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At all events, I now find myself bound to the undertaking, and when, in some shape or other, I shall have contributed my quota to this most craving appetite of the time-when I shall have published my Memoirs and Reminiscences- I trust I shall receive the usual reward of such a labour- that of being allowed to sink into quiet obscurity." P#
WALKS IN ROME AND ITS ENVIRONS, NO, XX.
Isuiæ c. lxv. v. 3. It is usually a considerable time before the stranger thinks of penetrating into the interior of the city. Dazzled, but more frequently fatigued by the crowd and magnificence of the public monuments, he is little inclined to explore those tracts of wretchedness which intervene between the splendors of the capital. Some get over the “bore” as speedily as they can-they annoy themselves and others, for a few weeks, to avoid giving scandal, and then sleep, or talk over the exertion for the remainder of their residence. Others, all enthusiasm, and sicklied over with ancient recollections, are afraid to injure, by too coarse a contact with modern realities, the “ fine rust;" others again are mere passers through-motes in the sunbeam, or straws on the surface of the stream-knowing little, and as little known, and it must be avowed with very little solicitude about either. Now none of these people, it is very clear, can have much claim to the conscience or honours of a genuine traveller. Neither the Forum, nor the Capitol, nor St. Peter's, make up Rome. There are other Romes besides those which are to be seen from a calesche. I will not go so far as to say, with the artist, " que j'aime tout, jusqu'à ses saletés," but I must admit there is a great deal to see and note, besides her marbles and gilding. In fine, there is a by-way, as well as a high-way mode of travelling, and one I think quite essential to the other. If a man would fully estimate the statues of the Vatican, let him first take his staff and plunge into the miseries of the Ghetto.
I fell into this cast of thought one morning when I had intended to visit the Pantheon, and suddenly found myself carried away by some eddy or other of a reverie into quite an opposite direction. I never ask the name of a street; for I hate to break in on a man's silence, or conversation, and generally take the task of discovery upon myself. My errors, of course, are innumerable, but I never find that I lose much in the long run. I steer on not so much by streets as by steeples, and if I do not find precisely what I seek, I generally find what is perhaps as good, or what at least satisfies me quite as well.
I had now left the Piazza Colonna, and ought, in all reason, after a few minutes' walk, to have run right down upon the Pantheon ; but somehow or other I got entangled in a cluster of narrow and lofty lanes, so lofty, indeed, as to shut out all view of towers and cupolas, and leave me a strip only of the blue heaven above me instead. After much crossing and recrossing, I at last chanced on the Piazza-Navona ; but having been in that part of the city before, I made another effort, and got still farther out of my way to the south. Seeing there was no reinedy, I surrendered myself up at last to my fate, and deferred the Pantheon till to-morrow. The lanes in this part of the city have almost the appearance of catacombs; as close as at Venice, you may very nearly touch the houses on either side with your extended arms, and hold tête-à-tête with your opposite neighbour with little fear or interruption. Every one makes a shop of the street itself, and curtails considerably the space left for passengers below; then, with an Oriental affection for the same profession, the trades generally cluster together and make of each street a sort of Bazaar. You have the basket-makers in one, and the shoemakers in another, and the coronari, or chaplet-sellers in a third, and so on, much in the same manner as you have the pipe and papousche sellers at Constantinople, and the goldsmiths and silversmiths on the Ponte Vecchio at Florence. The houses are dim and dreary, and come down to us with the patchwork of all ages on their forehead : here black-looking sculpture, once the boast of the virtuoso inmate, and still giving proof, in the delicate prccision of the chiselling of “the golden age," of the Leos and the Michael Angelos; then a little farther large streets of faded fresco, of still earlier Dec.--VOL. XXVI. NO. CVIII.
date ; a little beyond it a Madonna, set up for the use of its lamp, and counting for its votaries and subscribers every shop in the neighbourhood; then immediately below, as if under its especial protection, an “osteria," with its “ cancelli” and casks, and circle of silent drinkers grouped around the door. Such contrasts and confusions meet you at every step; and all this is now and then broken in upon by tall red towers, with their shattered tracery, remembrances of the feudal dissensions of the city, or grass-grown courts of palaces, long since deserted by their masters, and preserving nothing of their former grandeur but the dry basin of the fountain and the huge oaken door. In looking in at one of these entrances I saw busily engaged, in what was once probably the Porter's lodge, a very important personage. No one is better attended, or by more anxious votaries. He is a sort of public writer for all the wants of the neighbourhood, but he particularly addicts himself to the delicate affairs of the heart. At all hours of the day, old and young, men and women, are to be found around his chair, all making their confessions, (few confessions are made more frankly,) to the philosophic interpreter, who pares them down to the same discreet dimensions, and squares their passion after the most regularly established rustic etiquette. It is no trivial study, either for idler or philosopher, to contrast the rugged imperturbability of this personification of Time, (he is almost always an old man, with a Sydrophel-looking sort of mantle about him, and a brown fur cap,) with the bounding spirit flashing forth from the eyes and attitudes of his young clients; the deep sighs at the inadequacy of his phrases ; the unutterable things which pout on the lips of his fair petitioners; and the press-forward, head-over-heel sort of impetuosity of the boy-lovers of this part of the community. In the mean time down go his spectacles; and the pen, new nibbed, is set forward, flowing with brown ink and cheap superlatives, signed with a huge cross and the adorable name, and sealed with an “ostia,” and put up, ink wafer and all, to dry upon the wounded heart. Here is a book of the human passions, thrown wide open for all who have eyes to read. I stopped for a moment and heard the usual proportion of flames and darts, with some scraps of choice Italian put in at the end, as a writing master does his flourishes. The whole went on, like the shoemaking near, as a matter of course. The shame here is not to be in love, but to be out of it. Every one thinks it his duty to “ far a l'amore” as quickly and as passionately as he can. .
