We reached Rome very early. We had taken breakfast at the Tour, and the
advocate being in a very gay mood I assumed the same tone, loading him
with compliments, and predicting that a son would be born to him, I
compelled his wife to promise it should be so. I did not forget the sister
of my charming Lucrezia, and to make her change her hostile attitude
towards me I addressed to her so many pretty compliments, and behaved in
such a friendly manner, that she was compelled to forgive the fall of the
bed. As I took leave of them, I promised to give them a call on the
I was in Rome! with a good wardrobe, pretty well supplied with money and
jewellery, not wanting in experience, and with excellent letters of
introduction. I was free, my own master, and just reaching the age in
which a man can have faith in his own fortune, provided he is not
deficient in courage, and is blessed with a face likely to attract the
sympathy of those he mixes with. I was not handsome, but I had something
better than beauty—a striking expression which almost compelled a
kind interest in my favour, and I felt myself ready for anything. I knew
that Rome is the one city in which a man can begin from the lowest rung,
and reach the very top of the social ladder. This knowledge increased my
courage, and I must confess that a most inveterate feeling of self-esteem
which, on account of my inexperience, I could not distrust, enhanced
wonderfully my confidence in myself.
The man who intends to make his fortune in this ancient capital of the
world must be a chameleon susceptible of reflecting all the colours of the
atmosphere that surrounds him—a Proteus apt to assume every form,
every shape. He must be supple, flexible, insinuating; close, inscrutable,
often base, sometimes sincere, some times perfidious, always concealing a
part of his knowledge, indulging in one tone of voice, patient, a perfect
master of his own countenance as cold as ice when any other man would be
all fire; and if unfortunately he is not religious at heart—a very
common occurrence for a soul possessing the above requisites—he must
have religion in his mind, that is to say, on his face, on his lips, in
his manners; he must suffer quietly, if he be an honest man the necessity
of knowing himself an arrant hypocrite. The man whose soul would loathe
such a life should leave Rome and seek his fortune elsewhere. I do not
know whether I am praising or excusing myself, but of all those qualities
I possessed but one—namely, flexibility; for the rest, I was only an
interesting, heedless young fellow, a pretty good blood horse, but not
broken, or rather badly broken; and that is much worse.
I began by delivering the letter I had received from Don Lelio for Father
Georgi. The learned monk enjoyed the esteem of everyone in Rome, and the
Pope himself had a great consideration for him, because he disliked the
Jesuits, and did not put a mask on to tear the mask from their faces,
although they deemed themselves powerful enough to despise him.
He read the letter with great attention, and expressed himself disposed to
be my adviser; and that consequently I might make him responsible for any
evil which might befall me, as misfortune is not to be feared by a man who
acts rightly. He asked me what I intended to do in Rome, and I answered
that I wished him to tell me what to do.
"Perhaps I may; but in that case you must come and see me often, and never
conceal from me anything, you understand, not anything, of what interests
you, or of what happens to you."
"Don Lelio has likewise given me a letter for the Cardinal Acquaviva."
"I congratulate you; the cardinal's influence in Rome is greater even than
that of the Pope."
"Must I deliver the letter at once?"
"No; I will see him this evening, and prepare him for your visit. Call on
me to-morrow morning, and I will then tell you where and when you are to
deliver your letter to the cardinal. Have you any money?"
"Enough for all my wants during one year."
"That is well. Have you any acquaintances?"
"Do not make any without first consulting me, and, above all, avoid
coffee-houses and ordinaries, but if you should happen to frequent such
places, listen and never speak. Be careful to form your judgment upon
those who ask any questions from you, and if common civility obliges you
to give an answer, give only an evasive one, if any other is likely to
commit you. Do you speak French?"
"Not one word."
"I am sorry for that; you must learn French. Have you been a student?"
"A poor one, but I have a sufficient smattering to converse with ordinary
"That is enough; but be very prudent, for Rome is the city in which
smatterers unmask each other, and are always at war amongst themselves. I
hope you will take your letter to the cardinal, dressed like a modest
abbe, and not in this elegant costume which is not likely to conjure
fortune. Adieu, let me see you to-morrow."
Highly pleased with the welcome I had received at his hands, and with all
he had said to me, I left his house and proceeded towards Campo-di-Fiore
to deliver the letter of my cousin Antonio to Don Gaspar Vivaldi, who
received me in his library, where I met two respectable-looking priests.
He gave me the most friendly welcome, asked for my address, and invited me
to dinner for the next day. He praised Father Georgi most highly, and,
accompanying me as far as the stairs, he told me that he would give me on
the morrow the amount his friend Don Antonio requested him to hand me.
More money which my generous cousin was bestowing on me! It is easy enough
to give away when one possesses sufficient means to do it, but it is not
every man who knows how to give. I found the proceeding of Don Antonio
more delicate even than generous; I could not refuse his present; it was
my duty to prove my gratitude by accepting it.
