April 1832




April 15, Naples.--I am on the eve of leaving Naples after a residence of three or four months, my strength strongly returning, though the weather has been very uncertain. What with the interruption occasioned by the cholera and other inconveniences, I have not done much. I have sent home only the letters by L.L. Stuart and three volumes of the Siege of Malta. I sent them by Lord Cowper's son--Mr. Cowper returning, his leave being out--and two chests of books by the Messrs. Turner, Malta, who are to put them on board a vessel, to be forwarded to Mr. Cadell through Whittaker. I have hopes they will come to hand safe. I have bought a small closing carriage, warranted new and English, cost me £200, for the convenience of returning home. It carries Anne, Charles, and the two servants, and we start to-morrow morning for Rome, after which we shall be starting homeward, for the Greek scheme is blown up, as Sir Frederick Adam is said to be going to Madras, so he will be unable to send a frigate as promised. I have spent on the expenses of medical persons and books, etc., a large sum, yet not excessive.

Meantime we [may] have to add a curious journey of it. The brigands, of whom there are so many stories, are afloat once more, and many carriages stopped. A curious and popular work would be a history of these ruffians. Washington Irving has attempted something of the kind, but the person attempting this should be an Italian, perfectly acquainted with his country, character, and manners. Mr. R----, an apothecary, told me a singular [occurrence] which happened in Calabria about six years ago, and which I may set down just now as coming from a respectable authority, though I do not [vouch it].

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DEATH OF IL BIZARRO.

This man was called, from his wily but inexorable temper, Il Bizarro, _i.e._ the Bizar. He was captain of a gang of banditti, whom he governed by his own authority, till he increased them to 1000 men, both on foot and horseback, whom he maintained in the mountains of Calabria, between the French and Neapolitans, both of which he defied, and pillaged the country. High rewards were set upon his head, to very little purpose, as he took care to guard himself against being betrayed by his own gang, the common fate of those banditti who become great in their vocation. At length a French colonel, whose name I have forgot, occupied the country of Bizarro, with such success that he formed a cordon around him and his party, and included him between the folds of a military column. Well-nigh driven to submit himself, the robber with his wife, a very handsome woman, and a child of a few months old, took a position beneath the arch of an old bridge, and, by an escape almost miraculous, were not perceived by a strong party whom the French maintained on the top of the arch. Night at length came without a discovery, which every moment might have made. When it became quite dark, the brigand, enjoining strictest silence on the female and child, resolved to steal from his place of shelter, and as they issued forth, kept his hand on the child's throat. But as, when they began to move, the child naturally cried, its father in a rage stiffened his grip so relentlessly that the poor infant never offended more in the same manner. This horrid [act] led to the conclusion of the robber's life.

His wife had never been very fond of him, though he trusted her more than any who approached him. She had been originally the wife of another man, murdered by her second husband, which second marriage she was compelled to undergo, and to affect at least the conduct of an affectionate wife. In their wanderings she alone knew where he slept for the night. He left his men in a body upon the top of an open hill, round which they set watches. He then went apart into the woods with his wife, and having chosen a glen--an obscure and deep thicket of the woods, there took up his residence for the night. A large Calabrian sheepdog, his constant attendant, was then tied to a tree at some distance to secure his slumbers, and having placed his carabine within reach of his lair, he consigned himself to such sleep as belongs to his calling. By such precautions he had secured his rest for many years.

But after the death of the child, the measure of his offence towards the unhappy mother was full to the brim, and her thoughts became determined on revenge. One evening he took up his quarters for the night with these precautions, but without the usual success. He had laid his carabine near him, and betaken himself to rest as usual, when his partner arose from his side, and ere he became sensible she had done so, she seized [his carabine], and discharging [it] in his bosom, ended at once his life and crimes. She finished her work by cutting off the brigand's head, and carrying it to the principal town of the province, where she delivered it to the police, and claimed the reward attached to his head, which was paid accordingly. This female still lives, a stately, dangerous-looking woman, yet scarce ill thought of, considering the provocation.

The dog struggled extremely to get loose on hearing the shot. Some say the female shot it; others that, in its rage, it very nearly gnawed through the stout young tree to which it was tied. He was worthy of a better master.

The distant encampment of the band was disturbed by the firing of the Bizarro's carabine at midnight. They ran through the woods to seek the captain, but finding him lifeless and headless, they became so much surprised that many of them surrendered to the government, and relinquished their trade, and the band of Bizarro, as it lived by his ingenuity, broke up by his death.

A story is told nearly as horrible as the above, respecting the cruelty of this bandit, which seems to entitle him to be called one of the most odious wretches of his name. A French officer, who had been active in the pursuit of him, fell into his hands, and was made to die [the death] of Marsyas or Saint Polycarp--that is, the period being the middle of summer, he was flayed alive, and, being smeared with honey, was exposed to all the intolerable insects of a southern sky. The corps were also informed where they might find their officer if they thought proper to send for him. As more than two days elapsed before the wretched man was found, nothing save his miserable relics could be discovered.

