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renice, with a whole volume of unread, and scarcely readable commentaries, which, he afterwards sustained, he had written only as a satire on the erudite and the glossarists.
From singing about the locks of a lady's hair, and from writing learned puzzles, Foscolo was summoned in his military capacity to cross the Alps. The "Cisalpine Republic," which was now styled the "Italian Republic," sent a division of its newly formed army into France to fight the battles of the French. Buonaparte was then intent on the invasion of England, and Foscolo went with his countrymen to the camp of Boulogne, cheered as they marched thither with the confident inscriptions of "Chemin à Londres" that the French soldiers had erected along the road to the coast.
Cependant le chemin n'aboutissait pas! The French army did not reach London, and Foscolo, to relieve himself from the monotony and tedium of a camp, studied the English language on the Gallic coast, and made a pleasant translation of Sterne's Sentimental Journey.
Without seeing London, Foscolo returned at the end of the year 1805 to Milan, where he edited in a very masterly manner the military works of the great Montecuculi.
Poets generally make but indifferent soldiers; there is an incompatibility between their irregular characters and the discipline and subordination of a military life. Eugene Beauharnois, when Viceroy of Italy, was heard to say, that the three poets he had in his army, Gasparinetti, Ceroni, and Foscolo, gave him more trouble than all the rest of the army put together. Captain Ugo Foscolo must have been particularly unmanageable. His literary merits deserved some homage, and he was permitted to retain his rank and full pay, and to live en bourgeois, or da poeta, just as he chose, without being obliged to any service. He retired to Brescia, which beautiful district of Italy, with its frank, hospitable, joyous inhabitants, is admirably described hy Count Pecchio, and finished his poem "Sui Sepolcri," the most perfect production of his genius, the most impressive and beautiful little poem that Italy can boast, the exquisite verses of which are known by heart to every cultivated Italian, as Gray's Elegy to every Englishman, and which will preserve Foscolo's name and fame as long as the Italian language shall exist. He also published, as an experiment, his spirited translation of the first book of Homer, during his retirement at Brescia, which seems to have been the most tranquilthe happiest portion of his life, for he had ease and competence, kind friends in all he met, and that indispensable ingredient to his enjoyment, a kinder lady with “ large black eyes" to smile upon his eccentricities and to applaud the verses she inspired.
In 1808 he underwent a striking metamorphosis. From a Captain in the army he was transformed into a Professor of a University. "The chair of Eloquence at Pavia, which had been occupied for some years by Monti, and then by Ceretti, and which was vacant from the death of the last named poet, was offered to Foscolo as a reward due to his celebrity. He therefore changed the sword for the gown."
The prolusion he delivered on ascending the chair, and in which he treated" of the origin and office of literature," was calculated to add to his high reputation, but it destroyed his prospects as a professor.
Nourishing still the same independent ideas that he carried with him on his first exile from Venice, he would not listen to those satellites of Napoleon, who suggested that a compliment-a token of homage should be introduced in his discourse to gratify the "sommo regnante,' the great conqueror, and within the year his professorship was suspended under pretext of a reform in the plan of studies in the University!
After his dismissal from the University of Pavia, Foscolo retired to the lake of Como, of whose beautiful scenery, and of the delicious villeggiatura life there led, Count Pecchio gives an admirable description, in which he shows that the political economist can have the feeling of a poet. The passage regarding the old castle of Baradello that overlooks the town of Como and the lake, is one of the most beautiful in Italian literature, and a worthy pendant to some of Foscolo's scenic descriptions in his Jacopo-Ortis, saying which is to pay Count Pecchio the very highest of compliments.
During this retreat Foscolo, it appears, began his " Hymn to the Graces," a good poem, and finished his " Ajax," a bad tragedy, which was soon after represented and very particularly damned" at Milan. But, as if it were not misfortune enough to write a bad tragedy-to hear it hissed and made the subject of epigram and pasquinade, Foscolo was speedily accused of having made political allusions. Ajax (it was discovered) was intended for General Moreau, and Agamemnon, the King of Kings, was no other than Napoleon the head of the Confederation of the Rhine, dictating to the satellite sovereigns how they should wage war on Russia. All Milan, but a few years before the theatre of the hardiest Republicanism, was turned upside down by the irreverent poet, who was treated, says Pecchio, as though he had attempted to blow up the whole empire with a few verses, and easily persuaded by the sempre-suadente (ever-persuasive) police, to change his place of abode.
Foscolo retired to Tuscany, that delightful country which had been the scene of his first exile, where he rented a house in Camaldoli that had once been occupied by "the starry Galileo," finished his "Hymn to the Graces," and published it with a dedication to Canova. Hence also Foscolo sent forth his corrected translation of "Sterne's Sentimental Journey," with some curious notes prefixed on his own character and life, under the feigned name of Didimo Chierico.
