Related Sites & images
Frascati Villas
Villa Mondragone
Villa Aldobrandini

Related Texts
James, “Roman Rides”
James, “Roman Notebook”
James, “The After-Season in Rome”
James, “Other Roman Neighborhoods”

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Henry James, “Roman Neighborhoods” (1873)

…when I walked back to Frascati, I treated the charming old water-works of the Villa Aldobrandini. I confound these various products of antiquated art in a genial absolution, and should like especially to tell how fine it was to watch this prodigious fountain come tumbling down its channel of mouldy rock-work, through its magnificent vista of ilex, to the fantastic old hemicycle where a dozen tritons and naiads sit posturing to receive it. The sky above the ilexes was incredibly blue and the ilexes themselves incredibly black; and to see the young white moon peeping above the trees you could easily have fancied it was midnight. I should like furthermore to expatiate on Villa Mondragone, the most grandly impressive hereabouts, of all such domestic monuments. The great Casino in the midst is as big as the Vatican, which it strikingly resembles, and it stands perched on a terrace as vast as the parvise of St. Peter’s, looking straight away over black cypress tops into the shining vastness of the Campagna. Everything somehow seemed immense and solemn; and there was nothing small but certain little nestling blue shadows on the Sabine Mountains, to which the terrace seems to carry you wonderfully near. The place has been for some time lost to private uses, since it figures fantastically in a novel of George Sand—La Daniella—and now, in quite another way, as a Jesuit college for boys. The afternoon was perfect, and as it waned it filled the dark alleys with a wonderful golden haze. Into this came leaping and shouting a herd of little collegians with a couple of long-skirted Jesuits striding at their heels. We all know—I make the point for my antithesis—the monstrous practices of these people; yet as I watched the group I verily believe I declared that if I had a little son he should go to Mondragone and receive their crooked teachings for the sake of the other memories, the avenues of cypress and ilex, the view of the Campagna, the atmosphere of antiquity. But doubtless when a sense of “mere character,” shameless incomparable character, has brought one to this it is time one should pause.

James, Henry. Italian Hours, ed. John Auchard. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992, pp. 166–7.

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