Just after I had left M. Vivaldi's house I found myself face to face with
Stephano, and this extraordinary original loaded me with friendly
caresses. I inwardly despised him, yet I could not feel hatred for him; I
looked upon him as the instrument which Providence had been pleased to
employ in order to save me from ruin. After telling me that he had
obtained from the Pope all he wished, he advised me to avoid meeting the
fatal constable who had advanced me two sequins in Seraval, because he had
found out that I had deceived him, and had sworn revenge against me. I
asked Stephano to induce the man to leave my acknowledgement of the debt
in the hands of a certain merchant whom we both knew, and that I would
call there to discharge the amount. This was done, and it ended the
That evening I dined at the ordinary, which was frequented by Romans and
foreigners; but I carefully followed the advice of Father Georgi. I heard
a great deal of harsh language used against the Pope and against the
Cardinal Minister, who had caused the Papal States to be inundated by
eighty thousand men, Germans as well as Spaniards. But I was much
surprised when I saw that everybody was eating meat, although it was
Saturday. But a stranger during the first few days after his arrival in
Rome is surrounded with many things which at first cause surprise, and to
which he soon gets accustomed. There is not a Catholic city in the world
in which a man is half so free on religious matters as in Rome. The
inhabitants of Rome are like the men employed at the Government tobacco
works, who are allowed to take gratis as much tobacco as they want for
their own use. One can live in Rome with the most complete freedom, except
that the 'ordini santissimi' are as much to be dreaded as the famous
Lettres-de-cachet before the Revolution came and destroyed them, and
shewed the whole world the general character of the French nation.
The next day, the 1st of October, 1743, I made up my mind to be shaved.
The down on my chin had become a beard, and I judged that it was time to
renounce some of the privileges enjoyed by adolescence. I dressed myself
completely in the Roman fashion, and Father Georgi was highly pleased when
he saw me in that costume, which had been made by the tailor of my dear
cousin, Don Antonio.
Father Georgi invited me to take a cup of chocolate with him, and informed
me that the cardinal had been apprised of my arrival by a letter from Don
Lelio, and that his eminence would receive me at noon at the Villa
Negroni, where he would be taking a walk. I told Father Georgi that I had
been invited to dinner by M. Vivaldi, and he advised me to cultivate his
I proceeded to the Villa Negroni; the moment he saw me the cardinal
stopped to receive my letter, allowing two persons who accompanied him to
walk forward. He put the letter in his pocket without reading it, examined
me for one or two minutes, and enquired whether I felt any taste for
politics. I answered that, until now, I had not felt in me any but
frivolous tastes, but that I would make bold to answer for my readiness to
execute all the orders which his eminence might be pleased to lay upon me,
if he should judge me worthy of entering his service.
"Come to my office to-morrow morning," said the cardinal, "and ask for the
Abbe Gama, to whom I will give my instructions. You must apply yourself
diligently to the study of the French language; it is indispensable." He
then enquired after Don Leilo's health, and after kissing his hand I took
I hastened to the house of M. Gaspar Vivaldi, where I dined amongst a
well-chosen party of guests. M. Vivaldi was not married; literature was
his only passion. He loved Latin poetry even better than Italian, and
Horace, whom I knew by heart, was his favourite poet. After dinner, we
repaired to his study, and he handed me one hundred Roman crowns, and Don
Antonio's present, and assured me that I would be most welcome whenever I
would call to take a cup of chocolate with him.
After I had taken leave of Don Gaspar, I proceeded towards the Minerva,
for I longed to enjoy the surprise of my dear Lucrezia and of her sister;
I inquired for Donna Cecilia Monti, their mother, and I saw, to my great
astonishment, a young widow who looked like the sister of her two charming
daughters. There was no need for me to give her my name; I had been
announced, and she expected me. Her daughters soon came in, and their
greeting caused me some amusement, for I did not appear to them to be the
same individual. Donna Lucrezia presented me to her youngest sister, only
eleven years of age, and to her brother, an abbe of fifteen, of charming
appearance. I took care to behave so as to please the mother; I was
modest, respectful, and shewed a deep interest in everything I saw. The
good advocate arrived, and was surprised at the change in my appearance.
He launched out in his usual jokes, and I followed him on that ground, yet
I was careful not to give to my conversation the tone of levity which used
to cause so much mirth in our travelling coach; so that, to, pay me a
compliment, he told nee that, if I had had the sign of manhood shaved from
my face, I had certainly transferred it to my mind. Donna Lucrezia did not
know what to think of the change in my manners.