The ostracism which this time had driven him from Milan, contributed to his happiness, for in the balsamic tranquillity of Florence and its neighbourhood, his stormy mind found the repose of which it stood in need, and both his corporeal and mental faculties seemed bettered by the change. But the amiable quiet and repose of the Etrurian Athens were not enjoyed beyond the Alps, or in the rest of Italy. While Foscolo cultivated the Muses, Napoleon made his disastrous retreat from Moscow, lost battles, committed faults, and was trembling towards his final descent and fall. And early in 1814, the author of "Ajax" had full liberty not only to return to Milan, whence he had been driven on suspicion of making covert allusions, but openly to satirize, if he chose, the fallen Napoleon. Foscolo had too much greatness of soul to do the latter office, which was largely per
formed by many who had fattened on the favour of that extraordinary man, and who but a few months before would have prostrated themselves at his feet-would have been annihilated by his frown.
The Lombards now saw themselves about to revert to their old masters, the Austrians, and they were justifiable in the endeavours they made to rescue themselves from that yoke, which though perhaps not much more oppressive than that of the French, was more awkward and more degrading. Willingly we extend our sympathies to the efforts which were made by the Italians during the sort of interregnum that followed the fall of Napoleon, our regret that there was no unity of feeling and purpose to ensure success and national independence, and that Lombardy and the Venetian States, as must have been foreseen, fell to the Emperor of Austria. During these days of confusion, of doubts, and of hopes, Foscolo for the last time put on his military uniform, having been promoted to the rank of chef-d'escadron, by the Regency of Milan. He wore it, until an Austrian army took possession of the city, when he threw it off for ever, and presented a spirited protest to our English General Sir R. Mac Farlane, who was prayed to submit it to the consideration of the high Allied Powers. This protest, which might be termed the last sigh of brief Italian liberty, was written by Foscolo. Pecchio regrets he has no copy of it. "But I well remember," says he, "that it was concise, energetic, dignified, worthy of the pen of Machiavelli. This was the last production of Foscolo in Italy; but to every Italian heart it will be for ever a monument more precious than any other writings of his !"
Foscolo had never had a fortune. In Italy, the most successful works add little or nothing to a poet's purse. He had lived on his pay as an officer, and now had nothing to expect but a paltry half-pay pension from the Austrians whom he abhorred. But in this very interesting part of his narrative, let the biographer speak for himself.
"What then could he do? how could he gain a subsistence without debasing himself? I must not conceal that certain Austrians in authority, more awake than the mass of that nation appears to be, well foreseeing the effect to be produced on the public spirit of the Italians if they could hire Ugo Foscolo as their writer, requested from him the plan of a new Literary Journal, and then offered him the direction of it, with a salary of six thousand franks. He drew out the plan, and I remember that it was founded on extended and liberal principles, but on no conditions would he accept the direction of it. These negociations naturally produced between him and the astute Mæcenases that interchange of courtesies used even by the most inveterate enemies. This contact of Foscolo with the foreigners, was interpreted with bitter severity by those who would have wished the Italians to live remote from all intercourse with the Austrians, not less than did the inhabitants of Italy in the ages of the northern irruptions of the Vandals and the Lombards. Foscolo discovered too late that his conduct gave a handle to calumny and scandal. One afternoon I met him, sad and irritated, outside of the Porta Orientale,' in that avenue of poplar trees, which leads towards Loreto: after walking a long time without uttering a word, he at last broke his silence, saying to me,' You who are accustomed to tell the truth to friends and to enemies, tell me frankly what do the public say of me?''If you continue your intercourse with the Austrians,' I replied, your enemies will say that you are one of their spies!' These words were like a thunderbolt. His steps became hurried, his countenance all clouded. He said nothing more. The next day I learned that, without taking leave of his friends, without a passport from the government, without money, he had departed, in disguise,
for Switzerland. Rich only in fame, he had the courage to commence life anew, as a wanderer through Europe, already full, at that period, of the aggrieved and the unfortunate. This circumstance, more than any other, proved that he himself was the original of 'Jacopo Ortis,' and his romance became a second time a sad reality."
This exile was every way sadder than those he had before known, and he was destined never to return from it, or to know any other comfort than—
He found the refuge he sought in Switzerland, of which hospitable country his amiable biographer draws a spirited little picture. He resided for nearly two years at Zurich, where he published his "Didymi Clerici Hypercalypseos," a dull satire, in Latin prose, directed against the critics of his fallen tragedy of " Ajax," and the parasites of the fallen government of Buonaparte. The most interesting thing connected with this truly "fratesca produzione," (friar-like production) is its dedication, under the feigned name of Julio Richardo Worthio, to Mr. William Stewart Rose, the able translator of Ariosto, the admired of all that know him, who, says Count Pecchio, "from his most gentlemanly character, his acquirements, and wit, deserved the homage of something more elegant and poetical than this satire."