I do not warrant these stories, but such are told currently.

[Tour from Naples to Rome], April 16.--Having remained several months at Naples, we resolved to take a tour to Rome during the Holy Week and view the ecclesiastical shows which take place, although diminished in splendour by the Pope's poverty. So on the 15th we set out from Naples, my children unwell. We passed through the Champ de Mars,[522] and so on by the Terra di Lavoro, a rich and fertile country, and breakfasted at St. Agatha, a wretched place, but we had a disagreeable experience. I had purchased a travelling carriage, assured that it was English-built and all that. However, when we were half a mile on our journey, a bush started and a wheel came off, but by dint of contrivances we fought our way back to Agatha, where we had a miserable lodging and wretched dinner. The people were civil, however, and no bandits abroad, being kept in awe by the escort of the King of Westphalia,[523] who was on his road to Naples. The wheel was effectually repaired, and at seven in the morning we started with some apprehension of suffering from crossing the very moist marshes called the Pontine Bogs, which lie between Naples and Rome. This is not the time when these exhalations are most dangerous, though they seem to be safe at no time. We remarked the celebrated Capua, which is distinguished into the new and old. The new Capua is on the banks of the river Volturno, which conducts its waters into the moats. It is still a place of some strength in modern war. The approach to the old Capua is obstructed by an ancient bridge of a singular construction, and consists of a number of massive towers half ruined. We did not pass very near to them, but the site seems very strong. We passed Sinuessa or Sessa, an ancient Greek town, situated not far from shore. The road from Naples to Capua resembles an orchard on both sides, but, alas! it runs through these infernal marshes, which there is no shunning, and which the example of many of my friends proves to be exceeding dangerous. The road, though it has the appearance of winding among hills, is in fact, on the left side, limited by the sea-coast running northward. It comes into its more proper line at a celebrated sea-marsh called Cameria,[524] concerning which the oracle said "_Ne moveas Camarinam_," and the transgression of which precept brought on a pestilence. The road here is a wild pass bounded by a rocky precipice; on one hand covered with wild shrubs, flowers, and plants, and on the other by the sea. After this we came to a military position, where Murat used to quarter a body of troops and cannonade the English gunboats, which were not slow in returning the compliment. The English then garrisoned Italy and Sicily under Sir [John Stuart]. We supped at this place, half fitted up as a barrack, half as an inn. (The place is now called Terracina.) Near this a round tower is shown, termed the tomb of Cicero, which may be doubted. I ought, before quitting Terracina, to have mentioned the view of the town and castle of Gaeta from the Pass. It is a castle of great strength. I should have mentioned Aversa, remarkable for a house for insane persons, on the humane plan of not agitating their passions. After a long pilgrimage on this beastly road we fell asleep in spite of warnings to the contrary, and before we beat the _reveille_ were within twenty miles of the city of Rome. I think I felt the effects of the bad air and damp in a very bad headache.

After a steep climb up a slippery ill-paved road Velletri received us, and accommodated us in an ancient villa or château, the original habitation of an old noble. I would have liked much to have taken a look at it; but I am tired by my ride. I fear my time for such researches is now gone. Monte Albano, a pleasant place, should also be mentioned, especially a forest of grand oaks, which leads you pretty directly into the vicinity of Rome. My son Charles had requested the favour of our friend Sir William Gell to bespeak a lodging, which, considering his bad health, was scarcely fair. My daughter had imposed the same favour, but they had omitted to give precise direction how to correspond with their friends concerning the execution of their commission. So there we were, as we had reason to think, possessed of two apartments and not knowing the [way] to any of them. We entered Rome by a gate[525] renovated by one of the old Pontiffs, but which, I forget, and so paraded the streets by moonlight to discover, if possible, some appearance of the learned Sir William Gell or the pretty Mrs. Ashley. At length we found our old servant who guided us to the lodgings taken by Sir William Gell, where all was comfortable, a good fire included, which our fatigue and the chilliness of the night required. We dispersed as soon as we had taken some food, wine, and water.

We slept reasonably, but on the next morning

FINIS

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FOOTNOTES:

[522] _Paese dei Marsi_ or _Marsica_.

[523] Jerome Bonaparte, ex-King of Westphalia.

[524] The sea marsh "Cameria" is not indicated in the latest maps of Italy, but it would appear that some such name in the Pontine Bogs had recalled to Sir Walter the ancient proverb relating to Camarina, that Sicilian city on the marsh "which Fate forbad to drain."--Conington's _Virgil (Æn._ iii. 700-1).

[525] Porta St. Giovanni, rebuilt by Gregory XIII. in 1574.



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