We arrived in Verona day before yesterday. Most every one has heard of the Two Gentlemen of Verona. This is the place they came from. They have never returned. Verona is not noted for its gentlemen now. Perhaps that is the reason I was regarded as such a curiosity when I came here.
Verona is a good deal older town than Chicago, but the two cities have points of resemblance after all. When the southern simoon from the stock yards is wafted across the vinegar orchards of Chicago, and a load of Mormon emigrants get out at the Rock Island depot and begin to move around and squirm and emit the fragrance of crushed Limburger cheese, it reminds one of Verona.
The sky is similar, too. At night, when it is raining hard, the sky of Chicago and Verona is not dissimilar. Chicago is the largest place, however, and my sympathies are with her. Verona has about 68,000 people now, aside from myself. This census includes foreigners and Indians not taxed.
Verona has an ancient skating rink, known in history as the amphitheatre, It is 404-1/2 feet by 516 in size, and the wall is still 100 feet high in places. The people of Verona wanted me to lecture there, but I refrained. I was afraid that some late comers might elbow their way in and leave one end of the amphitheatre open and then there would be a draft. I will speak more fully on the subject of amphitheatres in another letter. There isn’t room in this one.
Verona is noted for the Capitular library, as it is called. This is said to be the largest collection of rejected manuscripts in the world. I stood in with the librarian and he gave me an opportunity to examine this wonderful store of literary work. I found a Virgil that was certainly over 1,600 years old. I also found a well preserved copy of “Beautiful Snow.” I read it. It was very touching indeed. Experts said it was 1,700 years old, which is no doubt correct. I am no judge of the age of MSS. Some can look at the teeth of a literary production and tell within two weeks how old it is, but I can’t. You can also fool me on the age of wine. My rule used to be to observe how old I felt the next day and to fix that as the age of the wine, but this rule I find is not infallible. One time I found myself feeling the next day as though I might be 138 years old, but on investigation we found that the wine was extremely new, having been made at a drug store in Cheyenne that same day.
Looking these venerable MSS. over, I noticed that the custom of writing with a violet pencil on both sides of the large foolscap sheet, and then folding it in sixteen directions and carrying it around in the pocket for two or three centuries, is not a late American invention, as I had been led to suppose. They did it in Italy fifteen centuries ago. I was permitted also to examine the celebrated institutes of Gaius. Gaius was a poor penman, and I am convinced from a close examination of his work that he was in the habit of carrying his manuscript around in his pocket with his smoking tobacco. The guide said that was impossible, for smoking tobacco was not introduced into Italy until a comparatively late day. That’s all right, however. You can’t fool me much on the odor of smoking tobacco.
The churches of Verona are numerous, and although they seem to me a little different from our own in many ways, they resemble ours in others. One thing that pleased me about the churches of Verona was the total absence of the church fair and festival as conducted in America. Salvation seems to be handed out in Verona without ice cream and cake, and the odor of sancity and stewed oysters do not go inevitably hand in hand. I have already been in the place more than two days and I have not yet been invited to help lift the old church debt on the cathedral. Perhaps they think I am not wealthy, however. In fact there is nothing about my dress or manner that would betray my wealth. I have been in Europe now six weeks and have kept my secret well. Even my most intimate traveling companions do not know that I am the Laramie City postmaster in disguise.
The cathedral is a most imposing and massive pile. I quote this from the guide book. This beautiful structure contains a baptismal font cut out of one solid block of stone and made for immersion, with an inside diameter of ten feet. A man nine feet high could be baptized there without injury. The Venetians have a great respect for water. They believe it ought not to be used for anything else but to wash away sins, and even then they are very economical about it.
There is a nice picture here by Titian. It looks as though it had been left in the smoke house 900 years and overlooked. Titian painted a great deal. You find his works here ever and anon. He must have had all he could do in Italy in an early day, when the country was new. I like his pictures first rate, but I haven’t found one yet that I could secure at anything like a bed rock price.