Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, David Widger and PG Distributed Proofreaders
The History of the Count de St. Julian
Edited and with an Introduction by BURTON R. POLLIN [Blank Page]
_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_
My dear lord,
It is not in conformity to those modes which fashion prescribes, that I
am desirous to express to you my most sincere condolence upon the death
of your worthy father. I know too well the temper of my Rinaldo to
imagine, that his accession to a splendid fortune and a venerable title
can fill his heart with levity, or make him forget the obligations he
owed to so generous and indulgent a parent. It is not the form of sorrow
that clouds his countenance. I see the honest tear of unaffected grief
starting from his eye. It is not the voice of flattery, that can render
him callous to the most virtuous and respectable feelings that can
inform the human breast.
I remember, my lord, with the most unmingled pleasure, how fondly
you used to dwell upon those instances of paternal kindness that you
experienced almost before you knew yourself. I have heard you describe
with how benevolent an anxiety the instructions of a father were always
communicated, and with what rapture he dwelt upon the early discoveries
of that elevated and generous character, by which my friend is so
eminently distinguished. Never did the noble marquis refuse a single
request of this son, or frustrate one of the wishes of his heart. His
last prayers were offered for your prosperity, and the only thing that
made him regret the stroke of death, was the anguish he felt at parting
with a beloved child, upon whom all his hopes were built, and in whom
all his wishes centred.
Forgive me, my friend, that I employ the liberty of that intimacy with
which you have honoured me, in reminding you of circumstances, which I
am not less sure that you revolve with a melancholy pleasure, than I am
desirous that they should live for ever in your remembrance. That
sweet susceptibility of soul which is cultivated by these affectionate
recollections, is the very soil in which virtue delights to spring.
Forgive me, if I sometimes assume the character of a Mentor. I would not
be so grave, if the love I bear you could dispense with less.
The breast of my Rinaldo swells with a thousand virtuous sentiments. I
am conscious of this, and I will not disgrace the confidence I ought to
place in you. But your friend cannot but be also sensible, that you are
full of the ardour of youth, that you are generous and unsuspecting, and
that the happy gaiety of your disposition sometimes engages you with
associates, that would abuse your confidence and betray your honour.
Remember, my dear lord, that you have the reputation of a long list of
ancestors to sustain. Your house has been the support of the throne,
and the boast of Italy. You are not placed in an obscure station,
where little would be expected from you, and little would be the
disappointment, though you should act in an imprudent or a vicious
manner. The antiquity of your house fixes the eyes of your countrymen
upon you. Your accession at so early a period to its honours and its
emoluments, renders your situation particularly critical.
But if your situation be critical, you have also many advantages, to
balance the temptations you may be called to encounter. Heaven has
blessed you with an understanding solid, judicious, and penetrating. You
cannot long be made the dupe of artifice, you are not to be misled by
the sophistry of vice. But you have received from the hands of the
munificent creator a much more valuable gift than even this, a manly and
a generous mind. I have been witness to many such benevolent acts of my
Rinaldo as have made my fond heart overflow with rapture. I have traced
his goodness to its hiding place. I have discovered instances of his
tenderness and charity, that were intended to be invisible to every
I am fully satisfied that the marquis of Pescara can never rank among
the votaries of vice and folly. It is not against the greater instances
of criminality that I wish to guard you. I am not apprehensive of a
sudden and a total degeneracy. But remember, my lord, you will, from
your situation, be inevitably surrounded with flatterers. You are
naturally fond of commendation. Do not let this generous instinct be the
means of disgracing you. You will have many servile parasites, who will
endeavour, by inuring you to scenes of luxury and dissipation, to divert
your charity from its noblest and its truest ends, into the means of
supporting them in their fawning dependence. Naples is not destitute of
a set of young noblemen, the disgrace of the titles they wear, who would
be too happy to seduce the representative of the marquisses of Pescara
into an imitation of their vices, and to screen their follies under so
brilliant and conspicuous an example.
My lord, there is no misfortune that I more sincerely regret than the
loss of your society. I know not how it is, and I would willingly
attribute it to the improper fastidiousness of my disposition, that
I can find few characters in the university of Palermo, capable of
interesting my heart. With my Rinaldo I was early, and have been long
united; and I trust, that no force, but that of death, will be able to
dissolve the ties that bind us. Wherever you are, the heart of your St.
Julian is with you. Wherever you go, his best wishes accompany you. If
in this letter, I have assumed an unbecoming austerity, your lordship
will believe that it is the genuine effusion of anxiety and friendship,
and will pardon me. It is not that I am more exempt from youthful folly
than others. Born with a heart too susceptible for my peace, I am
continually guilty of irregularities, that I immediately wish, but am
unable to retract. But friendship, in however frail a bosom she resides,
cannot permit her own follies to dispense her from guarding those she
loves against committing their characters.
It is not necessary for me to assure my St. Julian, that I really felt
those sentiments of filial sorrow which he ascribes to me. Never did any
son sustain the loss of so indulgent a father. I have nothing by which
to remember him, but acts of goodness and favour; not one hour of
peevishness, not one instance of severity. Over all my youthful follies
he cast the veil of kindness. All my imaginary wants received a prompt
supply. Every promise of spirit and sensibility I was supposed to
discover, was cherished with an anxious and unremitting care.
But such as he was to me, he was, in a less degree, to all his
domestics, and all his dependents. You can scarcely imagine what a
moving picture my palace--and must I call it mine? presented, upon my
first arrival. The old steward, and the grey-headed lacqueys endeavoured
to assume a look of complacency, but their recent grief appeared through
their unpractised hypocrisy. "Health to our young master! Long life,"
cried they, with a broken and tremulous accent, "to the marquis of
Pescara!" You will readily believe, that I made haste to free them from
their restraint, and to assure them that the more they lamented my ever
honoured father, the more they would endear themselves to me. Their
looks thanked me, they clasped their hands with delight, and were
The next morning as soon as I appeared, I perceived, as I passed along,
a whole crowd of people plainly, but decently habited, in the hall.
"Who are they?" said I. "I endeavoured to keep them off," said the old
steward, "but they would not be hindered. They said they were sure that
the young marquis would not bely the bounty of their old master, upon
which they had so long depended for the conveniences and comfort of
life." "And they shall not be kept off," said I; and advancing towards
them, I endeavoured to convince them, that, however unworthy of his
succession, I would endeavour to keep alive the spirit of their
benefactor, and would leave them as little reason as possible to regret
his loss. Oh! my St. Julian, who but must mourn so excellent a parent,
so amiable, so incomparable a man!
But you talked to me of the flattering change in my situation. And shall
I confess to you the truth? I find nothing in it that flatters, nothing
that pleases me. I am told my revenues are more extensive. But what is
that to me? They were before sufficiently ample, and I had but to wish
at any time, in order to have them increased. But I am removed to the
metropolis of the kingdom, to the city in which the court of my master
resides, to the seat of elegance and pleasure. And yet, amidst all that
it offers, I sigh for the rural haunts of Palermo, its pleasant hills,
its fruitful vales, its simplicity and innocence. I sit down to a more
sumptuous table, I am surrounded with a more numerous train of servants
and dependents. But this comes not home to the heart of your Rinaldo.
I look in vain through all the circle for an equal and a friend. It is
true, when I repair to the levee of my prince, I behold many equals; but
they are strangers to me, their faces are dressed in studied smiles,
they appear all suppleness, complaisance and courtliness. A countenance,
fraught with art, and that carries nothing of the soul in it, is
uninteresting, and even forbidding in my eye.
Oh! how long shall I be separated from my St. Julian? I am almost angry
with you for apologizing for your kind monitions and generous advice. If
my breast glows with any noble sentiments, it is to your friendship I
ascribe them. If I have avoided any of the rocks upon which heedless
youth is apt to split, yours is all the honour, though mine be the
advantage. More than one instance do I recollect with unfeigned
gratitude, in which I had passed the threshold of error, in which I had
already set my foot upon the edge of the precipice, and was reclaimed by
your care. But what temptations could the simple Palermo offer, compared
with the rich, the luxurious, and dissipated court of Naples?
And upon this scene I am cast without a friend. My honoured father
indeed could not have been my companion, but his advice might have been
useful to me in a thousand instances. My St. Julian is at a distance
that my heart yearns to think of. Volcanos burn, and cataracts roar
between us. With caution then will I endeavour to tread the giddy
circle. Since I must, however unprepared, be my own master, I will
endeavour to be collected, sober, and determined.
One expedient I have thought of, which I hope will be of service to me
in the new scene upon which I am to enter. I will think how my friend
would have acted, I will think that his eye is upon me, and I will make
it a law to myself to confess all my faults and follies to you. As you
have indulged me with your correspondence, you will allow me, I doubt
not, in this liberty, and will favour me from time to time with those
honest and unbiassed remarks upon my conduct, which it is consonant with
your character to make.
_The Same to the Same_
Since I wrote last to my dear count, I have been somewhat more in
public, and have engaged a little in the societies of this city. You can
scarcely imagine, my friend, how different the young gentlemen of Naples
are from my former associates in the university. You would hardly
suppose them of the same species. In Palermo, almost every man was cold,
uncivil and inattentive; and seemed to have no other purpose in view
than his own pleasure and accommodation. At Naples they are all good
nature and friendship. Your wishes, before you have time to express
them, are forestalled by the politeness of your companions, and each
seems to prefer the convenience and happiness of another to his own.
With one young nobleman I am particularly pleased, and have chosen him
from the rest as my most intimate associate. It is the marquis of San
Severino. I shall endeavour by his friendship, as well as I can, to
make up to myself the loss of my St. Julian, of whose society I am
irremediably deprived. He does not indeed possess your abilities, he
has not the same masculine understanding, and the same delightful
imagination. But he supplies the place of these by an uninterrupted flow
of good humour. All his passions seem to be disinterested, and it would
do violence to every sentiment of his heart to be the author of a
moment's pain to another.
Do not however imagine, my dear count, that my partiality to this
amiable young nobleman renders me insensible to the defects of his
character. Though his temper be all sweetness and gentleness, his views
are not the most extensive. He considers much more the present ease of
those about him, than their future happiness. He has not harshness, he
has not firmness enough in his character, shall I call it? to refuse
almost any request, however injudicious. He is therefore often led into
improper situations, and his reputation frequently suffers in a manner
that I am persuaded his heart does not deserve.
The person of San Severino is tall, elegant and graceful. His manners
are singularly polite, and uniformly unembarassed. His voice is
melodious, and he is eminently endowed by nature with the gift of
eloquence. A person of your penetration will therefore readily imagine,
that his society is courted by the fair. His propensity to the tender
passion appears to have been very great, and he of consequence lays
himself out in a gallantry that I can by no means approve.
Such, my dear count, appears to me to be the genuine and impartial
character of my new friend. His good nature, his benevolence, and the
pliableness of his disposition may surely be allowed to compensate for
many defects. He can indeed by no means supply the place of my St.
