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flect much, but even to commit my reflections to writing.
There is a good deal of frankness in the Count's cnume. ration of what he calls his resources for authorship. . ;
• A resolute, obstinate, and ungovernable character, susceptible of the warmest effections, among which, by an odd kind of combination, predominated the most ardent love, and a hatred approaching to madness against every species of tyranny.; an imperfect and vague recollection of several French tragedies which I had seen represented several years before, but which I had then neither read nor studied ; a total igno. rance of dramatic rules ; and an incapability of expressing myscif with elegance and precision in my own language. To these were superadded an insufferable presumption, or more properly speaking, petulance, and a degree of violence which seldom allowed me to investigate and perceive gruth.' Vol. II. p. 6.
- His first object was to acquire a grammatical and classical knowledge of his vernacular language ; a task of no casy accomplishment, certainly, for one who often felt more exhausted in getting througb ten stanzas in Tasso than if he had composed them himself. But confident in his powers of original ihinking, he proceeded with courage. By my ignorance in language, I bore a striking resemblance to one of those noted couriers of Italy, who, when sick in bed, dreams that he runs and wants only his limbs to surpass his rivals. The greatest of his difficulties was to unfrenchify' himself- to get rid of the habit of thinking in that language, alınost the only one to which he had been accustomed during his travels. The process by, which at first he was compelled to elaborate his thoughts, was sufficiently te, dious to have disheartened a mortal of less extraordinary courage:—first the conversion of French into Italian, prose, and then the transformation of that prose into - bad verse. By degrees, however, these obstacles became less formi. dable ; and after having perused, with patient attention, all the celebrated poets of his country, in the order of their antiquity,' he found himself capable of writing with coma parative ease and fluency, His invențion, too, kept pace with his attainments in language; insomuch that in less than a year he became possessed of three additional trage. I dies--il Filippo, il Polinice, and Antigone; which, however, underwent many touches and retouches before, their final completion. The method he pursued in composing his tragedies is detailed as follows...
• All my tragedies, 80 to speak, have been composed three times. By this method I at least avoided the error of too much haste, which, should always be carefully guarded against in such productions, since
if they are ill-conceived at first, it is a fault not easily remedied. By the term conceive is to be understood the distributing of the subject into acts and scenes, fixing the number of the personages, and tracing in two pages of prose a summary of the plot. By developing, I mean the writing dialogues in prose for the different scenes indicated in this rude sketch, without rejecting a single thought, and with as much enthusiasm as possible, without embarrassing myself with the style or compo. sition. By versifying, in short, must be understood, not only converting this prose into verse, but also curtailing the exuberances of the style, selecting 'the best thoughts, and clothing them in poetic language. After these three operations, I proceed like other authors, to polish, correct, and amend. But if the conception or development of the piece be imperfect, or erroneous, the super-added labour will never produce a good tragedy. In this way did I execute the whole of my dramatic works, beginning with Philippe, and I am convinced that this constituted more than two thirds of the labour. If on re-perusing the manuscript, after a sufficient period had been suffered to elapse, in order that I might forget the original distribution of the scenes, I felt myself asa sailed by such a crowd of ideas and emotions as compelled me, so to speak, to take up my pen, I concluded that my sketch was worthy of be. ing unfolded : but if on the contrary I felt not an enthusiasm equal at Jeast to what I had experienced on conceiving the design, I either changed my plan, or threw the papers into the fire. As soon as I. became satisfied that my first idea was perfect, I expanded it with the greatest rapidity, frequently writing two acts a-day, and seldome less than one, so that in six days my tragedy was, I will not say finished but
en one wol
. pp. ** Tuscanizing Florencehe residene
For the purpose of Tuscanizing himself, Alfieri had already made several excursions to Florence, when an event occurred, which induced him to take up his residence in that city for several years, and determined hiin in the end to abjure his native country. This event was no other than a beautiful and accomplished female', with large black eyes full of fire and gentleness, joined to a fair conplexion and faxen hair,' He was at first extremely unwilling to be caught in the toils of love ;' and perceiving the net winding round him, took post immediately, though in the month of December, and proceeded to Rome. In pass. *ing through Sienna, however, he consulted a grave old friend of his the respectable Francis Gori Gandellini-who advised him to submit to the fair-haired lady; and accordingly in a short time he professed hiinself her eternat ad. mirer. His attachment, it seems, was not only durable but profound-urging him on to every thing 'nable and dignified'-and inspiring his soul with elevation and improved pient' and 'tranquillity. One little circumstance remains to be mentioned, from which the English reader may be able go conjectura in what degree these praiseworthy feeling
must have been exercised. The Countess of Albany was , married, i
In addition, however, to the influence of this Leucothea, it seems there were other motives which induced Count. Alfieri to expatriate himself; a repugnance to despotic au.. thority, connected with the love of personal liberty, and a desire of literary independence. He felt it irksome to be under the necessity of soliciting permission from his Sardinian majesty to leave the kingdom, though for the shortest period;
and having expressed in his writings sentiments directly · hostile to the existing tyranny,' he wished to get beyond the reach of its resentment, before he made them public., In order, therefore, effectually to disfranchize' himself he, resigned the whole of his hereditary estates to his sister Ju. lia, who had married Count Cumiana, accepting in exchange, an amnuity of fourteen thousand livres of Piedmont-about one half of their value. It bappened that some unexpected. delay took place in the sending of his remittances : he imagined that his servants, whom he had employed to negoci., ate some bills of exchange, had proved unfaithful, and on this occasion the Count's cogitations were somewhat whimsical.
