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The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 12/Letters from Italy/Part VI

< The Works of J. W. von Goethe‎ | Volume 12‎ | Letters from Italy

ROME.

Rome, Nov. 1, 1786.

At last I can speak out, and greet my friends with good humour. May they pardon my secrecy, and what has been, as it were, a subterranean journey hither. For scarcely to myself did I venture to say whither I was hurrying. Even on the road I often had my fears; and it was only as I passed under the Porta del Popolo that I felt certain of reaching Rome.

And now let me also say that a thousand times, ay, at all times, do I think of you in the neighbourhood of these objects which I never believed I should visit alone. It was only when I saw every one bound, body and soul, to the north, and all longing for those countries utterly extinct among them, that I resolved to undertake the long, solitary journey, and to seek that centre toward which I was attracted by an irresistible impulse. Indeed, for the few last years it had become with me a kind of disease, which could only be cured by the sight and presence of the absent object. Now, at length, I may venture to confess the truth. It reached at last such a height that I durst not look at a Latin book, or even an engraving of Italian scenery. The craving to see this country was over-ripe. Now it is satisfied. Friends and country have once more become right dear to me, and the return to them is a wished-for object; nay, the more ardently desired, the more firmly I feel convinced that I bring with me too many treasures for personal enjoyment or private use, but such as through life may serve others, as well as myself, for edification and guidance.


Rome, Nov. 1, 1786.

Well, at last I am arrived in this great capital of the world. If, fifteen years ago, I could have seen it in good company, with a well-informed guide, I should have thought myself very fortunate. But as it was to be that I should thus see it alone, and with my own eyes, it is well that this joy has fallen to my lot so late in life.

Over the mountains of the Tyrol I have as good as flown. Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and Venice I have carefully looked at; hastily glanced at Ferrara, Cento, Bologna; and scarcely seen Florence at all. My anxiety to reach Rome was so great, and it so grew with me every moment, that to think of stopping anywhere was quite out of the question. Even in Florence, I only stayed three hours. Now I am here at my ease, and, as it would seem, shall be tranquillised for my whole life; for we may almost say that a new life begins when a man once sees with his own eyes all that before he has but partially heard or read of. All the dreams of my youth I now behold realised before me. The subjects of the first engravings I ever remember seeing (several views of Rome were hung up in an anteroom of my father's house) stand bodily before my sight, and all that I had long been acquainted with through paintings or drawings, engravings or woodcuts, plaster casts and cork models, are here collectively presented to my eye. Wherever I go I find some old acquaintance in this new world. It is all just as I had thought it, and yet all is new. And just the same might I remark of my own observations and my own ideas. I have not gained any new thoughts; but the older ones have become so defined, so vivid, and so coherent, that they may almost pass for new ones.

When Pygmalion's Elisa, which he had shaped entirely in accordance with his wishes, and to which he had given as much of truth and nature as an artist can, moved at last toward him, and said, "It is I!"—how different was the living form from the chiselled stone!

In a moral sense, too, how salutary it is for me to live awhile among a wholly sensual people, of whom so much has been said and written, and of whom every stranger judges according to the standard he brings with him. I can excuse every one who blames and reproaches them. They stand too far apart from us, and for a stranger to associate with them is difficult and expensive.


Rome, Nov. 3, 1786.

One of the chief motives with which I had deluded myself for hurrying to Rome was the Festival of All Saints; for I thought within myself, if Rome pays so much honour to a single saint, what will she not show to them all! But I was under a mistake. The Roman Church has never been very fond of celebrating with remarkable pomp any common festival: and so she leaves every order to celebrate in silence the especial memory of its own patron; for the name "festival," and the day especially set apart to each saint, is properly the occasion when each receives his highest commemoration.

Yesterday, however, which was the Festival of All Souls, things went better with me. This commemoration is kept by the Pope in his private chapel on the Quirinal. I hastened with Tischbein to the Monte Cavallo. The piazza before the palace has something altogether singular, so irregular is it, and yet so grand and so beautiful! I now cast eyes upon the Colossuses! Neither eye nor mind was large enough to take them in. Ascending a broad flight of steps, we followed the crowd through a splendid and spacious hall. In this antechamber, directly opposite to the chapel, and in sight of the numerous apartments, one feels somewhat strange to find one's self beneath the same roof with the vicar of Christ.

The office had begun. Pope and cardinals were already in the church,—the Holy Father, of a highly handsome and dignified form; the cardinals, of different ages and figures. I was seized with a strange, longing desire that the head of the Church might open his golden mouth, and, speaking with rapture of the ineffable bliss of the happy soul, set us all, too, in a rapture. But as I only saw him moving backward and forward before the altar, and turning, now to this side, and now to that, and only muttering to himself, and conducting himself just like a common parish priest, the original sin of Protestantism revived within me, and the well-known and ordinary mass for the dead had no charms for me. For most assuredly Christ himself—he who, in his youthful days and even as a child, excited men's wonder by his oral exposition of Scripture—did never thus teach and work in silence; but, as we learn from the Gospels, he was ever ready to utter his wise and spiritual words. What, I asked myself, would he say, were he to come in among us, and see his image on earth thus mumbling, and sailing backward and forward ? The "Venio iterum crucifigi" again crossed my mind, and I nudged my companion to come out into the freer air of the vaulted and painted hall.

Here we found a crowd of persons attentively observing the rich paintings; for the Festival of All Souls is also the holiday of all the artists in Rome. Not only the chapel, but the whole palace also, with all its rooms, is for many hours on this day open and free to every one; no fees being required, and the visitors not being liable to be hurried on by the chamberlain.

The paintings on the walls engaged my attention, and I now formed a new acquaintance with some excellent artists whose very names had hitherto been almost unknown to me. For instance, I now, for the first time, learned to appreciate and to love the cheerful Carlo Maratti.

But chiefly welcome to me were the masterpieces of the artists of whose style and manner I already had some impression. I saw with amazement the wonderful Petronilla of Guercino, which was formerly in St. Peter's, where a mosaic copy now stands in the place of the original. The body of the saint is lifted out of the grave; and the same person, just reanimated, is being received into the heights of heaven by a celestial youth. Whatever may be alleged against this double action, the picture is invaluable.

Still more struck was I with a picture of Titian's. It throws into the shade all I have hitherto seen. Whether my eye is more practised, or whether it is really the most excellent, I cannot determine. An immense mass-robe, stiff with embroidery and gold-embossed figures, envelopes the dignified frame of a bishop. With a massive pastoral staff in his left hand, he is gazing with a look of rapture toward heaven, while he holds in his right a book, out of which he seems to have imbibed the divine enthusiasm with which he is inspired. Behind him a beautiful maiden, holding a palm-branch in her hand, and full of affectionate sympathy, is looking over his shoulder into the open book. A grave old man on the right stands quite close to the book, but appears to pay no attention to it. The key in his hand suggests the possibility of his familiar acquaintance with its contents. Over against this group, a naked, well-made youth, wounded with an arrow, and in chains, is looking straight before him, with a slight expression of resignation in his countenance. In the intermediate space stand two monks, bearing a cross and lilies, and devoutly looking up to heaven. Then in the clear upper space is a semicircular wall, which encloses them all. Above moves a Madonna in highest glory, sympathising with all that passes below. The young, sprightly child on her bosom, with a radiant countenance, is holding out a crown, and seems, indeed, on the point of casting it down. On both sides, angels are floating by, who hold in their hands crowns in abundance. High above all the figures, and even the triple-rayed aureola, soars the celestial dove, as at once the centre and finish of the whole group.

We said to ourselves, "Some ancient holy legend must have furnished the subject of this picture in order that these various and ill-assorted personages should have been brought together so artistically and so significantly." We ask not, however, why and wherefore: we take it all for granted, and only wonder at the inestimable piece of art. Less unintelligible, but still mysterious, is a fresco of Guido's in this chapel. A virgin, in childish beauty, loveliness, and innocence, is seated, and quietly sewing. Two angels stand by her side, waiting to do her service at the slightest bidding. Youthful innocence and industry, the beautiful picture seems to tell us, are guarded and honoured by the heavenly beings. No legend is wanting here,—no story needed to furnish an explanation.

Now, however, to cool a little my artistic enthusiasm, a merry incident occurred. I observed that several of the German artists, who came up to Tischbein as an old acquaintance, after staring at me, went their ways again. Having left me for a few moments, one returned, and said, "We have had a good joke. The report that you were in Rome had spread among us, and the attention of us artists was called to the one unknown stranger. Now, there was one of our body who used for a long time to assert that he had met you, nay, he asseverated he had lived on very friendly terms with you,—a fact which we were not so ready to believe. However, we have just called upon him to look at you, and solve our doubts. He at once stoutly denied that it was you, and said that in the stranger there was not a trace of your person or mien." So, then, at least, our incognito is for the moment secure, and will afford us something hereafter to laugh at.

I now mixed at my ease with the troop of artists, and asked them who were the painters of several pictures whose style of art was unknown to me. At last I was particularly struck by a picture representing St. George killing the dragon and setting free the virgin. No one could tell me whose it was. Upon this, a little, modest man, who up to this time had not opened his mouth, came forward, and told me it was by Pordenone, the Venetian painter; and that it was one of the best of his paintings, and displayed all his merits. I was now well able to explain why I liked it. The picture pleased me because I possessed some knowledge of the Venetian school, and was better able to appreciate the excellences of its best masters.

The artist, my informant, was Heinrich Meyer, a Swiss, who for some years had been studying at Rome with a friend of the name of Rolla, and who had taken excellent drawings in Spain of antique busts, and was well read in the history of art.


Rome, Nov. 5, 1786.

I have now been here seven days, and have, by degrees, formed in my mind a general idea of the city. We go diligently backward and forward. While I am thus making myself acquainted with the plan of old and new Rome, viewing the ruins and the buildings, visiting this and that villa, the grandest and most remarkable objects are slowly and leisurely contemplated. I do but keep my eyes open, and see, and then go and come again; for it is only in Rome one can duly prepare himself for Rome.

It must, however, be confessed that it is a sad and melancholy business to prick and track out ancient Rome in new Rome: however, it must be done, and we may hope at least for an incalculable gratification. We meet with traces both of majesty and of ruin, which alike surpass all conception. What the barbarians spared, the builders of new Rome made havoc of.

When one thus beholds an object two thousand years old and more, but so manifoldly and thoroughly altered by the changes of time, but sees, nevertheless, the same soil, the same mountains, and often, indeed, the same walls and columns, one becomes, as it were, a contemporary of the great counsels of fortune; and thus it becomes difficult for the observer to trace from the beginning Rome following Rome, and not only new Rome succeeding the old, but also the several epochs of both old and new in succession. I endeavour, first of all, to grope my way alone through the obscurer parts; for this is the only plan by which one can hope fully and completely to turn to use the excellent {{hwe|tory|inductory} works which have been written from the fifteenth century to the present day. The first artists and scholars have occupied their whole lives with these objects.

And this vastness has a strangely tranquillising effect upon you in Rome, while you pass from place to place in order to visit the most remarkable objects. In other places one has to search for what is important: here one is oppressed and borne down with numberless phenomena. Wherever one goes and casts a look around, the eye is at once struck with some landscape, forms of every kind and style; palaces and ruins, gardens and statuary, distant views of villas, cottages and stables, triumphal arches and columns, often crowding so close together, that they might all be sketched on a single sheet of paper. He ought to have a hundred hands to write, for what can a single pen do here? And besides, by the evening one is quite weary and exhausted with the day's seeing and admiring.


Rome, Nov. 7, 1786.

But my friends must pardon me, if in future I am found chary of words. During travel one usually rakes together all that he meets on his way: every day brings something new, and he then hastens to reflect upon and judge of it. Here , however, we come into a very great school indeed, where every day says so much, that we cannot venture to say anything of the day itself. Indeed, people would do well, if, tarrying here for years together, they observed awhile a Pythagorean silence.

