Grosley and Ramond

for Ramond, please read (and print) these sections:

Ch. IV: ascent of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre
Ch. XI: approach to the Maladetta

(Note that Ramond and Grosley are both important sources for Radcliffe's Udolpho. For reviews of Udolpho, etc., see the Gothic section of the CD.)

And the following sections from Pierre Jean Grosley, New Observations on Italy (1769).

3. Crossing of Mont Cenis

[35] We crossed mount Cenis the day before Midsummer-day, and it was the first time we had felt what might be called real hot weather. In our ascent, however, we saw snow in several places. On our reaching the spacious level which extends itself along the summit, we found a most beautiful sky and clear air, and the ground all over covered with very lively verdure and flowers almost in bloom. Among these flowers we observed some narcissus's, and most beautiful ranunculus's of a jonquille yellow, with something of that smell; also pansey violets with very large petals, and a fragrancy equal to any orange-flower essence. But the very next day being Midsummer-day, all this verdure and these charming flowers were to be given up to the flocks of the neighbouring country, which come annually on that day, to take possession of the summit, there remaining till the snowy weather.

We stopped at a priory in the middle of the plain, having supped the evening before with the prior, who had invited us to refresh ourselves at his house. On our coming there, we found the cloth laid, excellent wine and trouts which he had [36] just caught, in a lake facing his hermitage, at the bottom of a kind of cup, which the summit of mount Cenis forms. The colour, firmness, and taste of the trouts, which the prior himself ordered to be dressed, might induce epicures to come to mount Cenis, were it only to feast themselves on the spot. This hospitality the prior shews to all pilgrims whom he accounts capable of placing a due value on his trouts, and in the acknowledgment of the pilgrims consists the best part of the priory's revenue. We desired him to put up some slips of anemonies with seeds of violets and other flowers, leaving him a direction to Lyons with a six livre crown-piece as a gratuity; but unfortunately this commission slipt his memory.

Out of the lake breeding these excellent trouts, issues the lesser Doria, on the side of which lies the descent into Italy; but to the account given of the above plain, where this lake is, we must add, for the satisfaction of the naturalists, that the kind of cup formed by it, is bordered with very lofty eminences, so that literally it cannot be said to be on the summit of mount Cenis. Half way up the side of one of these eminences, and equal with the priory, it is, that the plains of Piedmont first come in sight; and this may be the spot from whence Hannibal shewed them to his army! In promontorio quodam unde longe ac late prospectus erat, consistere jussis militibus, Italiam ostentat, subjectosque Alpinis montibus circum-padanos campos. [He had been seen far and wide on that very promontory to have stopped with his disciplined troops; he showed them Italy and the low-lying plains surrounded by the Alpine mountains.]

We crossed mount Cenis in the usual carriage, that is, a hand-barrow like a hurdle, fixed to two sticks. This is the carriage which the noblest grandees must take up with in passing the Alps; [37] the fare-hire is not unreasonable, and is settled by the king of Sardinia at so much per carrier, but the number of carriers for those who come from France, is left to the syndic of Lasneburgh. On our arrival this syndic came to us, and after, as it were, measuring and weighing us by the eye, he pronounced that we should want fourteen carriers, six for me and eight for my fellow-traveller, having more flesh upon his bones than me. At length by compounding we got off for ten carriers, in the arithmetical proportion laid down by the syndic. These carriers relieving each other alternately go at a great rate, and the relais furnishes talk to the passengers by the way; this talk generally turns on the cardinals, the generals, the princes and princesses whom they have had the honour of carrying, and the generosity of those eminencies and highnesses. One told me that his father had carried M. de Vendome, and that this M. de Vendome was the drollest fellow in the world. I asked them whether they had never heard of a captain of Algerines, one Hannibal, crossing mount Cenis with a great army, about two thousand years ago. They told me they had heard of such a one, and that the folks of mount St. Bernard said it was through their very country that he had passed; but marshal Villiers and the cardinal de Polignac had assured the people of Lasneburg, that it was by the way of mount Cenis. This carrying continues for near four leagues; our servants performed the journey on mules, likewise hired at Lasneburg according to the settled rate, with which, a little muttering excepted, they were very well satisfied.

