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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
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 his opinion.
The great acquirements of Pellico, and his 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 Ildegonda ; 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 proclamation was issued, attaching the penalty of death to the offence 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 laboured. The emperor of Austri 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 the 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.*
IMPRISONMENT AT MILAN.
On Friday the 13th of October 1820 I was arrested at Milan, and conducted to Santa Margherita-formerly a convent, and now the head office of the extensive police establishment. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and, after an examination, I was consigned to the charge of the jailer, who, having condueted me to the apartment destined for me, politely invited me to deliver into his hands, to be restored at the fitting time, my watch, purse, and anything else I might have in my pockets; which having obtained, he with some ceremony wished me good evening.
In less than half an hour my dinner arrived; I ate a few mouthfuls, drank a glass of water, and was left alone. My room was on the ground, and opened on a courtyard, with cells all around, cells on the right and on the left, opposite and above me. I leaned against the window, and stood some time listening to the tramp of the jailers as they went to and fro, and to the dissolute songs of some of the prisoners.
I fell into reflection : a century ago, this prison was a nunnery: Could the holy penitents who inhabited it have ever believed that a day would come when their chambers would resound no longer with the prayers and lamentations of devout women, but with blasphemies and detestable ribaldry, and would hold within them the refuse of society-wretches destined to the hulks or the
* What follows is an abridgment of Pellico's narrative, translated from the original Italian,
gallows ? And in another century, who will breathe in these cells? Ålas for the swiftness of time, and the instability of things! Should any one complain that fortune ceases to smile upon him, or grieve that he is cast into a prison and threatened with the gibbet? But yesterday I was one of the happiest of men! to-day I have lost everything that conduced to the joy of my existenceliberty, friends, hope! It would be absurd to delude myself. I leave this place only for a dungeon more horrible, or for the hands of the executioner. Be it so! When I am dead it will signify little whether I yielded my last sigh in a dungeon, or am borne to the tomb in all the grandeur of funereal pomp.
It was thus my mind found strength in thinking of the inexorable sweep of time; but shortly the remembrance of my father, my mother, my sisters, my brothers, and of a family which I loved as tenderly as if it were my own, came to assail me,
and the arguments of philosophy were powerless. Tenderer thoughts came over me, and I wept like a child.
During the night I slept a little. I became gradually resigned to my, unhappy fate.. Towards morning my agitation was calmed, and I was astonished at the change. I yet thought upon my parents, and upon all those whom I loved; but I no longer despaired of their strength of mind : the recollection of those virtuous sentiments which I had known sustain them in previous calamities, consoled me on their behalf.
In the course of the day which followed I was again called to an examination; and it was renewed during several successive days, without any other interval than that allowed for my meals.
Whilst the process thus continued, the days passed rapidly, owing to the constant exercise in which my mind was kept, from the necessity of answering, without intermission, the most varied questions, and of collecting my energies during the intervals of the examination in recalling all tha had been asked of me, what answers I had given, and in reflecting upon all those things upon which I would probably be next interrogated.
At the end of the first week a most cruel misfortune happened to me. My poor friend Piero, equally eager with myself to establish a communication between us, wrote me a letter, and sent it, not by a secondino (officer of the prison), but by an unfortunate prisoner who was employed in performing services in our rooms, He was a man of from sixty to seventy years of age,
condemned to I know not how many months of imprisonment. With a needle which I had, I pricked my finger and wrote a few lines in reply with my blood, which I gave to the messenger. He had the misfortune to be observed, was seized with the note upon him, and, if I am not mistaken, scourged. I heard frightful cries, which struck me as coming from the poor old man. I never saw him afterwards.
Called to the bar, I shuddered at having presented to me my little letter covered with blood, although, thanks to Heaven, it "contained no dangerous matter, for there were only a few words of friendly salutation. I was asked with what I had drawn blood. The needle was taken from me, and the ruffians laughed in derision. But I could not laugh! I could not forget the countenance of the old messenger.
I would willingly have suffered any punishment to have procured his pardon; and when I heard those cries, which I believed were his, my heart was dissolved in tears.
