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THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY 



UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME 
THE ENCHANTED WOODS and 

other Essays on the Genius of 

Place 
HORTUS VIT;E, or the Hanging 

Gardens. Moralising Essays 
THE SPIRIT OF ROME. Leaves 

from a Diary 
HAUNTINGS : Fantastic Tales 

Second Edition 

THE SENTIMENTAL TRAVEL- 
LER. Notes on Places 
GENIUS LOCI. Second Edition 
POPE JACYNTH. Second Edition 
LIMBO; and Other Essays; to 

which is now added ARIADNE 

IN MANTUA. Second Edition 
RENAISSANCE FANCIES AND 

STUDIES. Second Edition 
ALTHEA. Second Edition 
VANITAS: Polite stories. Second 

Edition 
LAURUS NOBILIS : Chapters on 

Art and Life 



THE COUNTESS 
OF ALBANY 



BY 

VERNON LEE 



WITH PORTRAITS 



LONDON : JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD 
NEW YORK : JOHN LANE COMPANY. MCMX 



SECOND EDITION 



Printed by BALLANTYNB AND Co. LIMITED 
Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London 



TO THE MEMORY OF MY FKIEND 

MADAME JOHN MEYER, 

I DEDICATE THIS VOLUME, 

SO OFTEN AND SO LATELY TALKED OVER TOGETHER, 
IN GRATEFUL AND AFFECTIONATE REGRET. 



PREFACE 



IN preparing this volume on the Countess of Albany 
(which I consider as a kind of completion of my 
previous studies of eighteenth-century Italy), I have 
availed myself largely of Baron Alfred von Eeumont's 
large work Die Grafin von Albany (published in 1862) ; 
and of the monograph, itself partially founded on the 
foregoing, of M. St. Rene Taillandier, entitled La 
Comtesse d' Albany, published in Paris in 1862. Baron 
von "Reumont's two volumes, written twenty years ago 
and when the generation which had come into per- 
sonal contact with the Countess of Albany had not 
yet entirely died out ; and M. St. Rene Taillandier's 
volume, which embodied the result of his researches 
into the archives of the Musee Fabre at Montpellier ; 
might naturally be expected to have exhausted all the 
information obtainable about the subject of their and 
my studies. This has proved to be the case very 
much less than might have been anticipated. The 
publication, by Jacopo Bernardi and Carlo Milanesi, 



Vlll PBEFAOE. 

of a number of letters of Alfieri to Sienese friends, 
has afforded me an insight into Alfieri's character 
and his relations with the Countess of Albany such 
as was unattainable to Baron von Eeumont and to 
M. St. Kene Taillaudier. The examination, by my- 
self and my friend Signor Mario Pratesi, of several 
hundreds of MS. letters of the Countess of Albany 
existing in public and private archives at Siena and 
at Milan, has added an important amount of what I 
may call psychological detail, overlooked by Baron 
von Eeumont and unguessed by M. St. Kene Tail- 
landier. I have, therefore, I trust, been able to 
reconstruct the Countess of Albany's spiritual likeness 
during the period that of her early connection with 
Alfieri which my predecessors have been satisfied to 
despatch in comparatively few pages, counterbalancing 
the thinness of this portion of their biographies by a 
degree of detail concerning the Countess's latter years, 
and the friends with whom she then corresponded, 
which, however interesting, cannot be considered a3 
vital to the real subject of their works. 

Besides the volumes of Baron von Keumont and 
M. St. Kene Taillandier, I have depended mainly upon 
Alfieri's autobiography, edited by Professor Teza, and 
supplemented by Bernardi's and Milanesi's Lettere di 
Vittorio Alfieri, published by Le Monnier in 1862. 
Among English books that I have put under contri- 
bution, I may mention Klose's Memoirs of Prince 
Charles Edward Stuart (Colburn, 1845), Ewald's Life 
and Times of Prince Charles Stuart (Chapman and 



PREFACE. IX 

Hall, 1875), and Sir Horace Mann's Letters to Walpole, 
edited by Dr. Doran. A review, variously attributed 
to Lockhart and to Dennistoun, in the Quarterly for 
1847, has been all the more useful to me as I have 
been unable to procure, writing in Italy, the Tales of 
a Century, of which that paper gives a masterly 
account. 

For various details I must refer to Charles Dutens' 
Memoires d'un Voyageur qui se repose (Paris, 1806) ; 
to Silvagni's La Corte e la Societd Romana net secolo 
XVIII. ; to Foscolo's Correspondence, Gino Capponi's 
Eicordi and those of d'Azeglio ; to Giordani's works 
and Benassu Montanari's Life of Ippolito Pindemonti, 
besides the books quoted by Baron Keumont ; and for 
what I may call the general pervading historical 
colouring (if indeed I have succeeded in giving any) 
of the background against which I have tried to 
sketch the Countess of Albany, Charles Edward and 
Alfieri, I can only refer generally to what is now a 
vague mass of detail accumulated by myself during 
the years of preparation for my Studies of the 
Eighteenth Century in Italy. 

My debt to the kindness of persons who have put 
unpublished matter at my disposal, or helped me to 
collect various information, is a large one. In the 
first category, I wish to express my best thanks to 
the Director of the Public Library at Siena ; to 
Cavaliere Guiseppe Porri, a great collector oi auto- 
graphs, in the same city; to the Countess Baldelli 
and Cavaliere Emilio Santarelli of Florence, who 

b 



X PREFACE. 

possess some most curious portraits and other relics 
of the Countess of Albany, Prince Charles Ed\vard, 
and Alfieri; and also to my friend Count Pierre 
Boutourline, whose grandfather and great-aunt were 
among Madame d'Albany's friends. Among those who 
have kindly given me the benefit of their advice and 
assistance, I must mention foremost my friend Signer 
Mario Pratesi, the eminent novelist; and next to 
him the learned Director of the State Archives of 
Florence, Cavaliere Gaetano Milanese, and Doctor 
Guido Biagi, of the Biblioteca Vittorio Emanuel of 
Eome, without whose kindness my work would have 
been quite impossible. 

Florence, 

March 15, 1884. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

CHAPTER I. THE BRIDJC 1 

CHAPTER II. THE BRIDEGROOM ... 14 

CHAPTER III. REGINA APOSTOLORUM . . 25 

CHAPTER IV. THE HEIR 33 

CHAPTER V. FLORENCE 46 

CHAPTER VI. ALFIERI 57 

CHAPTER VII. THE CAVALIERE SERVENTE . 72 

CHAPTER VIII. THE ESCAPE .... 80 

CHAPTER IX. ROME 91 

CHAPTER X. ANTIGONE 102 

CHAPTER XL SEPARATION . . . .120 

CHAPTER XH COLMAR 134 



Xll CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

CHAPTER XIII. EUE DE BOURGOYNE . . 142 

CHAPTER XIV. BEFORE THE STORM . . 155 

CHAPTER XV. ENGLAND 166 

CHAPTER XVI. THE MISOGALLO . . .176 

CHAPTER XVIL CASA GIANFIGLIAZZI . . 190 

CHAPTER XVIIL FABRE 199 

CHAPTER XIX. THE SALON OF THE COUNTESS 207 

CHAPTER XX. SANTA CEOCE . 220 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



ALFIERI AND THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY . . frontispiece 

From the original portrait in the possession of the Marchesa A. 

Alfieri de Sostegno To face 

page 

CHARLES EDWARD STUART 16 

From a pastel, painter unknoton, once in the possession of the heir 
of the Countess of Albany's heir Fabre. Now in the possession 
of Mrs. Horace Walpole, of Heckfleld Place, Winchfleld, Hants 

LOUISE, COUNTESS OF ALBANY 52 

From a pastel once in the possession of the heirs of Fabre, now in 
the possession of Mrs. Horace Walpole, of Heckficld Place, 
Winchfield, Hants 



THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY 



THE COUNTESS OP ALBANY. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE BRIDE. 

ON the Wednesday or Thursday of Holy Week of the 
year 1772 the inhabitants of the squalid and dilapi- 
dated little mountain towns between Ancona and 
Loreto were thrown into great excitement by the 
passage of a travelling equipage, doubtless followed 
by two or three dependent chaises, of more than usual 
magnificence. 

The people of those parts have little to do now-a- 
days, and must have had still less during the Pontifi- 
cate of His Holiness Pope Clement XIV. ; and we can 
imagine how all the windows of the unplastered houses, 
all the black and oozy doorways, must have been lined 
with heads of women and children ; how the principal 
square of each town, where the horses were changed, 
must have been crowded with inquisitive townsfolk 
and peasants, whispering, as they hung about the 
carriages, that the great traveller was the young Queen 

1 



2 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

of England going to meet her bridegroom ; a thing to 
be remembered in such world-forgotten places as these, 
and which must have furnished the subject of conver- 
sation for months and years, till that Queen of England 
and her bridegroom had become part and parcel of the 
tales of the " Three Golden Oranges/' of the " King of 
Portugal's Cowherd/' of the " Wonderful Little Blue 
Bird," and such-like stories in the minds of the children 
of those Apennine cities. The Queen of England going 
to meet her bridegroom at the Holy House of Loreto. 
The notion, even to us, does savour strangely of the 
fairy tale. 

"What were, meanwhile, the thoughts of the beauti- 
ful little fairy princess, with laughing dark eyes and 
shining golden hair, and brilliant fair skin, more bril- 
liant for the mysterious patches of rouge upon the 
cheeks, and vermilion upon the lips, whom the more 
audacious or fortunate of the townsfolk caught a 
glimpse of seated in her gorgeous travelling dress (for 
the eighteenth century was still in its stage of pre- 
revolutionary brocade and gold lace and powder and 
spangles) behind the curtains of the coach ? Louise, 
Princess of Stolberg-Gedern, and ex-Canoness of Mons, 
was, if we may judge by the crayon portrait and the 
miniature done about that time, much more of a child 
than most women of nineteen. A clever and accom- 
plished young lady, but, one would say, with, as yet, 
more intelligence and acquired pretty little habits and 
ideas than character ; a childish woman of the world, a 
bright, light handful of thistle-bloom. And thus, 
besides the confusion, the unreality due to precipita- 
tion of events and change of scene, the sense that 
she had (how long ago days, weeks, or years ? in such 
a state time becomes a great muddle and mystery) been 



THE BRIDE. 3 

actually married by proxy, that she had corat the whole 
way from Paris, through Venice and across the sea, 
besides being in this dream-like, phantasmagoric con- 
dition, which must have made all things seem light it 
is probable that the young lady had scarcely sufficient 
consciousness of herself as a grown-up, independent, 
independently feeling and thinking creature, to feel or 
think very strongly over her situation. It was the 
regular thing for girls of Louise of Stolberg^s rank to 
be put through a certain amount of rather vague con- 
vent education, as she had been at Mons ; to be put 
through a certain amount of balls and parties ; to be 
put through the formality of betrothal and marriage ; 
all this was the half -conscious dream then would 
come the great waking up. And Louise of Stolberg 
was, most likely, in a state of feeling like that which 
comes to us with the earliest light through the blinds : 
pleasant, or unpleasant ? We know not which ; still 
drowsing, dreaming, but yet strongly conscious that in 
a moment we shall be awake to reality. 

There was, nevertheless, in the position of this girl 
something which, even in these circumstances, must 
have compelled her to think, or, at all events, to 
meditate, however confusedly, upon the present and 
the future. If she had in her the smallest spark of 
imagination she must have felt, to an acute degree, the 
sort of continuous surprise, recurring like the tick of 
a clock, which haunts us sometimes with the fact that 
it really does just happen to be ourselves to whom 
some curious lot, some rare combination of the num- 
bers in life's lottery, has come. For the man whom 
she was going to marry nay, to whom, in a sense, she 
was married already the unknown whom she would 
see for the first time that evening, was not the mere 

I * 



4 THE GOU8TXB8 OF ALBANY. 

typical bridegroom, the mere man of rank and for- 
tune, to whom, whatever his particular individual 
shape and name, the daughter of a high-born but 
impoverished house had known herself, since her child- 
hood, to be devoted. 

Louise Maximilienne Caroline Emanuele, daughter 
of the late Prince Gustavus Adolphus of Stolberg- 
Gedern, Prince of the Empire, who had died, a Colonel 
of Maria Theresa, in the battle of Leuthen; and of 
Elisabeth Philippine, Countess of Horn, born at Mons 
in Hainaut, the 20th September 1752, educated there 
in a convent, and subsequently admitted to the half- 
ecclesiastic, half-worldly dignity of Canoness of Ste. 
Wandru in that town : Louise, Princess of Stolberg, 
now in her twentieth year, had been betrothed, and, a 
few weeks ago, married by proxy in Paris to Charles 
Edward Stuart, known to history as the Younger Pre- 
tender, to popular imagination as Bonnie Prince Charlie, 
and to society in the second half of the eighteenth 
century as the Count of Albany. The match had been 
made up hurriedly most probably without consulting, 
or dreaming of consulting, the girl by her mother, 
the dowager Princess Stolberg, and the Duke of Fitz- 
James, Charles Edward's cousin. The French Minister, 
Due d'Aiguillon, in one of those fits of preparing Charles 
Edward as a weapon against England, which had more 
than once cost the Pretender so much bitterness, and 
the Court of Versailles so much brazenly endured 
shame, had intimated to the Count of Albany that he 
had better take unto himself a wife. Charles Edward 
had more than once refused ; this time he accepted, 
and his cousin Fitz- James looked around for a possible 
iuture Queen of England. Now it happened that the 
eldest son of Fitz-James, the Marquis of Jamaica and 



THE BRIDE. 5 

Duke of Berwick, had just married Caroline, the 
second daughter of the widow of Prince Gustavus 
Adolphus of Stolberg-Gedern; so that the choice natu- 
rally fell upon this lady's elder sister, Louise of Stol- 
berg, the young Canoness of Ste. Wandru of Mons. 

The alliance, short of royal birth, was, in the matter 
of dignity, all that could be wished ; the Stolbergs 
were one of the most illustrious families of the Holy 
Roman Empire, in whose service they had discharged 
many high offices ; the Horns, on the other hand, 
were among the most brilliant of the Flemish aristocracy, 
allied to the Gonzagas of Mantua, the Colonna, Orsinis, 
the Medina Celis, Croys, Lignes, Hohenzollerns, and the 
house of Lorraine, reigning or quasi-reigning families ; 
and Louise of Stolberg's mother was, moreover, on 
the maternal side, the grand-daughter of the Earl of 
Elgin and Ailesbury, a Bruce, and a staunch follower 
of King James II. Such had been the inducements in 
the eyes of the Duke of Fitz- James ; and therefore in the 
eyes of Charles Edward, for whom he was commissioned 
to select a wife. The inducements to the Princess of 
Stolberg had been even greater. Foremost among them 
was probably the mere desire of ridding herself, poor 
and living as she was on the charity of the Empress- 
Queen, of another of the four girls with whom she 
had been left a widow at twenty-five. It had been a 
great blessing to get the two eldest girls, Louise and 
Caroline, educated, housed for a time, and momentarily 
settled in the world by their admission to the rich and 
noble chapter of Ste. Wandru : it must have been a 
great blessing to see the second girl married to the 
son of Fitz-James ; it would be a still greater one to 
get Louise safely*bff her hands, now that the third and 
fourth daughters required to be thought of. So far for 



6 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

the desirability of any marriage. This particular mar- 
riage with Prince Charles Edward was, moreover, such 
as to tempt the vanity and ambition of a lady like the 
widowed Princess of Stolberg, conscious of her high 
rank, and conscious, perhaps painfully conscious of the 
difficulty of living up to its requirements. The Count 
of Albany's grandfather had been King of England ; his 
father, the Pretender James, had lived with royal state 
in his exile at Rome, recognised as reigning Sovereign 
by the Pope, and even, every now and then, by France 
and Spain. No Government had recognised Charles 
Edward as King of England ; but, on the other hand, 
Charles Edward had virtually been King of Scotland 
during the '45 ; he had been promised the help of 
France to restore him to his rights; and although 
that help had never been satisfactorily given in the 
past, who could tell whether it might not be given at 
any moment in the future ? The ups and downs of 
politics brought all sorts of unexpected necessities ; and 
why should the French Government, which had igno- 
miniously kidnapped and bundled off Charles Edward 
in 1748, have sent for him again only a year ago, 
have urged him to marry, unless it had some scheme 
for reinstating him in England ? The Duke of Fitz- 
James had doubtless urged these considerations; he 
had not laid much weight on the fact that Charles 
Edward was thirty-two years older than his proposed 
wife ; still less is it probable that he had bade the 
Princess of Stolberg consider that his royal kinsman 
was said to be neither of very good health, nor of 
very agreeable disposition, nor of very temperate 
habits ; or, if such ideas were presented to the Princess 
Stolberg, she put them behind her. Be it as it may, 
these were matters for the judicious consideration of 



THE BRIDE. 7 

a mother ; not, certainly, for the thoughts of a daugh- 
ter. The judicious mother decided that such a match 
was a good one ; perhaps, in her heart, she was 
even overwhelmed by the glory which this daughter of 
hers was permitted by Heaven to add to all the glories 
of the illustrious Stolbergs and Horns. Anyhow, she 
accepted eagerly ; so eagerly as to forget both grati- 
tude and prudence : for so far from consulting her bene- 
factress, Maria Theresa, about the advisability of this 
marriage, or asking her sovereign permission for a 
step which might draw upon the Empress-Queen some 
disagreeable diplomatic correspondence with England, 
the Princess of Stolberg kept the matter close, and 
did not even announce the marriage to the Court of 
Vienna ; yet she must have foreseen what occurred, 
namely, that Maria Theresa, mortified not merely in 
her dignity as a sovereign, but also, and perhaps more, 
in her ruling passion of benevolent meddlesomeness, 
would suspend the pension which formed a large por- 
tion of the Princess's income, and compel her to the 
abject apology before restoring it. The marriage with 
Charles Edward Stuart was worth all that ! 

Louise of Stolberg was probably well aware of the 
extreme glory of the marriage for which she had been 
reserved. The Fitz- Jameses, in virtue of their illegiti- 
mate descent from James II., considered themselves 
and were considered as a sort of Princes of the 
Blood ; and as such they doubtless impressed Louise 
with a great notion of the glory of the Stuarts, and the 
absolute legitimacy of their claims. On his marriage 
Charles Edward assumed the title, and attempted to 
assume the position, of King of England ; so his bride 
must have considered herself as the wife not merely of 
the Count of Albany, but of Charles III., King of Great 



8 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

Britain, France, and Ireland. She was going to be a 
Queen \ We must try, we democratic creatures of a 
ame when kings and queens may perfectly be adven- 
turers and adventuresses, to put ourselves in the place 
of this young lady of a century ago, brought up as a 
dignitary of a chapter into which admission depended 
entirely upon the number and quality of quarterings 
of the candidate's escutcheon, under a superior the 
Abbess of Ste. Wandru who was the sister of the late 
Emperor Francis, the sister-in-law of Maria Theresa ; 
we must try and conceive an institution something 
between a school, a sisterhood, and a club, in which 
the ruling idea, the source of all dignity, jealousy, 
envy, and triumph, was greatness of birth and con- 
nection ; we must try and do this in order to under- 
stand what, to Louise of Stolberg, was the full value of 
the fact of becoming the wife of Charles Edward Stuart. 
One hundred and twelve years ago, and seventeen 
years before the great revolution which yawns, an 
almost impassable gulf, between us and the men and 
women of the past, a woman, a girl of nineteen, and a 
Canoness of Ste. Wandru of Mons, need have been of 
no base temper if, on the eve of such a wedding as 
this one, her mind had been full of only one idea : the 
idea, monotonous and drowningly loud like some big 
cathedral bell, " I shall be a Queen.'' But if Louise 
of Stolberg was, as is most probable, in some such a 
state of vague exultation, we must remember also that 
there may well have entered into such exultation 
an element with which even we, and even the most 
austerely or snobbishly democratic among us, might 
fully have sympathised. Her mother, her sister, her 
brother-in-law, and the old Duke of Fitz-James, who 
had made up her marriage and married her by proxy, 



THE BRIDE. 9 

and every other person who had approached her during 
the last month, must have been filling the mind of 
Louise of Stolberg -with tales of the '45 and of the 
heroism of Prince Charlie. And her mind, -which, 
as afterwards appeared, was romantic, fascinated by 
eccentricity and genius, may easily have become 
enamoured of the bridegroom who awaited her, the 
last of so brilliant and ill-fated a race, the hero of 
Gladsmuir and Falkirk, at whose approach the Lon- 
doners had shut their shops in terror, and the Hano- 
verian usurper ordered his yacht to lie ready moored 
at the Tower steps ; the more than royal young man 
whom (as the Jacobites doubtless told her) only the 
foolish and traitorous obstinacy of his followers had 
prevented from reinstating his father on the throne 
of England. Historical figures, especially those of a 
heroic sort, remain pictured in men's minds at their 
moment of glory ; and this was the case particu- 
larly with the Young Pretender, who had disappeared 
into well-nigh complete mystery after his wonderful 
exploits and hairbreadth escapes of the '45 ; so that in 
the eyes of Louise of Stolberg the man she was about 
to marry appeared most probably but little changed 
from the brilliant youth who had marched on foot 
at the head of his army towards London, who had 
held court at Holyrood and roamed in disguise about 
the Hebrides. 

Still, it is difficult to imagine that as the hours of 
meeting drew nearer, the little Princess, as her travel- 
ling carriage toiled up the Apennine valleys, did not 
feel some terror of the future and the unknown. 
The spring comes late to those regions ; in the middle 
of April the blackthorn is scarcely budding on the rocks, 
the violets are still plentiful underneath the leafless 



10 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

roadside hedges ; scarcely a faint yellow, more like 
autumn that spring, is beginning to tinge the scraggy 
outlines of the poplars, which rise in spectral regi- 
ments out of the river beds. Wherever the valley 
widens, or the road gains some hill-crest, a huge peak 
white with newly-fallen snow confronts you, closes in 
the view, bringing bleakness and bitterness curiously 
home to the feelings. These valleys, torrent- tracks 
between the steep rocks of livid basalt or bright red 
sandstone, bare as a bone or thinly clothed with ilex 
and juniper scrub, are inexpressibly lonely and sad, 
especially at this time of year. You feel im- 
prisoned among the rocks in a sort of catacomb open 
to the sky, where the shadows gather in the early 
afternoon, and only the light on the snow-peaks and 
on the high-sailing clouds tells you that the sun is 
still in the heavens. Villages there seem none ; and 
you may drive for an hour without meeting more than 
a stray peasant cutting scrub or quarrying gravel on 
the hill-side, a train of mules carrying charcoal or 
faggots ; the towns are far between, bleak, black, 
filthy, and such as only to make you feel all the more 
poignantly the utter desolateness of these mountains. 
No sadder way of entering Italy can well be imagined 
that landing at Ancona and crossing through the 
Apennines to Rome in the early spring. To a girl 
accustomed to the fat flatness of Flanders, to the 
market-bustle of a Flemish provincial town, this jour- 
ney must have been overwhelmingly dreary and 
dismal. During those long hours dragging up these 
Apennine valleys, did a shadow fall across the mind 
of the pretty, fair -haired, brilliant-complexioned little 
Canoness of Mons, a shadow like the cold melan- 
choly blue which filled the valleys between the sun- 



THE BEIDE. 11 

smitten peaks ? And did it ever occur to her, as the 
horses were changed in the little post-towns, that it 
was in honour of Holy Week that the savage-looking 
bearded men, the big, brawny, madonna-like women 
had got on their best clothes ? Did it strike her that 
the unplastered church-fronts were draped with black, 
the streets strewn with laurel and box, as for a funeral, 
that the bells were silent in their towers? Perhaps 
not ; and yet when, a few years later, the Countess of 
Albany was already wont to say that her married life 
had been just such as befitted a woman who had gone 
to the altar on Good Friday, she must have remem- 
bered, and the remembrance must have seemed fraught 
with ill omen, that last day of her girlhood, travelling 
through the black deserted valleys of the March, 
through the world-forgotten mountain-towns with their 
hushed bells and black- draped churches and funereally 
strewn streets. 

At Loreto where, as a good Catholic, the Princess 
Louise of Stolberg doubtless prayed for a blessing on 
her marriage, in the great sanctuary which encloses 
with silver and carved marble the little house of the 
Virgin at Loreto the bride was met by a Jacobite 
dignitary, Lord Carlyle, and five servants in the crim- 
son liveries of England. At Macerata, one of the 
larger towns of the March of Ancona, she was awaited 
by her bridegroom. A noble family of the province, 
the Compagnoni-Marefoschis, one of whom, a cardinal, 
was an old friend of the Stuarts, had placed their palace 
at the disposal of the royal pair. We most of us know 
what such palaces, in small Italian provincial towns 
south of the Apennines, are apt to be ; huge, gloomy, 
shapeless masses of brickwork and mouldering plaster, 
something between a mediaeval fortress and a convent; 



12 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

great black archways, where the refuse of the house, 
the filth of the town, has peaceably accumulated (and 
how much more in those days) ; magnificent statued 
staircases given over to the few servants who have 
replaced the armed bravos of two centuries ago ; long 
suites of rooms, vast, resounding like so many churches, 
glazed in the last century with tiny squares of bad 
glass, through which the light comes green and thick 
as through sea- water; carpets still despised as a new- 
fangled luxury from France; the walls, not cheerful 
with eighteenth-century French panel and hangings, but 
covered with big naked frescoed men and women, or 
faded arras ; few fire-places, but those few enormous, 
looking like a huge red cavern in the room. The 
Marefoschis had got together all their best furniture 
and plate, and the palace was filled with torches and 
wax lights ; a funereal illumination in a funereal place, 
it must have seemed to the little Princess of Stolberg, 
fresh from the brilliant nattiness of the Parisian houses 
of the time of Louis XV. 

The bride alighted; a small, plump, well-propor- 
tioned, rather childish creature, with still half -formed 
childish features, a trifle snub, a trifle soulless, very 
pretty, tender, light-hearted ; a charming little creature, 
very well made to steal folk's hearts unconscious to 
themselves and to herself. 

The bridegroom met her. A faded, but extremely 
characteristic crayon portrait, the companion of the 
one of which I have already spoken, now in the posses- 
sion of Cavaliere Emilio Santarelli (the only man still 
living who can remember that same Louise d' Albany), 
a portrait evidently taken at this time, has shown 
me what that bridegroom must have been. The 
man who met Louise of Stolberg at Macerata as her 



THE BRIDE. 13 

husband and master, the man who had once been 
Bonnie Prince Charlie, was tall, big-boned, gaunt, and 
prematurely bowed for his age of fifty-two ; dressed 
usually, and doubtless on this occasion, with the blue 
ribbon and star, in a suit of crimson watered silk, which 
threw up a red reflection into his red and bloated face. 
A red face, but of a livid, purplish red suffused all over 
the heavy furrowed forehead to where it met the 
white wig, all over the flabby cheeks, hanging in big 
loose folds upon the short, loose-folded red neck; 
massive features, but coarsened and drawn ; and dull, 
thick, silent-looking lips, of purplish red scarce redder 
than the red skin ; pale blue eyes tending to a watery 
greyness, leaden, vague, sad, but with angry streakings 
of red ; something inexpressibly sad, gloomy, helpless, 
vacant and debased in the whole face : such was 
the man who awaited Louise of Stolberg in the 
Compagnoni-Marefoschi palace at Macerata, and who, 
on Good Friday the 17th of April 1772, wedded her 
in the palace chapel and signed his name in the 
register as Charles III., King of Great Britain, France, 
and Ireland. 



14 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER II. 

THE BRIDEGROOM. 

ON the Wednesday after Easter the bride and bride- 
groom made their solemn entry into Rome ; the two 
travelling carriages of the Prince and of the Princess 
were drawn by six horses ; four gala coaches, carrying 
the attendants of Charles Edward and of his brother 
the Cardinal Duke of York, followed behind, and the 
streets were cleared by four outriders dressed in scarlet 
with the white Stuart cockade. The house to which 
Louise of Stolberg, now Louise d' Albany, or rather, 
as she signed herself at this time, Louise R., was con- 
ducted after her five days' wedding journey, has passed 
through several hands since belonging to the Sac- 
chettis, the Muti Papazzurris, and now-a-days to the 
family of About' s charming and unhappy Tolla Ferraldi. 
Clement XI. had given or lent it to the Elder Pretender : 
James III., as he was styled in Italy, had settled in 
it about 1719 with his beautiful bride Maria Clementina 
Sobieska, romantically niched by her Jacobites from 
the convent at Innsbruck, where the Emperor Charles 
VI. had hoped to restrain her from so compromising 
a match; here, in the year 1720, Charles Edward had 
been born and had his baby fingers kissed by the 



THE BRIDEGROOM. 15 

whole sacred college; and here the so-called King 
of England had died at last, a melancholy hypochon- 
driac, in 1766. The palace closes in the narrow end 
of the square of the Santissimi Apostoli, stately and 
quiet with its various palaces, Colonna, Odescalchi, 
and whatever else their names, and its pillared church 
front. There is a certain aristocratic serenity about 
that square, separated, like a big palace yard, from the 
bustling Corso in front ; yet to me there remains, a tra- 
dition of my childhood, a sort of grotesque and horrid 
suggestiveness connected with this peaceful and princely 
corner of Rome. For, many years ago, when the 
square of the Santissimi Apostoli was still periodically 
strewn with sand that the Pope might not be jolted 
when his golden coach drove up to the church, and 
when the names of Charles Edward and his Countess 
were curiously mixed up in my brain with those of 
Charles the First and Mary Queen of Scots, there used 
to be in a little street leading out of the square towards 
the Colonna Gardens, a dark recess in the blank church- 
wall, an embrasure, sheltered by a pent-house roof and 
raised like a stage a few steep steps above the pave- 
ment ; and in it loomed, strapped to a chair, dark in 
the shadow, a creature in a long black robe and a skull 
cap drawn close over his head ; a vague, contorted, 
writhing and gibbering horror, of whose St. Vitus 
twistings and mouthings we children scarcely ventured 
to catch a glimpse as we hurried up the narrow street, 
followed by the bestial cries and moans of the solitary 
maniac. This weird and grotesque sight, more weird 
and more grotesque seen through a muddled childish 
fancy and through the haze of years, has remained 
associated in my mind with that particular corner 
of Rome, where, with windows looking down upon that 



16 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

street, upon that blank church- wall with its little black 
recess, the palace of the Stuarts closes in the narrow 
end of the square of the Santissimi Apostoli. And 
now, I cannot help seeing a certain strange appropriate- 
ness in the fact that the image of that mouthing and 
gesticulating half-witted creature should be connected 
in my mind with the house to which, with pomp 01 
six-horse coaches and scarlet outriders, Charles Edward 
Stuart conducted his bride. 

For the beautiful and brilliant youth who had 
secretly left that palace twenty-four years before 
to re-conquer his father's kingdom, the gentle and 
gallant and chivalric young prince of whose irresistible 
manner and voice the canny chieftains had vainly 
bid e.ich other beware when he landed with his 
handful of friends and called the Highlanders to 
arms ; the patient and heroic exile, singing to his 
friends when the sea washed over their boat and 
the Hanoverian soldiers surrounded their cavern or 
hovel, who had silently given Miss Macdonald that 
solemn kiss which she treasured for more than fifty 
years in her strong heart that Charles Edward Stuart 
was now a creature not much worthier and not much 
less repulsive than the poor idiot whom I still see, 
flinging about his palsied hands and gobbling with 
his speechless mouth, beneath the windows of the 
Stuart palace. The taste for drinking, so strange in 
a man brought up to the age of twenty-three among 
the proverbially sober Italians, had arisen in Charles 
Edward, a most excusable ill habit in one continually 
exposed to wet and cold, frequently sleeping on the 
damp ground, ill-fed, anxious, worn out by over- 
exertion in flying before his enemies, during those 
frightful months after the defeat at Culloden, when, 




CHAKLES EDWARD STUART 
, once in the possession of the heir of the Cc 
of Mrs. Horace tfalfole, of HeckJJeld Plac 



THE BRIDEGROOM. 17 

with a price of thirty thousand pounds upon his head, 
he had lurked in the fastnesses of the Hebrides. We 
hear that on the eve of his final escape from Scotland, 
his host, Macdouald of Kingsburgh, prevented the 
possible miscarriage of all their perilous plans only by 
smashing the punch-bowl over which the Pretender, 
already more than half drunk, had insisted upon 
spending the night. Still more significant is the fact, 
recorded by Hugh Macdonald of Balshair, that when 
Charles Edward was concealed in a hovel in the isle of 
South Uist, the prince and his faithful followers con- 
tinued drinking (the words are Balshair's own) " for 
three days and three nights." Hard drinking was, we 
all know, a necessary accomplishment in the Scotland 
of those days ; and hard drinking, we must all of us 
admit, may well have been the one comfort and resource 
of a man undergoing the frightful mental and bodily 
miseries of those months of lying at bay. But Charles 
Edward did not relinquish the habit when he was back 
again in safety and luxury. Strangely compounded of 
an Englishman and a Pole, the Polish element, the 
brilliant and light-hearted chivalry, the cheerful and 
youthfully wayward heroism which he had inherited 
from the Sobieskis, seemed to constitute the whole of 
Charles Edward's nature when he was young and, 
for all his reverses, still hopeful; as he grew older, as 
deferred and disappointed hopes, and endured ignominy, 
made him a middle-aged man before his time, then 
also did the other hereditary strain, the morose obstinacy, 
the gloomy brutality of James II. and of his father 
begin to appear, and gradually obliterated every trace 
of what had been the splendour and charm of the 
Prince Charlie of the '45. Disappointed of the assis- 
tance of France, which had egged him to this great 

2 



18 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

enterprise only to leave him shamefully in the lurch, 
Charles Edward had, immediately upon the peace of 
Aix la Chapelle, become an embarrassing guest of Louis 
XV., and a guest of whom the victorious English were 
continually requiring the ignominious dismissal ; until, 
wearied by the indifference to all hints and orders to 
free France from his compromising presence, the Court 
of Versailles had descended to the incredible baseness 
of having the Prince kidnapped as he was going to 
the opera, bound hand and foot, carried like a thief to 
the fortress of Vincennes, and then conducted to the 
frontier like a suspected though unconvicted swindler, 
or other public nuisance. 

This indignity, coming close upon the irreparable 
blow dealt to the Jacobite cause by the stupid selfish- 
ness which impelled Charles Edward's younger brother 
to become a Romish priest and a cardinal, appears to 
have definitively decided the extraordinary change in 
the character of the Young Pretender. During the 
many years of skulking, often completely lost to the 
sight both of Jacobite adherents and of Hanoverian 
spies, which followed upon that outrage of the year 
1748, the few glimpses which we obtain of Charles 
Edward show us only a precociously aged, brutish 
and brutal sot, obstinate in disregarding all efforts to 
restore him to a worthier life, yet not obstinate enough 
to refuse unnecessary pecuniary aid from the very 
government and persons by whom he had been so 
cruelly outraged. We hear that Charles Edward's 
confessor, with whom, despite his secret abjuration of 
Catholicism, he continued to associate, was a notorious 
drunkard ; and that the mistress with whom he lived 
for many years, and whom he even passed off as his 
wife, was also addicted to drinking; nay, Lord Elcho 



THE BRIDEGROOM. 19 

is said to have witnessed a tipsy squabble between the 
Young Pretender and Miss Walkenshaw, the lady in 
question, across the table of a low Paris tavern. The 
reports of the many spies whom the English Govern- 
ment set everywhere on his traces are constant and 
unanimous in one item of information : the Prince 
began to drink early in the morning, and was invariably 
dead drunk by the evening; nay, some letters of 
Cardinal York, addressed to an unknown Jacobite, 
speak of the " nasty bottle, that goes on but too much, 
and certainly must at last kill him." But, although 
drunkenness undoubtedly did much to obliterate what- 
ever still remained of the hero of the '45, it was itself 
only one of the proofs of the strange metamorphosis 
which had taken place in his character. We cannot 
admit the plea of some of his biographers, who would 
save his honour at the price of his reason. Charles 
Edward was the victim neither of an hereditary vice nor 
of a mental disease ; drink was in his case not a form 
of madness, but merely the ruling passion of a broken- 
spirited and degraded nature. He had the power when 
he married, and even much later in life, when he sent 
for his illegitimate daughter, of refraining from his usual 
excesses ; his will, impaired though it was, still existed, 
and what was wanting in the sad second half of his 
career was not resolution, but conscience, pride, an ideal, 
anything which might beget the desire of reform. The 
curious mixture of brow-beating moroseuess with a 
brazen readiness to accept and even extort favours, he 
would appear, as he ceased to be young, to have 
gradually inherited from his father; he was ready to 
live on the alms of the French Court, while never losing 
an opportunity of declaiming against the ignoble treat- 
ment which that same Court had inflicted on him. He 

2 * 



20 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

became sordid and grasping in money matters, basely 
begging for money, which he did not require, from 
those who, like Gustavus III. of Sweden, discovered 
only too late that he was demeaning himself from 
avarice and not from necessity. While keeping a 
certain maudlin sentiment about his exploits and those 
of his followers, which manifested itself in cruelly 
pathetic scenes when, as in his old age, people talked to 
him of the Highlands and the Rebellion; he was wholly 
without any sense of his obligation towards men who 
had exposed their life and happiness for him, of the 
duty which bound him to repay their devotion by 
docility to their advice, by sacrifice of his inclinations, 
or even by such mere decency of behaviour as would 
spare them the bitterness of allegiance to a disreputable 
and foul-mouthed sot. But, until the moment when 
old and dying, he placed himself in the strong hands 
of his natural daughter, Charles Edward seems to have 
been, however obstinate in his favouritism, incapable 
of any real affection. When his brother Henry became 
a priest Charles held aloof for long years both from 
him and from his father; and this resentment of 
what was after all a mere piece of bigoted folly, may 
be partially excused by the fact that the identification 
of his family with Popery had seriously damaged the 
prospects of Jacobitism. But the lack of all loving- 
ness in his nature is proved beyond possibility of 
doubt by the brutal manner in which, while obsti- 
nately refusing to part with his mistress at the earnest 
entreaty of his adherents, he explained to their envoy 
Macnamara that his refusal was due merely to resent- 
ment at any attempted interference in his concerns ; 
but that, for the rest, he had not the smallest affection 
or consideration remaining for the woman they wished 



THE BRIDEGROOM. 21 

to make him relinquish. As if all the stupid selfish- 
ness bred of centuries of royalty had accumulated in 
this man who might be king only through his own and 
his adherents magnanimity, Charles Edward seemed, in 
the second period of his life, to feel as if he had a right 
over everything, and nobody else had a right over 
anything ; all sense of reciprocity was gone ; he would 
accept devotion, self -sacrifice, generosity, charity nay, 
he would even insist upon them ; but he would give 
not one tittle in return ; so that, forgetful of the 
heroism and clemency and high spirit of his earlier 
days, one might almost think that his indignant answer 
to Cardinal de Tencin, who offered him England and 
Scotland if he would cede Ireland to France, " Every- 
thing or nothing, Monsieur le Cardinal ! " was dictated 
less by the indignation of an Englishman than by the 
stubborn graspingness of a Stuart. His further beha- 
viour towards Miss Walkenshaw shows the same indiffe- 
rence to everything except what he considered his own 
rights. He had crudely admitted that he cared nothing 
for her, that it was only because his adherents wished 
her dismissal that he did not pack her off; and subse- 
quently he seems to have given himself so little thought 
either for his mistress or for his child by her, that, with- 
out the benevolence of his brother the Cardinal, they 
might have starved. But when, after long endurance 
of his jealousy and brutality, after being watched like 
a prisoner and beaten like a slave, the wretched woman 
at length took refuge in a convent, Charles Edward's 
rage knew no bounds ; and he summoned the French 
Government, despite his old quarrel with it, to kidnap 
and send back the woman over whom he had no legal 
rights, and certainly no moral ones, with the obstinacy 
aud violence of a drunken navvy clamouring for the 



22 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

wife whom he has well-nigh done to death. Beyond 
the mere intemperance and the violence born of intem- 
perance which made Charles Edward's name a by- 
word and served the Hanoverian dynasty better than 
all the Duke of Cumberland's gibbets, there was at the 
bottom of the Pretender's character his second charac- 
ter at least, his character after the year 1750 heart- 
lessness and selfishness, an absence of all ideal and all 
gratitude, much more morally repulsive than any mere 
vice, and of which the vice which publicly degraded 
him was the result much more than the cause. The 
curse of kingship in an age when royalty had lost all 
utility, the habit of irresponsibility, of indifference, 
the habit of always claiming and never giving justice, 
love, self-sacrifice, all the good things of this world, 
this curse had lurked, an evil strain, in the nature of 
this king without a kingdom, and had gradually 
blighted and made hideous what had seemed an almost 
heroic character. Royal-souled Charles Edward Stuart 
had certainly been in his youth; brilliant with all 
those virtues of endurance, clemency, and affability 
which the earlier eighteenth century still fondly asso- 
ciated with the divine right of kings; and royal-souled, 
hard and weak with all the hardness and weakness, 
the self-indulgence, obstinacy, and thoughtlessness for 
others of effete races of kings, he had become no less 
certainly, in the second part of his life ; branded with 
God's own brand of unworthiness, which signifies that 
a people, or a class, or a family, is doomed to ex- 
tinction. 

Such was the man to whom the easy-going habit of 
the world, the perfectly self- righteous indifference to a 
woman's happiness or honour of the well-bred people 
of that day, gave over as a partner for life a half- 



THE BRIDEGROOM. 23 

educated, worldly-ignorant and absolutely will-less 
young girl of nineteen and a half, who doubtless con- 
sidered herself extremely fortunate in being chosen 
for so brilliant a match. 

