« VorigeDoorgaan »
ged, or apparently so. Indeed little more than the mark of a cord on the outside of a single article, or a corner discoloured in a package, however large, was a sufficient pretext for presuming and pronouncing the whole to be damaged. By means of this sentence, so easily obo tained, great quantities of goods were brought to the hammer in the Custom-house warehouses, under every disadvantage; thus the owners recovered the amount insured for, and the insurers lost the difference between that sum and the price they were sold at, with the expences. Many of the underwriters will, no doubt, retain a lasting remembrance of the sales which took place at Rio de Janeiro, and other parts of South America, for their benefit.
« To the serious losses thus occasioned by an overstocked market, may be added another, which originated in the ignorance of many persons who sent out articles, to a considerable amount, not at all suited to the country: one speculator, of wonderful foresight, sent large invoices of stays for ladies, who never heard of such armour; another sent skates for the use of a people who are totally uninformed that water can become ice ;* a third sent out a considerable assortment of the most elegant coffin-furniture, not knowing that coffins are never used by the Brazilians. In a few months, more Manchester goods arrived than had been consumed in the course of twenty years preceding.'
Equally indiscreet and ill-judged, it appears, were the speculations in Brazilian produce. Any kind of sebaceous matter was greedily purchased for tallow; and hides eaten by the grub met with a ready market.
. The folly of speculation did not stop here; precious stones appeared to offer the most abundant source of riches; tourmalines were sold for emeralds, crystals for topazes, and both common stones and vitreous paste bought for diamonds to a considerable amount. False diamonds were weighed with scrupulousness, and bought with avidity, to sell by the rules stated by Jefferies. Brass pans purchased of the English were filed, and mixed with gold dust, and thus, by a simple contrivance, some of our countrymen repurchased at three or four guineas per ounce, the very article which they had before sold at 2s.6d. per pound!
It appears, moreover, that the gentlemen consignees had no idea of doing business except in the large way; they purchased or hired coustry seats; they kept their horses and carriages, and lived in great style; they formed delicate connections, too, in consequence of which females of the most obscure classes appeared in the costly extreme of English fashion.
of the six miserable prints bound up with the book, we shall only observe, that they are neither calculated to embellish nor illustrate.
We have been informed that the good people of Birmingham sent out 60 tons of skates and warming pans to South America.
Art. X. Histoire des Républiques Italiennes du Moyen Age.
Par J. C. L. Simonde Sismondi, Des Académies Italienne, de Wilna, de Cagliari, des Georgofili, de Genève, &c. 8 Tomes.
Paris. 1809. THE histories of ancient Greece, and of Italy during the middle
-ages, possess many points of analogy, which cannot escape the attention of one who is in the slightest degree conversant with both. This resemblance is by no means confined to the general political aspect of the two countries, divided into many petty states, some free, others in subjection to self-erected despots, and alternately swayed by one of two great contending factions: nor is it to be traced only in the governing principles and conduct of those factions themselves, which, although originating in very different sources, progressively assume a remarkable affinity of character. The analogy will equally appear in the moral characters and physical energies of the respective people, in their habits and customs, their genius, and language. Even in their degraded condition, both nations preserve those striking characteristics which seem, as it were, to identify them in all ages. The same brilliancy of imagination; the same hastily-excited, and soon-extinguished, sensibility; the same innate taste for the arts; the same uncontrollable propensity to pleasures; the same fire of expression; the same thirst for public applause; the same vehemence of passion, are still remarked as distinguishing the inhabitants of both countries, with this difference only, perhaps, that in Italy, where the national debasement has neither been so lasting, nor so abject, more of what is valuable in these qualities has been retained, with a less preponderating mixture of evil.
The political resemblance will bear a yet closer inspection; neither would it be an uninstructive task to compare the constitution, character and vicissitudes of the several Italian states with those of their respective prototypes in Grecian history. The cold and austere aristocracy of Venice, with her selfish system of territorial aggrandisement, her views of national supremacy, and her extensive foreign conquests, will forcibly remind us, in almost every page of her history, of the country of Agesilaus and Lysander; and in Florence we cannot hesitate for an instant to recognize the Athens of Italy, with the same genius and enthusiasın for arts and letters, the same popular levity and restlessness, the same ardent attachment to the very extreme of a democratic constitution; but with an infinite superiority in that which constitutes the pride and glory of our own nation--constant zeal and activity in the cause of national independence over all Italy, ambition of an ascendancy not founded
in conquest, but in character and reputation, and a generous selfdevotemnent whenever called upon to oppose the designs of tyrannical aggrandisement, without that cold calculation of means which only tends to paralyse the most formidable efforts, and render useless the most efficient resources.
If, indeed, at any period in the revolutions of human affairs, the study of history is valuable beyond the mere purpose of gratifying an idle, though agreeable, curiosity, it must be acknowledged to be so at the present moment, when we stand so greatly in need of all those resources that are to be derived from the example of past ages for our safe conduct through circumstances of unparalleled danger and difficulty. In this view, the history of Florence presents more objects of importance than that of almost any other nation—we mean, not the history of Florence under the Medici, still less under the sovereigns of the House of Lorraine, but the history of Florence during the ages of her real greatness, free, active, and independent, the protectress of Italian liberty, the maintainer of her political balance, the fostering inventress of art and science, the patroness of original genius. Those who have formed their opinions of political importance, on extent of conquest and possessions, on the magnificence of monarchy, or the apparent riches of an empire, will hardly conceive how a comparison between the present situation of our own country and that of an Italian city, the mistress of a dominion twenty or thirty leagues in extent, can reflect upon the former any. motives for pride or self-congratulation. Yet this may be easily imagined by others who have, more philosophically, considered that in a small society every individual is of importance, whereas in an extensive one, we contemplate the operations of bodies of men, not of particular persons, and lose the nice discrimination of character, and impressions of a more general nature.
