Jonathan Keates

A Portal To Eternity

Paradise of Cities: Venice and Its Nineteenth-Century Visitors


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‘IT IS NOT SO gay as it has been, and there is a monotony to many people in its Canals and the comparative silence of its streets.’ When Byron wrote these words on Venice in 1818, the city might well have provoked the exclamation ‘Ichabod!’, for it was a place whose glory had departed. Twenty years earlier, as Napoleon’s troops burst, more or less unopposed, through the Veneto, the Most Serene Republic had cravenly voted itself out of existence. By the unworthy treaty of Campo Formio, the city and its mainland territories were handed over to the Austrians – though not before France had made off with everything moveable, horn salt and biscuits to ‘tons of hemp, des of rope, acres of canvas’ and finally the bronze horses of St Mark and the winged lion on top of a column in the Piazzetta.

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