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I may say, to interest us in Italy, Italians and not with the Austrians, and to show us, in anticipation of the with the insurgents and not with the time when the knowledge might be of established governments, that we should use to us, what manner of man a real have been prepared to sympathize in Italian might be. Those were not the the case of any important new outbreak. days of travel; and to most of us Italy But, after all, Italy was a great way offwas but a blurred continuation of its woes hardly within aeting-distance the Italy of our classical readings. of our minds. We had other things to We thought of it as the long boot think of. What was Italy to us, or like peninsula, still stretching into the what were we to Italy? Mediterranean and kicking Sicily as of Well, it was as an uncommissioned yore--with the Alps still shutting it off and almost unconscious representative on the north, and the Apennines still of this distant and dimly-conceived Italy running as a seam down its middle ; that Ruffini appeared among us. An with vines, and olives, and what not, exile, since his youth, from his native still growing on it, and a soft blue sky Genoa, he had been led by a series of acstill overhanging it; nay, as we could cidents into our North-British latitudes, not but also know, with a great quantity and had settled in Edinburghnot the of rich mediæval and modern history first of his countrymen, by any means, engraven upon it over the traces of its that had done so, but the first, perhaps, earlier imperial history, and making it in circumstances likely to make him the almost alone of lands, a veritable and object of some amount of thoughtful atsplendid palimpsest. But of the second tention. Considering how and wherwriting we knew less than of the first he was met with, we began acquaintance little more, indeed, than that it contained with him with inquisitiveness more records of a Florence, and other cities and awake than it usually is on first enstates, that had been wondrously prolific counters with a new person. Something in men of genius, and, strangely inter- was at stake in this, as far as Italy's wrought with these, the central story of future place in our thoughts was conthe Papacy. Of the existing political cerned. Where such greater prelimisystem of Italy we could have given but nary curiosity than usual is excited, the a meagre account. That it was morselled result is apt to be a break-down. People out into different states and governments are often so undiscerning, so merely —that it had been so morselled out for good-natured and so little critical and ages, and that not even the remodelling exact in their expressions in a stranger's of Europe by Napoleon, himself an favour, that actual observation of the Italian, had united the fragments—as stranger, for even a little while, produces much as this, perhaps, some of us knew. reaction and disappointment. In parBut, had we been called upon, without ticular, the experience of political rewarning, to enumerate the Italian states, fugees as a class has been, in many we should have passed a pitiful exami- quarters, disillusionizing. It might nation. Not that this ignorance pre- accordingly, very easily have happened cluded our knowing that, whatever the that the Italian stranger in Edinburgh subdivisions, they were all under de
was but an average refugee-in which spotisms, native or Austrian-Austria case that would not have followed which really having the whole in her grasp.
did so remarkably follow in Ruffini's We had heard of insurrections in Italy; case. But we were exceptionally fortuwe regarded insurrections and con- nate in our Italian. No average refugee spiracies as phenomena belonging no was he, but one of Italy's best, finest, less to Italy than to Poland ; and, on and gentlest-a man to be known on the whole, if only through our Protestant and on, ever more subtly and intimately, prepossessions, and our proper British and yet never to be exhausted or known liking for patriotism and love of liberty enough ; to be found wise, true, honour anywhere, it would have been with the
able and good by even the most delicate
tests that could be applied. Little think, speak, and live, accorded by its difwonder that Italy benefited at our ferent governments-Tuscany then being hands from this happy chance that had the easiest and most kindly-natured, sent him among us as her representative. and Piedmont (who would now believe We transferred our feeling for him to it?) about the most sombre and rehis country. We took a new interest pressive. While we had authentic dein Italian matters for his sake. We tails which enabled us to conceive, better estimated the worth that there might than all abstract assertions in books, the still be in Italy by reference to him as malignant effects of the secular and a specimen of the kind of men she could priestly tyranny throughout Italy, and produce; and our very measure of the the irrepressible loathing with which it inherent detestability of the existing could not but be regarded by all Italians political system in Italy was that it whom it had not stupefied, and especially had ejected such a man and could not by the Italian youth, it was the working retain him as a citizen.
