Here is certainly much despotic power in Italy, but, I fancy, very little oppression; perhaps authority, once acknowledged, does not delight itself always by the fatigue of exertion. Sat est prostrasse leoni is an old adage, with which perhaps I may be the better acquainted, as it is the motto to my own coat of arms; and unless sovereignty is hungry, for ought I see, he does not certainly devour.
The certainty of their irrevocable doom, softened by kind usage from their superiors, makes, in the mean time, an odd sort of humorous drollery spring up among the common people, who are much happier here at Milan than I expected to find them: every great house giving meat, broth, &c. to poor dependents with liberal good-nature enough, so that mighty little wandering misery is seen in the streets; unlike those of Genoa, who seem mocked with the word liberty, while sorrow, sickness, and the most pinching want, pine at the doors of marble palaces, whose owners are unfeeling as their walls.
Our ordinary people here in Lombardy are well clothed, fat, stout, and merry; and desirous to divert themselves, and their protectors, whom they love at their hearts. There is however a degree of effrontery among the women that amazes me, and of which I had no idea, till a friend shewed me one evening from my own box at the opera, fifty or a hundred low shop-keepers wives, dispersed about the pit at the theatre, dressed in men’s clothes, per disimpegno as they call it; that they might be more at liberty forsooth to clap and hiss, and quarrel and jostle, &c. I felt shocked. “One who comes from a free government need not wonder so,” said he: “On the contrary, Sir,” replied I, “where every body has hopes, at least possibility, of bettering his station, and advancing nearer to the limits of upper life, none except the most abandoned of their species will wholly lose sight of such decorous conduct as alone can grace them when they have reached their wish: whereas your people know their destiny, future as well as present, and think no more of deserving a higher post, than they think of obtaining it.” Let me add, however, that if these women were a little riotous during the Easter holidays, they are dilletantes only. In this city no female professors of immorality and open libertinage, disgraceful at once, and pernicious to society, are permitted to range the streets in quest of prey; to the horror of all thinking people, and the ruin of all heedless ones.
With which observation, to continue the tour of Italy, we this day leave, for a twelvemonth at least, Milano il grande, after having spent, though not quite finished the winter in it; as there fell a very heavy snow last Saturday, which hindered our setting out a week ago, though this is the sixth of April; and exactly five months have now since last November been passed among those who have I hope approved our conduct and