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My Ten Years' Imprisonment by Silvio Pellico

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This etext was prepared by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk,
from the 1886 Cassell & Co. edition.


by Silvio Pellico


Silvio Pellico was born at Saluzzo, in North Italy, in the year of
the fall of the Bastille, 1789. His health as a child was feeble,
his temper gentle, and he had the instincts of a poet. Before he
was ten years old he had written a tragedy on a theme taken from
Macpherson's Ossian. His chief delight as a boy was in acting plays
with other children, and he acquired from his father a strong
interest in the patriotic movements of the time. He fastened upon
French literature during a stay of some years at Lyons with a
relation of his mother's. Ugo Foscolo's Sepolcri revived his
patriotism, and in 1810, at the age of twenty-one, he returned to
Italy. He taught French in the Soldiers' Orphans' School at Milan.
At Milan he was admitted to the friendship of Vincenzo Monti, a poet
then touching his sixtieth year, and of the younger Ugo Foscolo, by
whose writings he had been powerfully stirred, and to whom he became
closely bound. Silvio Pellico wrote in classical form a tragedy,
Laodicea, and then, following the national or romantic school, for a
famous actress of that time, another tragedy, Francesca di Rimini,
which was received with great applause.

After the dissolution of the kingdom of Italy, in April 1814,
Pellico became tutor to the two children of the Count Porro
Lambertenghi, at whose table he met writers of mark, from many
countries; Byron (whose Manfred he translated), Madame de Stael,
Schlegel, Manzoni, and others. In 1819 Silvio Pellico began
publishing Il Conciliatore, a journal purely literary, that was to
look through literature to the life that it expresses, and so help
towards the better future of his country. But the merciless
excisions of inoffensive passages by the Austrian censorship
destroyed the journal in a year.

A secret political association had been formed in Italy of men of
all ranks who called themselves the Carbonari (charcoal burners),
and who sought the reform of government in Italy. In 1814 they had
planned a revolution in Naples, but there was no action until 1820.
After successful pressure on the King of the two Sicilies, the
forces of the Carbonari under General Pepe entered Naples on the
ninth of July, 1820, and King Ferdinand I. swore on the 13th of July
to observe the constitution which the Carbonari had proclaimed at
Nola and elsewhere during the preceding month. On the twenty-fifth
of August, the Austrian government decreed death to every member of
a secret society, and carcere duro e durissimo, severest pains of
imprisonment, to all who had neglected to oppose the progress of
Carbonarism. Many seizures were made, and on the 13th of October
the gentle editor of the Conciliatore, Silvio Pellico, was arrested
as a friend of the Carbonari, and taken to the prison of Santa
Margherita in Milan.

In the same month of October, the Emperors of Austria and Russia,
and the Prince of Prussia met at Troppau to concert measures for
crushing the Carbonari.

In January, 1821, they met Ferdinand I. at Laybach and then took
arms against Naples. Naples capitulated on the 20th of March, and
on the 24th of March, 1821, its Revolutionary council was closed. A
decree of April 10th condemned to death all persons who attended
meetings of the Carbonari, and the result was a great accession to
the strength of this secret society, which spread its branches over
Germany and France.

On the 19th of February, 1821, Silvio Pellico was transferred to
imprisonment under the leads, on the isle of San Michele, Venice.
There he wrote two plays, and some poems. On the 21st of February,
1822, he and his friend Maroncelli were condemned to death; but,
their sentence being commuted to twenty years for Maroncelli, and
fifteen years for Pellico, of carcere duro, they entered their
underground prisons at Spielberg on the 10th of April, 1822. The
government refused to transmit Pellico's tragedies to his family,
lest, though harmless in themselves, the acting of them should bring
good-will to a state prisoner. At Spielberg he composed a third
tragedy, Leoniero da Dordona, though deprived of books, paper, and
pens, and preserved it in his memory. In 1828, a rumour of
Pellico's death in prison caused great excitement throughout Italy.
On the 17th of September, 1830, he was released, by the amnesty of
that year, and, avoiding politics thenceforth, devoted himself to
religion. The Marchesa Baroli, at Turin, provided for his
maintenance, by engaging him as her secretary and librarian. With
health made weaker by his sufferings, Silvio Pellico lived on to the
age of sixty-five, much honoured by his countrymen. Gioberti
dedicated a book to him as "The first of Italian Patriots." He died
at Turin on the 1st of February, 1854.

Silvio Pellico's account of his imprisonment, Le Mie Prigioni, was
first published in Paris in 1833. It has been translated into many
languages, and is the work by which he will retain his place in
European literature. His other plays, besides the two first named,
were Eufemia di Messina; Iginia di Asti; Leoniero da Dordona,
already named as having been thought out at Spielberg; his Gismonda;
l'Erodiade; Ester d'Engaddi; Corradino; and a play upon Sir Thomas
More. He wrote also poems, Cantiche, of which the best are Eligi e
Valfrido and Egilde; and, in his last years, a religious manual on
the Duties of Men.

H. M.


Have I penned these memorials, let me ask myself, from any paltry
vanity, or desire to talk about that self? I hope this is not the
case, and forasmuch as one may be able to judge in one's own cause,
I think I was actuated by better views. These, briefly, were to
afford consolation to some unfortunate being, situated like myself,
by explaining the evils to which I was exposed, and those sources of
relief which I found were accessible, even when labouring under the
heaviest misfortune; to bear witness, moreover, that in the midst of
my acute and protracted torments, I never found humanity, in the
human instruments around me, so hopelessly wicked, so unworthy of
consideration, or so barren of noble minds in lowly station, as it
is customary to represent it; to engage, if possible, all the
generous and good-hearted to love and esteem each other, to become
incapable of hating any one; to feel irreconcilable hatred only
towards low, base falsehood; cowardice, perfidy, and every kind of
moral degradation. It is my object to impress on all that well-
known but too often forgotten truth, namely, that both religion and
philosophy require calmness of judgment combined with energy of
will, and that without such a union, there can be no real justice,
no dignity of character, and no sound principles of human action.



On Friday, the 15th of October, 1820, I was arrested at Milan, and
conveyed to the prison of Santa Margherita. The hour was three in
the afternoon. I underwent a long examination, which occupied the
whole of that and several subsequent days; but of this I shall say
nothing. Like some unfortunate lover, harshly dealt with by her he
adored, yet resolved to bear it with dignified silence, I leave la
Politica, such as SHE IS, and proceed to something else.

At nine in the evening of that same unlucky Friday, the actuary
consigned me to the jailer, who conducted me to my appointed
residence. He there politely requested me to give up my watch, my
money, and everything in my pockets, which were to be restored to me
in due time; saying which he respectfully bade me good-night.

"Stop, my dear sir," I observed, "I have not yet dined; let me have
something to eat."

"Directly; the inn is close by, and you will find the wine good,

"Wine I do not drink."

At this announcement Signor Angiolino gave me a look of unfeigned
surprise; he imagined that I was jesting. "Masters of prisons," he
rejoined, "who keep shop, have a natural horror of an abstemious

"That may be; I don't drink it."

"I am sorry for you, sir; you will feel solitude twice as heavily."

But perceiving that I was firm, he took his leave; and in half an
hour I had something to eat. I took a mouthful, swallowed a glass
of water, and found myself alone. My chamber was on the ground
floor, and overlooked the court-yard. Dungeons here, dungeons
there, to the right, to the left, above, below, and opposite,
everywhere met my eye. I leaned against the window, listened to the
passing and repassing of the jailers, and the wild song of a number
of the unhappy inmates. A century ago, I reflected, and this was a
monastery; little then thought the pious, penitent recluses that
their cells would now re-echo only to the sounds of blasphemy and
licentious song, instead of holy hymn and lamentation from woman's
lips; that it would become a dwelling for the wicked of every class-
-the most part destined to perpetual labour or to the gallows. And
in one century to come, what living being will be found in these
cells? Oh, mighty Time! unceasing mutability of things! Can he who
rightly views your power have reason for regret or despair when
Fortune withdraws her smile, when he is made captive, or the
scaffold presents itself to his eye? yesterday I thought myself one
of the happiest of men; to-day every pleasure, the least flower that
strewed my path, has disappeared. Liberty, social converse, the
face of my fellow-man, nay, hope itself hath fled. I feel it would
be folly to flatter myself; I shall not go hence, except to be
thrown into still more horrible receptacles of sorrow; perhaps,
bound, into the hands of the executioner. Well, well, the day after
my death it will be all one as if I had yielded my spirit in a
palace, and been conveyed to the tomb, accompanied with all the
pageantry of empty honours.

It was thus, by reflecting on the sweeping speed of time, that I
bore up against passing misfortune. Alas, this did not prevent the
forms of my father, my mother, two brothers, two sisters, and one
other family I had learned to love as if it were my own, from all
whom I was, doubtless, for ever cut off, from crossing my mind, and
rendering all my philosophical reasoning of no avail. I was unable
to resist the thought, and I wept even as a child.


Three months previous to this time I had gone to Turin, where, after
several years of separation, I saw my parents, one of my brothers,
and two sisters. We had always been an attached family; no son had
ever been more deeply indebted to a father and a mother than I; I
remember I was affected at beholding a greater alteration in their
looks, the progress of age, than I had expected. I indulged a
secret wish to part from them no more, and soothe the pillow of
departing age by the grateful cares of a beloved son. How it vexed
me, too, I remember, during the few brief days I passed with them,
to be compelled by other duties to spend so much of the day from
home, and the society of those I had such reason to love and to
revere; yes, and I remember now what my mother said one day, with an
expression of sorrow, as I went out--"Ah! our Silvio has not come to
Turin to see US!" The morning of my departure for Milan was a truly
painful one. My poor father accompanied me about a mile on my way;
and, on leaving me, I more than once turned to look at him, and,
weeping, kissed the ring my mother had just given me; nor did I ever
before quit my family with a feeling of such painful presentiment.
I am not superstitious; but I was astonished at my own weakness, and
I more than once exclaimed in a tone of terror, "Good God! whence
comes this strange anxiety and alarm?" and, with a sort of inward
vision, my mind seemed to behold the approach of some great
calamity. Even yet in prison I retain the impression of that sudden
dread and parting anguish, and can recall each word and every look
of my distressed parents. The tender reproach of my mother, "Ah!
Silvio has not come to Turin to see US!" seemed to hang like a
weight upon my soul. I regretted a thousand instances in which I
might have shown myself more grateful and agreeable to them; I did
not even tell them how much I loved; all that I owed to them. I was
never to see them more, and yet I turned my eyes with so much like
indifference from their dear and venerable features! Why, why was I
so chary of giving expression to what I felt (would they could have
read it in my looks), to all my gratitude and love? In utter
solitude, thoughts like these pierced me to the soul.

