Letter to Fannie

November 6 - 9, 1870

Mss 12: Sub-group 1, Series A, S-s 2, Folder 15

 

                                     Naples Italy. Sunday Evening, Nov 6th 1870

My dear Fannie,

It is near sunset and I am sitting by the window, looking off over the sea. Capri is melting into rich warm evening mist and the sun which has been hid from us all day is leaving behind it the clouds that have deprived us of its light and warmth.

For two weeks we have rain nearly every day and our work out of doors has suffered very much in consequence of it.

Tomorrow we expect to leave for “Amalfi”, from there to “Sorrento” at the expiration of a week or so. We find this is a bad season of the year to go to Rome so we may give it up until we return from the East, as it would be a pity to go there and have rain all the time.

The sun has gone down behind the Island of Ischia and the sea begins to assume a deep purple color-soon the light will fade away and I shall turn to the fire on the hearth to help me in my dreams of you all at home. I find I can call you up very vividly now at this moment- it is a great comfort- next to really touching you with my hand.

I wonder what you have done today? Sundays- to me- are filled with speculations on that subject and I feel that you often have very much the same thoughts about me.

That was a Sunday that has left a pleasant impression upon my mind- that Sunday I spent at your house- just before leaving home- although you had a headache- that was the only thing that modified the pleasure.

There is so much I wish to write you about and thoughts come thick and fast and I hardly know which would interest you most. Since I wrote you last- we have been to Pompeii & Herculaneum and I was very much delighted with what I saw particularly with the frescoes which were very rich in color- softened and improved by age and of course in that respect very much finer than at first. It is against the rules to permit anyone to carry away any momento of the place but it occurred to me that you would like to have something of the place and I managed- while the guards back was turned to pick up a number of pieces of the marble that comprised the floor of one of the finest Romans. I thought it would be very nice to get something very nice of the sort to go with the little crystal pebbles I brought you last year from the California coast.

Since receiving your letter dated 18th sep. I have had a very nice chatty letter from Mrs Hoag - commenced in N.Y. and finished while she was visiting Mrs Swain in New Bedford. Letters will come safely now if directed as I have written- in care of Geo. Hicks Esq 64 Clarendon Road W. London England. I received a letter from him yesterday saying that all letters that have not reached us, that were sent in care of the house in Paris would reach the house and be kept by them until such a time presented itself that they could be sent us with the certainty of our getting them.

Mr. Rua remained in Paris and has laid in a large stock of provisions and is fully prepared to stand it a long time. Good news reached us yesterday concerning the armistice that will be held between the French & Prussian armies and we expect favorable results from it. So when we return from the East we expect to be able to go to Paris for a while. Each of us left a number of things there that we do not care to lose. Among my things I left a nice thick coat & vest that I don’t care to lose.

I suppose no more letters from you will reach me until we reach Alexandria. It seems a long time to wait and will be mighty nice when I do get them. I suppose you are beginning to think of N.Y. I hope everything will turn out nicely there. Such as getting a good place to work in and boarding in some good place where you will have more freedom than you have been in the habit of  having winters. I hope your Aunt Mary has not forgotten the conversation we had last summer.

I am glad you sent me that little bit of information about Emma Guerrier, what a splendid joke on Daniel- the best thing I have heard for a long time.

I hope she has got safely through it all and I do not doubt the child will be a comfort to her and will be a help. She has always been fond of petting something- much to the annoyance of her father and I cannot remember the time when she has not had a kitten or something of the kind to express her overflowing affection upon. It will not only be well for her but for them all. Don’t you think so?

 

Amalfi, Nov 9th

We arrived the evening of Monday (day before yesterday) I intended to go on with the letter last evening but I was so tired that I fell asleep and concluded the best thing I could do would be to go to bed and so retired at 9 o’clock. We had a splendid drive from”Victori” to this place along the coast road. We were three hours among the wildest kind of scenery. I do so much wish you could be here. I want to stay a week at least but the Hotel where we are stopping is not very good and Tiffany did not wish to stay any time at all but I have persuaded him to remain three days (we intended to stay at least a week) I have made the most of the time but tomorrow is the last day here and we leave behind us enough material to keep us busy a month. Our hotel is situated on a cliff so near the sea that from the window we cannot see the road below us- only the breaking waves. The house is very old, built sometime in the 12th century, and was used as a convent until within a few years. There is an inside court that is very picturesque- with columns and arches. The columns vary in form and size and color. I have commenced a study in color of it and if the sun shines in the morning, expect to finish it or at least do enough to it to make something from it.

Today I have made two water color sketches and two or three pencil sketches and tomorrow is laid out. The next day we propose to cross the mountains on donkeys- a matter of six or seven hours. The roads are steep and wild and our donkeys have to be without shoes on account of the danger of some of the steep places- Donkeys with shoes slip very often when it “isn’t pleasant” as Mr Hutchinson would say.

It is terrible to see how hard the women have to work here they carry immense loads on their heads and backs- greater loads than any man in our country would or could carry at any price- even the little girls hardly out of their Mothers arms carry no very inconsiderable loads. The people are very poor and the place is filled with beggars.

There is a place on the roof of the house that I think you would like- I like it- It is an old tower in which hang two bells- one quite large and the other small. They are attached to wide beams that run across and a large rope dangles from the bar that puts the bells in motion.

At sunset it all comes against the sky and all you see of the old bells and beams are the outline dark against the sky and at sunset there is something very beautiful about it. The addition of a figure in harmony with the sentiment of the scene would add very much too. I am quite charmed with the place.

The climbing about is pretty hard work, with all my sketching materials. All the streets and paths are steep and rough- today I have walked about 10 miles besides doing my sketches. Tiffany has a man to carry his things but I think if I carry my own things I shall get stronger for it and my chest muscles will develop more rapidly.

I wonder if you sent me the dream I had of you last night- there was something very sweet about it and it made me feel to day as if you were very near! Please send some more and I will try to send you all sorts of happy ones in return. I will try to send them to you whether I get any or not.

Yesterday I worked in the yard of a convent up on the side of the mountain. In the yard there is a fine “colonnade” of support— for grape vines and there was something  so fine about it that I made a study in watercolor of it. When there is but little time to spend in a place I find I can do more work in water than I can in oil color. The work I put on that subject in half a day would have taken two days to do with the same amount of finish in oil. It is difficult for me to imagine- after such a day as we have just had- that you are in cold weather- or quite so. When the long stormy days come and you are shut up in the house do you get blue? Do you get lonely now and have the sad hours you used to have. When you feel so and you would feel better to let some or all of it out- if that is possible- would you write it to me? Please do Fannie dear. You know how I would sympathize with you if we were where we could talk together and you have in time past felt comforted by our talks. On our return to Naples I hope to get some more letters and among them some from you although no more may come until we reach the East.

Since the evenings have become cold enough for us to have fires in the fireplace I have enjoyed taking my shawl and sitting down on the floor and imagine you and your surroundings in the ever changing embers. How I would like to spend a few days at home and then be instantaneously   brought back again. But a great part of the continent and the great ocean is between us. God grant it may not always be so. Good night & happy dreams-

Ever yours-

Robert