MME. DE STAEL
WITH INTRODUCTION BY
(In Two Volumes)
LONDON: Published by J.M. DENT and COMPANY at ALDINE HOUSE in Great Eastern Street, E.C.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
THE CROWD BREAK THEIR RANKS AS THE HORSES PASS Frontispiece.
CORINNE AT THE CAPITOL PAGE 33
CORINNE SHOWING OSWALD HER PICTURES " 235
In Lady Blennerhassett's enthusiastic and encyclopaedic book on Madame de Stael she quotes approvingly Sainte-Beuve's phrase that "with Corinne Madame de Stael ascended the Capitol." I forget in which of his many dealings with an author who, as he remarks in the "Coppet-and-Weimar" causeries, was "an idol of his youth and one that he never renounced," this fancy occurs. It must probably have been in one of his early essays; for in his later and better, Sainte-Beuve was not wont to give way to the little flashes and crackles of conceit and epigram which many Frenchmen and some Englishmen think to be criticism. There was, however, some excuse for this. In the first place (as one of Charles Lamb's literal friends would have pointed out), Madame de Stael, like her heroine, did actually "ascend the Capitol," and received attentions there from an Academy. In the second, there can be no doubt that Corinne in a manner fixed and settled the high literary reputation which she had already attained. Even by her severest critics, and even now when whatever slight recrudescence of biographical interest may have taken place in her, her works are little read, Corinne is ranked next to De l'Allemagne as her greatest production; while as a work of form, not of matter, as literature of power, not of knowledge, it has at last a chance of enduring when its companion is but a historical document—the record of a moment that has long passed away.
The advocates of the milieu theory—the theory which will have it that you can explain almost the whole of any work of art by examining the circumstances, history, and so forth of the artist—have a better chance with Corinne than with many books, though those who disagree with them (as I own that I do) may retort that this was precisely because Madame de Stael in literature has little idiosyncracy, and is a receptive, not a creative, force. The moment at which this book was composed and appeared had really many of the characteristics of crisis and climax in the life of the author. She was bidding adieu to youth; and though her talents, her wealth, her great reputation, and her indomitable determination to surround herself with admirers still made her a sort of queen of society, some illusions at least must have been passing from her. The most serious of her many passions, that for Benjamin Constant, was coming, though it had not yet come, to an end. Her father, whom she unfeignedly idolised, was not long dead. The conviction must have been for some time forcing itself on her, though she did not even yet give up hope, that Napoleon's resolve not to allow her presence in her still more idolised Paris was unconquerable. Her husband, who indeed had long been nothing to her, was dead also, and the fancy for replacing him with the boy Rocca had not yet arisen. The influence of the actual chief of her usual herd of lovers, courtiers, teachers, friends (to use whichever term, or combination of terms, the charitable reader pleases), A.W. Schlegel, though it never could incline her innately unpoetical and unreligious mind to either poetry or religion, drove her towards aesthetics of one kind and another. Lastly, the immense intellectual excitement of her visits to Weimar, Berlin, and Italy, added its stimulus to produce a fresh intellectual ferment in her. On the purely intellectual side the result was De l'Allemagne, which does not concern us; on the side of feeling, tinged with aesthetic philosophy, of study of the archaic and the picturesque illuminated by emotion—the result was Corinne.
If there had been only one difference between this and its author's earlier attempt at novel-writing, that difference would have given Corinne a great advantage. Delphine had been irreverently described by Sydney Smith, when it appeared a few years earlier, as "this dismal trash which has nearly dislocated the jaws of every critic with gaping." The Whigs had not then taken up Madame de Stael, as they did afterwards, or it is quite certain that Mr Sydney would not have been allowed to exercise such Britannic frankness. Corinne met with gentler treatment from his friends, if not from himself. Sir James Mackintosh, in particular, was full of the wildest enthusiasm about it, though he admitted that it was "full of faults so obvious as not to be worth mentioning." It must be granted to be in more than one, or two important points a very great advance on Delphine. One is that the easy and illegitimate source of interest which is drawn upon in the earlier book is here quite neglected. Delphine presents the eternal French situation of the "triangle;" the line of Corinne is straight, and the only question is which pair of three points it is to unite in an honourable way. A French biographer of Madame de Stael, who is not only an excellent critic and an extremely clever writer, but a historian of great weight and acuteness, M. Albert Sorel, has indeed admitted that both Leonce, the hero of Delphine, who will not make himself and his beloved happy because he has an objection to divorcing his wife, and Lord Nelvil, who refuses either to seduce or to marry the woman who loves him and whom he loves, are equal donkeys with a national difference. Leonce is more of a "fool;" Lord Nelvil more of a "snob." It is something to find a Frenchman who will admit that any national characteristic is foolish: I could have better reciprocated M. Sorel's candour if he had used the word "prig" instead of "snob" of Lord Nelvil. But indeed I have often suspected that Frenchmen confuse these two engaging attributes of the Britannic nature.
A "higher moral tone" (as the phrase goes) is not the only advantage which Corinne possesses over its forerunner. Delphine is almost avowedly autobiographical; and though Madame de Stael had the wit and the prudence to mix and perplex her portraits and her reminiscences so that it was nearly impossible to fit definite caps on the personages, there could be no doubt that Delphine was herself—as she at least would have liked to be—drawn as close as she dared. These personalities have in the hands of the really great masters of fiction sometimes produced astonishing results; but no one probably would contend that Madame de Stael was a born novelist. Although Delphine has many more personages and much more action of the purely novel kind than Corinne, it is certainly not an interesting book; I think, though I have been reproached for, to say the least, lacking fervour as a Staelite, that Corinne is.
But it is by no means unimportant that intending readers should know the sort of interest that they are to expect from this novel; and for that purpose it is almost imperative that they should know what kind of person was this novelist. A good deal of biographical pains has been spent, as has been already more than once hinted, on Madame de Stael. She was most undoubtedly of European reputation in her day; and between her day and this, quite independently of the real and unquestionable value of her work, a high estimate of her has been kept current by the fact that her daughter was the wife of Duke Victor and the mother of Duke Albert of Broglie, and that so a proper respect for her has been a necessary passport to favour in one of the greatest political and academic houses of France; while another not much less potent in both ways, that of the Counts d'Haussonville, also represents her. Still people, and especially English people, have so many non-literary things to think of, that it may not be quite unpardonable to supply that conception of the life of Anne Louise Germaine Necker, Baroness of Stael-Holstein, which is so necessary to the understanding of Corinne, and which may, in possible cases, be wanting.
She was born on the 22nd of April 1766, and was, as probably everybody knows, the daughter of the Swiss financier, Necker, whom the French Revolution first exalted to almost supreme power in France, and then cast off—fortunately for him, in a less tragical fashion than that in which it usually cast off its favourites. Her mother was Suzanne Curchod, the first love of Gibbon, a woman of a delicate beauty, of very considerable mental and social faculties, a kind of puritanical coquette, but devoted to her (by all accounts not particularly interesting) husband. Indeed, mother and daughter are said to have been from a very early period jealous of each other in relation to Necker. Germaine, as she was generally called, had, unluckily for her, inherited nothing of her mother's delicacy of form and feature; indeed, her most rapturous admirers never dared to claim much physical beauty for her, except a pair of fine, though unfeminine, eyes. She was rather short than tall; her figure was square-set and heavy; her features, though not exactly ill-formed, matched her figure; her arms were massive, though not ill-shaped; and she was altogether distinctly what the French call hommasse. Nevertheless, her great wealth, and the high position of her father, attracted suitors, some of whom at least may not have overlooked the intellectual ability which she began very early to display. There was talk of her marrying William Pitt, but either Pitt's well-known "dislike of the fair," or some other reason, foiled the project. After one or two other negotiations she made a match which was not destined to good fortune, and which does not strike most observers as a very tempting one in any respect, though it carried with it some exceptional and rather eccentric guarantees for that position at court and in society on which Germaine was set. The King of Sweden, Gustavus, whose family oddity had taken, among less excusable forms, that of a platonic devotion to Marie Antoinette, gave a sort of perpetual brevet of his ministry at Paris to the Baron de Stael-Holstein, a nobleman of little fortune and fair family. This served, using clerical language, as his "title" to marriage with Germaine Necker. Such a marriage could not be expected to, and did not, turn out very well; but it did not turn out as ill as it might have done. Except that M. de Stael was rather extravagant (which he probably supposed he had bought the right to be) nothing serious is alleged against him; and though more than one thing serious might be alleged against his wife, it is doubtful whether either contracting party thought this out of the bargain. For business reasons, chiefly, a separation was effected between the pair in 1798, but they were nominally reconciled four years later, just before Stael's death.
