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SKETCHBS of CORSICA, in 1823.
[From Benson's Sketches of Corsicu.]
The men of Corsica are in ge- who has not a loaded musket across neral stout and well-formed, rather his shoulders; the shot and amunder the middle size, their com- munition are contained in a leaplexion is swarthy, their hairthern pouch, called “carchera," black, eyes sparkling; their coun- which goes round his waist. A tenances are more often expressive stiletto also is generally concealed of ferocity than of those qualities about the person of a Corsican; that excite our immediate confi- although the French have interdence. The women partake much dicted the wearing of that weapon. of the character of their husbands. There are few peculiarities to be The traveller occasionally meets remarked in the dress of the Corwith handsome females, of very sican women. In the neighbourregular features, but they cannot hood of Ajaccio, I frequently nobe generally called so. They have, ticed them with large, round, straw however, eyes of singular bright- hats, whilst their clothes consisted ness; and long, black, glossy hair of little more than a shift, reaching hanging over a form little encum- hardly below the knees. The bered by artificial decorations. women of the Bastia side of the Their physiognomy is bold, digni- island, as I found afterwards, fied, and even warlike; much more scarcely wear any covering for the expressive of command than of head, but content themselves with submission. As if the human face throwing over it a sort of veil, like adapted itself to the state of society, the Italian pensantry. Corsican Beauty harmonises well The houses of the interior will with the moral and physical con- not bear a comparison with the dition of the island.
humblest cottages in England. The dress of the Corsicans is They consist of four walls, covered very simple, and in the interior, by a rude roof, many having only so uniform, that it affords scarcely one opening, which serves for door, any criterion by which to distin- chimney, and window ; they have guish the rich from the poor. The not usually a second story, and men wear a short jacket, breeches, when they have, you ascend to it and long gaiters, made of a coarse by a ladder, as into an English chocolate-coloured cloth; their hayloft. The first thing that heads are covered, in general, by a strikes the traveller, on entering very neat-pointed black velvet cap, one of the huts, is an immense or by a common coarse woven one heap of chesnuts lying in one corof the same colour as the rest of the These form the chief supdress. Some of the peasantry have port of the hardy Corsicans. They a sort of cowl, called a pelone, are not eaten raw, but reduced which they throw over their heads, into flour; the bread of which is or suffer to hang at the back of termed “pisticcine." It is also their necks. The men, with few formed into various dishes called exceptions, go armed; and you pulenta, brilloli, fritelle, frando, scarcely meet one in the interior, line, &c.
The houses contain stools, quaintances. Each inan seems to benches, and tables of the rudest consider it a duty to bring home as kind; the wood fire, when any much news as he can learn in his fire is wanted, crackles in the cen- rambles, and to communicate it to tre of the room, the smoke issuing his countrymen. where it can ; the huswife, sur- Mothers of families, whose husrounded by her hardy offspring, bands have been assassinated, preattends to the humble domestic serve the dress of the deceased, arrangements, while her lord and until their children grow up to master traverses the mountains manhood, and then show them the with his gun in search of game clothes tinged with the blood of for his family. At night, a small their fathers, and. exhort them to stick of the pinus lariccio often vengeance; and in dispute with serves as a lamp. “ This,” said a others, the latter taunt them if Corsican to me, as he pointed to they have not revenged thematwig that was lying on the ground selves. “ Thus,” adds M. Agosin the forest of Vizzavona, “is tini, “these unhappy children one of our candles.” Such is the have no other alternative, than to simple mode of living that gene- live dishonoured, or to destroy the rally pervades the whole interior murderers of their parents, and of the island.
they rush headlong into crime.” The traveller in Corsica never The moresca, a sort of mock meets with a beggar. If he is fight, is a very favourite spectacle accosted in his road, it is gene- of the Corsicans, and attracts the rally with the question of “What inhabitants from all parts of the news do you bring with you ?" island. In this exhibition, there and others relating to his journey, are challenges, single combats, and his business, &c. Often these a general battle, which ends with inquiries extend beyond the trifles the defeat of the party representthat generally engross conversa- ing the enemy of the nation. tion, even in more civilized coun- The long courtships, that genetries. . The secretary in chief of rally precede the marriages of a the prefect related to us the fol- more civilised people, are here unlowing anecdote:-I was travel- known ; neither is the bridegroom ling in the interior quite incognito; the first proposer
of the union. a peasant came up to me and
The day of marriage of young as usual for news; I told him im- persons is one of great festivity. mediately of the marriages, deaths, In the evening the bride is con&c. that had then lately occurred ducted to the house of her husband, at Ajaccio. The peasant replied, amidst the music of violins and " I don't want to know those mat- cetre, whilst the attendants sing a ters. I wish to be informed what sort of gratulatory epithalamium. the allied sovereigns are now doing The husband comes out of his at Laybach ?” The peasantry ne- house at the sound of the music, ver feel the least abashed; and and amidst the discharge of muswhatever may be the appearance kets, receives the company with of the traveller, they come towards cordiality ; offering honey, fruits, him, rest on their muskets, and wine, and other things, for their begin a conversation as familiarly refreshment. When the married as if the parties were intimate ac- couple are advanced in years, so
that the union is not likely to be with the necessaries of life, that fruitful, the Corsicans conduct love towards each other, which themselves in a totally different springs from a similarity of habits,
Instead of approaching and from a community of interest. the bridegroom's house with in- The education of their children, struments of music, they come is as rude as their mode of life.' then with spades, horns, discor- A few maxims are all the parents dant bells, and make a frightful inculcate into their offspring; they “charivari.” Thus denoting their instruct them to believe in God disapprobation of a marriage which and their religion, but omit the cannot fulfil one of the chief ends Christian precept of the forgivefor which it was destined.
