The American in Europe would fain encourage the hearts of these long-oppressed nations, now daring to hope for a new era, by reciting triumphant testimony from the experience of his own country. But we must stammer and blush when we speak of many things. I take pride here, that I may really say the liberty of the press works well, and that checks and balances naturally evolve from it, which suffice to its government. I may say, that the minds of our people are alert, and that talent has a free chance to rise. It is much. But dare I say, that political ambition is not as darkly sullied as in other countries? Dare I say, that men of most influence in political life are those who represent most virtue, or even intellectual power? Can I say, our social laws are generally better, or show a nobler insight into the wants of man and woman? I do indeed say what I believe, that voluntary association for improvement in these particulars will be the grand means for my nation to grow, and give a nobler harmony to the coming age. Then there is this cancer of slavery, and this wicked war that has grown out of it. How dare I speak of these things here? I listen to the same arguments against the emancipation of Italy, that are used against the emancipation of our blacks; the same arguments in favor of the spoliation of Poland, as for the conquest of Mexico.
How it pleases me here to think of the Abolitionists! I could never endure to be with them at home; they were so tedious, often so narrow, always so rabid and exaggerated in their tone. But, after all, they had a high motive, something eternal in their desire and life; and, if it was not the only thing worth thinking of, it was really something worth living and dying for, to free a great nation from such a blot, such a plague. God strengthen them, and make them wise to achieve their purpose!
I please myself, too, with remembering some ardent souls among the American youth, who, I trust, will yet expand and help to give soul to the huge, over-fed, too-hastily-grown-up body. May they be constant! "Were man but constant, he were perfect." It is to the youth that Hope addresses itself. But I dare not expect too much of them. I am not very old; yet of those who, in life's morning, I saw touched by the light of a high hope, many have seceded. Some have become voluptuaries; some mere family men, who think it is quite life enough to win bread for half a dozen people, and treat them decently; others are lost through indolence and vacillation. Yet some remain constant.
"I have witnessed many a shipwreck, yet still beat noble hearts."
* * * * *
Rome, January, 1848.—As one becomes domesticated here, ancient and modern Rome, at first so jumbled together, begin to separate. You see where objects and limits anciently were. When this happens, one feels first truly at ease in Rome. Then the old kings, the consuls, the tribunes, the emperors, the warriors of eagle sight and remorseless beak, return for us, and the toga-clad procession finds room to sweep across the scene; the seven hills tower, the innumerable temples glitter, and the Via Sacra swarms with triumphal life once more.
* * * * *
Rome, Jan. 12, 1848.—In Rome, here, the new Council is inaugurated, and the elections have given tolerable satisfaction. Twenty-four carriages had been lent by the princes and nobles, at the request of the city, to convey the councillors. Each deputy was followed by his target and banner. In the evening, there was a ball given at the Argentine. Lord Minto was there, Prince Corsini, now senator, the Torlonias, in uniform of the Civic Guard, Princess Torlonia, in a sash of their colors given her by the Civic Guard, which she waved in answer to their greetings. But the beautiful show of the evening was the Trasteverini dancing the Saltarello in their most beautiful costume. I saw them thus to much greater advantage than ever before. Several were nobly handsome, and danced admirably. The saltarello enchants me; in this is really the Italian wine, the Italian sun.
The Pope, in receiving the councillors, made a speech, intimating that he meant only to improve, not to reform and should keep things safe locked with the keys of St. Peter.
I was happy the first two months of my stay here, seeing all the great things at my leisure. But now, after a month of continuous rain, Rome is no more Rome. The atmosphere is far worse than that of Paris. It is impossible to walk in the thick mud. The ruins, and other great objects, always solemn, appear terribly gloomy, steeped in black rain and cloud; and my apartment, in a street of high houses, is dark all day. The bad weather may continue all this month and all next. If I could use the time for work, I should not care; but this climate makes me so ill, I can do but little.
Rome, Jan. 12, 1848.—My time in Lombardy and Switzerland was a series of beautiful pictures, dramatic episodes, not without some original life in myself. When I wrote to you from Como, I had a peaceful season. I floated on the lake with my graceful Polish countess, hearing her stories of heroic sorrow; or I walked in the delicious gardens of the villas, with many another summer friend. Red banners floated, children sang and shouted, the lakes of Venus and Diana glittered in the sun. The pretty girls of Bellaggio, with their coral necklaces, brought flowers to the "American countess," and "hoped she would be as happy as she deserved." Whether this cautious wish is fulfilled, I know not, but certainly I left all the glitter of life behind at Como.
My days at Milan were not unmarked. I have known some happy hours, but they all lead to sorrow; and not only the cups of wine, but of milk, seem drugged with poison for me. It does not seem to be my fault, this Destiny; I do not court these things,—they come. I am a poor magnet, with power to be wounded by the bodies I attract.
Leaving Milan, I had a brilliant day in Parma. I had not known Correggio before; he deserves all his fame. I stood in the parlor of the Abbess, the person for whom all was done, and Paradise seemed opened by the nymph, upon her car of light, and the divine children peeping through the vines. Sweet soul of love! I should weary of you, too; but it was glorious that day.
I had another good day, too, crossing the Apennines. The young crescent moon rose in orange twilight, just as I reached the highest peak. I was alone on foot; I heard no sound; I prayed.
At Florence, I was very ill. For three weeks, my life hung upon a thread. The effect of the Italian climate on my health is not favorable. I feel as if I had received a great injury. I am tired and woe-worn; often, in the bed, I wish I could weep my life away. However, they brought me gruel, I took it, and after a while rose up again. In the time of the vintage, I went alone to Sienna. This is a real untouched Italian place. This excursion, and the grapes, restored me at that time.
When I arrived in Rome, I was at first intoxicated to be here. The weather was beautiful, and many circumstances combined to place me in a kind of passive, childlike well-being. That is all over now, and, with this year, I enter upon a sphere of my destiny so difficult, that I, at present, see no way out, except through the gate of death. It is useless to write of it; you are at a distance and cannot help me;—whether accident or angel will, I have no intimation. I have no reason to hope I shall not reap what I have sown, and do not. Yet how I shall endure it I cannot guess; it is all a dark, sad enigma. The beautiful forms of art charm no more, and a love, in which there is all fondness, but no help, flatters in vain. I am all alone; nobody around me sees any of this. My numerous friendly acquaintances are troubled if they see me ill, and who so affectionate and kind as Mr. and Mrs. S.?
TO MADAME ARCONATI.
Rome, Jan. 14, 1848.—What black and foolish calumnies are these on Mazzini! It is as much for his interest as his honor to let things take their course, at present. To expect anything else, is to suppose him base. And on what act of his life dares any one found such an insinuation? I do not wonder that you were annoyed at his manner of addressing the Pope; but to me it seems that he speaks as he should,—near God and beyond the tomb; not from power to power, but from soul to soul, without regard to temporal dignities. It must be admitted that the etiquette, Most Holy Father, &c., jars with this.
Rome, March 14, 1848.—Mickiewicz is with me here, and will remain some time; it was he I wanted to see, more than any other person, in going back to Paris, and I have him much better here. France itself I should like to see, but remain undecided, on account of my health, which has suffered so much, this winter, that I must make it the first object in moving for the summer. One physician thinks it will of itself revive, when once the rains have passed, which have now lasted from 16th December to this day. At present, I am not able to leave the fire, or exert myself at all.
* * * * *
In all the descriptions of the Roman Carnival, the fact has been omitted of daily rain. I felt, indeed, ashamed to perceive it, when no one else seemed to, whilst the open windows caused me convulsive cough and headache. The carriages, with their cargoes of happy women dressed in their ball dresses and costumes, drove up and down, even in the pouring rain. The two handsome contadine, who serve me, took off their woollen gowns, and sat five hours at a time, in the street, in white cambric dresses, and straw hats turned up with roses. I never saw anything like the merry good-humor of these people. I should always be ashamed to complain of anything here. But I had always looked forward to the Roman Carnival as a time when I could play too; and it even surpassed my expectations, with its exuberant gayety and innocent frolic, but I was unable to take much part. The others threw flowers all day, and went to masked balls all night; but I went out only once, in a carriage, and was more exhausted with the storm of flowers and sweet looks than I could be by a storm of hail. I went to the German Artists' ball, where were some pretty costumes, and beautiful music; and to the Italian masked ball, where interest lies in intrigue.
I have scarcely gone to the galleries, damp and cold as tombs; or to the mouldy old splendor of churches, where, by the way, they are just wailing over the theft of St. Andrew's head, for the sake of the jewels. It is quite a new era for this population to plunder the churches; but they are suffering terribly, and Pio's municipality does, as yet, nothing.
