Page images
PDF
EPUB

rode delightfully upon the smooth azure swells rolling in from the Gulf. The position is in the centre of the amphitheatre of hills, at the base and on the acclivities of which the city is built. Nothing can be more picturesque and magnificent, than the crescent of white edifices, crowned with domes and turrets, encircling the port with a graceful curve, and climbing stage above stage up the verdant sides of the Apennines, often so steep as to require flights of steps in ascending from one street to another. Overtopping the whole, are seen the ramparts of the city, flanked with towers and fortresses, extending for the distance of eight or ten miles over the summits of the mountains. Several chateaux, churches, and convents are perched upon the heights; but a considerable part of the area enclosed by the outer walls is a waste of rocks and uncultivated fields. The town itself is not more than four or five miles in circuit, containing about 80,000 inhabitants. Such a charming picture presented itself to view from this point, the distance concealing all meaner features in the streets and houses, that some reluctance was felt to dissolve the enchantment by again approaching the shore.

On debarking from this excursion, an effort was made to visit the Royal Navy-Yard, which was open to the passage of groups of galley slaves; but a brace of sentinels stationed at the gate thrust us back in a rude manner, informing us that a special permit emanating from his majesty was indispensable. Our principal object was to see the beak of a Roman ship, said to be here deposited; but the trouble and delay of suing for a royal passport induced us to abandon a second trial for admission. The naval force of this potent monarch, who by the grace of the Holy Alliance, is lord of a portion of the Alps and of the Isles of the Mediterranean, consists of some ten or fifteen ships of war, the largest of which is a frigate. Its magnitude, however, far transcends the capacity of its master, or its uses to the state. The only powder it burns is wasted in birth-day salutes, on the festivals of the Virgin, or in honour of the arrival or departure of the royal family.

I was not a little amused with the uproar which this formidable armament, snugly moored under the lee of the moles, created on the great occasion of the arrival of the king and his court from his good city of Turin, which divides his affections and favours with Genoa, each in turn being blest with his royal presence. On the glorious day of his return to the embraces of his second love, the navy of his Majesty was for hours in a blaze, and the roar of cannon echoed through the deepest recesses of the Alps and the Apennines. To the din of broadsides, were added the merry peals of bells, with the accompani

ments of drums and bugles, the rattling of carriages and the trampling of steeds. All the marmots of the hills and the anchovies upon the coast must have been astounded. Certain it is, that the whole town was in commotion. As fate would have it, a violent gust of wind and rain descended simultaneously with the king from the heights of the Bochetta; but he thundered on in his coach and six upon the full gallop, unceremoniously leaving the procession of courtiers who went to meet him, far in the rear, and without a salutation, the windows of his carriage being closed. We had a glance at him and his family, as they alighted at the gates of the Palace, and took sedans to go to church, for the purpose of offering up their prayers in public. This trifling event produced as strong a sensation and as much parade, as if another Doria had set the nation free. It is proper to remark, however, that a large proportion of the more respectable citizens of Genoa look with contempt on the present king, and cannot forgive the British Government, for having betrayed their allies into such hands. This act of treachery on the part of England forms one of the blackest pages of its history.

So numerous are the Palaces of Genoa, that I am as much at a loss how to dispose of them to advantage, as have been some of their noble, bankrupt, poverty-stricken proprietors, since the sad reverses of their fortunes and the unhappy revolutions of their country. The continuous façades of these gorgeous piles, stretching along both sides of the Strada Balbi, Nuova, and Nuovissima, have perhaps justly called forth the admiration of all travellers, even after having seen the rest of Italy. Eustace prefers them to the same description of edifices at Naples, Rome, or Florence. Lady Morgan, in one of the poetic, truth-stretching flights of her imagination, converts them into ruins. and gilds them with moon-beams. The author of Corinne, the romantic, grandiloquent Corinne, during her residence at this place, used to say that these three streets," seemed to have been built for a congress of kings;" a most ungallant compliment by the bye to the quondam republicans of Genoa, especially at a juncture, when a Congress of Kings had actually taken possession of the whole state, and had quartered one of their creatures in the halls of the Durazzo! However, the Genoese took the pompous exclamation in good part, and cicerones occasionally throw it out by way of heightening the admiration of tourists.

But we have set out to visit the Palaces; and to the Palaces let us go without further ceremony, as soon as we can effect a passage through the swarms of beggars, who like cormorants hover round the doors, with the plausible importunity, that whoever can afford to pay

a franc for a show can also afford to drop a sous for the relief of decrepitude and penury. There are not less than forty palaces upon the lists of the valets-de-place; and in the eagerness of novices, who had just entered upon the routine of sight-seeing at the threshold of Italy, we went the rounds of nearly the whole number, sweeping indiscriminately whatever fell in our way. But let not my readers recoil with the apprehension, that I am about to conduct them through desolate corridors, over acres of tiled floors, stuccoed walls, and frescoed ceilings. The American motto of "e pluribus unum" must be my guide in speaking of the multifarious works of art in Italy.

