THE printing of an American book in Italy, during the years 1828, 1829, and 1830, proved a formidable undertaking to the author of the Spy.
The summer of 1828 was passed by Mr. Cooper in Switzerland, to his great delight. From the entrance to the Canton of Neufchatel, amid the lovely mists of the Val Moustiers, throughout his many excursions in different directions, he was in a constant state of what Lord Byron called tousy-mousy. His first halt was at the picturesque old city of Berne. Here he remained at the principal hotel only a few days, looking about for a quieter summer home for his family. Though very social in disposition, he always disliked hotel life, and invariably placed his family in furnished lodgings as soon as possible. It is true his means were limited, and economy was an object with him. But thoroughly domestic in his tastes and habits, home life was what he most enjoyed. He found a pleasant country-house, La Lorraine, within a short distance from Berne ; this was rented for the summer. It had recently been occupied by the Comte de St. Leu, Louis, the ex-King of Holland. Uncrowned kings and queens of the Bonaparte family were, at that time, frequently met in different countries of Europe ; ay, and one, King Joseph of Spain, had found a temporary home in America. The grounds of La Lorraine were cramped and uninteresting, consisting chiefly of a little trim garden, with its half-ruined fountain ; but close at hand was a common, with a sort of natural terrace, higher than the house, which became a favorite evening walk, where parents, and children also, with hoops, kites, and jumping-ropes, found much enjoyment. This natural terrace formed the regular quarter-deck walk of the author ; like other sailors, he never lost the habit, formed in naval life, of pacing to and fro over the same ground, either alone, or with a companion. From this common there was a very grand view of the Oberland Alps, — a view in the evening most wonderful in sunset glory. He gave the following sketch of one of those sunsets : —
“ The day was clouded, and as a great deal of mist was clinging to all the lesser mountains the lower atmosphere was much charged with vapor. A wide pall of watery cloud entirely overhung the summits of the nearer range, leaving, however, their broad sides misty, but quite visible. The vapor must have caused a good deal of refraction, for above these clouds rose the Oberland Alps, to an altitude which appeared even greater than usual. Every peak, and the whole majestic formation, was perfectly visible, though the whole range appeared to be severed from the earth and to float in the air. The line of connection was veiled ; and while all below was watery, or enfeebled by mist, the glaciers above threw back the fierce light of the sun with powerful splendor. The separation from the lower world was made more complete from the contrast between the sombre tints beneath and the calm but bright effulgence above. One had some difficulty in believing that both belonged to the same orb. The effect was to create a picture of which I can give no other idea than by declaring that it resembled what one might conceive to be a glimpse through the windows of heaven at a glorious but chastened grandeur. There were moments when the spectral aspect assumed by those great glaciers, as the rosy light of sunset faded away, dimmed the lustre of the snows without impairing their forms, and no language can do justice to the sublimity of the effect. It was impossible to look at them without religious awe; I could hardly persuade myself I was not gazing at some of the sublime mysteries that lie beyond the grave.”
The nearer country, hill and dale, in the immediate neighborhood of La Lorraine was also charming. The drives were of course beautiful, along narrow roads, smooth and even as garden walks, amid open fields, rich and neat with the highest degree of culture ; the passing wheel almost touching the crops, so narrow were the tracks. And the Alps always in view, or at least always the hope of beholding them at the next turn, when some nearer hill or wood shut out the grand panorama for a moment! And the cottages so exquisitely rural, and rustic, and local, with their broad projecting roofs, and low balconies, and quaint inscriptions, rude in lettering, devout in meaning! How thrifty the whole aspect of things, a dilapidated cottage or a carelessly tilled field, seemingblots on the face of the land, unknown in the good Canton of Berne! Over these beautiful scenes the eye of the American traveler, eager, observant, and appreciative, wandered with delight, gathering some fresh incident of interest from every evening drive. When harvest time came he was much interested in the poor gleaners: old and young, men, women, and children, came flocking down from the Oberland, scattering themselves through the harvest fields, many a weary mile from their mountain homes, gathering their small winter store of rye or wheat, ear by ear. Their varied costumes were faded and tattered, and yet pleasing, since the interest of inheritance and prolonged local growth lingered about them. All the Bernese peasantry, rich and poor, were in costume, at that date ; even baby girls had the black gauzy framework, like butterfly wings, about their round and rosy faces. Of gleaners, Mr. Cooper on one occasion counted one hundred and twenty-nine in a field of less than six acres.