I had not been rambling long when I found myself in a sort of small irregular square. There are many of these openings in Rome, formed, I should think, by the tumbling down of the edifices near. This may stand as the type of the majority. It seemed shaped by accident rather than intention; all hill or valley-new ruins gradually accumulating over old ones, and neither hand nor inclination to remove either. On one side ran a string of houses originally in that frugal style of architecture known by the name of the Bramantesque, but losing all traces of its original harmony in the large windows irregularly disposed or altogether blocked up, disjointed doors, &c. From the upper stories there was a large display of rags and linen, faring over their severe and gloomy façades, and below abundance of tattered shutters, decayed scutcheons, maimed saints, &c. A patch of whitewash to the left pointed out the chapel of some “ confraternità," who take the souls of the vicinity under their patronage, and are themselves under the patronage of the family of the Costaguti. In the centre I espied a green uncleaned fountain, which, in the midst of its dilapidation, still does a portion of its duty. Its great utility at present is the point d'appui which it furnishes for all the idleness and gossip of the neighbourhood. This it does well enough, and at all hours you may see figures grouped round its basin from the heart of "the viccoletti” near, in their blue and red costumes, unshorn beards, broad brown hats, &c. Two or three men playing at moro, and an old woman with her daughter, seated on a piece of marble half-buried in the earth, both armed with their braziers, and wrapped up in the fortune of the game, were the first figures that met me. I stood gazing for some time on
their perfect listlessness, and tried to attract their attention as I passed on. But they had no motive to rouse them from their apathy, and noisy and sallow children climbed up unobserved or unheeded upon their backs. This is the vestibule to the Ghetto. A plain arch, a ponderous gate, a sullen sole dier, with fixed bayonet, keeping constant watch, mark the entrance to this melancholy region.
The “ Ghetto” is a generic name, and used in every large town in Italy, as the distinctive appellation for the “ recinto," or walled enclosure, allowed by the “ toleration," (so intolerance is denominated all over the world,) to the Jews, whom their wants, rather than their charity, have consented to spare. But in most of these towns various reforms, all silent, but not the less irresistible, have successively taken place. Thi, bonds have been loosened-the wall has been cast down-the branding costume abolished, which once pointed them out to the scorn and buffet of the Christian. in Venice and in Leghorn, the necessities of commerce have dono more for philosophy than philosophy has ever dared to do for herself. The “money-changers" rule the needy Christian, who yesterday " spat upon his cabordine." No portion of Leghorn is more brilliant than the “ Quartieri degii Ebrei." There the very name of Ghetto has shrunk away befor: the porter of the proscribed colony. But Rome retains all her inveterase adherence to old abuse, and looks like a nation of Eldons. She preserves all “ the venerable verdure” of her ancient oppressions,-the power is nearly gone, but the shadow is cherished with the drivelling pertinacity of all ancient despotisms. It is in vain to represent to the Consistory, that the Curci di Carist, being founded on a rock, is not likely to be undermined by such enginery. This does not prevent the cry of its “being in danger," whenover it is necessary to have a victim. The Lords Spiritual have much the same sort of taste here that they have in England. The Jews form in some sort their preserve, and render them the same kind of service the Roman Catholics were once condemned to render our own Cardinals at home. They are kept to make money and to pay it-to be preached at and preached to-to be converted and reconverted, -all necessary things, for they go to prove the absolute necessity of a Church police and a Church establishment, above all other human wants. The Catholic requiros the Jew as the Protestant required the Catholic. If there were no dissensions, we should run great risk of having no Churchism; and were there no Churchism, we might as well ke, as every one knows, sans king, sans bishops, sans tithes, sans taxes, sans every thing.