ness of injuries ; on the contrary, The bridegroom so circum- they teach them to revenge
insults. stanced bears this affront with The sons no sooner arrive at the good grace, since the custom is age of puberty, than their parents
buy them arms, or lend them their The Corsican wife is little more own; telling them that being men than the slave and drudge of her and strong as other men, they haughty master. He rides on his ought to see their rights respected. mule, whilst she paces along at These words, engraven on the his side. To the cultivation of heart of the young Corsican, are the plot of ground that surrounds always recurring to his thoughts, his hut the wife has to attend, and frequently lead to the most whilst he smokes his pipe beneath frightful consequences.
What the shady chesnut, or roams about those rights are, does not depend the mountains with his gun and with him upon any dry definitions, dog. But with this dreadful dispa- it is ough that he feels insulted ; rity of condition between the hus- and thus in his own person he band and wife, the latter is seldom often unites the different characcruelly treated, and infidelity to ters of legislator, of judge, and of the marriage contract is very rare. executioner. Children do not meet with equal One of the most imposing reliattention from their parents; the gious fêtes that take place in the sons engrossing nearly all the little island, occurs in Rogation week, property possessed by the family, when the vegetation is in its most whilst a daughter has nothing to vigorous state. At this time, the look forward to in leaving the Corsicans go in procession from home of her father, but to become the parish church of their villages; the slave of her husband.
whilst the smiling appearance
of It is not uncommon to see two their country, the brilliancy of the families dining at the same table, sun, and the freshness of the atand warming themselves at the mosphere invite them to sing the same fire.
praises of the Author of all things. Cousins are frequently brought They march at a slow pace; the up together, loving each other with men separate from the women ; the affection of brothers and sis- the priest in the middle; the chilters; and the grandfather, the dren follow behind the priestchief of the whole family, is some- hood. When the procession is artimes seen surrounded by twenty rived at a point of land which or thirty descendants, possessing, commands the prospect below, the Curé gives his benediction to the consecrated to prayer, and the efcountry around, prays the Almigh- fusion of the tenderest feelings. ty to chain the tempests and tor- On these days, relatives generally rents, the winds and all other na- assemble together; and this union tural causes inimical to the fruits of the different members of a faof the earth, intended for man's mily is considered as a sacred obsubsistence. The congregation, ligation imposed on all. A refuon their knees, listen with pro- sal to attend on such occasions is found attention. As soon as the considered as a denial of their fa. prayers are finished, the procession mily; and produces much injury returns in the same order to the to a man's reputation. At these parish church, where the people festive meetings, the Corsicans arobtain bundles of little wooden range, in general, the marriage of crosses, which they fix separately their daughters, and other family on their lands.
matters; and talk over the poliThe fête-days, in honour of the tics of the island, or of the village patron saint of each village, are in which they are assembled.
following is an account of this decrease until the attainment of strange lusus naturæ, who has been its full stature, which occurred at lately imported for the gratifica- the usual term of life. At that tion of the curiosity of the London period Claude Ambroise Seurat had public.
attained his present height of five The name of the Living Skeleton feet seven inches and a half, when is Claude Ambroise Seurat; he is his frame had dwindled to the livinga native of Troyes, in Champagne, skeleton form it now personifies. was born on the 10th of April, Having been shaved for the pur1798, and is consequently 27 years pose of displaying the formation of of age. The result of an inquiry the skull, in order to prevent the as to whether any object had pre- effect of cold, he wears a wig the sented itself during his mother's colour of his eye-brows, which are pregnancy, to create a fright, was, a dark chesnut brown. The pupils an assurance to the contrary. The of his eyes are large, full, and mother was very short-sighted. penetrating; the whites very clear,
The child, on coming into the and his sight strong; but the upper world, presented the customary lids appear rather to weigh downbaby form, its features being hand- wards, from a laxity of the muscles, some ; but in proportion as the in- added to which there is a glaziness fant grew, the frame gradually in the sight, that conveys a some