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Title: Corinne, Volume 1 (of 2) - Or Italy
Author: Staël, Madame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine), 1766-1817
Language: English
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[Illustration: The crowd break their ranks as the horses pass.]



CORINNE

OR

ITALY

BY

MME. DE STAËL


WITH INTRODUCTION BY

GEORGE SAINTSBURY

(_In Two Volumes_)

VOL. I.

_Illustrated_

_by_

H.S. Greig

LONDON: Published by J.M. DENT and COMPANY at
ALDINE HOUSE in Great Eastern Street, E.C.

MDCCCXCIV



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

[Illustration]



INTRODUCTION.


In Lady Blennerhassett's enthusiastic and encyclopædic 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a chance of enduring when its companion is but a historical
document--the record of a moment that has long passed away.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
æsthetics 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 æsthetic 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 Léonce, 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. Léonce 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 _émigrés_,
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
Littérature_, in 1800, was taken as a covert attack on the Napoleonic
_régime_; 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 Années
d'Exil_ and the posthumous _Considérations sur La Révolution Française_,
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
æsthetics 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[1] 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 æsthetics 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 _émigré_, 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 æsthetics, 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 _dénoûment_ 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 été 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
René 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 _émigré_ 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 _maître d'hôtel_, 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 _roué_ of the old _régime_. 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.

                                                      GEORGE SAINTSBURY.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] 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.



Book i.

OSWALD.

[Illustration]



CORINNE.



Chapter i.


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.



Chapter ii.


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.



Chapter iii.


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
emigré 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."



Chapter iv.


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[2], 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.

FOOTNOTE:

[2] Ancona is now pretty nearly in the same predicament that it was
then.



Chapter v.


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_[3]. 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.

FOOTNOTE:

[3] 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.



Book ii.

CORINNE AT THE CAPITOL.

[Illustration]



Chapter i.


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 _fête_ till at last he beheld Corinne.

[Illustration: _Corinne at the Capitol._]

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.

Already Lord Nelville felt hurt at this manner of praising Corinne; he
thought, in beholding her, that he could at that very instant draw a
portrait of her, more true, more just, more characteristic--a portrait
in fact that could only belong to Corinne.



Chapter ii.


The Prince Castel-Forte then rose to speak, and his observations upon
the merits of Corinne excited the attention of the whole assembly. He
was about fifty years of age, and there was in his speech and in his
deportment much deliberate ease and dignity. The assurances which Lord
Nelville received from those about him, that he was only the friend of
Corinne, excited, in his lordship's mind, an interest for the portrait
which he drew of her, unmixed with any other emotion. Without such a
security a confused sentiment of jealousy would have already disturbed
the soul of Oswald.

The Prince Castel-Forte read some unpretentious pages of prose which
were particularly calculated to display the genius of Corinne. He first
pointed out the peculiar merit of her work, and said that that merit
partly consisted of her profound study of foreign literature: she
united, in the highest degree, imagination, florid description and all
the brilliancy of the south, with that knowledge, that observation of
the human heart, which falls to the share of those countries where
external objects excite less interest.

He extolled the elegant graces and the lively disposition of Corinne--a
gaiety which partook of no improper levity, but proceeded solely from
the vivacity of the mind and the freshness of the imagination. He
attempted to praise her sensibility, but it was easily perceived that
personal regret mingled itself with this part of his speech. He lamented
the difficulty which a woman of her superior cast experienced of meeting
with the object of which she has formed to herself an ideal portrait--a
portrait clad with every endowment the heart and mind can wish for. He
however took pleasure in painting the passionate sensibility which the
poetry of Corinne inspired, and the art she possessed of seizing every
striking relation between the beauties of nature and the most intimate
impressions of the soul. He exalted the originality of Corinne's
expressions, those expressions which were the offspring of her character
and manner of feeling, without ever permitting any shade of affectation
to disfigure a species of charm not only natural but involuntary.

He spoke of her eloquence as possessing an irresistible force and energy
which must the more transport her hearers the more they possessed within
themselves true intellectual sensibility. "Corinne," said he, "is
indubitably the most celebrated woman of our country, and nevertheless
it is only her friends who can properly delineate her; for we must
always have recourse, in some degree, to conjecture, in order to
discover the genuine qualities of the soul. They may be concealed from
our knowledge by celebrity as well as obscurity, if some sort of
sympathy does not assist us to penetrate them." He enlarged upon her
talent for extemporisation, which did not resemble any thing of that
description known in Italy. "It is not only to the fecundity of her mind
that we ought to attribute it;" said he; "but to the deep emotion which
every generous thought excites in her. She cannot pronounce a word that
recalls such thoughts without enthusiasm, that inexhaustible source of
sentiments and of ideas animating and inspiring her." The Prince
Castel-Forte also made his audience sensible of the beauties of a style
always pure and harmonious. "The poetry of Corinne," added he, "is an
intellectual melody which can alone express the charm of the most
fugitive and delicate impressions."

He praised the conversation of his heroine in a manner that easily made
it perceived he had experienced its delight. "Imagination and
simplicity, justness and elevation, strength and tenderness, are
united," said he, "in the same person to give incessant variety to all
the pleasures of the mind: we may apply to her, this charming verse of
Petrarch:

     _Il parlar che nell' anima si sente._[4]

and, I believe, in her will be found that grace so much boasted of,
that oriental charm which the ancients attributed to Cleopatra.

"The places I have visited with her, the music we have heard together,
the pictures she has pointed out to me, the books she has made me
comprehend, compose the universe of my imagination. There is in all
these objects a spark of her life; and if I were to exist at a distance
from her I would wish at least to be surrounded by those objects,
certain as I am of finding nowhere else that trace of fire, that trace
of herself in fact, which she has left in them. Yes," continued he (and
at that moment his eyes fell by chance upon Oswald), "behold Corinne; if
you can pass your life with her, if that double existence which it is in
her power to give can be assured to you for a long time; but do not
behold her if you are condemned to quit her; you will seek in vain as
long as you live that creative soul which shares and multiplies your
sentiments and your thoughts; you will never behold her like again."

Oswald started at these words, his eyes fixed themselves upon Corinne,
who heard them with an emotion that was not inspired by self-love, but
which was allied to the most amiable and delicate feelings. The Prince
Castel-Forte was much affected for a moment, and then resumed his
speech. He spoke of Corinne's talent for music, for painting, for
declamation and for dancing: In all these talents, he said, she was
entirely herself, not confined to any particular manner, or to any
particular rule, but expressing in various languages the same powers of
the imagination, and the same witchery of the fine arts under all their
different forms.

"I do not flatter myself," said the Prince Castel-Forte in concluding,
"that I have been able to paint a lady of whom it is impossible to form
an idea without having heard her; but her presence is, for us at Rome,
as one of the benefits of our brilliant sky and our inspired nature.
Corinne is the tie that unites her friends together; she is the moving
principle and the interest of our life. We reckon upon her goodness; we
are proud of her genius; we say to strangers, 'Behold her! She is the
image of our beautiful Italy; she is what we should be without the
ignorance, the envy, the discord and the indolence to which our fate has
condemned us.' We take pleasure in contemplating her as an admirable
production of our climate and of our fine arts,--as a scion shooting out
of the past, as a prophecy of the future. When foreigners insult this
country, whence has issued that intelligence which has shed its light
over Europe; when they are without pity for our defects, which arise out
of our misfortunes, we will say to them: 'Behold Corinne! 'Tis our
desire to follow her footsteps; we would endeavour to become, as men,
what she is as woman, if man like woman could create a world in his own
heart; and if our genius, necessarily dependent upon social relations
and external circumstances, could be kindled by the torch of poetry
alone.'"

The moment the Prince Castel-Forte left off speaking unanimous applause
was heard on all sides, and though towards the conclusion of his speech
he indirectly blamed the present state of the Italians, all the nobles
of the state approved of it; so true it is that we find in Italy that
sort of liberality which does not lead men to alter institutions, but
which pardons in superior minds a tranquil opposition to existing
prejudices. The reputation of Prince Castel-Forte was very great in
Rome. He spoke with a rare sagacity, which is a remarkable gift in a
nation who exhibit more intellect in their conduct than in their
conversation. He did not in his worldly concerns shew that address which
often distinguishes the Italians, but he took delight in thought, and
did not dread the fatigue of meditation. The happy inhabitants of the
south sometimes shrink from this fatigue, and flatter themselves that
imagination will do everything for them, as their fertile soil produces
fruit without cultivation assisted only by the bounty of the sky.

FOOTNOTE:

[4] The language which is felt in the depth of the soul.



Chapter iii.


Corinne arose when the Prince Castel-Forte had ceased speaking; she
thanked him by an inclination of the head so dignified yet so gentle,
that it expressed at once the modesty and joy so natural at having
received praise according to her heart's desire. It was the custom that
every poet crowned at the Capitol should recite or extemporise some
piece of poetry, before the destined laurel was placed on his head.
Corinne ordered her lyre to be brought to her--the instrument of her
choice--which greatly resembled the harp, but was however more antique
in form and more simple in its sounds. In tuning it she was seized with
uncommon timidity, and it was with a trembling voice that she asked to
know the subject imposed on her. "_The glory and happiness of Italy!_"
cried all around her with a unanimous voice. "Very well," replied she
already fired with enthusiasm, already supported by her genius, "_the
glory and happiness of Italy_;" and feeling herself animated by the love
of her country she commenced the most charming strains, of which prose
can give but a very imperfect idea.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Improvisation of Corinne, at the Capitol._

"Italy, empire of the sun! Italy, mistress of the world! Italy, the
cradle of letters, I salute thee! How often has the human race been
subjected to thee, tributary to thy arms, to thy art and to thy sky.

"A deity quitted Olympus to take refuge in Ausonia; the aspect of this
country recalled the virtues of the golden age;--man appeared there too
happy to be supposed guilty.

"Rome conquered the universe by her genius, and became sovereign by
liberty. The Roman character was imprinted everywhere, and the invasion
of the Barbarians, in destroying Italy obscured the whole world.

"Italy appeared again with the divine treasures which the fugitive
Greeks brought back to her bosom; heaven revealed its laws to her; the
daring of her children discovered a new hemisphere; she again became
sovereign by the sceptre of thought, but this laurelled sceptre only
produced ingratitude.

"Imagination restored to her the universe which she had lost. The
painters and the poets created for her an earth, an Olympus, a hell, and
a heaven; and her native fire, better guarded by her genius than by the
Pagan deity, found not in Europe a Prometheus to ravish it from her.

"Why am I at the Capitol? Why is my humble forehead about to receive the
crown which Petrarch, has worn, and which remained suspended on the
gloomy cypress that weeps over the tomb of Tasso?--Why, if you were not
so enamoured of glory, my fellow-countrymen, that you recompense its
worship as much as its success?

"Well, if you so love this glory which too often chooses its victims
among the conquerors which it has crowned, reflect with pride upon those
ages which beheld the new birth of the arts. Dante, the modern Homer,
the hero of thought, the sacred poet of our religious mysteries, plunged
his genius into the Styx to land in the infernal regions, and his mind
was profound as the abyss which he has described.

"Italy in the days of her power was wholly revived in Dante. Animated by
a republican spirit, warrior as well as poet, he breathed the flame of
action among the dead; and his shadows have a more vivid existence than
the living here below.

"Terrestrial remembrances pursue them still; their aimless passions
devour one another in the heart; they are moved at the past which seems
to them less irrevocable than their eternal future.

"One would say that Dante, banished from his country, has transported
into imaginary regions the pangs which devoured him. His shades
incessantly demand news from the scene of mortal existence, as the poet
himself eagerly enquires after his native country; and hell presents
itself to him in the form of exile.

"All, in his eyes, are clothed in the costume of Florence. The ancient
dead whom he invokes, seem to be born again as completely Tuscan as
himself. It was not that his mind was limited--it was the energy of his
soul, that embraced the whole universe within the circle of his
thoughts.

"A mystical chain of circles and of spheres conducts him from hell to
purgatory, from purgatory to paradise. Faithful historian of his vision,
he pours a flood of light upon the most obscure regions, and the world
which he creates in his triple poem is as complete, as animated and as
brilliant as a planet newly-discovered in the firmament.

"At his voice the whole earth assumes a poetical form, its objects,
ideas, laws and phenomena, seem a new Olympus of new deities; but this
mythology of the imagination is annihilated, like paganism, at the
aspect of paradise, of that ocean of light, sparkling with rays and with
stars, with virtues and with love.

"The magic words of our great poet are the prism of the universe; all
its wonders are there reflected, divided, and recomposed; sounds imitate
colours, and colours are blended in harmony; rhyme, sonorous or bizarre,
rapid or prolonged, is inspired by this poetical divination; supreme
beauty of art! triumph of genius! which discovers in nature every secret
in affinity with the heart of man.

"Dante hoped from his poem the termination of his exile; he reckoned on
Fame as his mediator; but he died too soon to receive the palm of his
country. Often is the fleeting life of man worn out in adversity! and if
glory triumph, if at length he land upon a happier shore, he no sooner
enters the port than the grave yawns before him, and destiny, in a
thousand shapes, often announces the end of life by the return of
happiness.

"Thus unfortunate Tasso, whom your homage, Romans, was to console for
all the injustice he had suffered; Tasso, the handsome, the gentle, the
heroic, dreaming of exploits, feeling the love which he sang, approached
these walls as his heroes did those of Jerusalem--with respect and
gratitude. But on the eve of the day chosen for his coronation, Death
claimed him for its terrible festival: Heaven is jealous of earth, and
recalls her favourites from the treacherous shores of Time!

"In an age more proud and more free than that of Tasso, Petrarch was,
like Dante, the valorous poet of Italian independence. In other climes
he is only known by his amours,--here, more severe recollections
encircle his name with never-fading honour; for it is known that he was
inspired by his country more than by Laura herself.

"He re-animated antiquity by his vigils; and, far from his imagination
raising any obstacle to the most profound studies, its creative power,
in submitting the future to his will, revealed to him the secrets of
past ages. He discovered how greatly knowledge assists invention; and
his genius was so much the more original, since, like the eternal
forces, he could be present at all periods of time.

"Ariosto derived inspiration from our serene atmosphere, and our
delicious climate. He is the rainbow which appeared after our long wars;
brilliant and many-hued, like that herald of fine weather, he seems to
sport familiarly with life; his light and gentle gaiety is the smile of
nature and not the irony of man.

"Michael Angelo, Raphael, Pergolese, Galileo, and you, intrepid
travellers, greedy of new countries, though nature could offer nothing
finer than your own, join your glory also to that of the poets. Artists,
scholars, philosophers! you are, like them, the children of that sun
which by turns developes the imagination, animates thought, excites
courage, lulls us into a happy slumber, and seems to promise everything,
or cause it to be forgotten.

"Do you know that land where the Orange-trees bloom, which the rays of
heaven make fertile with love? Have you heard those melodious sounds
which celebrate the mildness of the nights? Have you breathed those
perfumes which are the luxury of that air, already so pure and so mild?
Answer, strangers; is nature in your countries so beautiful and so
beneficent?

"In other regions, when social calamities afflict a country, the people
must believe themselves abandoned by the Deity; but here we ever feel
the protection of heaven; we see that he interests himself for man, that
he has deigned to treat him as a noble being.

"It is not only with vine branches, and with ears of corn, that Nature
is here adorned; she prodigally strews beneath the feet of man, as on
the birthday of a sovereign, an abundance of useless plants and flowers,
which, destined to please, will not stoop to serve.

"The most delicate pleasures nourished by nature are enjoyed by a nation
worthy of them--a nation who are satisfied with the most simple dishes;
who do not become intoxicated at the fountains of wine which plenty
prepares for them;--a nation who love their sun, their arts, their
monuments, their country, at once antique and in the spring of youth;--a
nation that stand equally aloof from the refined pleasures of luxury, as
from the gross and sordid pleasures of a mercenary people."

"Here sensations are confounded with ideas; life is drawn in all its
fulness from the same spring, and the soul, like the air, inhabits the
confines of earth, and of heaven. Genius is untrammelled because here
reverie is sweet: its holy calm soothes the soul when perturbed,
lavishes upon it a thousand illusions when it regrets a lost purpose,
and when oppressed by man nature is ready to welcome it."

"Thus is our country ever beneficent, and her succouring hand heals
every wound. Here, even the pangs of the heart receive consolation, in
admiring a God of kindness, and penetrating the secrets of his love; the
passing troubles of our ephemeral life are lost in the fertile and
majestic bosom of the immortal universe."

Corinne was interrupted, for some moments, by a torrent of applause.
Oswald alone took no share in the noisy transports that surrounded him.
He had leaned his head upon his hand, when Corinne said: "_Here, even
the pangs of the heart receive consolation_;" and had not raised it
since. Corinne remarked it, and soon, from his features, the colour of
his hair, his costume, his lofty figure, from his whole manner in short,
she knew him for an Englishman: she was struck with his mourning habit,
and the melancholy pictured in his countenance. His look, at that moment
fixed upon her, seemed full of gentle reproaches; she guessed the
thoughts that occupied his mind, and felt the necessity of satisfying
him, by speaking of happiness with less confidence, by consecrating some
verses to death in the midst of a festival. She then resumed her lyre,
with this design, and having produced silence in the assembly, by the
moving and prolonged sounds which she drew from her instrument, began
thus:

"There are griefs however which our consoling sky cannot efface, but in
what retreat can sorrow make a more sweet and more noble impression upon
the soul than here?

"In other countries hardly do the living find space sufficient for their
rapid motions and their ardent desires; here, ruins, deserts and
uninhabited palaces, afford an asylum for the shades of the departed. Is
not Rome now the land of tombs?

"The Coliseum, the obelisks, all the wonders which from Egypt and from
Greece, from the extremity of ages, from Romulus to Leo X. are assembled
here, as if grandeur attracted grandeur, and as if the same spot was to
enclose all that man could secure from the ravages of time; all these
wonders are consecrated to the monuments of the dead. Our indolent life
is scarcely perceived, the silence of the living is homage paid to the
dead; they endure and we pass away.

"They only are honoured, they are still celebrated: our obscure
destinies serve only to heighten the lustre of our ancestors: our
present existence leaves nothing standing but the past; it will exact no
tribute from future recollections! All our masterpieces are the work of
those who are no more, and genius itself is numbered among the
illustrious dead.

"Perhaps one of the secret charms of Rome, is to reconcile the
imagination with the sleep of death. Here we learn resignation, and
suffer less pangs of regret for the objects of our love. The people of
the south picture to themselves the end of life in colours less gloomy
than the inhabitants of the north. The sun, like glory, warms even the
tomb.

"The cold and isolation of the sepulchre beneath our lovely sky, by the
side of so many funereal urns, have less terrors for the human mind. We
believe a crowd of spirits is waiting for our company; and from our
solitary city to the subterranean one the transition seems easy and
gentle.

"Thus the edge of grief is taken off; not that the heart becomes
indifferent, or the soul dried up; but a more perfect harmony, a more
odoriferous air, mingles with existence. We abandon ourselves to nature
with less fear--to nature, of whom the Creator has said: 'Consider the
lilies of the field; they toil not neither do they spin: yet I say unto
you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of
these.'"

Oswald was so ravished with these last strains, that he gave the most
lively testimonies of his admiration; and, upon this occasion, the
transports of the Italians themselves did not equal his. In fact, it was
to him more than to the Romans, that the second improvisation of Corinne
was directed.

The greater part of the Italians have, in reading poetry, a kind of
singing monotony, called _cantilene_, which destroys all emotion[5]. It
is in vain that the words vary--the impression remains the same; since
the accent, more essential than even the words, hardly varies at all.
But Corinne recited with a variety of tone, which did not destroy the
sustained charm of the harmony;--it was like several different airs
played on some celestial instrument.

The tones of Corinne's voice, full of sensibility and emotion, giving,
effect to the Italian language, so pompous and so sonorous, produced
upon Oswald an impression entirely novel. The English prosody is uniform
and veiled, its natural beauties are all of a sombre cast; its colouring
has been formed by clouds, and its modulation by the roaring of the sea;
but when Italian words, brilliant as an Italian festival, resonant like
those instruments of victory, which have been compared to scarlet among
colours; when these words, bearing the stamp of that joy which a fine
climate spreads through every heart, are pronounced in a moving voice,
their lustre softened, their strength concentrated, the soul is affected
in a manner as acute as unforeseen. The intention of nature seems
baffled, her benefits of no use, her offers rejected, and the expression
of pain, in the midst of so many enjoyments, astonishes and affects us
more deeply than the grief which is sung in those northern languages
which it seems to inspire.

FOOTNOTE:

[5] We must expect from this censure upon the Italian mode of
declamation, the celebrated Monti, who recites verses as well as he
composes them. It is really one of the greatest dramatic pleasures that
can be experienced, to hear him recite the Episode of Ugolin, of
Francesca da Rimini, the Death of Clorinda, &c.



Chapter iv.


The Senator took the crown of myrtle and laurel which he was to place on
the head of Corinne. She removed the shawl which graced her forehead,
and all her ebon hair fell in ringlets about her shoulders. She advanced
with her head bare, and her look animated by a sentiment of pleasure and
gratitude which she sought not to conceal. She a second time bent her
knee, to receive the crown; but she displayed less agitation and tremor
than at first; she had just spoken; she had just filled her mind with
the most noble thoughts, and enthusiasm conquered diffidence. She was
no longer a timid woman, but an inspired priestess who joyfully
consecrated herself to the worship of genius.

As soon as the crown was placed on the head of Corinne all the
instruments were heard in those triumphant airs which fill the soul with
the most sublime emotion. The sound of kettle-drums, and the flourish of
trumpets, inspired Corinne with new feelings--her eyes were filled with
tears--she sat down a moment, and covered her face with her
handkerchief. Oswald, most sensibly affected, quitted the crowd, and
advanced to speak to her, but was withheld by an invincible
embarrassment. Corinne looked at him for some time, taking care
nevertheless, that he should not observe the attention she paid him; but
when the Prince Castel-Forte came to take her hand, in order to conduct
her to the car, she yielded to his politeness with an absent mind; and,
while she permitted him to hand her along, turned her head several
times, under various pretexts, to take another view of Oswald.

He followed her, and at the moment when she descended the steps
accompanied by her train, she made a retrograde movement, in order to
behold him once more, when her crown fell off. Oswald hastened to pick
it up; and in restoring it to her, said in Italian, that an humble
mortal like himself might venture to place at the feet of a goddess that
crown which he dared not presume to place on her head[6]. Corinne
thanked Lord Nelville in English, with that pure national accent--that
pure insular accent, which has scarcely ever been successfully imitated
on the continent. What was the astonishment of Oswald in hearing her! He
remained at first immovably fixed to the spot where he was, and feeling
confused he leaned against one of the lions of basalt at the foot of
the stairway descending from the Capitol. Corinne viewed him again,
forcibly struck with the emotion he betrayed; but she was dragged away
towards the car, and the whole crowd disappeared long before Oswald had
recovered his strength and his presence of mind.

Corinne, till then, had enchanted him as the most charming of
foreigners--as one of the wonders of that country he had come to visit;
but her English accent recalled every recollection of his native
country, and in a manner naturalised all the charms of Corinne. Was she
English? Had she passed several years of her life in England? He was
lost in conjecture; but it was impossible that study alone could have
taught her to speak thus--Corinne and Lord Nelville must have lived in
the same country. Who knows whether their families were not intimate?
Perhaps even, he had seen her in his infancy! We often have in our
hearts, we know not what kind of innate image of that which we love,
which may persuade us that we recognise it in an object we behold for
the first time.

Oswald had cherished many prejudices against the Italians; he believed
them passionate, but changeable, and incapable of any deep and lasting
affection. Already the language of Corinne at the Capitol had inspired
him with a different idea. What would be his fortune, then, if he could
at once revive the recollections of his native country, and receive by
imagination a new existence,--live again for the future without
forgetting the past!

In the midst of his reveries, Oswald found himself upon the bridge of St
Angelo, which leads to the castle of the same name, or rather to the
tomb of Adrian, which has been converted into a fortress. The silence of
the place, the pale waves of the Tiber, the moon-beams which shed their
mild radiance upon the statues placed on the bridge, and gave to those
statues the appearance of white spectres steadfastly regarding the
current of the waters, and the flight of time which no longer concerned
them; all these objects led him back to his habitual ideas. He put his
hand upon his breast, and felt the portrait of his father which he
always carried there; he untied it, contemplated the features, and the
momentary happiness which he had just experienced, as well as the cause
of that happiness, only recalled, with too severe a remembrance, the
sentiment which had already rendered him so guilty towards his father:
This reflection renewed his remorse.

"Eternal recollection of my life!" cried he: "Friend so offended, yet so
generous! Could I have believed that any pleasurable sensation would so
soon have found access to my heart? It is not thou, best and most
indulgent of men,--it is not thou who reproachest me with them--it was
thy wish that I should be happy, and, in spite of my errors, that is
still thy desire: but at least, may I not misconceive thy voice, if thou
speak to me from heaven, as I have misconceived it upon earth!"

FOOTNOTE:

[6] Lord Nelville seems to have alluded to this beautiful distich of
Propertius:

     "Ut caput in Magnis ubi non est ponere signis,
     Ponitur hîc imos ante corona pedes."



Book iii.

CORINNE

[Illustration]



Chapter i.


The Count d'Erfeuil was present at the ceremony of the Capitol: He came
the next day to Lord Nelville, and said to him, "My dear Oswald, shall I
take you this evening to see Corinne?" "How!" interrupted Oswald; "are
you acquainted with her, then?" "No," replied the Count d'Erfeuil; "but
so celebrated a lady is always flattered when people express a desire to
see her; and I have written to her this morning to request permission to
visit her in the evening accompanied by you." "I could have wished,"
replied Oswald blushing, "that you had not named me in this manner
without my consent." "Do not be angry with me," replied the Count
d'Erfeuil, "for having spared you some tiresome formalities: Instead of
going to an ambassador, who would have taken you to a cardinal, who
would have conducted you to a lady, who would have introduced you to
Corinne, I present you--you present me, and we shall both of us be very
well received I have no doubt."

"I am less confident on that subject than you," replied Lord Nelville,
"and certainly not without reason. I am afraid that this forward request
may have displeased Corinne." "Not at all, I assure you," said the Count
d'Erfeuil; "she has too much good sense for that; and her answer is
extremely polite." "How! she has answered you," replied Lord Nelville;
"and what has she said to you, my dear Count?" "Ah, my dear Count?"
said M. d'Erfeuil, laughing, "you change your note then, since you know
that Corinne has answered me; however, _I love you, and all is
pardoned_. I will confess to you then, modestly, that in my note I had
spoken of myself more than of you, and that, in her answer she seems to
have named you first, but I am never jealous of my friends." "Indeed,"
replied Lord Nelville, "I do not think that either you or I have any
reason to flatter ourselves with being agreeable to Corinne; and as to
me, all that I desire is sometimes to enjoy the society of so
extraordinary a lady: so adieu till this evening, since you have
arranged it so." "You will accompany me then?" said the Count d'Erfeuil.
"Well, yes, I will," answered Lord Nelville with visible embarrassment.
"Why then," continued the Count, "find fault with what I have done? You
finish as I have begun, but however, I must allow you the honour of
being more reserved than I, provided you lose nothing by it. Corinne is
certainly a charming lady, she is graceful and witty; I could not
comprehend what she said very well, because she spoke Italian; but I
would venture to lay a wager, from only seeing her, that she knows
French very well: however, we shall judge of that in the evening. She
leads a very singular life; she is rich, young, and independent; yet no
one can tell, to a certainty, whether she has lovers or not. It appears
certain, notwithstanding, that, at present she gives a preference to no
one; indeed," added he, "it may be the case that she has not been able
to find in this country a man worthy of her: that would not astonish me
at all."

The Count held this kind of discourse some time longer without being
interrupted by Lord Nelville. He said nothing that was discourteous; but
he always wounded the delicate feelings of Oswald by speaking with too
much boldness or too much levity upon what interested him. There is a
certain tact that even wit and knowledge of the world will not teach; so
that, without being wanting in the most perfect politeness, we may often
wound the heart.

Lord Nelville was very much agitated the whole day in thinking of the
visit he was to make in the evening; but he drove away from him as much
as he could the reflections which disturbed him, and endeavoured to
persuade himself that he might find pleasure in a sentiment, without
permitting it to decide the fate of his life. False security! for the
soul receives no pleasure from anything which it deems transient.

Oswald and the Count arrived at Corinne's house, which was situated in
the _Quartiere di Trastevere_, a little beyond the castle of St Angelo.

The view of the Tiber gave an additional embellishment to this house,
which was ornamented, internally, with the most perfect elegance. The
saloon was decorated with copies, in plaster, of the best statues in
Italy--Niobe, Laocoon, Venus de Medicis, and the Dying Gladiator. In the
apartment where Corinne received company were instruments of music,
books, and furniture not more remarkable for its simplicity than for its
convenience, being merely arranged so as to render the conversation
easy, and to draw the circle more closely together. Corinne had not yet
made her appearance when Oswald arrived; while waiting for her he walked
about the apartment with much eager curiosity, remarking in every
particular a happy medley of all that is most agreeable in the English,
French and Italian nations; the love of literature, the taste for
society, and a passion for the fine arts.

Corinne at length appeared; her costume was still picturesque without
being over-studied. Her hair was ornamented with antique cameos and she
wore a necklace of coral: her politeness was noble and easy: in
beholding her in the familiar circle of her friends, you might discover
in her the goddess of the Capitol, notwithstanding she was perfectly
simple and natural in everything. She first saluted the Count d'Erfeuil,
her eyes fixed upon Oswald; and then, as if she repented this piece of
falsehood, she advanced towards the latter--and it might be remarked
that in addressing him by the title of Lord Nelville, that name seemed
to produce a singular effect upon her, and twice she repeated it with a
faltering voice, as if it recalled some affecting remembrances.

At length, in the most graceful manner, she thanked Lord Nelville, in
Italian, for his obliging behaviour on the preceding day in picking up
her crown. Oswald answered by expressing the admiration with which she
inspired him, and gently complained of her not speaking to him upon this
occasion in English: "Am I more an alien to you to-day," added he, "than
I was yesterday?" "No certainly," replied Corinne; "but when people
have, like me, for several years, been in the habit of speaking two or
three different languages, they are apt to employ that which will best
convey the sentiments they wish to express." "Surely," said Oswald,
"English is your natural language, that which you speak to your friends,
that--" "I am an Italian," interrupted Corinne--"pardon me, my lord, but
I think I discover in you that national pride which often characterises
your countrymen. In this country we are more modest; we are neither
pleased with ourselves like the French, nor proud of ourselves like the
English: we only ask a little indulgence of foreigners, and as we have
long ceased to be considered a nation, we are guilty of sometimes being
wanting, as individuals, in that dignity which is not allowed us as a
people. But when you are acquainted with the Italians, you will see
that they possess in their character, some traces of ancient greatness,
some rare traces which, though now effaced, may appear again in happier
times. I will speak English to you sometimes, but not always: Italian is
dear to me; for I have endured much," added she, "to reside in Italy."

The Count d'Erfeuil politely reproached Corinne with having entirely
forgotten him, by expressing herself in languages he did not understand.
"Lovely Corinne," said he to her, "pray talk French; indeed you are
worthy of such an accomplishment." Corinne smiled at this compliment,
and began to speak French, with great purity and much facility, but with
an English accent. Lord Nelville and the Count d'Erfeuil were equally
astonished, but the Count, who believed he might say anything, provided
it was done with grace, and who imagined that impoliteness consisted in
the form, and not the substance, asked directly of Corinne, the reason
of this singularity. She was at first a little discomposed at this
sudden interrogation; but recovering her presence of mind, she said to
the Count--"Apparently, Sir, I have learnt French of an Englishman?" He
renewed his questions smilingly, but with much earnestness. Corinne more
and more embarrassed, said to him at last, "For these four years past,
Sir, since I have settled at Rome, none of my friends, none of those
who, I am sure, are most interested on my account have questioned me
concerning my destiny; they easily perceived that it was painful to me
to speak on the subject."

Those words put an end to the questions of the Count; but Corinne was
afraid she had offended him, and as he appeared to be very intimately
connected with Lord Nelville, she feared still more, without asking
herself the reason of such fear, that he might speak disadvantageously
of her to his friend; and therefore she set about taking much pains to
please him.

The Prince Castel-Forte arrived at this moment, with several Romans,
friends of his and of Corinne. They were men of an amiable mind and
lively disposition, very prepossessing in their appearance, and so
easily animated by the conversation of others that it was a great
pleasure to converse with them, so exquisitely did they appear to feel
every thing that was worthy of being felt. The indolence of the Italians
prevents them from displaying in company, or often in any way whatever,
all the wit they possess. The greater part of them do not even cultivate
in retirement, the intellectual faculties that nature has given them;
but they enjoy with transport, that which comes to them without trouble.

Corinne possessed a very gay turn of wit; she perceived the ridiculous
with the keen sense of a French woman, and coloured it with the
imagination of an Italian; but in every instance it was mingled with
goodness of heart; nothing was ever seen in her, either premeditated or
hostile; for, in every thing, it is coldness that offends--and
imagination on the contrary, is always accompanied with good-nature.

Oswald discovered a grace in Corinne which was entirely new to him. One
great and terrible circumstance of his life was connected with the
remembrance of a very amiable and intelligent French woman; but Corinne
resembled her in nothing--her conversation was a mixture of every kind
of intellectual endowment, enthusiasm for the fine arts, and knowledge
of the world; refinement of ideas, and depth of sentiment; in short, all
the charms of a vivacious and rapid mind were observable in her, without
her thoughts ever being on that account incomplete, or her reflections
superficial. Oswald was at once surprised and charmed, uneasy and
transported; he was unable to comprehend how one person alone could
combine all the qualifications of Corinne. He asked himself whether the
union of all these qualities was the effect of an inconsistent or a
superior character; whether it was by the force of universal feeling, or
because she forgot every thing successively, that she passed thus,
almost in the same instant, from melancholy to gaiety, from profundity
to grace--from conversation the most astonishing, by the knowledge and
the ideas it displayed, to the coquetry of a woman who seeks to please,
and desires to captivate; but there was, even in that coquetry, such
perfect nobleness that it imposed as much respect as the most severe
reserve.

The Prince Castel-Forte was very much taken up with Corinne, and the
sentiments of all his party were manifested towards her by attention and
the most delicate and assiduous respect; and the habitual worship with
which they surrounded her, made every day of her life a sort of
festival. Corinne felt herself happy in being thus beloved; but it was
that sort of happiness which we feel in living in a mild climate,
hearing nothing but harmonious sounds, and receiving, in short, nothing
but agreeable impressions. The serious and profound passion of love was
not painted on her countenance, where every emotion of her soul was
expressed by a most bright and mobile physiognomy. Oswald beheld her in
silence; his presence animated Corinne, and inspired her with the desire
of pleasing. However, she sometimes checked herself in those moments
when her conversation was the most brilliant, astonished at the calm
exterior of Oswald, not knowing whether he approved her or blamed her
secretly, or whether his English ideas would permit him to applaud this
display of talents in a woman.

Oswald was too much captivated by the charms of Corinne, to call to
mind his old opinions upon that obscurity which became women; but he was
inquiring of himself, whether it were possible to be beloved by her;
whether any man could expect to concentrate in himself so many rays of
light. In fact, he was at the same time dazzled and disturbed; and
although, at his departure, she invited him, very politely, to come and
see her again, he suffered a whole day to pass without availing himself
of the invitation, experiencing a sort of terror from the sentiment by
which he felt himself impelled.

Sometimes he compared this sentiment with the fatal error of the first
moments of his youth, but immediately banished such a comparison from
his mind--for then it was a perfidious art that had overcome him; but
who could doubt the truth of Corinne? Was that peculiar charm she
possessed the effect of magic, or of poetical inspiration? Was she an
Armida, or a Sappho? Was there any hope of captivating so lofty and
brilliant a genius! It was impossible to decide; but at least it was
easily seen, that not society, but heaven itself, could have formed this
extraordinary being, and that her mind could no more be imitated, than
her character feigned. "Oh, my father!" said Oswald, "if you had known
Corinne what would you have thought of her?"



Chapter ii.


The Count d'Erfeuil came in the morning, according to custom, to see
Lord Nelville, and reproaching him for not having been to see Corinne
the day before, said, "Had you come, you would have been very happy."
"Why so?" replied Oswald. "Because yesterday I discovered, to a
certainty, that you have greatly interested her." "Still this levity,"
interrupted Lord Nelville; "know that I neither can nor will endure it."
"Do you call levity," said the Count, "the promptitude of my
observation? Am I less in the right, because more quickly so? You were
made to live in the happy time of the Patriarchs, when the age of man
was five centuries; but mind, I give you notice that four of them at
least are lopped off in our days." "Be it so," answered Oswald, "and
what discovery have you made by these rapid observations?"--"That
Corinne loves you. Yesterday, when I arrived at her house, she received
me very kindly, to be sure; but her eyes were fixed on the door, to see
whether you followed me. She tried for a moment to talk of something
else; but as she is a lady of a very ingenuous and natural disposition,
she asked me, quite frankly, why you had not come with me? I blamed you
very much; I said that you were a very odd, gloomy sort of creature; but
you will excuse my relating all that I said over and above in your
praise."

"'He is very sad,' said Corinne; 'he must certainly have lost some one
very dear to him. Whom is he in mourning for?' 'His father, Madam,' said
I; 'though it is more than a year since he lost him; and as the law of
nature obliges us all to survive our parents, I imagine there is some
other secret cause for so long and deep a melancholy.' 'Oh!' replied
Corinne, 'I am very far from thinking that griefs, similar in
appearance, are felt alike by all men. I am very much tempted to believe
that the father of your friend, and your friend himself, are exceptions
from the general rule.' Her voice was very tender, my dear Oswald, when
she said these words." "Are these," replied Oswald, "your proofs of that
interest you spoke of?" "In truth," replied the Count d'Erfeuil, "these
are quite enough, according to my way of thinking, to convince a man
that he is beloved by a lady; but since you wish for better, you shall
have them; I have reserved the strongest for the last. Prince
Castel-Forte arrived, and related your adventure at Ancona, without
knowing that he was speaking of you: he related it with much fire and
imagination, as well as I could judge from the two lessons of Italian I
have taken; but there are so many French words in the foreign languages,
that we comprehend them, almost all, without even knowing them. Besides,
the countenance of Corinne would have explained to me what I did not
understand. One might read in it so visibly the agitation of her heart!
She did not breathe, for fear of losing a single word; and when she
asked if he knew the name of this generous and intrepid Englishman, such
was her anxiety, that it was easy to judge how much she dreaded to hear
pronounced any other name than yours.

"Prince Castel-Forte said he did not know the gentleman's name; and
Corinne, turning quickly towards me, cried, 'Is it not true, Sir, that
it was Lord Nelville?' 'Yes, Madam,' answered I, 'it was he, himself;'
and Corinne then melted in tears. She had not wept during the story;
what was there then more affecting in the name of the hero than in the
recital itself?" "She wept!" cried Nelville, "Ah!--why was I not there?"
Then, checking himself all of a sudden, he cast down his eyes, and his
manly countenance was expressive of the most delicate timidity: he
hastened to resume the conversation, for fear that the Count might
disturb his secret joy by observing it. "If the adventure of Ancona
deserves to be related," said Oswald, "'tis to you, also, my dear Count,
that the honour of it belongs." "It is true," answered d'Erfeuil,
laughing, "that they mentioned an amiable Frenchman, who was along with
you, my lord; but no one save myself paid attention to this parenthesis
in the narration. The lovely Corinne prefers you; she believes you,
without doubt, the more faithful of the two: perhaps she may be
mistaken; you may even cause her more grief than I should; but women are
fond of pain, provided it is a little romantic; so you will suit her."

Lord Nelville suffered from every word of the Count, but what could he
say to him? He never argued; he never listened attentively enough to
change his opinion; his words, once uttered, gave him no farther
concern, and the best way was to forget them, if possible, as soon as he
himself did.



Chapter iii.


Oswald arrived in the evening at Corinne's, with a sentiment entirely
new; he thought that he was expected. What enchantment there is in that
first gleam of intercourse with the object of our love!--before
remembrance enters into partnership with hope--before words have
expressed our sentiments,--before eloquence has painted what we feel,
there is in these first moments, something so indefinite, a mystery of
the imagination, more fleeting than happiness, it must be owned, but
also more celestial.

Oswald, on entering the apartment of Corinne, felt more timid than ever.
He saw that she was alone, and that circumstance almost gave him pain:
he could have wished to see her longer in the midst of society; he could
have wished to be convinced, in some manner, of her preference, instead
of finding himself all of a sudden engaged in a conversation which might
make Corinne cool towards him, if, as was certain, he should appear
embarrassed, and cold in consequence of that embarrassment.

Whether Corinne perceived this disposition of Oswald, or whether it was
that a similar disposition produced in her a desire to animate the
conversation in order to remove restraint, she asked his Lordship
whether he had seen any of the monuments of Rome. "No," answered Oswald.
"What did you do with yourself yesterday, then?" replied Corinne
smiling. "I passed the whole day at home," said Oswald. "Since I have
been at Rome, Madam, my time has been divided between solitude and you."
Corinne wished to introduce the subject of his behaviour at Ancona; she
began by these words: "Yesterday I learnt--" then she stopped and said,
"I will speak to you of that when the company comes." There was a
dignity in the manners of Lord Nelville that intimidated Corinne; and,
besides, she feared, lest in reminding him of his noble conduct, she
should betray too much emotion; conceiving that emotion would be less
when they were no longer alone. Oswald was deeply touched with the
reserve of Corinne, and the frankness with which she testified, without
thinking, the motives of that reserve; but the more he was affected the
less was he able to express what he felt.

He arose all of a sudden, and advanced towards the window; then he felt
that Corinne would be unable to explain the meaning of this movement,
and more disconcerted than ever, he returned to his place without saying
anything. There was in the conversation of Corinne more confidence than
in that of Oswald; nevertheless, she partook of the embarrassment which
he exhibited; and in her absence of mind, seeking to recover her
countenance, she placed her fingers upon the harp which was standing by
her side, and struck some chords, without connection or design. These
harmonious sounds, by increasing the emotion of Oswald, seemed to
inspire him with more boldness. He could now look at Corinne, and who
but must have been struck, in beholding her, with that divine
inspiration which was painted in her eyes! Encouraged at the same moment
by that mild expression which veiled the majesty of her looks, he would
then perhaps have spoken, but was prevented by the entrance of Prince
Castel-Forte.

It was not without pain that he beheld Nelville _tête-à-tête_ with
Corinne, but he was accustomed to dissimulate his feelings. This habit,
which is often found in the Italians united with great vehemence of
sensation, was in him rather the result of indolence and of natural
gentleness. He was content not to be the first object of Corinne's
affections; he was no longer young; he possessed great intelligence,
considerable taste for the arts, an imagination sufficiently animated to
diversify life without disturbing it, and such a desire to pass all his
evenings with Corinne, that if she were to be married he would conjure
her husband to let him come every day, to see her as usual, and upon
this condition he would not have been very unhappy at seeing her united
to another. The grief of the heart is not found in Italy complicated
with the sufferings of vanity, so that we find there, men either
passionate enough to stab their rival through jealousy, or men modest
enough to take willingly the second rank in the favour of a lady whose
conversation is agreeable to them; but rarely will be found any who for
fear of being thought despised, would refuse to preserve any sort of
connection which they found pleasing. The empire of society over
self-esteem is almost null in this country.

The Count d'Erfeuil and the company that met every evening at Corinne's
house being assembled, the conversation turned upon the talent for
improvisation which their heroine had so gloriously displayed at the
Capitol, and they went so far as to ask her own opinion of it. "It is
something so rare," said Prince Castel-Forte, "to find any one at once
susceptible of enthusiasm and of analysis, gifted as an artist and
capable of observing herself, that we must intreat her to reveal to us
the secrets of her genius." "The talent for improvisation," replied
Corinne, "is not more extraordinary in the languages of the south, than
the eloquence of the tribune, or the brilliant vivacity of conversation
in other tongues. I will even say that, unfortunately it is with us more
easy to make verses _impromptu_ than to speak well in prose. The
language of poetry is so different from that of prose, that from the
first verses the attention is commanded by the expressions themselves,
which, if I may so express it, place the poet at a distance from his
auditors. It is not only to the softness of the Italian language, but
much more to its strong and pronounced vibration of sonorous syllables,
that we must attribute the empire of poetry amongst us. There is a kind
of musical charm in Italian, by which the bare sound of words, almost
independently of the ideas, produces pleasure; besides, these words have
almost all something picturesque in them; they paint what they express.
You feel that it is in the midst of the arts, and under an auspicious
sky that this melodious, and highly-coloured language has been formed.
It is therefore more easy in Italy than any where else, to seduce with
words, without profundity of thought or novelty of imagery. Poetry, like
all the fine arts, captivates the senses, as much as the intellect. I
dare venture to say, however, that I have never improvised without
feeling myself animated by some real emotion, some idea which I believed
new, therefore I hope that I have trusted less than others to our
bewitching language. It is possible, if I may say so, to prelude at
random, and convey a lively pleasure by the charm of rhythm and of
harmony alone."

"You believe then," interrupted one of the friends of Corinne, "that the
talent for improvisation injures our literature; I thought so once
myself, but hearing you, madam, has made me entirely alter that
opinion." "I have said," replied Corinne, "that there resulted from this
facility, this literary abundance, a quantity of inferior poetry; but I
am as pleased with this fecundity, which exists in Italy, as I am with
seeing our fields covered with a thousand superfluous products. This
liberality of nature makes me proud. I am particularly pleased with the
improvisations of the lower classes of the people; it discovers their
imagination to us, which is concealed everywhere else, and is only
developed amongst us. They give a poetical character to the lowest
orders of society, and spare us the contempt which we cannot help
feeling for every thing that is vulgar. When our Sicilians, conveying
travellers in their vessels, so delicately and politely felicitate them
in their pleasing dialect, and wish them in verse a sweet and long
adieu, one would say the pure breeze of heaven and of the sea produces
the same effect upon the imagination of men as the wind on the Æolian
harp, and that poetry, like the chords of that instrument, is the echo
of nature. One thing makes me attach an additional value to our talent
for improvisation, and that is, that it would be almost impossible in a
society disposed to mockery. It requires the good humour of the south,
or rather of those countries where people love to amuse themselves
without taking pleasure in criticising that which affords them
amusement, to encourage poets to venture on so perilous an enterprise.
One jeering smile would be sufficient to destroy that presence of mind
necessary for a sudden and uninterrupted composition: your audience must
become animated with you, and inspire you with their applause."

"But madam," said Oswald at last, who till then had kept silence without
having for a moment ceased to behold Corinne, "to which of your poetical
talents do you yourself give the preference? To the work of inflection,
or of momentary inspiration?" "My lord," answered Corinne, with a look
that expressed the highest interest and the most delicate sentiment of
respectful consideration, "it is you that I would wish to make the judge
of that; but if you ask me to examine my own thoughts upon this subject,
I would say that improvisation is to me as an animated conversation. I
do not confine myself to any particular subject, I yield entirely to the
impression produced on me by the attention of my hearers, and it is to
my friends, in this instance, that I owe the greatest part of my talent.
Sometimes the impassioned interest with which I am inspired by a
conversation in which we have spoken of some great and noble question
that relates to the moral existence of man, his destiny, his end, his
duties and his affections; sometimes this interest elevates me above my
strength, makes me discover in nature, in my own heart, bold truths,
expressions full of life, that solitary reflection would not have given
birth to. I then believe myself acted upon by a supernatural enthusiasm,
and feel that what is speaking within me is greater than myself. Often I
quit the rhythm of poetry to express my thoughts in prose; sometimes I
quote the finest verses of the different languages I am acquainted with.
These divine verses, with which my soul is penetrated, have become my
own. Sometimes also I finish upon my lyre by chords, by simple and
national airs, the sentiments and thoughts which have escaped me in
speaking. In a word, I feel myself a poet, not only when a happy choice
of rhymes and harmonious syllables, or a happy combination of images
dazzles my auditors, but when my soul is elevated to the highest degree
and looks down with contempt upon every thing that is selfish and base:
in short, when a noble action appears most easy to me, it is then that
my poetry is in its greatest perfection. I am a poet when I admire, when
I despise, when I hate, not from personal feeling, not on my own
account, but for the dignity of human nature and the glory of the
world."

