Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

My Ten Years' Imprisonment by Silvio Pellico

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Tanereda Rosilde, Eligi and Valafrido, Adello, besides several
sketches of tragedies, and other productions, in the list of which
was a poem upon the Lombard League, and another upon Christopher

As it was not always so easy an affair to get a reinforcement of
paper, I was in the habit of committing my rough draughts to my
table, or the wrapping-paper in which I received fruit and other
articles. At times I would give away my dinner to the under-jailer,
telling him that I had no appetite, and then requesting from him the
favour of a sheet of paper. This was, however, only in certain
exigencies, when my little table was full of writing, and I had not
yet determined on clearing it away. I was often very hungry, and
though the jailer had money of mine in his possession, I did not ask
him to bring me anything to eat, partly lest he should suspect I had
given away my dinner, and partly that the under-jailer might not
find out that I had said the thing which was not when I assured him
of my loss of appetite. In the evening I regaled myself with some
strong coffee, and I entreated that it might be made by the little
sioa, Zanze. {13} This was the jailer's daughter, who, if she could
escape the lynx-eye of her sour mamma, was good enough to make it
exceedingly good; so good, indeed, that, what with the emptiness of
my stomach, it produced a kind of convulsion, which kept me awake
the whole of the night.

In this state of gentle inebriation, I felt my intellectual
faculties strangely invigorated; wrote poetry, philosophized, and
prayed till morning with feelings of real pleasure. I then became
completely exhausted, threw myself upon my bed, and, spite of the
gnats that were continually sucking my blood, I slept an hour or two
in profound rest.

I can hardly describe the peculiar and pleasing exaltation of mind
which continued for nights together, and I left no means untried to
secure the same means of continuing it. With this view I still
refused to touch a mouthful of dinner, even when I was in no want of
paper, merely in order to obtain my magic beverage for the evening.

How fortunate I thought myself when I succeeded; not unfrequently
the coffee was not made by the gentle Angiola; and it was always
vile stuff from her mother's hands. In this last case, I was sadly
put out of humour, for instead of the electrical effect on my
nerves, it made me wretched, weak, and hungry; I threw myself down
to sleep, but was unable to close an eye. Upon these occasions I
complained bitterly to Angiola, the jailer's daughter, and one day,
as if she had been in fault, I scolded her so sharply that the poor
girl began to weep, sobbing out, "Indeed, sir, I never deceived
anybody, and yet everybody calls me a deceitful little mix."

"Everybody! Oh then, I see I am not the only one driven to
distraction by your vile slops."

"I do not mean to say that, sir. Ah, if you only knew; if I dared
to tell you all that my poor, wretched heart--"

"Well, don't cry so! What is all this ado? I beg your pardon, you
see, if I scolded you. Indeed, I believe you would not, you could
not, make me such vile stuff as this."

"Dear me! I am not crying about that, sir."

"You are not!" and I felt my self-love not a little mortified,
though I forced a smile. "Are you crying, then, because I scolded
you, and yet not about the coffee?"

"Yes, indeed, sir?"

"Ah! then who called you a little deceitful one before?"

"HE did, sir."

"HE did; and who is HE?"

"My lover, sir;" and she hid her face in her little hands.

Afterwards she ingenuously intrusted to my keeping, and I could not
well betray her, a little serio-comic sort of pastoral romance,
which really interested me.


From that day forth, I know not why, I became the adviser and
confidant of this young girl, who returned and conversed with me for
hours. She at first said, "You are so good, sir, that I feel just
the same when I am here as if I were your own daughter."

"That is a very poor compliment," replied I, dropping her hand; "I
am hardly yet thirty-two, and you look upon me as if I were an old

"No, no, not so; I mean as a brother, to be sure;" and she insisted
upon taking hold of my hand with an air of the most innocent
confidence and affection.

I am glad, thought I to myself, that you are no beauty; else, alas,
this innocent sort of fooling might chance to disconcert me; at
other times I thought it is lucky, too, she is so young, there could
never be any danger of becoming attached to girls of her years. At
other times, however, I felt a little uneasy, thinking I was
mistaken in having pronounced her rather plain, whereas her whole
shape and features were by no means wanting in proportion or
expression. If she were not quite so pale, I said, and her face
free from those marks, she might really pass for a beauty. It is
impossible, in fact, not to find some charm in the presence and in
the looks and voice of a young girl full of vivacity and affection.
I had taken not the least pains to acquire her good-will; yet was I
as dear to either as a father or a brother, whichever title I
preferred. And why? Only because she had read Francesca da Rimini
and Eufemio, and my poems, she said, had made her weep so often;
then, besides, I was a solitary prisoner, WITHOUT HAVING, as she
observed, either robbed or murdered anybody.

In short, when I had become attached to poor Maddalene, without once
seeing her, how was it likely that I could remain indifferent to the
sisterly assiduity and attentions, to the thousand pleasing little
compliments, and to the most delicious cups of coffee of this young
Venice girl, my gentle little jailer? {14} I should be trying to
impose on myself, were I to attribute to my own prudence the fact of
my not having fallen in love with Angiola. I did not do so, simply
from the circumstance of her having already a lover of her own
choosing, to whom she was desperately, unalterably attached. Heaven
help me! if it had not been thus I should have found myself in a
very CRITICAL position, indeed, for an author, with so little to
keep alive his attention. The sentiment I felt for her was not,
then, what is called love. I wished to see her happy, and that she
might be united to the lover of her choice; I was not jealous, nor
had I the remotest idea she could ever select me as the object of
her regard. Still, when I heard my prison-door open, my heart began
to beat in the hope it was my Angiola; and if she appeared not, I
experienced a peculiar kind of vexation; when she really came my
heart throbbed yet more violently, from a feeling of pure joy. Her
parents, who had begun to entertain a good opinion of me, and were
aware of her passionate regard for another, offered no opposition to
the visits she thus made me, permitting her almost invariably to
bring me my coffee in a morning, and not unfrequently in the

There was altogether a simplicity and an affectionateness in her
every word, look, and gesture, which were really captivating. She
would say, "I am excessively attached to another, and yet I take
such delight in being near you! When I am not in HIS company, I
like being nowhere so well as here." (Here was another compliment.)

"And don't you know why?" inquired I.

"I do not."

"I will tell you, then. It is because I permit you to talk about
your lover."

"That is a good guess; yet still I think it is a good deal because I
esteem you so very much!"

Poor girl! along with this pretty frankness she had that blessed sin
of taking me always by the hand, and pressing it with all her heart,
not perceiving that she at once pleased and disconcerted me by her
affectionate manner. Thanks be to Heaven, that I can always recall
this excellent little girl to mind without the least tinge of


The following portion of my narrative would assuredly have been more
interesting had the gentle Angiola fallen in love with me, or if I
had at least run half mad to enliven my solitude. There was,
however, another sentiment, that of simple benevolence, no less dear
to me, which united our hearts in one. And if, at any moment, I
felt there was the least risk of its changing its nature in my vain,
weak heart, it produced only sincere regret.

Once, certainly, having my doubts that this would happen, and
finding her, to my sorrow, a hundred times more beautiful than I had
at first imagined; feeling too so very melancholy when she was
absent, so joyous when near, I took upon myself to play the
UNAMIABLE, in the idea that this would remove all danger by making
her leave off the same affectionate and familiar manner. This
innocent stratagem was tried in vain; the poor girl was so patient,
so full of compassion for me. She would look at me in silence, with
her elbow resting upon the window, and say, after a long pause, "I
see, sir, you are tired of my company, yet _I_ would stay here the
whole day if I could, merely to keep the hours from hanging so heavy
upon you. This ill-humour of yours is the natural effect of your
long solitude; if you were able to chat awhile, you would be quite
well again. If you don't like to talk, I will talk for you."

"About your lover, eh?"

"No, no; not always about him; I can talk of many things."

She then began to give me some extracts from the household annals,
dwelling upon the sharp temper of her mother, her good-natured
father, and the monkey-tricks of her little brothers; and she told
all this with a simple grace and innocent frankness not a little
alluring. Yet I was pretty near the truth; for, without being aware
of it, she uniformly concluded with the one favourite theme: her
ill-starred love. Still I went on acting the part of the UNAMIABLE,
in the hope that she would take a spite against me. But whether
from inadvertency or design, she would not take the hint, and I was
at last fairly compelled to give up by sitting down contented to let
her have her way, smiling, sympathising with, and thanking her for
the sweet patience with which she had so long borne with me.

I no longer indulged the ungracious idea of spiting her against me,
and, by degrees, all my other fears were allayed. Assuredly I had
not been smitten; I long examined into the nature of my scruples,
wrote down my reflections upon the subject, and derived no little
advantage from the process.

Man often terrifies himself with mere bugbears of the mind. If we
would learn not to fear them, we have only to examine them a little
more nearly and attentively. What harm, then, if I looked forward
to her visits to me with a tender anxiety, if I appreciated their
sweetness, if it did me good to be compassioned by her, and to
interchange all our thoughts and feelings, unsullied, I will say, as
those of childhood. Even her most affectionate looks, and smiles,
and pressures of the hand, while they agitated me, produced a
feeling of salutary respect mingled with compassion. One evening, I
remember, when suffering under a sad misfortune, the poor girl threw
her arms round my neck, and wept as if her heart would break. She
had not the least idea of impropriety; no daughter could embrace a
father with more perfect innocence and unsuspecting affection. I
could not, however, reflect upon that embrace without feeling
somewhat agitated. It often recurred to my imagination, and I could
then think of no other subject. On another occasion, when she thus
threw herself upon my confidence, I was really obliged to
disentangle myself from her dear arms, ere I once pressed her to my
bosom, or gave her a single kiss, while I stammered out, "I pray
you, now, sweet Angiola, do not embrace me ever again; it is not
quite proper." She fixed her eyes upon me for a moment, then cast
them down, while a blush suffused her ingenuous countenance; and I
am sure it was the first time that she read in my mind even the
possibility of any weakness of mine in reference to her. Still she
did not cease to continue her visits upon the same friendly footing,
with a little mere reserve and respect, such as I wished it to be;
and I was grateful to her for it.


