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It is impossible to contemplate this picture, of which the few extracts we have been able to make will afford a very faint outline, without feelings of the most poignant regret.
A country possessing the fairest climate, and most fertile soil under the sun--- with every local advantage for carrying on an extensive and flourishing commerce-protected by its insular situation from the ravages of war-and containing a population endued with active and enterprizing spirits; instead of profiting, by these fine advantages, is sinking gradually into a state of the most abject wretchedness-its fields uncultivated-its marshes undrained, and left to spread disease and misery around them continual famines, of late years more frequently recurring-dependent on foreign aid for funds for the support of its government and protection from its enemies--and the whole people a prey to a bigoted priesthood, rapacious and corrupt judicatures, and the cupidity and licentiousness of the nobility. Such are some of the evils by which this island is afflicted, and for which the only cure appears to be the introduction of a system of universal education and a free press. The last of these expedients, as it is of easy and quick application, so we doubt not would be found productive of the most signal and extensive benefits. At least the experiment is worth trying. The age is become far too enlightened, and the state of this country offers far too striking a contradiction, to admit of its being now urged, that there is any necessary connection between a revolution and a free press : the contrary is obviously the true view of the case : where there is good government there is no danger of revolution : and there is no method so steady and certain of ensuring good government, as by sécuring the freedom of the press. At all events that some, relaxation in the case of Sicily should be made, we think the representation given by our author of the present state of it, will abundantly shew.
• There is,' (says he in a note) 'a Censore appointed by the Court in each of the principal cities, through whose hands every thing in. tended for publication must go ; these gentlemen are of course invariably selected from the priesthood, nor do I know of one of them who possesses any talents. I have seen the most beautiful specimens of poetical composition rejected by them; indeed it very seldom happens that they sanction the publication of any thing that has the most distant tendency to political discussion, which is one reason why none of the literati will submit their works for inspection. This accounts for the innumerable manus
uscripts that remain on the shelves of all the learned.' Vol. I.
358. To give full effect to this barbaric exclusion of all enlightened sentiments, another step was necessary—that of preventing the introduction of all books printed out of the island : and this measure has been adopted and ar ri ed into execution with anparently as successful rigour as the previous restrictions on, the press itself.
In a recent instance,' (says our author) 'the only spirited bookseller in Palermo, Mr. Abbate went to the continent and made a large collection of French and German literature, at a very heavy
On his return here, the catalogue was enquired for, he produced it; and on being read by what is called the Censore, suveral thousand volumes, including the works of Voltaire, Rousseau, D'Alembert, and many others, were seized, and forthwith deposited in a convent, where they have remained ever since open to the friars. Every application on the part of the bookseller to recover his property has failed.
• The scarcity of English works here' (he continues) is hardly to be credited ; this was strikingly exhibited a few days ago. When it was in agitation to form the present ministry, who, as a proof of their friendly disposition towards the people, declared their determination of giving them an English constitution ; one difficulty was, however, completely, overlooked. On examining all the libraries of Palermo, an abundance of law writers from Quinctilian down to the Pére Matthieu, was found, but it was in vain they sought for the one absolutely necessary to give any idea of our code. The ambassador's house was searched with equal success; at the secretary of legation's it was in vain to look for law books ; in fact there was not to be found in the capital of Sicily a single edition of Blackstone's Commentaries! It will therefore be necessary to wait the return of a packet from England before the new arrangements are finally made. Should any work be sent here that professes to expose the people's sufferings, it is suppressed with the utmost assiduity, and attended 'with the most fulminating anathemas. Mr. Leckie's admirable exposition of the island's situation is not to be procured for any consideration. I do not even think that excellent production is in pos.. session of many to whom a knowledge of its contents is really necessary so as to enable them to form any judgement of the true state Sicily.
• These and a thousand other considerations might be mentioned; amongst the rest, figure to yourself a population of near two millions, without there being a single newspaper or periodical print published, to inform them of their situation, or how things are passing.' Vol. 1. pp. 357-360.
The last letter this volume contains, is occupied by a very interesting, and so far as we are able to judge, impartial account of the recent politics of Sicily, and the reciprocal conduct of the government of that country and our own towards each other, As the principal features contained in this narrative are in general well known, and we have already dealt so freely with our author's work, we shall confine ourselves to the selection, of such of those incidents as have hitherto met with a less ge neral circulation,
Ever since the expulsion of the present reigning family from Sicily, the object of the Court has been to regain possession of Naples, the antient seat of their inonarchy; and to this it is that all the intrigues, for which this country has paid so dear, have tended. Under the auspices and almost exclusively at the expence of England, a variety of expeditions have at intervals been fitted out for the invasion and reconquest of the Neapolitan territory, but all of them, either from want of skill and confidence among the different commanders, or want of heartiness in the cause, entirely failed ; leaving us, as the only consolation for the enormous expenditure which they occasioned, the satisfactory knowledge that they were almost entirely bloodless. In the mind of the queen, the only sentiment that was produced by the discomfiture of these plans, was that of indignation and contempt towards her good allies. And for this sentiment, however humiliating the acknowledgement may be, we confess there appears to have been some reason,-not however so much on account of the failure of the projects, as on account of any such projects having been formed. The only conceivable policy by which the British government ought in justice to have been actuated, in the present burdened state of the people of this country, in attempting to re-instate upon the throne of Naples, the expelled family, was that of its weakening the enemy in some proportion to the expence incurred, and rendering him less able, in other parts of the world, to carry into effect his hostile designs. Supposing this calculation to have been made, and the result to be in the affirmative, a very material consideration would then arise, whether, after the conquest was effected, there was any just ground for supposing that the fidelity of our ally was such, as to warrant us to expect from it any permanent benefit. We will hear what Mr. Leckie says on the conduct of Sicily.
