Imágenes de páginas

Arr. XI.-Neapel und die Neapolitaner, oder Briefe aus Neapel in die

Heimath von Dr. Karl August Mayer. (Naples and the Neapolitans, in a Series of Letters by Dr. C. X. Mayer.) Erster Band. Olden

burg. 1840. This agreeable volume, from the pen of one who is thoroughly master of his subject, has refreshed our recollections of Italy. On foot, on borseback, or in carriage, we have traversed no inconsiderable portion of the southern part of the peninsula, and we can recommend the author as a trust-worthy guide on subjects on which Mrs. Starke, “ the Queen of Sorrento," as she was called in our day, is naturally silent. On the high road and in the beaten track frequented by the swarm of annuals, the national character does not appear to advantage. The love of gain bas called forth the weaknesses, or if you will, the vices of the inhabitauts, whilst their good qualities only show themselves on a longer acquaintance. Added to this, the difficulty of understanding the dialects of the country, even to those who have made themselves masters of pure Tuscan, is very great. After some study of the language and a diligent attendance at the little Teatro San Carlino, where we proipise our unfastidious readers much amusement, unless our old favourites, Pulcinello, Colombina, Trivella, and Arlecchino, have changed their nature, we buckled on our knapsack and trudged through the Abruzzi, although onr good friends, the artists in Rome, represented the tour as dangerous. We cannot say we found it so; we were unmolested, and found the people friendly and hospitable.

We were amply indemnified, by the beauty of the scenery, for the many inconveniences which a pedestrian must expect to encounter in districts where a horse is still called a vettura, carriages being still unknown there. Our pom pous title of eccellenza, more frequently cut down to lenza, which had so often been bawled in our ears by coachmen, shoeblacks, lazzaroni, and id genus omne, on the Toledo and elsewhere, dwindled down into the simple appellation of galantuomo, the lowest term of actress which that polite people adopt. The hospitality of the people was sometimes painful. We frequently found, on having taken our meals with respectable inhabitants who were travelling in the same direction, that, on rising, our bill had been paid, nor could we ever on such occasions prevail upon the host or hostess to accept even of a buona mano. On conversing with an agreeable family, with whom we travelled for some time, on their road to a fête in honour of St. Justus, we were informed that according to the customs of the country, a stranger had the right of entering any house he liked, and was welcome as long as he chose to stay, but that the suspicions of the government, by rendering every one responsible for the political opinions of bis guests, were gradually operating a change in national manners. We once had a warm dispute with a Neapolitan officer, who insisted on doing the honours, to which we submitted on a promise that be and his party would be our guests at a parting supper. They readily consented, when lo and bebold, after a merry meal, they pulled out their purses. This was going too far, but we were reduced to a reluctant submission by the observa

tion, “ Don Enrico, we doubt not that you mean it kindly, but you must allow me to tell you, that according to the custom of the country, if you say a word more, I must consider it as a personal offence." Let those blame the Neapolitans who like,' we should be ungrateful if we did not acknowledge the many good offices we have received from them and from their antipodes, the Sicilians. In such excursions, a know ledge of the language, a cheerful disposition, and a disregard of nuinerous little inconveniences, are indispensable ; be who remains on the high road sees little more of the real character of the people than if he bad remained in London. i '

With respect to the danger attendant on such excursions, we do not consider it as very great ; much will depend on the state of the country, and much on the prudence of the traveller. The introduction or improvement of roads will do much in this respect, although in 1834 the carriage of the King of Naples was plundered on the high road near that nest of infernal looking fellows, Itri. A knowledge of the value of money is requisite, nor would we recommend the traveller to display large sums of it in a country where absolution may be obtained for a few crowns. Carelessness on the part of a foreigner in this respect caused the murder of a poor muledriver during our trip through Sicily. It is right to observe, that this foreigner was not an Englishman, and that he bebaved with the greatest liberality to the widow of the murdered inan.

With respect to cleanliness, matters are much improved of late years, in some hotels in tbe principal cities; yet those who wish to pass tbrough the world without being intimate with " man's familiars," would do better to remain in more northern climates. Yet we can hardly even now refrain from a laugh at the woeful address of our fellow traveller to our portly hostess at Arpino, Cicero's birthplace. “Mamma mia, quanti pulci arete ?Eh! figlio mio," was the unexpected reply, “ anche , in paradiso sono le pulci." We do not know whether we may venture upon a translation to prudish English ears; they will proye a mere flea- i bite to those accustomed to Italian freedom.