I rose, shut the window, and sat some hours, in the idea that it
would be in vain to seek repose. At length I threw myself on my
pallet, and excessive weariness brought me sleep.


To awake the first night in a prison is a horrible thing. Is it
possible, I murmured, trying to collect my thoughts, is it possible
I am here? Is not all that passed a dream? Did they really seize
me yesterday? Was it I whom they examined from morning till night,
who am doomed to the same process day after day, and who wept so
bitterly last night when I thought of my dear parents? Slumber, the
unbroken silence, and rest had, in restoring my mental powers, added
incalculably to the capability of reflecting, and, consequently, of
grief. There was nothing to distract my attention; my fancy grew
busy with absent forms, and pictured, to my eye the pain and terror
of my father and mother, and of all dear to me, on first hearing the
tidings of my arrest.

At this moment, said I, they are sleeping in peace; or perhaps,
anxiety for me may keep them watching, yet little anticipating the
fate to which I am here consigned. Happy for them, were it the will
of God, that they should cease to exist ere they hear of this
horrible misfortune. Who will give them strength to bear it? Some
inward voice seemed to whisper me, He whom the afflicted look up to,
love and acknowledge in their hearts; who enabled a mother to follow
her son to the mount of Golgotha, and to stand under His cross. He,
the friend of the unhappy, the friend of man.

Strange this should be the first time I truly felt the power of
religion in my heart; and to filial love did I owe this consolation.
Though not ill-disposed, I had hitherto been little impressed with
its truth, and had not well adhered to it. All common-place
objections I estimated at their just value, yet there were many
doubts and sophisms which had shaken my faith. It was long, indeed,
since they had ceased to trouble my belief in the existence of the
Deity; and persuaded of this, it followed necessarily, as part of
His eternal justice, that there must be another life for man who
suffers so unjustly here. Hence, I argued, the sovereign reason in
man for aspiring to the possession of that second life; and hence,
too, a worship founded on the love of God, and of his neighbour, and
an unceasing impulse to dignify his nature by generous sacrifices.
I had already made myself familiar with this doctrine, and I now
repeated, "And what else is Christianity but this constant ambition
to elevate and dignify our nature?" and I was astonished, when I
reflected how pure, how philosophical, and how invulnerable the
essence of Christianity manifested itself, that there could come an
epoch when philosophy dared to assert, "From this time forth I will
stand instead of a religion like this." And in what manner--by
inculcating vice? Certainly not. By teaching virtue? Why that
will be to teach us to love God and our neighbour; and that is
precisely what Christianity has already done, on far higher and
purer motives. Yet, notwithstanding such had, for years, been my
opinion, I had failed to draw the conclusion, Then be a Christian!
No longer let corruption and abuses, the work of man, deter you; no
longer make stumbling-blocks of little points of doctrine, since the
principal point, made thus irresistibly clear, is to love God and
your neighbour.

In prison I finally determined to admit this conclusion, and I
admitted it. The fear, indeed, of appearing to others more
religious than I had before been, and to yield more to misfortune
than to conviction, made me sometimes hesitate; but feeling that I
had done no wrong, I felt no debasement, and cared nothing to
encounter the possible reproaches I had not deserved, resolving
henceforward to declare myself openly a Christian.


I adhered firmly to this resolution as time advanced; but the
consideration of it was begun the first night of my captivity.
Towards morning the excess of my grief had grown calmer, and I was
even astonished at the change. On recalling the idea of my parents
and others whom I loved, I ceased to despair of their strength of
mind, and the recollection of those virtues which I knew they had
long possessed gave me real consolation. Why had I before felt such
great dismay on thinking of them, and now so much confidence in
their strength of mind? Was this happy change miraculous, or the
natural effect of my renewed belief in God? What avails the
distinction, while the genuine sublime benefits of religion remain
the same.

At midnight two secondini (the under jailers are so termed) had paid
me a visit, and found me in a very ill mood; in the morning they
returned, and were surprised to see me so calm, and even cheerful.

"Last night, sir, you had the face of a basilisk," said Tirola; "now
you are quite another thing; I rejoice at it, if, indeed, it be a
sign, forgive me the expression, that you are not a scoundrel. Your
scoundrels (for I am an old hand at the trade, and my observations
are worth something) are always more enraged the second day after
their arrest than the first. Do you want some snuff?"

"I do not take it, but will not refuse your offer. If I have not a
gorgon-face this morning, it must surely be a proof of my utter
insensibility, or easy belief of soon regaining my freedom."

"I should doubt that, even though you were not in durance for state
matters. At this time of day they are not so easily got over as you
might think; you are not so raw as to imagine such a thing. Pardon
me, but you will know more by and by."

"Tell me, how come you to have so pleasant a look, living only, as
you do, among the unfortunate?"

"Why, sir, you will attribute it to indifference to others'
sufferings; of a truth, I know not how it is; yet, I assure you, it
often gives me pain to see the prisoners weep. Truly, I sometimes
pretend to be merry to bring a smile upon their faces."

"A thought has just struck me, my friend, which I never had before;
it is, that a jailer may be made of very congenial clay."

"Well, the trade has nothing to do with that, sir. Beyond that huge
vault you see there, without the court-yard, is another court, and
other prisons, all prepared for women. They are, sir, women of a
certain class; yet are there some angels among them, as to a good
heart. And if you were in my place, sir--"

"I?" and I laughed out heartily.

Tirola was quite disconcerted, and said no more. Perhaps he meant
to imply that had I been a secondino, it would have been difficult
not to become attached to some one or other of these unfortunates.

He now inquired what I wished to take for breakfast, left me, and
soon returned with my coffee. I looked hard at him, with a sort of
malicious smile, as much as to say, "Would you carry me a bit of a
note to an unhappy friend--to my friend Piero?" {1} He understood
it, and answered with another: "No sir; and if you do not take heed
how you ask any of my comrades, they will betray you."

Whether or not we understood each other, it is certain I was ten
times upon the point of asking him for a sheet of paper, &c.; but
there was a something in his eye which seemed to warn me not to
confide in any one about me, and still less to others than himself.


Had Tirola, with his expression of good-nature, possessed a less
roguish look, had there been something a little more dignified in
his aspect, I should have tried to make him my ambassador; for
perhaps a brief communication, if in time, might prevent my friend
committing some fatal error, perhaps save him, poor fellow; besides
several others, including myself: and too much was already known.
Patience! it was fated to be thus.

I was here recalled to be examined anew. The process continued
through the day, and was again and again repeated, allowing me only
a brief interval during dinner. While this lasted, the time seemed
to pass rapidly; the excitement of mind produced by the endless
series of questions put to me, and by going over them at dinner and
at night, digesting all that had been asked and replied to,
reflecting on what was likely to come, kept me in a state of
incessant activity. At the end of the first week I had to endure a
most vexatious affair. My poor friend Piero, eager as myself to
have some communication, sent me a note, not by one of the jailers,
but by an unfortunate prisoner who assisted them. He was an old man
from sixty to seventy, and condemned to I know not how long a period
of captivity. With a pin I had by me I pricked my finger, and
scrawled with my blood a few lines in reply, which I committed to
the same messenger. He was unluckily suspected, caught with the
note upon him, and from the horrible cries that were soon heard, I
conjectured that he was severely bastinadoed. At all events I never
saw him more.

On my next examination I was greatly irritated to see my note
presented to me (luckily containing nothing but a simple
salutation), traced in my blood. I was asked how I had contrived to
draw the blood; was next deprived of my pin, and a great laugh was
raised at the idea and detection of the attempt. Ah, I did not
laugh, for the image of the poor old messenger rose before my eyes.
I would gladly have undergone any punishment to spare the old man.
I could not repress my tears when those piercing cries fell upon my
ear. Vainly did I inquire of the jailers respecting his fate. They
shook their heads, observing, "He has paid dearly for it, he will
never do such like things again; he has a little more rest now."
Nor would they speak more fully. Most probably they spoke thus on
account of his having died under, or in consequence of, the
punishment he had suffered; yet one day I thought I caught a glimpse
of him at the further end of the court-yard, carrying a bundle of
wood on his shoulders. I felt a beating of the heart as if I had
suddenly recognised a brother.


When I ceased to be persecuted with examinations, and had no longer
anything to fill up my time, I felt bitterly the increasing weight
of solitude. I had permission to retain a bible, and my Dante; the
governor also placed his library at my disposal, consisting of some
romances of Scuderi, Piazzi, and worse books still; but my mind was
too deeply agitated to apply to any kind of reading whatever. Every
day, indeed, I committed a canto of Dante to memory, an exercise so
merely mechanical, that I thought more of my own affairs than the
lines during their acquisition. The same sort of abstraction
attended my perusal of other things, except, occasionally, a few
passages of scripture. I had always felt attached to this divine
production, even when I had not believed myself one of its avowed
followers. I now studied it with far greater respect than before;
yet my mind was often almost involuntarily bent upon other matters;
and I knew not what I read. By degrees I surmounted this
difficulty, and was able to reflect upon its great truths with
higher relish than I had ever before done. This, in me, did not
give rise to the least tendency to moroseness or superstition,
nothing being more apt than misdirected devotion to weaken and
distort the mind. With the love of God and mankind, it inspired me
also with a veneration for justice, and an abhorrence of wickedness,
along with a desire of pardoning the wicked. Christianity, instead
of militating against anything good, which I had derived from
Philosophy, strengthened it by the aid of logical deductions, at
once more powerful and profound.

Reading one day that it was necessary to pray without ceasing, and
that prayer did not consist in many words uttered after the manner
of the Pharisees, but in making every word and action accord with
the will of God, I determined to commence with earnestness, to pray
in the spirit with unceasing effort: in other words, to permit no
one thought which should not be inspired by a wish to conform my
whole life to the decrees of God.

The forms I adopted were simple and few; not from contempt of them
(I think them very salutary, and calculated to excite attention),
but from the circumstance of my being unable to go through them at
length, without becoming so far abstracted as to make me forget the
solemn duty in which I am engaged. This habitual observance of
prayer, and the reflection that God is omnipresent as well as
omnipotent in His power to save, began ere long to deprive solitude
of its horrors, and I often repeated, "Have I not the best society
man can have?" and from this period I grew more cheerful, I even
sang and whistled in the new joy of my heart. And why lament my
captivity? Might not a sudden fever have carried me off? and would
my friends then have grieved less over my fate than now? and cannot
God sustain them even as He could under a more trying dispensation?
And often did I offer up my prayers and fervent hopes that my dear
parents might feel, as I myself felt, resigned to my lot; but tears
frequently mingled with sweet recollections of home. With all this,
my faith in God remained undisturbed, and I was not disappointed.