I am very well. The weather, as the Romans say, is brutto. The south wind, the sirocco, is blowing, and brings with it every day more or less of rain. For my part, I do not find the weather disagreeable: such as it is, it is warmer than the rainy days of summer are with us.

The more I become acquainted with Tischbein's talents, as well as his principles and views of art, the higher I appreciate and value them. He has laid before me his drawings and sketches. They have great merit, and are full of high promise. His visit to Bodmer led him to lix his thoughts on the infancy of the human race, when man found himself standing on the earth, and had to solve the problem how he must best fulfil his destiny of being the lord of creation.

As a suggestive introduction to a series of illustrations of this subject, he has attempted symbolically to vindicate the high antiquity of the world. Mountains overgrown with noble forests, ravines worn out by watercourses, burnt-out volcanoes still faintly smoking. In the foreground the mighty stock of a patriarchal oak still remains in the ground, on whose half-bared roots a deer is trying the strength of his horns,—a conception as fine as it is beautifully executed.

In another most remarkable piece he has painted man yoking the horse, and by his superior skill, if not strength, bringing all the other creatures of the earth, the air, and the water, under his dominion. The composition is of extraordinary beauty: when finished in oils, it cannot fail of producing a great effect. A drawing of it must, at any cost, be secured for Weimar. When this is finished, he purposes to paint an assembly of old men, aged, and experienced in council, in which he intends to introduce the portraits of living personages. At present, however, he is sketching away with the greatest enthusiasm at a battle-piece. Two bodies of cavalry are fighting with equal courage and resolution: between them yawns an awful chasm, which but few horses would attempt to clear. The arts of defensive warfare are useless here. A wild resolve, a bold attack, a successful leap, or else to be hurled in the abyss below! This picture will afford him an opportunity to display in a very striking manner his knowledge of horses and of their make and movements.

Now, it is Tischbein's wish to have these sketches (and a series of others to follow, or to be intercalated between them) connected together by a poem, which may serve to explain the drawings, and, by giving them a definite context, may lend to them both a body and a charm.

The idea is beautiful; only the artist and the poet must be many years together in order to carry out and to execute such a work.

The Loggie of Raphael, and the great pictures of the School of Athens, etc., I have now seen for the first and only time; so that for me to judge of them at present is like having to make out and to judge of Homer from some half-obliterated and much-injured manuscript. The gratification of the first impression is incomplete: it is only when they have been carefully studied and examined, one by one, that the enjoyment becomes perfect. The best preserved are the paintings on the ceilings of the Loggie. They are as fresh as if painted yesterday. The subjects are symbolical. Very few, however, are by Raphael's own hand; but they are excellently executed, after his designs and under his eye.

Many a time, in years past, did I entertain the strange whim, ardently to wish that I might one day be taken to Italy by some well-educated man,—by some Englishman well learned in art and in history. And now it all has been brought about much better than I could have anticipated. Tischbein has been living here long as a sincere friend to me, and during his stay has always cherished the wish of being able to show me Rome one day. Our intimacy is old by letter, though new by presence. Where could I have met with a worthier guide? And, if my time is limited, I will at least learn and enjoy as much as possible. And yet, all this notwithstanding, I clearly foresee, that, when I leave Rome, I shall wish that I were coming to it.

Rome, Nov. 8, 1786.

My strange and perhaps whimsical incognito proves useful to me in many ways that I never should have thought of. As every one thinks himself in duty bound to ignore who I am, and consequently never ventures to speak to me of myself and my works, they have no alternative left them but to speak of themselves, or of the matters in which they are most interested; and in this way I become circumstantially informed of the occupations of each, and of everything remarkable that is either taken in hand or produced. Hofrath Reiffenstein good-naturedly humours this whim of mine. As, however, for special reasons, he could not bear the name I had assumed, he immediately made a baron of me; and I am now called the Baron gegen Rondanini über ("the baron who lives opposite to the palace Rondanini"). This designation is sufficiently precise, especially as the Italians are accustomed to speak of people either by their Christian names, or else by some nickname: in short, I have gained my object; and I escape the dreadful annoyance of having to give everybody an account of myself and my works.

Rome, Nov. 9, 1786.

I frequently stand still a moment to survey, as it were, the heights I have already won. With much delight I look back to Venice, that grand creation that sprang out of the bosom of the seas, like Minerva out of the head of Jupiter. In Rome the Rotunda, both by its exterior and interior, has moved me to offer a willing homage to its magnificence. In St. Peter's I learned to understand how art, no less than nature, annihilates the artificial measures and dimensions of man. And in the same way the Apollo Belvedere also has again drawn me out of reality. For, as even the most correct engravings furnish no adequate idea of these buildings, so the case is the same with respect to the marble original of this statue as compared with the plaster models of it, which, however, I formerly used to look upon as beautiful.

Rome, Nov. 10, 1786.

Here I am now living with a calmness and tranquillity to which I have for a long while been a stranger. My practice to see and take all things as they are, my fidelity in letting the eye be my light, my perfect renunciation of all pretension, have again come to my aid, and make me calmly but most intensely happy. Every day has its fresh, remarkable object; every day its new, grand, unequalled paintings, and a whole which a man may long think of and dream of, but which, with all his power of imagination, he can never reach.

Yesterday I was at the Pyramid of Cestius, and in the evening on the Palatina, on the top of which are the ruins of the Palace of the Cæsars, which stand there like walls of rock. Of all this, however, no idea can be conveyed. In truth, there is nothing little here, although, indeed, occasionally something to find fault with,—something more or less absurd in taste; and yet even this partakes of the universal grandeur of all around.

When, however, I return to myself, as every one so readily does on all occasions, I discover within me a feeling which affords me infinite delight, which, indeed, I even venture to express. Whoever here looks around with earnestness, and has eyes to see, must become in a measure solid: he cannot but apprehend an idea of solidity with a vividness which is nowhere else possible.

The mind becomes, as it were, primed with capacity, with an earnestness without severity, and with a definiteness of character with joy. With me, at least, it seems as if I had never before so rightly estimated the things of the world as I do here. I rejoice when I think of the blessed effects of all this on the whole of my future being. And, let me jumble together the things as I may, order will somehow come into them. I am not here to enjoy myself after my own fashion, but to busy myself with the great objects around, to learn, and to improve myself ere I am forty years old.

Rome, Nov. 11, 1786.

Yesterday I visited the nymph Ægeria, and then the Hippodrome of Caracalla, the ruined tombs along the Via Appia, and the tomb of Metella, which is the first to give one a true idea of what solid masonry really is. These men worked for eternity. All causes of decay were calculated, except the rage of the spoiler, which nothing can resist. Right heartily did I wish you had been there. The remains of the principal aqueduct are highly venerable. How beautiful and grand a design,—to supply a whole people with water by so vast a structure! In the evening we came upon the Coliseum, when it was already twilight. When one looks at it, all else seems little. The edifice is so vast, that one cannot hold the image of it in one's soul: in memory we think it smaller, and then return to it again to find it every time greater than before.

Frascati, Nov. 15.

The company are all in bed, and I am writing with Indian ink, which they use for drawing. We have had two beautiful days, without rain, warm and genial sunshine; so that summer is scarcely missed. The country around is very pleasant. The village lies on the side of a hill, or rather of a mountain; and at every step the draughtsman comes upon the most glorious objects. The prospect is unbounded. Rome lies before you;

Goethe Among the Ruins of Rome

Photogravure from the painting by Bruckmann

Goethe Among the Ruins of Rome (The Works of J. W. von Goethe, Volume 12).png
and beyond it, on the right, is the sea, the mountains of Tivoli, and so on. In this delightful region, country-houses are built expressly for pleasure; and, as the ancient Romans had here their villas, so, for centuries past, their rich and haughty successors have planted country residences on all the loveliest spots. For two days we have been wandering about here, and almost every step has brought us upon something new and attractive.

And yet it is hard to say whether the evenings have not passed still more agreeably than the days. As soon as our stately hostess has placed on the round table the bronzed lamp with its three wicks, and wished us felicissima notte, we all form a circle round it; and the views are produced which have been drawn and sketched during the day. Their merits are discussed, opinions are taken whether the objects might or not have been taken more favourably, whether their true characters have been caught, and whether all requisitions of a like general nature, which may justly be looked for in a first sketch, have been fulfilled.

Hofrath Reiffenstein, by his judgment and authority, contrives to give order to, and to conduct, these sittings. But the merit of this delightful arrangement is due to Philipp Hackert, who has a most excellent taste, both in drawing and finishing views, from nature. Artists and dilettanti, men and women, old and young,—he would let no one rest, but stimulated every one to make the attempt, at any rate, according to their gifts and powers, and led the way with his own good example. The little society thus collected and held together, Hofrath Reiffenstein has, after the departure of his friend, faithfully kept up; and we all feel a laudable desire to awake in every one an active participation. The peculiar turn and character of each member of the society are thus shown in a most agreeable way. For instance, Tischbein, being an historical painter, views scenery quite otherwise than the landscape-painter. He sees significant groups, and other graceful speaking objects, where another can see nothing; and so he happily contrives to catch up many a naïve trait of humanity,—it may be in children, peasants, mendicants, or other such beings of nature, or even in animals, which, with a few characteristic touches, he skilfully manages to portray, and thereby contributes much new and agreeable matter for our discussions.

When conversation is exhausted, some one also, by Hackert's direction, reads aloud Sulzer's Theory; for although, from a high point of view, it is impossible to rest contented with this work, nevertheless, as some one observed, it is so far satisfactory as it is calculated to exercise a favourable influence on minds less highly cultivated.

Rome, Nov. 17, 1786.

We are back again. During the night it rained in torrents amidst thunder and lightning: it still goes on raining, but is very warm withal.

As regards myself, however, it is only with few words that I can indicate the happiness of this day. I have seen the frescoes of Domenichino, in Andrea della Valle, and also the Farnese Gallery of Caraccios. Too much, forsooth, for months!—what, then, for a single day?

Rome, Nov. 18, 1786.

It is again beautiful weather,—a bright, genial, warm day. I saw in the Farnesine Palace the story of Psyche, coloured copies of which have so long adorned my room, and then at St. Peter's, in Montorio, the Transfiguration by Raphael,—all well-known paintings, like friends one has made at a distance by means of letters, and sees for the first time face to face. To live with them, is, however, something quite different. Every genuine friendship and its opposite becomes immediately evident.

Moreover, there are to be met with in every spot and corner glorious things of which less has been said, and which have not been scattered over the world by engravings and copies. Of these I shall bring away with me many a drawing from the hands of young but excellent artists.

The fact that I have long maintained a correspondence with Tischbein, and consequently been on the best possible terms with him, and that, even when I had no hope of ever visiting Italy, I had communicated to him my wishes, has made our meeting most profitable and delightful. He has always been thinking of me, even providing for my wants. With the varieties of stone of which all the great edifices, whether old or new, are built, he has made himself perfectly acquainted. He has thoroughly studied them, and these studies have been greatly helped by his artistic eye and the artist's pleasure in sensible things. Just before my arrival, he sent off to Weimar a collection of specimens which he had selected for me, and which I expect will give me a friendly welcome on my return.

An ecclesiastic who is now residing in France, and had in contemplation to write a work on the ancient marbles, received through the influence of the Propaganda some large pieces of marble from the Island of Paros. When they arrived here, they were cut up for specimens; and twelve different pieces, from the finest to the coarsest grain, were reserved for me. Some were of the greatest purity, while others are more or less mingled with mica; the former being used for statuary, the latter for architecture. How much an accurate knowledge of the material employed in the arts must contribute to a right estimate of them, must be obvious to every one.