A new book was now being planned. The idea had occurred to him of laying the scene of a tale in New England, during early colonial times, thus bringing into one picture Puritans and Indians. A child, a little girl, carried away in infancy, adopted by the Indians, brought up among them, and married to a chief of their race, was to be the central figure of the romance. The idea he had probably taken from the history of the raid on Deerfield, and the fate of the daughter of the Williams family, who, when grown up, refused to return to her relations, and remained with her Mohawk family. The name he eventually gave to this novel was the Wept of Wish-ton-Wish. It was only partly written at La Lorraine. There were too many excursions to the finest points of Switzerland breaking in upon his writing-days to allow of regular work. As a rule, after he adopted literature as a profession, he wrote two or three hours in the morning, after breakfast, from ten to twelve or one. But the little study at La Lorraine was often vacant, the American writing-desk closed, the small volumes of the 32° edition of Shakespeare, his constant traveling companions, lying unopened on the table, while the traveller was wandering about the country, frequently in a char-à-banc, with a portion of his family. The wellmade roads about Berne, smooth as those of an English park, greatly excited his admiration. Probably he enjoyed their excellent condition all the more from vivid recollections of the rough highways about his Otsego home, where at certain seasons of the year the wheels of wagon and carriage sank to fearful depths in the mud. It seemed difficult to understand how, in an Alpine climate, where frost must necessarily penetrate to such a depth in the winter, the roads could be kept in this admirable condition. On one occasion the char-à-banc carried the family party to Hindelbank, where Mr. Cooper was very deeply impressed with the celebrated monument of Madame Langhans. He afterwards declared that no statue had ever produced so strong an effect on him, from its powerful spiritual sentiment and its simple, truthful execution.
Many interesting excursions were also taken by the author alone, with a guide, in the heart of the Alps. He was surprised to meet no countrymen in his wanderings. It was said that during that summer only two Americans passed through Berne ; and only one American family, besides that at La Lorraine, was known to be traveling in Switzerland. What a difference to-day, when thousands of our people are visiting those Alpine regions every year !
Those summer months at La Lorraine passed only too rapidly. At length autumnal gusts began to whistle through the linden-trees about the cottage, and light showers of snow fell upon the little garden. It was deemed expedient to move southward ere the Alpine passes were closed. A Swiss railroad was not even dreamed of in the year of grace 1828. A couple of voituriers were engaged to transport the family party to Florence. Caspar, the postillon en chef had been a cuirassier of Napoleon’s wars : he had many a tale of march and battle to relate. With no little intelligence, much bonhomie, a hearty, jovial nature, and a good manner, he was soon in high favor with his employer, who long remembered him with pleasure.
The Simplon was passed on a brilliant autumn day. The American traveler was full of admiration of the engineering power which had conquered such tremendous difficulties of road-making, and carried so successfully the track of civilization over that Alpine height.
Caspar soon trotted his fine horses into the gates of Florence. As usual, a temporary home was secured. The apartment engaged for the winter was in one of those old piles, half house, half fortalice, such as the warlike nobles of Florence were wont to build centuries ago, and which still form a severe feature in the aspect of that joyous and sunny city. Buildings which within are full of elegance and noble works of art, without throw a stern and frowning shadow over the narrow streets. The apartment selected by the American traveler had been recently occupied by Baron Poerio, the Neapolitan exile. The house was owned by the widowed Madame Ricasoli, who with her two sons, one a page of the Grand Duke, the other a half-grown boy, but already a tonsured abbé, occupied a portion of the Casa Ricasoli. The elder son, a few years later, made for himself a very noble record as the distinguished Baron Ricasoli, the leader of the patriotic party. There were other exiled families, from different parts of Italy, occupying apartments in the house. Florence was then a city of refuge for political exiles, the government of Tuscany being the most liberal in the peninsula. The American author enjoyed very much his residence in Florence, and the society into which he was very kindly received. The higher Italian element of that society surpassed in intelligence, in activity of mind, and in elevated tone what he had anticipated from the general condition of the country at that period. He saw much of the Marchese Pucci and the Marchese Gino Capponi, men whom to know was to honor; through life he always remembered them with respectful regard. It was the delight of the American traveler to enliven the hearthstone of the Casa Ricasoli with the cheery glow of wood fires, such as might have done credit to his paternal home in the Otsego hills ; a bright wood fire, in cool weather, was a necessity for him ; he was very critical in laying the wood, and in feeding the bright blaze in which his cheerful nature rejoiced. Among those enjoying the evening firelight was a countryman in whom Mr. Cooper soon learned to feel a deep interest, — Mr. Horatio Greenough, the sculptor. There were a number of Americans in Florence during that winter.
