University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
The innocents abroad, or, The new Pilgrim's progress

being some account of the steamship Quaker City's pleasure excursion to Europe and the Holy land ; with descriptions of countries, nations, incidents and adventures, as they appeared to the author






WE had a pleasant journey of it seaward again. We
found that for the three past nights our ship had
been in a state of war. The first night the sailors of a British
ship, being happy with grog, came down on the pier and challenged
our sailors to a free fight. They accepted with alacrity,
repaired to the pier and gained—their share of a drawn
battle. Several bruised and bloody members of both parties
were carried off by the police, and imprisoned until the following
morning. The next night the British boys came again
to renew the fight, but our men had had strict orders to
remain on board and out of sight. They did so, and the
besieging party grew noisy, and more and more abusive as
the fact became apparent (to them,) that our men were afraid
to come out. They went away, finally, with a closing burst
of ridicule and offensive epithets. The third night they came
again, and were more obstreperous than ever. They swaggered
up and down the almost deserted pier, and hurled curses,
obscenity and stinging sarcasms at our crew. It was more
than human nature could bear. The executive officer ordered
our men ashore—with instructions not to fight. They charged
the British and gained a brilliant victory. I probably would
not have mentioned this war had it ended differently. But I
travel to learn, and I still remember that they picture no
French defeats in the battle-galleries of Versailles.

It was like home to us to step on board the comfortable
ship again, and smoke and lounge about her breezy decks.
And yet it was not altogether like home, either, because so


Page 160
many members of the family were away. We missed some
pleasant faces which we would rather have found at dinner,
and at night there were gaps in the euchre-parties which could
not be satisfactorily filled. “Moult.” was in England, Jack
in Switzerland, Charley in Spain. Blucher was gone, none
could tell where. But we were at sea again, and we had the
stars and the ocean to look at, and plenty of room to meditate

In due time the shores of Italy were sighted, and as we
stood gazing from the decks early in the bright summer morning,
the stately city of Genca rose up out of the sea and flung
back the sunlight from her hundred palaces.

Here we rest, for the present—or rather, here we have been
trying to rest, for some little time, but we run about too much
to accomplish a great deal in that line.

I would like to remain here. I had rather not go any
further. There may be prettier women in Europe, but I
doubt it. The population of Genoa is 120,000; two-thirds of
these are women, I think, and at least two-thirds of the
women are beautiful. They are as dressy, and as tasteful and
as graceful as they could possibly be without being angels.
However, angels are not very dressy, I believe. At least the
angels in pictures are not—they wear nothing but wings.
But these Genoese women do look so charming. Most of the
young demoiselles are robed in a cloud of white from head to
foot, though many trick themselves out more elaborately.
Nine-tenths of them wear nothing on their heads but a filmy
sort of veil, which falls down their backs like a white mist.
They are very fair, and many of them have blue eyes, but
black and dreamy dark brown ones are met with oftenest.

The ladies and gentlemen of Genoa have a pleasant fashion
of promenading in a large park on the top of a hill in the
centre of the city, from six till nine in the evening, and then eating
ices in a neighboring garden an hour or two longer. We
went to the park on Sunday evening. Two thousand persons
were present, chiefly young ladies and gentlemen. The gentlemen
were dressed in the very latest Paris fashions, and the


Page 161
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 161. In-line Illustration. Image of a man with a very pointy moustache and two ladies with long veils attached to their hair and streaming down their backs. The caption reads, "WOMEN OF GENOA."] robes of the ladies glinted among the trees like so many snowflakes.
The multitude moved round and round the park in a
great procession. The bands played, and so did the fountains;
the moon and the gas lamps lit up the scene, and altogether it
was a brilliant and an animated picture. I scanned every
female face that passed, and it seemed to me that all were
handsome. I never saw such a freshet of loveliness before.
I do not see how a man of only ordinary decision of character
could marry here, because, before he could get his mind made
up he would fall in love with somebody else.

