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The Romance Of Giovanni Calvotti From Coals Of Fire And Other Stories, Volume II. (of III.)   By: (1847-1907)

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By David Christie Murray

From Coals Of Fire And Other Stories By David Christie Murray In Three Volumes Vol. II.

Chatto & Windus, Piccadilly 1882


I live in an attic. I am in the immediate neighbourhood of a great tavern and a famous place of amusement. The thoroughfare on which I can look whilst I sit at my window is noisy with perpetual traffic. In the midst of London I am more of a hermit than is that pretentious humbug who waves his flag at passing steamers from his rock in the Ægean. I am not a hermit from any choice of mine, or from any dislike of men and women. I am not a hermit because of any dislike which men and women may entertain for me. In my time I have been popular, and have had many friends. If I could find it in my heart at this moment to face some one of those friends, the necessity for a continued hermitage might pass. If I could find it in my heart to write to one of them I might close this lonely vigil to morrow. Let me confess the truth. I am ashamed of myself, and I can appeal to nobody for assistance. I have gamed away the whole of my substance, and I am a broken man. It would be possible to do something better for myself if I could venture into the streets. But my sole possessions in the way of outer clothing are one pair of too ancient trousers, one pair of tattered slippers, one fez, and one poor old dressing gown.

My estimable Uncle round the corner has the rest. Perhaps I am less a hermit than a prisoner a prisoner over whom that sternest of janitors, Poverty, holds the key.

I am a little proud of my English, and I do not think you can have yet discovered from my style of expression that I am not a native of this country. Permit me to describe myself.

I am an Italian and a gentleman, and my age is thirty. My main fault is, that I am able to do much in too many directions. I play admirably upon several instruments, and my little original compositions are admitted to show great undeveloped talent. My verses in four languages are also admitted to show great undeveloped talent. As a painter or a sculptor I might have made fame certain. I am merry and generous, and slow to offence, an unmeasured braggart, careless about money matters, without dignity, but the soul of honour. I am also your obedient servant. Permit me so to subscribe myself Your obedient servant, Giovanni Calvotti.

My attic is uncarpeted, and its general aspect is sordid. It contains a bed, a table, a chair, a chest of drawers, a grand piano, a violin, a violoncello, my pipes, my tobacco, my writing materials, and me. Stay! Hidden for the moment from my glance beneath the grand piano are the tools by which I live: my easel, my porte couleur, my palette, canvas, and brushes. My estimable uncle round the corner is not a judge of art. It is my weakness that I cannot paint bad pictures. I linger sometimes for a whole day hungry sometimes even without tobacco touching and again touching the ripened beauties of my canvas child, before I can dare to leave it. I am a hungry amateur, but that is no reason why I should be false to the principles of art. Like my playing upon four instruments, and like my verses in four languages, my painting is admitted to show great talent as yet only partially developed. Upon each of my works my estimable uncle advances me the sum of twelve shillings and sixpence. I paint one picture per week. In consideration of the restricted character of my wardrobe, my landlady is so obliging as to send my works to the only dealer with whom I can at present do business. I had never known until this morning who it was that acted as my ambassador. I have told you already that I am of a merry temperament. I snap my fingers at evil fortune. I despise the goddess Circumstance. Seeking to do me an evil turn this morning she has benefited me, and I am contented in spite of her. Good gracious! Is a man to lose everything because his stomach is empty? The goddess Circumstance shall not keep my heart empty, let her keep my shelves as bare as she will... Continue reading book >>

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