Page images
PDF
EPUB

own impression is too clearly demonstrated by the necessity which these citizens have advocated, of passing laws in the senate against all instruction being granted to this race. If, in their opinion, no harm could arise to their own interest from increased knowledge in the slave, or if he were utterly incapable of receiving useful impressions, why adopt such vigorous measures to preclude him only from eating of that fruit, which they acknowledge, by their universal system of education, to be so invaluable to themselves ?'— Glimpse, p. 146.

It has been stated by persons worthy of credit,' says Mr. Johnston, that the older skulls disinterred from the Negro burying ground at New York, are much thicker, and indicate a less intellectual character, than those of more modern date. Dr. Warren showed me, in his collection, skulls of pure Negroes of full blood, which he assured me were of enlarged size, and manifested greater signs of intellectual capacity; and he expressed to me his conviction, that the race, by long residence in this more intellectual country, was itself becoming more intellectual. This is certainly in consonance with one's hopes and wishes, and in accordance with the ideas of Blumenbach. The upholders of the permanence and inalterability of pure races meet us with the objection, that there are in Africa different tribes with different degrees of intellectual endowment ; and that, to prove our case, we must trace the same family always mixing with the same blood for a couple of centuries, and show that the last of the successive generations is wiser and nobler in mind than the first. But though this has not been done, I am not willing to estimate lightly the matured opinion of so old and practised an observer as Dr. Warren.'

Most lamentable is the unmeasured acrimony and virulence which the Slavery Question is at present exciting throughout the Union. The Free States, galled by the gibes and sarcasms hurled at them from Europe as tolerators of slavery, and roused by the sight of horrors which the Fugitive Slave Bill has now brought to their doors, have lost sight of all prudence, and cast forbearance to the winds, in their antipathy to slavery and the Slave States. They overlook the immense difficulty of dealing with such a question—they forget of how old a standing the evil is, and how closely it has become mixed up with the material interests and social institutions of the southern part of the Union. As M. Marmier sharply reminds them

They discuss this question quite at their ease. By the nature of their soil and climate they have no need of slavery, and there are but few negroes within their territories. I will add that the States of the North have no right to boast of their emancipation of the blacks, since they have conceded to them only an affronting liberty--since they hold them like helots to the lowest trades, and brand them with a stigma of reprobation like pariahs.' It is a Gordian knot that dare not be cut. It is a task for a

Napoleon

Napoleon — how is it to be accomplished by shallow spouters and turgid pamphleteers? If they will not forbear for the Union's sake, it is needless to implore them to be prudent for the sake of the Negroes. But what other result can all this blind fury and inflammatory harangue have upon the helpless slaves, save to fill them with discontent or rouse them to revolution? There must be wise heads and iron wills in Virginia to have thus long repressed the effervescence; but if the rabid declamations of the North continue much longer, there cannot fail to be such a crisis as America has never yet beheld and will never cease to deplore.

arms,

Art. IV.-Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino; illustrating the

Arms, Arts, and Literature of Italy from 1440 to 1630. By

James Dennistoun of Dennistoun. 3 vols. 8vo. 1851. THE HE territory of Urbino, always small and unproductive, is

now incorporated into one of the weakest and worst governed of Christian states. The family of its ancient sovereigns has long been extinct, and the page that recorded the history of their independence is almost obliterated from the annals of Europe. Yet, after so many years of obscurity, relics of former magnificence may still be traced in its remote capital ; and the pilgrim will be weil rewarded for his slight deviation from the beaten track. Mr. Dennistoun, however, never meant to confine his investigation to the narrow limits of this territory, or even to the lives of those eminent men most nearly connected with it; he aspired, as the title-page announces, to illustrate the

progress

of arts, and literature from the middle of the fifteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century; and, in fact, the dukes of Urbino and their duchy occupy but a small part of a work which might with equal propriety have styled itself a history of Italy during that brilliant period.

The modern legation of Urbino and Pesaro includes the whole of the old duchy. The original line of its princes, designated in elder chronicles as lords of Monte Carpegna (a desolate tract in the Apennines), had their first importance as Counts of Montefeltro — that mountainous district lying north of the city of Urbino, of which Penna Billi is the largest town, and the fortress of St. Leo the most remarkable feature.* This small fief was bestowed by Frederick Barbarossa on one of his followers in the year

* This fortress replaces, on the summit of an isolated, almost tower-like rock, a once famous temple of Jupiter Feretrius. Hence the obvious etymon of Montefeltro which name was extended to the surrounding district.

1154,

VOL. LXXXIX, NO, CLXXVII.