To live at liberty is doubtless much better than living in a prison;
but, even here, the reflection that God is present with us, that
worldly joys are brief and fleeting, and that true happiness is to
be sought in the conscience, not in external objects, can give a
real zest to life. In less than one month I had made up my mind, I
will not say perfectly, but in a tolerable degree, as to the part I
should adopt. I saw that, being incapable of the mean action of
obtaining impunity by procuring the destruction of others, the only
prospect that lay before me was the scaffold, or long protracted
captivity. It was necessary that I should prepare myself. I will
live, I said to myself, so long as I shall be permitted, and when
they take my life, I will do as the unfortunate have done before me;
when arrived at the last moment, I can die. I endeavoured, as much
as possible, not to complain, and to obtain every possible enjoyment
of mind within my reach. The most customary was that of recalling
the many advantages which had thrown a charm round my previous life;
the best of fathers, of mothers, excellent brothers and sisters,
many friends, a good education, and a taste for letters. Should I
now refuse to be grateful to God for all these benefits, because He
had pleased to visit me with misfortune? Sometimes, indeed, in
recalling past scenes to mind, I was affected even to tears; but I
soon recovered my courage and cheerfulness of heart.

At the commencement of my captivity I was fortunate enough to meet
with a friend. It was neither the governor, nor any of his under-
jailers, nor any of the lords of the process-chamber. Who then?--a
poor deaf and dumb boy, five or six years old, the offspring of
thieves, who had paid the penalty of the law. This wretched little
orphan was supported by the police, with several other boys in the
same condition of life. They all dwelt in a room opposite my own,
and were only permitted to go out at certain hours to breathe a
little air in the yard. Little deaf and dumb used to come under my
window, smiled, and made his obeisance to me. I threw him a piece
of bread; he took it, and gave a leap of joy, then ran to his
companions, divided it, and returned to eat his own share under the
window. The others gave me a wistful look from a distance, but
ventured no nearer, while the deaf and dumb boy expressed a sympathy
for me; not, I found, affected, out of mere selfishness. Sometimes
he was at a loss what to do with the bread I gave him, and made
signs that he had eaten enough, as also his companions. When he saw
one of the under-jailers going into my room, he would give him what
he had got from me, in order to restore it to me. Yet he continued
to haunt my window, and seemed rejoiced whenever I deigned to notice
him. One day the jailer permitted him to enter my prison, when he
instantly ran to embrace my knees, actually uttering a cry of joy.
I took him up in my arms, and he threw his little hands about my
neck, and lavished on me the tenderest caresses. How much affection
in his smile and manner! how eagerly I longed to have him to
educate, raise him from his abject condition, and snatch him,
perhaps, from utter ruin. I never even learnt his name; he did not
himself know that he had one. He seemed always happy, and I never
saw him weep except once, and that was on being beaten, I know not
why, by the jailer. Strange that he should be thus happy in a
receptacle of so much pain and sorrow; yet he was light-hearted as
the son of a grandee. From him I learnt, at least, that the mind
need not depend on situation, but may be rendered independent of
external things. Govern the imagination, and we shall be well,
wheresoever we happen to be placed. A day is soon over, and if at
night we can retire to rest without actual pain and hunger, it
little matters whether it be within the walls of a prison, or of a
kind of building which they call a palace. Good reasoning this; but
how are we to contrive so to govern the imagination? I began to
try, and sometimes I thought I had succeeded to a miracle; but at
others the enchantress triumphed, and I was unexpectedly astonished
to find tears starting into my eyes.


I am so far fortunate, I often said, that they have given me a
dungeon on the ground floor, near the court, where that dear boy
comes within a few steps of me, to converse in our own mute
language. We made immense progress in it; we expressed a thousand
various feelings I had no idea we could do, by the natural
expressions of the eye, the gesture, and the whole countenance.
Wonderful human intelligence! How graceful were his motions! how
beautiful his smile! how quickly he corrected whatever expression I
saw of his that seemed to displease me! How well he understands I
love him, when he plays with any of his companions! Standing only
at my window to observe him, it seemed as if I possessed a kind of
influence over his mind, favourable to his education. By dint of
repeating the mutual exercise of signs, we should be enabled to
perfect the communication of our ideas. The more instruction he
gets, the more gentle and kind he becomes, the more he will be
attached to me. To him I shall be the genius of reason and of good;
he will learn to confide his sorrows to me, his pleasures, all he
feels and wishes; I will console, elevate, and direct him in his
whole conduct. It may be that this my lot may be protracted from
month to month, even till I grow grey in my captivity. Perhaps this
little child may continue to grow under my eye, and become one in
the service of this large family of pain, and grief, and calamity.
With such a disposition as he has already shown, what would become
of him? Alas; he would at most be made only a good under-keeper, or
fill some similar place. Yet I shall surely have conferred on him
some benefit if I can succeed in giving him a desire to do kind
offices to the good and to himself, and to nourish sentiments of
habitual benevolence. This soliloquy was very natural in my
situation; I was always fond of children, and the office of an
instructor appeared to me a sublime duty. For a few years I had
acted in that capacity with Giacomo and Giulio Porro, two young men
of noble promise, whom I loved, and shall continue to love as if
they were my own sons. Often while in prison were my thoughts
busied with them; and how it grieved me not to be enabled to
complete their education. I sincerely prayed that they might meet
with a new master, who would be as much attached to them as I had

At times I could not help exclaiming to myself, What a strange
burlesque is all this! instead of two noble youths, rich in all that
nature and fortune can endow them with, here I have a pupil, poor
little fellow! deaf, dumb, a castaway; the son of a robber, who at
most can aspire only to the rank of an under-jailer, and which, in a
little less softened phraseology, would mean to say a sbirro. {2}
This reflection confused and disquieted me; yet hardly did I hear
the strillo {3} of my little dummy than I felt my heart grow warm
again, just as a father when he hears the voice of a son. I lost
all anxiety about his mean estate. It is no fault of his if he be
lopped of Nature's fairest proportions, and was born the son of a
robber. A humane, generous heart, in an age of innocence, is always
respectable. I looked on him, therefore, from day to day with
increased affection, and was more than ever desirous of cultivating
his good qualities, and his growing intelligence. Nay, perhaps we
might both live to get out of prison, when I would establish him in
the college for the deaf and dumb, and thus open for him a path more
fortunate and pleasing than to play the part of a shirro. Whilst
thus pleasingly engaged in meditating his future welfare, two of the
under-jailers one day walked into my cell.

"You must change your quarters, sir!"

"What mean you by that?"

"We have orders to remove you into another chamber."

"Why so?"

"Some other great bird has been caged, and this being the better
apartment--you understand."

"Oh, yes! it is the first resting-place for the newly arrived."

They conveyed me to the opposite side of the court, where I could no
longer converse with my little deaf and dumb friend, and was far
removed from the ground floor. In walking across, I beheld the poor
boy sitting on the ground, overcome with grief and astonishment, for
he knew he had lost me. Ere I quite disappeared, he ran towards me;
my conductors tried to drive him away, but he reached me, and I
caught him in my arms, and returned his caresses with expressions of
tenderness I sought not to conceal. I tore myself from him, and
entered my new abode.


It was a dark and gloomy place; instead of glass it had pasteboard
for the windows; the walls were rendered more repulsive by being
hung with some wretched attempts at painting, and when free from
this lugubrious colour, were covered with inscriptions. These last
gave the name and country of many an unhappy inmate, with the date
of the fatal day of their captivity. Some consisted of lamentations
on the perfidy of false friends, denouncing their own folly, or
women, or the judge who condemned them. Among a few were brief
sketches of the victims' lives; still fewer embraced moral maxims.
I found the following words of Pascal: "Let those who attack
religion learn first what religion is. Could it boast of commanding
a direct view of the Deity, without veil or mystery, it would be to
attack that religion to say, 'that there is nothing seen in the
world which displays Him with such clear evidence.' But since it
rather asserts that man is involved in darkness, far from God, who
is hidden from human knowledge, insomuch as to give Himself the name
in scripture of 'Deus absconditus,' what advantage can the enemies
of religion derive when, neglecting, as they profess to do, the
science of truth, they complain that the truth is not made apparent
to them?" Lower down was written (the words of the same author),
"It is not here a question of some trivial interest relating to a
stranger; it applies to ourselves, and to all we possess. The
immortality of the soul is a question of that deep and momentous
importance to all, as to imply an utter loss of reason to rest
totally indifferent as to the truth or the fallacy of the
proposition." Another inscription was to this effect: "I bless the
hour of my imprisonment; it has taught me to know the ingratitude of
man, my own frailty, and the goodness of God." Close to these words
again appeared the proud and desperate imprecations of one who
signed himself an Atheist, and who launched his impieties against
the Deity, as if he had forgotten that he had just before said there
was no God. Then followed another column, reviling the cowardly
fools, as they were termed, whom captivity had converted into
fanatics. I one day pointed out these strange impieties to one of
the jailers, and inquired who had written them? "I am glad I have
found this," was the reply, "there are so many of them, and I have
so little time to look for them;" and he took his knife, and began
to erase it as fast as he could.

"Why do you do that?" I inquired of him.

"Because the poor devil who wrote it was condemned to death for a
cold-blooded murder; he repented, and made us promise to do him this

"Heaven pardon him!" I exclaimed; "what was it he did?"

"Why, as he found he could not kill his enemy, he revenged himself
by slaying the man's son, one of the finest boys you ever saw."

I was horror-struck. Could ferocity of disposition proceed to such
lengths? and could a monster, capable of such a deed, hold the
insulting language of a man superior to all human weaknesses? to
murder the innocent, and a child!


