At setting off [from Incisa], we were surrounded by beggars as usual, the most interesting of whom were a little blind boy and his mother, who had besieged us with gentle pertinacity during our whole stay there. There was likewise a man with a maimed hand, and other hurts or deformities; also, an old woman who, I suspect, only pretended to be blind, keeping her eyes tightly squeezed together, but directing her hand very accurately where the copper shower was expected to fall. Besides these, there were a good many sturdy little rascals, vociferating in proportion as they needed nothing. It was touching, however, to see several persons - themselves beggars for aught I know - assisting to hold up the little blind boy's tremulous hand, so that he, at all events, might not lack the pittance which we had to give. Our dole was but a poor one, after all, consisting of what Roman coppers we had brought into Tuscany with us; and as we drove off, some of the boys ran shouting and whining after us in the hot sunshine, nor stopped till we reached the summit of the hill, which rises immediately from the village street. We heard Gaetano once say a good thing to a swarm of beggar-children, who were infesting us, "Are your fathers all dead?" - a proverbial expression, I suppose. The pertinacity of beggars does not, I think, excite the indignation of an Italian, as it is apt to do that of Englishmen or Americans. The Italians probably sympathize more, though they give less. Gaetano is very gentle in his modes of repelling them, and, indeed, never interferes at all, as long as there is a prospect of their getting anything.

Immediately after leaving Incisa, we saw the Arno, already a considerable river, rushing between deep banks, with the greenish line of a duck-pond diffused through its water. Nevertheless, though the first impression was not altogether agreeable, we soon became reconciled to this line, and ceased to think it an indication of impurity; for, in spite of it, the river is still to a certain degree transparent, and is, at any rate, a mountain stream, and comes uncontaminated from its source. The pure, transparent brown of the New England rivers is the most beautiful color; but I am content that it should be peculiar to them.

Our afternoon's drive was through scenery less striking than some which we had traversed, but still picturesque and beautiful. We saw deep valleys and ravines, with streams at the bottom; long, wooded hillsides, rising far and high, and dotted with white dwellings, well towards the summits. By and by, we had a distant glimpse of Florence, showing its great dome and some of its towers out of a sidelong valley, as if we were between two great waves of the tumultuous sea of hills; while, far beyond, rose in the distance the blue peaks of three or four of the Apennines, just on the remote horizon. There being a haziness in the atmosphere, however, Florence was little more distinct to us than the Celestial City was to Christian and Hopeful, when they spied at it from the Delectable Mountains.

Keeping steadfastly onward, we ascended a winding road, and passed a grand villa, standing very high, and surrounded with extensive grounds. It must be the residence of some great noble; and it has an avenue of poplars or aspens, very light and gay, and fit for the passage of the bridal procession, when the proprietor or his heir brings home his bride; while, in another direction from the same front of the palace, stretches an avenue or grove of cypresses, very long, and exceedingly black and dismal, like a train of gigantic mourners. I have seen few things more striking, in the way of trees, than this grove of cypresses.

From this point we descended, and drove along an ugly, dusty avenue, with a high brick wall on one side or both, till we reached the gate of Florence, into which we were admitted with as little trouble as custom-house officers, soldiers, and policemen can possibly give. They did not examine our luggage, and even declined a fee, as we had already paid one at the frontier custom-house. Thank heaven, and the Grand Duke!

As we hoped that the Casa del Bello had been taken for us, we drove thither in the first place, but found that the bargain had not been concluded. As the house and studio of Mr. Powers were just on the opposite side of the street, I went to it, but found him too much engrossed to see me at the moment; so I returned to the vettura, and we told Gaetano to carry us to a hotel. He established us at the Albergo della Fontana, a good and comfortable house. . . . . Mr. Powers called in the evening, - a plain personage, characterized by strong simplicity and warm kindliness, with an impending brow, and large eyes, which kindle as he speaks. He is gray, and slightly bald, but does not seem elderly, nor past his prime. I accept him at once as an honest and trustworthy man, and shall not vary from this judgment. Through his good offices, the next day, we engaged the Casa del Bello, at a rent of fifty dollars a month, and I shall take another opportunity (my fingers and head being tired now) to write about the house, and Mr. Powers, and what appertains to him, and about the beautiful city of Florence. At present, I shall only say further, that this journey from Rome has been one of the brightest and most uncareful interludes of my life; we have all enjoyed it exceedingly, and I am happy that our children have it to look back upon.

