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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 Britain and Corsica. Paoli with politeness and dignity 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, showed his great respect for the British nation, and I could see he wished much to be in friendship with
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 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 vain men, and will gratify themselves at any expense. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity ; so they have betaken themselves to error. Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.”
I felt an elation of mind to see Paoli delighted with the sayings of Mr. Johnson, and to hear him translate them with Italian energy to the Corsican heroes. I repeated Mr. Johnson's sayings, as nearly as I could, in his own peculiar forcible language, for which prejudiced or little critics have taken upon them to find fault with him. He is above making any answer to them, but I have found a sufficient answer in a general remark in one of his excellent papers :- “Difference of thoughts will produce difference of language. He that thinks with more extent than another, will want words of larger meaning.”
Last Day with Paoli. The last day which I spent with Paoli appeared of inestimable value. I thought him more than usually great and amiable when I was upon the eve of parting from him. The night before my departure a little incident happened which showed him in a most agreeable light. When the servants were bringing in the dessert after supper, one of them chanced to let fall a plate of walnuts. Instead of flying into a passion at what the man could not help, Paoli said, with a smile, “No matter.” And turning to me, “ It is a good sign for you, Sir. Tempus est spargere nuces, — It is time to scatter walnuts. It is a matrimonial omen : you must go home to your own country, and marry some fine woman whom you really like. I shall rejoice to hear of it. This was a pretty allusion to the Roman ceremony at weddings, of scattering walnuts. So Virgil's Damon says, —
“ Mopse novas incide faces : tibi ducitur uxor.
Sparge marite nuces : tibi deserit Hesperus Oetam.”
The walnuts strew! prepare the nuptial lights !
Behold for thee bright Hesper mounts the sky !" When I again asked Paoli if it were possible for me in any way to show him my great respect and attachment, he replied, “ Ricordatevi che io vi sia amico, e scrivetemi. Remember that I am your friend, and write to me." I said I hoped that when he honoured me with a letter, he would write not only as a commander, but as a philosopher and a man of letters. He took me by the hand, and said, “ As a friend.” I took leave of him with regret and agitation, not without some hopes of seeing him again. Even having known intimately so exalted a character, my sentiments of human nature were raised, while, by a sort of contagion, I felt an honest ardour to distinguish myself, and be useful, as far as my situation and abilities would allow; and I was, for the rest of my life, set free from a slavish timidity in the presence of great men— for where shall I find a man greater than Paoli?
Return to Corte. When I set out from Sollacarò, I felt myself a good deal indisposed. The old house of Colonna, like the family of its master, was much decayed; so that both wind and rain found their way into my bed-chamber. From this I contracted a severe cold, which ended in a tertian ague. There was no help for it. I might well submit to some inconveniences, where I had enjoyed so much happiness. I was accompanied a part of the road by a great swarthy priest, who had never been out of Corsica. He was a very Hercules for strength and resolution. He and two other Corsicans took a castle garrisoned by no less than fifteen Genoese : indeed the Corsicans have such a contempt of their enemies, that I have heard them say, Basterebbero le donne contra i Genovesi !” “Our women would be enough against the Genoese !” This priest was a bluff, hearty, roaring fellow, troubled neither with knowledge nor care. He was ever and anon showing me how stoutly his nag could caper. He always rode some paces before me, and sat in an attitude half turned round, with his hand clapped upon the crupper. Then he would burst out with comical songs about the devil and the Genoese, and I don't know what all. In short, notwithstanding my feverishness, he kept me laughing whether I would or no.
At Cauro I had a fine view of Adjaccio and its environs. My ague was some time of forming ; so I had freqnent intervals of ease, which I employed in observing whatever occurred. I was lodged at Cauro, in the house of Signor
Peraldi of Ajaccio, who received me with great politeness. I found here another provincial magistracy. per, Signor Peraldi and a young Abbé of Ajaccio entertained me with some airs on the violin. After they had shown me their taste in fine improved music, they gave me some original Corsican airs; and, at my desire, they brought up four of the guards of the magistracy, and made them show me a Corsican dance. It was truly savage. They thumped with their heels, sprung upon their toes, brandished their arms, wheeled and leaped with the most violent gesticulations. It gave me the idea of an admirable war dance.
At Bogognano I came upon the same road I had formerly travelled from Corte, where I arrived safe after all my fatigues. My good fathers of the Franciscan convent received me like an old acquaintance, and showed a kind of concern at my illness. My ague distressed me so much, that I was confined to the convent for several days. I did not, however, weary. I was visited by the Great Chancellor, and several others of the civil magistrates, and by Padre Mariani, rector of the university, a man of learning and abilities ; as a proof of which, he had been three years at Madrid, in the character of secretary to the General of the Franciscans. I remember a very eloquent expression of his on the state of his country.
“ Corsica,” said he, “has for many years past been bleeding at all her veins. They are now closed. But after being so severely exhausted, it will take some time before she can recover perfect strength.”
Indeed I should not have been at a loss, though my very reverend fathers had been all my society. I was not in the least looked upon as a heretic. Difference of faith was forgotten in hospitality.
Letter to Dr. Johnson. On one of the days that my ague disturbed me least, I walked from the Franciscan convent to Corte, purposely to write a letter to Mr. Samuel Johnson. revered friend, that from a kind of superstition agreeable in a certain degree to him, as well as to myself, I had,
I told my
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