"Well, well, she's gone, And I have tamed my sorrow. Pain and grief Are transitory things, no less than joy; And though they leave us not the men we were, Yet they do leave us. You behold me here, A man bereaved, with something of a blight Upon the early blossoms of his life, And its first verdure,—having not the less A living root, and drawing from the earth Its vital juices, from the air its powers: And surely as man's heart and strength are whole, His appetites regerminate, his heart Reopens, and his objects and desires Spring up renewed."
But though Artevelde speaks truly and well, you remember how Mr. Taylor, in that noble play, works out to our view the sad sight of the deterioration of character, the growing coarseness and harshness, the lessening tenderness and kindliness, which are apt to come with advancing years. Great trials, we know, passing over us, may influence us either for the worse or the better; and unless our nature is a very obdurate and poor one, though they may leave us, they will not leave us the men we were. Once, at a public meeting, I heard a man in eminent station make a speech. I had never seen him before; but I remembered an inscription which I had read, in a certain churchyard far away, upon the stone that marked the resting-place of his young wife, who had died many years before. I thought of its simple words of manly and hearty sorrow. I knew that the eminence he had reached had not come till she who would have been proudest of it was beyond knowing it or caring for it. And I cannot say with what interest and satisfaction I thought I could trace, in the features which were sad without the infusion of a grain of sentimentalism, in the subdued and quiet tone of the man's whole aspect and manner and address, the manifest proof that he had not shut down the leaf upon that old page of his history, that he had never quite got over that great grief of earlier years. One felt better and more hopeful for the sight. I suppose many people, after meeting some overwhelming loss or trial, have fancied that they would soon die; but that is almost invariably a delusion. Various dogs have died of a broken heart, but very few human beings. The Inferior creature has pined away at his master's loss: as for us, it is not that one would doubt the depth and sincerity of sorrow, but that there is more endurance in our constitution, and that God has appointed that grief shall rather mould and influence than kill. It is a much sadder sight than an early death, to see human beings live on after heavy trial, and sink into something very unlike their early selves and very inferior to their early selves. I can well believe that many a human being, if he could have a glimpse in innocent youth of what he will be twenty or thirty years after, would pray in anguish to be taken before coming to that! Mansie Wauch's glimpse of destitution was bad enough; but a million times worse is a glimpse of hardened and unabashed sin and shame. And it would be no comfort—it would be an aggravation in that view—to think that by the time you have reached that miserable point, you will have grown pretty well reconciled to it. That is the worst of all. To be wicked and depraved, and to feel it, and to be wretched under it, is bad enough; but it is a great deal worse to have fallen into that depth of moral degradation and to feel that really you don't care. The instinct of accommodation is not always a blessing. It is happy for us, that, though in youth we hoped to live in a castle or a palace, we can make up our mind to live in a little parsonage or a quiet street in a country town. It is happy for us, that, though in youth we hoped to be very great and famous, we are so entirely reconciled to being little and unknown. But it is not happy for the poor girl who walks the Haymarket at night that she feels her degradation so little. It is not happy that she has come to feel towards her miserable life so differently now from what she would have felt towards it, had it been set before her while she was the blooming, thoughtless creature in the little cottage in the country. It is only by fits and starts that the poor drunken wretch, living in a garret upon a little pittance allowed him by his relations, who was once a man of character and hope, feels what a sad pitch he has come to. If you could get him to feel it constantly, there would be some hope of his reclamation even yet.
It seems to me a very comforting thought, in looking on to Future Years, if you are able to think that you are in a profession or a calling from which you will never retire. For the prospect of a total change in your mode of life, and the entire cessation of the occupation which for many years employed the greater part of your waking thoughts, and all this amid the failing powers and flagging hopes of declining years, is both a sad and a perplexing prospect to a thoughtful person. For such a person cannot regard this great change simply in the light of a rest from toil and worry; he will know quite well what a blankness and listlessness and loss of interest in life will come of feeling all at once that you have nothing at all to do. And so it is a great blessing, if your vocation be one which is a dignified and befitting one for an old man to be engaged in, one that beseems his gravity—and his long experience, one that beseems even his slow movements and his white hairs. It is a pleasant thing to see an old man a judge; his years become the judgment-seat. But then the old man can hold such an office only while he retains strength of body and mind efficiently to perform its duties; and he must do all his work for himself: and accordingly a day must come when the venerable Chancellor resigns the Great Seal; when the aged Justice or Baron must give up his place; and when these honored Judges, though still retaining considerable vigor, but vigor less than enough for their hard work, are compelled to feel that their occupation is gone. And accordingly I hold that what is the best of all professions, for many reasons, is especially so for this, that you need never retire from it. In the Church you need not do all your duty yourself. You may get assistance to supplement your own lessening strength. The energetic young curate or curates may do that part of the parish work which exceeds the power of the aging incumbent, while the entire parochial machinery has still the advantage of being directed by his wisdom and experience, and while the old man is still permitted to do what he can with such strength as is spared to him, and to feel that he is useful in the noblest cause yet. And even to extremest age and frailty,—to age and frailty which would long since have incapacitated the judge for the bench,—the parish clergyman may take some share in the much-loved duty in which he has labored so long. He may still, though briefly, and only now and then, address his flock from the pulpit, in words which his very feebleness will make far more touchingly effective than the most vigorous eloquence and the richest and fullest tones of his young coadjutors. There never will be, within the sacred walls, a silence and reverence more profound than when the withered kindly face looks as of old upon the congregation, to whose fathers its owner first ministered, and which has grown up mainly under his instruction,—and when the voice that falls familiarly on so many ears tells again, quietly and earnestly, the old story which we all need so much to hear. And he may still look in at the parish school, and watch the growth of a generation that is to do the work of life when he is in his grave; and kindly smooth the children's heads; and tell them how One, once a little child, and never more than a young man, brought salvation alike to young and old. He may still sit by the bedside of the sick and dying, and speak to such with the sympathy and the solemnity of one who does not forget that the last great realities are drawing near to both. But there are vocations which are all very well for young or middle-aged people, but which do not quite suit the old. Such is that of the barrister. Wrangling and hair-splitting, browbeating and bewildering witnesses, making coarse jokes to excite the laughter of common jury-men, and addressing such with clap-trap bellowings, are not the work for gray-headed men. If such remain at the bar, rather let them have the more refined work of the Equity Courts, where you address judges, and not juries; and where you spare clap-trap and misrepresentation, if for no better reason, because you know that these will not stand you in the slightest stead. The work which best befits the aged, the work for which no mortal can ever become too venerable and dignified or too weak and frail, is the work of Christian usefulness and philanthropy. And it is a beautiful sight to see, as I trust we all have seen, that work persevered in with the closing energies of life. It is a noble test of the soundness of the principle that prompted to its first undertaking. It is a hopeful and cheering sight to younger men, looking out with something of fear to the temptations and trials of the years before them. Oh! if the gray-haired clergyman, with less now, indeed, of physical strength and mere physical warmth, yet preaches, with the added weight and solemnity of his long experience, the same blessed doctrines now, after forty years, that he preached in his early prime; if the philanthropist of half a century since is the philanthropist still,—still kind, hopeful, and unwearied, though with the snows of age upon his head, and the hand that never told its fellow of what it did now trembling as it does the deed of mercy; then I think that even the most doubtful will believe that the principle and the religion of such men were a glorious reality! The sternest of all touchstones of the genuineness of our better feelings is the fashion in which they stand the wear of years.
But my shortening space warns me to stop; and I must cease, for the present, from these thoughts of Future Years,—cease, I mean, from writing about that mysterious tract before us: who can cease from thinking of it? You remember how the writer of that little poem which has been quoted asks Time to touch gently him and his. Of course he spoke as a poet, stating the case fancifully,—but not forgetting, that, when we come to sober sense, we must prefer our requests to an Ear more ready to hear us and a Hand more ready to help. It is not to Time that I shall apply to lead me through life into immortality! And I cannot think of years to come without going back to a greater poet, whom we need not esteem the less because his inspiration was loftier than that of the Muses, who has summed up so grandly in one comprehensive sentence all the possibilities which could befall him in the days and ages before him. "Thou shall guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory!" Let us humbly trust that in that sketch, round and complete, of all that can ever come to us, my readers and I may be able to read the history of our Future Years!
BROTHER JONATHAN'S LAMENT FOR SISTER CAROLINE.
She has gone,—she has left us in passion and pride,— Our stormy-browed sister, so long at our side! She has torn her own star from our firmament's glow, And turned on her brother the face of a foe!
O Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun, We can never forget that our hearts have been one,— Our foreheads both sprinkled in Liberty's name, From the fountain of blood with the finger of flame!
You were always too ready to fire at a touch; But we said, "She is hasty,—she does not mean much." We have scowled, when you uttered some turbulent threat; But Friendship still whispered, "Forgive and forget!"
Has our love all died out? Have its altars grown cold? Has the curse come at last which the fathers foretold? Then Nature must teach us the strength of the chain That her petulant children would sever in vain.
They may fight till the buzzards are gorged with their spoil, Till the harvest grows black as it rots in the soil, Till the wolves and the catamounts troop from their caves, And the shark tracks the pirate, the lord of the waves:
In vain is the strife! When its fury is past, Their fortunes must flow in one channel at last, As the torrents that rush from the mountains of snow Roll mingled in peace through the valleys below.
Our Union is river, lake, ocean, and sky: Man breaks not the medal, when God cuts the die! Though darkened with sulphur, though cloven with steel, The blue arch will brighten, the waters will heal!
O Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun, There are battles with Fate that can never be won! The star-flowering banner must never be furled, For its blossoms of light are the hope of the world!
Go, then, our rash sister! afar and aloof,— Run wild in the sunshine away from our roof; But when your heart aches and your feet have grown sore, Remember the pathway that leads to our door!