Meanwhile the Revolution broke out, and Madame de Stael, who, as she was bound to do, had at first approved it, disapproved totally of the Terror, tried to save the Queen, and fled herself from France to England. Here she lived in Surrey with a questionable set of emigres, made the acquaintance of Miss Burney, and in consequence of the unconventionalities of her relations, especially with M. de Narbonne, received, from English society generally, a cold shoulder, which she has partly avenged, or tried to avenge, in Corinne itself. She had already written, or was soon to write, a good deal, but nothing of the first importance. Then she went to Coppet, her father's place, on the Lake of Geneva, which she was later to render so famous; and under the Directory was enabled to resume residence in Paris, though she was more than once under suspicion. It was at this time that she met Benjamin Constant, the future brilliant orator, and author of Adolphe, the only man perhaps whom she ever really loved, but, unluckily, a man whom it was by no means good to love. For some years she oscillated contentedly enough between Coppet and Paris. But the return of Bonaparte from Egypt was unlucky for her. Her boundless ambition, which, with her love of society, was her strongest passion, made her conceive the idea of fascinating him, and through him ruling the world. Napoleon, to use familiar English, "did not see it." When he liked women he liked them pretty and feminine; he had not the faintest idea of admitting any kind of partner in his glory; he had no literary taste; and not only did Madame de Stael herself meddle with politics, but her friend, Constant, under the Consulate, chose to give himself airs of opposition in the English sense. Moreover, she still wrote, and Bonaparte disliked and dreaded everyone who wrote with any freedom. Her book, De la Litterature, in 1800, was taken as a covert attack on the Napoleonic regime; her father shortly after republished another on finance and politics, which was disliked; and the success of Delphine, in 1803, put the finishing touch to the petty hatred of any kind of rival superiority which distinguished the Corsican more than any other man of equal genius. Madame de Stael was ordered not to approach within forty leagues of Paris, and this exile, with little softening and some excesses of rigour, lasted till the return of the Bourbons.
Then it was that the German and Italian journeys already mentioned (the death of M. Necker happening between them and recalling his daughter from the first) led to the writing of Corinne.
A very few words before we turn to the consideration of the book, as a book and by itself, may appropriately finish all that need be said here about the author's life. After the publication of Corinne she returned to Germany, and completed the observation which she thought necessary for the companion book De l'Allemagne. Its publication in 1810, when she had foolishly kindled afresh the Emperor's jealousy by appearing with her usual "tail" of worshippers or parasites as near Paris as she was permitted, completed her disgrace. She was ordered back to Coppet: her book was seized and destroyed. Then Albert de Rocca, a youth of twenty-three, who had seen some service, made his appearance at Geneva. Early in 1811, Madame de Stael, now aged forty-five, married him secretly. She was, or thought herself, more and more persecuted by Napoleon; she feared that Rocca might be ordered off on active duty, and she fled first to Vienna, then to St Petersburg, then to Stockholm, and so to England. Here she was received with ostentatious welcome and praises by the Whigs; with politeness by everybody; with more or less concealed terror by the best people, who found her rhapsodies and her political dissertations equally boring. Here too she was unlucky enough to express the opinion that Miss Austen's books were vulgar. The fall of Napoleon brought her back to Paris; and after the vicissitudes of 1814-15, enabled her to establish herself there for the short remainder of her life, with the interruption only of visits to Coppet and to Italy. She died on the 13th July 1817: her two last works, Dix Annees d'Exil and the posthumous Considerations sur La Revolution Francaise, being admittedly of considerable interest, and not despicable even by those who do not think highly of her political talents.
And now to Corinne, unhampered and perhaps a little helped by this survey of its author's character, career, and compositions. The heterogeneous nature of its plan can escape no reader long; and indeed is pretty frankly confessed by its title. It is a love story doubled with a guide-book: an eighteenth-century romance of "sensibility" blended with a transition or even nineteenth-century diatribe of aesthetics and "culture." If only the first of these two labels were applicable to it, its case would perhaps be something more gracious than it is; for there are more unfavourable situations for cultivating the affections, than in connection with the contemplation of the great works of art and nature, and it is possible to imagine many more disagreeable ciceroni than a lover of whichever sex. But Corinne and Nelvil (whom our contemporary translator has endeavoured to acclimatise a little more by Anglicising his name further to Nelville), do not content themselves with making love in the congenial neighbourhoods of Tiber or Poestum, or in the stimulating presence of the masterpieces of modern and ancient art. A purpose, and a double purpose, it might almost be said, animates the book. It aims at displaying "sensibility so charming"—the strange artificial eighteenth-century conception of love which is neither exactly flirtation nor exactly passion, which sets convention at defiance, but retains its own code of morality; at exhibiting the national differences, as Madame de Stael conceived them, of the English and French and Italian temperaments; and at preaching the new cult of aesthetics whereof Lessing and Winckelmann, Goethe, and Schlegel, were in different ways and degrees the apostles. And it seems to have been generally admitted, even by the most fervent admirers of Madame de Stael and of Corinne itself, that the first purpose has not had quite fair play with the other two. "A little thin," they confess of the story. In truth it could hardly be thinner, though the author has laid under contribution an at least ample share of the improbabilities and coincidences of romance.
Nelvil, an English-Scottish peer who has lost his father, who accuses himself of disobedience and ingratitude to that father, and who has been grievously jilted by a Frenchwoman, arrives in Italy in a large black cloak, the deepest melancholy, and the company of a sprightly though penniless French emigre, the Count d'Erfeuil. After performing prodigies of valour in a fire at Ancona, he reaches Rome just when a beautiful and mysterious poetess, the delight of Roman society, is being crowned on the Capitol. The only name she is known by is Corinne. The pair are soon introduced by the mercurial Erfeuil, and promptly fall in love with each other, Corinne seeking partly to fix her hold on Nelvil, partly to remove his Britannic contempt for Italy and the Italians, by guiding him to all the great spectacles of Rome and indeed of the country generally, and by explaining to him at great length what she understands of the general theory of aesthetics, of Italian history, and of the contrasted character of the chief European nations. Nelvil on his side is distracted between the influence of the beauty, genius, and evident passion of Corinne, and his English prejudices; while the situation is further complicated by the regulation discovery that Corinne, though born in Italy of an Italian mother, is, strictly speaking, his own compatriot, being the elder and lawful daughter of a British peer, Lord Edgermond, his father's closest friend. Nay more, he had always been destined to wed this very girl; and it was only after her father's second marriage with an Englishwoman that the younger and wholly English daughter, Lucile, was substituted in the paternal schemes as his destined spouse. He hears, on the other hand, how Corinne had visited her fatherland and her step-mother, how she had found both intolerable, and how she had in a modified and decent degree "thrown her cap over the mill" by returning to Italy to live an independent life as a poetess, an improvisatrice, and, at least in private, an actress.
It is not necessary to supply fuller argument of the text which follows, and of which, when the reader has got this length, he is not likely to let the denoument escape him. But the action of Corinne gets rather slowly under weigh; and I have known those who complained that they found the book hard to read because they were so long in coming to any clear notion of "what it was all about." Therefore so much argument as has been given seems allowable.
