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6 AN OLDE TALE.”
From the Preface to “ Heptameron. The Queen of Nauarre's
NATURE having many yeares agoe so wasted her treasures in the perfiting of woman's beauties, that by her former prodigalitie her perfections are so consumed and spent that the women of this age are enforced to supply their defects by periwigs and painting, by bombasting and bolstering, and such other artificial helps ; the poore lady (finding her owne scarcitie, not able to performe that excellencie, as before she had done in the feminine sex) determined yet to make proofe, and to trie her cunning what she could do in the masculine. Vndertaking the taske with this settled curiositie, she proportioned a man of such excellent perfection in all his limbs and lineaments, that Nature herselfe began to wonder at her owne worke; and as the curious artificer, who thinkes his labor to be but lost, that is still concealed and never brought to sight, so Nature bringing forth this super-excellent personage to be viewed, appointed him in such a place where the people of seueral nations had their continual recourse; the first that passed by was a Spaniard, who taking a full suruey of this new formed man, crossing himselfe, both his forehead and breast : then throwing up his handes with admiration to the heauens, hee saide with a loude voice : 16 0 most glorious and excellent creature ! in countenance more amiable and lovely than our Lady of Loretta, in personage more comely than S. Iago of Compostella : but how shall I extoll thy prayses ? my comparisons are too weake; I will therefore leave thee, and will blesse Nature who hath blessed herselfe in featuring of thee.” Nature that stoode faste by, where she might both heare and see, and yet vnseene herselfe, was wel pleased with this first salutation, and the Spaniard thus departed. The next that came by was an Italian, and he, (as the Spaniard before, but with a little more circumspection) taking a view of this goodly creature, fell first into the fit of wondering ; from that, into an extasie of praising, then to protesting, that for a thousand ducats he woulde not haue his wife to haue a sight of this temptation : and now he fell to swear. ing that to prevent all perills, he woulde keepe her still lockt vp in a chamber : and thus he went his way. With this, Nature smiled to see the passionate demeanour of the ielous-headed Italian. And let it suffice that I deliver (though not in this particular sort) how the people of sundry other nations as they passed by, what praises and com. mendations, they would all of them attribute to this handy-work of Nature, imputing it to bee without fault, blemish, imperfection, or any manner of defect ; till at the last there fortuned to come by an Englishman. I think some of the travelling fellows whereof there are some, that running thorow the world to seeke new fashions a broade, doe lose all their wits that they carried with them from home ; or perhaps it might be some worthy souldier, that if he hath but discharged a case of
out of a gentleman's chamber, - seene an ensigne three times spread in the field, puts himself by and by into an arming doublet, the poyntes, with greate siluer tagges, tied in the pitche of the shoulder : then at every word he must be called Mas. Captain : then if hee haue but learned thus much of the new discipline, as to say, Double your rankes on the right hand, now again as you were, double your files on the left hand, close your ranks, open your files : why so, this is enough to make him able to coosin an hundred and fiftie soldiers of their pay. Now for table talke, you shall hear nothing out of their mouths, but of the scaling of forts, the assaulting of breaches, the taking of citadales, and by their words they will seeme to undertake the winning of a greater town than Lysbourne, but with discharging two or three vollies of oths. To conclude, when they are angrie, there is nothing in their mouthes but the stab; and when they are pleased, their friendship is not woorth an ordinary eighteene pence. I speake not to prejudice anie gentleman that hath trauelled for his owne experience, whereof there be many worthy of commendations, nor to disgrace any souldier that is of desert, whereof there are none but are worthy of honour : but I speake of those counterfeit companions, that under these titles and pretences do countenance themselues, taking authority to slander, iest, scoffe, and find fault at any thing. One of these priuileged people now passing along the streete, his gesture so gouerned as if he caried a whole common-wealth in his head, his eyes fixed as if hee were in the meditation of his mistrisse, his countenance so graced, as a man might see a dicker of fools in his face, his salutation to such as passed by was a nod with his head, and his hand clapt ouer his lips, which they do call the Basiles manus, his speeches compendious and shorte, nothing but sentences ; this finical fellow being now come to the place where Nature was yet abiding, rejoicing to heare herselfe so glorified by this excellencie of her worke, he began as the rest had done, to survey euery part, euery proportion and lineament, from the top to the toe, he went about him, and round about him, behinde, and before, prying, and beholding wyth more curiosity than any of the rest had done before him ; and when he had looked til he was wearie, said never a word, but shaking a little his head, was going away, till Nature seeing this strange demeanour, called him backe, and in courteous sort demanded of him how he liked the object, that hee had so aduisedly perused : to the which he answered ; in faith it is not to be misliked, it is a very goodly presence, handsome, comely, God had done his part, and he saw nothing but the man was well inough. But I pray, saide Nature againe, what is it that you mislike ? I perceive by your speech there is somethine amisse, and therefore tell me what it is that you do thinke might be amended ? Gentlewoman (said he) seeing you presse me so farre, I will deal plainly with you ; the fault that I finde is this, that it is pitty that he is not an Englishman borne. I could then haue commended these perfections, which I will now forbeare. And it is pitie (said Nature) that thou art an Englishman borne, for if thou wert not an English. man borne, I woulde so display thy imperfections, which in regard of that renowned nation now I will omit. This poore pedant meeting with such a counter buffe, thought it not good to fall a scolding with the Gentlewoman, but calling her curst queane, went his way scratching of his head. And here an end of an olde tale.