Never smoke any Italian tobacco. Never do it on any
account. It makes me shudder to think what it must be made
of. You can not throw an old cigar “stub” down any where,
but some vagabond will pounce upon it on the instant. I
like to smoke a good deal, but it wounds my sensibilities to
see one of these stub-hunters watching me out of the corners


Page 162
of his hungry eyes and calculating how long my cigar will be
likely to last. It reminded me too painfully of that San
Francisco undertaker who used to go to sick-beds with his
watch in his hand and time the corpse. One of these stub-hunters
followed us all over the park last night, and we never
had a smoke that was worth any thing. We were always
moved to appease him with the stub before the cigar was half
gone, because he looked so viciously anxious. He regarded us
as his own legitimate prey, by right of discovery, I think,
because he drove off several other professionals who wanted
to take stock in us.

Now, they surely must chew up those old stubs, and dry
and sell them for smoking-tobacco. Therefore, give your
custom to other than Italian brands of the article.

“The Superb” and the “City of Palaces” are names which
Genoa has held for centuries. She is full of palaces, certainly,
and the palaces are sumptuous inside, but they are very rusty
without, and make no pretensions to architectural magnificence.
“Genoa, the Superb,” would be a felicitous title if it
referred to the women.

We have visited several of the palaces—immense thick-walled
piles, with great stone staircases, tesselated marble
pavements on the floors, (sometimes they make a mosaic work,
of intricate designs, wrought in pebbles, or little fragments of
marble laid in cement,) and grand salons hung with pictures
by Rubens, Guido, Titian, Paul Veronese, and so on, and
portraits of heads of the family, in plumed helmets and gallant
coats of mail, and patrician ladies, in stunning costumes
of centuries ago. But, of course, the folks were all out in the
country for the summer, and might not have known enough to
ask us to dinner if they had been at home, and so all the
grand empty salons, with their resounding pavements, their
grim pictures of dead ancestors, and tattered banners with the
dust of bygone centuries upon them, seemed to brood solemnly
of death and the grave, and our spirits ebbed away, and our
cheerfulness passed from us. We never went up to the eleventh
story. We always began to suspect ghosts. There was


Page 163
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 163. In-line Illustration. Image of two men looking at a suit of armor while a "lackey" stands nearby. The caption reads, "PETRIFIED LACKEY."] always an undertaker-looking servant along, too, who handed
us a programme, pointed to the picture that began the list of
the salon he was in, and then stood stiff and stark and unsmiling
in his petrified livery till we were ready to move on
to the next chamber, whereupon
he marched sadly
ahead and took up another
malignantly respectful position
as before. I wasted so
much time praying that the
roof would fall in on these
dispiriting flunkeys that I had but little left to bestow upon
palace and pictures.

And besides, as in Paris, we had a guide. Perdition catch
all the guides. This one said he was the most gifted linguist
in Genoa, as far as English was concerned, and that only two
persons in the city beside himself could talk the language at
all. He showed us the birthplace of Christopher Columbus,


Page 164
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 164. In-line Illustration. Image of two churchmen, one thin one fat. The caption reads, "PRIEST AND FRIAR."] and after we had reflected in silent awe before it for fifteen
minutes, he said it was not the birthplace of Columbus, but
of Columbus's grandmother! When we demanded an explanation
of his conduct he only shrugged his shoulders and
answered in barbarous Italian. I shall speak further of this
guide in a future chapter. All the information we got out of
him we shall be able to carry along with us, I think.

I have not been to church so often in a long time as I have
in the last few weeks.
The people in these old
lands seem to make
churches their specialty.
Especially does this
seem to be the case with
the citizens of Genoa.
I think there is a church
every three or four hundred
yards all over town.
The streets are sprinkled
from end to end with
shovel-hatted, long-robed,
well-fed priests,
and the church bells by
dozens are pealing all
the day long, nearly.
Every now and then one
comes across a friar of
orders gray, with shaven
head, long, coarse robe, rope girdle and beads, and with feet
cased in sandals or entirely bare. These worthies suffer in
the flesh, and do penance all their lives, I suppose, but they look
like consummate famine-breeders. They are all fat and serene.

The old Cathedral of San Lorenzo is about as notable a
building as we have found in Genoa. It is vast, and has
colonnades of noble pillars, and a great organ, and the customary
pomp of gilded moldings, pictures, frescoed ceilings, and
so forth. I can not describe it, of course—it would require a


Page 165
good many pages to do that. But it is a curious place. They
said that half of it—from the front door half way down to the
altar—was a Jewish Synagogue before the Saviour was born,
and that no alteration had been made in it since that time.
We doubted the statement, but did it reluctantly. We would
much rather have believed it. The place looked in too perfect
repair to be so ancient.

