My Ten Years' Imprisonment
by Silvio Pellico
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The night was exceedingly dark, and vast globes of flame spouted forth on both sides, borne away by a violent wind. All around, it seemed as if the sky rained sparks of fire. The adjacent lake reflected the magnificent sight; numbers of gondolas went and came, but my sympathy was most excited at the danger and terrors of those who resided nearest to the burning edifice. I heard the far off voices of men and women calling to each other. Among others, I caught the name of Angiola, and of this doubtless there are some thousands in Venice: yet I could not help fearing it might be the one of whom the recollection was so sweet to me. Could it be her?— was she surrounded by the flames? how I longed to fly to her rescue.

Full of excitement, wonder, and terror, I stood at the window till the day dawned, I then got down oppressed by a feeling of deep sorrow, and imagined much greater misfortune than had really occurred. I was informed by Tremerello that only the ovens and the adjoining magazine had suffered, the loss consisting chiefly of corn and sacks of flour.


The effect of this accident upon my imagination had not yet ceased, when one night, as I was sitting at my little table reading, and half perished with cold, I heard a number of voices not far from me. They were those of the jailer, his wife, and sons, with the assistants, all crying:

"Fire! fire. Oh, blessed Virgin! we are lost, we are lost!"

I felt no longer cold, I started to my feet in a violent perspiration, and looked out to discover the quarter from which the fire proceeded. I could perceive nothing, I was informed, however, that it arose in the palace itself, from some public chambers contiguous to the prisons. One of the assistants called out, "But, sir governor, what shall we do with these caged birds here, if the fire keeps a head?" The head jailer replied, "Why, I should not like to have them roasted alive. Yet I cannot let them out of their bars without special orders from the commission. You may run as fast as you can, and get an order if you can."

"To be sure I will, but, you know, it will be too late for the prisoners."

All this was said in the rude Venetian dialect, but I understood it too well. And now, where was all my heroic spirit and resignation, which I had counted upon to meet sudden death? Why did the idea of being burnt alive throw me into such a fever? I felt ashamed of this unworthy fear, and though just on the point of crying out to the jailer to let me out, I restrained myself, reflecting that there might be as little pleasure in being strangled as in being burnt. Still I felt really afraid.

"Here," said I, "is a specimen of my courage, should I escape the flames, and be doomed to mount the scaffold. I will restrain my fear, and hide it from others as well as I can, though I know I shall tremble. Yet surely it is courage to behave as if we were not afraid, whatever we may feel. Is it not generosity to give away that which it costs us much to part with? It is, also, an act of obedience, though we obey with great repugnance."

The tumult in the jailer's house was so loud and continued that I concluded the fire was on the increase. The messenger sent to ask permission for our temporary release had not returned. At last I thought I heard his voice; no; I listened, he is not come. Probably the permission will not be granted; there will be no means of escape; if the jailer should not humanely take the responsibility upon himself, we shall be suffocated in our dungeons! Well, but this, I exclaimed, is not philosophy, and it is not religion. Were it not better to prepare myself to witness the flames bursting into my chamber, and about to swallow me up.

Meantime the clamour seemed to diminish; by degrees it died away; was this any proof that the fire had ceased? Or, perhaps, all who could had already fled, and left the prisoners to their fate.

The silence continued, no flames appeared, and I retired to bed, reproaching myself for the want of fortitude I had evinced. Indeed, I began to regret that I had not been burnt alive, instead of being handed over, as a victim, into the hands of men.

The next morning, I learnt the real cause of the fire from Tremerello, and laughed at his account of the fear he had endured, as if my own had not been as great—perhaps, in fact, much greater of the two.


On the 11th of January, 1822, about nine in the morning, Tremerello came into my room in no little agitation, and said,

"Do you know, Sir, that in the island of San Michele, a little way from Venice, there is a prison containing more than a hundred Carbonari."

"You have told me so a hundred times. Well! what would you have me hear, speak out; are some of them condemned?"


"Who are they?"

"I don't know."

"Is my poor friend Maroncelli among them?"

"Ah, Sir, too many . . . I know not who." And he went away in great emotion, casting on me a look of compassion.

Shortly after came the jailer, attended by the assistants, and by a man whom I had never before seen. The latter opened his subject as follows: "The commission, Sir, has given orders that you come with me!"

"Let us go, then," I replied; "may I ask who you are?"

"I am jailer of the San Michele prisons, where I am going to take you."

The jailer of the Piombi delivered to the new governor the money belonging to me which he had in his hands. I obtained permission to make some little present to the under jailers; I then put my clothes in order, put my Bible under my arm, and departed. In descending the immense track of staircases, Tremerello for a moment took my hand; he pressed it as much as to say, "Unhappy man! you are lost."

We came out at a gate which opened upon the lake, and there stood a gondola with two under jailers belonging to San Michele.

I entered the boat with feelings of the most contradictory nature; regret at leaving the prison of the Piombi, where I had suffered so much, but where I had become attached to some individuals, and they to me; the pleasure of beholding once more the sky, the city, and the clear waters, without the intervention of iron bars. Add to this the recollection of that joyous gondola, which, in time past, had borne me on the bosom of that placid lake; the gondolas of the lake of Como, those of Lago Maggiore, the little barks of the Po, those of the Rodano, and of the Sonna! Oh, happy vanished years! who, who then so happy in the world as I?

The son of excellent and affectionate parents, in a rank of life, perhaps, the happiest for the cultivation of the affections, being equally removed from riches and from poverty; I had spent my infancy in the participation of the sweetest domestic ties; had been the object of the tenderest domestic cares. I had subsequently gone to Lyons, to my maternal uncle, an elderly man, extremely wealthy, and deserving of all he possessed; and at his mansion I partook of all the advantages and delights of elegance and refined society, which gave an indescribable charm to those youthful days. Thence returning into Italy, under the parental roof, I at once devoted myself with ardour to study, and the enjoyment of society; everywhere meeting with distinguished friends and the most encouraging praise. Monti and Foscolo, although at variance with each other, were kind to me. I became more attached to the latter, and this irritable man, who, by his asperities, provoked so many to quarrel with him, was with me full of gentleness and cordiality. Other distinguished characters likewise became attached to me, and I returned all their regard. Neither envy nor calumny had the least influence over me, or I felt it only from persons who had not the power to injure me. On the fall of the kingdom of Italy, my father removed to Turin, with the rest of his family. I had preferred to remain at Milan, where I spent my time at once so profitably and so happily as made me unwilling to leave it. Here I had three friends to whom I was greatly attached—D. Pietro Borsieri, Lodovico di Breme, and the Count Luigi Porro Lambertenghi. Subsequently I added to them Count Federigo Confalonieri. {19} Becoming the preceptor of two young sons of Count Porro, I was to them as a father, and their father acted like a brother to me. His mansion was the resort not only of society the most refined and cultivated of Italy, but of numbers of celebrated strangers. It was there I became acquainted with De Stael, Schlegel, Davis, Byron, Brougham, Hobhouse, and illustrious travellers from all parts of Europe. How delightful, how noble an incentive to all that is great and good, is an intercourse with men of first-rate merit!. I was then happy; I would not have exchanged my lot with a prince; and now, to be hurled, as I had been, from the summit of all my hopes and projects, into an abyss of wretchedness, and to be hurried thus from dungeon to dungeon, to perish doubtless either by a violent death or lingering in chains.


Absorbed in reflections like these, I reached San Michele, and was locked up in a room which embraced a view of the court yard, of the lake, and the beautiful island of Murano. I inquired respecting Maroncelli from the jailer, from his wife, and the four assistants; but their visits were exceedingly brief, very ceremonious, and, in fact, they would tell me nothing.

Nevertheless where there are five or six persons, it is rarely you do not find one who possesses a compassionate, as well as a communicative disposition. I met with such a one, and from him I learnt what follows:-

Maroncelli, after having been long kept apart, had been placed with Count Camillo Laderchi. {20} The last, within a few days, had been declared innocent, and discharged from prison, and the former again remained alone. Some other of our companions had also been set at liberty; the Professor Romagnosi, {21} and Count Giovanni Arrivabene. {22} Captain Rezia {23} and the Signor Canova were together. Professor Ressi {24} was dying at that time, in a prison next to that of the two before mentioned. "It follows then," said I, "that the sentences of those not set at liberty must have arrived. How are they to be made known? Perhaps, poor Ressi will die; and will not be in a state to hear his sentence; is it true?"

"I believe it is."

Every day I inquired respecting the unhappy man. "He has lost his voice; he is rather better; he is delirious; he is nearly gone; he spits blood; he is dying;" were the usual replies; till at length came the last of all, "He is dead."

I shed a tear to his memory, and consoled myself with thinking that he died ignorant of the sentence which awaited him.