Corinne then perceiving how the conversation had carried her away,
blushed a little, and turning towards Lord Nelville said to him, "you
see, my lord, I cannot touch upon any of those subjects that affect me
without experiencing that sort of shock which is the source of ideal
beauty in the arts, of religion in solitary minds, of generosity in
heroes, and of disinterestedness among men. Pardon me, my lord, although
such a woman resemble but little those whom your nation approves." "Who
could resemble you?" replied Lord Nelville; "can we make laws for one
who is without her like?"

The Count d'Erfeuil was absolutely enchanted, notwithstanding he had not
understood all that Corinne had said; but her gestures, the sound of her
voice, and her pronunciation, charmed him.--It was the first time that
any grace which was not French had produced an effect upon him. But
indeed the great celebrity of Corinne at Rome put him a little in the
way of what he should think of her, and in his admiration of this
extraordinary lady he did not drop the good custom of letting himself be
guided by the opinion of others.

He quitted Corinne's house along with Lord Nelville, and said to him on
their way home, "allow, my dear Oswald, that I may lay claim to some
merit for not having paid my court to so charming a lady." "But,"
observed Nelville, "it seems, according to general opinion, that she is
not easy to please in that respect." "It is said so," replied the Count,
"but I can hardly believe it. A single woman of independent means who
leads nearly the life of an artist ought not to be so difficult to
captivate." Lord Nelville was wounded by this reflection. The Count,
whether he did not perceive it, or whether he wished to pursue the train
of his own ideas, continued thus:

"I do not mean to say, however, that if I entertained much faith in a
lady's virtue, I might not as readily believe in that of Corinne as in
that of any other. She has certainly a thousand times more expression in
her look, and vivacity in her arguments than would be necessary in your
country, or even in ours, to excite suspicion of the rigidness of a
lady's virtue; but she is a person of so superior a mind, such profound
knowledge, and such fine tact, that the ordinary rules by which we judge
a woman cannot apply to her. In fact, would you believe it,
notwithstanding the openness of her disposition, and the freedom of her
conversation, she really imposes reserve upon me. It was my wish,
yesterday, with all due respect to her predilection for you, to say a
few words, at random, upon my own account: they were words that take
their chance; if they are heard, well and good; if not, well and good
still; and do you know Corinne gave me such cold looks that I was quite
disconcerted. It is, however, singular that one should feel any timidity
in the company of an Italian, a poet, an artist, every thing, in short,
that ought to produce quite a contrary effect." "Her name is unknown,"
observed Nelville, "but her manners would make one believe that her
birth is illustrious." "Ah! it is in romances," said the Count, "that we
see the finest part of a character concealed, but in real life people
are more disposed to exhibit all that is most honourable in their life,
and even a little more than all." "Yes," interrupted Oswald, "in some
societies where people think of nothing but the effect they can produce
upon one another; but in one whose existence is internal there may be
mysteries in circumstances, as there are secrets in thought, and he only
who would espouse Corinne might be able to know them." "Espouse
Corinne!" interrupted the Count, bursting out laughing, "truly that idea
never occurred to me! Take my advice, my dear Nelville, if you wish to
do foolish things let them be such as will admit of reparation; but as
for marriage, you must always consider propriety. I appear frivolous in
your eyes, nevertheless I wager that in the conduct of life I shall be
more reasonable than you." "I believe so too," answered Lord Nelville,
and said not another word.

In effect, he might have told the Count d'Erfeuil that there is often a
great deal of egotism in frivolity, and that such egotism can never
betray people into those errors of sentiment in which we always
sacrifice our own personal considerations to those of others! Frivolous
characters are very likely to acquire address in the pursuit of their
own interests; for in all that is called the political science of
private, as well as of public life, people succeed oftener by those
qualities which they have not than by those which they possess. Absence
of enthusiasm, absence of opinion, absence of sensibility, a little
understanding, combined with this negative treasure, and social life,
that is to say, fortune and rank, may be acquired or supported well
enough. The pleasantries of the Count however pained Lord Nelville; he
blamed them, but nevertheless they continually occupied his thoughts.



Book iv.

ROME.

[Illustration]



Chapter i.


A fortnight passed away, during which Lord Nelville dedicated himself
entirely to the society of Corinne. He quitted his lodgings but to go
and visit her--he saw nothing--he sought nothing but her; and, without
ever mentioning his passion, he made her sensible of it at every moment
of the day. She was accustomed to the lively and flattering homage of
the Italians; but Oswald's dignity of manners, his apparent coldness,
and the sensibility which he betrayed in spite of himself, produced a
more powerful effect upon her imagination.--Never did he relate a
generous action, never did he speak of a misfortune, without his eyes
being filled with tears; but he always endeavoured to conceal his
emotion. He inspired Corinne with a sentiment of respect such as she had
not felt for a long time before. No wit, however sparkling, could dazzle
her; but she was deeply interested by elevation and dignity of
character. Lord Nelville joined to these qualities, a nobleness in his
expressions, an elegance in the least actions of his life, which formed
a striking contrast to the negligence and familiarity of the greater
part of the Roman nobility.

Though the tastes of Oswald were in some respects different from those
of Corinne, they mutually understood each other in a most wonderful
manner. Nelville conjectured the impressions of Corinne with perfect
sagacity, and Corinne discovered, in the slightest alteration of
Nelville's countenance, what passed in his mind. Accustomed to the
stormy demonstrations of passion that characterise the Italians, this
timid but proud attachment, this passion, incessantly proved, but never
avowed, spread a new charm over her existence: she felt as if encircled
with a calmer and purer atmosphere, and every instant of the day
inspired her with a sentiment of happiness which she loved to enjoy
without accounting for it.

One morning Prince Castel-Forte visited her--he appeared sorrowful--she
asked him the cause of his sorrow. "This Scotsman," said he to her, "is
about to deprive us of your affections; and who knows even, whether he
will not rob us of you entirely?" Corinne was silent for some moments,
and then answered, "I assure you he has not even once told me that he
loved me." "You are, notwithstanding, convinced of it," answered Prince
Castel-Forte; "his conduct is sufficiently eloquent, and even his
silence is a powerful means of interesting you.--What can language
express that you have not heard? What kind of praise is there that has
not been offered you? What species of homage is there that you are not
accustomed to receive? But there is something concealed in the character
of Lord Nelville which will never allow you to know him entirely as you
know us. There is no person in the world whose character is more easy
than yours to become acquainted with; but it is precisely because you
shew yourself without disguise that mystery and reserve have a pleasing
ascendancy over you. That which is unknown, be it what it may,
influences you more strongly than all the sentiments which are
manifested to you." Corinne smiled; "You believe then, my dear Prince,"
said she, "that my heart is ungrateful, and my imagination capricious.
Methinks however that Lord Nelville possesses and displays qualities
sufficiently remarkable to render it impossible that I can flatter
myself with having discovered them." "He is, I agree," answered Prince
Castel-Forte, "proud, generous and intelligent; with much sensibility
too, and particularly melancholy; but I am very much deceived, or there
is not the least sympathy of taste between you. You do not perceive it
while he is under the charm of your presence, but your empire over him
would not hold if he were absent from you. Obstacles would fatigue him;
his soul has contracted by the grief which he has experienced, a kind of
discouragement, which must destroy the energy of his resolutions; and
you know, besides, how much the English in general are enslaved to the
manners and habits of their country."

At these words Corinne was silent and sighed. Painful reflections on the
first events of her life were retraced in her mind; but in the evening
she saw Oswald again, more her slave than ever; and all that remained in
her mind of the conversation of Prince Castel-Forte was the desire of
fixing Lord Nelville in Italy by making him enamoured of the beauties of
every kind with which that country abounds. It was with this intention
that she wrote to him the following letter. The freedom of the life
which is led in Rome excused this proceeding, and Corinne in particular,
though she might be reproached with too much openness and enthusiasm,
knew how to preserve dignity with independence, and modesty with
vivacity.

                   _Corinne to Lord Nelville_.
                                                     _Dec. 15th, 1794._

"I do not know, my lord, whether you will think me too confident in
myself, or whether you will do justice to the motives which may excuse
that confidence. Yesterday I heard you say that you had not yet seen
Rome, that you were neither acquainted with the masterpieces of our fine
arts, nor those ancient ruins which teach us history by imagination and
sentiment, and I have conceived the idea of presuming to offer myself as
your guide in this journey through a course of centuries.

"Without doubt, Rome could easily present a great number of scholars
whose profound erudition might be much more useful to you, but if I can
succeed in inspiring you with a love for this retreat, towards which I
have always felt myself so imperiously attracted, your own studies will
finish the rude draft which I shall have begun.

"Many foreigners come to Rome as they would go to London or to Paris, to
seek the dissipation of a great city; and if they dared confess they
were bored at Rome, I believe the greater part would confess it; but it
is equally true that here may be found a charm that never tires. Will
you pardon me, my lord, a wish that this charm were known to you.

"It is true that here you must forget all the political interests in the
world, but when these interests are not united to sacred sentiments and
duties they chill the heart. Here too you must renounce what would be
called the pleasures of society, but these pleasures almost invariably
wither up the imagination. In Rome you may enjoy an existence at once
solitary and animated, which freely develops all that Heaven has
implanted in us. I repeat it, my lord; pardon this love of my country,
which begets a desire to make it beloved by such a man as you; and do
not judge, with the severity of an Englishman, those testimonies of
good-will which an Italian hopes she may give you without sinking either
in her own estimation or in yours.

                                                              CORRINE."


In vain would Oswald have endeavoured to conceal the exquisite pleasure
he received from this letter; he caught a glimpse of a confused future
of enjoyment and happiness: imagination, love, enthusiasm, all that is
divine in the soul of man, appeared to him united with the project of
seeing Rome with Corinne. For, this time he did not reflect; this time
he set out the very instant to visit Corinne, and by the way he
contemplated the sky, he enjoyed the charm of the weather, life sat
lightly on him. His griefs and his fears were lost in the clouds of
hope; his heart, so long oppressed by sadness, palpitated and leaped
with joy; he feared, it is true, that so happy a disposition of mind
might not last; but the very idea that it was fleeting gave to this
fever of enjoyment more force and activity.

"What, are you come already?" said Corinne, seeing Lord Nelville enter;
"Ah, thanks!" and she stretched forth her hand. Oswald seized it, and
imprinted his lips on it with the warmest tenderness; nor did he suffer
now that timidity which often mingled itself with his most agreeable
impressions, and caused him sometimes to endure, in the company of those
he loved best, the most bitter and painful feelings. The intimacy had
commenced between Oswald and Corinne since they had parted; it was the
letter of Corinne which had established it: they were satisfied with
each other, and mutually felt the most tender gratitude.

"This morning then," said Corinne, "I will shew you the Pantheon and St
Peter's: I had, indeed, some hope," added she smiling, "that you would
accept my offer to make the tour of Rome with you, so my horses are
ready. I have expected you; you have arrived; 'tis very well, let us set
out." "Astonishing woman!" said Oswald; "Who then, art thou? Whence hast
thou derived so many opposite charms, which it would seem ought to
exclude each other;--sensibility, gaiety, profound reflection, external
grace, freedom, and modesty? Art thou an illusion? art thou some
supernatural blessing, destined to make happy the life of him who is
fortunate enough to meet with thee?" "Ah!" replied Corinne, "if I have
it in my power to do you any service you must not think I will ever give
up the merit of it." "Take care," said Oswald, seizing Corinne's hand
with emotion; "take care what service it is you are about to render me.
For these two years the iron hand of affliction has closed up my heart;
if your sweet presence has afforded me relief; if, while with you, I
breathe again, what will become of me when once more abandoned to my
destiny?--What will become of me?" "Let us leave to time and to chance,"
interrupted Corinne, "to decide whether this impression of a day, which
I have produced upon you, will be longer than a day in its duration. If
there be a mutual sympathy between our souls, our mutual affection will
not be transient. Be that as it may, let us go and admire together all
that can elevate our mind and our sentiments; we shall thus taste some
moments of happiness."

In finishing these words Corinne went down stairs, and Nelville followed
her, astonished at her answer. It seemed to him that she admitted the
possibility of a half sentiment,--a momentary attraction. In short, he
thought he perceived something like levity in the manner in which she
had expressed herself, and he was hurt at it.

He placed himself, without saying a word, in Corinne's carriage; who,
guessing his thoughts, said to him, "I do not believe that the heart of
man is so formed that he must always feel either no love at all or the
most invincible passion. There are beginnings of sentiment which a more
profound examination may dissipate. We flatter and then undeceive
ourselves, and even the enthusiasm of which we are susceptible, if it
renders the enchantment more rapid, may also cause coldness to succeed
the more quickly." "You have, then, reflected deeply on the tender
passion," said Oswald with bitterness. Corinne blushed at this word, and
was silent for some moments; then resuming the conversation, with a
striking mixture of frankness and dignity, "I do not believe," said she,
"that a woman of sensibility has ever arrived at the age of twenty-six
years, without having known the illusion of love; but if never having
been happy, if never having met the object who could merit all the
affections of my heart, be any claim to interest in the bosom of man, I
have a claim to yours." These words, and the accent with which Corinne
pronounced them, dissipated a little, the cloud which had spread over
the soul of Lord Nelville; nevertheless he said to himself: "She is the
most fascinating of women, but an Italian; and hers is not that timid,
innocent heart, to herself unknown, which the young English lady that my
father destined for me must possess."

The name of this young English lady was Lucilia Edgermond, daughter to
the best friend of Lord Nelville's father; but she was too young when
Oswald quitted England for him to marry her, or even foresee, with
certainty, what she would one day become.



Chapter ii.


Oswald and Corinne went first to the Pantheon, which is now called _St
Mary of the Rotunda_. In every part of Italy Catholicism has inherited
something of Paganism, but the Pantheon is the only ancient Temple of
Rome which is preserved entire, the only one where may be remarked in
its _ensemble_ the beauty of the architecture of the ancients, and the
particular character of their worship. Oswald and Corinne stopped in the
square of the Pantheon to admire the portico of this Temple and the
pillars that support it.

Corinne made Nelville observe that the Pantheon was constructed in such
a manner as to appear greater than it was. "The church of St Peter,"
said she, "will produce quite a different effect upon you; you will
believe it at first less stupendous than it is in reality. This
illusion, so favourable to the Pantheon, comes, as I am assured, from
there being more space between the pillars, and the air playing freely
around it; but principally from your not perceiving any of that detailed
ornament with which St Peter's is overladen. It is thus that the ancient
poets only designed large masses, and left the imagination of the hearer
to fill up the intervals, and supply the developments; but we moderns in
all things say too much."

"This Temple," continued Corinne, "was consecrated by Agrippa, the
favourite of Augustus, to his friend, or rather to his master. However,
the master had the modesty to refuse the dedication of the Temple, and
Agrippa was obliged to dedicate it to all the gods in Olympus, in order
to take the place of Power, the god of the earth. There was a car of
bronze on the top of the Pantheon, on which were placed the statues of
Augustus and of Agrippa. On each side of the portico these same statues
were placed in another form, and on the pediment of the Temple is still
to be read: '_Consecrated by Agrippa_.' Augustus gave his name to the
age in which he lived because he made that age an epoch of the human
mind. The masterpieces of every kind produced by his contemporaries form
the rays of glory that encircle his head. He knew how to honour the men
of genius who cultivated letters, and he has found his recompense in
posterity."

"Let us enter the temple," said Corinne. "You see it remains uncovered,
almost the same as it was formerly. They say that this light, proceeding
from the top, was the emblem of that God who was superior to all the
other deities. The Pagans have always been fond of symbolic images. It
seems, in effect, that this language is more fitting than speech to
religion. The rain often falls upon this marble court, but the rays of
the sun also enter to enlighten devotion. What serenity! What an air of
festivity is remarkable in this edifice! The Pagans have deified life,
and the Christians have deified death. Such is the spirit of the two
worships, but the Roman Catholic religion here, however, is less sombre
than in the northern countries. You will observe it when we visit St
Peter's. Inside the sanctuary of the Pantheon are the busts of our most
celebrated artists, they adorn the niches where were placed the gods of
the ancients.--As, since the destruction of the empire of the Cæsars, we
have hardly ever had political independence in Italy, you do not find
here either statesmen or great commanders. It is the genius of
imagination which constitutes our own glory; but do you not think, my
lord, that a people who honour talents in this manner ought to merit a
nobler fate?" "I am very severe towards nations," answered Oswald; "I
always believe that they deserve their fate let it be what it may."
"That is hard," replied Corinne; "perhaps after a longer residence in
Italy you will experience a sentiment of compassion towards this unhappy
country, which nature seems to have decorated as a victim; but, at
least, you will remember that the dearest hope of us artists, of us
lovers of glory, is to obtain a place here. I have already fixed upon
mine," said she pointing to a niche still vacant. "Oswald! who knows
whether you will not come again to this same enclosure when my bust
shall be placed there? Then--"

Oswald interrupted her quickly and said, "In the shining splendour of
youth and beauty can you talk thus to one whom misfortune and suffering
have already bent towards the grave?" "Ah!" replied Corinne, "the storm
may in a moment snap asunder those flowers that now have their heads
upreared in life and bloom. Oswald, dear Oswald!" added she; "why should
you not be happy? Why--" "Never interrogate me," replied Lord Nelville,
"you have your secrets--I have mine, let us mutually respect each
other's silence. No--you know not what emotion I should feel were I
obliged to relate my misfortunes." Corinne was silent, and her steps in
leaving the temple were slower, and her looks more thoughtful.

She stopped beneath the portico:--"There," said she to Lord Nelville,
"was a most beautiful urn of porphyry, now transferred to St John of
Lateran; it contained the ashes of Agrippa, which were placed at the
foot of the statue that he had raised to himself. The ancients took so
much care to soften the idea of dissolution that they knew how to strip
it of every thing that was doleful and repulsive. There was, besides, so
much magnificence in their tombs that the contrast was less felt between
the blank of death and the splendours of life. It is true that the hope
of another world being less vivid among the Pagans than amongst
Christians, they endeavoured to dispute with death the future
remembrance which we place, without fear, in the bosom of the Eternal."

Oswald sighed and was silent. Melancholy ideas have many charms when we
have not been ourselves deeply wretched, but when grief in all its
asperity has seized upon the soul, we no longer hear without shuddering
certain words which formerly only excited in us reveries more or less
pleasing.



Chapter iii.


On the way to St Peter's the bridge of St Angelo is passed, and Corinne
and Lord Nelville crossed it on foot. "It was on this bridge," said
Oswald, "that, in returning from the Capitol, I for the first time
thought deeply of you." "I did not flatter myself," replied Corinne,
"that the coronation at the Capitol would have procured me a friend, but
however, in the pursuit of fame it was always my endeavour to make
myself beloved.--What would fame be to woman without such a hope?" "Let
us stop here a few minutes," said Oswald. "What remembrance of past ages
can produce such welcome recollections as this spot, which brings to
mind the day when first I saw you." "I know not whether I deceive
myself," replied Corinne; "but it seems to me that we become more dear
to one another in admiring together those monuments which speak to the
soul by true grandeur. The edifices of Rome are neither cold nor dumb,
they have been conceived by genius, and consecrated by memorable events.
Perhaps, Oswald, it is even necessary that we should be enamoured of
such a character as yours, in order to derive such pleasure from feeling
with you all that is noble and fine in the universe." "Yes," replied
Lord Nelville; "but in beholding you, and listening to your
observations, I feel no want of other wonders." Corinne thanked him in a
bewitching smile.

On their way to St Peter's they stopped before the castle of St Angelo.
"There," said Corinne, "is one of those edifices whose exterior is most
original; this is the tomb of Adrian, which, changed into a fortress by
the Goths, bears the double character of its first and second
destination. Built for the dead, an impenetrable enclosure surrounds it;
and, nevertheless, the living have added something hostile to it by the
external fortifications, which form a contrast with the silence and
noble inutility of a funereal monument. On the top is seen an angel of
bronze with a naked sword[7], and in the interior the most cruel prisons
are contrived. Every event of Roman history, from Adrian to our time, is
connected with this monument. It was here that Belisarius defended
himself against the Goths, and, almost as barbarous as they who attacked
him, threw at his enemy the beautiful statues that adorned the interior
of the edifice[8]. Crescentius, Arnault de Brescia, Nicolas Rienzi,
those friends of Roman liberty who so often mistook memories for hopes,
defended themselves for a long time in this imperial tomb. I love these
stones which are connected with so many illustrious facts. I love this
luxury of the master of the world--a magnificent tomb. There is
something great in the man who, possessing every enjoyment, every
terrestrial pomp, is not dismayed from making preparations for his death
a long time before hand. Moral ideas and disinterested sentiments fill
the soul when it in a manner breaks through the boundaries of mortality.

"It is from here that we ought to perceive St Peter's. The pillars
before it were to extend as far as here:--such was the superb plan of
Michael Angelo; he expected, at least, that it would be so finished
after his death; but the men of our days no longer think of posterity.
When once enthusiasm has been turned into ridicule every thing except
money and power is destroyed." "It is you who will revive that
sentiment," cried Lord Nelville. "Who ever experienced the happiness I
enjoy? Rome shewn by you, Rome interpreted by imagination and genius,
_Rome, that is a world animated by sentiment, without which the world
itself is a desert_[9]. Ah, Corinne! what will succeed to these days,
more happy than my heart and my fate permit!" Corinne answered him with
sweetness: "All sincere affections proceed from heaven, Oswald! Why
should it not protect what it inspires? To that Power belongs our fate."

At that moment St Peter's appeared to them, the greatest building that
man has ever raised; for the pyramids of Egypt themselves are inferior
to it in height. "Perhaps," said Corinne, "I ought to have shewn you the
finest of our buildings last, but that is not my system. It is my
opinion that to beget a sensibility for the fine arts, we must begin by
beholding objects that inspire a deep and lively admiration. This
sentiment once felt, reveals, if I may so express myself, a new sphere
of ideas, and renders us afterwards more capable of loving, and of
judging, what even in an inferior order recalls the first impression we
have received. All those gradations, those prudent methods, one tint
after another, to prepare for great effects, are not to my taste; we
cannot arrive at the sublime by degrees; infinite distances separate it
even from that which is only beautiful." Oswald felt an altogether
extraordinary emotion on arriving opposite St Peter's. It was the first
time that the work of man had produced upon him the same effect as one
of the wonders of nature. This is the only work of art, now on our
earth, possessing that kind of grandeur which characterises the
immediate works of the creation. Corinne enjoyed the astonishment of
Oswald. "I have chosen," said she, "a day when the sun is in all its
lustre, to shew you this edifice. I have in reserve for you a still more
exquisite, more religious pleasure, when you shall contemplate it by
moonlight: but you must first witness the most brilliant intellectual
feast--the genius of man adorned with the magnificence of nature."

The square of St Peter is surrounded by pillars--those at a distance of
a light, and those near of a massive structure. The ground, which is
upon a gentle ascent up to the portico of the church, still adds to the
effect which it produces. An obelisk, 80 feet high, stands in the middle
of the square, but its height appears as nothing in presence of the
cupola of St Peter's. The form of an obelisk alone has something in it
that pleases the imagination; its summit is lost in the air, and seems
to lift the mind of man to heaven. This monument, which was constructed
in Egypt to adorn the baths of Caligula, and which Sixtus Quintus caused
to be transported to the foot of the temple of St Peter, this
cotemporary of so many centuries, which have spent their fury upon it in
vain, inspires us with a sentiment of respect; man, sensible of his own
fleeting existence, cannot contemplate without emotion that which
appears to be immutable. At some distance on each side of the obelisk
are two fountains, whose waters form a perpetual and abundant cascade.
This murmuring of waters, which we are accustomed to hear in the open
country, produces, in this enclosure, an entirely new sensation; but
this sensation is quite in harmony with that to which the aspect of a
majestic temple gives birth.

Painting and sculpture, imitating generally the human figure or some
object existing in nature, awaken in our soul perfectly clear and
positive ideas; but a beautiful architectural monument has not any
determinate meaning, if it may be so expressed, so that we are seized,
in contemplating it, with that kind of aimless reverie, which leads us
into a boundless ocean of thought. The sound of fountains harmonises
with all these vague and deep impressions; it is uniform as the edifice
is regular.

     "Eternal motion, and eternal rest,"

are thus blended with each other. It is particularly in a spot like this
that Time seems stript of his power, for he appears no more able to dry
up the fountains than to shake these immovable stones. The waters, which
spout in sheaves from these fountains, are so light and cloudlike that
on a fine day the rays of the sun produce on them little rainbows,
formed of the most beautiful colours.

"Stop here a moment," said Corinne to Lord Nelville, when they had
already reached the portico of the church; "stop a little before you
lift up the curtain which covers the door of the temple. Does not your
heart beat as you approach this sanctuary? And do not you feel at the
moment of entrance all that excites expectation of a solemn event?"
Corinne herself lifted up the curtain and held it to let Nelville pass;
she displayed so much grace in this attitude that the first look of
Oswald was to admire her as she stood, and for some moments she
engrossed his whole observation. However, he proceeded into the temple,
and the impression which he received beneath these immense arches was so
deep, and so solemn, that love itself was no longer able to fill his
soul entirely. He walked slowly by the side of Corinne, both preserving
silence. Indeed here every thing seemed to command silence; the least
noise re-echoes to such a distance that no language seems worthy of
being repeated in an abode which may almost be called eternal! Prayer
alone, the voice of calamity, produces a powerful emotion in these vast
regions; and when beneath these immense domes you hear some old man
dragging his feeble steps along the polished marble, watered with so
many tears, you feel that man is imposing even by the infirmity of his
nature which subjects his divine soul to so many sufferings; and that
Christianity, the worship of suffering, contains the true guide for the
conduct of man upon earth.

Corinne interrupted the reverie of Oswald, and said to him, "You have
seen Gothic churches in England and in Germany; you must have remarked
that they have a much more gloomy effect than this church. There was
something mysterious in the Catholicism of the northern nations; ours
speaks to the imagination by external objects. Michael Angelo said on
beholding the cupola of the Pantheon, 'I will place it in the air;' and,
in effect, St Peter's is a temple built upon a church. There is some
connection between the ancient religions and Christianity, in the effect
which the interior of this edifice produces upon the imagination. I
often come and walk here to restore to my soul that serenity which it
sometimes loses: the sight of such a monument is like continual and
sustained music, which waits to do you good when you approach; and
certainly we must reckon among the claims of our nation to glory, the
patience, the courage and the disinterestedness of the heads of the
church, who have devoted one hundred and fifty years, so much money, and
so much labour, to the completion of an edifice which they who built it
could not expect to enjoy[10]. It is even a service rendered to the
public morals to present a nation with a monument which is the emblem of
so many noble and generous ideas." "Yes," answered Oswald; "here the
arts possess grandeur, and imagination and invention are full of genius;
but how is the dignity of man himself protected here! What
institutions! what feebleness in the greater part of the governments of
Italy! and, nevertheless, what subjugation in the mind!" "Other
nations," interrupted Corinne, "have borne the yoke the same as we, and
have lacked the imagination to dream of another fate.

     'Servi siam sì, ma servi ognor frementi.'

     '_Yes! we are slaves, but slaves ever quivering with hope,_'

says Alfieri, the most bold of our modern writers. There is so much soul
in our fine arts that perhaps one day our character will be equal to our
genius.

"Behold," continued Corinne, "those statues placed on the tombs, those
pictures in mosaic--patient and faithful copies of the masterpieces of
our great artists. I never examine St Peter's in detail, because I do
not wish to discover those multiplied beauties which disturb in some
degree the impression of the whole. But what a monument is that, where
the masterpieces of the human mind appear superfluous ornaments! This
temple is like a world by itself; it affords an asylum against heat and
cold; it has its own peculiar season--a perpetual spring, which the
external atmosphere can never change. A subterraneous church is built
beneath this temple;--the popes, and several foreign potentates, are
buried there: Christina after her abdication--the Stuarts since the
overthrow of their dynasty. Rome has long afforded an asylum to exiles
from every part of the world. Is not Rome herself dethroned? Her aspect
affords consolation to kings, fallen like herself.

     'Cadono le citta, cadono i regni,
     E l'uom, d'esser mortal, par che si sdegni.'

     '_Cities fall. Empires disappear,
     and yet man is angry at being mortal!_'

"Place yourself here," said Corinne to Lord Nelville, "near the altar
in the middle of the cupola; you will perceive through the iron grating,
the church of the dead, which is beneath our feet, and lifting up your
eyes, their ken will hardly reach the summit of the vault. This dome,
viewing it even from below, inspires us with a sentiment of terror; we
imagine that we see an abyss suspended over our head. All that is beyond
a certain proportion causes man, limited creature as he is, an
invincible dread. That which we know is as inexplicable as that which is
unknown, but then we are accustomed to our habitual darkness, whilst new
mysteries terrify us and disturb our faculties.

"All this church is ornamented with antique marble, and its stones know
more than we concerning the ages that are past. There is the statue of
Jupiter, which has been converted into St Peter, by adding the nimbus to
the head. The general expression of this temple perfectly characterises
the mixture of gloomy tenets with brilliant ceremonies; a depth of
sadness in ideas, but the softness and vivacity of the south in external
application; severe intentions, but mild interpretations; the Christian
theology, and the images of Paganism; in a word, the most admirable
union of splendour and majesty that man can infuse into his worship of
the deity.

"The tombs, decorated by the wonders of the fine arts, do not present
death under a formidable aspect. It is not altogether like the ancients,
who engraved dances and games upon their sarcophagi; but the mind is
abstracted from the contemplation of a coffin by the masterpieces of
genius. They recall immortality, even upon the altar of death; and the
imagination animated by the admiration which they inspire, does not
feel, as in the north, silence and cold, the immutable guardians of
sepulchres." "Without doubt," said Oswald, "we wish death to be
surrounded by sadness; and even before we were enlightened by
Christianity our ancient mythology, our Ossian, made lamentations and
dirges concomitants of the tomb. Here one wishes to forget and to enjoy.
I know not whether I should be desirous of such a benefit from your fine
sky." "Do not believe, however," replied Corinne, "that our character is
light, or our mind frivolous; it is only vanity that causes frivolity.
Indolence may introduce some intervals of sleep, or of forgetfulness
into our lives, but it neither wears out nor dries up the heart; and
unfortunately for us we may be aroused from this state by passions more
deep, and more terrible than those of souls habitually active."

In finishing these words, Corinne and Lord Nelville approached the door
of the church. "Another glance towards this immense sanctuary," said she
to Nelville: "See how little man appears in presence of religion, even
when we are reduced to consider only its material emblem! See what
immobility, what eternity, mortals can give to their works, whilst they
themselves pass away so rapidly, and only survive themselves by their
genius! This temple is an image of the infinite, and there is no limit
to the sentiments to which it gives birth--to the ideas which it
revives--to the immense quantity of years which it recalls to our
reflection, either of past or future ages; and on quitting its walls we
seem to pass from celestial thoughts to worldly interests, from the
eternity of religion to the atmosphere of time."

When they were outside the church Corinne pointed out to Nelville Ovid's
Metamorphoses, which were represented on the gates in basso-relievo. "We
are not scandalised in Rome," said she to him, "with the images of
Paganism when they have been consecrated by the fine arts. The wonders
of genius always make a religious impression on the soul, and we make an
offering to the Christian religion of all the masterpieces which other
modes of worship have inspired." Oswald smiled at this explanation.
"Believe me, my lord," continued Corinne, "there is much sincerity in
the sentiments of nations who possess a very lively imagination. But
to-morrow if you choose I will conduct you to the Capitol. I have, I
hope, many other walks to propose to you. When they are finished will
you go? Will you--" She stopped, fearing she had said too much. "No
Corinne," replied Oswald; "no, I will never renounce that gleam of
happiness which my guardian angel, perhaps, causes to shine upon me from
the height of heaven."

FOOTNOTES:

[7] A Frenchman in the late war, commanded the Castle of St Angelo; the
Neapolitan troops summoned him to capitulate; he answered that the
fortress should be surrendered when the Angel of Bronze should sheathe
his sword.

[8] These facts are to be found in the _History of the Italian Republics
of the Middle Ages_, by M. Simonde, of Geneva. This history will
certainly be considered as an authority; for we perceive, in reading it,
that its author is a man of profound sagacity, as conscientious as he is
energetic in his manner of relating and describing.

[9]
     "Eine Welt zwar bist du o Rom; doch ohne die Liebe,
     Wäre die Welt nicht die Welt, wäre denn Rom auch nicht Rom."

These two verses are from Goëthe, the German poet, the philosopher, the
man of letters, whose originality and imagination are most remarkable.

[10] The Church of St Peter is said to be one of the chief causes of the
Reformation, inasmuch as it cost the Popes so much money that they had
recourse to the multiplication of indulgences in order to build it.



Chapter iv.


The next day Oswald and Corinne set out with more confidence and
serenity. They were friends travelling together;--they began to say
_we_. Ah! how touching is that _we_ when pronounced by love! How
timidly, yet how vividly expressed, is the declaration which it
contains! "We will go to the Capitol then," said Corinne. "Yes, we will
go there," replied Oswald. Simplicity was in his words--softness and
tenderness in his accent. "From the height of the Capitol, such as it is
now," said Corinne, "we can easily perceive the seven hills; we will
survey them all, one after another; there is not one of them which does
not preserve in it some traces of history."

Corinne and Lord Nelville took what was formerly called the _Via Sacra_
or Triumphal Way. "'Tis this way that your car passed," said Oswald to
Corinne. "Yes," answered she; "this ancient dust might be astonished at
bearing such a car; but since the Roman republic, so many criminal
traces have been imprinted on it that the sentiment of respect which it
inspires is much weakened." They then arrived at the foot of the steps
of the present Capitol. The entrance to the ancient Capitol was through
the Forum. "I could wish," said Corinne, "that these steps were the same
that Scipio mounted, when, repelling calumny by glory, he entered the
temple to return thanks to the gods for the victories which he had
gained. But these new steps, this new Capitol, has been built upon the
ruins of the old, in order to receive the peaceable magistrate who bears
in himself alone the immense title of Roman Senator, formerly an object
of respect to the whole universe. Here we have no longer any thing but
names; yet their harmony, their ancient dignity, inspire us with a
pleasing sensation, mingled with regret. I asked a poor woman, whom I
met the other day, where she lived? '_At the Tarpeian Rock_,' answered
she. This word, however stripped of the ideas which formerly attached to
it, still vibrates upon the imagination."

Oswald and Corinne stopped to contemplate the two lions of basalt at the
foot of the steps[11]. They came from Egypt. The Egyptian sculptors were
more happy in seizing the figure of animals than that of man. These
lions of the Capitol are nobly peaceful, and their physiognomy is the
true image of tranquillity in strength.

     "A guisa di leon, quando si posa."
                                    DANTE.

     "_In the manner of the lion, when he reposes._"

Not far from these lions is a statue of Rome, mutilated, which the
modern Romans have placed there, without thinking that they were thus
giving the most perfect emblem of their city as it now is. This statue
has neither head nor feet, but the body and the drapery which still
remain have something of their ancient beauty. At the top of the steps
are two colossal figures which represent as it is believed Castor and
Pollux; then the trophies of Marius; then two milliary columns which
served for the admeasurement of the Roman universe; and the equestrian
statue of Marcus Aurelius, noble and calm in the midst of these several
recollections. Thus, the whole Roman history is here emblematically
represented: The heroic age by the Dioscuri; the republic by the lions;
the civil wars by Marius; and the golden age of the emperors by Marcus
Aurelius.

Advancing towards the modern Capitol, we see to the right and to the
left two churches, built on the ruins of the temples of the Feretrian
and Capitoline Jupiter. Before the vestibule is a fountain, over which
preside two rivers, the Nile and the Tiber, with the she-wolf of
Romulus. The name of the Tiber is not pronounced like that of inglorious
rivers; it is one of the pleasures of the Romans, to say, "_Conduct me
to the borders of the Tiber; let us cross the Tiber._" In pronouncing
these words they seem to invoke history and to re-animate the dead. In
going to the Capitol, by way of the Forum, we find, to the right, the
Mamertine prisons.--These prisons were at first constructed by Ancus
Martius, and were then employed for ordinary criminals. But Servius
Tullius caused more horrid ones to be dug under ground for state
criminals, as if such prisoners were not those who deserve most
consideration, since their errors might be united with sincerity.
Jugurtha and the accomplices of Cataline perished in these prisons. It
is also said that St Peter and St Paul have been incarcerated in them.
On the other side of the Capitol is the Tarpeian Rock, and at the foot
of this rock we find at the present time a hospital, called The Hospital
of Consolation. It seems that thus in Rome the severe spirit of
antiquity and the mildness of Christianity meet each other throughout
the ages, and present themselves to our sight as well as to our
reflection.

When Oswald and Corinne had reached the top of the tower of the Capitol,
she showed him the Seven Hills; the city of Rome bounded at first by
Mount Palatine, then by the walls of Servius Tullius, which enclose the
Seven Hills; lastly by the walls of Aurelian, which still serve as an
enclosure to the greatest part of Rome. Corinne recalled to mind the
verses of Tibullus and Propertius[12], who are proud of the weak
beginnings whence has sprung the mistress of the world. Mount Palatine
was in itself the whole of Rome for some time, but afterwards the palace
of the Emperors filled the space which had before sufficed for a nation.
A poet, in the time of Nero, made the following epigram upon this
occasion.[13] _Rome will soon be only a palace. Go to Veii Romans, if
this palace does not now occupy Veii itself._

The Seven Hills are infinitely less elevated than formerly when they
deserved the name of the Steep Mountains. Modern Rome is raised forty
feet above the ancient city. The valleys which separated the hills are
almost filled up by time with the ruins of edifices; but what is more
singular yet, a heap of broken vases has raised two new hills;[14] and
we almost discover an image of modern times, in this progress, or rather
this wreck of civilisation, levelling mountains with valleys, effacing
in the moral as well as the physical world all those beautiful
inequalities produced by nature.

Three other hills,[15] not comprised in the seven famous ones, give
something picturesque to the city of Rome, which perhaps is the only
city that of itself, and in its own boundaries, offers the most
magnificent points of observation. It presents such a remarkable mixture
of ruins, edifices, fields and deserts, that we may contemplate Rome on
all sides, and always find a striking picture in the opposite
perspective.

Oswald could never feel tired of viewing the traces of ancient Rome from
the elevated point of the Capitol to which Corinne had conducted him.
The reading of history, and the reflections which it excites, produce a
less powerful effect upon the soul than those heaps of stones, those
ruins mingled with new habitations. So strongly do our eyes carry
conviction to the mind, that after having beheld these ruins of Rome we
believe the history of the ancient Romans as if we had been cotemporary
with them. The recollections of the mind are acquired by study; the
recollections of the imagination are born of a more immediate and
intimate impression, which gives body to thought, and renders us, if I
may so express it, witnesses of what we have learnt. Undoubtedly one is
vexed sometimes at those modern buildings which intrude themselves among
the venerable spoils of antiquity. But a portico by the side of a humble
cottage, pillars, between which appear the little windows of a church, a
tomb affording an asylum to a whole rustic family, produce an
indescribable mixture of great and simple ideas, a newly-discovered
pleasure which inspires a continual interest. The greater part of our
European cities have externally a common and prosaic appearance; and
Rome, oftener than any other, presents the melancholy aspect of misery
and degradation; but all of a sudden a broken column, a bas-relief
half-destroyed, stones knit together in the indestructible manner of the
ancient architects, remind us that there is in man an eternal power, a
divine spark, which he must never cease to excite in himself and revive
in others.

This Forum, whose enclosure is so narrow in compass, and which has
witnessed so many astonishing things, is a striking proof of the moral
greatness of man. When the universe, in the latter times of Rome, was
subjected to inglorious masters, we find whole centuries, of which
history has scarcely preserved any events; and this Forum, this little
space in the centre of a city, at that time very circumscribed, whose
inhabitants were fighting all around them for their territory, has it
not occupied by the memories which it recalls, the most sublime geniuses
of every age! Honour then, eternal honour, to nations, courageous and
free, since they thus captivate the admiration of posterity!

Corinne observed to Lord Nelville that there were very few remains of
the Republican age to be found at Rome. The aqueducts, the canals formed
under ground, for the distribution of water, were the only luxury of the
Republic and the kings who preceded it. They have only left us useful
edifices: tombs raised to the memory of their great men, and some
temples of brick, which still subsist. It was not until after the
conquest of Sicily that the Romans for the first time made use of marble
for their monuments; but it is sufficient to behold places where great
actions have occurred, to experience an indefinable emotion. It is to
this disposition of the soul that we must attribute the religious power
of pilgrimages. Celebrated countries of every kind, even when stripped
of their great men and of their monuments, preserve their effect upon
the imagination. What struck our sight no longer exists, but the charm
of recollection remains.

This Forum no longer presents us with any trace of that famous Tribune,
from which the Roman people were governed by eloquence. Three pillars
remain of a temple, raised by Augustus in honour of Jupiter Tonans, when
the thunderbolt fell at his feet without striking him, and an arch
which the senate raised to Septimus Severus in reward of his exploits.
The names of his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, were inscribed on the
fronton of the arch; but when Caracalla had assassinated Geta he caused
his name to be erased, and some traces of the cancelled letters are
still to be seen. At some distance is a temple to Faustina, a monument
of the blind weakness of Marcus Aurelius; a temple to Venus which, in
the time of the republic, was consecrated to Pallas--and farther on, the
ruins of a temple dedicated to the Sun and Moon, built by the Emperor
Adrian, who was jealous of Apollodorus, the famous Grecian architect,
and put him to death for having found fault with the proportions of his
edifice.

On the other side of the square we behold the ruins of some monuments
consecrated to nobler and purer aims. The pillars of a temple which is
believed to have been that of Jupiter Stator, who prevented the Romans
from ever flying before their enemies. A pillar remaining of the Temple
of Jupiter Guardian, placed, we are told, not far from the abyss into
which Curtius precipitated himself. Pillars also of a temple, raised,
some say, to Concord, others to Victory. Perhaps these two ideas are
confounded by conquering nations, who probably think no real peace can
exist till they have subdued the universe! At the extremity of Mount
Palatine is a beautiful triumphal arch, dedicated to Titus, for the
conquest of Jerusalem. We are informed that the Jews who are at Rome
never pass under this arch, and a little path is shewn which they take
to avoid it. It is to be wished, for the honour of the Jews, that this
anecdote may be true; long recollections suit long misfortunes.

Not far from thence is the arch of Constantine, embellished with some
bas-reliefs taken away from the forum of Trajan, by the Christians, who
wished to adorn the monument consecrated to the _founder of repose_; so
they called Constantine. The arts at this epoch were already on the
decline, and they stripped the past to honour new exploits. These
triumphal gates, which are seen at Rome, give perpetuity as much as man
can give it, to the honours paid to glory. There was a place upon their
summits destined for flute and trumpet players, in order that the victor
when passing might be intoxicated at the same time by music and praise,
and taste at the same moment all the most exalted emotions.

Facing these triumphal arches are the ruins of the temple of Peace built
by Vespasian; it was so decorated with brass and with gold, internally,
that when consumed by fire, the streams of burning metal that flowed
from it extended even to the Forum. Lastly, the Coliseum, the most
beautiful ruin of Rome, terminates this noble enclosure, which embraces
all history in its compass. This superb edifice, of which only the
stones remain, stript of the gold and the marble, served as an
amphitheatre for the combats of the gladiators, with wild beasts. It was
thus that the Roman people were amused and deceived by strong emotions,
when natural sentiments could no longer soar. The entrance to the
Coliseum is by two doors, one consecrated to the victors, and by the
other were carried out the dead: strange contempt for the human race,
which made the life or death of man dependent upon the pastime of a
public spectacle! Titus, the best of emperors, dedicated the Coliseum to
the Roman people,--and these admirable ruins bear such fine traits of
magnificence and genius, that we are led into an illusion on the subject
of true greatness, and tempted to grant that admiration to the
masterpieces of art, which is only the due of monuments consecrated to
generous institutions.

Oswald did not indulge in that admiration which Corinne felt in
contemplating these four galleries; these four edifices, rising one
upon another; this medley of pomp and barbarism, which at once inspires
respect and compassion. He beheld in these scenes nothing but the luxury
of the master, and the blood of the slaves, and felt indignant at the
arts which, regardless of their aim, lavish their gifts upon whatever
object they may be destined for. Corinne endeavoured to combat this
disposition:--"Do not," said she, to Lord Nelville, "carry the rigour of
your principles of morality and justice into the contemplation of the
Italian monuments; they, for the most part, recall, as I have told you,
rather the splendour, the elegance of taste of ancient forms, than the
glorious epoch of Roman virtue. But do you not find some traces of the
moral greatness possessed by the first ages, in the gigantic luxury of
the monuments which have succeeded them? Even the degradation of the
Roman people still commands respect: the mourning of her liberty covers
the world with wonders, and the genius of ideal beauty seeks to console
man for the true and real dignity which he has lost. Behold those
immense baths, open to all those who were willing to taste oriental
voluptuousness--those circuses destined for the elephants which were
brought there to combat with tigers, and those aqueducts which in a
moment converted the amphitheatre into a lake, where galleys too fought
in their turn, and crocodiles appeared where lions were seen
before:--such was the luxury of the Romans when luxury was their pride!
Those obelisks which were brought from Egypt, stolen from African
shades, in order to adorn the Roman sepulchres; that population of
statues which formerly existed in Rome cannot be looked upon in the same
light as the useless pageantry of the Asiatic despots: it is the Roman
genius which conquered the world, and to which the arts have given an
external form. There is something supernatural in this magnificence,
and its poetical splendour makes us forget its origin and its aim."

The eloquence of Corinne excited the admiration of Oswald without
convincing him; he sought for some moral sentiment in all this, without
which all the magic of the arts could not satisfy him. Corinne then
recollected that in this very amphitheatre the persecuted Christians
died victims of their perseverance, and showing Lord Nelville the altars
which are raised in honour of their ashes, as well as the path of the
cross, which is trodden by penitents, at the foot of the most
magnificent wrecks of worldly grandeur, asked him if the ashes of
martyrs conveyed no language to his heart? "Yes," cried he, "I deeply
admire the triumph of the soul and of the will over the pains of death.
A sacrifice, whatever it may be, is nobler and more difficult than all
the flights of the soul and of thought.--An exalted imagination may
produce miracles of genius, but it is only in devoting ourselves to our
opinion or to our sentiments that we are truly virtuous;--it is then
alone that a celestial power subdues the mortal man in us."

This language, so noble and so pure, yet gave uneasiness to Corinne. She
looked at Nelville--then cast down her eyes--and though, at that moment,
he took her hand and pressed it against his heart, she shuddered at the
idea that such a man could sacrifice others or himself to the worship of
opinions, of principles, or of duties, which he might have chosen.

