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At present, the space between Misenum and Puteoli presents nothing to the eye but a sterile and uninhabited waste. Mephitic vapours, swamps occasioned by stagnant waters, which have for years escaped from broken aqueducts, communicate infectious taints to an atmosphere which once breathed only health and gladness. "C'est comme un crêpe funebre," says a French traveller, qui couvre tout la côte, et semble annoncer au voyageur qu'il ne trouvera plus dans ce lieu si vanté, que des debris et des tombeaux." Of the memorable Baiæ, the site is indistinctly indicated by a few scattered reliques. Puteoli is indeed still inhabited by a few fishermen, but owes even this scanty population to its having been built on a point of land, which, jutting out into the sea, resisted the shocks that desolated the rest of the coast.
On leaving Puteoli, the scene assumes a gayer aspect. At some distance rises the western peak of Pausilypus; and the same glance lights upon the small island of Nicida, clad in vivid verdure, and rising serenely above the waters. But no sooner do we pass Pausilypus, than a new creation unfolds itself, and the eye wanders delighted amongst white buildings, half seen through luxuriant foliage, profusely scattered over the landscape. In the bosom of this magnificent scene is NAPLES, with her gilded spires, her fortresses, her palaces, her beautiful bay, beaming with those countless smiles,
ποντῖς τε κύματος ἀνῆριθμον γελασμα
and reflecting from its smooth bosom the magnificence and beauty of the surrounding scenery. In the back ground of this enchanting picture, stands Vesuvius, in stern, but not unpleasing grandeur. The plain beneath is cheered by the playful and desultory windings of the river Sebeto, which refreshes and fructifies a considerable territory. From east to south of the gulph rises a ridge of mountains clothed in green, and covered with villages. The whole prospect is bounded by Cape Minerva, which seems to smile in scorn on the noisy foam at its base. Not far from this promontory is the little island of Capreæ, the retreat and brothel of the infamous Tiberius. The air is so fine and transparent, as to invest every object in colours not its own: the soil so fertile, that it scarcely asks the hand of the husbandAs in the time of Strabo, it still yields three successive harvests, and an abundance of fruit. The scene is thickly interspersed with fig-trees, poplars, and beeches, whose trunks the rambling vine embraces and adorns, and whose arched boughs form a roof of verdure to shield the growing crops from too in
tense a sun,
We do not affect to pourtray Naples. Ample, indeed, would have been the subjects for the Asmodeus of Le Sage, had he sought them in the various and motley scenes of that various and motley metropolis, with its fantastic population, winding along the streets, and its endless succession of grotesque characters elbowing and jostling each other, all dressed as if to take their parts in the pantomime! The interior of its mansions-what unbounded materials would they not disclose to his satire, as he surveyed from the heights of St. Elmo their uncovered roofs ? Decaying beauty, no longer able to attract, yet unwilling to fade, invoking in vain the powers of the toilette to her aid.-The hungry palietto (advocate) conning by heart his long and laboured pleading, which on the morrow is to lull both judges and auditory to their morning slumber. A famished poet, smoothing and grinding his sonnet, or ottavas, to celebrate, for a few ducats, the nuptials of some shrivelled and puny prince or duke, who is to be compared to Hercules and Theseus.-But with all her changes, moral or political, in a long cycle of years, Naples is still the abode of that ease and indolence, that sacred far niente, so dear to the Italians of the south. In this otiosa Parthenope all the busy occupations of mankind seem to have stopped, as if the pulse of social and active life had ceased to beat. But poverty, the predestined curse of all who do not work, is scarcely a calamity in this genial region. Here nature spreads a rich banquet, to which she bids alike the high and the low. The eye is feasted with pleasures, and the mere function of breathing in so delicious a clime is in itself a sensual enjoyment.
It would be still greater presumption to attempt a sketch of the Neapolitan character-a race forming an exception to every other people in Europe. We shall endeavour to catch, however, one or two of its more striking lineaments.
Like the ancients, the Neapolitans pass the greater part of the day in the open air; not indeed like them, to discuss the affairs of the forum, or the debates of the senate (of these they take no note), but from the mere want of emotion, from an intolerance of ennui, or to satisfy a vague and gaping curiosity. In the open air, they drink, they eat; and if they work at all, it is in the open air. For this reason it is, that the city has always the aspect of being over peopled. The principal street (Toledo) has the appearance, especially towards the close of the day, of a popular rising. It would seem as if a Massaniello had convened his mob of noisy and factious citizens to overturn the state.
In feature, in taste, in manner, the Neapolitans have obviously an affinity with oriental nations. But there are other characteristics, which are exclusively their own. Mean and proud; superstitious and irreligious; indolent and avaricious; phleg
matic and irritable; the slaves of habit, but goaded with a feverish restlessness for any thing that is new; eager for change, but made for obedience; affecting independence, and yet idolaters and flatterers of wealth or greatness. At Naples (and only at Naples) is it customary to touch the garment of a grandee with veneration, and then to kiss the hand that has been honoured with the contact. They are nationally proud; not like other nations, of their historical fame or actual greatness, but of the beauty of their climate, the fertility of their soil, the splendour of their capital. As to their government, they hardly understand the word. They seem never to have asked, whether it is monarchical or republican. Such however are the unceasing contrasts of their character, that with an utter insensibility on political subjects, their ears tingle at the word "liberty;" for in their vocabulary, liberty means the right of doing as they please, and of giving unrestrained vent to their appetites. They are, therefore, always ready to join the first demagogue who cries out "liberty." But the political idol of one day will be meanly abandoned on the next. They foam and effervesce, and then lie down with their accustomed apathy, and forget all that has passed. To-day they may be incited to massacre their fellow citizens; to-morrow the blood-fever will subside, and they will be as calm and indolent as before. Without this key to the Neapolitan character, the short-lived revolutions so frequent in their history would be a perplexing problem.