There is a glamour, even for us, connected with the 
name of Charles Edward Stuart ; in his youth he forms 
a brilliant speck of romantic light in that dull eighteenth 
century, a spot of light surrounded by the halo of 
glory of the devotion which he inspired and the enthu- 
siasm which he left behind him. We feel, in a way, 
grateful to him almost as we might feel grateful to a 
clever talker, a beautiful woman, a bright day, as to 
something pleasing and enlivening to our fancy. But 
the brilliant effect which has pleased us is like some 
gorgeous pageant connected with the worship of a 
stupid and ferocious divinity ; nay, rather, if we let our 
thoughts dwell upon the matter, if we remember how, 
while the prisons and ship-holds were pestilent with the 
Jacobite men and women penned up like cattle in 
obscene promiscuity, while the mutilated corpses were 
lying still green, piled up under the bog turf of Cullo- 
den, while so many of the bravest men of Scotland, 
who had supplicated the Young Pretender not to tempt 
them to a hopeless enterprise, were cheerfully mount- 
ing the scaffold "for so sweet a prince," Charles Edward 
was dancing at Versailles in his crimson silk dress and 
diamonds, with his black-eyed boast the eldest-born 
Princess of France. Nay, worse, if we remember how 
the man, for whose love and whose right so much need- 
less agony had been expended, let himself become a 
disgrace to the very memory of the men who had 
died for him : if we bear all this in mind, Charles 
Edward seems to become a mere irresponsible and 
fated representative of some evil creed; the idol, at 



24 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

first fair-shapen and smiling, then hideous and loath- 
some, to which human sacrifices are brought in 
solemnity ; a glittering idol of silver, or a foul idol of 
rotten wood, but without nerves and mind to perceive 
the weeping all around, the sop of blood at its feet. 
And now, after the sacrifice of so many hundreds of 
brave men to this one man, comes the less tragic, less 
heroic, perfectly legitimate and correct sacrifice to him 
of a pretty young woman, not brave and not magnani- 
mous, but very fit for innocent enjoyment and very 
fit for honourable love. 



25 



CHAPTER III. 

EEGINA APOSTOLORUM. 

CHARLES EDWARD had refrained from drink, or at 
least refrained from any excesses, in honour of 
his marriage. Perhaps the notion that France was 
again taking him up, a notion well-founded since 
France had bid him marry and have an heir, and the 
recollection of the near miscarriage of all his projects, 
thanks to having presented himself, a year before, to 
the French Minister so drunk that he could neither 
speak nor be spoken to, perhaps the old hope of becom- 
ing after all a real king, had turned the Pretender into 
a temporarily-reformed character. Or, perhaps, weary 
of the life of melancholy solitude, of debauched squalor, 
of the moral pig-stye in which he had been rotting 
so many years, the idea of decency, of dignity, of 
society, of a wife and children and friends, may have 
made him capable of a strong resolution. Perhaps, also, 
the unfamiliar, wonderful presence of a beautiful and 
refined young woman, of something to adore, or at 
least to be jealous and vain of, may have wakened 
whatever still remained of the gallant and high-spirited 
Polish nature in this morose and besotten old Stuart. 



26 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

Be this as it may, Charles Edward, however degraded, 
was able to command himself when he chose, and, for 
one reason or another, he did choose to command him- 
self and behave like a tolerably decent man and husband 
during the first few months following on his marriage. 
Besides the redness of his face, the leaden suffused 
look of his eyes, the vague air of degradation all 
about him, there was perhaps nothing, at first, that 
revealed to Louise, Queen of Great Britain, France, 
and Ireland, that her husband was a drunkard and 
well-nigh a maniac. Engaging he certainly could not 
have been, however much he tried (and we know he 
tried hard) to show his full delight at having got so 
charming a little wife ; indeed, it is easy to imagine 
that if anything might inspire even a properly educated 
and high-born young Flemish or German lady of the 
eighteenth century with somewhat of a sense of loath- 
ing, it must have been the assiduities and endearments 
of a man such as Charles Edward. But Louise of 
Stolberg had doubtless absorbed, from her mother, 
from her older f ellow-canonesses, nay, from the very 
school-girls in the convent where she had been edu- 
cated, all proper views, negative and positive, on 
the subject of marriage ; nor must we give to a girl 
who was probably still too much of a child, too much 
of an unromantic little woman of the world, undeserved 
pity on account of degradation which she had most 
probably, as yet, not sufficient moral nerve to appre- 
ciate. Her husband was old, he was ugly, he was not 
attractive ; he may have been tiresome and rather loath- 
some in his constant attendance ; he may even have 
smelt of brandy every now and then ; but as marriages 
had been invented in order to give young women a 
position in the world, husbands were not expected to 



EEGINA APOSTOLORUM. 27 

be much more than drawbacks to the situation ; and 
as to the sense of life-long dependence upon an indi- 
vidual, as to the desire for love and sympathy, it was 
still too early in the eighteenth century, and perhaps, 
also, too early in the life of a half -Flemish, half-German 
girl, very childish still in aspect, and brought up in. 
the worldly wisdom of a noble chapter of canonesses, 
to expect anything of that kind. 

There must, however, from the very beginning, 
have been something unreal and uncanny in the girl's 
situation. The huge old palace, crammed with pro- 
perties of dead Stuarts and Sobieskis, with its royal 
throne and dais in the ante-room, its servants in the 
royal liveries of England, must have been full of 
rather lugubrious memories. Here James III. of 
England and VIII. of Scotland had moped away his 
bitter old age ; here, years and years ago, Charles 
Edward's mother, the beautiful and brilliant grand- 
daughter of John Sobieski, had pined away, bullied and 
cajoled back from the convent in which she had taken 
refuge, perpetually outraged by the violence of her 
husband and the insolence of his mistress ; it was an 
ill-omened sort of place for a bride. Around extended 
the sombre and squalid Rome of the second half of the 
eigteenth century, with its huge ostentatious rococo 
palaces and churches, its straggled, black and filthy 
streets, its ruins still embedded in nettles and filth, its 
population seemingly composed only of monks and 
priests (for all men of the middle-classes wore the 
black dress and short hair of the clergy), or of half-savage 
peasants and workmen, bearded creatures, in wonderful 
embroidered vests and scarves, looking exceedingly like 
brigands, as Bartolomeo Pinelli etched them even 
some thirty years later. A town where every door- 



25 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

way was a sewer by day and a possible hiding-place 
for thieves by night ; where no woman durst cross the 
street alone after dusk, and no man dared to walk 
home unattended after nine or ten ; where, driving 
about in her gilded state-coach of an afternoon, the 
Pretender's bride must often have met a knot of people 
conveying a stabbed man (the average gave more than 
one assassination per day) to the nearest barber or 
apothecary, the blood of the murdered man mingling, 
in the black ooze about the rough cobble-stones over 
which the coaches jolted, with the blood trickling from 
the disembowelled sheep hanging, ghastly in their 
fleeces, from the hooks outside the butchers' and 
cheesemongers' shops ; or returning home at night 
from the opera, amid the flare of the footmen's torches, 
must have heard the distant cries of some imprudent 
person struggling in the hands of marauders; or, again, 
on Sundays and holidays have been stopped by the crowd 
gathered round the pillory where some too easy-going 
husband sat crowned with a paper-cap in a hail-storm 
of mud and egg-shells and fruit-peelings, round the 
scaffold where some petty offender was being flogged 
by the hangman, until the fortunate appearance of a 
clement cardinal or the rage of the sympathising mob 
put a stop to the proceedings. Barbarous as we re- 
member the Rome of the Popes, we must imagine it 
just a hundred times more barbarous, more squalid, 
picturesque, filthy, and unsafe if we would know what it 
was a hundred years ago. 

But in this barbarous Rome there were things more 
beautiful and wonderful to a young Flemish lady of 
the eighteenth century than they could possibly be 
to us, indifferent and much-cultured creatures of 
the nineteenth century, who know that most art is 



EEQINA APOSTOLORUN. 29 

corrupt and most music trashy. The private galleries 
of Rome were then in process of formation; pic- 
tures which had hung in dwelling-rooms were being 
assembled in those beautiful gilded and stuccoed 
saloons, with their out-look on to the cloisters of a 
court, or the ilex tops or orange espaliers of a garden, 
filled with the faint splash of the fountains outside, 
the spectral silvery chiming of musical clocks, where, 
unconscious of the thousands of beings who would 
crowd in there armed with guide-books and opera- 
glasses in the days to come, only stray foreigners were 
to be met, foreigners who most likely were daintily 
embroidered and powdered aristocrats from England 
or Germany, if they were not men like "Winckle- 
mann, or Goethe, or Beckford. It was the great day, 
also, for excavations ; the vast majority of antiques 
which we now see in Rome having been dug up at 
that period; and among the ilexes of the Ludovisi 
and Albani gardens, among the laurels and rough 
grass of the Vatican hill, porticoes were being built, 
and long galleries and temple-like places, where a 
whole people of marble might live among the newly- 
found mosaics and carved altars and vases. More- 
over, there was at that time in Rome a thing of 
which there is now less in Rome than anywhere, 
perhaps, in the world a thing for which English and 
Germans came expressly to Italy : there was music. 
A large proportion of the best new operas were always 
brought out in Rome always four or five new ones in 
each season; and the young singers from the con- 
servatories of Naples came to the ecclesiastical city, 
where no actresses were suffered, to begin their career 
in the hoop skirts and stomachers, and powdered 
toupes with which the eighteenth century was wont 



30 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

to conceive the heroines of ancient Greece and Rome. 
The bride of Charles Edward was herself a tolerable 
musician, and she had a taste for painting and sculp- 
ture which developed into a perfect passion in after- 
life ; so, with respect to art, there was plenty to amuse 
her. 

It was different with regard to society. By insisting 
upon royal honours such as had been enjoyed by his 
father, but which the Papal Court, anxious to keep on 
good terms with England, absolutely refused to give him, 
the Pretender had virtually cut himself and his wife out 
of all Roman society; for he would not know the nobles 
on a footing of equality, and they, on the other hand, 
dared know him on no other. The great entertain- 
ments in the palaces where Charles Edward had so 
often danced, the admired of all beholders, in his 
boyhood, were not for the Count and Countess of 
Albany. There remained the theatres and public 
balls, to which the Pretender conducted his wife with 
the assiduity of a man immensely vain of having on 
his arm a woman far too young and too pretty for his 
deserts. And, besides this, there was a certain amount 
of vague, shifting foreign society, nobles on the loose, 
and young men on their grand tour, who mostly con- 
sidered that a visit to the Palazzo Muti, or at least a 
seemingly accidental meeting and introduction in the 
lobby of a theatre or the garden of a villa, was an 
indispensable part of their sight-seeing. Such people 
as these were the guests of the Palazzo Muti ; and, 
together with a few Jacobite hangers-on, constituted 
the fluctuating little Court of Louise, Queen of Great 
Britain, France, and Ireland, whom the people of 
Rome, hearing of the throne and dais in the ante-room 
and of the royal ceremonial in the palace near the 



REGINA APOSTOLOEUM. 31 

Santissimi Apostoli, usually spoke of as the Reffina 
Apostolorum ; while only a very few, who had 
approached that charming little blonde lady, corrected 
the title to that of Queen of Hearts, Regina dei 
Cuori. Among the few who bowed before Charles 
Edward's wife, in consideration of this last-named 
kingdom, was a brilliant, wayward young man, destined 
to remain a sort of brilliant, wayward, impracticable 
child until he was eighty; and destined, also, to cherish 
throughout the long lives of both, the sort of half 
genuine, half affected, boy's, or rather page's, passion 
with which Queen Louise had inspired him. Karl 
Victor von Bonstetten, of a patrician family of Bern, 
a Frenchified German, more French, more butterfly- 
like than any real Frenchman, even of the old regime, 
came to Rome, already well-known by his romantic 
friendship with the Swiss historian Miiller, and by the 
ideas which he had desultorily and gaily aired on most 
subjects, in the year 1773. In his memoirs he wrote 
as follows of the "Queen of Hearts": "She was of 
middle height, fair, with dark-blue eyes, a slightly 
turned-up nose, and a dazzling white English com- 
plexion. Her expression was gay and espiegle, and 
not without a spice of irony, on the whole more 
French than German. She was enough to turn all 
heads. The Pretender was tall, lean, good-natured, 
talkative. He liked to have opportunities of speaking 
English, and was given to talking a great deal about 
his adventures interesting enough for a visitor, but 
not equally so for his intimates, who had probably 
heard those stories a hundred times over. After every 
sentence almost he would ask, in Italian, ' Do you 
understand ? ' His young wife laughed heartily at 
the story of his dressing up in woman's clothes/' A 



82 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

dull, garrulous husband, boring people with stories of 
which they were sick ; a childish little wife, trying to 
make the best of things, and laughing over the stale 
old jokes; this is what may be called the idyllic 
moment in the wedded life of Charles Edward and 
Louise. What would she have felt, that strong, calm 
lady, growing old far off in the Isle of Skye, had she 
been able to see what Bonstetten saw ; had she heard 
the Count and Countess of Albany laughing, the one 
with the laughter of an old sot, the other with the 
laughter of a giddy child, over the adventures of that 
heroic Prince Charlie whose memory was safe in her 
heart as the sheets he had slept in were safe in her 
closet, waiting to be her grave-clothes ? 

Forty-four years later, when the Queen of Hearts 
was a stout, dowdy old lady, with no traces of beauty, 
and himself a flighty, amiable old gossip of seventy, 
Karl Victor von Bonstetten wrote to the Countess of 
Albany from Rome : " I never pass through the 
Apostles' square without looking up at that balcony, 
at that house where I saw you for the first time." 



33 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE HEIR. 

IN 1765 Horace Walpole, mentioning the now-ascer- 
tained fact of the Pretender's abjuration of Catholicism, 
informed his friend Mann that a rumour was about 
that Charles Edward had declared his intention of 
never marrying, in order that no more Stuarts should 
remain to embroil England. This magnanimous reso- 
lution, which was a mere repetition of an answer made 
years ago by the Pretender's father, did not hold good 
against the temptations of the Cabinet of Versailles. 
There is something particularly disgusting in the 
thought that, merely because the French Government 
thought it convenient to keep a Stuart in reserve with 
whom, if necessary, to trip up England, the once 
magnanimous Charles Edward consented to marry in 
consideration of a certain pension from Versailles; to 
make money out of any possible or probable son he 
might have. This, however, was the plain state of the 
case ; and Louise of Stolberg had been selected, and 
married to a drunkard old enough to be her father, 
merely that this honourable bargain between the man 
outraged in 1748, and the Government which had 
outraged him, might be satisfactorily fulfilled. 

3 



34 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

The Court of Versailles wasted its money : the 
officially-negotiated baby was never born. Nay, Sir 
Horace Mann, the English Minister at Florence, whose 
spies watched every movement of the Count and 
Countess of Albany, was able to report to his Govern- 
ment, in answer to a vague rumour of the coming 
of an heir, that the wife of Charles Edward Stuart 
had never, at any moment, had any reasons for 
expecting to become a mother. And when, in the first 
years of this century, Henry Benedict, Cardinal York, 
the younger brother of Charles Edward, was buried 
where the two melancholy genii of Canova keep watch 
in St. Peter's, opposite to the portrait of Maria 
Clementina Sobieska in powder and paint and patches, 
a certain solemn feeliug came over most Englishmen 
with the thought that the race of James II. was now 
extinct. 

But the world had forgotten that the children 
of Edward IV. were resuscitated; that the son of 
Louis XVI., whose poor little dead body had been 
handled by the Commissary of the Republic, had 
returned to earth in the shape of five or six perfectly 
distinct individuals, Bruneau, Hervagault, Naundorff, 
whatever else their names ; that King Arthur is still 
living in the kingdom of Morgan le Fay ; and Bar- 
barossa still asleep on the stone table, waiting till 
the rooks which circle round the Kief hauser hill shall 
tell him to arise; and the world had, therefore, to 
learn that a Stuart still existed. The legend runs as 
follows. 

In 1773, a certain Dr. Beaton, a staunch Jacobite, 
who had fought at Culloden, was attracted, while 
travelling in Italy, by the knowledge that his legitimate 
sovereigns were spending part of the summer at a 



THE HEIR. 35 

villa in the neighbourhood, to a vague place somewhere 
in the Apennines between Parma and Lucca, dis- 
tinguished by the extremely un-Tuscan name of St. 
Rosalie. Here, while walking about "in the deep 
quiet shades," the doctor was one day startled by a 
" calash and four, with scarlet liveries/' which dashed 
past him and up an avenue. During the one moment 
of its rapid passage, the Scotch physician recognised 
in the rather apocalyptic gentleman wearing the garter 
and the cross of St. Andrew, who sat by the side of 
a beautiful young woman, " the Bonnie Prince Charlie 
of our faithful beau ideal, still the same eagle-featured, 
royal bird, which I had seen on his own mountains, 
when he spread his wings towards the south." Towards 
dusk of that same day, as Dr. Beaton was pacing up 
and down the convent church of St. Rosalie, doubtless 
thinking over that " eagle-featured royal bird/' whom 
he had seen driving in the calash and four, he was 
startled in his meditations by the jingle of spurs on 
the pavement, and by the approach of a man " of 
superior appearance." 

This person was dressed in" a manner which was 
"a little equivocal," wore a broad hat and a thick 
moustache, which, joined with the sternness of his pale 
cheek and the piercingness of his eye, must indeed 
have suggested something extremely eerie to a well- 
shaven, three-corner hat, respectable man of the 
eighteenth century ; so that we are not at all surprised 
to hear that the doctor's imagination was crossed by " a 
sudden idea of the celebrated Torrifino," who, although 
his name sounds like a sweetmeat, was probably one of 
the many mysterious Italians, brothers of the Count of 
Udolpho and Spalatro and Zeluco, who haunted the 
readers of the romances of the latter eighteenth 

3 * 



36 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

century. This personage enquired whether he was 
addressing " il Dottor Betoni Scozzere." 

The physician having answered this question, asked, 
for no conceivable reason, in bad Italian of a Scotch- 
man by a Scotchman (for we learn that the unknown 
was a Chevalier Graham), the mysterious moustached 
man requested him to attend at once upon " one who 
stood in immediate need/' Dr. Beaton's enquiries as 
to the nature of the assistance and the person who 
required it, having been answered with the solemn 
remark that "the relief of the malady, and not the 
circumstances of the patient, is the province of a 
physician," and the proposal being made that he should 
go to the sick person blindfolded and in a shuttered 
carriage, the doctor's prudence and the thought of the 
famous Torrifino dictated a flat refusal ; but the mys- 
terious stranger would not let him off. " Signor," he 
exclaimed (persistently talking bad Italian) , " I respect 
your doubts ; by one word I could dispel them ; but it 
is a secret which would be embarrassing to the possessor. 
It concerns the interest and safety of one the most 
illustrious and unfortunate of the Scottish Jacobites.' 1 
" What ! Whom ? " exclaimed Dr. Beaton. " I can 
say no more," replied the stranger ; " but if you would 
venture any service for one who was once the dearest 
to your country and your cause, follow me." " Let us 
go," cried Dr. Beaton, the enthusiasm for Prince 
Charlie entirely getting the better of the thought of 
the famous Torrifino ; and so, blindfolded, he was con- 
veyed, partly by land and partly by water (what water, 
in those Apennine valleys where there are no streams 
save torrents in which even a punt would be im- 
possible, it is difficult to understand), to a house 
standing in a garden. That it did stand in a garden 



THE HEIR. 37 

appears to have been a piece of information volunteered 
by the mysterious Chevalier Graham, for Dr. Beaton 
expressly states that it was not till the two had passed 
through a " long range of apartments " that the 
bandage was removed from his eyes. 

The doctor found himself in a "splendid saloon, 
hung with crimson velvet, and blazing with mirrors 
which reached from the ceiling to the floor. At the 
farther end a pair of folding doors stood open, and 
showed the dim perspective of a long conservatory." 
The mysterious Chevalier Graham rang a silver bell, 
which summoned a little page dressed in scarlet, with 
whom he exchanged a few rapid words in German. 
The communication appeared to agitate the Chevalier; 
and after dismissing the page, he turned to the doctor. 
" Signer Dottore," he said, "the most important part 
of your occasion is past. The lady whom you have 
been unhappily called to attend, met with an alarming 
accident in her carriage, not half an hour before I 
found you in the church, and the unlucky absence of 
her physician leaves her entirely under your charge. 
Her accouchement is over, apparently without any 
result more than exhaustion ; but of that you will be 
the judge." 

It was only at the mention of the carriage and the 
accident that Dr. Beaton, whose wits appear to have 
been wool-gathering, suddenly guessed at a possible 
connection between these " most illustrious and un- 
fortunate of Scottish Jacobites/' to whose house he 
had been thus mysteriously introduced, and the lady 
and gentleman in whom he had that same afternoon 
recognised Charles Edward and his wife. The page 
reappeared, and conducted Dr. Beaton through another 
suite of splendid apartments, till they came to an ante- 



38 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

room decorated with the portraits of no less remarkable 
persons than the rebel Duke of Perth and King James 
VIII., a fact which shows that the Stuarts must have 
carried their furniture with them, from Rome to a 
Lucchese villa hired for a few months, with more 
recklessness than one might have imagined likely in 
those days of post-chaises. Out of this ante-room the 
physician was ushered into a large and magnificent 
bed-room, lit with a single taper. From the side of a 
crimson-draped bed stepped a lady, who saluted Dr. 
Beaton in English, and led him up to the patient, while 
a female attendant nursed an infant enveloped in a 
mantle. The lady drew aside the curtain, and by the 
faint light the doctor was able to distinguish a pale, 
delicate face, and a slender white arm and hand lying 
upon the blue velvet counterpane. The lady in waiting 
said some words in German, in answer to which the 
sick woman feebly attempted to stretch out her hand 
to the physician. Having ascertained that the patient 
was in a dangerous condition, Dr. Beaton asked for pen 
and paper to write out a prescription, which, in that 
Apennine wilderness, would doubtless be made up with 
the greatest exactness and rapidity. By the side of 
the writing-desk was a dressing-table; and on what 
should the doctor's casual glance not rest but a minia- 
ture, thrown carelessly among the scent bottles and 
jewels, and in which he instantly recognised a portrait 
of Charles Edward such as he had seen him riding on 
the field of Culloden ! But in a moment, when he 
glanced again from his writing to the toilet-table, the 
miniature was no longer visible. 

The lady having apparently recovered, Dr. Beaton 
was dismissed, blindfolded as he had come, but only 
after having taken an oath upon the crucifix " never 



THE HEIR. 39 

to speak of what he had heard, or seen, or thought, that 
night, except it should be in the service of King 
Charles," and also to quit Tuscany immediately. He 
repaired, therefore, to the nearest seaport, but was 
detained there three days before the departure of his 
ship. One moonlight evening, as he was walking on 
the sands, he was surprised by seeing an English man- 
of-war at anchor. In answer to his enquiries, she 
proved to be the Albina, Commodore O'Haloran. 
While he was lying in a sequestered corner, watching 
the frigate, he was startled by the sudden appearance 
of a small closed carriage and of a horseman, in whom, 
by the moonlight, he immediately recognised the 
moustached stranger of St. Rosalie. The cavalcade 
stopped at the water's brink, and the horseman blew a 
shrill whistle. Immediately a man-of-war's boat shot 
from behind some rocks and pulled straight towards 
them. A man with glimmering epaulettes sprang from 
the boat on to the beach, and helped into it a lady, 
who had alighted from the carriage, and carried some- 
thing wrapped in a shawl. Dr. Beaton heard the cry 
of an infant, the soothing voice of the lady ; and, a 
moment later, after a word and shake of the hand with 
the moustached man, the boat pulled off from shore. 
" For more than a quarter of an hour the tall black 
figure of the cavalier continued fixed upon the same 
spot, and in the same attitude ; but suddenly the broad 
gigantic shadow of the frigate swung round in the 
moonshine, her sails filled to the breeze, and dimly 
brightening in the light, she bore off slow and still 
and stately towards the west." 

Such is the adventure of Dr. Beaton, and thus he is 
said to have related it, in the year 1831, eighty-five 
years after the battle of Culloden, where he had him- 



40 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

self seen Charles Edward; whence it is presumable 
that the doctor was considerably over a hundred when 
he made the disclosure. This story of Doctor Beaton 
was published, not in a historical work, but in a 
volume entitled Tales of the Century ; or Sketches of the 
Romance of History between the years 1746 and 1846, 
published at Edinburgh in 1847. But although this 
book might pass as a work of imagination, and could, 
therefore, scarcely be impugned as a historical docu- 
ment, there is every reason for supposing that, while 
not officially claiming to reveal the existence of an heir 
of the Stuarts, it was deliberately intended to convey 
information to that effect ; and as such, an anonymous 
writer (either Lockhart or Dennistoun) made short 
work of it in the Quarterly Review for June 1847, 
from which I have derived the greater part of my know- 
ledge of this curious <e romance of history." 

"Nay, the Tales of the Century were undoubtedly 
intended to insinuate a further remarkable fact : not 
merely that there still existed heirs of Stuarts in the 
direct male line, but that these heirs of the Stuarts 
were no others but the joint authors of the book. The 
two brothers styling themselves on the title-page John 
Sobieski Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart, but whose 
legal names were respectively John Hay Allan and 
Charles Stuart Allan, had been known for some years 
in the Highlands as persons enveloped in a degree of 
romantic mystery, and claiming to be something much 
more illustrious than what they were officially sup- 
posed to be, the grandsons of an admiral in the service 
of George III. According to the information col- 
lected by Baron von Reumont, the joint authors of the 
Tales of the Century had made themselves conspicuous 
by their affectation of the Stuart tartan, to which, as 



THE HEIR. 41 

Hay Allans, they could have no right ; by a certain 
Stuart make-up (by the help of a Charles I. wig which 
was once found and mistaken for a bird's-nest by an 
irreverent Highlander) on the part of the elder, and by 
a habit of bowing to his brother whenever the King's 
health was drunk on the part of the younger. More- 
over the family circumstances of these gentlemens' 
father coincided exactly with those of the hero of this 
book, of the supposed son of Charles Edward Stuart 
and Louise of Stolberg. Their father, Thomas Hay 
Allan, once a lieutenant in the navy, was known before 
the law as the younger son of a certain Admiral Carter 
Allan, who laid claims to the earldom of Errol ; and 
the Jolair Dhearg (for such was the Keltic appellation 
of the hero of the Tales of the Century) was the 
reputed son of a certain Admiral O'Haloran, who laid 
claim to the Earldom of Strathgowrie, to which curious 
parallel the writer in the Quarterly adds the additional 
point that Errol, being in the district of Gowrie, the 
Earldom of Strathgowrie claimed by the imaginary 
Admiral O'Haloran was evidently another name for 
the Earldom of Errol claimed by the real Admiral 
Carter Allan, two names, by the way, O'Haloran and 
Carter Allan, of which the first seems intended to 
reproduce in some measure the sound of the other. 
The father of Messrs. John Hay and Charles Stuart 
Allan, was married in 1792, and the hero of the 
Tales of the Century was married somewhere about 
1791, both to ladies more suited to the sons of an 
admiral than to the sons of the Pretender. Taking all 
these circumstances into consideration it becomes 
obvious that when the two brothers Hay Allan as- 
sumed respectively the names of John Sobieski and 
Charles Edward Stuart, they distinctly, though un- 



42 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

officially, identified themselves with the sons of the Jolair 
Dhearg of their book, with the sons of that mysterious 
infant at whose birth Dr. Beaton had been present, 
who had been conveyed by night on board the Albino, 
and educated as the son of Admiral O'Haloran ; in 
other words, with the sons of the child, unknown to 
history, of the Count and Countess of Albany. 

Now, not only are we assured by Sir Horace Mann, 
whose spies surrounded the Pretender and his wife, and 
included even their physicians, that there never was 
the smallest or briefest expectation of an heir to the 
Stuarts ; but, added to this positive evidence, we have 
an enormous bulk of even more convincing negative 
evidence by which it is completely corroborated. This 
negative evidence consists of a heap of improbabilities 
and impossibilities, of which even a few will serve tef 
convince the reader. The Pretender married, and was 
pensioned for marrying, merely that the French Court 
might have another possible Pretender to use as a 
weapon against England ; is it likely, therefore, that 
such an heir would be hid away so as to lose his 
identity, and be completely and utterly forgotten? 
The Pretender, separated from his wife in consequence 
of circumstances which will be related further on, 
called to him, as sole companion of his old age, his ille- 
gitimate daughter by Miss Walkenshaw, after neglect- 
ing and apparently forgetting both her and her mother 
for twenty years ; is it likely he would have done this 
had he possessed a legitimate son? Cardinal York 
assumed the title of Henry IX. immediately on the 
decease of his brother; is it likely that he, always 
indifferent to royal honours, always faithful to his 
brother, and now almost dying, would have done so 
had he known that his brother had left a son ? The 



THE HEIR. 43 

Countess of Albany, who never relinquished her Stuart 
position, and who was extremely devoted to children, 
left her fortune to the painter Fabre ; is it likely she 
would have done so had she been aware that she 
possessed a child of her own ? But there is yet further 
evidence I scarcely know whether I should say posi- 
tive or negative, but in point of fact perhaps both at 
once, since it is evidence that the word of one, at 
least, of the joint authors of the Tales of the Century 
cannot outweigh the silence of all other authorities. 
Five years before the brothers Allan, or Stuart, which- 
ever they should be called, mysteriously informed the 
world of the adventures of the Jolair Dhearg, the 
elder of the two, once John Hay Allan, now John 
Sobieski Stuart, had brought out a magnificent 
volume, price five guineas, entitled Vestiarium 
Scoticum, and purporting to be a treatise on family 
tartans written somewhere in the 16th century, and 
now edited for the first time. The history of this 
work, as stated in the preface, was well-nigh as com- 
plicated and as romantic as the history of the Jolair 
Dhearg. The only reliable copy of three known by 
Mr. Sobieski Stuart, of which one was said to exist 
in the library of the Monastery of St. Augustine at 
Cadiz, and another had been obtained from an Edin- 
burgh sword-player and porter named John Ross, was 
in the possession of the learned editors, and had been 
given by the fathers of the Scots College at Douay 
to Prince Edward Stuart, from whom it had, in some 
unspecified but doubtless extremely romantic manner 
(probably sown in the swaddling clothes in which the 
Jolair Dhearg was consigned to Admiral O'Haloran) 
descended to Mr. John Sobieski Stuart. This venerable 
heraldic document appears, if one may judge by the 



44 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

review in the Quarterly, to have been well-deserving 
of publication, owing to the extremely new and un- 
expected information which it contained upon Scottish 
archaeology. Among such information may be men- 
tioned that it derived several clans from other clans 
with which they were well known to have no possible 
connection ; that it extended the use of tartans to 
border-families who had never heard of such a thing; 
that it contained many words and expressions hitherto 
entirely unknown in the particular dialect in which 
it was written ; and, moreover, that it multiplied 
complicated and recondite patterns of tartans in a 
manner so remarkable that Sir Walter Scott, to whom 
part of Mr. Sobieski Stuart's transcript of the ancient 
MS. was submitted, was led to suspect "that in- 
formation as to its origin might be obtained even 
in a less romantic site than the cabin of a Cowgate 
porter (or the Scots College at Douay), even behind 
the counter of one of the great clan-tartan warehouses 
which used to illuminate the principal thoroughfare of 
Edinburgh." 

This important and well-nigh unique document was 
apparently never submitted in its original MS. to 
anyone ; the copy from the Scots College at Douay, 
and the copy from the old sword-player of Cowgate, 
remained equally unknown to everyone save their 
fortunate possessor. But transcripts of some portions 
of the work were submitted, at the request of the 
Antiquarian Society, to Sir Walter Scott, and as he 
dismissed the deputation which had met to hear his 
opinion upon the Vestiarium Scoticum, the author 
of Waverley was pleased to remark by way of summing 
up : " Well, I think the March of the next rising " 
(alluding to the part of the Highlanders in the '45) 



THE HEIR. 45 

" must be not ' Hey tuttie tattle/ but c The Devil 
among the Tailors/ ' 

However, perhaps the Vestiarium Scoticum may 
have come out of the Scots College at Douay, and 
perhaps also the son of Charles Edward Stuart and of 
Louise of Stolberg may have been born in the room 
hung with red brocade, and have been handed over to 
a British Admiral one moonlight night, in the pre- 
sence of the venerable Dr. Beaton, whom Providence 
permitted to attain the unusual age of a hundred years 
or more, in order that, with unimpaired faculties and 
unclouded memory, he might transmit to posterity 
this strange romance of history. 



46 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER V. 

FLORENCE. 

IT is quite impossible to tell the precise moment at 
which began what Horace Mann, most light-hearted and 
chirpy of diplomatists, called the Countess of Albany's 
martyrdom. As we have seen, Charles Edward had 
momentarily given up all excessive drinking at the time 
of his marriage. Bonstetten thought him a good-natured 
garrulous bore, and his wife a merry, childish young 
woman, who laughed at her husband's oft-told stories. 
This was the very decent exterior of the Pretender's 
domestic life in the first year of his marriage. But 
who can tell what there may have been before beneath 
the surface? Who can say when Louise d' Albany, 
hitherto apparently so childish, became suddenly 
a woman with the first terrible suspicion of the 
nature of the bondage into which she had been 
sold? Such things are unromantic, unpoetical, 
coarse, common-place ; yet if the fears and the despair 
of a guiltless and charming girl have any interest 
for us, the first whiff of brandy-tainted breath which 
met the young wife in her husband's embraces, the 
first qualms and reckiugs after dinner which came 



FLORENCE. 47 

before her eyes, the first bestial and unquiet drunkard's 
sleep which kept her awake in disgust and terror, these 
things, vile though they be, are as tragic as any more 
ideal horrors. At the beginning, most probably, 
Charles Edward drank only in the evening, and slept 
off his drunkenness over-night; nor does Bonstetten 
appear to have guessed that there was any skeleton 
in the palace at the Santissimi Apostoli. But the spies 
of the English minister soon reported that Charles 
Edward was returning to his old ways; that the 
" nasty bottle/' as Cardinal York called it, had got 
the better of the young wife ; and when, two years 
after their marriage, the Count and Countess of Albany 
had left Rome and settled in Florence, Charles Edward 
seems very soon to have acquired in the latter place 
the dreadful notoriety which he had long enjoyed in 
the former. 

Circumstances also had conduced to replunge the 
Pretender into the habits to which the renewed hope of 
political support, the novelty of married life, and per- 
haps whatever of good may still have been conjured 
up in his nature by the presence of a beautiful young 
wife, had momentarily broken through. The French 
Government, after its sudden pre-occupation about the 
future of the Stuarts, seemed to have completely for- 
gotten the existence of Charles Edward, except as 
regarded the payment of the pension granted on his 
marriage. The child that had been prepaid by that 
wedding pension, who was to rally the Jacobites round 
a man whose claims must otherwise devolve legiti- 
mately in a few years to the Hanoverian usurpers, 
the heir was not born, and, as month went by after 
month, its final coming became less and less likely. 
Nor was this all. Charles Edward seems to have 



48 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

expected that the sudden interest taken by the Court 
of Versailles in his affairs, and his new position as a 
married man and the possible father of a line of 
Stuarts, would bring the obdurate sovereigns of Italy, 
and especially the Pope, to grant him those royal 
honours enjoyed by his father, but hitherto obstinately 
denied to the moody drunkard whose presence in the 
paternal palace had been occasionally revealed only by 
the rumour of some more than ordinarily gross 
debauch, or the noise of some more than ordinarily 
violent scene of blackguardly altercation. 

Charles Edward, as I have already had occasion to 
remark, while absolutely callous to the rights which 
self-sacrifice and heroism might give others over him, 
was extremely alive to the rights which, as a Stuart 
and as an obstinate and wilful man, he imagined him- 
self to possess over other folk ; and, while it never 
occurred to him that there might be something slightly 
ungentlemanly in a prince who had secretly abjured 
the Catholic faith for political reasons continuing to 
live in a house and on a pension granted him by the 
unsuspecting sovereign Pontiff in consideration of his 
being a martyr for the glory of the Church, he was 
fully persuaded of the cowardly meanness which pre- 
vented Clement XIV., whose interest it was to jog 
on amicably with England, from acknowledging the 
grandson of James II. as a legitimate King of Great 
Britain and Ireland. It is therefore easy to conceive 
the accumulation of disappointment and anger with 
which Charles Edward saw his hopes deluded. He had, 
immediately on his return to Rome, officially an- 
nounced to Clement XIV. the arrival in the Eternal 
City of King Charles III. and his Queen, and the 
Pope had condescended no answer save that he had 



FLORENCE. 49 

hitherto been unaware of the existence of such persons, 
and that he would suffer none such to live under his 
jurisdiction. He had, for more than a year, imposed 
upon his wife (despite Cardinal York's and her own 
entreaties, if we may credit Sir Horace Mann) the 
title and etiquette of a Queen, and had flaunted his 
scarlet liveries along the Corso day after day, with no 
result save that of making the Roman nobles keep 
carefully out of the way wherever he and his wife 
might go ; nay, more, he had replaced over the door- 
way of his residence the royal escutcheon of Great 
Britain, only to return from the country one day and 
find that the Pontifical police had taken it down during 
his absence. After this we can understand, as I said, 
the disappointment and rage which must have accumu- 
lated in his heart, and which, fifteen months after his 
wedding, made him abandon the base town of the 
popes and seek sympathy and dignity in the capital of 
Tuscany. But he was destined only to further dis- 
appointment. The Grand Duke, Peter Leopold, the 
practical, economical, priest-hating, paternally-meddle- 
some, bustlingly and tyrannically-reforming son of 
Maria Theresa, was not the man to console so mediaeval 
and antiquated and unphilosophical a thing as a Stuart. 
The arrival, the presence of Charles Edward in Florence, 
was absolutely ignored by the Court, and no invita- 
tions of any sort were sent out either to King Charles 
III. or to the Count of Albany. Except the Corsinis, old 
friends of the Stuarts, who had known Charles Edward 
in his brilliant boyhood, and who politely placed at 
his disposal their half-suburban palace or casino, 
opening on to the famous Oricellari Gardens, no one 
seemed inclined to pay any particular respects to the 
new-comers. There was, indeed, no pressure from the 

4 



50 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

Government (as had been the case in Rome), and the 
Florentine nobles, whose exclusiveness and pride had 
been considerably diminished by the inroad of swagger- 
ing Lorenese favourites under the Grand Duke Francis, 
and of cut and dry Austrian officials under his son 
Peter Leopold, showed a sort of lukewarm willingness 
to receive the Count and Countess of Albany on equal 
terms into their society. But Charles Edward wanted 
royal honours; he forbade his wife demeaning her 
queenly position by returning the visits of Florentine 
ladies, and the nobles of the Tuscan Court gradually 
left the would-be King and Queen of England to their 
own resources. 

These resources, with the exception of receiving 
such few visitors as might care to know them on un- 
equal terms, and a dogged pushing into notice in 
every place, promenade, theatre, or nobles' club, where 
no invitation was required, these resources consisted on 
the part of Charles Edward in the old, old consoler, 
the flask of Cyprus or bottle of brandy, in the even 
grosser pleasures of excessive eating, the indefatigable, 
assiduous courtship of his young wife, and the occa- 
sional rows with his servants and acquaintances. The 
Count and Countess of Albany appear to have inhabited 
the Casino Corsini until 1777, when they sent for the 
greater part of the furniture of their Roman house, 
and established themselves in a palace, bought of the 
Guadagnis and later sold to the Duke of San Clemente, 
between the now suppressed Porta San Sebastiano 
and the Garden of St. Mark's. In both these places 
Sir Horace Mann, the vigilant Minister to the Tuscan 
Court and head spy over the Stuarts in Italy, kept 
the Pretender well in sight ; but, in fact, things had 
now become so public that spying had grown unncccs- 



FLORENCE. 51 

sary. Already, the year following the removal from 
Rome to Florence, Sir Horace Mann wrote to Wai- 
pole that the Pretender's health was giving way beneath 
his excesses of eating and drinking; dyspepsia and 
dropsy were beginning, and a sofa had been ordered 
for his opera-box, that he might conveniently snooze 
through the performance. For neither drunkenness 
nor ailments would induce Charles Edward to let his 
wife out o his sight for a minute. His systematic 
jealousy may possibly have originated, as the English 
Minister reports Charles Edward to have himself 
declared, from fear lest there might attach to the birth 
of any possible heir of his those doubts of legitimacy 
which are almost invariably the lot of a pretender ; but 
there can be no doubt that jealousy was an essential 
feature of his character, in which it amounted almost 
to monomania. He had caged his mistress long after 
he had ceased, by his own avowal, to care for her; 
he now caged his wife, and with probably about as 
much or as little affection. He had fenced up Miss 
Walkenshaw's bed with tables and chairs fitted with 
bells which the slightest touch set ringing ; he now 
(and so early as 1775) barricaded all avenues to his 
wife's room excepting the one through his own. Very 
soon, also, the gross and violent language, the blows 
which had fallen to the lot of the half-tipsy mistress, 
were to be shared by the virtuous and patient wife. 