June 4th. - At our visit to Powers's studio on Tuesday, we saw a marble copy of the fisher-boy holding a shell to his ear, and the bust of Proserpine, and two or three other ideal busts; various casts of most of the ideal statues and portrait busts which he has executed. He talks very freely about his works, and is no exception to the rule that an artist is not apt to speak in a very laudatory style of a brother artist. He showed us a bust of Mr. Sparks by Persico, - a lifeless and thoughtless thing enough, to be sure, - and compared it with a very good one of the same gentleman by himself; but his chiefest scorn was bestowed on a wretched and ridiculous image of Mr. King, of Alabama, by Clark Mills, of which he said he had been employed to make several copies for Southern gentlemen. The consciousness of power is plainly to be seen, and the assertion of it by no means withheld, in his simple and natural character; nor does it give me an idea of vanity on his part to see and hear it. He appears to consider himself neglected by his country, - by the government of it, at least, - and talks with indignation of the byways and political intrigue which, he thinks, win the rewards that ought to be bestowed exclusively on merit. An appropriation of twenty-five thousand dollars was made, some years ago, for a work of sculpture by him, to be placed in the Capitol; but the intermediate measures necessary to render it effective have been delayed; while the above-mentioned Clark Mills - certainly the greatest bungler that ever botched a block of marble - has received an order for an equestrian statue of Washington. Not that Mr. Powers is made bitter or sour by these wrongs, as he considers them; he talks of them with the frankness of his disposition when the topic comes in his way, and is pleasant, kindly, and sunny when he has done with it.

His long absence from our country has made him think worse of us than we deserve; and it is an effect of what I myself am sensible, in my shorter exile: the most piercing shriek, the wildest yell, and all the ugly sounds of popular turmoil, inseparable from the life of a republic, being a million times more audible than the peaceful hum of prosperity and content which is going on all the while.

He talks of going home, but says that he has been talking of it every year since he first came to Italy; and between his pleasant life of congenial labor, and his idea of moral deterioration in America, I think it doubtful whether he ever crosses the sea again. Like most exiles of twenty years, he has lost his native country without finding another; but then it is as well to recognize the truth, - that an individual country is by no means essential to one's comfort.

Powers took us into the farthest room, I believe, of his very extensive studio, and showed us a statue of Washington that has much dignity and stateliness. He expressed, however, great contempt for the coat and breeches, and masonic emblems, in which he had been required to drape the figure. What would he do with Washington, the most decorous and respectable personage that ever went ceremoniously through the realities of life? Did anybody ever see Washington nude? It is inconceivable. He had no nakedness, but I imagine he was born with his clothes on, and his hair powdered, and made a stately bow on his first appearance in the world. His costume, at all events, was a part of his character, and must be dealt with by whatever sculptor undertakes to represent him. I wonder that so very sensible a man as Powers should not see the necessity of accepting drapery, and the very drapery of the day, if he will keep his art alive. It is his business to idealize the tailor's actual work. But he seems to be especially fond of nudity, none of his ideal statues, so far as I know them, having so much as a rag of clothes. His statue of California, lately finished, and as naked as Venus, seemed to me a very good work; not an actual woman, capable of exciting passion, but evidently a little out of the category of human nature. In one hand she holds a divining-rod. "She says to the emigrants," observed Powers, "'Here is the gold, if you choose to take it.'" But in her face, and in her eyes, very finely expressed, there is a look of latent mischief, rather grave than playful, yet somewhat impish or sprite-like; and, in the other hand, behind her back, she holds a bunch of thorns. Powers calls her eyes Indian. The statue is true to the present fact and history of California, and includes the age-long truth as respects the "auri sacra fames." . . . .

