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gives us five minutes of pleasant chat before passing on his way. And, if an educated man of common average ability throws open his mind and tells us frankly his thoughts, this very frankness conciliates and disarms the criticism of the private reader; all the more, perhaps, because such unguardedness lays the writer open to the stings of professional criticism, and is therefore becoming rarer and rarer every day. We only ask that the writer shall be natural and unaffected in saying what he has to say: not a great demand truly—and yet not an everyday virtue this. Moreover, the Essay is almost the only form of literature in which we can pardon egotism. In truth egotism is here a virtue -provided, of course, that it is the egotism of a cultivated and thoughtful mind; what would be impertinent in other writers is not felt to be so in the Essayist; what would be trifling and mean in the Historian is not held to be trifling and mean in him. For, if he would interest us, he must consider nothing too trivial to press into his service for illustration of his subject; he must give us all those little touches of manners, and feelings, and fancies, and facts which serve to give point and interest to the daily housebold chat of clever people. “For my part," says old Montaigne, à propos des bottes, “I am a great lover of your white wines." Upon which the younger Scaliger comments: “ What the deuce does it matter to us whether he was a lover of white wines or red ?" Why it matters thus much, that but for these little autobiographical touches revealing the man under the writer, Montaigne's Essays would have been what Scaliger's writings are, well. nigh unread : dust-gathering, fly-entombing tomes upon scholastic bookshelves.
But it may be expected that in treat ing of Essay-writing some definition of the word Essay should be given, that its boundary and pomerium should, at any rate, be fixed. Now this is a difficult thing to do. Any kind of definition is hard and unsatisfactory, and apt to obscure what before perhaps was plain
enough. Every one will remember as a case in point how the great lexicographer, who made sprats talk like whales, tried to explain the word “network” by calling it a reticulation. I would say then, that reviews of books, such as we meet with in the Quarterly and Edinburgh, are not Essays; nor are biographies, however condensed ; nor are treatises, however unmethodical. The great charm of the Essay is that of a country footpath, which winds irregularly, and yet gets over the ground somehow; here skirting a coppice, there passing by a mill and its stream ; now dipping into a hollow, and now climbing a hill ; giving us the while many a picturesque bit of country life and scenery which an artist would like to frame and glaze, and hang upon his walls as a possession for ever. One might almost define the Essay, then, as a wit defined the science of metaphysics, as “ l'art de s'egarer avec méthode." But then one must not altogether lose one's way. There must be a clue held in hand throughout. However the greyhounds of thought may twist and double, they must catch their hare at last. But one especial virtue the Essay should, at any rate, have-it must be short. I look upon the average run of Essays of the present day as altogether too long. The Essay proper ought not to exceed those which we meet with in the Spectator, or in any of the fifty or sixty volumes which crowd old book-shelves under the title of “ British Essayists." And, lastly, the Essay has no business to be political. My friend, we have newspapers enough; we have enough demand upon our thoughts for the day that is passing, with its wars and rumours of war, its successes or failures, its conflicts political, literary, religious. In these too we must take our part as becomes us,—often perhaps upon opposite sides, working in the valleys of labour under the hot sun all day. But in the evening let us come forth and mount the hill together, having washed from our souls the taints and bitternesses of the fray, that we may meet the fresh breeze of heaven, and see the sunset still lingering in the sky.
DEAD MEN WHOM I HAVE KNOWN; OR, RECOLLECTIONS
OF THREE CITIES.
BY THE EDITOR
AN EDINBURGH BROTHERHOOD-AGOSTINO RUFFINI.
