The personal qualities of Mr. Marsh had obtained for him a great, and I may indeed say, exceptional degree of consideration and regard from his colleagues of the diplomatic body, and from the Italian ministers and political world generally. And I remember one notable instance of the manifestation of this, which I cannot refrain from citing. Mr. Marsh had written home to his Government some rather trenchantly unfavourable remarks on some portion of the then recent measures of the Italian Ministry. And by some awkward accident or mistake these had found their way into the columns of an American newspaper. The circumstances might have given rise to very disagreeable and mischievous complications and results. But the matter was suffered to pass without any official observation solely from the high personal consideration in which Mr. Marsh was held, not only at the Consulta (the Roman Foreign Office), but at the Quirinal, and in many a Roman salon.
Mr. Marsh died full of years and honours at a ripe old age. But the closing scene of his life was remarkable from the locality of it. He had gone to pass the hot season at Vallombrosa, where a comfortable hotel replaces the old forestieria of the monastery, while a School of Forestry has been established by the Government within its walls. Amid those secular shades the old diplomatist and scholar breathed his last, and could not have done so in a more peaceful spot. But the very inaccessible nature of the place made it a question of some difficulty how the body should be transported in properly decorous fashion to the railway station in the valley below—a difficulty which was solved by the young scholars of the School of Forestry, who turned out in a body to have the honour of bearing on their shoulders the remains of the man whose writings had done so much to awaken the Government to the necessity of establishing the institution to which they belonged.
Mrs. Marsh, for so many years the brightest ornament of the Italo-American society, and equally admired and welcomed by the English colony, first at Florence and then at Rome, still lives for the equal delight of her friends on the other side of the Atlantic. I may not, therefore, venture to say more of “what I remember” of her, than that it abundantly accounts for the feeling of an unfilled void, which her absence occasioned and occasions in both the American and English world on the banks of the Tiber.
It was in the spring of the year 1860 that I first became acquainted with “George Eliot” and G H. Lewes in Florence. But it was during their second visit to Italy in 1861 that I saw a good deal more of them. It was in that year, towards the end of May, that I succeeded in persuading them to accompany me in a visit to the two celebrated Tuscan monasteries of Camaldoli and La Vernia. I had visited both on more than one occasion previously—once with a large and very merry party of both sexes, of whom Colley Grattan was one—but the excursion made in company with G.H. Lewes and George Eliot was another-guess sort of treat, and the days devoted to it stand out in high relief in my memory as some of the most memorable in my life.