Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, August 18, 1859

  • Posted on: 8 December 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, August 18, 1859



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, August 18, 1859

action: sent

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

location: Rome, Italy

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

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: cnk 

revision: jxw 2021-09-03


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Editorial Note

William Henry Seward’s series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Rome Thursday evening Aug 17th
Coffee at 4, and at 5 we were off 18 miles to Tivoli
the ancient Tribune – quite across the pestiferous Campagna
of Rome. Homeless, garden less, treeless a waste though
not a desert. and But when we reached the base of
the Apennines the scene was changed as if by magic, water
came tumbling down the hills, the ascending slope was
carved far up towards its summit, with fields of Indian
corn, peach trees almond trees the pomegranate,
the mulberry the grape the olive – and melons
of every kind, oranges lemons, the oleander
and the water plants flowering vines of every hue – Here
I learned ^observed^ that in addition to the breaking up of the
Roman acqueducts ^by the Goths^ there was another cause for
the molestation of the ^beautiful^ Compagna which has a connecting
it into the Pontine Marshes. This is the destruction of
the Tibur and other channels by the accumulation of ruins
and otherwise –
Five centuries before Rome was there Tibur a town of
the Sabines stood where it now stands under the name
of Tivoli on the slope of the Appenines which at a distance
of 18 miles looks down even upon the dome of St Peter
which crowns the heights of the once maratime
City of Rome. Its As the latter city grew spare under
its Repulic martial republican rulers Tibur was jealous
and became its enemy. If the Sabines were ever as
fair as they are now, I think it not marvellous
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that the Romans seized and detained them for services when
they had come to see and admire the savage
performances in the theater. Tibur was after a time
subjected as we know. But it still maintains its
unique pride and while it constitutes a see dis-
tinct from that of Rome and ^is^ represented by a Cardinal
in the Sacred College – it plants over its gates the
proud marker a distinct coat of arms with the
motto, Senatus Populusq Que Tiburtius, just as
Rome still presents every where the ^has^ city arms with
the motto Senatus, Populus Que Romanus, Tibur
sank in time to be a suburb, a place of country
residences and rural retreat for the Romans in the
day of their crowning fortunes. I experienced a singular
pleasure when at two or three points places on the way
we came down upon the ancient road of the
Romans, and felt was thus assured that Cesar
and Scipio, and Virgil and Adrian and Horace
and Mecenas had been wheeled in their carriages
over the same stones that now rolled beneath
my carriage wheels. While there are no traces left of
the Temple of Fauns on the verge of a sulphurous
lake there, celebrated by called the Lake of Tartarus
which was celebrated by Virgil as an oracle
I was gratified with finding a perfect monument created
by M Plautius Sylvanus for himself his wife
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and his wifes son (by an earlier marriage, erected
one year before the Christian era.
The Emperor Adrian history tells us, had been
a great traveler, and on returning to Rome he built
at Tivoli a villa in which he desig aimed to
reproduce every thing of awe and splendor he had
seen abroad. The ruins cover a circuit of eight
or ten miles. Not one portion of all the edifices
remains perfect or in a condition for any one
and yet there are walls and arches and towers
which still mark out how faithfully the grand
idea was carved out. A Lyceum. An academy
A grove in front for the walks of Philosophers
a Vale of Tempe, with its flowing river a Theater
a Hippodrome. A Grecian library a Latin one
Barracks for the troops, Tartarus, the Elysium
Fields, and temples to I know not how many
Gods. All is desolate – The richest teems of
art have been excavated and removed – Lizards
crawl over the barracks, and a goat that took
fright as we approached was feeding on in the broken
arches of the temple.
After one hour or two spent in this delightful
ramble, we took breakfast under the shade of
a great rock on the declivity of the mountain
looking down on the Capitol and St Peters – far
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off in the distance, and then gave ourselves up to
a long walk and ride on mules through the
forest gro ruins of the Villas of Horace and
Mecenas, and the waterfalls, temples of
Vesta, and of the Sybil and the wonderful
grottoes which make the place more attractive
and cheering for summer life than any thing
I have even seen in nature or even attempted
in art. We dined on the terrace of the now
deserted palace of the ancient dukes of Este
amid the music of waters broken tone from
the dilapidated fountains but still adorned
with all the devices of classical statuary while
the grape and the oleander and the olive
threw their grateful shades over our heads.
At night we were at ^our Hotel again in Rome^ home after a cheery
ride through ^over^ the Campagna – and thus
ends the seventh day in Rome.
Page 5

