« PoprzedniaDalej »
in all probability, which determined the precipitate departure from Rome. All the appliances to comfort, or rather to luxury, which had become necessary to Lady Blessington, had not been found in Rome. Her Ladyship had become exceedingly fastidious in her tastes. The difficulties of pleasing her in house accommodation, in dress, in cookery especially, had become so formidable, and occasioned so many inconveniences, that the solicitude spoken of, for the safety of others, was only one of the reasons for the abrupt departure referred to.
With the strongest regard for Lady Blessington, and the fullest appreciation of the many good qualities that belonged to her, it cannot be denied that whether discoursing in her salons, or talking with pen in hand on paper in her journals, she occasionally aimed at something like stage effects in her diaries, as well as in society, and at times assumed opinions, which she abandoned a little later, or passed off appearances for realities. This was done with the view of acquiring esteem ---strengthening her position in the opinion of persons of ex: alted intellect or station, and directing attention to the side of it that was brilliant and apparently enviable, not for any unworthy purpose, but from a desire to please, and perhaps from a feeling of uncertainty in the possession of present advantages.
The first impressions of Lady Blessington of the beauty of the environs of Naples, the matchless site of the city, its glorious bay, its celebrated garden—the Villa Reale, its delightful climate, and exquisite tints of sea and sky, and varied aspect of shore and mountain--of isles and promontories, are described by her, in her diaries, in very glowing terms.
Her hotel, the Gran Bretagna, fronted the sea, and was only divided from it by the garden of the Villa Reale, filled with plants and flowers, and adorned with statues and vases, The sea was seen sparkling through the opening of the trees, with numbers of boats gliding along the shore. In the “Idler in Italy,” Lady Blessington thus speaks of the delightful climate and its cheering influences.
"How light and elastic is the air ! Respiration is carried on unconsciously, and existence becomes a positive pleasure in such a climate. Who that has seen Naples, can wonder that her children are idle, and luxuriously disposed ? To gaze on the cloudless sky and blue Mediterranean, in an atmosphere so pure and balmy, is enough to make the veriest plodder who ever courted Plutus, abandon his toil, and enjoy the delicious dolce far' niente of the Neapolitans.”*
A few words of this epitome of paradise, may be permitted to one who enjoyed its felicity of clime and site and scenery, for upwards of three years.
The city of Naples retains no vestiges of Greek or Roman antiquity. It occupies the site of two ancient Greek towns, Palæopolis founded by Parthenope, and Neapolis or the New Town. Eventually they merged into one city, which became a portion of the Roman Empire, and obtained the name of Neapolis. The bay of Naples, for the matchless beauty of its situation, and its surrounding scenery, is unrivalled. Its circling beach extends from the promontory of Pausilippo to Sorento, a line of more than thirty miles of varied beauty and magnificence. This city, with its churches, palaces, villas, and houses, luxuriant gardens and vineyards, with the surrounding hills and grounds thickly planted in the vicinity, backed by the Apennines, well deserves its poetical designation, “ Un pezzo di cielo caduto in terra.” Naples, it is truly said, “ viewed by moonlight is enchanting. The moon pouring out an effulgence of silvery light, from a sky of the deepest azure, through a pure and transparent atmosphere, places all the prominent buildings in strong relief; and whilst it makes every object distinctly visible, it mellows each tint, and blends the innumerable details into one vast harmonious whole, throwing a bewitching and indescribable softness and repose on the scene.
* The Idler in Italy, p. 244. Ed. Par. 1839.
From the time that this city and territory fell under the power of the Romans, to the period of the destruction of Pompeii, in the year of our Lord 79, Neapolis, on account of the beauty of its situation, and excellence of its climate, became the favourite place of residence in the winter season, and the chosen sojourn for a continuance of several of the magnates of the Eternal City, of the Emperor Tiberius, for the last years of his iniquitous reign-of many of the most illustrious sages and philosophers of Rome.
and philosophers of Rome. For some centuries subsequently to the destruction of Pompeii, Naples shared the calamitous fate of the other Italian cities-it was ruled, harassed, pillaged, and devastated, successively by Goths, Vandals, Saracens, Lombards, and Parmans, and ultimately by Germans, French, and Spaniards. The flight of the King of Naples in 1799—the short reign of Joseph Bonaparte — the rule of Murat—his deposition, execution, and other modern vicissitudes, it is hardly necessary to refer to.
