It may be necessary to say something in defence of my orthography. Of late it has become the fashion to render our language more neat and trim by leaving out k after c, and u in the last syllable of words which used to end in our. The illustrious Mr. Samuel Johnson, who has alone executed in England what was the task of whole academies in other countries, has been careful in his Dictionary to preserve the k as a mark of Saxon original. He has for most part, too, been careful to preserve the u, but he has also omitted it in several words. I have retained the k, and have taken upon me to follow a general rule with regard to words ending in our. Wherever a word originally Latin has been transmitted to us through the medium of the French, I have written it with the characteristical u. An attention to this may appear trivial. But I own I am one of those who are curious in the formation of language in its various modes; and therefore wish that the affinity of English with other tongues may not be forgotten. If this work should at any future period be reprinted, I hope that care will be taken of my orthography.
[Footnote 76: "ADAMS.—But, Sir, how can you do this in three years? JOHNSON.—Sir, I have no doubt that I can do it in three years. ADAMS.—But the French Academy, which consists of forty members, took forty years to compile their Dictionary. JOHNSON.—Sir, thus it is. This is the proportion. Let me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman."—Boswell's "Johnson." Date of 1748.—ED.]
[Footnote 77: I have not dared to disregard Boswell's request. His orthography is retained.—ED.]
He who publishes a book, affecting not to be an authour, and professing an indifference for literary fame, may possibly impose upon many people such an idea of his consequence as he wishes may be received. For my part, I should be proud to be known as an authour; and I have an ardent ambition for literary fame; for of all possessions I should imagine literary fame to be the most valuable. A man who has been able to furnish a book which has been approved by the world, has established himself as a respectable character in distant society, without any danger of having that character lessened by the observation of his weaknesses. To preserve an uniform dignity among those who see us every day, is hardly possible; and to aim at it must put us under the fetters of a perpetual restraint. The authour of an approved book may allow his natural disposition an easy play, and yet indulge the pride of superiour genius when he considers that by those who know him only as an authour, he never ceases to be respected. Such an authour when in his hours of gloom and discontent, may have the consolation to think that his writings are at that very time giving pleasure to numbers; and such an authour may cherish the hope of being remembered after death, which has been a great object to the noblest minds in all ages.
[Footnote 78: "The rational pride of an author may be offended, rather than flattered, by vague, indiscriminate praise; but he cannot, he should not, be indifferent to the fair testimonies of private and public esteem. Even his moral sympathy may be gratified by the idea, that now, in the present hour, he is imparting some degree of amusement or knowledge to his friends in a distant land; that one day his mind will be familiar to the grand-children of those who are yet unborn."—"Memoirs of my Life and Writings," by Edward Gibbon, vol. i., p. 273.
"Do thou teach me not only to foresee but to enjoy, nay even to feed on future praise. Comfort me by the solemn assurance, that when the little parlour in which I sit at this moment shall be reduced to a worse-furnished box, I shall be read with honour by those who never knew nor saw me, and whom I shall neither know nor see."—"Tom Jones," book xiii., chap. I. Quoted by Gibbon, or his Editor.—ED.]
Whether I may merit any portion of literary fame, the publick will judge. Whatever my ambition may be, I trust that my confidence is not too great, nor my hopes too sanguine.
TO THE THIRD EDITION.
I now beg leave to present the world with a more correct edition of my Account of Corsica. I return my sincere thanks to those who have taken the trouble to point out several faults, with a spirit of candid criticism. I hope they will not be offended that in one or two places I have preserved my own reading, contrary to their opinion; as I never would own that I am wrong, till I am convinced that it is so. My orthography I have sufficiently explained; and although some pleasantry has been shewn, I have not met with one argument against it.
* * * * *
While I have a proper sense of my obligations to those who have treated me with candour, I do not forget that there have been others who have chosen to treat me in an illiberal manner. The resentment of some has evidently arisen from the grateful admiration which I have expressed of Mr. Samuel Johnson. Over such, it is a triumph to me to assure them, that I never cease to think of Mr. Johnson with the same warmth of affection, and the same dignity of veneration. The resentment of others it is more difficult to explain. For what should make men attack one who never offended them, who has done his best to entertain them, and who is engaged in the most generous cause? But I am told by those who have gone before me in literature, that the attacks of such should rather flatter me, than give me displeasure.
To those who have imagined themselves very witty in sneering at me for being a Christian, I would recommend the serious study of Theology, and I hope they will attain to the same comfort that I have, in the belief of a Revelation by which a SAVIOUR is proclamed to the world, and "life and immortality are clearly brought to light."
I am now to return thanks to My Lord Lyttelton, for being so good as to allow me to enrich my book with one of his Lordship's letters to me. I was indeed most anxious that it should be published; as it contains an eulogium on Pascal Paoli, equal to anything that I have found in the writings of antiquity. Nor can I deny that I was very desirous to shew the world that this worthy and respectable Nobleman, to whom genius, learning and virtue owe so much, can amidst all his literary honours be pleased with what I have been able to write.
[Footnote 79: I have not thought it needful to reprint this letter.—ED.]
May I be permitted to say that the success of this book has exceeded my warmest hopes. When I first ventured to send it into the world, I fairly owned an ardent desire for literary fame. I have obtained my desire: and whatever clouds may overcast my days, I can now walk here among the rocks and woods of my ancestors, with an agreeable consciousness that I have done something worthy.
AUCHINLECK, AYRSHIRE, 29 October, 1768.
Olim meminisse juvabit.
TOUR TO CORSICA.
Having resolved to pass some years abroad, for my instruction and entertainment, I conceived a design of visiting the island of Corsica. I wished for something more than just the common course of what is called the tour of Europe; and Corsica occurred to me as a place which no body else had seen, and where I should find what was to be seen no where else, a people actually fighting for liberty, and forming themselves from a poor inconsiderable oppressed nation, into a flourishing and independent state.
[Footnote 80: Boswell had left England, on August 6th, 1763, for the University of Utrecht, whither his father had sent him to study civil law. On his return to Scotland, he was to put on the gown as a member of the Faculty of Advocates. "Honest man!" he writes of his father to his friend Temple, "he is now very happy; it is amazing to think how much he has had at heart my pursuing the road of civil life." Boswell had once hoped to enter the Guards. A few days later on he wrote: "My father has allowed me L60 a quarter; that is not a great allowance, but with economy I may live very well upon it, for Holland is a cheap country. However I am determined not to be straightened, nor to encourage the least narrowness of disposition as to saving money, but will draw upon my father for any sums I find necessary." He did not give many months to his legal studies at Utrecht. In the following year he set out on his travels. He went through Germany and Switzerland to Italy. It was in the autumn of 1765 that he visited Corsica. He returned to England through France, and arrived in London in February, 1766.]
When I got into Switzerland, I went to see M. Rousseau. He was then living in romantick retirement, from whence, perhaps, it had been better for him never to have descended. While he was at a distance, his singular eloquence filled our minds with high ideas of the wild philosopher. When he came into the walks of men, we know alas! how much these ideas suffered.
[Footnote 81: Rousseau came to England in January, 1766. He had not been here long before he quarrelled with Hume, who had been to him so true a friend.—ED.]
He entertained me very courteously; for I was recommended to him by my honoured friend the Earl Marischal, with whom I had the happiness of travelling through a part of Germany. I had heard that M. Rousseau had some correspondence with the Corsicans, and had been desired to assist them in forming their laws. I told him my scheme of going to visit them, after I had compleated my tour of Italy; and I insisted that he should give me a letter of introduction. He immediately agreed to do so, whenever I should acquaint him of my time of going thither; for he saw that my enthusiasm for the brave islanders was as warm as his own.
[Footnote 82: George, tenth Earl Marischal. He had taken part in the Jacobite rising of 1715. Later on he held high office in the Prussian service. In 1759 his attainder was reversed, but he continued to live abroad. In one of his letters to Madame de Boufflers he says, in speaking of Rousseau, "Je lui avais fait un projet; mais en le disant un chateau en Espagne, d'aller habiter une maison toute meublee que j'ai en Ecosse; d'engager le bon David Hume de vivre avec nous."—"Hume's Private Correspondence," page 43.—ED.]
[Footnote 83: See page 222.]
I accordingly wrote to him from Rome, in April 1765, that I had fixed the month of September for my Corsican expedition, and therefore begged of him to send me the letter of introduction, which if he refused, I should certainly go without it, and probably be hanged as a spy. So let him answer for the consequences.
The wild philosopher was a man of his word; and on my arrival at Florence in August I received the following letter.
"A MONSIEUR, MONSIEUR BOSWELL, &c.
"A MOTIERS le 30 May, 1765.
