Mean time here we are however in Arno’s Vale; the full moon shining over Fiesole, which I see from my windows. Milton’s verses every moment in one’s mouth, and Galileo’s house twenty yards from one’s door,
Whence her bright orb the
Tuscan artist view’d,
At evening from the top of Fesole;
Or in Val d’Arno to descry new lands,
Rivers or mountains on her spotty globe.
Our apartments here are better than we hoped for, situated most sweetly on the banks of this classical stream; a noble terrace underneath our window, broad as the south parade at Bath I think, and the fine Ponte della Santa Trinita within sight. Many people have asserted that this is the first among all bridges in the world; but architecture triumphs in the art of building bridges, and, though this is a most exquisitely beautiful fabric, I can scarcely venture to call it an unrivalled one: it shall, if the fine statues at the corners can assist its power over the fancy, and if cleanliness can compensate for stately magnificence, or for the fire of original and unassisted genius, it shall obliterate from my mind the Rialto at Venice, and the fine arch thrown over the Conway at Llanwrst in our North Wales.
I wrote to a lady at Venice this morning though, to say, however I might be charmed by the sweets of Arno’s side, I could not forbear regretting the Grand Canal.
Count Manucci, a nobleman of this city, formerly intimate with Mr. Thrale in London and Mr. Piozzi at Paris, came early to our apartments, and politely introduced us to the desirable society of his sisters and his friends. We have in his company and that of Cavalier d’Elci, a learned and accomplished man, of high birth, deep erudition, and polished manners, seen much, and with every possible advantage.
This morning they shewed us La Capella St. Lorenzo, where I could but think how surprisingly Mr. Addison’s prediction was verified, that these slow Florentines would not perhaps be able to finish the burial-place of their favourite family, before the family itself should be extinct. This reflection felt like one naturally suggested to me by the place; Doctor Moore however has the original merit of it, as I afterwards found it in his book: but it is the peculiar property of natural thoughts well expressed, to sink into one’s mind and incorporate themselves with it, so as to make one forget they were not all one’s own.
Poets, as well as jesters, do oft prove prophets: Prior’s happy prediction for the female wits in one of his epilogues is come true already, when he says,
Your time, poor souls! we’ll
take your very money,
Female third nights shall come so thick upon ye, &c.
and every hour gives one reason to hope that Mr. Pope’s glorious prophecy in favour of the Negroes will not now remain long unaccomplished, but that liberty will extend her happy influence over the world;