For virtuous and patient all accounts unite in 
showing the young Countess of Albany to have been. 
In that corrupt Florence of the corrupt eighteenth 
century, where every married woman was furnished, 
within two years of her marriage, with an officially 
appointed lover who sat in her dressing-room while 
she was finishing her toilet, who accompanied her 

4 * 



52 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

on all her visits, who attended her to balls and 
theatres, and, in fact, entirely replaced, by the strict 
social necessities of the system of cicisbeism, the 
husband, who was similarly employed about the wife 
of another ; in this society, where conjugal infidelity 
was a social organisation supplemented by every kind 
of individual caprice of gallantry ; where women were 
none the worse thought of if they added to the official 
cavaliere servants a whole string of other lovers, vary- 
ing from the Cardinals of the Holy Church to the 
singers who played women's parts, in powder and 
hoops, at the opera ; in this world of jog-trot immo- 
rality, where jealousy was tolerated in lovers, but 
ridiculous in husbands, such a couple as the Count and 
Countess of Albany was indeed a source of pity, 
wonder, and amazement. But if a husband who 
barricaded his wife's room, never went out without her, 
nor permitted her to go out without him, who was 
never further off than the next room during the 
presence of any visitor, was a marvellous sight ; still 
more marvellous was a beautiful and charming woman 
of twenty-three or twenty-four, who cast no glances of 
longing at the brilliant cavaliers all round her, who con- 
soled her dreary prison-hours with reading hard enough 
for a professor at the university, and who showed to- 
wards the peevish, violent, disgustingly-ailing old toper 
who overshadowed her life with his presence nothing, 
as Horace Mann tells us, but attention and tenderness. 
The fact is that Louise of Stolberg, much as her subse- 
quent life and ways of thought proved her to be a woman 
of the eighteenth century, and not at all above the 
eighteenth century's easy-going habits and conventional 
ideas, was a kind of woman rare at all times and rarest 
of all in a time like her own, With a kindly and affec- 




LOUISE, COUNTESS OF ALBANY 

From a pastel once in the possession of the heirs of Fabre, 7i< in the pas 
Walpole, of Heckficld Place, IVinchJield, Hants. 



of Mrs. Horace 



FLORENCE. 53 

tionate temper, the immense bulk of her nature, the 
overbalance, the top-heaviness of it, was intellectual; 
and intellectual not in the sense of the ready society 
intelligence, so common among eighteenth-century 
women, but in the sense of actual engrossing interest 
and in abstract questions and ideals. The portraits 
done of her immediately after her marriage show, as I 
have said, a remarkably childish person ; and childish, 
without much ballast of passion or even likings, the 
likeness sketched by Bonstetten seems certainly to show 
her. But there are women who, while immature as 
women and human beings, are precocious as intellects, 
and in whom the character, instead of rapidly develop- 
ing itself by the force of its own emotions and passions, 
seems in a manner to be called into existence by the 
intelligence : retarded natures, in whom the thoughts 
seem to determine the feelings. Of this sort, I think, 
we must imagine the Countess of Albany, if we would 
understand the anomalies of her life : a person rather 
deficient in sensitiveness ; indifferent, light-hearted, in 
her girlhood ; not rebelling against the frightful nega- 
tiveness of existence, the want of love, of youth, of 
brightness, of all that a young girl can want in the early 
part of her married life; not rebelling against the positive 
miseries, the constant presence of everything that was 
mentally and physically loathsome in the second period 
of this wedded slavery; a woman of cold temperament, 
and even, you might say, of cold heart, and safe, safe 
in the routine of duty and suffering, until a merely 
intellectual flame burst out, white and cold, in her 
hitherto callous nature. A creature, so to speak, only 
half awake, or awake, perhaps, only when she devoured 
her books and tried to puzzle out her mathematical 
problems ; and going through life by the side of her 



54 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

jealous, brutal, sickly, drunken husband, in a kind of 
somnambulistic indifferentism, perhaps not feeling her 
miseries very acutely, and probably not envying other 
women their meaningless liberty, their inane lovers, 
their empty wholeness of life. 

Thus the routine continued. The Count and 
Countess of Albany, cured by this time of any affecta- 
tion of royalty, had gradually got domesticated in 
Florentine society. People began to go to their house, 
the newly-bought palace in Via San Sebastiano. People 
came to the opera-box where Charles Edward lay 
stretched, dozing or snoring, his bottle of Cyprus wine 
by his side, on his sofa. It is easy to read through 
the lines of Sir Horace Mann's pages of social tittle- 
tattle, that Florence, frivolous and unintellectual and 
corrupt though it was, and, perhaps, almost in propor- 
tion to its frivolity, emptiness, and corruption, felt a 
strange sort of interest, experienced a vague, mixed 
feeling, pity, fear, and general surprise and want of 
comprehension towards this beautiful young woman, 
with her dazzling white complexion, dark hazel eyes 
and blonde hair, her childish features grown, perhaps 
not less young, but more serious and solemn for her 
five years of wasted youth and endured misery, with 
her reputation for coldness, her almost legendary 
eccentricities of intellectual interests. Women like 
this one are apt to be regarded not so much with dis- 
like and envy, as with the mixed awe and pity which 
peasants feel towards an idiot, by frivolous and immoral 
people like those powdered Florentines of a hundred 
years ago, whose brocaded trains and embroidered coats 
have long since found their way into the cupboards of 
curiosity shops, and been cut up into quaint room 
decoration by aesthetically-minded foreigners ; pity and 



FLORENCE. 55 

awe the more natural when, as in the case of Louise 
d 'Albany, it is evident to every man and woman, however 
heartless and stupid, that the creature in question is a 
victim, and an innocent one. People were led, per- 
haps to some extent by impertinent curiosity, by the 
lazy desire to have some opinion to give upon that 
now legendary household of the besotten, sleepy, 
nauseous old King of England and his terribly virtuous 
and intellectual young Queen, to the palace in Via 
San Sebastiano; and men and women of fashion led 
thither, as to one of the curious sights of Florence, 
their country cousins and their distinguished visitors 
from other parts. And thus, one day in the autumn 
of 1777, there was brought, we know not by whom, 
half-curious and half- indifferent, to the salon of the 
Countess of Albany a certain very tall, thin, pale youn,* 
man of twenty-eight, with handsome, mobile, rather 
hard aquiline features, choleric, flashing blue eyes, and 
a head of crisp, bright red hair; a man of fashion, 
nattily dressed in the Sardinian uniform, but with 
something strange, untamed, morose about his whole 
aspect which contrasted singularly with the effete 
gracefulness and amiability of young Florentine dan- 
dies. He had heard of the Countess of Albany's 
eccentricities long before; she had doubtless heard of 
his. 

One can imagine the curiosity with which the wild, 
moody young officer fixed those bright, hard, steel, 
flashing blue eyes upon the beautiful young woman of 
whom he had heard that she was, what no woman of 
his acquaintance (and his acquaintance was but too 
large) had been intellectual and virtuous. One can 
imagine the curiosity, much vaguer and more in- 
different, with which the woefully cold and woefully 



56 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

weary young woman met the scrutiny of those hard, 
flashing blue eyes, and took the moral measure of this 
eccentric creature, come from Turin to Florence with 
some ten or twelve half-tamed horses, in order to learn 
Tuscan grammar for the sake of writing tragedies. 
The common friend, whose name has been engulfed 
into the unknowable, introduced to the Countess of 
Albany Count Vittorio Alfieri. 



CHAPTEK VI. 

ALFIERI. 

THE childhood and early youth of Vittorio Alfieri had 
been strangely vacant, dreary, one might almost say 
intellectually and morally sordid ; and the strangest, 
the dreariest circumstance about them was exactly that 
this vacuity, this dreariness, this total want of all that 
can make the life of a boy and of a young man 
pleasant to our fancy or attractive to our sympathy, 
did not in the least depend upon any harshness or 
stinginess of fate. Indeed, perhaps, no man had ever 
prepared for him an easier existence ; no man had ever 
less misfortune sent to him by Providence, or less 
unkindness shown towards him by mankind, than this 
constantly struggling, this pessimistic and misanthropic 
man. The only son of Count Alfieri of Cortemiglia, 
of one of the richest and noblest families of Asti in 
Piedmont, his early childhood was spent under the 
care of his mother, a woman of almost saintly sim- 
plicity and kindness, unworldly, charitable, devoted to 
her children, and to the poor of the place ; and of her 
third husband, also an Alfieri, who appears to have 
been, in his affection and generosity towards his wife's 



58 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

children, everything that a step-father is usually sup- 
posed not to be. Being delicate in health, the boy was 
treated with every degree of consideration, never wor- 
ried with lessons, never exasperated with punishments, 
as long as he remained at home. He was sent, under 
the care of an uncle, the eminent architect, Benedetto 
Alfieri, who appears to have been the ideally amiable 
uncle as Giacinto Alfieri had been the ideally amiable 
step-father, to the academy or nobles' college at 
Turin, where again, provided with plenty of money, 
and a most accommodating half-tutor, half-valet, he 
enjoyed, or might have enjoyed, every advantage pos- 
sible to a young Piedmontese noble, either in the way 
of study or of idleness. And, finally, when still in his 
teens, he had been supplied with ample money, horses 
and fine clothes ad libitum) and almost unlimited liberty 
to wander all over the world, from Naples to Holland, 
from St. Petersburg to Cadiz, in search of experience 
or amusement. Nor during those years of youthful 
wanderings, does he ever seem, except upon one 
memorable occasion, to have been made to suffer from 
the unconscientiousness, the harshness, the infidelity, 
the indifference of the men and women whom he met, 
any more than in his boyhood he had suffered from the 
severity of his masters, the brutality of his tutor- 
servants, or the ill-nature of his fellow pupils. Fate 
and the world were extremely kind to Vittorio Alfieri : 
giving him every advantage and comfort, and teaching 
him no cruel lessons. But Vittorio Alfieri was never- 
theless one of the least happy of little boys, and one of 
the least happy of young men. He was born with an 
uncomfortable and awkward and unwieldy character, as 
some men are born lame, or scrofulous, or dyspeptic. 
The child of a father over sixty, and of a very young 



ALFIERL 59 

mother, there was in him some indefinable imperfection 
of nature, some jar of character, or some great want, 
some original sin of mental constitution, which made 
him different from other men, disabled him from 
getting pleasure or profit out of the circumstances 
which gave pleasure or profit to them ; and turned his 
youth into a long period of mental weakness and 
suffering, from which he recovered, indeed, by a system 
of moral and intellectual cold water, meagre diet, and 
excessive exercise, but only to remain for the rest of 
his days in a condition of character absolutely analo- 
gous to the bodily condition of those self -martyring 
invalids, who keep the gout down by taking exhausting 
walks, eating next to no dinner, and filling the lives of 
others with their excitable cantankerousness and gloomy 
forebodings. There was a numbness and yet a sort of 
over- sensitiveness about his youth ; a strangeness which, 
without giving the least promise of superior genius, 
merely made him less happy than other lads. 

The word numbness returns to my mind in connexion 
with this young Alfieri ; it certainly does not express 
the exact impressions left in me by his own narrative 
of his boyhood and youth, and yet I can find no better 
word : there was in him something like those irregu- 
larities of the circulation due to dyspepsia, which, 
while making some part of the body, say the head, 
throb and ache at the least sound, yet leave the whole 
man dull, heavy, only half-awake. 

As a child he had vague and wistful cravings, un- 
tempered, unbeautified by such imaginative visions as 
usually accompany the eccentric feelings of such 
children as are subject to them. Obstinate and taci- 
turn, he tells us of the curious passion which he 
experienced for the little choristers, boys of twelve or 



60 TEE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

thirteen, whom he saw serving mass, or heard singing 
the responses, in the Carmine Church at Asti. Silently, 
painfully, he seems to have yearned for them in soli- 
tude ; the daily visit to the church where they shone 
out in their white surplices, being the only pleasure in 
this black, blind little life of seven or eight. Some 
physical ailment, some want of change and movement^ 
may have underlain this morbid and sombre passion- 
ateness ; and we learn that when he was still a tiny 
boy, having heard that the poisonous hemlock was a 
sort of grass which brought death, and with no clear 
notion what death was, but with a vague longing for 
it, he gorged himself with grass out of the garden, in 
the belief that there would be some hemlock in it. 

At school he learned nothing. The education given 
at the Academy of Turin may, indeed, have been poor 
in quantity and quality ; still it was the best which a 
young Piedmontese nobleman could obtain, and Alfieri 
himself confesses that of his school-fellows most came 
away with more profit, and some afterwards became 
cultured and even learned men. He learned nothing 
because he felt interest, emulation, curiosity about 
nothing. His nature was still dull, dumb, dormant ; 
and what he calls a period of vegetation might more 
fitly be termed a moral and intellectual hibernation. 
His school life is a weary, colourless, featureless part 
of his autobiography. He would seem to have made 
neither friends nor enemies. The tricks practised by 
or upon other school-boys are never mentioned by 
him ; never a practical joke, a lark, a scrape. Of his 
intellectual tendencies, which were but little developed, 
we learn only that he exchanged a copy of Ariosto, 
finally confiscated by the authorities, for a certain 
number of helpings of chicken, relinquished by him to 



ALFIERL 61 

its possessor ; and that he bribed, with eatables also, a 
certain other boy to tell him stories. 

The one incident which sheds light upon the lad's 
morbid constitution or condition, which reveals that 
strange, apathetic obstinacy, that vis inertia which was 
the spring even of his most decided actions in after 
life, and which at the same time raises grave doubts in 
my mind whether there may not have been an actual 
taint of insanity in this extraordinary being, is the 
incident of his having submitted, rather than give in 
after some misdemeanour, to being confined to his 
room in the Academy for nearly three months at a 
stretch. Alfieri was fifteen ; he might have been let 
loose for the asking, since there was no real severity in 
the school. He slept nearly all day long, rose in the 
evening, but refused to let himself be combed or 
dressed, and lay for hours on a mattress before the 
fire, cooking a squalid meal of polenta instead of his 
dinner, which he regularly sent down; receiving 
the visits of his school-fellows without speaking or 
even moving; deaf and dumb, as he describes himself, 
by the hour together, his eyes fixed on the ground, 
brimful with tears, but never permitting himself to 
cry or complain a strange sort of savage animal rather 
than a human being. 

After leaving school at eighteen, he began his 
long series of journeys, his series of passions for 
women and for horses, passions dull and dumb, but 
violent, yet never such as to break through the spell 
of inarticulateness which seemed to freeze his nature. 
Nothing more curious can be fancied than his 
journeys. He went from place to place without being 
attracted to any, without feeling the smallest interest 
in anything which he saw, without contracting the 



62 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

faintest attachment for any person or thing, driven 
along by a sort of fury of restlessness and sombre 
vacuity. Many youths have doubtless been to the 
full as indifferent as Vittorio Alfieri to all the objects 
of interest on their road ; but they have been so from 
frivolity and giddiness, and no one was ever less frivo- 
lous or giddy than the young Alfieri. With no par- 
ticular purity of nature or principles of conduct to 
restrain him from vice, his dissipation could yet scarcely 
be called dissipation, so little did it wake up this 
lethargic, ailing, restless nature. Despite the furious 
passion which he had for horses, and the hysterical, 
one might almost say epileptic passions which he expe- 
rienced for women, he remained characterless, chaotic, 
only half alive. His many journeys gave him only the 
negative pleasure of getting away from already known 
places, the negative wisdom of seeing through a variety 
of things, military and diplomatic distinctions and 
national prejudices. He remained joyless and igno- 
rant, and, what was worse, without longing for pleasure 
or desire for knowledge. More than once kindly men 
of the world and scholars were smitten with pity for 
this strange lad, in whom they could not but recognise 
certain negative qualities rare in the eighteenth cen- 
tury an intense and cruel truthfulness, an absolute 
disinterestedness, a constitutional contempt for all the 
vanities and baseness of the world. They tried to talk 
to him, to lend him books, to awaken him out of this 
dormouse sleep of the intellect, to break the spell 
which weighed him down. All in vain. He continued 
his life of dull dissipation and dull wanderings, through 
Italy, Germany, France, England, far into Spain, 
Portugal, Russia, and even Finland. Periodic fits of 
depression and of almost sordid avarice showed that he 



ALFTERI. 63 

was still the same person as the hoy of fifteen who had 
spent those three months unwashed, unkempt, in 
savage squalor, by his fireside ; and fits of brutal and 
almost maniac violence, as when, because a hair 
was sharply pulled out by the roots during the elabo- 
rate process of frizzling, he cut open with a blow of a 
heavy silver candlestick the temple of his faithful valet 
Elia, who had nursed him like a mother, and whose 
only revenge, after this fearful scene, was to keep the 
two handkerchiefs steeped with his blood as a memorial 
and a warning to his master. 

Still, seeing nothing, learning nothing, taking interest 
in nothing, by turns morosely apathetic and brutally 
violent, continually intriguing with women, mercenary 
or depraved, Vittorio Alfieri had, at twenty-five, less 
things to be proud of, but perhaps less also to regret 
as absolutely dishonourable, than most young men of 
his time. He had never lied, never seduced, never 
stooped to anything.which seemed to him demeaning. 
He was splashed with vice from head to foot, but he 
was neither unnerved nor warped by it. A subject of 
constant gossip, of frequent scandal, with his teams of 
half-tame horses, his flashy clothes, his furious passions 
for worthless women, his moroseness and violence, he 
was still, so far, a very negative character, a mere 
mass of rough material, out of which a man might be 
made. But who should mould that matter? It is 
extremely difficult to understand how it came about, 
as difficult almost as to understand how a certain 
amount of inorganic molecules will sometimes suddenly 
seem to obey an impulse from within, and become an 
organism, a yeast plant, or a microscopic animal ; but 
whether or not we succeed in understanding the how 
and why of the phenomenon, the phenomenon never- 



64 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

theless took place; and this unorganised mass of 
passions called Vittorio Alfieri, this chaotic thing with- 
out a higher life or a purpose in the world, only par- 
tially sensitive, and seemingly quite impervious to 
external influence, suddenly obeyed some inner impulse 
(perhaps some accumulation of unnoticed effects from 
without), and organised itself into a man, a thinker, 
and a writer. 

Alfieri had always been capable of contempt for 
others, and largely also of contempt for himself : blind 
and dull, impulsive and indifferent by turns, he had yet 
felt acutely the ignominy of certain excesses, whether 
of avarice, or brutality, or love (if love it may 
be called), which had ever and anon broken the 
monotony of his aimless life. Of these ignominies 
the one he had felt most, perhaps because it deprived 
him of the independence which even in his stupidest 
times he put his pride in, was the ignominy of love ; 
that is to say, of what love was to him, unworthy 
incapacity of doing without a woman whom he despised 
and even occasionally hated. The very fits of moral 
hysterics, nay, of moral St. Vitus's dance, of which such 
love maladies largely consisted, sickened him, degraded 
him in his own eyes like some disgusting physical 
infirmity. In his twenty-second year he had such a 
love malady, he had been the scandal of all London in 
an intrigue with a certain very lovely Lady Ligonier, 
who, divorced by her husband for her guilt with the 
young Italian, was on the point of being joyfully taken 
to wife by Alfieri when it came out that before being 
his mistress she had been the mistress of her own 
groom; a termination of the adventure which, much 
as it distressed the writer of Alfieri's autobiography, 
is extremely satisfactory to the reader. A few years 



ALFIEEL 65 

later, after a variety of minor love affairs, he became 
entangled at Turin in the nets of a Marchesa di Prie, 
a rather faded Armida of very tarnished reputation, 
and whom he thoroughly despised and even disliked at 
the very height of his attachment. The struggles 
between his sense of weariness and degradation and 
his unworthy love for this woman half wore him out, 
and brought on a severe malady, from which he re- 
covered only to swear he would never enter her house 
again, and to return to it as soon as he could stand on 
his feet. The beautiful social customs of eighteenth- 
century Italy authorised and even imposed upon a man 
who had accepted the position of cavaliere servente (a 
sort of pseudo-platonic vice-husbandship which covered 
illicit connections with a worldly propriety) to attend 
upon his lady from the moment of her getting up in 
the morning to the moment when she returned home 
or dismissed her guests at night, with only a few 
intervals during which the lover might have his meals 
or pay his visits ; so, when the Marchesa di Prie fell 
ill of a malady which required absolute repose and 
silence, Alfieri was bound to spend the whole morning 
seated at the foot of her bed. During one of these 
weary watches, it came into his head to kill time by 
scribbling some dramatic scenes on loose sheets of 
paper, which he hid during the intervals of his visits 
under the cushion of an arm-chair. A Piedmontese 
and a thorough ignoramus, he had scarcely ever 
attempted to write even so much as a letter in Italian ; 
and as to a literary composition in any language, such 
a thing had never occurred to him. The Cleopatra 
thus written in his lady's bed-room and secreted under 
the chair cushion, was a most worthless performance, 
but it made Alfieri an author. Always devoured by a 

5 



66 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

desire to shine, hitherto by the excellence of his get- 
up, the beauty of his person, and the number of his 
horses, it suddenly flashed across him that he might 
shine in future as a poet. This was the turning-point 
of his life, or what he called his liberation. But, like 
a man bound in all his limbs, and who at length has 
slipped the cord from off one hand, there still remained 
to Alfieri an infinite amount of struggle, of bitter 
effort, of hopeless inaction, before he could completely 
liberate himself from the bonds of sloth, of worldly 
vanity, dissipation, and unworthy love, before he could 
step forth and walk steadily along the new road which 
had appeared to him. His ignorance was appalling. 
He could no longer construe a line of Latin, he had 
not for months opened a book ; and as to Italian, he 
knew it no better than any Piedmontese street porter. 
His idleness, his habit of absolute vacuity, was even 
worse ; his desire to shine before the frivolous women, 
the inane young men of Turin, nay, merely to have 
himself, his well-cut coat, his well-frizzled hair, the 
horse he rode or drove, noticed by any chance loafer in 
the street, was another almost incredible obstacle ; and, 
worst of all, there was his degrading serfdom to a 
woman whom he knew he neither loved nor respected, 
and who had never loved, still less respected, him. But 
Alfieri, once awakened out of that strange long torpor 
of his youth, was able to put forth as active and 
invincible forces all that extraordinary obstinacy, that 
morose doggedness, that indifference to comfort and 
pleasure, that brutal violence which had more than 
once, in their negative condition, made him seem more 
like some wild animal or half-savage monomaniac than 
an ordinary young man under five-and-twenty. He 
had, moreover, at this moment, when all the energies 



ALFIERI. 67 

of his nature suddenly burst out, a power o deliberate, 
complacent, and pitiless moral self- vivisection, a power 
of performing upon his character such cutting and 
ripping-open operations as he thought beneficial to 
himself, which makes one think of the abnormal 
faculty of enduring pain, the abnormal and almost 
cruel satisfaction in examining the mechanism of one's 
own suffering, occasionally displayed by hysterical 
women ; and which brings back the impression already 
conveyed by the morbid sensitiveness, the frenzied 
violence, the moody torpor of his youth, that there 
was something abnormal in Alfieri's whole nature. 
He was now employing that very hysterical satisfaction 
in pain and impatience of half measures, to reduce him- 
self, by heroic means, to at least such moral and mental 
health as would permit the full exercise of his faculties. 
There exists a diary of his, written in 1777, which is 
an almost unique example of the seemingly cold, but 
really excited and hysterical kind of self-vivisection of 
which I have spoken. Alfieri had always been extra- 
ordinarily truthful, not merely for his time and 
country, but truthful quite beyond the limits of a 
mere negative virtue. But he was also, what seems 
almost incompatible with this ferocious truthfulness, 
excessively self-conscious and morally attitudinising, 
a thin-skinned poseur. To reconcile these seemingly 
contradictory characteristics, to become what he wished 
to appear, to pose as what he was, to make himself up 
(if I may say so) as himself, to intensify what he 
recognised as his main characteristics and efface all his 
other ones, now became to Alfieri a sort of unconscious 
aim of life, closely connected with his avowed desire to 
become a great poet ; "the reason of which desire," he 
himself wrote in his diary, "is my immoderate ambition, 

5 * 



68 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

which, finding no other field, has devoted itself entirely 
to literature." Nothing can be more serious, as I have 
already remarked, than this diary of Alfieri's struggles, 
where he notes, day by day, the laziness, the meanness, 
the want of frankness to himself and others, the de- 
spicable vanity, the attempt to appear what he is not, 
the indulged unfounded suspiciousness towards his 
friends, all the little base defects which must have 
pained a nature like his more than any real sinfulness, 
as the prodding of a surgeon's instruments would have 
agonised such a man more than an actual amputation. 
He narrates in extenso all his vacillations about nothing 
at all, all his givings way to laziness, all his insincere 
confidences made to others. One morning is con- 
sumed in debating whether or not he will buy a certain 
Indian walking-stick: "Torn by avarice and the 
ambition of having it, I go away without deciding 
whether I will buy it or not, yet I know full well that 
before two days are out I shall have bought it. 
Seeking to understand this contradiction, I discover a 
thousand ridiculous dirtinesses in my character (mille 
ridicole porcherie}" Another day he notes down, 
after describing the mean envy with which he has 
listened to the praises of another member of his little 
club of dilettante authors : " I do believe that as much 
praise as is being given and will ever be given to all 
mankind for every sort of praiseworthy thing, I should 
like to snap up for myself alone. Again, another 
day he writes : " More lazy than ever. Walking with 
a friend, and talking about our incomes, &c. I thought 
I was giving him a perfectly open account of my 
money matters ; but, with the best intention of telling 
him the truth, I find that, in order to deceive myself as 
well as him, I increased my fortune by one-fifth." 



ALFIEBI. 69 

Again, " I had some doubts whether, as it was blowing 
hard on the promenade, I would go on as far as where 
the ladies were walking ; because, knowing that I was 
looking pale and ill, and that the wind had taken the 
powder out of my hair, I was unwilling to show myself 
in a condition so unsuitable to my pretensions to 
beauty." 

But while thus analyzing himself, while working at 
Latin and grammar like a schoolboy, this fashionable 
young man, ashamed of being seen when he was not in 
good looks, ashamed of having one horse less than 
usual, was continually ruminating over the glory for 
which he intended living, and which he appears never 
for a moment to have doubted of attaining. " In my 
mind, which is completely given up to the idea of 
glory, I frequently go over the plan of my life. I 
determine that at forty-five I will write no more, but 
merely enjoy the fame which I shall have obtained, or 
imagine that I have obtained, and prepare myself for 
death. One thing only makes me uneasy : I fear that 
as I approach the prescribed limit, I may push it 
continually back, and that at forty-five I may still be 
thinking only of continuing to live and, perhaps, of 
continuing to scribble. Hard as I try to think, or to 
make others think, that I am different from the rest of 
mankind, I fear, I tremble lest I be extremely like 
them." 

But in order to devote himself to the pursuit of 
literary glory, one thing remained to be achieved by 
this strange, self-conscious, frank, contemptuous, and 
vain creature, by this young man who, even in his 
weaknesses, has a certain heroic air about him. It was 
necessary to break through the bonds of unworthy 
love. Unable to trust any longer to his often baffled 



70 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

resolution and self-command, Alfieri devised a primitive 
and theatrical remedy too much in harmony with his 
whole nature to be otherwise than efficacious. The 
lady occupied a house in the great rococo square 
of San Carlo, opposite to the one which he rented ; 
she could not go in or out of her door without 
being seen by Alfieri, and the sight of her was too 
much for him : he invariably broke all his resolves 
and went across the square to his Armida. Knowing 
this, Alfieri obliged a friend of his to receive from him 
a solemn written promise to the effect that he would 
not merely never go to the lady, nor take any notice 
of her messages, but that, until he felt himself abso- 
lutely indifferent and beyond her reach, he would go 
out only in solitary places and at unlikely hours, and 
spend the greater part of the day seated at his window 
looking at her house, seeing her pass, hearing her 
spoken of, receiving her letters, without ever approach- 
ing her or sending her the smallest message. As a 
pledge of this engagement, Alfieri cut off his long red 
hair, and sent the plait to his friend, leaving himself 
in a state of crop-headedness, which made it utterly 
impossible, in that day when wigs had been given up 
but short hair had not yet been adopted, for him to 
appear anywhere. And then he had himself tied to his 
chair with ropes hidden under his cloak, and spent day 
after day looking at his mistress' windows, quite unable 
to read a word or attend to conversation, raging and 
sobbing and howling like a demoniac, but never asking 
to be untied ; until, at the end of a fortnight or three 
weeks, he was rewarded, most characteristically, by 
being at once delivered of all love for his lady, and 
inspired with the idea for a sonnet. 

Alfieri worked harder and harder at his Latin and 



ALFIEEL 71 

Italian lessons, sketched out the plan of several plays : 
and, then, in the early summer of 1776, got together 
his horses, procured a permission to travel from the 
King of Sardinia, and set out for Tuscany in order to 
learn the language in which he was to achieve that 
great literary glory to which he had dedicated his 
life. 



72 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE CAVALIERE SERVENTE. 

ALFIERI'S greatest terror in life was to fall in love 
once more. All his love affairs had been degrading to 
his good sense, his will and his manhood ; they had 
been odious, even at the moment, to his extraordinary 
innate passion, or, one might almost say, monomania 
for independence; he who even in his dullest and most 
inane years had hated the thought of any sort of 
military or diplomatic position which should imply 
subjection to a despotic government, whose only strong 
feeling about the world in general had long been a 
fierce hatred and contempt both for those who tyran- 
nised and those who were tyrannised over, this Alfieri 
had always, as he tells us, fled, though unsuccessfully, 
from the presence of women whose social position 
(though the words sound like a sarcasm) was sufficiently 
good to make any regular love intrigue possible or 
probable. How much more must he not defend his 
liberty now that he saw before him the direct road to 
glory, and felt within himself the power to journey 
along it. 

Thus it was, as he explains in his autobiography, 



THE CAVALIERE SEEVENTE. 73 

that on his first arrival in Florence, hearing everyone 
praising the character and talents of the wife of Charles 
Edward Stuart, and seeing the beautiful young woman 
at theatres and in the public promenade, he resolutely 
declined to be introduced to her. The very charm 
of the impression which she had thus accidentally 
made upon him, the vivid image of those very dark 
eyes (I am translating his words, and must explain 
that her eyes, which seemed blue to Bonstetten and 
dark to Alfieri's, were in reality of that hazel colour 
which gives great prominence to the pupil, and there- 
fore leaves the idea of black eyes) contrasting with the 
brilliant fair skin and pale blonde hair, of the gracious- 
ness and sweetness and perhaps even a certain sad 
austerity in her whole appearance arid manner, all this 
made Alfieri determine to avoid all personal acquaint- 
ance. 

But after some months at Siena, where his thoughts 
had been entirely absorbed in the literary projects 
which he discussed with his new friend, the grave and 
good and serious-minded Gori, and one or two Sienese 
professors, after that first feeling of attraction had 
died away, and he felt himself covered, as it were, 
with an impenetrable armour of poetic interests, Alfieri 
decided, on his return to Florence, that he was quite 
sufficiently of a new man to expose himself without 
any danger to such a lady as the Countess of Albany. 
He was, after all, a different individual from that 
inane, dull, violent young man who in the vacuity of 
life had raged and roared in the chains of unworthy 
love. And she, she also, was quite a different woman 
from the Lady Ligonier and from the Marchesa di 
Prie, the shameless, unfaithful wives, and heartless, 
vain, worldly coquettes who had made such havoc of 



74 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

his heart. She was a cold, virtuous, extremely intel- 
lectual woman, trying to find consolation for her 
quietly and bravely supported miseries in study, in 
abstract interests which should take away her thoughts 
from the sickening reality of things ; a woman who 
would be valuable as a friend to a poet, and who 
would know how to value his friendship. And he, 
continually seeking for people who could understand 
his literary ambitions, with whom he could discuss all 
his poetical projects, and from whom he might receive 
assistance in this new intellectual life, was he not in 
need of such a friendship ? Would he not appre- 
ciate its usefulness and uniqueness sufficiently to see 
that it did not turn to a mere useless and demoralising 
love affair? There may also have been something 
very reassuring to Alfieri's apprehensions in the know- 
ledge that he would be dealing, not with an Italian 
woman, accustomed and almost socially obliged to 
hold a man in the degrading bonds of cicisbeism, but 
with a foreigner, the jealously-guarded wife of a sort 
of legendary ogre, with whom, however much the 
old fury of love might awaken in him, there could by 
no possibility be anything beyond the most strictly 
watched friendship. So Alfieri went to the palace of 
the Count of Albany ; and, having once been, returned 
there. 

The palace bought by Charles Edward about 1776 
stands in the most remote and peaceful quarter of 
Florence. A few quiet streets, unbroken by shop- 
fronts and unfrequented by vehicles, lead up to that 
quarter ; streets of low whitewashed convent walls 
overtopped by trees, of silent palaces, of unpretending 
little houses of the seventeenth or eighteenth century, 
from behind whose iron window-gratings and blistered 



THE CAVALIERS SERVENTE. 75 

green shutters one expects even now, as one passes in 
the silence of the summer afternoons, to hear the faint 
jangle of some harpsichord-strummed minuet, the 
turns and sudden high notes of some long-forgotten 
song by Cimarosa or Paisiello. It is a region of dead 
walls, over which bend the acacias and elms, over 
which shoot up the cypresses and cedars of innumer- 
able convent and palace-gardens, on whose flower-beds 
and fountains and quincunxes the first-floor windows 
look down. In the midst of all this, at the corner 
of two very quiet streets, stands the palace, now of the 
Duke of San Clemente, an ungainly, yellow structure 
of various epochs, with a pretty late sixteenth-century 
belvedere tower on one side ; a lot of shuttered and 
heavily-grated seventeenth-century windows, orna- 
mented with stone stay-laces and tags, upon the dark 
street ; and to the back a desolate old garden, where 
the vines have crawled over the stonework, and the 
grotesque seventeenth-century statues, green and 
yellow with lichen, stand in niches among the ill- 
trimmed hedges of ilex and laurel : the most old-world 
house and garden in the old-world part of the town. 
The eighteenth century still seems very near as we 
walk in those streets and look in, through the railings, 
at the ilex and laurel quincunxes, the lichened statues 
of that garden ; and from the roof of the house still 
floats, creaking in the wind, regardless of the triumph 
of the Hanoverians, unconscious of the many banners 
which have been thrown, mere heaps of obsolete 
coloured tatters, on the dust-heap, a rusty metal 
weather-vane, bearing the initials of Carolus Rex, the 
last successor of the standard that was raised in 
Glenfinnan. 

In this house was now developing one of the most 



76 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

singular loves that ever were. Shortly after his intro- 
duction to the Countess of Albany, Alfieri, terrified 
lest he might be forfeiting his spiritual liberty once 
more, took to flight and tried to forget the lady in a 
mad journey to Borne. But he had not forgotten 
her; and on his passage through Siena, returning to 
Florence, he had explained his feelings, his fears, to his 
friend Francesco Gori. This Gori, a young Sienese 
of the middle class, extremely cultured, of " antique 
uprightness," to use the eighteenth-century phrase, 
seems to have taken to his heart, as one might some 
wild younger brother, or some eccentric, moody child, 
the strange, self-engrossed, passionate Piedmoutese. A 
gentle, grave, and quiet man, he had loved the mag- 
nanimity and independence so curiously mingled with 
mere vanity and egotism in Alfieri's nature ; he had 
never tired of hearing his friend's plans for the future, 
had never smiled at his almost comic certainty of 
supreme greatness, he had never lost patience with the 
self-meritorious egotism which made all Alfieri's actions 
seem the one interest of the world in Alfieri's own eyes. 
To Francesco Gori, therefore, Alfieri went for advice : 
ought he, or ought he not, to fly from this new love 
while it was still possible to do so ? 

The grave and virtuous Gori answered that he should 
not : this new love had been sent to him as a cure for 
all baser loves ; instead of crushing it as an obstacle to 
his higher life and his glory, he should thankfully 
cultivate it as an incentive and assistance in working 
out his intellectual redemption. 

Let us pause, and consider for a moment the mean- 
ing of Alfieri's question, and the meaning of Gori's 
answer ; let us try and realise the ideas and feelings of 
two honourable men, seeking a higher life, in a country 



THE CAVALIERE SERVENTE. 77 

so near our own as Italy, and so short a while ago as 
the year 1777. Here was Alfieri, passionately desirous 
to redeem his own existence by intellectual efforts, and 
confident of a vague mission to awaken his country- 
men to his own nobler feelings : to the contempt of 
sensual pleasures and worldly vanities, the hatred of 
political and religious servitude, the love of truth and 
justice, the love of Italy. Here was this Alfieri, at 
the very outset of his new career, solemnly confiding to 
his kindest and wisest friend the scruples, the fears, 
which restrained him from seeking the company of a 
woman whom he was beginning to love, and who was 
beginning to love him, a young woman married by 
mere worldly convention to a sickly, brutal, and brutish 
drunkard, old enough to be her father. And what 
were these scruples ? Merely that a new love might 
distract Alfieri from his plans of study and work, that 
a woman might cheat him of glory, and Italy of the 
tragic drama which would school her to virtue. That 
there could be any other scruples appears never to have 
crossed Alfieri's brain : that there could be any reason 
to pause and ask himself whether he was doing wrong 
or ill before exposing to temptation the woman whom 
he loved, and the honour which he loved more than 
her ; whether he had a right to return to the palace of 
Charles Edward and, while receiving his hospitality, 
while enjoying his confidence, to teach the wife of his 
host how to love another man than her husband; 
whether he had a right to return to the presence of 
that beautiful and intellectual lady, who had hitherto 
suffered only from the brutishness of her husband, and 
add to these sufferings the sufferings of hopeless love, 
the sufferings of a guilty conscience? 

But to the Italian of the eighteenth century, even to 



78 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

the man who most thoroughly despised and loathed his 
country's and century's corruption, no such scruple 
ever came. What consideration need any man or any 
woman waste upon a husband ? What possible disgrace 
could come to a woman in having a lover? And did 
not the frantic jealousy of the besotted old husband, 
his continual attendance, his perpetual spying, most 
effectually remove any further consideration there 
might be for him ? 

I scarcely know whether it is a thing about which to 
be cheerful or sad, proud or ashamed ; but the more 
one studies the ideas and feelings of even one's nearest 
neighbours, in place or in time, the more is one im- 
pressed with the sense that, say what people choose, 
men and women do not think and feel, even upon the 
most important subjects, in anything like a uniform 
manner. Social misarrangements, which are crimes 
towards the individual, are invariably partially righted, 
made endurable, by individual rearrangements, which 
are crimes towards society. The woman was not con- 
sulted by her parents before her marriage, she was not 
restrained by her conscience afterwards ; she was given 
for ambition to a man whose tenure of her received 
legal and religious sanction ; she gave herself for love 
to a man whose possession of her was against society 
and against religion ; but society received her to its 
parties, and the Church gave her its communion. And 
thus, in Italy, and in the eighteenth century, where no 
one had found any fault at a girl of nineteen being 
married by proxy to a man who turned out to be a 
disgusting and brutal sot ; no one also could find any 
fault at a young man of twenty-eight seeking, and 
obtaining, the love of a married woman of twenty-five. 
The immoral law had produced the immoral lawless- 



THE CAVALIEEE SERVENTE. 79 

ness. So, to the scruples of Alfieri, Francesco Gori 
had answered : " Return to Florence." 

We shall now see how, out of this vile piece of prose, 
the higher nature of Alfieri and of the Countess of 
Albany, and (what a satire upon poetic and platonic 
affection !) most of all, the monomaniac jealousy of 
Charles Edward, contrived to make a sort of poetry. 



80 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE ESCAPE. 

ALFIERI'S fears had been groundless. His love for the 
wife of Charles Edward Stuart a love, he tells us, 
quite different from any he had previously experienced, 
quiet, pure, and solemn was destined not to interfere 
with that austere process of detaching his soul from 
the base passions of the world, and devoting it to the 
creation of a new style of poetry, to the achievement 
of a new kind of glory ; nay, rather, by bringing to the 
surface whatever capacity for tenderness and self- 
restraint and respect for others had hitherto lurked 
within this fantastic nature, this new love helped to 
complete that strange monumental personality of 
Alfieri a personality more striking, more ideal, than 
any of those plays by which he hoped to regenerate 
Italy, and which has been far more potent than his 
works in the moral regeneration of his country. 
Alfieri's youth had been illiterate and stupid ; and he 
required, in order to make up for so much waste of 
time and waste of spirit, that he should now be sur- 
rounded by an atmosphere as intensely intellectual as 
the atmosphere in which he had previously lived had 



THE ESGAPK 81 

been the reverse. After the long spiritual numbness 
of his earlier years, this soul, if it was to be kept 
alive, must be kept in an almost artificially high 
spiritual temperature, and continually plied with 
spiritual cordials. These advantages he obtained in 
the love, or, we ought rather to say, the friendship of 
the Countess of Albany, and it is extremely improbable 
whether he would have obtained them otherwise. Irri- 
table and vain and moody, at once excessively per- 
suaded of his own dramatic mission and morbidly 
diffident of his actual powers of carrying it out, con- 
temptuous of others and of himself, Alfieri, who 
required such constant sympathy and encouragement 
in his work, was not the man who could hope to obtain 
much of either from other men, whom his excessive 
pretensions, his ups and downs of humour, his very 
dissatisfaction with himself, must have quickly ex- 
hausted of the small amount of brotherly tenderness 
which seems to exist in the literary brotherhood. He 
did, indeed, meet a degree of sincere helpfulness and 
friendliness from the members of the Turinese Literary 
Club ; from Cesarotti, the translator of Ossian ; from 
Parini, the great Milanese satirist, and from one or 
two other men of letters ; which shows that there is 
more kindness in the world than he ever would admit, 
and confirms me in my remark that he was singularly 
well treated by fate and mankind. But all this was 
very lukewarm sympathy; and except from his two 
great friends, Francesco Gori and Tommaso di Caluso, 
a difficult-tempered man like Alfieri could receive only 
lukewarmness. Now what he required was sympathy, 
admiration, adoration, of the most burning description. 
This was possible, towards such a man, only from a 
woman. But where find the woman who could give 

6 



82 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

it, among the convent-educated, early corrupted, frivo- 
lous ladies of Italy, to whom love-making was the 
highest interest in life, but an interest only a trifle 
higher than card - playing, dancing, or dressing ? 
Where, even among the very small number of women 
like Silvia Verza at Verona, Isabella Albrizzi at Venice, 
or Paolina Castiglione at Milan, who actually had 
some amount of culture, and actually prided them- 
selves on it ? The rank and file of Italian ladies could 
give him only another Marchesa di Prie, a little better 
or a little worse, another woman who would degrade 
him in the sensual and inane routine of a cicisbeo. 
The exceptional ladies were even worse. Fancy this 
morbid, conceited, self -doubtful, violent, moody Alfieri 
accepting literary sympathy in a room full of small 
provincial lions sympathy which had to be divided 
with half a dozen others ; learned persons who edited 
Latin inscriptions, dapper poet priestlets, their pockets 
crammed with sonnets on ladies' hats, opera-singers, 
canary birds, births, deaths, and marriages, and pon- 
derous pedants of all sorts and descriptions. Why, a 
lady who set up as the muse of a hot-tempered and 
brow-beating creature like Alfieri, a man whom con- 
sciousness of imperfect education made horribly sensi- 
tive such a lady would have lost all the accustomed 
guests of her salon in ten days' time. Herein, there- 
fore, consisted the uniqueness of the Countess of 
Albany, in the fact that she was everything to Alfieri, 
which no other woman could be. Originally better 
educated than her Italian contemporaries, the ex- 
canoness of Mons, half-Flemish, half-German by 
family, French by training, and connected with England 
through her marriage with the Pretender, had the 
advantage of open doors upon several fields of culture. 



