Page images
PDF
EPUB

and his country, when invited by the king to ask a favour for himself, is deserving of all praise. If the petition he then preferred had been successful, Italy would now be in the enjoyment of a representative government.

In announcing his purpose of publishing a memoir of the captivity of Spielberg, M. Maroncelli promised also several of the works composed by himself in prison. In the list, as inserted in the French newspaper, was one entitled Rimembranze, in which the sorrows of Giorgio Pallavicini, a young Italian patriot, are made the subject of a monologue supposed to be spoken by himself. This was given with the Additions, and a fair translation of it is now included in the present publication. With this single exception, the whole of the additions were intended solely to illustrate the work of Pellico; and, indeed, this poem had a similar value, because Pallavicini was one of the band of sufferers, and this pathetic and beautiful utterance of his woes is but the same that might, with little variation, have proceeded from Pellico or Maroncelli. The additions were first published in 1833, while the state prisons of Austria yet held

many victims. The same caution was therefore necessary, in respect to what was added, as had been so commendably observed in the original work. But, independently of prudential considerations, it would have been an absurd violation of propriety, to disregard Pellico's intention to avoid political topics. The additions, therefore, besides an enlarged biography, comprised explanatory notes respecting persons or events, and some lively sketches of the past and present literary character of Italy, which nourished or influenced that of Pellico and his associates.

A letter, addressed originally to the Courrier Français, and wholly omitted from that publication, shows the view taken of the subject at that time, and contains M. Maroncelli's own justification for disappointing those who expected him to depart from the mild forbearance of Pellico. We extract a considerable part of it, as forming a portion of the res gesta of the case.

*****"You announced, as forthcoming, the complete history of this same captivity which was to be prepared by me, for the purpose

of

preventing many misconceptions that might possibly be injurious to those who were yet in confinement. It was natural that, from the time I announced my intention to speak on this subject, others should be silent. Thus, if disclosures, full of energy, could irritate those who had their hands on the bolts of Spielberg, it was gaining something to remove all such pretext for more aggravated vexations. Much more: with a view to the same end, my historical recital, and several poems that I had composed by heart in the prison, have not appeared." I reserved them for a more propitious moment. A year elapsed; and the bars of Spielberg opened to release a citizen of France. Afterwards, Silvio Pellico himself made his captivity and my own the subject of an admirable

work, which is not a book of politics; still less, of party; and least of all, of animosity. But it might be rendered more complete, in two respects-in a dramatic and an historical point of view. As we were for a long time separated from each other, the same personages that enter on the scene with Silvio, were also either previously or subsequently in contact with me. It would have been difficult to make another book; to glean here and there a word, or a fact that could not find its proper place, except in sequence to what is said by Pellico. This is not putting a book at the foot of another; it is completing one that deserved to be so, and which could not be completed by another. Accordingly, Pellico himself wrote to me to supply this dramatic completion to his work. As to the historical notes, they do not, any more, change the character of the book. There were good reasons why Pellico did not himself add them. In Italy, to give historical notes on Porso and Confalonieri, would be like doing the same thing in France to Lafayette or Lafitte. Thank God, the Italians have not forgotten who those great men were. But with strangers it is different,” &c.

We are aware that there is not in the whole world an autocrat more absolute than an editor whose "little brief authority” extends over a reprint or a translation, with power to cut and carve, leave out or transpose, according to his sovereign irresponsible will. But we have such unfeigned respect for the revered and learned gentleman whose name appears in the entry of copyright, and whose initials are signed to the “editor's note,” that we had supposed he would have “borne his faculties more meekly,” than thus arbitrarily to make the whimsical omissions we have noticed; particularly, as in no other thing about the two volumes can we perceive in what the book is beholden to the editorship.

The anecdotes illustrative of the Memoirs are various in their character, and the facts appeal irresistibly to the feelings, but no violence of language makes discord with the placid tone of Pellico. A difference is, however, perceptible. The one appears to forgive with all his heart; the other to regard that easier gospel precept, “ be angry, and sin not.” We extract an affecting anecdote, which Pellico could not have given, under the restrictions of censorship in Piedmont, where the influence of Austria is predominant.

“The second ministerial personage who came to visit us, the Count or Baron Von Vogel, discovered a breach of order, in a small cushion on the bed of Confalonieri. Its history was as follows: The countess had come to Vienna to solicit pardon for her husband. His fate was decided, and a courier had been despatched at midnight with the sentence oi death. The kind-hearted empress, unable to save his life, sent a chamberlain to the countess to express her sorrow that she had not been able to obtain a pardon. Teresa Confalonieri hastened to the palace, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour; the empress had retired, but

ould not refuse to receive her. She wept; their tears were mingled, and the empress, overcome by her distress, rushed with disheveled hair into the apartment of her consort, and after some time (what an age of misery

for an anxious wife!) she returned with the grant of his life. Haste ! haste! the courier must be overtaken; he must be passed; he bears the sentence of death. Teresa threw herself into a carriage, and without a moment's repose, bribing the postilions to the utmost speed, she arrived in time at Milan, and Confalonieri escaped the gibbet. During that journey her head rested on a small cushion that she moistened with her tears, – tears of conjugal love, and mortal anxiety lest she should arrive too late. This cushion, the confidant of the most solemn and most tragic moments in the lives of both, was consigned to the judges who had condemned Confalonieri to death. They transmitted it to the rescued husband, and he brought it with him to Spielberg. There, stripped of his clothes, loaded with chains, lying upon straw, deprived of every comfort, his cushion still remained to him. All the superintendents and governors, even Minch Von Burlinghausen, had respected it;—the Baron or Count Von Vogel thought it an irregularity, and took it from him.”

Such relations as this-melancholy as it is—make us wish for more.

