FLORIN WEBSITE JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAYAUREO ANELLO ASSOCIAZIONE, 1997-2017: MEDIEVAL: BRUNETTO LATINO, DANTE ALIGHIERI, SWEET NEW STYLE: BRUNETTO LATINO, DANTE ALIGHIERI, & GEOFFREY CHAUCER || VICTORIAN: WHITE SILENCE: FLORENCE'S 'ENGLISH' CEMETERY || ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING || WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR || FRANCES TROLLOPE || || HIRAM POWERS || ABOLITION OF SLAVERY || FLORENCE IN SEPIA  || CITY AND BOOK CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII || MEDIATHECA 'FIORETTA MAZZEI' || EDITRICE AUREO ANELLO CATALOGUE || FLORIN WEBSITE || UMILTA WEBSITE || RINGOFGOLD WEBSITE || LINGUE/LANGUAGES: ITALIANO, ENGLISH || VITA
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MARY SOMERVILLE

AND FLORENCE



Mary Somerville was a brilliant self-taught scientist. Married twice with six children, discoverer of two planets, she taught Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter, mathematics. Ada next, with Charles Babbage invented the computer, she suggesting to him using Jacquard loom cards with holes for coding and the binomial theorem, of zeros and ones.



Mary buried her second husband, William Somerville, in Florence's English Cemetery in 1860, dying herself in Naples in 1872.
Her tomb in Naples, by the twenty-year-old Calabrian, Francesco Jerace, gives a lifesize sculpture of her.

One of her children, her daughter, Martha, edited her autobiography, publishing it in 1874. We give an excerpt describing her time in Florence.


Our next move was to Florence, where we already knew many people. We had a lease of a house in Via del Mandorlo, which had a small garden and a balcony, where we often sat and received in the warm summer evenings. My daughters had adorned it and the garden with rare creepers, shrubs, and flowers.

We had a visit from our friend Gibson, as he passed through Florence on his way to Switzerland. He told us the history of his early life, as given in his biography, and much that is not mentioned there. He was devotedly attached to the Queen, and spoke of her in his simple manner as a charming lady.

Miss Hosmer was travelling with Gibson, an American young lady, who was his pupil, and of whose works he was very proud. He looked upon her as if she had been his daughter, and she took care of him; for he was careless and forgetful when travelling. I have the sincerest pleasure in expressing my admiration for Miss Hosmer, who has proved by her works that our sex possesses both genius and originality in the highest branches of art.


* * *


In summer we sometimes made excursions to avoid the heat of Florence. One year we went to Vallombrosa and the convents of La Vernia and Camaldoli, which are now suppressed. We travelled on mules or ponies, as the mountain paths are impracticable to carriages.  I was disappointed in Vallombrosa itself, but the road to it is beautiful.



Engravings, Augustus J.C. Hare, Florence

La Vernia is highly picturesque, there we remained two days, which I spent in drawing. The trees round the convent formed a striking contrast to the arid cliffs we had passed on the road.





The monks were naturally delighted to see strangers. They belonged to the order of St Francis, and each in his turn wandered over the country begging and living on the industry of others. We did not pay for our food and lodging, but left much more than an equivalent in the poor-box. Somerville slept in the convent, and we ladies were lodged in the so-called Foresteria outside; but even Somerville was not admitted into the clausura at Camaldoli, for the monks make a vow of perpetual silence and solitude.


Each had his little separate hut and garden, and some distance above the convent, on the slopes of the Appenines, they had an establishment called the Eremo, for those who sought for even greater solitude. The people told us that in winter, when deep snow covers the whole place, wolves are often seen prowling about. Not far from the Eremo there is a place from whence both the Mediterranean and the Adriatic can be seen.

We occasionally went for sea-bathing to Viareggio, which is built on a flat sandy beach. The loose sand is drifted by the wind into low hillocks, and bound together by coarse grass thickly coated with silex. Among this and other plants a lovely white amaryllis, the Paneration Maratimu, with a sweet and powerful perfume, springs up. We often tried to get the bulb, but it lay too deep under the sand. One evening we had gone a long way in search of these flowers, and sat down to rest, though it was beginning to be dark. We had not sat many minutes when we were surrounded by a number of what we supposed to be bats trying to get at the flowers we had gathered, but at length we discovered that they were enormous moths, which followed us home, and actually flew into the room to soar over the flowers and suck the honey with their long probosces. They were beautiful creatures with large red eyes on their wings.

* * *

Our life in Florence went on pretty much as usual when all at once cholera broke out of the most virulent kind. Multitudes fled from Florence; often in vain, for it prevailed all through Tuscany to a great extent. The terrified people were kneeling to the Madonna and making processions, after which it was remarked that the number of cases was invariably increased. The Misericordia went about in their fearful costume, in, indefatigable in carrying the sick to the hospitals. The devotion of that society was beyond all praise; the young and the old, the artisan and the nobleman, went night and day in detachments carrying aid to the sufferers, not in Florence only, but to Fiesole and the villages round. We never were afraid, but we consulted Professor Zanetti, our medical adviser, whether we should leave the town, which we were unwilling to do, as we thought we should be far from medical assistance, and he said, "By no means; live as usual, drive out as you have always done, and make not the smallest change." We followed his advice, and drove out every afternoon till near dark, and then passed the rest of the evening with those friends who, like ourselves, had remained in town. None of us took the disease except one of our servants, who recovered from instant help being given.