ORIGINAL MEMORIALS OF MRS. PIOZZI.
Ninety years ago, one of the pleasantest houses near London, for the society that gathered within it, was Mr., or rather, Mrs. Thrale's, at Streatham Park. To be a guest there was to meet the best people in England, and to hear such good talk that much of it has not lost its flavor even yet. Strawberry Hill, Holland House, or any other famous house of that day, has left but faint memories of itself, compared with those of Streatham. Boswell, the most sagacious of men in the hunt after good company, had the good wit and good fortune to get entrance here. One day, in 1769, Dr. Johnson delivered him "a very polite card" from Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, inviting him to Streatham. "On the 6th of October, I complied," he says, "with their obliging invitation, and found, at an elegant villa six miles from town, every circumstance that can make society pleasing." Upon the walls of the library hung portraits of the master and mistress of the house, and of their most familiar friends and guests, all by Sir Joshua. Madame d'Arblay, in her most entertaining "Diary," gives a list of them,—and a list is all that is needed of such famous names. "Mrs. Thrale and her eldest daughter were in one piece, over the fireplace, at full length. The rest of the pictures were all three-quarters. Mr. Thrale was over the door leading to his study. The general collection then began by Lord Sandys and Lord Westcote, (Lyttelton,) two early noble friends of Mr. Thrale. Then followed Dr. Johnson, Mr. Burke, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Garrick, Mr. Baretti, Sir Robert Chambers, and Sir Joshua Reynolds himself,—all painted in the highest style of this great master, who much delighted in this his Streatham Gallery. There was place left but for one more frame when the acquaintance with Dr. Burney began at Streatham."
A household which had such men for its intimates must have had a more than common charm in itself, and at Streatham this charm lay chiefly in the character of its mistress. It was Mrs. Thrale who had the rare power "to call together the most select company when it pleased her." In 1770 she was thirty years old. A small and not beautiful woman, but with a variety of expression that more than compensated for the want of handsome features, with a frank, animated manner, and that highest tact which sets guests at ease, there was something specially attractive in her first address. But beyond this she was the pleasantest converser of all the ladies of the day. In that art in which one "has all mankind for competitors," there was no one equal to her in her way. Gifted with the readiest of well-stored memories, with a lively wit and sprightly fancy, with a strong desire to please and an ambition to shine, she never failed to win admiration, while her sweetness of temper and delicate consideration for others gained for her a general regard. For many years she was the friend who did most to make Johnson's life happy. He was a constant inmate at Streatham. "I long thought you," wrote he, "the first of womankind." It was her "kindness which soothed twenty years of a life radically wretched." "To see and hear you," he wrote, "is always to hear wit and to see virtue." She belonged, in truth, to the most serviceable class of women,—by no means to the highest order of her sex. She was not a woman of deep heart, or of noble or tender feeling; but she had kindly and ready sympathies, and such a disposition to please as gave her the capacity of pleasing. Her very faults added to her success. She was vain and ambitious; but her vanity led her to seek the praises of others, and her ambition taught her how to gain them. She was selfish; but she pleased herself not at the expense of others, but by paying them attentions which returned to her in personal gratifications. She was made for such a position as that which she held at Streatham. The highest eulogy of her is given in an incidental way by Boswell. He reports Johnson as saying one day, "'How few of his friends' houses would a man choose to be at when he is sick!' He mentioned one or two. I recollect only Thrale's."
All the world of readers know the main incidents of Mrs. Thrale's life. Her own books, Boswell, Madame d'Arblay, have made us almost as familiar with her as with Dr. Johnson himself. Not yet have people got tired of wondering at her marriage with Piozzi, or of amusing themselves with the gossip of the old lady who remained a wit at eighty years old, and, having outlived her great contemporaries, was happy in not outliving her own faculties. Few characters not more remarkable have been more discussed than hers. Macaulay, with characteristic unfairness, gave a view of her conduct which Mr. Hayward, in his recently published entertaining volumes,[A] shows to have been in great part the invention of the great essayist's lively and unprincipled imagination. In the autobiographical memorials of Mrs. Piozzi, now for the first time printed, there is much that throws light on her life, and her relations with her contemporaries. They do not so much raise one's respect for her, as present her to us as a very natural and generally likable sort of woman, even in those acts of her life which have been the most blamed.
[Footnote A: Autobiography, Letters, and Literary Remains of Mrs. Piozzi (Thrale). Edited, with Notes and an Introductory Account of her Life and Writings, by A. Hayward, Esq., Q.C. In Two Volumes. London, 1861. Reprinted by Ticknor & Fields.]
If she had but died while she was mistress of Streatham, we should have only delightful recollections of her. She would have been one of the most agreeable famous women on record. But the last forty years of her life were not as charming as the first. Her weaknesses gained mastery over her, her vanity led her into follies, and she who had once been the favorite correspondent of Dr. Johnson now appears as the correspondent of such inferior persona that no association is connected with their names. Mrs. Thrale and Mrs. Piozzi are two different persons. One belongs to Streatham, the other to Bath; one is "always young and always pretty," the other a rouged old woman. But it is unfair to push the contrast too far. Mrs. Piozzi at seventy or eighty was as sprightly, as good-natured, as Mrs. Thrale at thirty or forty. She never lost her vivacity, never her desire to please. But it is a sadly different thing to please Dr. Johnson, Burke, or Sir Joshua, and to please
Those real genuine no-mistake Tom Thumbs, The little people fed on great men's crumbs.
One of the most marked and least satisfactory expressions of Mrs. Piozzi's character during her later years was a fancy that she took to Conway, a young and handsome actor, who appeared in Bath, where she was then living, in the year 1819. From the time of her first acquaintance with him, till her death, in 1821, she treated him with the most flattering regard,—with an affection, indeed, that might be called motherly, had there not been in it an element of excitement which was neither maternal nor dignified. Conway was a gentleman in feeling, and seems to have had not only a grateful sense of the old lady's partiality for him, but a sincere interest also in hearing from her of the days and the friends of her youth. So she wrote letters to him, gave him books filled with annotations, (it was a favorite habit of hers to write notes on the margins of books,) wrote for him the story of her life, and drew on the resources of her marvellous memory for his amusement. The old woman's kindness was one of the few bright things in poor Conway's unhappy life. His temperament was morbidly sensitive; and when, in 1821, while acting in London, Theodore Hook attacked him in the most cruel and offensive manner in the columns of the "John Bull," he threw up his engagement, determined to act no more in London, and for a time left the stage. A year or two afterwards he came to this country, and met with a very considerable success. But he fancied himself underrated, and, after performing in Philadelphia in the winter of 1826, he took passage for Charleston, and on the voyage threw himself overboard and was lost. His effects were afterwards sold by auction in New York. Among them were many interesting relics and memorials of Mrs. Piozzi. Mr. Hayward mentions "a copy of the folio edition of Young's 'Night Thoughts,' in which he had made a note of its having been presented to him by his 'dearly attached friend, the celebrated Mrs. Piozzi.'" But there were other books of far greater interest and value than this. There was, as we have been informed, a copy of Malone's Shakspeare, with numerous notes in the handwriting of Dr. Johnson,—and a copy of "Prayers and Meditations by Samuel Johnson," with several additional manuscript prayers, and Mrs. Piozzi's name upon one of the fly-leaves. But more curious still was a copy of Mrs. Piozzi's "Journey through France, Italy, and Germany," both volumes of which are full of marginal notes, while, inserted at the beginning and the end, are many pages of Mrs. Piozzi's beautifully written manuscript, containing a narrative and anecdotes of portions of her life. These volumes now lie before us,[B] and their unpublished contents are as lively, as entertaining, and as rich in autobiographic illustration, as any of the material of which Mr. Hayward's recent book is composed.
[Footnote B: This unique copy of the Journey through France, etc., is in the possession of Mr. Duncan C. Pell, of Newport, R.I. It is to his liberality that we are indebted for the privilege of laying before the readers of the Atlantic the following portions of Mrs. Piozzi's manuscript.]
On the first fly-leaf is the following inscription:—
"These Books do not in any wise belong to me; they are the property of William Augustus Conway, Esq., who left them to my care, for purpose of putting notes, when he quitted Bath, May 14, 1819.
"Hester Lynch Piozzi writes this for fear lest her death happening before his return, these books might be confounded among the others in her study."
On the next page the narrative begins, and with a truly astonishing spirit for the writing of a woman in her eightieth year. Her old vivacity is still natural to her; there is nothing forced in the pleasantry of this introduction.
"A Lady once—'t was many years ago—asked me to lend her a book out of my library at Streatham Park. 'A book of entertainment,' said J, 'of course.' 'That I don't know or rightly comprehend;' was her odd answer; 'I wish for an Abridgment.' 'An Abridgment of what?' 'That,' she replied, 'you must tell me, my Dear; for I am no reader, like you and Dr. Johnson; I only remember that the last book I read was very pretty, and my husband called it an Abridgment.'.... And if I give some account of myself here in these few little sheets prefixed to my 'Journey thro' Italy,' you must kindly accept
The first pages of the manuscript are occupied by Mrs. Piozzi with an account of her family and of her own early life. They contain in brief the same narrative that she gave in her "Autobiographical Memoirs," printed by Mr. Hayward, in his first volume. Here is a story, however, which we do not remember to have seen before.
