Sir Francis Ronalds' Travel Journal: Rome
Rome Sunday Novr 22nd 
I was on the point of sending my letter off when I found out I was in a pit[?], so I determined to wait untill no chance remained of my getting a letter at Florence to answer. I arrived here last night after a most tedious journey of 6 Days. The Occurrences during my stay at Florence and on the Route here are not worth remembering. I fell in with a Mr O. Hooper, a drysalter, a pleasant little five per cent man enough & very good natured, whom I brought under my protection & have some hopes of coaking him on to Naples. He was with Mr Mackinend[?] and knows many of the Hackney folks & the Belshamites. My other 2 companions were Tuscans coming to Rome to study, regular s--- w--- (ask Edmund). I am tolerably well off having a fine room, good bed and a dinner at the good tavola rotunda, but there are some bothering englishmen and very noisy Germans, I rather feel inclined to vanish. I came by Terni and saw the Water fall; good god what a fine Water fall!
Monday Novr 23
There is no letter for me here, I hope to get one sent on from Florence, and I have not been able to find out Mr Mutter, but I hope he is not yet arrived. So much for my hopes. I will endeavour to find something better to amuse Mrs M in my next letter than she will find in this. You know I don't attempt to describe Curiosities as my descriptions would be as uninteresting as others.
Rome Thursday Decr 10
"I get up at about 9, then breakfast, then take a tour with a piece of the Guide in my pocket to look at some Ruins or pictures (as to churches I have tired of them already)"
I have not continued my journal this last week because I have found ample employment for my time and besides the events of every day have been much alike and equally uninteresting to you. I told you I thought of leaving the Inn which I have done and am now conveniently enough lodged in two rooms and conveniences exactly opposite the Pallace Borghese. I get up at about 9, then breakfast, then take a tour with a piece of the Guide in my pocket to look at some Ruins or pictures (as to churches I have tired of them already) then I go to Mr Vasi's library where I search for information about anything I have seen which appears to deserve my pains (I am wretchedly ignorant of Roman history, don't crow) then I read the papers a little, then I take a stroll in the Corso or on the Monte della Trinita, then I dine (the Wine is horrid) at the tavola Rotonda of the Inn I arrived at (the only place to get a fair dinner at a fair price) then I call at the grand Caffé to see a little billiards or lounge on the sofas to digest my dinner, then I put my hands in my pockets and walk home sometimes with an italian acquaintance who nicks me out of some tea, sometimes without, then I drink tea, then I read or settle any other matter I may have upon my hands such as writing to you, then I gape 3 or 4 times and go to bed (sound the a in gape long). Wishing you all good night.
St Peter's at the Vatican:
"I think that the talents of so many great artists and the enormous expenditure of so much labour and money has been made to less purpose (count less) than it ought... I would prefer seeing the whole interior white washed rather than see so many different coloured marbles disposed to so many fantastical fashions"
I have been this morning to see St Peter's again. The exterior appears to me verry verry far inferior in grandeur of design to St Paul's. The boasted arcades are finer in Drawings &c than in reality. The slope of the ground on which it stands produces a theatrical or scenic effect, and the openings in the arcades near the Church, not being rectangular but sloped to correspond with the sloping ground, add to this scenic effect as I call it or like the windows in the stern of a vessell [sic] they destroy the ideas of repose and locality a little. Everything is very beautifull belonging to the front yet the front is not beautifull and in my eyes the same thing occurs with respect to the inside altho' this far very far exceeds the outside on grandeur of design. The interior is certainly very superb, very astonishing, the greatest effort has been employed to render it supremely magnificent and beautifull and this is in no respect more evident than in the general harmony and just proportion of the whole. In other respects I think that the talents of so many great artists and the enormous expenditure of so much labour and money has been made to less purpose (count less) than it ought.