Towards evening I saw, coming in rapid succession, five or six
ordinary-looking ladies, and as many abbes, who appeared to me some of the
volumes with which I was to begin my Roman education. They all listened
attentively to the most insignificant word I uttered, and I was very
careful to let them enjoy their conjectures about me. Donna Cecilia told
the advocate that he was but a poor painter, and that his portraits were
not like the originals; he answered that she could not judge, because the
original was shewing under a mask, and I pretended to be mortified by his
answer. Donna Lucrezia said that she found me exactly the same, and her
sister was of opinion that the air of Rome gave strangers a peculiar
appearance. Everybody applauded, and Angelique turned red with
satisfaction. After a visit of four hours I bowed myself out, and the
advocate, following me, told me that his mother-in-law begged me to
consider myself as a friend of the family, and to be certain of a welcome
at any hour I liked to call. I thanked him gratefully and took my leave,
trusting that I had pleased this amiable society as much as it had pleased
The next day I presented myself to the Abbe Gama. He was a Portuguese,
about forty years old, handsome, and with a countenance full of candour,
wit, and good temper. His affability claimed and obtained confidence. His
manners and accent were quite Roman. He informed me, in the blandest
manner, that his eminence had himself given his instructions about me to
his majordomo, that I would have a lodging in the cardinal's palace, that
I would have my meals at the secretaries' table, and that, until I learned
French, I would have nothing to do but make extracts from letters that he
would supply me with. He then gave me the address of the French teacher to
whom he had already spoken in my behalf. He was a Roman advocate, Dalacqua
by name, residing precisely opposite the palace.
After this short explanation, and an assurance that I could at all times
rely upon his friendship, he had me taken to the major-domo, who made me
sign my name at the bottom of a page in a large book, already filled with
other names, and counted out sixty Roman crowns which he paid me for three
months salary in advance. After this he accompanied me, followed by a
'staffiere' to my apartment on the third floor, which I found very
comfortably furnished. The servant handed me the key, saying that he would
come every morning to attend upon me, and the major-domo accompanied me to
the gate to make me known to the gate-keeper. I immediately repaired to my
inn, sent my luggage to the palace, and found myself established in a
place in which a great fortune awaited me, if I had only been able to lead
a wise and prudent life, but unfortunately it was not in my nature.
'Volentem ducit, nolentem trahit.'
I naturally felt it my duty to call upon my mentor, Father Georgi, to whom
I gave all my good news. He said I was on the right road, and that my
fortune was in my hands.
"Recollect," added the good father, "that to lead a blameless life you
must curb your passions, and that whatever misfortune may befall you it
cannot be ascribed by any one to a want of good luck, or attributed to
fate; those words are devoid of sense, and all the fault will rightly fall
on your own head."
"I foresee, reverend father, that my youth and my want of experience will
often make it necessary for me to disturb you. I am afraid of proving
myself too heavy a charge for you, but you will find me docile and
"I suppose you will often think me rather too severe; but you are not
likely to confide everything to me."
"Everything, without any exception."
"Allow me to feel somewhat doubtful; you have not told me where you spent
four hours yesterday."
"Because I did not think it was worth mentioning. I made the acquaintance
of those persons during my journey; I believe them to be worthy and
respectable, and the right sort of people for me to visit, unless you
should be of a different opinion."
"God forbid! It is a very respectable house, frequented by honest people.
They are delighted at having made your acquaintance; you are much liked by
everybody, and they hope to retain you as a friend; I have heard all about
it this morning; but you must not go there too often and as a regular
"Must I cease my visits at once, and without cause?"
"No, it would be a want of politeness on your part. You may go there once
or twice every week, but do not be a constant visitor. You are sighing, my
"No, I assure you not. I will obey you."
"I hope it may not be only a matter of obedience, and I trust your heart
will not feel it a hardship, but, if necessary, your heart must be
conquered. Recollect that the heart is the greatest enemy of reason."
"Yet they can be made to agree."
"We often imagine so; but distrust the animism of your dear Horace. You
know that there is no middle course with it: 'nisi paret, imperat'."
"I know it, but in the family of which we were speaking there is no danger
for my heart."
"I am glad of it, because in that case it will be all the easier for you
to abstain from frequent visits. Remember that I shall trust you."
"And I, reverend father; will listen to and follow your good advice. I
will visit Donna Cecilia only now and then." Feeling most unhappy, I took
his hand to press it against my lips, but he folded me in his arms as a
father might have done, and turned himself round so as not to let me see
that he was weeping.
I dined at the cardinal's palace and sat near the Abbe Gama; the table was
laid for twelve persons, who all wore the costume of priests, for in Rome
everyone is a priest or wishes to be thought a priest and as there is no
law to forbid anyone to dress like an ecclesiastic that dress is adopted
by all those who wish to be respected (noblemen excepted) even if they are
not in the ecclesiastical profession.
I felt very miserable, and did not utter a word during the dinner; my
silence was construed into a proof of my sagacity. As we rose from the
table, the Abbe Gama invited me to spend the day with him, but I declined
under pretence of letters to be written, and I truly did so for seven
hours. I wrote to Don Lelio, to Don Antonio, to my young friend Paul, and
to the worthy Bishop of Martorano, who answered that he heartily wished
himself in my place.