The day following, the 21st of February, 1822, the jailer came for me about ten o'clock, and conducted me into the Hall of the Commission. The members were all seated, but they rose; the President, the Inquisitor, and two assisting Judges.—The first, with a look of deep commiseration, acquainted me that my sentence had arrived; that it was a terrible one; but that the clemency of the Emperor had mitigated it.

The Inquisitor, fixing his eye on me, then read it:- "Silvio Pellico, condemned to death; the imperial decree is, that the sentence be commuted for fifteen years hard imprisonment in the fortress of Spielberg."

"The will of God be done!" was my reply.

It was really my intention to bear this horrible blow like a Christian, and neither to exhibit nor to feel resentment against any one whatever. The President then commended my state of mind, warmly recommending me to persevere in it, and that possibly by affording an edifying example, I might in a year or two be deemed worthy of receiving further favours from the imperial clemency.

Instead, however, of one or two, it was many years before the full sentence was remitted.

The other judges also spoke encouragingly to me. One of them, indeed, had appeared my enemy on my trial, accosting me in a courteous but ironical tone, while his look of insulting triumph seemed to belie his words. I would not make oath it was so, but my blood was then boiling, and I was trying to smother my passion. While they were praising me for my Christian patience, I had not a jot of it left me. "To-morrow," continued the Inquisitor, "I am sorry to say, you must appear and receive your sentence in public. It is a formality which cannot be dispensed with."

"Be it so!" I replied.

"From this time we grant you the company of your friend," he added. Then calling the jailer, he consigned me into his hands, ordering that I should be placed in the same dungeon with Maroncelli.


It was a delightful moment, when, after a separation of three months, and having suffered so greatly, I met my friend. For some moments we forgot even the severity of our sentence, conscious only of each other's presence.

But I soon turned from my friend to perform a more serious duty— that of writing to my father. I was desirous that the first tidings of my sad lot should reach my family from myself; in order that the grief which I knew they would all feel might be at least mitigated by hearing my state of mind, and the sentiments of peace and religion by which I was supported. The judges had given me a promise to expedite the letter the moment it was written.

Maroncelli next spoke to me respecting his trial; I acquainted him with mine, and we mutually described our prison walks and adventures, complimenting each other on our peripatetic philosophy. We approached our window, and saluted three of our friends, whom we beheld standing at theirs. Two of these were Canova and Rezia, in the same apartment; the first of whom was condemned to six-years' hard imprisonment, and the last to three. The third was Doctor Cesare Armari, who had been my neighbour some preceding months, in the prisons of the Piombi. He was not, however, among the condemned, and soon obtained his liberty.

The power of communicating with one or other of our fellow- prisoners, at all hours, was a great relief to our feelings. But when buried in silence and darkness, I was unable to compose myself to rest; I felt my head burn, and my heart bleed, as my thoughts reverted to home. Would my aged parents be enabled to bear up against so heavy a misfortune? would they find a sufficient resource in their other children? They were equally attached to all, and I valued myself least of all in that family of love; but will a father and a mother ever find in the children that remain to them a compensation for the one of whom they are deprived.

Had I dwelt only upon my relatives and a few other dear friends, much as I regretted them, my thoughts would have been less bitter than they were. But I thought of the insulting smile of that judge, of the trial, the cause of the respective sentences, political passions and enmities, and the fate of so many of my friends . . . It was then I could no longer think with patience or indulgence of any of my persecutors. God had subjected me to a severe trial, and it was my duty to have borne it with courage. Alas! I was neither able nor willing. The pride and luxury of hatred pleased me better than the noble spirit of forgiveness; and I passed a night of horror after receiving sentence.

In the morning I could not pray. The universe appeared to me, then, to be the work of some power, the enemy of good. I had previously, indeed, been guilty of calumniating my Creator; but little did I imagine I should revert to such ingratitude, and in so brief a time. Julian, in his most impious moods, could not express himself more impiously than myself. To gloat over thoughts of hatred, or fierce revenge, when smarting under the scourge of heaviest calamity, instead of flying to religion as a refuge, renders a man criminal, even though his cause be just. If we hate, it is a proof of rank pride; and where is the wretched mortal that dare stand up and declare in the face of Heaven, his title to hatred and revenge against his fellows? to assert that none have a right to sit in judgment upon him and his actions;—that none can injure him without a bad intention, or a violation of all justice? In short, he dares to arraign the decrees of Heaven itself, if it please Providence to make him suffer in a manner which he does not himself approve.

Still I was unhappy because I could not pray; for when pride reigns supreme, it acknowledges no other god than the self-idol it has created. How I could have wished to recommend to the Supreme Protector, the care of my bereaved parents, though at that unhappy moment I felt as if I no more believed in Him.


At nine in the morning Maroncelli and I were conducted into the gondola which conveyed us into the city. We alighted at the palace of the Doge, and proceeded to the prisons. We were placed in the apartment which had been occupied by Signor Caporali a few days before, but with whose fate we were not acquainted. Nine or ten sbirri were placed over us as a guard, and walking about, we awaited the moment of being brought into the square. There was considerable delay. The Inquisitor did not make his appearance till noon, and then informed us that it was time to go. The physician, also, presented himself, and advised us to take a small glass of mint- water, which we accepted on account of the extreme compassion which the good old man expressed for us. It was Dr. Dosmo. The head bailiff then advanced and fixed the hand-cuffs upon us. We followed him, accompanied by the other bailiffs.

We next descended the magnificent staircase of the Giganti, and we called to mind the old Doge Faliero, who was beheaded there. We entered through the great gate which opens upon the small square from the court-yard of the palace, and we then turned to the left, in the direction of the lake. In the centre of the small square was raised the scaffold which we were to ascend. From the staircase of the Giganti, extending to the scaffold, were two lines of Austrian soldiers, through which we passed.

After ascending the platform, we looked around us, and saw an immense assembly of people, apparently struck with terror. In other directions were seen bands of armed men, to awe the multitude; and we were told that cannon were loaded in readiness to be discharged at a moment's notice. I was now exactly in the spot where, in September, 1820, just a month previous to my arrest, a mendicant had observed to me, "This is a place of misfortune."

I called to mind the circumstance, and reflected that very possibly in that immense throng of spectators the same person might be present, and perhaps even recognise me.

The German Captain now called out to us to turn towards the palace, and look up; we did so, and beheld, upon the lodge, a messenger of the Council, with a letter in his hand; it was the sentence; he began to read it in a loud voice.

It was ushered in by solemn silence, which was continued until he came to the words, CONDEMNED TO DEATH. There was then heard one general murmur of compassion. This was followed by a similar silence, in order to hear the rest of the document. A fresh murmur arose on the announcement of the following:- condemned to hard imprisonment, Maroncelli for TWENTY YEARS, and Pellico for FIFTEEN.

The Captain made a sign for us to descend. We cast one glance around us, and came down. We re-entered the court-yard, mounted the great staircase, and were conducted into the room from which we had been dragged. The manacles were removed, and we were soon reconducted to San Michele.


The prisoners who had been condemned before us had already set out for Lubiana and Spielberg, accompanied by a commissary of police. He was now expected back, in order to conduct us to our destination; but the interval of a month elapsed.

My time was chiefly spent in talking, and listening to the conversation of others, in order to distract my attention. Maroncelli read me some of his literary productions, and in turn, I read him mine. One evening I read from the window my play of Ester d'Engaddi, to Canova, Rezia, and Armari; and the following evening, the Iginia d'Asti. During the night, however, I grew irritable and wretched, and was unable to sleep. I both desired and feared to learn in what manner the tidings of my calamity had been received by my family.

At length I got a letter from my father, and was grieved to find, from the date, that my last to him had not been sent, as I had requested of the Inquisitor, immediately! Thus my unhappy father, while flattering himself that I should be set at liberty, happening to take up the Milan Gazette, read the horrid sentence which I had just received upon the scaffold. He himself acquainted me with this fact, and left me to infer what his feelings must have been on meeting thus suddenly with the sad news. I cannot express the contempt and anger I felt on learning that my letter had been kept back; and how deeply I felt for all my poor unhappy family. There was doubtless no malice in this delay, but I looked upon it as a refinement of the most atrocious barbarity; an eager, infernal desire to see the iron enter, as it were, the very soul of my beloved and innocent relatives. I felt, indeed, as if I could have delighted to shed a sea of blood, could I only punish this flagrant and premeditated inhumanity.

Now that I judge calmly, I find it very improbable. The delay, doubtless, was simply owing to inadvertency on the part of subordinate agents. Enraged as I was, I heard with still more excited feelings that my companions were about to celebrate Easter week ere their departure. As for me, I considered it wholly impossible, inasmuch as I felt not the least disposition towards forgiveness. Should I be guilty of such a scandal!