But we ought by this time to have laid sufficient foundation to make it not rash to erect a small superstructure of critical comment on the book now once more submitted to English readers. Of that book I own that I was myself a good many years ago, and for a good many years, a harsh and even a rather unfair judge. I do not know whether years have brought me the philosophic mind, or whether the book—itself, as has been said, the offspring of middle-aged emotions—appeals more directly to a middle-aged than to a young judgment. To the young of its own time and the times immediately succeeding it appealed readily enough, and scarcely Byron himself (who was not a little influenced by it) had more to do with the Italomania of Europe in the second quarter of this century than Madame de Stael.
The faults of the novel indeed are those which impress themselves (as Mackintosh, we have seen, allowed) immediately and perhaps excessively. M. Sorel observes of its companion sententiously but truly, "Si le style de Delphine semble vieilli, c'est qu'il a ete jeune." If not merely the style but the sentiment, the whole properties and the whole stage management of Corinne seem out of date now, it is only because they were up to date then. It is easy to laugh—not perhaps very easy to abstain from laughing—at the "schall" twisted in Corinne's hair, where even contemporaries mocked the hideous turban with which Madame de Stael chose to bedizen her not too beautiful head; at Nelvil's inky cloak; at the putting out of the fire; at the queer stilted half-Ossianic, half-German rants put in the poetess's mouth; at the endless mingling of gallantry and pedantry; at the hesitations of Nelvil; at the agonies of Corinne. When French critics tell us that as they allow the good-humoured satire on the Count d'Erfeuil to be just, we ought to do the same in reference to the "cant Britannique" of Nelvil and of the Edgermond circle, we can only respectfully answer that we should not presume to dispute their judgment in the first case, but that they really must leave us to ours in the second. As a matter of fact, Madame de Stael's goody English characters, are rather like Miss Edgeworth's naughty French ones in Leonora and elsewhere—clever generalisations from a little observation and a great deal of preconceived idea, not studies from the life.
But this (and a great deal more that might be said if it were not something like petty treason in an introduction-writer thus to play the devil's advocate against his author) matters comparatively little, and leaves enough in Corinne to furnish forth a book almost great, interesting without any "almost," and remarkable as a not very large shelf-ful in the infinite library of modern fiction deserves remark. For the passion of its two chief characters, however oddly, and to us unfashionably, presented, however lacking in the commanding and perennial qualities which make us indifferent to fashion in the work of the greatest masters, is real. And it is perhaps only after a pretty long study of literature that one perceives how very little real passion books, even pretty good books, contain, how much of what at times seems to us passionate in them owes its appeal to accident, mode, and the personal equation. Of the highest achievement of art—that which avails itself of, but subdues, personal thought and feeling in the elaboration of a perfectly live character—Madame de Stael was indeed incapable. But in the second order—that which, availing itself of, but not subduing, the personal element, keeps enough of its veracity and lively force to enliven a composite structure of character—she has here produced very noteworthy studies. Corinne is a very fair embodiment of the beauty which her author would so fain have had; of the youthful ardour which she had once actually possessed; of the ideas and cults to which she was sincerely enough devoted; of the instruction and talent which unquestionably distinguished her. And it is not, I think, fanciful to discover in this heroine, with all her "Empire" artifice and convention, all her smack of the theatre and the salon, a certain live quiver and throb, which, as has been already hinted, may be traced to the combined working in Madame de Stael's mind and heart of the excitements of foreign travel, the zest of new studies, new scenes, new company, with the chill regret for lost or passing youth and love, and the chillier anticipation of coming old age and death. It is a commonplace of psychology that in shocks and contrasts of this kind the liveliest workings of the imagination and the emotions are to be expected. If we once establish the contact and complete the circle, and feel something of the actual thrill that animated the author, we shall, I think, feel disposed to forgive Corinne many things—from the dress and attitude which recall that admirable frontispiece of Pickersgill's to Miss Austen's Emma, where Harriet Smith poses in rapt attitude with "schall" or scarf complete, to that more terrible portrait of Madame de Stael herself which editors with remorseless ferocity will persist in prefixing to her works, and especially to Corinne. We shall consent to sweep away all the fatras and paraphernalia of the work, and to see in the heroine a real woman enough—loving, not unworthy of being loved, unfortunate, and very undeserving of her ill fortune. We shall further see that besides other excuses for the mere guide-book detail, the enthusiasm for Italy which partly prompted it was genuine enough and very interesting as a sign of the times—of the approach of a period of what we may call popularised learning, culture, sentiment. In some respects Corinne is not merely a guide-book to Italy; it is a guide-book by prophecy to the nineteenth century.
The minor characters are a very great deal less interesting than Corinne herself, but they are not despicable, and they set off the heroine and carry out what story there is well enough. Nelvil of course is a thing shreddy and patchy enough. He reminds us by turns of Chateaubriand's Rene and Rousseau's Bomston, both of whom Madame de Stael of course knew; of Mackenzie's Man of Feeling, with whom she was very probably acquainted; but most of no special, even bookish, progenitor, but of a combination of theoretic deductions from supposed properties of man in general and Englishman in particular. Of Englishmen in particular Madame de Stael knew little more than a residence (chiefly in emigre society) for a short time in England, and occasional meetings elsewhere, could teach her. Of men in general her experience had been a little unfortunate. Her father had probity, financial skill, and, I suppose, a certain amount of talent in other directions; but while he must have had some domestic virtues he was a wooden pedant. Her husband hardly counted for more in her life than her maitre d'hotel, and though there seems to have been no particular harm in him, had no special talents and no special virtues. Her first regular lover, Narbonne, was a handsome, dignified, heartless roue of the old regime. Her second, Benjamin Constant, was a man of genius, and capable of passionate if inconstant attachment, but also what his own generation in England called a thorough "raff"—selfish, treacherous, fickle, incapable of considering either the happiness or the reputation of women, theatrical in his ways and language, venal, insolent, ungrateful. Schlegel, though he too had some touch of genius in him, was half pedant, half coxcomb, and full of intellectual and moral faultiness. The rest of her mighty herd of male friends and hangers-on ranged from Mathieu de Montmorency—of whom, in the words of Medora Trevilian it may be said, that he was "only an excellent person"—through respectable savants like Sismondi and Dumont, down to a very low level of toady and tuft-hunter. It is rather surprising that with such models and with no supreme creative faculty she should have been able to draw such creditable walking gentlemen as the Frenchman Erfeuil, the Englishman Edgermond, and the Italian Castel-Forte; and should not have produced a worse hero than Nelvil. For Nelvil, whatever faults he may have, and contemptible as his vacillating refusal to take the goods the gods provide him may be, is, after all, if not quite a live man, an excellent model of what a considerable number of the men of his time aimed at being, and would have liked to be. He is not a bit less life-like than Byron's usual hero for instance, who probably owes not a little to him.
And so we get to a fresh virtue of Corinne, or rather we reach its main virtue by a different side. It has an immense historical value as showing the temper, the aspirations, the ideas, and in a way the manners of a certain time and society. A book which does this can never wholly lose its interest; it must always retain that interest in a great measure, for those who are able to appreciate it. And it must interest them far more keenly, when, besides this secondary and, so to speak, historical merit, it exhibits such veracity in the portraiture of emotion, as, whatever be its drawbacks, whatever its little temptations to ridicule, distinguishes the hapless, and, when all is said, the noble and pathetic figure of Corinne.
 I am creditor neither to praise nor to blame for this translation, which is the old English version brought out in the same year as the original, but corrected by another hand for the present edition in the pretty numerous points where it was lax or unintelligent in actual rendering. In the places which I have compared, it seems to me to present that original very fairly now; and I am by no means sure that an excessively artificial style like that of the French Empire is not best left to contemporaries to reproduce. At any rate, a really good new translation of Corinne would be a task unlikely to be achieved except by rather exceptional talents working in labour of love: and I cannot blame the publishers of this issue for not waiting till such a translator appeared.
