Boswell's Correspondence with the Honourable Andrew Erskine, and His Journal of a Tour to Corsica
by James Boswell
Previous Part     1  2  3  4
Home - Random Browse

"If there come first any war upon the Romans, or any of their confederates, throughout all their dominions.

"The people of the Jews shall help them, as the time shall be appointed, with all their heart.

"Neither shall they give any thing unto them that make war upon them, or aid them with victuals, weapons, money or ships, as it hath seemed good unto the Romans, but they shall keep their covenant, without taking anything therefore.

"In the same manner also, if war come first upon the nation of the Jews, the Romans shall help them with all their heart, according as the time shall be appointed them.

"Neither shall victuals be given to them that take part against them, or weapons, or money, or ships, as it hath seemed good to the Romans; but they shall keep their covenants, and that without deceit.

"According to these articles did the Romans make a covenant with the people of the Jews.

"Howbeit, if hereafter the one party or the other, shall think meet to add or diminish any thing they may do it at their pleasures, and whatsoever they shall add or take away, shall be ratified.

"And, as touching the evils that Demetrius doth to the Jews, we have written unto him, saying, Wherefore hast thou made thy yoke heavy upon our friends and confederates the Jews?

"If therefore they complain any more against thee, we will do them justice, and fight with thee by sea and by land."

I will venture to ask whether the Romans appear, in any one instance of their history, more truly great than they do here.

Paoli said, "If a man would preserve the generous glow of patriotism, he must not reason too much. Mareschal Saxe reasoned; and carried the arms of France into the heart of Germany, his own country.[120] I act from sentiment, not from reasonings."

[Footnote 120:

"Ce fier Saxon, qu'on croit ne parmi nous."

—Voltaire, "Poeme de Fontenoi."—ED.]

"Virtuous sentiments and habits," said he, "are beyond philosophical reasonings, which are not so strong, and are continually varying. If all the professours in Europe were formed into one society, it would no doubt be a society very respectable, and we should there be entertained with the best moral lessons. Yet I believe I should find more real virtue in a society of good peasants in some little village in the heart of your island. It might be said of these two societies, as was said of Demosthenes and Themistocles, 'Illius dicta, hujus facta magis valebant. The one was powerful in words, but the other in deeds.'"

This kind of conversation led me to tell him how much I had suffered from anxious speculations. With a mind naturally inclined to melancholy, and a keen desire of inquiry, I had intensely applied myself to metaphysical researches, and reasoned beyond my depth, on such subjects as it is not given to man to know. I told him I had rendered my mind a camera obscura, that in the very heat of youth I felt the "non est tanti," the "omnia vanitas" of one who has exhausted all the sweets of his being, and is weary with dull repetition. I told him that I had almost become for ever incapable of taking a part in active life.

"All this," said Paoli, "is melancholy. I have also studied metaphysicks. I know the arguments for fate and free-will, for the materiality and immateriality of the soul, and even the subtile arguments for and against the existence of matter. 'Ma lasciamo queste dispute ai oziosi. But let us leave these disputes to the idle. Io tengo sempre fermo un gran pensiero. I hold always firm one great object. I never feel a moment of despondency.'"[121]

[Footnote 121: "Do not hope wholly to reason away your troubles; do not feed them with attention, and they will die imperceptibly away. Fix your thoughts upon your business, fill your intervals with company, and sunshine will again break in upon your mind."—Johnson to Boswell, March 5, 1776.—ED.]

The contemplation of such a character really existing, was of more service to me than all I had been able to draw from books, from conversation, or from the exertions of my own mind. I had often enough formed the idea of a man continually such as I could conceive in my best moments. But this idea appeared like the ideas we are taught in the schools to form of things which may exist, but do not; of seas of milk, and ships of amber. But I saw my highest idea realised in Paoli. It was impossible for me, speculate as I pleased, to have a little opinion of human nature in him.

One morning I remember, I came in upon him without ceremony, while he was dressing. I was glad to have an opportunity of seeing him in those teasing moments, when according to the Duke de Rochefoucault, no man is a hero to his valet de chambre. The lively nobleman who has a malicious pleasure in endeavouring to divest human nature of its dignity, by exhibiting partial views, and exaggerating faults, would have owned that Paoli was every moment of his life a hero.

Paoli told me that from his earliest years, he had in view the important station which he now holds; so that his sentiments must ever have been great. I asked him how one of such elevated thoughts could submit with any degree of patience, to the unmeaning ceremonies and poor discourse of genteel society, which he certainly was obliged to do while an officer at Naples. "O," said he, "I managed it very easily. Ero connosciuto per una testa singolare, I was known to be a singular man. I talked and joked, and was merry; but I never sat down to play; I went and came as I pleased. The mirth I like is what is easy and unaffected. Je ne puis souffrir long temps les diseurs de bons mots. I cannot endure long the sayers of good things."

How much superiour is this great man's idea of agreeable conversation to that of professed wits, who are continually straining for smart remarks, and lively repartees. They put themselves to much pain in order to please, and yet please less than if they would just appear as they naturally feel themselves. A company of professed wits has always appeared to me, like a company of artificers employed in some very nice and difficult work, which they are under a necessity of performing.

Though calm and fully master of himself, Paoli is animated with an extraordinary degree of vivacity. Except when indisposed or greatly fatigued, he never sits down but at meals. He is perpetually in motion, walking briskly backwards and forwards. Mr. Samuel Johnson, whose comprehensive and vigorous understanding, has by long observation, attained to a perfect knowledge of human nature, when treating of biography has this reflection. "There are many invisible circumstances which, whether we read as enquiries after natural or moral knowledge; whether we intend to enlarge our science, or increase our virtue, are more important than publick occurrences. Thus Sallust the great master of nature, has not forgotten in his account of Catiline, to remark, that 'his walk was now quick, and again slow,' as an indication of a mind revolving something with violent commotion."[122] Ever mindful of the wisdom of the "Rambler," I have accustomed myself to mark the small peculiarities of character. Paoli's being perpetually in motion, nay his being so agitated that, as the same Sallust also says of Catiline, "Neque vigiliis, neque quietibus sedari poterat. He could not be quieted either by watching or by repose," are indications of his being as active and indefatigable as Catiline, but from a very different cause. The conspiratour from schemes of ruin and destruction to Rome; the patriot from schemes of liberty and felicity to Corsica.

[Footnote 122: "Rambler," number 60.]

Paoli told me that the vivacity of his mind was such, that he could not study above ten minutes at a time. "La testa mi rompa. My head is like to break," said he. "I can never write my lively ideas with my own hand. In writing, they escape from my mind. I call the Abbe Guelfucci, Allons presto, pigliate li pensieri. Come quickly, take my thoughts; and he writes them."

Paoli has a memory like that of Themistocles; for I was assured that he knows the names of almost all the people in the island, their characters, and their connections. His memory as a man of learning, is no less uncommon. He has the best part of the classicks by heart, and he has a happy talent in applying them with propriety, which is rarely to be found. This talent is not always to be reckoned pedantry. The instances in which Paoli is shewn to display it, are a proof to the contrary.

I have heard Paoli recount the revolutions of one of the ancient states, with an energy and a rapidity which shewed him to be master of the subject, to be perfectly acquainted with every spring and movement of the various events. I have heard him give what the French call, "Une catalogue raisonnee" of the most distinguished men in antiquity. His characters of them were concise, nervous and just. I regret that the fire with which he spoke upon such occasions, so dazzled me that I could not recollect his sayings so as to write them down when I retired from his presence.[123]

[Footnote 123: "I recollect with admiration an animating blaze of eloquence, which roused every intellectual power in me to the highest pitch, but must have dazzled me so much, that my memory could not preserve the substance of his discourse."—Boswell's "Johnson." Date of July 30, 1763.—ED.]

He just lives in the times of antiquity. He said to me, "A young man who would form his mind to glory, must not read modern memoirs; ma Plutarcho, ma Tito Livio; but Plutarch and Titus Livius."

I have seen him fall into a sort of reverie, and break out into sallies of the grandest and noblest enthusiasm. I recollect two instances of this. "What a thought? that thousands owe their happiness to you!" And throwing himself into an attitude, as if he saw the lofty mountain of fame before him. "THERE is my object (pointing to the summit); if I fall, I fall at least THERE (pointing a good way up) magnis tamen excidit ausis."

