« PreviousContinue »
excepted; they were too deeply interested in the issue of the dispute, to think it tedious. As often as the devil's advocate stated an objection, evident signs of impatience, contempt, surprise, indignation, and resentment, appeared in the countenances of the venerable brotherhood, according to their different characters and tempers. One shook his head, and whispered his neighbour; another raised his chin, and pushed up his under-lip with a disdainful smile; a third started, opened his eye-lids as wide as he could, and held up both his hands, with his fingers extended; a fourth raised his thumb to his mouth, bit the nail with a grin, and jerked the thumb from his teeth towards the adversary; a fifth stared, in a most expressa ive manner, at the pope, and then fixed his eyes, frowning, on the advocate. All were in agitation, till the saint's counsel began to speak, when a profound silence took place, and the moment he had made his answer, their countenances brightened, a smile of satisfaction spread around, and they nodded and shook their beards at each other with mutual congratulations. In the meantime, the cardinals, and the other auditors, who were not asleep, continued yawning; for my own part, I was kept awake only by the interlude of grimaces, played off by the capucins between the arguments. Exclusive of these, the making a saint of a capucin, is the dullest business I ever was witness to. I hope the man himself enjoys much felicity since the ceremony, in which case no good-natured person will grudge the tedium and fatigue which he suffered on the occasion. I ought to have told you, that the advocate's reasoning was all 'in vain ; the devil lost his cause, without the possibility of appeal. The saint's claim being confirmed, he wa admitted into all the privileges of beatification ; the convent defraying the expense
of the process.
As we returned, Mr. Ry asked, if I recollected the saint's name. I said, I did not. " We must inform ourselves,' said he ; for when I meet him above, I shall
certainly claim some merit with him, from having done penance at his beatification.'
Travellers are too apt to form hasty, and, for the most part, unfavourable opinions of national characters. Finding the customs and sentiments of the inhabitants of the foreign countries through which they pass very different from their own, they are ready to consider them as erroneous, and conclude, that those who act and think in a manner só opposite to themselves, must be either knaves, fools, or both. In such hasty decisions they are often confirmed by the partial representations of a few of their own countrymen, or of other foreigners who are established in some profession in those countries, and who have an interest in giving bad impressions of the people among whom they reside.
That the Italians have an uncommon share of natural sagacity and acuteness, is pretty generally allowed : but they are accused of being deceitful, perfidious, and revengeful; and the frequent assassinations and murders which happen in the streets of the great towns in Italy, are brought as proofs of this charge. I have not remained a sufficient length of time in Italy, supposing I were, in all other respects, qualified to decide on the character of the inhabitants; but from the opportunities I have had, ny idea of the Italians is, that they are an ingenious sober people, with quick feelings, and therefore irritable ; but when unprovoked, of a mild and obliging disposition, and less subject to avarice, envy, or repining at the narrowness of their own circumstances, and the comparative wealth of others, than most other nations. The murders which occasionally happen, proceed from a deplorable want of police, and some very impolitic customs, which have, from various causes, crept among them, and would produce more frequent examples of the same kind, if they prevailed to the same degree, in some other countries, I beg you will keep in your mind, that the assassinations which disgrace Italy, whatever may have been the case formerly, are now entirely confined to the accidental squabbles which occur among the rabble. No such thing has been known for many years past among people of condition, or the middle rank of citizens; and with re. gard to the stabbings which happen among the vulgar, they almost always proceed from an immediate impulse of wrath, and are seldom the effect of previous malice, or a premeditated plan of revenge. I do not know whether the stories we have of mercenary bravos, men who formerly are supposed to have made it their profession to assassinate, and live by the murders they committed, are founded in truth; but I am certain, that at present there is no such trade in this country. That the horrid practice of drawing the knife and stabbing each other, still subsists among the Italian vulgar, I am persuaded is owing to the scandalous impunity with which it is treated. The asylum which churches and convents offer to criminals, operates against the peace of society, and tends to the encouragement of this shocking custom in two different manners: First, it increases the criminal's hopes of escaping ; secondly, it diminishes, in vulgar minds, the idea of the atrocity of the crime. When the populace see a murderer lodged within the sacred walls of a church, protected and fed by men who are revered on account of their profession, and the supposed sanctity of their lives; must not this weaken the horror which mankind natural. ly have for such a crime, and which it ought to be the aim of every government to augment?
* I have been since informed, this new saint is called St. Buonavan. tun; be was by birth a Neapolitan.
Those who are willing to admit that this last consideration may have the effect I have ascribed to it, on the minds of the vulgar, still contend, that the hopes of impunity can have little influence in keeping up the
tice of stabbing ; because, as has been already observed, these stabbings are always in consequence of accidental quarrels and sudden bursts of passion, in which men have no consideration about their future safety. All I have to say in answer is, that if the observations I have been able to make on the human character are well founded, there are certain considerations which never entirely lose their influence on the minds of men, even when they are in the height of passion. I do not mean that there are not instances of men being thrown into such paroxysms of fury, as totally to deprive them of reflection, and make them act like madmen, without any regard to consequences; but extraordinary instances, which depend on peculiarities of constitution, and very singular circumstances, cannot destroy the force of an observation which, generally speaking, is found just. We every day see men who have the character of being of the most ungovernable tempers, who are apt to fly into violent fits of passion upon the most trivial occasions, yet, in the midst of all their rage, and when they seem to be entirely blinded by fury, are still capable of making distinctions; which plainly evince, that they are not so very much blinded by anger as they would seem to be. When people are subject to violent fits of choler, and to an unrestrained license of words and actions, only in the company of those who, from their unfortunate situation in life, are obliged to bear such abuse, it is a plain proof that considerations which regard their own personal safety, have some influence on their minds in the midst of their fury, and instruct them to be mad certa ratione modoque. This is frequently unknown to those choleric people themselves, while it is fully evident to every person of observation around them. What violent fits of passion do some men indulge themselves in against their slaves and servants, which they always impute to the ungovernable nature of their own tempers, of which, however, they display the most perfect command upon much greater provocations given by their superiors, equals, or by any set of people who are not obliged to bear their ill-humour. How often do we see men who are agreeable, cheerful, polite, and good-tempered to the world in general, gloomy, peevish, and passionate, to their wives and children ? When you happen to be a witness to any instance of unprovoked domestic rage, into which they have allowed themselves to be transported, they will very probably lament their misfortune, in having more ungovernable tempers than the rest of mankind. But if a man does not speak and act with the same degree of violence on an equal provocation, without considering whether it comes from superior, equal, or dependant, he plainly shews that he can govern his temper, and that his not doing it on particular occasions, proceeds from the basest and most despicable of all motives.
I remember, when I was on the continent with the English army, having seen an officer beat a soldier
very unmercifully with his cane: I was then standing with some officers, all of whom seemed to be filled with indig nation at this mean exercise of power, When the person who had performed the intrepid exploit came to join the circle, he plainly perceived marks of disapprobation in every
countenance ; for which reason he thought it necessary to apologize for what he had done.
• Nothing,' says he, provokes me so much as a fellow's looking saucily when I speak to him. I have told that man so fifty times; and yet, on my reprimanding him just now, for having one of the buttons of his waistcoat broken, he looked saucily full in my face ; which threw me into such a passion, that I could not help thrashing him. However, I am sorry for it, because he has the character of being an honest man, and has always done his duty, as a soldier, very well. How much,' continued he, are those people to be envied, who have a full command of their tempers !"
• No man can command it more perfectly than yourself,' said a gentleman who was then in the foot-guards, and has since been a general officer.
I often endeavour to do it,' replied the chaleric man, • but always find it out of my power. I have not philo