Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

66

article which goes under the name of amica mia. You have told himArgenteria in the hapless lodgers' benissimo! and what did he say ?” inventory. Sora Teta had developed “Ah, Teta, if I had but thought of intoa somewhat large woman in these consulting with you first,” said poor years. Her full Roman shoulders, Mariuccia ; " you were always so senalways of ample dimensions, were sible ! but, you see, I have been living

, now fuller than ever, and nothing all by myself at Rocca, thinking it was wanting to make her a personi- over, and thinking it over. And one fication of the national type of wo- would come and say, “ Mariuccia mia, man, but the white national kerchief is not that boy Chichino of yours folded over her breast, wbich would a noble born?' and another would have given a homely dignity and whisper, 'You were at the Agostini stateliness to the famous poise of palace, Mariuccia, that night,' and that bold Roman head. But Sora another, 'He is no villano, yonder Teta was a woman of pretensions, Francisco—he has the air of a prince;' and scorned (except at carnival) the and even Gigi himself, though he dress of the Contadini. So she wore does not trouble his brains too much, a gown like other people, and looked is always talking when he comes only a large woman, stout and strong, from Rome, saying, 'I remember and not without a certain swarthy very well, my mother, waiting for you and dark-complexioned comeliness. with the donkey by the lake-side She was counting out her napkins yonder at Genzaro the night that and tablecloths, which, like herself

, little Chichino came.' Madonna Sanwere rather dark - complexioned, tissima! one and another of them when the objectionable maid admit- they put me out of my head. I could ted Mariuccia. There were no sounds get

no rest with myself till I came in the honse but the fretful bark of a to the child : for I said, “Why should little dog, and Teta's own firm but every one know or guess who he is, heavy footstep- no children : a little save himself ?'" Teta or Cenci in those silent passages Oh, it was very well and very might perhaps have made the Sora right,” said Teta, still with a little Costini more placable towards the pique to find herself forestalled;" and unfortunate maid.

you, to be sure, knew best, and could Mariuccia came in somewhat dis- tell him most; but, blessed Santa comfited and despondent. Her hands Theresa ! how had you the courage ? fell listlessly over her white apron ; - I was afraid." her step was so much less assured “But then I am not so clever as and confident than usual, that the you are, amore mia,” said Mariuccia, Sora Teta expected only a feeble deprecatingly : “I did not think English waiting-maid from her ten- what would happen. I said it out ants on the first floor instead of the of my unfortunate bead, the Madonna peasant woman, whose foot should forgive me ; and to think now that it have sounded 80 much different. was all for nothing, and that all he Mariuccia dropped sadly upon the has gained is harder work and a first seat that happened to be pear

troubled heart. For to be sure he her. “Ah, Teta, I have told him," has no money for a great suit at law. she exclaimed, with a great sigh. Thou wouldest have thought of that, Though there was no preface to con- my Teta, if I had consulted with nect this abrupt statement with any thee!” person in particular, Teta, with all Money !” cried Teta, with a gesher old sharpness, and with wits ture of disdain—" then that is all! quickened by a world of gossip and But what said he to the news ? I much encounter with life, stopping am glad he knows, for my part. It short in her occupation, gazed at is true that very few people know Mariuccia for a moment in surprise, Francisco, but everybody seems to and then leaped at the truth.

have learnt that there is some one at "You have told him!” she cried, Rome who belongs to the Agostini with mingled pique and admiration, family. There is Gaetano, for examyou, Mariuccia! and I myself had ple. "Gaetano came home last week not the courage! Well, that is news, on the day of All Souls, Mariuccia