I am unable to form an estimate of the evils which afflict others;
but, as respects myself, I am bound to confess that, after close
examination, I found that no sufferings had been appointed me,
except to some wise end, and for my own advantage. It was thus even
with the excessive heat which oppressed, and the gnats which
tormented me. Often have I reflected that but for this continual
suffering I might not have successfully resisted the temptation of
falling in love, situated as I was, and with one whose extremely
affectionate and ardent feelings would have made it difficult always
to preserve it within respectful limits. If I had sometimes reason
to tremble, how should I have been enabled to regulate my vain
imagination in an atmosphere somewhat inspiring, and open to the
breathings of joy.

Considering the imprudence of Angiola's parents, who reposed such
confidence in me, the imprudence of the poor girl herself, who had
not an idea of giving rise to any culpable affection on my part, and
considering, too, the little steadfastness of my virtue, there can
be little doubt but the suffocating heat of my great oven, and the
cruel warfare of the gnats, were effectual safeguards to us both.

Such a reflection reconciled me somewhat to these scourges; and I
then asked myself, Would you consent to become free, and to take
possession of some handsome apartment, filled with flowers and fresh
air, on condition of never more seeing this affectionate being? I
will own the truth; I had not courage to reply to this simple

When you really feel interested about any one, it is indescribable
what mere trifles are capable of conferring pleasure. A single
word, a smile, a tear, a Venetian turn of expression, her eagerness
in protecting me from my enemies, the gnats, all inspired me with a
childish delight that lasted the whole day. What most gratified me
was to see that her own sufferings seemed to be relieved by
conversing with me, that my compassion consoled her, that my advice
influenced her, and that her heart was susceptible of the warmest
devotion when treating of virtue and its great Author.

When we had sometimes discussed the subject of religion, she would
observe, "I find that I can now pray with more willingness and more
faith than I did." At other times, suddenly breaking off some
frivolous topic, she took the Bible, opened it, pressed her lips to
it, and then begged of me to translate some passages, and give my
comments. She added, "I could wish that every time you happen to
recur to this passage you should call to mind that I have kissed and
kissed it again."

It was not always, indeed, that her kisses fell so appropriately,
more especially if she happened to open at the spiritual songs.
Then, in order to spare her blushes, I took advantage of her want of
acquaintance with the Latin, and gave a turn to the expressions
which, without detracting from the sacredness of the Bible, might
serve to respect her innocence. On such occasions I never once
permitted myself to smile; at the same time I was not a little
perplexed, when, not rightly comprehending my new version, she
entreated of me to translate the whole, word for word, and would by
no means let me shy the question by turning her attention to
something else.


Nothing is durable here below! Poor Angiola fell sick; and on one
of the first days when she felt indisposed, she came to see me,
complaining bitterly of pains in her head. She wept, too, and would
not explain the cause of her grief. She only murmured something
that looked like reproaches of her lover. "He is a villain!" she
said; "but God forgive him, as I do!"

I left no means untried to obtain her confidence, but it was the
first time I was quite unable to ascertain why she distressed
herself to such an excess. "I will return tomorrow morning," she
said, one evening on parting from me; "I will, indeed." But the
next morning came, and my coffee was brought by her mother; the
next, and the next, by the under-jailers; and Angiola continued
grievously ill. The under-jailers, also, brought me very unpleasant
tidings relating to the love-affair; tidings, in short, which made
me deeply sympathize with her sufferings. A case of seduction!
But, perhaps, it was the tale of calumny. Alas! I but too well
believed it, and I was affected at it more than I can express;
though I still like to flatter myself that it was false. After
upwards of a month's illness, the poor girl was taken into the
country, and I saw her no more.

It is astonishing how deeply I felt this deprivation, and how much
more horrible my solitude now appeared. Still more bitter was the
reflection that she, who had so tenderly fed, and watched, and
visited me in my sad prison, supplying every want and wish within
her power, was herself a prey to sorrow and misfortune. Alas! I
could make her no return; yet, surely she will feel aware how truly
I sympathize with her; that there is no effort I would not make to
afford her comfort and relief, and that I shall never cease to offer
up my prayers for her, and to bless her for her goodness to a
wretched prisoner.

Though her visits had been too brief, they were enough to break upon
the horrid monotony of my solitude. By suggesting and comparing our
ideas, I obtained new views and feelings, exercised some of the best
and sweetest affections, gave a zest to life, and even threw a sort
of lustre round my misfortunes.

Suddenly the vision fled, and my dungeon became to me really like a
living tomb. A strange sadness for many days quite oppressed me. I
could not even write: it was a dark, quiet, nameless feeling, in no
way partaking of the violence and irritation which I had before
experienced. Was it that I had become more inured to adversity,
more philosophical, more of a Christian? Or was it really that the
extremely enervating heat of my dungeon had so prostrated my powers
that I could no longer feel the pangs of excessive grief. Ah, no!
for I can well recollect that I then felt it to my inmost soul; and,
perhaps, more intensely from the want both of will and power to give
vent to it by agitation, maledictions, and cries. The fact is, I
believe, that I had been severely schooled by my past sufferings,
and was resigned to the will of God. I had so often maintained that
it was a mark of cowardice to complain, that, at length, I succeeded
in restraining my passion, when on the point of breaking out, and
felt vexed that I had permitted it to obtain any ascendancy over me.

My mental faculties were strengthened by the habit of writing down
my thoughts; I got rid of all my vanity, and reduced the chief part
of my reasonings to the following conclusions: There is a God:
THEREFORE unerring justice; THEREFORE all that happens is ordained
to the best end; consequently, the sufferings of man on earth are
inflicted for the good of man.

Thus, my acquaintance with Angiola had proved beneficial, by
soothing and conciliating my feelings. Her good opinion of me had
urged me to the fulfilment of many duties, especially of that of
proving one's self superior to the shocks of fortune, and of
suffering in patience. By exerting myself to persevere for about a
month, I was enabled to feel perfectly resigned.

Angiola had beheld me two or three times in a downright passion;
once, as I have stated, on account of her having brought me bad
coffee, and a second time as follows:-

Every two or three weeks the jailer had brought me a letter from
some of my family. It was previously submitted to the Commission,
and most roughly handled, as was too evident by the number of
ERASURES in the blackest ink which appeared throughout. One day,
however, instead of merely striking out a few passages, they drew
the black line over the entire letter, with the exception of the
words, "My DEAREST SILVIO," at the beginning, and the parting
salutation at the close, "ALL UNITE IN KINDEST LOVE TO YOU."

This act threw me into such an uncontrollable fit of passion, that,
in presence of the gentle Angiola, I broke out into violent shouts
of rage, and cursed I know not whom. The poor girl pitied me from
her heart; but, at the same time, reminded me of the strange
inconsistency of my principles. I saw she had reason on her side,
and I ceased from uttering my maledictions.


One of the under-jailers one day entered my prison with a mysterious
look, and said, "Sometime, I believe, that Siora Zanze (Angiola) . .
. was used to bring you your coffee . . . She stopped a good while
to converse with you, and I was afraid the cunning one would worm
out all your secrets, sir."

"Not one," I replied, in great anger; "or if I had any, I should not
be such a fool as to tell them in that way. Go on."

"Beg pardon, sir; far from me to call you by such a name . . . But I
never trusted to that Siora Zanze. And now, sir, as you have no
longer any one to keep you company . . . I trust I--"

"What, what! explain yourself at once!"

"Swear first that you will not betray me."

"Well, well; I could do that with a safe conscience. I never
betrayed any one."

"Do you say really you will swear?"

"Yes; I swear not to betray you. But what a wretch to doubt it; for
any one capable of betraying you will not scruple to violate an

He took a letter from his coat-lining, and gave it me with a
trembling hand, beseeching I would destroy it the moment I had read

"Stop," I cried, opening it; "I will read and destroy it while you
are here."

"But, sir, you must answer it, and I cannot stop now. Do it at your
leisure. Only take heed, when you hear any one coming, you will
know if it be I by my singing, pretty loudly, the tune, Sognai mi
gera un gato. You need, then, fear nothing, and may keep the letter
quietly in your pocket. But should you not hear this song, set it
down for a mark that it cannot be me, or that some one is with me.
Then, in a moment, out with it, don't trust to any concealment, in
case of a search; out with it, tear it into a thousand bits, and
throw it through the window."

"Depend upon me; I see you are prudent, I will be so too."

"Yet you called me a stupid wretch."

"You do right to reproach me," I replied, shaking him by the hand,
"and I beg your pardon." He went away, and I began to read

"I am (and here followed the name) one of your admirers: I have all
your Francesca da Rimini by heart. They arrested me for--(and here
he gave the reason with the date)--and I would give, I know not how
many pounds of my blood to have the pleasure of being with you, or
at least in a dungeon near yours, in order that we might converse
together. Since I heard from Tremerello, so we shall call our
confidant, that you, sir, were a prisoner, and the cause of your
arrest, I have longed to tell you how deeply I lament your
misfortune, and that no one can feel greater attachment to you than
myself. Have you any objection to accept the offer I make, namely,
that we should try to lighten the burden of our solitude by writing
to each other. I pledge you my honour, that not a being shall ever
hear of our correspondence from me, and am persuaded that I may
count upon the same secresy on your part, if you adopt my plan.
Meantime, that you may form some idea, I will give you an abstract
from my life."--(It followed.)


The reader, however deficient in the imaginative organ, may easily
conceive the electric effect of such a letter upon the nerves of a
poor prisoner, not of the most savage disposition, but possessing an
affectionate and gregarious turn of mind. I felt already an
affection for the unknown; I pitied his misfortunes, and was
grateful for the kind expressions he made use of. "Yes," exclaimed
I, "your generous purpose shall be effected. I wish my letters may
afford you consolation equal to that which I shall derive from

I re-perused his letter with almost boyish delight, and blessed the
writer; there was not an expression which did not exhibit evidence
of a clear and noble mind.