of the system in Piedmont that was All this, however, was brought about most especially brought home to us. quietly and without intention on his We had glimpses of Genoa, of incidents part. He appeared nowhere in Edin- in Ruffini's own boyhood and youth burgh in the character of a political there, of the Ruftini household, while refugee, nor did he ventilate any set of father, mother, and a goodly number of political opinions. He had ceased, I brothers were as yet all together, and it believe, to take any concern, even by was the daily anxiety of the father that, correspondence, in the maintenance, in if possible, he should see all the sons any practical form, of his country's without exception gathered at the family question. He had accepted his own
Of the crashing blow lot mournfully but philosophically ; and which fell on the family with the fatal his stay in Britain, and acquaintance “ Young Italy” movement of 1833, with our manners and institutions, had and of the particular sequence which imparted a shade of what might be called had involved himself along with his conservatism to the sum-total of his elder brothers, Ruffini never, or all but views on political subjects. To his neigh- never, could be induced to speak. I bour-citizens he was simply a teacher remember, but without being able to of Italian ; in society he was simply a date or to localize the incident, an cultivated, agreeable, but rather reserved anecdote which he told more for the Italian gentleman. It was among his sake of the oddity of the speech it private friends only—and, even among contained than for any other reason. А them, not in any formal way, but casually bridge was to be taken somewhere. It and from time to time—that he was led was to be done by a band of insurgents, to talk freely and specifically of Italian mostly young men, who knew little of matters, and of himself in connexion with the way in which to set about such a them. Little by little, from an anecdote business, but who were led by an officer here, a sigh of suppressed reminiscence who had served under Napoleon. It there, and sometimes a flash of fervid was early in the morning, and they had opinion elicited from him unexpectedly, had a glass or two of wine, but no we were able to piece together the story breakfast, when their commander, after of his life, and to understand how he some preliminary explanations, thus still felt in the matter of his country's addressed them : “ As you are marching state and prospects, while at the same toward the bridge, they will fire at you. time our knowledge of Italy became Never mind; you march on. They wonderfully more living and definite in will fire again. You are not hit; you consequence of these colloquies. We still march on. They will again fire, came to a more distinct cognisance of and you are wounded. Never mind; the general condition of the peninsula, you march on.
you march on. Again they will fire, and of the relative degrees of liberty to
and you are killed this time. Never mind; march on still." On from the to the man, “Sir, will you be so good date of this incident, whenever it was, as to taste that? I have plenty more, we were able more or less distinctly to and I will sell you some cheap”? On follow Ruffini through the different the whole, he was afraid the thing stages of his exile—first in Switzerland could not be done, and those olives and in Paris with the elder brother who would never have justice done them till was his companion ; then, when Louis- Italy was free! Reaching which phrase Philippe's government had become -"till Italy is free"--either through temporarily ungracious to the Italian such banter, or through talk in a graver emigration, in London with the same tone, he would, if questioned, be frank brother; and so, finally, here among enough in expressing his thoughts on ourselves in Edinburgh as we knew him. the theme so suggested. His brother, of whom he often spoke, In the main he had given up hope. A and who was now the sole surviving deep despondency, natural to his temone, was meanwhile back in Paris ; and perament, had settled upon him in all the thoughts of both, we understood, his solitary ruminations as to the future reverted much to their widowed mother, of his country. There was even a spestill residing in Genoa, and able to culative doubt which, he confessed once communicate with her sons by indirect or twice, haunted him on this question ways, but uncertain whether she should -a doubt whether there were not evi. ever again behold them in life. We dences of a historical kind that the heard of some family-property near Italian race had run its course of indeGenoa, as to the fate and management pendent vitality to the end, and already of which, and especially as to the annual used up all the elements of strength report of the state of the olive-crop, accessible within itself. One evidence there was good reason for anxiety.