There are opportunities enough here for my collecting many more specimens. In our way to the ruins of Nero's Palace, we passed through some artichoke grounds newly turned up, and could not resist the temptation to cram our pockets full of the granite, porphyry, and marble slabs which he here by thousands, and serve as unfailing witnesses to the ancient splendour of the walls which were once covered with them.

Rome, Nov. 18, 1786.

I must now speak of a wonderful problematical picture, which, even in the midst of the many gems here, still makes a good show of its own.

For many years there had been residing here a Frenchman, well known as an admirer of the arts, and a collector. He had got hold of an antique drawing in chalk, no one knows how or whence. He had it retouched by Mengs, and kept it in his collection as a work of very great value. Winckelmann somewhere speaks of it with enthusiasm. The Frenchman died, and left the picture to his hostess as an antique. Mengs, too, died, and declared on his death-bed that it was not an antique, but had been painted by himself. And now the whole world is divided in opinion; some maintaining that Mengs had one day, in joke, dashed it off with much facility; others asserting that Mengs could never do anything like it, indeed that it is almost too beautiful for Raphael. I saw it yesterday, and must confess that I do not know anything more beautiful than the figure of Ganymede, especially the head and shoulders: the rest has been much renovated. However, the painting is in ill repute, and no one will relieve the poor landlady of her treasure.

Rome, Nov. 20, 1786.

As experience fully teaches us that there is a general pleasure in having poems, whatever may be their subject, illustrated with drawings and engravings, nay, that the painter himself usually selects a passage of some poet or other for the subject of his most elaborate paintings, Tischbein's idea is deserving of approbation, that poets and painters should work together from the very first in order to secure a perfect unity. The difficulty would assuredly be greatly lessened, if it were applied to little pieces, such as that the whole design would easily admit of being taken in at once by the mind, and worked out consistently with the original plan.

Tischbein has suggested for such common labours some very delightful idyllic thoughts; and it is really singular, that those he wishes to see executed in this way are really such as neither poetry nor painting alone could ever adequately describe. During our walks together he has talked to me about them, in the hopes of gaining me over to his views, and getting me to enter upon the plan. The frontispiece for such a joint work is already designed; and, did I not fear to enter upon any new tasks at present, I might perhaps be tempted.

Rome, Nov. 22, 1786. The Feast of St. Cecilia.

The morning of this happy day I must endeavour to perpetuate by a few lines, and, at least by description, to impart to others what I have myself enjoyed. The weather has been beautiful and calm, quite a bright sky, and a warm sun. Accompanied by Tischbein, I set off for the Piazza of St. Peter's, where we went about, first of all, from one part to another; when it became too hot for that, walked up and down in the shade of the great obelisk (which is full wide enough for two abreast), and eating grapes which we purchased in the neighbourhood. Then we entered the Sistine Chapel, which we found bright and cheerful, and with a good light for the pictures. The Last Judgment divided our admiration with the paintings on the roof by Michael Angelo. I could only see and wonder. The mental confidence and boldness of the master, and his gandeur of conception, are beyond all expression. After we had looked at all of them over and over again, we left this sacred building, and went to St. Peter's, which received from the bright heavens the loveliest light possible, and every part of it was clearly lighted up. As men willing to be pleased, we were delighted with its vastness and splendour, and did not allow an over-nice or hypocritical taste to mar our pleasure. We suppressed every harsher judgment: we enjoyed the enjoyable.

Lastly we ascended the roof of the church, where one finds, in little, the plan of a well-built city,—houses and magazines, springs (in appearance, at least), churches, and a great temple, all in the air, and beautiful walks between. We mounted the dome, and saw glistening before us the regions of the Apennines, Soracte, and toward Tivoli, the volcanic hills,—Frascati, Castel-gandolfo, and the plains, and, beyond all, the sea. Close at our feet lay the whole city of Rome in its length and breadth, with its mountain palaces, domes, etc. Not a breath of air was moving, and in the upper dome it was (as they say) like being in a hothouse. When we had looked enough at these things, we went down, and they opened for us the doors in the cornices of the dome, the tympanum, and the nave. There is a passage all round, and from above you can take a view of the whole church and of its several parts. As we stood on the cornices of the tympanum, we saw beneath us the Pope, passing to his midday devotions. Nothing, therefore, was wanting to make our view of St. Peter's perfect. We at last descended to the area, and took, in a neighbouring hotel, a cheerful but frugal meal, and then set off for St. Cecilia's.

It would take many words to describe the decorations of this church, which was crammed full of people. Not a stone of the edifice was to be seen. The pillars were covered with red velvet wound round with gold lace: the capitals were overlaid with embroidered velvet, so as to retain somewhat of the appearance of capitals; and all the cornices and pillars were in like manner covered with hangings. All the entablatures of the walls were also covered with life-like paintings, so that the whole church seemed to be laid out in mosaic. Around in the church, and on the high altar, more than two hundred wax tapers were burning. It looked like a wall of lights, and the whole nave was perfectly lit up. The aisles and side-altars were equally adorned and illuminated. Right opposite the high altar, and under the organ, two scaffolds were erected, which also were covered with velvet, on one of which were placed the singers, and on the other the instruments, which kept up one unbroken strain of music. The church was crammed full.

I have heard an excellent kind of musical accompaniment. Just as there are concerts of violins, or of other instruments, so here they had concerts of voices; so that one voice—the soprano, for instance—predominates, and sings solo, while from time to time the chorus of other voices falls in, and accompanies it, always, of course, with the whole orchestra. It has a good effect. I must end, as we, in fact, ended the day. In the evening we came upon the opera, where no less a piece than " I Litiganti " was then performed; but we had all the day enjoyed so much of excellence, that we passed by the door.

Rome, Nov. 23, 1786.

In order that it may not be the same with my dear incognito as with the ostrich, which thinks itself to be concealed when it has hid its head, so, in certain cases, I give it up, still maintaining, however, my old thesis. I had, without hesitation, paid a visit of compliment to the Prince von Lichtenstein, the brother of my much esteemed friend the Countess Harrach, and occasionally dined with him; and I soon perceived that my good nature in this instance was likely to lead me much farther. They began to feel their way, and to talk to me of the Abbé Monti, and of his tragedy of "Aristodemus," which is shortly to be brought out on the stage. The author, it was said, wished, above all things, to read it to me, and to hear my opinion of it, I contrived, however, to let the matter drop without positively refusing: at last, however, I met the poet and some of his friends at the prince's house, and the play was read aloud.

The hero is, as is well known, the King of Sparta, who, by various scruples of conscience, was driven to commit suicide. Prettily enough, they contrived to intimate to me their hope that the author of "Werther" would not take it ill if he found some of the rare passages of his own work made use of in this drama. And so, even before the walls of Sparta, I cannot escape from this unhappy youth.

The piece has a very simple and calm movement. The sentiments, as well as the language, are well suited to the subject,—full of energy, and yet of tenderness. The work is a proof of very fair talents.

I failed not, according to my fashion (not, indeed, after the Italian fashion), to point out, and to dwell upon, all the excellencies and merits of the play, with which, indeed, all present were tolerably satisfied, though still with Southern impatience they seemed to require something more. I even ventured to predict what effect it was to be hoped the play would have from the public. In excuse I pleaded my ignorance of the country, its way of thinking and tastes; but was candid enough to add, that I did not clearly see how, with their vitiated taste, the Romans, who were accustomed to see as an interlude either a complete comedy of three acts or an opera of two, or could not sit out a grand opera without the intermezzo of wholly foreign ballets, could ever take delight in the calm, noble movement of a regular tragedy. Then, again, the subject of a suicide seemed to me to be altogether out of the pale of an Italian's ideas. That they stabbed men to death, I knew by daily report of such events; but that any one should deprive himself of his own precious existence, or even hold it possible for another to do so,—of that no trace or symptom had ever been brought under my notice.

I then allowed myself to be circumstantially enlightened as to all that might be urged in answer to my objections, and readily yielded to their plausible arguments. I also assured them I wished for nothing so much as to see the play acted, and with a band of friends to welcome it with the most downright and loudest applause. This assurance was received in the most friendly manner, and I had this time at least no cause to be dissatisfied with my compliance; for indeed Prince Lichtenstein is politeness itself, and found opportunity for my seeing in his company many precious works of art, a sight of which is not easily obtained without special permission, and for which, consequently, high influence is indispensable. On the other hand, my good humour failed me when the daughter of the Pretender expressed a wish to see the foreign marmoset. I declined the honour, and once more completely shrouded myself beneath my disguise.

But still that is not altogether the right way; and I here feel most vividly what I have often before observed in life, that the man who strives after that which is good must be as much on the alert and as active with regard to others as the selfish, the mean, and the wicked. It is easy to see this, but it is extremely difficult to act in the spirit of it.

Nov. 24, 1786.

Of the people I can say nothing more than that they are fine children of nature, who, amidst pomp and honours of all kinds, religion, and the arts, are not one jot different from what they would be in caves and forests. What strikes the stranger most, and what to-day is making the whole city talk, but only talk, is the common occurrence of assassination. To-day the victim has been an excellent artist—Schwendemann, a Swiss, a medallionist. The particulars of his death greatly resemble those of Windischmann's. The assassin with whom he was struggling gave him twenty stabs; and, as the watch came up, the villain stabbed himself. This is not generally the fashion here: the murderer usually makes for the nearest church; and once there, he is quite safe.

And now, in order to shade my picture a little, I might bring into it crimes and disorders, earthquakes and inundations of all kinds, but for an eruption of Vesuvius which has just broken out, and has set almost all the visitors here in motion; and one must, indeed, possess a rare amount of self-control, not to be carried away by the crowd. Really this phenomenon of nature has in it something of a resemblance to the rattlesnake, for its attraction is irresistible. At this moment it almost seems as if all the treasures of art in Rome were annihilated: every stranger, without exception, has broken off the current of his contemplations, and is hurrying to Naples. I, however, shall stay, in the hope that the mountain will have a little eruption expressly for my amusement.

Rome, Dec. 1, 1786.

Moritz is here, who has made himself famous by his "Anthony, the Traveller " (Anton Reiser), and his "Wanderings in England" (Wanderungen nach England). He is a right-down excellent man, and we have been greatly pleased with him.

Rome, Dec. 1, 1786.

Here in Rome, where one sees so many strangers, all of whom do not visit this capital of the world merely for the sake of the fine arts, but also for amusements of every kind, the people are prepared for everything. Accordingly, they have invented and attained great excellence in certain half arts which require for their pursuit little more than manual skill and pleasure in such handiwork, and which consequently attract the interest of ordinary visitors.

Among these is the art of painting in wax. Requiring little more than tolerable skill in water-colouring, it serves as an amusement to employ one's time in preparing and adapting the wax, and then in burning it, and in such like mechanical labours. Skilful artists give lessons in the art, and, under the pretext of showing their pupils how to perform their tasks, do the chief part of the work themselves; so that when at last the figure stands out in bright relief in the gilded frame, the fair disciple is ravished with the proof of her unconscious talent.

Another pretty occupation is, with a very fine clay to take impressions of cameos cut in deep relief. This is also done in the case of medallions, both sides of which are thus copied at once. More tact, attention, and diligence is required, lastly, for preparation of the glass-paste for mock jewels. For all these things Hofrath Reiffenstein has the necessary workshops and laboratories, either in his house or close at hand.


Dec. 2, 1786.

I have accidentally found here Anhenholtz's "Italy." A work written on the spot, in so contracted and narrow-minded a spirit as this, is just as if one were to lay a book purposely on the coals in order that it might be browned and blackened, and its leaves curled up and disfigured with smoke. No doubt he has seen all that he writes about, but he possesses far too little of real knowledge to support his high pretensions and sneering tone; and whether he praises or blames, he is always in the wrong.