Rome Friday night Aug 18th
8th day in Rome

Editorial Note

Most of the writing on this page is too faint to be transcribed

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Editorial Note

The writing on this page is too faint to be transcribed

Page 7


Editorial Note

The writing at the top of this page is too faint to be transcribed

which I was searching
of its Imperial founder
In the walls of one of the corridors of the mausoleum
I found a monument bearing this inscription
"Diis Manibus
L. Valerio Infanti
Raptus qui est subito
Quo fato non scitur
Natus Noctes H. XI
Vixit diebus I.XX.
Abiit noctis Sab H. VI
Quisquis eum laesit
Sic cum suis valeat"
A monument by bereaved parents
to a child
stolen from them or killed by some body in some way
unknown. And then the imprecation of a like
fate upon the offspring of the destroyer. It needs
not the invocation of the Heathen Gods to
Page 8

teach us that this is a Pagan epitaph.
I visited next the Church of the Jesuits. They have
been and yet are the most efficient missionaries of the
Church of Rome. and their zeal through it has brought
them to interfere with government and social institu-
tions in many lands and to encounter opposition
and persecution a thousand times yet it has never-
theless been rewarded with the gratitude of
the Church in an unwearied degree. I should
hardly go amiss if I were to say that their
Church is built of precious marbles and adorned
with the lavishly with the most costly master-
pieces of art and in painting and sculpture.
Every day adds to its wealth. Ignatius Loyola
their founder sleeps in a marble sarcophagus
of great cost and beauty in this church. Angelic
figures spread their protecting wings over it, with
mottoes one of which celebrates the sway of the
Christian religion over all lands, the other most
repulsively glories in the overthrow of Heresy.
The time will come when even the Catholic church
will be ashamed of this monument.
The Baths of Diocletian next offered their
relics for examination. The works of Heathen emperors
who employed there the labor of 40.000 Christians
enslaved. Only remains of this great structure which
covered more than 20 acres and furnished accomoda-
Page 9

tions for more than 3000 bathers yet remain.
Of t their ruins Michael Angelo made two
chambers and a monastery, one of the chambers
one of the most majestic in Rome. The government
has converted other parts into a depository
for oil, other parts are used by the French
troops for barracks, and yet there remains ^a^ vast
pile of ruins naked and desolate in the
depressed condition in which they fell.
The merry, later ^searches^ which encroached
on the evening hours closed with a visit to
the Papal Palace of the Quirinal or the
Quirinal Hill. A fountain which stands in front
of it is graced by two gigantic works each
of a horse and his rider standing at his
head. Inscriptions announce that one of them ^is^ the
work of Phidias, the other of Praxiteles, and
they are supposed to represent Castor and
Pollux, They are masterpieces of art, each
quite sufficient to disgust one for all similar
attempts at similar works in our own country
or indeed in any other that I have visited
I went through the Halls of this Papal palace
studying its pictures statuary and frescoes, and
measuring the length of the great chamber
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in which the Conclave of Cardinals is held
when engaged in electing the successor to the
Papal throne. and then wandered with delight
through the terraced garden with its endless
luxuriance of trees and flowers, its antique statuary
and its artistic fountains. I saw the poor
sight of our party who was chosen to be
the victim drenched to the skin by showers
spring pouring in upon his from above
and aimed and springing up underneath his
feet, and had hardly ceased laughing
at this feat ludicrous success of the master
of the garden, when called to listen with
admiration at an Organ played by the fountain
and at two trumpets sounded by the same
power – Doubtless, these gardens are now partly
considered overwrought and puerile, still as they
are new to me, I contemplate them with the
same interest that I do the chef d'oeuvres of
artifacts of the 13th & 14th centuries who produced
fine paintings but had not yet acquired the
form of mastery of the perspective. I will
not fatigue you with accounts of the pictures in
their palace. It is almost a sufficient education
^to make^ for a common person to see them, but I know how
impossible it is t[ o ]


Reason: hole
convey an adequate idea of them
Page 11

And thus ended my eighth day in Rome.