of this kind which he specially cited Owing to early associations, I suppose, was that which seemed to be furnished these olive-grounds had retained a pecu- by the Italian tongue itself, which he liarly strong hold of Ruffini's memory. loved so much and knew so well. Not only did the pale mist of olive- Musical and beautiful as it was, was not plantations always recur with peculiar the perfect and long-attained finish of fascination among his recollections of its organization as compared with that Italian scenery; he would dilate to us of the Teutonic and the mixed tongueswith mock-gravity on the super-excel- its definite system of forms and termilency of those olives of his affections nations, its comparative leisureliness of over all other olives known or conceiv- vocalization, its comparative inability to able. Ah! those were olives; and the absorb new words or make new linguistic oil— such beautiful oil ! If only it combinations—a proof that the who could be introduced into this country, spoke it had passed its stages of growth what a blessed thing it would be! It and arrived at the sere and decadent? would be cheap-yes, he would under- The resources that there were in the take that it should be cheap, and yet various popular dialects of Italy for a the money he would make by it! But replenishing and reinvigorating of the it was not usually put into those oval classical Tuscan, were, of course, not Florence-flasks, and the oil-men here, he unknown to him, nor, for that matter, was afraid, were wedded to the oval the wealth of miscellaneous elements in Florence-flasks. Then, besides, sup- Italian society that might be brought posing he got over a quantity, and it into the ferment of a new life, if ever was in Florence-flasks, was he to go certain restricting bonds could be rethrough the streets with a Florence-flask moved. Still, as the very existence of of oil in his pocket, and look up at all these bonds was part and parcel of the the signs, and, when he saw the shop nation, and not to be separated, as he of a man who sold oil, go in, and take thought, from its own blame or fatality, out the flask from his pocket, and say these doubts would morbidly recur to
him, and became a kind of theoretical however, I noted ; and it is even plainer nutriment to his natural melancholy. to me now than it was or could have Not that ever once his own duty, or been then. Indeterminate as were Ruffini's that of all the Italians, was in the least views as to the mode and the desirable doubtful to him, if God, man, or demon political shaping of an Italian revolution, should send the opportunity. It was should it ever be possible, the idea of fine to see how, in the midst of his de- the unity of Italy, I could see, and spondency, he would sometimes fire up I can now see more distinctly, underlay in telling us any little story of recent in his mind the idea of her liberty and Italian patriotism or valour. That his independence. The two ideas .were not countrymen had fought, could fight, and to be dissociated. Italy could not be. would fight, was a fact which he had a thought of as free and independentexcept pleasure in impressing upon us by in- by being thought of as formed into one stances, as if it was valuable to him for nation. It was not so much that this its own sake. Once, I remember, he identity of the two notions was artispoke with particular satisfaction, purely culately expressed. In those days the on this ground, of the deeds of a certain alternatives of a federal organization for Italian legion in South America led by Italy or the formation of the whole a heroic refugee. Garibaldi was the peninsula into a single European state name; but it faded from my recol- had not been so distinctly presented to lection, till it was recovered in due time, the British mind as that we should and I found that my acquaintance with
discuss them. But in all his phraseology. the name was of earlier date than that it might have been found that the of most people about me. If Ruffini notion of Italy's freedom involved her doubted, as I believe he did doubt, unity as a pre-supposition. Events have whether ever in his time the fighting- since then given this fact, hardly more power of his countrymen would have a than half observed at the time, a con chance of trying itself on a sufficient siderable significance for me. Is there scale for its own proper work, yet what any one who does not remember how, should be done, if ever the chance did among ourselves, only a few years ago, occur, was clear to him as the dome of and even after the Italian revolution heaven. “We must fight, fight, fight. was in progress, the idea of Italian unity If one whole generation of us should was everywhere, even among our liberals, have to be swept away in the process, pronounced a dream, a phantasy, a and Italy can then be free, it will be chimera ? Could we have access now a good bargain; but take even that to the files of some of our newspapers hope away, and it is still only by our which at the present day are most deaths for what is hopeless, by the edifying on this very subject of Italian deaths of a great many of us, that unity, and assume it as a postulate of we Italians can do the best that it European politics, and attack those who is left for us to do.” Such was Ruf- are not sufficiently possessed with it as fini's formula, and very nearly in these not masters of the situation, how we words.
