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the imitations, however, not of an individual writer, but of the spirit of a happier and nobler age.
* In his person Monti was tall and well formed; his eyes were bright, but soft in their expression; his brows thick and arched, and the whole air of his countenance, as well as his walk and gesture, indicative of thoughtfulness and occasional melancholy. Of his general character, the great and conspicuous blemish has been already more than once mentioned. It would be difficult to find an excuse for it, for while he degraded himself to secure the wages of his prostituted muse, he had the example before him of hundreds of his countrymen, who forsook their homes and became wanderers over the earth, rather than even live under, much less praise, the tyrannous government of Austria. With this unfortunate exception, the qualities of his character were such as to secure universal regard. He was warm and faithful in his friendships, affectionate in all his domestic relations, forgiving and free from envy, and ever ready to impart to others a share of the good he himself enjoyed. When on the point of starvation in Paris, he is said to have divided the last two zecchins he possessed, with a poor creature whom he met begging in the streets; and when he was earnestly pressed to translate the Odyssey as well as the Iliad, he replied that he wished above all things to do so, but that he would not, lest he might thereby vex the good Pindemonte !-vol. iii. pp. 442—444.
Of all the Italian poets who shone in the latter part of the eighteenth, and in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the most eccentric, as well as the most unfortunate, appears to have been Ugo Foscolo. He was a Greek by birth, having been born in the port of Zante, in the year 1775 or 1776. His mother was also a Greek, but his father was a Venetian surgeon, employed in the service of the republic. Young Foscolo, in consequence of the death of his father, was thrown, at a very early age, wholly upon the care of his mother. He had the good fortune to complete the elementary branches of his education under Cesarotti, at Padua, ' from whose lectures and example he derived the strongest excitement to literary ambition.' To his native language, Greek, lie was fervently attached throughout the whole of his life. It is said that he was originally intended for the church, from which he was seduced by his passion for the muses. His first production was the tragedy of Tieste, which was exhibited in 1797, at the theatre of Saint Angelo, and was exceedingly popular for some time; not so much on account of its poetical merit, which was very slender, as its political sentiments, which soon drew down upon him the suspicious eye of the Austrian government. Charged as one of the leaders of a conspiracy which was formed against the state, he was summoned before the tribunal of the inquisition, but effected his escape, first to the Euganean hills, and next to Florence. The indignant sentiments by which he was actuated on this occasion, were strongly expressed in his letters of Jacopo Ortis. From Florence he hastened to Milan, then the capital of the Cisalpine republic, and threw himself unreservedly into the vortex of politics. * At one time employed in declaiming among his companions on
the general topics of public interest, and at another in solitary study, his mind every day acquired new strength; he became an actor as well as a poet; and, mingling in the early part of the day with the busiest, and at night with the idlest, spirits, his character was rapidly developed in all its elements.'
At this time he became deeply enamoured of a Roman lady, but instead of revealing his passion to her who was the object of it, he sat down to describe it in his “ Lettere di due Amanti,” a fantastical work, of which he was afterwards ashamed, on account of its puerility. They were, however, the foundation of the letters of Jacopo Ortis, a production by which his name will long continue to be known. To a superficial thinker it might seem strange, that the effusions of real passion were so much inferior to those which are the result of matured thought and reflection. But Mr. Stebbing justly remarks, that this is only one of many instances which lead to the conclusion, that it is not when the mind is actually under the excitement of passion, but when it bas begun to reflect on its passion, that it is in the best state for communicating its emotions through an artificial channel.'
Foscolo was roused from his reveries, by a requisition to join the Lombard legion, which was to compose part of the Italian army intended to resist the invasion then threatened by Austria and Russia. He assumed the military character with his usual ardour; and on the retreat of the Cisalpine republican authorities to Genoa, he shut himself up with them in that city, where he for some time performed the part of the orator, rather than the soldier; for he conceived it to be his principal duty to harangue the citizens three or four times a day, especially during the period of the siege. His addresses on such occasions were characterized by freedom and fire. After the surrender of Genoa, in the summer of 1800, he soon found himself, through the successes of Buonaparte, once more settled at Milan, and it was during his leisure at that period that he produced the letters of Jacopo Ortis, already alluded to; letters, evidently, and indeed avowedly, framed on the plan of Werter, which was then all the rage, although he found the matter for them in his own “ Lettere di due Amanti.” Upon this work Mr. Stebbing makes the following observations.
