In the beginning of April, 1841, after a little episode of spring wandering in the Tyrol and Bavaria (in the course of which I met my mother at the chateau of her very old friend the Baroness de Zandt, who has been mentioned before, and was now living somewhat solitarily in her huge house in its huge park near Bamberg), my mother and I started for Italy. Neither of us had at that time conceived the idea of making a home there. The object of the journey, which had been long contemplated by my mother, was the writing of a book on Italy, as she had already done on Paris and on Vienna.
Our journey was a prosperous one in all respects, and our flying visit to Italy was very pleasant. My mother’s book was duly written, and published by Mr. Bentley in 1842. But the Visit to Italy, as the work was entitled (with justly less pretence than the titles of either of its predecessors had put forward), was in truth all too short. And I find that almost all of the huge mass of varied recollections which are connected in my mind with Italy and Italian people and things belong to my second “visit” of nearly half a century’s duration!
We made, however, several pleasant acquaintances and some fast friends, principally at Florence, and thus paved the way, although little intending it at the time, for our return thither.
Our visit was rendered shorter than it would probably otherwise have been by my mother’s strong desire to be with my sister, who was expecting the birth of her first child at Penrith. And for this purpose we left Rome in February, 1842, in very severe weather. We crossed the Mont Cenis in sledges—which to me was a very acceptable experience, but to my mother was one, which nothing could have induced her to face, save the determination not to fail her child at her need.
How well I remember hearing as I sat in the banquette of the diligence which was just leaving Susa for its climb up the mountain amid the snow, then rapidly falling, the driver of the descending diligence, which had accomplished its work and was just about entering the haven of Susa, sing out to our driver—“Vous allez vous amuser joliment la haut, croyez moi!”
We did not, however, change the diligence for the sledges till we came to the descent on the northern side. But as we made our slow way to the top our vehicle was supported from time to time on either side by twelve strapping fellows, who put their shoulders to it.
I appreciated during that journey, though I was glad to see the mountain in its winter dress, the recommendation not to let your flight be in the winter.