66

mia. He is with a great English lord, a stiletto would not matter by times, and is going to Naples by-and-by; if the olives always yielded and the and what should Gaetano hear at his vines had no blight. Is the vintage master's table where he was serv- good with you in Rocca, Mariuccia ? ing, but one of the Signori Forestieri How the times are changing! One talking of Donna Anna, and of some could get good wine the other day story of another heir who was lost. for two bajocchi the fogliett, and now Gaetano knows nothing, to be sure, it is five ; and how much more it will but he told it to me; and I desired be before all is done, who can him, · Whatever thou hearest, amico tell ?” mio, about the house of Agostini, * Ah, Teta mia, the times of Gretell it always to me'-and you would gory! these were the times!” said not believe, Mariuccia, how much I Mariuccia—“when no man troubled have heard since. And so you told his head about anything but his him—benissimo! but what did our vines and his olives, and wine was youth say?"

as plentiful as water, and the oil He asked me a great many things,” like honey ; but in these days the said Mariuccia, with despondency, Madonna alone knows what is com"but stopped when he remembered ing to us. No one fasts; there is no that there was no money. And there respect to religion ; the priest passes is no money, Teta, my beautiful! like the beggar, and no man salutes And do you suppose the Duchessa him. When religion fails, everything will yield, or Donna Anna give it all fails; the candles burn few on the up to him? Madonna Santissima! to altars, Teta mia, and the little panetti think that for want of a little money are a bajocco apiece.” so handsome a young man should be “True enough about the panetti," kept out of his inheritance. Though said the better-instructed Roman Gigi would mortgage the vineyard matron, with a toss of her head ; and the garden, and even the little “but as for the preti, bah! Ono house, and I myself take my necklace cannot go through the street without to the Monte, if that were but half stumbling over a monk here and a enough.”

priest there. You should hear what “ Patienza !” said Teta, nodding her Gaetano says. In England there are head;" have thou courage, my friend. no festas but Sundays; think of that, Let this rumour spread, and who my friend ! and one can get one's can tell what friends the blessed work done all the days of the week Madonna may call to him? There without help of St Martino and St is the great English Milord down Michele. There is that woman of in the first piano; he has no one mine, that Maria, she would go to with him but his granddaughter, a mass every morning, and to Pincio pretty little piccola piccola Signorina.every afternoon, if I was fool enough. I have spoken to her now and then. She knows every festa a month off, See, Mariuccia, she is of this height, and would I keep her from the holy and her waist I could hold in my function on the blessed San Martino's hand-a puff of wind off Monte Cavo day? Holy Santa Theresa! the work would blow her away—and yet she must be done in spite of all the has come travelling one cannot tell saints." how many thousand miles. I have “Hush, hush, my beautiful. The spoken of Francisco, and he is paint- Madonna forgive thee, Teta; wouldst ing the little Signorina's portrait. thou speak a word against the Holy The old Milord is very jealous of Saints?" said Mariuccia, in pious her, and will not let the child out of horror. his sight; but trust her to talk with “They are very well in their own her eyes to our Francisco! I will way," said the unscrupulous Teta. tell the little one he is a prince in “I myself sent a candle as long as disguise. The Forestieri like it, Ma- my arm to the shrine of my blessed riuccia mia : they think we Italians patroness Santa Theresa, when Gaelive as in an opera, these Signori tano was last away, and I hope it Inglese. The Madonna and the bless- pleased her. But why my chambers ed saints send we did ! for a stab of should stand unswept while that wo

[ocr errors]

man Maria goes to mass on the festa, other balconies beneath that of Teta, tell me, Mariuccia? Do you suppose where any one listening might indeed Santa Theresa cares whether that have heard the Roman woman's uncreature goes to mass, or loves to subdued voice. see the broom standing in the corner? “ Is it to Donna Anna, then, Bah! I am for the Holy Lord Jesu the Duchessa has been so good a and the Madonna Immaculata. I mother ?” said Teta, scornfully,do not believe so very much, I can “keeping her inheritance so safe for tell you, in either the priests or the her, that the heiress never sets foot saints."

within the palace of the Agostini Mariuccia gave a little gasp, in the either at Genzaro or in Rome ?-or manner of one who would say a great to him whom she sent away under deal, but swallows it in painful self- thy shawl, Mariuccia ?—but patienza! denial and says nothing, and gave a

