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mankind. It is the funeral of Silvio Pellico. " Fra due o tre ore,” he said, a little while before his death, “sarò in paradiso. Se ho peccato, ho espiato. Vedete, - quando ho scritto Le Mie Prigioni, ho avuto la vanità de credermi un grand uomo, -- ma poi ho veduto che non era vero, e mi sono pentito della mig van- a
Thus meekly, yet confident in his faith, he expired; and thus, without public honors, he was buried. But his life was too remarkable to be concluded without a glance at its leading facts; and he wrote and suffered in a spirit and to an end which challenge, at least, a grateful reminiscence.
Born in Piedmont, in 1788, Silvio Pellico went, in early youth, to Lyons, and returned to Milan to enter upon the career of a man of letters and a teacher of youth. In the former vocation he became favorably known as the author of several tragedies. The example of Alfieri had given a new impulse to this form of literature, and it became the favorite vehicle of patriotic feeling. There is often a winning grace of diction, and a nobility as well as refinement of sentiment, in Pellico's tragedies, but they lack the concise vigor and suggestive intensity of his great prototype. He is evidently subdued by, instead of rising above, the trammels of dramatic unity ; we but occasionally recognize a perfectly free and glowing utterance; the mould seems too rigid and precise for the thought, and, despite his casual success, it is evident that this was not the legitimate sphere for Pellico's genius. Yet there is much skill, taste, and emotion, as well as scholarship, in his plays. We have been brought into so much nearer contact with his mind, through its less studied and artificial expression, that these writings do not appear to do full justice or give entire scope to his powers. The subjects are mainly historical; characterization is secondary to plot and language; of the latter, Pellico had a poetical mastery. The scene of Ester d Engaddi is laid in the second century, about fifty years after the destruction of Jerusalem; it is elaborated from Hebrew annals and tradition. Iginia d'Asti, which enjoyed, at one time, a considerable
*“In two or three hours I shall be in paradise. If I have sinned, I have also atoned. When I wrote • My Prisons,' I had the vanity to believe myself a great man ; but then I saw it was not true, and repented of my conceit.”
degree of popularity, illustrates a local story of the thirteenth century. Eufemio di Messina is founded on the invasion of Sicily by the Saracens in 825. In each drama the story is used as the medium to exhibit some great truth or natural sentiment, and in this respect he resembles Joanna Baillie. Thus, Erodiade indicates the moral beauty of a fearless annunciation of truth; Leoniero, the misfortunes attendant on civil discord, as shown in the history of the Middle Ages, and the social necessity of human fellowship; in Gismonda is portrayed a woman of magnanimous soul battling with strong passions. Tomaso Moro is the most interesting of Pellico's tragedies, to the English reader. It traces, with effect, and a certain sympathetic insight, the career and martyrdom of Sir Thomas More; the last scenes, with the exception of an unfortunately tame line, are effective, and, throughout, the authentic and familiar biographies are followed. But the most popular of Pellico's tragedies, and undoubtedly the best, is Francesca da Rimini. Upon this theme he worked under signal advantages. It was already endeared and glorified to the hearts and the imaginations of his countrymen, by the memorable episode of the Inferno - one of the few instances where Dante
combines his wonderful intensity of expression with a profound tenderness of sentiment, and thus seizes, at once, upon the very soul of the reader. The subject also gave scope to love and patriotism — feelings then dominant and glowing in the author's breast. With but four characters, he gives a dramatic version of the story that accords with the spirit in which it is so impressively hinted in the Divina Commedia. The simplicity of the plot and the directness of the interlocutors make the mere outline of this drama superior to any of its predecessors; but the earnest and beautiful language, and the depth of sentiment that warms and colors the whole, give it an harmonious and deep interest. It is, in fact, a graceful elaboration of the Dantesque episode which constitutes its appropriate introduction. One passage from the lips of Paolo always thrills an Italian audience:
Fui dal clemente imperador : dispetto
Notwithstanding the popularity of this work, Pellico, in the preface to his collected Tragedie e Cantiche (the latter best introduced by him into Italian literature), speaks of them with a self-distrust which evinces his consciousness of more efficient literary powers. Many of them were written, he says, during seasons of intense anxiety, and when the natural vivacity and freedom of his mind were' baffled by painful circumstances. His little treatise, Dei Doveri degli Uomini, is a lucid address to youth on morality, in which good precepts are clearly enforced, and the obligations of religion and virtue defined. The author's name and style gave it sanction in Italy, where works of the kind are rare.
