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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




Page 228


The Venetian gondola is as free and graceful, in its
gliding movement, as a serpent. It is twenty or thirty
feet long, and is narrow and deep, like a canoe; its sharp
bow and stern sweep upward from the water like the horns
of a crescent with the abruptness of the curve slightly modified.

The bow is ornamented with a steel comb with a battle-ax
attachment which threatens to cut passing boats in two occasionally,
but never does. The gondola is painted black because
in the zenith of Venetian magnificence the gondolas became
too gorgeous altogether, and the Senate decreed that all
such display must cease, and a solemn, unembellished black be
substituted. If the truth were known, it would doubtless
appear that rich plebeians grew too prominent in their affectation
of patrician show on the Grand Canal, and required a
wholesome snubbing. Reverence for the hallowed Past and
its traditions keeps the dismal fashion in force now that the
compulsion exists no longer. So let it remain. It is the
color of mourning. Venice mourns. The stern of the boat
is decked over and the gondolier stands there. He uses a
single oar—a long blade, of course, for he stands nearly erect.
A wooden peg, a foot and a half high, with two slight crooks
or curves in one side of it and one in the other, projects above
the starboard gunwale. Against that peg the gondolier takes
a purchase with his oar, changing it at intervals to the other
side of the peg or dropping it into another of the crooks, as
the steering of the craft may demand—and how in the world


Page 229
he can back and fill, shoot straight ahead, or flirt suddenly
around a corner, and make the oar stay in those insignificant
notches, is a problem to me and a never diminishing matter
of interest. I am afraid I study the gondolier's
marvelous skill more than I do the
sculptured palaces we glide among. He
cuts a corner so closely, now and then, or
misses another gondola by such an imperceptible
hair-breadth that I feel myself
“scrooching,” as the children say, just as
one does when a buggy wheel grazes his
elbow. But he makes all his calculations
with the nicest precision, and goes darting
in and out among a Broadway confusion of busy craft with
the easy confidence of the educated hackman. He never
makes a mistake.

Sometimes we go flying down the great canals at such a gait
that we can get only the merest glimpses into front doors, and
again, in obscure alleys in the suburbs, we put on a solemnity
suited to the silence, the mildew, the stagnant waters, the
clinging weeds, the deserted houses and the general lifelessness
of the place, and move to the spirit of grave meditation.

The gondolier is a picturesque rascal for all he wears no
satin harness, no plumed bonnet, no silken tights. His attitude
is stately; he is lithe and supple; all his movements are
full of grace. When his long canoe, and his fine figure, towering
from its high perch on the stern, are cut against the
evening sky, they make a picture that is very novel and striking
to a foreign eye.

We sit in the cushioned carriage-body of a cabin, with the
curtains drawn, and smoke, or read, or look out upon the passing
boats, the houses, the bridges, the people, and enjoy ourselves
much more than we could in a buggy jolting over our
cobble-stone pavements at home. This is the gentlest, pleasantest
locomotion we have ever known.

But it seems queer—ever so queer—to see a boat doing


Page 230
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 230. In-line Illustration. Image of two women saying good-bye at an open door while a gondola waits in the foreground. The caption reads, "GOOD-BYE."] duty as a private carriage. We see business men come to the
front door, step into a gondola, instead of a street car, and go
off down town to the counting-room.

We see visiting young ladies stand on the stoop, and laugh,
and kiss good-bye, and flirt their fans and say “Come soon—
now do—you've been just as mean as ever you can be—
mother's dying to see you—and we've moved into the new
house, O such a love of a place!—so convenient to the post-office
and the church, and the Young Men's Christian Association;
and we do have such fishing, and such carrying on,