In my new prison, black and filthy to an extreme, I sadly missed the
society of my little dumb friend. I stood for hours in anxious,
weary mood, at the window which looked over a gallery, on the other
side of which could be seen the extremity of the court-yard, and the
window of my former cell. Who had succeeded me there? I could
discern his figure, as he paced quickly to and fro, apparently in
violent agitation. Two or three days subsequently, I perceived that
he had got writing materials, and remained busied at his little
table the whole of the day. At length I recognised him. He came
forth accompanied by his jailer; he was going to be examined, when I
saw he was no other than Melchiorre Gioja. {4} It went to my heart:
"You, too, noble, excellent man, have not escaped!" Yet he was more
fortunate than I. After a few months' captivity, he regained his
liberty. To behold any really estimable being always does me good;
it affords me pleasant matter for reflection, and for esteem--both
of great advantage. I could have laid down my life to save such a
man from captivity; yet merely to see him was some consolation to
me. After regarding him intently, some time, to ascertain if he
were tranquil or agitated, I offered up a heart-felt prayer for his
deliverance; I felt my spirits revived, a greater flow of ideas, and
greater satisfaction with myself. Such an incident as this has a
charm for utter solitude, of which you can form no idea without
experiencing it. A poor dumb boy had before supplied me with this
real enjoyment, and I now derived it from a distant view of a man of
distinguished merit.

Perhaps some one of the jailers had informed him where I was. One
morning, on opening his window, he waved his handkerchief in token
of salutation, and I replied in the same manner. I need not
describe the pleasure I felt; it appeared as if we were no longer
separated; and we discoursed in the silent intercourse of the
spirit, which, when every other medium is cut off, in the least
look, gesture, or signal of any kind, can make itself comprehended
and felt.

It was with no small pleasure I anticipated a continuation of this
friendly communication. Day after day, however, went on, and I was
never more gratified by the appearance of the same favourite
signals. Yet I frequently saw my friend at his window; I waved my
handkerchief, but in vain; he answered it no more. I was now
informed by our jailers, that Gioja had been strictly prohibited
from exciting my notice, or replying to it in any manner.
Notwithstanding, he still continued to look at me, and I at him, and
in this way, we conversed upon a great variety of subjects, which
helped to keep us alive.


Along the same gallery, upon a level with my prison, I saw other
prisoners passing and repassing the whole day to the place of
examination. They were, for the chief part, of lowly condition, but
occasionally one or two of better rank. All, however, attracted my
attention, brief as was the sight of them, and I truly
compassionated them. So sorrowful a spectacle for some time filled
me with grief, but by degrees I became habituated to it, and at last
it rather relieved than added to the horror of my solitude. A
number of women, also, who had been arrested, passed by. There was
a way from the gallery, through a large vault, leading to another
court, and in that part were placed the female prisoners, and others
labouring under disease. A single wall, and very slight, separated
my dwelling from that of some of the women. Sometimes I was almost
deafened with their songs, at others with their bursts of maddened
mirth. Late at evening, when the din of day had ceased, I could
hear them conversing, and, had I wished, I could easily have joined
with them. Was it timidity, pride, or prudence which restrained me
from all communication with the unfortunate and degraded of their
sex? Perhaps it partook of all. Woman, when she is what she ought
to be, is for me a creature so admirable, so sublime, the mere
seeing, hearing, and speaking to her, enriches my mind with such
noble fantasies; but rendered vile and despicable, she disturbs, she
afflicts, she deprives my heart, as it were, of all its poetry and
its love. Spite of this, there were among those feminine voices,
some so very sweet that, there is no use in denying it, they were
dear to me. One in particular surpassed the rest; I heard it more
seldom, and it uttered nothing unworthy of its fascinating tone.
She sung little and mostly kept repeating these two pathetic lines:-

Chi rende alla meschina
La sua felicita?

Ah, who will give the lost one
Her vanished dream of bliss?

At other times, she would sing from the litany. Her companions
joined with her; but still I could discern the voice of Maddalene
from all others, which seemed only to unite for the purpose of
robbing me of it. Sometimes, too, when her companions were
recounting to her their various misfortunes, I could hear her
pitying them; could catch even her very sighs, while she invariably
strove to console them: "Courage, courage, my poor dear," she one
day said, "God is very good, and He will not abandon us."

How could I do otherwise than imagine she was beautiful, more
unfortunate than guilty, naturally virtuous, and capable of
reformation? Who would blame me because I was affected with what
she said, listened to her with respect, and offered up my prayers
for her with more than usual earnestness of heart. Innocence is
sacred, and repentance ought to be equally respected. Did the most
perfect of men, the Divinity on earth, refuse to cast a pitying eye
on weak, sinful women; to respect their fear and confusion, and rank
them among the minds he delighted to consort with and to honour? By
what law, then, do we act, when we treat with so much contempt women
fallen into ignominy?

While thus reasoning, I was frequently tempted to raise my voice and
speak, as a brother in misfortune, to poor Maddalene. I had often
even got out the first syllable; and how strange! I felt my heart
beat like an enamoured youth of fifteen; I who had reached thirty-
one; and it seemed as if I should never be able to pronounce the
name, till I cried out almost in a rage, "Mad! Mad!" yes, mad
enough, thought I.


Thus ended my romance with that poor unhappy one; yet it did not
fail to produce me many sweet sensations during several weeks.
Often, when steeped in melancholy, would her sweet calm voice
breathe consolation to my spirit; when, dwelling on the meanness and
ingratitude of mankind, I became irritated, and hated the world, the
voice of Maddalene gently led me back to feelings of compassion and

How I wish, poor, unknown, kind-hearted repentant one, that no heavy
punishment may befall thee. And whatever thou shalt suffer, may it
well avail thee, re-dignify thy nature, and teach thee to live and
die to thy Saviour and thy Lord. Mayest thou meet compassion and
respect from all around thee, as thou didst from me a stranger to
thee. Mayest thou teach all who see thee thy gentle lesson of
patience, sweetness, the love of virtue, and faith in God, with
which thou didst inspire him who loved without having beheld thee.
Perhaps I erred in thinking thee beautiful, but, sure I am, thou
didst wear the beauty of the soul. Thy conversation, though spoken
amidst grossness and corruption of every kind, was ever chaste and
graceful; whilst others imprecated, thou didst bless; when eager in
contention, thy sweet voice still pacified, like oil upon the
troubled waters. If any noble mind hath read thy worth, and
snatched thee from an evil career; hath assisted thee with delicacy,
and wiped the tears from thy eyes, may every reward heaven can give
be his portion, that of his children, and of his children's

Next to mine was another prison occupied by several men. I also
heard THEIR conversation. One seemed of superior authority, not so
much probably from any difference of rank, as owing to greater
eloquence and boldness. He played, what may musically be termed,
the first fiddle. He stormed himself, yet put to silence those who
presumed to quarrel by his imperious voice. He dictated the tone of
the society, and after some feeble efforts to throw off his
authority they submitted, and gave the reins into his hands.

There was not a single one of those unhappy men who had a touch of
that in him to soften the harshness of prison hours, to express one
kindly sentiment, one emanation of religion, or of love. The chief
of these neighbours of mine saluted me, and I replied. He asked me
how I contrived to pass such a cursed dull life? I answered, that
it was melancholy, to be sure; but no life was a cursed one to me,
and that to our last hour, it was best to do all to procure oneself
the pleasure of thinking and of loving.

"Explain, sir, explain what you mean!"

I explained, but was not understood. After many ingenious attempts,
I determined to clear it up in the form of example, and had the
courage to bring forward the extremely singular and moving effect
produced upon me by the voice of Maddalene; when the magisterial
head of the prison burst into a violent fit of laughter. "What is
all that, what is that?" cried his companions. He then repeated my
words with an air of burlesque; peals of laughter followed, and I
there stood, in their eyes, the picture of a convicted blockhead.

As it is in prison, so it is in the world. Those who make it their
wisdom to go into passions, to complain, to defy, to abuse, think
that to pity, to love, to console yourself with gentle and beautiful
thoughts and images, in accord with humanity and its great Author,
is all mere folly.


I let them laugh and said not a word; they hit at me again two or
three times, but I was mute. "He will come no more near the
window," said one, "he will hear nothing but the sighs of Maddalene;
we have offended him with laughing." At length, the chief imposed
silence upon the whole party, all amusing themselves at my expense.
"Silence, beasts as you are; devil a bit you know what you are
talking about. Our neighbour is none so long eared an animal as you
imagine. You do not possess the power of reflection, no not you. I
grin and joke; but afterwards I reflect. Every low-born clown can
stamp and roar, as we do here. Grant a little more real
cheerfulness, a spark more of charity, a bit more faith in the
blessing of heaven;--what do you imagine that all this would be a
sign of?" "Now, that I also reflect," replied one, "I fancy it
would be a sign of being a little less of a brute."

"Bravo!" cried his leader, in a most stentorian howl! "now I begin
to have some hope of you."

I was not overproud at being thus rated a LITTLE LESS OF A BRUTE
than the rest; yet I felt a sort of pleasure that these wretched men
had come to some agreement as to the importance of cultivating, in
some degree, more benevolent sentiments.

I again approached the window, the chief called me, and I answered,
hoping that I might now moralise with him in my own way. I was
deceived; vulgar minds dislike serious reasoning; if some noble
truth start up, they applaud for a moment, but the next withdraw
their notice, or scruple not to attempt to shine by questioning, or
aiming to place it in some ludicrous point of view.

I was next asked if I were imprisoned for debt?

"Perhaps you are paying the penalty of a false oath, then?"

"No, it is quite a different thing."

"An affair of love, most likely, I guess?"


"You have killed a man, mayhap?"


"It's for carbonarism, then?"

"Exactly so."

"And who are these carbonari?"

"I know so little of them, I cannot tell you."

Here a jailer interrupted us in great anger; and after commenting on
the gross improprieties committed by my neighbours, he turned
towards me, not with the gravity of a sbirro, but the air of a
master: "For shame, sir, for shame! to think of talking to men of
this stamp! do you know, sir, that they are all robbers?"

I reddened up, and then more deeply for having shown I blushed, and
methought that to deign to converse with the unhappy of however
lowly rank, was rather a mark of goodness than a fault.


Next morning I went to my window to look for Melchiorre Gioja; but
conversed no more with the robbers. I replied to their salutation,
and added, that I had been forbidden to hold conversation. The
secretary who had presided at my examinations, told me with an air
of mystery, I was about to receive a visit. After a little further
preparation, he acquainted me that it was my father; and so saying,
bade me follow him. I did so, in a state of great agitation,
assuming at the same time an appearance of perfect calmness in order
not to distress my unhappy parent. Upon first hearing of my arrest,
he had been led to suppose it was for some trifling affair, and that
I should soon be set at liberty. Finding his mistake, however, he
had now come to solicit the Austrian government on my account.
Here, too, he deluded himself, for he never imagined I could have
been rash enough to expose myself to the penalty of the laws, and
the cheerful tone in which I now spoke persuaded him that there was
nothing very serious in the business.

