Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXX, 9

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XXX, 8 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXX, 10


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXX, chapter 9
Pius VII



10th of March 1829.

I often visit Monte Cavallo; the solitude of the gardens amplifies the solitude of the Roman Campagne, on which the view across Rome opens, upstream of the right bank of the Tiber. The gardeners are my friends; pathways lead to the Pantry, a humble dairy, and an aviary or zoo whose inhabitants are poor and peaceable like the Popes these days. Looking down from the heights of the terraces enclosing the Quirinal, you can see a narrow street where women are working at their windows on the different floors: some are embroidering, others carding in the silence of this secluded quarter. The Cardinals’ cells used at the last Conclave interest me not at all. When St Peter’s was built, when Raphael’s masterpieces were commissioned, when Kings came too to kiss the Pope’s slipper, there was something worthy of note in the temporal Papacy. I would willingly visit the lodge of a Gregory VII, or a Sixtus V, as I would seek out the lion’s den in Babylon; but dark holes, abandoned by an obscure company of septuagenarians, represent no more to me than the columbaria of ancient Rome, empty today of their ashes from which the family of the dead have flown.

So, I pass by these already half-demolished cells swiftly in order to walk through the halls of the Palace: there, all speaks to me of an event which can only be matched by going back to Sciarra Colonna, Nogaret and Boniface VII.

My first and last trip to Rome are involved with memories of Pius VII, whose history I have related when speaking of Madame de Beaumont and Bonaparte. My two trips are two pendants traced on the vault of my monument. My loyalty to the memory of my former friends should give my remaining friends confidence: nothing for me is lost in the grave; all I have known lives within me: according to the Indian doctrine, death, in touching us does not destroy us; it only makes us invisible.