Julian. I cannot look up to him as a guide, and I believe I shall never
be weak enough to ask his advice in the conduct of my life.
But do not imagine, my dear lord, that I shall be in much danger of
being misled by him into criminal irregularities. I feel a firmness of
resolution, and an ardour in the cause of virtue, that will, I trust,
be abundantly sufficient to set these poor temptations at defiance.
The world, before I entered it, appeared to me more formidable than it
really is. I had filled it with the bugbears of a wild imagination.
I had supposed that mankind made it their business to prey upon each
other. Pardon me, my amiable friend, if I take the liberty to say, that
my St. Julian was more suspicious than he needed to have been, when he
supposed that Naples could deprive me of the simplicity and innocence
that grew up in my breast under his fostering hand at Palermo.
_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_
I rejoice with you sincerely upon the pleasures you begin to find in the
city of Naples. May all the days of my Rinaldo be happy, and all his
paths be strewed with flowers! It would have been truly to be lamented,
that melancholy should have preyed upon a person so young and so
distinguished by fortune, or that you should have sighed amidst all the
magnificence of Naples for the uncultivated plainness of Palermo. So
long as I reside here, your absence will constantly make me feel an
uneasy void, but it is my earnest wish that not a particle of that
uneasiness may reach my friend.
Surely, my dear marquis, there are few correspondents so young as
myself, and who address a personage so distinguished as you, that deal
with so much honest simplicity, and devote so large a share of their
communications to the forbidding seriousness of advice. But you have
accepted the first effort of my friendship with generosity and candour,
and you will, I doubt not, continue to behold my sincerity with a
Shall I venture to say that I am sorry you have commenced so intimate a
connexion with the marquis of San Severino? Even the character of him
with which you have favoured me, represents him to my wary sight as too
agreeable not to be dangerous. But I have heard of him from others, a
much more unpleasing account.
Alas, my friend, under how fair an outside are the most pernicious
principles often concealed! Your honest heart would not suspect, that an
appearance of politeness frequently covers the most rooted selfishness.
The man who is all gentleness and compliance abroad, is often a tyrant
among his domestics. The attendants upon a court put on their faces
as they put on their clothes. And it is only after a very long
acquaintance, after having observed them in their most unguarded hours,
that you can make the smallest discovery of their real characters.
Remember, my dear Rinaldo, the maxim of the incomparable philosopher of
Geneva: "Man is not naturally amiable." If the human character shews
less pleasing and attractive in the obscurity of retreat, and among the
unfinished personages of a college, believe me, the natives of a court
are not a whit more disinterested, or have more of the reality of
friendship. The true difference is, that the one wears a disguise, and
the other appear as they are.
I do not mean however to impute all the faults I have mentioned to the
marquis of San Severino. He is probably in the vulgar sense of the word
good-natured. As you have already expressed it, he knows not how to
refuse the requests, or contradict the present inclinations of those
with whom he is connected. You say rightly that his gallantries are such
as you can by no means approve. He is, if I am not greatly misinformed,
in the utmost degree loose and debauched in his principles. The greater
part of his time is spent in the haunts of intemperance, and under the
roofs of the courtezan. I am afraid indeed he has gone farther than
this, and that he has not scrupled to ruin innocence, and practise all
the arts of seduction.
There is, my dear Rinaldo, a species of careless and youthful vice, that
assumes the appearance of gentleness, and wears the garb of generosity.
It even pretends to the name of virtue. But it casts down all the sacred
barriers of religion. It laughs to scorn that suspicious vigilance, that
trembling sensibility, that is the very characteristic of virtue. It
represents those faults of which a man may be guilty without
malignity, as innocent. And it endeavours to appropriate to itself
all comprehensiveness of view, all true fortitude, and all liberal
Believe me, my friend, this is the enemy from which you have most to
fear. It is not barefaced degeneracy that can seduce you. She must
be introduced under a specious name, she must disguise herself like
something that nature taught us to approve, and she must steal away the
heart at unawares.
I can never sufficiently acknowledge the friendship that appears in
every line of your obliging epistles. Even where your attachment is
rouzed without a sufficient cause, it is only upon that account the more
I took the liberty, my dear count, immediately after receiving your
last, to come to an explanation with San Severino. I mentioned to him
the circumstances in your letter, as affairs that had been casually
hinted to me. I told him, that I was persuaded he would excuse my
freedom, as I was certain there was some misinformation, and I could not
omit the opportunity of putting it in his power to justify himself. The
marquis expressed the utmost astonishment, and vowed by all that was
sacred, that he was innocent of the most important part of the charge.
He told me, that it was his ill fortune, and he supposed he was not
singular, to have enemies, that made it their business to misrepresent
every circumstance of his conduct. He had been calumniated, cruelly
calumniated, and could he discover the author of the aspersion, he would
vindicate his honour with his sword. In fine, he explained the whole
business in such a manner, as, though I could not entirely approve, yet
evinced it to be by no means subversive of the general amiableness of
his character. How deplorable is the situation in which we are placed,
when even the generous and candid temper of my St. Julian, can be
induced to think of a young nobleman in a light he does not deserve, and
to impute to him basenesses from which his heart is free!
Soon after this interview I was introduced by my new friend into a
society of a more mixed and equivocal kind than I had yet seen. Do not
however impute to the marquis a surprize of which he was not guilty. He
fairly stated to me of what persons the company was to be composed; and
idle curiosity, and perhaps a particular gaiety of humour, under the
influence of which I then was, induced me to accept of his invitation.
If I did wrong, my dear count, blame me, and blame me without reserve.
But if I may judge from the disposition in which I left this house, I
only derived a new reinforcement to those resolutions, with which your
conversation and example first inspired me.
It was in the evening, after the opera. The company was composed of
several of our young nobility, and an equal number of female performers
and other ladies of the same reputation. They almost immediately broke
into _tete-a-tetes_, and of consequence one of the ladies addressed
herself particularly to me. The vulgar familiarity of her manners,
and the undisguised libidinousness of her conversation, I must own,
disgusted me. Though I do not pretend to be devoid of the passions
incident to my age, I was not at all pleased with the addresses of this
female. As my companions were more active in the choice of an associate,
it may perhaps be only candid to own, that she was not the most pleasing
in the circle. The consciousness of the eyes of the whole party
embarrassed me. And the aukward attempts I made to detach myself from
my enamorata, as they proved unsuccessful, so they served to excite a
general smile. San Severino however presently perceived my situation,
and observing that I was by no means satisfied with my fortune, he with
the utmost politeness broke away from the company, and attended me home.
How is it my dear friend that vice, whose property it should seem to
be, to hesitate and to tremble, should be able to assume this air of
confidence and composure? How is it that innocence, that surely should
always triumph, is thus liable to all the confusion and perplexity of
guilt? Why is virtue chosen, but because she is the parent of honour,
because she enables a man to look in the face the aspersions of calumny,
and to remain firm and undejected, amidst whatever fortune has of
adverse and capricious? And are these advantages merely imaginary? Are
composure and self-approbation common to the upright and the wicked? Or
do those who are most hardened, really possess the superiority; and can
conscious guilt bid defiance to shame, while rectitude is continually
liable to hide her head in confusion?
_The Same to the Same_
You will recollect, my St. Julian, that I promised to confess to you my
faults and my follies, and to take you for the umpire and director of
my conduct. Perhaps I have done wrong. Perhaps, though unconscious of
error, I am some how or other misled, and need your faithful hand to
lead me back again to the road of integrity.
Why is it that I feel a reluctance to state to you the whole of my
conduct? It is a sensation to which I have hitherto been a stranger, and
in spite of me, it obliges me to mistrust myself. But I have discovered
the reason. It is, that educated in solitude, and immured in the walls
of a college, we had not learned to make allowances for the situations
and the passions of mankind. You and I, my dear count, have long agreed,
that the morality of priests is to be distrusted: that it is too often
founded upon sinister views and private interest: that it has none
of that comprehension of thought, that manly enthusiasm, which is
characteristic of the genuine moral philosopher. What have penances and
pilgrimages, what have beads and crosses, vows made in opposition to
every instinct of nature, and an obedience subversive of the original
independency of the human mind, to do with virtue?
Thus far, my amiable friend, you advanced, but yet I am afraid you have
not advanced far enough. I am told there is an honesty and an honour,
that preserves a man's character free from impeachment, which is
perfectly separate from that sublime goodness that you and I have always
admired. But to this sentiment I am by no means reconciled. To speak
more immediately to the subject I intended.
What can be more justifiable, or reasonable, than a conformity to the
original propensities of our nature? It is true, these propensities may
by an undue cultivation be so much increased, as to be productive of
the most extensive mischief. The man who, for the sake of indulging
his corporeal appetites, neglects every valuable pursuit, and every
important avocation, cannot be too warmly censured. But it is no less
true, that the passion of the sexes for each other, exists in the most
innocent and uncorrupted heart. Can it then be reasonable to condemn
such a moderate indulgence of this passion, as interrupts no employment,
and impedes no pursuit? This indulgence, in the present civilized
state of society, requires no infringement of order, no depravation of
character. The legislators of every country, whose wisdom may surely
be considered as somewhat greater than that of its priests, have
judiciously overlooked this imagined irregularity, and amongst all the
penalties which they have ambitiously, and too often without either
sentiment or humanity, heaped together against the offences of society,
have suffered this to pass unnoticed. Why should we be more harsh and
rigorous than they? It is inconsistent with all logic and all candour,
to argue against the use of any thing from its abuse. Of what mischief
can the moderate gratification of this appetite be the source? It does
not indeed romantically seek to reclaim a class of women, whom every
sober man acknowledges to be irreclaimable. But with that benevolence
that is congenial to a comprehensive mind, it pities them with all their
errors, and it contributes to preserve them from misery, distress, and
From what I have now said, I believe you will have already suspected of
what nature are those particulars in my conduct, which I set out with
an intention of confessing. Whatever may be my merit or demerit in this
instance, I will not hide from you that the marquis of San Severino was
the original cause of what I have done. You are already sufficiently
acquainted with the freedom of his sentiments upon this subject. He is a
professed devotee of the sex, and he suffers this passion to engross a
much larger share of his time than I can by any means approve. Incited
by his exhortations, I have in some measure imitated his conduct, at the
same time that I have endeavoured not to fall into the same excesses.
But I believe that I shall treat you more regularly in the manner of a
confessor, and render you more master of the subject, by relating to you
the steps by which I have been led to act and to justify, that which I
formerly used to condemn. I have already told you, how aukward I felt my
situation in the first society of the gayer kind, into which my friend
introduced me. Though he politely freed me from my present embarassment,
he could not help rallying me upon the rustic appearance I made. He
apologized for the ill fortune I had experienced, and promised to
introduce me to a mistress beautiful as the day, and sprightly and
ingenious as Sappho herself.