FOOTNOTES:

[11] Mineralogists affirm that these lions are not of basalt, because
the volcanic stone to-day known under that name could not have existed
in Egypt; but as Pliny calls the Egyptian stone out of which these lions
have been carved, basalt, and as Winckelmann, the historian of the arts,
also retains this appellation, I have deemed myself justified in using
it in its primitive acceptation.

[12]
     "Carpite nunc, tauri, de septem collibus herbas,
     Dum licet. Hic magnæ jam locus urbis erit."
                                              TIBULLUS.

     "Hoc quodcunque vides hospes quam maxima Roma est,
     Ante Phrygem Enean collis et herba fuit."
                             PROPERTIUS, Book IV. el. 1.

[13]
     Roma domus fiet: Veios migrate, Quirites;
     Si non et Veios occupat ista domus.

[14] Mounts Citorio and Testacio.

[15] The Janicula, Mount Vaticano and Mount Mario.



Chapter v.


After the excursion to the Capitol and the Forum, Corinne and Nelville
spent two days in visiting the Seven Hills. The Romans formerly observed
a festival in honour of them. These hills, enclosed in her bosom, are
one of the original beauties of Rome; and we may easily conceive what
delight was experienced by feelings attached to their native soil, in
celebrating this singularity.

Oswald and Corinne, having seen the Capitoline Hill the day before,
began their walks by Mount Palatine; it was entirely occupied by the
palace of the Cæsars, called _the golden palace_. This hill offers
nothing to our view, at present, but the ruins of that palace. The four
sides of it were built by Augustus Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero; but the
stones, covered with fertile plants, are all that now remain of it:
Nature has there resumed her empire over the labours of man, and the
beauty of the flowers consoles us for the destruction of the palace. The
luxury of the times of the kings and of the Republic only consisted in
public edifices; private houses were very small, and very simple.
Cicero, Hortensius, and the Gracchi, dwelt upon Mount Palatine, which,
at the decline of Rome, was scarcely sufficient for the abode of a
single man. In the latter ages, the nation was nothing more than an
anonymous crowd, merely designated by the era of its master. We look in
vain here for the two laurels planted before the door of Augustus, the
laurel of war, and that of the fine arts cultivated by peace; both have
disappeared.

There is still remaining, on Mount Palatine, some chambers of the Baths
of Livia; we are there shown the holes which contained the precious
stones that were then lavished upon ceilings, as a common ornament, and
paintings are to be seen there whose colours are yet perfectly
untouched; the fragility of the colours adds to our astonishment at
seeing them preserved, and seems to carry us back nearer to past ages.
If it be true that Livia shortened the days of Augustus, it is in one of
these rooms that the crime was conceived, and the eyes of the sovereign
of the world, betrayed in his most intimate affections, were perhaps
fixed upon one of those pictures whose elegant flowers still remain[16].
What, in old age, were his thoughts upon his life and his pomp? Did he
recall to mind his proscriptions or his glory? Did he hope, or did he
fear a world to come? Does the last thought, which reveals everything to
man; does the last thought of a master of the universe still wander
beneath these vaults?

Mount Aventine offers more traces than any other of the first periods of
the Roman History. Exactly opposite the Palace, raised by Tiberius, we
see the ruins of the Temple of Liberty, which was built by the father of
the Gracchi. At the foot of Mount Aventine stood the temple dedicated to
the Fortune of men by Servius Tullius, to thank the gods for having
raised him from the condition of a slave to the rank of a king. Without
the walls of Rome we find also the ruins of a temple, which was
consecrated to the Fortune of women when Veturia stopped the progress of
Coriolanus. Opposite Mount Aventine is Mount Janicula, on which Porsenna
placed his army. It was opposite this Mount that Horatius Cocles caused
the bridge leading to Rome to be cut away behind him. The foundation of
this bridge is still to be seen; there stands on the bank of the river a
triumphal arch, built of brick, as simple as the action which it recalls
was grand; this arch having been raised, it is said, in honour of
Horatius Cocles. In the middle of the Tiber is perceived an island
formed of sheaves of corn gathered in the fields of Tarquin, which were
a long time exposed on the river because the Roman people would not take
them, believing that they should entail bad fortune on themselves by so
doing. It would be difficult in our days to cast a malediction upon
riches of any sort which could prevent everybody from seizing them.

On Mount Aventine were placed the temple of patrician, and that of
plebeian modesty. At the foot of this hill is seen the temple of Vesta,
which yet remains whole, though it has been often menaced by the
inundations of the Tiber. Not far from thence is the ruin of a prison
for debt, where it is said a fine trait of filial piety was displayed,
which is pretty generally known. It was also in this place that Clelia
and her companions, prisoners of Porsenna, crossed the Tiber in order to
rejoin the Romans. This Aventine Mount affords the soul repose after the
painful reflections which the other hills awaken, and its aspect is as
beautiful as the memories it recalls. The name of _Pulchrum Littus_,
Beautiful Shore, was given to the banks of the river, which rolls at its
foot, which was the walk of the Roman orators when they quitted the
forum--it was there that Cæsar and Pompey met like private citizens, and
sought to captivate Cicero whose independent eloquence was then of more
importance to them than even the power of their armies.

Poetry too lends its aid to embellish this retreat; Virgil has placed
the cavern of Cacus upon Mount Aventine, and the Romans, so great by
their history, are still more so by the heroic fictions with which the
bards have decorated their fabulous origin. Lastly, in returning from
this mountain is seen the house of Nicholas Rienzi, who vainly
endeavoured to revive ancient times among the moderns, and this memento,
feeble as it is, by the side of so many others, gives birth to much
reflection. Mount Cælius is remarkable because there we behold the
remains of the Prætorian camp, and that of the foreign soldiers. This
inscription has been found in the ruins of the edifice built for the
reception of these soldiers:--"To the hallowed genius of foreign camps!"
Hallowed indeed, for those whose power it maintained! What remains of
these ancient barracks, enables us to judge that they were built after
the manner of cloisters, or rather, that cloisters have been built upon
their model.

Mount Esquiline was called the _Poets' Mount_, because Mecenas having
his palace on this hill, Horace, Propertius and Tibullus dwelt there
also. Not far from here are the ruins of the Thermæ of Titus, and of
Trajan. It is believed that Raphael took the model of his arabesques
from the fresco paintings of the Thermæ of Titus. It is there, also,
that was discovered the group of the Laocoon. The freshness of water
affords such pleasure in hot countries that delight is taken in
assembling together all the pomp of luxury, and every enjoyment of the
imagination, in the places appropriated for bathing. It was there that
the Romans exposed their masterpieces of painting and of sculpture. They
were seen by the light of lamps, for it appears by the construction of
these buildings, that daylight never entered them: they wished thus to
preserve themselves from the rays of the sun, so burning in the south:
the sensation they produce must certainly have been the cause of the
ancients calling them the darts of Apollo. It is reasonable to suppose,
from observing the extreme precaution of the ancients to guard against
heat, that the climate was then more burning than it is in our days. It
is in the Thermæ of Caracalla, that were placed the Hercules Farnese,
the Flora, and the group of Dirce. In the baths of Nero near Ostia was
found the Apollo Belvedere. Is it possible to conceive that in
contemplating this noble figure Nero did not feel some generous
emotions?

The Thermæ and the Circuses are the only kind of buildings appropriated
to public amusements of which there remain any relics at Rome. There is
no theatre except that of Marcellus whose ruins still exist. Pliny
relates that there were three hundred and sixty pillars of marble, and
three thousand statues employed in a theatre, which was only to last a
few days. Sometimes the Romans raised fabrics so strong that they
resisted the shock of earthquakes; at others they took pleasure in
devoting immense labour to buildings which they themselves destroyed as
soon as their feasts were over; thus they sported with time in every
shape. Besides, the Romans were not like the Greeks--influenced by a
passion for dramatic representations. It was by Grecian work, and
Grecian artists, that the fine arts flourished at Rome, and Roman
greatness expressed itself rather by the colossal magnificence of
architecture than by the masterpieces of the imagination. This gigantic
luxury, these wonders of riches, possess great and characteristic
dignity, which, though not the dignity of liberty, is that of power. The
monuments appropriated for public baths, were called provinces; in them
were united all the divers productions and divers establishments which a
whole country can produce. The circus (called _Circus Maximus_) of which
the remains are still to be seen, was so near the palace of the Cæsars
that Nero could from his windows give the signal for the games. The
circus was large enough to contain three hundred thousand persons. The
nation almost in its entirety was amused at the same moment, and these
immense festivals might be considered as a kind of popular institution,
which united every man in the cause of pleasure as they were formerly
united in the cause of glory.

Mount Quirinal and Mount Viminal are so near each other that it is
difficult to distinguish them: it was here that the houses of Sallust
and of Pompey, formerly stood; it is here also that the Pope has now
fixed his abode. We cannot take one step in Rome without bringing the
present near to the past, and different periods of the past near to each
other. But we learn to reconcile ourselves to the events of our own
time, in beholding the eternal mutability of the history of man; and we
feel ashamed of letting our own lot disturb us in the presence of so
many ages, which have all overthrown the work of the preceding ones.

By the side of the Seven Hills, on their declivities or on their
summits, are seen a multitude of steeples, and of obelisks; Trajan's
column, the column of Antoninus, the Tower of Conti (whence it is said
Nero beheld the conflagration of Rome), and the Dome of St Peter's,
whose commanding grandeur eclipses that of every other object. It
appears as if the air were peopled with all these monuments, which
extend towards Heaven, and as if an aerial city were majestically
hovering over the terrestrial one.

On entering Rome again Corinne made Oswald pass under the portico of
Octavia, she who loved so well, and suffered so much; then they
traversed the _Path of Infamy_, by which the infamous Tullia passed,
trampling her father's corpse beneath the feet of her horses. At a
distance from this spot is seen the temple raised by Agrippina in honour
of Claudius whom she caused to be poisoned. And lastly we pass the tomb
of Augustus, whose enclosure now serves as an amphitheatre for the
combats of beasts.

"I have caused you to run over very rapidly," said Corinne to Lord
Nelville, "some traces of ancient history; but you will comprehend the
pleasure to be found in these researches, at once learned and poetic,
which speak to the imagination as well as to the mind. There are in Rome
many distinguished men whose only occupation is to discover some new
relation between history and the ruins." "I know no study that would
more captivate and interest me," replied Lord Nelville, "if I felt
sufficiently at rest to give my mind to it: this species of erudition is
much more animated than that which is acquired from books: one would say
that we make what we discover to live again, and that the past
re-appears from beneath the dust in which it has been buried."
"Undoubtedly," said Corinne, "this passion for antiquity is not a vain
prejudice. We live in an age when personal interest seems to be the only
principle of all the actions of men, and what sympathy, what emotion,
what enthusiasm, can ever result from such a principle? It is sweeter to
dream of those days of devotion, of personal sacrifice and heroism,
which however, have existed, and of which the earth still bears some
honourable testimonies."

FOOTNOTE:

[16] Augustus died at Nola, on his way to the waters of Brindisi, which
had been prescribed him; but he left Rome in a dying state.



Chapter vi.


Corinne flattered herself in secret with having captivated the heart of
Oswald, but as she knew his reserve and his severity, she had not dared
make known to him all the interest he had excited in her heart, though
she was disposed, by character, to conceal nothing that she felt.
Perhaps also she believed that even in speaking on subjects foreign to
their growing passion there was a tenderness of accent in their voice,
which betrayed their mutual affection, and that a secret avowal of love
was painted in their looks, and in that melancholy and veiled language
which penetrates so deeply into the soul.

One morning, when Corinne was getting ready to continue her walks with
Oswald, she received a note from him, somewhat ceremonious, informing
her that the bad state of his health would confine him at home for some
days. A painful disquietude seized upon the heart of Corinne: she at
first feared he might be dangerously ill, but the Count d'Erfeuil, whom
she saw at night, told her it was one of those melancholy fits to which
he was very much subject and, during which he would not speak to
anybody.--"He will not see _even me_," said the Count d'Erfeuil, "when
he is so."--This _even me_ was highly displeasing to Corinne, but she
was upon her guard not to betray any symptoms of that displeasure to the
only man who might be able to give her news of Lord Nelville. She
interrogated him, flattering herself that a man of so much apparent
levity would tell her all he knew. But on a sudden, whether he wished to
conceal from her by an air of mystery that Oswald had confided nothing
to him, or whether he believed it more honourable to refuse what was
asked of him than to grant it, he opposed an invincible silence to the
ardent curiosity of Corinne. She who had always had an ascendency over
those with whom she conversed, could not comprehend why all her means of
persuasion were without effect upon the Count d'Erfeuil: did she not
know that there is nothing in the world so inflexible as self-love?

What resource remained then to Corinne to know what was passing in the
heart of Oswald! should she write to him? The formality it would require
was too foreign to her open disposition. Three days glided away, during
which she did not see Lord Nelville, and was tormented by the most cruel
agitation.--"What have I done then," said she, "to drive him from me? I
have not told him that I loved him.--I have not been guilty of that
crime, so terrible in England, but so pardonable in Italy. Has he
guessed it? But why should he esteem me the less for it?" Oswald had
only absented himself from Corinne because he felt the power of her
charms becoming too strong to resist. Though he had not given his word
to espouse Lucilia Edgermond, he knew it was his father's wish that she
should become his wife, and to that wish he desired to conform. Besides,
Corinne was not known by her real name, and had, for several years, led
a life much too independent. Such a marriage, Lord Nelville believed
would not have obtained the approbation of his father, and he felt that
it was not thus he could expiate the transgressions he had been guilty
of towards him. Such were his motives for removing himself from the
presence of Corinne. He had formed the project of writing to her on
quitting Rome, stating the motives that condemned him to this
resolution; but as he could not find strength to do that, he contented
himself with abstaining from visiting her, and even this sacrifice
became almost too painful to bear from the second day of his absence.

Corinne was struck with an idea that she should never behold Oswald
again; that he would go away without bidding her adieu. She expected
every instant to receive the news of his departure, and this fear so
increased the agony of her feelings that she felt herself all of a
sudden seized by passion, that vulture beneath whose talons happiness
and independence sink. Unable to endure the house that Lord Nelville no
longer visited, she frequently wandered in the gardens of Rome, hoping
to meet with him. The hours so spent were the least insupportable, since
they afforded some chance of seeing the object of her wanderings. The
ardent imagination of Corinne was the source of her talents; but,
unfortunately for her, it was united to her natural sensibility, which
often rendered it extremely painful to her.

On the evening of the fourth day of this cruel absence, the moon shone
beautifully bright, and the silence of the night gives Rome a fine
effect: it seems then to be inhabited by the shades of its illustrious
ancients. Corinne, returning from the house of a female friend,
oppressed with grief, quitted her carriage, to sit for a few moments
near the fountain of Trevi; before that abundant cascade, which, falling
in the midst of Rome, seems like the vital principle of this tranquil
abode. When this cascade ceases to play for some days, one would say
that Rome is struck with stupor. It is the noise of carriages that we
expect to hear in other capitals; but at Rome, it is the murmuring of
this immense fountain, which seems to be an accompaniment necessary to
the pensive life people lead there: the image of Corinne was painted in
this stream, so pure, that for several centuries past it has borne the
name of the _Virgin Spring_. Oswald, who had stopped in the same place a
few moments afterwards, beheld the charming features of his love
reflected in the water. He was seized with so lively an emotion, that he
did not know, at first, whether it was not his imagination which
presented to him the shadow of Corinne, as it had so often done that of
his father; he bent towards the fountain to observe more distinctly,
when his own countenance was reflected by the side of Corinne's. She
knew him, uttered a cry, and darting towards him rapidly, seized his arm
as if she were afraid he would leave her again; but hardly had she
yielded to this impetuous emotion than recollecting the character of
Nelville, she blushed at having given him this lively testimony of her
feelings, and letting fall the hand which held Oswald, she covered her
face with the other to conceal her tears.

"Corinne!" said Oswald, "dear Corinne! my absence has then rendered you
unhappy!" "Oh yes," answered she, "you were sure of that! Why then pain
me! have I deserved to suffer at your hand?" "No, certainly," cried
Nelville, "but if I do not think myself free; if I feel in my heart a
storm of grief, why should I associate you with such a torture of
sentiment and dread?"--"It is too late," interrupted Corinne, "it is too
late, grief has already seized upon my bosom--spare me."--"Do you
mention grief?" replied Oswald, "in the midst of so brilliant a career,
of such renown, and possessing so lively an imagination?"--"Hold," said
Corinne, "you do not know me; of all the faculties I possess, the most
powerful is that of suffering. I am born for happiness, my disposition
is open, my imagination animated; but pain excites in me a certain
impetuosity, powerful enough to disturb my reason or bring me to my
grave; therefore I beseech you, spare me. My gaiety and mobility are
only superficial; but there are in my soul abysses of sadness, which I
can only escape by guarding against love."

Corinne pronounced these words with an expression that deeply affected
Oswald.--"I will come and see you to-morrow morning," said he. "Do you
swear it?" said she, with a disquietude which she vainly endeavoured to
conceal. "Yes, I swear it," cried Lord Nelville, and disappeared.



Book v.

THE TOMBS, THE CHURCHES, AND THE PALACES.

[Illustration]



Chapter i.


The next day, Oswald and Corinne felt much embarrassed at meeting each
other. Corinne was no longer confident of the love which she inspired.
Oswald was dissatisfied with himself; he knew there was a weakness in
his character which sometimes made him feel irritated at his own
sentiments as at a species of tyranny; and both endeavoured to avoid
speaking of their mutual affection. "I have to propose to-day," said
Corinne, "rather a solemn walk; but one that will certainly prove highly
interesting: let us go and see the tombs, let us go and see the last
asylum of those who inhabited the monuments whose ruins we have
contemplated."--"Yes," answered Oswald, "you have conjectured what will
suit the present disposition of my soul;" and he pronounced these words
in so dolorous an accent, that Corinne was silent some moments, not
daring to speak to him. But the desire of affording consolation to
Oswald, and the lively interest she took in every thing they were to see
together, inspired her with courage, and she said to him: "You know my
lord, that, among the ancients, so far was the aspect of the tombs from
dispiriting the living, that they endeavoured to excite a new emulation
by placing these tombs on the public roads, in order that by recalling
to young people the remembrance of illustrious men, they might silently
admonish them to follow their example." "Ah! how I envy all those,"
said Oswald, "whose grief is not mingled with remorse!" "Do you talk of
remorse," cried Corinne; "you whose only failings, if they may be so
called, are an excess of virtue, a scrupulosity of heart, an exalted
delicacy--" "Corinne, Corinne, do not approach that subject,"
interrupted Oswald, "in your happy country, sombre thoughts disappear
before the lustre of a brilliant sky; but that grief which has
penetrated to the depths of our soul, must for ever sap the foundation
of our existence." "You form an erroneous judgment of me," replied
Corinne; "I have already told you, that though I am formed by the nature
of my character, for lively enjoyment, I should suffer more exquisitely
than you if--" She did not conclude; but changed the discourse.--"My
only desire, my lord, is to divert your attention for a moment; I hope
for nothing more." The sweetness of this reply moved Lord Nelville, and
seeing a melancholy expression in the looks of Corinne, naturally so
interesting and so full of fire, he reproached himself for having
afflicted a woman, born for the most tender and lively sensations, and
endeavoured to atone for it. But the disquietude which Corinne
experienced with regard to the future intentions of Oswald, and the
possibility of his departure, entirely disturbed her accustomed
serenity.

She conducted Lord Nelville outside the gates of the city, where are to
be seen the ancient vestiges of the Appian way. These vestiges are
indicated in the midst of the Campagna, by the tombs to the right and to
the left, which extend out of sight for several miles beyond the walls.
The Romans would not permit their dead to be buried inside the city: the
emperors alone were allowed that privilege. One private citizen,
however, named Publius Bibulus, obtained this favour in reward of his
obscure virtues.--Cotemporaries are always more willing to honour
virtues of that description than any other.

It is the gate of St Sebastian, formerly called _Capene_, that conducts
to the Appian way. Cicero tells us, that the first tombs we meet after
passing this gate, are those of the Metelli, the Scipios, and the
Servilii. The family tomb of the Scipios has been found in this very
spot and since transplanted to the Vatican. It is almost a sacrilege to
displace the ashes of the dead or to change the aspect of ruins.
Imagination is more closely connected with morality than is generally
believed, and should not be offended. Among so many tombs which strike
our sight, names are ascribed to some without any positive certainty;
but even the emotion which this uncertainty inspires will not permit us
to contemplate any of these monuments with indifference. There are some
in which houses for the peasantry are built; for the Romans consecrated
an extensive space and vast edifices to the funereal urns of their
friends or their illustrious fellow-citizens. They were not influenced
by that dry principle of utility which fertilized a few corners of the
earth, while blasting with sterility the vast domain of sentiment and of
thought.

At some distance from the Appian way is seen a temple, raised by the
republic to Honour and Virtue; another to the god who caused Hannibal to
turn back, and also the fountain of Egeria, where Numa went to consult
the god of all good men,--conscience interrogated in solitude. It seems
that about these tombs no traces but those of virtue have subsisted. No
monument of the ages of crime is to be found by the side of those where
repose the illustrious dead; they are surrounded by an honourable space,
where the noblest memories may preserve their reign undisturbed.

The aspect of the country about Rome has something in it singularly
remarkable: undoubtedly it is a desert, for it contains neither trees
nor habitation; but the earth is covered with wild plants which the
energy of vegetation incessantly renews. These parasitic plants glide
among the tombs, adorn the ruins, and seem only there to honour the
dead. One would say, that proud Nature has rejected all the labours of
man, since Cincinnatus no longer guided the plough which furrowed her
bosom. She produces plants by chance, without permitting the living to
make use of her riches. These uncultivated plains must be displeasing to
the agriculturist, to administrators, to all those who speculate upon
the earth, and who would lay it under contribution to supply the wants
of man. But pensive minds, which are occupied as much by death as by
life, take pleasure in contemplating this Roman Campagna upon which the
present age has imprinted no trace; this land which cherishes its dead,
and covers them lovingly with useless flowers, with useless plants which
creep upon the earth, and never rise sufficiently to separate themselves
from the ashes which they appear to caress.

Oswald agreed that in this spot the mind felt more calm than it possibly
could any where else; besides, here the soul does not suffer so much
from the images that grief presents to it; one seems still to share with
those who are no more, the charms of that air, of that sun, and of that
verdure. Corinne observed the impression that Lord Nelville received,
and conceived some hopes from it: she did not flatter herself with being
able to console Oswald; she had not even wished to efface from his heart
the just regret he must feel at the loss of his father; but there is,
even in this regret, something tender and harmonious, which we must
endeavour to make known to those who have hitherto only felt its
bitterness; it is the only benefit we can confer upon them.

"Let us stop here," said Corinne, "opposite this tomb, the only one
which remains yet almost whole: it is not the tomb of a celebrated
Roman, it is that of Cecilia Metella, a young maiden to whom her father
has raised this monument." "Happy!" said Oswald, "happy are the children
who die in the arms of their father and receive death in the bosom of
him who gave them life; death itself then loses its sting." "Yes," said
Corinne; "happy are those not doomed to the wretched lot of orphans.
See, arms have been sculptured on this tomb, though it belongs to a
woman: but the daughters of heroes may have their monuments adorned with
the trophies of their fathers; what a beautiful union is that of
innocence and valour! There is an elegy of Propertius which paints
better than any other writing of antiquity, this dignity of woman among
the Romans, more imposing, more pure than the worship paid to them
during the age of chivalry. Cornelia, dying in her youth, addresses to
her husband the most affecting consolations and adieus, in which we feel
at every word, all that is respectable and sacred in family ties. The
noble pride of an unspotted life is painted in this majestic poetry of
the Latins, this poetry, noble and severe as the masters of the
world[17]. '_Yes_,' says Cornelia, '_no stain has sullied my life from
the nuptial bed to the funeral pyre; I have lived pure between the two
torches._' What an admirable expression" cried Corinne; "What a sublime
image! How worthy of envy is the lot of that woman who has been able to
preserve the most perfect unity in her destiny and carries but one
recollection to the grave: it is enough for a life!"

In finishing these words, the eyes of Corinne were filled with tears; a
cruel sentiment, a painful suspicion seized upon the heart of
Oswald.--"Corinne," cried he, "Corinne, has your delicate soul nothing
to reproach itself with? If I were able to dispose of myself, if I could
offer myself to you, should I have no rival in the past? Should I have
reason to be proud of my choice? Would no cruel jealousy disturb my
happiness?"--"I am free, and I love you as I never loved man before!"
answered Corinne--"What would you have more?--Must I be condemned to an
avowal, that before I have known you I have been deceived by my
imagination as to the interest which another excited in me? Is there not
in the heart of man a divine pity for the errors which sentiment, or
rather the illusion of sentiment, may have led us to commit?" In
finishing these words a modest blush covered her face. Oswald was
startled; but remained silent. There was in Corinne's look an expression
of repentance and timidity which did not permit him to judge with
rigour--a ray from heaven seemed to descend upon, and absolve her! He
took her hand, pressed it against his heart, and knelt before her,
without uttering anything, without promising anything; but contemplated
her with a look of love which gave the utmost latitude to hope.

"Believe me," said Corinne, to Lord Nelville--"let us form no plan for
the years to come. The most happy moments are those which a bountiful
chance gives us. Is it here then, is it in the midst of the tombs that
we should think of future days?"--"No," cried Lord Nelville, "I can
think of no future day that would be likely to part us! these four days
of absence have taught me too well that I now no longer exist but in
you!"--Corinne made no reply to these sweet expressions; but she
treasured them religiously in her heart; she was always fearful that in
prolonging the conversation upon that subject most interesting to her,
she might draw from Oswald a declaration of his future intentions,
before a longer acquaintance might render separation impossible. She
often, even designedly, turned his attention towards external
objects--like that Sultana in the Arabian Tales, who sought by a
thousand different recitals to awaken the interest of him she loved, in
order to postpone the decision of her fate till her charms and her wit
had completed their conquest.

FOOTNOTE:

[17]
     "Viximus insignes inter utramque facem."
                                        PROPERTIUS.



Chapter ii.


Not far from the Appian way, Oswald and Corinne visited the
_Columbarium_, where slaves are united with their masters; where are
seen in the same tomb, all who lived under the protection of one man or
one woman. The women of Livia, for example, they who, appointed to the
care of her beauty, struggled for its preservation against the power of
time and disputed with the years some one of her charms, are placed by
her side in little urns. We fancy that we see an assemblage of the
obscure dead round one of the illustrious departed, not less silent than
his train. At a little distance from here, is perceived the field where
vestals, unfaithful to their vows, were buried alive; a singular
instance of fanaticism in a religion naturally tolerant.

"I will not conduct you to the catacombs," said Corinne to Lord
Nelville, "though, by a singular chance, they are under this Appian way;
tombs thus having their abode beneath tombs; but this asylum of the
persecuted Christians has something so gloomy, and so terrible in it,
that I cannot find resolution to return thither. It does not inspire the
same affecting melancholy as more open situations; it is like a dungeon
adjoining a sepulchre; the torment of life accompanied with the horrors
of death. Undoubtedly, we feel penetrated with admiration of men who, by
the power of enthusiasm alone, have been able to support this
subterraneous existence; separating themselves from the sun and from
nature; but the mind is so ill at ease in this abode that it is
incapable of receiving any improvement. Man is a part of the creation;
he must find his moral harmony in the whole system of the universe, in
the usual order of destiny, and certain violent and formidable
exceptions may astonish the mind; but they are so terrifying to the
imagination that the habitual disposition of the soul cannot benefit by
them. Let us rather," continued Corinne, "go and see the pyramid of
Cestius: the Protestants who die here are all buried around this
pyramid, which affords them a mild, tolerant, and liberal asylum."
"Yes," answered Oswald, "it is there that several of my
fellow-countrymen have found their last retreat. Let us go thither; and
thus, at least, it may happen that I shall never quit you."--Corinne
shuddered at these words, and her hand trembled as she supported herself
upon the arm of Lord Nelville--"I am better, much better," said he,
"since I have known you."--The countenance of Corinne was lighted up
anew with that sweet and tender joy which it was accustomed to express.

Cestius presided over the Roman games. His name is not to be found in
history; but it is rendered illustrious by his tomb. The massive pyramid
which encloses his ashes, defends his death from that oblivion which has
entirely effaced his life. Aurelian, fearing that this pyramid might be
employed as a fortress to attack Rome, has caused it to be enclosed
within the walls which are yet standing, not as useless ruins, but as
the actual enclosure of the modern city. It is said that the form of
the pyramid is in imitation of the flame which ascends from a funeral
pyre. It is certain that this mysterious form attracts the eye and gives
a picturesque aspect to every perspective of which it forms a part.
Opposite this pyramid is Mount Testaceo, under which there are extremely
cool grottos where feasts are given in summer. The festivals of Rome are
not disturbed at the sight of tombs. The pines and the cypresses which
are perceived at various distances in the smiling country of Italy, are
also pregnant with solemn remembrances; and this contrast produces the
same effect as the verses of Horace,

                             ----moriture Delli
     ------------------------------------------
     Linquenda tellus, et domus, et placens
     Uxor,[18]

in the midst of poetry consecrated to every enjoyment upon earth. The
ancients have always felt that the idea of death has its pleasures: it
is recalled by love and by festivals, and the most lively emotion of joy
seems to increase even from the idea of the shortness of life.

Corinne and Nelville returned from the walk among the tombs, along the
banks of the Tiber.--Once it was covered with vessels and bordered with
palaces; once even its inundations were regarded as presages; it was the
prophetic river, the tutelary Deity of Rome[19]. At present, one would
say that it rolled its tide through a land of shadows; so solitary does
it seem, so livid do its waters appear. The finest monuments of the
arts, the most admirable statues have been thrown into the Tiber, and
are concealed beneath its waves. Who knows whether, in order to find
them, the river will not one day be turned from its bed? But when we
think that the masterpieces of human genius are perhaps there before
us, and that a more piercing eye would behold them through the waves--we
feel that indescribable emotion which incessantly arises at Rome, under
various forms, and creates a society for the mind in physical objects
which every where else are dumb.

FOOTNOTES:

[18]
     Dellius thou must die---------------------
     Thou must quit thy land, thy home, and thy beloved wife.

[19] PLIN. _Hist. Natur._ L. iii. Tiberis ... quamlibet magnorum navium
ex Italo mari capax, rerum in toto orbe nascentium mercator
placidissimus, pluribus probe solus quam ceteri in omnibus terris amnes
accolitur aspiciturque villis. Nullique fluviorum minus licet, inclusis
utrinque lateribus: nec tamen ipse pugnat, quamquam creber ac subitis
incrementis, et nusquam magis aquis quam in ipsa urbe stagnantibus. Quin
imo vates intelligitur potius ac monitor auctu semper religiosus verius
quam sævus.



Chapter iii.


Raphael has said that modern Rome was almost entirely built with the
ruins of the ancient city, and it is certain that we cannot take a step
here without being struck by some relics of antiquity. We perceive the
_eternal walls_, to use the expression of Pliny, through the work of the
later centuries; the Roman edifices almost all bear a historical stamp;
in them may be remarked, if we may so express it, the physiognomy of
ages. From the Etruscans to our days, from that people, more ancient
than the Romans themselves, and who resembled the Egyptians by the
solidity of their works and the fantastical nature of their designs,
from that people to Chevalier Bernini, an artist whose style resembles
that of the Italian poets of the seventeenth century, we may observe the
human mind at Rome, in the different characters of the arts, the
edifices and the ruins. The middle ages, and the brilliant century of
the Medici, re-appear before our eyes in their works, and this study of
the past in objects present to our sight, penetrates us with the genius
of the times. It was believed that Rome had formerly a mysterious name
which was only known to a few adepts; it seems that it is yet necessary
to be initiated into the secret of this city. It is not simply an
assemblage of habitations, it is the history of the world, figured by
divers emblems and represented under various forms.

Corinne agreed with Lord Nelville that they should go and visit
together, the edifices of modern Rome, and reserve for another
opportunity the admirable collections of pictures and statues which it
contains. Perhaps, without accounting for it to herself, she desired to
put off till the most distant day possible, those objects which people
cannot dispense with seeing at Rome; for who has ever quitted it without
having contemplated the Apollo Belvedere and the pictures of Raphael?
This guarantee, weak as it was, that Oswald should not leave her,
pleased her imagination. Is there not an element of pride some one will
ask, in endeavouring to retain the object of our love by any other means
than the real sentiment itself? I really do not know; but the more we
love, the less we trust to the sentiment we inspire; and whatever may be
the cause which secures the presence of the object who is dear to us, we
always embrace it joyfully. There is often much vanity in a certain
species of boldness, and if charms, generally admired, like those of
Corinne, possess a real advantage, it is because they permit us to place
our pride to the account of the sentiment we feel rather than to that
which we inspire.

Corinne and Nelville began their observations by the most remarkable of
the numerous churches of Rome--they are all decorated with ancient
magnificence; but something gloomy and fantastical is mingled with that
beautiful marble and those festival ornaments which have been taken from
the Pagan temples. Pillars of porphyry and granite were so numerous in
Rome that they have lavishly distributed them, scarcely considering them
of any value. At St John Lateran, that church so famous for the
councils that have been held in it, are found such a quantity of marble
pillars that many of them have been covered with a cement of plaster to
make pilasters, so indifferent have they become to these riches from
their multitude.

Some of these pillars were in the tomb of Adrian, others at the Capitol;
these latter still bear on their capitals the figures of the geese which
saved the Roman people. Some of these pillars support Gothic, and others
Arabian ornaments. The urn of Agrippa conceals the ashes of a Pope; for
even the dead have yielded place to other dead, and the tombs have
almost as often changed their masters as the abodes of the living.

Near St John Lateran is the holy stair-case, transported, it is said,
from Jerusalem to Rome. It may only be ascended kneeling. Cæsar himself,
and Claudius also, mounted on their knees the stair-case which conducted
to the Temple of the Capitoline Jove. On one side of St John Lateran is
the font where it is said that Constantine was baptised.--In the middle
of the square is seen an obelisk, which is perhaps the most ancient
monument in the world--an obelisk cotemporary with the Trojan war!--an
obelisk which the barbarous Cambyses respected so much that in honour of
it he put a stop to the conflagration of a city!--an obelisk for which a
king pledged the life of his only son!--The Romans have, miraculously,
brought this pillar to Italy from the lowest part of Egypt.--They turned
the Nile from its course in order that it might seek it, and transport
it to the sea. This obelisk is still covered with hieroglyphics which
have preserved their secret during so many ages, and which to this day
defy the most learned researches. The Indians, the Egyptians, the
antiquity of antiquity, might perhaps be revealed to us by these
signs.--The wonderful charm of Rome is not only the real beauty of its
monuments; but the interest which it inspires by exciting thought; and
this kind of interest increases every day with each new study.

One of the most singular churches of Rome, is that of St Paul: its
exterior is like a badly built barn, and the interior is ornamented with
eighty pillars of so fine a marble and so exquisite a make, that one
would believe they belonged to an Athenian temple described by
Pausanias. Cicero said--_We are surrounded by the vestiges of
history_,--if he said so then, what shall we say now?

The pillars, the statues, the bas-reliefs of ancient Rome, are so
lavished in the churches of the modern city, that there is one (St
Agnes) where bas-reliefs, turned, serve for the steps of a stair-case,
without any one having taken the trouble to examine what they
represented. What an astonishing aspect would ancient Rome offer now, if
the marble pillars and the statues had been left in the same place where
they were found! The ancient city would still have remained standing
almost entire--but would the men of our day dare to walk in it?

The palaces of the great lords are extremely vast, of an architecture
often very fine, and always imposing: but the interior ornaments are
rarely tasteful; we do not find in them even an idea of those elegant
apartments which the finished enjoyments of social life have given rise
to elsewhere. These vast abodes of the Roman princes are empty and
silent; the lazy inhabitants of these superb palaces retire into a few
small chambers unperceived, and leave strangers to survey their
magnificent galleries where the finest pictures of the age of Leo X. are
collected together. The great Roman lords of the present day, are as
unacquainted with the pompous luxury of their ancestors, as these
ancestors themselves were with the austere virtues of the Roman
republic. The country houses convey still more the idea of this
solitude, of this indifference of the possessors in the midst of the
most admirable abodes in the world. People may walk in these immense
gardens without suspecting that they have a master. The grass grows in
the middle of the walks, and in these very walks are trees fantastically
cut according to the ancient taste that prevailed in France.--What a
singular whimsicality is this neglect of the necessary, and affectation
of the useless!--But one is often surprised at Rome, and in the greater
part of the other cities of Italy, at the taste of the Italians for
extravagant ornaments,--they who have incessantly before their eyes the
noble simplicity of the antique. They love what is brilliant, much
better than what is elegant and commodious. They have in every instance,
the advantages and the inconveniences of not living habitually in
society. Their luxury is rather that of the imagination, than the luxury
of actual enjoyment;--isolated as they are among themselves, they cannot
dread the spirit of ridicule, which seldom penetrates at Rome into
domestic secrecy; and often, in contrasting the interior with the
exterior of their palaces, one would say, that the greater part of the
Italian nobility arrange their dwellings more to dazzle the passers-by
than to receive their friends.

After having surveyed the churches and the palaces, Corinne conducted
Oswald to the villa Mellini, a solitary garden, without any other
ornament than its magnificent trees. From here is seen, at a distance,
the chain of the Appenines; the transparency of the air colours these
mountains and throws them forward in the perspective, giving them a most
picturesque appearance. Oswald and Corinne remained in this spot to
enjoy the charms of the sky and the tranquillity of nature. It is
impossible to form an idea of this singular tranquillity without having
lived in Southern countries. On a hot day there is not felt the lightest
breath of wind. The feeblest blade of grass is perfectly still, and the
animals themselves partake of the indolence which the fine weather
inspires: in the middle of the day, you neither hear the hum of flies,
the chirping of grasshoppers, nor the song of birds; no object fatigues
itself with useless and trifling agitation; all sleep till storm or the
passions awaken the vehemence of nature, who then rushes with
impetuosity from her profound repose.

There are in the gardens of Rome, a great number of trees clad in
perennial green, which heighten the illusion produced by the mildness of
the climate during winter. Pines, of a particular elegance, large,
tufted towards the top, and interwoven with one another, form a kind of
plain in the air, whose effect is charming when we mount sufficiently
high to perceive it. The lower trees are placed beneath the shelter of
this verdant vault. Two palm trees only are found in Rome which are both
planted in the gardens of the monks; one of them, placed upon an
eminence, serves as a landmark, and a particular pleasure must always be
felt in perceiving and retracing in the various perspectives of Rome,
this deputy of Africa, this type of a Southern climate more burning
still than that of Italy, and which awakens so many new ideas and
sensations.

"Do you not find," said Corinne, contemplating with Oswald the country
surrounding them; "that nature in Italy disposes us more to reverie than
any where else?--It might be said, that she is here more in affinity
with man, and that the Creator uses her as a medium of interpretation
between his creature and himself." "Undoubtedly," replied Oswald, "I
think so; but who knows whether it may not be the deep feelings of
tenderness which you excite in my heart, that render me sensible to all
I see?--You reveal to me the emotions and thoughts, which external
objects can give birth to. I existed but in my heart; you have awakened
my imagination. But this magic of the universe, which you teach me to
know, will never present me with any thing more lovely than your look,
more moving than your voice." "May the sentiment I now inspire you with,
last as long as my life," said Corinne, "or at least, may my life never
survive the power of inspiring it!"

Oswald and Corinne terminated their tour of Rome by the Borghese villa.
Of all the Roman gardens and palaces, here the splendours of nature and
the arts, are assembled with the greatest taste and brilliancy. Here are
seen trees of every kind, and magnificent fountains; an incredible
number of statues, vases, and antique sarcophagi, mingled with the
freshness of the youthful nature of the South. The ancient mythology
here seems revived; the naiades are placed on the borders of rivers, the
nymphs in woods worthy of them, the tombs beneath Elysian shades, and
the statue of Esculapius in the middle of an isle, while that of Venus
appears to rise out of the waters: Ovid and Virgil might walk in this
enchanting spot, and still believe themselves in the Augustan age. The
masterpieces of sculpture which the palace contains, give it a
magnificence ever new. At a distance, through the trees, is perceived
the city of Rome and St Peter's, the Campagna, and those long arches,
the wrecks of aqueducts, which conveyed the springs from the mountains
into ancient Rome. Everything is there that can excite thought, delight
the imagination, and foster reverie. The most pure sensations are
confounded with the pleasures of the soul, and give an idea of perfect
happiness; but when we ask why this charming abode is not inhabited?
they answer you that the malaria (_la cattiva aria_) will not permit any
one to live here during summer.

This malaria, in a manner, lays siege to Rome; it advances every year
some steps farther, and they are obliged to abandon the most charming
habitations to its empire: undoubtedly, the absence of trees in the
country about the city, is one of the causes of it; and it is perhaps,
on that account, that the ancient Romans consecrated the woods to
goddesses, in order to make them respected by the people. At present,
forests without number have been cut down;--can there indeed exist, in
our days, any place so sanctified, that the avidity of man will spare it
from the work of devastation? The malaria is the scourge of the
inhabitants of Rome, and threatens the city with an entire depopulation;
but perhaps it increases the effect produced by the superb gardens which
are seen within the walls of Rome. The malign influence is not felt by
any external sign; you breathe an air which seems pure, and is very
agreeable; the earth is smiling and fertile; a delicious coolness
refreshes you in the evening after the burning heat of the day; and all
this is death!

"I love," said Oswald to Corinne, "this mysterious, invisible danger,
this danger under the form of the sweetest impressions. If death be
only, what I believe it to be, a summons to a happier existence, why
should not the perfume of flowers, the umbrage of fine trees, and the
refreshing breath of the evening breeze, be the bearers of that summons?
Undoubtedly, governments ought to watch in every way over the
preservation of human life; but there are secrets in nature which the
imagination alone can penetrate; and I easily conceive that neither the
inhabitants nor the strangers who visit it, are disgusted with Rome, by
the species of peril to which they are exposed there during the most
beautiful seasons of the year."



Book vi.

THE MANNERS AND CHARACTER OF THE ITALIANS.

[Illustration]



Chapter i.


The indecision of Oswald's character, increased by his misfortunes, led
him to dread forming any irrevocable resolve. He had not even dared, in
his state of irresolution, to ask of Corinne the secret of her name and
destiny; nevertheless, his love acquired every day new strength; he
never beheld her without emotion; in company he could hardly quit, even
for an instant, the place where she was seated; she did not speak a word
that he felt not; nor did she experience one moment's sadness or gaiety,
that was not reflected in his countenance. But in the midst of his
admiration and of his love for Corinne, he recollected how little such a
woman agreed with the English manner of living; how much she differed
from the idea which his father had formed of her whom it would be proper
for him to espouse; and all that he said to Corinne partook of the
trouble and constraint which these reflections caused him.

Corinne perceived this too well; but it would have cost her so much to
break off with Lord Nelville, that she herself endeavoured to avoid, as
much as he, a decisive explanation; and as she was not possessed of much
foresight she was happy with the present, such as it was, although it
was impossible for her to know what would be the issue of it.

She had become entirely divided from the world, in order to devote
herself entirely to her passion for Oswald. But at length, so much
affected was she at his silence with regard to the future, that she
resolved to accept an invitation for a ball to which she had been
pressingly solicited. Nothing is more common at Rome than to leave
society and to appear in it again, alternately, just as the parties feel
it agreeable to themselves: it is the country where people trouble their
minds the least with what is elsewhere called _gossip_; each one does as
he pleases, without any person enquiring about it, or at least, without
finding in others any obstacle either to his love or his ambition. The
Romans are as inattentive to the conduct of their fellow-countrymen, as
to that of strangers, who pass and repass through their city, the
rendezvous of Europeans. When Lord Nelville knew that Corinne was going
to the ball, he was vexed at it. He thought he had perceived in her for
some time a melancholy disposition in sympathy with his own: all on a
sudden she appeared to him to be taken up with dancing, an art in which
she excelled; and her imagination seemed fired at the approach of a
_féte_. Corinne was not frivolous by character; but she felt herself
every day more and more enslaved by her love for Oswald, and she would
fain endeavour to weaken its force. She knew by experience, that
reflection and sacrifices have less effect upon passionate characters
than dissipation, and she thought that reason did not consist in
conquering ourselves according to rules, but by doing so how we can.

"I must," said she to Lord Nelville, who reproached her with her
intention of going to the ball, "I must know, however, if there be only
you in the world who can fill the void of my life; if that which pleased
me formerly may not still have the power to amuse me; and if the
sentiment you have inspired me with must absorb every other interest,
every other idea."--"You would then cease to love me?" replied
Oswald.--"No;" answered Corinne, "but it is only in domestic life that
it could be pleasing to me to feel thus governed by a single affection.
To me who need my talents, my mind, and my imagination, to support the
lustre of that kind of life which I have adopted, it must be
painful--extremely painful to love as I love you."--"You would not
sacrifice to me then," said Oswald to her, "this homage and this
glory."--"Of what importance can it be to you," said Corinne, "to know
whether or not I would sacrifice them to you? Since we are not
absolutely destined for one another, it would not be prudent to let that
happiness with which I must be satisfied, wither for ever."--Lord
Nelville made no answer, because it was necessary, in expressing his
sentiments, to avow also the purpose they inspired, and of this his own
heart was still in ignorance. He was silent therefore, and sighing,
followed Corinne to the ball, whither he went with much reluctance.

It was the first time since his calamity that he had seen a large
assembly; and the tumult of a _féte_ caused him such an impression of
sadness that he remained a long time in a room contiguous to that
appropriated for the ball, his head supported on his hand, not even
curious to behold Corinne dance. He listened to the festive music, which
like every other music, produces reverie, though only intended to
inspire joy. The Count d'Erfeuil arrived, quite enchanted at the sight
of a ball, which produced in him some recollections of France.--"I have
tried all I could," said he to Lord Nelville, "to discover something
interesting in these ruins of which they talk so much, and I can really
find no charm in them. It must be the effect of a very great prejudice
to admire those heaps of rubbish covered with thorns. I shall speak my
mind of them when I return to Paris, for it is time that this Italian
delusion should cease. There is not a monument now standing whole in any
part of Europe, that I would not sooner see than those old stumps of
pillars, those bas-reliefs, all black with time, which can only be
admired by dint of erudition. A pleasure which must be bought with so
much study, does not appear to me very lively in itself--to be charmed
with the sights of Paris, nobody need grow pale over books." Lord
Nelville made no reply.--The Count interrogated him afresh, as to the
impression that Rome produced on him. "In the midst of a ball," said
Oswald, "is not the most proper time for serious conversation on this
subject; and you know that I am incapable of any other."--"Well and
good:" replied the Count d'Erfeuil, "I am more gay than you I admit; but
who knows whether I am not also the more wise of the two? Believe me,
there is much philosophy in my apparent levity: it is the way we should
take life."--"You are perhaps in the right," answered Oswald, "but it is
from nature, and not from reflection, that you acquire that way of
thinking; and that is why your manner of taking life may only suit
yourself."