• If we form our opinion of the work simply from itself, it cannot fail of eliciting praise ; and that of a kind rarely obtained by productions of the sort. An inspiring and noble elevation of sentiment on all subjects connected with the liberty of mankind, appears in every page; the descriptions of natural scenery with which it is interspersed, are exquisitely given; and are, in fact, the sweetest poetry that the author wrote, while ibe best judges on the subject allow, that the style affords one of the best models of modern Italian eloquence that exist. But to modify the merit which it hence possesses, its romantic sentimentality is too generally of the very worst species ; the observations which the author makes, when speaking under the influence of this enervating absurdity, are wholly un
vol. 1. (1832.) NO, I.
worthy of his understanding; and the reader who has delightedly drunk in the bold and happy eloquence of the better portions of the work, sickens at the weak and puling affectations of the author's amatory complaints. It is well known that Foscolo intended to describe his own feelings and situation under the character of Ortis. In this respect the tale has an additional interest; but the exaggerations of which he is guilty, make us(too often lose sight of the man in the hero, and the excellent observation which Cesarotti once made, when lamenting his condition, might, with some modification, be applied to Foscolo, in this novel; “I am always," said the translator of Ossian, “ either a philosopher, a poet, or a rhetorician ; I am never simply myself.”
The publication of Jacopo Ortis produced a considerable sensation. It had all the charms of novelty to recommend it, and the sentiments it expressed, could scarcely fail of making a powerful impression on the minds of its readers. The patriot gladly sympathised with the author, and flattered himself that he saw his own image in the eloquent and persecuted Jacopo; while the fair sex hung enraptured, with dangerous pleasure, over its facinating pictures of devoted, sorrowing affection.'—vol. iii. pp. 461,462.
In 1802, Foscolo rendered himself eminently ridiculous, by an oratorical panegyric, which he pronounced upon Buonaparte to his face, in which he compared that great conqueror to Jove himself! It were well for him, however, if this had been his only failing at that time.
• His days were spent in study, but his nights were divided between the theatre and the gaming-house. His fondness for play was characterized by the impetuosity which, in so many other respects, prevented his attending to the common suggestions of prudence. But this was not all. He not only sacrificed his reason at the faro-table, but allowed himself to be deceived in the most absurd manner, by every turn of the chances in his favour. As he played high, he sometimes won a considerable sum ; and when this was the case, he would immediately order the most fashionable clothes, purchase horses, and hire apartments of the most expensive kind. The money he had gained was of course soon expended, and sometimes lost before he could expend it; he would then bury himself in complete solitude, neither leaving his chamber, nor ceasing from study for days together.'—vol. iii. pp. 466, 467.
Foscolo, it seenis, was one of the famous army with which Napoleon threatened to invade our shores from Boulogne. His sojourn in that neighbourhood gave him an opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of our language, from an English family with whom he resided. He applied to this study, as well as to other literary occupations, with an ardour which made him altogether forget his professional duties. From these, however, he obtained a sort of general dispensation, in consequence of a translation which he made, of the celebrated military treatise of Montecuculi, to which he added a variety of excellent notes. When absent from the parades, he was supposed to be engaged upon works of a similar nature, though it was more than probable that he was rather dallying with the muses. Upon his return to Italy, he published
a specimen of his proposed translation of the Iliad, which gave him at once a distinguished place among the scholars of his country. His appointment to the professorship of eloquence in Pavia, in 1808, terminated his military career; and it is observed, we dare say very truly, by Signor Pecchio, that he was not much missed in the department to which he had belonged. Prince Eugene is reported to have declared, laughingly, one day, that “the three poets he had in his army, Gasparinetti, Ceroni, and Foscolo, gave him more to do than all the
besides.” For some reason, not explained, this professorship was suppressed at the end of a year, and Foscolo being again at liberty, retired to the banks of the lake of Como, where he gave himself up to poetry and romance. there that he composed his “Hymn to the Graces,” which he dedicated to Canova; a mythological production, which to most readers of our day would seem too pedantic. He again turned his attention to the drama, and wrote his tragedy of Ajax, which was represented at the theatre de la Scala, at Milan, but failed, chiefly, it is supposed, on account of an unfortunate line, like that which destroyed the hopes of Thomson's Sophonisba, and which ran thus "Oh, Salamini, Oh!” It was a pity that he had not heard of our poet's, “Oh, Sophonisba, oh!” and of the irresistible parody which condemned the original to immortal ridicule. He was not more successful in another composition of the same class, which he produced under the title of “ La Ricciarda.”