Taking every thing into consideration no doubt St Peter's is a very astonishing building but taking only good taste into consideration have we not all faults to find and faults which do not relate to the difference of tastes of the times or people. In regard to my particular taste I will be bold enough to acknowledge that I would prefer seeing the whole interior white washed rather than see so many different coloured marbles disposed to so many fantastical fashions. If it were all of a fine delicate white marble, if the statues and reliefs were all of fine polished white marble and the capitals of the pilasters were gilt, the ceiling remaining as it is, I don't think I should dare to find any faults, except such as are agreed upon by general consent such as I am taught to find out. I have now put down what has struck me without regard to what the books say but I am afraid my judgement may be said to be somewhat contradictory and may seem to be somewhat borrowed. Take it as you find it. I am neither vain nor diligent enough to correct it. How difficult it is to [missing] independence of thinking amongst the great authorities! The Baron von Grimm says [missing] he has read much or some such thing. If he had confined this remark to matters of [missing] I should have agreed with him; perhaps he did, I quite forget. I think I can see much pastiche in his remark altho' I have read but little however in future I'll read nothing but matters of fact in regard to Pictures, Sculpture, & such like subjects.
Saturday 12th Decr
In reading over what I have said about St Peter's I find it is very difficult to explain myself on these matters and if I were to attempt to overcome the difficulty my letters would become volumes, so in future you will only have hints, if you understand them well; if you don't you will not lose much. Now then to begin with a few in the Memo's book.
The Walls of Rome & the Pallace of the Caesars, the works of Giants (state). Raphael's God dispersing Chaos, a Crab in a Quicksand. The principal events of the old testament by his school, some very fine and the preservation of the colours astonishing.
"I saw a Cardinal kneel down close by the side of dirty fellow whom very few of the lowest Rank of Methodist Parsons in England would venture to approach within a yard of"
Indiscriminate mixture of Rank in the Churches. I saw a Cardinal kneel down close by the side of dirty fellow whom very few of the lowest Rank of Methodist Parsons in England would venture to approach within a yard of.
Food at Rome. Gudgeons, Snipes, Roasted Apples, and wild Boars are the best food at Rome.
Frenchmen not generally gentlemen in public but impudence and vanity serve them almost as well as gentility.
The Tomb of the Scipii. Subterranean dark tombs much more appropriate and imposing than those in open day.
Now it is really enough to tire the patience of Job. There is a chap in the next room, a painter, whistling away and tying his neckcloth to go to a grand Conversazione and this he does very frequently and might do more frequently if he chuse whilst I am obliged to go prowling to a coffee house or theatre for my amusement or sit scribbling nonsense to you or poring over all sorts of stuff, and all this because I took that cursed letter from Casino instead of a general letter from a Banker to all his correspondents in Italy. Almost all the other English here have letters on Torlonia who gives these Conversazione and sometimes introductions to others. Well I blame no one but myself. I have sometimes introduced myself to people but then I was sure to be well received because they were of my kind, very agreeable people, but here there are none of my kind, no Professor Configliachi. I am somewhat tired of the italian chap whom I have now and then in the evening to tea or morning to breakfast. He is shabby, I think the Italians are naturally shabby.
More Memo's. The Horse races in the Corso. Read Mad de Stael's glowing description of them. The poor little ponies are goaded on with sharp points stuck upon things fastened to their backs, something like wings, which fly up and down by their galloping and which torment them much more than riders would do. They may well run poor little Devils.
- The People driving up and down the Corso. Impudence, Tameness & Vanity. The Coachmen whip the Crowd out of their way, the Crowd bear whipping & the master rides in his Carriage by letting out his best apartments. The noblemen you know sell wine by the bottle out of their cellars.
- Cruelty to Beasts. I have not yet seen in Italy an instance of that wanton cruelty to horses &c which we ought to be so much ashamed of in England. The italian driver and his beast seem much more sociable here than in England perhaps because they are more nearly associated; barbarians without barbarity.
"Street Music. Bagpipes lately come into vogue at Rome... but I understand they will make them exit after Xmas"
- Street Music. Bagpipes lately come into vogue at Rome, they play 2 or 3 most execrable "tributes of adoration" before "the images of the Mother of God" but I understand they will make them exit after Xmas.