At length the German commissioner arrived, and came to acquaint us that within two days we were to set out. "I have the pleasure," he added, "to give you some consoling tidings. On my return from Spielberg, I saw his majesty the Emperor at Vienna, who acquainted me that the penal days appointed you will not extend to twenty-four hours, but only to twelve. By this expression it is intended to signify that the pain will be divided, or half the punishment remitted." This division was never notified to us in an official form, but there is no reason to suppose that the commissioner would state an untruth; the less so as he made no secret of the information, which was known to the whole commission. Nevertheless, I could not congratulate myself upon it. To my feelings, seven years and a half had little more horrible in them (to be spent in chains and solitude) than fifteen; for I conceived it to be impossible to survive so long a period. My health had recently again become wretched! I suffered from severe pains of the chest, attended with cough, and thought my lungs were affected. I ate little, and that little I could not digest. Our departure took place on the night of the 25th of March. We were permitted to take leave of our friend, Cesare Armari. A sbirro chained us in a transverse manner, namely, the right hand and the left foot, so as to render it impossible for us to escape.

We went into a gondola, and the guards rowed us towards Fusina. On our arrival we found two boats in readiness for us. Rezia and Canova were placed in one, and Maroncelli and myself in the other. The commissary was also with two of the prisoners, and an under- commissary with the others. Six or seven guards of police completed our convoy; they were armed with swords and muskets; some of them at hand in the boats, others in the box of the Vetturino.

To be compelled by misfortune to leave one's country is always sufficiently painful; but to be torn from it in chains, doomed to exile in a horrible climate, to linger days, and hours, and years, in solitary dungeons, is a fate so appalling as to defy language to convey the remotest idea of it.

Ere we had traversed the Alps, I felt that my country was becoming doubly dear to me; the sympathy we awakened on every side, from all ranks, formed an irresistible appeal to my affection and gratitude. In every city, in every village, in every group of meanest houses, the news of our condemnation had been known for some weeks, and we were expected. In several places the commissioners and the guards had difficulty in dispersing the crowd which surrounded us. It was astonishing to witness the benevolent and humane feeling generally manifested in our behalf.

In Udine we met with a singular and touching incident. On arriving at the inn, the commissary caused the door of the court-yard to be closed, in order to keep back the people. A room was assigned us, and he ordered the waiters to bring supper, and make such accommodation as we required for repose. In a few moments three men entered with mattresses upon their shoulders. What was our surprise to see that only one of them was a servant of the inn; the other two were our acquaintance. We pretended to assist them in placing the beds, and had time to recognise and give each other the hand of fellowship and sympathy. It was too much; the tears started to our eyes. Ah! how trying was it to us all, not to be allowed the sad satisfaction even of shedding them in a last embrace.

The commissaries were not aware of the circumstance; but I had reason to think that one of the guards saw into the affair, just as the good Dario grasped me by the hand. He was a Venetian; he fixed his eyes upon us both; he turned pale; appeared in the act of making an alarm, then turned away his eyes, as if pretending not to see us. If he felt not assured that they were indeed our friends, he must have believed them to be some waiters with whom we were acquainted.


The next morning we left Udine by dawn of day. The affectionate Dario was already in the street, wrapped in his mantle; he beckoned to us and followed us a long way. A coach also continued at some little distance from us for several miles. Some one waved a handkerchief from it, till it turned back; who could it have been? We had our own conjectures on the subject. May Heaven protect those generous spirits that thus cease not to love, and express their love for the unfortunate. I had the more reason to prize them from the fact of having met with cowards, who, not content with denying me, thought to benefit themselves by calumniating their once fortunate FRIEND. These cases, however, were rare, while those of the former, to the honour of the human character, were numerous.

I had supposed that the warm sympathy expressed for us in Italy would cease when we entered on a foreign soil. But I was deceived; the good man is ever the fellow-countryman of the unhappy! When traversing Illyrian and German ground, it was the same as in our own country. There was the same general lamentation at our fate; "Arme herren!" poor gentlemen, was on the lips of all.

Sometimes, on entering another district, our escort was compelled to stop in order to decide in what part to take up our quarters. The people would then gather round us, and we heard exclamations, and other expressions of commiseration, which evidently came from the heart. These proofs of popular feeling were still more gratifying to me, than such as I had met with from my own countrymen. The consolation which was thus afforded me, helped to soothe the bitter indignation I then felt against those whom I esteemed my enemies. Yet, possibly, I reflected, if we were brought more nearly acquainted, if I could see into their real motives, and I could explain my own feelings, I might be constrained to admit that they are not impelled by the malignant spirit I suppose, while they would find there was as little of bad in me. Nay, they might perhaps be induced not only to pity, but to admire and love us!

It is true, indeed, that men too often hate each other, merely because they are strangers to each other's real views and feelings; and the simple interchange of a few words would make them acknowledge their error, and give the hand of brotherhood to each other.

We remained a day at Lubiana; and there Canova and Rezia were separated from us, being forthwith conducted into the castle. It is easy to guess our feelings upon this painful occasion.

On the evening of our arrival at Lubiana and the day following, a gentleman came and joined us, who, if I remember rightly, announced himself as the municipal secretary. His manners were gentle and humane, and he spoke of religion in a tone at once elevated and impressive. I conjectured he must be a priest, the priests in Germany being accustomed to dress exactly in the same style as laymen. His countenance was calculated to excite esteem. I regretted that I was not enabled further to cultivate his acquaintance, and I blame myself for my inadvertency in not having taken down his name.

It irks me, too, that I cannot at this time recall the name of another gentle being, a young girl of Styria, who followed us through the crowd, and when our coach stopped for a few minutes, moved towards us with both hands, and afterwards, turned weeping away, supported by a young man, whose light hair proclaimed him of German extraction. But most probably he had been in Italy, where he had fallen in love with our fair countrywoman, and felt touched for our country. Yes! what pleasure it would have given me to record the names of those venerable fathers and mothers of families, who, in different districts, accosted us on our road, inquiring if we had parents and friends; and on hearing that we had, would grow pale, and exclaim, "Alas! may it please God to restore you soon to those wretched, bereaved ones whom you have left behind."


On the 10th of April we arrived at our place of destination. The city of Brunn is the capital of Moravia, where the governor of the two provinces of Moravia and Silesia is accustomed to reside. Situated in a pleasant valley, it presents a rich and noble aspect. At one time it was a great manufactory of cloth, but its prosperous days were now passed, and its population did not exceed thirty thousand.

Contiguous to the walls on the western side rises a mount, and on this is placed the dreaded fortress of Spielberg, once the royal seat of the lords of Moravia, and now the most terrific prison under the Austrian monarchy. It was a well-guarded citadel, but was bombarded and taken by the French after the celebrated battle of Austerlitz, a village at a little distance from it. It was not generally repaired, with the exception of a portion of the outworks, which had been wholly demolished. Within it are imprisoned some three hundred wretches, for the most part robbers and assassins, some condemned to the carcere dare, others to that called durissimo, the severest of all. This HARD IMPRISONMENT comprehends compulsory, daily labour, to wear chains on the legs, to sleep upon bare boards, and to eat the worst imaginable food. The durissimo, or hardest, signifies being chained in a more horrible manner, one part of the iron being fixed in the wall, united to a hoop round the body of the prisoner, so as to prevent his moving further than the board which serves for his couch. We, as state prisoners, were condemned to the carcere duro. The food, however, is the same, though in the words of the law it is prescribed to be bread and water.

While mounting the acclivity we turned our eyes as if to take a last look of the world we were leaving, doubting if ever the portals of that living grave would be again unclosed to us. I was calm, but rage and indignation consumed my heart. It was in vain I had recourse to philosophy; it had no arguments to quiet or to support me.

I was in poor health on leaving Venice, and the journey had fatigued me exceedingly. I had a fever, and felt severe pains, both in my head and my limbs. Illness increased my irritation, and very probably the last had an equally ill effect upon my frame.

We were consigned over to the superintendent of Spielberg, and our names were registered in the same list as that of the robbers. The imperial commissary shook our hands upon taking leave, and was evidently affected. "Farewell," he said, "and let me recommend to you calmness and submission: for I assure you the least infraction of discipline will be punished by the governor in the severest manner."

The consignment being made out, my friend and myself were conducted into a subterranean gallery, where two dismal-looking dungeons were unlocked, at a distance from each other. In one of these I was entombed alive, and poor Maroncelli in the other.


How bitter is it, after having bid adieu to so many beloved objects, and there remains only a single one between yourself and utter solitude, the solitude of chains and a living death, to be separated even from that one! Maroncelli, on leaving me, ill and dejected, shed tears over me as one whom, it was most probable, he would never more behold. In him, too, I lamented a noble-minded man, cut off in the splendour of his intellect, and the vigour of his days, snatched from society, all its duties and its pleasures, and even from "the common air, the earth, the sky." Yet he survived the unheard of afflictions heaped upon him, but in what a state did he leave his living tomb!