Oswald, Lord Nelville, Peer of Scotland, quitted Edinburgh for Italy during the winter of 1794-5. He possessed a noble and handsome figure, an abundance of wit, an illustrious name, and an independent fortune, but his health was impaired by deeply-rooted sorrow, and his physicians, fearing that his lungs were attacked, had prescribed him the air of the South. Though indifferent as to the preservation of his life, he followed their advice. He expected, at least, to find in the diversity of objects he was about to see, something that might divert his mind from the melancholy that preyed upon it. The most exquisite of griefs—the loss of a father—was the cause of his malady; this was heightened by cruel circumstances, which, together with a remorse inspired by delicate scruples, increased his anguish, which was still further aggravated by the phantoms of the imagination. Those who suffer, easily persuade themselves that they are guilty, and violent grief will extend its painful influence even to the conscience.
At twenty-five years of age he was dissatisfied with life, his mind anticipated every thing that it could afford, and his wounded sensibility no longer enjoyed the illusions of the heart. Nobody appeared more complacent, more devoted to his friends when he was able to render them service; but not even the good he performed could afford him a pleasurable sensation.
He incessantly sacrificed his own taste to that of others; but it was impossible to explain, upon principles of generosity alone, this total abnegation of every selfish feeling, most frequently to be attributed to that species of sadness which no longer permitted him to take any interest in his own fate. Those indifferent to him enjoyed this disposition so full of benignity and charm; but those who loved him perceived that he sought the happiness of others like a man who no longer expected any himself; and they almost experienced a pain from his conferring a felicity for which it was impossible to make him a return in kind.
He was, notwithstanding, of a nature susceptible of emotion, sensibility and passion; he combined every thing that could evoke enthusiasm in others and in himself; but misfortune and repentance had taught him to tremble at that destiny whose anger he sought to disarm by forbearing to solicit any favour at her hands.
He expected to find in a strict attachment to all his duties, and in a renunciation of every lively enjoyment, a security against those pangs that tear the soul. What he had experienced struck fear into his heart; and nothing this world can afford, could, in his estimation, compensate the risk of those sufferings; but when one is capable of feeling them, what mode of life can shelter us from their power?
Lord Nelville flattered himself that he should be able to quit Scotland without regret, since he resided in it without pleasure; but the unhappy imagination of the children of sensibility is not so formed: he did not suspect what ties attached him to those scenes which were most painful to him,—to the home of his father. There were in this habitation, chambers, places, which he could not approach without shuddering, and, nevertheless, when he resolved to quit them, he felt himself still more solitary. His heart became dried up; he was no longer able to give vent to his sufferings in tears; he could no longer call up those little local circumstances which affected him deeply; his recollections no longer possessed anything of the vivid semblance of real existence; they were no longer in affinity with the objects that surrounded him; he did not think less on him whose loss he lamented, but he found it more difficult to recall his presence.
Sometimes also he reproached himself for abandoning those abodes where his father had dwelt. "Who knows," said he to himself, "whether the shades of the departed are allowed to pursue every where the objects of their affection? Perhaps it is only permitted them to wander about the spot where their ashes repose! Perhaps at this moment my father regrets me, while distance prevents my hearing his voice exerted to recall his son. Alas! while he was living must not a concourse of strange events have persuaded him that I had betrayed his tenderness, that I was a rebel to my country, to his paternal will, to everything that is sacred on earth?"—These recollections excited in Lord Nelville a grief so insupportable that not only was he unable to confide it to others, but even dreaded himself to sound it to the bottom. So easily do our own reflections become to us an irreparable evil.
It costs us more to quit our native country when to leave it we must traverse the sea; all is solemn in a journey of which ocean marks the first steps. An abyss seems to open behind you, and to render your return for ever impossible. Besides, the sublime spectacle which the sea presents must always make a deep impression on the imagination; it is the image of that Infinity which continually attracts our thoughts, that run incessantly to lose themselves in it. Oswald, supporting himself on the helm, his eyes fixed on the waves, was apparently calm, for his pride, united to his timidity, would scarcely ever permit him to discover, even to his friends, what he felt; but he was internally racked with the most painful emotions.
He brought to mind the time when the sight of the sea animated his youth with the desire of plunging into her waves, and measuring his force against her's.—"Why," said he to himself, with the most bitter regret, "why do I yield so unremittingly to reflection? How many pleasures are there in active life, in those exercises which make us feel the energy of existence? Death itself then appears but an event, perhaps glorious, at least sudden, and not preceded by decline. But that death which comes without having been sought by courage, that death of darkness which steals from you in the night all that you hold most dear, which despises your lamentations, repulses your embrace, and pitilessly, opposes to you the eternal laws of nature and of time! such a death inspires a sort of contempt for human destiny, for the impotence of grief, for all those vain efforts that dash and break themselves upon the rock of necessity."
Such were the sentiments that tormented Oswald; and what particularly characterised his unhappy situation, was the vivacity of youth united to thoughts of another age. He entered into those ideas which he conceived must have occupied his father's mind in the last moments of his life; and he carried the ardour of twenty-five into the melancholy reflections of old age. He was weary of every thing, and yet still regretted happiness, as if her illusions were still within his grasp. This contrast, quite in hostility with the ordinance of nature, which gives uniformity and graduation to the natural course of things, threw the soul of Oswald into disorder; but his manners always possessed considerable sweetness and harmony, and his sadness, far from souring his temper, only inspired him with more condescension and goodness towards others.
Two or three times during the passage from Harwich to Empden the sea put on the appearance of approaching storm; Lord Nelville counselled the sailors, restored confidence to the passengers, and when he himself assisted in working the ship, when he took for a moment the place of the steersman, there was in all he did, a skill and a power which could not be considered as merely the effect of the agility of the body,—there was soul in all that he did.
On his quitting the vessel all the crew crowded around Oswald to take leave of him; they all thanked him for a thousand little services which he had rendered them during the voyage, and which he no longer remembered. Upon one occasion, perhaps, it was a child which had occupied a large share of his attention; more often an old man, whose tottering steps he had supported when the wind agitated the ship. Such a general attention, without any regard to rank or quality, was perhaps never met with. During the whole day he would scarcely bestow a single moment upon himself: influenced alike by melancholy and benevolence, he gave his whole time to others. On leaving him the sailors said to him with one voice, "My dear Lord, may you be more happy!" Oswald had not once expressed the internal pain he felt; and the men of another rank, who had accompanied him in his passage, had not spoken a word to him on that subject. But the common people, in whom their superiors rarely confide, accustom themselves to discover sentiments and feelings by other means than speech: they pity you when you suffer, though they are ignorant of the cause of your grief, and their spontaneous pity is unmixed with either blame or advice.
Travelling, whatever may be said of it, is one of the saddest pleasures of life. When you find yourself comfortable in some foreign city it begins to feel, in some degree, like your own country; but to traverse unknown realms, to hear a language spoken which you hardly comprehend, to see human countenances which have no connection either with your past recollections or future prospects, is solitude and isolation, without dignity and without repose; for that eagerness, that haste to arrive where nobody expects us, that agitation, of which curiosity is the only cause, inspires us with very little esteem for ourselves, till the moment when new objects become a little old, and create around us some soft ties of sentiment and habit.
The grief of Oswald was, then, redoubled in traversing Germany in order to repair to Italy. On account of the war it was necessary to avoid France and its environs; it was also necessary to keep aloof from the armies who rendered the roads impracticable. This necessity of occupying his mind with particulars material to the journey, of adopting, every day, and almost every instant, some new resolution, was quite insupportable to Lord Nelville. His health, far from becoming better, often obliged him to stop, when he felt the strongest desire to hasten to his journey's end or at least to make a start. He spat blood, and took scarcely any care of himself; for he believed himself guilty, and became his own accuser with too great a degree of severity. He no longer wished for life but as it might become instrumental to the defence of his country. "Has not our country," said he, "some paternal claims upon us? But we should have the power to serve it usefully: we must not offer it such a debilitated existence as I drag along to ask of the sun some principle of life to enable me to struggle against my miseries. None but a father would receive me to his bosom, under such circumstances, with affection increased in proportion as I was abandoned by nature and by destiny."