Page 231
and such swimming-matches in the back yard—Oh, you must
come—no distance at all, and if you go down through by St.
Mark's and the Bridge of Sighs, and cut through the alley and
come up by the church of Santa Maria dei Frari, and into the
Grand Canal, there isn't a bit of current—now do come, Sally
Maria—by-bye!” and then the little humbug trips down the
steps, jumps into the gondola, says, under her breath, “Disagreeable
old thing, I hope she won't!” goes skimming away,
round the corner; and the other girl slams the street door and
says, “Well, that infliction's over, any way,—but I suppose
I've got to go and see her—tiresome stuck-up thing!” Human
nature appears to be just the same, all over the world.
We see the diffident young man, mild of moustache, affluent
of hair, indigent of brain, elegant of costume, drive up to her
father's mansion, tell his hackman to bail out and wait, start
fearfully up the steps and meet “the old gentleman” right on
the threshold!—hear him ask what street the new British
Bank is in—as if that were what he came for—and then
bounce into his boat and skurry away with his coward heart
in his boots!—see him come sneaking around the corner
again, directly, with a crack of the curtain open toward the
old gentleman's disappearing gondola, and out scampers his
Susan with a flock of little Italian endearments fluttering
from her lips, and goes to drive with him in the watery
avenues down toward the Rialto.

We see the ladies go out shopping, in the most natural way,
and flit from street to street and from store to store, just in
the good old fashion, except that they leave the gondola, instead
of a private carriage, waiting at the curbstone a couple of
hours for them,—waiting while they make the nice young
clerks pull down tons and tons of silks and velvets and moire
antiques and those things; and then they buy a paper of pins
and go paddling away to confer the rest of their disastrous
patronage on some other firm. And they always have their
purchases sent home just in the good old way. Human nature
is very much the same all over the world; and it is so
like my dear native home to see a Venetian lady go into a


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store and buy ten cents' worth of blue ribbon and have it sent
home in a scow. Ah, it is these little touches of nature that
move one to tears in these far-off foreign lands.

We see little girls and boys go out in gondolas with their
nurses, for an airing. We see staid families, with prayer-book
and beads, enter the gondola dressed in their Sunday best, and
float away to church. And at midnight we see the theatre
break up and discharge its swarm of hilarious youth and
beauty; we hear the cries of the hackman-gondoliers, and
behold the struggling crowd jump aboard, and the black
multitude of boats go skimming down the moonlit avenues;
we see them separate here and there, and disappear up divergent
streets; we hear the faint sounds of laughter and of
shouted farewells floating up out of the distance; and then,
the strange pageant being gone, we have lonely stretches of
glittering water—of stately buildings—of blotting shadows—
of weird stone faces creeping into the moonlight—of deserted
bridges—of motionless boats at anchor. And over all broods
that mysterious stillness, that stealthy quiet, that befits so well
this old dreaming Venice.

We have been pretty much every where in our gondola.
We have bought beads and photographs in the stores, and wax
matches in the Great Square of St. Mark. The last remark
suggests a digression. Every body goes to this vast square in
the evening. The military bands play in the centre of it and
countless couples of ladies and gentlemen promenade up and
down on either side, and platoons of them are constantly
drifting away toward the old Cathedral, and by the venerable
column with the Winged Lion of St. Mark on its top, and out
to where the boats lie moored; and other platoons are as constantly
arriving from the gondolas and joining the great
throng. Between the promenaders and the side-walks are
seated hundreds and hundreds of people at small tables,
smoking and taking granita, (a first cousin to ice-cream;) on
the side-walks are more employing themselves in the same
way. The shops in the first floor of the tall rows of buildings
that wall in three sides of the square are brilliantly lighted,


Page 233
the air is filled with music and merry voices, and altogether
the scene is as bright and spirited and full of cheerfulness as
any man could desire. We enjoy it thoroughly. Very many
of the young women are exceedingly pretty and dress with
rare good taste. We are gradually and laboriously learning
the ill-manners of staring them unflinchingly in the face—not
because such conduct is agreeable to us, but because it is the
custom of the country and they say the girls like it. We wish
to learn all the curious, outlandish ways of all the different
countries, so that we can “show off” and astonish people
when we get home. We wish to excite the envy of our untraveled
friends with our strange foreign fashions which we
can't shake off. All our passengers are paying strict attention
to this thing, with the end in view which I have
mentioned. The gentle reader will never, never know
what a consummate ass he can become, until he goes abroad.
I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle
reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate
ass. If the case be otherwise, I beg his pardon and
extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him
brother. I shall always delight to meet an ass after my own
heart when I shall have finished my travels.

