Venice is a famous town on the Adriatic coast of Italy, noted for the splendour of its many ancient buildings, the charm of its canals and the gaiety and affability of its inhabitants. No person who makes the Grand Tour can be considered to have seen Italy if he has not seen Venice:"Venetia, Venetia, chi non ti vede non ti pretia" etc etc
It is interesting that the gentleman with the thistle-down hair refers to it as 'Altinum's sea colony', suggesting that he is perhaps familiar with it from its origins in classical times. (Venice was founded by those who forsook the Roman city of Altinum in the fifth century for the safer islands of the lagoon, seeking refuge there from the depredations of Attila the Hun.)
Venice is entwined in the story of English Magic in many ways. For example Mrs Wintertowne, the mother of Lady Pole, possesses a very fine series of paintings of Venice, presented to her by Mr. Wintertowne as a wedding-gift. (Mrs. Wintertowne does not mention the name of the painter but from her allusion to his having later visited England it is quite likely she means Canaletto, who also produced the work shown here.)
Mrs Wintertowne in her turn later makes a gift of these paintings to her daughter when she marries Sir Walter Pole, and thus it is that the paintings are hanging in Sir Walter's house when Mrs Strange accompanies her husband there on a visit. Catching a glimpse of them through an open door and intrigued by the peculiar impression they give of richness and light, she enters the room to view them more closely and so stumbles upon Lady Pole, who is sitting quietly in the same room unobserved. This is the beginning of their acquaintance, which laters ripens to a friendship; and is therefore also the means of drawing Mrs Strange to the attention of the gentleman with the thistle-down hair.
Later, of course, it is in Venice that Jonathan Strange forms an attachment to the Greysteels; comes to a better understanding with Lord Byron; achieves his ambition of summoning a fairy; recovers the means of liberating Lady Pole; visits a brugh; learns how he has been tricked out of his wife; is summarily imprisoned in the Eternal Darkness, and goes mad [51 - 53, 54 - 57, 59].
It is also true that the mirrors through which Strange enters and leaves the King's Roads are of Venetian manufacture, as is the one through which Mrs Strange at last escapes her imprisonment in Lost-hope.
Austrians: To those of our readers who find it odd that the Austrians should apparently be the civil power in an Italian city during the time of Strange's madness, we can only refer them to a history which will explain the matter infinitely better than we can hope to do.