[38] Livy's description of the descent into Italy is perfectly just: Pleraque Alpium ab Italiā, sicut breviora, itą arctiora sunt: omnis fere via pręceps, angusta, lubrica. [Most of the Alps from Italy, although shorter, are yet fiercer: the entire way is steep and narrow and slippery.] To give an idea of this precipice, it suffices to say, that the descent is not quite three leagues, and the ascent takes up full twenty-five. We were amazed at the rapidity of the Arche, along which the way lies in ascending; but compared to the little Doria, along which you go down, it only creeps. The fall of the latter is one continual cascade, distributed by flights of twenty, thirty, fifty feet perpendicular height, down which the water precipitates itself like surf, or very light froth, so that at some distance it looks like the transparent clouds sailing along in a fine summer's sky.

The road of this descent is a zigzag at very acute angles, contrived and laid out with admirable art, and on it our carriers trotted as fast as the best chairmen in the streets of Paris. They rested but two or three times, and in these intervals, they placed the two hand-barrows along side of each other, on the point of a rock, where, sitting on the ground, we talked of whatever remarkable had occurred to us. To shorten the way they would stride over the point of the angles, and there we and our carriages sometimes hung over a precipice two or three thousand perpendicular feet in depth. The very mules, when their riders are so venturesome, or not knowing how to guide them, trust to them for fear of worse, take the same bold pace. This descent is to travellers, like being driven into Italy by a storm.

4. Ravenna; a wax image

[204] This church belongs to the Benedictines, whose house has a very remarkable singularity in it; a complete collection of the medicaments for treating distempers of all kinds, and of every imaginable expedient for the conveniency of the sick. Besides a well furnished laboratory, and an excellent physic garden kept in the best order, here are six large rooms on a floor: in the first is a complete set of pieces of anatomy; then all the instruments hitherto contrived for chirurgical operations, together with thread, needles, tents, bandages, suitable to every operation; lastly a storehouse of beds, sheets, bed cloaths, couches, pillars, cut out and prepared for the ready use of every kind of disease, with all possible conveniency to those who attend on the patients. These stores are distributed in large presses which wainscot the six rooms, and are of very neat workmanship. To reproach the preparatives contrived by an active charity, with sensuality and delicacy, would be an offence against human nature. For those distempers which require equitation, here is a most ingenious invention; a large dragon is suspended in the middle of one of these rooms, which, by means of clock-work, has all the motions of a horse. It gave me some pleasure to see the Benedictine, who invented this automaton, put it to a full trot; there I also saw, but with very different emotions, a piece of wax-work, the history of which was related to me.

[205] A young man, passionately in love with a very beautiful young woman, went for a few days to his relations, to settle matters on the occasion. In the mean time, this beauty fell sick, died, and, at the young mans return, had been buried three days. Fancying the sight of his mistress might somewhat alleviate his despair, he got the vault to be opened, and there she was seen in reality, as we saw her represented in wax. Extremely beautiful, among the damp regions of the dead; a lizard is sucking her mouth, a worm is creeping out of one of her cheeks, a mouse is gnawing one of her ears, and a huge swolen toad on her forehead is preying on one of her eyes. I own, at first sight, I took this to be no more than a pious contrivance for mortifying pride, and alienating the heart from too violent a love of sublunary inticements; but I have since been convinced of its possibility. Indeed, all the churches in Italy, from which for many ages religion and afterwards health had excluded all burial places, are now become one catacomb, divided in cases or vaults seven feet long, four broad, and five deep, separated by very slight walls, with a marble or stone cover, the extremities of which bear on those walls. Exactly in this manner was laid out the whole subterraneous part of the great church, which the Dominicans were building at Ancona, so that it looked not unlike a pidgeon-house. At the removal of a corpse into this last receptacle, it is brought to the edge of the vault in its vesture, and the face uncovered. Then the vault is half opened lengthwise, and after turning up its veil if a female, or spreading [206] a handkerchief on the face, it is tumbled into the case, where it takes its chance in the fall, and the vault is immediately closed. Now it is both very possible and probable, that such animals, subsisting without the open air, may haunt and delight in such places. The tombstones do not long fit in their first exactness, the walls being very slight sink unequally, and thus causes a multitude of crevices.

