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CORNELIUS O'DOWD UPON MEN AND WOMEN, AND OTHER THINGS IN GENERAL.
FROM TURIN TO ROME vid FLORENCE.
THERE was a little French vaudeville which, some years ago, used to amuse the audiences of the Palais-Royal, and send them home laughing as they went over its drolleries. It was called 'Le Voyage à Dieppe.' The chief incidents of the piece revolved round a longpromised trip to Dieppe, which a Parisian shopkeeper had bound himself to make, to show his family the sea. It had become the daydream of their lives, and no subject could be discussed amongst them without its reference to Dieppe being duly weighed and considered.
The happy day at last arrives, and they start. It was before the time of railroads. A malicious friend has, however, bribed the coachman, and instead of taking the road to Dieppe, he passes the whole night in driving round Paris, and ends by depositing the weary and exhausted travellers at a small suburb, where, from the window of a mean-looking little inn, a tolerably extensive pond can be descried, duckweeded and dreary, the distance being closed by a low-lying swamp. Whatever disappointments the others may feel, the honest Bourgeois himself will admit of none, and he throws aside his window and exclaims, "Ah, que c'est beau de voir le mer!" and bursts forth with an apostrophe to the ever-restless sea that would have done honour to a Greek chorus. He rushes out to the beach to inhale the invigorating breezes of the ocean, and comes back with an appetite for oysters, which he naturally imagines to be the appropriate effect of sea air.
His enthusiasm and his blunders, his ecstasy and his mistakes, make up a most laughable picture, and all the time the audience can never perfectly divest themselves of a certain sympathy for one who, if he had really seen the sea, would have hailed the sight with such a racy and honest enjoyment.
Now you will perhaps wonder what it was that could have reminded me of this little bygone piece, and, in this age of prolific farce-writing, could have carried me back to the glories of some fifteen years ago. I will tell you. 'Le Voyage à Dieppe' was brought forcibly to my mind by the new Franco-Italian Treaty. It is said to be among the prerogatives of kings to avail themselves of all the varied acquirements of their subjects; and here we have the great Emperor of France not disdaining to take a hint as to his policy from a vaudevilliste of the "Palais." The new treaty may be briefly summed up thus: Within two years the French army is to be withdrawn from Rome. The Pope is to be left to his own devices, but Victor Emmanuel is not to molest him. A secret article, it is alleged, says that, to give his Holiness a stronger assurance of his safety, the Italians are to transfer the capital to Florence, and in this way recognise the fact that they are not to continue their pretensions to Rome, nor perpetuate the popular impulse to seize on the Eternal City.
Here is the Voyage à Dieppe.' Here are the poor Italians thirsting for Rome, as the Bourgeois thirsted for the sea, promising it to them
selves and their wives and daughters these three years back. Here they are driven round and round all night, and landed at last at Florence, that wily cabman, Louis Napoleon, as he wipes his forehead, asking them if they're not satisfied with the way he drove them, and half hinting that a little token of their gratitude would not be illtimed or ill-thought of.
A few, it is true, grumble that this is not Dieppe, and protest that the swampy pond of stagnant water is not the sea; but the majority overbear them, and ask who can know the place better than the coachman? He has pronounced that this is the spot they ought to be in, and of course none can gainsay him. If it was not that the vaudevilliste was before the Emperor, I should call the policy a grand stroke of genius; and, after all, plagiarism only diminishes and does not destroy the merit. Nothing short of genius, perhaps, could have adapted a practical joke to a nation, and turned the laugh against twenty-two millions of people. To tell them coolly, "Book yourselves, ladies and gentlemen; the coach is just ready to start: any passengers for Rome?" and then, just as coolly, to draw up on the Arno, and say "Here you are! step out;" and while they are straining their eyes to see the Coliseum or St Peter's, he slyly says, "It's a nice place, and you'll like it when you're used to it.'
Geography, happily, is no requirement of a patriot. I remember, some years ago, hearing a very impassioned and even eloquent man addressing a crowd of people on the subject of the Bourbon cruelties in Sicily. Gladstone was mild compared to his descriptions of prison enormities; and he described instruments of torture with a refinement of horror that Alexandre Dumas himself might have envied. In the very climax of his eloquence, however, he turned abruptly towards me, a perfect
stranger as I was, and in a voice of most insinuating eagerness said, "Scusi, Signor; ma dov' e la Sicilia ?' Excuse me, sir; but where is Sicily?
Some one may have told the anecdote-perhaps I myself-to the Emperor; for certainly he has been trading boldly on this want of Italian education.