Dec. 2, 1786.

Such beautiful warm and quiet weather at the end of November (which, however, is often broken by a day's rain) is quite new to me. We spend the fine days in the open air, the bad in our room: everywhere there is something to learn and to do, something to be delighted with.

On the 28th we paid a second visit to the Sistine Chapel, and had the galleries opened, in order that we might obtain a nearer view of the ceiling. As the galleries are very narrow, it is only with great difficulty that one forces his way up them, by means of the iron balustrades. There is an appearance of danger about it, on which account those who are liable to get dizzy had better not make the attempt: all the discomfort, however, is fully compensated by the sight of the great masterpiece of art. And at this moment I am so taken with Michael Angelo, that after him I have no taste even for nature herself; especially as I am unable to contemplate her with the same eye of genius that he did. Oh, that there were only some means of fixing such paintings in my soul! At any rate, I shall bring with me every engraving and drawing of his pictures, or drawings after him, that I can lay hold of.

Then we went to the Loggie, painted by Raphael, and scarcely dare I say that we could not endure to look at them. The eye had been so dilated and spoiled by those great forms, and the glorious finish of every part, that it was not able to follow the ingenious windings of the Arabesques; and the Scripture histories, however beautiful they were, did not stand examination after the former. And yet to see these works frequently one after another, and to compare them together at leisure, and without prejudice, must be a source of great pleasure; for at first all sympathy is more or less exclusive.

Under a sunshine, if anything rather too warm, we thence proceeded to the Villa Pamphili, whose beautiful gardens are much resorted to for amusement; and there we remained till evening. A large, flat meadow, enclosed by long, evergreen oaks and lofty pines, were sown all over with daisies, which turned their heads to the sun. I now revived my botanical speculations which I had indulged in the other day during a walk toward Monte Mario, to the Villa Melini, and the Villa Madama. It is very interesting to observe the working of a vigorous, unceasing vegetation, which is here unbroken by any severe cold. Here there are no buds: one has actually to learn what a bud is. The strawberry-tree (arbutus unedo) is at this season, for the second time, in blossom, while its last fruits are just ripening. So also the orange-tree may be seen in flower, and at the same time bearing partially and fully ripened fruit. (The latter trees, however, if they are not sheltered by standing between buildings, are at this season generally covered.) As to the cypress, that most "venerable" of trees when it is old and well grown, it affords matter enough for thought. As soon as possible I shall pay a visit to the Botanical Gardens, and hope to add there much to my experience. Generally, there is nothing to be compared with the new life which the sight of a new country affords to a thoughtful person. Although I am still the same being, I yet think I am changed to the very marrow.

For the present I conclude, and shall perhaps fill the next sheet with murders, disorders, earthquakes, and troubles, in order that at any rate my pictures may not be without shades.

Rome, Dec. 3, 1786.

The weather lately has changed almost every six days. Two days quite glorious, then a doubtful one, and after it two or three rainy ones, and then again fine weather. I endeavour to put each day, according to its nature, to the best use.

And yet these glorious objects are even still like new acquaintances to me. One has not yet lived with them, nor got familiar with their peculiarities. Some of them attract us with irresistible power, so that for a time we feel indifferent, if not unjust, to all others. Thus, for instance, the Pantheon, the Apollo Belvedere, some colossal heads, and very recently the Sistine Chapel, have by terms so won my whole heart, that I scarcely saw anything besides them. But, in truth, can man, little as man always is, and accustomed to littleness, ever make himself equal to all that here surrounds him of what is noble, vast, and refined? Even though he should in any degree adapt himself to it, then how vast is the multitude of objects that immediately press upon him from all sides, and meet him at every turn, of which each demands for itself the tribute of his whole attention. How is one to get out of the difficulty? No other way assuredly than by patiently allowing it to work, becoming industrious, and attending the while to all that others have accomplished for our benefit.

Winckelmann's "History of Art," translated by Rea (the new edition), is a very useful book, which I have just procured, and here on the spot find it to be highly profitable, as I have around me many kind friends, willing to explain and to comment upon it.

Roman antiquities also begin to have a charm for me. History, inscriptions, coins (of which formerly I knew nothing), all are pressing upon me. As I fared with natural history, so I do here also; for the history of the whole world attaches itself to this spot, and I reckon a new birthday,—a true new birth from the day I entered Rome.

Dec. 5, 1786.

During the few weeks that I have been here, I have already seen many strangers come and go, so that I have often wondered at the levity with which so many treat these precious moments. God be thanked that hereafter none of those birds of passage will be able to impose upon me. When, in the North, they shall speak to me of Rome, none of them now will be able to excite my spleen; for I also have seen it, and know too, in some degree, where I have been.

Dec. 8, 1786.

We have, every now and then, the most beautiful days. The rain which falls from time to time has made the grass and garden-stuffs quite verdant. Evergreens, too, are to be seen here at different spots, so that one scarcely misses the fallen leaves of the forest trees. In the gardens you may see orange-trees full of fruit, left in the open ground and not under cover.

I had intended to give you a particular account of a very pleasant trip which we took to the sea, and of our fishing exploits; but in the evening poor Moritz, as he was riding home, broke his arm, his horse having slipped on the smooth Roman pavement. This marred all our pleasure, and has plunged our little domestic circle in sad affliction.

Dec. 13, 1786.

I am heartily delighted that you have taken my sudden disappearance just as I wished you should. Pray appease for me every one that may have taken offence at it. I never wished to give any one pain, and even now I cannot say anything to excuse myself. God keep me from ever afflicting my friends with the premises which led me to this resolution.

Here I am gradually recovering from my "salto mortale," and studying rather than enjoying. Rome is a world, and one must spend years before one can become at all acquainted with it. How happy do I consider those travellers who can take a look at it and go their way.

Yesterday many of Winckelmann's letters which he wrote from Italy fell into my hands. With what emotions I began to read them! About this same season, some one and thirty years ago, he came hither a still poorer simpleton than I; but then he had such thorough German enthusiasm for all that is sterling and genuine, either in antiquity or art. How bravely and diligently he worked his way through all difficulties; and what good it does me,—the remembrance of such a man in such a place!

After the objects of nature, who in all her parts is true to herself, and consistent, nothing speaks. so loudly as the remembrance of a good, intelligent man,—that genuine art which is no less consistent and harmonious than herself. Here in Rome we feel this right well, where so many an arbitrary caprice has had its day, where so many a folly has immortalised itself by its power and its gold.

The following passage in Winckelmann's letters to Franconia particularly pleased me: " We must look at all the objects in Rome with a certain degree of phlegm, or else one will be taken for a Frenchman. In Rome, I believe, is the high school for all the world; and I also have been purified and tried in it."

This remark applies directly to my mode of visiting the different objects here; and most certain it is, that out of Rome no one can have an idea how one is schooled in Rome. One must, so to speak, be new born; and one looks back on his earlier notions as a man does on the little shoes which fitted him when a child. The most ordinary man learns something here: at least he gains one uncommon idea, even though it should never pass into his whole being.

This letter will reach you in the new year. All good wishes for the beginning: before the end of it we shall meet again, and that will be no little gratification. The one that is passing away has been the most important of my life. I may now die, or I may tarry a little longer yet: in either case it was well. And now a word or two more for the little ones.

To the children you may either read or tell what follows. Here there are no signs of winter: the gardens are planted with evergreens; the sun shines bright and warm; snow is nowhere to be seen except on the most distant hills toward the north. The citron-trees, which are planted against the garden walls, are now, one after another, covered with reeds; but the oranges are allowed to stand quite open. Many hundreds of the finest fruits may be seen hanging on a single treee; which is not, as with us, dwarfed, and planted in a bucket, but stands in the earth, free and joyous, amidst a long line of brothers. The oranges are even now very good, but it is thought they will be still finer.

We were lately at the sea, and had a haul of fish and drew to the light, fishes, crabs, and rare univalves of the most wonderful shapes conceivable; also the fish which gives an electric shock to all who touch it.

Rome, Dec. 20, 1786.

And yet, after all, it is more trouble and care than enjoyment. The Regenerator, which is changing me within and without, continues to work. I certainly thought that I had something really to learn here; but that I should have to take so low a place in the school, that I must forget so much that I had learned, or rather absolutely unlearn so much,—of that I had never the least idea. Now, however, that I am once convinced of its necessity, I have devoted myself to the task; and the more I am obliged to renounce my former self, the more delighted I am. I am like an architect who has begun to build a tower, but finds he has laid a bad foundation: he becomes aware of the fact betimes, and willingly goes to work to pull down all that he has raised above the earth; having done so, he proceeds to enlarge his ground plan, and now rejoices to anticipate the undoubted stability of his future building. Heaven grant that, on my return, the moral consequences may be discernible of all that this living in a wider world has effected within me! For, in sooth, the moral sense as well as the artistic is undergoing a great change.

Doctor Münter is here on his return from his tour in Sicily,—an energetic, vehement man. What objects he may have, I cannot tell. He will reach you in May, and has much to tell you. He has been travelling in Italy two years. He is disgusted with the Italians, who have not paid due respect to the weighty letters of recommendation which were to have opened him many an archive, many a private library; so that he is far from having accomplished his object.

He has collected some beautiful coins, and possesses, he tells me, a manuscript which reduces numismatics to as precise a system of characteristics as the Linnæan system of botany. Herder, he says, knows still more about it: probably a transcript of it will be permitted. To do something of the kind is certainly possible; and, if well done, it will be truly valuable: and we must, sooner or later, enter seriously into this branch of learning.

Rome, Dec. 25, 1786.

I am now beginning to revisit the principal sights of Rome: in such second views, our first amazement generally dies away into more of sympathy and a purer perception of the true value of the objects. In order to form an idea of the highest achievements of the human mind, the soul must first attain to perfect freedom from prejudice and prepossession.

Marble is a rare material. It is on this account that the Apollo Belvedere in the original is so infinitely ravishing; for that sublime air of youthful freedom and vigour, of never-changing juvenescence, which breathes around the marble, at once vanishes in the best even of plasters casts.

In the Palace Rondanini, which is right opposite our lodgings, there is a Medusa-mask, above the size of life, in which the attempt to portray a lofty and beautiful countenance in the numbing agony of death has been indescribably successful. I possess an excellent cast of it, but the charm of the marble remains not. The noble semi-transparency of the yellow stone—approaching almost to the hue of flesh—is vanished. Compared with it, plaster of Paris has a chalky and dead look.

And yet how delightful it is to go to a modeller in gypsum, and to see the noble limbs of a statue come out one by one from the mould, and thereby to acquire wholly new ideas of their shapes. And then, again, by such means all that in Rome is scattered, is brought together, for the purpose of comparison; and this alone is of inestimable service. Accordingly, I could not resist the temptation to procure a cast of the colossal head of Jupiter. It stands right opposite my bed, in a good light, in order that I may address my morning devotions to it. With all its grandeur and dignity, it has, however, given rise to one of the funniest interludes possible.

Our old hostess, when she comes to make my bed, is generally followed by her pet cat. Yesterday I was sitting in the great hall, and could hear the old woman pursue her avocation within. On a sudden, in great haste, and with an excitement quite unusual to her, she opened the door, and called to me to come quickly and see a wonder. To my question, what was the matter, she replied the cat was saying its prayers. Of the animal she had long observed, she told me, that it had as much sense as a Christian; but this was really a great wonder. I hastened to see it with my own eyes; and it was, indeed, strange enough. The bust stood on a high pedestal, and, as there was a good length of the shoulders, the head stood high. Now, the cat had sprung upon the table, and had placed her fore feet on the breast of the god, and, stretching her body to its utmost length, just reached with her muzzle his sacred beard, which she was licking most ceremoniously; and neither by the exclamation of the hostess, nor my entrance into the room, was she at all disturbed. I left the good dame to her astonishment; and she afterward accounted for puss's strange act of devotion by supposing that this sharp-nosed cat had caught scent of the grease which had probably been transferred from the mould to the deep lines of the beard, and had remained there.

