The Victorians were great diarists as well as travellers, and the life of the English ‘colony’ in Venice has been well documented. Around 1900 Sir Hubert Miller spent six months of the year in a ‘villa’ in Venice and, until recently, we have been unable to find out any more. At the time (2009) we did, however, come across the “Gertrude Bell Diaries” on the internet and they record a little of what life was like at that time. At the same time, Lady Layard, another member of the English ‘colony’ wrote a journal that finished up as 8,000 pages long, and, in it, there are several mentions of Sir Hubert, including where he lived in Venice (follow More at the bottom of the page). However, despite much research, we never could find the location of the Pal(azzo) Printi that she mentioned.
In April 2012 we were contacted by the daughter of Sir Hubert’s great niece and, following a visit with her mother, we discovered the true address of his residence in Venice - Lady Layard (see below) had got the name wrong! The actual name was Palazzo Priuli, which is now a busy hotel in the centre of Venice.
Palazzo PriuliHotel website
Gertrude Bell was a counsellor to kings and prime ministers; a colleague of Winston Churchill and Lloyd George; a crony of T.E. Lawrence and St. John Philby, and an intimate of Arab sheiks.
She was also a fearless traveller; in Switzerland she climbed unexplored icy peaks, in Turkey she visited remote ruins, in Mesopotamia she studied Arabic and rode sidesaddle across the Arabian Desert, venturing where few Westerners had dared go. The Arabs pronounced her a “daughter of the desert”.
Our interest stems from the fact that references to Sir Hubert appear on several pages, and we quote from them below (we have highlighted Sir Hubert's name in red):-
Friday 3rd April 1896
Better. Went to Torcello by steamer. Low tide, we steamed past Murano and through a narrow channel between grey and brown fields of mud; drew near Burano with its crooked tower, passed the tower of Mazzorbo and stopped by another tower. Then on to Torcello where we were landed in a field. The islands a mass of pink and white fruit blossom above the grey sea wrack. A wind over all the rushes. Walked through fields full of starch hyacinths to the grass grown square of Torcello where we photographed a little girl in Attila's chair. Into the church of beautiful capitals. In the Apse above the Bishop’s throne the great solemn Madonna with the child in her arms, weeping. Exquisite peacock and lion panels on the choir screen. On the pulpit, carved slabs cut into anyhow. The great campanile behind looking out over waste and sea. In the square the round, arched front of Santa Fosca and the absurd little Palazzo Pubblico with painted windows. Nothing else but a few tumble down houses and begging children. Back to Burano where we walked about the squalid streets with canals for roads and a view of Venice [Venezia] at the end of each. The fisher people look dreadfully thin and ragged, the women handsome but lined and worn; the children in rags, begging. The tide was full as we returned and we steamed through a great lake with the low shore on one side and the low Lido on the other. An island planted with cypresses makes a dark point in all grays [sic] and browns. Lunch. My lesson and out to tea with the Bensons - he showed us his pictures and we behaved in an examplary manner. In came Sir Hubert Miller who is furnishing Mr Williamson’s house for us - a poseur but amusing. He walked home with us. At 7.30 to the service in St Mark’s where we saw the lights put out one by one before the Miseria
Sat. 4th April 1896
Out early, to St Mark’s. The blessing of the fire was just over. Followed the procession into the church. They carried a 3 branch candlestick of which one candle was lighted. The other 2 they lighted one under each lamp. Went into the choir where we sat just behind Sir Hubert Miller who gave us his book. Endless chanting prayers by a priest in gold and embroidered garments. He stuck five pods of incense into a big candle, in the shape of a cross. All the candles and lamps were lit except the 4 on the altar. Then away to St Zaccaria where we saw the ceremony of blessing the brazier and lighting the candle and throwing the incense into the holy fire. On to San Giorgio dei Schiavone where we looked at the Carpaccios again. Back to St Mark’s where we arrived just in time to see the blessing of the font. Followed the procession up to the choir and stood outside during an endless litany. Then the candles on the altar were lighted, the organ pealed out, the voices rose in the Gloria, a bell rang and suddenly the curtain behind the altar fell open and the Pala d’oro shone out. A very splendid moment. Went down onto the Piazza and took a gondola (Vittorio 42) he greeted us joyfully ““Christ is risen” he said “and you are the first people to come in my gondola. It is very lucky.” Went to San Giovanni e Paolo where we saw a charming Cima? (or Carpaccio?) a Virgin with saints - the gloria had just been begun as we entered and all the veils had fallen. The Tintorettos are no longer here. San Grisostomo we couldn't get into; on to San Giovanni Elemosinario where we saw a Titian picture of the Saint, very gracious, and a S. del Piombo said to be fine but hung in too bad a light. Then to San Cassano where over the altar a Resurrection mostly hidden by an edifice over the altar, a most curious and noble Crucifixion with the crosses to one side and the horizon very low down, a Descent into Hell, black and quasi invisible, all Tintoret. Also a fine Palma Vecchio. Then to Santa Maria dell Orto, through a charming quarter and past Tintoret’s house; by the altar a magnificent Last Judgement, full of figures, and a Golden Calf, difficult to see; in a side chapel, miracle of St Agnes, looked fine, bad light; in another Presentation in the Temple - exquisite Titian’s clearly taken from it - all Tintoret. R. of the door an exquisite Cima Virgin enthroned with a canopy of architecture and boughs, a lovely landscape, and wild strawberries beneath the feet of the saints. Lunch. Lesson. Out at 4 and after a little shopping to Dr Van Sommeren’s where we had a most pleasant tea - he was ill poor dear. Presently in came Madame Wiel and Mr Montalba - the latter walked away with us to the end of the Piazza and back. Took Vittorio and went across to the Giudecca to Miss Macy's. Clear and wonderful. Dear little woman with a delightful long attic looking out to Venice [Venezia] on one side and the Lido on the other. Wonderful view, the Lagoon quite still and all reflections looking as if they were solid. Streaked with red and grey from the sunset. Had tea and she showed us her modellings and gave me a column of the Duke’s Palace. Tea before the open wood fire. In came Miss Atkinson, Miss Fletcher's friend, and a Miss Mackenzie. As we rowed away the Salute stood out dark against the sky where light lingered, looking flat not solid and San Giorgio divine catching the faint light. All the Piazza lights reflected in the water. Dinner late.
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