Sight-seeing, long mornings spent in the galleries, in which he delighted, interfered somewhat with the progress of the new book, which was not written as rapidly as some others by the same pen. It soon became necessary, however, to think of printing. But here there was great disappointment. Tuscany was much the most liberal of the ten governments then ruling Italy, and there was no difficulty in procuring from the censor the necessary permission to print. Before crossing the Alps, Mr. Cooper had been led to believe that printing a book in the English language, at Florence, would be an easy task. In this he was greatly disappointed. There was no printing-office in the city which would undertake anything of the kind. There was not a single printer in Florence who could understand English. At first promises were made, hopes of assistance were held out, by the principal bookseller. But these all proved delusive. Several months passed away in fruitless negotiations. At length, despairing of success, Mr. Cooper reluctantly determined to leave his family in Florence, and endeavor to make arrangements for printing at Marseilles. During the Carnival he left the Casa Ricasoli, and set out for France, carrying the manuscript of Wish-ton-Wish with him. His plan was to print the book as rapidly as possible, and then return to Florence. On arriving at Marseilles, and visiting the English printing-office, he found that a different arrangement could be made. He succeeded in procuring an English compositor, willing to return with him to Florence, and work under his own direction, in an Italian office. This man, whose name was Richard Heavisides, was, unfortunately, deaf and dumb. The author returned to Florence with him. A room was found for him in that spacious dwelling, the Casa Ricasoli, and he received his meals from his employer’s table, while his workinghours were passed in the Italian office. He proved, however, an indifferent printer ; the work went on very slowly ; he had much difficulty in reading the author’s peculiar, close handwriting and the Indian names puzzled him greatly. The whole plan was suddenly brought to a close by a frenzied outbreak of temper, which terrified the Italian servants, and made the man a really dangerous member of the household. He was sent back to Marseilles. This state of things was discouraging.
Fresh suggestions were made, however, and at length some Italian friends of influence proposed an application to the librarian of the Grand Duke. This effort proved entirely successful; especial facilities were kindly granted to the American author, and a small edition of Wish-ton-Wish was printed in the government offices. Early sheets were sent to Paris, London, and Philadelphia, to meet the writer’s obligations to his publishers. In England the book received the name of The Borderers. The word Wish-ton-Wish had been taken from an Indian vocabulary, professing to give it the meaning of “ Whip-poorWill,” in one of the eastern dialects. An American work of no little interest, whose leading idea was very similar to that of the Wish-ton-Wish, had appeared rather earlier, — Hope Leslie, by Miss Sedgwick. It is simply true, however, that the idea of Mr. Cooper’s book was not a borrowed one; he had, while sketching Narra-Mattah, never read Hope Leslie. The success of the Wish-tonWish was only moderate. There is, however, a vein of deep pathetic interest running through the narrative, with a purity and freshness in the general tone like the odor of the newly turned sod, the fragrance of bud and brier in the newly opened wood. Impartial justice was rendered to all that was sound and healthful in the Puritan system : to their courage, their thrifty industry, their self-denial and simple habits of life, their shrewdness, and their indomitable resolution. As a picture of pure family love, that between husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, the narrative is beautiful. The spirit of that love glows throughout; it throws a light, sweet and serene, yet clear and strong, over every page ; while in no instance is there the least taint of exaggeration or conceit. Some years later, while revising the pages of the book for a new edition, the writer expressed regret that his plan had not varied in one particular. The leading idea, the abduction of the daughter of the Puritan family, would have remained the same ; but instead of bringing the young girl to her old home, with the Narragansett band, he would have carried the heartstricken father into the wilderness, on the trail of his lost child ; he would have followed the parent step by step through the forest, now led onward by some false rumor, then guided by the right clue, — wandering far and wide, along unexplored streams, over nameless lakes, through pathless valleys, until at length, in some remote wigwam of the red man, he finds her as she is now drawn, a beautiful picture of sweet natural instincts and wild grace, appearing one moment in that subdued forest light which belongs to the red man’s daughter, and then again brightening under some clearer ray of her earlier Christian nurture. We can imagine something, at least, of the higher interest and the beauty of original detail which would have been given to the work under this form.
With the early heats of an Italian summer came longings for green fields. A villa, trim and spruce rather than picturesque, just without the walls of Florence, the villa St. Illario, was rented. Its chief merit lay in the fact that it was within a short walk of that most enchanting view, Bello Sguardo. A touch of malarial fever made a change of air necessary. A movement southward and by water was planned. There was a longing for the sea-breezes, a wish to find a dwelling somewhere within sight and sound of the blue waves of the Mediterranean.
Already another book was sketched, which was destined to add fresh difficulties to his first experience in printing an American romance in Italy. This was the Water-Witch, as different in character, general outline, and in detail, from the Wish-ton-Wish as can well be conceived. It was to be rather a drama of the coast than a tale of the sea, the movements of the vessels being confined entirely to the waters connected with the harbor of New York.
