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John Stuart Blackie
Chapter V. Rome 1830 - 1831


JOHN BLACKIE was hurried away from Berlin by his impetuous friends, John and Francis Forbes, who arrived on the scene earlier than they were expected, and stayed a much shorter time than was quite convenient. Excellent fellows as they were, their patriotism was of that type which scorns to be greatly interested in foreign sights, and it disposed them to make short work of a tour imposed upon them by the paternal wisdom, but offering no particular attractions to sound Calvinists and practical Aberdonians. Francis scouted as ridiculous John Blackie's assertion that he could stop a week at every place they passed, and being a masterful spirit, he swept the little party forward. Now and then young Blackie rebelled, and insisted on a longer stay where his interest was specially awakened. Their first halt was at Dresden, from which place he wrote to his father. This letter describes the hurry imposed on his final arrangements and leave-takings at Berlin, but speaks with sincere regard of his comrades. He managed to take impressive farewells not only of Miss Minna Doering, but also of other gracious Fräulein, who deigned to accept the little volumes of English poetry which he offered as parting tokens, not without a tear or two on either side—those facile Teutonic tears that come for little, and go as they come.

The farewell visits to the Professors were of sterner stuff, and less evanescent in their results. For Neander gave him a most valuable introduction to Mr Bunsen, Prussian Ambassador at the Papal Court; and Boeckh provided him with a letter to Professor E. Gerhard, an archologist at Rome of European fame. Another friend opened the doors of the kindly confraternity of painters by making him known to two chiefs of the order.

He packed up all his German books, along with a number of engravings collected for his father, and despatched them in two heavy boxes to Aberdeen. A third box went to Mr Peter Merson at Elgin, full of the rarer works which that gentleman had desired, and which Leipsic and Berlin had proved competent to furnish; and so, having got rid of these weightier matters, he equipped himself for further travel, and started for Dresden on March 25.

The trio stayed some days there for the sake of the picture-galleries, and then proceeded by Prague to Vienna, which they reached in time for the Easter ceremonies, and where they found so much to interest them that they remained twelve days. Mr and Mrs Jackson were at the inn where they put up, and made pleasant return for John Blackie's kindness to their son in Berlin. But a misfortune overtook him here which abated his satisfaction with the tribute of praise now and again granted by the home authorities to his thrift and financial management. He had gone with his friends to a sumptuous Easter ceremonial in the Cathedral of St Stephen, his pocket-book which contained a letter of credit for a considerable sum of money, being in the inner pocket of his coat. The crush was tremendous, and the young men had pushed their way through a mixed crowd to get good places. When these were secured, John clapped his hand to his pocket, to find it turned inside out, and, of course, empty. Of ready money there was not more than fifty shillings lost; but at first he was inconsolable, as the letter of credit was for a sum sufficient not only to carry him to Rome, but to pay his expenses there for two months at least. The sacristan and he searched the church in vain, the police were applied to without success; but finally, on going to report his loss to the bank, he was comforted with the information that no one could make use of his letter of credit, as both the bank in question and all the other houses interested had his signature. He was half afraid, however, that his father might be sufficiently annoyed with his carelessness to recall him to Aberdeen, and he protested sportively that rather than that should happen he would enlist in the Italian army, or become a monk in a Roman monastery - two professions for which he felt himself to be eminently qualified.

The banker supplied him at once with money, so that, except for the temporary anxiety and for the shock to his self-esteem, which he so frankly admits, the incident proved harmless, and his father was too sensible a man to treat it otherwise than lightly.

From Vienna the little party travelled slowly through Styria and Carinthia to Trieste, at the rate of about fifty miles a-day, spending the nights at the ordinary stages. When they came to Laybach they stayed two nights, so as to spend the intervening day in visiting the grotto of Adelsberg, with whose mighty halls and tunnels they were much impressed. Leaving Carniola, they took about three days to cover the road to Trieste. Here they rested a time, and then proceeded, always with the help of a vetturno, to Venice, where they made a week's halt. Francis Forbes distinguished himself as general manager and contractor, reducing extortionate vetturini to reason and paying them just one- half of what they demanded. From Venice they made their way by Ancona and Bologna to Rome without hindrance or mishap, heartily tired of the long jogging days, and as yet not at all enthusiastic about Italy and its sunny plains. Fatigue and hurry seem to have spoilt the last few days of travel, and John Blackie was heartily glad when they came to an end, and he was quietly housed in two comfortable rooms in the Via Due Macelli, close to the Piazza di Spagna. He was glad, too, to resume his own independence of action, for he had been constrained to adapt himself to the somewhat imperious direction of his companions during nearly two months, and as he was no longer either ignorant of his own will or incompetent to use it, the strain had required all his philosophy and that control of his temper which is always difficult to a young and eager spirit conscious of varied needs and interests and curbed by circumstances. It marks the discipline to which he had already attained, that his complaint of these circumstances is always gentle, and even tempered by admiration. But the relief is evident in the bright letter in which he signals to his father his settlement as a free and independent lodger in the Via Due Macelli.