Deeply enamoured of Lucrezia and happy in my love, to give her up appeared
to me a shameful action. In order to insure the happiness of my future
life, I was beginning to be the executioner of my present felicity, and
the tormentor of my heart. I revolted against such a necessity which I
judged fictitious, and which I could not admit unless I stood guilty of
vileness before the tribunal of my own reason. I thought that Father
Georgi, if he wished to forbid my visiting that family, ought not to have
said that it was worthy of respect; my sorrow would not have been so
intense. The day and the whole of the night were spent in painful
In the morning the Abbe Gama brought me a great book filled with
ministerial letters from which I was to compile for my amusement. After a
short time devoted to that occupation, I went out to take my first French
lesson, after which I walked towards the Strada-Condotta. I intended to
take a long walk, when I heard myself called by my name. I saw the Abbe
Gama in front of a coffee-house. I whispered to him that Minerva had
forbidden me the coffee-rooms of Rome. "Minerva," he answered, "desires
you to form some idea of such places. Sit down by me."
I heard a young abbe telling aloud, but without bitterness, a story, which
attacked in a most direct manner the justice of His Holiness. Everybody
was laughing and echoing the story. Another, being asked why he had left
the services of Cardinal B., answered that it was because his eminence did
not think himself called upon to pay him apart for certain private
services, and everybody laughed outright. Another came to the Abbe Gama,
and told him that, if he felt any inclination to spend the afternoon at
the Villa Medicis, he would find him there with two young Roman girls who
were satisfied with a 'quartino', a gold coin worth one-fourth of a
sequin. Another abbe read an incendiary sonnet against the government, and
several took a copy of it. Another read a satire of his own composition,
in which he tore to pieces the honour of a family. In the middle of all
that confusion, I saw a priest with a very attractive countenance come in.
The size of his hips made me take him for a woman dressed in men's
clothes, and I said so to Gama, who told me that he was the celebrated
castrato, Bepino delta Mamana. The abbe called him to us, and told him
with a laugh that I had taken him for a girl. The impudent fellow looked
me full in the face, and said that, if I liked, he would shew me whether I
had been right or wrong.
At the dinner-table everyone spoke to me, and I fancied I had given proper
answers to all, but, when the repast was over, the Abbe Gama invited me to
take coffee in his own apartment. The moment we were alone, he told me
that all the guests I had met were worthy and honest men, and he asked me
whether I believed that I had succeeded in pleasing the company.
"I flatter myself I have," I answered.
"You are wrong," said the abbe, "you are flattering yourself. You have so
conspicuously avoided the questions put to you that everybody in the room
noticed your extreme reserve. In the future no one will ask you any
"I should be sorry if it should turn out so, but was I to expose my own
"No, but there is a medium in all things."
"Yes, the medium of Horace, but it is often a matter of great difficulty
to hit it exactly."
"A man ought to know how to obtain affection and esteem at the same time."
"That is the very wish nearest to my heart."
"To-day you have tried for the esteem much more than for the affection of
your fellow-creatures. It may be a noble aspiration, but you must prepare
yourself to fight jealousy and her daughter, calumny; if those two
monsters do not succeed in destroying you, the victory must be yours. Now,
for instance, you thoroughly refuted Salicetti to-day. Well, he is a
physician, and what is more a Corsican; he must feel badly towards you."
"Could I grant that the longings of women during their pregnancy have no
influence whatever on the skin of the foetus, when I know the reverse to
be the case? Are you not of my opinion?"
"I am for neither party; I have seen many children with some such marks,
but I have no means of knowing with certainty whether those marks have
their origin in some longing experienced by the mother while she was
"But I can swear it is so."
"All the better for you if your conviction is based upon such evidence,
and all the worse for Salicetti if he denies the possibility of the thing
without certain authority. But let him remain in error; it is better thus
than to prove him in the wrong and to make a bitter enemy of him."
In the evening I called upon Lucrezia. The family knew my success, and
warmly congratulated me. Lucrezia told me that I looked sad, and I
answered that I was assisting at the funeral of my liberty, for I was no
longer my own master. Her husband, always fond of a joke, told her that I
was in love with her, and his mother-in-law advised him not to show so
much intrepidity. I only remained an hour with those charming persons, and
then took leave of them, but the very air around me was heated by the
flame within my breast. When I reached my room I began to write, and spent
the night in composing an ode which I sent the next day to the advocate. I
was certain that he would shew it to his wife, who loved poetry, and who
did not yet know that I was a poet. I abstained from seeing her again for
three or four days. I was learning French, and making extracts from
His eminence was in the habit of receiving every evening, and his rooms
were thronged with the highest nobility of Rome; I had never attended
these receptions. The Abbe Gama told me that I ought to do so as well as
he did, without any pretension. I followed his advice and went; nobody
spoke to me, but as I was unknown everyone looked at me and enquired who I
was. The Abbe Gama asked me which was the lady who appeared to me the most
amiable, and I shewed one to him; but I regretted having done so, for the
courtier went to her, and of course informed her of what I had said. Soon
afterwards I saw her look at me through her eye-glass and smile kindly
upon me. She was the Marchioness G——, whose 'cicisbeo' was
Cardinal S—— C——.
