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of his life down to the year 1790, the forty-first of his
The narrative is resumed after an interval of fourteen years. Disgusted with a revolution brought about by a nation of tiger-monkeys,' although an enthusiast in the cause of liberty, his first care was to leave France; an object, however, which he could not accomplish without considerable difficulty. The passage in which he relates his escape is written with his characteristic impetuosity. On arriving at the frontiers, his carriage was stopped by the popu lace.
Upon this, I immediately sprang out of my carriage into the midst of this rabble, and, fortified by my seven passports, began to altercate, vociferate, and make a noise like themselves, knowing, by experience, that this was the only means to succeed with Frenchmen. They were perused one after another by those among them who could read. Furious, and foaming with rage, I heeded not the danger which menaced us at this instant. I tore my passport three times from their hands, exclaiming aloud, "Observe! listen! my name is Alfieri: I am an Italian by birth, and not a Frenchman. View me attentively, and consider whether I am not the identical individual whom the passports describe as tall, meagre, pale, and red-haired. My passport is genuine : I have obtained it from those who have power to grant it. I wish to pass, and by heavens I will pass."" Vol. II. pp. 239, 240.
The remainder of the memoir is not very interesting. His hatred to the French is every where predominant, and on several occasions he opposed the revolution with his pen. These political publications, indeed, and six comedies, comprehend almost all his efforts in the way of original composition; the greater part of his time having been devoted to the perusal of Latin and Greek authors. In the former of these languages he had made considerable progress, at an early period of his literary career: the study of the latter he did not begin till after the age of forty six. memoir was finished at Florence, May 14th, 1803, a few months before his death. Subjoined is a short account of his last moments in a letter from the Abbé Caluso to the Countess of Albany, who seems to have furnished the materials.
The fame of Alfieri is founded principally on his dramatic writings, in the composition of which he has combined indefatigable diligence with a rare originality: but there is less of that fire and enthusiasm so conspicuous in his character, from the circumstance of his not having acquired, at an earlier period of life, a fluency of expression in his vernacular language. The boldest and most daring flights of the imagination can only be expected, where thought and diction are in a manner simultaneous where the mechanism
of language is so familiar to the mind, as to render unnecessary a painful attention to the technical forms of grammatical construction, the purity and propriety of words, or the accentuation and position of syllables. For the same reason, perhaps, the writings of this author are accused of failing to produce that illusion, which is so justly considered as the perfection of the dramatic art. His conceptions, although forcible, are laborious. He who aspires to lead captive the fancy and subdue the heart, must triumph without effort, and seem insensible of his conquest. His genius, to change the simile, must indeed enlighten every object it surveys: but those objects will never shine with so pure a brilliancy, as when the source from whence their lustre is derived has retired, like the sun behind the clouds of the evening, and is beheld only in the reflection of its beams.
The political writings of Alfieri are numerous, but of little value. No attentive observer of his mind can possibly imagine, that it was in the least formed for philosophical reasoning or profound investigation. His opinions are capricious and contradictory, taken up apparently without research, and varying with the impulse of the hour. We have therefore judged it of no importance to notice his work on tyranny, his essays on government, or his writings for and against the French revolution. We have also omitted to particularize his melodramas, and sonnets and epigrams and satires.
In taking a survey of the character of Alfieri, there are many points of observation, but the leading and predominant feature appears to be pride. The operation of this unamiable quality will easily reconcile many seeming contradictions. That a mind which had for so long a period remained torpid and insensible, should suddenly emerge to life and activity,-that a disposition almost brutal should at once become susceptible of the pleasures of literary refinement, that years of listlessness should be succeeded instantly by unexampled diligence and exertion; all this seems at first sight almost unaccountable. But on examining more closely, it will be found that these effects, however opposite their direction, proceeded from the same source. scious of the defects of his early education, it was pride that in the first instance increased and strengthened them, attached him to sensual gratifications, and caused him to keep aloof from the society of those, who by their learning or talents were likely to make him feel his ignorance and inferiority. But no sooner did the conviction of pos
sessing native genius come with full force upon his mind, than this incessant wish for superiority stimulated him to the most unwearied efforts, to gain an elevated station in the temple of literary fame. Careless whether his writings were calculated to benefit or to injure his fellow creatures, his sole object was to extort their applause, and his sole motive unmixed ambition. The same selfish principle will explain his capricious and contradictory conduct as a politician. His hatred of despotism' was in reality nothing but an impatience of coutroul, and his talk about liberty a mere narrow-minded jealousy of his own privileges. In the case of the French revolution this is extremely apparent. Violent as was his pretended idolatry of abstract freedom, he was the advocate of that revolution only so long as he imagined, that to diminish the supremacy of the crown would be to exalt the power of the nobles. When he saw the authority of both sinking together, his ode on the deinolition of the Bastile was soon succeeded by an apology for the king. He could not endure that the downfal even of what he had denounced as tyranny, should be effected by a rabble of low born citizens. In short, pride was the ruling passion of his heart, and all his faculties, both of intellect and will, were more or less under its pernicious dominion.
