[Footnote G: We passed yester evening as if we had been in the Apollo.]
[Footnote H: Would dry up old Neptune himself.]
“Et Mediolani mira omnia
Innumerae cultaeque domus facunda virorum
Ingenia et mores laeti.”
Milan with plenty and with
And numerous streets and cleanly dwellings shows;
The people, bless’d by Nature’s happy force,
Are eloquent and cheerful in discourse.
What I have said this moment will, however, account in some measure for a thing which he treats with infinite contempt, not unjustly perhaps; yet does it not deserve the ridicule handed down from his time by all who have touched the subject. It is about the author, who before his theatrical representation prefixes an odd declaration, that though he names Pluto, and Neptune, and I know not who, upon the stage, yet he believes none of those fables, but considers himself as a Christian, a Catholick, &c. All this does appear very absurdly superfluous to us; but as I observed, they live nearer the original feats of paganism; many old customs are yet retained, and the names not lost among them, or laid up merely for literary purposes as in England. They swear per Bacco perpetually in common discourse; and once I saw a gentleman in the heat of conversation blush at the recollection that he had said barba Fove, where he meant God Almighty.
It is likewise unkind enough in Mr. Addison, perhaps unjust too, to speak with scorn of the libraries, or state of literature, at Milan. The collection of books at Brera is prodigious, and has been lately much increased by the Pertusanian and Firmian libraries falling into it: a more magnificent repository for learning, a more comfortable situation for students, so complete and perfect a disposition of the books, will scarcely be found in any other city not professedly a university, I believe; and here are professors worthy of the highest literary stations, that do honour to learning herself. I will not indulge myself by naming any one, where all deserve the highest praise; and it is so difficult to restrain one’s pen upon so favourite a subject, that I shall only name some rarities which particularly struck me, and avoid further temptations, where the sense of obligation, and the recollection of partial kindness, inspire an inclination to praises which appear tedious to those readers who could not enter into my feelings, and of course would scarcely excuse them.
Thirteen volumes of MS. Psalms, written with wonderful elegance and manual nicety, struck me as very curious: they were done by the Certosini monks lately eradicated, and with beautiful illuminations to almost every page. A Livy, printed here in 1418, fresh and perfect; and a Pliny, of the Parma press, dated 1472; are extremely valuable. But the pleasure I received from observing that the learned librarian had not denied a place to Tillotson’s works, was counteracted by finding Bolingbroke’s philosophy upon the same shelf, and enjoying exactly the same reputation as to the truth of the doctrine contained in either; for both were English, and of course heretical.