From “ Italian Stories, translated by Miss Holford."
MANY a time has Fortune exhibited upon her theatre the world, the magical and astonishing effects of her power-now exalting the base, now debasing the illustrious. In recording the most striking examples of similar vicissitudes, the name of the Neapolitan, Tommaso Aniello, better known as Masaniello, naturally presents itself.
The court of Spain was exhausted to the utmost by the calamitous wars it sustained in the course of the seventeenth century, its resources were every where failing, and its whole activity was directed to the discovery and application of means for recruiting its exhausted treasury. The mo. tive appeared so urgent, that neither public faith, policy, nor remorse, were permitted to check its operation. Naples now began to find the Spanish yoke aggravated to an insupportable pitch; taxes and imposts of the most grievous and oppressive nature were levied without mer. cy or moderation; the poor Neapolitans, in despair, beheld their misery increasing, while every article of merchandise, to the very simplest and coarsest necessaries of life, and more especially the bread, fish, and fruit, which formed their nourishment, were taxed with such rigour, that the vender had no gain, and the poor began to lack the means of procuring the most common sustenance for their families. The expression of popular discontent, confined at first to a murmur, “ deep not loud,” arose by degrees to one continued and menacing outcry; but the prince, while he beheld his replenished coffers, rather increased than relented in his exactions, and smiling, permitted the cry of the starving people, hoping, it should seem, that all the grief and indignation of their hearts would thus harmlessly evaporate.
It happened in this state of things, that a poor fisherman, a native of Amalfi, apparently one of the most wretched and indigent of his class, named Masaniello, was interrupted in the act of selling a basket of fish in the piazza. The little tyrant of the market convicted him of having neglected to pay the share of his merchandise appropriated by government, and then, as an act of summary justice, took violent possession of the basket and all its contents. The poor fellow, nearly mad with rage, ran wildly through the city, uttering loud curses on the government, the ministry, and the laws. In his furious progress, he chanced to pass near the church of the Madonna del Carmine, where he was stopped by å man named Perrone, a chief of banditti, who, with one of his comrades, had been driven to take sanctuary from the vengeance due to innumerable crimes. The desperate conduct of Masaniello awakened the curiosity of the bandit, and Masaniello fiercely replied to his interrogato
ries : “ By heaven! they shall either hang me like a dog, or I will overturn the government.” The banditti, at first greatly amused by this magnificent threat, laughed heartily, and exclaimed, “ Yes, you are a fine fellow for such an exploit.” “Well,” replied Masaniello, “ give me only two companions, and I will be free.” 66 Indeed !” rejoined Perrone, " then we are your men.” And thus, half in jest, half seriously, they pledged themselves to Masaniello ; whose project, though suddenly conceived, was firmly resolved. In a few hours he had a lit. tle army at his back, consisting of all the venders of fruit and fish, who declared their determination from that moment to resist unto death every attempt to levy taxes on their property.
The members of the government, aware of the tumult, betook themselves to quelling it, with small apprehension for the event, but were quickly taught to consider the matter more obstinate and difficult than they at first suspected. Masaniello at the head of two thousand lads of about twelve years old or thereabouts, kept all the streets and squares in confusion, while the sky echoed with the shouts of “ Long live the king ! Long live our Lady del Carmine ! Long live the Pope ! Long live the King of Spain ! Long life to abundance !” and “ Down with the wicked government !”
