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The assassins were introduced into the Rock on the 8th of September 1598; “ but as it happened to be the day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, Signora Lucrezia restrained by her veneration for that solemn anniversary, put off the execution, with the consent of her daughter-in-law, till the day following.” On the evening of that day, an opiate was put into Cenci's drink. He went to bed, and fell into a profound sleep; and at midnight, Beatrice herself took the assassins into his chamber. Having told them what to do, she retired into an anti-room where her mother was waiting. In a little while, the assasins returned, and said that their compassion had overcome them, and that they could not conquer their repugnance to kill in cold blood, a miserable old man who was sleeping. Beatrice heard them with scorn and indignation. “ If you are afraid,” said she, to put to death a man in his sleep, I, myself, will kill my father; but your own lives shall not have long to run.'' The men intimidated at this, returned to the chamber. In a little time they came back. The deed was done. The assassins received the rest of their reward ; and to Marzio (for what reason does not appear; probably because he had been the least backward) Beatrice gave a mantle laced with gold. The body was thrown over a terrace into the garden, so that it might seem to have fallen by accident, while the old man was moving about in the night-time.
The women next day affected great sorrow. A sumptuous burial was given to the deceased; and the family, after a little stay, returned to Rome, where they are described as living in tranquillity for some time. In the mean while, the youngest son of Cenci died, so that there remained but two, Giacomo and Bernardo.
The Court of Naples however, whose interference at this point of time is not accounted for, unless the banditti, who were from that kingdom, had let the secret transpire, sent a commissioner to make enquiries into the nature of Cenci's death. The usual petty circumstances of suspicion came out, and were laid before the Court of Rome; yet the latter took no further steps for several months. Guerra, who was afraid that the assassins might turn evidence, hired others to get them out of the way; but Marzio escaped. He got imprisoned however at Naples; and having made an ample confession, was sent to Rome. Here he was confronted with the Cenci, who denied all that he said, particularly Beatrice. Her extraordinary firmness and presence of mind is described as so astonishing the man, that he retracted every thing he had deposed at Naples; and rather than confess, chose to expire under the torment.
The law being now perplexed how to proceed, the Cenci were transferred to the Castle, where they lived uninterruptedly for several months. Unluckily, one of the bravoes who had killed Olimpio was taken up, and confessed that he had been employed by Monsignor Guerra. Timely notice, by some means or other, was given to the bishop, and he escaped. He had difficulty in doing so, because he was a remarkable looking man with a fair face and hair, and the offi. cers were on the alert: but he contrived it. He changed clothes with a coal-man, smutted his face and shaved his head, and driving two asses before him, with an onion and a piece of bread in his hand, passed
out of the city under their very eyes. He encountered with equal good luck the officers who were on the look out in the neighbourhood; and got safe into another country.
The flight of the prelate however, together with the confession of Olimpio's murderer, brought the hand of the law heavily upon the Cenci. They were now put to the torture. The courage of the men was prostrated at once ( cederono vilmente," says the Manuscript), and they remained convicted. Signora Lucrezia, a woman of fifty years of age and large in person, not being able to resist the Torment of the Cord-(Here the Original is wanting) --But not one single criminating word,” continues the document, “ either by fair means or foul, by threats or by tortures, could be got out of the lips of Beatrice. Her vivacity and eloquence confounded even the judges.” One of them, Signor Ulisse Morčati, represented the matter to the Pope, who suspected him of having been overcome by the sufferer's beauty, and appointed another in his room. The new judge ordered a fresh torture to be applied, called the 'Torture of the Hair; and when she was tied up ready for it, the rest of the family were brought in and entreated her to confess. At first she refused, "6 You would all die then,” said she, “and extinguish our honour and our house? This ought not to be; but since it pleases you, so be it.” She then turned to the officers to let her loose, and asked for copies of the several examinations; adding, “ What I should confess, I will confess :—what I should approve, I will approve :-what I should deny, I will deny." After this fashion, says the MS., she stood convicted, though she did not confess,
The affair rested here again in a very extraordinary manner. Probably (though the MS. is far from hinting such a thing) some money matters were under the consideration of his Holiness, deep questions as to the difference of fines and confiscations. The parties were sepa. rated from each other for five months. They were then allowed to meet one day at dinner; and then again they were divided. At length, the Holy Father, after having seen them all confronted, and examined the confession, sentenced them to be drawn at the cart’s-tail and beheaded.