When we had looked sufficiently at the sculpture, Powers proposed that we should now go across the street and see the Casa del Bello. We did so in a body, Powers in his dressing-gown and slippers, and his wife and daughters without assuming any street costume.

The Casa del Bello is a palace of three pianos, the topmost of which is occupied by the Countess of St. George, an English lady, and two lower pianos are to be let, and we looked at both. The upper one would have suited me well enough; but the lower has a terrace, with a rustic summer-house over it, and is connected with a garden, where there are arbors and a willow-tree, and a little wilderness of shrubbery and roses, with a fountain in the midst. It has likewise an immense suite of rooms, round the four sides of a small court, spacious, lofty, with frescoed ceilings and rich hangings, and abundantly furnished with arm-chairs, sofas, marble tables, and great looking-glasses. Not that these last are a great temptation, but in our wandering life I wished to be perfectly comfortable myself, and to make my family so, for just this summer, and so I have taken the lower piano, the price being only fifty dollars per month (entirely furnished, even to silver and linen). Certainly this is something like the paradise of cheapness we were told of, and which we vainly sought in Rome. . . . .

To me has been assigned the pleasantest room for my study; and when I like I can overflow into the summer-house or an arbor, and sit there dreaming of a story. The weather is delightful, too warm to walk, but perfectly fit to do nothing in, in the coolness of these great rooms. Every day I shall write a little, perhaps, - and probably take a brief nap somewhere between breakfast and tea, - but go to see pictures and statues occasionally, and so assuage and mollify myself a little after that uncongenial life of the consulate, and before going back to my own hard and dusty New England.

After concluding the arrangement for the Casa del Bello, we stood talking a little while with Powers and his wife and daughter before the door of the house, for they seem so far to have adopted the habits of the Florentines as to feel themselves at home on the shady side of the street. The out-of-door life and free communication with the pavement, habitual apparently among the middle classes, reminds me of the plays of Moliere and other old dramatists, in which the street or the square becomes a sort of common parlor, where most of the talk and scenic business of the people is carried on.

June 5th. - For two or three mornings after breakfast I have rambled a little about the city till the shade grew narrow beneath the walls of the houses, and the heat made it uncomfortable to be in motion. To-day I went over the Ponte Carraja, and thence into and through the heart of the city, looking into several churches, in all of which I found people taking advantage of the cool breadth of these sacred interiors to refresh themselves and say their prayers. Florence at first struck me as having the aspect of a very new city in comparison with Rome; but, on closer acquaintance, I find that many of the buildings are antique and massive, though still the clear atmosphere, the bright sunshine, the light, cheerful hues of the stucco, and - as much as anything else, perhaps - the vivacious character of the human life in the streets, take away the sense of its being an ancient city. The streets are delightful to walk in after so many penitential pilgrimages as I have made over those little square, uneven blocks of the Roman pavement, which wear out the boots and torment the soul. I absolutely walk on the smooth flags of Florence for the mere pleasure of walking, and live in its atmosphere for the mere pleasure of living; and, warm as the weather is getting to be, I never feel that inclination to sink down in a heap and never stir again, which was my dull torment and misery as long as I stayed in Rome. I hardly think there can be a place in the world where life is more delicious for its own simple sake than here.

I went to-day into the Baptistery, which stands near the Duomo, and, like that, is covered externally with slabs of black and white marble, now grown brown and yellow with age. The edifice is octagonal, and on entering, one immediately thinks of the Pantheon, - the whole space within being free from side to side, with a dome above; but it differs from the severe simplicity of the former edifice, being elaborately ornamented with marble and frescos, and lacking that great eye in the roof that looks so nobly and reverently heavenward from the Pantheon. I did little more than pass through the Baptistery, glancing at the famous bronze doors, some perfect and admirable casts of which I had already seen at the Crystal Palace.

