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Daniel Maclise

Albaro

[Sidenote: Mr. Daniel Maclise.]

               VILLA DI BAGNARELLO, ALBARO, _Monday, July 22nd, 1844._

MY VERY DEAR MAC,

I address you with something of the lofty spirit of an exile--a banished
commoner--a sort of Anglo-Pole. I don't exactly know what I have done
for my country in coming away from it; but I feel it is
something--something great--something virtuous and heroic. Lofty
emotions rise within me, when I see the sun set on the blue
Mediterranean. I am the limpet on the rock. My father's name is Turner
and my boots are green.

Apropos of blue. In a certain picture, called "The Serenade," you
painted a sky. If you ever have occasion to paint the Mediterranean, let
it be exactly of that colour. It lies before me now, as deeply and
intensely blue. But no such colour is above me. Nothing like it. In the
South of France--at Avignon, at Aix, at Marseilles--I saw deep blue
skies (not _so_ deep though--oh Lord, no!), and also in America; but the
sky above me is familiar to my sight. Is it heresy to say that I have
seen its twin-brother shining through the window of Jack Straw's--that
down in Devonshire I have seen a better sky? I daresay it is; but like a
great many other heresies, it is true.

But such green--green--green--as flutters in the vineyard down below the
windows, _that_ I never saw; nor yet such lilac, and such purple as
float between me and the distant hills; nor yet--in anything--picture,
book, or verbal boredom--such awful, solemn, impenetrable blue, as is
that same sea. It has such an absorbing, silent, deep, profound effect,
that I can't help thinking it suggested the idea of Styx. It looks as if
a draught of it--only so much as you could scoop up on the beach, in the
hollow of your hand--would wash out everything else, and make a great
blue blank of your intellect.

When the sun sets clearly, then, by Heaven, it is majestic! From any one
of eleven windows here, or from a terrace overgrown with grapes, you may
behold the broad sea; villas, houses, mountains, forts, strewn with rose
leaves--strewn with thorns--stifled in thorns! Dyed through and through
and through. For a moment. No more. The sun is impatient and fierce,
like everything else in these parts, and goes down headlong. Run to
fetch your hat--and it's night. Wink at the right time of black
night--and it's morning. Everything is in extremes. There is an insect
here (I forget its name, and Fletcher and Roche are both out) that
chirps all day. There is one outside the window now. The chirp is very
loud, something like a Brobdingnagian grasshopper. The creature is born
to chirp--to progress in chirping--to chirp louder, louder, louder--till
it gives one tremendous chirp, and bursts itself. That is its life and
death. Everything "is in a concatenation accordingly." The day gets
brighter, brighter, brighter, till it's night. The summer gets hotter,
hotter, hotter, till it bursts. The fruit gets riper, riper, riper, till
it tumbles down and rots.

Ask me a question or two about fresco--will you be so good? All the
houses are painted in fresco hereabout--the outside walls I mean; the
fronts, and backs, and sides--and all the colour has run into damp and
green seediness, and the very design has struggled away into the
component atoms of the plaster. Sometimes (but not often) I can make out
a Virgin with a mildewed glory round her head; holding nothing, in an
indiscernible lap, with invisible arms; and occasionally the leg or arms
of a cherub, but it is very melancholy and dim. There are two old
fresco-painted vases outside my own gate--one on either hand--which are
so faint, that I never saw them till last night; and only then because I
was looking over the wall after a lizard, who had come upon me while I
was smoking a cigar above, and crawled over one of these embellishments
to his retreat. There is a church here--the Church of the
Annunciation--which they are now (by "they" I mean certain noble
families) restoring at a vast expense, as a work of piety. It is a large
church, with a great many little chapels in it, and a very high dome.
Every inch of this edifice is painted, and every design is set in a
great gold frame or border elaborately wrought. You can imagine nothing
so splendid. It is worth coming the whole distance to see. But every
sort of splendour is in perpetual enactment through the means of these
churches. Gorgeous processions in the streets, illuminations of windows
on festa nights; lighting up of lamps and clustering of flowers before
the shrines of saints; all manner of show and display. The doors of the
churches stand wide open; and in this hot weather great red curtains
flutter and wave in their palaces; and if you go and sit in one of these
to get out of the sun, you see the queerest figures kneeling against
pillars, and the strangest people passing in and out, and vast streams
of women in veils (they don't wear bonnets), with great fans in their
hands, coming and going, that you are never tired of looking on. Except
in the churches, you would suppose the city (at this time of year) to be
deserted, the people keep so close within doors. Indeed it is next to
impossible to go out into the heat. I have only been into Genoa twice
myself. We are deliciously cool here, by comparison; being high, and
having the sea breeze. There is always some shade in the vineyard, too;
and underneath the rocks on the sea-shore, so if I choose to saunter I
can do it easily, even in the hot time of the day. I am as lazy,
however, as--as you are, and do little but eat and drink and read.