"La crise orageuse ou je me trouve, Monsieur, depuis votre depart d'ici, m'a ote le tems de repondre a votre premiere lettre, et me laisse a peine celui de repondre en peu de mots a la seconde. Pour m'en tenir a ce qui presse pour le moment, savoir la recommendation que vous desirez en Corse; puisque vous avez le desir de visiter ces braves insulaires, vous pourrez vous informer a Bastia, de M. Buttafoco capitaine au Regiment Royal Italien; il a sa maison a Vescovado, ou il se tient assez souvent. C'est un tres galant homme, qui a des connoissances et de l'esprit; il suffira de lui montrer cette lettre, et je suis sur qu'il vous recevra bien, et contribuera a vous faire voir l'isle et ses habitans avec satisfaction. Si vous ne trouvez pas M. Buttafoco, et que vous vouliez aller tout droit a M. Pascal de Paoli general de la nation, vous pouvez egalement lui montrer cette lettre, et je suis sur, connoissant la noblesse de son caractere, que vous serez tres-content de son accueil: vous pourrez lui dire meme que vous etes aime de Mylord Mareschal d'Ecosse, et que Mylord Mareschal est un des plus zeles partizans de la nation Corse. Au reste vouz n'avez besoin d'autre recommendation pres de ces Messieurs que votre propre merite, la nation Corse etant naturellement si accueillante et si hospitaliere, que tous les etrangers y sont bien venus et caresses.
* * * * *
"Bons et heureux voyages, sante, gaiete et promt retour. Je vous embrasse, Monsieur, de tout mon coeur."
"TO MR. BOSWELL, &c.
"MOTIERS, the 30 May 1765.
"The stormy crisis in which I have found myself since your departure from this, has not allowed me any leisure to answer your first letter, and hardly allows me leisure to reply in a few words to your second. To confine myself to what is immediately pressing, the recommendation which you ask for Corsica; since you have a desire to visit those brave islanders, you may enquire at Bastia for M. Buttafoco, captain of the Royal Italian Regiment; his house is at Vescovado, where he resides pretty often. He is a very worthy man, and has both knowledge and genius; it will be sufficient to shew him this letter, and I am sure he will receive you well, and will contribute to let you see the island and its inhabitants with satisfaction. If you do not find M. Buttafoco, and will go directly to M. Pascal Paoli General of the nation, you may in the same manner shew him this letter, and as I know the nobleness of his character, I am sure you will be very well pleased at your reception. You may even tell him that you are liked by My Lord Marischal of Scotland, and that My Lord Marischal is one of the most zealous partisans of the Corsican nation. You need no other recommendation to these gentlemen but your own merit, the Corsicans being naturally so courteous and hospitable, that all strangers who come among them, are made welcome and caressed.
* * * * *
"I wish you agreeable and fortunate travels, health, gaiety, and a speedy return. I embrace you Sir with all my heart
"JOHN JAMES ROUSSEAU."
Furnished with these credentials, I was impatient to be with the illustrious Chief. The charms of sweet Siena detained me longer than they should have done. I required the hardy air of Corsica to brace me, after the delights of Tuscany.
I recollect with astonishment how little the real state of Corsica was known, even by those who had good access to know it. An officer of rank in the British navy, who had been in several ports of the island, told me that I run the risque of my life in going among these barbarians; for, that his surgeon's mate went ashore to take the diversion of shooting, and every moment was alarmed by some of the natives, who started from the bushes with loaded guns, and if he had not been protected by Corsican guides, would have certainly blown out his brains.
Nay at Leghorn, which is within a day's sailing of Corsica, and has a constant intercourse with it, I found people who dissuaded me from going thither, because it might be dangerous.
I was however under no apprehension in going to Corsica. Count Rivarola the Sardinian consul, who is himself a Corsican, assuring me that the island was then in a very civilized state; and besides, that in the rudest times no Corsican would ever attack a stranger. The Count was so good as to give me most obliging letters to many people in the island. I had now been in several foreign countries. I had found that I was able to accommodate myself to my fellow-creatures of different languages and sentiments. I did not fear that it would be a difficult task for me to make myself easy with the plain and generous Corsicans.
The only danger I saw was, that I might be taken by some of the Barbary Corsairs, and have a tryal of slavery among the Turks at Algiers. I spoke of it to Commodore Harrison, who commanded the British squadron in the Mediterranean, and was then lying with his ship the Centurion in the bay of Leghorn. He assured me, that if the Turks did take me, they should not keep me long; but in order to prevent it, he was so good as to grant me a very ample and particular passport; and as it could be of no use if I did not meet the Corsairs, he said very pleasantly when he gave it me, "I hope, Sir, it shall be of no use to you."
[Footnote 84: In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for 1750 (vol. xx., p. 42), we read, "The Phoenix, Captain Carberry, of Bristol, was taken on Christmas eve by an Algerine corsair off the rock of Lisbon, on pretence that his pass was not good, and ordered for Algiers with an officer and six other Turks; but in the passage Captain Carberry with three English sailors and a boy recovered the vessel, after flinging the Turkish officer and two other Turks overboard, and brought it with the Turkish sailors prisoners to Bristol." In the same year the English consul at Algiers wrote to say that some Algerine Corsairs had taken five English vessels because their passes were not good. The consul had complained to the Dey, "who said that he would give such orders that nothing of this sort should happen again, and then swore by his prophet that if any one controverted those orders he would take his head." The Dey had also seized a packet-boat of the British Crown. Commodore Keppel was sent to demand restitution. The Dey replied, "We are disposed to give full satisfaction to the King and the British nation for anything that may happen amiss hereafter; but as to what is past, if they have had any cause to complain, they must think no more of it, and bury it in oblivion." The packet-boat, he maintained, had not a proper Algerine pass, and therefore had been lawfully seized. By a treaty made with the Dey in the following year, the Commodore "settled all differences by waiving the restitution of the money and effects taken from on board the packet-boat on condition that his Majesty's packet-boats shall never be obliged to carry Algerine passports," &c. Whatever protection the English vessels may have had the Turkish corsairs continued to plunder the ships of most other nations. In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for 1785, (vol. lv., p. 830) we read, "The Algerines still continue their piracies in the Mediterranean. They even extend their captures to the Atlantic Ocean, and have struck the American traders with terror."—ED.]
Before I left Leghorn, I could observe, that my tour was looked upon by the Italian politicians in a very serious light, as if truly I had a commission from my Court, to negociate a treaty with the Corsicans. The more I disclaimed any such thing, the more they persevered in affirming it; and I was considered as a very close young man. I therefore just allowed them to make a minister of me, till time should undeceive them.
[Footnote 85: Compare Scribe's Comedy of "Le Diplomate."—ED.]
I sailed from Leghorn in a Tuscan vessel, which was going over to Capo Corso for wine. I preferred this to a vessel going to Bastia, because, as I did not know how the French general was affected towards the Corsicans, I was afraid that he might not permit me to go forward to Paoli. I therefore resolved to land on the territories of the nation, and after I had been with the illustrious Chief, to pay my respects to the French if I should find it safe.
Though from Leghorn to Corsica is usually but one day's sailing, there was so dead a calm that it took us two days. The first day was the most tedious. However there were two or three Corsicans aboard, and one of them played on the Citra, which amused me a good deal. At sun-set all the people in the ship sung the Ave Maria, with great devotion and some melody. It was pleasing to enter into the spirit of their religion, and hear them offering up their evening orisons.
The second day we became better acquainted, and more lively and chearful. The worthy Corsicans thought it was proper to give a moral lesson to a young traveller just come from Italy. They told me that in their country I should be treated with the greatest hospitality; but if I attempted to debauch any of their women, I might lay my account with instant death.
I employed myself several hours in rowing, which gave me great spirits. I relished fully my approach to the island, which had acquired an unusual grandeur in my imagination. As long as I can remember any thing, I have heard of "The malecontents of Corsica, with Paoli at their head." It was a curious thought that I was just going to see them.
About seven o'clock at night, we landed safely in the harbour of Centuri. I learnt that Signor Giaccomini of this place, to whom I was recommended by Count Rivarola, was just dead. He had made a handsome fortune in the East Indies; and having had a remarkable warmth in the cause of liberty during his whole life, he shewed it in the strongest manner in his last will. He bequeathed a considerable sum of money, and some pieces of ordinance, to the nation. He also left it in charge to his heir, to live in Corsica, and be firm in the patriotick interest; and if ever the island should again be reduced under the power of the Genoese, he ordered him to retire with all his effects to Leghorn. Upon these conditions only could his heir enjoy his estate.
I was directed to the house of Signor Giaccomini's cousin, Signor Antonio Antonetti at Morsiglia, about a mile up the country. The prospect of the mountains covered with vines and olives, was extremely agreeable; and the odour of the myrtle and other aromatick shrubs and flowers that grew all around me, was very refreshing. As I walked along, I often saw Corsican peasants come suddenly out from the covert; and as they were all armed, I saw how the frightened imagination of the surgeon's mate had raised up so many assassins. Even the man who carried my baggage was armed, and had I been timorous might have alarmed me. But he and I were very good company to each other. As it grew dusky, I repeated to myself these lines from a fine passage in Ariosto.
"E pur per selve oscure e calli obliqui Insieme van senza, sospetto aversi."
ARIOST. Canto I.
