Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

profoundly philosophical, she would, like the Duchess of Bourgogne, have cheered the old age of Louis XIV. by her witty sayings; she would, in the early days of her youth, have roused, by her numerous attractions, the worn-out passions of Louis XV.

All this, let it be said without sarcasm for that vast number of young women, amiable, well-informed, regular, reasonable, and far from void of beauty, whom the higher classes and the middle classes rival one another in bringing up in a style which tends every day to confound the two classes more and more together.

Those exchanges of titles of nobility for large fortunes, which were so common under the Restoration, continued under the Monarchy of July. Under this latter régime, the balance to be made in a contract between a coat of arms and a dowry was regulated with increased parsimony, and not always so much in favour of the escutcheon. Many a young woman, inheritor of the paternal millions, laboriously accumulated in the practice of a more or less liberal profession, purchased her title of countess, and her right of presentation in the salons of the Faubourg of St. Germain, for a very modest annuity settled upon the husband, who was in no way allowed to interfere with the capital from whence it was derived. Under the junior branch, the purchase of a title of nobility experienced a great decline in value.

The parliamentary government upheld, it must be acknowledged, if not an elegant and refined phraseology in the salons, at least a certain degree of taste and ability. But still it cannot be gainsaid, that among the women who gave themselves the greatest trouble to lead the fashion, no small number were also "women of business." Many a beauty with charming eyes and most attractive and poetic countenance, in the midst of the emotions of daily life and the thousand cares and anxieties inseparable from their pretensions, would exhibit greater skill in detecting the combinations of the Bourse than her husband, absorbed in stock-exchange speculations, and having little or nothing else to think of. One of the most fashionable women of the Government of July, and whose exceeding beauty would have filled the salons of the Empire and the Restoration with admiration, allowed herself to be particularly carried away by what, in her case, was a family passion for gambling in the funds. She would conceive and follow out combinations of the most extensive bearing, and often conduct them to a fortunate result such as she herself had alone foreseen; and all that united to a noble patronage of art, and an admirable appreciation for intelligence and originality of views.

The most modest artist was favoured with the same delicate attentions in the salons of that lady, whose aspect and attitudes were those of a duchess, as the leading diplomatists, financiers, or statesmen of the day. A strong inclination for all that is beautiful and rare creates the love of money, and hence it is that, amidst the progress of commerce and of industry, many women, who, one would think, could have nothing better to do than to cultivate their beauty and study their dress, display a practical capacity for the most difficult and complicated affairs.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the great ladies of the court had nothing but gambling with which to ruin or to enrich themselves in our times, intellect and talent play a far greater part in the

combinations which propose to themselves the acquiring of a large fortune as a result. The possession of riches has not, however, the effect of deadening the sympathies of these great ladies; on the contrary, their natural tendencies are always towards generous and noble actions.

The women in that numerous gallery of portraits sketched by the masterly hand of Saint Simon, ever absorbed in their beauty, their great luxury, and their brilliant pleasures, combined with the transaction of a serious business, are wanting in this last great feature. None showed themselves equal to the task of uniting the imagination of a Law or a Colbert with the severe and charming attitudes of a Maintenon, the lovely coquetry of a Duchess of Bourgogne, or the tender and loving heart of a La Vallière.

A few political salons flourished under the Monarchy of July. A title of nobility, a large fortune, a graceful hospitality, personal charms, or the reputation of beauty, do not suffice for a person of distinction, loving the world, to draw around her men of standing, occupying or having occupied high stations, and to create a centre of conversation which shall above all things be well informed upon the affairs of the moment. It requires, to produce such a result, to have kept up intimate relations with the distinguished men of other countries as well as of one's own. How clever and ready must the hostess also be, who has always at her command the language which is best adapted for those whom she has to address, and finds words to gratify every one?

Members of the two chambers-ministers, artists, and literary menwere among the privileged classes in the salons of the time of Louis Philippe, sometimes presided over by a great foreign lady. These intimate and familiar reunions brought political men together, and more than one result, useful to the country, was thus often brought about amidst those conflicts of opinion which arise from parliamentary discussion. Many an academical election was also decided by the influences of the salons, and there still exist little groups of academicians, who, by their worldly habits, evidently consider themselves as necessary elements of fashionable society.