The sun was setting, it was my hour of prayer; I felt the presence
of God; how sincere was my gratitude for his providing me with new
means of exercising the faculties of my mind. How it revived my
recollection of all the invaluable blessings he had bestowed upon

I stood before the window, with my arms between the bars, and my
hands folded; the church of St. Mark lay below me, an immense flock
of pigeons, free as the air, were flying about, were cooing and
billing, or busied in constructing their nests upon the leaden roof;
the heavens in their magnificence were before me; I surveyed all
that part of Venice visible from my prison; a distant murmur of
human voices broke sweetly on my ear. From this vast unhappy
prison-house did I hold communion with Him, whose eyes alone beheld
me; to Him I recommended my father, my mother, and, individually,
all those most dear to me, and it appeared as if I heard Him reply,
"Confide in my goodness," and I exclaimed, "Thy goodness assures

I concluded my prayer with much emotion, greatly comforted, and
little caring for the bites of the gnats, which had been joyfully
feasting upon me. The same evening, my mind, after such exaltation,
beginning to grow calmer, I found the torment from the gnats
becoming insufferable, and while engaged in wrapping up my hands and
face, a vulgar and malignant idea all at once entered my mind, which
horrified me, and which I vainly attempted to banish.

Tremerello had insinuated a vile suspicion respecting Angiola; that,
in short, she was a spy upon my secret opinions! She! that noble-
hearted creature, who knew nothing of politics, and wished to know
nothing of them!

It was impossible for me to suspect her; but have I, said I, the
same certainty respecting Tremerello? Suppose that rogue should be
the bribed instrument of secret informers; suppose the letter had
been fabricated by WHO KNOWS WHOM, to induce me to make important
disclosures to my new friend. Perhaps his pretended prison does not
exist; or if so, he may be a traitor, eager to worm out secrets in
order to make his own terms; perhaps he is a man of honour, and
Tremerello himself the traitor who aims at our destruction in order
to gain an additional salary.

Oh, horrible thought, yet too natural to the unhappy prisoner,
everywhere in fear of enmity and fraud!

Such suspicions tormented and degraded me. I did not entertain them
as regarded Angiola a single moment. Yet, from what Tremerello had
said, a kind of doubt clung to me as to the conduct of those who had
permitted her to come into my apartment. Had they, either from
their own zeal, or by superior authority, given her the office of
spy? in that case, how ill had she discharged such an office!

But what was I to do respecting the letter of the unknown? Should I
adopt the severe, repulsive counsel of fear which we call prudence?
Shall I return the letter to Tremerello, and tell him, I do not wish
to run any risk. Yet suppose there should be no treason; and the
unknown be a truly worthy character, deserving that I should venture
something, if only to relieve the horrors of his solitude? Coward
as I am, standing on the brink of death, the fatal decree ready to
strike me at any moment, yet to refuse to perform a simple act of
love! Reply to him I must and will. Grant that it be discovered,
no one can fairly be accused of writing the letter, though poor
Tremerello would assuredly meet with the severest chastisement. Is
not this consideration of itself sufficient to decide me against
undertaking any clandestine correspondence? Is it not my absolute
duty to decline it?


I was agitated the whole evening; I never closed my eyes that night,
and amidst so many conflicting doubts, I knew not on what to

I sprung from my bed before dawn, I mounted upon the window-place,
and offered up my prayers. In trying circumstances it is necessary
to appeal with confidence to God, to heed his inspirations, and to
adhere to them.

This I did, and after long prayer, I went down, shook off the gnats,
took the bitten gloves in my hands, and came to the determination to
explain my apprehensions to Tremerello and warn him of the great
danger to which he himself was exposed by bearing letters; to
renounce the plan if he wavered, and to accept it if its terrors did
not deter him. I walked about till I heard the words of the song:-
Segnai mi gera un gato, E ti me carezzevi. It was Tremerello
bringing me my coffee. I acquainted him with my scruples and spared
nothing to excite his fears. I found him staunch in his desire to
SERVE, as he said, TWO SUCH COMPLETE GENTLEMEN. This was strangely
at variance with the sheep's face he wore, and the name we had just
given him. {15} Well, I was as firm on my part.

"I shall leave you my wine," said I, "see to find me the paper; I
want to carry on this correspondence; and, rely on it, if any one
comes without the warning song, I shall make an end of every
suspicious article."

"Here is a sheet of paper ready for you; I will give you more
whenever you please, and am perfectly satisfied of your prudence."

I longed to take my coffee; Tremerello left me, and I sat down to
write. Did I do right? was the motive really approved by God? Was
it not rather the triumph of my natural courage, of my preference of
that which pleased me, instead of obeying the call for painful
sacrifices. Mingled with this was a proud complacency, in return
for the esteem expressed towards me by the unknown, and a fear of
appearing cowardly, if I were to adhere to silence and decline a
correspondence, every way so fraught with peril. How was I to
resolve these doubts? I explained them frankly to my fellow-
prisoner in replying to him, stating it nevertheless, as my opinion,
that if anything were undertaken from good motives, and without the
least repugnance of conscience, there could be no fear of blame. I
advised him at the same time to reflect seriously upon the subject,
and to express clearly with what degree of tranquillity, or of
anxiety, he was prepared to engage, in it. Moreover, if, upon
reconsideration, he considered the plan as too dangerous, we ought
to have firmness enough to renounce the satisfaction we promised
ourselves in such a correspondence, and rest satisfied with the
acquaintance we had formed, the mutual pleasure we had already
derived, and the unalterable goodwill we felt towards each other,
which resulted from it. I filled four pages with my explanations,
and expressions of the warmest friendship; I briefly alluded to the
subject of my imprisonment; I spoke of my family with enthusiastic
love, as well as of some of my friends, and attempted to draw a full
picture of my mind and character.

In the evening I sent the letter. I had not slept during the
preceding night; I was completely exhausted, and I soon fell into a
profound sleep, from which I awoke on the ensuing morning, refreshed
and comparatively happy. I was in hourly expectation of receiving
my new friend's answer, and I felt at once anxious and pleased at
the idea.


The answer was brought with my coffee. I welcomed Tremerello, and,
embracing him, exclaimed, "May God reward you for this goodness!"
My suspicions had fled, because they were hateful to me; and
because, making a point of never speaking imprudently upon politics,
they appeared equally useless; and because, with all my admiration
for the genius of Tacitus, I had never much faith in the justice of
TACITISING as he does, and of looking upon every object on the dark
side. Giuliano (as the writer signed himself), began his letter
with the usual compliments, and informed me that he felt not the
least anxiety in entering upon the correspondence. He rallied me
upon my hesitation; occasionally assumed a tone of irony; and then
more seriously declared that it had given him no little pain to
observe in me "a certain scrupulous wavering, and a subtilty of
conscience, which, however Christian-like, was little in accordance
with true philosophy." "I shall continue to esteem you," he added,
"though we should not agree upon that point; for I am bound, in all
sincerity, to inform you, that I have no religion, that I abhor all
creeds, and that I assume from a feeling of modesty the name of
Julian, from the circumstance of that good emperor having been so
decided an enemy of the Christians, though, in fact, I go much
further than he ever did. The sceptred Julian believed in God, and
had his own little superstitions. I have none; I believe not in a
God, but refer all virtue to the love of truth, and the hatred of
such as do not please me." There was no reasoning in what he said.
He inveighed bitterly against Christianity, made an idol of worldly
honour and virtue; and in a half serious and jocular vein took on
himself to pronounce the Emperor Julian's eulogium for his apostasy,
and his philanthropic efforts to eradicate all traces of the gospel
from the face of the earth.

Apprehending that he had thus given too severe a shock to my
opinions, he then asked my pardon, attempting to excuse himself upon
the ground of PERFECT SINCERITY. Reiterating his extreme wish to
enter into more friendly relations with me, he then bade me

In a postscript he added:- "I have no sort of scruples, except a
fear of not having made myself sufficiently understood. I ought not
to conceal that to me the Christian language which you employ,
appears a mere mask to conceal your real opinions. I wish it may be
so; and in this case, throw off your cloak, as I have set you an

I cannot describe the effect this letter had upon me. I had opened
it full of hope and ardour. Suddenly an icy hand seemed to chill
the life-blood of my heart. That sarcasm on my conscientiousness
hurt me extremely. I repented having formed any acquaintance with
such a man, I who so much detest the doctrine of the cynics, who
consider it so wholly unphilosophical, and the most injurious in its
tendency: I who despise all kind of arrogance as it deserves.

Having read the last word it contained, I took the letter in both my
hands, and tearing it directly down the middle, I held up a half in
each like an executioner, employed in exposing it to public scorn.


I kept my eye fixed on the fragments, meditating for a moment upon
the inconstancy and fallacy of human things I had just before
eagerly desired to obtain, that which I now tore with disdain. I
had hoped to have found a companion in misfortune, and how I should
have valued his friendship! Now I gave him all kinds of hard names,
insolent, arrogant, atheist, and self-condemned.

