« ElőzőTovább »
Again,-" On the subject of hospitals, I shall only add, that in many of them the sick are attended, and the ignorant in. structed, by persons who devote themselves voluntarily to that disgusting and laborious task, and perform it with a tenderness and a delicacy which personal attachment, or the still more active and disinterested principle of Christian charity, is alone capable of inspiring." After describing a more private species of charity, Mr Eustace adds,-“From these funds, the poor of Italy,—a class more numerous there than in most other countries, owing in general to its great population, and in particular to the stagnating commerce, the declining manufactures, and the narrow policy of many of its States--are supported with comfort to themselves, and with a certain sense of independence, without the oppressive burthen of poor rates, so inadequate to their object, and so galling to the community. After these details, in which I am not conscious of exaggeration or of misrepresentation, I think myself warranted in concluding, that a religion which thus manifests its influence by so many effusions of devotion, and by. so many deeds of benevolence, must be or I know not what can be, true genține Christianity.” Mr.' Eustace. then corrects the misrepresentations which have been given of the ignorance of the Italians :-“ In the diocese of Milan, or to speak more properly, in the vast tract of country included between the Alps and the Appennines, and subject to the visitation of the Archiepiscopal See of Milan, in every parochial church the bell tolls at two o'clock on every Sunday in the year, and all the youth of the parish assemble in the church ; the girls are placed on one side, and the boys on the other; they are then divided into classes according to their ages and their progress, and instructed either by the clergy attached to the church, or by pious persons who voluntarily devote their time to this most useful employment; while the pastor himself goes from class to class, examines sometimes one, sometimes another, and closes the whole at four o'clock by a catechistical discourse." In other parts of Italy, children are catechised regularly, and almost invaribly, in the parish church, by their pastor; and besides these general instructions, every young person is obliged to attend a course of instruction for some months previous to the first communion, and again before confirmation. It may perhaps be asked what the catechisms contain, and whether they are compiled with judgment and discretion ? As I have several of these little elementary books in my possession, I am enabled to answer that they contain an explanation of the Creed, the Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the Sacraments, and have sometimes annexed an acconnt of the festivals, fasts, and public ceremonies--so that whatever redundances the Protestant reader may find in the compilation, he can never complain of the omission or of the neglect of essentials. The truth is, and in spite of prejudice it must be spoken, the Italian common people are, to say the least, full as well acquainted with the truths, the duties, and the motives of religion, as the same class in England ; and instances of very gross ignorance seldom occur, unless in the superabundant population of great towns, and of overgrown capitals. It is, I know. generally believed, that the principal source of religious information is shut up in Italy (and indeed in all Catholic countries), by the brohibition of translated bibles; but this opinion, though supported by the united authority of the pulpit and of the press, is founded upon a slight mistake. Translations, when supposed to alter the sense, or to degrade the dignity of the Sacred Writings (and many such have been circulated in most countries) are prohibited; when considered as tolerably accurate, they are allowed and encouraged. Of the latter desscription, an Italian translation exists, penned with great elegance, and 'recommended to public perusal by no less than papal authority.” Mr. Butler in his “Reminiscences,” says of instruction~"He presumes to assert, that taking a protestant boy of the age of ten years, who has read the bible in the manner in which it is usually read before that age in England, and a Catholic boy of the same age who has been taught the French Catechism and Fleury's Historical Catechism in the manner in which these were usually taught even to the poorest French children, the latter will be found to have a fuller and clearer knowledge of the history, the morality, and the religion of the Old and New Testaments than the former.” “In a rescript addressed by his Holiness Pius the Seventh to the Vicars Apostolic of Great Britain, dated 8th of April, 1820, bis Holiness exhorts them to take care that the faithful
abstain from reading the wicked books in which, in these calamitous times, our religion is worthlessly attacked from all sides; and that they should be strengthened in faith and good works, by the reading of pious books, and particularly the Holy Scriptures in editions approved by the Church-you preceding them by word and example."
After this digression, we return to Mr. Eustace, who defends the Italian Church from the charges of bigotry, superstition, idolatry, ignorance, debauchery, and immorality, concluding thus :-“In fine, I may venture to assure the English traveller that he may pass the night in any convent in Italy without the least chance of being alarmed by sounds of midnight revelry, and without the smallest danger from the daggers of a Schedoni, a Belloni, or of any such hooded ruffian; that the tolling of bells and perhaps the swell of an organ, may chance to disturb his morning slumbers; and that some benevolent Father Lorenzo may inquire, rather unseasonably, about his health and repose.