The Count d'Erfeuil heard the name of Corinne mentioned in the ball
room, and entered it to know what was going forward. Lord Nelville
advanced as far as the door, and beheld the Prince Amalfi, a Neapolitan
of the most handsome figure, who besought Corinne to dance with him the
_Tarantula_, a Neapolitan dance full of grace and originality. The
friends of Corinne besought her also to comply with his request. She
yielded to their desire without waiting to be asked frequently, which
astonished the Count d'Erfeuil, accustomed as he was to the refusals
with which it is customary to precede consenting to a request of this
nature. But in Italy, these kind of graces are unknown, and all believe
they please most in society by showing an eagerness to do what is asked
of them. Corinne would have invented this natural behaviour if she were
not already accustomed to it. The dress she had chosen for the ball was
elegant and light; her hair was gathered up in a fillet of silk, after
the Italian fashion; and her eyes expressed a lively pleasure, which
rendered her more seductive than ever. Oswald was disturbed at this; he
warred against himself; he was indignant at being captivated with charms
which he ought to lament, since, far from thinking to please him, it was
to escape his empire that Corinne appeared so attractive.--But who could
resist the seductions of a grace like hers? Were she even disdainful,
she would be still more omnipotent; and that certainly was not the
disposition of Corinne. She perceived Lord Nelville, and blushed, while
there was in her eyes as she looked upon him, a most enchanting
softness.

The Prince d'Amalfi accompanied himself, in dancing, with castanets.
Corinne before she began saluted the assembly most gracefully with both
her hands, then turning round upon her heel took the tambourine which
the Prince Amalfi presented her with. She then began to dance, striking
the air upon the tambourine, and there was in all her motions, an
agility, a grace, a mixture of modesty and voluptuousness, which might
give an idea of that power which the Bayadores exercise over the
imagination of the Indians, when, if we may use the expression, they are
almost poets in their dance; when they express so many different
sentiments by the characteristic steps and the enchanting pictures which
they offer to the sight. Corinne was so well acquainted with all the
attitudes which the ancient painters and sculptors have represented,
that by a light movement of her arms, sometimes in placing the
tambourine over her head, sometimes forward, with one of her hands,
whilst the other ran over the little bells with an incredible dexterity,
she recalled to mind the dancers of Herculaneam[20], and gave birth
successively to a crowd of new ideas for painting and design.

It was not the French style, characterised by the elegance and
difficulty of the step; it was a talent more connected with imagination
and sentiment. The character of the music was alternately expressed by
the exactitude and softness of the movements. Corinne, in dancing,
conveyed to the souls of her spectators what was passing in her own. The
same as in her improvisation, her performance on the lyre, or the
efforts of her pencil,--she reduced everything to language. The
musicians, in beholding her, exerted themselves to make the genius of
their art felt more exquisitely; a kind of passionate joy, a sensibility
of the imagination, electrified all the spectators of the magic dance,
and transported them to that state of ideal existence in which we dream
of happiness that does not exist in this world.

There is a part of this Neapolitan dance when the lady kneels, whilst
the gentleman moves round her, not as a master, but as a
conqueror.--What at this moment were the charms and dignity of Corinne.
How regal, even in kneeling, did she appear! And when she arose,
striking her aerial cymbal, she seemed animated with that lively
enthusiasm of youth and beauty, which would create a belief that nothing
was wanting to complete her happiness. Alas! it was far otherwise; but
Oswald feared it, and sighed in the midst of his admiration of Corinne,
as if each triumph of her genius was a degree of separation from him: at
the conclusion of the dance, the gentleman kneels in his turn, and the
lady dances round him. Corinne in this part, if it were possible,
surpassed herself; her step was so light, as she tripped two or three
times round the same circle, that her buskined feet seemed to fly over
the floor with the velocity of lightning; and when she lifted up one of
her hands, shaking the tambourine, while with the other she motioned the
Prince Amalfi to rise, all the male part of the company were tempted to
throw themselves on their knees too, except Oswald, who retired a few
paces backward, and the Count d'Erfeuil, who advanced a few paces
forward to compliment Corinne. This enthusiasm of the Italians was by no
means assumed, but was the spontaneous effect of their feelings. They
are not sufficiently practised in society and in self-esteem to pay much
regard to the effect which their actions will produce; they never let
themselves be thwarted in their pleasures by vanity, nor turned aside
from the object of their pursuit by applause.

Corinne was charmed at her success, and thanked all her admirers with
the most simple grace.--The satisfaction she felt at having succeeded so
well, appeared beneath a veil of modesty; but her chief anxiety was to
make her way through the crowd, in order to reach the door against which
the pensive Oswald was leaning. When she had reached the spot, she
paused to hear what he would say to her:--"Corinne," said he,
endeavouring to conceal his captivation as well as the pain that he
felt: "Corinne, I hope you have met with sufficient homage and
sufficient applause; but in the midst of these enthusiastic admirers,
have you found one certain and courageous friend--one protector for
life? Can this vain tumult of applause satisfy a heart like thine?"

FOOTNOTE:

[20] It is the dance of Mm. Recamier that gave me the idea of what I
have attempted to describe. This woman, so celebrated for her grace and
beauty, offers in the midst of her misfortunes the example of so
touching a resignation, and of such a total oblivion of her personal
interests, that her moral qualities seem to everyone as remarkable as
her accomplishments.



Chapter ii.


Corrine was prevented by the crowd from making any answer to Lord
Nelville. They were going to the supper room, and each _cavaliere
servente_ was hastening to seat himself by the side of his partner. A
strange lady entered when all the seats were occupied, and no gentleman,
except Lord Nelville and Count d'Erfeuil, made her an offer of his. This
was not the effect of impoliteness or of egotism; but the idea which the
great Roman lords entertain of honour and duty, is not to stir one step,
nor be absent one moment from their ladies. Some who were unable to find
seats, stood behind the chairs of their mistresses, ready to wait upon
them at the least signal. The ladies only conversed with their gallants;
strangers wandered unnoticed about the circle; for the ladies in Italy
are unacquainted with coquetry, nor does any vain triumph of self-love
ever introduce itself into their tender attachments. They have no desire
to please any other than him who possesses their affection; you can
never engage their minds before you have interested their hearts or
pleased their eyes, and frequently the most sudden beginnings of passion
are followed by a sincere devotion, and even a very long constancy. In
Italy, infidelity is more severely condemned in man than in woman. Three
or four gentlemen, under different titles, are followers of the same
lady, who leads them about with her, often without even concerning
herself to mention their names to the master of the house who receives
them. One is the favoured suitor--the other he who aspires to be so--a
third is called the sufferer (_il patito_); this latter is absolutely
disdained, but nevertheless, permitted to continue his adoration; and
all these rivals live peaceably together. The use of the poignard now
only survives among the common people. There is in this country a
whimsical mixture of simplicity and depravity, dissimulation and truth,
sincerity and revenge, weakness and resolution, which can only be
explained by constant observation; the reason being that their good
qualities proceed from the fact that nothing is done from vanity, and
their bad ones from the fact that they will do a great deal for
interest, whether that interest be allied to love, to ambition, or to
fortune.

Distinctions of rank have in general little effect in Italy; this is not
from philosophy, but their facility of character and familiarity of
manners. This accounts for the little influence of aristocratic
prejudices amongst them; for as society does not pretend to judge of
anything, it embraces the opinions of all.

After supper the company betook themselves to play. Some ladies
preferred the game of hazard, whilst others chose the silent one of
whist; and not a word was heard pronounced in that room which so lately
was filled with noise. The inhabitants of the south often pass from the
greatest agitation to the most profound repose: another contrasted part
of their character is indolence united to the most unwearied activity.
In any individual instance among these people, we must beware of judging
upon a first observation, since we find in them the most opposite
qualities: if at one moment they are prudent, perhaps in the next they
show themselves the boldest of men; if they appear indolent, it is only
because they are reposing after some exertion, or preparing for another:
their soul loses none of its force in society, but is most probably
concentrating all its energies for decisive circumstances.

In this Roman assembly of which Oswald and Corinne formed a part, there
were men who lost enormous sums at play, without betraying in their
countenances the slightest emotion. Had these men been relating some
facts of trifling importance, they would have exhibited the most lively
expression and the most animated gestures; but when their passions
arrive at a certain pitch of violence, they dread the eye of
observation, and nearly always conceal them beneath a veil of silence
and apparent apathy.

The scene of the ball was impressed upon Lord Nelville's memory,
associated with bitter resentment; for he feared that the enthusiasm of
the Italians had, at least for a moment, robbed him of the affection of
Corinne. This rendered him very unhappy; but pride whispered him to
conceal it, or discover it only by expressing contempt for the suffrages
of those who had flattered the dazzling accomplishments of his mistress.
He was invited by the company to make one at play, but he refused.
Corinne did the same, and motioned him to come and sit down by her.
Oswald expressed himself uneasy, lest he should expose Corinne to
observation by thus passing the whole evening with her in company. "Make
yourself easy on that score," said she, "nobody will trouble their heads
with us: it is the custom here for people to do as they please in
company; we have no established, ceremonious forms to lay one another
under an unpleasant restraint, nor do we exact any formal attention; a
general polite disposition is all that is expected. This is not,
certainly, a country where liberty exists such as you understand the
term in England; but we enjoy here a perfect independence in society."
"That is to say," replied Oswald, "you show a complete disregard for
manners." "At least," interrupted Corinne, "we show no hypocrisy. M. de
la Rochefoucault has said, '_coquetry is the least of a woman's
defects_': in truth, whatever may be the faults of women in Italy, they
do not seek to hide them by dissimulation. And if the sacredness of
marriage be not here sufficiently respected, it is at least with the
consent of both parties."

"It is not from sincerity that this kind of frankness proceeds," replied
Oswald, "but from indifference to public opinion. When I arrived here, I
had a letter of recommendation to a princess, which I gave to my Italian
servant to deliver; he said to me, '_Sir, it will be of no use to
deliver this letter now, for the princess sees nobody; she is_
INAMORATA;' and this state of being _in love_, is announced with as much
indifference as any other situation incidental to our existence. This
publicity cannot be palliated by the plea of extraordinary vehemence of
passion; several attachments of this sort succeed each other, and are of
equal notoriety. So little are women given to mystery in this respect,
that they avow their connections with less embarrassment than those of
our country would feel in speaking of their husbands. It is easy to
believe that no profound or delicate sentiment is mixed with this
sensibility of passion, divested of modesty. Hence it happens that in
this nation, where nothing is thought of but love, there is not a single
romance; because love is here so rapid and so public that it affords no
interesting developments; and to give a true picture of general manners
in this respect, it would be necessary to begin and terminate it in the
first page. Pardon me, Corinne," cried Lord Nelville, observing the pain
that he gave her; "you are an Italian, and that thought ought to disarm
me; but one of the causes of that incomparable grace which distinguishes
you, is the union of all the characteristic charms of different nations.
I know not in what country you have been brought up; but it appears to
me certain, that you have not passed your whole life in Italy--perhaps
in England itself--Ah, Corinne! if that were so, how could you have
quitted that sanctuary of modesty and delicacy, for these regions,
where not only virtue, but love itself, is so badly understood? It is
breathed in the air; but does it penetrate the heart? Your poetry, in
which love performs so principal a part, possesses considerable grace,
and much imagination; it is ornamented with brilliant pictures, whose
colours are lively and voluptuous. But where will you find that tender,
melancholy sentiment, which animates our poetry? What have you that can
be put in comparison with the scene between Belvidera and her husband,
in OTWAY; or with that in SHAKESPEARE, between Romeo and Juliet? But
above all, what have you to compare with those admirable lines of
THOMSON, in his 'Spring,' where he paints in such noble and affecting
traits, the happiness of love, when sanctioned by marriage? Have you any
such marriage in Italy? And can love exist where there is no domestic
felicity? Is it not this happiness which the heart seeks, as possession
is the object of sensual passion? Do not all young and beautiful women
resemble each other, unless the qualities of the mind and soul determine
a preference? And what desire is excited by all these qualities?
Marriage. That is to say, the association of every thought, and of every
sentiment. Illicit love, when unfortunately it exists amongst us, is, if
it may be so expressed, only a reflection of marriage. In such
connections, that happiness is sought for, which the wanderer cannot
find at home; and infidelity itself is more moral in England than
marriage in Italy."

These words were hard: they deeply wounded the sensibility of Corinne;
who, rising immediately, her eyes filled with tears, quitted the room
and returned directly home. Oswald was distracted at having offended
her; but it was the irritation of his mind, occasioned by the impression
she made in the ball, which had betrayed itself in the remarks that had
just escaped him. He followed her to her abode; but she refused to see
him. He called again the next morning, but in vain: her door was closed
against him. This protracted refusal to receive Lord Nelville, was not
agreeable to the disposition of Corinne; but she was painfully afflicted
at the opinion he had expressed of the Italian women; and this very
opinion induced her to form a determination of concealing, for the
future, if possible, the sentiment that preyed on her heart.

Oswald, on his side, found, in this instance, that the behaviour of
Corinne was not consistent with her natural simplicity, and he became
confirmed more and more in the discontent with which the ball had
inspired him; and a disposition of mind was excited from these
circumstances, capable of struggling against the passion whose empire he
dreaded. His principles were rigid, and the mystery which enveloped the
past life of her whom he loved, afflicted him intensely. The manners of
Corinne appeared to him most fascinating, but sometimes too much
animated by the universal desire of pleasing. He discovered much
nobleness and reserve in her conversation and deportment; but she seemed
to indulge in too much latitude of opinion. In fact, Oswald was a
captivated man, hurried away by the passion he felt for his accomplished
mistress, but cherishing in his breast an opponent which combated his
feelings. Such a situation of mind is frequently attended with much
bitterness. We are dissatisfied with ourselves, and with others. We
suffer, and feel at the same time that our suffering ought to increase,
or at least terminate in a violent explanation, by which one of those
two sentiments that lacerate the heart must obtain a complete triumph.

It was in such a state of mind as this that Lord Nelville wrote to
Corinne. His letter was harsh and ungentlemanly. He felt this; but
various confused emotions impelled him to send it: he was rendered so
wretched by these internal conflicts, that he wished, at all hazards,
for some circumstance or other to terminate them.

A report, which had just been communicated to him by the Count
d'Erfeuil, though he did not give credence to it, contributed perhaps to
give more asperity to his expressions. It was noised about Rome, that
Corinne was about to marry the Prince Amalfi. Oswald knew very well that
she did not love him, and of course concluded that the events of the
ball afforded the only foundation for such a report; but he was
convinced that she had been at home to the Prince on the morning when he
himself was refused admission; and too proud to discover the slightest
sentiment of jealousy, he satisfied his discontent by denigrating the
nation, for which he beheld with so much pain, Corinne's predilection.



Chapter iii.

_Oswald's Letter to Corinne_.


                                                     _January 24, 1795._

"You refuse to see me; you are offended at our conversation of the night
before last; and you have doubtless formed an intention to open your
doors in future only to your own countrymen, meaning probably by this
means, to expiate the fault you have committed in admitting to your
society a man of another nation. However, far from repenting my
sincerity with respect to the Italians, far from regretting the
observations which I made to you, whom, deluded by phantoms, I wished to
consider as an Englishwoman, I will venture to predict more strongly
still, that you will find neither happiness nor dignity should you make
choice of a husband from that society by which you are surrounded. I
know not the Italian worthy of you; there is not one by whose alliance
you could be honoured, let him be invested with whatever title he may.
Men in Italy are much less estimable than women; for they possess the
defects of the women, in addition to their own. Will you persuade me,
that these inhabitants of the South, who so pusillanimously shrink from
pain, and pursue the phantom of pleasure with so much avidity, can be
susceptible of love? Have you not seen (I have the fact from you) the
very last month, an Italian husband at the play, who but eight days
before had lost his wife, and a wife whom he pretended to love? They are
here not more eager to remove the dead from their sight than to efface
the remembrance of them from their mind. The funeral ceremonies are
attended to by the priests, as the rites of love are performed by the
attendant Cavaliers: ceremonial and custom supply the place of regret
and enthusiasm. Lastly, and it is this that principally destroys love,
the men of Italy are incapable of inspiring the women with any kind of
respect: the latter do not feel obliged by the submission of the former,
because their character is not dignified with firmness, nor their life
with serious occupation. In order that nature and social order may
appear in all their beauty, man must be the protector, and woman the
protected; but the protector must adore that weakness which he defends,
and reverence the helpless deity, who, like the household gods of the
ancients, brings happiness to his home. So it might almost be said, that
every woman is a Sultan, having at her command a seraglio of men.

The men are here distinguished by that softness and pliability of
character, which properly belongs to women. An Italian proverb says:
'_who knows not how to feign, knows not how to live_.' Is not that a
woman's proverb? In truth, how can the manly character be formed upon
true principles of dignity and strength, in a country which affords no
military career of glory, which contains no free institutions? Hence it
is, that they direct their minds to all the little arts of cunning; they
treat life like a game of chess, in which success is everything. All
that remains to them from antiquity, is something gigantic in their
expressions and in their external magnificence; but this baseless
grandeur is frequently accompanied by all that is vulgar in taste, and
miserably negligent in domestic life. Is this, Corinne, the nation which
you would be expected to prefer to every other? Is this the nation whose
roaring applauses are so necessary to you, that every other destiny
would appear dull and congenial compared with their noisy '_bravos_?'
Who could flatter himself with being able to render you happy away from
these dear scenes of tumult? What an inconceivable character is that of
Corinne! profound in sentiment, but frivolous in taste; independent from
innate pride, yet servile from the need of distraction! She is a
sorceress whose spells alternately alarm and then allay the fears which
they have created; who dazzles our view in native sublimity, and then,
all of a sudden disappears from that region where she is without her
like, to lose herself in an indiscriminate crowd. Corinne, Corinne, he
who is your adorer cannot help feeling his love disturbed by fear!

                                                              "OSWALD."


Corinne, on reading this letter, was much incensed at the inveterate
prejudices which Oswald appeared to entertain of her country. But she
was happy enough in her conjectures, to discover that she owed this to
the dissatisfaction he experienced at the _fête_, and to her refusing to
see him ever since after his final conversation on that evening; and
this reflection softened a little the painful impression which the
letter produced upon her. She hesitated for some time, or at least,
fancied she hesitated, as to the conduct which she should observe
towards him. The tenderness she cherished for this eccentric lover,
induced a wish to see him; but it was extremely painful to her that he
should imagine her to be desirous of marrying him, although their
fortunes were at least equal, and although in revealing her name, it
would be easy to show that it was by no means inferior to that of Lord
Nelville. Nevertheless, the independence and singularity of that mode of
life which she had adopted, ought to have inspired her with a
disinclination for marriage; and most assuredly she would have repulsed
the idea, had not her passion blinded her to the sufferings she would
have to undergo in espousing an Englishman and renouncing Italy.

We willingly make an offering of pride upon the altar of the heart; but
when social prosperity and worldly interests oppose obstacles in any
shape, when we can suppose that the object of our love makes any sort of
sacrifice in uniting himself to us, it is no longer possible to show him
any alteration of sentiment. Corinne not being equal to a determination
to break off with Oswald, wished to persuade herself of the possibility
of seeing him in future, and yet concealing the passion which she felt
for him. It was in this intention that she came to a determination to
confine herself, in the answer she should send to his letter, merely to
his unjust accusations against the Italian nation, and to reason with
him upon this subject as if it were the only one that interested her.
Perhaps the best way in which a woman of intellect can resume her
coldness and dignity, is by seeking an asylum in her own mind.

                   _Corinne to Lord Nelville_.

                                                       _Jan. 15, 1795._

"Did your letter, my lord, concern only me, I should not have attempted
the task of self-justification: my character is so easy to know, that he
who might not be able to comprehend it by himself, would derive little
aid in his scrutiny by any explanation that I could give him on the
subject. The virtuous reserve of the English women, and the graceful art
of the French, take my word for it, often serve to conceal one half of
what is passing in their souls: that which you are pleased to
distinguish in me by the name of magic, is nothing but a sort of
transparency of mind, which allows its different sentiments and opposing
thoughts to be seen without labouring to harmonize them; for that
harmony, when it exists, is almost always assumed--most genuine
characters being by nature inconsequent--but it is not of myself I wish
to speak, it is of that unfortunate nation you so cruelly attack. Can it
be my affection for my friends which has inspired you with this bitter
malevolence? You know me too well to be jealous of me; indeed I have not
the vanity to believe that a sentiment of this description could have
sufficient power to transport you to such a degree of injustice. You
repeat the opinion of every other foreigner upon the Italian character,
when drawn from first impressions; but it requires deeper penetration,
and a more patient scrutiny, to be able to form a correct judgment upon
this country, which at different epochs has been so great. Whence comes
it that this nation, under the Romans, has attained the highest military
character in the world? that it has been the most jealous of its
liberties, in the republics of the middle ages, and in the sixteenth
century, the most illustrious in literature, and the arts and sciences?
Has she not pursued glory under every form? And if now, alas! she can
boast of none, why do you not rather accuse her political situation,
since in other circumstances she has shown herself different?

"I know not whether I deceive myself; but the wrongs of the Italians
inspire me with no other sentiment than pity for their lot. Foreigners
have in every age conquered and torn asunder this beautiful country, the
perpetual object of their ambition; and yet foreigners bitterly reproach
this nation, with the wrongs of a conquered and dismembered country?
Europe is indebted to the Italians for the arts and sciences, and shall
Europe, turning their own benefits against them, dispute with her
benefactors the only species of renown which can distinguish a nation
without either military strength or political liberty?

"It is so true that nations derive their character from the nature of
their government, that in this same Italy, we behold a remarkable
difference of manners in the different states that compose it. The
Piedmontese, who formed a little national body, have a more martial
spirit than all the rest of Italy; the Florentines, who have had the
good fortune either to enjoy their liberty, or to be governed by liberal
princes, are mild and enlightened; the Venetians and the Genoese,
discover a genius for politics, because their government is a republican
Aristocracy; the Milanese are remarkable for their sincerity, which
character they have long since derived from the nations of the north;
the Neapolitans might easily become a warlike people, because during
several centuries they have been united under a government, very
imperfect it is true, but yet a government of their own. The Roman
nobility being totally unoccupied with either military or political
pursuits, must in consequence become indolent and uninformed; but the
ecclesiastics, having a career of emulation open before them, are much
more enlightened and cultivated than the nobles, and as the papal
government admits of no distinction of birth, and is purely elective in
the clerical body, it begets a sort of liberality, not in ideas, but in
habits, which renders Rome a most agreeable abode for those who have
neither the prospect, nor the ambition of worldly eminence.

"The nations of the south more easily receive the impression of their
political establishment than those of the north; they possess an
indolence which soon softens into resignation, and nature offers them so
many enjoyments, that they are easily consoled for the loss of those
which society refuses them. There is certainly much depravity in Italy,
and nevertheless civilisation is here in a much lower stage of
development than that of other countries. There is something almost
savage in the character of the Italians, notwithstanding their
intellectual acuteness, which too much resembles that of the hunter in
the art of surprising his prey. And indolent people easily acquire a
cunning character; they possess a habit of gentleness which serves them,
upon occasion, to dissimulate even their wrath: it is always by our
usual manners that we succeed in concealing an unexpected situation.

"The Italians are sincere and faithful in the private intercourse of
life. Interest and ambition exercise considerable sway among them; but
pride and vanity none: the distinctions of rank produce little
impression. They have no society, no salons, no fashions, no little
daily methods of giving effect to minute circumstances. These habitual
sources of dissimulation and envy exist not among them. When they
deceive their enemies and their rivals, it is because they consider
themselves in a state of warfare with them; but in other circumstances
they are frank and ingenuous. It is this ingenuousness alone that has
scandalised you respecting our women, who, hearing love constantly
spoken of, and surrounded by its seductions and examples, conceal not
their sentiments, and if it may be so expressed, give even, to gallantry
a character of innocence; besides, they have no ridicule to dread from
that society in which they live. Some of them are so ignorant that they
cannot write; this they publicly avow, and answer a billet by means of
their agent (_il paglietto_) in a formal style on official paper. But to
make amends for this, among those who are well educated, you will find
academy professors who give public lessons in a black scarf; and should
this excite a smile, you would be answered, 'Is there any harm in
knowing Greek? Is there any harm in earning one's living by one's own
exertions? Why should so simple a matter provoke your mirth?'

"But now my lord, allow me to touch upon a more delicate subject; allow
me to enquire the cause why our men display so little military ardour.
They expose their lives freely when impelled by love and hatred; and a
stab from a stiletto given or received in such a cause, excites neither
astonishment nor dread. They fear not death when natural passions bid
them brave its terrors; but often, it must be owned, they prefer life to
political interests, which seldom affect them because they possess no
national independence. Often too, that notion of honour which descends
to us from the age of chivalry, has little power in a nation where
opinion, and society by which opinion is formed, do not exist; it is a
natural consequence of this disorganisation of every public authority,
that women should attain that ascendancy which they here possess over
the men, perhaps in too high a degree to respect and admire them.
Nevertheless, the conduct of men towards women is full of delicacy and
attention. The domestic virtues in England constitute female glory and
happiness; but if there are countries where love exists outside the
sacred ties of marriage; that one among these countries where female
happiness excites the greatest attention and care, is Italy. Here men
have invented moral duties for relations outside the bounds of morality
itself; but at least in the division of these duties, they have been
both just and generous: they considered themselves more guilty than
women, when they broke the ties of love; because the latter had made the
greater sacrifice and lost more. They conceive that before the tribunal
of the heart, he is the most guilty who does the most injury. Men do
wrong for want of feeling; but women through weakness of character.
Society, which is at once rigorous and depraved--that is to say, without
pity for errors when they entail misfortunes,--must be very severe upon
women; but in a country which has no society, natural goodness of heart
has freer exercise.

"Ideas of consideration and dignity are, I agree, less powerful and even
less known in Italy than any where else: the want of society and of
public opinion is the cause of it: but notwithstanding all that may be
said of the perfidy of the Italians, I maintain that there is not a
country in the world where more sincerity is to be found. So far is this
sincerity from being checked by vanity, that although that country be
one of which foreigners speak most ill, there is no country where they
meet with a more kindly reception. The Italians are reproached with
being too much inclined to flattery; but it must be allowed in their
favour, that generally, they lavish their soft expressions, not from
design, but a real desire to please; nor can it be alleged that these
expressions are ever falsified by their conduct. But it may be asked,
would they be faithful to their friends in extraordinary circumstances,
in which it might be necessary to brave for them the perils of
adversity? A very small number, I must own, would be capable of such
friendship; but this observation will not apply to Italy alone.

"The Italians are remarkable for that lassitude which distinguishes the
eastern nations; but there are no men more active and persevering when
once their passions are excited. These very women, too, whom you behold
as indolent as the odalisks of a seraglio, upon some occasions give most
striking proofs of attachment. There is something mysterious in the
character and the imagination of the Italians, in whom you will find by
turns, either unexpected traits of generosity and friendship, or gloomy
and formidable proofs of hatred and revenge. They have no emulation,
because life to them is only a pleasant summer's dream; but give those
men a purpose, and you will see them in six months, develop an
unrivalled power of will and intelligence. It is the same with women:
what ambition can they feel, to excel in education when the ignorance of
the men renders them insensible to its value? By cultivating their minds
their hearts would become isolated; but these very women would soon
become worthy a man of superior mind, if such a man were the object of
their tender affection[21].

"Everything here sleeps: but in a country where great interests are
dead, repose and carelessness are more noble than a busy anxiety about
trifling concerns.

"Even literature languishes in a country where thought is not renewed by
the strong and varied action of life.--But what nation has testified
more admiration for literature and the fine arts than Italy? We are
informed by history, that the popes, the princes, and the people, have
at all times paid to painters, poets, and distinguished writers, the
most public homage. This enthusiastic veneration of talent is I confess,
my lord, one of the first motives of my attachment to this country.--We
do not find here that _blasée_ imagination, that discouraging temper of
mind, that despotic mediocrity, which in other countries so effectually
torment and stifle natural genius.--A happy idea, sentiment, or
expression, sets an audience on fire, if I may say so. By the same rule
that talent holds the first rank amongst us, it excites considerable
envy; Pergolese was assassinated for his _Stabat Mater_; Giorgione armed
himself with a cuirass when he was obliged to paint in public; but the
violent jealousy which talent inspires amongst us, is that which, in
other nations, gives birth to power. This jealousy does not degrade its
object; it may hate, proscribe, and kill, but it is nevertheless mingled
with the fanaticism of admiration, and encourages genius, even in
persecuting it. To conclude; when we see so much life in so confined a
circle, in the midst of so many obstacles and so much subjection of
every kind, we cannot avoid in my opinion taking the deepest interest in
a people who inhale, with so much avidity, the little air which the
loopholes of imagination allow to enter through the walls that confine
them.

"That this confinement is such, I will not deny: nor that men rarely
acquire in Italy that dignity, that boldness, which distinguishes free
and military nations.--I will even admit my lord, if you choose, that
the character of such nations is capable of inspiring women with more
love and enthusiasm. But might it not also be possible, that a noble and
interested man, cherishing the most rigid virtues, might unite in his
character every quality that can excite love, without possessing those
which promise happiness.

                                                              "CORINNE."

FOOTNOTE:

[21] Mr Roscoe, author of the History of the Medici, has recently
published an History of Leo X., which is truly a masterpiece in its
kind, in which he relates all those marks of esteem and admiration,
which the princes and the people of Italy have conferred on
distinguished men of letters; he also shows, with impartiality, that the
conduct of many of the Popes has been, in this respect, very liberal.



Chapter iv.


Corinne's letter made Oswald a second time repent the idea he had formed
of detaching himself from her. The intellectual dignity, the attractive
tenderness with which she repelled the harsh allegations he had made
against her country, affected him deeply, and penetrated him with
admiration. A superiority, so grand, so simple, and so true, appeared to
him above all ordinary rules. He felt that Corinne was not the weak,
timid woman, without an opinion on any subject beyond the sphere of her
private duties and sentiments, which he had chosen in his imagination as
a partner for life. The remembrance of Lucilia, such as he had beheld
her at the age of twelve years, agreed much better with this idea;--but
could any woman be compared with Corinne? Could ordinary laws and rules
be applied to one, who united in herself so many different qualities,
cemented by genius and sensibility? Corinne was a miracle of nature, and
was it not a miracle worked in favour of Oswald, when he could flatter
himself with interesting such a woman? But her real name and condition
were unknown to him. What would be her future projects were he to avow
his intention of uniting himself to her? All was yet in obscurity; and
although the enthusiasm with which Corinne had inspired Oswald made him
desirous of espousing her, yet the idea that her life had not been
wholly irreproachable, and that such an union would certainly have been
condemned by his father, threw his soul into confusion, and racked him
with the most painful anxiety.

He was not now so sunk in grief, as before his acquaintance with
Corinne; but he no longer felt that sort of calm, which may even
accompany repentance, when our whole life is devoted to the expiation of
a crime. Formerly, he was not afraid to abandon himself to his
recollections, bitter as they were; but now he dreaded those long and
profound reveries, which would have revealed to him what was passing at
the bottom of his soul. In the meantime he prepared to visit Corinne, in
order to thank her for her letter, and obtain pardon for what he had
written to her, when Mr Edgermond, a relation of young Lucilia, entered
the room.

He was a worthy English gentleman, who had almost constantly resided in
Wales, where he possessed an estate. He cherished those principles and
prejudices which, in every country, serve to maintain things as they
are, and which have a most beneficial tendency, when things are as well
as human reason will permit. When that is the case, such men as Mr
Edgermond, that is to say, the partizans of established order, though
strongly and even obstinately attached to their customs and to their
manner of thinking, ought to be considered as men of rational and
enlightened minds.

Lord Nelville was startled when he heard Mr Edgermond announced; every
recollection of the past rushed upon him at once; but as it immediately
occurred to his mind that Lady Edgermond, the mother of Lucilia, had
sent her relation to reproach him, and thus restrain his independence,
this thought restored his firmness, and he received Mr Edgermond with
great coldness. However, he wronged his visitor by his suspicions, for
he had not the least design in his head that regarded Nelville. He
visited Italy for the sake of his health alone; and ever since he had
been in the country, he was constantly employed in hunting, and drinking
to King George and Old England. He was the most open-hearted of men,
and possessed a much better informed mind than his habits would induce
many to believe. He was a downright Englishman, not only as he ought to
be, but also as one might wish he were not: following in every country
the customs of his own, living only with Englishmen, and never
discoursing with foreigners; not out of contempt to them, but from a
sort of repugnance to foreign languages, and a timidity, which even at
the age of fifty, rendered him very diffident in forming new
acquaintances.

"I am happy to see you," said he to Nelville, "I am going to Naples in a
fortnight and should be glad to see you there, for I have not long to
stay in Italy; my regiment will soon embark." "Your regiment!" repeated
Lord Nelville, and blushed as if he had forgotten that he had a year's
leave of absence because his regiment was not to be employed before the
expiration of that period. He blushed at the thought that Corinne could
make him forget even his duty. "Your regiment," continued Mr Edgermond,
"will not go upon service so soon; so stay here quietly, and regain your
health. I saw my young cousin before I set out--she is more charming
than ever. I am sure by the time you return she will be the finest woman
in England." Lord Nelville said nothing--and Mr Edgermond was also
silent. Some other words passed between them, very laconic, though
extremely friendly, and Mr Edgermond was going, when suddenly turning
back, he said, "Apropos, my lord, you can do me a kindness--they tell me
you are acquainted with the celebrated Corinne: I don't much like
forming new acquaintances, but I am quite curious to see this lady."
"Since you desire it, I will ask Corinne's permission to introduce you,"
replied Oswald. "Do so, I beseech you," said Mr Edgermond; "and contrive
to let me see her some day when she improvises, or dances and sings to
the company." "Corinne does not thus display her talents to strangers,"
said Nelville; "she is your equal and mine in every respect." "Pardon my
mistake," said Mr Edgermond, "as she is not known by another name than
that of Corinne, and lives by herself at the age of twenty-six years
unaccompanied by any part of her family, I thought she derived support
from her talents." "Her fortune is entirely independent," answered his
lordship warmly, "and her mind is still more so." Mr Edgermond
immediately dropped this subject, and repented at having introduced it,
seeing that it interested Oswald. No men in the world have so much
discretion and delicate precaution in what concerns the affections, as
the English.

Mr Edgermond went away. Lord Nelville, when alone, could not help
exclaiming with emotion, "I must espouse Corinne. I must become her
protector, in order to preserve her from obloquy. She shall have the
little it is in my power to bestow--a rank and a name; whilst she on her
part will confer on me every earthly felicity." It was in this
disposition that he hastened to visit Corinne, and never did he enter
her doors with sweeter sentiments of hope and love; but, swayed by his
natural timidity, and in order to recover confidence, he began the
conversation with insignificant topics, and of this number was his
request for permission to introduce Mr Edgermond. At this name Corinne
was visibly agitated, and with a faltering voice refused what Oswald
solicited. All astonishment, he said to her, "I thought that in this
house, to which so many are allowed access, the title of my friend would
not afford a motive of exclusion." "Do not be offended, my lord,"
replied Corinne: "Believe that I must have very powerful reasons not to
consent to your desire." "Ands will you acquaint me with those
reasons?" replied Oswald. "Impossible!" cried Corinne; "Impossible!" "So
then--" said Nelville, and his emotion rendered him unable to proceed.
He was about to depart, when Corinne, all in tears, exclaimed in
English, "For God's sake do not leave me unless you wish to break my
heart!"

These words, and the tone of voice in which they were uttered, deeply
affected the soul of Oswald. He sat down again at some distance from
Corinne, supporting his head against a vase of alabaster which
embellished her apartment; then, suddenly, he said to her, "Cruel woman!
you see that I love you--you see that, twenty times a day, I am ready to
offer you my hand and my heart; yet you will not inform me who you are!
Tell me, Corinne, tell me the story of your past life," repeated he,
stretching his hand to her with the most moving expression of
sensibility. "Oswald!" cried Corinne; "Oswald! you do not know the pain
you give me. If I were mad enough to tell you all you would no longer
love me." "Great God!" replied he; "what have you then to reveal?"
"Nothing that renders me unworthy of you," said she; "but fortuitous
circumstances, and differences between our tastes and opinions, which
existed formerly and which no longer exist. Do not oblige me to confess
who I am. Some day, perhaps--some day, should you love me
sufficiently--Ah! I know not what I say," continued Corinne; "you shall
know all; but do not forsake me before you have heard it. Promise me
that you will not, in the name of your father who is now in heaven!"
"Pronounce not that name," cried Lord Nelville; "can you fathom his will
respecting us? Think you that he would consent to our union? If you do,
declare it, and I shall no longer be racked with doubts and fears. Some
time or other, I will unfold to you my sad story; but behold the
condition you have now reduced me to." In truth, his forehead was
covered with a cold sweat, his face was pale, and his trembling lips
with difficulty articulated these last words. Corinne, seated by the
side of Nelville, holding his hands in hers, gently recalled him to
himself. "My dear Oswald," said she to him; "ask Mr Edgermond if he has
ever been in Northumberland; or at least if he has only been there
within these past five years. Should he answer in the affirmative he may
then accompany you hither." At these words Oswald looked steadfastly at
Corinne, who cast down her eyes and was silent. "I shall do as you
desire me," said Lord Nelville, and went away.

On his return home, he exhausted conjecture upon the secrets of Corinne.
It appeared evident that she had passed a considerable time in England,
and that her name and family must be known there. But what could be her
motive for concealing them; and if she had been settled in England, why
had she left it? These questions greatly disturbed the heart of Oswald.
He was convinced that no stain would be found in her life; but he feared
a combination of circumstances might have rendered her guilty in the
eyes of others. What he most dreaded, was her being an object of English
disapprobation. He felt sufficiently fortified against that of every
other country; but the memory of his father was so intimately connected
with the love of his native country, that these two sentiments
strengthened each other.

Oswald, having learnt of Mr Edgermond that he had been in Northumberland
for the first time the preceding year, promised to introduce him to
Corinne that evening. Oswald arrived at her house before him, and made
her acquainted with the ideas that Mr Edgermond had conceived
respecting her, suggesting the propriety of convincing him how much he
was in error, by assuming the most cold and reserved manners.

"If you permit me," replied Corinne, "I will be the same to him as to
everybody else; if he desire to hear me, I will improvise before him; in
fact, I will appear to him as I am, not doubting that he will perceive
as much dignity of soul in this simple and natural behaviour, as if I
were to put on an air of restraint which would only be affected." "Yes,
Corinne," replied Oswald, "you are right. Ah! how much in the wrong is
he, who would in the least alter your admirable disposition."

At this moment Mr Edgermond arrived with the rest of the company. At the
commencement of the evening, Lord Nelville placed himself by the side of
Corinne, and with an interest which at once became the lover and the
protector, he said every thing that could enhance her worth. The respect
he testified for her seemed to have for its object rather to win the
attention of others, than to satisfy himself; but it was with the most
lively joy that he soon felt the folly of all his anxiety. Corinne
entirely captivated Mr Edgermond--she not only captivated him by her
genius and her charms, but by inspiring him with that sentiment of
esteem which true characters always obtain of honest ones; and when he
presumed to express a wish to hear her upon a subject of his choice, he
aspired to this favour with as much respect as eagerness. She consented
without for a moment waiting to be pressed, and thus manifested that
this favour had a value independent of the difficulty of obtaining it.
But she felt so lively a desire to please a countryman of Oswald's, a
man who by the consideration which he merited might influence his
opinion in speaking of her, that this sentiment suddenly filled her with
a timidity which was quite new to her: she wished to begin, but her
tongue was suspended by the emotion she felt. Oswald was pained that she
did not dazzle his English friend with all her superiority; his eyes
were cast down, and his embarrassment was so visible, that Corinne,
solely engrossed by the effect that she produced upon him, lost more and
more the presence of mind necessary for improvisation. At length,
sensible of her hesitation, feeling that her words were the offspring of
memory and not of sentiment, and that thus she was neither able to paint
what she thought nor what she really felt, she suddenly stopped and said
to Mr Edgermond, "Pardon me Sir, if upon this occasion timidity has
deprived me of my usual facility; it is the first time, as my friends
can testify, that I have been below myself; but perhaps," added she,
sighing, "it will not be the last."

Oswald was deeply affected by the touching failure of Corinne. Till then
he had always been accustomed to see imagination and genius triumph over
her affections and reanimate her soul at the moment when she was most
cast down; but at this time her mind was entirely fettered by feeling,
yet Oswald had so identified himself with her fame on this occasion,
that he partook of the mortification of her failure, instead of
rejoicing at it. But as it appeared certain, that she would one day
shine with her natural lustre, he yielded to the tender reflections that
arose in his mind, and the image of his mistress was enthroned more than
ever in his heart.



Book vii.

ITALIAN LITERATURE.

[Illustration]



Chapter i.


Lord Nelville felt a lively desire that Mr Edgermond should enjoy the
conversation of Corinne, which was more than equivalent to her
improvised verses. The following day the same company assembled at her
house; and to elicit her sentiments, he turned the conversation upon
Italian literature, and provoked her natural vivacity, by affirming that
the English poets were much superior in energy and sensibility to those
of which Italy could boast.

"In the first place," said Corinne, "strangers are for the most part
acquainted only with our poets of the first rank--Dante, Petrarch,
Ariosto, Guarini, Tasso, and Metastasio; whilst we have several others,
such as Chiabrera, Guidi, Filicaja, Parini, without reckoning
Sannazarius, Politian, &c., who have written in Latin, with as much
taste as genius; and all unite in their verses the utmost beauty of
colouring and harmony; all, with more or less talent, adorn the wonders
of nature and art with the imagery of speech. Without doubt our poets
cannot pretend to that profound melancholy, that knowledge of the human
heart which characterise yours; but does not this kind of superiority
belong more properly to philosophical writers than to poets? The
brilliant melody of Italian is more suitable to the splendour of
external objects than to meditation; our language is better adapted to
paint fury than sadness, because sentiments which arise from deep
reflection demand more metaphysical expressions, whilst the desire of
vengeance animates the imagination to the exclusion of grief. Cesarotti
has produced the best and most elegant translation of Ossian extant; but
it seems in reading it that the words possess in themselves an air of
festivity that forms a contrast with the sombre ideas of the poem. We
cannot help being charmed with our sweet expressions,--_the limpid
stream, the smiling plain, the cooling shade_, the same as with the
murmur of the waves, and variety of colours. What more do you expect
from poetry? Why would you ask of the nightingale, the meaning of her
song? She can only answer you by resuming the strain, and you cannot
comprehend it without yielding to the impression which it produces. The
measure of verse, harmonious rhymes, and those rapid terminations
composed of two short syllables whose sounds glide in the manner that
their name (_Sdruccioli_) indicates, sometimes imitate the light steps
of a dance; at others, more sombre tones recall the fury of the tempest
and the clangour of arms. In fact, our poetry is a wonder of the
imagination--we must only seek it in the various pleasures which it
affords."

"It must be allowed," replied Lord Nelville, "that you explain very
clearly the beauties and defects of your poetry; but how will you defend
your prose, in which those defects are to be found unaccompanied by the
beauties? That which is only loose and indefinite in poetry will become
emptiness in prose; and the crowd of common ideas which your poets
embellish with their melody and their images, are in prose, cold and
dry, while their vivacity of style renders them more fatiguing. The
language of the greater part of the prose-writers of the present day is
so declamatory, so diffuse, and so abundant in superlatives, that their
work seems written to order, in hackneyed phraseology, and for
conventional natures; it does not once enter into their heads that to
write well is to express one's thoughts and character. Their style is an
artificial web, a kind of literary mosaic, every thing in fact that is
foreign to their soul, and is made with the pen as any other mechanical
work is with the fingers. They possess in the highest degree the secret
of developing, commenting, inflating an idea, and, if I may use the
expression, of working a sentiment into a ferment. So much do they excel
in this, that one would be tempted to ask these writers, what the
African woman asked a French lady, who wore a large pannier under a long
dress:--'_Madam, is all that a part of yourself?_' In short, what real
existence is there in all this pomp of words which one true expression
would dissipate like a vain prestige."

"You forget," interrupted Corinne sharply; "first, Macchiavelli and
Boccacio; next Gravina, Filangieri, and in our days, Cesarotti, Verri,
Bettinelli, and so many others, in short, who know how to write and to
think[22]. But I agree with you that in the latter ages, unfortunate
circumstances having deprived Italy of its independence, its people have
lost all interest in truth and often even the possibility of speaking
it: from this has resulted the habit of sporting with words without
daring to approach a single idea. As they were certain of not being able
to obtain any influence over things by their writings, they were only
employed to display their wit, which is a sure way to end in having no
wit at all; for it is only in directing the mind towards some noble
object that ideas are acquired. When prose writers can no longer in any
way influence the happiness of a nation--when they only write to
dazzle--when, in fact, the road itself is the object of their journey,
they indulge in a thousand windings without advancing a step. The
Italians, it is true, fear new thoughts; but that is an effect of
indolence, and not of literary baseness. In their character, their
gaiety, and their imagination, there is much originality; and
nevertheless, as they take no pains to reflect, their general ideas do
not soar above mediocrity; their eloquence even, so animated when they
speak, has no character when they write; one would say that labour of
any kind freezes their faculties; it may also be added, that the nations
of the South are fettered by prose, and that poetry alone can express
their real sentiments. It is not thus in French literature," said
Corinne, addressing herself to the Count d'Erfeuil--"your prose writers
are often more eloquent, and even more poetic, than your poets."--"It is
true," answered the Count, "your assertion can be verified by truly
classical authorities:--Bossuet, La Bruyère, Montesquieu, and Buffon,
cannot be excelled; more particularly the first two, who are of the age
of Louis the Fourteenth, in whose praise too much cannot be said, for
they are perfect models for imitation. They are models that foreigners
ought to be as eager to imitate as the French themselves."--"I can
hardly think it desirable," answered Corinne, "for the whole world
entirely to lose their national colouring, as well as all originality of
sentiment and genius; and I am bold enough to tell you Count, that even
in your country, this literary orthodoxy, if I may so express myself,
which is opposed to every innovation, will in time render your
literature extremely barren. Genius is essentially creative; it bears
the character of the individual that possesses it. Nature, who has not
formed two leaves alike, has infused a still greater variety into the
human soul; imitation is therefore a species of death, since it robs
each one of his natural existence."

"You would not wish, fair stranger," replied the Count, "that we should
admit Teutonic barbarism amongst us--that we should copy Young's Night
Thoughts, and the _Concetti_ of the Italians and Spaniards. What would
become of the taste and elegance of our French style after such a
mixture?" Prince Castel-Forte, who had not yet spoken, said--"It seems
to me that we all stand in need of each other: the literature of every
country discovers to him who is acquainted with it a new sphere of
ideas. It was Charles the Fifth himself who said--that _a man who knows
four languages, is worth four men_. If that great political genius
judged thus, in regard to the conduct of affairs, how much more true is
it with respect to literature? Foreigners all study French; thus they
command a more extended horizon than you, who do not study foreign
languages. Why do you not more often take the trouble of learning
them?--You would thus preserve your own peculiar excellence, and
sometimes discover your deficiencies."

FOOTNOTE:

[22] Cesarotti, Verri, and Bettinelli, are three living authors who have
introduced thought into Italian prose; it must be confessed, that this
was not the case for a long time before.



Chapter ii.