Rome, March 29, 1848.—I have been engrossed, stunned almost, by the public events that have succeeded one another with such rapidity and grandeur. It is a time such as I always dreamed of, and for long secretly hoped to see. I rejoice to be in Europe at this time, and shall return possessed of a great history. Perhaps I shall be called to act. At present, I know not where to go, what to do. War is everywhere. I cannot leave Rome, and the men of Rome are marching out every day into Lombardy. The citadel of Milan is in the hands of my friends, Guerriere, &c., but there may be need to spill much blood yet in Italy. France and Germany are riot in such a state that I can go there now. A glorious flame burns higher and higher in the heart of the nations.
* * * * *
The rain was constant through the Roman winter, falling in torrents from 16th December to 19th March. Now the Italian heavens wear again their deep blue, the sun is glorious, the melancholy lustres are stealing again over the Campagna, and hundreds of larks sing unwearied above its ruins. Nature seems in sympathy with the great events that are transpiring. How much has happened since I wrote!—the resistance of Sicily, and the revolution of Naples; now the fall of Louis Philippe; and Metternich is crushed in Austria. I saw the Austrian arms dragged through the streets here, and burned in the Piazza del Popolo. The Italians embraced one another, and cried, miracolo, Providenza! the Tribune Ciccronachio fed the flame with fagots; Adam Mickiewicz, the great poet of Poland, long exiled from his country, looked on; while Polish women brought little pieces that had been scattered in the street, and threw into the flames. When the double-headed eagle was pulled down from the lofty portal of the Palazzo di Venezia, the people placed there, in its stead, one of white and gold, inscribed with the name, ALTA ITALIA; and instantly the news followed, that Milan, Venice, Modena, and Parma, were driving out their tyrants. These news were received in Rome with indescribable rapture. Men danced, and women wept with joy along the street. The youths rushed to enrol themselves in regiments to go to the frontier. In the Colosseum, their names were received.
* * * * *
Rome, April 1, 1848.-Yesterday, on returning from Ostia, I find the official news, that the Viceroy Ranieri has capitulated at Verona; that Italy is free, independent, and one. I trust this will prove no April foolery. It seems too good, too speedy a realization of hope.
* * * * *
Rome, April 30, 1848.—It is a time such as I always dreamed of; and that fire burns in the hearts of men around me which can keep me warm. Have I something to do here? or am I only to cheer on the warriors, and after write the history of their deeds? The first is all I have done yet, but many have blessed me for my sympathy, and blest me by the action it impelled.
My private fortunes are dark and tangled; my strength to govern them (perhaps that I am enervated by this climate) much diminished. I have thrown myself on God, and perhaps he will make my temporal state very tragical. I am more of a child than ever, and hate suffering more than ever, but suppose I shall live with it, if it must come.
I did not get your letter, about having the rosary blessed for ——, before I left Rome, and now, I suppose, she would not wish it, as none can now attach any value to the blessing of Pius IX. Those who loved him can no longer defend him. It has become obvious, that those first acts of his in the papacy were merely the result of a kindly, good-natured temperament; that he had not thought to understand their bearing, nor force to abide by it. He seems quite destitute of moral courage. He is not resolute either on the wrong or right side. First, he abandoned the liberal party; then, yielding to the will of the people, and uniting, in appearance, with a liberal ministry, he let the cardinals betray it, and defeat the hopes of Italy. He cried peace, peace! but had not a word of blame for the sanguinary acts of the King of Naples, a word of sympathy for the victims of Lombardy. Seizing the moment of dejection in the nation, he put in this retrograde ministry; sanctioned their acts, daily more impudent: let them neutralize the constitution he himself had given; and when the people slew his minister, and assaulted him in his own palace, he yielded anew; he dared not die, or even run the slight risk,—for only by accident could he have perished. His person as a Pope is still respected, though his character as a man is despised. All the people compare him with Pius VII. saying to the French, "Slay me if you will; I cannot yield," and feel the difference.
I was on Monte Cavallo yesterday. The common people were staring at the broken windows and burnt door of the palace where they have so often gone to receive a blessing, the children playing, "Sedia Papale. Morte ai Cardinali, e morte al Papa!"
The men of straw are going down in Italy everywhere; the real men rising into power. Montanelli, Guerazzi, Mazzini, are real men; their influence is of character. Had we only been born a little later! Mazzini has returned from his seventeen years' exile, "to see what he foresaw." He has a mind far in advance of his times, and yet Mazzini sees not all.
* * * * *
Rome, May 7, 1848.—Good and loving hearts will be unprepared, and for a time must suffer much from the final dereliction of Pius IX. to the cause of freedom. After the revolution opened in Lombardy, the troops of the line were sent thither; the volunteers rushed to accompany them, the priests preached the war as a crusade, the Pope blessed the banners. The report that the Austrians had taken and hung as a brigand one of the Roman Civic Guard,—a well-known artist engaged in the war of Lombardy,—roused the people; and they went to the Pope, to demand that he should declare war against the Austrians. The Pope summoned a consistory, and then declared in his speech that he had only intended local reforms; that he regretted the misuse that had been made of his name; and wound up by lamenting the war as offensive to the spirit of religion. A momentary stupefaction, followed by a passion of indignation, in which the words traitor and imbecile were heard, received this astounding speech. The Pope was besieged with deputations, and, after two days' struggle, was obliged to place the power in the hands of persons most opposed to him, and nominally acquiesce in their proceedings.
TO R.W.E. (in London).
Rome, May 19, 1848.—I should like to return with you, but I have much to do and learn in Europe yet. I am deeply interested in this public drama, and wish to see it played out. Methinks I have my part therein, either as actor or historian.
I cannot marvel at your readiness to close the book of European society. The shifting scenes entertain poorly. The flux of thought and feeling leaves some fertilizing soil; but for me, few indeed are the persons I should wish to see again; nor do I care to push the inquiry further. The simplest and most retired life would now please me, only I would not like to be confined to it, in case I grew weary, and now and then craved variety, for exhilaration. I want some scenes of natural beauty, and, imperfect as love is, I want human beings to love, as I suffocate without. For intellectual stimulus, books would mainly supply it, when wanted.
Why did you not try to be in Paris at the opening of the Assembly? There were elements worth scanning.
Rome, May 20, 1848.—My health is much revived by the spring here, as gloriously beautiful as the winter was dreary. We know nothing of spring in our country. Here the soft and brilliant weather is unbroken, except now and then by a copious shower, which keeps everything fresh. The trees, the flowers, the bird-songs are in perfection. I have enjoyed greatly my walks in the villas, where the grounds are of three or four miles in extent, and like free nature in the wood-glades and still paths; while they have an added charm in the music of their many fountains, and the soft gleam, here and there, of sarcophagus or pillar.
I have been a few days at Albano, and explored its beautiful environs alone, to much greater advantage than I could last year, in the carriage with my friends.
I went, also, to Frascati and Ostia, with an English family, who had a good carriage, and were kindly, intelligent people, who could not disturb the Roman landscape.
Now I am going into the country, where I can live very cheaply, even keeping a servant of my own, without which guard I should not venture alone into the unknown and wilder regions.
I have been so disconcerted by my Roman winter, that I dare not plan decisively again. The enervating breath of Rome paralyzes my body, but I know and love her. The expression, "City of the Soul," designates her, and her alone.
TO MADAME ARCONATI.
Rome, May 27, 1848.—This is my last day at Rome. I have been passing several days at Subiaco and Tivoli, and return again to the country to-morrow. These scenes of natural beauty have filled my heart, and increased, if possible, my desire that the people who have this rich inheritance may no longer be deprived of its benefits by bad institutions.
The people of Subiaco are poor, though very industrious, and cultivating every inch of ground, with even English care and neatness;—so ignorant and uncultivated, while so finely and strongly made by Nature. May God grant now, to this people, what they need!
An illumination took place last night, in honor of the "Illustrious Gioberti." He is received here with great triumph, his carriage followed with shouts of "Viva Gioberti, morte ai Jesuiti!" which must be pain to the many Jesuits, who, it is said, still linger here in disguise. His triumphs are shared by Mamiani and Orioli, self-trumpeted celebrities, self-constituted rulers of the Roman states,—men of straw, to my mind, whom the fire already kindled will burn into a handful of ashes.
I sit in my obscure corner, and watch the progress of events. It is the position that pleases me best, and, I believe, the most favorable one. Everything confirms me in my radicalism; and, without any desire to hasten matters, indeed with surprise to see them rush so like a torrent, I seem to see them all tending to realize my own hopes.
My health and spirits now much restored, I am beginning to set down some of my impressions. I am going into the mountains, hoping there to find pure, strengthening air, and tranquillity for so many days as to allow me to do something.
TO R.F. F——.
Rieti, July 1, 1848.—Italy is as beautiful as even I hoped, and I should wish to stay here several years, if I had a moderate fixed income. One wants but little money here, and can have with it many of the noblest enjoyments. I should have been very glad if fate would allow me a few years of congenial life, at the end of not a few of struggle and suffering. But I do not hope it; my fate will be the same to the close,—beautiful gifts shown, and then withdrawn, or offered on conditions that make acceptance impossible.
