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Davenport Dunn, Volume 1 (of 2) A Man Of Our Day   By: (1806-1872)

Davenport Dunn, Volume 1 (of 2) A Man Of Our Day by Charles James Lever

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By Charles Lever,

With Illustrations By "Phiz."

Volume One of Two

London: Chapman And Hall




We are at Como, on the lake that spot so beloved of opera dancers the day dream of prima donnas the Elysium of retired barytones! And with what reason should this be the Paradise of all who have lived and sighed, and warbled and pirouetted, within the charmed circle of the footlights? The crystal waters mirroring every cliff and crag with intense distinctness; the vegetation variegated to the very verge of extravagance; orange trees overloaded with fruit; arbutus only too much bespangled with red berries; villas, more coquettish than ever scene painter conceived, with vistas of rooms within, all redolent of luxury; terraces, and statues, and vases, and fountains, and marble balconies, steeped in a thousand balmy odours, make up a picture which well may fascinate those whose ideal of beauty is formed of such gorgeous groupings. There is something of unreality in the brilliant colouring and variety of the scene suggesting the notion, that at any moment the tenor may emerge, velvet mantle and all, from the copse before you; or a prima donna, in all the dishevelment of her back hair, rush madly to your feet. There is not a portal from which an angry father may not issue; not a shady walk that might not be trod by an incensed basso!

The rustic bridges seem made for the tiny feet of short petticoated damsels, daintily tripping, with white napkin covered baskets, to soft music; and every bench appears but waiting for that wearied old peasant, in blue stockings, a staff, and a leather belt, that has vented his tiresomeness in the same spot for the last half century. Who wonders, if the distracted Princess of "the scene" should love a picture that recalls the most enthusiastic triumphs of her success? Why should not the retired "Feri" like to wander at will through a more enchanting garden than ever she pirouetted in?

Conspicuous amongst the places where these stage like elements abound is the Villa d'Este; situated in a little bay, with two jutting promontories to guard it, the ground offers every possible variety of surface and elevation. From the very edge of the calm lake, terrace rises above terrace, clad with all that is rich and beautiful in vegetation; rocks, and waterfalls, and ruins, and statues abound. Everything that money could buy, and bad taste suggest, are there heaped with a profusion that is actually confounding. Every stone stair leads to some new surprise; every table land opens some fresh and astonishing prospect. Incongruous, inharmonious, tea gardenish as it is, there is still a charm in the spot which no efforts of the vilest taste seem able to eradicate. The vines will cluster in graceful groupings; the oranges will glow in gorgeous contrast to their dark mantle of leaves; water will leap with its own spontaneous gladness, and fall in diamond showers over a grassy carpet no emerald ever rivalled; and, more than all, the beautiful lake itself will reflect the picture, with such softened effects of light and shadow, that all the perversions of human ingenuity are totally lost in the transmission.

This same Villa d'Este was once the scene of a sad drama; but it is not to this era in its history we desire now to direct our reader's attention, but to a period much later, when no longer the home of an exiled Princess, or the retreat where shame and sorrow abandoned themselves to every excess, its changed fortune had converted it into an establishment for the water cure!

The prevailing zeal of our day is to simplify everything, even to things which will not admit of simplicity. What with our local athen├Žums, our mechanics' institutes, our lecturing lords and discoursing baronets, we have done a great deal. Science has been popularised, remote geographies made familiar, complex machinery explained, mysterious inscriptions rendered intelligible... Continue reading book >>

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