When the Carnival arrives, it mingles everything without uniting anything. In truth, one is never more solitary than in the midst of noise and crowds. Then comes Lent; and then the grand comedy of Easter; and after that the family departs for the country, which means, economizing for some months in a huge half-furnished mansion. In short, the romance of a Roman Princess is made up of a certain number of noisy winters, and dull summers, and plenty of children. If there be, by chance, any more exciting chapters, they are doubtless known to the confessor.
“Ce ne sont pas la mes affaires.”
You must go far from Rome to find any real nobility. Here and there in the Mediterranean provinces some fallen family may be met with, living poorly upon the produce of a small estate, and still looked up to with a certain respect by its wealthier neighbours. The lower orders respect it because it has been something once, and even because it is nothing under the present hated government. These little provincial aristocrats, ignorant, simple, and proud, are a sort of relic of the Middle Ages left behind in the middle of the nineteenth century. I only mention them to recall the fact of their existence.
But if you will accompany me over the Apennines, into the glorious cities of the Romagna, I can show you more than one nobleman of great name and ancient lineage, who cultivates at once his lands and his intellect; who knows all that we know; who believes all that we believe, and nothing more; who takes an active interest in the misfortunes of Italy, and who, looking to free and happy Europe, hopes, through the sympathy of nations and the justice of sovereigns, to obtain the deliverance of his country. I met in certain palaces at Bologna a brilliant writer, applauded on every stage in Italy; a learned economist, quoted in the most serious reviews throughout Europe; a controversialist, dreaded by the priests; and all these individualities united in the single person of a Marquis of thirty-four, who may, perhaps, one of these days play an important part in the Italian revolution.
Permit me to open this chapter by recalling some recollections of the golden age.
A century or two ago, when old aristocracies, old royalties, and old religions imagined themselves eternal; when Popes innocently assured the fortunes of their nephews, and the welfare of their mistresses; when the simplicity of Catholic countries regilt annually the pontifical idol; when Europe contained some half-million of individuals who deemed themselves created for mutual understanding and amusement, without any thought of the classes beneath them, Rome was the Paradise of foreigners, and foreigners were the Providence of Rome.
A gentleman of birth took it into his head to visit Italy, for the sake of kissing the Pope’s toe, and perhaps other local curiosities. He managed to have a couple of years of leisure,—put three letters of introduction into one pocket, and 50,000 crowns into the other, and stepped into his travelling carriage.