After the fall of Napoleon, Foscolo resided at Milan; and while it was yet doubtful what would be the fate of Northern Italy, some communications were made to him by the Austrian government, with a view, no doubt, to the object of rendering him one of its allies. It is said that he did not discourage the overture, and as the circumstance transpired, he was immediately suspected by the friends of liberty, and looked upon in the odious character of an Austrian spy. The imputation almost made him mad. He fled to Switzerland, and remained for two years at Zurich, whence he proceeded to England, in order to avoid the persecution with which he was threatened, as well as to provide by his literary exertions, the common means of subsistence. A poet, a scholar, and a liberal in politics, he was received at Holland House in the most flattering manner, and introduced to the principal literary men residing in town. It is well known that he felt himself perfectly at his ease in the highest society,-indeed, that he rather went beyond the line of decorum on many occasions, by his excessive presumption. Mr. Stebbing states that:
He was at no time an example of patience in dispute, but when his own character, or that of his country was concerned, he lost all consideration for either the rank, or the sex of his opponents. I am told that he was once dining at the table of a distinguished nobleman, when some person present, whose principles were widely opposite to his own, ventured to make remarks which he conceived derogatory to the honour of Italy.
He did not conceal his emotion, but replied with all the force of his stentorian eloquence; the spirit of refined society quickly yielded to the indignation of the patriot, and grasping the table-cloth with both his hands, he went on increasing in energy as he proceeded, till at last, his adversary having made a remark, which added more fuel to the flame, he jumped up, and still grasping the table-cloth, drew, to the infinite consternation of the guests, most of the dishes into their laps.'—vol. iii. pp. 485, 436.
Many instances of his intemperance of passion are related. He was particularly indignant when defeated at chess, a game of which he was inordinately fond. Whenever his adversary made even a successful move, he would start from his seat, and gnashing his teeth, pull up his hair in large quantities by the roots. In fact he must have been half a madman, when thus irritated; for one evening, wben playing at a nobleman's house, the game turning against him, he started up, and, before the whole company, challenged his adversary to the field. At this period he lodged in Bond Street, in elegant apartments, every way suitable to his taste. But as these luxuries were not to be enjoyed long, by a man who had no money, he, upon the recommendation of his friends, gave a course of lectures upon Italian literature, which produced him above a thousand pounds. To his other faults he added the most thoughtless imprudence, and the sums which he earned by his lectures, as well as by articles which he wrote in the Reviews, and other publications, were soon dissipated. Being, however, in the receipt of what he considered a handsome income, though, in truth, of necessity, a most precarious one, he first removed to one of the Alpha cottages, near the Regent's canal; but not being satisfied with the disposition of the rooms, he had one built according to a design of his own, and furnished in a splendid style. This he called the Digamma Cottage, in consequence of the reputation obtained for him by an article on that much-controverted point, which he wrote in one of the periodicals. We must allow his biographer to describe the life which he appears to have led at this residence.
The Digamma Cottage and its beautiful gardens when completed, did no discredit to the refined taste of the projector. Elegance, and that species of subdued luxury which quiets sensuality without concealing it, characterized all his arrangements. Unfortunately, this indulgence of his taste led to more than one evil, and it soon became the opinion of many of those who were acquainted with his manner of living, that he was as much a sensualist as a poet. The circumstance on which this idea more especially rested, was his having three sisters for his attendants, whose personal attractions were confessedly the chief cause of his engaging them as domestics. He took, it appears, little care to contradict the reports which hence arose ; and it must be confessed, that several of his acquaintances, as well as his casual visitors, have always represented the women as his mistresses, rather than his servants.
• Common, however, as the opinion has been, that Foscolo's Digamma Cottage was the image of an Eastern Haram, it yet admits of being doubted, whether the idea had not its sole origin in the encouragement