It was in vain that I repeatedly asked the jailer and his secondini after him. They shook their heads, and said, “ He has paid dearly for his fault; he will not do the like again; he is now somewhat more quiet.” And they refused to give any further explanation. Did they refer by that to the narrow prison in which the wretched man was confined, or did they mean that he had died under the blows inflicted upon him, or from the consequences of those blows?
One day I thought I saw him beyond the courtyard beneath the portico with a load of wood upon his shoulders, and my heart beat as if I had seen a brother. When I had no longer to undergo the torment of answering interrogatories, and there was nothing to occupy the day, I found in all its bitterness the weight of solitude.
I was allowed to have a Bible and a copy of Dante; the jailer placed his whole library at my disposition, which contained some romances by Scuderi, Piazzi, and others worse than they; but my mind was too agitated to devote itself to reading anything. I got by heart every day a canto of Dante ; but this exercise was so mechanical, that, in pursuing it, I thought less of the verses than of my misfortunes. It was the same when I read any other thing, except at certain passages of the Bible, which deeply affected
my feelings, and inspired me with fortitude and resignation. To live free is a thing infinitely more pleasant than to live in prison; and yet even in the gloom of a prison, when one reflects that God is present, that the joys of this world are transitory, that true happiness consists in a good conscience, and not in exterior objects, there is a charm in living. In less than a month I resigned myself to my fate with a tranquillity which, if not perfect, was at least tolerable. I was aware that, being resolved not to commit the infamous action of purchasing impunity by the destruction of others, my lot could be no other than the gibbet or a long imprisonment. It behoved me, therefore, to conform to destiny : I will breathe, said I, as long as they grant me a puff of air; and when they take it away, I will do what all others do at the last gasp-I will die.
I did all in my power to be satisfied with everything, and to let my mind have all possible enjoyment. My most ordinary plan consisted in making the enumeration of the advantages which had brightened my existence: an excellent father, an excellent mother, excellent brothers and sisters, such and such for friends, a good education, a love of letters, &c.; who had had more happiness than I? Why not render thanks to God, although this happiness was at present interrupted by misfortune! Sometimes, in making this enumeration, grew tender-hearted, and wept for a moment; but my courage and my satisfaction soon returned.
During the first days I had made a friend : it was not the jailer, nor any of his secondini, nor any of those conducting my process. I speak, nevertheless, of a human creature. Who was it, then ? A deaf and dumb child of from five to six years old. The father and the mother were felons, and the law had disposed of them. The unfortunate little orphan was reared by the state with several other children in the same condition. They all lived together in one room opposite mine, and at certain hours their door was opened, and they came out to take the air in the courtyard.
The deaf and dumb boy came under my window, smiled at me, and made some gesticulations. I threw to him a lump of bread; he took it up, made a few gambols from joy, ran to his companions, gave some to all, and came afterwards to eat his small portion close to my window, expressing to me his gratitude with a smile from his beautiful eyes.
The other children looked at me from a distance, but durst not approach. The deaf and dumb one had a great sympathy for me, which was sufficiently disinterested. Sometimes he did not know what to do with the bread I threw to him, and he made signs to me that he and his comrades had eaten enough, and could not swallow any more. If he saw a secondino going into my room, he gave him the bread that he might restore it to me.
Yet although he expected nothing from me, he continued to play before my window with a grace perfectly delightful, placing his happiness upon being seen by me. Once a secondino permitted him to enter my prison. The boy had no sooner entered than he ran to me to embrace my knees, uttering a cry of joy. I took him in my arms, and I cannot describe the transports with which he caressed me. How much love was there in that dear little breast! How I should have wished to educate him, and to have saved him from his abject state !
I never knew his name; he himself did not know he had one. He was always cheerful, and I never saw him weep but once, when he was beaten, I know not wherefore, by the jailer. Strange! we look upon it as the height of misfortune to live in such places, and yet this child found certainly as much happiness there, as could the son of a prince at his age.
In the solitude of my dungeon, and with a yearning desire for something to love, I looked forward with pleasure to my intercourse with the poor child; but I was doomed to disappointment. One day I was removed to a cell on the opposite side of the