The few words that were permitted to pass between us gave me
indescribable pain; the more so from the restraint I had placed upon
my feelings. It was yet more difficult at the moment of parting.
In the existing state of things, as regarded Italy, I felt convinced
that Austria would make some fearful examples, and that I should be
condemned either to death or long protracted imprisonment. It was
my object to conceal this from my father and to flatter his hopes at
a moment when I was inquiring for a mother, brother, and sisters,
whom I never expected to behold more. Though I knew it to be
impossible, I even calmly requested of him that he would come and
see me again, while my heart was wrung with the bitter conflict of
my feelings. He took his leave, filled with the same agreeable
delusion, and I painfully retraced my steps back into my dungeon. I
thought that solitude would now be a relief to me; that to weep
would somewhat ease my burdened heart? yet, strange to say, I could
not shed a tear. The extreme wretchedness of feeling this inability
even to shed tears excites, under some of the heaviest calamities,
is the severest trial of all, and I have often experienced it.

An acute fever, attended by severe pains in my head, followed this
interview. I could not take any nourishment; and I often said, how
happy it would be for me, were it indeed to prove mortal. Foolish
and cowardly wish! heaven refused to hear my prayer, and I now feel
grateful that it did. Though a stern teacher, adversity fortifies
the mind, and renders man what he seems to have been intended for;
at least, a good man, a being capable of struggling with difficulty
and danger; presenting an object not unworthy, even in the eyes of
the old Romans, of the approbation of the gods.


Two days afterwards I again saw my father. I had rested well the
previous night, and was free from fever; before him I preserved the
same calm and even cheerful deportment, so that no one could have
suspected I had recently suffered, and still continued to suffer so
much. "I am in hopes," observed my father, "that within a very few
days we shall see you at Turin. Your mother has got your old room
in readiness, and we are all expecting you to come. Pressing
affairs now call me away, but lose no time, I entreat you, in
preparing to rejoin us once more." His kind and affecting
expressions added to my grief. Compassion and filial piety, not
unmingled with a species of remorse, induced me to feign assent; yet
afterwards I reflected how much more worthy it had been, both of my
father and myself, to have frankly told him that most probably, we
should never see each other again, at least in this world. Let us
take farewell like men, without a murmur and without a tear, and let
me receive the benediction of a father before I die. As regarded
myself, I should wish to have adopted language like that; but when I
gazed on his aged and venerable features, and his grey hairs,
something seemed to whisper me, that it would be too much for the
affectionate old man to bear; and the words died in my heart. Good
God! I thought, should he know the extent of the EVIL, he might,
perhaps, run distracted, such is his extreme attachment to me: he
might fall at my feet, or even expire before my eyes. No! I could
not tell him the truth, nor so much as prepare him for it; we shed
not a tear, and he took his departure in the same pleasing delusion
as before. On returning into my dungeon I was seized in the same
manner, and with still more aggravated suffering, as I had been
after the last interview; and, as then, my anguish found no relief
from tears.

I had nothing now to do but resign myself to all the horrors of long
captivity, and to the sentence of death. But to prepare myself to
bear the idea of the immense load of grief that must fall on every
dear member of my family, on learning my lot, was beyond my power.
It haunted me like a spirit, and to fly from it I threw myself on my
knees, and in a passion of devotion uttered aloud the following
prayer:- "My God! from thy hand I will accept all--for me all: but
deign most wonderfully to strengthen the hearts of those to whom I
was so very dear! Grant thou that I may cease to be such to them
now; and that not the life of the least of them may be shortened by
their care for me, even by a single day!"

Strange! wonderful power of prayer! for several hours my mind was
raised to a contemplation of the Deity, and my confidence in His
goodness proportionately increased; I meditated also on the dignity
of the human mind when, freed from selfishness, it exerts itself to
will only that which is the will of eternal wisdom. This can be
done, and it is man's duty to do it. Reason, which is the voice of
the Deity, teaches us that it is right to submit to every sacrifice
for the sake of virtue. And how could the sacrifice which we owe to
virtue be completed, if in the most trying afflictions we struggle
against the will of Him who is the source of all virtue? When death
on the scaffold, or any other species of martyrdom becomes
inevitable, it is a proof of wretched degradation, or ignorance, not
to be able to approach it with blessing upon our lips. Nor is it
only necessary we should submit to death, but to the affliction
which we know those most dear to us must suffer on our account. All
it is lawful for us to ask is, that God will temper such affliction,
and that he will direct us all, for such a prayer is always sure to
be accepted.


For a period of some days I continued in the same state of mind; a
sort of calm sorrow, full of peace, affection, and religious
thoughts. I seemed to have overcome every weakness, and as if I
were no longer capable of suffering new anxiety. Fond delusion! it
is man's duty to aim at reaching as near to perfection as possible,
though he can never attain it here. What now disturbed me was the
sight of an unhappy friend, my good Piero, who passed along the
gallery within a few yards of me, while I stood at my window. They
were removing him from his cell into the prison destined for
criminals. He was hurried by so swiftly that I had barely time to
recognise him, and to receive and return his salutation.

Poor young man! in the flower of his age, with a genius of high
promise, of frank, upright, and most affectionate disposition, born
with a keen zest of the pleasures of existence, to be at once
precipitated into a dungeon, without the remotest hope of escaping
the severest penalty of the laws. So great was my compassion for
him, and my regret at being unable to afford him the slightest
consolation, that it was long before I could recover my composure of
mind. I knew how tenderly he was attached to every member of his
numerous family, how deeply interested in promoting their happiness,
and how devotedly his affection was returned. I was sensible what
must be the affliction of each and all under so heavy a calamity.
Strange, that though I had just reconciled myself to the idea in my
own case, a sort of phrensy seized my mind when I depicted the
scene; and it continued so long that I began to despair of mastering

Dreadful as this was, it was still but an illusion. Ye afflicted
ones, who believe yourselves victims of some irresistible, heart-
rending, and increasing grief, suffer a little while with patience,
and you will be undeceived. Neither perfect peace, nor utter
wretchedness can be of long continuance here below. Recollect this
truth, that you may not become unduly elevated in prosperity, and
despicable under the trials which assuredly await you. A sense of
weariness and apathy succeeded the terrible excitement I had
undergone. But indifference itself is transitory, and I had some
fear lest I should continue to suffer without relief under these
wretched extremes of feeling. Terrified at the prospect of such a
future, I had recourse once more to the only Being from whom I could
hope to receive strength to bear it, and devoutly bent down in
prayer. I beseeched the Father of mercies to befriend my poor
deserted Piero, even as myself, and to support his family no less
than my own. By constant repetition of prayers like these, I became
perfectly calm and resigned.


It was then I reflected upon my previous violence; I was angry at my
own weakness and folly, and sought means of remedying them. I had
recourse to the following expedient. Every morning, after I had
finished my devotions, I set myself diligently to work to recall to
mind every possible occurrence of a trying and painful kind, such as
a final parting from my dearest friends and the approach of the
executioner. I did this not only in order to inure my nerves to
bear sudden or dreadful incidents, too surely my future portion, but
that I might not again be taken unawares. At first this melancholy
task was insupportable, but I persevered; and in a short time became
reconciled to it.

In the spring of 1821 Count Luigi Porro {5} obtained permission to
see me. Our warm friendship, the eagerness to communicate our
mutual feelings, and the restraint imposed by the presence of an
imperial secretary, with the brief time allowed us, the
presentiments I indulged, and our efforts to appear calm, all led me
to expect that I should be thrown into a state of fearful
excitement, worse than I had yet suffered. It was not so; after
taking his leave I remained calm; such to me proved the signal
efficacy of guarding against the assault of sudden and violent
emotions. The task I set myself to acquire, constant calmness of
mind, arose less from a desire to relieve my unhappiness than from a
persuasion how undignified, unworthy, and injurious, was a temper
opposite to this, I mean a continued state of excitement and
anxiety. An excited mind ceases to reason; carried away by a
resistless torrent of wild ideas, it forms for itself a sort of mad
logic, full of anger and malignity; it is in a state at once as
absolutely unphilosophical as it is unchristian.

If I were a divine I should often insist upon the necessity of
correcting irritability and inquietude of character; none can be
truly good without that be effected. How nobly pacific, both with
regard to himself and others, was He whom we are all bound to
imitate. There is no elevation of mind, no justice without
moderation in principles and ideas, without a pervading spirit which
inclines us rather to smile at, than fall into a passion with, the
events of this little life. Anger is never productive of any good,
except in the extremely rare case of being employed to humble the
wicked, and to terrify them from pursuing the path of crime, even as
the usurers were driven by an angry Saviour, from polluting his holy
Temple. Violence and excitement, perhaps, differing altogether from
what I felt, are no less blamable. Mine was the mania of despair
and affliction: I felt a disposition, while suffering under its
horrors, to hate and to curse mankind. Several individuals, in
particular, appeared to my imagination depicted in the most
revolting colours. It is a sort of moral epidemic, I believe,
springing from vanity and selfishness; for when a man despises and
detests his fellow-creatures, he necessarily assumes that he is much
better than the rest of the world. The doctrine of such men amounts
to this:- "Let us admire only one another, if we turn the rest of
mankind into a mere mob, we shall appear like demi-gods on earth."
It is a curious fact that living in a state of hostility and rage
actually affords pleasure; it seems as if people thought there was a
species of heroism in it. If, unfortunately, the object of our
wrath happens to die, we lose no time in finding some one to fill
the vacant place. Whom shall I attack next, whom shall I hate? Ah!
is that the villain I was looking out for? What a prize! Now my
friends, at him, give him no quarter. Such is the world, and,
without uttering a libel, I may add that it is not what it ought to


It showed no great malignity, however, to complain of the horrible
place in which they had incarcerated me, but fortunately another
room became vacant, and I was agreeably surprised on being informed
that I was to have it. Yet strangely enough, I reflected with
regret that I was about to leave the vicinity of Maddalene. Instead
of feeling rejoiced, I mourned over it with almost childish feeling.
I had always attached myself to some object, even from motives
comparatively slight. On leaving my horrible abode, I cast back a
glance at the heavy wall against which I had so often supported
myself, while listening as closely as possible to the gentle voice
of the repentant girl. I felt a desire to hear, if only for the
last time, those two pathetic lines, -

Chi rende alla meschina
La sua felicita?