I ventured to reason like a libertine, that I might be confirmed in virtuous principles by so illustrious a preceptour.[124] I made light of moral feelings. I argued that conscience was vague and uncertain; that there was hardly any vice but what men might be found who have been guilty of it without remorse. "But," said he, "there is no man who has not a horrour at some vice. Different vices and different virtues have the strongest impression on different men! Ma il virtu in astratto e il nutrimento dei nostri cuori. But virtue in the abstract, is the food of our hearts."

[Footnote 124: Compare Boswell's discussion with Johnson on May 7th, 1773.—ED.]

Talking of Providence, he said to me with that earnestness with which a man speaks who is anxious to be believed: "I tell you on the word of an honest man, it is impossible for me not to be persuaded that GOD interposes to give freedom to Corsica. A people oppressed like the Corsicans, are certainly worthy of divine assistance. When we were in the most desperate circumstances, I never lost courage, trusting as I did in Providence." I ventured to object: "But why has not Providence interposed sooner?" He replied with a noble, serious and devout air, "Because his ways are unsearchable. I adore him for what he hath done. I revere him in what he hath not done."

I gave Paoli the character of my revered friend Mr. Samuel Johnson. I have often regreted that illustrious men such as humanity produces a few times in the revolution of many ages, should not see each other; and when such arise in the same age, though at the distance of half the globe, I have been astonished how they could forbear to meet.

"As steel sharpneth steel, so doth a man the countenance of his friend," says the wise monarch. What an idea may we not form of an interview between such a scholar and philosopher as Mr. Johnson, and such a legislatour and general as Paoli![125]

[Footnote 125: "On the evening of October 10, 1769, I presented Dr. Johnson to General Paoli. I had greatly wished that two men, for whom I had the highest esteem, should meet. They met with a manly ease, mutually conscious of their own abilities, and of the abilities of each other."—Boswell's "Johnson."—ED.]

I repeated to Paoli several of Mr. Johnson's sayings, so remarkable for strong sense and original humour. I now recollect these two.

When I told Mr. Johnson that a certain authour affected in conversation to maintain, that there was no distinction between virtue and vice, he said, "Why Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a lyar. But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons."[126]

[Footnote 126: See Boswell's "Johnson." Date of July 14th, 1763.—ED.]

Of modern infidels and innovatours, he said, "Sir, these are all vain men, and will gratify themselves at any expence. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they have betaken themselves to errour. Truth Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull."[127]

[Footnote 127: See Boswell's "Johnson." Date of July 20th, 1763.—ED.]

I felt an elation of mind to see Paoli delighted with the sayings of Mr. Johnson, and to hear him translate them with Italian energy to the Corsican heroes.

I repeated Mr. Johnson's sayings as nearly as I could, in his own peculiar forcible language,[128] for which, prejudiced or little criticks have taken upon them to find fault with him. He is above making any answer to them, but I have found a sufficient answer in a general remark in one of his excellent papers. "Difference of thoughts will produce difference of language. He that thinks with more extent than another, will want words of larger meaning."[129]

[Footnote 128: "Lord Pembroke said once to me at Wilton, with a happy pleasantry and some truth, that Dr. Johnson's sayings would not appear so extraordinary were it not for his bow-wow-way."—Boswell's "Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," page 7.—ED.]

[Footnote 129: "Idler," number 70.]

I hope to be pardoned for this digression, wherein I pay a just tribute of veneration and gratitude to one from whose writings and conversation I have received instructions of which I experience the value in every scene of my life.

During Paoli's administration there have been few laws made in Corsica. He mentioned one which he has found very efficacious in curbing that vindictive spirit of the Corsicans, of which I have said a good deal in a former part of this work. There was among the Corsicans a most dreadful species of revenge, called "Vendetta trasversa, Collateral revenge," which Petrus Cyrnaeus candidly acknowledges. It was this. If a man had received an injury, and could not find a proper opportunity to be revenged on his enemy personally, he revenged himself on one of his enemy's relations. So barbarous a practice, was the source of innumerable assassinations. Paoli knowing that the point of honour was every thing to the Corsicans, opposed it to the progress of the blackest of crimes, fortified by long habits. He made a law, by which it was provided, that this collateral revenge should not only be punished with death, as ordinary murther, but the memory of the offender should be disgraced for ever by a pillar of infamy. He also had it enacted that the same statute should extend to the violatours of an oath of reconciliation, once made.

By thus combating a vice so destructive, he has, by a kind of shock of opposite passions, reduced the fiery Corsicans to a state of mildness, and he assured me that they were now all fully sensible of the equity of that law.

While I was at Sollacaro information was received that the poor wretch who strangled the woman at the instigation of his mistress had consented to accept of his life, upon condition of becoming hangman. This made a great noise among the Corsicans, who were enraged at the creature, and said their nation was now disgraced. Paoli did not think so. He said to me, "I am glad of this. It will be of service. It will contribute to form us to a just subordination.[130] We have as yet too great an equality among us. As we must have Corsican taylours and Corsican shoemakers, we must also have a Corsican hangman."

[Footnote 130: "'Sir,' said Johnson, 'I am a friend to subordination, as most conducive to the happiness of society.'"—Boswell's "Johnson." Date of June 13, 1763.—ED.]

I could not help being of a different opinion. The occupations of a taylour and a shoemaker, though mean, are not odious. When I afterwards met M. Rousseau in England, and made him a report of my Corsican expedition, he agreed with me in thinking that it would be something noble for the brave islanders to be able to say that there was not a Corsican but who would rather suffer death than become a hangman; and he also agreed with me, that it might have a good effect to have always a Genoese for the hangman of Corsica.

I must, however, do the Genoese the justice to observe that Paoli told me, that even one of them had suffered death in Corsica, rather than consent to become hangman. When I, with a keenness natural enough in a Briton born with an abhorrence at tyranny, talked with violence against the Genoese, Paoli said with a moderation and candour which ought to do him honour even with the republick, "It is true the Genoese are our enemies; but let us not forget that they are the descendants of those worthies who carried their arms beyond the Hellespont."

There is one circumstance in Paoli's character which I present to my readers with caution, knowing how much it may be ridiculed in an age when mankind are so fond of incredulity, that they seem to pique themselves in contracting their circle of belief as much as possible. But I consider this infidel rage as but a temporary mode of the human understanding, and am well persuaded that e'er long we shall return to a more calm philosophy.

I own I cannot help thinking that though we may boast some improvements in science, and in short, superior degrees of knowledge in things where our faculties can fully reach, yet we should not assume to ourselves sounder judgements than those of our fathers; I will therefore venture to relate that Paoli has at times extraordinary impressions of distant and future events.

The way in which I discovered it was this: Being very desirous of studying so exalted a character, I so far presumed upon his goodness to me, as to take the liberty of asking him a thousand questions with regard to the most minute and private circumstances of his life. Having asked him one day when some of his nobles were present, whether a mind so active as his was employed even in sleep, and if he used to dream much, Signor Casa Bianca said, with an air and tone which implied something of importance, "Si, si sogna. Yes, he dreams." And upon my asking him to explain his meaning, he told me that the General had often seen in his dreams, what afterwards came to pass. Paoli confirmed this by several instances. Said he, "I can give you no clear explanation of it. I only tell you facts. Sometimes I have been mistaken, but in general these visions have proved true. I cannot say what may be the agency of invisible spirits. They certainly must know more than we do; and there is nothing absurd in supposing that GOD should permit them to communicate their knowledge to us."

He went into a most curious and pleasing disquisition on a subject, which the late ingenious Mr. Baxter has treated in a very philosophical manner, in his "Inquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul;"[131] a book which may be read with as much delight, and surely with more advantage than the works of those who endeavour to destroy our belief. Belief is favourable to the human mind, were it for nothing else but to furnish it entertainment. An infidel I should think must frequently suffer from ennui.

[Footnote 131: Published in October, 1733. "The author is said to be one Baxter."—"Gentleman's Magazine" for 1750, vol. xx.—ED.]

It was perhaps affectation in Socrates to say, that all he had learned to know was that he knew nothing. But surely it is a mark of wisdom, to be sensible of the limited extent of human knowledge, to examine with reverence the ways of GOD, nor presumptuously reject any opinion which has been held by the judicious and the learned, because it has been made a cloak for artifice, or had a variety of fictions raised upon it by credulity.

Old Feltham says, "Every dream is not to be counted of; nor yet are all to be cast away with contempt. I would neither be a Stoick, superstitious in all; nor yet an Epicure, considerate of none."[132] And after observing how much the ancients attended to the interpretation of dreams, he adds, "Were it not for the power of the gospel in crying down the vains[133] of men, it would appear a wonder how a science so pleasing to humanity, should fall so quite to ruin."[134]

[Footnote 132: "Feltham's Resolves," Cent. I., Resol. 52.]