Dec. 29, 1786.

Of Tischbein I have much to say and to boast. In the first place, a thorough and original German, he has made himself entirely what he is. In the next place I must make grateful mention of the friendly attentions he has shown me throughout the time of his second stay in Rome. For he has had prepared for me a series of copies after the best masters,—some in black chalk, others in sepia and water-colours,—which in Germany, when I shall be at a distance from the originals, will grow in value, and will serve to remind me of all that is rarest and best.

At the commencement of his career as an artist, when he set up as a portrait-painter, Tischbein came in contact, especially in Munich, with distinguished personages, and in his intercourse with them strengthened his artistic feeling and enlarged his views.

The second part of the "Zerstreute Blatter" (stray leaves) I have brought with me hither, and they are doubly welcome. What good influence this little book has had on me, even on the second perusal, Herder, for his reward, shall be circumstantially informed. Tischbein cannot conceive how anything so excellent could ever have been written by one who has never been in Italy.

Dec. 29, 1786.

In this world of artists one lives, as it were, in a mirrored chamber, where, without wishing it, one sees his own image and those of others continually multiplied. Latterly I have often observed Tischbein attentively regarding me; and now it appears that he has long cherished the idea of painting my portrait. His design is already settled, and the canvas stretched. I am to be drawn of the size of life, enveloped in a white mantle, and sitting on a fallen obelisk, viewing the ruins of the Campagna di Roma, which are to fill up the background of the picture. It will form a beautiful piece, only it will be rather too large for our northern habitations. I, indeed, may again crawl into them, but the portrait will never be able to enter their doors.

I cannot help observing the great efforts that are constantly being made to draw me from my retirement,—how the poets either read or get their pieces read to me; and I should be blind did I not see that it depends only on myself whether I shall play a part or not. All this is amusing enough; for I have long since measured the lengths to which one may go in Rome. The many little coteries here at the feet of the mistress of the world strongly remind one occasionally of an ordinary country town.

In sooth, things here are much like what they are everywhere else; and what could be done with me and through me causes me ennui long before it is accomplished. Here you must take up with one party or another, and help them to carry on their feuds and cabals; and you must praise these artists and those dilettanti, disparage their rivals, and, above all, be pleased with everything that the rich and great do. All these little meannesses, then, for the sake of which one is almost ready to leave the world itself,—must I here mix myself up with them, and that, too, when I have neither interest nor stake in them? No: I shall go no farther than is merely necessary to know what is going on, and thus to learn in private to be more contented with my lot, and to stifle the desire, in myself and others, of going out into the dear wide world. I wish to see Rome in its abiding and permanent features, and not as it passes and changes with every ten years. Had I time, I might wish to employ it better. Above all, one may study history here quite differently from what one can on any other spot. In other places one has, as it were, to read one's self into it from without; here one fancies that he reads from within outwards: all arranges itself around you, and seems to proceed from you. And this holds good, not only of Roman history, but also of that of the whole world. From Rome I can accompany the conquerors on their march to the Weser or to the Euphrates; or, if I wish to be a sightseer, I can wait in the Via Sacra for the triumphant generals, and in the meantime receive for my support the largesses of corn and money, and so take a very comfortable share in all the splendour.

Rome, Jan. 2, 1787.

Men may say what they will in favour of a written and oral communication: it is only in a very few cases indeed that it is at all adequate; for it never can convey the true character of any object soever,—no, not even of a purely intellectual one. But if one has already enjoyed a sure and steady view of the object, then one may profitably hear or read about it; for then there exists a living impression around which all else may arrange itself in the mind, and then one can think and judge.

You have often laughed at me, and wished to drive me away from the peculiar taste I had for examining stones, plants, or animals, from certain theoretical points of view: now, however, I am directing my attention to architects, statuaries, and painters, and hope to find myself learning something even from them.

Rome, Jan. 4, 1797.

After all this, I must further speak to you of the state of indecision in which I am with regard to my stay in Italy. In my last letter I wrote to you that it was my purpose to leave Rome immediately after Easter, and gradually return home. Until then I shall yet gather a few more shells from the shore of the great ocean, and so my most urgent needs will have been appeased. I am now cured of a violent passion and disease, and restored to the enjoyment of life, to the enjoyment of history, poetry, and of antiquities, and have treasures which it will take me many a long year to polish and to finish.

Recently, however, friendly voices have reached me to the effect that I ought not to be in a hurry, but to wait till I can return home with still richer gains. From the duke, too, I have received a very kind and considerate letter, in which he excuses me from my duties for an indefinite period, and sets me quite at ease with respect to my absence. My mind, therefore, turns to the vast field which I must otherwise have left untrodden. For instance, in the case of coins and cameos, I have as yet been able to do nothing. I have, indeed, begun to read Winckelmann's "History of Art," but have passed over Egypt: for I feel, once again, that I must look out before me; and I have done so with regard to Egyptian matters. The more we look, the more distant becomes the horizon of art; and he who would step surely must step slowly.

I intend to stay here till the Carnival; and, in the first week of Lent, shall set off for Naples, taking Tischbein with me, both because it will be a treat to him, and because, in his society, all my enjoyments are more than doubled. I purpose to return hither before Easter, for the sake of the solemnities of Passion Week. But there Sicily lies—there below. A journey thither requires more preparation, and ought to be taken, too, in the autumn. It must not be merely a ride round it and across it, which is soon done, but from which we bring away with us, in return for our fatigue and money, nothing but a simple, I have seen it: the best way is to take up one's quarters, first of all, in Palermo, and afterward in Catania; and then, from those points, to make fixed and profitable excursions, having previously, however, well studied Riedesel and others on the locality.

If, then, I spend the summer in Rome, I shall set to work to study, and to prepare myself for visiting Sicily. As I cannot very well go there before November, and must stay there till over December, it will be the spring of 1788 before I can hope to get home again. Then, again, I have had before my mind a medius terminus. Giving up the idea of visiting Sicily, I have thought of spending a part of the summer at Rome, and then, after paying a second visit to Florence, getting home by the autumn.

But all these plans have been much perplexed by the news of the duke's misfortune. Since receiving the letters which informed me of this event I have had no rest, and would like most to set off at Easter, laden with the fragments of my conquests, and, passing quickly through Upper Italy, be in Weimar again by June.

I am too much alone here to decide; and I write you this long story of my whole position, that you may be good enough to summon a council of those who love me, and who, being on the spot, know the circumstances better than I. Let them, therefore, determine the proper course for me to take, on the supposition of what, I assure you, is the fact, that I am myself more disposed to return than to stay. The strongest tie that holds me in Italy is Tischbein. I should never, even should it be my happy lot to return a second time to this beautiful land, learn so much in so short a time as I have now done in the society of this well-educated, highly refined, and most upright man, who is devoted to me, both body and soul, I cannot now tell you how the scales are gradually falling from off my eyes. He who travels by night takes the dawn for day, and a murky day for brightness: what will it be when the sun rises? Moreover, I have hitherto kept myself from all the world, which yet is getting hold of me by degrees, and which I, for my part, was not unwilling to watch and observe with stealthy glances.

I have written to Fritz a joking account of my reception into the Arcadia; and indeed it is only a subject of joke, for the Institute is really sunk into miserable insignificance.

Next Monday week Monti's tragedy is to be acted. He is extremely anxious, and not without cause. He has a very troublesome public, which requires to be amused from moment to moment; and his play has no brilliant passages in it. He has asked me to go with him to his box, and stand by him as confessor in this critical moment. Another is ready to translate my "Iphigenia;" another, to do I know not what, in honour of me. They are all so divided into parties, and so bitter against each other. But my countrymen are so unanimous in my favour, that if I gave them any encouragement, and yielded to them in the very least, they would try a hundred follies with me, and end with crowning me on the Capitol, of which they have already seriously thought—so foolish is it to have a stranger and a Protestant to play the first part in a comedy. What connection there is in all this, and how great a fool I was to think that it was all intended for my honour,—of all this we will talk together one day.

Jan. 6, 1787.

I have just come from Moritz, whose arm is healed, and loosed from its bandages. It is well set, firm, and he can move it quite freely. What during these last forty days I have experienced and learned, as nurse, confessor, and private secretary, to this patient, may prove of benefit to us hereafter. The most painful sufferings and the noblest enjoyments went side by side throughout this whole period.

To refresh me, I yesterday had set up in our sitting-room a cast of a colossal head of Juno, of which the original is in the Villa Ludovisi. This was my first love in Rome, and now I have gained the object of my wishes. No words can give the remotest idea of it. It is like one of Homer's songs.

I have, however, deserved the neighbourhood of such good society for the future; for I can now tell you that "Iphigenia" is at last finished, i. e., that it lies before me on the table in two tolerably concordant copies, of which one will very soon begin its pilgrimage to you. Receive it with all indulgence; for, to speak the truth, what stands on the paper is not exactly what I intended, but still it will convey an idea of what was in my mind.

You complain occasionally of some obscure passages in my letters, which allude to the oppression, which I suffer in the midst of the most glorious objects in the world. With all this, my fellow traveller—this Grecian princess—has had a great deal to do; for she has kept me close at work when I wished to be seeing sights.

I often think of our worthy friend, who had long determined upon a grand tour which one might well term a voyage of discovery. After he had studied and economised several years with a view to this object, he took it in his head to carry off the daughter of a noble house, thinking it was all one.

With no less of criminality, I determined to take Iphigenia with me to Carlsbad. I will now briefly enumerate the places where I held special converse with her.

When I had left behind me the Brenner, I took her out of my large portmanteau, and placed her by my side. At the Lago di Garda, while the strong south wind drove the waves on the beach, and where I was at least as much alone as my heroine on the coast of Tauris, I drew the first outlines, which afterward I filled up at Verona, Vicenza, and Padua, but above all, and most diligently, at Venice. After this, however, the work came to a standstill: for I hit upon a new design, viz., of writing an Iphigenia at Delphi, which I should have immediately carried into execution, but for the distractions of my young, and for a feeling of duty toward the older, play.

In Rome, however, I went on with it, and proceeded with tolerable steadiness. Every evening before I went to sleep I prepared myself for my morning's task, which was resumed immediately I awoke. My way of proceeding was quite simple: I calmly wrote down the play, and tried the melody line by line, and period by period. What has been thus produced, you shall soon judge of. For my part, doing this work, I have learned more than I have done. With the play itself there shall follow some further remarks.

To speak again of church matters, I must tell you that on the night of Christmas Day we wandered about in troops, and visited all the churches where solemn services were being performed. One especially was visited, because of its organ and music: the latter was so arranged, that in its tones nothing belonging to pastoral music was wanting,—neither the singing of the shepherds, nor the twittering of birds, nor the bleating of sheep.

On Christmas Day I saw the Pope and the whole consistory in St, Peter's, where he celebrated high mass, partly before and partly from his throne. It is of its kind an unequalled sight, splendid and dignified enough; but I have grown so old in my Protestant Diogenism, that this pomp and splendour revolt me more than they attract me. I, like my pious forefathers, am disposed to say to these spiritual conquerors of the world, "Hide not from me the sun of higher art and purer humanity."

Yesterday, which was the Feast of Epiphany, I saw and heard mass celebrated after the Greek rite. The ceremonies appeared to me more solemn, more severe, more suggestive, and yet more popular, than the Latin.