My first acquaintanceships in Edinburgh, gatherings, we did propose to call ourformed chiefly in and about the Uni- 'selves a club; but, though we even versity, led to others and others of a thought of a name, the proposal came more general kind, until, continuing to to nothing, as too precise and mechanical reside in that city after my direct con- for our limited number and our subtle nexion with the University had ceased, requirements. In vain, then, will the I settled into the more familiar society annals of modern Athens be searched of a pretty definite group of very dear for any documentary trace of what was, friends. For, though Edinburgh is of nevertheless, for some years prior to such a size that everybody in it may 1848, a very real, and not unimportant, after a fashion know everybody else, fellowship of souls within its bounds. yet even there affinities are at work, There still remain there, indeed, one or overruling opportunities, and bringing two who were of us, and who persome into closer relations with each chance, looking round among the new other than any which they can hold associates that time and change have with the general body. And so, while given them, may sometimes revert in there was not one member of the fra- memory to the older ones that are gone, ternity of which I speak that had not a and even assert of them, “fuere fortes," range of acquaintances of his own in when they speak of them to their the general society of the place, this successors did not prevent, among the members
“They do not listen to my present singing, collecuvery, & certam feeling as if they The souls to whom I sang my maiden song : belonged peculiarly to each other. There Dispersed the friendly few once round me was no external recognition of the fra * clinging ; ternity, no approach to a club-organiza
Silent, alas! the echoes heard so long ;
My sorrows to the ears of strangers bringing, tion. We simply liked to be together
I feel their very praise a kind of wrong, when we could, and, by various ways Since those who once delighted in my ditties and means, were a good deal together. Are dead, or scattered through the wide world's Now it would be the late evening chat
cities.” and smoke of one or two of us—a kind What was thus felt in Weimar, by of cabinet council for the rest—in the the poet who saw himself surviving so rooms of one in particular; now it many of his former friends, the same, would be a short afternoon stroll of one with the due alteration in the mode of or two, or three or four, of us; at expressing it, must one or two men in intervals it would be a dinner or supper, the city of which I am now thinking volunteered by one who had household feel on looking round them, and comfacilities for such hospitality; and the paring the present with the past. Though largest development which the thing their “singing" may be of no public took was, once or twice in the year, a kind at all, but only the private utterhotel-dinner at Granton, a fish-dinner ance in unrestrained hours of whatever at Newhaven, or a joint excursion for a . comes into their minds, for them also, day to the Pentlands, ending not un- whatever may be the compensation of convivially in some inn near Hunters' new intimacies, there must be moments Tryst. Once, at one of these larger when they have a regretful pleasure in
surrounding themselves again in fancy himself, reading his Dante, or, with his with the faces of the earlier group. dark eyes fixed on the coals, pursuing “ Dead or scattered”—how true of that the track of his own ruminations. particular fraternity of which I speak! And who was this Ruffini ? Writing Methinks I hear one of its Edinburgh now, I may make him at once less unsurvivors reckoning up, for the informa- known to many by saying that he was a tion of the new-comers about him, the younger brother of the Giovanni Ruffini losses in both lists. So-and-so, and whose “ Lorenzo Benoni,” “Doctor Anso-and-so, and yet such another, he tonio,” “Lavinia,” and other stories, have would reckon among the scattered within the last few years shown us telling of them as still in the land of how beautifully an Italian, though not the living, but almost lost sight of by residing among us, may write English, dispersion. Then, in the more sacred and have made it a pleasure to count category of the dead, are there not at him among our living English authors. least two whom he would mention in Even before there was this means of inchief? Certainly, if the tradition of troducing my friend, it might have been that one of the two whom I am to speak enough, so far as a few were concerned, of in this paper has faded from the to say that he was one of that family memory of Edinburgh, and is not there of the Ruffinis of Genoa whose sufferstill fresh and bright, intellects are less ings in the old days of Piedmontese discerning, and hearts are colder, than despotism are matter of historical record. they used to be round Arthur Seat. In Louis Blanc's “History of Ten Years"
may be read a reference in particular to AGOSTINO RUFFINI.