"My heart was free, my head full of Authors, Actors, Literature in every shape; and I had a dear, dear friend, an old Dr. Collier, who said he was sixty-six years old, I remember, the day I was sixteen, and whose instructions I prized beyond all the gayeties of early life: nor have I ever passed a day since we parted in which I have not recollected with gratitude the boundless obligations that I owe him. He was intimate with the famous James Harris of Salisbury, Lord Malmesbury's father, of whom you have heard how Charles Townshend said, when he took his seat in the House of Commons,—'Who is this man?'—to his next neighbour; 'I never saw him before.' 'Who? Why, Harris the author, that wrote one book about Grammar [so he did] and one about Virtue.' 'What does he come here for?' replies Spanish Charles; 'he will find neither Grammar nor Virtue here.' Well, my dear old Dr. Collier had much of both, and delighted to shake the superflux of his full mind over mine, ready to receive instruction conveyed with so much tender assiduity."
In both her autobiographies, the printed as well as the manuscript, Mrs. Piozzi speaks in very cold and disparaging terms of her first husband, Mr. Thrale. Her marriage with him had not been a love-match; but we suspect that the long course of years had been unfavorable to his memory in her recollection, and that the blame with which his friends visited her second marriage, which was in all respects an affair of the heart, produced in her a certain bitterness of feeling toward Mr. Thrale, as if he had been the author of these reproaches. It is impossible to believe that he was as indifferent to her as she represents, and that her marriage with him was not moderately happy. Had it been otherwise, however well appearances might have been kept up, Dr. Johnson could hardly have been deceived concerning the truth, and would hardly have ventured to write to her in his letter of consolation upon Mr. Thrale's death in 1781,—
"He that has given you happiness in marriage, to a degree of which, without personal knowledge, I should have thought the description fabulous, can give you another mode of happiness as a mother."
One of her most decided intellectual characteristics was her versatility, or, to give it a harder name, what Johnson called her "instability of attention." Dulness was, in her code, the unpardonable sin. Variety was the charm of life, and of books. She never dwelt long on one idea. Her letters and her books are pieces of mosaic-work, the bits of material being put together without any regular pattern, but often with a pretty effect. Here is an illustration of her style.
"In a few years (our Letters tell the date) Johnson was introduced; and now I must laugh at a ridiculous Retrospection. When I was a very young wench, scarce twelve years old I trust, my notice was strongly attracted by a Mountebank in some town we were passing through. 'What a fine fellow!' said I; 'dear Papa, do ask him to dinner with us at our inn!—or, at least, Merry Andrew, because he could tell us such clever stories of his master.' My Father laughed sans intermission an hour by the dial, as Jacques once at Motley.—Yet did dear Mr. Conway's fancy for H.L.P.'s conversation grow up, at first, out of something not unlike this, when, his high-polished mind and fervid imagination taking fire from the tall Beacon bearing Dr. Johnson's fame above the clouds, he thought some information might perhaps be gained by talk with the old female who so long carried coals to it. She has told all, or nearly all, she knew,—
'And like poor Andrew must advance, Mean mimic of her master's dance;— But similes, like songs in love, Describing much, too little prove.'
"So now, leaving Prior's pretty verses, and leaving Dr. Johnson too, who was himself severely censured for his rough criticism on a writer who had pleased all in our Augustan age of Literature, poor H.L.P. turns egotist at eighty, and tells her own adventures."
But the octogenarian egotist has something to tell about beside herself. Here is a passage of interest to the student of Shakspearian localities, and bearing on a matter in dispute from the days of Malone and Chalmers.
"For a long time, then,—or I thought it such,—my fate was bound up with the old Globe Theatre, upon the Bankside, Southwark; the alley it had occupied having been purchased and thrown down by Mr. Thrale to make an opening before the windows of our dwelling-house. When it lay desolate in a black heap of rubbish, my Mother, one day, in joke, called it the Ruins of Palmyra; and after they had laid it down in a grass-plot, Palmyra was the name it went by, I suppose, among the clerks and servants of the brew-house; for when the Quaker Barclay bought the whole, I read that name with wonder in the Writings."—"But there were really curious remains of the old Globe Playhouse, which, though hexagonal in form without, was round within, as circles contain more space than other shapes, and Bees make their cells in hexagons only because that figure best admits of junction. Before I quitted the premises, however, I learned that Tarleton, the actor of those times, was not buried at St. Saviour's, Southwark, as he wished, near Massinger and Cower, but at Shoreditch Church. He was the first of the profession whose fame was high enough to have his portrait solicited for to be set up as a Sign; and none but he and Garrick, I believe, ever obtained that honour. Mr. Dance's picture of our friend David lives in a copy now in Oxford St.,—the character, King Richard."
Somewhat more than three years after her first husband's death, Mrs. Thrale, in spite of the opposition of her friends, the repugnance of her daughters, and the sneers of society, married Piozzi. He was a poor Italian gentleman, whose only fortune was in his voice and his musical talent. He had been for some time an admired public singer in London and Paris. There was nothing against him but the opinion of society. Mrs. Thrale set this opinion at defiance: a rash thing for a woman to do, and hardly an excusable one in her case; for she was aware that she would thus alienate her daughters, and offend her best friends. But she was in love with him; and though for a time she tried to struggle against her passion, it finally prevailed over her prudence, her pride, and such affections as she had for others. Her health suffered during the struggle, the termination of which she thus narrates in her "Abridgment." The account differs in some slight particulars from that in her "Autobiographical Memoirs"; but a comparison between the two serves rather to confirm than to impugn her general accuracy.
"I hoped," she says, "in defiance of probability, to live my sorrows out, and marry the man of my choice. Health, however, began to give way, as my Letters to Dr. Johnson testify; and when my kind physician, Dobson, from Liverpool, found it in actual and positive danger,—'Now,' said he, 'I have respected your delicacy long enough; tell me at once who he is that holds such a life in his power: for write to him I must and will; it is my sacred duty.' 'Dear Sir,' said I, 'the difficulty is to keep him at a distance. Speak to these cruel girls, if you will speak.' 'One of whose lives your assiduous tenderness,' cried he, 'saved, with my little help, only a month ago!'—and ran up-stairs to the ladies. 'We know,' was their reply, 'that she is fretting after a fellow; but where he is—you may ask her—we know not.' 'He is at Milan, with his friend the Marquis of Aracieli,' said I,—'from whom I had a letter last week, requesting Piozzi's recall from banishment, as he gallantly terms it, little conscious of what I suffer.' So we wrote; and he returned on the eleventh day after receiving the letter. Meanwhile my health mended, and I waited on the lasses to their own house at Brighthelmstone, leaving Miss Nicholson, a favorite friend of theirs, and all their intolerably insolent servants, with them. Piozzi's return accelerated the recovery of your poor friend, and we married in both Churches,—at St. James', Bath, on St. James' Day, 1784,—thirty-five years ago now that I write this Abridgment. When we came to examine Papers, however, our attorney, Greenland, discovered a suppression of fifteen hundred pounds, which helped pay our debts, discharge the mortgage, etc., as Piozzi, like Portia, permitted me not to sleep by his side with an unquiet soul. He settled everything with his own money, depended on God and my good constitution for our living long and happily together,—and so we did, twenty-five years,—said change of scenery would complete the cure, and carried me off in triumph, as he called it, to shew his friends in Italy the foreign wife he had so long been sighing for. 'Ah, Madam!' said the Marquis, when he first saluted me, 'we used to blame dear Piozzi;—now we envy him!'"
Of Mrs. Piozzi's journey on the Continent we shall speak in another article. After a residence abroad of two years and a half, she and her husband returned to London in March, 1787. Mrs. Piozzi had come home determined to resume, if it were possible, her old place in society, and to assert herself against the attacks of wits and newspapers, and the coldness of old friends. She had been hardly and unfairly dealt with by the public, in regard to her marriage. The appearance, during her absence, of her volume of "Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson" had given unfriendly critics an opportunity to pass harsh judgment upon her literary merits, and had excited the jealousy of rival biographers of the dead lion. Boswell, Hawkins, Baretti, Chalmers, Peter Pindar, Gifford, Horace Walpole, all had their fling at her. Never was an innocent woman in private life more unfeelingly abused, or her name dragged before the public more wantonly, in squibs and satires, jests and innuendoes. The women who transgress social conventionalities are often treated as if they had violated the rules of morals. But she was not to be put down in this way. Her temperament enabled her to escape much of the pain which a more sensitive person would have suffered. She hardened herself against the malice of her satirists; and in doing so, her character underwent an essential change. She was truly happy with Piozzi, and she preserved, by strength of will, an inexhaustible fund of good spirits.
On first reaching London, "we drove," she writes in the Conway MSS., "to the Royal Hotel in Pall Mall, and, arriving early, I proposed going to the Play. There was a small front box, in those days, which held only two; it made the division, or connexion, with the side boxes, and, being unoccupied, we sat in it, and saw Mrs. Siddons act Imogen, I well remember, and Mrs. Jordan, Priscilla Tomboy. Mr. Piozzi was amused, and the next day was spent in looking at houses, counting the cards left by old acquaintances, etc. The lady-daughters came, behaved with cold civility, and asked what I thought of their decision concerning Cecilia, then at school—No reply was made, or a gentle one; but she was the first cause of contention among us. The lawyers gave her into my care, and we took her home to our new habitation in Hanover Square, which we opened with Music, cards, etc., on, I think, the 22 March. Miss Thrales refused their company; so we managed as well as we could. Our affairs were in good order, and money ready for spending. The World, as it is called, appeared good-humored, and we were soon followed, respected, and admired. The summer months sent us about visiting and pleasuring, ... and after another gay London season, Streatham Park, unoccupied by tenants, called us as if really home. Mr. Piozzi, with more generosity than prudence, spent two thousand pounds on repairing and furnishing it in 1790;—and we had danced all night, I recollect, when the news came of Louis Seize's escape from, and recapture by, his rebel subjects."