All this happened on Sunday, the 7th of July, 1647. A day on which a great feast was celebrated in the market place, where a concourse of peasantry, who had arrived with fruit, grain, and fish, now resolutely resisted every attempt to levy the tax. The Regent Zuffia, having been apprised of this accident, instantly dispatched Anaclerio, tribune of the people, who liberally threatened the disobedient with whips, cords, and the galleys. The multitude, irritated yet farther by these menaces, began to pelt the poor minister with showers of apples, stones, and filth : Masaniello especially struck him on the bosom with a huge stone, so that his life was greatly endangered, and it was not without infinite difficulty that he escaped the fury of the populace, whose numbers, swelling every instant, stimulated each other with cries of u Down with the tax! Down with the tax !” In the very midst of the uproar, Masaniello ascended a high bench, from whence he shouted aloud,“ Long live God ! Now is the time to shake off our intolerable yoke ! Perish our atrocious government ! I, even I, a vile fisherman, will, like Moses, deliver you from your abject servitude." By this and similar harangues he produced a marvellous effect in exciting the passions of his hearers, who armed, some with knives, some with clubs, ran to burn the quarters of the tax officers in the market-place and the Dogana, and very shortly specie, plate, books, manuscripts, and abun. dance of precious furniture, were consumed to ashes ; from this scene of destruction they proceeded to the palace of the viceroy, the Duke of Arcos, echoing the usual cry, “ Down with taxation ! Long live the King ! Perish the wicked government !"
The guard, panic-struck by this violent tumult, fled precipitately, so that a free road remained to the impetuosity of the people, who penetrated even into the most private chambers of the viceroy, always animating each other by the same outcries. The astonished prince had barely time to save himself by the aid of Don Ferrante Caracciolo, who made way for his escape by scattering money among the enraged mob : he took refuge with the vicequeen, his children, and the ladies of his court, in the neighbouring church of San Luigi di Minimi, where he presented himself at a window, from whence he promised the populace, to deliver them from their imposts, and a general redress of grievances ; but they signified their will that he should descend, in order that they, might more commodiously deliberate and determine together. Now while some of them held the viceroy at bay, others were busily engag. ed in sacking his palace, which they devoted to the most entire des. truction. When this news reached him, terrified by the apprehension of farther outrage, he wrote with his own hand a billet to Cardinal Filomarino, the archbishop, entreating him to convince the people that he would that very day abolish the tax ; but it is next to impossible to appease a mob in the height of excitation : the concession was made in vain, they rushed with tremendous impetuosity on the Convent of San Luigi, so that the Duke di Arcos was driven to take shelter in the for. tress de St Elmo for the security of his person, the ladies and other persons belonging to him remaining concealed in the cells of the friars.
The people, on discovering the flight of the viceroy, ran to disarm the Spaniards, and throwing away their clubs and knives, and furnishing themselves with more effective weapons, they proceeded to the suburb of Chiaja, to the house of the Prince of Besignano, Don Tiberio Caraffa, whom, being camp master and colonel general of the Neapolitan battalions, they selected as their protector and champion for the abolition of the taxes. The prince, a nobleman greatly beloved for his clemency and humanity, found himself compelled to accept the charge, fondly hoping thereby to restore tranquillity to the agitated city ; he there. fore mounted his horse, and his train every moment increasing, he found himself borne by the press of more than fifty thousand persons, into the church del Carmine, where he earnestly exhorted the people to peace, entreating them to desist from all offensive and tumultuous conduct, and to hope for the best; but while he was yet in the course of his harangue, the populace burned the Dogana, broke open the prisons, set the delinquents at liberty, and set fire to the archives. After which exploits they sounded the Tocsin, and presently the whole city was a prey to outrages, crimes, and flames. Caraffa therefore thought only how he might deliver himself from the frightful and desperate office to which he had been elected, the sanction and abettor of ten thousand horrors; he succeeded in withdrawing himself. And his tumultuous army, finding themselves deserted by their general, immediately pro, claimed Masaniello their captain-general.
Masaniello was a youth of about four and twenty, handsome, gay, and jocose ; he was accordingly especially beloved by his plebeian as sociates. There was not among the idle vagabonds of the city, one whose person was better known; he was continually wandering about, sometimes selling or crying his fish, sometimes revelling or feasting with people of his own degree ; he had a wife and two children, lived in a state of extreme indigence, and was dressed as a poor mariner, bare footed, and with rags scarcely sufficient to afford him a decent covering, On the person we have described devolved the command of the formid.