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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part of
Latian Summers

Dorothea Roberts

Junior Army & Navy Stores, Limited

The text is in the public domain,
except for my notes.
Any color photographs are
© William P. Thayer or as indicated.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 1

 p. vii  Prefatory Words

The Lateinische Sommer,​a now translated into English for the first time, forms the second volume of the series of five entitled by their author, Ferdinand Gregorovius, his Wanderjahre in Italien.

The following sketches and studies were written during his residence in Italy, when he was collecting materials for his great "History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages." That important work has been translated into English by Mrs. Hamilton, and has now reached its second edition.

With Teutonic thoroughness, the genial East Prussian was wont to take up his abode, for months at a time, in some ancient hill town of the Sabina, or Latium, or in the southern Campania (this Campania is not to be confounded with the Roman Campagna), where the spirit and customs of the past still lingered, and the peasant population retained their ancestral characteristics. The huge relics of palaces — once the abode of the prelates and princes whose lives he was revivifying —  p. viii stood near to give reality to the narrative he was compiling from the archives of Rome. In his chapter on the Roman Campagna, Gregorovius says: "Just when I had reached the central point of my History I found myself located at Genazzano, the ancient home of that great house of Colonna, which then played a conspicuous rôle both in Latium and in Rome." This may exemplify his method of study.

He loved the Italian people as warmly as he loved their beautiful, classic land. In those mountain villages he lived the simple, primitive life of the inhabitants. While his mornings were given to the study of books and old documents, his evenings were spent among the warm-hearted peasants, whose hard lives and simple pleasures he then shared.​b

I need scarcely venture to commend his methods; much less is it needful for me to praise the great work he was then constructing from so many varied sources. It is obvious that, while gazing down from the encircling hills on the battlefields of generations long passed away, and exploring the ancient fortresses from which their lords descended to engage in war with jealous rivals all around them, the records of this great historian must have been imbued with reality and vividness.

 p. ix  These notebooks recording his first impressions of Italy have been translated into French, but never before into English, and I am told that they may prove interesting to English and American visitors to Rome, especially those who visit the Eternal City for a long enough period to enable them to explore for themselves those beautiful, encircling mountains which excited the enthusiastic admiration of Ferdinand Gregorovius.

Mr. Augustus Hare has utilised portions of the Lateinische Sommer. Some of us may even think those small-print quotations from our Gregorovius the most interesting of many given to the public by Mr. Hare in his interesting "Days near Rome." They sent me to the German book itself, yet my conscience would not allow me to transcribe Mr. Hare's version of the original, however much the style of so experienced a literary man may excel that of a mere novice.

While translating the following pages, the little white towns they describe were gleaming down upon me from the blue mountains of Latium and the Sabina. Looking over the Campagna, I could see the purple peak of Soracte rising to the left, solitary, and a dim vista of Umbrian summits was visible, stretching  p. x northward. The sight of those lovely distant ranges suggested the inclusion in this little volume of a chapter from a later work by Gregorovius, entitled "An Excursion in the Sabina and Umbria," written, after the Italian Revolution, in 1861. It shows Italy as she appeared just after her unification, and replaces a record of the devastations wrought from the earliest days by the river Tiber upon the Eternal City. Another chapter has been omitted as it deals with the sojourn of the Popes at Avignon, and may link itself on some day to a translation of another small book by Gregorovius, entitled "The Monuments of the Popes in St. Peter's." This I am about to translate into English.

Dorothea Roberts

Rome, 1898‑99.

Thayer's Notes:

a Such was the title of a volume of the Wanderjahre in Italien. It is in the singular: a Latin Summer.

b That may be true; but a striking indication to the contrary in at least one instance is given by Gregorovius himself in his account of his stay at Aspra, in Chapter 6 of Roberts' translation.

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Page updated: 21 Feb 21