I repeated the same operation, dividing the wretched members of the
guilty letter again and again, till happening to cast my eye on a
piece remaining in my hand, expressing some better sentiment, I
changed my intention, and collecting together the disjecta membra,
ingeniously pieced them with the view of reading it once more. I
sat down, placed them on my great Bible, and examined the whole. I
then got up, walked about, read, and thought, "If I do not answer,"
said I, "he will think he has terrified me at the mere appearance of
such a philosophical hero, a very Hercules in his own estimation.
Let us show him, with all due courtesy, that we fear not to confront
him and his vicious doctrines, any more than to brave the risk of a
correspondence, more dangerous to others than to ourselves. I will
teach him that true courage does not consist in ridiculing
CONSCIENCE, and that real dignity does not consist in arrogance and
pride. He shall be taught the reasonableness of Christianity, and
the nothingness of disbelief. Moreover, if this mock Julian start
opinions so directly opposite to my own, if he spare not the most
biting sarcasm, if he attack me thus uncourteously; is it not all a
proof that he can be no spy? Yet, might not this be a mere
stratagem, to draw me into a discussion by wounding my self-love?
Yet no! I am unjust--I smart under his bitter irreligious jests,
and conclude at once that he must be the most infamous of men. Base
suspicion, which I have so often decried in others! he may be what
he appears--a presumptuous infidel, but not a spy. Have I even a
right to call by the name of INSOLENCE, what he considers SINCERITY.
Is this, I continued, thy humility, oh, hypocrite? If any one
presume to maintain his own opinions, and to question your faith, he
is forthwith to be met with contempt and abuse. Is not this worse
in a Christian, than the bold sincerity of the unbeliever? Yes, and
perhaps he only requires one ray of Divine grace, to employ his
noble energetic love of truth in the cause of true religion, with
far greater success than yourself. Were it not, then, more becoming
in me to pray for, than to irritate him? Who knows, but while
employed in destroying his letter with every mark of ignominy, he
might be reading mine with expressions of kindness and affection;
never dreaming I should fly into such a mighty passion at his plain
and bold sincerity. Is he not the better of the two, to love and
esteem me while declaring he is no Christian; than I who exclaim, I
am a Christian, and I detest you. It is difficult to obtain a
knowledge of a man during a long intercourse, yet I would condemn
him on the evidence of a single letter. He may, perhaps, be unhappy
in his atheism, and wish to hear all my arguments to enable him the
better to arrive at the truth. Perhaps, too, I may be called to
effect so beneficent a work, the humble instrument of a gracious
God. Oh, that it may indeed be so, I will not shrink from the


I sat down to write to Julian, and was cautious not to let one
irritating word proceed from my pen. I took in good part his
reflection upon my fastidiousness of conscience; I even joked about
it, telling him he perhaps gave me too much credit for it, and ought
to suspend his good opinion till he knew me better. I praised his
sincerity, assuring him that he would find me equal to him in this
respect, and that as a proof of it, I had determined to defend
Christianity, "Well persuaded," I added, "that as I shall readily
give free scope to your opinions, you will be prepared to give me
the same advantage."

I then boldly entered upon my task, arguing my way by degrees, and
analysing with impartiality the essence of Christianity; the worship
of God free from superstitions, the brotherhood of mankind,
aspiration after virtue, humility without baseness, dignity without
pride, as exemplified in our Divine Saviour! what more
philosophical, and more truly grand?

It was next my object to demonstrate, "that this divine wisdom had
more or less displayed itself to all those who by the light of
reason had sought after the truth, though not generally diffused
till the arrival of its great Author upon the earth. He had proved
his heavenly mission by effecting the most wonderful and glorious
results, by human means the most mean and humble. What the greatest
philosophers had in vain attempted, the overthrow of idolatry, and
the universal preaching of love and brotherhood, was achieved by a
few untutored missionaries. From that era was first dated the
emancipation of slaves, no less from bondage of limbs than of mind,
until by degrees a civilisation without slavery became apparent, a
state of society believed to be utterly impracticable by the ancient
philosophers. A review of history from the appearance of Christ to
the present age, would finally demonstrate that the religion he
established had invariably been found adapted to all possible grades
in civilised society. For this reason, the assertion that the
gospel was no longer in accordance with the continued progress of
civilisation, could not for a moment be maintained."

I wrote in as small characters as I could, and at great length, but
I could not embrace all which I had ready prepared upon the subject.
I re-examined the whole carefully. There was not one revengeful,
injurious, or even repulsive word. Benevolence, toleration, and
forbearance, were the only weapons I employed against ridicule and
sarcasm of every kind; they were also employed after mature
deliberation, and dictated from the heart.

I despatched the letter, and in no little anxiety waited the arrival
of the next morning, in hopes of a speedy reply.

Tremerello came, and observed; "The gentleman, sir, was not able to
write, but entreats of you to continue the joke."

"The joke!" I exclaimed. "No, he could not have said that! you must
have mistaken him."

Tremerello shrugged up his shoulders: "I suppose I must, if you say

"But did it really seem as if he had said a joke?"

"As plainly as I now hear the sound of St. Mark's clock;" (the
Campanone was just then heard.) I drank my coffee and was silent.

"But tell me; did he read the whole of the letter?"

"I think he did; for he laughed like a madman, and then squeezing
your letter into a ball, he began to throw it about, till reminding
him that he must not forget to destroy it, he did so immediately."

"That is very well."

I then put my coffee cup into Tremerello's hands, observing that it
was plain the coffee had been made by the Siora Bettina.

"What! is it so bad?"

"Quite vile!"

"Well! I made it myself; and I can assure you that I made it
strong; there were no dregs."

"True; it may be, my mouth is out of taste."


I walked about the whole morning in a rage. "What an abandoned
wretch is this Julian! what, call my letter a joke! play at ball
with it, reply not a single line! But all your infidels are alike!
They dare not stand the test of argument; they know their weakness,
and try to turn it off with a jest. Full of vanity and boasting,
they venture not to examine even themselves. They philosophers,
indeed! worthy disciples of Democritus; who DID nothing but laugh,
and WAS nothing but a buffoon. I am rightly served, however, for
beginning a correspondence like this; and still more for writing a
second time."

At dinner, Tremerello took up my wine, poured it into a flask, and
put it into his pocket, observing: "I see that you are in want of
paper;" and he gave me some. He retired, and the moment I cast my
eye on the paper, I felt tempted to sit down and write to Julian a
sharp lecture on his intolerable turpitude and presumption, and so
take leave of him. But again, I repented of my own violence, and
uncharitableness, and finally resolved to write another letter in a
better spirit as I had done before.

I did so, and despatched it without delay. The next morning I
received a few lines, simply expressive of the writer's thanks; but
without a single jest, or the least invitation to continue the
correspondence. Such a billet displeased me; nevertheless I
determined to persevere. Six long letters were the result, for each
of which I received a few laconic lines of thanks, with some
declamation against his enemies, followed by a joke on the abuse he
had heaped upon them, asserting that it was extremely natural the
strong should oppress the weak, and regretting that he was not in
the list of the former. He then related some of his love affairs,
and observed that they exercised no little sway over his disturbed

In reply to my last on the subject of Christianity, he said he had
prepared a long letter; for which I looked out in vain, though he
wrote to me every day on other topics--chiefly a tissue of obscenity
and folly.

I reminded him of his promise that he would answer all my arguments,
and recommended him to weigh well the reasonings with which I had
supplied him before he attempted to write. He replied to this
somewhat in a rage, assuming the airs of a philosopher, a man of
firmness, a man who stood in no want of brains to distinguish "a
hawk from a hand-saw." {16} He then resumed his jocular vein, and
began to enlarge upon his experiences in life, and especially some
very scandalous love adventures.


I bore all this patiently, to give him no handle for accusing me of
bigotry or intolerance, and in the hope that after the fever of
erotic buffoonery and folly had subsided, he might have some lucid
intervals, and listen to common sense. Meantime I gave him
expressly to understand that I disapproved of his want of respect
towards women, his free and profane expressions, and pitied those
unhappy ones, who, he informed me, had been his victims.

He pretended to care little about my disapprobation, and repeated:
"spite of your fine strictures upon immorality, I know well you are
amused with the account of my adventures. All men are as fond of
pleasure as I am, but they have not the frankness to talk of it
without cloaking it from the eyes of the world; I will go on till
you are quite enchanted, and confess yourself compelled in VERY
CONSCIENCE to applaud me." So he went on from week to week, I
bearing with him, partly out of curiosity and partly in the
expectation he would fall upon some better topic; and I can fairly
say that this species of tolerance, did me no little harm. I began
to lose my respect for pure and noble truths, my thoughts became
confused, and my mind disturbed. To converse with men of degraded
minds is in itself degrading, at least if you possess not virtue
very superior to mine. "This is a proper punishment," said I, "for
my presumption; this it is to assume the office of a missionary
without its sacredness of character."

One day I determined to write to him as follows:- " I have hitherto
attempted to turn your attention to other subjects, and you
persevere in sending me accounts of yourself which no way please me.
For the sake of variety, let us correspond a little respecting
worthier matters; if not, give the hand of fellowship, and let us
have done."

The two ensuing days I received no answer, and I was glad of it.
"Oh, blessed solitude;" often I exclaimed, "how far holier and
better art thou than harsh and undignified association with the
living. Away with the empty and impious vanities, the base actions,
the low despicable conversations of such a world. I have studied it
enough; let me turn to my communion with God; to the calm, dear
recollections of my family and my true friends. I will read my
Bible oftener than I have done, I will again write down my thoughts,
will try to raise and improve them, and taste the pleasure of a
sorrow at least innocent; a thousand fold to be preferred to vulgar
and wicked imaginations."

Whenever Tremerello now entered my room he was in the habit of
saying, "I have got no answer yet."

"It is all right," was my reply.

About the third day from this, he said, with a serious look, "Signor
N. N. is rather indisposed."

"What is the matter with him?"

"He does not say, but he has taken to his bed, neither eats nor
drinks, and is sadly out of humour."

I was touched; he was suffering and had no one to console him.

"I will write him a few lines," exclaimed I.

"I will take them this evening, then," said Tremerello, and he went

I was a little perplexed on sitting down to my table: "Am I right
in resuming this correspondence? was I not, just now, praising
solitude as a treasure newly found? what inconsistency is this! Ah!
but he neither eats nor drinks, and I fear must be very ill. Is it,
then, a moment to abandon him? My last letter was severe, and may
perhaps have caused him pain. Perhaps, in spite of our different
ways of thinking, he wished not to end our correspondence. Yes, he
has thought my letter more caustic than I meant it to be, and taken
it in the light of an absolute and contemptuous dismission.


I sat down and wrote as follows:-

"I hear that you are not well, and am extremely sorry for it. I
wish I were with you, and enabled to assist you as a friend. I hope
your illness is the sole cause why you have not written to me during
the last three days. Did you take offence at my little strictures
the other day? Believe me they were dictated by no ill will or
spleen, but with the single object of drawing your attention to more
serious subjects. Should it be irksome for you to write, send me an
exact account, by word, how you find yourself. You shall hear from
me every day, and I will try to say something to amuse you, and to
show you that I really wish you well."

