Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

The uncommon vigour of her appearance induced me to hint my suspicions that her age was not so advanced as she pretended-suspicions which she received evidently more as a compliment than a reproach ; but upon farther inquiry I learned that her story was literally true: she baving been born on the 17th of November, 1714. She was the daughter of Claude and Elizabeth Thomas, little farmers, whose situation in the world was by no means such as to exempt her from its roughest rubs. It is somewhat singular that she has a sister still (1819) living, aged 98, and who promises to rival herself in the pertinacity with which she sticks to life. To encounter “fortune's buffets," she brought into the field a strong muscular frame, a heart little troubled with the tender susceptibilities of sex, and a disposition to gaiety and cheerfulness which was not to be disturbed. For the first thirty-eight years of her life she held the blind God successfully at arm's length; but then, as she herself said, “ being tired of waiting for a husband, she followed the prudent example of Mahomet, and finding that the mountain would not come to her, quietly went to the mountain. In plain English she determined, as no one chose her for a wife, that she would choose some one for a husband.

When a person can choose for himself, he generally acts as if sworn at Highgate ; and Miss Thomas, notwithstanding her thirty-eight years, selected a lad of fourteen. What, however, may be thought extraordinary, on her marriage she immediately sent the youth to Turin to learn the business of a cook; and, dressing herself as a man, entered the service of the Princess Triulzi, in the laborious employment of courier. Her disguise had the usual effect of placing her in equivocal situations; and malice, or vanity, made her give so much “ of uneasiness” to a “ worthyhusband in the prince's family, as produced a horrible scandal. To avoid a disgraceful dismissal from her service, and the loss of her “ fair friend's” character, she was obliged to confess her sex, and re-assume her woman's attire.

After this she passed through various services in an employment little favourable to long life,—that, namely, of a cook: in which department of science, if her boastings were not wholly vainglorious, she attained to considerable renown.

E le pietanze suoe furo applaudite
Da

persone gentili e reverite. Following the usual course of preferment in her profession, she finally became innkeeper at Lans-le-burg. Her first husband having died at the age of nineteen, without having entered on his marital rights, she shortly afterwards married in real earnest (sero sed serio) a young man of twenty-five, who was her ostler. This stable connexion was formed at the mature age of forty-eight, and it lasted uninterrupted for thirteen years, (though, as may be supposed, without issue,) when her husband, to preserve, as I imagine, the dramatic unity of his life, was thrown from his horse, and broke his neck.

The grief of La donna on this occasion was not so great as to deprive her of all resource; and though she did not a third time seek a partner of her labours, she continued in the arduous avocation of innkeeper, in that elevated region of all but eternal snows, till the year 1815; when her house was burned by a fire, which consumed her whole property, occasioning a loss of fifteen thousand livres. From this fire,

cause

which she attributes to the revenge of a party of Austrian soldiers, at the age of 101 years, she escaped in her shift ; saving only from the flames herself and her coffee-mill. In this destitute condition, undaunted by calamity, or the advanced period of her life, she undertook and accomplished a pedestrian journey across the mountain to Turin, in order to present herself to the King of Sardinia, from whose bounty she obtained a small pension; on which (with the donations of travellers) she lives, as she says, contented and happy ; eating with a good appetite, walking erect and firm, and not having lost a tooth. She is still fond of dancing, and, as she said, passed an entire night, during the Carnival of 1817, in that fatiguing, though exhilarating, exercise. If what the poet says be true, that “non est vivere sed valere vita,” this lady, in her cruda viridisque senectus," seems to have carried the palm of longevity from all former pretenders. If any of your readers, Mr. Editor, of macrobiotic tendencies, counting on her example, should wish to try the virtues of the Lans-le-burg air, I can assure them that they will find there a neat little inn, kept by a neat little English woman; but, if they will take my advice, they will take shelter there for the night only, and hasten forward to the smiling plains of Lombardy, even at the risk of not equalling in years, La donna de cento quattr'anni,

M.

STANZAS
Supposed to have been written by Lord Fitzgerald

on the Night of his being arrested.
OH! Ireland, my country! the hour

Of thy pride and thy splendour hath pass’d
And the chain which was spurn’d in thy moment of power

Hangs heavy around thee at last.
There are marks in the fate of each clime,

There are turns in the fortunes of men;
But the changes of realms or the chances of time

Shall never restore thee again.
Thou art chaip'd to the wheel of the foe

By links which the world shall not sever;
With thy tyrants through storm and through calm thou shalt go,

And thy sentence is bondage for ever.
Thou art doom'd for the thankless to toil;

Thou art left for the proud to disdain ;
And the blood of thy sons, and the wealth of thy soil

Shall be wasted--and wasted in vain !
Thy riches with taunts shall be taken;

Thy valour with coldness repaid ;
And of millions who see thee thus sunk and forsaken

Not one shall stand forth in thine aid.
In the nations thy place is left void;

Thou art lost in the list of the free:
Even realms by the plague and the earthquake destroy'd
May revive—but no hope is for thee.

