When I made up my mind last year to go to Florence I thought I would try and collect a few appropriate books to enlighten my ignorance and refresh my memory. I asked my friends what I should take, merely reminding them that Mr. Hare's volumes on Italy and George Eliot's 'Romola' had naturally occurred to myself. I got very little help before I went; but by degrees, during the month I was in Florence and since my return, I have collected and read several books which I should have been glad to have had last year, and which may help those who go straight from a busy home life and take a short trip to Florence. Of course the literature on Florence is so enormous, and people's taste in books differs so greatly, that to write a mere list of names would enlighten no one. I shall only mention those books which I either possess or have had lent to me to read; and if I describe them a little in detail, I think it may help the inexperienced to make a selection of those which they themselves would enjoy. At Florence there is a most excellent lending library; in fact, probably more than one.

As an example of 'art' teaching at the end of the last century there is now a cheap edition of Sir Joshua Reynolds's 'Discourses,' which are full of wisdom and general instruction. He shares with the greatest - Michael Angelo especially - the misfortune that those who came after him degenerated, which seemed at one time to justify the condemnation of his teaching. Here is a sentence from one of his 'Discourses' which comes home to me as a reason why, instead of giving my own superficial opinions, I try to help others by recommending books which I think will greatly add to their enjoyment of a visit to Florence:

'The great business of study is to form a mind adapted and adequate to all times and all occasions; to which all Nature is then laid open, and which may be said to possess the key of her inexhaustible riches.

'A detail of instruction might be extended with a great deal of pleasure and ostentatious amplification; but it would at best be useless. Our studies will be for ever in a very great degree under the direction of chance. Like travellers, we must take what we can get and when we can get it, whether it is or is not administered in the most commodious manner, in the most proper place, or at the exact minute when we would wish to have it.

'The habit of contemplating and brooding over the ideas of great geniuses, till you find yourself warmed by the contact, is the true method of forming an artist-like mind. It is impossible to think or invent in a mean manner; a state of mind is acquired that receives those ideas only which relish of grandeur and simplicity.

'I do not desire that you should get other people to do your business, or to think for you. I only wish you to consult with, to call in as councillors, men the most distinguished for their knowledge and experience, the result of which counsel must ultimately depend upon yourself. Such conduct in the commerce of life has never been considered as disgraceful or in any respect to imply intellectual imbecility; it is a sign rather of that true wisdom which feels individual imperfection, and is conscious to itself how much collective observation is necessary to fill the immense extent and to comprehend the infinite variety of Nature. I recommend neither self-dependence nor plagiarism. I advise you only to take that assistance which every human being wants, and which it appears, from the examples that have been given, the greatest painters have not disdained to accept.

'Let me add, the diligence required in the search, and the exertion subsequent in accommodating those ideas to your own purpose, is a business which idleness will not, and ignorance cannot, perform. Men of superior talents alone are capable of thus using and adapting other men's minds to their own purposes, or are able to make out and finish what was only in the original a hint or imperfect conception. A readiness in taking such hints, which escape the dull and ignorant, makes in my opinion no inconsiderable part of that faculty of the mind which is called genius.'

Before I begin my list of books I think I will say that there are few more useful things for young people to take with them to Italy than a biographical dictionary of the painters. I have two; but they are old ones. I have had them all my life. Doubtless there are better and more modern ones now, which I have not taken the trouble to look up. One is Pilkington's 'Dictionary of Painters' by Allan Cunningham, and the other a 'Dictionary of Italian Painters' by Maria Farquhar, edited by E. M. Wornham. This is a dear little book published in 1855, and light and portable, but probably long out of print. In studying art, nothing is more necessary than to know - not only the chronology of the pictures themselves, but also to a certain degree the evolution of the minds of the men who painted them. This we can partly arrive at by the dates of their births and deaths. The galleries as a rule are not arranged to help one much, though many pictures now have dates on their frames. Still, it requires a peculiar head - certainly, I think, one not possessed by most women - to arrange these dates of the painters' lives, overlapping each other as they do, on the spur of the moment, in a way that is of the smallest use for judging the merits of the pictures, and above all the mind of the man that shines through his work.

One should know the date of a picture, as in biography everything depends upon the age at which incidents occur.

Men of genius often do at twenty what is usually not done at forty; so every now and then a painter anticipates by centuries the thought or the execution of future ages.

In accordance with the taste of her day Maria Farquhar gives five double-columned pages of her little book to Raphael, and half a single column to Botticelli. In this she did not differ from her contemporaries, for, as Mr. Hewlett says in 'Earthwork out of Tuscany': 'seriously, where in criticism do you learn of an earlier painter than Perugino until you come to our day? And where now do you get the raptures over the Carracci and Domenichino, and Guercino and the rest of them, which the last century expended upon their unthrifty soil? Ruskin found Botticelli; yes, and Giotto. Roscoe never so much as mentions either.'