[Footnote 133: He means vanity.]

[Footnote 134: "Feltham's Resolves," Cent. I., Resol. 52.]

The mysterious circumstance in Paoli's character which I have ventured to relate, is universally believed in Corsica. The inhabitants of that island, like the Italians, express themselves much by signs. When I asked one of them if there had been many instances of the General's foreseeing future events, he grasped a large bunch of his hair, and replied, "Tante, Signore, So many, Sir."

It may be said that the General has industriously propagated this opinion, in order that he might have more authority in civilizing a rude and ferocious people, as Lycurgus pretended to have the sanction of the oracle at Delphos, as Numa gave it out that he had frequent interviews with the nymph Egeria, or as Marius persuaded the Romans that he received divine communications from a hind. But I cannot allow myself to suppose that Paoli ever required the aid of pious frauds.

Paoli, though never familiar, has the most perfect ease of behaviour. This is a mark of a real great character. The distance and reserve which some of our modern nobility affect is, because nobility is now little else than a name in comparison of what it was in ancient times. In ancient times, noblemen lived at their country seats, like princes, in hospitable grandeur. They were men of power, and every one of them could bring hundreds of followers into the field. They were then open and affable. Some of our modern nobility are so anxious to preserve an appearance of dignity which they are sensible cannot bear an examination, that they are afraid to let you come near them. Paoli is not so. Those about him come into his apartment at all hours, wake him, help him on with his clothes, are perfectly free from restraint; yet they know their distance, and, awed by his real greatness, never lose their respect for him.

Though thus easy of access, particular care is taken against such attempts upon the life of the illustrious Chief, as he has good reason to apprehend from the Genoese, who have so often employed assassination merely in a political view, and who would gain so much by assassinating Paoli. A certain number of soldiers are continually on guard upon him; and as still closer guards, he has some faithful Corsican dogs. Of these five or six sleep, some in his chamber, and some at the outside of the chamber-door. He treats them with great kindness, and they are strongly attached to him. They are extremely sagacious, and know all his friends and attendants. Were any person to approach the General during the darkness of the night, they would instantly tear him in pieces.

Having dogs for his attendants, is another circumstance about Paoli similar to the heroes of antiquity. Homer represents Telemachus so attended.

[Greek: duo kunes argoi heponto],

—HOMER, "Odyss.," lib. ii., l. 11.

"Two dogs a faithful guard attend behind."


But the description given of the family of Patroclus applies better to Paoli.

[Greek: Ennea to ge anakti trapezees kunes esan],

—HOMER, "Iliad," lib. xxiii., l. 73.

"Nine large dogs domestick at his board."


Mr. Pope, in his notes on the second book of the "Odyssey," is much pleased with dogs being introduced, as it furnishes an agreeable instance of ancient simplicity. He observes that Virgil thought this circumstance worthy of his imitation, in describing old Evander.[135] So we read of Syphax, general of the Numidians, "Syphax inter duos canes stans, Scipionem appellavit.[136] Syphax standing between two dogs called to Scipio."

[Footnote 135: "AEneid," lib. viii., l. 461.]

[Footnote 136: I mention this on the authority of an excellent scholar, and one of our best writers, Mr. Joseph Warton, in his notes on the Aeneid; for I have not been able to find the passage in Livy which he quotes.]

Talking of courage, he made a very just distinction between constitutional courage and courage from reflection. "Sir Thomas More," said he, "would not probably have mounted a breach so well as a sergeant who had never thought of death. But a sergeant would not on a scaffold have shewn the calm resolution of Sir Thomas More."

On this subject he told me a very remarkable anecdote, which happened during the last war in Italy. At the siege of Tortona, the commander of the army which lay before the town, ordered Carew an Irish officer in the service of Naples, to advance with a detachment to a particular post. Having given his orders, he whispered to Carew, "Sir, I know you to be a gallant man. I have therefore put you upon this duty. I tell you in confidence, it is certain death for you all. I place you there to make the enemy spring a mine below you." Carew made a bow to the general, and led on his men in silence to the dreadful post. He there stood with an undaunted countenance, and having called to one of the soldiers for a draught of wine, "Here," said he, "I drink to all those who bravely fall in battle." Fortunately at that instant Tortona capitulated, and Carew escaped. But he had thus a full opportunity of displaying a rare instance of determined intrepidity. It is with pleasure that I record an anecdote so much to the honour of a gentleman of that nation, on which illiberal reflections are too often thrown, by those of whom it little deserves them. Whatever may be the rough jokes of wealthy insolence, or the envious sarcasms of needy jealousy, the Irish have ever been, and will continue to be, highly regarded upon the continent.

Paoli's personal authority among the Corsicans struck me much. I have seen a crowd of them, with eagerness and impetuosity, endeavouring to approach him, as if they would have burst into his apartment by force. In vain did the guards attempt to restrain them; but when he called to them in a tone of firmness, "Non c'e ora ricorso, No audience now," they were hushed at once.

He one afternoon gave us an entertaining dissertation on the ancient art of war. He observed that the ancients allowed of little baggage, which they very properly called "impedimenta;" whereas the moderns burthen themselves with it to such a degree, that 50,000 of our present soldiers are allowed as much baggage as was formerly thought sufficient for all the armies of the Roman empire. He said it was good for soldiers to be heavy armed, as it renders them proportionably robust; and he remarked that when the Romans lightened their arms the troops became enfeebled.[137] He made a very curious observation with regard to the towers full of armed men, which we are told were borne on the backs of their elephants. He said it must be a mistake; for if the towers were broad, there would not be room for them on the backs of elephants; for he and a friend who was an able calculatour, had measured a very large elephant at Naples, and made a computation of the space necessary to hold the number of men said to be contained in those towers, and they found that the back of the broadest elephant would not be sufficient, after making the fullest allowance for what might be hung by ballance on either side of the animal. If again the towers were high, they would fall; for he did not think it at all probable that the Romans had the art of tying on such monstrous machines at a time when they had not learnt the use even of girths to their saddles. He said he did not give too much credit to the figures on Trajan's pillar, many of which were undoubtedly false. He said it was his opinion, that those towers were only drawn by the elephants; an opinion founded in probability, and free from the difficulties of that which has been commonly received.

[Footnote 137: "The enervated soldiers abandoned their own, and the public defence; and their pusillanimous indolence may be considered as the immediate cause of the downfall of the empire." Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," chapter 27.—ED.]

Talking of various schemes of life, fit for a man of spirit and education; I mentioned to him that of being a foreign minister. He said he thought it a very agreeable employment for a man of parts and address, during some years of his life. "In that situation," said he, "a man will insensibly attain to a greater knowledge of men and manners, and a more perfect acquaintance with the politicks of Europe. He will be promoted according to the returns which he makes to his court. They must be accurate, distinct, without fire or ornament. He may subjoin his own opinion, but he must do it with great modesty. The ministry at home are proud."

He said the greatest happiness was not in glory, but in goodness; and that Penn in his American colony, where he had established a people in quiet and contentment, was happier than Alexander the Great after destroying multitudes at the conquest of Thebes. He observed that the history of Alexander is obscure and dubious; for his captains who divided his kingdom, were too busy to record his life and actions, and would at any rate wish to render him odious to posterity.

Never was I so thoroughly sensible of my own defects as while I was in Corsica. I felt how small were my abilities, and how little I knew. Ambitious to be the companion of Paoli, and to understand a country and a people which roused me so much, I wished to be a Sir James MacDonald.[138]

[Footnote 138: Sir James MacDonald, baronet of the Isle of Sky, who at the age of one and twenty, had the learning and abilities of a Professour and a statesman, with the accomplishments of a man of the world. Eton and Oxford will ever remember him as one of their greatest ornaments.[B] He was well known to the most distinguished in Europe, but was carried off from all their expectations. He died at Frescati, near Rome, in 1765. Had he lived a little longer, I believe I should have prevailed with him to visit Corsica.]

[Footnote B: Horace Walpole thus describes him in a letter dated September 30th, 1765:—"He is a very extraordinary young man for variety of learning. He is rather too wise for his age, and too fond of showing it; but when he has seen more of the world, he will choose to know less." See also Boswell's "Johnson." Date of July 20th, 1763.—ED.]

The last day which I spent with Paoli appeared of inestimable value. I thought him more than usually great and amiable, when I was upon the eve of parting from him. The night before my departure, a little incident happened which shewed him in a most agreeable light. When the servants were bringing in the desert after supper, one of them chanced to let fall a plate of walnuts. Instead of flying into a passion at what the man could not help, Paoli said with a smile, "No matter;" and turning to me, "It is a good sign for you, Sir, Tempus est spargere nuces, It is time to scatter walnuts. It is a matrimonial omen: You must go home to your own country, and marry some fine woman whom you really like. I shall rejoice to hear of it."