the tragical death of one of the brothers,
the young Jacopo Ruffini, after the disHe was, I may say, the centre of the covery of the design of a general Italian group. Its constituting principle, I may insurrection organized in 1833 by the say, was our common affection for Ruffini. " Young Italy" party, and which was to Whatever we were individually, or in have its beginning in Piedmont. But other relations, we might, as a fraternity, let me speak of Agostino Ruffini apart have been called the Ruffinians. Who from such associations, and simply as he ever in Edinburgh knew Ruffini with would have been recognised casually in the due degree of intimacy was actually Edinburgh in those days, before the or potentially one of us. “ Or poten- apocalyptic '48, when insurrections and tially” I say, for it has happened that Italy were by no means such respectable persons who never chanced to meet things to the British imagination as they each other within the bounds of any of have become since. Well, to the casual those little gatherings which I have view of Edinburgh in those days, he was called more especially those of the fra- a teacher of Italian. It was but a small ternity, have afterwards, on coming effort of reasoning, however, to conclude, together, at once felt themselves old on seeing him, that such a man as he friends, on the simple ground of their had not become a teacher of Italian in having both been friends of Ruffini. Edinburgh on the mere principle of All the more strange was this because voluntary tendency to the position of Ruffini sought no such influence, and perfect felicity. To any one, therefore, was quite unconscious of the magnetism who cared to inquire, it was not difficult that made him such a bond of union. to ascertain that he was a Genoese who In truth, when I think of it now, I had been driven into exile at an early suspect that our attractedness towards age in consequence of some political turhim must have sometimes been a trouble moil in 1833 (no one pretended then to to him, and that, on many an evening, exact information about such events), when we gave him our company or and who, after leading the life of & compelled him to be one of us, he would refugee in Switzerland, Paris, and Lonrather have been smoking his pipe by don, had come to Edinburgh in 1840 to settle there at the age of about thirty. the benefit of any allowance for his being He had brought some introductions with a foreigner, in favour of any points of him, and with such effect that, after demeanour differing from the standard living for a while in lodgings, he had of those among whom he was living, pupils enough for his purpose, and found that he had tried to cure himself of the it convenient to become tenant of the habit of gesticulation when he spoke. upper part of a house in George Street, He had done this in a very characteristic paying rent and taxes like an ordinary way, by writing on the margins of the citizen. This house in George Street books he most frequently took up the was his domicile during the whole time words, “Ruffini, don't gesticulate." He of his stay in Edinburgh after my ac- had succeeded in a great measure, but quaintance with him began. It was not quite. He retained some little movethere that we used to drop in upon him ments with his shoulders and a peculiar in the evenings; it was thence that we emphatic lifting of his forefinger to his lured him to join us elsewhere on any cheek, which gave great point to what he occasion we could devise; it was in virtue said, and which we would not willingly of the tendency of the footsteps and the have parted with. Another spiteful thoughts of so many different persons thing he was driven to do to himself on thither that there was formed in Edin- the same principle. He wrote a most burgh what I have called the Ruffinian beautiful hand,-one of those very small, fraternity. Whenever I am in Edin upright, print-like hands, with picburgh now, it is with a strange feeling turesquely-formed square letters, which of melancholy that I pass the house, and seem to have been taught in the schools look up at what were Ruffini's windows. in some parts of Italy. He had heard
Ruffini was a man of middle height, so much said of this hand, had been of spare figure, slightly bent forward at praised for it so much, and questioned the shoulders by sedentary habits, of the about it so much, that at length the normal dark Italian complexion, and with thing became a horror to him, and he features also Italian but far from regular deliberately changed it for the worse, or handsome, — the nose in particular keeping the same square character in the blunted somewhat Socratically, but the writing, but making it more open and brow full, and the eyes of a deep soft clumsy, so as effectually to stop farther black. The general expression was grave, flattery on that score. In such-like reserved, and gentle, with a possibility little traits of self-castigation and selfof sternness. Our northern climate and adjustment a higher reason, I believe, east winds told cruelly at times on his was involved than, he avowed, or than health and spirits ; he was seldom long such detached telling of them would free from rheumatism or neuralgia, and suggest. It was not, most certainly it was abnormally sensitive to malevolent was not, that