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account of his age and infirmities; and the assertion of Oviedo, that at the time of his death he was quite old (era ya viejo). This fact of the advanced age of Columbus throws quite a new coloring over his character and history. How much more extraordinary is the ardent enthusiasm which sustained him through his long career of solicitation, and the noble pride with which he refused to descend from his dignified demands, and to bargain about his proposition, though life was rapidly wasting in delays. How much more extraordinary is the hardihood with which he undertook repeated voyages into unknown seas, amidst all kinds of perils and hardships; the fortitude with which he bore up against an accumulation of mental and bodily afflictions, enough to have disheartened and destroyed the most youthful and robust, and the irrepressible buoyancy of spirit with which to the last he still rose from under the ruined concerns and disappointed hopes and blasted projects of one enterprise, to launch into another, still more difficult and perilous. We have been accustomed to admire all these things in Columbus when we considered him in the full vigor of his life; how much more are they entitled to our wonder as the achievements of a man whom the weight of years and infirmities was pressing into the grave.
LINEAGE OF COLUMBU’s.
THE ancestry of Christopher Columbus has formed a point of zealous controversy, which is not yet satisfactorily settled. Several honorable families, possessing domains in Placentia, Montferrat, and the different parts of the Genoese territories, claim him as belonging to their houses; and to these has recently been added the noble family of Colombo in Modena.” The natural desire to prove consanguinity with a man of distinguished renown has excited this rivalry ; but it has been heightened, in particular instances, by the hope of succeeding to titles and situations of wealth and honor, when his male line of descendants became extinct. The investigation is involved in particular obscurity, as even his immediate relatives appear to have been in ignorance on the subject.
Fernando Columbus in his biography of the Admiral, after a pompous prelude, in which he attempts to throw a vague and cloudy magnificence about the origin of his father, notices slightly the attempts of some to obscure his fame, by making him a native of various small and insignificant villages; and dwells with more complacency upon others who make him a native of places in which there were persons of much honor of the name, and many sepulchral monuments
with arms and epitaphs of the Colombos. He relates his having himself gone to the castle of Cucureo, to visit two brothers of the family of Colombo, who were rich and noble, the youngest of whom was above one hundred years of age, and who he had heard were relatives of his father; but they could give him no information upon the subject; whereupon he breaks forth into his professed contempt for these adventitious claims, declaring that he thinks it better to content himself with dating from the glory of the Admiral, than to go about inquiring whether his father “were a merchant, or one who kept his hawks” ”; since, adds he, of persons of similar pursuits, there are thousands who die every day, whose memory, even among their own neighbors and relatives, perishes immediately, without its being possible afterwards to ascertain even whether they existed. After this, and a few more expressions of similar disdain for these empty distinctions, he indulges in vehement abuse of Agostino Giustiniani, whom he calls a false historian, an inconsiderate, partial, or malignant compatriot, for having in his psalter traduced his father, by saying that in his youth he had been employed in mechanical occupations. As after all this discussion Fernando leaves the question of his father's parentage in all its original obscurity, yet appears inritably sensitive to any derogatory suggestions of others, his whole evidence tends to the conviction that he really knew nothing to boast of in his ancestry. Of the nobility and antiquity of the Colombo family of which the Admiral probably was a remote descendant, we have some account in Herrera. “We learn, he says, “that the Emperor Otto the Second, in 940, confirmed to the counts Pietro, Giovanni, and Alexandro Colombo, brothers, the feudatory possessions which they held within the jurisdiction of the cities of Ayqui, Savona, Aste, Montferrat, Turin, Viceli, Parma, Cremona, and Bergamo, and all others which they held in Italy. It appears that the Colombos of Cuccaro, Cucureo, and Placentia were the same, and that the Emperor in the same year, 940, made donation to the said three brothers of the castles of Cuccaro, Conzano, Rosignano, and others, and of the fourth part of Bistanio, which appertained to the empire.* One of the boldest attempts of these biographers bent on ennobling Columbus, has been to make him son of the Lord of Cuccaro, a burgh of Montferrat, in Piedmont, and to prove that he was born in his father's castle at that place; whence he and his brothers eloped at an early age and never returned.
* Literally, in the original, Cazador de Volateria, a Falconer. Hawking was in those days an amusement of the highest classes;
and to keep hawks was almost a sign of nobility. vol. v.-ro
This was asserted in course of a process brought by a certain Baldasser or Balthazar Colombo, resident of Genoa, but originally of Cuccaro, claiming the title and estates on the death of Diego Colon, Duke of Veragua, in 1578, the great-grandson and last legitimate male descendant of the Admiral. The Council of the Indies decided against this claim to relationship. Some account of the lawsuit will be found in another part of the work. This romantic story, like all others of the nobility of his parentage, is at utter variance with the subsequent events of his life, his long struggles with indigence and obscurity, and the difficulties he endured from the want of family connections. How can it be pelieved, says Bossi, that this same man, who in his most cruel adversities was incessantly taunted by his enemies with the obscurity of his birth, should not reply to this reproach by declaring his origin, if he were really descended from the lords of Cuccaro, Conzano, and Rosignano? a circumstance which would have obtained him the highest credit with the Spanish nobility.” The different families of Colombo which lay claim to the great navigator seem to be various branches of one tree, and there is little doubt of his appertaining remotely to the same respectable stock. It appears evident however that Columbus sprang
* Dissertation, etc.