I had not much time to make these refiactions-nor did I make many of them till long afterwards. I was much more occupied at the moment with effects than causes. The miserable region completely absorbed me. Miserable indeed it is, and Dante does well in sumning up all miseries in his Giudecca. This Giudecca before me might well rival any of his Bolgi. I stopped some few instants at the entrance, not well knowing whether I should or could pass on, it looked so like the court of a dobtors' prison. I asked one or two questions they were scarcely answered. The Papal soldier at the gate at last volunteered a reply. He twirled his moustaches, and with the biliousness of his nation whispered sull:ily, “ il Ghetto." I took a glance for a moment at the contrast between the two people. Here were the masters on one side, the servants on the other. In the square I had just left I saw a squalid and sulen race of men, with nothing to qualify them for sus periority but the conviction and habit of power. Their features glared with the gloomy force of concentrated or exploded passions. All here is combat or sleep, dangerous or useless energies. Here the Monticiani meet the Transteverini (time out of mind their hereditary enemies), fight their battles, celebrate their triumphs, and go to sleep till the next encounter. On the other side of the gate is a very different people, whose virtue is patience, and heroism long-suffering. These are despised virtues, it is true, but it requires something to sustain a character without the aid of external admiration-spectacle-applause, or all that goes to the making-up of ordinary heroes.
These abhorred victims of religious and popular hatred are still kept within the prison walls of their ancient Ghetto, without much reference to the tendency of their race, more conspicuous in poverty than in riches, to increase their numbers with desperate activity. Their rulers do not recognize this propensity, and squeeze up inexorably “ the superfluous population” within their old dimensions.* The moment you pass the soldier or turnkey, (for he locks them up at night,) you enter a narrow and crowded street, of about half a mile in length, formed of lines of ragged and wretched houses, projecting and usurping from the free air the little space they cannot claim below. This is insufficient, and even on wet days you find them pouring out the surplus of their families, amidst rain and filth, and scattered vegetables on the street. In some instances a great portion of the lower story of the houses has been taken away to allow them air ; and it is not unusual from these gloomy caverns sometimes to see issuing six or seven young girls at once-sallow and sickly with confinement, or to meet them seated in clusters on rickety stools, engaged in their perpetual vocation of mending tattered clothes. They work, eat, sleep, and altogether live in public-compelled by the blind tyranny of their masters to these habitual violations of comfort and propriety. Health is at Rome the most necessary, but the most neglected of earthly wants, but a government which has almost created the Campagna, is not very likely to be solicitous about the lives of its natural enemies. * “Live if they can," is the only indulgence which a Jew can here claim from a Christian. “Is he not a beast ?'t exclaim the multitude. Their rulers are more prudent, and do not speak it; but that they do not think it, is not quite so sure. At all events there is no reason why they should not treat them as well as their other beasts; but here pigs are often the more fortunate of the two.
On the right, a few paces from the gate, you observe a small square, opening to a very humble synagogue. A low portico conducts to the “Scuole," as they are termed a miserable hovel, where Hebrew is still heard, and the coming of the Messiah still expected, after the blight of so many centuries. The door was half open, and I could catch a glance at the interior. I saw, through the folding valves, a number of benches covered with wretchedlooking beings, where childhood had been withered before it was ripe, and the misery of a long life had already cast before it its drear and ominous shadows. The same rumbling and monotonous swing of the voice, the same hymns, the same chants, which I had before heard among the despised people elsewhere, came afresh upon my ear. I looked on them with pain, and retired
* And this, with half Rome an absolute waste, and the inhabitants crying out for more inhabitants, more fires to drive away the constantly encroaching malaria ! But such is “ the wisdom of our ancestors," the unalterable constitutions of the Clements, &c. A few days after my visit an instance occurred of the severity with which the principle is enforced. Two Jews arrived from Leghorn, and took up their abode in some tavern, near their brethren of the Ghetto. At dead of night two of the police broke in upon their repose, and took both prisoners. They expostulated-of course in vain. In direct violation of “the existing ordinances," they had slept outside the Ghetto. This was a matter of fine and imprisonment. The imprisonment was remitted, but the fine was levied to the amount of forty crowns. Fortunately one of these gentlemen was under the protection of England, and the English Consul did more for him than his innocence. The fine was sent back. The most singular part of the whole transaction was that Cardinal Gonsalvi knew nothing whatever of the matter. The Sbirei of the Cardinal Vicar (Della Genga) were the performers. This is one of the blessings of a Temporal-Spiritual Monarchy. The left-hand knows not what the right does.
+ I was one day riding in the Campagna, and met one of those pedlars, so fre. quent in all parts of Italy. He was walking slowly and silently, literally borne down by his heavy burden to the earth. A Contadino passed by on the same path. The pedlar did not move sufficiently qaick-he dashed him into the ditch. I altacked the ruffian for his inhumanity, * Non è una bestia ?” said he fiercely, and strode on. The man was a Jew!