The Castello del 'Ovo, standing on a projecting insulated rock, commands the entire of the two semicircular bays on which the city stands. In one direction extends the long line of shore on which are the Chiatamone, the Marino and Chiaja, with numerous ascending terraces of streets behind them, crowned by Fort St. Elmo and Castello Nuovo, the convent of Camaldole, the Palazzo Belvidere, and the hill of the Vomero : and still farther westward, the promontory of Pausilippo terminates the land view, and in this vicinity lie the beautiful little islands of Ischia and Procida. In the other direction, to the eastward of the Castello del 'Ovo, are semicircular clusters of houses, convents, and churches, with the mole, the lighthouse and harbour, the quay of Santa Lucia, surmounted by the Palace of Capo di Monte, and the eminence of Capo di Chino, and in the distant back-ground the
bold outlines of the Apennines, with their tints of purple, varying with the atmosphere, and presenting a different aspect with the several changes of the setting sun. Still further, by the eastern shore, is the Ponte Madelena, leading to Portici and Torro del Græco, the sites and ruins of Pompeia and Herculaneum, and rising up in the vicinity, in the plains of the Campagna Felice, Vesuvius of portentous aspect, sombre and majestic, with all its associations of terror and destruction, and the traditionary horrors of its history, from those of 79 A.D. to the latest eruptions of signal violence in 1821, are recalled as we approach its base, or ascend the dreary foot-path in the ravines of molten lava, or ragged scoriæ and masses of huge rock that have been torn from the sides of the crater in some past eruptions.
Still further along the shore, to the south-east, stands Castellamare, a place of resort noted for its coolness and refreshing sea breezes, the site of the ancient Stabia, the summer retreat of the elite of Naples. A little further is the delightful scenery of Monte S. Michel, Sorrento, the birth-place of Tasso; and the Cape Campanello, the ancient Athenæus, or promontory of Minerva, terminates the land view to the eastward. At the entrance to the bay, where the expanse is greatest between the eastern and western shore, in a southern direction, is the island of Capri, the ancient Capreæ, eighteen miles distant from the opposite extremity of the bay of Portici, about four miles from the nearest shore. The extreme length of the island is about four miles, its breadth two miles. The peak of the southern mountain of the island is about 2000 feet high. Several ruins, supposed to be of palaces of the imperial monster Tiberius, exist on this island.
The extreme length of Naples is from the Ponte Madelena to Pausilipo, along the sea shore, a distance of about four miles. The breadth is unequal; at the west end it is contracted between the hills of the Vomero and the Belvidere and VOL. I.
the sea side, and in the interval there are only three or four streets. Towards the centre it extends from the Castello del 'Ovo northward to the Capo di Monte and Monte di Chino, and in this direction the breadth of this most ancient part of the city, and most densely populated, from the quay of St. Lucia to the eminences of Capo di Monte and Capo di Chino, is about two miles. The main street, Strada del Toledo, runs nearly parallel with the shore. It is broad, and fronted with large houses, five or six stories high, in which are the principal shops of the city. The population amounts to about 380,000 inhabitants; there are upwards of 300 churches ; the lazzaroni are estimated at 40,000, the clergy, monks, and nuns, at 7800.
The Castello del 'Ovo is built on a rock, which projects into the sea from the Chiatamone, which separates it from Pizzo Falcone. It was formerly called Megera, then Lucullanum. The last of the Roman Emperors, Romulus Augustulanus, is said to have been imprisoned here in 476. The fortress consists now of a confused mass of buildings, ancient and modern. In one of the old gloomy apartments, the Queen Joanna was for some time confined. Its venerable commandant in 1822—4, and for many years previously, was a brave old Irish officer, General Wade.
The bay of Naples, long after the departure of Lady Blessington from its shores, ceased not to be a favourite theme both in conversation and composition with her Ladyship.
The sketch of its beauties appeared in the “ Book of Beauty" for 1834, and again came out, retouched, in one of her later publications, “ The Lottery of Life.”
THE BAY OF NAPLES,
In the Summer of 1824.
“ It is evening, and scarcely a breeze ruffles the calm bosom