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pardon, sir,” said he, “but I was not aware that so great a per. son as the Signor Lodovico Ariosto was passing near me. My name is Filippo Pacchione ; and when I knew who it was, I could not go on without returning to pay the respect due to so illustrious a name.”
A doubt is thrown on this story, or rather on the particular person who gave occasion to it, by the similarity of an adventure related of Tasso. Both of them, however, are very probable, let the similarity be what it may : for both the poets had occasion to go through disturbed districts; robbers abounded in both their times; and the leaders, being most probably men rather of desperate fortunes than want of knowledge, were likely enough to seize such opportunities of vindicating their better habits, and showing a romantic politeness. The enthusiasm, too, is quite in keeping with the national character ; and it is to be observed that the particulars of Tasso's adventure are different, though the spirit of it is the same. He was journeying, it is said, in company with others, for better security against the banditti who infested the borders of the Papal territory, wher they were told that Sciarra, a famous robber, was at hand in considerable force. Tasso was for pushing on, and defending themselves if attacked; but his opinion was overruled ; and the company threw themselves for safety into the city of Mola. Here Sciarra kept them in a manner blocked up; but hearing that Tasso was among the travellers, he sent him word that he should not only be allowed to pass, but should have safe conduct whithersoever he pleased. The lofty poet, making it a matter of delicacy, perhaps, to waive an advantage of which his company could not partake, declined the offer ; upon which Sciarra sent another message, saying, that, upon the sole account of Tasso, the ways should be left open. And they
We can call to mind no particular German thieves, except those who figure in romances, and in “ The Robbers” of Schiller, To say the truth, we are writing just now with but few books to
refer to ; and the better-informed reader must pardon any deficiencies he meets with in these egregious and furtive memorandums. Of “ The Robbers” of Schiller, an extraordinary effect is related. It is said to have driven a number of wild-headed young Germans upon playing at banditti, not in the bounds of a school or university, but seriously in a forest. The matter-offact spirit in which a German sets about being enthusiastic, is a metaphysical curiosity which modern events render doubly interesting. It is extremely worthy of the attention of those rare personages, entitled reflecting politicians. But we must take care again. It is very inhuman of these politics, that the habit of attending to them, though with the greatest good-will and sincerity, will always be driving a man upon thinking how his fellow-creatures are going on.
There is a pleasant, well-known story of a Prussian thief and Frederick II. [The mention, by the way, of these two personages together, puts us in mind of the Scottish answer to travellers about a mile and a bittock,—the said bittock, or little bit, being perhaps three or four miles in addition.
Reader. There, Mr Indicator, you get upon politics again.
Indicator. But I cannot help it, you know, if past history applies to present events; or at least, if your wicked imagination makes it apply.
Reader. Oh, ho! you have me there.
We forget what was the precise valuable found upon the Prussian soldier, and missed from an image of the Virgin Mary ; but we believe it was a ring. He was tried for sacrilege, and the case appeared clear against him, when he puzzled his Catholic judges by informing them that the fact was, the Virgin Mary had given him that ring. Here was a terrible dilemma. To dispute the possibility, or even probability, of a gift from the Virgin Mary, was to deny their religion ; while, on the other
hånd, to let the fellow escape on the pretence, was to canonise impudence itself. The worthy judges, in their perplexity, applied to the king, who, under the guise of behaving delicately to their faith, was not sorry to have such an opportunity of joking it. His Majesty therefore pronounced, with becoming gravity, that the allegation of the soldier could not but have its due weight with all Catholic believers ; but that in future it was forbidden any Prussian subject, military or civil, to accept a present from the Virgin Mary.
The district formerly rendered famous by the exploits of Scanderbeg, Prince of Epirus, and now become infamous by the tyranny of Ali Bey, has been very fertile in robbers. And no wonder, for a semi-barbarous people so governed become thieves by necessity. The name, indeed, as well as profession, is in such good receipt with an Albanian, that, according to late travellers, it is a common thing for him to begin a story by saying, “When I was a robber" We remember reading of some Albanian or Sclavonian leader of banditti, who made his enemies suppose he had a numerous force with him, by distributing military caps upon the hedges.
