Letters from Turkey, by Mary Wortley Montagu

Letter xiii.

Vienna. — Description of the emperor’s repository.

To Mr ——.

Vienna, Oct. O. S. 1716.

I DESERVE not all the reproaches you make me. If I have some time without answering your letter, it is not, that I don’t know how many thanks are due to you for it; or that I am stupid enough to prefer any amusements to the pleasure of hearing from you; but after the professions of esteem you have so obligingly made me, I cannot help delaying, as long as I can, shewing you that you are mistaken. If you are sincere, when you say you expect to be extremely entertained by my letters, I ought to be mortified at the disappointment that I am sure you will receive when you hear from me; though I have done my best endeavours to find out something worth writing to you. I have seen every thing that was to be seen with a very, diligent curiosity. Here are some fine villas, particularly the late prince of Litchtenstein’s; but the statues are all modern, and the pictures not of the first hands. ’Tis true, the emperor has some of great value. I was yesterday to see the repository, which they call his Treasure, where they seem to have been more diligent in amassing a great quantity of things, than in the choice of them. I spent above five hours there, and yet there were very few things that stopped me long to consider them. But the number is prodigious, being a very long gallery filled on both sides, and five large rooms. There is a vast quantity of paintings, amongst which are many fine miniatures; but the most valuable pictures, are a few of Corregio, those of Titian being at the Favorita.

THE cabinet of jewels did not appear to me so rich as I expected to see it. They shewed me here a cup, about the size of a tea dish, of one entire emerald, which they had so particular a respect for, that only the emperor has the liberty of touching it. There is a large cabinet full of curiosities of clock-work, only one of which I thought worth observing, that was a craw-fish, with all the motions so natural, that it was hard to distinguish it from the life.

THE next cabinet was a large collection of agates, some of them extremely beautiful, and of an uncommon size, and several vases of Lapis Lazuli. I was surprised to see the cabinet of medals so poorly furnished; I did not remark one of any value, and they are kept in a most ridiculous disorder. As to the antiques, very few of them deserve that name. Upon my saying they were modern, I could not forbear laughing at the answer of the profound antiquary that shewed them, that they were ancient enough; for, to his knowledge, they had been there these forty years. But the next cabinet diverted me yet better, being nothing else but a parcel of wax babies, and toys in ivory, very well worthy to be presented children of five years old. Two of the rooms were wholly filled with these trifles of all kinds, set in jewels, amongst which I was desired to observe a crucifix, that they assured me had spoke very wisely to the emperor Leopold. I won’t trouble you with a catalogue of the rest of the lumber; but I must not forget to mention a small piece of loadstone that held up an anchor of steel too heavy for me to lift. This is what I thought most curious in the whole treasure. There are some few heads of ancient statues; but several of them are defaced by modern additions. I foresee that you will be very little satisfied with this letter, and I dare hardly ask you to be good-natured enough to charge the dulness of it on the barrenness of the subject, and to overlook the stupidity of,

Your, &c. &c.

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