Page images

received the intelligence of the battle of Wörth at the theatre. He rusbed out of his box, and, hastening back to the Palazzo Pitti, threw himself into a chair with the exclamation : ' Poor Emperor! But what a - shave I have had !'

Next day the Duc de Grammont implored Italy to take part in the war, even without Austria, and send an army corps over the Mont Cenis ' by the same route that we took ' in 1859 to go and fight for Italy. Even now there was no offer of an equivalent. Visconti courteously exposed the absurdity of the proposal, and came to an understanding with Great Britain for the joint observance of neutrality.

It was not till after Gravelotte that the Emperor sent Prince Jérôme to Florence, where he arrived on the 24th with the message, 'You may do what you like with Rome

provided you send an army. It was too late. The leave of France counted for little now. The last French soldiers had actually left Civita Vecchia on the 19th. The Left were preparing for an immediate occupation of Rome. The Government delayed, partly hoping that the Papacy might yield now that French protection was removed, or that an internal movement in Rome might cut the knot, partly ashamed to break from their lately renewed adhesion to the convention, and put a slight upon France in her hour of weakness. “How can we laugh while France is weeping ?' cried Ferrari in the Chamber. Sedan spurred the Government on; the change to a Republic in France drove them over the fence. “If Italy abandons us she is dishonoured,' were Jules Favre's first words on taking office. On September 6 he declared: The convention is indeed dead. • But I shall not denounce it. If France were victorious * I would yield to your wishes. But she is defeated, and I

will not afflict an old man already so sorely stricken; • I will not distress those of my fellow-countrymen who • would view the misfortunes of the Papacy with consterna* tion. Yet two days later he gave way to Nigra's persuasiveness. “We shall see the King's Government go to * Rome with pleasure. It is a necessary step. The order * and peace of Italy depend on it. This consent was coupled with an expression of conviction that Italy, touched by such a sacrifice, would not hesitate to take her place on the field of battle. It was an impossible demand to make on the unselfishness of any nation. An individual may, if he will, sacrifice his interests, ay his very life, to an impulse of generosity. But how shall a statesman be justified who offers up his own people on the altar of chivalrous gratitude to another race?

At length the Italian Government made up their minds. On the 10th they decided to cross the frontier. The advance was intentionally slow in order to give the Pope every opportunity to yield at the very last moment. But Pius determined that a show of resistance should be made as a protest. On the 20th General Cadorna attacked the city: his guns quickly effected a breach near Porta Pia, and Rome was entered. A plébiscite taken on October 2 showed 133,000 votes for annexation and 1,500 against, though, of course, many friends of the Papacy were afraid, or thought it useless to vote, and many others were carried away by the excitement of the moment.

It was forty years,' to quote Mr. King, since Mazzini had pointed to Rome, ten years since Cavour had asked Parliament to proclaim it the capital of Italy. Rome had been won, but not as they would have wished; it was not through the great rising of a people, or because Europe and the Papacy had bowed of free will to the principle of nationality. The accidents of European politics had brought the Italians there. . . . Italy had got her natural metropolis, but no great religious peace had been signed from the Capitol.'

All hope of such a peace had not entirely vanished. Yet further attempts were made to win the Pope's acceptance of the inevitable, and with this in view the actual transfer of the seat of government was delayed till the following summer. The winter was occupied by the discussion of the Law of Guarantees, which settled the future relations of Church and State. The English reader will find a full translation of its text in Mr. Probyn's 'Italy from 1815

to 1871. The law was passed on March 21, 1871. Two months later the Pope refused to recognise or accept it. On July 2 the King took up his residence in Rome, and on November 27 opened Parliament in the true capital of the nation. "Italy is free,' ran the last royal speech before leaving Florence, Italy is one. Now it only lies with you to make her great and happy.'

Is Italy great? Is she happy? If the answer is not what we desire, where lies the blame ? Where is the canker? Certainly not in her unity, not in the possession of Rome, not even in the irreconcileable attitude of the Papacy. Let the Italians of to-day probe for it in her fiscal and electoral machinery, in her system of criminal procedure, of police and prison administration. Let them unflinchingly apply the cautery to the sores they will find. Let them cease to mourn over the defects of the body politic and set to work to cure them, for with them only it lies to make Italy great and happy.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

ART. IV.-The Works of Lord Byron : a New, Revised,

and Enlarged Edition.— Letters and Journals. Elited by ROWLAND E. PROTHERO, M.A. “Poetry.' Edited by ERNEST HARTLEY COLERIDGE, M.A. London: John

Murray, 1898. · When the year 1900 is turned, and our nation comes to


"recount her poetic glories in the century which has then just ended, the first names will be Wordsworth and Byron.' Thus wrote Matthew Arnold in 1881, and now that the century's last autumn is passing away, a new edition of Byron's works appears in the fulness of time to quicken our memories and rekindle our curiosity, by placing before us a complete record of the life, letters, and poetry of one whom Macaulay declared in 1830 to be the most celebrated Englishman of the nineteenth century, and who seventy years later may still be counted among its most striking and illustrious figures.