THE ESCAPE. 83 

She could read the books of four different nations a 
very rare accomplishment in her day; and she was, 
moreover, one of those women, rarer even in the 
eighteenth century than now-a-days, whose nature, 
while unproductive in any particular line, is intensely 
and almost exclusively intellectual, and in the in- 
tellectual domain even more intensely and almost ex- 
clusively literary women who are born readers, to 
whom a new poem is as great an excitement as a new 
toilette, a treatise of philosophy (we shall see the 
Countess devouring Kant long before he had been 
heard of out of Germany) more exquisitely delightful 
than a symphony. And this woman, thus educated, 
with this immense fund of intellectual energy, was 
living, not a normal life with the normal distracting 
influences of an endurable husband, of children and 
society, but a life of frightful mental and moral 
isolation, by the side, or rather in the loathsome 
shadow, of a degraded, sordid, violent, and jealous 
brute, from the reality of whose beastly excesses and 
bestial fury, of whose vomitings and oaths and out- 
rages and blows, she could take refuge only in the 
unreal world of books. 

With such a woman, Alfieri, accepted as an intimate 
by the husband, who doubtless thought one hare-brained 
poet more easy to manage than two or three fashionable 
gallants with such a woman as this, Alfieri might talk 
over plans of self-culture and work, his plays, his 
essays on liberty and literature, and all the things by 
which he intended to redeem Italy and make himseli 
immortal, without any fear of his listener ever growing 
weary ; from her he could receive that passionate 
sympathy and encouragement without which life and 
work were impossible to him. For we must bear in 

6 * 



84 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

mind what a man like Alfieri, in the heyday of his 
youth, his beauty, and that genius which was the 
indomitable energy and independence of his nature, 
must have been in the eyes of the Countess of Albany. 
She had been married at nineteen she was now 
twenty-six: in those seven years of suffering there 
had been ample time to obliterate all traces of the frivo- 
lous, worldly girl whom Bonstetten had seen light- 
heartedly laughing at her old husband's jokes ; there 
had been plenty of time to produce in this excessively 
intellectual nature that vague dissatisfaction, that 
desire for the ideal, which is the price too often paid 
for the consolation of mere abstract and literary 
interests. The pressure of constant disgust and terror 
at her husband's doings, the terrible mental and moral 
solitude of living by such a husband's side, had pro- 
bably wrought up Louise d' Albany to the very highest 
and almost morbid refinement of nature a refinement 
far surpassing the normal condition of her character, 
even as the extra fining off of already delicate features 
oy illness will make them surpass by far their healthy 
degree of beauty. In such a mental condition the 
sense of what her husband was must have exasperated 
her imagination quite as much as his actual loath- 
someness must have repelled her feelings ; the know- 
ledge of the frightful moral and intellectual fall of 
Charles Edward must have been as bad as the filthy 
place to which he had fallen. And opposite to the 
image of the Pretender must constantly have arisen 
the image of Alfieri opposite to the image of the 
man, once heroic and charming and brilliant, who had 
sold his heroism and his charm, his mind and his 
manhood, for the bestial pleasure of drink who had 
rewarded the devotion and self-sacrifice and noble 



THE ESCAPE. 85 

enthusiasm of his followers by the sight, worse than 
the scaffold on Tower Hill, of their idol turning into a 
half-maniac, besotted brute ; opposite to this image of 
degradation must have arisen the image of the man who 
had wrestled with the baser passions of his nature, 
who had broken through the base habits of his youth, 
who had fashioned himself into a noble moral shape 
as the marble is fashioned by the hand of the sculptor ; 
who was struggling still, not merely with the difficulties 
of his art, but with whatever he thought mean and 
slothful in himself. 

Some eighteen months after their first acquaintance, 
Alfieri announced to the wife of Charles Edward that 
he had just happily settled a most important piece of 
business, the success of which was one of the most 
fortunate things of his life. He had made a gift of 
all his estates to his sister, reserving for himself only 
a very moderate yearly income ; he had reduced him- 
self from comparative wealth to comparative poverty ; 
he had cut himself off from ever making a suitable 
marriage; he had made himself a pensioner of his 
sister's husband : but at this price he had bought 
independence he was no longer the subject of the 
King of Sardinia, nor of any sovereign or State in 
the world. 

The passion for political liberty, the abhorrence of 
any kind of despotism, however glorious or however 
paternal, had grown in Alfieri with every journey he 
had made through France, Spain, Germany, Russia 
with every sojourn in England ; it had grown with 
every page of Livy and Tacitus, with every line of 
Dante and Petrarch which he had read ; it had grown 
with every word that he himself had written. He had 
determined to be the poet who should make men 



86 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

ashamed of being slaves and ashamed of being tyrants. 
But he was himself the subject of the little military 
despotism of Piedmont, whose nobles required, every 
time they wished to travel or live abroad, to beg 
civilly for leave of absence, which was usually most 
uncivilly granted ; and one of whose laws threatened 
any person who should print books in foreign countries, 
and without the permission of the Sardinian censor, 
with a heavy fine, and, if necessary, with corporal 
chastisement. 

In order to become a poet, Alfieri required to 
become a free agent ; and the only way to become a 
free agent, to break through the bars of what he called 
his " abominable native cage/' the only way to obtain 
the power of writing what he wished to write, was to 
give up all his fortune, and live upon the charity of 
the relatives whom he had enriched. So, during the 
past months, he had been in constant correspondence 
with his sister, his brother-in-law, and his lawyer; and 
now he had succeeded in ridding himself of all his 
estates and all his capital. The Countess of Albany 
knew Alfieri sufficiently well by this time to understand 
that this alienation of all his property was a real 
sacrifice. Alfieri was the vainest and most ostentatious 
of men; young, handsome, showy and eccentric, 
accustomed to cut a grand figure wherever he went, 
it must have cost him a twinge to be obliged to reduce 
his hitherto brilliant establishment, to dismiss nearly 
all his servants, to sell most of his horses, to exchange 
his embroidered velvets and satins for a plain black 
coat for the evening, and a plain blue coat for the 
afternoon. The worst sacrifice of all he doubtless con- 
fided, with savage bitterness, to the Countess, as he 
confided it to the readers of his autobiography, it was to 



THE ESCAPE. 87 

resign the nominal service of Piedmont to put aside, for 
good and all, that brilliant Sardinian uniform in which 
he looked to such advantage. We can imagine how 
this subject was talked over how Alfieri, with that 
savage pleasure of his in the self-infliction of pain and 
humiliation, exposed to the Countess all the little, 
mean motives which had deterred him or which had 
encouraged him in his liberation from political servi- 
tude ; we can imagine how she chid him for his rash 
step, and how, at the same time, she felt a delicious 
pride in the meanness which he so frankly revealed, in 
the rashness which she so severely reproved ; we can 
imagine how the thought of Al fieri, who had thus 
sacrificed fortune, luxury, vanity, to the desire to be 
free, met in the Countess of Albany's mind the thought 
of Charles Edward, living the pensioner of a sovereign 
who had insulted him and of a sovereign whom he had 
cheated, spending in liquor the money which France 
had paid him to get himself an heir and the Stuarts 
another king. 

A strange and dangerous situation, but one whose 
langer was completely neutralised. Of all the various 
persons who speak of the extraordinary friendship 
between Vittorio Alfieri and Louise d' Albany which 
existed at this time, not one even ventures to hint that 
the relations between them exceeded in the slightest 
degree the limits of mere passionate friendship; and the 
solemn words of Alfieri, in whom truthfulness was not 
merely an essential part of his natural character, but 
an even more essential part of his self-idealised per- 
sonality, merely confirm the words of all contemporary 
writers. Now, if there was a country where an intrigue 
between a woman noted for her virtue and a poet noted 
for his eccentricity would, had it existed, have been 



88 THE COUNTESS OF ALB ANT. 

joyfully laid hold of by gossip, it was certainly this 
utterly-demoralised Italy of cavalieri serventi : every 
fashionable woman and every fast man would have felt 
a personal satisfaction in tearing to pieces the reputa- 
tion of a lady whose whole character and life had been 
a censure upon theirs. But, as there are women the 
intensity of whose pure-mindedness, felt in every 
feature and gesture and word, paralyses even the 
most ribald wish to shock or outrage, and momentarily 
drags up towards themselves the very people who would 
dearly love to drag them down even for a second ; so 
also it would appear that there are situations so 
strange, meetings of individuals so exceptional, that 
calumny itself is unable to attack them. No one said 
a word against Alfieri and the Countess ; and Charles 
Edward himself, jealous as he was of any kind of 
interference in his concerns, appears never to have 
attempted to rid himself of his wife's new friend. 

Much, of course, must be set down to the very 
madness of the Pretender's jealousy, to his more than 
Oriental systematic guarding and watching of his wife. 
Mann, we must remember, had written, long before 
Alfieri appeared upon the scene, that Charles Edward 
never went out without his wife and never let her go 
out without him; he barricaded her apartment, and 
was never further off than the next room. Charles 
Edward undoubtedly conferred upon two people, living 
in a day of excessive looseness of manners, the in- 
estimable advantage of confining their love within the 
bounds of friendship, of crushing all that might have 
been base, of liberating all that could be noble, of 
turning what might have been merely a passion after 
the pattern of Rousseau into a passion after the pattern 
of Dante. But what Charles Edward could not do, 



THE ESCAPE. 89 

what no human being or accidental circumstances could 
bring about, was due to the special nature of Alfieri 
and of the Countess ; namely, that this strange platonic 
passion, instead of dying out after a very brief time, 
merely intensified, became long-lived, inextinguishable, 
nay continued, in its absolute austerity and purity, 
long after every obstacle and restraint had been re- 
moved, except the obstacles and restraints which, from 
the very ideality of its own nature, increased for itself. 
And, if we look facts calmly in the face, and, letting 
alone all poetical jargon, ask ourselves the plain 
psychological explanation, we see that such things not 
only could, but, considering the character of the 
Countess of Albany and of Alfieri, must have been. 
The Countess had found in Alfieri the satisfaction of 
those intellectual and ideal cravings which in a nature 
like hers, and in a situation like hers, must have been 
the strongest and most durable necessities. Alfieri, on 
the other hand, sick of his past life, mortally afraid of 
falling once more under the tyranny of his baser 
nature, seeking on all sides assistance in that terrible 
struggle of the winged intellect out of the caterpillar 
cocoon in which it had lain torpid so long, was wrought 
up, if ever a man was, to the pitch of enjoying, of 
desiring a mere intellectual passion just in proportion 
as it was absolutely and completely intellectual. 

A poet especially in his conception of his own per- 
sonality, an artist who manipulated his own nature, 
a poseur whose pose was his concentrated self cleared 
of all things which recalled the vulgar herd ; more- 
over, a furiously literary temper with a mad devotion 
to Dante and Petrarch : Alfieri must have found in this 
love, which fate in the Pretender's person ordained to 
be platonic, the crowning characteristic of his present 



90 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

personality, the almost miraculous confirmation of his 
mystic relationship to the lover of Beatrice and the 
lover of Laura. And, in the knowledge of what he 
was to this poor, tormented young wife ; in the 
consciousness of being the only ray of light in this 
close-shuttered prison nay, rather bedlam-like exis- 
tence ; in the sense of how completely the happiness of 
Louise d'Albany depended upon him, whatever there 
was of generous and dutiful in the selfish and self- 
willed nature of Alfieri must have become paramount, 
and enjoined upon him never to vacillate or grow 
weary in this strange mixture of love and of friendship. 



91 



CHAPTER IX. 

EOME. 

THIS strange intellectual passion, the meeting, as it 
were, of two long-repressed, long solitary intellectual 
lives, austerely satisfied with itself and contemptuous 
of all baser loves, might have sufficed for the happiness 
of two such over-wrought natures as were at that 
moment Vittorio Alfieri and Louise d' Albany. 

But there could be no happiness for the wife of the 
Pretender, and no happiness, therefore, for the man 
who saw her the daily victim of the cantankerousness, 
the grossness and the violence of her drunken husband. 
To an imaginative mind, loving in things rather the 
ideal than the reality, striving for ever after some 
poetical or heroic model of love and of life, trying to 
be at once a patriot out of Plutarch and a lover after 
the fashion of the Vita Nuova, there are few trials 
more exasperating than to have to see the real 
creature who for the moment embodies one's ideal, 
the creature whom one carefully garlands with flowers 
and hangs round with lamps, raised above all 
vulgar things in the niche in one's imagination, 



92 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

elbowed by brutish reality, bespattered with ignoble 
miseries. And this Alfieri had constantly to bear. 
Perhaps the very knowledge of the actual suffering, 
of the unjust recriminations, the cruel violence, the 
absolute fear of death, among which Louise d' Albany 
spent her life, was not so difficult for her lover to 
bear as to see her, the beautiful and high-minded 
lady of his heart, seated in her opera box near the 
sofa where the red and tumid-faced Pretender lay 
snoring, Avaking up, as Mann describes him, only to 
summon his lacqueys to assist him in a fit of drunken 
sickness, or to be carried, like a dead swine, with 
hanging bloated head and powerless arms, down-stairs 
to his carriage ; not so difficult to bear as to hear her, 
his Beatrice, his Laura, made the continual victim of 
her bullying husband's childish bad-temper, of his 
foul-mouthed abuse, to hear it and have to sit by in 
silence, dependent upon the good graces of a besotted 
ruffian against whom Alfieri's hands must have con- 
tinually itched. 

A little poem, poor, like all Alfieri's lyrics, written 
about this time, and complaining of having to see a 
beautiful pure rose dragged through ignoble filth, 
shows that Alfieri, like most poetical minds, resented 
the vulgar and the disgusting much more than he 
would have resented what one may call clean tragedy. 
But things got worse and worse, and the real tragedy 
threatened. Charles Edward had outraged and beaten 
his mistress ; older and much more profoundly degraded, 
he now outraged and beat his wife. In 1780 Sir 
Horace Mann reports upon the " cruel and indecent 
behaviour " of which Mme. d' Albany was the victim. 
Ill-treatment and terror were beginning to undermine 
her health, and there can be no doubt, I think, that 



EOME. 93 

the symptoms of a nervous disorder, of which she com- 
plained a couple of years later to Alfieri's bosom friend 
Gori, must originally have been produced in this un- 
usually robust young woman by the horrible treat- 
ment to which she was at this time subjected. Mme. 
d' Albany, who had astonished the world by her 
resignation, appears to have fairly taken fright; she 
wrote to her brother-in-law Cardinal York, entreating 
him to protect her from her husband. The weak- 
minded, conscientious cardinal was not the man to 
take any bold step ; he promised his sister-in-law all 
possible assistance if she were driven to extremities, 
but begged her to endure a little longer and save him 
the pain of a scandal. So the Countess of Albany, 
long since abandoned by her own kith and kin, aban- 
doned also by her brother-in-law, alone in the world 
between a husband who was daily becoming more and 
more of a wild beast, and a lover who was fearful 
of giving any advice which might compromise her 
reputation or separate them for ever, went on suf- 
fering. 

But the moment came when she could suffer no 
more. At the beginning of the winter of 1780, the 
celebration of St. Andrew's day by Charles Edward 
and his drinking companions, was followed by a scene 
over which Alfieri drops a modest veil, calling it 
vaguely a violent bacchanal which endangered the life 
of his lady. From the biographers of Charles Edward 
we learn that the Pretender roused his wife in the 
middle of the night with a torrent of insulting lan- 
guage which provoked her to vehement recrimina- 
tions ; that he beat her, committed foul acts upon her, 
and finished off with attempting to choke her in her 
bed, in which he would probably have succeeded had 



94 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

the servants not been waked by the Countess* screams 
and dragged Charles Edward away.* 

Alfieri, partly from an honourable reluctance to see 
his lady made the heroine of a public scandal, and 
partly, no doubt, from the more selfish fear lest a 
separation from her husband might imply a separa- 
tion also from her lover, had long persisted in advis- 
ing the Countess against any extreme measure. 
Alfieri tells us that with the desire for freedom of 
speech and writing at the bottom of his act of self- 
spoliation in his sister's favour, there had mingled a 
sense also that by breaking all connections with Pied- 
mont, and liberating himself from all temptation of 
marrying for the sake of his family, he was, in a 
manner, securing the continuation of his relations 
with Mme. d' Albany. The Countess's flight from her 
husband, they both well knew, would in all probability 
put an end to these relations; the Catholic Church 
could grant no divorce, and Charles Edward would 
probably refuse a separation ; so that the honour, nay, 
the life of the fugitive wife would be safe only in a 
convent, whence Alfieri would be excluded together 
with Charles Edward. The choice was a hard one 
to make ; the choice between a life of peace and safety, 
but separated from all that made life dear to her, and 
a life consoled by the presence of Alfieri, but made 
wretched and absolutely endangered by the violence 
of a drunken maniac. But after that frightful night 
of St. Andrew no choice remained; to remain under 
the Pretender's roof was equivalent for his wife either 



* I have purposely quoted, almost textually, the account given 
by Ewald, lest I should be accused of following Alfieri's vague 
version. 



ROME. 95 

to a violent death in another such fit of madness, or 
to a lingering death from sheer misery and daily 
terror. The Countess of Albany must leave her hus- 
band. 

To effectuate this was the work of Alfieri of Alfien, 
who, of all men, was most interested to keep Mme. 
d' Albany in her husband's house ; o Alfieri, who, of 
all men, was the least fitted for any kind of under- 
hand practices. The actual plot for escape was 
the least part of the business ; the conspiracy would 
have utterly miscarried, and Mme. d' Albany have 
been condemned to a life of much worse agony, had 
not provision been made against the Pretenders cer- 
tain efforts to get his wife back. Mme. d'Albany 
may have remembered how her mother-in-law Clemen- 
tina Sobieska, although protected by the Pope, had 
been eventually got out of the convent whither she 
had escaped, and had been restored to her hus- 
band the Pretender James; she was probably 
aware, also, how Charles Edward had stormed at the 
French Government to have Miss Walkenshaw sent 
back to him from the convent at Meaux. No Govern- 
ment could give a man back his mistress, but it was 
different with a wife ; and both Alfieri and the Countess 
must have known full well that however lax the Grand 
Ducal Court might be on the subject of conjugal 
infidelity, when quietly carried on under the domestic 
roof and dignified by the name of serventismo, no 
court, no society, could do otherwise than virtuously 
resent so great a turpitude as a wife publicly running 
away by herself from her husband's house. It became 
necessary to win over the sympathies of those in power, 
to secure their connivance, or at all events their 
neutrality ; and this task of talking, flattering, wheed- 



96 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

ling, imploring, fell to Alfieri, whose sense of self- 
debasement appears to have been mitigated only by 
the knowledge that he was working for the good of a 
guiltless and miserable woman, of the woman whom 
he loved more than the whole world ; by the bitter 
knowledge that the success of his efforts, the libera- 
tion of his beloved, meant also the sacrifice of that 
intercourse which made the happiness of his life. 

Alfieri succeeded ; the Grand Duke and the Grand 
Duchess were won over. The actual flight alone 
remained to be accomplished. 

* In the first days of December 1780 a certain 
Mme. Orlandini, a half Irish lady connected with the 
Jacobite Ormonds, was invited to breakfast at the 
palace in the Via San Sebastiano. She skilfully led the 
conversation into a discussion on needle-work, and 
suggested that the Countess of Albany should go and 
see the last embroidery produced at the convent of 
Bianchette, a now long-suppressed establishment in 
the adjoining Via del Mandorlo. The Countess of 
Albany ordered her carriage for immediately after 
breakfast, and the two ladies drove off, accompanied, 
of course, by Charles Edward, who never permitted 
his wife to go out without him. Near the convent- 
gate they met a Mr. Gahagan, an Irish Jacobite and 
the official cavaliere servente of Mme. Orlandini, who, 
hearing that they were going to pay a visit to the 
nuns, offered to accompany them. Gahagan helped 
out the Countess and Mme. Orlandini, who rapidly 
ran up the flight of steps leading to the convent door ; 
he then offered his arm to Charles Edward, whose legs 



* The chief sources for this account are Mann's despatches and 
the Mtmoires of Louis Dutens. Alfieri gives no details. 



ROME. 97 

were disabled by dropsy. Leaning on Gahagan's arm, 
the Pretender was slowly making his way up the steps 
when his companion, looking up, suddenly exclaimed 
that the two ladies had already entered the convent 
and that the nuns had stupidly and rudely shut the 
door in his and the Count of Albany's face. " They will 
soon have to open/' answered Charles Edward, and 
began to knock violently. Mr. Gahagan doubtless 
knocked also. But no answer came. At length the 
door opened, and there appeared behind a grating no 
less a person than the Lady Abbess, who ceremoniously 
informed the Count that she was unable to let him 
in, as his wife had sought an asylum in her con- 
vent under the protection of Her Highness the Grand 
Duchess of Tuscany. 

Sir Horace Mann says that Alfieri, who is not 
mentioned in the very circumstantial narrative of 
Dutens, was hanging about the convent, in order to 
prevent the Pretender, who always carried pistols in 
his pockets, from committing any violence. This seems 
extremely unlikely, as the first use to which Charles 
Edward would naturally have put his pistols would have 
been shooting Alfieri, for whose murder he imme- 
diately offered a thousand sequins. At any rate, raging 
like a maniac, the discomfited husband went back to 
his empty house. 

It would be pretty and pathetic to insert in this part 
of my narrative a page of half- condemnatory con- 
dolence with Charles Edward. But this I find it 
perfectly impossible to do. Of course, if we call to 
mind Falkirk and Skye, if we conjure up in our fancy 
the Prince Charlie who still lived in the thoughts of 
Flora MacDonald, there is something very frightful in 
this tragi-comic flight of the Countess of Albany : the 

7 



98 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

slamming of that convent door in his face is the 
worst injury, the worst injustice, the worst ignominy 
reserved by fate for the last of the unhappy Stuarts. 

But of the Charles Edward of the Forty- five there re- 
mained so little in this Count of Albany that we have no 
right to consider them any longer as one individual, to 
condone the brutishness of the Count of Albany for thft 
sake of the chivalry of Prince Charles, to degrade our 
conception of the young man by tacking on to it the just 
ignominy inflicted upon the old man, the man who had 
inherited his name and position, but scarcely his per- 
sonality. Above all, we have no right to add to 
whatever reproaches we may think fit to shower upon 
the Countess of Albany and on Alfieri, the imaginary 
reproach that the husband whose rights they were 
violating was the victor of Gladsmuir and Falkirk. 

There must always be something which shocks us in 
the behaviour, however otherwise innocent and decorous, 
of a woman who runs away from her husband with the 
assistance of her lover ; but this quality of offensive- 
ness is not, in such a case as the present one, a fault 
of the woman : it is one of her undeserved misfortunes, 
as much as is the bad treatment, the solitude, the 
temptation, to which she has been subjected. The 
evil practice of the world, its folly and wickedness in 
permitting that a girl like Louise of Stolberg should be 
married to a man like Charles Edward, its injustice and 
cruelty in forbidding the legal breaking of such an 
unrighteous contract; the evil practice of the world 
which condemned the Countess of Albany to be for 
so much of her life an unhappy woman, also condemned 
hsr to be in some of her actions a woman deserving of 
blame. We shall see further on how, in the attempt 
to work out their happiness in despite of the evil world 



ROME. 99 

in which they lived, the Countess and Alfieri, infinitely 
intellectually and morally superior to many of us 
whom circumstances permit to live blameless and com- 
fortable, were splashed with the mud of unrighteousness, 
which was foreign to their nature, and remained spotted 
in the eyes of posterity. 

Charles Edward did what he had done once before in 
his life : he applied to the Government to put him 
again in possession of the woman whom he had 
victimised ; but as the French Government had refused 
to recognise his claims over his fugitive mistress, so 
the Government of the Grand Duke of Tuscany now 
refused to give him back his fugitive wife. The 
Countess of Albany had naturally taken no clothes 
with her in her flight ; and she presently sent a maid 
to the palace in Via San Sebastiano to fetch such things 
as she might require. But Charles Edward would not 
permit a single one of her effects to be touched; if 
she wanted her clothes and trinkets, she might come 
and fetch them herself. However, after a few days, a 
message came from the Pope, ordering the Pretender 
to supply his wife with whatever she might require ; 
a threat to suspend the pension was probably expressed 
or implied, for Charles Edward immediately obeyed. 

Meanwhile, the Countess of Albany was anxiously 
awaiting at the convent of the Bianchette a decision 
from her brother-in-law, to whom she had written im- 
mediately after her flight. Those first days must have 
been painfully unquiet. What if the Tuscan Court 
should listen to the Count of Albany's entreaties ? What 
if Cardinal York should take part with his brother ? 
Return to the house of her husband would be death or 
worse than death. Cardinal York answered immedi- 
ately : a long, kind, rather weak-minded letter, the 

7 * ' 



100 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

ideal letter of a -well-intentioned, rather silly priest, in 
curious Anglo-Roman French. He informed her that 
for some time past he had expected to hear of her 
flight from her husband ; he protested that he had had 
no hand in her unhappy marriage, and begged her to 
believe that it had been out of his power to protect 
her. He had informed the Pope of the whole affair, 
and with His Holiness* approval had prepared for his 
sister-in-law a temporary asylum in the Ursuline con- 
vent in Rome, whither he invited her to remove as 
soon as possible. In January 1781 the Countess of 
Albany, accompanied by a Mme. de Marzan, who 
appears to have formed part of her household, and two 
maids, started for Rome ; but such had been the threats 
of Charles Edward, and his ravings to get his wife 
back, that Alfieri and Gahagan, armed and dressed as 
servants, accompanied the carriage a considerable part 
of its way. The Pretender, we must remember, had 
offered a thousand sequins to anyone who would kill 
Alfieri ; and even in that humdrum late eighteenth 
century a man of position might easily hire a couple of 
ruffians to waylay a carriage and kidnap a woman. 

The Countess of Albany was installed in the Ursuline 
convent in Via Vittoria, a street near the Piazza di 
Spagna. A gloomy family memory hung about the 
place : it had been the asylum of Clementina Sobieska 
when she had fled from the elder Pretender as Louise 
d' Albany had fled from the younger. But the wife of 
Charles Edward was in a very different mood from the 
wife of James III. ; and it is probable that, despite the 
many charms of the convent, and the excellent manners 
of its aristocratic inmates, upon which Cardinal York 
had laid great store, the Countess, with her heart full 
of the thought of Alfieri, was not at all inclined to 



ROME. 101 

give her pious brother-in-law the satisfaction, which he 
apparently expected, of developing a sudden vocation 
for Heaven. 

She had left Florence at the end of the year; in the 
spring she saw Alficri again. The quiet work which 
had seemed so natural and easy while he was sure of 
seeing his lady every day, had become quite impossible 
to him. He felt that he ought to remain in Florence, 
that he ought not to follow her to Borne. But Florence 
had become insufferable to him ; and he determined to 
remove to Naples, because to get to Naples it was 
necessary to pass through Rome. The melancholy 
barren approach to the Eternal City, which, three years 
before, had inspired Alfieri with nothing but melan- 
choly and disgust, now seemed to him a sort of earthly 
paradise; and Rome, which he hated, as the most 
delightful of places. He hurried to the Ursuline 
convent, and was admitted to speak to the Countess of 
Albany. " I saw her," he wrote many years later, 
" but (O God ! my heart seems to break at the mere 
recollection) I saw her a prisoner behind a grating; 
less tormented than in Florence, but yet not less un- 
happy. We were separated, and who could tell how 
long our separation might not last ? But, while 
crying, I tried to console myself with the thought that 
she might at least recover her health, that she would 
breathe freely, and sleep peacefully, no longer trembling 
at every moment before the indivisible shadow of her 
drunken husband ; that she might, in short, live." 



102 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER X. 

ANTIGONE, 

ABOUT three months after the Countess of Albany's 
flight from her husband, the Pope granted her per- 
mission to leave the Ursuline convent ; and her 
brother-in-law, Cardinal York, offered her hospitality 
in his magnificent palace of the Cancelleria. Alfieri 
was at Naples when he received this news, riding 
gloomily along the sea-shore, weeping profusely (for 
we must remember that to an Italian, especially of the 
eighteenth century, there is no incongruity in a would- 
be ancient Roman shedding love-sick tears), unable to 
give his attention to work, living, as he expresses it, 
on the coming in and going out of the post. " I 
wished to return to Rome/' he writes, "and at the 
same time I felt very keenly that I ought not to do it 
yet. The struggles between love and duty which take 
place in an honourable and tender heart, are the most 
terrible and mortal pain that a man can suffer. I 
delayed throughout April, and I determined to drag 
on through May ; but on the 12th May I found myself, 
I scarcely know how, back in Rome." 

Alfieri found the Countess of Albany established in 



ANTIGONE. 103 

the palace of the Cancelleria, the mistress of the estab- 
lishment, for her brother-in-law was living in his 
episcopal town of Frascati. They were free to see 
each other as much as they chose, to love each other 
as much as they would; for the Cardinal and the 
priestly circles seem to have gone completely to sleep 
in the presence of this critical situation; and the 
habits of Roman society, which were even a shade 
worse than those of Florence, were not such as to give 
umbrage to the lovers. But those years during which 
they had loved under the vigilant jealousy of Charles 
Edward, had apparently fostered a love which was 
accustomed and satisfied with being only a more pas- 
sionate kind of friendship ; the indomitable power of 
resistance to himself, the passion for realising in himself 
some heroic attitude which he admired, and the almost 
furious desire to reverse completely his former habits 
of life, kept Alfieri up to the point of a platonic con- 
nexion ; and the Countess of Albany, intellectual, cold, 
passive, easily moulded by a more vehement nature, 
loved Alfieri much more with the head than with the 
heart, and loved in him just that which made him 
prefer that they should meet and love as austerely as 
Petrarch and Laura. The fact was, I believe, that the 
Countess of Albany had much more mind than per- 
sonality, and that she was therefore mere wax in the 
hands of a man who had become so exclusively and 
violently intellectual as Alfieri : she had seen too much 
of the coarse realities of life, of the brutal giving way 
to sensual impulse: the heroic, the ideal, nay the 
deliberately made up, the artificial, had a charm for her. 
Be this as it may, the Countess and Alfieri continued, 
in the opinion of all contemporaries, and according to 
the assurance of Alfieri himself, whose cynicism and 



104 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

truthfulness arc equal, on the same footing as in 
Florence. 

And these months in Rome seem to have been the 
happiest months of Alfieri's life, the happiest, probably, 
of the life of the Countess of Albany. Alfieri hired the 
villa Strozzi, on the Esquiline, a small palace built by 
one of Michel Angelo's pupils, and for which, including 
the use of furniture, stables, and garden, he paid the 
now incredibly small sum of ten scudi a month, about 
two pounds of our money. Permitting himself only 
two coats, the black one for the evening, and the 
famous blue one for ordinary occasions, and limiting 
his dinner to one dish of meat and vegetables, without 
wine or coffee, Alfieri contrived to make the compara- 
tively small pension paid to him by his sister, go almost 
as far as had the fine fortune of which he had despoiled 
himself. He spent lavishly on books, and more lavishly 
on horses, on horses which, according to his own account, 
were his third passion, coming only after his love for 
Mme. d* Albany, and sometimes usurping the place 
of his love of literary glory. 

The mania for systematic division of his time, the 
invincible tendency to routine, which follows in most 
Italians after the disorder and wastefulness of youth, 
had already got the better of Alfieri. He had, almost 
at the moment when the passion for literature first dis- 
closed itself, made up his mind to write a definite 
number of tragedies, first twelve, then fourteen, and 
no more ; and to devote a certain number of years to 
the elaborate process of first constructing them men- 
tally, then of writing them full length in prose, and 
finally of turning this prose into verse; and he was 
later to devise a corresponding plan of writing an 
equally fixed number of comedies and satires in an 



ANTIGONE. 105 

equally fixed number of years, after which, as we have 
seen, he was to give up his thoughts, having attained 
the age of forty-five, to preparing for death. 

This routine is a national characteristic, and absorbs 
many an Italian, turning all the poetry of his nature to 
prose, with a kind of dreadful inevitableness ; but 
Alfieri did not merely submit to routine, he enjoyed it, 
he devised and carried it out with all the ferocity of 
his nature. To this man, who cared so much for the 
figure he cut, and so little for all the things which sur- 
rounded him, a life reduced to absolute monotony of 
grinding work was almost an object of aesthetic plea- 
sure, almost an object of sensual delight : he enjoyed 
a dead level, an endless white-washed wall, as much as 
other men, and especially other poets, enjoy the ups 
and downs, the irregularities and mottled colours of 
existence. So Alfieri arranged for himself, in his 
house near Santa Maria Maggiore, what to him was a 
life of exquisite delightfulness. 

He spent the whole early morning reading the Latin 
and Italian classics, and grinding away at his tragedies, 
which, after repeated sketching out, repeated writing 
out in prose, were now going through the most elaborate 
process of writing, re- writing, revising, and re-revising 
in verse. Then, before resuming his solitary studies in 
the afternoon, he would have one of his many horses 
saddled, and ride about in the desolate tracts of the 
town, which in papal times extended from Santa Maria 
Maggiore to thePorta Pia, the Porta San Lorenzo, and 
St. John Lateran : miles of former villa gardens, with 
quincunxes and flower-beds, cut up for cabbage- 
growing, wide open spaces where the wall of a temple, 
the arch of an aqueduct, rose crowned with wall-flower 
and weeds out of the rank grass, the briars and nettles. 



106 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

the heaps of broken masonry and plaster, among 
which shone beneath the darting lizards, scraps of ver- 
million wall-fresco, the chips of purple porphyry or 
dark-green serpentine; long avenues of trees early 
sere, closed in by arum-fringed walls, or by ditches 
where the withered reeds creaked beneath the festoons 
of clematis and wild vine ; solemn and solitary wilder- 
nesses within the city walls, where the silence was broken 
only by the lowing of the herds driven along by the 
shaggy herdsman on his shaggy horse, by the long- 
drawn, guttural chant of the carter stretched on the 
top of his cart, and the jingle of his horse's bells ; places 
inaccessible to the present, a border-land of the past, 
and which, as Alfieri says, thinking of those many 
times when he must have reined in his horse, and 
vaguely and wistfully looked out on to the green deso- 
lation islanded with ruins and traversed by the vast 
procession of the aqueducts, invited one to meditate, 
and cry, and be a poet. And sometimes we know it 
from the sonnets to his horse Fido, who had, Alfieri 
tells us, carried the beloved burden of his lady Alfieri 
did not ride out alone. One of the horses of the villa 
Strozzi was saddled for the Countess of Albany ; and 
this strange pair of platonic lovers rode forth together 
among the ruins, the wife of Charles Edward listening, 
with something more than mere abstract interest, to 
Alfieri's fiercest contemptuous tirades against the 
tyranny of soldiers and priests, the tyranny of sloth 
and lust which had turned these spots into a wilderness, 
and which had left the world, as Alfieri always felt, and 
a man not unlike Alfieri in savage and destructive 
austerity, St. Just, was later to say, empty since the 
days of the Romans. 
Towards dusk Alfieri put by his books, and descended 



ANTIGONE. 107 

through the twilit streets of the upper city where the 
troops of red and yellow and blue seminarists, and 
black and brown monks, passed by like ants, home- 
ward bound after their evening walk into the busier 
parts of Rome, and crossing the Corso filled with 
painted and gilded coaches, and making his way 
through the many squares where the people gathered 
round the lemonade-booth near the fountain or the 
obelisk, through the tortuous black streets filled with 
the noise of the anvils and hammers of the locksmiths 
and nailors behind the Pantheon, made his way towards 
the palace, grand and prim in its architecture of Bra- 
mants, of the Cancelleria, perhaps not without thinking 
that in the big square before its windows, where the 
vegetable carts were unloaded every morning, and the 
quacks and dentists and pedlars bawled all day, a man 
as strange, as wayward and impatient of tyranny as 
himself, Giordano Bruno, had been burned two cen- 
turies before by Cardinal York's predecessor in that 
big palace of the Cancelleria. Fortunately there was 
no Cardinal York in the Cancelleria, or at least only 
rarely ; but instead only the beautiful blonde woman 
with the dark hazel eyes, whom Alfieri spoke of as his 
l< lady," and, somewhat later, " as the sweet half of 
himself," and in whose speech Alfieri was never Alfieri, 
or Vittorio, or the Count, but merely " the poet," so 
completely had these strange, self-modelling, uncon- 
sciously-attitudinising lovers, arrayed themselves and 
their love according to the pattern of Dante and 
Petrarch. 

To the Countess, we may be sure, Alfieri never 
failed to give a most elaborate account of his day's 
work, nor to read to her whatever scenes of his plays 
he had blocked out, in prose, or worked up in verse. 



108 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

By 11 o'clock, he tells us, he was always back in his 
solitary little villa on the Esquiline. 

But this, although it is probably correct with regard 
to his visits to Mrae. d' Albany, with whom considera- 
tion for gossip prevented his staying much after ten 
at night, must not be taken as the invariable rule ; 
for Alfieri, devoted as he was to his lady, by no means 
neglected other society. He was finishing his allotted 
number of tragedies, and, as the solemn moment of 
publication approached, he began to be tormented with 
that same desire to display his work to others, to hear 
their praises even if false, to understand their opinion 
even if unfavourable, which came, by gusts, as one 
of the passions of his life. Rome was at that time, 
like every Italian town, full of literary academies, 
conventicles of very small intellectual fry meeting 
in private drawing-rooms or at coffee -houses, and 
swayed by the overlordship of the famous Arcadia, 
which had now sunk into being a huge club to which 
every creature who scribbled, or daubed, or strummed, 
or had a coach-and-pair, or a bad tongue, or a pretty 
face, or a title, belonged without further claims. 
There were also several houses of women who affected 
intelligence or culture, having no claims to beauty or 
fashion; and foremost among these, but differing from 
them by the real originality and culture of the lady of 
the house, the charm of her young daughter, and the 
superior quality of the conversation and music to be 
enjoyed there, was the house of a Signora Maria 
Pizzelli, of all women in Rome the one to whom, after 
the Countess of Albany, Alfieri showed himself most 
assiduous. In her house and in many others Alfieri 
began to give almost public readings of his plays ; 
trying to persuade himself that his object in so doing 



ANTIGONE. 109 

was to judge, from the expression of face and even 
more from the restlessness or quiescence of his listeners 
on their chairs, how his work might affect the mixed 
audience of a theatre ; but admitting in his heart of 
hearts that the old desire to be remarked had as much 
to do with these exhibitions as with the six-horse 
gallops which used to astonish the people of Turin and 
Florence. 

But something better soon offered itself. The Duke 
Grimaldi had had a small theatre constructed in the 
Spanish palace, his residence as Ambassador from the 
Catholic King, and a small company of high-born 
amateurs had been playing in it translations of 
French comedies and tragedies. To these ladies and 
gentlemen Alfieri offered his Antigone, which was 
accepted with fervour. The beautiful and majestic 
Duchess of Zagarolo was to act the part of the heroine; 
her brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess 
of Ceri, respectively the parts of Hsemon and of Argia, 
while the character of Creon, the villain of the piece, 
was reserved for Alfieri himself. The performance of 
Antigone was a great solemnity. The magnificent 
rooms of the Spanish Embassy were crowded with the 
fashionable world of Rome, which, in the year 1782, 
included priests and princes of the Church quite as 
much as painted ladies and powdered cavaliers. A 
contemporary diary, kept by the page of the Princess 
Colonna, a certain Abate Benedetti, enables us to form 
some notion of the assembly. Foremost among the 
ladies were the two rival beauties, equally famous for 
their conquests in the ecclesiastical as well as the secu- 
lar nobility, the Princess Santacroce and the Princess 
Altieri, vying with each other in the magnificence of 
their diamonds and of their lace, and each upon the 



110 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

arm of a prince of the Church who had the honour of 
being her orthodox cavaliere servente\ the Princess 
Altieri led in by Cardinal Giovan Francesco Albani, 
the very gallant and art-loving nephew of Winckel- 
mann's Cardinal Alessandro ; the Princess Santacroce 
escorted by the French Ambassador Cardinal de Bernis, 
the amiable society rhymester of Mme. de Pompadour, 
whom Frederick the Great had surnamed Babet la 
bouquetiere. In the front row sat the wife of the 
Senator Rezzonico, who, in virtue of being the niece 
of the late Pope Clement XIII., affected an almost 
royal pomp, and by her side sat the wittiest and most 
literary of the Sacred College, the still very flirtatious 
old Cardinal Gerdil. The hall was nearly full when 
the stir in the crowd, and the general looking in one 
direction, announced the arrival of a guest who excited 
unwonted attention. A young woman, who scarcely 
looked her full age of thirty, small, slender, very simply 
and elegantly dressed, with something still girlish in her 
small irregular features and complexion of northern 
brilliancy, was conducted along the gangway between 
the rows of chairs, and, as if she were the queen 
of the entertainment, solemnly installed by the side of 
the Princess Rezzonico in the first row. Was it 
because her husband had called himself King of 
England, or because her lover was the author of the 
play about to be performed ? Be it as it may, the 
Countess of Albany was the object of universal 
curiosity, and the emotion which she displayed during 
the play was a second and perhaps more interesting 
performance for the scandal-loving Romans. 