"You will at least confess," replied the Count d'Erfeuil, "that there is
one part of literature in which we have nothing to learn of any
country.--Our drama is decidedly the first in Europe; for I cannot
believe that the English would presume to oppose their Shakespeare to
us."--"I beg your pardon," interrupted Mr Edgermond, "they have that
presumption."--And after this observation he was silent.--"In that case
I have nothing to say," continued the Count, with a smile which
expressed a kind of civil contempt: "Each one may think as he pleases,
but for my part I persist in believing that we may affirm without
presumption that we are the very first in dramatic art. As to the
Italians, if I may speak my mind freely, they do not appear even to
suspect that there is a dramatic art in the world.--With them the music
is every thing, and the play itself nothing. Should the music of the
second act of a piece be better than the first, they begin with the
second act. Or, should a similar preference attach to the first acts of
two different pieces, they will perform these two acts in the same
evening, introducing between, perhaps, an act of some comedy in prose
that contains irreproachable morality, but a moral teaching entirely
composed of aphorisms, that even our ancestors have already cast off to
the foreigner as too old to be of any service to them. Your poets are
entirely at the disposal of your famous musicians; one declares that he
cannot sing without there is in his air the word _felicità_; the tenor
must have _tomba_; while a third singer can only quaver upon the word
_catene_. The poor bard must make these different whims agree with
dramatic situation as well as he can. This is not all; there are actors
who will not appear immediately treading the boards of the stage; they
must first be seen in a cloud, or they must descend the lofty stairs of
a palace, in order to give more effect to their _entrée_. When the air
is finished, whatever may be the violent or affecting situation of his
character, the singer must bow to the audience in acknowledgment of
their applause. The other day, in Semiramis, after the spectre of Ninus
had sung his air, the representative of this shadowy personage made in
his ghostly costume a low reverence to the pit, which greatly diminished
the terror of the apparition.

"They are accustomed in Italy to consider the theatre merely as a large
assembly room, where there is nothing to hear but the airs, and the
ballet! I am justified in saying _that they listen to nothing but the
ballet_; for it is only when the ballet is about to begin, that silence
is called for in the pit: and what is this ballet but a masterpiece of
bad taste? There is nothing amusing in the dancing save the comic part
of it; the grotesque figures alone afford entertainment, being indeed a
good specimen of caricature. I have seen Gengis-Kan in a ballet, all
covered with ermine, and full of fine sentiments; for he ceded his crown
to the child of a king whom he had conquered, and lifted him up in the
air upon one foot; a new mode of establishing a monarch upon his throne.
I have also seen the sacrifice of Curtius formed into a ballet of three
acts, with divertisements. Curtius, in the dress of an Arcadian
shepherd, danced for a considerable time with his mistress; then
mounting a real horse in the middle of the stage, he plunged into the
gulf of fire, made of yellow satin and gilt paper, which looked more
like a fancy riding habit than an abyss. In fact, I have seen the whole
of Roman history from Romulus to Cæsar, compressed into a ballet."

"What you say is true," replied Prince Castel-Forte, mildly; "but you
have only spoken of music and dancing, which do not comprise what we
understand by the drama of any country." "It is much worse," interrupted
the Count d'Erfeuil, "when tragedies are represented, or dramas that are
not termed _dramas that end happily_: they unite more horrors in the
course of five acts, than the imagination could form a picture of. In
one piece of this kind, the lover kills the brother of his mistress in
the second act; in the third he blows out the brains of his mistress
herself upon the stage; her funeral occupies the fourth; in the
interval, between the fourth and fifth acts, the actor who performs the
lover comes forward, and announces to the audience with the greatest
tranquillity in the world, the harlequinades which are to be performed
on the following evening; he then reappears in the fifth act, to shoot
himself with a pistol. The tragic actors are quite in harmony with the
coldness and extravagance of these pieces: they commit all these horrors
with the utmost calm. When a performer uses much action, they say he
conducts himself like a preacher; for in truth, there is more acting in
the pulpit than on the stage. It is very fortunate that these actors are
so moderate in their pathos; for as there is nothing interesting, either
in the piece or its situations, the more noise they made about it, the
more ridiculous they would appear: it might still be endurable, were
there any thing gay in this nonsense; but it is most stupidly dull and
monotonous. There is in Italy no more comedy than tragedy; and here
again we stand foremost. The only species of comedy peculiar to Italy is
harlequinade. A valet, at once a knave, a glutton, and a coward; an old
griping, amorous dupe of a guardian, compose the whole strength of these
pieces. I hope you will allow that _Tartuffe_, and the _Misanthrope_,
require a little more genius than such compositions."

This attack of the Count d' Erfeuil was sufficiently displeasing to the
Italians who were his auditors; nevertheless they laughed at it. The
Count was more desirous of showing his wit than his natural goodness of
disposition; for though this latter quality influenced his actions,
self-love guided his speech. Prince Castel-Forte and the rest of his
countrymen present, were extremely impatient to refute the Count
d'Erfeuil; but as they were little ambitious of shining in conversation
and believed their cause would be more ably defended by Corinne, they
besought her to reply, contenting themselves with barely citing the
celebrated names of Maffei, Metastasio, Goldoni, Alfieri, and Monti.
Corinne began by granting that the Italians had no drama; but she
undertook to prove that circumstances and not want of talent, were the
cause of it. Comedy, which depends upon the observation of manners, can
only exist in a country where we live in the midst of a numerous and
brilliant society. In Italy we meet with nothing but violent passions or
idle enjoyments which produce crimes of so black a hue that no shades of
character can be distinguished. But ideal comedy, if it may be so
termed, that which depends upon the imagination, and may agree with all
times and all countries, owes its invention to Italy. Harlequin,
punchinello, pantaloon, &c., have the same character in every different
piece. In all cases they exhibit masks, and not faces: that is to say,
their physiognomy is that of some particular species of character, and
not that of any individual. Undoubtedly, the modern authors of
harlequinades, finding every part ready carved out for them like the men
of a chess-board, have not the merit of inventing them; but their first
invention is due to Italy; therefore these fantastic personages, which
from one end of Europe to the other afford amusement to every child, and
to every grown-up person whom imagination has made childlike, must
certainly be considered as the creation of Italians: this I should
conceive ought to give them some claim to the art of comedy.

The observation of the human heart is an inexhaustible source of
literature; but nations more disposed to poetry than to reflection, more
easily surrender themselves to the intoxication of joy than to
philosophic irony. That pleasantry which is founded upon the knowledge
of mankind has something sad at bottom. It is only the gaiety of the
imagination which is truly inoffensive. It is not that the Italians do
not study deeply the men whom they have to do with; for none discover
more subtly their secret thoughts; but they employ this talent as a
guide of conduct, and have no idea of converting it to any literary
purpose. Perhaps even they have no wish to generalise their discoveries,
and publish their perceptions. There is a prudent dissimulation in their
character, which teaches them not to expose in comedies that which
affords rules for private intercourse; not to reveal by the fictions of
the mind what may be useful in circumstances of real life.

Macchiavelli however, far from concealing anything, has exposed all the
secrets of a criminal polity; and through him we may learn of what a
terrible knowledge of the human heart the Italians are capable. But
profound observation is not the province of comedy: the leisure of
society, properly speaking, can alone furnish matter for the comic
scene. Goldoni, who lived at Venice, where there is more society than in
any other Italian city, has introduced more refinement of observation
into his pieces than is generally to be found in other authors.
Nevertheless his comedies are monotonous, and we meet with the same
situations in them, because they contain so little variety of character.
His numerous pieces seem formed upon the general model of dramatic
works, and not copied from real life. The true character of Italian
gaiety is not satire, but imagination; not delineation of manners, but
poetical exaggeration. It is Ariosto, and not Molière, who can amuse
Italy.

Gozzi, the rival of Goldoni, has more originality in his compositions;
they bear less resemblance to regular comedy. His determination was
liberally to indulge the Italian genius; to represent fairy tales, and
mingle buffoonery and harlequinade with the marvels of poetry; to
imitate nothing in nature, but to give free scope to the gay illusions
of fancy, to the chimeras of fairy magic, and to transport the mind by
every means beyond the boundaries of human action. He was crowned with
prodigious success in his time, and perhaps there never existed an
author more congenial to an Italian imagination; but to know with
certainty what degree of perfection Tragedy and Comedy can reach in
Italy, it should possess a theatrical establishment. The multitude of
little cities who all wish to have a theatre, lose, by dispersing them,
its dramatic resources: that division in states, in general so
favourable to liberty and happiness, is hurtful to Italy. She must needs
concentrate her light and power to resist the prejudices which are
devouring her. The authority of governments often represses individual
energy. In Italy this authority would be a benefit if it struggled
against the ignorance of separate states and of men isolated among them;
if it combated by emulation that indolence so natural to the climate;
and if, in a word, it gave life to the whole of this nation which now is
satisfied with a dream.

These ideas, and several others besides, were ingeniously developed by
Corinne. She well understood the rapid art of light conversation, which
does not dogmatically insist upon any thing, and also that pleasing
address which gives a consideration to each of the company in turn,
though she often indulged in that kind of talent which rendered her a
celebrated improvisatrice. Several times she intreated Prince
Castel-Forte to assist her with his opinion on the same subject; but she
spoke so well herself, that all the audience were delighted in listening
to her, and would not suffer her to be interrupted. Mr Edgermond, in
particular, could scarcely satisfy himself with seeing and hearing
Corinne; hardly did he dare to express the admiration she inspired him
with, and he pronounced some words of panegyric in a low tone of voice
hoping she would comprehend them without obliging him to address her
personally. He however possessed such a lively desire to know her
sentiments on Tragedy, that in spite of his timidity he ventured a few
words on that subject.

"Madam," said he to Corinne, "where the Italian literature appears to me
most defective is in Tragedy; methinks the distance is not so great
between infancy and manhood, as between your Tragedies and ours; for in
the changeableness of children may be discovered true if not deep
sentiments, but there is something affected and extravagant in Italian
Tragedy, which destroys for me all emotion whatever. Is this not so?
Lord Nelville," continued Mr Edgermond, turning to his lordship and
inviting his support by a glance, quite astonished at having found
courage to speak in such a numerous assembly.

"I am entirely of your opinion," answered Oswald; "Metastasio, who is
vauntingly called the poet of love, gives the same colouring to this
passion in every country and under every circumstance. His admirable
airs are entitled to our applause as much from their grace and harmony
as the lyrical beauties which they contain, especially when detached
from the drama in which they are placed; but it is impossible for us who
possess Shakespeare, who has most deeply fathomed History and the
passions of man, to suffer those amorous couples, that divide between
them almost all the pieces of Metastasio alike, under the names of
Achilles, of Tircis, of Brutus, and of Corilas, singing, in a manner
that hardly touches the surface of the soul, the grief and sufferings of
love, so as almost to reduce to imbecility the noblest passion that
animates the human heart. It is with the most profound respect for the
character of Alfieri that I shall indulge in a few reflections upon his
pieces. Their aim is so noble, the sentiments which the author expresses
are so much in unison with his personal conduct, that his tragedies must
always deserve praise as actions, even when they are criticised as
literary performances. But I find in the vigour of some of his tragedies
as much monotony as in the tenderness of Metastasio. There is, in the
plays of Alfieri, such a profusion of energy and magnanimity, or rather
such an exaggeration of violence and crime, that it is impossible to
discover in them the true characters of men. They are never so wicked
nor so generous as painted by this author. The aim of most of his scenes
is to place virtue and vice in contrast with each other; but these
oppositions are not according to the gradations of truth. If, during
their life, tyrants bore with what the oppressed are made to say to
their face in the tragedies of Alfieri, one would be almost tempted to
pity them. His play of Octavia is one of those where the want of
probability is most striking. In this piece, Seneca moralises
incessantly with Nero, as if the latter were the most patient of men,
and Seneca the most courageous. The master of the world permits himself
to be insulted, and his anger to be excited in every scene, for the
amusement of the spectators, as if it were not in his power to end it
all with a word. Certainly these continual dialogues give rise to some
very fine replies on the part of Seneca, and one would be glad to find
in an harangue or in a moral work the noble thoughts which he expresses;
but is this the way to give us an idea of tyranny? It is not painting it
in its formidable colours, but merely making it a subject for verbal
fencing. If Shakespeare had represented Nero surrounded by trembling
slaves, who hardly dared reply to the most indifferent question,
himself concealing his internal agitation and endeavouring to appear
calm, with Seneca near him writing the apology for the murder of
Agrippina, would not the terror have been a thousand times greater? And
for one reflection spoken by the author, would not a thousand be
generated in the soul of the spectators by the very silence of rhetoric
and the truth of the picture?"

Oswald might have spoken much longer without receiving any interruption
from Corinne; so much pleasure did she receive from the sound of his
voice and the noble elegance of his language, that she could have wished
to prolong this impression for hours together. Hardly could she remove
her eyes, which were earnestly fixed upon him, even after he had ceased
to speak. She turned them reluctantly to the rest of the company, who
were impatient to hear her thoughts upon Italian tragedy, and turning to
Lord Nelville:--"My Lord," said she, "it is not to combat your
sentiments that I reply, for they meet mine in almost every point: my
only intention is to offer some exceptions to your rather too general
observations. It is true that Metastasio is rather a lyrical than a
dramatic poet, and that he describes love like one of the fine arts that
adorn life, not as the most important secret of our happiness and our
pain. I will venture to say, notwithstanding our language has been
consecrated to the cause of love, that we have more profoundness and
sensibility in describing any other passion than this. The practice of
making amorous verses has created a kind of commonplace language amongst
us for that subject; so that not what he has felt, but what he has read,
inspires the poet. Love, such as it exists in Italy, by no means
resembles that love which is described by our writers. It is only in
Boccacio's romance of _Fiametta_, that according to the best of my
recollection, there is to be found an idea of that passion, painted in
truly national colours. Our poets subtilise and exaggerate the
sentiment, whilst agreeably to the real Italian character, it is a rapid
and profound impression, which rather expresses itself by silent and
passionate actions than by ingenious language. In general our literature
is not characteristic of our national manners[23]. We are much too
modest, I had almost said too humble a nation to aspire to tragedies
taken from our own history, and bearing the stamp of our own sentiments.

"Alfieri, by a singular chance, was transplanted, if I may use the
expression, from ancient to modern times; he was born for action, and
his destiny only permitted him to write; this constraint appears in the
style of his tragedies. He wished to make literature subservient to a
political purpose; undoubtedly his object was noble, but nothing
perverts the labours of the imagination so much as having a purpose. In
this nation, where certainly, some erudite scholars and very enlightened
men are to be met with, Alfieri was indignant at seeing literature
consecrated to no serious end, but merely engrossed with tales, novels,
and madrigals. Alfieri wished to give a more austere character to his
tragedy. He has stript it of all the borrowed appendages of theatrical
effect, preserving nothing but the interest of the dialogue. It appears
to have been his wish to place the natural vivacity and imagination of
the Italians in a state of penitence; he has however been very much
admired for his character and the energies of his soul, which were truly
great. The inhabitants of modern Rome are particularly given to applaud
the actions and sentiments of their ancient country; as if those actions
and sentiments had any relation to them in their present state.

They are amateurs of energy and independence, in the same manner as
they are of the fine pictures which adorn their galleries. But it is not
less true that Alfieri has by no means created what may be called an
Italian theatre; that is to say, tragedies of a merit peculiar to Italy.
He has not even characterised the manners of those countries and those
centuries which he has painted. His conspiracy of the Pazzi, his
Virginia, and his Philip II., are to be admired for elevation and
strength of thought; but it is always the character of Alfieri, and not
that of peculiar nations and peculiar times, which are to be discovered
in them. Although there be no analogy between the French genius and that
of Alfieri, they resemble each other in this, that both of them give
their own colouring to every subject of which they treat."

The Count d' Erfeuil, hearing the French genius called in question, was
induced to speak. "It would be impossible for us," said he, "to tolerate
upon the stage either the incongruities of the Greeks or the
monstrosities of Shakespeare; the French have too pure a taste for that.
Our theatre is the model of delicacy and elegance: those are its
distinguishing characteristics, and we should plunge ourselves into
barbarism by introducing anything foreign amongst us."

"That would be like encompassing yourselves with the great wall of
China," said Corinne, smiling. "There are certainly many rare beauties
in your tragic authors; and perhaps they would admit of new ones, could
you bring yourselves to tolerate anything not exactly French on your
stage. But as for us Italians, our dramatic genius would be greatly
diminished in submitting to the fetters of those laws which we had not
the honour of inventing, and from which, consequently, we could derive
nothing but their restraint. A theatre ought to be formed upon the
imagination, the character, and the custom of a nation. The Italians are
passionately fond of the fine arts, of music, painting, and even
pantomime: of every thing, in short, that strikes the senses. How then
could they be satisfied with the austerity of an eloquent dialogue, as
their only theatrical pleasure?[24] Vainly has Alfieri, with all his
genius, endeavoured to reduce them to it; he felt himself that his
system was too rigorous.

"The Merope of Maffei, the Saul of Alfieri, the Aristodemus of Monti,
and particularly the poem of Dante, although this last author never
composed a tragedy, seem calculated to convey an idea of what the
dramatic art might be brought to in Italy. There is in the Merope of
Maffei, a great simplicity of action, but the most brilliant poetry,
adorned with the happiest images: and why should this poetry be
forbidden in dramatic works? The language of poetry is so magnificent in
Italy that we should be more censurable than any other nation in
renouncing its beauties. Alfieri, wishing to excel in every department
of poetry, has, in his Saul, made a most beautiful use of the lyric; and
one might with excellent effect introduce music itself into the piece,
not so much to harmonise the words, as to calm the frenzy of Saul by the
harp of David. So delicious is our music that it may even render us
indolent as to intellectual enjoyments. Far therefore from wishing to
separate music from the drama, it should be our earnest endeavour to
unite them; not in making heroes sing, which destroys all dramatic
effect, but in introducing choruses, as the ancients did, or such other
musical aid, as may naturally blend with the situations of the piece, as
so often happens in real life. So far from retrenching the pleasures of
the imagination on the Italian stage, it is my opinion, that we should
on the contrary augment and multiply them in every possible manner. The
exquisite taste of the Italians for music, and for splendid ballets, is
an indication of the power of their imagination, and manifests the
necessity of rendering even the most serious subjects interesting to
them, instead of heightening their severity as Alfieri has done. The
nation conceive it their duty to applaud what is grave and austere; but
they soon return to their natural taste; however, tragedy might become
highly pleasing to them if it were embellished by the charm and the
variety of different kinds of poetry, and with all the divers theatrical
attractions which the English and the Spaniards enjoy.

"The Aristodemus of Monti has in it something of the terrible pathos of
Dante; and surely this tragedy is very justly one of the most admired.
Dante, that great master of various powers, possessed that kind of
tragic genius which would have produced the most effect in Italy, if it
could in any way be adapted to the stage; for that poet knew how to
represent to the eye, what was passing at the bottom of the soul, and
his imagination could make grief seen and felt. If Dante had written
tragedies, they would have been as striking to children as to men, to
the illiterate crowd as to the polished few. Dramatic literature ought
to be popular; like some public event, the whole nation ought to judge
of it."

"When Dante was living," said Oswald, "the Italians performed a
distinguished part in the political drama of Europe. Perhaps it would
now be impossible for you to have a national tragic theatre: it would be
necessary for the existence of such a theatre, that great events should
develop in life those sentiments which are expressed upon the stage. Of
all the masterpieces of literature, there is not one which depends so
much upon the whole people as tragedy; the spectators contribute to it
as much as the author. Dramatic genius is composed of the public mind,
of History, of government, of national customs, of everything, in fact,
which each day blends itself with thought, and forms the moral being, as
the air which we breathe nourishes physical existence. The Spaniards,
with whom you have some affinity as to climate and religion, are much
superior to you in dramatic genius; their pieces are filled with their
history, their chivalry, and their religious faith, and these pieces
possess life and originality; but their success, in this respect, dates
back to the epoch of their historical glory. How then could it be
possible now to establish in Italy, that which it never could boast
of--a genuine tragic drama!"

"It is unfortunately possible that you may be in the right," replied
Corinne; "however, I hope for greater things from the natural impulse of
mind in Italy, and from the individual emulation of my countrymen, even
when not favoured by external circumstances; but what we most want in
tragedy is actors. Affected words necessarily lead to false declamation;
but there is no language in which an actor can display so much talent as
in ours; for the melody of sound gives a new charm to truth of accent:
it is a continual music which mingles with the expression of feeling
without diminishing its vigour." "If you wish," interrupted Prince
Castel-Forte, "to convince the company of what you assert, it only
remains for you to prove it: yes, allow us to enjoy the inexpressible
pleasure of seeing you perform tragedy; you must grant these foreign
gentlemen the rare enjoyment of being made acquainted with a talent
which you alone in Italy possess; or rather that you alone in the world
possess, since the whole of your genius is impressed upon it."

Corinne felt a secret desire to play tragedy before Lord Nelville, and
by this means show herself to very great advantage; but she dared not
accede to the proposal of Prince Castel-Forte, without that approbation
of Oswald, which the looks she cast upon him earnestly entreated. He
understood them; and as he was at the same time concerned at that
timidity which had the day before prevented the exertion of her talent
for improvisation, and ambitious that she should obtain the applause of
Mr Edgermond, he joined in the solicitations of her friends. Corinne
therefore no longer hesitated. "Well, then," said she, turning to Prince
Castel-Forte, "we will accomplish the project which I have so long
formed, of playing my own translation of Romeo and Juliet,"
"Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?" cried Mr Edgermond; "you understand
English, then?" "Yes," answered Corinne. "And you are fond of
Shakespeare!" added Mr Edgermond. "As a friend," replied she; "he was so
well acquainted with all the secrets of grief." "And you will perform in
Italian," cried Mr Edgermond; "and I shall hear you! And you too, my
dear Nelville. Ah, how happy you will be!" Then, repenting immediately
this indiscreet word, he blushed: and a blush inspired by delicacy and
goodness may be interesting at all periods of life. "How happy we shall
be," resumed he, a little embarrassed, "to be present at such a
representation!"

FOOTNOTES:

[23] Giovanni Pindemonte, has recently published a collection of Dramas,
the subjects of which are taken from Italian history, and this is a very
interesting and praiseworthy enterprize. The name of Pindemonte is also
rendered illustrious by Hippolito Pindemonte, one of the sweetest and
most charming of the present Italian poets.

[24] The posthumous works of Alfieri are just published, in which are to
be found many exquisite pieces; but we may conclude from a rather
singular Dramatic Essay, which he has written on the Death of Abel, that
he himself was conscious that his pieces were too austere, and that on
the stage more must be allowed to the pleasures of the imagination.



Chapter iii.


Every thing was arranged in a few days, the parts distributed, and the
evening chosen for the performance in a palace belonging to a female
relation of Prince Castel-Forte, and a friend of Corinne. Oswald felt a
mixture of uneasiness and pleasure, at the approach of this new scene of
triumph for the talents of Corinne. He enjoyed the by anticipation; but
he was also jealous in the same manner, not of any man in particular,
but of that whole audience in general who were to witness the talents of
her whom he loved. He wished to be the only witness of her mental
charms;--he wished that Corinne, timid and reserved, like an English
woman, should possess eloquence and genius for none but him. However
distinguished a man may be, perhaps he never enjoys, without alloy, the
superiority of a woman: if he feel an affection for her, his heart is
disturbed;--if not, his self-love is wounded. Oswald, in the presence of
Corinne, was more intoxicated than happy; and the admiration which she
inspired him with, increased his love without giving more stability to
his projects. He contemplated her as an admirable phenomenon, which
appeared to him anew every day; but even the transport and astonishment
which she made him feel, seemed to render the hope of a peaceful and
tranquil life more distant. Corinne, however, was of the tenderest and
most easy disposition in private life; her ordinary qualities would have
made her beloved independently of her brilliant ones; but yet again, she
united in herself too much talent, and was too dazzling in every
respect. Lord Nelville, with all his accomplishments, did not believe
himself equal to her, and this idea inspired him with fears as to the
duration of their mutual affection. Vainly did Corinne by force of love
become his slave; the master, often uneasy about his captive queen, did
not enjoy his empire undisturbed.

Some hours before the representation, Lord Nelville conducted Corinne to
the palace of Princess Castel-Forte, where the theatre was fitted up.
The sun shone most brilliantly, and from one of the windows of the
stair-case, Rome and the _Campagna_ were discovered. Oswald stopped
Corinne a moment and said, "Behold this beautiful day, it is for your
sake; it is to heighten the splendour of your fame." "Ah, if that were
so," answered she, "it is you who would bring me happiness; it is to you
that I should owe the protection of heaven." "Would the pure and gentle
sentiments which the beauty of nature inspires, be sufficient to make
you happy?" replied Oswald: "there is a great distance between the air
that we breathe, the reverie which the country inspires, and that noisy
theatre which is about to resound with your name." "Oswald," said
Corinne, "if the applause which I am about to receive, have the power to
affect me, will it not be because it is witnessed by you? And should I
display any talent, will it not owe its success to you, who have
animated and inspired it? Love, poetry, and religion, all that is born
of enthusiasm, is in harmony with nature; and in beholding the azure
sky, in yielding to the impression which it causes, I have a juster
comprehension of the sentiments of Juliet, I am more worthy of Romeo."
"Yes, thou art worthy of him, celestial creature!" cried Lord Nelville;
"'tis only a weakness of the soul, this jealousy of thy talents, this
desire to live alone with thee in the universe. Go, receive the meed of
public homage, go; but let that look of love, still more divine than thy
genius, be directed to me alone!" They then parted, and Lord Nelville
went and took his seat in theatre, awaiting the pleasure of beholding
the appearance of Corinne.

Romeo and Juliet is an Italian subject; the scene is placed in Verona,
where is still to be seen the tomb of those two lovers. Shakespeare has
written this piece with that Southern imagination at once impassioned
and pleasing; that imagination which triumphs in happiness, but which,
nevertheless, passes so easily from happiness to despair, and from
despair to death. The impressions are rapid; but one easily feels that
these rapid impressions will be ineffaceable. It is the force of nature,
and not the frivolity of the heart, which beneath an energetic climate
hastens the development of the passions. The soil is not light, though
vegetation is prompt; and Shakespeare has seized, more happily than any
other foreign writer, the national character of Italy and that fecundity
of the mind which invents a thousand ways of varying the expression of
the same sentiments--the oriental eloquence which makes use of all the
images of nature to paint what is passing in the heart. It is not as in
Ossian, one same tint, one uniform sound which responds constantly to
the most sensitive chords of the heart; the multiplied colours that
Shakespeare employs in Romeo and Juliet, do not give a cold affectation
to his style; it is the ray divided, reflected, and varied, which
produces these colours, in which we ever feel that fire they proceed
from. There is a life and a brilliancy in this composition which
characterise the country and the inhabitants. The play of Romeo and
Juliet translated into Italian would only seem to return to its mother
tongue.

The first appearance of Juliet is at a ball, where Romeo Montague has
introduced himself into the house of the Capulets, the mortal enemies of
his family. Corinne was dressed in a charming festive habit, conformable
to the costume of the times. Her hair was tastefully adorned with
precious stones and artificial flowers. Her friends did not know her on
her first appearance, till her voice discovered her: her figure then
became familiar to them; but it was in a manner deified, and preserved
only a poetical expression. The theatre resounded with unanimous
applause upon her appearance. Her first looks discovered Oswald, and
rested upon him--a spark of joy, a lively and gentle hope, was painted
in her countenance: on beholding her, every heart beat with pleasure and
fear: it was felt that so much felicity could not last upon earth; was
it for Juliet, or Corinne, that this presentiment was to be verified?

When Romeo approached to address to her in a low voice, the lines, so
brilliant in English, so magnificent in the Italian translation, upon
her grace and beauty, the spectators, charmed to hear their own
sentiments so finely interpreted, joined in the transport of Romeo; and
the sudden passion which the first look of Juliet kindled in his soul,
appeared like reality to every eye. Oswald from this moment felt
disturbed; it appeared to him that all was near to being revealed, that
Corinne was about to be proclaimed an angel among women, that he should
be forced to reveal his sentiments, that his claim would be disputed and
the prize ravished from him--a kind of dazzling cloud seemed to pass
before his eyes--he feared his sight might fail him--he was ready to
faint, and retired for some moments behind a pillar. Corinne, uneasy,
sought him with anxiety, and pronounced this line,

     "Too early seen unknown, and known too late!"

with such a tone of voice, that Oswald started as he heard it, for it
seemed to him to be applied to their personal situation.

He could never feel tired of admiring the grace of her actions, the
dignity of her motions, and the expression of her countenance, in which
was painted what language could not reveal, all those mysteries of the
heart which cannot be reduced to words; but which, nevertheless, dispose
of our life. The accent, the look, the least gesture of an actor, truly
inspired and influenced by genuine emotion, are a continual revelation
of the human heart; and the ideal of the fine arts is always mingled
with these revelations of nature. The harmony of the verse and the charm
of the attitudes, lend to passion that grace and dignity which it often
wants in reality. Thus every sentiment of the heart, and every emotion
of the soul, pass before the imagination without losing anything of
their truth.

In the second act, Juliet appears in the balcony to converse with Romeo.
Corinne had preserved, of her former ornaments, only the flowers, and
those were soon to disappear: the theatre half-lighted to represent
night, cast a milder reflection upon the countenance of Corinne. There
was now something more melodious in her voice, than when surrounded with
the splendour of a _fête_. Her hand lifted towards the stars, seemed to
invoke the only witnesses worthy of hearing her, and when she repeated,
"_Romeo! Romeo!_" although Oswald was certain that she thought of him,
he felt jealous that these delicious accents should make the air resound
with any other name than his. Oswald was seated opposite the balcony,
and he who performed Romeo being a little concealed by the darkness of
the scene, Corinne was enabled to fix her eyes upon Oswald when
pronouncing these lines:

     "In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond;
     And therefore thou may'st think my 'haviour light;
     But trust me, gentleman, I'll prove more true
     Than those that have more cunning to be strange.
            *       *       *       *       *
            *       *       *       *       *
            *       *       *       *       *  therefore pardon me."

At these words--"Pardon me! Pardon me for loving; pardon me for having
let you know it!"--There was in Corinne's look, so tender a prayer and
so much respect for her lover, so much exultation in her choice, when
she said, "Noble Romeo! Fair Montague!" that Oswald felt as proud as he
was happy. He raised his head, which tenderness had bowed down, and
fancied himself the king of the world, since he reigned over a heart
which contained all the treasures of life.

Corinne, perceiving the effect which she produced upon Oswald, became
more and more animated by that emotion of the heart which alone produces
miracles; and when at the approach of day, Juliet thought she heard the
song of the lark--a signal for the departure of Romeo, the accents of
Corinne possessed a supernatural charm: they described love, and
nevertheless one might perceive that there was something of religious
mystery in them, some recollections of heaven, with a presage that she
was shortly to return thither; a kind of celestial melancholy, as of a
soul exiled upon earth, but which was soon to be called to its divine
home. Ah! how happy was Corinne the day that she represented the part of
a noble character in a beautiful tragedy before the lover of her choice;
how many years, how many lives would appear dull, compared to such a
day!

If Lord Nelville could have performed, with Corinne, the part of Romeo,
the pleasure which she would have tasted would not have been so
complete. She would have desired to put aside the verses of the greatest
poet in order to speak the dictates of her own heart; perhaps even her
genius would have been confined by insurmountable timidity; she would
not have dared to look at Oswald for fear of betraying herself, and
truth would have destroyed the charm of art; but how sweet it was to
know that he whom she loved was present when she experienced those
exalted sentiments which poetry alone can inspire; when she felt all the
charm of tender emotions, without their real pain; when the affection
she expressed was neither personal nor abstract; and when she seemed to
say to Lord Nelville, "See how I am able to love."

It is impossible when the situation is our own to be satisfied with
ourselves: passion and timidity alternately transport and check
us--inspire us either with too much bitterness or too much submission;
but to appear perfect without affectation; to unite calm to sensibility,
which too frequently destroys it; in a word, to exist for a moment in
the sweetest reveries of the heart; such was the pure enjoyment of
Corinne in performing tragedy. She united to this pleasure that of all
the plaudits she received; and her look seemed to place them at the feet
of Oswald, at the feet of him whose simple approval she valued more than
all her fame. Corinne was happy, at least for a moment! for a moment, at
least, she experienced at the price of her repose, those delights of the
soul which till then she had vainly wished for, and which she would ever
have to regret!

Juliet in the third act becomes privately, the wife of Romeo. In the
fourth, her parents wishing to force her to marry another, she
determines to take the opiate which she receives from the hand of a
friar, and which is to give her the appearance of death. All the motions
of Corinne, her disturbed gait, her altered accent, her looks, sometimes
animated and sometimes dejected, painted the cruel conflict of fear and
love, the terrible images which pursued her at the idea of being
transported alive to the tomb of her ancestors, and the enthusiasm of
passion, which enabled a soul, so young, to triumph over so natural a
terror. Oswald felt an almost irresistible impulse to fly to her aid. At
one time she lifted her eyes towards heaven, with an ardour which deeply
expressed that need of divine protection, from which no human being was
ever free. At another time, Lord Nelville thought he saw her stretch her
arms towards him to ask his assistance--he rose up in a transport of
delirium, and then sat down immediately, brought to his senses by the
astonished looks of those about him; but his emotion became so strong
that it could no longer be concealed.

In the fifth act, Romeo, who believes Juliet dead, lifts her from the
tomb before she awakes and presses her to his heart. Corinne was clad in
white, her black hair dishevelled, and her head inclined upon Romeo with
a grace, and nevertheless an appearance of death, so affecting and so
gloomy, that Oswald felt himself shaken with the most opposite
impressions. He could not bear to see Corinne in the arms of another,
and he shuddered at beholding the image of her whom he loved, apparently
deprived of life; so that in fact he felt, like Romeo, that cruel
combination of despair and love, of death and pleasure, which makes this
scene the most agonising that ever was represented on a stage. At
length, when Juliet awakes in this tomb, at the foot of which her lover
has just immolated himself, when her first words in her coffin, beneath
these funeral vaults, are not inspired by the terror which they ought to
cause, when she exclaims:

     "Where is my lord? Where is my Romeo?"

Lord Nelville replied by deep groans, and did not return to himself till
Mr Edgermond conducted him out of the theatre.

The piece being finished, Corinne felt indisposed from emotion and
fatigue. Oswald entered first into her apartment, where he saw her alone
with her women, still in the costume of Juliet, and, like Juliet, almost
swooning in their arms. In the excess of his trouble he could not
distinguish whether it was truth or fiction, and throwing himself at
the feet of Corinne, exclaimed, in English:

     "Eyes look your last! Arms take your last embrace."

Corinne, still wandering, cried: "Good God! what do you say? are you
going to leave me?"--"No;" interrupted Oswald, "I swear--" At that
instant the crowd of Corinne's friends and admirers forced the door in
order to see her. Her eyes were fixed upon Oswald, listening with
anxiety for what he was about to answer; but there was no opportunity
for further conversation between them during the whole evening, for they
were not left alone a single instant.

Never had the performance of a tragedy produced such an effect in Italy.
The Romans extolled with transport the talents of Corinne, both as the
representative of Juliet, and the translator of the piece. They said
that this was truly the species of tragedy which suited the Italians,
which painted their manners, moved the soul by captivating the
imagination, and gave effect to their beautiful language, in a style
alternately eloquent and lyrical, inspired and natural. Corinne received
all these praises with the sweetest air imaginable; but her soul
remained suspended on the words "_I swear_,"--which Oswald had
pronounced when he was prevented by the entrance of the company from
concluding his sentence: this word might in truth contain the secret of
her destiny.



Book viii.

THE STATUES AND THE PICTURES.

[Illustration]



Chapter i.


After the day which had passed, Oswald could not close his eyes during
the night. He had never been so near sacrificing every thing to Corinne.
He did not even desire to know her secret; or rather, before he was
acquainted with it, he wished to contract a solemn engagement, to
consecrate his life to her. For some hours uncertainty seemed banished
from his mind; and he took pleasure in composing, in his thoughts, the
letter which he should write to her on the morrow, and which would
decide his fate. But this confidence in happiness, this reliance upon
resolution, was of no long duration. His thoughts soon reverted to the
past, he remembered that he had loved, much less, it is true, than he
loved Corinne; and the object of his first choice could not be compared
to her; but nevertheless it was this sentiment which had hurried him
away to thoughtless actions, to actions which had torn the heart of his
father.--"Ah! who knows," cried he, "whether he would not fear equally
to-day, lest his son should forget his native country and the duties
which he owes it?"

"Oh thou!" said he, addressing the portrait of his father, "thou, the
best friend I shall ever have upon earth, I can no longer hear thy
voice, but teach me by that silent look which yet retains such power
over my soul, inform me what I am to do, that now at least in thy
celestial abode, thou mayest be satisfied with the conduct of thy son!
Forget not, however, that need of happiness which consumes mortal
man--be indulgent in heaven, as thou wert upon earth! I shall become
better if I am allowed to taste of happiness; if I am permitted to live
with this angelic creature, to have the honour of protecting, of saving
such a woman.--Of saving her?" continued he suddenly; "and from what?
From a life of homage, of fame, and of independence!"--This reflection,
which originated in himself, terrified him like an inspiration of his
father.

In conflicts of sentiment, who has not felt that kind of secret
superstition which makes us take our own thoughts for presages, and our
sufferings for a warning from heaven? Ah! how bitter is the struggle
between passion and conscience, in susceptible minds!

Oswald paced his chamber under the most cruel agitation, sometimes
stopping to look at the moon, which in Italy is so mild and so
beautiful. The aspect of nature inspires resignation; but it is without
effect upon a mind racked with uncertainty. The next day arrived without
bringing any relief to his distracted thoughts, and when the Count
d'Erfeuil and Mr Edgermond came to visit him, they were uneasy as to the
state of his health, so much was he altered by the anxieties of the
night. The Count d'Erfeuil was the first who spoke.--"It must be
allowed," said he, "that yesterday's entertainment was charming. Corinne
is a most admirable woman. I lost half her words, but I understood
everything from her voice and her countenance. What a pity it is, that a
rich lady should be possessed of this talent! For if she were in humbler
circumstances, and unrestrained as she is, she might embrace the stage
as a profession; and to have an actress like her, would be the glory of
Italy."

Oswald received a painful impression from this speech, and yet could
not tell how to make it known. For there was that about the Count, that
one could not be angry at what he said, even though it were disagreeable
to one's feelings. None but sensitive minds understand those delicate
precautions which they owe each other: self-love, so alive to every
thing that affects itself, hardly ever thinks of the susceptibility of
others.

Mr Edgermond praised Corinne in the most becoming and flattering terms.
Oswald answered him in English, in order to relieve the conversation
about Corinne from the disagreeable eulogiums of the Count. "I see I am
one too many here," said the Count; "well I will pay a visit to Corinne:
she will not be sorry I dare say to hear my observations upon her acting
yesterday evening. I have some advice to give her, too, upon details;
but these details are very essential to the effect of the whole: she is
really so astonishing a woman that one should neglect nothing to assist
her in attaining perfection.--And besides," said he, inclining towards
Nelville's ear, "I wish to encourage her to play tragedy more often:
'tis a certain way to get married by some foreigner of distinction who
may pass through this city. As to you and me, my dear Oswald, that idea
does not concern us, we are too much accustomed to charming women to
commit foolish things; but who knows? a German prince, or a Spanish
grandee--" At these words Oswald rose up almost beside himself, and it
is impossible to conceive what would have been the issue, if the Count
d'Erfeuil had perceived his emotion; but he was so satisfied with his
last reflection, that he tripped away lightly, not in the least
suspecting that he had offended Lord Nelville: had he known it, though
he loved him as much as man could love another, he would certainly have
remained. The brilliant valour of the Count, contributed still more than
his self-love to render him blind to his defects. As he was extremely
delicate in everything that regarded honour, he did not imagine that he
could be wanting with respect to sensibility; and believing himself, not
without reason, amiable and brave, he was pleased with his lot, and did
not suspect there was any more profound way of regarding life than his
own.

None of the sentiments which agitated Oswald had escaped Mr Edgermond,
and when the Count d'Erfeuil was gone, he said to him--"My dear Oswald,
I take my leave,--I am going to Naples."--"Why so soon?" answered
Nelville. "Because it is not good for me to stay here," continued
Edgermond; "I am fifty years of age, and nevertheless I am not sure that
Corinne would not make a fool of me."--"And even in that case,"
interrupted Oswald, "what would be the consequence?"--"Such a woman is
not formed to live in Wales," replied Mr Edgermond; "believe me, my dear
Oswald, only Englishwomen are fit for England: it does not become me to
give you advice, I need not assure you that I shall not mention a word
of what I have seen; but with all Corinne's accomplishments, I should
say, with Thomas Walpole, _of what use is all that at home_? And, you
know the _home_ is all with us, all for our women at least. Imagine to
yourself your beautiful Italian alone, while you are hunting or
attending your duty in Parliament; imagine her leaving you at dessert to
get tea ready against you shall leave table! Dear Oswald, depend upon it
our women possess those domestic virtues which are to be found nowhere
else. The men in Italy have nothing to do but to please the women;
therefore the more attractive they are the better. But with us, where
men have active pursuits, women must be satisfied with the shade. That
it would be a great pity to condemn Corinne to such a destiny, I freely
acknowledge. I should be glad to see her upon the throne of England; but
not beneath my humble roof. My lord, I knew your mother, whose loss was
so much lamented by your worthy father: she was a lady in every respect
like my young cousin. Such is the wife, which, were I at a proper time
of life, I should choose. Adieu, my dear friend, do not be offended at
what I have said, for nobody can be a greater admirer of Corinne than I
am, and I own to you that after all were I at your time of life, I doubt
whether I could have sufficient fortitude to renounce the hope of
becoming agreeable to her."--In finishing, these words, he took the hand
of Oswald, squeezed it cordially, and departed without receiving a word
in reply. But Mr Edgermond comprehended the cause of his silence, and
satisfied with a pressure of the hand from Oswald in answer to his own,
he went away, impatient himself to finish a conversation which was
painful to him.

Of all that he had said, only one word had penetrated the heart of
Oswald, and that was the recollection of his mother, and his father's
profound attachment to her. He had lost her when he was only fourteen
years of age, but he recollected her virtues with the most heart-felt
reverence, as well as that timidity and reserve which characterised
them.--"Fool that I am," cried he, when alone, "I wish to know what kind
of wife my father destined for me, and do I not know it, since I can
call to mind the image of my mother whom he so tenderly loved? What do I
want more? Why deceive myself in feigning ignorance of what would be his
sentiments now, were it in my power to consult his will?" It was,
however, a terrible task for Oswald to return to Corinne, after what had
passed the evening before, without saying something in confirmation of
the sentiments which he had expressed. His agitation and his trouble
became so violent, that they affected a ruptured blood-vessel which he
thought had completely healed up, but which now re-opened and began to
bleed afresh. Whilst his servants, in affright, called everywhere for
assistance, he secretly wished that the end of life might terminate his
sufferings.--"If I could die," said he, "after having seen Corinne once
more, after having heard her again call me her Romeo!"--Tears rolled
down his cheeks; they were the first tears he had shed for the sake of
another since the death of his father.

He wrote to Corinne informing her of his accident, and some melancholy
words terminated his letter. Corinne had begun this day under the most
deceitful auspices: happy in the impression she conceived she had made
upon Oswald, believing herself beloved, she was happy; nor did busy
thought conjure up any reflection not in unison with what she so much
desired. A thousand circumstances ought to have mingled considerable
fear with the idea of espousing Lord Nelville; but as there was more
passion than foresight in her character, governed by the present, and
not diving into the future, this day, which was to cost her so many
pangs, dawned upon her as the most pure and serene of her life.

On receiving Oswald's note, her soul was a prey to the most cruel
feelings: she believed him in imminent danger, and set out immediately
on foot, traversing the Corso at the hour when all the city were walking
there, and entered the house of Oswald in face of all the first society
of Rome. She had not taken time to reflect, and had walked so fast, that
when she reached the chamber, she could not breathe, or utter a single
word. Lord Nelville conceived all that she had risked to come and see
him, and exaggerating the consequences of this action, which in England
would have entirely ruined the reputation of an unmarried woman, he felt
penetrated with generosity, love, and gratitude, and rising up, feeble
as he was, he pressed Corinne to his heart, and cried:--"My dearest
love! No, I never will abandon you! After having exposed yourself on my
account! When I ought to repair--" Corinne comprehended what he would
say, and as she gently disengaged herself from his arms, interrupted him
thus, having first enquired how he was:--"You are deceived, my lord; in
coming to see you I do nothing that most of my countrywomen would not do
in my place. I knew you were ill--you are a stranger here--you know
nobody but me; it is therefore my duty to take care of you. Were it
otherwise, ought not established forms to yield to those real and
profound sentiments, which the danger or the grief of a friend give
birth to? What would be the fate of a woman if the rules of social
propriety, permitting her to love, forbade that irresistible emotion
which makes us fly to succour the object of our affection? But I repeat
to you, my lord, you need not be afraid that I have compromised myself
by coming hither. My age and my talents allow me, at Rome, the same
liberty as a married woman. I do not conceal from my friends that I am
come to see you. I know not whether they blame me for loving you; but
that fact admitted, I am certain that they do not think me culpable in
devoting myself entirely to you."

On hearing these words, so natural and so sincere, Oswald experienced a
confused medley of different feelings. He was moved with the delicacy of
Corinne's answer; but he was almost vexed that his first impression was
not just. He could have wished that she had committed some great fault
in the eyes of the world, in order that this very fault, imposing upon
him the duty of marrying her, might terminate his indecision. He was
offended at this liberty of manners in Italy, which prolonged his
anxiety by allowing him so much happiness, without annexing to it any
condition. He could have wished that honour had commanded what he
desired, and these painful thoughts produced new and dangerous effects.
Corinne, notwithstanding the dreadful alarm she was in, lavished upon
him the most soothing attentions.

Towards the evening, Oswald appeared more oppressed; and Corinne, on her
knees by the side of his bed, supported his head in her arms, though she
was herself racked with more internal pain than he. This tender and
affecting care made a gleam of pleasure visible through his
sufferings.--"Corinne," said he to her, in a low voice, "read in this
volume, which contains the thoughts of my father, his reflections on
death. Do not think," he continued, seeing the terror of Corinne; "that
I feel myself menaced with it. But I am never ill without reading over
these consoling reflections. I then fancy that I hear them from his own
mouth; besides, my love, I wish you to know what kind of man my father
was; you will the better comprehend the cause of my grief, and of his
empire over me, as well as all that I shall one day confide to
you."--Corinne took this manuscript, which Oswald never parted from, and
in a trembling voice read the following pages.

"Oh ye just, beloved of the Lord! you can speak of death without fear;
for you it is only a change of habitation, and that which you quit is
perhaps the least of all! Oh numberless worlds, which in our sight fill
the boundless region of space! unknown communities of God's creatures;
communities of His children, scattered throughout the firmament and
ranged beneath its vaults, let our praises be joined to yours! We are
ignorant of your condition, whether you possess the first, second, or
last share of the generosity of the Supreme Being; but in speaking of
death or of life, of time past or of time to come, we assimilate our
interests with those of all intelligent and sensible beings, no matter
where placed, or by what distance separated from us. Families of
peoples! Families of nations! Assemblage of worlds! you say with us,
Glory to the Master of the Heavens, to the King of Nature, to the God of
the Universe! Glory and homage to Him, who by his will can convert
sterility into abundance, shadow into reality, and death itself into
eternal life.

"Undoubtedly the end of the just is a desirable death; but few amongst
us, few amongst our forefathers have witnessed it. Where is the man who
could approach without fear the presence of the Eternal? Where is the
man who has loved God unremittingly, who has served Him from his youth,
and who, attaining an advanced age, finds in his recollections no
subject of uneasiness? Where is the man, moral in all his actions,
without ever thinking of the praise and the reward of public opinion?
Where is that man, so rare among the human species, who is worthy to
serve as a model to all? Where is he? Where is he? Ah! if he exist
amongst us, let our reverence and respect surround him; and ask, you
will do wisely to ask, to be present at his death, as at the sublimest
of earthly spectacles: only arm yourself with courage to follow him to
that bed, so repulsive to our feelings, from which he will never rise.
He foresees it; he is certain of it; serenity reigns in his countenance,
and his forehead seems encircled with a celestial aureole: he says, with
the apostle, _I know in whom I have believed_; and this confidence
animates his countenance, even when his strength is exhausted. He
already contemplates his new country, but without forgetting that which
he is about to quit: he gives himself up to his Creator and to his God,
without forgetting those sentiments which have charmed him during his
life.