TO MADAME ARCONATI.
Corpus Domini, June 22, 1848.—I write such a great number of letters, having not less than a hundred correspondents, that it seems, every day, as if I had just written to each. There is no one, surely, this side of the salt sea, with whom I wish more to keep up the interchange of thought than with you.
I believe, if you could know my heart as God knows it, and see the causes that regulate my conduct, you would always love me. But already, in absence, I have lost, for the present, some of those who were dear to me, by failure of letters, or false report. After sorrowing much about a falsehood told me of a dearest friend, I found his letter at Torlonia's, which had been there ten months, and, duly received, would have made all right. There is something fatal in my destiny about correspondence.
But I will say no more of this; only the loss of that letter to you, at such an unfortunate time,—just when I most wished to seem the loving and grateful friend I was,—made me fear it might be my destiny to lose you too. But if any cross event shall do me this ill turn on earth, we shall meet again in that clear state of intelligence which men call heaven.
I see by the journals that you have not lost Montanelli. That noble mind is still spared to Italy. The Pope's heart is incapable of treason; but he has fallen short of the office fate assigned him.
I am no bigoted Republican, yet I think that form of government will eventually pervade the civilized world. Italy may not be ripe for it yet, but I doubt if she finds peace earlier; and this hasty annexation of Lombardy to the crown of Sardinia seems, to me, as well as I can judge, an act unworthy and unwise. Base, indeed, the monarch, if it was needed, and weak no less than base; for he was already too far engaged in the Italian cause to retire with honor or wisdom.
I am here, in a lonely mountain home, writing the narrative of my European experience. To this I devote great part of the day. Three or four hours I pass in the open air, on donkey or on foot. When I have exhausted this spot, perhaps I shall try another. Apply as I may, it will take three months, at least, to finish my book. It grows upon me.
Rieti, July 11, 1848.—Once I had resolution to face my difficulties myself, and try to give only what was pleasant to others; but now that my courage has fairly given way, and the fatigue of life is beyond my strength, I do not prize myself, or expect others to prize me.
Some years ago, I thought you very unjust, because you did not lend full faith to my spiritual experiences; but I see you were quite right. I thought I had tasted of the true elixir, and that the want of daily bread, or the pangs of imprisonment, would never make me a complaining beggar. A widow, I expected still to have the cruse full for others. Those were glorious hours, and angels certainly visited me; but there must have been too much earth,—too much taint of weakness and folly, so that baptism did not suffice. I know now those same things, but at present they are words, not living spells.
I hear, at this moment, the clock of the Church del Purgatorio telling noon in this mountain solitude. Snow yet lingers on these mountain-tops, after forty days of hottest sunshine, last night broken by a few clouds, prefatory to a thunder storm this morning. It has been so hot here, that even the peasant in the field says, "Non porro piu resistere," and slumbers in the shade, rather than the sun. I love to see their patriarchal ways of guarding the sheep and tilling the fields. They are a simple race. Remote from the corruptions of foreign travel, they do not ask for money, but smile upon and bless me as I pass,—for the Italians love me; they say I am so "simpatica." I never see any English or Americans, and now think wholly in Italian: only the surgeon who bled me, the other day, was proud to speak a little French, which he had learned at Tunis! The ignorance of this people is amusing. I am to them a divine visitant,—an instructive Ceres,—telling them wonderful tales of foreign customs, and even legends of the lives of their own saints. They are people whom I could love and live with. Bread and grapes among them would suffice me.
TO HER MOTHER.
Rome, Nov. 16, 1848.—* * * Of other circumstances which complicate my position I cannot write. Were you here, I would confide in you fully, and have more than once, in the silence of the night, recited to you those most strange and romantic chapters in the story of my sad life. At one time when I thought I might die, I empowered a person, who has given me, as far as possible to him, the aid and sympathy of a brother, to communicate them to you, on his return to the United States. But now I think we shall meet again, and I am sure you will always love your daughter, and will know gladly that in all events she has tried to aid and striven never to injure her fellows. In earlier days, I dreamed of doing and being much, but now am content with the Magdalen to rest my plea hereon, "She has loved much."
You, loved mother, keep me informed, as you have, of important facts, especially the worst. The thought of you, the knowledge of your angelic nature, is always one of my greatest supports. Happy those who have such a mother! Myriad instances of selfishness and corruption of heart cannot destroy the confidence in human nature.
I am again in Rome, situated for the first time entirely to my mind. I have but one room, but large; and everything about the bed so gracefully and adroitly disposed that it makes a beautiful parlor, and of course I pay much less. I have the sun all day, and an excellent chimney. It is very high and has pure air, and the most beautiful view all around imaginable. Add, that I am with the dearest, delightful old couple one can imagine, quick, prompt, and kind, sensible and contented. Having no children, they like to regard me and the Prussian sculptor, my neighbor, as such; yet are too delicate and too busy ever to intrude. In the attic, dwells a priest, who insists on making my fire when Antonia is away. To be sure, he pays himself for his trouble, by asking a great many questions. The stories below are occupied by a frightful Russian princess with moustaches, and a footman who ties her bonnet for her; and a fat English lady, with a fine carriage, who gives all her money to the church, and has made for the house a terrace of flowers that would delight you. Antonia has her flowers in a humble balcony, her birds, and an immense black cat; always addressed by both husband and wife as "Amoretto," (little love!)
The house looks out on the Piazza Barberini, and I see both that palace and the Pope's. The scene to-day has been one of terrible interest. The poor, weak Pope has fallen more and more under the dominion of the cardinals, till at last all truth was hidden from his eyes. He had suffered the minister, Rossi, to go on, tightening the reins, and, because the people preserved a sullen silence, he thought they would bear it. Yesterday, the Chamber of Deputies, illegally prorogued, was opened anew. Rossi, after two or three most unpopular measures, had the imprudence to call the troops of the line to defend him, instead of the National Guard. On the 14th, the Pope had invested him with the privileges of a Roman citizen: (he had renounced his country when an exile, and returned to it as ambassador of Louis Philippe.) This position he enjoyed but one day. Yesterday, as he descended from his carriage, to enter the Chamber, the crowd howled and hissed; then pushed him, and, as he turned his head in consequence, a sure hand stabbed him in the back. He said no word, but died almost instantly in the arms of a cardinal. The act was undoubtedly the result of the combination of many, from the dexterity with which it was accomplished, and the silence which ensued. Those who had not abetted beforehand seemed entirely to approve when done. The troops of the line, on whom he had relied, remained at their posts, and looked coolly on. In the evening, they walked the streets with the people, singing, "Happy the hand which rids the world of a tyrant!" Had Rossi lived to enter the Chamber, he would have seen the most terrible and imposing mark of denunciation known in the history of nations,—the whole house, without a single exception, seated on the benches of opposition. The news of his death was received by the deputies with the same cold silence as by the people. For me, I never thought to have heard of a violent death with satisfaction, but this act affected me as one of terrible justice.
To-day, all the troops and the people united and went to the Quirinal to demand a change of measures. They found the Swiss Guard drawn out, and the Pope dared not show himself. They attempted to force the door of his palace, to enter his presence, and the guard fired. I saw a man borne by wounded. The drum beat to call out the National Guard. The carriage of Prince Barberini has returned with its frightened inmates and liveried retinue, and they have suddenly barred up the court-yard gate. Antonia, seeing it, observes, "Thank Heaven, we are poor, we have nothing to fear!" This is the echo of a sentiment which will soon be universal in Europe.
Never feel any apprehensions for my safety from such causes. There are those who will protect me, if necessary, and, besides, I am on the conquering side. These events have, to me, the deepest interest. These days are what I always longed for,—were I only free from private care! But, when the best and noblest want bread to give to the cause of liberty, I can just not demand that of them; their blood they would give me.
You cannot conceive the enchantment of this place. So much I suffered here last January and February, I thought myself a little weaned; but, returning, my heart swelled even to tears with the cry of the poet:—
"O, Rome, my country, city of the soul!"