While the ghosts of these long dead men and women, 
ladies in voluminous brocaded skirts and diamond- 



ANTIGONE. Ill 

covered bosoms, bursting out of the lace and jewels of 
their stiff bodices, cardinals in trailing scarlet robes 
and bishops with well - powdered hair contrasting 
curiously with their Dominican or Franciscan dress, 
Roman nobles all in the strange old-world costumes, with 
ruffs and trunk hose and emblazoned mantles, of the 
Pope's household and of the military orders of Malta and 
Calatrava, secular dandies in elaborately-embroidered 
silk coats and waistcoats, ecclesiastical dandies to the 
full as dapper with their heavy lace, and abundant fob 
jewels and inevitable two watches on the sober black 
of their clothes ; while these ghosts whom we have 
evoked in all their finery (long since gone to the bric- 
a-brac shops) to fill the theatre-hall of the Spanish 
palace, sit and listen to the symphony which Cimarosa 
himself has written for Antigone, sit and watch the 
magnificent Duchess of Zagarolo, dressed as Antigone 
in hoop and stomacher and piled-up feathered hair, 
and the red-haired eccentric Piedmontese Count, the 
d'Albany's lover, bellowing the anger of Creon ; let us 
try and sum up what the tragedies of Alfieri are for us 
people of to-day, and what they must have been for 
those people of a hundred years ago. 

While scribbling for mere pastime at his earliest 
play, Alfieri had felt his mind illumined by a sort of 
double revelation : he would make his name immortal, 
and he would create a new kind of tragedy. These 
two halves of a proposition, of which he appears never 
to have entertained a single moment's doubt, had 
originated at the same time and developed in close 
connection : that he could be otherwise than an inno- 
vator was as inconceivable to Alfieri as that he could 
be otherwise than a genius, although, in reality, he 
was as far from being the one as from being the other. 



112 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

The fact was that Alfieri felt in himself the power of 
inventing a style and of producing works which should 
answer to the requirements of his own nature : con- 
sidering himself as the sole audience, he considered 
himself as the unique playwright. Excessively limited 
in his mental vision, and excessively strong in his 
mental muscle, it was with his works as with his life : 
the ideal was so comparatively within reach, and the 
will was so powerful, that one feels certain that he 
nearly always succeeded in behaving in the way in 
which he approved, and in writing in the style which 
he admired. And the most extraordinary part of the 
coincidence was, that as he happened to live in a time 
and country which had entirely neglected the tragic 
stage, and consequently had no habits or aspirations 
connected with it, his own desires with reference to 
Italian tragedy preceded those of his fellow-country- 
men, his own ideal was thrust upon them before they 
well knew where they were ; and his own nature and 
likings became the sole standard by which he measured 
his works, kis own satisfaction the only criterion by 
which they could be judged. In order, therefore, to 
understand the nature of Alfieri's plays, it is necessary, 
first of all, to understand what were Alfieri's innate 
likings and dislikings in the domain of the drama. 
Before all other things, Alfieri was not a poet : he lacked 
all, or very nearly all, the faculties which are really 
poetical. To begin with the more gross and external 
ones, he had no instinct for, no pleasure in, metrical 
arrangements for their own sake ; he did not think nor 
invent in verse, ideas did not come to him on the wave 
of metre ; he thought out, he elaborately finished, every 
sentence in prose, and then translated that prose into 
verse, as he might have translated (and in some 



ANTIGONE. 113 

instances actually did translate) from a French version 
into an Italian one. Moreover he was, to a degree 
which would have been surprising even in a prose 
writer, deficient in that which constitutes the intel- 
lectual essence of poetry as metre constitutes its 
material externality ; in that tendency to see things 
surrounded by, disguised in, a swarm, a masquerade, of 
associated ideas ; deficient in the power of suggesting 
images, of conceiving figures of speech; in fancy, 
imagination, in the metaphorical faculty, or whatever 
else we may choose to call it. Nor did he perceive or 
describe visible things, visible effects, in their own 
unrnetaphorical shapes and colours : not a line of de- 
scription, not an adjective can be found in his works 
except such as may be absolutely indispensable for 
topographical or similar intelligibility ; Alfieri obviously 
cared as little for beautiful sights as for beautiful 
sound. This being the case, everything that we might 
call distinctly poetical, all those things which are 
precious to us in Shakespeare, or Marlowe, or Webster, 
in Goethe or Schiller, nay, even, occurring at intervals, 
in Kacine himself, at least as much as mere psychology 
or oratory or pathos, appeared to Alfieri in the light of 
mere meretricious gewgaws, which took away from the 
interest of dramatic action without affording him any 
satisfaction in return. As it was with metre and 
metaphor and description, so it was also with the 
indefinable something which we call lyric quality: 
the something which sings to our soul, and which sends 
a thrill of delight through our nerves or a gust of 
emotion across our nature in the same direct way as 
do the notes of certain voices, the phrases of certain 
pieces of music: instantaneously, unreasoningly and 
unerringly. Of this Alfieri had little, so little that we 

8 



114 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

may also say that he had nothing ; the presence of this 
quality being evidently unnoticed by him and un- 
appreciated. So much for the absolutely poetical 
qualities. Of what I may call the prose qualities of a 
playwright, only a certain number appealed to Alfieri, 
and only a certain number were possessed by him. In 
a time when the novel was beginning to become a 
psychological study more minute than any stage play 
could ever be, Alfieri was only very moderately in- 
terested in the subtle analysis or representation of 
character and state of mind ; the fine touches which 
bring home a person or a situation did not attract his 
attention ; nor was he troubled by considerations con- 
cerning the probability of a given word or words 
being spoken at a particular moment and by a parti- 
cular man or woman : realism had no meaning for him. 
As it was with intellectual conception, so was it also 
with instructive sympathy : Alfieri never subtly analysed 
the anatomy of individual nature, nor did he un- 
consciously mimic its action and tones ; what most of 
us mean by pathos did not appeal to him. Neither 
metrical nor imaginative pleasurableness, nor descrip- 
tive charm, nor lyric poignancy, nor psychological 
analysis or intention entered, therefore, into Alfieri' s 
conception of a desirable tragedy, any more than any 
of these things fell within the range of his special 
talents ; for, we must always bear in mind that with 
this man, whose feelings and desires were in such 
constant action and reaction, with this man whose 
will imposed his intellectual notions on his feelings, 
and his emotional tendencies on his thoughts, the 
thing which he enjoys is always as the concave to the 
convex of the thing which he produces. But although 
i was not a poet, and was not even a potential 



ANTIGONE. 115 

novel writer, he was, in a sense, essentially a dramatist ; 
though even here we must distinguish and diminish. 
Alfieri was not a man who cared for rapid action or 
for intricate plot : he never felt the smallest inclination 
to violate the old traditions of the pseudo-classic stage 
by those thrilling scenes or sights which had to be 
described and not shown, nor by those complications of 
interest which require years for an action instead of the 
orthodox twenty-four hours. 

He was perfectly satisfied with the no-place, no- 
where with the vague temple, or palace hall, or 
public square where, as in the country of the abstract, 
the action of pseudo- classic tragedy always takes place, 
or, more properly speaking, the talking of pseudo-classic 
tragedy always goes on; he was perfectly satisfied 
with sending in a servant or a messenger to inform 
the public of a murder or suicide committed behind 
the scenes ; he Avas perfectly satisfied with taking up 
a story, so to speak, at the eleventh hour, without 
tracing it to its original causes or developing it through 
its various phases. In such matters Alfieri was as 
undramatic as Corneille or Racine. Nevertheless 
Alfieri had a distinct dramatic sense: an intense 
poseur himself, enjoying nothing so much as work- 
ing himself up to produce a given effect upon his own 
mind or upon others, he had an extraordinary instinct 
for the theatrical, for the moral attitude which may 
be struck so as to be effective, and for the arrange- 
ment of subordinate parts so that this attitude surprise 
and move the audience. The moral attitude, the 
psychological gesture, which thus became the main 
interest of Alfieri's plays, was, as might be expected 
from such a man, nearly always his own moral attitude, 
his own psychological gesture; he himself, his un- 

3 * 



116 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

compromising, unhesitating, unflinching, curt and 
emphatic nature, is always the hero or heroine of the 
play, however much the situation, the incidents, the 
other characteristics may vary. Antigone is generous 
and tender, Creon is inhuman in all save paternal 
feeling, Saul is a suspicious madman, Agamemnon a 
just and confiding hero, Clytsemnestra is sinful and 
self-sophisticating, Virginia pure and open-minded; 
yet all these different people, despite all their differ- 
ences, speak and act as Alfieri would speak and act, 
could he, without losing his peculiar characteristics, 
adopt for the moment vices or virtues which would 
become quite secondary matters by the side of his 
essential qualities of pride, narrowness, decision, vio- 
lence, and self-importance. Whether he paint his face 
into a smile or a scowl, whether he put on the blond 
wig of innocence, or the black wig of villainy, the 
man's movement and gesture, the tone of his voice, 
the accent of his words, the length of his sentences, are 
always the same : so much so that in one play there 
may be two or three Alfieris, good and bad, Alfieris 
turned perfectly virtuous or perfectly vicious; but 
anything that is not an Alfieri in some tolerably 
transparent disguise, is sure to be a puppet, a lay 
figure with as few joints as possible, just able to stretch 
out its arms and clap them to its sides, but dangling 
suspended between heaven and earth. 

The attitude and the gesture, which are the things 
for whose sake the play exists, are, as I have said, the 
attitude and gesture of Alfieri. But the moral attitude 
and gesture of Alfieri happened to be just those which 
were rarest in the eighteenth century in all countries, 
and more especially rare in Italy ; and they were the 
moral attitude and gesture which the eighteenth cen- 



ANTIGONE. 117 

tury absolutely required to become the nineteenth, and 
which the Italy of Peter Leopold and Pius VI. and 
Metastasio and Goldoni absolutely required to become 
the Italy of Mazzini and Garibaldi, the Italy of Foscolo 
and Leopardi : they were the attitude and the gesture 
of single-mindedness, haughtiness, indifference to one's 
own comfort and one's neighbours' opinion, the attitude 
and gesture of manliness, of strength, if you will, of 
heroism. To have written tragedies whose whole value 
depended upon the striking exhibition of these quali- 
ties ; and to have made this exhibition interesting, nay, 
fascinating to the very people, to the amiable, humane, 
indifferent, lying, feeble-spirited Italians of the latter 
eighteenth century, till these very men were ashamed 
of what they had hitherto been; to stamp the new 
generation with the clear-cut die of his own strong 
character ; this was the reality of the mission which 
Alfieri had felt within himself : a reality which will be 
remembered when his plays shall have long ceased to 
be acted, and shall long have ceased to be read. Alfieri 
imagined himself to be a great poetic genius, and a 
great dramatic innovator : he scorned with loathing 
the works of Corneille, of Racine, and of Voltaire, all 
immeasurably more valuable as poetry and drama than 
his own ; he hated the works of Metastasio, a poet and 
a playwright by the divine right of genius ; he refused 
to read Shakespeare, lest Shakespeare should spoil the 
perfection of his own conceptions. He slaved for 
months and years perfecting each of his plays, recasting 
the action and curtailing the dialogue and polishing 
the verse; yet the action was always heavy, the dia- 
logue unnatural to the last degree., the verse unpoetical. 
But all this extraordinary self-sufficiency was not a 
delusion, all this extraordinary labour was not a waste : 



118 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

Alfieri, who never had a single poetical thought, nor a 
single art-revolutionising notion, was yet a great genius 
and a great innovator, inasmuch as he first moulded in 
his own image the Italian patriot of the nineteenth 
century. His use consisted in his mere existence 
among men so different from himself; and his dramas, 
his elaborately constructed and curtailed and corrected 
dramas, were, so to speak, a system of mirrors by 
which the image of this strange new-fangled personality 
might be flashed everywhere into the souls of his 
contemporaries. To perceive the moral attitude and 
gesture specially characteristic of himself, to artificially 
correct and improve and isolate them in his own reality, 
and then to multiply their likeness for all the world ; 
to know himself to be Alfieri, to make himself up as 
Alfieri, and to write plays whereof the heroes and 
heroines were mere repetitions of Alfieri; such was 
the mission of this powerful and spontaneous nature, 
of this self-conscious and self-manipulating poseur. 

The success of that performance of Antigone on the 
amateur stage in the Spanish palace was very great. 
A young man, half lay, half ecclesiastic, a dubious 
sort of poet, secretary, factotum, accustomed to write 
not the most sincere poetry, and to execute, perhaps, 
not the most creditable errands, of the Pope's dubious 
nephew, Duke Braschi a young man named Vincenzo 
Monti, was present at this performance, or one of the 
succeeding ones; and from that moment became the 
author of the revolutionary tragedy of Aristodemo, the 
potential author of that famous ode on the battle of 
Marengo, one of the forerunners of new Italy. Nay, 
even when, some few months later, there died at 
Vienna the old Abate Metastasio, and his death brought 
home to a rather forgetful world what a poet and what 



ANTIGONE. 119 

a dramatist that old Metastasio had been ; even then, an 
intimate friend of the dead man, a worldly priest, a 
quasi prelate, the Abate Taruffi, could find 110 better, 
winding up for the funeral oration, delivered before all 
the pedants and prigs and fops and spies of pontifical 
Rome assembled in the rooms of the Arcadian academy, 
than to point to Count Vittorio Alfieri, and prophesy 
that Metastasio had found a successor greater than 
himself. 



120 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER XI. 

SEPARATION. 

ALFIERI and the Countess were happy, happier, per- 
haps, than at any other time of their lives ; but this 
happiness had to be paid for. The false position in 
which, however faultlessly, they were placed; the 
illegitimate affection in which, however blamelessly, 
they were indulging ; these things, offensive to social 
institutions, although in no manner wrong in them- 
selves, had produced their fruit of humiliation, nay, of 
degradation. Fate is more of a Conservative than we 
are apt to think ; it resents the efforts of any indi- 
vidual, be he as blameless as possible, to resist for his 
own comfort and satisfaction the uncomfortable and 
unsatisfactory arrangements of the world ; it punishes 
the man who seeks to elude an unjust law by con- 
demning him to the same moral police depot, to the 
same moral prison-food, as the villain who has eluded 
the holiest law that was ever framed ; and Fate, there- 
fore, soiled the poetic passion of Alfieri and his lady 
by forcing it to the base practices of any illicit love. 
The manner in which Fate executes these summary 
lynchings of people's honour could not usually be more 



SEPARATION. 121 

ingenious ; there seems to be a special arrangement by 
which offenders are punished in their most sensitive 
part. The punishment of Alfieri and of Mme. d* Albany 
for refusing to sacrifice their happiness to the pro- 
prieties of a society which married girls of nineteen to 
drunkards whom they had never seen, but which would 
not hear of divorce ; this punishment, falling directly 
only upon the man, but probably just as heavy upon 
the woman who witnessed the humiliation of the 
person whom she most loved and respected, consisted 
in turning Alfieri, the man who was training Italy to 
be self-respecting, truthful, unflinching, into a toady, 
a liar, and an intriguer. 

The Countess of Albany, living in the palace of her 
brother-in-law, Cardinal York, and under the special 
protection of the Pope, was entirely dependent on the 
good pleasure of the priestly bureaucracy of the Rome 
of Pius VI., that is to say, of about the most contemp- 
tible and vilest set of fools and hypocrites and sinners 
that can well be conceived ; the Papacy, just before 
the Revolution, had become one of the most corrupt of 
the many corrupt Governments of the day. Cardinal 
York himself was a weak and silly, but honest and kind- 
hearted man ; but Cardinal York was entirely swayed 
by the prelates and priests and priestlets and semi- 
priestly semi-lay nondescripts among whom he lived. 
He was responsible for the honour of the Countess of 
Albany, that is to say, of her husband and his brother; 
and the honour of the Countess of Albany depended 
exactly upon the remarks which the most depraved 
and hypocritical clergy in Europe, the people who did 
or abetted all the dirty work of Pius VI. and his Sacred 
College, chose to make or not to make about her 
conduct. 



122 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

Such were the persons upon whom depended the 
liberty and happiness of Alfieri's lady, the possibility 
of that high-flown Platonic intercourse which consti- 
tuted Louis d' Albany's whole happiness, and Alfieri's 
strongest incentive to glory ; a word from them could 
exile Alfieri and lock the Countess up in a convent. 
The consequence of this state of things is humiliating 
to relate, since it shows to what baseness the most 
high-minded among us may be forced to degrade them- 
selves. Already, during those few days' sojourn in 
Rome, before his stay in Naples and Mme. d' Albany's 
release from the Ursuline convent, Alfieri had spent 
his time running about flattering and wheedling the 
powers in command (that is to say, the corrupt minis- 
ters of the Papacy and their retinue of minions and 
spies), in order to obtain leave to inhabit the same 
city as his beloved and to see her from time to time ; 
doing everything, and stooping to everything, he tells 
us, in order to be tolerated by those priests and priest- 
lets whom he abhorred and despised from the bottom 
of his heart. ' ( After so many frenzies, and efforts to 
make myself a free man/' he writes, in his autobio- 
graphy, " I found myself suddenly transformed into a 
man paying calls, and making bows and fine speeches 
jn Rome, exactly like a candidate on promotion in 
prelatedom." At this price of bitter humiliation, nay, 
of something more real than mere humiliation, Alfieri 
bought the privilege of frequenting the palace of Car- 
dinal York. But it was a privilege for which you could 
not pay once and for all ; its price was a black-mail of 
humbugging, and wheedling, and dirt-eating. 

Alfieri hated and despised all sovereigns and all 
priests; and if there were a sovereign and a priest whom 
he despised and hated more than the rest, it was the 



SEPARATION. 123 

then reigning Pius VI., a vain, avaricious, -weak- 
minded man, stickling not in the least at humiliating- 
Catholicism before anyone who asked him to do it, by 
no means clean-handed in his efforts to enrich his 
family, without courage, or fidelity to his promise ; a 
man -whose miserable end as the brutally-treated 
captive of the French Republic has not been sufficient 
to raise to the dignity of a martyr. Of this Pope 
Pius VI. did Alfieri crave an audience, and to him did 
he offer the dedication of one of his plays ; nay, the 
man who had sacrificed his fortune in order to free 
himself from the comparatively clean-handed despotism 
of Sardinia, who had stubbornly refused to be pre- 
sented to Frederick the Great and Catherine II., who 
had declined making Metastasio's acquaintance on 
account of a too deferential bow which he had seen the 
old poet make to Maria Theresa; the man who had in 
his portfolios plays and sonnets and essays intended 
to teach the world contempt for kings and priests, 
this man, this Alfieri, submitted to having his cheek 
patted by Pope Braschi. This stain of baseness and 
hypocrisy with which, as he says, he contaminated 
himself, ate like a hidden and shameful sore into 
Alfieri's soul; yet, until the moment of writing his 
autobiography, he had not the courage to display this 
galling thing of the past even to his most intimate 
friends. To Louise d'Albany, to the woman between 
whom and himself he boasted that there was never the 
slightest reticence or deceit, he screwed up the force tc 
tell the tale of that interview only some time later. 
Alfieri, honest enough to lay bare his own self* 
degradation, was not generous enough to hide the 
fact that this self-degradation was incurred out of love 
for her. That her hero should have stooped so low, so 



124 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

low that he scarcely dared to tell even her, surely this 
must have been as galling to the Countess of Albany 
as was the caress of Pius VI. to Alfieri himself; this 
high poetic love of theirs, this exotic Dantesque passion, 
had been dragged down, by the impartial legality of 
fate, to the humiliating punishment which awaited all 
the basest love intrigues in this base Rome of the 
base eighteenth century. 

And, after some time, the stock of toleration bought 
at the price of this baseness was exhausted. The 
clerical friends and advisers of Cardinal York, who had 
hitherto assured the foolish prince of the Church that 
he was acting for the honour of his brother and his 
brother's wife in leaving a young woman of thirty-one 
to the sole care of a young poet of thirty-four, each 
being well known to be over head and ears in love with 
the other ; these prudent ecclesiastics, little by little, 
began to change their minds, and the success of 
Alfieri's plays, the general interest in him and his lady 
which that success produced, suggested to them that 
there really might be some impropriety in the fami- 
liarity between the wife of Charles Edward and the 
author of Antigone. The train was laid, and the match 
was soon applied. In April 1783 the Pretender fell ill 
in Florence, so ill that his brother was summoned at 
once to what seemed his death-bed. Charles Edward 
recovered. But during that illness the offended hus- 
band, who, we must remember, had offered a reward 
for Alfieri's murder, poured out to his brother, moved 
and reconciled to him by the recent fear of his death, 
all his grievances against the Tuscan Court, against his 
wife, and against her lover. A letter of Sir Horace 
Mann makes it clear that Charles Edward persuaded 
his brother that his ill-usage of his wife (which, how- 



SEPARATION. 125 

ever, Mann, with his spies everywhere, had vouched 
for at the time) was a mere invention, and part of an 
odious plot by which Alfieri had imposed upon the 
Grand Duke, the Pope, the society of Florence and 
Rome, nay, upon Cardinal York himself, in order to 
obtain their connivance in a shameful intrigue develop- 
ment. The Cardinal returned to Rome in a state of 
indignation proportionate to his previous saintly in- 
difference to the doings of Alfieri and Mme. d' Albany ; 
he discovered that he had been shutting his eyes to 
what all the world (by Alfieri's own confession) saw as 
a very hazardous state of things ; and, with the ten- 
dency to run into extremes of a foolish and weak- 
minded creature, he immediately published from all 
the housetops the dishonour whose existence had never 
occurred to him before. To the Countess of Albany 
he intimated that he would not permit her to receive 
Alfieri under his roof ; and of the Pope (the Pope who 
had so recently patted Alfieri's cheek) he immediately 
implored an order that Alfieri should quit the Papal 
States within a fortnight. The order was given ; but 
Alfieri, in whose truthfulness I have complete faith, 
says that, knowing that the order had been asked for, 
he forestalled the ignominy of being banished by spon- 
taneously bidding farewell to the Countess of Albany 
and to Rome. 

" This event," says Alfieri, " upset my brains for 
nearly two years ; and upset and retarded also my 
work in every way." In speaking of Alfieri's youth 
I have already had occasion to remark that there 
was in this man's character something abnormal ; he 
was, as I have said, a moral invalid from birth ; his 
very energy and resolution had somewhat of the frenzy 
and rigidity of a nervous disease, and though he 



126 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

would seem morally stronger than other men 
when strictly following his self-prescribed rule of 
excessive intellectual exercise, and when surrounded 
by a soothing atmosphere of affection and encourage- 
ment, his old malady of melancholy and rage (melan- 
choly and rage whom he represents in one of 
his sonnets as two horrible-faced women seated on 
either side of him), his old incapacity for work, for 
interest in anything, his old feverish restlessness of 
place, returned, as a fever returns with its heat and 
cold and impotence and delirium, whenever he was 
shut out of this atmosphere of happiness, whenever he 
was exposed to any sort of moral hardship. On leaving 
Rome Alfieri went to Siena, where, years before, when 
he had come light-hearted and bent only upon literary 
fame, to learn Tuscan, he had been introduced into a 
little circle of men and women whom he faithfully 
loved, and to that Francesco Gori who shared with 
Tommaso di Caluso the rather trying honour of being 
his bosom friend. This Gori, " an incomparable man/' 
writes Alfieri, " good, compassionate, and with all his 
austerity and ruggedness of virtue (con tanta altezza e 
ferocia di semi] most gentle/' appears literally to have 
nursed Alfieri in this period of moral sickness as one 
might nurse a sick or badly-bruised child. " Without 
him," writes Alfieri, " I think I should most likely 
have gone mad. But he, although he saw in me a 
would-be hero so disgracefully broken in spirit and 
inferior to himself " (this passage is characteristic, as 
showing that Alfieri considered himself, when in a 
normal condition, far superior to his much-praised 
Gori), " although he knew better than any the meaning 
of courage and endurance, did not, therefore, cruelly 
and inopportunely, oppose his severe and frozen reason 



SEPARATION. 127 

to my frenzies, but, on the contrary, diminished my pain 
by dividing it with me. O rare, O truly heavenly 
gift, this of being able both to reason and to feel." 

Weeping and raving, Alfieri was living once more 
upon letters received and sent as during his previous 
separation from Mme. d' Albany ; and of all these 
love-letters, none appear to have come down to us. 
Carefully preserved by Mme. d' Albany and by her 
heir Fabre, they fell into the hands of a Mr. Gache 
of Montpellier, who assumed the grave responsibility of 
destroying them and of thus suppressing for ever the 
most important evidence in the law-suit which posterity 
will for ever be bringing against Alfieri and Mme. 
d' Albany in favour of Charles Edward, or against 
Charles Edward in favour of Alfieri and Mme. 
d' Albany. But some weeks ago, among the pile of 
the Countess's letters to Sienese friends preserved by 
Cavaliere Guiseppe Porri at Siena, I had the good 
fortune to discover what are virtually five love-letters of 
hers, obviously intended for Alfieri although addressed 
to his friend Francesco Gori. I confess that an eerie 
feeling came over me as I unfolded these five closely- 
written, unsigned and undated little squares of yellow 
paper, things intended so exclusively for the mere 
moment of writing and reading, all that long-dead 
momentary passion of a long-dead man and woman 
quivering back into reality, filling, as an assembly of 
ghosts might fill a house, and drive out its living occu- 
pants, this present hour which so soon will itself have 
become, with all its passions and worries, a part of 
the past, of the indifferent, the passionless. One is 
frightened on suddenly being admitted to witness, 
unperceived, as by the opening of a long-locked door, 
or by some spell said over a crystal globe or a beryl- 



128 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

stone, such passion as this ; one feels as if one would 
almost rather not. These five letters, as I have said, 
are addressed to a " Dear Signer Francesco, friend of 
my friend," and who, of course, is Francesco Gori ; 
and are written, which no other letters of Mme. 
d' Albany's are, not in French, but in tolerably idiomatic 
though far from correct Italian. Only one of them 
has any indication of place or date, " Genzano, 
Mardi " ; but this, and the references to Alfieri's ap- 
proaching journey northward and to Gori's intention 
of escorting him as far as Genoa, is sufficient to show 
that they must have been written in the summer of 
1783, when Cardinal York, terrified at the liberty which 
he had allowed to his sister-in-law, had conveyed her 
safely to some villa in the Alban Hills. The woman 
who wrote these letters is a strangely different being 
from the quiet jog-trot, rather cynically philosophical 
Countess of Albany whom we know from all her 
other innumerable manuscript letters, from the pub- 
lished answers of Sismondi, of Foscolo and of Mme. 
de Souza to letters of hers which have disappeared. 
The hysterical frenzy of Alfieri seems to have entered 
into this woman; he has worked up this naturally 
placid but malleable soul, this woman in bad health, 
deprived of all friends, jealously guarded by enemies, 
weak and depressed, until she has become another 
himself, " weeping, raving," like himself, but unable 
to relieve, perhaps to enjoy, all this frantic grief by 
running about like the mad Orlando, or talking and 
weeping by the hour to a compassionate Gori. 

" Dear Signor Francesco/' she writes ; " how grateful 
I am to you for your compassion. You can't have a 
notion of our unhappiness. My misery is not in the 
least less than that of our friend. There are moments 



SEPARATION. 129 

when I feel my heart torn to pieces thinking of all that 
he must suffer. I have no consolation except your 
being with him, and that is something. Never let 
him remain alone. He is worse, and I know that he 
greatly enjoys your society, for you are the only per- 
son who does not bore him and whom he always meets 
with pleasure. Oh ! dear Signer Francesco, in what 
a sea of miseries are we not ! You also, because our 
miseries are certainly also yours. I no longer live ; 
and if it were not for my friend, for whom I am 
keeping myself, I would not drag out this miserable 
life. What do I do in this world? I am a useless 
creature in it ; and why should I suffer when it is of 
no use to anyone ? But my friend I cannot make 
up my mind to leave him, and he must live for hfs 
own glory ; and, as long as he lives, even if I had to 
walk on my hands, I would suffer and live. Who 
knows what will happen, it is so long since the man 
in Florence (Charles Edward) is ill, and still he lives, 
and it seems to me that he is made of iron in order 
that we may all die. You will say, in order to console 
me, that he can't last ; but I see things clearly. This 
illness has not mad him younger, but he may live 
another couple of years. He may at any moment 
be suffocated by the humours which have risen to his 
chest. What a cruel thing to expect one's happiness 
from the death of another ! O God ! how it degrades 
one's soul ! And yet I cannot refrain from wishing 
it. What a thing, what a horrible thing is life ; and 
for me it has been a continual suffering, all except the 
two years that I spent with my friend, and even 
then I lived in the midst of tears. And you also 
are probably not happy ; with a heart like yours it is 
not possible that you should be. Whoever is born 

9 



130 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

with any feeling can scarcely enjoy happiness. I 
recommend our friend to your care, particularly his 
health. Mine is not so bad ; I take care of myself and 
stay much in bed to kill the time and to rest my 
nerves, which are very weak. Good-bye, dear Signor 
Francesco, preserve your friendship for me ; I deserve 
it, since I appreciate you." 

Later on she writes again: 

" Dear Signor Francesco, friend of ours. I do all 
I can to take courage. I study as much as I can. 
Music alone distracts my thoughts, or rather deadens 
them, and I play the harp many hours a day, and I 
do so also because I know that my friend wishes me 
to get to play it well. I work at it as hard as I can. 
I live only for him ; without him life would be odious 
to me, and I could not endure it. I do nothing in 
this world ; I am useless in it ; and where is the use 
of suffering for nothing ? But there is my friend, and 
I must remain on this earth. I do not doubt of him ; 
I know how much he loves me. But in moments of 
suffering I have fears lest he should find someone who 
would give him less pain than myself, with whom he 
might live cheerful and happy. I ought to wish it, 
but I have not got the strength to do so. But I believe 
so fully in him that I am satisfied as soon as he tells 
me that such a thing cannot happen. I love him more 
than myself ; it is a union of feeling which we only 
can understand. I find in him all that I can desire ; 
he is everything for me ; and yet I must suffer separa- 
tion from him. Certainly if I could come to a 
violent decision I should be the happiest woman in the 
world j I should never think of the past ; I should live 
in him and for him ; for I care for nothing in this 
world. Comfort, luxury, position, all is vanity for 



SEPARATION. 131 

me ; peace by his side would suffice for me. And yet 
I am condemned to languish far from him. What a 
horrible life ! " 

Again she writes to Gori : 

" Dear friend, I am so very, very grateful for the 
interest you take in my unhappy situation, which is really 
terrible. Time serves only to aggravate it, and certainly 
it will bring no alleviation to my misery until I shall 
meet our friend. There is no peace, no tranquillity for 
me. I would give whatever of life may remain to me in 
order to live for one day with him, and I should be 
satisfied. My feelings for him are unchangeable, and 
I am sure that his for me are the same. When shall 
I see the end of my woes ? Who knows whether I 
shall ever see it ? That man (Charles Edward) does 
not seem inclined to depart ... I suffer a little from 
my nerves .... but those are the least of my 
sufferings. It is the heart which suffers. I have 
moments of despair when I could throw myself out 
of the window were it not for the thought that I 
must live for my friend's sake; that my life is his. 
I feel a disgust for life which is so reasoned out 
that I say to myself sometimes, * Why do I live ? 
What good do I do?' and then I continue to suffer 
patiently, remembering my friend. Forgive me for 
unbosoming myself with you, who alone can under- 
stand me; you alone, except my friend, understand 
what I suffer. Do you know, you ought to come 
and see me this winter, you would give me such a 
pleasure. Good-bye, dear Signor Francesco ; preserve 
your friendship for me." 

Thus she runs on, repeating and re-repeating the 
same ideas, the same words, her love for Alfieri, her 
desperate situation, her hatred of life, her uselessness, 

9 * 



132 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

her desire to play the harp well for Alfieri's sake, her 
hopes that Charles Edward may die; disconnected 
phrases, run into each other without so much as a 
comma or a full stop (since I have had to punctuate my 
translation, at least partially, to make it intelligible) ; 
the excited, uncoiisecutive, unceasing, discursive, reite- 
rating gabble of hysteria, eager, vague, impotent, 
thoughts suddenly vanishing and as suddenly coming 
to a dead stop ; everything rattled off as if between 
two sobs or two convulsions. Did Alfieri enjoy re- 
ceiving letters such as these? Doubtless : they 
were echoes of his own ravings; fuel for his own 
passion and vanity. It did not strike him, for all the 
Greek and Roman heroes and heroines whom he had 
made to speak with stoical, unflinching curtness, that 
there could be anything to move shame, and compas- 
sion sickened by shame, in the fact that this should 
be the expression of that high and pure love imitated 
from Dante and Petrarch. What could he do ? Give 
up Louise d' Albany, forget her; and bid her, who 
lived only in him, whom a few years must free, forget 
him at the price of breaking her heart? Certainly 
not. But he, the man, the man free to move about, 
to work, with friends and occupations, should surely 
have tried to teach resignation and patience to this 
poor lonely, sick, hysterical woman, pointing out to 
her that if only they would wait, and wait courageously, 
the moment of liberation and happiness must come. 
Surely more difficult and humiliating for this lover to 
bear than the sight of his lady degraded by the foul 
words and deeds of the drunken Pretender, ought to 
have been the reading of such letters as these; the 
sight of this once calm and dignified woman, of this 
Beatrice or Laura, in her disconnected hysterical 



SEPARATION. 133 

ravings. And for myself, the thought of all that 
the Countess of Albany endured at the hands of 
Charles Edward awakens less pity, though pity mixed 
with indignation at the fate which humiliated her so 
deeply, and with shame for that deep humiliation, 
tli an that sudden cry with which she stops in the 
midst of the light-headed gabble about her miseries, 
and seems to start back ashamed as at the sight of 
her passion and tear-defiled face in a mirror : " What 
a cruel thing to expect one's happiness from the death 
of another I O God ! how it degrades one's soul ! " 



134 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER XII. 

COLMAR. 

"ON the 17th August 1784, at eight in the morning, 
at the inn of the Two Keys, Colmar, I met her, and 
remained speechless from excess of joy." So runs an 
annotation of Alfieri on the margin of one of his 
lyrics. 

The hour of liberty and happiness had come for 
Alfieri and Mme. d' Albany ; sooner by far than they 
expected, and sooner, we may think, than they deserved. 
Liberty and happiness, however, not in the face of the 
law. Charles Edward was still alive ; but, pressed by 
King Gustavus III. of Sweden, whom he contrived to 
wheedle out of some most unnecessary money, he had 
consented to a legal separation from his fugitive wife ; 
as a result of which the Countess of Albany, renouncing 
all money supplies from the Stuarts, and subsisting 
entirely upon a share of the two pensions, French and 
Papal, granted to her husband, was permitted to spend 
a portion of the year wheresoever she pleased, provided 
she returned for awhile to show herself in the Papal 
States. On hearing the unexpected news, Alfieri, who 
was crossing the Apennines of Modena with fourteen 



COLMAR. 135 

horses that he had been to buy in England, was seized 
with a violent temptation to send his caravan along the 
main road, and gallop by cross-paths to meet the 
Countess, who was crossing the Apennines of Bologna 
on her way from Rome to the baths of Baden in 
Switzerland. The thought of her honour and safety 
restrained him, and he pushed on moodily to Siena. 
But, as on a previous occasion, his stern resolution not 
to seek his lady soon gave way ; and two months later 
followed that meeting at the Two Keys at Colmar on 
the Rhine. 

For the first time in those seven long years of platonic 
passion, Alfieri and Mme. d' Albany found themselves 
settled beneath the same roof. To the mind of this 
Italian man, and this half-French, half-German woman 
of the eighteenth century, for whom marriage was one of 
the sacraments of a religion in which they wholly dis- 
believed, and one of the institutions of a society which 
alleviated it with universal adultery ; to Alfieri and Mme. 
d' Albany the legal separation from Charles Edward 
Stuart was equivalent to a divorce. The Pretender 
could no longer prescribe any line of conduct to his 
wife ; she was free to live where and with whom she 
chose ; and if she were not free to marry, the idea, the 
wish for marriage, probably never crossed the brains of 
these two platonic lovers of seven years' standing. 
Marriage was a social contract between people who 
wished to obtain each other's money and titles and 
lands who wished to have heirs. Alfieri, who had 
made over all his property to his sister, and the 
Countess, who lived on a pension, had no money or 
titles or lands to throw together ; and they certainly 
neither of them, the man living entirely for his work, 
the woman living entirely for the man, had the 



136 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

smallest desire to have children, heirs to nothing at all. 
What injury could their living together now do to 
Charles Edward, who had relinquished all his husband's 
rights ? None, evidently. On the other hand, what 
harm could their living together do to their own honour 
or happiness, now that they had had seven years' expe- 
rience that only death could extinguish their affection ? 
None, again evidently. And as to harm to the institu- 
tions of society, what were those institutions, and what 
was their value, that they should be respected? Such, 
could we have questioned them, would have been the 
answers of Alfieri and the Countess. That they were 
setting an example to others less pure in mind, less 
exceptional in position ; that they were making it more 
difficult for marriage to be reorganised on a more 
rational plan, by showing men and women a something 
that might do instead of rationally organised marriage ; 
that they were, in short, preventing the law from being 
rectified, by taking the law into their own hands : 
such thoughts could not enter into the mind of con- 
tinentals of the eighteenth century, people for whom 
the great Revolution, Romanticism, and the new views 
of society which grew out of both, were still in the 
future. That a punishment should await them, that as 
time went on and youthful passion diminished, their 
lives should be barren and silent and cold for want of 
all those things : children, legal bonds, social recog- 
nition, by which their union should fall short of a real 
marriage; this they could never anticipate. 

For the moment, united in the " excessively clean 
and comfortable" little chateau, rented by Madame 
d' Albany at a short distance from Colmar ; riding and 
driving about in the lovely Rhine country; the Countess 
deep in her reading again, Alfieri deep once more in 



COLMAR. 137 

his writings; together, above all, after so many months 
of separation : they seemed perfectly happy. So happy 
that it seemed as if a misfortune must come to restore 
the natural balance of things ; and the misfortune 
came, in the sudden news of the death of poor Fran- 
cesco Gori. A sense as of guiltiness at having half 
forgotten that thoughtful and gentle friend in the first 
flush of their happiness, seems to have come over 
them. 

" O God/' wrote Alfieri to Gori's friend Bianchi at 
Siena, " I don't know what I shall do. I always see 
him and speak to him, and every smallest word and 
thought and gesture of his returns to my mind, and 
stabs my heart. I do not feel very sorry for him : he 
cared little for life for its own sake, and the life 
which he was forced to lead was too far below his great 
soul, and the goodness and tenderness of his heart, 
and the nobility of his noble scornfulness. The person 
dearest to me of any, and immediately next to whom 
I loved Checco [Gori] most, knew and appreciated him 
and is not to be consoled for such a loss. I told him 
already last July, so many, many times, that he was 
not well, that he was growing visibly thinner day by 
day. Oh ! I ought never to have left him in this 
state." 

A letter, this one on Gori's death, which may induce 
us to forgive the letters of Alfieri of which we have 
seen a reflection in those of Mme. d' Albany: the 
passionate grief for the lost friend making us feel that 
there is something noble in the possibility of even the 
morbid grief at the lost mistress. More touching 
still, bringing home what each of us, alas ! must have 
felt in those long, dull griefs for one who is not our 
kith and kin, whom the thoughts of our nearest and 



138 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

dearest, of our work, of all those things which the 
world recognises as ours in a sense in which the poor 
beloved dead was not, does not permit us to mourn in 
such a way as to satisfy our heart, and the longing for 
whom, half suppressed, comes but the more per- 
tinaciously to haunt us, to make the present and future, 
all where he or she is not, a blank ; more touching than 
any letter in which Alfieri gives free vent to his grief 
for poor Gori, is that note which he wrote upon the 
manuscript of his poem on Duke Alexander's murder, 
after the annotation saying that this work was resumed 
at Siena, the 17th July 1784" O God ! and the 
friend of my heart was still living then " ; the words 
which a man speaks, or writes only for himself, feeling 
that no one, not those even who are the very flesh and 
blood of his heart, can, since they are not himself, 
feel that terrible pang at suddenly seeing the past 
so close within his reach, so hopelessly beyond his 
grasp. 

The death of Gori seemed the only circumstance 
which diminished the happiness of Alfieri and Mme. 
d' Albany ; nay, it is not heartless, surely, to say that, 
cruel as was that wound, there was doubtless a quite 
special sad sweetness in each trying to heal it in the 
other, in the redoubled love due to this fellow-feeling 
in affliction, the new energy of affection which comes 
to the survivors whenever Death calls out the 
warning, "Love each other while I still let you." 
But they had still to pay, and pay in many instalments, 
the price of happiness snatched before its legitimate 
time. 

Supposed to be living apart from Alfieri, the Countess 
could not, therefore, take him back with her to Italy, 
where, according to the stipulations of the act of separa- 



COLMAR. 139 

tion, she was bound to spend the greater part of every 
year. Hence the stay at Colmar in 1784, and those in 
the succeeding years, were merely so many interludes 
of happiness in the dreary life of separation ; happiness 
which, as Alfieri says in one of his sonnets, was con- 
stantly embittered by the thought that every day and 
every hour was bringing them nearer to a cruel parting. 
The day came : Alfieri had to take leave of Mme. 
d' Albany; and, as he expresses it, had to return to 
much worse gloom than before, being separated from 
his lady without having the consolation of seeing Gori 
once more. Mechanically he returned to Siena, to 
Siena which it was impossible to conceive without his 
friend Checco ; but when he realised the empty house, 
the empty town, he found the place he had so loved in- 
supportable, and went to spend his long solitary winter 
writing, reading, translating, breaking in horses, leading 
a slave's life to pass the weary time, at Pisa. In April 
1785 Mme. d' Alb any obtained permission to quit 
Bologna, where she had spent the winter, and to go to 
her sisters in France. In September she and her lover 
met once more in the beloved country-house on the 
Khine. But again, in December, came another separa- 
tion ; Mme. d' Albany went to Paris, and Alfieri remained 
behind at Colmar. 