On the Neapolitan Apenpines, the climate is very various. On returning from Sicily, through Calabria, we came to the lofty hamlet of Terioli, some thousand feet above the sea. It was in June, and on com.. plaining of the cold to a sturdy mountaineer, who, with his peaked hat and musket might almost have passed for a Tyrolese, he said, Avimmo undici misi di friddo, ed uno di frisco" (We bave eleven months cold weather and one month fresb.) La bella Italia thought we, and whilst we were quietly eating our luncheon, we received the agreeable intelli, gence that a band of robbers had made their appearance. "Sono gente nel puese"-—(There are people in the country), was the pithy information, the purport of which was rendered more important by the gestures, wbich accompanied it. As there were ladies of the party, and the,, robbers bad but two days before carried off four women, we thought it best' to present our letter of recommendation to the governadore, who assured us that the report was not true, and that he bad received orders to punish the authors of it. Alas ! for the trustworthiness of official information in this country; the very place was pointed out to us in the VOL. XXVIJ. NO. LIV.


course of the day, and we were heartily glad when we arrived at our night's quarters, for, although it is very agreeable to talk of past escapes, yet until you are quite certain that there will be an escape, the subject is not quite so inviting. We afterwards learned that the government, in order to encourage travellers to frequent the tben recently finished road through Calabria and Basilicata to Naples, made a point of discrediting all reports of the kind, and a friend of ours who made the journey two years before we did, heard a shot and found the rifled traveller still warm.

Yet although we willingly do justice to the air of Naples, the deep blue of her seas, the varied tints which play in magic light upon the mountains at the enchanting hour of sunset, it is only with sorrow that we look upon the condition of the people. Like their own fertile land, good qualities, and many of them, lie in ricb profusion on the surface, rendering a short and transient acquaintance delightful. But to the deeper observer there is much to give pain. It would seem that the people had never recovered the shock which the, moral degradation of ibe last centuries of the Roman empire communicated from its corrupt source. Many of the vices of that period are known otherwise than by tradition, and although the exceptions may be numerous, would seem to have struck deep root in this beautiful country. We should not despair of their regeneration under a better government, or rather if the vital principle did not slumber, such government could not so long have existed. The same energy which defeated the differevt attempts to introduce the inquisition has not shown itself in other matters. The papal rule presses like a nightmare in the southern ecclesiastical dominions, and the Neapolitans, with the present king at their head, have, with all their better qualities, but too much resemblance with their national hero Pulcinello. And yet, when we read, in Colletta, the tragedies of which fair Naples has in the present century so often been a witness, his affectionate regret for the good and virtuous who perished in their visionary schemes of regeneration, which must ever be hopeless until a moral interest is taken by the government in the improvement of the lower classes, let us not envy the careless child of the south his dolce fur niente.

Art. XII.-1. Archivio Storico Italiano, ossia Raccolta di Opere e Docu

menti finora inediti v divenuti rarissimi riguardante la Storia d'Italia ; compilata da una Società di Amici e Cultori della medesima. (Italian Historical Archives, or Collection of Works and Documents at present unpublished or scarce, in relation to Italian History ; compiled

by a Society of Friends and Students of the same.) Florence. 1841. 2. Le Storie di Jacopo Petti. Florence. 1841. 3. Tavole Sinottiche e Sincrone della Storia Fiorentina, compilati da Alfredo

Reumont. (Synoptic and Synchronous Tables of Florentine History.) 4. Italy. General Views of its History and Literature, in reference to

its Present State, by L. Mariotti. 2 vols. London. The first of the works before us will be found to contain both interesting and original information on many obscure Italian subjects. It is melancholy to trace that since the days of Manzoni and Pellico, Italy bas scarce produced one original work, but confines herself to those branches of archæological research, which at least indicate what her feelings are as to the past sources of her glory. It is our intention, provided Italian inertness will perniit us, to investigate shortly what is doing in all her universities, and to see whether the fearful palsy that pervades the literary mind of Italy be in all respects co-extensive there with other parts. The remaining works at the head of this article are devoted to the illustration of Florentine History, and the second contains genealogical trees of the Medici, and the other illustrious families of that city. The last work is by an Italian gentleman resident in this country, but contains more information on the subject on which it treats, and more references to the modern position of Italy, than we have seen in any recent production. It is written by him in English, in wbich language he has attained an astonishing proficiency, even to composition in verse, and his own pure Italian freedom of speech and pained sentiments at the humiliation of his country, bursting forth with vative eloquence and singular English expressions, rather enhance the beauty of the work, in our notions, than deteriorate from it. He has divided his work into five periods. Ist. The middle ages. 2nd. The age of liberty, embracing the glory of the Italian republics, from the first sanctioning of the independence of the Lombard cities at the peace of Constance in 1183, down to the last agony of liberty at Florence under the repeated assaults of papal perfidy and imperial violence in 1530, the period Sismondi has illustrated. 3rd. The age of domestic tyranny of the Este and Medici, which he calls the “ age of splendor," commencing with the first Cosmo and bis grandson, Lorenzo dei Medici, embracing the period of Leo X.; of the first and second Alphonso of Ferrara, down to the last patronage granted to literature by the Dukes of Savoy, by the patrician aristocracy at Venice, and at Rome in the days of Christina of Sweden. 4th. The age of foreign dominion or decline, commencing with the invasion of Charles VIII. and ending with the French revolution. 5th. Revival of Italy from the days of Ferdinand and Leopold of Tuscany, of Francis I. and Joseph II. of Austria, through the convulsions of the French Revolution to the present time. We shall proceed to notice a few points in our author's narrative. His observations at the commencement of his work on the Italian cities are extremely beautiful. Thus on Venice:

