Related Sites & images
Villa Borghese
Villa Medici, Rome

Related Texts
James, “Roman Notebook”
James, “Roman Rides”
James, “Roman Neighborhoods”
James, “Other Roman Neighborhoods”

Important! Some links on this page will launch a pop window. To view the images you must adjust your browser settings to allow pop windows for the following url: For more instructions, click here.




Henry James, “The After-Season in Rome” (1873)

But I prefer none of them to the Borghese, which is free to all the world at all times and yet never crowded; for when the whirl of carriages is great in the middle regions you may find a hundred untrodden spots and silent corners, tenanted at the worst by a group of those long-skirted young Propagandists who stalk about with solemn angularity, each with a book under his arm, like silhouettes from a mediaeval missal, and "compose" so extremely well with the still more processional cypresses and with stretches of golden-russet wall overtopped by ultramarine. And yet if the Borghese is good the Medici is strangely charming, and you may stand in the little belvedere which rises with such surpassing oddity out of the dusky heart of the Boschetto at the latter establishment—a miniature presentation of the wood of the Sleeping Beauty—and look across at the Ludovisi pines lifting their crooked parasols into a sky of what a painter would call the most morbid blue, and declare that the place where they grow is the most delightful in the world. Villa Ludovisi has been all winter the residence of the lady familiarly known in Roman society as "Rosina," Victor Emmanuel’s morganatic wife, the only familiarity, it would seem, that she allows, for the grounds were rigidly closed, to the inconsolable regret of old Roman sojourners. Just as the nightingales began to sing, however, the quasi-august padrona departed, and the public, with certain restrictions, have been admitted to hear them. The place takes, where it lies, a princely ease, and there could be no better example of the expansive tendencies of ancient privilege than the fact that is whole vast extent is contained by the city walls. It has in this respect very much the same enviable air of having got up early that marks the great intramural demesne of Magdalen College at Oxford. The stern old ramparts of Rome form the outer enclosure of the villa, and hence a series of "striking scenic effects" which it would be unscrupulous flattery to say you can imagine. The grounds are laid out in the formal last-century manner; but nowhere do the straight black cypresses lead off the gaze into vistas of a melancholy more charged with associations-poetic, romantic, historic; nowhere are there grander, smoother walls of laurel and myrtle.

James, Henry. Italian Hours, ed. John Auchard. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992, pp. 170-171.

  © Copyright 2005 The Bard Graduate Center : Help : Terms of Use : Sitemap