When I found myself alone in that horrid cavern, heard the closing of the iron doors, the rattling of chains, and by the gloomy light of a high window, saw the wooden bench destined for my couch, with an enormous chain fixed in the wall, I sat down, in sullen rage, on my hard resting-place, and taking up the chain, measured its length, in the belief that it was destined for me.

In half an hour I caught the sound of locks and keys; the door opened, and the head-jailer handed me a jug of water.

"Here is something to drink," he said in a rough tone, "and you will have your loaf to-morrow."

"Thanks, my good man."

"I am not good," was the reply.

"The worse for you," I answered, rather sharply. "And this great chain," I added, "is it for me?"

"It is, Sir; if you don't happen to be quiet; if you get into a rage, or say impertinent things. But if you are reasonable, we shall only chain you by the feet. The blacksmith is getting all ready."

He then walked sullenly up and down, shaking that horrid ring of enormous keys, while with angry eye I measured his gigantic, lean, and aged figure. His features, though not decidedly vulgar, bore the most repulsive expression of brutal severity which I ever beheld!

How unjust are mankind when they presume to judge by appearances, and in deference to their vain, arrogant prejudices. The man whom I upbraided in my heart for shaking as it were in triumph those horrible keys, to make me more keenly sensible of his power, whom I set down as an insignificant tyrant, inured to practices of cruelty, was then revolving thoughts of compassion, and assuredly had spoken in that harsh tone only to conceal his real feelings. Perhaps he was afraid to trust himself, or that I should prove unworthy gentler treatment; doubtful whether I might not be yet more criminal than unhappy, though willing to afford me relief.

Annoyed by his presence, and the sort of lordly air he assumed, I determined to try to humble him, and called out as if speaking to a servant, "Give me something to drink!" He looked at me, as much as to say, "Arrogant man! this is no place for you to show the airs of a master." Still he was silent, bent his long back, took up the jug, and gave it to me. I perceived, as I took it from him, that he trembled, and believing it to proceed from age, I felt a mingled emotion of reverence and compassion. "How old are you?" I inquired in a kinder tone.

"Seventy-four, Sir; I have lived to see great calamities, both as regards others and myself."

The tremulous emotion I had observed increased as he said this, and again took the jug from my hand. I now thought it might be owing to some nobler feeling than the effect of age, and the aversion I had conceived instantaneously left me.

"And what is your name?" I inquired.

"It pleased fortune, Sir, to make a fool of me, by giving me the name of a great man. My name is Schiller." He then told me in a few words, some particulars as to his native place, his family, the campaigns in which he had served, and the wounds he had received.

He was a Switzer, the son of peasants, had been in the wars against the Turks, under Marshal Laudon, in the reign of Maria Theresa and Joseph II. He had subsequently served in the Austrian campaigns against France, up to the period of Napoleon's exile.


When we begin to form a better opinion of one against whom we had conceived a strong prejudice, we seem to discover in every feature, in his voice, and manner, fresh marks of a good disposition, to which we were before strangers. Is this real, or is it not rather founded upon illusion? Shortly before, we interpreted the very same expressions in another way. Our judgment of moral qualities has undergone a change, and soon, the conclusions drawn from our knowledge of physiognomy are equally different. How many portraits of celebrated men inspire us only with respect or admiration because we know their characters; portraits which we should have pronounced worthless and unattractive had they represented the ordinary race of mortals. And thus it is, if we reason vice versa. I once laughed, I remember, at a lady, who on beholding a likeness of Catiline mistook it for that of Collatinus, and remarked upon the sublime expression of grief in the features of Collatinus for the loss of his Lucretia. These sort of illusions are not uncommon. I would not maintain that the features of good men do not bear the impression of their character, like irreclaimable villains that of their depravity; but that there are many which have at least a doubtful cast. In short, I won a little upon old Schiller; I looked at him more attentively, and he no longer appeared forbidding. To say the truth, there was something in his language which, spite of its rough tone, showed the genuine traits of a noble mind. And spite of our first looks of mutual distrust and defiance, we seemed to feel a certain respect for each other; he spoke boldly what he thought, and so did I.

"Captain as I am," he observed, "I have fallen,—to take my rest, into this wretched post of jailer; and God knows it is far more disagreeable for me to maintain it, than it was to risk my life in battle."

I was now sorry I had asked him so haughtily to give me drink. "My dear Schiller," I said, grasping his hand, "it is in vain you deny it, I know you are a good fellow; and as I have fallen into this calamity, I thank heaven which has given me you for a guardian!"

He listened to me, shook his head, and then rubbing his forehead, like a man in some perplexity or trouble.

"No, Sir, I am bad—rank bad. They made me take an oath, which I must, and will keep. I am bound to treat all the prisoners, without distinction, with equal severity; no indulgence, no permission to relent, to soften the sternest orders, in particular as regards prisoners of state."

"You are a noble fellow; I respect you for making your duty a point of conscience. You may err, humanly speaking, but your motives are pure in the eyes of God."

"Poor gentleman, have patience, and pity me. I shall be hard as steel in my duty, but my heart bleeds to be unable to relieve the unfortunate. This is all I really wished to say." We were both affected.

He then entreated that I would preserve my calmness, and not give way to passion, as is too frequent with solitary prisoners, and calls for restraint, and even for severer punishment.

He afterwards resumed his gruff, affected tone as if to conceal the compassion he felt for me, observing that it was high time for him to go.

He came back, however, and inquired how long a time I had been afflicted with that horrible cough, reflecting sharply upon the physician for not coming to see me that very evening. "You are ill of a horse fever," he added, "I know it well; you will stand in need of a straw bed, but we cannot give you one till the doctor has ordered it."

He retired, locked the door, and I threw myself upon the hard boards, with considerable fever and pain in my chest, but less irritable, less at enmity with mankind, and less alienated from God.


In the evening came the superintendent, attended by Schiller, another captain, and two soldiers, to make the usual search. Three of these inquisitions were ordered each day, at morning, noon, and midnight. Every corner of the prison was examined, and each article of the most trivial kind. The inferior officers then left, and the superintendent remained a little time to converse with me.

The first time I saw this troop of jailers approach, a strange thought came into my head. Being unacquainted with their habits of search, and half delirious with fever, it struck me that they were come to take my life, and seizing my great chain I resolved to sell it dearly by knocking the first upon the head that offered to molest me.

"What mean you?" exclaimed the superintendent; "we are not going to hurt you. It is merely a formal visit to ascertain that all is in proper order in the prisons."

I hesitated, but when I saw Schiller advance and stretch forth his hand with a kind, paternal look, I dropped the chain and took his proffered hand. "Lord! how it burns," he said, turning towards the superintendent; "he ought at least to have a straw bed;" and he said this in so truly compassionate a tone as quite to win my heart. The superintendent then felt my pulse, and spoke some consolatory words: he was a man of gentlemanly manners, but dared not for his life express any opinion upon the subject.

"It is all a reign of terror here," said he, "even as regards myself. Should I not execute my orders to the rigour of the letter, you would no longer see me here." Schiller made a long face, and I could have wagered he said within himself, "But if I were at the head, like you, I would not carry my apprehensions so very far; for to give an opinion on a matter of such evident necessity, and so innocuous to government, would never be esteemed a mighty fault."

When left alone, I felt my heart, so long incapable of any deep sense of religion, stirred within me, and knelt down to pray. I besought a blessing upon the head of old Schiller, and appealing to God, asked that he would so move the hearts of those around me, as to permit me to become attached to them, and no longer suffer me to hate my fellow-beings, humbly accepting all that was to be inflicted upon me from His hand.

About midnight I heard people passing along the gallery. Keys were sounding, and soon the door opened; it was the captain and his guards on search.

"Where is my old Schiller?" inquired I. He had stopped outside in the gallery.

"I am here—I am here!" was the answer. He came towards the table, and, feeling my pulse, hung over me as a father would over his child with anxious and inquiring look. "Now I remember," said he, "to- morrow is Thursday."

"And what of that?" I inquired.

"Why! it is just one of the days when the doctor does not attend, he comes only on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Plague on him."

"Give yourself no uneasiness about that!"

"No uneasiness, no uneasiness!" he muttered, "but I do; you are ill, I see; nothing is talked of in the whole town but the arrival of yourself and friends; the doctor must have heard of it; and why the devil could he not make the extraordinary exertion of coming once out of his time?"

"Who knows!" said I, "he may perhaps be here tomorrow,—Thursday though it will be?"

The old man said no more, he gave me a squeeze of the hand, enough to break every bone in my fingers, as a mark of his approbation of my courage and resignation. I was a little angry with him, however, much as a young lover, if the girl of his heart happen in dancing to press her foot upon his; he laughs and esteems himself highly favoured, instead of crying out with the pain.