Great interest was made, by princes and cardinals, for allowing the criminals a legal defence. The Pope, who had shewn himself hostile from the first, answered these requests with severity, and asked, 6 what defence Cenci had, when he was so barbarously murdered in his sleep." At last he yielded the point, and gave thein five-andtwenty days to look about them. The most eminent advocates in Romae prepared the defence, and appeared before him at the proper time with their respective papers.
The first that spoke was impas tiently interrupted by his Holiness, who said he was astonished to find in Rome children so barbarous as to kill their father, and adyocates so bold as to defend such a villainy. At these words all the counsel were struck dumb, with the exception of the Advocate Tarrinacci, who replied, Holy Father, we are not here at your feet to defend the bru. tality of the deed itself, but to save the lives of such as may be innocent nevertheless, if your Holiness will listen to us.” The Pope, upon this, listened patiently for four hours. Tarinacci's defence proceeded upon the only possible ground, and appears to have contained a strength and eloquence worthy of his spirit. He halanced the wrongs of father and children against each other. The sons were made out to be the least concerned, and the weight of the murder thrown purposely upon Beatrice, who had been so atrociously and unspeakably outraged. The Pope sat up all the following night with one of the Cardinals, considering the defence point by point; and the upshot was, that he gave the criminals a hope of escaping death, and ordered that they should again be at comparative liberty.
Unfortunately for this new and unexpected turn in their affairs, a nobleman of the name of Paolo Santa Croce assassinated, at this point of time, his own mother, for not bequeathing him her inheritance. This renewed the Pope's bitterness against those who had set an example of parricide; and what increased it, was the light of Santa Croce who eluded the hands of justice. He sent for the Governor of the city, and ordered the Cenci to be publicly executed forth with. Many of the nobility hastened to his different palaces to implore at least a private death for the ladies; but he would not consent. They could only obtain the pardon of Bernardo, whom the MS. calls - the innocent Bernardo," and whose treatment both past and to come is thus rendered inexplicable.
The sentence was executed next day, Saturday, the 11th of May 1599, on the bridge of St. Angelo. Beatrice, on receiving news of the sentence, felt, for the first time, her young heart fail her; and burst into bitter and wild lamentations on the necessity of dying. 66 Oh God!" she cried out, “how is it possible to die so suddenly!" Iler mother-in-law, whose greater age and perhaps less hope of escaping death, had softened more into patience, comforted her in the most affectionate manner, and got her quietly into the chapel. Beatrice soon recovered herself, and behaved with a gentle firmness propora tionate to the wildness of her first grief. She made a will, in which she left fifteen thousand scudi to the Confraternity of the Sacred Stigmas (the Wounds of Christ), and the whole of her dowry to portion fifty female orphans in marriage. Lucrezia left a will in the same spirit. They then recited psalms, litanies, and other prayers; and at eight o'clock confessed themselves, heard mass, and received the sacrament. The funeral procession called for them on it's way, having already taken up the two brothers, to the younger of whom the Pope's pardon was announced, informing him at the same time that he must witness the executions. Beatrice and Lucrezia were habited like nuns. On their way to the scaffold a striking thing was observed. Lucrezia's handkerchief was continually applied to wipe away. her tears; Bea. trice's only to dry up the moisture on her forehead.