Those have not lived who have not seen Rome. Warned, however, by the last winter, I dared not rent my lodgings for the year. I hope I am acclimated. I have been through what is called the grape-cure, much more charming, certainly, than the water-cure. At present I am very well; but, alas! because I have gone to bed early, and done very little. I do not know if I can maintain any labor. As to my life, I think that it is not the will of Heaven it should terminate very soon. I have had another strange escape. I had taken passage in the diligence to come to Rome; two rivers were to be passed,—the Turano and the Tiber,—but passed by good bridges, and a road excellent when not broken unexpectedly by torrents from the mountains. The diligence sets out between three and four in the morning, long before light. The director sent me word that the Marchioness Crispoldi had taken for herself and family a coach extraordinary, which would start two hours later, and that I could have a place in that, if I liked; so I accepted. The weather had been beautiful, but, on the eve of the day fixed for my departure, the wind rose, and the rain fell in torrents. I observed that the river which passed my window was much swollen, and rushed with great violence. In the night, I heard its voice still stronger, and felt glad I had not to set out in the dark. I rose with twilight, and was expecting my carriage, and wondering at its delay, when I heard, that the great diligence, several miles below, had been seized by a torrent; the horses were up to their necks in water, before any one dreamed of the danger. The postilion called on all the saints, and threw himself into the water. The door of the diligence could not be opened, and the passengers forced themselves, one after another, into the cold water,—dark too. Had I been there I had fared ill; a pair of strong men were ill after it, though all escaped with life.
For several days, there was no going to Rome; but, at last, we set forth in two great diligences, with all the horses of the route. For many miles, the mountains and ravines were covered with snow; I seemed to have returned to my own country and climate. Few miles passed, before the conductor injured his leg under the wheel, and I had the pain of seeing him suffer all the way, while "Blood of Jesus," "Souls of Purgatory," was the mildest beginning of an answer to the jeers of the postilions upon his paleness. We stopped at a miserable osteria, in whose cellar we found a magnificent remain of Cyclopean architecture,—as indeed in Italy one is paid at every step, for discomfort or danger, by some precious subject of thought. We proceeded very slowly, and reached just at night a solitary little inn, which marks the site of the ancient home of the Sabine virgins, snatched away to become the mothers of Rome. We were there saluted with the news that the Tiber, also, had overflowed its banks, and it was very doubtful if we could pass. But what else to do? There were no accommodations in the house for thirty people, or even for three, and to sleep in the carriages, in that wet air of the marshes, was a more certain danger than to attempt the passage. So we set forth; the moon, almost at the full, smiling sadly on the ancient grandeurs, then half draped in mist, then drawing over her face a thin white veil. As we approached the Tiber, the towers and domes of Rome could be seen, like a cloud lying low on the horizon. The road and the meadows, alike under water, lay between us and it, one sheet of silver. The horses entered; they behaved nobly; we proceeded, every moment uncertain if the water would not become deep; but the scene was beautiful, and I enjoyed it highly. I have never yet felt afraid when really in the presence of danger, though sometimes in its apprehension.
At last we entered the gate; the diligence stopping to be examined, I walked to the gate of Villa Ludovisi, and saw its rich shrubberies of myrtle, and its statues so pale and eloquent in the moonlight.
Is it not cruel that I cannot earn six hundred dollars a year, living here? I could live on that well, now I know Italy. Where I have been, this summer, a great basket of grapes sells for one cent!—delicious salad, enough for three or four persons, one cent,—a pair of chickens, fifteen cents. Foreigners cannot live so, but I could, now that I speak the language fluently, and know the price of everything. Everybody loves, and wants to serve me, and I cannot earn this pitiful sum to learn and do what I want.
Of course, I wish to see America again; but in my own time, when I am ready, and not to weep over hopes destroyed and projects unfulfilled.
My dear friend, Madame Arconati, has shown me generous love;—a contadina, whom I have known this summer, hardly less. Every Sunday, she came in her holiday dress,—beautiful corset of red silk richly embroidered, rich petticoat, nice shoes and stockings, and handsome coral necklace, on one arm an immense basket of grapes, in the other a pair of live chickens, to be eaten by me for her sake, ("per amore mio,") and wanted no present, no reward; it was, as she said, "for the honor and pleasure of her acquaintance." The old father of the family never met me but he took off his hat and said, "Madame, it is to me a consolation to see you." Are there not sweet flowers of affection in life, glorious moments, great thoughts?—why must they be so dearly paid for?
Many Americans have shown me great and thoughtful kindness, and none more so than W. S—— and his wife. They are now in Florence, but may return. I do not know whether I shall stay here or not; shall be guided much by the state of my health.
All is quieted now in Rome. Late at night the Pope had to yield, but not till the door of his palace was half burnt, and his confessor killed. This man, Parma, provoked his fate by firing on the people from a window. It seems the Pope never gave order to fire; his guard acted from a sudden impulse of their own. The new ministry chosen are little inclined to accept. It is almost impossible for any one to act, unless the Pope is stripped of his temporal power, and the hour for that is not yet quite ripe; though they talk more and more of proclaiming the Republic, and even of calling my friend Mazzini.
If I came home at this moment, I should feel as if forced to leave my own house, my own people, and the hour which I had always longed for. If I do come in this way, all I can promise is to plague other people as little as possible. My own plans and desires will be postponed to another world.
Do not feel anxious about me. Some higher power leads me through strange, dark, thorny paths, broken at times by glades opening down into prospects of sunny beauty, into which I am not permitted to enter. If God disposes for us, it is not for nothing. This I can say, my heart is in some respects better, it is kinder and more humble. Also, my mental acquisitions have certainly been great, however inadequate to my desires.
Rome, Nov. 23, 1848.—Mazzini has stood alone in Italy, on a sunny height, far above the stature of other men. He has fought a great fight against folly, compromise, and treason; steadfast in his convictions, and of almost miraculous energy to sustain them, is he. He has foes; and at this moment, while he heads the insurrection in the Valtellina, the Roman people murmur his name, and long to call him here.
How often rings in my ear the consolatory word of Koerner, after many struggles, many undeceptions, "Though the million suffer shipwreck, yet noble hearts survive!"
I grieve to say, the good-natured Pio has shown himself utterly derelict, alike without resolution to abide by the good or the ill. He is now abandoned and despised by both parties. The people do not trust his word, for they know he shrinks from the danger, and shuts the door to pray quietly in his closet, whilst he knows the cardinals are misusing his name to violate his pledges. The cardinals, chased from Rome, talk of electing an anti-Pope; because, when there was danger, he has always yielded to the people, and they say he has overstepped his prerogative, and broken his papal oath. No one abuses him, for it is felt that in a more private station he would have acted a kindly part; but he has failed of so high a vocation, and balked so noble a hope, that no one respects him either. Who would have believed, a year ago, that the people would assail his palace? I was on Monte Cavallo yesterday, and saw the broken windows, the burnt doors, the walls marked by shot, just beneath the loggia, on which we have seen him giving the benediction. But this would never have happened, if his guard had not fired first on the people. It is true it was without his order, but, under a different man, the Swiss would never have dared to incur such a responsibility.
Our old acquaintance, Sterbini, has risen to the ministry. He has a certain influence, from his consistency and independence, but has little talent.
Of me you wish to know; but there is little I can tell you at this distance. I have had happy hours, learned much, suffered much, and outward things have not gone fortunately with me. I have had glorious hopes, but they are overclouded now, and the future looks darker than ever, indeed, quite impossible to my steps. I have no hope, unless that God will show me some way I do not know of now; but I do not wish to trouble you with more of this.
Rome, Dec. 9, 1848.—As to Florence itself, I do not like it, with the exception of the galleries and churches, and Michel Angelo's marbles. I do not like it, for the reason you do, because it seems like home. It seems a kind of Boston to me,—the same good and the same ill; I have had enough of both. But I have so many dear friends in Boston, that I must always wish to go there sometimes; and there are so many precious objects of study in Florence, that a stay of several months could not fail to be full of interest. Still, the spring must be the time to be in Florence; there are so many charming spots to visit in the environs, much nearer than those you go to in Rome, within scope of an afternoon's drive. I saw them only when parched with sun and covered with dust. In the spring they must be very beautiful.
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December, 1848.—I felt much what you wrote, "if it were well with my heart." How seldom it is that a mortal is permitted to enjoy a paradisaical scene, unhaunted by some painful vision from the past or the future! With me, too, dark clouds of care and sorrow have sometimes blotted out the sunshine. I have not lost from my side an only sister, but have been severed from some visions still so dear, they looked almost like hopes. The future seems too difficult for me. I have been as happy as I could, and I feel that this summer, as last, had I been with my country folks, the picture of Italy would not have been so lively to me. Now I have been quite off the beaten track of travel, have seen, thought, spoken, dreamed only what is Italian. I have learned much, received many strong and clear impressions. While among the mountains, I was for a good while quite alone, except for occasional chat with the contadine, who wanted to know if Pius IX. was not un gran carbonaro!—a reputation which he surely ought to have forfeited by this time. About me they were disturbed: "E sempre sola soletta," they said, "eh perche?"
