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Title: Corinne; or, Italy
Author: Germaine, Staël, Madame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine)
Language: English
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CORINNE;

OR,

ITALY.

--"Udrallo il bel paese,
Ch' Apennin parte, e 'l mar circonda e l'Alpe."
          PETRARCA.

BY

MADAME DE STAËL


TRANSLATED BY ISABEL HILL;

WITH

METRICAL VERSIONS OF THE ODES BY L. E. LANDON


LONDON:

RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET,

(SUCCESSOR TO HENRY COLBURN).

1833



Translator's Preface.


Whatever defects may exist in my attempt at rendering "Corinne"
into English, be it remembered, that _we_ have many words for one
meaning--in French there are several significations for the same word.
Repetition, an elegance in French, is a barbarism in English. Thus
I had to contend with a tautology almost unmanageable, and even a
reiteration of the same sentiments. Sentences, harmonious in French,
lost all agreeable cadence, until entirely reconstructed. Madame de
Staël's diffuse manner obliged me also to transpose pretty freely. I
found, in so doing, many self-contradictions, some of which I could
not efface. Her boldness of condensation, too, and love of vague,
mysterious sublimity, often left me in doubt as to what might be hidden
beneath the dazzling veil of her eloquence. It may appear profanation
to have altered a syllable; but, having been accustomed to consult the
taste of my own country, I could not outrage it by being more literal.
I have taken the liberty of making British peasants and children
speak their native idiom, and have added a few explanatory notes;
occasionally availing myself of quotations from more recent authorities
than that of the Baroness. Lest I should unconsciously have committed
any great mistake, be it known that the printers of her "eighth
corrected and revised edition" gave Corinne a _military_ instead of a
literary career, and made the Roman mob throw handfuls of _bon mots_
into the carriages during the carnival.

Miss Landon had kindly undertaken to render the lyric portions of the
work; but we feared for awhile, that our own Improvisatrice would be
prevented by circumstances from gracing the volume by her name. I,
therefore, translated Corinne's compositions into _rhyme_. Only one of
my essays, however, "The Fragment of Corinne's Thoughts," was required.
I am conscious of its imperfect regularity; but, having no poetical
reputation at stake, I throw myself on the mercy of my judges.

ISABEL HILL.

6, CECIL STREET, STRAND.



MADAME DE STAËL.


Madame de Staël--Her Infancy and Education--Her Marriage--Her Personal
Appearance--The Revolution--Her First Meeting and Conversation with
Bonaparte--Interview with Josephine--Her Portrait and Character--Her
Repartees--Exile--Delphine--Auguste de Staël and Napoleon--Private
Theatricals--Corinne--Police Interference--Travels in Foreign
Countries--Her Illness and Death--Effect of Napoleon's Persecution upon
the Literary Position of Madame de Staël.


Jacques Necker, the father of Madame de Staël, a Genevese and a
Protestant, was at the birth of his daughter Annie-Louise-Germaine
Necker, in 1766, a clerk in a banking-house at Paris. He had married
M'lle Curchod, a Swiss like himself, and who had, some years before,
been the object of the first and last love of Gibbon the historian.
Madame Necker undertook the education of Louise, plied her with books
and tasks, and introduced her, even in infancy, to her own circle
of brilliant and accomplished men. "At the age of eleven," writes a
lady who was at the time her companion, "she spoke with a warmth and
facility which were already eloquent. In society she talked but little,
but so animated was her face that she appeared to converse with all.
Every guest at her mother's house addressed her with some compliment or
polite speech; she replied with ease and grace." She was encouraged to
write, and her youthful productions were read in public, and some of
them were even printed. This process of education, while it rendered
the subject of it rather brilliant than profound, and encouraged
vanity and a love of display, broke down her health, and the physicians
ordered her to retire to the country, and to renounce all mental
application. Her mother, disappointed and discouraged, ceased to take
the same interest in her talents and progress; this indifference led
Louise to attach herself more closely to her father, and developed in
her what became through life her ruling passion--filial affection.

In 1776, Necker, who had in the meantime become the partner of his
late employer, and had attracted attention by an essay on the corn
laws, was considered by the masses as the only person capable of saving
the country from bankruptcy. He was, therefore, appointed to control
the finances, being the first Protestant who had held office since
the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. One of his acts, five years
afterward, having excited clamor among the royalists, an anonymous
pamphlet appeared, in which his defence was warmly espoused and the
propriety of his conduct successfully asserted. Necker detected
his daughter's style in this production, and she acknowledged its
authorship, being then fifteen years old. Necker resigned office, and
retreated with his family to Coppet, on the borders of the Lake of
Geneva.

Madame de Genlis saw M'lle Necker for the first time, when the latter
was sixteen. She thus speaks of her in her memoirs: "This young lady
was not pretty; her manner was very animated, and she talked a great
deal, too much indeed, though always with wit and discernment. I
remember that I read one of my juvenile plays to Madame Necker, her
daughter being present. I cannot describe the enthusiasm and the
demonstrations of M'lle Louise, while I was reading. She wept, she
uttered exclamations at every page, and constantly kissed my hands. Her
mother had done wrong in allowing her to pass three-quarters of her
time with the throng of wits who continually surrounded her, and who
held dissertations with her upon love and the passions."[1]

At the age of twenty, Louise married Baron de Staël-Holstein, the
Swedish ambassador at the court of France. She sought neither a lover
nor a friend in her husband; she treated marriage as a convenience, and
became a wife in order to obtain that liberty and independence which
were denied her as a young lady. She required that her husband should
be noble and a Protestant, and as in addition to these essentials Baron
de Staël was an agreeable and an honorable man, and engaged never to
compel her to follow him to Sweden, she consented to marry him. In the
same year, 1786, a failure of the crops, and the consequent distress
of the poorer classes, compelled the king to recall Necker to the
administration of the finances.

Madame de Staël is thus described, at the age of twenty-five, by a
writer who, to justify the peculiar and oriental extravagance of his
style, assumed the character of a Greek poet: "Zulmé advances; her
large dark eyes sparkle with genius; her hair, black as ebony, falls
on her shoulders in wavy ringlets; her features are more striking
than delicate, and express superiority to her sex. 'There she is,'
all exclaim when she appears, and at once become breathless. When
she sings, she extemporizes the words of her song, the ecstasy of
improvisation animates her face, and holds the audience in rapt
attention. When the song ceases, she talks of the great truths of
nature, the immortality of the soul, the love of liberty, of the
fascination and danger of the passions. Her features meanwhile wear
an expression superior to beauty; her physiognomy is full of play and
variety. When she ceases, a murmur of approbation thrills through the
room; she looks down modestly; her long lashes sink over her flashing
eyes, and the sun is clouded over."

The Revolution now advanced with rapid steps. Necker, whose
capabilities as a financier have been generally acknowledged, was
totally deficient in the higher qualities of the statesman. He sought
to assume a middle position between the court and the people, but
failing of success, was in consequence dismissed on the 11th of July,
1789. Paris rose in insurrection when this event became known, and on
the 14th, the Bastille was in the hands of the people. The king was
forced to send an order to recall Necker, who had left the country;
this overtook him at Frankfort. "What a period of happiness," writes
Madame de Staël, "was our journey back to Paris! I do not believe that
a similar ovation was ever extended to a man not the sovereign of the
country. Women, afar off in the fields, threw themselves on their
knees, as the carriage passed: the most prominent citizens acted as
postilions, and in many towns people detached the horses and dragged
the carriage themselves. Oh, nothing can equal the emotions of a woman
who hears the name of a beloved parent repeated with eulogy by a whole
people!" This triumph was of short duration. In a little more than a
year, Necker, who had opposed some of the more radical measures of
reform in the National Assembly, lost the confidence of the people,
resigned, and again withdrew to Switzerland. He was now accompanied
by the revilings and maledictions of the populace, and even narrowly
escaped with his life.

Madame de Staël remained at Paris, and speedily became involved in the
intrigues of the day. Her salon was the rendezvous of the royalists and
Girondins, and the scene of ardent political discussions. In the midst
of the sanguinary excesses of '92, she fearlessly used her influence
to shelter and save her friends. She took them to her own house,
which, being the residence of an ambassador, she presumed would be
inviolable. But one night the police appeared at the gate, and required
that the doors be opened for a rigid search. Madame de Staël met them
at the threshold, spoke to them of the rights of ambassadors and of
the vengeance of Sweden, and by dint of wit, argument and intrepidity,
persuaded them to abandon their designs. She was soon compelled to
flee, however, and take refuge with her father at Coppet. Here she
wrote and published an appeal in behalf of Marie Antoinette, and
"Reflections on the Peace of 1783." The fall of Robespierre, in July,
1794, enabled her to return to Paris, whither she hastened, upon the
news of his execution.

Her residence in the capital formed an event in the annals of society
at that period. The most distinguished foreigners and the best men in
France flocked around her. She gave her influence to the government of
the Directory, being desirous of the establishment of some guaranty for
the preservation of order and of individual security.

"Madame de Staël," says de Goncourt, "was a man of genius as early
as the year 1795. It was by her hand, that France signed a treaty of
alliance with existing institutions, and for a period accepted the
Directory. Who obtained her the victory? Herself, with the aid of a
friend who was the scribe of her dictation, the aid-de-camp and the
notary-public of her thought, Benjamin Constant. The daughter of Necker
forbade France to recall its line of kings: she retained the republic:
she condemned the throne. She agitated victoriously in behalf of the
maintenance of the representative system. The human right of victory
was equivalent, with her, to the divine right of birth."[2]

The appearance of Bonaparte upon the stage of action produced a violent
change in her life, pursuits and pleasures. She disliked and distrusted
him from the first, and her drawing-room became an opposition club, or,
as Napoleon himself described it, an arsenal of hostility. He, in turn,
was vexed at her intellectual supremacy, and dreaded her influence.
They first met at a ball given to Josephine, toward the close of the
year 1797. She had long hunted him from place to place, for she was
desirous of subjecting him, if possible, to the fascinations of her
conversation, and he, avoiding the interview with consummate address,
had always escaped her importunities. At the ball in question, he
saw retreat to be impossible, and boldly seated himself in a vacant
chair by her side. The following conversation, attributed to them,
contains, in a concise form, the best of the authenticated sallies and
repartees perpetrated by the illustrious interlocutors. After the usual
preliminaries, the dialogue proceeded thus:


MADAME DE STAËL. Madame Bonaparte is a charming lady.

BONAPARTE. Any compliment passing through your lips, madame, acquires
additional value.

ST. Ah! then you appreciate my opinion and my approbation? But you have
doubted my capacity, you have thought me frivolous; nevertheless, my
studies in diplomacy, in the history of courts----

BON. I implore Madame de Staël not to drag the Graces to the pillory of
politics.

ST. I assure you, General, that your mythological compliment is totally
lost upon me: I should prefer that you judge me worthy to talk reason
with you.

BON. The right of your sex is to make us lose our reason: do not
despise so excellent a privilege.

ST. General, I beg of you not to play with me as with a doll: I desire
to be treated as a man.

BON. Then you would like to have me put on petticoats.

ST.--TO A GENTLEMAN INTERRUPTING HER.--Sir, be good enough to
understand that I desire no assistance, though certainly my adversary
is sufficiently powerful to render assistance necessary.

BON. Madame, it was to my aid that he was coming; my danger appalls
him, and he was seeking to relieve me.

ST. In any case, I owe him small thanks for his tardy aid, since you
confess that my victory seemed certain. He is a true friend, however;
he stands by those he likes, even in their absence, when, usually,
friendship slumbers.

BON. In that, friendship imitates its cousin--love.

ST.--NERVING HERSELF FOR AN EFFORT.--By what means, General, can an
ordinary woman, without literary reputation, without superior genius,
be sustained in the affection of a man she loves when separated from
him by distance or a period of years? Memory, reduced to recalling her
charms only, becomes gradually dim, and at last forgets, especially
when the lover is a great man. But when the latter has had the good
fortune to meet with a strong-minded woman, one worthy of sharing his
laurels, and herself enjoying a high reputation, then the distance of
time and space disappears, for it is the renown of both which serves as
messenger between them, and it is through the hundred mouths of fame
that each receives intelligence of the other.

BON. Madame, in what chapter of the work you are about to publish shall
we read this brilliant passage?

ST. It has been the constant illusion of my soul.

BON. Ah, I understand; it is your hobby, after the manner of Sterne. So
you are seeking the philosopher's stone?

ST. One would think, to hear you talk, that it is impossible to find it.

BON. There are two illusions in this world, though both flow from the
same error; that of physical and that of moral alchemy. This idealistic
philosophy leads to an abyss.

ST. One, nevertheless, which wit and sagacity may illumine with the
rays of genius to its inmost recesses. Do you never build castles in
the air, General? Do you never go and dwell in them? Do you never
dream, to charm away the monotony of life?

BON. I leave dreams to sleep, and retain reason for my waking hours.

ST. Then you can never be either amused or surprised! You have a
scouting party stationed to watch that outpost, the imagination?

BON. Wisdom counsels me to do so, and makes it my duty.

ST.--AFTER A MOMENT'S REFLECTION.--General, who, in your opinion, is
the greatest of women?

BON. She who bears the most children.[3]

Madame de Staël turned slightly pale at this reply, and said no more.
The General rose, bowed, and quitted the room. Both carried away from
the interview the elements of mutual dislike and food for a life-long
hostility. "Doubtless," says Lacretelle, "this last question was
suggested by the vanity of the inquirer." And Bonaparte, eager to
deprive the lady of the tribute she expected in his reply, made answer
as we have described. "Certainly," adds Lacretelle, "it was impossible
to rebuff a courtesy with greater rudeness and less discernment, for
Madame de Staël was one of the powers of the day."[4]

One evening, early in the Consulate, Josephine met Madame de Staël at
the house of Madame de Montesson. Bonaparte was to come somewhat later.
Josephine, knowing his aversion for her, or fearing her seductions if
she were successful in obtaining his attention, received her, as she
advanced, in a manner so markedly cold, if not rude, that Madame de
Staël recoiled without speaking, and retreated to the extremity of the
room, where she dropped into a chair.

She remained for some time apart and alone. The pretty women took a
malicious pleasure in the mortification of one of their own sex, while
the gentlemen indulged in impertinent and unmanly remarks. At this
moment, a young girl of extreme beauty and light airy step, with blond
hair and blue eyes, and dressed entirely in white, left the group that
had collected in the vicinity of Josephine, crossed the salon, and sat
down by Madame de Staël. The latter, whose heart was as quick as her
wit was ready, said to her, "You are as good as you are beautiful, my
child."

"In what, pray, madame?" asked the young lady.

"In what?" returned Madame de Staël. "You ask me why I think you as
kind as you are fair? Because you crossed this immense and deserted
salon to come and sit by me. Upon my word, you are more courageous than
I should have been."

"And yet, madame, I am naturally so timid that I should not dare to
tell you my fears and trepidation: you would laugh at me, I am sure."

"Laugh at you!" exclaimed Madame de Staël, with moistened eyes and
trembling voice; "laugh at you! never! never! I am your sister,
henceforth, my dear, dear young friend! Will you tell me your Christian
name?"

"Delphine, madame."

"Delphine! What a pretty name! I am very glad of it, for it will suit
my purpose exactly. You must know, love, that I am writing a novel;
and I mean it to bear your name. You shall be its god-mother; and you
will find something in it which will remind you of to-day and of our
acquaintance."

Madame de Staël kept her promise, and the passage in the novel
of Delphine, in which the heroine, abandoned, is under similar
circumstances relieved and sustained by Madame de R., was written in
commemoration of this little domestic scene.[5]

Bonaparte soon entered the room, and ignorant of the treatment Madame
de Staël had undergone from Josephine, accosted her graciously, and
indeed took evident pains to restrain, during their conversation, his
intuitive dislike of the petticoat politician.

Madame de Staël was now at the apogee of her talent and influence. Her
conversation was not what is usually understood by the term. She did
not require so much an interlocutor as a listener. Her improvisations
were long and sustained pleas, if her object was to convince, or
discursive though brilliant harangues, if she sought to display her
wealth of thought and of words. Those that were accustomed to her ways
rarely answered her, even if, in the heat of argument, she addressed
them a question; well aware that it was rather to operate a diversion
than to elicit a reply. She required the excitement of an audience,
and her eloquence became richer and more rapid as the circle of her
listeners widened. She preferred contradiction and dissent to a blind
acceptance of her opinions, and the surest method of pleasing her
was to adduce arguments that she might refute them, and which might
suggest in her mind new trains of ideas. Controversy was her peculiar
element, and she sometimes resorted to the charlatanical process of
advocating two opposite opinions on the same occasion, in order to show
the flexibility of her mind and the pliancy of her logic. In the season
of foliage, she invariably carried in her hand a twig of poplar,
which, when talking, she would turn and twist between her fingers; the
crackling of this, she said, stimulated her brain. During the season
when the poplar produces no leaves, she substituted for the twig a
piece of rolled paper with which she was forced to be content, till the
return of verdure. In winter, her flatterers and admirers always had a
supply of these papers prepared, and presented her a quantity, on her
arrival at a fête or a conversazione, that she might select her sceptre
for the evening.[6] The famous twig of poplar is introduced in Gérard's
portrait of Madame de Staël.[7]

She was never handsome, and without the extraordinary depth and
brilliancy of her eyes, would have been a plain, if not an ugly woman.
Her nose and mouth were homely, and only redeemed by her ever-varying
expression. Her complexion was rough, her form massive rather than
graceful, and indicated indolence rather than vivacity. Her hands were
beautiful, and ill-natured people asserted that the poplar twig was a
mere pretext for keeping them constantly in view. She dressed at all
times without taste, and this defect became more conspicuous as she
advanced in years, for at the age of forty-five she wore the colors
and ornaments which would befit a young lady of twenty. Her coiffure
was usually a turban, though this was not the prevailing fashion. Her
partisans denied that there was any exaggeration in her toilet, though
they allowed that she sought to be picturesque rather than fashionable.

Biography has preserved examples almost innumerable of the readiness
of her wit and the profundity of her observation. The love of truth
was one of her prominent characteristics. "I saw," she said "that
Bonaparte was declining, when he no longer sought for the truth." She
held long arguments on equality, and said on one occasion, "I would
not refuse the opinion of the lowest of my domestics, if the slightest
of my own impressions tended to justify his." Her respect for justice
and moderation was evinced in her reply to the remark of a Bourbon
after Napoleon's fall, to the effect that Bonaparte had neither talent
nor courage: "It is degrading France and Europe too much, sir, to
pretend that for fifteen years they have been subject to a simpleton
and a poltroon!" She despised affectation, and said that she could
not converse with an affected man or woman on account of the constant
interruptions of a tedious third person--their unnatural and affected
character. Of individuals accustomed to exaggerate, she said: "To put
100 for 10, why, there's no imagination in that." Her faith was sincere
and unostentatious, and she would remark, after listening to lofty
metaphysical discourses, "Well, I like the Lord's Prayer better than
that." One of her best replies was made to Canning, in the Tuileries,
after the exile of Napoleon: "Well, Madame de Staël, we have conquered
you French, you see!" "If you have, sir, it was because you had the
Russians and the whole continent on your side. Give us a tête-à-tête,
and you will see!"

Madame de Staël's conduct as a wife was not irreproachable. Talleyrand
was one of the first, though by no means the last, of her lovers.
It was after his rupture with Madame de Staël that he entered upon
his liaison with Madame Grandt, and it was this circumstance that
led Madame de Staël to ask him the most unfortunate question of her
life, for it gave him the opportunity of making the most comprehensive
reply of his: "If Madame Grandt and I were to fall into the water,
Talleyrand," she inquired, "which of us would you save first?" "Oh,
madame," returned the minister, "YOU SWIM SO WELL!" She was revenged
on him by drawing--though not very delicately--his character as a
diplomatist: "He is so double-faced," she said, "that if you kick him
behind, he will smile in front."

Bonaparte, early in the Consulate, sought through his brother Joseph,
to attach Madame de Staël to his government; he might have done so, had
he cared to conciliate her by expressing, or even feigning, deference
to her talents and opinions. But he did not pursue the negotiation,
and she continued her political discussions at her house, devoting
her days to intrigues, and her evenings to epigrams; until Bonaparte,
whose patience was exhausted, and who did not consider his power as yet
fully established, directed his minister of police to banish her from
Paris. She was ordered not to return within forty leagues of the city.
He is said to have remarked, "I leave the whole world open to Madame de
Staël, except Paris; that I reserve to myself." It was urged, too, that
she had small claims to consideration; she was, though born in France,
hardly a Frenchwoman, being the daughter of a Swiss and the wife of a
Swede.

During a period of years, Madame de Staël remained under the ban
of Bonaparte's displeasure, though, during a short interval, the
intercessions of her father obtained permission for her to inhabit
the capital. In 1803, she published her "Delphine," a work so immoral
in its tendency that it incurred the censure of the critics and the
public, and compelled the authoress to put forth a species of apology,
which in its turn was considered lame and inconclusive. The character
of Madame de Vernon, in "Delphine," was said to have been intended for
Talleyrand, clothed in female garb.

Unable to endure the deprivation of her Parisian friends, Madame de
Staël soon established herself at the distance of thirty miles from
Paris. Bonaparte was told that her residence was crowded with visitors
from the capital. "She affects," he said, "to speak neither of public
affairs nor of me; yet it invariably happens that every one comes
out of her house less attached to me than when he went in." An order
for her departure was soon served upon her, and she set forth upon a
pilgrimage through Germany.

In the last week of December, 1807, Napoleon, returning from Italy,
stopped at the post-house of Chambéry, in Sardinia, for a fresh relay
of horses. He was told that a young man of seventeen years, named
Auguste de Staël, desired to speak with him. "What have I to do with
these refugees of Geneva?" said Napoleon, tartly. He ordered him to
be admitted, however. "Where is your mother?" said Napoleon, opening
the conversation. "She is at Vienna, sire." "Ah, she must be satisfied
now; she will have fine opportunities for learning German." "Sire,
your majesty cannot suppose that my mother can be satisfied anywhere,
separated from her friends and driven from her country. If your majesty
would condescend to glance at these private letters, written by my
mother, you would see, sire, what unhappiness her exile causes her."
"Oh, pooh! that's the way with your mother. I do not say she is a bad
woman; but her mind is insubordinate and rebellious. She was brought
up in the chaos of a falling monarchy, and of a revolution running
riot, and it has turned her head. If I were to allow her to return,
six months would not pass before I should be obliged to shut her up in
Bedlam, or put her under lock and key at the Temple. I should be sorry
to do it, for it would make scandal, and injure me in public opinion.
Tell your mother my mind is made up. As long as I live, she shall not
again set foot in Paris."

"Sire, I am so sure that my mother would conduct herself with propriety
that I pray you to grant her a trial, if it be only for six weeks." "It
cannot be. She would make herself the standard-bearer of the faubourg
St. Germain. She would receive visits, would return them, would make
witticisms, and do a thousand follies. No, young man, no." "Will your
majesty allow a son to inquire the cause of this hostility to his
mother? I have been told it was the last work of my grandfather; I can
assure your majesty that my mother had no hand in it." "Certainly,
that book had its effect. Your grandfather was an idealist, an old
maniac; at sixty years of age, to attempt to overturn my constitution
and to replace it by one of his! An economist, indeed! A man who dreams
financial schemes and could hardly perform the duties of a village
tax-gatherer decently! Robespierre and Danton have done less harm to
France than M. Necker. Your grandfather is the cause of the saturnalia
which have desolated France. Upon his head be all the blood of the
Revolution!" "Sire, I trust that posterity will speak more favorably
of him. During his administration, he was compared with Sully and
Colbert, and I trust to the justice of posterity." "Posterity will
perhaps not speak of him at all," returned Napoleon.

"You are young, M. de Staël," he added, changing his tone, and taking
the petitioner familiarly by the ear. "Your frankness pleases me: I
like to see a son plead the cause of his mother. She confided to you
a difficult mission, and you have discharged it with intelligence. I
cannot give you false hopes, so I do not conceal from you that you will
obtain nothing whatever. I'll have none of your mother in the city
where I dwell. Women should knit stockings, and not talk politics." As
Napoleon rode away from Chambéry, he said to Duroc, "Was I not rather
hard with that young man? After all, I am glad of it. The thing is
settled once for all. France is no place for the family of Necker."[8]

During the absence of Madame de Staël in Germany, her father died,
and she hastened to return to Coppet. She collected and published his
writings, and appended to them a biographical memoir. She cherished his
memory with a passion bordering on monomania, which led her, whenever
she saw an old man in affliction, to seek to alleviate his sorrows. She
often said, upon hearing good news, "I owe this to the intercessions of
my father."

She found it difficult satisfactorily to occupy her leisure. She used
to say that she would prefer living on two thousand francs a year in
the Rue Jean Pain Mollet at Paris, to spending one hundred thousand
at Geneva. But she made no effort to obtain a recall, at least by
imposing restraint upon her tongue. Knowing that she was surrounded
by spies, and that her bitter allusions to Napoleon were reported at
the Tuileries, she continued to exhaust her wit upon the acts of his
government, and upon the tyranny of him whom she called "Robespierre on
horseback."

Amateur theatricals, upon a diminutive stage built for the purpose,
afforded some amusement to the exile of Coppet. The audiences were
principally French residents at Geneva, whose ambition to be able to
boast of their admission into Madame de Staël's intimacy, induced them
to travel the wearisome road which separated the two places. While
waiting for the lamps to be lighted, they ate bread and chocolate in
the dark--this being the traditional lunch that a Frenchman carries
in his pocket. On one occasion, the performance was Racine's tragedy
of Andromaque. Madame de Staël played Hermione effectively, it would
seem, but with a redundancy of gesture that somewhat marred the
illusion. Madame Récamier acted Andromaque, the interesting widow;
but the critics were so absorbed in the contemplation of her wondrous
beauty that they have left little record of her histrionic ability.
The characters of Oreste, Pylade and Pyrrhus were performed by M. de
Labéboyère, Benjamin Constant and Sismondi, the historian. The two
latter were very amusing, it appears, though the play being a tragedy,
mirth could hardly have been the effect they desired to produce.
Benjamin Constant, whose gestures were very broad and sweeping, once
carried away a Grecian temple with the palm of his hand; Sismondi gave
infinite zest to the representation by the purity of his Genevese
accent. The prompter was M. Schlegel, the poet, critic and historian.
His strong German pronunciation rendered him at best an inefficient
assistant, for the actor, whose memory was treacherous, often failed to
recognize the missing line, in the husky and guttural suggestions of
the author of "Lucinde."

The health of Madame de Staël was now declining, and in order to
recruit it she undertook a journey through Italy. On her return, she
published "Corinne," a poetic description of the peninsula, in the
form of a novel. Though deficient in construction and dramatic power,
it possesses the highest merit as a work delineating character and
descriptive of scenery, and inculcates a pure morality. Incident and
plot form its least attractive features; its eloquent rhapsodies upon
love, religion, virtue, nature, history and poetry, have given it an
enduring place in literature. She now took up her abode at the required
distance from Paris, at Chaumont-sur-Loire, where she inhabited the
chateau already famous as the residence of Diane de Poitiers, Catherine
de Medicis, and Nostradamus the soothsayer, and at this time in the
possession of one of her most attached friends. She here wrote and
prepared for the press a work on the habits, character and literature
of the Germans. The manuscript was laid before the censors at Paris,
who expunged certain passages, and then authorized its publication.
This was in 1810.

Ten thousand copies had been already printed, when the whole edition
was seized at the publishers', by gendarmes sent by Savary, the
minister of police. Madame de Staël was ordered to quit France in
eight days. She withdrew again to Coppet, from whence she opened a
correspondence with Savary upon this arbitrary, and indeed illegal,
proceeding. She had been given to understand that the motive for
the suppression was her omission to mention the name of Napoleon
in connection with Germany, where his armies had lately made him
conspicuous. She wrote to Savary that she did not see how she could
have introduced the Emperor and his "soldiery" into a purely literary
work. To this Savary replied that she was misinformed upon the motive
which had actuated him, and that her exile was the natural consequence
of her conduct for years past. "We are not so reduced in France," he
added, "as to seek for models among the nations which you admire. Your
book is not French, and the air of France does not suit you." This
impertinent letter was prefixed to the first edition of "Germany"
published in London, in 1813.

During her residence at Coppet, Madame de Staël, now a widow and
forty-two years of age, became acquainted with M. de Rocca, a French
officer. She felt an interest in him even before she saw him, for he
was said to be young, noble and brave; what was a still more attractive
feature, he was wounded and an invalid. They first met in a public
ball-room. She was dressed, it appears, in a gaudy and unbecoming
style, and was followed from point to point by a train of admirers and
flatterers. "Is that the famous woman?" said de Rocca. "She is very
plain, and I abhor such continual aiming at effect." She spoke to him,
expressed sympathy for his condition, and speedily effected a complete
revolution in his opinions. From a caviller he became an admirer, and
from an admirer a suitor. They were privately married, and the secret
was carefully kept until the reading of her will, after her death, for
she felt that the match was an ill-assorted one, and could hardly fail
to excite ridicule. Besides, she was unwilling to change her name, "as
it belonged to Europe," to quote her own words to De Rocca.

The tyranny to which she was subjected at the period of this marriage,
by Napoleon, became annoying and perplexing. She was not only exiled
from France, but warned not to go further than six miles from Coppet.
Mathieu de Montmorency was exiled for visiting her, as was also Madame
Récamier, as has already been narrated. M. Schlegel, who aided her
in the education of her three children, was compelled to leave her.
She was seized with the gloomiest apprehensions, and resolved to
escape from the sphere of Napoleon's power. The prefect of Geneva
was instructed, from Paris, to suggest to Madame de Staël a means of
recovering the sovereign's good graces--the publication of some loyal
stanzas upon the birth of Napoleon's heir. "Tell those that sent you,"
she replied, "that I have no wishes in connection with the King of
Rome, except the desire that his mother get him a healthy wet-nurse."

She now passed her time in studying the map of Europe, in choosing
an asylum, and in devising a route by which to get to it. She at
last departed for England, which she approached through Russia and
Sweden. Once beyond French influence, she was treated with the highest
consideration and the warmest cordiality. Among the distinguished men
admitted to her intimacy, Lord Byron held the first place, and she
often gave him advice both upon his conduct and his verse. It was now
that she published her "Germany," She had the deep satisfaction of
seeing her reputation as a critic and delineator of national manners
elevated by it to the highest point.

She welcomed with delight the overthrow and abdication of Napoleon,
and at once returned to Paris, where she attached herself to the party
advocating a representative government under Louis XVIII. The restored
sovereign caused the royal treasury to pay to her family the two
million francs due M. Necker at his retirement from office--a measure
of justice to which Napoleon would never consent. During the Hundred
Days she retired to Switzerland, totally weaned from all interest in
public life. Her health began to fail, and she still further weakened
it by the use of opium. She devoted herself closely to the composition
of her last work, the "French Revolution," which now ranks as one
of the most philosophical, though perhaps not the most impartial,
histories of that period. Her sleepless nights she spent in prayer; she
became gentle, patient and devout. "I think I know," she said, in her
last moments, "what the passage from life to death is. I am convinced
the goodness of God makes it easy; our thoughts become indistinct,
and the pain is not great." She died with perfect composure, in 1817,
in the fifty-first year of her age. Her husband, who was devotedly
attached to her, survived her but a few months.

Madame de Staël was the most distinguished authoress of her time. As a
woman, she was always independent and sincere, and her faults--vanity
and an uncontrollable thirst for applause--may easily be pardoned in
view of her many talents. Napoleon could have won her to his government
at any moment, had he chosen to do so. It is perhaps fortunate for
literature that she was compelled to live in isolation, as neither
"Corinne" nor "Germany" would have been written had she been able to
reside in Paris, instead of travelling to occupy her exile. It is a
singular and not unfair commentary upon Napoleon's reign, that its most
remarkable literary celebrity--in point of mere chronology--owed her
supremacy to his persecution; and it is a permissible inference, that
had his government preferred to foster and cherish her genius, Madame
de Staël would have been known to posterity as little more than a
precocious child, a brilliant conversationalist, an unsexed woman, and
a factious politician.


[1] Mém. de Madame de Genlis, 92.

[2] Soc. Franç. sous le Directoire, 298.

[3] Napoléon et ses Contemporains, i. 229.

[4] Lac. Rév. Française, ii. 140.

[5] Vide "Delphine," vol. ii. 386.

[6] Ducrest, Mém. de Joséphine, 23.

[7] It is from a copy of this portrait, by Gérard, in the Historical
Gallery of Versailles, that the most accurate likenesses of Madame de
Staël are taken.

[8] Bour. viii. 101.



CORINNE



BOOK I.


OSWALD.



CHAPTER I.


In the year 1794, Oswald, Lord Nevil, a Scotch nobleman, left Edinburgh
to pass the winter in Italy.[1] He possessed a noble and handsome
person, a fine mind, a great name, an independent fortune; but his
health was impaired; and the physicians, fearing that his lungs were
affected, prescribed the air of the south. He followed their advice,
though with little interest in his own recovery, hoping, at least,
to find some amusement in the varied objects he was about to behold.
The heaviest of all afflictions, the loss of a father, was the cause
of his malady. The remorse inspired by scrupulous delicacy still more
embittered his regret, and haunted his imagination. Such sufferings we
readily convince ourselves that we deserve, for violent griefs extend
their influence even over the realms of conscience. At five-and-twenty
he was tired of life; he judged the future by the past, and no longer
relished the illusions of the heart. No one could be more devoted to
the service of his friends; yet not even the good he effected gave
him one sensation of pleasure. He constantly sacrificed his tastes
to those of others; but this generosity alone, far from proving a
total forgetfulness of self, may often be attributed to a degree
of melancholy, which renders a man careless of his own doom. The
indifferent considered this mood extremely graceful; but those who
loved him felt that he employed himself for the happiness of others,
like a man who hoped for none; and they almost repined at receiving
felicity from one on whom they could never bestow it. His natural
disposition was versatile, sensitive, and impassioned; uniting all
the qualities which could excite himself or others; but misfortune
and repentance had rendered him timid, and he thought to disarm, by
exacting nothing from fate. He trusted to find, in a firm adherence to
his duties, and a renouncement of all enjoyments, a security against
the sorrows which had distracted him. Nothing in the world seemed worth
the risk of these pangs; but while we are still capable of feeling
them, to what kind of life can we fly for shelter?

Lord Nevil flattered himself that he should quit Scotland without
regret, as he had remained there without pleasure; but the dangerous
dreams of imaginative minds are not thus fulfilled; he was sensible
of the ties which bound him to the scene of his miseries, the home of
his father. There were rooms he could not approach without a shudder,
and yet, when he had resolved to fly them, he felt more alone than
ever. A barren dearth seized on his heart; he could no longer weep;
no more recall those little local associations which had so deeply
melted him; his recollections had less of life; they belonged not to
the things that surrounded him. He did not think the less of those he
mourned, but it became more difficult to conjure back their presence.
Sometimes, too, he reproached himself for abandoning the place where
his father had dwelt. "Who knows," would he sigh, "if the shades of the
dead follow the objects of their affection? They may not be permitted
to wander beyond the spots where their ashes repose! Perhaps, at this
moment, is my father deploring my absence, powerless to recall me.
Alas! may not a host of wild events have persuaded him that I have
betrayed his tenderness, turned rebel to my country, to his will, and
all that is sacred on earth?"

These remembrances occasioned him such insupportable despair, that,
far from daring to confide them to any one, he dreaded to sound their
depths himself; so easy is it, out of our own reflections, to create
irreparable evils!

It costs added pain to leave one's country, when one must cross the
sea. There is such solemnity in a pilgrimage, the first steps of which
are on the ocean. It seems as if a gulf were opening behind you,
and your return becoming impossible; besides, the sight of the main
always profoundly impresses us, as the image of that infinitude which
perpetually attracts the soul, and in which thought ever feels herself
lost. Oswald, leaning near the helm, his eyes fixed on the waves,
appeared perfectly calm. Pride and diffidence generally prevented
his betraying his emotions even before his friends; but sad feelings
struggled within. He thought on the time when that spectacle animated
his youth with a desire to buffet the tides, and measure his strength
with theirs.

"Why," he bitterly mused, "why thus constantly yield to meditation?
There is such rapture in active life! in those violent exercises that
make us feel the energy of existence! then death itself may appear
glorious; at least it is sudden, and not preceded by decay; but that
death which finds us without being bravely sought--that gloomy death
which steals from you, in a night, all you held dear, which mocks your
regrets, repulses your embrace, and pitilessly opposes to your desire
the eternal laws of time and nature--that death inspires a kind of
contempt for human destiny, for the powerlessness of grief, and all the
vain efforts that wreck themselves against necessity."

Such were the torturing sentiments which characterized the wretchedness
of his state. The vivacity of youth was united with the thoughts of
another age; such as might well have occupied the mind of his father
in his last hours; but Oswald tinted the melancholy contemplations of
age with the ardor of five-and-twenty. He was weary of everything;
yet, nevertheless, lamented his lost content, as if its visions still
lingered.

This inconsistency, entirely at variance with the will of nature (which
has placed the conclusion and the gradation of things in their rightful
course), disordered the depths of his soul; but his manners were ever
sweet and harmonious; nay, his grief, far from injuring his temper,
taught him a still greater degree of consideration and gentleness for
others.

Twice or thrice in the voyage from Harwich to Emden the sea threatened
stormily. Nevil directed the sailors, reassured the passengers; and
while, toiling himself, he for a moment took the pilot's place, there
was a vigour and address in what he did, which could not be regarded as
the simple effect of personal strength and activity, for mind pervaded
it all.

When they were about to part, all on board crowded round him to
take leave, thanking him for a thousand good offices, which he had
forgotten: sometimes it was a child that he had nursed so long; more
frequently, some old man whose steps he had supported while the wind
rocked the vessel. Such an absence of personal feeling was scarcely
ever known. His voyage had passed without his having devoted a moment
to himself; he gave up his time to others, in melancholy benevolence.
And now the whole crew cried, with one voice, "God bless you, my Lord!
we wish you better."

Yet Oswald had not once complained; and the persons of a higher class,
who had crossed with him, said not a word on this subject; but the
common people, in whom their superiors rarely confide, are wont to
detect the truth without the aid of words; they pity you when you
suffer, though ignorant of the cause; and their spontaneous sympathy is
unmixed with either censure or advice.


[1] Neither of these names is Scotch. We are not informed whether the
hero's Christian name is Oswald, or Nevil his family one, as well as
his title. He signs the former to his letters, and constantly calls
himself an Englishman.--TRANSLATOR.



CHAPTER II.


Travelling, say what we will, is one of the saddest pleasures in life.
If you ever feel at ease in a strange place, it is because you have
begun to make it your home; but to traverse unknown lands, to hear a
language which you hardly comprehend, to look on faces unconnected with
either your past or future, this is solitude without repose or dignity;
for the hurry to arrive where no one awaits you, that agitation whose
sole cause is curiosity, lessens you in your own esteem, while, ere
new objects can become old, they have bound you by some sweet links of
sentiment and habit.

Oswald felt his despondency redoubled in crossing Germany to reach
Italy, obliged by war to avoid France and its frontiers, as well as the
troops, who rendered the roads impassable. This necessity for attending
to detail, and taking, almost every instant, a new resolution, was
utterly insufferable. His health, instead of improving, often obliged
him to stop, while he longed to arrive at some other place, or at
least to fly from where he was. He took the least possible care of
his constitution; accusing himself as culpable, with but too great
severity. If he wished still to live, it was but for the defence of his
country.

"My native land," would he sigh--"has it not a parental right over me?
but I want power to serve it usefully. I must not offer it the feeble
existence which I drag towards the sun, to beg of him some principle
of life, that may struggle against my woes. None but a father could
receive me thus, and love me the more, the more I was deserted by
nature and by fate."

He had flattered himself that a continual change of external objects
would somewhat divert his fancy from its usual routine; but he could
not, at first, realize this effect. It were better, after any great
loss, to familiarize ourselves afresh with all that had surrounded us,
accustom ourselves to the old familiar faces, to the house in which we
had lived, and the daily duties which we ought to resume; each of these
efforts jars fearfully on the heart; but nothing multiplies them like
an absence.

Oswald's only pleasure was exploring the Tyrol, on a horse which he
had brought from Scotland, and who climbed the hills at a gallop. The
astonished peasants began by shrieking with fright, as they saw him
borne along the precipice's edge, and ended by chapping their hands in
admiration of his dexterity grace, and courage. He loved the sense of
danger. It reconciled him for the instant with that life which he thus
seemed to regain, and which it would have been easy to lose.



CHAPTER III.


At Inspruck, where he stayed for some time, in the house of a banker,
Oswald was much interested by the history of Count d'Erfeuil, a French
emigrant, who had sustained the total loss of an immense fortune with
perfect serenity. By his musical talents he had maintained himself
and an aged uncle, over whom he watched till the good man's death,
constantly refusing the pecuniary aid which had been pressed on him. He
had displayed the most brilliant valor--that of France--during the war,
and an unchangeable gayety in the midst of reverses. He was anxious to
visit Rome, that he might find a relative, whose heir he expected to
become; and wished for a companion, or rather a friend, with whom to
make the journey agreeably.

Lord Nevil's saddest recollections were attached to France; yet he was
exempt from the prejudices which divided the two nations. One Frenchman
had been his intimate friend, in whom he had found a union of the most
estimable qualities. He therefore offered, through the narrator of
Count d'Erfeuil's story, to take this noble and unfortunate young man
with him to Italy. The banker in an hour informed him that his proposal
was gratefully accepted. Oswald rejoiced in rendering this service
to another, though it cost him much to resign his seclusion; and his
reserve suffered greatly at the prospect of finding himself thus thrown
on the society of a man he did not know.

He shortly received a visit of thanks from the Count, who possessed
an elegant manner, ready politeness, and good taste; from the first
appearing perfectly at his ease. Every one, on seeing him, wondered at
what he had undergone; for he bore his lot with a courage approaching
to forgetfulness. There was a liveliness in his conversation truly
admirable, while he spoke of his own misfortunes; though less so, it
must be owned, when extended to other subjects.

"I am greatly obliged to your Lordship," said he, "for transporting me
from Germany, of which I am tired to death."--"And yet," replied Nevil,
"you are universally beloved and respected here."--"I have friends,
indeed, whom I shall sincerely regret; for in this country one meets
none but the best of people; only I don't know a word of German; and
you will confess that it were a long and tedious task to learn it.
Since I had the ill-luck to lose my uncle, I have not known what to do
with my leisure; while I had to attend on him, that filled up my time;
but now the four-and-twenty hours hang heavily on my hands."--"The
delicacy of your conduct towards your kinsman, Count," said Nevil,
"has impressed me with the deepest regard for you."--"I did no more
than my duty. Poor man! he had lavished his favors on my childhood.
I could never have left him, had he lived to be a hundred; but 'tis
well for him that he's gone; 'twere well for me to be with him," he
added, laughing, "for I've little to hope in this world. I did my best,
during the war, to get killed; but since fate would spare me, I must
live on as I may."--"I shall congratulate myself on coming hither,"
answered Nevil, "should you do well in Rome; and if----"--"Oh, Heaven!"
interrupted d'Erfeuil, "I do well enough everywhere; while we are young
and cheerful, all things find their level. 'Tis neither from books nor
from meditation that I have acquired my philosophy, but from being used
to the world and its mishaps; nay, you see, my Lord, I have some reason
for trusting to chance, since I owe to it the opportunity of travelling
with you." The Count then agreed on the hour for setting forth next
day, and, with a graceful bow, departed. After the mere interchange of
civilities with which their journey commenced, Oswald remained silent
for some hours; but perceiving that this fatigued his fellow-traveller,
he asked him if he anticipated much pleasure in their Italian tour.
"Oh," replied the Count, "I know what to expect, and don't look forward
to the least amusement. A friend of mine passed six months there, and
tells me that there is not a French province without a better theatre,
and more agreeable society than Rome; but in that ancient capital
of the world I shall be sure to find some of my countrymen to chat
with; and that is all I require."--"Then you have not been tempted
to learn Italian?"--"No, that was never included in the plan of my
studies," he answered, with so serious an air, that one might have
thought him expressing a resolution founded on the gravest motives.
"The fact is," he continued, "that I like no people but the English
and the French. Men must be proud, like you, or wits, like ourselves;
all the rest is mere imitation." Oswald said nothing. A few moments
afterwards the Count renewed the conversation by sallies of vivacity
and humor, in which he played on words most ingeniously; but neither
what he saw or what he felt was his theme. His discourse sprang not
from within, nor from without; but, steering clear alike of reflection
and imagination, found its subjects in the superficial traits of
society. He named twenty persons in France and England, inquiring if
Lord Nevil knew them; and relating as many pointed anecdotes, as if,
in his opinion, the only language for a man of taste was the gossip of
good company. Nevil pondered for some time on this singular combination
of courage and frivolity, this contempt of misfortune, which would
have been so heroic if it had cost more effort, instead of springing
from the same source which rendered him incapable of deep affections.
"An Englishman," thought he, "would have been overwhelmed by similar
circumstances. Whence does this Frenchman derive his fortitude, yet
pliancy of character? Does he rightly understand the art of living?
I deem myself his superior, yet am I not ill and wretched? Does his
trifling course accord better than mine with the fleetness of life?
Must one fly from thought as from a foe, instead of yielding all the
soul to its power?" In vain he thought to clear these doubts; he could
call no aid from his own intellectual region, whose best qualities were
even more ungovernable than its defects.

The Count gave none of his attention to Italy, and rendered it almost
impossible for Oswald to be entertained by it. D'Erfeuil turned from
his friend's admiration of a fine country, and sense of its picturesque
charm; our invalid listened as oft as he could to the sound of the
winds, or the murmur of the waves; the voice of nature did more for
his mind than sketches of coteries held at the foot of the Alps,
among ruins, or on the banks of the sea. His own grief would have
been less an obstacle to the pleasure he might have tasted than was
the mirth of d'Erfeuil. The regrets of a feeling heart may harmonize
with a contemplation of nature and an enjoyment of the fine arts; but
frivolity, under whatever form it appears, deprives attention of its
power, thought of its originality, and sentiment of its depth. One
strange effect of the Count's levity, was its inspiring Nevil with
diffidence in all their affairs together.

The most reasoning characters are often the easiest abashed. The giddy
embarrass and overawe the contemplative; and the being who calls
himself happy appears wiser than he who suffers. D'Erfeuil was every
way mild, obliging, and free; serious only in his self-love, and
worthy to be liked as much as he could like another; that is, as a
good companion in pleasure and in peril, but one who knew not how to
participate in pain. He wearied of Oswald's melancholy; and, as well
from the goodness of his heart as from taste, he strove to dissipate
it. "What would you have?" he often said. "Are you not young, rich,
and well, if you choose? you are but fancy-sick. I have lost all, and
know not what will become of me; yet I enjoy life as if I possessed
every earthly blessing."--"Your courage is as rare as it is honorable,"
replied Nevil; "but the reverses you have known wound less than do
the sorrows of the heart."--"The sorrows of the heart! ay, true, they
must be the worst of all; but still you must console yourself; for
a sensible man ought to banish from his mind whatever can be of no
service to himself or others. Are we not placed here below to be useful
first, and consequently happy? My dear Nevil, let us hold by that
faith."

All this was rational enough, in the usual sense of the word; for
d'Erfeuil was, in most respects, a clear-headed man. The impassioned
are far more liable to weakness, than the fickle; but, instead of
his mode of thinking securing the confidence of Nevil, he would fain
have assured the Count that he was the happiest of human beings,
to escape the infliction of his attempts at comfort. Nevertheless,
d'Erfeuil became strongly attached to Lord Nevil. His resignation and
simplicity, his modesty and pride, created respect irresistibly. The
Count was perplexed by Oswald's external composure, and taxed his
memory for all the grave maxims, which in childhood he had heard from
his old relations, in order to try their effect upon his friend; and,
astonished at failing to vanquish his apparent coldness, he asked
himself, "Am I not good-natured, frank, brave, and popular in society?
What do I want, then, to make an impression on this man? May there not
be some misunderstanding between us, arising, perhaps, from his not
sufficiently understanding French?"



CHAPTER IV.


An unforeseen circumstance much increased the sensations of deference
which d'Erfeuil felt towards his travelling companion. Lord Nevil's
state of health obliged him to stop some days at Ancona. Mount and main
conspired to beautify its site; and the crowd of Greeks, orientally
seated at work before the shops, the varied costumes of the Levant, to
be met with in the streets, give the town an original and interesting
air. Civilization tends to render all men alike, in appearance if not
in reality; yet fancy may find pleasure in characteristic national
distinctions.

Men only resemble each other when sophisticated by sordid or
fashionable life; whatever is natural admits of variety. There is a
slight gratification, at least for the eyes, in that diversity of
dress, which seems to promise us experience in equally novel ways
of feeling and of judgement. The Greek, Catholic, and Jewish forms
of worship exist peaceably together in Ancona. Their ceremonies are
strongly contrasted; but the same sigh of distress, the same petition
for support, ascends to Heaven from all.

The Catholic church stands on a height that overlooks the main, the
lash of whose tides frequently blends with the chant of the priests.
Within, the edifice is loaded by ornaments of indifferent taste; but,
pausing beneath the portico, the soul delights to recall its purest of
emotions--religion--while gazing at that superb spectacle, the sea,
on which man never left his trace. He may plough the earth, and cut
his way through mountains, or contract rivers into canals, for the
transport of his merchandise; but if his fleets for a moment furrow the
ocean, its waves as instantly efface this slight mark of servitude, and
it again appears such as it was on the first day of its creation.[1]

Lord Nevil had decided to start for Rome on the morrow, when he heard,
during the night, a terrific cry from the streets, and hastening from
his hotel to learn the cause, beheld a conflagration which, beginning
at the port, spread from house to house towards the top of the town.
The flames were reflected afar off in the sea; the wind, increasing
their violence, agitated their images on the waves, which mirrored
in a thousand shapes the blood-red features of a lurid fire. The
inhabitants, having no engine in good repair,[2] hurriedly bore forth
what succor they could; above their shouts was heard a clank of chains,
as the slaves from the galleys toiled to save the city which served
them for a prison. The various people of the Levant, whom commerce had
drawn to Ancona, betrayed their dread by the stupor of their looks.
The merchants, at sight of their blazing stores, lost all presence of
mind. Trembling for fortune as much as for life, the generality of men
were scared from that zealous enthusiasm which suggests resources in
emergency.

The shouts of sailors have ever something dreary in their sound; fear
now rendered them still more appalling. The mariners of the Adriatic
were clad in peculiar red and brown hoods, from which peeped their
animated Italian faces, under every expression of dismay. The natives,
lying on the earth, covered their heads with their cloaks, as if
nothing remained for them to do but to exclude the sight of their
calamity. Reckless fury and blind submission reigned alternately, but
no one evinced that coolness which redoubles our means and our strength.

Oswald remembered that there were two English vessels in the harbor;
the pumps of both were in perfect order; he ran to the Captain's house,
and put off with him in a boat, to fetch them. Those who witnessed this
exclaimed to him, "Ah, you foreigners do well to leave our unhappy
town!"--"We shall soon return," said Oswald. They did not believe him,
till he came back, and placed one of the pumps in front of the house
nearest to the port, the other before that which blazed in the centre
of the street. Count d'Erfeuil exposed his life with gay and careless
daring. The English sailors and Lord Nevil's servants came to his aid,
for the populace remained motionless, scarcely understanding what
these strangers meant to do, and without the slightest faith in their
success. The bells rung from all sides; the priests formed processions;
weeping females threw themselves before their sculptured saints; but
no one thought on the natural powers which God has given man for his
own defence. Nevertheless, when they perceived the fortunate effects
of Oswald's activity--the flames extinguished, and their homes
preserved--rapture succeeded astonishment; they pressed around him,
and kissed his hand with such ardent eagerness, that he was obliged by
feigned displeasure to drive them from him, lest they should impede the
rapid succession of necessary orders for saving the town. Every one
ranked himself beneath Oswald's command; for, in trivial as in great
events, where danger is, firmness will find its rightful station; and
while men strongly fear, they cease to feel jealousy. Amid the general
tumult, Nevil now distinguished shrieks more horrible than aught he
had previously heard, as if from the other extremity of the town. He
inquired their source; and was told that they proceeded from the Jews'
quarter. The officer of police was accustomed to close its gates every
evening; the fire gained on it, and the occupants could not escape.
Oswald shuddered at the thought, and bade them instantly open the
barriers; but the women, who heard him, flung themselves at his feet,
exclaiming, "Oh, our good angel! you must be aware that it is certainly
on their account we have endured this visitation; it is they who bring
us ill fortune; and if you set them free, all the water of the ocean
will never quench these flames." They entreated him to let the Jews be
burnt with as much persuasive eloquence as if they had been petitioning
for an act of mercy. Not that they were by nature cruel, but that
their superstitious fancies were forcibly struck by a great disaster.
Oswald with difficulty contained his indignation at hearing a prayer so
revolting. He sent four English sailors, with hatchets, to cut down the
gate which confined these helpless men, who instantly spread themselves
about the town, rushing to their merchandise, through the flames, with
that greediness of wealth, which impresses us so painfully, when it
drives men to brave even death; as if human beings, in the present
state of society, had nothing to do with the simple gift of life. There
was now but one house, at the upper part of the town, where the fire
mocked all efforts to subdue it. So little interest had been shown in
this abode, that the sailors, believing it vacant, had carried their
pumps towards the port. Oswald himself, stunned by the calls for aid
around him, had almost disregarded it. The conflagration had not been
early communicated to this place, but it had made great progress there.
He demanded so earnestly what the dwelling was, that at last a man
informed him--the hospital for maniacs! Overwhelmed by these tidings,
he looked in vain for his assistants, or Count d'Erfeuil; as vainly
did he call on the inhabitants; they were employed in taking care of
their property, and deemed it ridiculous to risk their lives for the
sake of men who were all incurably mad. "It will be no one's fault if
they die, but a blessing to themselves and families," was the general
opinion; but while they expressed it, Oswald strode rapidly towards
the building, and even those who blamed involuntarily followed him. On
reaching the house, he saw, at the only window not surrounded by flame,
the unconscious creatures, looking on, with that heart-rending laughter
which proves either an ignorance of all life's sad realities, or such
deep-seated despair as disarms death's most frightful aspect of its
power. An indefinite chill seized him at this sight. In the severest
period of his own distress he had felt as if his reason were deserting
him; and, since then, never looked on insanity without the most painful
sympathy. He secured a ladder which he found near, placed it against
the wall, ascended through the flames, and entered by its window, the
room where the unfortunate lunatics were assembled. Their derangement
was sufficiently harmless to justify their freedom within doors; only
one was chained. Fortunately the floor was not consumed, and Oswald's
appearance in the midst of these degraded beings had all the effect of
enchantment; at first, they obeyed him without resistance. He bade them
descend before him, one after the other, by the ladder, which might in
a few seconds be destroyed. The first of them complied in silence, so
entirely had Oswald's looks and tones subdued him. Another, heedless of
the danger in which the least delay must involve Oswald and himself,
was inclined to rebel; the people, alive to all the horrors of the
situation, called on Lord Nevil to come down, and leave the senseless
wretches to escape as they could; but their deliverer would listen to
nothing that could defeat his generous enterprise. Of the six patients
found in the hospital, five were already safe. The only one remaining
was the youth who had been fettered to the wall. Oswald loosened his
irons, and bade him take the same course as his companions; but, on
feeling himself at liberty, after two years of bondage, he sprung about
the room with frantic delight, which, however, gave place to fury, when
Oswald desired him to get out of the window. But finding persuasion
fruitless, and seeing that the fatal element was fast extending its
ravages, he clasped the struggling maniac in his arms; and, while the
smoke prevented his seeing where to step, leaped from the last bars
of the ladder, giving the rescued man, who still contended with his
benefactor, into the hands of persons whom he charged to guard him
carefully.

Oswald, with his locks disordered, and his countenance sweetly, yet
proudly animated by the perils he had braved, struck the gazing crowd
with an almost fanatical admiration; the women, particularly, expressed
themselves in that fanciful language, the universal gift of Italy,
which often lends a dignity to the address of her humblest children.
They cast themselves on their knees before him, crying--"Assuredly,
thou art St. Michael, the patron of Ancona. Show us thy wings, yet do
not fly, save to the top of our cathedral, where all may see and pray
to thee!"--"My child is ill; oh, cure him!" said one.--"Where," added
another, "is my husband, who has been absent so many years? tell me!"
Oswald was longing to escape, when d'Erfeuil, joining him, pressed
his hand. "Dear Nevil!" he began, "could you share nothing with your
friend? 'twas cruel to keep all the glory to yourself."--"Help me from
this place!" returned Oswald, in a low voice. A moment's darkness
favoured their flight, and both hastened in search of post-horses.
Sweet as was the first sense of the good he had just effected, with
whom could he partake it, now that his best friend was no more? So
wretched is the orphan that felicity and care alike remind him of his
heart's solitude. What substitute has life for the affection born
with us? for that mental intercourse, that kindred sympathy, that
friendship, formed by Heaven to exist but between parent and child?
We may love again; but the happiness of confiding the whole soul to
another--that we can never regain.


[1] Lord Byron translated this paragraph in the fourth canto of Childe
Harold, but without acknowledging whence the ideas were borrowed:--

    "Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean--roll!
    Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
    Man marks the earth with ruin--his control
    Stops with the shore;--upon the wat'ry plain
    The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
    A shadow of man's ravage.     *     *
    *     *     *     *     *
    Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow--
    Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now."
          See stanzas 179 and 182.--TR.


[2] Ancona is not much better supplied to this day.



CHAPTER V.


Oswald sped to Rome, over the marches of Ancona, and the Papal State,
without remarking or interesting himself in anything. Besides its
melancholy, his disposition had a natural indolence, from which it
could only be roused by some strong passion. His taste was not yet
developed; he had lived but in England and France;[1] in the latter,
society is everything; in the former, political interests nearly absorb
all others. His mind, concentrated in his griefs, could not yet solace
itself in the wonders of nature, or the works of art.

D'Erfeuil, running through every town, with the Guide-Book in his hand,
had the double pleasure of making away with his time, and of assuring
himself that there was nothing to see worthy the praise of any one who
had been in France. This _nil admirari_ of his discouraged Oswald, who
was also somewhat prepossessed against Italy and Italians. He could not
yet penetrate the mystery of the people or their country--a mystery
that must be solved rather by imagination than by that spirit of
judgment which an English education particularly matures.

The Italians are more remarkable for what they have been, and might
be, than for what they are. The wastes that surround Rome, as if the
earth, fatigued by glory, disdained to become productive, are but
uncultivated and neglected lands to the utilitarian. Oswald, accustomed
from his childhood to a love of order and public prosperity, received,
at first, an unfavorable impression in crossing such abandoned plains
as approaches to the former queen of cities. Looking on it with the eye
of an enlightened patriot, he censured the idle inhabitants and their
rulers.

The Count d'Erfeuil regarded it as a man of the world; and thus the one
from reason, and the other from levity, remained dead to the effect
which the Campagna produces on a mind filled by a regretful memory
of those natural beauties and splendid misfortunes, which invest this
country with an indescribable charm. The Count uttered the most comic
lamentations over the environs of Rome. "What!" said he, "no villas? no
equipages? nothing to announce the neighborhood of a great city? Good
God, how dull!" The same pride with which the natives of the coast had
pointed out the sea, and the Neapolitans showed their Vesuvius, now
transported the postilions, who exclaimed, "Look! that is the cupola
of St. Peter's."--"One might take it for the dome of the Invalides!"
cried d'Erfeuil. This comparison, rather national than just, destroyed
the sensation which Oswald might have received, in first beholding that
magnificent wonder of man's creation.

They entered Rome, neither on a fair day, nor a lovely night, but on a
dark and misty evening, which dimmed and confused every object before
them. They crossed the Tiber without observing it; passed through the
Porto del Popolo, which led them at once to the Corso, the largest
street of modern Rome, but that which possesses the least originality
of feature, as being the one which most resembles those of other
European towns.

The streets were crowded; puppet-shows and mountebanks formed groups
round the base of Antoninus's pillar. Oswald's attention was caught
by these objects, and the name of Rome forgotten. He felt that deep
isolation which presses on the heart, when we enter a foreign scene,
and look on a multitude to whom our existence is unknown, and who have
not one interest in common with us. These reflections, so saddening to
all men, are doubly so to the English, who are accustomed to live among
themselves, and find it difficult to blend with the manners of other
lands. In Rome, that vast caravansary, all is foreign, even the Romans,
who seem to live there, not like its possessors, but like pilgrims who
repose among its ruins.[2] Oppressed by laboring thoughts, Oswald shut
himself in his room, instead of exploring the city; little dreaming
that the country he had entered beneath such a sense of dejection would
soon become the mine of so many new ideas and enjoyments.


[1] This alludes to a previous tour; in his present one, Oswald has not
approached France. His longest stay was in Germany.--TR.

[2] This observation is made in a letter on Rome, by M. Humboldt,
brother to the celebrated traveller, and Prussian minister at Rome;
a gentleman whose writings and conversation alike do honor to his
learning and originality.



BOOK II.


CORINNE AT THE CAPITOL.



CHAPTER I.


Oswald awoke in Rome. The dazzling sun of Italy met his first gaze,
and his soul was penetrated with sensations of love and gratitude for
that heaven, which seemed to smile on him in these glorious beams. He
heard the bells of numerous churches ringing, discharges of cannon
from various distances, as if announcing some high solemnity. He
inquired the cause, and was informed that the most celebrated female
was about that morning to be crowned at the capitol--Corinne, the poet
and improvisatrice, one of the loveliest women of Rome. He asked some
questions respecting this ceremony, hallowed by the names of Petrarch
and of Tasso; every reply he received warmly excited his curiosity.

There can be nothing more hostile to the habits and opinions of an
Englishman, than any great publicity given to the career of a woman.
But the enthusiasm with which all imaginative talents inspire the
Italians, infects, at least for the time, even strangers, who forget
prejudice itself among people so lively in the expression of their
sentiments.

The common populace of Rome discuss their statues, pictures, monuments,
and antiquities, with much taste; and literary merit, carried to a
certain height, becomes with them a national interest.

On going forth into the public resorts, Oswald found that the streets,
through which Corinne was to pass, had been adorned for her reception.
The herd, who generally throng but the path of fortune or of power,
were almost in a tumult of eagerness to look on one whose soul was her
only distinction. In the present state of the Italians, the glory of
the fine arts is all their fate allows them; and they appreciate genius
of that order with a vivacity which might raise up a host of great men,
if applause could suffice to produce them--if a hardy life, strong
interest, and an independent station were not the food required to
nourish thought.

Oswald walked the streets of Rome, awaiting the arrival of Corinne;
he heard her named every instant; every one related, some new trait,
proving that she united all the talents most captivating to the fancy.
One asserted that her voice was the most touching in Italy; another,
that, in tragic acting, she had no peer; a third, that she danced
like a nymph, and drew with equal grace and invention--all said that
no one had ever written or extemporized verses so sweet, and that, in
daily conversation, she displayed alternately an ease and an eloquence
which fascinated all who heard her. They disputed as to which part of
Italy had given her birth; some earnestly contending that she must
be a Roman, or she could not speak the language with such purity.
Her family name was unknown. Her first work, which had appeared five
years since, bore but that of Corinne. No one could tell where she
had lived, nor what she had been before that period; and she was now
nearly six-and-twenty. Such mystery and publicity, united in the fate
of a female of whom every one spoke, yet whose real name no one knew,
appeared, to Nevil as among the wonders of the land he came to see. He
would have judged such a woman very severely in England; but he applied
not _her_ social etiquettes to Italy; and the crowning of Corinne awoke
in his breast the same sensation which he would have felt on reading an
adventure of Ariosto's.

A burst of exquisite melody preceded the approach of the triumphal
procession. How thrilling is each event that is heralded by music! A
great number of Roman nobles, and not a few foreigners, came first.
"Behold her retinue of admirers!" said one.--"Yes," replied another;
"she receives a whole world's homage, but accords her preference
to none. She is rich, independent; it is even believed, from her
noble air, that she is a lady of high birth, who wishes to remain
unknown."--"A divinity veiled in clouds," concluded a third. Oswald
looked on the man who spoke thus; everything betokened him a person of
the humblest class; but the natives of the South converse as naturally
in poetic phrases, as if they imbibed them with the air, or were
inspired by the sun.

At last four spotless steeds appeared in the midst of the crowd drawing
an antiquely-shaped car, besides which walked a maiden band in snowy
vestments. Wherever Corinne passed, perfumes were thrown upon the air;
the windows, decked with flowers and scarlet hangings, were peopled by
gazers, who shouted, "Long live Corinne! Glory to beauty and to genius!"

This emotion was general; but, to partake it, one must lay aside
English reserve and French raillery; Nevil could not yield to the
spirit of the scene, till he beheld Corinne.

Attired like Domenichino's Sibyl, an Indian shawl was twined among
her lustrous black curls, a blue drapery fell over her robe of virgin
white, and her whole costume was picturesque, without sufficiently
varying from modern usage to appear tainted by affectation. Her
attitude was noble and modest; it might, indeed, be perceived that she
was content to be admired; yet a timid air blended with her joy, and
seemed to ask pardon for her triumph. The expression of her features,
her eyes, her smile, created a solicitude in her favor, and made Lord
Nevil her friend even before any more ardent sentiment subdued him.
Her arms were transcendently beautiful; her figure tall, and, as we
frequently see among the Grecian statues, rather robust--energetically
characteristic of youth and happiness. There was something inspired
in her air; yet the very manner in which she bowed her thanks for
the applause she received, betrayed a natural disposition sweetly
contrasting the pomp of her extraordinary situation. She gave you at
the same instant the idea of a priestess of Apollo advancing towards
his temple, and of a woman born to fulfil the usual duties of life
with perfect simplicity--in truth, her every gesture elicited not more
wondering conjecture, than it conciliated sympathy and affection. The
nearer she approached the Capitol, so fruitful in classic associations,
the more these admiring tributes increased; the raptures of the
Romans, the clearness of their sky, and, above all, Corinne herself,
took electric effect on Oswald. He had often, in his own land, seen
statesmen drawn in triumph by the people, but this was the first
time that he had ever witnessed the tender of such honors to a woman
illustrious only in mind. Her car of victory cost no fellow-mortal's
tear; nor terror, nor regret could check his admiration for those
fairest gifts of nature--creative fancy, sensibility, and reason.
These new ideas so intensely occupied him, that he noticed none of
the long-famed spots over which Corinne proceeded. At the foot of the
steps leading to the capitol, the car stopped, and all her friends
rushed to offer their hands; she took that of Prince Castel Forte, the
nobleman most esteemed in Rome for his talents and character. Every
one approved her choice. She ascended to the capitol, whose imposing
majesty seemed graciously to welcome the light footsteps of woman. The
instruments sounded with fresh vigor, the cannon shook the air, and the
all-conquering Sibyl entered the palace prepared for her reception.

In the centre of the hall stood the senator who was to crown Corinne,
surrounded by his brothers in office; on one side, all the cardinals
and most distinguished ladies of Rome; on the other, the members of
the Academy; while the opposite extremity was filled by some portion
of the multitude who had followed Corinne. The chair destined for her
was placed a step lower than that of the senator. Ere seating herself
in presence of that august assembly, she complied with the custom of
bending one knee to the earth; the gentle dignity of this action filled
Oswald's eyes with tears, to his own surprise; but, in the midst of
all this success, it seemed as if the looks of Corinne implored the
protection of a friend, with which no woman, however superior, can
dispense; and he thought how delicious it were to be the stay of her,
whose sensitiveness alone could render such a prop necessary. As soon
as Corinne was seated, the Roman poets recited the odes and sonnets
composed for this occasion; all praised her to the highest; but in
styles that described her no more than they would have done any other
woman of genius. The same mythological images and allusions must have
been addressed to such beings from the days of Sappho to our own.
Already Nevil disliked this kind of incense for her; he fancied that
he could that moment have drawn a truer, a more finished portrait;
such, indeed, as could have belonged to no one but Corinne.



CHAPTER II.


Prince Castel Forte now took up the discourse, in a manner which
riveted the attention of his audience. He was a man of fifty, with a
measured address and commanding carriage. The assurance which Nevil had
received, that he was but the friend of Corinne, enabled him to listen
with unqualified delight to what, without such safeguard, he could not,
even thus early, have heard, save with a confused sense of jealousy.

The Prince read some pages of unpretending prose, singularly fitted,
notwithstanding, to display the spirit of Corinne. He pointed out the
particular merit of her works as partly derived from her profound study
of foreign literature, teaching her to unite the graphic descriptions
of the South, with that observant knowledge of the human heart which
appears the inheritance of those whose country offers fewer objects
of external beauty. He lauded her graceful gayety, that, free from
ironical satire, seemed to spring but from the freshness of her fancy.
He strove to speak of her tenderness; but it was easily to be seen that
personal regret mingled with this theme. He touched on the difficulty
for a woman so endowed to meet, in real life, with any object
resembling the ideal image clad in the hues of her own heart; then
contented himself by depicting the impassioned feelings which kindled
her poetry--her art of seizing on the most touching charms of nature,
the deepest emotions of the soul. He complimented the originality of
her expression, which, arising from her own peculiar turn of thought,
constituted an involuntary spell, untarnished by the slightest cloud of
mannerism. He spoke of her eloquence as of a resistless power, which
must transport most those who possessed the best sense and the truest
susceptibility. "Corinne," said he, "is doubtless more celebrated than
any other of our countrywomen; and yet it is only her friends who can
describe her. The qualities of the soul, if real, always require to be
guessed; fame, as well as obscurity, might prevent their detection, if
some congenial sympathy came not to our aid." He dilated on her talent
as an improvisatrice, as distinct from everything which had been known
by that name in Italy. "It is not only attributable," he continued,
"to the fertility of her mind, but to her deep enthusiasm for all
generous sentiments; she cannot pronounce a word that recalls them, but
that inexhaustible source of thought overflows at her lips in strains
ever pure and harmonious; her poetry is intellectual music, such as
alone can embody the fleeting and delicate reveries of the heart." He
extolled the conversation of Corinne, as one who had tasted all its
delights. "There," he said, "is united all that is natural, fanciful,
just, sublime, powerful, and sweet, to vary the mental banquet every
instant; it is what Petrarch termed--

    Il parlar che nell' anima si sente'--

a language which is felt to the heart's core, and must possess much
of the vaunted Oriental magic which has been given by the ancients to
Cleopatra. The scenes I have visited with her, the lays we have heard
together, the pictures she has shown me, the books she has taught me
to enjoy, compose my universe. In all these is some spark of her life;
and were I forced to dwell afar from her, I would, at least, surround
myself with them, though certain to seek in vain for her radiant traces
amongst them, when once she had departed."

"Yes!" he cried, as his glance accidentally fell upon Oswald; "look on
Corinne, if you may pass your days with her--if that twofold existence
can be long secured to you; but behold her not, if you must be
condemned to leave her. Vainly would you seek, however long you might
survive, the creative spirit which multiplied in partaking all your
thoughts and feelings; you would never find it more!"

Oswald shuddered at these words; his eyes were fixed on Corinne,
who listened with an agitation self-love cannot produce; it belongs
only to humility and to gratitude. Castel Forte resumed the address,
which a momentary weakness had suspended. He spoke of Corinne as a
painter and a musician; of her declamation and her dancing. "In all
these exertions," he said, "she is still herself--confined to no one
mode, nor rule--but expressing, in various languages, the enchantments
of Art and Imagination. I cannot flatter myself on having faithfully
represented one of whom it is impossible to form an idea till she
herself is known; but her presence is left to Rome, as among the chief
blessings beneath its brilliant sky. Corinne is the link that binds
her friends to each other. She is the motive, the interest of our
lives; we rely on her worth, pride in her genius, and say to the sons
of other lands, 'Look on the personation of our own fair Italy. She
is what we might be, if freed from the ignorance, envy, discord, and
sloth, to which fate has reduced us.' We love to contemplate her, as
a rare production of our climate, and our fine arts; a relic of the
past, a prophetess of the future; and when strangers, pitiless of the
faults born of our misfortunes, insult the country whence have arisen
the planets that illumed all Europe, still we but say to them, 'Look
upon Corinne.' Yes; we will follow in her track, and be such men as
she is a woman; if, indeed, men can, like women, make worlds in their
own hearts; if our moral temperaments, necessarily dependent on social
obligations and exterior circumstances, could, like hers, owe all their
light to the glorious touch of poesy!"

The instant the Prince ceased to speak, was followed by an unanimous
outbreak of admiration, even from the leaders of the State, although
the discourse had ended by an indirect censure on the present
situation of Italy; so true it is, that there men practise a degree of
liberality, which, though it extends not to any improvement of their
institutions, readily pardons superior minds for a mild dissent from
existing prejudices. Castel Forte was a man of high repute in Rome.
He spoke with a sagacity remarkable among a people usually wiser in
actions than in words. He had not, in the affairs of life, that ability
which often distinguishes an Italian; but he shrunk not from the
fatigue of thinking, as his happy countrymen were wont to do; trusting
to arrive at all truths by intuition, even as their soil bears fruit,
unaided, save by the favor of heaven.



CHAPTER III.


Corinne rose, as the Prince finished his oration. She thanked him by an
inclination of the head, which diffidently betrayed her sense of having
been praised in a strain after her own heart. It was the custom for a
poet, crowned at the capitol, to extemporize or recite in verse, ere
receiving the destined bays. Corinne sent for her chosen instrument,
the lyre, more antique in form, and simpler in sound, than the harp;
while tuning it, she was oppressed by so violent a tremor, that her
voice trembled as she asked what theme she was to attempt. "The glory
and welfare of Italy!" cried all near her. "Ah, yes!" she exclaimed,
already sustained by her own talents; "the glory and welfare of Italy!"
Then, animated by her love of country, she breathed forth thoughts to
which prose or another language can do but imperfect justice.

    CHANT OF CORINNE AT THE CAPITOL.[1]

      Cradle of Letters! Mistress of the World!
    Soil of the Sun! Italia! I salute thee!
    How oft the human race have worn thy yoke,
    The vessels of thine arms, thine arts, thy sky!

      Olympus for Ausonia once was left,
    And by a god. Of such a land are born
    Dreams of the golden time, for there man looks
    Too happy to suppose him criminal.

      By genius Rome subdued the world, then reign'd
    A queen by liberty. The Roman mind
    Set its own stamp upon the universe;
    And, when barbarian hordes whelm'd Italy,
    Then darkness was entire upon the earth.

      Italia reappear'd, and with her rose
    Treasures divine, brought by the wandering Greeks;
    To her were then reveal'd the laws of Heaven.
    Her daring children made discovery
    Of a new hemisphere: Queen still, she held
    Thought's sceptre; but that laurel'd sceptre made
    Ungrateful subjects.

      Imagination gave her back the world
    Which she had lost. Painters and poets shaped
    Earth and Olympus, and a heaven and hell.
    Her animating fire, by Genius kept,
    Far better guarded than the Pagan god's,
    Found not in Europe a Prometheus
    To bear it from her.

      And wherefore am I at the capitol?
    Why should my lowly brow receive the crown
    Which Petrarch wore? which yet suspended hangs
    Where Tasso's funeral cypress mournful waves:
    Why? oh, my countrymen! but that you love
    Glory so well that you repay its search
    Almost like its success.

      Now, if you love that glory which too oft
    Chooses its victims from its vanquishers,
    Those which itself has crown'd; think, and be proud
    Of days which saw the perish'd Arts reborn.
    Your Dante! Homer of the Christian age,
    The sacred poet of Faith's mysteries--
    Hero of thought--whose gloomy genius plunged
    In Styx, and pierced to hell; and whose deep soul
    Was like the abyss it fathom'd.

      Italia! as she was in days of power
    Revived in Dante: such a spirit stirr'd
    In old republics: bard and warrior too,
    He lit the fire of action 'mid the dead,
    Till e'en his shadows had more vigorous life
    Than real existence; still were they pursued
    By earthly memories; passions without aim
    Gnaw'd at their heart, still fever'd by the past;
    Yet less irrevocable seem'd that past,
    Than their eternal future.

      Methinks that Dante, banish'd his own soil,
    Bore to imagined worlds his actual grief,
    Ever his shades inquire the things of life,
    And ask'd the poet of his native land;
    And from his exile did he paint a hell.
    In his eyes Florence set her stamp on all;
    The ancient dead seem'd Tuscans like himself:
    Not that his power was bounded, but his strength;
    And his great mind forced all the universe
    Within the circle of its thought.

      A mystic chain of circles and of spheres
    Led him from Hell to Purgatory; thence
    From Purgatory into Paradise:
    Faithful historian of his glorious dream,
    He fills with light the regions most obscure;
    The world created in his triple song
    Is brilliant, and complete, and animate,
    Like a new planet seen within the sky.

      All upon earth doth change to poetry
    Beneath his voice: the objects, the ideas,
    The laws, and all the strange phenomena,
    Seem like a new Olympus with new gods--
    Fancy's mythology--which disappears
    Like Pagan creeds at sight of Paradise,
    That sea of light, radiant with shining stars,
    And love, and virtue.

      The magic words of our most noble bard
    Are like the prism of the universe;--
    Her marvels there reflect themselves, divide,
    And recreate her wonders; sounds paint hues,
    And colors melt in harmony. The rhyme--
    Sounding or strange, and rapid or prolong'd--
    That charm of genius, triumph of high art;
    Poetry's divination, which reveals
    All nature's secrets, such as influence
    The heart of man.

      From this great work did Dante hope the end
    Of his long exile: and he call'd on Fame
    To be his mediator; but he died
    Too soon to reap the laurels of his land.
    Thus wastes the transitory life of man
    In adverse fortunes; and it glory wins,
    If some chance tide, more happy, floats to shore.
    The grave is in the port; and destiny,
    In thousand shapes, heralds the close of life
    By a return of happiness.

      Thus the ill-fated Tasso, whom your praise,
    O Romans! 'mid his wrongs, could yet console--
    The beautiful, the chivalric, the brave,
    Dreaming the deeds, feeling the love he sung--
    With awe and gratitude approached your walls,
    As did his heroes to Jerusalem.
    They named the day to crown him; but its eve
    Death bade him to his feast, the terrible!
    The Heaven is jealous of the earth; and calls
    Its favorites from the stormy waves of time.

      'T was in an age more happy and more free
    Than Tasso's, that, like Dante, Petrarch sang:
    Brave poet of Italian liberty.
    Elsewhere they know him only by his love:
    Here memories more severe, aye, consecrate
    His sacred name; his country could inspire
    E'en more than Laura.

      His vigils gave antiquity new life;
    Imagination was no obstacle
    To his deep studies; that creative power
    Conquer'd the future, and reveal'd the past.
    He proved how knowledge lends invention aid;
    And more original his genius seem'd,
    When, like the powers eternal, it could be
    Present in every time.

      Our laughing climate, and our air serene
    Inspired our Ariosto: after war,
    Our many long and cruel wars, he came
    Like to a rainbow; varied and as bright
    As that glad messenger of summer hours.
    His light, sweet gayety is like nature's smile,
    And not the irony of man.

      Raffaële, Galileo, Angelo,
    Pergolese; you! intrepid voyagers,
    Greedy of other lands, though Nature never
    Could yield ye one more lovely than your own;
    Come ye, and to our poets join your fame:
    Artists, and sages, and philosophers,
    Ye are, like them, the children of a sun
    Which kindles valor, concentrates the mind,
    Develops fancy, each one in its turn;
    Which lulls content, and seems to promise all,
    Or make us all forget.

      Know ye the land where orange-trees are blooming
    Where all heaven's rays are fertile, and with love!
    Have you inhaled these perfumes, luxury!
    In air already so fragrant and so soft?
    Now, answer, strangers; Nature, in your home,
    Is she as generous or as beautiful?

      Not only with vine-leaves and ears of corn
    Is nature dress'd, but 'neath the feet of man,
    As at a sovereign's feet, she scatters flowers
    And sweet and useless plants, which, born to please,
    Disdain to serve.

      Here pleasures delicate, by nature nurst--
    Felt by a people who deserve to feel;--
    The simplest food suffices for their wants.
    What though her fountains flow with purple wine
    From the abundant soil, they drink them not!
    They love their sky, their arts, their monuments;
    Their land, the ancient, and yet bright with springs;
    Brilliant society; refined delight:
    Coarse pleasures, fitting to a savage race,
    Suit not with them.

      Here the sensation blends with the idea;
    Life ever draws from the same fountain-head;
    The soul, like air, expands o'er earth and heaven.
    Here Genius feels at ease; its reveries
    Are here so gentle; its unrest is soothed:
    For one lost aim a thousand dreams are given,
    And nature cherishes, if man oppress;
    A gentle hand consoles, and binds the wound:
    E'en for the griefs that haunt the stricken heart,
    Is comfort here: by admiration fill'd,
    For God, all goodness; taught to penetrate
    The secret of his love; not thy brief days--
    Mysterious heralds of eternity--
    But in the fertile and majestic breast
    Of the immortal universe!

Corinne was interrupted for some moments by impetuous applause. Oswald
alone joined not in the noisy transport around him. He had bowed his
head on his hand, when Corinne said----

    "E'en for the sorrows of the stricken heart
    Is comfort here:"

he had not raised it since. Corinne observed him; and from his
features, the color of his hair, his dress, his height--indeed, from
his whole appearance--recognised him as English. She was struck by the
mourning which he wore, and his melancholy countenance. His gaze, then
fixed upon herself, seemed gently to reproach her: she entered into
his thoughts, and felt a wish to sympathize with him, by speaking of
happiness with less reliance, and consecrating some few verses to Death
in the midst of a festival. With this intention, she again took up her
lyre; a few prolonged and touching tones silenced the assemblage, while
thus she continued:----

      Yet there are griefs which our consoling sky
    May not efface; but where will grief convey
    Noble and soft impressions to the soul,
    As it does here?

      Elsewhere the living cannot find them space
    For all their hurrying paths, and ardent hopes;
    And deserts, ruins, vacant palaces,
    Leave a vast vacancy to shadows;--Rome,
    Is she not now the country of the tomb?

      The Coliseum, and the obelisks--
    The wonders brought from Egypt and from Greece--
    From the extremity of time, here met,
    From Romulus to Leo--all are here,
    Greatness attracting greatness, that one place
    Might garner all that man could screen from time;
    All consecrate to funeral monuments.
    Our idle life is scarcely here perceived:
    The silence of the living to the dead
    Is homage: they endure, but we decay.

      The dead alone are honor'd, and alone
    Recorded still;--our destinies obscure
    Contrast the glories of our ancestors;
    Our present life leaves but the past entire,
    And deep the quiet around memory:
    Our trophies are the work of those no more:
    Genius itself ranks 'mid th' illustrious dead.

      It is Rome's secret charm to reconcile
    Imagination with our long last sleep.
    We are resign'd ourselves, and suffer less
    For those we love. The people of the South
    Paint closing life in hues less terrible
    Than do the gloomy nations of the North:
    The sun, like glory, even warms the grave.

      The chill, the solitude of sepulchres
    'Neath our fair sky, beside our funeral urns
    So numerous, less haunt the frighted soul.
    We deem they wait for us, yon shadowy crowd:
    And from our silent city's loneliness
    Down to the subterranean one below
    It is a gentle passage.

      The edge of grief is blunted thus, and turn'd
    Not by a harden'd heart, a wither'd soul,
    But by a yet more perfect harmony--
    An air more fragrant--blending with our life.
    We yield ourselves to Nature with less fear--
    Nature whose great Creator said of old--
    "The lilies of the vale, lo! they toil not,
    And neither do they spin:
    Yet the great Solomon, in all his glory,
    Was not arrayed like one of these."

Oswald was so enchanted by these stanzas, that he testified his
transport with a vehemence unequalled by the Romans themselves;
in sooth, it was to him, rather than to her countrymen,
that the second improvisation of Corinne had been addressed.
The generality of Italians read poetry with a kind of monotonous
chant, that destroys all effect.[2] In vain the words vary, the
impression is ever the same; because the accent is unchanged;
but Corinne recited with a mobility of tone which increased the
charm of its sustained harmony. It was like listening to different
airs, all played on the same celestial organ.

A language so stately and sonorous, breathed by so gentle and
affecting a voice, awakened a very novel sensation in the mind of
Oswald. The natural beauties of the English tongue are all
melancholy; tinted by clouds, and tuned by lashing waves; but
Italian, among sounds, may be compared to scarlet among colors;
its words ring like clarions of victory, and glow with all the bliss
a delicious clime can shower on human hearts. When, therefore,
Italian is spoken by a faltering tongue, its splendor melts, its
concentrated force causes an agitation resistless as unforeseen. The
intents of nature seem defeated, her bounties useless or repulsed; and
the expression of sorrow in the midst of enjoyment, surprises, touches
us more deeply, than would despair itself, if sung in those northern
languages, which it seems to have inspired.


[1] For the translation of this Ode, the proprietor of the Standard
Novels is indebted to the pen of Miss L. E. Landon.

[2] An exception must be made in favor of Monti, who reads verse as
well as he writes it. There can be few greater dramatic treats than to
hear him recite the episode of Ugolino--of Francesca, or the death of
Clorinda.



CHAPTER IV.


The senator took the crown of bays and myrtle he was to place on the
brow of Corinne. She removed the shawl which had bound the ebon curls
that now fell about her shoulders, and advanced with an air of pleased
thankfulness, which she strove not to dissemble. Again she knelt; but
not in trepidation, as at first. She had just spoken, had filled her
soul with godlike images; enthusiasm had surmounted timidity; she was
no longer the shrinking maid, but the inspired vestal who exultingly
devoted herself to the worship of Genius.

When the chaplet was set upon her head, the musicians sent forth one
of those triumphant airs which so powerfully exalt the soul. The
clash of cymbals, and the flourish of trumpets, overwhelmed Corinne
afresh; her eyes filled, she sunk on a seat, and covered her face.
Oswald rushed from the crowd, and made a few steps towards her, but
an uncontrollable embarrassment kept him silent. Corinne, taking care
that he should not detect her, looked on him for some time; and when
Prince Castel Forte took her hand to lead her from the capitol, she
yielded in abstraction, frequently turning, on various pretexts, to
gaze again on Oswald. He followed her; and as she descended the steps,
one of these gestures displaced her crown, which Oswald hastily raised,
and presenting it, said in Italian a few words, implying that humble
mortals lay at the feet of their deities the crowns they dare not place
upon their brows.[1] What was his astonishment when Corinne thanked him
in English, with that insular accent which can scarce ever be acquired
on the Continent; he remained motionless, till, feeling himself almost
faint, he leaned against one of the basaltic lions that stand at the
foot of the staircase. Corinne gazed on him again, forcibly struck
by his emotion; but they led her to her car, and the whole crowd had
disappeared, long ere Oswald recovered his presence of mind. Till
now, he had been enchanted as with a most attractive foreigner; but
that English intonation had brought back all the recollections of
his country, and, as it were, naturalized in his heart the charms of
Corinne. Was she English? Had she not passed many years of her life in
England? He could not guess; but it was impossible that study alone
could have taught her to speak thus. She must have lived in the same
country with himself.

Who could tell, but that their families might have been related?
perhaps he had even seen her in his childhood. There is often in the
heart some innate image of the beings we are to love that lends to our
first sight of them almost an air of recognition. Oswald had believed
the Italians, though impassioned, too vacillating for deep or constant
affection. Already had the words of Corinne given him a totally
distinct view of their character. What then must he feel should he thus
at once revive the remembrance of his home, and receive a new-born
life, for future enjoyment, without being weaned from the past? In the
midst of these reveries he found himself on the bridge of St. Angelo,
which leads to the castle of that name, or rather to Adrian's tomb,
which has been converted into a fortress. The silence of the scene, the
pale waves of the Tiber, the moonbeams that lit up the statues, till
they appeared like pallid phantoms, steadfastly watching the current
of time, by which they could be influenced no more; all these objects
recalled him to his habitual train of thought; he laid his hand on his
breast, and felt the portrait of his father, which he always wore; he
drew it forth, and gazed on it, while the cause of the felicity he had
just enjoyed but too strongly reminded him of all that long since had
tempted his rebellion against his parent.

"Ever haunting memory!" he cried, with revived remorse, "too wronged
and too forgiving friend! could I have believed myself capable of
feeling so much pleasure thus soon after thy loss? but it is not thine
indulgent spirit which rebukes me; thou wouldst have me happy in spite
of my faults; or may I not mistake thy mandates now uttered from above,
I, who misunderstood them while thou wert yet on earth?"


[1] Lord Nevil must have alluded to the beautiful lines of Propertius,--

    "Ut caput in magnis ubi non est ponere signis;
    Ponitur hic imos antè corona pedes."



BOOK III.


CORINNE.



CHAPTER I.