"Together through dark woods and winding ways They walk, nor on their hearts suspicion preys."
I delivered Signor Antonetti the letter for his deceased cousin. He read it, and received me with unaffected cordiality, making an apology for my frugal entertainment, but assuring me of a hearty welcome. His true kindly hospitality was also shewn in taking care of my servant, an honest Swiss, who loved to eat and drink well.
[Footnote 86: Like master, like man.—ED.]
I had formed a strange notion that I should see every thing in Corsica totally different from what I had seen in any other country. I was therefore much surprised to find Signor Antonetti's house quite an Italian one, with very good furniture, prints, and copies of some of the famous pictures. In particular, I was struck to find here a small copy from Raphael, of St. Michael and the Dragon. There was no necessity for its being well done. To see the thing at all was what surprised me.
[Footnote 87: See Appendix B for a curious custom described by Boswell.—ED.]
Signor Antonetti gave me an excellent light repast, and a very good bed. He spoke with great strength of the patriotick cause, and with great veneration of the General. I was quite easy, and liked much the opening of my Corsican tour.
The next day, being Sunday, it rained very hard; and I must observe that the Corsicans with all their resolution, are afraid of bad weather, to a degree of effeminacy. I got indeed a drole but a just enough account of this, from one of them. "Sir," said he, "if you were as poor as a Corsican, and had but one coat, so as that after being wet, you could not put on dry cloaths, you would be afraid too." Signor Antonetti would not allow me to set out while it rained, for, said he, "Quando si trova fuori, patienza; ma di andare fuori e cattivo. If a man finds himself abroad, there is no help for it. But to go deliberately out, is too much."
[Footnote 88: A friend of mine, driving last September from Tunis to Utica, was overtaken by a storm of rain. The driver at once got down from the box and seated himself on the ground under the carriage. By way of excuse he said that he had but one coat.—ED.]
When the day grew a little better, I accompanied Signor Antonetti and his family, to hear mass in the parish church, a very pretty little building, about half a quarter of a mile off.
Signor Antonetti's parish priest was to preach to us, at which I was much pleased, being very curious to hear a Corsican sermon.
Our priest did very well. His text was in the Psalms. "Descendunt ad infernum viventes. They go down alive into the pit."
After endeavouring to move our passions with a description of the horrours of hell, he told us "Saint Catherine of Siena wished to be laid on the mouth of this dreadful pit, that she might stop it up, so as no more unhappy souls should fall into it. I confess, my brethren, I have not the zeal of holy Saint Catherine. But I do what I can; I warn you how to avoid it." He then gave us some good practical advices and concluded.
The weather being now cleared up, I took leave of the worthy gentleman to whom I had been a guest. He gave me a letter to Signor Damiano Tomasi Padre del Commune at Pino, the next village. I got a man with an ass to carry my baggage. But such a road I never saw. It was absolutely scrambling along the face of a rock overhanging the sea, upon a path sometimes not above a foot broad. I thought the ass rather retarded me; so I prevailed with the man to take my portmanteau and other things on his back.
Had I formed my opinion of Corsica from what I saw this morning, I might have been in as bad humour with it, as Seneca was, whose reflections in prose are not inferiour to his epigrams. "Quid tam nudum inveniri potest, quid tam abruptum undique quam hoc saxum? quid ad copias respicienti jejunius? quid ad homines immansuetius? quid ad ipsum loci situm horridius? Plures tamen hic peregrini quam cives consistunt? usque eo ergo commutatio ipsa locorum gravis non est, ut hic quoque locus a patria quosdam abduxerit. What can be found so bare, what so rugged all around as this rock? what more barren of provisions? what more rude as to its inhabitants? what in the very situation of the place more horrible? what in climate more intemperate? yet there are more foreigners than natives here. So far then is a change of place from being disagreeable, that even this place hath brought some people away from their country."
[Footnote 89: Seneca de Consolatione.]
At Pino I was surprised to find myself met by some brisk young fellows drest like English sailors, and speaking English tolerably well. They had been often with cargoes of wine at Leghorn, where they had picked up what they knew of our language, and taken clothes in part of payment for some of their merchandise.
I was cordially entertained at Signor Tomasi's. Throughout all Corsica, except in garrison towns, there is hardly an inn. I met with a single one, about eight miles from Corte. Before I was accustomed to the Corsican hospitality, I sometimes forgot myself, and imagining I was in a publick house, called for what I wanted, with the tone which one uses in calling to the waiters at a tavern. I did so at Pino, asking for a variety of things at once; when Signora Tomasi, perceiving my mistake, looked in my face and smiled, saying with much calmness and good-nature, "Una cosa dopo un altra, Signore. One thing after another, Sir."
In writing this Journal, I shall not tire my readers with relating the occurrences of each particular day. It will be much more agreeable to them, to have a free and continued account of what I saw or heard, most worthy of observation.
For some time, I had very curious travelling, mostly on foot, and attended by a couple of stout women, who carried my baggage upon their heads. Every time that I prepared to set out from a village, I could not help laughing, to see the good people eager to have my equipage in order, and roaring out, "Le Donne, Le Donne. The Women, The Women."
I had full leisure and the best opportunities to observe every thing, in my progress through the island. I was lodged sometimes in private houses, sometimes in convents, being always well recommended from place to place. The first convent in which I lay, was at Canari. It appeared a little odd at first. But I soon learnt to repair to my dormitory as naturally as if I had been a friar for seven years.
The convents were small decent buildings, suited to the sober ideas of their pious inhabitants. The religious who devoutly endeavour to "walk with GOD," are often treated with raillery by those whom pleasure or business prevents from thinking of future and more exalted objects. A little experience of the serenity and peace of mind to be found in convents, would be of use to temper the fire of men of the world.
At Patrimonio I found the seat of a provincial magistracy. The chief judge was there, and entertained me very well. Upon my arrival, the captain of the guard came out, and demanded who I was? I replied "Inglese English." He looked at me seriously, and then said in a tone between regret and upbraiding, "Inglese, c'erano i nostri amici; ma non le sono piu. The English. They were once our friends; but they are so no more." I felt for my country, and was abashed before this honest soldier.
At Oletta I visited Count Nicholas Rivarola, brother to my friend at Leghorn. He received me with great kindness, and did every thing in his power to make me easy. I found here a Corsican who thought better of the British than the captain of the guard at Patrimonio. He talked of our bombarding San Fiorenzo, in favour of the patriots, and willingly gave me his horse for the afternoon, which he said he would not have done to a man of any other nation.
[Footnote 90: In 1745. See Introduction. Page 110.—ED.]
When I came to Morato, I had the pleasure of being made acquainted with Signor Barbaggi, who is married to the niece of Paoli. I found him to be a sensible, intelligent, well-bred man. The mint of Corsica was in his house. I got specimens of their different kinds of money in silver and copper, and was told that they hoped in a year or two, to strike some gold coins. Signor Barbaggi's house was repairing, so I was lodged in the convent. But in the morning returned to breakfast, and had chocolate; and at dinner we had no less than twelve well-drest dishes, served on Dresden china, with a desert, different sorts of wine and a liqueur, all the produce of Corsica. Signor Barbaggi was frequently repeating to me, that the Corsicans inhabited a rude uncultivated country, and that they lived like Spartans. I begged leave to ask him in what country he could show me greater luxury than I had seen in his house; and I said I should certainly tell wherever I went, what tables the Corsicans kept, notwithstanding their pretensions to poverty and temperance. A good deal of pleasantry passed upon this. His lady was a genteel woman, and appeared to be agreeable, though very reserved.
From Morato to Corte, I travelled through a wild mountainous rocky country, diversified with some large valleys. I got little beasts for me and my servant, sometimes horses, but oftener mules or asses. We had no bridles, but cords fixed round their necks, with which we managed them as well as we could.
At Corte I waited upon the supreme council, to one of whom, Signor Boccociampe, I had a letter from Signor Barbaggi. I was very politely received, and was conducted to the Franciscan convent, where I got the apartment of Paoli, who was then some days' journey beyond the mountains, holding a court of syndicato at a village called Sollacaro.
[Footnote 91: "The Syndicatori make a tour through the different provinces, as our judges in Britain go the circuits. They hear complaints against the different magistrates."—Boswell's "Account of Corsica," p. 153.—ED.]
As the General resided for some time in this convent, the fathers made a better appearance than any I saw in the island. I was principally attended by the Priour, a resolute divine, who had formerly been in the army, and by Padre Giulio, a man of much address, who still favours me with his correspondence.
These fathers have a good vineyard and an excellent garden. They have between 30 and 40 bee-hives in long wooden cases or trunks of trees, with a covering of the bark of the cork tree. When they want honey, they burn a little juniper wood, the smoak of which makes the bees retire. They then take an iron instrument with a sharp-edged crook at one end of it, and bring out the greatest part of the honey-comb, leaving only a little for the bees, who work the case full again. By taking the honey in this way, they never kill a bee. They seemed much at their ease, living in peace and plenty. I often joked them with the text which is applied to their order, "Nihil habentes et omnia possidentes. Having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
I went to the choir with them. The service was conducted with propriety, and Padre Giulio played on the organ. On the great altar of their church is a tabernacle carved in wood by a Religious. It is a piece of exquisite workmanship. A Genoese gentleman offered to give them one in silver for it; but they would not make the exchange.
