a1 Quain Student of English in the Department of English, University College, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT.
Rome after the Second World War presented something of an anomaly. Of all the traditional capitals of European civilization it was the least affected by the conflict. Because of the Pope's presence, it had not been bombed, and it had escaped the heavy fighting in the campaigns to the south. Indeed, so easily was it taken that one film was to show the Eternal City captured by a single jeep. Italy was also faster to recover than any of the other combatants. American money flooded into the country, and political life was quickly under way again. All this made it a good place for visitors, a relative bright spot amidst a shattered landscape. Harold Acton, the English historian who went there in 1948, remarked that “After the First World War American writers and artists had migrated to Paris: now they pitched upon Rome.” Among those who visited Rome or lived there for a period after the war were Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Frederic Prokosch, Daniel Cory, Alfred Kazin, Samuel Barber, Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick (slightly later), as well as Acton himself and a host of less well-known figures. Many were entertained by Lawrence and Babel Roberts, under whose influence “the Roman Academy became an international rendezvous for artists and intellectuals.” While they were there, a large proportion of these writers made a pilgrimage to the Convent of the Blue Sisters, where since 1941 George Santayana had been living in a single room.