Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, August 10, 1859

  • Posted on: 8 December 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, August 10, 1859



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, August 10, 1859

action: sent

sender: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Civitavecchia, Italy

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: cnk 

revision: amr 2021-02-24


Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward’s series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Civita Vecchia, Wednesday Aug 10
At three this morning I awakened to find myself
coasting close by the rocky shores of Italy, the
States of the Church, and at ten oclock
I debarked and from my first Mediterranean
voyage and entered the port ancient port of
Civita Vecchia, paying contributions voluntarily
but uneasily to Italian divers who bring
up from the bottom the coins you throw into the
sea – and to Custom House officers and other
porters, whose number is legion –
Page 2

The first evening in Rome
Rome Wednesday August 10th
The rail road is a very recent institution in Rome.
The delays and hinderances in getting through the
Custom House and the Police Office at Civita Vecchia
were next to intolerable. Rome is only thirteen miles
from the sea but the rail road winds along, the
coast for a considerable distance and so gives us
a journey of two hours, forty or fifty miles. The Coast is
hilly rocky, sterile and marked with nothing
peculiarly attractive. But after about midway
we enter the celebrated Campagna which is
so pestilential. Rome lies South of the Appe-
nnine mountains. The rivers and streams which
have their sources there flow in torrents down
upon the plains, which for a width of
forty or fifty miles and a length of a hund
hundred constitute what in our Western states
would be called a region of prairies. Here
the waters become distended – overflow their
banks in the spring, saturate the soil, producing
unsurpassed fertility but the vegetable husbandry
subjected to a burning sun generate
Page 3

This is the
Campagna of
Rome. It is beautiful
to look upon. Its herds
of cattle and horses are
fat and spirited – but few habi-
tations of men are found there and these of
the benevolent class. At frequent intervals you
discern ruins of ancient structures but for aught
I know without a history and without importance –
Arrived Rome is encircled by this Campagna but it
no where approaches the city near enough to impart this pestilence.
Arrived at the station, we waited near an hour for the
reinspection of our baggage our tickets and our passports, and
thence conveyed in an omnibus we proceeded to the Rail road
bureau or station in the City transfered then to a cabriolet we
proceeded to our residence the Hotel del Europa in the extreme
West and not modern and healthy part of the city – The streets
are narrow, without side walks, and with scarcely room for
two carriages to pass. The Houses of s all of stone or blackened Roman marble
built 300, 400, 500 years ago and chiefly as palaces without piazzas
and with interior Courts, look sombre as the shades of Erebus. The
basements paved with stone or brick, occupied by
mediums, and stable and cow keepers, lazzaroni
and the like are filthy, the occupants are
squalid and miserable in appearance –
If in driving through the city
we caught a glimpse here
and there of St Peters
or of the Castle
of San Angelo
Page 4

its surroundings were so mean that the effect of these
great monuments was lost. The Tiber muddy and
flowing within banks without elevation or current, is
a mean flood. Altogether the approach and entrance
into Rome from Civita Vecchia and the passage through
it are so uninspiring that we were in danger of pro-
nouncing a hasty judgement that Rome is an impertinence
Installed in our apartments and invigorated
with a good dinner, we ordered a carriage and
set out at a venture to see ^some of^ such of the monuments
as we might be able to understand without minute
examination. The first we saw was the column of
Trajan, which stands in what is called the Forum
of Trajan – The Basilica Forum was an oblong open space
edifice supplied by rows of colum exquisite col-
umns constituting col double colonnades. In the
midst of Center rises the The Column of Trajan in
beneath which his ashes were deposited after the column
was built, rises 127 feet from the floor of the
Forum which still remains. In the It was built in the
year 114. In the changes which came over the city the
whole forum was covered up with wooden structures
to a depth of fifteen feet, which equally concealed
the lower portion of the column, Recently three more
wooden structures have been removed – a
Page 5

