John Boyle, 5th Earl of Cork and Orrery undertook a Grand Tour of Europe in the mid 1750s. On the 23rd January 1755 he wrote from Florence;
“Arts and sciences weep at the extinction of the house of Medici. The Princes of that house were many of them learned; all of them encourages of learning. ‘Tuscany was to Italy’ says monsieur de Voltaire ‘what Athens was to Greece’. What Greece is, Tuscany possibly may be, perhaps Italy perhaps Europe. The ball of empire may hereafter roll westward, and may stop in America, a world, unknown when Greece was in its meridian glory; a world, that may save the tears of some future Alexander.”
Cork’s letters were published in 1774; Letters from Italy, in the years 1754 and 1755 by the late right honourable John Earl of Cork and Orrery. This extract is from letter XII.
Portrait attributed to Isaac Seeman, National Portrait Gallery, London