This was a pretty allusion to the Roman ceremony at weddings, of scattering walnuts. So Virgil's "Damon" says—

"Mopse novas incide faces: tibi ducitur uxor. Sparge marite nuces: tibi deserit Hesperus Oetam."

—VIRG. "Eclog." viii, l. 30.

"Thy bride comes forth! begin the festal rites! The walnuts strew! prepare the nuptial lights! O envied husband, now thy bliss is nigh! Behold for thee bright Hesper mounts the sky!"


When I again asked Paoli if it was possible for me in any way to shew him my great respect and attachment, he replied, "Ricordatevi che Io vi sia amico, e scrivetemi. Remember that I am your friend, and write to me." I said I hoped that when he honoured me with a letter, he would write not only as a commander, but as a philosopher and a man of letters. He took me by the hand, and said, "As a friend." I dare not transcribe from my private notes the feelings which I had at this interview. I should perhaps appear too enthusiastick. I took leave of Paoli with regret and agitation, not without some hopes of seeing him again. From having known intimately so exalted a character, my sentiments of human nature were raised, while, by a sort of contagion, I felt an honest ardour to distinguish myself, and be useful, as far as my situation and abilities would allow; and I was, for the rest of my life, set free from a slavish timidity in the presence of great men, for where shall I find a man greater than Paoli?

When I set out from Sollacaro I felt myself a good deal indisposed. The old house of Colonna, like the family of its master, was much decayed; so that both wind and rain found their way into my bed-chamber. From this I contracted a severe cold, which ended in a tertian ague. There was no help for it. I might well submit to some inconveniences, where I had enjoyed so much happiness.

I was accompanied a part of the road by a great swarthy priest, who had never been out of Corsica. He was a very Hercules for strength and resolution. He and two other Corsicans took a castle, garrisoned by no less than fifteen Genoese. Indeed the Corsicans have such a contempt for their enemies, that I have heard them say, "Basterebbero le donne contra i Genovesi, Our women would be enough against the Genoese." This priest was a bluff, hearty, roaring fellow, troubled neither with knowledge nor care. He was ever and anon shewing me how stoutly his nag could caper. He always rode some paces before me, and sat in an attitude half turned round, with his hand clapped upon the crupper. Then he would burst out with comical songs about the devil and the Genoese,[139] and I don't know what all. In short, notwithstanding my feverishness, he kept me laughing whether I would or no.

[Footnote 139: "When he came to the part—

'We'll still make 'em run, and we'll still make 'em sweat, In spite of the devil and Brussels Gazette!'

his eyes would sparkle as with the freshness of an impending event."—Letter of Charles Lambe to H.C. Robinson, January 20th, 1826.—ED.]

I was returning to Corte, but I varied my road a little from the way I had come, going more upon the low country, and nearer the western shore.

At Cauro I had a fine view of Ajaccio and its environs. My ague was sometime of forming, so I had frequent intervals of ease, which I employed in observing whatever occurred. I was lodged at Cauro in the house of Signor Peraldi of Ajaccio, who received me with great politeness. I found here another provincial magistracy. Before supper, Signor Peraldi and a young Abbe of Ajaccio entertained me with some airs on a violin. After they had shewn me their taste in fine improved musick, they gave me some original Corsican airs, and at my desire, they brought up four of the guards of the magistracy, and made them shew me a Corsican dance. It was truly savage. They thumped with their heels, sprung upon their toes, brandished their arms, wheeled and leaped with the most violent gesticulations. It gave me the idea of an admirable war dance.

During this journey I had very bad weather. I cannot forget the worthy rectour of Cuttoli, whose house afforded me a hospitable retreat, when wet to the skin, and quite overcome by the severity of the storm, which my sickness made me little able to resist. He was directly such a venerable hermit as we read of in the old romances. His figure and manner interested me at first sight. I found he was a man well respected in the island, and that the General did him the honour to correspond with him. He gave me a simple collation of eggs, chestnuts and wine, and was very liberal of his ham and other more substantial victuals to my servant. The honest Swiss was by this time very well pleased to have his face turned towards the continent. He was heartily tired of seeing foreign parts, and meeting with scanty meals and hard beds, in an island which he could not comprehend the pleasure of visiting. He said to me, "Si J' etois encore une fois retourne a mon pais parmi ces montagnes de Suisse dont monsieur fait tant des plaisanteries, Je verrai qui m'engagera a les quitter. If I were once more at home in my own country, among those mountains of Switzerland, on which you have had so many jokes, I will see who shall prevail with me to quit them."

The General, out of his great politeness, would not allow me to travel without a couple of chosen guards to attend me in case of any accidents. I made them my companions, to relieve the tediousness of my journey. One of them called Ambrosio, was a strange iron-coloured fearless creature. He had been much in war; careless of wounds, he was cooly intent on destroying the enemy. He told me, as a good anecdote, that having been so lucky as to get a view of two Genoese exactly in a line, he took his aim, and shot them both through the head at once. He talked of this just as one would talk of shooting a couple of crows. I was sure I needed be under no apprehension; but I don't know how, I desired Ambrosio to march before me that I might see him.

I was upon my guard how I treated him. But as sickness frets one's temper, I sometimes forgot myself, and called him "bestia, blockhead;" and once when he was at a loss which way to go, at a wild woody part of the country, I fell into a passion, and called to him "Mi maraviglio che un uomo si bravo puo esser si stupido. I am amazed that so brave a man can be so stupid." However by afterwards calling him friend, and speaking softly to him, I soon made him forget my ill humour, and we proceeded as before.

Paoli had also been so good as to make me a present of one of his dogs, a strong and fierce animal. But he was too old to take an attachment to me, and I lost him between Lyons and Paris. The General has promised me a young one, to be a guard at Auchinleck.

At Bogognano I came upon the same road I had formerly travelled from Corte, where I arrived safe after all my fatigues. My good fathers of the Franciscan convent, received me like an old acquaintance, and shewed a kind concern at my illness. I sent my respects to the Great Chancellor, who returned me a note, of which I insert a translation as a specimen of the hearty civility to be found among the highest in Corsica.

"Many congratulations to Mr. Boswell on his return from beyond the mountains, from his servant Massesi, who is at the same time very sorry for his indisposition, which he is persuaded has been occasioned by his severe journey. He however flatters himself, that when Mr. Boswell has reposed himself a little, he will recover his usual health. In the mean time he has taken the liberty to send him a couple of fowls, which he hopes, he will honour with his acceptance, as he will need some refreshment this evening. He wishes him a good night, as does his little servant Luiggi, who will attend him to-morrow, to discharge his duty."

My ague distressed me so much, that I was confined to the convent for several days: I did not however weary. I was visited by the Great Chancellor, and several others of the civil magistrates, and by Padre Mariani rectour of the university, a man of learning and abilities, as a proof of which he had been three years at Madrid in the character of secretary to the General of the Franciscans. I remember a very eloquent expression of his on the state of his country. "Corsica," said he, "has for many years past, been bleeding at all her veins. They are now closed. But after being so severely exhausted, it will take some time before she can recover perfect strength." I was also visited by Padre Leonardo, of whose animating discourse I have made mention in a former part of this book.

Indeed I should not have been at a loss though my very reverend fathers had been all my society. I was not in the least looked upon as a heretick. Difference of faith was forgotten in hospitality. I went about the convent as if I had been in my own house; and the fathers without any impropriety of mirth, were yet as chearful as I could desire.

I had two surgeons to attend me at Corte, a Corsican and a Piedmontese; and I got a little Jesuit's bark from the spiceria, or apothecary's shop, of the Capuchin convent. I did not however expect to be effectually cured till I should get to Bastia. I found it was perfectly safe for me to go thither. There was a kind of truce between the Corsicans and the French. Paoli had held two different amicable conferences with M. de Marboeuf their commander in chief, and was so well with him, that he gave me a letter of recommendation to him.