Imagine my unfeigned surprise when I received an answer, couched in
these terms:

"I renounce your friendship: if you are at a loss how to estimate
mine, I return the compliment in its full force. I am not a man to
put up with injurious treatment; I am not one, who, once rejected,
will be ordered to return."

"Because you heard I was unwell, you approach me with a hypocritical
air, in the idea that illness will break down my spirit, and make me
listen to your sermons . . . "

In this way he rambled on, reproaching and despising me in the most
revolting terms he could find, and turning every thing I had said
into ridicule and burlesque. He assured me that he knew how to live
and die with consistency; that is to say, with the utmost hatred and
contempt for all philosophical creeds differing from his own. I was

"A pretty conversion I have made of it!" I exclaimed; "yet God is my
witness that my motives were pure. I have done nothing to merit an
attack like this. But patience! I am once more undeceived. I am
not called upon to do more."

In a few days I became less angry, and conceived that all this
bitterness might have resulted from some excitement which might pass
away. Probably he repents, yet scorns to confess he was in the
wrong. In such a state of mind, it might be generous of me to write
to him once more. It cost my self-love something, but I did it. To
humble one's self for a good purpose is not degrading, with whatever
degree of unjust contempt it may be returned.

I received a reply less violent, but not less insulting. The
implacable patient declared that he admired what he called my
evangelical moderation. "Now, therefore," he continued, "let us
resume our correspondence, but let us speak out. We do not like
each other, but we will write, each for his own amusement, setting
everything down which may come into our heads. You will tell me
your seraphic visions and revelations, and I will treat you with my
profane adventures; you again will run into ecstasies upon the
dignity of man, yea, and of woman; I into an ingenuous narrative of
my various profanations; I hoping to make a convert of you, and you
of me.

"Give me an answer should you approve these conditions."

I replied, "Yours is not a compact, but a jest. I was full of good-
will towards you. My conscience does not constrain me to do more
than to wish you every happiness both as regards this and another

Thus ended my secret connexion with that strange man. But who
knows; he was perhaps more exasperated by ill fortune, delirium, or
despair, than really bad at heart.


I once more learnt to value solitude, and my days tracked each other
without any distinction or mark of change.

The summer was over; it was towards the close of September, and the
heat grew less oppressive; October came. I congratulated myself now
on occupying a chamber well adapted for winter. One morning,
however, the jailer made his appearance, with an order to change my

"And where am I to go?"

"Only a few steps, into a fresher chamber."

"But why not think of it when I was dying of suffocation; when the
air was filled with gnats, and my bed with bugs?"

"The order did not come before."

"Patience! let us be gone!"

Notwithstanding I had suffered so greatly in this prison, it gave me
pain to leave it; not simply because it would have been best for the
winter season, but for many other reasons. There I had the ants to
attract my attention, which I had fed and looked upon, I may almost
say, with paternal care. Within the last few days, however, my
friend the spider, and my great ally in my war with the gnats, had,
for some reason or other, chosen to emigrate; at least he did not
come as usual. "Yet perhaps," said I, "he may remember me, and come
back, but he will find my prison empty, or occupied by some other
guest--no friend perhaps to spiders--and thus meet with an awkward
reception. His fine woven house, and his gnat-feasts will all be
put an end to."

Again, my gloomy abode had been embellished by the presence of
Angiola, so good, so gentle and compassionate. There she used to
sit, and try every means she could devise to amuse me, even dropping
crumbs of bread for my little visitors, the ants; and there I heard
her sobs, and saw the tears fall thick and fast, as she spoke of her
cruel lover.

The place I was removed to was under the leaden prisons, (I Piombi)
open to the north and west, with two windows, one on each side; an
abode exposed to perpetual cold and even icy chill during the
severest months. The window to the west was the largest, that to
the north was high and narrow, and situated above my bed.

I first looked out at this last, and found that it commanded a view
of the Palace of the Patriarch. Other prisons were near mine, in a
narrow wing to the right, and in a projection of the building right
opposite. Here were two prisons, one above the other. The lower
had an enormous window, through which I could see a man, very richly
drest, pacing to and fro. It was the Signor Caporale di Cesena. He
perceived me, made a signal, and we pronounced each other's names.

I next looked out at my other window. I put the little table upon
my bed, and a chair upon my table; I climbed up and found myself on
a level with part of the palace roof; and beyond this was to be seen
a fine view of the city and the lake.

I paused to admire it; and though I heard some one open the door, I
did not move. It was the jailer; and perceiving that I had
clambered up, he got it into his head I was making an attempt to
escape, forgetting, in his alarm, that I was not a mouse to creep
through all those narrow bars. In a moment he sprung upon the bed,
spite of a violent sciatica which had nearly bent him double, and
catching me by the legs, he began to call out, "thieves and murder!"

"But don't you see," I exclaimed, "you thoughtless man, that I
cannot conjure myself through these horrible bars? Surely you know
I got up here out of mere curiosity."

"Oh, yes, I see, I apprehend, sir; but quick, sir, jump down, sir;
these are all temptations of the devil to make you think of it! come
down, sir, pray."

I lost no time in my descent, and laughed.


At the windows of the side prisons I recognised six other prisoners,
all there on account of politics. Just then, as I was composing my
mind to perfect solitude, I found myself comparatively in a little
world of human beings around me. The change was, at first, irksome
to me, such complete seclusion having rendered me almost unsociable,
add to which, the disagreeable termination of my correspondence with
Julian. Still, the little conversation I was enabled to carry on,
partly by signs, with my new fellow-prisoners, was of advantage by
diverting my attention. I breathed not a word respecting my
correspondence with Julian; it was a point of honour between us, and
in bringing it forward here, I was fully aware that in the immense
number of unhappy men with which these prisons were thronged, it
would be impossible to ascertain who was the assumed Julian.

To the interest derived from seeing my fellow-captives was added
another of a yet more delightful kind. I could perceive from my
large window, beyond the projection of prisons, situated right
before me, a surface of roofs; decorated with cupolas, campanili,
towers, and chimneys, which gradually faded in a distant view of sea
and sky. In the house nearest to me, a wing of the Patriarchal
palace, lived an excellent family, who had a claim to my gratitude,
for expressing, by their salutations, the interest which they took
in my fate. A sign, a word of kindness to the unhappy, is really
charity of no trivial kind. From one of the windows I saw a little
boy, nine or ten years old, stretching out his hands towards me, and
I heard him call out, "Mamma, mamma, they have placed somebody up
there in the Piombi. Oh, you poor prisoner, who are you?"

"I am Silvio Pellico," was the reply.

Another older boy now ran to the same window, and cried out, "Are
you Silvio Pellico?"

"Yes; and tell me your names, dear boys."

"My name is Antonio S-, and my brother's is Joseph."

He then turned round, and, speaking to some one within, "What else
ought I to ask him?" A lady, whom I conjecture to have been their
mother, then half concealed, suggested some pretty words to them,
which they repeated, and for which I thanked them with all my heart.
These sort of communications were a small matter, yet it required to
be cautious how we indulged in them, lest we should attract the
notice of the jailer. Morning, noon, and night, they were a source
of the greatest consolation; the little boys were constantly in the
habit of bidding me good night, before the windows were closed, and
the lights brought in, "Good night, Silvio," and often it was
repeated by the good lady, in a more subdued voice, "Good night,
Silvio, have courage!"

When engaged at their meals they would say, "How we wish we could
give you any of this good coffee and milk. Pray remember, the first
day they let you out, to come and see us. Mamma and we will give
you plenty of good things, {17} and as many kisses as you like."


The month of October brought round one of the most disagreeable
anniversaries in my life. I was arrested on the 13th of that month
in the preceding year. Other recollections of the same period, also
pained me. That day two years, a highly valued and excellent man
whom I truly honoured, was drowned in the Ticino. Three years
before, a young person, Odoardo Briche, {18} whom I loved as if he
had been my own son, had accidentally killed himself with a musket.
Earlier in my youth another severe affliction had befallen me in the
same month.

Though not superstitious, the remembrance of so many unhappy
occurrences at the same period of the year, inspired a feeling of
extreme sorrow. While conversing at the window with the children,
and with my fellow prisoners, I assumed an air of mirth, but hardly
had I re-entered my cave than an irresistible feeling of melancholy
weighed down every faculty of my mind. In vain I attempted to
engage in some literary composition; I was involuntarily impelled to
write upon other topics. I thought of my family, and wrote letters
after letters, in which I poured forth all my burdened spirit, all I
had felt and enjoyed of home, in far happier days, surrounded by
brothers, sisters, and friends who had always loved me. The desire
of seeing them, and long compulsory separation, led me to speak on a
variety of little things, and reveal a thousand thoughts of
gratitude and tenderness, which would not otherwise have occurred to
my mind.

In the same way I took a review of my former life, diverting my
attention by recalling past incidents, and dwelling upon those
happier periods now for ever fled. Often, when the picture I had
thus drawn, and sat contemplating for hours, suddenly vanished from
my sight, and left me conscious only of the fearful present, and
more threatening future, the pen fell from my hand; I recoiled with
horror; the contrast was more than I could bear. These were
terrific moments; I had already felt them, but never with such
intense susceptibility as then. It was agony. This I attributed to
extreme excitement of the passions, occasioned by expressing them in
the form of letters, addressed to persons to whom I was so tenderly

I turned to other subjects, I determined to change the form of
expressing my ideas, but could not. In whatever way I began, it
always ended in a letter teeming with affection and with grief.

"What," I exclaimed, "am I no more master of my own will? Is this
strange necessity of doing that which I object to, a distortion of
my brain? At first I could have accounted for it; but after being
inured to this solitude, reconciled, and supported by religious
reflections; how have I become the slave of these blind impulses,
these wanderings of heart and mind? let me apply to other matters!"
I then endeavoured to pray; or to weary my attention by hard study
of the German. Alas! I commenced and found myself actually engaged
in writing a letter!