Women have been sovereigns, and have seen themselves surrounded by flatterers in all ages. In Homer we find old men admiring the graces of Helen, exalting her charms and attractions, and grieving over the power of such fatal seductions. Theocritus, full of sentiment and passion, makes his companions and rivals join with him in singing the beauty of the daughter of Tyndarus. The munificence of emperors and kings has raised statues and palaces to those whom they have loved. This somewhat pagan worship for the beauty of women no longer exists in our times. Women reign, and always will reign, over the heart; but in the present day the young woman and wife is rather an object of respect and esteem than of attentions and gallantry. Clubs, which multiply every day, keep men away from female society; they lose the influence of their mild and beneficial example, and they oblige the more refined sex to put up with their own rude and masculine habits, even to the smoking of cigars. The nineteenth century is very far removed from the time when a La Rochefoucauld said to a Duchess of Longueville:

Pour mériter son cœur, pour plaire à ses beaux yeux,
J'ai fait la guerre aux rois; je l'aurai faite aux dieux!

SKETCHES OF THE ITALIAN REVOLUTION.

BY AN EYE-WITNESS.

PART I.

I HAVE ever been a lover of the "dolce far niente," and I have always found this favourite pursuit most to my taste when I could indulge it beneath the blue skies and amidst the balmy breezes of the sweet South. This lazy disposition led me into Italy in the winter of 1845 and I was not driven away by the approach of spring-the usual signal for the flight of travellers, who, swallow-like, migrate in a body towards the chilly North at the first ray of the bright sunshine which ushers in the luxurious summer of the favoured peninsula.

On the morning of the 1st of June, 1846, I was sauntering down the Corso at Rome, resolved to lounge away the summer day, until the hour at which I was invited, together with the whole Roman society, to a fête at Prince Torlonia's villa, beyond the Porta Pia. I happened to enter a shop for some trifling purchase, and I soon learnt, from the eager questions of several persons whom I found there, that the expected entertainment was postponed. Upon inquiring the cause of this sudden change of intention, I received the first intimation of an event which was totally unforeseen by any person beyond the walls of the Vatican"E morto il Sovrano."

Gregory XVI. died that morning. No one had been apprised of his danger. Although he had been confined to his room for a few days by a swelling in the leg, so slight an inconvenience had created no alarm, and had scarcely been known to any but his immediate attendants. Mortification came on suddenly; and in a few hours the good old man had ceased to breathe. This Pope had been a monk; and when visiting his palaces, I have often seen, beneath the stately canopies and the gold-embroidered coverings which protect the slumbers of the Chief of Catholic Christendom, the hard sacking upon which he really slept after his elevation to the Roman purple, as he had previously done amidst the austerities of the cloister. But Gregory was not loved by his people. As a sovereign he was justly regarded as a systematic opposer of political reform; and the number of prisoners who crowded the fortresses of the State sufficiently attested his severity towards all those who strove to introduce innovations on the existing institutions of the country. The Roman States were notoriously the worse governed portion of Italy. Justice was exposed to every sordid influence by which it could be corrupted: the extensive brigandage, which had rendered the country so insecure under the reign of Gregory's predecessor, was barely repressed by large detachments of troops scattered amidst the hills that surround Rome; and, although crime was far less frequent here than in more thickly-peopled countries, this circumstance was to be attributed chiefly to the simple habits of the people, which reduced their wants within a narrow compass, and to the mildness of the climate, which renders the existence, even of the poorest classes, almost luxurious, if compared to the terrible destitution of northern countries.

The absolute necessity for a reformation in the institutions of the May-VOL. CIV. NO. CCCCXIII.

H

country had been repeatedly urged upon Gregory's consideration; but he resolutely refused to adopt any measures that tended towards a change. Warned by the revolutionary movement which had threatened destruction to the Papacy in the first year of his reign, he resolved to keep the leaders of that formidable insurrection within his power, and to repress all attempts at political modifications, especially the long-desired measure of the secularisation of the government. Nor can we refuse to this pontiff the praise of political foresight at least, and a just estimate of the dangers that menaced him, when we find that the individuals who took a chief part in that insurrection, and who were expressly excluded from the amnesty which Gregory found himself compelled to give, were the same who drove his successor into exile, and conducted the mischievous farce of the Roman Republic of 1849. He was aware that the country was filled with secret associations, professing the most daring and dangerous political creeds; and that if once the system of repression was modified, he did not possess sufficient force to control the inevitable movement. Foreign bayonets or internal despotism seemed the only alternatives which their own weakness forced upon the too-willing governments of Italy as their sole refuge against the wild theorists of revolution. Immediately after his death, the body of Gregory XVI. was embalmed, and laid in state in the Sixtine Chapel, invested with the royal robes. The Noble Guard watched over it by night and day; and many of their number evinced sincere regret for a master who had shown constant kindness and consideration to all who approached him. The body was subsequently removed to the chapel of the Holy Sacrament in St. Peter's, where it remained until the preparations for the funeral were completed; and here the people were permitted to kiss the dead pontiff's shoe, as his foot rested against the grating of the chapel. The funeral ceremony was performed in St. Peter's with great pomp. A gigantic catafalque had been erected, proportioned to the vast dimensions of the great Basilica, and the funeral mass took place with the usual magnificent accompaniments. This ceremony terminated the public services of the interment, which was characterised by the accustomed splendour of the Catholic ritual, and by the frigid indifference which might be expected beside the grave of a prince who had no family and no friends around him; who died, as he had lived, alone, amidst a people who loved him not, surrounded by dependants who sought their personal interests only, or by priests whose lives were as lonely and as uncared for as his own.