I awoke on Thursday morning, after a horrible night, weak, aching in all my bones, from the hard boards, and in a profuse perspiration. The visit hour came, but the superintendent was absent; and he only followed at a more convenient time. I said to Schiller, "Just see how terribly I perspire; but it is now growing cold upon me; what a treat it would be to change my shirt."

"You cannot do it," he said, in a brutal tone. At the same time he winked, and moved his hand. The captain and guards withdrew, and Schiller made me another sign as he closed the door. He soon opened it again, and brought one of his own shirts, long enough to cover me from head to feet, even if doubled.

"It is perhaps a little too long, but I have no others here."

"I thank you, friend, but as I brought with me a whole trunk full of linen, I do hope I may be permitted the use of it. Have the kindness to ask the superintendent to let me have one of my shirts."

"You will not be permitted, Sir, to use any of your linen here. Each week you will have a shirt given you from the house like the other prisoners."

"You see, good man, in what a condition I am. I shall never go out of here alive. I shall never be able to reward you."

"For shame, Sir! for shame!" said the old man. "Talk of reward to one who can do you no good! to one who dare hardly give a dry shirt to a sick fellow creature in a sweat!" He then helped me on with his long shirt, grumbling all the while, and slammed the door to with violence on going out, as if he had been in a great rage.

About two hours after, he brought me a piece of black bread. "This," he said, "is your two days' fare!" he then began to walk about in a sulky mood.

"What is the matter?" I inquired; "are you vexed at me? You know I took the shirt."

"I am enraged at that doctor; though it be Thursday he might show his ugly face here."

"Patience!" said I; but though I said it, I knew not for the life of me how to get the least rest, without a pillow, upon those hard boards. Every bone in my body suffered. At eleven I was treated to the prison dinner—two little iron pots, one of soup, the other of herbs, mixed in such a way as to turn your stomach with the smell. I tried to swallow a few spoonfuls, but did not succeed. Schiller encouraged me: "Never despair," said he; "try again; you will get used to it in time. If you don't, you will be like many others before you, unable to eat anything but bread, and die of mere inanition."

Friday morning came, and with it came Dr. Bayer at last. He found me very feverish, ordered me a straw bed, and insisted I should be removed from the caverns into one of the abodes above. It could not be done; there was no room. An appeal was made to the Governor of Moravia and Silesia, residing at Brunn, who commanded, on the urgency of the case, that the medical advice should be followed.

There was a little light in the room to which I was removed. I crawled towards the bars of the narrow window, and had the delight of seeing the valley that lay below,—part of the city of Brunn,—a suburb with gardens,—the churchyard,—the little lake of Certosa,— and the woody hills which lay between us and the famous plains of Austerlitz. I was enchanted, and oh, what double pleasure, thought I, would be mine, were I enabled to share it with my poor friend Maroncelli!


Meanwhile, our prison dresses were making for us, and five days afterwards mine was brought to me. It consisted of a pair of pantaloons made of rough cloth, of which the right side was grey, the left of a dark colour. The waistcoat was likewise of two colours equally divided, as well as the jacket, but with the same colours placed on the contrary sides. The stockings were of the coarsest wool; the shirt of linen tow full of sharp points—a true hair-cloth garment; and round the neck was a piece of the same kind. Our legs were enveloped in leather buskins, untanned, and we wore a coarse white hat.

This costume was not complete without the addition of chains to the feet, that is, extending from one leg to the other, the joints being fastened with nails, which were riveted upon an anvil. The blacksmith employed upon my legs, in this operation, observed to one of the guards, thinking I knew nothing of German, "So ill as he is, one would think they might spare him this sort of fun; ere two months be over, the angel of death will loosen these rivets of mine."

"Mochte es seyn! may it be so!" was my reply, as I touched him upon the shoulder. The poor fellow started, and seemed quite confused; he then said; "I hope I may be a false prophet; and I wish you may be set free by another kind of angel."

"Yet, rather than live thus, think you not, it would be welcome even from the angel of death?" He nodded his head, and went away, with a look of deep compassion for me.

I would truly have been willing to die, but I felt no disposition towards suicide. I felt confident that the disease of my lungs would be enough, ere long, to give me freedom. Such was not the will of God. The fatigue of my journey had made me much worse, but rest seemed again to restore my powers.

A few minutes after the blacksmith left me, I heard the hammer sounding upon the anvil in one of the caverns below. Schiller was then in my room. "Do you hear those blows?" I said; "they are certainly fixing the irons on poor Maroncelli." The idea for the moment was so overwhelming, that if the old man had not caught me, I should have fallen. For more than half an hour, I continued in a kind of swoon, and yet I was sensible. I could not speak, my pulse scarcely beat at all; a cold sweat bathed me from head to foot. Still I could hear all that Schiller said, and had a keen perception, both of what had passed and was passing.

By command of the superintendent and the activity of the guards, the whole of the adjacent prisons had been kept in a state of profound silence. Three or four times I had caught snatches of some Italian song, but they were quickly stifled by the calls of the sentinels on duty. Several of these were stationed upon the ground-floor, under our windows, and one in the gallery close by, who was continually engaged in listening at the doors and looking through the bars to forbid every kind of noise.

Once, towards evening (I feel the same sort of emotion whenever I recur to it), it happened that the sentinels were less on the alert; and I heard in a low but clear voice some one singing in a prison adjoining my own. What joy, what agitation I felt at the sound. I rose from my bed of straw, I bent my ear; and when it ceased—I burst into tears. "Who art thou, unhappy one?" I cried, "who art thou? tell me thy name! I am Silvio Pellico."

"Oh, Silvio!" cried my neighbour, "I know you not by person, but I have long loved you. Get up to your window, and let us speak to each other, in spite of the jailers."

I crawled up as well as I could; he told me his name, and we exchanged few words of kindness. It was the Count Antonio Oroboni, a native of Fratta, near Rovigo, and only twenty-nine years of age. Alas! we were soon interrupted by the ferocious cries of the sentinels. He in the gallery knocked as loud as he could with the butt-end of his musket, both at the Count's door and at mine. We would not, and we could not obey; but the noise, the oaths, and threats of the guards were such as to drown our voices, and after arranging that we would resume our communications, upon a change of guards, we ceased to converse.


We were in hopes (and so in fact it happened) that by speaking in a lower tone, and perhaps occasionally having guards whose humanity might prompt them to pay no attention to us, we might renew our conversation. By dint of practice we learnt to hear each other in so low a key that the sounds were almost sure to escape the notice of the sentinels. If, as it rarely happened, we forgot ourselves, and talked aloud, there came down upon us a torrent of cries, and knocks at our doors, accompanied with threats and curses of every kind, to say nothing of poor Schiller's vexation, and that of the superintendent.

By degrees, however, we brought our system to perfection; spoke only at the precise minutes, quarters, and half hours when it was safe, or when such and such guards were upon duty. At length, with moderate caution, we were enabled every day to converse almost as much as we pleased, without drawing on us the attention or anger of any of the superior officers.

It was thus we contracted an intimate friendship. The Count told me his adventures, and in turn I related mine. We sympathised in everything we heard, and in all each other's joys or griefs. It was of infinite advantage to us, as well as pleasure; for often, after passing a sleepless night, one or the other would hasten to the window and salute his friend. How these mutual welcomes and conversations helped to encourage us, and to soothe the horrors of our continued solitude! We felt that we were useful to each other; and the sense of this roused a gentle emulation in all our thoughts, and gave a satisfaction which man receives, even in misery, when he knows he can serve a fellow-creature. Each conversation gave rise to new ones; it was necessary to continue them, and to explain as we went on. It was an unceasing stimulus to our ideas to our reason, our memory, our imagination, and our hearts.

At first, indeed, calling to mind Julian, I was doubtful as to the fidelity of this new friend. I reflected that hitherto we had not been at variance; but some day I feared something unpleasant might occur, and that I should then be sent back to my solitude. But this suspicion was soon removed. Our opinions harmonised upon all essential points. To a noble mind, full of ardour and generous sentiment, undaunted by misfortune, he added the most clear and perfect faith in Christianity, while in me this had become vacillating and at times apparently extinct.

He met my doubts with most just and admirable reflections; and with equal affection, I felt that he had reason on his side: I admitted it, yet still my doubts returned. It is thus, I believe, with all who have not the Gospel at heart, and who hate, or indulge resentments of any kind. The mind catches glimpses, as it were, of the truth, but as it is unpleasing, it is disbelieved the moment after, and the attention directed elsewhere.

Oroboni was indefatigable in turning MY attention to the motives which man has to show kindness to his enemies. I never spoke of any one I abhorred but he began in a most dexterous manner to defend him, and not less by his words than by his example. Many men had injured him; it grieved him, yet he forgave all, and had the magnanimity to relate some laudable trait or other belonging to each, and seemed to do it with pleasure.

