Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, August 24, 1859

  • Posted on: 10 November 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, August 24, 1859
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transcriber

Transcriber:spp:amr

student editor

Transcriber:spp:cnk

Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections

Date:1859-08-24

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, August 24, 1859

action: sent

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

location: Rome, Italy

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1844-12-09  Death: 1866-10-29

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: amr 

revision: jxw 2021-02-07

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Page 1

18
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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.
Wednesday evening Aug 24.
Thirteenth day in Rome.
My dear Fanny,
I think you must have often seen copies
of a celebrated picture called the Aurora, in which
the classical idea of Apollo drawn by steeds
preceded by Aurora and attended by the
Hours is the subject. It is by Guido, and
it forms the fresco of a chamber in a palace
here. It was the subject of my first visit this
morning and since I can only tell you that
the copies by whomever made, those I mean
which I have seen fail to give you an ade-
quate idea of this celebrated work. It is a celestial
fresco the characters are superhuman, the scene is
in the skies. Doubtless the position of the original
stretching as it does across the very lofty ceiling
of a vast chamber gives an opportunity to aggrandize
the figures and forms the delusion the painter
desired to produce. Of other pictures in the gallery
IWhere I found this I will not stop to speak.
Raphaels stanzes are frescoes which
adorn four great chambers in the Palace
of the Vatican. The subjects designed to illustrate
the triumph of the Church over its enemies
Page 2

19
I spent several hours in studying them and left
there with the full conviction that their author
was the only man who has left himself un-
rivalled and unapproachable in his art.
What Shakespeare
Birth: 1564-04-26 Death: 1616-04-23
is in Poetry so Raphael is in
his art. The perspective of these paintings is
so perfect that the scene is perfectly before
you excluding all real objects and
the designs are bold original comprehensive.
The expression is true in every instance to some
grand human passion. The combination makes
the figures seem active and effective, and
the coloring rich varied and magnificent beyond
description. From these stanzes my walk
led me to the Lodge of Raphael, an open
arched corridor with vaulted ceilings
of great height, illustrated by his pen with
scenes from the Old Testament and New Testament
history. But enough of Raphael. If I have not suc -
ceeded in making the impression his work produ-
ced on me intelligible, further effort would be
unavailing.
The day was closed with a tour which
brought me to the tomb of Cecilia Metella
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20
a magnificent monument of a rich lady of
Ancient Rome stripped now of its sarcophagus
its columns and even the marble covering
of its base, yet still enough to place the old
Romans befor far above all emulation of
modern or of ancient times in their sepulchral
architecture. I descended to the catacombs
in St. Sebastian Church, for they have wisely
excavated the ground under the church where they
have actually opened the catacombs within
it.
Our object was the grotto of the Nymph Egeria
with its fountain, broken indeed yet discharging
crystal waters though the grass covered cavern
as it did twenty four hundred years ago
Once here, the Baths of Caracalla, stupen-
dous ruins, a mile in circumference – with
apartments for bathing in cold and in warm
water, for swimming, for gladiatorial fights
on land, for glad Naval gladiatorial combats,
for the Theater, the Circus, and for the
Disputations of the Philosophers. All now robbed
of their marble columns, urns & other ornaments
and yet a noble and most suggestive ruin
Here endeth the 13th day in Rome. (Turn to bottom
of paper 17.