What could I do? I was unwilling to break with the most amiable
companion I had found in the city of Naples. I was staggered with his
reasonings and his eloquence. Shall I acknowledge the truth? I was
mortified at the singular and uncouth figure I had made. I felt myself
actuated with a social sympathy, that made me wish to resemble those of
my own rank and age, in any thing that was not seriously criminal. I was
involuntarily incited by the warm description San Severino gave me of
the beauty and attractions of the lady he recommended. Must we not
confess, my St. Julian, setting the nature of the business quite out
of the question, that there was something highly disinterested in the
behaviour of the marquis upon this occasion? He left his companions and
his pleasures, to accommodate himself to my weakness. He managed his own
character so little, as to undertake to recommend to me a female friend.
And he seems to have neglected the interest of his own pleasures
entirely, in order to introduce me to a woman, inferior in
accomplishments to none of her sex.
_The Same to the Same_
Could I ever have imagined, my dear count, that in so short a time the
correspondence between us would have been so much neglected? I have
yet received no answer to my last letter, upon a subject particularly
interesting, and in which I had some reason to fear your disapprobation.
My St. Julian lives in the obscurity of retreat, and in the solitude
most favourable to literary pursuits. What avocations can have called
off his attention from the interests of his friend? May I be permitted
however to draw one conclusion from your silence, that you do not
consider my situation as critical and alarming? That although you join
the prudent severity of a monitor with the candid partiality of a
friend, you yet view my faults in a venial light, and are disposed to
draw over them the veil of indulgence?
I might perhaps deduce a fairer apology for the silence on my part from
my new situation, the avocations incident to my rank and fortune, and
the pleasures that abound in a city and a court so celebrated as that
of Naples. But I will not attempt an apology. The novelty of these
circumstances have diverted my attention more than they ought from the
companion of my studies and the friend of my youth, but I trust I shall
never forget him. I have met with companions more gay, and consorts more
obsequious, but I have never found a character so worthy, and a friend
Since I last addressed my St. Julian, I have been engaged in various
scenes both of a pleasurable and a serious kind. I think I am guilty of
no undue partiality to my own conduct when I assure you, that I have
embarked in the lighter pursuits of associates of my own age without
having at any time forgotten what was due to the lustre of my ancestry,
and the favour of my sovereign. I have not injured my reputation. I
have mingled business and pleasure, so as not to sacrifice that which
occupies the first place, to that which holds only the second.
I trust that my St. Julian knows me too well, to suppose that I would
separate philosophy and practice, reason and action from each other. It
was by the instructions of my friend, that I learned to rise superior
to the power of prejudice, to reject no truth because it was novel, to
refuse my ear to no arguments because they were not backed by pompous
and venerable names. In pursuance of this system, I have ventured in
my last to suggest some reasons in favour of a moderate indulgence of
youthful pleasures. Perhaps however my dear count will think, that I am
going beyond what even these reasons would authorize in the instance I
am about to relate.
You are not probably to be informed that there are a certain kind of
necessary people, dependents upon such young noblemen as San Severino
and his friends, upon whom the world has bestowed the denomination
of pimps. One of these gentlemen seemed of late to feel a particular
partiality to myself. He endeavoured by several little instances of
officiousness to become useful to me. At length he told me of a young
person extremely beautiful and innocent, whose first favours he believed
he could engage to procure in my behalf.
At that idea I started. "And do you think, my good friend," said I,
"because you are acquainted with my having indulged to some of those
pleasures inseparable from my age, that I would presume to ruin
innocence, and be the means of bringing upon a young person so much
remorse and such an unhappy way of life, as must be the inevitable
consequence of a step of this kind?" "My lord," replied the parasite, "I
do not pretend to be any great casuist in these matters. His honour of
San Severino does I know seldom give way to scruples of this kind. But
in the instance I have mentioned there are several things to be said.
The mother of the lady, who formerly moved in a higher sphere than she
does at present, never maintained a very formidable character. This
daughter is the fruit of her indiscriminate amours, and though I am
perfectly satisfied she has not yet been blown upon by the breath of
a mortal, her education has been such as to prepare her to follow the
venerable example of her mother. Your lordship therefore sees that in
this case, you will wrong no parent, and seduce no child, that you will
merely gather an harvest already ripe, and which will be infallibly
reaped by the first comer."
Though the reasons of my convenient gentleman made me hesitate, they
by no means determined me to the execution of the plan he proposed. He
immediately perceived the situation of my mind, and hinted that he
might at least have the honour of placing me in a certain church, that
afternoon at vespers, where I might have an opportunity of seeing, and
perhaps conversing a little with the lady. To this scheme I assented.
She appeared not more than sixteen years of age. Her person was small,
but her form was delicate. Her auburn tresses hung about her neck
in great profusion. Her eyes sparkled with vivacity, and even with
intelligence. Her dress was elegant and graceful, but not gaudy. It
was impossible that such a figure should not have had some tendency to
captivate me. Having contemplated her sufficiently at a distance, I
The little gipsey turned up her eyes askance, and endeavoured to take a
sly survey of me as I advanced. I accosted her. Her behaviour was full
of that charming hesitation which is uniformly the offspring of youth
and inexperience. She received me with a pretty complaisance, but at
the same time blushed and appeared fluttered she knew not why. I
involuntarily advanced my hand towards her, and she gave me hers with a
kind of unreflecting frankness. There was a good sense and a simplicity
united in her appearance, and the few words she uttered, that pleased
and even affected me.
Such, my dear friend, is the present state of my amour. I confess I have
frequently considered seduction in an odious light. But here I think few
or none of the objections against it have place. The mellow fruit is
ready to drop from the tree, and seems to solicit some friendly hand to
_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_
My dear lord,
Avocations of no agreeable kind, and with which it probably will not
be long before you are sufficiently acquainted, have of late entirely
engrossed me. You will readily believe, that they were concerns of no
small importance, that hindered me from a proper acknowledgment and
attention to the communications of my friend. But I will dismiss my own
affairs for the present, and make a few of the observations to which you
invite me upon the contents of your letters.
Alas! my Rinaldo is so entirely changed since we used to wander together
among the groves and vallies, and along the banks of that stream which I
now see from my window, that I scarcely know him for the same. Where
is that simplicity, where that undisguised attachment to virtue and
integrity, where that unaccommodating system of moral truth, that used
to live in the bosom of my friend? All the lines of his character seem
to suffer an incessant decay. Shall I fear that the time is hastening
when that sublime and generous spirit shall no longer be distinguished
from the San Severinos, the men of gaiety and pleasure of the age? And
can I look back upon this alteration, and apprehensions thus excited,
and say, "all this has taken place in six poor months?"
Do not imagine, my dear lord, that I am that severe monitor, that rigid
censor, that would give up his friend for every fault, that knows not
how to make any allowance for the heedless levity of youth. I can
readily suppose a man with the purest heart and most untainted
principles, drawn aside into temporary error. Occasion, opportunity,
example, an accidental dissipation of mind are inlets to vice, against
which perhaps it is not in humanity to be always guarded.
Confidence, my dear friend, unsuspicious confidence, is the first source
of error. In favour of the presumptuous man, who wantonly incurs danger
and braves temptation, heaven will not interest itself. There can be
no mistake more destitute of foundation, than that which supposes man
exempt from frailty.
Had not my Rinaldo, trusting too much to his own strength, laid himself
open to dangerous associates, he would now have contemplated those
actions he has been taught to excuse, with disgust and horror. His own
heart would never have taught him that commodious morality he has been
induced to patronize. But he feared them not. He felt, as he assured me,
that firmness of resolution, and ardour of virtue, that might set
these temptations at defiance. Be ingenuous, my friend. Look back, and
acknowledge your mistake. Look back, and acknowledge, that to the purest
and most blameless mind indiscriminate communications are dangerous.
I had much rather my dear marquis had once deviated from that line of
conduct he had marked out to himself, than that he had undertaken to
defend the deviation, and exerted himself to unlearn principles that did
him honour. You profess to believe that indulgences of this sort are
unavoidable, and the temptations to them irresistible. And is man then
reduced to a par with the brutes? Is there a single passion of the soul,
that does not then cease to be blameless, when it is no longer directed
and restrained by the dictates of reason? A thousand considerations of
health, of interest, of character, respecting ourselves; and of benefit
and inconvenience to society, will be taken into the estimate by the
wise and the good man.
But these considerations are superseded by that which cannot be
counteracted. And does not the reciprocal power of motives depend upon
the strength and vivacity with which they are exhibited to the mind? The
presence of a superior would at any time restrain us from an unbecoming
action. The sense of a decided interest, the apprehension of a certain,
and very considerable detriment, would deprive the most flattering
temptation of all its blandishments. And are not this sense and this
apprehension in a great degree in the power of every man?
Tell me, my friend; Shall that action which in a woman is the utter
extinction of all honour, be in a man entirely faultless and innocent?
But the world is not quite so unjust. Such a conduct even in our sex
tends to the diminution of character, is considered in the circle of the
venerable and the virtuous as a subject of shame and concealment, and
if persisted in, causes a person universally to be considered, as alike
unfit for every arduous pursuit, and every sublime undertaking.
Is it possible indeed, that the society of persons in the lowest state
of profligacy, can be desirable for a man of family, for one who
pretends to honour and integrity? Is it possible that they should not
have some tendency to pollute his ideas, to debase his sentiments, and
to reduce him to the same rank with themselves? If the women you have
described irreclaimable, let it at least be remembered that your
conduct tends to shut up against them the door of reformation and
return, and forces upon them a mode of subsistence which they might not
voluntarily have chosen.
Thus much for your first letter. Your second calls me to a subject
of greater seriousness and magnitude. My Rinaldo makes hasty strides
indeed! Scarcely embarked in licentious and libertine principles,
he seems to look forward to the last consummation of the debauchee.
Seduction, my dear lord, is an action that will yield in horror to no
crime that ever sprang up in the degenerate breast.
But it seems, the action you propose to yourself is divested of some
of the aggravations of seduction. I will acknowledge it. Had my friend
received this crime into his bosom in all its deformity, dear as he is
to me, I would have thrown him from my heart with detestation. Yes, I am
firmly persuaded, that the man who perpetrates it, however specious he
may appear, was never conscious to one generous sentiment, never knew
the meaning of rectitude and integrity, but was at all times wrapped up
in that narrow selfishness, that torpid insensibility, that would not
disgrace a fiend.
He undermines innocence surrounded with all her guard of ingenuous
feelings and virtuous principles. He forces from her station a
defenceless woman, who, without his malignant interposition, might have
filled it with honour and happiness. He heaps up disgrace and misery
upon a family that never gave him provocation, and perhaps brings down
the grey hairs of the heads of it to the grave with calamity.
Of all hypocrites this man is the most consummate and the most odious.
He dresses his countenance in smiles, while his invention teems with
havoc and ruin. He pretends the sincerest good will without feeling one
sentiment of disinterested and honest affection. He feigns the warmest
attachment that he may the more securely destroy.