The Count d'Erfeuil had been present at the capitol, and called the
next day on Lord Nevil, saying, "My dear Oswald, would you like me
to take you to Corinne's this evening?"--"How?" interrupted Oswald,
eagerly, "do you know her?"--"Not I; but so famous a person is always
gratified by a desire to see her; and I Wrote this morning for her
permission to visit her house to-night, with you."--"I could have
wished," replied Oswald, blushing, "that you had not named me thus
without my consent."--"You should rather thank me for having spared
you so many tedious formalities. Instead of going to an ambassador,
who would have led you to a cardinal, who might have taken you to a
lady, who, perhaps, could have introduced you to Corinne, I shall
present you, you will present me, and we shall both be very well
received."--"I am less confident than you; and, doubtless, it is but
rational to conclude that so hasty a request must have displeased
her."--"Not at all, I assure you, she is too sensible a girl, as her
polite reply may prove."--"Has she then answered you? What had you
said, my dear Count?"--"Ah! 'my dear Count,' is it?" laughed d'Erfeuil,
"you melt apace, now you know that she has answered me; but I like
you too well not to forgive all that. I humbly confess, then, that
my note spoke more of myself than of you, and that hers gives your
lordship's name precedence; but then, you know, I'm never jealous of
my friends."--"Nay," returned Nevil, "it is not in vanity to expect
that either of us can render ourselves agreeable to her. All I seek is
sometimes to enjoy the society of so wondrous a being. This evening,
then, since you have so arranged it."--"You will go with me?"--"Why,
yes," rejoined Nevil, in visible confusion.--"Why, then, all this
regret at what I've done? though 'tis but just to leave you the honour
of being more reserved than I, always provided that you lose nothing by
it. She's really a delightful person, this Corinne! with a vast deal of
ease and cleverness. I could not very well make out what she talked of,
but, I'll wager you, she speaks French; we can decide that to-night.
She leads a strange life. Young, free, and wealthy, yet no one knows
whether she has any lovers or no. It seems plain that at present she
favors no one; that she should never have met, in this country, with a
man worthy of her, don't astonish me in the least." D'Erfeuil ran on
some time, in this kind of chat, without any interruption from Oswald.
He said nothing which could exactly be called coarse, yet his light
matter-of-fact manner, on a topic so interesting, clashed with the
delicacy of his companion. There is a refinement which even wit and
knowledge of the world cannot teach their votaries, who often wound
the heart, without violating perfect politeness. Lord Nevil was much
disturbed during the day in thinking over the visit of the evening; but
he did his utmost to banish his disquieting presentiments, and strove
to persuade himself that he might indulge a pleasing idea, without
permitting it to decide his fate. False hope! the heart can receive no
bliss from that which it knows must prove evanescent. Accompanied by
the Count, he arrived at the house of Corinne, which was situated a
little beyond the castle of St. Angelo, commanding a view of the Tiber.
Its interior was ornamented with the most perfect elegance. The hall
embellished by casts of the Niobe, Laöcoon, Venus de Medicis, and dying
Gladiator; while in the sitting-room usually occupied by Corinne, he
found but books, musical instruments, and simple furniture, arranged
for the easy conversation of a domestic circle. Corinne was not there
when he entered; and, while waiting for her, he anxiously explored
the apartment, remarking in its every detail a happy combination
of the best French, Italian, and English attributes; a taste for
society, a love of letters, and a zeal for the fine arts. Corinne at
last appeared; though ever picturesque, she was attired without the
least research. She wore some antique cameos in her hair, and round
her throat a band of coral. Natural and familiar as she was among
her friends, they still recognised the divinity of the capitol. She
bowed first to Count d'Erfeuil, though looking at his friend; then,
as if repenting this insincerity, advanced towards Oswald, and twice
repeated "Lord Nevil!" as if that name was associated in her mind with
some affecting reminiscence. At last she said a few words in Italian
on his obliging restoration of her crown. Oswald endeavored to express
his admiration, and gently complained of her no longer addressing
him in English. "Am I a greater stranger than I was yesterday?" he
said.--"Certainly not," she replied; "but when one has been accustomed
for many years of one's life to speak two or three different languages,
one chooses that which will best express what one desires to
say."--"Surely," he cried, "English is your native tongue--that which
you speak to your friends."--"I am an Italian," interrupted Corinne.
"Forgive me, my Lord! but I think I perceive in you the national
importance which so often characterizes your countrymen. Here we are
more lowly, neither self-complacent, like the French, nor proud of
ourselves, like the English. A little indulgence suffices us from
strangers; and we have the great fault of wanting, as individuals,
that dignity which we are not allowed as a people; but when you know
us, you may find some traces of our ancient greatness, such as, though
few and half effaced, might be restored by happier times. I shall now
and then speak to you in English, but Italian is more dear to me. I
have suffered much," she added, sighing, "that I might live in Italy."
D'Erfeuil here gallantly upbraided her for conversing in languages of
which he was entirely ignorant. "In mercy, fair Corinne," he said,
"speak French; you are truly worthy to do so." She smiled at this
compliment, and granted its request, with ease, with purity, but with
an English accent. Nevil and the Count were equally astonished; but the
latter, who believed that he might say what he pleased, provided he did
so with a grace, imagining that impoliteness dwelt not in matter but
in manner, put the direct question to Corinne, on the reason of this
singularity. She seemed at first somewhat uneasy, beneath this sudden
interrogation; then recovering herself, said, "It seems, monsieur,
that I must have learned French of an English person." He renewed his
attack with earnest gayety. Corinne became more confused, and at last
said, gravely, "During the four years that I lived in Rome, monsieur,
none even of the friends most interested in me have ever inquired
into my fate; they understood, from the first, that it was painful
for me to speak of it." This check silenced the Count; but Corinne
feared that she had hurt him; and, as he seemed so intimate with Lord
Nevil, she dreaded still more, without confessing it to herself, that
he might speak unfavorably of her to his companion, and therefore
took sufficient pains in atoning to him. The Prince Castel Forte now
arrived, with many of their mutual acquaintance, men of lively and
amiable minds, of kind and courteous manners, so easily animated by the
conversation of others, so capable of appreciating all that deserved
approval, that they made the best listeners possible. The Italians are
usually too indolent to display in society, or often in any way, the
wit they really possess. The generality of them cultivate not, even
in seclusion, the intellectual faculties of their natures; but they
revel in the mental delights which find them without any trouble of
their own. Corinne had all a Frenchwoman's sense of the ridiculous,
and evinced it with all the fancy of an Italian; but she mingled in
both such sweetness of temper that nothing appeared preconcerted or
hostile--for, in most things, it is coldness which offends; while
vivacity, on the contrary, has almost invariably an air of good-nature.
Oswald found in Corinne a grace which he had never before met.

A terrible event of his life was associated with recollections of a
very lovely and gifted Frenchwoman; but Corinne in no way resembled
her. Every creature's best seemed united in the conversation he now
partook. Ingeniously and rapidly as she twined its flowers, nothing
was frivolous, nothing incomplete; such was her depth of feeling, and
knowledge of the world, that he felt borne away, and lost in wonder,
at qualities so contrasted. He asked himself, if it was from an
all-embracing sensibility, or from a forgetfulness of each mood, as a
new one succeeded, that she fled, almost in the same instant, "from
grave to gay, from lively to severe," from learning that might have
instructed men, to the coquetry of a woman who amused herself with
making conquests; yet, in this very coquetry, there was such perfect
nobleness, that it exacted as much respect as the most scrupulous
reserve. The Prince Castel Forte, and all her other guests, paid her
the most assiduous and delicate attention. The habitual homage with
which they surrounded her gave the air of a fête to every day of her
life. She was happy in being beloved, just as one is happy to breathe
in a gentle clime, to hear harmonious sounds, and receive, in fact,
none but agreeable impressions. Her lively and fluctuating countenance
betrayed each emotion of her heart; but the deep and serious sentiment
of love was not yet painted there. Oswald gazed on her in silence; his
presence animated and inspired her with a wish to please. Nevertheless,
she sometimes checked herself, in the midst of her most brilliant
sallies, astonished at his external composure, and doubting whether he
might not secretly blame her, or if his English notions could permit
him to approve such success in a woman. He was, however, too fascinated
to remember his former opinions on the obscurity which best becomes a
female; but he asked himself, who could ever become dear to her? What
single object could ever concentrate so many rays, or take captive a
spirit gifted with such glorious wings? In truth, he was alike dazzled
and distressed: nay, though, as she took leave, she politely invited
him to visit her again, a whole day elapsed without his going to her
house, restrained by a species of terror at the feeling which excited
him. Sometimes he compared it with the fatal error of his early youth;
but instantly rejected such comparison. _Then_ it was by treacherous
arts he had been subdued; and who could doubt the truth, the honor of
Corinne? Were her spells those of poetry or of magic? Was she a Sappho
or an Armida? It was impossible to decide. Yet it was evident, that not
society, but Heaven itself, had formed this extraordinary being, whose
mind was as inimitable as her character was unfeigned. "Oh, my father!"
he sighed, "had you known Corinne, what would you have thought of her?"



CHAPTER II.


The Count d'Erfeuil called on Lord Nevil, as usual, next morning; and,
censuring him for not having visited Corinne the preceding night,
said gaily, "You would have been delighted if you had."--"And why?"
asked his friend.--"Because yesterday gave me the most satisfactory
assurance that you have extremely interested her."--"Still this levity?
Do you not know that I neither can nor will endure it?"--"What you
call levity is rather the readiness of my observation: have I the less
reason, because my reason is active? You were formed to grace those
blest patriarchal days when man had five centuries to live; but I warn
you that we have retrenched four of them at least."--"Be it so! And
what may you have discovered by these quickly matured observations of
yours?"--"That Corinne is in love with you. Last evening when I went
to her house, I was well enough received, of course; but her eyes were
fixed on the door, to look whether you followed me. She attempted to
speak of something else; but, as she happens to be a mighty natural
young person, she presently, in all simplicity, asked why you were
not with me?--I said because you would not come, and that you were a
gloomy, eccentric animal: I'll spare you whatever I might have further
said in your praise. 'He is pensive,' remarked Corinne; doubtless he
has lost some one who was dear to him: for whom is he mourning?'--'His
father, madame, though it is more than a year since his death;
and, as the law of nature obliges us to survive our relations, I
conclude that some more private cause exists for his long and settled
melancholy.'--'Oh,' exclaimed she, 'I am far from thinking that griefs
apparently the same act alike on all. The father of your friend, and
your friend himself, were not, perhaps, men of the common order. I am
greatly inclined to think so.' Her voice was so sweet, dear Oswald,
as she uttered these words!"--"And are these all your proofs of her
interest in me?"--"Why truly, with half of them T should make sure of
being beloved; but since you will have better, you shall. I kept the
strongest to come last. The Prince Castel Forte related the whole of
your adventure at Ancona, without knowing that it was of you he spoke.
He told the story with much _fire_, as far as I could judge, thanks
to the two Italian lessons I have taken; but there are so many French
words in all foreign languages, that one understands them, without the
fatigue of learning. Besides, Corinne's face explained what I should
not else have comprehended. 'Twas so easy to read the agitation of her
heart: she would scarcely breathe, for fear of losing a single word;
when she inquired if the name of this Englishman was known, her anxiety
was such, that I could very well estimate the dread she suffered, lest
any other name than yours should be pronounced in reply. Castel Forte
confessed his ignorance; and Corinne, turning eagerly to me, cried, 'Am
I not right, monsieur? was it not Lord Nevil?'--'Yes, madame,' said I,
and then she melted into tears. She had not wept during the history:
what was there in the name of its hero more affecting than the recital
itself!"--"She wept?" repeated Oswald. "Ah, why was I not there?" then
instantly checking himself, he cast down his eyes, and his manly face
expressed the most delicate timidity. He hurriedly resumed the topic,
lest d'Erfeuil should impair his sacred joy by one comment. "If the
adventure at Ancona be worth the telling, its honor belongs to you,
also, my dear Count."--"They certainly did speak of a most engaging
Frenchman, who was with you, my Lord," rejoined d'Erfeuil, laughing;
"but no one, save myself, paid any attention to that parenthesis. The
lovely Corinne prefers you, doubtless believing that you would prove
more faithful than I--this may not be the case--you may even cost her
more pains than I should have done; but your very romantic women love
trouble, therefore you will suit her exactly." Nevil smarted beneath
each word; but what could he say? D'Erfeuil never argued; nay, he could
not even listen with sufficient attention to alter his opinions: once
uttered, he cared no more about them, and the best plan was to forget
them, if possible, as quickly as he did himself.



CHAPTER III.


That evening Oswald reached the house of Corinne with entirely new
sensations. He fancied that he might be expected. How entrancing that
first beam of intelligence between one's self and the being we adore!
ere memory contends the heart with hope, ere the eloquence of words has
sought to depict our feelings. There is, in these first hours of love,
some indefinite and mysterious charm, more fleeting, but more heavenly
than even happiness itself.

Oswald found Corinne alone; this abashed him much. He could have
gazed on her in the midst of her friends; but would fain have been in
some way convinced of her preference, ere thus suddenly engaged in
an interview which might chill her manner towards him; and, in that
expectation, his own address became cold from very embarrassment.
Whether she detected this, or that similar feelings made her desire
to remove his restraint, she speedily inquired if he had yet seen
any of the antiquities of Rome. "No."--"Then, how were you employed
yesterday?" she asked, with a smile. "I passed the day at home. Since
I came hither, I have seen but you, madame, or remained alone." She
wished to speak of his conduct at Ancona, and began: "I learned last
night--" here she paused, and then said, "but I will talk of that when
our party has joined us." Lord Nevil had a dignity which intimidated
Corinne; besides, she feared, in alluding to his noble behaviour,
that she should betray too much emotion, and trusted to feel less
before witnesses. Oswald was deeply touched by this reserve, and by
the frankness with which she, unconsciously, disclosed its motive;
but the more oppressed he became, the less could he explain himself.
He hastily rose, and went to the window; then remembering that this
action must be unintelligible to Corinne, he returned to his seat,
without speaking; and, though she had more confidence than himself,
his diffidence proved so contagious, that, to cover her abstraction,
she ran her fingers over her harp and struck a few unconnected chords;
these melodious sounds, though they increased the emotion of Oswald,
lent him a slight degree of firmness. He dared to look on her; and who
could do so, without being struck by the divine inspiration inthroned
in her eyes? Reassured by the mildness which veiled their splendor, he
might have spoken, had not Prince Castel Forte that instant entered the
room. It, was not without a pang that he beheld Nevil _tête-à-tête_
with Corinne; but he was accustomed to conceal his sensations; and that
habit, which an Italian often unites with the most vehement passions,
in him was rather the result of lassitude and natural gentleness. He
had resigned the hope of being the first object of Corinne's regard;
he was no longer young. He had just the wit, taste, and fancy, which
varies, without disturbing one's existence; and felt it so needful for
his life to pass every evening with Corinne, that, had she married,
he would have conjured her husband to let him continue this routine;
on which condition it would not have cost him much regret to see her
united with another. The heart's disappointments are not, in Italy,
aggravated by those of vanity. You meet some men jealous enough to stab
their rivals, others sufficiently modest to accept the second place in
the esteem of a woman whose company they enjoy; but you seldom find
those who, rather than appear rejected, deny themselves the pleasure of
keeping up a blameless intimacy. The dominion of society over self-love
is scarcely known in the land. The Count d'Erfeuil and Corinne's wonted
guests having assembled, the conversation turned on the talent for
improvisation, which she had so gloriously displayed at the capitol;
and she was asked what she thought of it herself. "It is so rare a
thing," said Castel Forte, "to find a person at once susceptible of
enthusiasm, and capable of analysis; endowed as an artist, yet gifted
with so much self-knowledge, that we ought to implore her revelation
of her own secret."--"The faculty of extemporizing," returned Corinne,
"is not more extraordinary in southern tongues, than senatorial
eloquence or lively repartee in other languages. I should even say
that, unfortunately, it is easier for us to breathe impromptu verse
than to speak well in prose, from which poetry differs so widely, that
the first stanza, by their mere expressions, remove the poet from the
sphere of his auditors, and thus command attention. It is not only
to the sweetness of Italian, but to the emphatic vibration of its
syllables, that we should attribute the influence of poetry amongst us.
Italian has a musical charm, which confers delight by the very sound of
its words, almost independent of ideas, though nearly all those words
are so graphic, that they paint their own significations on the mind;
you feel that but in the midst of the arts, and beneath a beauteous
sky, could a language so melodious and highly colored, have had birth.
It is, therefore, easier in Italy than anywhere else to mislead by
speeches, unaided by depth or novelty of thought. Poetry, like all the
fine arts, captivates the senses as much as the mind. Nevertheless, I
venture to assert, that I never act the improvisatrice, unless beneath
some real feeling, or some image which I believe original. I hope that
I rely less than others on our bewitching tongue; on which, indeed, one
may prelude at random, and bestow a vivid pleasure, solely by the charm
of rhythm and of harmony."--"You think, then," said one of her friends,
"that this genius for spontaneous verse does injury to our literature?
I thought so too, till I heard you, who have entirety reversed my
decision."--"I have said," returned Corinne, "that from this facility
and abundance must result a vast quantity of indifferent poems; but I
rejoice that such fruitfulness should exist in Italy, as I do to see
our plains covered with a thousand superfluous productions. I pride in
this bounty of Heaven. Above all, I love to find improvisatores among
the common people; it shows that imagination of theirs which is hidden
in all other circumstances, and only develops itself amongst us. It
gives a poetic air to the humblest ranks of society, and spares us
from the disgust we cannot help feeling, against what is vulgar in all
classes. When our Sicilians, while rowing the traveller in their barks,
lend their graceful dialect to an endearing welcome, or sing him a kind
and long farewell, one might dream that the pure sea-breeze acted on
man as on an Eolian harp; and that the one, like the other, echoed but
the voice of nature. Another reason why I set this value on our talent
for improvisation is, that it appears one which could not possibly
survive among a community disposed to ridicule. Poets, who risk this
perilous enterprise, require all the good-humor of a country in which
men love to amuse themselves, without criticizing what amuses them. A
single sneer would suffice to banish the presence of mind necessary
for rapid and uninterrupted composition. Your heroes must warm with
you, and their plaudits must be your inspiration."--"But, madame,"
said Oswald, who, till now, had gazed in silence on Corinne, "to which
class of your poems do you give the preference--those that are the
works of reflection, or such as were instantaneously inspired?"--"My
Lord," replied Corinne, with a look of gentle deference, "I will make
you my judge; but if you bid me examine my own heart, I should say
that improvisation is, to me, like animated converse. I do not confine
myself to such or such subjects, but yield to whatever produces that
degree of interest in my hearers which most infects myself; and it
is to my friends that I owe the greater portion of my talent in this
line. Sometimes, while they speak on the noble questions that involve
the moral condition of man--the aim and end of his duties here--mine
impassioned excitement carries me beyond myself; teaches me to find
in nature, and mine own heart, such daring truths, and forcible
expressions, as solitary meditation could never have engendered.
Mine enthusiasm, then, seems supernatural: a spirit speaks within
me far greater than mine own; it often happens that I abandon the
measure of verse to explain my thoughts in prose. Sometimes I quote
the most applicable passages from the poets of other lands. Those
divine apostrophes are mine, while my soul is filled by their import.
Sometimes my lyre, by a simple national air, may complete the effect
which flies from the control of words. In truth, I feel myself a poet,
less when a happy choice of rhymes, of syllables, of figures, may
dazzle my auditors, than when my spirit soars disdainful of all selfish
baseness; when godlike deeds appear most easy to me, 'tis then my verse
is at its best. I am, indeed, a poet while I admire or hate, not by my
personal feelings, nor in mine own cause, but for the sake of human
dignity, and the glory of the world!" Corinne, now perceiving how far
she had been borne away, blushed, and, turning to Lord Nevil, said:
"You see I cannot touch on any of the themes that affect me, without
that kind of thrill which is the source of ideal beauty in the arts, of
religion in the recluse, generosity in heroes, and disinterestedness
among men. Pardon me, my Lord; such a woman little resembles those of
your country."--"Who _can_ resemble _you_?" replied Oswald; "and who
shall make laws for a being so peculiar?"

The Count d'Erfeuil was actually spell-bound; without understanding
all she said, her gestures, voice, and manner, charmed him. It was
the first time that any, save French graces, had moved him thus.
But, to say truth, the popularity of Corinne aided and sanctioned
his judgment; so that he might rave of her without relinquishing his
convenient habit of being guided by the opinion of others. As they
left the house together, he said to his friend: "Confess, now, dear
Oswald, that I have some merit in not paying my court to so delightful
a person."--"But," replied Nevil, "they say that she is difficult
to please."--"They say, but I don't believe it. A single woman, who
leads the life of an artist, can't be difficult to please." Nevil's
feelings were wounded by this remark; but whether d'Erfeuil saw it
not, or was resolved to follow the bent of his own inclinations, he
continued, "Not but, if I could believe in any woman's virtue, I should
trust hers above all. She has certainly a thousand times more ardor
than were required in your country, or even in mine, to create doubts
of a lady's cruelty; yet she is a creature of such superior tact and
information, that the ordinary rules for judging her sex cannot be
applied to her. Would you believe it? I find her manners imposing; they
overawe me in spite of her careless affability. I wished yesterday,
merely out of gratitude for her interest in you, to hazard a few words
on my own account; such as make what way they can; if they are listened
to, so much the better; if not, why that may be luckier still; but
Corinne looked on me coldly, and I was altogether disconcerted. Is
it not absurd to feel out of countenance before an Italian, a poet,
an--everything that ought to put a man at his ease?"--"Her name is
unknown," replied Nevil, "but her behavior assures us that she is
highly born."--"Nay, 'tis only the fashion of romance to conceal
one's nobility;--in real life, people tell everything that can do
themselves credit, and even a little more than the truth."--"Yes, in
some societies, where they think but of the effect produced on others;
but here, where life is more domestic, here there may be secrets, which
only he who marries Corinne should seek to fathom."--"Marry Corinne!"
replied d'Erfeuil, laughing vehemently, "such a notion never entered my
head. My dear Nevil, if you will commit extravagances, let them be such
as are not irreparable. In marriage, one should consult nothing but
convenience and decorum. You think me frivolous; nevertheless, I'll
bet you that my conduct shall be more rational than your own."--"I
don't doubt it," returned Nevil, without another word; for how could he
tell the Count that there is often much selfishness in frivolity? or
that vanity never leads a man towards the error of sacrificing himself
for another? Triflers are very capable of cleverly directing their
own affairs; for, in all that may be called the science of policy,
in private as in public life, men oftener succeed by the absence of
certain qualities than by any which they possess.

A deficiency of enthusiasm, opinions, and sensibility, is a negative
treasure, on which, with but slight abilities, rank and fortune may
easily be acquired or maintained. The jests of d'Erfeuil had pained
Lord Nevil much; he condemned them, but still they haunted him most
importunately.



BOOK IV


ROME.



CHAPTER I.


The next fortnight Oswald devoted exclusively to the society of
Corinne. He never left his house but to visit her. He saw, he sought
no more; and, without speaking of his love, he made her sensible of it
every hour in the day. She was accustomed to the lively and flattering
tributes of the Italians; but the lordly deportment and apparent
coldness of Oswald, through which his tenderness of heart so often
broke, in spite of himself, exercised a far greater power o'er her
imagination. He never related a generous deed or a tale of misfortune,
but his eyes filled, though he always strove to hide this weakness. It
was long since she had felt such respect as that which he awakened.
No genius, however distinguished, could have astonished her; but
elevation of character acted deeply on her mind. Oswald added to this
an elegance which pervaded the most trivial actions of his life, and
contrasted strongly with the negligent familiarity of the Roman nobles.
Although some of his tastes were uncongenial to her own, their mutual
understanding was wonderful. They read each other's hearts in the
lightest alteration of countenance. Habituated to the most tempestuous
demonstrations of passion, this proud retiring attachment, continually
proved, though never confessed, shed a new interest over her life. She
felt as if surrounded by a purer, sweeter atmosphere; and every moment
brought with it a sense of happiness in which she revelled, without
seeking to define.

One morning Prince Castel Forte came to her, evidently dispirited. She
asked the cause. "This Scot," sighed he, "is weaning your affection
from us, and who knows but he may even carry you far hence?" Corinne
was mute for some moments, and then replied, "I protest to you he has
never said he loves me."--"You know it, nevertheless; he speaks to you
by his life, and his very silence is but an artful plan to attract
your notice. What, indeed, can any one say to you that you have not
already heard? What kind of praise have you not been offered? But there
is something veiled and reined in about the character of Lord Nevil,
which will never permit you to judge it wholly as you do ours. You are
the most easily known person in the world; but it is just because you
voluntarily show yourself as you are, that reserve and mystery both
please and govern you. The unknown, be it what it may, has a greater
ascendency over you, than all the professions which could be tendered
by man." Corinne smiled. "You think then, dear Prince," she said, "that
my heart is ungrateful, and my fancy capricious? I believe, however,
that Lord Nevil evinces qualities too remarkable for me to flatter
myself as their discoverer."--"I allow," rejoined Castel Forte, "that
he is high-minded, intelligent, even sensitive, and melancholy above
all; but I am much deceived if his pursuits have the least affinity
with yours. You cannot perceive this, so thoroughly is he influenced
by your presence; but your empire would not last were he absent
from you. Obstacles would fatigue a mind warped by the griefs he has
undergone, by discouragements which must have impaired the energy of
his resolutions; besides, you know what slaves are the generality
of English to the manners and habits of their country." These words
recalled to the mind of Corinne the painful events of her early years.
She sighed, and spoke not; but in the evening she again beheld her
lover, and all that remained as the effect of the Prince's counsel was
a desire so to enamour Nevil of the varied beauties with which Italy is
blest, that he would make it his home for life. With this design she
wrote him the following letter. The free life led at Rome excused her,
and, much as she might be reproached with a too rash degree of candor,
she well knew how to preserve a modest dignity, even in her most
independent proceedings.


    "TO LORD NEVIL.

    "Dec. 15, 1794.

    "I know not, my Lord, if you will think me too
    self-confident, or if you can do justice to my motives.
    I heard you say that you had not yet explored Rome, that
    you knew nothing either of the _chefs-d'œuvres_ of our
    fine arts, or the antique ruins that teach us history by
    imagination and sentiment. I conceive the idea of daring to
    propose myself as your guide through the mazes of long-gone
    years. Doubtless Rome can boast of many men whose profound
    erudition might be far more useful; but if I succeed in
    endearing to you an abode towards which I have always felt
    so imperiously drawn, your own studies will complete what my
    imperfect sketches may begin.

    "Many foreigners come hither, as they go to London or Paris,
    seeking but the dissipation of a great city; and if it were
    not treason to confess themselves weary of Rome, I believe
    the greatest part of them would do so. But it is equally
    true, that here may be found a charm of which none could
    ever sate. Will you pardon me, my Lord, for wishing that
    this charm may be known to you? It is true that you must
    forget all the political relations of the world; but when
    they are not linked with our sacred duties, they do but
    freeze the heart. It is necessary also to renounce what is
    elsewhere called the pleasures of society; but do they not
    too frequently wither up the mind? One tastes in Rome a life
    at once secluded and enlivened, which liberally matures in
    our breasts whatever Heaven hath planted there.

    "Once more, my Lord, pardon this love for my country, which
    makes me long to know it beloved by a man like yourself; and
    do not judge with English severity the pledges of good-will
    that an Italian believes it her right to bestow, without
    losing anything in her own eyes or in yours.

    "CORINNE."


In vain would Oswald have concealed from himself his ecstasy at
receiving this letter; it opened to him glimpses of a future all peace
and joy, enthusiasm, love and wisdom;--all that is most divine in the
soul of man seemed blended in the enchanting project of exploring
Rome with Corinne. He considered--he hesitated no more; but instantly
started for her house, and, on his way, looked up to heaven, basking in
its rays, for life was no longer a burden. Regret and fear were lost
behind the golden clouds of hope; his heart so long oppressed with
sadness, throbbed and bounded with delight; he knew that such a state
could not last; but even his sense of its fleetness lent this fever of
felicity but a more active force.

"You are come!" cried Corinne, as he entered. "Ah, thank you!" She
offered her hand: he pressed it to his lips, with a tenderness
unqualified by that afflicting tremor which so often mingled with his
happiness, and embittered the presence of those he loved the most.
An intimacy had commenced between them since they had last parted,
established by the letter of Corinne; both were content, and felt
towards one another the sweetest gratitude. "This morning, then," said
Corinne, "I will show you the Pantheon and St. Peter's. I trusted," she
added, smilingly, "that you would not refuse to make the tour of Rome
with me; so my horses are ready. I expected you--you are here--all is
well--let us go."--"Wondrous creature!" exclaimed Oswald. "Who then are
you? Whence do you derive charms so contrasted, that each might well
exclude the others?--feeling gayety, depth, wildness, modesty! Art thou
an illusion? an unearthly blessing for those who meet thee?"--"Ah! if I
have but power to do you any service," she answered, "believe not that
I will ever renounce it."--"Take heed," replied he, seizing her hand
with emotion; "be careful of what benefit you confer on me. For two
years an iron grasp has pressed upon my heart. If I feel some relief
while breathing your sweet air, what will become of me when thrown
back on mine own fate? What shall I be then?"--"Let us leave that to
time and chance," interrupted Corinne: "They will decide whether the
impression of an hour shall last beyond its day. If our souls commune,
our mutual affection will not be fugitive: be that as it may, let us
admire together all that can elevate our minds; we shall thus, at
least, secure some happy moments." So saying, she descended. Nevil
followed her, astonished at her reply: it seemed that she admitted
the possibility of a momentary liking for him, yet he fancied that he
perceived a fickleness in her manner, which piqued him even to pain;
and Corinne, as if she guessed this, said, when they were seated in
her carriage, "I do not think the heart is so constituted that it
must either feel no love at all, or the most unconquerable passion.
There are early symptoms which may vanish before self-examination. We
flatter, we deceive ourselves; and the very enthusiasm of which we are
susceptible, if it renders the enchantment more rapid, may also bring
the reaction promptly."--"You have reflected much upon this sentiment,
madame," observed Oswald, with bitterness. Corinne blushed, and was
silent for some moments, then said, with a striking union of frankness
and dignity, "I suppose no woman of heart ever reached the age of
twenty-six without having known the illusions of love; but if never
to have been happy, never to have met an object worthy of her full
affection, is a claim on sympathy, I have a right to yours." The words,
the accent of Corinne, somewhat dispersed the clouds that gathered
over Nevil's thoughts; yet he said to himself: "She is a most seducing
creature, but--an Italian. This is not a shrinking, innocent heart,
even to itself unknown such as, I doubt not, beats in the bosom of the
English girl to whom my father destined me."

Lucy Edgarmond was the daughter of his parent's best friend; but too
young, when he left England, for him to marry her, or even foresee what
she might one day become.[1]



CHAPTER II.


Oswald and Corinne went first to the Pantheon, now called Santa Maria
of the Rotunda. Throughout Italy the Catholic hath been the Pagan's
heir; but this is the only antique temple in Rome which has been
preserved entire; the only one wherein we may behold, unimpaired, the
architecture of the ancients, and the peculiar character of their
worship.

Here they paused to admire the portico and its supporting columns.
Corinne bade Oswald to observe that this building was constructed in
such a manner as made it appear much larger than it was. "St. Peter's,"
she said, "produces an opposite effect: you will, at first, think it
less vast than it is in reality. The deception, so favorable to the
Pantheon, proceeds, it is conceived, from the great space between the
pillars, and from the air playing so freely within; but still more from
the absence of ornament, with which St. Peter's is overcharged. Even
thus did antique poetry design but the massive features of a theme,
leaving the reader's fancy to supply the detail: in all affairs we
moderns say and do too much. This fane was consecrated by Agrippa,
the favourite of Augustus, to his friend, or rather, his master, who,
however, had the humility to refuse this dedication; and Agrippa was
reduced to the necessity of devoting it to all the gods of Olympus,
and of substituting their power for that of one earthly idol. On the
top of the Pantheon stood a car, in which were placed the statues of
Augustus and Agrippa. On each side of the portico similar effigies
were displayed, in other attitudes; and over the front of the temple
is still legible: "Consecrated by Agrippa." Augustus gave his name
to the age in which he lived, by rendering it an era in the progress
of human intellect. From the _chefs-d'œuvres_ of his cotemporaries
emanated the rays that formed a circling halo round his brow. He knew
how to honor men of letters in his own day; and posterity, therefore,
honors him. Let us enter the temple: it is said that the light which
streams in from above was considered the emblem of a divinity superior
to the highest divinities. The heathens ever loved symbolical images;
our language, indeed, seems to accord better with religion, than with
common parlance. The rain often falls on the marbles of this court,
but the sunshine succeeds to efface it. What a serene, yet festal air
is here! The Pagans deified life, as the Christians sanctify death;
such is the distinction between the two faiths; but Catholicism here
is far less gloomy than in the north, as you will observe when we
visit St. Peter's. In the sanctuary of the Pantheon the busts of our
most celebrated artists decorate the niches once filled by ideal
gods. Since the empire of the Cæsars, we have scarce ever boasted any
political independence; consequently, you will find no statesmen, no
heroes here. Genius constitutes our only fame; but do you not think,
my Lord, that a people, who thus revere the talents still left amongst
them, must deserve a nobler destiny?"--"I believe," replied Oswald,
"that nations generally deserve their own fates, be they what they
will."--"That is severe! but, perhaps, by living in Italy, your heart
may soften towards the fair land which nature has adorned like a victim
for sacrifice. At least remember, that the dearest hope the lovers of
glory cherish is that of obtaining a place here. I have already chosen
mine," she added, pointing to a niche, still vacant. "Oswald, who knows
but you may one day return to this spot, when my bust----". "Hold!"
interrupted he; "can you, resplendent in youth and beauty, talk thus
to one whom misfortune even now is bending towards the grave?"--"Ah!"
exclaimed Corinne, "the storm may in a moment dash down flowers that
yet shall raise their heads again. Oswald, dear Oswald! why are you
not happy?"--"Never ask me," he replied; "you have your secrets, and
I mine: let us respect our mutual silence. You know not what I should
suffer, if forced to relate my distresses." Corinne said no more; but
her steps, as she left the temple, became slow, and her looks more
pensive.

She paused beneath the portico. "There," she said, "stood a porphyry
urn of great beauty, now removed to St. John Lateran; it contained the
ashes of Agrippa, which were deposited at the foot of the statue he
had erected to himself. The ancients lavished such art on sweetening
the idea of destruction, that they succeeded in banishing all its most
dreary and alarming traits. There was such magnificence in their tombs,
that the contrast between the nothingness of death and the splendors
of life was less felt. It is certain, too, that the hope of another
world was far less vivid amongst them than it is with Christians. They
were obliged to contest with death, the principal which we fearlessly
confide to the bosom of our eternal Father."

Oswald sighed, and spoke not; melancholy ideas have many charms, when
we are not deeply miserable; but while grief, in all its cruelty,
reigns over the breast, we cannot hear, without a shudder, words which,
of old, excited but reveries not more sad than soothing.


[1] In the original, Lucile Edgermond: but as neither of these names
are English, and the latter capable of a very ignoble pronunciation, I
have taken the liberty to alter both.--TR.



CHAPTER III.


In going to St. Peter's, they crossed the bridge of St. Angelo on foot.
"It was here," said Oswald, "that, on my way from the Capitol, I, for
the first time, mused long on Corinne."--"I do not flatter myself,"
she rejoined, "that I owe a friend to my coronation; yet, in toiling
for celebrity, I have ever wished that it might make me beloved; were
it not useless, at least to a woman, without such expectation?"--"Let
us stay here awhile," said Oswald. "Can bygone centuries afford me one
remembrance equal to that of the day on which I beheld you first?"--"I
may err," answered Corinne, "but I think persons become most endeared
to each other while participating in the admiration of works which
speak to the soul by their true grandeur. Those of Rome are neither
cold nor mute; conceived as they were by genius, and hallowed by
memorable events. Nay, perhaps, Oswald, one could not better learn to
love a man like yourself than by enjoying with him the noble beauties
of the universe."--"But I," returned Oswald, "while gazing listening
beside you, need the presence of no other wonder." Corinne thanked
him by a gracious smile. Pausing before the castle of St. Angelo,
she pursued: "This is one of the most original exteriors among all
our edifices: the tomb of Adrian, fortified by the Goths, bearing a
double character from its successive uses. Built for the dead, an
impenetrable circle inclosed it; yet the living have added more hostile
defences, which contrast strongly with the silent and noble inutility
of a funeral monument. You see, at the top, the bronze figure of an
angel with a naked sword;[1] within are prisons, famed for ingenious
torture. All the epochs of Roman history, from the days of Adrian to
our own, are associated with this site. Belisarius defended it against
the Goths; and, with a barbarism scarce inferior to their own, hurled
on them the beauteous statues that adorned the interior. Crescentius,
Arnault de Brescia, and Nicolas Rienzi,[2] those friends of Roman
liberty, who so oft mistook her memories for her hopes, long defied
their foes from this imperial tomb. I love each stone connected with
so many glorious feats. I applaud the master of the world's luxurious
taste--a magnificent tomb. There is something great in the man who,
while possessing all the pomps and pleasures of the world, fears not to
employ his mind so long in preparations for his death. Moral ideas and
disinterested sentiments must fill the soul that, in any way, outsteps
the boundaries of life. Thus far ought the pillars in front of St.
Peter's to extend; such was the superb plan of Michael Angelo, which he
trusted his survivors would complete; but the men of our days think not
of posterity. When once enthusiasm has been turned into ridicule, all
is defeated, except wealth and power."--"It is for you to regenerate
it," cried Nevil. "Who ever experienced such happiness as I now taste?
Rome shown me by you! interpreted by imagination and genius! What a
world, when animated by sentiment, without which the world itself were
but a desert![3] Ah, Corinne! what is to follow these the sweetest days
that my fate and heart e'er granted me?"--"All sincere affections come
direct from Heaven," she answered, meekly. "Why, Oswald, should it not
protect what it inspires? It is for Heaven to dispose of us both."

At last they beheld St. Peter's; the greatest edifice ever erected by
man; even the Egyptian Pyramids are its inferiors in height. "Perhaps,"
said Corinne, "I ought to have shown you the grandest of our temples
last; but that is not my system. It appears to me that, to perfect a
sense of the fine arts, one should begin by contemplating the objects
which awaken the deepest and most lively admiration. This, once felt,
reveals a new sphere of thought, and renders us capable of loving
and judging whatever may, even in an humbler quality, revive the
first impression we received. All cautious and mystified attempts at
producing a strong effect are against my taste. We do not arrive at the
sublime by degrees, for infinite distances separate it even from the
beautiful."

Oswald felt the most extraordinary sensations when standing in front of
St. Peter's. It was the first time the effort of man had affected him
like a marvel of nature. It is the only work of art on the face of the
globe that possesses the same species of majesty which characterizes
those of creation. Corinne enjoyed his astonishment. "I have selected,"
she said, "a day when the sun is in all his splendor; still reserving
for you a yet more holy rapture, that of beholding St. Peter's by
moonlight; but I wished you first to be present at this most brilliant
spectacle--the genius of man bedecked in the magnificence of nature."

The square of St. Peter's is surrounded by pillars, which appear light
from a distance, but massive as you draw nearer; the sloping ascent
towards the porch adds to the effect produced. An obelisk, of eighty
feet in height, which looks scarce raised above the earth, in presence
of the cupola, stands in the centre. The mere form of an obelisk is
pleasing to the fancy; it loses itself in air, as if guiding the
thoughts of man towards heaven. This was brought from Egypt to adorn
the baths of Caligula, and afterwards removed by Sextus V. to the foot
of St. Peter's, beside which this contemporary of many ages creates
not one sentiment of awe. Man feels himself so perishable that he bows
before the presence of immutability. At some distance, on each side
of the obelisk, are two fountains, whose waters, perpetually gushing
upwards, fall again in abundant cascades. Their murmurs, such as we
are wont to hear in wild and rural scenes, lend a strange charm to
this spot, yet one that harmonizes with the stilling influence of that
august cathedral. Painting and sculpture, whether representing the
human form, or other natural objects, awaken clear and intelligible
images; but a perfect piece of architecture kindles that aimless
reverie, which bears the soul we know not whither. The ripple of water
well accords with this vague deep sense; it is uniform, as the edifice
is regular. "Eternal motion and eternal rest," seem here united,
defying even time, who has no more sullied the source of those pure
springs than shaken the base of that commanding temple. These sheaves
of liquid silver dash themselves into spray so fine, that on sunny days
the light will form them into little rainbows, tinted with all the iris
hues of the prism. "Stop here a moment," said Corinne to Nevil, who was
already beneath the portico; "pause, ere you unveil the sanctuary; does
not your heart throb as you approach it, as if anticipating some solemn
event?" She raised the curtain, and held it back for Nevil to pass,
with such a grace that his first look was on her, and for some seconds
he could observe nothing else; yet he entered the interior, and soon,
beneath its immense arches, was filled by a piety so profound that
love alone no longer sufficed to occupy his breast. He walked slowly
beside Corinne; both were mute; there everything commands silence; for
the least sound is re-echoed so far, that no discourse seems worthy to
be thus repeated, in such an almost eternal abode. Even prayer, the
accent of distress, springing from whatever feeble voice, reverberates
deeply through its vastness; and when we hear, from far, the trembling
steps of age on the fair marble, watered by so many tears, man becomes
imposing from the very infirmities that subject his divine spirit to
so much of woe; and we feel that Christianity, the creed of suffering,
contains the true secret which should direct our pilgrimage on earth.
Corinne broke on the meditations of Oswald, saying, "You must have
remarked that the Gothic churches of England and Germany have a far
more gloomy character than this. Northern Catholicism has in it
something mystic; ours speaks to the imagination by external objects.
Michael Angelo, on beholding this dome from the Pantheon, exclaimed, 'I
have built it in the air!'--indeed, St. Peter's is as a temple based
upon a church; its interior weds the ancient and modern faiths in the
mind; I frequently wander hither to regain the composure my spirit
sometimes loses. The sight of such a building is like a ceaseless,
changeless melody, here awaiting to console all who seek it; and, among
our national claims to glory, let me rank the courage, patience, and
disinterestedness of the chiefs of our church, who have, for so many
years, devoted such treasures to the completion of an edifice which its
founders could not expect to enjoy.[4] It is rendering a service to the
moral public, bestowing on a nation a monument emblematic of such noble
and generous desires."--"Yes," replied Oswald, "here art is grand,
and genius inventive; but how is the real dignity of man sustained?
How weak are the generality of Italian governments, yet how do they
enslave."--"Other nations," interrupted Corinne, "have borne the yoke,
like ourselves, and without like power to conceive a better fate,

    'Servi siam si, ma servi ognor frementi.'

'We are slaves, indeed, but forever chafing beneath our bonds,' said
Alfieri, the boldest of our modern writers. With such soul for the fine
arts, may not our character one day equal our genius? But look at these
statues on the tombs, these mosaics--laborious and faithful copies from
the _chefs-d'œuvres_ of our great masters. I never examine St. Peter's
in detail, because I am grieved to find that its multiplied adornments
somewhat impair the beauty of the whole. Yet well may the best works of
human hands seem superfluous here. This is a world of itself; a refuge
from both heat and cold; it hath a season of its own, perennial spring,
which the atmosphere without can never affect. A subterranean church
is built beneath; the popes, and many foreign princes, are buried
there--Christine, who abdicated her realm; the Stuarts, whose dynasty
was overthrown. Rome, so long an asylum for the exile, is she not
herself dethroned? Her aspect consoles sovereigns despoiled like her.
Yes, cities fall, whole empires disappear, and man becomes unworthy
of his name. Stand here, Nevil! near the altar, beneath the centre of
the dome, you perceive, through these iron gratings, the church of the
dead, which lies beneath our feet, and, on raising your eyes, they
can scarcely pierce to the summit of this arch; do you not feel as
if a huge abyss was opening over your head? Everything which extends
beyond a certain proportion must cause that limited creature, man,
uncontrollable dismay. What we know is as inexplicable as the unknown;
we have so reconciled ourselves to habitual darkness, that any new
mystery alarms and confounds us.

"The whole church is embellished by antique marbles, who know more than
we do of vanished centuries. There is the statue of Jupiter converted
into St. Peter, by the glory which has been set upon its head. The
general expression of the place perfectly characterizes a mixture of
obscure dogmas and sumptuous ceremonies; a mine of sad ideas, but
such as may be soothingly applied; severe doctrines, capable of mild
interpretation: Christian theology and Pagan images; in fact, the most
admirable union of all the majestic splendors which man can give to
his worship of the Divinity. Tombs decked by the arts can scarcely
represent death as a formidable enemy: we do not, indeed, like the
ancients, carve sports and dances on the sarcophagus: but thought is
diverted from the bier by works that tell of immortality even from the
altar of death. Thus animated, we feel not that freezing silence which
constantly watches over a northern sepulchre."--"It is doubtless the
purpose with us," said Oswald, "to surround death with appropriate
gloom: ere we were enlightened by Christianity, such was our mythologic
bias. Ossian called around the tomb funereal chants, such as here you
would fain forget. I know not if I should wish that your fair sky may
so far change my mood."

"Yet think not," said Corinne, "that we are either fickle or frivolous;
we have too little vanity: indolence may yield our lives some intervals
of oblivion, but they can neither sate nor wither up the heart;
unfortunately we are often scared from this repose by passions more
terrible than those of habitually active minds." They were now at the
door. "One more glance!" said Nevil. "See how insignificant is man in
the presence of devotion, while we shrink even before its material
emblem: behold what duration man can give to his achievements, while
his own date is so brief that he soon survives but in his fame.
This temple is an image of infinitude; there are no bounds for the
sentiments to which it gives birth; the hosts of past and future years
it suggests for speculation. On leaving it we seem quitting a world of
heavenly thought for one of common interests; exchanging religion and
eternity for the trivial pursuits of time."

Corinne pointed out the bas-reliefs, from Ovid's Metamorphoses, on
the doors. "We shame not," she said, "in the pagan trophies which
art has hallowed. The wonders of genius always awaken holy feelings
in the soul, and we pay homage to Christianity in tribute of all the
best works that other faiths have inspired." Oswald smiled at this
explanation. "Believe me, my Lord," continued Corinne, "there is much
sincerity among people of lively fancy. To-morrow, if you like, I will
take you to the Capitol, and I trust I have many such days in store for
you; but--when they are over--must you depart?" She checked herself,
fearing that she had said too much. "No, Corinne," cried Oswald, "I
cannot renounce this gleam of bliss, which my guardian angel seems to
shower on me from above."


[1] A Frenchman commanded the castle of St. Angelo during the last war;
and when summoned by the Neapolitans to surrender, replied, that he
would do so when the bronze angel sheathed his sword.

[2] These facts are found in "A history of the Italian Republics,
during the Middle Ages," by M. Simonde, of Geneva; an author of
profound sagacity, equally conscientious and energetic.

[3] "Eine Weitz zwar bist du, o Rom! doch ohne die Liebe Ware die Welt
nicht die Welt, ware denn Rom aucht nicht Rom," says Goethe, the poet
and Philosopher, of all our modern men of letters the most remarkable
for imagination.

[4] It is said that the building of St. Peter's was one of the
principal causes of the Reformation; as it cost the popes so much, that
they multiplied the sale of indulgences.



CHAPTER IV.


The next day Oswald and Corinne set forth with more confidence and
calmness. They were friends, and began to say _we_. Ah, how affecting
is that _we_, pronounced by love! What a timid, yet ardent confession
does it breathe. "We go to the Capitol, then?" said Corinne.--"Yes,
_we_ will!" replied Oswald, and his voice told all in those simple
words; so full of gentle tenderness was his accent. "From the top of
the Capitol, such as it is now," said Corinne, "we can clearly see
the Seven Hills; we will go over them all in succession; there is
not one but teems with historical recollections." They took what was
formerly called the sacred or triumphant road.--"Your car passed this
way," said Oswald. "It did," answered Corinne: such venerable dust
might have wondered at my presumption; but since the Roman republic,
so many a guilty track hath been imprinted on this road, that the
respect it once demanded is decreased." She led him to the stairs
of the present Capitol; the entrance to the original one was by the
Forum. "I wish," she said, "that these steps were the same which
Scipio ascended; when, repulsing calumny by glorious deeds, he went to
offer thanks in the temple for the victories he had won; but the new
staircase and Capitol were built on the ruins of the old, to receive
the peaceful magistrate who now monopolizes the high sounding title of
Roman senator, which once extorted reverence from the whole universe.
We have but names here now. Yet their classic euphony always creates a
thrill of mingled pleasure and regret. I asked a poor woman, whom I met
the other day, where she lived. 'On the Tarpeian Rock,' she answered.
These words, stripped as they are of all that once attached to them,
still exert some power over the fancy." They stopped to observe the
two basaltic lions at the foot of the stairs.[1] They came from Egypt,
whose sculptors much more faithfully transmitted the forms of animals
than that of man. The physiognomy of these lions has all the stern
tranquillity, the strength in repose, which we find described by Dante.

    "A Guisa di leon--quando si posa."

Not far from thence is a mutilated Roman statue, which the moderns have
placed there, unconscious that they thus display a striking symbol of
Rome as it is. This figure has neither head nor feet; but the trunk
and drapery that remain have still the beauty of antiquity. At the top
of the stairs are two colossal statues, thought to represent Castor
and Pollux; then come the trophies of Marius; then the two columns
which served to measure the Roman empire; lastly the statue of Marcus
Aurelius, calm and beautiful amid contending memories. Thus the heroic
age is personated by these colossal shapes, the republic by the lions,
the civil wars by Marius, and the imperial day by Aurelius.

To the right and left of the modern Capitol two churches have been
erected, on the ruins of temples to Jupiter Feretrius and Capitolinus.
In front of the vestibule is a fountain, over which the geniuses of the
Tiber and the Nile are represented as presiding, as does the she-wolf
of Romulus. The name of the Tiber is never pronounced like that of an
inglorious stream; it is a proud pleasure for a Roman but to say, "Come
to the Tiber's banks! Let us cross the Tiber!" In breathing such words
he seems to invoke the spirit of history, and reanimate the dead.

Going to the Capitol by the way of the Forum, you find, to your right,
the Mamertine prisons, constructed by Ancus Martius for ordinary
criminals; but excavated by Servius Tullius into far more cruel
dungeons for state culprits; as if they merit not most mercy, who err
from a zealous fidelity to what they believe their duty. Jugurtha,
and the friends of Catiline, perished in these cells; it is even said
that St. Peter and St. Paul were confined there. On the other side of
the Capitol is the Tarpeian Rock, at the foot of which now stands the
Hospital of Consolation, as if the severe spirit of antiquity, and the
sweet one of Christianity, defying time, here met, as visibly to the
eye as to the mind. When Oswald and Corinne had gained the top of the
Capitol, she showed him the Seven Hills, and the city, bounded first by
Mount Palatinus, then by the walls of Servius Tullius, which inclose
the hills, and by those of Aurelian, which still surround the greatest
part of Rome. Corinne repeated verses of Tibullus and Propertius,
that glorify the weak commencement of what became the mistress of the
world.[2] Mount Palatinus once contained all Rome; but soon did the
imperial palace fill the space that had sufficed for a nation. A poet
of Nero's day made this epigram:--

    "Roma domus fiet. Veios migrate, Quirites;
       Si non et Veios occupat ista domus."

'Rome will soon be but one house. Go to Veios, citizens! if you can be
sure that this house will not include even Veios itself.' The Seven
Hills are far less lofty now than when they deserved the title of steep
mountains; modern Rome being forty feet higher than its predecessor,
and the valleys which separated them almost filled up by ruins; but
what is still more strange, two heaps of shattered vases have formed
new hills, Cestario and Testacio. Thus, in time, the very refuse of
civilization levels the rock with the plain, effacing, in the moral as
in the material world, all the pleasing inequalities of nature.

Three other hills, Janiculum, Vaticanus, and Mario, not comprised in
the famous seven, give so picturesque an air to Rome; and afford such
magnificent views from her interior, as perhaps no other city can
command. There is so remarkable a mixture of ruins and new buildings,
of fair fields and desert wastes, that one may contemplate Rome on all
sides, and ever find fresh beauties.

Oswald could not weary of feasting his gaze from the elevated point
to which Corinne had led him. The study of history can never act on
us like the sight of that scene itself. The eye reigns all powerfully
over the soul. He now believed in the old Romans, as if he had lived
amongst them. Mental recollections are acquired by reading; those of
imagination are born of more immediate impressions, such as give life
to thought, and seem to render us the witnesses of what we learn.
Doubtless we are annoyed by the modern dwellings which intrude on
these wrecks, yet a portico beside some humble roof, columns between
which the little windows of a church peep out, or a tomb that serves
for the abode of a rustic family, so blends the grand with the simple,
and affords us so many agreeable discoveries, as to keep up continual
interest. Everything is common-place and prosaic in the generality of
European towns; and Rome, more frequently than any other, presents
the sad aspect of misery and degradation; but all at once some broken
column, or half-effaced bas-relief, or a few stones, bound together by
indestructible cement, will remind you that there is in man an eternal
power, a divine spark, which he ought never to weary of fanning in his
own breast, and reluming in those of others. The Forum, whose narrow
inclosure has been the scene of so many wondrous events, is a striking
proof of man's moral greatness. When in the latter days of Rome, the
world was subjected to inglorious rulers, centuries passed from which
history could scarce extract a single feat. This Forum, the heart of a
circumscribed town, whose natives fought around it against the invaders
of its territories--this Forum, by the recollections it retraces, has
been the theme of genius in every age. Eternal honors to the brave and
free, who thus vanquish even the hearts of posterity!

Corinne observed to Nevil that there were but few vestiges left of the
republic, or of the regal day which preceded it. The aqueducts and
subterranean canals are the only luxuries remaining, while of aught
more useful we have but a few tombs and brick temples. Not till after
the fall of Sicily did the Romans adopt the use of marble; but it is
enough to survey the spots on which great actions have been performed;
we experience that indefinite emotion to which we may attribute the
pious zeal of pilgrims. Celebrated countries of all kinds, even when
despoiled of their great men and great works, exert a power over the
imagination. That which would once have attracted the eye exists no
more; but the charm of memory still survives.

The Forum now retains no trace of that famed tribunal whence the
people were ruled by the force of eloquence. There still exist three
pillars of a temple to Jupiter Tonans, raised by Augustus, because a
thunderbolt had fallen near him there, without injury. There is, too,
the triumphal arch erected by the Senate to requite the exploits of
Septimus Severus. The names of his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, were
inscribed on its front; but as Caracalla assassinated his brother, his
name was erased; some marks of the letters are yet visible. Farther off
is a temple to Faustina, a monument of the weakness of Marcus Aurelius.
A temple to Venus, which, in the republican era, was consecrated to
Pallas, and, at a little distance, the relics of another, dedicated
to the sun and moon, by the emperor Adrian, who was so jealous of the
Greek architect Apollodorus, that he put him to death for censuring
its proportion. On the other side are seen the remains of buildings
devoted to higher and purer aims. The columns of one believed to be
that of Jupiter Stator, forbidding the Romans ever to fly before their
enemies--the last pillar of the temple to Jupiter Custos, placed, it
is said, near the gulf into which Curtius threw himself--and some
belonging either to the Temple of Concord or to that of Victory.
Perhaps this resistless people confounded the two ideas, believing
that they could only attain true peace by subduing the universe. At
the extremity of Mount Palatinus stands an arch celebrating Titus's
conquest at Jerusalem. It is asserted that no Jews will ever pass
beneath it; and the little path they take to avoid it is pointed out.
We will hope, for the credit of the Jews, that this anecdote is true;
such enduring recollections well become the long-suffering. Not far
from hence is the arch of Constantine, embellished by some bas-reliefs,
taken from the Forum, in the time of Trajan, by the Christians, who
resolved thus to deck the monument of the Founder of Peace. The arts,
at this period, were already on the wane, and thefts from the past
deified new achievements.

The triumphal gates still seen in Rome perpetuated, as much as man
could do, the respect paid to glory. There were places for musicians at
their summits; so that the hero, as he passed, might be intoxicated at
once by melody and praise, tasting, at the same moment, all that can
exalt the spirit.

In front of these arches are the ruins of the Temple to Peace built by
Vespasian. It was so adorned by bronze and gold within, that when it
was consumed by fire, streams of fused metal ran even to the Forum.
Finally, the Coliseum, loveliest ruin of Rome! terminates the circle
in which all the epochs of history seem collected for comparison.
Those stones, now bereft, of marble and of gilding, once formed the
arena in which the gladiators contended with ferocious beasts. Thus
were the Romans amused and duped, by strong excitements, while their
natural feelings were denied due power. There were two entrances to the
Coliseum; the one devoted to the conquerors, the other that through
which they carried the dead. "_Sana vivaria, sandapilaria_." Strange
scorn of humanity! to decide beforehand the life or death of man, for
mere pastime. Titus, the best of emperors, dedicated the Coliseum to
the Roman people; and its very ruins bear so admirable a stamp of
genius, that one is tempted to deceive one's self on the nature of true
greatness, and grant to the triumphs of art the praise which is due but
to spectacles that tell of generous institutions. Oswald's enthusiasm
equalled not that of Corinne, while beholding these four galleries,
rising one above the other, in proud decay, inspiring at once respect
and tenderness: he saw but the luxury of rulers, the blood of slaves,
and was almost prejudiced against the arts, for thus lavishing their
gifts, indifferent as to the purposes to which they were applied.
Corinne attempted to combat this mood. "Do not," she said, "let your
principles of justice interfere with a contemplation like this. I
have told you that these objects would rather remind you of Italian
taste and elegance than of Roman virtue; but do you not trace some
moral grandeur in the gigantic splendor that succeeded it? The very
degradation of the Roman is imposing; while mourning for liberty they
strewed the earth with wonders; and ideal beauty sought to solace man
for the real dignity he had lost. Look on these immense baths, open
to all who wished to taste of oriental voluptuousness; these circles
wherein elephants once battled with tigers; these aqueducts, which
could instantaneously convert the areas into lakes, where galleys raced
in their turn, or crocodiles filled the space just occupied by lions.
Such was the luxury of the Romans, when luxury was their pride. These
obelisks, brought from Egypt, torn from the African's shade to decorate
the sepulchres of Romans! Can all this be considered useless, as the
pomp of Asiatic despots? No, you behold the genius of Rome, the victor
of the world, attired by the arts! There is something superhuman and
poetical in this magnificence, which makes one forget both its origin
and its aim."

The eloquence of Corinne excited without convincing Oswald. He sought a
moral sentiment in all things, and the magic of art could never satisfy
him without it. Corinne now recollected that, in this same arena,
the persecuted Christians had fallen victims to their constancy; she
pointed out the altars erected to their ashes, and the path towards the
cross which the penitents trod beneath the ruins of mundane greatness;
she asked him if the dust of martyrs said nothing to his heart. "Yes,"
he cried, "deeply do I revere the power of soul and will over distress
and death: a sacrifice, be it what it may, is more arduous, more
commendable than all the efforts of genius. Exalted imagination may
work miracles; but it is only when we immolate self to principle that
we are truly virtuous. Then alone does a celestial power subdue the
mortal in our breasts." These pure and noble words disturbed Corinne:
she gazed on Nevil, then cast down her eyes; and though at the same
time he took her hand, and pressed it to his heart, she trembled to
think that such a man might devote himself or others to despair, in his
adherence to the opinions or duties of which he might make choice.


[1] Mineralogists affirm that these lions are not basaltic, because the
volcanic stone now so called was never found in Egypt; but as Pliny
and Winckleman (the historian of the arts) both give them that name, I
avail myself of its primitive acceptation.

[2]

    Carpite nunc, tauri, de septem collibus herbas
    Dum licet, hic magnæ jam locus urbis erit.
                        TIBULLUS.

    Hoc quodcumque vides, hospes quàm maxima Roma est
    Ante Phrygem Ænean collis et herba fuit, &c.
                        PROPERTIUS.



CHAPTER V.


Corinne and Nevil employed two days in wandering over the Seven Hills.
The Romans formerly held a fête in their honor: it is one of Rome's
original beauties to be thus embraced, and patriotism naturally
loved to celebrate such a peculiarity. Oswald and Corinne having
already viewed the Capitoline Hill recommenced their course at Mount
Palatinus. The palace of the Cæsars, called the Golden Palace, once
occupied it entirely. Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero, built
its four sides: a heap of stones, overgrown with shrubs, is all that
now remains. Nature reclaimed her empire over the works of man; and
her fair flowers atone for the fall of a palace. In the regal and
republican eras, grandly as towered their public buildings, private
houses were extremely small and simple. Cicero, Hortensius, and the
Grachii, dwelt on this eminence, which hardly sufficed, in the decline
of Rome, for the abode of a single man. In the latter ages the nation
was but a nameless mass, designated solely by the eras of its masters.
The laurels of war and that of the arts cultivated by peace, which were
planted at the gate of Augustus, have both disappeared. Some of Livia's
baths are left. You are shown the places wherein were set the precious
stones, then lavished on walls or ceilings, and paintings of which
the colors are still fresh: their delicacy rendering this yet more
surprising. If it be true that Livia caused the death of Augustus, it
was in one of these chambers that the outrage must have been conceived.
How often may his gaze have been arrested by these pictures, whose
tasteful garlands still survive? The master of the world betrayed in
his nearest affections! what thought his old age of life and its vain
pomps? Did he reflect on his glory, or its victims? Hoped he or feared
a future world? Might not the last thought, which reveals all to man,
stray back to these halls, the scenes of his past power?[1]

Mount Aventinus affords more traces of Rome's early day than any of its
sister hills. Exactly facing the palace constructed by Tiberius is seen
a wreck of the temple to Liberty, built by the father of the Grachii;
and at the foot of this ascent stood that dedicated to the Fortune of
Men, by Servius Tullius, to thank the gods that, though born a slave,
he had become a king. Without the walls of Rome another edifice rose to
the Fortune of woman, commemorating the influence exerted by Venturia
over Coriolanus.

Opposite to Mount Aventinus is Mount Janiculum, on which Porsenna
marshalled his army. It was in front of this hill that Horatius Cocles
cut away the bridge, which led to Rome: its foundations still exist. On
the banks of the stream was built a brick arch, simple as the action
it recalled was great. In the midst of the Tiber floated an island
formed of the wheat sheaves gathered from the fields of Tarquin; the
Romans forbearing to use them, in the belief that they were charged
with evil fate. It would be difficult, in our own day, to call down
on any treasure a curse of sufficient efficacy to scare men from its
participation.

On Mount Aventinus were temples both to patrician and plebeian
chastity: at the foot of the hill the Temple of Vesta still remains,
almost entire, though the inundations of the Tiber have often
threatened to destroy it. Not far thence are vestiges of a prison
for debt, where the well-known instance of filial piety is said to
have occurred; here, too, Clœlia and her companions were confined
by Porsenna, and swam across the river to rejoin the Romans. Mount
Aventinus indemnifies the mind for all the painful recollections the
other hills awake; and its aspect is as beauteous as its memories are
sweet. The banks at its foot were called the Lovely Strand (_pulchrum
littus_). Thither the orators of Rome walked from the Forum: there
Cæsar and Pompey met like simple citizens, and sought to conciliate
Cicero, whose independent eloquence was of more weight than even the
power of their armies. Poetry also has embellished this spot: it
was there that Virgil placed the cave of Cacus; and Rome, so great
in history, is still greater by the heroic fictions with which her
fabulous origin has been decked. In returning from Mount Aventinus,
you see the house of Nicolas Rienzi, who vainly strove to restore the
spirit of antiquity in modern days.

Mount Cœlius is remarkable for the remains of a pretorian encampment,
and that of the foreign troops: on the ruins of the latter was found an
inscription: "To the Holy Genius of the Foreign Camp." Holy, indeed, to
those whose power it sustained! What is left of these barracks proves
that they were built like cloisters; or, rather, that cloisters were
formed after their model.

Esquilinus was called the "Poet's Hill;" Mæcenas, Horace, Propertius,
and Tibullus having all houses there. Near this are the ruins of the
baths of Trajan and Titus. It is believed that Raphael copied his
arabesques from the frescoes of the latter: here, too, was the Laöcoon
discovered. The freshness of water is so acceptable in fervid climes,
that their natives love to collect all that can pamper the senses in
the chambers where they bathe. Thus, by the light of lamps, did the
Romans gaze on the _chefs-d'œuvres_ of painting and sculpture; for
it appears from the construction of these buildings that day never
entered them: they were sheltered from the noontide rays, so piercing
here as fully to deserve the title of Apollo's darts. Yet the extreme
precautions taken by the ancients might induce a supposition that the
climate was more burning then than now. In the baths of Caracalla were
the Farnese Hercules, the Flora, and the group of Circe. Near Ostia, in
the baths of Nero, was found the Apollo Belvidere. Can we look on that
noble figure and conceive Nero destitute of _all_ generous sentiments?

The baths and circusses are the only places of public amusement that
have left their vestige. Though the ruins of Marcellus's theatre still
exist, Pliny relates that three hundred and sixty marble pillars,
and three thousand statues, were placed in a theatre incapable of
lasting many days. The Romans, however, soon built with a solidity
that defied the earthquake's shock: too soon they wasted like pains
on edifices which they destroyed themselves when the fêtes held in
them were concluded; thus, in every sense sported they with time. They
had not the Grecian's mania for dramatic representations: the fine
arts then flourished at Rome only in the works of Greece; and Roman
grandeur consisted rather in colossal architecture than in efforts of
imagination. The gigantic wonders thus produced bore a very dignified
stamp, no longer of liberty, but that of power still. The districts
devoted to the public baths were called provinces, and united all
the varied establishments to be found in a whole country. The great
circus so nearly touched the imperial palace, that Nero, from his
window, could give a signal for the commencement of the games. This
circus was large enough to contain three hundred thousand people.
Almost the whole nation might be amused at the same moment; and these
immense festivals might be considered as popular institutions, which
assembled for mere pleasure those who formerly united for glory.
Mounts Quirinalis and Viminalis are so near each other that it is not
easy to distinguish them apart. There stood the houses of Sallust and
of Pompey. There, too, in the present day, does the pope reside. One
cannot take a single step in Rome, without contrasting its present and
its past. But one learns to view the events of one's own time the more
calmly far noting the eternal fluctuations that mark the history of
man; and one feels ashamed to repine, in the presence, as it were, of
so many centuries, who have all overthrown the achievements of their
predecessors. Around, and on the Seven Hills, are seen a multitude
of spires and obelisks, the columns of Trajan and of Antoninus, the
tower of Conti, whence, it is said, Nero overlooked the conflagration
of Rome, and the dome of St. Peter's lording it over the highest. The
air seems peopled by these heaven-aspiring fanes, as if an aerial city
soared majestic above that of the earth. In re-entering Rome, Corinne
led Oswald beneath the portico of the tender and suffering Octavia;
they then crossed the road along which the infamous Tullia drove over
the body of her father: they beheld, in the distance, the temple raised
by Agrippina in honor of Claudius, whom she had caused to be poisoned;
finally, they passed the tomb of Augustus, the inclosure around which
now serves as an arena for animal combats.

"I have led you rapidly," said Corinne, "over a few footprints of
ancient history; but you can appreciate the pleasure which may be
found in researches at once sage and poetic, addressing the fancy as
well as the reason. There are many distinguished men in Rome whose
sole occupation is that of discovering new links between our ruins
and our history." "I know no study which could interest me more,"
replied Nevil, "if I felt my mind sufficiently composed for it. Such
erudition is far more animated than that we acquire from books: we
seem to revive what we unveil; and the past appears to rise from the
dust which concealed it." "Doubtless," said Corinne, "this passion for
antiquity is no idle prejudice. We live in an age when self-interest
seems the ruling principle of all men; what sympathy, what enthusiasm,
can ever be its result? Is it not sweeter to dream over the days of
self-devotion and heroic sacrifice, which might once have existed, nay,
of which the earth still bears such honorable traces?"


[1] Augustus expired at Nola, on his way to the waters of Brunduoium,
which were prescribed him. He left Rome in a dying state.



CHAPTER VI.


Corinne secretly flattered herself that she had captivated the heart
of Oswald; yet knowing his severe reserve, dared not fully betray
the interest he inspired, prompt as she was by nature to confess her
feelings. Perhaps she even thought that while speaking on subjects
foreign to their love, the very voice might disclose their mutual
affection; a silent avowal be expressed in their looks, or in that
veiled and melancholy language which so deeply penetrates the soul.

One morning, while she was preparing to continue their researches, she
received from him an almost ceremonious note, saying that indisposition
would confine him to his house for some days. A sad disquietude seized
the heart of Corinne: at first, she feared that he was dangerously ill;
but Count d'Erfeuil, who called in the evening, informed her that it
was but one of those nervous attacks to which Nevil was so subject, and
during which he would converse with nobody. "He won't even see _me_!"
added the count. The words displeased Corinne; but she took care to
hide her anger from its object, as he alone could bring her tidings
of his friend. She therefore continued to question him, trusting that
a person so giddy, at least in appearance, would tell her all he
knew. But whether he wished to hide, beneath an air of mystery, the
fact that Nevil had confided nothing, or whether he believed it more
honourable to thwart her wishes than to grant them, he met her ardent
curiosity by imperturbable silence. She, who had always gained such
an ascendency over those with whom she spoke, could not understand
why her persuasive powers should fail with him. She did not know that
self-love is the most inflexible quality in the world. Where was then
her resource for learning what passed in the heart of Oswald? Should
she write to him? A letter requires such caution; and the loveliest
attribute of her nature was its impulsive sincerity. Three days
passed, and still he came not. She suffered the most cruel agitation.
"What have I done," she thought, "to dissever him from me? I have not
committed the error so formidable in England, so pardonable in Italy;
I never told him that I loved. Even if he guesses it, why should he
esteem me the less?" Oswald avoided Corinne merely because he but too
strongly felt the power of her charms. Although he had not given his
word to marry Lucy Edgarmond, he knew that such had been his father's
wish, and desired to conform with it. Corinne was not known by her real
name: she had for many years led a life far too independent for him to
hope that a union with her would have obtained the approbation of his
parent, and he felt that it was not by such a step he could expiate
his early offences. He purposed to leave Rome, and write Corinne an
explanation of the motives which enforced such resolution; but not
feeling strength for this, he limited his exertions to a forbearance
from visiting her; and this sacrifice soon appeared the most painful of
the two.

Corinne was struck by the idea that she should see him no more; that he
would fly without bidding her adieu. She expected every instant to hear
of his departure; and terror so aggravated her sensations, that the
vulture talons of passion seized at once on her heart; and its peace,
its liberty, crouched beneath them. Unable to rest in the house where
Oswald came not, she wandered in the gardens of Rome, hoping to meet
him; she had at least some chance of seeing him, and best supported the
hours during which she trusted to this expectation.

Her ardent fancy, the source of her talents, was unhappily blended with
such natural feeling, that it now constituted her wretchedness. The
evening of the fourth day's absence the moon shone clearly over Rome,
which, in the silence of night, looks lovely, as if it were inhabited
but by the spirits of the great. Corinne, on her way from the house of
a female friend, left her carriage, and, oppressed with grief, seated
herself beside the fount of Trevi, whose abundant cascade falls in the
centre of Rome, and seems the life of that tranquil scene. Whenever
its flow is suspended, all appears stagnation. In other cities it is
the roll of carriages that the ear requires; in Rome it is the murmur
of this immense fountain, which seems the indispensable accompaniment
of the dreamy life led there. Its water is so pure, that it has for
many ages been named the Virgin Spring. The form of Corinne was now
reflected on its surface. Oswald, who had paused there at the same
moment, beheld the enchanting countenance of his love thus mirrored
in the wave: at first, it affected him so strangely that he believed
himself gazing on her phantom, as his imagination had often conjured up
that of his father: he leaned forward, in order to see it more plainly,
and his own features appeared beside those of Corinne. She recognised
them, shrieked, rushed towards him and seized his arm, as if she
feared he would again escape; but scarcely had she yielded to this too
impetuous impulse, ere, remembering the character of Lord Nevil, she
blushed, her hand dropped, and with the other she covered her face to
hide her tears.

"Corinne! dear Corinne!" he cried, "has then my absence pained
you?"--"Yes," she replied, "you must have known it would. Why
then inflict such pangs on me? Have I deserved to suffer thus for
you?"--"No, no," he answered; "but if I cannot deem myself free--if my
heart be filled by regret and fear, why should I involve you in its
tortures? Why?"--"It is too late to ask," interrupted Corinne; "grief
is already in my breast; bear with me!"--"Grief!" repeated Oswald; "in
the midst of so brilliant a career, with so lively a genius!"--"Hold,"
she said, "you know me not. Of all my faculties, the most powerful is
that of suffering. I was formed for happiness; my nature is confiding
and animated; but sorrow excites me to a degree that threatens my
reason, nay, my life. Be careful of me! My gay versatility serves me
but in appearance: within my soul is an abyss of despair, which I
can only avoid by preserving myself from love." Corinne spoke with
an expression which vividly affected Oswald. "I will come to you
to-morrow, rely on it, Corinne," he said. "Swear it!" she exclaimed,
with an eagerness which she strove in vain to disguise. "I do," he
answered, and departed.



BOOK V.


THE TOMBS, CHURCHES, AND PALACES.



CHAPTER I.


The next day Oswald and Corinne met in great embarrassment. She could
no longer depend on the love she had inspired. He was dissatisfied with
himself, and felt his own weakness rebel against the tyranny of his
sentiments. Both sought to avoid the subject of their mutual affection.
"To-day," said Corinne, "I proposed a somewhat solemn excursion, but
one which will be sure to interest you; let us visit the last asylums
of those who lived among the edifices we have seen in ruins."--"You
have guessed what would most suit my present disposition," said Oswald,
in so sad a tone, that she dared not speak again for some moments;
then gaining courage from her desire to soothe and entertain him,
she added: "You know, my Lord, that among the ancients, far from the
sight of tombs discouraging the living, they were placed in the high
road, to kindle emulation; the young were thus constantly reminded of
the illustrious dead, who seemed silently to bid them imitate their
glories."--"Ah!" sighed Oswald, "how I envy those whose regrets are
unstained by remorse."--"Talk _you_ of remorse?" she cried; "then it
is but one virtue the more, the scruples of a heart whose exalted
delicacy----" He interrupted her. "Corinne! Corinne! do not approach
that theme; in your blest land gloomy thoughts are exhaled by the
brightness of heaven; but with us grief buries itself in the depths of
the soul, and shatters its strength forever."--"You do me injustice,"
she replied. "I have told you that, capable as I am of enjoyment,
I should suffer more than you, if----" she paused, and changed the
subject; continuing, "My only wish, my Lord, is to divert your mind for
awhile. I ask no more." The meekness of this reply touched Oswald's
heart; and, as he marked the melancholy beauty of those eyes, usually
so full of fire, he reproached himself with having thus depressed a
spirit so framed for sweet and joyous impressions; he would fain have
restored them; but Corinne's uncertainty of his intentions, as to his
stay or departure, entirely disordered her accustomed serenity.

She led him through the gates to the old Appian Way, whose traces are
marked in the heart of the country by ruins on the right and left, for
many miles beyond the walls. The Romans did not permit the dead to be
buried within the city. None but the emperors were there interred,
except one citizen named Publius Biblius, who was thus recompensed
for his humble virtues; such as, indeed, his contemporaries were most
inclined to honor.

To reach the Appian Way you leave Rome by the gate of St. Sebastian,
formerly called the Capena Gate. The first tombs you then find, Cicero
assures us, are those of Metellus, of Scipio, and Servilius. The tomb
of the Scipio family was found here, and afterwards removed to the
Vatican. It is almost sacrilege to displace such ashes. Imagination is
more nearly allied to morality than is believed, and ought not to be
offended. Among so many tombs names must be strewn at random; there is
no way of deciding to which such or such title belongs; but this very
uncertainty prevents our looking on any of them with indifference.
It was in such that the peasants made their homes; for the Romans
consecrated quite space enough to the urns of their illustrious
fellow-citizens. They had not that principle of utility which, for the
sake of cultivating a few feet of ground the more, lays waste the vast
domain of feeling and of thought. At some distance from the Appian Way
is a temple raised by the republic to Honor and to Virtue; another to
the god who caused the return of Hannibal. There, too, is the fountain
of Egeria; where in solitude Numa conversed with Conscience, the
divinity of the good. No monument of guilt invades the repose of these
great beings; the earth around is sacred to the memory of worth. The
noblest thoughts may reign there undisturbed. The aspect of the country
near Rome is remarkably peculiar; it is but a desert, as boasting
neither trees nor houses; but the ground is covered with wild shrubs
ceaselessly renewed by energetic vegetation. The parasitic tribes creep
round the tombs, and decorate the ruins, as if in honor of their dead.
Proud nature, conscious that no Cincinnatus now guides the plough that
furrows her breast, there repulses the care of man, and produces plants
which she permits not to serve the living. These uncultivated plains
may, indeed, displease those who speculate on the earth's capacity for
supplying human wants; but the pensive mind, more occupied by thoughts
of death than of life, loves to contemplate the Campagna, on which
present time has imprinted no trace; it cherishes the dead, and fondly
covers them with useless flowers, that bask beneath the sun, but never
aspire above the ashes which they appear to caress. Oswald admitted
that in such a scene a calm might be regained that could be enjoyed
nowhere beside. The soul is there less wounded by images of sorrow; it
seems to partake, with those now no more, the charm of that air, that
sunlight, and that verdure. Corinne drew some hope from observing the
effect thus taken on him; she wished not to efface the just regret owed
to the loss of his father; but regret itself is capable of sweets,
with which we should try to familiarize those who have tasted but its
bitterness, for that is the only blessing we can confer on them.

"Let us rest," said Corinne, "before this tomb, which remains almost
entire: it is not that of a celebrated man, but of a young girl,
Cecilia Metella, to whom her father raised it."--"Happy the children,"
sighed Oswald, "who die on the bosom that gave them life: for them
even death must lose its sting."--"Ay," replied Corinne, with emotion,
"happy those who are not orphans. But look! arms are sculptured
here: the daughters of heroes had a right to bear the trophies of
their sires: fair union of innocence and valor! There is an elegy,
by Propertius, which, better than any other writing of antiquity,
describes the dignity of woman among the Romans; a dignity more pure
and more commanding than even that which she enjoyed during the age
of chivalry. Cornelia, dying in her youth, addresses to her husband
a consolatory farewell, whose every word breathes her tender respect
for all that is sacred in the ties of nature. The noble pride of a
blameless life is well depicted in the majestic Latin; in poetry
august and severe as the masters of the world. 'Yes,' says Cornelia,
'no stain has sullied my career, from the hour when Hymen's torch
was kindled, even to that which lights my funeral pyre. I have lived
spotless between two flames.'[1] What an admirable expression! what
a sublime image! How enviable the woman who preserves this perfect
unity in her fate, and carries but one remembrance to the grave! That
were enough for one life." As she ceased, her eyes filled with tears.
A cruel suspicion seized the heart of Oswald. "Corinne," he cried,
"has your delicate mind aught with which to reproach you? If I could
offer you myself, should I not have rivals in the past? Could I pride
in my choice? Might not jealousy disturb my delight?"--"I am free,"
replied Corinne, "and love you as I never loved before. What would
you have? Must I confess, that, ere I knew you, I might have deceived
myself as to the interest with which others inspired me? Is there no
divinity in man's heart for the errors which, beneath such illusions,
might have been committed?" A modest glow overspread her face. Oswald
shuddered, but was silent. There was such timid penitence in the
looks of Corinne, that he could not rigorously judge one whom a ray
from heaven seemed descending to absolve. He pressed her hand to his
heart, and knelt before her, without uttering a promise, indeed, but
with a glance of love which left her all to hope. "Let us form no plan
for years to come," she said: "the happiest hours of life are those
benevolently granted us by chance: it is not here, in the midst of
tombs, that we should trust much to the future."--"No," cried Nevil; "I
believe in no future that can part us: four days of absence have but
too well convinced me that I now exist but for you." Corinne made no
reply, but religiously hoarded these precious words in her heart: she
always feared, in prolonging a conversation on the only subject of her
thoughts, lest Oswald should declare his intentions before a longer
habit of being with her rendered separation impossible. She often
designedly directed his attention to exterior objects, like the sultana
in the Arabian tales, who sought by a thousand varied stories to
captivate her beloved, and defer his decision of her fate, till certain
that her wit must prove victorious.


[1] Viximus insignes inter utramque facem. PROPERTIUS.



CHAPTER II.


Not far from the Appian Way is seen the Columbarium, where slaves
are buried with their lords; where the same tomb contains all who
dwelt beneath the protection of one master or mistress. The women
devoted to the care of Livia's beauty, who contended with time for the
preservation of her charms, are placed in small urns beside her. The
noble and ignoble there repose in equal silence. At a little distance
is the field wherein vestals, unfaithful to their vows were interred
alive; a singular example of fanaticism in a religion naturally so
tolerant.

"I shall not take you to the catacombs," said Corinne, "though, by a
strange chance, they lie beneath the Appian Way, tombs upon tombs! But
that asylum of persecuted Christians is so gloomy and terrible, that
I cannot resolve to revisit it. It has not the touching melancholy
which one breathes in open wilds; it is a dungeon near a sepulchre--the
tortures of existence beside the horrors of death. Doubtless one must
admire men who, by the mere force of enthusiasm, could support that
subterranean life--forever banished from the sun; but the soul is too
ill at ease in such a scene to be benefited by it. Man is a part of
creation, and finds his own moral harmony in that of the universe; in
the habitual order of fate, violent exceptions may astonish, but they
create too much terror to be of service. Let us rather seek the pyramid
of Cestius, around which all Protestants who die here find charitable
graves."--"Yes," returned Oswald, "many a countryman of mine is amongst
them. Let us go there; in one sense at least, perhaps, I shall never
leave you." Corinne's hand trembled on his arm. He continued, "Yet I am
much better since I have known you." Her countenance resumed its wonted
air of tender joy.

Cestius presided over the Roman sports. His name is not found in
history, but rendered famous by his tomb. The massive pyramid that
inclosed him defends his death from the oblivion which has utterly
effaced his life. Aurelian, fearing that this pyramid would be used
but as a fortress from whence to attack the city, had it surrounded
by walls which still exist, not as useless ruins, but as the actual
boundaries of modern Rome. It is said that pyramids were formed in
imitation of the flames that rose from funeral pyres. Certainly their
mysterious shape attracts the eye, and gives a picturesque character to
all the views of which they constitute a part.

In front of this pyramid is Mount Testacio, beneath which are several
cool grottoes, where fêtes are held in the summer. If, at a distance,
the revellers see pines and cypresses shading their smiling land and
recalling a solemn consciousness of death, this contrast produces the
same effect with the lines which Horace has written in the midst of
verses teeming with earthly enjoyment:--

    ------"Moriture Delli,

    *   *   *   *

    Linquenda tellus, et domus, et placens
    Uxor."

'Dellius, remember thou must die--leaving the world, thy home,
and gentle wife,' The ancients acknowledged this in their very
voluptuousness; even love and festivity reminded them of it, and joy
seemed heightened by a sense of its brevity.

Oswald and Corinne returned by the side of the Tiber; formerly covered
with vessels, and banked by palaces. Of yore, even its inundations were
regarded as omens. It was then the prophetic, the tutelar divinity of
Rome.[1] It may now be said to flow among phantoms, so livid is its
hue--so deep its loneliness. The finest statues and other works of art
were thrown into the Tiber, and are hidden beneath its tides. Who knows
but that, in search of them, the river may at last be driven from its
bed? But, while we muse on efforts of human genius that lie, perhaps,
beneath us, and that some eye, more piercing than our own, may yet see
through these waves, we feel that awe which, in Rome, is constantly
reviving in various forms, and giving the mind companions in those
physical objects which are elsewhere dumb.


[1] Plin. Hist. Nat., 1, 3. Tiberis, quam libet magnorum navium ex
Italo mari capax, rerum in toto orbe nascentium mercator placidissimus,
pluribus probè solus quam cæteri in omnibus terris amnes, accolitur,
aspiciturque villis. Nullique fluviorum minus licet, inclusis
utrinque lateribus: nec tamen ipse pugnat, quanquam creber ac subitis
incrementis, et nusquam magis aquis quam in ipsa urbe stagnantibus.
Quin imo vates intelligitur potius ac monitur, auctu semper religiosus
verius quam sævus.



CHAPTER III.


Raphael said that modern Rome was almost entirely built from the ruins
of the ancient city; Pliny had talked of the "eternal walls," which are
still seen amid the works of latter times. Nearly all the buildings
bear the stamp of history, teaching you to compare the physiognomies
of different ages. From the days of the Etruscans--a people senior to
the Romans themselves, resembling the Egyptians in the solidity and
eccentricity of their designs--down to the time of Bernini, an artist,
as guilty of mannerism as were the Italian poets of the seventeenth
century, one may trace the progress of the human mind, in the
characters of the arts, the buildings, and ruins. The Middle Ages and
the brilliant day of the De Medici, reappearing in their works, it is
but to study the past in the present, to penetrate the secrets of all
time. It is believed that Rome had formerly a mystic name, known but
to few. The city has still spells, into which we require initiation.
It is not simply an assemblage of dwellings; it is a chronicle of
the world, represented by figurative emblems. Corinne agreed with
Nevil, that they would now explore modern Rome, reserving for another
opportunity its admirable collection of pictures and statues. Perhaps,
without confessing it to herself, she wished to defer these sights as
long as possible: for who has ever left Rome, without looking on the
Apollo Belvidere and the paintings of Raphael? This security, weak as
it was, that Oswald would not yet depart, was everything to her. Where
is their pride? some may ask, who would retain those they love by any
other motive than that of affection. I know not--but, the more we love,
the less we rely on our own power; and, whatever be the cause which
secures us the presence of the object dear to us, it is accepted with
gratitude. There is often much vanity in a certain species of pride;
and if women, as generally admired as Corinne, have one real advantage,
it is the right to exult rather in what they feel than in what they
inspire.

Corinne and Nevil recommenced their excursions, by visiting the most
remarkable among the numerous churches of Rome. They are all adorned by
magnificent antiquities; but these festal ornaments, torn from pagan
temples, have here a strange, wild effect. Granite and porphyry pillars
are so plentiful, that they are lavished as if almost valueless. At
St. John Lateran, famed for the councils that have been held in it,
so great is the quantity of marble columns, that many of them are
covered with cement, to form pilasters; thus indifferent has this
profusion of riches rendered its possessors. Some of these pillars
belonged to the Tomb of Adrian, others to the Capitol; some still
bear the forms of the geese which preserved the Romans; others have
Gothic and even Arabesque embellishments. The urn of Agrippa contains
the ashes of a pope. The dead of one generation give place to the
dead of another, and tombs here as often change their occupants as
the abodes of the living. Near St. John Lateran are the holy stairs,
brought, it is said, from Jerusalem, and which no one ascends but on
his knees; as Claudius, and even Cæsar, mounted those which led to the
temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Beside St. John's is the front where
Constantine is supposed to have been baptized. In the centre of this
ground is an obelisk, perhaps the most ancient work of art in the
world--contemporary with the Trojan war--so respected, even by the
barbarous Cambyses, that he put a stop to the conflagration of a city
in its honor; and, for its sake, a king pledged the life of his only
son. The Romans brought it from the heart of Egypt by miracle. They
turned the Nile from his course that it might be found, and carried
to the sea. This obelisk is still covered with hieroglyphics, which
have kept their secret for centuries, and defy the sages of to-day to
decipher signs that might reveal the annals of India and of Egypt--the
antiquities of antiquity! The wondrous charm of Rome consists not only
in the real beauty of her monuments, but in the interest they excite;
the material for thinking they suggest; the speculations which grow,
every day, the stronger from each new study.

One of the most singular churches in Rome is St. Paul's: its exterior
is that of an ill-built barn; yet it is bedecked within by eighty
pillars of such exquisite material and proportion, that they are
believed to have been transported from an Athenian temple, described by
Pausanias. If Cicero said, in his day, "we are surrounded by vestiges
of history," what would he say now? Columns, statues, and pictures are
so prodigally crowded in the churches of modern Rome, that, in St.
Agnes's, bas-reliefs, turned face downwards, serve to pave a staircase,
no one troubling himself to ascertain what they might represent. How
astonishing a spectacle were ancient Rome, had its treasures been left
where they were found! The immortal city, nearly as it was of yore,
were still before us: but could the men of our day dare to enter it?
The palaces of the Roman lords are vast in the extreme, and often
display much architectural grace; but their interiors are rarely
arranged by good taste. They have none of those elegant apartments
invented elsewhere for the perfect enjoyment of social life. Superb
galleries, hung with the _chefs-d'œuvres_ of the tenth Leo's age are
abandoned to the gaze of strangers, by their lazy proprietors, who
retire to their own obscure little chambers, dead to the pomp of their
ancestors, as were _they_ to the austere virtues of the Roman republic.
The country-houses give one a still greater idea of solitude, and
of their owners' carelessness amid the loveliest scenes of nature.
One walks immense gardens, doubting if they have a master; the grass
grows in every path, yet in these very alleys are the trees cut into
shapes, after the fantastic mode that once reigned in France. Strange
inconsistency! this neglect of essentials, and affectation in what is
useless! Most Italian towns, indeed, surprise us with this mania, in
a people who have constantly beneath their eyes such models of noble
simplicity. They prefer glitter to convenience; and in every way betray
the advantages and disadvantages of not habitually mixing with society.
Their luxury is rather that of fancy than of comfort. Isolated among
themselves, they dread not that spirit of ridicule, which, in truth,
seldom penetrates the interior of Roman abodes. Contrasting this with
what they appear from without, one might say that they were rather
built to dazzle the peasantry than for the reception of friends.