Leghorn was the first step in the expedition southward. A characteristic passage relating to the seaport may interest the reader as a glimpse of the past: —
“ The salt air was grateful, and I snuffed the air of this delightful sea with a feeling that was ‘ redolent of joy and youth.’ We hurried off to the port. Here we feasted our eyes on the different picturesque rigs and peculiar barks of those poetical waters. Long years had gone by since I had seen the felucca, the polacre, the xebec, the sparanara, with all the other quaint-looking craft of the Mediterranean. As we strolled along the mole and quays, we met several men from the Levant, and an Algerine Rais was calmly smoking his chibouque on the deck of his polacre. A good many Sardinians lay scattered about the harbor. Of Tuscans there were few, and these were small. Three Russians were laid up on account of the war with Turkey ! Rowing under the bows of a Yankee, I found one of his people seated on the windlass, playing on the flute, — as cool a piece of impudence as can well be imagined for a Massachusetts man to practice in Italy ! The delicious odors of the seaport were inhaled with a delight no language can describe. I had been living in an atmosphere of poetry for many months, and this was an atmosphere of life. The fragrance of the bales of merchandise, of the piles of oranges, of even the mud, saturated as it was with salt, to say nothing of the high seasoning of occasional breathings of tar and pitch, to me were pregnant with 'odors of delight.’ ”
At a later day he confessed that the sight of the American flag at Leghorn had made his heart beat.
A Genoese felucca was engaged for the voyage to Naples. La Bella Genovese was a craft of thirty tons, of beautiful mould, and was lateen-rigged. Her crew consisted of ten men ! “ I myself,” wrote the author, “ have been one of eleven hands, officers included, to navigate a ship of three hundred tons across the Atlantic, and we often reefed topsails with the watch.”
The voyage in the Bella Genovese, along the coast of Tuscany, Romagna, and Naples, lasted some six days ; a week of great enjoyment to one who, though now numbered among men of letters, was ever a sailor at heart, and who felt so deeply the charm of Italian nature. The very atmosphere of Italy was a perpetual delight to him. “ The entire northern shore of this luxurious sea,” he wrote, " is, in summer, one scene of magnificent nature, such as perhaps no other portion of the globe can equal. I can best liken it to an extremely fine woman, whose stateliness and beauty are softened by the eloquent expression of feminine sentiment.”
On one occasion the felucca was becalmed near a small, desolate island, the Isola di Troja. The family party landed, and the most agile climbed to the ruined tower, crowning the highest point. This had no doubt been a watchtower in the long period when the Barbary pirates infested the coast of Italy, — a period then only closed some five and twenty years earlier. The flags of England and France, and of all the naval powers of Europe, were, early in this century, seen carrying tribute to the Deys of Tunis and Algiers. Our gallant American navy was the first to make those Barbary powers respect a Christian flag, by their bravery in the Bay of Tripoli.
The family party were soon housed in a most delightful temporary home, on the cliffs of Sorrento, in the Casa Tasso. Of the many pleasant weeks passed in Italy, those months at Sorrento were the most enchanting. At that time the Casa Tasso — fondly believed by the Sorrentines to have been the birthplace of the great poet — had no other inmates than the American family and the agent of the landlord, living in some invisible portion of the vast dwelling, which has since become a hotel. There was in those days a succession of antechambers, salons, and sala, on a grand scale, with high ceilings, great windows, earthen floors, scanty furniture, a few works of classic art, and from every window views of indescribable beauty. The large sala, fifty feet long, faced the Bay of Naples, and opened on a terrace of the same length, built on the very brow of the tufa cliff, one hundred and fifty feet high. Below, the Mediterranean washed a narrow line of pebbly beach. The terrace became the quarter-deck of the author. Off one end was a small, tentlike room, which was the study. Here the Water-Witch was written. Charming excursions were made to Capri, Ischia, Pompeii, Vesuvius, and Pæstum. Nevertheless, the new book made rapid progress. The evening views from the terrace were delightful. Directly opposite, at a distance of eighteen miles, were seen the lights of Naples, and in certain states of the atmosphere the subdued murmur from the roar of a large town could be distinctly heard. To the right rose the pyramidal cone of Vesuvius, generally crowned at night by a soft rosy cloud. To the left lay the dark pile of Ischia. Fishing-boats were moving quietly to and fro, and larger craft, in shadowy outline, were seen here and there at anchor. There was no carriageroad approaching Sorrento ; a rude track for horsemen or travelers on foot crossed the mountains lining the shore, westward. There was only one wheeled carriage on the whole plain of Sorrento, and that was the archbishop’s. Sorrento, though little more than a large village, could boast the dignity of a cathedral, and was the see of an archbishopric. There were said to be “ more than twenty churches and convents ” in the little town and its neighborhood. All communication with Naples was carried on by water. There was a pretty little felucca, the Divina Providenza, which crossed the bay to Naples every morning, wind and weather permitting, carrying passengers and mail, returning in the evening to its quiet landing, with the latest news of the busy world.
