Item of the Day: Mrs. Piozzi’s Observations and Reflections Made in the Course of a Journey through France, Italy and Germany.

Full Title: Observations and Reflections Made in the Course of a Journey through France, Italy and Germany. By Hester Lynch Piozzi. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Strahan, and T. Cadell, 1789.

PREFACE.

I was made to observe at Rome some vestiges of an ancient custom very proper in those days—it was the parading of the streets by a set of people called Preciae, who went some minutes before the Flamen Dialis to bid the inhabitants leave work or play, and attend wholly to the procession; but if ill omens prevented the pageants from passing, or if the occasion of the show was deemed scarcely worthy its celebration, these Preciae stood a chance of being ill-treated by the spectators. A Prefatory introduction to a work like this, can hope little better usage from the Public than they had; it proclaims the approach of what often passed by before, adorned most certainly with greater splendour, perhaps conducted too with greater regularity and skill: Yet will I not despair of giving at least a momentary amusement to my countrymen in general, while their entertainment shall serve as a vehicle for conveying expressions of particular kindness to those foreign individuals, whose tenderness softened the sorrows of absence, and who eagerly endeavoured by unmerited attentions to supply the loss of their company on whom nature and habit had given me stronger claims.That I should make some reflections, or write down some observations, in the course of a long journey, is not strange; that I should present them before the Public is I hope not too daring: the presumption grew up out of their acknowledged favour, and if too kind culture has encouraged a coarse plant till it runs to seed, a little coldness from the same quarter will soon prove sufficient to kill it. The flattering partiality of private partisans sometimes induces the authors to venture forth, and stand a public decision; but it is often found to betray them too; not to be tossed by waves of perpetual contention, but rather to sink in the silence of total neglect. What wonder! He who swims in oil must be buoyant indeed, if he escapes falling certainly, though gently, to the bottom; while he who commits his safety to the bosom of the wide-embracing ocean, is sure to be strongly supported, or at worst thrown upon the shore.

On this principle it has been still my study to obtain from a humane and generous Public that shelter their protection best affords from the poisoned arrows of private malignity; for though it is not difficult to despise the attempts of petty malice, I well not say with the Philosopher, that I mean to build a monument to my fame with the stones thrown at me to break my bones; nor yet pretend to the art of Swift’s German Wonder-doer, who promised to make them fall about his head like so many pillows. Ink, as it resembles Styx in its colour, should resemble it a little in its operation too; whoever has been once dipt should become invulnerable: But it is not so; the irritability of authors has long been enrolled among the comforts of ill-nature, and the triumphs of stupidity; such let it long remain! Let me at least take care in the worst storms that may arise in public or in private life, to say with Lear,

–I’m one
More sinn’d against, than sinning.

For the book—I have not thrown my thoughts into the form of letters; because a work of which truth is the best recommendation, should not above all others begin with a lie. My old acquaintance rather chose to amuse themselves with conjectures, than to flatter me with tender inquiries during my absence: our correspondence then would not have been any amusement to the Public, whose treatment of me deserves every possible acknowledgment; and more than those acknowledgments will I not add—to a work, which, such as it is, I submit to their candour, resolving to think as little of the event as I can help; for the labours of the press resemble those of the toilette, both should be attended to, and finished with care; but once complete, should take up no more of our attention; unless we are disposed at evening to destroy all effect of our morning’s study.

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Filed under 1780's, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel

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