Letters to the Caetani Family (2)

[This is part of a series of previously-unpublished letters to Margaret Knight, who was married to Michelangelo Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta, and to Ada Bootle-Wilbraham, married to Onorato Caetani, Michelangelo’s son, Prince of Teano and then Duke of Sermoneta.
The letters are in the Caetani Archive, Palazzo Caetani, via delle Botteghe Oscure 32, Roma.
An Italian version will appear as an Appendix to my essay “Prima di Gregorovius: Edward Lear, i Caetani, e Ninfa” in a forthcoming volume: Michael Matheus (ed.) Ninfa: Percezioni nella scienza, letteratura e belle arti nel XIX e all’inizio del XX secolo. Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner.]

Villa Emily.     San Remo

12. May.1871
(which I am 59 years old today.)


Dear Duchess of Sermoneta,
I meant to have written more than I now can do in answer to your’s of the 30 April ― but I have just now heard from Guidi the Photographer here that he is sending a Copy fo his very beautiful Photograph Flora of San Remo to some public Institution at Florence, & that he will kindly get my little book Conveyed to you.
So I sent it, addressed to the Duke; & beg you will write to poor Charley, ― or send it to him when you can. As this opportunity has occurred suddenly, I have thought it best to avail myself of it at once, ― rather than wait till you send me Charley’s address. I shall be very glad to hear where he is: what sad trouble they have ―― all besides his dreadful state of health. I trust his little girl is better, & shall be much obliged by your letting me know.
Thank you for Miss Helen’s address.
I dare say you were quite right about Mrs. Caldwell. If one had to live over again, (let me be thankful ― one hasn’t!) one would try to see into more amiable eyes.
Don Michele is of very great use to his country. Blind, & no longer young, he sets an example to those who have youth & all their faculties, who may learn that position in social life is not without its duties, nor can they be put aside without damage occurring to the whole machinery.
I suppose the little boy you speak of is son of P. Teano & Miss Wilbraham that used to be ― or you mean Mme Lovatelli’s son.[1]
I delight in the [the] R.C. deputation’s disappointment at no stones being thrown at them![2] Why didn’t they hire some gamins to pelt them right & left & then say it was our sods did it?
We (we agriculturists!) here discuss what you are to plant all over the Campagna.

Pepper trees ―

Castor oil ―

Wheat ―

beans ―

Tobacco ―

Rice ―

(& for ought I know gooseberries.)

Please let me know, where do you pass the summer? Have you rooms at the V. Taverna now? I wish Charles could come & join you.
I write in gt. hurry: & must go & work at Lord Derby’s picture.
Besides, the door has been opened, & a blue-bottle-fly has come in, which obliges me to sign myself,

Your’s sincerely
Edward Lear.

Please read all my book: & read what you like of it to the Duke if he has time to hear nonsense.
Please let me know (as the Irishman said,) if you don’t get the book or this letter.

(exact proportions of blue-bottle-flies at San Remo.)


[1] Mme Lovatelli was Michelangelo Caetani’s daughter, Ersilia Caetani, married to Count Giacomo Lovatelli.
[2] Probably a deputation sent by the Curia Romana to discuss the “legge delle garentigie” (Law of Guarantees: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Guarantees regulating the relations between State and Church) that would be passed by the Italian State on 13 May 1871.

Helen Knight drawn by Franz Nadorp (on p. 55 of Isabella Knight’s commonplace book, British Museum, Prints and Drawings, 1938,0514.1.1– 41).

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