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which he himself gave, either from vanity or madness, to these suspicions. After having heard his conduct represented by several persons, in a manner which did not allow of my doubting that he was a gross sensualist, I have had the advantage of conversing with other individuals, who, perhaps, had better opportunities of judging correctly respecting his character. Their testimony directly contradicts that before mentioned, and they repel with warmth the accusation that Foscolo was a sensualist. He delighted, say they, in being surrounded with whatever is beautiful; and he sought the fairest attendants that could be found, simply from the pleasure he took in bebolding what is lovely. If he sometimes spoke of them, or to them, in a tone which scarcely became him as a master, it was only in conformity with his usual mode of expressing himself when elated; and his particularity about their dress, and appearance, is accounted for in the same way. He would never suffer any servant to enter his presence without having paid due attention to her dress; and it was his most special direction that no person of the kind should ever appear before him in black stockings. Again, say the individuals to me, Foscolo had the habits of a sensualist in nothing but appearance. He was remarkable for moderation in his appetites; his diet was of the simplest and most sparing kind, and he scarcely ever drank more than two glasses, or two glasses and a half, of wine. Add to this, he always expressed himself with warmth against gross indulgences of every kind, and few will be inclined to believe, after reading the events of his life, that Foscolo could be guilty of flagrant hypocrisy.
* But, however doubtful it may be whether the accusation above alluded to be correct, no doubt exists of his imprudence in respect of all his pecuniary affairs. At the period of which we are speaking he was in tolerable employment ; wrote for the Quarterly and Edinburgh Reviews, and the encouragement given to his excellent essays on Petrarch, served to increase simultaneously his means and his expectations. So extensive were his designs, that he found constant employment for some young men of ability, to translate or improve his language, and it was with one of these, Mr. Graham, that he was guilty of the folly of fighting a duel on account of his favourite servant. But a casual observer might have supposed that he was rapidly advancing in fortune. The establishment he kept up, was one wbich would have swallowed up a revenue far greater than that which he could ever hope to command, had all his designs been completed and crowned with success. His debts, consequently, were always on the increase; and as a large part of his upholsterers' bills remained unpaid, he was soon involved in difficulties which rendered ruin inevitable. To accelerate the approaches of distress, his mind was at times too much oppressed with anxiety to allow of its free action, and thus the great wheel of the machine on which his whole subsistence depended, soon grew unfit for use.
• The importunities of his creditors were at first borne with tolerable patience; the confidence he felt in the powers of his genius, and the unwillingness with which minds such as bis yield to mere pecuniary distress, kept him from perceiving the whole extent of his ditticulties. He was annoyed, but he was not as yet wise enough to acknowledge to himself that he had entered on a plan of life far different to that which his means authorized; and he went struggling on, till bis promises and excuses no longer availed him with those who had demands on his purse. On the
first extreme pressure of distress he had recourse to his friends, and the aid they afforded him delayed for a brief period the progress of his disasters. But he was now in reality in a far worse situation than before ; he had commenced a practice which hurt his independence, and which contributed still further to deceive him as to the nature of his difficulties. A small sum was not sufficient to render him any effectual aid, but, however small the sum borrowed, it is sufficient to make a man of delicate and independent mind feel uneasy. And no one can doubt that Foscolo felt this; but he never thought of anticipating any difficulty, and generally, therefore, he had no other alternative but that of yielding to it, or asking help of some of his acquaintances. At length an execution was placed on his premises, and he then appears to have resigned himself to despair. A gentleman, whose name I am not at liberty to mention, received a message from him late one evening, intimating the circumstance, and fully expressive of the misery of the writer. The call was promptly attended to, but on the gentleman's arrival at the cottage, he was informed that Foscolo had reiired to his apartment. He hastened to the room, and gaining admission with some difficulty, he discovered on the table near which the poet was seated, a little dagger, which Foscolo always carried in his bosom, but only displayed on great occasions. After a slight inquiry, therefore, into the cause of his present distress, he settled the demand of the person who had placed the execution in the house, and Foscolo was once more at ease.' — vol. iii. pp. 491-496.
The spirit of Foscolo was now nearly, though not quite broken. Despondency came upon him in its most gloomy shapes, and he appears to have seriously meditated the crime of suicide. He was unable any longer to go on in the style in which he had hitherto lived; he was obliged to resign the Digamma Cottage to his creditors, and so intensely did he feel the pain of descending from his elegant residence to an humble lodging, that he determined on hiding in complete obscurity. Changing his name to that of Emeret, he took small apartments at Kentish Town; thence he removed to Hampstead, in company with a female, concerning whose real character we are unable to form a decisive opinion, though we rather incline to believe that she was, as he represented, his daughter.