The Marquis of Normanby was British minister at that time, and Lady Normanby and he were always kind and hospitable to us. At her house we became acquainted with Signora Barbieri-Nini, the celebrated opera-singer, who had retired from the stage, and lived with her hsuband, a Sienese gentleman, in a villa not far from Villa Normanby. She gave a musical party, to which she invited us. The music, which was entirely artistic, was excellent, the entertainment very handsome, and it was altogether very enjoyable. As we were driving home afterwards, late at night, going down the hill, our carriage ran against one of the dead carts which was carrying those who had died that day to the burying-ground at Trespiano. It was horribly ghastly - one could distinguish the forms of the limbs under the canvas thrown over the heap of the dead. The burial of the poor and rich in Italy is in singular contrast; the poor are thrown into the grave without a coffin, the rich are placed in coffins, and in full dress, which, especially in the case of youth and infancy, leaves a pleasant impression. An intimate friend of ours lost an infant, and asked me to go and see it laid out. The coffin, lined with white silk, was on a table, covered with a white cloth, strewed with flowers, and with a row of wax lights on either side. The baby was clothed in a white satin frock, leaving the neck and arms bare; a rosebud was in each hand, and a wreath of rose-buds surrounded the head, which rested on a pillow. Nothing could be prettier; it was like a sleeping angel.

* * *

[See Atlantic Monthly May 1860 for an account of her time in Florence: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=AnoMary.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=1&division=div1.]

I lost my husband in Florence on the 26th of June, 1860 . . . From the preceding narrative may be seen the sympathy, affection, and confidence, which always existed between us.

* * *

Soon after my dear husband's death, we went to Spezia, as my health required change, and for some time we made it our headquarters, spending one winter at Florence, another at Genoa, where my son and his wife came to meet us, and where I had very great delight in the beautiful singing of our old friend Clara Novello, now Countess Gigliucci, who used to come to my house, and sing Handel to me. It was a real pleasure, and her voice was as pure and silvery as when I first heard her, years before.
[Countess Gigliucci's two sons and their Jewish wives, Charlotte and Edith, two Moseley sisters from Liverpool, are buried in Florence's English Cemetery.

COUNTESS CHARLOTTE SOPHIA GIGLIUCCI/ ENGLAND/ [Coat of Arms]/ CHARLOTTE SOPHIA, MOGLIE DEL CONTE GIOVANNI GIGLIUCCI/ NATA A LIVERPOOL IL 4 AGOSTO 1841/ MORTA A FIRENZE IL 12 FEBBRAIO 1920/ ET LAUDENT EAM IN PORTIS OPERA TUA/ C30M
COUNTESS EDITH MARGARET GIGLIUCCI/ ENGLAND / [Coat of Arms]/ EDITH MARGARET/ MOGLIE DEL CONTE MARIO GIGLIUCCI/ NATA LIVERPOOL IL 26 AGOSTO 1847/ MORTA IN FIRENZE IL 16 NOVEMBRE 1909// CHARITATEM/ DILEXIT/ C29M
CONTE GIOVANNI GIGLIUCCI/ ITALIA/ [Coat of Arms]/ CONTE GIOVANNI GIGLIUCCI/ PATRIZIO FERMANO, NATO A FERMO IL 18 NOVEMBRE 1844/ MORTO A FIRENZE IL 6 DICEMBRE 1906/ VIRTUTE ET FIDE BENE QUI LATUIT BENE VIXIT/ C30L

CONTE MARIO GIGLIUCCI/ ITALIA/ [Coat of Arms]/ CONTE MARIO GIGLIUCCI/ PATRIZIO FERMANO/ NATO A FERMO IL 19 NOVEMBRE 1847/ MORTO A FIRENZE IL 13 GENNAIO 1937/ RECTE ET SUAVITER/ C29M

See in Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei, Clara Novello's Reminiscences, edirted by her daughter, Contessa Valeria Gigliucci, with a memoir by Arthur D. Coleridge (London: Edward Arnold, 1910), Biography Section.]


* * *

At ninety two, Mary Somerville regrets she 'shall not see the end of the most atrocious system of slavery that ever disgraced humanity'.

Her tomb in Naples, far from her husband's side, was sculpted by the then twenty-year-old Francesco Jerace who also sculpted the tomb of Anne Susanna Lloyd Horner, her friend. In disrepair it now lacks Mary's full name. It should be brought here with her remains and those of her daughters to be beside that of her husband William Somerville in Florence's 'English' Cemetery.








FLORIN WEBSITE JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAYAUREO ANELLO ASSOCIAZIONE, 1997-2017: MEDIEVAL: BRUNETTO LATINO, DANTE ALIGHIERI, SWEET NEW STYLE: BRUNETTO LATINO, DANTE ALIGHIERI, & GEOFFREY CHAUCER || VICTORIAN: WHITE SILENCE: FLORENCE'S 'ENGLISH' CEMETERY || ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING || WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR || FRANCES TROLLOPE || || HIRAM POWERS || ABOLITION OF SLAVERY || FLORENCE IN SEPIA  || CITY AND BOOK CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII || MEDIATHECA 'FIORETTA MAZZEI' || EDITRICE AUREO ANELLO CATALOGUE || FLORIN WEBSITE || UMILTA WEBSITE || RINGOFGOLD WEBSITE || LINGUE/LANGUAGES: ITALIANO, ENGLISH || VITA
New: Dante vivo || White Silence