Imatges de pÓgina

of myself: my whole attention was employed in listening to the illustrious commander of a nation.

Great Attentions paid to Boswell.

Paoli recommended me to the care of the Abbé Rostini, who had lived many years in France. Signor Colonna, the lord of the manor here, being from home, his house was assigned for me to live in. Every day I felt myself happier. Particular marks of attention were shown me as a subject of Great Britain, the report of which went over to Italy, and confirmed the conjectures that I was really an envoy. In the morning I had my chocolate served up upon a silver salver adorned with the arms of Corsica. I dined and supped constantly with the General. I was visited by all the nobility, and whenever I chose to make a little tour, I was attended by a party of guards. I begged of the General not to treat me with so much ceremony; but he insisted upon it. One day when I rode out I was mounted on Paoli's own horse, with rich furniture of crimson velvet, with broad gold lace, and had my guards marching along with me. I allowed myself to indulge a momentary pride in this parade, as I was curious to experience what could really be the pleasure of state and distinction with which mankind are so strangely intoxicated. When I returned to the Continent after all this greatness, I used to joke with my acquaintance, and tell them that I could not bear to live with them, for they did not treat me with a proper respect.

Paoli's English Library.

I asked Paoli if he understood English. He imme diately began and spoke it, which he did tolerably well. I was diverted with his English library. It consisted of some broken volumes of the Spectator and Tatler, Pope's Essay on Man, Gulliver's Travels, a History of France in old English, and Barclay's Apology for the

Quakers. books. (1)

I promised to send him some English

Boswell's Corsican Dress.

The ambasciadore Inglese, the English ambassador, as the good peasants and soldiers used to call me, became a great favourite among them. I got a Corsican dress made, in which I walked about with an air of true satisfaction. The General did me the honour to present me with his own pistols, made in the island, all of Corsican wood and iron, and of excellent workmanship. I had every other accoutrement. I even got one of the shells which had often sounded the alarm to liberty. I preserve them all with great care.

Boswell's German Flute, &c.

The Corsican peasants and soldiers were quite free and easy with me. Numbers of them used to come and see me of a morning, and just go out and in as they pleased. I did every thing in my power to make them fond of the British, and bid them hope for an alliance with us. They asked me a thousand questions about my country, all which I cheerfully answered as well as I could. One day they would needs hear me play upon my German flute. To have told my honest natural visitants, Really, gentlemen I play very ill, and put on such airs as we do in our genteel companies, would have been highly ridiculous. I therefore immediately complied with their request. I gave them one or two Italian airs, and then some of our beautiful old Scots tunes, Gilderoy," the "Lass of Patie's Mill," "Corn riggs

[ocr errors]

(1) I have sent him the works of Harrington, of Sidney, of Addison, of Trenchard, of Gordon, and of other writers in favour of liberty. I have also sent him some of our best books of morality and entertainment, in particular the works of Mr. Samuel Johnson, with a complete set of the Spectator, Tatler, and Guardian; and to the University of Corte I have sent a few of the Greek and Roman classics, of the beautiful editions of the Messieurs Foulis at Glasgow.

are bonny." The pathetic simplicity and pastoral gaiety of the Scots music will always please those who have the genuine feelings of nature. The Corsicans were charmed with the specimens I gave them, though I may now say that they were very indifferently performed. My good friends insisted also to have an English song from me. I endeavoured to please them in this too, and was very lucky in that which occurred to me. I sung them

[merged small][ocr errors]

I translated it into Italian for them, and never did I see men so delighted with a song as the Corsicans were with Hearts of Oak. "Cuore di querco," cried they, "bravo Inglese." It was quite a joyous riot. I fancied myself to be a recruiting sea-officer. I fancied all my

chorus of Corsicans aboard the British fleet.

Independency of Corsica.

Paoli talked very highly on preserving the independency of Corsica. "We may," said he, "have foreign powers for our friends; but they must be 'Amici fuori di casa. Friends at arm's length.'

6 We may

make an alliance, but we will not submit ourselves to the dominion of the greatest nation in Europe. This people, who have done so much for liberty, would be hewn in pieces man by man, rather than allow Corsica to be sunk into the territories of another country. Some years ago, when a false rumour was spread that I had a design to yield up Corsica to the Emperor, a Corsican came to me, and addressed me in great agitation : 'What! shall the blood of so many heroes, who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Corsica, serve only to tinge the purple of a foreign prince!' I mentioned to him the scheme of an alliance between Great

waved the subject, by saying, "The less assistance we have from allies, the greater our glory." He seemed hurt by our treatment of his country. He mentioned the severe proclamation at the last peace, in which the brave islanders were called the Rebels of Corsica. He said with a conscious pride and proper feeling,-"Rebels! I did not expect that from Great Britain." He however shewed his great respect for the British nation, and I could see he wished much to be in friendship with us. When I asked him what I could possibly do in return for all his goodness to me, he replied, "Solamente disingannate il suo corte. Only undeceive your court. Tell them what you have seen here. They will be curious to ask you. A man come from Corsica will be like a man come from the antipodes."

Boswell's Melancholy.

This kind of conversation led me to tell Paoli how much I had suffered from anxious speculations. With a mind naturally inclined to melancholy, and a keen desire of inquiry, I had intensely applied myself to metaphysical researches, and reasoned beyond my depth, on such subjects as it is not given to man to know. I told him I had rendered my mind a camera obscura, that in the very heat of youth I felt the " non est tanti," the "omnia vanitas" of one who has exhausted all the sweets of his being, and is weary with dull repetition. I told him that I had almost become for ever incapable of taking a part in active life. "All this," said Paoli, "is melancholy. I have also studied metaphysics. I know the arguments for fate and free-will, for the materiality and immateriality of the soul, and even the subtile arguments for and against the existence of matter. Ma lasciamo queste dispute ai oziosi. But let us leave these disputes to the idle. Io tengo sempre fermo un gran pensiero. I hold always firm one great object. I never feel a moment of despondency." The

contemplation of such a character really existing was of more service to me than all I had been able to draw from books, from conversation, or from the exertions of my own mind. I had often formed the idea of a man continually such as I could conceive in my best moments. But this idea appeared like the ideas we are taught in the schools to form of things which may exist, but do not; of seas of milk, and ships of amber. But I saw my highest idea realised in Paoli. It was impossible for me, speculate as I pleased, to have a little opinion of human nature in him.

Dr. Johnson.

I gave Paoli the character of my revered friend Mr. Samuel Johnson. I have often regretted that illustrious men, such as humanity produces a few times in the revolution of many ages, should not see each other; and when such arise in the same age, though at the distance of half the globe, I have been astonished how they could forbear to meet. "As steel sharpeneth steel, so doth a man the countenance of his friend," says the wise monarch. What an idea may we not form of an interview between such a scholar and philosopher as Mr. Johnson, and such a legislator and general as Paoli ! I repeated to Paoli several of Mr. Johnson's sayings, so remarkable for strong sense and original humour. I now recollect these two. When I told Mr. Johnson that a certain author affected in conversation to maintain, that there was no distinction between virtue and vice, he said, “Why, Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a liar. But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons." Of modern infidels and innovators, he said, Sir, these are all


« AnteriorContinua »