It would be unpardonable to dismiss these volumes without noticing some of those reflections, which a perusal of them is calculated so forcibly to suggest. The length, however, to which this article has already extended compels us to be brief. In the first place, what a melancholy picture are we presented with of the state of society and manners in the catholic countries of Europe-what finmorality of practice, what insensibility of heart! A religion of ceremonies is invariably a religion of compromise. It exacts the performance of a few unmeaning and mechanical observances, while it suffers the heart and life to remain unchanged and unmolested; and thus enfeebles the very sense by which moral duty is discerned. Nor is this indifference confined merely to the higher orders of society: for at the conclusion of these memoirs, we actually find a devout ecclesiastic pronouncing a panegyric on the simple and irreproachable manners' of his friend -in a letter to that friend's mistress; and expressing a persuasion that he was not unprepared' for death, because on several occasions he made it a subject of conversation. How infinitely does genuine Christianity rise in the contrast. It is less universally professed, because it is uni
versal in its demands; it is humble and self denying it tolerates no aberration from the plain path of duty, and is satisfied with nothing less than purity in the thoughts and intentions.
Another consideration, which powerfully results from the contemplation of the eccentric character delineated in these memoirs, is the danger of giving way to the prepossession, that the passions are irresistible the infinite importance of possessing at all times, but especially in the early part of life, fixed convictions and settled principles. The passions are then irresistible when we think they are so, the inability is self created, the persuasion produces its own accomplishment; and the effect is not merely to vitiate the conduct, but thoroughly to pervert the understanding, and harden the heart. For even vice has its distinctions and gradations. There are some who have still so much reve rence left for the dignity of virtue, as to violate her injunctions with disquietude, who would not vainly vindicate what they know to be criminal, and who if they are the votaries of folly are the victims also of remorse. There are others, who would gladly make the sophistry of the under standing subservient to the depravity of the will, and avert if they were able the unwelcome remonstrances of conscience, by interposing the defence of vain reasoning and false philosophy. But there is a third class, who have no inward monitor to silence, who pass over the bounds of moral and religious obligation and are insensible of the transgression, who act only as passion leads and inclination persuades, and employ not a thought on the dreadful retribution which is to follow. Such, we are afraid, was Alfieri. How mournful to reflect that a being gifted with faculties so express and admirable,' should use them as if they were to endure only for a moment!
In conclusion it is hardly necessary to observe that these volumes are not at all calculated for indiscriminatę perusal. On this account our abstract has been more copious, than the real importance of the article would of itself have been sufficient to justify. It has been our object to separate the amusement and information this work contains from the baser matter with which they are surrounded; to render the perusal of it unnecessary to any of our readers, and to de rive from it some useful hints and salutary cautions.
Art. VI. A Second Journey in Spain, in the Spring of 1809, from Lisbon, through the western Skirts of the Sierra Morena, to Sevilla, Cordova, Granada, Malaga, and Gibraltar; and thence to Tetuan and Tangiers. With Plates, containing 24 Figures, illustrative of the Costume and Manners of the Inhabitants of several of the Spanish Provinces. By Robert Semple, Author of Observations on a Journey through Spain and Italy to Naples, and thence to Smyrna and Constantinople, 1805: also of Walks and Sketches at the Cape of Good Hope; and of Charles Ellis. 12mo. pp. 312. Price 8s. Baldwins. 1809.
A FEW more sketches of Spain are acceptable from
sensible a traveller as Mr. Semple, notwithstanding the continual diminution of the interest recently excited in the fate of that most miserable country: and the more acceptable, from the consideration that it may henceforward be very long before an Englishman will again be able to survey the country by so interior a route. Not, however, that the loss of such a privilege may warrant any very loud strains of lamentation, any more than the locking up of sóme large cemetery, that should have been heretofore accessible to the curiosity of every idle stranger, and the repeated ingress of those who had already explored it. One or two attentive inspections and accurate descriptions of such a dreary repository, might fairly be expected to satisfy both the visitants of the place, and the hearers of their report. They might reasonably conclude, that a gloomy sameness of appearance would long continue to rest on the objects in the subterraneous abode; and that there could be therefore no inducement, on the ground of curiosity, to a re-examination, for a long time to come,-unless indeed some strange convulsion, caused by natural or human violence, should throw the still figures and furniture of the region of death out of their order. It is true that a convulsion has been and is now disturbing the state of death, in which the human mind has so long reposed in Spain. But the report before us is enough to prove, that beyond a certain portion of mere physical ravage, the alteration is exceedingly small. There appears no symptom of discon. tent with the profoundest ignorance,-no perception of the superiority of neighbouring nations,-not the movement of a hair's breadth in recovery from any one prejudice or absurd custom,-not the faculty of even suspecting a defect in any one point of mechanism, agriculture, or policy, of which the uselessness, inconvenience, or mischief, are palpably before the people's eyes every day; and an execrable superstition, the best security for the long continuance of this state of intellectual death, remains as unshaken as the most