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Charles Dickens > Pictures From Italy > Preface

Pictures From Italy


If the readers of this volume will be so kind as to take their
credentials for the different places which are the subject of its
author's reminiscences, from the Author himself, perhaps they may
visit them, in fancy, the more agreeably, and with a better
understanding of what they are to expect.

Many books have been written upon Italy, affording many means of
studying the history of that interesting country, and the
innumerable associations entwined about it. I make but little
reference to that stock of information; not at all regarding it as
a necessary consequence of my having had recourse to the storehouse
for my own benefit, that I should reproduce its easily accessible
contents before the eyes of my readers.

Neither will there be found, in these pages, any grave examination
into the government or misgovernment of any portion of the country.
No visitor of that beautiful land can fail to have a strong
conviction on the subject; but as I chose when residing there, a
Foreigner, to abstain from the discussion of any such questions
with any order of Italians, so I would rather not enter on the
inquiry now. During my twelve months' occupation of a house at
Genoa, I never found that authorities constitutionally jealous were
distrustful of me; and I should be sorry to give them occasion to
regret their free courtesy, either to myself or any of my

There is, probably, not a famous Picture or Statue in all Italy,
but could be easily buried under a mountain of printed paper
devoted to dissertations on it. I do not, therefore, though an
earnest admirer of Painting and Sculpture, expatiate at any length
on famous Pictures and Statues.

This Book is a series of faint reflections--mere shadows in the
water--of places to which the imaginations of most people are
attracted in a greater or less degree, on which mine had dwelt for
years, and which have some interest for all. The greater part of
the descriptions were written on the spot, and sent home, from time
to time, in private letters. I do not mention the circumstance as
an excuse for any defects they may present, for it would be none;
but as a guarantee to the Reader that they were at least penned in
the fulness of the subject, and with the liveliest impressions of
novelty and freshness.

If they have ever a fanciful and idle air, perhaps the reader will
suppose them written in the shade of a Sunny Day, in the midst of
the objects of which they treat, and will like them none the worse
for having such influences of the country upon them.

I hope I am not likely to be misunderstood by Professors of the
Roman Catholic faith, on account of anything contained in these
pages. I have done my best, in one of my former productions, to do
justice to them; and I trust, in this, they will do justice to me.
When I mention any exhibition that impressed me as absurd or
disagreeable, I do not seek to connect it, or recognise it as
necessarily connected with, any essentials of their creed. When I
treat of the ceremonies of the Holy Week, I merely treat of their
effect, and do not challenge the good and learned Dr. Wiseman's
interpretation of their meaning. When I hint a dislike of
nunneries for young girls who abjure the world before they have
ever proved or known it; or doubt the ex officio sanctity of all
Priests and Friars; I do no more than many conscientious Catholics
both abroad and at home.

I have likened these Pictures to shadows in the water, and would
fain hope that I have, nowhere, stirred the water so roughly, as to
mar the shadows. I could never desire to be on better terms with
all my friends than now, when distant mountains rise, once more, in
my path. For I need not hesitate to avow, that, bent on correcting
a brief mistake I made, not long ago, in disturbing the old
relations between myself and my readers, and departing for a moment
from my old pursuits, I am about to resume them, joyfully, in
Switzerland; where during another year of absence, I can at once
work out the themes I have now in my mind, without interruption:
and while I keep my English audience within speaking distance,
extend my knowledge of a noble country, inexpressibly attractive to
me. {1}

This book is made as accessible as possible, because it would be a
great pleasure to me if I could hope, through its means, to compare
impressions with some among the multitudes who will hereafter visit
the scenes described with interest and delight.

And I have only now, in passport wise, to sketch my reader's
portrait, which I hope may be thus supposititiously traced for
either sex:

Complexion         Fair.
Eyes                 Very cheerful.
Nose                 Not supercilious.
Mouth                Smiling.
Visage             Beaming.
General Expression Extremely agreeable.

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