Such a state of mind was a real disease, or I know not if it may be
called a kind of somnambulism. Without doubt it was the effect of
extreme lassitude, occasioned by continual thought and watchfulness.

It gained upon me. I grew feverish and sleepless. I left off
coffee, but the disease was not removed. It appeared to me as if I
were two persons, one of them eagerly bent upon writing letters, the
other upon doing something else. "At least," said I, "you shall
write them in German if you do; and we shall learn a little of the
language. Methought HE then set to work, and wrote volumes of bad
German, and he certainly brought me rapidly forward in the study of
it. Towards morning, my mind being wholly exhausted, I fell into a
heavy stupor, during which all those most dear to me haunted my
dreams. I thought that my father and mother were weeping over me; I
heard their lamentations, and suddenly I started out of my sleep
sobbing and affrighted. Sometimes, during short, disturbed
slumbers, I heard my mother's voice, as if consoling others, with
whom she came into my prison, and she addressed me in the most
affectionate language upon the duty of resignation, and then, when I
was rejoiced to see her courage, and that of others, suddenly she
appeared to burst into tears, and all wept. I can convey no idea of
the species of agony which I at these times felt.

To escape from this misery, I no longer went to bed. I sat down to
read by the light of my lamp, but I could comprehend nothing, and
soon I found that I was even unable to think. I next tried to copy
something, but still copied something different from what I was
writing, always recurring to the subject of my afflictions. If I
retired to rest, it was worse; I could lie in no position; I became
convulsed, and was constrained to rise. In case I slept, the same
visions reappeared, and made me suffer much more than I did by
keeping awake. My prayers, too, were feeble and ineffectual; and,
at length, I could simply invoke the name of the Deity; of the Being
who had assumed a human form, and was acquainted with grief. I was
afraid to sleep; my prayers seemed to bring me no relief; my
imagination became excited, and, even when awake, I heard strange
noises close to me, sometimes sighs and groans, at others mingled
with sounds of stifled laughter. I was never superstitious, but
these apparently real and unaccountable sights and sounds led me to
doubt, and I then firmly believed that I was the victim of some
unknown and malignant beings. Frequently I took my light, and made
a search for those mockers and persecutors of my waking and sleeping
hours. At last they began to pull me by my clothes, threw my books
upon the ground, blew out my lamp, and even, as it seemed, conveyed
me into another dungeon. I would then start to my feet, look and
examine all round me, and ask myself if I were really mad. The
actual world, and that of my imagination, were no longer
distinguishable, I knew not whether what I saw and felt was a
delusion or truth. In this horrible state I could only repeat one
prayer, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"


One morning early, I threw myself upon my pallet, having first
placed my handkerchief, as usual, under my pillow. Shortly after,
falling asleep, I suddenly woke, and found myself in a state of
suffocation; my persecutors were strangling me, and, on putting my
hand to my throat, I actually found my own handkerchief, all
knotted, tied round my neck. I could have sworn I had never made
those knots; yet I must have done this in my delirium; but as it was
then impossible to believe it, I lived in continual expectation of
being strangled. The recollection is still horrible. They left me
at dawn of day; and, resuming my courage, I no longer felt the least
apprehension, and even imagined it would be impossible they should
again return. Yet no sooner did the night set in, than I was again
haunted by them in all their horrors; being made sensible of their
gradual approach by cold shiverings, the loss of all power, with a
species of fascination which riveted both the eye and the mind. In
fact, the more weak and wretched I felt, at night, the greater were
my efforts during the day to appear cheerful in conversing with my
companions, with the two boys at the palace, and with my jailers.
No one to hear my jokes, would have imagined it possible that I was
suffering under the disease I did. I thought to encourage myself by
this forced merriment, but the spectral visions which I laughed at
by day became fearful realities in the hours of darkness.

Had I dared, I should have petitioned the commission to change my
apartment, but the fear of ridicule, in case I should be asked my
reasons, restrained me. No reasonings, no studies, or pursuits, and
even no prayers, were longer of avail, and the idea of being wholly
abandoned by heaven, took possession of my mind.

All those wicked sophisms against a just Providence, which, while in
possession of reason, had appeared to me so vain and impious, now
recurred with redoubled power, in the form of irresistible
arguments. I struggled mightily against this last and greatest evil
I had yet borne, and in the lapse of a few days the temptation fled.
Still I refused to acknowledge the truth and beauty of religion; I
quoted the assertions of the most violent atheists, and those which
Julian had so recently dwelt upon: "Religion serves only to
enfeeble the mind," was one of these, and I actually presumed that
by renouncing my God I should acquire greater fortitude. Insane
idea! I denied God, yet knew not how to deny those invisible
malevolent beings, that appeared to encompass me, and feast upon my

What shall I call this martyrdom? is it enough to say that it was a
disease? or was it a divine chastisement for my pride, to teach me
that without a special illumination I might become as great an
unbeliever as Julian, and still more absurd. However this may be,
it pleased God to deliver me from such evil, when I least expected
it. One morning, after taking my coffee, I was seized with violent
sickness, attended with colic. I imagined that I had been poisoned.
After excessive vomiting, I burst into a strong perspiration and
retired to bed. About mid-day I fell asleep, and continued in a
quiet slumber till evening. I awoke in great surprise at this
unexpected repose, and, thinking I should not sleep again, I got up.
On rising I said, "I shall now have more fortitude to resist my
accustomed terrors." But they returned no more. I was in
ecstasies; I threw myself upon my knees in the fulness of my heart,
and again prayed to my God in spirit and in truth, beseeching pardon
for having denied, during many days, His holy name. It was almost
too much for my newly reviving strength, and while even yet upon my
knees, supporting my head against a chair, I fell into a profound
sleep in that very position.

Some hours afterwards, as I conjectured, I seemed in part to awake,
but no sooner had I stretched my weary limbs upon my rude couch than
I slept till the dawn of day. The same disposition to somnolency
continued through the day, and the next night, I rested as soundly
as before. What was the sort of crisis that had thus taken place?
I know not; but I was perfectly restored.


The sickness of the stomach which I had so long laboured under now
ceased, the pains of the head also left me, and I felt an
extraordinary appetite. My digestion was good, and I gained
strength. Wonderful providence! that deprived me of my health to
humble my mind, and again restored it when the moment was at hand
that I should require it all, that I might not sink under the weight
of my sentence.

On the 24th of November, one of our companions, Dr. Foresti, was
taken from the Piombi, and transported no one knew whither. The
jailer, his wife, and the assistants, were alike alarmed, and not
one of them ventured to throw the least light upon this mysterious

"And why should you persist," said Tremerello, "in wishing to know,
when nothing good is to be heard? I have told you too much--too
much already."

"Then what is the use of trying to hide it? I know it too well. He
is condemned to death."

"Who? . . . he . . . Doctor Foresti?"

Tremerello hesitated, but the love of gossip was not the least of
his virtues.

"Don't say, then," he resumed, "that I am a babbler; I never wished
to say a word about these matters; so, remember, it is you who
compel me."

"Yes, yes, I do compel you; but courage! tell me every thing you
know respecting the poor Doctor?"

"Ah, Sir! they have made him cross the Bridge of Sighs! he lies in
the dungeons of the condemned; sentence of death has been announced
to him and two others."

"And will it be executed? When? Oh, unhappy man! and what are the
others' names?"

"I know no more. The sentences have not been published. It is
reported in Venice that they will be commuted. I trust in God they
may, at least, as regards the good Doctor. Do you know, I am as
fond of that noble fellow, pardon the expression, as if he were my
own brother."

He seemed moved, and walked away. Imagine the agitation I suffered
throughout the whole of that day, and indeed long after, as there
were no means of ascertaining anything further respecting the fate
of these unfortunate men.

A month elapsed, and at length the sentences connected with the
first trial were published. Nine were condemned to death,
GRACIOUSLY exchanged for hard imprisonment, some for twenty, and
others for fifteen years in the fortress of Spielberg, near the city
of Brunn, in Moravia; while those for ten years and under were to be
sent to the fortress of Lubiana.

Were we authorised to conclude, from this commutation of sentence in
regard to those first condemned, that the parties subject to the
second trial would likewise be spared? Was the indulgence to be
confined only to the former, on account of their having been
arrested previous to the publication of the edicts against secret
societies; the full vengeance of the law being reserved for
subsequent offenders?

Well, I exclaimed, we shall not long be kept in suspense; I am at
least grateful to Heaven for being allowed time to prepare myself in
a becoming manner for the final scene.


It was now my only consideration how to die like a Christian, and
with proper fortitude. I felt, indeed, a strong temptation to avoid
the scaffold by committing suicide, but overcame it. What merit is
there in refusing to die by the hand of the executioner, and yet to
fall by one's own? To save one's honour? But is it not childish to
suppose that there can be more honour in cheating the executioner,
than in not doing this, when it is clear that we must die. Even had
I not been a Christian, upon serious reflection, suicide would have
appeared to me both ridiculous and useless, if not criminal in a
high degree.

"If the term of life be expired," continued I, "am I not fortunate
in being permitted to collect my thoughts and purify my conscience
with penitence and prayer becoming a man in affliction. In popular
estimation, the being led to the scaffold is the worst part of
death; in the opinion of the wise, is not this far preferable to the
thousand deaths which daily occur by disease, attended by general
prostration of intellect, without power to raise the thoughts from
the lowest state of physical exhaustion."

I felt the justice of this reasoning, and lost all feeling of
anxiety or terror at the idea of a public execution. I reflected
deeply on the sacraments calculated to support me under such an
appalling trial, and I felt disposed to receive them in a right
spirit. Should I have been enabled, had I really been conducted to
the scaffold, to preserve the same elevation of mind, the same
forgiveness of my enemies, the same readiness to lay down my life at
the will of God, as I then felt? Alas, how inconsistent is man!
when most firm and pious, how liable is he to fall suddenly into
weakness and crime! Is it likely I should have died worthily? God
only knows; I dare not think well enough of myself to assert it.