The irritation which had obtained such a mastery over me, and rendered me so irreligious after my condemnation, continued several weeks, and then wholly ceased. The noble virtue of Oroboni delighted me. Struggling as well as I could to reach him, I at least trod in the same track, and I was then enabled to pray with sincerity; to forgive, to hate no one, and dissipate every remaining doubt and gloom.

Ubi charitas et amor, Deus ibi est. {25}


To say truth, if our punishment was excessively severe, and calculated to irritate the mind, we had still the rare fortune of meeting only with individuals of real worth. They could not, indeed, alleviate our situation, except by kindness and respect, but so much was freely granted. If there were something rude and uncouth in old Schiller, it was amply compensated by his noble spirit. Even the wretched Kunda (the convict who brought us our dinner, and water three times a day) was anxious to show his compassion for us. He swept our rooms regularly twice in the week. One morning, while thus engaged, as Schiller turned a few steps from the door, poor Kunda offered me a piece of white bread. I refused it, but squeezed him cordially by the hand. He was moved, and told me, in bad German, that he was a Pole. "Good sir," he added, "they give us so little to eat here, that I am sure you must be hungry." I assured him I was not, but he was very hard of belief.

The physician, perceiving that we were none of us enabled to swallow the kind of food prepared for us on our first arrival, put us all upon what is considered the hospital diet. This consisted of three very small plates of soup in the day, the least slice of roast lamb, hardly a mouthful, and about three ounces of white bread.

As my health continued to improve, my appetite grew better, and that "fourth portion," as they termed it, was really too little, and I began to feel the justice of poor Kunda's remarks. I tried a return to the sound diet, but do what I would to conquer my aversion, it was all labour lost. I was compelled to live upon the fourth part of ordinary meals: and for a whole year I knew by experience the tortures of hunger. It was still more severely felt by many of my fellow-prisoners, who, being far stouter, had been accustomed to a full and generous diet. I learnt that many of them were glad to accept pieces of bread from Schiller and some of the guards, and even from the poor hungry Kunda.

"It is reported in the city," said the barber, a young practitioner of our surgery, one day to me, "it is reported that they do not give you gentlemen here enough to eat."

"And it is very true," replied I, with perfect sincerity.

The next Sunday (he came always on that day) he brought me an immense white loaf, and Schiller pretended not to see him give it me. Had I listened to my stomach I should have accepted it, but I would not, lest he should repeat the gift and bring himself into some trouble. For the same reason I refused Schiller's offers. He would often bring me boiled meat, entreating me to partake of it, and protesting it cost him nothing; besides, he knew not what to do with it, and must give it away to somebody. I could have devoured it, but would he not then be tempted to offer me something or other every day, and what would it end in? Twice only I partook of some cherries and some pears; they were quite irresistible. I was punished as I expected, for from that time forth the old man never ceased bringing me fruit of some kind or other.


It was arranged, on our arrival, that each of us should be permitted to walk an hour twice in the week. In the sequel, this relief was one day granted us and another refused; and the hour was always later during festivals.

We went, each separately, between two guards, with loaded muskets on their shoulders. In passing from my prison, at the head of the gallery, I went by the whole of the Italian prisoners, with the exception of Maroncelli—the only one condemned to linger in the caverns below. "A pleasant walk!" whispered they all, as they saw me pass; but I was not allowed to exchange a single word.

I was led down a staircase which opened into a spacious court, where we walked upon a terrace, with a south aspect, and a view of the city of Brunn and the surrounding country. In this courtyard we saw numbers of the common criminals, coming from, or going to, their labour, or passing along conversing in groups. Among them were several Italian robbers, who saluted me with great respect. "He is no rogue, like us; yet you see his punishment is more severe"; and it was true, they had a larger share of freedom than I.

Upon hearing expressions like these, I turned and saluted them with a good-natured look. One of them observed, "It does me good to see you, sir, when you notice me. Possibly you may see something in my look not so very wicked. An unhappy passion instigated me to commit a crime, but believe me, sir, I am no villain!"

Saying this he burst into tears. I gave him my hand, but he was unable to return the pressure. At that moment, my guard, according to their instructions, drove him away, declaring that they must permit no one to approach me. The observations subsequently addressed to me were pretended to be spoken among each other; and if my two attendants became aware of it, they quickly interposed silence.

Prisoners of various ranks, and visitors of the superintendent, the chaplain, the sergeant, or some of the captains, were likewise to be seen there. "That is an Italian, that is an Italian!" they often whispered each other. They stopped to look at me, and they would say in German, supposing I should not understand them, "That poor gentleman will not live to be old; he has death in his countenance."

In fact, after recovering some degree of strength, I again fell ill for want of nourishment, and fever again attacked me. I attempted to drag myself, as far as my chain would permit, along the walk, and throwing myself upon the turf, I rested there until the expiration of my hour. The guards would then sit down near me, and begin to converse with each other. One of them, a Bohemian, named Kral, had, though very poor, received some sort of an education, which he had himself improved by reflection. He was fond of reading, had studied Klopstock, Wieland, Goethe, Schiller, and many other distinguished German writers. He knew a good deal by memory, and repeated many passages with feeling and correctness. The other guard was a Pole, by name Kubitzky, wholly untaught, but kind and respectful. Their society was a great relief to me.


At one end of the terrace was situated the apartments of the superintendent, at the other was the residence of a captain, with his wife and son. When I saw any one appear from these buildings, I was in the habit of approaching near, and was invariably received with marks of courtesy and compassion.

The wife of the captain had been long ill, and appeared to be in a decline. She was sometimes carried into the open air, and it was astonishing to see the sympathy she expressed for our sufferings. She had the sweetest look I ever saw; and though evidently timid, would at times fix her eye upon me with an inquiring, confiding glance, when appealed to by name. One day I observed to her with a smile, "Do you know, signora, I find a resemblance between you and one who was very dear to me." She blushed, and replied with charming simplicity, "Do not then forget me when I shall be no more; pray for my unhappy soul, and for the little ones I leave behind me!" I never saw her after that day; she was unable to rise from her bed, and in a few months I heard of her death.

She left three sons, all beautiful as cherubs, and one still an infant at the breast. I had often seen the poor mother embrace them when I was by, and say, with tears in her eyes, "Who will be their mother when I am gone? Ah, whoever she may be, may it please the Father of all to inspire her with love, even for children not her own."

Often, when she was no more, did I embrace those fair children, shed a tear over them, and invoke their mother's blessing on them, in the same words. Thoughts of my own mother, and of the prayers she so often offered up for HER lost son, would then come over me, and I added, with broken words and sighs, "Oh, happier mother than mine, you left, indeed, these innocent ones, so young and fair, but my dear mother devoted long years of care and tenderness to me, and saw them all, with the object of them, snatched from her at a blow!"

These children were intrusted to the care of two elderly and excellent women; one of them the mother, the other the aunt of the superintendent. They wished to hear the whole of my history, and I gave it them as briefly as I could. "How greatly we regret," they observed, with warm sympathy, "to be unable to help you in any way. Be assured, however, we offer up constant prayers for you, and if ever the day come that brings you liberty, it will be celebrated by all our family, like one of the happiest festivals."

The first-mentioned of these ladies had a remarkably sweet and soothing voice, united to an eloquence rarely to be heard from the lips of woman. I listened to her religious exhortations with a feeling of filial gratitude, and they sunk deep into my heart. Though her observations were not new to me, they were always applicable, and most valuable to me, as will appear from what follows:

"Misfortune cannot degrade a man, unless he be intrinsically mean; it rather elevates him."—"If we could penetrate the judgments of God, we should find that frequently the objects most to be pitied were the conquerors, not the conquered; the joyous rather than the sorrowful; the wealthy rather than those who are despoiled of all."- -"The particular kindness shown by the Saviour of mankind to the unfortunate is a striking fact."—"That man ought to feel honoured in bearing the cross, when he considers that it was borne up the mount of our redemption by the Divinity himself in human form."

Such were among the excellent sentiments she inculcated; but it was my lot, as usual, to lose these delightful friends when I had become most attached to them. They removed from the castle, and the sweet children no longer made their appearance upon the terrace. I felt this double deprivation more than I can express.


The inconvenience I experienced from the chain upon my legs, which prevented me from sleeping, destroyed my health. Schiller wished me to petition, declaring that it was the duty of the physician to order it to be taken off. For some time I refused to listen to him, I then yielded, and informed the doctor that, in order to obtain a little sleep, I should be thankful to have the chain removed, if only for a few days. He answered that my fever was not yet so bad as to require it; and that it was necessary I should become accustomed to the chain. I felt indignant at this reply, and more so at myself for having asked the favour. "See what I have got by following your advice," said I to Schiller; and I said it in a very sharp tone, not a little offensive to the old man.