" Shall we then be again separated," he writes in a 
sonnet, " by cruel and lying opinion, which blames us 
for errors which the whole world commits every day ? 
Unhappy that I am ! The more I love thee with true 
and loyal love, the more must I ever refuse myself that 
for which I am always longing : thy sweet sight, 
beyond which I ask for nothing. But the vulgar 
cannot understand this, and knows us but little, and 
does not see that thy pure heart is the seat of virtue/' 



140 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

Strange words, and which, coming from a man cynical 
and truthful as Alfieri, may make us pause and refuse 
to affirm that this strange love, platonic for seven long 
years, ceased to be a mere passionate friendship even 
when it resorted to the secrecy and deceptions of a mere 
common intrigue ; even when it openly braved, in the 
semblance of marriage, the opinion of the world at 
large. During those many months of solitude in the 
villa at Colmar, with no other company than that of his 
Sienese servant or secretary and of the horses, whose 
news he carefully sent, in letters and sonnets, to the 
Countess, Alfieri appears for the first time to have got 
into a habit of excessive overwork, and to have had the 
first serious attack of the gout ; overwork and gout, 
the two things which were to kill him. A six months' 
stay in Paris, where society, the business of printing 
his works, and the great distance of his lodgings from 
the house of Mme. d' Albany, diminished his in- 
tellectual work, kept him up for the moment. But in 
the following summer of the year 1787, shortly after 
he had returned to Colmar with the Countess, and had 
welcomed as a guest Tomaso di Caluso, his greatest 
friend since Gori's death, he suddenly broke down 
under a terrific attack of dysentery. For many days, 
reduced to a skeleton, ice cold even under burning 
applications, and just sufficiently alive to feel in his 
intensely proud and masculine nature the cruel degra- 
dation of an illness which made him an object of 
loathing to himself, Alfieri remained at death's door, 
devotedly tended by his beloved and by his friend. 

" It grieved me dreadfully to think that 1 should die, 
leaving my lady, and my friend, and that fame scarcely 
rough hewn for which I had worked and frenzied 
myself so terribly for more than ten years/' writes 



COLMAB. 141 

Alfieri ; " for I felt very keenly that of all the writings 
which I should leave behind me, not one was completed 
and finished as it should have been had time been given 
me to complete and to perfect according to my ideas. 
On the other hand, it was a great consolation to know 
that, if I must die, I should die a free man, and between 
the two best beloved persons that I had, and whose 
love and esteem I believed myself to possess and to 
deserve." 

Alfieri recovered. But with that illness ends, I think, 
the period o his youth, and of his genius, that is to 
say, of that high-wrought and passionate austerity and 
independence of character which was to him what 
artistic endowment is to other writers ; and with that 
illness begins a premature old age, mental and moral, 
decrepitude gradually showing itself in a kind of ossi- 
fication of the whole personality ; the decrepitude which 
corresponds, on the other side of a brief manhood of 
comparative strength and health, to the morally inert 
and sickly years of Alfieri's strange youth. 



142 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

RUE DE BOUKGOYNE. 

ALPIERI'S mother, an old lady of extreme simplicity 
of mind and gentleness of spirit, was still living at 
Asti, cheerfully depriving herself of every luxury in 
order to devote her fortune, as she devoted her 
thoughts and her strength, to the services of the poor 
and of the sick. Alfieri, who had left her as a boy, 
and scarcely seen her except for a few hours at rare 
intervals, looked up to her less with the affection of a 
son than with the satisfaction of an artist who sees in 
the woman of whom he is born the peculiar type of 
features or character which he prizes most in woman- 
kind; if he, for all his conscious weaknesses, was 
more like his own heroes than any man of his acquaint- 
ance, if Mme. d' Albany might be judiciously got up 
as the Laura of his affections, the old Countess Alfieri 
was even more unmistakably the mother who suited 
his ideas, the living model of his mother of Virginia, 
or his mother of Myrrha. To the Countess Alfieri he 
had, already in 1784, introduced the Countess of 
Albany, whom she invited to stay with her on her passage 
through Asti as she returned from Colmar into Italy. 



RUE DE BOURGOYNE. 143 

Mme. d' Albany found an excuse for not accepting 
in the bad state of the roads, which rendered another 
route than that of Asti preferable. Frank and indiffe- 
rent to the world's opinion as was Mme. d' Albany, 
her originally cut and dry intellectual temper hardened 
by many years' misery, one can conceive that 
she should shrink from accepting the hospitality 
of Alfieri's mother. Alfieri had doubtless shown her 
his mother's letters, and from these letters, as reflected 
in his answers, it is clear that the Countess of Albany, 
returning from that first stay with her lover at Colmar, 
would have felt that she was tacitly deceiving the 
noble old lady under whose roof she was staying. For 
the Countess Alfieri, noble, and Italian, and woman 
of the eighteenth century though she was, seems to 
have been one of those persons into whose mind, high 
removed above all worldly concerns, no experience of 
vice, of weakness, nay, of mere equivocal situations, 
can enter. Whatever she may have seen or heard in 
her youth of the habits of women of her century and 
station, of the virtual divorce which, after a few years, 
reigned in aristocratic houses, of authorised lovers and 
socially accepted infidelity, seems to have passed out 
of her memory and left her mind as innocent as it 
may have been during her convent school-days. She 
had taken great interest in this poor young woman, 
maltreated by a drunken husband, and finally saved 
from his clutches by the benevolence of the Grand 
Duke of Tuscany and of a prince of the church, about 
whom her son had written to her. That her son 
experienced more than her own pity for so worthy an 
object, that he was at all compromised in the fate of 
this virtuous, unhappy lady, never entered her mind. 
So little could she understand the muddy things of 



144 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

this world, that in 1789, when Alfieri was publicly 
living with Mme. d' Albany at Colraar, the Countess 
Alfieri sent him, through his friend Caluso, the sugges- 
tion of a match which she had greatly at heart, between 
him and a young lady of Asti, " fifteen or sixteen 
years old, without any faults, such as he would cer- 
tainly like, cultivated, docile, and clever." It is one 
of the things which grate upon one most in Alfieri's 
character, and which show that however much he might 
be cast and have chiselled himself in antique heroic form 
he was yet made of the same stuff as his contempo- 
raries, to find that he and his friend Caluso merely 
amused themselves immensely at this proposal of mar- 
riage, and concocted a dutiful letter to the old Countess 
explaining that matrimony was not at present in his 
plans. What would Madame Alfieri have thought 
had she known the truth ! It is very sad to think 
how, in some cases, the very noblest and purest, just 
because they are so completely noble and pure and 
above all the base necessities of the world of passion, 
must be unable to see, in the doings of others less 
fortunate than themselves, those very elements of 
nobility and purity which redeem the baser circum- 
stances of their lives. That Mme. d' Albany had loved 
a man not her husband, had fled from her husband 
and united her life to that of her lover, would ( be a 
horror visible to the old Countess* eyes ; the platonic 
purity, the fidelity, the loyalty of this long and illegiti- 
mate love, would have escaped her. No art is so cruelly 
contemptuous of whatever of beauty and sweetness 
imperfect reality may contain, as the art which is 
able to attain an ideal perfection ; and thus it is also 
in matters of appreciation of man by man and woman 
by woman. The Countess of Albany was apparently 



RUE DE BOURGOYNE. 145 

more frank than Alfieri, because frank rather from 
temperament than from pre-occupation about a given 
ideal of conduct. That the mother of Alfieri should 
understand so little seems to have worried her ; and 
when the unsuspecting old lady asked her sympathis- 
ingly for news of Charles Edward, she wrote back as 
follows : " As to my husband, he is better ; but I must 
confess to you, Madame, that I cannot take so lively 
an interest in him as you suppose, for he made me, 
during nine years, the most wretched woman that ever 
lived. If I do not hate him it is a result of Christian 
charity, and because we are desired to pardon. He 
drags out a miserable life, abandoned by all the world, 
without relatives or friends, given over to his servants; 
but he has willed it thus, since he has never been able 
to live with anyone. Forgive me, Madame, for having 
entered into such details with you ; but the friendship 
which you have shown towards me obliges me to speak 
sincerely ." Mme. d' Albany, writing some time before 
to condole about the death of Alfieri's half-brother, had 
tried to insinuate to the old Countess what her son 
was for her, and what position she herself might one 
day assume in the Alfieri family : " I hope that if cir 
cumstances change, you will not see a family die out 
to which you are so attached, and that you will receive 
the greatest consolation from M. le Comte Alfieri/ 
Words which could only mean that when the Pretender 
died Mme. Alfieri might hope for a daughter-in-law 
in the writer, and for grand-children through her. 
But Madame Alfieri did not understand ; imagining, 
perhaps, that Mme. d' Albany was alluding to some 
project of marriage of her friend M. le Comte Alfieri; 
and the letter in which the ill-treated wife's aversion 
to her husband was first openly revealed appears to 

10 



146 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

have acted as a thunder-clap, and to have, at least 
momentarily, put an end to all correspondence. 

The Countess of Albany was mistaken in supposing 
that Charles Edward would die in the arms of mere 
servants. The very year after her own separation from 
Alfieri, the Pretender had called to Florence the 
natural daughter born to him by Miss Walkenshaw, 
and whom he had left, apparently forgotten for twenty- 
five years, in the convent at Meaux, where her mother 
had taken refuge from his brutalities, even as Louise 
d' Albany had taken refuge from them in the convent of 
the Bianchette. Partly from a paternal feeling born 
of the unexpected solitude in which his wife's flight 
had left him ; partly, doubtless, from a desire to spite 
the Countess ; he had solemnly, as King of England, 
legitimated this daughter, and created her Duchess of 
Albany : he had made incredible efforts, abandoning 
drink, going into the world and keeping open house, 
to attach this young woman to him, and to treat her 
as well as he had treated his wife ill. 

Charlotte of Albany, a strong, lively, good-humoured, 
big creature, devoted to gaiety, effectually reformed her 
father in his last years, and turned him, from the brute 
he had been, to a tolerably well-behaved old man. But 
we must not therefore conclude that Charlotte was a 
better woman, or a woman more desirous of doing her 
duty, than Louise d' Albany. Between the two there 
was an abyss : Charlotte had been sent for by a man 
weary of solitude, smarting under the frightful punish- 
ment brought upon his pride by the flight of his wife ; 
ready to do anything in order not to be alone and 
despised by the world ; a man broken by illness and 
age, weak, hysterical, incapable almost of his former 
excesses; and Charlotte was a woman of thirty, she 



RUE DE BOURGOYNE. 147 

was a daughter, she was free to go where she would to 
marry, and her father could buy her presence only at 
the price of submission to her tastes and to her desires. 
How different had it not been with Louise of Stolberg : 
united to this man twelve years before, a mere child of 
nineteen, given over to him as his wife, his chattel, his 
property, to torment and lock up as he might torment 
and lock up his dog or his horse ; losing all influence 
over him with every day which made her less of a 
novelty and diminished the chance of an heir; and 
sickened and alarmed more and more by the obstinate 
jealousy and drunkenness and brutality of a man still in 
the vigour of his odious passions. Still, the fact remains 
that while Louise d' Albany was secretly or openly 
making light of all social institutions, and living as the 
mistress, almost the wife, of Alfieri ; this insignificant 
Charlotte, this bastard of a Miss Walkenshaw, this 
woman who had probably never had an enthusiasm, or 
an ideal, or a thought, had succeeded in reclaiming 
whatever there remained of human in the degraded 
Charles Edward ; had succeeded in doing the world the 
service of laying out at least with decency and decorum 
this living corpse which had once contained the soul 
of a hero, so that posterity might look upon it without 
too much contempt and loathing, nay, almost, seeing it 
so quiet and seemingly peaceful, with compassion and 
reverence. 

And when, at the beginning of February 1788, the 
Countess of Albany, in the full enjoyment of her love 
for Alfieri, and of the pleasures of the most brilliant 
Parisian society, received the news that on the last 
day of January Charles Edward had passed away peace- 
fully in the arms of the Duchess Charlotte ; and that 
the drink-soiled broken body, from which she must so 

10 * 



148 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

often have recoiled in disgust and terror, had been laid 
out, with the sad mock royalty of a gilt wooden sceptre 
and pinchbeck crown, in state in the cathedral of Fras- 
cati; when, I say, the news reached Paris, this woman, 
so confident of having been in the right, and who had 
written so frankly that if she did not hate her husband 
it was from mere Christian charity and the duty of 
forgiveness, felt herself smitten by an unexpected 
grief. 

Alfieri, who witnessed it with astonishment, and to 
whose cut-and-dry nature it must have seemed highly 
mysterious, was, nevertheless, in a way overawed by 
this sudden emotion at the death of the man who had 
made both lovers so miserable. His appreciation, 
difficult to so narrow a temper, of all that may move 
our sympathy in that, to him, unintelligible grief, is, I 
think, one of the facts in his life which brings this 
strange, artificial, heroic, admirable, yet repulsive 
character, most within reach of our affection ; as that 
same grief, so unexpected by herself, at what was after 
all her final deliverance, is, together with the letter to 
Alfieri's mother, telling of her hatred to Charles 
Edward, and that exclamation in the hysterical love- 
letter at Siena " O God ! how this degrades the soul ! " 
one of the things which persuade us that this woman, 
whom we shall see inconsistent, worldly, and cynical, 
did really possess at bottom what her lover called " a 
most upright and sincere and incomparable soul/' 

" For the present," wrote Alfieri to his Sienese 
friends on the occasion of Charles Edward's death, 
" nothing will be altered in our mode of life." In 
other words, the Countess of Albany and her lover, 
established publicly beneath the same roof in Paris, 
did not intend getting married. "Whatever hopes may 



EUE DE BOUBGOYNE. 149 

have filled Mme. d' Albany's heart when, years 
before, she had hinted to Alfieri's mother that when 
certain circumstances changed, the Alfieri family 
should be saved from extinction; whatever ideas 
Alfieri had had in his mind when he prayed in 
a sonnet for the happy day when he might call his 
love holy; whatever intention of repairing the in- 
jury done to social institutions, may at one time have 
mingled with the lovers' remorse and the lovers' temp- 
tations, had now been completely forgotten. We have 
seen how, more than once, love, however self -restrained, 
had induced Alfieri to put aside all his Republican 
sternness and truthfulness, and to cringe before people 
whom he thoroughly despised ; we cannot easily forget 
that ignominious stroking of the Brutus poet's cheek by 
Pope Pius VI. We shall now see how this peculiar sort 
of Roman and stoical virtue, cultivated by Alfieri in him- 
self and in his beloved as the one admirable thing in the 
world, a strange exotic in this eighteenth-century base- 
ness, had nevertheless withered in several of its branches, 
beaten by the wind of illegitimate passion, and dried 
up by the callousness of an immoral state of society : 
an exotic, or rather a precocious moral variety, come 
before its season, and bleached and warped like a 
winter flower. 

Alfieri and the Countess did not get married, simply, 
I think, because they did not care to get married; 
because marriage would entail reorganisation of a mode 
of life which had somehow organised itself; because it 
would give a common-place prose solution to what 
appeared a romantic and exceptional story ; and finally 
because it might necessitate certain losses in the way 
of money, of comfort, and of rank. 

One sees throughout all his autobiography and letters 



150 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

that Alfieri drew a sharp distinction between love and 
marriage ; that he conceived marriage as the act of a 
man who sets up shop, so to say, in his native place, 
goes in for having children, for being master in his 
own house, administering and increasing his estates, and 
generally devoting himself to the advancement of his 
family. As such Alfieri, who was essentially a rou- 
tinist, respected and approved of marriage; and anything 
different would have struck his martinet, rule and 
compass mind, as ridiculous and contemptible. In 
giving up his fortune to his sister, Alfieri had deliberately 
cut himself off from the possibility of such a marriage ; 
moreover, putting aside the financial question, his 
notion of the liberty of a writer, who must be able to 
speak freely against any government, was incompatible 
with his notion of a father of a family, settled in dignity 
in his ancestral palace; and finally, I feel perfectly 
persuaded that in the mind of Alfieri, which saw things 
only in sharpest black and white contrasts, there 
existed a still more complete incompatibility between 
a woman like the Countess of Albany, and a wife such 
as he conceived a wife : to marry Mme. d' Albany 
would be to degrade a poetical ideal into vulgar 
domesticity, and at the same time to frightfully depart 
from the normal type of matrimony, which required 
that the man be absolute master, and not afflicted with 
any sort of sentimental respect for his better half. 

According to Alfieri, there were two possibilities for 
the ideal man: a handsome and highly respectable 
marriage with a girl twenty years his junior, fresh 
from the convent, provided with the right number of 
heraldic quarterings, acres, diamonds, and domestic 
virtues, and who would bear him, in deep awe for his 
unapproachable superiority, five or six robust children ; 



RUE DE BOUEGOYNE. 151 

and a romantic connexion with a married woman or a 
widow, a woman all passion and intellect and aspira- 
tion, with whom he should go through a course of 
mutual soul improvement, who should be the sharer of 
all his higher life, and whom he would diligently deck 
out as a Beatrice or a Laura in the eyes of society. 

The Countess of Albany did not fit into the first 
ideal; nor, for the matter of that, did Alfieri, poor, 
expatriated, mad for independence, engrossed in litera- 
ture, fit into it himself; and both, as it happened, 
fitted in perfectly to the second ideal possibility. To 
get married with a view to turning into domestic 
beings, would be a failure, a trouble, an interruption, 
a desecration, and a bore ; to get married merely to go 
on as they were at present, would, in the eyes of 
Alfieri, have been a profanation of the poetry of their 
situation, a perfectly unnecessary piece of humbug. 

Such were, doubtless, Alfieri's views of the case. 
Mme. d' Albany, on the other hand, had evidently 
no vocation as a housewife or a mother; marriage 
was full of disagreeable associations to her : a husband 
might beat one, and a lover might not. She, probably, 
also, guessed instinctively that to Alfieri a Laura must 
always be a mere mistress, and a wife must always be 
a mere Griselda; she knew his cut-and-dry views, his 
frightful power of carrying theory into practice; she 
may have guessed that the most respectful of lovers 
would in his case make the most tyrannical of hus- 
bands. But while Alfieri doubtless brought Mme. 
d'Albany to share his abstract reasons, Mme. 
d' Albany probably brought home to him her own 
more practical ones. Alfieri, we must remember, 
had been a man of excessive social vanity; and 
much as he despised mankind, he certainly still 



152 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

liked to enjoy its admiring consideration. Mme. 
d' Albany, on the other hand, had been brought up in 
the full worldliness of a canoness of Ste. Wandru, and 
had grown accustomed to a certain amount of state 
and of luxury ; and these worldly tendencies, thrown 
into the background by the passion, the poetry which 
sprang up with the irresistible force of a pressed down 
spring during her married misery, had returned to 
her as years went on, and as passion cooled and poetry 
diminished. Now marriage would probably involve a 
great risk of a diminution of income, since the Pope 
and the Court of France might easily refuse to sup- 
port Charles Edward's widow once she had ceased to 
be a Stuart ; and it must inevitably mean an end to a 
quasi-regal mode of life to which the widow of the 
Pretender could lay claim, but the wife of a Pied- 
montese noble could not. It is one of the various 
meannesses, committed quite unconsciously by Mme. 
d' Albany, and apparently not censured by the people 
of the eighteenth century, that, so far from being 
anxious to shake off all vestiges of her hateful married 
life, the Countess of Albany, on the contrary, seemed 
determined to enjoy, so to speak, her money's worth ; 
to get whatever advantages had been bought at the 
price of her marriage with Charles Edward. Mme. 
d' Albany enjoyed being the widow of a kind of 
sovereign. Rather easy-going and familiar by nature, 
she nevertheless assumed towards strangers a certain 
queenly haughtiness which frequently gave offence; 
and Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, who was introduced at her 
house in 1788, found, to his surprise, that all the plate 
belonging to Mme. d' Albany was engraved with the 
royal arms of England ; that guests were conducted 
through an ante-room in which stood a royal throne 



HUE DE BOURGOYNE. 153 

also emblazoned with the arms of England ; nay, that 
the servants had orders to address the lady of the 
house by the title of a queen : a state of things whose 
institution by a woman who affected nobility of senti- 
ment and who made no secret of her hatred of Charles 
Edward, whose toleration by a man who scorned the 
world and abhorred royalty, is one of those strange 
anomalies which teach us the enormous advance in self- 
respect and self-consistency due to social and democratic 
progress, an improvement which separates in feeling 
even the most mediocre and worldly men and women of 
to-day from the most high-minded and eccentric men 
and women of a century ago. To marry Alfieri would 
mean, for the Countess of Albany, to risk part of her 
fortune and to relinquish her royal state, as well as to 
sink into a mere humdrum housewife. Hence, in 
both parties concerned, a variety of reasons, contempt- 
ible in our eyes, excellent in their own, against legiti- 
mating their connection. And, on the other hand, 
no corresponding inducement. Why should they get 
married ? The Countess, going in state every Sunday 
to a convent where she was received with royal honours, 
Alfieri writing to his mother that although he was not 
regular at confession, he was yet provided with a most 
austere and worthy spiritual director in case of need, 
neither of them had the smallest belief in Christianity 
nor in its sacraments. To please whom should they 
marry, pray ? To please religion ? Why, they had none. 
To please society ? Why, society, in this Paris of the 
year 1788, at least such aristocratic society as they 
cared to see, consisted entirely either of devoted couples 
of high-minded lovers each with a husband or wife some- 
where in the back-ground, or of even more interesting 
triangular arrangements of high-minded and devoted 



154 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

wife, husband, and lover, all living together on charm- 
ing terms, and provided, in case of disagreement, each 
with a lettre de cachet which should lock the other up 
in the Bastille. A Queen of England by right divine, 
keeping open house in company with a ferociously 
republican Piedmontese poet, was indeed a new and 
perhaps a questionable case ; but the pre-revolutionary 
society of Paris was too philosophical to be surprised 
at anything ; and, after very little hesitation, resorted 
to the charming Albany-Alfieri hotel in the Rue de 
Bourgoyne. Now, if the well-born and amusing people 
in Paris did not insist upon Alfieri and the Countess 
getting married, why should they go out of their way 
to do so ? We good people of the nineteenth century 
should have liked them the better ; but then, you see, 
it was the peculiarity of the men and women of the 
eighteenth century to be quite unable to conceive that 
the men and women of the nineteenth century would 
be in the least different from themselves. 



CHAPTER XIV, 

BEFORE THE STORM. 

THE well-born and amusing people of the end of the 
eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century 
did not stickle at the question of the marriage. They 
flocked to the hotel of the Rue de Bourgoyne, attracted 
by the peculiar cosmopolitan charm, the very un- 
deniable talent for society, the extraordinary intellectual 
superiority of Mme. d' Albany; attracted, also, by a 
certain easy-going and half-motherly kindliness which 
seems, to all those who wanted sympathy, to have been 
quite irresistible. It was the moment of the great 
fermentation, when even trifling things and trifling 
people seemed to boil and seethe with importance; 
when cold-hearted people were suddenly full of tender- 
ness and chivalry, selfish people full of generosity, 
prosaic people full of poetry, and mediocre people full 
of genius : the brief carnival-week of the old world, 
when men and women masqueraded in all manner of 
outlandish and antiquated thoughts and feelings, and 
enjoyed the excitement of dressing-up so much that 
they actually believed themselves for the moment to 
be what they pretended : it was the brief moment, 



156 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

grotesque and pathetic, when the doomed classes of 
society, who were fatally going to be exterminated for 
their long selfishness and indifference, enthusiastically 
caught up pick-axe and shovel and tore down the bricks 
of the edifice which was destined to fall and to crush 
them all beneath its ruins. 

All these men and women, their deep in-born cor- 
ruption momentarily transfigured by this enthusiasm 
for liberty, for equality, for sentiment, for austerity, 
which mingled oddly with their childish pleasure in all 
new things, in mesmerism, in America, in electricity, 
in Montgolfier balloons, with their habitual pleasure in 
all their big and small futile and wicked pleasures of 
worldliness ; all these men and women, these morituri 
delighted at the preparations, the scaffoldings, red 
clothes, black crape, torches and drums and bugles, 
for their own execution, all assembled at that hotel 
of the Rue de Bourgoyne. 

A brilliant crowd of ministers and diplomatists, and 
artists and pamphleteers, and wits and beautiful women ; 
perishable and perished things, out of which we must 
select one or two, either as types of that which has 
perished, or as types of the imperishable ; and the 
perished, the amiable and beautiful women, the amusing 
and brilliantly-improvising orators and philosophers of 
the half-hour, are often that which, could we have 
chosen, we should have preserved. Most notable 
among the women, the young daughter of Necker, the 
wife of the Swedish ambassador, Mme. la Baronne de 
Stae'l Holstein : a rather mannish superb sort of 
creature, with shoulders and arms compensating for 
thick swarthy features ; eyes like volcanoes ; the laugh 
of the most kind-hearted of children ; the stride, the 
attitude, with her hands for ever behind the back, of an 



BEFORE THE STORM. 157 

unceremonious man ; a young woman already accounted 
a genius, and felt to be a moral force. Next to her a 
snub, drab - coloured Livonian, with northern eyes 
telling of future mysticism, that Mme. de Kriidener, 
as yet noted only for the droll contrast of her enthusiasm 
for St. Pierre and the simplicity of nature with her 
quarterly bills of twenty thousand francs from Mdlle. 
Bertin, the Queen's milliner ; but later to be famous 
for her literary and religious vagaries, her influence on 
Mme. de Stael, her strange influence on Alexander of 
Russia. Near her, doubtless, that fascinating Suard, 
in the convent of whose sister Mme. de Kriidener was 
wont to spend a month in religious exercises, thanking 
God, at the foot of the altar, for giving her a sister 
like Mdlle. Suard, and a lover like Suard himself. As 
yet but little noticed, except as the pet friend, the 
" younger sister " of Mme. d'Albany, a Mme. de 
Flahault, later married to the Portuguese Souza; a 
simple-natured little woman, adoring her children and 
the roses in her garden, and who, if I may judge by the 
letters which, many, many years later, she addressed to 
Mme. d'Albany, would be the woman of all those one 
would rather resuscitate for a friend, leaving Mmes. de 
Stael and de Kriidener quiet in their coffins. Further 
on, the delicate and charming Pauline de Beaumont, 
who was to be the Egeria of Joubert and the tenderly- 
beloved friend of Chateaubriand; and a host of women 
notable in those days for wit or heart or looks, where- 
with to make a new Ballade of Dead Ladies, much 
sadder than the one of Villon : " But where are the 
snows of yester-year ? " 

Round about these ladies an even greater number of 
men of what were, or passed for, eminent qualities ; 
political for the most part, or busied with the new 



158 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

science of economy, like the Trudaines ; and most 
notable among them, as the typical victim of genius of 
the Reign of Terror, poor Andre Chenier, his exquisite 
imitations of Theocritus still waiting to be sorted and 
annotated in prison ; and the typical blood-maniac of 
genius, the painter David, who was to startle Mme. 
cP Albany's guests, soon after the 10th August, by 
wishing that the Fishwives had stuck Marie Antoinette's 
head without more ado upon a pike. Imagine all these 
people assembled in order to hear M. de Beaumarchais, 
in the full glory of his millions and his wonderful 
garden, give a first reading of his Mere Coupable, after 
inviting them to prepare themselves to weep (which was 
easy in those days of soft hearts) " aplein canal." Or 
else listening to the cold and solemn M. de Condorcet, 
prophesying the time when science shall have abolished 
suffering and shall abolish death; little dreaming of 
those days of wandering without food, of those nights 
in the quarries of Montrouge, of that little bottle of 
poison, the only thing that science could give to abolish 
his suffering. 

To all these great and illustrious people the Countess 
of Albany I had almost said the Queen of England 
introduced her " incomparable friend " (style then in 
vogue) Count Vittorio Alfieri ; and all of them doubt- 
less took a great interest in him as her lover, and a 
little interest in him as the great poet of Italy ; not 
certainly without wondering amiable people as they 
were, and persuaded that France and . Paris alone 
existed that Mme. d'Albany should find anything to 
love in this particularly rude and disagreeable man, 
and that a country like Italy should have the impudence 
to set up a poet of its own. The Countess of Albany, 
made to be a leader of intellectual society, was happy ; 



BEFORE THE STORM. 159 

but Alfieri was not. Ever since his childhood, when a 
French dancing-master had vainly tried to unstiffen his 
rigid person, he had mortally hated the French nation ; 
ever since his first boyish travels he had loathed Paris 
as the sewer, the cloaca maxima (the expression is 
his own) of the world; his whole life had been a 
struggle with the French manners, the French lan- 
guage, which had permeated Piedmont; one of the 
chief merits of the new drama he had conceived was 
(in his own eyes) to sweep Corneille, Racine, and 
particularly Voltaire, his arch-aversion Voltaire, off 
the stage. 

Alfieri, with his faults and his virtues, was specially 
constructed, if I may use the expression, to ignore all 
the good points, and to feel with hysterical sensitive- 
ness all the bad ones, of the French nation ; and more 
especially of the French nation of the pre-revolutionary 
and revolutionary era. Alfieri's reality and Alfieri's 
ideal were austerity, inflexibility, pride and con- 
temptuousness of character, coldness, roughness, deci- 
sion of manner, curtness, reticence, and absolute truth- 
fulness of speech ; above all, no consideration for other 
folks' likings and dislikings, no mercy for their foibles. 
His ideal, even more so than the ideal of other idealis- 
ing minds, was the mere outcome of himself; it con- 
tained his faults as well as his virtues. Now all that 
fell short of, or went beyond, his ideal that is to say, 
himself was abomination in Alfieri's eyes. Conse- 
quently France and the French, all the nobility, the wit, 
the sentiment, the warm-heartedness, the enthusiasm, 
the wide-mindedness, the childishness, the frivolity, the 
instability, the disrespectfulness, the sentimentality, 
the high falutinism, the superficiality, the looseness of 
principle, everything that made up the greatness aud 



160 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

littleness of the France of the end of last century, 
everything which will make up the greatness and little- 
ness of France, the glories and weaknesses which the 
world must love, to the end of time ; all these things 
were abhorrent to Alfieri ; and Alfieri., when once he 
disliked a person or a thing, justly or unjustly, could 
only increase but never diminish his dislike. Let us 
look at this matter, which is instructive to all persons 
whose nobility of character runs to injustice, a little 
closer; it will help us to understand the Misogallo, 
the extraordinary apostasy which, quite uncon- 
sciously, Alfieri was later to commit towards the 
principle of freedom. Alfieri, intensely Italian, if 
mediaeval and peasant Italy may give us the Italian type, 
in a certain silent or rather inarticulate violence of 
temper violence which roars and yells and stabs and 
strangles, but which never talks, and much less argues 
could not endure the particular sort of excitement 
which surrounded him in France ; excitement mainly 
cerebral, heroism or villainy resulting, but only as the 
outcome of argument and definition of principle and 
of that mixture of logic and rhetoric called by the 
French des mots. Alfieri was not a reasoning mind, 
he was not an eloquent man ; above all, he was not a 
witty man ; his satirical efforts are so many blows upon 
an opponent's head ; they are almost physical bru- 
talities ; there is nothing clever or funny about them. 
In such a society as this Parisian society of the years 
'87, '88, '89, '90, he must have been at a continual 
disadvantage; and at a disadvantage which he felt 
keenly, but which he felt, also, that any remarkable 
piece of Alfierism which would have moved Italy to 
admiration, such as glaring, or stalking off in silence, 
or punching a man's head, could only increase. To 



BEFORE THE STORM. 161 

feel himself at a disadvantage on account of his very 
virtues, and with people whom those virtues did not im- 
press, must have been most intolerable to a man as vain 
and self-conscious as Alfieri, and to this was added the 
sense that, from mere ignorance of the language (the 
language whose nobility, as contrasted with the " low, 
plebeian, nasal disgustiuguess " of French, he so often 
descanted on) in which he wrote, it was quite impossible 
for these people to be reduced to their right place 
and right mind by the crushing superiority of his 
dramatic genius. He, who hungered and thirsted 
for glory, what glory could he hope among all these 
monkeys of Frenchmen, jabbering and gesticulating 
about their States-General, their Montgolfier, their St. 
Pierre, their Condorcet, their Parny, their Necker, who 
had not even the decent feeling to know Italian, and 
who bowed and smiled and doubtless mixed him up 
with Metastasio and Goldoni when introduced by the 
Countess to so odd a piece of provincialism as an 
Italian poet. " Does Monsieur write comedies or 
tragedies ? " One fancies one can hear the politely 
indifferent question put with a charming smile by 
some powdered and embroidered French wit to 
Mme. d' Albany in Alfieri's hearing; nay, to Alfieri 
himself. 

Mixed with such meaner, though unconscious motives 
for dissatisfaction, must have been the sense, intoler- 
able to a man like Alfieri, of the horrid and grotesque 
jumble of good and bad, of real and false, not merely 
in the revolutionary movement itself, but in all these 
men of the ancien regime who initiated it. Alfieri 
conceived liberty from the purely antique, or, if you 
prefer, pseudo- antique, point of view ; it was to him 
the final cause of the world ; the aim of all struggles ; 

11 



162 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

to be free was the one and only desideratum, to be 
master of one's own thoughts, actions, and words, 
merely for the sake of such mastery. The practical 
advantages of liberty entirely escaped him, as did 
the practical disadvantages of tyranny j nay, one can 
almost imagine that had liberty involved absolute 
misery for all men, and tyranny absolute happiness, 
Alfieri would have chosen liberty. To this pseudo- 
Roman and intensely patrician stoic, who had never 
known privation or injustice towards himself, and 
scarcely noticed it towards others, the humanitarian, 
the philanthropic movement, characteristic of the 
eighteenth century, and which was the strong impulse 
of the revolution, was absolutely incomprehensible. 
Alfieri was, in the sense of certain ancients, a hard- 
hearted man, indifferent, blind and deaf to suffering. 
That a man of education and mind, a gentleman, 
should have to sweep the ground with his hat on the 
passage of another man, because that other happened 
to wear a ribbon and a star ; that he should be liable 
to exile, to imprisonment, for a truthful statement of 
his opinion : these were to Alfieri the insupportable 
things of tyranny. But that a man in wooden shoes 
and a torn smock frock, sleeping between the pigs 
and the cows on the damp clay floor, eating bread 
mainly composed of straw, should have all the profits 
of his hard labour taken from him in taxes, while 
another man, a splendid gentleman covered over with 
gold, riding over acres of his land with his hounds, 
or a fat priest dressed in silk, snoozing over his 
Lucullus dinner, should be exempt from taxation and 
empowered to starve, rob, beat, or hang the peasant : 
such a thing as this did not fall within the range of 
Alfieri's feelings. To his mind, for ever wrapped in 



BEFORE THE STORM. 163 

an intellectual toga, there was no tragedy in mere 
misery; there was no injustice in mere cruelty, or 
rather misery, cruelty, nay, all their allied evils, 
ignorance, brutality, sickness, superstition, vice, were 
unknown to him. Hence, as I have said, all the 
philanthropic side of the revolutionary movement was 
lost to him ; just as the defence of Labarre, the vin- 
dication of Galas, never disturbed the current of his 
contempt for Voltaire. So also the abolition of pri- 
vileges, the secularisation of church property, the 
equalisation of legal punishment, the abrogation of 
barbarous laws, the liberation of slaves ; all these things, 
which stirred even the most corrupt and apathetic 
minds of the late eighteenth century, seemed merely 
so much declamation to Alfieri. To him, who could 
conceive no virtues beyond independent truthfulness, 
such things were mere sentimental trash, mere hypo- 
critical nonsense beneath which base men hid their 
baseness. And the baseness, unhappily, was there : 
baseness of absolute corruption, or of scandalous 
levity, even in the noblest. To Alfieri, a man like 
Beaumarchais, for all his quick philanthropy, his 
audacious outspokenness, must have seemed base, 
with his background of money-jobbing, of dirty 
diplomatic work, of legal squabbles. How much 
more such a man as Mirabeau, with his heroic re- 
solution, his heroic kindliness, his whole Titan nature, 
carous, eaten into by a hundred mean vices. That 
Mirabeau should have gained his bread writing libels 
and obscene novels, meant to Alfieri not that a 
man born in corruption and tainted thereby had, by 
the force of his genius, by the force of the great 
humanitarian movement, raised himself as morally high 
as he had hitherto grovelled morally low; it merely 

11 * 



164 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

meant that the immaculate name of hero was degraded 
by a foul writer. 

From such figures as these Alfieri turned away in 
indignant disgust. The great movement of the eigh- 
teenth century seemed to him a mere stirring and 
splashing in a noisome pool, in that cloaca maxima, as 
he had called it. 

Already before settling in Paris in 1787, he had 
written to his Sienese friends that, were it not for the 
necessity of attending to the printing of his works (to 
print which permission would not be obtainable in 
Italy), he would rather have established himself at 
Prats, at Colle, at Buonconvento, at any little town of 
two thousand inhabitants near Florence or Siena. Sur- 
rounded by, in daily contact with, some of the noblest 
minds of the century, nay, of any century, by people 
like Mme. de Stael, Andre Chenier, Condorcet, Mira- 
beau, Alfieri could write, with a sort of bitter pleasure 
at his own narrow-mindedness : " Now I am among a 
million of men, and not one of them that is worth 
Gori's little finger." 

I am almost prepared to say that Alfieri really felt 
as if living in Paris, among such people and at such a 
moment, was a sort of saintly sacrifice, the crowning 
heroism of his life, which he made in order to print 
his books ; that he endured the contact of this plague- 
stricken city, merely because he knew that unless he 
corrected a certain number of manuscript pages, and 
revised a certain number of proof-sheets, the world 
would be defrauded of the great and sovereign antidote 
to all such baseness as this in the shape of his own 
complete works. 

Writing to his mother towards the end of the year 
1788, he mentions contemptuously the excitement and 



BEFORE THE STORM. 165 

enthusiasm created by the approaching election of the 
States-General, and adds calmly : " But all these sort 
of things interest me very little ; and I give my atten- 
tion only to the correction of my proofs, a piece of work 
with which I am pretty well half through." 



166 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER XV. 

ENGLAND. 

THE contradictions in complex and self-contradictory 
characters like those of the Frenchmen of the early 
revolution can be easily explained, and, say what we 
will, must be easily pardoned : rich natures, creatures 
of impulse, intensely sensitive to external influences, we 
feel that it is to the very richness of nature, the warmth 
of impulse, the susceptibility to influence, that we owe 
not merely these men's virtues but their vices. But 
the contradictions of the self-righteous are an afflicting 
spectacle, over which we would fain draw the veil: 
there is no room in a narrow nature for any flagrant 
violation of its own ideals to be stuffed away unnoticed 
in a corner. And now we come to one of the strangest 
self-contradictions in the history of Mme. d'Albany, 
that is to say, of her lord and master Alfieri. 

The revision and printing of Alficri's works had been 
brought to an end ; but neither he nor the Countess 
seems to have contemplated a return to Italy. The 
fact was that they were both of them retained by 
money matters. A proportion of Mme. d' Albany's 
income consisted ia the pension which she received 



ENGLAND. 167 

from the French Court ; and the greater part of Alfieri's 
income consisted in certain moneys made over to him 
by his sister as the capital of his life pension, and 
which he had invested in French funds. 

By the year 1791, the French Court and the French 
funds had got to be very shaky; and those who 
depended upon them did not dare go to any distance, 
lest on their return they should find nothing to claim, 
or no one to claim from. Hence the necessity for 
Alfieri and the Countess to remain in France, or, at 
least, hover about near it. 

Now, whether the unsettled state of French affairs 
suggested to Mme. d' Albany, and through her to 
Alfieri, that it would be wise to see what sort of home, 
nay, perhaps, what sort of pecuniary assistance, might 
be found elsewhere, I cannot tell ; but this much is 
certain, that on the 19th May, 1791, Horace Walpole 
wrote as follows to Miss Barry : 

" The Countess of Albany is not only in England, in 
London, but at this very moment, I believe, in the 
palace of St. James ; not restored by as rapid a revo- 
lution as the French, but, as was observed at supper at 
Lady Mount Edgecumbe's, by that topsy-turvihood 
that characterises the present age. Within these two 
days the Pope has been burnt at Paris; Mme. du 
Barry, mistress of Louis Quinze, has dined with the 
Lord Mayor of London ; and the Pretender's widow is 
presented to the Queen of Great Britain." 

That we should have to learn so striking an episode 
of the journey to England from the letters of a total 
stranger, who noticed it as a mere piece of gossip, while 
the memoirs of Alfieri, who accompanied Mme. d' Albany 
to England, are perfectly silent on the subject, is, to 
say the least of it, a suspicious circumstance. 



1G8 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

As he grew old, Alfieri seems to have lost that power, 
nay that irresistible desire, of speaking the truth and 
the whole truth which made him record with burning 
shame the caress of Pius VI. Perhaps, on the other 
hand, Alfieri, who, after all, was but a sorry mixture 
of an ancient Roman and a man of the eighteenth 
century, thought that a certain amount of baseness and 
dirt-eating, quite degrading in a man, might be per- 
mitted to a woman, even to the lady of his thoughts. 
And still I cannot help thinking that Alfieri, who 
could certainly, with his strong will, have prevented 
the Countess from demeaning herself, and in so far 
demeaning also his love for her, quietly abetted this 
step, and then as quietly consigned it to oblivion. 

