Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

make his compliment to the great men; on which Mynheer Doeff immediately bent his body into a right angle, and with his arms dangling to the ground, remained in that posture a considerable length of time, when turning himself half round, he whispered to the interpreter, Kan ik wederom opstaan? May I now stand upright? The same compliment was again required on their departure, when a Baron Pabst, who had visited Japan out of curiosity, disgusted with such humiliating conduct, stole out of the cabin; one of the vigilant interpreters, however, perceiving it, called after him, ' Aha, Mynheer Pabst, you must not go away until you have paid your compliments to the great men!

The Russians were not allowed to purchase the minutest trifle, not even provisions, which the Japanese supplied them with in daily rations. One day, however, they were left without their allowance, and on complaining of this neglect, the interpreter very coolly told them that • Prince Tchingodsi had arrived in the morning, and it was necessary to prepare for his reception :'--but even this excuse, insulting as it was, turned out to be a falsehood. In short, their whole conduct is so precisely formed on that of their prototype the Chinese, that we deem it unnecessary to follow Doctor Langsdorff through his details of the grievances of which he justly complains.

The ambassador did indeed resist the demand made upon him to kneel to the governor and the great man dispatched from Jeddo, but as they would neither suffer him to sit on a chair nor stand upright, he consented to lie down with his feet stretched out sideways. The most remarkable thing was, that the fronts of all the houses, in all the streets through which they passed, were covered with hangings of cloth or straw mats, so that, says the doctor, ( we could see nothing of the houses or the people, nor could they see any thing of us : here and there only we saw a head, urged by irresistible curiosity, peeping from behind the hangings ;' and the reason assigned was, that the common people might be kept off, since they were not worthy to see so great a man as the Russian ambassador face to face.'

In their voyage to the northward, along the coast of Saghalien or Tchoka, we have nothing in the doctor's account of it that can interest or instruct. His volume terminates with their arrival at Kamtschatka, whence he proceeded over land to St. Petersburgh. The picture drawn by Captain Krusenstern of this distant Russian settlemeut is a very gloomy one. All its bays are forlorn and forsaken ; the shores strewed with stinking fish, cast up by the sea, and the only inhabitants, troops of half starved dogs wallowing among them and tighting for the unsavoury morsel. Even

the

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

the beautiful harbour of St. Peter and St. Paul is unenlivened by a single boat.

• It is in vain that you look round, on landing, for even one well built house: in vain does the eye seek a road, or even a beaten path, along which a person may walk in safety to the town : no garden, no plantation, no inclosure of any kind, indicative of the least cultivation.. A few huts, mostly in a decayed state; five or six cows feeding in the vicinity of the houses, and innumerable dogs lying about in holes which they dig as a shelter against the flies, rendering it, if not impossible, at least extremely dangerous, to walk after dark, are the only objects at St. Peter and St. Paul.'

Such is the miserable condition of the principal seat of a settlement formed more than a hundred years ago. But the government has been more in fault than the climate or the soil. A journey to Kamtschatka was a sort of punishment for military officers whose conduct had not been strictly correct. This marked degradation had rarely the effect of amending the conduct of those who were condemned to suffer it. Separated from his friends and from civilized society, with very little hope of returning to either-disgusted with the world, and dissatisfied with himself--now become the petty tyrant of a country of savages—he descended, by no imperceptible steps, to the condition nearly of those over whom he was placed. The usual resource of a person thus circumstanced, whose mind was, perhaps, originally not too well stored with knowledge, was that of drinking spirituous liquors; and it is a fact mentioned by Krusenstern, that almost the only cargoes for which merchants have met with a ready and certain market, are those of this destructive beverage. That wretched system is, however, now changed, and instead of men being driven by disgrace and despair to become savages, they are encouraged to make savages become men.The progress, however, is likely to be slow; and the absence of any rival power in the neighbourhood is not calculated to quicken it. Russia, indeed, has so many more alluring objects to attract her attention, that the dreary and distant regions of Siberia and Kamtschatka can only hope to excite a very small portion of interest. But if any fortunate turn of affairs should give a stimulus to investigation and settlement in those quarters, we have little doubt that the Japanese themselves will ultimately fall under the sceptre of the Tzars; and, rising from their present state of political debasement, become, in some measure, to the eastein continent of Asia what the British islands are to Europe.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ART. XII. Istorie Fiorentine di Giovanni Villani, Cittadino

Piorentino. The Florentine Histories of Giovanni Villani, a

Citizen of Florence, to the year 1348. Milan, 1802. 8 toms. IT is not long since the

perusa! of a very able work of M. Sismondi, on the Italian Republics of the middle ages, induced us to

express a wish that it might be the means of bringing us better acquainted with the early historians of the Italiau nation than we have hitherto been. So full of interest and variety is the subject of their narratives, and so estimable, for the most part, are the authors themselves for all the more entinent qualities of historical excellence, and for the attainment of political and philosophical science, far beyond the level of their contemporaries in the other countries of Europe, that we could not, indeed, avoid feeling some surprise at the obscurity in which both the writers and their works are involved, and the ignorance which appears to prevail even among well informed persons respecting them. Perhaps, however, this feeling was a little unreasonable. The transactions of their own ancestors must be allowed to be more laudable objects of interest, tò Englishmen, than those of any foreign nations:

: yet, before the translation of his chronicle by Mr. Johnes, Froissart, that most amusing recorder of the proudest portion of our annals, was known to hardly any but the few fortunate possessors of a Pynson's or Myddleton's Lord Berners. The resurrection of Hall and Holiushed from the entombment of a public library, is an event of yet later occurrence; and, even now, while every day teems with new impressions of Hume and Smollett, Henry and Andrews, nobody seems to care how long the obscurity of a dead language shall continue to cover the venerable forms of our old monkish chroniclers, those authentic and amusing relators of passing occurrences, who carry their reader back with thein, by an irresistible spell, to the days in which they lived, and among the scenes and persons which they describe. Since then the taste for deriving our knowledge, even of the early history of our own nation, from the fountain-head of co-eval antiquity, is of so late growth, and still so imperfectly cultivated among us, it is hardly to be expected that inen should be very eager to cross the Alps in search of the means of gratification, of which there is such ample store, yet untouched, lying, as it were, at their own doors.