While watching the beautiful bay and its picturesque craft, the American traveler’s imagination was busy with scenes of a very different character, which he was sketching with the pen: the movements of the beautiful WaterWitch and the Coquette, stealing along the shores of Staten Island and the Bay of New York ; with the stirring chase of the smuggler through the perils of HellGate, — perils very real in those days, but which in our time have all but disappeared, under the direction of skillful science. A great portion of the new romance was written on the terrace of the Casa Tasso. But at length the cold weather made itself felt with some severity. Not only the dark tufa mountains, but the orange groves of the plain, were powdered with snow. It became necessary to abandon a dwelling so vast and so open, in which there was but one fireplace. Braziers, after the regular Italian fashion, albeit of elegant workmanship and great size, and filled with choice charcoal of olivewood, were not to be endured by such a votary of the Yule-log. The family party moved to Naples.
Inquiries were made as to the possibility of printing at Naples. But the idea was almost immediately abandoned. The censorship was terribly severe in the kingdom of the Sicilies. Among the many Italian governments at that date dividing Italy, that of Naples was the most tyrannical. Some of the best men of the country were at that moment wearing out body and soul, in the most gloomy dungeons. A few weeks were spent among the galleries and churches, with renewed visits to Pompeii and Vesuvius. Mr. Cooper had a high opinion of the natural endowments of the Italian race. Familiar intercourse had raised that opinion. He always declared that, under favorable circumstances, he believed them capable of holding a high position among modern nations. At that period they were broken up into fragments; in some quarters weakened by feeble governments, in others crushed by tyranny. He considered his Sorrento sailors a brave race of men, and had even a good word for some of the beggars. He differed from the King of Naples in his opinion of the natural courage of Italians. A diplomate then at Naples told him that recently, at a cabinet council in the royal palace, where the uniform of the army was under consideration, the king had exclaimed, in the patois he often used, “Vesti li come vuoi, fuiranno sempre.” (Dress them as you will, they will always run away.)
“ Sooner or later Italy will inevitably be a single state ; this is a result which I hold to be inevitable, though the means by which it is to be effected are still hidden.” So wrote Mr. Cooper in 1829.
The first view of Rome filled the American traveler with deep emotion. The entire winter of 1830 was passed at Rome. Laying no claim to the honors of scholarship in the field of antiquity, the American writer was yet deeply interested in the great city and its ruins. The apartment he occupied was in the Via Ripetta, the muddy Tiber flowing beneath its windows ; while in the distance beyond, St. Peter’s and the Castle St. Angelo were constantly in sight. Galleries, churches, ruins, gardens, were visited with deep interest and enjoyment. He found many agreeable companions among the crowd of foreigners always haunting Rome, — Russians, English, French, Americans, Poles. Was there ever a city on earth, from remote periods to the present hour, whose streets have been at all times so crowded with throngs of foreigners from all the peoples of the known world ? The ruins of Rome have a greater power of attraction than the grandest edifices of modern nations. The author paid his respects to M. Bunsen at the Capitol, and was much interested in the information he received from him. He was also admitted to pay his homage to Madame Mère, the mother of Napoleon, a quiet, dignified old lady, who received but few foreigners. While in her salon, a young man of slight, insignificant appearance entered the room, riding-whip in hand. This proved to be Prince Louis Bonaparte, then considered a mere trifler at Rome, but later the Emperor Napoleon III. “ C’est un petit freluquet! ” said a French lady who saw him frequently. The words were spoken in a very contemptuous tone.
Mr. Cooper took great pleasure in riding for hours over the Campagna, on a spirited white saddle-horse, which he called the Chigi; lingering here about some ruin, now pausing to enjoy an impressive view, or dismounting perchance to examine more closely a statue or fragment of ancient days. He seldom rode alone; ever social in feeling, he generally found agreeable companions for the morning ride, among the American or European friends, who at Rome, as at Florence, took pleasure in the cheerful fireside. Among others, there was no one, perhaps, whose society was more interesting than that of the great Polish poet, Mickiewicz, a man whose appearance, manner, and conversation were full of originality and genius, while the sad fate of his country enlisted Mr. Cooper’s warmest sympathies in his behalf. The two writers were frequently seen roaming together over the Campagna, or amid the ruins of Rome.