The entrance of the Duomo being just across the piazza, I went in there after leaving the Baptistery, and was struck anew - for this is the third or fourth visit - with the dim grandeur of the interior, lighted as it is almost exclusively by painted windows, which seem to me worth all the variegated marbles and rich cabinet-work of St. Peter's. The Florentine Cathedral has a spacious and lofty nave, and side aisles divided from it by pillars; but there are no chapels along the aisles, so that there is far more breadth and freedom of interior, in proportion to the actual space, than is usual in churches. It is woful to think how the vast capaciousness within St. Peter's is thrown away, and made to seem smaller than it is by every possible device, as if on purpose. The pillars and walls of this Duomo are of a uniform brownish, neutral tint; the pavement, a mosaic work of marble; the ceiling of the dome itself is covered with frescos, which, being very imperfectly lighted, it is impossible to trace out. Indeed, it is but a twilight region that is enclosed within the firmament of this great dome, which is actually larger than that of St. Peter's, though not lifted so high from the pavement. But looking at the painted windows, I little cared what dimness there might be elsewhere; for certainly the art of man has never contrived any other beauty and glory at all to be compared to this.

The dome sits, as it were, upon three smaller domes, - smaller, but still great, - beneath which are three vast niches, forming the transepts of the cathedral and the tribune behind the high altar. All round these hollow, dome-covered arches or niches are high and narrow windows crowded with saints, angels, and all manner of blessed shapes, that turn the common daylight into a miracle of richness and splendor as it passes through their heavenly substance. And just beneath the swell of the great central dome is a wreath of circular windows quite round it, as brilliant as the tall and narrow ones below. It is a pity anybody should die without seeing an antique painted window, with the bright Italian sunshine glowing through it. This is "the dim, religious light" that Milton speaks of; but I doubt whether he saw these windows when he was in Italy, or any but those faded or dusty and dingy ones of the English cathedrals, else he would have illuminated that word "dim" with some epithet that should not chase away the dimness, yet should make it shine like a million of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and topazes, - bright in themselves, but dim with tenderness and reverence because God himself was shining through them. I hate what I have said.

All the time that I was in the cathedral the space around the high altar, which stands exactly under the dome, was occupied by priests or acolytes in white garments, chanting a religious service.

After coming out, I took a view of the edifice from a corner of the street nearest to the dome, where it and the smaller domes can be seen at once. It is greatly more satisfactory than St. Peter's in any view I ever had of it, - striking in its outline, with a mystery, yet not a bewilderment, in its masses and curves and angles, and wrought out with a richness of detail that gives the eyes new arches, new galleries, new niches, new pinnacles, new beauties, great and small, to play with when wearied with the vast whole. The hue, black and white marbles, like the Baptistery, turned also yellow and brown, is greatly preferable to the buff travertine of St. Peter's.

From the Duomo it is but a moderate street's length to the Piazza del Gran Duca, the principal square of Florence. It is a very interesting place, and has on one side the old Governmental Palace, - the Palazzo Vecchio, - where many scenes of historic interest have been enacted; for example, conspirators have been hanged from its windows, or precipitated from them upon the pavement of the square below.

It is a pity that we cannot take as much interest in the history of these Italian Republics as in that of England, for the former is much the more picturesque and fuller of curious incident. The sobriety of the Anglo-Saxon race - in connection, too, with their moral sense - keeps them from doing a great many things that would enliven the page of history; and their events seem to come in great masses, shoved along by the agency of many persons, rather than to result from individual will and character. A hundred plots for a tragedy might be found in Florentine history for one in English.

At one corner of the Palazzo Vecchio is a bronze equestrian statue of Cosmo de' Medici, the first Grand Duke, very stately and majestic; there are other marble statues - one of David, by Michael Angelo - at each side of the palace door; and entering the court I found a rich antique arcade within, surrounded by marble pillars, most elaborately carved, supporting arches that were covered with faded frescos. I went no farther, but stepped across a little space of the square to the Loggia di Lanzi, which is broad and noble, of three vast arches, at the end of which, I take it, is a part of the Palazzo Uffizi fronting on the piazza. I should call it a portico if it stood before the palace door; but it seems to have been constructed merely for itself, and as a shelter for the people from sun and rain, and to contain some fine specimens of sculpture, as well antique as of more modern times. Benvenuto Cellini's Perseus stands here; but it did not strike me so much as the cast of it in the Crystal Palace.