On one of the days that my ague disturbed me least, I walked from the convent to Corte, purposely to write a letter to Mr. Samuel Johnson. I told my revered friend, that from a kind of superstition agreeable in a certain degree to him, as well as to myself, I had during my travels, written to him from Loca Solennia, places in some measure sacred. That as I had written to him from the Tomb of Melancthon, sacred to learning and piety, I now wrote to him from the palace of Pascal Paoli, sacred to wisdom and liberty; knowing that however his political principles may have been represented, he had always a generous zeal for the common rights of humanity. I gave him a sketch of the great things I had seen in Corsica, and promised him a more ample relation.[140]

[Footnote 140: "He kept the greater part of my letters very carefully; and a short time before his death was attentive enough to seal them up in bundles, and ordered them to be delivered to me, which was accordingly done. Amongst them I found one, of which I had not made a copy, and which I own I read with pleasure at the distance of almost twenty years. It is dated November, 1765, at the palace of Pascal Paoli, in Corte, and is full of generous enthusiasm. After giving a sketch of what I had seen and heard in that island, it proceeded thus:—'I dare to call this a spirited tour. I dare to challenge your approbation.'"—Boswell's "Johnson." Date of 1765.]

Mr. Johnson was pleased with what I wrote here; for I received at Paris an answer from him which I keep as a valuable charter. "When you return, you will return to an unaltered, and I hope, unalterable friend. All that you have to fear from me, is the vexation of disappointing me. No man loves to frustrate expectations which have been formed in his favour, and the pleasure which I promise myself from your journals and remarks, is so great, that perhaps no degree of attention or discernment will be sufficient to afford it. Come home however and take your chance. I long to see you, and to hear you; and hope that we shall not be so long separated again. Come home, and expect such a welcome as is due to him whom a wise and noble curiosity has led where perhaps, no native of this country ever was before."[141]

[Footnote 141: "Having had no letter from him, ... and having been told by somebody that he was offended at my having put into my book an extract of his letter to me at Paris, I was impatient to be with him.... I found that Dr. Johnson had sent a letter to me to Scotland, and that I had nothing to complain of but his being more indifferent to my anxiety than I wished him to be." In the letter, which is dated March 23, 1768, Johnson had said, "I have omitted a long time to write to you, without knowing very well why. I could now tell why I should not write; for who would write to men who publish the letters of their friends without their leave? Yet I write to you, in spite of my caution, to tell you that I shall be glad to see you, and that I wish you would empty your head of Corsica, which I think has filled it rather too long."—ED.]

I at length set out for Bastia. I went the first night to Rostino, hoping to have found there Signor Clemente de' Paoli. But unluckily he had gone upon a visit to his daughter; so that I had not an opportunity of seeing this extraordinary personage, of whom I have given so full an account,[142] for a great part of which I am indebted to Mr. Burnaby.

[Footnote 142: See Appendix C.—ED.]

Next day I reached Vescovato, where I was received by Signor Buttafoco, who proved superiour to the character I had conceived of him from the letter of M. Rousseau.[143] I found in him the incorrupted virtues of the brave islander, with the improvements of the continent. I found him, in short, to be a man of principle, abilities and knowledge; and at the same time a man of the world. He is now deservedly raised to the rank of colonel of the Royal Corsicans, in the service of France.

[Footnote 143: In this letter a high character is given of Buttafoco. See page 141.—ED.]

I past some days with Signor Buttafoco, from whose conversation I received so much pleasure, that I in a great measure forgot my ague.

As various discourses have been held in Europe, concerning an invitation given to M. Rousseau to come to Corsica; and as that affair was conducted by Signor Buttafoco, who shewed me the whole correspondence between him and M. Rousseau, I am enabled to give a distinct account of it.

M. Rousseau in his Political Treatise, entitled "Du Contract Social," has the following observation: "Il est encore en Europe un pays capable de legislation; c'est l'isle de Corse. La valeur et la constance avec laquelle ce brave peuple a su recouvrer et defendre sa liberte meriteroit bien que quelque homme sage lui apprit a la conserver. J'ai quelque pressentiment qu'un jour cette petite isle etonnera l'Europe.[144] There is yet one country in Europe, capable of legislation; and that is the island of Corsica. The valour and the constancy with which that brave people have recovered and defended its liberty, would well deserve that some wise man should teach them how to preserve it. I have some presentiment that one day that little island will astonish Europe."

[Footnote 144: "Du Contract Social," liv. ii., chap. 10.]

Signor Buttafoco, upon this, wrote to M. Rousseau, returning him thanks for the honour he had done to the Corsican nation, and strongly inviting him to come over, and be that wise man who should illuminate their minds.

I was allowed to take a copy of the wild philosopher's answer to this invitation; it is written with his usual eloquence.

"Il est superflu, Monsieur, de chercher a exciter mon zele pour l'entreprise que vous me proposez. Sa[145] seule idee m'eleve l'ame et me transporte. Je croirois la[146] reste de mes jours bien noblement, bien vertueusement et bien heureusement employes.[147] Je croirois meme avoir bien rachete l'inutilite des autres, si je pouvois rendre ce triste reste bon en quelque chose a vos braves compatriotes; si je pouvois concourir par quelque conseil utile aux vues de votre[148] digne Chef et aux votres; de ce cote-la donc soyez sur de moi. Ma vie et mon coeur sont a vous."

[Footnote 145: La.—ED.]

[Footnote 146: Le.—ED.]

[Footnote 147: Employe.—ED.]

[Footnote 148: Leur. I have made the corrections by the copy given in "Rousseau's Collected Works."—ED.]

"It is superfluous, Sir, to endeavour to excite my zeal for the undertaking which you propose to me. The very idea of it elevates my soul and transports me. I should esteem the rest of my days very nobly, very virtuously, and very happily employed. I should even think that I well redeemed the inutility of many of my days that are past, if I could render these sad remains of any advantage to your brave countrymen. If by any useful advice, I could concur in the views of your worthy Chief, and in yours. So far then you may be sure of me. My life and my heart are devoted to you."

Such were the first effusions of Rousseau. Yet before he concluded even this first letter, he made a great many complaints of his adversities and persecutions, and started a variety of difficulties as to the proposed enterprise.

The correspondence was kept up for some time, but the enthusiasm of the paradoxical philosopher gradually subsiding, the scheme came to nothing.[149]

[Footnote 149: In one of his letters, dated March 24, 1765, Rousseau said:—"Sur le peu que j'ai parcouru de vos memoires, je vois que mes idees different prodigieusement de celles de votre nation. Il ne serait pas possible que le plan que je proposerais ne fit beaucoup de mecontents, et peut-etre vous-meme tout le premier. Or, Monsieur, je suis rassasie de disputes et de querelles."—ED.]

As I have formerly observed, M. de Voltaire thought proper to exercise his pleasantry upon occasion of this proposal,[150] in order to vex the grave Rousseau, whom he never could bear. I remember he used to talk of him with a satyrical smile, and call him, "Ce Garcon, That Lad;" I find this among my notes of M. de Voltaire's conversations, when I was with him at his Chateau de Ferney, where he entertains with the elegance rather of a real prince than of a poetical one.

[Footnote 150: "Je recus bien ... la lettre de M. Paoli; mais ... il faut vous dire, Monsieur, que le bruit de la proposition que vous m'aviez faite s'etant repandu sans que je sache comment, M. de Voltaire fit entendre a tout le monde que cette proposition etait une invention de sa facon; il pretendait m'avoir ecrit au nom des Corses une lettre contrefaite dont j'avais ete la dupe."—Rousseau to Butta-Foco, May 26, 1765.—ED.]

To have Voltaire's assertion contradicted by a letter under Paoli's own hand, was no doubt a sufficient satisfaction to Rousseau.

From the account which I have attempted to give of the present constitution of Corsica, and of its illustrious Legislatour and General, it may well be conceived that the scheme of bringing M. Rousseau into that island, was magnified to an extravagant degree by the reports of the continent. It was said, that Rousseau was to be made no less than a Solon by the Corsicans, who were implicitely to receive from him a code of laws.

This was by no means the scheme. Paoli was too able a man to submit the legislation of his country to one who was an entire stranger to the people, the manners, and in short to every thing in the island. Nay, I know well that Paoli pays more regard to what has been tried by the experience of ages than to the most beautiful ideal systems. Besides, the Corsicans were not all at once to be moulded at will. They were to be gradually prepared, and by one law laying the foundation for another, a compleat fabrick of jurisprudence was to be formed.

Paoli's intention was to grant a generous asylum to Rousseau, to avail himself of the shining talents which appeared in his writings, by consulting with him, and catching the lights of his rich imagination, from many of which he might derive improvements to those plans which his own wisdom had laid down.

But what he had principally in view, was to employ the pen of Rousseau in recording the heroick actions of the brave islanders. It is to be regretted that this project did not take place. The father of the present colonel Buttafoco made large collections for many years back. These are carefully preserved, and when joined to those made by the Abbe Rostini, would furnish ample materials for a History of Corsica. This, adorned with the genius of Rousseau, would have been one of the noblest monuments of modern times.