Vain hope! here was another separation in the short period of my
unfortunate life. But I will not go into any further details, lest
the world should laugh at me, though it would be hypocrisy in me to
affect to conceal that, for several days after, I felt melancholy at
this imaginary parting.

While going out of my dungeon I also made a farewell signal to two
of the robbers, who had been my neighbours, and who were then
standing at their window. Their chief also got notice of my
departure, ran to the window, and repeatedly saluted me. He began
likewise to sing the little air, Chi rende alla meschina; and was
this, thought I, merely to ridicule me? No doubt that forty out of
fifty would say decidedly, "It was!" In spite, however, of being
outvoted, I incline to the opinion that the GOOD ROBBER meant it
kindly; and, as such I received it, and gave him a look of thanks.
He saw it, and thrust his arm through the bars, and waved his cap,
nodding kindly to me as I turned to go down the stairs.

Upon reaching the yard below, I was further consoled by a sight of
the little deaf and dumb boy. He saw me, and instantly ran towards
me with a look of unfeigned delight. The wife of the jailer,
however, Heaven knows why, caught hold of the little fellow, and
rudely thrusting him back, drove him into the house. I was really
vexed; and yet the resolute little efforts he made even then to
reach me, gave me indescribable pleasure at the moment, so pleasing
it is to find that one is really loved. This was a day full of
great adventures for ME; a few steps further I passed the window of
my old prison, now the abode of Gioja: "How are you, Melchiorre?" I
exclaimed as I went by. He raised his head, and getting as near me
as it was POSSIBLE, cried out, "How do you do, Silvio?" They would
not let me stop a single moment; I passed through the great gate,
ascended a flight of stairs, which brought us to a large, well-swept
room, exactly over that occupied by Gioja. My bed was brought after
me, and I was then left to myself by my conductors. My first object
was to examine the walls; I met with several inscriptions, some
written with charcoal, others in pencil, and a few incised with some
sharp point. I remember there were some very pleasing verses in
French, and I am sorry I forgot to commit them to mind. They were
signed "The duke of Normandy." I tried to sing them, adapting to
them, as well as I could, the favourite air of my poor Maddalene.
What was my surprise to hear a voice, close to me, reply in the same
words, sung to another air. When he had finished, I cried out,
"Bravo!" and he saluted me with great respect, inquiring if I were a

"No; an Italian, and my name is Silvio Pellico."

"The author of Francesca da Rimini?" {6}

"The same."

Here he made me a fine compliment, following it with the condolences
usual on such occasions, upon hearing I had been committed to
prison. He then inquired of what part of Italy I was a native.
"Piedmont," was the reply; "I am from Saluzzo." Here I was treated
to another compliment, on the character and genius of the
Piedmontese, in particular, the celebrated men of Saluzzo, at the
head of whom he ranked Bodoni. {7} All this was said in an easy
refined tone, which showed the man of the world, and one who had
received a good education.

"Now, may I be permitted," said I, "to inquire who you are, sir?"

"I heard you singing one of my little songs," was the reply.

"What! the two beautiful stanzas upon the wall are yours!"

"They are, sir."

"You are, therefore,--"

"The unfortunate duke of Normandy."


The jailer at that moment passed under our windows, and ordered us
to be silent.

What can he mean by the unfortunate duke of Normandy? thought I,
musing to myself. Ah! is not that the title said to be assumed by
the son of Louis XVI.? but that unhappy child is indisputably no
more. Then my neighbour must be one of those unlucky adventurers
who have undertaken to bring him to life again. Not a few had
already taken upon themselves to personate this Louis XVII., and
were proved to be impostors; how is my new acquaintance entitled to
greater credit for his pains?

Although I tried to give him the advantage of a doubt, I felt an
insurmountable incredulity upon the subject, which was not
subsequently removed. At the same time, I determined not to mortify
the unhappy man, whatever sort of absurdity he might please to
hazard before my face.

A few minutes afterwards he began again to sing, and we soon renewed
our conversation. In answer to my inquiry, "What is your real
name?" he replied, "I am no other than Louis XVII." And he then
launched into very severe invectives against his uncle, Louis
XVIII., the usurper of his just and natural rights.

"But why," said I, "did you not prefer your claims at the period of
the restoration?"

"I was unable, from extreme illness, to quit the city of Bologna.
The moment I was better I hastened to Paris; I presented myself to
the allied monarchs, but the work was done. The good Prince of
Conde knew, and received me with open arms, but his friendship
availed me not. One evening, passing through a lonely street, I was
suddenly attacked by assassins, and escaped with difficulty. After
wandering through Normandy, I returned into Italy, and stopped some
time at Modena. Thence I wrote to the allied powers, in particular
to the Emperor Alexander, who replied to my letter with expressions
of the greatest kindness. I did not then despair of obtaining
justice, or, at all events, if my rights were to be sacrificed, of
being allowed a decent provision, becoming a prince. But I was
arrested, and handed over to the Austrian government. During eight
months I have been here buried alive, and God knows when I shall
regain my freedom."

I begged him to give me a brief sketch of his life. He told me very
minutely what I already knew relating to Louis XVII. and the cruel
Simon, and of the infamous calumnies that wretch was induced to
utter respecting the unfortunate queen, &c. Finally he said, that
while in prison, some persons came with an idiot boy of the name of
Mathurin, who was substituted for him, while he himself was carried
off. A coach and four was in readiness; one of the horses was
merely a wooden-machine, in the interior of which he was concealed.
Fortunately, they reached the confines, and the General (he gave me
the name, which has escaped me) who effected his release, educated
him for some time with the attention of a father, and subsequently
sent, or accompanied him, to America. There the young king, without
a sceptre, had room to indulge his wandering disposition; he was
half famished in the forests; became at length a soldier, and
resided some time, in good credit, at the court of the Brazils.
There, too, he was pursued and persecuted, till compelled to make
his escape. He returned to Europe towards the close of Napoleon's
career, was kept a close prisoner at Naples by Murat; and, at last,
when he was liberated, and in full preparation to reclaim the throne
of France, he was seized with that unlucky illness at Bologna,
during which Louis XVIII. was permitted to assume his nephew's


All this he related with an air of remarkable frankness and truth.
Although not justified in believing him, I nevertheless was
astonished at his knowledge of the most minute facts connected with
the revolution. He spoke with much natural fluency, and his
conversation abounded with a variety of curious anecdotes. There
was something also of the soldier in his expression, without showing
any want of that sort of elegance resulting from an intercourse with
the best society.

"Will it be permitted me," I inquired, "to converse with you on
equal terms, without making use of any titles?"

"That is what I myself wish you to do," was the reply. "I have at
least reaped one advantage from adversity; I have learnt to smile at
all these vanities. I assure you that I value myself more upon
being a man, than having been born a prince."

We were in the habit of conversing together both night and morning,
for a considerable time; and, in spite of what I considered the
comic part of his character, he appeared to be of a good
disposition, frank, affable, and interested in the virtue and
happiness of mankind. More than once I was on the point of saying,
"Pardon me; I wish I could believe you were Louis XVII., but I
frankly confess I cannot prevail on myself to believe it; be equally
sincere, I entreat you, and renounce this singular fiction of
yours." I had even prepared to introduce the subject with an
edifying discourse upon the vanity of all imposture, even of such
untruths as may appear in themselves harmless.

I put off my purpose from day to day; I partly expected that we
should grow still more friendly and confidential, but I had never
the heart really to try the experiment upon his feelings. When I
reflect upon this want of resolution, I sometimes attempt to
reconcile myself to it on the ground of proper urbanity,
unwillingness to give offence, and other reasons of the kind. Still
these excuses are far from satisfying me; I cannot disguise that I
ought not to have permitted my dislike to preaching him a sermon to
stand in the way of speaking my real sentiments. To affect to give
credit to imposture of any kind is miserable weakness, such as I
think I should not, even in similar circumstances, exhibit again.
At the same time, it must be confessed that, preface it as you will,
it is a harsh thing to say to any one, "I don't believe you!" He
will naturally resent it; it would deprive us of his friendship or
regard: nay it would, perhaps, make him hate us. Yet it is better
to run every risk than to sanction an untruth. Possibly, the man
capable of it, upon finding that his imposture is known, will
himself admire our sincerity, and afterwards be induced to reflect
in a manner that may produce the best results.

The under-jailers were unanimously of opinion that he was really
Louis XVII., and having already seen so many strange changes of
fortune, they were not without hopes that he would some day ascend
the throne of France, and remember the good treatment and attentions
he had met with. With the exception of assisting in his escape,
they made it their object to comply with all his wishes. It was by
such means I had the honour of forming an acquaintance with this
grand personage. He was of the middle height, between forty and
forty-five years of age, rather inclined to corpulency, and had
features strikingly like those of the Bourbons. It is very probable
that this accidental resemblance may have led him to assume the
character he did, and play so melancholy a part in it.


There is one other instance of unworthy deference to private
opinion, of which I must accuse myself. My neighbour was not an
Atheist, he rather liked to converse on religious topics, as if he
justly appreciated the importance of the subject, and was no
stranger to its discussion. Still, he indulged a number of
unreasonable prejudices against Christianity, which he regarded less
in its real nature than its abuses. The superficial philosophy
which preceded the French revolution had dazzled him. He had formed
an idea that religious worship might be offered up with greater
purity than as it had been dictated by the religion of the
Evangelists. Without any intimate acquaintance with the writings of
Condillac and Tracy, he venerated them as the most profound
thinkers, and really thought that the last had carried the branch of
metaphysics to the highest degree of perfection.

I may fairly say that MY philosophical studies had been better
directed; I was aware of the weakness of the experimental doctrine,
and I knew the gross and shameless errors in point of criticism,
which influenced the age of Voltaire in libelling Christianity. I
had also read Guenee, and other able exposers of such false
criticism. I felt a conviction that, by no logical reasoning, could
the being of a God be granted, and the Bible rejected, and I
conceived it a vulgar degradation to fall in with the stream of
antichristian opinions, and to want elevation of intellect to
apprehend how the doctrine of Catholicism in its true character, is
religiously simple and ennobling. Yet I had the meanness to bow to
human opinion out of deference and respect. The wit and sarcasms of
my neighbour seemed to confound me, while I could not disguise from
myself that they were idle and empty as the air. I dissimulated, I
hesitated to announce my own belief, reflecting how far it were
seasonable thus to contradict my companion, and persuading myself
that it would be useless, and that I was perfectly justified in
remaining silent. What vile pusillanimity! why thus respect the
presumptuous power of popular errors and opinions, resting upon no
foundation. True it is that an ill-timed zeal is always indiscreet,
and calculated to irritate rather than convert; but to avow with
frankness and modesty what we regard as an important truth, to do it
even when we have reason to conclude it will not be palatable, and
to meet willingly any ridicule or sarcasm which may be launched
against it; this I maintain to be an actual duty. A noble avowal of
this kind, moreover, may always be made, without pretending to
assume, uncalled for, anything of the missionary character.