On the very day I had fixed to spend the evening with Donna Lucrezia the
worthy advocate called upon me. He told me that if I thought I was going
to prove I was not in love with his wife by staying away I was very much
mistaken, and he invited me to accompany all the family to Testaccio,
where they intended to have luncheon on the following Thursday. He added
that his wife knew my ode by heart, and that she had read it to the
intended husband of Angelique, who had a great wish to make my
acquaintance. That gentleman was likewise a poet, and would be one of the
party to Testaccio. I promised the advocate I would come to his house on
the Thursday with a carriage for two.
At that time every Thursday in the month of October was a festival day in
Rome. I went to see Donna Cecilia in the evening, and we talked about the
excursion the whole time. I felt certain that Donna Lucrezia looked
forward to it with as much pleasure as I did myself. We had no fixed plan,
we could not have any, but we trusted to the god of love, and tacitly
placed our confidence in his protection.
I took care that Father Georgi should not hear of that excursion before I
mentioned it to him myself, and I hastened to him in order to obtain his
permission to go. I confess that, to obtain his leave, I professed the
most complete indifference about it, and the consequence was that the good
man insisted upon my going, saying that it was a family party, and that it
was quite right for me to visit the environs of Rome and to enjoy myself
in a respectable way.
I went to Donna Cecilia's in a carriage which I hired from a certain
Roland, a native of Avignon, and if I insist here upon his name it is
because my readers will meet him again in eighteen years, his acquaintance
with me having had very important results. The charming widow introduced
me to Don Francisco, her intended son-in-law, whom she represented as a
great friend of literary men, and very deeply learned himself. I accepted
it as gospel, and behaved accordingly; yet I thought he looked rather
heavy and not sufficiently elated for a young man on the point of marrying
such a pretty girl as Angelique. But he had plenty of good-nature and
plenty of money, and these are better than learning and gallantry.
As we were ready to get into the carriages, the advocate told me that he
would ride with me in my carriage, and that the three ladies would go with
Don Francisco in the other. I answered at once that he ought to keep Don
Francisco company, and that I claimed the privilege of taking care of
Donna Cecilia, adding that I should feel dishonoured if things were
arranged differently. Thereupon I offered my arm to the handsome widow,
who thought the arrangement according to the rules of etiquette and good
breeding, and an approving look of my Lucrezia gave me the most agreeable
sensation. Yet the proposal of the advocate struck me somewhat
unpleasantly, because it was in contradiction with his former behaviour,
and especially with what he had said to me in my room a few days before.
"Has he become jealous?" I said to myself; that would have made me almost
angry, but the hope of bringing him round during our stay at Testaccio
cleared away the dark cloud on my mind, and I was very amiable to Donna
Cecilia. What with lunching and walking we contrived to pass the afternoon
very pleasantly; I was very gay, and my love for Lucrezia was not once
mentioned; I was all attention to her mother. I occasionally addressed
myself to Lucrezia, but not once to the advocate, feeling this the best
way to shew him that he had insulted me.
As we prepared to return, the advocate carried off Donna Cecilia and went
with her to the carriage in which were already seated Angelique and Don
Francisco. Scarcely able to control my delight, I offered my arm to Donna
Lucrezia, paying her some absurd compliment, while the advocate laughed
outright, and seemed to enjoy the trick he imagined he had played me.
How many things we might have said to each other before giving ourselves
up to the material enjoyment of our love, had not the instants been so
precious! But, aware that we had only half an hour before us, we were
sparing of the minutes. We were absorbed in voluptuous pleasure when
suddenly Lucrezia exclaims,—-
"Oh! dear, how unhappy we are!"
She pushes me back, composes herself, the carriage stops, and the servant
opens the door. "What is the matter?" I enquire. "We are at home."
Whenever I recollect the circumstance, it seems to me fabulous, for it is
not possible to annihilate time, and the horses were regular old screws.
But we were lucky all through. The night was dark, and my beloved angel
happened to be on the right side to get out of the carriage first, so
that, although the advocate was at the door of the brougham as soon as the
footman, everything went right, owing to the slow manner in which Lucrezia
alighted. I remained at Donna Cecilia's until midnight.
When I got home again, I went to bed; but how could I sleep? I felt
burning in me the flame which I had not been able to restore to its
original source in the too short distance from Testaccio to Rome. It was
consuming me. Oh! unhappy are those who believe that the pleasures of
Cythera are worth having, unless they are enjoyed in the most perfect
accord by two hearts overflowing with love!
I only rose in time for my French lesson. My teacher had a pretty
daughter, named Barbara, who was always present during my lessons, and who
sometimes taught me herself with even more exactitude than her father. A
good-looking young man, who likewise took lessons, was courting her, and I
soon perceived that she loved him. This young man called often upon me,
and I liked him, especially on account of his reserve, for, although I
made him confess his love for Barbara, he always changed the subject, if I
mentioned it in our conversation.