These fathers have no library worth mentioning; but their convent is large and well built. I looked about with great attention, to see if I could find any inscriptions; but the only one I found was upon a certain useful edifice.
"Sine necessitate huc non intrate, Quia necessaria sumus."
A studied, rhiming, Latin conceit marked upon such a place was truly ludicrous.
I chose to stop a while at Corte, to repose myself after my fatigues, and to see every thing about the capital of Corsica.
The morning after my arrival here, three French deserters desired to speak with me. The foolish fellows had taken it into their heads, that I was come to raise recruits for Scotland, and so they begged to have the honour of going along with me; I suppose with intention to have the honour of running off from me, as they had done from their own regiments.
I received many civilities at Corte from Signor Boccociampe, and from Signor Massesi the Great Chancellor, whose son Signor Luigi a young gentleman of much vivacity, and natural politeness, was so good as to attend me constantly as my conductour. I used to call him my governour. I liked him much, for as he had never been out of the island, his ideas were entirely Corsican.
Such of the members of the supreme council as were in residence during my stay at Corte, I found to be solid and sagacious, men of penetration and ability, well calculated to assist the General in forming his political plans, and in turning to the best advantage, the violence and enterprise of the people.
The university was not then sitting, so I could only see the rooms, which were shewn me by the Abbe Valentini, procuratour of the university. The professours were all absent except one Capuchin father whom I visited at his convent. It is a tolerable building, with a pretty large collection of books. There is in the church here a tabernacle carved in wood, in the manner of that at the Franciscans', but much inferiour to it.
I went up to the castle of Corte. The commandant very civilly shewed me every part of it. As I wished to see all things in Corsica, I desired to see even the unhappy criminals. There were then three in the castle, a man for the murder of his wife, a married lady who had hired one of her servants to strangle a woman of whom she was jealous, and the servant who had actually perpetrated this barbarous action. They were brought out from their cells, that I might talk with them. The murderer of his wife had a stupid hardened appearance, and told me he did it at the instigation of the devil. The servant was a poor despicable wretch. He had at first accused his mistress, but was afterwards prevailed with to deny his accusation, upon which he was put to the torture, by having lighted matches held between his fingers. This made him return to what he had formerly said, so as to be a strong evidence against his mistress. His hands were so miserably scorched, that he was a piteous object. I asked him why he had committed such a crime, he said, "Perche era senza spirito. Because I was without understanding." The lady seemed of a bold and resolute spirit. She spoke to me with great firmness, and denied her guilt, saying with a contemptuous smile, as she pointed to her servant, "They can force that creature to say what they please."
[Footnote 92: Boswell was too fond of seeing criminals and hangmen. He was frequently present at executions. In his "Life of Johnson" he records, under date of June 23rd, 1784, "I visited Johnson in the morning, after having been present at the shocking sight of fifteen men executed before Newgate." He once persuaded Sir Joshua Reynolds to accompany him, and they recognised among the sufferers a former servant of Mrs. Thrale's. He describes Mr. Akerman, the Keeper of Newgate, as his esteemed friend. According to Mr. Croker, he defended his taste in a paper he wrote for the "London Magazine," "as a natural and irresistible impulse."—ED.]
[Footnote 93: So far as I have been able to ascertain, this passage, this great blot on Paoli and the Corsican patriots, excited no attention in England. But the Inquisition was still at its hateful work in many countries, and men's minds were used to cruelties. Torture was still employed in capital cases to force confession even in Holland and France.—ED.]
The hangman of Corsica was a great curiosity. Being held in the utmost detestation, he durst not live like another inhabitant of the island. He was obliged to take refuge in the castle, and there he was kept in a little corner turret, where he had just room for a miserable bed, and a little bit of fire to dress such victuals for himself as were sufficient to keep him alive, for nobody would have any intercourse with him, but all turned their backs upon him. I went up and looked at him. And a more dirty rueful spectacle I never beheld. He seemed sensible of his situation, and held down his head like an abhorred outcast.
It was a long time before they could get a hangman in Corsica, so that the punishment of the gallows was hardly known, all their criminals being shot. At last this creature whom I saw, who is a Sicilian, came with a message to Paoli. The General who has a wonderful talent for physiognomy, on seeing the man, said immediately to some of the people about him, "Ecco il boia. Behold our hangman." He gave orders to ask the man if he would accept of the office, and his answer was, "My grandfather was a hangman, my father was a hangman. I have been a hangman myself, and am willing to continue so." He was therefore immediately put into office, and the ignominious death dispensed by his hands, had more effect than twenty executions by fire arms.
[Footnote 94: "Their dignities, and a' that," are, it seems, to be found even among executioners. The man who shoots scorns the man who hangs. It would be an interesting inquiry how the headsman ranks.—ED.]
It is remarkable that no Corsican would upon any account consent to be hangman. Not the greatest criminals, who might have had their lives upon that condition. Even the wretch, who for a paultry hire, had strangled a woman, would rather submit to death, than do the same action, as the executioner of the law.
[Footnote 95: See, however, page 201.—ED.]
When I had seen every thing about Corte, I prepared for my journey over the mountains, that I might be with Paoli. The night before I set out, I recollected that I had forgotten to get a passport, which, in the present situation of Corsica, is still a necessary precaution. After supper therefore the Priour walked with me to Corte, to the house of the Great Chancellor, who ordered the passport to be made out immediately, and while his secretary was writing it, entertained me by reading to me some of the minutes of the general consulta. When the passport was finished, and ready to have the seal put to it, I was much pleased with a beautiful, simple incident. The Chancellor desired a little boy who was playing in the room by us, to run to his mother, and bring the great seal of the kingdom. I thought myself sitting in the house of a Cincinnatus.
Next morning I set out in very good order, having excellent mules, and active clever Corsican guides. The worthy fathers of the convent who treated me in the kindest manner while I was their guest, would also give me some provisions for my journey; so they put up a gourd of their best wine, and some delicious pomegranates. My Corsican guides appeared so hearty, that I often got down and walked along with them, doing just what I saw them do. When we grew hungry, we threw stones among the thick branches of the chestnut trees which over-shadowed us, and in that manner we brought down a shower of chestnuts with which we filled our pockets, and went on eating them with great relish; and when this made us thirsty, we lay down by the side of the first brook, put our mouths to the stream, and drank sufficiently. It was just being for a little while, one of the "prisca gens mortalium, the primitive race of men," who ran about in the woods eating acorns and drinking water.
While I stopped to refresh my mules at a little village, the inhabitants came crouding about me as an ambassadour going to their General. When they were informed of my country, a strong black fellow among them said, "Inglese! sono barbari; non credono in Dio grande. English! they are barbarians; they don't believe in the great GOD." I told him, "Excuse me Sir. We do believe in GOD, and in Jesus Christ too." "Um," said he, "e nel Papa? and in the Pope?" "No." "E perche? And why?" This was a puzzling question in these circumstances; for there was a great audience to the controversy. I thought I would try a method of my own, and very gravely replied, "Perche siamo troppo lontani. Because we are too far off." A very new argument against the universal infallibility of the Pope. It took however; for my opponent mused a while, and then said, "Troppo lontano! La Sicilia e tanto lontana che l'Inghilterra; e in Sicilia si credono nel Papa. Too far off! Why Sicily is as far off as England. Yet in Sicily they believe in the Pope." "O," said I "noi siamo dieci volte piu lontani che la Sicilia! We are ten times farther off than Sicily." "Aha!" said he; and seemed quite satisfied. In this manner I got off very well. I question much whether any of the learned reasonings of our protestant divines would have had so good an effect.
[Footnote 96: According to Macaulay ("Essays," vol. i., p. 378), "wit was utterly wanting to Boswell."—ED.]
My journey over the mountains was very entertaining. I past some immense ridges and vast woods. I was in great health and spirits, and fully able to enter into the ideas of the brave rude men whom I found in all quarters.
At Bastelica where there is a stately spirited race of people, I had a large company to attend me in the convent. I liked to see their natural frankness and ease; for why should men be afraid of their own species? They just came in making an easy bow, placed themselves round the room where I was sitting, rested themselves on their muskets, and immediately entered into conversation with me. They talked very feelingly of the miseries that their country had endured, and complained that they were still but in a state of poverty. I happened at that time to have an unusual flow of spirits; and as one who finds himself amongst utter strangers in a distant country has no timidity, I harangued the men of Bastelica with great fluency. I expatiated on the bravery of the Corsicans, by which they had purchased liberty, the most valuable of all possessions, and rendered themselves glorious over all Europe. Their poverty, I told them, might be remedied by a proper cultivation of their island, and by engaging a little in commerce. But I bid them remember, that they were much happier in their present state than in a state of refinement and vice, and that therefore they should beware of luxury.