After having shown Oswald the churches and the palaces, Corinne led
him to the Villa Melini, whose lonely garden is ornamented solely by
majestic trees. From thence is seen afar the chain of the Apennines,
tinted by the transparent air, against which their outlines are defined
most picturesquely. Oswald and Corinne rested for some time, to taste
the charms of heaven and the tranquillity of nature. No one who has not
dwelt in southern climes can form an idea of this stirless silence,
unbroken by the lightest zephyr. The tenderest blades of herbage remain
perfectly motionless; even the animals partake this noontide lassitude.
You hear no hum of insects, no chirp of grasshoppers, no song of birds;
nothing is agitated, all sleeps, till storm or passion waken that
natural vehemence which impetuously rushes from this profound repose.
The Roman garden possesses a great number of evergreens, that, during
winter, add to the illusion which the mild air creates. The tufted tops
of pines, so close to each other that they form a kind of plain in
the air, have a charming effect from any eminence; trees of inferior
stature are sheltered by this verdant arch. Only two palms are to be
found in the Monks' Gardens: one is on a height; it may be seen from
some distance always with pleasure. In returning towards the city, this
image of a meridian more burning than that of Italy awakens a host of
agreeable sensations.

"Do you not find," said Corinne, "that nature here gives birth to
reveries elsewhere unknown? She is as intimate with the heart of man as
if the Creator made her the interpretress between his creatures and
himself."--"I feel all this," replied Oswald; "yet it may be but your
melting influence which renders me so susceptible. You reveal to me
emotions which exterior objects may create." I lived but in my heart;
you have revived my imagination. But the magic of the universe, which
you teach me to appreciate, will never offer me aught lovelier than
your looks, more touching than your voice."--"May the feeling I kindle
in your breast to-day," said Corinne, "last as long as my life; or, at
least, may my life last no longer than your love!" They finished their
tour of Rome by the Villa Borghese. In no Roman palace or garden are
the splendors of nature and art collected so tastefully. Every kind
of tree, superb waterfalls, with an incredible blending of statues,
vases, and sarcophagi, here reanimate the mythology of the land. Naiads
recline beside the streams, nymphs start from thickets worthy of such
guests. Tombs repose beneath Elysian shades; Esculapius stands in the
centre of an island; Venus appears gliding from a bower. Ovid and
Virgil might wander here, and believe themselves still in the Augustan
age. The great works of sculpture, which grace this scene, give it a
charm forever new. Through its trees may be descried the city, St.
Peter's, the Campagna, and those long arcades, ruins of aqueducts,
which formerly conducted many a mountain stream into old Rome. There is
everything that can mingle purity with pleasure, and promise perfect
happiness: but if you ask why this delicious spot is not inhabited, you
will be told, that the _cattiva aria_, or bad air, prevents its being
occupied in summer. This enemy, each year, besieges Rome more and more
closely--its most charming abodes are deserted perforce. Doubtless the
want of trees is one cause; and therefore did the Romans dedicate their
woods to goddesses, that they might be respected by the people: yet
have numberless forests been felled in our own times. What can now be
so sanctified that avarice will forbear its devastation? This _malaria_
is the scourge of Rome, and often threatens its whole population;
yet, perhaps, it adds to the effect produced by the lovely gardens to
be found within the boundaries. Its malignant power is betrayed by
no external sign: you respire an air that seems pure; the earth is
fertile; a delicious freshness atones in the evening for the heat of
the day; and all this is death!

"I love such invisible danger," said Oswald, "veiled as it is in
delight. If death, as I believe, be but a call to happier life, why
should not the perfume of flowers, the shade of fine trees, and
the breath of eve be charged to remind us of our fate? Of course,
government ought, in every way, to watch over human life; but nature
has secrets which imagination only can penetrate; and I easily conceive
that neither natives nor foreigners find anything to disgust them in
the perils which belong to the sweetest seasons of the year."



BOOK VI.


ON ITALIAN CHARACTER AND MANNERS.



CHAPTER I.


Oswald's irresolution, augmented by misfortunes, taught him to fear
every irrevocable engagement. He dared not ask Corinne her name or
story, though his love for her grew each day more strong; he could not
look on her without emotion; hardly, in the midst of society, quit her
side for an instant; she said not a word he did not feel, nor expressed
a sentiment, sad or gay, that was not reflected in his face. Yet,
loving, admiring her as he did, he forgot not how little such a wife
would accord with English habits; how much she differed from the idea
his father formed of the woman it would become him to marry; all he
said to Corinne was restrained by the disquiet these reflections caused
him. She perceived this but too plainly; yet so much would it have
cost her to break with him, that she lent herself to whatever could
prevent a decisive explanation; and, never possessing much forethought,
revelled in the present, such as it was, not dreaming of the
inevitable future. She entirely secluded herself from the world in this
devotion to him; but, at last, hurt by his silence on their prospects,
she resolved to accept a pressing invitation to a ball. Nothing is
more common, in Rome, than for persons to leave and return to society
by fits; there is so little gossip in Italy, that people do what they
like, without comment, at least without obstacle, in affairs either of
love or ambition. Foreigners are as safe as natives in this rendezvous
of Europeans. When Nevil learned that Corinne was going to a ball, he
was out of humor; for some time he had fancied that he detected in her
a melancholy sympathetic with his own; yet suddenly she appeared to
think of nothing but dancing (in which she so much excelled), and the
eclat of a fête. Corinne was not frivolous; but, feeling every day more
subdued by love, she wished to combat its force. She knew by experience
that reflection and forbearance have less power over impassioned
characters than dissipation; and she thought that, if unable to triumph
over herself as she ought, the next best step were to do as she could.
When Nevil censured her intentions, she replied, "I want to ascertain
whether what formerly pleased can still amuse me, or whether my regard
for you is to absorb every other interest of my life."--"You would fain
cease to love me," he said. "Not so," she replied; "but it is only in
domestic life that it can be agreeable to feel one's self lorded over
by a single affection. To me, who need my wit and genius to sustain the
reputation of the life I have adopted, it is a great misfortune to love
as I love you."--"You will not sacrifice your glory to me, then?" cried
Oswald.--"Of what importance were it to you," she replied, "if I did?
Since we are not destined for each other, I must not forever destroy
the kind of happiness with which I ought to content myself." Lord Nevil
said nothing; conscious that he could not now speak without explaining
his designs; and, in truth, he was ignorant of them himself. He sighed,
and reluctantly followed Corinne to the ball. It was the first time,
since his loss, that he had gone to such an assembly. Its tumult so
oppressed him that he remained for some period in a hall beside the
dancing-room, with his head reclined upon his hand; not even wishing
to see Corinne dance. All music, even if its occasion be a gay one,
renders us pensive. The Count d'Erfeuil arrived, enchanted with the
crowd and amusements, which once more reminded him of France. "I've
done my best," he said, "to interest myself in their vaunted ruins, but
I see nothing in them; 'tis a mere prejudice, this fuss about rubbish
covered with briers! I shall speak my mind when I return to France; for
it is high time that the farce should be ended. There is not a single
building of to-day in good repair, that is not worth all these trunks
of pillars, and mouldy bas-reliefs, which can only be admired through
the spectacles of pedantry. A rapture which one must purchase by study
cannot be very vivid in itself. One needs not spoil one's complexion
over musty books, to appreciate the sights of Paris."

Lord Nevil was silent, and d'Erfeuil questioned him on his opinion of
Rome. "A ball is not the place for serious conversation," said Oswald;
"and you know that I can afford you no other."--"Mighty fine," replied
the Count. "I own I am gayer than you; but who can say that I am not
wiser too? Trust me, there is much philosophy in taking the world as it
goes."--"Perhaps you are right," answered Oswald; "but, as you are what
you are by nature, and not by reflection, your manner of living can
belong to no one but yourself."

D'Erfeuil now heard the name of Corinne from the ball-room, and went to
learn what was doing there. Nevil followed him to the door, and saw the
handsome Neapolitan Prince Amalfi soliciting her to dance the Tarantula
with him. All her friends joined in this request. She waited for no
importunity, but promised with a readiness which astonished d'Erfeuil,
accustomed as he was to the refusals with which it is the fashion to
precede consent. In Italy these airs are unknown; there, every one is
simple enough to believe that he cannot better please society than by
promptly fulfilling whatever it requires. Corinne would have introduced
this natural manner, if she had not found it there. The dress she had
assumed was light and elegant. Her locks were confined by a silken
fillet, and her eyes expressed an animation which rendered her more
attractive than ever. Oswald was uneasy; displeased with his own
subjection to charms whose existence he was inclined to deplore, as,
far from wishing to gratify him, it was almost in order to escape from
his power that Corinne shone forth thus enchantingly; yet, who could
resist her seducing grace? Even in scorn she would have been still
triumphant; but scorn was not in her disposition. She perceived her
lover; and blushed, as she bestowed on him one of her sweetest smiles.
The Prince Amalfi accompanied himself with castanets. Corinne saluted
the assembly with both hands; then, turning, took the tambourine,
which her partner presented to her, and she beat time as she danced.
Her gestures displayed that easy union of modesty and voluptuousness,
such as must have so awed the Indians when the Bayardères--poets of
the dance--depicted the various passions by characteristic attitudes.
Corinne was so well acquainted with antique painting and sculpture,
that her positions were so many studies for the votaries of art. Now
she held her tambourine above her head; sometimes advanced it with
one hand, while the other ran over its little bells with a dexterous
rapidity that brought to mind the girls of Herculaneum.[1] This was not
French dancing, remarkable for the difficulty of its steps; it was a
movement more allied to fancy and to sentiment. The air to which she
danced, pleased alternately by its softness and its precision. Corinne
as thoroughly infected the spectators with her own sensations as she
did while extemporizing poetry, playing on her lyre, or designing an
expressive group. Everything was language for her. The musicians, in
gazing on her, felt all the genius of their art; and every witness of
this magic was electrified by impassioned joy, transported into an
ideal world, there to dream of bliss unknown below.

There is a part of the Neapolitan dance where the heroine kneels, while
the hero marches round her, like a conqueror. How dignified looked
Corinne at that moment! What a sovereign she was on her knees! and when
she rose, clashing her airy tambourine, she appeared animated by such
enthusiasm of youthful beauty, that one might have thought she needed
no life but her own to make her happy. Alas, it was not thus! though
Oswald feared it, and sighed as if her every success separated her
farther from him. When the Prince, in his turn knelt to Corinne, she,
if possible, surpassed herself. Twice or thrice she fled round him, her
sandalled feet skimming the floor with the speed of lightning; and when
shaking her tambourine above his head with one hand, she signed with
the other for him to rise, every man present was tempted to prostrate
himself before her, except Lord Nevil, who drew back some paces, and
d'Erfeuil, who made a step or two forwards, in order to compliment
Corinne. The Italians gave way to what they felt, without one fear of
making themselves remarkable. They were not like men so accustomed to
society, and the self-love which it excites, as to think on the effect
they might produce; they are never to be turned from their pleasures by
vanity, nor from their purposes by applause.

Corinne, charmed with the result of her attempt, thanked her friends
with amiable simplicity. She was satisfied, and permitted her content
to be seen, with childlike candor; her greatest desire was to get
through the crowd to the door, against which Oswald was leaning. She
reached it at last, and paused for him to speak. "Corinne," he said,
endeavoring to conceal both his delight and his distress, "you have
extorted universal homage: but is there, among all your adorers, one
brave, one trusty friend; one protector for life? or can the clamors of
flattery suffice a soul like yours?"


[1] The dancing of Madame Récamier gave me the idea which I endeavored
to express. This celebrated beauty, in the midst of afflictions,
displayed so touching a resignation, so total a forgetfulness of self,
that her moral qualities seem as extraordinary as her personal grace.



CHAPTER II.


The press of company prevented Corinne's reply: they were going to
supper; and each _cavaliér servénte_ hastened to seat himself beside
his lady. A fair stranger arrived and found no room; yet not a man,
save Oswald and d'Erfeuil, rose to offer her his place. Not that the
Romans were either rude or selfish; but they believed that their honor
depended on their never quitting their post of duty. Some, unable
to gain seats, leaned behind their mistresses' chairs, ready to obey
the slightest sign. The females spoke but to their lovers: strangers
wandered in vain around a circle where no one had a word to spare
them; for Italian women are ignorant of that coquetry which renders
a love affair nothing more than the triumph of self-conceit; they
wish to please no eyes save those that are dear to them. The mind
is never misled before the heart. The most abrupt commencements are
often followed by sincere devotion, and even by lasting constancy.
Infidelity is more censured in man than in woman. Three or four men,
beneath different titles, may follow the same beauty, who takes them
with her everywhere, sometimes without troubling herself to name
them to the master of the house which receives the party. One is the
favorite; another aspires to be so; a third calls himself the sufferer
(_il patíto_); though disdained, he is permitted to be of use; all the
rivals live peaceably together. It is only among the common people that
you still hear of the stiletto; but the whole country presents a wild
mixture of simpleness and of vice, dissimulation and truth, good-nature
and revenge, strength and weakness; justifying the remark, that the
best of these qualities may be found among those who will do nothing
for vanity; the worst among such as will do anything for interest;
whether the interest of love, of avarice, or ambition. Distinctions of
rank are generally disregarded in Italy. It is not from stoicism, but
from heedless familiarity, that men are here insensible to aristocratic
prejudices; constituting themselves judges of no one, they admit
everybody. After supper they sat down to play; some of the women at
hazard, others chose silent whist; and not a word was now uttered in
the apartment, so noisy just before. The people of the south often run
thus quickly from the extreme of agitation to that of repose; it is one
of the peculiarities of their character, that indolence is succeeded
by activity: indeed, in all respects they are the last men on whose
merits or defects we ought to decide at first sight; so contrasted are
the qualities they unite; the creatures all prudence to-day may be
all audacity to-morrow. They are often apathetic, from just having
made, or preparing to make, some great exertion. In fact, they waste
not one energy of their minds on society, but hoard them till called
forth by strong events. At this assembly many persons lost enormous
sums, without the slightest change of countenance; yet the same beings
could not have related a trivial anecdote without the most lively and
expressive gesticulation. But when the passions have attained a certain
degree of violence, they shrink from sight and veil themselves in
silence.

Nevil could not surmount the bitter feelings this ball engendered; he
believed that the Italians had weaned his love from him at least for
a time. He was very wretched; yet his pride prevented his evincing
aught beyond a contempt for the tributes offered her. When asked to
play he refused, as did Corinne, who beckoned him to sit beside her; he
feared to compromise her name by passing a whole evening alone with her
before the eyes of the world. "Be at ease on that head," she replied;
"no one thinks about us. Here no established etiquette exacts respect;
a kindly politeness is all that is required; no one wishes to annoy
or to be annoyed. 'Tis true that we have not here what in England is
called liberty; but our social independence is perfect."--"That is,"
said Oswald, "that no reverence is paid to appearances."--"At least,
here is no hypocrisy," she answered.--"Rochefoucault says: 'The least
among the defects of a woman of gallantry is that of being one;' but
whatever be the faults of Italian women, deceit does not conceal
them; and if marriage vows are not held sufficiently sacred, they are
broken by mutual consent."--"It is not sincerity that causes this kind
of frankness," replied Oswald, "but indifference to public opinion.
I brought hither an introduction to a princess, and gave it to the
servant I had hired here, who said to me: 'Ah, sir, just now, this
will do no service, the princess sees no one; she is _innamoráta_.'
Thus was the fact of a lady's being in love proclaimed like any other
domestic affair. Nor is this publicity excused by fidelity to one
passion: many attachments succeed each other, all equally known. Women
have so little mystery in these ties, that they speak of them with less
embarrassment than _our_ brides could talk of their husbands. It is
not easy to believe that any deep or refined affection can exist with
this shameless fickleness. Though nothing is thought of but love, here
can be no romance: adventures are so rapid, and so open, that nothing
is left to be developed; and, justly to describe the general method
of arranging these things, one ought to begin and end in the first
chapter. Corinne, pardon me if I give you pain. You are an Italian;
that should disarm me: but one reason why you are thus incomparable
is, that you unite the best characteristics of our different nations.
I know not where you were educated, but you certainly cannot have
passed all your life here: perhaps, it was in England. Ah, if so, how
could you leave that sanctuary of all that is modest, for a land where
not only virtue, but love itself is so little understood! It may be
breathed in the air, but does it reach the heart? The poetry, here,
in which love plays so great a part, is full of brilliant pictures,
indeed; but where will you find the melancholy tenderness of our bards?
What have you to compare with the parting of Jaffier and Belvidera,
with Romeo and Juliet, or with the lines in Thomson's Spring, depicting
the happiness of wedded life? Is there any such life in Italy? and,
without homefelt felicity, how can love exist? Is not happiness the
aim of the heart, as pleasure is that of the senses? Would not all
young and lovely women be alike to us, did not mental qualities decide
our preference? What then, do these qualities teach us to crave? an
intercourse of thought and feeling, permanent and undivided! This is
what _we_ mean by marriage. Illegitimate love, when, unhappily, it does
occur among us, is still but the reflex of marriage. The same comfort
is sought abroad which cannot be found at home; and even infidelity in
England is more moral than Italian matrimony."

This severity so afflicted Corinne that she rose, her eyes filled with
tears, and hurried home. Oswald was in despair at having offended her;
but the irritation this ball had dealt him, found a channel in the
censure he had just pronounced. He followed her; but she would not
see him. Next morning he made another attempt; but her door was still
closed. This was out of character in Corinne; but she was so dismayed
by his opinion of her countrywomen, that she resolved, if possible,
to conceal her affection from him forever. Oswald, on his part, was
confirmed by this unusual conduct in the discontent that unlucky fête
had engendered; he was excited to struggle against the sentiment whose
empire he dreaded. His principles were strict.

Corinne's manners sometimes evinced a too universal wish to please; her
conduct and carriage were noble and reserved; but her opinions were
over-indulgent. In fact, though dazzled and enervated, something still
combatted his weakness. Such a state often embitters our language; we
are displeased with ourselves and others; we suffer so much, that we
long to brave the worst at once, and, by open war, ascertain which of
our two formidable emotions is to triumph. It was in this mood that
he wrote to Corinne. He knew his letter was angry and unbecoming; yet
a confusion of impulses urged him to send it. He was so miserable in
his present situation, that he longed, at any price, for some change;
and was reckless how his doubts were answered, so that they came to a
termination. A rumor brought him by Count d'Erfeuil, though he believed
it not, contributed, perhaps, to render his style still more unkind.
It was said that Corinne was about to marry Prince Amalfi. Oswald
well knew that she did not love this man, and ought to have been sure
that the report sprung merely from her having danced with him; but he
persuaded himself that she had received Amalfi when denied to him;
therefore, though too proud to confess his personal jealousy, he vented
it on the people in whose favor he knew her to be so prepossessed.



CHAPTER III.


    "TO CORINNE.

    "January 24, 1795.

    "You refuse to see me; you are offended by my last
    conversation, and, no doubt, intend henceforth to admit none
    but your countrymen, and thus expiate your recent deviation
    from that rule. Yet, far from repenting the sincerity with
    which I spoke to _you_, whom, perhaps chimerically, I would
    fain consider an Englishwoman, I will dare to say, still
    more plainly, that you can preserve neither your own dignity
    nor your own peace, by choosing a husband from your present
    society. I know not one Italian who deserves you; not one
    who could honor you by his alliance, whatever were the
    _title_ he had to bestow. The men are far less estimable
    here than the women, to whose errors they add worse of their
    own. Would you persuade me that these sons of the South, who
    so carefully avoid all trouble, and live but for enjoyment,
    can be capable of love? Did you not, last month, see at the
    Opera a man who had not eight days before lost a wife he was
    said to adore? The memory of the dead, the thought of death
    itself, is here, as much as possible, thrown aside. Funeral
    ceremonies are performed by the priests, as the duties of
    love are fulfilled by _cavaliéres servéntes_. Custom has
    prescribed all rites beforehand: regret and enthusiasm are
    nothing. But what, above all, must be destructive to love,
    is the fact that your men cannot be respected; women give
    them no credit for submission, because they found them
    originally weak, and destitute of all serious employment.
    It is requisite, for the perfection of natural and social
    order, that men should protect, and women be protected;
    but by guardians adoring the weakness they defend, and
    worshipping the gentle divinity which, like the Penates of
    the ancients, calls down good fortune on the house. Here
    one might almost say that woman is the sultan, and men her
    seraglio; it is they who have most pliancy and softness. An
    Italian proverb says: 'Who knows not how to feign, knows
    not how to live,' Is not that a feminine maxim? but where
    you have neither military glory nor free institutions, how
    should men acquire strength and majesty of mind? Their wit
    degenerates into a kind of cleverness, with which they play
    the game of life like a match at chess, wherein success is
    everything. All that remains of their love for antiquity
    consists in exaggerated expressions and external grandeur;
    but, beside this baseless greatness, you often find the most
    vulgar tastes, the most miserably neglected homes. Is this,
    then, Corinne, the country you prefer? Is its boisterous
    applause so essential to you, that every other kind of
    destiny would seem dull, compared with these re-echoing
    _brávos?_ Who could hope to make you happy, in tearing you
    from this tumult? You are an incomprehensible person: deep
    in feeling, superficial in taste; independent by pride of
    soul, enslaved by a desire for dissipation; capable of
    loving but one, yet requiring the notice of all the world.
    You are a sorceress, who alternately disturb and reassure
    me; who, when most sublime, can at once descend from the
    region where you reign alone, to lose yourself among the
    herd. Corinne, Corinne! in loving you, it is impossible to
    avoid fearing and doubting too. OSWALD."

Indignant as Corinne felt at Nevil's antipathy to her country, she was
relieved by guessing that the fête, and her refusal to speak with him,
had ruffled his temper. She hesitated, or believed herself hesitating,
for some time, as to the line of conduct she ought to pursue. Love made
her sigh for his presence: yet she could not brook his supposing that
she wished to be his wife; though in fortune, at least, his equal,
and no way beneath him in name, if she deigned to reveal it. The
uncontrolled life she had chosen, might have given her some aversion to
marriage; and, certainly, had not her attachment blinded her to all the
pangs she must endure in espousing an Englishman, and renouncing Italy,
she would have repulsed such an idea with disdain. A woman may forget
her pride in all that concerns the heart: but when worldly interest
appears the obstacle to inclinations; when the person beloved can be
accused of sacrificing himself in his union, she can no longer abandon
herself to her feelings before him. Corinne, however, unable to break
with her lover, trusted that she still might meet him, yet conceal
her affection. It was in this belief that she determined on replying
only to his accusations of the Italians, and reasoning on them as if
interested by no other subject. Perhaps the best way in which such a
woman can regain her coldness and her dignity, is that of entrenching
herself in the fortress of her mental superiority.

    "TO LORD NEVIL.

    "Jan. 25, 1795.

    "If your letter concerned no one but me, my Lord, I should
    not attempt to justify myself. My character is so easily
    known, that he who cannot comprehend it intuitively, would
    not be enlightened by any explanation I could give. The
    virtuous reserve of Englishwomen, and the more artful graces
    of the French, often conceal one half of what passes in
    their bosoms; and what you are pleased to call magic in me,
    is nothing but an unconstrained disposition, which permits
    my varying, my inconsistent thoughts to be heard, without my
    taking the pains of bringing them into tune. Such harmony
    is nearly always factitious; for most genuine characters
    are heedlessly confiding. But it is not of myself that I
    would speak to you; it is of the unfortunate nation which
    you attack so cruelly. Can my regard for my friends have
    instilled this bitter malignity? You know me too well to
    be jealous of them: nor have I the vanity to suppose that
    any such sentiment has rendered you thus unjust. You say
    but what all foreigners say of the Italians, what must
    strike every one at first; but you should look deeper ere
    you thus sentence a people once so great. Whence came it
    that, in the Roman day, they were the most military in the
    world; during the republics of the Middle Ages, the most
    tenacious of their freedom; and, in the sixteenth century,
    the most illustrious for literature, science, and the arts?
    Has not Italy pursued fame in every shape? If it be lost
    to her now, blame her political situation; since, in other
    circumstances, she showed herself so unlike all she is. I
    may be wrong, but the faults of the Italians only enhance
    my pity for their fate. Strangers, from time to time, have
    conquered and distracted this fair land, the object of their
    perpetual ambition; yet strangers forever reproach her
    natives with the defects inevitable to a vanquished race.

    "Europe owes her learning, her accomplishments, to the
    Italians; and, having turned their own gifts against them,
    would gladly deny them the only glory left to a people
    deprived of martial power and public liberty. It is true
    that governments form the characters of nations; and, in
    Italy herself, you will find remarkable distinctions between
    the inhabitants of different states. The Piedmontese,
    who once formed a small national corps, have a more
    warlike spirit than the rest. The Florentines, who have
    mostly possessed either freedom or liberal rulers, are
    well-educated and well-mannered. The Venetians and the
    Genoese evince a capacity for politics, because they
    have a republican aristocracy. The Milanese are more
    sincere, thanks to their long intercourse with northern
    nations. The Neapolitans are prompt to rebel, having for
    ages lived beneath an imperfect government, but still
    one of their own. The Roman nobles have nothing to do,
    either diplomatic or military, and may well remain idly
    ignorant; but the ecclesiastics, whose career is definite,
    have faculties far more developed; and, as the papal law
    observes no distinction of birth, but is purely elective
    in its ordinance of the clergy, the result is, a species
    of liberality, not in ideas, but in habits, which renders
    Rome the most agreeable abode for those who have neither
    power nor emulation for sustaining a part in the world.
    The people of the South are more easily modified by
    existing institutions than those of the North. This clime
    induces a languor favorable to resignation, and nature
    offers enough to console man for the advantages society
    denies. Undoubtedly, there is much corruption in Italy:
    its civilization is far from refinement. There is a savage
    wilderness beneath Italian cunning; it is that of a hunter
    lying in wait for his prey. Indolent people easily become
    sly and shifting; their natural gentleness serves to hide
    even a fit of rage; for it is by our habitual manner that
    an accidental change of feeling may be best concealed. Yet
    Italians have both truth and constancy in their private
    connections. Interest may sway them, but not pride. Here is
    no ceremony, no fashion; none of the little everyday tricks
    for creating a sensation. The usual sources of artifice and
    of envy exist not here. Foes and rivals are deceived by
    those who consider themselves at war with them; but, while
    in peace, they act with honesty and candor. This is the
    very cause of your complaint. Our women hear of nothing but
    love; they live in an atmosphere of seduction and dangerous
    example; yet their frankness lends an innocence to gallantry
    itself. They have no fear of ridicule: many are so ignorant
    that they cannot even write, and confess it without scruple.
    They engage a _Paglietto_ to answer letters for them, which
    he does on paper large enough for a petition; but among
    the better classes you see professors from the academies
    in their black scarfs, giving lessons publicly. If you are
    inclined to laugh at them, they ask you: 'Is there any harm
    in understanding Greek, or living by our own exertions? How
    can you deride so matter-of-course a proceeding?' Dare I,
    my Lord, touch on a more delicate subject?--the reason why
    our men so seldom display a military spirit. They readily
    expose their lives for love or hate: in such causes, the
    wounds given and received neither astonish nor alarm their
    witnesses. Fearless of death, when natural passions command
    them to defy it; they still, I must confess, value life
    above the political interests which slightly affect those
    who can scarcely be said to have a country. Chivalrous
    honor has little influence over a people among whom the
    opinions that nourish it are dead; naturally enough, in
    such a disorganization of public affairs, women gain a
    great ascendency; perhaps too much so for them to respect
    or admire their lovers, who, nevertheless, treat them with
    the most delicate devotion. Domestic virtue constitutes
    the welfare and the pride of Englishwomen; but on no land,
    where love dispenses with its sacred bonds, is the happiness
    of women watched over as in Italy. If our men cannot make
    a moral code for immorality, they are at least just and
    generous in their participation of cares and duties. They
    consider themselves more culpable than their mistresses
    when they break their chains: they know that women make the
    heaviest sacrifice; and believe that, before the tribunal of
    the heart, the greatest criminals are those who have done
    most wrong. Men err from selfishness; women, because they
    are weak. Where society is at once vigorous and corrupt,
    that is, most merciless to the faults that are followed by
    the worst misfortunes, women of course are used with more
    severity; but where we have no established etiquettes,
    natural charity has a greater power. Spite all that has
    been said of Italian perfidy, I will assert that there
    is as much real good-nature here as in any other country
    of the world; and that, slandered as it is by strangers,
    they will nowhere meet with a kinder reception. Italians
    are reproached as flatterers; it is with no premeditated
    plan, but in mere eagerness to please, that they lavish
    expressions of affection, not often belied by their conduct.
    Would they be ever-faithful friends, if called on to prove
    so in danger or adversity?--A very small number, I allow,
    might be capable of such friendship; but it is not to Italy
    alone that this observation is applicable. I have previously
    admitted their Oriental indolence. Yet the very women, who
    appear like so many beauties of a harem, may surprise you
    by traits of generosity or of revenge: as for the men, give
    them but an object, and, in six months, you might find that
    they would have learned and understood whatever was required
    of them; but, while they are untaught, why should females
    be instructed? An Italian girl would soon become worthy of
    an intelligent husband, provided that she loved him; but
    in a country where all great interests are suppressed, a
    careless repose is more noble than a vain agitation about
    trifles. Literature itself must languish, where thoughts are
    not renewed by vigorous and varied action. Yet in what land
    have arts and letters been more worshipped? History shows
    us, that the popes, princes, and people have at all times
    done homage to distinguished painters, sculptors, poets,
    and other writers.[1] This zeal was, I own, my Lord, one of
    the first motives which attached me to this country. I did
    not find here those seared imaginations, that discouraging
    spirit, nor that despotic mediocrity, which, elsewhere, can
    so soon stifle innate ability. Here a felicitous phrase
    takes fire, as it were, among its auditors. As genius is the
    gift which ranks highest among us, it inevitably excites
    much envy. Peregolese was assassinated: Giorgione wore a
    cuirass, when obliged to paint in any public place; but
    the violent jealousy to which talent gives birth here, is
    such as in other realms is created by power; it seeks not
    to depreciate the object it can hate, or even kill, from
    the very fanaticism of admiration. Finally, when we see so
    much life in a circle so contracted, in the midst of so
    many obstacles and oppressions, we can hardly forbear from a
    vivid solicitude for those who respire with such avidity the
    little air that fancy breathes through the boundaries which
    confine them. These are so limited, that men of our day
    can rarely acquire the pride and firmness which mark those
    of freer and more military states. I will even confess, if
    you desire it, my Lord, that such a national character must
    inspire a woman with more enthusiasm; but is it not possible
    that a man may be brave, honorable, nay, unite all the
    attributes which can teach us to love, without possessing
    those that might promise us content?

    "CORINNE."


[1] Mr. Roscoe, author of the "History of the Medici," has since
published that of Leo X., which recounts the proofs of admiring esteem
given by the princes and people of Italy to men of letters; impartially
adding, that many of the popes have emulated this liberality.



CHAPTER IV.


This letter revived all Oswald's remorse at having even thought of
detaching himself from his love. The commanding intellectual mildness
of its reproof affected him deeply. A superiority so vast, so real,
yet so simple, appeared to him out of all ordinary rule. He was never
insensible that this was not the tender creature his fancy had chosen
for the partner of his life: all he remembered of Lucy Edgarmond, at
twelve years of age, better accorded with that ideal. But who could
be compared with Corinne? She was a miracle formed by nature, in
his behalf, he dared believe; since he might flatter himself that
he was dear to her. Yet what would be his prospects if he declared
his inclination to make her his wife? Such, he thought, would be
his decision; yet the idea that her past life had not been entirely
irreproachable, and that such a union would assuredly have been
condemned by his father, again overwhelmed him with painful anxiety.
He was not so subdued by grief as he had been ere he met Corinne; but
he no longer felt the calm which may accompany repentance, when a
whole life is devoted to expiate our faults. Formerly, he did not fear
yielding to his saddest memories, but now he dreaded the meditations
which revealed to him the secrets of his heart. He was preparing to
seek Corinne, to thank her for her letter, and obtain pardon for his
own, when his apartment was suddenly entered by Mr. Edgarmond, the
young Lucy's near relation.

This gentleman had lived chiefly on his estate in Wales; he possessed
just the principles and the prejudice that serve to keep things as
they are; and this is an advantage where things are as well arranged
as human reason permits. In such a case, the partisans of established
order, even though stubbornly bigoted to their own ways of thinking,
deserve to be regarded as rational and enlightened men.

Lord Nevil shuddered as this name was announced. All the past seemed
to rise before him in an instant; and his next idea was, that Lady
Edgarmond, the mother of Lucy, had charged her kinsman with reproaches.
This thought restored his self-command; he received his countryman with
excessive coldness; though not a single aim of the good man's journey
concerned our hero. He was travelling for his health, exercising
himself in the chase, and drinking "Success to King George and old
England!" He was one of the best fellows in the world, with more wit
and education than would have been supposed; ultra-English, even on
points where it would have been advisable to be less so; keeping up,
in all countries, the habit of his own, and avoiding their natives,
not from contempt, but a reluctance to speak in foreign tongues, and a
timidity which, at the age of fifty, rendered him extremely shy of new
acquaintance.

"I am delighted to see you," he said to Nevil. "I go to Naples in a
fortnight: shall I find you there? I wish I may! having but little time
to stay in Italy, as my regiment embarks shortly." "Your regiment!"
repeated Oswald, coloring, not that he had forgotten that, having a
year's leave of absence, his presence would not be so soon required;
but he blushed to think that Corinne might banish even duty from
his mind. "Your corps," continued Mr. Edgarmond, "will leave you
more leisure for the quiet necessary to restore your strength. Just
before I left England, I saw a little cousin of mine in whom you are
interested: she is a charming girl! and, by the time you return, next
year, I don't doubt that she will be the finest woman in England."
Nevil was silent, and Mr. Edgarmond too. For some time after this, they
addressed each other very laconically, though with kind politeness, and
the guest rose to depart; but, turning from the door, said, abruptly,
"Apropos, my Lord, you can do me a favor, I am told that you know the
celebrated Corinne; and, though I generally shrink from foreigners, I
am really curious to see her." "I will ask her permission to take you
to her house, then," replied Oswald. "Do, I beg: let me see her, some
day when she extemporises, dances, and sings." "Corinne," returned
Nevil, "does not thus display her accomplishments before strangers:
she is every way your equal and mine." "Forgive my mistake," cried his
friend; "but as she is merely called Corinne, and, at six-and-twenty,
lives unprotected by any one of her family, I thought that she
subsisted by her talents, and might gladly seize any opportunity of
making them known." "Her fortune is independent," replied Oswald,
hastily; "her mind still more so." Mr. Edgarmond regretted that he had
mentioned her, seeing that the topic interested Lord Nevil.

No people on earth deal more considerately with true affections than
do the English. He departed; Oswald remained alone, exclaiming to
himself: "I ought to marry Corinne! I must secure her against future
misinterpretation. I will offer her the little I can, rank and name, in
return for the felicity which she alone can grant me." In this mood,
full of hope and love, he hastened to her house: yet, by a natural
impulse of diffidence, began by reassuring himself with conversation
on indifferent themes: among them was the request of Mr. Edgarmond.
She was evidently discomposed by that name, and, in a trembling voice,
refused his visit. Oswald was greatly astonished. "I should have
thought that with you, who receive so much company," he said, "the
title of _my_ friend would be no motive for exclusion."--"Do not be
offended, my Lord," she said; "believe me, I must have powerful reasons
for denying any wish of yours."--"Will you tell me those reasons?" he
asked. "Impossible!" she answered. "Be it so, then," he articulated.
The vehemence of his feelings checked his speech; he would have left
her, but Corinne, through her tears, exclaimed in English: "For God's
sake stay, if you would not break my heart!"

These words and accents thrilled Nevil to the soul; he reseated himself
at some distance from her, leaning his head against an alabaster
vase, and murmuring: "Cruel woman! you see I love you, and am twenty
times a day ready to offer you my hand; yet you will not tell me who
you are, Corinne! Tell me now!"--"Oswald," she sighed, "you know not
how you pain me: were I rash enough to obey, you would cease to love
me."--"Great God!" he cried, "what have you to reveal?"--"Nothing that
renders me unworthy of you: but do not exact it. Some day, perhaps,
when you love me better--if--ah! I know not what I say--you shall know
all, but do not abandon me unheard. Promise it in the name of your now
sainted father!"

"Name him not!" raved Oswald. "Know you if he would unite or part us?
If you believe he would consent, say so, and I shall surmount this
anguish. I will one day tell you the sad story of my life; but now,
behold the state to which you have reduced me!"

Cold dews stood on his pale brow; his trembling lips could utter no
more. Corinne seated herself beside him; and, holding his hands in hers
tenderly, recalled him to himself. "My dear Oswald?" she said, ask
Mr. Edgarmond if he was ever in Northumberland; or, at least, if he
has been there only within the last five years: if so, you may bring
him hither." Oswald gazed fixedly on her; she cast down her eyes in
silence. "I will do what you desire," he said, and departed. Secluded
in his chamber, he exhausted his conjectures on the secrets of Corinne.
It appeared evident that she had passed some time in England, and
that her family name must be known there! but what was her motive for
concealment, and why had she left his country? He was convinced that
no stain could attach to her life; but he feared that a combination of
circumstances might have made her seem blamable in the eyes of others.
He was armed against the disapprobation of every country save England.
The memory of his father was so entwined with that of his native
land, that each sentiment strengthened the other. Oswald learned from
Edgarmond that he had visited Northumberland for the first time a year
ago; and therefore promised to introduce him at Corinne's that evening.
He was the first to arrive there, in order to warn her against the
misconceptions of his friend, and beg her, by a cold reserve of manner,
to show him how much he was deceived.

"If you permit me," she observed, "I would rather treat him as I do
every one else. If he wishes to hear the improvisatrice, he shall; I
will show myself to him such as I am; for I think he will as easily
perceive my rightful pride through this simple conduct, as if I behaved
with an affected constraint."--"You are right, Corinne," said Oswald:
"how wrong were he who would attempt to change you from your admirable
self!" The rest of the party now joined them. Nevil placed himself
near his love, with an added air of deference, rather to command that
of others than to satisfy himself; he had soon the joy of finding this
effort needless! She captivated Edgarmond, not only by her charms and
conversation, but by inspiring that esteem which sterling characters,
however contrasted, naturally feel for each other; and when he ventured
on asking her to extemporise for him, he aspired to this honor with the
most revering earnestness. She consented without delay; for she knew
how to give her favors a value beyond that of difficult attainment.
She was anxious to please the countryman of Nevil--a man whose report
of her ought to have some weight--but these thoughts occasioned her
so sudden a tremor, that she knew not how to begin. Oswald, grieved
that she should not shine her best before an Englishman, turned away
his eyes, in obvious embarrassment; and Corinne, thinking of no one
but himself, lost all her presence of mind; nor ideas, nor even words,
were at her call; and, suddenly giving up the attempt, she said to Mr.
Edgarmond, "Forgive me, sir; fear robs me of all power. 'Tis the first
time, my friends know, that I was ever thus beside myself; but," she
added, with a sigh, "it may not be the last."

Till now, Oswald had seen her genius triumph over her affections;
but now feeling had entirely subdued her mind; yet so identified was
he with her glory, that he suffered beneath this failure, instead
of enjoying it. Certain, however, that she would excel on a future
interview with his friend, he gave himself up to the sweet pledge of
his own power which he had just received; and the image of his beloved
reigned more securely in his heart than ever.



BOOK VII.


ITALIAN LITERATURE.



CHAPTER I.


Lord Nevil was very desirous that Mr. Edgarmond should partake the
conversation of Corinne, which far surpassed her improvised verses.
On the following day, the same party assembled at her house; and, to
elicit her remarks, he turned the discourse on Italian literature,
provoking her natural vivacity by affirming that England could boast
a greater number of true poets than Italy. "In the first place," said
Corinne, "foreigners usually know none but our first-rate poets:
Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, Guarini, Tasso, and Metastasio; but we have
many others, such as Chiabrera, Guidi, Filicaja, and Parini, without
reckoning Sannazer Politian, who wrote in Latin. All their verses
are harmoniously colored; all more or less knew how to introduce the
wonders of nature and art into their verbal pictures. Doubtless they
want the melancholy grandeur of _your_ bards, and their knowledge
of the human heart; but does not this kind of superiority become
the philosopher better than the poet? The brilliant melody of our
language is rather adapted to describe external objects than abstract
meditation; it is more competent to depict fury than sadness; for
reflection calls for metaphysical expressions; while revenge excites
the fancy, and banishes the thought of grief. Cesarotti has translated
Ossian in the most elegant manner: but in reading him, we feel that
his words are in themselves too joyous for the gloomy ideas they would
recall; we yield to the charm of our soft phrases, as to the murmur of
waves or the tints of flowers. What more would you exact of poetry?
If you ask the nightingale the meaning of his song, he can explain
but by recommencing it; we can only appreciate its music by giving
way to the impression it makes on us. Our measured lines, with rapid
terminations, composed of two brief syllables, glide along as their
name (_Sdruccioli_) denotes, sometimes imitating the light steps of a
dance; sometimes, with graver tone, realizing the tumult of a tempest,
or the clash of arms. Our poetry is a wonder of imagination: you
ought not in it to seek for every species of pleasure."--"I admit,"
returned Nevil, "that you account as well as possible for the beauties
and defects of your national poetry; but when these faults, without
these graces, are found in prose, how can you defend it? what is but
vague in the one becomes unmeaning in the other. The crowd of common
ideas, that your poets embellish by melody and by figures, is served up
cold in your prose, with the most fatiguing pertinacity. The greatest
portion of your present prose writers use a language so declamatory,
so diffuse, so abounding in superlatives, that one would think they
all dealt out the same accepted phrases by word of command, or by a
kind of convention. Their style is a tissue, a piece of mosaic. They
possess in its highest degree the art of inflating an idea, or frothing
up a sentiment; one is tempted to ask them a similar question to that
put by the negress to the Frenchwoman, in the days of hoop-petticoats,
'Pray, Madam, is all _that_ yourself?' Now, how much is real, beneath
this pomp of words, which one true expression might dissipate like
an idle dream?"--"You forget," interrupted Corinne, "first Machiavel
and Boccaccio, then Gravina, Filangieri, and even, in our own days,
Cesarotti, Verri, Bettinelli, and many others, who knew both how
to write and how to think.[1] I agree with you, that, for the last
century or two, unhappy circumstances having deprived Italy of her
independence, all zeal for truth has been so lost, that it is often
impossible to speak it in any way. The result is, a habit of resting
content with words, and never daring to approach a thought. Authors,
too sure that they can effect no change in the state of things, write
but to show their wit--the surest way of soon concluding with no wit
at all; for it is only by directing our efforts to a nobly useful aim
that we can augment our stock of ideas. When writers can do nothing
for the welfare of their country; when, indeed, their means constitute
their end; from leading to no better, they double in a thousand
windings, without advancing one step. The Italians are afraid of new
ideas, rather because they are indolent than from literary servility.
By nature they have much originality; but they give themselves no time
to reflect. Their eloquence, so vivid in conversation, chills as they
work; besides this, the Southerns feel hampered by prose, and can
only express themselves fully in verse. It is not thus with French
literature," added Corinne to d'Erfeuil: "your prose writers are often
more poetical than your versifiers."--"That is a truth established
by classic authorities," replied the Count. "Bossuet, La Bruyére,
Montesquieu, and Buffon can never be surpassed; especially the first
two, who belonged to the age of Louis XIV.; they are perfect models
for all to imitate who can;--a hint as important to foreigners as to
ourselves."--"I can hardly think," returned Corinne, "that it were
desirable for distinct countries to lose their peculiarities; and I
dare to tell you, Count, that, in your own land, the national orthodoxy
which opposes all felicitous innovations must render your literature
very barren. Genius is essentially creative; it bears the character
of the individual who possesses it. Nature, who permits no two leaves
to be exactly alike, has given a still greater diversity to human
minds. Imitation, then, is a double murder; for it deprives both copy
and original of their primitive existence."--"Would you wish _us_,"
asked d'Erfeuil, "to admit such Gothic barbarisms as Young's 'Night
Thoughts,' or the Spanish and Italian _Concetti_? What would become of
our tasteful and elegant style after such a mixture?" The Prince Castel
Forte now remarked: "I think that we all are in want of each other's
aid. The literature of every country offers a new sphere of ideas to
those familiar with it. Charles V. said: 'The man who understands
four languages is worth four men,' What that great Genius applied to
politics is as true in the state of letters. Most foreigners understand
French; their views, therefore, are more extended than those of
Frenchmen, who know no language but their own. Why do they not oftener
learn other tongues? They would preserve what distinguishes themselves,
and might acquire some things in which they still are wanting."


[1] Cesarotti, Verri, and Bettinelli, three modern authors, have
instilled more thought into Italian prose than has been bestowed on it
for many years.



CHAPTER II.


"You will confess, at least," replied the Count, "that there is one
department in which _we_ have nothing to learn from any one. Our
theatre is decidedly the first in Europe. I cannot suppose that the
English themselves would think of placing their Shakspeare above
us."--"Pardon me, they do think of it," answered Mr. Edgarmond; and,
having said this, resumed his previous silence. "Oh!" exclaimed the
Count, with civil contempt; "let every man think as he pleases; but I
persist in believing that, without presumption, we may call ourselves
the highest of all dramatic artists. As for the Italians, if I may
speak frankly, they are in doubt whether there is such an art in the
world. Music is everything with them; the piece nothing: if a second
act possesses a better _scena_ than the first, they begin with that;
nay, they will play portions of different operas on the same night,
and between them an act from some prose comedy, containing nothing
but moral sentences, such as our ancestors turned over to the use of
other countries, as worn too threadbare for their own. Your famed
musicians do what they will with your poets. One won't sing a certain
air, unless the word _Felicità_ be introduced; the tenor demands his
_Tomba_; a third can't shake unless be upon _Catene_. The poor poet
must do his best to harmonize these varied tastes with his dramatic
situations. Nor is this the worst: some of them will not deign to
walk on the stage; they must appear surrounded by clouds, or descend
from the top of a palace staircase, in order to give their entrance
due effect. Let an air be sung in ever so tender or so furious a
passage, the actor must needs bow his thanks for the applause it draws
down. In Semiramis, the other night, the spectre of Ninus paid his
respects to the pit with an obsequiousness quite neutralizing the
awe his costume should have created. In Italy, the theatre is looked
on merely as a rendezvous, where you need listen to nothing but the
songs and the ballet. I may well say they _listen_ to the ballet, for
they are never quiet till after its commencement; in itself it is the
_chef-d'œuvre_ of bad taste; I know not what there is to amuse in
your ballet beyond its absurdity. I have seen Gengis Khan, clothed
in ermine and magnanimity, give up his crown to the child of his
conquered rival, and lift him into the air upon his foot, a new way
of raising a monarch to the throne; I have seen the self-devotion of
Curtius, in three acts, full of divertissements. The hero, dressed
like an Arcadian shepherd, had a long dance with his mistress, ere he
mounted a real horse upon the stage, and threw himself into a fiery
gulf, lined with orange satin and gold paper. In fact l have seen an
abridgement of the Roman history, turned into ballets, from Romulus
down to Cæsar."--"All that is very true," mildly replied the Prince
of Castel Forte; "but you speak only of our Opera, which is in no
country considered the dramatic theatre."--"Oh, it is still worse
when they represent tragedies, or dramas not included under the head
of those with _happy catastrophes_; they crowd more horrors into five
acts than human imagination ever conceived. In one of these pieces a
lover kills his mistress' brother, and burns her brains before the
audience. The fourth act is occupied by the funeral, and ere the fifth
begins, the lover, with the utmost composure, gives out the next
night's harlequinade; then resumes his character, in order to end the
play by shooting himself. The tragedians are perfect counterparts of
the cold exaggerations in which they perform, committing the greatest
atrocities with the most exemplary indifference. If an actor becomes
impassioned, he is called a preacher, so much more emotion is betrayed
in the pulpit than on the stage; and it is lucky that these heroes
are so peacefully pathetic, since as there is nothing interesting in
your plays, the more fuss they made, the more ridiculous they would
become: it were well if they were divertingly so; but it is all too
monotonous to laugh at. Italy has neither tragedy nor comedy; the only
drama truly her own is the harlequinade. A thievish, cowardly glutton;
an amorous or avaricious old dupe of a guardian, are the materials.
You will own that such inventions cost no very great efforts, and
that the 'Tartuffe' and the 'Misanthrope' called for some exertion
of genius." This attack displeased the Italians, though they laughed
at it. In conversation the Count preferred displaying his wit to his
good-humor. Natural benevolence prompted his actions, but self-love
his words. Castel Forte and others longed to refute his accusations,
but they thought the cause would be better defended by Corinne; and
as they rarely sought to shine themselves, they were content, after
citing such names as Maffei, Metastasio, Goldoni, Alfieri, and Monti,
with begging her to answer Monsieur d'Erfeuil. Corinne agreed with him
that the Italians had no national theatre; but she sought to prove that
circumstances, and not want of talent, had caused this deficiency.
"Comedy," she said, "as depending on observation of manners, can only
exist in a country accustomed to a great varied population. Italy is
animated by violent passions or effeminate enjoyments. Such passions
give birth to crimes that confound all shades of character. But that
ideal comedy, which suits all times, all countries, was invented here.
Harlequin, pantaloon, and clown are to be found in every piece of
that description. Everywhere they have rather masks than faces; that
is, they wear the physiognomy of their class, and not of individuals.
Doubtless our modern authors found these parts all made to their hands,
like the pawns of a chess-board; but these fantastic creations, which,
from one end of Europe to the other, still amuse not only children, but
men whom fancy renders childish, surely give the Italians some claim on
the art of comedy. Observation of the human heart is an inexhaustible
source of literature; but nations rather romantic than reflective yield
themselves more readily to the delirium of joy than to philosophic
satire. Something of sadness lurks beneath the pleasantry founded on a
knowledge of mankind: the most truly inoffensive gayety is that which
is purely imaginative. Not that Italians do not shrewdly study those
with whom they are concerned. They detect the most private thoughts,
as subtly as others; but they are not wont to make a literary use of
the acuteness which marks their conduct. Perhaps they are reluctant
to generalize and to publish their discoveries. Prudence may forbid
their wasting on mere plays what may serve to guide their behavior,
or converting into witty fictions that which they find so useful in
real life. Nevertheless, Machiavel, who has made known all the secrets
of criminal policy, may serve to show of what terrible sagacity the
Italian mind is capable. Goldoni, who lived in Venice, where society is
at its best, introduced more observation into his work than is commonly
found. Yet his numerous comedies want variety both of character and
situation. They seem modelled, not on life, but on the generality of
theatrical pieces. Irony is not the true character of Italian wit. It
is Ariosto, and not Molière, who can amuse us here. Gozzi, the rival
of Goldoni, had much more irregular originality. He gave himself up
freely to his genius; mingling buffoonery with magic, imitating nothing
in nature, but dealing with those fairy chimeras that bear the mind
beyond the boundaries of this world. He had a prodigious success in
his day, and perhaps is the best specimen of Italian comic fancy;
but, to ascertain what our tragedy and comedy might become, they must
be allowed a theatre, and a company. A host of small towns dissipate
the few resources that might be collected. That division of states,
usually so favorable to public welfare, is destructive of it here. We
want a centre of light and power, to pierce the mists of surrounding
prejudice. The authority of a government would be a blessing, if it
contended with the ignorance of men, isolated among themselves, in
separate provinces, and, by awakening emulation, gave life to a people
now content with a dream."

These and other discussions were spiritedly put forth by Corinne;
she equally understood the art of that light and rapid style, which
insists on nothing; in her wish to please, adopting each by turns,
though frequently abandoning herself to the talent which had rendered
her so celebrated as an improvisatrice. Often did she call on Castel
Forte to support her opinions by his own; but she spoke so well, that
all her auditors listened with delight, and could not have endured
an interruption. Mr. Edgarmond, above all, could never have wearied
of seeing and hearing her: he hardly dared explain to himself the
admiration she excited; and whispered some words of praise, trusting
that she would understand, without obliging him to repeat them. He
felt, however, so anxious to hear her sentiments on tragedy, that, in
spite of his timidity, he risked the question. "Madame," he said, "it
appears to me that tragedies are what your literature wants most. I
think that yours come less near an equality with our own, than children
do to men; for childish sensibility, if light, is genuine; while your
serious dramas are so stilted and unnatural, that they stifle all
emotion. Am I not right, my Lord?" he added, turning his eyes towards
Nevil, with an appeal for assistance, and astonished at himself for
having dared to say so much before so large a party.--"I think just
as you do," returned Oswald: "Metastasio, whom they vaunt as the bard
of love, gives that passion the same coloring in all countries and
situations. His songs, indeed, abound with grace, harmony, and lyric
beauty, especially when detached from the dramas to which they belong;
but it is impossible for us, whose Shakspeare is indisputably the poet
who has most profoundly fathomed the depths of human passions, to bear
with the fond pairs who fill nearly all the scenes of Metastasio, and,
whether called Achilles or Thyrsis, Brutus or Corilas, all sing in
the same strain, the martyrdom they endure, and depict, as a species
of insipid idiotcy, the most stormy impulse that can wreck the heart
of man. It is with real respect for Alfieri that I venture a few
comments on his works, their aim is so noble! The sentiments of the
author so well accord with the life of the man, that his tragedies
ought always to be praised as so many great actions, even though
they may be criticized in a literary sense. It strikes me, that some
of them have a monotony in their vigor, as Metastasio's have in their
sweetness. Alfieri gives us such a profusion of energy and worth, or
such an exaggeration of violence and guilt, that it is impossible to
recognize one human being among his heroes. Men are never either so
vile or so generous as he describes them. The object is to contrast
vice with virtue; but these contrasts lack the gradations of truth. If
tyrants were obliged to put up with half he makes their victims say
to their faces, one would really feel tempted to pity them. In the
tragedy of 'Octavia,' this outrage of probability is most apparent.
Seneca lectures Nero, as if the one were the bravest, and the other
the most patient of men. The master of the world allows himself to be
insulted, and put in a rage, scene after scene, as if it were not in
his own power to end all this by a single word. It is certain, that,
in these continual dialogues, Seneca utters maxims which one might
pride to hear in a harangue or read in a dissertation; but is this the
way to give an idea of tyranny?--instead of investing it with terror,
to set it up as a block against which to tilt with wordy weapons! Had
Shakspeare represented Nero surrounded by trembling slaves, who scarce
dared answer the most indifferent question, himself vainly endeavoring
to appear at ease, and Seneca at his side, composing the Apology for
Agrippina's murder, would not our horror have been a thousand times
more great? and, for one reflection made by the author, would not
millions have arisen, in the spectator's mind, from the silent rhetoric
of so true a picture?" Oswald might have spoken much longer ere Corinne
would have interrupted him, so fascinated was she by the sound of his
voice, and the turn of his expressions. Scarce could she remove her
gaze from his countenance, even when he ceased to speak; then, as her
friends eagerly asked what she thought of Italian tragedy, she answered
by addressing herself to Nevil.--"My lord, I so entirely agree with
you, that it is not as a disputant I reply; but to make some exceptions
to your, perhaps, too general rules. It is true that Metastasio is
rather a lyric than a dramatic poet; and that he depicts love rather
as one of the fine arts that embellish life, than as the secret source
of our deepest joys and sorrows. Although our poetry has been chiefly
devoted to love, I will hazard the assertion that we have more truth
and power in our portraitures of every other passion. For amatory
themes, a kind of conventional style has been formed amongst us; and
poets are inspired by what they have read, not by their own feelings.
Love as it is in Italy, bears not the slightest resemblance to love
such as our authors describe.

"I know but one romance, the 'Fiammetta' of Boccaccio, in which the
passion is attired in its truly national colors. Italian love is a
deep and rapid impression, more frequently betrayed by the silent
ardor of our deeds, than by ingenious and highly wrought language.
Our literature, in general, bears but a faint stamp of our manners.
We are too humbly modest to found tragedies on our own history, or
fill them with our own emotions.[1] Alfieri, by a singular chance,
was transplanted from antiquity into modern times. He was born for
action; yet permitted but to write: his style resented this restraint.
He wished by a literary road to reach a political goal; a noble one,
but such as spoils all works of fancy. He was impatient of living
among learned writers and enlightened readers, who, nevertheless,
cared for nothing serious; but amused themselves with madrigals and
nouvellettes. Alfieri sought to give his tragedies a more austere
character. He retrenched everything that could interfere with the
interest of his dialogue; as if determined to make his countrymen do
penance for their natural vivacity. Yet he was much admired: because he
was truly great, and because the inhabitants of Rome applaud all praise
bestowed on the ancient Romans, as if it belonged to themselves. They
are amateurs of virtue, as of the pictures their galleries possess;
but Alfieri has not created anything that may be called the Italian
drama; that is, a school of tragedy, in which a merit peculiar to Italy
may be found. He has not even characterized the manners of the times
and countries he selected. His 'Pazzi,' 'Virginia,' and 'Philip II.'
are replete with powerful and elevated thought; but you everywhere
find the impress of Alfieri, not that of the scene nor of the period
assumed. Widely as he differs from all French authors in most respects,
he resembles them in the habit of painting every subject he touches
with the hues of his own mind." At this allusion, d'Erfeuil observed:
"It would be impossible for _us_ to brook on _our_ stage either the
insignificance of the Grecians, or the monstrosities of Shakspeare.
The French have too much taste. Our drama stands alone for elegance
and delicacy: to introduce anything foreign, were to plunge us into
barbarism."--"You would as soon think of surrounding France with the
great wall of China!" said Corinne, smiling: "yet the rare beauties of
your tragic authors would be better developed, if you would sometimes
permit others besides Frenchmen to appear in their scenes. But we,
poor Italians, would lose much, by confining ourselves to rules that
must confer on us less honor than constraint. The national character
ought to form the national theatre. We love the fine arts, music,
scenery, even pantomime; all, in fact, that strikes our senses, how,
then, can a drama, of which eloquence is the best charm, content us?
In vain did Alfieri strive to reduce us to this; he himself felt that
his system was too rigorous.[2] His 'Saul,' Maffei's 'Merope,' Monti's
'Aristodemus,' above all, the poetry of Dante (though he never wrote
a tragedy), seem to give the best notion of what the dramatic art
might become here. In 'Merope' the action is simple, but the language
glorious; why should such style be interdicted in our plays? Verse
becomes so magnificent in Italian, that we ought to be the last people
to renounce its beauty. Alfieri, who, when he pleased, could excel in
every way, has in his 'Saul' made superb use of lyric poetry; and,
indeed, music itself might there be very happily introduced; not to
interrupt the dialogue, but to calm the fury of the king, by the harp
of David. We possess such delicious music, as may well inebriate all
mental power; we ought, therefore, instead of separating, to unite
these attributes; not by making our heroes sing, which destroys their
dignity, but by choruses, like those of the ancients, connected by
natural links with the main situation, as often happens in real life.
Far from rendering the Italian drama less imaginative, I think we
ought in every way to increase the illusive pleasure of the audience.
Our lively taste for music, ballet and spectacle, is a proof of
powerful fancy, and a necessity to interest ourselves incessantly,
even in thus sporting with serious images, instead of rendering them
more severe than they need be, as did Alfieri. We think it our duty to
applaud whatever is grave and majestic, but soon return to our natural
tastes; and are satisfied with any tragedy, so it be embellished by
that variety which the English and Spaniards so highly appreciate.
Monti's 'Aristodemus' partakes the terrible pathos of Dante; and has
surely a just title to our pride. Dante, so versatile a master-spirit,
possessed a tragic genius, which would have produced a grand effect,
if he could have adapted it to the stage: he knew how to set before
the eye whatever passed in the soul; he made us not only feel but look
upon despair. Had he written plays, they must have affected young and
old, the many as well as the few. Dramatic literature must be in some
way popular; a whole nation constitute its judges."--"Since the time
of Dante," said Oswald, "Italy has played a great political part--ere
it can boast a national tragic school, great events must call forth,
in real life, the emotions which become the stage. Of all literary
_chefs-d'œuvres_, a tragedy most thoroughly belongs to a whole people:
the author's genius is matured by the public spirit of his audience;
by the government and manners of his country; by all, in fact, which
recurs each day to the mind, forming the moral being, even as the air
we breathe invigorates our physical life. The Spaniards, whom you
resemble in climate and in creed, have nevertheless, far more dramatic
talent. Their pieces are drawn from their history, their chivalry, and
religious faith; they are original and animated. Their success in this
way may restore them to their former fame as a nation; but how can we
found in Italy a style of tragedy which she has never possessed?"--"I
have better hopes, my Lord," returned Corinne, "from the soaring
spirits that are among us, though unfavored as yet by circumstances;
but what we most need is histrionic ability. Affected language induces
false declamation; yet there is no tongue in which a great actor could
evince more potency than in our own; for melodious sounds lend an added
charm to just accentuation, without robbing it of its force."--"If
you would convince us of this," interrupted Castel Forte, "do so, by
giving us the inexpressible pleasure of seeing you in tragedy; you
surely consider your foreign friends worthy of witnessing the talent
which you monopolize in Italy; and in which (as your own soul is
peculiarly expressed in it) you can have no superior on earth." Corinne
secretly desired to perform before Oswald, and thus appear to the best
advantage; but she could not consent without his approval: her looks
requested it. He understood them; and, ambitious that she should charm
Mr. Edgarmond in a manner which her yesterday's timidity had prevented,
he joined his solicitations to those of her other guests. She hesitated
no longer.--"Well, then," she said to Castel Forte, "we will, if you
please, accomplish a long-formed scheme of mine, that of playing my
translation of 'Romeo and Juliet.'"--"What!" exclaimed Edgarmond,
"Do you understand English and love Shakspeare?"--"As a friend," she
replied.--"And you will play Juliet in Italian? and I shall hear you?
and you, too, dear Nevil! How happy you will be!" Then, instantly
repenting his indiscretion, he blushed. The blush of delicacy and
kindness is at all ages interesting.--"How happy we shall be," he added
with embarrassment, "if we may be present at such a mental banquet!"


[1] Giovanni Pindemonte has published a series of dramas founded on
Italian history; a most praiseworthy enterprise. The name of Pindemonte
is also ennobled by Hippolito, one of Italy's sweetest modern poets.

[2] Alfieri's posthumous works have been printed. It will be seen, by
the eccentric experiment which he tried on his tragedy of Abel, that
he himself thought his style too austere, and that the stage required
entertainments of greater fancy and variety.



CHAPTER III.


All was arranged in a few days; parts distributed, the night fixed on,
and the palace of a relative of Prince Castel Forte devoted to the
representation. Oswald felt at once disquiet and delight; he enjoyed
Corinne's success, by anticipation; but even thus grew jealous,
beforehand, of no one man in particular, but of the public, who would
witness an excellence of which he felt as if he alone had a right to
be aware. He would have had Corinne reserve her charms for him, and
appear to others as timid as an Englishwoman. However distinguished a
man may be, he rarely feels unqualified pleasure in the superiority
of a woman. If he does not love her, his self-esteem takes offence;
if he does, his heart is oppressed by it. Beside Corinne, Oswald was
rather intoxicated than happy: the admiration she excited increased his
passion, without giving stability to his intents. She was a phenomenon
every day new; but the very wonder she inspired seemed to lessen his
hopes of domestic tranquillity. She was, notwithstanding, so gentle, so
easy to live with, that she might have been beloved for her lowliest
attributes, independent of all others; yet it was by these others that
she had become remarkable. Lord Nevil, with all his advantages, thought
himself beneath her, and doubted the duration of their attachment.
In vain did she make herself his slave: the conqueror was too much
in awe of his captive queen to enjoy his realm in peace. Some hours
before the performance, Nevil led her to the house of the Princess,
where the theatre had been fitted up. The sun shone beautifully; and
at one of the staircase windows, which commanded a view of Rome and
the Campagna, he paused a moment, saying: "Behold, how heaven itself
lights you to victory!"--"It is to you, who point out its favor, that
I owe such protection, then," she replied. "Tell me," he added, "do
the pure emotions kindled by the sweetness of nature suffice to please
you? Remember, this is a very different air from that you will respire
in the tumultuous hall which soon will re-echo your name?"--"Oswald,"
she said, "if I obtain applause, will it not be because _you_ hear it
that it may touch my heart? If I display any talent, is it not my love
for you that inspires me? Poetry, religion, all enthusiastic feelings,
are in harmony with nature; and while gazing on the azure sky, while
yielding to the reverie it creates, I understand better than ever the
sentiments of Juliet, I become more worthy of Romeo."--"Yes, thou
art worthy of him, celestial creature!" cried Nevil: "this jealous
wish to be alone with thee in the universe, is, I own, a weakness.
Go! receive the homage of the world! but be thy love, which is more
divine even than thy genius, directed to none but me!" They parted,
and Oswald took his place, awaiting her appearance on the stage. In
Verona, the tomb of Romeo and Juliet is still shown. Shakspeare has
written this play with truly southern fancy; at once impassioned and
vivacious; triumphant in delight; and rushing from voluptuous felicity
to despair and death. Its sudden love, we feel, from the first, will
never be effaced; for the force of nature, beneath a burning clime, and
not habitual fickleness, gives it birth. The sun is not capricious,
though the vegetation be rapid; and Shakspeare, better than any other
foreign poet, knew how to seize the national character of Italy--that
fertility of mind which invents a thousand varied expressions for the
same emotion; that Oriental eloquence which borrows images from all
nature, to clothe the sensations of young hearts. In Ossian, one chord
constantly replies to the thrill of sensibility; but in Shakspeare
nothing is cold nor same. A sunbeam divided and reflected in a thousand
varied ways, produces endlessly multiplied tints, all telling of the
light and heat from whence they are derived. Thus "Romeo and Juliet,"
translated into Italian, seems but resuming its own mother-tongue.

The first meeting of the lovers is at a ball given by the Capulets,
mortal enemies of the Montagues. Corinne was charmingly attired, her
tresses mixed with gems and flowers; and at first sight scarce appeared
herself: her voice, however, was soon recognised, as was her face,
though now almost deified by poetic fire. Unanimous applause rang
through the house as she appeared. Her first look discovered Oswald,
and rested on him, sparkling with hope and love. The gazers' hearts
beat with rapture and with fear, as if beholding happiness too great to
last on earth. But was it for Corinne to realize such a presentiment?
When Romeo drew near, to whisper his sense of her grace and beauty, in
lines so glowing in English, so magnificent in Italian, the spectators,
transported at being thus interpreted, fully entered into the passion
whose hasty dawn appeared more than excusable. Oswald became all
uneasiness; he felt as if every man was ready to proclaim her an angel
among women, to challenge him on what he felt for her, to dispute his
rights, and tear her from his arms. A dazzling cloud passed before his
eyes; he feared that he should faint, and concealed himself behind a
pillar. Corinne's eyes anxiously sought him, and with so deep a tone
did she pronounce--

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

that he trembled as if she applied these words to their personal
situation. He renewed his gaze on her dignified and natural gestures,
her countenance which spoke more than words could tell, those mysteries
of the heart which must ever remain inexplicable and yet forever decide
our fate. The accents, the looks, the least movements of a truly
sensitive actor, reveal the depths of the human breast. The ideal
of the fine arts always mingles with these revelations; the harmony
of verse and the charm of attitude lending to passion the grace and
majesty it so often wants in real life--it is here seen through the
medium of imagination, without losing aught of its truth.

In the second act, Juliet has an interview with Romeo from a balcony in
her garden. Of all Corinne's ornaments, none but the flowers were left;
and even they were scarce visible, as the theatre was faintly illumined
in imitation of moonlight, and the countenance of the fond Italian
veiled in tender gloom. Her voice sounded still more sweetly than it
had done amid the splendors of the fête. Her hand, raised towards the
stars, seemed invoking them, as alone worthy of her confidence; and
when she repeated, "Oh, Romeo, Romeo!" certain as Oswald felt that it
was of him she thought, he was jealous that any other name than his
own should be breathed by tones so delicious. She sat in front of the
balcony; the actor who played Romeo was somewhat in the shade; all the
glances of Corinne fell on her beloved, as she spoke those entrancing
lines:--

    "In truth, fair Montague! I am too fond,
    And therefore thou mayst think my 'havior light;
    But trust me, gentleman, I'll prove more true
    Than those who have more cunning to be strange."
           *       *       *       *       *
    "Therefore--pardon me!"

At those words, "pardon me!" for loving, for letting thee know it--so
tender an appeal filled the eyes of Corinne, such respect for her
lover, such pride in her "fair Montague," that Oswald raised his head,
and believed himself the monarch of the world, since he reigned over a
heart inclosing all the treasures of love and life. Corinne, perceiving
the effect this took on him, became doubly animated by that heartfelt
enthusiasm, which, of itself can work such miracles; and when, at the
approach of day, Juliet fancies that she hears the lark, the signal
for Romeo's departure,[1] the accents of Corinne acquired a superhuman
power; they told of love, indeed, but a religious mystery was now
mingled with it; recollections of heaven--a presage of returning
thither--the celestial grief of a soul exiled on earth, and soon to
be reclaimed by its diviner home. Ah, how happy was Corinne, while
playing so noble a part before the lover of her choice! How few lives
can bear a comparison with one such night! Had Oswald himself been the
Romeo, her pleasure could not have been so complete. She would have
longed to break through the greatest poet's verse, and speak after her
own heart; or perhaps the diffidence of love would have enchained her
genius; truth carried to such a height would have destroyed illusion;
but how sweet was the consciousness of his presence, while she was
influenced by the exalted impulses which poetry alone can awaken,
giving us all the excitement, without the anguish, of reality; while
the affections she portrayed were neither wholly personal nor entirely
abstract, but seemed saying to her Oswald. "Behold, how capable I am
of loving!" It was impossible for her to be perfectly at ease in her
own situation. Passion and modesty alternately impelled and restrained
her, now piquing her pride, now enforcing its submission; but thus to
display her perfections without arrogance, to unite sensibility with
the calm it so often disturbs; to live a moment in the sweetest dreams
of the heart--such was the pure delight of Corinne while acting Juliet.
To this was united all her pleasure in the applause she won; and her
looks seemed laying her success at the feet of him whose acceptance was
worth all fame, and who preferred her glory to his own. Yes, for that
hour, Corinne, thou wert enviable! tasting, at the price of thy repose,
the ectasies for which, till then, thou hadst vainly sighed, and must
henceforth forever deplore.

Juliet secretly becomes the wife of Romeo. Her parents command her
to espouse another, and she obtains from a friar a sleeping-draught,
which gives her the appearance of death. Corinne's trembling step
and altered voice; her looks, now wild, now dejected, betrayed the
struggles of love and fear; the terrible image of being borne alive
to the tomb of her ancestors, and the brave fidelity which bade her
young soul triumph over so natural a dread. Once she raised her eyes
to heaven, with an ardent petition for that aid with which no human
being can dispense; at another time Oswald fancied that she spread her
arms towards him; he longed to fly to her aid; he rose in a kind of
delirium, then sank on his seat, recalled to himself by the surprise
of those around him; but his agitation was too strong to be concealed.
In the fifth act, Romeo, believing Juliet dead, bears her from the
tomb. Corinne was clad in white, her black locks dishevelled, her head
gracefully resting on his bosom; but with an air of death so sadly
true, that Oswald's heart was torn by contending sensations. He could
not bear to see her in another's embrace; he shuddered at the sight
of her inanimate beauty, and felt, like Romeo, that cruel union of
despair and love, voluptuousness and death, which renders this scene
the most heart-rending on the stage. At last, when Juliet wakes in the
grave, beside which her lover has just sacrificed himself, her first
words beneath those funeral vaults partake not of the fear they might
occasion, but she cries:--

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

Nevil replied but by a groan; and was hurried by Mr. Edgarmond out of
the theatre. At the conclusion of the piece, Corinne was overpowered by
fatigue and excitement. Oswald was the first to seek her room, where,
still in the shroud of Juliet, she lay half-swooning in the arms of
her women. In the excess of his dismay, he could no longer distinguish
fiction from reality; but, throwing himself at her feet, exclaimed:--

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

Corinne, whose senses still wandered, shrieked: "Great God! what say
you? Would you leave me!"--"No, no, I swear!" he cried. At that instant
a crowd of admiring friends broke in upon them; she anxiously desired
to hear what he had meant to say, but they were not left alone together
for an instant, and could not speak to each other again that evening.

Never had any drama produced such an effect in Italy. The Romans
extolled the piece, the translation, and the actress; asserting that
this was the tragedy which represented them to the life, and gave
an added value to their language, by eloquence at once inspired and
natural. Corinne received all these eulogiums with gracious sweetness;
but her soul hung on these brief words: "I swear!" believing that they
contained the secret of her destiny.


[1] Corinne's translation deviated widely from the original. Minor
points I have presumed to reconcile, but this I must leave as I find,
though the two parting scenes in Romeo and Juliet are so dissimilar,
that it is difficult to guess how they could become confused in such a
mind as Madame de Staël's; or why she should have omitted all mention
of Tybalt's death, and Romeo's banishment.--TR.



BOOK VIII.


THE STATUES AND PICTURES.



CHAPTER I.


After such an evening, Oswald could not close his eyes all night. He
had never been so near sacrificing everything to Corinne. He wished not
even to learn her secret, until he had solemnly consecrated his life to
her service; all indecision seemed banished, as he mentally composed
the letter which he intended to write the next morning; but this
resolved and happy confidence was not of long duration. His thoughts
again strayed towards the past, reminding him that he had loved before;
and though far less than he adored Corinne, nay, an object not to be
compared with her, he had then been hurried into rashness that broke
his father's heart. "How know I," he cried, "that he does not once more
fear his son may forget his duty to his native land? Oh thou, the best
friend I can ever call mine own!" he continued to the miniature of his
parent, "I can no longer hear thy voice, yet teach me by that silent
look, still--still so powerful over me, how I should act, that thou
mayest gaze from heaven with some satisfaction on thy son. Yet, yet
remember the thirst for happiness which consumes humanity; be but as
indulgent in thy celestial home, as late thou wert on earth. I should
become more worthy of thee, were my heart content; did I live with
that angelic creature, had I the honor of protecting--saving such a
woman! Save her?" he added, suddenly, "and from what? from the life she
loves; a life of triumph, flattery, and freedom?" This reflection of
his own scared him as if it had been spoken by the spirit of his sire.
In situations like Oswald's, who has not felt that secret superstition
which makes us regard our thoughts and sufferings as warnings from on
high? Ah, what struggles beset the soul susceptible alike of passion
and of conscience! He paced his chamber in cruel agitation; sometimes
pausing to gaze on the soft and lovely moonlight of Italy. Nature's
fair smile may render us resigned to everything but suspense. Day rose
on his--and when d'Erfeuil and Edgarmond entered his room, so much
had one night changed him, that both were alarmed for his health.
The Count first broke silence. "I must confess," he said, "that I
was charmed last evening. What a pity that such capabilities should
be wasted on a woman of fortune! were Corinne but poor, free as she
is, she might take to the stage, and be the glory of Italy." Oswald
was grieved by this speech; yet knew not how to show it; for such was
d'Erfeuil's peculiarity, that one could not legitimately object to
aught he said, however great the pain and anger he awakened. It is
only for feeling hearts to practise reciprocal indulgence. Self-love,
so sensitive in its own cause, has rarely any sympathy to spare for
others. Mr. Edgarmond spoke of Corinne in the most pleasing manner; and
Nevil replied in English, to defend this theme from the uncongenial
comments of d'Erfeuil, who exclaimed, "So, it seems, I am one too many
here; well, I'll to the lady; she must be longing for my opinion of her
Juliet. I have a few hints to give her, for future improvement; they
relate merely to detail, but details do much towards a whole; and she
is really so astonishing a woman, that I shall neglect nothing that can
bring her to perfection. Indeed," he added, confidentially addressing
Nevil, "I must encourage her to play frequently; it is the surest way
of catching some foreigner of rank. You and I, dear Oswald, are too
accustomed to fine girls for any _one_ of them to lead us into such an
absurdity; but a German prince, now, or a Spanish grandee--who knows?
eh?" At these words Oswald started up, beside himself; and there is no
telling what might have occurred had the Count guessed his impulse; but
he was so satisfied with his own concluding remark, that he tripped
from the room, without a suspicion of having offended Lord Nevil; had
he dreamed of such a thing, he would assuredly have remained where he
was, though he liked Oswald as well as he could like any one; but his
undaunted valor contributed, still more than his conceit, to veil his
defects from himself. With so much delicacy in all affairs of honor, he
could not believe himself deficient in that of feeling; and having good
right to consider himself brave and gentlemanly, he never calculated on
any deeper qualities than his own. Not one cause of Oswald's agitation
had escaped the eye of Edgarmond. As soon as they were alone, he said:
"My dear Nevil, good-bye! I'm off for Naples."--"So soon?" exclaimed
his friend. "Yes, it is not good for me to stay here; for even at
fifty, I am not sure that I should not go mad for Corinne."--"And what
then?"--"Why then, such a woman is not fit to live in Wales; believe
me, dear Oswald, none but English wives will do for England. It is not
for me to advise, and I scarce need say that I shall never allude
_there_ to what I have seen _here_; but Corinne, all-charming as she
is, makes me think, with Walpole, 'Of what use would she be in a house?
Now the house is everything with us, you know, at least to our wives.
Can you fancy your lovely Italian remaining quietly at home, while
fox-hunts or debates took you abroad? or leaving you at your wine, to
make tea against your rising from table? Dear Oswald, the domestic
worth of our women you will never find elsewhere. Here men have nothing
to do but to please the ladies; therefore, the more agreeable they
find them, the better; but with us, where men lead active lives, the
women should bloom in the shade; to which it were a thousand pities
if Corinne were condemned. I would place her on the English throne,
not beneath my humble roof. My Lord! I knew your mother, whom your
respected father so much regretted; just such a woman will be my young
cousin; and that is the wife I would choose, were I still of an age
to be beloved. Farewell, my dear Nevil; do not take what I have said
amiss, for no one can admire Corinne more than I do; nay, perhaps, at
your years, I should not be able to give up the hope of winning her."
He pressed his young friend's hand very cordially, and left him, ere
Oswald could utter a word; but Edgarmond understood the cause of this
silence, and, content with the grasp which replied to his, was glad to
conclude a conversation which had cost him no slight pain. The only
portion of what he had said that reached the heart of Oswald, was the
mention of his mother, and the deep affection his father felt for her.
She had died ere their child was fourteen; yet he reveringly recalled
the retiring virtues of her character. "Madman that I am!" he cried, "I
desired to know what kind of wife my father had destined me, and I am
answered by the image of his own, whom he adored. What would I more,
then? why deceive myself? why pretend an ignorance of what he would
think now, could I yet consult him?" Still, it was with terror that
he thought of returning to Corinne, without giving her a confirmation
of the sentiments he had testified. The tumult of his breast became
at last so uncontrollable, that it occasioned a recurrence of the
distressing accident against which he now believed his lungs secure.
One may imagine the frightful scene--his alarmed domestics calling for
help, as he lay silently hoping that death would end his sorrow. "If
I could die, once more looking on Corinne," he thought, "once more
called her Romeo." A few tears fell from his eyes, the first that any
grief, save the loss of his father, had cost him since that event. He
wrote a melancholy line accounting for his absence, to Corinne. She
had began the day with fond delusive hopes. Believing herself loved,
she was content; for she knew not very clearly what more on earth she
wished. A thousand circumstances blended the thought of marrying Oswald
with fear; and, as her nature was the present's slave, too heedless of
the future, the day which was to load her with such care, rose like
the purest, calmest of her life. On receiving his note, how were her
feelings changed! She deemed him in great danger, and instantly, on
foot, crossed the then crowded Corso, entering his abode before all
the eyes of Rome. She had not given herself time to think, but walked
so rapidly, that when she reached his chamber she could neither speak
nor breathe. He comprehended all she had risked for his sake, and
overrated the consequences of an act which in England would have ruined
a woman's fame, especially if unwed: transported by generosity and
gratitude, he raised himself, weak as he was, pressed her to his heart,
and murmured, "Dear love! leave thee? now that thou hast compromised
thyself?--no, no!--let my reparation----" She read his thought, and
gently withdrawing from his arms, first ascertained that he was better
than she had expected, then said gravely: "You mistake, my Lord! in
coming to you I have done no more than the greatest number of women in
Rome would have done in my place. Here, you know none but me. I heard
you were ill; it is my duty to nurse you. Ceremony should be obeyed,
indeed, when it sacrifices but one's self, yet ought to yield before
the higher feelings due to the grief or danger of a friend. What would
be the lot of a woman, if the same laws which permitted her to love
forbade her to indulge the resistless impulse of flying to the aid of
those most dear to her? I repeat, my Lord, fear nothing for me! My
age and talents give me the freedoms of a married female. I do not
conceal from my friends that I am here. I know not if they blame me
for loving you, but surely, as I do, they cannot blame my devotion
to you now." This sincere and natural reply filled Oswald's heart
with most contrasted emotions: touched as he was by its delicacy, he
was half disappointed. He would have found a pretext in her peril--a
necessity for terminating his own doubts. He mused with displeasure on
Italian liberty, which prolonged them thus, by permitting him so much
favor, without imposing any bonds in return. He wished that honor had
commanded him to follow inclination. These troublous thoughts caused
him a severe relapse. Corinne, though suffering the most intense
anxiety, lavished the fondest cares on his revival. Towards evening
he was still more oppressed; she knelt beside his couch, supporting
his head upon her bosom, though far more pitiable than himself. Oft as
he gazed on her, did a look of rapture break through all his pangs.
"Corinne," he whispered, "here are some papers--you shall read to
me--written by my father on Death. Think not," he added, as he marked
her dismay, "that I believe myself dying; but whenever I am ill I
reperuse these consolations, and seem again to hear them from his lips;
besides, my dearest, I wish you to know what a man he was; you will
the better comprehend my regret, his empire over me--all that I will
some day confide to you." Corinne took the papers, which Oswald always
carried about him, and with a faltering voice began----

"Oh, ye just! beloved of the Lord! ye speak of death without a fear;
to you it is but a change of homes; and this ye leave may be the least
of all. Innumerable worlds that shine through yon infinitude of space!
unknown communities of His creatures--children! strewn through the
firmament, ranged beneath its concave, let our praises rise with yours!
We know not your condition, nor your share of God's free bounty; but
in thinking over life and death, the past, the future, we participate
in the interests of all intelligent, all sentient beings, however
distant be their dwelling-places. Assembled spheres! wide-scattered
families! ye sing with us, Glory to the Lord of heaven! the King of
earth! the Spirit of the universe! whose will transforms sterility to
harvest, darkness to light, and death to life eternal. Assuredly the
end of the just man deserves our envy; but few of us, or of our sires
before us, have looked on such a death. Where is he who shall meet
the eye of Omnipotence unawed? Where is he who hath loved God without
once wavering? Who served him from his youth up, and, in his age,
finds nothing to remember with remorse? Where is the man, in all his
actions moral, who has not been led by flattery, or scared by slander?
So rare a model were worthy of imitation; but where exists it? If such
be amongst us, how ought our respect to follow him! Let us beg to be
present at his death, as at the loveliest of human spectacles. Take
courage, and surround the bed, whence he will rise no more! He knows
it, yet is all serene: a heavenly halo seems to crown his brow. He
says, with the Apostle, 'I know in whom I have believed;' and this
reliance, as his strength decays, lights up his features still. Already
he beholds his celestial home, yet unforgetful of the one he leaves.
He is God's own; but turns not stoically from ties that lent a charm
to his past life. His faithful partner, by the law of nature, will be
the first to follow him. He dries her tears, and tells her they shall
meet in heaven! even there unable to expect felicity without her.
Next, he reminds her of the happy days that they have led together;
not to afflict the heart of such dear friend, but to increase their
mutual confidence in their Lord's pardoning grace. The tender love he
ever bore his life's companion now seeks to soften her regrets; to
bid her revel in the sweet idea that their two beings grew from the
same stem; and that this union may prove one defence, one guarantee
the more, against the terrors of that dark futurity wherein God's pity
is the sole refuge of our startled thoughts. But how conceive the
thousand feelings that pierce a constant heart, when one vast solitude
appears before it? and all the interests that have filled past years
are vanishing forever? O thou, who must survive this second self,
Heaven lent for thy support! who was thine all, and whose looks now bid
thee a sad adieu! thou wilt not shrink from laying thy hand upon the
fainting heart, whose latest pulse, after the death of words, speaks it
thine own. Shall we then blame you if you wish your dust might mingle?
All-gracious Deity! awaken them together. Or, if but one deserves thy
favoring call to number with the elect, let but the other learn these
blissful tidings; read them in angel light one fleeting instant, and
he will sink resigned back to perpetual gloom. Perhaps I err in this
essay to paint the last hours of such a man, who sees the advancing
strides of death, and feels that he must part from all he holds most
dear. He struggles for a momentary strength, that his last words may
serve to instruct his children. 'Fear not,' he says, 'to watch your
sire's release, to lose your oldest friend; it is by God's ordinance he
goes before you, from a world into which he came the first. He would
fain teach you courage, though he weeps to say farewell: he could have
wished to stay and aid you longer, by experience to have led you some
steps further on the way surrounded by such perils for your youth; but
life has no defence against its Giver's mandate. You will proceed alone
in a wide world, where I shall be no more. May you abundantly reap all
the blessings that Providence has sown there! But never forget that
this world is a land through which we only journey to our home. Let
us hope to meet again. May our Father accept the sacrifice I tender,
in your cause, of all my vows and tears! Cling to religion! Trust its
promises! Love it, as the last link betwixt child and parent; betwixt
life and death! Draw near me, that I may see you still. The benediction
of an humble Christian rest with you all!' He dies! Angels, receive
his soul, and leave us here the memory of his deeds, his faith, his
chastened hope."[1]

The emotions of Oswald and Corinne had frequently interrupted their
progress: at last they were obliged to give up the attempt. She
trembled lest he should harm himself by weeping, unconscious that her
tears flowed fast as his. "Yes," sobbed Nevil; "yes, sweetest friend
of my bosom, the floods of our hearts have mingled; you have mourned
with me that guardian saint whose last embrace yet thrills my breast,
whose noble countenance I still behold. Perhaps he has chosen thee
for my solace."--"No, no," exclaimed Corinne; "he did not think me
worthy."--"What say you?" interrupted Oswald; and, alarmed lest she had
betrayed herself, she replied: "He might not have thought me worthy of
you." This slight change of phrase dissipated his uneasiness, and he
fearlessly continued speaking of his father. The physicians arrived,
and slightly reassured him; but absolutely forbade his attempting to
converse, until his internal hurt was healed. Six whole days passed,
during which Corinne never left him. With gentle firmness she enjoined
his silence, yet contrived to vary the hours by reading, music, and
sometimes by a sportive dialogue, in which she sustained both parts;
serious or gay, it was for his sake that she supported herself, veiling
beneath a thousand graceful arts the solicitude which consumed her;
she was never off her guard for an instant. She perceived what Oswald
suffered, almost before himself: the courage he assumed deceived her
not: she did, indeed, "anticipate the asking eye," while her chief
endeavor was that of diverting his mind, as much as possible, from
the value of these tender offices. If he turned pale, the rose fled
from her lip, and her hand trembled as she brought him a restorative:
even then would she smile through her tears, and press his hand to her
heart, as if she would fain have added her stock of life to his. At
last her efforts succeeded: he recovered. "Corinne," he said, as soon
as permitted to speak, "why has not my friend Edgarmond witnessed your
conduct? he would have seen that you are not less good than great;
that domestic life with you would be a perpetual enchantment; that you
differ from our women only in adding charms to virtue. It is too much!
here ends the combat that so nearly reduced me to the grave. Corinne!
you, who conceal your own secrets, shall hear all mine, and pronounce
our doom."--"Our doom," she replied, "if you feel as I do, is--not to
part; yet believe me, till now, at least, I have never dared to wish
myself your wife: the scheme of my existence is entirely disordered
by the love that every day enslaves me more and more; yet I know not
if we ought to marry."--"Corinne," he cried, "do you despise me for
having hesitated? Can you attribute my delay to contemptible motives?
Have you not guessed that the deep remorse to which I have been for two
years a prey alone has been the cause?"--"I know it," she answered.
"Had I suspected you of considerations foreign to those of the heart,
you would not have been dear to me. But life, I know, belongs not all
to love; habit and memory weave such nets around us that even passion
cannot quite destroy: broken for a moment, they will grow again, as
the ivy clasps the oak. My dear Oswald! let us give no epoch of life
more than it requires. At this, it is essential to me that you leave
me not. The dread of a sudden separation incessantly pursues me. You
are a stranger here; no ties detain you: if once you go, all is over;
nothing will be left to me of you, but my own grief. Nature, the arts,
poetry, all that I have shared with you, lately, alas! with you alone,
will speak no longer to my soul! I never wake without trembling. I ask
the fair day if it has still a right to shine; if you, the sun of my
being, are near me yet? Oswald, remove this fear, and I will not look
beyond the present's sweet security."--"You know," replied he, "that
no Englishman should renounce his country: war may recall me."--"O
God!" she cried, "would you prepare my mind?" Her limbs quivered, as
if at the approach of the most terrific danger. "If it be even so,"
she added, "take me with you--as your wife--your slave!" Then suddenly
regaining her spirits, she continued: "Oswald, you will never depart
without warning me? Never! will you? Listen! in no country is a
criminal led to torture without being allowed some hours to collect his
thoughts. It must not be by letter: you will come yourself, to tell me,
to hear me, ere you fly? How! you hesitate to grant my prayer?" "No,"
returned he, "you wish it; and I swear, if my departure be necessary,
I will apprise you of it, and that moment shall decide our fate." She
left him.