I had made up my mind to respect his reserve, and had not alluded to his
affection for several days. But all at once I remarked that he had ceased
his visits both to me and to his teacher, and at the same time I observed
that the young girl was no longer present at my lessons; I felt some
curiosity to know what had happened, although it was not, after all, any
concern of mine.
A few days after, as I was returning from church, I met the young man, and
reproached him for keeping away from us all. He told me that great sorrow
had befallen him, which had fairly turned his brain, and that he was a
prey to the most intense despair. His eyes were wet with tears. As I was
leaving him, he held me back, and I told him that I would no longer be his
friend unless he opened his heart to me. He took me to one of the
cloisters, and he spoke thus:
"I have loved Barbara for the last six months, and for three months she
has given me indisputable proofs of her affection. Five days ago, we were
betrayed by the servant, and the father caught us in a rather delicate
position. He left the room without saying one word, and I followed him,
thinking of throwing myself at his feet; but, as I appeared before him, he
took hold of me by the arm, pushed me roughly to the door, and forbade me
ever to present myself again at his house. I cannot claim her hand in
marriage, because one of my brothers is married, and my father is not
rich; I have no profession, and my mistress has nothing. Alas, now that I
have confessed all to you, tell me, I entreat you, how she is. I am
certain that she is as miserable as I am myself. I cannot manage to get a
letter delivered to her, for she does not leave the house, even to attend
church. Unhappy wretch! What shall I do?"
I could but pity him, for, as a man of honour, it was impossible for me to
interfere in such a business. I told him that I had not seen Barbara for
five days, and, not knowing what to say, I gave him the advice which is
tendered by all fools under similar circumstances; I advised him to forget
We had then reached the quay of Ripetta, and, observing that he was
casting dark looks towards the Tiber, I feared his despair might lead him
to commit some foolish attempt against his own life, and, in order to calm
his excited feelings, I promised to make some enquiries from the father
about his mistress, and to inform him of all I heard. He felt quieted by
my promise, and entreated me not to forget him.
In spite of the fire which had been raging through my veins ever since the
excursion to Testaccio, I had not seen my Lucrezia for four days. I
dreaded Father Georgi's suave manner, and I was still more afraid of
finding he had made up his mind to give me no more advice. But, unable to
resist my desires, I called upon Lucrezia after my French lesson, and
found her alone, sad and dispirited.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, as soon as I was by her side, "I think you might find
time to come and see me!"
"My beloved one, it is not that I cannot find time, but I am so jealous of
my love that I would rather die than let it be known publicly. I have been
thinking of inviting you all to dine with me at Frascati. I will send you
a phaeton, and I trust that some lucky accident will smile upon our love."
"Oh! yes, do, dearest! I am sure your invitation will be accepted:"
In a quarter of an hour the rest of the family came in, and I proffered my
invitation for the following Sunday, which happened to be the Festival of
St. Ursula, patroness of Lucrezia's youngest sister. I begged Donna
Cecilia to bring her as well as her son. My proposal being readily
accepted, I gave notice that the phaeton would be at Donna Cecilia's door
at seven o'clock, and that I would come myself with a carriage for two
The next day I went to M. Dalacqua, and, after my lesson, I saw Barbara
who, passing from one room to another, dropped a paper and earnestly
looked at me. I felt bound to pick it up, because a servant, who was at
hand, might have seen it and taken it. It was a letter, enclosing another
addressed to her lover. The note for me ran thus: "If you think it to be a
sin to deliver the enclosed to your friend, burn it. Have pity on an
unfortunate girl, and be discreet."
The enclosed letter which was unsealed, ran as follows: "If you love me as
deeply as 'I love you, you cannot hope to be happy without me; we cannot
correspond in any other way than the one I am bold enough to adopt. I am
ready to do anything to unite our lives until death. Consider and decide."
The cruel situation of the poor girl moved me almost to tears; yet I
determined to return her letter the next day, and I enclosed it in a note
in which I begged her to excuse me if I could not render her the service
she required at my hands. I put it in my pocket ready for delivery. The
next day I went for my lesson as usual, but, not seeing Barbara, I had no
opportunity of returning her letter, and postponed its delivery to the
following day. Unfortunately, just after I had returned to my room, the
unhappy lover made his appearance. His eyes were red from weeping, his
voice hoarse; he drew such a vivid picture of his misery, that, dreading
some mad action counselled by despair, I could not withhold from him the
consolation which I knew it was in my power to give. This was my first
error in this fatal business; I was the victim of my own kindness.
The poor fellow read the letter over and over; he kissed it with
transports of joy; he wept, hugged me, and thanked me for saving his life,
and finally entreated me to take charge of his answer, as his beloved
mistress must be longing for consolation as much as he had been himself,
assuring me that his letter could not in any way implicate me, and that I
was at liberty to read it.
And truly, although very long, his letter contained nothing but the
assurance of everlasting love, and hopes which could not be realized. Yet
I was wrong to accept the character of Mercury to the two young lovers. To
refuse, I had only to recollect that Father Georgi would certainly have
disapproved of my easy compliance.