Poor old woman, who could thus write of her own daughters!—poor old woman, who had not heart enough either to keep the love of her children or to grieve for its loss! Cecilia was her fourth and youngest child, and her story, as her mother tells it, may as well be finished here. After speaking in her manuscript of a claim on some Oxfordshire property, disputed by her daughters, she says, in words hard and cold as steel,—"We threw it up, therefore, and contented ourselves with the plague Cecilia gave us, who, by dint of intriguing lovers, teazed my soul out before she was fifteen,—when she fortunately ran away, jumping out of the window at Streatham Park, with Mr. Mostyn of Segraid,—a young man to whom Sir Thomas Mostyn's title will go, if he does not marry, but whose property, being much encumbered, made him no match for Cecy and her forty thousand pounds; and we were censured for not taking better care, and suffering her to wed a Welsh gentleman,—object of ineffable contempt to the daughters of Mr. Thrale, with whom she always held correspondence while living with us, who indulged her in every expense and every folly,—although allowed only one hundred and forty pounds per ann. on her account."
After two or three years spent in London, the Piozzis resided for some time at Streatham,—how changed in mistress and in guests from the Streatham of which Mrs. Thrale had been the presiding genius! But after a while they removed to Wales, where, on an old family estate belonging to Mrs. Piozzi, they built a house, and christened the place with the queer Welsh-Italian compound name of Brynbella. "Mr. Piozzi built the house for me, he said; my own old chateau, Bachygraig by name, tho' very curious, was wholly uninhabitable; and we called the Italian villa he set up as mine in the Vale of Cluid, North Wales, Brynbella, or the beautiful brow, making the name half Welsh and half Italian, as we were." Here they lived, with occasional visits to other places, during the remainder of Piozzi's life. "Our head quarters were in Wales, where dear Piozzi repaired my church, built a new vault for my old ancestors, chose the place in it where he and I are to repose together..... He lived some twenty-five years with me, however, but so punished with Gout that we found Bath the best wintering-place for many, many seasons.—Mrs. Siddons' last appearance there he witnessed, when she played Calista to Dimond's Lothario, in which he looked so like Garrick it shocked us all three, I believe; for Garrick adored Mr. Piozzi, and Siddons hated the little great man to her heart. Poor Dimond! he was a well-bred, pleasing, worthy creature, and did the honours of his own house and table with peculiar grace indeed. No likeness in private life or manner,—none at all; no wit, no fun, no frolic humour had Mr. Dimond:—no grace, no dignity, no real unaffected elegance of mien or behaviour had his predecessor, David,—whose partiality to my fastidious husband was for that reason never returned. Merriment, difficult for him to comprehend, made no amends for the want of that which no one understood better;—so he hated all the wits but Murphy."
And now that we are on anecdotes of the Theatre, here is another good story, which belongs to a somewhat earlier time, but of which Mrs. Piozzi does not mention the exact date. "The Richmond Theatre at that time attracted all literary people's attention, while a Coterie of Gentlemen and Noblemen and Ladies entertained themselves with getting up Plays, and acting them at the Duke of Richmond's house, Whitehall. Lee's 'Theodosius' was the favorite. Lord Henry Fitzgerald played Varanus very well,—for a Dilettante; and Lord Derby did his part surprisingly. But there was a song to be sung to Athenais, while she, resolving to take poison, sits in a musing attitude. Jane Holman—then Hamilton—would sing an air of Sacchini, and the manager would not hear Italian words. The ballad appointed by the author was disapproved by all, and I pleased everybody by my fortunate fancy of adapting some English verses to the notes of Sacchini's song; and Jane Hamilton sung them enchantingly:—
'Vain's the breath of Adulation, Vain the tears of tenderest Passion, Whilst a strong Imagination Holds the wandering Mind away; Art in vain attempts to borrow Notes to soothe a rooted sorrow; Fixed to die, and die to-morrow, What can touch her soul to-day?'
"The lines were printed, but I lost them. 'What a wild Tragedy is this!' said I to Hannah More, who was one of the audience. 'Wild enough,' was her reply; 'but there's good Poetry in it, and good Passion, and they will always do.'
"Hannah More never goes now to a Theatre. How long is H.L. Piozzi likely to be seen there? How long will Mr. Conway keep the stage?"
In the year 1798, the family of Mr. Piozzi having suffered greatly from the French invasion of Lombardy, he sent for the son of his youngest brother, a "little boy just turned of five years old." "We have got him here," wrote Mrs. Piozzi in a letter from Bath, dated January, 1799, published by Mr. Hayward, "and his uncle will take him to school next week." "As he was by a lucky chance baptized, in compliment to me, John Salusbury, [Salusbury was her family name,] he will be known in England by no other, and it will be forgotten he is a foreigner." "My poor little boy from Lombardy said, as I walked with him across our market, 'These are sheeps' heads, are they not, aunt? I saw a hasket of men's heads at Brescia.'" Little John, though he went to school, was often at home. After writing of the troubles with her own daughters, Mrs. Piozzi says in the manuscript before us,—"Had we vexations enough? We had certainly many pleasures. The house in Wales was beautiful, and the Boy was beautiful too. Mr. Piozzi said I had spoiled my own children and was spoiling his. My reply was, that I loved spoiling people, and hated any one I could not spoil. Am I not now trying to spoil dear Mr. Conway?"
Piozzi was not far from wrong in his judgment of her treatment of this boy, if we may trust to her complaints of his coldness and indifference to her. In 1814, at the time of his marriage, five years after Piozzi's death, she gave to him her Welsh estate; and it may have been a greater satisfaction to her than any gratification of the affections could have afforded, to see him, before she died, high sheriff of his county, and knighted as Sir John Salusbury Piozzi Salusbury.
There was little gayety in the life at Brynbella, or at Bath,—and the society that Mrs. Piozzi now saw was made up chiefly of new and for the most part uninteresting acquaintances. The old Streatham set, with a few exceptions, were dead, and of the few that remained none retained their former relations with its mistress. But she suffered little from the change, was contented to win and accept the flattery of inferior people, and, instead of spending her faculties in soothing the "radically wretched life" of Johnson, used them, perhaps not less happily, in lightening the sufferings of Piozzi during his last years. She tells a touching story of him in these days.
"Piozzi's fine hand upon the organ and pianoforte deserted him. Gout, such as I never knew, fastened on his fingers, distorting them into every dreadful shape. ... A little girl, shewn to him as a musical wonder of five years old, said,' Pray, Sir, why are your fingers wrapped up in black silk so?' 'My Dear,' replied he, 'they are in mourning for my Voice.' 'Oh, me!' cries the child, 'is she dead?' He sung an easy song, and the Baby exclaimed, 'Ah, Sir! you are very naughty,—you tell fibs!' Poor Dears! and both gone now!!"
There were no morbid sensibilities in Mrs. Piozzi's composition. She can tell all her sorrows without ever a tear. A mark of exclamation looks better than a blot. And yet she had suffered; but it had been with such suffering as makes the soul hard rather than tender. The pages with which she ends this narrative of her life are curiously characteristic.
"When life was gradually, but perceptibly, closing round him [Piozzi] at Bath, in 1808, I asked him if he would wish to converse with a Romish priest,—we had full opportunity there. 'By no means,' said he. 'Call Mr. Leman of the Crescent.' We did so,—poor Bessy ran and fetched him. Mr. Piozzi received the blessed Sacrament at his hands; but recovered sufficiently to go home and die in his own house. I sent for Salusbury, but he came three hours too late,—his master, Mr. Shephard, with him. In another year he went to Oxford, where he spent me above seven hundred pounds per annum, and kept me in continual terror lest the bad habits of the place should ruin him, body, soul, and purse. His old school-fellow, Smythe Owen,—then. Pemberton,—accompanied him, and to that gentleman's sister he of course gave his heart. The Lady and her friends took advantage of my fondness, and insisted on my giving up the Welsh estate. I did so, hoping to live at last with my own children, at Streatham Park;—there, however, I found no solace of the sort. So, after entangling my purse with new repairing and furnishing that place, retirement to Bath with my broken heart and fortune was all I could wish or expect. Thither I hasted, heard how the possessors of Brynbella, lived and thrived, but
'Who set the twigs will he remember Who is in haste to sell the timber?'
"Well, no matter! One day before I left it there was talk how Love had always Interest annexed to it. 'Nay, then,' said I, 'what is my love for Salusbury?' 'Oh!' replied Shephard, 'there is Interest there. Mrs. Piozzi cannot, could not, I am sure, exist without some one upon whom to energize her affections; his Uncle is gone, and she is much obliged to young Salusbury for being ready at her hand to pet and spoil; her children will not suffer her to love them, and'—with a coarse laugh—'what will she do when this fellow throws her off, as he soon will?' Shephard was right enough. I sunk into a stupor, worse far than all the torments I had endured: but when Canadian Indians take a prisoner, dear Mr. Conway knows what agonies they put them to; the man bears all without complaining,—smokes, dances, triumphs in his anguish,—
'For the son of Alcnoomak shall never complain.'
"When a little remission comes, however, then comes the torpor too;—he cannot then be waked by pain or moderate pleasure: and such was my case, when your talents roused, your offered friendship opened my heart to enjoyment Oh! never say hereafter that the obligations are on your side. Without you, dulness, darkness, stagnation of every faculty would have enveloped and extinguished all the powers of hapless
The picture that Mrs. Piozzi paints of herself in these last words is a sad one. She herself was unconscious, however, of its real sadness. In its unintentional revelations it shows us the feebleness without the dignity of old age, vivacity without freshness of intellect, the pretence without the reality of sentiment. "Hapless H.L.P."—to have lived to eighty years, and to close the record of so long a life with such words!