[Footnote 97: "For my part I like very well to hear honest Goldsmith talk away carelessly." Boswell, as reported by himself. "Life of Johnson." Date of April 11, 1772.—ED.]
[Footnote 98: "I give admirable dinners, and good claret; and the moment I go abroad again, I set up my chariot."—Boswell, in a letter to Temple, May 14, 1768.—ED.]
What I said had the good fortune to touch them, and several of them repeated the same sentiments much better than I could do. They all expressed their strong attachment to Paoli, and called out in one voice that they were all at his command. I could with pleasure have passed a long time here.
At Ornano I saw the ruins of the seat where the great Sampiero had his residence. They were a droll enough society of monks in the convent at Ornano. When I told them that I was an Englishman, "Aye, aye," said one of them, "as was well observed by a reverend bishop, when talking of your pretended reformation, 'Angli olim angeli nunc diaboli. The English, formerly angels now devils.'" I looked upon this as an honest effusion of spiritual zeal. The Fathers took good care of me in temporals.
[Footnote 99: Sampiero had been the leader of a revolt which broke out in 1564. He was assassinated three years later.—ED.]
When I at last came within sight of Sollacaro, where Paoli was, I could not help being under considerable anxiety. My ideas of him had been greatly heightened by the conversations I had held with all sorts of people in the island, they having represented him to me as something above humanity. I had the strongest desire to see so exalted a character; but I feared that I should be unable to give a proper account why I had presumed to trouble him with a visit, and that I should sink to nothing before him. I almost wished yet to go back without seeing him. These workings of sensibility employed my mind till I rode through the village and came up to the house where he was lodged.
[Footnote 100: Compare Boswell's introduction to Johnson.—ED.]
Leaving my servant with my guides, I past through the guards, and was met by some of the General's people, who conducted me into an antichamber, where were several gentlemen in waiting. Signor Boccociampe had notified my arrival, and I was shewn into Paoli's room. I found him alone, and was struck with his appearance. He is tall, strong, and well made; of a fair complexion, a sensible, free, and open countenance, and a manly and noble carriage. He was then in his fortieth year. He was drest in green and gold. He used to wear the common Corsican habit, but on the arrival of the French he thought a little external elegance might be of use to make the government appear in a more respectable light.
He asked me what were my commands for him. I presented him a letter from Count Rivarola, and when he had read it, I shewed him my letter from Rousseau. He was polite, but very reserved. I had stood in the presence of many a prince, but I never had such a trial as in the presence of Paoli. I have already said that he is a great physiognomist. In consequence of his being in continual danger from treachery and assassination, he has formed a habit of studiously observing every new face. For ten minutes we walked backwards and forwards through the room, hardly saying a word, while he looked at me, with a steadfast, keen and penetrating eye, as if he searched my very soul.
This interview was for a while very severe upon me. I was much relieved when his reserve wore off, and he began to speak more. I then ventured to address him with this compliment to the Corsicans. "Sir, I am upon my travels, and have lately visited Rome. I am come from seeing the ruins of one brave and free people; I now see the rise of another."
He received my compliment very graciously; but observed that the Corsicans had no chance of being like the Romans, a great conquering nation, who should extend its empire over half the globe. Their situation, and the modern political systems, rendered this impossible. "But," said he, "Corsica may be a very happy country."
He expressed a high admiration of M. Rousseau, whom Signor Buttafoco had invited to Corsica, to aid the nation in forming its laws.
It seems M. de Voltaire had reported, in his rallying manner, that the invitation was merely a trick which he had put upon Rousseau. Paoli told me that when he understood this, he himself wrote to Rousseau, enforcing the invitation. Of this affair I shall give a full account in an after part of my Journal.
[Footnote 101: See page 222.—ED.]
Some of the nobles who attended him came into the room, and in a little we were told that dinner was served up. The General did me the honour to place me next him. He had a table of fifteen or sixteen covers, having always a good many of the principal men of the island with him. He had an Italian cook who had been long in France; but he chose to have a few plain substantial dishes, avoiding every kind of luxury, and drinking no foreign wine.
I felt myself under some constraint in such a circle of heroes. The General talked a great deal on history and on literature. I soon perceived that he was a fine classical scholar, that his mind was enriched with a variety of knowledge, and that his conversation at meals was instructive and entertaining. Before dinner he had spoken French. He now spoke Italian, in which he is very eloquent.
We retired to another room to drink coffee. My timidity wore off. I no longer anxiously thought of myself; my whole attention was employed in listening to the illustrious commander of a nation.
He recommended me to the care of the Abbe Rostini, who had lived many years in France. Signor Colonna, the lord of the manor here being from home, his house was assigned for me to live in. I was left by myself till near supper time, when I returned to the General, whose conversation improved upon me, as did the society of those about him, with whom I gradually formed an acquaintance.
Every day I felt myself happier. Particular marks of attention were shewn me as a subject of Great Britain, the report of which went over to Italy, and confirmed the conjectures that I was really an envoy. In the morning I had my chocolate served up upon a silver salver adorned with the arms of Corsica. I dined and supped constantly with the General. I was visited by all the nobility, and whenever I chose to make a little tour, I was attended by a party of guards. I begged of the General not to treat me with so much ceremony; but he insisted upon it.
One day when I rode out I was mounted on Paoli's own horse, with rich furniture of crimson velvet, with broad gold lace, and had my guards marching along with me. I allowed myself to indulge a momentary pride in this parade, as I was curious to experience what could really be the pleasure of state and distinction with which mankind are so strangely intoxicated.
[Footnote 102: "Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, 'Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.'"—Book of Esther, c. vi., v. 11.—ED.]
When I returned to the continent after all this greatness, I used to joke with my acquaintance, and tell them that I could not bear to live with them, for they did not treat me with a proper respect.
My time passed here in the most agreeable manner. I enjoyed a sort of luxury of noble sentiment. Paoli became more affable with me. I made myself known to him. I forgot the great distance between us, and had every day some hours of private conversation with him.
[Footnote 103: "Finding him (Johnson) in a placid humour, and wishing to avail myself of the opportunity which I fortunately had of consulting a sage, to hear whose wisdom, I conceived, in the ardour of youthful imagination, that men filled with a noble enthusiasm for intellectual improvement would gladly have resorted from distant lands, I opened my mind to him ingenuously, and gave him a little sketch of my life, to which he was pleased to listen with great attention."—Boswell's "Johnson." Date of June 13, 1763.—ED.]
From my first setting out on this tour, I wrote down every night what I had observed during the day, throwing together a great deal, that I might afterwards make a selection at leisure.
Of these particulars, the most valuable to my readers, as well as to myself, must surely be the memoirs and remarkable sayings of Paoli, which I am proud to record.
Talking of the Corsican war, "Sir," said he, "if the event prove happy, we shall be called great defenders of liberty. If the event shall prove unhappy, we shall be called unfortunate rebels."
The French objected to him that the Corsican nation had no regular troops. "We would not have them," said Paoli. "We should then have the bravery of this and the other regiment. At present every single man is as a regiment himself. Should the Corsicans be formed into regular troops, we should lose that personal bravery which has produced such actions among us, as in another country would have rendered famous even a Marischal."
[Footnote 104: See page 140.—ED.]
I asked him how he could possibly have a soul so superiour to interest. "It is not superiour," said he; "my interest is to gain a name. I know well that he who does good to his country will gain that: and I expect it. Yet could I render this people happy, I would be content to be forgotten. I have an unspeakable pride. 'Una superbia indicibile.' The approbation of my own heart is enough."
He said he would have great pleasure in seeing the world, and enjoying the society of the learned, and the accomplished in every country. I asked him how with these dispositions he could bear to be confined to an island yet in a rude uncivilised state; and instead of participating Attick evenings, "noctes coenaeque Deum," be in a continual course of care and of danger. He replied in one line of Virgil,
"Vincet amor patriae laudumque immensa cupido."
This uttered with the fine open Italian pronunciation, and the graceful dignity of his manner, was very noble. I wished to have a statue of him taken at that moment.
I asked him if he understood English. He immediately began and spoke it, which he did tolerably well. When at Naples he had known several Irish gentlemen who were officers in that service. Having a great facility in acquiring languages, he learnt English from them. But as he had been now ten years without ever speaking it, he spoke very slow. One could see that he was possessed of the words, but for want of what I may call mechanical practice, he had a difficulty in expressing himself.
I was diverted with his English library. It consisted of—
Some broken volumes of the "Spectatour" and "Tatler."
Pope's "Essay on Man."
A "History of France," in old English. And "Barclay's Apology for the Quakers."
I promised to send him some English books.