Later, I made one of those accidental acquaintances, such as I have spoken of to you in my life of Lombardy, which may be called romantic: two brothers, elderly men, the last of a very noble family, formerly lords of many castles, still of more than one; both unmarried, men of great polish and culture. None of the consequences ensued that would in romances: they did not any way adopt me, nor give me a casket of diamonds, nor any of their pictures, among which were originals by several of the greatest masters, nor their rich cabinets, nor miniatures on agate, nor carving in wood and ivory. They only showed me their things, and their family archives of more than a hundred volumes, (containing most interesting documents about Poland, where four of their ancestors were nuncios,) manuscript letters from Tasso, and the like. With comments on these, and legendary lore enough to furnish Cooper or Walter Scott with a thousand romances, they enriched me; unhappily, I shall never have the strength or talent to make due use of it. I was sorry to leave them, for now I have recrossed the frontier into the Roman States. I will not tell you where,—I know not that I shall ever tell where,—these months have been passed. The great Goethe hid thus in Italy; "Then," said he, "I did indeed feel alone,—when no former friend could form an idea where I was." Why should not —— and I enjoy this fantastic luxury of incognito also, when we can so much more easily?
I will not name the place, but I will describe it. The rooms are spacious and airy; the loggia of the sleeping room is rude, but it overhangs a lovely little river, with its hedge of willows. Opposite is a large and rich vineyard; on one side a ruined tower, on the other an old casino, with its avenues of cypress, give human interest to the scene. A cleft amid the mountains full of light leads on the eye to a soft blue peak, very distant. At night the young moon trembles in the river, and its soft murmur soothes me to sleep; it needs, for I have had lately a bad attack upon the nerves, and been obliged to stop writing for the present. I think I shall stay here some time, though I suppose there are such sweet places all over Italy, if one only looks for one's self. Poor, beautiful Italy! how she has been injured of late! It is dreadful to see the incapacity and meanness of those to whom she had confided the care of her redemption.
I have thus far passed this past month of fine weather most delightfully in revisiting my haunts of the autumn before. Then, too, I was uncommonly well and strong; it was the golden period of my Roman life. The experience what long confinement may be expected after, from the winter rains, has decided me never to make my hay when the sun shines: i.e., to give no fine day to books and pens.
The places of interest I am nearest now are villas Albani and Ludovisi, and Santa Agnese, St. Lorenzo, and the vineyards near Porta Maggiore. I have passed one day in a visit to Torre dei Schiavi and the neighborhood, and another on Monte Mario, both Rome and the Campagna-day golden in the mellowest lustre of the Italian sun. * * * But to you I may tell, that I always go with Ossoli, the most congenial companion I ever had for jaunts of this kind. We go out in the morning, carrying the roast chestnuts from Rome; the bread and wine are found in some lonely little osteria; and so we dine; and reach Rome again, just in time to see it, from a little distance, gilded by the sunset.
This moon having been so clear, and the air so warm, we have visited, on successive evenings, all the places we fancied: Monte Cavallo, now so lonely and abandoned,—no lights there but moon and stars,—Trinita de' Monti, Santa Maria Maggiore, and the Forum. So now, if the rain must come, or I be driven from Rome, I have all the images fair and fresh in my mind.
About public events, why remain ignorant? Take a daily paper in the house. The Italian press has recovered from the effervescence of childish spirits;—you can now approximate to the truth from its reports. There are many good papers now in Italy. Whatever represents the Montanelli ministry is best for you. That gives the lead now. I see good articles copied from the "Alba."
TO MADAME ARCONATI.
Rome, Feb. 5, 1849.—I am so delighted to get your letter, that I must answer on the instant. I try with all my force to march straight onwards,—to answer the claims of the day; to act out my feeling as seems right at the time, and not heed the consequences;—but in my affections I am tender and weak; where I have really loved, a barrier, a break, causes me great suffering. I read in your letter that I am still dear to you as you to me. I always felt, that if we had passed more time together,—if the intimacy, for which there was ground in the inner nature, had become consolidated,—no after differences of opinion or conduct could have destroyed, though they might interrupt its pleasure. But it was of few days' standing,—our interviews much interrupted. I felt as if I knew you much better than you could me, because I had occasion to see you amid your various and habitual relations. I was afraid you might change, or become indifferent; now I hope not.
True, I have written, shall write, about the affairs of Italy, what you will much dislike, if ever you see it. I have done, may do, many things that would be very unpleasing to you; yet there is a congeniality, I dare to say, pure, and strong, and good, at the bottom of the heart, far, far deeper than these differences, that would always, on a real meeting, keep us friends. For me, I could never have but one feeling towards you.
Now, for the first time, I enjoy a full communion with the spirit of Rome. Last winter, I had here many friends; now all are dispersed, and sometimes I long to exchange thoughts with a friendly circle; but generally I am better content to live thus:—the impression made by all the records of genius around is more unbroken; I begin to be very familiar with them. The sun shines always, when last winter it never shone. I feel strong; I can go everywhere on foot. I pass whole days abroad; sometimes I take a book, but seldom read it:—why should I, when every stone talks?
In spring, I shall go often out of town. I have read "La Rome Souterraine" of Didier, and it makes me wish to see Ardea and Nettuno. Ostia is the only one of those desolate sites that I know yet. I study sometimes Niebuhr, and other books about Rome, but not to any great profit.
In the circle of my friends, two have fallen. One a person of great wisdom, strength, and calmness. She was ever to me a most tender friend, and one whose sympathy I highly valued. Like you by nature and education conservative, she was through thought liberal. With no exuberance or passionate impulsiveness herself, she knew how to allow for these in others. The other was a woman of my years, of the most precious gifts in heart and genius. She had also beauty and fortune. She died at last of weariness and intellectual inanition. She never, to any of us, her friends, hinted her sufferings. But they were obvious in her poems, which, with great dignity, expressed a resolute but most mournful resignation.
Rome, Feb. 23, 1849.—It is something if one can get free foot-hold on the earth, so as not to be jostled out of hearing the music, if there should be any spirits in the air to make such.
For my part, I have led rather too lonely a life of late. Before, it seemed as if too many voices of men startled away the inspirations; but having now lived eight months much alone, I doubt that good has come of it, and think to return, and go with others for a little. I have realized in these last days the thought of Goethe,—"He who would in loneliness live, ah! he is soon alone. Each one loves, each one lives, and leaves him to his pain." I went away and hid, all summer. Not content with that, I said, on returning to Rome, I must be busy and receive people little. They have taken me at my word, and hardly one comes to see me. Now, if I want play and prattle, I shall have to run after them. It is fair enough that we all, in turn, should be made to feel our need of one another.
Never was such a winter as this. Ten weeks now of unbroken sunshine and the mildest breezes. Of course, its price is to be paid. The spring, usually divine here, with luxuriant foliage and multitudinous roses, will be all scorched and dusty. There is fear, too, of want of food for the poor Roman state.
I pass my days in writing, walking, occasional visits to the galleries. I read little, except the newspapers; these take up an hour or two of the day. I own, my thoughts are quite fixed on the daily bulletin of men and things. I expect to write the history, but because it is so much in my heart. If you were here, I rather think you would be impassive, like the two most esteemed Americans I see. They do not believe in the sentimental nations. Hungarians, Poles, Italians, are too demonstrative for them, too fiery, too impressible. They like better the loyal, slow-moving Germans: even the Russian, with his dog's nose and gentlemanly servility, pleases them better than my people. There is an antagonism of race.
Rome, June 6, 1849.—The help I needed was external, practical. I knew myself all the difficulties and pains of my position; they were beyond present relief; from sympathy I could struggle with them, but had not life enough left, afterwards, to be a companion of any worth. To be with persons generous and refined, who would not pain; who would sometimes lend a helping hand across the ditches of this strange insidious marsh, was all I could have now, and this you gave.
On Sunday, from our loggia, I witnessed a terrible, a real battle. It began at four in the morning: it lasted to the last gleam of light. The musket-fire was almost unintermitted; the roll of the cannon, especially from St. Angelo, most majestic. As all passed at Porta San Pancrazio and Villa Pamfili, I saw the smoke of every discharge, the flash of the bayonets; with a glass could see the men. Both French and Italians fought with the most obstinate valor. The French could not use their heavy cannon, being always driven away by the legions Garibaldi and ——, when trying to find positions for them. The loss on our side is about three hundred killed and wounded; theirs must be much greater. In one casino have been found seventy dead bodies of theirs. I find the wounded men at the hospital in a transport of indignation. The French soldiers fought so furiously, that they think them false as their general, and cannot endure the remembrance of their visits, during the armistice, and talk of brotherhood. You will have heard how all went:—how Lesseps, after appearing here fifteen days as plenipotentiary, signed a treaty not dishonorable to Rome; then Oudinot refused to ratify it, saying, the plenipotentiary had surpassed his powers: Lesseps runs back to Paris, and Oudinot attacks:—an affair alike infamous for the French from beginning to end. The cannonade on one side has continued day and night, (being full moon,) till this morning; they seeking to advance or take other positions, the Romans firing on them. The French throw rockets into the town: one burst in the court-yard of the hospital, just as I arrived there yesterday, agitating the poor sufferers very much; they said they did not want to die like mice in a trap.