[1] I have allowed myself to borrow some passages from a discourse on
death, which may be found in "The Course of Religious Morals," by M.
Necker. Another work of his, "The Importance of Religious Opinions,"
had a more brilliant success, and is sometimes confused with this,
which appeared when public interest was distracted by political events;
but I dare affirm, that "The Course of Religious Morals" is my father's
most eloquent production. No statesman, I believe, ever before composed
volumes for the Christian pulpit; and this kind of writing, from a
man who had so much to do with men, shows a knowledge of the human
heart, and the indulgence that knowledge inspires. It appears that,
in two respects, these Essays are completely original. A religious
man is usually a recluse. Men of the world are seldom religious.
Where, then, shall we find united such observation of life, and such
elevation of soul, that looks beyond it? I should say, fearless of
finding my opinion attributed to partiality, that this book is one of
the first among those which console the feeling heart, and interest the
reflective mind, on the great questions which are incessantly agitating
them both.



CHAPTER II.


Corinne now carefully avoided all explanations. She wished to render
her lover's life as calm as possible. Their every interview had
tended to convince her that the disclosure of what she had been, and
sacrificed, was but too likely to make an unfavorable impression; she,
therefore, sought again to interest him in the still unseen wonders of
Rome, and thus retard the instant that must clear all doubts. Such a
situation would be insupportable beneath any other feeling than love,
which sheds such spells over every minute, that, though still desiring
some indefinite futurity, we receive a day as a century of joy, and
pain, so full of sensations and ideas is each succeeding morrow. Love
is the emblem of eternity: it confounds all notion of time: effaces
all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end: we fancy that we have
always possessed what we love, so difficult is it to imagine how we
could have lived without it. The more terrible separation seems, the
less probable it becomes: like death, it is an evil we rather name
than believe, as if the inevitable were impossible. Corinne, who, in
her innocent artifice for varying Oswald's amusements, had hitherto
reserved the statues and paintings, now proposed taking him to see
them, as his health was sufficiently re-established.--"It is shameful,"
she said, with a smile, "that you should be still so ignorant;
therefore to-morrow we will commence our tour through the galleries
and museums."--"As you will," replied Nevil; "but, indeed, Corinne,
you want not the aid of such resources to keep me with you; on the
contrary, I make a sacrifice to obey you, in turning my gaze to any
other object, be it what it may."

They went first to the Vatican, that palace of sculpture, where
the human form shines deified by paganism, as are the virtues by
Christianity. In those silent halls are assembled gods and heroes;
while beauty, in eternal sleep, looks as if dreaming of herself were
the sole pleasure she required. As we contemplate these admirable
forms and features, the design of the Divinity, in creating man,
seems revealed by the noble person he has deigned to bestow on him.
The soul is elevated by hopes full of chaste enthusiasm; for beauty is
a portion of the universe, which, beneath whatever guise presented,
awakes religion in the heart of man. What poetry invests a face where
the most sublime expression is fixed forever, where the grandest
thoughts are enshrined in images so worthy of them! Sometimes an
ancient sculptor completed but one statue in his life; that constituted
his history. He daily added to its perfection: if he loved or was
beloved; if he derived fresh ideas from art or nature, they served
but to embellish the features of this idol. He translated into looks
all the feelings of his soul. Grief, in the present state of society
so cold and oppressive, then actually ennobled its victim; indeed,
to this day the being who has not suffered can never have thought or
felt. But the ancients dignified grief by heroic composure, a sense of
their own strength, developed by their public freedom. The loveliest
Grecian statues were mostly expressive of repose. The Laöcoon and the
Niobe are among the few stamped by sorrow; but it is the vengeance of
Heaven, and not human passion, that they both recall. The moral being
was so well organized of old, the air circulated so freely in those
manly chests, and political order so harmonized with such faculties,
that those times scarce ever, like our own, produced discontented men.
Subtle as were the ideas then discovered, the arts were furnished
with none but those primitive affections which alone can be typified
by eternal marble. Hardly can a trace of melancholy be found on their
statues. A head of Apollo, in the Justinian palace, and one of the
dying Alexander, indeed, betray both thoughtfulness and pain; but they
belonged to the period of Grecian slavery, which banished the tranquil
pride that usually pervaded both their sculpture and their poetry.
Thought, unfed from without, preys on itself, digging up and analyzing
its own treasures; but it has not the creative power which happiness
alone can give. Even the antique sarcophagii of the Vatican teem but
with martial or joyous images; the commemoration of an active life they
thought the best homage they could pay the dead--nothing weakened or
discouraged the living. Emulation was the reigning principle in art as
in policy; there was room for all the virtues, as for all the talents.
The vulgar prided in the ability to admire, and genius was worshipped
even by those who could not aspire to its palm. Grecian religion was
not, like Christianity, the solace of misery, the wealth of the poor,
the future of the dying: it required glory and triumph; it formed the
apotheosis of man. In this perishable creed, even beauty was a dogma;
artists, called on to represent base or ferocious passions, shielded
the human form from degradation by blending it with the animal, as
in the satyrs and centaurs. On the contrary, when seeking to realize
an unusual sublimity, they united the charms of both sexes; as in
the warlike Minerva, and the Apollo Musagets; felicitous propinquity
of vigor and sweetness, without which neither quality can attain
perfection! Corinne delayed Oswald some time before the sleeping
figures that adorn the tombs, in the manner most favorable to their
art. She observed that statues representing an action suspended at
its height, an impulse suddenly checked, create, sometimes, a painful
astonishment; but an attitude of complete repose offers an image that
thoroughly accords with the influence of southern skies. The arts
there seem but the peaceful spectators of nature; and genius itself,
which agitates a northern breast, there appears but one harmony the
more. Oswald and Corinne entered the court in which the sculptured
animals are assembled with the statue of Tiberius in the midst of
them: this arrangement was made without premeditation; the creatures
seemed to have ranged themselves around their master. Another such
hall contains the gloomy works of the Egyptians, resembling mummies
more that men. This people, as much as possible, assimilated life with
death, and lent no animation to their human effigies; that province of
art appeared to them inaccessible. About the porticos of this museum
each step presents new wonders; vases, altars, ornaments of all kinds,
surround the Apollo, the Laöcoon, and the Muses. Here may one learn to
appreciate Homer and Sophocles, attaining a knowledge of antiquity that
cannot be elsewhere acquired. Amid these porticos are fountains, whose
incessant flow gently reminds you of past hours; it is two thousand
years since the artists of these _chefs-d'œuvres_ existed. But the most
melancholy sights here are the broken statues, the torso of Hercules,
heads separated from their trunks; the foot of a Jupiter, which it
is supposed must have belonged to the largest and most symmetrical
statue ever known. One sees the battle-field whereon Time contended
with Glory; these mutilated limbs attesting the tyrant's victory, and
our own losses. After leaving the Vatican, Corinne led Oswald to the
colossal figures on Monte Cavallo, said to be those of Castor and
Pollux. Each of these heroes governs a foaming steed with one hand:
this struggle of man with brute, like all the works of the ancients,
finely exemplifying the physical powers of human nature, which had
then a dignity it no longer possesses. Bodily exercises are generally
abandoned to our common people; personal vigor, in the antique,
appeared so intimately connected with the moral qualities of those who
lived in the heart of war, a war of single combats, that generosity,
fierceness, command, and height of stature, seemed inseparable, ere
intellectual religion had throned man's potency in his soul. As the
gods wore our shape, every attribute appears symbolical: the "brawns
of Hercules" suggest no recollections of vulgar life, but of divine,
almighty will, clothed in supernatural grandeur.

Corinne and Oswald finished their day by visiting the studio of the
great Canova. The statues gained much from being seen by torchlight,
as the ancients must have thought, who placed them in their Thermes,
inaccessible to the day. A deeper shade thus softens the brilliant
uniformity of the marble: its pallor looks more like that of life. At
that time Canova had just achieved an exquisite figure, intended for
a tomb; it represented Grief leaning on a Lion. Corinne detected a
resemblance to Nevil, with which the artist himself was struck. Our
Englishman turned away his head, to avoid this kind of attention,
whispering to his beloved: "Corinne, I believed myself condemned
to this eternal grief ere I met you, who have so changed me, that
sometimes hope, and always a delicious agitation, pervades the heart
that ought to be devoted to regret."



CHAPTER III.


In painting, the wealth of Rome surpasses that of the rest of the
world. Only one point of discussion can exist on the effect which her
pictures produce--does the nature of the subjects selected by Italy's
great masters admit the varied originality of passion which painting
can express? The difference of opinion between Oswald and Corinne on
this point, as on others, sprung but from the difference of their
countries and creeds. Corinne affirmed that Scripture subjects were
those most favorable to the painter; that sculpture was the Pagan's
art, and painting the Christian's; that Michael Angelo, the painter of
the Old, and Raphael, that of the New Testament, must have been gifted
with sensibility profound as that of Shakspeare or Racine. "Sculpture,"
she said, "can present but a simple or energetic life to the eye, while
painting displays the mysteries of retirement and resignation, and
makes the immortal spirit speak through the fleeting colors. Historical
facts, or incidents drawn from the poets, are rarely picturesque. One
had need, in order to understand them, to keep up the custom of writing
the speeches of their personages on ribbons rolling from their mouths.
But religious pieces are instantly comprehended by the whole world;
and our attention is not turned from the art, in order to divine their
meaning.

"The generality of modern painters are too theatrical. They bear the
stamp of an age in which the unity of existence and natural way of
life, familiar to Andrew Mantegne, Perugin, and Leonardo da Vinci, is
entirely forgotten. To this antique repose _they_ were wont to add
the depth of feeling which marks Christianity. For this I admire the
compositions of Raphael, especially in his early works. All the figures
tend towards the main object, without being elaborately grouped to
create a sensation--this honesty in the arts, as in all things else,
characterizes true genius; for speculations on success usually destroy
enthusiasm. There is a rhetoric in painting as in poetry; and those
who have it not seek to veil the defect in brilliant but illusive
auxiliaries, rich costume, remarkable postures, while an unpretending
virgin, with her infant at her breast, an old man attending the
mass of Bolsena, a young one leaning on his staff, in the school of
Athens, or Saint Cecilia raising her eyes to heaven, by the mere
force of expression, act most powerfully on the mind. These natural
beauties grow on us each day, while of works done for effect our
first sight is always the most striking."[1] Corinne fortified these
reflections by another--it was the impossibility of our sympathizing
with the mythology of the Greeks and Romans, or inventing on their
ground. "We may imitate them by study," she said; "but the wings of
genius cannot be restrained to flights for which learning and memory
are so indispensable, and wherein it can but copy books or statues.
Now, in pictures alluding to our own history and faith, the painter
is personally inspired; feeling what he depicts, retracing what he
has seen, he draws from the life. Portraitures of piety are mental
blessings that no others could replace; as they assure us that the
artist's genius was animated by the holy zeal which alone can support
us against the disgusts of life and the injustice of man."

Oswald could not, in all respects, agree with her; he was almost
scandalized at seeing that Michael Angelo had attempted to represent
the Deity himself in mortal shape; he did not think that we should
dare embody Him; and could scarcely call up one thought sufficiently
ethereal thus to ascend towards the Supreme Being, though he felt that
images of this kind, in painting, always leave us much to desire. He
believed, with Corinne, that religious meditation is the most heartfelt
sentiment we can experience, and that which supplies a painter with
the grandest physiognomical mysteries; but as religion represses all
movements of the heart to which she has not given birth, the faces
of saints and martyrs cannot be much varied. Humility, so lovely
in the sight of Heaven, weakens the energy of earthly passion, and
necessarily monotonizes the generality of scriptural subjects. When
the terrible Angelo dealt with them, he almost changed their spirit,
giving to his prophets that formidable air more suitable to heathen
gods than to saints. Oft, too, like Dante, he mixed Pagan attributes
with those of Christianity. One of the most affecting truths in its
early establishment is the lowly station of the apostles who preached
it, the slavery of the Jews, so long depositaries of the promise that
announced the Saviour. This contrast between insignificance of means
and greatness of result is morally beautiful. Yet in painting, where
means alone can be displayed, Christian subjects must needs prove
less attractive than those derived from the times of heroic fable. Of
all arts, none save music can be purely religious. Painting cannot be
content with an expression indefinite as that of sound. It is true that
a happy combination of colors, and of _clair-obscure_, is harmony to
the eye; but as it shows us life, it should give forth life's strong
and varied passions. Undoubtedly, such passages of history ought to be
selected as are too well known to be unintelligible: facts must flash
on us from canvas, for all the pleasures the fine arts bestow are thus
immediate; but with this equality provided, historical pictures have
the advantage of diversified situation and sentiments. Nevil asserted,
too, that a preference should be given to scenes from tragedies, or the
most touching poetic fictions, so that all the pleasures of imagination
might thus unite. Corinne contended against this opinion, seducing as
it was; convinced that the encroachment of one art upon another would
be mutually injurious. For sculpture loses by attempting the groups
that belong to painting; painting, by aspiring to dramatic animation.
The arts are limited, not in their powers but in their means. Genius
seeks not to vanquish the fitness of things which its glory consists
in guessing. "You, my dear Oswald," said Corinne, "love not the arts
for themselves, but as they accord with your own feelings; you are
moved merely when they remind you of your heart's afflictions. Music
and poetry better suit such a disposition than those which speak to
the eye, however ideally; they can but please or interest us while our
minds are calm and our fancy is free. We need not the gayety which
society confers in order to enjoy them, but the composure born of soft
and radiant climes. We ought, in the arts that represent exterior
objects, to feel the universal harmony of nature, which, while we are
distressed, we have not within ourselves."--"I know not," answered
Oswald, "if I have sought food for my sorrows in the arts, but at
least I am sure that I cannot endure their reminding me of physical
suffering. My strongest objection against Scripture pictures is the
pain I feel in looking on blood and tortures, however exalted the faith
of their victims. Philoctetus is, perhaps, the only tragic subject in
which such agonies can be admitted; but with how much of poetry are
his cruel pangs invested! They are caused by the darts of Hercules;
and surely the son of Esculapius can cure them. His wounds are so
associated with the moral resentment they stir in that pierced breast,
that they can excite no symptom of disgust. But the _Possessed_, in
Raphael's 'Transfiguration' is disagreeable and undignified. We would
fain discover the charm or grief, or fancy it like the melancholy of
prosperity. It is the ideal of human fate that ought to appear. Nothing
is more revolting than ensanguined gashes or muscular convulsions.
In such pictures we at once miss and dread to find exactitude of
imitation. What pleasure could such attempted fidelity bestow? it is
always either more horrible or less lovely than nature herself."--"You
are right, my Lord," said Corinne, "in wishing that these blots should
be effaced from Christian pictures; they are unnecessary. Nevertheless,
allow that soul-felt genius can triumph over them all. Look on the
death of St. Jerome, by Dominichino; that venerable frame is livid,
emaciated; but life eternal fills his aspect; and the miseries of
the world are here collected but to melt before the hallowed rays of
devotion. Yet, dear Oswald, though I am not wholly of your mind, I
wish to show you that even in differing, we have always some analogy.
I have attempted a realization of your ideal in the gallery to which
my brothers in art have contributed, and where I have sketched a few
designs myself; you shall see the advantages and defects of the styles
you prefer in my house at Tivoli. The weather is fine; shall we go
there to-morrow?"--"My love, can you doubt my reply?" he exclaimed.
"Have I another blessing in the world but you? The life I have too much
freed from other occupations is now filled by the felicity of seeing
and of hearing my Corinne!"


[1] From a journal called "Europe," I have derived many valuable
observations on painting--an inexhaustible subject for their author, M.
Frederic Schlegel, and for German reasoners in general.



CHAPTER IV.


Oswald himself drove the four horses that drew them next day towards
Tivoli; he delighted in their rapid course, which seemed to lend
fresh vivacity to the sense of existence--an impression so sweet when
enjoyed beside those we love. He was careful, even to fear, least the
slightest accident should befall his charge--that protecting air is
such a link betwixt man and woman! Corinne, though less easily alarmed
than the rest of her sex, observed his solicitude with such pleasure
as made her almost wish she could be frightened, that she might claim
the reassurances of Oswald. What gave him so great an ascendency over
her, was the occasional unexpected contrasts with himself, that lent
a peculiar charm to his whole manner. Every one admired his mind and
person; but both were particularly interesting to a woman at once thus
constant and versatile. Though occupied by nothing but Corinne, this
same interest perpetually assumed a new character: sometimes reserve
predominated; then he abandoned himself to his passion; anon, he was
perfectly amiable and content; as probably, by a gloomy bitterness,
betrayed the sincerity of his distress. Agitated at heart, he strove
to appear serene, and left her to guess the secrets of his bosom.
This kept her curiosity forever on the alert. His very faults set off
his merits; and no man, however agreeable, who was devoid of these
contradictions and inconsistencies, could thus have captivated Corinne:
she was subdued by her fear of him. He reigned in her heart by a good
and by an evil power--by his own qualities, and by the anxiety their
ill-regulated state inspired. There was no safety in the happiness he
bestowed. This, perhaps, accounts for the exaltation of her love; she
might not have thus adored aught she did not fear to lose. A mind of
ardent yet delicate sensibility may weary of all save a being whose
own, forever in motion, appears like a heaven, now clear and smiling,
now lapped in threatening clouds. Oswald, ever truly, deeply attached,
was not the less often on the brink of abjuring the object of his
tenderness, because long habit had persuaded him that he could find
nothing but remorse in the too vivid feelings of his breast.

On their way to Tivoli, they passed the ruins of Adrian's palace, and
the immense garden that surrounded it. Here were collected the rarest
productions of the realms conquered by Rome. There are still seen the
scattered stones called Egypt, India, and Asia. Further off is the
retreat where Zenobia ended her days. The queen of Palmyra sustained
not, in adversity, the greatness of her doom: she knew neither how
to die for glory, like a man; nor how, like a woman, to die rather
than betray her friend. At last they beheld Tivoli, once the abode of
Brutus, Augustus, Mæcenas, Catullus, but, above all, Horace, whose
verses have immortalized these scenes. Corinne's villa stood near the
loud cascade of Teverone. On the top of the hill, facing her garden,
was the Sibyl's temple. The ancients, by building these fanes on
heights like this, suggested the due superiority of religion over all
other pursuits. They bid you "look from nature up to nature's God," and
tell of the gratitude that successive generations have paid to Heaven.
The landscape, seen from whatever point, includes this its central
ornament. Such ruins remind one not of the work of man. They harmonize
with the fair trees and lonely torrent, that emblem of the years which
have made them what they are. The most beauteous land, that awoke no
memory of great events, were uninteresting, compared with every spot
that history sanctifies. What place could more appropriately have been
selected as the home of Corinne than that consecrated to the Sibyl,
a woman divinely inspired? The house was charming; decked in all the
elegance of modern taste, yet evidently by a classic hand. You saw
that its mistress understood felicity in its highest signification;
that which implies all that can ennoble, while it excites our minds. A
sighing melody now stole on Oswald's ear, as if the nodding flowers and
waving shrubs thus lent a voice to nature. Corinne informed him that
it proceeded from the Eolian harps, which she had hung in her grottos,
adding music to the perfume of the air. Her lover was entranced.
"Corinne," he cried, throwing himself at her feet, "till to-day I have
censured mine own bliss beside thee; but now I feel as if the prayers
of mine offended parent had won me all this favor; the chaste repose
I here enjoy tells me that I am pardoned. Fearlessly, then, unite thy
fate with mine; there is no danger now!"--"Well," she replied, "let us
not disturb this peace by naming Fate. Why strive to gain more than
she ever grants? Why seek for change while we are happy?" He was hurt
by this reply. He thought she should have understood his readiness to
confide, to promise, all. This evasion, then, offended and afflicted
him: he appreciated not the delicacy which forbade Corinne to profit by
his weakness. Where we really love, we often dread more than we desire
the solemn moment that exchanges hope for certainty. Oswald, however,
concluded that, much as she loved him, she preferred her independence,
and therefore shunned an indissoluble tie. Irritated by this mistake,
he followed her to the gallery in frigid silence. She guessed his mood,
but knew his pride too well to tell him so; yet, with a vague design
of soothing him, she lent even to general and indifferent topics the
softest tones of affection.

Her gallery was composed of historical, poetic, religious subjects, and
landscapes. None of them contained any great number of figures. Crowded
pictures are, doubtless, arduous tasks; but their beauties are mostly
either too confused or too detailed. Unity of interest, that vital
principle of art, as of all things, is necessarily frittered away. The
first picture represented Brutus, sitting lost in thought, at the foot
of the statue of Rome, while slaves bore by the dead bodies of the sons
he had condemned; on the other side, their mother and sisters stood in
frantic despair, fortunately excused, by their sex, from that courage
which sacrifices the affections. The situation of Brutus beneath the
statue of Rome tells all. But how, without explanation, can we know
that this _is_ Brutus, or that, those are his children, whom he himself
has sentenced? and yet the event cannot be better set forth by any
painting. Rome fills its background, as yet unornamented as a city,
grand only as the country that could inspire such heroism. "Once hear
the name," said Corrine, "and doubtless your whole soul is given up
to it; otherwise might not uncertainty have converted a pleasure which
ought to be so plain and so easy into an abstruse enigma? I chose the
subject, as recalling the most terrible deed a patriot ever dared.
The next is Marius, taken by one of the Cimbri, who cannot resolve
to kill so great a man. Marius, indeed, is an imposing figure; the
costume and physiognomy of the Cimbri leader extremely picturesque;
it marks the second era of Rome, when laws were no more, but when
genius still exerted a vast control. Next come the days in which glory
led but to misfortune and insult. The third picture is Belisarius,
bearing his young guide, who had expired while asking alms for him;
thus is the blind hero recompensed by his master; and in the world he
vanquished hath no better office than that of carrying to the grave the
sad remains of yon poor boy, his only faithful friend. Since the old
school, I have seen no truer figure than that; the painter, like the
poet, has loaded him with all kinds of miseries--too many, it may be,
for compassion. But what tells us that it is Belisarius? what fidelity
to history is exacted both of artist and spectator! a fidelity, by the
way, often ruinous to the beautiful. In Brutus, we look on virtues that
resemble crime; in Marius on fame causing but distress; in Belisarius,
on services requited by the blackest persecution. Near these I have
hung two pictures that console the oppressed spirit by reminding it of
the piety that can cheer the broken heart, when all around is bondage.
The first is Albano's infant Christ asleep on the cross. Does not that
stainless, smiling face convince us that heavenly faith hath naught
to fear from grief or death? The following one is Titian's Jesus
bending under the weight of the cross. His mother on her knees before
him--what a proof of reverence for the undeserved oppressions suffered
by her Divine Son! What a look of resignation is his! yet what an air
of pain, and therefore sympathy, with us! That is the best of all my
pictures; to that I turn my eyes with rapture inexhaustible; and now
come my dramatic _chefs-d'œuvre_, drawn from the works of four great
poets. There is the meeting of Dido and Æneas in the Elysian fields;
her indignant shade avoids him; rejoicing to be freed from the fond
heart which yet would throb at his approach. The vaporous color of the
phantoms and the pale scenes around them, contrast the air of life in
Æneas, and the Sibyl who conducts him; but in these attempts the bard's
description must far transcend all that the pencil reaches; in this,
of the dying Clorinda, our tears are claimed by the remembered lines
of Tasso, where she pardons the beloved Tancred, who has just dealt
her the mortal wound. Painting inevitably sinks beneath poetry, when
devoted to themes that great authors have already treated. One glance
back at their words effaces all before us. Their favorite situations
gain force from impassioned eloquence; while picturesque effect is most
favored by moments of repose, worthy to be indefinitely prolonged, and
too perfect for the eye ever to weary of their grace. Your terrific
Shakspeare, my Lord, afforded the ensuing subject. The invincible
Macbeth, about to fight Macduff, learns that the witches have
equivocated with him; that Birnam wood is coming to Dunsinane, and that
his adversary was _not_ of woman born, but 'untimely ripped' from his
dying mother.[1] Macbeth is subdued by his fate, not by his foe; his
desperate hand still grasps its glaive, certain that he must fall, yet
to the last, opposing human strength against the might of demons. There
is a world of fury and of troubled energy in that countenance--but
how many of the poet's beauties do we lose! Can we paint Macbeth
hurried into crime by the dreams of ambition, conjured up by the
powers of sorcery? How express a terror compatible with intrepidity;
how characterize the superstition that oppresses him? the ignoble
credulity, which, even while he feels such scorn of life, forces on him
such horror of death! Doubtless the human face is the grandest of all
mysteries; yet fixed on canvas, it can hardly tell of more than one
sensation; no struggle, no successive contrasts accessible to dramatic
art, can painting give, as neither time nor motion exists for her.

"Racine's Phedra forms the fourth picture. Hippolitus, in all the
beauty of youth and innocence, repulses the perfidious accusations
of his step-mother. The heroic Theseus still protects his guilty
wife, whom his conquering arms surround. Phedra's visage is agitated
by impulses that we freeze to look on; and her remorseless nurse
encourages her in guilt. Hippolitus is here even more lovely than in
Racine; more like to Meleager, as no love for Aricia here seems to
mingle with his tameless virtue. But could Phedra have supported her
falsehood in such a presence? No, she must have fallen at his feet;
a vindictive woman may injure him she loves in absence, but, while
she looks on him, that love must triumph. The poet never brings them
together after she has slandered him. The painter was obliged to oppose
them to each other; but is not the distinction between the picturesque
and the poetical proved by the fact, that verses copied from paintings
are worth all the paintings that have imitated poetry? Fancy must ever
precede reason, as it does in the growth of the human mind."

While Corinne spoke thus, she had frequently paused, hoping that Oswald
would add his remarks; but, as she made any feeling observation, he
would merely sigh and turn away his head, to conceal his present
disposition towards sadness. Corinne, at last discouraged by this
silence, sat down and hid her face in her hands. Oswald hastily paced
the apartment, and was just about to give way to his emotions, when,
with a sudden check of pride, he turned towards the pictures, as if
expecting her to finish the account of them. She had great hope in the
last; and making an effort to compose herself, rose, saying: "My Lord,
there remain but three landscapes for me to show you; two possess some
interest. I do not like rural scenes that bear no allusion to fable or
history; they are insipid as the idols of our poets. I prefer Salvator
Rosa's style here, which gives you rocks, torrents, and trees, with
not even the wing of a bird visible to remind you of life! The absence
of man, in the midst of nature, excites profound reflections. What
is this deserted scene, so vainly beautiful, whose mysterious charms
address but the eye of their Creator? Here, on the contrary, history
and poesy are happily united in a landscape.[2] This represents the
moment when Cincinnatus is invited by the consuls to quit his plough,
and take command of the Roman armies. All the luxury of the south
is seen in this picture--abundant vegetation, burning sky, and an
universal air of joy, that pervades even the aspects of the plants.
See what a contrast is beside it. The son of Cairbar sleep upon his
father's tomb. Three nights he awaited the bard, who comes to honor
the dead. His form is beheld afar, he descends the mountain's side. On
the cloud floats the shade of the chief. The land is hoary with ice;
and the trees, as the rude winds war on their lifeless and withered
arms, strew their sear leaves to the gale, and herald the course of
the storm." Oswald, till now, had cherished his resentment; but at
the sight of this picture, the tomb of his father, the mountains of
Scotland rose to his view, and his eyes filled with tears. Corinne took
her harp, and sung one of those simple Scotch ballads whose notes seem
fit to be borne on the wailing breeze. It was the soldier's farewell
to his country and his love, in which recurred that most melodious and
expressive of English phrases, "No more."[3] Corinne pronounced it so
touchingly, that Oswald could resist no longer; and they wept together.
"Ah, Corinne!" he cried, "does then my country affect your heart? Could
you go with me to the land peopled by my recollections? Would you there
be the worthy partner of my life, as you are here its enchantress?"--"I
believe I could," she answered, "for I love you."--"In the name of
love and piety then, have no more secrets from me."--"Your will shall
be obeyed, Oswald; I promise it on one condition, that you ask not
its fulfilment before the termination of our approaching religious
solemnities. Is not the support of Heaven more than ever necessary
at the moment which must decide my fate?"--"Corinne," he said, "if
thy fate depends on me it shall no longer be a sad one."--"You think
so," she rejoined; "but I have no such confidence, therefore indulge
my weakness." Oswald sighed, without granting or refusing the delay
she asked. "Let us return to Rome now," she added. "I should tell
you all in this solitude; and if what I have to say must drive you
from me--need it be so soon? Come, Oswald; you may revisit this scene
when my ashes repose here." Melted and agitated, he obeyed. On their
road they scarcely spoke a word, but now and then exchanged looks
of affection; yet a heavy melancholy oppressed them both, as they
re-entered Rome.


[1] From a journal called "Europe," I have derived many valuable
observations on painting--an inexhaustible subject for their author, M.
Frederic Schlegel, and for German reasoners in general.

[2] Madame de Staël says: "Macbeth apprend que l'oracle des sorcières
s'est accompli; que le forêt de Birnam paraît s'avancer vers Dunsinane;
et qu'il se bat avec un homme _né_ depuis la mort de sa mère."

"Ludicrous perversion of the author's meaning!" The points Shakspeare
intended to impress were, that "the weird women," "juggling fiends, who
palter with us in a double sense," had promised their victim success
and life _till_ events which he naturally conceived impossible, but
which they knew _would_ occur.--TR.

[3] I presume the "Adieu to Lochaber," though in that it is "nae
mair."--TR.



BOOK IX.


ON THE CARNIVAL, AND ITALIAN MUSIC.



CHAPTER I.


The last day of the carnival is the gayest in the year. The Roman
populace carry their rage for amusements to a perfect fever, unexampled
elsewhere. The whole town is disguised; the very gazers from its
windows are masked. This begins regularly to the appointed day, neither
public nor private affairs interfering with its indulgence. Then may
one judge of the imagination possessed by the herd. Italian sounds
sweetly even from their mouths. Alfieri said that he went to the market
of Florence to learn good Italian. Rome has the same advantage; and,
perhaps, these are the only cities of which all the natives speak so
well that the mind is feasted at every corner of the streets. The kind
of gayety that shines through their harlequinades is often found in
the most uneducated men; and during this festival, while exaggeration
and caricature are fair play, the most comic scenes perpetually recur.
Often a grotesque gravity contrasts the usually vivacious Italian
manner, as if their strange dresses conferred an unnatural dignity
on the wearers. Sometimes they evince so surprising a knowledge of
mythology, in the travesties they assume, that one might suppose
them still believers in its fictions. Most frequently, however, they
ridicule the various ranks of society with a pleasantry truly original:
the nation is now a thousand times more distinguished by its sports
than by its history. Italian lends itself so easily to all kinds of
playfulness, that it needs but a slight inflection of voice, a little
difference of termination, lengthening or diminishing the words, to
change the entire meaning of a sentence. The language comes with a
peculiar grace from the lips of childhood. The innocence of that age,
and the natural archness of the southern tongue, exquisitely contrast
each other.[1] One may almost call it a language that talks of itself,
and always seems more witty than its speakers.

There is neither splendor nor taste in the carnival: its universal
tumult assimilates it in the fancy with the bacchanalian orgies; but
in the fancy only; for the Romans are generally sober and serious
enough--the last days of this fête excepted. The one makes such varied
and sudden discoveries in their character, as have contributed to
give them a reputation for cunning. Doubtless, there is a great habit
of feigning among people who have borne so many yokes; but we must
not always attribute their rapid changes of manner to dissimulation.
Inflammable imagination is as oft its cause. Reasoners may readily
foresee their own actions; but all that belongs to fancy is unexpected:
she overleaps gradations; a trifle may wound her, or that which ought
to move her most be past by with indifference; she's her own world,
and in it there is no calculating effects by causes. For instance,
we wonder what entertainment the Roman nobles find in driving from
one end of the Corso to the other for hours together, every day in
the year, yet nothing breaks in on this custom. Among the masks, too,
may be found wandering victims to ennui, packed up in the drollest of
dresses, sad harlequins, and silent clowns, who satisfy their carnival
conscience by merely seeking to divert themselves. In Rome, they have
one assumption that nowhere else exists--maskers, who, in their own
persons, copy the antique statues, and from a distance perfectly
realize their beauty. Many of the women are losers by renouncing this
disguise. Nevertheless, to behold life imitating motionless marble,
however gracefully, strikes one with fear. The carriages of the great
and gay throng the streets; but the charm of these festivities is
their saturnalian confusion: all classes are mingled; the gravest
magistrates ride among the masks with almost official assiduity. All
the windows are decorated, and all the world out of doors: the pleasure
of the populace consists not in their spectacles nor their feasts; they
commit no excess, but revel solely in the delight of mixing freely
with their betters, who, on their parts, are as diverted at finding
themselves thrown among those beneath them. Only the refined and
delicate pleasures that spring from research and education can build
up barriers between different ranks. Italy, as hath been said, is more
distinguished by universal talent than by its cultivation among the
aristocracy. Therefore, during the carnival, all minds and all manners
blend: the shouting crowds, that indiscriminately shower their bonbons
on the passers-by, confound the whole nation pell-mell, as if no
social order remained. Corinne and Nevil arrived in the midst of this
uproar: at first it stunned them; for nothing appears stranger than
such activity of noisy enjoyment, while the soul is pensively retired
within herself. They stopped in the Piazza del Popolo, to ascend the
amphitheatre near the obelisk, thence to overlook the horse-racing: as
they alighted from their calash, the Count d'Erfeuil perceived them,
and took Oswald aside, saying: "How can you show yourself thus publicly
returning from the country with Corinne? You will commit her, and
then what can you do?" "I think I shall not commit her," returned he,
"by showing my affection; if I do, I shall be but too happy, in the
devotion of my life"--"Happy!" interrupted d'Erfeuil, "don't believe
it! one can only be happy in becoming situations. Society, do what we
will, has a great influence; and what society would disapprove ought
never to be attempted." "Then," replied Oswald, "our own thoughts and
feelings are to guide us less than the words of others. If it were
our duty thus constantly to follow the million, what need has any
individual with a heart or a soul? Providence might have spared us
from such superfluities."--"Very philosophical," replied the Count;
"but such maxims ruin a man; and when love is over, he is left to
the censure of the world. Flighty as you think me, I would not risk
it, on any account. We may allow ourselves the little freedoms and
good-natured jests of independent thinkers, but in our actions such
liberties become serious."--"And are not love and happiness serious
considerations?" asked Nevil. "That is nothing to the purpose: there
are certain established forms which you cannot brave without passing
for an eccentric; for a man--in fact--you understand me--unlike other
men." Lord Nevil smiled, and without either pain or displeasure rallied
d'Erfeuil on his frivolous severity: he rejoiced to feel, for the
first time, that on a subject which had cost him so much, the Count's
advice had not the slightest power. Corinne guessed what had past, but
Oswald's smile restored her composure; and this conversation tended but
to put them both in spirits for the fête. Nevil expected to see a race
like those of England; but was surprised to learn that small Barbary
steeds were about to make the contest of speed without riders. This is
a very favorite sport with the Romans.

When it was about to commence, the crowd ranged themselves on each side
of the street. The Place, lately so thronged, was emptied in a minute:
every one hurried to the stands which surrounded the obelisks; while
a multitude of black heads and eyes were turned towards the barrier
from which the barbs were to start. They appeared, without bridle or
saddle, their backs covered by bright-hued stuffs: they were led by
well-dressed grooms, passionately interested in their success. As
the animals reach the barrier, their eagerness for release is almost
uncontrollable: they rear, neigh, and paw the earth, as if impatient
for the glory they are about to win, without the aid or guidance
of man. Their prancing, and the rapturous cry of "Room, room!" as
the barrier falls, have a perfectly theatrical effect. The grooms
are all voice and gesture, as long as their steeds remain in sight;
the creatures are as jealous as mankind of one another; the sparks
fly beneath their feet; their manes float wildly on the breeze; and
such is their desire to reach the goal, that some have fallen there
dead. To look on these free things, all animated by personal passion,
is astounding--as if one beheld Thought itself flying in that fine
shape. The crowd break their ranks as the horses pass, and follow
them in tumult. The Venetian palace ends the race; then may be heard
exclamations of disappointment from those whose horses have been
beaten; while he whose darling has deserved the greatest prize throws
himself on his knees before the victor, thanking and recommending him
to St. Anthony,[2] patron of the brute creation, with an enthusiasm as
seriously felt as it is comically expressed. The races usually conclude
the day. Then begins another kind of amusement, less attractive, but
equally loud. The windows are illuminated; the guards leave their
posts, to share the general joy. Every one carries a little torch,
called _moccolo_, and every one tries to extinguish his neighbour's,
repeating the word "_ammazare_" (kill), with formidable vivacity.
"Kill the fair princess! let the Lord Abbot be killed!" The multitude,
reassured by the interdiction of horses and carriages at that hour,
pour forth from every quarter: all is turmoil and clamor; yet, as night
advances, this ceases by degrees; the deepest silence succeeds. The
remembrance of this evening is like that of a confused vision, which,
for awhile, changed every dreamer's existence, and made the people
forget their toil, the learned their studies, and the nobles their
sloth.[3]


[1] I asked a little Tuscan girl which was the prettiest, her sister or
herself. "Ah," she replied, "the best face is mine."

[2] An Italian postilion, beholding his horse expire, prayed for him,
crying, "St. Anthony, have pity on his soul!"

[3] The reader who wishes to know more of the Roman Carnival, should
read the charming description of Goethe; a picture faithful as it is
animated.



CHAPTER II.


Oswald, since his misfortunes, had never regained sufficient courage
voluntarily to hear music. He dreaded those ravishing sounds, so
agreeable to melancholy, but which prove so truly injurious while we
are weighed down by real calamities. Music revives the recollections
it would appease. When Corinne sang, Oswald listened to the words she
pronounced; gazed on her expressive features, and thought of nothing
but her. Yet if, of an evening, in the streets, he heard many voices
united to sing the sweet airs of celebrated composers, as is often the
case in Italy, though inclined to pause, he soon withdrew, alarmed by
the strong yet indefinite emotion which renewed his sorrows. But a
concert was about to be given at the theatre of Rome, concentrating
the talents of the first singers in Italy. Corinne asked Nevil to
accompany her thither: he consented, hoping that her presence would
soften all the pangs he must endure. On entering her box, she was
immediately recognized; and a remembrance of her coronation, adding
to the interest she usually created, all parts of the house resounded
with applause, and cries of "_Viva Corinne!_" The musicians themselves,
electrified by this unanimous sensation, sent forth strains of victory;
for triumph, of whatever kind, awakens in our recollection "the pomp
and circumstance of glorious war." Corinne was much moved by these
testimonies of admiring affection. The indescribable impression always
made by a human mass, simultaneously expressing the same sentiment,
so deeply touched her heart, that she could not restrain her tears;
her bosom heaved beneath her dress; and Oswald, with a sense of pique,
whispered, "You must not, Madame, be torn from such success; it
outvalues love, since it makes your heart beat thus;" he then retired
to the back of the box, without waiting for her answer. In one instant
had he swept away all the pleasure which she had owed to a reception
prized most because he was its witness.

Those who have not heard Italian singing can form no idea of music.
The human voice is soft and sweet as the flowers and skies. This charm
was made but for such a clime: each reflect the other. The world is
the work of a single thought, expressed in a thousand different ways.
The Italians have ever devotedly loved music. Dante, in his Purgatory,
meets the best singer of his day, and asks him for one of his delicious
airs. The entranced spirits forget themselves as they hear it, until
their guardian recalls them to the truth. The Christians, like the
Pagans, believe the empire of music to extend beyond the grave: of
all the fine arts, none act so immediately upon the soul: the others
direct it towards such or such ideas: but this alone addresses the
very source of life, and transforms the whole being at once, humanly
speaking, as Divine Grace is said to change the heart. Among all our
presentiments of futurity, those to which melody gives birth are not
the least worthy of reverence. Even the mirth excited by buffo singing
is not vulgar, but fanciful; beneath it lie poetic reveries, such as
spoken wit never yet created. Music is so volatile a pleasure--we are
so sensible that it escapes from us even as we enjoy it--that it always
leaves a tender impression on the mind; yet, when expressive of grief,
it sheds gentleness even over despair. The heart beats more quickly
to its regular measure, and, reminding us of life's brevity, bids us
enjoy what we can: the silent void is filled; you feel within yourself
the active energies that fear no obstacle from without. Music doubles
our computation of our own faculties, and makes us feel capable of the
noblest efforts; teaches us to march towards death with enthusiasm, and
is happily powerless to explain any base or artful sentiment. Music
lifts from the breast the weight it so often feels beneath serious
affections, and which we take for the heaviness of life, so habitual is
its pressure: we hang on such pure sounds till we seem to discover the
secrets of the Eternal, and penetrate the mysteries of nature: no words
can explain this; for words but copy primitive sensations, as prose
translators follow poetry. Looks alone resemble its effect: the long
look of love, that gradually sinks into the breast, till one's eyes
fall, unable to support so vast a bliss, lest this ray from another's
soul should consume us.

The admirable union of two voices perfectly in tune produces an ecstasy
that cannot be prolonged without pain: it is a blessing too great for
humanity, which vibrates like an instrument broken beneath too perfect
a harmony. Oswald had remained perversely apart from Corinne during
the first act of the concert; but when the duets began in low voices,
accompanied by the notes of clarionets and hautboys, purer even than
their own, Corinne veiled her face, absorbed by emotion; she wept
without suffering, and loved without dread; the image of Oswald was in
her bosom; but a host of thoughts wandered too far to be distinct, even
to herself. It is said that a prophet, in one moment, explored seven
regions of heaven. Whoever can thus conceive the all which an instant
may contain must have heard sweet music beside the object of his love.
Oswald felt its power; his resentment decreased; the tenderness of
Corinne explained and justified everything; he drew near her; she
heard him breathing close by, at the most enchanting period of this
celestial harmony: it was too much; the most pathetic tragedy could not
have so overwhelmed her as did the sense of _their_ both being equally
penetrated by the same sounds, at the same instant: each fresh tone
exalted the consciousness. The words sung were nothing; now and then
allusions to love and death induced some recollection; but oftener did
music alone suggest and realize the formless wish, as doth some pure
and tranquil star, wherein we seem to see the image of all we could
desire on earth. "Let us go," sighed Corinne: "I feel fainting."--"What
is it, love?" asked Oswald, anxiously: "you are pale. Come into the
air with me." They went together: her strength returned, as she leaned
upon his arm; and she faltered forth, "Dear Oswald, I am about to leave
you for eight days."--"What say you?" he cried.--"Every year," she
answered, "I spend Passion week in a convent, to prepare for Easter."
Oswald could not oppose, aware that most of the Roman ladies devoted
themselves to pious severities at that time, even if careless of
religion during the rest of the year; but he remembered that Corinne's
faith and his own were not the same: they could not pray together. "Why
are you not my countrywoman?" he exclaimed. "Our souls have but one
country," she replied.--"True," he said; "yet I cannot the less feel
everything that divides us." And this coming absence so dismayed him,
that neither to Corinne, nor the friends who now joined them, could he
speak another word that evening.



CHAPTER III.


Oswald called at Corinne's house early next day, in some uneasiness:
her maid gave him a note, announcing her mistress's retirement to
the convent that morning, and that she could not see him till after
Good Friday. She confessed that she had not the courage to tell him
the whole of this truth the night before. Oswald was struck as by an
unexpected blow. The house in which he had always found Corinne now
appeared sadly alone; her harp, books, drawings, all her household
gods were there, but she was gone. A shudder crept through his veins;
he thought on the chamber of his father, and sunk upon a seat. "It may
be," he cried, "that I shall live to lose her too--that animated mind,
that warm heart, that form so brilliantly fresh; the bolt may strike,
and the tomb of youth is mute as that of age. What an illusion, then,
is happiness! Inflexible Time, who watches ever o'er his prey, may tear
it from us in a moment. Corinne! Corinne! why didst thou leave me? Thy
magic alone can still my memory: dazzled by the hours of rapture passed
with thee--but now--I am alone. I am again my wretched, wretched self!"
He called upon Corinne with a desperation disproportionate to such
brief absence, but attributable to the habitual anguish of his heart.
The maid, Thérésina, heard his groans, and gratified by this regret
for her mistress, re-entered, saying, "My Lord, for your consolation,
I will even betray a secret of my lady's: I hope she will forgive
me. Come to her bedroom, and you shall see your own portrait!"--"My
portrait!" he repeated.--"Yes; she drew it from memory, and has risen,
for the last week, at five in the morning, to have it finished before
she went to the convent." The likeness was very strong, and painted
with perfect grace. This pledge, indeed, consoled him; facing it was an
exquisite Madonna, before which Corinne had formed her oratory. This
"love and religion mingled," exists in Italy under circumstances far
more extraordinary; for the image of Oswald was associated but with the
purest hopes of his adorer.

Yet thus to place it near so divine an emblem, and to prepare herself
for a convent by a week of such occupation, were traits that rather
characterized Corinne's country than herself. Italian women are devout
from sensibility, not principle; and nothing was more hostile to
Oswald's opinions than their manner of thinking on this subject; yet
how could he blame Corinne, while receiving so touching a proof of
her affection? His looks strayed tenderly through this chamber, where
he now stood for the first time. At the head of the bed he beheld the
miniature of an aged man, evidently not an Italian; two bracelets hung
near it, one formed by braids of black and of silver hair, the other
of beautifully fair tresses, that, by a strange chance, reminded him
of Lucy Edgarmond's, which he had attentively remarked three years
since. Oswald did not speak; but Thérésina, as if to banish any jealous
suspicion, told him, "that during the eleven years she had lived with
her lady she had always seen these bracelets, which she knew contained
the hair of Corinne's father, mother, and sister."--"Eleven years!"
cries Oswald, "you were then----" he checked himself, blushing at
the question he had begun, and precipitately left the house that
he might escape further temptation. He frequently turned back to
gaze on the windows, and when he lost sight of them he felt all the
misery of solitude. That evening he went to an assembly, in search of
something to divert his thoughts; for in grief, as joy, reverie can
only be indulged by those at peace with themselves; but society was
insupportable: he was more than ever convinced that for him Corinne
alone had lent it charms, by the void which her absence rendered it
now. He attempted to chat with the ladies, who replied by those insipid
phrases, which, explaining nothing, are so convenient for those who
have something to conceal. He saw groups of men, who, by their voices
and gestures, seemed warmly discussing some important topic: he drew
near, and found the matter of their discourse as despicable as its
manner. He mused over this causeless, aimless vivacity, so frequently
found in large parties;--though Italian mediocrity is a good sort of
animal enough, with but little jealous vanity, much regard for superior
minds, and, if fatiguing them by dulness, at least never wounding
them by pretence. Such was the society that, a few days since, Oswald
had found so interesting. The slight obstacles which it opposed to
his conversation with Corinne; her anxiety to be near him, as soon as
she had been sufficiently polite to others; the intelligence existing
between them on subjects suggested by their company; her pride, in
speaking before him, to whom she indirectly addressed remarks, he alone
could fully understand. All this had varied his evenings: every part of
these same halls brought back the pleasant hours which had persuaded
him that there might be some amusement even at an assembly. "Oh!" he
sighed, as he left it, "here, as elsewhere, she alone can give us
life; let me fly rather to some desert spot till she returns. I shall
less sadly feel her absence, where naught is near me that resembles
pleasure."



BOOK X.


PASSION WEEK.



CHAPTER I.


Oswald passed next day in the gardens of the monasteries; going first
to that of the Carthusians, and paused, ere he entered, to examine two
Egyptian lions at a little distance from its gate. There is something
in their physiognomy belonging neither to animals nor to man: it is as
if two heathen gods had been represented in this shape. Chartreux is
built on the ruins of Diocletian's baths; and its church is adorned
by the granite pillars which were found there. The monks show this
place with much zeal: they belong to the world but by their interest
in its ruins. Their way of life presupposes either very limited minds
or the most exalted piety. The monotony of their routine recalls that
celebrated line--

     "Time o'er wrecked worlds sleeps motionless."

Their life seems but to be employed in contemplating death. Quickness
of thought, in so uniform an existence, would be the crudest of
tortures. In the midst of the cloister stand two cypresses, whose
heavy blackness the wind can scarcely stir. Near them is an almost
unheard fountain, slow and chary;---fit hour-glass for a seclusion in
which time glides so noiselessly. Sometimes the moon's pale glimmer
penetrates these shades--its absence or return forming quite an
event; and yet these monks might have found all the activity of war
insufficient for their spirits, had they been used to it. What an
inexhaustible field for conjecture we find in the combinations of
human destiny! What habits are thrust on us by chance, forming each
individual's world and history. To know another perfectly, would cost
the study of a life. What, then, is meant by knowledge of mankind?
Governed they may be by each other, but understood by God alone.

Oswald went next to the monastery of Bonaventure, built on the ruins
of Nero's palace: and where so many crimes had reigned remorselessly,
poor friars, tormented by conscientious scruples, doom themselves to
fasts and stripes for the least omission of duty. "Our only hope,"
said one, "is, that when we die, our faults will not have exceeded
our penances." Nevil, as he entered, stumbled over a trap, and asked
its purpose. "It is through that we are interred," answered one of
the youngest, already a prey to the bad air. The natives of the South
fear death so much, that it is wondrous to find there these perpetual
mementoes: yet nature is often fascinated by what she dreads; and such
an intoxication fills the soul exclusively. The antique sarcophagus of
a child serves as the fountain of this institution. The boasted palm
of Rome is the only tree of its garden; but the monks pay no attention
to external objects. Their rigorous discipline allows them no mental
liberty; their downcast eyes and stealthy pace show that they have
forgotten the use of freewill, and abdicated the government of self--an
empire which may well be called a 'heritage of woe!' This retreat,
however, acted but feebly on the mind of Oswald. Imagination revolts at
so manifest a desire to remind it of death in every possible way. When
such remembrancers are unexpected, when nature, and not man, suggests
them, the impression is far more salutary. Oswald grew calmer as he
strayed through the garden of San Giovanni et Paulo, whose brethren are
subjected to exercises less austere. Their dwelling lords over all the
ruins of old Rome. What a site for such asylum! The recluse consoles
himself for his nothingness, in contemplating the wrecks of ages past
away. Oswald walked long beneath the shady trees, so rare in Italy:
sometimes they intercepted his view of the city, only to augment the
pleasure of his next glimpse at it. All the steeples now sounded the
_Ave Maria_--

    *  *  *  "squilla de lontano

    Che paja il giorno pianger, che si muore."--DANTE.

"The bell from far mourneth the dying day." The evening prayer serves
to mark all time. "I will meet you an hour before, or an hour after
Ave Maria," say the Italians, so devoutly are the eras of night and
day distinguished. Oswald then enjoyed the spectacle of sunset, as the
luminary sank slowly amid ruins, and seemed submitting to decline,
even like the works of man. This brought back all his wonted thoughts.
The image of Corinne appeared too promising, too hopeful, for such
a moment. His soul sought for its father's, in the home of heavenly
spirits. This animated the clouds on which he gazed, and lent them the
sublime aspect of his immortal friend: he trusted that his prayers at
last might call down some beneficent pity, resembling a good father's
benediction.



CHAPTER II.


Oswald, in his anxiety to study the religion of the country, resolved
to hear some of its preachers, during Passion week. He counted the days
that must elapse ere his reunion with Corinne; while she was away, he
could endure no imaginative researches He forgave his own happiness
while beside her; but all that charmed him then would have redoubled
the pangs of his exile.

It is at night, and by half-extinguished tapers, that the preachers,
at this period, hold forth. All the women are in black, to commemorate
the death of Jesus: there is something very affecting in these yearly
weeds, that have been renewed for so many centuries. One enters the
noble churches with true emotion; their tombs prepare us for serious
thought, but the preacher too often dissipates all this in an instant.
His pulpit is a somewhat long tribunal, from one end to the other of
which he walks, with a strangely mechanical agitation. He fails not to
start with some phrase to which, at the end of the sentence, he returns
like a pendulum; though, by his impassioned gestures, you would think
him very likely to forget it: but this is a systematic fury, "a fit of
regular and voluntary distraction," often seen in Italy, and indicating
none but superficial or artificial feelings. A crucifix is hung in the
pulpit; the preacher takes it down, kisses, presses it in his arms, and
then hangs it up again, with perfect coolness, as soon as the pathetic
passage is got through. Another method for producing effect is pulling
off and putting on his cap, with inconceivable rapidity. One of these
men attacked Voltaire and Rousseau on the skepticism of the age. He
threw his cap into the middle of the rostrum, as the representative of
Jean Jacques, and then cried: "Now, philosopher of Geneva, what have
you to say against my arguments?" He was silent for some seconds, as
if expecting a reply; but, as the cap said nothing, he replaced it on
his head, and terminated the discourse by adding: "Well, since I've
convinced you, let us say no more about it." These uncouth scenes are
frequent in Rome, where real pulpit oratory is extremely rare. Religion
is there respected as an all-powerful law; its ceremonies captivate
the senses; but its preachers deal less in morals than in dogmas that
never reach the heart. Eloquence, in this, as in many other branches
of literature, is there devoted to common-places, that can neither
describe nor explain. A new thought raises a kind of rebellion in minds
at once so ardent and so languid, that they need uniformity to calm
them; and love it for the repose it brings. There is an etiquette
in these sermons, by which words take precedence of ideas; and this
order would be deranged, if the preacher spoke from his own heart, or
searched his soul for what he ought to say. Christian philosophy, which
finds analogies between religion and humanity, is as little understood
in Italy, as philosophy of every other sort. To speculate on religion
is deemed almost as scandalous as scheming against it; so wedded are
all men to mere forms and old usages. The worship of the Virgin is
particularly dear to southern people; it seems allied to all that is
most chaste and tender in their love of woman; but every preacher
treats this subject with the same exaggerated rhetoric, unconscious
that his gestures perpetually turn it into ridicule. There is scarcely
to be heard, from one Italian pulpit, a single specimen of correct
accent, or natural delivery.

Oswald fled from this most fatiguing of inflictions--that of affected
vehemence--and sought the Coliseum, where a Capuchin was to preach in
the open air, at the foot of an altar, in the centre of the inclosure
which marks the road to the cross. What a theme were this arena,
where martyrs succeeded gladiators: but there was no hope of hearing
it dilated on by the poor Capuchin, who knew nothing of the history
of man, save in his own life. Without, however, coming there to hear
his bad sermon, Oswald felt interested by the objects around him. The
congregation was principally composed of the Camaldoline fraternity,
at that time attired in gray gowns that covered both head and body,
leaving but two little openings for the eyes, and having a most ghostly
air. Their unseen faces were prostrated to the earth; they beat their
breasts; and when their preacher threw himself on his knees, crying:
"Mercy and pity!" they followed his example. As this appeal from
wretchedness to compassion, from Earth to Heaven, echoed through the
classic porticos, it was impossible not to experience a deeply pious
feeling in the soul's inmost sanctuary. Oswald shuddered; he remained
standing, that he might not pretend to a faith which was not his own;
yet it cost him an effort to forbear from this fellowship with mortals,
whoever they were, thus humbling themselves before their God; for,
does not an invocation to heavenly sympathy equally become us all?

The people were struck by his noble and foreign aspect, but not
displeased with his omitting to join them; for no men on earth can be
more tolerant than the Romans. They are accustomed to persons who come
among them but as sight-seers; and, either from pride or indolence,
never seek to make strangers participate in their opinions. It is a
still more extraordinary fact, that, at this period especially, there
are many who take on themselves the strictest punishments; yet, while
the scourge is in their hands, the church-door is still open, and every
stranger welcome to enter as usual. They do nothing for the sake of
being looked at, nor are they frightened from anything because they
happen to be seen; they proceed towards their own aims, or pleasures,
without knowing that there is such a thing as vanity, whose only aim
and pleasure consists in the applause of others.



CHAPTER III.


Much has been said of Passion week in Rome. A number of foreigners
arrive during Lent, to enjoy this spectacle; and as the music at the
Sixtine Chapel, and the illumination of St. Peter's, are _unique_ of
their kind, they naturally attract much curiosity, which is not always
satisfied. The dinner served by the Pope to the twelve representatives
of the Apostles, whose feet he bathes, must recall solemn ideas; yet a
thousand inevitable circumstances often destroy their dignity. All the
contributors to these customs are not equally absorbed by devotion;
ceremonies so oft repeated become mechanical to most of their agents;
the young priests hurry over the service with a dexterous activity
anything but imposing. All the mysteries that should veil religion are
dissipated, by the attention we cannot help giving to the manner in
which each performs his function. The avidity of the one party for the
meat set before them, the indifference of the other to their prayers
and genuflections, deprive the whole of its due sublimity.

The ancient costumes still worn by the ecclesiastics ill accord with
their modern heads. The bearded Patriarch of the Greek Church is the
most venerable figure left for such offices. The old fashion, too, of
men courteseying like women, is dangerous to decorum. The past and the
present, indeed, rather jostle than harmonize; little care is taken
to strike the imagination, and none to prevent its being distracted.
A worship so brilliantly majestic in its externals is certainly well
fitted to elevate the soul; but more caution should be observed, lest
its ceremonies degenerate into plays, in which the actors get by rote
what they have to do, and at what time; when to pray, when to have done
praying; when to kneel, and when to rise. Court rules introduced at
church restrain that soaring elasticity which alone can give man hope
of drawing near his Maker.

The generality of foreigners observe this; yet few Romans but yearly
find fresh pleasure in these sacred fêtes. It is a peculiarity in
Italian character, that versatility of taste leads not to inconstancy;
and that vivacity removes all necessity for truth; it deems everything
more grand, more beautiful than reality. The Italians, patient and
persevering even in their amusements, let imagination embellish what
they possess, instead of bidding them crave what they have not; and as
elsewhere vanity teaches men to seem fastidious, in Italy, warmth of
temperament makes it a pleasure to admire.

After all the Romans had said to Nevil of their Passion week, he
had expected much more than he had found. He sighed for the august
simplicity of the English Church, and returned home discontented with
himself, for not having been affected by that which he ought to have
felt. In such cases we fancy that the soul is withered, and fear that
we have lost that enthusiasm, without which reason itself would serve
but to disgust us with life.

CHAPTER IV.


Good Friday restored all the religious emotions of Lord Nevil; he was
about to regain Corinne--the sweet hopes of love blended with that
piety, from which nothing save the factitious career of the world can
entirely wean us. He sought the Sixtine Chapel, to hear the far-famed
_Miserére_. It was yet light enough for him to see the pictures of
Michael Angelo--the Day of Judgment, treated by a genius worthy so
terrible a subject. Dante had infected this painter with the bad taste
of representing mythological beings in the presence of Christ; but it
is chiefly as demons that he has characterized these Pagan creations.
Beneath the arches of the roof are seen the prophets and heathen
priestesses, called as witnesses by the Christians (_teste David cum
Sibylla_); a host of angels surround them. The roof is painted as if
to bring heaven nearer to us; but that heaven is gloomy and repulsive.
Day scarcely penetrates the windows, which throw on the pictures more
shadows than beams. This dimness, too, enlarges the already commanding
figures of Michael Angelo. The funereal perfume of incense fills the
aisles, and every sensation prepares us for that deeper one which
awaits the touch of music. While Oswald was lost in these reflections,
he beheld Corinne, whom he had not expected yet to see, enter that
part of the chapel devoted to females, and separated by a grating from
the rest. She was in black; pale with abstinence, and so tremulous,
as she perceived him, that she was obliged to support herself by the
balustrade. At this moment the _Miserére_ commenced. Voices well
practised in this pure and antique chant rose from an unseen gallery;
every instant rendered the chapel darker. The music seemed to float
in the air; no longer in the voluptuously impassioned strains which
the lovers had heard together a week since, but such as seemed bidding
them renounce all earthly things. Corinne knelt before the grate.
Oswald himself was forgotten. At such a moment she would have loved
to die. If the separation of soul and body were but pangless; if an
angel would bear away thought and feeling on his wings--divine sparks,
that shall return to their source--death would be then the heart's
spontaneous act, an ardent prayer most mercifully granted. The verses
of this psalm are sung alternately, and in very contrasted styles. The
heavenly harmony of one is answered by murmured recitative, heavy and
even harsh, like the reply of worldings to the appeal of sensibility,
or the realities of life defeating the vows of generous souls: when
the soft choir reply, hope springs again, again to be frozen by that
dreary sound which inspires not terror, but utter discouragement; yet
the last burst, most reassuring of all, leaves just the stainless and
exquisite sensation in the soul which we would pray to be accorded when
we die. The lights are extinguished; night advances; the pictures gleam
like prophetic phantoms through the dusk; the deepest silence reigns:
speech would be insupportable in this state of self-communion; every
one steals slowly away, reluctant to resume the vulgar interests of the
world.

Corinne followed the procession to St. Peter's, as yet illumined but
by a cross of fire: this type of grief shining alone through the
immense obscure, fair image of Christianity amid the shades of life! A
wan light falls over the statues on the tombs. The living, who throng
these arches, appear but pigmies, compared with the effigies of the
dead. Around the cross is a space cleared, where the Pope, arrayed
in white, with all the cardinals behind him, prostrate themselves to
the earth, and remain nearly half an hour profoundly mute. None hear
what they request; but they are old, going before us towards the tomb,
whither we must follow. Grant us, O God! the grace so to ennoble age,
that the last days of life may be the first of immortality. Corinne,
too, the young and lovely Corinne, knelt near the priests; the mild
light weakened not the lustre of her eyes. Oswald looked on her as an
entrancing picture, as well as an adored woman. Her orison concluded,
she rose; her lover dared not approach, revering the meditations in
which he believed her still plunged; but she came to him, with all
the rapture of reunion;--happiness was so shed over her every action,
that she received the greetings of her friends with unwonted gayety.
St. Peters, indeed, had suddenly become a public promenade, where
every one made appointments of business or of pleasure. Oswald was
astonished at this power of running from one extreme to another; and,
much as he rejoiced in the vivacity of Corinne, he felt surprised at
her thus instantly banishing all traces of her late emotions. He could
not conceive how this glorious edifice, on so solemn a day, could be
converted into the _Café_ of Rome, where people meet for amusement; and
seeing Corinne encircled by admirers, to whom she chatted cheerfully,
as if no longer conscious where she stood, he felt some mistrust as to
the levity of which she might be capable. She read his thoughts, and
hastily breaking from her party, took his arm to walk the church with
him, saying: "I have never spoken to you of my religious sentiments;
let me do so now; perhaps I may thus disperse the clouds I see rising
in your mind."



CHAPTER V.


"The difference of our creeds, my dear Oswald," continued Corinne,
"is the cause of the unspoken displeasure you cannot prevent me from
detecting. Your faith is serious and severe, ours lively and tender.
It is generally believed that my church is the most rigorous; it may
be so, in a country where struggles exist between the two; but here
we have no doctrinal dissensions. England has experienced many. The
result is, that Catholicism here has taken an indulgent character,
such as it cannot have where Reformation is armed against it. Our
religion, like that of the ancients, animates the arts, inspires the
poets, and makes part of all the joys of life; while yours, established
in a country where reason predominates over fancy, is stamped with a
moral sternness that will never be effaced. Ours calls on us in the
name of love; yours in that of duty. Your principles are liberal; our
dogmas bigoted; yet our orthodox despotism has some fellowship with
private circumstances; and your religious liberty exacts respect for
its own laws, without any exception. It is true that our monastics
undergo sad hardships, but they choose them freely; their state is a
mysterious engagement between God and man. Among the secular Catholics
here, love, hope, and faith are the chief virtues, all announcing, all
bestowing, peace. Far from our priests forbidding us to rejoice, they
tell us that we thus evince our gratitude for the gifts of Heaven.
They enjoin us to practise charity and repentance, as proofs of our
respect for our faith, and our desire to please its Founder; but they
refuse us not the absolution we zealously implore; and the errors of
the heart meet here a mercy elsewhere denied. Did not our Saviour tell
the Magdalene that much should be pardoned to the greatness of her
love? As fair a sky as ours echoed these words: shall we then despair
of our Creator's pity?"--"Corinne," returned Nevil, "how can I combat
arguments so sweet, so needful to me? and yet I must. It is not for a
day I love Corinne; to her I look for a long futurity of content and
virtue. The purest religion is that which sacrifices passion to duty,
as a continual homage to the Supreme Being. A moral life is the best
offering. We degrade the Creator by attributing to him a wish that
tends not towards our intellectual perfection. Paternity, that godlike
symbol of faultless sway, seeks but to render its children better and
happier. How, then, suppose that God demands of man actions that have
not the welfare of man for their object? what confused notions spring
from the habit of attaching more importance to religious ceremonies
than to active worth! You know that it is just after Passion week the
greatest number of murders are committed in Rome. The long fast has,
in more senses than one, put its votaries in possession of funds, and
they spend the treasures of their penitence in assassinations. The most
disgusting criminal here scruples to eat meat on Fridays; convinced
that the greatest of crimes were that of disobeying the ordinances
of the Church: all conscience is lavished on that point; as if the
Divinity were like one of this world's rulers, who prefers flattering
submission to faithful service. Is this courtier-like behavior to
be substituted for the respect we owe the Eternal, as the source
and the recompense of a forbearing and spotless life? The external
demonstrations of Italian Catholicism excuse the soul from all interior
piety. The spectacle over, the feeling ends--the duty is done; no one
remains, as with us, long occupied by thoughts born of strict and
sincere self-examination."

"You are severe, my dear Oswald," said Corinne; "this is not the first
time I have remarked it. If religion consists but in morality, how is
it superior to philosophy and reason? And what piety could we truly
feel, if our principal end was that of stifling all the feelings of
the heart? The Stoics knew almost as much as ourselves of austere
self-denials; but something more due to Christianity is the enthusiasm
which weds it with all the affections of the soul--the power of loving
and sympathizing. It is the most indulgent worship, which best favors
the flight of our spirits towards Heaven. What means the parable of the
Prodigal Son, if not, that true love of God is preferred even above
the most exact fulfilment of duty? He quitted the paternal roof; his
brother remained beneath it. He had plunged into all the pleasures of
the world; his brother had never, for an instant, broken the regularity
of domestic life; but the wanderer returned, all tears and his beloved
father received him with rejoicing! Ah! doubtless, among the mysteries
of nature, _love_ is all that is left us of our heavenly heritage! Our
very virtues are often too constitutional for us always to comprehend
what is right, or what is the secret impulse that directs us. I ask my
God to teach me to adore him. I feel the effect of my petition by the
tears I shed. But, to sustain this disposition, religious exercises
are more necessary than you may think; a constant intercourse with the
Divinity; daily habits that have no connection with the interests of
life, but belong solely to the invisible world. External objects are
of great assistance to piety. The soul would fall back upon herself,
if music and the arts reanimated not that poetic genius, which is also
the genius of religion. The vulgarest man, while he prays, suffers,
or trusts in Heaven, would express himself like Milton, Homer, or
Tasso, if education had clothed his thoughts in words. There are but
two distinct classes of men born--those who feel enthusiasm, and
those who deride it; all the rest is the work of society. One class
have no words for their sentiments; the other know what they ought
to say to hide the void of their hearts; but the stream flowed from
the rock at the command of Heaven; even so gush forth true talent,
true religion, true love. The pomp of our worship; those pictures of
kneeling saints, whose looks express continual prayer; those statues
placed on tombs, as if to awaken one day with the dead; our churches,
with their lofty aisles--all seem intimately connected with devout
ideas. I love this splendid homage, made by man to that which promises
him neither fortune nor power; which neither rewards nor punishes, save
by the feelings it inspires; I grow proud of my kind, as I recognize
something so disinterested. The magnificence of religion cannot be
too much increased. I love this prodigality of terrestrial gifts to
another world; offerings from time to eternity; sufficient for the
morrow are the cares required by human economy. Oh! how I love what
would be useless waste, were life nothing better than a career of toil
for despicable gain! if this earth be but our road to heaven, what can
we do better than so elevate our souls that they feel the Infinite,
the Invisible, the Eternal, in the midst of the limits that surround
them? Jesus permitted a weak, and, perhaps, repentant woman, to steep
his head in precious balms, saying to those who bade her turn them
to more profitable use; 'Why trouble ye the woman? the poor ye have
always with ye, but me ye have not always.' Alas! whatever is good or
sublime on this earth is ours but for awhile; we have it not always.
Age, infirmities, and death soon sully the heavenly dewdrop that only
rests on flowers. Dear Oswald, let us, then, blend love, religion,
genius, sunshine, odors, music, and poetry. There is no Atheism but
cold selfish baseness. Christ has said: 'When two or three are gathered
together in my name, I will be amongst them;' and what, O God! _is_
assembling in thy name, if we do not so while enjoying the charms of
nature, therein praising and thanking thee for our life; above all,
when some other heart, created by thy hands, responds entirely to our
own?"

So celestial an inspiration animated the countenance of Corinne, that
Oswald could scarce refrain from falling at her feet in that august
temple. He was long silent, delightedly musing over her words, and
reading their meaning in her looks: he could not, however, abandon a
cause so dear to him as that he had undertaken; therefore resumed:
"Corinne, hear a few words more from your friend: his heart is not
seared; no, no, believe me, if I require austerity of principle and
action, it is because it gives our feelings depth and duration; if
I look for reason in religion--that is, if I reject contradictory
dogmas, and human means for affecting the soul--it is because I see
the Divinity in reason as in enthusiasm; if I cannot allow man to be
deprived of any of his faculties, it is because they are all scarce
sufficient for his comprehension of the truths, revealed to him as
much by mental reflection as by heartfelt instinct--the existence of
a God, and the immortality of the soul. To these solemn thoughts, so
entwined with virtue, what can be added, that, in fact, belongs to
them? The poetic zeal to which you lend so many attractions, is not,
I dare assert, the most salutary kind of devotion! Corinne, how can
it prepare us for the innumerable sacrifices that duty exacts? It has
no revelation, save in its own impulses; while its future destiny
is seen but through clouds. Now we, to whom Christianity renders it
clear and positive, may deem such a sensation our reward, but cannot
make it our sole guide. You describe the existence of the blest, not
that of mortals; a religious life is a combat, not a hymn. If we were
not sent here to repress our own and others' evil inclinations, there
would, as you say, be no distinctions save between apathetic and
ardent minds. But man is more harsh and rugged than you think him;
rational piety and imperious duty alone can check his proud excesses.
Whatever you may think of exterior pomp, and numerous ceremonies,
dearest! the contemplation of the universe and its Author, will ever
be the only worship which so fills the heart that self-knowledge can
find in it nothing either idle or absurd. The dogmas that wound my
reason, also chill my enthusiasm. Doubtless, the world is in itself
an incomprehensible mystery, and he were most unwise who refused to
believe whatever he could not explain; but contradictions are always
the work of man. The secrets of God are beyond our mental powers, but
not opposed to them. A German philosopher has said: 'I know but two
lovely things in the universe--the starry sky above our heads, and
the sense of duty within our hearts.' In sooth, all the wonders of
creation are included in these. Far from a simple religion withering
the heart, I used to think, ere I knew you, Corinne, that such alone
could concentrate and perpetuate its affections. I have witnessed the
most austere purity of conduct from a man of inexhaustible tenderness.
I have seen it preserve, in age, a virgin innocence which the storms of
passion must else have blighted. Repentance is assuredly commendable,
and I, more than most men, had need rely on its efficacy; but repeated
penitence wearies the soul; it is a sentiment that can but once
regenerate us. Redemption accomplished, cannot be renewed; accustomed
to the attempt, we lose the strength of love; for it requires strength
of mind to love God constantly. I object to the splendid forms which
here act so powerfully on the fancy, because I would have imagination
modest and retiring, like the heart: emotions extorted from it, are
always less forcible than those that spring spontaneously. In the
Cevennes, I heard a Protestant minister preach one eve among the
mountains: he addressed the tombs of the Frenchmen, banished by their
brothers, and promised their friends that they should meet them in a
better world: a virtuous life, he said, would secure that blessing,
adding, 'Do good to man, that God may heal the wounds within your
breasts!' He wondered at the inflexibility with which the creature of
a day dared treat his fellow-worm; and spoke of that terrible death,
which all conceive, but none fully expound. In short, he said naught
that was not touching, true, and perfectly in harmony with nature. The
distant cataract, the sparkling starlight, seemed expressing the same
thoughts in other ways. There was the magnificence of nature, the only
one whose spectacles offend not the unfortunate; and this imposing
simplicity affected the soul as it was never affected by the most
brilliant of ceremonies."

On Easter Sunday, Oswald and Corinne went to the Place of St. Peter's,
to see the Pope, from the highest balcony of the church, call down
Heaven's blessing on the earth: as he pronounced _Urbi et orbi_--on
the city and the world--the people knelt, and our lovers felt all
creeds alike. Religion links men with each other, unless self-love and
fanaticism render it a cause of jealousy and hate. To pray together, in
whatever tongue or ritual, is the most tender brotherhood of hope and
sympathy that men can contract in this life.



CHAPTER VI.


Easter was over, yet Corinne spoke not of accomplishing her promise,
by confiding her history to Nevil. Hurt by this silence, he one day
told her that he intended paying a visit to their vaunted Naples. She
understood his feelings, and proposed to make the journey with him;
hoping to escape the avowal he expected from her, by giving him a proof
of love which ought to be so satisfactory: besides, she thought that
he would not take her with him, unless he designed to become hers for
life. Her anxious looks supplicated a favorable reply. He could not
resist, though surprised at the simplicity with which she made this
offer; yet he hesitated for some time, till, seeing her bosom throb,
and her eyes fill, he consented, without considering the importance of
such a resolution. Corinne was overwhelmed with joy: at that moment
she implicitly relied on his fidelity. The day was fixed, and the
sweet perspective of travelling together banished every other idea.
Not an arrangement they made for this purpose but was a source of
pleasure. Happy mood! in which every detail of life derives a charm
from some fond hope. Too soon comes the time when each hour fatigues;
when each morning costs us an effort, to support our walking, and drag
on the day to its close. As Nevil left Corinne, in order to prepare
everything for their departure, the Count d'Erfeuil called on her,
and learned her plan. "You cannot think of it!" he said: "make a tour
with a man who has not even promised to be your husband! what will
become of you if he turns deserter?"--"I should become," replied she,
"but what I must be, in any situation, if he ceased to love me, the
most unhappy person in the world."--"Yes; but if you had done nothing
to compromise your name, you would still remain yourself."--"Myself!"
she repeated, "when the best feelings of my soul were blighted, and my
heart broken?"--"The public would not guess that; and with a little
caution you might preserve its opinion."--"And why humor that opinion,
unless it were to gain one merit the more in the eyes of love?"--"We
may cease to love," answered the Count, "but we do not cease to live
in need of society."--"If I could think," she exclaimed, "that the day
would come when Oswald's affections were no longer mine all, I should
have ceased to love already. What is love, if it can calculate and
provide against its own decay? No; like devotion, it dissipates all
other interests, and delights in an entire sacrifice of self."--"And
can a person of your mind turn her brain with such nonsense?" asked
d'Erfeuil: "it is certainly to the advantage of us men, that women
think as you do; but _you_ must not lose your superiority; it ought to
be in some way useful."--"Useful!" cried Corinne; "Oh! I shall owe it
enough, if it teaches me the better to appreciate the tender generosity
of Nevil."--"Nevil is like other men," rejoined the Count; "he will
return to his country, resume his career there, and be reasonable at
last; you will expose your reputation most imprudently by going to
Naples with him."--"I know not his intentions," she answered; "and,
perhaps, it would have been better to have reflected ere I loved him;
but now--what matters one sacrifice more? Does not my life depend on
his love? Indeed, I feel some solace in leaving myself without one
resource; there never is any for wounded hearts, but the world may
sometimes think that such remains; and I love to know that even in this
respect my misfortune would be complete, if Nevil abandoned me."--"And
does he know how far you commit yourself for his sake?"--"No; I have
taken great pains, as he is but imperfectly acquainted with the customs
of this country, to exaggerate the liberty it permits. Give me your
word that you will say nothing to him on this head. I wish him to be
ever free; he cannot constitute my felicity by giving up any portion of
his own. His love is the flower of my life; and neither his delicacy
nor his goodness could reanimate it, if once faded. I conjure you,
then, dear Count, leave me to my fate. Nothing that you know of the
heart's affections can suit my case: all you say is right, and very
applicable to ordinary persons and situations; but you innocently do
me great wrong in judging me by the common herd, for whom there are so
many maxims ready made. I enjoy, I suffer, in my own way, and it is of
me alone that those should think who seek to influence my welfare."
The self-love of d'Erfeuil was a little stung by the futility of his
advice; and, by the mark of preference shown to Nevil, he knew that
he himself was not dear to Corinne, and that Oswald was; yet that all
this should be so publicly evinced was somewhat disagreeable to him.
The success of any man, with any woman, is apt to displease even his
best friends. "I see I can do nothing here," he added; "but, when my
words are fulfilled, you will remember me; meantime I shall leave Rome:
without you and Nevil I should be ennuied to death. I shall surely
see you both again in Italy or Scotland; for I have taken a fancy to
travel, while waiting for better things. Forgive my counsel, charming
Corinne, and ever depend on my devotion to you." She thanked and parted
from him with regret. She had known him at the same time with Oswald;
that was a link she liked not to see broken; but she acted as she had
told d'Erfeuil she should do. Some anxiety still troubled Oswald's joy:
he would fain have obtained her secret, that he might be certain they
were not to be separated by any invincible obstacle; but she declared
she would explain nothing till they were at Naples, and threw a veil
over what might be said of the step she was taking. Oswald lent himself
to this illusion: love, in a weak, uncertain character, deceives
by halves, reason remains half clear, and present emotions decide
which of the two halves shall become the whole. The mind of Nevil was
singularly expansive and penetrating; yet he could only judge himself
correctly in the past; his existing situation appeared to him ever in
confusion. Susceptible alike of rashness and remorse, of passion and
timidity, he was incapable of understanding his own state, until events
had decided the combat. When the friends of Corinne were apprised of
her plan they were greatly distressed, especially Prince Castel Forte,
who resolved to follow her as soon as possible. He had not the vanity
to oppose her accepted lover, but he could not support the frightful
void left by the absence of his fair friend; he had no acquaintance
whom he was not wont to meet at her house; he visited no other. The
society she attracted round her must be dispersed by her departure, so
wrecked that it would soon be impossible to restore it. He was little
accustomed to live among his family; though extremely intelligent,
study fatigued him; the day would have been too heavy but for his morn
and evening visit to Corinne. She was going; he could but guess why;
yet secretly promised himself to rejoin her, not like an exacting
lover, but as one ever ready to console her, if unhappy, and who might
have been but too sure that such a time would come. Corinne felt some
melancholy in loosening all the ties of habit; the life she had led in
Rome was agreeable to her; she was the centre round which circled all
its celebrated artists and men of letters--perfect freedom had lent
charms to her existence: what was she to be now? if destined to be
Oswald's wife, he would take her to England: how should she be received
there? how restrain herself to a career so different from that of her
last six years? These thoughts did but pass over her mind; love for
Oswald effaced their light track. She saw him, heard him, and counted
the hours but by his presence or absence. Who can refuse the happiness
that seeks them? Corinne, of all women, was the least forethoughted;
nor hope nor fear was made for her; her faith in the future was
indistinct, and in this respect her fancy did her as little good as
harm. The morning of her departure Castel Forte came to her, with tears
in his eyes. "Will you return no more to Rome?" he asked.--"My God,
yes!" she cried; "we shall be back in a month."--"But, if you wed Lord
Nevil, you will leave Italy."--"Leave Italy!" she sighed.--"Yes; the
country where we speak your language, and understand you so well; where
you are so vividly admired; and for friends, Corinne, where will you be
beloved as you are here? where find the arts, the thoughts that please
you? Can a single attachment constitute your life? Do not language,
customs, and manners, compose that love of country which inflicts such
terrible grief on the exile?"--"What say you?" cried Corinne: "have I
not experienced it? Did not that very grief decide my fate?" She looked
sadly on the statues that decked her room; then on the Tiber, rolling
beneath her windows; and the sky whose smile seemed inviting her to
stay; but at that moment Oswald crossed the bridge of St. Angelo on
horseback. "Here he is!" cried Corinne; she had scarcely said the words
ere he was beside her. She ran before him, and both, impatient to set
forth, took their places in the carriage; yet Corinne paid a kind adieu
to Castel Forte; but it was lost among the shouts of postilions, the
neighing of horses, and all the bustle of departure--sometimes sad,
sometimes intoxicating--just as fear or hope may be inspired by the new
chances of coming destiny.



BOOK XI.


NAPLES, AND THE HERMITAGE OF ST. SALVADOR.



CHAPTER I.


Oswald was proud of bearing off his conquest; though usually disturbed
in his enjoyments by reflections and regrets, he felt less so now: not
that he was decided, but that he did not trouble himself to be so;
he yielded to the course of events, hoping to be borne towards the
haven of his wishes. They crossed the Campagna d'Albano, where still
is shown the supposed tomb of the Horatii and Curatii.[1] They passed
near the Lake of Nemi, and the sacred woods that surround it, where
it is said Hippolitus was restored to life by Diana, who permitted no
horses ever to enter it more, in remembrance of her young favorite's
misfortune. Thus, in Italy, almost at every step, history and poetry
add to the graces of nature, sweeten the memory of the past, and seem
to preserve it in eternal youth. Oswald and Corinne next traversed the
Pontine Marshes, fertile and pestilent at once, unenlivened by a single
habitation. Squalid-looking men put to the horses, advising you to keep
awake while passing through this air, as sleep is ever the herald of
death. Buffaloes, of the most stupid ferocity, draw the plough, which
imprudent cultivators sometimes employ upon this fatal land; and the
most brilliant sunshine lights up the whole. Unwholesome swamps in
the north are indicated by their frightful aspects; but in the most
dangerous countries of the south nature deceives the traveller by her
serenest welcome. If it be true that slumber is so perilous on these
fens, the drowsiness their heat produces adds still more to our sense
of the perfidy around us. Nevil watched constantly over Corinne. When
she languidly closed her eyes, or leaned her head on the shoulder of
Thérésina, he awakened her with inexhaustible terror; and, silent as he
was by nature, now found inexhaustible topics for conversation, ever
new, to prevent her submitting for an instant to this murderous sleep.
May we not forgive the heart of woman for the despairing regret with
which it clings to the days when she was beloved? when her existence
was so essential to that of another, that its every instant was
protected by his arm? What isolation must succeed that delicious time!
Happy they whom the sacred link of marriage gently leads from love to
friendship, without one cruel moment having torn their hearts.

At last our voyagers arrived at Terracina, on the coast bordering
the kingdom of Naples. There the south indeed begins, and receives
the stranger in its full magnificence. The _Campagna Felicé_ seems
separated from the rest of Europe, not only by the sea, but by the
destructive land which must be crossed to reach it. It is as if nature
wished to keep her loveliest secret, and therefore rendered the road
to it so hazardous. Not far from Terracina is the promontory chosen
by poets as the abode of Circea, behind rises Mount Anxur, where
Theodoric, king of the Goths, built one of his strongest castles. There
are few traces of these invading barbarians left, and those, being
mere works of destruction, are confounded with the works of time. The
northern nations have not given Italy that warlike aspect which Germany
retains. It seems as if the soft earth of Ausonia could not keep the
fortifications and citadels that bristle through northern snows.
Rarely is a Gothic edifice or feudal castle to be found here. The
antique Romans still reign over the memory even of their conquerors.
The whole of the mountain above Terracina is covered with orange
and lemon trees, that delicately embalm the air. Nothing in our own
climes resemble the effect of this perfume: it is like that of some
exquisite melody, exciting and inebriating talent into poetry. The
aloes and large-leaved cactus that abound here remind one of Africa's
gigantic vegetation, almost fearfully; they seem belonging to a realm
of tyranny and violence. Everything is strange as another world, known
but by the songs of antique bards, who, in all their lays, evinced
more imagination than truth. As they entered Terracina, the children
threw into Corinne's carriage immense heaps of flowers, gathered by the
wayside, or on the hills, and strewn at random, so confident are they
in the prodigality of nature. The wagons that bring the harvest from
the fields are daily garlanded with roses: one sees and hears, besides
these smiling pictures, the waves that rage unlashed by storms against
the rocks, eternal barriers that chafe the ocean's pride.

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

    "And hear you not still how resounds
    The hoarse and deep roar of the sea?"

This endless motion, this aimless strength, renewed eternally, Whose
cause and termination are alike unknown to us, draws us to the shore
whence so grand a spectacle may be seen, till we feel a fearful desire
to rush into its waves, and stun our thoughts amid their tumultuous
voices.

Towards evening all is calm. Corinne and Nevil wandered slowly forth:
they stepped on flowers, and scattered their sweets as they pressed
them. The nightingale rests on the rose-bushes, and blends the purest
music with the richest scents. All nature's charms seem mutually
attracted; but the most entrancing and inexpressible of all is the
mildness of the air. In contemplating a fine northern view, the climate
always qualifies our pleasure. Like false notes in a concert, the petty
sensations of cold and damp distract attention; but in approaching
Naples you breathe so freely, feel such perfect ease; with such
bounteous friendship does nature welcome you, that nothing impairs
your delight. Man's every relation, in our lands, is with society: in
warm climates his affections overflow among exterior objects. It is
not that the south has not its melancholy--in what scenes can human
destiny fail to awaken it?--but here it is unmixed with discontent or
anxiety. Elsewhere life, such as it is, suffices not the faculties of
man: here those faculties suffice not for a life whose superabundance
of sensation induce a pensive indolence, for which those who feel it
can scarce account.

During the night the fire-flies fill the air: one might suppose that
the burning earth thus let her flames escape in light: these insects
wanton through the trees, sometimes pitching on their leaves; and as
the wind waves them, the uncertain gleam of these little stars is
varied in a thousand ways. The sand also contains a number of small
ferruginous stones, that shine through it, as if earth cherished in her
breast the last rays of the vivifying sun. Everywhere is united a life
and a repose that satisfy at once all the wishes of existence.

Corinne yielded to the charm of such a night with heartfelt joy. Oswald
could not conceal his emotion. Often he pressed her hand to his heart,
then withdrew, returned, retired again, in respect for her who ought
to be the companion of his life. She thought not of her danger: such
was her esteem for him, that, had he demanded the gift of her entire
being, she would not have doubted that such prayer was but a solemn vow
to make her his wife; she was glad, however, that he triumphed over
himself, and honored her by the sacrifice: her soul was so replete with
love and happiness, that she could not form another wish. Oswald was
far from this calm: fired by her beauty, he once embraced her knees
with violence, and seemed to have lost all empire over his passion; but
Corinne looked on him with so sweet a fear, as if confessing his power,
in entreating him not to abuse it, that this humble defence extorted
more reverence than any other could have done. They saw reflected in
the wave a torch which some unknown hand bore along the beach, to a
rendezvous at a neighboring house. "He goes to his love," said Oswald;
"and for me the happiness of this day will soon be over." Corinne's
eyes, then raised to heaven, were filled with tears. Oswald, fearing
he had offended her, fell at her feet, begging her to pardon the love
which hurried him away. She gave him her hand, proposing their return
together. "Oswald," she said, "you will, I am assured, respect her you
love; you know that the simplest request of yours would be resistless:
it is you, then, who must answer for me; you, who would refuse me for
your wife, if you had rendered me unworthy to be so."--"Well," said
Oswald, "since you know the cruel potency of your will over my heart,
whence, whence this sadness?"--"Alas!" she replied, "I had told myself
that my last moments passed with you were the happiest of my life; and,
as I looked gratefully to heaven, I know not by what chance a childish
superstition came back upon my mind. The moon was hid by a cloud of
fatal aspect. I have always found the sky either paternal or angry; and
I tell you, Oswald, that to-night it condemns our love."--"Dearest,"
cried he, "the only auguries are good or evil actions; and have I not
this evening immolated my most ardent desires to virtue?"--"It is
well," added Corinne: "if you are not involved in this presage, it may
be that the stormy heaven menaces but myself."