On this subject let me remark that there are Americans
abroad in Italy who have actually forgotten their mother
tongue in three months—forgot it in France. They can not
even write their address in English in a hotel register. I append
these evidences, which I copied verbatim from the register
of a hotel in a certain Italian city:

“John P. Whitcomb, Etats Unis.
“Wm. L. Ainsworth, travailleur (he meant traveler, I suppose,) Etats Unis.
“George P. Morton et fils, d'Amerique.
“Lloyd B. Williams, et trois amis, ville de Boston, Amerique.
“J. Ellsworth Baker, tout de suite de France, place de naissance Amerique, destination la Grand Bretagne.

I love this sort of people. A lady passenger of ours tells
of a fellow-citizen of hers who spent eight weeks in Paris and
then returned home and addressed his dearest old bosom


Page 234
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 234. In-line Illustration. Image of a man in tight trousers, a bowler hat, a vest and coat, and a monacle. He is carrying a cane and has a large moustache. The caption reads, "M'SIEU GOR-R-DONG."] friend Herbert as Mr. “Er-bare!” He apologized, though,
and said, “'Pon my soul it is aggravating, but I cahn't help it
—I have got so used to speaking nothing but French, my dear
Erbare—damme there it goes again!—got so used to French
pronunciation that I cahn't get rid of it—it is positively annoying,
I assure you.” This entertaining idiot, whose name
was Gordon, allowed himself to be hailed three times in the
street before he paid any attention, and then begged a thousand
pardons and said he had grown so accustomed to hearing
himself addressed as M'sieu Gor-r-dong,” with a roll to the r,
that he had forgotten the legitimate
sound of his name! He wore a rose
in his button-hole; he gave the French
salutation—two flips of the hand in
front of the face; he called Paris Pairree
in ordinary English conversation;
he carried envelopes bearing foreign
postmarks protruding from his breast-pocket;
he cultivated a moustache and
imperial, and did what else he could to
suggest to the beholder his pet fancy
that he resembled Louis Napoleon—
and in a spirit of thankfulness which is
entirely unaccountable, considering the
slim foundation there was for it, he
praised his Maker that he was as he
was, and went on enjoying his little
life just the same as if he really had
been deliberately designed and erected by the great Architect
of the Universe.

Think of our Whitcombs, and our Ainsworths and our
Williamses writing themselves down in dilapidated French
in foreign hotel registers! We laugh at Englishmen, when
we are at home, for sticking so sturdily to their national ways
and customs, but we look back upon it from abroad very forgivingly.
It is not pleasant to see an American thrusting his
nationality forward obtrusively in a foreign land, but Oh, it is


Page 235
pitiable to see him making of himself a thing that is neither
male nor female, neither fish, flesh, nor fowl—a poor, miserable,
hermaphrodite Frenchman!

Among a long list of churches, art galleries, and such
things, visited by us in Venice, I shall mention only one—the
church of Santa Maria dei Frari. It is about five hundred
years old, I believe, and stands on twelve hundred thousand
piles. In it lie the body of Canova and the heart of Titian,
under magnificent monuments. Titian died at the age of
almost one hundred years. A plague which swept away fifty
thousand lives was raging at the time, and there is notable
evidence of the reverence in which the great painter was
held, in the fact that to him alone the state permitted a public
funeral in all that season of terror and death.

In this church, also, is a monument to the doge Foscari,
whose name a once resident of Venice, Lord Byron, has made
permanently famous.