If there was no small cleverness in thus dealing with the people, the Emperor has shown fully as much adroitness in his treatment of the Pope. "When at Rome," says the adage, “do as the Romans ;" and he has followed the precept to the letter. He knew that one of the most distinctive traits of the Church, in its dealings with the wicked, is a most sensitive regard for human frailty. The Church, in fact, accepts humanity for what it is, not what it might be, and gently condoles with sinners over their shortcomings, blandly hinting that a little virtue now and then, taken as what doctors call "an alterative,' rather benefits the constitution, and contributes to longevity. That there should, however, be no shock to the system-nothing revulsive in the treatment-the Church issues what it calls indulgences— short leases of loose living, renewable sometimes on lives for ever; and by means of these, people may experiment whether they can or cannot divest themselves of the especial wickednesses which have hitherto made their lives so agreeable.
In this spirit has the Emperor decreed two years shall elapse before he withdraws from Rome. For two entire years his Holiness has got a plenary of every abuse of what Lord Palmerston called the worst Government of Europe." For two years may the people be crushed with taxation, sunk in barbarism, and degraded by superstition. For two years De Merode may nurse his Brigands and baptise his Jews; and for two years may the wily Antonelli rig the market and gam
ble on the Stock Exchange. To the Pope, two years more of unrestrained malversation and misrule may seem short. Sitting there on a seat where these have been the privileges ratified by centuries of use, he may be disposed to think that this proceeding is almost summary; but I doubt if the Romans take this view of the case; and I rather suspect, if the truth were known, that they would prefer the "Plenary" should be shorter, and his Holiness obliged to take to responsible habits a little earlier than the year 1866.
It has been long since evident that Italy could not go on as she has done. She must either go back or go forward; either go on to completion and real unity by annexing Rome and Venice, or be satisfied to see the kingdom broken up and resolved into its former elements, or something resembling them.
This necessity all public men in Italy have frankly and freely recognised. It was not merely that the machinery of Government was working with a degree of wear and friction that destroyed half its power, but that to keep up the steam they were driven to burn whatever they could lay hands on, no matter how valuable or costly.
Italy was maintaining in her armed peace a force so far above her means, that war itself would have been less burdensome. As Austria was playing exactly the same game, the ruinous policy was not alone displayed in heavy imposts and a grinding taxation, but in the stagnation of trade consequent on inimical feeling and bad relations, in frontiers all but closed, and customhouses very little short of fortresses.
A system so injurious to both, as much the enemy of civilisation as of national wealth, could not fail to attract the attention of men of enlightenment both in Austria and Italy; and it was remarked that in the two countries expressions had fallen from men of mark and station,
indicating that the time was not, perhaps, very distant when Italians and Austrians might discover with what benefits they could be friends how naturally their geographical position disposed to relations of trade and commerce, and how eviIdent it was that a strong alliance of the two States would be one of the very strongest possible guarantees of European peace. When an able English diplomatist once suggested such a policy as the true one for Italy, based of course on the assumption that Austria would cede Venice to Italy, there was scarcely a man in Piedmont could comprehend what he meant. Now the policy makes converts every day. Men see that the French protection is the severest slavery that can be endured by a people. Men learn at last that French assistance, even when lent for " an idea," is the costliest compact that a nation can make. France has strengthened Italy, because she wants or may want her. Now an Austro-Italian league, had it been possible, would not have entailed any such demands.
The policy of France was, however, always to prevent this good understanding, and to this end she managed always to put Austria in "the wrong," a matter never very difficult with a country which, since the death of Metternich, has fallen into the hands of the very smallest capacities of Europe.
So effectually did France play this game, and so thoroughly did she know how to play it, that when, at the moment of the outbreak of the last war in Lombardy, Cavour was disposed to break the peace the first, the Emperor interfered and said, "No; Austria must be placed in the position of the disturber of European peace: leave it to me, and she shall be.”
Now, I have only gone back on these events to remind you that France has always pursued the policy of sowing distrust between the two countries; nor is there any
"accommodation in all Europe would so derange her plans and damage her interests as an honest and loyal good feeling between Austria and Italy. I will not affect to say that the matter is easy to bring about, or that it would not require, not alone great ability, but time; but I will say this, that it was the intention of Cavour himself to have attempted it; and had he lived and done so, I am equally certain he would not have failed.
Symptoms of such a possible change in Europe are, however, not wanting even now; and I repeat, men of note and ability are disposed to think that by this union there would be for Italy at least two great and palpable advantagesa freedom of dependence on France, and, what is at this moment allessential, a possibility of diminishing her war expenditure.
The Emperor of the French is, however, not to be "countermarched" now as he had been four years ago by Cavour; he is up and stirring. By the Franco-Italian treaty, jealousy and distrust between Austria and Italy are re-established. Every one is alarmed, and no one
By stipulating that Italy shall exchange Turin for Florence as a capital, he alarms all those who believed that, with whatever change might come, they should go to Rome; and now, by insisting on Florence, they see, or think they see, an abdication of this great claim.