"Is it a faithful spouse, who according to the laws of nature must be
the first of all his connections to follow him: he consoles her, he
dries her tears, he appoints a meeting with her in that abode of
felicity of which he can form no idea without her. He recalls to her
mind those happy days which they have spent together; not to rend the
heart of a tender friend, but to increase their mutual confidence in the
goodness of heaven. He also reminds the companion of his fortunes, of
that tender love which he has ever felt for her; not to give additional
poignancy to that grief which he wishes to assuage, but to inspire her
with the sweet idea that two lives have grown upon the same stalk; and
that by their union they will become an additional defence to each other
in that dark futurity where the pity of the Supreme God is the last
refuge of our thoughts. Alas! is it possible to form a just conception
of all the emotions which penetrate a loving soul at the moment when a
vast solitude presents itself to our eyes, at the moment when the
sentiments, the interests upon which we have subsisted during so many
smiling years, are about to vanish for ever? Ah! you who are to survive
this being like unto yourself whom heaven had given you for your
support; that being who was every thing to you, and whose looks bid you
an agonizing adieu, you will not refuse to place your hand upon an
expiring heart, in order that its last palpitation may still speak to
you when all other language has failed! And shall we blame you, faithful
pair, if you had desired that your mortal remains should be deposited in
the same resting place? Gracious God, awaken them together; or if one
of them only has merited that favour, if only one of them must join the
small number of the elect, let the other be informed of it; let the
other perceive the light of angels at the moment when the fate of the
happy shall be proclaimed, in order that he may possess one moment of
joy before he sinks into eternal night.

"Ah! perhaps we wander when we endeavour to describe the last days of
the man of sensibility, of the man who beholds death advance with hasty
strides, who sees it ready to separate him from all the objects of his
affection.

"He revives, and regains a momentary strength in order that his last
words may serve for the instruction of his children. He says to
them--'Do not be afraid to witness the approaching end of your father,
of your old friend.--It is in obedience to a law of nature that he quits
before you, this earth which he entered first. He teaches you courage,
and nevertheless he leaves you with grief. He would certainly have
wished to assist you a little longer with his experience--to walk a
little longer side by side with you through all those perils with which
your youth is surrounded; _but life has no defence in the hour allotted
for our descent to the tomb_. You will now live alone in the midst of a
world from which I am about to disappear; may you reap in abundance the
gifts which Providence has sown in it; but do not forget that this world
itself is only a transient abode, and that you are destined for another
more permanent one. We shall perhaps see one another again; and in some
other region, in the presence of my God, I shall offer for you as a
sacrifice, my prayers and my tears! Love then religion, which is so rich
in promise! love religion, the last bond of union between fathers and
their children, between death and life!--Approach, that I may behold
you once more! May the benediction of a servant of God light on
you!'--He dies!--O, heavenly angels, receive his soul, and leave us upon
earth the remembrance of his actions, of his thoughts, and of his
hopes!"[25]

The emotion of Oswald and Corinne had frequently interrupted this
reading. At length they were obliged to give it up. Corinne feared for
the effects of Oswald's grief, which vented itself in torrents of tears,
and suffered the bitterest pangs at beholding him in this condition, not
perceiving that she herself was as much afflicted as he. "Yes," said he,
stretching his hand to her, "dear friend of my heart, thy tears are
mingled with mine. Thou lamentest with me that guardian angel, whose
last embrace I yet feel, whose noble look I yet behold; perhaps it is
thou whom he has chosen for my comforter--perhaps--" "No, no," cried
Corinne; "he has not thought me worthy of it." "What is it you say?"
interrupted Oswald. Corinne was alarmed at having revealed what she so
much wished to conceal, and repeated what had escaped her, in another
form, saying--"He would not think me worthy of it!"--This phrase, so
altered, dissipated the disquietude which the first had excited in the
heart of Oswald, and he continued, undisturbed by any fears, to
discourse with Corinne concerning his father.

The physicians arrived and dissipated somewhat the alarm of Corinne; but
they absolutely forbade Lord Nelville to speak till the ruptured
blood-vessel was perfectly closed. For a period of six whole days
Corinne never quitted Oswald, and prevented him from uttering a word,
gently imposing silence upon him whenever he wished to speak. She found
the art of varying the hours by reading, music, and sometimes by a
conversation of which the burden was supported by herself alone; now
serious, now playful, her animation of spirits kept up a continual
interest. All this charming and amiable attention concealed that
disquietude which internally preyed upon her, and which it was so
necessary to conceal from Lord Nelville; though she herself did not
cease one instant to be a martyr to it. She perceived almost before
Oswald himself what he suffered, nor was she deceived by the courage he
exerted to conceal it; she always anticipated everything that would be
likely to relieve him; only endeavouring to fix his attention as little
as possible upon her assiduous cares for him. However, when Oswald
turned pale, the colour would also abandon the lips of Corinne; and her
hands trembled when stretched to his assistance; but she struggled
immediately to appear composed, and often smiled when her eyes were
suffused with tears. Sometimes she pressed the hand of Oswald against
her heart, as if she would willingly impart to him her own life. At
length her cares succeeded, and Oswald recovered.

"Corinne," said he to her, as soon as he was permitted to speak: "why
has not Mr Edgermond, my friend, witnessed the days which you have spent
by my bedside? He would have seen that you are not less good than
admirable; he would have seen that domestic life with you is a scene of
continual enchantment, and that you only differ from every other woman,
by adding to every virtue the witchery of every charm. No, it is too
much--this internal conflict which rends my heart, and that has just
brought me to the brink of the grave, must cease. Corinne, thou shalt
know my secrets though thou concealest from me thine--and thou shalt
decide upon our fate."--"Our fate," answered Corinne, "if you feel as I
do, is never to part. But will you believe me that, till now, I have
not dared even entertain a wish to be your wife. What I feel is very
new to me: my ideas of life, my projects for the future, are all upset
by this sentiment, which every day disturbs and enslaves me more and
more. But I know not whether we can, whether we ought to be united!"--
"Corinne," replied Oswald, "would you despise me for having hesitated?
Would you attribute that hesitation to trifling considerations? Have you
not divined that the deep and sad remorse which for two years has preyed
upon me, could alone cause my indecision?"

"I have comprehended it," replied Corinne; "had I suspected you of a
motive foreign to the affections of the heart, you would not have been
he whom I loved. But life, I know, does not entirely belong to love.
Habits, recollections, and circumstances, create around us a sort of
entanglement that passion itself cannot destroy. Broken for a moment, it
will join again, and encircle our heart as the ivy twines round the oak.
My dear Oswald, let us not appropriate to any epoch of our existence
more than that epoch demands. Nothing is now so absolutely necessary to
my happiness as that you should not leave me. The terror of your sudden
departure pursues me incessantly. You are a stranger in this country,
and bound to it by no tie. Should you go, all my prospects would
fade,--you would leave your poor Corinne nothing but her grief. This
beautiful climate, these fine arts, that poetical inspiration which I
feel with you, and now, alas! with you alone, would for me become mute.
I never awake but trembling; when I behold the god of day, I know not
whether it deceives me by its resplendent beams, ignorant as I am
whether this city still contains you within its walls--you, the star of
my life! Oswald, remove this terror from my soul, and I will desire to
know nothing beyond the delightful security you will give me."--"You
know," replied Oswald, "that an Englishman can never abandon his native
country, that war may recall me, that--" "Oh, God!" cried Corinne, "are
you going to prepare me for the dreadful moment?" and she trembled in
every limb, as at the approach of some terrible danger.--"Well, if it be
so, take me with you as your wife--as your slave--" But, suddenly
recovering herself, she said--"Oswald, you will not go without giving me
previous notice of your departure, will you? Hear me: in no country
whatever, is a criminal conducted to execution without some hours being
allotted for him to collect his thoughts. It will not be by letter that
you will announce this to me--but you will come yourself in person--you
will hear me before you go far away! And shall I be able then--What, you
hesitate to grant my request?" cried Corinne. "No," replied he, "I do
not hesitate; since it is thy wish, I swear that should circumstances
require my departure, I will apprize thee of it beforehand, and that
moment will decide the fate of our future lives."--She then left the
room.

FOOTNOTE:

[25] I have taken the liberty here to borrow some passages of the
Discourse on Death, which is to be found in the _Cours de Morale
Religieuse_, by M. Necker. This work, which appeared in times when the
attention was engrossed by political events, is sometimes confounded
with another by the same author, called _l'Importance des Opinions
Religieuses_, which has had the most brilliant success. But I dare
affirm, that the former is my father's most eloquent work. No minister
of state, I believe, before him, ever composed works for the Christian
pulpit; and that which ought to characterise this kind of writing from a
man who has had so much dealings with his race, is a knowledge of the
human heart, and the indulgence which this knowledge inspires: it
appears then, that considered in these two points of view, the _Cours de
Morale_, is perfectly original. Religious men in general do not mix in
the world, and men of the world for the most part, are not religious:
where then would it be possible to find to such a degree, knowledge of
life united to the elevation which detaches us from it? I will assert
without being afraid that my opinion will be attributed to my feelings,
that this book ranks among the first of those which console the sensible
being, and interest minds which reflect on the great questions that the
soul incessantly agitates within us.



Chapter ii.


During those days which immediately followed the illness of Oswald,
Corinne carefully avoided any thing that might lead to an explanation
between them. She wished to render life as calm as possible; but she
would not yet confide her history to him. All her remarks upon their
different conversations, had only served to convince her too well of the
impression he would receive in learning who she was, and what she had
sacrificed; and nothing appeared more dreadful to her than this
impression, which might detach him from her.

Returning then to the amiable artifice with which she had before
prevented Oswald from abandoning himself to passionate disquietudes, she
desired to interest his mind and his imagination anew, by the wonders of
the fine arts which he had not yet seen, and by this means retard the
moment when their fate should be cleared up and decided. Such a
situation would be insupportable, governed by any other sentiment than
that of love; but so much is it in the power of love to sweeten every
hour, to give a charm to every minute, that although it need an
indefinite future, it becomes, intoxicated with the present, and is
filled every day with such a multitude of emotions and ideas that it
becomes an age of happiness or pain!

Undoubtedly it is love alone that can give an idea of eternity; it
confounds every notion of time; it effaces every idea of beginning and
end; we believe that we have always loved the object of our affection;
so difficult is it to conceive that we have ever been able to live
without him. The more dreadful separation appears, the less it seems
probable; it becomes, like death, a fear which is more spoken of than
believed--a future event which seems impossible, even at the very moment
we know it to be inevitable.

Corinne, among her innocent stratagems to vary the amusements of Oswald,
had still in reserve the statues and the paintings. One day therefore,
when Oswald was perfectly restored, she proposed that they should go
together to see the most beautiful specimens of painting and sculpture
that Rome contains. "It is a reproach," said she to him, smiling, "not
to be acquainted with our statues and our pictures; so to-morrow we will
commence our tour of the museums and the galleries."--"It is your wish,"
answered Nelville, "and I agree. But in truth, Corinne, you have no
need of these foreign resources to retain me; on the contrary, it is a
sacrifice that I make whenever I turn my eyes from you to any object
whatever."

They went first to the Museum of the Vatican, that palace of statues
where the human figure is deified by Paganism, in the same manner as the
sentiments of the soul are now by Christianity. Corinne directed the
observation of Lord Nelville to those silent halls, where the images of
the gods and the heroes are assembled, and where the most perfect beauty
seems to enjoy itself in eternal repose. In contemplating these
admirable features and forms, the intentions of the Deity towards man,
seems, I know not how, to be revealed by the noble figure which He has
been pleased to give him. The soul is uplifted by this contemplation to
hopes full of enthusiasm and virtue; for beauty is one and the same
throughout the universe, and under whatever form it presents itself, it
always excites a religious emotion in the heart of man. What poetic
language, there is in those countenances where the most sublime
expression is for ever imprinted,--where the grandest thoughts are clad
with an image so worthy of them!

In some instances, an ancient sculptor only produced one statue during
his life--it was his whole history.--He perfected it every day: if he
loved, if he was beloved, if he received from nature or the fine arts
any new impression, he adorned the features of his hero with his
memories and affections: he could thus express to outward eyes all the
sentiments of his soul. The grief of our modern times, in the midst of
our cold and oppressive social conditions, contains all that is most
noble in man; and in our days, he who has not suffered, can never have
thought or felt. But there was in antiquity, something more noble than
grief--an heroic calm--the sense of conscious strength, which was
cherished by free and liberal institutions. The finest Grecian statues
have hardly ever indicated anything but repose. The Laocoon and Niobe
are the only ones which paint violent grief and pain; but it is the
vengeance of heaven which they represent, and not any passion born in
the human heart; the moral being was of so sound an organization among
the ancients, the air circulated so freely in their deep bosoms, and the
order politic was so much in harmony with their faculties, that troubled
minds hardly ever existed then, as at the present day. This state causes
the discovery of many fine ideas, but does not furnish the arts,
particularly sculpture, with those simple affections, those primitive
elements of sentiment, which can alone be expressed by eternal marble.
Hardly do we find any traces of melancholy; a head of Apollo, at the
Justinian palace, another of the dying Alexander, are the only ones in
which the thoughtful and suffering dispositions of the soul are
indicated; but according to all appearances they both belong to the time
when Greece was enslaved. Since that epoch, we no longer see that
boldness, nor that tranquillity of soul, which among the ancients, has
produced masterpieces of sculpture, and poetry composed in the same
spirit.

That thought which has nothing to nourish it from without, turns upon
itself, analyses, labours, and dives into every inward sentiment; but it
has no longer that creative power which supposes happiness, and that
plenitude of strength which happiness alone can give. Even the
sarcophagi, among the ancients, only recall warlike or pleasing ideas:
in the multitude of those which are to be found at the museum of the
Vatican, are seen battles and games represented in bas-relief on the
tombs. The remembrance of living activity was thought to be the finest
homage that could be rendered to the dead; nothing relaxed, nothing
diminished strength. Encouragement and emulation were the principles of
the fine arts as well as of politics; they afforded scope for every
virtue, and for every talent. The vulgar gloried in knowing how to
admire, and the worship of genius was served even by those who could not
aspire to its rewards.

The religion of Greece was not, like Christianity, the consolation of
misfortune, the riches of poverty, the future hope of the dying--it
sought glory and triumph;--in a manner it deified man: in this
perishable religion, beauty itself was a religious dogma. If the artists
were called to paint the base and ferocious passions, they rescued the
human form from shame, by joining to it, as in Fauns and Centaurs, some
traits of the animal figure; and in order to give to beauty its most
sublime character, they alternately blended in their statues (as in the
warlike Minerva and in the Apollo Musagetus), the charms of both
sexes--strength and softness, softness and strength; a happy mixture of
two opposite qualities, without which neither of the two would be
perfect.

Corinne, continuing her observations, retained Oswald some time before
those sleeping statues which are placed on the tombs, and which display
the art of sculpture in the most agreeable point of view. She pointed
out to him, that whenever statues are supposed to represent an action,
the arrested movement produces a sort of astonishment which is sometimes
painful. But statues asleep, or merely in the attitude of complete
repose, offer an image of eternal tranquillity which wonderfully accords
with the general effect of a southern climate upon man. The fine arts
appear there to be peaceful spectators of nature, and genius, which in
the north agitates the soul of man, seems beneath a beautiful sky, only
an added harmony.

Oswald and Corinne passed on to the hall where are collected together
the sculptured images of animals and reptiles; and the statue of
Tiberius is found, by chance, in the midst of this court. This
assemblage is without design. Those statues appear to have ranged
themselves of their own accord about their master. Another hall enclosed
the dull and rigid monuments of the Egyptians; of that people whose
statues resembled mummies more than men, and who by their silent, stiff,
and servile institutions, seem to have assimilated as much as possible,
life to death. The Egyptians excelled much more in the art of imitating
animals than in representing men: the dominion of the soul seems to have
been inaccessible to them.

After these come the porticos of the museum, where at each step is seen
a new masterpiece. Vases, altars, ornaments of every kind, encircle the
Apollo, the Laocoon, and the Muses. It is there that we learn to feel
Homer and Sophocles: it is there that a knowledge of antiquity is
awakened in the soul, which cannot be acquired elsewhere. It is in vain
that we trust to the reading of history to comprehend the spirit of
nations; what we see inspires us with more ideas than what we read, and
external objects cause in us a strong emotion, which gives that living
interest to the study of the past which we find in the observation of
contemporary facts and events.

In the midst of these magnificent porticos, which afford an asylum to so
many wonders of art, there are fountains, which, flowing incessantly,
seem to tell us how sweetly the hours glided away two thousand years
ago, when the artists who executed these masterpieces were yet alive.
But the most melancholy impression which we experience at the Vatican,
is in contemplating the remains of statues which are collected there:
the torso of Hercules, heads separated from the trunks, and a foot of
Jupiter, which indicates a greater and more perfect statue than any that
we know. We fancy a field of battle before us, where time has fought
with genius; and these mutilated limbs attest its victory, and our
losses.

After leaving the Vatican, Corinne conducted him to the Colossi of Mount
Cavallo; these two statues represent, as it is said, Castor and Pollux.
Each of the two heroes is taming with one hand a fiery steed. These
colossal figures, this struggle between man and the animal creation,
gives, like all the works of the ancients, an admirable idea of the
physical power of human nature. But this power has something noble in
it, which is no longer found in modern society, where all bodily
exercises are for the most part left to the common people. It is not
merely the animal force of human nature, if I may use the expression,
which is observable in these masterpieces. There seems to have been a
more intimate union between the physical and moral qualities among the
ancients, who lived incessantly in the midst of war, and a war almost of
man to man. Strength of body and generosity of soul, dignity of features
and boldness of character, loftiness of stature and commanding
authority, were ideas almost inseparable, before a religion, entirely
intellectual, had placed the power of man in his mind. The human figure,
which was also the figure of the gods, appeared symbolical; and the
nervous colossus of Hercules, as well as every other ancient statue of
this sort, do not convey vulgar ideas of common life; but an omnipotent
and divine will, which shews itself under the emblem of a supernatural
physical force.

Corinne and Lord Nelville finished the day with a visit to the studio of
Canova, the greatest modern sculptor. As it was late when they got
there, they were shewn it by torch light; and statues improve much in
their effect by being seen in this manner. The ancients appear to have
been of this opinion, since they often placed them in their Thermæ,
where day could not enter. By the light of the flambeaux, the shadows
being more full, the uniform lustre of the marble was softened, and the
statues appeared as so many pale figures, possessing a more touching
character of grace and life. There was, in the studio of Canova, an
admirable statue destined for a tomb, which represented the genius of
grief leaning upon a lion, the emblem of strength. Corinne, in
contemplating the figure of grief, thought she discovered in it some
resemblance to Oswald, and the artist himself was struck with it; Lord
Nelville turned about to avoid this kind of notice; but he said in a low
voice to his fair companion, "Corinne, I was condemned to a fate like
that which is here represented, when I met with you; but you have
changed my existence, and sometimes hope, and always an anxiety mixed
with charm, fills that heart which was to suffer nothing but regret."



Chapter iii.


The masterpieces of painting were then all collected together at Rome,
whose riches in this respect surpassed that of all the rest of the
world. There could exist only one disputable point as to the effect
produced by this collection, namely, whether the nature of the subjects
chosen by the Italian artists, afford a scope for all the variety and
all the originality of passion and character which painting can express?
Oswald and Corinne were of contrary opinions in this respect; but this,
like every other opposition of sentiment that existed between them, was
owing to the difference of nation, climate, and religion. Corinne
affirmed that the most favourable subjects for painting were religious
ones[26]. She said that sculpture was a Pagan art, and painting a
Christian one; and that in these arts were to be found, as in poetry,
the distinguishing qualities of ancient and modern literature. The
pictures of Michael Angelo, the painter of the Bible, and of Raphael,
the painter of the Gospel, suppose as much profound thought, as much
sensibility as are to be found in Shakespeare and Racine: sculpture can
only present a simple, energetic existence, whilst painting indicates
the mysteries of reflection and resignation, and makes the immortal soul
speak through transient colours. Corinne maintained also that historical
or poetical facts were rarely picturesque. In order to comprehend such
subjects, it would often be necessary to preserve the practice of
painters of old, and write the speech of each personage in a ribbon
proceeding out of the mouth. But religious subjects are instantly
understood by everybody, and attention is not removed from the picture
to guess what it represents.

Corinne was of opinion that the expression of modern painters was often
theatrical, and that it bore the stamp of their age, in which was no
longer found, as in Andrea Mantegna, Perugino, and Leonardo da Vinci,
the unity and simplicity which characterised the repose of the ancients;
a repose to which is joined that profundity of sentiment which is the
characteristic of Christianity. She admired the artless composition of
Raphael's pictures, especially those in his first manner. All the
figures are directed towards one principal object, without any
contrivance on the part of the artist to group them in various attitudes
in order to produce a laboured effect. Corinne said that this sincerity
in the arts of the imagination, as well as in every other, is the true
character of genius; and that studied efforts for fame are almost
always destructive of enthusiasm. She maintained that there was rhetoric
in painting as well as in poetry, and that all those who could not
embody character called every accessory ornament to their aid, uniting
rich costumes and remarkable attitudes to the attraction of a brilliant
subject, whilst a single Virgin holding a child in her arms, an
attentive old man in the Mass of Bolsena, a man leaning on his stick in
the School of Athens, or Saint Cecilia with her eyes lifted up to
heaven, produced the deepest effect by the expression of the countenance
alone. These natural beauties increase every day more and more in our
estimation; but on the contrary, in pictures done for effect, the first
glance is always the most striking.

Corinne added to these reflections an observation which strengthened
them: which was, that the religious sentiments of the Greeks and Romans,
and the disposition of their minds, being in every respect absolutely
foreign from ours, it is impossible for us to create according to their
conceptions, or to build upon their ground. They may be imitated by dint
of study; but how can genius employ all its energies in a work where
memory and erudition are so necessary? It is not the same with subjects
that belong to our own history and our own religion. Here the painter
himself may be inspired; he may feel what he paints, and paint what he
has seen. Life assists him to imagine life; but in transporting himself
to the regions of antiquity, his invention must be guided by books and
statues. To conclude, Corinne found that pictures from pious subjects,
impart a comfort to the soul that nothing could replace; and that they
suppose a sacred enthusiasm in the artist which blends with genius,
renovates, revives, and can alone support him against the injustice of
man and the bitterness of life.

Oswald received, in some respects, a different impression. In the first
place, he was scandalized to see the Deity represented as he is by
Michael Angelo, in human form and feature. It was his opinion that
thought dare not give Him shape and figure, and that hardly at the very
bottom of the soul could be found an idea sufficiently intellectual,
sufficiently ethereal to elevate it to the Supreme Being; as to subjects
taken from the Holy Scripture, it seemed to him that the expression and
the images left much to be desired. He thought, with Corinne, that
religious meditation is the most intimate sentiment that man can
experience; and in this respect, it is that which furnishes the painter
with the deepest mysteries of physiognomy and expression; but as
religion represses every emotion which does not proceed immediately from
the heart, the figures of the saints and martyrs cannot admit of much
variety. The sentiment of humility, so noble in the face of heaven,
weakens the energy of terrestrial passions and necessarily gives
monotony to most religious subjects. When Michael Angelo applied his
terrible genius to those subjects, he almost changed their essence by
giving to his prophets a formidable expression of power more becoming a
Jupiter than a Saint. He, like Dante, often avails himself of the images
of Paganism and blends the heathen mythology with the Christian
religion. One of the most admirable circumstances attending the
establishment of Christianity, is the lowly estate of the apostles who
have preached it, and the misery and debasement of the Jewish people, so
long the depositaries of the promises that announced the coming of
Christ. This contrast between the littleness of the means and the
greatness of the result, is in a moral point of view, extremely fine;
but in painting, which exhibits the means alone, Christian subjects must
be less dazzling than those taken from the heroic and fabulous ages.
Among the arts, music alone can be purely religious. Painting cannot be
confined to so abstract and vague an expression as that of sound. It is
true that the happy combination of colour, and of _chiaro-oscuro_
produces, if it may be so expressed, a musical effect in painting; but
as the latter represents life, it should express the passions in all
their energy and diversity. Undoubtedly it is necessary to choose among
historical facts, those which are sufficiently known not to require
study in order to comprehend them; for the effect produced by painting
ought to be immediate and rapid, like every other pleasure derived from
the fine arts; but when historical facts are as popular as religious
subjects, they have the advantage over them of the variety of situations
and sentiments which they recall.

Lord Nelville thought also, that scenes of tragedy and the most moving
poetical fictions, ought to claim a preference in painting, in order
that all the pleasures of the imagination and of the soul might be
united. Corinne combated this opinion, fascinating as it was. She was
convinced that the encroachment of one art upon another was mutually
injurious. Sculpture loses the advantages which are peculiar to it when
it aspires to represent a group of figures as in painting; painting when
it wishes to attain dramatic expression. The arts are limited in their
means, though boundless in their effects. Genius seeks not to combat
that which is in the essence of things; on the contrary, its superiority
consists in discovering it.--"As for you, my dear Oswald," said Corinne,
"you do not love the arts in themselves, but only on account of their
relation with mind and feeling. You are only sensible to that which
represents the sorrows of the heart. Music and poetry agree with this
disposition; whilst the arts which speak to the eyes, though their
signification be ideal, only please and interest us when the soul is
tranquil and the imagination entirely free; nor do we require, in order
to relish them, that gaiety which society inspires, but only the
serenity which beautiful weather and a fine climate diffuse over the
mind. We must be capable of feeling the universal harmony of nature in
those arts which represent external objects; this is impossible when the
soul is troubled, that harmony having been destroyed in us by
calamity."--"I know not," replied Oswald, "whether my taste in the fine
arts be confined to that alone which can recall the sufferings of the
soul; but I know, at least, that I cannot endure the representation of
physical pain. My strongest objection," continued he, "against Christian
subjects in painting, is the painful sensations excited in me by the
image of blood, wounds, and torture, notwithstanding the victims may
have been animated by the noblest enthusiasm. Philoctetus is perhaps the
only tragical subject in which bodily ills can be admitted. But with how
many poetical circumstances are his cruel pangs surrounded? They have
been caused by the arrows of Hercules. They will be healed by the son of
Æsculapius. In short, the wound is almost confounded with the moral
resentment produced in him who is struck, and cannot excite any
impression of disgust. But the figure of the boy possessed with a devil,
in Raphael's superb picture of the Transfiguration, is a disagreeable
image, and in no way possesses the dignity of the fine arts. They must
discover to us the charm of grief, as well as the melancholy of
prosperity; it is the ideal part of human destiny which they should
represent in each particular circumstance. Nothing torments the
imagination more than bloody wounds and nervous convulsions. It is
impossible in such pictures not to seek, and at the same time dread, to
find the exactness of the imitation. What pleasure can we receive from
that art which only consists in such an imitation; it is more horrible,
or less beautiful than nature herself, the moment it only aspires to
resemble her."

"You are right, my lord," said Corinne, "to wish that Christian subjects
were divested of painful images; they do not require them. But confess,
however, that genius, and the genius of the soul, can triumph over every
thing. Behold that picture of the Communion of St Jerome, by
Domenichino. The body of the dying saint is livid and gaunt: death has
seized upon it; but in that look is eternal life, and every earthly
misery seems produced here only to disappear before the pure lustre of a
religious sentiment. However, dear Oswald," continued Corinne, "though I
am not of your opinion in everything, I will shew you that even in
differing from one another there is some analogy of sentiment between
us. I have endeavoured to accomplish what you desire, in the gallery of
pictures which has been furnished me by those artists who were of my
acquaintance, among which are some designs of my own sketching. You will
there see the defects and the advantages of those subjects which you
prefer. This gallery is at my country seat at Tivoli. The weather is
fine enough to visit it.--Shall we go thither to-morrow?" As she awaited
Oswald's consent, he said to her: "My love, have you any doubt of my
answer? Have I in this world, any other pleasure, any other thought,
besides you? And is not my life, too free perhaps from any occupation,
as from every interest, solely taken up with the happiness of seeing and
hearing you?"

FOOTNOTE:

[26] In a journal entitled _Europe_, are to be found observations full
of information on subjects relating to painting: from this journal I
have extracted many of these reflections, which have just been read; Mr
Frederic Schlegel is the author of it, and this writer, as well as the
German thinkers in general, is an inexhaustible mine.



Chapter iv.


They set out therefore the next day for Tivoli. Oswald himself drove the
four horses that drew them; he took pleasure in their swiftness, which
seemed to increase the vivacity of thought and of existence; and such an
impression is sweet by the side of the object we love. He performed the
office of whip with the most extreme attention, for fear the slightest
accident should happen to Corinne. He felt the duties of a protector
which is the softest tie that binds man to woman. Corinne was not, like
most women, easily terrified by the possible dangers of a journey; but
it was so sweet to remark the solicitude of Oswald, that she almost
wished to be frightened, to enjoy the pleasure of, hearing him cheer and
comfort her.

That which gave Lord Nelville, as will be seen in the sequel, so great
an ascendancy over the heart of his mistress, was the unexpected
contrasts which gave a peculiar charm to his manners. Everybody admired
his intellect and the gracefulness of his figure; but he must have been
particularly interesting to one, who uniting in herself by a singular
accord, constancy and mobility, took delight in impressions, at once
various and faithful. Never did he think of anything but Corinne; and
this very occupation of his mind incessantly assumed different
characters: at one time he was governed by reserve, at another he was
open and communicative: one moment he was perfectly calm, and another a
prey to the most gloomy and bitter sensations, which proved the depth of
his sentiments, but mingled anxiety with confidence and incessantly gave
birth to new emotions. Oswald, internally agitated, endeavoured to
assume an external appearance of composure, and Corinne, occupied in
conjecturing his thoughts, found in this mystery a continual interest.
One would have said, that the very defects of Oswald were only made to
set off his agreeable qualities. No man, however distinguished, in whose
character there was no contradiction, who was subject to no internal
conflict, could have captivated the imagination of Corinne. She felt a
sort of awe of Oswald, which subjected her to him. He reigned over her
soul by a good and by an evil power; by his qualities, and by the
disquietude which these qualities, badly combined, could inspire: in
short there was no security in the happiness that Lord Nelville
conferred, and perhaps the violence of Corinne's passion was owing to
this; perhaps she could only love, to such a degree, him whom she feared
to lose. A superior mind, a sensibility as ardent as it was delicate,
might become weary of everything, except that truly extraordinary man,
whose soul, constantly agitated, seemed like the sky--sometimes serene,
sometimes covered with clouds. Oswald, always true, always of profound
and impassioned feelings, was nevertheless often ready to renounce the
object of his tenderness, because a long habit of mental pain made him
believe, that only remorse and suffering could be found in the too
exquisite affections of the heart.

Lord Nelville and Corinne, in their journey to Tivoli, passed before the
ruins of Adrian's palace, and the immense garden which surrounded it.
That prince had collected together in this garden, the most rare
productions, the most admirable masterpieces of those countries which
were conquered by the Romans. To this very day some scattered stones are
seen there, which are called _Egypt_, _India_, and _Asia_. Farther on
was the retreat, where Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, ended her days. She
did not support in adversity, the greatness of her destiny; she was
incapable of dying for glory like a man; or like a woman, dying rather
than betray her friend.

At length they discovered Tivoli, which was the abode of so many
celebrated men, of Brutus, of Augustus, of Mecenas, and of Catullus; but
above all, the abode of Horace, for it is his verse which has rendered
this retreat illustrious. The house of Corinne was built over the noisy
cascade of Teverone; at the top of the mountain, opposite her garden,
was the temple of the Sybil. It was a beautiful idea of the ancients, to
place their temples on the summits of high places. They majestically
presided over the surrounding country, as religious ideas over all other
thoughts. They inspired more enthusiasm for nature, by announcing the
Deity from which she emanates, and the eternal gratitude of successive
generations towards her. The landscape, from whatever point of view
considered, formed a picture with the temple, which was placed there as
the centre and the ornament of the whole. Ruins spread a singular charm
over the _campagna_ of Italy. They do not recall, like modern edifices,
the labour and the presence of man; they are confounded with nature and
the trees; they seem in harmony with the solitary torrent; they present
the image of time, which has made them what they are. The most beautiful
countries in the world, when they bring to mind no recollection, when
they bear the stamp of no remarkable event, are stripped of interest
when compared with historical countries. What place in Italy could be
more suitable for the habitation of Corinne than the retreat consecrated
to the sybil, to the memory of a woman, animated by divine inspiration.
The house of Corinne was delightful; it was ornamented with the elegance
of modern taste, and yet discovered the charm of an imagination
enamoured of the beauties of antiquity; happiness, in the most elevated
sense of the word, seemed to reign there; a felicity which consisted in
all that ennobles the soul, excites thought, and vivifies talent.

In walking with Corinne, Oswald perceived that the wind possessed an
harmonious sound, and filled the air with chords, which seemed to
proceed from the waving of the flowers, and the rustling of the trees,
and to give a voice to nature. Corinne told him that the wind produced
this harmony from the æolian harps, which she had placed in grottoes to
fill the air with sound, as well as perfumes. In this delicious abode,
Oswald was inspired with the purest sentiment.--"Hear me," said he to
Corinne; "till this moment I felt the happiness I derived from your
society blended with remorse; but now I say to myself, that you are sent
by my father to terminate my sufferings upon this earth. It is he that I
had offended; but it is, nevertheless, he who has obtained by his
prayers my pardon in heaven. Corinne!" cried he, throwing himself upon
his knees, "I am pardoned; I feel it in this sweet calm of innocence
which pervades my soul. Thou canst now, without apprehension, unite
thyself to me, nor fear that fate opposes our union."--"Well," said
Corinne, "let us continue to enjoy this peace of the heart which is
granted us. Let us not meddle with destiny: she inspires so much dread
when we wish to interfere with her, when we try to obtain from her more
than she will give! Since we are now happy, let us not desire a change!"

[Illustration: _Corinne showing Oswald her pictures._]

Lord Nelville was hurt at this answer of Corinne. He conceived she ought
to comprehend that he was ready to tell her every thing, to promise
every thing, if she would only confide to him her history; and this
manner of avoiding it gave him as much offence as apprehension; he did
not perceive that a sense of delicacy prevented Corinne from taking
advantage of his emotion, to bind him by an oath. Perhaps also, it is in
the nature of a profound and genuine passion, to dread a solemn moment,
however much desired, and to tremble at exchanging hope for happiness
itself. Oswald, far from judging in this manner, persuaded himself, that
although Corinne loved him, she wished to preserve her independence, and
intentionally deferred all that might lead to an indissoluble union.
This thought excited in him a painful irritation, and immediately
assuming a cold and reserved air, he followed Corinne to her gallery of
pictures, without uttering a word. She soon divined the impression she
had produced on him, but knowing his pride, she durst not impart to him
her observations; however, in showing him her pictures and discussing
general topics, she felt a vague hope of softening him, which gave to
her voice a more moving charm, even when uttering the most indifferent
words.

Her gallery was composed of historical pictures, paintings on poetical
and religious subjects, and landscapes. None of them was composed of a
very large number of figures. That style of painting undoubtedly
presents greater difficulties, but affords less pleasure. Its beauties
are too confused, or too minute. That unity of interest, which is the
vital principle of the arts, as well as anything else, is necessarily
divided and scattered. The first of the historical pictures represented
Brutus, in profound meditation, seated at the foot of the statue of
Rome. In the back ground, the slaves are carrying the lifeless bodies of
his two sons, whom he had condemned to death; and on the other side of
the picture, the mother and sisters appear plunged into an agony of
grief: women are, happily, divested of that courage, which can triumph
over the affections of the heart. The statue of Rome, placed by the
side of Brutus, is a beautiful idea; it speaks eloquently. Yet how can
any body know without an explanation, that it is the elder Brutus who
has just sent his sons to execution? Nevertheless, it is impossible to
characterise this event better than it is done in this picture. At a
distance the city of Rome is perceived in its ancient simplicity,
without edifices or ornaments, but full of patriotic grandeur, since it
could inspire such a sacrifice.--"Undoubtedly," said Corinne, "when I
have named Brutus, your whole soul will become fixed to this picture;
but still it would be possible to behold it without divining the subject
it represented. And does not this uncertainty, which almost always
exists in historical pictures, mingle the torment of an enigma with the
enjoyment of the fine arts, which ought to be so easy and so clear?

"I have chosen this subject because it recalls the most terrible action
that love of country has inspired. The companion to this picture is
Marius, spared by the Cimbrian, who cannot bring himself to kill this
great man; the figure of Marius is imposing; the costume of the Cimbrian
and the expression of his physiognomy, are very picturesque. It is the
second epoch of Rome, when laws no longer existed, but when genius still
exercised considerable influence upon circumstances. Then comes that era
when talents and fame were only objects of misfortune and insult. The
third picture which you see here, represents Belisarius, carrying on his
shoulders the body of his young guide, who died while asking alms for
him. Belisarius, blind and mendicant, is thus recompensed by his master;
and in the universe which he has conquered, he is employed in bearing to
the grave the remains of the poor boy who alone had not abandoned him.
This figure of Belisarius is admirable; another so fine is not to be
found in the modern school. The painter, with a truly poetical
imagination, has united here every species of misfortune, and perhaps
the picture is too dreadful even to awaken pity: but who tells us it is
Belisarius? to indicate him it should be faithful to history: but that
fidelity would deprive the subject of all its picturesque beauty.
Following these pictures which represent in Brutus, virtues approaching
to crime; in Marius, glory, the cause of calamity; in Belisarius,
services paid by the blackest persecutions; in short, every misery of
human destiny, which is recorded in the events of history, I have placed
two pictures of the old school, which a little relieve the oppressed
soul by recalling that religion which has consoled the enslaved and
distracted universe, that religion which stirred the depths of the heart
when all without was but oppression and silence. The first is by Albano;
he has painted the infant Jesus sleeping on a cross. Behold the
sweetness and calm of that countenance! What pure ideas it recalls; how
it convinces the soul that celestial love has nothing to fear, either
from affliction or death. The second picture is by Titian; the subject
is Christ sinking beneath the weight of the cross. His mother comes to
meet Him, and throws herself upon her knees on perceiving Him. Admirable
reverence in a mother for the misfortunes and divine virtues of her son!
What a look is that of our Redeemer, what a divine resignation in the
midst of suffering, and in this suffering what sympathy with the heart
of man! That is, doubtless, the finest of my pictures. It is that
towards which I incessantly turn my eyes, without ever being able to
exhaust the emotion which it inspires. Next come the dramatic pieces,"
continued Corinne, "taken from four great poets. Judge with me, my lord,
of the effect which they produce. The first represents Æneas in the
Elysian fields, when he wishes to approach Dido. The indignant shade
retires, rejoiced that she no longer carries in her bosom that heart
which would still beat with love at the aspect of her guilty paramour.
The vapoury colour of the shades and the paleness of the surrounding
scene, form a contrast with the life-like appearance of Æneas and of the
sybil who conducts him. But this kind of effect is an amusement of the
artist, and the description of the poet is necessarily superior to
anything that painting can produce. I will say as much of this picture
of Clorinda dying, and Tancred. The utmost pathos which it can excite,
is to call to our minds the beautiful lines of Tasso, when Clorinda
pardons her adoring enemy who has just pierced her breast. Painting
necessarily becomes subordinate to poetry, when devoted to subjects
which have been treated by great poets; for their words leave an
impression which effaces every other; the situations which they have
chosen almost ever derive their chief strength from the development of
the passions and their eloquence, whilst the greater part of picturesque
effects arises from a calm beauty, a simple expression, a noble
attitude, a moment of repose, worthy of being indefinitely prolonged
without ever wearying the eye.

"Your terrible Shakespeare, my lord," continued Corinne, "has furnished
the subject of the third dramatic picture--it is Macbeth,--the
invincible Macbeth--who, ready to fight Macduff, whose wife and children
he has put to death, learns that the oracle of the witches is
accomplished, that Birnam Wood is advancing to Dunsinane, and that he is
fighting a man who was born after the death of his mother. Macbeth is
conquered by fate, but not by his adversary.--He grasps the sword with a
desperate hand;--he knows that he is about to die;--but wishes to try
whether human strength cannot triumph over destiny. There is certainly
in this head, a fine expression of wildness and fury--of trouble and of
energy; but how many poetical beauties do we miss? Is it possible to
paint Macbeth plunged in guilt by the spells of ambition, which offer
themselves to him under the shape of witchcraft? How can painting
express the terror which he feels? That terror, however, which is not
inconsistent with intrepid bravery? Is it possible to characterise that
peculiar species of superstition which oppresses him? That belief
without dignity, that hell-born fatality which weighs him down, his
contempt of life, his horror of death? Undoubtedly the human countenance
is the greatest of mysteries; but the motionless physiognomy of a
painting can never express more than the workings of a single sentiment.
Contrasts, conflicts of the mind, events, in short, belong to the
dramatic art. Painting can with difficulty render a succession of
events: time and movement exist not for it.

"The Phèdre of Racine has furnished the subject of the fourth picture,"
said Corinne, showing it to Lord Nelville.--"Hippolitus, in all the
beauty of youth and innocence, repels the perfidious accusations of his
step-mother; the hero, Theseus, still protects his guilty spouse, whom
he encircles with his conquering arm. There is in the countenance of
Phèdre, a trouble which freezes the soul with horror; and her nurse,
without remorse, encourages her in her guilt. Hippolitus in this picture
is perhaps more beautiful than even in Racine; he resembles more the
ancient Meleager, because no love for Aricia disturbs the impression of
his wild and noble virtue; but is it possible to suppose that Phèdre, in
the presence of Hippolitus, can support her falsehood? Is it possible
that she can behold him innocent and persecuted without falling at his
feet? An offended woman may wrong the object of her affection in his
absence; but when she sees him, her heart is wholly absorbed in love.
The poet has never put Phèdre and Hippolitus in the same scene after the
former has calumniated the latter; the painter has been obliged to do so
in order to bring together, as he has done in his picture, all the
beauties of the contrast; but is not this a proof that there is such a
difference between poetical and picturesque subjects that it would be
better for the poets to write from pictures, than for the painters to
compose their works from the poets? The history of the human mind proves
to us that imagination must always precede thought."

Whilst Corinne was thus explaining her pictures to Lord Nelville, she
had stopped several times, in the hope that he would speak to her; but
his wounded soul did not betray itself by a single word; whenever she
expressed a feeling idea he only sighed and turned his head, in order
that she might not see how easily he was affected in his present state
of mind. Corinne, overcome by this silence, sat down and covered her
face with her hands--Lord Nelville for some time walked about the room
with a hurried step, then approaching Corinne, was about to betray his
feelings; but the invincible pride of his nature repressed his emotion,
and he returned to the pictures as if he were waiting for Corinne to
finish showing them. Corinne expected much from the effect of the last
of all; and making an effort in her turn to appear calm, she arose and
said, "My lord, I have yet three landscapes to show you--two of them are
allied to very interesting ideas. I am not fond of those rustic scenes
which are as dull in painting as idylls, when they make no allusion to
fable or to history. I am most pleased with the manner of Salvator Rosa,
who represents, as you see in this picture, a rock with torrents and
trees, without a single living creature, without even a bird recalling
an idea of life. The absence of man in the midst of natural scenes,
excites deep reflection. What would the earth be in this state of
solitude? A work without an aim; and yet a work so beautiful, the
mysterious impression of which would be addressed to the Divinity alone!

"We are come at last to the two pictures in which, according to my
opinion, history and poetry are happily blended with landscape[27]. One
represents the moment when Cincinnatus is invited by the consuls to
leave the plough, in order to take the command of the Roman armies. In
this landscape you behold all the luxury of the South, its abundant
vegetation, its burning sky, the smiling aspect of all nature,
discoverable even in the plants themselves; and that other picture which
forms a contrast with this, is the son of Cairbar asleep upon the tomb
of his father.--For three days and three nights he has awaited the
arrival of the bard who is to honour the memory of the dead. This bard
is perceived at a distance descending the mountain; the shade of the
father hovers in the clouds; the country is covered with hoar frost; the
trees, though naked, are agitated by the wind, and their dead branches
and dried leaves, still follow the current of the storm."

Till then, Oswald had been influenced by resentment at what had taken
place in the garden; but on beholding this picture, the tomb of his
father and the mountains of Scotland appeared to his mind, and his eyes
were filled with tears. Corinne took her harp, and before this picture,
began to sing one of those Scotch ballads whose simple notes seem to
accompany the noise of the wind, mournfully complaining through the
valleys. She sang the farewell of a warrior quitting his native land and
his mistress; and the word, _no more_, one of the most harmonious and
touching in the English language, was pronounced by Corinne with the
most moving expression. Oswald sought not to resist his emotion, and
both yielded without restraint to their tears.--"Ah!" cried Lord
Nelville, "does my native country speak no language to thy heart?
Wouldst thou follow me into those retreats, peopled by my recollections?
Wouldst thou be the worthy companion of my life, as thou art its sole
charm and delight?"--"I believe so," replied Corinne--"I believe so; for
I love thee!"--"In the name of love then, no longer conceal anything
from me," said Oswald.--"I consent," interrupted Corinne; "since it is
thy wish. My promise is given; I only make one condition, which is, that
thou wilt not exact it of me before the approaching epoch of our
religious ceremonies. Will not the support of heaven be more than ever
necessary to me at the moment when my fate is about to be decided?"--"No
more," cried Lord Nelville, "if that fate depend upon me, it is no
longer doubtful."--"Thou thinkest so," replied she; "I have not the same
confidence; but, in a word, I intreat thee show that condescension to my
weakness which I request."--Oswald sighed, without either granting or
refusing the delay required.--"Let us now return to town," said Corinne.
"How can I conceal anything from thee in this solitude? And if what I
have to relate must divide us, ought I so soon--Let us go, Oswald--thou
wilt return hither again, happen what may: my ashes will find rest
here." Oswald, much affected, obeyed Corinne. He returned to the city
with her, and scarcely a word passed between them upon the road. From
time to time they looked at each other with an affection that said
everything; but nevertheless, a sentiment of melancholy reigned in the
depths of their souls when they arrived in the midst of Rome.

FOOTNOTE:

[27] The historical pictures which compose the gallery of Corinne, are
either from copies or originals of the Brutus of _David_, the Maurius of
_Drouet_, and the Belisarius of _Gerard_; among the other pictures
mentioned, that of Dido was done by _M. Rehberg_, a German painter; that
of Clorinda, is in the gallery of Florence; that of Macbeth, is in an
English collection of pictures from Shakespeare; and that of Phèdre, is
by _Guérin_; lastly, the two landscapes of Cincinnatus and Ossian, are
at Rome, and were done by Mr Wallis, an English painter.



Book ix.

THE POPULAR FESTIVAL, AND MUSIC.



Chapter i.


It was the last day of carnival, which is the most noisy festival of the
year, when a fever of joy, a mania of amusement, unparalleled in any
other country, seized the Roman people. Everybody is disguised; hardly
does there remain at the windows, an unmasked spectator: the scene of
gaiety commences at a given hour on a certain day, and scarcely ever
does any public or private event of the year hinder any person from
joining the sports of the season.