There are some other nations who are all thieves, more or less; or comprise such numbers of them as very much militate against the national character. Such are the piratical Malays; the still more infamous Algerines; the mongrel tribes between Arabia and Abyssinia. As to the Arabs, they have a prescriptive right, from tradition as well as local circumstances, to plunder everybody. The sanguinary ruffians of Ashantee and other black empires on the coast of Guinea are more like a government of murderers and ogres than thieves. They are the next ruffians, perhaps, in existence to slave-dealers. The gentlest nation of pilferers are the Otaheiteans; and something is to be said for their irresistible love of hatchets and old nails. Let the European trader, that is without sin, cast the first paragraph at them. Let him think what he should feel inclined to do, were a ship of some unknown nation to come upon his coast, with gold
and jewels lying scattered about the deck. For no less precious is iron to the South Sea Islander. A paradisaical state of existence would be to him, not the golden, but the iron age. An Otaheitean Jupiter would visit his Danaë in a shower of tenpenny nails.
We are now come to a very multitudinous set of candidates for the halter-the thieves of our own beloved country. For what we know of the French thieves is connected with them, excepting Cartouche; and we remember nothing of him, but that he was a great ruffian, and died upon that worse ruffian, the rack.
There is, to be sure, a very eminent instance of a single theft in the “ Confessions of Rousseau ;” and it is the second greatest blot in his book, for he suffered a girl to be charged with and punished for the theft, and maintained the lie to her face, though she was his friend, and appealed to him with tears. But it may be said for him, at any rate, that the world would not have known the story but for himself; and if such a disclosure be regarded by some as an additional offence (which it may be thought by some very delicate as well as dishonest people), we must recollect that it was the object of his book to give a plain, unsophisticated account of a human being's experiences, and that many persons of excellent repute would have been found to have committed actions as bad, had they given accounts of themselves as candid. Dr Johnson was of opinion that all children were thieves and liars ; and somebody, we believe à Scotchman, answered a fond speech about human nature, by exclaiming, that “human nature was a rogue and a vagabond, or so many laws would not have been necessary to restrain it.” We venture to differ, on this occasion, with both Englishman and Scotchman. Laws in particular, taking the bad with the good, are quite as likely to have made rogues as restrained them. But we see, at any rate, what has been suspected of more orthodox persons than Rousseau; to say nothing of less charitable advantages which might be taken of such opinions.
He committed a petty theft ; and miserably did his false shame, the parent of so many crimes, make him act. But he won back to their infants' lips the bosoms of thousands of mothers. He restored to their bereaved and helpless owners thousands of those fountains of health and joy ; and before he is ahused, even for worse things than the theft, let those whose virtue consists in custom think of this.
As we have mixed fictitious with real thieves in this article, in a manner, we fear, somewhat uncritical (and yet the fictions are most likely founded on fact; and the life of a real thief is a kind of droam and romance), we will despatch our fictitious English thieves before we come to the others. And we must make shorter work of it than we intended, or we shall never come to our friend Du Val.
The length to which this article has stretched out, week after week, will be a warning to us how we render our paper liable to be run away with in future.
There is a very fine story of three thieves in Chaucer, which we must tell at large another time. The most prominent of the fabulous thieves in England is that bellipotent and immeasurable wag, Falstaff. If, for a momentary freak, he thought it villainous to steal, at the next moment he thought it villainous not to steal.
“ Hal, I pr’ythee, trouble me no more with vanity. I would to God thou and I knew where a commodity of good names were to be bought. An old lord of the council rated me the other day in the street about you, sir ; but I marked him not. And yet he talked very wisely ; but I regarded him not. And yet he talked wisely; and in the street too.
“P. Henry. Thou didst well; for “Wisdom cries out in the streets, and no man regards it.'
Falstaff. Oh, thou hast damnable iteration ; and art, indeed, able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm upon me, Hal; God forgive thee for it! Before I knew thee, Hal, I knew nothing; and now am I, if a man should speak truly, little better than one of the wicked. I must give over this life, and I