He dined every day at a trattoria in the Piazza di Spagna, at that time much frequented by artists, and took his afternoon cup of coffee in the well-known Caffe Greco. He delivered his letters of introduction to Severn and Gibson, and through them became admitted to a fellowship with the artists in Rome which was both socially delightful and roused in him the dormant faculty of seeing. He began almost at once to take lessons in drawing, and so equipped his vision for daily discoveries.

His letters from Rome begin at quite an early date to be illustrated by neat little pen-and-ink sketches of the columns and statues which he described, and although he did not pursue this accomplishment after leaving Italy, it is certain that from this time he began to look at the world of nature and that of art more fully instructed what to seek in either. It is notable that he was not at this time greatly impressed with the beauties of nature. He says himself that "his delights were with the sons of men," that the veriest rag of humanity was more interesting to him than the finest landscape, and that he regarded the latter as but a fitting scene for the action of the former. Homer, Shakespeare, and Browning were of the same mind as to the relative importance of man and nature, but all three mighty poets knew nature well, and could in a brief flash of words illumine her features and her moods. John Blackie learned in later life to love her better, and, as we shall find, to, seek the companionship of her mountains and moors, and to accept their message.

It is not wonderful that he should at once have begun to investigate the Roman Catholic religion as demonstrated in its acts of worship and ethical results in Rome. At first the piety of the Italian people attracted him—the little services reverentially offered at street corners and at humble shrines, the "Ave Maria" of the vesper hour, the tender devoutness of kneeling peasants in the open basilicas; and so much did this side of the worship appeal to him that for two whole days he was seriously disturbed by doubts whether, after all, the right form of Christian worship were not to be found in the Roman Church. It was natural that, diverted as he had been from Calvinistic theology, his open mind should be ready to receive impressions from these incidents in the drama of the Church. Ever and again the faithful devotion of the poor, their eyes filled with wistful veneration of some vast mystery which it were sacrilege to probe, attracts sensitive hearts to their worship; but the mind taught to put aside a material pageantry, and to commune with the Divine, soon rejects the fleeting influence. John Blackie was not yet fully schooled, but he was honestly seeking "a religion to live by," and it was soon apparent to him that Roman Catholicism bore few of the desirable fruits of righteousness. That there were saints in that Church as well as in others he discovered, but they were so by special grace. The tyranny over heart and intellect, the low level of energy and aspiration to which the system condemned its subjects, the childish attitude encouraged by shows and superstitions, the canker of immorality in high places, the greed and luxury of clerical princes and prelates, revolted him, and as these things grew confirmed to his observation, he vented his indignation in a torrent of eloquence to his mother, who must have been reassured by the outburst as to any evil forebodings caused by his first sentimental interest in the Church. This letter contains scarcely a sentence of practical information. He wrote it at a white heat of invective, and forgot to curb himself by the epistolary rules imposed upon him. It. was, therefore, notwithstanding- its staunch Protestantism, rather a failure in the home circle, anxious for descriptions and personal details, and he was reproved accordingly. He bore the discipline well, and admitted his failings as a correspondent with cheery humour.

He was acquiring Italian rapidly, his knowledge of Latin bridging the difficulties. He made few acquaintances amongst Italians, however, although their kindliness attracted him; but he was at this time so prepossessed with his debt to the German type of mind and character, that he was not yet capable of acknowledging their claims to sympathetic study. He commented on this afterwards :-

The Italians made decidedly no impression upon me, not because they had not much that was worthy of my love, but because my heart was already preoccupied by the Germans. The world with which I was specially occupied was the world of thoughts within my own soul, which I was anxious to humanise and to unify, and in this task I had to struggle into clearness by the help of the Bible and of the Germans. To any questions that I had to put, the Italian oracles were altogether dumb. I made no intimate acquaintance among that people. I was possessed by a feeling that a vast gulf divided them and me, which it was impossible to overbridge. The Germans had laid hold of me firmly in Gottingen and Berlin, and they kept that hold in Rome. There was a great narrowness about this, no doubt, but young men are naturally narrow, especially those in whom the subjective element is preponderant.

But his visits to the great collections of Rome and to the ruins of its ancient glory inspired him with the desire to stay during the coming winter, and to devote himself to classical study in their neighbourhood. He wrote to his father requesting his permission to do this, and offering to give up Paris altogether, as of secondary importance to his aim. He described the openings which Rome offered for further study of Latin and Greek literature, for more intimate acquaintance with Grecian and Roman art, and for such a detailed study of Roman history as would fit him very thoroughly for the position to which he now aspired—that of Professor of Humanity in some Scottish University. He admitted that, although this favour might be granted him, his ability to profit by it might not equal his ambition, but he promised that his industry should at all events aim at the latter. He urged his father to send him a speedy answer, as his desire to remain had fevered him with anxiety, and he proposed to divert his thoughts by going to Naples in the interval which must elapse before the answer could reach Rome. It is interesting to find this letter prefaced by some verses freely translated, or rather paraphrased, from Horace, his father's favourite poet; and although this was probably not the first instance of a tendency to weave his more urgent emotions into rhyme, which became a constant characteristic of his later life, it is the earliest example given in his correspondence. He pressed his suit in these verses, which contrast all other cities with Rome, and end—

"For though in Rome I should for ages pore,
Not even then were all my studies o'er."

He suggested, too, that should he never sit on the academic stool, at least he would be a most learned divine.

The wife and daughters of his acquaintance, the German pastor, were about to visit Naples, and he decided to share their carriage and have the pleasure of their company. But fate had prepared for him an absurd trick, which turned the journey into an adventure. A certain Captain Blacker had made himself obnoxious in the kingdom of Naples, and instructions lay at the consulates to prevent his crossing the frontier. John Blackie was summoned to the Farnesina, where resided the Neapolitan Consul, and he was there informed that his passport was not satisfactory, as it certified only a "Monsieur Blackie," and gave no information with regard to his profession. He applied to Mr Bunsen, who guaranteed his innocence of the inconvenient behaviour of the objectionable captain, and the Consul was good enough to admit that he looked both young and harmless.

He started with the ladies about the end of June, passing through Papal territory until they reached Terracina, the frontier stage. Here they underwent the delay and vexatious inspection incident to those times, but his passport proved equal to the occasion. When they reached Mola di Gaeta, where they halted for the night, their passports were again delivered up to the authorities. At supper the travellers were disturbed by the arrival of the police. It was politely intimated to John Blackie that his name was suspicious, and that further inquiries must be made, pending which he was requested to consider himself detained. In vain he explained himself; the police inspector agreed that his appearance was not that of a carbonaro English captain, but with all courtesy maintained his position that black crosses marked the name of Blackie in their register. The ladies appealed to the obdurate official, and did their best to beguile him from his untoward sense of duty, but in vain, and their cavalier, stamping up and down the room and exploding in mingled wrath and mirth, found himself a prisoner on parole. His passport was sent to Rome for identification, and three days passed before it was returned. The ladies stayed with him during the first day of his captivity, and the whole party wandered about Gaeta and through the grounds of Cicero's villa of Forrni, where the great Orator of Rome collected his library of valuable manuscripts, where Clodius wreaked his miserable vengeance, and where, when it was rebuilt and readorned on his return from exile, Cicero sought refuge from the bravos of Antony, perishing at their hands in his feeble efforts to escape. This exploration was of great interest to the "prisoner of Gaeta," for Cicero was still his favourite author, and he could furnish his companions with all the details of that tragic day. But the ladies were not able to prolong their stay, and so mounted their vettura, and drove away on the second morning. He spent the two intervening days as best he could, and rejoiced greatly when the evening of the second brought not only his permit to proceed, but two gentlemen on their way to Naples whom, by good fortune, he had met in Rome, and who being Germans, and of friendly disposition, made the closing hours of his captivity cheerful, and gave him a seat in their carriage to Naples next day.