The new romance was now finished. Efforts were made to print a small edition in English. Several Italian gentlemen of influence very kindly interested themselves in behalf of the American writer. The usual inquiries and applications to those in authority were made. Some encouragement was given at first. The nature and character of the book were explained ; it was a sea tale, whose scene lay in American waters. Thus far all seemed promising; the Italian friends were quite sanguine as to the success of this little enterprise, and as such they considered it. The first chapters of the book were copied, and placed with all due form in the hands of the censor. Days passed. No answer was received. Anxious to know the result, a renewed application was made to the gentleman in authority. At length came a very polite, very dignified, but severe communication. On the second page occurred the remark that “ Rome itself is only to be traced by fallen temples and buried columns.” This passage was utterly condemned. The whole book must be rigidly revised, this ominous opening having excited the gravest fears as to the character of the succeeding pages. Some weeks passed in these negotiations. There was much bigotry to be overcome. Foreseeing, on this account, constant annoyance from an attempt to carry out the plan, all idea of printing at Rome was abandoned. In the spring, after the Easter holidays, the author left Rome, and commenced his migration northward, with the intention of passing the following year in Germany, where there could be little difficulty in printing.
At Venice he halted for some weeks. Here he was under the full spell of enchantment which falls upon all travelers in that marvelous city. “I had never before seen a city afloat. It was now evening, but a fine moon was shedding its light on the scene, rendering it fairylike. Passing beneath an arch, we issued into the great square of St. Mark. No other scene, in a town, ever struck me with so much surprise and pleasure. . . . I felt as if transported to a scene in the Arabian Nights. The moon, with its mild, delusive light, aided the deception, the forms rising beneath it still more fanciful and quaint. . . . Certainly no other place ever struck my imagination so forcibly ; and never before did I experience so much pleasure from novel objects in so short a time. . . . The pavement of this church (San Marco) is undulating, like low waves, a sort of sleeping groundswell. C—thinks it intentional, by way of marine poetry, to denote the habits of the people ; but I fancy it is more probably poetical justice, a reward for not driving home the piles.” The works of art gave him great delight. “ Titian, Tintoretto, and Paul Veronese are seen only in Venice. Titian is here in a blaze of glory. You know the French carried away every work of art they could. They even attempted to remove fresco paintings, — a desecration that merited the overthrow of their power.” “ We have visited half the churches here, picture-hunting ; and a queer thing it is to draw up to a noble portico in your gondola, to land, and find yourself in one of the noblest edifices of Europe. The sea-breezes fan the shrines, and sometimes the spray and surf are leaping about them, as if they were rocks on a strand.”
Very deeply was the mind of the American author impressed with Venice, — that very Nereid among earth’s grandest capitals, whose whole existence for long ages has been a brilliant marvel; most picturesque among municipalities ; most poetical among the daughters of commerce; most thrifty, most politic, among the daughters of art; most Oriental among the children of Christian Europe; most stately, most elegant, among the proud daughters of the sea; most gay and gorgeous, most heartless, most tyrannical queen, among earth’s crowning cities. For weeks the traveler went gliding along the noiseless canals, in the easy gondola, — reminding him, he said, in form and lightness, of the Indian canoe of bark; now stepping from the graceful and shadowy skiff into the portal of some sacred pile; now springing from the boat into the hall of some old palace, all marble to the eye, between water and sky.
Erelong the idea of a romance connected with this enchanted ground suggested itself. He began to study closely works connected with Venetian history. An insight into the interior working of that political system filled him with horror. Its heartless trifling with every sacred right of individuals, its sacrifice of every righteous principle which came into conflict with its one chief object, the aggrandizement of San Marco, excited his indignation.
While the outline of the new romance was gradually assuming distinctness, the heats of summer rendered it unsafe to linger longer on those enchanted waters. The journey to Germany, to Dresden, was continued. There were pauses at picturesque Innsbrück, and at Munich, where the works of art were greatly admired. An amusing incident occurred during a night journey, at the gates of a small town between Munich and Dresden. The travelers were aroused from a midnight nap by the usual demand for the passport. The paper was handed to the soldier on duty. Presently the head official, also in uniform, ran eagerly to the carriage door, in a state of great excitement. “You come from America!" “ Yes, we are Americans.” “ My brother Hans is in America ! Did you see brother Hans Breitkopf in America ? ” “ No; I did not see your brother. America is rather a large country.”