- Sweet Revenge. An Italian whip wished to cut me out in passing a little stall this morning but in the attempt encountered a little table of oranges &c with the pole of his carriage which having tossed into [?] the table remaining entangled with the pole was danced about in the air to the no small astonishment [missing] and to my amusement. I had however the generosity to liberate him from his somewhat inconvenient [missing] remember shewing off before the English.
- Trajan's Pallace. The relief is so fine and so delicate that altho' my Itinerary tells me that the Column without the Pedestal and figure is 131 palms high, and altho' it is entirely covered with relief, yet any one group if injured by time would, placed upon a drawing room mantle piece, form a most beautifull ornament. Trajan was a very good Emperor altho' he did send a few blessed martyrs to Paradise & deserved such Monument. Why then should St Paul or any other Saint usurp his honours. I should like to see the statue of St Paul taken down and that of Trajan restored; give unto Paul that which is Paul's and unto Trajan that which is Trajan's, here endeth the second reading of my holy Memo's.
"I determined today at dinner to make an effort to go to some of the Concerts and Parties, so with some few husses and haws I plucked up a spirit and scraped with an English gentleman"
Bisogna distrarsi quite belli giornata - you must take recreation this fine weather - says my landlady. I fear I have been poring rather too much last week over travels to and accounts of Vesuvius & Etna for I look yellow. I must recollect I came here more on account of my health than to study and you may as well bear this in mind also least you should expect more studied remarks than you are likely to get. I determined today at dinner to make an effort to go to some of the Concerts and Parties, so with some few husses and haws I plucked up a spirit and scraped with an English gentleman of the name of Stanley who promised to take me to Rufini's[?] in his carriage tomorrow evg. As he knows nothing of me and as this may be a means of introduction to other places I am much obliged to him. They say some of the English walk into these places without introductions as they do into such like parties in London. I am too proud or too modest, I don't know which. Brass would say I'm only too lazy... I have not made any sketches, the weather is rather too cold altho' very fine, besides the prints in the Itinerary are good enough to remind one of the buildings. I have got 2 or 3 little pieces of Music for Brass and Emily which struck my fancy but I am afraid to get many least they should be as Common in England as the seeds I sent by Mr Hooper may be. I wish I could purchase italian views for you all, yes all.
I have been spending this week more allegramente. Rufini's[?] Concert was amusing enough, they give you nothing to eat or drink (the English always want to be stuffing) but then you are quite at your ease, you may talk, sulk, or even sleep if you don't take the music. All the people seemed to go away tolerantly well content except two or three pretty Women who because they have a few retainers always dangling at their heels would not be content with a few dozen. They can't keep their eyes quiet, always rolling them about after more food for their insatiable vanity, much as in London this & much as in every other place. They remind me of a Story in Walter Scott's Theatrical Romances about the tall Woman who eat up her lovers, Horses & dogs and all his other articles and yet cried More, More, More. I'm glad I'm in a passion with these Gormandizers (I don't mean a tender passion), I got 2 other invitations but I only availed myself of one of them.
"we went to the Church of Sta Maria Maggiore where being locked up in the Chapel Borghese and seated upon a beautifull cold red granite Sarcophagus untill ½ past 6 in the morning we now and then heard some of the very finest music"
Now I must complain a little by way of Comfort. Having determined most magnanimously to see every thing that was to be seen on Xmas eve I sallied forth dressed out in stockings at about 6 o clock with 3 Gentlemen to the Quirinal where we heard some fine music now and then during a space of about 5 Hours, then we went to the Church of St Luigi dei Francesi where we spent about 2 Hours and heard some still finer music now and then, & lastly we went to the Church of Sta Maria Maggiore where being locked up in the Chapel Borghese and seated upon a beautifull cold red granite Sarcophagus untill ½ past 6 in the morning we now and then heard some of the very finest music and the ceremony was certainly fine, but I could not avoid fancying that one of the Tunes went very much like some song about "How different is thy fate from mine" and envying your comfortable circle round Uncle William's Xmas Port on the little table before the good rousing fire. The silver cradle too looked like a tureen of Uncle William's hot Soup and a comely Bishop reminded me of Uncle William's jolly fat Chops. Now just think a moment of the difference shivering in Silks and Pumps starving with hunger and ready to die with a head ache occasioned by so much sublimity. I really don't know whether I should not have been almost as well off in the Naughty place as in this last most holy Church for you know heat agrees with me much better than cold. However, I thank god I am not now the worse for it I have not even caught a very bad cold; even my Rheumatism has not returned.
