So 'well returned, and Heaven be praised!' as the cheerful Vetturino, who has borne us company all the way from Pisa, says, with all his heart! And away with his ready horses, into sleeping Naples!
It wakes again to Policinelli and pickpockets, buffo singers and beggars, rags, puppets, flowers, brightness, dirt, and universal degradation; airing its Harlequin suit in the sunshine, next day and every day; singing, starving, dancing, gaming, on the sea- shore; and leaving all labour to the burning mountain, which is ever at its work.
Our English dilettanti would be very pathetic on the subject of the national taste, if they could hear an Italian opera half as badly sung in England as we may hear the Foscari performed, to-night, in the splendid theatre of San Carlo. But, for astonishing truth and spirit in seizing and embodying the real life about it, the shabby little San Carlino Theatre--the rickety house one story high, with a staring picture outside: down among the drums and trumpets, and the tumblers, and the lady conjurer--is without a rival anywhere.
There is one extraordinary feature in the real life of Naples, at which we may take a glance before we go--the Lotteries.
They prevail in most parts of Italy, but are particularly obvious, in their effects and influences, here. They are drawn every Saturday. They bring an immense revenue to the Government; and diffuse a taste for gambling among the poorest of the poor, which is very comfortable to the coffers of the State, and very ruinous to themselves. The lowest stake is one grain; less than a farthing. One hundred numbers--from one to a hundred, inclusive-- are put into a box. Five are drawn. Those are the prizes. I buy three numbers. If one of them come up, I win a small prize. If two, some hundreds of times my stake. If three, three thousand five hundred times my stake. I stake (or play as they call it) what I can upon my numbers, and buy what numbers I please. The amount I play, I pay at the lottery office, where I purchase the ticket; and it is stated on the ticket itself.
Every lottery office keeps a printed book, an Universal Lottery Diviner, where every possible accident and circumstance is provided for, and has a number against it. For instance, let us take two carlini--about sevenpence. On our way to the lottery office, we run against a black man. When we get there, we say gravely, 'The Diviner.' It is handed over the counter, as a serious matter of business. We look at black man. Such a number. 'Give us that.' We look at running against a person in the street. 'Give us that. ' We look at the name of the street itself. 'Give us that.' Now, we have our three numbers.
If the roof of the theatre of San Carlo were to fall in, so many people would play upon the numbers attached to such an accident in the Diviner, that the Government would soon close those numbers, and decline to run the risk of losing any more upon them. This often happens. Not long ago, when there was a fire in the King's Palace, there was such a desperate run on fire, and king, and palace, that further stakes on the numbers attached to those words in the Golden Book were forbidden. Every accident or event, is supposed, by the ignorant populace, to be a revelation to the beholder, or party concerned, in connection with the lottery.