From the Baths of Lucca, in 1818, Shelley visited Venice; and,
circumstances rendering it eligible that we should remain a few weeks
in the neighbourhood of that city, he accepted the offer of Lord
Byron, who lent him the use of a villa he rented near Este; and he
sent for his family from Lucca to join him.
I Capuccini was a villa built on the site of a Capuchin convent,
demolished when the French suppressed religious houses; it was
situated on the very overhanging brow of a low hill at the foot of a
range of higher ones. The house was cheerful and pleasant; a
vine-trellised walk, a pergola, as it is called in Italian, led from
the hall-door to a summer-house at the end of the garden, which
Shelley made his study, and in which he began the "Prometheus"; and
here also, as he mentions in a letter, he wrote "Julian and Maddalo".
A slight ravine, with a road in its depth, divided the garden from the
hill, on which stood the ruins of the ancient castle of Este, whose
dark massive wall gave forth an echo, and from whose ruined crevices
owls and bats flitted forth at night, as the crescent moon sunk behind
the black and heavy battlements. We looked from the garden over the
wide plain of Lombardy, bounded to the west by the far Apennines,
while to the east the horizon was lost in misty distance. After the
picturesque but limited view of mountain, ravine, and chestnut-wood,
at the Baths of Lucca, there was something infinitely gratifying to
the eye in the wide range of prospect commanded by our new abode.
Our first misfortune, of the kind from which we soon suffered even
more severely, happened here. Our little girl, an infant in whose
small features I fancied that I traced great resemblance to her
father, showed symptoms of suffering from the heat of the climate.
Teething increased her illness and danger. We were at Este, and when
we became alarmed, hastened to Venice for the best advice. When we
arrived at Fusina, we found that we had forgotten our passport, and
the soldiers on duty attempted to prevent our crossing the laguna; but
they could not resist Shelley's impetuosity at such a moment. We had
scarcely arrived at Venice before life fled from the little sufferer,
and we returned to Este to weep her loss.
After a few weeks spent in this retreat, which was interspersed by
visits to Venice, we proceeded southward.