Paradise of Cities: Venice in the 19th Century
John Julius Norwich
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John Julius Norwich's A History of Venice has been dubbed "indispensable" by none other than Jan Morris. Now, in his second book on the city once known as La Serenissima, Norwich advances the story in this elegant chronicle of a hundred years of Venice's highs and lows, from its ignominious capture by Napoleon in 1797 to the dawn of the 20th century.
An obligatory stop on the Grand Tour for any cultured Englishman (and, later, Americans), Venice limped into the 19th century--first under the yoke of France, then as an outpost of the Austrian Hapsburgs, stripped of riches yet indelibly the most ravishing city in Italy. Even when subsumed into a unified Italy in 1866, it remained a magnet for aesthetes of all stripes--subject or setting of books by Ruskin and James, a muse to poets and musicians, in its way the most gracious courtesan of all European cities. By refracting images of Venice through the visits of such extravagant (and sometimes debauched) artists as Lord Byron, Richard Wagner, and the inimitable Baron Corvo, Norwich conjures visions of paradise on a lagoon, as enduring as brick and as elusive as the tides.
neither Italian in design or workmanship nor English.” 56. The Dario is in Dorsoduro, almost immediately opposite what is now the Gritti Palace Hotel; it is immediately recognizable from the roundels of red and green marble inlaid in its façade. The Businello is on the same side of the Canal, on the corner of the Rio dei Meloni, next to the obelisked Palazzo Papadopoli. It dates from the middle of the thirteenth century, and despite many alterations has retained its original Byzantine arcading
became Emperor? And had he not himself been born in Florence, living there for the first seventeen years of his life? Married to a Neapolitan, he at least could surely be trusted to understand Italian aspirations, even if he could not share them. Alas, they were to be disappointed. As time went on, it became obvious that Francis was a reactionary autocrat of the most bigoted kind, and that the Austrian government intended to rule with a firm hand. Taxation remained cruelly high. Conscription,
murder before the high court of justiciary at Inverness, but was acquitted.” When he died a few years later in a shipwreck he had exhausted his once-considerable fortune and most of his penniless family were obliged to emigrate to Australia. Guilelmina thus had little if any dowry to bring to her bride-groom—though he, fortunately, had means of his own. After her husband’s death, she took a house at Clifton for the education of her two sons. They were entered at Clifton College, where in 1869
had made his own, but in his doctor’s house at Belluno, some seventy miles to the north, where he had gone to escape the heat. NEITHER RAWDON NOR Horatio Brown was a great man, in the sense that Napoleon, Byron, and Ruskin were great men. They did not change the face of Europe, or write deathless poetry or prose, nor did they profoundly affect our approach to art and architecture. Horatio was a genuine if uninspired historian, Rawdon essentially no more than an archivist, though a brilliant
tired of it, preferring to sign himself “Fr. Rolfe,” with its faintly ecclesiastical overtones. Returning to his homeland, he spent a year or two in Aberdeen, eking out a precarious living as tutor, painter, and photographer; in this last occupation he claimed to have made significant contributions to the new science of submarine photography and also to have invented an early form of color printing. He also began seriously to write, though authorship at this time proved no more successful than