Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, August 27, 1859

  • Posted on: 29 April 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, August 27, 1859



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Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections


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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, August 27, 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: les 

revision: amc 2020-12-18


Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward’s series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Saturday August 1 27, 1859.
16 th and last day in Rome.
My dear Fanny,
My banker takes charge of a parcel
which will be sent directly home and will
go to my own address at Auburn. It contains
guide books no longer useful, and some relics picked
up here and there rough and unintelligible without
my explanations, and with these a few tokens
of affection for your mother
Birth: 1805-09-24 Death: 1865-06-21
yourself Anna
Birth: 1834-03-29 Death: 1919-05-02
Birth: 1839-06-18 Death: 1920-04-29
^The cameo of the Ecce Homo has been blessed by the Pope


and is to be set
by any jeweler at my expense for Aunty
Birth: 1803-11-01 Death: 1875-10-03
, in such style as she likes^
The Pin with lapis lazuli is for your
mother. The necklace, pin and bracelets with
the scarabaeus ^[or beetle]^ all of one style as your first
jewelry excepting the two or three little things you
have had before. The [.AEJ.] amulet like the one
you have already, but larger is for dear Anna,
The scarabaeus pin is for Willie. All these are from the
models of the Etruscans just now reproduced in Rome, no where else,
I have to day explored the ruins of the Baths
of Titus converted by Nero into his great
Page 2

Less extensive than those of Caracalla or
even those of Diocletian they are far more perfect-
ly preserved, They nevertheless are confused by
reason of the alterations made more than twice
in their structures and designs. Vast chambers
thirty feet high, and eighty and a hundred
feet long, arched, and ceiled from the floor
to the roof ^eaves^ with marble, with niches for
which was taken in the Laocoon, the Minerva
and other statues found in the museums which
I have already described, and the ^upper^ walls of
[what] vaulted ceilings of which are beautifully
painted in fresco with the allegories of the
ancients from doubtless the salons of Mae-
which Nero is known to have appro-
priated to himself when he built his palace
on the grounds covered by Maecenas Villa
and the Baths constructed by Titus There
ceilings and the corridors, still standing per-
fect though robbed of their richest ornaments
given as a pretaste of Pompei and Hercu-

. Horace is known to have been buried
in the villa of Maecenas But ^far^ less than half
of these ruins are yet unexcavated, and
Page 3

therfore for as it probable his tomb has not
been yet discovered. Besides the personages al-
ready mentioned it is known that Domitian Trajan
and other emperors enlarged their palaces.
It was a singular feeling with nothing of reverence
or of affection in it that arose in my mind as
I traversed these vast chambers darkened by
the superincumbent ruins with high torch
lights scanning frescos and arabesques of
the Roman Eagle, the Roman Gods, and nymphs
their feats, their triumphs, their nuptials
their repose. I thought that the highest ideas of
humans admit ^even^ Rome had conceived were Power
and Art. But their ^subvert^ history has lent them
new attractions. The Christians worshipped
there clandestinely during the persecution, and
they have left their calendars on the walls
by the side of the Roman picture of the
birth of Romulus. Raphael


wandered through
these desolate Halls and copied these
Arabesques and used them as models
in his monumental paintings in the Loggia of
the Vatican.
Tomorrow morning I leave Rome by
way of the steamer on the Mediterranean for
Page 4

Naples. My stay there will be much shorter
than my sojourn here.
I have told you in the notes only what
I have seen and what seemed most important–
Of Political matters I have said little, for
I must see more of Italy before I can form any
idea even of the politics of Rome.
I have not spoken of even one of forty painters
magnificent works either of which would
be a great addition to the elegance of our
American capital . Of the Bridges equally ar-
tistic and elegant over the yellow Tiber. Rome
is old, and dull and black, medieval
and inconvenient. But when you have been in
it long enough to forget its general aspect, and
to see distinctly and without prejudice its archi-
tectural and artistic embellishments, it is then
that it rises up in majesty before you surpassing
in elegance all the Capitols of the whole world.
I shall leave it with regret, regret that I am
never to study it more ^but^ with thankfulness that
I have been permitted to realize the a great
dream of my life by looking upon it in mature
How strange that I have about forgotten to tell you
Page 5

that I visited this morning Mr Gibsons
Birth: 1790-06-19 Death: 1866-01-27
studio and saw
there his Pandora, opening the fated box, and his
Venus colored and painted according to life. They
are productions worthy of the ancients. There too I in-
vaded Miss Hosmer’s
Birth: 1833
study and regretting her ab-
sence. How I was tempted by her Beatrice Cenci
Birth: 1577-02-06 Death: 1599-09-11

and her Pack, An American may well be proud
of her success.
I write disquietedly on the eve of departure
and in the hurry of packing up. with the cameos
of Guidos Ecce Homo are two other of lesser
size. All those were blessed by the Pope at my
request for presents. One of them is for Frances
Birth: 1826-12-12 Death: 1909-08-24
, the other for Mary Grier
Birth: 1839-09-05 Death: 1930-06-04
, all are
to be set in the best style and it may be done
when you can get it best done at Auburn or
in New York. You must see that it is done and
that Aunty, Cousin Frances and Mary Grier receive
theirs all duly set.
9 O.Clock Saturday night.
My entries of today are abrupt and irregular. I have
room to say that I defer for Naples to buy something more
though not for you or ^your^ mother. Rome deals in jewelry of
one kind Naples in jewelry of another, peculiar, and
quite as beautiful. The Roman scarfs are for
Mother Aunty, yourself, Anna, and Frances Warden,
The "rolled photograph of Guido’s Aurora I think
Page 6

better than any copy of it ever made. It must have
a good frame with one large clear glass. I reserve
it for myself, as the old man
did his horse
and wagon when I was drawing his will.
I have just been on the Height called Monte
Maius The Hill of Maius which overlooks even
St Peter and every other hill and monument in Rome.
I rode uncovered and singly and took leave of
every renowned honored venerated object, bidding a
final adieu to the eternal city, wondering ^for^ how
many centuries now it would be the pilgrimage
of those who love Liberty, delight in art or
cultivate religion. In coming through the low
narrow dark and vulgar streets, I saw a
crowd entering the Church of San Augustine .
I stopped and followed them. The Host was
being carried in procession and the people were
on their knees. This ceremony ended the people
gathered and knelt before a lady of surpassing
beauty, with a child on her arm. The columns of this
church, massive and high were covered with tributes of
gold and silver and precious stones that had been
made to her by hundreds – nay thousands of admirers
her hair, her forehead, her arms, every part of
her figure sparkled with diamonds ^and other stones^ arranged
in curious coronets , necklaces pendants brace-
lets Twenty golden lamps arranged around her
Page 7

brought out the luster of the diamonds like so many
stars. A pretty foot naked foot peeked out
from beneath her dress. Presently a little bell
tinkled, Each member of all the congregation
rose, male, female, old and young rose at
once, and in order advanced and knelt
and kissed that pretty foot sweetly. Who do
you think was this honored lady, It was the
Virgin Mary in marble, robed in gold, the
child was the infant savior. She has been
performing miracles for the faithful for
many a year. She relieves the sick, she averts
disease, she brings the mariners here in
safety from the dark seas, she upholds
men who fall from ladders or high places
and makes an easy bed for them to fall
upon, She cures the diseases of the pig, the
vine and the olive and makes them fruitful.
She extinguishes fires, All this she does when
invoked, and these gifts the presents of the poor
and of the Kings and Princes of Europe are votive
offerings that she has well merited. But she
does those things not by her own power or
strength, but by her availing intercession
with the God of all Mercies, the Father
of all men – I fear you will not respect
Rome the more for this detail, Lest we
Page 8

reconcile you by another.
The Propaganda College receives pupils
in infant years from all quarters of the
globe and trains them free of cost until they
enter in their ministry and go abroad as
missionaries. It examines them carefully and
awards premiums and punitives according
to the merit of the youth. France England
the United States, North South East & West
have pupils here as also have China and
Africa. Three or four days ago a negro

black but tall graceful and contemplative
an African took the prayer. Every day the
students walk for exercise among the
villas and ruins of Rome, in long procession,
How it would scandalize many a devout
Christian in America to see as I have seen
every afternoon that negro youth at the head
of the school in easy and conferred and
honored pre-eminence!
And now once more Rome, mother of
dear civilizations farewell.
Page 9

WHS to Fas
from Rome

[right Margin] Nov 18