Lord Nelville had flattered himself that the continual variety of external objects would distract his imagination a little from those ideas by which it was habitually occupied; but that circumstance was far from producing, at first, this happy effect. After any great misfortune we must become familiarised anew with everything that surrounds us; accustom ourselves to the faces that we behold again, to the house in which we dwell, to the daily habits that we resume; each of these efforts is a painful shock, and nothing multiplies them like a journey.
The only pleasure of Lord Nelville was to traverse the Tirolese Mountains upon a Scotch horse which he had brought with him, and which like the horses of that country ascended heights at a gallop: he quitted the high road in order to proceed by the most steep paths. The astonished peasants cried out at first with terror at beholding him thus upon the very brink of precipices, then clapped their hands in admiration of his address, his agility, and his courage. Oswald was fond of this sensation of danger; it supports the weight of affliction, it reconciles us, for a moment, with that life which we have reconquered, and which it so easy to lose.
In the town of Inspruck, before entering Italy, Oswald heard a merchant at whose house he had stopped some time, relate the story of a French emigre called the Count d'Erfeuil, which greatly interested him in his favour. This man had suffered the entire loss of a very large fortune with the most perfect serenity; he had, by his talent for music, supported himself and an old uncle, whom he had taken care of until his death; he had constantly refused to accept offers of pecuniary assistance pressingly made to him; he had manifested the most brilliant valour—a French valour—during the war, and the most invincible gaiety in the midst of reverses. He was desirous of going to Rome to see a relation, whose heir he was to be, and wished for a companion, or rather a friend, in order to render the journey more agreeable to both.
The most bitter recollections of Lord Nelville were connected with France; nevertheless he was exempt from those prejudices which divide the two nations; for a Frenchman had been his intimate friend, and he had found in this friend the most admirable union of all the qualities of the soul. He, therefore, offered to the merchant who related to him the story of the Count d'Erfeuil, to take this noble and unfortunate young man to Italy; and at the end of an hour the merchant came to inform Lord Nelville that his proposition was accepted with gratitude. Oswald was happy in being able to perform this service, but it cost him much to renounce his solitude; and his timidity was wounded at finding himself, all of a sudden, in an habitual relation with a man whom he did not know.
The Count d'Erfeuil came to pay a visit to Lord Nelville, in order to thank him. He possessed elegant manners, an easy politeness, good taste, and appeared, from the very first introduction, perfectly at his ease. In his company one would feel astonished at all that he had suffered, for he supported his fate with a courage approaching to oblivion; and there was in his conversation a facility truly admirable when he spoke of his own reverses; but less admirable, it must be confessed, when it extended to other subjects.
"I owe you infinite obligation, my lord," said the Count d'Erfeuil, "for rescuing me from this Germany, where I was perishing with ennui." "You are here, nevertheless," replied Lord Nelville, "generally beloved and esteemed." "I have friends here," replied the Count d'Erfeuil, "whom I sincerely regret; for we meet in this country the best people in the world; but I do not know a word of German, and you will agree with me that it would be too long and fatiguing a task for me to set about learning it now. Since I have had the misfortune to lose my uncle I do not know what to do with my time, when I had the care of him it filled up my day, at present the twenty-four hours weigh heavily upon my hands." "The delicacy of your conduct towards your uncle," said Lord Nelville, "inspires everybody with the most profound esteem for your character, Count." "I have only done my duty," replied the Count d'Erfeuil; "the poor man had overwhelmed me with kindnesses during my childhood; I should never have deserted him had he lived a hundred years! But it is happy for him, however, that he is dead; it would be a happy thing for me also were I to follow him," added he, laughing; "for I have not much hope in this world. I used my best endeavours, during the war, to get killed; but, since fate has spared me, I must only live as well as I can." "I shall congratulate myself on my arrival here," answered Lord Nelville, "if you find yourself comfortable at Rome, and if—" "Oh, mon Dieu," interrupted the Count d'Erfeuil, "I shall find myself comfortable every where: when we are young and gay every thing accommodates itself to us. It is not from books, nor from meditation, that I have derived the philosophy which I possess, but from knowledge of the world, and trials of misfortune; and you see, my lord, that I have reason to reckon upon chance, since it has procured me the honour of travelling with you." In finishing these words the Count d'Erfeuil saluted Lord Nelville with the best grace in the world, settled the hour of departure for the following day, and took his leave.
The Count d'Erfeuil and Lord Nelville set out on the morrow. Oswald, after some expressions of politeness had passed between them, was several hours without saying a word; but perceiving that this silence was disagreeable to his companion, he asked him if he anticipated pleasure from a residence in Italy: "Mon Dieu," replied the Count d'Erfeuil, "I know what I have to expect from that country. I have no hope of any amusement there: a friend of mine, who had passed six months at Rome, has assured me there is not a province of France where one may not find a better theatre and a more agreeable society than at Rome, but in that ancient capital of the world I shall surely find some Frenchmen to chat with, and that is all I desire." "You have not attempted to learn Italian?" interrupted Oswald. "Not at all," replied the Count d'Erfeuil; "that did not enter into my plan of study." And in saying this he assumed such a serious air that one would have believed it was a resolution founded upon grave motives.
"If I may speak my mind to you," continued the Count d'Erfeuil, "as a nation, I love only the English and the French, one must either be proud like them or brilliant like us; all the rest is only imitation." Oswald was silent; the Count d'Erfeuil some moments after resumed the conversation by the most lively sallies of wit and gaiety. He played with words and phrases in a very ingenious manner, but neither external objects nor intimate sentiments were the object of his discourse. His conversation proceeded, if it may be so expressed, neither from without nor within; it was neither reflective nor imaginative, and the bare relations of society were its subject.
He repeated twenty proper names to Lord Nelville, either in France, or in England, to know if he was acquainted with them, and related upon this occasion highly seasoned anecdotes with a most graceful turn; but one would have said, in hearing him, that the only discourse suitable to a man of taste was, to use the expression, the gossip of good company.
Lord Nelville reflected some time on the character of Count d'Erfeuil; that singular mixture of courage and frivolity, that contempt of misfortune, so great if it had cost more efforts, so heroic if it did not proceed from the same source that renders us incapable of deep affections. "An Englishman," said Oswald to himself, "would be weighed down with sadness under similar circumstances.—Whence proceeds the resolution of this Frenchman? Whence proceeds also his mobility? Does the Count d'Erfeuil then truly understand the art of living? Is it only my own disordered mind that whispers to me I am superior to him? Does his light existence accord better than mine with the rapidity of human life? And must we shun reflection as an enemy, instead of giving up our whole soul to it?" Vainly would Oswald have cleared up those doubts; no one can escape from the intellectual region allotted him; and qualities are still more difficult to subdue than defects.
The Count d'Erfeuil paid no attention to Italy, and rendered it almost impossible for Lord Nelville to bestow a thought upon it; for he incessantly distracted him from that disposition of mind which excites admiration of a fine country, and gives a relish for its picturesque charms. Oswald listened as much as he could to the noise of the wind and to the murmuring of the waves; for all the voices of nature conveyed more gratification to his soul than he could possibly receive from the social conversation indulged in at the foot of the Alps, among the ruins, and on the borders of the sea.
The sadness which consumed Oswald would have opposed fewer obstacles to the pleasure which he could have derived from Italy than the gaiety of Count d'Erfeuil, the sorrows of a sensitive mind will blend with the contemplation of nature and the enjoyment of the fine arts; but frivolity, in whatever form it presents itself, deprives attention of its force, thought of its originality, and sentiment of its profundity. One of the singular effects of this frivolity was to inspire Lord Nelville with a great deal of timidity in his intercourse with Count d'Erfeuil: embarrassment is nearly always on the side of him whose character is the more serious. Mental levity imposes upon the mind habitually disposed to meditation, and he who proclaims himself happy, appears wiser than he who suffers.
The Count d'Erfeuil was mild, obliging, and easy in every thing; serious only in self love, and worthy of being regarded as he regarded others; that is to say, as a good companion of pleasures and of perils; but he had no idea whatever of sharing sorrows: he was wearied to death with the melancholy of Oswald, and, as much from goodness of heart as from taste, was desirous of dissipating it.