It is sad to think a tyrant should have power to sever two affectionate and virtuous hearts,—but the amiable countess never was allowed to see her husband again; and he is released after so many years of cruel confinement only to mourn over the tomb of that gentle and beloved partner, whose tears, the last legacy of her love, were too great a treasure to be allowed to him in his dungeon !

Approving, as we unreservedly do, the forbearance and selfrestraint with which M. Maroncelli has abstained from mingling any asperity with the mildness of Pellico, we cannot but think the promise that he made in 1831, and repeated at a later period, to give the world a narrative of their imprisonment and its causes, remains in full obligation. Even if he had not promised, such a work is due from him. We claim its performance whenever the time shall come—and we know not why it is not now—when the unrestrained disclosure of the whole truth can be no possible pretext for an additional rivet in the chains that bind any martyr of liberty in an Austrian prison. The subject is replete with interest, and is of vital importance to the rights of humanity; and he is manifestly full of the knowledge and ability required for the task. Pellico has poured forth his tale of wrongs, and his saint-like forgiveness of them, in tones as gentle as the breathings of an Æolian harp, and, by the contemplation of the purest of earthly feelings, leads our thoughts to the more perfect purity of heaven; but to his friend we look for a different service to the world; we ask of him an exposition that, like a far-resounding trumpet blast, shall make the tyrant tremble on his throne, and arouse the ingenuous minds of every land to a fonder love of freedom, and a deeper detestation of oppression.

As Pellico is a poet, a dramatist, and a moral philosopher; as he has been, at least, a man of letters, and in them has

[ocr errors]

“ lived, and moved, and had his being,” we cannot consider inappropriate the notices of literature and literary persons, which constitute a large portion of the ADDITIONS. We have already spoken of the Conciliator, but there is another subject of a kindred nature that we are induced to consider somewhat at large. In speaking of the works of that association which supported the Conciliator, M. Maroncelli is led to mention, and explain by a rapid analysis, the new theory in æsthetics and criticism that has been called cormentalism; and of which he was, himself, the founder. We hope he will be induced to give a much fuller developement of it; and if he cannot obtain the restoration of his manuscripts from the Austrian authorities, he will write it anew, with special reference to English and American literature, which were probably not much in his view sixteen years ago.

It seems that Count Arrivabene proposed this question for the consideration of his friend : “ Which have done most honour to the human mind, the productions of the classic, or those of the romantic literature ?** This is an enquiry involving greater difficulty than can be appreciated, without recollecting what has been the received distinction between the two schools; and what the real difference between them. It may be said that all fictitious composition, of whatever age or diversity of poetic merit, which derives its incidents and persons from the ancient mythology or history of Greece and Rome, has been entitled classic; and all that depends on the events and creeds of the middle ages is termed romantic; without reference to any other criterion.

For the most part, an evident opposition of character arises from this difference in the choice of materials. But the characteristics are sometimes inextricably blended. The Greeks possessed, by natural temperament, an unequalled sensibility to the beauty of outward form; and, it may be added, to its existence in human conduct. They nourished that sensibility by their mode of life, chiefly spent in the open air, in athletic or martial training, surrounded with exquisite productions of the arts; and employed in constant competition for the excellence of bodily and intellectual power, which, combined in the human shape, they regarded as the ultimate ideal of perfection. Their approbation of all that was self-devoted in moral conduct was more than a judgment;—it was a sentiment;—and their admiration of elegance in the human form was more than a sentiment, it was a passion ;—and hence their poetry; for

" As on the beach the waves at last are broke,

Thus, to their extreme verge the passions wrought
Break into poetry.”

But their philosophy repressed enthusiasm by inculcating tranquillity of mind as to the true source of happiness; and their notions respecting religion were devoid of pathos or sublimity, being precise and definite, like their sculpture. Neither philosophy nor religion, therefore, in those days, lent much aid to poetry; and it was under these circumstances, of a partly favourable and partly unpropitious nature, those admirable works were produced, which the Romans imitated, and the classic school of modern literature maintain to be the only worthy standards of elegance in poetic or fictitious composition.

But Europe, after the revival of letters, offered very different materials for poetry. The doctrines of Christianity had turned men's minds to the consideration of their spiritual nature; and the beauty of form was less highly, because less exclusively, appreciated. A shadowy futurity was open to the apprehension, and an indefinite aspiration after something better than the bare realities of the world, but beyond the power of precise conception, or exact description,-entered into the general language of poetry, because it had truly taken possession of the heart. A new race of heroes had arisen, and motives unknown to the ancients had carried them to the utmost verge of adventure. There had been wars for religion, and combats for love; zeal in the propagation of faith, loyalty to a feudal chief, and fidelity to a mistress, were virtues of recent growth, and immeasurable influence. The store of poetic materials thus supplied, was first used by the troubadours, and they have been followed by the writers of the romantic school. Wide as the difference appears, the discrimination is often of difficult application ; thus it is plainly impossible to confine Milton within the limits of the classic school, where he is generally placed by critics who adopt this classification; and as to many other distinguished poets in our own and other languages, the rule of discrimination seems equally imperfect.

In the course of his investigation of the question propounded to him, M. Maroncelli perceived, as he thought, the necessity for a better-founded line of discrimination, which is the one he suggests. He found in the literature of every nation “two essential characteristics, not belonging to seas, climes, or languages, but to the moral, religious, and political condition peculiar to every different period, and distinct from that resulting from the particular circumstances of each individual.” The enquiry thus became enlarged, so as to comprehend an examination of all the various changes in man's social condition,-or in other words, the whole history of mankind. That man is essentially social, he was soon convinced; but he was also satisfied that the spirit of paganism is opposed to every form of human society-even that of families. It is selfish and

« PreviousContinue »