As the new edition is issued by instalments, and several volumes are still to come, to compare its contents, arrangement, and the editorial accessories with those of preceding editions might be thought premature. We may say, however, that a large number of Byron's letters, not before printed, have now been added; and that the text of this new material has been prepared from originals, whereas it is now impossible so to collate the text of the greater number of the letters heretofore published. Moore is supposed to have destroyed many of those entrusted to him; and moreover he handled the originals very freely, making large omissions, and transposing passages from one letter to another, though we presume that he did not re-write and amplify passages after the fashion in which certain French editors have dealt with recent memoirs. The letters now for the first time published by Mr. Murray were for the most part inaccessible to Moore. But for all these details we inay refer our readers to the concise and valuable prefaces appended to the three volumes of Letters and Journals.

We have now, therefore, a substantial acquisition of fresh and quite authentic material, though it would be rash to assume that all important documents are included, for the family arcbives are still held in reserve. It is admitted by the editor that the literary value of the letters now printed for the first time is not high, but he explains that in publishing, with a few exceptions, the whole available

correspondence, he has acted ou the principle that they form an aggregate collection of great biographical interest, and may thus serve as the best substitute for the lost memoirs. We may agree that any scrap of a great man's writing, or even any words spoken, may throw some light upon his character, whether the subject be trivial or tremendous, a business letter to his solicitor or a defiance of society; for even though careless readers chance to miss some pearl strung at random on a string of commonplaces, to the higher criticism nothing is quite valueless. In this instance, at any rate, no pains have been spared to place the real Lord Byron, as described more or less unconsciously by himself, before his fellow-countrymen; and the result is to confirm his reputation as a first-class letter-writer. The private and confidential correspondence of eminent literary men would be usually more decorous than interesting; but Byron, though he is not always respectable, is never dull. The correspondence and journals, taken all together, constitute the most interesting and characteristic collection of its kind in English literature.

In regard to the effect upon his personal reputation, we have long known what manner of man was Byron; nor is it likely that, after passing in review the complete array of evidence collected in these volumes, the general verdict of posterity will be sensibly modified. Those who judge him should bear in mind that perhaps no famous life has ever been so thoroughly laid bare, or scrutinised with greater severity. The tendency of biographers is to soften down errors and praise where they can; and in an autobiography the writer can tell his own story. But the assiduous searching out and publication of every letter and diary that can be gathered or gleaned is a different ordeal, which might try the reputation of most of us; while in the case of an impulsive, wayward, high-spirited man, exposed to strong temptations, with all a poet's traditional irritability, whose rank and genius concentrated public attention on his writings from his early youth, this test must be extremely severe. Many of the letters are of a sort that do not ordinarily appear in a biography. Byron's letters to his wife at the time of their separation, which are moderate and even dignified, are supplemented by his wife's letters to him and to her friends, full of mysterious imputations; and there are letters to and from the lady with whom his liaison was notorious. His own reckless letters from Venice to Moore, and those from Shelley and others describing his dissipated habits, were clearly never intended for general reading after his death. Of course most of these are not now produced for the first time, nor do we argue that they ought never to have appeared, for the biographical interest is undeniable. Our point is that the publication of such private and damaging correspondence is so very unusual in biographies that it places Byron at a special disadvantage, and that when we pass our judgement upon him we are bound to take into account the unsparing use that has been made of papers connected with the most intimate transactions of a lifetime which was no more than a short and stormy passage from youth to manhood; for he was cut off before the

age at which men abandon the wild ways of their springtide, and are usually disposed to obliterate the record of them. At least one recent biography might be mentioned which would have read differently if it had been compile with similar candour.

The annotations subjoined to almost every page of the text are so ample and particular as to furnish in themselves extensive reading. The notices of every person named would go far to serve as a brief biographical dictionary of Byron's contemporaries, whether known or unknown to fame. We get a concise account of Madame de Staël-her birth, books, and political opinions—very useful to those who had no previous acquaintance with her. Lady Morgan and Joanna Southcote obtain quite as much space as would be allotted to them in any handbook of celebrities. Beau Brummell and Lord Castlereagh are treated with similar liberality. There is a full account, taken from the * Examiner,' of the procession with which Louis XVIII. made his entry into London in 1814. The notes-of about four pages each--upon Hobhouse and Lord Carlisle may be justified by their close connexion with Byron's affairs; though some of us might have been content with less. Allusions to such notorious evildoers as Tarquin are explained, and stock quotations from Shakespeare have been carefully verified. The result is that a reader might go through this edition of Byron with the very slightest previous knowledge of general literature or of contemporary history, and might give himself a very fair middle-class education in the process, although the

consequence might be to imbue him with what Coleridge has called 'a passion for the disconnected. Nevertheless we readily acknowledge the thorough execution of this part of the editorial work, and the very meritorious labour that has been spent upon bringing together every kind of

« PreviousContinue »