"What is it you find wanting?" said he to him often; "are you not young, rich, and if you choose, in good health? for you are only ill because you are sad. For my part I have lost my fortune, my existence: I know not in fact what will become of me; nevertheless I enjoy life as if I possessed all the prosperity that earth can afford." "You are endowed with a courage as rare as it is honourable," replied Lord Nelville; "but the reverses which you have experienced are less injurious in their consequences than the grief which preys upon the heart." "The grief which preys upon the heart," cried the Count d'Erfeuil; "Oh! it is true, that is the most cruel of all;—but—but yet we should console ourselves under it; for a sensible man ought to drive away from his soul every thing that can neither be useful to others nor to himself. Are we not here below to be useful first and happy afterwards? My dear Nelville let us hold to that."
What the Count d'Erfeuil said was reasonable, according to the general import of the word, for it savoured a good deal of what is usually called common sense: passionate characters are much more capable of folly than cool and superficial ones; but so far was the Count d'Erfeuil's mode of feeling from exciting the confidence of Lord Nelville that he would gladly have convinced him he was the most happy of men in order to avoid the pain which his consolation gave him.
However the Count became greatly attached to Lord Nelville: his resignation and his simplicity, his modesty and his pride, inspired him with an involuntary respect for his character. He was concerned at the calm exterior of Oswald; he ransacked his head to bring to recollection all the most grave sayings which, in his childhood, he had heard from his aged parents, in order to try their effect upon Lord Nelville; and, quite astonished at not overcoming his apparent coldness, he said to himself: "Do I not possess courage, goodness, and openness of disposition? Am I not beloved in society? What is it then that I want to make an impression upon this man? There surely must be some misunderstanding between us which probably arises from his not understanding French sufficiently well."
An unforeseen circumstance greatly increased the sentiment of respect which the Count d'Erfeuil experienced already, almost without knowing it, for his travelling companion. The health of Lord Nelville had obliged him to stop some days at Ancona. The mountains and the sea render the situation of this city very fine, and the crowd of Greeks who work in front of their shops seated in the oriental manner, the diversity of costume of the inhabitants of the Levant, whom one meets in the streets, give it an original and interesting appearance. The art of civilization has a continual tendency to render all men alike in appearance and almost in reality; but the mind and the imagination take pleasure in the characteristic differences of nations: it is only by affectation and by calculation that men resemble each other; all that is natural is varied. The eyes then, at least, derive some little pleasure from diversity of costume; it seems to promise a new manner of feeling and of judging.
The Greek, the Catholic, and the Jewish worships exist simultaneously and peaceably in the city of Ancona. The ceremonies of these several religions differ widely from each other; but in those various forms of worship, the same sentiment lifts the soul to heaven—the same cry of grief, the same need of support.
The catholic church is on the top of a mountain, which dominates the sea: the roaring of the waves is often mingled with the song of the priests. The interior of the church is overladen with a crowd of rather tawdry ornaments; but if one stop beneath the portico of the temple, the soul is filled with the purest sentiments of religion, heightened by that sublime spectacle the sea, on whose bosom man has never been able to imprint the smallest trace. The earth is tilled by him, the mountains are cut through by his roads, and rivers shut up into canals to transport his merchandise; but if the waves are furrowed for a moment by his vessels the billows immediately efface this slight mark of servitude, and the sea appears again as it was the first day of the creation.
Lord Nelville had fixed his departure for Rome for the morrow, when he heard, during the night the most dreadful cries in the city. He hastily quitted the inn in order to learn the cause, when he beheld a terrible fire, which proceeded from the port, and climbed from house to house even to the very top of the city. The flames were mirrored at a distance in the sea; the wind, which increased their fierceness, also disturbed their image in the surging waves, which reflected in a thousand ways the lurid traits of the conflagration.
The inhabitants of Ancona, not having among them pumps in good condition, were obliged to carry water to extinguish the flames, which they did with great eagerness. Amidst the din of different cries was heard the clank of chains, from the galley slaves, who were employed in saving that city which served them for a prison. The different nations of the Levant, which commerce draws to Ancona, expressed their fear by the stupor which appeared in their looks. The merchants, on beholding their warehouses in flames, entirely lost their presence of mind. Alarm for the loss of fortune affects the common order of men as much as the fear of death, and does not inspire that energy of the soul, that enthusiasm which brings resources to our aid.
The cries of sailors have always something doleful and prolonged in them, and were now rendered still more so by terror. The mariners on the shores of the Adriatic are clad in a red and brown hooded cloak of most singular appearance, and from the midst of this vestment emerged the animated countenances of the Italians, painting fear in a thousand shapes. The inhabitants, throwing themselves down in the streets, covered their heads with their cloaks, as if nothing remained for them now to do but to avoid seeing their disaster; others precipitated themselves into those flames from which they entertained no hope of escaping. A thoughtless fury and a blind resignation appeared by turns; but nowhere was seen that cool deliberation which redoubles our resources and our strength.
Oswald recollected that there were two English vessels in the harbour which had on board pumps of the best construction: he ran to the captain, who accompanied him in a boat to bring away these pumps. The inhabitants, seeing them enter the boat, exclaimed, "Ah! strangers you do well to quit our unhappy city!" "We shall come back again," said Oswald. They did not believe him. He returned however, fixed one of the pumps opposite the first house on fire, near the port, and the other facing that which was burning in the middle of the street. The Count d'Erfeuil exposed his life with carelessness, courage, and gaiety; the English sailors, and the domestics of Lord Nelville, all came to his aid; for the inhabitants of Ancona remained motionless, hardly comprehending what these strangers were about, and not expecting the least success from them.
The bells rang in every quarter, the priests made processions, the women lamented and prostrated themselves before the images of the saints at the corners of the streets; but no one thought of those natural means which God has given to man for his defence. However, when the inhabitants perceived the happy effect of Oswald's activity; when they saw that the flames were being extinguished, and that their houses would be saved, they passed from astonishment to enthusiasm; they thronged about Lord Nelville, and kissed his hands with such lively eagerness that he was obliged to appear angry in order to drive away from him all who might obstruct the rapid succession of orders, and of efforts necessary to save the city. Every body was arranged under his command; for, in the least as well as in the greatest circumstances, when danger presents itself courage assumes its proper station; as soon as men are possessed with fear they cease to be jealous of one another.
Oswald, however, amid the general din, distinguished some cries more horrible than the rest, which resounded from the other extremity of the city. He demanded whence these cries proceeded, and was informed that they came from the quarter which was allotted for the Jews: the officer of the police was accustomed to shut the gates of this quarter in the evening, and, the fire having reached that part of the city, the Jews had no means of escape.
Oswald shuddered at this idea, and demanded that the gate should be immediately opened; but some women of the people who heard him threw themselves at his feet, entreating him to desist.—"You see very well," said they, "our good angel! that it is certainly on account of these Jews who reside here that we have suffered this fire, it is they who bring calamity upon us, and if you set them at liberty all the water in the sea will not extinguish the flames." And they besought Oswald to let the Jews be burnt with as much eloquence and tenderness as if they were soliciting an act of clemency. This was not the effect of natural cruelty, but of a superstitious imagination acutely impressed by a great misfortune; however, Oswald could hardly contain his indignation on hearing these strange entreaties.
He sent four English sailors with hatchets to break open the gates which inclosed these unfortunate people, who spread themselves in an instant through the city, running to their merchandise with that greed of possession which has something very melancholy in it, when it induces mortals to risk their lives for worldly wealth. One would say that in the present state of society the simple blessing of life is esteemed by man of little value.
