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Silvio Pellico in the Austrian Dungeons.
ILVIO PELLICO, the story of whose wrongs has created a sympathizing interest over Europe, was born at Saluzzo, in Piedmont, a province of the Italian kingdom of Sardinia, in 1789, at which time his father, Honorato Pellico, held a situation in the post-office. He was afterward promoted to a seat in the ministry of war at Turin, to which place he removed with his family. Silvio was at that time six years of age, and had already given token of his poetical feelings. Ossian was the bard to whom his earliest years were consecrated. In his sixteenth year he accompanied his twin sister, to whom he was devotedly attached, to Lyons in France, where he remained till some verses of Foscolo, the most eminent of modern Italian pocts, awakened in his breast so passionate a reminiscence of his native country, that he hastened toward it, and rejoined his father, then settled at Milan. The latter was in the war department, under the government of Na
poleon, as king of Italy. The restoration of Lombardy to the emperor of Austria, on the overthrow of Bonaparte, displaced Honorato Pellico, who then returned to Turin, accompanied by all the members of his family, excepting Silvio, who manifested a disposition to remain at Milan.
Young Silvio, with a poetic temperament and love of letters, had formed an intimacy with Monti, Foscolo, and other eminent literary characters residing in Milan, the whole forming a brilliant society, who sighed over the abased condition of the country under a foreign yoke. Silvio himself became known as the author of a tragedy, which was acted in all the theaters of Italy with the highest applause, and is stated to have been translated into English by Lord Byron, though not published among his works. Pellico had become acquainted with Byron at Milan, and partaking the admiration, which was felt in Italy and Germany much more intensely than in Britain, for the poems of that noble personage, he translated into Italian prose the poetical drama of Manfred. Upon presenting it to Byron, the latter expressed his surprise that he should have turned a poem into prose; and as Pellico maintained it was impossible to translate it properly into poetry, Byron presented to him, upon a subsequent meeting, his
own tragedy in an English poetical dress, as a practical refutation of the opinion advanced by him.
The great acquirements of Pellico, and hist amiable and pleasing manners, rendered his society much sought after in Milan. The Count Briche committed to his care one of his sons, and subsequently he became tutor to the sons of Count Porro Lambertenghi, one of the wealthiest of the Lombardian nobility, in whose house he associated with persons of the first distinction. With the Count Porro himself he was
united in the closest friendship.
Distressed with the general want of enlightenment among the people, and conceiving that the establishment of a literary and scientific journal might improve the public mind, Silvio, in 1819, broached the idea to Porro and some of his literary companions. All were delighted with it; Count Porro advanced the funds necessary for the purpose, and the plan was put in execution. The journal was called "The Conciliator," and had for contributors men of the greatest eminence in Italy. Besides those resident in Milan, were Romagnosi, of Venice, a celebrated jurisconsult; Melchior Gioja, a political economist; Manzoni, at once a poet and prose writer of the first order; Grossi, the author of Ildagonda; and Brechet. Maroncelli,
fated to be Pellico's future companion in captivity, was also one of the contributors.
The press was under the strictest censorship. The Austrian government seemed to tremble at the least symptom of liberality of opinion. The Conciliator was soon exposed to the corrections. of the censor. Though politics were not discussed, the liberal tone of some of its articles on literature was offensive. They were erased, and the journal went forth with half its columns blank. It was therefore given up.
In 1820 the unfortunate revolution of Naples took place. The jealous government of Austria had its fears more than ever excited. A A proclamation was issued, attaching the penalty of death to the offense of belonging to a secret society. The party in Italy, whose object it was to cast off the galling yoke of foreigners, was styled that of the Carbonari, for the suppression of whom every Italian government diligently labored. The emperor of Austria was not in the rear. Numberless arrests were made, upon the merest suspicion of disaffection, throughout what he designated "the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom." Two distinguished citizens of Milan were exposed to the jealousy of the government, from the enlightened efforts they had made for the improvement of their country. These were the Counts Porro and
Confalonieri, who appropriated a great part of their possessions to the truly-patriotic designs of founding infant and other schools, of promoting the arts, and of introducing into Italy the great discoveries of modern times. Confalonieri visited Paris and London to study the modes of instruction in the schools of France and England, in order to institute them in Italy. He also sent from London the necessary apparatus for the manufacture of gas, for lighting the streets of Milan, the expense of which he and Porro bore jointly. They also, in conjunction with Alexander Visconti, constructed the first steamboat which appeared in Italy. These were exertions that rendered them objects of hatred and suspicion to the Austrians. The contributors to The Conciliator, established at the expense of Porro, were also looked upon with an evil eye. Orders for the arrest of them all were issued. Porro was the only person who escaped, by a timely flight into a foreign country. Confalonieri was taken from a sick-bed, and the arms of an affectionate wife. Pellico and the others were all arrested. Alas! poor Pellico. Let us follow him to prison, and hear him tell the story of his sufferings.*
• What follows is an abridgment of Pellico's narrative, translated from the original Italian.