The main point of interest about the Cathedral is the little
Chapel of St. John the Baptist. They only allow women to
enter it on one day in the year, on account of the animosity
they still cherish against the sex because of the murder of the
Saint to gratify a caprice of Herodias. In this Chapel is a
marble chest, in which, they told us, were the ashes of St.
John; and around it was wound a chain, which, they said,
had confined him when he was in prison. We did not desire
to disbelieve these statements, and yet we could not feel certain
that they were correct—partly because we could have
broken that chain, and so could St. John, and partly because
we had seen St. John's ashes before, in another Church. We
could not bring ourselves to think St. John had two sets of

They also showed us a portrait of the Madonna which was
painted by St. Luke, and it did not look half as old and
smoky as some of the pictures by Rubens. We could not help
admiring the Apostle's modesty in never once mentioning in
his writings that he could paint.

But isn't this relic matter a little overdone? We find a
piece of the true cross in every old church we go into, and
some of the nails that held it together. I would not like to
be positive, but I think we have seen as much as a keg of
these nails. Then there is the crown of thorns; they have
part of one in Sainte Chapelle, in Paris, and part of one, also,
in Notre Dame. And as for bones of St. Denis, I feel certain
we have seen enough of them to duplicate him, if necessary.

I only meant to write about the churches, but I keep wandering
from the subject. I could say that the Church of the
Annunciation is a wilderness of beautiful columns, of statues,


Page 166
gilded moldings, and pictures almost countless, but that
would give no one an entirely perfect idea of the thing, and
so where is the use? One family built the whole edifice, and
have got money left. There is where the mystery lies. We
had an idea at first that only a mint could have survived the

These people here live in the heaviest, highest, broadest,
darkest, solidest houses one can imagine. Each one might
“laugh a siege to scorn.” A hundred feet front and a hundred
high is about the style, and you go up three flights of
stairs before you begin to come upon signs of occupancy.
Every thing is stone, and stone of the heaviest—floors, stairways,
mantels, benches—every thing. The walls are four to
five feet thick. The streets generally are four or five to eight
feet wide and as crooked as a corkscrew. You go along one
of these gloomy cracks, and look up and behold the sky like a
mere ribbon of light, far above your head, where the tops of
the tall houses on either side of the street bend almost
together. You feel as if you were at the bottom of some tremendous
abyss, with all the world far above you. You wind
in and out and here and there, in the most mysterious way,
and have no more idea of the points of the compass than if you
were a blind man. You can never persuade yourself that
these are actually streets, and the frowning, dingy, monstrous
houses dwellings, till you see one of these beautiful, prettily
dressed women emerge from them—see her emerge from a
dark, dreary-looking den that looks dungeon all over, from the
ground away half-way up to heaven. And then you wonder
that such a charming moth could come from such a forbidding
shell as that. The streets are wisely made narrow and the
houses heavy and thick and stony, in order that the people
may be cool in this roasting climate. And they are cool, and
stay so. And while I think of it—the men wear hats and
have very dark complexions, but the women wear no head-gear
but a flimsy veil like a gossamer's web, and yet are
exceedingly fair as a general thing. Singular, isn't it?

The huge palaces of Genoa are each supposed to be occupied


Page 167
by one family, but they could accommodate a hundred, I should
think. They are relics of the grandeur of Genoa's palmy days
—the days when she was a great commercial and maritime
power several centuries ago. These houses, solid marble palaces
though they be, are in many cases of a dull pinkish color,
outside, and from pavement to eaves are pictured with Genoese
battle-scenes, with monstrous Jupiters and Cupids and with
familiar illustrations from Grecian mythology. Where the
paint has yielded to age and exposure and is peeling off in
flakes and patches, the effect is not happy. A noseless Cupid,
or a Jupiter with an eye out, or a Venus with a fly-blister
on her breast, are not attractive features in a picture. Some
of these painted walls reminded me somewhat of the tall van,
plastered with fanciful bills and posters, that follows the bandwagon
of a circus about a country village. I have not read or
heard that the outsides of the houses of any other European
city are frescoed in this way.

