« AnteriorContinuar »
nearly six feet high, where logs from four to five feet long rested inside on quaint wrought-iron andirons. A magnificent marble sarcophagus in perfect condition, an equally beautiful carved oak coffer, and a strange flat dower-chest studded with brass nails formed the chief furniture of this apartment, though a few very incongruous articles of modern upholstery were dotted about, looking poor and tawdry beside the rude grandeur of the rest. Finally we stepped out on to a wide stone balcony from which we looked sheer down to the lake ; the banks are covered with green, and on the slopes, facing the south, are cultivated the strawberries for which Nemi is so celebrated in the Roman market.
Afterwards we went into the garden and grounds, which extend over half the mountain-side ; the views are too exquisite for words : on the opposite side of the Lake rises Genzano with the Villa Sforza Cesarini ; beyond stretches the vast Campagna, from the Promontory of Circe to Porto d'Anzio. The solitude and silence of these wilds is complete, some mouflons occupy an enclosed space, leaping from rock to rock with graceful agility. Down by the shores of the lake are the remains of a temple of Diana, not far off is a fountain of Egeria, recalling Ovid's description of how Diana changed the nymph into a fountain in consequence of her inconsolable grief at the death of Numa. Historical and classical names met us on every side, and sounded strange on the lips of the ignorant countryfolk who point out these sites to the stranger.
One more drive was alone possible, so we decided to wend our way to Rocca Priora, about an hour and a half from Frascati ; it was quite different in character to any of the foregoing, and brought a totally different scene before us. The afternoon we chose was a stormy one, the sky being heavy with great masses of cloud through which sunshine occasionally burst. On and on we drove right into the heart of the hills ; here was no vestige of olive, cypress, or asphodel, it might almost have been a Yorkshire or a Welsh landscape: the brown fields were full of peasants at work, long blue wreaths of pungent smoke rose from mounds of burning weeds, flocks of sheep or goats browsed peacefully on the green uplands and a fresh breeze blew off the higher downs. Each curve of the road revealed surprises and new beauties: mules and donkeys laden with sacks of charcoal, the driver walking behind, holding on to the animal's tail, passed us in files, or once it was a mule carrying two large faggots of brushwood, upon which was seated an old man holding his two little grandchildren in his arms, and followed by women who had turned up their red aprons over their heads as shelter from a passing shower ; suddenly a flock of wood-pigeons darted out from behind a belt of trees, startled by a wine-cart with tinkling bells, lamp swinging beneath, an olive-branch stuck behind the horse's ear, and the driver fast asleep inside, but watched over by a bright-eyed little lupetto dog; or we met an overseer wrapped in a wide cloak, and wearing a slouched hat, with a rifle slung over his shoulder, looking for all the world like a brigand. Wilder and wilder grew the country with a grand desolation, till after a final steep ascent we reached Rocca Priora, occupying the site of Corbio, a city destroyed 455 B.C. Such a place! built high up on the top of the Monte Algido, with two square towers which are beacons for miles round, dirty tortuous streets, often mere flights of stairs climbing from one house to another; on the doorsteps many a girl sat knitting with a pig beside her instead of a cat; the roadways were strewn with barrel-staves from the neighbouring chestnut-woods; oxen, children, dogs, pigs, all seemed to live together. In winter the inhabitants fill the snowpits round the town as a means of livelihood, and we wondered whether this source of income had anything to do with the dedication of a church to Santa Maria della Neva! Leaving Rocca Priora, the road commanded wondrous views of the plain, and indeed, go where you will round Rome, that marvellous Campagna is always before you with its exquisite play of light and shadow, dotted and streaked with colour; that particular evening masses of cloud with rifts of azure would one moment cast a dark shadow, the next a flood of sunshine on the distant snowpeaks of the Apennines, while the nearer landscape seemed to move as the eye sought to distinguish its features through the purple, blue, or translucent green patches which flecked its surface.
Coming back, we passed through some more of those strange rockbuilt fastnesses perched on hilltops : Monte Compatri crowned by the great monastery of S. Silvestro; Colonna retaining its mediæval character, and Monte Porzio ; the latter, inheriting its name from the Porcian Villa of the younger Cato, stands on an olive-covered hill commanding lovely views into the Sabina, the houses are gaily painted, women were washing their clothes in the great stone troughs where the mules came to drink, babies tightly swaddled being laid down or tossed about like lifeless bundles; a convent bell somewhere in the distance began to ring the Angelus ; its echoes, dying away, warned us not to loiter till the chill evening air caught us in its clammy embrace, perchance to leave far other than pleasant recollections of our spring wanderings among a few of the innumerable places within easy reach of Rome.