The next day I found M. Dalacqua ill in bed; his daughter gave me my
lesson in his room, and I thought that perhaps she had obtained her
pardon. I contrived to give her her lover's letter, which she dextrously
conveyed to her pocket, but her blushes would have easily betrayed her if
her father had been looking that way. After the lesson I gave M. Dalacqua
notice that I would not come on the morrow, as it was the Festival of St.
Ursula, one of the eleven thousand princesses and martyr-virgins.
In the evening, at the reception of his eminence, which I attended
regularly, although persons of distinction seldom spoke to me, the
cardinal beckoned to me. He was speaking to the beautiful Marchioness G——,
to whom Gama had indiscreetly confided that I thought her the handsomest
woman amongst his eminence's guests.
"Her grace," said the Cardinal, "wishes to know whether you are making
rapid progress in the French language, which she speaks admirably."
I answered in Italian that I had learned a great deal, but that I was not
yet bold enough to speak.
"You should be bold," said the marchioness, "but without showing any
pretension. It is the best way to disarm criticism."
My mind having almost unwittingly lent to the words "You should be bold" a
meaning which had very likely been far from the idea of the marchioness, I
turned very red, and the handsome speaker, observing it, changed the
conversation and dismissed me.
The next morning, at seven o'clock, I was at Donna Cecilia's door. The
phaeton was there as well as the carriage for two persons, which this time
was an elegant vis-a-vis, so light and well-hung that Donna Cecilia
praised it highly when she took her seat.
"I shall have my turn as we return to Rome," said Lucrezia; and I bowed to
her as if in acceptance of her promise.
Lucrezia thus set suspicion at defiance in order to prevent suspicion
arising. My happiness was assured, and I gave way to my natural flow of
spirits. I ordered a splendid dinner, and we all set out towards the Villa
Ludovisi. As we might have missed each other during our ramblings, we
agreed to meet again at the inn at one o'clock. The discreet widow took
the arm of her son-in-law, Angelique remained with her sister, and
Lucrezia was my delightful share; Ursula and her brother were running
about together, and in less than a quarter of an hour I had Lucrezia
entirely to myself.
"Did you remark," she said, "with what candour I secured for us two hours
of delightful 'tete-a-tete', and a 'tete-a-tete' in a 'vis-a-vis', too!
How clever Love is!"
"Yes, darling, Love has made but one of our two souls. I adore you, and if
I have the courage to pass so many days without seeing you it is in order
to be rewarded by the freedom of one single day like this."
"I did not think it possible. But you have managed it all very well. You
know too much for your age, dearest."
"A month ago, my beloved, I was but an ignorant child, and you are the
first woman who has initiated me into the mysteries of love. Your
departure will kill me, for I could not find another woman like you in all
"What! am I your first love? Alas! you will never be cured of it. Oh! why
am I not entirely your own? You are also the first true love of my heart,
and you will be the last. How great will be the happiness of my successor!
I should not be jealous of her, but what suffering would be mine if I
thought that her heart was not like mine!"
Lucrezia, seeing my eyes wet with tears, began to give way to her own,
and, seating ourselves on the grass, our lips drank our tears amidst the
sweetest kisses. How sweet is the nectar of the tears shed by love, when
that nectar is relished amidst the raptures of mutual ardour! I have often
tasted them—those delicious tears, and I can say knowingly that the
ancient physicians were right, and that the modern are wrong.
In a moment of calm, seeing the disorder in which we both were, I told her
that we might be surprised.
"Do not fear, my best beloved," she said, "we are under the guardianship
of our good angels."
We were resting and reviving our strength by gazing into one another's
eyes, when suddenly Lucrezia, casting a glance to the right, exclaimed,
"Look there! idol of my heart, have I not told you so? Yes, the angels are
watching over us! Ah! how he stares at us! He seems to try to give us
confidence. Look at that little demon; admire him! He must certainly be
your guardian spirit or mine."
I thought she was delirious.
"What are you saying, dearest? I do not understand you. What am I to
"Do you not see that beautiful serpent with the blazing skin, which lifts
its head and seems to worship us?"
I looked in the direction she indicated, and saw a serpent with changeable
colours about three feet in length, which did seem to be looking at us. I
was not particularly pleased at the sight, but I could not show myself
less courageous than she was.
"What!" said I, "are you not afraid?"
"I tell you, again, that the sight is delightful to me, and I feel certain
that it is a spirit with nothing but the shape, or rather the appearance,
of a serpent."
"And if the spirit came gliding along the grass and hissed at you?"
"I would hold you tighter against my bosom, and set him at defiance. In
your arms Lucrezia is safe. Look! the spirit is going away. Quick, quick!
He is warning us of the approach of some profane person, and tells us to
seek some other retreat to renew our pleasures. Let us go."
