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In her diary, she speaks of having spent several hours in the Ambrosian library, conducted through it by the Abbé Bentivoglio, a man of great erudition, whom Lady Blessington had known in Naples, a friend of the good Archbishop of Tarento. The library contains 50,000 volumes, and 10,000 manuscripts; and among its treasures, the “Virgil” that had belonged to Petrarch, in which is his note to Laura. The next object that excited Lady Blessington's attention, was a lock of the golden hair of Lucretia Borgia, the daughter of Alexander the Sixth. Once before, she saw a lock of that same golden hair on the breast of Byron, consisting of about twenty fair hairs, resembling fine threa which he had obtained from the ringlet at the Ambrosian library, and always wore.
Nine or ten letters from Lucretia Borgia to the Cardinal Bembo are placed in a casket, with the lock of hair she sent to him. Lady Blessington makes no mention in her journal of having been given a small tress of this golden bair of the too celebrated Lucretia, by the Abbé Bentivoglio, of the Ambrosian library, a descendant of the Bembo family.
There is a remarkable reference to the hair of Lucretia Borgia in the “ New Monthly Magazine .”—
“ Auburn is a rare and glorious colour, and I suspect will always be more admired by us of the North, where the fair complexions that recommend golden hair, are as easy to be met with as they are difficult in the South. Ovid and Anacreon, the two greatest masters of the ancient world in painting external beauty, both seem to have preferred it to golden, notwithstanding the popular cry in the other's favour : unless indeed the hair they speak of is too dark in its ground for auburn.
“ Perhaps the true auburn is something more lustrous throughout, and more metallic than this. The cedar, with the bark stripped, looks more like it. At all events, that it is
not the golden hair of the ancients, has been proved to me beyond a doubt, by a memorandum in my possession, worth a thousand treatises of the learned. This is a solitary hair of the famous Lucretia Borgia, whom Ariosto has so praised for her virtues, and whom the rest of the world is so contented to call a wretch. It was given me by a wild acquaintance, who stole it from a lock of her hair preserved in the Ambrosian library at Milan. On the envelope he put a happy motto,
“ • And beauty draws us with a single hair.' " If ever hair was golden, it is this. It is not red, it is not yellow, it is not auburn ; it is golden, and nothing else; and though natural-looking too, must have had a surprising appearance in the mass.
Lucretia, beautiful in every respect, must have looked like a vision in a picture-an angel from
As an example of the happy style, and just views, and correct judgment of Lady Blessington, I may cite the following passage, from her Italian Diary, in reference to a visit to the subterranean shrine of St. Carlo Borromeo, in the Duomo, the sarcophagus of rock crystal which preserves the mortal remains of the renowned prelate in pontifical attire :
“ Carlo Borromeo was one of the most remarkable men to whom Italy has ever given birth; and those who might be disposed to undervalue the canonized saint, must feel a reverence for the memory of the man, whose patriotism, courage, and charity, entitle his name to the esteem of posterity. Elevated to the rank of Cardinal at the early age
of twenty-two, his conduct justified the partiality of his uncle, Pope Pius IV., who conferred this dignity on him. As a scholar, no less than as a divine, was this excellent man
* New Monthly Magazine, part iii, 1825.
distinguished; but his courageous and unceasing exertions during the plague that ravaged his country in 1576, are beyond all praise. These are remembered with a feeling of lively admiration, that the costly trappings and brilliant diamonds which decorate his remains might fail to awaken for the saint; and we turned from the crystal sarcophagus, and its glittering ornaments, to reflect on the more imperishable monument of his virtues—the fame they have left behind.
“I could not contemplate the crucifix, borne by this good and great man in the procession during the fearful plague, without a sentiment of profound reverence. It is carefully preserved under a glass case ; and, I confess, appears to me to be a far more befitting monument than the costly sarcophagus of rock crystal, to the glory of him, who, actuated by his deep faith in it, was enabled to fulfil duties from which the less pious and charitable shrank back in terror.”
From Milan the Blessingtons turned their steps at length in a homeward direction, at least, towards Paris, and at the close of 1828, once more found themselves in their old quarters at Genoa. Five years previously, Byron often stood conversing with Lady Blessington on the balcony of her hotel, or walked about the gardens of it with her. The several spots where she remembered to have seen him, distinctly recalled him to her memory. She again seemed to look upon him, to see his features, to perceive his form, "to hear the sound of that clear, low, and musical voice, never more to be heard on earth."
“I sat on the chair,” she observes, “ where I had formerly been seated next him; looked from the window whence he had pointed out a beautiful view, and listened to Mr. Barry's graphic description of the scene when, becalmed in the gulf of Genoa, the day he sailed for Greece, he returned and walked through the rooms of his deserted dwelling, filled with melancholy forebodings. He had hoped to have found in it her whom he was destined never more to behold, that fair young Italian lady, the Contessa Guiccioli; whose attachment to him had triumphed over every sentiment of prudence and interest, and by its devotion and constancy half redeemed its sin. But she, overwhelmed by grief at the sad parting, had been placed in a travelling carriage, while almost in a state of insensibility, and was journeying towards Bologna, little conscious that he whom she would have given all that she possessed to see once more, was looking on the chamber she had left, and the flowers she had loved ; his mind filled with a presentiment that they should never meet again.
“Such is one of the bitter consequences resulting from the violation of ties, never severed without retribution.”*
But, one day, while these sweet and bitter fancies were presenting themselves to her imagination, she saw a young lady, an English girl, who resembled, in an extraordinary degree, Byron, accompanied by an elderly lady. That English girl was “ Ada, sole daughter of my house and heart;” and the elderly lady was her mother, the widow of Lord Byron.
The City of Palaces had few attractions on this last visit for Lady Blessington.
One episode more in the Italian journals is narrated, and we come to the concluding line;—“We have bidden farewell to our old and well-remembered haunts at Genoa; and tomorrow we leave it, and perhaps for ever!”
Here ends the second phase in the career I have before referred to-the Italian life of Lady Blessington.
* The Idler in Italy, vol. iii. p. 365.
RETURN TO PARIS, IN JUNE, 1828_RESIDENCE THERE
DEATH OF LORD BLESSINGTON-DEPARTURE OF LADY BLESSINGTON FOR ENGLAND, IN NOVEMBER, 1830.
In June, 1828, the Blessingtons arrived in Paris, at the expiration of six years from the period of their former sojourn there. Their first visitors were the Duc and Duchesse de Guiche; the latter “radiant in health and beauty,” the Duc looking, as he always did,“ more distinguè than any one else—the perfect beau ideal of a gentleman.”
The Blessingtons took up their abode in the Hotel de Terasse, Rue de Rivoli. After some time, they rented the splendid mansion of the Marechal Ney, in the Rue de Bourbon, the principal apartments of which looked on the Seine, and commanded a delightful view of the Tuillerie Gardens. This hotel was a type of the splendour that marked the dwellings of the Imperial Noblesse.
The rent of this hotel was enormously high, and the expense which the new inmates went to, in adding to the splendour of its decorations and furniture, was on a scale of magnificence more commensurate with the income of a prince, of some vielle cour, than with that of an Irish landlord.
With the aid of “those magicians,” the French upholsterers, the Hotel Ney soon assumed a wonderful aspect of renewed splendour. The principal drawing-room had a carpet of dark crimson, with a gold-coloured border, with wreaths of flowers of brightest hues. The curtains were of crimson