In the advantages which Switzerland offered to the refugee Foscolo, one, and a very material one, was wanting-it afforded him no opportunity of literary employment and profit, no market for his genius, now his only wealth. Some kind friends suggested that he might find this market in England; and despairing of ever again seeing Italy, he left Zurich for London, where, to the honour of our country, he was received with all the respect and sympathy due to his talent, and his political consistency and dignity.
"Scarcely was he arrived in London, when he was visited by the most conspicuous characters of England. At Holland House he made the acquaintance of Brougham, Macintosh, Lord John Russell, the Marquis of Lansdowne, Jeffrey, Hallam, and other champions of the Whig party. In this brilliant society he grasped the hands of the most celebrated English poets, Byron, Rogers, Campbell, Moore, who fêted him come del bel numer uno."
In the first months after his arrival, he was almost daily at Holland House.
"But Foscolo could not long continue this mode of life. Whoever is acquainted with English society, its formalities, and code of Chinese etiquette, will feel astonished how that society could tolerate him for nearly two years, or how he could tolerate that society. How could his harsh, screaming voice, his maniac gestures, his flashes of anger, accord with the cold, composed, frozen manners of the English gentleman of rank, conversing in a low tone of voice, without contradicting, but without ceding? How could he be a tyrant among men who will not be slaves? How could he satisfy his pride with those who are inflexibly haughty? No! He was a heterogeneous body in this society, a very antipode of habits and manners. Much more than our real merit, do our manners render us amiable and agreeable in our commerce with mankind, and
* 1 Sepolcri.
common thoughts expressed with grace and lightness afford more pleasure in society than flashes of dazzling genius-and those of Foscolo were lightning flashes with the thunder with them!"
What follows is admirable:
"It is, besides, imprudent for a stranger to endeavour to protract too long his presence with the circles of this measureless capital. Every celebrity is here fleeting. A new person is announced, sought after, gazed at as a lion, (and he is also called a lion,) but his apparition should be short. To refresh one's fame in London, to render oneself a new man, it would be necessary, at least every year, to discover a planet, or conquer a world, or write two or three good romances, like a Walter Scott. Otherwise, London is the great tomb of celebrities. In this Pantheon lie, with a hundred others, the Catalanis, the Rossinis-Napoleon! Here the longevity of a celebrated man does not exceed a twelvemonth. Names and fames beat against and roll over each other as the waves of the sea that surround the island. As a prince succeeds, and causes his predecessor to be forgotten, so here, one lion succeeds and supplants another lion. It was, then, high time for Foscolo to retire to his cave. And besides, in the long run, what advantage could he derive from these societies? He consumed his time, (the only money he possessed) and it was incumbent on him to gain an honourable subsistence. His disposition was indocile, and averse to every patronage. Could he who had disdained the diamond-studded yoke of Napoleon, submit to champ the bit of an obscure Mæcenas? He retired, therefore, to live with his books, in a remote part of London."
The spot Foscolo chose was South Bank, in the neighbourhood of the Regent's Park, a spot which, by a whimsical affectation of fashion, certain English writers of the day-who never were, and never will be men of fashion-have delighted to ridicule, but which the elegant Italian, Count Pecchio, with a better taste and a feeling for its beauties, compares with these verses in Tasso
"Tondo è il ricco edifizio; e nel più chiuso
"But," continues his biographer, "when I visited Foscolo in this retreat, in the spring of 1822, the Park was scarcely sketched out; and this place was almost a solitude, sprinkled here and there with small houses, like the cells of cenobites. I recollect that on first seeing that thick and lazy water of the canal, on which no objects float, save black coal-barges, I said to Foscolo, 'The Author of "The Sepulchres" has done well to choose his habitation in the shores of Acheron.' But when I saw the three girls who served him, I added, but the Author of "The Sepulchres" has better taste than old Pluto; instead of the three Parcæ, he lives with the three Graces.' And, in fact, those three young girls were so pretty and graceful, that it appeared that Foscolo, like a new Pygmalion, after describing the Graces in his Hymn, had given them life and animation. I often used with him the language of Mythology, because I knew he liked it. I spoke with him like a Greek of two thousand years ago resuscitated among us; and out of courtesy, I continue also in these memoirs to be prodigal of mythological imagery. Let this plead my excuse with my friends of the romantic school."
This is the very playfulness of wit; but the sober reader will scarcely avoid a smile and a sigh at this literary retirement, and at the idea that Foscolo, who could scarcely keep himself, should have undertaken the support of" three Graces." They did more than cost him money-they cost him a horsewhipping and a risk of his life. A Mr. Graham, who had acted some time as his secretary and translator, became all at once desirous of sacrificing to one of the Graces