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Sketches of Italy in Prose and Verse, No. I. Passage of the Alps.
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Italian Poets, No. I. Michel Angelo. No. II. Frederick II. and
NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
THE GALLERY OF APELLES.
discovered in the Summer of 1814. The adventure which led to the discovery of the manuscript, from which the subjoined translation has been made, is not one of those that can be ushered in as curious or extraordinary. It is, indeed, little beyond a common-place occurrence; but it possesses the advantages of simplicity and truth, which, in my mind, can give, even to commonplace, a charm far beyond the reach of singularity and pretension. I shall therefore briefly relate it.
In the memorable year 1814, when the vast theatre of Napoleon's pride and power was thrown open to British subjects, I was one of the many who hastened to go over what had so long been forbidden ground. My intention was, having made but a short stay at Paris, to cross the Alps and visit Rome, the object of my early and unbounded veneration. A friend told me that he should charge me with a commission to execute on my way. He was of a Roman Catholic family; and his only sister, in the very blossom of her youth, had sacrificed fortune, beauty, and the graces, to a life of religious seclusion. The place of her retirement was a small convent beyond the Alps, on the great Milan road, at the village of Vallerosa. My commission was, to purchase, at Paris, a collection of the small medals, crucifixes, rosaries, and amulets, which had been issued from the Imperial mint on the occasion of Napoleon's being crowned “the Lord's anointed” by the Pope--all of which professed to have received the benediction of the holy father. I was, however, particularly cautioned to guard against a fraud, which, according to the letter of the fair recluse, the bijoutiers of Paris sometimes practised on the faithful, viz. imposing comme benis du Pape, what had received the blessing only at second hand-by being placed in contact with others that had received the primary benediction. I was, also, charged with letters from my friend, and the other members of his family, for the novice-nun and the abbess of Vallerosa. Having passed some days at Paris pleasantly enough (I owe this acknowledgment en passant), I began to think of continuing my journey. My first care was to execute my commission. I consulted on the subject a charming friend, with whom I had the good fortune to become acquainted during my short stay in the French capital. She observed, with a smile, that she thought Englishmen were all heretics, and had no faith in Bons Dieux, offering, at the same time, to accompany me to the Quai
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des Orfèvres. We proceeded immediately to her jeweller's. She mentioned what I wanted, the caution given me respecting the genuineness of the benediction, my being a heretic and therefore without discrimination in those things—all in that tone of delicate banter which French women can assume with so much tact and fascination. As we were leaving the shop with my assortment of holy relics in a small box, I noticed Sophie (for so my lovely friend was named) looking at a small watch, one of those usually worn by French women, suspended from the neck. I asked her to let me see it. She gave it to me, observing that her attention had been fixed by the painting of St. George, our patron, spearing the Dragon, on the cover. The painting was really pretty. I purchased the watch for a few Napoleons, and presented it to Sophie. She declined accepting it, and declared that she would have prevented my purchasing it, but that she thought I designed it for a present à ma bien-aimée in England. I urged her to give that proof of her confidence and esteem—which she no longer denied me. I
perceived that she wore no chain, and asked the jeweller to produce some from which to choose. To this she objected in a decisive tone-desired the jeweller at the same time to let her see some chains of a particular workmanship and value-selected one the most costly and superb -passed it round her neck with the watch suspended from it—and looking at me with a smile significant of soul and sentiment beyond the power of language to express, hid the happy bauble in one of the loveliest bosoms in the world. I would make one remark here for the benefit of my countrymen : he who aspires to please French women must assume, if he has not, the virtue of generosity. They will receive" tokens of affection” from “ a chosen friend,” but without disenchanting the sex of its delicacy, or sentiment of its disinterestedness. Sophie was an epitome of all that is most charming in her countrywomen. I think I first loved her for a certain accordance of her character with her name, which, in Greek, conveys a sedate propriety of female demeanour that reminds one of Minerva,-relieved, however, in the demeanour of Sophie, by delightful alternations of French vivacity and playfulness. The thought struck me one evening in her society that she resembled Hebe acting the part of Minerva, for the entertainment of the court of Olympus. I addressed her a copy of verses, which turned upon this idea. Never were verses or poet in higher vogue. All the world met me with compliment and congratulation. But there is no glory without its alloy. Mine certainly was not. In the first place, the auditors scarcely understood a syllable of what they praised, and, even if they did, my unhappy verses were declaimed by a pigeon-headed voltigeur, who, after twenty-five years emigration passed in England, mangled our language into a jargon so whimsical as to convulse with laughter any person knowing English-excepting only the unfortunate author. But my greatest torture was the self-complacent grimace with which the Knight of St. Louis appealed to my candour, for the marvellous skill with which he had mastered the finesses of English pronunciation. The second mortification was still more grievous. My vogue lasted but three days. A cursed Prussian, maliciously introduced by one of my best friends, had the art of imitating, with his voice, the blowing of