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and priests. Leopold had before him the melancholy example of his brother Joseph II , who, with the best intentions in the world, had succeeded in nothing for want of prudence. Being then anxious to reform the church, he sought for an ecclesiastic whose virtue should be above all question. Ricci had been brought up at Rome by the Jesuits : he was a sincere Catholic, and a man of exemplary piety, but infected with what is here called jansenism; that is to say, he connected morality with religion. In order to be saved at Rome, it is necessary you. should hear mass every day, fast every Friday and Saturday, comply with all the formalities prescribed for the different festivals, go frequently to confession, and take the sacrament. But as for actions useful to mankind, the utmost that can be said is, that Christians are advised to the performance of them. To regard the habitual performance of actions useful to mankind as the basis of religion, passes here for the most dangerous of heresies ; and the Roman priests are in the right. If you admit utility as a test of merit, you admit reasoning, and the spirit of inquiry; for utility admits of different degrees. Utility is a point on which every one is competent to exercise his judgment. The moment such a principle is recognised, you virtually sink to the level of mere protestantism : every Christian becomes the master of his own faith, and the unity of the Church is at an end. From that moment the Church is undone ; for, as the Roman priests very justly observe, all protestantism must one day become pure deism without worship: and
per Dio," said my companion of yesterday, “we infinitely prefer that Atheism should be at the bottom of the heart, provided it be but disguised by an outward conformity with the established worship. In a country like ours," added he, “in which the feelings and the imagination perform so important a part, it is impossible that any doctrine not enforced by public declamation, and to the furtherance of which the imposing effects of music, painting, and architecture, cannot be made subservient, should ever be influential with the multitude.”
Such is, believe me, the religion of Rome : a long residence in this country enables me to assert the fact. I may add, that religion, that is to say, a blind adoration of the Madona, and deference for the ecclesiastical body, is the only law which is binding upon the whole country, from the lake of Trasimene (on the frontier of Tuscany and the Roman State,) to Reggio in Calabria.
Purely superficial travellers, who make Italy the subject of their sounding phrases, content themselves with declaiming against Catholicism. Half-informed travellers, such as Madame de Stael in Co rinna, are amazed, in their simplicity, that popery and morality (such as the light of the 18th century enables us to define it) should not be one and the same thing : the “ Life of Ricci” will, however, place the subject in the clearest point of view. The Court of Rome abhors the doctrine of morality, because, as an action may be more or less useful, and consequently more or less virtuous, morality opens the door to individual examination. This single expression, equivalent as it is to protestantism and jansenism, (I mean Austrian jansenism, as taught at Pavia by Tamburini,) makes both high and low in Rome tremble. It seems to place their very existence at stake.
But I perceive that whilst dwelling upon the great question, of whick
“ The Life of Scipio Ricci” will so materially change the aspect, I am omitting to tell you so much as I ought, relative to that courageous, honest, and pious individual. The union of these three qualities, which is much more rare in Italy than in England, (because the exercise of them is here attended with the most imminent risk,)—the union of courage, honesty, and piety, led Scipio Ricci to the notion, highly singular in this country, that every truth which can be ascertained with absolute certainty, ought to be published, withoat regard to the scandal it may occasion. Ricci had hardly become Bishop of Pistoia and Prato, when he undertook to put an end to the disorderly mode of life which had continued to prevail in the convents of Tuscany since the time of Boccaccio. That great writer invented very little of the matter contained in his novels; and the Decameron is much more historical than the vulgar suppose it. Every man who has studied the history of Italy is aware of this circumstance ; but before the publication of M. de Potter's work, the fact could not be asserted without temerity. The whole aristocracy of Europe, who cannot endure that abuses should be exposed, would immediately have cried au philosophe ! à la calomnie! M. de Potter publishes two documents, of the most interesting of which I saw the original a few years ago at Florence. It is “ The Indictment in the Prosecution of several of the Dominican Nups at Pistoia, decided upon between the 25th and 30th of June, 1781 ; prepared by Father Baldi, a Friar, by Order of the Grand Duke Leopold and Bishop Ricci.” This document affords the clearest and most irrefutable evidence :-1st. That a system of profligacy, proceeding to the utmost extremities that can be imagined, had prevailed in the convent of nuns at Pistoia during several centuries.—2dly. That the most extravagant impiety, and the most singular sports committed with the consecrated host, (which, according to the doctrines of Popery, is the identical person of God,) accompanied the moral profligacy above mentioned.—3dly. That the same system of depravity prevailed in the greater number of convents throughout Italy. The young nuns, after a year or two passed as a noviciate, were initiated into these criminal pleasures as into a lodge of free-masonry; the object of the ceremony being to insure their discretion. I dare not enter into the very amusing details given in the record of the prosecution by Father Baldi. They would rival any of your most amusing trials of crim.
The supporting documents, of which I repeat that I have seen the originals, consist, ist. of the examinations of the choral and attendant nuns, and of the novices. 2d. of letters written by cardinals, bishops, priests, friars, and nuns, which prove that cardinals, bishops, &c. were the instigators or accomplices of the existing irregularities. The most virtuous amongst these personages tole rated the system, and concealed it: and Scipio Ricci was persecuted merely because he did not, in this respect, follow the example of his predecessors. All the keenest and most extravagant sarcasms of Voltaire are borne out to the very letter by Father Baldi's record. At Pistoia, in particular, the offences against morality and popery had been in practice since the year 1620. The documents further shew, that the same corrupt system prevailed at Florence, Sienna, Pisa, and Peruggia.