But there, too, I also felt again that I am too old for anything, except for truth alone. Their ceremonies and operatic music, their gyrations and ballet-like movements—it all passes off from me like water from an oilskin cloak. A work of nature, however, like that of a sunset seen from the Villa Madonna,—a work of art, like my much honoured Juno,—makes a deep and vivid impression on me.

And now I must ask you to congratulate me with regard to theatrical matters. Next week seven theatres will be opened. Anfossi himself is here, and will act "Alexander in India." A Cyrus also will be represented, and the "Taking of Troy " as a ballet. That assuredly must be something for the children!

Rome, Jan. 10, 1787.

Here, then, comes the "child of sorrows;" for this surname is due to "Iphigenia" in more than one sense. On the occasion of my reading it to our artists, I put a mark against several hues, some of which I have in my opinion improved, but others I have allowed to stand—perhaps Herder will cross a few of them with his pen.

The true cause of my having for many years preferred prose for my works, is the great uncertainty in which our prosody fluctuates, in consequence of which many of my judicious learned friends and fellow artists have left many things to taste,—a course, however, which was little favourable to the establishing of any certain standard.

I should never have attempted to translate "Iphigenia" into iambics, had not Moritz's prosody shone upon me like a star of light. My conversation with its author, especially during his confinement from his accident, has still more enlightened me on the subject; and I would recommend my friends to think favourably of it.

It is somewhat singular, that in our language we have but very few syllables which are decidedly long or short. With all the others, one proceeds as taste or caprice may dictate. Now, Moritz, after much thought, has hit upon the idea that there is a certain order of rank among our syllables, and that the one which in sense is more emphatic is long as compared with the less significant, and makes the latter short; but, on the other hand, it does in its turn become short whenever it comes into the neighbourhood of another which possesses greater weight and emphasis than itself. Here, then, is at least a rule to go by; and even though it does not decide the whole matter, still it opens out a path by which one may hope to get a little farther. I have often allowed myself to be influenced by these rules, and generally have found my ear agreeing with them.

As I formerly spoke of a public reading, I must quietly tell you how it passed off. These young men, accustomed to those earlier vehement and impetuous pieces, expected something after the fashion of Berlichingen, and could not so well make out the calm movement of "Iphigenia;" and yet the nobler and purer passages did not fail of effect. Tischbein, who also could hardly reconcile himself to this entire absence of passion, produced a pretty illustration or symbol of the work. He illustrated it by a sacrifice, of which the smoke, borne down by a light breeze, descends to the earth, while the freer flame strives to ascend on high. The drawing was very pretty and significant. I have the sketch still by me. And thus the work, which I thought to despatch in no time, has employed, hindered, occupied, and tortured me a full quarter of a year. This is not the first time that I have made an important task a mere by-work; but we will on that subject no longer indulge in fancies and disputes.

I enclose a beautiful cameo,—a lion, with a gadfly buzzing at his nose. This seems to have been a favourite subject with the ancients, for they have repeated it very often. I should like you, from this time forward, to seal your letters with it in order that through this (little) trifle an echo of art may, as it were, reverberate from you to me.

Rome, Jan. 13, 1787.

How much I have to say each day, and how sadly I am prevented, either by amusement or occupation, from committing to paper a single sage remark! And then again, the fine days, when it is better to be anywhere than in the rooms, which, without stove or chimney, receive us only to sleep or to discomfort! Some of the incidents of the last week, however, must not be left unrecorded.

In the Palace Giustiniani there is a Minerva, which claims my undivided homage. Winckelmann scarcely mentions it, and, at any rate, not in the right place; and I feel myself quite unworthy to say anything about it. As we contemplated the image, and stood gazing at it a long time, the wife of the keeper of the collection said, "This must have once been a holy image; and the English, who happen to be of this religion, are still accustomed to pay worship to it by kissing this hand of it" (which in truth was quite white, while the rest of the statue was brownish). She further told us that a lady of this religion had been there not long before, and, throwing herself on her knees before the statue, had regularly offered prayer to it; and I, she said, as a Christian, could not help smiling at so strange an action, and was obliged to run out of the room, lest I should burst out into a loud laugh before her face. As I was unwilling to move from the statue, she asked me if my beloved was at all like the statue, that it charmed me so much. The good dame knew of nothing besides devotion or love; but of the pure admiration for a glorious piece of man's handiwork, of a mere sympathetic veneration for the creation of the human intellect, she could form no idea. We rejoiced in that noble Englishwoman, and went away with a longing to turn our steps back again; and I shall certainly soon go once more thither. If my friends wish for a more particular description, let them read what Winckelmann says of the high style of art among the Greeks: unfortunately, however, he does not adduce this Minerva as an illustration. But, if I do not greatly err, it is, nevertheless, of this high and severe style, since it passes into the beautiful. It is, as it were, a bud that opens, and so a Minerva, whose character this idea of transition so well suits.

Now for a spectacle of a different kind. On the Feast of the Three Kings, or the Commemoration of Christ's Manifestation to the Gentiles, we paid a visit to the Propaganda. There, in the presence of three cardinals and a large audience, an essay was first of all delivered, which treated of the place in which the Virgin Mary received the three Magi,—in the stable; or, if not, where? Next, some Latin verses were read on similar subjects; and after this a series of about thirty scholars came forward, one by one, and read a little piece of poetry in their native tongues,—Malabar, Epirotic, Turkish, Moldavian, Hellenic, Persian, Colchian, Hebrew, Arabic, Syrian, Coptic, Saracenic, Armenian, Erse, Madagassic, Icelandic, Bohemian, Greek, Isaurian, Æthiopic, etc. The poems seemed for the most part to be composed in the national syllabic measure, and to be delivered with the vernacular declamation, for most barbaric rhythms and tones occurred. Among them, the Greek sounded like a star in the night. The audience laughed most unmercifully at the strange sounds; and so this representation also became a farce.

And now (before concluding) a little anecdote, to show with what levity holy things are treated in Holy Rome: The deceased cardinal, Albani, was once present at one of those festal meetings which I have just been describing. One of the scholars, with his face turned toward the cardinals, began, in a strange pronunciation, Gnaja! Gnaja! so that it sounded something like canaglia! canaglia! The cardinal turned to his brothers, with a whisper, "He knows us, at any rate."

How much has Winckelmann done! and yet how much reason has he left us to wish that he had done still more! With the materials which he had collected he built quickly, in order to reach the roof. Were he still living, he would be the first to give us a recast of his great work. What further observations, what corrections, he would have made! to what good use he would have put all that others, following his own principles, have observed and effected! And, besides. Cardinal Albani is dead, out of respect to whom he has written much, and perhaps concealed much.

Jan. 15, 1787.

And so, then, "Aristodemo" has at last been acted, and with good success, too, and the greatest applause: as the Abbate Monti is related to the house of the Nepote, and highly esteemed among the higher orders, from these, therefore, all was to be hoped for. The boxes, indeed, were but sparing in their plaudits. As for the pit, it was won, from the very first, by the beautiful language of the poet and the appropriate recitation of the actors; and it omitted no opportunity of testifying its approbation. The bench of the German artists distinguished themselves not a little; and this time no fault can be found with them, considering they are at all times a little overloud.

The author himself remained at home, full of anxiety for the success of the play. From act to act, favourable despatches arrived, which changed his fear into the greatest joy. Now there is no lack of repetitions of the representation, and all is on the best track. Thus, by the most opposite things, if only each has the merit it claims, the favour of the multitude, as well as of the connoisseur, may be won.

But the acting was in the highest degree meritorious, and the chief actor, who appears throughout the play, spoke and acted cleverly: one might have fancied he saw one of the ancient Cæsars come on the stage. They had, very judiciously, transferred to their stage dresses the costume which in the statue strikes the spectator as so dignified; and one saw at once that the actor had studied the antique.

Jan. 18, 1787.

Rome is threatened with a great artistic loss. The King of Naples has ordered the Hercules Farnese to be brought to his palace. The news has made all the artists quite sad. However, on this occasion we shall see something which was hidden from our forefathers.

The aforesaid statue, namely, from the head to the knee, and afterward the lower part of the feet, together with the sockle on which it stood, were found within the Farnesian domain: but the legs, from the knee to the ankle, were wanting, and had been supplied by Giuglielmo Porta; on these it had stood since its discovery to the present day. In the meantime, however, the genuine old legs were found in the lands of the Borghesi, and were to be seen in their villa.

Eecently, however, the Prince Borghese has achieved a victory over himself, and has made a present of these costly relics to the King of Naples. They are removing Porta's legs, and replacing them by the genuine ones; and every one is promising himself—however well contented he has been hitherto with the old—quite a new treat and a more harmonious enjoyment.

Rome, Jan. 18, 1787.

Yesterday, which was the Festival of the Holy Abbot St. Anthony, we had a merry day. The weather was the finest in the world: though there had been a hard frost during the night, the day was bright and warm.

One may remark, that all religions which enlarge their worship or their speculations must at last come to this,—of making the brute creation in some degree partakers of spiritual favours. St. Anthony—abbot or bishop—is the patron saint of all four-footed creatures: his festival is a kind of Saturnalian holiday for the otherwise oppressed beasts, and also for their keepers and drivers. All the gentry must on this day either remain at home, or else be content to travel on foot. And there are no lack of fearful stories, which tell how unbelieving masters, who forced their coachmen to drive them on this day, were punished by suffering great calamities.

The church of the saint lies in so wide and open a district, that it might almost be called a desert. On this day, however, it is full of life and fun. Horses and mules, with their manes and tails prettily, not to say gorgeously, decked out with ribbons, are brought before the chapel (which stands at some distance from the church), where a priest, armed with a brush, and not sparing of the holy water, which stands before him in buckets and tubs, goes on sprinkling the lively creatures, and often plays them a roguish trick, in order to make them start and frisk. Pious coachmen offer their wax-tapers, of larger or smaller size. The masters send alms and presents, in order that the valuable and useful animals may go safely through the coming year without hurt or accidents. The donkeys and horned cattle, no less valuable and useful to their owners, have, likewise, their modest share in this blessing.

Afterward we delighted ourselves with a long walk under a delicious sky, and surrounded by the most interesting objects, to which, however, we this time paid very little attention, but gave full scope and rein to joke and merriment.

Rome, Jan. 19, 1787.

So, then, the great king, whose glory filled the world, whose deeds make him worthy of even the Papists' paradise, has gone at last from this life, to converse with heroes like himself in the realm of shades. How disposed one feels to be still after bringing the like of him to his rest.

This has been a very good day. First of all, we visited a part of the Capitol which we had previously neglected; then we crossed the Tiber, and drank some Spanish wine on board a ship which had just come into port. It was on this spot that Romulus and Remus are said to have been found. Thus keeping, as it were, a double or treble festival, we revelled in the inspiration of art, of a mild atmosphere, and of antiquarian reminiscences.

Jan. 20, 1787.

What at first furnishes a hearty enjoyment, when we take it superficially only, often weighs on us afterward most oppressively, when we see that, without solid knowledge, the true delight must be missed.

As regards anatomy, I am pretty well prepared: and I have, not without some labour, gained a tolerable knowledge of the human frame; for the continual examination of the ancient statues is continually stimulating one to a more perfect understanding of it. In our medico-chirurgical anatomy, little more is in view than an acquaintance with the several parts; and, for this purpose, the sorriest picture of the muscles may serve very well: but in Rome the most exquisite parts would not even be noticed, unless as helping to make a noble and beautiful form.

In the great Lazaretto of San Spirito, there has been prepared, for the use of the artists, a very fine anatomical figure, displaying the whole muscular system. Its beauty is really amazing. It might pass for some flayed demigod,—even a Marsyas.

Thus, after the example of the ancients, men here study the human skeleton, not merely as an artistically arranged series of bones, but rather for the sake of the ligaments with which life and motion are carried on.

When now I tell you that in the evening we also study perspective, it must be pretty plain to you that we are not idle. With all our studies, however, we are always hoping to do more than we ever accomplish.

Rome, Jan. 22, 1787.

Of the artistic sense of Germans, and of their artistic life,—of these one may well say, one hears sounds, but they are not in unison. When now I bethink myself what glorious objects are in my neighbourhood, and how little I have profited by them, I am almost tempted to despair; but then, again, I console myself with my promised return, when I hope to be able to understand these masterpieces, around which I now go groping miserably in the dark.

But, in fact, even in Rome itself, there is but little provision made for one who earnestly wishes to study art as a whole. He must patch it up and put it together for himself out of endless, but still gorgeously rich, ruins. No doubt but few of those who visit Rome are purely and earnestly desirous to see and to learn things rightly and thoroughly. They all follow, more or less, their own fancies and conceits; and this is observed by all alike who attend upon the strangers. Every guide has his own object, every one has his own dealer to recommend, his own artist to favour; and why should he not? for does not the inexperienced at once prize as most excellent whatever may be presented to him as such?

It would have been a great benefit to the study of art—indeed a peculiarly rich museum might have been formed—if the government (whose permission even at present must be obtained before any piece of antiquity can be removed from the city) had on such occasions invariably insisted on casts of the objects removed being delivered to it. Besides, if any Pope had established such a rule, before long every one would have opposed all further removals; for in a few years people would have been frightened at the number and value of the treasures thus carried off,—to do which, there is a way of obtaining permission secretly, on some occasions, and by all manner of means.

Jan. 22, 1787.

The representation of the "Aristodemo" has stimulated, in an especial degree, the patriotism of our German artists, which before was far from being asleep. They never omit an occasion to speak well of my "Iphigenia." Some passages have from time to time been again called for, and I have found myself at last compelled to a second reading of the whole. And thus also I have discovered many passages which went off the tongue more smoothly than they look on the paper.

The favourable report of it has at last sounded even in the ears of Reiffenstein and Angelica, who entreated that I should produce my work once more for their gratification. I begged, however, for a brief respite; though I was obliged to describe to them, somewhat circumstantially, the plan and movement of the plot. The description won the approbation of these personages more even than I could have hoped for; and Signor Zucchi, also, of whom I least of all expected it, evinced a warm and liberal sympathy with the play. The latter circumstance, however, is easily accounted for by the fact that the drama approximates very closely to the old and customary form of Greek, French, and Italian tragedy, which is most agreeable to every one whose taste has not been spoilt by the temerities of the English stage.

Rome, Jan. 25, 1787.

It becomes every day more difficult to fix the termination of my stay in Rome: just as one finds the sea continually deeper the farther one sails on it, so it is also with the examination of this city.

It is impossible to understand the present without a knowledge of the past; and to compare the two, requires both time and leisure. The very site of the city carries us back to the time of its being founded. We see at once that no great people, under a wise leader, settled here from its wanderings, and with wise forecast laid the foundations of the seat of future empire. No powerful prince would ever have selected this spot as well suited for the habitation of a colony. No! herdsmen and vagabonds first prepared here a dwelling for themselves: a couple of adventurous youths laid the foundation of the palaces of the masters of the world on the hill at the foot of which, amidst the marshes and reeds, they had defied the officers of law and justice. Moreover, the seven hills of Rome are not elevations above the land which lies beyond them, but merely above the Tiber and its ancient bed, which afterward became the Campus Martius. If the coming spring is favourable to my making wider excursions in the neighbourhood, I shall be able to describe more fully the unfavourable site. Even now I feel the most heartfelt sympathy with the grief and lamentation of the women of Alba when they saw their city destroyed, and were forced to leave its beautiful site, the choice of a wise prince and leader, to share the fogs of the Tiber, and to people the miserable Cœlian Hill, from which their eyes still viewed the paradise they had quitted.

I know as yet but little of the neighbourhood, but I am perfectly convinced that no city of the ancient world was so badly situated as Rome. No wonder, then, that the Romans, as soon as they had swallowed up all the neighbouring states, went out of it, and, with their villas, returned to the noble sites of the cities they had destroyed, in order to live and to enjoy life.
It suggests a very pleasing contemplation to think how many people are living here in retirement, calmly occupied with their several tastes and pursuits. In the house of a clergyman, who, without any particular natural talent, has nevertheless devoted himself to the arts, we saw most interesting copies of some excellent paintings which he had imitated in miniature. His most successful attempt was after the Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci. The moment of time is when the Lord, who is sitting familiarly at supper with his disciples, utters the awful words, "One of you shall betray me."

Hopes are entertained that he will allow an engraving to be taken, either of this, or of another copy on which he is at present engaged. It will be indeed a rich present to give to the great public a faithful imitation of this gem of art.

A few days since I visited, at the Trinità de' Monti, Father Jacquier, a Franciscan. He is a Frenchman by birth, and well known by his mathematical writings; and although far advanced in years, is still very agreeable and intelligent. He has been acquainted with all the most distinguished men of his day; and has even spent several months with Voltaire, who had a great liking for him.

I have also become acquainted with many more of such good, sterling men, of whom countless numbers are to be found here, whom, however, a sort of professional mistrust keeps estranged from each other. The book trade furnishes no point of union, and literary novelties are seldom fruitful; and so it befits the solitary to seek out the hermits. For since the acting of "Aristodemo," in whose favour we made a very lively demonstration, I have been again much sought after, but it was quite clear I was not sought for my own sake: it was always with a view to strengthen a party, to use me as an instrument; and if I had been willing to come forward and declare my side, I also, as a phantom, should for a time have played a short part. But now, since they see that nothing is to be made of me, they let me pass; and so I go steadily on my own way.

Indeed, my existence has lately taken in some ballast, which gives it the necessary gravity. I do not now frighten myself with the spectres which used so often to play before my eyes. Be, therefore, of good heart. You will keep me above water, and draw me back again to you.

Rome, Jan. 28, 1787.

Two considerations which more or less affect everything, and to which one is compelled at every moment to give way, I must not fail to set down, now that they have become quite clear to me.

First of all, then, the vast and yet merely fragmentary riches of this city, and each single object of art, are constantly suggesting the question. To what date does it owe its existence? Winckelmann urgently calls upon us to separate epochs, to distinguish the different styles which the several masters employed, and the way in which, in the course of time, they gradually perfected, and at last corrupted them again. Of the necessity of so doing, every real friend of art is soon thoroughly convinced. We all acknowledge the justice and importance of the requisition. But now how to attain to this conviction? However clearly and correctly the notion itself may be conceived, yet without long preparatory labours there will always be a degree of vagueness and obscurity as to the particular application. A sure eye, strengthened by many years' exercise, is above all else necessary. Here hesitation or reserve are of no avail. Attention, however, is now directed to this point; and every one who is in any degree in earnest seems convinced that in this domain a sure judgment is impossible, unless it has been formed by historical study.

The second consideration refers exclusively to the arts of the Greeks, and endeavours to ascertain how those inimitable artists proceeded in their successful attempts to evolve from the human form their system of divine types, which is so perfect and complete, that neither any leading character nor any intermediate shade or transition is wanting. For my part, I cannot withhold the conjecture that they proceeded according to the same laws by which Nature works, and which I am endeavouring to discover. Only, there is in them something else, which I know not how to express.

Rome, Feb. 2, 1787.

Of the beauty of a walk through Rome by moonlight it is impossible to form a conception, without having witnessed it. All single objects are swallowed up by the great masses of light and shade, and nothing but grand and general outlines present themselves to the eye. For three several days we have enjoyed to the full the brightest and most glorious of nights. Peculiarly beautiful, at such a time, is the Coliseum. At night it is always closed. A hermit dwells in a little shrine within its range, and beggars of all kinds nestle beneath its crumbling arches: the latter had lit a fire on the arena, and a gentle wind bore down the smoke to the ground, so that the lower portion of the ruins was quite hid by it; while above, the vast walls stood out in deeper darkness before the eye. As we stopped at the gate to contemplate the scene through the iron gratings, the moon shone brightly in the heavens above. Presently the smoke found its way up the sides, and through every chink and opening, while the moon lit it up like a cloud. The sight was exceedingly glorious. In such a light one ought also to see the Pantheon, the Capitol, the Portico of St. Peter's, and the grand streets and squares. And thus sun and moon, as well as the human mind, have here to do a work quite different from what they produce elsewhere,—here where vast and yet elegant masses present themselves to their rays.

Rome, Feb. 13, 1787.

I must mention a trifling fall of luck, even though it is but a little one. However, all luck, whether great or little, is of one kind, and always brings a joy with it. Near the Trinità de' Monti, the ground has been lately dug up to form a foundation for the new Obelisk; and now the whole of this region is choked up with the ruins of the Gardens of Lucullus, which subsequently became the property of the emperors. My perruquier was passing early one morning by the spot, and found in the pile of earth a flat piece of burnt clay with some figures on it. Having washed it, he showed it to me. I eagerly secured the treasure. It is not quite a span long, and seems to have been part of the stem of a great key. Two old men stand before an altar: they are of the most beautiful workmanship, and I am uncommonly delighted with my new acquisition. Were they on a cameo, one would greatly like to use it as a seal.

I have by me a collection also of many other objects; and none is worthless or unmeaning,—for that is impossible: here everything is instructive and significant. But my dearest treasure, however, is even that which I carry with me in my soul, and which, ever growing, is capable of a still greater growth.

Rome, Feb. 15, 1787.

Before departing for Naples, I could not get off from another public reading of my "Iphigenia." Madam Angelica and Hofrath Reiffenstein were the auditory; and even Signor Zucchi had solicited to be present, because it was the wish of his wife. During the reading, however, he worked away at a great architectural plan; for he is very skilful in executing drawings of this kind, and especially the decorative parts. He went with Clerisseau to Dalmatia, and was the associate of all his labours, drawing the buildings and ruins for the plates which the latter published. In this occupation he learned so much of perspective and effect, that in his old days he is able to amuse himself on paper in a very rational manner.

The tender soul of Angelica listened to the piece with incredible profoundness of sympathy. She promised me a drawing of one of the scenes, which I am to keep in remembrance of her. And now, just as I am about to quit Rome, I begin to feel myself tenderly attached to these kind-hearted people. It is a source of mingled feelings of pleasure and regret to know that people are sorry to part with you.

Rome, Feb. 16, 1787.

The safe arrival of "Iphigenia" has been announced to me in a most cheering and agreeable way. On my way to the opera, a letter from a well-known hand was brought to me, and was this time doubly welcome, having been sealed with the "Lion,"—a premonitory token of the safe arrival of my packet. I hurried into the opera-house, and bustled to get a place among the strange faces beneath the great chandelier. At this moment, I felt myself drawn so close to my friends, that I could almost have sprung forward to embrace them. From my heart I thank you even for having simply mentioned the arrival of the "Iphigenia," May your next be accompanied with a few kind words of approval!

Enclosed is the list of those among whom I wish the copies I am to expect from Gösche to be distributed; for although it is with me a perfect matter of indifference how the public may receive these matters, still I hope by them to furnish some gratification to my friends at least.

One undertakes too much. When I think of my last four volumes together, I become almost giddy: I am obliged to take them up separately, and then the fit passes off.

I should, perhaps, have done better had I kept my first resolution to send these things, one by one, into the world, and so undertake with fresh vigour and courage the new subjects which have most recently awakened my sympathy. Should I not, perhaps, do better were I to write the "Iphigenia at Delphi," instead of amusing myself with my fanciful sketches of "Tasso"? However, I have bestowed upon the latter too much of my thoughts to give it up, and let it fall to the ground.

I am sitting in the anteroom, near the chimney: and the warmth of a fire, for once well fed, gives me courage to commence a fresh sheet; for it is indeed a glorious thing to be able with our newest thoughts to reach into the distance, and by words to convey thither an idea of our immediate state and circumstances. The weather is right glorious, the days are sensibly lengthening, the laurels and box are in blossom, as also are the almond-trees. Early this morning I was delighted with a strange sight: I saw in the distance tall, pole-like trees, covered over and over with the loveliest violet flowers. On a closer examination I found it was the plant known in our hothouses as the Judas-tree, and to botanists as the cercis siliquastrum. Its palpilionaceous violet blossoms are produced directly from out of the stem. The stakes which I saw had been lopped last winter, and out of their bark well-shaped and deeply tinted flowers were bursting by thousands. The daisies are also springing out of the ground as thick as ants: the crocus and the pheasant's-eye are more rare, but even on this account more rich and ornamental.

What pleasures and what lessons the more southern land will impart to me, and what new results will arise to me from them! With the things of nature it is as with those of art: much as is written about them, every one who sees them forms them into new combinations for himself.

When I think of Naples, and indeed of Sicily; when I read their history, or look at views of them,—it strikes me as singular that it should be even in these paradises of the world that the volcanic mountains manifest themselves so violently, for thousands of years alarming and confounding their inhabitants.

But I willingly drive out of my head the expectation of these much-prized scenes, in order that they may not lessen my enjoyment of the capital of the whole world before I leave it.

For the last fourteen days I have been moving about from morning to night. I am raking up everything I have not yet seen. I am also viewing, for a second or even for a third time, all the most important objects: and they are all arranging themselves in tolerable order within my mind; for while the chief objects are taking their right places, there is space and room between them for many a less important one. My enthusiasm is purifying itself, and becoming more decided; and now, at last, my mind can rise to the height of the greatest and purest creations of art with calm admiration.

In my situation one is tempted to envy the artist, who, by copies and imitations of some kind or other, can, as it were, come near to those great conceptions, and grasp them better than one who merely looks at and reflects upon them. In the end, however, every one feels he must do his best; and so I set all the sails of my intellect, in the hope of getting round this coast.

The stove is at present thoroughly warm, and piled up with excellent coals, which is seldom the case with us, as no one scarcely has time or inclination to attend to the fire two whole hours together. I will, therefore, avail myself of this agreeable temperature to rescue from my tablets a few notes which are almost obliterated.

On the 2d of February we attended the ceremony of blessing the tapers in the Sistine Chapel. I was in anything but a good humour, and shortly went off again with my friends: for I thought to myself, those are the very candles, which, for these three hundred years, have been dimming those noble paintings; and it is their smoke, which, with priestly impudence, not merely hangs in clouds around the only sun of art, but from year to year obscures it more and more, and will at last envelop it in total darkness.

We then sought the open air, and after a long walk came upon St. Onofrio's, in a corner of which Tasso is buried. In the library of the monastery, there is a bust of him: the face is of wax, and I please myself with fancying that it was taken after death. Although the Hues have lost some of their sharpness, and it is in some parts injured, still, on the whole, it serves better than any other I have yet seen to convey an idea of a talented, sensitive, and refined but reserved character.

So much for this time. I must now turn to glorious Volckmann's second part, which contains Rome, and which I have not yet seen. Before I start for Naples, the harvest must be housed: good days are coming for binding the sheaves.

Rome, Feb. 17, 1787.

The weather is incredibly and inexpressibly beautiful. For the whole of February, with the exception of four rainy days, a pure bright sky, and the days toward noon almost too warm! One is tempted out into the open air; and if, till lately, one spent all his time in the city among gods and heroes, the country has now all at once resumed its rights, and one can scarcely tear one's self from the surrounding scenes, lit up as they are with the most glorious days. Many a time does the remembrance come across me, how our northern artists labour to gain a charm from thatched roofs and ruined towers,—how they turn round and round every bush and bourn, and crumbling rock, in the hope of catching some picturesque effect; and I have been quite surprised at myself, when I find these things from habit still retaining a hold upon me. Be this as it may, however, within this last fortnight I have plucked up a little courage, and, sketch-book in hand, have wandered up and down the hollows and heights of the neighbouring villas, and, without much consideration, have sketched off a few little objects characteristically southern and Roman, and am now trying (if good luck will come to my aid) to give them the requisite lights and shades.

It is a singular fact, that it is easy enough to clearly see and to acknowledge what is good and better, but that when one attempts to make them his own, and to grasp them, somehow or other they slip away, as it were, from between one's fingers; and we apprehend them, not by the standard of the true and right, but in accordance with our previous habits of thought and tastes. It is only by constant practice that we can hope to improve; but where am I to find time and a collection of models? Still, I do feel myself a little improved by the sincere and earnest efforts of the last fortnight.

The artists are ready enough with their hints and instructions, for I am quick in apprehending them. But then the lesson so quickly learnt and understood is not so easily put in practice. To apprehend quickly is, forsooth, the attribute of the mind; but correctly to execute that, requires the practice of a life.

And yet the amateur, however weak may be his efforts at imitation, need not be discouraged. The few lines which I scratch upon the paper, often hastily, seldom correctly facilitate any conception of sensible objects; for one advances to an idea more surely and more steadily, the more accurately and precisely he considers individual objects.

Only it will not do to measure one's self with artists: every one must go on in his own style. For nature has made provision for all her children: the meanest is not hindered in its existence, even by that of the most excellent. "A little man is still a man;" and with this remark we will let the matter drop.

I have seen the sea twice,—first the Adriatic, then the Mediterranean,—but only just to look at it. In Naples we hope to become better acquainted with it. All within me seems suddenly to urge me on: why not sooner—why not at a less sacrifice? How many thousand things, some quite new, and from the beginning, I could still communicate!

Rome, Feb. 17, 1787.

Evening after the follies of the Carnival.

I am sorry to go away and leave Moritz alone. He is going on well; but when he is left to himself, he immediately shuts himself up and is lost to the world. I have therefore exhorted him to write to Herder: the letter is enclosed. I should wish for an answer which may be serviceable and helpful to him. He is a strange good fellow: he would have been far more so, had he occasionally met with a friend sensible and affectionate enough to enlighten him as to his true state. At present he could not form an acquaintance likely to be more blessed to him than Herder's, if permitted frequently to write to him. He is at this moment engaged on a very laudable antiquarian attempt, which well deserves to be encouraged. Friend Herder could scarcely bestow his cares better, nor sow his good advice on more grateful soil.

The great portrait of myself which Tischbein has taken in hand begins already to stand out from the canvas. The painter has employed a clever statuary to make him a little model in clay, which is elegantly draped with the mantle. With this he is working away diligently; for it must, he says, be brought to a certain point before we set out for Naples, and it takes no little time merely to cover so large a field of canvas with colours.

Rome, Feb. 19, 1787.

The weather continues to be finer than words can express. This has been a day miserably wasted among fools. At nightfall I betook myself to the Villa Medici. A new moon has just shone upon us, and below the slender crescent I could with the naked eye discern almost the whole of the dark disc through the perspective. Over the earth hangs that haze of the day which the paintings of Claude have rendered so well known. In Nature, however, the phenomenon is perhaps nowhere so beautiful as it is here. Flowers are now springing out of the earth, and the trees putting forth blossoms which hitherto I have been unacquainted with. The almonds are in blossom, and between the dark green oaks they make an appearance as beautiful as it is new to me. The sky is like a bright blue taffeta in the sunshine: what will it be in Naples? Almost everything here is already green. My botanical whims gain food and strength from all around; and I am on the way to discover new and beautiful connections by means of which Nature—that vast prodigy which yet is nowhere visible—evolves the most manifold varieties out of the most simple.

Vesuvius is throwing out both ashes and stones: in the evening its summit appears to glow. May travailling Nature only favour us with a stream of lava! I can scarcely endure to wait till it shall be really my lot to witness such grand phenomena.

Rome, Feb. 21, 1787.
Ash Wednesday.  

The folly is now at an end. The countless lights of yesterday evening were, however, a strange spectacle. One must have seen the Carnival in Rome to get entirely rid of the wish to see it again. Nothing can be written of it: as a subject of conversation it may be amusing enough. The most unpleasant feeling about it is, that real internal joy is wanting. There is a lack of money, which prevents their enjoying what morsel of pleasure they might otherwise still feel in it. The great are economical, and hold back; those of the middle ranks are without the means; and the populace without spring or elasticity. In the last days there was an incredible tumult, but no heartfelt joy. The sky, so infinitely fine and clear, looked down nobly and innocently upon the mummeries.

However, as imitation is out of the question, and cannot be thought of here, I send you, to amuse the children, some drawings of carnival masks, and some ancient Roman costumes, which are also coloured, as they may serve to supply a missing chapter in the "Orbis Pictus."

Rome, Feb. 21, 1787.

I snatch a few moments in the intervals of packing, to mention some particulars which I have hitherto omitted. To-morrow we set off for Naples. I am already delighting myself with the new scenery, which I promise myself will be inexpressibly beautiful, and hope, in this paradise of nature, to win fresh freedom and pleasure for the study of ancient art on my return to sober Rome.

Packing up is light work to me; since I can now do it with a merrier heart than I had some six months ago, when I had to tear myself from all that was most dear and precious to me. Yes, it is now full six months since; and of the four months I have spent in Rome, not a moment has been lost. The boast may sound big: nevertheless, it does not say too much.

That "Iphigenia" has arrived, I know. May I learn, at the foot of Vesuvius, that it has met with a hearty welcome!

That Tischbein, who possesses as glorious an eye for art, is to accompany me on this journey, is to me the subject of great congratulation: stilk, as genuine Germans, we cannot throw aside all purposes and thoughts of work. We have bought the best drawing-paper, and intend to sketch away; although, in all probability, the multitude, the beauty, and the splendour of the objects, will choke our good intentions.

One conquest I have gained over myself. Of all my unfinished poetical works, I shall take with me none but the "Tasso," of which I have the best hopes. If I could only know what you are now saying to "Iphigenia," your remarks might be some guide to me in my present labours; for the plan of "Tasso" is very similar, the subject still more confined, and in its several parts will be even still more elaborately finished. Still, I cannot tell as yet what it will eventually prove. What already exists of it must be destroyed. It is, perhaps, somewhat tediously drawn out ; and neither the characters nor the plot, nor the tone of it, are at all in harmony with my present views.

In making a clearance I have fallen upon some of your letters; and, in reading them over, I have just lighted upon a reproach, that in my letters I contradict myself. It may be so, but I was not aware of it; for, as soon as I have written a letter, I immediately send it off. I must, however, confess that nothing seems to me more likely, for I have lately been tossed about by mighty spirits; and, therefore, it is quite natural if at times I know not where I am standing.

A story is told of a skipper, who, overtaken at sea by a stormy night, determined to steer for port. His little boy, who in the dark was crouching by him, asked him, "What silly light is that which I see,—at one time above us, and at another below us?" His father promised to explain it to him some other day; and then he told him that it was the beacon of the lighthouse, which to the eye, now raised, now depressed, by the wild waves, appeared accordingly, sometimes above, and sometimes below. I, too, am steering on a passion-tossed sea for the harbour; and if I can only manage to hold steadily in my eye the gleam of the beacon, however it may seem to change its place, I shall at last enjoy the wished-for shore.

When one is on the eve of a departure, every earlier separation, and also that last one of all, and which is yet to be, comes involuntarily into one's thoughts; and so, on this occasion, the reflection enforces itself on my mind more strongly than ever, that man is always making far too great and too many preparations for life. Thus we—Tischbein and I, that is—must soon turn our backs upon many a precious and glorious object, and even upon our well-furnished museum. In it there are now standing three Junos for comparison, side by side; and yet we part from them as though they were not.