This, my friend, is not the crime of an instant, an action into which
he is hurried by unexpected temptation, and the momentary violence of
passion. He goes about it with deliberation. He lays his plans with all
the subtlety of a Machiavel, and all the flagitiousness of a Borgia.
He executes them gradually from day to day, and from week to week. And
during all this time he dwells upon the luxurious idea, he riots in the
misery he hopes to create. He will tell you he loves. Yes, he loves, as
the hawk loves the harmless dove, as the tyger loves the trembling kid.
And is this the man in whose favour I should ever have been weak enough
to entertain a partiality? I would tear him from my bosom like an adder.
I would crush him like a serpent.
But your case has not the same aggravations. Here is no father who
prizes the honour of his family more than life, and whose heart is bound
up in the virtue of his only child. Here is no mother a stranger to
disgrace, and who with unremitted vigilance had fought to guard every
avenue to the destruction of her daughter. Even the victim herself has
never learned the beauty of virgin purity, and does not know the value
of that she is about to lose.
And yet, my Rinaldo, after all these deductions, there is something in
the story of this uninstructed little innocent, even as stated by him
who is ready to destroy her, that greatly interests my wishes in her
favour. She does not know it seems all the calamity of the fate that is
impending over her. She is blindfolded for destruction. She plays with
her ruin, and views with a thoughtless and a partial eye the murderer of
her virtue and her happiness.
_And, oh, poor helpless nightingale, thought I,
How sweet thou sing'st, how near the deadly snare!_
But if you do not accept the proposal that is made you, it is but too
probable what her fate will be, and how soon the event will take
place. And is this an excuse for my friend to offer? Thousands are the
iniquities that are now upon the verge of action. An imagination the
most fertile in horror can scarcely conceive the crimes that will
probably be committed. And shall I therefore with malignant industry
forestal the villain in all his black designs? You do not mean it.
Permit me yet to suggest one motive more. A connection like that you
have proposed to yourself, might probably make you a father. Of all
the charities incident to the human character, those of a parent are
abundantly the most exquisite and venerable. And can a man of the
smallest sensibility think with calmness, of bringing children into the
world to be the heirs of shame? When he gives them life he entails upon
them dishonour. The father that should look upon them with joy, as a
benefit conferred upon society, and the support of his declining age,
regards them with coldness and alienation. The mother who should
consider them as her boast and her honour, cannot behold them without
opening anew all the sluices of remorse, cannot own them without a
This, my Rinaldo, is what you might do, and in doing it you would
perpetrate an action that would occasion to an ingenuous mind an eternal
regret. But there is another thing also that you might do, and that a
mind, indefatigable in the pursuit of rectitude, as was once that of my
friend, would not need to have suggested to it by another. Instead
of treasuring up remorse, instead of preparing for an innocent and
unsuspecting victim a life of misery and shame, you might redeem her
from impending destruction. You might obtain for her an honest and
industrious partner, and enable her to acquire the character of a
virtuous matron, and a respectable mother of a family.
Reflect for a moment, my dear marquis, on this proposal, which I hope
is yet in your power. Think you, that conscious rectitude, that the
exultation of your heart when you recollect the temptation you have
escaped, and the noble turn you have given it, will not infinitely
overbalance the sordid and fleeting pleasure you are able to attain?
Imagine to yourself that you see her offspring growing up under the care
of a blameless mother, and coming forward to thank you for the benefit
you bestowed upon them before they had a being. Is not this an object
over which a heart susceptible to one manly feeling may reasonably
_The Count de St. Julian to Signor Hippolito Borelli_
You, my dear Hippolito, were the only one of my fellow-collegians, to
whom I communicated all the circumstances of that unfortunate situation
which obliged me to take a final leave of the university. The death of
a father, though not endeared by the highest reciprocations of mutual
kindness, must always make some impressions upon a susceptible mind. The
wound was scarcely healed that had been made by the loss of a mother, a
fond mother, who by her assiduous attentions had supplied every want,
and filled up every neglect, to which I might otherwise have been
When I quitted Palermo, I resolved before I determined upon any thing,
to proceed to the residence of my family at Leontini. My reception
was, as I expected, cold and formal. My brother related to me the
circumstances of the death of my father, over which he affected to shed
tears. He then produced his testament for my inspection, pretended to
blame me that though I were the elder, I had so little ingratiated
myself in his favour, and added, that he could not think of being guilty
of so undutiful a conduct, as to contravene the last dispositions of his
father. If however he could be of any use to me in my future plans of
life, he would exert himself to serve me.
The next morning I quitted Leontini. My reflexions upon the present
posture of my affairs, could not but be melancholy. I was become as it
were a native of the world, discarded from every family, cut off from
every country. Born to a respectable rank and a splendid fortune, I
was precluded in a moment from expectations so reasonable, and an
inheritance which I might have hoped at this time to reap. Many there
are, I doubt not, who have no faculties by which to comprehend the
extent of this misfortune. The loss of possessions sufficiently ample,
and of the power and dignity annexed to his character, who is the
supporter of an ancient name, they would confess was to be regretted.
But I had many resources left. My brother would probably have received
me into his family, and I might have been preserved from the sensations
of exigency and want. And could I think of being obliged for this to
a brother, who had always beheld me with aversion, who was not of
a character to render the benefits he conferred insensible to the
receiver, and who, it was scarcely to be supposed, had not made use of
sinister and ungenerous arts to deprive me of my inheritance? But the
houses of the great were still open. My character was untainted, my
education had been such as to enable me to be useful in a thousand
ways. Ah, my Hippolito, the great are not always possessed of the most
capacious minds. There are innumerable little slights and offences that
shrink from description, but which are sufficient to keep alive the most
mortifying sense of dependency, and to make a man of sensibility, and
proud honour constantly unhappy. And must I, who had hoped to be
the ornament and boast of my country, thus become a burden to my
acquaintance, and a burden to myself?
Such were the melancholy reflexions in which I was engaged. I had left
Leontini urged by the sentiments of miscarriage and resentment. I fled
from the formality of condolence, and the useless parade of friendship.
I would willingly have hid myself from every face I had hitherto known.
I would willingly have retired to a desart. My thoughts were all in
arms. I revolved a thousand vigorous resolutions without fixing upon
I had now proceeded somewhat more than two leagues upon my journey,
and had gained the centre of that vast and intricate forest which you
remember to be situated at no great distance from Leontini. In this
place there advanced upon me in a moment four of those bravoes, for
which this place is particularly infamous, and who are noted for their
daring and hazardous atchievements. Myself and my servant defended
ourselves against them for some time. One of them was wounded in the
beginning of the encounter. But it was impossible that we could have
resisted long. My servant was hurt in several places, and I had received
a wound in my arm. In this critical moment a cavalier, accompanied by
several attendants, and who appeared to be armed, advanced at no great
distance. The villains immediately took up their disabled companion,
and retired with precipitation into the thickest part of the wood. My
deliverer now ordered some of his attendants to pursue them, while
himself with one servant remained to assist us.
Imagine, my dear friend, what were my emotions, when I discovered in my
preserver, the marquis of Pescara! I recollected in a moment all our
former intimacy, and in what manner it had so lately been broken off.
Little did I think that I should almost ever have seen him again. Much
less did I think that I should ever have owed him the most important
The expression of the countenance of both of us upon this sudden
recognition was complicated. Amidst all the surprize and gratitude, that
it was impossible not to testify, my eyes I am convinced had something
in them of the reproach of violated friendship. I thought I could trace,
and by what followed I could not be mistaken, in the air of my Rinaldo,
a confession of wrong, united with a kind of triumph, that he had been
enabled so unexpectedly and completely to regain that moral equilibrium
which he had before lost.
It was not long before his servants returned from an unsuccessful
pursuit, and we set forward for a village about a quarter of a league
further upon the road from Leontini. It was there that I learned from my
friend the occasion and subject of his journey. He had heard at Naples a
confused report of the death of my father, and the unexpected succession
of my brother. The idea of this misfortune involuntarily afflicted him.
At the thought of my distress all his tenderness revived. "And was it,"
it was thus that he described the progress of his reflections, "in
the moment of so unexpected a blow, that my St. Julian neglected the
circumstances of his own situation, to write to me that letter,
the freedom of whose remonstrances, and the earnestness of whose
exhortations so greatly offended me? How much does this consideration
enhance the purity and disinterestedness of his friendship? And is it
possible that I should have taken umbrage at that which was prompted
only by tenderness and attachment? And did I ever speak of his
interference in those harsh and reproachful terms which I so well
knew would be conveyed to him again? Could I have been so blinded by
groundless resentment, as to have painted him in all the colours of an
inflexible dictator, and a presumptuous censor? Could I have imputed his
conduct to motives of pride, affectation, and arrogance? How happy had I
been, had his advice arrived sooner, and been more regarded?"
But it was not with self-blame and reproach only, that the recovery
of my Rinaldo was contented. The idea of the situation of his friend
incessantly haunted him. No pursuit, no avocation, could withdraw his
attention, or banish the recollection from his mind. He determined to
quit Naples in search of me. He left all those engagements, and all
those pleasures of which he had of late been so much enamoured, and
crossing the sea he came into Sicily. Learning that I had quitted
Palermo, he resolved to pursue his search of me to Leontini. He had
fixed his determination not to quit the generous business upon which he
had entered, without discovering me in my remotest retreat, atoning for
the groundless resentment he had harboured, and contributing every thing
in his power to repair the injustice I had suffered from those of my
own family. And in pursuance of these ideas he has made me the most
disinterested and liberal proposals of friendship and assistance.
How is it, my Hippolito, that the same man shall be alternately governed
by the meanest and most exalted motives: that he shall now appear an
essence celestial and divine, and now debase himself by a conduct the
most indefensible and unworthy? But such I am afraid is man. Mixed
in all his qualities, and inconsistent in all his purposes. The most
virtuous and most venerable of us all are too often guilty of things
weak, sordid, and disgraceful. And it is to be hoped on the other hand,
that there are few so base and degenerate, as not sometimes to perform
actions of the most undoubted utility, and to feel sentiments dignified
and benevolent. It is in vain that the philosopher fits in his airy
eminence, and seeks to reduce the shapeless mass into form, and
endeavours to lay down rules for so variable and inconstant a system.
Nature mocks his efforts, and the pertinacity of events belies his
But I am guilty of injustice to my friend. An action which he has so
sincerely regretted, and so greatly atoned, ought not to be considered
with so much severity. I trust I am not misled by the personal
interest I may appear to have in his present conduct. I think I should
contemplate it with the same admiration, and allow it the same weight,
if its benevolence entirely regarded another. Indeed I am still in the
greatest uncertainty how to determine. I am still inclined to prefer my
former plan, of entering resolutely upon new scenes and new pursuits,
to that of taking up any durable residence in the palace of my friend.