"You are vexed," he exclaimed, "because you met with a denial; and I am as much so with your arrogance! Could I help it?" He then began a long sermon. "The proud value themselves mightily in never exposing themselves to a refusal, in never accepting an offer, in being ashamed at a thousand little matters. Alle eselen, asses as they all are. Vain grandeur, want of true dignity, which consists in being ashamed only of bad actions!" He went off, and made the door ring with a tremendous noise.

I was dismayed; yet his rough sincerity scarcely displeased me. Had he not spoken the truth? to how many weaknesses had I not given the name of dignity! the result of nothing but pride.

At the dinner hour Schiller left my fare to the convict Kunda, who brought me some water, while Schiller stood outside. I called him. "I have no time," he replied, very drily.

I rose, and going to him, said, "If you wish my dinner to agree with me, pray don't look so horribly sour; it is worse than vinegar."

"And how ought I to look?" he asked, rather more appeased.

"Cheerful, and like a friend," was my reply.

"Let us be merry, then! Viva l'allegria!" cried the old man. "And if it will make your dinner agree with you, I will dance you a hornpipe into the bargain." And, assuming a broad grin, he set to work with his long, lean, spindle shanks, which he worked about like two huge stilts, till I thought I should have died with laughing. I laughed and almost cried at the same time.


One evening Count Oroboni and I were standing at our windows complaining of the low diet to which we were subjected. Animated by the subject, we talked a little too loud, and the sentinels began to upbraid us. The superintendent, indeed, called in a loud voice to Schiller, as he happened to be passing, inquiring in a threatening voice why he did not keep a better watch, and teach us to be silent? Schiller came in a great rage to complain of me, and ordered me never more to think of speaking from the window. He wished me to promise that I would not.

"No!" replied I; "I shall do no such thing."

"Oh, der Teufel; der Teufel!" {26} exclaimed the old man; "do you say that to me? Have I not had a horrible strapping on your account?"

"I am sorry, dear Schiller, if you have suffered on my account. But I cannot promise what I do not mean to perform."

"And why not perform it?"

"Because I cannot; because this continual solitude is such a torment to me. No! I will speak as long as I have breath, and invite my neighbour to talk to me. If he refuse I will talk to my window- bars, I will talk to the hills before me, I will talk to the birds as they fly about. I will talk!"

"Der Teufel! you will! You had better promise!"

"No, no, no! never!" I exclaimed.

He threw down his huge bunch of keys, and ran about, crying, "Der Teufel! der Teufel!" Then, all at once, he threw his long bony arms about my neck: "By -, and you shall talk! Am I to cease to be a man because of this vile mob of keys? You are a gentleman, and I like your spirit! I know you will not promise. I would do the same in your place."

I picked up his keys and presented them to him. "These keys," said I, "are not so bad after all; they cannot turn an honest soldier, like you, into a villainous sgherro."

"Why, if I thought they could, I would hand them back to my superiors, and say, 'If you will give me no bread but the wages of a hangman, I will go and beg alms from door to door.'"

He took out his handkerchief, dried his eyes, and then, raising them, seemed to pray inwardly for some time. I, too, offered up my secret prayers for this good old man. He saw it, and took my hand with a look of grateful respect.

Upon leaving me he said, in a low voice, "When you speak with Count Oroboni, speak as I do now. You will do me a double kindness: I shall hear no more cruel threats of my lord superintendent, and by not allowing any remarks of yours to be repeated in his ear, you will avoid giving fresh irritation to ONE who knows how to punish."

I assured him that not a word should come from either of our lips which could possibly give cause of offence. In fact, we required no further instructions to be cautious. Two prisoners desirous of communication are skilful enough to invent a language of their own, without the least danger of its being interpreted by any listener.


I had just been taking my morning's walk; it was the 7th of August. Oroboni's dungeon door was standing open; Schiller was in it, and he was not sensible of my approach. My guards pressed forward in order to close my friend's door, but I was too quick for them; I darted into the room, and the next moment found myself in the arms of Count Oroboni.

Schiller was in dismay, and cried out "Der Teufel! der Teufel!" most vigorously, at the same time raising his finger in a threatening attitude. It was in vain, for his eyes filled with tears, and he cried out, sobbing, "Oh, my God! take pity on these poor young men and me; on all the unhappy like them, my God, who knows what it is to be so very unhappy upon earth!" The guards, also, both wept; the sentinel on duty in the gallery ran to the spot, and even he caught the infection.

"Silvio! Silvio!" exclaimed the Count, "this is the most delightful day of my life!" I know not how I answered him; I was nearly distracted with joy and affection.

When Schiller at length beseeched us to separate, and it was necessary we should obey, Oroboni burst into a flood of tears. "Are we never to see each other again upon earth?" he exclaimed, in a wild, prophetic tone.

Alas! I never saw him more! A very few months after this parting, his dungeon was empty, and Oroboni lay at rest in the cemetery, on which I looked out from my window!

From the moment we had met, it seemed as if the tie which bound us were drawn closer round our hearts; and we were become still more necessary to each other.

He was a fine young man, with a noble countenance, but pale, and in poor health. Still, his eyes retained all their lustre. My affection for him was increased by a knowledge of his extreme weakness and sufferings. He felt for me in the same manner; we saw by how frail a tenure hung the lives of both, and that one must speedily be the survivor.

In a few days he became worse; I could only grieve and pray for him. After several feverish attacks, he recovered a little, and was even enabled to resume our conversations. What ineffable pleasure I experienced on hearing once more the sound of his voice! "You seem glad," he said, "but do not deceive yourself; it is but for a short time. Have the courage to prepare for my departure, and your virtuous resolution will inspire me also with courage!"

At this period the walls of our prison were about to be whitewashed, and meantime we were to take up our abode in the caverns below. Unfortunately they placed us in dungeons apart from each other. But Schiller told me that the Count was well; though I had my doubts, and dreaded lest his health should receive a last blow from the effects of his subterranean abode. If I had only had the good fortune, thought I, to be near my friend Maroncelli; I could distinguish his voice, however, as he sung. We spoke to each other, spite of the shouts and conversation of the guards. At the same period, the head physician of Brunn paid us a visit. He was sent in consequence of the report made by the superintendent in regard to the extreme ill health of the prisoners from the scanty allowance of food. A scorbutic epidemic was already fast emptying the dungeons. Not aware of the cause of his visit, I imagined that he came to see Oroboni, and my anxiety was inexpressible; I was bowed down with sorrow, and I too wished to die. The thought of suicide again tormented me. I struggled, indeed; but I felt like the weary traveller, who though compelled to press forward, feels an almost irresistible desire to throw himself upon the ground and rest.

I had been just informed that in one of those subterranean dens an aged Bohemian gentleman had recently destroyed himself by beating his head against the walls. I wish I had not heard it; for I could not, do what I would, banish the temptation to imitate him. It was a sort of delirium, and would most probably have ended in suicide, had not a violent gush of blood from my chest, which made me think that death was close at hand, relieved me. I was thankful to God that it should happen in this manner, and spare me an act of desperation, which my reason so strongly condemned. But Providence ordered it otherwise; I found myself considerably better after the discharge of blood from my lungs. Meantime, I was removed to the prison above, and the additional light, with the vicinity of my friend Oroboni, reconciled me to life.


I first informed the Count of the terrific melancholy I had endured when separated from him; and he declared he had been haunted with a similar temptation to suicide. "Let us take advantage," he said, "of the little time that remains for us, by mutually consoling each other. We will speak of God; emulate each other in loving him, and inculcate upon each other that he only is Justice, Wisdom, Goodness, Beauty—is all which is most worthy to be reverenced and adored. I tell you, friend, of a truth, that death is not far from me. I shall be eternally grateful, Silvio, if you will help me, in these my last moments, to become as religious as I ought to have been during my whole life."

We now, therefore, confined our conversation wholly to religious subjects, especially to drawing parallels between the Christian philosophy and that of mere worldly founders of the Epicurean schools. We were both delighted to discover so strict an union between Christianity and reason; and both, on a comparison of the different evangelical communions, fully agreed that the catholic was the only one which could successfully resist the test of criticism,- -which consisted of the purest doctrines and the purest morality— not of those wretched extremes, the product of human ignorance.

"And if by any unexpected accident," observed Oroboni, "we should be restored to society, should we be so mean-spirited as to shrink from confessing our faith in the Gospel? Should we stand firm if accused of having changed our sentiments in consequence of prison discipline?"

"Your question, my dear Oroboni," I replied, "acquaints me with the nature of your reply; it is also mine. The vilest servility is that of being subjected to the opinions of others, when we feel a persuasion at the same time that they are false. I cannot believe that either you or I could be guilty of so much meanness." During these confidential communications of our sentiments, I committed one fault. I had pledged my honour to Julian never to reveal, by mention of his real name, the correspondence which had passed between us. I informed poor Oroboni of it all, observing that "it never should escape my lips in any other place; but here we are immured as in a tomb; and even should you get free, I know I can confide in you as in myself."