These friends became his constant companions in Naples, and together they visited both the art collections of the city and the memorable districts in its neighbourhood. A few lines of his own contemporary description will best indicate the ground which he covered during a stay of five weeks. The wholesome enthusiasm of youth tends towards grandiloquence. He wrote on August 8 :-

I have visited all the marvellous regions celebrated in the 6th book of Virgil and the 10th book of the 'Odyssey'; I have stood on the promontory of Cume, where the Trojan hero consulted the god of oracles through the medium of the Sibylla; I have seen the still and deep waters of the infernal Lake of Avernus; I have stood on the ruins of the magnificent palaces of the ancient masters. of the world in Bake and Pozzuoli; I have traversed the silent streets of Pompeii, and with torch-light disturbed the subterranean stillness of Herculaneum; I have seen the barren streams of lava which mark the destructive course of Vesuvian fire, and I have heard the boiling of its caldron; I have visited Capri, wild and romantic abode of the most diabolic of all Roman emperors, Tiberius; I have seen the now Uncovered ruins of his lofty palace, and I have trod on the mosaic staircase once trod by the tyrannic feet of this monster and his praetorian guard; I have visited the volcanic island of Ischia, which, though at present not tormented by eruptions, is yet shaken to its centre by earthquakes: all this I have seen, and let me add ,besides ç—the old temples of Pestum, which, having withstood for ages the attacks of time of Goths and Saracens, stand now fast and immovable in almost their ancient splendour, as if to mock the more splendid yet less solid edifices of the moderns.

Amongst his excursions from Naples must not be omitted a visit of some days to Sorrento, where the German ladies from whom he parted at Gaeta were staying, and it was in their agreeable company that he visited Capri and wandered on its heights.

He busied himself during the final week in collecting minerals, engravings, casts, and coins for his father and mother, and he alluded in his letters to the anxiety with which he looked forward to the news from home which would decide his fate for the winter.

He returned to Rome about the middle of August, to find a kindly letter from his father cordially granting his petition. It filled him with a grateful impulse to set about immediately the more intimate study of the classics which he proposed. Mr Bunsen introduced him to some of the Roman libraries, where he found old and rare editions of the Latin authors; but he was at first even more indebted to the hospitality of an English resident in Rome, Mr Finch, a friend of the Prussian ambassador's and a man of unusual culture. This gentleman had collected a large and very valuable library, and as it contained every critical work in English, French, and German, as well as in Italian, and was, besides, well stored with classical books, John Blackie rejoiced to have the privilege of using its treasures. He borrowed at once both Horace and Virgil, and as Rome was deserted in the heat and stillness of summer, he went to Tivoli, and found in the Sibyl Inn both quarters and two German artists with whom he made terms of good-fellowship.

Here he began to read his Horace, with excursions to every spot in that region commemorated by the poet, while the artists shared his rovings for their art's sake, and were not unwilling to listen to his readings and declamations. For the youth was as the child had been, and Horace was voiced to the Sabine winds. The excursions included, of course, Hadrian's Villa, which impressed him sufficiently to call forth a lengthy description. After a fortnight at Tivoli, he commenced a walking tour through the Sabine district, staying at Olevano and Subiaco, and making them points of departure for prolonged expeditions to the higher ridges of the Apennines. Horace and Virgil in his pocket, provisioned with a piece of bread and cheese, and picking up refreshing draughts of wine at the osteric by the way, swinging a stout walking-stick for support and defence, he would start at sunrise and walk till sunset, resting during the hotter hours for dinner and siesta. In this way he thoroughly explored the country and identified every spot which his poets had commemorated. Sometimes he managed a walk of twenty-four miles in a day, and his excellent health bore witness to his wisdom.

He was delighted with Subiaco, where, as well as at Olevano, he found a bevy of busy artists, and where the hospitalities of the inn and their marvellous cheapness encouraged him not only to prolong his stay, but to return again and again as to a centre. In this fashion he made his way to many points of its radius, and amongst them to Alatri and the plains south of the Volscian mountains. It is worthy of note that he never alludes in his letters to the medieval associations of these places. Benedict and his brier-bush do not seem to have existed for him. His talk is all of Roman and Etruscan, of battles on the heated plains which gods and goddesses alighted to witness from an amphitheatre of peaks. The mighty myths of Virgil were written on all the land, and the pale palimpsest of medieval miracle availed nothing to expunge their sterner characters.

He made acquaintance with an English artist at the inn, and they fell into the habit of taking these long walks together. One of their joint expeditions was to Fucino and its fragmentary lake, and they struck the ancient Via Valeria, which leaves the highroad between Subiaco and Tivoli, on their way. As John Blackie had no passport for this excursion into Neapolitan territory, the magistrates of Subiaco signed a paper declaring him to be a fit and proper traveller. But the police at Celano made much disturbance over the informal document, and he was again in danger of detention. As his object was to visit the antiquities without going farther, they were finally induced to overlook the irregularity, and he returned to Subiaco without scathe to his liberty.