There is something misbecoming a man in the bloom of youth, and
labouring under no natural disadvantages and infirmities, in the
subsisting in any manner upon the bounty of another. The pride of my
heart, a pride that I do not seek to extinguish, leads me to prefer an
honest independence, in however mean a station, to the most splendid,
and the most silken bondage.
Why should not he that is born a nobleman be also born a man? A man is a
character superior to all those that civilization has invented. To be a
man is the profession of a citizen of the world. A man of rank is a poor
shivering, exotic plant, that cannot subsist out of his native soil. If
the imaginary barriers of society were thrown down, if we were reduced
back again to a state of nature, the nobleman would appear a shiftless
and a helpless being; he only who knew how to be a man would show like
the creature of God, a being sent into the world with the capacities of
subsistence and enjoyment. The nobleman, an artificial and fantastic
creation, would then lose all that homage in which he plumed himself, he
would be seen without disguise, and be despised by all.
Oh, my Hippolito, in spite of all this parade of firmness and
resolution, I cannot quit my native country but with the sincerest
regret. I had one tie, why do I mention it? Never did I commit this
confidence to any mortal. It was the dream of a poetical imagination. It
was a vision drawn in the fantastic and airy colours that flow from the
pencil of youth. Fondly I once entertained a hope. I lived upon it. But
it is vanished for ever.
I shall go from hence with the marquis of Pescara to Naples. I shall
there probably make a residence of several weeks. In that time I
shall have fixed my plans, and immediately after shall enter upon the
execution of them.
_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_
My dear lord,
Every thing that has happened to me for some time past, appears so
fortunate and extraordinary that I can scarcely persuade myself that
it is not a dream. Is it possible that I should not have been born to
uninterrupted misfortune? The outcast of my father almost as soon as I
had a being, I was never sensible to the solace of paternal kindness, I
could never open my heart, and pour forth all my thoughts into the bosom
of him to whom I owed my existence. Why was I created with a mind so
delicate as to be susceptible of a thousand feelings, and ruffled by a
thousand crosses, that glide unheeded over the breasts of the majority
of mankind? What filial duty did I neglect, what instance of obedience
did I ever refuse, that should have made me be considered with a regard
so rigorous and austere? And was it not punishment enough to be debarred
of all the solace I might have hoped to derive from the cares of a
guardian and a protector? How did I deserve to be deprived of that
patrimony which was my natural claim, to be sent forth, after having
formed so reasonable expectancies, after having received an education
suitable to my rank, unassisted and unprovided, upon the theatre of the
I had pictured that world to myself as cold, selfish, and unfeeling.
I expected to find the countenances of my fellow-creatures around me
smiling and unconcerned, whatever were my struggles, and whatever were
my disappointments. Philosophy had deprived me of those gay and romantic
prospects, which often fill the bosom of youth. A temper too sensible
and fastidious had taught me not to look for any great degree of
sympathy and disinterested ardour among the bulk of my fellow-creatures.
I have now found that avoiding one extreme I encountered the other. As
most men, induced by their self-importance, expect that their feelings
should interest, and their situations arrest the attention of those
that surround them; so I having detected their error counted upon less
benevolence and looked for less friendship than I have found. My Rinaldo
demanded to be pardoned for having neglected my advice, and misconstrued
the motives of it. I had not less reason to intreat his forgiveness in
my turn, for having weighed his character with so little detail, and so
hastily decided to his disadvantage.
My friend will not suspect me of interested flattery, when I say, that I
sincerely rejoice in a conduct so honourable to human nature as his has
been respecting me. He had no motive of vanity, for who was there that
interested himself in the fate of so obscure an individual; who in all
the polite circles and _conversazioni_ of Naples, would give him credit
for his friendship, to a person so unlike themselves? He superseded
all the feelings of resentment, he counted no distance, he passed over
mountains and seas in pursuit of his exalted design.
But my Rinaldo, generous as he is, is not the only protector that
fortune has raised to the forlorn and deserted St. Julian. You are
acquainted with the liberal and friendly invitation I received from the
duke of Benevento at Messina. His reception was still more cordial and
soothing. He embraced me with warmth, and even wept over me. He could
not refrain from imprecations upon the memory of my father, and he
declared with energy, that the son of Leonora della Colonna should never
suffer from the arbitrary and capricious tyranny of a Sicilian count.
He assured me in the strongest terms that his whole fortune was at
my disposal. Then telling me that his dear and only child had been
impatient for my arrival, he took me by the hand, and led me to the
A change like this could not but be in the highest degree consolatory
and grateful to my wounded heart. The balm of friendship and affection
is at all times sweet and refreshing. To be freed at once from the
prospect of banishment, and the dread of dependence, to be received with
unbounded friendship and overflowing generosity by a relation of my
mother, and one who places the pride of his family in supporting and
distinguishing me, was an alteration in my circumstances which I could
not have hoped. I am not insensible to kindness. My heart is not shut
against sensations of pleasure. My spirits were exhilarated; my hours
passed in those little gratifications and compliances, by which I might
best manifest my attachment to my benefactor; and I had free recourse
to the society of his lovely daughter, whose conversation animated with
guileless sallies of wit, and graced with the most engaging modesty,
afforded me an entertainment, sweet to my breast, and congenial to my
But alas, my dear marquis, it is still true what I have often observed,
that I was not born for happiness. In the midst of a scene from which
it might best be suspected to spring, I am uneasy. My heart is corroded
with anguish, and I have a secret grief, that palls and discolours every
enjoyment, and that, by being carefully shut up in my own bosom, is so
much the more afflicting and irksome. Yes, my Rinaldo, this it was that
gave a sting to the thought of removing to a foreign country. This
was that source of disquiet, which has constantly given me an air of
pensiveness and melancholy. In no intercourse of familiarity, in no hour
of unrestricted friendship, was it ever disclosed. It is not, my friend,
the dream of speculative philosophy, it has been verified in innumerable
facts, it is the subject of the sober experience of every man, that
communication and confidence alleviate every uneasiness. But ah, if it
were before disquiet and melancholy, now it burns, it rages, I am no
longer master of myself.
You remember, my dear Rinaldo, that once in the course of my residence
at the university, I paid a visit to the duke of Benevento at Cosenza.
It was then that I first saw the amiable Matilda. She appeared to me the
most charming of her sex. Her cheeks had the freshness of the peach, and
her lips were roses. Her neck was alabaster, and her eyes sparkled with
animation, chastened with the most unrivalled gentleness and delicacy.
Her stature, her forehead, her mouth--but ah, impious wretch, how canst
thou pretend to trace her from charm to charm! Who can dissect unbounded
excellence? Who can coolly and deliberately gaze upon the brightness
of the meridian sun? I will say in one word, that her whole figure was
enchanting, that all her gestures were dignity, and every motion was
Young and unexperienced I drank without suspicion of the poison of love.
I gazed upon her with extacy. I hung upon every accent of her voice. In
her society I appeared mute and absent. But it was not the silence of an
uninterested person: it was not the distraction of philosophic thought.
I was entirely engaged, my mind was full of the contemplations of her
excellence even to bursting. I felt no vacancy, I was conscious to no
want, I was full of contentment and happiness.
As soon however as she withdrew, I felt myself melancholy and dejected.
I fled from company. I sought the most impervious solitude. I wasted the
live-long morn in the depth of umbrageous woods, amidst hills and meads,
where I could perceive no trace of a human footstep. I longed to be
alone with the object of my admiration. I thought I had much to say to
her, but I knew not what. I had no plan, my very wishes were not reduced
into a system. It was only, that full of a new and unexperienced
passion, it sought incessantly to break forth. It urged me to disburden
my labouring heart.
Once I remember I obtained the opportunity I had so long wished. It came
upon me unexpectedly, and I was overwhelmed by it. My limbs trembled,
my eyes lost their wonted faculty. The objects before them swam along
indistinctly. I essayed to speak, my very tongue refused its office. I
felt that I perspired at every pore. I rose to retire, I sat down again
irresolute and confounded.
Matilda perceived my disorder and coming towards me, enquired with a
tender and anxious voice, whether I felt myself ill. The plaintive and
interesting tone in which she delivered herself completed my confusion.
She rang the bell for assistance, and the scene was concluded. When I
returned to Palermo, I imagined that by being removed from the cause of
my passion, I should insensibly lose the passion itself. Rinaldo, you
know that I am not of that weak and effeminate temper to throw the reins
upon the neck of desire, to permit her a clear and undisputed reign. I
summoned all my reason and all my firmness to my aid. I considered the
superiority of her to whom my affections were attached, in rank, in
expectations, in fortune. I felt that my passion could not naturally be
crowned with success. "And shall I be the poor and feeble slave of love?
Animated as I am with ambition, aspiring to the greatest heights of
knowledge and distinction, shall I degenerate into an amorous and
languishing boy; shall I wilfully prepare for myself a long vista of
disappointment? Shall I by one froward and unreasonable desire, stain
all my future prospects, and discolour all those sources of enjoyment,
that fate may have reserved for me?" Alas, little did I then apprehend
that loss of fortune that was about to place me still more below the
object of my wishes!
But my efforts were vain. I turned my attention indeed to a variety of
pursuits. I imagined that the flame which had sprung up at Cosenza was
entirely extinguished. I seemed to retain from it nothing but a kind of
soft melancholy and a sober cast of thought, that made me neither less
contented with myself, nor less agreeable to those whose partiality I
was desirous to engage.
But I no sooner learned that reverse of fortune which disclosed itself
upon the death of my father, than I felt how much I had been deceived. I
had only drawn a slight cover over the embers of passion, and the fire
now broke out with twice its former violence. I had nourished it
unknown to myself with the distant ray of hope, I had still cheated my
imagination with an uncertain prospect of success. When every prospect
vanished, when all hopes were at an end, it burst every barrier, it
would no longer be concealed. My temper was in the utmost degree
unsuitable to a state of dependence, but it was this thought that made
it additionally harsh and dreadful to my mind. I loved my country with
the sincerest affection, but it was this that made banishment worse than
ten thousand deaths. The world appeared to me a frightful solitude, with
not one object that could interest all my attention, and fill up all the
wishes of my heart.
From these apprehensions, and this dejection, I have been unexpectedly
delivered. But, oh, my dear marquis, what is the exchange I have made? I
reside under the same roof with the adorable Matilda. I see every day,
I converse without restraint with her, whom I can never hope to call
my own. Can I thus go on to cherish a passion, that can make me no
promises, that can suggest to me no hopes? Can I expect always to
conceal this passion from the most penetrating eyes? How do I know that
I am not at this moment discovered, that the next will not lay my heart
naked in the sight of the most amiable of women?