“ Venice owing, as we have seen, her origin to the barbaric invasions, was perhaps the only spot in all Italy pure from barbaric mixture. The Venetian aristocracy, the noblest of all aristocracies, hardened by the constant exertions demanded by their situation, inflamed by a sincere, though perhaps selfish patriotism, displayed for a long time a valour worthy of a better fate. The dark and bloody policy which stained the last period of that ill-fated republic, has been, we think, too long exposed and execrated, even to exaggeration; and it is full time that peace should be granted at least to the memory of Venice, since little more than her memory remains. Her native element, the sea, is now receding from her lagoons, like a faithless friend in the hour of adversity, and she lies down lifeless and mute, a spectre city, insensible of her rapid decay,--dead almost to the fondest hopes and to the revengeful wrath universally cherished in the Italian bosoms, as if the sentence which laid her low were irrevocable, and the hour of Italian redemption, however soon it may strike, would always be too late for the revival of Venice."- vol. i. p. 66.

Tuscany and Florence :¿ “Tuscany in all times, perhaps even before the Grecian era, the ruler of letters and arts, is now occupied by a soft, gentle, 'highly-refined people, in whose slender and gracile frames, in whose elegant but effeminate features it would not be easy to recognize the successors of those fierce partizans who, after receiving liberty as a gift from their brothers of Lombardy, were so loose and violent in abusing it, but no less warm and intrepid, and desperately obstinate before they consented to give it up. Traces of the ancient Tuscan valor are to be found in Arezzo, in Pistoia, and wherever, indeed, you rise towards the Apennines; but the capital, Florence, the beautiful, the Athens of modern Italy, she alone, the mother of genius, who has given birth to a greater number of eminent men than all the rest of Italy put together,-Florence is now idly and voluptuously lying in the lap of her green vale of Arno,' like a beautiful pearl set in emerald,' as if lulled by the murmur of her river and by the fascination of the smiles of her climate. Sinking into a state of dejection proportionate to the excitement of the ages of the Strozzi, worn out, enervated by a long peace and by the artful tyranny of their princes, these people are scarcely aware that their silken ties have now been changed into an iron chain. Gay and thoughtless, vain of their by-gone greatness, of their polished language, of their wide-spread scholarship, of their nice taste, of their villas, of their churches, and of themselves, the Florentines are called, perhaps not unjustly, the French of Italy.”-vol. i. p. 69.

Rome :

“ Rome sitting in an unhealthy desert, a venerable corpse, a dissolute convent of prelates and cardinals, whose vast empire and influence have been reduced to those toitering walls, the head of a church that has outlived her age, the capital of a state in open rebellion,-Rome, like Tithonus of the fable, has reached the last state of decrepitude without being permitted to die. Not only the capital, but all the provinces south of the Apennines, the lands of the Sabini and Umbri, have contracted that Levitical spirit by which all talents and eminence are exclusively directed to the altar and its intrigues. Hence that tinge of Jesuitism that taints the Roman character in the highest classes, painted, as it were, on the lines of their countenances, in the sound of their mellifluous accent. Only what is not priest in Rome, or priestly in family or connexion, or servants of priests, - the populace of the eternal city, the Transteverini, display in their features, costume and manners, and more in their sudden and often generous bursts of passion, the antique Romans-such as may, with a better education, become one day the freemen of the capital of the redeemed country.”

Though not fully coinciding in the author's view, few can avoid being struck with the beauty of the following extract on the question of Romanism:

“ Christianity came not to avenge, not to redress, but to console; it promised not peace on earth, but retribution in Heaven; it did not break the chains of the slave, but shared them with him; unable to destroy feudalism, it created chivalry; to quench the thirst for battle, it invented processions and masses. To the victims of human injustice, it laid open the asylum of the sanctuary; for the blasted hopes of youth, for the exposed honour of virgins, it prepared the silence of the cloister; against the unlimited ambition of monarchs, it mustered the thunders of the Vatican. A day had been (it is an unwelcome thought, but one from which we cannot escape)-a day had been when in ages of bar

« AnteriorContinuar »