It is, I repeat, a duty, not to keep back an important truth at any
period; for though there may be little hope of it being immediately
acknowledged; it may tend to prepare the minds of others, and in due
time, doubtless, produce a better and more impartial judgment, and a
consequent triumph of truth.


I continued in the same apartment during a month and some days. On
the night of February the 18th, 1821, I was roused from sleep by a
loud noise of chains and keys; several men entered with a lantern,
and the first idea that struck me was, that they were come to cut my
throat. While gazing at them in strange perplexity, one of the
figures advanced towards me with a polite air; it was Count B- , {8}
who requested I would dress myself as speedily as possible to set

I was surprised at this announcement, and even indulged a hope that
they were sent to conduct me to the confines of Piedmont. Was it
likely the storm which hung over me would thus early be dispersed?
should I again enjoy that liberty so dearly prized, be restored to
my beloved parents, and see my brothers and sisters?

I was allowed short time to indulge these flattering hopes. The
moment I had thrown on my clothes, I followed my conductors without
having an opportunity of bidding farewell to my royal neighbour.
Yet I thought I heard him call my name, and regretted it was out of
my power to stop and reply. "Where are we going?" I inquired of the
Count, as we got into a coach, attended by an officer of the guard.
"I cannot inform you till we shall be a mile on the other side the
city of Milan." I was aware the coach was not going in the
direction of the Vercelline gate; and my hopes suddenly vanished. I
was silent; it was a beautiful moonlight night; I beheld the same
well-known paths I had traversed for pleasure so many years before.
The houses, the churches, and every object renewed a thousand
pleasing recollections. I saw the Corsia of Porta Orientale, I saw
the public gardens, where I had so often rambled with Foscolo, {9}
Monti, {10} Lodovico di Breme, {11} Pietro Borsieri, {12} Count
Porro, and his sons, with many other delightful companions,
conversing in all the glow of life and hope. How I felt my
friendship for these noble men revive with double force when I
thought of having parted from them for the last time, disappearing
as they had done, one by one, so rapidly from my view. When we had
gone a little way beyond the gate, I pulled my hat over my eyes, and
indulged these sad retrospections unobserved.

After having gone about a mile, I addressed myself to Count B-. "I
presume we are on the road to Verona." "Yes, further," was the
reply; "we are for Venice, where it is my duty to hand you over to a
special commission there appointed."

We travelled post, stopped nowhere, and on the 20th of February
arrived at my destination. The September of the year preceding,
just one month previous to my arrest, I had been at Venice, and had
met a large and delightful party at dinner, in the Hotel della Luna.
Strangely enough, I was now conducted by the Count and the officer
to the very inn where we had spent that evening in social mirth.

One of the waiters started on seeing me, perceiving that, though my
conductors had assumed the dress of domestics, I was no other than a
prisoner in their hands. I was gratified at this recognition, being
persuaded that the man would mention my arrival there to more than

We dined, and I was then conducted to the palace of the Doge, where
the tribunals are now held. I passed under the well-known porticoes
of the Procuratie, and by the Florian Hotel, where I had enjoyed so
many pleasant evenings the last autumn; but I did not happen to meet
a single acquaintance. We went across the piazzetta, and there it
struck me that the September before, I had met a poor mendicant, who
addressed me in these singular words:-

"I see, sir, you are a stranger, but I cannot make out why you, sir,
and all other strangers, should so much admire this place. To me it
is a place of misfortune, and I never pass it when I can avoid it."

"What, did you here meet with some disaster?"

"I did, sir; a horrible one, sir; and not only I. God protect you
from it, God protect you!" And he took himself off in haste.

At this moment it was impossible for me to forget the words of the
poor beggarman. He was present there, too, the next year, when I
ascended the scaffold, whence I heard read to me the sentence of
death, and that it had been commuted for fifteen years hard
imprisonment. Assuredly, if I had been inclined ever so little to
superstition, I should have thought much of the mendicant,
predicting to me with so much energy, as he did, and insisting that
this was a place of misfortune. As it is, I have merely noted it
down for a curious incident. We ascended the palace; Count B- spoke
to the judges, then, handing me over to the jailer, after embracing
me with much emotion, he bade me farewell.


I followed the jailer in silence. After turning through a number of
passages, and several large rooms, we arrived at a small staircase,
which brought us under the Piombi, those notorious state prisons,
dating from the time of the Venetian republic.

There the jailer first registered my name, and then locked me up in
the room appointed for me. The chambers called I Piombi consist of
the upper portion of the Doge's palace, and are covered throughout
with lead.

My room had a large window with enormous bars, and commanded a view
of the roof (also of lead), and the church, of St. Mark. Beyond the
church I could discern the end of the Piazza in the distance, with
an immense number of cupolas and belfries on all sides. St. Mark's
gigantic Campanile was separated from me only by the length of the
church, and I could hear persons speaking from the top of it when
they talked at all loud. To the left of the church was to be seen a
portion of the grand court of the palace, and one of the chief
entrances. There is a public well in that part of the court, and
people were continually in the habit of going thither to draw water.
From the lofty site of my prison they appeared to me about the size
of little children, and I could not at all hear their conversation,
except when they called out very loud. Indeed, I found myself much
more solitary than I had been in the Milanese prisons.

During several days the anxiety I suffered from the criminal trial
appointed by the special commission, made me rather melancholy, and
it was increased, doubtless, by that painful feeling of deeper

I was here, moreover, further removed from my family, of whom I
heard no more. The new faces that appeared wore a gloom at once
strange and appalling. Report had greatly exaggerated the struggle
of the Milanese and the rest of Italy to recover their independence;
it was doubted if I were not one of the most desperate promoters of
that mad enterprise. I found that my name, as a writer, was not
wholly unknown to my jailer, to his wife, and even his daughter,
besides two sons, and the under-jailers, all of whom, by their
manner, seemed to have an idea that a writer of tragedies was little
better than a kind of magician. They looked grave and distant, yet
as if eager to learn more of me, had they dared to waive the
ceremony of their iron office.

In a few days I grew accustomed to their looks, or rather, I think,
they found I was not so great a necromancer as to escape through the
lead roofs, and, consequently, assumed a more conciliating
demeanour. The wife had most of the character that marks the true
jailer; she was dry and hard, all bone, without a particle of heart,
about forty, and incapable of feeling, except it were a savage sort
of instinct for her offspring. She used to bring me my coffee,
morning and afternoon, and my water at dinner. She was generally
accompanied by her daughter, a girl of about fifteen, not very
pretty, but with mild, compassionating looks, and her two sons, from
ten to thirteen years of age. They always went back with their
mother, but there was a gentle look and a smile of love for me upon
their young faces as she closed the door, my only company when they
were gone. The jailer never came near me, except to conduct me
before the special commission, that terrible ordeal for what are
termed crimes of state.

The under-jailers, occupied with the prisons of the police, situated
on a lower floor, where there were numbers of robbers, seldom came
near me. One of these assistants was an old man, more than seventy,
but still able to discharge his laborious duties, and to run up and
down the steps to the different prisons; another was a young man
about twenty-five, more bent upon giving an account of his love
affairs than eager to devote himself to his office.


I had now to confront the terrors of a state trial. What was my
dread of implicating others by my answers! What difficulty to
contend against so many strange accusations, so many suspicions of
all kinds! How impossible, almost, not to become implicated by
these incessant examinations, by daily new arrests, and the
imprudence of other parties, perhaps not known to you, yet belonging
to the same movement! I have decided not to speak on politics; and
I must suppress every detail connected with the state trials. I
shall merely observe that, after being subjected for successive
hours to the harassing process, I retired in a frame of mind so
excited, and so enraged, that I should assuredly have taken my own
life, had not the voice of religion, and the recollection of my
parents restrained my hand. I lost the tranquillity of mind I had
acquired at Milan; during many days, I despaired of regaining it,
and I cannot even allude to this interval without feelings of
horror. It was vain to attempt it, I could not pray; I questioned
the justice of God; I cursed mankind, and all the world, revolving
in my mind all the possible sophisms and satires I could think of,
respecting the hollowness and vanity of virtue. The disappointed
and the exasperated are always ingenious in finding accusations
against their fellow-creatures, and even the Creator himself. Anger
is of a more universal and injurious tendency than is generally
supposed. As we cannot rage and storm from morning till night, and
as the most ferocious animal has necessarily its intervals of
repose, these intervals in man are greatly influenced by the immoral
character of the conduct which may have preceded them. He appears
to be at peace, indeed, but it is an irreligious, malignant peace; a
savage sardonic smile, destitute of all charity or dignity; a love
of confusion, intoxication, and sarcasm.

In this state I was accustomed to sing--anything but hymns--with a
kind of mad, ferocious joy. I spoke to all who approached my
dungeon, jeering and bitter things; and I tried to look upon the
whole creation through the medium of that commonplace wisdom, the
wisdom of the cynics. This degrading period, on which I hate to
reflect, lasted happily only for six or seven days, during which my
Bible had become covered with dust. One of the jailer's boys,
thinking to please me, as he cast his eye upon it, observed, "Since
you left off reading that great, ugly book, you don't seem half so
melancholy, sir." "Do you think so?" said I. Taking the Bible in
my hands, I wiped off the dust, and opening it hastily, my eyes fell
upon the following words: --"And he said unto his disciples, it must
needs be that offences come; but woe unto him by whom they come; for
better had it been for him that a millstone were hanged about his
neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of
these little ones."

I was affected upon reading this passage, and I felt ashamed when I
thought that this little boy had perceived, from the dust with which
it was covered, that I no longer read my Bible, and had even
supposed that I had acquired a better temper by want of attention to
my religious duties, and become less wretched by forgetting my God.
"You little graceless fellow," I exclaimed, though reproaching him
in a gentle tone, and grieved at having afforded him a subject of
scandal; "this is not a great, ugly book, and for the few days that
I have left off reading it, I find myself much worse. If your
mother would let you stay with me a little while, you would see that
I know how to get rid of my ill-humour. If you knew how hard it was
to be in good humour, when left so long alone, and when you hear me
singing and talking like a madman, you would not call this a great
ugly book."


