« ElőzőTovább »
sink under the rigours of confinement, on the 22nd of February, 1822, he was brought before the tribunal to hear his sentence of condemnation :
I was conducted into the hall appropriated to the commissioners. The president, the inquisitor, and the two assistant judges, occupied the bench, but arose at my entrance.
The president, with a demeanour of dignified compassion, signified to me that my sentence had arrived, and that the judgment had been terrible, but that the emperor had mitigated its severity.
The inquisitor read the sentence-Condemned to Death! He then read the imperial rescript: the sentence is commuted into fifteen years severe imprisonment in the fortress of Speilberg.
I replied, “ God's will be done.” My intention really was to receive this horrible blow like a Christian, without exhibiting or nourishing resentment against any one. The president praised my calmness, and counseled me to preserve it; adding, that on it might depend a further ex. tension of favour, after the expiration of two or three years.
On the 10th of April, Pellico was transferred to Speilberg, according to the sentence. Speilberg is a fortress situated on an eminence that overlooks the town of Brunn, the capital of Moravia and Silesia. It serves as a prison for three hundred convicts, for the most part robbers and assassins, condemned, some to severe, and others to the severest imprisonment.
Severe imprisonment, to which Pellico was sentenced, signifies to be obliged to labour in chains, to sleep upon naked boards, and to eat the lowest description of food. The severest signifies to be loaded more horribly with fetters, to wear an iron band round the waist, attached to the wall by a chain only long enough to permit the unfortunate victim to reach his oaken couch. The food is the same, bread and water.
It would greatly exceed our limits to notice in detail the varied tale of sufferings and afflictions endured by our author, during the eight long years he languished in this abode of misery. Disease and hunger, and wretchedness and despair, did their worst; and each succeeding month saw some of his companions in misfortune sink under their multiplied inflictions. Humanity shudders at the account of such calamities; but yet in every fresh combination of misery, we are presented with some favourable view of human nature, and the most gloomy situations and characters are illumined by traits of generosity and feeling.
The gaoler of Speilberg was an old Swiss, who had received the employment as the reward of long services in the imperial armies. He was tall and thin, and of the most unprepossessing physiognomy and manners; but the gentleness and dignified demeanour of Pellico soon wrought upon the heart of the old soldier, habituated as he was to scenes of the deepest misery; and the struggle between his benevolent feelings and his stern duty is highly inter
vol. II. (1833) no. 1.
esting and affecting. Directly opposite to the window of Pellico's dungeon was that of the young Count Oroboni, and it was a mutual service of consolation to converse with each other. This was strictly forbidden : on one occasion their communication was interrupted by Schiller (the jailor), when the following scene takes place:
Schiller entered, in a passion, and forbid me to speak any more from the window. He asked me to promise that I would not.
No, said I ; I will not promise.
Oh, Der Teufel, Der Teufel! he exclaimed; is it to me that you address your “ I will not ?"-to me, who have received such cursed abuse on your account.
My dear Schiller, I am grieved for the abuse you have received. I am really grieved: but I will not make a promise that I cannot keep.
And why cannot you keep it?
Because perpetual solitude is such a cruel torment to me, that I never will resist the wish to use my voice to invite my neighbour to answer me; and, if he should remain silent, I shall speak to the bars of my window, tu the hills that stand opposite me, to the birds that fly past.
Der Teufel ! and so you will not promise ?
He threw the clanging mass of keys upon the floor, and repeated, Der Teufel, Der Teufel! He then embraced me, and said
And must I cease to be a man for that rubbish of keys? You are a real gentleman ; and I am pleased at your not making a promise you cannot keep. I would do the same.
I took up the keys, and gave them to him.
These keys, said I, are not such rubbish, after all : since they cannot make an honest corporal a heartless ruffian.
If I thought they could, he replied, I would take them to my superiors, and say, “ If you do not choose to give me any other bread than that of the executioner, I shall go and beg.
