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Title: [Letter] 1848 Oct. 12, Rome, [Italy] [to Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jackson Donelson] / Mary [Emily Donelson Wilcox] : a machine readable transcription of an image
Author:Wilcox, Mary Emily Donelson
Availability:

This work is the property of the Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, TN. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching, and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text. For all other use contact the Tennessee State Library and Archives, 403 Seventh Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37243-0312. (615) 741-2764.

Date: October 12, 1848
Extent: 4p
Summary:This document is a letter written by Mary Emily Wilcox to her parents Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jackson Donelson, dated October 12, 1848. Donelson was serving as minister to Germany at the time, and Mary writes her letter to him from Italy, where she, her brother, and sister have been travelling. Mary relates some of the experiences of their trip, discusses cities and sites they have visited, and comments on the atmosphere in Italy and her overall fondness of the place. This visit is during a year of nationalist insurgencies throughout the Italian peninsula, and she remarks on this as well.
Collection:A. J. Donelson Papers
Box:I-D-3
Folder:3
Document:sl286
Keywords:




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Rome .October. 12th. 1848.
[added: Recd. [Received] 25th Oct. [October] 1848]My dear Ma and Pa,

We arrived on last sunday evening in this eternal city, famed as the former mistress of the world & consecrated by the glorious deeds of its warriors, its antiquity, & the numerous monuments of art that still repose within its walls. Since then we have been busy visiting its curiosities & have seen the Pantheon , the former temple of heathen divinities, the Coliseum , where romans once met to witness the exploits of their gladiators & where the earlier christians suffered martyrdom for their cross & bible; the roman forum, covered with the ruins of temple & triumphal arches; the capitol, built on the site of the one, where roman senators once met to frame laws for the world & where Cesar [Caesar] , triumphant o'er his countrys foes, died by the hand of this friend. We have stood on the spot where the sacred fire of the vestals once burnt, walked o'er the ground where Cicero delivered his famous oration, visited the prison where Saints Paul and Peter were imprisoned & seen the spring that burst from the earth for them to baptize the converted gaolers [jailers] . There are 366 churches in the town, each one is worthy of observation & many are models of architecture & magnificence. The St. Peter , the noblest of christian temples, is a dowry of itself. Numerous artists of genius have enriched the many museums here & contributed to render them the most superior in the world. The antique statues & paintings, that have served as guides to modern artists are preserved in them & give them an interest possessed by few other museums. At present Rome is a perfect paradise, the whole day is like a spring morning in Tennessee , there is a continual breeze, & the orange, lemon, fig, olive & palm trees are in all their glory. The g vine is still laden with grapes, & the gardens are as bright




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& beautiful as ever. We have eaten watermelons, chessnuts [chestnuts] & roasting — ears, & plucked the oranges & figs from the trees & sat beneath their boughs & ate them. They have grapes, pears, oranges, figs, apples, chessnuts & flowers here all the year, never see snow, & have perpetual verdure. One never hears of war, or revolution, & indeed I believe one half of the population of southern Italy is unaware of the war in Lombardy . The pope is rather unpopular. We were 10 days in Naples . It is a beautiful, tho' noisy city, & the most thickly inhabited place I ever saw, there are 40—000 lazzaroni in the town — a set of people whose profession is stealing & begging, who sleep in the streets, eat nothing but maccaroni [macaroni] & watch like foxes strangers' pockets. It is almost impossible to walk in the streets & very dangerous to carry a purse, handkercheif [handkerchief], or anything else in one's pocket. The king is a prisoner in his own palace & does not dare to step out, as his life has been threatened. I would not be in his place for all the crowns in christendom. He is said to be a very good & pious man & not the rascal we imagine him to be in Germany & the United States . Mr. Rowan , our minister there, was I exceedingly kind to us & contributed much to render our stay agreeable. We found him on our arrival in the lazaretto, a place where persons coming from suspected places are detained for a fortnight. He had been to Palermo to see our consul who was wearing the rebel badge & had recognized the revolution in Sicily , & on his return was put into the lazaretto, because the Cholera was said to be in Palermo. His family were in a great rage & made such a fuss that they were obliged to let him out. We visited Herculaneum & Pompei — two of the most striking examples of the mutability of earthly things —, their ruins testify to their former splendor, & I almost wept when I sat on the fallen pillars that once supported their temples & thought beneath me two once powerful cities lay entombed. On the 5th October we ascended the Mount Vesuvius .