• In this painful state of uncertainty pale misery presented herself before my eyes. In the delirium of my imagination, ever fertile in , conjuring up gloomy ideas, the mode of procuring a subsistence which most frequently occurred to me, was that of commencing horsebreaker, in which I believed myself to be an adept. It seemed to me that this would be less slavish, and that I could join it with poetry, as it is. more easy to write tragedies in a stable than in a court.'
This poetical scheme was unfortunately destroyed by the arrival of the long wished for bills. Settled therefore at Florence, though not in a stable, Alfieri continued to prosecute his literary labours with his customary diligence. He developed and versified his tragedies, la Virginia and l'Agamemnone, To these succeeded, at different intervals, 10reste, la Rosmunda, l'Octavia, il Timoleone,. Maria Stuarda, la Conjiura de' Pazzi, Don Garzia, la Merope, and Saul. Of these perhaps the most celebrated are, the conspiracy of the Pazzi and Don Garzia ; the former on account of its Aagrant violation of historic truth, the latter from the deep horror of the plot and situations. The conspiracy of the Pazzi,' says Mr. Roscoe, ' has afforded a subject for a tragedy to a celebrated living author, who in his various dramatic works, has endeavoured to accustom his country men to bolder sentiment, and to remove the prejudice that the genius of the Italian language is not adapted to the VOL. VI.
purposes of tragedy. It must however be confessed, that in attempting to render this transaction subservient to the interests of freedom, he has fallen greatly short of that effect which several of his other pieces produce. What shall we think of a dramatic performance, in which the Pazzi are the champions of liberty? In which superstition is called in to the aid of truth, and Sixtus consecrates the holy weapons deroted to the slaughter of the two brothers ? To which the relations of all the parties are confounded, and a tragie effect is attempted to be produced by a total dereliction of historical veracity, an assumption of falsehood for truth, of vice for virtue? The same hostility to the family of Medici appears in the tragedy of Don Garzia.--The following analysis of that drama is well given in the historical Memoir we have already referred to.
• The tragedy of Don Garzia,' says the author of that work, • I have just laid down after an eager perusal, and my hand still trembles. Cos. mo, grand duke of Florence, jealous of the power of Salviati, anxi.. ously desires his removal by any means, no matter how treacherous, or how base. Accidentally hearing that his son Garzia is enamoured of the daughter of the object of his jealousy, he has her seized, and threatens to assassinate her unless her lover consents to seduce her fa. ther, in the dead of night, to a grotto in a deep wood near the city ; · and in the moment of confidence bury the sword, which he puts into his hand, in the breast of the deluded old mán. Piero urges his brother Garzia to the perpetration of the dreadful deed, under a promise of undertaking to be himself the betrayer of Salviati, and then employs an artful pretext to induce his brother Diego (who stood between him and the dukedom) to conceal himself in the fatal grotto. Garzia goes out at the appointed hour--mistakes Diego for Salviati -kills him--and returns to report to Cosmo what he had done, and to demand the reward of his treachery. Cosmo doubts,-explores the grotto-finds the bleeding body of his son-then rushing forth infuriate, meets Garzia, and stabs him in the arms of his mother. si,
In the year 1783, Alfieri committed the four first of his tragedies to the press. The criticisms upon theai were nume rous and severe: 'Some of them, though piquant, were written with urbanity, while others were extremely gross and insipid. They all however agreed to depict my style as harsh, obscure, and inflated.' To all these censures, however, our dramatist represents himself as perfectly insensible. The pressure of a domestic calamity had so enfeebled' his intel, lects, as almost to render them incapable either of exertion or suffering. Notwithstanding the countess of Albany, bis Sesteemed friend, lived rather within tban beyond the usual manners of the country,' their intimacy had become a little too notorious. It had even given offence to the ecclesiasties; and the count, in order to silence the tongue of runjour, was obliged to assume the leaden fetters of decency,' and submit to a separation. As usual, it is impossible to describe his mi. sery; and he even goes so far as to tak of insanity, had it not been for the consoling cares of his worthy friend at Sienna, who "beholding his truly pitiable condition, though he knew from experience the power of virtue, did not, cruelly employ cold and severe reasoning.' !n order to assuage this horrible anarchy of thought, the count determined-to print six more tragedies; but observing that grief still haunted his steps,' at length betook himself to his old resources of travelling, and horses. Accordingly he made a third voyage to England for the sole purpose of purchasing a stock of these illustrious animals; and during the four months he remained at London, actually consumed all bis time either in their instructive society, or in scribbling to his mistress. At length, after having acquired fourteen friends, as he facetiously. terms them, he began to think of returning, and was at the pains, of conducting them in person, through miraculous hazards, across the sea and over the Alps to his residence in Italy. There is something so outrageously extravagant in his passion for cavalry, that hardly any description can convey an adequate notion of it; and the only applicable parallel we can remember is the case of Mr. Lemnuel Gulliver after his banishment from the land of the Houylinhnms.
The next literary atteinpt of Alfieri, after his release from the stable, was the composition of three new tragedies, Agide, la Sophonisba, and la Mirra ; and shortly after he produced two more, founded on the story of Brutus. "The Brutus! the Brutus of Voltaire! I will also compose a Brutus, but instead of one I shall introduce two ; and it will be seen whether I be not equally qualified to write on such a subject as a French plebeian, who during seventy years subscribed himself Voltaire, gentleman in ordinary to the king.' Notwithstanding this boast, the gentleman in ordinary is quite a 'match for the noble; for both the Bruto primo and Bruto secondo are tragedies of that description " Where declamation roars while passion sleeps."
In 1778 our author took up his residence at Paris, where be continued for three years. His principal employment was in superintending the printing of his works; of which two beautiful impressions came out nearly together, one from the press of Didot, and another from that of Beau. giarchais, at Kehl. Here, too, amid the distraction of re. Yolutionary tumult, he completed the biographical skatela