« PreviousContinue »
Vergerius, the Italian martyr for Protestantism, and also the home of the great Venetian family of Giustiniani, to whose lot has fallen, among other honours, the Scottish earldom of Newburgh. Then Trieste itself—its houses climbing high up the steep hillside ; and farther to the left the white and solitary castle of Miramar, a paradise of gardens, but saddened always by the memory of its unhappy owner, Maximilian of Mexico ; farther away still, and high over all, the towering pinnacles of the Dolomitic Alps.
VI.--HOME AGAIN. Our leave of absence was up, and we had to seek our “Paron" once more in the harbour of Quieto. The Beppi lay deep in the water, with as much of her cargo above decks as below. The bundles of wood were all stowed with wonderful neatness, and reached a quarter of the way up the masts. They were planked over the top, forming what is called a “camito,” a sort of raised deck on which one could walk, and from which the business of the ship was conducted. With such a “camito” as we had on board fifty thousand faggots of oak-a reef had to be taken in in either sail. The breeze would not serve till evening; and there was nothing to be done but to turn into the little wine shop overlooking the harbour, and to drink through a series of parting glasses. The room was full of men who had been working at the loading of the Beppi-for this traffic in wood is the principal occupation of the natives of Quieto-wild and handsome looking fellows, playing and quarrelling over“ mora."
The ethnology of the Istrians is so mixed and obscure, so many strains have had a share in making them, that it would be rash to say to what race these men belonged. They spoke Italian for the most part, reverting to Sclavonic only when they took to their ferocious-looking knives, which each one carried in his belt. “Brutta gente ; popolo selvatico," Paron Piero called them. But whether savage in their nature or no, they certainly possessed the savage's picturesqueness of gesture and of speech. “Long life to you, and I hope to see you again ; but that may hardly be,” said one, raising a glass of wine for me to take a sip out of it. “And why not?” “No, no! the mountains stay, but man must pass," he answered, with an indescribable movement that embraced the distant hills and the parting strangers.
But we were not to get off without doing justice to the rival inn and to each variety of wine which the place possessed. This little wine shop stood something very like a sack at the hands of its guests ; and how the padrone kept an account is a miracle. Eggs were seized and set to roast in their shells among the logs upon the square and open hearth-stone ; a barrel of sardines was forced and half emptied in a trice ; everything that came to hand was devoured. Then came the bill and, at last, " Addio."
We walked along the shore while the Beppi was towed silently and slowly out to sea. By the water-side some women were working late, binding faggots with withs of green ginestra ; the clever ones can finish as many as a thousand in a day. At the farthest point of the shore we had to wait for the Beppi. Out to sea the wide surface was all pure and liquid grey, while the moonlight made a broad and silvery path that seemed to lead to Venice on the other shore. The Beppi stole stealthily nearer and nearer ; her sails and masts loomed black and large as she came abreast of us; the “ Paron's " voice hailed us from the bows, and a boat was sent to take us on board. Late into the balmy night we stood upon the poop, looking back to the Istrian shore, while the coast-line faded slowly away into the darkness.
H. F. BROWN,
THE history of the entire world will be searched in vain for
any parallel, in the dramatic nature of its events, or the momentous results of its working, to the French Revolution of 1789. The everyday events which crowd its lurid records, from the attack on the Bastille to the death of Robespierre, exceed, in their originality and horror, the sanguinary desires of Diderot and the reveries of Rousseau. That “truth is stranger than fiction,” history has proved more than once, but the aphorism was never illustrated with greater force than by the Revolution of '89; and the pages of the most extravagant and imaginative novel that was ever written, have never depicted a more singular career than that of the man who was its soul and brain, till his death left it without that intellectual human control necessary for the direction of its gigantic force, which, when left without that indispensable guidance, lost its strength and power in anarchy.
