; and those who are most apt to treat this unfortunate person with an ostentatious contempt at Flow rence, would have been his most abject flatterers at St. James's.
Florence. IN a country where men are permitted to speak and write without restraint on the measures of government; where almost every citizen may flatter himself with the hopes of becoming a part of the legislature; where eloquence, popular talents, and political intrigues, lead to honours, and open a broad road to wealth and power ; men, after the first glow of youth is past, are more obedient to the loud voice of ambition than to the whispers of love. But in despotic states, and in monarehies which verge towards despotism, where the will of the prince is law; or, which amounts nearly to the same thing, where the law yields to the will of the prince ; where it is dangerous to speak or write on general politics, and death or imprisonment to censure the particular measures of government; love becomes a first, instead of being a secondary. object; for ambition is, generally speaking, a more powerful passion than love; and on this account women are the objects of greater attention and respect in despotic than in free countries. That species of address to women which is now called gallantry, was, if I am not mistaken, unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans; nothing like it appears in any of Terence's comedies, where one would na. turally expect to find it, if any such thing had existed when they were written. It now prevails, in some degree, in every country of Europe, but appears in different forms