[1] There is an exquisite account of the Lake Albano, in a collection
of poems by Madame Brunn (formerly Munter), one of the most talented
and imaginative women of her country.



CHAPTER II.


They arrived at Naples by day, amid its immense population of animated
idlers. They first crossed the Strada del Toledo, and saw the Lazzaroni
lying on the pavement, or crouching in the wicker works that serve
them for dwellings night and day; this savage state, blending with
civilization, has a very original air. There are many among these men
who know not even their own names; who come to confession anonymously,
because they cannot tell what to call the offenders. There is a
subterranean grotto, where thousands of Lazzaroni pass their lives,
merely going at noon to look on the sun, and sleeping during the rest
of the day, while their wives spin. In climates where food and raiment
are so cheap, it requires a very active government to spread sufficient
national emulation; material subsistence is so easy there that they
dispense with the industry requisite elsewhere for our daily bread.
Idleness and ignorance, combined with the volcanic air they imbibe,
must produce ferocity when the passions are excited; yet these people
are no worse than others; they have imagination which might prove the
parent of disinterested action, and lead to good results, did their
political and religious institutions set them good examples.

The Calabrese march towards the fields they cultivate with a musician
at their head, to whose tunes they occasionally dance, by way of
variety. Every year is held, near Naples, a fête to our Lady of the
Grotto, at which the girls dance to the sound of tambourines and
castanets; and they often make it a clause in their marriage contracts,
that their husbands shall take them annually to this fête. There was
an actor of eighty, who for sixty years diverted the Neapolitans, in
their national part of Polichinello. What immortality does the soul
deserve which has thus long employed the body? The people of Naples
know no good but pleasure; yet even such taste is preferable to barren
selfishness. It is true that they love money inordinately; if you ask
your way in the streets, the man addressed holds out his hand as soon
as he has pointed--they are often too lazy for words; but their love
of gold is not that of the miser: they spend as they receive it. If
coin were introduced among savages, they would demand it in the same
way. What the Neapolitans want most is a sense of dignity. They perform
generous and benevolent actions rather from impulse than principle.
Their theories are worth nothing; and public opinion has no influence
over them; but, if any here escape this moral anarchy, their conduct is
more admirable than might be found elsewhere, since nothing in their
exterior circumstances is favorable to virtue. Nor laws nor manners
are there to reward or punish. The good are the more heroic, as they
are not the more sought or better considered for their pains. With
some honorable exceptions, the highest class is very like the lowest;
the mind is as little cultivated in the one as in the other. Dress
makes the only difference. But, in the midst of all this, there is at
bottom a natural cleverness and aptitude, which shows us what such
a nation might become if the government devoted its powers to their
mental and moral improvement. As there is little education, one finds
more originality of character than of wit; but the distinguished men of
this country, such as the Abbé Galiani and Caraccioli, possessed, it is
said, both pleasantry and reflection--rare union, without which either
pedantry or frivolity must prevent men from knowing the true value
of things. In some respects the Neapolitans are quite uncivilized;
but their vulgarity is not like that of others; their very grossness
strikes the imagination. We feel that the African shore is near us.
There is something Numidian in the wild cries we hear from all sides.
The brown faces, and dresses of red or purple stuff, whose strong
colors catch the eye, those ragged cloaks, draped so artistically give
something picturesque to the populace, in whom, elsewhere we can but
mark the steps of civilization. A certain taste for ornament is here
found, contrasted with a total want of all that is useful. The shops
are decked with fruit and flowers; some of them have a holy day look,
that belongs neither to private plenty nor public felicity; but solely
to vivacious fancy, which fain would feast the eye at any rate. The
mild clime permits all kinds of laborers to work in the streets.
Tailors there make clothes, and cooks pastry--these household tasks
performed out of doors much augment the action of the scene. Songs,
dances, and noisy sports accompany this spectacle. There never was a
country in which the difference between amusement and happiness might
be more clearly felt; yet leave the interior for the quays, look on the
sea, and Vesuvius, and you forget all that you know of the natives.
Oswald and Corinne reached Naples while the eruption still lasted. By
day it sent forth but a black smoke, which might be confounded with
the clouds; but in the evening, going to the balcony of their abode,
they received a most unexpected shock. A flood of fire rolled down
to the seas, its flaming waves imitating the rapid succession and
indefatigable movement of the ocean's billows. It might be said that
nature, though dividing herself into different elements, preserved
some traces of her single and primitive design. This phenomenon really
makes the heart palpitate. We are so familiarized with the works of
heaven, that we scarcely notice them with any new sensation in our
prosaic realms; But the wonder which the universe ought to inspire, is
suddenly renewed at the sight of a miracle like this; our whole being
is agitated by its Maker's power, from which our social connections
have turned our thoughts so long; we feel that man is not the world's
chief mystery; that a strength independent of his own at once threatens
and protects him by a law to him unknown. Oswald and Corinne promised
themselves the pleasure of ascending Vesuvius, and felt an added
delight in thinking of the danger they thus should brave together.



CHAPTER III.


There was at that time in the harbor an English ship of war, where
divine service was performed every Sunday. The captain and other
English persons then at Naples invited Lord Nevil to attend on the
morrow. He promised; but while thinking whether he should take Corinne,
or how she could be presented to his countrywomen, he was tortured by
anxiety. As he walked with her near the port next day, and was about
to advise her not to go on board this vessel, a boat neared the shore,
rowed by ten sailors, dressed in white, wearing black velvet caps, with
the Leopard embroidered on them in silver. A young officer stepped on
shore, and entreated Corinne to let him take her to the ship, calling
her "Lady Nevil." At that name she blushed, and cast down her eyes.
Oswald hesitated a moment, then said in English, "Come, my dear:" she
obeyed. The sound of the waves made her thoughtful, as did the silence
of the well-disciplined crew, who without one superfluous word or
gesture, rapidly winged their bark over the element they had so often
traversed. Corinne dared not ask Nevil what she was to anticipate; she
strove to guess his projects, never hitting on what, at all times, was
most probable that he had _none_, but let himself be borne away by
every new occurrence. For a moment, she imagined that he was leading
her to a Church of England chaplain, to make her his wife; this thought
alarmed more than it gratified her. She felt about to leave Italy for
England, where she had suffered so much; the severity of its manners
returned to her mind, and not even love could triumph over her fear.
How she would in other circumstances have wondered at these fleeting
ideas! She mounted the vessel's side; it was arranged with the most
careful neatness. Nothing was heard from its deck but the commands of
the captain. Subordination and serious regularity here reigned, as
emblems of liberty and order, in contrast with the impassioned turmoil
of Naples. Oswald eagerly watched the impression this made on Corinne,
yet he was often diverted from his attention by the love he bore his
country. There is no second country for an Englishman, except a ship
and the sea. Oswald joined the Britons on board to ask the news, and
talk politics. Corinne stood beside some English females who had
come to hear prayers. They were surrounded by children, beautiful as
day, but timid like their mothers, and not a word was spoken before
the stranger. This restraint was sad enough for Corinne; she looked
towards fair Naples, thought of its flowery shore, its lively habits,
and sighed. Happily, Oswald heard her not; on the contrary, seeing
her seated among his sisters, as it were, her dark eyelashes cast down
like their light ones, and in every way conforming with their customs,
he felt a thrill of joy. Vainly does an Englishman take a temporary
pleasure among foreign scenes and people; his heart invariably flies
back to his first impressions. If you find him sailing from the
antipodes, and ask whither he is going, he answers, "home," if it is
towards England that he steers. His vows, his sentiments, at whatever
distance he may be, are always turned towards her.[1] They went below
for divine service. Corinne perceived that her first conjecture was
unfounded, and that Nevil's intentions were less solemn than she
supposed; then she reproached herself for having feared, and again felt
all the embarrassment of her situation; for every one present believed
her the wife of Lord Nevil, and she could say nothing either to confirm
or to destroy this idea. Oswald suffered as cruelly. Such faults as
weakness and irresolution are never detected by their possessor, for
whom they take new names from each fresh circumstance; sometimes he
tells himself that prudence, sometimes that delicacy defers the moment
of action, and prolongs his suspense. Corinne, in spite of her painful
thoughts, was deeply impressed by all she witnessed. Nothing speaks
more directly to the soul than divine service on board ship, for
which the noble simplicity of the Reformed Church seems particularly
adapted. A young man acted as chaplain, with a firm, sweet voice; his
face bespoke a purity of soul; he stood "severe in youthful beauty,"
a type of the religion fit to be preached amidst the risks of war. At
certain periods the English minister pronounced prayers, the last words
of which were repeated by the whole assembly; these confused, yet
softened tones, coming from various distances, reanimated the interest
of the whole. Sailors and officers alike knelt to the words, "Lord,
have mercy upon us!" The captain's cutlass hung by his side, suggesting
the glorious union of humility before God, and courage among men,
which renders the devotion of warriors so affecting. While all these
brave fellows addressed the God of Hosts, the sea was seen through the
ports; the light sound of its now peaceful waves was audible, as if to
say, "Your prayers are heard." The chaplain concluded with a petition
peculiar to English sailors: "And may God grant us the grace to defend
our happy constitution abroad, and to find, on our return, domestic
peace at home." What grandeur is contained in these simple words! The
preparatory and continual study which the navy demands, the life led
in those warlike and floating cloisters, the uniformity of their grave
toils, is seldom interrupted, save by danger or death. Nevertheless,
sailors often behave with extreme gentleness and pity towards women and
children, if thrown on their care; one is the more touched by this,
from knowing the heedless coolness with which they expose their lives
in battle, and on the main where the presence of man seems something
supernatural. Nevil and Corinne were again rowed on shore; they gazed
on Naples, built like an amphitheatre, thence to look on the spectacle
of nature.

As Corinne's foot touched the shore, she could not check a sentiment of
joy: had Oswald guessed this, he would have felt displeased, perhaps
excusably; yet such displeasure would have been unjust, for he was
passionately beloved, though the thought of his country always forced
on his adorer the memory of events which had rendered her miserable.
Her fancy was changeful: talent, especially in a woman, creates a
zest for variety that the deepest passion cannot entirely supply.
A monotonous life, even in the bosom of content, dismays a mind so
constituted: without a breeze to fill our sails we may always hug the
shore; but imagination will stray, be sensibility never so faithful, at
least till misfortune slays these trifling impulses, and leaves us but
one thought, one only sorrow.

Oswald attributed the reverie of Corinne solely to the awkward
situation of her having been called Lady Nevil: he blamed himself
for not extricating her from it, and feared that she might suspect
him of levity. He therefore began the long-desired explanation, by
offering to relate his own history. "I shall speak first," he said,
"and your confidence will follow mine?"--"Doubtless it ought," replied
Corinne, trembling; "you wish it--at what day--what hour? when you
have spoken, I will tell all."--"How sadly you are agitated!" said
Oswald. "Will you always fear me thus, nor ever learn to trust my
heart?"--"It must be," she answered: "I have written it, and if you
insist--to-morrow----"--"To-morrow we go to Vesuvius: you shall teach
me to admire it; and on our way, if I have strength enough, I will
give you the story of my own doom: that shall precede yours, I am
resolved."--"Well," replied Corinne, "you give me to-morrow: I thank
you for that one day more. Who can tell if, when I have opened my heart
to you, you will remain the same? How can I help trembling beneath such
doubt?"


[1] Who that has one beloved object absent for any considerable space
of time, can read this tribute from a foreigner without tears of pride
and rapture, at the consciousness that whoever is left behind, though
little valued while near, gains a sad importance as part of that home,
that England, to which the dear one must long to return? The natives of
great continents may love their birth-places as well as we do ours; but
it cannot be in the same manner.--TR.



CHAPTER IV.


Our lovers commenced their route by the ruins of Pompeii. Both were
silent, for the decisive moment now drew nigh; and the vague hope so
long enjoyed, so accordant with the clime, was about to give place to
yet unknown reality. Pompeii is the most curious ruin of antiquity.
In Rome, one hardly finds any wrecks, save those of public works,
associated with the political changes of bygone centuries. In Pompeii,
you retrace the private life of the ancients. The volcano which buried
it in ashes preserved it from decay. No edifices, exposed to the
air, could thus have lasted. Pictures and bronzes keep their primal
beauty, while all domestic implements remain in overawing perfection.
The amphoras are still decked for the morrow's festival. The flour
that was to have been kneaded into cakes is yet there: the remains
of a female are adorned for this interrupted fête, her fleshless arm
no longer filling the jewelled bracelet that yet hangs about it.
Nowhere else can one behold such proofs of death's abrupt invasion.
The track of wheels is visible in the streets; and the stone-work of
the wells bears the marks of the cords that had worn away their edges
by degrees. On the walls of the guard-room are seen the ill-formed
letters and rudely-sketched figures which the soldiers had scrawled to
beguile their time, while time himself was striding to devour them.
When, from the midst of the cross-roads, you see all sides of the
town, nearly as it existed of yore, you seem to expect that some one
will come from these masterless dwellings: this appearance of life
renders the eternal silence of the place still more appalling. Most
of the houses are built of lava--and fresh lava destroyed them. The
epochs of the world are counted from fall to fall. The thoughts of
human beings, toiling by the light that consumed them, fills the breast
with melancholy. How long it is since man first lived, suffered, and
died! Where can we find the thoughts of the departed? do they still
float around these ruins? or are they gathered forever to the heaven
of immortality? A few scorched manuscripts, which were partly unrolled
at Portici, are all that is left us of these victims to earthquake and
volcano. But in drawing near such relics we dread to breathe, lest we
should scatter with their dust the noble ideas perhaps impressed on it.
The public buildings, even of Pompeii, which was one of the smallest
Italian towns, are very handsome. The splendor of the ancients seemed
always intended for the general good. Their private houses are small,
and decked but by a taste for the fine arts. Their interiors possess
agreeable pictures and tasteful mosaic pavements; on many of them,
near the door-sill, is inlet the word _Salve_. This salutation was not
surely one of simple politeness, but an invitation to hospitality. The
rooms are remarkably narrow, with no windows towards the street, nearly
all of them opening into a portico, or the marble court round which
the rooms are constructed: in its centre is a simply elegant cistern.
It is evident that the inhabitants lived chiefly in the open air, and
even received their friends there. Nothing can give a more luxurious
idea of life than a climate which throws man into the bosom of nature.
Society must have meant something very different in such habits
from what it is where the cold confines men within doors. We better
appreciate the dialogues of Plato, while beholding the porticos beneath
which the ancients passed half of their day. They were incessantly
animated by the beauteous sky. Social order, they conceived, was
not the barren combination of fraud and force, but a happy union of
institutions that excite the faculties, and develop the mind, making
man's object the perfection of himself and his fellow-creatures.
Antiquity inspires insatiable curiosity. The learned, employed solely
on collections of names, which they call history, were surely devoid of
all imagination. But to penetrate the past, interrogate the human heart
through many ages; to seize on a fact in a word, and on the manners
or character of a nation in a fact; to re-enter the most distant
time, in order to conceive how the earth looked in its youth, and in
what way men supported the life which civilization has since rendered
so complicated; this were a continual effort of imagination, whose
guesses discover secrets that study and reflection cannot reveal. Such
occupation was particularly attractive to Nevil, who often told Corinne
that, if he had not nobler interests to serve in his own land, he could
not endure to live away from this. We should, at least, regret the
glory we cannot obtain. Forgetfulness alone degrades the soul, which
can ever take refuge in the past, when deprived of a present purpose.

Leaving Pompeii they proceeded to Portici, whose inhabitants beset them
with loud cries of "Come and see the mountain!" thus they designate
Vesuvius. Has it need of name? It is their glory, their country is
celebrated as the shrine of this marvel. Oswald begged Corinne to
ascend in a sort of palanquin to the Hermitage of St. Salvadore, which
is half-way up, and the usual resting-place for travellers. He rode
by her side to overlook her bearers; and the more his heart filled
with the generous sentiments such scenes inspire, the more he adored
Corinne. The country at the foot of Vesuvius is the most fertile
and best cultivated of the kingdom most favored by Heaven in all
Europe. The celebrated _Lacryma Christi_ vine flourishes beside land
totally devastated by lava, as if nature here made a last effort, and
resolved to perish in her richest array. As you ascend, you turn to
gaze on Naples, and on the fair land around it--the sea sparkles in
the sun as if strewn with jewels; but all the splendors of creation
are extinguished by degrees, as you enter the region of ashes and of
smoke, that announces your approach to the volcano. The iron waves of
other years have traced their large black furrows in the soil. At a
certain height, birds are no longer seen; further on, plants become
very scarce; then, even insects find no nourishment. At last, all life
disappears; you enter the realm of death, and the slain earth's dust
alone slips beneath your unassured feet.

    "Nè greggi, nè armenti
    Guida bifolco mai, guida pastore."

    "Never doth swain nor cowboy thither lead the flocks or herds."

A hermit lives betwixt the confines of life and death. One tree, the
last farewell to vegetation, stands before his door, and beneath the
shade of its pale foliage are travellers wont to await the night
ere they renew their course; for during the day the fires and lava,
so fierce when the sun is set, look dark beneath his splendor. This
metamorphose is in itself a glorious sight, which every eve renews the
wonder that a continual glare might weaken. The solitude of this spot
gave Oswald strength to reveal his secrets; and, wishing to encourage
the confidence of Corinne, he said: "You would fain read your unhappy
lover to the depth of his soul. Well, I will confess all. My wounds
will reopen, I feel it; but in the presence of immutable nature ought
one to fear the changes time can bring?"



BOOK XII


HISTORY OF LORD NEVIL.



CHAPTER I.


"I was educated in my paternal home, with a tenderness and virtue that
I admire the more, the more I know of mankind. I have never loved any
one more profoundly than I loved my father; yet I think, had I then
known as I now do, how alone his character stood in the world, my
affection would have been still more devoted. I remember a thousand
traits in his life that seemed to me quite simple, because he found
them so, and that melt me into tears now I can appreciate their worth.
Self-reproach on our conduct to a dear object who is no more, gives an
idea of what eternal torments would be, if Divine mercy deigned not
to soothe our griefs. I was calmly happy with my father, but wished
to travel ere I entered the army. There is, in my country, a noble
career open for eloquence; but I am even yet so timid, that it would
be painful for me to speak in public; therefore I preferred a military
life, and certain danger, to possible disgust; my self-love is in all
respects more susceptible than ambitious. Men become giants when they
blame me, and pigmies when they praise. I wished to visit France,
where the revolution had just begun, which, old as was the race of
man, professed to recommence the history of the world. My father was
somewhat prepossessed against Paris, which he had seen during the last
years of Louis XV.; and could hardly conceive how coteries were to
change into a nation, pretence into virtue, or vanity into enthusiasm.
Yet he consented to my wishes, for he feared to exact anything, and
felt embarrassed by his own authority, unless duty commanded him to
exert it, lest it might impair the truth, the purity, of voluntary
affection; and above all, he lived on being loved. In the beginning
of 1791, when I had completed my twenty-first year, he gave me six
months' leave of absence; and I departed to make acquaintance with
the nation so near in neighborhood, so contrasted in habits, to my
own. Methought I should never love it. I had all the prejudices of
English pride and gravity. I feared the French raillery against all
that is tender and serious. I detested that art of repelling impulse
and disenchanting love. The foundation of this vaunted gayety appeared
to me a sad one, for it wounded the sentiments I most cherished. I had
not then met any really great Frenchmen, such as unite the noblest
qualities with the most charming manners. I was astonished at the
free simplicity which reigned in Parisian parties. The most important
interests were discussed without either frivolity or pedantry, as if
the highest thoughts had become the patrimony of conversation, and that
the revolution of the whole world would but render the society of Paris
more delightful. I found men of superior talents and education animated
by the desire to please, even more than the wish to be useful; seeking
the suffrages of the _salon_ after those of the senate, and living in
female society rather to be applauded than beloved.

"Everything in Paris is well combined with reference to external
happiness. There is no restraint in the minutiæ of life; selfishness is
at heart, but not in appearance; active interests occupy you every day,
without much benefit, indeed, but certainly without the least tedium.
A quickness of conception enables men to express and comprehend by a
word what would elsewhere require a long explanation. An imitative
spirit, which must, indeed, oppose all _true_ independence, gives
their intercourse an accordant complaisance, nowhere to be found
besides; in short, an easy manner of diversifying life and warding off
reflection, without discarding the charms of intellect. To all these
means of turning the brain, I must add their spectacles, and you will
have some idea of the most social city in the world. I almost start at
breathing its name in this hermitage, in the midst of a desert, and
under impressions the extreme reverse of those which active population
create; but I owe you a description of that place, and the effect it
took upon myself. Can you believe, Corinne, gloomy and discouraged
as you have known me, that I permitted myself to be seduced by this
spirited whirlpool? I was pleased at having not a moment of _ennui_; it
would have been well if I could have deadened my power of suffering,
capable as I was of love. If I may judge by myself, I should say that
a thoughtful and sensitive being may weary of his own intensity; and
that which woos him from himself awhile does him a service. It is by
raising me above myself, that you, Corinne, have dissipated my natural
melancholy; it was by depreciating my real value, that a woman of whom
I shall have soon to speak benumbed my internal sadness. Yet though
I was infected by Parisian tastes, they would not long have detained
me, had I not conciliated the friendship of a man, the perfect model
of French character in its old loyalty, of French mind in its new
cultivation. I shall not, my love, tell you the real names of the
persons I must mention; you will understand why, when you have heard
me to the end. Count Raimond, then, was of the most illustrious birth;
he inherited all the chivalrous pride of his ancestors, and his reason
adopted more philosophic ideas whenever they commanded a personal
sacrifice; he had not mixed actively in the revolution, but loved what
was virtuous in either party. Courage and gratitude on one side, zeal
for liberty on the other: whatever was disinterested pleased him; the
cause of all the oppressed seemed just to him; and this generosity
was heightened by his perfect negligence of his own life. Not that he
was altogether unhappy, but his mind was so contrasted with general
society, that the pain he had daily felt there detached him from it
entirely. I was so fortunate as to interest him; he sought to vanquish
my natural reserve; and, for this purpose, embellished our friendship
by little artifices perfectly romantic: he knew of no obstacles to his
doing a great service or a slight favor: he designed to settle for
six months of the year in England, to be near me; and I could hardly
prevent his sharing with me the whole of his possessions. 'I have but
a sister,' he said, 'married richly, so I am free to do what I please
with my fortune. Besides, this revolution will turn out ill, and I may
be killed; let me then enjoy what I have in looking on it as yours,'
Alas! the noble Raimond but too well foresaw his destiny.

"When man is capable of self-knowledge, he is rarely deceived as to his
own fate; and presentiment is oft but judgment in disguise. Sincere
even to imprudence, Raimond 'wore his heart upon his sleeve:' such a
character was new to me; in England, the treasures of the mind are not
thus exposed; we have even a habit of doubting those who display them;
but the expansive bounty of my friend afforded me enjoyments at once
ready and secure. I had no suspicion of his qualities, even though I
knew them all at our first meeting. I felt no timidity with him; nay,
what was better, he put me at ease with myself. Such was the amiable
Frenchman for whom I felt the friendship of a brother in arms, which we
experience but in youth, ere we acquire one sentiment of rivalry--ere
the unreturning wheels of time have furrowed the partitions betwixt the
present and the future.

"One day Count Raimond said to me: 'My sister is a widow. I confess, I
am not sorry for it. I never liked the match. She accepted the hand of
a dying old man, when we were both of us poor; for what I have has but
lately been bequeathed to me. Yet, at the time, I opposed this union
as much as possible. I would have no mercenary calculations prompt
our acts, least of all the most important one of life; still, she has
behaved in an exemplary manner to the husband she never loved: that is
nothing in the eyes of the world. Now that she is free, she will return
to my abode. You will see her: she is very pleasing in the main, and
you English like to make discoveries; for my part, I love to read all
in the face at once. Yet your manner, dear Oswald, never vexes me; but
from that of my sister I feel a slight restraint.'

"Madame d'Arbigny arrived; I was presented to her. In features she
resembled her brother, and even in voice; but in both there was
a more retiring caution: her countenance was very agreeable, her
figure all grace and faultless elegance. She said not a word that was
unbecoming; failed in no species of attention; and, without exaggerated
politeness, flattered self-love by an address which showed with what
she was pleased, but never committed her. She expressed herself, on
tender subjects, as if seeking to hide the feelings of her heart.
This so reminded me of my own countrywomen, that I was attracted by
it; methought, indeed, that she too often betrayed what she pretended
to conceal, and that chance did not afford so many occasions for
melting moments as she passed off for involuntary. This reflection,
however, flitted but lightly over my mind; for what I felt beside her
was both novel and delightful. I had never been flattered by any one.
In England, we feel both love and friendship deeply; yet the art of
insinuating ourselves into favor by bribing the vanity of others is
little known. Madame d'Arbigny hung on my every word I do not think
that she guessed all I might become; but she revealed me to myself by
a thousand minute observations, the discernment of which amazed me.
Sometimes I thought her voice and language too studiously sweet; but
her resemblance to the frankest of men banished these notions, and
bound me to confide in her. One day I mentioned to him the effect this
likeness had on me. He thanked me; then, after a moment's pause, said:
'Yet our characters are not congenial.' He was silent; but these words,
and many other circumstances, have since convinced me that he did not
wish to see his sister my wife: that she designed to be so, I detected
not for awhile. My days glided on without a care: she was always of my
opinion. If I began a subject, she agreed with it, ere explained; yet,
with all this meekness, her power over my actions was most despotic:
she had a way of saying, 'Surely, you intend to do so and so;' or,
'You certainly cannot think of such a step as that.' I feared that I
should lose her esteem by disappointing her expectations. Yet, Corinne,
believe me--for I thought so ere I met you--it was not love I felt.
I had never told her that I loved her, and was not sure whether such
a daughter-in-law would suit my father; he had not anticipated my
marrying a Frenchwoman, and I could do nothing without his consent.
My silence, I believe, displeased the lady; for she had now and then
fits of ill-temper--she called them low spirits, and attributed them
to very affecting causes, though her countenance, if for a moment off
her guard, wore a most irritated aspect. I fancied that these little
inequalities might arise from our intercourse, with which I was not
satisfied myself; for it does one more harm to love by halves than to
love with all one's heart.

"Raimond and I never spoke of his sister: it was the first constraint
that subsisted between us: but Madame d'Arbigny had conjured me not to
make her the theme of my conversations with her brother; and, seeing
me astonished at this request, added: 'I know not if you think with
me, but I can endure no third person, not even an intimate friend, to
interfere with my regard for another. I love the secrecy of affection.'
The explanation pleased me, and I obeyed. At this time a letter arrived
from my father, recalling me to Scotland. The half year had rolled
by; France was everyday more disturbed; and he deemed it unsafe for
a foreigner to remain there. This pained me much, though I felt its
justice. I longed to see him again, yet could not tear myself from the
Count and Madame d'Arbigny without regret. I sought her instantly,
showed her the letter, and, while she read it, was too absorbed by
sadness to mark the impression it made. I was merely sensible that she
said something to secure my delay; bade me write word that I was ill,
and so _tack away_ from my father's commands. I remember that was the
phrase she used. I was about to reply that my departure was fixed for
the morrow, when Raimond entered the room, and, hearing the state of
the case, declared, with the utmost promptitude, that I ought to obey
my parent without hesitation. I was struck by this rapid decision,
expecting to have been pressed to stay. I would have resisted my own
reluctance, but I did not like to have my purposed triumph talked of
as a matter of course. For a moment I misinterpreted my friend: he
perceived it, and took my hand, saying: 'In three months I shall visit
England; why, then, should I keep you here? I have my reasons,' he
added, in a whisper; but his sister heard him, and said, hastily, that
he was right, that no Englishman ought to be involved in the dangers of
the revolution. I now know it was not to _such_ peril that the Count
alluded; but he neither contradicted nor confirmed her explanation. I
was going, and he did not think it necessary to tell more. 'If I could
be useful to my native land, I should stay here,' he said; 'but you
see it is no longer France; the principles for which I loved it are
destroyed. I may regret this soil, but shall regain my country when I
breathe the same air with you.'

"How was I moved by this touching assurance of true friendship! How far
above his sister ranked Count Raimond at that moment in my heart. She
guessed it; and the same evening appeared in quite a new character.
Some guests arrived; she did the honors admirably; spoke of my
departure as if it were in her eyes the most uninteresting occurrence.
I had previously remarked, that she set a price on her preference,
which prevented her ever letting others witness the favor she accorded
me: but now this was too much. I was so hurt by her indifference, that
I resolved to take leave before the party, and not remain alone with
her one instant. She heard me ask her brother to let me see him in the
morning, ere I started; and, coming to us, told me aloud that she must
charge me with a letter for a friend of hers in England; then added,
hastily, and in a low voice, 'You regret--you speak but to my brother:
would you break my heart, by flying thus?' In an instant she stepped
back, and reseated herself among her visitants. I was agitated by her
words, and should have stayed as she desired, but that Raimond, taking
my arm, led me to his own room. When the company had dispersed, we
suddenly heard strange sounds from Madame d'Arbigny's apartment: he
took no notice of them; but I forced him to ascertain their cause. We
were told that she was very ill. I would have flown to her: but the
Count obstinately forbade. 'Let us have no scene!' he said; 'in these
affairs, women are best left to themselves.' I could not comprehend
this want of feeling for a sister, so contrasted with his invariable
kindness to me; and I left him in an embarassment which somewhat
chilled my farewell. Ah! had I known the delicacy which would fain have
baffled the captivations of a woman he did not believe formed to make
me happy, could I have foreseen the events which were to separate us
forever, my adieu would have better satisfied his soul and mine own."



CHAPTER II.


Oswald ceased for some minutes. Corinne had listened so tremblingly
that she too was silent, fearful of retarding the moment when he would
renew his narrative.--"I should have been happy," he continued, "had
my acquaintance with Madame d'Arbigny ended there--had I never more
set foot in France. But fate, or, rather perhaps my own weakness,
has poisoned my life forever. Yes, dearest love! even beside you. I
passed a year in Scotland with my father: our mutual tenderness daily
increased. I was admitted into the sanctuary of that heavenly spirit;
and, in the friendship that united us, tasted all the consanguine
sympathies whose mysterious links belong to our whole being. I received
most affectionate letters from Raimond, recounting the difficulties
he found in transferring his property, so as to join me; but his
perseverance in that aim was unwearied. I loved him for it; but what
friend could I compare with my father? The reverence I felt for him
never checked my confidence. I put my faith in his words as in those of
an oracle; and the unfortunate indecision of my character was suspended
while he spoke. 'Heaven has formed us for a love of what is venerable,'
says an English author. My father knew not, could not know, to what
degree I loved him; and my fatal conduct might well have taught him to
doubt whether I loved him at all. Yet he pitied me, while dying, for
the grief his loss would inflict. Ah, Corinne! I draw near the recital
of my woes; lend my courage thy support, for in truth I need it"--"My
dear friend," she answered, "be it some solace that you unveil your
nobly sensitive heart before the being who most admires and loves you
in the world." Nevil proceeded: "He sent me to London on business; and
I left him without one warning fear, though never to see him again. He
was more endearing than ever in our last conversation: it is said that
the souls of the just, like flowers, breathe their richest balms at
the approach of night. He embraced me with tears, saying, that at his
age all partings were solemn; but I believed his life like mine: our
souls understood each other so well; and I was too young to think upon
his age. The fears and the confidence of strong affection are alike
inexplicable: he accompanied me to the door of that old hall which
I have since beheld desert and devastated, like my own heart. I had
been but a week in London, when I received the cruel letter of which
I remember every word: 'Yesterday, the 10th of August, my brother was
massacred at the Tuileries, while defending his king. I am proscribed,
and forced to fly, to hide from my persecutors. Raimond had taken all
my fortune, with his own, to settle in England. Have you yet received
it? or know you whom he trusted to remit it? I had but one line from
him, written when the chateau was attacked, bidding me only apply to
you, and I should know all. If you could come hither and remove me,
you might save my life. The English still travel France in safety; but
I cannot obtain a passport under my own name. If the sister of your
hapless friend sufficiently interests you, my retreat may be learned
at Paris of my relation, Monsieur Maltigues: but should you generously
wish to aid me, lose not a moment; for it is said that war will shortly
be declared between our two countries.' Imagine the effect this took on
me! my friend murdered, his sister in despair, their fortune, she said,
in my hands, though I had not received the least tidings of it; add to
these circumstances, Madame d'Arbigny's danger, and belief that I could
preserve her; it was impossible to hesitate. I sent a messenger to my
father with her letter, and my promise to return in a fortnight; then
set forth instantly. By the most distressing chance the man fell ill on
the way, and my second letter, from Dover, reached my father before the
first. Thus he knew of my flight, ere informed of its motives; and ere
the explanation came, had taken an alarm which could not be dissipated.
I arrived at Paris in three days, and found that Madame d'Arbigny had
retired to a provincial town sixty leagues off; thither I followed
her. We were both much agitated at meeting. She appeared more lovely
in her distress than I had ever thought her--less artificial, less
restrained. We wept together for her noble brother, and distracted
country. I anxiously inquired as to her fortune. She told me that she
had no news of it; but in a few days I learned that the banker to whom
Count Raimond confided it, had returned it to him; and, what was more
singular, a merchant of the town in which we were, who told me this
by chance, assured me that Madame d'Arbigny never needed to have felt
a moment's doubt of its safety. I could not understand this; went to
ask her what it meant; and found M. Maltigues, who, with the readiest
coolness, informed me that he had just brought from Paris intelligence
of the banker's return, as, not having heard of him for a month, they
had thought he was gone to England.[1] She confirmed her kinsman's
statements, and I believed them; but, since, have recollected her
pretexts for not showing me the note from Raimond, mentioned in her
letter, and am now convinced that the whole was but a stratagem to
secure me. It is certain that, as she was rich, no interested motives
blended with her scheme; but her great fault lay in using address where
love alone was required, and dissimulating when candor would better
have served the cause of her sentimental enterprise: she loved me as
much as those can love, who preconcert not only their actions but
their feelings, and conduct an affair of the heart with the policy of
a state intrigue. I formerly declared that I would never marry without
my father's approval; yet I could not forbear betraying the transports
her beauty and sadness excited. Her plan being to make me captive at
any price, she let me perceive that she was not thoroughly resolved
on repulsing my wishes. As I now retrace what passed between us, I am
assured that she hesitated from motives quite independent of love and
virtue; nay, that their apparent struggles were but her own secret
deliberations. I was constantly alone with her; and my delicacy could
not long resist the temptation. She imposed on me all the duties, in
yielding me all the rights of a husband; yet displayed more remorse,
perhaps, than she really felt; and thus so bound me to her, that I
would fain have taken her to England, and implored my father's consent
to our union; but she refused to quit France, unless as my wife. There
she was wise, indeed; but, well knowing my filial resolutions, she
erred in the means she used to retain me in spite mine every duty.
When the war broke out, my desire to leave France became stronger,
and her obstacles to it multiplied. She could obtain no passport; and
if I went alone, her reputation would be ruined; nay, she should be
doubly suspected, for her correspondence with me. This woman, so mild,
so equable, in general, then gave way to a despair which perfectly
overwhelmed me. She employed her wit and graces to please, her grief
to intimidate me. Perhaps women are wrong in commanding by tears,
enslaving by the strength of their weakness; yet, when they fear not
to exert this weapon, it is nearly always victorious, at least for
awhile. Doubtless, love is weakened by this sort of usurpation; and the
power of tears, too frequently exerted, chills the imagination; but,
at that time, there were a thousand excuses for them in France. Madame
d'Arbigny's health, too, seemed daily to decrease: another terrible
instrument of female tyranny is illness. Those who have not, like you,
Corinne, a just reliance on their minds, or are not, like Englishwomen,
so proudly modest that feigning is impossible, have always recourse
to art; and the best we can then hope of them is that their deceit is
caused by a real attachment. A third party was now blended with our
connection,[2] Monsieur Maltigues. She pleased him; he asked nothing
better than to marry her; though a speculative immorality rendered him
indifferent to everything. He loved intrigue as a game, even while not
interested in the stake; and seconded Madame d'Arbigny's designs on
me, ready to desert this plot if occasion served for accomplishing his
own. He was a man against whom I felt a singular repugnance; though
scarcely thirty, his manners and person were remarkably hackneyed.
In England, where we are accused of coldness, I never met anything
comparable with the seriousness of his demeanor on entering a room. I
should never have taken him for a Frenchman, if he had not possessed
some taste and pleasantry, with a love of talking very extraordinary in
a man who seemed sated of the world, and who carried that disposition
to a system. He pretended that he was born a sensitive enthusiast,
but that the knowledge of mankind he owed to the revolution had
undeceived him. He perceived, he said, that there was nothing good
on earth, save fortune, or power, or both; and that fine qualities
must give way to circumstances. He practised on this theory cleverly
enough; his only mistake lay in proclaiming it; but though he had not
the national wish to please, he nevertheless desired to create some
sensation, and that rendered him thus imprudent: he differed in these
respects from Madame d'Arbigny, who sought to attain her end without
betraying herself, or seeking to shine, even in her errors. What was
most strange in these two persons is, that the ardent one could keep
her secret, while the insensible knew not how to hold his tongue.
Such as he was, Maltigues had a great ascendency over his relative;
either he guessed it, or she told him all; for even from her habitual
wariness, she required, now and then, to take breath, as it were, by
an indiscretion. If Maltigues looked on her severely, she was always
disturbed; if he seemed discontented, she would take him aside to ask
the reason; if he went away angry, she almost instantly shut herself
up to write to him. I explained this to myself from the fact of his
having known her from her childhood; he had managed her affairs since
she had lost all nearer ties; but the chief cause was her project,
which I discovered too late, of marrying him, if I left her; for at no
price would she pass for a deserted woman. Such a resolution might make
you believe that she loved me not; yet love alone could have induced
her preference: but through life she could mix calculation even with
passion, and the factitious pretences of society with her natural
feelings. She wept when she was agitated, but she could also weep
because that was the way to express emotion. She was happy in being
loved, because she loved, but also because it did her honor before
the world. She had right impulses while left to herself, but could
only enjoy them when they were rendered profitable to her self-love.
She was a person formed for and by 'good company,' and made that false
use even of truth itself, which is so often found in a country where
a zeal for producing effect, by certain sentiments, is much stronger
than the sentiments themselves. It was long since I had heard from
my father, the war having cut off all communication. At last, chance
favored the arrival of a letter,[3] in which he adjured me to return,
in the name of my duty and his affection; at the same time declaring
that, if I married Madame d'Arbigny, I should cause him the most fatal
sorrow; begging me, at least, to decide on nothing until I had heard
his advice. I replied to him instantly, giving my word of honor that I
would shortly do as he required. Madame d'Arbigny tried, first prayers,
then despondence, to detain me; and finding these fail, resorted to a
fresh stratagem; but how could I then suspect it? She came to me one
morning pale and dishevelled, threw herself into my arms as if dying
with terror, and besought me to protect her. The order, she said,
was come for her arrest, as sister to Count Raimond, and I must find
her some asylum from her pursuers; at this time women, indeed, were
not spared, and all kinds of horrors appeared probable. I took her
to a merchant devoted to my interest, and hoped to save her, as only
Maltigues shared the secret of her retreat. In such a situation, how
could I avoid feeling a lively interest in her fate? how separate
myself from her? how say: 'You depend on my support, and I withdraw
it?' Nevertheless, my father's image continually haunted me, and I
took many occasions to intreat her leave for setting forth alone; but
she threatened to give herself up to the assassins if I quitted her,
and twice, at noonday, rushed from the house in a frantic state that
overwhelmed me with grief and fear. I followed, vainly conjuring her to
return; fortunately it happened (unless by conspiracy) that each time
we were met by Maltigues, who brought her back with reproaches on her
rashness. Of course, I resigned myself to stay, and wrote to my father,
accounting, as well as I could, for my conduct; though I blushed at
being in France, amid the outrages then acting there, while that
country, too, was at war with my own. Maltigues often rallied me on my
scruples; but, clever as he was, he did not perceive the effect of his
jests, which revived all the feelings he sought to extinguish. Madame
d'Arbigny, however, remarked this; but she had no influence over her
kinsman, who was often decided by caprice, if self-interest was absent.
She relapsed into her griefs, both real and assumed, to melt me; and
was never more attractive than while fainting at my feet; for she knew
how to heighten her beauty as well as her other charms, and wedded
each to some emotion in order to subdue me. Thus did I live, ever
anxious, ever vacillating, trembling when I received no letter from my
father, still more wretched when I did; enchained by my infatuation for
Madame d'Arbigny, still more dreading her violence; for, by a strange
inconsistency, though the gentlest, and often the gayest of women,
habitually she was the most terrible person in a scene. She wished to
bind me both by pleasure and by fear, and thus always transformed her
nature to her use. One day, in September, 1793, more than a year after
my coming to France, I had a brief letter from my father; but its few
words were so afflicting, that I must spare myself their repetition,
Corinne; it would too much unman me. He was already ill, though he did
not say so; his pride and delicacy forbade; but his letter breathed
so much distress, both on account of my absence, and of my possible
marriage, that, while reading it, I wondered how I could have been so
long blind to the misfortunes with which I was menaced. I was now,
however, sufficiently awakened to hesitate no more, and went to Madame
d'Arbigny, perfectly decided to take leave of her. She perceived this,
and at once retiring within herself, rose, saying: 'Before you go, you
ought to be informed of a secret which I blush to avow. If you abandon
me, it is not _me_ alone you kill. The fruit of my guilty love will
perish with me.' Nothing can describe my sensations; that new, that
sacred duty, absorbed my whole soul, and made me more submissively
her slave than ever. I would have married her at once, but for the
ruinous consequences that must have befallen me, as an Englishman, in
then and there giving my name to the civil authorities. I deferred our
union, therefore, till we could fly to England, and determined never
to leave my victim till then. At first, this calmed her; but she soon
renewed her complaints against me, for not braving all impediments
to make her my wife. I should shortly have bent to her will, for I
had fallen into the deepest melancholy, and passed whole days alone,
without power to move--a prey to an idea which I never confessed to
myself, though its persecution was incessant. I had a forboding of my
father's illness, which I considered a weakness unworthy of belief. My
reason was so bewildered by the shock my mistress had dealt me, that
I now combated my sense of duty as a passion; and that which I might
have then thought my passion, tormented me as a duty. Madame d'Arbigny
was perpetually writing me entreaties to visit her; at last I went,
but did not speak on the subject which gave her such rights over me:
indeed, she now less frequently alluded to it herself than I expected;
but my sufferings were too great for me to remark that at the time.
Once, when I had kept my house for three days, writing twenty letters
to my father, and tearing them all, M. Maltigues, who seldom sought
me, came, deputed by his cousin, to tear me from my solitude. Though
little interested in the success of his embassy, as you will discover,
he entered before I had time to conceal that my face was bathed in
tears. 'What is the use of all this, my dear boy?' he said; 'either
leave my cousin, or marry her. The one step is as good as the other,
each being conclusive.'--'There are situations in life,' replied I,
'where even by sacrificing one's self, one may not be able to fulfil
every duty.'--'That is, there ought to be no such sacrifice,' he added.
'I know of no circumstances in which it is necessary; with a little
address, one may back out of anything. Management is the queen of
the world.'--'I covet no such ability,' said I; 'but at least would
wish, in resigning myself to unhappiness, to afflict no one that I
love.'--'Have nothing to do, then, with the intricate work they call
love; it is a sickness of the soul. I am attacked by it at times, like
any one else; but when it so happens, I tell myself that it shall soon
be over, and always keep my word.' Seeking to deal, like himself, with
generalities--for I neither could nor would confide in him--I answered:
'Do what we will with love, we cannot banish honor and virtue, that
often oppose our inclination.'--'If you mean, by honor, the necessity
for fighting when insulted, there can be no doubt on that head; but,
in other respects, what interest have we in allowing ourselves to be
perplexed by a thousand fastidious chimeras?'--'Interest!' I repeated;
'that is not the word in question.'--'To speak seriously,' he returned,
'there are few men who have a clear view of this subject. I know they
formerly talked of honorable misfortunes, and glorious falls; but now
that all men are persecuted, knaves as well as those by courtesy called
honest, the only difference is between the birds who are trapped, and
those who escape.'--'I know of other distinctions,' I replied, 'where
prosperity is despised, and misfortune honored by the good.'--'Show me
the good, though,' he said, 'whose courageous esteem would console you
for your own destruction. On the contrary, the self-elected virtuous
are those who excuse you if happy, and love you if powerful. It is
very fine in you, no doubt, to repent thwarting a father, who ought no
longer to meddle with your affairs; yet, do anything rather than linger
where you may lose your life in a thousand ways. For my part, whatever
happens to me, I would, at any price, spare, my friends the sight of
my sufferings, and myself their long faces of condolence.'--'In my
opinion,' interrupted I, 'the aim of an honest man's life is not the
happiness which serves only himself, but the virtue which is useful to
others.'--'Virtue!' exclaimed Maltigues, 'virtue----' he hesitated for
a moment, then, with more decision, continued; 'that's a language for
the vulgar, that even priests cannot talk between themselves without
laughing. There are good souls whom certain harmonious words still
move; for their sakes let the tune be played: all the poetry that they
call conscience and devotion was invented to console those who cannot
get on in the world, like the _de profundis_ that is sung for the
dead, The living and the prosperous are by no means ambitious of like
homage.' I was so irritated that I could not help saying, haughtily,
'I shall be sorry, sir, when I have a right in the house of Madame
d'Arbigny, if she persists in receiving a man who thinks and speaks
as you do.'--'When that time comes,' he answered, 'you may act as you
please; but if my cousin is led by me, she will never marry a man who
looks forward in such affright to his union with her. I have always,
as she can tell you, censured her folly, and the means she has wasted
on an object so little worth her trouble,' At these words, which their
accent rendered still more insulting, I made him a sign to follow
me; and, on our way, it is but justice to tell you that he continued
to develop his system with the greatest possible coolness: he might
be no more in a few minutes, yet said not one serious, one feeling
word. 'If I had been addicted to all the absurdities of other young
men,' he pursued, 'would not what I have seen in my own country have
cured me? When has your scrupulousness done you any good?'--'I agree
with you,' said I, 'that in your country, at present, it is of less
utility than elsewhere; but in time, or beyond time, each man has his
reward,'--'Oh, if you include Heaven in your calculations----'--'And
And why not? One or other of us, perhaps, will soon know what it
means.'--'If I die,' he laughed forth, 'I am sure I shall know nothing
about it; if you are killed, you won't come back to enlighten me.' I
now remembered that I had taken no precautions for informing my father
of my probable fate, or making over to Madame d'Arbigny part of my
fortune, on which I thought she had claims. We drew near Maltigues's
house, and I asked leave to write two letters there: he assented.
As we resumed our route, I gave them to him, and recommended Madame
d'Arbigny to him, as to a friend of hers on whom I could rely. This
proof of confidence touched him; for, be it observed, to the glory of
honesty, that the most candid profligates are much flattered if they
chance to receive a mark of esteem; our relative position, too, was
grave enough to have affected even him; but as he would not for worlds
have had me guess this, he said jestingly, though I believe prompted
by deeper feelings: 'You are a good fellow, my dear Nevil; I'd fain
do something generous by you; it may bring me luck, as they say; and
truly generosity is so babyish a quality, that it ought to be better
paid in Heaven than on earth. But ere I serve you, our conditions must
be made plain, say what I will--we fight, nevertheless.' I returned a
disdainful consent, for I thought such preface unnecessary. Maltigues
proceeded, in his cold, careless way: 'Madame d'Arbigny does not suit
you; you are in no way congenial; your father would be in despair if
you made such a match, and you would run mad at having distressed
him; therefore it would be better, if I live, that I should marry the
lady; if you kill me, still better that she should marry another; for
my cousin is so highly sagacious, even while in love, that she never
fails to provide against the chance of being loved no longer. All this
you will learn by her letters. I bequeath them to you: here is the key
of my desk. I have been her intimate ever since she was born; and you
know that, mysterious as she is, she has no secrets with me--little
dreaming that I should ever tell; it is true I feel no impulse hurry me
on, but I do not attach much importance to these things; and I think
that we men may say what we like to each other about women. Also, if
I die, it is to her bright eyes that I shall owe such accident; and
though I am quite ready to die for her, with a good grace, I am not too
obliged by the situation in which her double intrigue has placed me;
for the rest, it is not quite sure that you will kill me.' So saying,
as we were now beyond the town, he drew his sword, and stood upon his
guard. He had spoken with singular vivacity. I was confounded by what
I had heard. The approach of danger, instead of agitating, animated
him; and I knew not whether he had betrayed the truth, or invented a
falsehood out of revenge. In this suspense I was very careful of his
life; he was not so adroit a swordsman as myself; ten times might I
have run him through the breast, but I contented myself with slightly
wounding and disarming him; he seemed sensible of this. I led him to
his own house, and brought him back to the conversation which our
duel had interrupted. He then said: 'I am vexed at having so treated
my cousin; but peril is like wine, it gets into one's head; yet, I
can now excuse myself; it rested with you to kill me, and you spared
my life; you could not be happy with her, she is too cunning; now
to me that is nothing; for, charmed as I am both with her mind and
person, she can never do anything to my disadvantage, and we shall be
of service to each other when marriage makes a common interest. But
you are romantic, and would be her dupe, therefore I cannot refuse
the letters I promised you--read them, start for England, and do not
worry yourself too much as to Madame d'Arbiguy's regrets. She will
weep, because she loves you, but she will soon be comforted; she is
too rational a woman to be long unhappy, or, above all, to appear so.
In three months she shall be Madame de Maltigues.' All that he told
me was proved true by her correspondence with him. I felt convinced
that her blushing confession was a falsity, used but to force me into
marriage. This was the basest imposition she had practised on me. She
certainly loved me, for she even told Maltigues so; yet flattered him
with such art, left him so much to hope, and studied to please him in a
character so contrasted from that she had ever worn for me, that it was
impossible to doubt her intention of marrying him, if her union with me
was prevented. Such was the woman, Corinne, who had forever wrecked the
peace of my heart and conscience. I wrote to her ere I departed, and
saw her no more. As Maltigues predicted, I have since heard that she
became his wife. But I was far from having tasted the bitterest drop
that awaited me. I hoped to obtain my father's pardon; sure that, when
I told him how I had been misled, he would love me the more, the more
pitiable I became. After above a month's journey, by night and day,
I crossed Germany, and arrived in England, full of confidence in the
inexhaustible bounty of paternal love. Corinne, I had scarce landed,
when a public paper informed me that my father was no more. Twenty
months have passed since that moment, yet it is ever present, like a
pursuing phantom. The letters that formed the words: 'Lord Nevil has
just expired,' are written in flames, to which those of the volcano
before us are nothing. I heard that he died of grief at my absence in
France; fearing that I should renounce my military career, that I
should marry a woman of whom he had an indifferent opinion, and settle
in a country at war with my own, entirely forfeiting my reputation as
an Englishman. Corinne, Corinne! am I not a parricide? Tell me."--"No,"
she cried, "no; you are only unfortunate; your generosity involved you.
I respect as much as I love you; judge yourself by my heart; make that
your conscience! Your grief distracts you: believe one who loves you
from no illusion--it is because you are the best, the most affectionate
of men, that I adore you."--"Corinne," said Oswald, "these tributes
are not due to me; though, perhaps, I am less guilty than I think; my
father pardoned me before he died. I found the last address he wrote
me full of tenderness. A letter from me had reached him, somewhat to
my justification; but the evil was done; his heart was broken. When I
returned to the Hall, his old servants thronged round me; I repulsed
their consolations, and accused myself to them. I knelt at his tomb,
swearing, if time for atonement yet were left me, that I would never
marry without his consent. Alas! I promised to one who was no more;
what now availed my ravings? I ought, at least, to consider them as
engagements to do nothing which he would have disapproved had he lived.
Corinne, dear love! why are you thus depressed? He might command me to
renounce a woman who owed to her own artifice the power she exerted
over me; but the most sincere, natural, and generous of her sex, for
whom I feel my first true love, which purifies instead of misguiding my
soul, why should a heavenly being wish to separate me from her?

"On entering my father's room, I saw his cloak, his footstool, and his
sword still in their wonted stations, though his place was vacant, and
I called on him in vain. This memento of his thoughts alone replied.
You already know a part of it," Oswald added, giving the manuscript to
Corinne. "Read what he wrote on the Duty of Children to their Parents:
your sweet voice, perhaps, may familarize me with the words." She thus
obeyed:----

"Ah, how slight a cause will teach self-mistrust to a father or mother
in the decline of life! They are easily taught that they are no longer
wanted on earth. What use can they believe themselves to you, who no
longer ask their advice! ye live but in the present; ye are wedded to
it by your passions, and all that belongs not to that present appears
to you superannuated;--ye are so much occupied by your young hearts and
minds, that, making your own day your point of history, the eternal
resemblances between men and their times escape your attention. The
authority of experience seems but a vain fiction, formed for the
credulity of age, as the last enjoyment of its self-love. What an error
is this!

"That vast theatre, the world, changes not its actors: it is always man
who appears there, though he varies; and as all his changes depend on
some great passion, whose circle hath long and oft been trod, it would
be strange, if in the little combinations of private life, experience,
the science of the past, were not the plenteous source of useful
instruction. Honor your fathers and mothers, then! respect them, if but
for the sake of their bygone reign, the time of which they were the
only rulers--if but for the years forever lost, whose reverent seal
is imprinted on their brows. Know your duty, presumptuous children,
impatient to walk alone on the path of life. They will leave you, do
not fear, though so tardy in yielding you place: that father, whose
discourses are still tainted by unwelcome severity; that mother, whose
age imposes on you such tedious cares. They will go, those watchful
guardians of your childhood, these zealous protectors of your youth,
they will depart, and you will seek in vain for better friends: when
they are lost, they will wear new aspects; for time, which makes the
living old before our eyes, renews their youth when death has torn
them away. Time then lends them a might unknown before: we see them
in our visions of eternity, wherein there is no age, as there are no
gradations; and if they have left virtuous memories behind, we adorn
them with a ray from heaven: our thoughts follow them to the home of
the elect; we see them in scenes of felicity, and, beside the bright
beams of which we form their glory, the light of our own best days,
our own most dazzling triumphs, is extinguished."[4] "Corinne!" cried
Nevil, almost heart-broken, "think you it was against me he breathed
that eloquent complaint?"--"No, no," she replied: "remember how he
loved you, and believed in your affection. I am of opinion that these
reflections were written long ere you committed the faults with which
you reproach yourself. Listen rather to these thoughts on indulgence,
that I find some pages later: 'We go through life surrounded by
snares and with unsteady steps; our senses are seduced by deceptive
allurements; our imaginations mislead us by a false glare; our reason
itself each day receives but from experience the degree of light and
confidence for that day required. So many dangers for so much weakness;
so many varied interests with such limited foresight and capacity; in
sooth, so many things unknown, and so short a life, show us the high
rank we should give to indulgence among the social virtues. Alas!
where is the man exempt from foibles, who can look back on his life
without regret and remorse? He must be a stranger to the agitations of
timidity, and never can have examined his own heart in the solitude of
conscience.'[5]

"These," said Corinne, "are the words your father addresses to you from
above."--"True," sighed Oswald, "consoling angel! how you cheer me;
yet could I but have see him for a moment, ere he died--could I have
said how unworthy of him I felt myself, and been believed, I should
not tremble like the guiltiest of mankind. I should not evince the
vacillation of conduct and gloom of soul which can promise happiness to
no one. Courage must be born of conscience; how then should it triumph
over her? Even now, as the darkness closes in, methinks I see, in yon
cloud, the thunderbolt that is armed against me. Corinne, Corinne!
comfort your unhappy lover, or leave me on the earth, which, perhaps,
will open at my cries, and let me descend to the abode of death."[6]


[1] This is the less clear for being literal. I cannot comprehend
how the banker's return should concern Madame d'Arbigny, if he had
previously restored Raimond's fortune; nor who possessed it.--TR.

[2] The lady's professed aversion to a third party in her attachments
seems unaccountably reversed.--TR.

[3] Frequent _unexplained chances_ favor subsequent letters; indeed,
the correspondence henceforth seems to proceed as easily as if the
countries had been at peace.--TR.

[4] Discourse "On the duty of Children to their Parents," by M. Necker.
See first note.**

[5] On Indulgence. The same.

[6] Lord Nevil does not inform us whether he entered the army before
he visited France, or during his year's residence in Scotland, ere he
returned thither. Between his father's death and his departure for
Italy, he had surely as little time as health for the military duties
even of a mess-table.--TR.



BOOK XIII.


VESUVIUS, AND THE CAMPAGNA OF NAPLES.



CHAPTER I.


Lord Nevil remained long exhausted after the trying recital which
had thrilled him to the soul. Corinne gently strove to revive him.
The river of flame which fell from Vesuvius fearfully excited his
imagination. She availed herself of this, in order to draw him from his
own recollections, and begged him to walk with her on the banks of once
inflamed lava. The ground they crossed glowed beneath their steps, and
seemed to warm them from a spot so hostile to all life. Man could not
here call himself "lord of the creation;" it seemed escaping from his
tyranny by suicide. The torrent of fire is of a dusky hue, yet when
it lights a vine, or any other tree, it sends forth a clear bright
blaze; but the lava itself is of that lurid tint, which might represent
infernal fire; it rolls on with a crackling sound, that alarms the more
from its slightness--cunning seems joined with strength; thus secretly
steals the tiger to his prey. This cataract, though so deliberate,
loses not a moment; if it encounter a high wall, or anything that
opposes its progress, it heaps against the obstacle its black and
bituminous flood, and buries it beneath burning waves. Its course
is not so rapid but that men may fly before it; but like Time, it
overtakes the old or the imprudent, who, from its silent approach,
think to escape without exertion. Its brightness is such that earth
is reflected in the sky, which appears lapped in perpetual lightning;
this, too, is mirrored by the sea, and all nature clothed in their
threefold fires. The wind is heard, and its effect perceived, as it
forms a whirlpool of flame round the gulf whence the lava issues; one
trembles to guess at what is passing in the bosom of the earth, whose
fury shakes the ground beneath our steps. The rocks about the source of
this flood are covered with pitch and sulphur, whose colors, indeed,
might suit the home of fiends--a livid green, a tawny brown, and an
ensanguined red, form just that dissonance to the eye of which the ear
were sensible, if pierced by the harsh cries of witches, conjuring down
the moon from heaven. All that is near the volcano bears so supernal
an aspect, that doubtless the poets thence drew their portraitures of
hell. There we may conceive how man was first persuaded that a power
of evil existed to thwart the designs of Providence. Well may one
ask, in such a scene, if mercy alone presides over the phenomena of
creation; or if some hidden principle forces natures, like her sons,
into ferocity? "Corinne," sighed Nevil, "is it not from hence that
sorrow comes? Does the angel of death take wing from yon summit? If I
beheld not thy heavenly face, I should lose all memory of the charms
with which the Eternal has adorned the earth; yet this spectacle,
frightful as it is, overawes me less than conscience. All perils may
be braved; but how can the dead absolve us for the wrongs we did them
living? Never, never. Ah, Corinne! what need of fires like these? The
wheel that turns incessantly, the stream that tempts and flies, the
stone that rolls back the more we would impel it on--these are but
feeble images of that dread thought, the impossible, the irreparable!"
A deep silence now reigned around Oswald and Corinne; their very guides
were far behind; and near the crater naught was heard save the hissing
of its fires; suddenly, however, one sound from the city reached even
this region--the chime of bells, perhaps announcing a death, perhaps a
birth, it mattered not--most welcome was it to our travellers. "Dear
Oswald," said Corinne, "let us leave this desert, and return to the
living world. _Other_ mountains raise us above terrestrial life, and
bring us nearer Heaven, but here nature seems treated as a criminal,
and condemned no more to taste the beneficent breath of her Creator.
This is no sojourn for the good--let us descend." An abundant shower
fell as they sought the plain, threatening each instant to extinguish
their torches: the Lazzaroni accompanied them with yells that might
alarm any one who knew not that such was their constant custom. These
men are sometimes agitated by a superfluity of life, with which they
know not what to do, uniting equal degrees of violence and sloth. Their
physiognomy, more marked, than their characters, seem to indicate a
kind of vivacity in which neither mind nor heart are at all concerned.
Oswald, uneasy lest the rain should hurt Corinne, and lest their lights
should fail, was absorbed by this indefinite sense of her danger;
and his tenderness by degrees restored that composure which had been
disturbed by the confidence he had made to her. They regained their
carriage at the foot of the mountain, and stopped not at the ruins of
Herculaneum, which are, as it were, buried afresh beneath the buildings
of Portici. They arrived at Naples near midnight, and Corinne promised
Nevil, as they took leave, to give him the history of her life on the
morrow.



CHAPTER II.


The next morning Corinne resolved to impose on herself the effort
she had promised: the intimate knowledge of Oswald's character which
she had acquired redoubled her inquietude. She left her chamber,
carrying what she had written in a trembling yet determined hand. She
entered the sitting-room of their hotel. Oswald was there: he had just
received letters from England. One of them lay on the mantel-piece:
its direction caught her eye, and, with inexpressible anxiety, she
asked from whom it came. "From Lady Edgarmond," replied Nevil.--"Do you
correspond with her?" added Corinne.--"Her late lord was my father's
friend," he said; "and since chance has introduced the subject, I will
not conceal from you that they thought it might one day suit me to
marry the daughter, Lucy."--"Great God!" cried Corinne, and sank, half
fainting, on a seat.--"What means this?" demanded Oswald; "Corinne,
what can you fear from one who loves you to idolatry? Had my parent's
dying command been my union with Miss Edgarmond, I certainly should
not now be free, and would have flown from your resistless spells; but
he merely advised the match, writing me word that he could form no
judgment of Lucy's character, as she was still a child. I have seen her
but once, when scarcely twelve years old. I made no arrangement with
her mother; yet the indecision of my conduct, I own, has sprung solely
from this wish of my father's. Ere I met you, I hoped for power to
complete it, as a sort of expiation, and to prolong, beyond his death,
the empire of his will; but you have triumphed over my whole being,
and I now desire but your pardon for what must have appeared so weak
and irresolute in my conduct. Corinne, we seldom entirely recover from
such griefs as I have experienced: they blight our hopes, and instil
a painful timidity of the future. Fate had so injured me, that even
while she offered the greatest of earthly blessings I could not trust
her: but these doubts are over, love: I am thine forever, assured that,
had my father known thee, he would have chosen such a companion for my
life."--"Hold!" wept forth Corinne: "I conjure you, speak not thus to
me."--"Why," said Oswald, "why thus constantly oppose the pleasure I
take in blending your image with his? thus wedding the two dearest and
most sacred feelings of my heart?"--"You cannot," returned Corinne;
"too well I know you cannot."--"Just Heaven! what have you to tell
me, then? Give me that history of your life."--"I will; but let me
beg a week's delay, only a week: what I have just learned obliges me
to add a few particulars."--"How!" said Oswald, "what connection have
you----"--"Do not exact my answer now," interrupted Corinne. "You will
soon know all, and that, perhaps, will be the end, the dreaded end of
my felicity; but ere it comes, let us explore together the Campagna of
Naples, with minds still accessible to the charms of nature. In these
fair scenes will I so celebrate the most solemn era of my life, that
you must cherish some memory of Corinne, such as she was, and might
have ever been, had she not loved you, Oswald."--"Corinne, what mean
these hints? You can have nothing to disclose which ought to chill my
tender admiration; why then prolong the mystery that raises barriers
between us?"--"Dear Oswald, 'tis my will: pardon me this last act of
power: soon you alone will decide for us both. I shall hear my sentence
from your lips, unmurmuringly, even if it be cruel; for I have on this
earth nor love nor duty condemning me to live when you are lost." She
withdrew, gently repulsing Oswald, who would fain have followed her.



CHAPTER III.


Corinne decided on giving a fête, united as the idea was with
melancholy associations. She knew she must be judged as a poet, as an
artist, ere she could be pardoned for the sacrifice of her rank, her
family, her name, to her enthusiasm. Lord Nevil was indeed capable of
appreciating genius, but, in his opinion, the relations of social life
overruled all others; and the highest destiny of woman, nay of man
too, he thought was accomplished, not by the exercise of intellectual
faculties, but by the fulfilment of domestic duties. Remorse, in
driving him from the false path in which he had strayed, fortified
the moral principles innately his. The manners and habits of England,
a country where such respect for law and duty exists, held, in many
respects, a strict control over him. Indeed, the discouragement deep
sorrows inculcate, teaches men to love that natural order which
requires no new resolves, no decision contrary to the circumstances
marked for us by fate. Oswald's love for Corinne modified his every
feeling; but love never wholly effaces the original character, which
she perceived through the passion that now lorded over it; and,
perhaps, his ruling charm consisted in the opposition of his character
to his attachment, giving added value to every pledge of his love. But
the hour drew nigh when the fleeting fears she had constantly banished,
and which had but slightly disturbed her dream of joy, were to decide
her fate. Her mind, formed for delight, accustomed to the various
moods of poetry and talent, was wonder-struck at the sharp fixedness
of grief; a shudder thrilled her heart, such as no woman long resigned
to suffering ever knew. Yet, in the midst of the most torturing fears,
she secretly prepared for the one more brilliant evening she might
pass with Oswald. Fancy and feeling were thus romantically blended.
She invited the English who were there, and some Neapolitans whose
society pleased her. On the day chosen for this fête, whose morrow
might destroy her happiness forever, a singular wildness animated
her features, and lent them quite a new expression. Careless eyes
might have mistaken it for that of joy; but her rapid and agitated
movements, her looks that rested nowhere, proved but too plainly to
Nevil the struggle in her heart. Vainly he strove to soothe her by
tender protestations. "You shall repeat them two days hence, if you
will," she said; "now these soft words but mock me." The carriages of
Corinne's party arrived at the close of day, just as the sea-breeze
refreshed the air, inviting man to the contemplation of nature. They
went first to Virgil's tomb. It overlooks the bay of Naples; and such
is the magnificent repose of this spot, that one is tempted to believe
the bard himself must have selected it. These simple words from his
Georgies might have served him for epitaph:----

    "Illo Virgilium me tempore dulcis alebat Parthenope."

    "Then did the soft Parthenope receive me."

His ashes here repose, and attract universal homage--all, all that man
on earth can steal from death. Petrarch set a laurel beside them--like
its planter, it is dead. He alone was worthy to have left a lasting
trace near such a grave. One feels disgust at the crowd of ignoble
names traced by strangers on the walls about the urn; they trouble
the peace of this classic solitude. Its present visitants left it in
silence, musing over the images immortalized by the Mantuan. Blest
intercourse between the past and future! which the art of writing
perpetually renews. Shadow of death, what art thou? Man's thoughts
survive; can he then be no more? Such contradiction is impossible.
"Oswald," said Corinne, "these impressions are strange preparatives
for a fête; yet," she added, with wild sublimity, "how many fêtes
are held thus near the grave!"--"My life," he said, "whence all this
secret dread? Confide in me; for six months have I owed you everything;
perhaps have shed some pleasure over your path. Who then can err
so impiously against happiness as to dash down the supreme bliss of
soothing such a soul? it is much to feel one's self of use to the most
humble mortal; but Corinne! to be her comfort! trust me, is a glory
too delicious to renounce."--"I believe your promises," she said; "yet
there are moments when something strange and new seizes the heart, and
hurries it thus sadly." They passed through the Grotto of Pausilipo by
torchlight, as indeed would have been the case at noon; for it extends
nearly a quarter of a league beneath the mountain; and in the centre,
the light of day, admitted at either extremity, is scarcely visible. In
this long vault the tramp of steeds and cries of their drivers resound
so stunningly that they deaden all thought in the brain. Corinne's
horses drew her carriage with astonishing rapidity; yet did she say:
"Dear Nevil, how slowly we advance! pray hasten them."--"Why thus
impatient?" he asked; "formerly, while we were together, you sought not
to expedite time, but to enjoy it."--"Yet now," she said, "all must
be decision; everything must come to an end; and I would hasten it,
were it my death." On leaving the grotto, you feel a lively sensation
at regaining daylight and the open country; such a country, too! What
are so often missed in Italy, fine trees, here flourish in abundance.
Italian earth is everywhere so spread with flowers that woods may
better be dispensed with here than in most other lands. The heat at
Naples is so great that, even in the shade, it is impossible to walk by
day: but in the evening the sea and sky alike shed freshness through
the transparent air; the mountains are so picturesque that painters
love to select their landscapes from a country whose original charm
can be explained by no comparison with other realms. "I lead ye," said
Corinne, to those near her, "through the fair scene celebrated by the
name of Baiæ; we will not pause there now, but gather its recollections
into the moment when we reach the spot which sets them all before us."
It was on the Cape of Micena that she had prepared her fête; nothing
could be more tastefully arranged. Sailors, in habits of contrasted
hues, and some Orientalists from a Levantine barque then in the port,
danced with the peasant girls from Ischia and Procida, whose costume
still preserves a Grecian grace; sweet voices were heard singing from
a distance; and instrumental music answered from behind the rocks. It
was like echo echoed by sounds that lost themselves in the sea. The
softness of the air animated all around--even Corinne herself. She was
entreated to dance among the rustics; at first, she consented with
pleasure; but scarcely had she begun, ere her forebodings rendered
all amusement odious to her, and she withdrew to the extreme verge of
the cape; thither Oswald followed, with others, who now begged her
to extemporize in this lovely scene; her emotions were such that she
permitted them to lead her towards the elevation on which they had
placed her lyre, without power to comprehend what they expected.



CHAPTER IV.


Still, Corinne desired that Oswald should once more hear her, as on
the day at the Capitol. If the talent with which Heaven had gifted
her was about to be extinguished forever, she wished its last rays to
shine on him she loved: these very fears afforded her the inspiration
she required. Her friends were impatient to hear her. Even the common
people knew her fame; and, as imagination rendered them judges of
poetry, they closed silently round, their eager faces expressing the
deepest attention. The moon arose; but the last beams of day still
paled her light. From the top of the small hill that, standing over the
sea, forms the Cape of Micena, Vesuvius is plainly seen, and the bay
and isles that stud its bosom. With one consent, the friends of Corinne
begged her to sing the memories that scene recalled. She tuned her
lyre, and began with a broken voice. Her look was beautiful; but one
who knew her, as Oswald did, could there read the trouble of her soul.
She strove, however, to restrain her feelings; and once more, if but
for awhile, to soar above her personal situation.

    CORINNE'S CHANT IN THE VICINITY OF NAPLES.


    Ay, Nature, History, and Poesie,
    Rival each other's greatness;--here the eye
    Sweeps with a glance, all wonders and all time.
    A dead volcano now, I see thy lake
    Avernus, with the fear-inspiring waves,
    Acheron, and Phlégeton boiling up
    With subterranean flame: these are the streams
    Of that old hell Æneas visited.

    Fire, the devouring life which first creates
    The world which it consumes, struck terror most
    When least its laws were known.--Ah! Nature then
    Reveal'd her secrets but to Poetry.

    The town of Cuma and the Sibyl's cave,
    The temple of Apollo mark'd this height;
    Here is the wood where grew the bough of gold.
    The country of the Æneid is around;
    The fables genius consecrated here
    Are memories whose traces still we seek.

    A Triton has beneath these billows plunged
    The daring Trojan, who in song defied
    The sea divinities: still are the rocks
    Hollow and sounding, such as Virgil told.
    Imagination's truth is from its power:
    Man's genius can create when nature's felt;
    He copies when he deems that he invents.

    Amid these masses, terrible and old,
    Creation's witnesses, you see arise
    A younger hill of the volcano born:
    For here the earth is stormy as the sea,
    But doth not, like the sea, peaceful return
    Within its bounds: the heavy element,
    Upshaken by the tremulous abyss,
    Digs valleys, and rears mountains; while the waves,
    Harden'd to stone, attest the storms which rend
    Her depths; strike now upon the earth,
    You hear the subterranean vault resound.
    It is as if the ground on which we dwell
    Were but a surface ready to unclose.
    Naples! how doth thy country likeness bear
    To human passions; fertile; sulphurous:
    Its dangers and its pleasures both seem born
    Of those inflamed volcanoes, which bestow
    Upon the atmosphere so many charms,
    Yet bid the thunder growl beneath our feet.

    Pliny but studied nature that the more
    He might love Italy; and call'd his land
    The loveliest, when all other titles fail'd.
    He sought for science as a warrior seeks
    For conquest: it was from this very cape
    He went to watch Vesuvius through the flames:
    Those flames consumed him.

    O Memory! noble power! thy reign is here.
    Strange destiny, how thus, from age to age,
    Doth man complain of that which he has lost.
    Still do departed years, each in their turn,
    Seem treasures of happiness gone by;
    And while mind, joyful in its far advance,
    Plunges amid the future, still the Soul
    Seems to regret some other ancient home
    To which it is drawn closer by the past.

    We envy Roman grandeur--did they not
    Envy their fathers' brave simplicity?
    Once this voluptuous country they despised;
    Its pleasures but subdued their enemies.
    See, in the distance, Capua! she o'ercame
    The warrior, whose firm soul resisted Rome
    More time than did a world.

    The Romans in their turn dwelt on these plains,
    When strength of mind but only served to feel
    More deeply shame and grief; effeminate
    They sank without remorse. Yet Baiæ saw
    The conquer'd sea give place to palaces:
    Columns were dug from mountains rent in twain,
    And the world's masters, now in their turn slaves,
    Made nature subject to console themselves
    That they were subject too.

    And Cicero on this promontory died:
    This Gaëta we see. Ah! no regard
    Those triumvirs paid to posterity,
    Robbing her of the thoughts yet unconceived
    Of this great man: their crime continues still;
    Committed against us was this offence.

    Cicero 'neath the tyrant's dagger fell,
    But Scipio, more unhappy, was exiled
    With yet his country free. Beside this shore
    He died; and still the ruins of his tomb
    Retain the name, "Tower of my native land:"[1]
    Touching allusion to the memory
    Which haunted his great soul.

    Marius found a refuge in yon marsh,[2]
    to the Scipios' home. Thus in all time
    Have nations persecuted their great men.
    But they enskied them after death;[3] and heaven,
    Where still the Romans deem'd they could command,
    Received amid her planets Romulus,
    Numa, and Cæsar; new and dazzling stars!
    Mingling together in our erring gaze
    The rays of glory and celestial light.

    And not enough alone of misery,
    The trace of crime is here. In yonder gulf behold
    The isle of Capri, where at length old age
    Disarm'd Tiberius; violent, yet worn;
    Cruel, voluptuous; wearied e'en of crime,
    He sought yet viler pleasures; as he were
    Not low enough debased by tyranny.
    And Agrippina's tomb is on these shores,
    Facing the isle,[4] reared after Nero's death;
    The murderer of his mother had proscribed
    Even her ashes. Long at Baiæ he dwelt
    Amid the memories of his many crimes.
    What wretches fate here brings before our eyes!
    Tiberius, Nero, on each other gaze.

    The isles, volcano-born amid the sea,
    Served at their birth the crimes of the old world.
    The sorrowing exiles on these lonely rocks,
    Watched 'mid the waves their native land afar,
    Seeking to catch its perfumes in the air:
    And often, a long exile worn away,
    Sentence of sudden death arrived to show
    They were remember'd by their enemies.

    O Earth! all bathed with blood and tears, yet never
    Hast thou ceased putting forth thy fruit and flowers;
    And hast thou then no pity for mankind?
    Can thy maternal breast receive again
    Their dust, and yet not throb?               L. E. L.

Here Corinne paused for some moments. All her assembled hearers threw
laurels and myrtle at her feet. The soft pure moonlight fell on her
brow, and the breeze wantoned with her ringlets as if nature delighted
to adorn her: she was so overpowered as she looked on the enchanting
scene, and on Oswald, who shared this delicious eve with her, yet
might not be thus near forever, that tears flowed from her eyes. Even
the crowd, who had just applauded her so tumultuously, respected her
emotion, and mutely awaited her words, which they trusted would make
them participators in her feelings. She preluded for some time on her
lyre, then, no longer dividing her song into stanzas, abandoned herself
to the uninterrupted stream of verse.

    Some memories of the heart, some women's manes
    Yet ask your tears. 'Twas at this very place,
    Massena,[5] that Cornelia kept till death
    Her noble mourning; Agrippina too
    Long wept Germanicus beside these shores.
    At length the same assassin who deprived
    Her of her husband found she was at last
    Worthy to follow him. And yonder isle[6]
    Saw Brutus and his Portia bid farewell.

    Thus women loved of heroes have beheld
    The object perish which they so adored.
    Long time in vain they follow'd in their path;
    There came the hour when they were forced to part.
    Portia destroy'd herself; Cornelia clasp'd
    The sacred urn which answer'd not her cries;
    And Agrippina, for how many years!
    Vainly her husband's murderer defied.
    And wander'd here the wretched ones, like ghosts
    On wasted shores of the eternal stream,
    Sighing to reach the other far-off land.
    Did they not ask in their long solitude
    Of silence, of all nature, of the sky,
    Star-shining?--and from the deep sea, one sound,
    One only tone of the beloved voice
    They never more might hear.

    Mysterious enthusiasm, Love!
    The heart's supremest power;--which doth combine
    Within itself religion, poetry,
    And heroism. Love, what may befall
    When destiny has bade us separate
    From him who has the secret of our soul;
    Who gave us the heart's life, celestial life.
    What may befall when absence, or when death
    Isolate woman on this earth?--She pines,
    She sinks. How often have these rocks
    Offer'd their cold support to the forlorn!
    Those once worn in the heart;--those once sustain'd
    Upon a hero's arm

    Before you is Sorrento:--dwelling there
    Was Tasso's sister, when the pilgrim came
    Asking asylum 'gainst the prince unjust
    From humble friends: long grief had almost quench'd
    Reason's clear light, but genius still was left.
    Yet kept he knowledge of the things divine,
    When earthly images were all obscured.
    Thus shrinking from the desert spread around.
    Doth Genius wander through the world, and finds
    No likeness to itself; no echo given
    By Nature; and the common crowd but hold
    As madness that desire of the rapt soul,
    Which finds not in this world enough of air--
    Of high enthusiasm, or of hope.
    For Destiny compels exalted minds;--
    The poet, whose imagination draws
    Its power from loving and from suffering--
    They are the vanish'd from another sphere.
    For the Almighty goodness might not frame
    All for the few--th' elect or the proscribed.
    Why spoke the ancients with such awe of Fate?
    What had this terrible Fate to do with them,
    The common and the quiet, who pursue
    The seasons, and still follow timidly
    The beaten track of ordinary life?
    But she, the priestess of the oracle,
    Shook with the presence of the cruel power.
    I know not what the involuntary force
    That plunges Genius into misery.
    Genius doth catch the music of the spheres,
    Which mortal ear was never meant to know.
    Genius can penetrate the mysteries
    Of feeling, all unknown to other hearts;
    A power hath entered in the inmost soul,
    Whose presence may not be contained.

    Sublime Creator of this lovely world,
    Protect us: our exertions have no strength;
    Our hope's a lie. Tumultuous tyranny
    Our passions exercise, and neither leave
    Repose nor liberty. What we may do
    To-morrow may perhaps decide our fate.
    We may have said but yesterday some word
    Which may not be recalled. Still, when our mind
    Is elevate with noblest thoughts, we feel
    As on the height of some great edifice,
    Giddiness blending all things in our sight;
    But even there, woe! terrible woe! appears.
    Not lost amid the clouds, it pierces through;
    It flings the shades asunder; O my God!
    What doth it herald to us?"               L. E. L.

At these words, a mortal paleness overspread her countenance; her eyes
closed; and she would have fallen to the earth, had not Oswald rushed
to support her.


[1] "La tour de la patrie." Patrie can scarce be rendered by a single
word: "native land" perhaps best expresses the ancient_patria_.--L. E.
L.

[2] Minturno.

[3] "Ils sont consolés par l'apothéose." This is the only instance in
which I have not given, as nearly as possible, the English word that
answered most exactly; but I confess one so long as "apotheosis" fairly
baffled my efforts to get it into rhythm. It is curious to observe how
many Pagan observances were grafted on the Roman Catholic worship.
Canonization is but a Christian apotheosis, only the deceased turned
into saints instead of gods.--L. E. L.

[4] Caprea.

[5] The retreat of Pompey

[6] Nisida.



CHAPTER V.


Corinne revived: the affecting interest of Oswald's look restored
her to some composure. The Neapolitans were surprised at the gloomy
character of her poetry, much as they admired it. They thought it the
Muse's task to dissipate the cares of life, and not to explore their
terrible secrets; but the English who were present seemed deeply
touched. Their own melancholy, embellished by Italian imagination,
delighted them. This lovely woman, whose features seemed designed to
depict felicity--this child of the sun, a prey to hidden grief--was
like a flower, still fresh and brilliant, but within whose leaves may
be seen the first dark impress of that withering blight which soon
shall lay it low. The party embarked to return: the glowing calm of the
hour made it a luxury to be upon the sea. Goëthe has described, in a
delicious romance, the passion felt in warm climates, for the water.
A nymph of the flood boasts to the fisherman the charms of her abode;
invites him to taste its refreshment, and, by degrees, allures him
to his death. This magic of the tide resembles that of the basilisk,
which fascinates by fear. The wave rising gently afar, swelling, and
hurrying as it nears the shore, is but a type of passion, that dawns
in softness, but soon grows invincible. Corinne put back her tresses,
that she might better enjoy the air: her countenance was thus more
beautiful than ever. The musicians, who followed in another boat,
poured forth enchantments that harmonized with the stars, the sea,
and the sweet intoxication of an Italian evening. "Oh, my heart's
love!" whispered Oswald, "can I ever forget this day, or ever enjoy
a happier?" His eyes filled with tears. One of his most seductive
attributes was this ready yet restrained sensibility, which so oft, in
spite of him, bedewed his lids: at such moments he was irresistible:
sometimes even in the midst of an endearing pleasantry, a melting
thrill stole on his mirth, and lent it a new, a noble charm. "Alas!"
returned Corinne, "I hope not for another day like this; but be it
blest, at least, as the last such of my life, if forbidden to prove the
dawn of more endearing bliss."



CHAPTER VI.


The weather changed ere they reached Naples: the heavens darkened,
and the coming storm, already felt in the air, convulsed the waves,
as if the sea sympathized with the sky. Oswald preceded Corinne, that
he might see the flambeaux borne the more steadily before her. As
they neared the quay, he saw some Lazzaroni assembled, crying "Poor
creature! he cannot save himself! we must be patient."--"Of whom speak
ye?" cried Nevil, impetuously.--"An old man," they replied, "who was
bathing below there, not far from the mole; but the storm has risen:
he is too weak to struggle with it." Oswald's first impulse was to
plunge into the water; then, reflecting on the alarm he should cause
Corinne, when she came, he offered all the money he had with him,
promising to double it, for the man who would swim to this unfortunate
being's assistance; but the Lazzaroni all refused, saying: "It cannot
be, the danger is too fearful." At that moment the old man sunk. Oswald
could hesitate no longer: he threw off his coat, and sprang into the
sea, spite of its waves, that dashed above his head: he buffeted them
bravely; seized the sufferer, who must have perished had he been a
moment later, and brought him to the land; but the sudden chill and
violent exertion so overwhelmed Lord Nevil, that he had scarcely seen
his charge in safety, when he fell on the earth insensible, and so
pallid, that the bystanders believed him a corpse.[1] It was then
that the unconscious Corinne beheld the crowd, heard them cry, "He is
dead," and would have drawn back in terror; when she saw one of the
Englishmen who had accompanied her, break eagerly through the people:
she made some steps to follow him; and the first object which met her
eye was a portion of Oswald's dress, lying on the bank. She seized
it with desperation, believing it all that was left of her love; and
when she saw him, lifeless as he appeared, she threw herself on his
breast, in transport, and ardently pressed him to her heart: with what
inexpressible rapture did she detect that _his_ still beat, perhaps
reanimated by her presence! "He lives!" she cried, "he lives!" and
instantly regained a strength, a courage, such as his mere friends
could scarcely equal. She sent for everything that could revive him:
and herself applied these restoratives, supporting his fainting head
upon her breast, and, though she wept over it, forgetting nothing,
losing not a moment, nor permitting her grief to interrupt her cares.
Oswald grew better, but resumed not yet the use of his senses. She
had him carried to his hotel, and, kneeling beside him, bathed his
brow with stimulating perfumes, calling on him in tones of impassioned
tenderness that might have waked the dead. He opened his eyes, and
pressed her hand. For the joy of such a moment might one not endure
the tortures of demons? Poor human nature! We guess at infinitude but
by suffering; and not a bliss in life can compensate the anguish of
beholding those we love expire. "Cruel, cruel!" cried Corinne; "think
what you have done!"--"Pardon," he replied, in a trembling voice.
"Believe me, dearest, while I thought myself dying, I trembled but for
thee." Exquisite expression of mutual love and confidence! Corinne, to
her last day, could not recall those words without a fondness, which,
while it lasted, taught her to forgive him all.


[1] Mr. Elliot saved the life of an old Neapolitan in the manner
attributed to Lord Nevil.



CHAPTER VII.


Oswald's next impulse was to thrust his hand into his bosom for his
father's portrait; it was still there; but the water had left it
scarcely recognizable; he was bitterly afflicted by this loss. "My
God!" he cried, "dost thou deny me even his image?" Corinne besought
his permission to restore it: he consented, without much hope; what
then was his amaze when, on the third morning she brought it to him,
not only repaired, but more faithful than ever! "Yes," cried Oswald,
"you have divined his features and his look. This heavenly miracle
decides you for my life's companion, since to you is thus revealed
the memory of one who must forever dispose my fate. Here is the ring
my father gave his wife--the sacred bond sincerely offered by the
noblest, and accepted by the most constant of hearts. Let me transfer
it from my hand to thine, and, while thou keepest it, be no longer
free. I take this solemn oath, not knowing to whom, but in thy soul I
trust, that tells me all: the events of your life, if springing from
yourself, must needs be lofty as your character. If you have been the
victim to an unworthy fate, thank Heaven I can repair it; therefore,
my own Corinne, you owe your secrets to one whose promises precede
your confidence."--"Oswald," she answered, "this delirium is the
result of a mistake. I cannot accept your ring till I have undeceived
you. An inspiration of the heart, you think, taught me your father's
features: I ought to tell you that I have seen him often."--"Seen him!
how? when? where? O God! who are you, then?"--"Here is your ring,"
returned Corinne, in a smothered tone.--"No," cried Oswald, after
a moment's pause; "I swear never to wed another till you send back
that ring. Forgive the tumult you have raised within me; confused and
half-forgotten thoughts afflict my mind."--"I see it," said Corinne;
"and this shall end: already your accents and your words are changed.
Perhaps when you have read my history, the horrid word adieu----"--"No,
no," cried Nevil; "only from my death-bed--fear not that word till
then." Corinne retired, and, in a few moments, Thérésina brought him
the papers which he was now to read.



BOOK XIV.


HISTORY OF CORINNE.



CHAPTER I.


"Oswald, I begin with the avowal which must determine my fate. If,
after reading it, you find it impossible to pardon, do not finish this
letter, but reject and banish me; yet if, when you know the name and
destiny I have renounced, all is not broken between us, what follows
may then serve as my excuse.