• He was not, however, alone in his misfortunes. In saying this I have to mention a circumstance involved in some degree of difficulty, and respecting which Foscolo's most intimate friends expressed themselves in doubt. A short time before he left the Digamma Cottage, a young English woman arrived there, whom he presented to his acquaintances as his daughter. She was about seventeen or eighteen, and as Foscolo had been only three or four years in this country, the curious were naturally inquisitive respecting the circumstances of her birth. The answer he gave did not, it must be confessed, satisfy all his friends ; and I know that the strongest doubts are still entertained by some, as to the veracity of the story. The circumstance is altogether a strange one; but it is my duty as a biographer, to mention all I have been able to gather respecting it. Those who enjoyed Foscolo's entire confidence, were convinced that the explanation he gave was correct, and I give it as they received it from his
lips. When he was either in the south of France, or at Calais, with the army, he became acquainted, it is stated, with an English person, who conceived for him a hasty and ardent attachment. Their acquaintance was not long restrained within the bounds of a virtuous friendship, and the young person alluded to is said to have been the fruit of the amour. The greatest caution was used to conceal her birth, her mother having been soon after married, and she was entrusted to the care of a female relative in England. With this person she resided, till the death of her aged protectress left her unprovided for, and her father then determined upon taking her home to his own house. This is the account which the Canon Riego informs me he always received from Foscolo, respecting the amiable individual who watched over him through the most painful portion of his life, and to whom he was indebted for the only glimpse of domestic comfort he had the chance of enjoying. I have received from her own lips the same account which the poet gave his friends, with the additional observation, that had she been at liberty to mention circumstances which Foscolo wished not to have explained, and which, more especially, for the sake of one party still living, she did not think it right to mention, no doubt would remain upon the mind of any one respecting her being his daughter.'-vol. iii. pp. 500-502.
Innumerable, almost, were his changes of residence at this period, 1825. So capricious was he in this respect, vainly thinking that mere locality rendered it more easy for him to write in one place than in another, that he seldom remained a month together in any one abode. He experienced a serious disappointment in the failure of a plan which he had conceived, and to some extent executed, for new editions of Dante and Boccaccio, with prefaces and illustrations. He worked industriously at other matters, but his literary ambition was gone, and his labour became almost mechanical. His constitution was already broken down, and the pursuits which once afforded him so much delight, now became toilsome, because they were absolutely necessary for his subsistence. His last change of residence was to Turnham Green, where he was soon found to be labouring under all the symptoms of dropsy. In the spring of 1827, his malady assumed a fatal form, and it is due to his distinguished friends, Lord Holland, the Duke of Devonshire, and Mr. Hudson Gurney, to whom he had dedicated his Dante, to say, that they were not inattentive to his wants in his last moments. From the Canon Riego he also received many proofs of the most considerate kindness. The concluding days of his life were, in every sense of the word, days to him of bitter mortification.
* About the last day of September, when death was staring him in the face, Foscolo summoned what little strength he had remaining, to write to the celebrated Capo d'Istrias, who happened to be then in London, and from whom, it appears, he had at former periods received some acts of kindness, The letter contained many earnest requests for an interview, which Foscolo desired, it is supposed, in order that he might unburthen his mind of the anxiety he felt respecting his former obligations to the president, and speak to him about some provision for his unprotected daughter. “The latter,"
I have heard the Canon Riego say, was the subject which preyed most heavily upon his mind during the last days of his life. I never saw him shed tears, except when he alluded to the desolate situation in which he feared his child would be left by his death.” “In other respects,” remarks the Canon," he looked forward to death with cold indifference; and when speaking of his past life, he uniformly expressed the most bitter regret that he had not remained at home, and devoted himself to comforting the declining years of his beloved mother, the thought of whom was always in his mind, instead of wasting himself in the troubled pursuit of politics, or of literature as a profession.