But oblivion did not depend upon registration, or 
non-registration, in Alfieri's memoirs. The letters of 
Walpole, the memoirs of Hannah More, the political 
correspondence collected by Lord Stanhope, furnish 
abundant detail of this affair. The Countess of Albany 
was introduced by her relation, or connexion, the 
young Countess of Aylesbury, and announced by her 
maiden name of Princess of Stolberg. Horace Wai- 
pole's informant, who stood close by, told him that she 
was "well-dressed, and not at all embarrassed." George 
III. and his sons talked a good deal to her, about her 
passage, her stay in England, and similar matters; but 
the princesses none of them said a word ; and we hear 
that Queen Charlotte " looked at her earnestly." The 
strait-laced wife of George III. had probably consented 
to receive the Pretender's widow, only because this 
ceremony was a sort of second burial of Charles 
Edward, a burial of all the claims, the pride of the 
Stuarts; but she felt presumably no great cordiality 
towards a woman who had run away from her husband, 



ENGLAND. 169 

who was travelling in England with her lover ; and 
who, while affecting royal state in her own house, 
could crave the honour of being received by the family 
of the usurper. 

Mme. d' Albany was not abashed: she seems to 
have made up her mind to get all she could out ot 
royal friendliness. She accepted a seat in the King's 
box at the opera ; nay, she accepted a seat at the foot 
of the throne (" the throne she might once have expected 
to mount/' remarks Hannah More), on the occasion of 
the King's speech in the House of Lords. It was the 
10th of June, the birthday of Prince Charlie ; and the 
woman who sat there so unconcernedly, kept a throne 
with the British arms in her ante-room, and made her 
servants address her as a Queen ! 

What were Alfieri's feelings when Mme. d j Albany 
came home in her Court toilette, and told him of all 
these fine doings ? The more we try to conceive 
certain things, the more inconceivable they become : it 
is like straining to see what may be hidden at the 
bottom of a very deep well. In the case of Alfieri, I 
think we may add that the well was empty. Since his 
illness at Colmar, he had aged in the most extraordinary 
way : the process of dessication and ossification of his 
moral nerves and muscles, which, as I have said, was 
the form that premature decrepitude took in this 
abnormal man, had begun. The creative power was 
extinct in him, both as regards his works and himself : 
there was no possibility of anything new, of any 
response of this wooden nature to new circumstances. 
He had attained to the age of forty-two without any 
particular feelings such as could fit into this present 
case, and the result was that he probably had no 
feelings. The Countess of Albany was the ideal woman 



170 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

he had enshrined her as such ages ago, and an ideal 
woman could not change, could not commit an im- 
propriety, least of all in his eyes. If she had con- 
descended to ridiculous meanness in order to secure 
for herself an opening in English society, a subsidy 
from the English Government (apparently already 
suggested at that time, but granted only many years 
later) in case of a general break-up of French things ; if 
she had done this, it was no concern of Alfieri : Mme. 
d'Albany had been patented as the ideal woman. As 
to him, why should he condescend to think about state 
receptions, galas, pensions, kings and queens, and 
similar low things ? He had put such vanities behind 
him long ago. 

Alfieri and the Countess made a tour through 
England, and projected a tour through Scotland. 
Whether the climate, the manners, the aspect of 
England and its inhabitants really disappointed the 
perhaps ideal notions she had formed ; or whether, 
perhaps, she was a little bit put out of sorts by no 
pension being granted, and by a possible coldness of 
British matrons towards a widow travelling about with 
an Italian poet, it is not for me to decide. But her 
impressions of England, as recorded in a note-book 
now at the Musee Fabre at Montpellier, are certainly 
not those of a person who has received a good 
welcome : 

" Although I knew/' she says, repeating the stale 
platitudes (or perhaps the true impressions ? ) of all 
foreigners, " that the English were melancholy, I had 
not imagined that life in their capital would be so to 
the point which I experienced it. No sort of society, 
and a quantity of crowds ... As they spend nine 
months in the country the family alone, or with only 



ENGLAND. 171 

a very few friends they like, when they come to town, 
to throw themselves into the vortex. Women are 
never at home. The whole early part of the day, 
which begins at two (for, going to bed at four in the 
morning, they rise only at mid-day), is spent in visits 
and exercise, for the English require, and their climate 
absolutely necessitates, a great deal of exercise. The 
coal smoke, the constant absence of sunshine, the 
heavy food and drink, make movement a necessity to 
them ... If England had an oppressive Govern- 
ment, this country and its inhabitants would be the 
lowest in the universe : a bad climate, bad soil, hence 
no sort of taste; it is only the excellence of the 
political constitution which renders it inhabitable. 
The nation is melancholy, without any imagination, 
even without wit ; the dominant characteristic is a 
desire for money." 

The same note as that even of such a man as Taine. 
The almost morbid love of beauty which a civilisation, 
whose outward expression are the lines and lines of black 
boxes, with slits for doors and windows of Bloomsbury, 
produced in men like Coleridge, Blake, and Turner, 
naturally escaped Mme. d' Albany ; but the second 
great rebellion of imagination and love of beauty, 
the rebellion led by Madox Brown and Morris, and 
Kossetti and Burne Jones, escaped Taine. But of 
all the things which most offended this quasi-Queen of 
England in our civilisation, the social arrangements did 
so most of all. With the instinct of a woman who 
has lived a by no means regular life in the midst of a 
society far worse than herself, with the instinct of one 
of those strange pseudo-French Continental mongrels 
with whom age always brings cynicism, she tries to 
account for the virtue of Englishwomen by accidental, 



172 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

and often rather nasty, necessities. Mme. d' Albany 
writes with the freedom and precision of a Continental 
woman of the world of eighty years ago ; and her 
remarks lose too much or gain too much by translation 
into our chaster language. " The charm of intimate 
society," she winds up, conscious of the charms of her 
own little salon full of clever men and pretty women 
all well-acquainted with each other "the charm of 
intimate society is unknown in England/' 

In short, the sooner England be quitted, the better. 
Political, or rather financial circumstances that is to 
say, the frightful worthlessness of French money (and 
Alfieri's and her money came mainly from France), 
made a return to Paris urgent. 

An incident, as curious perhaps as that of Mme. 
d' Albany's presentation at Court, but which, unlike 
that, Alfieri has not thought fit to suppress, marked 
their departure from England. As Alfieri, who had 
preceded the Countess by a few minutes to see whether 
the luggage had been properly stored on the ship at 
Dover, turned to go and meet her, his eyes suddenly 
fell with a start of recognition upon a woman standing 
on the landing-place. She was not young, but still 
very handsome, as some of us may know her from 
Gainsborough's portrait ; and she was no other than 
Penelope Lady Ligonier, for whom Alfieri had been so 
mad twenty years before, for whom he had fought his 
famous duel in St. James' Park, and got himself dis- 
gracefully mixed up in a peculiarly disgraceful divorce 
suit. He had several times inquired after her, and 
always in vain ; and now he would scarcely have 
believed his eyes had his former mistress not given him 
a smile of recognition. Alfieri was terribly upset. 
The sight of this ghost from out of a disgraceful past, 



ENGLAND. 173 

coining to haunt what he considered a dignified 
present, seems fairly to have terrified him; he ran 
back into the ship and dared not go to meet Mme. 
d' Albany, lest in so doing he should meet Lady 
Ligonier. Presently, Mme. d' Albany came on board. 
With the indifference of a woman of the world, of that 
easy-goingness which was rapidly effacing in her the 
romantic victim of Charles Edward, she told Alfieri 
that the friends who had escorted her to the ship (and 
who appear to have perfectly understood the temper of 
the Countess) had pointed out his former flame and 
entertained her with a brief biography of her prede- 
cessor in Alfieri's heart. Mme. d' Albany took it all as 
a matter of course : she was probably no longer at all 
in love with Alfieri, but she admired his genius and 
character as much and more than ever; and was 
probably beginning to develop a certain good-natured, 
half- motherly acquiescence in his eccentricities, such as 
women who have suffered much, and grown stout and 
strong, and cynically optimistic now that suffering is 
over, are apt to develop towards people accustomed to 
resort to them, like sick children, in all their ups and 
downs of temper. 

" Between us," says Alfieri, " there was never any 
falsehood, or reticence, or coolness, or quarrel " ; and, 
indeed, when a woman, such as Mme. d' Albany must 
have been at the age of forty, has once determined to 
adore and humour a particular individual in every 
single possible thing, all such painful results of more 
sensitive passion naturally become unnecessary. If 
Mme. d' Albany merely smiled over bygone follies, 
Alfieri had been put into great agitation by the sight of 
Lady Ligonier. From Calais he sent her a letter, of 
which no copy has been preserved, but which, according 



174 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

to his account, " was full, not indeed of love, but of a 
deep and sincere emotion at seeing her still leading 
a wandering life very unsuited to her birth and position ; 
and of pain in thinking that I, although innocently 
(that "although innocently/' on the part of a man 
who had been the cause of her scandalous downfall, is 
perfectly charming in its simple revelation of Con- 
tinental morals), might have been the cause or the 
pretext thereof." 

Lady Ligonier's answer came to hand in Brussels. 
Written in bad French, it answered Alfieri's tragic 
grandiloquence with a cold civility, which shows how 
deeply his magnanimous compassion had wounded a 
woman who felt herself to be no more really corrupt 
than he. 

"Monsieur," so runs the letter, "you could not 
doubt that the expression of your remembrance of me, 
and of the interest which you kindly take in my lot, 
would be duly appreciated and received gratefully by 
me ; the more especially as I cannot consider you as 
the cause of my unhappiness, since I am not unhappy, 
although the uprightness of your soul makes you fear 
that I am. You were, on the contrary, the agent of 
my liberation from a world for which I was in no way 
suited, and which I have not for a moment regretted. 
... I am in the enjoyment of perfect health, increased 
by liberty and peace of mind. I seek the society only 
of simple and virtuous persons without pretensions 
either to particular genius or to particular learning; 
and besides such society I entertain myself with books, 
drawing, music, &c. But what constitutes the basis of 
real happiness and satisfaction is the friendship and 
unalterable love of a brother whom I have always 
loved more than the whole world, and who possesses 



ENGLAND. 175 

the best of hearts." " I hear," goes on Lady Ligonier, 
after a few compliments on Alfieri's literary fame, 
" that you are attached to the Princess with whom you 
are travelling, whose amiable and clever physiognomy 
seems indeed formed for the happiness of a soul as 
sensitive and delicate as yours. I am also told that 
she is afraid of you : I recognise you there. Without 
wishing, or perhaps even knowing it, you have an irre- 
sistible ascendancy over all who are attached to you/' 

Was it this disrespectful hint concerning what he 
wished the world to consider as his ideal love for Mme. 
d' Albany, or was it Lady Ligonier's determination to 
let him know that desertion by him had made her 
neither more disreputable nor more unhappy than 
before, I cannot tell ; but certain it is that something 
in this letter appears to have put Alfieri, who had not 
objected to Mme. d' Albany's mean behaviour towards 
George III., into a condition of ruffled virtue and 
dignity. 

" I copy this letter," he writes in his memoirs, " in 
order to give an idea of this woman's eccentric and 
obstinately evilly-inclined character." 

Did it never occur to Alfieri that his own character, 
whose faults during youth he so keenly appreciated, 
was not improving with years ? 



176 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THE MISOGALLO. 

ALFIERI and Madame d' Albany were scarcely back in 
Paris, and settled in a new house, when the disorders 
in Paris and the movements of the Imperial troops on 
the frontier began to make the situation of foreignera 
difficult and dangerous. The storming of the Tuileries, 
the great slaughter of the 10th August 1792, admon- 
ished them to sacrifice everything to their safety. 
With considerable difficulty a passport for the Countess 
had been obtained from the Swedish Minister, one for 
Al fieri from the Venetian Resident (almost the only 
diplomatic representatives, says Alfieri, who still 
remained to that ghost of a king), and a passport for 
each of them and for each of their servants from 
their communal section. Departure was fixed for the 
20th August, but Alfieri's black presentiments hastened 
it to the 18th. Arrived at the Barriere Blanche, on 
the road to Calais, passports were examined by two or 
three soldiers of the National Guard, and the gates 
were on the point of being opened to let the two 
heavily-loaded carriages pass, when suddenly, from 
out of a neighbouring pot-house, rushed some twenty- 



THE MISOGALLO. 177 

five or thirty ruffians, ragged, drunken, and furious. 
They surrounded the carriages, yelling that all the 
rich were running away and leaving them to starve 
without work ; and a crowd rapidly formed round them 
and the National Guards, who wanted the travellers to 
be permitted to pass on. Alfieri jumps out of the 
carriage, brandishing his seven passports, and throws 
himself, a long, lean, red-haired man, fiercely gesticu- 
lating and yelling at the top of his voice, among the 
crowd, forcing this man and that to read the passports, 
crying frantically, " Look ! Listen ! Name Alfieri. 
Italian and not French ! Tall, thin, pale, red-haired ; 
that is I ; look at me. I have my passport ! We 
have our passports all in order from the proper 
authorities ! We want to pass ; and, by God ! we will 
pass ! " 

After half an hour of this altercation, with voices 
issuing from the crowd, "Burn the carriages ! " "Throw 
stones at them ! " " They are running away, they are 
noble and rich ; take them to the Hotel de Ville to be 
judged ! " at last Alfieri's vociferations and gesticula- 
tions wearied even the Paris mob, the crowd became 
quieter, the National Guards gave the sign for depar- 
ture, and Alfieri, jumping into the carriage where 
Mme. d'Albany was sitting more dead than alive, 
shouted to the postillions to gallop off. 

At a country house near Mons, belonging to the 
Countess of Albany's sister, the fugitives received the 
frightful news of the September massacres ; of those 
men and women driven, like beasts into an arena, 
down the prison-stairs into the prison yard, to fall, 
hacked to pieces by the bayonets and sabres and pikes 
of Maillard's amateur executioners, on to the blood- 
soaked mattresses, while the people of Paris, morally 

13 



178 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

divided on separate benches, the gentlemen here, the 
ladies there, sat and looked on; of those men and 
women many had frequented the salon of the Rue de 
Bourgoyne, had chatted and laughed, only a few weeks 
back, -with Alfieri and the Countess; amongst those 
men and women Alfieri and the Countess might them- 
selves easily have been, had the ruffians of the Barriere 
Blanche dragged them back to their house, where an 
order to arrest Mme. d' Albany arrived two days later, 
that very 20th August which had originally been 
fixed for their departure. The thought of this narrow 
escape turned the recollection of that scene at the 
Barriere Blanche into a perfect nightmare, which 
focussed, so to speak, all the frenzied horror conceived 
by Alfieri for the French Revolution, for the " Tiger- 
Apes" of France. 

By November Alfieri and Mme. d'Albany were in 
Florence, safe ; but established in a miserable inn, 
without their furniture, their horses, their books ; all 
left in Paris ; nay, almost without the necessary clothes, 
and with very little money. From the dirty inn they 
migrated into rather unseemly furnished lodgings, and 
finally, after some debating about Siena and inquiring 
whether a house might not be had there on the prome- 
nade of the Lizza, they settled down in the house, one 
of a number formerly belonging to the Gianfigliazzi 
family, on the Lung Arno, close to the Ponte Santa 
Trinita, in Florence. The situation is one of the most 
delightful in Florence : across the narrow quay the 
windows look almost sheer down into the river, spark- 
ling with a hundred facets in the spring and summer 
sunlight, cut by the deep shadows of the old bridges, 
to where it is lost to sight between the tall poplars by 
the Greve mouth and the ilexes and elms of the Cascine, 



THE MISOGALLO. 179 

closed in by the pale blue peaks of the Carrara Alps ; 
or else, in autumn and winter, scarcely moving, 
a mass of dark-greens and browns, wonderfully veined, 
like some strange oriental jasper, with transparent 
violet streakings, and above which arise, veiled, half 
washed out by mist, the old corbelled houses, the 
church-steeples and roofs, the tiers and tiers of pine and 
ilex plumes on the hill opposite. 

For a moment, with the full luminousness of the 
Tuscan sky once more in his eyes, and the guttural 
strength of the Tuscan language once more in his ears, 
Alfieri seems to have been delighted. But his cheerful- 
ness was not of long duration. Ever since his great 
illness at Colmar, Alfieri had, I feel persuaded, 
become virtually an old man ; his strength and spirits 
were impaired, and the strange morose depression of 
his half-fructified youth seemed to return. Coming at 
that moment, the disappointment, the terror, the horror 
of the French Revolution became, so to speak, part of 
a moral illness which lasted to his death. Alfieri was 
not a tender-hearted nor a humane man ; had he been, 
he would have felt more sympathy than he did with the 
beginning of the great movement, with the strivings 
after reform which preceded it ; he had, on the con- 
trary, the sort of cold continuous rage, the ruthless 
self-righteousness and cut-and-dryness which would 
have made him, had he been a Frenchman, a terrorist 
of the most dreadful type ; a regular routinist in exter- 
mination of corrupt people. Hence I cannot believe 
that, much as he may have been shocked by the news 
of the September massacres, of the grandes fournees 
which preceded Thermidor, and much as he may have 
been distressed by Mme. d'Albany^s anxiety and grief 
for so many friends who lost their property or life, 

12 * 



180 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

Alfieri was the man to be driven mad by the mere 
thought of bloodshed. But Alfieri had, ever since his 
earliest youth, made liberty his goddess, and the 
worship of liberty his special religion and mission. 
That such a religion and mission, to which he had 
devoted himself in a time and country when and where 
no one else dreamed of anything of the sort, should 
suddenly become, and without the smallest agency of 
his, the religion and mission of the very nation and 
people whom he instinctively abhorred from the depths 
of his soul ; that liberty, which he alone was to teach 
men to desire, should be the fashionable craze, mixed 
up with science, philanthropy, sentiment, and every- 
thing he hated most in the French, this was already a 
pain that gnawed silently into Alfieri's soul. But when 
liberty was, as it were, dragged out of his own 
little private temple, where he adored and hymned it, 
decked out in patrician dignity of Plutarch and Livy, 
and carried about, dressed in the garb of a Paris fish- 
wife, a red cotton night-cap on her head, by a tattered, 
filthy, drunken, blood-stained crew of sansculottes, 
nay, worse, rolled along on a triumphal car by an 
assembly of lawyers and doctors and ex-priests and 
journalists when liberty, which had been to him 
antique and aristocratic, became modern and demo- 
cratic ; when the whole of France had turned into a 
blood-reeking and streaming temple of this Moloch 
goddess, then a sort of moral abscess, long growing 
unnoticed, seemed to burst within Alfieri's soul, and 
a process of slow moral blood-poisoning to begin. 

The Reign of Terror came to an end, the reaction of 
Thermidor set in ; but this was nothing to Alfieri, for, 
whereas the unspeakable profanation of what was his 
own personal and quasi-private property, liberty, had 



THE MISOGALLO. 181 

hitherto been limited to France, it now spread, a 
frightful invading abomination, with the armies of the 
Directory all over the world ; nay, to Italy itself. 

It was as an expression, an eternal, immortal ex- 
pression, the severest conceivable retribution, Alfieri 
sincerely thought, of this rage, all the stronger as there 
entered into it the petty personal vanity as well as 
the noble abstract feeling of the man it was as an ex- 
pression of this gallophobia that Alfieri composed his 
famous but little-read Misogallo. This collection of 
prose arguments and vituperations and versified epi- 
grams, all larded and loaded with quotations from all 
the Latin and Greek authors whom Alfieri was busy 
spelling out, does certainly contain many things which, 
old as they are, strike even us with the force of living 
contempt and indignation. Nay, even including its 
most stupid and dullest violent parts, we can sympa- 
thise with its bitterness and violence, when we think 
of the frightful deeds of blood which, talking heroi- 
cally of justice and liberty, France had been com- 
mitting ; of the miserable series of petty rapines and 
extortions which, talking patronisingly of the Greeks 
and Romans, the French nation was practising upon 
the Italians whom it had come to liberate. That such 
feeling should be elicited was natural enough. But 
we feel, as we turn over the pages of the Misogallo, 
and collate with its epigrams a certain passage in 
Alfieri's memoirs and letters, that when we meet it 
in this particular man, in this hard, savage, narrow, 
pedantic doctrinaire, whose very magnanimity is vanity 
and egotism, we can no longer sympathise with the 
hatred of the French, which in juster and more modest 
men, as for instance Carlo Botta, invariably elicits our 
sympathy. Much as we dislike the republican French 



182 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

who descended into Italy, the Misogallo makes us like 
Alfieri even less. Whether this revolution, despite the 
oceans of blood which it shed, might not be bringing 
a great and lasting benefit to mankind by sleeping 
away the hundred and one obstacles which impeded 
social progress ; whether this French invasion, despite 
the money which it extorted, the statues and pictures 
which it stole, the miserable high-flown lies which it 
told, might not be doing Italy a great service in accus- 
toming it to modern institutions, in training it to war- 
fare, in ridding it of a brood of inept little tyrants : 
such questions did not occur to Alfieri, for whom 
liberty meant everything, progress and improvement 
nothing. As the century drew to a close, and the 
futility of so many vaunted reforms, the hollowness of 
so many promises, became apparent to the Italians 
with the shameful treaty which gave Venice, liberated 
of her oligarchy, to Austria, all the nobler men of 
the day, Pindemonti, Botta, Foscolo, and the crowds of 
nameless patriotic youths who filled the universities, 
were seized by a terrible soul-sickness; everything 
seemed to have given way, each course was as bad as 
the other, and Italy seemed destined to servitude and 
indignity, whether under her new masters the French, 
or under her old masters the Austrians and Bourbons 
and priests. But the feelings of Alfieri were not of 
this kind ; he was not torn by patriotism ; he was 
simply pushed into sympathy with the tyrannies which 
he had so hated by the intolerable pain of finding that 
the liberty which he had preached was being propagan- 
dised by the nation and the class of society which he 
detested most. 

Such Alfieri appears to me, and such I think he 
must appear to everyone who conscientiously studies 



THE M1SOGALLO. 183 

the extraordinary manner in which this apostle ol 
liberty came to preach in favour of despotism. But in 
his own eyes, and in the eyes of the Countess of Albany, 
Alfieri doubtless found abundant arguments to prove 
himself perfectly logical and magnanimous. This 
French Revolution was merely a revolt of slaves ; and 
what tyranny could be more odious than the tyranny 
of those whom nature had fitted only for slavery ? 
What are the French ? " The French," answers one 
of the epigrams of the Misogallo, " have always been 
puppets; formerly puppets in powder, now stinking 
and blood-stained puppets/' " We indeed are slaves," 
says another epigram, "but at least indignant slaves" 
(a statement which the whole history of Italy in the 
nineties goes to disprove) ; " not, as you Gauls always 
have been and always will be, slaves applauding power 
whatever it be." The nasal and guttural pronuncia- 
tion of the French language, the bare existence of such 
a word as quatrain, is enough to prove to Alfieri that 
the French can never know true liberty. Alfieri, who 
had looked the ancien regime more than once in the 
face, actually persuaded himself that, as he writes, 
" the frightful French mob robbed and slaughtered the 
upper classes because those upper classes had always 
treated it too kindly. Alfieri actually got to believe 
these things. He would, had power been put in his 
hands, have headed a counter revolution and extermi- 
nated as many people again as the republicans had 
exterminated. Power not being in his hands, he 
hastened to do what seemed to him a vital matter to 
all Europe, a sort of fatal thrust to France; he 
solemnly recanted all his former writings in favour of 
revolutions and republics. He, who had witnessed the 
taking of the Bastille and sung it in an ode, delibe- 



184 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

rately wrote as follows : " The famous day of the 14th 
July 1789 crowned the victorious iniquity (of the 
people). Not understanding at that time the nature 
of these slaves, I dishonoured my pen by writing an 
ode on the taking of the Bastille." Surely, if we 
admit that to see liberty degraded by its association 
with revolutionary horrors must have been unbear- 
ably bitter to the nobler portion of Alfieri's nature, 
we must admit that to see Alfieri himself, Alfieri so 
proud of his former ferocious love of liberty, turned 
into a mere ranting renegade, is an unendurable 
spectacle also- we should like to wash our hands of 
him as he tried to wash his hands of the Revolution. 

All this political atrabiliousness did not improve 
Alfieri's temper ; and could not have made it easier or 
more agreeable to live with him. The Countess of 
Albany naturally disliked the Revolution and the 
French, after all the grief and inconvenience which 
she owed them ; she naturally, also, disliked everything 
that Alfieri disliked. Still, I cannot help fancying 
that this woman, far more intellectual than passionate, 
and growing more indifferent, more easy-going, more 
half-optimistically, half-cynically charitable towards 
the world with every year that saw her grow fat, and 
plain, and dowdy, I cannot help fancying that the 
Countess of Albany must have got to listen to Alfieri's 
misogallic furies much as she might have listened to 
his groans had he been afflicted with gout or the tooth- 
ache, sympathising with the pain, but just a little 
weary of its expression. She must also, at times, 
have compared the little company of select provincial 
notabilities, illustrious people never known beyond 
their town and their lifetime, which she collected 
about herself and Alfieri in the house by the Arno, 



THE MISOGALLO. 185 

with the brilliant society which had assembled in her 
hotel in Paris. To her, who was, after all, not Italian, 
but French by education and temper, and who had 
been steeped anew in French ideas and habits, this 
small fry of Italian literature, professional and pedan- 
tic, able to discuss and (alas ! but too able) to hold 
forth, but absolutely unable to talk, to causer in the 
French sense, must have become rather oppressive. 
She and Alfieri were both growing elderly, and the 
hearth by which they were seated, alone, childless, 
with nothing but the ghost of their former passion, 
the ghost of their former ideal, to keep them company, 
was on the whole very bleak and cheerless. Alfieri, 
working off his over-excitement in a system of tremen- 
dous self-education, sitting for the greater part of the 
day poring over Latin and Greek and Hebrew gram- 
mars, and exercises and annotated editions, till he was 
so exhausted that he could scarcely digest his dinner ; 
the Countess killing the endless days reading new 
books of philosophy, of poetry, of fiction, anything 
and everything that came to hand, writing piles and 
piles of letters to every person of her acquaintance ; 
this double existence of bored and overworked dreari- 
ness, was this the equivalent of marriage? was this 
the realisation of ideal love ? 

But there were things to confirm Mme. d' Albany 
in that easy-going indifferentism which replaced pas- 
sion and suffering in this fat, kindly, intellectual 
woman of forty; things which, as they might have 
made other women weep, probably made this woman 
do what in its way was just as sad smile. 

Alfieri had always had what, to us, may seem very 
strange notions on the subject of love, but which were 
not strange when we consider the times and nation 



186 THE COUNTESS vtf ALBANY. 

in general, and the man in particular. After the 
various love manias which preceded his meeting with 
Mme. d'Albany, he had determined, as he tells us, 
to save his peace of mind and dignity by refusing to 
fall in love with women of respectable position. The 
Countess of Albany, by enchaining him in the bonds 
of what he called " worthy love," had saved him from 
any chance of fresh follies with these alarming " vir- 
tuous women." But follies with women of less respect- 
able position and less obvious virtue appear to have 
presented no fear of degradation to Alfieri's mind. 
And now, late on in the nineties, when Mme. 
d 3 Albany was rapidly growing plain and stout and 
elderly, and he was getting into the systematic habit of 
regarding her less in her reality than in the ideal 
image which he had arranged in his mind ; now, when 
he was writing the autobiography where the Countess 
figured as his Beatrice, and when he was composing the 
Latin epitaphs which were to unite his tomb with that 
of the woman " a Victorio Alferio, ultra resomnia 
dilecta," just at this time Alfieri appears to have 
returned to those flirtations with women neither 
respectable nor virtuous which seemed to him so 
morally safe to indulge in. A very strange note, pre- 
served at Siena, to a " Nina padrona mia dilettissima/' 
shows that the memory of Gori and the friendship 
of Gori's friends were not the only things which 
attracted him ever and anon from Florence to Siena. 
A collection of wretched bouts-rimes and burlesque 
doggrel, written at Florence in a house which Mme. 
d'Albany could not enter, and in the company of 
women whom Mme. d'Albany could not receive, and 
among which is a sonnet in which Alfieri explains his 
condescension in joining in these poetical exercises 



THE MISOGALLO. 187 

of the demi-monde by an allusion to Hercules and 
Omphale, shows that Alfieri frequented in Florence 
other society besides that which crowded round his 
lady in Casa Gianfigliazzi. 

Mme. d' Albany was far too shrewd and far too worldly 
not to see all this ; and Alfieri was far too open and 
cynical to attempt to hide it. Mme. d' Albany, having 
her praises and his love read to her in innumerable 
sonnets, in the autobiography and in the epitaphs, 
probably merely smiled; she was a woman of the 
eighteenth century, a foreigner, an easy-going woman, 
and had learned to consider such escapades as these 
as an inevitable part of matrimony or quasi-matrimony. 
But, for all her worldly philosophy, did she never feel 
a vague craving, a void, as she sat in that big empty 
house reading her books while Alfieri was studying his 
Greek, a vague desire to have what consoles other 
women for coldness or infidelity, a son or a daughter, 
a normal object of devotion, something besides Alfieri, 
and which she could love whether deserving or not ; 
something besides Alfieri's glory, in which she could 
take an interest whether other people did or did not 
agree ? Such a connection as hers with Alfieri may 
have had an attraction of romance, of poetry, con- 
nected with its very illegitimacy, its very negation of 
normal domestic life, as long as both she and Alfieri 
were young and passionately in love ; but where was 
the romance, the poetry now, and where was the hum- 
drum married woman's happiness, at whose expense 
that romance, that poetry, had been bought? 

Mme. d' Albany, if I may judge by the enormous 
piles of her letters which I have myself seen, and by 
the report of my friend Signer Mario Pratesi, who 
has examined another huge collection for my benefit, 



188 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

was getting to make herself a sort of half- vegetating 
intellectual life, reading so many hours a day, writing 
letters so many more hours ; taking the quite unen- 
thusiastic, business-like interest in literature and 
politics of a woman whose life is very empty, and, it 
seems to me, from the tone of her letters, growing 
daily more indifferent to life, more desultory, 
more cynical, more misanthropic and tittle-tattling. 
And Alfieri, meanwhile, was growing more unsociable, 
more misanthropic, more violent in temper, hanging 
a printed card stating that he wished no visits (one 
such is preserved in the library at Florence) in the 
hall, pursuing and flogging street-boys because they 
splashed his stockings by playing in the puddles; 
insulting Ginguene and General Miollis when they 
attempted to be civil ; groaning over the victories of 
the French, rejoicing over the brutal massacres by the 
priest-hounded Tuscan populace; going to Florence 
(when they were spending the summer in a villa) for 
the pleasure of seeing the Austrian troops enter, and 
of witnessing (as Gino Capponi records) the French 
prisoners or Frenchly- inclined Florentines being pil- 
loried and tortured by the anti-revolutionary mob. 
Besides such demonstrations of an unamiable disposi 
tion as these, working with the fury of an alchemist, 
and, perhaps, taking a holiday at that house where 
the doggrel verses were written. The Countess of 
Albany, who had been so horribly unhappy with her 
legitimate husband, must have been rather dreary of 
soul with her world-authorised lover. 

It was at this moment, as she sat, an idle, desultory, 
neither happy nor unhappy woman, rapidly growing 
old, watching the century draw to a close amid chaos 
and misery, it was at this moment that an eccentric 



THE MISOGALLO. 189 

English prelate, Lord Bristol, Bishop of Derry, intro- 
duced at the house on the Lung-Arno a friend of his, 
a French painter, a former pupil of David, and who 
had won the Prix de Rome, by name Fra^ois Xavier 
Fabre. M. Fabre was French, but he was a royalist ; 
he hated the Revolution; he had settled in Italy; 
and, in consideration of this, he was tolerated by 
Alfieri. To Mme. d' Albany, on the other hand, the 
fact of Fabre being French must secretly have been a 
great recommendation. French in language, habits, 
mode of thought, French in heart, cut off, as it seemed, 
for ever from Paris and Parisian society, cooped up 
among this pedantic small fry of Florentines, listen- 
ing all day to Alh'eri's tirades against the French 
nation, the French reforms, the French philosophy, 
the French language, the French everything, the poor 
woman must have heartily enjoyed an hour's chat in 
good French with a real Frenchman, a Frenchman 
who, for all Alfieri might say, was really French ; she 
must have enjoyed talking about his work, his pictures, 
about everything and anything that was not Alfieri's 
Greek, or Alfieri's Hebrew, or Alfieri's tragedies, or 
comedies or satires. Alfieri was a great genius and a 
great man ; and she loved, or imagined she loved, 
Alfieri like her very soul. But still still, it was 
somehow a relief when young Fabre, with his regular 
south-of-France face, his rather mocking and cynical 
French expression, his easy French talk, came to give her 
a painting lesson while Alfieri was pacing up and down 
translating Homer and Pindar with the help of a 
lexicon. 



190 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY, 



CHAPTER XVII. 

CASA GIANFIGLIAZZI. 

THUS things jogged on. Occasionally a grand per- 
formance of one of Alfieri's plays enlivened the house 
on the Lung-Arno. A room was filled with chairs, 
arranged with curtains, and a select company invited 
to see the poet (for by this respectful title he appears 
always to have been mentioned) play Saul or Creon, 
to his own admiration, but apparently less so to that 
of his guests. Occasionally, also, Alfieri and Mme. 
d Albany would go for a few days to Siena to enjoy the 
conversation of a little knot of friends of their dead 
friend Gori; a certain Cavaliere Bianchi, a certain 
Canon Ansano Luti, a certain Alessandro Cerretani, 
and one or two others, who met in the house of a 
charming and intellectual woman, Teresa Regoli, 
daughter of a Sienese shopkeeper, married to another 
shopkeeper, called Mocenni, and who was one of Mme. 
d' Albany's most intimate friends. Occasionally, also, 
some of these would come for a jaunt to Florence, 
when Alfieri and the Countess moved heaven and earth 
(recollecting their own aversion to husbands) that the 
Grumbler, as Signor Mocenni was familiarly called, 



CASA GIANFIGLIAZZL 191 

should be left behind, and la chere Therese come 
accompanied (in characteristic Italian, eighteenth- 
century fashion) only by her children and by her 
cavaliere servente, Mario Bianchi. These were the 
small excitements in this curious double life of more 
than married routine: Alfieri, who, as he was getting 
old and weak in health, was growing only the more 
furiously active and rigidly disciplinarian, had deter- 
mined to learn Greek, to read all the great Greek 
authors ; and worked away with terrific ardour at this 
school-boy work, crowning his efforts with a self- 
constituted Order of Homer, of which he himself was 
the sole founder and sole member. He was, also, 
having finally despatched the sacramental number of 
tragedies, working at an equally sacramental number 
of satires and comedies, absolutely unconscious of his 
complete deficiency in both these styles, and persuaded 
that he owed it to his nation to set them on the right 
road in comedy and satire, as he had set them on the 
right road in tragedy. 

A ridiculous man ! Not so. I have spoken many 
hard words against Alfieri ; and I repeat that he seems 
to me to have often fallen short, betrayed by his 
century, his vanity, his narrowness and hardness of 
temper, even of the ideal which he had set up for 
himself. But I would not have it supposed that I do 
not see the greatness of that ideal, and the nobleness 
of the reality out of which it arose. That Alfieri, a 
strange mixture of the passionate man of spontaneous 
action, and of the self -manipulating, idealising poseur, 
should have fallen short of his own ideals, is perhaps 
the one pathetic circumstance of his life ; the one dash 
of suffering and failure which makes this heroic man a 
hero. Alfieri did not probably suspect wherein he fell 



192 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

short of his own ideal; he did not, could not see that 
his faults were narrowness of nature, and incomplete- 
ness, meanness of conception, for, if he had, he would 
have ceased to be narrow and ceased to be mean. But 
Alfieri knew that there was something very wrong 
about himself, he felt a deficiency, a jar in his own 
soul ; he felt, as he describes in the famous sonnet at 
the back of Fabre's portrait of him, that he did not 
know whether he was noble or base, whether he was 
Achilles or Thersites. 

" Uom, set tu grande o vile ? Mori, il saprai" 
(" Man, art thou noble or base ? Die, and thou shalt 
know it.") Thus wrote Alfieri, making, as usual, fame 
the arbiter of his worth ; and showing, even in the 
moment of seeking for truth about himself, how utterly 
and hopelessly impossible it was for him to feel it. 
Mean and great ; both, I think, at once. But of the 
meanness, the narrowness of nature, the want of 
resonance of fibre, the insufficiency of moral vitality in 
so many things; of Alfieri's vanity, intolerance, in- 
justice, indifference, hardness; of all these peculiarities 
which make the real man repulsive, the ideal man 
unattractive, to us, I have said more than enough, 
and when we have said all this, Alfieri still remains, 
for all his vanity, selfishness, meanness, narrow- 
mindedness, a man of grander proportions, of finer 
materials, nay, even of nobler moral shape, than the 
vast majority of men superior to him in all these 
points. Let us look at him in those last decaying 
years, at those studies which have seemed to us 
absurd : self-important, pedantic, almost monomaniac ; 
or brooding over those feelings which were, doubtless, 
selfish, morbid ; let us look at him, for, despite all his 
faults, he is fine. Fine in indomitable energy, in 



CA8A GIANFIGLIAZZL 193 

irrepressible passion. Alfieri was fifty; he was tor- 
mented by gout ; his health was rapidly sinking ; but 
the sense of weakness only made him more resolute to 
finish the work which (however mistakenly) he thought 
it his duty to leave completed ; more determined that, 
having lived for so many years a dunce, he would go 
down to the grave cleansed of the stain of ignorance, 
having read and appreciated as much of the great 
writers of antiquity as any man who had had a well- 
trained youth, a studious manhood. Soon after his 
great illness (which, I believe, changed him so much 
for the worse by hastening premature old age) at 
Colmar, he had written to his friends at Siena that he 
had very nearly been made a fool of by Death; but 
that, having escaped, he intended, by hurrying his work, 
to make a fool of Death instead. And in 1801 he 
wrote in his memorandum-book : " Health giving way 
year by year; whence, hurrying to finish my six 
comedies, I make it decidedly worse/' 

oon after, as Mme. d' Albany later informed his 
friend Caluso, Alfieri, finding that his digestion had 
become so bad as to produce inability to work after 
meals, began systematically to diminish his already 
extremely sober allowance of food ; while, at the same 
time, he did not diminish the exercise, walking, riding, 
and driving, which he found necessary to keep himself 
in spirits. Knowing that death could not be far 
ahead, and accustomed since his youth to think that 
his life ought not to extend over sixty years, Alfieri 
was calmly and deliberately walking to meet Death. 

Calmly and deliberately; but not heartlessly. 
Engrossed in his studies, devoted to his own glory as he 
was, he was still full of a kind of mental passion for 
Mme. d'Albany. He was unfaithful to her for the 

13 



194 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

sake of low women, he was neglectful of her for the 
sake of his work ; he did not, perhaps, receive much 
pleasure from this stout, plain, prosaic lady (like one 
of Rubens's women grown old, as Lamartine later 
described her) whom he left to her letter- writing, her 
reading of Kant, of La Harpe, of Shakespeare, of 
Lessing ; to her painting lessons, and long discussions 
on art with Monsieur Fabre. The woman whose pre- 
sence, no longer exciting, was doubtless a matter of 
indifference to him. But, nevertheless, it seems to me 
probable that Alfieri never wrote more completely 
from his heart than when, composing the epitaph of 
the Countess, he said of Mme. d' Albany that she had 
been loved by him more than anything on earth, and 
held almost as a mortal divinity. " A Victorio Alf erio 
. . . ultra res omnes dilecta, et quasi mortale numen ab 
ipso constanter habita et observata." For a thought 
begins about the year 1796 to recur throughout 
Alfieri's letters and sonnets, and whenever he mentions 
the Countess in his autobiography; a thought too 
terrible not to be genuine : he or his beloved must die 
first ; one or the other must have the horror of remain- 
ing alone, widowed of all interest on earth. How 
constantly this idea haunted him, and with what pain- 
ful vividness, is apparent from a letter which I shall 
translate almost in extenso ; as, together with those 
few words which I have quoted about Gori's death, it 
shows the passionate tenderness that was hidden, like 
some aromatic herb beneath the Alpine snow, under 
the harsh exterior of Alfieri. 

The letter is to Mme. Teresa Mocenni at Siena, and 
relates to the death of Mario Bianchi, who had long 
been her devoted cavaliere servente. " Your letter," 
\vrites Alfieri, " breaks my heart. I feel the com- 



CA8A GIANFIGLIAZZI. 195 

plete horror of a situation which it gives me the 
shivers merely to think may be my situation one day or 
other ; and oh ! how much worse would it not be for 
me, living alone, isolated from everyone, closed up in 
myself. O God ! I hope I may not be the survivor, 
and yet how can I wish that my better self (la parte 
migliore di me stessd) should endure a situation which 
I myself could never have the courage to endure? 
These are frightful things. I think about them very 
often, and sometimes I write some bad rhymes about 
them to ease my mind ; but I never can get accus- 
tomed either to the thought of remaining alone, nor 
to that of leaving my lady." " Some opinions," he 
goes on and this hankering after Christianity on the 
part of a man who had lived in eighteenth-century 
disbelief seems to bear out what Mme. d' Albany told 
the late Gino Capponi, that had Alfieri lived much longer 
he would have died telling his rosary, " some opinions 
are more useful and give more satisfaction than others 
to a well-constituted heart. Thus, it does our affec- 
tion much more good to believe that our Mario 
(Bianchi) is united to Candido (another dead friend) 
and to Gori, that they are talking and thinking about 
us, and that we shall meet them all some day, than to 
believe that they are all of them reduced to a handful 
of ashes. If such a belief as the first is repugnant to 
physics and to mathematical evidence, it is not, there- 
fore, to be despised. The principal advantage and 
honour of mankind is that it can feel, and science 
teaches us how not to feel. Long live, therefore, 
ignorance and poetry, and let us accept the imaginary 
as the true. Man subsists upon love ; love makes him 
a god : for I call God an intensely felt love, and I call 
dogs, or French, which comes to the same, the frozen 

13 * 



196 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

philosophises who are moved only by the fact that 
two and two make four." 