"Lord Edgarmond was my father. I was born in Italy: his first wife was
a Roman; and Lucy, whom they intended for your bride, is my sister, by
an English lady--by my father's second marriage. Now, hear me! I lost
my mother ere I was ten years old, and, as it was her dying wish that
my education should be finished ere I went to England, I was confided
to an aunt at Florence, with whom I lived till I was fifteen. My tastes
and talents were formed ere her death induced Lord Edgarmond to have
me with him. He lived at a small town in Northumberland, which cannot,
I suppose, give any idea of England; yet was all I knew of it for six
years. My mother, from my infancy, impressed on me the misery of not
living in Italy; my aunt had often added, that this fear of quitting
her country had broken her heart. My good aunt herself was persuaded,
too, that a Catholic would be condemned to perdition for settling in
a Protestant country; and though I was not infected by this fear,
the thought of going to England alarmed me much. I set forth with an
inexplicable sense of sadness. The woman sent for me did not understand
a word of Italian. I spoke it now and then to console my poor
Thérésina, who had consented to follow me, though she wept incessantly
at leaving her country; but I knew that I must unlearn the habit of
breathing the sweet sounds so welcome even to foreigners, and, for me,
associated with all the recollections of my childhood. I approached
the north unable to comprehend the cause of my own changed and sombre
sensations. It was five years since I had seen my father. I hardly
recognized him when I reached his house. Methought his countenance
was very grave; yet he received me with tenderness, and told me I was
extremely like my mother. My half-sister, then three years of age,
was brought to me: her skin was fairer, her silken curls more golden
than I had ever seen before; we have hardly any such faces in Italy;
she astonished and interested me from the first; that same day I cut
off some of her ringlets for a bracelet, which I have preserved ever
since. At last my step-mother appeared, and the impression made on me
by her first look grew and deepened during the years I passed with
her. Lady Edgarmond was exclusively attached to her native country;
and my father, whom she overruled, sacrificed a residence in London
or Edinburgh to her wishes. She was a cold, dignified, silent person,
whose eyes could turn affectionately on her child, but who usually wore
so positive an air, that it appeared impossible to make her understand
a new idea, or even one phrase to which she had not been accustomed.
She met me politely, but I soon perceived that my whole manner amazed
her, and that she proposed to change it, if she could. Not a word
was said during dinner, though some neighbors had been invited. I
was so tired of this silence, that, in the midst of our meal, I
strove to converse a little with an old gentleman who sat beside me.
I spoke English tolerably, as my father had taught me in childhood;
but happening to cite some Italian poetry, purely delicate, in which
there was some mention of love, my step-mother, who knew the language
slightly, stared at me, blushed, and signed for the ladies, earlier
than usual, to withdraw, prepare tea, and leave the men to themselves
during the dessert.[1] I knew nothing of this custom, which 'would not
be believed in Venice.'--Society agreeable without women!--For a moment
I thought her ladyship so displeased that she could not remain in the
same room with me; but I was reassured by her motioning me to follow,
and never reverting to my fault during the three hours we passed in the
drawing-room, waiting for the gentlemen. At supper, however, she told
me, gently enough, that it was not usual in England for young ladies to
talk; above all, they must never think of quoting poetry in which the
name of love occurred. 'Miss Edgarmond,' she added, 'you must endeavor
to forget all that belongs to Italy: it is to be wished that you had
never known such a country.' I passed the night in tears, my heart was
oppressed. In the morning, I attempted to walk: there was so tremendous
a fog that I could not see the sun, which at least would have reminded
me of my own land; but I met my father, who said to me: 'My dear child,
it is not here as in Italy; our women have no occupations save their
domestic duties. Your talents may beguile your solitude, and you may
win a husband who will pride in them; but in a country town like this,
all that attracts attention excites envy, and you will never marry
at all if it is thought that you have foreign manners. Here, every
one must submit to the old prejudices of an obscure county. I passed
twelve years in Italy with your mother: their memory is very dear to
me. I was young then, and novelty delightful. I have now returned to my
original situation, and am quite comfortable; a regular, perhaps rather
a monotonous life, makes time pass unperceived; one must not combat
the habits of a place in which one is established; we should be the
sufferers if we did, for, in a scene like this, everything is known,
everything repeated; there is no room for emulation, but sufficient for
jealousy; and it is better to bear a little ennui than to be beset by
wondering faces that every instant demand reasons for what you do.'--My
dear Oswald, you can form no idea of my anguish while my father spoke
thus. I remembered him all grace and vivacity, and I saw him stooping
beneath the leaden mantle which Dante invented for hell, and which
mediocrity throws over all who submit to her yoke. Enthusiasm for
nature and the arts seemed vanishing from my sight; and my soul, like a
useless flame, consumed myself, having no longer any food from without.
As I was naturally mild, my step-mother had nothing to complain of in
my behavior towards her; and for my father, I loved him tenderly. A
conversation with him was my only remaining pleasure; he was resigned,
but he knew that he was so; while the generality of our country
gentlemen drank, hunted, and slept, fancying such life the wisest
and best in the world. Their content so perplexed me, that I asked
myself if my _own_ way of thinking was not a folly, and if this solid
existence, which escaped grief, in avoiding thought and sentiment, was
not far more enviable than mine. What would such a conviction have done
for me? it must have taught me to deplore as a misfortune that genius
which in Italy was regarded as a blessing from Heaven.

"Towards the close of autumn the pleasures of the chase frequently
kept my father from home till midnight. During his absence I remained
mostly in my own room, endeavoring to improve myself; this displeased
Lady Edgarmond. 'What good will it do?' she said; 'will you be any
the happier for it?' The words struck me with despair. What then is
happiness, I thought, if it consist not in the development of our
faculties? Might we not as well kill ourselves physically as morally?
If I must stifle my mind, my soul, why preserve the miserable remains
of life that would but agitate me in vain? But I was careful not to
speak thus before my step-mother. I had essayed it once or twice, and
her reply was, that women were made to manage their husbands' houses,
and watch over the health of their children; all other accomplishments
were dangerous, and the best advice she could give me was to hide those
I possessed. This discourse, though so commonplace, was unanswerable;
for enthusiasm is peculiarly dependent on encouragement, and withers
like a flower beneath a dark or freezing sky. There is nothing easier
than to assume a high moral air, while condemning all the attributes
of an elevated spirit. Duty, the noblest destination of man, may be
distorted, like all other ideas, into an offensive weapon by which
narrow minds silence their superiors as their foes. One would think, if
believing them, that duty enjoined the sacrifice of all the qualities
that confer distinction; that wit were a fault, requiring the expiation
of our leading precisely the same lives with those who have none;
but does duty prescribe like rules to all characters? Are not great
thoughts and generous feelings debts due to the world, from all who
are capable of paying them? Ought not every woman, like every man, to
follow the bent of her own talents? Must we imitate the instinct of the
bees, whose every succeeding swarm copies the last, without improvement
or variety? No, Oswald; pardon the pride of your Corinne, I believed
myself intended for a different career. Yet I feel myself submissive to
those I love as the females then around me, who had neither judgment
nor wishes of their own. If it pleased you to pass your days in the
heart of Scotland, I should be happy to live and die with you; but
far from abjuring imagination, it would teach me the better to enjoy
nature, and the further the empire of my mind extended, the more glory
should I feel in declaring you its lord.

"Lady Edgarmond was almost as importunate respecting my thoughts as my
actions. It sufficed not that I led the same life as herself, it must
be from the same motives; for she wished all the faculties she did not
share to be looked on as diseases. We lived pretty near the sea; at
night, the north wind whistled through the long corridors of our old
castle; by day, even when we reunited, it was wondrously favorable to
our silence. The weather was cold and damp; I could scarce ever leave
the house with pleasure. Nature, now, treated me with hostility, and
deepened my regrets of her sweetness and benevolence in Italy. With
the winter, we removed into the city, if so I may call a place without
public buildings, theatre, music, or pictures.

"In the smallest Italian towns we have spectacles, improvisators,
zeal for the fine arts, and a glorious sun; we feel that we live--but
I almost forgot it in this assembly of gossips, this depository of
disgusts, at once monotonous and varied. Births, deaths, and marriages,
composed the history of our society; and these three events here
differed not the least from what they are elsewhere. Figure to yourself
what it must have been for me to be seated at a tea-table, many hours
each day after dinner, with my step-mother's guests. These were the
seven gravest women in Northumberland--two were old maids of fifty,
timid as fifteen. One lady would say: 'My dear, do you think the water
hot enough to pour on the tea?'--'My dear,' replied the other, 'I think
it is too soon; the gentlemen are not ready yet.'--'Do you think they
will sit late to-day, my dear?' says a third.--'I don't know,' answers
a fourth; 'I believe the election takes place next week, so perhaps
they are staying to talk over it.'--'No,' rejoins a fifth, 'I rather
think they are occupied by the fox-hunt which occurred last week; there
will be another on Monday; but for all that, I suppose they will come
soon.'--'Ah! I hardly expect it,' sighs the sixth; and all again is
silence.[2] The convents I had seen in Italy appeared all life to this;
and I knew not what would become of me. Every quarter of an hour some
voice was raised to ask an insipid question, which received a lukewarm
reply; and ennui fell back with redoubled weight on these poor women,
who must have thought themselves most miserable, had not habit from
infancy instructed them to endure it. At last the gentlemen came up;
yet this long hoped for moment brought no great change. They continued
their conversation round the fire; the ladies sat in the centre of the
room distributing cups of tea; and, when the hour of departure arrived,
each went home with her husband, ready for another day, differing from
the last merely by its date on the almanac. I cannot yet conceive how
my talent escaped a mortal chill. There is no denying that every case
has two sides; every subject may be attacked or defended; we may plead
the cause of life, yet much is to be said for death, or a state thus
resembling it. Such was my situation. My voice was a sound either
useless or troublesome to its hearers. I could not, as in London or
Edinburgh, enjoy the society of learned men, who, with a taste for
intellectual conversation, would have appreciated that of a foreigner,
even if she did not quite conform with the strict etiquettes of
their country. I sometimes passed whole days with Lady Edgarmond and
her friends, without hearing one word that echoed either thought or
feeling, or beholding one expressive gesture. I looked on the faces
of young girls, fair, fresh, and beautiful, but perfectly immovable.
Strange union of contrasts! All ages partook of the same amusements;
they drank tea, and played whist;[3] women grew old in this routine
here. Time was sure not to miss them; he well knew where they were to
be found.

"An automaton might have filled my place, and could have done all that
was expected of me. In England, as elsewhere, the divers interests that
do honor to humanity worthily occupy the leisure of men, whatever their
retirement; but what remained for women in this isolated corner of the
earth? Among the ladies who visited us there were some not deficient
in mind, though they concealed it as a superfluity; and towards forty
this slight impulse of the brain was benumbed like all the rest. Some
of them I suspected, must, by reflection, have matured their natural
abilities; sometimes a look or murmured accent told of thoughts that
strayed from the beaten track; but the petty opinions, all-powerful
in their own little sphere, repressed these inclinations. A woman was
considered insane, or of doubtful virtue, if she ventured in any way
to assert herself; and, what was worse than all these inconveniences,
she could gain not one advantage by the attempt. At first, I endeavored
to rouse this sleeping world. I proposed poetic readings and music,
and a day was appointed for this purpose: but suddenly, one woman
remembered that she had been three weeks invited to sup with her aunt;
another, that she was in mourning for an old cousin she had never
seen, and who had been dead for months; a third, that she had some
domestic arrangements to make at home; all very reasonable; yet thus
forever were intellectual pleasures rejected; and I so often heard them
say, 'that cannot be done,' that, amid so many negations, _not to
live_ would have been to me the best of all. After some debates with
myself I gave up my vain schemes, not that my father forbade them, he
even enjoined his wife to cease tormenting me on my studies; but her
insinuations, her stolen glances while I spoke, a thousand trivial
hinderances, like the chains the Lilliputians wove round Gulliver,
rendered it impossible for me to follow my own will; so I ended by
doing as I saw others do, though dying of impatience and disgust. By
the time I had passed four weary years thus, I really found, to my
severe distress, that my mind grew dull, and, in spite of me, was
filled by trifles. Where no interest is taken in science, literature,
and liberal pursuits, mere facts and insignificant criticisms
necessarily become the themes of discourse; and minds, strangers
alike to activity and meditation, become so limited as to render all
intercourse with them at once tasteless and oppressive. There was no
enjoyment near me save in a certain methodical regularity, whose desire
was that of reducing all things to its own level; a constant grief to
characters called by heaven to destinies of their own. The ill-will I
innocently excited, joined with my sense of the void all around me,
seemed to check even my breath. Envy is only to be borne where it is
excited by admiration; but oh the misery of living where jealousy
itself awakens no enthusiasm! where we are hated as if powerful, though
in fact allowed less influence than the obscurest of our rivals. It is
impossible simply to despise the opinions of the herd: they sink, in
spite of us, into the heart, and lie waiting the moments when our own
superiority has involved us in distress; then, then, even an apparently
temperate '_Well?_' may prove the most insupportable word we can hear.
In vain we tell ourselves, 'such a man is unworthy to judge me, such a
woman is incapable of comprehending me:' the human face has great power
over the human heart; and when we read there a secret disapprobation,
it haunts us in defiance of our reason. The circle which surrounds you
always hides the rest of the world: the smallest object close before
your eyes intercepts their view of the sun. So is it with the set
among whom we dwell: nor Europe nor posterity can render us insensible
to the intrigues of our next door neighbor; and whoever would live
happily in the cultivation of genius ought to be, above all things,
cautious in the choice of his immediate mental atmosphere."


[1] If this was Corinne's first English dinner, how did she know the
_usual_ time for retiring?--TR.

[2] What a flattering picture of female society, at the country-house
of an intelligent English peer, not fifty years since!--TR.

[3] Spelt _wisk_ in the original.--TR.



CHAPTER II.


My only amusement was the education of my half-sister: her mother did
not wish her to learn music, but permitted me to teach her drawing and
Italian. I am persuaded that she must still remember both; for I owe
her the justice to say that she, even then, evinced great intelligence.
Oswald, if it was for your happiness I toiled, I shall bless my
efforts, even from the grave. I was now nearly twenty: my father wished
me to marry, and here the sad fatality of my life began. Lord Nevil
was his intimate friend, and it was yourself of whom he thought as my
husband. Had we then met and loved, our fate would have been cloudless.
I had heard such praises of you, that, whether from presentiment or
pride, I was extremely flattered with the hope of being your wife. You
were too young, for I was eighteen months your elder; but your love of
study, they said, outstripped your age; and I formed so sweet an idea
of passing my days with such a character as yours was described, that
I forgot all my prejudices against the way of life usual to women in
England. I knew, besides, that you would settle in Edinburgh or London;
in either place I was secure of finding congenial friends. I said then,
as I think now, that all my wretchedness sprung from my being tied to
a little town in the centre of a northern county. Great cities alone
can suit those who deviate from hackneyed rules, if they design to
live in society: as life is varied there, novelties are welcome; but
where persons are content with a monotonous routine, they love not to
be disturbed by the occasional diversion, which only shows them the
tediousness of their every-day life. I am pleased to tell you, Oswald,
though I had never seen you, that I looked forward with real anxiety
to the arrival of your father, who was coming to pass a week with
mine. The sentiment had then too little motive to have been aught less
than a foreboding of my future. When I was presented to Lord Nevil, I
desired, perhaps but too ardently, to please him; and did infinitely
more than was required for success; displaying all my talents, dancing,
singing, and extemporizing before him; my long imprisoned soul felt but
too blest in breaking from its chain. Seven years of experience have
calmed me. I am more accustomed to myself. I know how to wait. I have,
perchance, less confidence in the kindness of others, less eagerness
for their applause: indeed, it _is possible_ that there was _then_
something _strange_ about me! We have so much fire and imprudence
in early youth, one faces life with such vivacity! Mind, however
distinguished, cannot supply the work of time; and though we may speak
of the world as if we knew it, we never act up to our own views: there
is a fever in our ideas that will not let our conduct conform with our
reasonings. I believe, though not with _certainty_, that I appeared to
Lord Nevil _somewhat_ too wild; for though he treated me very amiably,
yet, when he left my father, he said that, after due reflection, he
thought his son too young for the marriage in question. Oswald, what
importance do you attach to this confession? I might suppress it, but I
will not. Is it possible, however, that it will prove my condemnation?
I am, I know, tamed now: and could your parent have witnessed my love
for you, Oswald--you were dear to him--we should have been heard. My
step-mother now formed a project for marrying me to the son of her
eldest brother, Mr. Maclinson, who had an estate in our neighborhood.
He was a man of thirty, rich, handsome, highly born, and of honorable
character; but so thoroughly convinced of a husband's right to govern,
and a wife's duty to obey, that a doubt on this subject would as much
have shocked him as a question of his own integrity. The rumors of my
eccentricity did not alarm him. His house was so ordered, the same
things were every day performed there so punctually to the minute,
that any change was impossible. The two old aunts who directed his
establishment, the servants, the very horses, could not to-morrow have
acted differently from yesterday; nay, the furniture which had served
three generations, would have started of its own accord, had anything
new approached it. The effects of my arrival, therefore, might well be
defined. Habit there reigned so securely, that any little liberties
I might have taken would but have beguiled a quarter of an hour once
a week, without being of any further consequence. Mr. Maclinson was
a good man, incapable of giving pain; yet had I spoken to him of the
innumerable annoyances which may torment an active or a feeling mind,
he would have merely thought that I had the vapors, and bade me mount
my horse to take an airing. He desired to marry me, because he knew
nothing about the wishes of imaginative beings, and admired without
understanding me: had he but guessed that I was a woman of genius, he
might have feared that he could not please me; but no such anxiety
ever entered his head. Judge my repugnance against such an union. I
decidedly refused. My father supported me: his wife from this moment
cherished the deepest resentment: she was a despot at heart, though
timidity often prevented her explaining her will when it was not
anticipated, she lost her temper; but if resisted, after she had made
the effort of expressing it, she was the more unforgiving, for having
been thus fruitlessly drawn from her wonted reserve. The whole town
was loud in my blame. 'So proper a match, such a fortune, so estimable
a man, of such a good family!' was the general cry. I strove to show
them why this very proper match could not suit me, and sometimes made
myself intelligible while speaking, but when I was gone, my words left
no impression: former ideas returned; and these old acquaintance were
the more welcome from having been a moment banished. One woman, much
more mental than the rest, though she bowed to all their external
forms, took me aside, when I had spoken with more than usual vivacity,
and said a few words to me which I can never forget: 'You give yourself
a great deal of trouble to no purpose, my dear: you cannot change the
nature of things: a little northern town, unconnected with the world,
uncivilized by arts or letters, must remain what it is. If you are
doomed to live here, submit cheerfully; but leave it if you can: these
are your only alternatives.' This was evidently so rational, that
I felt a greater respect for her than for myself: with tastes like
enough to my own, she knew how to resign herself beneath the lot which
I found insupportable: with a love of poetry, she could judge better
the stubbornness of man. I sought to know more of her, but in vain:
her thoughts wandered beyond her home, but her life was devoted to it.
I even believe that she dreaded lest her intercourse with me should
revive her natural superiority; for what could she have done with it
there?



CHAPTER III.


"I might have passed my life in this deplorable situation had I not
lost my father. A sudden accident deprived me of my protector, my
friend--the only being who had understood me in that peopled desert.
My despair was uncontrollable. I found myself without one support. I
had no relation save my step-mother, with whom I was no more intimate
now than on the day I met her first. She soon renewed the suit of Mr.
Maclinson; and though she had no authority to command my marrying him,
received no one else at her house, and plainly told me that she should
countenance no other match. Not that she much loved her kinsman; but
she thought me presumptuous in refusing him, and made his case her own,
rather for the defence of mediocrity than from family pride. Every day
my state grew more odious. I felt myself attacked by that home-sick
yearning which renders exile more terrible than death. Imagination is
displeased by each surrounding object--the country, climate, language,
and customs: life as a whole, life in detail, each moment, each
circumstance, has its sting; for one's own land inspires a thousand
pleasures that we guess not till they are lost.

         ---- "'la favella, i ecstumi,
    L'aria, i tronchi, il terren, le mura, il sassi.'

    "'Tongue, manners, air, trees, earth, walls, every stone.'

says Metastasio. It is, indeed, a grief no more to look upon the
scenes of childhood: the charm of their memory renews our youth, yet
sweetens the thought of death. The tomb and cradle there repose in the
same shade; while the years spent beneath stranger skies seem like
branches without roots. The generation which preceded yours remembers
not your birth; it is not the generation of _your_ sires: a host of
mutual interests exist between you and your countrymen, which cannot be
understood by foreigners, to whom you must explain everything, instead
of finding the initiated ease that bids your thoughts flow forth secure
the moment you meet a compatriot. I could not remember without emotion,
such amiable expressions as '_Cara, Carissima_.' I repeated them as I
walked alone, in imitation of the kindly welcomes so contrasted with
the greetings I now received. Every day I wandered into the fields.
Of an evening, in Italy, I had been wont to hear rich music; but now
the cawing of rooks alone resounded beneath the clouds. The fruits
could scarcely ripen. I saw no vines: the languid flowers succeeded
each other slowly; black pines covered the hills: an antique edifice,
or even one fine picture, would have been a relief for which I should
have sought thirty miles round in vain.[1] All was dull and sullen: the
houses and their inhabitants served but to rob solitude of its poetic
horrors. There was enough of commerce and of agriculture near for
them to say: 'You ought to be content, you want for nothing.' Stupid,
superficial judgment! The hearth of happiness or suffering is in our
own breast's secret sanctuary. At twenty-one, I had a right to my
mother's fortune, and whatever my father had left me. Then did I first
dream of returning to Italy, and devoting my life to the arts. This
project so inebriated me with joy, that, at first, I could anticipate
no objections; yet, as my feverish hope subsided, I feared to take an
irreparable resolve, and thought on what my acquaintance might say,
to a plan which, from appearing perfectly easy, now seemed utterly
impracticable; yet the image of a life in the midst of antiquities and
arts was detailed before my mind's eye with so many charms, that I felt
a fresh disgust at my tiresome existence. My talent, which I had feared
to lose, had increased by my constant study of English literature.
The depth of thought and feeling which characterizes your poets had
strengthened my mind without impairing my fancy. I therefore possessed
the advantages of a double education and twofold nationalities. I
remembered the approbation paid by a few good critics in Florence to my
first poetical essays, and prided in the added success I might obtain;
in sooth, I had great hopes of myself. And is not such the first, the
noblest illusion of youth? Methought that I should be mistress of the
universe, the moment I escaped the withering breath of vulgar malice;
but when I thought of flying in secret, I felt awed by that opinion
which swayed me much more in England than in Italy; for though I
could not like the town where I resided, I respected, as a whole, the
country of which it was a part. If my step-mother had deigned to take
me to London or Edinburgh, if she had thought of marrying me to a man
of mind, I should never have renounced my name, even for the sake of
returning to my own country. In fact, severe as she was, I never could
have found the strength to alter my destiny, but for a multitude of
circumstances which conspired to terminate my uncertainty. Thérésina
is a Tuscan, and, though uneducated, she converses in those noble
and melodious phrases that lend such grace to the discourse of our
people. She was the only person with whom I spoke my own language;
and this tie attached me to her. I often found her sad, and dared not
ask why, not doubting that she, like myself, regretted our country. I
knew that I should have been unable to restrain my own feelings, if
excited by those of another. There are griefs that are ameliorated by
communication; but imaginary ills augment if confined, above all, to
a fellow-sufferer. A woe so sanctioned we no longer strive to combat.
My poor Thérésina suddenly became seriously ill; and hearing her groan
night and day, I determined to inquire the cause. Alas, she described
exactly what I had felt myself. She had not reflected on the source
of her pangs, and attached more importance to local circumstances and
particular persons; but the sadness of the country, the insipidity
of the town, the coldness of its natives, the constraint of their
habits--she felt as I did, and cried incessantly: 'Oh, my native land!
shall I never see you more?' yet added, that she would not leave me,
in heart-breaking tones, unable to reconcile her love for me with her
attachment to our fair skies and mother tongue. Nothing more affected
my spirits than this reflex of my own feelings in a common mind, but
one that had preserved the Italian taste and character in all its
natural vivacity. I promised her that she should see her home again.
'With you?' she asked. I was silent: then she tore her hair, again
declaring that she could never leave me, though looking ready to expire
before my eyes as she said so. At last a promise that I would return
with her escaped me; and though spoken but to soothe her, the joyous
faith she gave it rendered it solemnly binding. From that day she
cultivated the intimacy of some traders in the town, and punctually
informed me when any vessel sailed from the neighboring port for Genoa
or Leghorn. I heard her, but said nothing: she imitated my silence; but
her eyes filled with tears. My health suffered daily from the climate
and anxiety. My mind requires gayety. I have often told you that
grief would kill me. I struggle against it too much: to live beneath
sorrow one must yield to it. I frequently returned to the idea which
had so occupied me since my father's death; but I loved Lucy dearly;
she was now nine years old; for six had I watched over her like a
second mother. I thought, too, that, if I departed privately, I should
injure my own reputation, and that the name of my sister might thus
be sullied. This apprehension, for the time, banished all my schemes.
One evening, however, when I was more than usually depressed, I found
myself alone with Lady Edgarmond; and, after an hour's silence, took
so sudden a distaste towards her imperturbable frigidity, that I began
the conversation by lamenting the life I led, rather to force her
to speak, than to achieve any other result; but as I grew animated,
I represented the possibility of my leaving England forever. My
step-mother was not at all alarmed; but with a dry indifference, which
I shall never forget, replied; 'You are of age, Miss Edgarmond; your
fortune is your own; you are the mistress of your conduct; but if you
take any step which would dishonor you in the eyes of the world, you
owe it to your family to change your name, and be reported dead.' This
heartless scorn inspired me with such indignation, that for a while a
desire for vengeance, foreign to my nature, seized on my soul. That
impulse left me; but the conviction that no one was interested in my
welfare broke every link which, till then, had bound me to the house
where I had seen my father. His wife certainly had never pleased me,
save by her tenderness for Lucy. I believe that I must have conciliated
her by the pains I had bestowed on her child; which, perhaps, rather
excited her jealousy; for the more sacrifices she imposed on her other
inclinations, the more passionately she indulged the sole affection
she permitted herself. All that is quick and ardent in the human
breast, mastered by her reason in her other connections, spoke from
her countenance when anything concerned her daughter. At the height of
my resentment, Thérésina came to me, in extreme emotion, with tidings
that a ship had arrived from Leghorn, on board which were some traders
whom she knew: 'the best people in the world,' she added, weeping; 'for
they are all Italians, can speak nothing but Italian; in a week they
sail again for Italy; and if madame is decided----'--'Return with them,
my good Thérésina!' said I. 'No, madame; I would rather die here.'
She left the room, and I mused over my duty to my step-mother. It was
plain that she did not wish to have me with her; my influence over Lucy
displeased her: she feared that the name I had gained there, as an
extraordinary person, would, one day, interfere with the establishment
of my sister: she had told me the secret of her heart, in desiring
me to pass for dead; and this bitter advice, which had, at first, so
shocked me, now appeared reasonable enough. 'Yes, doubtless I may pass
for dead, where my existence is but a disturbed sleep,' said I. 'With
nature, with the sun, the arts, I shall awaken, and the poor letters
which compose my name, graven on an idle tomb, will fill my station
here as well as I.' These mental leaps towards liberty gave me not yet
sufficient power for a decided aim. There are moments when we trust the
force of our own wishes; others, in which the habitual order of things
assumes a right to overrule all the sentiments of the soul. I was in a
state of indecision which might have lasted forever, as nothing obliged
me to take an active part; but on the Sunday following my conversation
with Lady Edgarmond, I heard, towards evening, beneath my window, some
Italians singing: they belonged to the ship from Leghorn. Thérésina had
brought them to give me this agreeable surprise. I cannot express what
I felt: a torrent of tears deluged my cheeks. All my recollections were
revived: nothing recalls the past like music: it does more than depict,
it conjures it back, like some beloved shape, veiled in mysterious
melancholy. The musicians sung the delicious verses composed by Monti
in his exile:----


    "'Bella Italia! amate sponde!
       Pur vi torno, a riveder,
     Trema in petto, e si confonde,
       L'alma oppressa dal piacer!'

    "'Beauteous Italia! beloved ever!
       Shall I behold thy shore again?
     Trembling--bewildered--my bonds I sever--
       Pleasure oppresses my heart and brain.'"

In a kind of delirium, I felt for Italy all love can make one
feel--desire, enthusiasm, regret. I was no longer mistress of myself;
my whole soul was drawn towards my country: I yearned to see it, hear
it, taste its breath; each throb of my heart was a call to my own
smiling land. Were life offered to the dead, they would not dash aside
the stone that kept them in the tomb with more impatience than I felt
to rush from all the gloom around me, and once more take possession of
my fancy, my genius, and of nature. Yet, at that moment, my sensations
were too confused for me to frame one settled idea. My step-mother
entered my room, and begged that I would order them to cease singing,
as it was scandalous on the Sabbath. I insisted that they were to
embark on the morrow, and that it was six years since I had enjoyed
such a pleasure. She would not hear me; but said that it behooved us,
above all things, to respect the customs of the place in which we
lived; then, from the window, bade her servants send my poor countrymen
away. They departed, singing me, as they went, an adieu that pierced
me to the heart. The measure of my temptation was full. Thérésina, at
all hazards, had, unknown to me, made every preparation for my flight.
Lucy had been away a week with a relative of her mother. The ashes of
my father did not repose in the country-house we inhabited: he had
ordered his tomb to be erected on his Scotch estate.[2] Enough: I set
forth without warning my step-mother, but left a letter, apprising
her of my plans. I started in one of those moments at which we give
ourselves up to destiny, when anything appears preferable to servitude
and insipidity; when youth inconsiderately trusts the future, and sees
it, in the heavens, like a bright star that promises a happy lot.


[1] Corinne should have rather lamented that she was not permitted to
explore the country which contains Alnwick, Hexham, Tynemouth, Holy
Isle, and so many other scenes dear to the lovers of antiquity, the
fine arts, history, and nature.--TR.

[2] Did the authoress think it usual for the English to be buried in
their own grounds, whether consecrated or not?--TR.



CHAPTER IV.


"More anxious thoughts attacked me as I lost sight of the English
coast; but as I had not left there any strong attachment, I was soon
consoled, on arriving at Leghorn, and reviewing the charms of Italy.
I told no one my true name,[1] and took merely that of Corinne, which
the history of a Grecian poetess, the friend of Pindar, had endeared to
me.[2] My person was so changed that I was secure against recognition.
I had lived so retired in Florence, that I had a right to anticipate
my identity's remaining unknown in Rome. Lady Edgarmond wrote me word
of her having spread the report that the physicians had prescribed a
voyage to the south for my health, and that I had died on my passage.
Her letter contained no comments. She remitted, with great exactness,
my whole fortune, which was considerable; but wrote to me no more.
Five years then elapsed ere I beheld you; during which I tasted much
good fortune. My fame increased: the fine arts and literature afforded
me even more delight in solitude than in my own success. I knew not,
till I met you, the full power of sentiment: my imagination sometimes
colored and discolored my illusions without giving me great uneasiness.
I had not yet been seized by any affection capable of overruling me.
Admiration, respect, and love had not enchained all the faculties of my
soul; I conceived more charms than I ever found, and remained superior
to my own impressions. Do not insist on me describing to you how two
men, whose passion for me is but too generally known, successively
occupied my life, before I knew you. I outrage my own conviction in now
reminding myself that any one, save you, could ever have interested me:
on this subject I feel equal grief and repentance. I shall only tell
you what you have already heard from my friends. My free life so much
pleased me, that, after long irresolutions and painful scenes, I twice
broke the ties which the necessity of loving had made me contract, and
could not resolve to render them irrevocable. A German noble would have
married and taken me to his own country. An Italian prince offered me
a most brilliant establishment in Rome. The first pleased and inspired
me with the highest esteem; but, in time, I perceived that he had few
mental resources. When we were alone together, it cost me great trouble
to sustain a conversation, and conceal from him his own deficiencies.
I dared not display myself at my best for fear of embarrassing him. I
foresaw that his regard for me must necessarily decrease when I should
cease to manage him; and it is difficult, in such a case, to keep up
one's enthusiasm: a woman's feeling for a man any way inferior to
herself is rather pity than love; and the calculations, the reflections
required by such a state, wither the celestial nature of an involuntary
sentiment. The Italian prince was all grace and fertility of mind:
he participated in my tastes, and loved my way of life; but, on an
important occasion, I remarked that he wanted energy, and that, in
any difficulties, I should have to sustain and fortify him. There was
an end of love--for women need support; and nothing chills them more
than the necessity of affording it. Thus was I twice undeceived, not
by faults or misfortunes, but by the spirit of observation, which
detected what imagination had concealed. I believed myself destined
never to love with the full power of my soul: sometimes this idea
pained me; but more frequently I applauded my own freedom--fearing the
capability of suffering that impassioned impulse which might threaten
my happiness and my life. I always reassured myself in thinking that
my judgment was not easily captivated, and that no man could answer
my ideal of masculine mind and character. I hoped ever to escape the
absolute power of love, by perceiving some defects in those who charmed
me. I then knew not that there are faults which increase our passion
by the inquietude they cause. Oswald! the melancholy indecision which
discourages you--the severity of your opinions--troubles my repose,
without decreasing my affection. I often think that it will never make
me happy; but then it is always myself I judge, and not you. And now
you know my history--my flight from England--my change of name--my
heart's inconstancy: I have concealed nothing. Doubtless you think that
fancy hath oft misled me; but, if society bound _us_ not by chains from
which men are free, what were there in my life which should prevent
your loving me? Have I ever deceived? have I ever wronged any one?
has my mind been seared by vulgar interests? Sincerity, good-will,
and pride--does God ask more from an orphan alone in the world? Happy
the women who, in their early youth, meet those they ought to love
forever; but do I the less deserve you for having known you too late?
Yet, I assure you, my Lord, and you may trust my frankness, could I
but pass my life near you, methinks, despite the loss of the greatest
happiness and glory I can imagine; I would not be your wife. Perhaps
such marriage were to you a sacrifice: you may one day regret the fair
Lucy, my sister to whom your father destined you. She is twelve years
my younger; her name is stainless as the first flower of spring; we
should be obliged, in England, to revive mine, which is now as that of
the dead. Lucy, I know, has a pure and gentle spirit; if I may judge
from her childhood, she may become capable of understanding--loving
you. Oswald, you are free. When you desire it, your ring shall be
restored to you. Perhaps you wish to hear, ere you decide, what I
shall suffer if you leave me. I know not: sometimes impetuous impulses
arise within me, that overrule my reason: should I be to blame, then,
if they rendered life insupportable? It is equally true that I have a
great faculty of happiness; it interests me in everything: I converse
with pleasure, and revel in the minds of others--in the friendship
they show me--in all the wonders of art and nature, which affectation
hath not stricken dead. But would it be in my power to live when I no
longer saw you? it is for you to judge, Oswald: you know me better
than I know myself. I am not responsible for what I may experience: it
is he who plants the dagger should guess whether the wound is mortal;
but if it were so, I should forgive you. My happiness entirely depends
on the affection you have paid me for the last six months. I defy
all your delicacy to blind me, were it in the least degree impaired.
Banish from your mind all idea of duty. In love, I acknowledged no
promises no security: God alone can raise the flower which storms have
blighted. A tone, a look, will be enough to tell me that your heart
is not the same; and I shall detest all you may offer me instead of
love--your love, that heavenly ray, my only glory! Be free, then,
Nevil! now--ever--even if my husband; for, did you cease to love, my
death would free you from bonds that else would be indissoluble. When
you have read this, I would see you: my impatience will bring me to
your side, and I shall read my fate at a glance; for grief is a rapid
poison--and the heart, though weak, never mistakes the signal of
irrevocable destiny.

"Adieu."



[1] Her real Christian name is never divulged even to the reader.--TR.

[2] This name must not be confused with that of Corilla, an Italian
improvisatrice. The Grecian Corinna was famed for lyric poetry. Pindar
himself received lessons from her.



BOOK XV.


THE ADIEU TO ROME, AND JOURNEY TO VENICE.



CHAPTER I.


It was with deep emotion that Oswald read the narrative of Corinne:
many and varied were the confused thoughts that agitated him. Sometimes
he felt hurt by the picture she drew of an English country, and
despairingly exclaimed: "Such a woman could never be happy in domestic
life!" then he pitied what she had suffered there, and could not but
admire the simple frankness of her recital. He was jealous of the
affection she had felt ere she met him; and the more he sought to hide
this from himself, the more it tortured him; but above all was he
afflicted by his father's part in her history. His anguish was such
that, not knowing what he did, he rushed forth beneath the noonday
sun, when the streets of Naples were deserted, and their inhabitants
all secluded in the shade. He hurried at random towards Portici: the
beams which fell on his brow at once excited and bewildered his ideas.
Corinne, meanwhile, having waited for some hours, could no longer
resist her desire to see him. She entered his room; he was not there:
his absence at such a crisis, fearfully alarmed her. She saw her papers
on the table, and doubted not that, after reading them, he had left
her forever. Each moment's attempt at patience added to her distress;
she walked the chamber hastily, then stopped, in fear of losing the
least sound that might announce his return; at last, unable to control
her anxiety, she descended to inquire if any one had seen Lord Nevil
go out, and which way he went. The master of the inn replied: "Towards
Portici;" adding, "that his Lordship surely would not walk far at
such a dangerous period of the day." This terror, blending with so
many others, determined Corinne to follow him, though her head: was
undefended from the sun. The large white pavements of Naples, formed
of lava, redoubling the light and heat, scorched and dazzled her as she
walked. She did not intend going to Portici, yet advanced towards it
with increasing speed, meeting no one; for even the animals now shrunk
from the ardors of the clime. Clouds of dust filled the air, with the
slightest breeze, covering the fields, and concealing all appearance of
verdant life. Every instant Corinne felt about to fall; not even a tree
was near to support her. Reason reeled in this burning desert: a few
steps more, and she might reach the royal palace, beneath whose porch
she would find both shade and water; but her strength failed--she could
no longer see her way--her head swam--a thousand flames, more vivid
even than the blaze of day, danced before her eyes--an unrefreshing
darkness suddenly succeeded them--a cruel thirst consumed her. One of
the Lazzaroni, the only human creature expected to brave these fervid
horrors, now came up; she prayed him to bring her a little water; but
the man beholding so beautiful and elegant a woman alone, on foot,
at such an hour, concluded that she must be insane, and ran from her
in dismay. Fortunately, Oswald at this moment returned: the voice of
Corinne reached his ear. He hastened towards her, as she was falling
to the earth insensible, and bore her to the palace portico, where he
called her back to life by the tenderest cares. As she recognized him,
her senses still wandered, and she wildly exclaimed: "You promised
never to depart without my consent! I may now appear unworthy of your
love; but a promise, Oswald!"--"Corinne," he cried, "the thought of
leaving you never entered my heart. I would only reflect on our fate;
and wished to recover my spirits ere I saw you again."--"Well," she
said, struggling to appear calm, "you have had time, during the long
hours that might have cost my life; time enough--therefore speak! tell
me what you have resolved!" Oswald, terrified at the accents, which
betrayed her inmost feelings, knelt before her, answering, "Corinne,
my heart is unchanged; what have I learned that should dispel your
enchantment? Only hear me;" and as she trembled still more violently,
he added, with much earnestness: "Listen fearlessly to one who cannot
live, and know thou art unhappy."--"Ah," she sighed, "it is of _my_
happiness you speak; your own, then, no longer depends on me? Yet I
repulse not your pity; for, at this moment, I have need of it: but
think you I will live for that alone?"--"No, no, we will both live for
love. I will return."--"Return!" interrupted Corinne, "Ah, you _do_ go,
then? What has happened? how is all changed since yesterday! hapless
wretch that I am!"--"Dearest love," returned Oswald, "be composed; and
let me, if I can, explain my meaning; it is better than you suppose,
much better; but it is necessary, nevertheless, that I should ascertain
my father's reasons for opposing our union seven years since: he never
mentioned the subject to me; but his most intimate surviving friend,
in England, must know his motives. If, as I believe, they sprung from
unimportant circumstances, I can pardon your desertion of your father's
land and mine; to so noble a country love may attach you yet, and bid
you prefer homefelt peace, with its gentle and natural virtues, even
to the fame of genius. I will hope everything, do everything; if my
father decides against thee, Corinne, I will never be the husband of
another, though then I cannot be thine." A cold dew stood on his brow:
the effort he had made to speak thus cost him so much agony, that for
some time Corinne could think of nothing but the sad state in which
she beheld him. At last she took his hand, crying, "So, you return to
England without me!" Oswald was silent. "Cruel!" she continued: "you
say nothing to contradict my fears; they are just, then, though even
while saying so I cannot yet believe it."--"Thanks to your cares,"
answered Nevil, "I have regained the life so nearly lost: it belongs to
my country during the war. If I can marry you, we part no more. I will
restore you to your rank in England. If this too happy lot should be
forbidden me, I shall return, with the peace, to Italy, stay with you
long, and change your fate in nothing save in giving you one faithful
friend the more."--"Not change my fate!" she repeated; "you, who have
become my only interest in the world! to whom I owe the intoxicating
draught which gives happiness or death? Yet tell me, at least, this
parting, when must it be? How many days are left me?"--"Beloved!" he
cried, pressing her to his heart, "I swear, that for three months I
will not leave thee; not, perhaps, even then."--"Three months!" she
burst forth; "am I to live so long? it is much, I did not hope so much.
Come, I feel better. Three months?--what a futurity!" she added, with a
mixture of joy and sadness, that profoundly affected Oswald, and both,
in silence, entered the carriage which took them back to Naples.



CHAPTER II.


Castel Forte awaited them at the inn. A report had been circulated
of their marriage: it greatly pained the Prince, yet he came to
assure himself of the fact; to regain, as a friend, the society of
his love, even if she were forever united to another. The state of
dejection in which he beheld her, for the first time, occasioned him
much uneasiness; but he dared not question her, as she seemed to
avoid all conversation on this subject. There are situations in which
we dread to confide in any one; a single word, that we might say or
hear, would suffice to dissipate the illusion that supports our life.
The self-deceptions of impassioned sentiment have the peculiarity of
humoring the heart, as we humor a friend whom we fear to afflict by the
truth; thus, unconsciously, trust we our own griefs to the protection
of our own pity.

Next day, Corinne, who was too natural a person to attempt producing
an effect by her sorrows, strove to appear gay; believing that the
best method of retaining Oswald was to seem as attractive as formerly.
She, therefore, introduced some interesting topic; but suddenly her
abstraction returned, her eyes wandered; the woman who had possessed
the greatest possible faculty of address now hesitated in her choice
of words, and sometimes used expressions that bore not the slightest
reference to what she intended saying: then she would laugh at herself,
though through tears; and Oswald, overwhelmed by the wreck he had made,
would have sought to be alone with her, but she carefully denied him
an opportunity.

"What would you learn from me?" she said one day, when for an instant,
he insisted on speaking with her. "I regret myself--that is all! I
had some pride in my talents. I loved success, glory. The praises,
even of indifferent persons, were objects of my ambition; now I care
for nothing; and it is not happiness that weans me from these vain
pleasures, but a vast discouragement. I accuse not you; it springs from
myself; perhaps I may yet triumph over it. Many things pass in the
depths of the soul that we can neither foresee nor direct; but I do you
justice, Oswald: I see you suffer for me. I sympathize with you, too;
why should not pity bestow her gifts on us? Alas! they might be offered
to all who breathe, without proving very inapplicable."

Oswald, indeed, was not less wretched than Corinne. He loved her
strongly; but her history had wounded his affections, his way of
thinking. He seemed to perceive clearly that his father had prejudged
everything for him; and that he could only wed Corinne in defiance of
such warning; yet how resign her? His uncertainty was more painful
than that which he hoped to terminate by a knowledge of her life. On
her part, she had not wished that the tie of marriage should unite her
to Oswald: so she could have been certain that he would never leave
her, she would have wanted no more to render her content; but she knew
him well enough to understand, that he could conceive no happiness
save in domestic life; and would never abjure the design of marrying
her, unless in ceasing to love. His departure for England appeared
the signal for her death. She was aware how great an influence the
manners and opinions of his country held over his mind. Vainly did he
talk of passing his life with her in Italy; she doubted not that, once
returned to his home, the thought of quitting it again would be odious
to him. She felt that she owed her power to her charms; and what is
that power in absence? What are the memories of imagination to a man
encircled by all the realities of social order, the more imperious
from being founded on pure and noble reason? Tormented by these
reflections, Corinne strove to exert some power over her fondness. She
tried to speak with Castel Forte on literature and the fine arts: but,
if Oswald joined them, the dignity of his mien, the melancholy look
which seemed to ask, "Why will you renounce me?" disconcerted all her
attempts. Twenty times would she have told him, that his irresolution
offended her, and that she was decided to leave him; but she saw him
now lean his head upon his hand, as if bending breathless beneath his
sorrows; now musing beside the sea, or raising his eyes to heaven,
at the sound of music; and these simple changes, whose magic was
known but to herself, suddenly overthrew her determination. A look,
an accent, a certain grace of gesture, reveals to love the nearest
secrets of the soul; and, perhaps, a countenance, so apparently cold
as Nevil's, can never be read, save by those to whom it is dearest.
Impartiality guesses nothing, judges only by what is displayed.
Corinne, in solitude, essayed a test which had succeeded when she had
but believed that she loved. She taxed her spirit of observation (which
was capable of detecting the slightest foibles) to represent Oswald
beneath less seducing colors; but there was nothing about him less than
noble, simple, and affecting. How then defeat the spell of so perfectly
natural a mind? It is only affectation which can at once awaken the
heart, astonished at ever having loved. Besides, there existed between
Oswald and Corinne a singular, all-powerful sympathy. Their tastes
were not the same; their opinions rarely accorded; yet in the centre
of each soul dwelt kindred mysteries, drawn from one source; a secret
likeness, that attests the same nature, however differently modified by
external circumstances. Corinne, therefore, found, to her dismay, that
she had but increased her passion, by thus minutely considering Oswald
anew, even in her very struggle against his image. She invited Castel
Forte to return to Rome with them. Nevil knew she did this to avoid
being alone with him: he felt it sadly, but could not oppose. He was
no longer persuaded that what he might offer Corinne would constitute
her content; and this thought rendered him timid. She, the while, had
hoped that he _would_ refuse the Prince's company. Their situation was
no longer honest as of old; though as yet without actual dissimulation,
restraint already troubled a regard, which for six months had daily
conferred on them a bliss almost unqualified. Returning by Capua and
Gaëta, scenes which she had so lately visited with such delight,
Corinne felt that these beauties vainly called on her to reflect their
smile. When such a sky fails to disperse the clouds of care, its
laughing contrast but augments their gloom.

They arrived at Terracina on a deliciously refreshing eve. Corinne
withdrew after supper. Oswald went forth, and his heart, like hers,
led him towards the spot where they had rested on their way to Naples.
He beheld her kneeling before the rock on which they sat; and, as he
looked on the moon, saw that she was veiled by a cloud, as she had
been two months since at that hour. Corinne, at his approach, rose,
and pointing upwards, said: "Have I not reason to believe in omens? Is
there not some compassion in that heaven? It warned me of the future;
and to-night, you see, it mourns for me. Forget not, Oswald, to remark,
if such a cloud passes not over the moon when I am dying."--"Corinne,"
he cried, "have I deserved that you should kill me? It were easily
done: speak thus again, and you will see _how_ easily--but for what
crime? Your mode of thinking lifts you above the world's opinion:
in your country it is not severe; and if it were, your genius could
surmount it. Whatever happens, I will live near you; whence, then, this
despair? If I cannot be your husband, without offence to the memory of
one who reigns equally with yourself in my breast--do you not love me
well enough to find some solace in the tender devotion of mine every
instant? Have you not still my ring--that sacred pledge?"--"I will
return it, Oswald."--"Never!"--"Ah, yes; when you desire it, the ring
itself will tell me. An old legend says that the diamond, more true
than man, dims when the giver has betrayed our trust."[1]--"Corinne,"
said Oswald, "dare you speak such treason? your mind is lost; it no
longer knows me."--"Pardon! oh, pardon me! in love like mine, the
heart, Oswald, is gifted suddenly with most miraculous instincts; and
its own sufferings become oracles. What portends, then, the heavy
palpitation of _my_ heart? Ah, love, I should not fear it, if it were
but my knell!" She fled, precipitately, dreading to remain longer with
him. She could not dally with her grief, but sought to break from it;
yet it returned but the more violently for her repulse. The next day,
as they crossed the Pontine Marsh, Oswald's care of her was even more
scrupulous than before; she received it with the sweetest thankfulness:
but there was something in her look that said: "Why will you not let me
die?"


[1] An old tradition supports the imaginative prejudice which persuaded
Corinne that the diamond could forewarn its wearer of its giver's
treachery. Frequent allusions are made to this legend by Spanish poets,
in their peculiar manner. In one of Calderon's tragedies, Ferdinand,
Prince of Portugal, prefers death in chains, before the crime of
surrendering to a Moorish king the Christian city which his brother,
King Edward, offers for his ransom. The Moor, enraged at this refusal,
subjects the noble youth to the basest ignominy. Ferdinand, in reproof,
reminds him that mercy and generosity are the truest characteristics of
supreme power. He cites all that is royal in the universe--the lion,
the dolphin, the eagle, amid animals; and seeks even among plants and
stones for traits of natural goodness, which have been attributed to
those who lord it over the rest. Thus he says, the diamond, which
resists the blow of steel, resolves itself to dust, that it may inform
its master if treason threatens him. It is impossible to know whether
this mode of considering all nature as connected with the destiny and
sentiments of man is mathematically correct; but it is ever pleasing
to imagination; and poetry, especially that of Spain, has owed it many
great beauties. Calderon is only known to me by the German translation
of Wihelm Schlegel; but this author, one of his own country's finest
poets, has the art of transporting into his native language, with
the rarest perfection, the poetic graces of Spanish, English, and
Italian--giving a lively idea of the original, be it what it may.

_Note_TR.--Had Oswald's gift been his mother's wedding-ring, that
incident would have been more affecting than so fanciful a fable.



CHAPTER III.


What a desert seems Rome, in going to it from Naples! Entering by the
gate of St. John Lateran, you traverse but long, solitary streets;
they please afresh after a little time: but, on just leaving a lively,
dissipated population, it is melancholy to be thrown upon one's self,
even were that self at ease. Besides this, Rome, towards the end of
July, is a dangerous residence. The _malaria_ renders many quarters
uninhabitable; and the contagion often spreads through the whole city.
This year, particularly, every face bore the impress of apprehension.
Corinne was met at her own door by a monk, who asked leave to bless
her house against infection: she consented; and the priest walked
through the rooms, sprinkling holy water, and repeating Latin prayers.
Lord Nevil smiled at this ceremony--Corinne's heart melted over it.
"I find indefinable charms," she said, "in all that is religious, or
even superstitious, while nothing hostile nor intolerant blends with
it. Divine aid is so needful, when our thoughts stray from the common
path, that the highest minds most require superhuman care."--"Doubtless
such want exists, but can it thus be satisfied?"--"I never refuse a
prayer associated with my own, from whomsoever it is offered me."--"You
are right," said Nevil, giving his purse to the old friar, who
departed with benedictions on them both. When the friends of Corinne
heard of her return, they flocked to see her: if any wondered that
she was not Oswald's wife, none, at least, asked the reason: the
pleasure of regaining her diverted them from every other thought.
Corinne endeavored to appear unchanged; but she could not succeed.
She revisited the works of art that once afforded her such vivid
pleasure; but sorrow was the base of her every feeling now. At the
Villa Borghese, or the tomb of Cecilia Metella, she no longer enjoyed
that reverie on the instability of human blessings, which lends them a
still more touching character. A fixed, despondent pensiveness absorbed
her. Nature, who ever speaks to the heart vaguely, can do nothing for
it when oppressed by real calamities. Oswald and Corinne were worse
than unhappy; for actual misery oft causes such emotions as relieve the
laden breast; and from the storm may burst a flash pointing the onward
way: but mutual restraint, and fruitless efforts to escape pursuing
recollections, made them even discontented with one another. Indeed,
how can we suffer thus, without accusing the being we love as the
cause? True, a word, a look, suffices to efface our displeasure; but
that look, that word, may not come when most expected, or most needful.
Nothing in love can be premeditated; it is as a power divine, that
thinks and feels within us, unswayed by our control.

A fever, more malignant than had been known in Rome for some years, now
broke out suddenly. A young woman was attacked; her friends and family
refused to fly, and perished with her. The next house experienced
the same devastation. Every hour a holy fraternity, veiled in white,
accompanied the dead to interment; themselves appearing like the ghosts
of those they followed. The bodies, with their faces uncovered, are
borne on a kind of litter. Over their feet is thrown a pall of gold or
rose-colored satin; and children often unconsciously play with the cold
hands of the corpse. This spectacle, at once terrific and familiar, is
graced but by the monotonous murmur of a psalm, in which the accent of
the human soul can scarce be recognized. One evening, when Oswald and
Corinne were alone together, and he more depressed than usual by her
altered manner, he heard, beneath the windows, these dreary sounds,
announcing a funeral; he listened awhile in silence, and then said:
"Perhaps to-morrow I may be seized by this same malady, against which
there is no defence; you will then wish that you had said a few kind
words to me on the day that may be my last. Corinne, death threatens
us both closely. Are there not miseries enough in life, that we
should thus mutually augment each other's?" Struck by the idea of his
danger, she now entreated him to leave Rome instantly; he stubbornly
refused: she then proposed their going to Venice; to this he cheerfully
assented: it was for her alone that he had trembled. Their departure
was fixed for the second day from this; but on that morning, Oswald,
who had not seen Corinne the night before, received a note, informing
him that indispensable business obliged her to visit Florence; but that
she should rejoin him at Venice in a fortnight; she begged him to take
Ancona in his way, and gave him a seemingly important commission to
execute for her there. Her style was more calm and considerate than he
had found it since they left Naples. He believed her implicitly, and
prepared for his journey; but, wishing once more to behold the dwelling
of Corinne ere he left Rome, he went thither, found it shut up, and
rapped at the door. An old woman appeared, told him that all the other
servants had gone with her mistress, and would not answer another word
to his numerous questions. He hastened to Prince Castel Forte, who was
as surprised as himself at Corinne's abrupt retirement. Nevil, all
anxiety, imagined that her agent at Tivoli must have received some
instructions as to her affairs. He mounted his horse with a promptitude
unusual to him, and, in extreme agitation, rode to her country house;
its doors were open; he entered, passed some of the rooms without
meeting any one, till he reached that of Corinne: though darkness
reigned there, he saw her on her bed, with Thérésina alone beside her;
he uttered a cry of recognition: it recalled her to consciousness: she
raised herself, saying eagerly: "Do not come near me! I forbid you! I
die if you do!"

Oswald felt as if his beloved were accusing him of some crime which
she had all at once suspected: believing himself hated--scorned--he
fell on his knees, with despairing submission which suggested to
Corinne the idea of profiting by this mistake, and she commanded him
to leave her forever, as if he had in truth been guilty. Speechless
with wonder, he would have obeyed, when Thérésina sobbed forth: "Oh, my
Lord! will you, then, desert my dear lady? She has sent every one away,
and would fain banish me too: for she has caught the infectious fever!"
These words instantly explained the affecting stratagem of Corinne; and
Oswald clasped her to his heart, with a transport of tenderness, such
as he had never before experienced. In vain she repelled him; in vain
she reproached Thérésina. Oswald bade the good creature withdraw, and
lavished his tearful kisses on the face of his adored. "Now, now," he
cried, "thou shalt not die without me: if the fatal poison be in thy
veins, at least, thank Heaven, I breathe it in thine arms."--"Dear,
cruel Oswald!" she sighed, "to what tortures you condemn me! O God!
since he will not live without me, let not my better angel perish! no,
save him, save him!" Here her strength was lost, and, for eight days,
she remained in the greatest danger. In the midst of her delirium, she
would cry: "Keep Oswald from me! let him not come here! never tell him
where I am!" When her reason returned, she gazed on him, murmuring:
"Oswald! in death as in life you are with me; we shall be reunited."
When she perceived how pale he was, a deadly terror seized her, and
she called to his aid the physicians, who had given her a strong proof
of devotion in never having abandoned her. Oswald constantly held her
burning hands in his, and finished the cup of which she had drunk;
in fact, with such avidity did he share her perils, that she herself
ceased at last to combat this passionate self-sacrifice. Leaning her
head upon his arm, she resigned herself to his will. The beings who so
love that they feel the impossibility of living without each other,
may well attain the noble and tender intimacy which puts all things
in common, even death itself.[1] Happily, Lord Nevil did not take the
disease through which he so carefully nursed Corinne. She recovered;
but another malady penetrated yet deeper into her breast. The
generosity of her lover, alas! redoubled the attachment she had borne
him.


[1] M. Dubreuil, a very skilful French physician, fell ill of a fatal
distemper. His popularity filled the sick room with visitants. Calling
to his intimate friend, M. Péméja, as eminent a man as himself, he
said, "Send away all these people; you know my fever is contagious; no
one but yourself ought to be with me now." Happy the friend who ever
heard such words! Péméja died fifteen days after his heart's brother.



CHAPTER IV.


It was agreed that Neville and Corinne should visit Venice. They had
relapsed into silence on their future prospects, but spoke of their
affection more confidingly than ever: both avoided all topics that
could disturb their present mutual peace. A day passed with _him_ was
to _her_ such enjoyment! he seemed so to revel in her conversation;
he followed her every impulse; studied her slightest wish, with so
sustained an interest, that it appeared impossible he could bestow so
much felicity without himself being happy. Corinne drew assurances of
safety from the bliss she tasted. After some months of such habits we
believe them inseparable from our existence. Her agitation was calmed
again, and her natural heedlessness of the future returned. Yet, on
the eve of quitting Rome, she became extremely melancholy: this time
she both hoped and feared that it was forever. The night before her
departure, unable to sleep, she heard a troop of Romans singing in
the moonlight. She could not resist her desire to follow them, and
once more wander through that beloved scene. She dressed; and bidding
her servants keep the carriage within sight of her, put on a veil, to
avoid recognition, and at some distance, pursued the musicians. They
paused on the bridge of St. Angelo, in front of Adrian's tomb: in such
a spot music seems to express the vanities and splendors of the world.
One might fancy one beheld in the air the imperial shade wondering to
find no other trace left of his power on earth except a tomb. The band
continued their walk, singing as they went, to the silent night, when
the happy ought to sleep: their pure and gentle melodies seem designed
to solace wakeful suffering. Drawn onward by this resistless spell,
Corinne, insensible to fatigue, seemed winging her way along. They also
sang before Antoninus's pillar, and then at Trajan's column: they
saluted the obelisk of St. John Lateran. The ideal language of music
worthily mates the ideal expression of works like these: enthusiasm
reigns alone, while vulgar interests slumber. At last the singers
departed, and left Corinne near the Coliseum: she wished to enter its
inclosure and bid adieu to ancient Rome.

Those who have seen this place but by day cannot judge of the
impression it may make. The sun of Italy should shine on festivals; but
the moon is the light for ruins. Sometimes, through the openings of the
amphitheatre, which seems towering to the clouds, a portion of heaven's
vault appears like a dark blue curtain. The plants that cling to the
broken walls all wear the hues of night. The soul at once shudders and
melts on finding itself alone with nature. One side of this edifice is
much more fallen than the other; the two contemporaries make an unequal
struggle against time. He fells the weakest; the other still resists,
but soon must yield.

"Ye solemn scenes!" cried Corinne, "where, at this hour, no being
breathes beside me--where but the echoes of my own voice answer me--how
are the storms of passion calmed by nature, who thus peacefully
permits so many generations to glide by! Has not the universe some
better end than man? or are its marvels scattered here, merely to be
reflected in his mind? Oswald! why do I love with such idolatry? why
live but for the feelings of a day compared to the infinite hopes that
unite us with divinity? My God! if it be true, as I believe, that we
admire thee the more capable we are of reflection, make my own mind
my refuge against my heart! The noble being whose gentle looks I can
never forget is but a perishable mortal like myself. Among the stars
there is eternal love, alone sufficing to a boundless heart." Corinne
remained long in these ideas, and, at last, turned slowly towards her
own abode; but, ere she re-entered it, she wished to await the dawn at
St. Peter's, and from its dome take her last leave of all beneath. Her
imagination represented this edifice as it must be, when, in its turn,
a wreck--the theme of wonder for yet unborn ages. The columns, now
erect, half bedded in earth; the porch dilapidated, with the Egyptian
obelisk exulting over the decay of novelties, wrought for an earthly
immortality. From the summit of St. Peter's Corinne beheld day rise
over Rome, which, in its uncultivated Campagna, looks like the oasis of
a Libyan desert. Devastation is around it; but the multitude of spires
and cupolas, over which St. Peter's rises, give a strange beauty to
its aspect. This city may boast one peculiar charm: we love it as an
animated being: its very ruins are as friends, from whom we cannot part
without farewell.

Corinne addressed the Pantheon, St. Angelo's, and all the sites that
once renewed the pleasures of her fancy. "Adieu!" she said, "land of
remembrances! scenes where life depends not on events, nor on society;
where enthusiasm refreshes itself through the eyes, and links the soul
to each external object. I leave you, to follow Oswald, not knowing to
what fate he may consign me. I prefer him to the independence which
here afforded me such happy days. I may return to more; but for a
broken heart and blighted mind, ye arts and monuments so oft invoked,
while I was exiled beneath his stormy sky, ye could do nothing to
console!"

She wept; yet thought not, for an instant, of letting Oswald depart
without her. Resolutions springing from the heart we often justly
blame, yet hesitate not to adopt. When passion masters a superior mind,
it separates our judgment from our conduct, and need not cloud the one
in order to overrule the other.

Corinne's black curls and veil floating on the breeze gave her
so picturesque an air, that, as she left the church, the common
people recognised and followed her to her carriage with the warmest
testimonials of respect. She sighed again, at parting from a race so
ardent and so graceful in their expressions of esteem. Nor was this
all. She had to endure the regrets of her friends They devised fêtes
in order to delay her departure: their poetical tributes strove in
a thousand ways to convince her that she ought to stay; and finally
they accompanied her on horseback for twenty miles. She was extremely
affected. Oswald cast down his eyes in confusion, reproaching himself
for tearing her from so much delight, though he knew that an offer of
remaining there would be more barbarous still. He appeared selfish
in removing Corinne from Rome; yet he was not so; for the fear of
afflicting her, by setting forth alone, had more weight with him than
even the hope of retaining her presence. He knew not what he was about
to do--saw nothing beyond Venice. He had written to inquire how soon
his regiment would be actively employed in the war, and awaited a
reply. Sometimes he thought of taking Corinne with him to England; yet
instantly remembered that he should forever ruin her reputation by so
doing, unless she were his wife; then he wished to soften the pangs
of separation by a private marriage; but a moment afterwards gave up
that plan also. "We can keep no secrets from the dead," he cried: "and
what should I gain by making a mystery of a union prohibited by nothing
but my worship of a tomb?" His mind, so weak in all that concerned
his affections, was sadly agitated by contending sentiments. Corinne
resigned herself to him, like a victim, exulting, amid her sorrows, in
the sacrifices she made; while Oswald, responsible for the welfare of
another, bound himself to her daily by new ties, without the power of
yielding to them; and unhappy in his love as in his conscience, felt
the presence of both but in their combats with each other.

When the friends of Corinne took leave, they commended her earnestly to
his care; congratulated him on the love of so eminent a woman; their
every word sounding like mockery and upbraiding. She felt this, and
hastily concluded the trying scene; and when, after turning from time
to time to salute her, they were at last lost to her sight, she only
said to her lover: "Oswald! I have now no one but you in the world!"
How did he long to swear he would be hers! But frequent disappointments
teach us to mistrust our own inclinations, and shrink even from the
vows our hearts may prompt. Corinne read his thoughts, and delicately
strove to fix his attention on the country through which they
travelled.



CHAPTER V.


It was the beginning of September, and the weather super till they
neared the Apennines, where they felt the approach of winter. A soft
air is seldom united with the pleasure of looking on picturesque
mountains. One evening, a terrible hurricane arose: the thickest
darkness closed around them; and the horses, so wild there that they
are even harnessed by stratagem, set off with inconceivable rapidity.
Our lovers felt much excited by being thus hurried on together. "Ah!"
cried Oswald, "if they could bear us from all I know on earth--if they
could climb these hills, and dash into another life, where we should
regain my father, who would receive and bless us, would you not go with
me, beloved?" He pressed her vehemently to his bosom. Corinne, enamored
as himself, replied: "Dispose of me as you will; chain me like a slave
to your fate: had not the slaves of other days talents that soothed
their masters? Such would I be to thee. But, Oswald, yet respect her
who thus trusts thee: condemned by all the world, she must not blush
to meet thine eye."--"No," he exclaimed, "I will lose all, or all
obtain. I ought, I must either live thy husband, or die in stifling the
transports of my passion: but I will hope to be thine before the world,
and glory in thy tenderness. Yet tell me, I conjure thee, have I not
sunk in thine esteem by all these struggles? Canst thou believe thyself
less dear than ever?" His accents were so sincere, that, for awhile,
they gave her back her confidence, and the purest, sweetest rapture
animated them both.

Meanwhile the horses stopped. Oswald alighted first. The cold sharp
wind almost made him fancy himself landing in England: this freezing
air was not like that of Italy, which bids young breasts forget all
things save love. Oswald sank back into his gloom. Corinne, who knew
the unsettled nature of his fancy, but too well guessed the cause. On
the morrow they arrived at our Lady of Loretto, which stands upon an
eminence, from whence is seen the Adriatic. While Oswald gave some
orders for their journey, Corinne entered the church, where the image
of the Virgin is inclosed in the choir of a small chapel, adorned
with bas-reliefs. The marble pavement that surrounds the sanctuary is
worn by pilgrim knees. Corinne, moved by these marks of prayer, knelt
on the stones so often pressed by the unfortunate, and addressed the
type of heavenly truth and sensibility. Oswald here found her bathed
in tears. He did not understand how a woman of her mind could bow to
the practices of the ignorant. She guessed this by his looks, and
said: "Dear Oswald, are there not many moments when we dare not raise
our hopes to the Supreme Being, or breathe to him the sorrows of our
hearts? Is it not pleasing, then, to behold a woman as intercessor for
our human weakness? She suffered on this earth, for she lived on it; to
her I blush not to pray for you, when a petition to God himself would
overawe me."--"I cannot always directly supplicate my Maker," replied
Oswald. "I, too, have my intercessor: the guardian angel of children is
their father: and since mine has been in heaven, I have oft received
an unexpected solace, aid, and composure, which I can but attribute
to the miraculous protection whence I still hope to escape from my
perplexities."--"I comprehend you," said Corinne, "and believe there
is no one who has not some mysterious idea of his own destiny--one
event which he has always dreaded, and which, though improbable, is
sure to happen. The punishment of some fault, though it be impossible
to trace the connection our misfortunes have with it, often strikes
the imagination. From my childhood I trembled at the idea of living in
England. Well; my inability to do so may be my worst regret; and on
that point I feel there is something unconquerable in my fate, against
which I struggle in vain. Every one conceives his life interiorly a
contrast to what it seems we have a confused sense of some supernatural
power, disguised in the form of external circumstance, while itself
alone is the source of all our actions. Dear friend, minds capable
of reasoning forever plunge into their own abyss, but always fail to
fathom it."

Oswald, as he heard her speak thus, wondered to find that, while
she was capable of such glowing sentiments, her judgment still could
hover over them, like their presiding genius. "No," he frequently said
to himself, "no other society on earth can satisfy the man who has
possessed such a companion as this."

They entered Ancona at night, as he wished not to be recognized: in
spite of his precautions, however, he was so; and the next morning
all the inhabitants crowded about the house in which he stayed,
awaking Corinne by shouts of "Long live Lord Nevil, our benefactor!"
She started, rose hastily, and mingled with the crowd, to hear their
praises of the man she loved. Oswald, informed that the people were
impatiently calling for him, was at last obliged to appear. He believed
Corinne still slept: what was his astonishment at finding her already
known and cherished by the grateful multitude, who entreated her to
be their interpretress! Corinne's imagination--by turns her charm
and her defect--delighted in extraordinary adventures. She thanked
Lord Nevil, in the name of the people, with a grace so noble that the
natives were in ectasies. Speaking for them, she said: "You preserved
us--we owe you our lives!" But when she offered him the oak and
laurel crown they had entwined, an indefinite timidity beset her: the
enthusiastic populace prostrated themselves before him, and Corinne
involuntarily bent her knee in tendering him the garland. Oswald was so
overwhelmed at the sight, that he could no longer support this scene,
nor the public homage of his beloved; but drew her away with him. She
wept, and thanked the good inhabitants of Ancona, who followed them
with blessings, as Oswald, hiding himself in his carriage, murmured:
"Corinne at my feet! Corinne, in whose path I ought to kneel! Have I
deserved this? Do you suspect me of such unworthy pride?"--"No, no,"
she said; "but I was suddenly seized with the respect a woman always
feels for him she loves. To us, indeed, is external deference most
directed; but in truth, in nature, it is the woman who reveres the
being capable of defending her."

"Yes, I will be thy defender, to the last hour of my life!" he
answered. "Heaven be my witness, such a genius shall not in vain seek
a refuge in the harbor of my love!"--"Alas!" she sighed, "that love is
all I need; and what promise can secure it to me? No matter. I feel
that you love me now better than ever: let us not trouble this return
of affection."--"Return!" interrupted Oswald.--"I cannot retract the
expression; but let us not seek to explain it;" and she made a gentle
sign for Nevil to be silent.



CHAPTER VI.


For two days they proceeded on the shore of the Adriatic; but this sea,
on the Romagnan side, has not the effect of the ocean, nor even of
the Mediterranean. The high road winds close to its waves, and grass
grows on its banks: it is not thus that we would represent the mighty
realm of tempests. At Rimini and Cesena, you quit the classic scenes of
history: their latest remembrancer is the Rubicon, which Cæsar passed
to become the lord of Rome. Not far from hence is the republic of St.
Marino, the last weak vestige of liberty, besides the spot on which was
resolved the destruction of the world's chief republic. By degrees,
you now advance towards a country very opposite in aspect to the Papal
State. Bologna, Lombardy, the environs of Ferrara and Rovigo, are
remarkable for beauty and cultivation--how unlike the poetic barrenness
and decay that announce an approach to Rome, and tell of the terrible
events that have occurred there!

You then quit what Sabran calls "black pines, the summer's mourning,
but the winter's bravery," and the conical cypresses that remind one
of obelisks, mountains, and the sea. Nature, like the traveller, now
parts from the southern rays. At first, the oranges are found no longer
in the open air--they are succeeded by olives, whose pale and tender
foliage might suit the bowers of the Elysian fields. Further on, even
the olive disappears.

On entering Bologna's smiling plain, the vines garland the elms
together, and the whole land is decked as for a festival. Corinne was
sensible of the contrast between her present state of mind and the
resplendent scene she now beheld.--"Ah, Oswald!" she sighed, "ought
nature to spread such images of happiness before two friends perhaps
about to lose each other?"--"No, Corinne--never! each day I feel
less able to resign thee: that untiring gentleness unites the charm
of habit with the love I bear thee. One lives as contentedly with
you as if you were not the finest genius in the world, or, rather,
because you are so; for real superiority confers a perfect goodness,
that makes one's peace with one's self and all the world. What angry
thoughts can live in such a presence?" They arrived at Ferrara, one
of the saddest towns in Italy, vast and deserted. The few inhabitants
found there, at distant intervals, loiter on slowly, as if secure of
time for all they have to do. It is hard to conceive this the scene
of that gay court sung both by Tasso and Ariosto; yet still are shown
their manuscripts, with that also of the Pastor Fido. Ariosto knew
how to live at ease here, amid courtiers; but the house is yet to be
seen wherein they dared confine Tasso as a maniac. It is sad to read
the various letters which he wrote, asking the death it was so long
ere he obtained. Tasso was so peculiarly organised, that his talent
became its owner's formidable foe. His genius dissected his own heart.
He could not so have read the secrets of the soul if he had felt less
sorrow. _The man who has not suffered_, says a prophet, _what does he
know?_ In some respects, Corinne resembled him. She was more cheerful
and more versatile, but her imagination required extreme government:
far from assuaging any grief, it lent each pang fresh might. Nevil
deceived himself if he believed her brilliant faculties could give her
means of happiness apart from her affections. When genius is united
with true feeling, our talents multiply our woes. We analyze, we make
discoveries, and, the heart's urn of tears being exhaustless, the more
we think the more we feel it flow.



CHAPTER VII.


They embarked for Venice on the Brenta. At each side they beheld
its palaces, grand but dilapidated, like all Italian magnificence.
They are too wildly ornamented to remind us of the antique: Venetian
architecture betrays a commerce with the East: there is a blendure of
the Gothic and Moresco that takes the eye, though it offends the taste.
The poplar, regular almost as architecture itself, borders the canals.
The sky's bright blue sets off the splendid verdure of the country,
which owes its green to the abundant waters. Nature seems to wear these
two colors in mere coquetry; and the vague beauty of the South is found
no more. Venice astonishes more than it pleases at first sight: it
looks a city under water: and one can scarce admire the ambition which
disputed this space with the sea. The amphitheatre of Naples is built
as if to welcome it; but on the flats of Venice, steeples appear, like
masts, immovable in the midst of waves. In entering the city, one takes
leave of vegetation; one sees not even a fly there: all animals are
banished; man alone remains to battle with the waves. In a city whose
streets are all canals, the silence is profound--the dash of oars its
only interruption. You cannot fancy yourself in the country, for you
see no trees; nor in a town, for you hear no bustle; or even on board
ship, for you make no way; but in a place which storms would convert
into a prison--for there are times when you cannot leave the city, nor
even your own house.

Many men in Venice never went from one quarter to another--never beheld
St. Mark's--a horse or a tree were actual miracles to them. The black
gondolas glide along like biers or cradles, the last and the first beds
of human kind. At night, their dark color renders them invisible, and
they are only traced by the reflection of the lights they carry--one
might call them phantoms, guided by faint stars. In this abode all is
mysterious--the government, the habits, love itself. Doubtless the
heart and reason find much food when they can penetrate this secrecy,
but strangers always feel the first impression singularly sad.

Corinne, who was a believer in presentiments, and now made presages
of everything, said to Nevil: "Is not the melancholy that I feel on
entering this place a proof that some great misfortune will befall me
here?" As she said this, she heard three reports of cannon, from one
of the Isles of the Lagune--she started, and inquired the cause of a
gondolier--"It is a woman taking the veil," he said, "at one of those
convents in the midst of the sea. The custom here is, that the moment
such vow is uttered, the female throws the flowers she wore during the
ceremony behind her, as a sign of her resigning the world, and the
firing you have just heard announces this event." Corinne shuddered.
Oswald felt her hand grow cold in his, and saw a deathlike pallor
overspread her face.--"My life!" he cried, "why give this importance to
so simple a chance?"--"It is not simple," she replied. "I, too, have
thrown the flowers of youth behind me."--"How! when I love thee more
than ever? when my whole soul is thine?"--"The thunders of war," she
continued, "elsewhere devoted to victory or death, here celebrate the
obscure sacrifice of a maiden--an innocent employment for the arms that
shake the world with terror: a solemn message from a resigned woman to
those of her sisters who still contend with fate."



CHAPTER VIII.


The power of the Venetian government, during its latter years, has
almost entirely consisted in the empire of habit and association of
ideas. It once was formidably daring,--it has become lenient and
timorous: hate of its past potency is easily revived, and easily
subdued, by the thoughts that its might is over. The aristocracy woo
the favour of the people, and yet by a kind of despotism, since they
rather amuse than enlighten them; an agreeable state enough, while the
common herd are afforded no pleasures that can brutify their minds,
while the government watches over its subjects like a sultan over his
harem, forbidding them to meddle with politics, or presume to form
any judgment of existing authorities, but allowing them sufficient
diversion, and not a little glory. The spoils of Constantinople enrich
the churches; the standards of Cyprus and Candia float over the Piazza;
the Corinthian horses delight the eye; and the winged lion of St.
Mark's appears the type of fame. The situation of the city rendering
agriculture and the chase impossible, nothing is left for the Venetians
but dissipation. Their dialect is soft and light as a zephyr. One can
hardly conceive how the people who resisted the league of Cambray
should speak so flexible a tongue: it is charming while expressive of
graceful pleasantry, but suits not graver themes; verses on death, for
instance, breathed in these delicate and almost infantine accents,
sound more like the descriptions of poetic fable. The Venetians are the
most intelligent men in Italy; they think more deeply, though with less
ardent fancies than their southern countrymen; yet, for the most part,
the women, though very agreeable, have acquired a sentimentality of
language, which, without restraining their morals, merely lends their
gallantry an air of affectation. There is more vanity, as there is
more society, here, than in the rest of Italy. Where applause is quick
and frequent, conceit calculates all debts instantaneously; knows what
success is owed, and claims its due, without giving a minute's credit.
Its bills must be paid at sight. Still, much originality may be found
in Venice. Ladies of the highest rank receive visits in the _cafés_,
and this strange confusion prevents their _salons_ becoming the arenas
of serious self-love. There yet remain here some ancient usages that
evince a respect for their forefathers, and a certain youth of heart
which tires not of the past, nor shrinks from melting recollections.
The sight of the city itself is always sufficient to awaken a host
of memories. The Piazza is crowded by blue tents, beneath which rest
Turks, Greeks and Armenians, who sometimes also loll carelessly in open
boats, with stands of flowers at their feet. St. Mark's, too, looks
rather like a mosque than a Christian temple; and its vicinity gives a
true idea of the oriental indolence with which life is spent here, in
drinking sherbet, and smoking perfumed pipes.

Men and women of quality never leave their houses, except in black
mantles; while the gondolas are often winged along by rowers clad in
white, with rose-colored sashes, as if holiday array were abandoned to
the vulgar, while the nobility kept up a vow of perpetual mourning. In
most European towns, authors are obliged carefully to avoid depicting
the daily routine; for our customs, even in luxury, are rarely poetic;
but in Venice nothing appears coarse; the canals, the boats, make
pictures of the commonest events in life.

On the quay of the galleys you constantly encounter puppet shows,
mountebanks, and story-tellers; the last are worthy of remark. It
is usually some episode from Tasso or Ariosto which they relate in
prose, to the great admiration of their hearers, who sit round the
speaker half clad, and motionless with curiosity; from time to time
they purchase glasses of water, as wine is bought elsewhere, and this
refreshment is all they take for hours, so strongly are their minds
interested. The narrator uses the most animating gestures; his voice
is raised; he irritates himself; he grows pathetic; and yet one sees,
all the while, that at heart he is perfectly unmoved. One might say
to him, as did Sappho to the Circean nymph, who, in perfect sobriety,
was assuming fury: "Bacchante--who art not drunk--what wouldst thou
with me?" Yet the lively pantomime of the south does not appear quite
artificial: it is a singular habit handed down from the Romans,
and springing from quickness of disposition. A people so enslaved
by pleasure may soon be alarmed by the dream of power in which the
Venetian government is veiled. Never are soldiers seen there. If even
a drummer appears in their comedies they are all astonishment; yet
a state inquisitor needs but to show himself to restore order among
thirty thousand people, assembled for a public fête. It were well if
this influence was derived from a respect for the laws; but it is
fortified by terror of the secret means which may still be used to
preserve the peace. The prisons are in the very palace of the Doge,
above and below his apartments. The Lion's Mouth, into which all
denunciations are thrown, is also here; the hall of trial is hung with
black, and makes judgment appear anticipating condemnation.

The Bridge of Sighs leads from the palace to the state prison. In
passing the canal, how oft were heard the cries of "Justice! Mercy!" in
voices that could be no longer recognized. When a state criminal was
sentenced, a bark removed him in the night, by a little gate that opens
on the water: he was taken some distance from the city, to a part of
the Lagune where fishing is prohibited, and there drowned: thus secrecy
is perpetuated, even after death, not leaving the unhappy wretch a
hope that his remains may inform those who loved him that he suffered,
and is no more. When Lord Nevil and Corinne visited Venice, these
executions had not taken place for nearly a century: but sufficient
mystery still existed: and, though Oswald was the last man to interfere
with the politics of foreign lands, he felt oppressed by this arbitrary
power, from which there was no appeal, that seemed to hang over every
head in Venice.



CHAPTER IX.


"You must not," said Corinne, "give way merely to the gloomy
impressions which these silent proceedings have created; you ought also
to observe the great qualities of this senate, which makes Venice a
republic for nobles, and formerly inspired that aristocratic energy,
the result of freedom, even though concentrated in the few. You will
find them severe on one another, at least establishing, in their own
breasts, the rights and virtues that should belong to all. You will see
them as paternal towards their subjects as they can be, while merely
considering that class of men with reference to physical prosperity.
You will detect a great pride in the country which is their property,
and an art of endearing it even to the people, whom they allow so few
actual possessions there."

Corinne and Oswald visited the hall where the great council was then
assembled. It is hung with portraits of the doges; on the space which
would have been occupied by that of Faliero, who was beheaded as a
traitor, is painted a black curtain, whereon is written the date and
manner of his death. The regal magnificence of the other pictures adds
to the effect of this ghastly pall. There is also a representation
of the Last Judgment, another of the powerful emperor, Frederic
Barbarossa, humbling himself to the Venetian senate. It was a fine
idea, thus to unite all that can exalt pride upon earth, and bend it
before Heaven.

They proceeded to the arsenal: before its gates are two Grecian
lions, brought from Athens, to become the guardians of Venetian
power. Motionless guardians, that defend but what they respect. This
repository is full of marine trophies. The famous ceremony of the
doge's marriage with the Adriatic, in fact, all the institutions, here
attest their gratitude to the sea: in this respect they resemble the
English, and Nevil strongly felt the similarity. Corinne now led him
to the tower called the Steeple of St. Mark's, though some paces from
the church. Thence is seen the whole city of the waves, and the huge
embankment which defends it from inundation. The coasts of Istria and
Dalmatia are in the distance. "Behind the clouds, on this side, lies
Greece," said Corinne: "is not that thought enough to stir the heart?
There, still, are men of lively, ardent characters, victims to fate;
yet destined, perhaps, some day, to resuscitate the ashes of their
sires. It is always something for a land to _have_ been great; its
natives blush at least beneath degradation; while, in a country never
consecrated to fame, the inhabitants do not even suspect that there
can be a nobler doom than the obscure servility bequeathed to them
by their fathers. Dalmatia, which was of yore occupied by so warlike
a race, still preserves something of the savage. Its natives are so
little aware of the changes wrought by fifteen centuries, that they
still deem the Romans 'all-powerful;' yet they betray more modern
knowledge, by calling the English 'the heroes of the sea,' because you
have so often landed in their ports; but they know nothing about the
rest of the world. I love all realms where, in the manners, customs,
language, something original is left. Civilized life is so monotonous;
you know its secrets in so short a time; I have already lived long
enough for that."--"Living with you," said Nevil, "can we ever behold
the end of new thoughts and sensations?"--"God grant that such may
prove exhaustless!" she replied, continuing: "Let us give one moment
more to Dalmatia: when we descend from this height we shall still see
the uncertain lines which mark that land, as indistinctly as a tender
recollection in the memory of man. There are improvisatores among
the Dalmatians as among the savages; they were found, too, with the
Grecians, and almost always exist where there is much imagination, and
little vanity. Natural talent turns rather to epigram, in countries
where a fear of ridicule makes every man anxious to be the first
who secures that weapon; but people thrown much with Nature feel a
reverence for her that greatly nurtures fancy. 'Caverns are sacred,'
say the Dalmatians; doubtless, thus expressing an indefinite terror
of the old earth's secrets. Their poetry, Southerns though they be,
resembles Ossian's; but there are only two ways of feeling the charms
of nature. Men either animate and deify them, as did the ancients,
beneath a thousand brilliant shapes, or, like the Scottish bards,
yield to the melancholy fear inspired by the unknown. Since I met you,
Oswald, this last manner has best pleased me. Formerly, I had vivacious
hope enough to prefer a fearless enjoyment of smiling imagery."--"It
is I, then," said Nevil, "who have withered the fair ideal, to which
I owed the richest pleasures of my life."--"No, you are not in fault,
but my own passion. Talent requires internal freedom, such as true
love destroys."--"Ah! if you mean that your genius may lose its voice,
and your heart but speak for me----" He could not proceed; the words
promised more to his mind than he dared utter. Corinne guessed this,
and would not answer, lest she should dissipate their present hopes.
She felt herself beloved, and, used to live where men lose all for
love, she was easily persuaded that Nevil could not leave her. At once
ardent and indolent, she deemed a danger past which was no longer
mentioned. She lived as many others do; who have been long menaced by
the same misfortune, and think it will never happen, merely because it
has not done so yet.

The air of Venice, and the life led there, is singularly calculated
for lulling the mind into security: the very boats, peacefully rocking
to and fro, induce a languid reverie; now and then a gondolier on the
Rialto sings a stanza from Tasso; one of his fellows answers him, by
the next verse, from the extremity of the canal. The very antique music
they employ is like church psalmody, and monotonous enough when near;
but, on the evening breeze, it floats over the waters like the last
beams of the sun; and, aided by the sentiment it expresses, in such
a scene, it cannot be heard without a gentle pensiveness. Oswald and
Corinne remained on the canals, side by side, for hours; often without
a word; holding each other's hands, and yielding to the formless dreams
inspired by love and nature.



BOOK XVI.


PARTING AND ABSENCE.



CHAPTER I.


As soon as Corinne's arrival was known in Venice, it excited the
greatest curiosity. When she went to a _café_ in the piazza of St.
Mark, its galleries were crowded, for a moment's glimpse at her; and
the best society sought her with eager haste. She had once loved to
produce this effect wherever she appeared, and naturally confessed
that admiration had many charms for her. Genius inspires this thirst
for fame: there is no blessing undesired by those to whom Heaven gave
the means of winning it. Yet in her present situation she dreaded
everything in opposition with the domestic habits so dear to Nevil.
Corinne was blind to her own welfare, in attaching herself to a man
likely rather to repress than to excite her talents; but it is easy
to conceive why a woman, occupied by literature and the arts, should
love the tastes that differed from her own. One is so often weary
of one's self, that a resemblance of that self would never tempt
affection, which requires a harmony of sentiment, but a contrast of
character; many sympathies, but not unvaried congeniality. Nevil
was supremely blessed with this double charm. His gentle ease and
gracious manner could never sate, because his liability to clouds and
storms kept up a constant interest. Although the depth and extent of
his acquirements fitted him for any life, his political opinions and
military bias inclined him rather to a career of arms than one of
letters--the thought that action might be more poetical than even verse
itself. He was superior to the success of his own mind, and spoke of
it with much indifference. Corinne strove to please him by imitating
this carelessness of literary glory; in order to grow more like the
retiring females from whom English womanhood offers the best model.
Yet the homage she received at Venice gave Oswald none but agreeable
sensations. There was so much cordial good-breeding in the reception
she met--the Venetians expressed the pleasure her conversation afforded
them with such vivacity, that Oswald felt proud of being dear to one so
universally admired. He was no longer jealous of her celebrity, certain
that she prized him far above it; and his own love increased by every
tribute she elicited. He forgot England, and revelled in the Italian
heedlessness of days to come. Corinne perceived this change; and her
imprudent heart welcomed it, as if to last forever.

Italian is the only tongue whose dialects are almost languages of
themselves. In that of each state books might be written distinct
from the standard Italian; though only the Neapolitan, Sicilian,
and Venetian dialects have yet the honor of being acknowledged; and
that of Venice as the most original, most graceful of all. Corinne
pronounced it charmingly; and the manner in which she sung some lively
_barcaroles_ proved that she could act comedy as well as tragedy. She
was pressed to take a part in an opera which some of her new friends
intended playing the next week. Since she had loved Oswald, she
concealed this talent from him, not feeling sufficient peace of mind
for its exercise, or, at other times, fearing that any outbreak of
high spirits might be followed by misfortune; but now, with unwonted
confidence, she consented, as he, too, joined in the request; and it
was agreed that she should perform in a piece, like most of Gozzi's,
composed of the most diverting fairy extravagances.[1] Truffaldin and
Pantaloon, in these burlesques, often jostle the greatest monarchs of
the earth. The marvellous furnishes them with jests, which, from their
very order, cannot approach to low vulgarity. The Child of the Air,
or Semiramis in her Youth, is a coquette, endowed by the celestials
and infernals to subjugate the world; bred in a desert, like a savage,
cunning as a sorceress, and imperious as a queen, she unites natural
wildness with premeditated grace, and a warrior's courage with the
frivolity of a woman. The character demands a fund of fanciful
drollery, which but the inspiration of the moment can bring to light.


[1] Among the comic Italian authors who have described their country's
manners, must be reckoned the Chevalier Rossi, a Roman, who singularly
unites observation with satire.



CHAPTER II.


Fate sometimes has its own strange, cruel sport, repulsing our
presuming familiarity. Oft, when we yield to hope, calculate on
success, and trifle with our destiny, the sable thread is blending with
its tissue, and the weird sisters dash down the airy fabrics we have
reared.