he wanted to doff or disapproaching changes of weather. In all guise the Italian. On the contrary, it his personal habits he was scrupulously was because of the very strength of his fastidious, conforming in every possible Italian self-respect. It was because of respect to English custom. Whether in a regard for his country so deep and his old dressing-gown, seated in the arm- proud that it recoiled from the notion chair in the plain attic room to which he that his nationality should be identified confined his smoking, or as he walked with accidents, mannerisms, and trifles, out with his cane, or as he was to be and would take steps to rest the Italian seen in a drawing-room with other guests, claim only on its essentials. his bearing was that of a quiet and He was, indeed, an Italian to the very perfectly - bred gentleman, who might soul. In the fact of his being an Italian, have been mistaken for an Englishman, and so high and just a specimen of the but for his Italian face and accent, and race, lay the first and most general a certain ease of courtesy which was also source of his impressiveness among us. Italian. So unwilling was he to take He was sent among us by Providence,
I may say, to interest us in Italy, and to show us, in anticipation of the time when the knowledge might be of use to us, what manner of man a real Italian might be. Those were not the days of travel ; and to most of us Italy was but a blurred continuation of the Italy of our classical readings. We thought of it as the long bootlike peninsula, still stretching into the Mediterranean and kicking Sicily as of yore--with the Alps still shutting it off on the north, and the Apennines still running as a seam down its middle; with vines, and olives, and what not, still growing on it, and a soft blue sky still overhanging it; nay, as we could not but also know, with a great quantity of rich mediæval and modern history engraven upon it over the traces of its earlier imperial history, and making it almost alone of lands, a veritable and splendid palimpsest. But of the second writing we knew less than of the first little more, indeed, than that it contained records of a Florence, and other cities and states, that had been wondrously prolific in men of genius, and, strangely inter wrought with these, the central story of the Papacy. Of the existing political system of Italy we could have given but a meagre account. That it was morselled out into different states and governments --that it had been so morselled out for ages, and that not even the remodelling of Europe by Napoleon, himself an Italian, had united the fragments—as much as this, perhaps, some of us knew. But, had we been called upon, without warning, to enumerate the Italian states, we should have passed a pitiful examination. Not that this ignorance precluded our knowing that, whatever the subdivisions, they were all under despotisms, native or Austrian-Austria really having the whole in her grasp. We had heard of insurrections in Italy; we regarded insurrections and conspiracies as phenomena belonging no less to Italy than to Poland ; and, on the whole, if only through our Protestant prepossessions, and our proper British liking for patriotism and love of liberty anywhere, it would have been with the
Italians and not with the Austrians, with the insurgents and not with the established governments, that we should have been prepared to sympathize in the case of any important new outbreak. But, after all, Italy was a great way offits woes hardly within acting-distance of our minds. We had other things to think of. What was Italy to us, or what were we to Italy?
Well, it was as an uncommissioned and almost unconscious representative of this distant and dimly-conceived Italy that Ruffini appeared among us. An exile, since his youth, from his native Genoa, he had been led by a series of accidents into our North-British latitudes, and had settled in Edinburgh-not the first of his countrymen, by any means, that had done so, but the first, perhaps, in circumstances likely to make him the object of some amount of thoughtful attention. Considering how and where he was met with, we began acquaintance with him with inquisitiveness more awake than it usually is on first encounters with a new person. Something was at stake in this, as far as Italy's future place in our thoughts was concerned. Where such greater preliminary curiosity than usual is excited, the result is apt to be a break-down. People are often so undiscerning, so merely good-natured and so little critical and exact in their expressions in a stranger's favour, that actual observation of the stranger, for even a little while, produces reaction and disappointment. In particular, the experience of political refugees as a class has been, in many quarters, disillusionizing. It might, accordingly, very easily have happened that the Italian stranger in Edinburgh was but an average refugee-in which case that would not have followed which did so remarkably follow in Ruffini's case. But we were exceptionally fortunate in our Italian. No average refugee was he, but one of Italy's best, finest, and gentlest—a man to be known on and on, ever more subtly and intimately, and yet never to be exhausted or known enough ; to be found wise, true, honourable and good by even the most delicate