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ly arrived from Paris. He possessed a certain air of polite assurance, which, joined to his ridiculous motions and absurd discourse, greatly increased the innate aversion I felt towards this frivolous art. So unconquerable was this aversion, that, after leaving school, I could never be prevailed on to join in any dance whatever. The very name of this amusement makes me shudder and laugh at the same time; a circumstance, which is by no means unusual with me. I attribute, in a great measure, to this dancing master the unfavourable, and perhaps erroneous, opinion I have formed of the French people, who, nevertheless, it must be confessed, possess many agreeable and estimable qualities; but it is difficult to weaken or efface impressions received in early youth. Reason lessens their influence as we advance in life; yet it is necessary to watch over ourselves, in order to judge without passion, and we are frequently so unfortunate as not to succeed. Two other causes also contributed to render me from my infancy disgusted with the French character. The first was the impression made on my mind by the sight of those ladies who accompanied the dutchess of Parma in her journey to Asti, and were all bedaubed with rouge; the use of which was then exclusively confined to the French. I have frequently mentioned this circumstance several years afterwards, not being able to account for such an absurd and ridiculous practice, which is wholly at variance with nature; for when either sick, intoxicated, or from any other cause, human beings besmear themselves with this detestable rouge, they carefully conceal it, well knowing that, when discovered, it only excites the laughter or pity of the beholders. These painted French figures left a deep and lasting impression on my mind, and inspired me with a certain feeling of disgust towards the females of this nation. “From my geographical studies resulted another cause of antipathy to that nation. Having seen on the chart the great difference in extent and population between England or Prussia and France, and hearing every time news arrived from the armies that the French had been beaten by sea and land; recalling to mind the first ideas of my infancy, during which I was told that the French had frequently been in possession of Asti, and that during the last time they had suffered themselves to be taken prisoners to the number of six or seven thousand, without resistance, after conducting
| themselves while they remained in possession of the place with the greatest insolence and tyranny; all these different circumstances being associated with the idea of the ridiculous dancing master, tended more and more to rivet in my mind an aversion to the French nation.” p. 83-86.
At the early age of fourteen, Alfieri was put in possession of a considerable part of his fortune, and launched immediately into every sort of fashionable folly and extravagance. His passion for horses, from which he was never entirely emancipated, now took entire possession of his soul; and his days were spent in galloping up and down the environs of Turin, in company chiefly with the young English, who were resident in that capital. From this society, and these exercises, he soon derived such improvement, that in a short time he became by far the most skilful jockey, farrier, and coachman, that modern Italy could boast of producing. For ten or twelve years after this period, the life of Alfieri presents a most humiliating, but instructive picture of idleness, dissipation and ennui. It is the finest and most flattering illustration of Miss Edgeworth's admirable tale of lord Glenthorn; and, indeed, rather outgoes than falls short of that high coloured and apparently exaggerated representation. Such, indeed, is the coincidence between the traits of the fictitious and the real character, that if these memoirs had been published when Miss Edgeworth's story was written, it would have been impossible not to suppose that she had derived from them every thing that is striking and extraordinary in her narrative. For two or three years, Alfieri contented himself with running, restless and discontented, over the different states and cities of Italy, almost ignorant of its language, and utterly indifferent both to its literature and its arts. Consunied, at every moment of inaction,
with the most oppressive discontent and unhappiness, he had no relief but in the velocity of his movements and the rapidity of his transitions. Disappointed with every lo and believing himself incapable of application or reflection, he passed his days in a perpetual fever of impatience and dissipation; apparently pursuing enjoyment with an eagerness which was in reality inspired by the vain hope of escaping from misery. There is much general truth, as well as peculiar character, in the following simple confession.
“In spite, however, of this constant whirl of dissipation; my being master of my own actions; notwithstanding I had plenty of money; was in the heyday of youth, and possessed a prepossessing figure; I yet felt every where satiety, ennui and disgust. My greatest pleasure consisted in attending the opera buffa, though the gay and lively musick left a deep and melancholy impression on my mind. A thousand gloomy and mournful ideas assailed my imagination, in which I delighted to indulge by wandering alone on the shores near the Chiaja and Portici.” I. p. 128.