A little more than a year after this "Abridgment" was written, in May, 1821, Mrs. Piozzi died. Her children, from whom she had lived separated, were around her death-bed.[C]
[Footnote C: It is but four years ago that the Viscountess Keith, Mrs. Piozzi's eldest daughter, died. She was ninety-five years old. Her long life connected our generation with that of Johnson and Burke. She was the last survivor of the Streatham "set,"—for, as "Queeney," she had held a not unimportant place in it. She was at Johnson's death-bed. At their last interview he said,—"My dear child, we part forever in this world; let us part as Christian friends should; let us pray together."
It was in 1808 that Miss Thrale married Lord Keith, a distinguished naval officer.
In The Gentleman's Magazine, for May, 1657, is an interesting notice of Lady Keith. "During many years," it is there said, "Viscountess Keith held a distinguished position in the highest circles of the fashionable world in London; but during the latter portion of her life.... her time was almost entirely devoted to works of charity and to the performance of religious duties. No one ever did more for the good of others, and few ever did so much in so unostentatious a manner."]
In judging her, it is to be borne in mind that the earlier and the later portions of her life are widely different from each other. As we have before said, Mrs. Thrale and Mrs. Piozzi are two distinct persons. Mrs. Thrale, whom the world smiled upon, whom the wits liked and society courted, who had the best men in England for her friends, is a woman who will always be pleasant in memory. Her unaffected grace, her kindliness, her good-humor, her talents, make her perpetually charming. She was helped by her surroundings to be good, pleasant, and clever; and she will always keep her place as one of the most attractive figures in the circle which was formed by Johnson, and Burke, and Reynolds, and Fanny Burney, and others scarcely less conspicuous. But Mrs. Piozzi, whom the world frowned upon, whom the wits jeered at, and society neglected, whose friends nobody now knows, will be best remembered and best liked as having once been Mrs. Thrale. There is no great charge against her; she was more sinned against than sinning; she was only weak and foolish, only degenerated from her first excellence. And even in her old age some traits of her youthful charms remain, and, seeing these, we regard her with a tender compassion, and remember of her only the bright helpfulness and freshness of her younger days, when Johnson "loved her, esteemed her, reverenced her, and thought her the first of womankind."
* * * * *
THE NIGER, AND ITS EXPLORERS.
A century ago, the interior of Africa was a sealed book to the civilized world. Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, had been noticed in Holy Writ; the Nile with Thebes and Memphis on its banks, and a ship-canal to the Red Sea with triremes on its surface, had not escaped the eye of Herodotus: but the countries which gave birth to Queen and River were alike unknown. The sunny fountains, the golden sands, the palmy plains of Africa were to be traced in the verses of the poet; but he dealt neither in latitude nor longitude. The maps presented a terra incognita, or sterile mountains, where modern travellers have found rivers, lakes, and alluvial basins,—or exhibited barren wastes, where recent discoveries find rich meadows annually flowed, studded with walled towns and cities, enlivened by herds of cattle, or cultivated in plantations of maize and cotton.
Although the northern coast of Africa had once been the granary of Carthage and Rome, cultivation had receded, and the corn-ship of antiquity had given place to the felucca of the corsair, preying upon the commerce of Europe. A few caravans, laden with a little ivory and gold-dust or a few packages of drugs and spices, crept across the Desert, and the slave-trade principally, if not alone, drew to Africa the attention of civilized nations. Egypt, Tripoli and Tunis, Turkey and the Spanish Provinces, the West India Isles and the Southern States, knew it as the mart where human beings were bought and sold; and Christians were reconciled to the traffic by the hope that it might contribute to the moral, if not physical, welfare of the captive, by his removal to a more civilized region.
During the last three centuries, millions of Africans have perished either on their way to slavery or in exhausting toil under a tropical sun; and the flag of England has been the most prominent in this demoralizing traffic. But it is due to England to say, that, since she withdrew from it, she has aimed to atone for the past by a noble and persevering devotion to the improvement of Africa. By repeated expeditions, by missions, treaties, colonies, and incentives to commerce, she has spread her light over the interior, and is now recognized both by the tribes of the Desert and by civilized nations as the great protector of Africa, and both geography and commerce owe to her most of their advances on the African continent.
So little was known of Africa, that, when Mungo Park made his report, in 1798, of the discovery of the Niger, and described large cities on its banks, and vessels of fifty tons burden navigating its waters, the world was incredulous; and his subsequent fate threw a cloud over the subject which was not entirely dispelled until his course was traced and his statements verified by modern travellers.
The route of Dr. Park was from the west coast, near Sierra Leone, to the upper branches of the Niger. On his second expedition he took with him a detachment of British soldiers, and a number of civilians, fresh from England, none of whom survived him. It appears from his journal that his men followed the foot-paths of the natives, slept in the open air, were exposed to the dews at night, and were overtaken by the rainy season before they embarked upon the Niger. Unacclimated, with no proper means of conveyance, no suitable clothing, and no precautions against the fever of the country, they nearly all became victims to their indiscretions. Park, however, at length launched his schooner on the Niger, passed the city of Timbuctoo, and, with two or three Englishmen, followed the river more than a thousand miles to Boussa. Reaching the rapids at this point in a low stage of the water, he was so indiscreet as to fire on the natives, and was drowned in his attempt to escape from them; but his fate remained in uncertainty for eighteen years.
The long struggle with Napoleon, the fearful loss of life which attended the journey of Park, and the doubts as to his fate, checked for many years the exploration of Africa. In 1821, a third attempt to explore the Niger was made by a Major Laing, who failed in his efforts to reach Timbuctoo, and fell a victim to Mahometan intolerance.
In 1822, a new effort was made by England to reach the interior, and Messrs. Denham and Clapperton joined the caravan from Tripoli, and crossed the Desert to the Soudan. They explored the country to the ninth degree of north latitude, found large Negro and Mahometan states in the interior, and visited Saccatoo, Kano, Murfeia, Tangalra, and other large towns, some of which contained twenty or thirty thousand people.
In their journal we find a vivid sketch of a Negro army marching from Bornou to the South, with horsemen in coats-of-mail, as in the days of chivalry, and armed, as in those days, with lances and bows and arrows. A glowing description is given of the ravages that attended their march. When they entered an enemy's country, desolation marked their path, houses and corn-fields were destroyed, all the full-grown males were put to death, and the women and children reduced to servitude.
It was obvious that an incessant struggle was in progress between the Mahometan and Negro states, and that the Mahometan faith and Arab blood were slowly gaining an ascendency over the Negro even down to the equator. The conquering tribes, by intermarriage with the females, were gradually changing the race, and introducing greater energy and intelligence; and the mixed races have exhibited great proficiency in various branches of manufacture. The invaders took with them large herds of cattle, and pursued a pastoral life, leaving the culture of the land principally to the Negro.
In 1825 Clapperton made his second expedition to the interior, accompanied by Richard Lander. In this journey the adventurous travellers landed at Badagry, and crossed through Yarriba to the Niger. On their way they spent several days at Katunga, the capital of Yarriba, a city so extensive that one of its streets is described as five miles in length. The town of Koofo, with twenty thousand inhabitants, as also large cotton-plantations, are mentioned by these travellers; and some idea of the territory they explored may be formed from the following extract from their narrative:—
"The further we penetrate into the country, the more dense we find the population to be, and civilization becomes at every step more strikingly apparent. Large towns, at a distance of only a few miles from each other, we were informed, lay on all sides of us, the inhabitants of which pay the greatest respect to the laws, and live under a regular form of government."
It is to this fertile, populous, and peaceful region of the interior that the most successful efforts of the English missionaries have been of late directed.
In this expedition, Captain Clapperton died of the fever of the country. His faithful servant, Lander, after publishing his journal, returned to Africa, in 1830, with his brother, landed at Badagry, and again crossed the country to the Niger.
At Boussa, they obtained the first authentic information of the death of Park, and recovered his gun, robe, and other relics. Here, embarking in canoes, they ascended the river through its rapids to Yaouri, and thence traced it to the sea in the Bight of Benin. On their way, they discovered the Benue, which joins the Niger two hundred and seventy miles from the ocean, with a volume of water and a width nearly equal to its own. They encountered a large number of canoes, nearly fifty feet in length, armed in some cases with a brass six-pounder at the bow, and each manned by sixty or seventy men actively engaged in the slave-trade. Forty of these canoes were found together at Eboe, near the mouth of the Niger.
During the interval between the two expeditions of Lander to trace the course of this mysterious river, France was exploring its upper waters.
In 1827, Rene Caillie, a Frenchman, adopting the disguise of a Mahometan, left the western coast at Kakundy, a few miles north of Sierra Leone, and crossed the intervening highlands to the affluents of the Niger, which he struck within two hundred and fifty miles of the coast.
He first came to the Tankesso, a rapid stream flowing into the Niger just below its cascades, and noticed here a mountain of pale pink quartz in regular strata of eighteen inches in thickness, a few miles below which the river flows in a wide and tranquil stream through extensive plains, which it fertilizes by its inundations. One hundred miles below, at Boure, were rich gold mines within twenty miles of the Niger. In the dry season, he found its waters very cold and waist-deep.
Caillie travelled by narrow paths impervious to horses or carriages, and with a party of natives bearing merchandise on their heads. His route was through a country gradually ascending and occasionally mountainous, but fertile in the utmost degree, and watered by numerous streams and rivulets which kept the verdure constantly fresh, with delightful plains that required only the labor of the husbandman to produce everything necessary for human life.
Proceeding westward, he reached the main Niger, which he found, at the close of the dry season, and before it had received its principal tributaries, nine feet deep and nine hundred feet in width, with a velocity of two and a half miles an hour.