Cosenza! thou shalt not long be my abode. I will not live for ever in
unavailing struggles. Concealment shall not always be the business of
the simplest and most undisguised of all dispositions. I will not
watch with momentary anxiety, I will not tremble with distracting
apprehensions. Matilda, thy honest and unsuspecting heart by me shall
never be led astray. If the fond wishes of a father are reserved for
cruel disappointment, I will not be the instrument. My secret shall lie
for ever buried in this faithful breast. It shall die with me. I will
fly to some distant land. I will retire to some country desolated by
ever burning suns, or buried beneath eternal snows. There I can love
at liberty. There I can breathe my sighs without one tell-tale wind to
carry them to the ears, with them to disturb the peace of those whom
beyond all mankind I venerate and adore. I may be miserable, I may be
given up to ever-during despair. But my patron and his spotless daughter
shall be happy.
Alas, this is but the paroxysm of a lover's rage. I have no resolution,
I am lost in perplexity. I have essayed in vain, I cannot summon
together my scattered thoughts. Oh, my friend, never did I stand so much
in need of a friend as now. Advise me, instruct me. To the honesty of
your advice, and the sincerity of your friendship I can confide. Tell me
but what to do, and though you send me to the most distant parts of the
globe, I will not hesitate.
_The Same to the Same_
My most dear lord,
Expect me in ten days from the date of this at your palace at Naples. My
mind is now become more quiet and serene than when I last wrote to you.
I have considered of the whole subject of that letter with perfect
deliberation. And I have now come to an unchangeable resolution.
It is this which has restored a comparative tranquility to my thoughts.
Yes, my friend, there is a triumph in fortitude, an exultation in
heroical resolve, which for a moment at least, sets a man above the most
abject and distressing circumstances. Since I have felt my own dignity
and strength, the tumultuous hurry of my mind is stilled. I look upon
the objects around me with a calm and manly despair. I have not yet
disclosed my intentions to the duke, and I may perhaps find some
difficulty in inducing him to acquiesce in them. But I will never change
You will perceive from what I have said, that my design in coming to
Naples is to prepare for a voyage. I do not doubt of the friendship and
generous assistance of the duke of Benevento. I shall therefore enter
upon my new scheme of life with a more digested plan, and better
prospects.--But why do I talk of prospects!
I have attempted, and with a degree of success, to dissipate my mind
within a few days past, by superintending the alterations about which
you spoke to me, in your gardens at this place. You will readily
perceive how unavoidably I am called off from an employment, which
derives a new pleasure from the sentiments of friendship it is
calculated to awaken, by the perverse and unfortunate events of my life.
_The Same to the Same_
Why is it, my dear marquis, that the history of my life is so
party-coloured and extraordinary, that I am unable to foresee at the
smallest distance what is the destiny reserved for me? Happiness and
misery, success and disappointment so take their turns, that in the one
I have not time for despair, and in the other I dare not permit to my
heart a sincere and unmingled joy.
The day after I dispatched my last letter the duke of Benevento, whose
age is so much advanced, was seized with a slight paralytic stroke.
He was for a short time deprived of all sensation. The trouble of his
family, every individual of which regards him with the profoundest
veneration, was inexpressible. Matilda, the virtuous Matilda, could not
be separated from the couch of her father. She hung over him with the
most anxious affection. She watched every symptom of his disorder, and
every variation of his countenance.
I am convinced, my dear Rinaldo, that there is no object so beautiful
and engaging as this. A woman in all the pride of grace, and fulness of
her charms, tending with unwearied care a feeble and decrepid parent;
all her features informed with melting anxiety and filial tenderness,
yet suppressing the emotions of her heart and the wilder expressions of
sorrow; subduing even the stronger sentiments of nature, that she may
not by an useless and inconsiderate grief supersede the kind care, and
watchful attention, that it is her first ambition to yield. It is a
trite observation, that beauty never appears so attractive as when
unconscious of itself; and I am sure, that no self-forgetfulness can be
so amiable, as that which is founded in the emotions of a tender and
gentle heart. The disorder of the duke however was neither violent nor
lasting. In somewhat less than an hour, the favourable symptoms began to
appear, and he gradually recovered. In the mean time a certain lassitude
and feebleness remained from the shock he received, which has not yet
But what language shall I find to describe to my Rinaldo the scene to
which this event furnished the occasion?
The next day the duke sent for his daughter and myself into his chamber.
As soon as we were alone he began to describe, in terms that affected us
both, the declining state of his health. "I feel," said he, "that
this poor worn-out body totters to its fall. The grave awaits me. The
summonses of death are such as cannot but be heard.
"Death however inspires me with no terror. I have lived long and
happily. I have endeavoured so to discharge every duty in this world as
not to be afraid to meet the supreme source of excellence in another.
The greatness of him that made us is not calculated to inspire terror
but to the guilty. Power and exalted station, though increased to an
infinite degree, cannot make a just and virtuous being tremble.
"Heaven has blessed me with a daughter, the most virtuous of her sex.
Her education has been adequate to the qualities which nature bestowed
upon her. I may without vanity assert, that Italy cannot produce her
parragon.--The first families of my country might be proud to receive
her into their bosom, princes might sue for her alliance. But I had
rather my Matilda should be happy than great.
"Come near, my dear count. I will number you also among the precious
gifts of favouring heaven. Your reputation stands high in the world, and
is without a blemish. From earliest youth your praises were music to my
ears. But great as they were, till lately I knew not half your worth.
Had I known it sooner, I would sooner have studied how to reward it. I
should then perhaps have been too happy.
"Believe me, my St. Julian, I have had much experience. In successive
campaigns, I have encountered hardships and danger. I have frequented
courts, and know their arts. Do not imagine then, young and unsuspecting
as you are, that you have been able to hide from me one wish of your
heart. I know that you love my daughter. I have beheld your growing
attachment with complacency. My Matilda, if I read her sentiments
aright, sees you with a favourable eye. Pursue her, my son, and win her.
If you can gain her approbation, doubt not that I will give my warmest
benedictions to the auspicious union."
You will readily believe, that my first care was to return my most
ardent thanks to my protector and father. Immediately however I cast an
anxious and enquiring eye upon the mistress of my heart. Her face was
covered with blushes. I beheld in her a timidity and confusion that made
me tremble. But my suspence was not long. I have since drawn from her
the most favourable and transporting confession. Oh, my friend, she
acknowledges that from the first moment she saw me, she contemplated me
with partiality. She confesses, that her father by the declaration he
has made, so far from thwarting her ambition and disappointing her
wishes, has conferred upon her the highest obligation. How much, my dear
Rinaldo, is the colour of my fortune changed. It was upon this day,
at this very hour, I had determined to leave Cosenza for ever. I had
consigned myself over to despair. I was about to enter upon a world
where every face I beheld would have been a stranger to me. The scene
would have been uniform and desolate. I should have left all the
attachments of my youth, I should have left the very centre of my
existence behind me. I should have ceased to live. I should only have
drawn along a miserable train of perceptions from year to year, without
one bright day, without one gay prospect, to illuminate the gloomy
scene, and tell me that I was.
Is it possible then that every expectation, and the whole colour of my
future life, can be so completely altered? Instead of despair, felicity.
Instead of one dark, unvaried scene, a prospect of still increasing
pleasure. Instead of standing alone, a monument of misfortune, an object
to awaken compassion in the most obdurate, shall I stand alone, the
happiest of mortals? Yes, I will never hereafter complain that nature
denied me a father, I have found a more than father. I will never
complain of calamity and affliction, in my Matilda I receive an
over-balance for them all.
_The Same to the Same_
Alas, my friend, the greatest sublunary happiness is not untinged with
misfortune. I have no right however to exclaim. The misfortune to which
I am subject, however nearly it may affect me, makes no alteration in
the substance of my destiny. I still trust that I shall call my Matilda
mine. I still trust to have long successive years of happiness. And can
a mortal blessed as I, dare to complain? Can I give way to lamentation
and sorrow? Yes, my Rinaldo. The cloud will quickly vanish, but such is
the fate of mortals. The events, which, when sunk in the distant past,
affect us only with a calm regret, in the moment in which they overtake
us, overwhelm us with sorrow.
I mentioned in my last, that the disorder of the duke of Benevento was
succeeded by a feebleness and languor that did not at first greatly
alarm us. It however increased daily, and was attended with a kind of
listlessness and insensibility that his physicians regarded as a very
dangerous symptom. Almost the only marks he discovered of perception and
pleasure, were in the attendance of the adorable Matilda. Repeatedly
at intervals he seized her trembling hand, and pressed it to his dying
As the symptoms of feebleness increased upon him incessantly, he was
soon obliged to confine himself to his chamber. After an interval of
near ten days he became more clear and sensible. He called several of
his servants into the room, and gave them directions which were to be
executed after his decease. He then sent to desire that I would attend
him. His daughter was constantly in his chamber. He took both our hands
and joining them together, bowed over them his venerable head, and
poured forth a thousand prayers for our mutual felicity. We were
ourselves too much affected to be able to thank him for all his
tenderness and attention.
By these exertions, and the affection with which they were mingled,
the spirits and strength of the duke were much exhausted. He almost
immediately fell into a profound sleep. But as morning approached, he
grew restless and disturbed. Every unfavourable symptom appeared. A
stroke still more violent than the preceding seized him, and he expired
in about two hours.
Thus terminated a life which had been in the highest degree exemplary
and virtuous. In the former part of it, this excellent man distinguished
himself much in the service of his country, and engaged the affection
and attachment of his prince. He was respected by his equals, and adored
by the soldiery. His humanity was equally conspicuous with his courage.
When he left the public service for his retirement at this place, he did
not forget his former engagements, and his connexion with the army.
It is not perhaps easy for a government to make a complete and ample
provision for those poor men whose most vigorous years were spent in
defending their standard. Certain it is that few governments attend to
this duty in the degree in which they ought, and a wide field is left
for the benevolence of individuals. This benevolence was never more
largely and assiduously exhibited than by the duke of Benevento. He
provided for many of those persons of whose fidelity and bravery he had
been an eyewitness, in the most respectable offices in his family, and
among his retinue. Those for whom he could not find room in these
ways he gratified with pensions. He afforded such as were not yet
incapacitated for labour, the best spur to an honest industry, the
best solace under fatigue and toil, that of being assured that their
decrepitude should never stand in need of the simple means of comfort
It may naturally be supposed that the close of a life crowded with deeds
of beneficence, the exit of a man whose humanity was his principal
feature, was succeeded by a very general sorrow. Among his domestics
there appeared an universal gloom and dejection. His peasants and his
labourers lamented him as the best of masters, and the kindest of
benefactors. His pensionaries wept aloud, and were inconsolable for the
loss of him, in whom they seemed to place all their hopes of comfort and
You might form some idea of the sorrow of the lovely Matilda amidst this
troop of mourners, if I had been able to convey to you a better idea of
the softness and gentleness of her character. As the family had been
for some years composed only of his grace and herself, her circle of
acquaintance has never been extensive. Her father was all the world to
her. The duke had no enjoyment but in the present felicity and future
hopes of his daughter. The pleasures of Matilda were centered in the
ability she possessed of soothing the infirmities, and beguiling the
tedious hours of her aged parent.
