BOOK THE FIRST
3. Chapter III
PARENTAGE OF GLAUCUS. DESCRIPTION OF THE HOUSES OF POMPEII. CLASSIC REVEL.
HEAVEN had given to Glaucus every blessing but one: it had given him beauty,
health, fortune, genius, illustrious descent, a heart of fire, a mind of
poetry; but it had denied him the heritage of freedom. He was born in
Athens, the subject of Rome. Succeeding early to an ample inheritance, he
had indulged that inclination for travel so natural to the young, and had
drunk deep of the intoxicating draught of pleasure amidst the gorgeous
luxuries of the imperial court.
He was an Alcibiades without ambition. He was what a man of imagination,
youth, fortune, and talents, readily becomes when you deprive him of the
inspiration of glory. His house at Rome was the theme of the debauchees,
but also of the lovers of art; and the sculptors of Greece delighted to task
their skill in adorning the porticoes and exedrae of an Athenian. His
retreat in Pompeii--alas! the colors are faded now, the walls stripped of
their paintings!--its main beauty, its elaborate finish of grace and
ornament, is gone; yet when first given once more to the day, what eulogies,
what wonder, did its minute and glowing decorations create--its
paintings--its mosaics! Passionately enamoured of poetry and the drama,
which recalled to Glaucus the wit and the heroism of his race, that fairy
mansion was adorned with representations of AEschylus and Homer. And
antiquaries, who resolve taste to a trade, have turned the patron to the
professor, and still (though the error is now acknowledged) they style in
custom, as they first named in mistake, the disburied house of the Athenian
Glaucus 'THE HOUSE OF THE DRAMATIC POET'.
Previous to our description of this house, it may be as well to convey to
the reader a general notion of the houses of Pompeii, which he will find to
resemble strongly the plans of Vitruvius; but with all those differences in
detail, of caprice and taste, which being natural to mankind, have always
puzzled antiquaries. We shall endeavor to make this description as clear
and unpedantic as possible.