We rose and slowly advanced towards Donna Cecilia and the advocate, who
were just emerging from a neighbouring alley. Without avoiding them, and
without hurrying, just as if to meet one another was a very natural
occurrence, I enquired of Donna Cecilia whether her daughter had any fear
"In spite of all her strength of mind," she answered, "she is dreadfully
afraid of thunder, and she will scream with terror at the sight of the
smallest snake. There are some here, but she need not be frightened, for
they are not venomous."
I was speechless with astonishment, for I discovered that I had just
witnessed a wonderful love miracle. At that moment the children came up,
and, without ceremony, we again parted company.
"Tell me, wonderful being, bewitching woman, what would you have done if,
instead of your pretty serpent, you had seen your husband and your
"Nothing. Do you not know that, in moments of such rapture, lovers see and
feel nothing but love? Do you doubt having possessed me wholly, entirely?"
Lucrezia, in speaking thus, was not composing a poetical ode; she was not
feigning fictitious sentiments; her looks, the sound of her voice, were
"Are you certain," I enquired, "that we are not suspected?"
"My husband does not believe us to be in love with each other, or else he
does not mind such trifling pleasures as youth is generally wont to
indulge in. My mother is a clever woman, and perhaps she suspects the
truth, but she is aware that it is no longer any concern of hers. As to my
sister, she must know everything, for she cannot have forgotten the
broken-down bed; but she is prudent, and besides, she has taken it into
her head to pity me. She has no conception of the nature of my feelings
towards you. If I had not met you, my beloved, I should probably have gone
through life without realizing such feelings myself; for what I feel for
my husband.... well, I have for him the obedience which my position as a
wife imposes upon me."
"And yet he is most happy, and I envy him! He can clasp in his arms all
your lovely person whenever he likes! There is no hateful veil to hide any
of your charms from his gaze."
"Oh! where art thou, my dear serpent? Come to us, come and protect us
against the surprise of the uninitiated, and this very instant I fulfil
all the wishes of him I adore!"
We passed the morning in repeating that we loved each other, and in
exchanging over and over again substantial proofs of our mutual passion.
We had a delicious dinner, during which I was all attention for the
amiable Donna Cecilia. My pretty tortoise-shell box, filled with excellent
snuff, went more than once round the table. As it happened to be in the
hands of Lucrezia who was sitting on my left, her husband told her that,
if I had no objection, she might give me her ring and keep the snuff-box
in exchange. Thinking that the ring was not of as much value as my box, I
immediately accepted, but I found the ring of greater value. Lucrezia
would not, however, listen to anything on that subject. She put the box in
her pocket, and thus compelled me to keep her ring.
Dessert was nearly over, the conversation was very animated, when suddenly
the intended husband of Angelique claimed our attention for the reading of
a sonnet which he had composed and dedicated to me. I thanked him, and
placing the sonnet in my pocket promised to write one for him. This was
not, however, what he wished; he expected that, stimulated by emulation, I
would call for paper and pen, and sacrifice to Apollo hours which it was
much more to my taste to employ in worshipping another god whom his cold
nature knew only by name. We drank coffee, I paid the bill, and we went
about rambling through the labyrinthine alleys of the Villa Aldobrandini.
What sweet recollections that villa has left in my memory! It seemed as if
I saw my divine Lucrezia for the first time. Our looks were full of ardent
love, our hearts were beating in concert with the most tender impatience,
and a natural instinct was leading us towards a solitary asylum which the
hand of Love seemed to have prepared on purpose for the mysteries of its
secret worship. There, in the middle of a long avenue, and under a canopy
of thick foliage, we found a wide sofa made of grass, and sheltered by a
deep thicket; from that place our eyes could range over an immense plain,
and view the avenue to such a distance right and left that we were
perfectly secure against any surprise. We did not require to exchange one
word at the sight of this beautiful temple so favourable to our love; our
hearts spoke the same language.
Without a word being spoken, our ready hands soon managed to get rid of
all obstacles, and to expose in a state of nature all the beauties which
are generally veiled by troublesome wearing apparel. Two whole hours were
devoted to the most delightful, loving ecstasies. At last we exclaimed
together in mutual ecstasy, "O Love, we thank thee!"
We slowly retraced our steps towards the carriages, revelling in our
intense happiness. Lucrezia informed me that Angelique's suitor was
wealthy, that he owned a splendid villa at Tivoli, and that most likely he
would invite us all to dine and pass the night there. "I pray the god of
love," she added, "to grant us a night as beautiful as this day has been."
Then, looking sad, she said, "But alas! the ecclesiastical lawsuit which
has brought my husband to Rome is progressing so favourably that I am
mortally afraid he will obtain judgment all too soon."
The journey back to the city lasted two hours; we were alone in my
vis-a-vis and we overtaxed nature, exacting more than it can possibly
give. As we were getting near Rome we were compelled to let the curtain
fall before the denouement of the drama which we had performed to the
complete satisfaction of the actors.
I returned home rather fatigued, but the sound sleep which was so natural
at my age restored my full vigour, and in the morning I took my French
lesson at the usual hour.