Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

1861.]

Prisoners of State.

247

But the educated seem to tolerate the inactivity of imprisonment better than their inferiors. We find that our ordinary malefactors cannot endure solitary imprisonment for more than a year-seldom indeed so long. The Italian prisoners whom I have known, Zucchi, Borsieri, Poerio, Gonfalonieri, and Pellico, endured imprisonment lasting from ten to seventeen years without much injury to mind or body.'

* The spirit of Pellico,' said Madame de Beaumont, was broken. When released, he gave himself up to devotion and works of charity. Perhaps the humility, resignation, and submission of his book made it still more mischievous to the Austrian Government' The reader's indignation against those who could so trample on so unresisting a victim becomes fierce.'

'If the Austrians,' I said, “had been wise, they would have shot instead of imprisoning them. Their deaths would have been forgotten-their imprisonment has contributed much to the general odium which is destroying the Austrian Empire.'

It would have been wiser,' said Beaumont, but it would have been more merciful, and therefore it was not done. But you talk of all these men as solitarily imprisoned. Some of them had companions.'

Yes,' I said, 'bat they complained that one permanent companion was worse than solitude. Gonfalonieri said, that one could not be in the same room, with the same man, a year without hating him.

• One of the Neapolitan prisoners was chained for some time to a brigand. Afterwards the brigand was replaced by a gentleman. He complained bitterly of the change.

• The brigand,' said Minnie, 'was his slave, the gentleman had a will of his own.'

How did M. de La Fayette,'' I asked Madame de Beaumont, bear his five years' imprisonment at Olmütz?'

• His health,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'was good, but the miseries of his country and the sufferings of his wife made him very unhappy. When my grandmother came to him, it was two days before she had strength to tell him that all his and her family had perished. I was once at Olmütz, and saw the one room which they had inhabited. It was damp and dark. She asked to be allowed to leave it for a time for better medical treatment and change of air. It was granted only on the condition that she should never return.

She refused. The rheumatic attacks which the state of the prison had produced, continued and increased : she was hopelessly ill when they were released—and died soon afterwards. The sense of wrong aggravated their sufferings, for their imprisonment was a. gross and wanton violation of all law, international and municipal. My grandfather was not an Austrian subject; he had committed no offence against Austria. She seized him simply because he was a liberal, because his principles had made him the enemy of tyranny in America and in France; and because his birth and talents and reputa

M. de La Fayette was Madame de Beaumont's grandfather. --ED.

1861.]

Power of La Fayette.

249

6

tion gave him influence. It was one of the brutal stupid acts of individual cruelty which characterise the Austrian despotism, and have done more to ruin it than a wider oppression such a one, for instance, as ours, more mischievous, but more intelligent,-would have done.'

Freedom,' said Ampère, 'was offered to him on the mére condition of his not serving in the French army. At that time the Jacobins would have guillotined him, the Royalists would have forced duel after duel on him till they had killed him. It seemed impossible that he should ever be able to draw his sword for France. In fact he never was able. America offered him an asylum, honours, land, everything that could console an exile. But he refused to give up the chance, remote as it was, of being useful to his country, and remained a prisoner till he was delivered by Napoleon.'

'He firmly believed,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'that if the Royal Family would have taken refuge with his army in 1791 he could have saved them, and probably the Monarchy. His army was then in his hands, a few months after the Jacobins had corrupted it.'

'Two men,' said Ampère, Mirabeau and La Fayette, could have saved the Monarchy, and were anxious to do so. But neither the King nor the Queen would trust them.

*Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette are among the historical personages who have most influenced the destinies of the world. His dulness, torpidity and indecision, and her frivolity, narrow-minded prejudices and suspiciousness, are among the causes of our present calamities. They are among the causes of a state of things which has inflicted on us, and threatens to inflict on all Europe, the worst of all Governments-democratic despotism. A Government in which two wills only prevail—that of the ignorant, envious, ambitious, aggressive multitude, and that of the despot who, whatever be his natural disposition, is soon turned, by the intoxication of flattery and of universal power, into a capricious, fantastic, selfish participator in the worst passions of the worst portion of his subjects.'

'Such a Government,' I said, 'may be called an antiaristocracy. It excludes from power all those who are fit to exercise it.'

•The consequence,' said Beaumont, ‘is, that the qualities which fit men for power not being demanded, are not supplied. Our young men have no political knowledge or public spirit. Those who have a taste for the sciences cultivated in the military schools enter the army. The rest learn nothing.'

What do they do?' I asked.

*How they pass their time,' said Madame de Beaumont, “is a puzzle to me. They do not read, they do not go into society-I believe that they smoke and play at dominos, and ride and bet at steeple-chases.

• Those who are on home service in the army are not much better. The time not spent in the routine of their profession is sluggishly and viciously wasted. Algeria has been a God-send to us. There our young men have real duties to perform, and real dangers to

1861.]

Family Life in France.

251

provide against and to encounter. My son, who left St. Cyr only eighteen months ago, is stationed at Thebessa, 300 miles in the interior. He belongs to a bureau arabe, consisting of a captain, a lieutenant, and himself, and about forty spahis. He has to act as a judge, as an engineer, to settle the frontier between the province of Constantine and Tunis-in short, to be one of a small ruling aristocracy. This is the school which has furnished, and is furnishing, our best generals and administrators.'

We talked of the interior of French families.

• The ties of relationship,' I said, 'seem to be stronger with you than they are with us. Cousinship with you is a strong bond, with us it is a weak one.'

• The habit of living together,' said Beaumont, 'has perhaps much to do with the strength of our feelings of consanguinity. Our life is patriarchal. Grandfather, father, and grandson are often under the same roof. At the Granger thirty of the family were sometimes assembled at dinner. With you, the sons go off, form separate establishments, see little of their parents, still less of their cousins, and become comparatively indifferent to them.'

'I remember,' I said, 'the case of an heir apparent of seventy ; his father was ninety-five. One day the young man was very grumpy. They tried to find out what was the matter with him ; at last he broke out, “Everybody's father dies except mine."

· The château of M. de La Fayette. —ED. ·

« НазадПродовжити »