When hostilities began in 1803, the British made a treaty of alliance with the court of Naples, and a half subsidy of one hun. « dred and fifty thousand pounds a year was granted to that govern
ment, to take a part in the war with Britain, then in alliance with • Russia and Austria. No sooner was this treaty signed, and the • conditions entered upon, than the French marched into the king• dom of Naples, and occupied the coast from Manfredonia to Tar• ranto. As the Neapolitan government, (our allies) had no force
to repel this invasion, it was obliged to submit, and the subsidy « paid by Britain for its co operation was thus transformed into a • tribute for the French; bills were drawn at Naples on England, • and we are informed that the court of Naples gave an order on
the British agent to pay the money direct into the hands of the • banker for the French, so that the British government actually sub• şidized a body of French troops destined to defend the country
against themselves ; and in 1805 doubled the subsidy during these « circumstances.'
If this statement be true, and we have never heard it contradicted, and the British government were acquainted with it, as they ought to have been, we think there was sufficient ground to pause before we staked any considerable quantity of blood and treasure in the support of such an alty. But, be this as it may, our generous efforts, and forbearance to interfere with the internal government of the country, remained unaltered till the recall of our ambassador who was replaced by Lord William Bentinck. The people of Sicily seem to have entertained pretty just views of the interests of their country. The change of ambassadors, under the idea that it would be followed by a change of measures, produced the most lively joy, followed, however, by corresponding grief when it was discovered that the old system was to be persisted in: 'it operated' (says our author) like electricity on thousands; and many who had hitherto attributed our forbearance to motives of delicacy, were now the most vociferous in upbraiding us with pusillanimity and weakness. In the mean time, the intrigues of the Queen for bringing over the Neapolitans, for which our subsidies were employed, and, by the help of her former subjects, expelling the British from the island, were completely frustrated ; and our ambassador assuming a tone of vigour that had too long been forborne, succeeded in procuring a change of ministry; the king most ungraciously submitting to part with his old servants, who had been decidedly hostile to the English, and who on that account, on their retirement from office received public testimonials of the approbation of their sovereign.
Before this point, however, was accomplished, all that portion of the people who had no sinister interests to gratify, by the continuance of the existing abuses, observing the feeble and paltry trimming policy that we pursued, became as thoroughly disgusted with us as with their own ministry, and lost no opportunity of expressing their contempt of our conduct; although from the fettered state of the press, the only evidence we have of these feelings is the language current among the populace, of which our author gives the following account.
• During the interval (he says) which elapsed between the hereditary Prince's appointment to be vicar-general, and the change of ministry, the court party did not for a moment despair of ultimate success: one personage in particular, was often heard to exclaim, • Non sono morta ancora,' and the Neapolitans in addressing their frends, observed · Avete pasienza altri due mesi.' The Sicilians, on
* Leckie's Historical Survey of the affairs Great Britain, pp. 598,599. the other hand did not fail to circulate a variety of odd sayings re flecting upon our indecisive and unaccountable 'tardiness; the little boys in the streets used to say, wait a little, every thing will be done bye and bye! The sayings of the nobility even much more sarcastic. Alluding to Lord William's return home, the following pointed expression was in the mouth of every one. • Iste benisti, e casa fucesti ?' The country people also, made use of another curious expression, • Mastre di capella e novu, ma la musica è la stissa.' These things are important, as far as they shew that the peopie, in every country, have their notions of political propriety; and those of such a nature, in general, as to accord with the soundest policy.' Vol. I. p. 579.
What may be the effect of this change, and the consequences to which it has led, remains to be seen, but we cannot quit this subject without noticing what is said by our author relative to the state of our diplomatic system. After enumerating the several ambassadors that have from time to time been sent to Sicily, he adds:
• Before I leave this subject, it is necessary to inform you that it has been customary for every new ambassador to bring out a fresh secretary of legation, an appointment to which there is a very handsome salary attached : and, as appears from what I have related, the person filling this office has been called upon to execute the functions of our ambassadors, during the most difficult epochs of his Britannic Majesty's relation with this Court. I will put it to your candour and good sense, whether this mode of nominating an embassy almost every year to such a court, and selecting persons gene. rally inexperienced in diplomacy, but invariably unacquainted with the court of Sicily, to compose it, was likely to produce any favoura able consequences ? Passing over a number of other circumstances which are omitted from motives of personal delicacy to those concerned, I have not the smallest hesitation in giving it as my opinion, that the greatest part of those indignities and annoyances experienced by the British Government from that of his Sicilian Majesty, have originated in the numerous imperfections and defects of our diplomatio system. Vol. I. pp. 600, 601,
In our next number, we hope to accompany our author through the remaining portion of his Mediterranean tour.
Art. Il. The Year, a Poem.---By John Bidlake, D.D. of Christ
Church, Oxford, Chaplain to their Royal Highnesses, the Prince Regent and the Duke of Clarence. 8vo. pp. 236. Price 10s. 6er
Rees, Pall Mall, 1813, DESCRIPTIVE poetry, minutely descriptive, is the fashion
of the day. We are glad of it ;---and for one reason, because it shews that our poets have retired from the town and the court, to the life most favourable for poetry. It is in the solitudes of Cumberland or Caernarvon, among tufted woods and