When he gets to Venice, things are, if possible, still worse; though, like other hypochondriacks, he is disposed to lay the blame on the winds and the weather. The tumult of the carnival kept him alive, it seems, for a few days.
“But no sooner was the novelty over, than my habitual melancholy and ennui returned. I passed several days together in complete solitude, never, leaving the house, nor stirring from the window, whence I made signs to a young lady who lodged opposite, and with whom I ocEasionally exchanged a few words. During the rest of the day, which hung very heavy on my hands, I passed my time either in sleeping or in dreaming, I knew not which, and frequently in weeping without any apparent motive. I had lost my tranquillity, and I was unable even to divine what had deprived me of it. A few years afterwards, on investigating the cause of this occurrence, I discovered that it proceeded from a malady which attacked me every spring, some
Vol. Iy. C
times in April, and sometimes in June; its duration was longer or shorter, and its violence very different, according as my mind was occupied.
“I likewise experienced that my intellectual faculties resembled a barometer, and that I possessed more or less talent for composition, in proportion to the weight of the atmosphere. During the prevalence of the solstitial and equinoctial winds, I was always remarkably stupid, and uniformly evinced less penetration in the evening than the morning. I likewise perceived that the force of my imagination, the ardour of enthusiasm, and capability of invention, were possessed by me in a higher degree in the middle of winter, or in the middle of summer, than during the intermediate periods. This materiality, which I believe to be common to all men of a delicate nervous system, has greatly contributed to lessen the pride with which the good I have done might have inspired me, in like manner as it has tended to diminish the shame I might have felt for the errours I have committed, particularly in my own art.” H. 140-142.
In his nineteenth year, he extends his travels to France, and stops a few weeks at Marseilles, where he passed his evenings exactly as lord Glenthorn is represented to have done his at his Irish castle. To help away the hours, he went every night to the play, although his Italian ears were disgusted with the poverty of the recitation; and,
—“ after the performance was over, it was my regular practice to bathe every evening in the sea. I was induced to indulge myself in this luxury, in consequence of finding a very agreeable spot, on a tongue of land lying to the right of the harbour, where, seated on the sand, with my back leaning against a rock, I could behold the sea and sky without interruption. In the contemplation of these objects, embellished by the rays of the setting sun, I passed my time dreaming of future delights.” I. 150, 151.
In a very short time, however, these reveries became intolerable; and he very nearly killed himself and his horses in rushing, with incredible velocity, to Paris. This is his own account of the impression
which was made upon him by his first sight of this brilliant metropolis.
“It was on a cold, cloudy, and rainy morning, between the 15th and 20th of August, that I entered Paris, by the wretched suburb of Saint Marceau. Accustomed to the clear and serene sky of Italy and Provence, I felt much surprised at the thick fog which enveloped the city, especially at this season. Never in my life did I experience more disagreeable feelings than on entering the damp and dirty suburb of Saint Germain, where I was to take up my lodging. What inconsiderate haste, what mad folly had led me into this sink of filth and nastiness On entering the inn, I felt myself thoroughly undeceived; and I should certainly have set off again immediately, had not shame and fatigue withheld me. My illusions were still further dissipated when I began to ramble through Paris. The mean and wretched buildings; the contemptible ostentation displayed in a few houses dignified with the pompous appellation of hotels and palaces; the filthiness of the Gothick churches; the truly Vandal-like construction of the publick theatres at that time, besides innumerable other disagreeable objects, of which not the least disgusting to me was the plastered countenances of many very ugly women, far outweighed in my mind the beauty and elegance of the publick walks and gardens, the infinite variety of fine carriages, the lofty façade of the Louvre, as well as the number of spectacles and entertainments of every kind.” I. 153, 154.