He took out his handkerchief, wiped his eyes, and then raised them, joining his hands in the attitude of prayer. I joined mine, and prayed, like him, in silence. He felt that I called down blessings on him, as he did on me.
As he left the cell, he said, when you converse with Count Oroboni, speak in as low a voice as you possibly can. You will thus secure two advantages : the one to save me the abuse of the superintendant; and the other, not to let some expressions be heard-some expressions, you understand, that may irritate rather than annoy.
The young Count Oroboni, whose conversation thus served to solace his lonely hours, was a fine specimen of the Italian : ardent, generous, tender, and imaginative, with all the longing for his dear native skies that so eminently distinguished the impassioned Foscari. He sickened, and after lingering for some time he perished almost beneath the eyes of his friend. The truly Christian fortitude with which he bore up against his lot, and the extreme tenderness of his gentle repinings, inspire a profound feeling of pity and esteem. The circumstances of his death are thus pathetically related by our author :
The unfortunate young man suffered the most fearful tortures, but his mind never sunk beneath them. He had the spiritual assistance of the chaplain, who luckily understood French. He died on the 13th of June, 1823. A moment before he expired, he spoke of his aged father; he was affected, and he wept. He then resumed, and said, “ But why do I weep for the most fortunate of my dear relations, since he is on the eve of rejoining me in the abode of eternal peace.” His last words were, “I pardon, from my heart, all my enemies."
Poor Oroboni! what a chillness ran through my blood when I was told he was no more! And we heard the voices and steps of those who came to take away the body! And from the window we beheld the car which was to bear him to the cemetery! That car was conducted by two common convicts—it was followed by four guards. Our eyes were fixed upon the sad convoy until it reached the cemetery; it entered the enclosurestopped at an angle : there was the grave.
A few moments after, the car and the guards returned. One of them was Kubitzky. He said to me (a refined thought, and quite surprising, coming from a vulgar man), I marked with precision his burial place, in order that if any relation or friend may one day obtain leave to take up those bones, and transport them to his country, he may know where they lie.
How often had Oroboni said to me, as he gazed on the burial-place from his window, “I must accustom myself to the thought of going to rot within there, and yet I confess that it is an idea that makes me shudder. I feel as if I should not be so much at rest in my grave in this strange land as in our own dear peninsulas.” He then smiled and said, “ What childishness; and when a garment is worn out, and must be laid aside, what matters it where it is thrown.” At other times he said, “ I am preparing for death ; but I should feel more resigned to it on one condition, that of entering for a moment my paternal home, embracing my father's knees, and receive his benediction, and die."
Such was the melancholy fate of this accomplished young man. There is a sweetness in his complaints that makes its way to every heart; they are the lamentations of a generous and social spirit, at being denied the indulgence of its warm and refined sympathies; they fall with a natural and touching pathos, and are rendered more touching by their simplicity and delicacy.
The death of Oroboni was a fresh drop in Pellico's cup of bitterness, and filled it almost to overflowing. The severe malady to which he had been long a victim, assumed a more aggravated and alarming appearance, and he was reduced to the last stage of suffering. No relief or relaxation of the rigours of prison discipline could be afforded, until the authorities at Vienna had been consulted on the subject. In their tender mercy, they went so far as to allow him a little alteration of food, and the company of his friend Ma
roncelli. This was a boon that brought unspeakable comfort to the exhausted mind of the languishing Pellico. « Oh, how many things,” he exclaims, “ had we to communicate, to recal, to repeat! What sweetness in our sympathy; what harmony in all our ideas; what a satisfaction in our perfect agreement upon matters of religion, in our mutual hatred of ignorance and barbarity; at the same time that we hated no man, but rather pitied the ignorant and the barbarous, and prayed for them.”