The probable approach of death so riveted my imagination, that not
only did it seem possible but as if marked by an infallible
presentiment. I no longer indulged a hope of avoiding it, and at
every sound of footsteps and keys, or the opening of my door, I was
in the habit of exclaiming: "Courage! Perhaps I am going to
receive sentence. Let me hear it with calm dignity, and bless the
name of the Lord."

I considered in what terms I should last address my family, each of
my brothers, and each of my sisters, and by revolving in my mind
these sacred and affecting duties, I was often drowned in tears,
without losing my fortitude and resignation.

I was naturally unable to enjoy sound repose; but my sleeplessness
was not of the same alarming character as before; no visions,
spectres, or concealed enemies were ready to deprive me of life. I
spent the night in calm and reviving prayer. Towards morning I was
enabled to sleep for about two hours, and rose late to breakfast.

One night I had retired to rest earlier than usual; I had hardly
slept a quarter of an hour, when I awoke, and beheld an immense
light upon the wall opposite to me. At first I imagined that I had
been seized with my former illness; but this was no illusion. The
light shone through the north window, under which I then lay.

I started up, seized my table, placed it on my bed, and a chair
again upon the table, by means of all which I mounted up, and beheld
one of the most terrific spectacles of fire that can be imagined.
It was not more than a musket shot distant from our prison; it
proceeded from the establishment of the public ovens, and the
edifice was entirely consumed.

The night was exceedingly dark, and vast globes of flame spouted
forth on both sides, borne away by a violent wind. All around, it
seemed as if the sky rained sparks of fire. The adjacent lake
reflected the magnificent sight; numbers of gondolas went and came,
but my sympathy was most excited at the danger and terrors of those
who resided nearest to the burning edifice. I heard the far off
voices of men and women calling to each other. Among others, I
caught the name of Angiola, and of this doubtless there are some
thousands in Venice: yet I could not help fearing it might be the
one of whom the recollection was so sweet to me. Could it be her?--
was she surrounded by the flames? how I longed to fly to her rescue.

Full of excitement, wonder, and terror, I stood at the window till
the day dawned, I then got down oppressed by a feeling of deep
sorrow, and imagined much greater misfortune than had really
occurred. I was informed by Tremerello that only the ovens and the
adjoining magazine had suffered, the loss consisting chiefly of corn
and sacks of flour.


The effect of this accident upon my imagination had not yet ceased,
when one night, as I was sitting at my little table reading, and
half perished with cold, I heard a number of voices not far from me.
They were those of the jailer, his wife, and sons, with the
assistants, all crying:

"Fire! fire. Oh, blessed Virgin! we are lost, we are lost!"

I felt no longer cold, I started to my feet in a violent
perspiration, and looked out to discover the quarter from which the
fire proceeded. I could perceive nothing, I was informed, however,
that it arose in the palace itself, from some public chambers
contiguous to the prisons. One of the assistants called out, "But,
sir governor, what shall we do with these caged birds here, if the
fire keeps a head?" The head jailer replied, "Why, I should not
like to have them roasted alive. Yet I cannot let them out of their
bars without special orders from the commission. You may run as
fast as you can, and get an order if you can."

"To be sure I will, but, you know, it will be too late for the

All this was said in the rude Venetian dialect, but I understood it
too well. And now, where was all my heroic spirit and resignation,
which I had counted upon to meet sudden death? Why did the idea of
being burnt alive throw me into such a fever? I felt ashamed of
this unworthy fear, and though just on the point of crying out to
the jailer to let me out, I restrained myself, reflecting that there
might be as little pleasure in being strangled as in being burnt.
Still I felt really afraid.

"Here," said I, "is a specimen of my courage, should I escape the
flames, and be doomed to mount the scaffold. I will restrain my
fear, and hide it from others as well as I can, though I know I
shall tremble. Yet surely it is courage to behave as if we were not
afraid, whatever we may feel. Is it not generosity to give away
that which it costs us much to part with? It is, also, an act of
obedience, though we obey with great repugnance."

The tumult in the jailer's house was so loud and continued that I
concluded the fire was on the increase. The messenger sent to ask
permission for our temporary release had not returned. At last I
thought I heard his voice; no; I listened, he is not come. Probably
the permission will not be granted; there will be no means of
escape; if the jailer should not humanely take the responsibility
upon himself, we shall be suffocated in our dungeons! Well, but
this, I exclaimed, is not philosophy, and it is not religion. Were
it not better to prepare myself to witness the flames bursting into
my chamber, and about to swallow me up.

Meantime the clamour seemed to diminish; by degrees it died away;
was this any proof that the fire had ceased? Or, perhaps, all who
could had already fled, and left the prisoners to their fate.

The silence continued, no flames appeared, and I retired to bed,
reproaching myself for the want of fortitude I had evinced. Indeed,
I began to regret that I had not been burnt alive, instead of being
handed over, as a victim, into the hands of men.

The next morning, I learnt the real cause of the fire from
Tremerello, and laughed at his account of the fear he had endured,
as if my own had not been as great--perhaps, in fact, much greater
of the two.


On the 11th of January, 1822, about nine in the morning, Tremerello
came into my room in no little agitation, and said,

"Do you know, Sir, that in the island of San Michele, a little way
from Venice, there is a prison containing more than a hundred

"You have told me so a hundred times. Well! what would you have me
hear, speak out; are some of them condemned?"


"Who are they?"

"I don't know."

"Is my poor friend Maroncelli among them?"

"Ah, Sir, too many . . . I know not who." And he went away in great
emotion, casting on me a look of compassion.

Shortly after came the jailer, attended by the assistants, and by a
man whom I had never before seen. The latter opened his subject as
follows: "The commission, Sir, has given orders that you come with

"Let us go, then," I replied; "may I ask who you are?"

"I am jailer of the San Michele prisons, where I am going to take

The jailer of the Piombi delivered to the new governor the money
belonging to me which he had in his hands. I obtained permission to
make some little present to the under jailers; I then put my clothes
in order, put my Bible under my arm, and departed. In descending
the immense track of staircases, Tremerello for a moment took my
hand; he pressed it as much as to say, "Unhappy man! you are lost."

We came out at a gate which opened upon the lake, and there stood a
gondola with two under jailers belonging to San Michele.

I entered the boat with feelings of the most contradictory nature;
regret at leaving the prison of the Piombi, where I had suffered so
much, but where I had become attached to some individuals, and they
to me; the pleasure of beholding once more the sky, the city, and
the clear waters, without the intervention of iron bars. Add to
this the recollection of that joyous gondola, which, in time past,
had borne me on the bosom of that placid lake; the gondolas of the
lake of Como, those of Lago Maggiore, the little barks of the Po,
those of the Rodano, and of the Sonna! Oh, happy vanished years!
who, who then so happy in the world as I?

The son of excellent and affectionate parents, in a rank of life,
perhaps, the happiest for the cultivation of the affections, being
equally removed from riches and from poverty; I had spent my infancy
in the participation of the sweetest domestic ties; had been the
object of the tenderest domestic cares. I had subsequently gone to
Lyons, to my maternal uncle, an elderly man, extremely wealthy, and
deserving of all he possessed; and at his mansion I partook of all
the advantages and delights of elegance and refined society, which
gave an indescribable charm to those youthful days. Thence
returning into Italy, under the parental roof, I at once devoted
myself with ardour to study, and the enjoyment of society;
everywhere meeting with distinguished friends and the most
encouraging praise. Monti and Foscolo, although at variance with
each other, were kind to me. I became more attached to the latter,
and this irritable man, who, by his asperities, provoked so many to
quarrel with him, was with me full of gentleness and cordiality.
Other distinguished characters likewise became attached to me, and I
returned all their regard. Neither envy nor calumny had the least
influence over me, or I felt it only from persons who had not the
power to injure me. On the fall of the kingdom of Italy, my father
removed to Turin, with the rest of his family. I had preferred to
remain at Milan, where I spent my time at once so profitably and so
happily as made me unwilling to leave it. Here I had three friends
to whom I was greatly attached--D. Pietro Borsieri, Lodovico di
Breme, and the Count Luigi Porro Lambertenghi. Subsequently I added
to them Count Federigo Confalonieri. {19} Becoming the preceptor of
two young sons of Count Porro, I was to them as a father, and their
father acted like a brother to me. His mansion was the resort not
only of society the most refined and cultivated of Italy, but of
numbers of celebrated strangers. It was there I became acquainted
with De Stael, Schlegel, Davis, Byron, Brougham, Hobhouse, and
illustrious travellers from all parts of Europe. How delightful,
how noble an incentive to all that is great and good, is an
intercourse with men of first-rate merit!. I was then happy; I
would not have exchanged my lot with a prince; and now, to be
hurled, as I had been, from the summit of all my hopes and projects,
into an abyss of wretchedness, and to be hurried thus from dungeon
to dungeon, to perish doubtless either by a violent death or
lingering in chains.


Absorbed in reflections like these, I reached San Michele, and was
locked up in a room which embraced a view of the court yard, of the
lake, and the beautiful island of Murano. I inquired respecting
Maroncelli from the jailer, from his wife, and the four assistants;
but their visits were exceedingly brief, very ceremonious, and, in
fact, they would tell me nothing.

Nevertheless where there are five or six persons, it is rarely you
do not find one who possesses a compassionate, as well as a
communicative disposition. I met with such a one, and from him I
learnt what follows:-

Maroncelli, after having been long kept apart, had been placed with
Count Camillo Laderchi. {20} The last, within a few days, had been
declared innocent, and discharged from prison, and the former again
remained alone. Some other of our companions had also been set at
liberty; the Professor Romagnosi, {21} and Count Giovanni
Arrivabene. {22} Captain Rezia {23} and the Signor Canova were
together. Professor Ressi {24} was dying at that time, in a prison
next to that of the two before mentioned. "It follows then," said
I, "that the sentences of those not set at liberty must have
arrived. How are they to be made known? Perhaps, poor Ressi will
die; and will not be in a state to hear his sentence; is it true?"

"I believe it is."