To this point, where the river becomes navigable for steamers, a common road or railway of three hundred miles in length might be easily constructed from Sierra Leone; and it is a little surprising that Great Britain, with her solicitude to reach the interior, should not have been tempted by the fertility, gold mines, and navigable waters in the rear of Sierra Leone, so well pictured by Caillie, to open at least a common highway to the Niger, an enterprise which might be effected for fifty thousand pounds. Although this may be so easily accomplished, the principal route to the interior of Africa is still the caravan track from Tripoli through the Desert, requiring three months by a hazardous and most fatiguing journey of fifteen hundred miles. The first movement for a road to the interior has been recently made in Yarriba, by T.J. Bowen, the American Baptist missionary, who pronounces it to be the prerequisite to civilization and Christianity.
Caillie readied the Niger in May, just as the rainy reason commenced, but, finding no facilities for descending the stream, he proceeded to the southwest, crossed many of its affluents, traversed a rich country, and, having exposed himself to the fever and met with many detentions, finally embarked in the succeeding March at Djenne, in a vessel of seventy tons burden, for Timbuctoo. He describes this vessel as one hundred feet in length, fourteen feet broad, and drawing seven feet of water. It was laden with rice, millet, and cotton, and manned by twenty-one men, who propelled the frail bark by poles and paddles. With a flotilla of sixty of these vessels he descended the Niger several hundred miles to Timbuctoo. He speaks of the river as varying from half to three-fourths of a mile in width, annually overflowing its banks and irrigating a large basin generally destitute of trees. After paying toll to the Tasaareks, a Moorish tribe, on the way, and losing one of the flotilla, he landed safely at Timbuctoo, and probably was the first European who visited that remote city, although Adams, an American sailor wrecked on the coast, claims to have been carried there before as a captive.
From the narratives of Park, Clapperton, Lander, and Caillie, confirmed by Bairkie and Barth, the latter of whom explored the banks of the Niger from Timbuctoo to Boussa, it has been ascertained to be a noble stream, navigable for nearly twenty-five hundred miles, with an average width of more than half a mile, and an average depth of three fathoms, —comparing favorably with our own Mississippi. There appears to be but one portion of the stream difficult for navigation, and that is the portion from Yaouri to Lagaba, a distance of eighty miles. In this space are several reefs and ledges, mostly bare at low water, and the river is narrowed in width by mountains on either side; but in the wet season it overflows its banks at this point, and is then navigated by the larger class of canoes. There can be little doubt that it is susceptible of navigation above and below by the largest class of river steamers, and that the rapids themselves may in the higher stages of water be ascended by the American high-pressure steamers which navigate our Western rivers, drawing, as they do in low stages of the Ohio and Missouri, but sixteen to eighteen inches.
As soon as it was ascertained that the Niger reached the ocean in the Bight of Benin, and that its upper waters had been navigated by Caillie and Park, a private association, aided by the British government, fitted out a brig and several steamers, with a large party of scientific men, who, in 1833, entered the Niger from the sea.
Great Britain, though enterprising and persevering, is slow in adapting means to ends, and made a series of mistakes in her successive expeditions, which might have been avoided, if she would have condescended to profit by the experience of her children on this side of the Atlantic.
The expedition of 1833 was deficient in many things. The power and speed of the steamers were insufficient, their draught of water too great, and they were so long delayed in their outfit and in their sea-voyage that they found the river falling, and were detained by shoals and sand-bars. The accommodations were unsuitable; and the men, exposed to a bad atmosphere among the mangroves at the mouth of the river, and confined in the holds of the vessels, were attacked by fever, and but ten of them survived. The expedition, however, succeeded in reaching Rabba, on the Niger, five hundred miles from the sea, ascended the Benue, eighty miles above the confluence, and charts were made and soundings taken for the distance explored.
In 1842 the British government made a new effort to explore the Niger, and built for that purpose three iron steamers, the Wilberforce, Albert, and Soudan, vessels of one hundred to one hundred and thirty-nine feet in length. The error committed in the first expedition, of too great draught, was avoided; but the steamers had so little power and keel that their voyage to the Niger was both tedious and hazardous, and their speed was found insufficient to make more than three knots per hour against the current of the river. Arriving on the coast late in the season, they were unable to ascend above the points already explored, and the officers and men, suffering from the tedious navigation, close cabins, and effluvia from the falling river, lost one-fourth of their number by fever, while the African Kroomen, accustomed to the climate and sleeping on the open deck, enjoyed perfect health. It was the intention of government to establish a model farm and mission at the confluence of the Niger and Benue; but the officers, discouraged by sickness, abandoned their original purpose, and the expedition proved another failure, involving a loss of at least sixty thousand pounds.
After the lapse of twelve years, it was ascertained that private steamers and sailing vessels were resorting to the Niger, and that an active trade was springing up in palm-oil, the trees producing which fringe the banks of the river for some hundreds of miles from the sea; and in 1853, a Liverpool merchant, McGregor Laird, who had accompanied the former expedition, fitted out, with the aid of government, the Pleiad steamer for a voyage up the Niger.
One would imagine that by this time the British government would have corrected their former errors; and a part were corrected. The speed of this steamer surpassed that of her predecessors, and her draught did not exceed five feet. She was well provided with officers, and a crew of native Kroomen from the coast; and she was supplied with ample stores of quinine. But, singular as it may appear, this steamer, destined, to ascend the great rivers up which the former expedition found a strong breeze flowing daily, was not furnished with a sail; and although the banks of the Niger were lined with forest-trees, and the supply of coal was sufficient for a few days only, not a single axe or saw was provided for cutting wood, and the Kroomen hired from the coast were compelled to trim off with shingle-hatchets nearly all the fuel used in ascending the river,—and in descending, the steamer was obliged to drift down with the current. Moreover, she was but one hundred feet in length, with an engine and boiler occupying thirty feet of her bold,—thus leaving but thirty-five feet at each end for officers, men, and stores. Neither state-room, cabin, nor awning was provided on deck to shelter the crew from an African sun.
With all these deficiencies, however, they achieved a partial triumph. Entering the river in July, they ascended the southern branch, now known as the Benue, for a distance of seven hundred miles from the sea, reaching Adamawa, a Mahometan state of the Soudan. On the fifteenth of August they encountered the rise of waters, and found the Benue nearly a mile in width and from one to three fathoms in depth. They observed it overflowing its banks for miles and irrigatin extensive and fertile plains to the depth of several feet, and saw reason to believe that this river, which flows westerly from the interior, may be navigated at least one thousand miles from the sea. As Dr. Barth visited it at a city several hundred miles above the point reached by the Pleiad, and found it flowing with a wide and deep current, it may be regarded as the gateway into the interior of Africa.
One of our light Western steamers, manned by our Western boatmen and axemen, with its three decks, lofty staterooms, superior speed, and light draught, would have been most admirably fitted for this exploration.
But the expedition, with all its deficiencies, achieved a further triumph. Dr. Bairkie, by using quinine freely, and by removing the beds of the officers from the stifling cabins to the deck, escaped the loss of a single man, although four months on the river,—thus demonstrating that the white man can reach the interior of Africa in safety, a problem quite as important to be solved as the course and capacity of the Niger and its branches.
Thus have been opened to navigation the waters of the Mysterious River.
When the Landers first floated down the stream in their canoe, thirty years since, they found vast forests and little cultivation, and the natives seemed to have no commerce except in slaves and yams for their support. But an officer who accompanied the several steam expeditions was astonished in his last visit to see the change which a few years had produced. New and populous towns had sprung up, extensive groves of palm-trees and gardens lined the banks, and vessels laden with oil, yams, ground-nuts, and ivory indicated the progress of legitimate commerce.
The narrative of Dr. Bairkie, a distinguished German scholar, who has written an account of the voyage of the Pleiad, will be found both interesting and instructive; and we may some day expect another volume, for he has returned to the scene of his adventures.
Another German in the service of Great Britain has given us a vivid picture of Central Africa north of the equator. Dr. Henry Barth has recently published, in four octavo volumes, a narrative of his travels in Africa for five years preceding 1857. During this period, he accompanied the Sheik of Bornou, one of the chief Negro states of Africa, on his march as far south as the Benue, explored the borders of Lake Tsadda, crossed the Niger at Sai, and visited the far-famed city of Timbuctoo. Here he incurred some danger from the fanaticism of the Moslems; but his command of Arabic, his tact and adroitness in distinguishing the Protestant worship of the Deity from the homage paid by Roman Catholics to images of the Virgin and Saints, and in illustrating the points in which his Protestant faith agreed with the Koran, extricated him from his embarrassment.
Dr. Barth found various Negro cities with a population ranging from fifteen to twenty thousand, and observed large fields of rice, cotton, tobacco, and millet. On his way to Timbuctoo, he saw a field of this last-named grain in which the stalks stood twenty-four feet high. Our Patent Office should secure some of the seed which he has doubtless conveyed to Europe. The following prices, which he names, give us an idea of the cheapness of products in Central Africa:—An ox two dollars, a sheep fifty cents, tobacco one to two cents per pound.
From the sketch we have given of the Niger and its branches, and of the countries bordering upon them, it would appear to be the proper policy of Great Britain and other commercial nations to open a way from Sierra Leone to the Niger, and to establish a colony near the confluence of this river with the Benue. From this point, which is easily accessible from the sea and the ports of the British colonies on the western coast of Africa, light steamers may probably ascend to Sego and Djenne, encountering no difficulties except at the rapids near Boussa, and may penetrate into the heart of the Soudan. In this region are mines of lead, copper, gold, and iron, a rich soil, adapted to cotton, rice, indigo, sugar, coffee, and vegetable butter, with very cheap labor. With steamers controlling the rivers, a check could here be given to the slave-trade, and to the conflicts between the Moors and Negroes, and Christianity have a fair prospect of diffusion. Such a colony is strongly recommended by Lieutenant Allen, who accompanied the expeditions of 1833 and 1842; and there can be no doubt that it would attract the caravans from the remote interior, and put an end to the perilous and tedious expeditions across the Desert.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Benvenuto Rambaldi da Imola Illustrato nella Vita e nelle Opere, e di lui Comento Latino sulla Divina Commedia di Dante Allghieri voltalo in Italiano dall' Avvocato GIOVANNI TAMBURINI. Imola. 1855-56. 3 vol. in 8vo. [The Commentary of Benvenuto Rambaldi of Imola on the Divina Commedia, translated from Latin into Italian, by Giovanni Tamburini.]
