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Venetian Life   By: (1837-1920)

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VENETIAN LIFE

by

W. D. HOWELLS

ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION.

In correcting this book for a second edition, I have sought to complete it without altering its original plan: I have given a new chapter sketching the history of Venetian Commerce and noticing the present trade and industry of Venice; I have amplified somewhat the chapter on the national holidays, and have affixed an index to the chief historical persons, incidents, and places mentioned.

Believing that such value as my book may have is in fidelity to what I actually saw and knew of Venice, I have not attempted to follow speculatively the grand and happy events of last summer in their effects upon her life. Indeed, I fancy that in the traits at which I loved most to look, the life of Venice is not so much changed as her fortunes; but at any rate I am content to remain true to what was fact one year ago.

W. D. H.

Cambridge, January 1, 1867.

CONTENTS.

I. Venice in Venice II. Arrival and first Days in Venice III. The Winter in Venice IV. Comincia far Caldo V. Opera and Theatres VI. Venetian Dinners and Diners VII. Housekeeping in Venice VIII. The Balcony on the Grand Canal IX. A Day Break Ramble X. The Mouse XI. Churches and Pictures XII. Some Islands of the Lagoons XIII. The Armenians XIV. The Ghetto and the Jews of Venice XV. Some Memorable Places XVI. Commerce XVII. Venetian Holidays XVIII. Christmas Holidays XIX. Love making and Marrying; Baptisms and Burials XX. Venetian Traits and Characters XXI. Society XXII. Our Last Year in Venice Index

CHAPTER I.

VENICE IN VENICE.

One night at the little theatre in Padua, the ticket seller gave us the stage box (of which he made a great merit), and so we saw the play and the byplay. The prompter, as noted from our point of view, bore a chief part in the drama (as indeed the prompter always does in the Italian theatre), and the scene shifters appeared as prominent characters. We could not help seeing the virtuous wife, when hotly pursued by the villain of the piece, pause calmly in the wings, before rushing, all tears and desperation, upon the stage; and we were dismayed to behold the injured husband and his abandoned foe playfully scuffling behind the scenes. All the shabbiness of the theatre was perfectly apparent to us; we saw the grossness of the painting and the unreality of the properties. And yet I cannot say that the play lost one whit of its charm for me, or that the working of the machinery and its inevitable clumsiness disturbed my enjoyment in the least. There was so much truth and beauty in the playing, that I did not care for the sham of the ropes and gilding, and presently ceased to take any note of them. The illusion which I had thought an essential in the dramatic spectacle, turned out to be a condition of small importance.

It has sometimes seemed to me as if fortune had given me a stage box at another and grander spectacle, and I had been suffered to see this VENICE, which is to other cities like the pleasant improbability of the theatre to every day, commonplace life, to much the same effect as that melodrama in Padua. I could not, indeed, dwell three years in the place without learning to know it differently from those writers who have described it in romances, poems, and hurried books of travel, nor help seeing from my point of observation the sham and cheapness with which Venice is usually brought out, if I may so speak, in literature. At the same time, it has never lost for me its claim upon constant surprise and regard, nor the fascination of its excellent beauty, its peerless picturesqueness, its sole and wondrous grandeur. It is true that the streets in Venice are canals; and yet you can walk to any part of the city, and need not take boat whenever you go out of doors, as I once fondly thought you must... Continue reading book >>




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