Dickens' Black BoatThursday, February 21, 2019
Del it. gondola, y este del gr. bizant. κοντούρα kontoúra 'barca de cola corta'.
1. f. Embarcación pequeña de recreo, sin palos ni cubierta, por lo común con una carroza en el centro, y que se usa principalmente en Venecia.
Diccionario de la Real Academia Española
Until the early 20th century, as many photographs attest, gondolas were often fitted with a "felze", a small cabin, to protect the passengers from the weather or from onlookers. Its windows could be closed with louvered shutters—the original "Venetian blinds".
Before Rosemary and I went to Venice last month we read up on whatever we could find about Venice and Italy. In my Vancouver Public Library I found a book Pictures from Italy written by Charles Dickens during a trip to Venice in the 1840s. At Macleod Books I purchased a beautiful edition (1877) called Pictures from Italy, Etc that included the author’s trips to the United States and Canada.
The chapter on Venice, An Italian Dream is written as if Dickens were asleep and visiting the city in a dream.
I was awakened after some time (as I thought) by the stopping of the coach. It was now quite night and we were at the water-side. There lay here a black boat with a little house or a cabin in it of the same mournful colour. When I had taken my seat in this, the boat was paddled, by two men, towards a great light, lying on the distance on the sea.
This to me was a lovely introduction to Venice. I was puzzled by the fact that Dickens called the ship a black boat and that he mentioned the little house. From Wikipedia I found out (see above) that the little cabin was called a felze. The amazing online RAE (Diccionario de la Real Academia Española) is always helpful to find the origin of a Word. It seems that gondola is of Byzantium/Greek origin.
At the Doge’s Palace in Venice I saw a gondola (a black one!) with a felze. While in Venice it was impossible not to be somehow drawn to taking pictures of every gondola seen. I have culled from the many I took for this blog.
We had five days in Venice and we went to every museum and gallery. Somehow getting on a gondola was not a priority. We never went on a ride.
|A Venetian gondola in Vancouver|