A good many people were under these great arches; some of whom were reclining, half or quite asleep, on the marble seats that are built against the back of the loggia. A group was reading an edict of the Grand Duke, which appeared to have been just posted on a board, at the farther end of it; and I was surprised at the interest which they ventured to manifest, and the freedom with which they seemed to discuss it. A soldier was on guard, and doubtless there were spies enough to carry every word that was said to the ear of absolute authority. Glancing myself at the edict, however, I found it referred only to the furtherance of a project, got up among the citizens themselves, for bringing water into the city; and on such topics, I suppose there is freedom of discussion.

June 7th. - Saturday evening we walked with U - - and J - - -into the city, and looked at the exterior of the Duomo with new admiration. Since my former view of it, I have noticed - which, strangely enough, did not strike me before - that the facade is but a great, bare, ugly space, roughly plastered over, with the brickwork peeping through it in spots, and a faint, almost invisible fresco of colors upon it. This front was once nearly finished with an incrustation of black and white marble, like the rest of the edifice; but one of the city magistrates, Benedetto Uguccione, demolished it, three hundred years ago, with the idea of building it again in better style. He failed to do so, and, ever since, the magnificence of the great church has been marred by this unsightly roughness of what should have been its richest part; nor is there, I suppose, any hope that it will ever be finished now.

The campanile, or bell-tower, stands within a few paces of the cathedral, but entirely disconnected from it, rising to a height of nearly three hundred feet, a square tower of light marbles, now discolored by time. It is impossible to give an idea of the richness of effect produced by its elaborate finish; the whole surface of the four sides, from top to bottom, being decorated with all manner of statuesque and architectural sculpture. It is like a toy of ivory, which some ingenious and pious monk might have spent his lifetime in adorning with scriptural designs and figures of saints; and when it was finished, seeing it so beautiful, he prayed that it might be miraculously magnified from the size of one foot to that of three hundred. This idea somewhat satisfies me, as conveying an impression how gigantesque the campanile is in its mass and height, and how minute and varied in its detail. Surely these mediaeval works have an advantage over the classic. They combine the telescope and the microscope.

The city was all alive in the summer evening, and the streets humming with voices. Before the doors of the cafes were tables, at which people were taking refreshment, and it went to my heart to see a bottle of English ale, some of which was poured foaming into a glass; at least, it had exactly the amber hue and the foam of English bitter ale; but perhaps it may have been merely a Florentine imitation.

As we returned home over the Arno, crossing the Ponte di Santa Trinita, we were struck by the beautiful scene of the broad, calm river, with the palaces along its shores repeated in it, on either side, and the neighboring bridges, too, just as perfect in the tide beneath as in the air above, - a city of dream and shadow so close to the actual one. God has a meaning, no doubt, in putting this spiritual symbol continually beside us.

Along the river, on both sides, as far as we could see, there was a row of brilliant lamps, which, in the far distance, looked like a cornice of golden light; and this also shone as brightly in the river's depths. The lilies of the evening, in the quarter where the sun had gone down, were very soft and beautiful, though not so gorgeous as thousands that I have seen in America. But I believe I must fairly confess that the Italian sky, in the daytime, is bluer and brighter than our own, and that the atmosphere has a quality of showing objects to better advantage. It is more than mere daylight; the magic of moonlight is somehow mixed up with it, although it is so transparent a medium of light.