[Footnote 105: I have sent him the works of Harrington, of Sidney, of Addison, of Trenchard, of Gordon, and of other writers in favour of liberty. I have also sent him some of our best books of morality and entertainment, in particular the works of Mr. Samuel Johnson, with a compleat set of the "Spectatour," "Tatler," and "Guardian;" and to the University of Corte, I have sent a few of the Greek and Roman Classicks, of the beautiful editions of the Messieurs Foulis at Glasgow.[A]]
[Footnote A: The fate of one of these books was curious. Dr. Moore (the author of "Edward," and the father of Sir John Moore) visited Berne somewhere about the year 1772 (he gives no dates). He went to examine the public library of that town. "I happened," he says, "to open the Glasgow edition of Homer, which I saw here; on a blank page of which was an address in Latin to the Corsican General, Paoli, signed James Boswell. This very elegant book had been sent, I suppose, as a present from Mr. Boswell to his friend, the General; and, when that unfortunate chief was obliged to abandon his country, fell, with other of his effects, into the hands of the Swiss officer in the French service, who made a present of the Homer to this library."—"A View of Society and Manners in France," &c., by John Moore, M.D., vol. i., p. 307.—ED.]
He convinced me how well he understood our language; for I took the liberty to shew him a Memorial which I had drawn up on the advantages to Great Britain from an alliance with Corsica, and he translated this memorial into Italian with the greatest facility. He has since given me more proofs of his knowledge of our tongue by his answers to the letters which I have had the honour to write to him in English, and in particular by a very judicious and ingenious criticism on some of Swift's works.
He was well acquainted with the history of Britain. He had read many of the parliamentary debates, and had even seen a number of the "North Briton." He shewed a considerable knowledge of this country, and often introduced anecdotes and drew comparisons and allusions from Britain.
[Footnote 106: John Wilkes began the publication of the "North Briton" in June, 1762.—ED.]
He said his great object was to form the Corsicans in such a manner that they might have a firm constitution, and might be able to subsist without him. "Our state," said he, "is young, and still requires the leading strings. I am desirous that the Corsicans should be taught to walk of themselves. Therefore when they come to me to ask whom they should chuse for their Padre del Commune, or other Magistrate, I tell them, 'You know better than I do the able and honest men among your neighbours. Consider the consequence of your choice, not only to yourselves in particular, but to the island in general.' In this manner I accustom them to feel their own importance as members of the state."
After representing the severe and melancholy state of oppression under which Corsica had so long groaned, he said, "We are now to our country like the prophet Elishah stretched over the dead child of the Shunamite, eye to eye, nose to nose, mouth to mouth. It begins to recover warmth, and to revive. I hope it shall yet regain full health and vigour."
I said that things would make a rapid progress, and that we should soon see all the arts and sciences flourish in Corsica. "Patience, Sir," said he. "If you saw a man who had fought a hard battle, who was much wounded, who was beaten to the ground, and who with difficulty could lift himself up, it would not be reasonable to ask him to get his hair well drest, and to put on embroidered clothes. Corsica has fought a hard battle, has been much wounded, has been beaten to the ground, and with difficulty can lift herself up. The arts and sciences are like dress and ornament. You cannot expect them from us for some time. But come back twenty or thirty years hence, and we'll shew you arts and sciences, and concerts and assemblies, and fine ladies, and we'll make you fall in love among us, Sir."
He smiled a good deal, when I told him that I was much surprised to find him so amiable, accomplished, and polite; for although I knew I was to see a great man, I expected to find a rude character, an Attila king of the Goths, or a Luitprand, king of the Lombards.
[Footnote 107: Liutprand. See Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," chap. xlix.—ED.]
I observed that although he had often a placid smile upon his countenance, he hardly ever laughed. Whether loud laughter in general society be a sign of weakness or rusticity, I cannot say; but I have remarked that real great men, and men of finished behaviour, seldom fall into it.
The variety, and I may say versatility, of the mind of this great man is amazing. One day when I came in to pay my respects to him before dinner, I found him in much agitation, with a circle of his nobles around him, and a Corsican standing before him like a criminal before his judge. Paoli immediately turned to me, "I am glad you are come, Sir. You protestants talk much against our doctrine of transubstantiation. Behold here the miracle of transubstantiation, a Corsican transubstantiated into a Genoese. That unworthy man who now stands before me is a Corsican, who has been long a lieutenant under the Genoese, in Capo Corso. Andrew Doria and all their greatest heroes could not be more violent for the republick than he has been, and all against his country." Then turning to the man, "Sir," said he, "Corsica makes it a rule to pardon the most unworthy of her children, when they surrender themselves, even when they are forced to do so, as is your case. You have now escaped. But take care. I shall have a strict eye upon you; and if ever you make the least attempt to return to your traiterous practices, you know I can be avenged of you." He spoke this with the fierceness of a lion, and from the awful darkness of his brow, one could see that his thoughts of vengeance were terrible. Yet when it was over, he all at once resumed his usual appearance, called out "andiamo, come along;" went to dinner, and was as chearful and gay as if nothing had happened.
His notions of morality are high and refined, such as become the Father of a nation. Were he a libertine, his influence would soon vanish; for men will never trust the important concerns of society to one they know will do what is hurtful to society for his own pleasures. He told me that his father had brought him up with great strictness, and that he had very seldom deviated from the paths of virtue. That this was not from a defect of feeling and passion, but that his mind being filled with important objects, his passions were employed in more noble pursuits than those of licentious pleasure. I saw from Paoli's example the great art of preserving young men of spirit from the contagion of vice, in which there is often a species of sentiment, ingenuity and enterprise nearly allied to virtuous qualities.
Shew a young man that there is more real spirit in virtue than in vice, and you have a surer hold of him, during his years of impetuosity and passion, than by convincing his judgement of all the rectitude of ethicks.
One day at dinner, he gave us the principal arguments for the being and attributes of GOD. To hear these arguments repeated with graceful energy by the illustrious Paoli in the midst of his heroick nobles, was admirable. I never felt my mind more elevated.
I took occasion to mention the king of Prussia's infidel writings, and in particular his epistle to Marischal Keith. Paoli, who often talks with admiration of the greatness of that monarch, instead of uttering any direct censure of what he saw to be wrong in so distinguished a hero, paused a little, and then said with a grave and most expressive look, "C'est une belle consolation pour un vieux general mourant, 'En peu de tems vous ne serez plus.' It is fine consolation for an old general when dying, 'In a little while you shall be no more.'"
[Footnote 108: The younger brother of the Earl Marischal (see p. 140). He took part in the rebellion of 1715, although he was but seventeen years old. He next served for ten years in the Irish Brigade in the Spanish army. He then entered the Russian service, and fought against the Turks. He was sent to England as Russian ambassador. When he came to Court he was required to speak by an interpreter when he had an audience of the king, and to appear in Russian dress. He next entered the Prussian service as Field-Marshal. He was killed in the battle of Hochkirchen, in 1758.—ED.]
He observed that the Epicurean philosophy had produced but one exalted character, whereas Stoicism had been the seminary of great men. What he now said put me in mind of these noble lines of Lucan.
Hi mores, haec duri immota Catonis Secta fuit, servare modum finemque tenere, Naturamque sequi, patriaeque impendere vitam, Nec sibi sed toti genitum se credere mundo.
LUCAN. Pharsal. lib. ii. l. 380.
These were the stricter manners of the man, And this the stubborn course in which they ran; The golden mean unchanging to pursue, Constant to keep the purpos'd end in view; Religiously to follow nature's laws, And die with pleasure in his country's cause. To think he was not for himself design'd, But born to be of use to all mankind.
When he was asked if he would quit the island of which he had undertaken the protection, supposing a foreign power should create him a Marischal, and make him governour of a province; he replied, "I hope they will believe I am more honest, or more ambitious; for," said he, "to accept of the highest offices under a foreign power would be to serve."
"To have been a colonel, a general or a marischal," said he, "would have been sufficient for my table, for my taste in dress, for the beauty whom my rank would have entitled me to attend. But it would not have been sufficient for this spirit, for this imagination." Putting his hand upon his bosom.
He reasoned one day in the midst of his nobles whether the commander of a nation should be married or not. "If he is married," said he, "there is a risk that he may be distracted by private affairs, and swayed too much by a concern for his family. If he is unmarried, there is a risk that not having the tender attachments of a wife and children, he may sacrifice all to his own ambition." When I said he ought to marry and have a son to succeed him, "Sir," said he, "what security can I have that my son will think and act as I do? What sort of a son had Cicero, and what had Marcus Aurelius?"
He said to me one day when we were alone, "I never will marry. I have not the conjugal virtues. Nothing would tempt me to marry, but a woman who should bring me an immense dowry, with which I might assist my country."
But he spoke much in praise of marriage, as an institution which the experience of ages had found to be the best calculated for the happiness of individuals, and for the good of society. Had he been a private gentleman, he probably would have married, and I am sure would have made as good a husband and father as he does a supreme magistrate and a general. But his arduous and critical situation would not allow him to enjoy domestick felicity. He is wedded to his country, and the Corsicans are his children.
He often talked to me of marriage, told me licentious pleasures were delusive and transient, that I should never be truly happy till I was married, and that he hoped to have a letter from me soon after my return home, acquainting him that I had followed his advice, and was convinced from experience that he was in the right. With such an engaging condescension did this great man behave to me. If I could but paint his manner, all my readers would be charmed with him.
He has a mind fitted for philosophical speculations as well as for affairs of state. One evening at supper, he entertained us for some time with some curious reveries and conjectures as to the nature of the intelligence of beasts, with regard to which, he observed human knowledge was as yet very imperfect. He in particular seemed fond of inquiring into the language of the brute creation. He observed that beasts fully communicate their ideas to each other, and that some of them, such as dogs, can form several articulate sounds. In different ages there have been people who pretended to understand the language of birds and beasts. Perhaps, said Paoli, in a thousand years we may know this as well as we know things which appeared much more difficult to be known. I have often since this conversation indulged myself in such reveries. If it were not liable to ridicule, I would say that an acquaintance with the language of beasts would be a most agreeable acquisition to man, as it would enlarge the circle of his social intercourse.
On my return to Britain I was disappointed to find nothing upon this subject in Doctour Gregory's Comparative View of the State and Faculties of Man with those of the Animal World, which was then just published. My disappointment however was in a good measure made up by a picture of society, drawn by that ingenious and worthy authour, which may be well applied to the Corsicans. "There is a certain period in the progress of society in which mankind appear to the greatest advantage. In this period, they have the bodily powers, and all the animal functions remaining in full vigour. They are bold, active, steady, ardent in the love of liberty and their native country. Their manners are simple, their social affections warm, and though they are greatly influenced by the ties of blood, yet they are generous and hospitable to strangers. Religion is universally regarded among them, though disguised by a variety of superstitions."
[Footnote 109: John Gregory, M.D., born 1724, Professor of the Practice of Physic in Edinburgh. "It is stated that no less than sixteen members of this family have held British Professorships, chiefly in the Scotch Universities."—Chalmers' "Biog. Dict.," p. 289.—ED.]
[Footnote 110: Preface to "Comparative View," p. 8.]
Paoli was very desirous that I should study the character of the Corsicans. "Go among them," said he, "the more you talk with them, you will do me the greater pleasure. Forget the meanness of their apparel. Hear their sentiments. You will find honour, and sense, and abilities among these poor men."
His heart grew big when he spoke of his countrymen. His own great qualities appeared to unusual advantage, while he described the virtues of those for whose happiness his whole life was employed. "If," said he, "I should lead into the field an army of Corsicans against an army double their number, let me speak a few words to the Corsicans, to remind them of the honour of their country and of their brave forefathers, I do not say that they would conquer, but I am sure that not a man of them would give way. The Corsicans," said he, "have a steady resolution that would amaze you. I wish you could see one of them die. It is a proverb among the Genoese, 'I Corsi meritano la furca e la sanno soffrire. The Corsicans deserve the gallows, and they fear not to meet it.' There is a real compliment to us in this saying."
He told me, that in Corsica, "criminals are put to death four and twenty hours after sentence is pronounced against them. This," said he, "may not be over catholick, but it is humane."
He went on, and gave me several instances of the Corsican spirit.
"A sergeant," said he, "who fell in one of our desperate actions, when just a dying, wrote to me thus. 'I salute you. Take care of my aged father. In two hours I shall be with the rest who have bravely died for their country.'"
A Corsican gentleman who had been taken prisoner by the Genoese, was thrown into a dark dungeon, where he was chained to the ground. While he was in this dismal situation, the Genoese sent a message to him, that if he would accept of a commission in their service, he might have it. "No," said he. "Were I to accept of your offer, it would be with a determined purpose to take the first opportunity of returning to the service of my country. But I will not accept of it. For I would not have my countrymen even suspect that I could be one moment unfaithful." And he remained in his dungeon. Paoli went on: "I defy Rome, Sparta or Thebes to shew me thirty years of such patriotism as Corsica can boast. Though the affection between relations is exceedingly strong in the Corsicans, they will give up their nearest relations for the good of their country, and sacrifice such as have deserted to the Genoese."
He gave me a noble instance of a Corsican's feeling and greatness of mind. "A criminal," said he, "was condemned to die. His nephew came to me with a lady of distinction, that she might solicit his pardon. The nephew's anxiety made him think that the lady did not speak with sufficient force and earnestness. He therefore advanced, and addressed himself to me, 'Sir, is it proper for me to speak?' as if he felt that it was unlawful to make such an application. I bid him go on. 'Sir,' said he, with the deepest concern, 'may I beg the life of my uncle? If it is granted, his relations will make a gift to the state of a thousand zechins. We will furnish fifty soldiers in pay during the siege of Furiani. We will agree that my uncle shall be banished, and will engage that he shall never return to the island.' I knew the nephew to be a man of worth, and I answered him: 'You are acquainted with the circumstances of this case. Such is my confidence in you, that if you will say that giving your uncle a pardon would be just, useful or honourable for Corsica, I promise you it shall be granted.' He turned about, burst into tears, and left me, saying, 'Non vorrei vendere l'onore della patria per mille zechini. I would not have the honour of our country sold for a thousand zechins.' And his uncle suffered."
Although the General was one of the constituent members of the court of syndicato, he seldom took his chair. He remained in his own apartment; and if any of those whose suits were determined by the syndicato were not pleased with the sentence, they had an audience of Paoli, who never failed to convince them that justice had been done them. This appeared to me a necessary indulgence in the infancy of government. The Corsicans having been so long in a state of anarchy, could not all at once submit their minds to the regular authority of justice. They would submit implicitly to Paoli, because they love and venerate him. But such a submission is in reality being governed by their passions. They submit to one for whom they have a personal regard. They cannot be said to be perfectly civilized till they submit to the determinations of their magistrates as officers of the state, entrusted with the administration of justice. By convincing them that the magistrates judge with abilities and uprightness, Paoli accustoms the Corsicans to have that salutary confidence in their rulers, which is necessary for securing respect and stability to the government.
[Footnote 111: See page 154.—ED.]
After having said much in praise of the Corsicans, "Come," said he, "you shall have a proof of what I tell you. There is a crowd in the next room, waiting for admittance to me. I will call in the first I see, and you shall hear him." He who chanced to present himself, was a venerable old man. The General shook him by the hand, and bid him good day, with an easy kindness that gave the aged peasant full encouragement to talk to his Excellency with freedom. Paoli bid him not mind me, but say on. The old man then told him that there had been an unlucky tumult in the village where he lived, and that two of his sons were killed. That looking upon this as a heavy misfortune, but without malice on the part of those who deprived him of his sons, he was willing to have allowed it to pass without enquiry. But his wife anxious for revenge, had made an application to have them apprehended and punished. That he gave his Excellency this trouble to intreat that the greatest care might be taken, lest in the heat of enmity among his neighbours, any body should be punished as guilty of the blood of his sons, who was really innocent of it. There was something so generous in this sentiment, while at the same time the old man seemed full of grief for the loss of his children, that it touched my heart in the most sensible manner. Paoli looked at me with complacency and a kind of amiable triumph on the behaviour of the old man, who had a flow of words and a vivacity of gesture which fully justified what Petrus Cyrnaeus hath said of the Corsican eloquence; "Diceres omnes esse bonos causidicos. You would say they are all good pleaders."
[Footnote 112: See Preface, page viii.—ED.]
I found Paoli had reason to wish that I should talk much with his countrymen, as it gave me a higher opinion both of him and of them. Thuanus has justly said, "Sunt mobilia Corsorum ingenia. The dispositions of the Corsicans are changeable." Yet after ten years, their attachment to Paoli is as strong as at the first. Nay, they have an enthusiastick admiration of him. "Questo grand' uomo mandato per Dio a liberare la patria. This great man whom God hath sent to free our country," was the manner in which they expressed themselves to me concerning him.
[Footnote 113: Jacques-Auguste de Thou (or, as he called himself in Latin, Jacobus Augustus Thuanus), born in Paris 1553. Author of "Historia sui Temporis," in 138 books.—ED.]
Those who attended on Paoli were all men of sense and abilities in their different departments. Some of them had been in foreign service. One of them, Signor Suzzoni, had been long in Germany. He spoke German to me, and recalled to my mind, the happy days which I have past among that plain, honest, brave people, who of all nations in the world, receive strangers with the greatest cordiality. Signor Gian Quilico Casa Bianca, of the most ancient Corsican nobility, was much my friend. He instructed me fully with regard to the Corsican government. He had even the patience to sit by me while I wrote down an account of it, which from conversations with Paoli, I afterwards enlarged and improved. I received many civilities from the Abbe Rostini, a man of literature, and distinguished no less for the excellency of his heart. His saying of Paoli deserves to be remembered. "Nous ne craignons pas que notre General nous trompe ni qu'il se laisse tromper. We are not afraid that our General will deceive us, nor that he will let himself be deceived."
[Footnote 114: They must have wonderfully improved since the days of Erasmus. "Advenientem nemo salutat, ne videantur ambire hospitem.... Ubi diu inclamaveris, tandem aliquis per fenestellam aestuarii (nam in his degunt fere usque ad solstitium aestivum) profert caput, non aliter quam e testa prospicit testudo. Is rogandus est an liceat illic diversari. Si non renuit, intelligis dari locum," &c.—"Erasmi Colloquia. Diversoria."—ED.]
I also received civilities from Father Guelfucci of the order of Servites, a man whose talents and virtues, united with a singular decency and sweetness of manners, have raised him to the honourable station of secretary to the General. Indeed all the gentlemen here behaved to me in the most obliging manner. We walked, rode, and went a-shooting together.
[Footnote 115: Servites, or Servants of the Blessed Virgin, a religious order, first instituted in Tuscany in 1233.—ED.]
The peasants and soldiers were all frank, open, lively and bold, with a certain roughness of manner which agrees well with their character, and is far from being displeasing. The General gave me an admirable instance of their plain and natural solid good sense. A young French Marquis, very rich and very vain, came over to Corsica. He had a sovereign contempt for the barbarous inhabitants, and strutted about (andava a passo misurato) with prodigious airs of consequence. The Corsicans beheld him with a smile of ridicule, and said, "Let him alone, he is young."
"You see yon birkie, ca'd a lord, Wha struts, and stares, and a' that."
The Corsican peasants and soldiers are very fond of baiting cattle with the large mountain dogs. This keeps up a ferocity among them which totally extinguishes fear. I have seen a Corsican in the very heat of a baiting, run in, drive off the dogs, seize the half-frantick animal by the horns, and lead it away. The common people did not seem much given to diversions. I observed some of them in the great hall of the house of Colonna where I was lodged, amusing themselves with playing at a sort of draughts in a very curious manner. They drew upon the floor with chalk, a sufficient number of squares, chalking one all over, and leaving one open, alternately; and instead of black men and white, they had bits of stone and bits of wood. It was an admirable burlesque on gaming.
The chief satisfaction of these islanders when not engaged in war or in hunting, seemed to be that of lying at their ease in the open air, recounting tales of the bravery of their countrymen, and singing songs in honour of the Corsicans, and against the Genoese. Even in the night they will continue this pastime in the open air, unless rain forces them to retire into their houses.
The ambasciadore Inglese, The English ambassadour, as the good peasants and soldiers used to call me, became a great favourite among them. I got a Corsican dress made, in which I walked about with an air of true satisfaction. The General did me the honour to present me with his own pistols, made in the island, all of Corsican wood and iron, and of excellent workmanship. I had every other accoutrement. I even got one of the shells which had often sounded the alarm to liberty. I preserve them all with great care.
The Corsican peasants and soldiers were quite free and easy with me. Numbers of them used to come and see me of a morning, and just go out and in as they pleased. I did every thing in my power to make them fond of the British, and bid them hope for an alliance with us. They asked me a thousand questions about my country, all which I chearfully answered as well as I could.
[Footnote 117: One is reminded of Gulliver in Lilliput. "I took all possible methods to cultivate this favourable disposition. The natives came, by degrees, to be less apprehensive of any danger from me. I would sometimes lie down, and let five or six of them dance on my hand."—ED.]
One day they would needs hear me play upon my German flute. To have told my honest natural visitants, Really gentlemen I play very ill, and put on such airs as we do in our genteel companies, would have been highly ridiculous. I therefore immediately complied with their request. I gave them one or two Italian airs, and then some of our beautiful old Scots tunes, Gilderoy, the Lass of Patie's Mill, Corn riggs are Bonny. The pathetick simplicity and pastoral gaiety of the Scots musick, will always please those who have the genuine feelings of nature. The Corsicans were charmed with the specimens I gave them, though I may now say that they were very indifferently performed.
My good friends insisted also to have an English song from me. I endeavoured to please them in this too, and was very lucky in that which occurred to me. I sung them "Hearts of oak are our ships, Hearts of oak are our men." I translated it into Italian for them, and never did I see men so delighted with a song as the Corsicans were with Hearts of oak. "Cuore di querco," cried they, "bravo Inglese." It was quite a joyous riot. I fancied myself to be a recruiting sea-officer. I fancied all my chorus of Corsicans aboard the British fleet.
[Footnote 118: A song written by Garrick.—ED.]
Paoli talked very highly on preserving the independency of Corsica. "We may," said he, "have foreign powers for our friends; but they must be 'Amici fuori di casa. Friends at arm's length.' We may make an alliance, but we will not submit ourselves to the dominion of the greatest nation in Europe. This people who have done so much for liberty, would be hewn in pieces man by man, rather than allow Corsica to be sunk into the territories of another country. Some years ago, when a false rumour was spread that I had a design to yield up Corsica to the Emperour, a Corsican came to me, and addressed me in great agitation. 'What! shall the blood of so many heroes, who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Corsica, serve only to tinge the purple of a foreign prince!'"
I mentioned to him the scheme of an alliance between Great Britain and Corsica. Paoli with politeness and dignity waved the subject, by saying, "The less assistance we have from allies, the greater our glory." He seemed hurt by our treatment of his country. He mentioned the severe proclamation at the last peace, in which the brave islanders were called the Rebels of Corsica. He said with a conscious pride and proper feeling, "Rebels! I did not expect that from Great Britain."
He however showed his great respect for the British nation, and I could see he wished much to be in friendship with us. When I asked him what I could possibly do in return for all his goodness to me. He replied, "Solamente disingannate il suo corte. Only undeceive your court. Tell them what you have seen here. They will be curious to ask you. A man come from Corsica will be like a man come from the Antipodes."
I expressed such hopes as a man of sensibility would in my situation naturally form. He saw at least one Briton devoted to his cause. I threw out many flattering ideas of future political events, imaged the British and the Corsicans strictly united both in commerce and in war, and described the blunt kindness and admiration with which the hearty, generous common people of England would treat the brave Corsicans.
I insensibly got the better of his reserve upon this head. My flow of gay ideas relaxed his severity, and brightened up his humour. "Do you remember," said he, "the little people in Asia who were in danger of being oppressed by the great king of Assyria, till they addressed themselves to the Romans. And the Romans, with the noble spirit of a great and free nation, stood forth, and would not suffer the great king to destroy the little people, but made an alliance with them?"
[Footnote 119: When Paoli makes the Romans have dealings with the great king of Assyria, we may well say, as Mrs. Shandy said of Socrates, "He had been dead a hundred years ago."—ED.]
He made no observations upon this beautiful piece of history. It was easy to see his allusion to his own nation and ours.
When the General related this piece of history to me, I was negligent enough not to ask him what little people he meant. As the story made a strong impression upon me, upon my return to Britain I searched a variety of books to try if I could find it, but in vain. I therefore took the liberty in one of my letters to Paoli, to beg he would let me know it. He told me the little people was the Jews, that the story was related by several ancient authours, but that I would find it told with most precision and energy in the eighth chapter of the first book of the Maccabees.
The first book of the Maccabees, though not received into the Protestant canon, is allowed by all the learned to be an authentick history. I have read Paoli's favourite story with much satisfaction, and, as in several circumstances, it very well applies to Great Britain and Corsica, is told with great eloquence, and furnishes a fine model for an alliance, I shall make no apology for transcribing the most interesting verses.
"Now Judas had heard of the fame of the Romans, that they were mighty and valiant men, and such as would lovingly accept all that joined themselves unto them, and make a league of amity with all that came unto them.
"And that they were men of great valour. It was told him also of their wars and noble acts which they had done amongst the Galatians, and how they had conquered them, and brought them under tribute.
"And what they had done in the country of Spain, for the winning of the mines of the silver and gold which are there.
"And that by their policy and patience they had conquered all the place, though it were very far from them.
"It was told him besides, how they destroyed and brought under their dominion, all other kingdoms and isles that at any time resisted them.
"But with their friends, and such as relied upon them, they kept amity: and that they had conquered kingdoms both far and near, insomuch as all that heard of their name were afraid of them:
"Also, that whom they would help to a kingdom, those reign; and whom again they would, they displace: finally, that they were greatly exalted:
"Moreover, how they had made for themselves a senate-house, wherein three hundred and twenty men sat in council dayly, consulting alway for the people, to the end that they might be well ordered.
"In consideration of these things Judas chose Eupolemus the son of John the son of Accos, and Jason the son of Eleazar, and sent them to Rome, to make a league of amity and confederacy with them,
"And to entreat them that they would take the yoke from them, for they saw that the kingdom of the Grecians did oppress Israel with servitude.
"They went therefore to Rome, which was a very great journey, and came into the senate, where they spake, and said,
"Judas Maccabeus, with his brethren, and the people of the Jews, have sent us unto you, to make a confederacy and peace with you, and that we might be registered your confederates and friends.
"So that matter pleased the Romans well.
"And this is the copy of the epistle which the senate wrote back again, in tables of brass, and sent to Jerusalem, that there they might have by them a memorial of peace and confederacy.
"Good success be to the Romans, and to the people of the Jews, by sea and by land for ever. The sword also, and enemy be far from them.