Rome, March 9, 1849.—Last night, Mazzini came to see me. You will have heard how he was called to Italy, and received at Leghorn like a prince, as he is; unhappily, in fact, the only one, the only great Italian. It is expected, that, if the republic lasts, he will be President. He has been made a Roman citizen, and elected to the Assembly; the labels bearing, in giant letters, "Giuseppe Mazzini, cittadino Romano," are yet up all over Rome. He entered by night, on foot, to avoid demonstrations, no doubt, and enjoy the quiet of his own thoughts, at so great a moment. The people went under his windows the next night, and called him out to speak; but I did not know about it. Last night, I heard a ring; then somebody speak my name; the voice struck upon me at once. He looks more divine than ever, after all his new, strange sufferings. He asked after all of you. He stayed two hours, and we talked, though rapidly, of everything. He hopes to come often, but the crisis is tremendous, and all will come on him; since, if any one can save Italy from her foes, inward and outward, it will be he. But he is very doubtful whether this be possible; the foes are too many, too strong, too subtle. Yet Heaven helps sometimes. I only grieve I cannot aid him; freely would I give my life to aid him, only bargaining for a quick death. I don't like slow torture. I fear that it is in reserve for him, to survive defeat. True, he can never be utterly defeated; but to see Italy bleeding, prostrate once more, will be very dreadful for him.
He has sent me tickets, twice, to hear him speak in the Assembly. It was a fine, commanding voice. But, when he finished, he looked very exhausted and melancholy. He looks as if the great battle he had fought had been too much for his strength, and that he was only sustained by the fire of the soul.
All this I write to you, because you said, when I was suffering at leaving Mazzini,—"You will meet him in heaven." This I believe will be, despite all my faults.
[In April, 1849, Margaret was appointed, by the "Roman Commission for the succor of the wounded," to the charge of the hospital of the Fate-Bene Fratetti; the Princess Belgioioso having charge of the one already opened. The following is a copy of the original letter from the Princess, which is written in English, announcing the appointment.]
Comitato di Soccorso Pei Feriti, } April 30, 1849. }
Dear Miss Fuller:—
You are named Regolatrice of the Hospital of the Fate-Rene Fratelli. Go there at twelve, if the alarm bell has not rung before. When you arrive there, you will receive all the women coming for the wounded, and give them your directions, so that you are sure to have a certain number of them night and day.
May God help us. CHRISTINE TRIVULZE, of Belgioioso. Miss Fuller, Piazza Barberini, No. 60.
Rome, June 10, 1849.—I received your letter amid the round of cannonade and musketry. It was a terrible battle fought here from the first till the last light of day. I could see all its progress from my balcony. The Italians fought like lions. It is a truly heroic spirit that animates them. They make a stand here for honor and their rights, with little ground for hope that they can resist, now they are betrayed by France.
Since the 30th April, I go almost daily to the hospitals, and, though I have suffered,—for I had no idea before, how terrible gunshot-wounds and wound-fever are,—yet I have taken pleasure, and great pleasure, in being with the men; there is scarcely one who is not moved by a noble spirit. Many, especially among the Lombards, are the flower of the Italian youth. When they begin to get better, I carry them books and flowers; they read, and we talk.
The palace of the Pope, on the Quirinal, is now used for convalescents. In those beautiful gardens, I walk with them,—one with his sling, another with his crutch. The gardener plays off all his water-works for the defenders of the country, and gathers flowers for me, their friend.
A day or two since, we sat in the Pope's little pavilion, where he used to give private audience. The sun was going gloriously down over Monte Mario, where gleamed the white tents of the French light-horse among the trees. The cannonade was heard at intervals. Two bright-eyed boys sat at our feet, and gathered up eagerly every word said by the heroes of the day. It was a beautiful hour, stolen from the midst of ruin and sorrow; and tales were told as full of grace and pathos as in the gardens of Boccaccio, only in a very different spirit,—with noble hope for man, with reverence for woman.
The young ladies of the family, very young girls, were filled with enthusiasm for the suffering, wounded patriots, and they wished to go to the hospital to give their services. Excepting the three superintendents, none but married ladies were permitted to serve there, but their services were accepted. Their governess then wished to go too, and, as she could speak several languages, she was admitted to the rooms of the wounded soldiers, to interpret for them, as the nurses knew nothing but Italian, and many of these poor men were suffering, because they could not make their wishes known. Some are French, some German, and many Poles. Indeed, I am afraid it is too true that there were comparatively but few Romans among them. This young lady passed several nights there.
Should I never return,—and sometimes I despair of doing so, it seems so far off, so difficult, I am caught in such a net of ties here,—if ever you know of my life here, I think you will only wonder at the constancy with which I have sustained myself; the degree of profit to which, amid great difficulties, I have put the time, at least in the way of observation. Meanwhile, love me all you can; let me feel, that, amid the fearful agitations of the world, there are pure hands, with healthful, even pulse, stretched out toward me, if I claim their grasp.
I feel profoundly for Mazzini; at moments I am tempted to say, "Cursed with every granted prayer,"—so cunning is the daemon. He is become the inspiring soul of his people. He saw Rome, to which all his hopes through life tended, for the first time as a Roman citizen, and to become in a few days its ruler. He has animated, he sustains her to a glorious effort, which, if it fails, this time, will not in the age. His country will be free. Yet to me it would be so dreadful to cause all this bloodshed, to dig the graves of such martyrs.
Then Rome is being destroyed; her glorious oaks; her villas, haunts of sacred beauty, that seemed the possession of the world forever,—the villa of Raphael, the villa of Albani, home of Winkelmann, and the best expression of the ideal of modern Rome, and so many other sanctuaries of beauty,—all must perish, lest a foe should level his musket from their shelter. I could not, could not!
I know not, dear friend, whether I ever shall get home across that great ocean, but here in Rome I shall no longer wish to live. O, Rome, my country! could I imagine that the triumph of what I held dear was to heap such desolation on thy head!
Speaking of the republic, you say, do not I wish Italy had a great man? Mazzini is a great man. In mind, a great poetic statesman; in heart, a lover; in action, decisive and full of resource as Caesar. Dearly I love Mazzini. He came in, just as I had finished the first letter to you. His soft, radiant look makes melancholy music in my soul; it consecrates my present life, that, like the Magdalen, I may, at the important hour, shed all the consecrated ointment on his head. There is one, Mazzini, who understands thee well; who knew thee no less when an object of popular fear, than now of idolatry; and who, if the pen be not held too feebly, will help posterity to know thee too.
Rome, July 8, 1849.—I do not yet find myself tranquil and recruited from the painful excitements of these last days. But, amid the ruined hopes of Rome, the shameful oppressions she is beginning to suffer, amid these noble, bleeding martyrs, my brothers, I cannot fix my thoughts on anything else.
I write that you may assure mother of my safety, which in the last days began to be seriously imperilled. Say, that as soon as I can find means of conveyance, without an expense too enormous, I shall go again into the mountains. There I shall find pure, bracing air, and I hope stillness, for a time. Say, she need feel no anxiety, if she do not hear from me for some time. I may feel indisposed to write, as I do now; my heart is too full.
Private hopes of mine are fallen with the hopes of Italy. I have played for a new stake, and lost it. Life looks too difficult. But for the present I shall try to wave all thought of self and renew my strength.
After the attempt at revolution in France failed, could I have influenced Mazzini, I should have prayed him to capitulate, and yet I feel that no honorable terms can be made with such a foe, and that the only way is never to yield; but the sound of the musketry, the sense that men were perishing in a hopeless contest, had become too terrible for my nerves. I did not see Mazzini, the last two weeks of the republic. When the French entered, he walked about the streets, to see how the people bore themselves, and then went to the house of a friend. In the upper chamber of a poor house, with his life-long friends,—the Modenas,—I found him. Modena, who abandoned not only what other men hold dear,—home, fortune, peace,—but also endured, without the power of using the prime of his great artist-talent, a ten years' exile in a foreign land; his wife every way worthy of him,—such a woman as I am not.
Mazzini had suffered millions more than I could; he had borne his fearful responsibility; he had let his dearest friends perish; he had passed all these nights without sleep; in two short months, he had grown old; all the vital juices seemed exhausted; his eyes were all blood-shot; his skin orange; flesh he had none; his hair was mixed with white: his hand was painful to the touch; but he had never flinched, never quailed; had protested in the last hour against surrender; sweet and calm, but full of a more fiery purpose than ever; in him I revered the hero, and owned myself not of that mould.
You say truly, I shall come home humbler. God grant it may be entirely humble! In future, while more than ever deeply penetrated with principles, and the need of the martyr spirit to sustain them, I will ever own that there are few worthy, and that I am one of the least.
A silken glove might be as good a gauntlet as one of steel, but I, infirm of mood, turn sick even now as I think of the past.