When the procession arrived at the scafiold, and the criminals with. drew for a while to a chapel, the poor young Bernardo, condemned to see his nearest relations executed before his very eyes, fell into an agony and fainting fit, and was recovered only to be placed opposite the block. The first who mounted the scaffold was Lucrezia. paring for death, the drapery was discomposed about her bosom, which though she was fifty years of age, was still beautiful. She blushed and cast down her eyes, but raised them again in prayer; and then adjust
ing herself to the block, was in the act of repeating the words, in the 51st psalm, “ According to the multitude of thy tender mercies," when her head was struck off. While the block was being prepared for Beatrice, a place on which some of the spectators stood broke down, to their great hurt. Beatrice hearing the noise, asked if her mother had died well, and being told she had, knelt down before a crucifix, and said, “ Thanks without end be to thee, O most merciful Redeemer, for having given in the good death of my mother a sure proof of thy pity towards me.” Then rising on her feet, “all courage and devo. tion," she walked towards the scaffold, putting up prayers as she went with such a fervour of spirit, that all who heard her melted into tears. Ilaving ascended the scaffold, she accommodated her head to the block, and looking up once more towards heaven, prayed thus: “ O most affectionate Jesus, who abandoning thy divinity, didst become human; and didst will, in thy love, to purge from it's mortal blot even this
my sinful soul with thy precious blood; ah, grant, I pray thee, that that which I am now about to shed, may suffice before thy merciful tribunal to do away my great misdeeds, and to save me from some part of the punishment which is justly my due." Having said thus, she laid down her head again on the block and began the 130th Psalm--- Out of the depths have I cried upto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears"-At these words her head was severed from her body:
The latter underwent such a violent convulsion, that one of the legs is said to have almost leaped up. At sight of liis sister's death, Bernardo swooned away again, and did not recover' his
senses for a quarter of an hour. the turn of the last sufferer, Giacomo. He first gave a stedfast look at Bernardo, and then said aloud, that if he went into a state of bliss instead of punishment he would pray for the welfare of the Pope, who had remitted the tormenting part of his just sentence and saved his brother's life; and that the only affliction he had in his last moments, was that his brother was compelled to look upon a scene so dreadful: "but," added he, “as it has so pleased thee, O my God, thy will be done.” He then kuelt down, and was killed with a blow of a leaded club. The executions being over, Bernardo was taken back to prison, where he fell into a long and violent fever. He was kept there four months, “when at the request of the Venerable Arch-Confraternity of the Most Holy Crucifix of St. Marcello he obtained the favour of being set at liberty, after paying to the Hospital of the Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims the sum of 25,000 scudi.” He lived to have a son, named Cristofero, at the time when the MS. was written; but we know not how long the family stock survived.
Thus ended this dreadful tragedy of mistakes; in which the most privileged were made fiends, the most virtuous murderers, and the customs that undertook to punish them were the cause of all.
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There he arriving round about doth flie,
No. XLII.-WEDNESDAY, JULY 26th, 1820.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CENCI FAMILY, AND TRAGEDY ON
(CONCLUDED FROM LAST WEEK.)
“The highest moral purpose aimed at in the highest species of the drama, is the teaching the human heart, through its sympathies and antipathies, the knowledge of itself; in proportion to the possession of which knowledge, every human being is wise, just, sincere, tolerant, and kind. If doymas can do more, it is well: but a drama is no fit place for the enforcement of them. Undoubtedly, no person can be truly dishonoured by the act of another; and the fit return to make to the most enormous injuries is kindness and forbearance, and a resolution to convert the injurer from his dark passions by love and peace. Revenge, retaliation, atonement, are pernicious mistakes. If Beatrice had thought in this manner, she would have been wiser and better; but she would never have been a tragic character: the few whom such an exhibition would have interested, could never have been sufficiently interested for a domestic purpose, from the want of finding sympathy in their interest among the mass who surround them. It is in the restless and anatomizing casuistry with which men seek the justification of Beatrice, yet feel that she has done what needs justification; it is in the superstitious horror with which they contemplate alike her wrongs and revenge; that the dramatic character of what she did and suffered, consists.”
Thus speaks Mr. Shelley, in the preface to his tragedy of the Cenci,-a preface beautiful for the majestic sweetness of its diction, and still more lovely for the sentiments that flow forth with it. There is no living author, who writes a preface like Mr. Shelley. The intense interest which he takes in his subject, the consciousness he has upon him nevertheless of the interests of the surrounding world, and the natural dignity with which a poet and philosopher, sure of his own