Lear Visits the Caetani in Frascati, July 1871

From Edward Lear’s Diaries.

23 July 1871

Rose before 5. The heat & stuffiness of this place! Caffé, & set out to walk to Station, but found that the dreadful [pavements] and the cold Roman fog too much for me. So got into a car – (there is a tariffa now of 80 cents a drive.) Great confusion at Station – 4 trains going. Had no change nor would they give any; but they did give a ticket & I was torn away by the Crowd: afterwards, matters were settled on the platform. Across that old Campagna – dim & foggy – to the Frascati station, whence I walked slowly up to the town, suffering from stoppage of boles. Found at Duke Sermoneta’s – (he has bought the house next that I went to live in, ––.) that the Duke had gone to town this morning! So I have come to wait here till 10, – i.e. in the old Villa Conti-Bracciano. These terraces are terraces indeed, & plain it is that in those days the magnificence of gardens was understood. The great Ilea-trees throw a beautiful broken shadow on the vast broad walks: beyond lies Rome, on the pale wide Campagna. Figures of the past –– Gibson, Wyatt, Newbolt, [Dessonlangs] Thrupp – Uwins, Coleman – all seem here at times: – these places are full of past memories for me, – but they are literally of the past, and utterly without any link to the present or future, – gone, – broken, – dead, & never to be renewed. And thus it all affects me more like a dream or something written in a book than as a reality. Never more would I wish to return to these haunts – except to see them as a Curiosity, as I do now. To live among them again is no longer possible, or desirable

At 9. to Sermonetas, where was Countess Lovatelli [Ersilia Caetani, moglie del Conte Giacomo Lovatelli]: the Duchess [Margaret Knight Caetani] soon came – older – but not much altered – & as kindly as ever. We had long talks about Isabella, Helen, Charley &c. We dined at 1 – a M. [Bergaus] a sort of tame domestic artist being the 4th at table. Afterwards – the heat was frightfully intense: slept & talked – a M. & Mme. Delâtre called – (they were passengers in the Principe ……… steamer from Alexandria in 1867,) eating ices & painting porcelain &c. &c. till 5, when we drove in 2 carriages to the Station. I being obliged at the last moment to beg one of the servants to shew me a Commodité – (& filthy o Lord! it was! ––) At the Station we met the Duke & Count Lovatelli – & salutations ensued – & begging of me to go & sleep there on Tuesday wh. I promised to do. Off in train at 6.30 or 6.45 – & got onto a 2nd Class carriage – the Delâtres having only 2nd class tickets – in preference to using my 1st class return T. But a horrid child made a noise & a mess, & at Ciampino I got out, & into the next 1st Class compartment. Here a very fat & tipsy looking man – quite nesty to see, shouted out – “almighty God! are you Lear?” but I could not recollect him at all. It was Macpherson – apparently drunk, & certainly a bore, & after a time I was obliged to stop him by saying I would not talk in a Railway Carriage. Moreover I had just discovered that my long tried Sword stick ––– companion of many years of travels, was left behind, I suppose at Frascati, when I was in this hurry of going to the carriage to the Duchess – from the Commodité. So I was sufficiently savage. At the station I got near & went to the Trattoria, where I found P.W. dining – & then I semidined or supped also. Bed at 10. This heat & being unwell, with a constant feeling of possible fever depresses me horribly: no air – no power of breathing.


25 July 1871

Rose at 6. & have finally decided – for P. Williams can’t be made to stir, –– to go to Ancona & up to Pieve di Cadore.

Called at 8 on Graham [Colborns] – out.

Bfast 9.30 – then to Station, where I waited, disagreeably in high wind & dust – till 11.30. At Frascati got a little boy to carry my bag, but being obliged to walk, got heated. Stopping of boles again. At the Duchess, it wassoon dinner time – Duke & Duchess – Prince Teano – C. &Css. Lovatelli, & Maestro di Casa, & Bergerer. Talk & tranquillity afterwards, but being bothered by a stoppage – ill & miserable.

(The old sword-stick – companion of so many tavels, is gone for ever. All things have to go, so it is no use to worry. The servants utterly deny my having left the stick there – but I know I did: – though I say no more on the subject.)

A drive with D. & Dss. & Bergerer later to Marino: the views of R. di Papa, & Alban Mount lovely – but I suffered sadly from chill having only light Roman dress, & was all but knocked up with fever, had not a gt coat been lent me.

After returning –– sitting with Duke Caetani –talking of Greek – which he – like me – only learned late. Also Cssa. Ersilia Lovatelli learns it! –– till a very pleasant supper.

Between dinner & drive I walk up to the Taverna, & on to below the Mondragone. All is altered & odious. The Borghese live in the former, & have walled& railed all about: – the round where poor Charley used to teach me riding is gone. In the later Villa are now the Jesuits, & they have built a Silk factory & school [below]: the Cypress avenue is cloud.

“We go no more to the golden shore
Where we dreamed in days of old.”

Bed at 10, after vain visits to the luogo.


26 July 1871

Rose at 5. always more or less unwell. Bfast with P. Teano. Wished D. & Dss. Good bye. – poor Duke! Carriage to STATION –– rail to Rome, left P. Teano – a carriage & Hotel.