He stayed as long as his funds would permit, for he travelled with little money about him; but so trifling were his expenses—less than two shillings a-day—that it was October before he returned to Rome. Here sad news awaited him. His friend Mr Finch was dead, and a learned German acquaintance, who like himself was pursuing his classical studies in Rome, and whom an academical appointment awaited, had also succumbed to a sudden fever. For a time John Blackie fell into the utmost depression of spirits. He was no match for the grim warrior death, who, not contented with the slain, leaves many sore stricken on the field of his victory. Doubts crowded on his mind, and he brooded himself into a melancholy.

 

Mr Roods, his artist friend, came to the rescue, and carried him off in the lovely autumn weather to the Volscian hills, where they visited Velletri, Con, Norba, Ninfa, and Segni, always on foot, walking from twenty to twenty-five miles a-day, and resting at the white towns, which glitter like "grains of salt" amongst the sunny heights. Here, as Mr Roods sketched temples, convents, and contaclirt'i, John Blackie aspired to do likewise, and had what he called "a fit of the drawing madness." He got on fairly well, and his friend taught and encouraged him. From the hills they descended to the Pontine Marshes, and walked across to Civita Lavinia, Virgil in hand. Then the short walk to Nemi brought them to its mysterious lake, and skirting its shores, they made their way to Palazzuola, to the site of Alba Longa, and so round the Alban Lake to Marino, avoiding the main route through Albano. They returned to Rome by the end of the third week in October, with health, spirits, and energy completely restored.

He alluded to the "drawing madness" in a letter to his sister Christina, which indicates also that he had given up his rooms in the Via Due Macelli, and had established himself in the Via di Ripetta. The huge folio sheet was mainly filled by a lengthy metrical effusion entitled " The Monk's Sermon and the Devil's Annotations," and announced to be a satire on Catholicism; but it is to be feared that his verses were not so much appreciated at home as his narrations, and his sister expressed herself severely as to the undue preponderance of the former. But he apologised as follows :-

You see I am verse-mad. But you know I am subject to various kinds of madness, and of frequent recurrence. In Aberdeen I got religious-mad; then I got Latin-mad; now I am verse-mad and drawing-mad, and am getting fast antiquity-mad. Out of this never-ending fermenta- tion may something good arise, that I may not be eternally driven about by every wind of doctrine. But, as it is, I have no more command over my whims and fancies than a henpecked husband has over his wife.

His study of the antiquities of Rome now began in good earnest, and included a thorough re- search into the literature of architecture. Mr Finch's death had closed all access to his valuable library, but the German artists, whose society he frequented, introduced him to their library, in which he found copious works on art, antiquities, and architecture. Professor Gerhard, to whom he was introduced by Boeckh's letter, received him with great kindness, and on learning the bent of his studies, gave him much assistance by suggestions which regulated the order of his reading, as well as by books and papers on special archaeological subjects.

His letters during November and December contain abstracts of these studies, and one of them gives an excellent account in brief of the Roman Forum, then known as the Campo Yaccino. They are illustrated by drawings of columns, capitals, and architraves, and must have satisfied the inquiring minds of the Blackie household better than the rhymes of former effusions. In a letter to Aunt Manie he thus describes his days in Rome:-

I rise about seven, and after reading a chapter of the Bible and composing a prayer out of it, I go and make my breakfast, which consists simply of a cup of coffee and bread. Till mid-day I read in the Minerva Library. Then I come home, and after lunching, study and draw. After drawing till about three o'clock in the afternoon, I go every second day to my drawing-master, with whom I remain an hour and a half, then stroll about till five, when I go to the restaurateur and meet my friends and dine. After dinner I either read at home or go to the German pastor's, where there is German society, and where we have rational discourse on all subjects, religious and worldly. These parties generally end with a chapter of the Bible and a prayer. On Sundays I go to the German church, take a walk, read Klopstock and the Bible, and in the evening visit the Prussian Ambassador, who on these evenings has most beautiful sacred music. I have also a general invitation to his week-day evening parties, as well as to those given by the Duchess of TorIonia, where 1 see all the beauties of Rome, a sight worth all the musty antiquarian and Latin books that were ever written.

