However, Berlendis ran no risk whatever on this score; the realm of wit was an unknown land to him.
I got this ambassador to call the attention of his Government to the work I had recently published, and the answer the State Inquisitors gave may astonish my readers, but it did not astonish me. The secretary of the famous and accursed Tribunal wrote to say that he had done well to call the attention of the Inquisitors to this work, as the author's presumption appeared on the title-page. He added that the work would be examined, and in the mean time the ambassador was instructed to shew me no signal marks of favour lest the Court should suppose he was protecting me as a Venetian.
Nevertheless, it was the same tribunal that had facilitated my access to the ambassador to Madrid--Mocenigo.
I told Berlendis that my visits should be limited in number, and free from all ostentation.
I was much interested in his son's tutor; he was a priest, a man of letters, and a poet. His name was Andreis, and he is now resident in England, where he enjoys full liberty, the greatest of all blessings.
I spent my time at Turin very pleasantly, in the midst of a small circle of Epicureans; there were the old Chevalier Raiberti, the Comte de la Perouse, a certain Abbe Roubien, a delightful man, the voluptuous Comte de Riva, and the English ambassador. To the amusements which this society afforded I added a course of reading, but no love affairs whatever.
While I was at Turin, a milliner, Perouse's mistress, feeling herself in 'articulo mortis', swallowed the portrait of her lover instead of the Eucharist. This incident made me compose two sonnets, which pleased me a good deal at the time, and with which I am still satisfied. No doubt some will say that every poet is pleased with his own handiwork, but as a matter of fact, the severest critic of a sensible author is himself.
The Russian squadron, under the command of Count Alexis Orloff, was then at Leghorn; this squadron threatened Constantinople, and would probably have taken it if an Englishman had been in command.
As I had known Count Orloff in Russia, I imagined that I might possibly render myself of service to him, and at the same time make my fortune.
The English ambassador having given me a letter for the English consul, I left Turin with very little money in my purse and no letter of credit on any banker.
An Englishman named Acton commended me to an English banker at Leghorn, but this letter did not empower me to draw any supplies.
Acton was just then involved in a curious complication. When he was at Venice he had fallen in love with a pretty woman, either a Greek or a Neapolitan. The husband, by birth a native of Turin, and by profession a good-for-nothing, placed no obstacle in Acton's way, as the Englishman was generous with his money; but he had a knack of turning up at those moments when his absence would have been most desirable.
The generous but proud and impatient Englishman could not be expected to bear this for long. He consulted with the lady, and determined to shew his teeth. The husband persisted in his untimely visits, and one day Acton said, dryly,--
"Do you want a thousand guineas? You can have them if you like, on the condition that your wife travels with me for three years without our having the pleasure of your society."
The husband thought the bargain a good one, and signed an agreement to that effect.
After the three years were over the husband wrote to his wife, who was at Venice, to return to him, and to Acton to put no obstacle in the way.
The lady replied that she did not want to live with him any more, and Acton explained to the husband that he could not be expected to drive his mistress away against her will. He foresaw, however, that the husband would complain to the English ambassador, and determined to be before- handed with him.
In due course the husband did apply to the English ambassador, requesting him to compel Acton to restore to him his lawful wife.