There is no virtue that adds so noble a charm to the finest traits of
beauty, as that which exerts itself in watching over the tranquility of
an aged parent. There are no tears that give so noble a lustre to the
cheek of innocence, as the tears of filial sorrow. Oh, my Rinaldo! I
would not exchange them for all the pearls of Arabia, I would not barter
them for the mines of Golconda. No, amiable Matilda, I will not check
thy chaste and tender grief. I prize it as the pledge of my future
happiness. I esteem it as that which raises thee to a level with angelic
goodness. Hence, thou gross and vulgar passion! that wouldst tempt me
to kiss away the tears from her glowing cheeks. I will not soil their
spotless purity. I will not seek to mix a thought of me with a sentiment
not unworthy of incorporeal essences.
I shall continue at this place to regulate the business of the funeral.
I shall endeavour to put all the affairs of the lovely heiress into a
proper train. I will then wait upon my dear marquis at his palace in
Naples. For a few weeks, a few tedious weeks, I will quit the daily
sight and delightful society of my amiable charmer. At the expiration of
that term I shall hope to set out with my Rinaldo for his villa at
this place. Every thing is now in considerable forwardness, and will
doubtless by that time be prepared for your reception.
_The Count de St. Julian to Matilda della Colonna_
I will thank you a thousand times for the generous permission you gave
me, to write to you from this place. I have waited an age, lovely
Matilda, that I might not intrude upon your hours of solitude and
affliction, and violate the feelings I so greatly respect. You must not
now be harsh and scrupulous. You must not cavil at the honest expression
of those sentiments you inspire. Can dissimulation ever be a virtue?
Can it ever be a duty to conceal those emotions of the soul upon which
honour has set her seal, and studiously to turn our discourse to
subjects uninteresting and distant to the heart?
How happy am I in a passion which received the sanction of him, who
alone could claim a voice in the disposal of you! There are innumerable
lovers, filled with the most ardent passion, aiming at the purest
gratifications, whose happiness is traversed by the cold dictates of
artificial prudence, by the impotent distinctions of rank and family.
Unfeeling parents rise to thwart their wishes. The despotic hand
of authority tears asunder hearts united by the softest ties, and
sacrifices the prospect of felicity to ridiculous and unmeaning
prejudices. Let us, my Matilda, pity those whose fate is thus
unpropitious, but let us not voluntarily subject ourselves to their
misfortune. No voice is raised to forbid our union. Heaven and earth
command us to be happy.
Alas, I am sufficiently unfortunate, that the arbitrary decorums of
society have banished me from your presence. In vain Naples holds out to
me all her pleasures and her luxury. Ill indeed do they pay me for the
exchange. Its court, its theatres, its assemblies, and its magnificence,
have no attractions for me. I had rather dwell in a cottage with her I
love, than be master of the proudest palace this city has to boast.
In compliance with the obliging intreaties of the marquis of Pescara, I
have entered repeatedly into the scene of her entertainments. But I was
distracted and absent. A variety of topics were started of literature,
philosophy, news, and fashion. The man of humour told his pleasant tale,
and the wit flashed with his lively repartee. But I heard them not.
Their subjects were in my eye tedious and uninteresting. They talked
not of the natural progress of the passions. They did not dissect the
characters of the friend and the lover. My heart was at Cosenza.
Fatigued with the crowded assembly and the fluttering parterre, I sought
relief in solitude. Never was solitude so grateful to me. I indulged
in a thousand reveries. Gay hope exhibited all her airy visions to
my fancy. I formed innumerable prospects of felicity, and each more
ravishing than the last. The joys painted by my imagination were surely
too pure, too tranquil to last for ever. Oh how sweet is an untasted
happiness! But ours, Matilda, shall be great, beyond what expectation
can suggest. Ours shall teem with ever fresh delights, refined by
sentiment, sanctified by virtue. Nothing but inevitable fate shall
change it. May that fate be distant as I wish it!
But alas, capricious and unbounded fancy has sometimes exhibited a
different scene. A heart, enamoured, rivetted to its object like mine,
cannot but have intervals of solicitude and anxiety. If it have no real
subject of uncertainty and fear, it will create to itself imaginary
ones. But I have no need of these. I am placed at a distance from the
mistress of my heart, which may seem little to a cold and speculative
apprehension, but which my soul yearns to think of. My fate has not yet
received that public sanction which can alone put the finishing stroke
to my felicity. I cannot suspect, even in my most lawless flights,
the most innocent and artless of her sex of inconstancy. But how
many unexpected accidents may come between me and my happiness? How
comfortless is the thought that I can at no time say, "Now the amiable
Matilda is in health; now she dwells in peace and safety?" I receive an
account of her health, a paquet reaches me from Cosenza. Alas, it is two
tedious days from the date of the information. Into two tedious days how
many frightful events may be crowded by tyrant fancy!
_The Same to the Same_
I have waited, charming Matilda, with the most longing impatience in
hopes of receiving a letter from your own hand. Every post has agitated
me with suspense. My expectation has been continually raised, and as
often defeated. Many a cold and unanimated epistle has intruded
itself into my hands, when I thought to have found some token full of
gentleness and tenderness, which might have taught my heart to overflow
with rapture. If you knew, fair excellence, how much pain and uneasiness
your silence has given me, you could not surely have been so cruel. The
most rigid decorum could not have been offended by one scanty billet
that might just have informed me, I still retained a tender place in
your recollection. One solitary line would have raised me to a state of
happiness that princes might envy.
A jealous and contracted mind placed in my situation, might fear to
undergo the imputation of selfishness and interest. He would represent
to himself, how brilliant was your station, how exalted your rank, how
splendid your revenues, and what a poor, deserted, and contemptible
figure I made in the eyes of the world, when your father first honoured
me with his attention. My Matilda were a match for princes. Her external
situation in the highest degree magnificent. Her person lovely and
engaging beyond all the beauty that Italy has to boast. Her mind
informed with the most refined judgment, the most elegant taste, the
most generous sentiments. When the dictates of prudence and virtue flow
from her beauteous lips, philosophers might listen with rapture, sages
might learn wisdom. And is it possible that this all-accomplished
woman can stoop from the dignity of her rank and the greatness of her
pretensions, to a person so obscure, so slenderly qualified as I am?
But no, my Matilda, I am a stranger to these fears, my breast is
unvisited by the demon of suspicion. I employ no precaution. I do not
seek to constrain my passion. I lay my heart naked before you. I shall
ever maintain the most grateful sense of the benevolent friendship
of your venerable father, of your own unexampled and ravishing
condescension. But love, my amiable Matilda, knows no distinction of
rank. We cannot love without building our ardour upon the sense of a
kind of equality. All obligations must here in a manner cease but those
which are mutual. Those hearts that are sensible to the distance of
benefactor and client, are strangers to the sweetest emotions of this
But who is there that is perfectly master of his own character? Who
is there that can certainly foretel what will be his feelings and
sentiments in circumstances yet untried? Do not then, fairest, gentlest,
of thy sex, torture the lover that adores you. Do not persist in cold
and unexpressive silence. A thousand times have those lips made the
chaste confession of my happiness. A thousand times upon that hand have
I sealed my gratitude. Yet do I stand in need of fresh assurances.
Mutual attachment subsists not but in communication and sympathy. I
count the tedious moments. My wayward fancy paints in turn all the
events that are within the region of possibility. Too many of them there
are, against the apprehension of which no precaution can secure me. Do
not, my lovely Matilda, do not voluntarily increase them. Is not the
comfortless distance to which I am banished a sufficient punishment,
without adding to it those uneasinesses it is so much in your power to
_Matilda della Colonna to the Count de St. Julian_
Is it possible you can put an unfavourable construction upon my silence?
You are not to be informed that it was nothing more than the simplest
dictates of modesty and decency required. I cannot believe, that if I
had offended against those dictates, it would not have sunk me a little
in your esteem. Your sex indeed is indulged with a large and extensive
licence. But in ours, my dear friend, propriety and decorum cannot be
too assiduously preserved. Our reputation is at the disposal of every
calumniator. The minutest offence can cast a shade upon it. A long and
uninterrupted course of the most spotless virtue can never restore it to
its first unsullied brightness. Many and various indeed are the steps by
which it may be tarnished, short of the sacrifice of chastity, and the
total dereliction of character.
There is no test of gentleness and integrity of heart more obvious,
than the discharge of the filial duties. A truly mild and susceptible
disposition will sympathize in the concerns of a parent with the most
ardent affection, will be melted by his sufferings into the tenderest
sorrow. The child whose heart feels not with peculiar anguish the
distresses of him, from whom he derived his existence, to whom he owes
the most important obligations, and with whom he has been in habits
of unbounded confidence from earliest infancy, must be of a character
harsh, savage, and detestable. How can he be expected to melt over the
tale of a stranger? How can his hand be open to relief and munificence?
How can he discharge aright the offices of a family, and the duties of a
Recollect, my friend, never had any child a parent more gentle and
affectionate than mine. I was all his care and all his pride. He knew no
happiness but that of gratifying my desires, and outrunning my wishes.
He was my all. I have for several years, and even before I was able
properly to understand her value, lost a tender mother. In my surviving
parent then all my attachments centered. He was my protector and my
guide, he was my friend and my companion. All other connexions were
momentary and superficial. And till I knew my St. Julian, my warmest
affections never strayed from my father's roof.
Do not however imagine, that in the moment of my sincerest sorrow, I
scarcely for one hour forget you. My sentiments have ever been the same.
They are the dictates of an upright and uncorrupted heart, and I do not
blush to own them.
Undissipated in an extensive circle of acquaintance, untaught by the
prejudices of my education to look with a favourable eye upon the
majority of the young nobility of the present age, I saw you with a
heart unexperienced and unworn with the knowledge and corruptions of
the world. I saw you in your character totally different from the young
persons of your own rank. And the differences I discovered, were all
of them such, as recommended you to my esteem. My unguarded heart had
received impressions, even before the voice of my father had given a
sanction to my inclinations, that would not easily have been effaced.
When he gave me to you, he gave you a willing hand. Your birth is
noble and ancient as my own. Fortune has no charms for me. I have no
attachment to the brilliant circle, and the gaiety of public life. My
disposition, naturally grave and thoughtful, demands but few associates,
beside those whose hearts are in some degree in unison with my own. I
had rather live in a narrow circle united with a man, distinguished by
feeling, virtue, and truth, than be the ornament of courts, and the envy
Previous to my closing this letter, I sent to enquire of the _maitre
d'hotel_ of the villa of the marquis, in what forwardness were his
preparations for the intended visit of his master. He informs me that
they will be finished in two days at farthest. I suppose it will not be
long from that time, before his lordship will set out from Naples. You
of course are inseparable from him.
END OF VOLUME I _Italian Letters_
_The Marquis of Pescara to the Marquis of San Severino_
My dear lord,
I need not tell you that this place is celebrated for one of the most
beautiful spots of the habitable globe. Every thing now flourishes.