Gabriel Honoré Riqueti de Mirabeau was born in 1749, at Mira. beau in Provence, where his ancestors-some of the oldest of the Provençal families-had lived from the thirteenth century. His father, the Marquis de Mirabeau, had taken some part in the politics of his day. He was known as the “Friend of Man," and was an interested if not very profound student of the science of Political Economy, on which he wrote a voluminous work. His illustrious son, the subject of this sketch, was not favoured by nature even from his birth. He was born with an unusually large head and a deformed foot. To render his physical disadvantages more apparent, when Mirabeau was three years old, small-pox left its ravages upon him in deep marks and seams, which of course increased his natural repulsiveness. Until his fifteenth year he was educated under the guidance of a tutor named Poisson, and he was then transferred to a military school at Paris, kept by the Abbé Choquart. More than one of his ancestors had shone in the career of arms, since they fought in the ranks of the Ghibelline faction in Italy, from whence they came, in the thirteenth century. His grandfather was a distin. guished officer under the Duke de Vendome, and doubtless Mirabeau's father expected, when sending him to a military school, that he would achieve success in a military career. At eighteen he entered the army as a volunteer, bearing no commission, but being attached to the regiment commanded by the Marquis de Lambert. After a year his father obtained a commission for him, but, with a harsh disregard to the necessities of his position, refused him any allowance whatever. The result of this was that he got into debt, and for the remainder of his unfortunate, though in the end brilliant career, he was never out of debt. At this period, and while still a subaltern in the regiment of de Lambert, there first appeared this failing in Mirabeau's character, which afterwards developed into unbounded profligacy, and which will ever stain his illustrious name and brilliant fame. He chanced to meet and, notwithstanding his repulsive appearance, to obtain the affections of a young lady, to whom the colonel of his regiment—de Lambert-was also devoted. This circumstance, of course, rendered his position intolerable, and he left his regiment and went to Paris. For leaving his regiment without permission he was tried before a military tribunal, and was sentenced to a short confinement. Unfortunately for Mirabeau, his father, " the Friend of Man,” was cursed with a savage temper and cruel disposition. It is said by some biographers of Mirabeau, that the evil temper natural to his father was intensified in its irritability by the cold reception with which his work on Political Economy was received by the public. But Political Economy is dry reading, particularly when a treatise on such a subject runs through an exten. sive range of eighty volumes, which was the comprehensive character of the work written by the “Friend of Man." The title of this singular composition was “ Ephémérides, or Leçons Economiques.” The elder Mirabeau was a disciple of the theories of Doctor Quesnay, whose politico-economic philosophy was a kind of sentimental Benthamism, an attempt to reconcile the democratic theories of latter days with the ancient principles of feudalism. But whether the fault lay in the nature of the work, or in the prolixity or manner of its treatment, it was not a success, and the harsh temper of its author was not improved by that circumstance. He was enraged at this, the first, escapade of his son, and he gratified his temper by procuring a lettre-de-cachet for his imprisonment in the Isle of Rhé. Of all the barbarous relics of feudalistic tyranny conserved by the Bourbons, till their overthrow in '89, the lettre-de-cachet must be considered the most despotic. The annals of the Revolution in the days of "the Terror” display in every page the exercise of the most sanguinary, tyranny; but when considered dispassionately, there is little difference,
in the degree of despotism, between the decree of the "Public Safety Committee” of the National Convention, which consigned to the guillotine, with a mockery of a trial, and the lettre-de-cachet, issued at the whisper of a court favourite, which decreed a life-long imprisonment to many an innocent victim, without the shadow of a trial. Whatever may be thought of the tyranny of the Revolution-and its sanguinary excesses could hardly have been exceeded-it should be remembered that its despotism was exercised in the open day, and its deeds have all been duly recorded during its brief saturnalia ; but the tyranny exercised for centuries by the Bourbons, through means of such instruments as the lettre-de-cachet, will never be known. Perhaps, when the duration of that tyranny is considered, the number of the innocent victims who sank into premature graves, or passed from the cells of the Bastille to those of the lunatic asylum, may have exceeded the number of those consigned to a more speedy if more sanguinary end, by the Jacobins of '93. Mirabeau's father had sufficient influence at Paris to obtain as many lettres-de-cachet as he wished, and it is stated by one biographer of his illustrious son, that at one period he had all his relations in durance, under this unique instru ment of despotism. Like most of the French noblesse, he lived dissolutely, and it happened that a Madame de Pailly, whom he kept as a mistress in Paris, had conceived a violent hatred to his son, the subject of this sketch, for it is recorded that it was she who influenced the father to act in the tyrannical manner he did against him. When the war with Corsica began in 1770, he was released from prison, and his father, disposed now to act more leniently, obtained for him a commission as lieutenant of infantry, but he did not distinguish himself in any remarkable degree in the campaign against Paoli. Probably there was little opportunity, or it may have been that he found that military life was not suited to his taste or aspirations. He appears to have resigned his commission shortly after the conquest of Corsica. In 1771 a famine raged in the province of Limousin, and he took an active part in alleviating the sufferings of the unfortunate peasantry. His father, the Marquis de Mirabeau, at this period was living in Paris, and was on intimate terms with the Prince de Condé, the Duc d'Orleans, and all the most influential men at the Court of Louis XV., and he introduced his son, in January 1772, to all the notable characters who formed the Court of the fifteenth Louis. Up to this time, of course, he had given no indication of the marvellous genius that lay dormant within him, hardly known even to himself, and he was simply noticed on his introduction at the Court for his extreme ugliness.
VOL. CCLIII. NO. 1822.