My excellent friend returned no answer. "Why are you silent?" I enquired. He then seriously upbraided me for having broken my word and betrayed my friend's secret. His reproach was just; no friendship, however intimate, however fortified by virtue, can authorise such a violation of confidence, guaranteed, as it had been, by a sacred vow.

Since, however, it was done, Oroboni was desirous of turning my fault to a good account. He was acquainted with Julian, and related several traits of character, highly honourable to him. "Indeed," he added, "he has so often acted like a true Christian, that he will never carry his enmity to such a religion to the grave with him. Let us hope so; let us not cease to hope. And you, Silvio, try to pardon his ill-humour from your heart; and pray for him!" His words were held sacred by me.


The conversations of which I speak, sometimes with Oroboni, and sometimes with Schiller, occupied but a small portion of the twenty- four hours daily upon my hands. It was not always, moreover, that I could converse with Oroboni. How was I to pass the solitary hours? I was accustomed to rise at dawn, and mounting upon the top of my table, I grasped the bars of my window, and there said my prayers. The Count was already at his window, or speedily followed my example. We saluted each other, and continued for a time in secret prayer. Horrible as our dungeons were, they made us more truly sensible of the beauty of the world without, and the landscape that spread around us. The sky, the plains, the far off noise and motions of animals in the valley, the voices of the village maidens, the laugh, the song, had a charm for us it is difficult to express, and made us more dearly sensible of the presence of him who is so magnificent in his goodness, and of whom we ever stand in so much need.

The morning visit of the guards was devoted to an examination of my dungeon, to see that all was in order. They felt at my chain, link by link, to be sure that no conspiracy was at work, or rather in obedience to the laws of discipline which bound them. If it were the day for the doctor's visit, Schiller was accustomed to ask us if we wished to see him, and to make a note to that effect.

The search being over, Schiller made his appearance, accompanied by Kunda, whose care it was to clean our rooms. Shortly after he brought our breakfast—a little pot of hogwash, and three small slices of coarse bread. The bread I was able to eat, but could not contrive to drink the swill.

It was next my business to apply to study. Maroncelli had brought a number of books from Italy, as well as some other of our fellow- prisoners—some more, and some less, but altogether they formed a pretty good library. This, too, we hoped to enlarge by some purchases; but awaited an answer from the Emperor, as to whether we might be permitted to read them and buy others. Meantime the governor gave us permission, PROVISIONALLY, to have each two books at a time, and to exchange them when we pleased. About nine came the superintendent, and if the doctor had been summoned, he accompanied him.

I was allowed another interval for study between this and the dinner hour at eleven. We had then no further visits till sunset, and I returned to my studies. Schiller and Kunda then appeared with a change of water, and a moment afterwards, the superintendent with the guards to make their evening inspection, never forgetting my chain. Either before or after dinner, as best pleased the guards, we were permitted in turn to take our hour's walk. The evening search being over, Oroboni and I began our conversation,—always more extended than at any other hour. The other periods were, as related in the morning, or directly after dinner—but our words were then generally very brief. At times the sentinels were so kind as to say to us: "A little lower key, gentlemen, or otherwise the punishment will fall upon us." Not unfrequently they would pretend not to see us, and if the sergeant appeared, begged us to stop till he were past, when they told us we might talk again—"But as low as you possibly can, gentlemen, if you please!"

Nay, it happened that they would quietly accost us themselves; answer our questions, and give us some information respecting Italy.

Touching upon some topics, they entreated of us to be silent, refusing to give any answer. We were naturally doubtful whether these voluntary conversations, on their part, were really sincere, or the result of an artful attempt to pry into our secret opinions.

I am, however, inclined to think that they meant it all in good part, and spoke to us in perfect kindness and frankness of heart.


One evening the sentinels were more than usually kind and forbearing, and poor Oroboni and I conversed without in the least suppressing our voices. Maroncelli, in his subterraneous abode, caught the sound, and climbing up to the window, listened and distinguished my voice. He could not restrain his joy; but sung out my name, with a hearty welcome. He then asked me how I was, and expressed his regret that he had not yet been permitted to share the same dungeon. This favour I had, in fact, already petitioned for, but neither the superintendent nor the governor had the power of granting it. Our united wishes upon the same point had been represented to the Emperor, but no answer had hitherto been received by the governor of Brunn. Besides the instance in which we saluted each other in song, when in our subterraneous abodes, I had since heard the songs of the heroic Maroncelli, by fits and starts, in my dungeon above. He now raised his voice; he was no longer interrupted, and I caught all he said. I replied, and we continued the dialogue about a quarter of an hour. Finally, they changed the sentinels upon the terrace, and the successors were not "of gentle mood." Often did we recommence the song, and as often were interrupted by furious cries, and curses, and threats, which we were compelled to obey.

Alas! my fancy often pictured to me the form of my friend, languishing in that dismal abode so much worse than my own; I thought of the bitter grief that must oppress him, and the effect upon his health, and bemoaned his fate in silence. Tears brought me no relief; the pains in my head returned, with acute fever. I could no longer stand, and took to my straw bed. Convulsions came on; the spasms in my breast were terrible. Of a truth, I believed that that night was my last.

The following day the fever ceased, my chest was relieved, but the inflammation seemed to have seized my brain, and I could not move my head without the most excruciating pain. I informed Oroboni of my condition; and he too was even worse than usual. "My dear friend," said he, "the day is near when one or other of us will no longer be able to reach the window. Each time we welcome one another may be the last. Let us hold ourselves in readiness, then, to die—yes to die! or to survive a friend."

His voice trembled with emotion; I could not speak a word in reply. There was a pause, and he then resumed, "How fortunate you are in knowing the German language! You can at least have the advantage of a priest; I cannot obtain one acquainted with the Italian. But God is conscious of my wishes; I made confession at Venice—and in truth, it does not seem that I have met with anything since that loads my conscience."

"I, on the contrary, confessed at Venice," said I, "with my heart full of rancour, much worse than if I had wholly refused the sacrament. But if I could find a priest, I would now confess myself with all my heart, and pardon everybody, I can assure you."

"God bless you, Silvio!" he exclaimed, "you give me the greatest consolation I can receive. Yes, yes; dear friend! let us both do all in our power to merit a joyful meeting where we shall no more be separated, where we shall be united in happiness, as now we are in these last trying hours of our calamity."

The next day I expected him as usual at the window. But he came not, and I learnt from Schiller that he was grievously ill. In eight or ten days he recovered, and reappeared at his accustomed station. I complained to him bitterly, but he consoled me. A few months passed in this strange alternation of suffering; sometimes it was he, at others I, who was unable even to reach our window.


I was enabled to keep up until the 11th of January, 1823. On that morning, I rose with a slight pain in my head, and a strong tendency to fainting. My legs trembled, and I could scarcely draw my breath.

Poor Oroboni, also, had been unable to rise from his straw for several days past. They brought me some soup, I took a spoonful, and then fell back in a swoon. Some time afterwards the sentinel in the gallery, happening to look through the pane of my door, saw me lying senseless on the ground, with the pot of soup at my side; and believing me to be dead, he called Schiller, who hastened, as well as the superintendent, to the spot.

The doctor was soon in attendance, and they put me on my bed. I was restored with great difficulty. Perceiving I was in danger, the physician ordered my irons to be taken off. He then gave me some kind of cordial, but it would not stay on my stomach, while the pain in my head was horrible. A report was forthwith sent to the governor, who despatched a courier to Vienna, to ascertain in what manner I was to be treated. The answer received, was, that I should not be placed in the infirmary, but was to receive the same attendance in my dungeon as was customary in the former place. The superintendent was further authorised to supply me with soup from his own kitchen so long as I should continue unwell.

The last provision of the order received was wholly useless, as neither food nor beverage would stay on my stomach. I grew worse during a whole week, and was delirious without intermission, both day and night.

Kral and Kubitzky were appointed to take care of me, and both were exceedingly attentive. Whenever I showed the least return of reason, Kral was accustomed to say, "There! have faith in God; God alone is good."

"Pray for me," I stammered out, when a lucid interval first appeared; "pray for me not to live, but that he will accept my misfortunes and my death as an expiation." He suggested that I should take the sacrament.

"If I asked it not, attribute it to my poor head; it would be a great consolation to me."

Kral reported my words to the superintendent, and the chaplain of the prisons came to me. I made my confession, received the communion, and took the holy oil. The priest's name was Sturm, and I was satisfied with him. The reflections he made upon the justice of God, upon the injustice of man, upon the duty of forgiveness, and upon the vanity of all earthly things, were not out of place. They bore moreover the stamp of a dignified and well-cultivated mind as well as an ardent feeling of true love towards God and our neighbour.

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