« AnteriorContinua »
[The "Journal of a Tour in Corsica in 1765," the work by which Boswell was first made known to the world of letters, is now but seldom met with. The high opinion which Johnson expressed of it has already been recorded (antè, Vol.III. p. 70.): "your Journal," says he, " is in a very high degree curious and delightful; I know not whether I could name any narrative by which curiosity is better excited or better gratified;" and when we recollect, that at the time he wrote it Boswell was only in the twenty-fourth year of his age, it certainly appears very creditable to his literary attainments. We have, therefore, selected some of the most interesting and characteristic passages of this neglected performance concluding with those which bear a direct reference to the author's early intercourse with Johnson.]
Boswell's object in visiting Corsica.
Having resolved to pass some years abroad, for my instruction and entertainment, I conceived a design of visiting the island of Corsica. I wished for something more than just the common course of what is called the tour of Europe; and Corsica occurred to me as a place which nobody else had seen, and where I should find what was to be seen no where else, a people actually fighting for liberty, and forming themselves from a poor, inconsiderable, oppressed nation, into a flourishing and independent state.
The only danger I saw in going to Corsica was, that I might be taken by some of the Barbary corsairs, and have a trial of slavery among the Turks at Algiers.
I spoke of it to commodore Harrison, who commanded the British squadron in the Mediterranean, and was then lying with his ship the Centurion, in the bay of Leghorn. He assured me, that if the Turks did take me, they should not keep me long; but in order to prevent it, he was so good as to grant me a very ample and particular passport; and as it could be of no use if I did not meet the corsairs, he said very pleasantly when he gave it me, "I hope, Sir, it will be of no use to you."
Arrival in Corsica.
We landed safely in the harbour of Centuri. directed to the house of Signor Antonio Antonetti at Morsiglia, about a mile up the country. The prospect of the mountains covered with vines and olives was extremely agreeable; and the odour of the myrtle and other aromatic shrubs and flowers that grew all around me was very refreshing. As I walked along, I often saw Corsican peasants come suddenly out from the covert. They were all armed; even the man who carried my baggage was armed, and had I been timorous might have alarmed me. company to each other.
But he and I were very good As it grew dusky, I repeated
to myself these lines from a fine passage in Ariosto.
"E pur per selve oscure e calli obliqui
"Together through dark woods and winding ways
Signor Antonetti received me with unaffected cordiality, making an apology for my frugal entertainment, but assuring me of a hearty welcome. His true kindly hospitality was also shown in taking care of my servant, an honest Swiss, who loved to eat and drink well. I had formed a strange notion that I should see every
thing in Corsica totally different from what I had seen in any other country. I was therefore much surprised to find Signor Antonetti's house quite an Italian one, with very good furniture, prints, and copies of some of the famous pictures. In particular, I was struck to find here a small copy from Raphael, of St. Michael and the Dragon. There was no necessity for its being well done. To see the thing at all was what surprised
A Corsican Sermon.
The next day, being Sunday, I accompanied Signor Antonetti and his family to hear mass in the parish church, a very pretty little building, about half a quarter of a mile off. The priest was to preach to us, at which I was much pleased, being very curious to hear a Corsican sermon. He did very well. His text was in the Psalms. "Descendunt ad infernum viventes. They go down alive into the pit." After endeavouring to move our passions with a description of the horrors of hell, he told us, "Saint Catherine of Siena wished to be laid on the mouth of this dreadful pit, that she might stop it up, so as no more unhappy souls should fall into it. I confess, my zeal of holy Saint Catherine. warn you how to avoid it." good practical advices and concluded.
brethern, I have not the But I do what I can; I He then gave us some
A slight Mistake.
At Pino I was cordially entertained at Signor Tomasi's. Throughout all Corsica, except in garrison towns, there is hardly an inn. Before I was ac
customed to the Corsican hospitality, I sometimes forgot myself, and imagining I was in a public house, called for what I wanted, with the tone which one uses in calling to the waiters at a tavern. I did so at Pino, asking for a variety of things at once; when Signora
Tomasi perceiving my mistake, looked in my face and smiled, saying with much calmness and good-nature, "Una cosa dopo un' altra, Signore. One thing after another, Sir."
Reflections in a Convent.
For some time, I had very curious travelling, mostly on foot, and attended by a couple of stout women, who carried my baggage upon their heads. Every time that I prepared to set out from a village, I could not help laughing, to see the good people eager to have my equipage in order, and roaring out, "Le donne, le donne! The women, the women!" I had full leisure and the best opportunities to observe every thing. I was lodged sometimes in private houses, sometimes in convents, being always well recommended from place to place. The first convent in which I lay was at Canari. It appeared a little odd at first. But I soon learnt to repair to my dormitory as naturally as if I had been a friar for seven years. These convents were small decent buildings, suited to the sober ideas of their pious inhabitants. The religious, who devoutly endeavour to "walk with God," are often treated with raillery by those whom pleasure or business prevents from thinking of future and more exalted objects. A little experience of the serenity and peace of mind to be found in convents would be of use to temper the fire of men of the world.
At Corte I was very politely received, and was conducted to the Franciscan convent, where I got the apartment of Paoli, who was then some days' journey beyond the mountains, holding a court of syndicato at a village called Sollacaro. These fathers have no
library worth mentioning; but their convent is large and well built. I looked about with great attention, to see if I could find any inscriptions; but the only one I found was upon a certain useful edifice.
"Sine necessitate huc non intrate,
Quia necessaria sumus."
A studied, rhyming, Latin conceit marked upon such a place was truly ludicrous.
I went up to the castle of Corte. The commandant very civilly showed me every part of it. As I wished to see all things in Corsica, I desired to see even the unhappy criminals. There were then three in the castle, a man for the murder of his wife; a married lady who had hired one of her servants to strangle a woman of whom she was jealous; and the servant who had actually perpetrated this barbarous action. They were brought out from their cells, that I might talk with them. The murderer of his wife had a stupid, hardened appearance, and told me he did it at the instigation of the devil. The servant was a poor despicable wretch. He had at first accused his mistress, but was afterwards prevailed with to deny his accusation, upon which he was put to the torture, by having lighted matches held between his fingers. This made him return to what he had formerly said, so as to be a strong evidence against his mistress. His hands were SO miserably scorched, that he was a piteous object. I asked him why he had committed such a crime; he said, “Perche era senza spirito. Because I was without understanding." The lady seemed of a bold and resolute spirit. She spoke to me with great firmness, and denied her guilt, saying with a contemptuous smile, as she pointed to her servant, They can force that creature to say what they please."