One of these letters hints at a possible book on Roman antiquities, to be published when he returned to Aberdeen; but as his knowledge increased, the vastness of the subject disheartened him.

His steady church - going and Bible reading testify to the constant flame of devotional feeling in his nature, because at this time his mind was quite unsettled concerning doctrinal religion. He was shedding the hard husk of Calvinism, and was unwilling to accept the effusive self-exaltation of the early Evangelicals, being too young yet to be wisely tolerant and to see beyond the workers to the work. Their ignorance of the Holy Scriptures in any but the obvious sense, and their refusal to study them with any candid system of interpretation, - what he termed their "canting and ranting harangues," distinguished too often by prejudice and not by wisdom,—estranged him from their party, although amongst them he acknowledged men of sincere personal religion, anxious only for the best interests of mankind. From time to time, unable to feel himself at one with any professed religious party, he fell into fits of deep dejection. Visions of death, judgment, and eternal perdition filled and paralysed his mind. Mr Bunsen, a man whose diplomatic ability owed its exceptional influence to his rare and Christian character, came now and again to his rescue, and the German pastor availed him too in times of need. On one occasion Bunsen took him to his own study and questioned him about his religious convictions, urging him with such tender earnestness that John Blackie burst into tears. Another time, when in a scoffing strain he alluded to the doctrine of eternal damnation, Bunsen called him sharply to order, reminding him "that the duration of other men's damnation was no business of his, that he would find enough to do attending to his own personal religion, and that damnation of some kind or other was sure to follow on all unrepented sin." The older man, matured and ennobled by Christianity, was displeased to find this clever youth, in whom he took an interest, wasting his energy in "boggling among dark theological questions of no practical value."

It was during an access of depression that he visited one morning the Hanoverian Ambassador, Mr Kestner, interesting to us as the son of Werthers Charlotte,—to whom he had been introduced by Mr Bunsen. Mr Kestner amused his leisure by drawing portraits of his friends, and on this particular morning he was busy with a study of John Blackie's head. Watching his sitter, he divined his state, and questioned him with gentle persistence. John Blackie confessed his despair at his own protracted immaturity. "Believe me," said Kestner, "your slow growth predicts a rich ripening: the larger nature needs long development."

So wise a sympathy served to dispel the present cloud, and to ward off its approach at many an after-time.

His Christmas Eve was spent with the Bunsens, and he speaks of the kindness which they showed him on this occasion, Mrs Bunsen having provided a rare and beautiful engraving for his Christmas gift. He began the new year with a thorough investigation into his gains from that just completed, and this investigation seems to have made him realise more than ever his great indebtedness to his father, and the duty, growing ever plainer, of putting a period to that indebtedness by fitting himself as soon as possible for remunerative work. This meant more and more a professorial chair, and we find him redoubling his efforts to become qualified for so honourable a post.

His friend Professor Gerhard suggested that a minute study of some antique has - relief or inscriptioii, winch had not yet been made the subject of an archeological paper, might not only concentrate his labours, but might have scope for all in Latin or Italian likely to promote his ends. The advice was good, and he changed the field of his researches from the Forum to the Vatican, whose marvellous collection gave him a larger choice. Here he made lists of likely subjects, drawing them up to the extent of his artistic attainments, - which had taught him the important lesson of overlooking no detail,—and studying them at home. Books in Latin, Greek, French, German, and Italian were needed for this work, and these he procured either from Professor Gerhard or by making copious extracts in the Minerva Library. IV! hen Mr Gerhard's books and manuscripts were too valuable to be lent, he had the privilege of frequenting his rooms and copying the informing passages at his very study-table. His gifts and assiduity pleased the Professor, whose own industry industry was immense, and who hoped to make a useful archaeologist of his young friend.

The part which Greek necessarily took in such a quest awoke his dormant interest in that language, and that interest shortly resolved itself into fuller study. He had made the acquaintance in Rome of a young Greek student, and at once engaged him to give him two lessons weekly in modern Greek. With quick observation he noted that the language of Homer had suffered but little change, and that while three thousand years have seen the rise of many a modern tongue, while Latin has given birth to a whole sisterhood of varying dialects, while tongues have lived and died or linger obscurely in the patois of insignificant valleys, Greek is still spoken in the streets of Athens and in the villages of the Peloponnesus changed in but few inflections from the language of Pericles and Agesilaus. From this time dates his enthusiasm for Greek. The rapidity with which he acquired its modern form astonished his teacher, with whom he always talked in Greek. Homer, Eschyles, and Sophocles became instinct with life, and were soon companions as constant as Virgil and Horace.

Busy as he was with increase of his store, he seems to have felt much timidity about his own power to make use of it. In a letter to his father dated January 20, 1831, he says:-

I have always been haunted with a want of confidence. I always fear that what I could say or write on a subject would not be worth the hearing or reading. But too much of such a fear is childish, and I must pull up all my courage to shake it off.

In these lines we have evidence not only of healthy modesty, but of that sanity of practical judgment upon which all worthy living depends.

The death of the Pope and the accession of Gregory XVI. took place about this time, and he wrote with interest in the uprising of many nations against tyranny, and rejoiced that even in Italy, Bologna, Ancona, and Ravenna were giving the newly invested Pontiff and his College of Cardinals some flutter of uneasiness. Indeed, as the days passed, the news that a rebel army was on the march for Rome, and that the Pope had gone to Civita Castellana, where he was mustering the Papal forces, gave all foreign residents a hint to pack up and be ready to leave at a moment's notice; but Mr Bunsen advised John Blackie to stay quietly where he was until the situation at Rome took a definite form. He greatly preferred to stay, and, as events proved, the capital and its immediate States were not yet prepared to throw off the sacerdotal yoke, and the rising in the north was crushed.

John Blackie's lessons in modern Greek helped him to a view of the pronunciation and accentuation of the ancient language, which grew to a conviction as he advanced in its lore. He says in a letter to his father dated January 28 :-

I have a project in my head to set on foot a controversy about the Greek pronunciation, as I think it quite plain that our professors are wrong in not adopting the pronunciation of modern Greek. This is not a dead but a living language.

Thus early did he form an opinion on this point, maintained throughout his public career, and advocated again and again both in newspaper controversy and in academic conclave. Sometimes the longing to extend his travels to Greece breaks out in these letters. His generous father met that longing with a cordial approval, and proposed that he should now leave Rome and spend the spring in making a tour on the mainland and amongst the islands of Greece. The prospect was most alluring; but John Blackie had begun to see how good a thing it is that a man should stand on his own feet,—and every lesson attained in the conduct of life, once become an organic part of his ethical philosophy, grew living and urgent. He declined the offer with dutiful gratitude, on the ground that to go to Greece now would be to sacrifice the completion of his gain in Rome; that, infinite as the pleasure of such a tour would be, it must necessarily be only pleasure; and that to acquire independence on his return to Aberdeen, it was best for him to remain at his post, studying with all the severity which his archologica1 undertaking had imposed upon him. The subject of that undertaking was now selected. It was a bas-relief representing a battle between the Romans and the Germans, and to be seen on a sarcophagus in the Vatican Museum.

It plunged him into the specific study of Greek and Roman armour. To this end he had to search through poets, historians, antiquaries, and lexicographers, had to note and compare the weapons represented on the statues, has reliefs, pictures, and Etruscan vases to which he had access, and finally to identify each with its description in prose or poetry. Professor Gerhard refused to accept any but the most thorough work, and his disciple rejoiced to be forced to model his powers on the learning and industry of the great German archeologist.

A French savant had already made this has- relief the subject of an essay, but had proposed some theory of its motif untenable on full investigation. John Blackie set himself to controvert this writer, but the first draft of his argument was couched in Latin so gusty and highflown that Professor Gerhard declined it, and imposed upon him a quiet and fully detailed statement of his views in unvarnished Italian.

These labours occupied the spring. Early in May his father became anxious for his return. This roused him to a sense of how deeply his interest was now involved in archological pursuits, and as Professor Gerhard proposed to take him for a few days' tour in Etruria, he determined to make an appeal for further leave of absence. He sought Bunsen's aid, and that gentleman wrote to Mr Blackie a letter which is worthy of quotation, not only for the estimate which it expresses of John Blackie, but for the very fact's sake that it is a letter by Chevalier Bunsen :-

ROME, 3d May 1831.

SIR,—I hope you will not find it too great a liberty if I presume to address to you these few lines. Although unknown to you except by the favourable report of my excellent young friend, your son, I have in the first place to thank you for the very kind message you have sent me through him. I assure you that I shall have very great pleasure in coming to Scotland to make your personal acquaintance, and to tell you by word of mouth how glad I have been to have known your son at Rome, whose acquirements, whose pure zeal for the cultivation of his mind, and whose excellent qualities of heart have endeared him to me and my friends in Germany and at Rome to a very high degree.