In no country are the three classes into which every people is divisible more strongly marked. Perhaps sufficient justice has never been rendered to the lowest. Their vices lying on the surface, we are too apt to overlook their good qualities. Not that they are a moral race of men: they scarcely know what is meant by morals. But they have a wild and untutored sense of right. They are by no means seriously quarrelsome, their disputes evaporating in noise and clamour. In an instant, they change from intense anger to the calmest indifference. Whoever throws a superficial glance on the character of this people, would suppose them liable to every excess of popular delirium. But the Neapolitan, the slave of every changing sensation, is perpetually varying from himself. Like his own Vesuvius, he seems to menace death and destruction. In an instant he is placid and serene, passing from hatred to love as rapidly, and almost as unconsciously, as the infant passes from tears to glad▾ ness. Hence it is that faction has ever found temporary aliment amongst this eccentric people, though the projects conceived in the moments of heat and phrenzy are abandoned with an incon
stancy far surpassing all that has ever been said or thought of the proverbial levity of the multitude.
The middling classes are upon the whole the most respectable. The palietti, one of the most thriving professions at Naples, the professors at the university, the merchants, and some portion, we wish we could say the larger portion, of the ecclesiastics, belong to this respectable division.*
Of the highest class, the manners are variously shaded. As if to show how extremes meet in national character, many of the nobility resemble in their moral features the despised race of the Lazaroni. In truth, they are equally indolent and superstitious, and in many respects equally ignorant. Educated for the most part in the cloister, or by incompetent preceptors, who hold in the family an inferior rank, and actually receive a less salary than the principal domestics, the Neapolitan noble arrives at mature years wholly unripe in understanding or judgment. Incompetent to the administration of his own affairs, and entirely absorbed in fétes and spectacles, he falls into the hands of some needy lawyer, who fattens at his expense, or surrenders himself to some insinuating abbé, who has stolen into his confidence. His noble sposa, transferred from the gloom of a convent to the glitter of public life, without education or accomplishments, is driven to intrigue, as a mere refuge from vacuity. Happily there are exceptions to this remark; but all estimates of popular character must be formed chiefly of its more marked and prominent features.
Upon the whole, indolence is the master vice of Naples. But the Neapolitans have in general much penetration; a lively and fertile fancy; a discourse sparkling with images. They catch almost instinctively the peculiarities and humours of others. Irony is their prevailing figure of speech. The extravagant and hyperbolical flattery which they address to those with whom they converse is frequently so much dissembled satire and latent epigram.
Such are the people who, in different periods of their history, have been seized with periodical fits of revolution. Such are the people whom the French revolutionized in 1799; and who attempted, in 1820, to revolutionize themselves. A compendious
* La conduite du bas clergé a Naples est souvent scandaleuse. C'est la misére, qui fait descendre ces hommes a un tel etat de degradation. Le métier de prêtre ne procure pas de quoi vivre a quiconque n'a pas des archevêchés ou evêchés, ou de gros benefices. Aussi voit on dans les rues de Naples, mais sur tout dans les cafès, des prêtres en habits sales et déchirés, s'approcher des etrangers, et otant d'une main leur calotte, demander de l'autre l'aumône. Quelquefois c'est pis encore: ils proposent aux nouveaux débarqués de les conduire dans des maisons de plaisir.-Tableaux de Naples par Duval.
and rapid allusion to the principal facts of this last ephemeral revolution may not be uninteresting to our readers. It is a living commentary on the character of which we have attempted a summary sketch-the sudden fury with which it burst into combustion, the instantaneous rapidity with which that fury was extinguished.
It was in the month of July that this revolt, headed by General Pepe, broke out amongst the troops. The cry was for a constitution; and many of them happening to recollect that Murat had promised them a constitution just before his departure, Murat's promised constitution was immediately proclaimed. Unfortunately this constitution was not to be found in any desk, or hole, or corner. In this exigency, another cry was set up for another constitution. To appease these tumultuary demands for constitutions, the king promised another in eight days; not a very unreasonable delay for so momentous a measure, but much too long for Neapolitan impatience. In the mean while some persons seem suddenly to have recollected that the Spaniards had given themselves a constitution, and a cry was immediately raised "for the constitution of the Cortes." Of this constitution there was not, it seems, a copy in Naples. Nobody knew exactly what it Yet to this they conceived so miraculous an attachment that during the sitting of their parliament, which was expressly summoned to modify and correct it, a large majority of members were so indisposed to allow any alteration of it, that they came to a decision that no amendment should be adopted but by a majority of two thirds. No amendment of a constitution not distinctly known, not half completed, imagined for another people, in another part of Europe, and under circumstances wholly different!
About this time was exhibited in Sicily an episode to the Neapolitan revolution. On the 15th of July, and the two following days, Palermo was the theatre of a violent and sanguinary insurrection. No sooner had the Palermitans heard what had been transacted at Naples, and that a parliament had been convoked there, than they determined to have a parliament and constitution of their own. Of their taste for liberty, as well as of their fitness for it, they gave an immediate specimen, by letting loose from prison nearly a thousand atrocious malefactors. They assailed the houses of the Neapolitan officers, and threw the Neapolitan soldiers into dungeons. It was necessary, therefore, to send a large force from Naples to put down the rebellion; but when that force approached Palermo, a scene of slaughter and cruelty ensued in that unhappy city, which cannot be adequately described. A militia, chiefly composed of criminals liberated from gaol, were not to be expected to be very moderate