Nature puts on her gayest colours, and displays all her charms. The
walks among the more cultivated scenes of my own grounds, and amidst the
wilder objects of this favoured region are inexpressibly agreeable. The
society of my pensive and sentimental friend is particularly congenial
with the scenery around me. Do not imagine that I am so devoid of taste
as not to derive exquisite pleasure from these sources. Yet believe me,
there are times in which I regret the vivacity of your conversation, and
the amusements of Naples.
Is this, my dear Ferdinand, an argument of a corrupted taste, or an
argument of sound and valuable improvement? Much may be said on both
sides. Of the mind justly polished, without verging to the squeamish and
effeminate, nature exhibits the most delightful sources of enjoyment. He
that turns aside from the simplicity of her compositions with disgust,
for the sake of the over curious and laboured entertainments of which
art is the inventor, may justly be pronounced unreasonably nice, and
But then on the other hand, the finest taste is of all others the most
easily offended. The mind most delicate and refined, requires the
greatest variety of pleasures. So much for logic. Let me tell you,
however, be it wisdom or be it folly, I owe it entirely to you. It is a
revolution in my humour, to which I was totally a stranger when I left
I have not yet seen this rich and celebrated heiress of whom you told me
so much. It is several years since I remember to have been in company
where she was, and it is more than probable that I should not even know
her. If however I were to give full credit to the rhapsodies of my good
friend the count, whose description of her, by the way, has something
in it of romantic and dignified, which pleases me better than yours, as
luscious as it is, I should imagine her a perfect angel, beautiful
as Venus, chaste as Diana, majestic as the mother of the gods, and
enchanting as the graces. I know not why, but since I have studied the
persons of the fair under your tuition, I have felt the most impatient
desire to be acquainted with this _nonpareil_.
No person however has yet been admitted into the sanctuary of the
goddess, except the person destined by the late duke to be her husband.
He himself has seen her but for a second time. It should seem, that as
many ceremonies were necessary in approaching her, as in being presented
to his holiness; and that she were as invisible as the emperor
of Ispahan. I am however differently affected by the perpetual
conversations of St. Julian upon the subject, than I am apt to think you
would be. You would probably first laugh at his extravagance, and then
be fatigued to death with his perseverance. For my part, I am agreeably
entertained with the romance of his sentiments, and highly charmed with
their disinterestedness and their virtue.
Yes, my dear marquis, you may talk as you please of the wildness and
impracticability of the sentiments of my amiable solitaire, they are at
least in the highest degree amusing and beautiful. There is a voice
in every breast, whose feelings have not yet been entirely warped by
selfishness, responsive to them. It is in vain that the man of gaiety
and pleasure pronounces them impracticable, the generous heart gives the
lie to his assertions. He must be under the power of the poorest and
most despicable prejudices, who would reduce all human characters to a
level, who would deny the reality of all those virtues that the world
has idolized through revolving ages. Nothing can be disputed with
less plausibility, than that there are in the world certain noble and
elevated spirits, that rise above the vulgar notions and the narrow
conduct of the bulk of mankind, that soar to the sublimest heights of
rectitude, and from time to time realize those virtues, of which the
interested and illiberal deny the possibility.
I can no more doubt, than I do of the truth of these apothegms, that the
count de St. Julian is one of these honourable characters. He treads
without the airy circle of dissipation. He is invulnerable to the
temptations of folly; he is unshaken by the examples of profligacy.
They are such characters as his that were formed to rescue mankind from
slavery, to prop the pillars of a declining state, and to arrest Astraea
in her re-ascent to heaven. They are such characters whose virtues
surprize astonished mortals, and avert the vengeance of offended heaven.
Matilda della Colonna is, at least in the apprehension of her admirer, a
character quite as singular in her own sex as his can possibly appear to
me. They were made for each other. She is the only adequate reward that
can be bestowed upon his exalted virtues. Oh, my Ferdinand, there must
be a happiness reserved for such as these, which must make all other
felicity comparatively weak and despicable. It is the accord of the
purest sentiments. It is the union of guiltless souls. Its nature is
totally different from that of the casual encounter of the sexes, or
the prudent conjunctions in which the heart has no share. In the
considerations upon which it is founded, corporeal fitnesses occupy but
a narrow and subordinate rank, personal advantages and interest are
admitted for no share. It is the sympathy of hearts, it is the most
exalted species of social intercourse.
_The Count de St. Julian to Signor Hippolito Borelli_
My dear Hippolito,
I have already acquainted you as they occurred, with those
circumstances, which have introduced so incredible an alteration in my
prospects and my fortune. From being an outcast of the world, a young
man without protectors, a nobleman without property, a lover despairing
ever to possess the object of his vows, I am become the most favoured
of mortals, the happiest of mankind. There is no character that I envy,
there is no situation for which I would exchange my own. My felicity is
of the colour of my mind; my prospects are those, for the fruition of
which heaven created me. What have I done to deserve so singular a
blessing? Is it possible that no wayward fate, no unforeseen and
tremendous disaster should come between me and my happiness?
My Matilda is the most amiable of women. Every day she improves upon
me. Every day I discover new attractions in this inexhaustible mine of
excellence. Never was a character so simple, artless and undisguised.
Never was a heart so full of every tender sensibility. How does her
filial sorrow adorn, and exalt her? How ravishing is that beauty, that
is embellished with melancholy, and impearled with tears?
Even when I suffer most from the unrivalled delicacy of her sentiments,
I cannot but admire. Ah, cruel Matilda, and will not one banishment
satisfy the inflexibility of thy temper, will not all my past sufferings
suffice to glut thy severity? Is it still necessary that the happiness
of months must be sacrificed to the inexorable laws of decorum? Must I
seek in distant climes a mitigation of my fate? Yes, too amiable tyrant,
thou shalt be obeyed. It will be less punishment to be separated from
thee by mountains crowned with snow, by impassable gulphs, by boundless
oceans, than to reside in the same city, or even under the same roof,
and not be permitted to see those ravishing beauties, to hear that sweet
You know, my dear Hippolito, the unspeakable obligations I have received
from my amiable friend, the marquis of Pescara. Though these obligations
can never be fully discharged, yet I am happy to have met with an
opportunity of demonstrating the gratitude that will ever burn in my
heart. My Rinaldo even rates the service I have undertaken to perform
for him beyond its true value. Would it were in my power to serve him as
greatly, as essentially as I wish!
The estate of the house of Pescara in Castile is very considerable.
Though it has been in the possession of the noble ancestors of my friend
for near two centuries, yet, by the most singular fortune, there has
lately arisen a claimant to more than one half of it. His pleas, though
destitute of the smallest plausibility, are rendered formidable by the
possession he is said to have of the patronage and favour of the first
minister. In a word, it is become absolutely necessary for his lordship
in person, or some friend upon whose integrity and discretion he can
place the firmest dependence, to solicit his cause in the court of
Madrid. The marquis himself is much disinclined to the voyage, and
though he had too much delicacy in his own temper, and attachment to my
interest, to propose it himself, I can perceive that he is not a little
pleased at my having voluntarily undertaken it.
My disposition is by nature that of an insatiable curiosity. I was not
born to be confined within the narrow limits of one island, or one
petty kingdom. My heart is large and capacious. It rises above local
prejudices; it forms to itself a philosophy equally suited to all the
climates of the earth; it embraces the whole human race. The majority
of my countrymen entertain the most violent aversion for the Spanish
nation. For my own part I can perceive in them many venerable and
excellent qualities. Their friendship is inviolable, their politeness
and hospitality of the most disinterested nature. Their honour is
unimpeached, and their veracity without example. Even from those traits
in their character, that appear the most absurd, or that are too often
productive of the most fatal consequences, I expect to derive amusement
and instruction. I doubt not, however pure be my flame for Matilda, that
the dissipation and variety of which this voyage will be productive,
will be friendly to my ease. I shall acquire wisdom and experience. I
shall be better prepared to fill up that most arduous of all characters,
the respectable and virtuous father of a family.
In spite however of all these considerations, with which I endeavour to
console myself in the chagrin that preys upon my mind, the approaching
separation cannot but be in the utmost degree painful to me. In spite of
the momentary fortitude, that tells me that any distance is better than
the being placed within the reach of the mistress of my soul without
being once permitted to see her, I cannot help revolving with the most
poignant melancholy, the various and infinitely diversified objects that
shall shortly divide us. Repeatedly have I surveyed with the extremest
anguish the chart of those seas that I am destined to pass. I have
measured for the twentieth time the course that is usually held in this
voyage. Every additional league appears to me a new barrier between me
and my wishes, that I fear to be able to surmount a second time.
And is it possible that I can leave my Matilda without a guardian to
protect her from unforeseen distress, without a monitor to whisper
to her in every future scene the constancy of her St. Julian? No, my
Hippolito, the objection would be insuperable. But thanks, eternal
thanks to propitious heaven! I have a friend in whom I can confide as my
own soul, whose happiness is dearer to me than my own. Yes, my Rinaldo,
whatever may be my destiny, in whatever scenes I may be hereafter
placed, I will recollect that my Matilda is under thy protection, and be
satisfied. I will recollect the obligations you have already conferred
upon me, and I will not hesitate to add to them that, which is greater
than them all.
_The Count de St. Julian to the Marquis of Pescara_
Best of friends,
Every thing is now prepared for my voyage. The ship will weigh anchor in
two days at farthest. This will be the last letter you will receive from
me before I bid adieu to Italy.
I have not yet shaken off the melancholy with which the affecting leave
I took of the amiable Matilda impressed me. Never will the recollection
be effaced from my memory. It was then, my Rinaldo, that she laid aside
that delicate reserve, that lovely timidity, which she had hitherto
exhibited. It was then that she poured forth, without restraint, all the
ravishing tenderness of her nature. How affecting were those tears? How
heart-rending the sighs that heaved her throbbing bosom? When will those
tender exclamations cease to vibrate in my ear? When will those piercing
cries give over their task, the torturing this constant breast? You, my
friend, were witness to the scene, and though a mere spectator, I am
mistaken if it did not greatly affect you.
Hear me, my Rinaldo, and let my words sink deep into your bosom. Into
your hands I commit the most precious jewel that was ever intrusted to
the custody of a friend. You are the arbiter of my fate. More, much more
than my life is in your disposal. If you should betray me, you will
commit a crime, that laughs to scorn the frivolity of all former
baseness. You will inflict upon me a torture, in comparison of which all
the laborious punishments that tyrants have invented, are couches of
luxury, are beds of roses.
Forgive me, my friend, the paroxysm of a lover's rage. I should deserve
all the punishments it would be in your power to inflict, if I harboured
the remotest suspicion of your fidelity. No, I swear by all that is
sacred, it is my richest treasure, it is my choicest consolation.
Wherever I am, I will bear it about with me. In every reverse of fortune