Pellico recovered, and it became his turn to nurse his friend, and repay his generous attentions. An enormous tumour had gathered on the left knee of Maroncelli, and confined him to his bed :
In this deplorable state (pursues the narrative) he still composed poetry; he sung, and discoursed; he did every thing to deceive me, to hide from me a portion of his sufferings. He could no longer digest or sleep; he grew frightfully thin; he was frequently delirious, and with all that, at intervals he collected his vitality, and encouraged me. He continued in this state for nine months, and at length amputation was decided upon, and performed by the prison surgeons in the clumsiest manner. After the operation had been performed, he turned to the surgeon and said, “ You have delivered me from an enemy, and I am without the means of recompensing you." There was a rose in a vessel on the window frame :
Fetch me that rose,” said he to me; I brought it to him, and he presented it to the old surgeon, saying, “ I have nothing else to give you in token of my gratitude.” The surgeon took the rose, and wept.
Years passed away amid scenes of misery and affliction similar to those we have already detailed. At length, in August, 1830, they were summoned one morning before the superintendant. He held a paper in his hand, and addressed them thus :
" Gentlemen, I have the pleasure, the honour, to signify to you, that the Emperor has granted a further favour;" and he hesitated to declare what species of favour it was. We thought it might be some slight diminution of punishment, such as to be exempt from the annoyance of labour, to be allowed some additional books, or some less disgusting food. “ But you do not comprehend,” said he. “No, Sir; be so kind as to explain the nature of the favour granted.” “ It is liberty for you both, and for a third, whom you will soon embrace." This announcement might be considered sufficient to cause us to burst out into demonstrations of delight and exul. tation. Our thoughts instantly fell upon our parents, from whom we had had no intelligence for such a length of time; and the dread of finding that they were no more, was so overcoming, that it neutralized the pleasure naturally resulting from the announcement of recovered liberty. " You are silent," said the lieutenant of police, “ I expected to see you exulting." “ I beg you will convey our thanks to the Emperor,” replied I, “ but as we have had no intelligence from our families, we must be under apprehensions of having lost the dearest objects of our affections. This uncertainty is overwhelming, even in a moment that we should most rejoice."
It happened that the Emperor had signed the decree for their liberation on the very day on which the Revolution of July had broken out at Paris, and this event had well nigh occasioned the révocation of that decree; but the interposition of the Court of Turin ultimately triumphed over this new obstacle, and after ten long years of captivity and suffering, Pellico was once more restored to his family at Turin.
The moral lessons that may be derived from the perusal of this narrative of his misfortunes, are neither few nor unimportant. Every page contains a practical illustration of the powerful aids of a sound and genuine philosophy, based upon religion, in fortifying the mind, and enabling it to triumph over the most appalling disasters. Every page breathes the purest spirit of philanthropy, and may be quoted as a specific against the cynicism and irritability which blacken and degrade human nature, and hold it up to scorn and contempt.
We may consider Pellico as a fine personification of his unhappy country: sacrificed to a degrading and relentless despotism, its spirit sinks, not under its multiplied afflictions, but vents itself in the cultivation of poetry and the arts, and its genius finds opportunities for its development under every form of circumstance.
Art. III.-— Records of a Voyage to the Western Coast of Africa,
in his Majesty's Ship Dryad, and of the Service on that Station, for the Suppression of the Slave Trade, in the years 1830, 1831, and 1832. By Peter LEONARD, Surgeon, Royal Navy. 1 vol. 12mo. Edinburgh: Tait. London: Longman, Rees, and Co. Dublin : Cumming. 1833.
The appearance of this work at once suggests to our minds what an ample field has been utterly neglected by the British government for obtaining information on a subject, than which none is deemed of greater importance in this country-we mean the foul commerce in human flesh, leniently designated by the title of the Slave Trade. It is not unknown to most of our readers, that for many years a British squadron has been stationed off the western coast of Africa, for the purpose of suppressing this disgraceful traffic, and that it has been the habitual practice for some time to provide an asylum for those Africans who, by British interference, were liberated from the grasp of their atrocious masters. A few moments' reflection will satisfy the most fastidious mind, that the opportunities afforded by the gradual accumulation of the poor negroes in Sierra Leone, should have been turned at least to some better account than that which has been made of them, with the view of illustrating upon moral grounds the enormity of the crime of one man chaining