At Dresden a pleasant apartment was found in the Alt-Markt. Measures were immediately taken for printing an edition of the Water-Witch. There was not the least difficulty in carrying out the plan, and that picturesque craft, which had been wrecked on the banks of the Tiber, was now successfully launched on the broader waters of the Elbe. The quaint and busy show of homely German life in the Alt-Markt, as seen weekly at fairs, under tent and booth, so different from that of Italy, afforded amusement. The town was admired, with its fine public grounds, noble river and bridge, and above all its gallery, worthy of Italy. Still, there were regrets for the country south of the great mountains, and the author frequently remarked that every traveler should visit Germany before crossing the Alps. It was said that there was only one American in Dresden that summer, besides the author’s family. There were English residents, but not in large numbers. The children of the family passed the day at a boarding-school, where they were sent to learn German. The excellent lady at the head of this establishment, after a while, confided to their parents the great astonishment excited in herself and all the school, on the first appearance of these children. " We expected them to be black ! We supposed all Americans were black! ” What had led to this idea ? was the inquiry. “ Oh, it was the general impression in Dresden that Americans were black. The idea was nothing new ! ” It happened also that Madame Christophe, the exEmpress of Hayti, had recently passed some months with her daughter at Dresden, and her African complexion was of a fine ebony. It was supposed that the author of the Spy and his family would also prove blackamoors.
Meanwhile, the Water-Witch was printed. The first pages of a new romance, the Bravo, whose scene was laid in Venice, were written. The entire plan of the book was sketched in the author’s mind. No notes were made. He never wrote from notes, unless writing history or statistics. In such cases he was very conscientious in all details, and drew up the important facts beforehand. A pleasant excursion was made to the Saxon Switzerland. A plan was being arranged for moving to Vienna for the winter. Suddenly the tocsin of the Revolution of 1830 was heard booming from Paris ! Finding the general character of the disturbance orderly, and under the control of General Lafayette, Mr. Cooper decided to return at once to Paris. He was eager to be on the ground where events of such great importance were occurring every day. He himself set out for France immediately, leaving his family to follow a few weeks later, under the care of a man-servant in whom he had confidence, and the nephew who had been traveling with him. The condition of Paris was found comparatively tranquil. There was no danger for foreigners. He secured a pleasant apartment in the Rue d’Aguesseau, and his family turned their faces westward. The journey was uneventful. After passing the frontiers of France, there was a general air of unrest and anxiety among the people, but no traces of violence. The elder women, poor creatures, at the different auberges, shook their heads, looking very sad, and hoped there would be no return of those dreadful Cosaques of 1815. One poor old crone, whose recollection carried her further back, to the terrors of the first Revolution, sat on a doorstep, weeping bitter tears and wringing her hands. She cried constantly, “ La Révolution est déchaînée ! La Révolution est déchaînée ! ” — as if the Revolution were a living monster! Alas, no doubt it has often proved so. The American family endeavored to comfort her, but in vain : she remained sitting on the doorstep, weeping and wringing her hands, and crying like a sibyl, La Révolution est déchaînée ! La Révolution est déchaînée ! ”
The Bravo was written to martial music. The reviews and movements of the garrison and National Guard of Paris were very frequent, and frequently also the beat of the rappel, calling the military out to quell some fresh disturbance, was heard even in the most quiet streets. Who that has ever listened to that fearful roar of a frenzied mob can think of those sounds without horror ! The growls of wild beasts are as nothing to the demoniac yells of men maddened by infuriate passion. The wild creatures, the beasts of prey, have but one nature, that of animals; but men, when forgetful of their humanity, rival fiends in the expression of intelligent cruelty. Still, the Revolution of 1830 was much the least disorderly of any of the long series of violent disturbances which have afflicted unhappy France during the last century. Foreigners were not molested. There were few days when ladies and children could not walk with safety in the Tuileries. Mr. Cooper followed every movement of the Revolution with deep interest, — in the streets, in the public press, in society, and in the Chambers. From the first he mistrusted the sincerity of the king. That impression increased with every year. And when the echoes of another outburst of the volcano in Paris reached him across the ocean, in his quiet village home, eighteen years later, he was prepared for it, had expected it. Meanwhile, however, during those first years after the Revolution of July he led his usual life, deeply interested in all public events of importance, whether at home or abroad, and spending two or three hours every morning in writing. He soon moved his family to the Faubourg St. Germain, to a small, quiet hôtel, entre cour et jardin, 59 Rue St. Dominique, where he continued to live until he left Europe. It was in the cabinet of that very pleasant home that the last chapters of the Bravo were written, and the book prepared for publication.