Almost five centuries have passed since Benvenuto of Imola, one of the most distinguished men of letters of his time, was called by the University of Bologna to read a course of lectures upon the "Divina Commedia" before the students at that famous seat of learning. From that time till the present, a great part of his "Comment" has lain in manuscript, sharing the fate of the other earliest commentaries on the poem of Dante, not one of which, save that of Boccaccio, was given to the press till within a few years. This neglect is the more strange, since it was from the writers of the fourteenth century, almost contemporary as they were with Dante, that the most important illustrations both of the letter and of the sense of the "Divina Commedia" were naturally to be looked for. When they wrote, the lapse of time had not greatly obscured the memory of the events which the poet had recorded, or to which he had referred. The studies with which he had been familiar, the external sources from which he had drawn inspiration, had undergone no essential change in direction or in nature. The same traditions and beliefs possessed the intellects of men. Similar social and political influences moulded their characters. The distance that separated Dante from his first commentators was mainly due to the surpassing nature of his genius, which, in some sort, made him, and still makes him, a stranger to all men, and very little to changes like those which have slowly come about in the passage of centuries, and which divide his modern readers from the poet.
It was the intention of Benvenuto, as he tells us, "to elucidate what was dark in the poem being veiled under figures, and to explain what was involved in its multiplex meanings." But his Comment is more illustrative than analytic, more literal than imaginative, and its chief value lies in the abundance of current legends which it contains, and in the number of stories related in it, which exhibit the manners or illustrate the history of the times. So great, indeed, is the value of this portion of his work, that Muratori, to whom a large debt of gratitude is due from all students of Italian history, published in 1738, in the first volume of his "Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevi," a selection of such passages, amounting altogether to about one half of the whole Comment. However satisfactory this incomplete publication might be to the mere historical investigator, the students of the "Divina Commedia" could not but regret that the complete work had not been printed,—and they accordingly welcomed with satisfaction the announcement, a few years since, of the volumes whose title stands at the head of this article, which professed to contain a translation of the whole Comment. It seemed a pity, indeed, that it should have been thought worth while to translate a book addressing itself to a very limited number of readers, most of whom were quite as likely to understand the original Latin as the modern Italian, while also a special value attached to the style and form in which it was first written. But no one could have suspected what "translation" meant in the estimation of the Signor Tamburini, whose name appears on the title-page as that of the translator.
Traduttore—traditore, "Translator—traitor," says the proverb; and of all traitors shielded under the less offensive name, Signor Tamburini is beyond comparison the worst we have ever had the misfortune to encounter. A place is reserved for him in that lowest depth in which, according to Dante's system, traitors are punished.
It appears from his preface that Signor Tamburini is not without distinction in the city of Imola. He has been President of the Literary Academy named that of "The Industrious." To have been President of all Academy in the Roman States implies that the person bearing this honor was either an ecclesiastic or a favorite of ecclesiastics. Hitherto, no one could hold such an office without having his election to it confirmed by a central board of ecclesiastical inspectors (la Sacra Congregazione degli Studj) at Rome. The reason for noticing this fact in connection with Signor Tamburini will soon become apparent.
In his preface, Signor Tamburini declares that in the first division of the poem he has kept his translation close to the original, while in the two later divisions he had been meno legato, "less exact," in his rendering. This acknowledgment, however unsatisfactory to the reader, presented at least an appearance of fairness. But, from a comparison of Signor Tamburini's work with the portions of the original preserved by Muratori, we have satisfied ourselves that his honesty is on a level with his capacity as a translator, and what his capacity is we propose to enable our readers to judge for themselves. For our own part, we have been unable to distinguish any important difference in the methods of translation followed in the three parts of the Comment.
So far as we are aware, this book has not met with its dues in Europe. The well-known Dantophilist, Professor Blanc of Halle, speaks of it in a note to a recent essay (Versuch einer blos philogischen Erklaerung der Goettlichen Komoedie, von Dr. L.G. Blanc, Halle, 1860, p. 5) as "a miserably unsatisfactory translation," but does not give the grounds of his assertion. We intend to show that a grosser literary imposition has seldom been attempted than in these volumes. It is an outrage on the memory of Dante not less than on that of Benvenuto. The book is worse than worthless to students; for it is not only full of mistakes of carelessness, stupidity, and ignorance, but also of wilful perversions of the meaning of the original by additions, alterations, and omissions. The three large volumes contain few pages which do not afford examples of mutilation or misrepresentation of Benvenuto's words. We will begin our exhibition of the qualities of the Procrustean mistranslator with an instance of his almost incredible carelessness, which is, however, excusable in comparison with his more wilful faults. Opening the first volume at page 397, we find the following sentence,—which we put side by side with the original as given by Muratori. The passage relates to the 33d and succeeding verses of Canto XVI.
Qui Dante fa menzione di Guido Guerra, e meravigliano molti della modestia dell' autore, che da costui e dalla di lui moglie tragga l'origine sua, mentre poteva derivarla care di gratitudine affettuosa a quella,—Gualdrada,—stipito suo,—dandole nome e tramandandola quasi all' eternita, mentre per se stessa sarebbe forse rimasta sconosciuta.
Et primo incepit a digniori, scilicet a Guidone Guerra; et circa istius descriptionem lectori est aliqualiter immorandum, quia multi mirantur, immo truffantur ignoranter, quod Dantes, qui poterat describere istum praeclarum virum a claris progenitoribus et ejus claris gestis, describit eum ab una femina, avita sua, Domna Gualdrada. Sed certe Auctor fecit talem descriptionem tam laudabiliter quam prudenter, ut heic implicite tangeret originem famosae stirpis istius, et ut daret meritam famam et laudem huic mulieri dignissimae.
A literal translation will afford the most telling comment on the nature of the Italian version.
Here Dante makes mention of Guido Guerras, and many marvel at the modesty of the Author, in deriving his own origin from him and from his wife, when he might have derived it from a more noble source. But I find in such modesty the greater merit, in that he did not wish to fail in affectionate gratitude toward her,—Gualdrada,—his ancestress,—giving her name and handing her down as it were to eternity, while she by herself would perhaps have remained unknown.
In the first place he began with the worthiest, namely, Guido Guerra; and in regard to the description of this man it is to be dwelt upon a little by the reader, because scoff at Dante, because, when he might have described this very distinguished man by his distinguished ancestors and his distinguished deeds, he does describe him by a woman, his grandmother, the Lady Gualdrada. But certainly the author did this not less praiseworthily than wisely, that he might here, by implication, touch upon the origin of that famous family, and might give a merited fame and praise to this most worthy woman.
It will be noticed that Signor Tamburini makes Dante derive his own origin from Gualdrada,—a mistake from which the least attention to the original text, or the slightest acquaintance with the biography of the poet, would have saved him.
Another amusing instance of stupidity occurs in the comment on the 135th verse of Canto XXVIII., where, speaking of the young king, son of Henry II. of England, Benvenuto says, "Note here that this youth was like another Titus the son of Vespasian, who, according to Suetonius, was called the love and delight of the human race." This simple sentence is rendered in the following astounding manner: "John [the young king] was, according to Suetonius, another Titus Vespasian, the love and joy of the human race"!
Again, in giving the account of Guido da Montefeltro, (Inferno, Canto XXVII.,) Benvenuto says on the lines,
—e poi fui Cordeliero, Credendomi si cinto fare ammenda,
"And then I became a Cordelier, believing thus girt to make amends,"—"That is, hoping under such a dress of misery and poverty to make amends for my sins; but others did not believe in him [in his repentance]. Wherefore Dominus Malatesta, having learned from one of his household that Dominus Guido had become a Minorite Friar, took precautions that he should not be made the guardian of Rimini." This last sentence is rendered by our translator,—"One of the household of Malatesta related to me (!) that Ser Guido adopted the dress of a Minorite Friar, and sought by every means not to be appointed guardian of Rimini." A little farther on the old commentator says,—"He died and was buried in Ancona, and I have heard many things about him which may afford a sufficient hope of his salvation"; but he is made to say by Signor Tamburini,—"After his death and burial in Ancona many works of power were ascribed to him, and I have a sweet hope that he is saved."
We pass over many instances of similar misunderstanding of Benvenuto's easily intelligible though inelegant Latin, to a blunder which would be extraordinary in any other book, by which our translator has ruined a most characteristic story in the comment on the 112th verse of Canto XIV. of the "Purgatory." We must give here the two texts.
Et heic nota, ut videas, si magna nobilitas vigebat paulo ante in Bretenorio, quod tempore istius Guidonis, quando aliquis vir nobilis et honorabilis applicabat ad terram, magna contentio erat inter multos nobiles de Bretenorio, in cujus domum ille talis forensis deberet declinare. Propter quod concorditer convenerunt inter se, quod columna lapidea figeretur in medio plateae cum multis annulis ferreis, et omnis superveniens esset hospes illius ad cujus annulum alligaret equum.
And here take notice, that you may see if great nobility flourished a little before this time in Brettinoro, that, in the days of this Guido, when any noble and honorable man came to the place, there was a great rivalry among the many nobles of Brettinoro, as to which of them should receive the stranger in his house. Wherefore they harmoniously agreed that a column of stone should be set up in the middle of the square, furnished with many iron rings, and any one who arrived should be the guest of him to whose ring he might tie his horse.