There now remained but one house at the top of the city, which the flames surrounded in such a manner that it was impossible to extinguish them, and more impossible to enter it. The inhabitants of Ancona had manifested so little concern for this house, that the English sailors, not believing it to be inhabited, had dragged their pumps towards the harbour. Oswald himself, stunned by the cries of those who surrounded him and solicited his aid, had not paid attention to it. The fire had extended the latest to that quarter, but had made considerable progress there. Lord Nelville demanded so impatiently what house that was, that at length a man informed him it was the madhouse. At this idea his whole soul was agitated; he turned, but found none of the sailors around him; the Count d'Erfeuil was not there either, and he would vainly have addressed himself to the inhabitants of Ancona: they were almost all occupied in saving their merchandise, and considered it absurd to run any risk to rescue men, of whom there was not one who was not incurably mad: "It is a blessing from Heaven," said they, "for them, and for their relations, that they should die in this manner; without any one incurring a crime by their death."
Whilst they held such language as this around Oswald, he proceeded with the utmost speed towards the madhouse, and the crowd, by whom he was censured, followed him with a confused sentiment of involuntary enthusiasm. As Oswald approached the house, he saw, at the only window which was not surrounded with flames, a number of lunatics, who regarded the progress of the fire with that horrid kind of smile which either supposes ignorance of all the ills of life, or so much grief at the bottom of the soul that death in no shape can terrify it. An inexpressible shudder seized upon Oswald at this sight; he had felt in the most dreadful moment of his despair, that his reason was on the point of being affected, and since that epoch, the aspect of madness always inspired him with the most sorrowful emotions of pity. He seized a ladder which he found near the spot, fixed it against the wall, and entered by the window into an apartment where the unhappy people who remained in the madhouse were assembled together.
Their insanity was so harmless, that they were suffered to be at large in the interior of the house with the exception of one, who was chained in this very room, where the flames already began to appear through the door, but had not yet consumed the floor. These miserable creatures, quite degraded by disease and suffering, were so surprised and enchanted by the appearance of Oswald among them, that they obeyed him at first without resistance. He ordered them to descend before him, one after another, by means of the ladder, which the flames might devour in a moment. The first of these wretched people obeyed without uttering a word; the accent and the physiognomy of Lord Nelville had entirely subdued him. A third wished to resist, without suspecting the danger that he incurred by each moment of delay, and without thinking of the peril to which he exposed Oswald in detaining him. The people, who felt all the horrors of his situation, cried out to Lord Nelville to return, and to let those maniacs get away how they could. But the deliverer would listen to nothing till he had achieved his generous enterprise.
Of the six lunatics who were in the madhouse, five were already saved; there now only remained the sixth who was chained. Oswald loosened his irons, and endeavoured to make him take the same means of escaping as his companions had done; but it was a poor young man, whose reason was entirely destroyed, and, finding himself at liberty, after being chained for two years, he darted about the room with an extravagant joy. This joy rose to fury, when Oswald tried to make him go out at the window. Lord Nelville perceiving that it was impossible to prevail upon this maniac to save himself, though the flames increased around them, seized him in his arms, in spite of the efforts of the unhappy wretch, who struggled against his benefactor. He carried him off, without knowing where he placed his feet, so much was his sight obscured by the smoke; he leaped from nearly the middle of the ladder, and consigned the lunatic, who loaded him with curses, to some people whom he made promise to take care of him.
Oswald, animated by the danger he had just run, his hair dishevelled, his look so proud yet so mild, struck the crowd who beheld him with admiration, and almost with fanaticism; the women, above all, expressed themselves with that imagination which is an almost universal gift in Italy, and even gives a nobleness to the conversation of the common people. They threw themselves on their knees before him, and cried, "You are surely St Michael, the patron of our city; display thy wings most holy saint! but do not quit us: deign to ascend the steeple of the cathedral, that all the city may behold, and pray to thee." "My child is sick," said one, "heal him." "Tell me," said another, "where my husband is, who has been absent several years?" Oswald sought a means of escape. The Count d'Erfeuil arrived, and said to him, pressing his hand, "My dear Nelville, we ought to share all things with our friends; it is unkind of you thus to monopolise all the danger." "Release me from these people," said Oswald to him, in a low voice. A moment of darkness favoured their flight, and both of them went in haste to get post horses.
Lord Nelville experienced, at first, some pleasure from the good action he had just performed, but with whom could he enjoy it now that his best friend was no more? How unhappy is the lot of orphans! The most fortunate events, as well as the most painful, make them feel alike the solitude of the heart. How is it possible, in effect, ever to replace that affection which is born with us, that intelligence, that sympathy of blood, that friendship prepared by heaven between the child and the father? We may still, it is true, find an object of love; but one in whom we can confide our whole soul is a happiness which can never be found again.
 Ancona is now pretty nearly in the same predicament that it was then.
Oswald pursued his journey through the Marches of Ancona, and the Ecclesiastical States, without any thing attracting his observation, or exciting his interest: this was occasioned as well by the melancholy habit of his soul, as by a certain natural indolence, from which he was only to be aroused by strong passions. His taste for the arts had not yet unfolded itself; he had never dwelt but in France, where society is all in all, and in London, where political interests absorb almost every other: his imagination, concentrated in his sufferings, had not yet learnt to take pleasure in the wonders of nature and the masterpieces of art.
The Count d'Erfeuil traversed every town with the "Traveller's Guide" in his hand, and had at once the double pleasure of losing his time in seeing every thing, and of declaring, that he had seen nothing which could excite admiration in any person acquainted with France. The ennui of Count d'Erfeuil discouraged Oswald; he, besides, entertained prejudices against the Italians and against Italy: he did not yet penetrate the mystery of this nation or of this country;—a mystery which must be comprehended by the imagination, rather than by that faculty of judgment which is particularly developed by an English education.
The Italians are much more remarkable for what they have been, and for what they might be than for what they actually are. The deserts which surround the city of Rome, that land which, fatigued with glory, seems to hold in contempt the praise of being productive, presents but an uncultivated and neglected country to him who considers it with regard to utility. Oswald, accustomed from his infancy to the love of order and public prosperity, received, at first, unfavourable impressions in traversing those deserted plains which announce the approach to that city formerly the queen of the world: he blamed the indolence of the inhabitants and that of their rulers. Lord Nelville judged of Italy as an enlightened administrator, the Count d'Erfeuil as a man of the world: thus the one from reason, and the other from levity, were not sensible of that effect which the country about Rome produces upon the imagination, when it is impressed with the recollections, the sympathies, the natural beauties and the illustrious misfortunes which spread over these regions an undefinable charm.
The Count made ludicrous lamentations on the environs of Rome. "What," said he, "no country house, no carriage, nothing that announces the vicinity of a great city? Heavens! what a melancholy prospect!" In approaching Rome, the postillions cried, with transport, "See! See, there is the dome of St Peter's!" It is thus that the Neapolitans shew mount Vesuvius, and the sea excites the same emotions of pride in the inhabitants of the coast. "One would have thought they had seen the dome of Les Invalides;" cried the Count d'Erfeuil. This comparison, more patriotic than just, destroyed the impression which Oswald might have received on beholding this magnificent wonder of human creation. They entered Rome, not on a fine day—not on a fine night—but on a gloomy evening, which tarnished and confounded every object. They traversed the Tiber without remarking it; they arrived at Rome by the Porta del Popolo which conducts immediately to the Corso, to the largest street of the modern city, but to that part of Rome which possesses the least originality, because it resembles more the other cities of Europe.
Crowds were walking in the streets; the puppet shows and the charlatans were formed in groups in the square, where stands the column of Antoninus. All the attention of Oswald was captivated by the objects nearest to him. The name of Rome no longer vibrated through his soul; he felt nothing but that isolation which oppresses the heart when we enter a strange city, when we behold that multitude of people to whom our existence is unknown, and who have no interest in common with us. Those reflections, so sad for every man, are still more so for the English, who are accustomed to live among themselves, and who with difficulty enter into the manners of other nations. In the vast caravansary of Rome everything is foreign, even the Romans seem to inhabit there not as the possessors, but like pilgrims who repose beneath the ruins. Oswald, oppressed with painful sensations, shut himself up at home, and went not out to see the city. He was very far from thinking that this country, which he entered under such sadness and dejection of spirits, would soon become for him a source of so many new ideas and enjoyments.