Nevertheless, we hold it to be no unpleasant part of our duty to contribute all that in us lies towards improving a spirit which, we are quite sure, whatever channel it may take, is attended with the power of procuring abundance of valuable instruction, and great entertainment for all those who inay happen to be influenced by it. We indulge hopes that an opportunity will be shortly afforded

[ocr errors]

us of renewing the subject of our former disquisitions by the arrival of a continuation of M. Sismondi's book from the continent. . In the mean time, our attention bas been called to a large importation of books, principally of the Milan press; and as our acquaintance with the state and progress of Italian literature has been very slight indeed, since the iron crown was fixed on the august brows of his majesty the emperor and king, it may not be uninteresting to many of our readers to be informed, that an extremely handsome edition of all the best classics of the Italian language has been published at Milan, under the auspices of the ci-devant Vice President of the Cisalpine Republic, and now, we believe, arch-chancellor of the kingdom of Italy, Melzi d'Eril

, duke of Lodi, by a society calling themselves. La Società Tipografica de' Classici Italiani, the members of which are very numerous, and of the first reputation for literature in their respective communities. This work had its commencement during the short peace of 1802; and in 1811, the date of the latest imported books, extended already to 150 volumes, This comprizes but a small portion of what is intended by the editors. According to them, the term classical, as applied to Italian literature,' si estende dai più antichi ed insigni scrittori sino al cominciare del secolo xviii;' and an edition undertaken on this basis

, è quasi una raccolta di preziosi monumenti da' quali pud di leggieri scorgere l'origine, il progresso, l'oscillazione, il risorgimento, la gloria finalmente, della Italiana litteratura.' Not all the works, however, (they proceed to say,) even of the most celebrated writers, can properly be termed classical; and thus a new distinction is made between classical authors, and classical productions. They instance accordingly, ' Il Convivio di Dante, la Teseide del Bocaccio, il Quatriregio di Federigo Frezzi, &c.'as not deserving the appellation bestowed on their respective authors, and therefore to be excluded from this edition. But, wbatever may be its proposed, extent, it is certainly an undertaking which reflects great honour, not only on the society which conducts it, but on the character of the people among whom it originated.

Whence comes it that England, of all vations the proudest, and in many respects the most justly so, of her superiority both in arts and arms, is outdone, by alinost every civilized country of Europe, in the encouragement given to the monuments of her national literature? But this by the way.—To return to the subject before us,—the first work published by this Milan society was that of which we have placed the title at the head of our present article. We are happy in having found this opportunity of recording the laudable zeal for the departed glories of their nation, which exists even in the present degraded and exhausted state of Italy; but our principal purpose in thus introducing the subject was to inFF 3

dulge

dulge our inclination for bringing our readers acquainted with some of the merits of the early Florentine historians.

The first of these, in chronological order, is the venerable Ricordano Malespini; whose history, commencing with the fabulous Origin of Fiesole, the Mother of Florence, is broken off at the year 1281, and thence brought down to 1286, by Giacchetto Malespini, his nephew. In point of style and purity of language it remains to this day one of the choicest models of the Tuscan dialect. It is plain and unornamented, without any of that coarse and imperfect abruptness which distinguishes the rude periods of literature in every other language. Of gross and absurd fable respecting the origin and early history of the Florentine nation it possesses a reasonable share--but in proportion as the author advances nearer to the era in which he writes, à tone of perfect credibility and good faith gradually takes place of fiction and romance; and the history becomes remarkable by way of contrast to the monkish chronicles of other nations, even those of a much later date, from the almost total absence of superstitious credulity which it exhibits. Even Villani, who wrote half a century later, and who makes Malespini the groundwork of his own history, has here and there foisted tales of visions and miracles into his original, wbich Malespini himself had either never heard of, or which his better understanding rejected. Since, however, we have mentioned our author's

powers of invention, or rather (perhaps) the inventions of others which he thought proper to retain out of compliment to his native city, it is but fair to give a specimen of them; and our readers shall accordingly hear, (in a style which we have studied, not only in this, but in every subsequent quotation, to render as congenial as possible with the simple antiquity of the original,)

Concerning Adam: how long time there was between him and

king Nimus (Nimrod); and how Apollo the astrologer caused

Fiesole to be built.-Cap. 2. In the first place I say, that from Adam until king Nimrod, who conquered all the world in battle and subdued it under his dominion, (which was about the time of the birth of Abraham,) were years two thousand three hundred and forty-four. In the days of this Nimrod was built the greal Tower of Babel, which caused the division of the seventy-two languages of the world. The first division was into three parts, (Asia, Africa, and Europe, which last is described by its boundaries with very tolerable accuracy, beginning from Brindisi and making the circuit from east to west, back to Brindisi again) —' which afore, said land, so bounded, was first governed by one named Atlante, (Atlas,) (whose wife was a very beautiful woman, by name Electra,) and also by Jupiter with whom was united Appollonio, (Apollo,) a great master of astronomy; and all their actions were directed by his advice. Now

they,

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »