A View of Society and Manners in Italy With Anecdotes Relating to some Eminent Characters (Complete)
Library of Alexandria
Having left Vienna, we proceeded through the Duchies of Stiria, Carinthia, and Carniola, to Venice. Notwithstanding the mountainous nature of those countries, the roads are remarkably good. They were formed originally at a vast expence of labour to the inhabitants, but in such a durable manner, that it requires no great trouble to keep them in repair, to which all necessary attention seems to be paid. Some of the mountains are covered with wood, but more generally they are quite bare. Among them are many fields and vallies, fit for pasturage and the cultivation of grain; a few of these vallies are remarkably fertile, particularly in the Duchy of Carniola. The bowels of the earth abound in lead, copper, and iron. Stirian steel is reckoned excellent; and the little town of Idra, in Carniola, is famous for the quicksilver mines in its neighbourhood. It has been a matter of controversy among the learned (for the learned dispute about many things which the ignorant think of little importance), by what road the original inhabitants came, who first peopled Italy? And it has been decided by some, that they must have entered by this very country of Carniola. These gentlemen lay it down as an axiom, that the first inhabitants of every country in the world, that is not an island, must have come by land, and not by sea, on account of the ignorance of the early inhabitants of the earth in the art of navigation; but Italy being a peninsula, the only way to enter it by land, is at some part of the isthmus by which it is joined to the rest of Europe. The Alps form great part of that isthmus, and, in the early ages, would exclude strangers as effectually as the sea. The easiest, shortest, and only possible way of avoiding seas and mountains, in entering Italy, is by the Duchy of Carniola and Friuli. Ergo, they came that way. Q.E.D. In contradiction to the preceding demonstration, others assert, that the first inhabitants came in ships from Greece; and others have had the boldness to affirm, that Italy had as good a right as any other country to have inhabitants of its own original production, without being obliged to any vagrants whatever. I thought it right to give you the opinion of the learned on this country, because it is not in my power to describe it from my own observation; for we passed through those Duchies with a rapidity which baffles alldescription. The inns are as bad as the roads are good; for which reason we chose to sleep on the latter rather than in the former, and actually travelled five days and nights, without stopping any longer than was necessary to change horses. This method of travelling, however agreeable and improving it may be in other respects, is by no means calculated to give one the most perfect and lasting idea of the face of a country, or of the manners and characters of the inhabitants; and therefore I hope you will not insist upon an exact account of either. Among other curiosities which our uninterrupted and expeditious movement prevented us from observing with due attention, was the town of Gratz, the capital of Stiria, through which we unfortunately passed in the middle of the night. I did not regret this on account of the regularity of the streets, the venerable aspect of the churches, the sublime site of the castle, and other things which we had heard extolled; but solely because we had not an opportunity of visiting the shrine of St. Allan, a native of England, who formerly was a Dominican Monk of a convent in this town, and in high favour with the Virgin Mary, of which she gave him some proofs as strong as they were extraordinary. Amongst other marks of her regard, she used to comfort him with milk from her breasts. This, to be sure, is a mark of affection seldom bestowed upon favourites above a year old, and will, I dare say, surprise you a good deal. There is no great danger, however, that an example of this kind should spread among virgins.