I had rather do my duty to my chil. most emphatic shake of her head. dren than love the saints: I had “Thy mother thinks otherwise, Teta," rather help Francisco to his right she said, compassionately; "and see than have three masses a-day. _Yes, the Duchessa.

she is very devout, the good Duch“Ah, yes, yes, see the Duchessa !" essa, and such a mother to her cried Teta, with a burst of laughter. son!” “How devout she is! She fasts Mariuccia made no answer ; she twice a-week, and gives tithes of all was discomfited, and had nothing to she has," continued this heretical reply, and indeed felt herself under critic, unconsciously adopting the great doubt for the moment, whether words of Scripture," and fears God, to defend the cause of religion in the thinkest thou not, Mariuccia mia person of the Duchessa, or to abanAh, what a good mother she has don that perplexing subject for the been to her son ! "

more personal one of Francisco. After “Teta, Teta, hold thy peace; some a while she decided prudently on the one will hear thee,” cried Mariuccia, latter course, and the two women rising hastily to close the window, were deep in the discussion of this which overlooked the courtyard, a important and difficult matter, when little square space, sinking deep, a the young Francisco himself, whom well of air, in the centre of the tall curiosity and excitement had driven house, and galleried round with from his easel, entered the house.

VOL. LXXXVIII.-NO, DXXXIX.

Y

GREAT WITS, MAD WITS ?

“Great wits to madness nearly are allied."

a

From the days of Aristotle, and of a scientific volume, by a man not probably long before his time, there wholly without the respect due to an has been a tacit, and often expressed, important position, we

are called belief that, somehow or other, men upon to scrutinise it closely. That of genius were mad, or if not posi- moment has arrived. M. Moreau, tively mad, they were of the temper- physician to the Lunatic Asylum ament which easily leads to madness. (Hospice de Bicêtre), and author of The very fact of their superiority known works on cognate subjects, has seemed to imply a departure from recently issued a large volume,* sethealthy equilibrium. Obviously un- ting forth, as the result of many years' like ordinary men, it was easy to con- study, the proposition that genius is clude that this unlikeness originated due to nervous disease, being only anin insanity: they were looked upon other form of that abnormal condition as “men spired” or madmen; some- of the nervous centres, which elsetimes both. This notion was further where manifests itself as epilepsy, strengthened by certain resemblances monomania, or idiocy.

He has no observed in men of genius and mad- hesitation in declaring that. the men : in both there was a similar physiological history of idiots is, in a excitability and intensity -of excite- multitude of particulars, the same as ment; in both a strangeness and re- that of the majority of men of genius, moteness from ordinary ideas and and vice versa. His arguments and habits ; in both a singularly reliant illustrations are thus summed up: conviction of the truth and practica- “It appears sufficiently established bility of ideas and projects which to that the pre-eminence of the intellecothers seemed wildly chimerical : so tual faculties has for its organic conthat not only have madmen some- dition a special state of disease of the times passed for men of genius, and nervous centres." men of genius have been thought in- If this were a mere paradox, it sane, but with all our experience we should be handled with more finesse often find it impossible to decide and skill than M. Moreau can comwhether an entirely novel plan be mand. If it has to be regarded as the conception of far-seeing genius, a scientific truth, a contribution to or the vision of a diseased brain. our psychology, every experienced The irritability and eccentricity often reader will quickly perceive that M. noticed in illustrious men have been Moreau wants the requisite ability to regarded as indications of incipient treat it properly. The very laxity of insanity. In some notorious cases his ambitious title shows a deplorinsanity has actually declared itself able vagueness in his use of terms. -as in Tasso, among poets;

Newton, There is no more about the “philoamong philosophers; and Peter the sophy of history” in his work, than Great, among statesmen.

there is about international law, So long as this idea of a necessary He is a poor writer, and worse reaconnection between aberration of soner. If we notice his book at all, mind and greatness of mind remained it is for the sake of inducing our a vague and half-believed proposi- readers to come to a definite conclution, which might fill out a verse or sion respecting the vague balf-belief close an epigram, there was no ne- which has so long been tolerated recessity for any serious refutation of specting men of genius. And that it; but the moment it is reduced to we may the more completely extriprecision, and is taken as the thesis cate this subject from the ambiguities

* La Psychologie Morbide, dans ses rapports arec la Philosophie de l'Histoire, ou de l'Influence des Névropathies sur le Dynamisme Intellectuel. Par le Docteur J. Moreau (de Tours). 1859.