Signor Buttafoco accompanied me to Bastia. It was comfortable to enter a good warm town after my fatigues. We went to the house of Signor Morelli, a counsellor at law here, with whom we supped. I was lodged for that night by a friend of Signor Buttafoco, in another part of the town.

Next morning I waited on M. de Marboeuf. Signor Buttafoco introduced me to him, and I presented him the letter of recommendation from Paoli. He gave me a most polite reception. The brilliancy of his levee pleased me; it was a scene so different from those which I had been for some time accustomed to see. It was like passing at once from a rude and early age to a polished modern age; from the mountains of Corsica to the banks of the Seine.

My ague was now become so violent that it got the better of me altogether. I was obliged to ask the French general's permission to have a chair set for me in the circle. When M. de Marboeuf was informed of my being ill, he had the goodness to ask me to stay in his house till I should recover; "I insist upon it," said he, "I have a warm room for you. My servants will get you bouillons, and every thing proper for a sick man; and we have an excellent physician." I mention all these circumstances to shew the goodness of M. de Marboeuf, to whom I shall ever consider myself as under great obligations, His invitation was given in so kind and cordial a manner, that I willingly accepted of it.

I found M. de Marboeuf a worthy open-hearted Frenchman. It is a common and a very just remark, that one of the most agreeable characters in the world is a Frenchman who has served long in the army, and has arrived at that age when the fire of youth is properly tempered. Such a character is gay without levity, and judicious without severity. Such a character was the Count de Marboeuf, of an ancient family in Britanny, where there is more plainness of character than among the other French. He had been Gentilhomme de la Chambre to the worthy King Stanislaus.

He took a charge of me as if he had been my near relation. He furnished me with books and every thing he could think of to amuse me. While the physician ordered me to be kept very quiet, M. de Marboeuf would allow nobody to go near me, but payed me a friendly visit alone. As I grew better he gradually encreased my society, bringing with him more and more of his officers; so that I had at last the honour of very large companies in my apartment. The officers were polite agreeable men: some of them had been prisoners in England, during the last war. One of them was a Chevalier de St. Louis, of the name of Douglas, a descendant of the illustrious house of Douglas in Scotland, by a branch settled near to Lyons. This gentleman often came and sat with me. The idea of our being in some sort countrymen, was pleasing to us both.

I found here an English woman of Penrith in Cumberland. When the Highlanders marched through that country in the year 1745, she had married a soldier of the French picquets in the very midst of all the confusion and danger, and when she could hardly understand one word he said. Such freaks will love sometimes take.

"Sic visum Veneri; cui placet impares Formas atque animos sub juga ahenea Saevo mittere cum joco."

—HORAT. lib. i., Od. 33.

"So Venus wills, whose power controuls The fond affections of our souls; With sportive cruelty she binds Unequal forms, unequal minds."


M. de la Chapelle was the physician who attended me. He had been several years physician to the army at Minorca, and had now the same office in Corsica. I called him the physician of the isles. He was indeed an excellent one. That gayete de coeur which the French enjoy, runs through all their professions. I remember the phrase of an English common soldier who told me, "that at the battle of Fontenoy, his captain received a shot in the breast, and fell," said the soldier, "with his spontoon in his hand, as prettily killed as ever I see'd a gentleman." The soldier's phrase might be used in talking of almost every thing which the French do. I may say I was prettily cured by M. de la Chapelle.

But I think myself bound to relate a circumstance which shews him and his nation in the genteelest light. Though he attended me with the greatest assiduity, yet, when I was going away, he would not accept of a single Louis d'or. "No Sir," said he, "I am nobly paid by my king. I am physician to his army here. If I can at the same time, be of service to the people of the country, or to any gentleman who may come among us, I am happy. But I must be excused from taking money." M. Brion the surgeon major behaved in the same manner.

As soon as I had gathered a little strength, I walked about as well as I could; and saw what was to be seen at Bastia. Signor Morelli was remarkably obliging. He made me presents of books and antiques, and of every other curiosity relating to Corsica. I never saw a more generous man. Signor Carassa, a Corsican officer in the service of France, with the order of St. Louis, was also very obliging. Having made a longer stay in Corsica than I intended, my finances were exhausted, and he let me have as much money as I pleased. M. Barle, secretary to M. de Marboeuf, was also very obliging. In short, I know not how to express my thankfulness to all the good people whom I saw at Bastia.

The French seemed to agree very well with the Corsicans. Of old, those islanders were much indebted to the interposition of France in their favour. But since the days of Sampiero, there have been many variances between them. A singular one happened in the reign of Lewis XIV. The Pope's Corsican guards in some fit of passion insulted the French ambassadour at Rome.[151] The superb monarch resolved to revenge this outrage. But Pope Alexander VII. foreseeing the consequences, agreed to the conditions required by France; which were, that the Corsican guards should be obliged to depart the ecclesiastical state, that the nation should be declared incapable ever to serve the holy see, and, that opposite to their ancient guard-house, should be erected a pyramid inscribed with their disgrace.[152]

[Footnote 151: According to Voltaire it was the French who were the most to blame. Their ambassador had disgusted the Romans by his arrogance. His servants exaggerated their master's faults, and imitated "la jeunesse indisciplinable de Paris, qui se fesait alors un honneur d'attaquer toutes les nuits le guet qui vieille a la garde de la ville!" Some of them ventured one day to fall sword in hand on the Corsican guards. The Corsicans in their turn besieged the ambassador's house. Shots were fired, and a page was killed. The ambassador at once left Rome. "Le pape differa tant qu'il put la reparation, persuade qu' avec les Francais il n'y a qu' a temporiser, et que tout s'oublie." He hanged, however, a Corsican, and he took other measures to appease Lewis XIV. He learnt with alarm that the French troops were entering Italy, and that Rome was threatened with a siege. "Dans d'autres temps les excommunications de Rome auraient suivi ces outrages; mais c'etaient des armes usees et devenues ridicules." He was forced to give full satisfaction. The pyramid mentioned by Boswell was set up, but in a few years the French King allowed it to be destroyed.—See Voltaire's "Siecle de Louis XIV.," chap. vii.—ED.]

[Footnote 152: Corps Diplomatique, anno 1664.]

Le Brun, whose royal genius could magnify and enrich every circumstance in honour of his sovereign, has given this story as a medallion on one of the compartments of the great gallery at Versailles. France appears with a stately air, shewing to Rome the design of the pyramid; and Rome, though bearing a shield marked S.P.Q.R. receives the design with most submissive humility.

I wish that France had never done the Corsicans greater harm than depriving them of the honour of being the Pope's guards. Boisseux and Maillebois[153] cannot easily be forgotten; nor can the brave islanders be blamed for complaining that a powerful nation should interpose to retard their obtaining entire possession of their country and of undisturbed freedom.

[Footnote 153: The commanders of the French troops that invaded Corsica in 1738 and 1739.—ED.]

M. de Marboeuf appeared to conduct himself with the greatest prudence and moderation. He told me that he wished to preserve peace in Corsica. He had entered into a convention with Paoli, mutually to give up such criminals as should fly into each others territories. Formerly not one criminal in a hundred was punished. There was no communication between the Corsicans and the Genoese; and if a criminal could but escape from the one jurisdiction to the other, he was safe. This was very easily done, so that crimes from impunity were very frequent. By this equitable convention, justice has been fully administered.

Perhaps indeed the residence of the French in Corsica, has, upon the whole, been an advantage to the patriots. There have been markets twice a week at the frontiers of each garrison-town, where the Corsican peasants have sold all sorts of provisions, and brought in a good many French crowns; which have been melted down into Corsican money. A cessation of arms for a few years has been a breathing time to the nation, to prepare itself for one great effort, which will probably end in a total expulsion of the Genoese. A little leisure has been given for attending to civil improvements, towards which the example of the French has in no small degree contributed. Many of the soldiers were excellent handi-craftsmen, and could instruct the natives in various arts.

M. de Marboeuf entertained himself by laying out several elegant pieces of pleasure ground; and such were the humane and amicable dispositions of this respectable officer, that he was at pains to observe what things were most wanted in Corsica, and then imported them from France, in order to shew an example to the inhabitants. He introduced, in particular, the culture of potatoes, of which there were none in the island upon his arrival.[154] This root will be of considerable service to the Corsicans, it will make a wholesome variety in their food; and as there will thereby, of consequence, be less home consumption of chestnuts, they will be able to export a greater quantity of them.