It is in consequence of his request that I take the liberty of observing to you of what importance it will be to him to be able to finish a literary research he has begun at this place. He scarcely can work it anywhere else but here, on account of the monuments he must observe and describe, and it would certainly be very much to be regretted if he was to give it up entirely, after having bestowed upon it many months of study and research. I feel assured that two months will be sufficient to terminate it; and as he is in the enjoyment of the best health, and always active and busy, I really believe you will for this delay not think him guilty of a breach of promise. He has always expressed to me the highest sense of his filial duties, and 1 am sure he would willingly sacrifice not only every wish, but every laudable scientific pursuit, to a paternal command. But as this positive command does not exist, I request you, sir, not to withhold from him your sanction of such a prolonged stay of two months, which I can give you the most positive assurance will be of most essential use and importance to him. The work which thus he will be able to finish on the spot will do him honour in the literary world of Scotland and of Germany. Forgive, sir, the liberty I am taking, and believe me to be your humble and obliged servant,

J. Bunsen.

When this letter was despatched, John Blackie set out with Professor Gerhard to visit the Etruscan tombs in the neighbourhood of Corneto. Here they went carefully over the sepulchres of the ancient people of Tarquinii and Vulci, which the proprietors, Prince Lucien Buonaparte and two Italian princes, had swept clean of every movable. He wrote a learned and interesting letter on the subject, touching on the controversy, which at that time raged amongst antiquaries, as to the Greek origin of Etruscan or the Etruscan origin of Greek ornament. This letter was published in the 'Edinburgh Literary Journal,' whose editorship had changed hands, the first editor, Mr Henry Glassford Bell, having resigned his charge. Mr Jonathan Bell was in Rome, to his old friend's great satisfaction. He recorded their frequent meetings, and as frequent theological frays, both following the perfervid inborn impulse to battle over doctrines.

During the summer months of June and July, John Blackie was still in Rome revising and correcting, and at length satisfactorily completing, his paper. It passed muster by the end of July, and on August 2 he went out to Frascati to stay with Chevalier and Madame Bunsen at their villa there. One incident of this visit was related in after-years by his host.

One morning when breakfast was on the table and his young guest missing, Mr Bunsen sought him far and near in the grounds of the villa. Guided by tones which rose and swelled and sank with stimulating emphasis, he made his way to a field where grew in serried ranks cabbages, pumpkins, and warlike granturci, and here, addressing the regiments of vegetables in sounding Greek and after the manner of Demosthenes, he found his friend. Perhaps the neighbourhood of Tusculum had filled him with emulation, for just in this manner, we are told, did Cicero perfect his Greek. Though new to Bunsen, the trait was one with which we are already familiar.

About this time he announced his intention so to devote himself to Greek as to become qualified for the Chair of Greek in some University. In the letter which contains this expression of purpose he abjures all thought of the Presbyterian ministry. Mr Jonathan Bell had given it as his opinion that he was neither an archaologist nor a theologian, but emphatically a linguist, and he endorsed his friend's estimate, though he hinted roguishly that there might be the makings of a tragic dramatist amongst his volcanic powers, as there was a constant stream of versification from within overflowing his control. Indeed his letters were written half in rhyme, and roused wrath at home.

He described his visit to Bunsen as delightful. He stayed till the middle of August, and learned many things from his host, amongst others to listen as well as to talk, an exercise which he felt at first to be penitential. Mr Bunsen had conversations with him about personal religion, and told him that he had too readily accepted the conclusions of German scepticism, and that a thorough study of the human mind
might bring home to him the shallowness of all systems which excluded the spiritual and the supernatural. Such lessons were humbling, but he realised that from the lips and example of such a man as his host they were a powerful corrective of the crude mental audacity which these years of freedom had engendered.

He read his essay to Mr Bunsen, who agreed with Professor Gerhard that it was a learned, accurate, and finished production, expressed too in admirable Italian. It was given to the printers at once, and was included in the papers of the 'Annali deli' Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica per 1'Anno 1831.' it won from all experts the utmost praise both for its learning and for its Italian.

This result being secured, he despatched a box of books, prints, coins, and minerals to Aberdeen, sent on his own luggage to Munich, and prepared to leave Rome on September 2. He did so with a heavy heart, regretting most of all to bid farewell to Mr Bunsen, but grieved also to part from many friends, who had made the Eternal City like a second home.


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