The interest of bis dramatic writings was soon eclipsed by the tragedy of his own life. Let any one compare the formal and prescriptive style of utterance in one of these scholarly dramas with the angelic simplicity and soul-bred pathos of Le Mie Prigioni, and he will realize anew, and most vividly, the difference between the genuine and the conventional in literature. To write from inventive skill and from consciousness, to paint imaginary and real woes, to draw inspiration from the dry annals of the past and from the living, conscious, actual, present, —- how diverse the process and the result! The genius of Pellico, the very elements of his nature, appear in the record of his imprisonment; there he speaks without art, and from the depths of moral experience; the utterance is childlike, earnest, direct, and therefore inexpressibly real and affecting. His articles in the Concil
* Francesca da Rimini, Act I., Sc. y.
iatore, a Liberal journal established at Milan, occasioned his arrest. The origin of this periodical is due to Pellico, who acted as secretary of the associated writers, comprising some of the best minds of Italy in each department : in literature, Manzoni, Berchet, who has been styled the Italian Tyrteus, Camillo Uzoni, a profound critic, Pietro Borsieri, Ludovico de Marchesi de Breme. Giovanni Scalvini, Sismondi, and Pellegrino Rossi - although the two last resided at Geneva ; for political science, Gioja, Ro magnosi, Count Giovanni Arrivabene e Dal Pozzo, the Marquis Hermes Visconti; for the exact sciences, Carlini, Mosetti, and Plana. Pellico narrates the event of his arrest with brief sim
plicity: “Fu arrestato alle ore 3 pomeli diane del giorno 13 t Oftobre, 1820.” But another describes the climax of this infa
mous act more indignantly: “A young man, pale but calm, surrounded by sbirri, descended the Giant's Staircase in Venice, and, crossing the piazza of San Marco, mounted the scaffold That young man, attenuated, manacled, beside malefactors, was the author of 'Francesca ;' it was thou, child of Italian genius, dragged to the block between files of foreign soldiers and of police guards — thou, Silvio, a lamb of expiation!”
- Thenceforth, until the day of his release, a period of several years, his story is told by himself, in a prose-poem, which the world knows by heart.
Few political combinations in history are more justifiable than that identity with which caused his imprisonment. The leaders were not rash experimentalists, or ambitious malecontents, but men who deliberately sought to check a tide of reaction which threatened the best interests of humanity. The good they craved had been in a measure realized, and then wrested from their grasp; a dawn had broken upon their benighted country, and quickened its latent civic life and moral resources, only to be succeeded by the eclipse which an ignorant despotism initiated. It was like withdrawing the draught from lips parched with thirst just as they were moistened, — excluding the air of heaven from one accustomed to range the mountains and the sea, -or quenching the household fire at the instant its genial warmth penetrated the chilled frame of the northern wanderer. We are too apt to imagine the revolutionists of the early part of this century as
restless fanatics, seeking a utopian boon, and to confound the movements of the southern nations, after the fall of Napoleon, with the ultra radicals of the first French convulsion.
It is not enough remembered that the Italian Liberals of 1820 had experienced the beneficent effects of more free institutions and a comprehensive policy, under the arbitrary but comparatively enlightened sway of Europe's modern conqueror. When he crossed the Alps, he carried new principles into the heart of Italy; a thousand time-hallowed abuses vanished before the code he instituded; feudalism gave way, for the time, to progress; entails, titles, sacerdotal tyranny, monopolies, absurd laws, and many other social evils, disappeared, or were essentially mitigated; petty states were merged into one confederacy; the palsied arm of industry was active in effecting local improvements of vast public utility; capitalists found profitable investments; an avenue was opened for men of action, and men of thought uttered and published the ideas they had long cherished in secret; military enthusiasm was awakened by the prospect of advancement, and the certain reward which followed merit; in a word, a fresh and infinitely higher and more productive life, civic, social, and individual, followed the Italian campaigns. The Emperor's rule was despotic, but he was then abreast with the spirit of the age, and, so far as it was possible without interfering with his own political authority, he promoted social progress and national feeling in the beautiful land which his victories had won from a score of bigoted and narrow rulers, whose despotism combined mean intrigue with blind cruelty. To the large middle class of the Peninsula, and especially to the educated youth, a return to the old state of things from this vital and progressive experience was intolerable. The division of the country between Bourbons, archduchesses, and popes, and into minute states, with the resumption of the base system of espionage, secret trials, onerous taxes, impeded navigation, ecclesiastical privileges, and censorship, was alone sufficient to goad a patriotic mind into revolt or exile ; but when Austrian bayonets enforced this retrograde and tyrannic rule, and the mental development, as well as the personal rights, of citizens, were invaded by brute force, upon the slightest pretext, it may easily be imagined that indignant protest was soon followed by a secret compact