As it is known to all who are acquainted with the moral history and with the climate of Italy, that sensual immorality is more and more prevalent in each successive district, proceeding from the Apennines to Reggio in Calabria and to Sicily ; and as it is proved that such proceedings have taken place in Tuscany, the most moral portion of all Italy, what abuses may we not expect history sooner or later to reveal, as having been practised in the various convents of the kingdom of Naples and of Sicily!
Of the irregularities I have mentioned, those which consisted of offences against moral propriety were favoured by the circumstance that the confessors of the convents of nuns were friars. Bishop Ricci had the courage to put an end to this abuse. Supported by his piety, he proceeded fearlessly with his undertaking; he resisted the attacks of the court of Rome, which beheld in him a second Savonarola, and almost another Luther. He baffled the intrigues of his brethren the bishops : the friars, whom he had deprived of the pleasure of administering confession to the nuns, excited the common people against him; but he maintained his ground against every obstacle. In 1792, however, Leopold died, and Ricci was deprived of his authority. He had to endure exile and imprisonment, and died in adversity, supported only by the persuasion that God would reward him in another life for the exertions he had made to refornı his church while in this.
You will find no difficulty in obtaining M. de Potter's work, published at Brussels; and should any of the party interested in the maintenance of every thing in the nature of abuses, and of every thing that is established, be inclined to dispute some of his assertions, you will find several of the depositions of the nuns sufficiently decent to be referred to in support of them.
At length, then, the popery of Tuscany has been unmasked; no one can any longer have a doubt as to what it consisted of in that quarter. As for that of Rome, all well-informed persons are agreed that amongst clever men it is nothing more than a political constitution. Never before the time of Cardinal Gonsalvi had the sacred college numbered so many saints, as you say in England, or so many dupes, as we have it in France. Whenever it has occurred that the pope has annoyed the cardinals, poison has afforded them the means of removing the inconvenience. M. de Potter has published a " Circumstantial account of the nature of the illness and death of Pope Clement XIV.” (Ganganelli) which has been forwarded by the Spanish minister to his court. That pope, who was a philosopher, reigned from 1769 to 1774. The statement published by M. de Potter establishes the fact that the Jesuits had predicted the demise of his 19oliness to several persons. They had mentioned to the Vicar-general of Padua, who himself asserted their having done so, that by the end of September 1774, Ganganelli would no longer be in existence. The successor of Clement XIV. and the cardinals took especial care to institute no inquiry relative to the cause of Ganganelli's death, although, upon opening the body, it became evident he had been poisoned. M. de Potter publishes the proposed form of a constitution, made out by Leopold for Tuscany. He throws a valuable light upon the counter-revolution at Naples in 1799.
Notwithstanding the great merit of M. de Potter's work, it might be much improved by remodelling. If any conpetent translator, feeling convinced, as I do, of M. de Potter's entire veracity, as well as of the unbounded pains he has taken to come at the truth, shall be willing to take for granted the contents of the three volumes entitled “ The Life of Scipio Ricci ;” and if he then, after closing the book, shall undertake to re-write the whole of it, literature will become enriched by a work of which the translation will be translated into every language of Europe. In its present state it is fatiguing to read : but, as I have be fore observed, it has made the deepest impression at Rome. In general, historical works, written in French, are despised here ; because they are, for the most part, not written conscientiously. The authors of them also commonly learn on one day what they intend imparting to the public on the next. Books written at Paris against religion are highly amusing to the court of Rome; because the thoughtlessness and the blunderings of their authors furnish the means of a ready refutation. But the Life of Scipio Ricci has given rise to serious alarm. One of the first theologians of Rome has publicly said of it, that it is a book which admits of but one mode of refutation—that of burning the author.
I have nothing to offer in the way of news relative to the government. It proceeds in this country exactly in the same manner as in France. Day after day the sovereign, who is a converted libertine, is endeavouring to atone for the little sins of his youth, by reversing some useful or reforming regulation established within the last twenty years. Each successive month is signalized by some measure hostile to industry, which operates with mischievous effect upon the estimable portion of the Roman population; I mean those who, engaged in the pursuit of riches, whether by farming the taxes, or lending money to the government, or otherwise, are employed in the production of something useful to all. Leo XII. is execrated, especially by the friars. The Dominicans, the Prémontrés, &c. entertain a mortal jealousy of the favour shown by him to the Jesuits. His extreme avarice afflicts every one interested in the progress of the arts. The Academy of Archæology, which, of all those established in the Roman states, is the only one of any utility, is in a declining state, and on the eve of annihilation. Among its members were numbered some worthy pupils of the famous Ennio Visconti, whom Napoleon sent for to Paris. As it may naturally be supposed, there is no place where an inscription can be decy. phered, or where Latin is known, so well as at Rome. How often have I heard the learned in this country laugh immoderately at inscriptions in the Latin language fabricated at Paris or at London!
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.
An Anecdote from Plutarch.
Beneath the canopy's purple sweep,
Yet those meanings high that speak,
With haughty brow, and regal hand,
For their's was beauty's regality.