It is then that we can form a judgment of the extent of imagination
possessed by the common people. The Italian language, even in their
mouths, is full of charm. Alfieri said that he went to the public market
at Florence to learn to speak good Italian,--Rome has the same
advantages: and perhaps these are the only two cities in the world where
the people speak so well that the mind may receive entertainment at
every corner of the street.

That kind of humour which shines in the authors of harlequinades and
opera-buffa, is very commonly found even among men without education. In
these days of carnival, when extravagance and caricature are admitted,
the most comic scenes take place between the masks.

Often a burlesque gravity is contrasted with the vivacity of the
Italians; and one would say that these fantastic vestments inspired a
dignity in the wearers, not natural to them; at other times, they
manifest such a singular knowledge of mythology in their disguises, that
we would be inclined to believe the ancient fables still popular in
Rome; and more frequently they ridicule different gradations of society
with a pleasantry full of force and originality. The nation appears a
thousand times more distinguished in its sports than in its history. The
Italian language yields to every shade of gaiety with a facility which
only requires a light inflection of the voice and a little difference of
termination in order to increase or diminish, ennoble or travesty, the
sense of words. It is particularly graceful in the mouth of
children[28]. The innocence of this age and the natural malice of the
language, form an exquisite contrast. In truth, it may be said, that it
is a language which explains itself without any aid and always appears
more intellectual than he who speaks it.

There is neither luxury nor good taste in the feast of carnival; a kind
of universal petulance makes it resemble the bacchanals of the
imagination; but in imagination only is this resemblance, for the Romans
are in general very sober, and except the last day of carnival,
tolerably serious. We often make sudden discoveries of every sort in the
character of the Italians, and this is what contributes to give them the
reputation of being subtle and crafty.--There is, undoubtedly, a strong
habit of dissimulation in this country, which has supported so many
different yokes; but it is not to dissimulation that we must always
attribute the rapid transition from one manner of being to another. An
inflammable imagination is often the cause of it. The character of a
people who are only rational or witty, may be easily understood and will
not suddenly surprise us, but all that belongs to the imagination is
unexpected. It leaps over intermediate barriers, it is often hurt at
nothing, and frequently indifferent to that which ought most to affect
it. In fact, it is a law unto itself, and we can never calculate its
impressions from their causes.

For example, we cannot comprehend what amusement the Roman nobility find
in riding in their carriages from one end of the _corso_ to the other
for whole hours together, as well during the carnival as on the other
days of the year. Nothing ever diverts them from this custom. There are
also among the masks, men who saunter about with every appearance of
weariness, in the most ridiculous costume imaginable, and
who--melancholy harlequins and silent punchinellos,--do not say a word
the whole evening, but appear, if it may be so expressed, to have
satisfied their carnival conscience by having neglected nothing to be
merry.

We find at Rome a certain species of mask which is not seen elsewhere:
masks formed after the figures of the ancient statues, and which at a
distance imitate the most perfect beauty--the women often lose greatly
by removing them. But nevertheless this motionless imitation of life,
these stalking wax countenances, however pretty they may be, have
something terrifying in them. The great nobles make a tolerably grand
display of carriages on the last days of the carnival; but the pleasure
of this festival is the crowd and the confusion: it seems like a relic
of the _Saturnalia_; every class in Rome is mixed together. The most
grave magistrates ride with official dignity in the midst of the masks;
every window is decorated. The whole town is in the streets: it is truly
a popular festival. The pleasure of the people consists neither in the
shows nor the feasts that are given them, nor the magnificence they
witness. They commit no excess either in drinking or eating: their
recreation is to be set at liberty, and to find themselves among the
nobility, who on their side are pleased at being among the people. It is
especially the refinement and delicacy of amusements as well as the
perfection of education, that places a barrier between different classes
of people. But in Italy this distinction of rank is not very sensible;
the country is more characterised by the natural talent and imagination
of all, than by the extraordinary cultivation of the upper classes.
There is therefore, pending carnival, a complete confusion of ranks, of
manners, and of sentiments: the crowd, the cries, the wit, and the
comfits with which they inundate without distinction the carriages as
they pass along, confound every mortal together and set the nation
pell-mell, as if social order no longer existed.

Corinne and Lord Nelville, both buried in thought, arrived in the midst
of this tumult. They were at first almost stunned; for nothing appears
more singular than this activity of noisy pleasures, when the soul is
entirely absorbed in itself. They stopped at the Piazza del Popolo to
ascend the amphitheatre near the obelisk, whence is seen the race
course. At the moment they got out of their calash, the Count d'Erfeuil
perceived them and took Oswald aside to speak to him.

"It is not right," said he, "to show yourself in this public manner,
arriving from the country alone with Corinne; you will compromise her
character, then what will you do?" "I do not think," answered Nelville,
"that I compromise the character of Corinne by showing the attachment
she inspires me with. But even were that true, I should be too happy if
the devotion of my life--" "As to your being happy," interrupted the
Count, "I do not believe it;" people can only be happy in acting
becomingly. Society, think as you may, has much influence "upon our
happiness, and we should never do what it disapproves."--"We should then
never be guided by our own thoughts and our own feelings, but live
entirely for society," replied Oswald. "If it be so, if we are
constantly to imitate one another, to what purpose was a soul and an
understanding given to each? Providence might have spared this
superfluity."--"That is very well said," replied the Count, "very
philosophically thought; but people ruin themselves by these kind of
maxims, and when love is gone, the censure of opinion remains. I, who
appear to possess levity, would never do any thing to draw upon me the
disapprobation of the world. We may indulge in trifling liberties, in
agreeable pleasantries which announce an independent manner of thinking,
provided we do not carry it into action; for when it becomes serious--"
"But the serious consequences are love and happiness," answered Lord
Nelville.--"No, no;" interrupted the Count d'Erfeuil, "that is not what
I wish to say; there are certain established rules of propriety, which
one must not brave, on pain of passing for an eccentric man, a man--in
fact, you understand me--for a man who is not like others."--Lord
Nelville smiled, and without being in the least vexed; for he was by no
means pained with these remarks; he rallied the Count upon his frivolous
severity; he felt with secret satisfaction that for the first time, on a
subject which caused him so much emotion, the Count did not possess the
least influence over him. Corinne, at a distance, conjectured what was
passing; but the smile of Nelville restored tranquillity to her heart,
and this conversation of the Count d'Erfeuil, far from embarrassing
Oswald or his fair companion, only inspired them with a temper of mind
more in harmony with the scene before them.

The horse-racing was about to begin. Lord Nelville expected to see
races like those of England; but what was his surprise, when informed
that only little Barbary horses without riders were to run against each
other. This sight excites the attention of the Romans in a singular
manner. The moment it is about to commence, all the crowd arrange
themselves on each side of the way. The Piazza del Popolo, which was
covered with people, is empty in a moment. Each one ascends the
amphitheatres which surround the obelisk, and innumerable multitudes of
heads and dark eyes are turned towards the barrier from which the horses
are to start.

They arrive without bridle or saddle, with merely a rich cloth thrown
over their backs, and led by extremely well-dressed grooms, who take a
most passionate interest in their success. The horses are placed behind
the barrier and their ardour to clear it is extreme. At every moment
they are held back; they prance, they neigh, they clatter with their
feet, as if they were impatient of a glory which they are about to
obtain themselves without the guidance of man. This impatience of the
horses and the shouts of the grooms at the moment when the barrier
falls, produce a fine dramatic effect. The horses start, the grooms cry
"Stand back! Stand back!" with inexpressible transport. They accompany
the horses with their voice and gestures till they are out of sight. The
horses seem inspired with the same emulation as men. The pavement
sparkles beneath their feet; their manes fly in the air, and their
desire, thus left to their own efforts, of winning the prize is such,
that there have been some who, on arriving at the goal, have died from
the swiftness with which they have run. It is astonishing to see these
freed horses thus animated with personal passions; it almost induces a
belief that thought exists beneath this animal form. The crowd break
their ranks when the horses are gone by, and follow them in disorder.
They reach the Venetian palace which serves for the goal. Never was
anything like the cries of the grooms whose horses are victors. He who
had gained the first prize, threw himself on his knees before his
horse[29], and thanked him, recommending him to the protection of St
Anthony, the patron of animals, with an enthusiasm as serious as it was
comic to the spectators.

It is generally the close of day when the races finish. Then commences
another kind of amusement, much less picturesque, but also very noisy.
The windows are illuminated. The guards abandon their post to mix in the
general joy[30]. Each one then takes a little torch called a _moccolo_,
and they seek mutually to extinguish each other's light, repeating the
word _ammazzare_ (kill) with a formidable vivacity. _Che la Bella
Principessa sia ammazata! Che il signore abbate sia ammazata!_ (Let the
fair princess be killed, let the abbot be killed!) is shouted from one
end of the street to the other. The crowd, become emboldened, because at
this hour horses and carriages are forbidden, hurl themselves in all
directions. At length there is no other pleasure than that of tumult and
disorder. In the meantime night advances, the noise ceases by degrees--a
profound silence succeeds, and there only remains of this evening the
confused idea of a dream, in which the people had forgotten for a moment
their labour, the learned their studies, and the nobility their
idleness.

FOOTNOTES:

[28] I asked a little Tuscan girl which was the handsomer, she or her
sister? "Ah!" answered she, "_Il più bel viso è il mio_;"--Mine is the
most beautiful face.

[29] An Italian postillion, whose horse was dying, prayed for him,
saying. "_O Sant' Antonio, abbiate pietà dell' anima sua_;"--O Saint
Anthony, have mercy on his soul!

[30] Goëthe has a description of the carnival at Rome, which gives a
faithful and animated picture of that festival.



Chapter ii.


Oswald, since his calamity, had not found spirits to seek the pleasure
of music. He dreaded those ravishing strains so soothing to melancholy,
but which inflict pain, when we are oppressed by real grief. Music
awakens those bitter recollections which we are desirous to appease.
When Corinne sang, Oswald listened to the words she uttered; he
contemplated the expression of her countenance, it was she alone that
occupied him; but if in the streets of an evening, several voices were
joined, as it frequently happens in Italy, to sing the fine airs of the
great masters, he at first endeavoured to listen, and then retired,
because the emotion it excited, at once so exquisite and so indefinite,
renewed his pain. However, there was a magnificent concert to be given
in the theatre at Rome, which was to combine the talents of all the best
singers. Corinne pressed Lord Nelville to accompany her to this concert,
and he consented, expecting that his feelings would be softened and
refined by the presence of her he loved.

On entering her box, Corinne was immediately recognised, and the
remembrance of the Capitol adding to the interest which she usually
inspired, the theatre resounded with applause. From every part of the
house they cried, "Long live Corinne!" and the musicians themselves,
electrified by this general emotion, began to play victorious strains;
for men are led to associate triumph of every sort with war and battle.
Corinne was intimately affected with these universal tokens of
admiration and respect. The music, the applause, the _bravos_, and that
indefinable impression, which a multitude of people expressing one
sentiment always produces, awakened those feelings which, in spite of
her efforts to conceal them, appeared in her eyes suffused with tears,
and the palpitation of her heart equally visible. Oswald, jealous of
this emotion, approached her, saying in a low voice,--"It would be a
pity madam to snatch you from this brilliant popularity, it is certainly
equal to love, since it produces the same effect in your heart."--Having
spoken thus, he retired to the further end of the box without waiting
for any reply. These words produced the most cruel agitation in the
bosom of Corinne, and in a moment destroyed all the pleasure she
received from these expressions of applause, which principally gave her
delight because they were witnessed by Oswald.

The concert began--he who has not heard Italian singing can have no idea
of music! Italian voices are so soft and sweet, that they recall at once
the perfume of flowers, and the purity of the sky. Nature has destined
the music for the climate: one is like a reflection of the other. The
world is the work of one mind, expressed in a thousand different forms.
The Italians, during a series of ages, have been enthusiastically fond
of music. Dante, in his poem of purgatory, meets with one of the best
singers of his age; being entreated, he sings one of his delicious airs,
and the ravished spirits are lulled into oblivion of their sufferings,
until recalled by their guardian angel. The Christians, as well as the
pagans, have extended the empire of music beyond the grave. Of all the
fine arts, it is that which produces the most immediate effect upon the
soul. The others are directed to some particular idea; but this appeals
to the intimate source of our existence, and entirely changes our inmost
soul. What is said of Divine Grace, which suddenly transforms the heart,
may humanly speaking be applied to the power of melody; and among the
presentiments of the life to come, those which spring from music are
not to be despised.

Even the gaiety which the comic music of Italy is so well calculated to
excite, is not of that vulgar description which does not speak to the
imagination. At the very bottom of the mirth which it excites, will be
found poetical sensations and an agreeable reverie, which mere verbal
pleasantry never could inspire. Music is so fleeting a pleasure, that it
glides away almost at the same time we feel it, in such a manner, that a
melancholy impression is mingled with the gaiety which it excites; but
when expressive of grief, it also gives birth to a sweet sentiment. The
heart beats more quickly while listening to it, and the satisfaction
caused by the regularity of the measure, by reminding us of the brevity
of time, points out the necessity of enjoying it. You no longer feel any
void, any silence, around you; life is filled; the blood flows quickly;
you feel within you that motion which gives activity to life, and you
have no fear of the external obstacles with which it is beset.

Music redoubles the ideas which we possess of the faculties of the soul;
when listening to it we feel capable of the noblest efforts. Animated by
music, we march to the field of death with enthusiasm. This divine art
is happily incapable of expressing any base sentiment, any artifice, any
falsehood. Calamity itself, in the language of music, is stript of its
bitterness; it neither irritates the mind nor rends the heart. Music
gently raises that weight which almost constantly oppresses the heart
when we are formed for deep and serious affections; that weight which
sometimes becomes confounded with the very sense of our existence, so
habitual is the pain which it causes. It seems to us in listening to
pure and delectable sounds, that we are about to seize the secret of
the Creator, and penetrate the mystery of life. No language can express
this impression, for language drags along slowly behind primitive
impressions, as prose translators behind the footsteps of poets. It is
only a look that can give some idea of it; the look of an object you
love, long fixed upon you, and penetrating by degrees so deeply into
your heart, that you are at length obliged to cast down your eyes to
escape a happiness so intense, that, like the splendour of another life,
it would consume the mortal being who should presume stedfastly to
contemplate it.

The admirable exactness of two voices perfectly in harmony produces, in
the duets of the great Italian masters, a melting delight which cannot
be prolonged without pain. It is a state of pleasure too exquisite for
human nature; and the soul then vibrates like an instrument which a too
perfect harmony would break. Oswald had obstinately kept at a distance
from Corinne during the first part of the concert; but when the duet
began, with faintly-sounding voices, accompanied by wind instruments,
whose sounds were more pure than the voices themselves, Corinne covered
her face with her handkerchief, entirely absorbed in emotion; she wept,
but without suffering--she loved, and was undisturbed by any fear.
Undoubtedly the image of Oswald was present to her heart; but this image
was mingled with the most noble enthusiasm, and a crowd of confused
thoughts wandered over her soul: it would have been necessary to limit
these thoughts in order to render them distinct. It is said that a
prophet traversed seven different regions of heaven in a minute. He who
could thus conceive all that an instant might contain, must surely have
felt the sublime power of music by the side of the object he loved.
Oswald felt this power, and his resentment became gradually appeased.
The feelings of Corinne explained and justified everything; he gently
approached her, and Corinne heard him breathing by her side in the most
enchanting passage of this celestial music. It was too much--the most
pathetic tragedy could not have excited in her heart so much sensation
as this intimate sentiment of profound emotion which penetrated them
both at the same time, and which each succeeding moment, each new sound,
continually exalted. The words of a song have no concern in producing
this emotion--they may indeed occasionally excite some passing
reflection on love or death; but it is the indefinite charm of music
which blends itself with every feeling of the soul; and each one thinks
he finds in this melody, as in the pure and tranquil star of night, the
image of what he wishes for on earth.

"Let us retire," said Corinne; "I feel ready to faint." "What ails you?"
said Oswald, with uneasiness; "you grow pale. Come into the open air
with me; come." They went out together. Corinne, leaning on the arm of
Oswald, felt her strength revive from the consciousness of his support.
They both approached a balcony, and Corinne, with profound emotion, said
to her lover, "Dear Oswald, I am about to leave you for eight days."
"What do you tell me?" interrupted he. "Every year," replied she, "at
the approach of Holy Week, I go to pass some time in a convent, to
prepare myself for the solemnity of Easter." Oswald advanced nothing in
opposition to this intention; he knew that at this epoch, the greater
part of the Roman ladies gave themselves up to the most rigid devotion,
without however on that account troubling themselves very seriously
about religion during the rest of the year; but he recollected that
Corinne professed a different worship to his, and that they could not
pray together. "Why are you not," cried he, "of the same religion as
myself?" Having pronounced this wish, he stopped short. "Have not our
hearts and minds the same country?" answered Corinne. "It is true,"
replied Oswald; "but I do not feel less painfully all that separates
us." They were then joined by Corinne's friends; but this eight days'
absence so oppressed his heart that he did not utter a word during the
whole evening.



Chapter iii.


Oswald visited Corinne at an early hour, uneasy at what she had said to
him. He was received by her maid, who gave him a note from her mistress
informing him that she had entered the convent on that same morning,
agreeably to the intention of which he had been apprised by her, and
that she should not be able to see him until after Good Friday. She
owned to him that she could not find courage to make known her intention
of retiring so soon, in their conversation the evening before. This was
an unexpected stroke to Oswald. That house, which the absence of Corinne
now rendered so solitary, made the most painful impression upon his
mind; he beheld her harp, her books, her drawings, all that habitually
surrounded her; but she herself was no longer there. The recollection of
his father's house struck him--he shuddered and, unable to support
himself, sunk into a chair.

"In such a way as this," cried he, "I might learn her death! That mind,
so animated, that heart, throbbing with life, that dazzling form, in all
the freshness of vernal bloom, might be crushed by the thunderbolt of
fate, and the tomb of youth would be silent as that of age. Ah! what an
illusion is happiness! What a fleeting moment stolen from inflexible
Time, ever watching for his prey! Corinne! Corinne! you must not leave
me; it was the charm of your presence which deprived me of reflection;
all was confusion in my thoughts, dazzled as I was by the happy moments
which I passed with you. Now I am alone--now I am restored to myself,
and all my wounds are opened afresh." He invoked Corinne with a kind of
despair which could not be attributed to her short absence, but to the
habitual anguish of his heart, which Corinne alone could assuage.
Corinne's maid, hearing the groans of Oswald, entered the room and,
touched with the manner in which he was affected by the absence of her
mistress, said to him, "My lord, let me comfort you; I hope my dear lady
will pardon me for betraying her secret. Come into my room, and you
shall see your portrait." "My portrait!" cried he. "Yes; she has painted
it from memory," replied Theresa (that was the name of Corinne's maid);
"she has risen at five o'clock in the morning this week past, in order
to finish it before she went to the convent."

Oswald saw this portrait, which was a striking likeness and most
elegantly executed: this proof of the impression which he had made on
Corinne penetrated him with the sweetest emotion. Opposite this portrait
was a charming picture, representing the Blessed Virgin--and before this
picture was the oratory of Corinne. This singular mixture of love and
religion is common to the greater part of Italian women, attended with
circumstances more extraordinary than in the apartment of Corinne; for
free and unrestrained as was her life, the remembrance of Oswald was
united in her mind with the purest hopes and purest sentiments; but to
place thus the resemblance of a lover opposite an emblem of divinity,
and to prepare for a retreat to a convent by consecrating a week to
paint that resemblance, was a trait that characterised Italian women in
general rather than Corinne in particular. Their kind of devotion
supposes more imagination and sensibility than seriousness of mind and
seventy of principles;--nothing could be more contrary to Oswald's
religious ideas; yet how could he find fault with Corinne, at the very
moment when he received so affecting a proof of her love?

He minutely surveyed this chamber, which he now entered for the first
time: at the head of Corinne's bed he saw the portrait of an elderly
man, whose physiognomy was not Italian; two bracelets were hanging near
this portrait, one formed of dark and light hair twisted together; the
other was of the most lovely flaxen, and what appeared a most remarkable
effect of chance, perfectly resembled that of Lucilia Edgermond, which
he had observed very attentively three years ago on account of its
extreme beauty. Oswald contemplated these bracelets without uttering a
word, for to interrogate Theresa he felt to be unworthy of him. But
Theresa, fancying she guessed Oswald's thoughts, and wishing to remove
from his mind every jealous suspicion, hastened to inform him that
during eleven years that she had waited on Corinne, her mistress had
always worn these bracelets, and that she knew they were composed of the
hair of her father and mother, and that of her sister. "You have been
eleven years with Corinne," said Lord Nelville; "you know then--"
blushing, he suddenly checked himself, ashamed of the question he was
about to put, and quitted the house immediately, to avoid saying another
word.

In going away, he turned about several times to behold the windows of
Corinne, and when he had lost sight of her habitation, he felt a sadness
now new to him--that which springs from solitude. In the evening, he
sought to dissipate his melancholy by joining a distinguished assembly
in Rome; for to find a charm in reverie, we must in our happy as well as
in our clouded moments, be at peace with ourselves.

The party he visited was soon insupportable to Lord Nelville, inasmuch
as it made him feel more sensibly all the charms that Corinne could
diffuse through society, by observing the void caused by her absence. He
essayed to converse with some ladies, who answered him in that insipid
phraseology which is established to avoid the true expression of our
sentiments and opinions, if those who use it have anything of this sort
to conceal. He approached several groups of gentlemen who seemed by
their voice and gesture to be discoursing upon some important subject;
he heard them discussing the most trivial topic in the most common
manner. He then sat down to contemplate at his ease, that vivacity
without motive and without aim which is found in most numerous
assemblies; nevertheless, mediocrity in Italy is by no means
disagreeable; it has little vanity, little jealousy, and much respect
for superiority of mind; and if it fatigues with its dulness, it hardly
ever offends by its pretensions.

It was in these very assemblies, however, that Oswald had found so much
to interest him a few days before; the slight obstacle which the company
opposed to his conversation with Corinne,--the speedy opportunity which
she took to return to him as soon as she had been sufficiently polite to
the rest of the circle,--the similarity of sentiment which existed
between them in the observations which the company suggested,--the
pleasure which Corinne took when discoursing in Oswald's presence, to
address indirectly to him some reflection of which he alone comprehended
the true meaning, had attached such recollections to every part of this
very room, that Oswald had been deluded so far as to believe that there
was something amusing in these assemblies themselves. "Ah!" said he,
when departing, "it was here as every where else--she was the life of
the scene; let me rather seek the most desert spot till she return. I
shall feel her absence less bitterly when there is nothing about me
bearing the resemblance of pleasure."



Book x.

HOLY WEEK.

[Illustration]



Chapter i.


Oswald passed the following day in the gardens of some monasteries. He
went first to that of the Carthusians, and stopped some time before he
entered, to contemplate two Egyptian lions which are at a little
distance from the gate. Those lions have a remarkable expression of
strength and repose; there is something in their physiognomy belonging
neither to the animal nor the man: they seem one of the forces of nature
and enable us to form a conception how the gods of the Pagan theology
might be represented under this emblem.

The Carthusian monastery is built upon the ruins of the Thermæ of
Diocletian; and the church by the side of the monastery, is decorated
with such of its granite columns as remained standing. The monks who
inhabit this retreat are very eager to show them, and the interest they
take in these ruins seems to be the only one they feel in this world.
The mode of life observed by the Carthusians, supposes in them either a
very limited mind, or the most noble and continued elevation of
religious sentiments; this succession of days without any variety of
event, reminds us of that celebrated line:

     Sur les mondes détruits le Temple dort immobile.

     _The Temple sleeps motionless on the ruins of worlds_.

The whole employment of their life serves but to contemplate death.
Activity of mind, with such an uniformity of existence, would be a most
cruel torment. In the midst of the cloister grow four cypresses. This
dark and silent tree, which is with difficulty agitated by the wind,
introduces no appearance of motion into this abode. Near the cypresses
is a fountain, scarcely heard, whose fall is so feeble and slow, that
one would be led to call it the clepsydra of this solitude, where time
makes so little noise. Sometimes the moon penetrates it with her pale
lustre, and her absence and return may be considered as an event in this
monotonous scene.

Those men who exist thus, are nevertheless the same to whom war and all
its bustle would scarcely suffice if they had been brought up to it.

The different combinations of human destiny upon earth afford an
inexhaustible source of reflection. A thousand accidents pass, and a
thousand habits are formed in the interior of the soul, which make every
individual a world and the subject of a history. To know another
perfectly, would be the task of a whole life; what is it then that we
understand by knowing men? To govern them is practicable by human
wisdom, but to comprehend them belongs to God alone.

From the Carthusian monastery Oswald repaired to that of St Bonaventure,
built upon the ruins of the palace of Nero; there, where so many crimes
have been committed without remorse, poor monks, tormented by scruples
of conscience, impose upon themselves the most cruel punishment for the
slightest fault. "_Our only hope_," said one of these devotees, "_is
that at the hour of death our sins will not have exceeded our
penances_." Lord Nelville, as he entered this monastery struck his foot
against a trap, and asking the use of it--"_It leads to our place of
interment_;" said one of the young monks, who was already struck with
the malady caused by the malaria. The inhabitants of the south being
very much afraid of death, we are astonished to find institutions in
Italy which fix the ideas upon this point; but it is natural to be fond
of thoughts that inspire us with dread. There is, as it were, an
intoxication of sadness, which does good to the soul by occupying it
entirely.

An ancient Sarcophagus of a young child serves for the fountain to this
convent. The beautiful Palm-tree of which Rome boasts, is the only tree
of any sort in the garden of these monks; but they pay no attention to
external objects. Their discipline is too rigorous to allow any kind of
latitude to the mind. Their looks are cast down, their gait is slow,
they make no use of their will. They have abdicated the government of
themselves, _so fatiguing is this empire to its sad possessor_. This
day, however, did not produce much emotion in the soul of Oswald; the
imagination revolts at death, presented under all its various forms in a
manner so manifestly intentional. When we unexpectedly meet this
_memento mori_, when it is nature and not man that speaks to our soul,
the impression we receive is much deeper.

Oswald felt the most calm and gentle sensations when, at sunset, he
entered the garden of _San Giovanni e Paolo_. The monks of this
monastery are subjected to a much less rigid discipline, and their
garden commands a view of all the ruins of ancient Rome. From this spot
is seen the Coliseum, the Forum, and all the triumphal arches, the
obelisks, and the pillars which remain standing. What a fine situation
for such an asylum! The secluded monks are consoled for their own
nothingness, in contemplating the monuments raised by those who are no
more. Oswald strolled for a long time beneath the umbrageous walks of
this garden, whose beautiful trees sometimes interrupt for a moment the
view of Rome, only to redouble the emotion which is felt on beholding it
again. It was that hour of the evening, when all the bells in Rome are
heard chiming the _Ave Maria_.

     ----------------squilla di lontano
     Che paja il giorno pianger che si muore.
                                          DANTE.

     ----------------_the vesper bell from far,
     That seems to mourn for the expiring day._
                                      CAREY'S TR.

The evening prayer is used to fix the time. In Italy they say: _I will
see you an hour before, or an hour after the Ave Maria_: and the
different periods of the day and of the night, are thus religiously
designated. Oswald enjoyed the admirable spectacle of the sun which
towards the evening descends slowly in the midst of the ruins, and
appears for a moment submitted to the same destiny as the works of man.
Oswald felt all his habitual thoughts revive within him. Corinne herself
was too charming, and promised too much happiness to occupy his mind at
this moment. He sought the spirit of his father in the clouds, where the
force of imagination traced his celestial form, and made him hope to
receive from heaven some pure and beneficent breath, as the benediction
of his sainted parent.



Chapter ii.


The desire of studying and becoming acquainted with the Roman religion,
determined Lord Nelville to seek an opportunity of hearing some of those
preachers who make the churches of this city resound with their
eloquence during Lent. He reckoned the days that were to divide him from
Corinne, and during her absence, he wished to see nothing that
appertained to the fine arts; nothing that derived its charm from the
imagination. He could not support the emotion of pleasure produced by
the masterpieces of art when he was not with Corinne; he was only
reconciled to happiness when she was the cause of it. Poetry, painting,
music, all that embellishes life by vague hopes, was painful to him out
of her presence.

It is in the evening, with lights half extinguished, that the Roman
preachers deliver their sermons in Holy Week. All the women are then
clad in black, in remembrance of the death of Jesus Christ, and there is
something very moving in this anniversary mourning, which has been so
often renewed during a lapse of ages. It is therefore impossible to
enter without genuine emotion those beautiful churches, where the tombs
so fitly dispose the soul for prayer; but this emotion is generally
destroyed in a few moments by the preacher.

His pulpit is a fairly long gallery, which he traverses from one end to
the other with as much agitation as regularity. He never fails to set
out at the beginning of a phrase and to return at the end, like the
motion of a pendulum; nevertheless he uses so much action, and his
manner is so vehement, that one would suppose him capable of forgetting
everything. But it is, to use the expression, a kind of systematic fury
that animates the orator, such as is frequently to be met with in Italy,
where the vivacity of external action often indicates no more than a
superficial emotion. A crucifix is suspended at the extremity of the
pulpit; the preacher unties it, kisses it, presses it against his heart,
and then restores it to its place with the greatest coolness, when the
pathetic period is concluded. There is a means of producing effect which
the ordinary preachers frequently have recourse to, namely, the square
cap they wear on their head, which they take off, and put on again with
inconceivable rapidity. One of them imputed to Voltaire, and
particularly to Rousseau, the irreligion of the age. He threw his cap
into the middle of the pulpit, charging it to represent Jean Jacques,
and in this quality he harangued it, saying; "_Well, philosopher of
Geneva, what have you to object to my arguments_?" He was silent for
some minutes as if he waited for a reply--the cap made no answer: he
then put it upon his head again and finished the conversation in these
words: "_now that you are convinced I shall say no more_."

These whimsical scenes are often repeated among the Roman preachers; for
real talent in this department is here very scarce. Religion is
respected in Italy as an omnipotent law; it captivates the imagination
by its forms and ceremonies, but moral tenets are less attended to in
the pulpit than dogmas of faith, which do not penetrate the heart with
religious sentiments. Thus the eloquence of the pulpit, as well as
several other branches of literature, is absolutely abandoned to common
ideas, which neither paint nor express any thing. A new thought would
cause almost a panic in those minds at once so indolent and so full of
ardour that they need the calm of uniformity, which they love because it
offers repose to their thoughts. The ideas and phraseology of their
sermons are confined to a sort of etiquette. They follow almost in a
regular sequence, and this order would be disturbed if the orator,
speaking from himself, were to seek in his own mind what he should say.
The Christian philosophy, whose aim is to discover the analogy between
religion and human nature, is as little known to the Italian preachers
as any other kind of philosophy. To think upon matters of religion would
scandalise them as much as to think against it; so much are they
accustomed to move in a beaten track.

The worship of the Blessed Virgin is particularly dear to the Italians,
and to every other nation of the south; it seems in some manner united
with all that is most pure and tender in the affection we feel for
woman. But the same exaggerated figures of rhetoric are found in what
the preachers say upon this subject; and it is impossible to conceive
why their gestures do not turn all that is most serious into mockery.
Hardly ever in Italy do we meet in the august function of the pulpit,
with a true accent or a natural expression.

Oswald, weary of the most tiresome of all monotony--that of affected
vehemence, went to the Coliseum, to hear the Capuchin who was to preach
there in the open air, at the foot of one of those altars which mark
out, within the enclosure, what is called _the Stations of the Cross_.
What can offer a more noble subject of eloquence than the aspect of this
monument, of this amphitheatre, where the martyrs have succeeded to the
gladiators! But nothing of this kind must be expected from the poor
Capuchin, who, of the history of mankind, knows no more than that of his
own life. Nevertheless, if we could be insensible to the badness of his
discourse, we should feel ourselves moved by the different objects that
surround him. The greater part of his auditors are of the confraternity
of the _Camaldoli_; they are clad during their religious exercises in a
sort of grey robe, which entirely covers the head and the whole body,
with two little holes for the eyes. It is thus that the spirits of the
dead might be represented. These men, who are thus concealed beneath
their vestments, prostrate themselves on the earth and strike their
breasts. When the preacher throws himself on his knees crying for _mercy
and pity_, the congregation throw themselves on their knees also, and
repeat this same cry, which dies away beneath the ancient porticoes of
the Coliseum. It is impossible at this moment not to feel the most
religious emotion; this appeal from earthly misery to celestial good,
penetrates to the inmost sanctuary of the soul. Oswald started when all
the audience fell on their knees; he remained standing, not to join in a
worship foreign to his own; but it was painful to him that he could not
associate publicly with mortals of any description, who prostrated
themselves before God. Alas! is there an invocation of heavenly pity
that is not equally suited to all men?

The people had been struck with the fine figure and foreign manners of
Lord Nelville, but were by no means scandalized at his not kneeling
down. There are no people in the world more tolerant than the Romans;
they are accustomed to visitors who come only to see and observe; and
whether by an effect of pride or of indolence, they never seek to instil
their opinions into others. What is more extraordinary still, is, that
during Holy Week particularly, there are many among them who inflict
corporal punishment upon themselves; and while they are performing this
flagellation, the church-doors are open, and they care not who enters.
They are a people who do not trouble their heads about others; they do
nothing to be looked at; they refrain from nothing because they are
observed; they always proceed to their object, and seek their pleasure
without suspecting that there is a sentiment called vanity, which has no
object, no pleasure, except the desire of being applauded.



Chapter iii.


The ceremonies of Holy Week at Rome have been much spoken of. Foreigners
come thither during Lent expressly to enjoy this spectacle; and as the
music of the Sixtine Chapel and the illumination of St Peter's are
beauties unique in themselves, it is natural that they should excite a
lively curiosity; but expectation is not equally satisfied. The
ceremonies themselves, properly speaking--the dinner of the twelve
Apostles, served by the Pope, the washing of the feet by him, and all
the different customs of this solemn season--excite very moving
recollections; but a thousand inevitable circumstances often injure the
interest and the dignity of this spectacle. All those who assist at it
are not equally devout, equally occupied with pious ideas. These
ceremonies, so often repeated, have become a sort of mechanical exercise
for most people, and the young priests despatch the service of great
festivals with an activity and a dexterity little calculated to produce
any religious effect. That indefinite, that unknown, that mysterious
impression, which religion ought to excite, is entirely destroyed by
that species of attention which we cannot help paying to the manner in
which each acquits himself of his functions. The avidity of some for the
meats presented them, and the indifference of others in the
genuflections which they multiply and the prayers which they recite,
often strip the festival of its solemnity.

The ancient costumes which still serve for the vestments of the priests,
agree badly with the modern style of treating the hair. The Greek
bishop, with his long beard, has the most respectable appearance. The
ancient custom also of making a reverence after the manner of women,
instead of bowing as men do now, produces an impression by no means
serious. In a word, the _ensemble_ is not in harmony, and the ancient is
blended with the modern without sufficient care being taken to strike
the imagination, or at least to avoid all that may distract it. A
worship, dazzling and majestic in its external forms, is certainly
calculated to fill the soul with the most elevated sentiments; but care
must be taken that the ceremonies do not degenerate into a spectacle in
which each one plays his part--in which each one studies what he must do
at such a moment; when he is to pray, when he is to finish his prayer;
when to kneel down, and when to get up. The regulated ceremonies of a
court introduced into a temple of devotion, confine the free movement of
the heart, which can alone give man the hope of drawing near to the
Deity.

These observations are pretty generally felt by foreigners, but the
Romans for the most part do not grow weary of those ceremonies; and
every year they find in them new pleasure. A singular trait in the
character of the Italians is, that their mobility does not make them
inconstant, nor does their vivacity render variety necessary to them.
They are in every thing patient and persevering; their imagination
embellishes what they possess; it occupies their life instead of
rendering it uneasy; they think every thing more magnificent, more
imposing, more fine, than it really is: and whilst in other nations
vanity consists in an affectation of boredom, that of the Italians, or
rather their warmth and vivacity, makes them find pleasure in the
sentiment of admiration.

Lord Nelville, from all that the Romans had said to him, expected to be
more affected by the ceremonies of Holy Week. He regretted the noble and
simple festivals of the Anglican church. He returned home with a
painful impression; for nothing is more sad than not being moved by that
which ought to move us; we believe that our soul is become dry, we fear
that the fire of enthusiasm is extinguished in us, without which the
faculty of thinking can only serve to disgust us with life.



Chapter iv.


But Good Friday soon restored to Lord Nelville all those religious
emotions, the want of which he so much regretted on the preceding days.
The seclusion of Corinne was about to terminate; he anticipated the
happiness of seeing her again: the sweet expectations of tender
affection accord with piety; it is only a factious, worldly life, that
is entirely hostile to it. Oswald repaired to the Sixtine Chapel to hear
the celebrated _miserere_, so much talked of all over Europe. He arrived
thither whilst it was yet day, and beheld those celebrated paintings of
Michael Angelo, which represent the Last Judgment, with all the terrible
power of the subject and the talent which has handled it. Michael Angelo
was penetrated with the study of Dante; and the painter, in imitation of
the poet, represents mythological beings in the presence of Jesus
Christ; but he always makes Paganism the evil principle, and it is under
the form of demons that he characterises the heathen fables. On the
vault of the chapel are represented the prophets, and the sybils called
in testimony by the Christians,

     Teste David cum Sibyllâ.

A crowd of angels surround them; and this whole vault, painted thus,
seems to bring us nearer to heaven, but with a gloomy and formidable
aspect. Hardly does daylight penetrate the windows, which cast upon the
pictures shadow rather than light. The obscurity enlarges those figures,
already so imposing, which the pencil of Michael Angelo has traced; the
incense, whose perfume has a somewhat funereal character, fills the air
in this enclosure, and every sensation is prelusive to the most profound
of all--that which the music is to produce.

Whilst Oswald was absorbed by the reflections which every object that
surrounded him gave birth to, he saw Corinne, whose presence he had not
hoped to behold so soon, enter the women's gallery, behind the grating
which separated it from that of the men. She was dressed in black, all
pale with absence, and trembled so when she perceived Oswald, that she
was obliged to lean on the balustrade for support as she advanced; at
this moment the _miserere_ began.

The voices, perfectly trained in this ancient song, proceeded from a
gallery at the commencement of the vault; the singers are not seen; the
music seems to hover in the air; and every instant the fall of day
renders the chapel more gloomy. It was not that voluptuous and
impassioned music which Oswald and Corinne had heard eight days before;
they were holy strains which counselled mortals to renounce every
earthly enjoyment. Corinne fell on her knees before the grating and
remained plunged in the most profound meditation. Oswald himself
disappeared from her sight. She thought that in such a moment one could
wish to die, if the separation of the soul from the body could take
place without pain; if, on a sudden, an angel could carry away on his
wings our sentiments and our thoughts--sparks of ethereal fire,
returning towards their source: death would then be, to use the
expression, only a spontaneous act of the heart, a more ardent and more
acceptable prayer.

The _miserere_, that is to say, _have mercy on us_, is a psalm,
composed of verses, which are sung alternately in a very different
manner. A celestial music is heard by turns, and the verse following, in
recitative, is murmured in a dull and almost hoarse tone. One would say,
that it is the reply of harsh and stern characters to sensitive hearts;
that it is the reality of life which withers and repels the desires of
generous souls. When the sweet choristers resume their strain, hope
revives; but when the verse of recitative begins, a cold sensation
seizes upon the hearer, not caused by terror, but by a repression of
enthusiasm. At length, the last piece, more noble and affecting than all
the others, leaves a pure and sweet impression upon the soul: may God
vouchsafe that same impression to us before we die.

The torches are extinguished; night advances, and the figures of the
prophets and the sybils appear like phantoms enveloped in twilight. The
silence is profound; a word spoken would be insupportable in the then
state of the soul, when all is intimate and internal; as soon as the
last sound expires, all depart slowly and without the least noise; each
one seems to dread the return to the vulgar interests of the world.

Corinne followed the procession, which repaired to the temple of St
Peter, then lighted only by an illuminated cross. This sign of grief,
alone and shining in the august obscurity of this immense edifice, is
the most beautiful image of Christianity in the midst of the darkness of
life. A pale and distant light is cast on the statues which adorn the
tombs. The living, who are perceived in crowds beneath these vaults,
seem like pigmies, compared with the images of the dead. There is around
the cross, a space which it lights up, where the Pope clad in white is
seen prostrate, with all the cardinals ranged behind him. They remain
there for half an hour in the most profound silence, and it is
impossible not to be moved at this spectacle. We know not the subject
of their prayers; we hear not their secret groanings; but they are old,
they precede us in the journey to the tomb. When we in our turn pass
into that terrible advance guard, may God by his grace so ennoble our
age, that the decline of life may be the first days of immortality!

Corinne, also,--the young and beautiful Corinne,--was kneeling behind
the train of priests, and the soft light reflected on her countenance,
gave it a pale hue, without diminishing the lustre of her eyes. Oswald
contemplated her as a beautiful picture--a being that inspired
adoration. When her prayer was concluded she arose. Lord Nelville dared
not yet approach her, respecting the religious meditation in which he
thought her plunged; but she came to him first with a transport of
happiness; and this sentiment pervading all her actions, she received
with a most lively gaiety, all those who accosted her in St Peter's,
which had become, all at once, a great public promenade, and a
rendezvous to discuss topics of business or pleasure.

Oswald was astonished at this mobility which caused such opposite
impressions to succeed each other; and though the gaiety of Corinne gave
him pleasure, he was surprised to find in her no trace of the emotions
of the day. He did not conceive how, upon so solemn, a day, they could
permit this fine church to be converted into a Roman _café_, where
people met for pleasure; and beholding Corinne in the midst of her
circle, talking with so much vivacity, and not thinking on the objects
that surrounded her, he conceived a sentiment of mistrust as to the
levity of which she might be capable. She instantly perceived it, and
quitting her company abruptly, she took the arm of Oswald to walk with
him in the church, saying, "I have never held any conversation with you
upon my religious sentiments--permit me to speak a little upon that
subject now; perhaps I shall be able to dissipate those clouds which I
perceive rising in your mind."



Chapter v.


"The difference of our religions, my dear Oswald," continued Corinne,
"is the cause of that secret censure which you cannot conceal from me.
Yours is serious and rigid--ours, cheerful and tender. It is generally
believed that Catholicism is more rigorous than Protestantism; and that
may be true in a country where a struggle has subsisted between the two
religions; but we have no religious dissensions in Italy, and you have
experienced much of them in England. The result of this difference is,
that Catholicism in Italy has assumed a character of mildness and
indulgence; and that to destroy it in England, the Reformation has armed
itself with the greatest severity in principles and morals. Our
religion, like that of the ancients, animates the arts, inspires the
poets, and becomes a part, if I may so express it, of all the joys of
our life; whilst yours, establishing itself in a country where reason
predominates more than imagination, has assumed a character of moral
austerity which will never leave it. Ours speaks in the name of love,
and yours in the name of duty. Our principles are liberal, our dogmas
are absolute; nevertheless, our despotic orthodoxy accommodates itself
to particular circumstances, and your religious liberty enforces
obedience to its laws without any exception. It is true that our
Catholicism imposes very hard penance upon those who have embraced a
monastic life. This state, freely chosen, is a mysterious relation
between man and the Deity; but the religion of laymen in Italy is an
habitual source of affecting emotions. Love, hope, and faith, are the
principal virtues of this religion, and all these virtues announce and
confer happiness. Our priests therefore, far from forbidding at any time
the pure sentiment of joy, tell us that it expresses our gratitude
towards the Creator. What they exact of us, is an observance of those
practices which prove our respect for our worship, and our desire to
please God, namely, charity for the unfortunate, and repentance for our
errors. But they do not refuse absolution, when we zealously entreat it;
and the attachments of the heart inspire a more indulgent pity amongst
us than anywhere else. Has not Jesus Christ said of the Magdalen: _Much
shall be pardoned her, because she hath loved much_? These words were
uttered beneath a sky, beautiful as ours; this same sky implores for us
the Divine mercy."

"Corinne!" answered Lord Nelville, "how can I combat words so sweet, and
of which my heart stands so much in need? But I will do it,
nevertheless, because it is not for a day that I love Corinne--I expect
with her a long futurity of happiness and virtue. The most pure religion
is that which makes a continual homage to the Supreme Being, by the
sacrifice of our passions and the fulfilment of our duties. A man's
morality is his worship of God; and it would be degrading the idea we
form of the Creator, to suppose that He wills anything in relation with
His creature, that is not worthy of His intellectual perfection.
Paternal authority, that noble image of a master sovereignly good,
demands nothing of its children that does not tend to make them better
or happier. How then can we imagine that God would exact anything from
man, which has not man himself for its object? You see also what
confusion in the understandings of your people results from the
practice of attaching more importance to religious ceremonies than to
moral duties. It is after Holy Week, you know, that the greatest number
of murders is committed at Rome. The people think, to use the
expression, that they have laid in a stock during Lent, and expend in
assassination the treasures of their penitence. Criminals have been
seen, yet reeking with murder, who have scrupled to eat meat on a
Friday; and gross minds, who have been persuaded that the greatest of
crimes consists in disobeying the discipline of the church, exhaust
their consciences on this head, and conceive that the Deity, like human
sovereigns, esteems submission to his power more than every other
virtue. This is to substitute the sycophancy of a courtier for the
respect which the Creator inspires, as the source and reward of a
scrupulous and delicate life. Catholicism in Italy, confining itself to
external demonstrations, dispenses the soul from meditation and
self-contemplation. When the spectacle is over, the emotion ceases, the
duty is fulfilled, and one is not, as with us, a long time absorbed in
thoughts and sentiments, which give birth to a rigid examination of
one's conduct and heart."

"You are severe, my dear Oswald," replied Corinne; "it is not the first
time I have remarked it. If religion consisted only in a strict
observance of moral duties, in what would it be superior to reason and
philosophy? And what sentiments of piety could we discover, if our
principal aim were to stifle the feelings of the heart? The stoics were
as enlightened as we, as to the duties and the austerity of human
conduct; but that which is peculiar to Christianity is the religious
enthusiasm which blends with every affection of the soul; it is the
power of love and pity; it is the worship of sentiment and of
indulgence, so favourable to the flights of the soul towards heaven.
How are we to interpret the parable of the Prodigal Son, if not that
love, sincere love, is preferred even to the most exact discharge of
every duty? This son had quitted his paternal abode, and his brother had
remained there; he had plunged into all the dissipation and pleasure of
the world, and his brother had never deviated for a single moment from
the regularity of domestic life; but he returned, full of love for his
father and of repentance for his past follies, and his parent celebrated
this return by a festival. Ah! can it be doubted that among the
mysteries of our nature, to love and to love again is what remains to us
of our celestial inheritance? Even our virtues are often too complicated
with life, for us to comprehend the gradations of good, and what is the
secret sentiment that governs and leads us astray: I ask of my God to
teach me to adore him, and I feel the effect of my prayers in the tears
that I shed. But to support this disposition of the soul, religious
practices are more necessary than you think; they are a constant
communication with the Deity; they are daily actions, unconnected with
the interests of life and solely directed towards the invisible world.
External objects are also a great help to piety; the soul falls back
upon itself, if the fine arts, great monuments, and harmonic strains, do
not reanimate that poetical genius, which is synonymous with religious
inspiration.

