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Massimilla Doni
Honore de Balzac

Page 1 of 166


As all who are learned in such matters know, the Venetian aristocracy
is the first in Europe.  Its /Libro d'Oro/ dates from before the
Crusades, from a time when Venice, a survivor of Imperial and
Christian Rome which had flung itself into the waters to escape the
Barbarians, was already powerful and illustrious, and the head of the
political and commercial world. 

With a few rare exceptions this brilliant nobility has fallen into
utter ruin.  Among the gondoliers who serve the English--to whom
history here reads the lesson of their future fate--there are
descendants of long dead Doges whose names are older than those of
sovereigns.  On some bridge, as you glide past it, if you are ever in
Venice, you may admire some lovely girl in rags, a poor child
belonging, perhaps, to one of the most famous patrician families.  When
a nation of kings has fallen so low, naturally some curious characters
will be met with.  It is not surprising that sparks should flash out
among the ashes.

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