The boy left me, and I felt a sort of pleasure at having taken the
Bible again in my hands, more especially at having owned I had been
worse for having neglected it. It seemed as if I had made atonement
to a generous friend whom I had unjustly offended, but had now
become reconciled to. Yes! I had even forgotten my God! I
exclaimed, and perverted my better nature. Could I have been led to
believe that the vile mockery of the cynic was applicable to one in
my forlorn and desperate situation?

I felt an indescribable emotion on asking myself this question; I
placed the Bible upon a chair, and, falling on my knees, I burst
into tears of remorse: I who ever found it so difficult to shed
even a tear. These tears were far more delightful to me than any
physical enjoyment I had ever felt. I felt I was restored to God, I
loved him, I repented of having outraged religion by degrading
myself; and I made a vow never, never more to forget, to separate
myself from, my God.

How truly a sincere return to faith, and love, and hope, consoles
and elevates the mind. I read and continued to weep for upwards of
an hour. I rose with renewed confidence that God had not abandoned
me, but had forgiven my every fault and folly. It was then that my
misfortunes, the horrors of my continued examinations, and the
probable death which awaited me, appeared of little account. I
rejoiced in suffering, since I was thus afforded an occasion to
perform some duty, and that, by submitting with a resigned mind, I
was obeying my Divine Master. I was enabled, thanks be to Heaven,
to read my Bible. I no longer estimated it by the wretched,
critical subterfuges of a Voltaire, heaping ridicule upon mere
expressions, in themselves neither false nor ridiculous, except to
gross ignorance or malice, which cannot penetrate their meaning. I
became clearly convinced how indisputably it was the code of
sanctity, and hence of truth itself; how really unphilosophical it
was to take offence at a few little imperfections of style, not less
absurd than the vanity of one who despises everything that wears not
the gloss of elegant forms; what still greater absurdity to imagine
that such a collection of books, so long held in religious
veneration, should not possess an authentic origin, boasting, as
they do, such a vast superiority over the Koran, and the old
theology of the Indies.

Many, doubtless, abused its excellence, many wished to turn it into
a code of injustice, and a sanction of all their bad passions. But
the triumphant answer to these is, that every thing is liable to
abuse; and when did the abuse of the most precious and best of
things lead us to the conclusion that they were in their own nature
bad? Our Saviour himself declared it; the whole law and the
Prophets, the entire body of these sacred books, all inculcate the
same precept to love God and mankind. And must not such writings
embrace the truth--truth adapted to all times and ages? must they
not ever constitute the living word of the Holy Spirit?

Whilst I made these reflections, I renewed my intention of
identifying with religion all my thoughts concerning human affairs,
all my opinions upon the progress of civilisation, my philanthropy,
love of my country, in short, all the passions of my mind.

The few days in which I remained subjected to the cynic doctrine,
did me a deal of harm. I long felt its effects, and had great
difficulty to remove them. Whenever man yields in the least to the
temptation of undignifying his intellect, to view the works of God
through the infernal medium of scorn, to abandon the beneficent
exercise of prayer, the injury which he inflicts upon his natural
reason prepares him to fall again with but little struggle. For a
period of several weeks I was almost daily assaulted with strong,
bitter tendencies to doubt and disbelief; and it called for the
whole power of my mind to free myself from their grasp.


When these mental struggles had ceased, and I had again become
habituated to reverence the Deity in all my thoughts and feelings, I
for some time enjoyed the most unbroken serenity and peace. The
examinations to which I was every two or three days subjected by the
special commission, however tormenting, produced no lasting anxiety,
as before. I succeeded in this arduous position, in discharging all
which integrity and friendship required of me, and left the rest to
the will of God. I now, too, resumed my utmost efforts to guard
against the effects of any sudden surprise, every emotion and
passion, and every imaginable misfortune; a kind of preparation for
future trials of the greatest utility.

My solitude, meantime, grew more oppressive. Two sons of the
jailer, whom I had been in the habit of seeing at brief intervals,
were sent to school, and I saw them no more. The mother and the
sister, who had been accustomed, along with them, to speak to me,
never came near me, except to bring my coffee. About the mother I
cared very little; but the daughter, though rather plain, had
something so pleasing and gentle, both in her words and looks, that
I greatly felt the loss of them. Whenever she brought the coffee,
and said, "It was I who made it," I always thought it excellent:
but when she observed, "This is my mother's making," it lost all its

Being almost deprived of human society, I one day made acquaintance
with some ants upon my window; I fed them; they went away, and ere
long the placed was thronged with these little insects, as if come
by invitation. A spider, too, had weaved a noble edifice upon my
walls, and I often gave him a feast of gnats or flies, which were
extremely annoying to me, and which he liked much better than I did.
I got quite accustomed to the sight of him; he would run over my
bed, and come and take the precious morsels out of my hand. Would
to heaven these had been the only insects which visited my abode.
It was still summer, and the gnats had begun to multiply to a
prodigious and alarming extent. The previous winter had been
remarkably mild, and after the prevalence of the March winds
followed extreme heat. It is impossible to convey an idea of the
insufferable oppression of the air in the place I occupied. Opposed
directly to a noontide sun, under a leaden roof, and with a window
looking on the roof of St. Mark, casting a tremendous reflection of
the heat, I was nearly suffocated. I had never conceived an idea of
a punishment so intolerable: add to which the clouds of gnats,
which, spite of my utmost efforts, covered every article of
furniture in the room, till even the walls and ceiling seemed alive
with them; and I had some apprehension of being devoured alive.
Their bites, moreover, were extremely painful, and when thus
punctured from morning till night, only to undergo the same
operation from day to day, and engaged the whole time in killing and
slaying, some idea may be formed of the state both of my body and my

I felt the full force of such a scourge, yet was unable to obtain a
change of dungeon, till at length I was tempted to rid myself of my
life, and had strong fears of running distracted. But, thanks be to
God, these thoughts were not of long duration, and religion
continued to sustain me. It taught me that man was born to suffer,
and to suffer with courage: it taught me to experience a sort of
pleasure in my troubles, to resist and to vanquish in the battle
appointed me by Heaven. The more unhappy, I said to myself, my life
may become, the less will I yield to my fate, even though I should
be condemned in the morning of my life to the scaffold. Perhaps,
without these preliminary and chastening trials, I might have met
death in an unworthy manner. Do I know, moreover, that I possess
those virtues and qualities which deserve prosperity; where and what
are they? Then, seriously examining into my past conduct, I found
too little good on which to pride myself; the chief part was a
tissue of vanity, idolatry, and the mere exterior of virtue.
Unworthy, therefore, as I am, let me suffer! If it be intended that
men and gnats should destroy me, unjustly or otherwise, acknowledge
in them the instruments of a divine justice, and be silent.


Does man stand in need of compulsion before he can be brought to
humble himself with sincerity? to look upon himself as a sinner? Is
it not too true that we in general dissipate our youth in vanity,
and, instead of employing all our faculties in the acquisition of
what is good, make them the instruments of our degradation? There
are, doubtless, exceptions, but I confess they cannot apply to a
wretched individual like myself. There is no merit in thus being
dissatisfied with myself; when we see a lamp which emits more smoke
than flame, it requires no great sincerity to say that it does not
burn as it ought to do.

Yes, without any degradation, without any scruples of hypocrisy, and
viewing myself with perfect tranquillity of mind, I perceived that I
had merited the chastisement of my God. An internal monitor told me
that such chastisements were, for one fault or other, amply merited;
they assisted in winning me back to Him who is perfect, and whom
every human being, as far as their limited powers will admit, are
bound to imitate. By what right, while constrained to condemn
myself for innumerable offences and forgetfulness towards God, could
I complain, because some men appeared to me despicable, and others
wicked? What if I were deprived of all worldly advantages, and was
doomed to linger in prison, or to die a violent death? I sought to
impress upon my mind reflections like these, at once just and
applicable; and this done, I found it was necessary to be
consistent, and that it could be effected in no other manner than by
sanctifying the upright judgments of the Almighty, by loving them,
and eradicating every wish at all opposed to them. The better to
persevere in my intention, I determined, in future, carefully to
revolve in my mind all my opinions, by committing them to writing.
The difficulty was that the Commission, while permitting me to have
the use of ink and paper, counted out the leaves, with an express
prohibition that I should not destroy a single one, and reserving
the power of examining in what manner I had employed them. To
supply the want of paper, I had recourse to the simple stratagem of
smoothing with a piece of glass a rude table which I had, and upon
this I daily wrote my long meditations respecting the duties of
mankind, and especially of those which applied to myself. It is no
exaggeration to say that the hours so employed were sometimes
delightful to me, notwithstanding the difficulty of breathing I
experienced from the excessive heat, to say nothing of the bitterly
painful wounds, small though they were, of those poisonous gnats.
To defend myself from the countless numbers of these tormentors, I
was compelled, in the midst of suffocation, to wrap my head and my
legs in thick cloth, and not only write with gloves on, but to
bandage my wrist to prevent the intruders creeping up my sleeves.

Meditations like mine assumed somewhat of a biographical character.
I made out an account of all the good and the evil which had grown
up with me from my earliest youth, discussing them within myself,
attempting to resolve every doubt, and arranging, to the best of my
power, the various kinds of knowledge I had acquired, and my ideas
upon every subject. When the whole surface of the table was covered
with my lucubrations, I perused and re-perused them, meditated on
what I had already meditated, and, at length, resolved (however
unwillingly) to scratch out all I had done with the glass, in order
to have a clean superficies upon which to recommence my operations.

From that time I continued the narrative of my experience of good
and evil, always relieved by digressions of every kind, by some
analysis of this or that point, whether in metaphysics, morals,
politics, or religion; and when the whole was complete, I again
began to read, and re-read, and lastly, to scratch out. Being
anxious to avoid every chance of interruption, or of impediment, to
my repeating with the greatest possible freedom the facts I had
recorded, and my opinions upon them, I took care to transpose and
abbreviate the words in such a manner as to run no risk from the
most inquisitorial visit. No search, however, was made, and no one
was aware that I was spending my miserable prison-hours to so good a
purpose. Whenever I heard the jailer or other person open the door
I covered my little table with a cloth, and placed upon it the ink-
stand, with the LAWFUL quantity of state paper by its side.


Still I did not wholly neglect the paper put into my hands, and
sometimes even devoted an entire day or night to writing. But here
I only treated of literary matters. I composed at that time the
Ester d'Engaddi, the Iginia d'Asti, and the Cantichi, entitled,

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