1 5 6
of the Forum has been excavated, the columns
of the colonnades broken off at the height of the
level of the foundations of the aforenamed removed
structures remain in their original places – and
the monumental column of Trajan rising from
the ^depth^ excavation towers in its original form and
proportions. It is comprised of 34 blocks of white
marble, nine 9 of which constitute the pedestal
23 the shaft, and two the capital. It still bears
the inscription that it by which it was dedicated
it in the name of the Senate and People to
the glory of that great and good number. Its
base and Capital are Tuscan, and its shaft Doric
while the mouldings of its pedestal are Corinthian
A series of spiral bas relief ascending spirally
from the base to the capital tell by their sculp-
tural designs the long story of the achievements
in peace and war of the Emperors – So much for the
Historical truth character of the monument. Pope Pius Sixtus
the Fifth
 Death: 1590-08-27
about the middle of the 15th century scanda-
lized by its Heathen character, removed the statue of
the good Roman Emperor from the Apex of the column
and replaced it with a statue of St Peter, which
crowns it at this day.
Page 6

It was now growing dark. Drive us said I now to
St Peters Church. We crossed the ^Tiber on^ the Bridge of St Angelo,
a classical structure adorned with statues illustrative
of Christianity, built but erected on the foundations
of the ancient Aelian Bridge. The lofty and
majestic fortification or castle of San Angelo
confronted us. On its balustrades sixty or seventy
feet over our heads were the Roman French sentinels
who here keep watch over the seat of the
Christian Church – Passing around its circular wall
we entered an open space ascending a hill
by a pleasant grade – the Church of St Peter
covered the terrain before us while its semicircular
colonnades embraced the esplanade of the hill
side. It was not without an effort that we passed ^ b by^ the
majestic fountains which grace the bottom of the
esplanade, and boldly pushing pushing our
way to the center of the hill itself, we entered
the ^Christian^ Church, that surpasses all Temples that the
devotion of men has ever impre said, to the
honor of the It was just sunset, and a solemn
stillness reigned within. The ruin atmosphere was
cool and soothing. By the With the aid of a
Page 7

sort of twilight ^admitted further wandering^ we traversed with very wearied
tread the Nave and the transept – stopping
here and there to contemplate the statuary
in the vary vary various chapels. The dome
as we looked up through its glorified roof
seemed to open into the very Heavens while
directly beneath it were marble steps which
came up from vaulted chambers beneath and
these stood ^below us^ seen by us from the railing which
surrounded the stair way the figure of St Peter
cut in the finest marble. Within the railing
are a hundred lighted candles in golden
candlesticks. The entire floor is of mosaic –
A solitary devotee of humble garb was kneeling
before the illuminated space – and was except
ourselves the only tenant of the vast Cathedral.
We glanced towards the great altar, but
feared to approach it lest we boldness might
seem irreverential – and setting apart ^assigning for^ another day
and in broad day light our mature examination
of St Peters, we withdrew, descended
the stair way mounted our carriage and drove
away to see next and last for that evening the
Page 8

Colisseum Coliseum. We stood in united
astonishment before its lofty and massive walls
100 feet high, divided into four stories, and
thirty or forty feet thick, built in arches
rising upon arches, in varied styles of Doric
Ionic and Corinthian Architecture. We marked
its graceful and accurate elliptical form.
We entered by the grand porch where Emperors
Senators, Priests Generals and Vestal Virgins had
so often gone in solemn procession to witness
games in honor of the triumphs of Rome. We
summoned all our ^powers of^ imagination to give the just
effect to the archings within that supported
once the circular benches from which 80,000
spectators had looked down upon the great
festals. The moon was just rising and looked
in through the arches lighting up the arena
where gladiators first and afterwards Christians
fought with Wild beasts to gratify the
tastes of the Court and of the Peoples of Rome
We lingered there until weariness overcame us
and we reluctantly drove home to our Hotel.
Page 9

All the
people of Rome
of all conditions were
swaring swarming in the
narrow streets – We dashed
through them and leaving them to
take shelter in the doorways of the homes –
and yet they manifested no anger or impatience
Occasionally a coach with fine black horses, and
two or three footmen in livery dashed along the path
A red gown and cap worn by the person within is denoted
him for a cardinal. Priests and religious of ev wearing every
form of costume and of every color – white, black, blue, purple
mingled among the people – and occasionally marched in procession – All
sorts of merchandise were exposed on every side and all manner of arts
were exhibited by the merchants, beggars ^of both sexes^ gathered around our carriage
whenever we stopped to make way for some other vehicle or to force
a way for our own. We reached the Hotel and at ^night^ nine
o, clock, we shall be in bed or rather on bed and oblivious
of all the fatigues and wonders of the day.