[Footnote 154: About the year 1750 potatoes were not commonly known in Kidderminster, as I know from an anecdote recorded by my grandfather.—ED.]

M. de Marboeuf made merry upon the reports which had been circulated, that I was no less than a minister from the British court. The "Avignon Gazette" brought us one day information that the English were going to establish Un Bureau de Commerce in Corsica. "O Sir," said he, "the secret is out. I see now the motive of your destination to these parts. It is you who are to establish this Bureau de Commerce."

Idle as these rumours were, it is a fact that, when I was at Genoa, Signor Gherardi, one of their secretaries of state, very seriously told me, "Monsieur, vous m'avez fait trembler quoique je ne vous ai jamais vu. Sir, you have made me tremble although I never saw you before." And when I smiled and assured him that I was just a simple traveller, he shook his head; but said, he had very authentick information concerning me. He then told me with great gravity, "That while I travelled in Corsica, I was drest in scarlet and gold; but when I payed my respects to the Supreme Council at Corte, I appeared in a full suit of black." These important truths I fairly owned to him, and he seemed to exult over me.

I was more and more obliged to M. de Marboeuf. When I was allowed by my physician, to go to his Excellency's table where we had always a large company, and every thing in great magnificence, he was so careful of me, that he would not suffer me to eat any thing, or taste a glass of wine, more than was prescribed for me. He used to say, "I am here both physician and commander in chief; so you must submit." He very politely prest me to make some stay with him, saying, "We have taken care of you when sick, I think we have a claim to you for a while, when in health." His kindness followed me after I left him. It procured me an agreeable reception from M. Michel, the French charge d'affaires at Genoa; and was the occasion of my being honoured with great civilities at Paris, by M. L'Abbe de Marboeuf conseiller d'etat, brother of the Count, and possessing similar virtues in private life.

I quitted Corsica with reluctance, when I thought of the illustrious Paoli. I wrote to him from Bastia, informing him of my illness, which I said, was owing to his having made me a man of so much consequence, that instead of putting me into a snug little room, he had lodged me in the magnificent old palace, where the wind and rain entered.

His answer to my first letter is written with so much spirit, that I begged his permission to publish it, which he granted in the genteelest manner, saying, "I do not remember the contents of the letter; but I have such a confidence in Mr. Boswell, that I am sure he would not publish it if there was any thing in it improper for publick view; so he has my permission." I am thus enabled to present my readers with an original letter from Paoli.




"RICEVEI la lettera che mi favori da Bastia, e mi consolo assai colla notizia di essersi rimessa in perfetta salute. Buon per lei che cadde in mano di un valente medico! Quando altra volta il disgusto de' paesi colti, ed ameni lo prendesse, e lo portasse in questa infelice contrada, procurero che sia alloggiata in camere piu calde, e custodita di quelle della casa Colonna in Sollacaro; ma ella ancora dovra contentarsi di non viaggiare quando la giornata, e la stagione vogliono che si resti in casa per attendere il tempo buono. Io resto ora impaziente per la lettera che ha promesso scrivermi da Genova, dove dubito assai che la delicatezza di quelle dame non le abbia fatto fare qualche giorno di quarantena, per ispurgarsi di ogni anche piu leggiero influsso, che possa avere portato seco dell' aria di questo paese; e molto piu, se le fosse venuto il capriccio di far vedere quell' abito di veluto Corso, e quel berrettone, di cui i Corsi vogliono l'origine dagli elmi antichi, ed i Genovesi lo dicono inventato da quelli, che, rubando alla strada, non vogliano essere conosciuti: come se in tempo del loro governo avessero mai avuta apprensione di castigo i ladri pubblici? Son sicuro pero, che ella presso avra il buon partito con quelle amabili, e delicate persone, insinuando alle medesime, che il cuore delle belle e fatto per la compassione, non per il disprezzo, e per la tirannia; e cosi sara rientrato facilmente nella lor grazia. Io ritornato in Corte ebbi subito la notizia del secreto sbarco dell' Abbatucci nelle spiaggie di Solenzara. Tutte le apparenze fanno credere che il medesimo sia venuto con disegni opposti alla pubblica quiete; pure si e constituito in castello, e protesta ravvedimento. Nel venire per Bocognano si seppe, che un capitano riformato Genovese cercava compagni per assassinarmi. Non pote rinvenirne e vedendosi scoperto si pose alla macchia, dove e stato ucciso dalle squadriglie che gli tenevano dietro i magistrati delle provincie oltramontane. Queste insidie non sembrano buoni preliminari del nostro accomodamento colla republica di Genova. Io sto passando il sindicato a questa provincia di Nebbio. Verso il 10 dell' entrante andero per l'istesso oggetto in quella del Capocorso, ed il mese di Febrajo facilmente mi trattenero in Balagna. Ritornero poi in Corte alla primavera, per prepararmi all' apertura della consulta generale. In ogni luogo avro presente la sua amicizia, e saro desideroso de' continui suoi riscontri. Frattanto ella mi creda.

"Suo affettuosissimo amico


"PATRIMONIO, 23 Decembre, 1765."


"I RECEIVED the letter which you wrote to me from Bastia, and am much comforted by hearing that you are restored to perfect health. It is lucky for you that you fell into the hands of an able physician. When you shall again be seized with a disgust at improved and agreeable countries, and shall return to this ill-fated land, I will take care to have you lodged in warmer and better finished apartments than those of the house of Colonna, at Sollacaro. But you again should be satisfied not to travel when the weather and the season require one to keep within doors, and wait for a fair day. I expect with impatience the letter which you promised to write to me from Genoa, where I much suspect that the delicacy of the ladies will have obliged you to perform some days of quarantine, for purifying you from every the least infection, which you may have carried with you from the air of this country; and still more so, if you have taken the whim to show that suit of Corsican velvet[155] and that bonnet of which the Corsicans will have the origin to be from the ancient helmets, whereas the Genoese say that it was invented by those who rob on the high way, in order to disguise themselves; as if during the Genoese government publick robbers needed to fear punishment. I am sure however, that you will have taken the proper method with these amiable and delicate persons, insinuating to them, that the hearts of beauties are formed for compassion, and not for disdain and tyranny: and so you will have been easily restored to their good graces. Immediately on my return to Corte, I received information of the secret landing of Abbatucci,[156] on the coast of Solenzara. All appearances make us believe, that he is come with designs contrary to the publick quiet. He has however surrendered himself a prisoner at the castle, and protests his repentance. As I passed by Bogognano, I learnt that a disbanded Genoese officer was seeking associates to assassinate me. He could not succeed, and finding that he was discovered, he betook himself to the woods; where he has been slain by the party detached by the magistrates of the provinces on the other side of the mountains, in order to intercept him. These ambuscades do not seem to be good preliminaries towards our accommodation with the republick of Genoa. I am now holding the syndicato in this province of Nebbio. About the 10th of next month, I shall go, for the same object, into the province of Capo Corso, and during the month of February, I shall probably fix my residence in Balagna. I shall return to Corte in the spring, to prepare myself for the opening of the General Consulta.[157] Wherever I am, your friendship will be present to my mind, and I shall be desirous to continue a correspondence with you. Meanwhile believe me to be

"Your most affectionate friend


"PATRIMONIO, 28 December, 1765."

[Footnote 155: By Corsican velvet he means the coarse stuff made in the island, which is all that the Corsicans have in stead of the fine velvet of Genoa.]

[Footnote 156: Abbatucci, a Corsican of a very suspicious character.]

[Footnote 157: The Parliament of the nation.—ED.]

Can any thing be more condescending, and at the same time shew more the firmness of an heroick mind, than this letter? With what a gallant pleasantry does the Corsican Chief talk of his enemies! One would think that the Queens of Genoa should become Rival Queens for Paoli. If they saw him I am sure they would.

I take the liberty to repeat an observation made to me by that illustrious minister,[158] whom Paoli calls the Pericles of Great Britain. It may be said of Paoli, as the Cardinal de Retz said of the great Montrose, "C'est un de ces hommes qu'on ne trouve plus que dans les Vies de Plutarque. He is one of those men who are no longer to be found but in the lives of Plutarch."

[Footnote 158: The Earl of Chatham. It appears from a letter published in the correspondence of the Earl of Chatham (vol. ii., p. 388) that Boswell had an interview granted him by Pitt. Boswell writes:—"I have had the honour to receive your most obliging letter, and can with difficulty restrain myself from paying you compliments on the very genteel manner in which you are pleased to treat me.... I hope that I may with propriety talk to Mr. Pitt of the views of the illustrious Paoli."—ED.]