The saddest sight of all was one to which the public were not admitted, although I chanced to witness it. There is a lofty doorway near the chapel, on the left-hand side of the great entrance to St. Peter's, almost opposite to the tomb, famous as the work of Canova, and erected by George IV. to the memory of the last princes of the house of Stuart. In a cavity over this door is the temporary resting-place of the popes, who, in accordance with long usage, are deposited here until the death of his successor ejects each occupant in turn from his strange burial-place; after which the body is removed, either to the subterranean vaults of St. Peter's, where many of the pontiffs are entombed, or to the burial-places of their family, if they prefer to sleep amidst the ashes of their own race. From this place the body of Pius VIII. had been removed privately, on the preceding evening, to its final resting-place in the vaults beneath.

At ten o'clock at night, the remains of Gregory XVI. were conveyed from the opposite chapel across the dimly-lighted church. The body was then deposited in its coffins; after which it was placed in a strangelooking box of common deal, that resembled an ordinary packing-case, and swung up by ropes into the hole over the door, where the masons proceeded to brick it up. During this operation-it cannot be called a ceremony-there were a few torches to enable the workmen to accomplish their task; a solemn chant burst at intervals from the choir, and the thrilling tones of the funeral dirge gave some relief to the dreariness of the vast temple, whose partial illumination cast its livid glare upon the features of a corpse-bedecked with royal robes. The creaking of the machinery by which the coffin was raised; the absence of all

appearance of feeling or respect in the few spectators; the whispered conversation, and not unfrequent smiles of two cardinals, whose official station compelled them to be present on the occasion, added a still drearier effect to the cold reality of the scene, and recalled to my memory the vivid contrast of the spectacle which I had witnessed but a few weeks before, when he, who had been consigned with so little reverence to his last dwelling, had bestowed his benediction on a whole population, kneeling before him in the attitude of deepest humility.

The quaint and antique ceremonies of the Conclave, which was immediately assembled to proceed to the election of a new Pope, are too well known to be interesting in detail. Many and various rumours prevailed as to the candidate who had the best chance of succeeding to the vacant chair of St. Peter, but he who was chosen was, perhaps, the last that was expected to obtain a majority of the suffrages. The Conclave, often so slow in its deliberations, consumed but little time upon this occasion, and long before such a result was anticipated, Rome was astounded by the election of Cardinal Mastai. Cardinal Gizzi, a man eminent for his abilities, and popular from his liberal opinions, was the candidate towards whom the public wish had turned in anxious expectation; and his election was considered probable. The new Pope, though less remarkable for talent, was known to entertain liberal views, and had endeared himself to the Legation over which he had presided by his mild and amiable character. His election was, therefore, hailed with gladness, as giving a promise of improvement and progress. This favourable augury was further confirmed by the appointment of Cardinal Gizzi to the ministry; and seldom has a sovereign ascended the throne amidst more universal joy than that which hailed the election of Pius IX.

The ceremony of a papal coronation is less remarkable than the ordinary splendour of the Roman court would lead to expect. It is, in fact, but a repetition of the high mass which is celebrated in St. Peter's three times in every year, with such imposing effect, by the Pontiff himself, and which, considering the unequalled magnificence of the church, the antique splendour of the clerical costumes, the imposing appearance of the soldiers who line the long and lofty aisles, the solemnity of the Catholic ritual, which is here displayed in its most impressive form, is at all times one of the most gorgeous ceremonials that it is possible to behold. The only addition to the usual service, excepting some prayers adapted to the occasion, was the emblematic rite of burning tow in a large censer

« ForrigeFortsæt »