There, then, as was naturally to be expected, he again found himself tormented “by the demon of melancholy;” and, after trying in vain the boasted stimulant of play, he speedily grew wearied of the place and all its amusements, and resolved to set off, without delay, for England. To England, accordingly he goes, at midwinter; and with such a characteristick and compassionable craving for all sorts of powerful sensations, that he rejoiced exceedingly at the extreme cold, which actually froze the wine and bread in his carriage during a part of the journey. Prepared, as he was, for disappointment by the continual extravagance of his expectation, Alfieri was delighted with
England. “The roads, the inns, the horses, and above all, the incessant bustle in the suburbs, as well as in the capital, all conspired to fill my mind with delight.” He passed a part of the winter in good society in London; but soon “becoming disgusted with assemblies and routs, determined no longer to play the lord in the drawing room, but the coachman at the gate:” and accordingly contrived to get through three laborious months, by being & five or six hours every morning on horseback, and being seated on the coachbox for two or three hours every evening, whatever was the state of the weather.” Even these great and meritorious exertions, however, could not long keep down his inveterate malady, nor quell the evil spirit that possessed him; and he was driven to make a hasty tour through the west of England, which appears to have afforded him very considerable relief.
“The country then so much enchanted me that I determined to settle in it; not that I was much attached to any individual, but because I was delighted with the scenery; the simple manners of the inhabitants; the modesty and beauty of the women; and, above all, with the enjoyment of political liberty, all which made me overlook its mutable climate, the melancholy almost inseparable from it, and the exorbitant price of all the necessaries of life.” I. 162, 163.
Scarcely, however, was this bold resolution of settling adopted, when the author is again “seized with the mania of travelling;” and skims over to Holland in the beginning of summer. And here he is still more effectually diverted than ever, by falling in love with a young married lady at the Hague, who was obliging enough to return his affection. Circumstances, however, at lastcompel the fair one to rejoin her husband in Switzerland; and the impetuous Italian is affected with such violent despair, that he makes a desperate attempt on his life, by taking
off the bandages after being let blood, and returns sullenly to Italy, without stopping to look at any thing, or uttering a single word to his servant during the whole course of the journey. This violent fit of depression, however, and the seclusion by which it was followed, led him for the first time, to look into his books; and the perusal of the lives of Plutarch seems to have made such an impression on his ardent and susceptible spirit, that a passion for liberty and independence now took the lead of every other in his soul, and he became for life an emulator of the ancient republicans. He read the story of Timoleon, Brutus, &c. he assures us, with floods of tears, and agonies of admiration. “I was like one beside himself, and shed tears of mingled grief and rage at having been born at Piedmont, and at a period, and under a government, where it was impossible to conceive or execute any great design.” The same sentiment, indeed, seems to have haunted him for the greater part of his life; and is expressed in many passages of these memoirs besides the following. “Having lived two or three years almost wholly among the English; having heard their power and riches every where celebrated; having contemplated their great political influence, and on the other hand viewing Italy wholly degraded from her rank as a nation, and the Italians divided, weak, and enslaved, I was ashamed of being an Italian, and wished not to possess any thing in common with this nation.” I. p. 121. “I was naturally attached to a domestick life; but after having visited England at nineteen, and read Plutarch with the greatest interest at twenty years of age, I experienced the most insufferable repugnance at marrying and having my children born at Turin.” I. p. 175. The time, however, was not yet come when study was to ballast and anchor this agitated spirit. Plutarch was soon thrown aside; and the patriot and his horses gallop off to Vienna. The state of his mind, both
as to idleness and politicks, is strikingly represented in the following short passage.
“I might easily, during my stay at Vienna, have been introduced to the celebrated poet Metastasio, at whose house our minister, the old and respectable count Canale, passed his evenings in a select company of men of letters, whose chief amusement consisted in reading portions from the Greek, Latin and Italian classicks. Having taken an affection for me, he wished, out of pity to my idleness, to conduct me thither. But I declined accompanying him, either from my usual awkwardness, or from the contempt which the constant habit of reading French works had given me for Italian productions. Hence I concluded that this assemblage of men of letters, with their classicks, could be only a dismal company of pedants. Besides, I had seen Metastasio, in the gardens of Shoenbrunn, perform the customary genuflexion to Maria Theresa in such a servile and adulatory manner, that I, who had my head stuffed with Plutarch, and who embellished every theory, could not think of binding myself, either by the ties of familiarity or friendship, with a poet who had sold himself to a despotism which I so cordially detested.” I. p. 182, 183.
From Vienna he flew to Prussia, which he says, looked all like one great guardhouse; and where he could not repress “the horrour and indignation he felt at beholding oppression and despotism assuming the mask of virtue.” From Prussia he passed on to Denmark; where his health was seriously affected by the profligacy in which he indulged; and where the only amusement he could relish, consisted in “driving a sledge with inconceivable velocity over the snow.” In this way he wandered on through Sweden and Finland to Russia; and experienced, as usual, a miserable disappointment on arriving at St. Petersburg.
“Alas! no sooner had I reached this Asiatick assemblage of wooden huts, than Rome, Genoa, Venice, and Florence, rose to my recollection; and I could not refrain from laughing. What I afterwards saw of this country tended still more strongly to confirm my first impression, that it merited not to be seen. Every thing except their
beards and their horses disgusted me so much, that during six weeks I remained among these savages, I wished not to become acquainted with any one, nor even to see the two or three youths with whom I had associated at Turin, and who were descended from the first families of the country. I took no measure to be presented to the celebrated autocratrix, Catherine II; nor did I ever behold the countenance of a sovereign who in our days has outstripped fame. On investigating, at a future period, the reason of such extraordinary conduct, I became convinced that it proceeded from a certain intolerance of character, and a hatred to every species of tyranny, and which in this particular instance attached itself to a person suspected of the most horrible crime—the murder of a defenceless husband.” I. p. 194, 195.
This rage for liberty continued to #. him in his return through
russia, and really seems to have reached its acmé when it dictated the following most preposterous passage, which we cannot help suspecting, is indebted for part of its absurdity to the translator.
“I visited Zorndorff, a spot rendered famous by the sanguinary battle fought between the Russians and Prussians, where thousands of men on both sides were imrnolated on the altar of despotism, and thus escaped from the galling yoke which oppressed them. The place of their interment was easily recognised by its greater verdure, and by yielding more abundant crops than the barren and unproductive soil in its immediate vicinity. On this occasion, I reflected with sorrow, that slaves seem every where only born to fertilize the soil on which they vegetate.” I. p. 196, 197.
After this he meets with a beautiful ass at Gottingen, and regrets that his indolence prevented him from availing himself of this excellent opportunity for writing some immeasurably facetious verses “upon this rencounter of a German and an Italian ass in so celebrated a university " After a hasty expedition to Spa, he again traverses Germany and Holland, and returns to England in the twenty-third year of his age, where he is speedily involved in some very distressing and discreditable adventures. He en
husband's groom, whose jealous re
sentment led him to watch and ex
pose this new infidelity. After many
struggles between shame, resentment, and unconquerable love, he
at last tears himself from this sad sample of English virtue, and makes
his way to Holland, bursting with
grief and indignation; but without seeming to think that there was the
slightest occasion for any degree of contrition or self-condemnation.— From Holland he goes to France, and from France to Spain—as idle, and more oppressed with himself than ever, buying and caressing Andalusian horses, and constantly ready to sink under the heavy burden of existence. At Madrid he has set down an extraordinary trait of the
dangerous impetuosity of his temper.
His faithful servant, in combing his hair, happened accidently to give
him a little pain by stretching one
hair a little more than the rest, upon which, without saying one word, he first seized a candlestick, and felled him to the ground with a huge wound in his temple, and then drew his sword to despatch him, upon his offering to make some resistance.
The sequel of the story is somewhat more creditable to his magnanimity, than this part of it is to his selfcommand.
“I was shocked at the brutal excess of assion into which I had fallen. Though Clias was somewhat calmed, he still appeared to retain a certain degree of resentment; yet I was not disposed to display towards him the smallest distrust. Two hours after his wound was dressed I went to bed, leaving the door open, as usual, between my apartment and the