 This reflection is taken from a letter on Rome, by M. de Humboldt, brother of the celebrated Traveller, and Prussian Minister at Rome. It is difficult to find anywhere a man whose conversation and writings bespeak more knowledge and ideas.
CORINNE AT THE CAPITOL.
Oswald awoke in Rome. His first looks were saluted by the brilliancy of an Italian sun, and his soul was penetrated with a sentiment of love and gratitude towards that Power which seemed manifested in its resplendent beams. He heard the bells of the different churches of the city; the firing of cannon at intervals announced some great solemnity. He demanded the cause of it, and was informed that that morning was to be crowned, at the Capitol, the most celebrated woman in Italy. Corinne, poetess, writer, improvisatrice, and one of the greatest beauties of Rome. He made some enquiries respecting this ceremony consecrated by the names of Petrarch and of Tasso, and all the answers that he received strongly excited his curiosity.
There is certainly nothing more contrary to the habits and opinions of an Englishman, than this great publicity given to the destiny of a woman; but even foreigners are affected, at least for a moment, with that enthusiasm which is inspired in the Italians by all those talents that belong to the imagination, and they forget the prejudices of their country amidst a nation so warm in the expression of its feelings. The common people of Rome reason with taste upon their statues, pictures, monuments and antiquities; and literary merit, carried to a certain pitch, excites in them a national interest.
Oswald quitted his lodgings to repair to the public square, where he heard everybody speaking of the genius and talents of Corinne. The streets through which she was to pass had been decorated; the people, who rarely assemble together except to pay their homage to fortune or power, were, upon this occasion, almost in a tumult to behold a female whose mind was her only claim to distinction. In the actual state of the Italians the field of glory is only open to them in the fine arts, and they possess a sensibility for genius in that department, which ought to give birth to great men, if applause alone were sufficient to produce them, if the stress of vigorous life, great interests and an independent existence were not necessary to nourish thought.
Oswald walked the streets of Rome, waiting the arrival of Corinne. At every instant he heard her name accompanied with some anecdote concerning her, which implied the possession of all those talents that captivate the imagination. One said that her voice was the most touching in Italy; another, that nobody played tragedy like her; somebody else, that she danced like a nymph, and designed with as much taste as invention: all said that nobody had ever written or improvised such fine verses, and that, in habitual conversation she possessed by turns, a grace and an eloquence which charmed every mind. Disputes were entered into as to what city of Rome had given her birth; but the Romans maintained, warmly, that she must have been born in Rome to speak Italian in such purity as she did. No one was acquainted with her family name. Her first work had appeared five years before, and only bore the name of Corinne; nobody knew where she had lived, nor what she had been before that time: she was, however, nearly twenty-six years of age. This mystery and publicity both at the same time, this woman of whom everybody spoke, but whose real name was known to nobody, appeared to Lord Nelville one of the wonders of the singular country he had just come to live in. He would have judged very severely of such a woman in England, but he did not apply the usual etiquette of society to Italy, and the coronation of Corinne inspired him beforehand with that interest to which an adventure of Ariosto would give birth.
Very fine and brilliant music preceded the arrival of the triumphal procession. Any event, whatever it may be, which is announced by music, always produces emotion. A great number of Roman Lords, and some foreigners, preceded the car of Corinne. "That is the train of her admirers!" said a Roman. "Yes," replied the other, "she receives the incense of everybody; but she grants nobody a decided preference: she is rich and independent; it is even believed, and certainly her appearance bespeaks it, that she is a woman of illustrious birth who desires to remain unknown." "Be it as it may," replied a third, "she is a goddess wrapt in a cloud." Oswald looked at the man who spoke thus, and every thing about him indicated that he belonged to the most obscure rank in society; but in the south people so naturally make use of poetical expressions, that one would say they were inhaled with the air and inspired by the sun.
At length way was made through the crowd for the four white horses that drew the car of Corinne. Corinne was seated in this car which was constructed upon an antique model, and young girls, dressed in white, walked on each side of her. Wherever she passed an abundance of perfumes was thrown into the air; the windows, decorated with flowers and scarlet tapestry, were crowded with spectators; every body cried, "Long live Corinne!" "Long live Genius and Beauty!" The emotion was general but Lord Nelville did not yet share it, and though he had observed in his own mind that in order to judge of such a ceremony we must lay aside the reserve of the English and the pleasantry of the French, he did not share heartily in the fete till at last he beheld Corinne.
She was dressed like the Sybil of Domenichino; an Indian shawl twisted about her head, and her hair of the finest jet black, entwined with this shawl; her dress was white, with blue drapery from her bosom downwards, and her costume was very picturesque, at the same time without departing so much from established modes as to savour of affectation. Her attitude on the car was noble and modest: it was easily perceived that she was pleased with being admired, but a sense of timidity was mingled with her joy, and seemed to ask pardon for her triumph. The expression of her physiognomy, of her eyes, of her smile, interested all in her favour, and the first look made Lord Nelville her friend, even before that sentiment was subdued by a warmer impression. Her arms were of dazzling beauty; her shape, tall, but rather full, after the manner of the Grecian statues, energetically characterised youth and happiness; and there was something inspired in her look. One might perceive in her manner of greeting and returning thanks for the applause which she received, a kind of disposition which heightened the lustre of the extraordinary situation in which she was placed. She gave at once the idea of a priestess of Apollo advancing towards the temple of the Sun, and of a woman of perfect simplicity in the common relations of life. To conclude, in her every motion there was a charm which excited interest, curiosity, astonishment and affection. The admiration of the people increased in proportion as she advanced towards the Capitol—that spot so fertile in memories. The beauty of the sky, the enthusiasm of these Romans, and above all Corinne, electrified the imagination of Oswald. He had often, in his own country, seen statesmen carried in triumph by the people, but this was the first time he had been a witness of the honours paid to a woman—a woman illustrious only by the gifts of genius. Her chariot of victory was not purchased at the cost of the tears of any human being, and no regret, no terror overshadowed that admiration which the highest endowments of nature, imagination, sentiment and mind, could not fail to excite.
Oswald was so absorbed in his reflections, so occupied by novel ideas, that he did not remark the antique and celebrated places through which the car of Corinne passed. It was at the foot of the flight of steps which leads to the Capitol, that the car stopped, and at that moment all the friends of Corinne rushed forward to offer her their hands. She chose that of the prince Castel-Forte, the most esteemed of the Roman nobility, for his intellect and for his disposition: every one approved the choice of Corinne, and she ascended the steps of the Capitol whose imposing majesty seemed to receive, with kind condescension, the light footsteps of a woman. A new flourish of music was heard at the moment of Corinne's arrival, the cannon resounded and the triumphant Sybil entered the palace prepared for her reception.
At the lower end of the hall in which she was received were placed the senator who was to crown her, and the conservators of the senate; on one side all the cardinals and the most distinguished women of the country; on the other the men of letters of the academy of Rome; and at the opposite extremity the hall was occupied by a part of the immense crowd who had followed Corinne. The chair destined for her was placed a step below that of the senator. Corinne, before she seated herself in it, made a genuflection on the first step, agreeably to the etiquette required in this august assembly. She did it with so much nobleness and modesty, so much gentleness and dignity, that Lord Nelville in that moment felt his eyes moist with tears: he was astonished at his own tenderness, but in the midst of all her pomp and triumph it seemed to him that Corinne had implored, by her looks, the protection of a friend—that protection which no woman, however superior, can dispense with; and how sweet, said he within himself, would it be to become the support of her to whom sensibility alone renders that support necessary.
As soon as Corinne was seated the Roman poets began to read the sonnets and odes which they had composed for the occasion. They all exalted her to the skies, but the praises which they lavishly bestowed upon her did not draw any characteristic features of distinction between her and other women of superior talents. They were only pleasing combinations of images, and allusions to mythology, which might, from the days of Sappho to those in which we live, have been addressed indiscriminately to any woman who had rendered herself illustrious by her literary talents.