5. Approach to Venice on the River Brenta

[296] From Venice the peotta, or passage boat, carried us to Padua through the Lagunas. Five miles sailing brings one through them to Lizza-Fucina, where we entered the Brenta. The peotta was crouded with Venetians, going to rusticate a while in those charming recesses, where the nobility and rich citizens of Venice spend their summers. These travellers were one and all dressed in a dark coloured camlet [297] without neck or ruffles, and a silk handkerchief about their neck; not once did they open their mouths; they did not break silence so much as to inform us of the danger of oysters brought by state spies, disguised like fishermen, who come from several parts to view the passengers under the cloak of selling oysters. My fellow traveller being very fond of them bought a basket full, offered some to the Venetians, who refused them with a silent shake of the head, eat plentifully of them himself, would needs have me eat some, and left the rest for our servants; and how they agreed with us I shall presently mention.

The country along the Brenta is an earthly paradise, at least I know none where the land is more fertile, better cultivated, or more delightfully planted: every where are elegant seats in the midst of large enclosures, and most of them built by Palladio or his pupils, and from designs and plans of which no two are alike; and of all the principal front faces the river.

I have somewhere read that the whole length of the ground which this river waters from Lizza-Fucina to Padua is an alluvion, and that Padua was originally by the sea side. But this is certainly a mere conjecture, formed on the appearance of the ground and examination of the soil, but which is countenanced only by the authority of Strabo, and that very vague; all he says is, that Padua was built in the neighbourhood of the Lagunas. It is however a matter of fact, that the Venetians, to secure their Lagunas against the progress of the alluvions, have turned aside the greater part of [298] the Brenta waters on that part of the Lagunas, where the current being something brisker than at the natural mouth of the river, prevents any great accumulation of sediments.*[Note. The canal which discharges itself at Chiozza, was contrived and executed by the Romans, under the name of Fossa Claudia. Vid. Plin. 1. 3. c. 16.]

During this passage, I divided my attention between these delicious houses, of which, as I may say, we took a cursory view, and a book printed at Venice in 1669, called Arcadia in Brenta, overo la maninconia sbandida, no bad collection of witty sayings, jests, tales, &c. supposed to have passed in such a vehicle as ours, but among Venetians who were not such strict votaries to silence as those in our company.

6. From Montselice to Ancona

. . . [332] To this last city [Ferrara] we returned through a country continually intersected by rivers and canals, which are either forded or crossed over bridges, or in ferry boats. At all these passes a toll is to be paid, which travellers must see to charge to the Vetturini, or masters of the carriages, in bargaining with them: otherwise there is no end of answering their demands, and they share with the toll gatherers.

After the extortion at Ferrara, which I have related in the article of that city, we thought we could not do better than give ourselves up to our Procaccio; whereas we could not have fallen into worse hands. This man had under him four or five carriages, which had brought the legate's retinue; every day's journey he divided between saying rosaries with a stentorian voice, and making his passengers do the like, and swearing and cursing at his postillions, whose nakedness and emaciated look bespoke their master's temper, and the misery of a country, where people are under a necessity of engaging with such masters. This wretch was so implacable with regard to rosaries, that a jesuit, whom he took up by the way, having refused to join with him, saying, that to pray with such a hardened blasphemer would be offending God, the devout Procaccio went to the inquisition, at the town where he sat him down, and informed against him, though the father's breast, stomach, and a great part of his belly were fenced by a large crucifix hanging from his neck.

As to ourselves, his religious indignation went no farther, than frequently muttering the common [333] saying among the Italian mobility concerning the French: Questa gente non crede in Dio, those people do not believe in God. Besides, seeing us pretty often reading, and not knowing what our books turned on, he was afraid of treating us with the same abruptness, as he very insolently did those who were unemployed.

These rosaries put me in mind of the troops of pilgrims returning from our lady of Loretto, and who, some on foot, others in chaises or carts, crowded the roads. At our departure from Bologna we had met multitudes of others going to Loretto, so that every night all the towns in Romagna, inns, squares and streets swarmed with them. These troops consist of whole villages, and often with the priest and lord and lady of the manor at their head; their singing, laughing, and bawling, the common practice of such confused crowds, proclaim their approach from afar. On their coming up to us, every one, for the public edification, fell to work with his rosary, singing, or rather howling out the virgin's litanies, and casting a look of pity on us, as miscreants whom God had utterly rejected. Other groupes attacked us from their carts, with the language which passes between land or water carriages at meeting; and this ribaldry pleased us the better, as teaching us some Italian words, which we should not have met with in books, nor our usual conversation. The freedom and coarse merriment, which are the very soul of these parties, open conveniencies for temporary intrigues, which the pilgrims, of both sexes, are well versed in improving: all this they reconcile, [334] as our Procaccio mingled rosaries with his oaths and blasphemies.

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Document created January 30th 2003