The monument to the doge Giovanni Pesaro, in this church,
is a curiosity in the way of mortuary adornment. It is eighty
feet high and is fronted like some fantastic pagan temple.
Against it stand four colossal Nubians, as black as night,
dressed in white marble garments. The black legs are bare,
and through rents in sleeves and breeches, the skin, of
shiny black marble, shows. The artist was as ingenious as
his funeral designs were absurd. There are two bronze skeletons
bearing scrolls, and two great dragons uphold the sarcophagus.
On high, amid all this grotesqueness, sits the departed

In the conventual buildings attached to this church are the
state archives of Venice. We did not see them, but they
are said to number millions of documents. “They are the
records of centuries of the most watchful, observant and suspicious
government that ever existed—in which every thing
was written down and nothing spoken out.” They fill nearly
three hundred rooms. Among them are manuscripts from the
archives of nearly two thousand families, monasteries and
convents. The secret history of Venice for a thousand years


Page 236
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 236. In-line Illustration. Image of a man standing in front of a monument with a skeleton in the background. The caption reads, "MONUMENT TO THE DOGE."] is here—its plots, its hidden trials, its assassinations, its commissions
of hireling spies and masked bravoes—food, ready to
hand, for a world of dark and mysterious romances.

Yes, I think we have seen all of Venice. We have seen, in
these old churches, a profusion of costly and elaborate
sepulchre ornamentation such
as we never dreampt of before.
We have stood in the dim religious
light of these hoary
sanctuaries, in the midst of
long ranks of dusty monuments
and effigies of the great
dead of Venice, until we
seemed drifting back, back,
back, into the solemn past,
and looking upon the scenes
and mingling with the peoples
of a remote antiquity. We
have been in a half-waking
sort of dream all the time. I
do not know how else to describe
the feeling. A part of
our being has remained still
in the nineteenth century,
while another part of it has
seemed in some unaccountable
way walking among the phantoms
of the tenth.

We have seen famous pictures until our eyes are weary with
looking at them and refuse to find interest in them any longer.
And what wonder, when there are twelve hundred pictures by
Palma the Younger in Venice and fifteen hundred by Tintoretto?
And behold there are Titians and the works of other
artists in proportion. We have seen Titian's celebrated Cain
and Abel, his David and Goliah, his Abraham's Sacrifice.
We have seen Tintoretto's monster picture, which is seventy-four
feet long and I do not know how many feet high, and


Page 237
thought it a very commodious picture. We have seen pictures
of martyrs enough, and saints enough, to regenerate the
world. I ought not to confess it, but still, since one has no
opportunity in America to acquire a critical judgment in art,
and since I could not hope to become educated in it in Europe
in a few short weeks, I may therefore as well acknowledge
with such apologies as may be due, that to me it seemed that
when I had seen one of these martyrs I had seen them all.
They all have a marked family resemblance to each other, they
dress alike, in coarse monkish robes and sandals, they are all
bald headed, they all stand in about the same attitude, and
without exception they are gazing heavenward with countenances
which the Ainsworths, the Mortons and the Williamses,
et fils, inform me are full of “expression.” To me there
is nothing tangible about these imaginary portraits, nothing
that I can grasp and take a living interest in. If great Titian
had only been gifted with prophecy, and had skipped a martyr,
and gone over to England and painted a portrait of Shakspeare,
even as a youth, which we could all have confidence in
now, the world down to the latest generations would have forgiven
him the lost martyr in the rescued seer. I think posterity
could have spared one more martyr for the sake of a
great historical picture of Titian's time and painted by his
brush—such as Columbus returning in chains from the discovery
of a world, for instance. The old masters did paint
some Venetian historical pictures, and these we did not tire of
looking at, notwithstanding representations of the formal introduction
of defunct doges to the Virgin Mary in regions beyond
the clouds clashed rather harshly with the proprieties, it
seemed to us.