Last evening, Mr. Powers called to see us, and sat down to talk in a friendly and familiar way. I do not know a man of more facile intercourse, nor with whom one so easily gets rid of ceremony. His conversation, too, is interesting. He talked, to begin with, about Italian food, as poultry, mutton, beef, and their lack of savoriness as compared with our own; and mentioned an exquisite dish of vegetables which they prepare from squash or pumpkin blossoms; likewise another dish, which it will be well for us to remember when we get back to the Wayside, where we are overrun with acacias. It consists of the acacia-blossoms in a certain stage of their development fried in olive-oil. I shall get the receipt from Mrs. Powers, and mean to deserve well of my country by first trying it, and then making it known; only I doubt whether American lard, or even butter, will produce the dish quite so delicately as fresh Florence oil.

Meanwhile, I like Powers all the better, because he does not put his life wholly into marble. We had much talk, nevertheless, on matters of sculpture, for he drank a cup of tea with us, and stayed a good while.

He passed a condemnatory sentence on classic busts in general, saying that they were conventional, and not to be depended upon as trite representations of the persons. He particularly excepted none but the bust of Caracalla; and, indeed, everybody that has seen this bust must feel the justice of the exception, and so be the more inclined to accept his opinion about the rest. There are not more than half a dozen - that of Cato the Censor among the others - in regard to which I should like to ask his judgment individually. He seems to think the faculty of making a bust an extremely rare one. Canova put his own likeness into all the busts he made. Greenough could not make a good one; nor Crawford, nor Gibson. Mr. Harte, he observed, - an American sculptor, now a resident in Florence, - is the best man of the day for making busts. Of course, it is to be presumed that he excepts himself; but I would not do Powers the great injustice to imply that there is the slightest professional jealousy in his estimate of what others have done, or are now doing, in his own art. If he saw a better man than himself, he would recognize him at once, and tell the world of him; but he knows well enough that, in this line, there is no better, and probably none so good. It would not accord with the simplicity of his character to blink a fact that stands so broadly before him.

We asked him what he thought, of Mr. Gibson's practice of coloring his statues, and he quietly and slyly said that he himself had made wax figures in his earlier days, but had left off making them now. In short, he objected to the practice wholly, and said that a letter of his on the subject had been published in the London "Athenaeum," and had given great offence to some of Mr. Gibson's friends. It appeared to me, however, that his arguments did not apply quite fairly to the case, for he seems to think Gibson aims at producing an illusion of life in the statue, whereas I think his object is merely to give warmth and softness to the snowy marble, and so bring it a little nearer to our hearts and sympathies. Even so far, nevertheless, I doubt whether the practice is defensible, and I was glad to see that Powers scorned, at all events, the argument drawn from the use of color by the antique sculptors, on which Gibson relies so much. It might almost be implied, from the contemptuous way in which Powers spoke of color, that he considers it an impertinence on the face of visible nature, and would rather the world had been made without it; for he said that everything in intellect or feeling can be expressed as perfectly, or more so, by the sculptor in colorless marble, as by the painter with all the resources of his palette. I asked him whether he could model the face of Beatrice Cenci from Guido's picture so as to retain the subtle expression, and he said he could, for that the expression depended entirely on the drawing, "the picture being a badly colored thing." I inquired whether he could model a blush, and he said "Yes"; and that he had once proposed to an artist to express a blush in marble, if he would express it in picture. On consideration, I believe one to be as impossible as the other; the life and reality of the blush being in its tremulousness, coming and going. It is lost in a settled red just as much as in a settled paleness, and neither the sculptor nor painter can do more than represent the circumstances of attitude and expression that accompany the blush. There was a great deal of truth in what Powers said about this matter of color, and in one of our interminable New England winters it ought to comfort us to think how little necessity there is for any hue but that of the snow.

Mr. Powers, nevertheless, had brought us a bunch of beautiful roses, and seemed as capable of appreciating their delicate blush as we were. The best thing he said against the use of color in marble was to the effect that the whiteness removed the object represented into a sort of spiritual region, and so gave chaste permission to those nudities which would otherwise suggest immodesty. I have myself felt the truth of this in a certain sense of shame as I looked at Gibson's tinted Venus.

He took his leave at about eight o'clock, being to make a call on the Bryants, who are at the Hotel de New York, and also on Mrs. Browning, at Casa Guidi.