Nevertheless, it is certainly owing to that false estimate of the real use of history which naturally springs from false notious of political greatness, that the history of Italy, during the middle ages, has been so much neglected. The history of Italy is not like that of France, or England, or Spain, the detail of the operations of a nation under the command of a sovereign, or even leagued together in the union of a republic. Contemplated in this erroneous view, it presents a most heterogeneous spectacle, utterly devoid of that principle of unity which can alone direct or support the reader's attention through the revolutions of ages. According to the image employed by the author before us, at first sight we behold nothing but the picture of a large ants' nest, which has been recently disturbed. All the individuals seem animated with a perpetual and rapid motion; they are agitated by passions of
which we knowo nothing; they press, and jostle each other; they fight, they retreat; the eye cannot follow them, nor separate one from the other. But if we take a more microscopic survey
of this confused mass, and read, not the history of Italy, but that of the different Italian republies, a far more instructive scene presents itself. We cannot discuss this subject so justly as in the words of M. Sismondi
. Mais l'histoire particulière, l'histoire détaillée de chaque ville d'Italie,'vient attacher des noms à chacun de ces personnages; elle nous révèle le secret de chaque charactère, le motif particulier qui le fait agir; elle développe des passions généreuses, des pensées profondes, des objets élevés, dans chacun de ces groupes que notre première vue avoit jugés si petits. Plus nous les étudions et plus nous pous assurons, qu'en politique, il n'y a point de grandeur relative, et que toutes les fois qu'on dispute de la liberté et de la souvraineté, soit dans un village, soit dans l'empire du monde, les intérêts sont toujours les mêmes, savoir les plus grands et les plus nobles que le cæur 'humain puisse admettre; les talens sont les mêmes aussi, et l'étude de l'homme est aussi complète. Cette agitation universelle, cette vivacité des passions, cette importance de chaque individu, ont fait de l'histoire de l'Italie une source inépuisable d'instruction pour les erudits.' Tom. iv. p. 210.
The truth of these observations is evinced by the diversity between the local historians of Italy and those of other countries. Ainong ourselves, the study of what we call county history is, comparatively, of very late date, and, when carried to its present extent, affords few objects of interest to any but professed antiquarians; while in Italy, every city teems with annalists, and, in the words of our author, each of them is more interesting and valuable, in proportion as his work is more voluminous and abounding in detail.' İn whatever degree we may attribute this superabundance of historical writers to that spirit of local attachment which is always found most active in petty states, and under independent governments, it cannot but be presumed that they would hardly have received sufficient encouragement for their labours, unless those labours had been found capable of exciting an interest beyond their own narrow limits. If history were of importance only as it affords gratification to national pride, or as it retlects the images of great and wonderful events by which the condition of the whole world may be affected, then indeed would these annalists of sixtyeight ant-hills have expended their time and labour to very little purpose; and they would have fallen into oblivion from the moment that their several communities became lost in the generalizing influence of an extensive monarchy. But, if there be any justice in our reasoning, these neglected historians are not only capable of affording some degree of interest to the world at large,
but an interest, in many respects, more powerful, more personally applicable, than those who have described the progress of great nations and the revolutions of empires.
But if we are wrong in considering the history of the Italian Republics as unimportant in respect to the subject of it, we shall err still more widely in supposing their annalists to be deserving of neglect. The truth is, that as in Italy the study of bistory bas been more generally cultivated and more widely diffused than in any other country of Europe, so her early historians are far more accomplished 'in their style, and instructive in their reflections, than we, who despise the monkish chroniclers of France and England, are likely to imagine. The language of Ricordano Malespini, the earliest historian of Florence * who adopted the lingua volgare, is still considered as a model of purity, though more than five hundred years old. Froissart's Chronicle was composed a century later; but, superior as that writer is to the historians of our own country, how rude do his style and manner appear when compared with the Florentine annalist! How much lower does he sink in the scale of historical merit when opposed to the three Villapis, + the youngest of whom preceded him by many years! Froissart interests us by the faithful picture which he undesignedly presents to our view of the manners and customs of an age certainly, on many accounts, interesting. But in the old Florentine historians, besides this view of the character of the times, (a character as distinct from that which we have dwelt upon with so much pleasure in the pages of Froissart, as both are from the present state of manners among the principal nations of Europe,) we discover an acquaintance with the principles of government, and an insight into the human mind, little to be expected from the writers of an age which we are pleased to denominate barba
We shall notice one particular, though of less importance than many others, because we are not aware that it has ever attracted observation before. A taste for what we call the picturesque in nature has always appeared to us to be the concomitant of a very superior degree of cultivation. We rarely, if ever, meet with anything resembling it among the poets and historians of the
Naples has the honour of producing the first historian who composed in the language uf his country; Matteo Spinelli di Giovenazzo, whose work comes down to the battle of Tagliacozzo in the year 1268. That of Malespini terminates in 1281, but is continued by his nephew Giacchetto to 1286.
+ Giovanni Villani was carried off by the dreadful plague of 1348. His brother, Mattéo, continued his work; and it is singular enough that the recurrence of a similar calamity, in the year 1363, put a period to his labours also. The history of Filippo Villani, the son of Mattéo, carries down the affairs of Florence a few years later. It will be remembered, that the Chronicle of Froissart terminates with the commencement gf the fifteenth century.