But humble as we are, and unpretending, in the matter of
art, our researches among the painted monks and martyrs
have not been wholly in vain. We have striven hard to learn.
We have had some success. We have mastered some things,
possibly of trifling import in the eyes of the learned, but to
us they give pleasure, and we take as much pride in our little
acquirements as do others who have learned far more, and we


Page 238
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 238. In-line Illustration. Series of images of monks. In the first a monk is walking a lion on a leash. The caption reads, "ST. MARK, BY THE OLD MASTERS." In the second a monk is writing The caption reads, "ST. MATTHEW, BY THE OLD MASTERS." The third image is of a monk sitting in a chair. There is a skull on the table next to him. The caption reads, "ST. JEROME, BY THE OLD MASTERS."] love to display them full as well. When we see a monk going
about with a lion and looking
tranquilly up to heaven,
we know that that is St.
Mark. When we see a monk
with a book and a pen, looking
tranquilly up to heaven,
trying to think of a word, we
know that that is St. Matthew.
When we see a monk
sitting on a rock, looking
tranquilly up to heaven, with
a human skull beside him,
and without other baggage,
we know that that is St. Jerome.
Because we know that
he always went flying light in
the matter of baggage.
When we see a party looking
tranquilly up to heaven, unconscious
that his body is shot
through and through with arrows,
we know that that is
St. Sebastian. When we see
other monks looking tranquilly
up to heaven, but having no
trade-mark, we always ask
who those parties are. We
do this because we humbly
wish to learn. We have seen
thirteen thousand St. Jeromes,
and twenty-two thousand St.
Marks, and sixteen thousand
St. Matthews, and sixty
thousand St. Sebastians, and
four millions of assorted
monks, undesignated, and we


Page 239
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 239. In-line Illustration. Series of images of monks. The first image is of a monk with many arrows through his body. The caption reads, "ST. SEBASTIAN, BY THE OLD MASTERS." The second image is of a framed picture of a monk holding a cross and looking sad. The caption reads, "ST. UNKNOWN, BY THE OLD MASTERS."] feel encouraged to believe that when we have seen some more
of these various pictures, and had a larger experience, we
shall begin to take an absorbing
interest in them like our cultivated
countrymen from

Now it does give me real pain
to speak in this almost unappreciative
way of the old masters
and their martyrs, because good
friends of mine in the ship—
friends who do thoroughly and
conscientiously appreciate them
and are in every way competent
to discriminate between good
pictures and inferior ones—have
urged me for my own sake not
to make public the fact that I
lack this appreciation and this
critical discrimination myself.
I believe that what I have written
and may still write about
pictures will give them pain, and
I am honestly sorry for it. I
even promised that I would
hide my uncouth sentiments in
my own breast. But alas! I
never could keep a promise. I
do not blame myself for this
weakness, because the fault
must lie in my physical organization. It is likely that such a
very liberal amount of space was given to the organ which
enables me to make promises, that the organ which should
enable me to keep them was crowded out. But I grieve not.
I like no half-way things. I had rather have one faculty
nobly developed than two faculties of mere ordinary capacity.
I certainly meant to keep that promise, but I find I can not do


Page 240
it. It is impossible to travel through Italy without speaking
of pictures, and can I see them through others' eyes?

If I did not so delight in the grand pictures that are spread
before me every day of my life by that monarch of all the
old masters, Nature, I should come to believe, sometimes, that
I had in me no appreciation of the beautiful, whatsoever.

It seems to me that whenever I glory to think that for once
I have discovered an ancient painting that is beautiful and
worthy of all praise, the pleasure it gives me is an infallible
proof that it is not a beautiful picture and not in any wise
worthy of commendation. This very thing has occurred
more times than I can mention, in Venice. In every single
instance the guide has crushed out my swelling enthusiam
with the remark:

“It is nothing—it is of the Renaissance.

I did not know what in the mischief the Renaissance was,
and so always I had to simply say,

“Ah! so it is—I had not observed it before.”

I could not bear to be ignorant before a cultivated negro,
the offspring of a South Carolina slave. But it occurred too
often for even my self-complacency, did that exasperating “It
is nothing—it is of the Renaissance.” I said at last:

Who is this Renaissance? Where did he come from?
Who gave him permission to cram the Republic with his
execrable daubs?”