As I am going to transmit regular accounts of all sight-seeings and
journeyings to Forster, who will show them to you, I will not bore you
with descriptions, however. I hardly think you allow enough for the
great brightness and brilliancy of colour which is commonly achieved on
the Continent, in that same fresco painting. I saw some--by a French
artist and his pupil--in progress at the cathedral at Avignon, which
was as bright and airy as anything can be,--nothing dull or dead about
it; and I have observed quite fierce and glaring colours elsewhere.

We have a piano now (there was none in the house), and have fallen into
a pretty settled easy track. We breakfast about half-past nine or ten,
dine about four, and go to bed about eleven. We are much courted by the
visiting people, of course, and I very much resort to my old habit of
bolting from callers, and leaving their reception to Kate. Green figs I
have already learnt to like. Green almonds (we have them at dessert
every day) are the most delicious fruit in the world. And green lemons,
combined with some rare hollands that is to be got here, make prodigious
punch, I assure you. You ought to come over, Mac; but I don't expect
you, though I am sure it would be a very good move for you. I have not
the smallest doubt of that. Fletcher has made a sketch of the house, and
will copy it in pen-and-ink for transmission to you in my next letter. I
shall look out for a place in Genoa, between this and the winter time.
In the meantime, the people who come out here breathe delightedly, as if
they had got into another climate. Landing in the city, you would hardly
suppose it possible that there could be such an air within two miles.

Write to me as often as you can, like a dear good fellow, and rely upon
the punctuality of my correspondence. Losing you and Forster is like
losing my arms and legs, and dull and lame I am without you. But at
Broadstairs next year, please God, when it is all over, I shall be very
glad to have laid up such a store of recollections and improvement.

I don't know what to do with Timber. He is as ill-adapted to the climate
at this time of year as a suit of fur. I have had him made a lion dog;
but the fleas flock in such crowds into the hair he has left, that they
drive him nearly frantic, and renders it absolutely necessary that he
should be kept by himself. Of all the miserable hideous little frights
you ever saw, you never beheld such a devil. Apropos, as we were
crossing the Seine within two stages of Paris, Roche suddenly said to
me, sitting by me on the box: "The littel dog 'ave got a great lip!" I
was thinking of things remote and very different, and couldn't
comprehend why any peculiarity in this feature on the part of the dog
should excite a man so much. As I was musing upon it, my ears were
attracted by shouts of "Helo! hola! Hi, hi, hi! Le voila! Regardez!" and
the like. And looking down among the oxen--we were in the centre of a
numerous drove--I saw him, Timber, lying in the road, curled up--you
know his way--like a lobster, only not so stiff, yelping dismally in the
pain of his "lip" from the roof of the carriage; and between the aching
of his bones, his horror of the oxen, and his dread of me (who he
evidently took to be the immediate agent in and cause of the damage),
singing out to an extent which I believe to be perfectly unprecedented;
while every Frenchman and French boy within sight roared for company. He
wasn't hurt.

Kate and Georgina send their best loves; and the children add "theirs."
Katey, in particular, desires to be commended to "Mr. Teese." She has a
sore throat; from sitting in constant draughts, I suppose; but with that
exception, we are all quite well. Ever believe me, my dear Mac,

                                             Your affectionate Friend.