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Sister & I commenced on foot, but the ascent was so steep & the sand so deep that we were obliged to take chaises a porteur [porter] to the plain, where we descended & scrambled over the lava the rest of the way to the place where the fire issues. The lava was so hot as to burn out feet through our shoes, I smoke was issuing from every crevice & scenting the air with sulphur, we heard the fire boiling as in a furnace around & beneath us & saw the stream of red hot lava burst as a spring from a rock from the earth & pour down the side of the mountain. We could not go to the edge of the crater, because it was throwing out too many rocks. The descent was a regular slide with the sand above our eyes [added: knees] & stones, sand & fine lava pelting our heads & backs. From the summit we had a noble view of the numberless villages & beautiful country around, of the sea with its many green islets & the lovely bays of Naples, Sorrentum & Salerno , the desolate sides of Vesuvius, where not a leaf of green waves contrasted well with the luxuriant valley beneath with its orange, lemon, fig & olive trees, all laden with fruit, & the silent ruins of Herculaneum & Pompei well with the gay & bustling city of Naples. On the 5th September , just a month before, we ascended from Chamouny the Montanvert & walked on the mer-de-glace with the pinnacles of ice above & around us & heard in the distance the roaring of the avalanches that often descend & bury beneath them whole villages. Thus in the short space of a month we have visited the regions of eternal fire & eternal ice. We were 8 days in Florence . It is a little nest of fine paintings & statues & a very eden for a lover of art. We met Mr. Greaves there & were escorted by him to the many galleries, palaces, gardens & promenades that distinguish this lovely city Genoa , the birthplace of our beloved Columbus , is a beautiful place & has one street, composed entirely of palaces, that is said to be the finest in the world. There is a magnificent church there dedicated to John the Baptist , who spent his last day in Genoa, his bones & last raiment are preserved there [added: with] there catholic care. Whilst we were there




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the populace were destroying the citadel, built by the government to suppress insurrections, & from which they could destroy Genoa in 10 minutes. It cost a great deal of money & is said to cost the government now a great deal of anxiety. Turin is another neat, pretty place, & indeed all the italian towns are handsome, the streets are generally wide, well paved & clean, the houses are tastefully built & then the many palaces, gardens, curious fountains, statues, splendid churches, altars consecrated to the virgin, temples & monuments in ruin give them a romantic appearance. One can have no idea ere visiting Italy of the splendor of its churches, they exceed the most extravagant descriptions of travellers & speak well for the devotion of catholics. Images of the virgin are exposed in the street & almost every catholic mother as she passes by them lifts up her child to kiss them. The italian sky is clear & mild & I wonder not that painting, sculpture & poetry have flourished so beneath it. The italian women are very handsome & graceful, & the men very fine looking, tho' fond of ease & pleasure. We have made rather [added: three] trips on the mediterranean , once we had very bad stormy weather & were very sick, but the [added: two] other times the sea was calm & we enjoyed ourselves very much. The diligences & steamboats do not start as regularly now as they did in more peaceful times & hence we have been detained a great deal on the road. We have been as buy as bees in summer & been on the wing generally from 8 in the morning till 6 in the evening when we dine. Sister is as well as well can be & has enjoyed herself very much. Brother has become quite witty & keeps Sister a laughing half of the time. I hope Johnny has left Berlin ere this, for I have been very uneasy about him. We received your letter addressed to Naples & those addressed to Rome & will try to join you as soon as possible. I wish you could spend this winter in Italy, far from [added: the] revolutions & the cold wind of the north. You would not regret, I am sure, the change. Sister & Brother join in love to you, Johnny & the children. We are very grateful to you for allowing us to take this trip & have endeavored to show our gratitude by taking advantage of the instruction the antiquities of this country afford. Kiss Martin & Daniel for me & believe me

Your devoted daughter
Mary
[added: P.S [Post Script] . Remember me affectionately to Mr. & Mrs. Fag , should they be in Frankfurt . M. [Mary]]



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