The task the author had allotted himself was thoroughly carried out. A picture of the heartless cruelty and treachery of the Venetian oligarchy, in its secret working, is laid before the reader ; it is a picture which in no particular surpasses in the darkness of its coloring what history has revealed on the same subject. It was the opinion of Mr. Cooper that an aristocracy must, from its very nature, be a dangerous form of government ; as a general rule, he believed a prolonged aristocracy more likely to prove coldly selfish, tyrannical, and treacherous than either a monarchy or a democracy. This danger he conceived to flow from its irresponsible character, united to the great strength to which such a form of government may attain by the concentration of talent, wealth, intelligence, legislative and executive power, within a circle sufficiently narrow for the most decisive action, while, like all corporate bodies, it is lacking in the restraints of individual responsibility.
The Bravo was received with acclamation in France and Germany. In America it was disparaged. It was said the author had copied the novel of Lewis, the Bravo of Venice. This book he had never read.
The reader may remember the jailer’s daughter, with the sweet Italian name of Gelsomina. The name was a real one, and possibly something in the general character may have been drawn from life. While the American family were living on the cliffs of Sorrento, a young peasant girl of the neighborhood became one of the household, half nurse, half playfellow, to the children of the party. She bore the name of Gelsomina. Simple and childlike, yet singularly faithful to duty, Gelsomina was soon in high favor with great and small, and, in charge of the young flock, made one of every family party in the little excursions about the bay. On these occasions she was always in gay costume : a light blue silken jacket trimmed with gold lace, a flowery chintz skirt, her dark hair well garnished with long golden pins and bodkins, a gold chain of many strands encircling her throat, and drops, long and heavy, hanging from her ears. It chanced one afternoon that, while playing with her young charge in the orange grove of the garden, Gelsomina went for a draught of water to the well in the court, — that picturesque marble well. There, while bending over the curbstone and drawing up the bucket, like Zara of Moorish fame, she dropped one of the heavy ear-rings into the water. Great was the grief of the simple creature! Warm was the sympathy of the household ! The ear-rings, like most of the jewelry of the Italian peasants, were as much an heirloom, a family treasure, as the diamonds of a duchess. But the well was one of great depth ; the jewel was irretrievably lost. Gelsomina’s tears, like those of Moorish Zara, fell on the marble curbstone in vain.
My ear-rings! my ear-rings ! O luckless, luckless well! ”
The warm-hearted and faithful Gelsomina would gladly have followed her American friends northward ; but there was a portly aunt, a washerwoman, stately and dignified as a Roman matron, who would not trust her so far away from the orange groves of Sorrento. When the hour of parting came, she received from her mistress a fine pair of new ear-rings, of the peasant fashion, as a reward for her simple fidelity; and tears of gratitude and of sorrow fell upon the trinkets, as she kissed the hand of the giver. Something of the simplicity, innocence, and excellence of this young creature would seem to have been given, with her name, to the jailer’s daughter, in the Bravo.
A most audacious and extraordinary attempt at literary forgery, one of the most flagrant on record, is connected with the Bravo. Mr. Cooper had lain but a few weeks in his grave, in the parish churchyard of the village which was his home, when there appeared in Paris, in a French periodical, a very flattering notice of his works, purporting to be written by an intimate personal friend, and bearing the signature of a literary man of a degree of local reputation, a feuilletoniste of the day. Allusion was made to the years passed by the American author in France. The writer of the article declared himself to have been on terms of the closest intimacy with Mr. Cooper; deplored in his death the decease of a friend, — one who for years had been his constant companion, one who was in the habit of going almost daily with him to this café and that theatre ! But it was not only a friend whom the French littérateur had lost; he had also been deprived of a constant correspondent, one whose letters filled his portfolio. A few of these letters he now lays before the public ; a volume of them should shortly be published. While traveling in Italy these letters had been particularly interesting. At Venice, however, where Mr. Cooper wrote his celebrated romance of the Bravo, the littérateur was so fortunate as to have been his constant companion ; he had visited with him the jailer’s dwelling in which Gelsomina lived, the Piombi where the wretched father of Jacopo died, and the spot marked for the death of Antonio. Remarks made by Mr. Cooper on these occasions were given ; extracts from several letters purporting to be his were printed. Would it have been thought possible that such an article, from the first to the last line, was a most daring fabrication ? It was falsehood throughout. Mr. Cooper had no French friend bearing the name of this writer. It is probable that he never wrote one line to that person. It is very doubtful if that individual ever crossed his threshold. The cafés alluded to Mr. Cooper never frequented as a habit. Rarely, indeed, did he go to a theatre, unless for some performance of more than usual intellectual attraction. The only gentlemen who accompanied him to the prisons of Venice chanced to be all Americans ; he had on those occasions no European companion whatever. A brief denial of this most flagrant falsehood was immediately published by the family of Mr. Cooper. The volume of forged letters was never printed.
Susan Fenimore Cooper.