Yes, the huge extinguisher which Heaven holds suspended over the city of Rome, stifles even the subtle spark of passion. If Vesuvius were here, it would have been cold for the last forty years. The Roman princesses were not a little talked of up to the end of the thirteenth century. Under the French rule their gallantry assumed a military complexion. They used to go and see their admirers play billiards at the Cafe Nuovo. But hypocrisy and morality have made immense progress since the restoration. The few who have afforded matter for the scandalous chronicles of Rome are sexagenarians, and their adventures are inscribed on the tablets of history, between Austerlitz and Waterloo.
The young princess whom we have just seen entering upon her married life, will begin by presenting her husband with sundry little princes and princesses; and there is no rampart against illicit affection like your row of little cradles.
In five or six years, when she might have leisure for evil thoughts, she will be bound hand and foot by the exigencies of society. You shall have a specimen of the mode in which she spends her days during the winter season. Her morning is devoted to dressing, breakfasting, her children, and her husband. From one to three she returns the visits she has received, in the exact form in which they were paid to her. The first act of politeness is to go and see your acquaintance; the second, to leave your card in person; the third, to send the same bit of pasteboard by a servant ad hoc. At three, all the world drives to the Villa Borghese, where there is a general salutation of acquaintances with the tips of the fingers. At four, up the Pincio. At five, it files backwards and forwards along the Corso. Everybody who is anybody is condemned to this triple promenade. If a single woman—who is anybody—were to absent herself, it would be inferred, as a matter of course, that she was ill, and a general inquiry as to the nature of her complaint would be instituted.
At close of day all go home. After dinner another toilette, and out for the evening. Every house has its particular reception-night. And a pure and simple reception indeed it is, without play, without music, without conversation; a mere interchange of bows and curtsies, and cold commonplaces. At rare intervals a ball breaks the ice, and shakes off the ennui generated by this system. Poor women! In an existence at once so busy and so void, there is not even room for friendship. Two who may have been friends from childhood, brought up in the same convent, married into the same world, may meet one another daily and at all hours, and yet may not be able to enjoy ten minutes of intimate conversation in the whole year. The brightest, the best, is known but by her name, her title, and her fortune. Judgments are passed on her beauty, her toilet, and her diamonds, but nobody has the opportunity or the leisure to penetrate into the depths of her mind. A really distinguished woman once said to me, “I feel that I become stupid when I enter these drawing-rooms. Vacancy seizes me at the very threshold.” Another, who had lived in France, regretted, with tears, the absence of those charming friendships, so cheerful and so cordial, that exist between the young married women of Paris.