Mean time my fairy dream of fantastic delight seems fading away apace. Mr. Piozzi has been ill, and of a putrid complaint in his throat, which above all things I should dread in this hot climate. This accident, assisted by other concurring circumstances, has convinced me that we are not shut up in measureless content as Shakespeare calls it, even under St. Julian’s Hill: for here was no help to be got in the first place, except the useless conversation of a medical gentleman whose accent and language might have pleased a disengaged mind, but had little chance to tranquilize an affrighted one. What is worse, here was no rest to be had, for the multitudes of vermin up stairs and below. When we first hired the house, I remember my maid jumping up on one of the kitchen chairs while a ragged lad cleared that apartment for her of scorpions to the number of seventeen. But now the biters and stingers drive me quite wild, because one must keep the windows open for air, and a sick man can enjoy none of that, being closed up in the Zanzariere, and obliged to respire the same breath over and over again; which, with a sore throat and fever, is most melancholy: but I keep it wet with vinegar, and defy the hornets how I can.
What is more surprising than all, however, is to hear that no lemons can be procured for less than two pence English a-piece; and now I am almost ready to join myself in the general cry against Italian imposition, and recollect the proverb which teaches us
Chi ha da far con Tosco,
Non bisogna esser losco[AB];
Who has to do with Tuscan wight,
Of both his eyes will need the light.
as I am confident they cannot be worth even two pence a hundred here, where they hang like apples in our cyder countries; but the rogues know that my husband is sick, and upon poor me they have no mercy.
I have sent our folks out to gather fruit at a venture: and now this misery will soon be ended with his illness; driven away by deluges of lemonade, I think, made in defiance of wasps, flies, and a kind of volant beetle, wonderfully beautiful and very pertinacious in his attacks; and who makes dreadful depredations on my sugar and currant-jelly, so necessary on this occasion of illness, and so attractive to all these detestable inhabitants of a place so lovely.
My patient, however, complaining that although I kept these harpies at a distance, no sleep could yet be obtained;—I resolved when he was risen, and had changed his room, to examine into the true cause: and with my maid’s assistance, unript the mattress, which was without exaggeration or hyperbole all alive with creatures wholly unknown to me. Non-descripts in nastiness I believe they are, like maggots with horns and tails; such a race as I never saw or heard of, and as would have disgusted Mr. Leeuenhoeck himself. My willingness to quit this place and its hundred-footed inhabitants was quickened three