[Venice—Wednesday & Thursday, 1 & 2 September 1869]
Wednesday and Thursday slipped away and yet what can be said? It was one shifting show of dreams.
Tuesday night the weather changed & we had a great storm. The wind and rain came driving into these old palaces and it seems as if the fairy city were unshipped & had floated out into Northern Seas. Our noble (!!) gondolier informed us yesterday in choice Italian that he had a little boy of seven years to whom he hoped we should give some old clothes just to remember “our family” by! We laughed heartily at the “in memory of.”
We have had Bleak House with us & have revived our picture of Mrs Howe in Mrs Jellyby. Jamie laughed heartily over a description Tom gave him from a college friend of his who had been visiting at her house in Newport. He said the order of the house seemed to be “the Devil take the hindmost.”
These Italians manage to get up a laugh or a quarrel on the slightest provocation. A little ragged boy son of one of the gondoliers seated himself in the rain yesterday in a boat under an umbrella. Where he got the umbrella cannot be guessed but the fact seemed to throw the whole race of gondoliers into a flood of laughter.
It is very curious too, to observe when a gondolier throws out a remark how any body within hearing will reply—sometimes from the further side of the canal.
But one of the funniest sights of all was to see Jamie tear his hair in imitation of their grand manner, at the lace woman last night. He was buying me a jacket of superb old lace which took his fancy. The price was not dear for the article but the object was to discover her “ultime prezza” which is by no means an easy thing to do here as they ask one price and take another. It was as good as a play to see diamond cut diamond.
Titian’s picture of the annunciation and Tintoretto’s Crucifixion in the Scuola di San Rocco are pictures never to be forgotten. The thought for others expressed in Mary’s figure while in the intensest agony herself is rendered as I never saw it before. Surely this is one of the divinest things the world holds! The beauty of the figure she encircles too is perfect.
The tangled garden of the Vendramin yesterday, the decaying pictures, the falling lamps, the invaded rooms, how sad, how beautiful!!
Thursday Sep. 3 [sic]. Our last day in Venice—a little cool but the colors beautiful again. We have been with “Cente Venti” (our gondolier) on the water ever since eleven o clock today quite as much to his satisfaction as to ours though that was very great. We ended by ascending the Campanile just before sunset, looking toward the Euganean Hills with an added tenderness for Shelley’s sake. At dinner in the high upper hall we saw the sunset die away. The water became pale green like aqua marine in tint and San Georgio with tower and facade took a soft orange hue. We went into one church after another, each remarkable for something worth going for today and yet there were quite as many left to be seen. How much longer they will remain nobody can say for Dickens’s fancy of an Italian dream constantly returns & it appears quite possible that any wild night may submerge the whole irrevocably.
The woman returned with my lace jacket tonight which she wished me much to have although she was so reluctant about the price we offered. When she at length decided to take it however she kissed my hand as if I were her best friend from whom she was loth to part.
“Cente Venti” too met us in the Piazza with renewed “grazie” for his old clothes & a new request that we would employ him to carry us to the station tomorrow.
In a remote church we saw a great picture by Tintoretto today. A new treatment of the Presentation of the Virgin.