Days and weeks might be spent in discovering others; the only wonder is that more travellers do not visit these classic spots, and realise the idyllic surroundings to which the descriptions of Virgil (in the Æneid) still apply.
BEFORE THE FLITTING.
BARE walls, cold floor, and empty grate,
The feast we spread.
One narrow bed.
Yet am I neither starved nor sad,
Whose prayers are said,
A GIRL'S DIARY OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
In the vale of the Creedy River, surrounded by rich meadows and wood-crowned hills, stands the town of Crediton, once the cathedral city of Devon. A long irregular street follows the slope of the hill until it reaches the Grammar School, but the interest of the town is centred in the Norman Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross, the successor of the ancient Saxon cathedral. Its red sandstone walls, hewn from neighbouring quarries, have seen the coming and going of many who are now lying beneath stately altar tombs in the choir, or under the pavestones of the aisles. In the Priests' Chamber over the south porch, a library is becoming the prey of bookworms, who devour the old folios in a very material manner; but their progress will soon be checked by the restorers, who having begun their good work on this interesting building, will doubtless also rescue the library.
There are two houses called the Palace and the Chantry near the church, but except the names, there are no relics of antiquity in the buildings that stand about the Palace Meadow. The streets of Crediton soon end in deeply-cut lanes, and one of these leads to a small country house called Trobridge. Here a family of the same name flourished for centuries, and as early as the year 1411 a license was granted to them for a chapel for The Mansion.'
The house, now dating apparently from Queen Anne's reign, may once have had greater pretensions. A field near goes by the name of the Beer Park, probably a clerical error for Deer Park, and another is called the Fishing Park, where ponds may have existed stocked with fish for fast days.
But through their own extravagance and the unscrupulousness of others, trouble fell upon the family. The property sank ancle deep in mortgages, and at last cne George Trobridge branded the name with sacrilege. He pulled cown the chapel, used the altar as a drinking board in an ale-ho ise, the stones to menš the
kitchen floor, and carried off the bell. A grim indistinct legend connects his death with this bell.
The property was then sold to its present possessors, the Yarde family ; and in 1760 the house was inhabited by Mr.Giles Yarde, his wife Susannah and five children. A friend also found a home with them.
Penelope Sydenham was the only surviving child of John Sydenham of Dulverton, a younger member of the family of that name, who possessed large estates in Somerset, Devon, and Yorkshire. Her father had died leaving all his worldly goods to his dearlyloved daughter,' with the exception of a few legacies to friends and old servants, and one hundred pounds to the Exeter Hospital. The name of Sydenham was already connected with this hospital, and Penelope must have been a child when her cousin Humphrey Sydenham, M.P. for the city of Exeter, laid the foundation stone and also furthered the laying of a great many more stones of this institution besides the first.
Having lost both parents, the young heiress took up her residence with her friends the Yardes, attended by a maid and a manservant named Thomas Winton. She probably had two rooms set apart for her own use, and from the minute description of her furniture, and other personalities in her will, it is easy to picture her daily surroundings.
The windows at Trobridge are large and pleasant, and when she set them open, the breezes from Dartmoor could blow about the Indian calicot curtains' of her bed. The counterpane was embroidered with yellow silk. 'A large looking-glass in a red Japan frame' was fixed on the wall. On a 'mahogany chest of drawers' near the bed stood her dressing-case, lined with blue silk. In it she kept her 'silver buckles, a ring with five fine diamonds, jewelled buttons for sleeves set in gold, a diamond ring with an amethyst set in the centre, lockets set in gold, and a gold ring with a ruby in the shape of a heart.'
A'walnut chest near the window had been part of the furniture of her maternal grandmother's chamber before her marriage to the Vicar of Selworthy. On this was placed her library-a large Bible, a Prayer-book bound in black shagreen with chased silver clasps and corners; Nelson's Fasts and Festivals,' a parchment pocket-book, containing MS. prayers in her grandmother's distinct handwriting, and the Whole Duty of Man.' The MS. book bears marks of constant use, and the memorandums interspersed among the papers lead us back by the fine VOL. 85 (V.- NEW SERIES). 44