Every day I inquired respecting the unhappy man. "He has lost his
voice; he is rather better; he is delirious; he is nearly gone; he
spits blood; he is dying;" were the usual replies; till at length
came the last of all, "He is dead."

I shed a tear to his memory, and consoled myself with thinking that
he died ignorant of the sentence which awaited him.

The day following, the 21st of February, 1822, the jailer came for
me about ten o'clock, and conducted me into the Hall of the
Commission. The members were all seated, but they rose; the
President, the Inquisitor, and two assisting Judges.--The first,
with a look of deep commiseration, acquainted me that my sentence
had arrived; that it was a terrible one; but that the clemency of
the Emperor had mitigated it.

The Inquisitor, fixing his eye on me, then read it:- "Silvio
Pellico, condemned to death; the imperial decree is, that the
sentence be commuted for fifteen years hard imprisonment in the
fortress of Spielberg."

"The will of God be done!" was my reply.

It was really my intention to bear this horrible blow like a
Christian, and neither to exhibit nor to feel resentment against any
one whatever. The President then commended my state of mind, warmly
recommending me to persevere in it, and that possibly by affording
an edifying example, I might in a year or two be deemed worthy of
receiving further favours from the imperial clemency.

Instead, however, of one or two, it was many years before the full
sentence was remitted.

The other judges also spoke encouragingly to me. One of them,
indeed, had appeared my enemy on my trial, accosting me in a
courteous but ironical tone, while his look of insulting triumph
seemed to belie his words. I would not make oath it was so, but my
blood was then boiling, and I was trying to smother my passion.
While they were praising me for my Christian patience, I had not a
jot of it left me. "To-morrow," continued the Inquisitor, "I am
sorry to say, you must appear and receive your sentence in public.
It is a formality which cannot be dispensed with."

"Be it so!" I replied.

"From this time we grant you the company of your friend," he added.
Then calling the jailer, he consigned me into his hands, ordering
that I should be placed in the same dungeon with Maroncelli.


It was a delightful moment, when, after a separation of three
months, and having suffered so greatly, I met my friend. For some
moments we forgot even the severity of our sentence, conscious only
of each other's presence.

But I soon turned from my friend to perform a more serious duty--
that of writing to my father. I was desirous that the first tidings
of my sad lot should reach my family from myself; in order that the
grief which I knew they would all feel might be at least mitigated
by hearing my state of mind, and the sentiments of peace and
religion by which I was supported. The judges had given me a
promise to expedite the letter the moment it was written.

Maroncelli next spoke to me respecting his trial; I acquainted him
with mine, and we mutually described our prison walks and
adventures, complimenting each other on our peripatetic philosophy.
We approached our window, and saluted three of our friends, whom we
beheld standing at theirs. Two of these were Canova and Rezia, in
the same apartment; the first of whom was condemned to six-years'
hard imprisonment, and the last to three. The third was Doctor
Cesare Armari, who had been my neighbour some preceding months, in
the prisons of the Piombi. He was not, however, among the
condemned, and soon obtained his liberty.

The power of communicating with one or other of our fellow-
prisoners, at all hours, was a great relief to our feelings. But
when buried in silence and darkness, I was unable to compose myself
to rest; I felt my head burn, and my heart bleed, as my thoughts
reverted to home. Would my aged parents be enabled to bear up
against so heavy a misfortune? would they find a sufficient resource
in their other children? They were equally attached to all, and I
valued myself least of all in that family of love; but will a father
and a mother ever find in the children that remain to them a
compensation for the one of whom they are deprived.

Had I dwelt only upon my relatives and a few other dear friends,
much as I regretted them, my thoughts would have been less bitter
than they were. But I thought of the insulting smile of that judge,
of the trial, the cause of the respective sentences, political
passions and enmities, and the fate of so many of my friends . . .
It was then I could no longer think with patience or indulgence of
any of my persecutors. God had subjected me to a severe trial, and
it was my duty to have borne it with courage. Alas! I was neither
able nor willing. The pride and luxury of hatred pleased me better
than the noble spirit of forgiveness; and I passed a night of horror
after receiving sentence.

In the morning I could not pray. The universe appeared to me, then,
to be the work of some power, the enemy of good. I had previously,
indeed, been guilty of calumniating my Creator; but little did I
imagine I should revert to such ingratitude, and in so brief a time.
Julian, in his most impious moods, could not express himself more
impiously than myself. To gloat over thoughts of hatred, or fierce
revenge, when smarting under the scourge of heaviest calamity,
instead of flying to religion as a refuge, renders a man criminal,
even though his cause be just. If we hate, it is a proof of rank
pride; and where is the wretched mortal that dare stand up and
declare in the face of Heaven, his title to hatred and revenge
against his fellows? to assert that none have a right to sit in
judgment upon him and his actions;--that none can injure him without
a bad intention, or a violation of all justice? In short, he dares
to arraign the decrees of Heaven itself, if it please Providence to
make him suffer in a manner which he does not himself approve.

Still I was unhappy because I could not pray; for when pride reigns
supreme, it acknowledges no other god than the self-idol it has
created. How I could have wished to recommend to the Supreme
Protector, the care of my bereaved parents, though at that unhappy
moment I felt as if I no more believed in Him.


At nine in the morning Maroncelli and I were conducted into the
gondola which conveyed us into the city. We alighted at the palace
of the Doge, and proceeded to the prisons. We were placed in the
apartment which had been occupied by Signor Caporali a few days
before, but with whose fate we were not acquainted. Nine or ten
sbirri were placed over us as a guard, and walking about, we awaited
the moment of being brought into the square. There was considerable
delay. The Inquisitor did not make his appearance till noon, and
then informed us that it was time to go. The physician, also,
presented himself, and advised us to take a small glass of mint-
water, which we accepted on account of the extreme compassion which
the good old man expressed for us. It was Dr. Dosmo. The head
bailiff then advanced and fixed the hand-cuffs upon us. We followed
him, accompanied by the other bailiffs.

We next descended the magnificent staircase of the Giganti, and we
called to mind the old Doge Faliero, who was beheaded there. We
entered through the great gate which opens upon the small square
from the court-yard of the palace, and we then turned to the left,
in the direction of the lake. In the centre of the small square was
raised the scaffold which we were to ascend. From the staircase of
the Giganti, extending to the scaffold, were two lines of Austrian
soldiers, through which we passed.

After ascending the platform, we looked around us, and saw an
immense assembly of people, apparently struck with terror. In other
directions were seen bands of armed men, to awe the multitude; and
we were told that cannon were loaded in readiness to be discharged
at a moment's notice. I was now exactly in the spot where, in
September, 1820, just a month previous to my arrest, a mendicant had
observed to me, "This is a place of misfortune."

I called to mind the circumstance, and reflected that very possibly
in that immense throng of spectators the same person might be
present, and perhaps even recognise me.

The German Captain now called out to us to turn towards the palace,
and look up; we did so, and beheld, upon the lodge, a messenger of
the Council, with a letter in his hand; it was the sentence; he
began to read it in a loud voice.

It was ushered in by solemn silence, which was continued until he
came to the words, CONDEMNED TO DEATH. There was then heard one
general murmur of compassion. This was followed by a similar
silence, in order to hear the rest of the document. A fresh murmur
arose on the announcement of the following:- condemned to hard
imprisonment, Maroncelli for TWENTY YEARS, and Pellico for FIFTEEN.

The Captain made a sign for us to descend. We cast one glance
around us, and came down. We re-entered the court-yard, mounted the
great staircase, and were conducted into the room from which we had
been dragged. The manacles were removed, and we were soon
reconducted to San Michele.


The prisoners who had been condemned before us had already set out
for Lubiana and Spielberg, accompanied by a commissary of police.
He was now expected back, in order to conduct us to our destination;
but the interval of a month elapsed.

My time was chiefly spent in talking, and listening to the
conversation of others, in order to distract my attention.
Maroncelli read me some of his literary productions, and in turn, I
read him mine. One evening I read from the window my play of Ester
d'Engaddi, to Canova, Rezia, and Armari; and the following evening,
the Iginia d'Asti. During the night, however, I grew irritable and
wretched, and was unable to sleep. I both desired and feared to
learn in what manner the tidings of my calamity had been received by
my family.

At length I got a letter from my father, and was grieved to find,
from the date, that my last to him had not been sent, as I had
requested of the Inquisitor, immediately! Thus my unhappy father,
while flattering himself that I should be set at liberty, happening
to take up the Milan Gazette, read the horrid sentence which I had
just received upon the scaffold. He himself acquainted me with this
fact, and left me to infer what his feelings must have been on
meeting thus suddenly with the sad news. I cannot express the
contempt and anger I felt on learning that my letter had been kept
back; and how deeply I felt for all my poor unhappy family. There
was doubtless no malice in this delay, but I looked upon it as a
refinement of the most atrocious barbarity; an eager, infernal
desire to see the iron enter, as it were, the very soul of my
beloved and innocent relatives. I felt, indeed, as if I could have
delighted to shed a sea of blood, could I only punish this flagrant
and premeditated inhumanity.

Now that I judge calmly, I find it very improbable. The delay,
doubtless, was simply owing to inadvertency on the part of
subordinate agents. Enraged as I was, I heard with still more
excited feelings that my companions were about to celebrate Easter
week ere their departure. As for me, I considered it wholly
impossible, inasmuch as I felt not the least disposition towards
forgiveness. Should I be guilty of such a scandal!


At length the German commissioner arrived, and came to acquaint us
that within two days we were to set out. "I have the pleasure," he
added, "to give you some consoling tidings. On my return from
Spielberg, I saw his majesty the Emperor at Vienna, who acquainted
me that the penal days appointed you will not extend to twenty-four
hours, but only to twelve. By this expression it is intended to
signify that the pain will be divided, or half the punishment
remitted." This division was never notified to us in an official
form, but there is no reason to suppose that the commissioner would
state an untruth; the less so as he made no secret of the
information, which was known to the whole commission. Nevertheless,
I could not congratulate myself upon it. To my feelings, seven

Book of the day: