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January 1832

January 5.--Went by invitation to wait upon a priest, who almost rivals my fighting bishop of Malta. He is the old Bishop of Tarentum,[507] and, notwithstanding his age, eighty and upwards, is still a most interesting man. A face formed to express an interest in whatever passes; caressing manners, and a total absence of that rigid stiffness which hardens the heart of the old and converts them into a sort of petrifaction. Apparently his foible was a fondness for cats; one of them, a superb brindled Persian cat, is a great beauty, and seems a particular favourite. I think we would have got on well together if he could have spoken English, or I French or Latin; but _hélas!_ I once saw at Lord Yarmouth's house a Persian cat, but not quite so fine as that of the Bishop. He gave me a Latin devotional poem and an engraving of himself, and I came home about two o'clock.

January 6 to 12.--We reach the 12th January, amusing ourselves as we can, generally seeing company and taking airings in the forenoon in this fine country. Sir William Gell, a very pleasant man, one of my chief cicerones. Lord Hertford comes to Naples. I am glad to keep up an old acquaintance made in the days of George IV.

He has got a breed from Maida, of which I gave him a puppy. There was a great crowd at the Palazzo, which all persons attended, being the King's birthday. The apartments are magnificent, and the various kinds of persons who came to pay court were splendid. I went with the boys as Brigadier-General of the Archers' Guard, wore a very decent green uniform, laced at the cuffs, and pantaloons, and looked as well as sixty could make it out when sworded and feathered _comme il faut_. I passed well enough. Very much afraid of a fall on the slippery floor, but escaped that disgrace. The ceremony was very long. I was introduced to many distinguished persons, and, but for the want of language, got on well enough. The King spoke to me about five minutes, of which I hardly understood five words. I answered him in a speech of the same length, and I'll be bound equally unintelligible. We made the general key-tone of the harangue _la belle langue et le beau ciel_ of _sa majesté_. Very fine dresses, very many diamonds....

A pretty Spanish ambassadress, Countess da Costa, and her husband. Saw the Countess de Lebzeltern, who has made our acquaintance, and seems to be very clever. I will endeavour to see her again. Introduced to another Russian Countess of the diplomacy. Got from Court about two o'clock. I should have mentioned that I had a letter from Skene[508] and one from Cadell, dated as far back as 2d December, a monstrous time ago, [which] yet puts a period to my anxiety. I have written to Cadell for particulars and supplies, and, besides, have written a great many pages of the Siege of Malta, which I think will succeed.

[January 16-23].--I think £200 a month, or thereby, will do very well, and it is no great advance.

Another piece of intelligence was certainly to be expected, but now it has come afflicts us much. Poor Johnny Lockhart! The boy is gone whom we have made so much of. I could not have borne it better than I now do, and I might have borne it much worse.[509]

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I went one evening to the Opera to see that amusement in its birthplace, which is now so widely received over Europe. The Opera House is superb, but can seldom be quite full. On this night, however, it was; the guards, citizens, and all persons dependent on the Court, or having anything to win or lose by it, are expected to take places liberally, and applaud with spirit. The King bowed much on entrance, and was received in a popular manner, which he has no doubt deserved, having relaxed many of his father's violent persecutions against the Liberals, made in some degree an amnesty, and employed many of this character. He has made efforts to lessen his expenses; but then he deals in military affairs, and that swallows up his savings, and Heaven only knows whether he will bring [Neapolitans] to fight, which the Martinet system alone will never do. His health is undermined by epileptic fits, which, with his great corpulence, make men throw their thoughts on his brother Prince Charles. It is a pity. The King is only two-and-twenty years old.

The Opera bustled off without any remarkable music, and, so far as I understand the language, no poetry; and except the _coup d'œil,_ which was magnificent, it was poor work. It was on the subject of Constantine and Crispus--marvellous good matter, I assure you. I came home at half-past nine, without waiting the ballet, but I was dog-sick of the whole of it. Went to the Studij to-day. I had no answer to my memorial to the Minister of the Interior, which it seems is necessary to make any copies from the old romances. I find it is an affair of State, and Monsieur ----- can only hope it will be granted in two or three days;--to a man that may leave Naples to-morrow! He offers me a loan of what books I need, Annals included, but this is also a delay of two or three days. I think really the Italian men of letters do not know the use of time made by those of other places, but I must have patience. In the course of my return home I called, by advice of my _valet de place_, at a bookseller's, where he said all the great messieurs went for books. It had very little the air of a place of such resort, being kept in a garret above a coach-house. Here some twenty or thirty odd volumes were produced by an old woman, but nothing that was mercantile, so I left them for Lorenzo's learned friends. And yet I was sorry too, for the lady who showed them to me was very [civil], and, understanding that I was the famous Chevalier, carried her kindness as far as I could desire. The Italians understand nothing of being in a hurry, but perhaps it is their way.[510]

January 24.--The King grants the favour asked. To be perfect I should have the books [out] of the room, but this seems to [hurt?] Monsieur Delicteriis as he, kind and civil as he is, would hardly [allow] me to take my labours out of the Studij, where there are hosts of idlers and echoes and askers and no understanders of askers. I progress, however, as the Americans say. I have found that Sir William Gell's amanuensis is at present disengaged, and that he is quite the man for copying the romances, which is a plain black letter of 1377, at the cheap and easy rate of 3 _quattrons_ a day. I am ashamed at the lowness of the remuneration, but it will dine him capitally, with a share of a bottle of wine, or, by 'r lady, a whole one if he likes it; and thrice the sum would hardly do that in England. But we dawdle, and that there is no avoiding. I have found another object in the Studij--the language of Naples.

Jan. 2[5?].--One work in this dialect, for such it is, was described to me as a history of ancient Neapolitan legends--_quite in my way_; and it proves to be a dumpy fat 12mo edition of Mother Goose's Tales,[511] with my old friends Puss in Boots, Bluebeard, and almost the whole stock of this very collection. If this be the original of this charming book, it is very curious, for it shows the right of Naples to the authorship, but there are French editions very early also;--for there are two--whether French or Italian, I am uncertain--of different dates, both having claims to the original edition, each omitting some tales which the other has.

To what common original we are to refer them the Lord knows. I will look into [this] very closely, and if this same copiator is worth his ears he can help me. My friend Mr. D. will aid me, but I doubt he hardly likes my familiarity with the department of letters in which he has such an extensive and valuable charge. Yet he is very kind and civil, and promises me the loan of a Neapolitan vocabulary, which will set me up for the attack upon Mother Goose. Spirit of Tom Thumb assist me! I could, I think, make a neat thing of this, obnoxious to ridicule perhaps;--what then! The author of _Ma Sœur Anne_ was a clever man, and his tale will remain popular in spite of all gibes and flouts soever. So _Vamos Caracci_! If it was not for the trifling and dawdling peculiar to this country, I should have time enough, but their trifling with time is the devil. I will try to engage Mr. Gell in two researches in his way and more in mine, namely, the Andrea Ferrara and the Bonnet piece.[512] Mr. Keppel Craven says Andrea de Ferraras[513] are frequent in Italy. Plenty to do if we had alert assistance, but Gell and Laing Meason have both their own matters to puzzle out, and why should they mind my affairs? The weather is very cold, and I am the reverse of the idiot boy--

    "For as my body's growing worse,
    My mind is growing better."[514]
Of this I am distinctly sensible, and thank God that the mist attending this whoreson apoplexy is wearing off.

I went to the Studij and copied Bevis of Hampton, about two pages, for a pattern. From thence to Sir William Gell, and made an appointment at the Studij with his writer to-morrow at ten, when, I trust, I shall find Delicteriis there, but the gentleman with the classical name is rather kind and friendly in his neighbour's behalf.[515]

January 26.--This day arrived (for the first time indeed) answer to last post end of December, an epistle from Cadell full of good tidings.[516] _Castle Dangerous_ and _Sir Robert of Paris_, neither of whom I deemed seaworthy, have performed two voyages--that is, each sold about 3400, and the same of the current year. It proves what I have thought almost impossible, that I might write myself [out], but as yet my spell holds fast.