The most interesting of the Genoese palaces, as well from its position as from its associations, is that of the Prince D'Oria Panfili, once the residence of Andrew Doria, the Liberator of his country; of Charles the Vth during his visit to Genoa; and subsequently of Napoleon, who seems to have been the last imperial tenant of its shattered walls. From the contagion and odium of his name, perhaps, with the present legitimate proprietor, who is high in the favour of his Holiness the Pope, being Secretary of the Papal State, and who has emigrated to Mount Janiculum at Rome, it has been suffered to fall into its ruinous condition, and will probably never be repaired. It is delightfully situated, without the gate of St. Thomas, on the avenue leading to the Lighthouse along which it extends 600 feet, at the very base of the Apennines, rising with inaccessible acclivities to the north. The other façade looks immediately upon the city, the port, and the sea-upon that city which the patriot chief had emancipated, and upon that element, amidst the storms and perils of which he had acquired his renown. Between the Palace and the Harbour, there is barely room for a garden, against the terraces of which the waves beat and echo through deserted halls. A few mutilated and weather-beaten statues about the fountain, over which Andrew Doria once presided in the character of Neptune-a few evergreens bordering untrodden alleys, with here and there a flower left to spring and bloom without culture, are the only remains of former splendour. But even in ruins, this Palace possesses a charm beyond any of its splendid rivals; and while impatience hurried us through gilded saloons, we lingered long in the dilapidated arcades of the Doria. It was originally finished and ornamented in a style of much greater simplicity than any of its neighbours. Two Doric columns adorn its unassuming entrance. Its decorations were suited to the character of its illustrious tenant. On its ceilings were portrayed the triumphs of Scipio, the shipwreck of Eneas, and the wars of Jove with the Titans. Along the side of the mountain, and above the road, ran a terrace 250 feet in length, and covered at

[blocks in formation]

top, designed for a walk in unpleasant weather. This also is in ruins. In a word, this neglected edifice furnishes too striking an emblem of the wreck of that country, which the prowess of the hero set free, as well as of the family who inherit his name, without any of his patriotism and public virtue.

The Ducal Palace ranks next in point of interest, having been the residence of the Doges and the seat of the Senate for several centuries. It stands upon one of the public squares, in the heart of the city, and presents a lofty, majestic front, enriched with three orders of architecture, the basement being Doric, the second story Ionic, and the third Corinthian, which may be considered the happiest combination, proceeding from strength to beauty. Severe criticism might perhaps deem the façade too much broken, and too much loaded with ornament, especially for a public building of this description, which ought to be characterized by a noble simplicity. The vestibule supported by eighty columns of marble, and the stair-way mounting by a magnificent flight of steps, form a suitable entrance to the great hall of the Senate, which is 150 feet in length, 60 in breadth, and 70 in height. Round

its walls are niches filled with statues, which are all draped with white linen. Here the Senate and the Doge convened to enact laws for the Republic, till Napoleon entered and prorogued the body sine die. An anecdote is told of the French, which I was unwilling to believe, but which appears to be well authenticated—that on their approach to this venerable pile, they threw down and dashed to pieces a statue of Andrew Doria, which stood on the area in front of the Palace! Adjoining the great hall is another apartment designed for consultation, less grand in its dimensions, though not less elegantly finished than the other. Before the great fire of 1777, by which the building was nearly destroyed, its decorations were suited to the dignity of the edifice. The naval achievements of the Republic; its victories over the Pisans ; its chivalrous deeds in the East; and the landing of its own Columbus in the New World, were delineated upon the walls. These ornaments have as far as practicable been restored; but the charm which time and association impart, is in a great measure dissolved, occupied as the halls now are by the creatures of the present government.

Among the double score of other Palaces, there is little to choose in point of attraction. Each has some peculiar feature, set off to the best advantage by the cosmetics of cicerones, to stimulate the curiosity of the tourist. All of them are rather interesting as specimens of architecture, and as depositories of the fine arts, than from any historical or personal associations. Of the Durazzos and Brignoles, the Spinolas and Cambiasos, the original proprietors who once figured as

Doges and Counsellors of state, few traces now remain, save long lines of dusty family portraits, suspended from the walls. The splendid groups of Genoese palaces inculcate a political lesson, and furnish a striking illustration of the position so eloquently maintained by one of our countrymen*—that free governments are as favourable to the cultivation of the fine arts as are aristocracies, monarchies, or despotisms. Nearly all these sumptuous piles were reared and filled with galleries of pictures during the golden age of the Republic, by private individuals who acquired their wealth by enterprise and commercial prosperity. Already stripped of many of their embellishments, they are now sinking into decay under the patronage of the present sovereign! Enterprise, genius, and taste have been paralyzed by the touch of a leaden sceptre; and a falling state, the decline of industry, the prostration of the arts, furnish a sad commentary on the encouragement to be looked for from legitimate courts.

But to return from this digression: the Palaces of Genoa are generally uniform in their outlines, two, three and four stories high, including the attics, with spacious courts and sometimes a garden, a profusion of marble pillars in the best taste, and almost always superb flights of steps, leading often to dirty, dark, and desolate suites of apartments, inhabited by any body but noblemen, and exhibiting any thing but neatness or comfort. The largest of these proud structures is the Durazzo, the front of which stretches between three and four hundred feet along the Strada Balbi, and presenting one of the richest façades I have ever seen. One evening during our visit, it was illuminated with coloured lamps, exhibiting a spectacle brilliant beyond description. Its portals are adorned with four Doric pillars of white marble, and the court and stair-way can scarcely be surpassed in magnificence. Having a curiosity to see the theatre where his Majesty munches his candy, and above all, the library, whence he draws those profound lessons of political wisdom for the government of a mighty empire, stretching from the Alps to the Orient, from Mont Blanc to Jerusalem, we sought admission to the halls of the Durazzo. But "Carle, now the King has come ;" and what favours could untitled republicans expect at the hands of such an august sovereign? Less liberal than the English nobility, his superiors in character and fortune, and unlike one of his masters, the King of France, he suffers no foreign foot to profane his carpets, and no plebeian crowds to see him eat-save only his sweetmeats in the opera box!

Professor Everett, in his Oration before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Harvard University, in 1824.

† One of the titles of this monarch is " King of Jerusalem."

« PreviousContinue »