F.

PRINCE CARLOS OF SPAIN AND HIS FATHER PHILIP 11.*

Thus surrounded by his father's spies, and checked by his secret influence while he seemed to grant him the most unbounded liberty, the weak and irritable mind of Carlos appears to have been constantly beset with ideas of danger to himself, and vague notions of revenge upon the immediate instruments of his unhappiness. Having read the history of a bishop who escaped from prison by striking the jailor with a large brick which he had bound in leather so as to resemble the Breviary or Prayer Book, Carlos ordered De Foix to bind twelve slates in steel boards ornamented with gold. The volume thus contrived was six inches by four, and exceeding fourteen pounds in weight. That great architect and mechanician was also employed in fixing a nightbolt on the door of the Prince's bedchamber, which could be drawn in and out from the bed; for, contrary to the rules of the Spanish court, Carlos would not trust his safety to the guard which stood before the apartments, day and night.

It has been generally asserted that Carlos meditated his father's destruction. De Thou accuses him of that horrid design, and Llorente affirms that it is one of the charges substantiated against the Spanish prince in the written process conducted by the secret tribunal which Philip appointed for the trial of his son. The latter writer is, however, silent as to the proofs which support the charge. Cabrera, who, though very young at the time of the Prince's death, was an inmate at the palace, and compiled the account of the whole transaction from the verbal narrative of his father, an old servant in the confidence of the King's favourite ministers, positively acquits Carlos of any parricidal views. “ Had the Prince been disposed to kill his father," says that historian," he had a daily opportunity of executing his purpose. But such a design was never known to his most intimate confidants." These confidants, on whose silence Cabrera so absolutely depends, must have been the spies employed by his father to worm themselves into Carlos's friendship, or the inference in favour of the Prince's innocence would be absurd. If a public declaration of Philip himself could be trusted, Carlos would stand acquitted ; for in a letter to the Empress his sister, the Spanish king declares that his determination to confine his son is not founded on any “offence or disrespectful act of the Prince.” | But Philip's dispatches are couched in the obscurest language; and it would be, in fact, as difficult to come at his real meaning through his words, as to his true feelings through his actions.I

Concluded from page 236. + « El fundamento desta mi determinacion no depende de culpa, ni desacato." Cabrera ubi supra.

1 Our readers will, we hope, excuse us for lengthening this article with the insertion of a curious specimen of the language which Philip II. approved of from his subjects. It is an original letter from the town corporation of Murcia, which Mr. Llorente has seen with a note in the King's own hand, in these words: “ Esta carta está escrita con prudencia y reserva :"_This letter is written with prudence and

It is in answer to the circular communicating the arrest of Prince Carlos. We shall give it in Mr. Llorente's French translation :

“ Sacrée, Catholique et royale Majesté : “ La municipalité de Murcie a reçu la lettre que Votre Majesté lui a écrite, et'y a vu ce qu'elle a determiné relativement à la reclusion de notre Prince. La muni

reserve.

Among the unpublished documents examined by Mr. Llorente there is a manuscript attributed to the Prince's porter, containing an account of the last period of Carlos's life. On the authenticity of the original manuscript we will not allow ourselves to cast any doubt ; though we will not pin our faith on a paper of this nature, when we find it preserved in the archives of the Spanish secretary of state's office. The porter's narrative, however, bears internal evidence of its being a paper written about the time of the Prince's death; and it may have been compiled by a man in the situation attributed to the nameless author. But it is clear from the context * that he mixed in his account the little he saw with much of the servants-hall news of the day, and was extremely anxious to represent the whole transaction so as to make his narrative an indirect refutation of the reports then afloat against Philip.

With the improbable statements of the manuscript we do not hesitate to class the avowal of Carlos to the Prior of Atocha, that he had his mind wholly bent upon killing his father. Yet the scene disclosed by the credible part of the porter's narrative appears to us so curious, that, in justice to our subject, we must lay it before the reader.

