Letter from Charles S. Peirce to his mother Sarah Mills
(Roma, 14.10.1870)



Spanish translation & annotations

Roma 1870 Oct. 14

Dearest mother –If you people at home could have but the dimmest conception of how very much to me the slightest word from any of you is, & especially from you, dearest mother! Jem has been very kind about writing & I have made the most shabby return for it. Tell him how very much I have thought of his letters nevertheless. But I am such a miserable hand at letter writing.

Rome seems like a one horse place in some aspects after Naples but it is wonderful how much there is to see here. It's no great shakes of a city but it is the city of the soul —I think they call it, do they not? The king of Italy had the best possible opportunity of dealing with the pope. France could not interfere; Austria had just quarreled with the pope & was very anxious

to be on good terms with Italy. The pope was driven to the absurdity of begging aid from Prussia! Under those circumstances, had I been at the head of the Italian government, I would have dealt ruthlessly with the pope. I would first have given him to understand that the Vatican was the state palace of Rome & must belong to the ruling power & that he had churches enough to bestow himself & his people in. Secondly, I would have notified him that the usual prerogative of Kings to nominate the bishops in their country would not be given up in the case of Rome. Thirdly, I would have told him that no person could be bishop of an Italian town & reside elsewhere. I consider that these propositions would have found supporters enough among the priests for practical purposes & would have amounted to a reformation of the church in Italy. But Victor Emmanuel dealt in a weak way with the pope. He permitted him the municipal

government of the small portion of Rome on the same side of the Tiber as the Vatican & the consequence is that the pope each new act of whose is more absurd that the last has shut up all the Vatican collections! But although the Vatican is closed there is still so much to see in Rome that I debated this morning (yesterday having being rainy & I unwell I saw nothing) wether I would not hire a valet-de-place so that I should lose no time in my sight seeing. I decided not to & have been very successful today I think in utilizing every moment. I did not get started till late, about noon. I then went first to the Palazzo Doria where is the largest collection of pictures in Rome. Most of them I found very uninteresting. I went through this gallery & then went to the Palazzo Barberini (stopping on the way to see a beautiful fountain). Here there is a small but interesting gallery. I first saw in a private saloon of the palace into which I wandered some fine frescoes. In the gallery I saw in the first place the celebrated picture of Beatrice Cenci by Guido Reni together with interesting portraits of her mother & mother in law. Then the celebrated Fornarina of Raphael.


Then a picture by Raphael Mengs of one of his daughters. Then a curious picture by Albrecht Durer of Christ among the Doctors. There were some other pictures which were doubtless interesting to connoisseurs. I then took a carriage & drove to the Forum & from there to the Colloseum. I was astonished to see how demolished this amphiteatre is. It is a mere shell. Hardly anything is left of it. On rather a vast deal but a very small proportion of the original pile. All the ruins I see make me think more of those I saw at Syracuse which are certainly in wonderful preservation. I used to think that what made ruins was “the hand of time” but it is nothing but their being used for quarries. From the Colloseum I drove to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. This church is one of the very finest & largest in Rome. It was originally built about A. D. 350! Old enough! But as it is its general effect belongs to work done upon it a hundred years later. It is very rich & beautiful. Here is a picture of the Virgin which they pretend was painted by St. Luke. I was greatly struck by this church. Before going to this church I had been to the Lateran. I now drove to the Forum of Trajan where is among other antiquities Trajan’s column. From here I drove over the Ponte Sisto to St. Peter’s. This impressed me & exhilarated me greatly. It is wonderful & great indeed. But not equal to Salisbury Cathedral.


There is an absence of true belief about St. Peter's. Its got up. It confirmed me however in thinking that St. Pauls in London is really a very fine church. It is the enormous size & perfect proportions of St. Peter's that impresses one. Beyond that there is nothing great about it. After St. Peter's I drove to the Pincio which has been celebrated as a Park for some 2000 years. Here I saw many fine equipages & after driving about a good deal & admiring the view & the surroundings came back to my hotel to dinner. I think I saw a good deal in six hours. The secret of the European


hotels is to select the hotel solely for its pleasant rooms & never take any meal in the hotel, not even coffee in the morning. Now here Coffe bread & eggs in the morning costs at a caffée 1.15 francs, at the hôtel the same things no better is 2.50 francs. At the hôtel dinner is 8.50 francs; at a restaurant I can get a better dinner for 4 francs. I have been reading Balzac a good deal & I think him one of the greatest writers who ever wrote, but I think his faults very evident. First he has a passionate devotion to the catholic church & to the Bourbons both of which I think highly unphilosophical. Next I think he always has a tendency to look upon life with too cynical an eye. Third, his Comedie Humaine embraces only the French character. Fourth I think his power of analyzing human character though good is not very great; his greatness is in his power of description. Fith as a novelist he fails in never interesting the reader very much in any of his characters; it is all a mere study without sympathy for his Dramatis Personae. Sixth I don’t believe people are as selfish as he thinks; I think that is mere theory & not observation on his part.

Your affectionate
C. S. P.


Una de las ventajas de los textos en formato electrónico respecto de los textos impresos es que pueden corregirse con gran facilidad mediante la colaboración activa de los lectores que adviertan erratas, errores o simplemente mejores transcripciones. En este sentido agradeceríamos que se enviaran todas las sugerencias y correcciones a sbarrena@unav.es

Proyecto de investigación "La correspondencia europea de C. S. Peirce: creatividad y cooperación científica (Universidad de Navarra 2007-09)

Fecha del documento: 22 de enero 2009
Última actualización: 11 de septiembre 2019
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