[ocr errors]

clustering round the word Genius, M. Moreau argues thus :—Genius so variously and so laxly used by is owing to an unusual activity of various writers, we shall throughout the nervous centres ; insanity is also employ the word as expressive of owing to an unusual activity of intellectual pre-eminence-an energy these centres. But he might as well of the intellectual faculties surpass- argue that a spasm is identical with ing that of ordinary men.

strength, as argue that the activity At the outset we may assume it to of insanity is identical with that be admitted, by all, that these facul- of genius. We are almost ashamed ties are among the functions of the of asking a physician, and one denervous system ; and that their voted to the subject of alienation, energy must necessarily be depen- whether he imagines that any amount dent on the organic condition of that of excitation would raise the brain system. By “organic condition ” is of an ordinary man to the potency meant the more or less perfect struc- of a Shakespeare. Is original conture, and more or less healthy activity stitution nothing ? and will not the of the system. The vital energy of healthy activity of a great mind sura man is dependent on the organic pass the delirious energy of a comcondition of his body; and his mon mind ? M. Moreau knows well mental energy is in like manner de- enough that the excitability of some pendent on the organic condition of idiots greatly exceeds that of the the nervous system. An undeveloped most illustrious men; and this knowbrain will act less vigorously, less ledge should enable him to see that efficiently, than one fully developed; genius must depend on quite other a diseased brain will act less co- conditions than those of mere exherently than one in health. It is citability. Instead of this, he argues indisputable that any hindrance to that because idiots are excitable, the nervous mechanism, arising from therefore they have similar organic congestion, anæmia, lesion, or poison, conditions to those which produce must be a hindrance to its functions. genius. Not so. The difference lies If a piano is out of tune, we know in the organic conditions. The nerthat the strings are slackened. If a vous mechanism is more complex man's thoughts are incoherent, we and more developed in the one case know that there is somewhere—not than in the other; and, being so, primarily, perhaps, in the brain-& its activity is unlike that of the disturbing cause, which affects the other. nervous mechanism.

A reference to the lives of illustriBut in admitting that intellectual ous men would be the first resource energy depends upon the nervous of the inquirer; accordingly, M. mechanism, and that all the forms Moreau has gathered together some of insanity are referrible to organic sixty pages of biographical details to conditions of that system, we cannot prove his hypothesis. This array of for an instant admit that genius and illustrious names will probably iminsanity issue from similar organic pose upon the careless reader; the conditions ; we cannot admit that more so as M. Moreau does not prethe strength and energy of the mind tend that all men of genius are actuare referrible to the same causes as ally mad, but only that their genius its weakness and incoherence. To is founded on a diseased organic consuppose that Shakespeare was nearly dition of the nervous system, similar akin to an inhabitant of Hanwell is to that observed in idiots and madabout as reasonable as to consider men. The purpose of this biographithe Benicia Boy and Tom Sayers cal array is to show that men of pathological cases. The energy of genius have been temporarily insane, genius is strength, not disease. It or subject to hallucinations ; and may, “like vaulting ambition, o'er- when this has not been the case in leap itself.” The intellect may be the men themselves, it has been obovertasked, and succumb; but so served in their relatives. If a man likewise may the athlete overtask of pre-eminent ability comes from a his strength, and come home with a family in which one or more cases of broken back.

epilepsy, hallucination, melancholy,

а

« AnteriorContinuar »