Under the head of learning I must observe that there is a printing-house at Corte, and a bookseller's shop, both kept by a Luccese, a man of some capacity in his business. He has very good types; but he prints nothing more than the publick manifestoes, calendars of feast days, and little practical devotional pieces, as also the "Corsican Gazette," which is published by authority, from time to time, just as news are collected; for it contains nothing but the news of the island. It admits no foreign intelligence, nor private anecdotes; so that there will sometimes be an interval of three months during which no news-papers are published.

It will be long before the Corsicans arrive at the refinement in conducting a news-paper, of which London affords an unparalleled perfection; for I do believe an English news-paper is the most various and extraordinary composition that mankind ever produced. An English news-paper, while it informs the judicious of what is really doing in Europe, can keep pace with the wildest fancy in feigned adventures, and amuse the most desultory taste with essays on all subjects, and in every stile.—Boswell's "Account of Corsica," page 197.


There are some extraordinary customs which still subsist in Corsica. In particular they have several strange ceremonies at the death of their relations. When a man dies, especially if he has been assassinated, his widow with all the married women in the village accompany the corpse to the grave, where, after various howlings, and other expressions of sorrow, the women fall upon the widow, and beat and tear her in a most miserable manner. Having thus satisfied their grief and passion, they lead her back again, covered with blood and bruises, to her own habitation. This I had no opportunity of seeing while I was in the island; but I have it from undoubted authority.—Boswell's "Account of Corsica," page 221.


Having said so much of the genius and character of the Corsicans, I must beg leave to present my readers with a very distinguished Corsican character, that of Signor Clemente de' Paoli, brother of the General.

This gentleman is the eldest son of the old General Giacinto Paoli. He is about fifty years of age, of a middle size and dark complexion, his eyes are quick and piercing, and he has something in the form of his mouth which renders his appearance very particular. His understanding is of the first rate; and he has by no means suffered it to lie neglected. He was married, and has an only daughter, the wife of Signor Barbaggi one of the first men in the island.

For these many years past, Signor Clementi, being in a state of widowhood, has resided at Rostino, from whence the family of Paoli comes. He lives there in a very retired manner. He is of a Saturnine disposition, and his notions of religion are rather gloomy and severe. He spends his whole time in study, except what he passes at his devotions. These generally take up six or eight hours every day; during all which time he is in church, and before the altar, in a fixed posture, with his hands and eyes lifted up to heaven, with solemn fervour.

He prescribes to himself, an abstemious, rigid course of life; as if he had taken the vows of some of the religious orders. He is much with the Franciscans, who have a convent at Rostino. He wears the common coarse dress of the country, and it is difficult to distinguish him from one of the lowest of the people.

When he is in company he seldom speaks, and except upon important occasions, never goes into publick, or even to visit his brother at Corte. When danger calls, however, he is the first to appear in the defence of his country. He is then foremost in the ranks, and exposes himself to the hottest action; for religious fear is perfectly consistent with the greatest bravery; according to the famous line of the pious Racine,

"Je crains DIEU, cher Abner; et n'ai point d'autre crainte."

"I fear my GOD; and Him alone I fear."


In the beginning of an engagement he is generally calm; and will frequently offer up a prayer to heaven, for the person at whom he is going to fire; saying he is sorry to be under the necessity of depriving him of life; but that he is an enemy to Corsica, and Providence has sent him in his way, in order that he may be prevented from doing any farther mischief; that he hopes GOD will pardon his crimes, and take him to himself. After he has seen two or three of his countrymen fall at his side, the case alters. His eyes flame with grief and indignation, and he becomes like one furious, dealing vengeance every where around him.

His authority in the council is not less than his valour in the field. His strength of judgement and extent of knowledge, joined to the singular sanctity of his character, give him great weight in all the publick consultations; and his influence is of considerable service to his brother the General.—Boswell's "Account of Corsica," page 222.





[Footnote 159: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1878]


"Seldom has a pleasanter commentary been written on a literary masterpiece.... What its author has aimed at has been the reproduction of the atmosphere in which Johnson lived; and he has succeeded so well that we shall look with interest for other chapters of Johnsonian literature which he promises.... Throughout the author of this pleasant volume has spared no pains to enable the present generation to realise more completely the sphere, so near and so far from this latter half of the nineteenth century, in which Johnson talked and taught."—SATURDAY REVIEW, July 13th, 1878.

"Dr. Hill has written out of his ripe scholarship several interesting disquisitions, all tending to a better understanding of the man and his times, and all written with the ease and the absence of pretence which come of long familiarity with a subject and complete mastery of its facts."—THE EXAMINER, July 27th, 1878.

"Dr. Hill has published a very interesting little book.... All the chapters are interesting in a high degree."—WESTMINSTER REVIEW, October, 1878.

"We think Dr. Hill has succeeded in bringing before his readers, vividly and exactly, both the College of Johnson's youth and the University of his later years.... We think he clearly establishes that Boswell, Murphy, and Hawkins were all alike wrong in supposing that the celebrated passage in Chesterfield's letters describing the 'respectable Hottentot' refers to Johnson.... He devotes a chapter each to Langton and Beauclerk, in which he gathers together the various scattered references to them by Boswell and other biographers of Johnson and combines them into admirable sketches of each of these friends of Johnson."—WESTMINSTER REVIEW, January, 1879.

"With great industry Dr. Hill has illustrated the condition of Oxford as a University in the last century.... His first chapter ... embodies, in a lively and entertaining form, a highly instructive picture of the University, the materials for which only laborious industry could have collected."—THE SPECTATOR, August 17th, 1878.

"The glimpses which these essays give us of the great men of the days of Burke, Reynolds, and Goldsmith, of Oxford, of London, and of the country, are as full of interest as the most powerful romance. The opening paper on the Oxford of Johnson's time is one of the longest, best, and most original of the whole set."—THE STANDARD, August 12th, 1878.

"Dr. Hill is at his best in examining the views of Johnson's critics. Macaulay's rough and ready assertions are subjected to a searching criticism, and Mr. Carlyle's estimate of Johnson's position in London society in 1763, if not altogether destroyed, is severely damaged."—THE ACADEMY, July 27th, 1878.

"Dr. Hill's book is, in fact, a supplement to Boswell, is brimful of original and independent research, and displays so complete a mastery of the whole subject, that it must be regarded as only less essential to a true understanding of Johnson's life and character than Boswell himself."—THE WORLD, July 17th, 1878.

"Dr. Hill's 'Johnson: his Friends and his Critics' is a volume which no reader, however familiar with Boswell, will think superfluous. Its method is, in the main, critical; and even so far it possesses striking novelty from the tendency of the writer's judgment to obviously juster estimates than those of previous critics, both friendly and unfriendly."—THE DAILY NEWS, August 24th, 1878.

"The charming papers ... now published by Dr. Hill, under the title of 'Dr. Johnson: his Friends and his Critics,' will be, to admirers of the great eighteenth century lexicographer, like the discovery of some new treasure.... It is not too much to say that it is a volume which will henceforth be indispensable to all who would form a full conception of Johnson's many-sided personality."—THE GRAPHIC, August 3rd, 1878.

"Dr. Hill's work is certainly not the outcome of any sudden itch to give forth a fresh estimate of the great lexicographer, but the result of long and careful studies and researches; very natural indeed in a member of Johnson's College at Oxford, Pembroke, but not such as any man, that was not gifted with the kind of genius which is patience, would be inclined to undertake. The first chapter, 'Oxford in Dr. Johnson's Time,' is one of the most admirable summaries of the kind we have ever read—doubly admirable here, as forming so fitting and illustrative an introduction to his work, which is very complete and thorough."—THE BRITISH QUARTERLY REVIEW, October, 1878.

"Dr. Hill has produced an entertaining and instructive book, based on careful and minute research, which has been prompted by keen interest in his subject. The introductory sketch of Oxford in Johnson's time is admirably executed."—THE SCOTSMAN, August 8th, 1878.

"Every reader who would be fully informed about the period of English literature, and the men and women who then figured in society, must read Dr. Hill's volume, or miss much that is essential to a full comprehension of it."—THE NONCONFORMIST, August 28th, 1878.

"This work is the result of long study, has been accomplished with care and diligence, and is not only in itself a piece of very pleasant reading, but tends to place before us, in a truer light than anything that has before been written, the character of a man who did so much for the English language, and who deserves better than to be forgotten by his countrymen."—THE MORNING POST, October 15th, 1878.


Previous Part     1  2  3  4
Home - Random Browse