It was now November; yet Corinne arose enchanted with her prospects.
For the first act she chose a very picturesque costume: her hair,
though dishevelled, was arranged with an evident design of pleasing;
her light, fantastic garb gave her noble form a most mischievously
attractive air. She reached the palace where she was to play. Every
one but Oswald had arrived. She deferred the performance as long as
possible, and began to be uneasy at his absence; when she came on the
stage, however, she perceived him, though he sat in a remote part of
the hall, and the pain of having waited redoubled her joy. She was
inspired by gayety as she had been at the Capitol by enthusiasm.
This drama blends song with speech, and even gives opportunities for
extempore dialogue, of which Corinne availed herself to render the
scene more animated. She sung the _buffa_ airs with peculiar elegance.
Her gestures were at once comic and dignified. She extorted laughter,
without ceasing to be imposing. Her talents, like her part, queened
it over actors and spectators, pleasantly bantering both parties. Ah!
who would not have wept over such a sight, could they have known that
this bright armor but drew down the lightning, that this triumphant
mirth would soon give place to bitter desolation? The applause was so
continual, so judicious, that the rapture of the audience infected
Corinne with that kind of delirium which pours a lethe over the past,
and bids the future seem unclouded. Oswald had seen her represent the
deepest woe, at a time when he still hoped to make her happy; he now
beheld her breathing stainless joy, just as he had received tidings
that might prove fatal to them both. Oft did he wish to take her
from this scene of daring happiness, yet felt a sad pleasure in once
more beholding that lovely countenance bedecked in smiles. At the
conclusion, she appeared arrayed as an Amazonian queen, commanding men,
almost the elements, by that reliance on her charms which beauty may
preserve, unless she loves; then, then, no gift of nature or of fortune
can reassure her spirit; but this crowned flirt, this fairy queen,
miraculously blending rage with wit, carelessness with ambition, and
conceit with despotism, seemed to rule over fate as over hearts; and
when she ascended her throne she exacted the submission of her subjects
with a smile, arch as it was arrogant. This was, perhaps, the moment
of her life, from which both grief and fear seemed furthest banished;
when suddenly she saw her lover bow his face on his hands to hide
his tears. She trembled, and the curtain had not quite fallen, when,
leaving her already hated throne, she rushed into the next apartment.
Thither he followed her; and when she marked his paleness, she was
seized with such alarm that she was forced to lean against the wall
for support. "Oswald," she said, "my God! what has happened?"--"I must
start for England to-night," he said, forgetting that he ought not
thus to have exposed her feelings.--"No, no!" she cried, clinging to
him distractedly; "you cannot plunge me into such despair. How have I
merited it? or--or--you mean that you will take me with you?"--"Let us
leave this cruel crowd," he said: "come with me, Corinne." She followed
him, not understanding aught addressed to her, answering at random;
her gait and look so changed, that every one believed her struck with
sudden illness.



CHAPTER III.


When they were in the gondola, she raved: "What you have made me feel
is worse than death: be generous: throw me into these waves, that I
may lose the sense which maddens me. Oswald, be brave: I have seen
you do things that required more courage."--"Hold, hold!" he cried,
"if you would not drive me to suicide. Hear me, when we have reached
your house, and then pronounce our fate. In the name of Heaven be
calm!" There was such misery in his accents that she was silent; but
trembled so violently, that she could hardly walk up the stairs to her
apartment. There she tore off her ornaments in dismay; and, as Lord
Nevil saw _her_ in this state, a few moments since so brilliant, he
sank upon a seat in tears.--"Am I a barbarian?" he cried. "Corinne!
Just Heaven! Corinne! do you not think me so?"--"No," she said, "no, I
cannot.--Have you not still that look which every day gives me fresh
comfort? Oswald, your presence is a ray from heaven--can I then fear
you?--not dare to read your eyes? but fall before you as before my
murderer? Oh, Oswald! Oswald!" and she threw herself at his feet in
supplication. "What do I see," he exclaimed, raising her vehemently,
"would you dishonor me? Well, be it so. My regiment embarks in a
month. I will remain, if you betray this all-commanding grief, but I
shall not survive my shame."--"I ask you not to stay," she said; "but
what harm can I do by following you!"--"We go to the West Indies,
and no officer is allowed to take his wife."--"Well, well, at least
let me go to England with you."--"My letters also tell me," answered
he, "that reports concerning us are already in the papers there;
that your identity is suspected; and your family, excited by Lady
Edgarmond, refuses to meet or own you. Give me but time to reconcile
them, to enforce your rights with your step-mother; for if I take you
thither, and leave you, ere your name be cleared, you will endure all
the severe opinions which I shall not be by to answer."--"Then you
refuse me everything!" she said, and sank insensible to the earth,
her forehead receiving a wound in the fall. Oswald shrieked at the
sight. Thérésina entered in extreme alarm, and restored her mistress
to animation; but when Corinne perceived, in an opposite mirror, her
own pale and disfigured face--"Oswald," she sighed, "it was not thus
I looked the day you met me first. I wore the crown of hope and fame,
now blood and dust are on my brow; yet it is not for you to despise the
state to which you have reduced me. Others may--but you cannot--you
ought to pity me for loving thus--you must!"--"Stay," he cried, "that
is too much;" and signing for Thérésina to retire, he took Corinne in
his arms, saying: "Do what thou wilt with me. I must submit to the
decrees of Heaven. I cannot abandon thee in this distress, nor lead
thee to England, before I have secured thee against the insults of that
haughty woman. I will stay with thee. I cannot depart." These words
recalled Corinne to herself, yet overwhelmed her with despair. She
felt the necessity that weighed upon her, and with her head reclined,
remained long silent.--"Dearest!" said Oswald, "let me hear thy voice.
I have no other support--no other guide now."--"No," replied Corinne,
"you must leave me," and a flood of tears evinced her comparative
resignation--"My love," said Nevil, "I call to witness this portrait
of my father, and you best know whether his name is sacred to me--I
swear to it that my life is in thy power, if needful to thy happiness.
At my return from the islands I will see if I cannot restore thee to
thy due rank in thy father's country. If I fail, I will return to
Italy, and live or die at thy feet."--"But the dangers you are about
to brave," she rejoined.--"Fear not, I shall escape; or if I perish,
unknown as I am, my memory will survive in thy heart; and when thou
hearest my name, thou mayest say, perhaps with tearful eyes, 'I knew
him once--he loved me!'"--"Ah, leave me!" she cried: "you are deceived
by my apparent calm; to-morrow, when the sun rises, and I tell myself,
'I shall see _him_ no more,' the thought may kill me; happy if it
does."--"Why, Corinne, do you fear? is my solemn promise nothing? Can
your heart doubt it?"--"No, I respect--too much not to believe you: it
would cost me more to abjure mine admiration than my love. I look on
you as an angelic being--the purest, noblest, that ever shone on earth.
It is not alone your grace that captivates me, but the idea that so
many virtues never before united in one object, and that your heavenly
look was only given to express them all. Far be it from me, then, to
doubt your word. I should fly from the human face forever if Lord Nevil
could deceive; but absence has so many perils, and that dreaded word
adieu----"--"Have I not said, never--save from my death-bed?" demanded
Oswald, with such emotion that Corinne, terrified for his health,
strove to restrain her feelings, and became more pitiable than before.
They then began to concert means of writing, and to speak on the
certainty of rejoining each other. A year was the term fixed. Oswald
securely believed that the expedition would not be longer away. Some
time was left them still, and Corinne trusted to regain her strength;
but when Oswald told her that the gondola would come for him at three
in the morning, and she saw, by her dial, that the hour was not far
distant, she shivered as if she were approaching the stake: her lover
had every instant less resolution; and, Corinne, who had never seen
his mastery over himself thus unmanned, was heart-broken at the sight
of his great anguish. She consoled him, though she must have been a
thousand times the most unhappy of the two.--"Listen!" she said: "when
you are in London, fickle gallants will tell you that love-promises
bind not your honor; that every Englishman has liked some Italian on
his travels, and forgotten her on his return; that a few pleasant
months ought to involve neither the giver nor the receiver; that at
your age the color of your whole life cannot depend upon the temporary
fascinations of a foreigner. Now this will seem right in the way of the
world; but will you, who know the heart of which you made yourself the
lord, find excuses in these sophisms for inflicting a mortal wound?
Will barbarous jests from men of the day prevent your hand's trembling
as it drives the poniard through this breast?"--"Hush," said Oswald:
"you know it is not your grief alone restrains me: but where could
I find such bliss as I have owed to you? Who, in the universe, can
understand me as you do? Corinne, you are the only woman who can feel
or inspire true love, that harmonious intelligence of hearts and souls,
which I shall never enjoy except with you. You know I am not fickle:
I look on all things seriously; is it then against you only that I
should belie my nature?"--"No," answered Corinne; "you would not treat
my fond sincerity with scorn; it is not you, Oswald, who could remain
insensible to my despair; but to you my step-mother will say all that
can sully my past life. Spare me the task of telling you beforehand
her pitiless remarks. Far from what talents I may boast disarming her,
they are my greatest errors in her eyes. She cannot feel their charm,
she only sees their danger: whatever is unlike the destiny she herself
chose seems useless, if not culpable. The poetry of the heart to her
appears but an impertinence, which usurps the right of depreciating
common sense. It is in the name of virtues I respect as much as you
do that she will condemn my character and fate. Oswald, she will call
me unworthy of you."--"And how should I hear that?" interrupted he:
"what virtues dare she rate above your generosity, your frankness? No,
heavenly creature! be common minds judged by common rules; but shame
befall the being you have loved who does not more revere than even
adore you. Peerless in love and truth, Corinne! my firmness fails; if
you sustain me not, I can never fly. It is from you I must receive the
power to pain you."--"Well," said Corinne, "there are some seconds yet
ere I must recommend myself to God, and beg he will enable me to hear
the hour of your departure strike. Oh, Oswald, we love each other with
deep tenderness. I have intrusted you with all my secrets; the facts
were nothing--but the most private feelings of my heart, you know them
all. I have not a thought that is not wedded to thee: if I write aught
in which my soul expands, thou art mine inspiration. I address myself
to thee, as I shall my latest sigh. What, then, is my asylum if thou
leavest me? The arts will retrace thine image, music thy voice. Genius,
which formerly entranced my spirit, is nothing now but love, and
unshared with thee must perish. Oh, God!" she added, raising her eyes
to heaven, "deign but to hear me! Thou art not merciless to our noblest
sorrows; take back my life when he has ceased to love: it will be then
but suffering. He carries with him all my highest, softest feelings: if
he permits the fire shrined in his breast to be extinguished, wherever
I may be, my life, too, will be quenched. Great God! thou didst not
frame me to outlive my better self, and what should I become in ceasing
to esteem him? He ought to love me ever--I feel he ought--my affection
should command his! Oh! heavenly Father! death or his love!"

As she concluded this prayer she turned to Oswald, and beheld him
prostrated before her in strong convulsions: he repelled her cares,
as if his reason were entirely lost. Corinne gently pressed his hand,
repeating to him all he had said to her, assuring him that she relied
on his return. Her words somewhat composed him; yet the nearer the
hour of separation drew, the more impossible it seemed to part. "Why,"
he said, "should we not go to the altar and at once take our eternal
oaths?" All the firmness, all the pride of Corinne, revived at these
words. Oswald had told her that a woman's grief once before subdued
him, but his love had chilled with every sacrifice he made. After a
moment's silence, she replied: "No, you must see your country and your
friends before you adopt this resolution. I owe it now, my Lord, to
the pangs of parting, and I will not accept it." He took her hand. "At
least," he said, "I swear again my faith is bound to this ring; while
you preserve it, never shall another attain a right over my actions; if
you at last reject me, and send it back----"--"Cease," she interposed,
"cease to talk of a fear you never felt; I cannot be the first to break
our sacred tie, and almost blush to assure you of what you but too well
know already." Meanwhile, the time advanced. Corinne turned pale at
every sound. Nevil remained in speechless grief beside her; at last a
light gleamed through the window, and the black, hearse-like gondola
stopped before the door. Corinne uttered a scream of fright, and fell
into Oswald's arms, crying: "They are here--adieu--leave me--all is
over!"--"Oh God, oh my father!" he exclaimed; "what do ye exact of me?"
He embraced and wept over his beloved, who continued: "Go! it must
be done--go!"--"Let me call Thérésina," he said; "I cannot leave you
thus alone."--"Alone!" she repeated: "shall I not be alone till you
return?"--"I cannot quit this room; it is impossible," he articulated,
with desperation.--"Well," said Corinne, "then it is I must give the
signal. I will open the door; but when I have done so, spare me a few
short instants."--"Yes, yes," he murmured, "let us be still together,
though these cruel combats are even worse than absence." They now heard
the boatmen calling up Lord Nevil's servants; one of whom soon tapped
at the door, informing him that all was ready.--"All is ready," echoed
Corinne, and knelt beside his father's portrait. Doubtless, her former
life then passed in review before her; she exaggerated every fault, and
feared herself unworthy of Divine compassion, though far too wretched
to exist without it. When she arose, she held forth her hand to Nevil,
saying: "Now I can bid you farewell--a moment more, and, perhaps, I
could not. May God protect your steps and mine--for I must need his
care!" Oswald flung himself once more into her arms, trembling and pale
like one prepared for torture, and left the room, where, perhaps, for
the last time, he had loved, and felt himself beloved, as few have ever
been, or ever can be.

When he disappeared, a horrid palpitation attacked Corinne; she could
not breathe; everything she beheld looked unreal; objects seemed
vanishing from her sight; the chamber tottering as from a shock of
earthquake. For a quarter of an hour she heard the servants completing
the preparations for this journey. _He_ was still near; she might
yet again behold him, speak to him once more; but she would not
trust herself. Oswald lay almost senseless in the gondola. At last
it rowed away: and at that moment, Corinne fled forth to recall him;
but Thérésina stopped her. A heavy rain was falling, and a high wind
arose; the house was now, indeed, shaken like a ship at sea, and Oswald
had to cross the Lagune in such weather! Corinne descended, purposing
to follow him, at least till he should land in safety; but it was so
dark that not a single gondola was plying: she walked, in dreadful
agitation, the narrow pavement that divides the houses from the water.
The storm increased; she called upon the boatmen, who mistook her cries
for those of some poor creature drowning--yet no one dared approach,
the waves of the grand canal had swollen so formidably. Corinne
remained till daybreak in this state; meanwhile the tempest ceased.
One of the gondoliers brought word from Oswald that he had crossed
securely. That moment was almost a happy one; and it was some hours
ere the unfortunate creature again felt the full weight of absence, or
calculated the long days which but anxiety and grief might henceforth
occupy.



CHAPTER IV.


During the first part of his journey, Oswald was frequently on the
point of returning; but the motives for perseverance vanquished this
desire. We make a solemn step towards the limits of Love's empire,
after we have once disobeyed him--the dream of his resistlessness is
over. On approaching England, all Oswald's homefelt recollections
returned. The year he had passed abroad had no connection with any
other era of his life. A glorious apparition had charmed his fancy, but
could not change the tastes, the opinions, of which his existence had
been, till then, composed. He regained _himself_; and though regret
prevented his yet feeling any delight, his thoughts began to steady
from the Italian intoxication which had unsettled them. No sooner
had he landed, than his mind was struck with the ease, the order, the
wealth, and industry he looked on; the habits and inclinations to which
he was born waked with more force than ever.

In a land where men have so much dignity, and women so much virtue,
where domestic peace is the basis of public welfare, Oswald could but
remember Italy to pity her. He saw the stamp of human reason upon all
things; he had lately found, in social life as in state institutions,
nothing but confusion, weakness, and ignorance. Painting and poetry
gave place in his heart to freedom and to morals; and, much as he
loved Corinne, he gently blamed her for wearying of a race so wise, so
noble. Had he left her imaginative land for one of bare frivolity, he
would have pined for it still; but now he exchanged the vague yearnings
after romantic rapture, for pride in the truest blessings--security and
independence. He returned to a career that suits man's mind--action
that has an aim! Reverie may be the heritage of women, weak and
resigned from their birth; but man would win what he desires: his
courage irritates him against his fate, unless he can direct it by his
will. In London, Oswald met his early friends: he heard that language
so condensed in power, that it seems to imply more thoughts than it
explains. Again he saw those serious countenances that kindle or that
melt so suddenly, when deep affections triumph over their habit of
reserve. He once more tasted the pleasure of making discoveries in the
human heart, _there_ by degrees revealed to the observant eye. He felt
himself in his own land, and those who never left it know not by how
many links it is endeared to them. The image of Corinne mingled with
all these impressions; and the more reluctant he felt to leave his
country, the more he wished to marry, and fix in Scotland with her.
He was even impatient to embark that he might return the sooner; but
the expedition was suspended, though still liable to be ordered abroad
immediately. No officer, therefore, could dispose of his time even
for a fortnight. Lord Nevil doubly felt his separation from Corinne,
having neither leisure nor liberty to form or follow any decided plan.
He passed six weeks in London, fretted by every moment thus lost to
her. Finally, he resolved to beguile his impatience by a short visit
to Northumberland, and, by influencing Lady Edgarmond to recognize the
daughter of her late Lord, contradict the report of her death, and the
unfavorable insinuations of the papers: for he longed to tender her the
rank and respect so thoroughly her due.



CHAPTER V.


Oswald reflected with emotion that he was about to behold the scene
in which Corinne had passed so many years. He felt embarrassed by the
necessity of informing Lady Edgarmond that he could not make Lucy his
wife. The north of England, too, reminded him of Scotland, and the
memory of his father was never absent from his mind.

When he reached Lady Edgarmond's estate, he was struck by the good
taste which pervaded its grounds; and, as the mistress of the mansion
was not ready to receive him, he walked awhile in the park: through
its foliage he beheld a youthful and elegant figure reading with much
attention. A beautiful fair curl, escaping from her bonnet, told him
that this was Lucy, whom three years had improved from child to woman.
He approached her, bowed, and forgetting where he was, would have
imprinted a respectful kiss upon her hand, after the Italian mode; but
the young lady drew back, and, blushing as she courtesied, replied, "I
will inform my mother, sir, that you desire to see her." She withdrew,
and Nevil remained awed by the modest air of that angelic face. Lucy
had just entered her sixteenth year; her features were extremely
delicate; she had a little outgrown her strength, as might be judged
by her gait and mutable complexion. Her blue eyes were so downcast
that her countenance owed its chief attraction to these rapid changes
of color, which alone betrayed her feelings. Oswald, since he had
dwelt in the south, had never beheld this species of expression. He
reproached himself for having accosted her with such familiarity; and,
as he followed her to the castle, mused on the perfect innocence of a
girl who had never left her mother, nor felt one emotion stronger than
filial tenderness. Lady Edgarmond was alone when she received him. He
had seen her twice, some years before, without any particular notice;
but now he observed her carefully, comparing her with the descriptions
of Corinne. He found them correct in many respects; yet he thought that
he detected more sensibility than she had done, not being accustomed,
like himself, to guess what such self-regulated physiognomies
conceal. His first anxiety was on Corinne's account, and he began the
conversation by praising Italy. "It is an amusing residence for men,"
returned Lady Edgarmond; "but I should be very sorry if any woman,
in whom I felt an interest, could long be pleased with it."--"And
yet," continued Oswald, already hurt by this insinuation, "I found
there the most distinguished woman I ever met."--"Probably, as to
mental attainments; but an honorable man seeks other qualities in the
companion of his life."--"And he would find them!" he said, warmly: he
might have made his meaning clear at once, but that Lucy entered, and
said a few words apart to her mother, who replied aloud: "No, my dear,
you cannot go to your cousin's to-day. Lord Nevil dines here." Lucy
blushed, seated herself beside her mother, and took up her embroidery,
from which she never raised her eyes, nor did she utter a syllable.
Nevil was almost angry: it was most probable that Lucy knew there had
been some idea of their union: he remembered all Corinne had said on
the probable effects of the severe education Lady Edgarmond would give
her daughter. In England, young girls are usually more at liberty than
married women: reason and morality alike favor their privileges; but
Lady Edgarmond would have had all females thus rigorously secluded.
Oswald could not, before Lucy, explain his intentions relative to
Corinne; and Lady Edgarmond kept up a discourse on other subjects, with
a firm and simple good sense, that extorted his deference. He would
have combated her strict opinions, but he felt that if he used one word
in a different acceptation from her own, she would form an opinion
which nothing could efface; and he hesitated at this first step, so
irreparable with a person who will make no individual exceptions, but
judges everything by fixed and general rules. Dinner was announced; and
Lucy offered her arm to Lady Edgarmond. Oswald then first discovered
that his hostess walked with great difficulty. "I am suffering," she
said, "from a painful, perhaps a fatal ailment." Lucy turned pale; and
her mother resumed, with a more gentle cheerfulness: "My daughter's
attention has once saved my life, and may preserve it long." Lucy
bent her head, and when she raised it, her lashes were still wet with
tears; yet she dared not even take her mother's hand: all had passed
at the bottom of her heart; and she was only conscious of a stranger's
presence, from the necessity of concealing her agitation. Oswald
deeply felt this restraint of hers, and his mind, so lately thrilled
by passionate eloquence, refreshed itself by contemplating so chastely
simple a picture. Lucy seemed enveloped in some immaculate veil, that
sweetly baffled his speculations. During dinner she spared her mother
from all fatigue--serving everything herself; and Nevil only heard her
voice when she offered to help him; but these common-place courtesies
were performed with such enchanting grace, that he asked himself how
it was possible for such slight actions to betray so much soul. "One
must have," he said to himself, "either the genius of Corinne, that
surpasses all one could imagine, or this pure unconscious mystery,
which leaves every man free to suppose whatever virtues he prefers."

The mother and daughter rose from table: he would have followed them;
but her Ladyship adhered so scrupulously to old customs, that she
begged he would wait till they sent to let him know the tea was ready.
He joined them in a quarter of an hour. Most part of the evening passed
without his having one opportunity of speaking to Lady Edgarmond as
he designed. He was about to depart for the town, purposing to return
on the morrow, when his hostess offered him a room in the castle.
He accepted it without deliberation; but repented his readiness, on
perceiving that it seemed to be taken as a proof of his inclination
towards Lucy. This was but an additional motive for his renewing the
conversation respecting Corinne. Lady Edgarmond proposed a turn in the
garden. Oswald offered her his arm; she looked at him steadfastly, and
then said: "That is right: I thank you." Lucy resigned her parent to
Nevil, but timidly whispered, "Pray, my Lord, walk slowly!" He started
at this first private intelligence with her: those pitying tones were
just such as he might have expected from a being above all earthly
passions. He did not think his sense of such a moment any treason to
Corinne. They returned for evening prayer, at which her Ladyship always
assembled her household in the great hall. Most of them were very
infirm, having served the fathers of Lord and Lady Edgarmond. Oswald
was thus reminded of his paternal home. Every one knelt, except the
matron, who, prevented by her lameness, listened with folded hands and
downcast eyes in reverent silence. Lucy was on her knees beside her
parent: it was her duty to read the service; a chapter of the Gospel,
followed by a prayer adapted to domestic country life, composed by the
mistress of the house: its somewhat austere expressions were contrasted
by the soft voice that breathed them.

After blessing the king and country, the servants and the kindred of
this family, Lucy tremblingly added, "Grant also, O God! that the
young daughter of this house may live and die with soul unsullied by a
single thought or feeling that conforms not with her duty; and that her
mother, who must soon return to thee for judgment, may have some claim
or pardon for her faults, in the virtues of her only child."

Lucy said this prayer daily; but now Oswald's presence so affected her,
that tears, which she strove to conceal, flowed down her cheeks. He was
touched with respectful tenderness, as he gazed on the almost infantine
face, that looked as if it still remembered having dwelt in heaven. Its
beauty, thus surrounded by age and decrepitude, was an image of divine
commiseration. He reflected on her lonely life, deprived of all the
pleasures, all the flatteries, due to her youth and charms: his soul
melted towards her. The mother of Lucy, too, he found a person more
severe to herself than to others. The limits of her mind might rather
be attributed to the strength of her principles than to any natural
deficiencies: the asperity of her character was acquired from repressed
impulses; and, as Corinne had said, her affection for her child gained
force from this extreme control of all others.

By ten in the evening all was silent throughout the castle, and Oswald
left to muse over his last few hours: he owned not to himself that Lucy
had made an impression on his heart; perhaps, as yet, this was not the
case; but in spite of the thousand attractions Corinne offered to his
fancy, there was one class of ideas, wherein Lucy might have reigned
more supremely than her sister. The image of domestic felicity suited
better with a retreat in Northumberland than with a coronation at the
Capitol; besides, he remembered which of these sisters his father had
selected for him: but he loved Corinne, was beloved by her, had given
her his faith, and therefore persisted in his intention of confiding
this to Lady Edgarmond on the morrow. He fell asleep thinking of Italy,
but still the form of Lucy flitted lightly before him. He awoke: when
he slept again, the same dream returned; at last this ethereal shape
seemed flying from him; he strove to detain her, and started up, as she
disappeared, fearing her lost to him. The day had broken, and he left
his room to enjoy a morning walk.



CHAPTER VI.


The sun was just risen. Oswald supposed that no one was yet stirring,
till he perceived Lucy already drawing in a balcony. Her hair, not yet
fastened, was waving in the gale: she looked so like his dream, that
for a moment he started, as if he had beheld a spirit; and though soon
ashamed at having been so affected by such a natural circumstance, he
remained for some time beneath her station, but she did not perceive
him. As he pursued his walk, he wished more than ever for the presence
that would have dissipated these half-formed impressions. Lucy was an
enigma, which Corinne's genius could have solved; without her aid,
it took a thousand changeful forms in his mind's eye. He re-entered
the drawing-room, and found Lucy placing her morning's work in a
little brown frame, facing her mother's tea-table. It was a white
rose, on its leafy stalk, finished to perfection. "You draw, then?" he
said.--"No, my Lord," she answered; "I merely copy the easiest flowers
I can find: there is no master near us: the little I ever learned I
owe to a sister who used to give me lessons." She sighed.--"And what
is become of her?" asked Oswald.--"She is dead; but I shall always
regret her."--He found that _she_, too had been deceived;[1] but her
confession of regret evinced so amiable a disposition, that he felt
more pleased, more affected, than before. Lucy was about to retire,
remembering that she was alone with Lord Nevil, when Lady Edgarmond
joined them. She looked on her daughter with surprise and displeasure,
and motioned her to withdraw. This first informed Oswald that Lucy
had done something very extraordinary, in remaining a few minutes
with a man out of her mother's presence; and he was as much gratified
as he would have been by a decided mark of preference under other
auspices. Lady Edgarmond took her seat, and dismissed the servant who
had supported her to the sofa. She was pale, and her lips trembled as
she offered a cup of tea to Lord Nevil. These symptoms increased his
own embarrassment, yet, animated by zeal for her he loved, he began:
"Lady Edgarmond, I have often in Italy seen a female particularly
interesting to you."--"I cannot believe it," she answered, dryly: "no
one there interests me."--"I should think that the daughter of your
husband had some claim on your affection."--"If the daughter of my
husband be indifferent to her duties and reputation, though I surely
cannot wish her any ill, I shall be very glad to hear no more of
her."--"But," said Oswald, quickly, "if the woman your Ladyship deserts
is celebrated by the world for her great and varied talents, will
you forever thus disdain her?"--"Not the less, sir, for the abilities
that wean her from her rightful occupations. There are plenty of
actresses, artists, and musicians, to amuse society: in our rank, a
woman's only becoming station is that which devotes her to her husband
and children."--"Madam," returned Oswald, "such talents cannot exist
without an elevated character and a generous heart: do you censure
them for extending the mind, and giving a more vast, more general
influence to virtue itself?"--"Virtue!" she repeated, with a bitter
smile; "I know not what you mean by the word, so applied. The virtue of
a young woman, who flies from her father's home, establishes herself
in Italy, leads the _freest_ life, receives all kinds of homage, to
say no worse, sets an example pernicious to others as to herself,
abandoning her rank, her family, her name----"--"Madam," interrupted
Oswald, "she sacrificed her name to you, and to your daughter, whom she
feared to injure."--"She knew that she dishonored it, then," replied
the step-mother.--"This is too much," said Oswald, violently: "Corinne
Edgarmond will soon be Lady Nevil, and we shall then see if you blush
to acknowledge the daughter of your Lord. You confound with the vulgar
herd a being gifted like no other woman--an angel of goodness, tender
and diffident at heart, as she is sublime of soul. She may have had her
faults, if that innate superiority that could not conform with common
rules be one, but a single deed or word of hers might well efface
them all. She will more honor the man she chooses to protect her than
could the empress of a world."--"Be that man, then, my Lord!" said
Lady Edgarmond, making an effort to restrain her feelings: "satirize
me as narrow-minded; nothing you say can change me. I understand by
morality, an exact observance of established rules; beyond which, fine
qualities misapplied deserve at best but pity."--"The world would have
been very sterile, my Lady," said Oswald, "had it always thoughts you
do of genius and enthusiasm: human nature would have become a thing
of mere formalities. But, not to continue this fruitless discussion,
I will only ask, if you mean to acknowledge your daughter-in-law,
when she is my wife?"--"Still less on that account," answered her
Ladyship: "I owe your father's memory my exertions to prevent so fatal
a union if I can."--"My father!" repeated Nevil, always agitated
by that name.--"Are you ignorant," she continued, "that he refused
her, ere she had committed any actual fault? foreseeing, with the
perfect sagacity that so characterized him, what she would one day
become?"--"How, madam! what more know you of this?"--"Your father's
letter to Lord Edgarmond on the subject," interrupted the lady, "is
in the hands of his old friend, Mr. Dickson. I sent it to him, when I
heard of your connection with this Corinne, that you might read it on
your return: it would not have become me to retain it." Oswald, after a
few moments' silence, resumed: "I ask your Ladyship but for an act of
justice, due to yourself, that is, to receive your husband's daughter
as she deserves."--"I _shall_ not, in any way, my Lord, contribute to
your misery. If her present nameless and unmatronized existence be an
obstacle to your marrying her, God, and your father, forbid that I
should remove it!"--"Madam," he exclaimed, "her misfortunes are but
added chains that bind me to her."--"Well," replied Lady Edgarmond,
with an impetuosity to which she would not have given way had not her
own child been thus deprived of a suitable husband, "well, render
yourself wretched, then! she will be so too: she hates this country,
and never will comply with its manners: this is no theatre for the
versatile talents you so prize, and which render her so fastidious.
She will carry you back to Italy: you will forswear your friends and
native land, for a lovely foreigner, I confess, but for one who could
forget you, if you wished it. Those flighty brains are ever changeful:
deep griefs were made for the women you deem so common-place, those who
live but for their homes and families." This was, perhaps, the first
time in her life that Lady Edgarmond had spoken on impulse: it shook
her weakened nerves; and, as she ceased, she sank back, half fainting.
Oswald rang loudly for help. Lucy ran in alarmed, hastened to revive
her parent, and cast on Nevil an uneasy look, that seemed to say: "Is
it you who have made mamma so ill?" He felt this deeply, and strove
to atone by attentions to Lady Edgarmond; but she repulsed him coldly,
blushing to think that she had seemed to pride but little in her girl,
by betraying this anxiety to secure her a reluctant bridegroom. She
bade Lucy leave them, and said calmly: "My Lord, at all events, I beg
that you will consider yourself free. My daughter is so young, that she
is no way concerned in the project formed by your father and myself;
but that being changed, it would be an indecorum for me to receive you
until she is married." Nevil bowed.--"I will content myself, then," he
said, "with writing to you on the fate of a person whom I can never
desert."--"You are the master of that fate," concluded Lady Edgarmond,
in a smothered voice; and Oswald departed. In riding down the avenue,
he perceived, at a distance, the elegant figure of young Lucy. He
checked his horse to look on her once more, and it appeared that she
took the same direction with himself. The high road passed before a
summer-house, at the end of the park; he saw her enter it, and went by
with some reluctance, unable to discern her: he frequently turned his
head, and, at a point from which the road was best commanded, observed
a slight movement among the trees. He stopped; it ceased: uncertain
whether he had guessed correctly, he proceeded, then abruptly rode
back with the speed of lightning, as if he had dropped something by
the way; there, indeed, he saw her, on the edge of the bank, and bowed
respectfully: she drew down her veil, and hastily concealed herself in
the thicket, forgetting that she thus tacitly avowed the motive which
had brought her there. The poor child had never felt so guilty in her
life; and far from thinking of simply returning his salute, she feared
that she must have lost his good opinion by having been so forward.
Oswald felt flattered by this blameless and timorous sincerity. "No
one," thought he, "could be more candid than Corinne; but then, no one
better knew herself or others. Lucy had all to learn. Yet this charm
of the day, could it suffice for a life? this pretty ignorance cannot
endure; and since we must penetrate the secrets of our own hearts at
last, is not the candor which survives such examination worth more
than that which precedes it?" This comparison, he believed, was but an
amusement to his mind, which could never occupy it more gravely.


[1] A religious, moral, English gentlewoman propose a romantic
falsehood, so likely to wreck its theme on the dangers against which
Lady Edgarmond warned Corinne! This anti-national inconsistency
neutralizes all the rest of Madame de Staël's intended satire.--TR.



CHAPTER VII.


Oswald proceeded to Scotland. The effect of Lucy's presence, the
sentiment he still felt for Corinne, alike gave place to the emotions
that awakened at the sight of scenes where he had dwelt with his
father. He upbraided himself with the dissipations in which he had
spent the last year; fearing that he was no longer worthy to re-enter
the abode he now wished he had never quitted. Alas! after the loss of
life's dearest object, how can we be content with ourselves, unless
in perfect retirement? We cannot mix in society, without in some way
neglecting our worship of the dead. In vain their memory reigns in the
heart's core; we lend ourselves to the activity of the living, which
banishes the thought of death as painful and unavailing. If solitude
prolongs not our regrets, life, as it is, calls back the most feeling
minds, renews their interests, their passions. This imperious necessity
is one of the sad conditions of human nature; and although decreed by
Providence, that man may support the idea of death, both for himself
and others, yet often, in the midst of our enjoyments, we feel remorse
at being still capable of them, and seem to hear a resigned, affecting
voice asking us: "Have you, whom I so loved, forgotten me?" Oswald felt
not now the despair he had suffered on his first return home after
his father's death, but a melancholy, deepened by his perceiving that
time had accustomed every one else to the loss he still deplored. The
servants no longer thought it their duty to speak of the late lord; his
place in the rank of life was filled; children grow up as substitutes
for their sires. Oswald shut himself in his father's room, for lonely
meditation. "Oh, human destiny!" he sighed, "what wouldst thou have? so
much life perish? so many thoughts expire? No, no, my only friend hears
me, yet sees my tears, is present--our immortal spirits still commune.
Oh, God! be thou my guide. Those iron souls, that seem immovable
as nature's rocks, pity not the vacillations and repentance of the
sensitive, the conscientious, who cannot take one step without the fear
of straying from the right. They may bid duty lead them, but duty's
self would vanish from their eyes, if _Thou_ revealedst not the truth
to their hearts."

In the evening Oswald roved through the favorite walks of his father.
Who has not hoped, in the ardor of his prayers, that the one dear shade
would reappear, and miracles be wrought by the force of love? Vain
trust! beyond the tomb we can see nothing. These endless uncertainties
occupy not the vulgar, but the nobler the mind the more incontrollably
is it involved in speculations. While Oswald wandered thus absorbed,
he did, indeed, behold a venerable man slowly advancing towards him.
Such a sight at such a time and place, took a strong effect; but he
soon recognized his father's friend, Mr. Dickson, and with an affection
which he never felt for him before.



CHAPTER VIII.


This gentleman in no way equalled the parent of Oswald, but he was with
him at his death; and having been born in the same year, he seemed to
linger behind but to carry Lord Nevil some tidings of his son. Oswald
offered him his arm as they went up stairs; and felt a pleasure in
paying attention to age, however little resembling that of his father.
Mr. Dickson remembered Oswald's birth, and hesitated not to speak his
mind on all that concerned his young friend, strongly reprimanding his
connection with Corinne; but his weak arguments would have gained less
ascendency over Oswald's mind than those of Lady Edgarmond, had he not
handed him the letter to which she alluded. With considerable tremor he
read as follows:--

    "Will you forgive me, my dear friend, if I propose a change
    of plan in the union of our families? My son is more than
    a year younger than your eldest daughter; will it not be
    better, therefore, that he should wait for the little Lucy?
    I might confine myself to the subject of age; but, as I knew
    Miss Edgarmond's when first I named my wishes, I should
    deem myself wanting in confidence, if I did not tell you my
    true reasons for desiring that this marriage may not take
    place. We have known each other for twenty years, and may
    speak frankly of our children, especially while they are
    young enough to be improved by our opinions. Your daughter
    is a charming girl, but I seem to be gazing on one of
    those Grecian beauties, who, of old, enchanted and subdued
    the world. Do not be offended by this comparison. She can
    have received from you none but the purest principles;
    yet she certainly loves to produce an effect, and create
    a sensation: she has more genius than self-love; such
    talents as hers necessarily engender a taste for display;
    and I know no theatre that could suffice the activity of a
    spirit, whose impetuous fancy, and ardent feelings, break
    through each word she utters. She would inevitably wean my
    son from England; for such a woman could not be happy here:
    only Italy can content her. She must have that free life
    which is guided but by fantasy: our domestic country habits
    must thwart her every taste. A man born in this happy land
    ought to be in all things English, and fulfil the duties
    to which he is so fortunately called. In countries whose
    political institutions give men such honorable opportunities
    for public action, the women should bloom in the shade: can
    you expect so distinguished a person as your daughter to
    be satisfied with such a lot? Take my advice. Marry her in
    Italy; her religion and manners suit that country. If my
    son should wed her, I am sure it would be from love, for no
    one can be more engaging: to please her, he would endeavor
    to introduce foreign customs into his establishment, and
    would soon lose his national character, those prejudices,
    if you please to call them so, which unite us with each
    other, and render us a body free but indissoluble, or which
    can only be broken up by the death of its last associate.
    My son could not be comfortable where his wife was unhappy:
    he is sensitive, even to weakness; and his expatriation,
    if I lived to see it, would render me most miserable; not
    merely as deprived of my son, but as knowing him lost to the
    glory of serving his native land. Is it worthy a mountaineer
    to drag on a useless life amid the pleasures of Italy? A
    Scot become the _cicisbeo_ of his own wife, if not of some
    other man's? Neither the guide nor the prop of his family!
    I even rejoice that Oswald is now in France, and still
    unknown to a lady whose empire over him would be too great.
    I dare conjure you, my dear friend, should I die before his
    marriage, do not let him meet your eldest daughter until
    Lucy be of an age to fix his affections. Let him learn my
    wishes, if requisite. I know he will respect them--the more
    if I should then be removed from this life. Give all your
    attention, I entreat you, to his union with Lucy. Child as
    she is, her features, look, and voice, all express the most
    endearing modesty. She will be a true Englishwoman, and may
    constitute the happiness of my boy. If I do not live to
    witness their felicity, I shall exult over it in heaven;
    and when we reunite there, my dear friend, our prayers and
    benedictions will protect our children still.

    "Ever yours,

    "NEVIL."

After reading this, Oswald remained silent, and left Mr. Dickson
time to continue his long discourse without interruption. He admired
the judgment of his friend, who, nevertheless, he said, was far from
anticipating the reprehensible life Miss Edgarmond had since led: a
marriage between Oswald and herself now, he added, would be an eternal
insult to Lord Nevil's memory; who, it appeared, during his son's fatal
residence in France, had passed a whole summer at Lady Edgarmond's,
solacing himself by superintending the education of his favorite Lucy.
In fact without either artifice or forbearance, Mr. Dickson attacked
the heart of Oswald through all the avenues of sensibility. Thus
everything conspired against the absent Corinne, who had no means, save
letters, for reviving from time to time, the tenderness of Oswald.
She had to contend with his love of country, his filial remorse, the
exhortation of his friends in favor of resolutions so easy to adopt,
as they led him towards a budding, beauty, whose every charm seemed to
harmonize with the calm, chaste hopes of a domestic lot.



BOOK XVII.


CORINNE IN SCOTLAND.



CHAPTER I.


Corinne, meanwhile, had settled in a villa on the Brenta: she could
not quit the scenes in which she had last met Oswald--and also hoped
that she should here receive her letters earlier than at Rome. Prince
Castel Forte had written, begging leave to visit her; but she refused.
The friendship existing between them commanded mutual confidence; and
had he striven to detach her from her love--had he told her what she so
often told herself--that absence must decrease Nevil's attachment, one
inconsiderate word would have been a dagger to her heart. She wished to
see no one; yet it is not easy to live alone, while the soul is ardent,
and its situation unfortunate. The employments of solitude require
peace of mind; if that be lost, forced gayety, however troublesome,
is more serviceable than meditation. If we could trace madness to
its source, we should surely find that it originated in the power
of one single thought, which excluded all mental variety. Corinne's
imagination consumed herself, unless diverted by external excitement.
What a life now succeeded that which she had led for nearly a year,
with the man of her heart's choice forever with her, as her most
appreciating companion, her tenderest friend, and fondest lover! Now,
all was barren around and gloomy within her. The only interesting event
was the arrival of a letter from _him_; and the irregularity of the
post, during winter, every day tormented her with expectations, often
disappointed. Each morning she walked on the banks of the canal, now
covered by large-leaved water-lilies, watching for the black gondola,
which she had learned to distinguish afar off. How did her heart
beat, as she perceived it! Sometimes the messenger would answer: "No
letters for you, madame," and carelessly proceeded to other matters,
as if nothing were so simple as to have _no_ letters; another time he
would say: "Yes, madame, here are some." She ran over them all with
a trembling hand: if the well-known characters of Oswald met not her
eye, the day was terrible, the night sleepless the morrow redoubled
her anxiety and suspense. "Surely," she thought, "he might write more
frequently;" and her next letter reproached his silence. He justified
himself; but his style had already lost some of its tenderness:
instead of expressing his own solicitude, it seemed but attempting to
dissipate hers. This change did not escape her: day and night would
she reperuse a particular phrase, seeking some new interpretation on
which to build a few days' composure. This state shattered her nerves:
she became superstitious. Constantly occupied by the same fear, we may
draw presages from everything. One day in every week she she went to
Venice, for the purpose of receiving her letters some hours earlier:
this merely varied the tortures of waiting; and in a short time she
conceived as great a horror for every object she encountered on her
way, as if they had been the spectres of her own thoughts, reappearing
clothed in the most dreadful aspects. Once, on entering the church of
St. Mark, she remembered how, on her arrival in Venice, the idea had
occurred to her that perhaps, ere she departed, Oswald would lead her
thither to call her his in sight of Heaven. She gave way once more to
this illusion; saw him approach the altar; heard him vow before his God
to love her forever; they knelt together, and she received the nuptial
crown. The organ, then playing, and the lights that shone through the
aisle, gave life to her vision; and for a moment she felt not the cruel
void of absence: but suddenly a dreary murmur succeeded--she turned,
and beheld a bier brought into the church. She staggered; her sight
almost failed; and from that moment she felt convinced that her love
for Oswald would lead her but to the grave.



CHAPTER II.


Lord Nevil was now the most unhappy and irresolute of men. He must
either break the heart of Corinne, or outrage the memory of his father.
Cruel alternative! to escape which he called on death a thousand times
a day. At last, he once more resorted to his habitual procrastination,
telling himself that he would go to Venice, since he could not resolve
to write Corinne the truth, and make her his judge; but then he
daily expected that his regiment would embark. He was free from all
engagement with Lucy. He believed it his duty not to marry Corinne;
but in what other way could he pass his life with her? Could he desert
his country? or bring her to it, and ruin her fair name forever? He
resolved to hide from her the obstacles which he had encountered
from her step-mother, because he still hoped ultimately to surmount
them. Manifold causes rendered his letters brief, or filled them with
subjects remote from his future prospects. Any one, save Corinne,
would have guessed all; but passion rendered her at once quick-sighted
and credulous. In such a state, we see nothing in a natural manner:
but discover what is concealed, while blind to that which should
seem clearest. We cannot brook the idea of suffering so much without
some extraordinary cause; we will not confess to ourselves that such
despair may be produced by the simplest circumstances in life. Though
Oswald pitied her, and blamed himself, his correspondence betrayed an
irritation which it did not explain; wildly reproaching her for what
he endured, as if she had not been far the most unfortunate. This tone
deprived her of all mastery over herself. Her mind was disordered by
the most fatal images: she could not believe that the being capable of
writing with such abrupt and heartless bitterness was the same Oswald
she had known so generous, so tender. She felt a resistless desire to
see and speak with him once more. "Let me hear _him_ tell me," she
raved, "that it is he who thus mercilessly stabs her whose least pain
once so strongly afflicted him; let him say so, and I submit: but some
infernal power seems to inspire this language; it is not Oswald who
writes thus to _me_. They have slandered me to him: some treachery must
be exerted, or I could not be used thus." She adopted the resolution
of going to Scotland, if we may so call the impulse of an imperious
grief, which would fain alter its present situation at all hazards. She
dared not write nor speak to any one on this subject, still flattering
herself that some fortunate change would prevent her acting on a plan,
which, nevertheless, soothed her imagination, and forced her to look
forward. To read was now impossible: music thrilled her to agony: and
the charms of nature induced a reverie that redoubled her distress.
This creature, once so animated, now passed whole days in motionless
silence. Her internal pangs were but betrayed by a mortal paleness: her
eyes were frequently fixed upon her watch, though she knew not why she
should wish one hour to succeed another, since not one of them could
bring her aught, save restless nights and despairing days.

One evening, she was informed that a female was earnestly requesting
to see her: she consented; and the woman entered her presence dressed
in black, and veiled, to conceal, as much as possible, a face deformed
by the most frightful malady. Thus wronged by nature, she consoled
herself by collecting alms for the poor; demanding them nobly, and
with an affecting confidence of success. Corinne gave her a large sum,
entreating her prayers in return. The poor being, resigned to her own
fate, was astonished to behold a person so lovely, young, rich, and
celebrated, a prey to sorrow. "My God, madame," she cried, "I would you
were as calm as I!" What an address from such an object to the most
brilliant woman in Italy! Alas! the power of love is too vast in souls
like hers. Happy are they who consecrate to Heaven the sentiments no
earthly ties can merit. That time was not yet come for poor Corinne;
she still deceived herself, still sought for bliss; she prayed, indeed,
but not submissively. Her peerless talents, the glory they had won,
gave her too great an interest in herself. It is only by detaching our
hearts from all the world that we can renounce the thing we love. Every
other sacrifice must precede this: life may be long a desert ere the
fire that made it so is quenched. At last, in the midst of this sad
indecision, Corinne received a letter from Oswald, telling her that
his regiment would embark in six weeks, and that, as its colonel, he
could not profit by this delay to visit Venice without injuring his
reputation. There was but just time for Corinne to reach England, ere
he must leave it, perhaps forever. This thought decided her; she was
not ignorant of her own rashness; she judged herself more severely than
any one else could. Pity her, then! What woman has a right to "cast the
first stone" at the unfortunate sister, who justifies not her fault,
hopes for no pleasure, but flies from one misfortune to another, as
if driven on by persecuting spirits? Her letter to Castel Forte thus
concludes: "Adieu, my faithful protector! Adieu, my friends in Rome!
with whom I passed such joyous, easy days. It is done--all is over.
Fate has stricken me. I feel the wound is mortal. I struggle still,
but soon shall fall. I must see _him_ again. I am not answerable for
myself. A storm is in my breast such as I cannot govern; but I draw
near the term at which all will cease. This is the last act of my
history: it will end in penitence and death. Oh, wild confusion of
the human heart! Even now, while I am obeying the will of passion, I
see the shades of evening in the distance, I hear a voice divine that
whispers me: 'Still these fond agitations, hapless wretch! the abode of
endless rest awaits thee.' O God! grant me the presence of mine Oswald
once more, but one last moment! The very memory of his features now is
darkened by despair; but is there not something heavenly in his look?
Did not the air become more pure, more brilliant, as he approached?
You, my friend, have seen him with me, have witnessed his kind cares,
and the respect with which he inspired others for the woman of his
choice. How can I live without him? Pardon my ingratitude: ought I
thus to requite thy disinterested constancy? But I am no longer worthy
any blessing; and might pass for insane, had I not still the miserable
consciousness of mine own madness. Farewell, then--yes, farewell!"



CHAPTER III.


How pitiable is the feeling, delicate woman, who commits a great
imprudence for a man whose love she knows inferior to her own! She has
but herself to be her support. If she has risked repose and character
to do some signal service for her idol, she may be envied. Sweet is the
self-devotion that braves all danger to save a life that is dear to
us, or solace the distress which rends a heart responsive to our own.
But thus to travel unknown lands, to arrive without being expected,
to blush before the one beloved, for the unasked proof thus given of
his power--painful degradation! What would it be if we thus involved
the happiness of others, and outraged our duty to more sacred bonds?
Corinne was free. She sacrificed but her own peace and glory. Her
conduct was irrational, indeed, but it could overcloud no destiny save
hers.[1]

On landing in England, Corinne learned from the papers that Lord
Nevil's departure was still delayed. She saw no society in London
except the family of a banker, to whom she had been recommended _under
a false name_. He was interested in her at first sight, and enjoined
his wife and daughter to pay her all the attentions in their power. She
fell dangerously ill, and, for a fortnight, her new friends watched
over her with the most tender care. She heard that Lord Nevil was in
Scotland, but must shortly rejoin his regiment in London. She knew
not how to announce herself, as she had not written to him respecting
her intentions--indeed, Oswald had not received a letter from her for
three months. He mentally accused her of infidelity, as if he had any
right to complain. On his return to town, he went first to his agents,
where he hoped to find letters from Italy: there were none; and, as
he was musing over this silence, he encountered Mr. Edgarmond, who
asked him for news of Corinne. "I hear nothing of her," he replied,
irritably.--"That I can easily understand," added Edgarmond: "these
Italians always forget a foreigner, once out of sight; one ought never
to heed it; they would be too delightful if they united constancy with
genius: it is but fair that our own women should have some advantage!"
He squeezed Oswald's hand as he said this, and took leave, as he was
just starting for Wales; but his few words had pierced their hearer's
heart.--"I am wrong," he said, "to wish she should regret me, since I
cannot constitute her happiness; but so soon to forget! This blights
the past as well as the future."

Despite his father's will, he had resolved not to see Lucy more; and
even scorned himself for the impression she had made on him. Condemned
as he was to defeat the hopes of Corinne, he felt that, at least, he
ought to preserve his heart's faith inviolately hers: no duty urged him
to forfeit that. He renewed his solicitations in her cause, by letters
to Lady Edgarmond, who did not even deign to answer them: meanwhile,
Mr. Dickson assured him that the only way of melting her to his wishes
would be--marrying her daughter; whose establishment, she feared,
Corinne might frustrate, if she resumed her name, and was received
by her family. Fate had hitherto spared her the pang of suspecting
Oswald's interest in her sister. Never was she herself more worthy of
him than now. During her illness, the candid, simple beings by whom she
was surrounded, had given her a sincere taste for English habits and
manners. The few persons she saw were anything but distinguished, yet
possessed an estimable strength, and justice of mind. Their affection
for her was less professing than that to which she had been accustomed,
but evinced with every opportunity by fresh good offices. The austerity
of Lady Edgarmond, the tedium of a small country town, had cruelly
misled her as to the kindness, the true nobility to be found in the
country she had abandoned: unluckily, she now became attached to it
under such circumstances, that it would have been better for her own
peace had she never been untaught her dislike.


[1] The Corinnes of this world care little how they pain the Castel
Fortes. The mere esteem of such a man would have been worth even the
love of twenty Oswalds.--TR.



CHAPTER IV.


The banker's family, who were forever studying how to prove their
friendship, pressed Corinne to see Mrs. Siddons perform Isabella, in
the Fatal Marriage, one of the characters in which that great actress
best displayed her admirable genius. Corinne refused for some time: at
last, she remembered that Lord Nevil had often compared her manner of
recitation with that of Mrs. Siddons: she was therefore anxious to see
her, and thickly veiled, went to a small box, whence she could see all,
herself unseen. She knew not if Oswald was in London, but feared to be
recognized by any one who might have met her in Italy. The commanding
beauty and deep sensibility of the heroine so riveted her attention,
that, during the earliest acts, her eyes were never turned from the
stage.

English declamation is better calculated than any other to touch the
soul, especially when such fine talents give it all its power and
originality. It is less artificial, less conventional than that of
France. The impressions produced are more immediate--for thus would
true despair express itself; the plots and versification of English
dramas too are less remote from real life, and their effect more
heart-rending. It requires far higher genius to become a great actor
in France, so little liberty being left to individual manner, so much
influence attached to general rules;[1] but in England you may risk
anything, if inspired by nature. The long groans that appear ridiculous
if described, make those shudder who hear them. Mrs. Siddons, the most
nobly-mannered woman who ever adorned a theatre, lost none of her
dignity by prostrating herself on the earth. There is no action but may
become graceful, if prompted by an impulse which rises from the depths
of the breast, and lords it over the mind which conceives it still more
than over its witnesses. Various nations have their different styles of
tragic acting, but the expression of grief is understood from one end
of the world to the other; and, from the savage to the king, there is
some similarity between all men while they are really suffering.

Between the fourth and fifth acts, Corinne observed that all eyes
were turned towards a box, in which she beheld Lady Edgarmond and
her daughter; she could not doubt that it was Lucy, much as the last
seven years had embellish her form. The death of a rich relation had
obliged Lady Edgarmond to visit London, and settle the succession of
his fortune. Lucy was more dressed than usual;[2] and it was long since
so beauteous a girl had been seen, even in England, where the women
are so lovely. Corinne felt a melancholy surprise: she thought it
impossible for Oswald to resist that countenance. On comparing herself
with her sister, she was so conscious of her own inferiority, that she
exaggerated (if such exaggeration be possible) the charm of that fair
complexion, those golden curls, and innocent blue eyes--that image
of life's spring! She felt almost degraded in setting her own mental
acquirements in competition with gifts thus lavished by Heaven itself.
Suddenly, in an opposite box, she perceived Lord Nevil, whose gaze was
fixed on Lucy. What a moment for Corinne! She once more beheld that
face, for which she had so long searched her memory every instant, as
if the image could be effaced--she beheld it again--absorbed by the
beauty of another. Oswald could not guess the presence of Corinne;
but if his eye had even wandered towards her, she might, from such a
chance, have drawn a happy omen.

Mrs. Siddons reappeared, and Lord Nevil looked but on her. Corinne
breathed again, trusting that mere curiosity had drawn his glance
towards Lucy. The tragedy became every moment more affecting; and the
fair girl was bathed in tears, which she strove to conceal, by retiring
to the back of her box. Nevil noticed this with increased interest.
At last the dreadful instant came when Isabella, laughing at the
fruitless efforts of those who would restrain her, stabs herself to
the heart. That despairing laugh is the most difficult and powerful
effect which tragic acting can produce; its bitter irony moves one to
more than tears. How terrible must be the suffering that inspires so
barbarous a joy, and in the sight of our own blood, feels the ferocious
pleasure that one might experience when taking full revenge upon some
savage foe. It was evident that Lucy's agitation had alarmed her
mother, who turned anxiously towards her. Oswald rose, as if he would
have flown to them; but he soon reseated himself, and Corinne felt some
relief; yet she sighed; "My sister Lucy, once so dear to me, has a
feeling heart; why should I then wish to deprive her of a blessing she
may enjoy without impediment, without any sacrifice on Oswald's part?"

When the play concluded, Corinne stayed until the parties who were
leaving the house had gone, that she might avoid recognition; she
concealed herself near the door of her box, where she could see what
passed near her. As soon as Lucy came out, a crowd assembled to look
on her; and exclamations in praise of her beauty were heard from _all
sides_, which greatly embarrassed her; the infirm Lady Edgarmond
was ill able to brave the throng, despite the cares of her child,
and the politeness shown them both; but they knew no one, therefore
no gentleman dared accost them. Lord Nevil, seeing their situation,
hastened to offer each an arm. Lucy, blushing and downcast, availed
herself of this attention. They passed close by Corinne, whom Oswald
little suspected of witnessing a sight so painful: he was proud of thus
escorting one of the handsomest girls in England through the numerous
admirers who followed her steps.[3]


[1] Talma, having passed some years in London, blended the charms of
each country's tragic acting with admirable talent.

[2] If Englishwomen ever do go into public immediately after the death
of a near relation, it must be in deep mourning. Corinne saw these
wonders very plainly, considering that Lady Edgarmond and Lucy sat on
the same side of the house with herself; which must have been the case,
by her calling Oswald's an opposite box.--TR.

[3] If so scrupulous a person as Lady Edgarmond would take her daughter
to a theatre without male protection, she could not, fortunately, have
been exposed to _all_ these annoyances. Our private boxes are few. Each
side has its own passage and staircase. Oswald might make his way from
one to the other; but if all the individuals on one side left the house
as soon as the tragedy concluded, they could not, after quitting their
boxes, be thus seen by the parties opposite. I have vainly endeavored
to clear this obscurity.--TR.



CHAPTER V.


Corinne returned to her dwelling in cruel disquiet; not knowing what
steps to take, how to apprise Nevil of her arrival, nor what to say in
defence of her motives; for every instant lessened her confidence in
his love: sometimes it seemed as if the man she sought to see again
were some passionately beloved stranger, who could not even recognize
her. She sent to his house the next evening, and was informed that he
had gone to Lady Edgarmond's; the same answer was brought her on the
following day, with tidings that her ladyship was ill, and would return
to Northumberland on her recovery. Corinne waited for her removal
ere she let Oswald know she was in England. Every evening she walked
by her step-mother's residence, and saw his carriage at its door. An
inexpressible oppression seized on her heart: yet she daily persevered,
and daily received the same shock. She erred, however, in supposing
that Oswald was there as the suitor of Lucy.

As he led Lady Edgarmond to her carriage, after the play, she told
him that Corinne was concerned in the will of their late kinsman; and
begged that he would write to Italy on the arrangements made in the
affair. As Oswald promised to call, he fancied he felt the hand of
Lucy tremble. Corinne's silence persuaded him that he was no longer
dear to her; and the emotion of this young girl gave him the idea that
she was interested in him. Yet he thought not of breaking his promise
to Corinne: the ring she held was a pledge that he would never marry
another without her consent. He sought her step-mother next day, merely
on her account; but Lady Edgarmond was so ill, and her daughter so
uneasy at finding herself in London without another relative near her,
without even knowing to what physician she should apply, that, in duty
to the friends of his father, Oswald felt he ought to devote his time
to their service. The cold, proud Lady Edgarmond had never softened
so much as she did now; letting him visit her every day without his
having said a word that could be construed into a proposal for her
daughter, whose beauty, rank, and fortune rendered her one of the first
matches in England. Since her appearance in public, her address had
been eagerly inquired, and her door besieged by the nobility; yet her
mother went nowhere--received no one but Lord Nevil. Could he avoid
feeling flattered by this silent and delicate generosity, which trusted
him without conditions, without complaint? yet every time he went did
he fear that his presence would be interpreted into an engagement.
He would have ceased to go thither as soon as Corinne's business was
settled, but that Lady Edgarmond underwent a relapse, more dangerous
than her first attack; and had she died, Lucy would have had no friend
beside her but himself. She had never breathed a word that could assure
him of her preference; yet he fancied he detected it in the light but
sudden changes of her cheek, the abrupt fall of her lashes, and the
rapidity of her breathing. He studied her young heart with tender
interest; and her reserve left him always uncertain as to the nature
of her sentiments. The highest eloquence of passion cannot entirely
satisfy the fancy; we desire something beyond it; and not finding that,
must either cool or sate; while the faint light which we perceive
through clouds, long keeps our curiosity in suspense, and seems to
promise a whole future of new discoveries: this expectation is never
gratified; for when we know what all this mystery hid, its charm is
gone, and we awake to regret the candid impulses of a more animated
character. How then can we prolong the heart's enchantment, since doubt
and confidence, rapture and misery, alike destroy it in the end? These
heavenly joys belong not to our fate; they never cross our path, save
to remind us of our immortal origin and hopes.

Lady Edgarmond was better; and talked of departing, in two days,
for her estate in Scotland, near that of Lord Nevil, whither he had
purposed going before the embarkation of his regiment: she anticipated
his proposing to accompany her, but he said nothing. Lucy gazed on him
in silence for a moment, then hastily rose, and went to the window:
on some pretext Nevil shortly followed her, and fancied that her lids
were wet with tears: he sighed, and the forgetfulness of which he had
accused Corinne returning to his memory, he asked himself whether this
young creature might not prove more capable of constant love? He wished
to atone for the pain he had inflicted. It is delightful to rekindle
smiles on a countenance so nearly infantine. Grief is out of place,
where even reflection has yet left no trace. There was to be a review
in Hyde Park on the morrow; he therefore entreated Lady Edgarmond to
drive there with her daughter, and afterwards permit his taking a
ride with Lucy beside her carriage. Miss Edgarmond had once said that
she greatly wished to mount a horse, and looked at her mother with
appealing submission: after a little deliberation, the invalid held
out her wasting hand to Oswald, saying: "If you request it, my Lord,
I consent." These words so alarmed him, that he would have abandoned
his own proposal; but that Lucy, with a vivacity she had never before
betrayed, took her mother's hand, and kissed it gratefully. He had not
the courage to deprive an innocent being, who led so lonely a life, of
an amusement she so much desired.



CHAPTER VI.


For a fortnight, Corinne had endured the severest anxiety; every
morning she hesitated whether she should write to Oswald; every evening
she had the inexpressible grief of knowing that he was with Lucy. Her
sufferings made her daily more timid: she blushed to think that he
might not approve the step she had taken. "Perhaps," she often said,
"all thought of Italy is banished from his breast: he no longer needs
in woman a gifted mind or an impassioned heart; all that can please
him now is the angelic beauty of sixteen, the fresh and diffident
soul that consecrates to him its first emotions." Her imagination
was so struck with the advantages of her young sister, that she was
abashed, disarmed, depreciatingly disgusted with herself. Though not
yet eight-and-twenty, she had already reached that era when women sadly
distrust their power to please. Her pride and jealousy contending,
made her defer from day to day the dreaded yet desired moment of her
meeting with Oswald. She learned that his regiment would be reviewed,
and resolved on being present. She thought it probable that Lucy would
be there: if so, she would trust her own eyes to judge the state of
Nevil's heart. At first, she thought of dressing herself with care, and
suddenly appearing before him; but at her toilet, her black hair, her
skin slightly embrowned by the Italian sun, her prominent features, all
discouraged her. She remembered the ethereal aspect of her sister; and,
throwing aside her rich array, assumed a black Venitian garb, covered
her head and figure with the mantle worn in that country, and threw
herself into a coach. In Hyde Park, she found groups of gentlemen,
attired with simple elegance, escorting their fair and modest ladies.
The virtues proper to each sex seemed thus to meet. Scarcely was she
there ere she beheld Oswald at the head of his corps: its men looked
up to him with confidence and devotion. The uniform lent him a more
imposing air than usual, and he reined his charger with perfectly
graceful dexterity. The band played pieces of music at once proud and
sweet, which seemed nobly enjoying the sacrifice of life: among them,
"God save the King," so dear to English hearts; and Corinne exclaimed:
"Respected land! which ought to be my own! why did I ever leave thee?
What matters more or less of personal fame, amid so much true merit?
and what glory could equal that of being called Lord Nevil's worthy
wife?"

The martial instruments recalled to her mind the perils he must brave
so soon. Unseen by him she gazed through her tears, sighing: "Oh, may
he live, though it be not for me! My God! it is Oswald only I implore
thee to preserve!" At this moment Lady Edgarmond's carriage drove up.
Nevil bowed respectfully, and lowered the point of his sword. No one
who looked on Lucy but admired her: Oswald's glances pierced the heart
of Corinne: she knew their meaning well, for such had once been bent on
her. The horses he had lent to Lady Edgarmond passed to and fro with
exquisite speed, while the equipage of Corinne was drawn after these
flying coursers almost as slowly as a hearse. "It was not thus," she
thought, "that I approached the Capitol: no; he has dashed me from my
car of triumph into an abyss of misery. I love him, and the joys of
life are lost. I love him, and the gifts of nature fade. Pardon him,
O my God! when I am gone." Oswald was now close to her vehicle. The
Italian dress caught his eye, and he rode round, in hopes of beholding
the face of this unknown. Her heart beat violently; and all her fear
was that she should faint and be discovered; but she restrained her
feelings; and Lord Nevil relinquished the idea which beset him. When
the review was over, to avoid again attracting his attention, she
alighted, and retired behind the trees, so as not to be observed.
Oswald then went up to Lady Edgarmond, and showed her a very gentle
horse, which his servants had brought hither for Lucy: her mother bade
him be very careful of her. He dismounted, and, hat in hand, conversed
through the carriage door with so feeling an expression, that Corinne
could attribute this regard for the mother to nothing less than an
attachment for the daughter. Lucy left the carriage: a riding habit
charmingly defined the elegant outline of her figure: she wore a black
hat with white plumes--her fair silken locks floating airily about her
smiling face. Oswald placed his hand as her step: she had expected this
service from a domestic, and blushed at receiving it from him; but he
insisted, and at last, she set her little foot in his hand, then sprung
so lightly to her saddle, that she seemed one of those sylphid shapes
which fancy paints in colors so delicate. _She set off at a gallop._
Oswald followed, never losing sight of her: once the horse made a
false step: he instantly checked it, examining the bit and bridle with
the most kind solicitude. Shortly afterwards the animal ran away.
Oswald turned pale as death, spurring his own steed to an incredible
fleetness; in a second he overtook that of Lucy, leaped from his seat,
and threw himself before her. She shuddered in her turn lest she should
harm him; but with one hand he seized her rein, supporting her with the
other, as she gently leaned against him.

What more needed Corinne to convince her of Oswald's love for Lucy? Did
she not see all the signs of interest which formerly he lavished on
herself? Nay, to her eternal despair, did she not read in his eyes a
more revering deference than he had ever shown to her? Twice she drew
the ring from her finger, and was ready to break through the crowd,
that she might throw it at his feet: the hope of dying in this effort
encouraged her resolution; but where is the woman, even born beneath
a southern sky, who does not tremble at attracting the attention of a
crowd? She was returning to her coach; and as she crossed a somewhat
deserted walk, Oswald again noticed the black figure he before had
seen; and it now made a stronger impression on him than at first: he
attributed his emotion to remorse, at having, for the first time,
felt his heart faithless to the image of Corinne; yet he resolved on
starting for Scotland, as his regiment was not to embark for some time.



CHAPTER VII.


From this moment Corinne's reason was affected, and her strength
decayed. She began a letter to Lord Nevil, full of bitter upbraidings,
and then tore it up. "What avail reproaches?" she thought: "could love
be the most pure, most generous of our sentiments, if it were not
involuntary? Another face, another voice, command the secret of his
heart: all is said that can be said." She began a new letter, depicting
the monotony he would find in a union with Lucy; essayed to prove
that, without a perfect harmony of soul and mind, no happiness could
last; but she destroyed this paper more hastily than the other. "If
he already knows not my opinions, I cannot teach him now," she said;
"besides, ought I to speak thus of my sister? is she so greatly my
inferior as I think? and, if she be, is it for me, who, like a mother,
pressed her in childhood to my heart, to point out her deficiencies?
no, no! we must not thus value our own inclinations above all price.
This life, full as it is of wishes, must have an end; and, even before
death, meditation may wean us from its selfishness." Once more she
resumed her pen, to tell but of her misery; yet, in expressing it, she
felt such pity for herself, that her tears flowed over every word.
"No," she said again, "I cannot send this: if he resisted it, I should
hate him; if he yielded, how know I but it would be by a sacrifice?
even after which he would be haunted by the memory of another. I had
better see him, speak with him, and return his ring." She folded it
in paper, on which she only wrote, "You are free;" and, putting it
in her bosom, awaited the evening ere she could approach. In open
day, she would have blushed before all she met; and yet she sought to
anticipate the moment of his visit to Lady Edgarmond. At six o'clock,
therefore, she set forth, trembling like a condemned criminal--we so
much fear those we love, when once our confidence is lost. The object
of a passionate affection is, in the eyes of woman, either her surest
protector or most dreaded master. Corinne stopped her equipage at Lord
Nevil's door, and in a hesitating voice asked the porter if he was at
home; but the man replied: "My Lord set out for Scotland half an hour
ago, madam." This intelligence pressed heavily on her heart: she had
shrunk from the thought of meeting Oswald, but her soul had surmounted
that inexpressible emotion. The effort was made: she believed herself
about to hear his voice, and now must take some new resolution ere she
could regain it; wait some days longer, and stoop to one step more.
Yet, at all hazards, she must see him again; and the next day she
departed for Scotland.



CHAPTER VIII.


Ere quitting London, Nevil again called on his agents; and, on finding
no letter from Corinne, bitterly asked himself if he ought to give up
the certainty of permanent domestic peace for one, who, perhaps, no
longer remembered him. Yet he decided on writing once more to inquire
the cause of this silence, and assure her that, till she sent back
his ring, he would never be the husband of another. He completed his
journey in a very gloomy mood, loving Lucy almost unconsciously; for
he had, as yet, scarcely heard her speak twenty words--yet regretting
Corinne, and the circumstances which separated him from her; by fits
yielding to the innocent beauty of the one, and retracing the brilliant
grace or sublime eloquence of the other. Had he but known that Corinne
loved him better than ever, that she had quitted everything to follow
him, he would never have seen Lucy more; but he believed himself
forgotten, and told his heart that a cool manner might oft conceal deep
feelings. He was deceived. Impassioned spirits must betray themselves a
thousand ways: that which can _always_ be controlled must needs be weak.

Another event added to his interest in Lucy. In returning to his
estates, he passed so near her mother's, that curiosity urged him to
visit it. He asked to be shown the room in which Miss Edgarmond usually
studied: it was filled by remembrances of the time his father had
passed there during his own absence in France. On the spot where, a few
months before his death, the late Lord Nevil had given her lessons,
Lucy had erected a marble pedestal, on which was graven, "To the memory
of my second father." A book lay on the table. Oswald opened it, and
found a collection of his father's thoughts, who in the first page
had written: "To her who has solaced me in my sorrows; the maid whose
angelic soul will constitute the glory and happiness of her husband."
With what emotion Oswald read these lines! in which the opinion of the
revered dead was so warmly expressed. He interpreted Lucy's silence
on this subject into a delicacy which feared to extort his vows by an
idea of duty. "It was she, then," he cried, "who softened the pangs I
dealt him; and shall I desert her while her mother is dying, and she
has no comforter but myself? Ah, Corinne! brilliant and admired as thou
art, thou dost not, like Lucy, stand in need of one devoted friend!"
Alas! she was no longer brilliant, no longer admired, wandering from
town to town, without overtaking the being for whom she had lost all,
and whom she could not forget. She was taken ill at an inn, half-way
between London and Edinburgh, and, in spite of all her efforts, unable
to continue her journey. She often thought, during her long nights of
suffering, that if she died there, none but Thérésina would know the
name to inscribe upon her tomb. What a changed fate for the woman who
could not leave her house in Italy without being followed by a host of
worshippers! Why should one single feeling thus despoil a whole life?
After a week of intense agony, she resumed her route: so many painful
fears mingled with the hope of seeing Oswald, that her expectation was
but a sad anxiety. She designed to rest a few hours on her father's
land, where his tomb had been erected, never having been there since;
indeed, she only spent one month on this estate with Lord Edgarmond,
the happiest portion of her stay in England. These recollections
inspired her with a wish to revisit their scene. She knew not that her
step-mother was there already. Some miles from the house, perceiving
that a carriage had been overturned, she stopped her own, and saw
an old gentleman extricated from that which had broken down, much
alarmed by the shock. Corinne hurried to his assistance, and offered
him a share of her conveyance to the neighboring town: he accepted it
gratefully, announcing himself as Mr. Dickson: she remembered that
Nevil had often mentioned that name, and directed the conversation to
the only subject which interested her in life. Mr. Dickson was the
most willing gossip in the world; and ignorant who his companion was,
believed her an English lady, with no private interest in the questions
she asked, therefore told her all he knew most minutely: her attentions
had conciliated him; and, in return, he trusted that his confidence
might entertain her. He described how he had informed Lord Nevil of
his parent's wishes, and repeated an extract from the late Lord's
letter, often exclaiming: "_He_ expressly forbade Oswald's marriage
with this Italian--and they cannot brave his will without insulting his
memory." Mr. Dickson added, that Oswald loved Lucy, was beloved by her;
that her mother strongly desired their union, but that this foreign
engagement prevented it. "How!" said Corinne, striving to disguise her
agitation: "do you think _that_the sole barrier to his happiness with
Miss Edgarmond?"--"I am sure of it," he answered, delighted with her
inquiries. "It is but three days since Lord Nevil said to me: 'If I
were free, I would marry Lucy.'"--"If he were free!" sighed Corinne.
At that moment, the carriage stopped at the hotel to which she had
promised Mr. Dickson her escort. He thanked her, and begged to know
where he might see her again. She wrung his hand, without power to
speak, and left him. Late as it was, she resolved that evening to visit
the grave of her father. The disorder of her mind rendered this sacred
pilgrimage more necessary than ever.



CHAPTER IX.


Lady Edgarmond had been two days on her estate, where, that night, she
had invited all her neighbors and tenants; and there was Oswald with
Lucy, when Corinne arrived. She saw many carriages in the avenue; and
alighted on the spot where her father had once treated her with such
tenderness. What a contrast between those days, when she had thought
herself so unfortunate, and her present situation! Thus are we punished
for our fancied woes, by real calamities, which but too well teach us
what true sorrow means. Corinne bade her servant ask the cause of all
this light and bustle. A domestic replied: "Lady Edgarmond gives a ball
to-night; which my master, Lord Nevil, has opened with the heiress."
Corinne shuddered; but a painful curiosity prompted her to approach the
place where so much misery threatened her: and motioning for her people
to withdraw, she entered the open gates alone; the obscurity permitted
her to walk the park unseen. It was ten o'clock. Oswald had been Lucy's
partner in those English country dances, which they recommence five
or six times in the evening--the same gentleman always dancing with
the same lady, and the greatest gravity sometimes reigning over this
party of pleasure. Lucy danced nobly, but without vivacity. The feeling
which absorbed her added to her natural seriousness. As the whole
country was inquisitive to know whether she loved Oswald, the unusually
observant looks she met, prevented her ever raising her eyes to his;
and her embarrassment was such, that she could scarcely hear or see
anything. This deeply affected him at first; but as it never varied, he
soon began to weary a little; and compared this long range of men and
women, and their monotonous music, with the animated airs and graceful
dances of Italy. These reflections plunged him into a reverie; and
Corinne might yet have tasted some moments of happiness could she have
guessed his thoughts; but, like a stranger on her paternal soil, alone,
though so near the man she had hoped to call her husband, she roved at
hazard through the dark walks of grounds she once might have deemed
her own. The earth seemed failing beneath her feet; and the fever of
despair alone supplied her with strength: perhaps she might meet Oswald
in the garden, she thought, though scarce knowing what she now desired.

The mansion was built on an eminence; a river ran at its base; there
were many trees on one bank; the other was formed of rocks, covered
with briers. Corinne drew near the water, whose murmur blended with
the distant music: the gay lamps were reflected on its surface; while
the pale light of the moon alone irradiated the wilds on the opposite
side. She thought of Hamlet, in which a spectre wanders round the
festal palace. One step, and this forsaken woman might have found
eternal oblivion. "To-morrow," she cried, "when he strays here with a
band of joyous friends, if his triumphant steps encountered the remains
of her who was once so dear to him, would he not suffer something
like what I bear now? would not his grief avenge me? yet, no, no! it
is not vengeance I would seek in death, only repose." Silently she
contemplated this stream, flowing in rapid regularity; fair nature!
better ordered than the human soul. She remembered the day on which
Nevil had saved the drowning man. "How good he was then!" she wept
forth, "and may be still: why blame him for my woes? he may not guess
them--perhaps if he could see me----" She determined, in the midst of
this fête, to demand a moment's interview with Lord Nevil; and walked
towards the house, under the impulse of a newly adopted decision, which
succeeds to long uncertainty; but as she approached it, such a tremor
seized her, that she was obliged to sit down on a stone bench which
faced the windows. The throng of rustics, assembled to look in upon
the dancers, prevented her being seen. Oswald, at this moment, came
to a balcony, to breathe the fresh evening air. Some roses that grew
there reminded him of Corinne's favorite perfume, and he started. This
long entertainment tired him, accustomed as he had been to her good
taste and intelligence: and he felt that it was only in domestic life
he could find pleasure with such a companion as Lucy. All that in the
least degree belonged to the world of poetry and the fine arts bade him
regret Corinne. While he was in this mood, a fellow-guest joined him,
and his adorer once more heard him speak. What inexplicable sensations
are awakened by the voice we love! What a confusion of softness and of
dread! There are impressions of such force, that our poor feeble nature
is terrified at itself, while we experience them.

"Don't you think this a charming ball?" asked the gentleman.--"Yes,"
returned Oswald, abstractedly, "yes, indeed!" and he sighed. That sigh,
that melancholy tone, thrilled Corinne's heart with joy. She thought
herself secure of regaining his, of again being understood by him,
and rose, precipitately, to bid a servant call Lord Nevil; had she
obeyed her inclination, how different had been the destiny of both!
But at that instant Lucy came to the window; and seeing through the
darkness of the garden a female simply drest in white, her curiosity
was kindled. She leaned forward, and gazed attentively, believing that
she recognized the features of her sister, who, she thought, had been
for seven years dead. The terror this sight caused her was so great
that she fainted. Every one hastened to her aid; Corinne could find no
servant to bear her message, and withdrew into deeper shade, to avoid
remark.

Lucy dared not disclose what had alarmed her; but as her mother had,
from infancy, instilled into her mind the strongest sense of devotion,
she was persuaded that the image of her sister had appeared, gliding
before her to their father's tomb, as if to reproach her for holding
a fête in that scene ere she had fulfilled her sacred duty to his
honored dust: as soon as she was secure from observation, she left the
ball. Corinne, astonished at seeing her alone in the garden, imagined
that Oswald would soon follow her, and that perhaps he had besought
a private meeting to obtain her leave for naming his suit to her
mother. This thought kept her motionless; but she saw that Lucy bent
her steps towards a small grove, which she well knew must lead to Lord
Edgarmond's grave; and, accusing herself of not having earlier borne
thither her own regrets, followed her sister at some distance, unseen.
She soon perceived the black sarcophagus raised over the remains of
their parent. Filial tenderness overpowered her; she supported herself
against a tree. Lucy also paused, and bent her head respectfully.
Corinne was ready to discover herself, and, in their father's name,
demand her rank and her betrothed; but the fair girl made a few hurried
steps towards the tomb, and the victim's courage failed.

There is such timidity, even in the most impetuous female heart,
that a trifle will restrain as a trifle can excite it. Lucy knelt,
removed the garland which had bound her hair, and raised her eyes to
heaven with an angelic appeal: her face was softly illumined by the
moonbeams, and Corinne's heart melted with the purest generosity. She
contemplated the chaste and pious expression of that almost childish
visage, and remembered how she had watched over it in infancy: her
own youth was waning, while Lucy had before her a long futurity, that
ought not to be troubled by any recollections which she might shame
at confessing, either before the world or to her own conscience. "If
I accost her," thought Corinne, "that soul, so peaceful now, will be
disturbed, perhaps, forever. I have already borne so much, that I can
suffer on; but the innocent Lucy would pass, in a moment from perfect
calm to the most cruel agitation. Can I, who have lulled her to sleep
on my bosom, hurl her into the ocean of grief?" Love still combated
this disinterested elevation of mind, when Lucy said aloud: "Pray
for me, oh my father!" Corinne sunk on her knees, and mutely besought
a paternal benediction on them both, with tears more stainless than
those of love. Lucy audibly continued: "Dear sister, intercede for
me in heaven! Friend of my childhood, protect me now!" How Corinne's
bosom yearned towards her, as Lucy, with added fervor, resumed; "Pardon
me, father, a brief forgetfulness, caused by the sentiment yourself
commanded! I am not, sure, to blame for loving him you chose to be my
husband. Achieve your work! Inspire him to select me as the partner
of his life! I shall never be happy, save with him; but my fluttering
heart shall not betray its secret. Oh, my God! My father, console your
child! render her worthy the esteem of _Oswald_!"--"Yes," whispered
Corinne, "kind father, grant her prayer, and give your other child
a peaceful grave!" Thus solemnly concluding the greatest effort of
which her soul was capable, she took from her breast the paper which
contained Oswald's ring, and rapidly withdrew. She felt that in sending
this, without letting him know where she was, she should break all
their ties, and yield him to her sister. In the presence of that tomb,
she had been more conscious than ever of the obstacles which separated
them: her own father, as well as Oswald's, seemed to condemn their
love. Lucy appeared deserving of him; and Corinne, at least for the
moment, was proud to sacrifice herself, that he might live at peace
with his country, his family, and his own heart. The music which she
heard from the house sustained her firmness: she saw an old blind man,
seated at the foot of a tree to listen, and begged he would present her
letter to one of the servants; thus she escaped the risk of Oswald's
discovering who had brought it; for no one could have seen her give
the paper, without being assured that it contained the fate of her
whole life. Her looks, her shaking hand, her hollow voice, bespoke one
of those awful moments, when destiny overrules us, and we act but as
the slaves of that fatality which so long pursued us. Corinne watched
the old man, led by his faithful dog, give her letter to a servant of
Nevil's, who, by chance, was carrying others into the house. All things
conspired to banish her last hope: she made a few steps towards the
gate, turning her head to mark the servant's entrance. When she no
longer saw him--when she was on the high road, the lights and music
lost, a deathlike damp rose to her brow, a chill ran through her frame;
she tottered on, but nature refused the task, and she fell senseless by
the way.



BOOK XVIII.


THE SOJOURN AT FLORENCE.



CHAPTER I.


Count D'Erfeuil, having passed some time in Switzerland, wearied
of nature 'mid the Alps, as he had tired of the arts at Rome, and
suddenly resolved to visit England. He had heard that he should find
much depth of thought there, and woke one morning to the conviction of
that being the very thing he wished to meet. This third search after
pleasure had succeeded no better than its predecessors, but his regard
for Nevil spurred him on; and he assured himself, another morning,
that friendship was the greatest bliss on earth; therefore he went
to Scotland. Not seeing Oswald at his home, but learning that he was
gone to Lady Edgarmond's, the Count leaped on his horse to follow; so
much did he believe that he longed to meet him. As he rode quickly
on, he saw a female extended motionless upon the road, and instantly
dismounted to assist her. What was his horror at recognizing, through
their mortal paleness, the features of Corinne! With the liveliest
sympathy he helped his servant to arrange some branches as a litter,
intending to convey her to Lady Edgarmond's, when Thérésina, who till
now had remained in her mistress's carriage, alarmed at her absence,
came to the spot, and, certain that no one but Lord Nevil could have
reduced her lady to this stats, begged that she might be borne to the
neighboring town. The Count followed her; and for eight days, during
which she suffered all the delirium of fever, he never left her.
Thus it was the frivolous man who proved faithful, while the man of
sentiment was breaking her heart. This contrast struck Corinne, when
she recovered her senses, and she thanked d'Erfeuil with great feeling:
he replied by striving to console her, more capable of noble actions
than of serious conversation. Corinne found him useful, but could not
make him her friend. She strove to recall her reason, and think over
what had passed; but it was long ere she could remember all she had
done, and from what motive. Then, perhaps, she thought her sacrifice
too great; and hoped, at least, to bid Lord Nevil a last adieu, ere she
left England; but the day after she regained her faculties chance threw
a newspaper in her way, which contained the following paragraph:----

"Lady Edgarmond has lately learned that her step-daughter, who she
believed had died in Italy, is still enjoying great literary celebrity
at Rome, under the name of Corinne. Her ladyship, much to her own
honor, acknowledges the fair poet, and is desirous of sharing with her
the fortune left by Lord Edgarmond's brother, who died in India. The
marriage contract was yesterday signed, between his Lordship's youngest
daughter (the only child of his widow) and Lord Nevil, who, on Sunday
next, leads Miss Lucy Edgarmond to the altar."

Unfortunately, Corinne lost not her consciousness after reading this
announcement; a sudden change took place within her; all the interests
of life were lost; she felt like one condemned to death, who had not
known, till now, when her sentence would be executed; and from this
moment the resignation of despair was the only sensation of her breast.
D'Erfeuil entered her room, and, finding her even paler than while in
her swoon, anxiously asked her the news. She replied gravely: "I am
no longer ill; to-morrow is the Sabbath: I will go to Plymouth, and
embark for Italy."--"I shall accompany you," he ardently returned.
"I've nothing to detain me here, and shall be charmed at travelling
with you."--"How truly good you are!" she said: "we ought not to judge
from appearances." Then, after checking herself, added: "I accept your
guidance to the seaport, because I am not sure of my own; but, once on
board, the ship will bear me on, no matter in what state I may be." She
signed for him to leave her, and wept long before her God, begging him
to support her beneath this sorrow. Nothing was left of the impetuous
Corinne. The active powers of her life were all exhausted; and this
annihilation, for which she could scarcely account, restored her
composure. Grief had subdued her. Sooner or later all rebellious heads
must bow to the same yoke.

"It is to-day!" sighed Corinne, as she woke: "it is to-day!" and
entered her carriage with d'Erfeuil. He questioned her, but she could
not reply. They passed a church: she asked his leave to enter for a
moment; then, kneeling before the altar, prayed for Oswald and for
Lucy: but when she would have risen she staggered, and could not take
one step without the support of Thérésina and the Count, who had
followed her. All present made way for her, with every demonstration
of pity. "I look very miserable, then?" she said: "the young and
lovely, at this hour, are leaving such a scene in triumph." The Count
scarcely understood these words. Kind as he was, and much as he loved
Corinne, he soon wearied of her sadness, and strove to draw her from
it, as if we had only to say we _will_ forget all woes of life, and _do
so_. Sometimes he cried: "I told you how it would be." Strange mode
of comforting; but such is the satisfaction which vanity tastes at
the expense of misfortune. Corinne fruitlessly strove to conceal her
sufferings; for we are ashamed of strong affections in the presence of
the light-minded, and bashful in all feelings that must be explained
ere comprehended--those secrets of the heart that can only be consoled
by those who guess them, Corinne was displeased with herself, as not
sufficiently grateful for the Count's devotion to her service; but in
his looks, his words, his accents, there were so much which wandered in
search of amusement, that she was often on the point of forgetting his
generous actions, as he did himself. It is doubtless very magnanimous
to set small price on our own good deeds, but that indifference, so
admirable in itself, may be carried to an extreme which approaches an
unfeeling levity.

Corinne, during her delirium, had betrayed nearly all her secrets--the
papers had since apprised d'Erfeuil of the rest. He often wished to
talk of what he called her _affairs_, but that word alone sufficed to
freeze her confidence; and she entreated him to spare her the pain of
breathing Lord Nevil's name. In parting with the Count, Corinne knew
not how to express herself; for she was at once glad to anticipate
being alone, and grieved to lose a man who had behaved so well towards
her. She strove to thank him, but he begged her so naturally _not to
speak of it_, that she obeyed: charging him to inform Lady Edgarmond
that she refused the legacy of her uncle; and to do so, as if she had
sent this message from Italy; for she did not wish her step-mother to
know she had been in England. "Nor Nevil?" asked the Count. "You may
tell him soon, yes, _very_ soon; my friends in Rome will let you know
when."--"Take care of your health, at least," he added: "don't you
know that _I_ am uneasy about you?"--"Really!" she exclaimed, smiling,
"not without cause, I believe." He offered her his arm to the vessel:
at that moment she turned towards England, the country she must never
more behold, where dwelt the sole object of her love and grief, and her
eyes filled with the first _sad_ tears she had ever shed in d'Erfeuil's
presence. "Lovely Corinne!" he said, "forget that ingrate! think of the
friends so tenderly attached to you, and recollect your own advantages
with pleasure." She withdrew her hand from him, and stepped back some
paces; then blaming herself for this reproof, gently returned to bid
him adieu: but he, having perceived nothing of what passed in her
mind, got into the boat with her; recommended her earnestly to the
captain's care; busied himself most endearingly on all the details that
could render her passage agreeable: and, when rowed ashore, waved his
handkerchief to the ship as long as he could be seen. Corinne returned
his salute. Alas! was _this_ the friend on whose attentions she ought
to have been thrown? Light loves last long; they are not tied so
tight that they can break. They are obscured or brought to light by
circumstances, while deep affections fly, never to return; and in their
places leave but cureless wounds.



CHAPTER II.


A favorable breeze bore Corinne to Leghorn in less than a month: she
suffered from fever the whole time; and her debility was such that
grief of mind was confused with the pain of illness; nothing seemed
now distinct. She hesitated, on landing, whether she should proceed
to Rome, or no; but though her best friends awaited her, she felt an
insurmountable repugnance to living in the scenes where she had known
Oswald. She thought of that door through which he came to her twice
every day; and the prospect of being there without him was too dreary.
She decided on going to Florence; and believing that her life could not
long resist her sorrows, thus intended to detach herself by degrees
from the world, by living alone, far from those who loved her, from
the city that witnessed her success, whose inhabitants would strive
to reanimate her mind, expect her to appear what she had been, while
her discouraged heart found every effort odious. In crossing fertile
Tuscany, approaching flower-breathed Florence, Corinne felt but an
added sadness. How dreadful the despair which such skies fail to calm!
One must feel either love or religion, in order to appreciate nature;
and she had lost the first of earthly blessings, without having yet
recovered the peace which piety alone can afford the unfortunate.
Tuscany, a well-cultivated, smiling land, strikes not the imagination
as do the environs of Rome and Naples. The primitive institutions of
its early inhabitants have been so effaced, that there scarcely remains
one vestige of them; but another species of historic beauty exists
in their stead--cities that bear the impress of the Middle Ages. At
Sienna, the public square wherein the people assembled, the balcony
from which their magistrate harangued them, must catch the least
reflecting eye, as proofs that _there_ once flourished a democratic
government. It is a real pleasure to hear the Tuscans, even of the
lowest classes, speak; their fanciful phrases give one an idea of that
Athenian Greek, which sounded like a perpetual melody. It is a strange
sensation to believe one's self amid a people all equally educated, all
elegant; such is the illusion which, for a moment, the purity of their
language creates.