I have besides two or three good things on which I may advance with spirit, and with palmy hopes on the part of Cadell and myself. He thinks he will soon cry _victoria_ on the bet about his hat. He was to get a new one when I had paid off all my debts. I can hardly, now that I am assured all is well again, form an idea to myself that I could think it was otherwise.

And yet I think it is the public that are mad for passing those two volumes; but I will not be the first to cry them down in the market, for I have others in hand, which, judged with equal favour, will make fortunes of themselves. Let me see what I have on the stocks--

Castle Dangerous (supposed future Editions), £1000
Robert of Paris,      "      "        "       1000
Lady Louisa Stuart,   "      "        "        500
Knights of Malta,     "      "        "       2500
Trotcosianæ Reliquiæ,        "        "       2500
I have returned to my old hopes, and think of giving Milne an offer for his estate.[517]
Letters or Tour of Paul in 3 vols.            3000
Reprint of Bevis of Hampton for Roxburghe Club,
Essay on the Neapolitan dialect,

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FOOTNOTES:

[507] Sir William Gell styles him "Archbishop," and adds that at this time he was in his ninetieth year. Can this prelate be Rogers's "Good Old Cardinal," who told the pleasant tale of the _Bag of Gold_, and is immortalised by the pencil of Landseer seated at table _en famille_ with three of his velvet favourites? See _Italy_, fcp. 8vo, 1838, p. 302.

[508] This is the last notice in the Journal by Sir Walter of his dear friend. James Skene of Rubislaw died at Frewen Hall, Oxford, in 1864, in his ninetieth year. His faculties remained unimpaired throughout his serene and beautiful old age, until the end was very near--then, one evening his daughter found him with a look of inexpressible delight on his face, when he said to her "I have had such a great pleasure! Scott has been here--he came from a long distance to see me, he has been sitting with me at the fireside talking over our happy recollections of the past...." Two or three days later he followed his well loved friend into the unseen world--gently and calmly like a child falling asleep he passed away in perfect peace.

[509] John Hugh Lockhart died December 15, 1831.

[510] Sir W. Gell relates that an old English manuscript of the Romance of Sir Bevis of Hampton, existing in Naples, had attracted Scott's attention, and he resolved to make a copy of it.

The transcript is now in the Library at Abbotsford, under the title, _Old English Romances_, transcribed from MSS. in the Royal Library at Naples, by Sticchini, 2 vols. sm. 8vo.

[511] See Appendix v. for Mr. Andrew Lang's letter on this subject.

[512] The forty-shilling gold piece coined by James V. of Scotland.

[513] Sword-blades of peculiar excellence bearing the name of this maker have been known in Scotland since the reign of James IV.

[514] Altered from Wordsworth.

[515] The editor of _Reliquiæ Antiquæ_ (2 vols. 8vo, London, 1843), writing ten years after this visit, says, that "The Chevalier de Licteriis [Chief Librarian in the Royal Library] showed him the manuscript, and well remembered his drawing Sir Walter's attention to it in 1832."

[516] Sir W. Gell records that on the morning he received the good news he called upon him and said he felt quite relieved by his letters, and added, "I could never have slept straight in my coffin till I had satisfied every claim against me; and now," turning to a favourite dog that was with them in the carriage he said, "My poor boy, I shall have my house and my estate round it free, and I may keep my dogs as big and as many as I choose without fear of reproach."--_Life_, vol. X. p. 160.

[517] Viz, Faldonside, an estate adjacent to Abbotsford which Scott had long wished to possess. As far back as November 1817 he wrote a friend: "My neighbour, Nicol Milne, is mighty desirous I should buy, at a mighty high rate, some land between me and the lake which lies mighty convenient, but I am mighty determined to give nothing more than the value, so that it is likely to end like the old proverb, _Ex Nichilo Nichil fit_."

Sir Walter Scott