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July, 1849.—I cannot tell you what I endured in leaving Rome; abandoning the wounded soldiers; knowing that there is no provision made for them, when they rise from the beds where they have been thrown by a noble courage, where they have suffered with a noble patience. Some of the poorer men, who rise bereft even of the right arm,—one having lost both the right arm and the right leg,—I could have provided for with a small sum. Could I have sold my hair, or blood from my arm, I would have done it. Had any of the rich Americans remained in Rome, they would have given it to me; they helped nobly at first, in the service of the hospitals, when there was far less need; but they had all gone. What would I have given that I could have spoken to one of the Lawrences, or the Phillipses; they could and would have saved the misery. These poor men are left helpless in the power of a mean and vindictive foe. You felt so oppressed in the slave-states; imagine what I felt at seeing all the noblest youth, all the genius of this dear land, again enslaved.
Rieti, Aug. 28, 1849.—You say, you are glad I have had this great opportunity for carrying out my principles. Would it were so! I found myself inferior in courage and fortitude to the occasion. I knew not how to bear the havoc and anguish incident to the struggle for these principles. I rejoiced that it lay not with me to cut down the trees, to destroy the Elysian gardens, for the defence of Rome; I do not know that I could have done it. And the sight of these far nobler growths, the beautiful young men, mown down in their stately prime, became too much for me. I forget the great ideas, to sympathize with the poor mothers, who had nursed their precious forms, only to see them all lopped and gashed. You say, I sustained them; often have they sustained my courage: one, kissing the pieces of bone that were so painfully extracted from his arm, hanging them round his neck to be worn as the true relics of to-day; mementoes that he also had done and borne something for his country and the hopes of humanity. One fair young man, who is made a cripple for life, clasped my hand as he saw me crying over the spasms I could not relieve, and faintly cried, "Viva l'Italia." "Think only, cara bona donna" said a poor wounded soldier, "that I can always wear my uniform on festas, just as it is now, with the holes where the balls went through, for a memory." "God is good; God knows," they often said to me, when I had not a word to cheer them.
THE WIFE AND MOTHER.[A]
Beneath the ruins of the Roman Republic, how many private fortunes were buried! and among these victims was Margaret. In that catastrophe, were swallowed up hopes sacredly cherished by her through weary months, at the risk of all she most prized.
Soon after the entrance of the French, she wrote thus, to the resident Envoy of the United States:
My dear Mr. Cass,—I beg you to come and see me, and give me your counsel, and, if need be, your aid, to get away from Rome. From what I hear this morning, I fear we may be once more shut up here; and I shall die, to be again separated from what I hold most dear. There are, as yet, no horses on the way we want to go, or we should post immediately.
You may feel, like me, sad, in these last moments, to leave this injured Rome. So many noble hearts I abandon here, whose woes I have known! I feel, if I could not aid, I might soothe. But for my child, I would not go, till some men, now sick, know whether they shall live or die.
* * * * *
Her child! Where was he? In RIETI,—at the foot of the Umbrian Apennines,—a day's journey to the north-east of Rome. Thither Margaret escaped with her husband, and thence she wrote the following letter:
Dearest Mother,—I received your letter a few hours before leaving Rome. Like all of yours, it refreshed me, and gave me as much satisfaction as anything could, at that sad time. Its spirit is of eternity, and befits an epoch when wickedness and perfidy so impudently triumph, and the best blood of the generous and honorable is poured out like water, seemingly in vain.
I cannot tell you what I suffered to abandon the wounded to the care of their mean foes; to see the young men, that were faithful to their vows, hunted from their homes,—hunted like wild beasts; denied a refuge in every civilized land. Many of those I loved are sunk to the bottom of the sea, by Austrian cannon, or will be shot. Others are in penury, grief, and exile. May God give due recompense for all that has been endured!
My mind still agitated, and my spirits worn out, I have not felt like writing to any one. Yet the magnificent summer does not smile quite in vain for me. Much exercise in the open air, living much on milk and fruit, have recruited my health, and I am regaining the habit of sleep, which a month of nightly cannonade in Rome had destroyed.
* * * * *
Receiving, a few days since, a packet of letters from America, I opened them with more feeling of hope and good cheer, than for a long time past. The first words that met my eye were these, in the hand of Mr. Greeley:—"Ah, Margaret, the world grows dark with us! You grieve, for Rome is fallen;—I mourn, for Pickie is dead."
I have shed rivers of tears over the inexpressibly affecting letter thus begun. One would think I might have become familiar enough with images of death and destruction; yet somehow the image of Pickie's little dancing figure, lying, stiff and stark, between his parents, has made me weep more than all else. There was little hope he could do justice to himself, or lead a happy life in so perplexed a world; but never was a character of richer capacity,—never a more charming child. To me he was most dear, and would always have been so. Had he become stained with earthly faults, I could never have forgotten what he was when fresh from the soul's home, and what he was to me when my soul pined for sympathy, pure and unalloyed.
The three children I have seen who were fairest in my eyes, and gave most promise of the future, were Waldo, Pickie, Hermann Clarke;—all nipped in the bud. Endless thoughts has this given me, and a resolve to seek the realization of all hopes and plans elsewhere, which resolve will weigh with me as much as it can weigh before the silver cord is finally loosed. Till then, Earth, our mother, always finds strange, unexpected ways to draw us back to her bosom,—to make us seek anew a nutriment which has never failed to cause us frequent sickness.
* * * * *
This brings me to the main object of my present letter,—a piece of intelligence about myself, which I had hoped I might be able to communicate in such a way as to give you pleasure. That I cannot,—after suffering much in silence with that hope,—is like the rest of my earthly destiny.
The first moment, it may cause you a pang to know that your eldest child might long ago have been addressed by another name than yours, and has a little son a year old.
But, beloved mother, do not feel this long. I do assure you, that it was only great love for you that kept me silent. I have abstained a hundred times, when your sympathy, your counsel, would have been most precious, from a wish not to harass you with anxiety. Even now I would abstain, but it has become necessary, on account of the child, for us to live publicly and permanently together; and we have no hope, in the present state of Italian affairs, that we can do it at any better advantage, for several years, than now.
My husband is a Roman, of a noble but now impoverished house. His mother died when he was an infant, his father is dead since we met, leaving some property, but encumbered with debts, and in the present state of Rome hardly available, except by living there. He has three older brothers, all provided for in the Papal service,—one as Secretary of the Privy Chamber, the other two as members of the Guard Noble. A similar career would have been opened to him, but he embraced liberal principles, and, with the fall of the Republic, has lost all, as well as the favor of his family, who all sided with the Pope. Meanwhile, having been an officer in the Republican service, it was best for him to leave Rome. He has taken what little money he had, and we plan to live in Florence for the winter. If he or I can get the means, we shall come together to the United States, in the summer;—earlier we could not, on account of the child.
He is not in any respect such a person as people in general would expect to find with me. He had no instructor except an old priest, who entirely neglected his education; and of all that is contained in books he is absolutely ignorant, and he has no enthusiasm of character. On the other hand, he has excellent practical sense; has been a judicious observer of all that passed before his eyes; has a nice sense of duty, which, in its unfailing, minute activity, may put most enthusiasts to shame; a very sweet temper, and great native refinement. His love for me has been unswerving and most tender. I have never suffered a pain that he could relieve. His devotion, when I am ill, is to be compared only with yours. His delicacy in trifles, his sweet domestic graces, remind me of E——. In him I have found a home, and one that interferes with no tie. Amid many ills and cares, we have had much joy together, in the sympathy with natural beauty,—with our child,—with all that is innocent and sweet.
I do not know whether he will always love me so well, for I am the elder, and the difference will become, in a few years, more perceptible than now. But life is so uncertain, and it is so necessary to take good things with their limitations, that I have not thought it worth while to calculate too curiously.
However my other friends may feel, I am sure that you will love him very much, and that he will love you no less. Could we all live together, on a moderate income, you would find peace with us. Heaven grant, that, on returning, I may gain means to effect this object. He, of course, can do nothing, while we are in the United States, but perhaps I can; and now that my health is better, I shall be able to exert myself, if sure that my child is watched by those who love him, and who are good and pure.
* * * * *
What shall I say of my child? All might seem hyperbole, even to my dearest mother. In him I find satisfaction, for the first time, to the deep wants of my heart. Yet, thinking of those other sweet ones fled, I must look upon him as a treasure only lent. He is a fair child, with blue eyes and light hair; very affectionate, graceful, and sportive. He was baptized, in the Roman Catholic Church, by the name of Angelo Eugene Philip, for his father, grandfather, and my brother. He inherits the title of marquis.
Write the name of my child in your Bible, ANGELO OSSOLI, born September 5, 1848. God grant he may live to see you, and may prove worthy of your love!