The sight of Florence recalls its history, previous to the Medicean
sway. The palaces of its best families are built like fortresses:
without, are still seen the iron rings, to which the standards of each
party were attached. All things seem to have been more arranged for
the support of individual powers, than for their union in a common
cause. The city appears formed for civil war. There are towers attached
to the Hall of Justice, whence the approach of the enemy could be
discerned. Such were the feuds between certain houses, that you find
dwellings inconveniently constructed, because their lords would not let
them extend to the ground on which that of some foe had been pulled
down. Here the Pazzi conspired against the De Medici; there the Guelfs
assassinated the Ghibellines. The marks of struggling rivalry are
everywhere visible, though but in senseless stones. Nothing is now left
for any pretenders but an inglorious state, not worth disputing. The
life led in Florence has become singularly monotonous: its natives walk
every afternoon on the banks of the Arno, and every evening ask one
another if they _have_ been there. Corinne settled at a little distance
from the town; and let Prince Castel Forte know this, in the only
letter she had strength to write: such was her horror of all habitual
actions, that even the fatigue of giving the slightest order redoubled
her distress. She sometimes passed her day in complete inactivity,
retired to her pillow, rose again, opened a book, without the power
to comprehend a line of it. Oft did she remain whole hours at her
window; then would walk rapidly in her garden, cull its flowers, and
seek to deaden her senses in their perfume; but the consciousness of
life pursued her, like an unrelenting host: she strove in vain to calm
the devouring faculty of thought, which no longer presented her with
varied images; but one lone idea, armed with a thousand stings, that
pierced her heart.



CHAPTER III.


An hour passed in St. Peter's had been wont to compose her; and
Corinne hoped to find the same effect from visiting the churches
of fair Florence. She walked beneath the fine trees of the river's
bank, in a lovely eve of June. Roses embalmed the air, and every face
expressed the general felicity from which she felt herself excluded;
yet she unenvyingly blessed her God for his kind care of man. "I am
an exception to universal order," she said; "there is happiness for
every one but me: this power of suffering, beneath which I die, is
then peculiar to myself. My God! wherefore was I selected for such a
doom? May I not say, like thy Divine Son, 'Father, let this cup be
taken from me?'" The active air of the inhabitants astonished her:
since she had lost all interest in life, she knew not why others seemed
occupied; and, slowly pacing the large stoned pavement of Florence,
she forgot where she had designed to go. At last, she found herself
before the far-famed gate of brass, sculptured by Ghiberti, for the
front of St. John's, which stands beside the cathedral. For some time
she examined this stupendous work; where, wrought in bronze, the
divers nations, though of minute proportions, are distinctly marked by
their varied physiognomies; all of which express some thought of their
artist. "What patience!" cried Corinne; "what respect for posterity!
yet how few scrutinize these doors, through which so many daily pass,
in heedlessness, ignorance, or disdain! How difficult it is to escape
oblivion! how vast the power of death!"

In this cathedral was Julian de Medicis assassinated. Not far thence,
in the church of St. Lorenzo, is shown the marble chapel, enriched
with precious stones, where rise the tombs of that high family, and
Michael Angelo's statues of Julian and Lorenzo: the latter, meditating
vengeance on the murder of his brother, deserves the honor of having
been called "_la pensée de Michel Angelo_!" At the feet of these
figures are Aurora and Night. The awaking of the one is admirable;
still more so is the other's sleep. A poet chose it for his theme,
and concluded by saying: "Sound as is her slumber, she lives: if you
believe not, wake her, she will speak." Angelo, who cultivated letters
(without which imagination of all kinds must soon decay) replied:----

    "Grato m'è il sono, e più l'esser di sasso.
    Mentre che il danno e la vergogna dura,
    Non veder, non sentir m'è gran ventura,
    Perô non mi destar, deh parla basso!"

"It is well for me to sleep, still better to be stone; while shame and
injustice last: not to see, not to hear, is a great blessing; therefore
disturb me not! speak low!"

This great man was the only comparatively modern sculptor who neither
gave the human figure the beauty of the antique nor the affected air
of our own day. You see the grave energy of the Middle Ages--its
perseverance, its passions, but no ideal beauty. He was the genius
of his own school; and imitated no one, not even the ancients. This
tomb is in the church of Santa Croce. At his desire, it faces a
window whence may be seen the dome built by Filippo Brunelleschi: as
if his ashes would stir, even beneath the marble, at the sight of a
cupola copied from that of St. Peter's. Santa Croce contains some of
the most illustrious dead in Europe. Galileo, persecuted by man, for
having discovered the secrets of the sky--Machiavel, who revealed the
arts of crime rather as an observer than an actor; yet whose lessons
are more available to the oppressors than, the oppressed--Aretino,
who consecrated his days to mirth, and found nothing serious in life
except its end--Boccaccio, whose laughing fancy resisted the united
scourges of civil war and plague--a picture in honor of Dante, showing
that the Florentines, who permitted him to perish in exile, were not
the less vain of his glory,[1] with many other worthy names, and some
celebrated in their own day, but echoing less forcibly from age to
age, so that their sound is now almost unheard.[2] This church, adorned
with noble recollections, rekindled the enthusiasm of Corinne, which
the living had repressed. The silent presence of the great revived,
for a moment, that emulation which once she felt for fame. She stepped
more steadfastly, and the high thoughts of other days arose within her
breast. Some young priests came slowly down the aisle, chanting in
subdued tones: she asked the meaning of this ceremony. "We are praying
for our dead," said one of them. "Right," thought Corinne; "your dead!
well may you boast them; they are the only noble relics left ye. Ah!
why then, Oswald, have you stifled all the gifts Heaven granted me,
with which I ought to excite the sympathy of kindred minds? O God!" she
added, sinking on her knees, "it is not in vanity I dare entreat thee
to give me back my talents: doubtless the lowly saints who lived and
died for thee alone are greatest in thy sight; but there are different
careers for mortals: genius, which illustrates our noblest virtues,
devotes itself to generous humanity and truth, may trust to be received
in some outer heaven." She cast her eyes to earth, and, on the stone
where she had knelt, read this inscription:----

    "Alone I rose, alone I sank, I am alone e'en here."

"Ah!" cried Corinne, "that is mine answer. What should embolden me to
toil? what pride can I ever feel? who would participate in my success,
or interest himself in my defeats? Oh, I should need _his_ look for
my reward." Another epitaph fixed her attention, that of a youth, who
says:--

    "Pity me not, if you can guess how many pangs the grave hath
    spared me."

How did those words wean her from life! amid the tumult of a city,
this church opened to teach mankind the best of secrets, if they would
learn: but no; they passed it by, and the miraculous forgetfulness of
death kept all the world alive.


[1] After the death of Dante, the Florentines, ashamed of having
permitted him to perish far from his home, sent a deputation to the
pope for his remains, interred at Ravenna. The pope refused; rightly
deeming that the land which had sheltered him in exile must have become
his country, and deserved not to be thus robbed of the glory that shone
around his tomb.

[2] Alfieri said, that it was in the church of Santa Croce he first
felt a love for fame. The epitaph he composed for himself and the
Countess d'Albani is most simply and affectingly expressive of long and
perfect friendship.



CHAPTER IV.


The spring of feeling which had consoled Corinne for a few moments, led
her next morning to the Gallery: she hoped to recover her taste, and
draw some pleasure from her former pursuits. Even the fine arts are
republican in Florence. Pictures and statues are shown at all hours,
with the greatest ease. Well-informed men, paid by the government,
like public functionaries, explain all these _chefs-d'œuvre_. This
lingering respect for talent has ever pervaded Italy; particularly
Florence, where the Medicii extorted pardon for their power over human
actions, by the free scope they left for human minds. The common
people love the arts, and blend this taste with their devotion, which
is more regular in Tuscany than in any other Italian state; but they
frequently confound mythologic figures with Scripture history. One of
the guides used to show a Minerva as Judith, and an Apollo as David;
adding, when he explained a _bas-relief_, which represented the fall of
Troy, that "Cassandra was a good Christian." Many days may be passed
in the gallery ere half its beauties are known. Corinne went from one
to the other, mortified at her own indifference and abstraction. The
calm dignity which shines through the deep grief of Niobe, however,
recalled her attention. In such a case, the countenance of a living
mother would doubtless be more agitated; but the ideal arts preserve
beauty even in despair; and what affects us most in works of genius, is
not grief's self, but the soul's power o'er grief. Not far from this
is a head of the dying Alexander. These two countenances afford rich
material for thought. The conqueror looks astonished and indignant at
not having achieved a victory even over nature. The anguish of maternal
love is depicted on all the traits of Niobe: she presses her daughter
to her heart with the most touching eagerness; her fine face bearing
the stamp of that fatality which left the ancients no resource, even
in religion. Niobe lifts her eyes to heaven, but without hope; for the
gods themselves are her enemies.

On her return home, Corinne strove to reflect on what she had seen,
and retrace her impressions, as she had formerly done; but her mental
distraction was uncontrollable. How far was she now from the power
of improvisation! In vain she sought for words, or wrote unmeaning
ones, that dismayed her on perusal, as would the ravings of delirium.
Incapable of turning her thoughts from her own situation, she then
strove to describe it; but no longer could she command those universal
sentiments that find echoes in all hearts. Hers were now but long
unvaried wailings, like the cry of the night bird; her expressions were
too impetuous, too unveiled--they were those of misery, not of talent.
To write well, we require to feel truly, but not heart-breakingly.
The best melancholy poetry is that inspired by a kind of rapture,
which still tells of mental strength and enjoyment. Real grief is a
foe to intellectual fertility: it produces a gloomy agitation, that
incessantly returns to the same point, like the knight who, pursued by
an evil genius, sought a thousand roads for escape, yet always found
himself at the spot from whence he started.

The state of Corinne's health completed the confusion of her mind.
The following are a few of the reflections she wrote, while making a
fruitless effort to become capable of a connected work.


CHAPTER V.


FRAGMENTS OF CORINNE'S THOUGHTS.


    My genius lives no longer: I regret
    Its death: I own I should have loved that yet
    My lays had waked _his_ sympathy; my name
    Might still have reach'd him, heralded by fame.

    I err'd by hoping that in his own land
      The thoughts, the feelings--that our fate united--
    The influence of habit could withstand--
      Amid such scenes love's flower must soon be blighted.

    There is so much to say 'gainst maid like me!
    How futile must the only answer be!
    "Such was her heart--her mind;" a poor reply
    For hosts who know not what I was, nor why.

    Yet are they wrong to fear superior mind,
    The more it towers, more _morally_ refined:
    The more we know, the better we forgive;
    Whoe'er feels deeply, feels for all who live.

    How can two beings who confided all,
      Whose converse was the spirit's griefs, its dangers,
    And immortality, bear this swift fall,
      Thus to each other become once more strangers?

    What a mysterious sentiment is love!
    Nothing, if not all other ties above--
    Vying in faith with all that martyrs feel--
    Or--colder than the simplest friendship's zeal.

    This most involuntary sense on earth,
    Doth heaven or mortal passion give it birth?
    What storms it raises deep within the breast!
    Must we obey, or combat such wild guest?

    Talent should be a refuge; as when one[1]
    Imprison'd to a cloister, art's true son,
    Bequeath'd its walls such traces of his doom,
    That genius glorified monastic gloom!

    But he, though captive, suffer'd from without;
    His bosom was not torn by dread or doubt;
    When grief is there, all efforts lose their force,
    The spring of comfort's poison'd from its source.

    Sometimes I view myself as one apart,
    Impartially, and pity my own heart;
    Was I not mental, kind to others' pain,
    Generous, and frank? Then why all this in vain?
    Is the world really so vile, that charms
    Like these but rob us of our needful arms?

    'Tis pitiful! Spite all my youth hath shown,
    Despite my glory, I shall die unknown;
    Nor leave one proof of what I might have been.
      Had I learnt happiness, or could defy
    This all-devouring fever--men had seen
      Me contemplate them from a station high.
    Tracking the hidden links between yon heaven
    And human nature; but the clue is riven.
    How, how think freely, while each painful breath
    But bids me feel the woe that weighs me down to death?

    Oh! why would he forbear to render blest
    A heart whose secret he alone possess'd?
    To him--him only spoke my inmost soul!
    'Tis easy to leave those chance may control,
    The common herd--but she who must admire,
    Yet judge ere fancy kindles love's chaste fire,
    Expansive as it is, to soul like hers,
    There's but one object in the universe!

    I learnt life from the poets; 'tis not thus;
    Vainly they strive to change the truth, for us
    Who live to wake from their soft dreams, and see
    The barrenness of life's reality!

    Remembering what I was but chafes my pride.
      Why tell me I could charm, if not for love?
      Why inspire confidence, to make me prove
    But the more fearful anguish when it died?
    Will he, in any other, meet more mind
    Than was my own? a heart more true and kind?
    No! but--congenial with heartlessness--
    He will be _more_ content in finding _less_.

    In presence of the sun, or starry spheres,
      To deserve love we need but to desire--
    For love ennobles all that it endears;
      Conscious of mutual worth, we look no higher.
    But ah, society! where each must owe
    His fate but to factitious joy or woe--
    Where what is said of him becomes the test--
    How soon it hardens e'en the trifler's breast.

    Could men once meet, free from this false control,
    How pure an air were breathed into the soul!
    How would the mind, refresh'd by feelings true,
    Teem with ideas natural and new!
    E'en Nature's cruel; this praised face
      Is fading: what avails it now
      That still I pour affection's vow,
    Without one look my prayer to grace?
    These tear-dimm'd eyes no more express,
    As once they might, my tenderness.

    Within my bosom is a pain
    No language ever can explain--
    I have no strength for task like this;
    Love, only love, could sound the abyss.

    How happy men! in honor's strife
    They burst the chains of hated life.
    _We_ hope no solace from the throng;
      Our torture is to bear,
    Stirless and mute, a lone life long,
      The presence of Despair.
    Sometimes, when listing music's tone,
    It tells of powers so late mine own,
    Song, dance, and poesie--I start,
    As I could fly from this sad heart,
    To joy again; a sudden chill
      Reminds me that the world would say,
    "Back, lingering ghost! it fits thee ill
      To brave the living, and the day!"

    I wish I now could find a spell
    'Gainst misery in the crowd: 'twas well
    To mix there once, lest solitude
      Should bear my thoughts too far through fate,
    My mind grew flexible, imbued
      With gay impressions; 'tis too late;
    Features and feelings fix for aye:
    Smiles, fancies, graces! where are they?

    Ah! if't were in a moment o'er,
    Fain would I taste of hope once more!
    But all is done: life can but be
    A burning desert now to me;
    The drop of water, like the river,
    Sullied with bitterness forever,
    A single day's enjoyment is
    Impossible, as years of bliss.

    Guilty towards me as I must deem
      My love--compared with other men
    What mindless things of art they seem!
      How does he rise an angel then!--
    E'en though his sword of flame consume
    My life, and devastate my doom;
    Heaven lends the one beloved his power
    Thus to avenge each misspent hour.

    'Tis not first love that must endure;
      It springs but from the dreams of youth;
    But if, with intellect mature,
    We meet the mind long sought in vain,
      Fancy is then subdued by truth,
    And we have _reason_ to complain.

    "What maniacs!" the many cry,
    "Are those for love who live or die!
    As if, when such frail boon is reft,
    A thousand blessings were not left!"

    Enthusiasm, though the seed
    Of every high heroic deed,
    Each pious sacrifice--its lot
    Is scorn, from those who feel it not.

    All then is folly, if they will,
      Save their own selfish care
    Of mortal life; this nobler thrill
      Is madness everywhere.

    Alas! it is my worst distress
    That _he_ alone my thoughts could guess;
    Too late and vainly may he find
    That I alone could read _his_ mind.

    Mine own should thus be understood;
      In friendship's varying degrees
      Easy, yet difficult to please:
    With cordial hours for all the good,
    But with affection deep and true,
    Which but for _one_, for _him_ I knew.

    Feeling and fancy, wit and reason,
      Where now such union can I find,
    Seek the world through--save his--whose treason
      'Gainst love hath slain me? Oswald's mind
    Blends all these charms; unless I dream'd
    He was the wonder he but seem'd.
    How, then, to others should I speak?
    In whom confide? what subjects seek?
    What end, aim, interest remains?
    The sweetest joys, the bitterest pains,
    Already known, what should I fear?
      Or what expect? before me cast
    A future changeless, wan, and drear,
      As but the spectre of my past!

    Why, why is happiness so brief?
      Life's weeds so strong, its flowers so frail?
    Is nature's natural order grief?
    Unwonted pain soon finds relief
      When its strange throes our frames assail--
    Joy to the soul's less usual: there
    The habitual state is this despair.
    How mutable the world appears
    Where nothing lasts, but pain and tears![2]

    Another life! another life
      That is my hope! but still such force
    Hath this we bear, that we demand
      In heaven the same rebellious band
    Of passions that _here_ caused our strife.
    The northern zealots paint the shade
      Still hunting, with his hound and horse,
    The phantom stag, through cloudy glade;
    Yet dare we call such shapes unreal?
      Naught here is sure save that Distress--
    Whose power all suffer who can feel--
      Keeps _her_ unpitying promises!

    I dream of immortality!
      No more of that which man can give;
      Once in the future did I live,
    The present seem'd too old for me.[3]
    All I now ask of Him on high,
    Is, that my heart may never die!
    Father! the offering and the shrine
    A mortal spurns; with grace divine,
    Deign to receive--'tis thine!--'tis thine!
    I know my days will be but few;
      That thought restores a sense of rest:
    'Tis sweet to feel, as now I do,
      Death draw Grief's barb from out my breast.

    'Tis Superstition's sad retreat,
      More than the home of pious trust;
    Devotion to the blest is sweet.--
      What gratitude to the All Just
      Ought Oswald's wife to feel! O God, she must.

    And yet misfortune oft improves,
      Corrects us, teaches us to weigh
      Our errors with our sufferings: they
    Are wedded: we repent the loves
    Of earth, when salutary time
    And solitude inspires love more sublime.

    'Tis this I need, ere yet I can fulfil
    A tranquil voyage to life more tranquil still:--
    What innocence is in the thoughts of those
    About to leave this life of passion's woes!
    The secret which not genius' self can share,
    The enigma, may it be reveal'd to prayer?

    May not some simple thought, by reverie
    Full oft approach'd, disclose the mystery?

    Vast as the efforts which the soul may make
    They weary her in vain; she cannot take
    This latest step; life must be still unknown
    Till its last hour on earth be well-nigh flown I
    'Tis time mine should repose; and who will sigh--
    'Tis still, at last, the heart that beat so high!


[1] Domenichino.

[2] "Ahi! null' altro che pianto al mondo dura."--PETRARCH.

[3] That idea is Dante's.



CHAPTER VI.


Prince Castel Forte quitted Rome, to settle near Corinne. She felt
most grateful for this proof of friendship, and yet ashamed that
she could not requite it, even by such conversation as of yore: now
she was silent and abstracted; her failing health robbed her of
all the strength required, even for a momentary triumph over her
absorbing griefs. That interest, which the heart's courtesy inspires,
she could still at times evince; but her desire to please was lost
forever. Unhappy love freezes all our affections: our own souls grow
inexplicable to us. More than we gained while we were happy, we lose
by the reverse. That added life which made us enjoy nature, lent an
enchantment to our intercourse with society; but the heart's vast hope
once lost, existence is impoverished, and all spontaneous impulses
are paralyzed. Therefore, a thousand duties command women, and men
still more, to respect and fear the passion they awaken, since it may
devastate the mind as well as the heart.

Sometimes Castel Forte might speak for several minutes to Corinne
without a reply, because she neither understood nor even heard him.
When she did, her answers had none of that glowing animation once so
remarkable; they merely dragged on the dialogue for a few seconds,
and then she relapsed into silence. Sometimes, as she had done at
Naples, she would smile in pity over her own failures. The amiable
prince humored her on all her favorite topics. She would thank him, by
pressing his hand, and once, after a walk on the banks of the Arno,
began to jest with her accustomed grace: he gazed, and listened in glad
surprise; but she abruptly broke off, and rushed from the room in
tears. On returning, she said, gently: "Pardon me, my generous friend;
I would fain make myself agreeable; it will not be: bear with me as
I am." What most distressed him, was the shock her constitution had
received: no immediate danger threatened her, yet it was impossible
that she could live long, unless she regained some vigor. If she
endeavored to speak on aught that concerned the soul, her wan tremor
was painful to behold; and he strove to divert her from this strain. He
ventured to talk of Oswald, and found that she took a perverse pleasure
in the subject; but it left her so shaken, that he was obliged to
interdict it. Castel Forte was a susceptible being: but not even the
most magnanimous of men knows how to console the woman he has loved
under the pangs thus inflicted by another. Some little self-love on his
side, must aid her timidity, in preventing perfect confidence. Besides,
what would it avail? It can only be of service to those wounds which
would cure themselves without it.

At this time the prince received a letter from Lord Nevil, replete with
professions, which would have deeply affected Corinne: he mused for
hours together on the propriety of showing it to her; but anticipating
the violence of its effects on a creature so feeble, he forbore. Even
while he was thus deliberating, another letter reached him, announcing
his Lordship's departure for America. Castel Forte then decided on
saying nothing to Corinne. Perhaps he erred: one of her greatest griefs
was Nevil's silence; she scarce dared own it to herself: but though
forever separated from him, one recollection, one regret, would have
been very precious to her: as it was, he gave her, she thought, no
opportunity of hearing his name, left her no excuse for breathing it.
The sorrow, of which no one speaks to us, which gains no change from
time, cuts deeper than reiterated blows; the good prince followed the
usual maxim, which bids us do our utmost towards teaching a mourner to
forget; but there is no oblivion for the imaginative: it were better
to keep alive their memories, weary them of their tears, exhaust their
sighs, and force them back upon themselves, that they may reconcentrate
their own powers.



BOOK XIX.


OSWALD'S RETURN TO ITALY.



CHAPTER I.


Let us now return to the events which occurred in Scotland, after
the sad fête at which Corinne made her self-sacrifice. Lord Nevil's
servant carried his letters to the ball-room. Oswald retired to
read them. He opened several which his agent had sent from London,
little guessing that among them was one which would decide his fate;
but when he beheld the writing of Corinne, and saw the ring, the
words--"You are free!"--he felt at once the most cruel grief and the
most furious irritation. He had not heard from her for two months, and
now her silence was broken by this laconic decision. He remembered
what Lady Edgarmond had said of her instability, and entered into all
the step-dame's feeling against her; for he still loved enough to be
unjust; forgetting how long he had renounced the idea of marrying her,
how much Lucy had pleased him, he looked on himself as the blameless
victim of an inconstant woman; perplexity and despair beset him; but
over them both towered his proud soul, prompting him to rise superior
to his wronger. This boasted pride rarely exists unless self-love
predominates over affection. Had Nevil now valued Corinne as in their
days at Rome and Naples, not all his "wrongs supposed" could have torn
her from his heart.

Lady Edgarmond detected his distress. The fatal malady beneath which
she labored increased her ardent interest in her daughter. She knew the
poor child's heart, and feared that she had compromised her happiness
forever; therefore, she seldom lost sight of Nevil, but read his
secrets with that discernment which is deemed peculiar to our sex, but
which belongs solely to the continual observance which a real interest
teaches us. On the pretext of transferring Corinne's inheritance,
she besought Lord Nevil's company next morning, and shortly guessed
that he was much dissatisfied; she flattered his resentment by the
prospect of a noble vengeance, offering to recognize her husband's
daughter. This sudden change amazed him; yet though its condition
was unexplained, he comprehended it; and, in one of those moments in
which we act more quickly than we can think, demanded Lucy's hand. Her
mother, scarcely able to restrain her joy, so as not to say _yes_ too
hastily, consented; and he left her presence, bound by an engagement,
which, when he made it, he had not dreamed of undertaking. While
Lady Edgarmond prepared Lucy to receive him, he paced the garden in
violent agitation, telling himself that she had merely pleased him,
because he knew little of her, and that it was madness to found the
happiness of his life on the charm of a mystery that must inevitably
be dissipated. He then retraced his letters to Corinne, too plainly
showing his internal struggles. "She's right!" he sighed: "I have not
the courage fit to make her blest; but yet it should have cost her
more to lose me--that cold brief line--yet who knows but her tears
might have fallen on it!" His own burst forth in spite of him. These
reveries hurried him on unconsciously so far, that he was long sought
in vain by the servant, sent to tell him that Lady Edgarmond desired
his return. Astonished at his own lack of eagerness, he obeyed. On
re-entering the drawing-room, he found Lucy kneeling, her head reclined
on the bosom of her parent, with a most touching grace. As she heard
his footsteps, she raised her flowing eyes, and, extending her hand to
him, said simply: "My Lord, I know you will not separate me from my
mother." This innocent manner of announcing her consent much interested
Oswald, who, sinking on his knees, besought Lady Edgarmond's permission
to imprint on that blushing forehead the first kiss which had ever
awakened more than childlike emotions in the breast whose beauty less
enchanted him than did its celestial modesty. The days which preceded
that chosen for their marriage were spent in the needful arrangements.
Lucy spoke more than usual; but all she said was so nobly natural,
that Oswald loved and approved her every word, and yet he felt a
void beside her. Their conversation consisted but of questions and
answers; she neither started nor prolonged any subject: all went well:
but without that exhaustless animation with which it is so difficult
for those who have once enjoyed it to dispense. Lord Nevil thought of
Corinne; but, as he no longer heard her named, hoped that her image
would at last become merely an object of his vague regret. When Lucy
learned from her mother that her sister still lived in Italy, she much
wished to talk of her with Oswald, but Lady Edgarmond forbade; and the
girl, habitually submissive, asked not the reason of this prohibition.
On the morning of his marriage, the hapless Corinne haunted Nevil
fearfully; but be addressed his father's spirit, confessing that it
was to win _his_ heavenly benediction, his son accomplished thus his
will on earth. Reassured by those meditations, he sought his bride,
reproaching himself for having allowed his thoughts to wander from her.
A descending angel could not have chosen a face more fit than hers to
give mortality a dream of heavenly virtue. At the altar, Lady Edgarmond
was even more agitated than her daughter; for all-important steps alarm
us the more, the greater our experience. Lucy was all hope; childhood
still mingled with her youth, and blended joy with love. In leaving the
church she leaned timidly on Oswald's arm, as if to assure herself of
his protection: he looked on her tenderly, feeling, at the bottom of
his heart, a foe who menaced her repose, and from whom he had promised
to defend her. Lady Edgarmond, on their return, said to her son-in-law:
"My mind is easy. I have confided to you the happiness of my daughter;
and have so short a time to live, that it is a comfort for me to think
my place will be so well supplied." Lord Nevil was much affected by
these words, and anxiously mused on the duties they imposed. A few days
elapsed: Lucy had begun to meet her husband's eye with confidence, and
make her mind known to him, when unlucky incidents disturbed the union
commenced under these favorable auspices.



CHAPTER II.


Mr. Dickson paid his respects to the young couple, apologizing for not
having been present at their marriage. He had been ill, he said, from
the effects of a fall, though kindly assisted by the most charming
woman in the world. Oswald, at this moment, was playing battledore
and shuttlecock with Lucy, who was very graceful at this exercise.
Her bridegroom gazed on her, and listened not to Mr. Dickson, who,
at last, called to him from the other end of the room. "My Lord, the
fair unknown, who came to my aid, had certainly heard much about you,
for she asked me many questions concerning your fate."--"Whom do you
mean?" said Nevil, continuing his game.--"A lovely creature, my Lord,
although she looked changed by suffering, and could not speak of you
without emotion."[1] These words attracted Oswald's attention; but
Lucy, perfectly unconcerned, joined her mother, who had just sent
for her. Lord Nevil now asked Mr. Dickson what lady it was who had
thus spoken of him. "I know not," he replied: "her accent proved her
English, though I have rarely found so obliging and easy a person
among our countrywomen. She took as much care of a poor old man like
me as if she had been my own child: while I was beside her, I did
not feel my bruises; but, my dear Oswald, have you been faithless
here as well as in Italy? My beauteous benefactress trembled and
turned pale at naming you."--"Just heaven!" exclaimed Nevil, "you
said an Englishwoman?"--"Oh yes: you know foreigners never pronounce
our language without a certain intonation."--"And her face?"--"The
most expressive I ever saw, though fearfully pale and thin." This
description suited not the bright Corinne; yet might she not have
suffered much, if in England, and unable to find the being she sought?
This dread fell suddenly on Oswald, who continued his questions with
extreme uneasiness. Mr. Dickson replied that the lady conversed with
an elegance which he had never before met, that the gentlest kindness
spoke from her sad and languid eyes. "Did you notice their color?"
asked Oswald.--"Magnificently dark!" The catechist trembled. "From time
to time," continued Mr. Dickson, "she interrogated, or answered, me,
and what she _did_ say was delightful." He would have proceeded, but
Lady Nevil, with her mother, rejoined them; and Oswald hastily retired,
hoping soon again to find Mr. Dickson alone. Struck by his sadness,
Lady Edgarmond sent Lucy away, that she might inquire its cause: her
guest simply repeated what had passed. Terrified at anticipating the
despair of Oswald, if he were assured that Corinne had followed him
to Scotland; foreseeing, too, that he would resume this topic, she
instructed Mr. Dickson as to what she wished said to her son-in-law.
Thus, the old gentleman only increased the anxiety it was too late
to remove. Oswald now asked his servant if all the letters sent him
within the last three weeks had come by post.[2] The man "believed
they had," and was leaving the room; but, turning back, added, "I
remember that, on the ball night, a blind man gave me one for your
Lordship. I supposed it a petition for charity."--"I received none
such: could you find this man?"--"Yes, my Lord, directly; he lives in
the village."--"Go, bring him to me!" said Nevil; and, unable to wait
patiently, walked out to meet him at the end of the avenue. "So, my
friend," he said, "you brought a letter here for me, on the evening of
the ball: who gave it to you?"--"My Lord, ye see I'm blind, how wad I
ken?"--"Do you think it was a female?"--"Ech fine that, my Lord! for I
hard weel eneuch that she was vera soft voiced, though I jaloused the
while that she was greeting."--"And what did she say to you?"--"Oh,
sir, she said, 'Gude auld man, gide this to Oswald's servant,' and
there stopped, but syne she added, 'I mean Lord Nevil's.'"--"Ah,
Corinne!" exclaimed Oswald, and grew so faint that he was forced to
support himself on the poor creature's arm, who continued; "I was
sitting under a tree just, and wished to do the leddy's bidding diract,
but could scarce raise mysel, being auld the noo: weel, after giein
me mair siller than I'd had for lang, she was that free she lent me
her hand, puir thing! it trembled just as your Lordship's does this
minute."--"Enough!" sighed Nevil. "Here, my good friend, as she gave
you money, let me do so too; go, and pray for us both!" He withdrew.

From this moment a terrible agitation preyed on his mind: he made a
thousand useless inquiries, unable to conceive the possibility of
Corinne's having been in Scotland without seeking him. He formed
various conjectures as to her motives; and, in spite of all his
endeavors to conceal it, this affliction was evident to Lady Edgarmond,
nay, even to Lucy. All was constraint and silence. At this time Oswald
wrote first to Castel Forte. Had Corinne read that letter, it would
much have softened her resentment.

Count d'Erfeuil joined the Nevils ere the Prince's reply arrived. He
said no more of Corinne than was necessary, yet felt vexed at their
not perceiving that he _had_ an important secret in his power, though
too discreet to betray it. His insinuations at first took no effect
upon Oswald; but, when he detected that they referred to Corinne, he
was all curiosity. The Count having brought him to this, defended his
own trust pretty bravely; at last, however, his friend drew forth the
whole truth. It was a pleasure for d'Erfeuil to relate how grateful
Corinne had felt, and in what a wretched state he had found her; he
ran on, without observing how he agonized Lord Nevil; his only object
was that of being the hero of his own story; when he had ceased, he
was much afflicted at the mischief he had done. Oswald had commanded
himself till then, but suddenly became distracted with regret; accused
himself as the most barbarous and ungrateful of men; raved of Corinne's
devoted tenderness: her generosity at the very moment when she believed
him most culpable. He contrasted this with the heartless fickleness
by which he had requited her; incessantly repeating that no one ever
loved him as she did; and that he should in some way be ultimately
punished for his cruelty. He would have set forth to see her, if only
for a day, an hour; but Rome and Florence were already occupied by the
French: his regiment was about to embark; he could not forfeit his own
honor, nor break the heart of his wife: indeed, no faults he might now
commit could repair the past; they would but add to the misery he _had_
occasioned. The only hope that calmed him was derived from the dangers
he was about to brave. In this mood he wrote again to Castel Forte,
whose replies represented Corinne as sad, but resigned; his pride in
her softened rather than exaggerated the truth. Oswald believed that
he ought not to torture her by his regrets, after having so wronged
her by his love--and left Britain with a sense of remorse which nearly
rendered life insupportable.


[1] Even had not Mr. Dickson been aware of Oswald's circumstances,
such a speech before his bride would have been bad enough. It is
unpardonable, as he knew so much.--TR.

[2] I wonder he had not observed that Corinne's bore no post-mark.--TR.



CHAPTER III.


Lucy was afflicted by his departure; yet his recent gloom had so
increased her natural timidity, that she had never found courage to
confide in him her hopes of becoming a mother; but left it for Lady
Edgarmond to send these tidings after him. Nevil, unable to guess what
passed in his wife's heart, had thought her farewell cold; compared
her silent submission with the eloquence of Corinne, and hesitated not
to believe that Lucy loved him but feebly; yet, during his absence,
scarcely could even the birth of their daughter divert her mind from
his perils. Another grief was added to all this. D'Erfeuil spent a
year in Scotland, strongly persuaded that he had not revealed the
secret of Corinne's sojourn there; but he said so much that implied
it, and found such difficulty, when conversation flagged, in avoiding
the theme most interesting to Lady Nevil, that she at last learned
the whole truth. Innocent as she was, it required even less art than
she possessed to draw d'Erfeuil out upon a favorite subject. Lady
Edgarmond was too ill to be present at these conversations; but when
she questioned her daughter on the melancholy she detected, Lucy told
all. Her mother spoke very severely on Corinne's pursuit of Oswald.
Lucy was alternately jealous of her sister, and indignant against her
husband, for deserting one to whom he had been so dear. She could not
help trembling for her own peace, with a man who had thus wrecked that
of another. She had ever cherished a grateful recollection of her
early instructress, which now blended with sympathy: far from feeling
flattered by Oswald's sacrifice, she was tormented by the idea that
he had chosen her merely because her position in the world was more
advantageous than that of Corinne. She remembered his hesitation before
marriage, his sadness so soon after, and everything confirmed the cruel
belief that her husband loved her not. Lady Edgarmond might have been
of great service to her daughter, had she striven to calm her; but she
too intolerantly anathematized all sentiments that deviated from the
line of duty; nor dreamed of tenderly leading a wanderer back, thinking
that the only way to awake conscience was by just resentment. She was
mortified that so lovely a woman should be so ill appreciated; and
aggravated Lucy's fears, in order to excite her pride. Lady Nevil, more
gentle and enlightened than her mother, could not rigorously follow
such advice; yet her letters to Oswald were always far colder than
her heart. Meanwhile he was distinguishing himself nobly, exposing
his life, not merely in honorable enthusiasm, but in a positive love
of peril. He appeared most gay when most actively employed, and would
blush with pleasure when the tumult of battle commenced. At such
moments a weight seemed lifted from his heart, and he could breathe
with ease. The popularity he enjoyed among his fellow-soldiers animated
the existence it could not render happy, and almost blinded him
both to the past and the future. He grew accustomed to the lukewarm
correspondence of his wife, whom he did not suppose offended with him.
When he remembered her, it was as a being worthy of his protection,
and whose mind he ought to spare from all deeply serious thoughts.
But in those splendid tropic nights, that give so grand an idea of
nature and its Author, the image of Corinne was often with him; yet,
as both war and climate menaced his life each hour, he excused his
lingering memory. At the approach of eternity, we forgive and hope to
be forgiven. He thought but of the tears his death would cause her,
not upon those his errors had extorted. It was natural he should think
most of her; they had so often talked of immortality, and sounded every
depth of solemn feeling: he fancied that he still conversed with her,
while occupied by the great thoughts the spectacles of war invariably
suggest. It was to Corinne he spoke in solitude, although he knew that
she must sadly blame him. Despite absence, distance, time, and every
change, they seemed to understand each other still.

At last his regiment was ordered home. The monotony of shipboard
pleased him less than had the stir of arms. External excitement
supplied some of the imaginative joys he owed to his intercourse with
Corinne. He had not yet attempted to live calmly without her. The
proofs of devotion his soldiers gave him somewhat beguiled the voyage;
but even that interest failed on their landing in England.



CHAPTER IV.


Nevil had now to renew his acquaintance with his own family, after
four years' separation. He arrived at Lady Edgarmond's castle in
Northumberland. Lucy presented her child with as much diffidence as if
she had deemed herself guilty. Her imagination had been so occupied by
her sister, during the period of her maternal expectations, that little
Juliet displayed the dark eyes and hair of Corinne. Her father, in wild
agitation, pressed her to his heart; and from that instant, Lucy could
not take unqualified delight in his affection for his daughter. The
young wife was now nearly twenty. Her beauty had attained a dignity
which inspired Nevil with respect. Lady Edgarmond was too infirm to
leave her bed; yet, though this tried her temper, she received her
son-in-law with satisfaction; having feared that she should die in
his absence, and leave her daughter alone upon the world. Oswald,
so long accustomed to a military career, found it very difficult to
remain nearly all day in the chamber of an invalid, who received no
one but himself and wife. Lucy dearly loved her lord; but, believing
her affection unprized, concealed what she knew of his passion for
Corinne, and became more silent than ever. Mild as she was, her mother
had so influenced her, that when Oswald hinted at the added charm she
would gain by a little animation, she received this but as a proof
that he still preferred her sister, and was too hurt to profit by it:
he could not speak of the fine arts without occasioning her a sadness
that repressed his enthusiasm. Had she been better taught, she would
have treasured up his lightest word, that she might study how to please
him. Lady Edgarmond evinced a growing distaste for all deviations from
her habitual routine: her irritated nerves shrunk from every sound.
She would have reduced life to a state of stagnation, as if the less
to regret its loss: but, as few like to confess their personal motives
for certain opinions, she supported hers on the general principles of
exaggerated morality; and disenchanted life, by making sins of its
least amusements--by opposing some duty to every employment which would
have made to-day differ from yesterday or to-morrow. Lucy, duteous as
she was, had so much flexibility of mind that she would have joined her
husband in gently reasoning with this exacting austerity, had she not
been persuaded that it was adopted merely to discountenance Oswald's
Italian predilections. "You must struggle most perseveringly," would
her mother say, "against any return of that dangerous infatuation."
Lord Nevil had a great reverence for duty; but he understood it in a
wider sense than that of Lady Edgarmond: tracing it to its source, he
found that it might perfectly accord with natural inclination, instead
of requiring perpetual combats and sacrifices. Virtue, he thought,
far from rendering life a torture, contributes to the duration of its
happiness, and may be considered as a sort of prescience granted "to
man alone beneath the heaven." Sometimes, in explaining these ideas,
he yielded to the pleasure of quoting Corinne; but such language
always offended his mother-in-law. New doctrines ever displease the
old. They like to fancy that the world has been losing wisdom, instead
of gaining it, since they were young. Lucy's heart instinctively
detected the echoes of her sister's voice in the sentiments Oswald
breathed with so much ardor. She would cast down her eyes to hide this
consciousness; her husband, utterly unaware of it, attributed her
apparent insensibility to want of comprehension; and not knowing where
to seek congeniality sank into despondence. He wrote to Castel Forte
for news of Corinne; but the war prevented the letter's arrival. His
health suffered from the cold of England; and the physicians assured
him that his chest would be again attacked, if he did not pass the
winter in Italy. He told this to his wife and mother, adding, that
the war between France and England must at present prevent his tour.
"And when peace is concluded," said Lady Edgarmond, "I should hope,
my Lord, that you would not think of returning to Italy."--"If his
health depends on it," ventured Lucy, "he could not do better." Oswald
expressed much gratitude for her kindness. Alas! his thanks but assured
her of his love for another.

War ceased; and every time Oswald complained, Lucy's heart was divided
between her dread of his departure for Italy, and her fondness, which
overrated his indisposition. He attributed her doubt of the necessity
for this voyage to selfishness: thus each wounded the other's feelings,
because neither dared confess their own. All these interests were soon
absorbed in the state of Lady Edgarmond, who was now speechless, and
could only express herself by tears, or by the manner in which she
pressed their hands. Lucy was in despair. Oswald sat up every night
with her. It was now December; and these cares were highly injurious
to him, though they seemed much to gratify the sufferer, whose
faults disappeared just as her agonies would have excused them. The
approach of death stills all the tumults of soul from which most of
our errors proceed. On her last night, she joined the hands of Oswald
and Lucy, pressed them to her heart, and raised her eyes to heaven;
no longer deploring the voice which could have added nothing to the
impressiveness of that action--that look. In a few seconds she expired.

Lord Nevil, who had supported himself by great effort, for her
sake, now became dangerously ill, and poor Lucy's distress was thus
redoubled. In his delirium, he often named Corinne, and Italy, sighing:
"Oh, for the southern sun! it is so cold in the north here: I shall
never be warm again." When he recovered his senses, he was surprised at
finding that Lucy had prepared everything for his voyage: she merely
repeated the advice of his physicians, adding: "If you will permit
it, I shall accompany you; and our child ought not to be parted from
her parents."--"No, no, we will not part," he answered; "but if this
journey would pain you, I renounce it."--"_That_ will not pain me," she
replied. Oswald took her hand, and gazed inquiringly on her: she would
have explained herself; but the memory of her mother's advice, never
to betray a sign of jealousy, reproved her, and she added: "You must
be sure, my Lord, that my first object is the re-establishment of your
health."--"You have a sister in Italy," continued he.--"I know it: have
you any tidings of her?"--"Never, since I left for America."--"Well,
my Lord, we shall learn all in Italy."--"Are you then interested in
her still?"--"Yes: I have not forgotten the tenderness she showed my
childhood."--"We ought not to forget," sighed Nevil; and both again
were silent. Oswald had too much delicacy to desire a renewal of his
former ties with Corinne; but he thought that it would be sweet to
die in Italy, after receiving her pardon and adieu. He little deemed
that his delirium had betrayed him, and did injustice to the mind of
his wife; because it had rather shown him the opinion of others than
what she felt herself, he believed she loved him as much as she could
love, but he knew nothing of her sensibility; at present, her pride
disguised it; but, had she been perfectly happy, she would have thought
it improper to avow a passionate affection even for her own husband;
capable as she was of it, education had convinced her that it would be
immodest to profess this feeling; but nothing could teach her to take
pleasure in speaking of anything else.



CHAPTER V.


Oswald, disliking all recollections of France, crossed it very hastily.
Lucy evinced neither wish nor will of any kind, but left it for him
to decide everything. They reached the base of the mountains that
separate Dauphiny from Savoy, and ascended the Pas des Echelles on
foot: this road is dug in the rocks; its entrance resembles a deep
cavern; it is dark throughout, even in the brightest days of summer.
As yet, they found no snow; but autumn, the season of decay, was
herself fast fading. The road was covered with dead leaves, borne to
this region on the gale, from the distant trees. Thus they saw the
wreck of nature without beholding any promise of her revival. The
sight of the mountains charmed Lord Nevil: while we live among plains,
the earth seems only made to bear and nourish man; but in picturesque
countries we see the impress of their Creator's power and genius; yet
man is everywhere familiarized with nature: the roads he frames ascend
the steep, or fathom the abyss; nothing is inaccessible to him, save
the great mystery of his own being. In Morienne, the winter was more
rigorously felt at every step: one might fancy one's self wending
northward, in approaching Mont Cenis. Lucy, who had never travelled
before, was alarmed at finding the ice render the horses' pace
unsteady: she hid her fears, but reproached herself for having brought
her little one with her: often doubting whether the resolve to do so
had been purely moral, or whether the hope of growing dearer to Oswald,
by constantly associating her image with that of their beloved child,
had not deadened her to the risks Juliet would thus incur. Lucy was
apt to perplex her mind with secret scruples of conscience; the more
virtuous we are, the more this kind of fastidiousness increases: she
had no resource, save in her long and silent prayers, which somewhat
tranquillized her spirit. The landscape now took a more terrific
character: the snow fell heavily on ground already covered with it.
They seemed entering the Hell of Ice described by Dante. From the foot
of the precipices to the mountain-tops, all varieties were concealed.
The pines, now clothed in white, were mirrored in the winter like
spectral trees. Oswald and Lucy gazed in silence; speech would have
seemed presumptuous; nature was frozen into dumbness, and they were
mute like her. Suddenly they perceived, on an immense extent of snow,
a long file of darkly clad figures carrying a bier towards a church.
These priests, the only living beings who broke this desert solitude,
preserved their wonted pace. The thought of death lent it a gravity
which not even the bleakness of the air tempted them to forget. Here
was the mourning of nature and of man for vegetable and for human life.

No color was left--that black, that white, thus united, struck the soul
with awe. "What a sad omen!" sighed Lady Nevil.--"Lucy," interrupted
Oswald, "trust me, it is not for you."--"Alas!" he thought, "it was
not beneath such auspices I travelled with Corinne. Where is she now?
may not these gloomy objects be but warnings of what I am to suffer?"
Lucy's nerves were shaken by the terrors of her journey. This kind
of fear is almost unknown to an intrepid man; and she mistook for
carelessness of her, Oswald's ignorance of such alarm's possible
existence. The common people, who have no better exercise for fancy,
love to exaggerate all hazards, and delight in the effect they thus
produce on their superiors. The inn-keepers, every winter, tell their
guests wild tales of "_le Mont_," as if it were an immovable monster,
guarding the vales that lead to the land of promise. They watch the
weather for formidable symptoms, and beg all foreigners to avoid
crossing Mont Cenis during _la tourmente_. This is a wind announced by
a white cloud, spread like a sheet in the air, and by degrees covering
the whole horizon. Lucy had gained all possible information, unknown to
Nevil, who was too much occupied by the sensation of re-entering Italy
to think on these reports. The possible end and aim of his pilgrimage
agitated his wife still more than did the journey itself, and she
judged everything unfavorably. In the morning of their ascent, several
peasants beset her with forebodings; those hired to carry her up the
mountain, however, assured her that there was nothing to apprehend:
she looked at Nevil, and saw that he laughed at these predictions;
therefore, piqued by his security, she professed herself ready to
depart. He knew not how much this resolution cost her, but mounted a
horse and followed the litter which bore his wife and child. The way
was easy, till they were about the centre of the flat which precedes
the descent, when a violent hurricane arose. Drifts of snow blinded
Lucy's bearers, and often hid Oswald from her view. The religious men
who devote their lives to succor travellers on the Alps began to ring
their alarm-bell; yet, though this sound proclaimed the neighborhood of
benevolent pity, its rapid and heavy repetition seemed more expressive
of dismay than assistance. Lucy hoped that Oswald would propose passing
the night at this monastery; but, as she said nothing, he thought it
best to hasten on, while daylight lasted. Lucy's bearers inquired,
with some uneasiness, if she wished them to descend. "Yes," she said,
"since my Lord does not oppose it." She erred in thus suppressing her
feelings: the presence of her child would have excused them; but, while
we love one by whom we cannot deem ourselves beloved, each instant
brings its own sense of humiliation. Oswald remained on horseback,
though that was the least safe method of descent, but he believed
himself thus secure against losing sight of his wife and child. From
the summit, Lucy looked down on the abrupt road which she would have
taken for a precipice, had not steeps still more perpendicular been
close at hand. She pressed her darling to her heart with strong
emotion. Oswald observed this, and, quitting his saddle, joined the
men who carried her litter. The graceful zeal with which he did this
filled her eyes with tears; but, at that instant, the whirlwind rose
so furiously that her bearers fell on their knees, exclaiming: "O
God, protect us!" Lucy regained her courage; and, raising herself,
held Juliet towards Lord Nevil. "Take your child, my love!" she said.
Oswald received it, answering: "And you too---come, I can carry ye
both!"--"No," she said, "only save _her!_!"--"Save!" he repeated: "is
there any danger? Unhappy wretches--why did you not tell us?"--"They
did," interrupted Lucy.--"And you concealed it from me? How have I
merited is cruel reserve?" He wrapped his cloak round Juliet, and
cast down his eyes in deep disquietude; but heaven most mercifully
appeased the storm, and lent a ray which showed them the fertile plains
of Piedmont. In another hour they arrived unharmed at Novalaise, the
first Italian town after crossing Mont Cenis. On entering the inn, Lucy
embraced her child, and returned her fervent thanks to God. Oswald
leaned pensively near the fire, and, when she rose, held out his hand
to her, saying: "You were alarmed then, love?"--"Yes, dear."--"Why
would you go on?"--"You seemed impatient to proceed."--"Do you not know
that, above all things, I dread exposing you to pain or danger?"--"It
is for Juliet that they are to be dreaded," she replied, taking the
little one on her lap to warm it, and twisting round her fingers the
beautiful black curls that the snow had matted on that fair brow.[1]
The mother and child formed so charming a picture, that Oswald gazed on
them with tender admiration; but Lucy's silence discouraged the feeling
which might else have led to a mutual understanding. They arrived at
Turin, where the season was unusually severe. The vast apartments of
Italy were destined to receive the sun. Their freshness in summer is
most welcome; but, in the depth of winter, they seem cheerless deserts;
and their possessors feel like pigmies in the abode of giants. The
death of Alfieri had just occasioned a general mourning among his proud
countrymen. Nevil no longer recognized the gayety formerly so dear to
him. The absence of her he loved disenchanted both nature and art: he
sought intelligence of her, and learned that for five years she had
published nothing, but lived in seclusion at Florence. He resolved on
going thither; not to remain, and thus violate the affection he owed
to Lucy, but to tell Corinne how ignorant he had been of her residence
in Scotland. In crossing Lombardy, he sighed: "How beautiful this
was, when all those elms were in full leaf, with vines linking them
together!"--"How beautiful it was," thought Lucy, "while Corinne shared
it with you!" A humid fog, such as oft arises in so well-watered a
land, obscured their view of the country. During the night they heard
the deluge of southern rain fall on, nay, through the roof, as if water
was pursuing them with all the avidity of fire. Lucy sought in vain for
the charm of Italy: it seemed that everything conspired to veil it in
gloom for Oswald and herself.


[1] Madame de Staël gave Lucy, at three years of age, hair long enough
to make a bracelet. She was thinking of French children. The formal
Edgarmonds were not more likely to deviate from the English fashion
than to christen Nevil's daughter Juliette.--TR.



CHAPTER VI.


Since Lord Nevil had been in Italy, he had not spoken a word of the
language; it even made him ill to hear it. On the evening of his
arrival at Milan, he heard a tap at the door, which was followed by
the entrance of a man, whose dark and prominent face would have been
expressive, if animated by natural enthusiasm: it wore an unvaryingly
gracious smile, and a look that strove to be poetical. He stood at
the door, improvising verses in praise of the group before him, but
such as might have suited any other husband, wife, or child, just as
truly; and so exaggerated, that the speaker seemed to think poetry
_ought_ to have no connection with truth. Oswald perceived that he was
a Roman; yet, harmonious as were the sounds he uttered, the vehemence
of his declamation served but to indicate more plainly the unmeaning
insipidity of all he said. Nothing could be more painful for Oswald
than to hear the Roman tongue thus spoken, for the first time after so
long an interval; to see his dearest memories travestied, and feel his
melancholy renewed by an object so ridiculous. Lucy guessed all this,
and would have dismissed the improvisatore; but it was impossible to
make him hear her: he paced the chamber all gesture and exclamation,
heedless of the disgust he dealt his hearers, proceeding like a machine
that could not stop till after a certain moment. At last that time
arrived and Lucy paid him to depart. "Poetic language," said Oswald,
"is so easily parodied here, that it ought to be forbidden all save
those who are worthy to employ it."--"True," observed Lucy, perhaps a
little too pointedly: "it is very disagreeable to be reminded of what
you admire, by such a burlesque as we have just endured."--"Not so,"
he answered; "the contrast only makes me more deeply feel the power
of genius. This same language, which may be so miserably degraded,
became celestial poetry from the lips of Corinne--_your sister_." Lucy
felt overwhelmed; he had not pronounced that _name_ to her before; the
addition of _your sister_ sounded as if conveying a reproach. She was
half suffocated; and had she given way to her tears, this moment might
have proved the sweetest in her life; but she restrained them, and the
embarrassment between herself and husband became more painful than
before. On the next day the sun broke forth, like an exile returning
to his own land. The Nevils availed themselves of his brightness to
visit Milan cathedral, the _chef-d'œuvre_ of Gothic architecture: it is
built in the form of a cross--fair, melancholy image in the midst of
wealth. Lofty as it is, the ornaments are elaborate as those lavished
on some minute object of admiration. What time and patience must it
have cost! This perseverance towards the same aim is transmitted from
age to age, and the human race, stable at least in thought, can leave
us proofs of this, imperishable almost as thought itself. A Gothic
building engenders true religion: it has been said that the popes have
consecrated more wealth to the building of modern temples than devotion
to the memory of old churches. The light, falling through colored
glass, the singular forms of the architecture, unite to give a silent
image of that infinite mystery which the soul forever feels, and never
comprehends.

Lord and Lady Nevil left Milan when the earth was covered with snow.
This is a sadder sight in Italy than elsewhere, because it is unusual:
the natives lament bad weather as a public calamity. Oswald was vain of
his favorite country, and angry that it would not smile its best for
Lucy. They passed through Placenta, Parma, and Modena. The churches and
palaces of each are too vast, in proportion to the number and fortune
of the inhabitants: all seems arranged for the reception of the great,
who as yet have but sent some of their retinue forward. On the morning
of their reaching Taro, the floods were thundering from the Alps
and Apennines, with such frightful rapidity, that their roar scarce
announced them ere they came. Bridges are hardly practicable over
rivers that so often rise above the level of the plain. Oswald and Lucy
found their course suddenly checked. All boats had been washed away
by the current; and they were obliged to wait till the Italians, who
never hurry themselves, chose to bring them back. The fog confounded
the water with the sky; and the whole spectacle rather resembled the
descriptions of Styx than the bounteous streams lent as refreshments to
the burning south. Lucy, trembling lest the intense cold should hurt
her child, bore it into a fisher's hut, in the centre of which a fire
had been kindled, as is done in Russia.

"Where is your lovely Italy?" she asked Oswald, with a smile. "I
know not when I shall regain her," he answered sadly. Approaching
Parma, and all the cities on that road, they perceived from afar the
flat-terraced roofs that give Italy so original an air. Churches and
spires stand forth boldly amid these buildings; and, after seeing them,
the northern-pointed roofs, so constructed to permit the snow to run
off, create a very unpleasant sensation. Parma still preserves some
fine pictures by Correggio. Oswald took Lucy to a church which, boasts
a _fresco_ of his _La Madonna della Scala_: while he drew the curtain
from before it, Lucy raised Juliet in her arms, that she might better
see the picture; and by chance their attitude was nearly the same with
that of the Virgin and Child. Lucy had so much of the modest grace
which Correggio loved to paint, that Oswald looked from the ideal to
the real with surprise. As she noticed this her lids declined, and the
resemblance became still more strong. Correggio is, perhaps, the only
painter who knew how to give downcast eyes an expression affecting as
that of those raised to heaven. The veil he throws over such looks, far
from decreasing their thoughtful tenderness, lends it the added charm
of heavenly mystery. The Madonna is almost detached from the wall.
A breath might blow its hues away; this fear gives it a melancholy
interest: its adorers oft return to bid such fleeting beauty a fond
farewell. As they left the church, Oswald said to Lucy, "A little
while, and that picture will be no more! but its model is mine own
forever." These soft words touched her heart: she pressed his hand,
about to ask him if he could not trust her tenderness; but as when he
spoke coldly her pride forbade complaint, so when his language made her
blest, she dreaded to disturb that moment's peace, in an attempt to
render it more durable. Thus always she found reasons for her silence,
hoping that time, resignation, and gentleness, might bring at last the
happy day which would disperse her apprehensions.



CHAPTER VII.


Lord Nevil's health improved, yet cruel anxiety still agitated his
heart. He constantly sought tidings of Corinne; but everywhere heard
the same report: how different from the strain in which _her_ name had
once been breathed! Could the man who had destroyed her peace and fame
forgive himself? Travellers drawing near Bologna are attracted by two
very high towers; the one, however, leans so obliquely as to create a
sensation of alarm; vainly is it said to have been built so, and to
have lasted thus for centuries; its aspect is irresistibly oppressive.
Bologna boasts a great number of highly-informed men; but the common
people are disagreeable. Lucy listened for the melodious Italian,
of which she had been told; but the Bolognese dialect painfully
disappointed her. Nothing more harsh can exist in the north. They
arrived at the height of the Carnival, and heard, both day and night,
cries of joy that sounded like those of rage. A population like that of
the Lazzaroni, eat and sleep beneath the numerous arcades that border
the streets: during winter, they carry a little fire in an earthen
vessel. In cold weather, no nightly music is heard in Italy: it is
replaced in Bologna by a clamor truly alarming to foreigners. The
manners of the populace are much more gross in some few southern states
than can be found elsewhere. In-door life perfects social order: the
heat that permits people to live thus in public engenders many savage
habits.[1] Lord and Lady Nevil could not walk forth without being
assailed by beggars, the scourge of Italy. As they passed the prisons,
whose barred windows look upon the streets, the captives demanded
alms with immoderate laughter. "It is not thus," said Lucy, "that our
people show themselves the fellow-citizens of their betters. O, Oswald!
can such a country please you?"--"Heaven forbid," he replied, "that I
should ever forget my own! but when you have passed the Apennines you
will hear the Tuscans--meet intellectual and animated beings, who, I
hope, will render you less severe."

Italians, indeed must be judged according to circumstances. Sometimes
the evil that has been spoken of them seems but true; at others, most
unjust. All that has previously been described of their governments
and religion proves that much may be asserted against them generally,
yet that many private virtues are to be found amongst them. The
individuals chance throws on the acquaintance of our travellers
decide their notions of the whole race; such judgment, of course, can
find no basis in the public spirit of the country. Oswald and Lucy
visited the collections of pictures that enrich Bologna. Among them
was Domenichino's Sibyl; before which Nevil unconsciously lingered so
long, that his wife at last dared ask him, if this beauty said more to
his heart than Correggio's Madonna had done. He understood, and was
amazed at so significant an appeal: after gazing on her for some time,
he replied, "The Sibyl utters oracles no more: her beauty, like her
genius, is gone; but the angelic features I admired in Correggio have
lost none of their charms; and the unhappy wretch who so much wronged
the one will never betray the other." He left the place, to conceal his
agitation.


[1] It was announced at Bologna that a solar eclipse would take place
one day at two. The people flocked to see it; and, impatient at its
delay, called on it to begin, as if it were an actor, who kept them
waiting. At last it commenced; but, as the cloudy weather prevented its
producing any great effect, they set up the most violent _hissings_,
angry that the spectacle fell so far short of their expectations.



BOOK XX.


CONCLUSION.



CHAPTER I.


Oswald now, for the first time, comprehended that Lucy was aware of
his affection for her sister, and deemed that her coolness might have
sprung from secret disquietude: yet now he feared an explanation as
much as she had done; and now she would have told him all, had he
required it; but it would have cost him too much to speak of Corinne,
just as he was about to rejoin her, especially with a person whose
character he so imperfectly knew. They crossed the Apennines, and
regained the sweet climate of Italy. The sea-breeze, so glowing in
summer, now spread a gentle heat. The turf was green, the autumn hardly
over, and yet the spring already peeping forth. The markets teemed
with oranges and pomegranates. The Tuscan tongue was audible; and all
Oswald's dearest memories revived, though now unmixed with hope. The
mild air would have rendered Lucy confiding, had he encouraged her. Had
a Corinne been with them, she would soon have learned their secrets;
but the more congenial they were, in natural and national reserve, the
less easy was it for them to break the ice which kept their hearts
asunder.



CHAPTER II.


As soon as they arrived in Florence, Nevil wrote to Castel Forte; and
in a few minutes the Prince came to him. It was some time ere either
spoke; at last Nevil asked for Corinne. "I have none but sad news
for you," said her friend: "she grows weaker every day; sees no one
but myself, and can scarce attempt any occupation; yet I think she
has been calmer since we learned you were in Italy; though I cannot
disguise from you, that at first her emotions on that intelligence
caused her a relapse of fever. She has not told me her intentions,
for I carefully avoid your name."--"Have the goodness, Prince," said
Oswald, "to give her the letter I wrote you nearly five years since: it
contained a detail of all the circumstances that prevented my hearing
of her journey to Scotland before I married. When she has read it, ask
her to receive me. I long to justify myself with her, if possible.
Her esteem is essential to me, though I can no longer pretend to
more."--"I will obey your desires, my Lord," said Castel Forte, "and
wish that I may in any way be of service." Lady Nevil now entered
the room. Oswald made her known to his friend. She met him coldly.
He gazed on her with much attention, sighed, thought of Corinne, and
took leave. Oswald followed him. "Lady Nevil is very beautiful," said
the Prince: "so fresh and young! Alas! my poor love is no longer so;
yet forget not, my Lord, that she was a brilliant creature when you
saw her first."--"Forget!" exclaimed Oswald: "no, nor ever forgive
myself." He could utter no more, and for the rest of the day was
gloomily silent. Lucy sought not to disturb him: her forbearance was
unlucky; for he only thought: "Had Corinne beheld me sad, she would
have striven to console me." The next morning his anxiety early led him
to Castel Forte. "Well!" he cried, "what says she?"--"That she will
not see you," answered the Prince.--"And her motives?"--"I found her
yesterday, in spite of her weakness, pacing the room all agitation, her
paleness sometimes giving way to a vivid blush, that faded as suddenly
as it rose. I told her your request: after some instants' silence, she
said--if you exact from me her own words: 'That man has done me too
much wrong already; but the foe who threw me into prison, banished and
proscribed me has not yet brought my spirit quite so low as he may
think. I have suffered more than woman ever endured beside--alternate
fondness and indignation making thought a perpetual torture. Oswald
should remember that I once told him it would cost me more to renounce
my admiration than my love. He has despoiled the object of my worship:
he deceived me, voluntarily or otherwise--no matter: he is not what
I believed him. He sported for nearly a year with my affection; and,
when he ought to have defended me, when his actions should have
proved he had a heart, how did he treat me? Can he boast of having
made one generous sacrifice? No! he is happy now, possessing all the
advantages best appreciated by the world. I am dying, let him leave
me in peace!'"--"These words are very harsh," sighed Oswald.--"She is
changed by suffering," admitted Castel Forte; "yet I have often found
her so charitable, that, let me own, she has defended you against
me."--"You think me unpardonable, then?"--"If you permit me to say so.
The injuries we may do women hurt not us in public opinion. The fragile
idol of to-day may be broken to-morrow, without finding one protector;
for that very reason do I respect the sex, whose moral welfare can
find its safety but in our bosoms. A mortal stab is punished by the
law; but breaking a tender heart is a theme for jest. I would forgive
murder by poniard soonest."--"Believe me," cried Nevil, "I, too, have
been wretched--that is my sole extenuation; but formerly she would have
listened to it, now it avails me nothing; yet I will write to her: I
still believe, in spite of all that parts us, she may yet understand
me."--"I will bear your letter, my Lord; but I entreat you temper
it well; you guess not what you are to her. Years can but deepen an
impression, when no new idea has divided its empire. Would you know in
what state she is at present? A fantasy, from which my prayers could
not divert her, enables me to show you." He opened the door of another
room; and Nevil first beheld a portrait of Corinne as she appeared
in Juliet, on the night, of all others, when he felt most enamored
of her. The confidence of happiness breathed from each feature. The
memories of that festal time came back on Oswald's heart; but as he
yielded to them, the Prince took his hand, drew aside a crape from
another picture, and showed him Corinne, painted that same year, in
the black dress, such as she had never abandoned since her return from
England. Her lost lover recollected the figure which had passed him in
the Park: but above all was he struck with the total change in her
appearance. The long black lashes veiled her languid eyes, and threw a
shadow over the tintless cheek: beneath was written this line, from the
Pastor Fido:----

    "A pena si pudò dir: 'Questa fu rosa!'"

    "Scarcely can we now say: 'This was a rose!'"

"How!" cried Lord Nevil; "looks she like this?"---"Within the last
fortnight still worse," returned the Prince; and Oswald rushed from
him, as if distracted.



CHAPTER III.


The unhappy man shut himself in his room. At the dinner hour, Lucy,
leading Juliet by the hand, tapped gently at his door; he opened it,
saying: "Think not the worse of me, my dear, for begging that I may
be left to myself to-day." His wife raised her child in her arms, and
retired without a word. He now looked at the letter he had written to
Corinne, and, bursting into tears exclaimed: "Shall I, then, make poor
Lucy wretched too? What is my life worth, if it serves but to render
all who love me miserable?"

    _Letter from Lord Nevil to Corinne._

    "Were you not the most generous of human beings, what could
    I say to you, who might weigh me so low by reproaches,
    or still lower by your griefs? I have done such ill to
    her I loved, that I almost believe myself a monster. Am
    I, Corinne? I suffer so much, that I cannot think myself
    an utter barbarian! You know, when first I met you, I
    was a prey to despair, that nearly brought me to the
    grave: I sought not happiness, but struggled long against
    your attraction; even when it triumphed, presentiments
    of misfortune lingered still. Sometimes I believed you
    destined by my father to make me once more feel myself
    as well beloved as I had been by him; then did I fear to
    disobey his will, in marrying a foreigner. On my return to
    England, this sentiment prevailed, sanctioned as it was
    by parental authority. Had he still lived, I should have
    felt a right to combat it; but the dead cannot hear us, and
    the irrevocable commands of those now powerless, possess a
    touching and a sacred force.--Once more surrounded by the
    ties of country, I met your sister, selected for me by my
    sire, and well according with my wish for a regular, a quiet
    life. My weakness makes me dread some kinds of agitation:
    my mind is easily seduced by new hopes; but my sick soul
    shrinks from resolves that interfere with its original
    habits or affections. Yet, Corinne, had I known you were in
    England, that proof of tenderness would have decided me.
    Ah! wherefore vaunt I what I would have done? Should we
    have been content? Am I capable of being so? Could I ever
    have chosen any one fate, without still pining after some
    other? When you restored my liberty, I fell into the common
    error, telling myself that so superior a woman might easily
    be estranged from me. Corinne, I have wounded your heart, I
    know; but I thought mine the only sacrifice: I deemed you
    would forget me. I cannot deny that Lucy is worthy of a
    still warmer attachment than I could give her; but since I
    learned your voyage to England, and the sorrow I had dealt
    you, my life has been a perpetual pain. I sought for death,
    certain that when you heard I was no more, you would forgive
    me. Doubtless, you can oppose to this years of fidelity and
    regret, such as my ingratitude ill merits; yet think--a
    thousand complicated circumstances invade the constancy of
    man. Imagine, if possible, that I have neither given nor
    received felicity; that my heart has been lonely since I
    left you, scarce daring even to commune with itself; that
    the mother of my child, who has so many titles to my love,
    is a stranger to my history and feelings; in truth, that
    my habitual sadness has reduced me to the state from which
    your cares, Corinne once extracted me. If I have returned to
    Italy, not for my health (you cannot suspect me of any love
    for life), but to bid you farewell, can you refuse to see
    me but once more? I wish it, because I think that it would
    benefit you; my own sufferings less prompt this desire. What
    use were it that I am miserable, that a dreadful weight
    presses upon my heart, if I came hither without obtaining
    pardon from you? I ought to be unhappy, and am sure of being
    so; but I feel certain that you would be solaced, if you
    could think upon me as your friend, and read, in Oswald's
    looks and accents, how dear you are to the criminal whose
    fate is far more altered than his heart. I respect the
    ties I have formed, and love your sister; but the human
    breast, wild and inconsistent as it is, can reconcile that
    tenderness with what I feel for you. I have nothing to say
    for myself that can be written; all I might explain would
    but condemn me; yet, if you saw me prostrate before you,
    through all my faults and duties, you would perceive what
    you are to me still, and that conversation would leave a
    balm for both. Our health is failing: Heaven may not accord
    us length of days. Let, then, whichever may be destined to
    precede the other, feel regretted by the dear friend left
    behind. The innocent alone deserve such joy: but may it not
    be granted to the guilty? Corinne, sublime soul! you who can
    read all hearts, guess what I cannot add, and comprehend
    me, as you used to do. Let me but see you; let my pallid
    lips touch your weak hand! It was not I alone who wrought
    this ruin. No; the same sentiment consumed us both: destiny
    struck two hearts, devoting one to crime; that one, Corinne,
    may not be the least pitiable."

    _Answer._

    "If I required but to see and pardon you, I could not for
    an instant refuse. Why is it that I do not feel resentment,
    although the pangs you have caused me are so dreadful? I
    must still love you, not _to hate_. Religion alone would not
    disarm me thus. There have been moments when my reason has
    left me; others, far sweeter, when I hoped to die before
    the day could end; and some in which I have doubted even
    virtue: you were to me its image here below: there was no
    guide for either my thoughts or feelings, when the same
    blow struck both my admiration and my love. What would
    have become of me without Heaven's help? Everything in
    this world was poisoned by your image: one sole asylum was
    left, and God received me. My strength decays, but not that
    supporting enthusiasm. I joy to think that the best aim in
    life is to become worthy of eternity: our bliss, our bane,
    alike tend to this purpose: and you were chosen to uproot
    the too strong hold I had on earth. Yet, when I saw your
    handwriting, learned that you were but on the other side of
    the river, a fearful tumult rose within me: incessantly was
    I obliged to tell myself, 'My sister is his wife.' To see
    you again appeared felicity: I will not deny that my heart,
    inebriated afresh, preferred these indefinite raptures to
    an age of calm: but Providence has not abandoned me in this
    peril. Are you not the husband of another? What then have I
    to say to you? Is it for me to die in your arms? What would
    my conscience suffer, if I made no sacrifice? if I permitted
    myself another hour with you? I can only appear before my
    God with anything like confidence by renouncing it. This
    resolution may appease my soul. Such happiness as I felt
    while you loved me is not in harmony with our mortal state;
    it agitates us, because we feel its fleetness: but religious
    meditation, that aims at self-improvement, and refers every
    cause to duty, is a state of peace; and I know not what
    ravages the mere sound of your voice would make on the
    repose I believe I have regained. Why do you tell me that
    your health is impaired? Alas! I am no longer your nurse;
    but still, I suffer with you. May God bless and prolong your
    days, my Lord! Be happy, but be so through piety. A secret
    communion with Divinity gives us in ourselves the power of
    confiding to a being who consoles us: it makes two friends
    of one spirit. Do you still seek for what the world calls
    happiness? Where will you find more than my tenderness would
    have bestowed? Know you that in the deserts of the New World
    I should have blessed my lot had you permitted me to follow
    you? I could have served you like a slave, have knelt before
    you as a heavenly being, had you but loved me truly. What
    have you done with so much faith? You have changed it into
    an affliction peerless as itself. Outrage me not, then, by
    one hope of happiness, except in prayer: let our thoughts
    meet in heaven! Yet when I feel myself about to die, perhaps
    I will be taken somewhere whence I may behold you pass.
    Assuredly, when my failing eyes can see no more, your image
    will be with me; but might not a recent review of your
    features render it more distinct? Deities of old were never
    present at the hour of death, so I forbid you mine; but I
    should like to see you perfectly when Oswald, Oswald! behold
    how weak I am, when abandoned to your recollection! Why has
    not Lucy sought me? Though she is your wife, she is still my
    sister. I have some kind and even generous things to tell
    her. And your child--I ought not to meet you; but you are
    surrounded by my family. Do they disown me still? or fear ye
    that poor little Juliet would be scared at seeing me? Ghost
    as I look, I yet could smile upon your daughter. Adieu, my
    Lord, adieu! Remember that I might call you brother. At
    least you will mourn for me externally, and, as a kinsman,
    follow my remains to Rome: let them be borne by the road
    where my car passed; and pause upon the spot where you
    restored my crown. Yet no, I am wrong, Oswald: I could exact
    nothing that could afflict you, only one tear, and sometimes
    a fond look towards the heaven where I shall soon await you."



CHAPTER IV.


Many days elapsed ere Oswald could regain his composure: he avoided
the presence of his wife, and passed whole hours on the banks of the
river that separated him from Corinne; often tempted to plunge amid its
waves, that they might bear his body to the abode he never must enter
living. Amazed as he was at Corinne's wish to see her sister, he longed
to gratify it; yet how introduce the subject? He saw that Lucy was
hurt by his distress, and hoped that she would question him; but she
forbore, merely expressing a desire to visit Rome or Naples: he always
begged a brief delay, and Lucy, with cold dignity, was silent.

Oswald, at least, could secure Corinne the presence of his little
daughter, and secretly bade the nurse take Juliet to her. He met
them on their return, and asked the child how she had enjoyed her
visit. She replied by an Italian phrase, and with an accent so
resembling Corinne's that her father started. "Who taught you that,
dear?" he asked.--"The lady," she replied.--"And how did she behave
to you?"--"Oh, she kissed me, and cried; I don't know why; but it
made her worse, for she looks very ill, papa."--"Do you love her,
darling?"--"That I do. I'll go to her every day. She has promised to
teach me all she knows; and says, that she will make me grow like
Corinne: what's that, pa? the lady did not tell me." Lord Nevil could
not answer: he withdrew, to conceal his agitation, but bade the nurse
take Juliet daily to Corinne. Perhaps he erred in disposing of his
child without her mother's consent; but in a few days the young pupil's
progress was astonishing: her masters for Italian and music were all
amazed. Nothing had ever pained Lucy more than her sister's influence
over Juliet's education. The child informed her that, ill as the lady
seemed, she took great pains with her. Lucy's heart would have melted,
could she have seen in all this anything but a design to win Nevil
back. She was divided between the natural wish of being sole directress
for her daughter, and self-reproach at the idea of withholding her
from such valuable instructions. One day Oswald came in as Juliet was
practising a music lesson. She held a lyre proportioned to her size;
and her pretty arms fell into Corinne's own attitude so perfectly, that
he felt gazing on the miniature copy of a fine picture, with the added
grace of childish innocence. He could not speak, but sank, trembling,
on a seat. Juliet then played the Scotch air which he had heard at
Tivoli, before the design from Ossian; he listened breathlessly. Lucy,
unseen, stole behind him: as Juliet ceased, her father took her on his
knee, and said: "The lady on the banks of the Arno taught you this, did
she not?"--"Yes, papa; but it hurt her very much: she was so ill while
she taught me, that I begged her to leave off, but she would not.
She made me promise to play you that tune every year, on a particular
day, I believe it was the 17th of November."--"My God!" cried Oswald
bursting into tears. Lucy now stepped forward, and, taking Juliet by
the hand, said, hastily: "My Lord, it is too much to rob me of my
child's affection; that solace, at least, is due to my misfortunes."
She retired. Oswald would have followed her, but was refused. At the
dinner hour he was told that she had been out for some time, not
saying where. He was fearfully alarmed at her absence; but she shortly
returned, with a calm and gentle air, such as he little expected. He
would now have confided in her, and gained her pardon by sincerity,
but she replied: "Explanation, indeed, is needful to us both; yet, my
dear Lord, permit me still to defer it: you will soon know my motives
for this request." Her address, he perceived, was more animated than
usual; and every day its warmth, its interest, increased. He could not
understand this change: its cause is soon told. And that Lucy so long
had hidden in her heart escaped in the brief reproach she made her
husband; and, as usually happens to persons who suddenly break from
their habitual character, she now ran into extremes, resolving to seek
Corinne, and ask her if she had determined perpetually to disturb her
wedded peace; but, as she arrived at her sister's door, her diffidence
returned; nor would she have had courage to enter, had not the invalid,
who saw her from a window, sent Thérésina to entreat her. Lucy ascended
to the sick chamber, and all her anger vanished at sight of its
occupant. The sisters embraced in tears. Corinne then set an example
of frankness which it was impossible for Lucy not to follow. Such was
that mind's ascendency over every one, that, in her presence, neither
dissimulation nor constraint could be preserved. Pallor and weakness
confirmed her assertion, that she had not long to live: this sad truth
added weight to her counsels. All Castel Forte had told her, and all
she had guessed from Oswald's letters, proved that reserve and coldness
separated the Nevils from each other. She entered very simply on this
delicate subject: her perfect knowledge of the husband's character
enabled her to point out why he required to find spontaneously in
those he loved the confidence which he could not solicit, and to be
received with cheerfulness proportioned to his own susceptibility
of discouragement. She described her past self impartially, as if
speaking of another, and showed how agreeable it must be for a man to
find, united with moral conduct, that desire to please which is often
inspired by a wish to atone for the loss of virtue. "Many women," she
said, "have been beloved, not merely in spite of, but for the sake of
their very errors; because they strove to extort a pardon by being ever
agreeable, and having so much need of indulgence dared impose no laws
on others. Therefore, dear sister, pride not in your perfections; let
your charms consist in seeming to forget them; be Corinne and Lucy in
one: nor let your own worth excuse to you a moment's neglect of your
graces, nor your self-respect render your manners repulsive. Were your
dignity ill founded, it might wound _him_ less; for an over-exertion
of certain rights chills the heart more than do unjust pretensions.
Love delights in paying more than is due, where nothing is exacted."
Lucy thanked her sister with much tenderness for the interest thus
generously evinced in her welfare; and Corinne resumed: "If I were
doomed to live, I might not be capable of it; but now my only selfish
wish is, that Oswald should find some traces of my influence in you
and in his child; nor ever taste one rapture that reminds him not of
Corinne." Lady Nevil returned to her every day, and with the most
amiable delicacy, studied to resemble the being so dear to her Lord.
His curiosity increased, as he remarked the fresh attractions she thus
acquired: he knew that she must owe them to Corinne; yet Lucy having
promised to keep the secret of their meetings, no explanation occurred.
The sufferer proposed yet to see the wedded pair together, but not
till she was assured that she had but a few moments to live; but she
involved this plan in so much mystery, that Lucy knew not in what
manner it was to be accomplished.



CHAPTER V.


Corinne desired to bid Nevil and Italy such a farewell as might recall
the days on which her genius shone with its full splendor. A pardonable
weakness. Love and glory were ever blended in her mind; and, at that
moment when her heart was about to resign all earthly ties, she wished
Oswald to feel, once more, that it was the greatest woman of her day
he had destroyed--the woman who best knew how to love and think--whose
brilliant success he had obscured in misery and death.

She had no longer the strength required by an improvisatrice; but in
solitude, since Oswald's return, had resumed her zest for writing
poetry; she therefore named a day for assembling in one of the
galleries all who desired to hear her verses, begging Lucy to bring
her husband; adding, "I feel I may demand this of you now." Oswald
was fearfully agitated, wondering what subject she had chosen, and
whether she would recite herself: the bare possibility of looking on
her threw him into extreme confusion. The morning came, and winter
frowned on it with all the sternness of the north: the wind howled,
the rain beat violently against the windows, and by an eccentricity
more frequent in Italy than elsewhere, the thunder added a sense of
dread to all this gloom. Oswald could not speak: everything around him
increased the desolation of his soul. He entered the hall with Lucy: it
was immensely crowded. In an obscure recess was placed a sofa, whereon
Corinne was to recline, being too ill to read her own verses. Dreading
to show herself, changed as she was, she had chosen those means of
seeing Oswald unseen. As soon as she knew that he was there, she veiled
her face, and was supported to this couch; from time to time staying
to take breath, as if that short space had been a painful journey:
the last steps of life are ever slow and difficult. Seating herself,
her eyes sought Oswald, found him, and involuntarily starting up, she
spread her arms; but instantly fell back, turning away her face, like
Dido when she met Æneas in a world which human passions should not
penetrate. Castel Forte detained Lord Nevil, who now, utterly beside
himself, would have flown to fall at her feet: the Prince reminded him
of the respect he owed Corinne before the world.[1]

A young girl, dressed in white, and crowned with flowers, now appeared
on the stage which had been erected. Her meek and peaceful face
touchingly contrasting the sentiments she was about to breathe; it was
Corinne's taste, which thus mingled something sweet with thoughts in
themselves too dreary. Music nobly and affecting prepared the auditors.
The hapless Oswald could not tear his eyes from Corinne: she was to him
as an apparition that haunts a night of fever: it was through his own
deep sighs that he heard the death-song of the swan, which the woman he
had so much wronged addressed to his heart.


THE LAST SONG OF CORINNE.

    Take ye my solemn farewell! O, my friends,
    Already night is darkening on my eyes;--
    But is not heaven most beautiful by night?
    Thousands of stars shine in the kindling sky,
    Which is an azure desert during day.
    Thus do the gathering of eternal shades
    Reveal innumerable thoughts, half lost
    In the full daylight of prosperity.
    But weaken'd is the voice which might instruct;
    The soul retires within itself, and seeks
    To gather round itself its failing fire.

    From my first days of youth, my inward hope
    Was to do honor to the Roman name;
    That name at which the startled heart yet beats.
    Ye have allow'd me fame, O generous land!
    Ye banished not a woman from the shrine!
    Ye do not sacrifice immortal gifts
    To passing jealousies, Ye who still yield
    Applause to Genius in its daring flight;
    Victor without the vanquished--Conqueror,
    Yet without spoil;--who, from eternity,
    Draws riches for all time.

    Nature and Life! with what deep confidence
    Ye did inspire me! I deem'd all grief arose
    For what we did not feel, or think enough:
    And that we might, even on this our earth,
    Beforehand taste that heavenly happiness,
    Which is--but length in our enthusiasm,
    But constancy in love.

    No, I repent it not, this generous faith;
    No, that caused not the bitter tears I've shed,
    Watering the dust which doth await me now.
    I had accomplish'd all my destiny--
    I had been worthy all the gifts of Heaven,
    If I had only vow'd my sounding lyre
    To celebrate that goodness all divine,
    Made manifest throughout the universe.

    And thou, my God!--Oh, thou wilt not reject
    The offering of the mind; for poetry,
    Its homage is religious, and the wings
    Of thought but serve to draw more near to thee.

    Religion has no limits, and no bonds;--
    The vast, the infinite, and the eternal,
    Never from her may Genius separate.
    Imagination from its earliest flight,
    Past o'er the bounds of life: and the sublime
    Is the reflection of divinity.

    Alas! my God, had I loved only thee;[2]
    If I had raised my head aloft in heaven--
    From passionate affections shelter'd there,
    I had not now been crush'd before my time--
    Phantoms had not displaced my brilliant dreams
    Unhappy one, if yet my genius lives,
    I only know it by my strength of grief:
    Under the features of an enemy
    I recognize it now.

    Farewell, my birthplace! farewell, my own land!
    Farewell, remembrances of infancy,
    Farewell! Ah, what have ye to do with death?
    And ye who in my writings may have found
    Feelings, whose echo was within your soul,
    Oh, friends of mine--where'er ye be--farewell!
    Corinne has suffer'd much--but suffer'd not
    In an unworthy cause: she has not lost
    At least her claim on pity.

    Beautiful Italy! it is in vain
    To promise me your loveliness; my heart
    Is worn and wasted; what can ye avail?
    "Would ye revive my hopes, to edge my griefs!
    Would ye recall my happiness, and thus
    Make me revolt against my fate?

    Meekly I do submit myself. Oh, ye
    Who may survive me--when the spring returns,
    Remember how I loved its loveliness!
    How oft I sung its perfume and its air.
    I pray you sometimes to recall a line
    From out my songs--my soul is written there:
    But fatal Muses, love and misery,

    Taught my best poetry.

    When the designs of mighty Providence
    Are work'd in us, internal music marks
    The coming of the angel of the grave:
    Nor fearful, nor yet terrible he spreads
    His white wings; and, though compass'd by night,
    A thousand omens tell of his approach.

    If the wind murmurs, then they seem to hear
    His voice; and when night falls, the shadows round
    Seem the dark foldings of his sweeping robe.
    At noon, when life sees only the clear sky,
    Feels only the bright sun, the fated one
    Whom Death hath called, upon the distance marks
    The heavy shade is so soon to shroud
    All nature from their eyes.

    Youth, hope, emotions of the heart--ye all
    Are now no more. Far from me--vain regrets;
    If I can yet obtain some falling tears,
    If I can yet believe myself beloved,
    It is because I am about to die.
    Could I recall my fleeting life--that life,
    Soon would it turn upon me all its stings.

    And Rome! Rome, where my ashes will be borne!
    Thou who hast seen so many die, forgive,
    If, with a trembling step, I join the shades,
    The multitude of your illustrious dead!
    Forgive me for my pity of myself.[3]
    Feelings, and noble thoughts, such thoughts perchance
    As might have yielded fruit--expire with me.
    Of all the powers of mind which nature gave,
    The power of suffering has been the sole one,
    Which I have used to its extent.

    It matters not.--I do obey.--Whate'er
    May be the mighty mystery of death,
    That mystery at least must give repose.
    Ye do not answer me, ye silent tombs!
    Merciful God, thou dost not answer me!
    I made my choice on earth, and now my heart
    Has no asylum. Ye decide for me,
    And such a destiny is best.          L. E. L.


Thus ended the last song of Corinne. The hall resounded with deep, sad
murmurs of applause. Lord Nevil could not support the violence of his
emotion, but fell senseless to the ground. Corinne, beholding him in
this condition, would have flown to him, but her strength failed as she
attempted to rise. She was borne home, and from that hour no hopes were
entertained of saving her. Lucy hastened to her, so afflicted by her
husband's grief, that she threw herself at her sister's feet, imploring
her to admit him; but Corinne refused. "I forgive him," she said, "for
having broken my heart. Men know not what they do; society persuades
them that it is sport to fill a heart with rapture, and then consign it
to despair; but God's free grace has given me back composure. The sight
of Oswald would revive sensations that ill befit a death-bed. Religion
only possesses the secret clue through this terrific labyrinth. I
pardon the being I so loved," she continued, with a failing voice; "may
he be happy with you! but when in his turn he is called on to die, then
may he recollect the poor Corinne. She will watch over him, if Heaven
permits; for those never cease to love, whose love has had the strength
to cost them life."

Oswald stood at her door, sometimes about to enter, spite her
prohibition, sometimes motionless with sorrow. Lucy passed from one
to the other, like an angel of peace, between despair and death. One
evening Corinne appeared more easy, and the parents went for a short
time to their child, whom they had not seen for three days. During
their absence the dying woman performed all the duties of religion;
then said to the reverend man who received her last solemn confession:
"Now, father, you know my fate. Judge me! I have never taken vengeance
on my foes; the griefs of others never asked my sympathy in vain;
my faults sprung but from passions not guilty in themselves, though
human pride and weakness led them to excess and error. Think you, my
father--you who have so much longer experience than I--that God will
pardon me?"--"Yes, child, I hope so; is not your heart now wholly
his?"--"I believe it, father; take away this portrait, it is Oswald's;
lay on my breast the image of Him who descended to this life--not for
the powerful, nor the inspired, but for the sufferer, the dying; they
need his mercy." She then perceived Castel Forte, who wept beside her
bed, and holding out her hand to him, exclaimed: "My friend! you only
are beside me now. I lived for love; yet, but for you, should die
alone." Her tears fell as she spoke, yet she added: "There is no help
for such a moment; friends can but follow us to the brink; there begin
thoughts too deep, too troubled, to be confided." She begged they would
remove her to a sofa, whence she could gaze upon the sky. Lucy now came
to her side; and the unhappy Oswald, following his wife, fell at the
feet of Corinne, who would have spoken to him, but her voice failed:
she raised her eyes to Heaven; the moon was covered with just such a
cloud as they had seen on their way to Naples. Corinne pointed to it
with a dying hand--one sigh--and that hand sank powerless.

Oswald fell into such distraction that Lucy trembled for his life. He
followed the funeral pomp to Rome; then retired to Tivoli, where he
remained long, without seeing even his wife and child. At last, duty
and affection restored him to them; they returned to England. Lord
Nevil's domestic life became most exemplary: but did he ever pardon his
past conduct? Could the approving world console him? After the fate he
had enjoyed, could he content himself with common life? I know not: nor
will I, on that head, either absolve or condemn him.


[1] Not a word of what he owed his wife.--TR.

[2] "Had I but served my God with half the zeal," &c.--_Wolsey_.
(SHAKSPEARE.)

[3] "J'a pitié de moi-même."--CORNEILLE.



THE END.





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