Alfieri's secret desire that he might not survive his 
beloved was fulfilled sooner, perhaps, than he expected. 
The eccentric figure, the tall, gaunt man, thin and 
pale as a ghost, with flying red hair and flying scarlet 
cloak, driving the well-known phaeton, or sauntering 
moodily *ong the Lung Arno and through the Boboli 
gardens, was soon to be seen no more. As the year 
1803 wore on he felt himself hard pressed by the gout; 
he ate less and less, he took an enormous amount of 
foot exercise; he worked madly at his memoirs, his 
comedies, his translations, he felt almost constantly 
fatigued and depressed. On the 3rd October 1803, 
aitcf his usual morning's work, he went out for a 
drive in his phaeton; but a strange and excessive 
cold, despite the still summer weather, forced him to 
alight and to try and warm himself by walking. Walk- 
ing brought on violent internal pains, and he returned 
home with the fever on him. The next day he rose 
and dressed, but he was unable to eat or work, and fell 
into a long drowse ; the next day after that he again 
tried to take a walk, but returned with frightful 
pains. He refused to go to bed except at night, and 
tore off the mustard plaisters which the doctors had 
placed on his feet, lest the blisters should prevent his 
walking; dying, he would still not be a sick man 
The night of the 8th he was unable to sleep, and talked 
a great deal to the Countess, seated by his bedside, 
about his work, and repeated part of Hesiod in Greek 
to her. Accustomed for months to the idea of 
death, he does not seem to have guessed that it was 
near at hand. But the news that he was dying spread 
through Florence. A Piedmontese lady strangely 



CA8A GIANFIGLIAZZI. 197 

enough a niece of that Marchesa de Prie opposite to 
whose windows Alfieri had renewed the device of 
Ulysses and the sirens by being tied to a chair 
hastened to a learned and eccentric priest, a Padre 
Canovai, entreating him to run and offer the dying 
poet the consolations of religion. Canovai, knowing 
that both Alfieri and Mme. d' Albany were unbelievers, 
stoutly refused ; but later on, seized with remorse, he 
hurried to the house on the Lung Arno. Admitted 
into the sick room, he came just in time to see Alfieri, 
who had got up during a momentary absence of Mme. 
d' Albany, rise from his arm-chair, lean against his 
bed, and, without agony or effort, unconscious "like 
a bird," says the Countess, give up the ghost. It was 
between nine and ten of the morning of the 9th 
October 1803. Vittorio Alfieri was in his fifty-fifth 
year. 

The Abate di Caluso, the greatest friend he had, 
after Gori, was summoned from Turin to console 
the Countess and put all papers in order. Alfieri's 
will, made out in 1799, left all his books and MSS., 
and whatever small property he possessed, to the 
Countess Louise d' Albany, leaving her to dispose of 
them entirely according to her good pleasure. Among 
these papers was found a short letter, undated, ad- 
dressed "To the friend I have left behind, Tommaso 
di Caluso, at Turin," and which ran as follows : 

" As I may any day give way beneath the very serious 
malady which is consuming me, I have thought it 
wise to prepare these few lines in order that they may 
be given to you as a proof that you have always, to 
my last moment, been present to my mind and very 
dear to my heart. The person whom above everything 
in the world I have most respected and loved, may 



198 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

some day tell you all the circumstances of my illness. 
I supplicate and conjure you to do your best to see 
and console her, and to concert with her the various 
measures which I have begged her to carry out with 
regard to my writings. 

" I will not give you more pain, at present, by saying 
any more. I have known in you one of the most 
rare men in every respect. I die loving and esteem- 
ing you, and valuing myself for your friendship if I 
have deserved it. Farewell, farewell." 



199 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

EABRE. 

" HAPPINESS has disappeared out of the world for me," 
wrote Mrae. d' Albany, in January 1804, to her old 
friend Canon Luti, at Siena. " I take interest in 
nothing ; the world might be completely upset without 
my noticing it. I read a little, and reading is the 
only thing which gives me any courage, a merely 
artificial courage; for when I return to my own 
thoughts and think of all that I have lost, I burst into 
tears and call Death to my assistance, but Death will 
not come. O God ! what a misfortune to lose a 
person whom one adores and venerates at the same 
time. I think that if I still had Therese (Mme. 
Mocenni) it would be some consolation ; but there is 
no consolation for me. I have the strength to hide 
my feelings before the world, for no one could con- 
ceive my misfortune who has not felt it. A twenty- 
six years' friendship with so perfect a being, and then 
to see him taken away from me at the very age when I 
required him most." 

Alfieri a perfect being a being adored and 
venerated by Mme. d' Albany ! One cannot help, in 
reading these words, smiling sadly at the strange magic 



200 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

by which Death metamorphoses those whom he has 
taken in the eyes of the survivors ; at the 'strange 
potions by means of which he makes love spring up in 
the hearts where it has ceased to exist, saving us from 
hypocrisy by making us really feel what is false to our 
nature, enabling us to lie to ourselves instead of lying 
to others. The Countess of Albany's grief was cer- 
tainly most sincere ; long after all direct references to 
Alfieri have ceased in her correspondence (I am speak- 
ing principally of that with her intimates at Siena), 
there reigns throughout her letters a depression, an 
indifference to everything, which shows that the world 
had indeed become empty in her eyes. But though 
the grief was sincere, I greatly question whether the 
love was so. Alfieri had become, in his later years, 
the incarnation of dreary violence ; he could not have 
been much to anyone's feelings ; and Mme. d' Albany's 
engrossment in her readings, in political news and 
town gossip, even with her most intimate corre- 
spondents, shows that Alfieri played but a very small 
part in her colourless life. So small a part, that one 
may say, without fear of injustice, that Mme. d' Albany 
had pretty well ceased to love him at all ; for had she 
loved him, would she have been as indifferent, as 
serene as she appears in all her letters, while the man 
she loved was killing himself as certainly as if he were 
taking daily doses of a slow poison ? Love is vigilant, 
love is full of fears, and Mme. d'Albany was so little 
vigilant, so little troubled by fears, that when this 
visibly dying man, this man who had prepared his 
epitaph, who had settled all his literary affairs, who 
had written the farewell letter to his friend, actually 
died, she would seem to have been thunder-stricken 
not merely by grief, but by amazement. 



FABttE. 201 

The Countess of Albany was not a selfish woman ; 
she had, apparently without complaining, sacrificed 
her social tastes, made herself an old woman before 
her time, in acquiescence to Alfieri's misanthropic and 
routinist self-engrossment; she had been satisfied, or 
thought herself satisfied, with the cold, ceremonious 
adoration of a man who divided his time between his 
studies, his horses, and his intrigues with other women; 
but unselfish natures are often unselfish from their very 
thinness and coldness. Alfieri, heaven knows, had 
been selfish and self -engrossed ; but, perhaps because 
he was selfish and self- engrossed, because he was 
always listening to his own ideas, and nursing his own 
feelings, Alfieri had been passionate and loving ; and, 
as we have seen, while he seemed growing daily more 
fossilised, while he was at once engrossed with his own 
schemes of literary glory, and indifferently amusing 
himself by infidelities to his lady, he was then, even 
then, constantly haunted by the thought that, unless 
he himself were left behind in the terrors of widow- 
hood, the Countess of Albany would have to suffer those 
pangs which he felt that he himself could never 
endure. 

Alfieri saw the Countess through the medium of his 
own character, and he proved mistaken. Perhaps the 
most terrible ironical retribution which could have 
fallen upon his strange egomania, would have been, 
had such a thing been possible, the revelation of how 
gratuitous had been that terrible vision of Mme. 
d' Albany's life after his death ; the revelation of how 
little difference, after the first great grief, his loss had 
made in her life ; the revelation that, unnoticed, un- 
consciously, a successor had been prepared for him. 

In a very melancholy letter, dated May 31, 1804, in 



202 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

which Mme. cP Albany expatiates to her friend Canon 
Luti upon the uselessness of her life, and her desire to 
end it, I find this unobtrusive little sentence : " Fabre 
desires his compliments to you. He has been a great 
resource to me in everything/' 

This sentence, I think, explains what to the enemies 
of Mme. d' Albany has been a delightful scandal, and 
to her admirers a melancholy mystery; explains, 
reduces to mere very simple, conceivable, neither com- 
mendable nor shameful every-day prose, the fact that 
little by little the place left vacant by Alfieri was filled 
by another man. Italian writers, inheriting from 
Giordani, even from Foscolo, a certain animosity 
against a woman who, as soon as Alfieri was dead, 
became once more what nature had made her, half 
French, with a great preference for French and French 
things Italian writers, I say, have tried to turn the 
Fabre episode into something extremely disgraceful to 
Mme. d' Albany. Massimo d'Azeglio, partly out o 
hatred to the Countess, who was rather severe and 
acrimonious upon his youthful free-and-easiness, partly 
out of a desire to amuse his readers, has introduced 
into his autobiography an anecdote told him by 
Mme. de Prie (the niece of Alfieri's famous Turin 
mistress, and the lady who took it upon herself to send 
him a priest without consulting the Countess), to the 
effect that she had watched Fabre making eyes, kissing 
his fingers, and generally exchanging signals with 
Mme. d'Albany at a party where Alfieri was present. 
Let those who are amused by this piece of gossip 
believe it implicitly ; it does not appear to me either 
amusing, or credible, or creditable to the man who 
retailed it. The Florentine society of the early years 
of this century was, if we may trust the keen observa- 



FAB BE. 203 

tion of Stendhal, almost as naively and openly profli- 
gate as that of a South Sea Island village ; and such a 
society, which could talk of the things and in the way 
which it did, which could permit certain poetical com- 
positions (found highly characteristic by Stendhal) to 
be publicly performed before the ladies and gentlemen 
celebrated therein, such a society naturally enjoyed 
and believed a story like that retailed by d'Azeglio. 
But surely we may put it behind us, we who are not 
Florentines of the year 1800, and who can actually 
conceive that a woman who had exchanged irreproach- 
able submission to a drunken husband, for legally 
unsanctioned, but open and faithful attachment for a 
man like Alfieri, might at the age of fifty take a liking 
to a man of thirty-five without that liking requiring a 
disgusting explanation. The clean explanation seems 
so much simpler and more consonant. Fabre had 
become an intimate of the house during Alfieri's last 
years. He was French, he was a painter ; two high 
recommendations to Mme. d' Albany. He was, if we 
may trust Paul Louis Courier, who made him the hero 
of a famous imaginary dialogue, clever with a peculiarly 
French sort of cleverness ; he gave the Countess lessons 
in painting while Alfieri was poring over his work. The 
sadden death of Alfieri would bring Fabre into still 
closer relations with Mme. d' Albany, as a friend of the 
deceased, the brother of his physician, and the virtual 
fellow-countryman of the Countess; he would naturally 
be called upon to help in a hundred and one melan- 
choly arrangements : he received visitors, answered 
letters, gave orders; he probably laid Alfieri in his 
coffin. When all the bustle incident upon death had 
subsided, Fabre would remain Mme. d ; Albany's most 
constant visitor, He, who had seen Alfieri at the very 



204 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

last, might be admitted when the door was closed to 
all others; he could help to sort the dead man's 
papers; he could, in his artistic capacity, discuss the 
plans for Alfieri's monument, write to Canova, corre- 
spond with the dignitaries of Santa Croce, and so forth; 
come in contact with the Countess in those manifold 
pieces of business, in those long conversations, which 
seem, for a time, to keep the dead one still in the 
company of the living. There is nothing difficult to 
understand or shameful to relate in all this ; and the 
friends of the Countess, delicate-minded women like 
Mme. de Souza, puritanic-minded men like Sismondi, 
misanthropic or scoffing people like Foscolo or Paul 
Louis Courier, found nothing at which to take 
umbrage, nothing to rage or laugh at, in this long 
intimacy between a woman over fifty and a man 
many years her junior; a man who lived at the 
other end of Florence, who (if I may trust traditions 
yet alive) was supposed to be attached to a woman well 
known to Mme. d' Albany ; nor have we, I think, any 
right to be less charitable than they. 

Louise d' Albany, careless, like most women of her 
day, of social institutions, and particularly hostile to 
marriage, was certainly not an impure woman; her 
whole life goes to prove this. But Louise d' Albany 
was an indifferent woman, and the extinction of all 
youthful passion and enthusiasm, the friction of a 
cynical world, made her daily more indifferent. She 
had been faithful to Alfieri, devotedly enduring one 
of the most unendurable of companions, loving and 
admiring him while he was still alive. But once the 
pressure of that strong personality removed, the image 
of Alfieri appears to have been obliterated little by 
little from the soft wax of her character. She con- 



FABRE. 205 

tinned, nay instituted, a sort of cultus of Alfieri; 
became, as his beloved, the priestess presiding over 
what had once been his house, and was now his temple. 
The house on the Lung Arno remained the Casa 
Alfieri ; the rooms which he had inhabited were kept 
carefully untouched ; his books and papers were 
elaborated and preserved as he had left them; his 
portraits were everywhere, and visitors, like Foscolo, 
Courier, Sismondi, and the young Lamartine, were 
expected to inquire respectfully into the legend 
of the divinity, to ask to see his relics, as the 
visitors of a shrine might be expected to enquire 
into the legend, to ask to see the relics, of some 
great saint. Mme. d' Albany conscientiously devoted a 
portion of her time to seeing that Alfieri' s works were 
properly published, and that Alfieri's tomb in Santa 
Croce was properly executed. She was, as I have said, 
the priestess, the divinely selected priestess, of the 
divinity. But at the same time Mme. d'Albany 
gradually settled down quite comfortably and happily 
without Alfieri. After the first great grief was ovef 
a sense of relief may have arisen, a sense that after 
all " 'tis an ill wind that blows no good " ; that if she 
had lost Alfieri she had gained a degree of liberty, of 
independence, that she had acquired a possibility of 
being herself with all her tastes, the very existence 
of which she had forgotten while living under the 
shadow of that strange and disagreeable great man. 
A negative sense of compensation, of pleasure in the 
foreign society to which she could now devote herself; 
of satisfaction in the miniature copy of her former 
Parisian salon which she could arrange in her Floren- 
tine house ; of comfort in a gently bustling, uncon- 
cerned, cheerful old age ; negative feelings which, 



206 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

perhaps as a result of their very repression, seem 
little by little to have turned to a positive feeling, a 
positive aversion for the past which she refused to 
regret, a positive dislike to the memory of the man 
whom she could no longer love. Horrible things to 
say ; yet, I fear, true. A man such as Alfieri had per- 
mitted himself to become, admirable in many respects, 
but intolerant, hard, arrogant, selfish, self-engrossed, 
cannot really be loved ; he may be endured as a result 
of long habit, he may inflict his personality without 
effort upon another ; but in order that this be the case 
that other must be singularly apathetic, indifferent, 
malleable; and apathetic, indifferent, and malleable 
people, those who never resist the living indi- 
vidual, rarely remember the dead one. " She was," 
writes one of the most conscientious and respect- 
ful of men, the late Gino Capponi, " heavy in feature 
and form, and, if I may say so, her mind, like her 
body, was thick-set. . . Since several years she had 
ceased to love Alfieri." 

We cannot be indignant with her ; she had never 
pretended to be what she was not. A highly intellectual, 
literary mind, a pure temperament, a passive, rather 
characterless character, taking the impress of its sur- 
roundings; passionate when Alfieri was passionate, 
depressed when Alfieri was depressed ; cheerful when 
Alfieri's successors, Fabre and mankind and woman- 
kind in general, were cheerful. To be angry with 
such a woman would be ridiculous ; but, little as we 
may feel attached to the memory of Alfieri, we cannot 
help saying to ourselves, "Thank Heaven he never 
understood what she was; thank Heaven he never 
foresaw what she would be ! " 



207 



CHAPTER XIX. 

SALON OF THE COUNTESS. 

A SHADOWY being, nay, a shadow cast in the unmis- 
takable shape of another, so long as Alfieri was alive, 
the Countess of Albany seems to gain consistency 
and form, to become a substantive person, only 
after Alfieri's death. This woman, whom, in the last 
ten years, we have seen consorting almost exclusively 
with Italians, and spending the greater proportion of 
her days in solitary reading of Condillac, Lock, Kant, 
Mme. de Genlis, Lessing, Milton, everything and any- 
thing; whose letters, exclusively (as far as I know 
them) to Italians of the middle classes, are full of 
fury against everything that is French ; this woman, 
who has hitherto been a feeble replica of Alfieri, sud- 
denly turns into an extremely sociable, chatty woman 
of the world, and a woman of the world who is, to 
all intents and purposes, French. 

To be the rallying point of a very cosmopolitan, 
literary, but by no means unworldly society, seems 
suddenly to have become Mme. d'Albany's mission; 
and reading the letters copied from the Montpellier 
Archives, and published by M. Saint Ren6 Taillaudier, 



203 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

one wonders how this friend of Mme. de Stael, of Sis- 
mondi, of Mme. de Souza, this hostess of Moore, of 
Lamartine, of Lady Morgan, of every sort of French, 
English, German, Russian, or polyglot creature of 
distinction that travelled through Italy in the early 
part of this century, could ever have been the beloved 
of Alfieri, the misanthropic correspondent of a lot of 
Sienese professors, priests, and shop-keepers. 

The fact was that Mme. d' Albany could now 
become, so to speak, what she really was; or, at 
least, show herself to be such. Worldly wise and a 
trifle cynical she had always been ; in the midst of tha 
pages of literary review and political newspaper con- 
stituting her letters to Mme. Mocenni, Canon Luti 
and Alessandro Cerretani of Siena, there is a good 
deal of mere personal gossip, stories of married 
women's lovers, married men's mistresses, domestic 
bickerings, &c., interspersed with very plain-spoken 
and (according to our ideas) slightly demoralised 
moralisings. It is evident that this was not a woman 
to shrink from the reality of things, to take the world 
in disgust, to expect too much of her acquaintances. 
On the other hand these letters of the Alfieri period 
show Mme. d' Albany to have been decidedly a good- 
natured and friendly woman. She has the gift of 
getting people to trust her with their little annoy- 
ances and grievances ; she is constantly administering 
sympathy to Mme. Mocenni for the tiresomeness 
and stupidity and harshness of her husband ; she keeps 
up a long correspondence, recommending books, cor- 
recting French exercises, exhorting to study and to 
virtue (particularly to abstinence from gambling), 
encouraging, helping Mme. Mocenni's boy Vittorio. 
She is clearly a woman who enjoys hearing about other 



SALON OF TEE COUNTESS. 209 

folk's concerns, enjoys taking an interest in them, 
sympathising and, if possible, assisting them. 

These two qualities, a dose of cynical worldliness, 
sufficient to prevent all squeamishness and that coldness 
and harshness which springs from expecting people to 
be better than they are, and a dose of kindliness, help- 
fulness, pleasure in knowing the affairs and feelings 
and troubles of others ; these two qualities are, I should 
think, the essentials for a woman who would keep a 
salon in the old sense of the word, who would be the 
centre of a large but decidedly select society, the friend 
and correspondent of many and various people possessed 
of more genius or more character than herself. Such 
a woman, thanks to her easy-going knowledge of the 
world, and to her cordial curiosity and helpfulness, 
is the friend of the most hostile people ; and she is so 
completely satisfied with, and interested in, the par- 
ticular person with whom she is talking or to whom 
she is writing, that that particular person really believes 
himself or herself to be her chief friend, and over- 
looks the scores of other chief friends, viewed with 
exactly the same degree of interest, and treated with 
the same degree of cordiality all round. The world 
is apt to like such women, as such women like it, 
and to say of them that there must be an immense 
richness of character, an extraordinary power of bring- 
ing out the best qualities of every individual, in a 
woman who can drive such complicated teams of 
friends. But is it not more probable that the secret 
of such success is poverty of personality rather than 
richness ; and that so many people receive a share of 
friendship, of sympathy, of comprehension, because 
each receives only very little ; because the universal 
friend is too obtuse to mind anybody's faults, and too 



210 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

obtuse, also, to mind anybody's great virtues? In short, 
do not such women pay people merely in the paper 
money of attention, which can be multiplied at 
pleasure, rather than in the gold coin of sympathy, of 
which the supply is extremely small ? 

Be this as it may, Mme. d' Albany, after having 
been, in the earlier period of her life, essentially the 
woman who had one friend, who let the wax of her 
nature be stamped in one clear die, became, in the 
twenty years which separata the death of Alfieri from 
her own, pre-eminently the woman with many friends, 
a blurred personality in which we recognise traces of 
the mental effigy of many and various people. Mme. 
d' Albany was, therefore, in superficial sympathy with 
nearly everyone, and in deep antagonism with no one : 
she was the ideal of the woman who keeps a literary 
and political salon. At that time especially, when 
Italy was visited only by people of a certain social 
standing, society was carried on by a most complicated 
system of letters of introduction, and everyone of any 
note brought a letter to Mme. d' Albany. " La grande 
lanterns magique passe tout par votre salon,'' wrote 
Sismondi to the Countess; and the metaphor could 
not be truer. Writers and artists, beautiful women, 
diplomatists, journalists, pedants, men of science, 
women of fashion, Chateaubriand and Mme. de Stae'l, 
Lamartine and Paul Louis Courier, Mme. Recatnier 
and the Duchess of Devonshire, Canova and Foscolo, 
and Sismondi and Werner, the whole intellectual 
world of the Empire and the Restoration, all seem to 
be projected, figures now flitting past like shadows, now 
dwelling long, clear and coloured, upon the rather colour- 
less and patternless background of Mme. d' Albany's 
house j nay, of Mme. d' Albany herself. Such readers 



SALON OF THE COUNTESS. 211 

as may wish to have all these figures, remembered or 
forgotten, pointed out to them, called by their right 
names and titles, treated with the perfect impartiality of 
a valet de place expounding monuments, or of a chamber- 
lain announcing the guests at a levee, may refer to the 
two volumes of Baron Alfred von Reumont ; and such 
readers (and I hope they are more numerous) as may 
wish to examine some of the nobler and more inter- 
esting of these projected shadows of men and women, 
may read with pleasure and profit the letters of Sis- 
mondi, Bonstetten, Mme. de Souza and Mme. de 
Stae'l to the Countess of Albany, and the interesting 
pages of criticism in which they have been imbedded 
by M. St.-Rene Taillandier. With regard to myself, 
I feel that the time and space which have been given me 
in order to analyse or reconstruct the curious type and 
curious individual called Louise d' Albany are both 
nearly exhausted ; and I can therefore select to dwell 
upon, of these many magic-lantern men and women, 
of these friends of the Countess, only two, because 
they seem to me to exemplify my remarks about the 
friendship of a woman whose vocation it is to have 
many friends. The two are Sismondi and Foscolo. 

Two or three years after Alfieri's death, somewhere 
about the year 1806 or 1807, there was introduced to 
Mme. d' Albany a sort of half-Italian, half-French 
Swiss, a man young in years and singularly young 
with the peculiar earnestness, gravity, purity which 
belongs sometimes to youth in spirit, Jean 
Charles Leonard Simonde de Sismondi. Quietly 
idealistic, with one of those northern, eminently 
Protestant minds which imagine the principle of good 
to be more solemnly serious, the principle of evil more 
vainly negative, than is, alas, the case in this world 

14 * 



212 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

M. de Sismondi, full of the heroism of medieval Italy 
which he was studying with a view to his great work, 
came to the house of Alfieri, to the woman whom 
Alfieri had loved, as to things most reverend and almost 
sacred. The Countess of Albany received him very 
well ; and this good reception, the motherly cordiality 
of this woman with that light in her hazel eyes, that 
welcoming graciousness in the lines of her mouth, which 
Lamartine has charmingly described, with the "parole 
suave, manieres sans appret, familiarite rassurante" 
"which made one doubt whether she was descending 
to the level of her visitor, or raising him up to her 
own/' this reception by this woman, who was, more- 
over, still surrounded by a halo of Alfieri's glory, fairly 
conquered the heart, the pure, warm, grave and truth- 
ful heart of young Sismondi. He saw her often, on 
his way between Geneva, whither he was called by his 
family business and his lectures, and Pescia, a little 
town nestled among the olives of the Lucchese Apen- 
nine, where he was for ever sighing to join his mother, 
to resume his walks, his readings with this noble old 
woman. Florence, the house on the Lung Arno, had 
an almost romantic fascination for Sismondi; those 
passing visits, at intervals of months, when Mme. 
d' Albany would devote herself entirely to the traveller, 
sit chatting, or rather (we feel that) listening to the 
young man's enthusiastic talk about liberty, letters, and 
philanthropy, about Alfieri and Mme. de Stael, enabled 
Sismondi to make up for himself a sort of half -imaginary 
Countess of Albany, to whom he poured out all 
his hopes and fears in innumerable letters, for whom 
he longed as (alas ! ) we perhaps long only for the phan- 
toms of our own creating. That Mme. d'Albany was, 
after all, a shallow woman; that she adored a mediocre 



SALON OF THE COUNTESS. 213 

M. Fabre (to whom Sismondi invariably sent respectful 
messages) and half disliked the memory of Alfieri ; 
that she had called Mme. de Stael, Sismondi's goddess, 
about whom he was for ever expatiating, "a mad 
woman who always wants to inspire passions, and 
feels nothing, and makes her readers feel nothing " (I 
am quoting from an unpublished letter at Siena) ; that 
she preferred despotism on the whole to liberty, and 
had no particular belief or interest iu the heroic things 
of the present and future; that The was a lover of 
gossip and scandal, sometimes (as Gino Capponi says) 
hard and disagreeable ; that she inspired some men, 
like d'Azeglio and Giordani, with a positive repulsion 
as a vulgar-minded, spiteful, meddlesome old thing; 
that there should be any other Mme. d' Albany than 
the one of his noble fancy, than the woman whose 
image (fashioned by himself) he loved to unite with 
the image of his own sweet, serious, shy, noble-minded 
mother : all these things M. de Sismondi, who never 
guessed himself to be otherwise than the most un- 
poetical and practical of men, never dreamed of. So 
Sismondi went on writing to Mme. d' Albany, pouring 
out his grief at Mme. de Stael's persecutions, his 
schemes of general improvement, all the interests 
which filled his gentle, austere, and enthusiastic mind. 
1814 came, and 1815. Sismondi had always hated, 
with the hatred of an Italian mediaeval patriot, and 
the hatred of an eighteenth-century philanthropist, the 
despotism, the bureaucratic levelling, the great military 
slaughters of Napoleon ; but when, he saw Napoleon 
succeeded by the inept and wicked governments of the 
Restoration, his heart seemed to burst. A Swiss, 
scarcely acquainted with France, the passion for the 
principles of liberty and good sense and progress which 



214 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

France had represented, the passion for France itself, 
burst out in him with generous ardour. This man 
suffered intensely at what to him, as to Byron and to 
Shelley (we must recollect the introduction of the 
Revolt of Islam), seemed the battle between progress 
and retrogression; and suffered all the more as he was 
too pure and just-minded not to feel the impossibility 
of complete sympathy with either side. Mme. d' Albany 
answered his letters with Olympic serenity. What 
was it to her which got the upper hand? She was 
by this time one of those placid mixtures of optimism 
and pessimism which do not expect good to triumph, 
simply because they do not care whether good does 
triumph. Sismondi, in his adoration of her, thought 
this might be the result of a superior magnanimity of 
character; yet he kept conjuring her to take an 
interest in the tragedy which was taking place before 
her eyes. If she will take no interest, will not Fabre ? 
"Does M. Fabre not feel himself turning French 
again? " writes Sismondi, and there is a pathetic 
insistency in the question. Fabre thought of his 
pictures, his collections of antiques, perhaps of his 
dinner; of anything save France and political events. 
Mme. d' Albany smiled serenely, and chaffed Sismondi 
a little for his political passions. Sismondi, of all >en 
the most loyal to the idea lie had formed of his friends, 
seems never to have permitted himself to see the real 
woman, the real abyss of indifference, beneath his ideal 
Mme. d' Albany. But there are few things more 
pathetic, I think, than the letters of this enthusiastic 
man to this cold woman ; than the belief of Sismondi 
writing that the retrograde measures of which he 
reads in the papers give him fits of fever, that the post 
days on which he expects political news are days of 



SALON OF THE COUNTESS. 215 

frenzied expectation in the moral fibre, the faculty 
for indignation, of this pleasant, indifferent, cynical 
quasi- widow of Alfieri. 

The story of the Countess and Foscolo is an even 
sadder instance of those melancholy little psychological 
dramas which go on, unseen to the world, in a man's 
soul; little dramas without outward events, without 
deaths or partings or such-like similar visible catas- 
trophes, but the action of which is the slow murder of 
an affection, of an ideal, of a belief in the loyalty, 
sympathy, and comprehension of another. The 
character and history of Ugo Foscolo, like Chenier, 
half a Greek in blood, and more than half a Greek in 
passionate love of beauty and indomitable love of 
liberty, are amongst the most interesting in Italian 
literature ; and I regret that I can say but little of 
them in this place. Reviewing his brief life, his long 
career from the moment when, scarcely more than a 
boy, he had entered the service of liberty as a soldier, 
a political writer, and a poet, only to taste the bitter- 
ness of the betrayal of Campo Formio, he wrote, in 
1823, from London, where he was slowly dying, to his 
sister Rubina : " I am now nearly forty-six ; and you, 
although younger than myself, can recollect how 
miserable, how unquiet and uncertain our lives have 
always been ever since our childhood." Poor, vain, 
passionate and proud, torn between the selfish impulses 
of an exactingly sensuous and imaginative nature, and 
the rigid sense of duty of a heroic and generous mind, 
Ugo Foscolo was one of the earliest and most 
genuine victims of that sickness of disappointed hope 
and betrayed enthusiasm, of that Weltschmerz of 
which personal misfortunes seemed as but the least 
dreadful part, that came upon the noblest minds 



216 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

after the Revolution, and which he has painted, with 
great energy and truthfulness, in his early novel Jacopo 
Ortis. His career broken by his determination never 
to come to terms with any sort of baseness, his happi- 
ness destroyed by political disappointment, literary 
feuds, and a number of love affairs into which his 
weaker, more passionate and vainer, yet not more un- 
generous temper was for ever embroiling him, Foscolo 
came to Florence, ill and miserable, in the year 1812. 
The Countess of Albany, recognising in him a some- 
thing a mixture of independence, of passion, of 
vanity, of truthfulness, of pose which resembled Alfieri 
in his earlier days (though, as she was unable to see, 
a nobler Alfieri, wider-minded, warmer-hearted, born 
in a nobler civilization and destined to give to Italy a 
nobler example, the pattern for her Leopardi, than 
Alfieri had been able to give) the Countess of Albany 
received Foscolo well. His letters are full of allusions 
to the hours which he spent seated at the little round 
table in Mme. d' Albany's drawing-room, opposite to 
the "Muse" newly bought of Canova, narrating to her 
his many and tangled love affairs ; love affairs in which 
he left his heart on all the briars, and in which, how- 
ever, by an instinct which shows the very nobleness 
of his nature, he seems to have been impelled rather 
towards women whom he must love sincerely and un- 
happily, than towards Marchesa di Pries and Lady 
Ligoniers, like Alfieri ; love affairs in which, alas, there 
was also a good dose of the vanity of a poet and a 
notorious beau. Mme. d'Albany, as we have seen, 
loved gossip ; and, being a kind, helpful woman, she 
also sincerely liked becoming the confidant of other 
folk's woes. She took a real affection for this strange 
Foscolo. Foscolo, in return, ill, sore of heart, solitary, 



SALON OF THE COUNTESS. 217 

gradually got to love this gentle, sympathising 
Countess with a sort of filial devotion, but a filial 
devotion into which there entered also somewhat of 
the feeling of a wounded man towards his nurse, of 
the feeling of a devout man towards his Madonna. 

His letters are full of this feeling : " My friend and 
not the friend of my good fortune/' he writes to Mme. 
d'Albany in 1813, " I seem to have left home, mother, 
friends, and almost the person dearest to my heart in 
leaving Florence." Again, " I had in you, mia Signora, 
a friend and a mother ; a person, in short, such as no 
name can express, but such as sufficed to console me 
in the miseries which are perhaps incurable and inter 
minable." Her letters are a real ray of sunlight in 
his gloomy life, they are " so full of graciousness, and 
condescension and benevolence and love. I venture to 
use this last word, because I feel the sentiment which 
it expresses in myself towards you." 

His health, his work, his money-matters, his love- 
affairs, were all getting into a more and more lament- 
able condition, in which Mme. d' Albany's sympathy 
came as a blessing, when the catastrophes of 1814 
and 1815, which to Italy meant the commencement 
of a state of degradation and misery much more 
intolerable and hopeless than any previous one, 
came and drowned the various bitternesses of poor 
Foscolo's life in a sea of bitterness. " Italy/' wrote 
Foscolo to Mme. d'Albany ip 1814, " is a corpse ; and 
a corpse which must not be touched if the stench 
thereof is not to be made more horrible. And yet I 
see certain crazy creatures fantasticating ways ot 
bringing her to life ; for myself, I should wish her to 
be buried with myself, and overwhelmed by the seas, or 
that some new Phaeton should precipitate upon her the 



218 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY, 

flaming heavens, so that the ashes should be scattered 
to the four winds, and that the nations coming and to 
come should forget the infamy of our times. Amen." 

How strongly we feel hi this outburst that, despite 
his despair, or perhaps on account of it, Foscolo is 
himself one of those " crazy creatures fantasticating 
ways of bringing Italy to life ! " But the Countess 
did not understand; she could conceive liking Bona- 
parte and serving him, or liking the Restoration and 
serving it ; but to love an abstract Italy which did not 
yet exist, to hate equally all those who deprived it of 
freedom, that was not within her comprehension. 
And as she could not comprehend this feeling, the 
mainspring of Foscolo's soul, so she could understand 
of Foscolo only the slighter, meaner things : his 
troubles and intrigues, his loves and quarrels. The 
moment came when the grief of miscomprehension was 
revealed to poor Foscolo ; when he saw how little he 
was understood by this woman whom he loved as a 
mother. Foscolo had refused, latterly, to serve 
Napoleon; he refused, also, to serve the Austrians. 
Hated for his independent ways both by the Bona- 
partists and the reactionists, surrounded by spies, he 
was forced to quit Italy never to return. He wrote 
to explain his motives to Mme. d'Albany. Mme. 
d' Albany wrote back in a way which showed that she 
believed the assertions of Foscolo's enemies; that she 
ascribed to cowardice, to meanness, to a base desire to 
make himself conspicuous, the self-inflicted exile which 
he had taken upon him : a letter which the editor of 
Foscolo's correspondence describes to us in one word 
unworthy. 

This letter came upon Foscolo like a thunder-clap. 
" So thus/' he wrote to the Countess in August 1815, 



SALON OF THE COUNTESS. 219 

" generosity and justice are banished even from nobler 
souls. Your letter, Signora Contessa, grieves me, and 
confers upon me, at the same time, two advantages : 
it diminishes suddenly the perpetual nostalgia which 
I have felt for Florence, and it affords me an occasion 
to try my strength of spirit. . . . My hatred for the 
tyranny with which Bonaparte was oppressing Italy 
does not imply that I should love the house of Austria. 
The difference for me was that I hoped that Bona- 
parte's ambition might bring about, if not the inde- 
pendence of Italy, at least such magnanimous deeds as 
might raise the Italians ; whereas the regular govern- 
ment of Austria precludes all such hopes. I should be 
mad and infamous if I desired for Italy, which re- 
quires peace at any price, new disorders and slaughter- 
ings ; but I should consider myself madder still and 
more infamous if, having despised to serve the foreigner 
who has fallen, I should accept to serve the foreigner 
who has succeeded. . . . But if your accusation of incon- 
stancy is unjust, your accusation that I want to 'passer 
pour original' is actually offensive and mocking." 

Later, in his solitary wanderings, Foscolo's heart 
seems to have melted towards his former friend ; he 
wrote her one or two letters, conciliating, friendly, 
but how different from the former ones ! The Coun- 
tess of Albany, whom he had loved and trusted, was 
dead ; the woman who remained was dear to him as a 
mere relic of that dead ideal. 

Such is the story of Mme. d'Albany's friendship for 
two of the noblest spirits, Sismondi and Foscolo, of 
their day ; the noblest, the one in his pure austerity, 
the other in his magnanimous passionateness, that 
ever crossed the path of the beloved of Alfieri. 



220 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 



CHAPTER XX. 

SANTA CEOOE. 

WITH her other friends, who gave less of their own 
heart and asked less of ^hers, Mme. d'Albany was more 
fortunate. She contrived to connect herself by corre- 
spondence with the most eminent men and women of 
the most different views and tempers ; she made her 
salon in Florence, as M. St. Rene Taillandier has 
observed, a sort of adjunct to the cosmopolitan salon 
of Mme. de Stae'l at Coppet. Her efforts in so doing 
were crowned with the very highest success. In 1809 
Napoleon requested Mme. d'Albany to leave Florence 
for Paris, where, he added with a mixture of brutality 
and sarcasm, she might indulge her love of art in the 
new galleries of the Louvre, and where her socia' 
talents could no longer spread dissatisfaction with his 
government, as was the case in Italy. 

The one year's residence in Paris, which Napoleon's 
jealous meddlesomeness forced upon her, was, in itself, 
a very enjoyable time, spent with the friends whom 
she had left in '93, and with a whole host of new ones 
whom she had made since. She returned to Florence 
with a larger number of devoted correspondents than 



SANTA CEOCE. 221 

ever ; her salon became more and more brilliant ; and 
when, after Waterloo, the whole English world of 
politics, fashion, and letters poured on to the Continent, 
her house became, as Sismondi said, the wall on which 
all the most brilliant figures of the great magic lantern 
were projected. 

Thus, seeing crowds of the most distinguished and 
delightful people, receiving piles of the most interesting 
and adoring letters, happy, self-satisfied, Mme. d' Albany 
grew into an old woman. Every evening until ten, 
the rooms of the Casa Alfieri were thrown [open ; the 
servants in the Stuart liveries ushered in the guests, 
the tea was served in those famous services em- 
blazoned with the royal arms of England. The Countess 
had not yet abandoned her regal pretensions ; for all 
her condescending cordiality towards the elect, she 
could assume airs of social superiority which some 
folk scarcely brooked, and she was evidently pleased 
when, half in earnest, Mme. de Stae'l addressed her as 
" My dear Sovereign," " My dear Queen," and even 
when that vulgar woman of genius, Lady Morgan, 
made a buffoonish scene about the " dead usurper/' on 
the death of George III. But Mme. d' Albany herself 
was getting to look and talk less and less like a queen, 
either the Queen of Great Britain or the Queen of 
Hearts; she was fat, squat, snub, dressed with an 
eternal red shawl (now the property of an intimate 
friend of mine), in a dress extremely suggestive of an 
old house-keeper. She was, when not doing the queen, 
cordial, cheerful in manner, loving to have children 
about her, to spoil them with cakes and see them 
romp and dance ; free and easy, cynical, Rabelaisian, if 
I may use the expression, as such mongrel French- 
women are apt to grow with years ; the nick-name 



222 THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. 

which she gave to a member of a family where the 
tradition of her and her ways still persists, reveals a 
wealth of coarse fun which is rather strange in a 
woman who was once the Beatrice or Laura of a poet. 
She was active, mentally and bodily, never giving up 
her multifarious reading, her letter- writing ; never 
foregoing her invariable morning walk, in a big bonnet 
and the legendary red shawl, down the Lung Arno and 
into the Cascine. 

Such was Louise of Stolberg, Countess of Albany, 
widow of Prince Charles Edward, widow, in a sense, of 
the poet Vittorio Alfieri; and such, at the age of 
seventy-two, did death overtake her, on the 29th 
January 1824. Her property she bequeathed to Fabre 
whom a false rumour had called her husband ; and Fabre 
left it jointly'to his native town of Montpellier, and to 
his friend the Cavaliere Emilio Santarelli, who still 
lives and recollects Mme. d j Albany. 

The famous epitaph, composed by Alfieri for himself, 
had been mangled by Mme. A' Albany and those who 
helped her and Canova in devising his tomb; the 
companion epitaph, the one in which Alfieri described 
the Countess as buried next to him, was also mangled 
in its adaptation to a tomb erected in Santa Croce, 
entirely separate from Alfieri's. On that monument 
of Mme. d' Albany, in the chapel where moulder the 
frescoes of Masolino, there is not a word of that 
sentence of Alfieri's about the dead woman having 
been to him dearer and more respected than any other 
human thing. Mme. d' Albany had changed into quite 
another being between 1803 and 1824; the friend of 
Sismondi, of Foscolo, of Mme. de Stael, the worldly 
friend of many friends, seemed to have no connection 
with the lady who had wept for Alfieri in the convent 



SANTA CROCE. 222 

at Rome, who had borne with all Alfieri's misanthropic 
furies after the Revolution, any more than with the 
delicate intellectual girl whom Charles Edward had 
nearly done to death in his drunken jealousy. So, on 
the whole, Fabre, and whosoever assisted Fabre, was 
right in concocting a new epitaph. 

But to us, who have followed the career whose 
lesson is that of the meanness which lurks in noble 
things, the nobility which lurks in mean ones of this 
woman from her inauspicious wedding-day to the 
placid day of her death, to us Louise of Stolberg, 
Countess of Albany, Queen of Great Britain, France, 
and Ireland, will remain, for all blame we may give 
her and her times, a figure to remember and reflect 
upon, principally because of those suppressed words 
of her epitaph : " A Victoria Alferio ultra res omnes 
dilecta, et quasi mortals numen ab ipso constanter 
habita et observata." 




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