As to the mode of an Italian could confront those journals with prewar of independence—whether by popu- vious leading articles from their own lar insurrection, or by a military prince columns ridiculing Italian unity, distaking the lead and founding a dynasty suading all sensible people from coun-I do not think he cared much. He tenancing it, and denouncing it as the was singularly tolerant of all the varieties nostrum of some dangerous fanatics ? of speculative Italian patriotism, repub- It is perhaps the most striking public lican, monarchical, or theocratic. Per- exemplification that has occurred within haps the extreme distance of the result my experience of the great truth that in his imagination had kept him from there is a Tuesday in every week as definite ideas, one way or another, as to well as a Saturday. For, all the while the most probable means. One thing, that the idea of Italian unity was voted
to be foolishness, History had adopted it Ruffini did for us in respect to the culand was secretly driving facts into that ture and literature of Italy. In his one channel. Say what we will of upper room in George Street what talks Mazzini, it was he more than any man we had, which queries about this and that had, in this respect at least, correctly
our part converted into the interpreted from the first the universal daintiest and kindliest bits of instrucItalian intuition. It seems to me now tion on his ! I omit our occasional that I never met any Italian in whose touches in common upon Latin writers. dream of Italian liberty there was not Here we had not so much to receive that included, though he might not know it was positively new. But in the history himself, the assumption of Italy's poli- of Italian literature, whenever we chose tical unity from end to end, with Rome to consult him, he was our ready Tirafor the proper capital.
boschi. He irradiated for us many a Enough, however, of Ruffini as per- matter respecting which our preconcepsonifying to us Italy considered politi- tions were hazy, and our direct bookcally. Though necessarily this was an information deficient. He it was who important and interesting aspect of him first made the great planet, Dante, swim to us, for whom Italy till then had been properly into the ken of some of us. distant and vague, it was by no means Macchiavelli was a favourite of his, and in this character only that we found I have taken it on trust from him to him an acquisition to Edinburgh, the this day that in that deep Italian brain, loss of which would leave a painful diabolic as it made itself appear popublank. He considered himself natu- larly, there was an intrinsic soul of good. ralized among us; and, apart from poli. From him I first heard of Vico, and tics altogether, he brought to us a little received such an inkling of the nature treasure of acquired information and of the Scienza Nuova of that Neapolitan experience, which was all the more thinker as made me unsatisfied till I precious to us that a good deal of it was knew more of it. Among later Italian exotic.
writers I remember with what peculiar “ What I love best in all the world
interest he spoke of Leopardi, and how Is a castle, precipice-encurled,
he excited my curiosity by a sketch of In a gash of the wind-grieved'Apennine.”
the strangely-sad life of that poet, and So says an imaginary speaker in one of by showing me a volume of his poems Browning's lyrics. Well, suppose an in- to which was prefixed a portrait taken genuous North-Briton that has some such from his corpse, representing the dead love, or an occasional moment of it, living head lying on a pillow, with its weary, in the metropolis of his own less classic wasted look, and the eyes closed. land, and with no hope of ever seeing the While we thus stood to Ruffini object of his love with his bodily eyes. chiefly in the relation of listeners and There is a castle close by in the town, recipients so far as Italian literature to be sure, which, if not precipice-en- was concerned, and while, to a less excurled, is mounted on a precipice ; and tent, it was the same with respect to there are gashes in the town, wind- recent French literature (for his stay in grieved enough at times, especially when Paris had made him familiar with much the wind is from the east. Neverthe- of the French literature of Louis-Philess, there is a vacuum in the heart. lippe's reign of which only rumours had Oh for that inaccessible valley in the reached us, and he brought us interestApennines ! Well, as he cannot go to ing news, I remember, of Balzac, Alfred it, would it not be the next best thing de Vigny, Saint-Simon and the Saintif some one who knew the valley, some Simonians, Pierre Leroux, and others), native of its neighbourhood, were to we had even more frequent enjoyment arrive by chance within his reach, and in meeting him on a footing of equality bring him authentic descriptions of it? on common ground, and comparing conSomething of this kind it was that clusions and impressions with him on