Al tempo di Guido in Brettinoro anche i nobili aravano le terre; ma insorsero discordie fra essi, e sparve la innocenza di vita, e con essa la liberalita. I brettinoresi determinarono di alzare in piazza una colonna con intorno tanti anelli di ferro, quanto le nobili famiglie di quel castello, e chi fosse arrivato ed avesse legato il cavallo ad uno de' predetti anelli, doveva esser ospite della famiglia, che indicava l' anello cui il cavallo era attaccato.
In the time of Guido in Brettinoro even the nobles ploughed the land; but discords arose among them, and innocence of life disappeared, and with it liberality. The people of Brettinoro determined to erect in the pub lic square a column with as many iron rings upon it as there were noble families in that stronghold, and he who should arrive and tie his horse to one of those rings was to be the guest of the family pointed out by the ring to which the horse was attached.
Surely, Signor Tamburini has fixed the dunce's cap on his own head so that it can never he taken off. The commonest Latin phrases, which the dullest schoolboy could not mistranslate, he misunderstands, turning the pleasant sense of the worthy commentator into the most self-contradictory nonsense.
"Ad confirmandum propositum," says Benvenuto, "oceurrit mihi res jocosa,"[A]—"In confirmation of this statement, a laughable matter occurs to me"; and he goes on to relate a story about the famous astrologer Pietro di Abano. But our translator is not content without making him stultify himself, and renders the words we have quoted, "A maggiore conferma referiro un fatto a me accaduto"; that is, he makes Benvenuto say, "I will report an incident that happened to me," and then go on to tell the story of Pietro di Abano, which had no more to do with him than with Signor Tamburini himself.
[Footnote A: Comment on Purg. xvi. 80.]
We might fill page after page with examples such as these of the distortions and corruptions of Benvenuto's meaning which we have noted on the margin of this so-called translation. But we have given more than enough to prove the charge of incompetence against the President of the "Academy of the Industrious," and we pass on to exhibit him now no longer as simply an ignoramus, but as a mean and treacherous rogue.
Among the excellent qualities of Benvenuto there are few more marked than his freedom in speaking his opinion of rulers and ecclesiastics, and in holding up their vices to reproach, while at the same time he shows a due spirit of respect for proper civil and ecclesiastical authority. In this he imitates the temper of the poet upon whose work he comments,—and in so doing he has left many most valuable records of the character and manners especially of the clergy of those days—He loved a good story, and he did not hesitate to tell it even when it went hard against the priests. He knew and he would not hide the corruptions of the Church, and he was not the man to spare the vices which were sapping the foundations not so much of the Church as of religion itself. But his translator is of a different order of men, one of the devout votaries of falsehood and concealment; and he has done his best to remove some of the most characteristic touches of Benvenuto's work, regarding them as unfavorable to the Church, which even now in the nineteenth century cannot well bear to have exposed the sins committed by its rulers and its clergy in the thirteenth or fourteenth. Signor Tamburini has sought the favor of ecclesiastics, and gained the contempt of such honest men as have the ill-luck to meet with his book. Wherever Benvenuto uses a phrase or tells an anecdote which can be regarded as bearing in any way against the Church, we may be sure to find it either omitted or softened down in this Papalistic version. We give a few specimens.
In the comment on Canto III. of the "Inferno," Benvenuto says, speaking of Dante's great enemy, Boniface VIII.,—"Auctor ssepissime dicit de ipso Bonifacio magna mala, qui de rei veritate fuit magnanimus peccator": "Our author very often speaks exceedingly ill of Boniface, who was in very truth a grand sinner." This sentence is omitted in the translation.
Again, on the well-known verse, (Inferno, xix. 53,) "Se' tu gia costi ritto, Bonifazio?" Benvenuto commenting says,—"Auctor quando ista scripsit, viderat pravam vitam Bonifacii, ct ejus mortem rabidam. Ideo bene judicavit eum damnatum.... Heic dictus Nicolaus improperat Bonifacio duo mala. Primo, quia Sponsam Christ! fraudulenter assumpsit de manu simplicis Pastoris. Secundo, quia etiam earn more meretricis tractavit, simoniacc vendcndo eam, et tyrannice tractando": "The author, when he wrote these things, had witnessed the evil life of Boniface, and his raving death. Therefore he well judged him to be damned.... And here the aforementioned Pope Nicholas charges two crimes upon Boniface: first, that he had taken the Bride of Christ by deceit from the hand of a simple-minded Pastor; second, that he had treated her as a harlot, simoniacally selling her, and tyrannically dealing with her."
These two sentences are omitted by the translator; and the long further account which Benvenuto gives of the election and rule of Boniface is throughout modified by him in favor of this "magnanimus peccator." And so also the vigorous narrative of the old commentator concerning Pope Nicholas III. is deprived of its most telling points: "Nam fuit primus in cujus curia palam committeretur Simonia per suos attinentes. Quapropter multum ditavit eos possessionibus, pecuniis et castellis, super onmes Romanos": "For he was the first at whose court Simony was openly committed in favor of his adherents. Whereby he greatly enriched them with possessions, money, and strongholds, above all the Romans." "Sed quod Clerici capiunt raro dimittunt": "What the clergy have once laid hands on, they rarely give up." Nothing of this is found in the Italian,—and history fails of her dues at the hands of this tender-conscienced modernizer of Benvenuto. The comment on the whole canto is in this matter utterly vitiated.
In the comment on Canto XXIX. of the "Inferno," which is full of historic and biographic material of great interest, but throughout defaced by the license of the translator, occurs a passage in regard to the Romagna, which is curious not only as exhibiting the former condition of that beautiful and long-suffering portion of Italy, but also as applying to its recent state and its modern grievances.
Judicio meo mihi videtur quod quatuor deduxerunt eam nobilem provinciam ad tantam desolationem. Primum est avaritia Pastorum Ecclesiae, qui nunc vendunt unam terram, nunc aliam; et nunc unus favet uni Tyranno, nunc alius alteri, secundum quod saepe mutantur officiales. Secundum est pravitas Tyrannorum suorum, qui semper inter se se lacerant et rodunt, et subditos excoriant. Tertium est fertilitas locorum ipsius provinciae, cujus pinguedo allicit barbaros et externos in praedam. Quartum est invidia, quae viget in cordibus ipsorum incolarum.
Per me ritengo, che quattro fossero le cagioni per cui la Romagna si ridusse a tanta desolazione: l' abuso per avarizia di alcuni ecclesiastici, che alienarono or una, or un' altra terra, e si misero d' accordo coi tiranni,—i tiranni stessi che sempre erano discordi fra loro a danno de' sudditi,—la fertilita de' terreni, che troppo alletta gli strani, ed i barbari,—l' invidia, che regna fra gli stessi roma gnuoli.
"In my judgment," says Benvenuto, who speaks with the authority of long experience and personal observation, "it seems to me that four things have brought that noble province to so great desolation. The first of which is, the avarice of the Pastors of the Church, who now sell one tract of its land, and now another; while one favors one Tyrant, and another another, so that the men in authority are often changed. The second is, the wickedness of the Tyrants themselves, who are always tearing and biting each other, and fleecing their subjects. The third is, the fertility of the province itself, which by its very richness allures barbarians and foreigners to prey upon it. The fourth is, that spirit of jealousy which flourishes in the hearts of the inhabitants themselves." It will be noticed that the translator changes the phrase, "the avarice of the Pastors of the Church," into "the avarice of some ecclesiastics," while throughout the passage, as indeed throughout every page of the work, the vigor of Benvenuto's style and the point of his animated sentences are quite lost in the flatness of a dull and inaccurate paraphrase.
A passage in which the spirit of the poet has fully roused his manly commentator is the noble burst of indignant reproach with which he inveighs against and mourns over Italy in Canto VI. of the "Purgatory":—
Ahi serva Italia, di dolore ostello, Nave senza nocchiero in gran tempesta, Non donna di provincie, ma bordello.
"Nota metaphoram pulcram: sicut enim in lupanari venditur caro humana pretio sine pudore, ita meretrix magna, idest Curia Romana, et Curia Imperialis, vendunt libertatem Italicam.... Ad Italiam concurrunt omnes barbarae nationes cum aviditate ad ipsam conculcandam.... Et heic, Lector, me excusabis, qui antequam ulterius procedam, cogor facere invectivam contra Dantem. O utinam, Poeta mirifice, rivivisceres modo! Ubi pax, ubi tranquillitas in Italia?... Nunc autem dicere possim de tola Italia quod Vergilius tuus de una Urbe dixit:
——'Crudelis ubique Lucutus, ubique pavor, et plurima mortis imago.'
.... Quanto ergo excusabilius, si fas esset, possem exclamare ad Omnipotentem quam tu, qui in tempora felicia incidisti, quibus nos omnes nunc viventes in misera Italia possumus invidere? Ipse ergo, qui potest, mittat amodo Veltrum, quem tu vidisti in Somno, si tamen umquam venturus est."
"Note the beauty of the metaphor: for, as in a brothel the human body is sold for a price without shame, so the great harlot, the Court of Rome, and the Imperial Court, sell the liberty of Italy.... All the barbarous nations rush eagerly upon Italy to trample upon her.... And here, Reader, thou shalt excuse me, if, before going farther, I am forced to utter a complaint against Dante. Would that, O marvellous poet, thou wert now living again! Where is peace, where is tranquillity in Italy?... But I may say now of all Italy what thy Virgil said of a single city,—'Cruel mourning everywhere, everywhere alarm, and the multiplied image of death.' ...With how much more reason, then, were it but right, might I call upon the Omnipotent, than thou who fellest upon happy times, which we all now living in wretched Italy may envy! Let Him, then, who can, speedily send the Hound that thou sawest in thy dream, if indeed he is ever to come!"