It was a severe disappointment, Beyle writes, when some years ago, looking through old papers, he came across an engraving entitled Prospetto d'Ivrea and was obliged to concede that his recollected picture of the town in the evening sun was nothing but a copy of that very engraving. This being so, Beyle's advice is not to purchase engravings of fine views and prospects seen on one's travels, since before very long they will displace our memories completely, indeed one might say they destroy them. For instance he could no longer recall the wonderful Sistine Madonna he had seen in Dresden, try as he might, because Muller's engraving of it had become superimposed in his mind; the wretched pastels by Mengs in the same gallery, on the other hand, of which he had never seen a copy, remained before him as clear as when he first saw them.
The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.