"I have gone through all the Antiquities and some of the Pictures very carefully and methodically (Oh, you systematic blockhead me thinks I hear some Virtuoso squeal out) and I hope to kill the remainder"
I hope I shall "get my business finished here" so as to be able to go on to Naples with a pleasant set of men about the end of next week. I have gone through all the Antiquities and some of the Pictures very carefully and methodically (Oh, you systematic blockhead me thinks I hear some Virtuoso squeal out) and I hope to kill the remainder of the pictures by that time. These Gentlemen are all Regular Paddy's, pleasant good tempered souls but I dare not associate with them so intimately as I could wish for they spend too much money. If I am [missing] good[?] an acquaintance or friend for a Paddy it is only because I am too poor. I mean always [missing]. Here comes my landlady to put me to bed, Good Night.
I shall go to Naples on Monday and take this letter with me in hopes of meeting one from you there to answer, a precious epistle you will have, therefore I am going on with my Memos.
"Funerals at Rome... The corpse carried upon a bed with the face and feet exposed... They tie the two great toes together with a little red bow of ribbon"
- Funerals at Rome. Very impressive but the impression I receive is neither religious, nor moral, nor sublime, and very little solemn even. The masked Frati. The burning flambeaux. The corpse carried upon a bed with the face and feet exposed & the dirge sung or chanted in a trembling monotonous tone inspire me with sensations which I hardly know how to describe, certainly great disgust is the chief of them and a species of mysterious or superstitious terror another. They tie the two great toes together with a little red bow of ribbon which annoys me dreadfully. I have dreamt 3 times of that red Bow. The conclusion of the ceremony in the Church is worse than the procession. Any of you who are curious in these matters may turn to some book, you know for my part I had rather see a Subject dissected from top to toe than attend any more of these funerals.
- Italy & America. Some say that this corner of the world is like an old cancered Apricot that altho' it is still capable of putting forth bearing Wood, a Canova or a Volta, yet they rather ga--a--pe at Rome as people sometimes do at long epistles and watch with greater interest the growth of America than the decay of this old Stump. Mind I am not one of these people. What says Peter? Hey, a man of taste. Hey?
"Priests. Rome is like a Rookery. This being their breeding place you can scarcely walk once down the Corso without meeting a brood of young half fledged croaking Priests"
"they are very extravagant in Candles in their Chapples"
- Priests. Rome is like a Rookery. This being their breeding place you can scarcely walk once down the Corso without meeting a brood of young half fledged croaking Priests looking as perking as possible. I strongly suspect a young priest pastor[?] upon the Rampart of having directed a running fire at me below one morning. Luckily it was ineffectual.
How do I like Rome? What a tremendous question! Suppose Mrs M puts it, I'll say better than Brighton when nobody is at Brighton whom I care much about. Suppose Dr Anderson, no he won't put me in such an awkward predicament. Suppose Charles or James Anderson, I'll say not at all, no lark. Suppose Peter & Brass (happy union!), I'll say very much bon goût and tasteful [?] tolerably cheap. Suppose Mrs Coventry, I'll say that the Pope pays people to sing and play on Sundays but that the people seem to say their prayers very devoutly. That they don't beat their Carpets at Rome but there are some pretty walks among the antiquities. That they are very extravagant in Candles in their Chapples [sic] but that they follow the scriptures in not hiding their light under a Bushel, on the contrary they take special care that their right hand knoweth what the left land doeth. Suppose a pretty girl, I'll say I like a pretty Girl better. By the by I have not compleated my purpose of analysing italian beauty yet. Well I don't think I shall bother my brains about it. Beauty is Beauty all the World over and so is good manners & good sense & good nature and so there's an end on't. On Monday I turn my Back upon Rome, I must make my calls (there Charlotte, am I not improved) and get ready tomorrow and I shall not write again untill I arrive at Naples perhaps.