Friday, 17 April 2009

Venice in Spring

People who write about Venice are, more often than not, lamentably like lovers. They rave about 'the jewel in the waters,' the tender hues of its heavens at all hours of the day, and even of the night, the unutterable charm of its decay, the romance of its history, the amiability of its men and women, and (mirabile dictu) its boys, and the infinite sweetness of the bond which subtly attaches them to the dear mouldering old city of the Lagoons - precisely as a lovelorn youth rates of his mistress's eyebrows. Their shibboleth, like that of the lover's is not understanded of the people. Only they who are in the secret have any sympathy with it.

Now such a strain, however harmonious, is, I think, apt to irritate honest people who stay at home at ease, crystallised into contentment, and who like their literature to suggest that their course of life is out of question the wisest possible. One sees its parallel effect in the heaving of the shoulders and the pursing of the lips of the middle-aged bachelor who, in a country lane, comes at hazard upon a pair of sweethearts in the first stage of their delirium. Who can wonder at this? Such writers are both impolitic and selfish. They would know better than to exhaust their vocabulary in laud of a friend whom they desired to recommend to the goodwill of others. Dispraise is often kinder than faint praise or over-praise. And, on the other hand, by their dithyramb, they make one fancy that it is not Venice they are in love with, so much as their own delightful powers of description; that, in fact, they forget their subject, and remember only themselves. Even so the lover who dotes on the fair face of his mistress loves her the more that he beholds his own reflection in her beautiful eyes.
Cornhill Magazine, 1889.

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