Mr. Eustace thus accounts for the disgrace which has sometimes attended the religious character :-" The traveller must not confound with the clergy, a set of men who wear the clerical habit merely as a convenient dress, that enables them to appear respectable in public places, to insinuate themselves into good company, and sometimes to cover principles and conduct very opposite to the virtues implied by such a habit. The intrigues and vices of these adyentures have too often been attributed, by hasty and ignorant persons, to the body whose uniform they presume to wear, with just as much reason as the deceptions of swindlers might be ascribed to the gentlemen whose names are sometimes assumed for such sinister purposes." In speaking of the Benedictine Order, Mr. Eustace says,“ To it, England in particular is most deeply indebted, for from the labours of the zealous Augustin and of his associates and followers, she has derived her religion, her creeds, her hierarchy, her sacraments ; to them she owes the knowledge of the ancient languages and of the ancient arts; they founded her two Universities, duo lumina regni; they erected twelve of her most magnificent cathedrals, and they raised a thousand other superb edifices, which, though now in ruins only, are still the ornament of the country and the admiration of travelless. After alluding to some abuses, Mr. Eustace says :
remove them entirely is difficult: to eradicate them at once would be dangerous and perhaps not possible. The whole business of reform must be left to the zeal of enlightened pastors, to public opinion, to the inquisitive and critical spirit of the age, and to Time, so apt to destroy his own works, and to root up weeds which he himself has planted.” “At all events, one obvious reflection presents itself to console the benevolent and truly christian reader, whose expansive heart embraces all mankind, and who of course wishes rather to enlarge than to narrow the conditions of pardon and the pale of salvation. Of all the abuses here enumerated, not one in the opinion of an enlightened protestant, can touch the essence of christianity; not one can obscure the splendor of the Divine perfections ; not one can affect the mediation of the Redeemer, or obstruct the action and efficient operation of the three prime and allenlivening virtues of faith, of hope, and of charity. On the contrary, most, if not all, may be attributed to a well-intended, though an ill-directed zeal-a fault, which of all the failings incidental to human nature, undoubtedly deserves the greatest indulgence. With this reflection ever uppermost in his mind, the most zealous protestant may traverse Italy with composure, bear its abuses with temper, treat a monk or even a friar with civility, and still consider himself as in a christian country.”,
CHARACTER OF THE ITALIANS. Having seen what Mr. Eustace says of the religion of the Italians' let us procced to his view of their general character: “ Never, surely, were any portraits more overcharged and more unlike the original, than the pictures which some travellers have drawn (at leisure apparently) and given to the public, as the characters of the Italians. If we may credit these impartial gentlemen, the Italians combine in their hearts almost every, vice that can defile and degrade human nature. They are ignorant and vain, effeminate and cruel, cowardly and treacherous, false in their professions, knavish in their dealings, and hypocritical in their religion: so debauched as to live in promiscuous adultery, yet so jealous as to murder their rivals; so impious as scarcely to believe in God, yet so bigotted as to burn all who reject their superstitions ; void of all patriotism, yet proud of the glory of their ancestors; in short, wallowing
in sensual indulgence, and utterly lost to all sense of virtue, honour, and improvement. Hence, is a scene of lewdness or debauchery to be introduced into a romance? It is placed in an Italian convent. Is an assassin wanted to frighten ladies in the country or to terrify a London mob on the stage? An Italian appears, a monk or a friar, probably with a dose of poison in one hand and a dagger in the other. Is a crime too great for utterance to be presented dimly to the imagination ? It is half disclosed in an Italian confessional. 'In short, is some inhuman plot to be executed, or is religion to be employed as the means or the instrument of lust or revenge ? The scene is laid in Italy. The contrivers and the perpetrators are Italians; and to give it a more diabolical effect, a convent or a church is the stage, and clergymen of some description or other are the actors of the tragedy. These misrepresentations, absurd and ill-founded as they are, have been inserted in so many books of travels, and interwoven with so many popular tales, that they have at length biassed public opinion, and excited a distrust and an antipathy towards the Italian nation.” After these sensible remarks, Mr. Eustace proceeds to shew that the Italian national character, from the tenth to the seventeenth century, the period of great and flourishing republics, was equal to that of Greece in the zenith of her glory. And he quotes Denina to shew that “Rome herself never beheld more splendid days since the extinction of her empire than during the seventeenth century ; nor had Italy from the same era, been more free from barbarian influence, ever enjoyed more tranquillity at home, or been more respected abroad, than during the years that preceded the French Revolution.” After defending the national character of the Italians, Mr. Eustace proceeds to their private character. He praises their hospitality, courage, learning, acuteness, industry, gaiety of temper, and other good qualities. He shews that the immorality which has been charged against them, especially as regards the intercourse between the sexes, is not greater than in most other countries, and that the accusations of cruelty and vindictiveness bave very little foundation in truth.-With respect to education, he says,
"The peasantry of the north of Italy, particularly of the Piedmontese and Milanese territories, and those of Tuscany,