"The most vulgar man, when he prays, when he suffers, and places hope in
heaven, has at that moment something in him which he would express like
Milton, Homer, or Tasso, if education had taught him to clothe his
thoughts with words. There are only two distinct classes of men in the
world; those who feel enthusiasm, and those who despise it; every other
difference is the work of society. The former cannot find words to
express their sentiments, and the latter know what it is necessary to
say to conceal the emptiness of their heart. But the spring that bursts
from the rock at the voice of heaven, that spring is the true talent,
the true religion, the true love.

"The pomp of our worship; those pictures in which the kneeling saints
express a continual prayer in their looks; those statues placed on the
tombs as if they were one day to rise with their inhabitants; those
churches and their immense domes, have an intimate connection with
religious ideas. I like this splendid homage paid by men to that which
promises them neither fortune nor power--to that which neither punishes
nor rewards them, but by a sentiment of the heart. I then feel more
proud of my being; I recognise something disinterested in man; and were
even religious magnificence multiplied to an extreme, I should love that
prodigality of terrestrial riches for another life, of time for
eternity: enough is provided for the morrow, enough care is taken for
the economy of human affairs. How I love the useless, useless if
existence be only a painful toil for a miserable gain! But if on this
earth we are journeying towards heaven, what can we do better than to
take every means of elevating our soul, that it may feel the infinite,
the invisible, and the eternal, in the midst of all the limits that
surround us?

"Jesus Christ permitted a weak, and perhaps, repentant woman, to anoint
His feet with the most precious perfumes, and repulsed those who advised
that those perfumes should be reserved for a more profitable use. "_Let
her alone_" said He, "_for I am only with you for a short time_." Alas!
all that is good and sublime upon earth is only with us for a short
time; age, infirmity, and death, would soon dry up that drop of dew
which falls from heaven and only rests upon the flowers. Let us then,
dear Oswald, confound everything,--love, religion, genius, the sun, the
perfumes, music, and poetry: atheism only consists in coldness, egotism,
and baseness. Jesus Christ has said: _When two or three are gathered
together in my name, I will be in the midst of them._ And what is it O
God! to be assembled in Thy name, if it be not to enjoy Thy sublime
gifts, and to offer Thee our homage, to thank Thee for that existence
which Thou hast given us; above all, to thank Thee, when a heart, also
created by Thee is perfectly responsive to our own?"

At this moment a celestial inspiration animated the countenance of
Corinne. Oswald could hardly refrain from falling on his knees before
her in the midst of the temple, and was silent for a long time to
indulge in the pleasure of recalling her words and retracing them still
in her looks. At last he set about replying; for he would not abandon a
cause that was dear to him. "Corinne," said he, then, "indulge your
lover with a few words more. His heart is not dry; no, Corinne, believe
me it is not, and if I am an advocate for austerity in principle and
action, it is because it renders sentiment more deep and permanent. If I
love reason in religion, that is to say, if I reject contradictory
dogmas and human means of producing effect upon men, it is because I
perceive the Deity in reason as well as in enthusiasm; and if I cannot
bear that man should be deprived of any one of his faculties, it is
because I conceive them all barely sufficient to comprehend truths which
reflection reveals to him, as well as the instinct of the heart, namely,
the existence of God, and the immortality of the soul. What can be added
to these sublime ideas, to their union with virtue? What can we add
thereto that is not beneath them? The poetical enthusiasm which gives
you so many charms, is not, I venture to assert, the most salutary
devotion. Corinne, how could we by this disposition prepare for the
innumerable sacrifices which duty exacts of us! There was no revelation,
except by the flights of the soul, when human destiny, present and
future, only revealed itself to the mind through clouds; but for us, to
whom Christianity has rendered it clear and positive, feeling may be our
recompense, but ought not to be our only guide: you describe the
existence of the blessed, not that of mortals. Religious life is a
combat, not a hymn. If we were not condemned in this world to repress
the evil inclinations of others and of ourselves, there would in truth
be no distinction to be made except between cold and enthusiastic souls.
But man is a harsher and more formidable creature than your heart paints
him to you; and reason in piety, and authority in duty, are a necessary
curb to the wanderings of his pride.

"In whatever manner you may consider the external pomp and multiplied
ceremonies of your religion, believe me, my love, the contemplation of
the universe and its author, will be always the chief worship; that
which will fill the imagination, without any thing futile or absurd
being found in it upon investigation. Those dogmas which wound my reason
also cool my enthusiasm. Undoubtedly the world, such as it is, is a
mystery which we can neither deny nor comprehend; it would therefore be
foolish to refuse credence to what we are unable to explain; but that
which is contradictory is always of human creation. The mysteries of
heavenly origin are above the lights of the mind; but not in opposition
to them. A German philosopher[31] has said: _I know but two beautiful
things in the universe: the starry sky above our heads, and the
sentiment of duty in our hearts_. In truth all the wonders of the
creation are comprised in these words.

"So far from a simple and severe religion searing our hearts, I should
have thought, before I had known you, Corinne, that it was the only one
which could concentrate and perpetuate the affections. I have seen the
most pure and austere conduct unfold in a man the most inexhaustible
tenderness. I have seen him preserve even to old age, a virginity of
soul, which the passions and their criminal effects would necessarily
have withered. Undoubtedly repentance is a fine thing, and I have more
need than any person to believe in its efficacy; but repeated repentance
fatigues the soul--this sentiment can only regenerate once. It is the
redemption which is accomplished at the bottom of our soul, and this
great sacrifice cannot be renewed. When human weakness is accustomed to
it, the power to love is lost; for power is necessary in order to love,
at least with constancy.

"I shall offer some objections of the same kind to that splendid form of
worship, which according to you, acts so powerfully upon the
imagination. I believe the imagination to be modest, and retired as the
heart. The emotions which are imposed on it, are less powerful than
those born of itself. I have seen in the Cevennes, a Protestant minister
who preached towards the evening in the heart of the mountains. He
invoked the tombs of the French, banished and proscribed by their
brethren, whose ashes had been assembled together in this spot. He
promised their friends that they should meet them again in a better
world. He said that a virtuous life secured us this happiness; he said:
_do good to mankind, that God may heal in your heart the wound of
grief_. He testified his astonishment at the inflexibility and
hard-heartedness of man, the creature of a day, to his fellow man
equally with himself the creature of a day, and seized upon that
terrible idea of death, which the living have conceived, but which they
will never be able to exhaust. In short, he said nothing that was not
affecting and true: his words were perfectly in harmony with nature. The
torrent which was heard in the distance, the scintillating light of the
stars, seemed to express the same thought under another form. The
magnificence of nature was there, that magnificence, which can feast the
soul without offending misfortune; and all this imposing simplicity,
touched the soul more deeply than dazzling ceremonies could have done."

On the second day after this conversation, Easter Sunday, Corinne and
Lord Nelville went together to the square of St Peter, at the moment
when the Pope appears upon the most elevated balcony of the church, and
asks of heaven that benediction which he is about to bestow on the land;
when he pronounces these words, _urbi et orbi_ (to the city and to the
world)--all the assembled people fell on their knees, and Corinne and
Lord Nelville felt, by the emotion which they experienced at this
moment, that all forms of worship resemble each other. The religious
sentiment intimately unites men among themselves, when self-love and
fanaticism do not make it an object of jealousy and hatred. To pray
together in the same language, whatever be the form of worship, is the
most pathetic bond of fraternity, of hope, and of sympathy, which men
can contract upon earth.

FOOTNOTE:

[31] Kant.



Chapter vi.


Easter-Day was passed, and Corinne took no notice of the fulfilment of
her promise to confide her history to Lord Nelville. Wounded by this
silence, he said one day before her that he had heard much of the
beauty of Naples, and that he had a mind to visit it. Corinne,
discovering in a moment what was passing in his soul, proposed to
perform the journey with him. She flattered herself that she, should be
able to postpone the confession which he required of her, by giving him
this satisfying proof of her love. And besides she thought that if he
should take her with him, it would be without doubt because he desired
to consecrate his life to her. She waited then with anxiety for what he
should say to her, and her almost suppliant looks seemed to entreat a
favourable answer. Oswald could not resist; he had at first been
surprised at this offer and the simplicity with which Corinne made it,
and hesitated for some time before he accepted it; but beholding the
agitation of her he loved, her palpitating bosom, her eyes suffused with
tears, he consented to set out with her, without reflecting upon the
importance of such a resolution. Corinne was elevated to the summit of
joy; for at this moment her heart entirely relied on the passion of
Oswald.

The day was fixed upon, and the sweet perspective of their journey
together made every other idea disappear. They amused themselves with
settling the details of their journey, and every one of these details
was a source of pleasure. Happy disposition of the soul, in which all
the arrangements of life have a particular charm, from their connection
with some hope of the heart! That moment arrives only too soon, when
each hour of our existence is as fatiguing as its entirety, when every
morning requires an effort to support the awakening and to guide the day
to its close.

The moment Lord Nelville left Corinne's house in order to prepare every
thing for their departure, the Count d'Erfeuil arrived, and learnt from
her the project which they had just determined on.--"Surely you don't
think of such a thing!" said he, "what! travel with Lord Nelville
without his being your husband! without his having promised to marry
you! And what will you do if he abandon you?" "Why," replied Corinne,
"in any situation of life if he were to cease to love me, I should be
the most wretched creature in the world!" "Yes, but if you have done
nothing to compromise your character, you will remain entirely
yourself."--"Remain entirely myself, when the deepest sentiment of my
life shall be withered? when my heart shall be broken?"--"The public
will not know it, and by a little dissimulation you would lose nothing
in the general opinion." "And why should I take pains to preserve that
opinion," replied Corinne, "if not to gain an additional charm in the
eyes of him I love?"--"We may cease to love," answered the Count, "but
we cannot cease to live in the midst of society, and to need its
services."--"Ah! if I could think," retorted Corinne, "that that day
would arrive when Oswald's affection would not be all in all to me in
this world; if I could believe it, I should already have ceased to love.
What is love when it anticipates and reckons upon the moment when it
shall no longer exist? If there be any thing religious in this
sentiment, it is because it makes every other interest disappear, and,
like devotion, takes a pleasure in the entire sacrifice of self."

"What is that you tell me?" replied the Count d'Erfeuil, "can such an
intellectual lady as you fill her head with such nonsense? It is the
advantage of us men that women think as you do--we have thus more
ascendancy over you; but your superiority must not be lost, it must be
serviceable to you." "Serviceable to me?" said Corinne, "Ah! I owe it
much, if it has enabled me to feel more acutely all that is interesting
and generous in the character of Lord Nelville."--"Lord Nelville is
like other men," said the Count; "he will return to his native country,
he will pursue his profession; in short he will recover his reason, and
you would imprudently expose your reputation by going to Naples with
him."--"I am ignorant of the intentions of Lord Nelville," observed
Corinne, "and perhaps I should have done better to have reflected more
deeply before I had let him obtain such power over my heart; but now,
what signifies one more sacrifice! Does not my life depend on his love?
I feel pleasure, on the contrary, in leaving myself no resource;--there
is none when the heart is wounded; nevertheless, the world may sometimes
think the contrary, and I love to reflect that even in this respect my
calamity would be complete, if Lord Nelville were to leave me!"--"And
does he know how you expose yourself on his account?" proceeded
d'Erfeuil.--"I have taken great care to conceal it from him," answered
Corinne, "and as he is not well acquainted with the customs of this
country, I have a little exaggerated to him the latitude of conduct
which they allow. I must exact from you a promise, that you will never
undeceive him in this respect--I wish him to be perfectly free, he can
never make me happy by any kind of sacrifice. The sentiment which
renders me happy is the flower of my life; were it once to decay,
neither kindness nor delicacy could revive it. I conjure you then, my
dear Count, not to interfere with my destiny; no opinion of yours upon
the affections of the heart can possibly apply to me. Your observations
are very prudent, very sensible, and extremely applicable to the
situations of ordinary life; but you would innocently do me a great
injury, in attempting to judge of my character in the same manner as
large bodies of people are judged, for whom there are maxims ready made.
My sufferings, my enjoyments, and my feelings, are peculiar to myself,
and whoever would influence my happiness must contemplate me alone,
unconnected with the rest of the world."

The self-love of Count d'Erfeuil was a little wounded by the inutility
of his counsels, and the decided proof of her affection for Lord
Nelville which Corinne gave him. He knew very well that he himself was
not beloved by her, he knew equally that Oswald was; but it was
unpleasant to him to hear this so openly avowed. There is always
something in the favour which a man finds in a lady's sight, that
offends even his best friends.--"I see that I can do nothing for you,"
said the Count; "but should you become very unhappy you will think of
me; in the meantime, I am going to leave Rome, for since you and Lord
Nelville are about to quit it, I should be too much bored in your
absence. I shall certainly see you both again, either in Scotland or
Italy; for since I can do nothing better with myself, I have acquired a
taste for travelling. Forgive my having taken the liberty to counsel
you, charming Corinne, and believe me ever devoted to you!"--Corinne
thanked him, and separated with a sentiment of regret. Her acquaintance
with him commenced at the same time as with Oswald, and this remembrance
formed a tie between them which she did not like to see broken. She
conducted herself agreeably to what she had declared to the Count. Some
uneasiness disturbed for a moment the joy with which Lord Nelville had
accepted the project of the journey. He feared that their departure for
Naples might injure Corinne, and wished to obtain her secret before they
went, in order to know with certainty whether some invincible obstacle
to their union might not exist; but she declared to him that she would
not relate her history till they arrived at Naples, and sweetly
deceived him, as to what the public opinion would be on her conduct.
Oswald yielded to the illusion. In a weak and undecided character, love
half deceives, reason half enlightens, and it is the present emotion
that decides which of the two halves shall be the whole. The mind of
Lord Nelville was singularly expansive and penetrating; but he only
formed a correct judgment of himself in reviewing his past conduct. He
never had but a confused idea of his present situation. Susceptible at
once of transport and remorse, of passion and timidity, those contrasts
did not permit him to know himself till the event had decided the combat
that was taking place within him.

When the friends of Corinne, particularly Prince Castel-Forte, were
informed of her project, they felt considerably chagrined. Prince
Castel-Forte was so much pained at it, that he resolved in a short time
to go and join her. There was certainly no vanity in thus filling up the
train of a favoured lover; but he could not support the dreadful void
which he would find in the absence of Corinne. He had no acquaintances
but the circle he met at her house; and he never entered any other. The
company which assembled around her would disperse when she should be no
longer there; and it would be impossible to collect together the
fragments. Prince Castel-Forte was little accustomed to domestic life:
though possessing a good share of intellect, he did not like the fatigue
of study; the whole day therefore would have been an insufferable weight
to him, if he had not come, morning and evening, to visit Corinne. She
was about to depart--he knew not what to do; however he promised himself
in secret to approach her as a friend, who indulged in no pretensions,
but who was ever at hand to offer his consolation in the moment of
misfortune; such a friend may be sure that his hour will come.

Corinne felt oppressed with melancholy in thus breaking all her former
connections; she had led for some years in Rome a manner of life that
pleased her. She was the centre of attraction to every artist and to
every enlightened man. A perfect independence of ideas and habits gave
many charms to her existence: what was to become of her now? If destined
to the happiness of espousing Oswald, he would take her to England, and
what would she be thought of there; how would she be able to confine
herself to a mode of existence so different from what she had known for
six years past! But these sentiments only passed through her mind, and
her passion for Oswald always obliterated every trace of them. She saw,
she heard him, and only counted the hours by his absence or his
presence. Who can dispute with happiness? Who does not welcome it when
it comes? Corinne was not possessed of much foresight--neither fear nor
hope existed for her; her faith in the future was vague, and in this
respect her imagination did her little good, and much harm.

On the morning of her departure, Prince Castel-Forte visited her, and
said with tears in his eyes: "Will you not return to Rome?" "Oh, _Mon
Dieu_, yes!" replied she, "we shall be back in a month."--"But if you
marry Lord Nelville you must leave Italy!" "Leave Italy!" said Corinne,
with a sigh.--"This country," continued Prince Castel-Forte, "where your
language is spoken, where you are so well known, where you are so warmly
admired, and your friends, Corinne--your friends! Where will you be
beloved as you are here? Where will you find that perfection of the
imagination and the fine arts, so congenial to your soul? Is then our
whole life composed of one sentiment? Is it not language, customs, and
manners, that compose the love of our country; that love which creates
a home sickness so terrible to the exile?" "Ah, what is it you tell me,"
cried Corinne, "have I not felt it? Is it not that which has decided my
fate?"--She regarded mournfully her room and the statues that adorned
it, then the Tiber which rolled its waves beneath her windows, and the
sky whose beauty seemed to invite her to stay. But at that moment Oswald
crossed the bridge of St Angelo on horseback, swift as lightning. "There
he is!" cried Corinne. Hardly had she uttered these words, when he was
already arrived,--she ran to meet him, and both impatient to set out
hastened to ascend the carriage. Corinne, however, took a kind farewell
of Prince Castel-Forte; but her obliging expressions were lost in the
midst of the cries of postillions, the neighing of horses, and all that
bustle of departure, sometimes sad, and sometimes intoxicating,
according to the fear or the hope which the new chances of destiny
inspire.



Book xi.

NAPLES AND THE HERMITAGE OF ST SALVADOR.

[Illustration]



Chapter i.


Oswald was proud of carrying off his conquest; he who felt himself
almost always disturbed in his enjoyments by reflections and regrets,
for once did not experience the pangs of uncertainty. It was not that he
was decided, but he did not think about it and followed the tide of
events hoping it would lead him to the object of his wishes.

They traversed the district of Albano[32], where is still shown what is
believed to be the tomb of the Horatii and the Curiatii. They passed
near the lake of Nemi and the sacred woods that surround it. It is said
that Hippolitus was resuscitated by Diana in these parts; she would not
permit horses to approach it, and by this prohibition perpetuated the
memory of her young favourite's misfortune. Thus in Italy our memory is
refreshed by History and Poetry almost at every step, and the charming
situations which recall them, soften all that is melancholy in the past,
and seem to preserve an eternal youth.

Oswald and Corinne traversed the Pontine marshes--a country at once
fertile and pestilential,--where, with all the fecundity of nature, a
single habitation is not to be found. Some sickly men change your
horses, recommending to you not to sleep in passing the marshes; for
sleep there is really the harbinger of death. The plough which some
imprudent cultivators will still sometimes guide over this fatal land,
is drawn by buffaloes, in appearance at once mean and ferocious, whilst
the most brilliant sun sheds its lustre on this melancholy spectacle.
The marshy and unwholesome parts in the north are announced by their
repulsive aspect; but in the more fatal countries of the south, nature
preserves a serenity, the deceitful mildness of which is an illusion to
travellers. If it be true that it is very dangerous to sleep in crossing
the Pontine marshes, their invincible soporific influence in the heat of
the day is one of those perfidious impressions which we receive from
this spot. Lord Nelville constantly watched over Corinne. Sometimes she
leant her head on Theresa who accompanied them; sometimes she closed her
eyes, overcome by the languor of the air. Oswald awakened her
immediately, with inexpressible terror; and though he was naturally
taciturn, he was now inexhaustible in subjects of conversation, always
well supported and always new, to prevent her from yielding to this
fatal sleep. Ah! should we not pardon the heart of a woman the cruel
regret which attaches to those days when she was beloved, when her
existence was so necessary to that of another, when at every moment she
was supported and protected? What isolation must succeed this season of
delight! How happy are they whom the sacred hand of Hymen has conducted
from love to friendship, without one painful moment having embittered
their course!

Oswald and Corinne, after the anxious passage of the marshes, at length
arrived at Terracina, on the sea coast, near the confines of the kingdom
of Naples. It is there that the south truly begins; it is there that it
receives travellers in all its magnificence. Naples, _that happy
country_, is, as it were, separated from the rest of Europe by the sea
which surrounds it and by that dangerous district which must be passed
in order to arrive at it. One would say that nature, wishing to secure
to herself this charming abode, has designedly made all access to it
perilous. At Rome we are not yet in the south; we have there a foretaste
of its sweets, but its enchantment only truly begins in the territory of
Naples. Not far from Terracina is the promontory fixed upon by the poets
as the abode of Circe: and behind Terracina rises Mount Anxur, where
Theodoric, king of the Goths, had placed one of those strong castles
with which the northern warriors have covered the earth. There are few
traces of the invasion of Italy by the barbarians; or at least, where
those traces consist in devastation, they are confounded with the
effects of time. The northern nations have not given to Italy that
warlike aspect which Germany has preserved. It seems that the gentle
soil of Ausonia was unable to support the fortifications and citadels
which bristle in northern countries. Rarely is a Gothic edifice or a
feudal castle to be met with here; and the monuments of the ancient
Romans reign alone triumphant over Time, and the nations by whom they
have been conquered.

The whole mountain which dominates Terracina, is covered with orange and
lemon trees, which embalm the air in a delicious manner. There is
nothing in our climate that resembles the southern perfume of lemon
trees in the open air; it produces on the imagination almost the same
effect as melodious music; it gives a poetic disposition to the soul,
stimulates genius, and intoxicates with the charms of nature. The aloe
and the broad-leaved cactus, which are met here at every step, have a
peculiar aspect, which brings to mind all that we know of the formidable
productions of Africa. These plants inspire a sort of terror: they seem
to belong to a violent and despotic nature. The whole aspect of the
country is foreign: we feel ourselves in another world, a world which is
only known by the descriptions of the ancient poets, who have at the
same time so much imagination and so much exactness in their
descriptions. On entering Terracina, the children threw into the
carriage of Corinne an immense quantity of flowers which they gather by
the road-side or on the mountain, and which they carelessly scatter
about; such is their reliance on the prodigality of nature! The carts
which bring home the harvest from the fields are every day ornamented
with garlands of roses, and sometimes the children surround the cups
they drink out of with flowers; for beneath such a sky the imagination
of the common people becomes poetical. By the side of these smiling
pictures the sea, whose billows lashed the shore with fury, was seen and
heard. It was not agitated by the storm; but by the rocks which stand in
habitual opposition to its waves, irritating its grandeur.

     E non udite ancor come risuona
     Il roco ed alto fremito marino?

_And do you not hear still the hoarse and deep roar of the sea?_

This motion without aim, this strength without object which is renewed
throughout eternity without our being able to discover either its cause
or its end, attracts us to the shore, where this grand spectacle offers
itself to our sight; and we experience, as it were, a desire mingled
with terror, to approach the waves and to deaden our thoughts by their
tumult.

Towards the evening all was calm. Corinne and Lord Nelville walked into
the country; they proceeded with a slow pace silently enjoying the scene
before them. Each step they took crushed the flowers and extorted from
them their delicious perfumes; the nightingales, resting on the
rose-bushes, willingly lent their song, so that the purest melodies were
united to the most delicious odours; all the charms of nature mutually
attracted each other, while the softness of the air was beyond
expression. When we contemplate a fine view in the north, the climate in
some degree disturbs the pleasure which it inspires: those slight
sensations of cold and humidity are like a false note in a concert, and
more or less distract your attention from what you behold; but in
approaching Naples you experience the friendly smiles of nature, so
perfectly and without alloy, that nothing abates the agreeable
sensations which they cause you. All the relations of man in our climate
are with society. Nature, in hot countries, puts us in relation with
external objects, and our sentiments sweetly expand. Not but that the
south has also its melancholy. In what part of the earth does not human
destiny produce this impression? But in this melancholy there is neither
discontent, anxiety, nor regret. In other countries it is life, which,
such as it is, does not suffice for the faculties of the soul; here the
faculties of the soul do not suffice for life, and the superabundance of
sensation inspires a dreamy indolence, which we can hardly account for
when oppressed with it.

During the night, flies of a shining hue fill the air; one would say
that the mountain emitted sparks of fire, and that the burning earth had
let loose some of its flames. These insects fly through the trees,
sometimes repose on the leaves, and the wind blows these minute stars
about, varying in a thousand ways their uncertain light. The sand also
contained a great number of metallic stones, which sparkled on every
side: it was the land of fire, still preserving in its bosom the traces
of the sun, whose last rays had just warmed it. There is a life, and at
the same time, a repose, in this nature, which entirely satisfies the
various desires of human existence.

Corinne abandoned herself to the charms of this evening, and was
penetrated with joy; nor could Oswald conceal the emotion they
inspired--many times he pressed Corinne to his heart, many times he drew
back from her, then returned, then drew back again out of respect to her
who was to be the companion of his life. Corinne felt no alarm, for such
was her esteem for Oswald, that if he had demanded the entire surrender
of her being she would have considered that request as a solemn vow to
espouse her; but she saw him triumph over himself, and this conquest was
an honour paid her; whilst her heart felt that plenitude of happiness,
and of love, which does not permit us to form another desire. Oswald was
far from being so calm: he was fired with the charms of Corinne. Once he
threw himself at her feet with violence, and seemed to have lost all
empire over his passion; but Corinne regarded him with such an
expression of sweetness and fear, she made him so sensible of his power
while beseeching him not to abuse it, that this humble entreaty inspired
him with more respect than any other could possibly have done.

They then perceived in the sea, the reflection of a torch carried by the
unknown hand of one who traversed the shore, repairing secretly to a
neighbouring house. "He is going to see the object of his love;" said
Oswald.--"Yes," answered Corinne. "And my happiness, for to-day, is
about to end,"--resumed Oswald. At this moment the looks of Corinne were
lifted towards heaven, and her eyes suffused with tears. Oswald, fearing
that he had offended her, fell on his knees to entreat her forgiveness
for that love which had overpowered him. "No," said Corinne, stretching
forth her hand to him, and inviting him to return with her. "No,
Oswald, I feel no alarm: you will respect her who loves you: you know
that a simple request from you would be all-powerful with me; it is
therefore you who must be my security--you who would for ever reject me
as your bride, if you had rendered me unworthy of being so." "Well,"
answered Oswald, "since you believe in this cruel empire of your will
upon my heart, Corinne, whence arises your sadness?"--"Alas!" replied
she, "I was saying to myself, that the moments which I have just passed
with you were the happiest of my life, and as I turned my eyes in
gratitude to heaven, I know not by what chance, a superstition of my
childhood revived in my heart. The moon which I contemplated was covered
with a cloud, and the aspect of that cloud was fatal. I have always
found in the sky a countenance sometimes paternal and sometimes angry;
and I tell you, Oswald, heaven has to-night condemned our love."--"My
dear," answered Lord Nelville, "the only omens of the life of man, are
his good or evil actions; and have I not this very evening, immolated my
most ardent desires on the altar of virtue?"--"Well, so much the better
if you are not included in this presage," replied Corinne; "it may be
that this angry sky has only threatened me."

FOOTNOTE:

[32] There is a charming description of the Lake of Albano, in a
collection of poems by Madame Brunn, _née_ Münter, whose talent and
imagination give her a first rank among the women of her country.



Chapter ii.


They arrived at Naples by day, in the midst of that immense population,
at once so animated and so indolent. They first traversed the Via
Toledo, and saw the Lazzaroni lying on the pavement, or in osier baskets
which serve them for lodging, day and night. There is something
extremely original in this state of savage existence, mingled with
civilization. There are some among these men who do not even know their
own name, and who go to confess anonymous sins; not being able to tell
who it is that has committed them. There is a subterranean grotto at
Naples where thousands of Lazzaroni pass their lives, only going out at
noon to see the sun, and sleeping the rest of the day, whilst their
wives spin. In climates where food and raiment are so easy of attainment
it requires a very independent and active government to give sufficient
emulation to a nation; for it is so easy for the people merely to
subsist at Naples, that they can dispense with that industry which is
necessary to procure a livelihood elsewhere. Laziness and ignorance
combined with the volcanic air which is breathed in this spot, ought to
produce ferocity when the passions are excited; but this people is not
worse than any other. They possess imagination, which might become the
principle of disinterested actions and give them a bias for virtue, if
their religious and political institutions were good.

Calabrians are seen marching in a body to cultivate the earth with a
fiddler at their head, and dancing from time to time, to rest themselves
from walking. There is every year, near Naples, a festival consecrated
to the _madonna of the grotto_, at which the girls dance to the sound of
the tambourine and the castanets, and it is not uncommon for a condition
to be inserted in the marriage contract, that the husband shall take his
wife every year to this festival. There is on the stage at Naples, a
performer eighty years old, who for sixty years has entertained the
Neapolitans in their comic, national character of Polichinello. Can we
imagine what the immortality of the soul may be to a man who thus
employs his long life? The people of Naples have no other idea of
happiness than pleasure; but the love of pleasure is still better than
a barren egotism.

It is true that no people in the world are more fond of money than the
Neapolitans: if you ask a man of the people in the street to show you
your way, he stretches out his hand after having made you a sign, for
they are more indolent in speech than in action; but their avidity for
money is not methodical nor studied; they spend it as soon as they get
it. They use money as savages would if it were introduced among them.
But what this nation is most wanting in, is the sentiment of dignity.
They perform generous and benevolent actions from a good heart rather
than from principle; for their theory in every respect is good for
nothing, and public opinion in this country has no force. But when men
or women escape this moral anarchy their conduct is more remarkable in
itself and more worthy of admiration than any where else, since there is
nothing in external circumstances favourable to virtue. It is born
entirely in the soul. Laws and manners neither reward nor punish it. He
who is virtuous is so much the more heroic for not being on that account
either more considered or more sought after.

With some honourable exceptions the higher classes pretty nearly
resemble the lower: the mind of the one is seldom more cultivated than
that of the other, and the practice of society is the only external
difference between them. But in the midst of this ignorance there is
such a natural intelligence in all ranks that it is impossible to
foresee what a nation like this might become if all the energies of
government were directed to the advancement of knowledge and morality.
As there is little education at Naples, we find there, at present, more
originality of character than of mind. But the remarkable men of this
country, it is said, such as the Abbé Galiani, Caraccioli, &c.,
possessed the highest sense of humour, joined to the most profound
reflection,--rare powers of the mind!--an union without which either
pedantry or frivolity would hinder us from knowing the true value of
things.

The Neapolitan people, in some respects, are not civilized at all; but
their vulgarity does not at all resemble that of other nations. Their
very rudeness interests the imagination. The African coast which borders
the sea on the other side is almost perceptible; there is something
Numidian in the savage cries which are heard in every part of the city.
Those swarthy faces, those vestments formed of a few pieces of red or
violet stuff whose deep colours attract the eye, even those very rags in
which this artistic people drape themselves with grace, give to the
populace a picturesque appearance, whilst in other countries they
exhibit nothing but the miseries of civilization. A certain taste for
finery and decoration is often found in Naples accompanied with an
absolute lack of necessaries and conveniences. The shops are agreeably
ornamented with flowers and fruit. Some have a festive appearance that
has no relation to plenty nor to public felicity, but only to a lively
imagination; they seek before every thing to please the eye. The
mildness of the climate permits mechanics of every class to work in the
streets. The tailors are seen making clothes, and the victuallers
providing their repasts, and these domestic occupations going on out of
doors, multiply action in a thousand ways. Singing, dancing, and noisy
sports, are very suitable to this spectacle; and there is no country
where we feel more clearly the difference between amusement and
happiness. At length we quit the interior of the city, and arrive at the
quays, whence we have a view of the sea and of Mount Vesuvius, and
forget then all that we know of man.

Oswald and Corinne arrived at Naples, whilst the eruption of Mount
Vesuvius yet lasted. By day nothing was seen but the black smoke which
mixed with the clouds; but viewing it in the evening from the balcony of
their abode it excited an entirely unexpected emotion. A river of fire
descends towards the sea, and its burning waves, like the billows of the
sea, express the rapid succession of continual and untiring motion. One
would say that when nature transforms herself into various elements she
nevertheless preserves some traces of a single and primal thought. The
phenomenon of Vesuvius deeply impresses us. We are commonly so
familiarised with external objects that we hardly perceive their
existence; we scarcely ever feel a new emotion in the midst of our
prosaic countries, but that astonishment which the universe ought to
cause, is suddenly evoked at the aspect of an unknown wonder of
creation: our whole being is shaken by this power of nature, in whose
social combinations we have been so long absorbed; we feel that the
greatest mysteries in this world do not all consist in man, and that he
is threatened or protected by a force independent of himself, in
obedience to laws which he cannot penetrate. Oswald and Corinne proposed
to ascend Mount Vesuvius, and the peril of this enterprise gave an
additional charm to a project which they were to execute together.



Chapter iii.


There was at that time in the port of Naples, an English man-of-war in
which divine service was performed every Sunday. The captain, and all
the English who were at Naples, invited Lord Nelville to come the
following day; he consented without thinking at first whether he should
take Corinne with him, and how he should present her to his
fellow-countrymen. He was tormented by this disquietude the whole night.
As he was walking with Corinne, on the following morning near the port
and was about to advise her not to go on board, they saw an English
long-boat rowed by ten sailors, clad in white, and wearing black velvet
caps, on which was embroidered silver leopards. A young officer landed
from it, and accosting Corinne by the name of Lady Nelville, begged to
have the honour of conducting her to the ship. At the name of Lady
Nelville Corinne was embarrassed--she blushed and cast down her eyes.
Oswald appeared to hesitate a moment: then suddenly taking her hand, he
said to her in English,--"Come, my dear,"--and she followed him.

The noise of the waves and the silence of the sailors, who neither moved
nor spoke but in pursuance of their duty, and who rapidly conducted the
bark over that sea which they had so often traversed, gave birth to
reverie. Besides, Corinne dared not question Lord Nelville on what had
just passed. She sought to conjecture his purpose, not thinking (which
is however the more probable) that he had none, and that he yielded to
each new circumstance. One moment she imagined that he was conducting
her to divine service in order to espouse her, and this idea caused her
at the time more fear than happiness: it appeared to her that she was
going to quit Italy and return to England, where she had suffered so
much. The severity of manners and customs in that country returned to
her mind, and love itself could not entirely triumph over the bitterness
of her recollections. But how astonished will she be in other
circumstances at those thoughts, fleeting as they were! how she will
abjure them!

Corinne ascended the ship, the interior of which presented a picture of
the most studied cleanliness and order. Nothing was heard but the voice
of the captain, which was prolonged and repeated from one end to the
other by command and obedience. The subordination, regularity, silence,
and serious deportment so remarkable on this ship, formed a system of
social order rigid and free, in contrast with the city of Naples, so
volatile, so passionate, and tumultuous. Oswald was occupied with
Corinne and the impressions she received; but his attention was
sometimes diverted from her by the pleasure he felt in finding himself
in his native country. And indeed are not ships and the open sea a
second country to an Englishman? Oswald walked the deck with the English
on board to learn the news from England, and to discuss the politics of
their country; during which time Corinne was with some English ladies
who had come from Naples to attend divine worship. They were surrounded
by their children, as beautiful as the day, but timid as their mothers;
and not a word was spoken before a new acquaintance. This constraint,
this silence, rendered Corinne very sad; she turned her eyes towards
beautiful Naples, towards its flowery shores, its animated existence,
and sighed. Fortunately for her Oswald did not perceive it; on the
contrary, beholding her seated among English women, her dark eyelids
cast down like their fair ones, and conforming in every respect to their
manners, he felt a sensation of joy. In vain does an Englishman find
pleasure in foreign manners; his heart always reverts to the first
impressions of his life. If you ask Englishmen sailing at the extremity
of the world whither they are going, they will answer you, _home_, if
they are returning to England. Their wishes and their sentiments are
always turned towards their native country, at whatever distance they
may be from it.

They descended between decks to hear divine service, and Corinne soon
perceived that her idea was without foundation, that Lord Nelville had
not formed the solemn project she had at first supposed. She then
reproached herself with having feared such an event, and the
embarrassment of her present situation revived in her bosom; for all the
company believed her to be the wife of Lord Nelville, and she had not
the courage to say a word that might either destroy or confirm this
idea. Oswald suffered as cruelly as she did; but in the midst of a
thousand rare qualities, there was much weakness and irresolution in his
character. These defects are unperceived by their possessor, and assume
in his eyes a new form under every circumstance; he conceives it
alternately to be prudence, sensibility, or delicacy, which defers the
moment of adopting a resolution and prolongs a state of indecision;
hardly ever does he feel that it is the same character which attaches
this kind of inconvenience to every circumstance.

Corinne, however, notwithstanding the painful thoughts that occupied
her, received a deep impression from the spectacle which she witnessed.
Nothing, in truth, speaks more to the soul than divine service performed
on board a ship; and the noble simplicity of the reformed worship seems
particularly adapted to the sentiments which are then felt. A young man
performed the functions of chaplain; he preached with a mild but firm
voice, and his figure bespoke the rigid principles of a pure soul amidst
the ardour of youth. That severity carries with it an idea of force,
very suitable to a religion preached among the perils of war. At stated
moments, the English minister delivered prayers, the last words of which
all the assembly repeated with him. These confused but mild voices
proceeding from various distances kept alive interest and emotion. The
sailors, the officers, and the captain, knelt down several times,
particularly at these words, "_Lord, have mercy upon us!_" The sword of
the captain, which dragged on the deck whilst he was kneeling, called to
mind that noble union of humility before God and intrepidity before man,
which renders the devotion of warriors so affecting; and whilst these
brave people besought the God of armies, the sea was seen through the
port-holes, and sometimes the murmuring of the waves, at that moment
tranquil, seemed to say, "_your prayers are heard_." The chaplain
finished, the service by a prayer, peculiar to the English sailors.
"_May God_," say they, "_give us grace to defend our happy Constitution
from without, and to find on our return domestic happiness at home!_"
How many fine sentiments are united in these simple words! The long and
continued study which the navy requires and the austere life led in a
ship, make it a military cloister in the midst of the waves; and the
regularity of the most serious occupations is there only interrupted by
perils and death. The sailors, in spite of their rough, hardy manners,
often express themselves with much gentleness, and show a particular
tenderness to women and children when they meet them on board. We are
the more touched with these sentiments, because we know with what
coolness they expose themselves to those terrible dangers of war and the
sea, in the midst of which the presence of man has something of the
supernatural.

Corinne and Lord Nelville returned to the boat which was to bring them
ashore; they beheld the city of Naples, built in the form of an
amphitheatre, as if to take part more commodiously in the festival of
nature; and Corinne, in setting her foot again upon Italian ground,
could not refrain from feeling a sentiment of joy. If Nelville had
suspected this sentiment he would have been hurt at it, and perhaps with
reason; yet he would have been unjust towards Corinne, who loved him
passionately in spite of the painful impression caused by the
remembrance of a country where cruel circumstances had rendered her so
unhappy. Her imagination was lively; there was in her heart a great
capacity for love; but talent, especially in a woman, begets a
disposition to weariness, a want of something to divert the attention,
which the most profound passion cannot make entirely disappear. The idea
of a monotonous life, even in the midst of happiness, makes a mind which
stands in need of variety, to shudder with fear. It is only when there
is little wind in the sails, that we can keep close to shore; but the
imagination roves at large, although affection be constant; it is so, at
least, till the moment when misfortune makes every inconsistency
disappear, and leaves but one thought and one grief in the mind.

Oswald attributed the reverie of Corinne solely to the embarrassment
into which she had been thrown by hearing herself called Lady Nelville;
and reproaching himself for not having released her from that
embarrassment he feared she might suspect him of levity. He began
therefore in order to arrive at the long-desired explanation by offering
to relate to her his own history. "I will speak first," said he, "and
your confidence will follow mine." "Yes, undoubtedly it must," answered
Corinne, trembling; "but tell me at what day--at what hour? When you
have spoken, I will tell you all."--"How agitated you are," answered
Oswald; "what then, will you ever feel that fear of your friend, that
mistrust of his heart?" "No," continued Corinne; "it is decided; I have
committed it all to writing, and if you choose, to-morrow--"
"To-morrow," said Lord Nelville, "we are to go together to Vesuvius; I
wish to contemplate with you this astonishing wonder, to learn from you
how to admire it; and in this very journey, if I have the strength, I
will make you acquainted with the particulars of my past life. My heart
is determined; thus my confidence will open the way to yours." "So you
give me to-morrow," replied Corinne; "I thank you for this one day. Ah!
who knows whether you will be the same for me when I have opened my soul
to you? And how can I feel such a doubt without shuddering?"



Chapter iv.


The ruins of Pompei are near to Mount Vesuvius, and Corinne and Lord
Neville began their excursion with these ruins. They were both silent;
for the moment approached which was to decide their fate, and that vague
hope they had so long enjoyed, and which accords so well with the
indolence and reverie that the climate of Italy inspires, was to be
replaced by a positive destiny. They visited Pompei together, the most
curious ruin of antiquity. At Rome, seldom any thing is found but the
remains of public monuments, and these monuments only retrace the
political history of past ages; but at Pompei it is the private life of
the ancients which offers itself to the view, such as it was. The
Volcano, which has covered this city with ashes, has preserved it from
the destroying hand of Time. Edifices, exposed to the air, never could
have remained so perfect; but this hidden relic of antiquity was found
entire. The paintings and bronzes were still in their pristine beauty;
and every thing connected with domestic life is fearfully preserved. The
amphoræ are yet prepared for the festival of the following day; the
flour which was to be kneaded is still to be seen; the remains of a
woman, are still decorated with those ornaments which she wore on the
holiday that the Volcano disturbed, and her calcined arms no longer fill
the bracelets of precious stones which still surround them. Nowhere is
to be seen so striking an image of the sudden interruption of life. The
traces of the wheels are visible in the streets, and the stones on the
brink of the wells bear the mark of the cord which has gradually
furrowed them. On the walls of a guardhouse are still to be seen those
misshapen characters, those figures rudely sketched, which the soldiers
traced to pass away the time, while Time was hastily advancing to
swallow them up.

When we place ourselves in the midst of the crossroads from which the
city that remains standing almost entire is seen on all sides, it seems
to us as if we were waiting for somebody, as if the master were coming;
and even the appearance of life which this abode offers makes us feel
more sadly its eternal silence. It is with petrified lava that the
greater part of these houses are built, which are now swallowed up by
other lava. Thus ruins are heaped upon ruins, and tombs upon tombs. This
history of the world, where the epochs are counted from ruin to ruin,
this picture of human life, which is only lighted up by the Volcanoes
that have consumed it, fill the heart with a profound melancholy. How
long man has existed! How long he has suffered and died! Where can we
find his sentiments and his thoughts? Is the air that we breathe in
these ruins impregnated with them, or are they for ever deposited in
heaven where reigns immortality? Some burnt leaves of manuscripts, which
have been found at Herculaneum, and Pompei, and which scholars at
Portici are employed to decipher, are all that remain to give us
information of those unhappy victims, whom the Volcano, that
thunder-bolt of earth, has destroyed. But in passing near those ashes,
which art has succeeded in reanimating, we are afraid to breathe lest a
breath should carry away that dust where noble ideas are perhaps still
imprinted.

The public edifices in the city itself of Pompei, which was one of the
least important of Italy, are yet tolerably fine. The luxury of the
ancients had almost ever some object of public interest for its aim.
Their private houses are very small, and we do not see in them any
studied magnificence, though we may remark a lively taste for the fine
arts in their possessors. Almost the whole interior is adorned with the
most agreeable paintings and mosaic pavements ingeniously worked. On
many of these pavements is written the word _Salve_. This word is placed
on the threshold of the door, and must not be simply considered as a
polite expression, but as an invocation of hospitality. The rooms are
singularly narrow, and badly lighted; the windows do not look on the
street, but on a portico inside the house, as well as a marble court
which it surrounds. In the midst of this court is a cistern, simply
ornamented. It is evident from this kind of habitation that the ancients
lived almost entirely in the open air, and that it was there they
received their friends. Nothing gives us a more sweet and voluptuous
idea of existence than this climate, which intimately unites man with
nature; we should suppose that the character of their conversation and
their society, ought, with such habits, to be different from those of a
country where the rigour of the cold forces the inhabitants to shut
themselves up in their houses. We understand better the Dialogues of
Plato in contemplating those porches under which the ancients walked
during one half of the day. They were incessantly animated by the
spectacle of a beautiful sky: social order, according to their
conceptions, was not the dry combination of calculation and force, but a
happy assemblage of institutions, which stimulated the faculties,
unfolded the soul, and directed man to the perfection of himself and his
equals.

Antiquity inspires an insatiable curiosity. Those men of erudition who
are occupied only in forming a collection of names which they call
history, are certainly divested of all imagination. But to penetrate the
remotest periods of the past, to interrogate the human heart through the
intervening gloom of ages, to seize a fact by the help of a word, and by
the aid of that fact to discover the character and manners of a nation;
in effect, to go back to the remotest time, to figure to ourselves how
the earth in its first youth appeared to the eyes of man, and in what
manner the human race then supported the gift of existence which
civilization has now rendered so complicated, is a continual effort of
the imagination, which divines and discovers the finest secrets that
reflection and study can reveal to us. This occupation of the mind
Oswald found most fascinating, and often repeated to Corinne that if he
had not been taken up with the noblest interests in his own country, he
could only have found life supportable in those parts where the
monuments of history supply the place of present existence. We must at
least regret glory when it is no longer possible to obtain it. It is
forgetfulness alone that debases the soul; but it may find an asylum in
the past, when barren circumstances deprive actions of their aim.

On leaving Pompei and returning to Portici, Corinne and Lord Nelville
were surrounded by the inhabitants, who cried to them loudly to come and
see _the mountain_; so they call _Vesuvius_. Is it necessary to name it?
It is the glory of the Neapolitans and the object of their patriotic
feelings; their country is distinguished by this phenomenon. Oswald had
Corinne carried in a kind of palanquin as far as the hermitage of St
Salvador, which is half way up the mountain, and where travellers repose
before they undertake to climb the summit. He rode by her side to watch
those who carried her, and the more his heart was filled with the
generous thoughts that nature and history inspire, the more he adored
Corinne.

At the foot of Vesuvius the country is the most fertile and best
cultivated that can be found in the kingdom of Naples, that is to say,
in the country of Europe most favoured of heaven. The celebrated vine,
whose wine is called _Lacryma Christi_, grows in this spot, and by the
side of lands which have been laid waste by the lava. One would say that
nature has made a last effort in this spot, so near the Volcano, and has
decked herself in her richest attire before her death. In proportion as
we ascend the mountain, we discover on turning round, Naples, and the
beautiful country that surrounds it. The rays of the sun make the sea
sparkle like precious stones; but all the splendour of the creation is
extinguished by degrees as we approach the land of ashes and smoke which
announces the vicinity of the Volcano. The ferruginous lava of preceding
years has traced in the earth deep and sable furrows, and all around
them is barren. At a certain height not a bird is seen to fly, at
another, plants become very scarce, then even the insects find nothing
to subsist on in the arid soil. At length every living thing disappears;
you enter the empire of death, and the pulverised ashes alone roll
beneath your uncertain feet.

     Nè griggi nè armenti
     Guida bifolco, mai guida pastore

_Neither flocks nor herds does the husbandman or the shepherd ever guide
to this spot._

Here dwells a hermit on the confines of life and death. A tree, the
last farewell of vegetation, grows before his door: and it is beneath
the shadow of its pale foliage that travellers are accustomed to wait
the approach of night, to continue their route; for during the day, the
fires of Vesuvius are only perceived like a cloud of smoke, and the
lava, so bright and burning in the night, appears black before the beams
of the sun. This metamorphosis itself is a fine spectacle, which renews
every evening that astonishment which the continuity of the same aspect
might weaken. The impression of this spot and its profound solitude,
gave Lord Nelville more resolution to reveal the secrets of his soul;
and desiring to excite the confidence of Corinne, he said to her with
the most lively emotion:--"You wish to read the inmost soul of your
unhappy friend; well, I will tell you all: I feel my wounds are about to
bleed afresh; but ought we, in this desolate scene of nature, to dread
so much those sufferings which Time brings in its course?"

[Illustration]

PRINTED BY TURNBULL AND SPEARS, EDINBURGH.





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