More I do not feel strength to say. You can hardly guess how all attempt to express something about the great struggles and experiences of my European life enfeebles me. When I get home,—if ever I do,—it will be told without this fatigue and excitement. I trust there will be a little repose, before entering anew on this wearisome conflict.
I had addressed you twice,—once under the impression that I should not survive the birth of my child; again during the siege of Rome, the father and I being both in danger. I took Mrs. Story, and, when she left Rome, Mr. Cass, into my confidence. Both were kind as sister and brother. Amid much pain and struggle, sweet, is the memory of the generous love I received from William and Emelyn Story, and their uncle. They helped me gently through a most difficult period. Mr. Cass, also, who did not know me at all, has done everything possible for me.
* * * * *
A letter to her sister fills out these portraits of her husband and child.
* * * * *
About Ossoli[B] I do not like to say much, as he is an exceedingly delicate person. He is not precisely reserved, but it is not natural to him to talk about the objects of strong affection. I am sure he would not try to describe me to his sister, but would rather she would take her own impression of me; and, as much as possible, I wish to do the same by him. I presume that, to many of my friends, he will be nothing, and they will not understand that I should have life in common with him. But I do not think he will care;—he has not the slightest tinge of self-love. He has, throughout our intercourse, been used to my having many such ties. He has no wish to be anything to persons with whom he does not feel spontaneously bound, and when I am occupied, is happy in himself. But some of my friends and my family, who will see him in the details of practical life, cannot fail to prize the purity and simple strength of his character; and, should he continue to love me as he has done, his companionship will be an inestimable blessing to me. I say if, because all human affections are frail, and I have experienced too great revulsions in my own, not to know it. Yet I feel great confidence in the permanence of his love. It has been unblemished so far, under many trials; especially as I have been more desponding and unreasonable, in many ways, than I ever was before, and more so, I hope, than I ever shall be again. But at all such times, he never had a thought except to sustain and cheer me. He is capable of the sacred love,—the love passing that of woman. He showed it to his father, to Rome, to me. Now he loves his child in the same way. I think he will be an excellent father, though he could not speculate about it, nor, indeed, about anything.
Our meeting was singular,—fateful, I may say. Very soon he offered me his hand through life, but I never dreamed I should take it. I loved him, and felt very unhappy to leave him; but the connection seemed so every way unfit, I did not hesitate a moment. He, however, thought I should return to him, as I did. I acted upon a strong impulse, and could not analyze at all what passed in my mind. I neither rejoice nor grieve;—for bad or for good, I acted out my character Had I never connected myself with any one, my path was clear; now it is all hid; but, in that case, my development must have been partial. As to marriage, I think the intercourse of heart and mind may be fully enjoyed without entering into this partnership of daily life. Still, I do not find it burdensome. The friction that I have seen mar so much the domestic happiness of others does not occur with us, or, at least, has not occurred. Then, there is the pleasure of always being at hand to help one another.
Still, the great novelty, the immense gain, to me, is my relation with my child. I thought the mother's heart lived in me before, but it did not;—I knew nothing about it. Yet, before his birth, I dreaded it. I thought I should not survive: but if I did, and my child did, was I not cruel to bring another into this terrible world? I could not, at that time, get any other view. When he was born, that deep melancholy changed at once into rapture: but it did not last long. Then came the prudential motherhood. I grew a coward, a care-taker, not only for the morrow, but, impiously faithless, for twenty or thirty years ahead. It seemed very wicked to have brought the little tender thing into the midst of cares and perplexities we had not feared in the least for ourselves. I imagined everything;—he was to be in danger of every enormity the Croats were then committing upon the infants of Lombardy;—the house would be burned over his head; but, if he escaped, how were we to get money to buy his bibs and primers? Then his father was to be killed in the fighting, and I to die of my cough, &c. &c.
During the siege of Rome, I could not see my little boy. What I endured at that time, in various ways, not many would survive. In the burning sun, I went, every day, to wait, in the crowd, for letters about him. Often they did not come. I saw blood that had streamed on the wall where Ossoli was. I have a piece of a bomb that burst close to him. I sought solace in tending the suffering men; but when I beheld the beautiful fair young men bleeding to death, or mutilated for life, I felt the woe of all the mothers who had nursed each to that full flower, to see them thus cut down. I felt the consolation, too,—for those youths died worthily. I was a Mater Dolorosa, and I remembered that she who helped Angelino into the world came from the sign of the Mater Dolorosa. I thought, even if he lives, if he comes into the world at this great troubled time, terrible with perplexed duties, it may be to die thus at twenty years, one of a glorious hecatomb, indeed, but still a sacrifice! It seemed then I was willing he should die.
* * * * *
Angelino's birth-place is thus sketched:
My baby saw mountains when he first looked forward into the world. RIETI,—not only an old classic town of Italy, but one founded by what are now called the Aborigines,—is a hive of very ancient dwellings with red brown roofs, a citadel and several towers. It is in a plain, twelve miles in diameter one way, not much less the other, and entirely encircled with mountains of the noblest form. Casinos and hermitages gleam here and there on their lower slopes. This plain is almost the richest in Italy, and full of vineyards. Rieti is near the foot of the hills on one side, and the rapid Velino makes almost the circuit of its walls, on its way to Terni. I had my apartment shut out from the family, on the bank of this river, and saw the mountains, as I lay on my restless couch. There was a piazza, too, or, as they call it here, a loggia, which hung over the river, where I walked most of the night, for I could not sleep at all in those months. In the wild autumn storms, the stream became a roaring torrent, constantly lit up by lightning flashes, and the sound of its rush was very sublime. I see it yet, as it swept away on its dark green current the heaps of burning straw which the children let down from the bridge. Opposite my window was a vineyard, whose white and purple clusters were my food for three months. It was pretty to watch the vintage,—the asses and wagons loaded with this wealth of amber and rubies,—the naked boys, singing in the trees on which the vines are trained, as they cut the grapes,—the nut-brown maids and matrons, in their red corsets and white head-clothes, receiving them below, while the babies and little children were frolicking in the grass.
In Rieti, the ancient Umbrians were married thus. In presence of friends, the man and maid received together the gifts of fire and water; the bridegroom then conducted to his house the bride. At the door, he gave her the keys, and, entering, threw behind him nuts, as a sign that he renounced all the frivolities of boyhood.
I intend to write all that relates to the birth of Angelino, in a little book, which I shall, I hope, show you sometime. I have begun it, and then stopped;—it seemed to me he would die. If he lives, I shall finish it, before the details are at all faded in my mind. Rieti is a place where I should have liked to have him born, and where I should like to have him now,—but that the people are so wicked. They are the most ferocious and mercenary population of Italy. I did not know this, when I went there, and merely expected to be solitary and quiet among poor people. But they looked on the "Marchioness" as an ignorant Inglese, and they fancy all Inglesi have wealth untold. Me they were bent on plundering in every way. They made me suffer terribly in the first days.
[Footnote A: The first part of this chapter is edited by R.W.E.; the remainder by W.H.C.]
[Footnote B: Giovanni Angelo Ossoli.]
THE PRIVATE MARRIAGE.
The high-minded friend, spoken of with such grateful affection by Margaret, in her letter to her mother, thus gracefully narrates the romance of her marriage; and the narrative is a noble proof of the heroic disinterestedness with which, amidst her own engrossing trials, Margaret devoted herself to others. Mrs. Story writes as follows:—
"During the month of November, 1847, we arrived in Rome, purposing to spend the winter there. At that time, Margaret was living in the house of the Marchesa ——, in the Corso, Ultimo Piano. Her rooms were pleasant and cheerful, with a certain air of elegance and refinement, but they had not a sunny exposure, that all-essential requisite for health, during the damp Roman winter. Margaret suffered from ill health this winter, and she afterwards attributed it mainly to the fact, that she had not the sun. As soon as she heard of our arrival, she stretched forth a friendly, cordial hand, and greeted us most warmly. She gave us great assistance in our search for convenient lodgings, and we were soon happily established near her. Our intercourse was henceforth most frequent and intimate, and knew no cloud nor coldness. Daily we were much with her, and daily we felt more sensible of the worth and value of our friend. To me she seemed so unlike what I had thought her to be in America, that I continually said, 'How have I misjudged you,—you are not at all such a person as I took you to be.' To this she replied, 'I am not the same person, but in many respects another;—my life has new channels now, and how thankful I am that I have been able to come out into larger interests,—but, partly, you did not know me at home in the true light.' It was true, that I had not known her much personally, when in Boston; but through her friends, who were mine also, I had learned to think of her as a person on intellectual stilts, with a large share of arrogance, and little sweetness of temper. How unlike to this was she now!—so delicate, so simple, confiding, and affectionate; with a true womanly heart and soul, sensitive and generous, and, what was to me a still greater surprise, possessed of so broad a charity, that she could cover with its mantle the faults and defects of all about her.