By announcing a withdrawal of the French army from Rome, he menaces the Pope with anything that his subjects may have in store for him. By the condition that non-intervention is for the future to be maintained, he declares that he will not permit Austria to come in; and thus in one brief, very brief, document he proclaims that nothing in the Peninsula is to be settled nothing assumed as permanent. What he may, can, or shall do in the future, is open to him in
any shape, and to any extent. may sustain the temporal power, or abolish it-he may unite Italy, or subdivide it; and as for Austria, he may maintain her in Venetia, and talk of the sanctity of treaties, or he may, and most probably will, proclaim the "solidarité of peoples," whatever that may be, and make war against Venice. Meanwhile the Imperial policy has had a great success. It has made Victor Emmanuel unpopular in the city where he was once adored; it has rendered the government of Italy a matter of the most extreme difficulty; and it has made the Pope's rule all but impossible!
We might think that he must be a great intellect who could work all these mighty results, if we did not remember that a very small pinch of white arsenic would spoil the largest basin of turtle. For the present I do not believe he has any fixed intentions; he has simply upset the chess-table, and while they are picking up the pieces he'll decide on his game.
The whole of the Napoleon policy in Europe seems based on an imitation of that well-known member of the Turf, who left a false betting-book on his dressing-table, and thus led every one that trusted it to back the wrong horses. Nobody ever yet knew on what horse he stood to win. He may at this moment be hedging against Victor Emmanuel, or secretly deciding to "scratch" the Pope.
He is even capable of bringing out that dark horse Austria, and declaring her the favourite when all the matches are made.
That the Italians have any especial reason for rejoicing, I certainly do not see. Florence is no more Rome than fleas are lobsters.
When a poor countryman of mine how invariably it is an Irishman has to be brought in when one would illustrate the law's oppression! was once bound over to keep the peace towards all her Ma
jesty's subjects, he left the office exclaiming, "Well, then, God help the first furrener I meet with!" This is now pretty much Victor Emmanuel's case. He has given heavy bail that he won't touch the Pope-but God help the Austrians! Really, for my own part, I do not believe all this "circular sailing" will ever bring the King to the Vatican; nor do I imagine, if he did get there, that the Italians would reap
all the advantages that they promise themselves. The Japanese, it is true, manage to have two Emperors-a Spiritual and a Temporal one-but no European State has yet tried the experiment; and perhaps, after all, it could only succeed in a country where the "happy despatch" is a national usage, and where, when you cannot get rid of the Government, you get rid of yourself.
We have had lately in our newspapers a great deal of nonsensesome of it very good-natured nonsense about servants, averring that their faults are rather the consequences of ill-judging and inconsiderate treatment by their masters, and that, as a class, they are amiable, honest, sober, affectionate, and grateful; and that the social reformation required would be to treat them with greater deference to their wishes, accord them more liberty, freer time for recreation, and, in general, a higher regard and consideration.
Where the people who write in this fashion met with their phoenix of a butler, or that black swan their cook, I don't know; but my own suspicion is, that the glowing eulogiums I have quoted were the experiences of those who only knew servants in their friends' houses, and approved of them as they did of his claret, or his pheasants, or any things that were his.
My experiences are certainly all the other way, and, next to sickness, I look upon servants as the greatest infliction of humanity; and there is no quality I so much envy the rich man, as in the fact that his wealth removes him to such a distance from their contact, that he knows next to nothing of their tempers or habits, and is never by any accident involved, as poorer men are doomed to be, in their private jealousies,
hatreds, and utter uncharitable
In the first place, it is only fairly natural and reasonable that they should be sources of discomfort and annoyance, rather than of satisfaction and ease. Their whole life is a sort of lie. They are peasants thinly lackered with a very dubious sort of civilisation-that is, they catch up a faint semblance of what they see in the drawing-room, to enact it below stairs to the accompaniment of their native coarseness and barbarism.
If we are to trust to what old people say, they were better formerly —that is, better before they had penny journals and illustrated absurdities. This is not impossible. There is a sort of feudalism in the principle of the family that works all the better when distinctions of class are well marked; and once the maids begin to read 'Eleanor's Victory,' and 'Lost and Saved,' and discuss the characters with the "young ladies," discipline is endangered, and very seriously too.
I like an ignorant valet, and a butler who has to spell out his newspaper. I sleep soundly when I know Jeames is not rummaging my letters, and picking up details for my biography out of my writing-desk. It is a comfort to me to think that my Review or my Magazine is not thumbed by Mr "Fag,"