About Christmas of 1567, a year before the imprisonment of Carlos, his conscience was greatly harassed by the approach of a day when it was the established custom of the royal family to receive the sacrament. The spirit of revenge which he harboured and cherished, made him unfit for that sacred ceremony. Absolution from the priest, he well knew, could not release him from guilt while thirsting for the blood of his enemies; and partaking of the body of Christ in that state of mind would, he feared, seal up his reprobation. In this pitiable frame he had recourse to some expedients, which, absurd as they must appear to us, are still employed in Spain under various modifications. He first applied to his usual confessor, in hopes that, through some loop-hole of casuistry, he might be allowed the comfort of absolution. But Carlos had not yet ascended the throne, and the divine was inflexible. This fruitless application had been made by the young prince in the convent of Saint Jerom, the evening before the day appointed for the communion.

cipalité baise mille fois les pieds de V. M. pour la faveur insigne qu'elle lui a faite de l'instruire en particulier de cet événement; elle est pleinement persuadée que les raisons et les motifs qui ont guidé V. M. ont été si importans et tellement commandés par le bien public, qu'elle n'a pu faire autrement. Votre Majesté a si bien gouverné son royaume, elle a maintenu ses sujets dans un tel état de paix, elle a donné un si grand accroissement à la religion, qu'il est naturel qu'on juge que dans une affaire qui la touche de si prés elle ne s'est determinée à cette nouvelle mesure que parce qu'elle a eu pour objet le service de Dieu et le bien général de tout son peuple. Cette ville ne peut cependant pas s'empêcher d'eprouver une douleur véritable de voir l'importance des causes qui ont donné ce nouveau chagrin a V. M.; elle ne peut penser sans attendrissement qu'elle a un roi et un souverain assez juste et assez attaché au bien universel de son royaume, pour le mettre avant tout et lui faire oublier le tendre attachement qu'il a pour son propre fils. Une preuve si éclatante de cet amour doit obliger les sujets de V. M. à lui témoigner leur reconnaissance par leur soumission et leur fidelité : cette ville, qui s'est tonjours distinguée par son zèle, doit dans ce moment en donner une plus grande preuve en s'empressant d'obeir à tout ce qu'il plaira à V. M. d'ordonner.” This inimitable specimen of ingenious servility is dated the 16th of February 1568.

The whole MS. has been published in French by Mr. Llorente, in lis Ilistoire Critique de l'Inquisition d'Espagne, v. III. p. 151. 2d. Ed.

VOL. V. NO. XXII.

2 A

Hoping to find some other confessor more ready to gratify his wishes, Carlos sent the author of the narrative with a fellow-servant, in his carriage, to fetch two monks from the neighbouring convent of Atocha. The opinions of the new comers being in perfect accordance with those of the confessor, Carlos successively sent for fourteen monks, one of whom was the prior of the convent.

From the nature of the consultation, it is extremely improbable that the prince's attendants could hear the whole discussion as the porter pretends. Yet he says that the Prince expressed his determination of killing a certain person : that the prior, taking Carlos apart, entreated him to state the name and quality of the intended victim, as that might so alter the nature of the case as to enable the confessor to grant him absolution : that, deceived by this hope, the Prince declared it was his own father. The secret being thus extorted, and absolution finally denied, Carlos begged to be saved the crime of sacrilege, by having an unconsecrated bost delivered to him on the morrow.

That such a report was rumoured and allowed to spread by Philip appears to us very probable.* Having, by the means we shall presently state, got rid of his son, whose restlessness and ambition kept his timorous mind in constant apprehension, it seems from every thing we observe in his conduct, that his desire was to allow the most vague and indefinite suspicions of crime to settle on the memory of Carlos; while, on the other hand, the suppression of all authentic documents, and the honours of the Prince's funeral, were intended to give himself the appearance of a loving though cruelly injured father. But we cannot believe that the man, who, during the long imprisonment of his son, had not the courage to venture out of the palace, and would start in terror at any uncommon sound or noiset, would have allowed Carlos his liberty for a whole year, after the scene at the convent of Saint Jerom, had he been informed of the Prince's designs against his life. We do not question, however, the fact of a consultation of divines having been held at Saint Jerom’s by the Prince's desire. Cases of similar distress in young penitents are very common in Catholic countries; and though none but a Prince can enjoy the luxury of collecting fourteen doctors of the church to debate on the state of his conscience, many apply to no less a number in succession before they can obtain absolution. If Carlos's unfitness for that rite did not arise from a softer passion than that of revenge, which is the common source of difficulties at the confessional, we should be inclined to believe Cabrera, who makes Gomez de Silva the pointed object of Carlos's hatred. feel confident that the porter's narrative is false and absurd, as far as it relates to the subject of the conference at the convent of St. Jerom.

Were we disposed to give credit to the report of the mutual passion

But we

* The most active and violent partizans of Philip's tyranny were the chief instruments in spreading the report of an intended parricide. A Flemish Jesuit, named Opmeere, carried his industry so far in search of proofs of the criminal intentions of Prince Carlos, that he found them clearly prophesied by Ovid in the line

Filius ante diem patrios inquirit in annos. It is curious enough that the numeral letters of the line should make up the number 1562, the year of Carlos's imprisonment and death ; yet such a strange coincidence appears to us less surprising than the temper and habits of the man who could succeed in finding a prediction of this kind.

+ Cabrera, Hist. of Philip II. ubi supra.

« AnteriorContinuar »