The letter he had written to Capo d'Istrias remained unanswered till the 10th of October. On the morning of that day, the president went to Turnham Green ; but, on his arriving at Foscolo's house, he learned that he was then too near his end to be disturbed. Deeply affected at this intelligence, he sent in his name to the Canon Riego, and one or two other gentlemen who were present, and was admitted. He approached the side of Foscolo's bed with a friendly and commisserating air; but the attention was met with a look of recognition, which implied more of reproach than thankfulness; and the dying man turned himself in his bed, as if wishing to hold no further communion with his visitor. Death rapidly approached after this, but without making any alteration in the tranquillity, or rather, perhaps, in the indifference with which he had always expressed himself ready to meet it. At length it came, and, according to the account of one who was with him at the time, he underwent the last pang
with as much composure as he would have drunk a glass of wine, and left the world as if he were glad to bid it farewell.
• Thus ended the career of one of the most distinguished men that modern Italy has produced. The personal character of Foscolo has been submitted to severe criticisni, and, like that of most men of his disposition, it has met with little mercy. His natural candour was sufficient of itself to creale him enemies in the world, but this candour, so noble in itself, wherever found, was, unfortunately, leavened with an asperity which too often gave to his honourable love of independence the appearance of pride and angry passion. He was thus always obnoxious to ihe weak and the ignorant, frequently to the calm and temperate, and occasionally to those who were in every way worthy of his respect, and who would have shown him every kind of honour but for his impatient and overbearing disposition. While he thus created a host of opponents by the mere faults of his temper, he added largely to their number by the imprudence of his conduct. Men of genius ought not, perhaps, to be judged of in the same way as the mass of human beings, whose actions are under the influence of different motives. Some allowance, perhaps, ought to be made, for the indiscretions, not for the vices, of those, whose prudence even is derived from considerations with which that of mankind in general has little to do; but if the world ought to be thus charitable towards men of genius, men of genius ought to exercise equal charity towards the world, and not to be angry if they, who have only the common maxims of plain sense and prudence to guide their decisions, blame every departure from such guides with pertinacious severity. Thus the course which Foscolo followed, could not fail of generating suspicions as to his integrity. Those who were best able to judge of him, who kuew his real feelings and sentiments, acquit him of many charges; but the acquittal of a few high minded and thinking men, has seldom sufficient influence with less elevated minds, to make them forego their suspicions. Looking at Foscolo without any wish to praise him for virtues which he did not possess, much less to accuse him of faults which did not tarnish his character, he may be fairly described as an ardent lover of public truth, a determined but rational partisan of freedom; as constant and devoted in his patriotism, temperate in his habits, and full of boldness and magnanimity whenever called upon to defend the cause of the oppressed. But on the other hand, pride, with the less dignified vice of vanity, tinctured many of his best actions; be was prodigal of his means when it was his duty to exercise a provident parsimony; the good effects of his temperance and other virtues, were counteracted by a weak and unjust indulgence in improper and useless expenses, and they were not unfrequently, I fear, sacrificed entirely for the gratification of some dark and latent passion.
• The splendour of his character was thus much tarnished, but after all, let us hope that it was only the brightness of the surface that suffered; truth, if it be loved, lives in the very centre of the heart; patriotism and independence are of the man's self; and the vanity and imprudence of Foscolo never led him either to contradict his principles, or to betray his country.
*As a poet and a scholar, Foscolo will always occupy an eminent station among the writers of this century. The Sepolcri, the Hymn to the Graces, and some of his minor pieces, are eminently beautiful; but the Letters of Ortis surpass all his other works, both in eloquence of language, and grandeur of sentiment. His tragedies abound in noble thoughts, but as dramas they are deficient in many of the characteristics necessary to the popularity of such compositions.
* I have but to add, that this great, but equally unfortunate and eccentric man, lies buried in Chiswick church-yard. Mr. Hudson Gurney kindly directed a stone to be placed over his grave; but it has long been covered with the grass and weeds which indicate forgetfulness.'—vol. iii. pp. 509– 514.
The Life of Foscolo, besides being well written, and diversified by many topics of interest, is one added to the many warnings which have been already afforded to literary men, against what we may almost call the crime of improvidence. It is little, after all, upon which a man can subsist, who chooses to live with moderation, and a strict regard to economy. If only engaged in ordinary employment-and with proper education and acquirements, he need hardly be without employment in London—he may easily render himself, by reasonable precautions, so far independent, as to keep his mind unclouded by despondency, capable of freely using its powers, and of receiving pleasure from their exercise.
We cannot conclude this notice of Mr. Stebbing's volumes without observing, that he appears to us not only to have a happy turn for biographical writing, but, what is equally, if not still more indispensable, a strong and conscientious attachment to truth upon all occasions. In point of honesty, at least, he is inferior to none