I can not conceive of such a thing as Genoa in ruins. Such
massive arches, such ponderous substructions as support these
towering broad-winged edifices, we have seldom seen before;
and surely the great blocks of stone of which these edifices are
built can never decay; walls that are as thick as an ordinary
American doorway is high, can not crumble.

The Republics of Genoa and Pisa were very powerful in the
middle ages. Their ships filled the Mediterranean, and they
carried on an extensive commerce with Constantinople and
Syria. Their warehouses were the great distributing depots
from whence the costly merchandise of the East was sent
abroad over Europe. They were warlike little nations, and
defied, in those days, governments that overshadow them now
as mountains overshadow molehills. The Saracens captured
and pillaged Genoa nine hundred years ago, but during the
following century Genoa and Pisa entered into an offensive
and defensive alliance and besieged the Saracen colonies in
Sardinia and the Balearic Isles with an obstinacy that maintained
its pristine vigor and held to its purpose for forty long
years. They were victorious at last, and divided their conquests


Page 168
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 168. In-line Illustration. Image of a statue on a street in Genoa. The caption reads, "STATUE OF COLUMBUS."] equably among their great patrician families. Descendants
of some of those proud families still inhabit the palaces
of Genoa, and trace in their own features a resemblance to the
grim knights whose portraits hang in their stately halls, and
to pictured beauties with pouting lips and merry eyes whose
originals have been dust and ashes for many a dead and forgotten

The hotel we live in belonged to one of those great orders
of knights of the Cross in the times of the Crusades, and its
mailed sentinels once kept watch and ward in its massive
turrets and woke the
echoes of these halls and
corridors with their iron

But Genoa's greatness
has degenerated into an
unostentatious commerce
in velvets and silver filagree
work. They say that
each European town has
its specialty. These filagree
things are Genoa's
specialty. Her smiths take
silver ingots and work
them up into all manner
of graceful and beautiful
forms. They make bunches
of flowers, from flakes
and wires of silver, that
counterfeit the delicate creations
the frost weaves
upon a window pane; and we were shown a miniature silver
temple whose fluted columns, whose Corinthian capitals and
rich entablatures, whose spire, statues, bells, and ornate lavishness
of sculpture were wrought in polished silver, and with
such matchless art that every detail was a fascinating study,
and the finished edifice a wonder of beauty.


Page 169

[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 169. In-line Illustration. Image of a large empty hallway with statues lining the walls. The caption reads, "GRAVES OF SIXTY THOUSAND."]

We are ready to move again, though we are not really tired,
yet, of the narrow passages of this old marble cave. Cave is a
good word—when speaking of Genoa under the stars. When
we have been prowling at midnight through the gloomy crevices
they call streets, where no foot falls but ours were echoing,
where only ourselves were abroad, and lights appeared only at
long intervals and at a distance, and mysteriously disappeared
again, and the houses at our elbows seemed to stretch upward
farther than ever toward the heavens, the memory of a cave I
used to know at home was always in my mind, with its lofty
passages, its silence and solitude, its shrouding gloom, its
sepulchral echoes, its flitting lights, and more than all, its
sudden revelations of branching crevices and corridors where
we least expected them.

We are not tired of the endless processions of cheerful, chattering
gossipers that throng these courts and streets all day
long, either; nor of the coarse-robed monks; nor of the “Asti”


Page 170
wines, which that old doctor (whom we call the Oracle,) with
customary felicity in the matter of getting every thing wrong,
misterms “nasty.” But we must go, nevertheless.

Our last sight was the cemetery, (a burial-place intended to
accommodate 60,000 bodies,) and we shall continue to remember
it after we shall have forgotten the palaces. It is a vast
marble collonaded corridor extending around a great unoccupied
square of ground; its broad floor is marble, and on every
slab is an inscription—for every slab covers a corpse. On
either side, as one walks down the middle of the passage, are
monuments, tombs, and sculptured figures that are exquisitely
wrought and are full of grace and beauty. They are new,
and snowy; every outline is perfect, every feature guiltless of
mutilation, flaw or blemish; and therefore, to us these far-reaching
ranks of bewitching forms are a hundred fold more
lovely than the damaged and dingy statuary they have saved
from the wreck of ancient art and set up in the galleries of
Paris for the worship of the world.

Well provided with cigars and other necessaries of life, we
are now ready to take the cars for Milan.