We learned, then, that Renaissance was not a man; that
renaissance was a term used to signify what was at best but an
imperfect rejuvenation of art. The guide said that after
Titian's time and the time of the other great names we had
grown so familiar with, high art declined; then it partially
rose again—an inferior sort of painters sprang up, and these
shabby pictures were the work of their hands. Then I said,
in my heat, that I “wished to goodness high art had declined
five hundred years sooner.” The Renaissance pictures suit me
very well, though sooth to say its school were too much given
to painting real men and did not indulge enough in martyrs.

The guide I have spoken of is the only one we have had


Page 241
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 241. In-line Illustration. Images of bridges of Venice. At the top is an image of the Rialto Bridge, and at the bottom is the Bridge of Sighs.] yet who knew any thing. He was born in South Carolina, of
slave parents.
They came to
Venice while
he was an infant.
He has
grown up here.
He is well educated.
reads, writes,
and speaks
English, Italian,
and French,
with perfect facility;
is a
worshipper of
art and thoroughly
with it;
knows the history
of Venice
by heart and
never tires of
talking of her
illustrious career.
He dresses
better than
any of us, I
think, and is
daintily polite.
Negroes are
deemed as
good as white
people, in Venice,
and so this
man feels no


Page 242
desire to go back to his native land. His judgment is correct.

I have had another shave. I was writing in our front room
this afternoon and trying hard to keep my attention on my
work and refrain from looking out upon the canal. I was
resisting the soft influences of the climate as well as I could,
and endeavoring to overcome the desire to be indolent and
happy. The boys sent for a barber. They asked me if I
would be shaved. I reminded them of my tortures in Genoa,
Milan, Como; of my declaration that I would suffer no more
on Italian soil. I said “Not any for me, if you please.”

I wrote on. The barber began on the doctor. I heard him

“Dan, this is the easiest shave I have had since we left the

He said again, presently:

“Why Dan, a man could go to sleep with this man shaving

Dan took the chair. Then he said:

“Why this is Titian. This is one of the old masters.”

I wrote on. Directly Dan said:

“Doctor, it is perfect luxury. The ship's barber isn't any
thing to him.”

My rough beard was distressing me beyond measure. The
barber was rolling up his apparatus. The temptation was too
strong. I said:

“Hold on, please. Shave me also.”

I sat down in the chair and closed my eyes. The barber
soaped my face, and then took his razor and gave me a rake
that well nigh threw me into convulsions. I jumped out of
the chair: Dan and the doctor were both wiping blood off
their faces and laughing.

I said it was a mean, disgraceful fraud.

They said that the misery of this shave had gone so far beyond
any thing they had ever experienced before, that they could not
bear the idea of losing such a chance of hearing a cordial
opinion from me on the subject.


Page 243

It was shameful. But there was no help for it. The skinning
was begun and had to be finished. The tears flowed
with every rake, and so did the fervent execrations. The
barber grew confused, and brought blood every time. I think
the boys enjoyed it better than any thing they have seen or
heard since they left home.

We have seen the Campanile, and Byron's house and Balbi's
the geographer, and the palaces of all ancient dukes
and doges of Venice, and we have seen their effeminate descendants
airing their nobility in fashionable French attire
in the Grand Square of St. Mark, and eating ices and drinking
cheap wines, instead of wearing gallant coats of mail and
destroying fleets and armies as their great ancestors did in the
days of Venetian glory. We have seen no bravoes with poisoned
stilettos, no masks, no wild carnival; but we have seen
the ancient pride of Venice, the grim Bronze Horses that
figure in a thousand legends. Venice may well cherish them,
for they are the only horses she ever had. It is said there are
hundreds of people in this curious city who never have seen a
living horse in their lives. It is entirely true, no doubt.

And so, having satisfied ourselves, we depart to-morrow,
and leave the venerable Queen of the Republics to summon
her vanished ships, and marshal her shadowy armies, and
know again in dreams the pride of her old renown.