H

mie

1154, and in the beginning of the next century we find a descendant receiving the investiture with additional territory from Frederick II., and soliciting a confirmation of the grant from the rival of the imperial power, Pope Honorius III. From about this time these feudatories of a double allegiance were designated indifferently as Counts of Montefeltro or of Urbino. Conquest, purchase, and prudent marriages further increased their dominions; but it was not till the sovereignty had descended to the line of Rovere that the nepotism of two Popes of that race added the important provinces of Sinigaglia and Pesaro. Dante has conferred on many of the noblest names of Italy the same immortality that some of our ancient families owe to Shakspeare. The readers of the Divina Commedia are familiar with the name of Count Guido of Montefeltro, although the insignificant page which it occupies in history may have escaped their notice. It is from the great poet alone that we learn both the crime and the punishment of this relapsed penitent. Foremost among the founders of his House's greatness, he was noted throughout his active life for cunning;

I'

opere
Non furon leonine ma da volpe

« less my deeds bespake The nature of the lion than the fox' (Carey)is the confession wrung from him (Inferno, c. 27). But he had moments of contrition : and when he had reached that age, he relates, which to all reflective minds brings a chilling sense of the vanity of life, he was filled with remorse:

fui om ďarme et poi fui Cordigliero....
Ciò che prima mi piacque allor m' increbbe,
E pentito e confesso mi rendei.
“A man of arms at first, I clothed me then
In good Saint Francis' girdle....
That which before had pleased me then I rued,

And to repentance and confession turn’d.'— Carey. In the Franciscan convent at Assisi the abdicated prince sought the peace

which the world can neither give nor take away; and here, but for an unexpected temptation, he might have persevered in his course of prayer and penance. Pope Boniface VIII., baffled in a war he was waging with his rebellious vassals of the Comarca, visited the cell of the recluse, and begged some of that crafty counsel for which he had been so famous. • Promise much and perform little,' the oracle replied—the Pope took the hint-and Palestrina, the stronghold of the enemy, having capitulated on favourable terms, was immediately levelled with the earth. It was in vain that the cautious sinner had received previous absolution

from

[ocr errors]

from his tempter for the crime he was about to commit-it was in vain that he died in the weeds of St. Francismin vain the Saint himself descended in person to receive the soul of his client; cherub of darkness' was already on the watch for his prey; the Saint retreated, and the fate of the culprit was fixed in the eighth gulf of perdition along with the Counsellors of Evil. The champions of the tiara and of the order of St. Francis have both protested against this uncanonical judgment, but all in vain, for in that same penal cell to which it pleased the Poet to condemn the soul of Count Guido, posterity has obstinately persisted in believing it to remain.

The immediate successors of this unfortunate chief were little distinguished from others of that barbarous age. Great crimes must be relieved by great virtues, or at least by great talents, if they are to receive any portion of our sympathy; but mediæval Italy too frequently presents a monotonous picture of vice, undiversified by a single redeeming merit. The biographies of our author commence when this dark period was already passing away. Duke Federigo, whom he mumbers as the tenth lord of his lineage, is the first on whom he fixes any particular attention. Federigo was acknowledged by Count Guidantonio as. his natural son-though contemporary opinion was much divided as to the fact; and in 1444, on the death of his real or nominal father's legitimate son, Count Oddantonio, he succeeded to the vacant throne, though rather by the election of the people of Urbino than, even granting his alleged parentage, from any title of inheritance,

The most eminent man of his House, as well as its first Duke, he may be taken as a favourable specimen of the warrior, statesman, and sovereign of his age and country.

He might have served Macchiavelli as the model of his · Prince. He was faithful to his engagements—when not much tempted to break them: he committed few acts of deliberate perfidy, and none of wanton cruelty. Personally brave, as a general he pushed caution to the very verge of timidity. He availed himself of his military trusts to forward his objects of family aggrandisement, without much regard for the interest of the sovereign who employed him. To secure the favour of Sixtus IV., he

gave

his daughter's hand to that Pope's nephew, Giovanni della Rovere. He increased his territory at the expense of his neighbour and enemy, the perfidious Sigismund Malatesta; and other feudatories less troublesome had cause to rue the vicinity of an ambitious chieftain who alternately commanded the armies of the King of Naples, the Pope, the Florentine republic, and the Duke of Milan. The sums which he drew from the favour of his employers and the

fear

H 2

fear of his opponents he spent liberally in adorning his capital. He was deficient neither in learning nor in taste, and he was zealous in patronising literature and art. His court became the acknowledged model of polished ease. Contemporary

Contemporary chronicles have celebrated his exertions in promoting goodwill and harmony among his subjects, his love of justice, and his somewhat Oriental method of dispensing it. In his domestic relations, if not quite immaculate, he was certainly a tender father and an affectionate husband; and, though he left living proofs of his infidelity, we do not learn that the good understanding between him and his admirable wife was ever seriously disturbed. He was a great almsgiver, munificent to the clergy, and a scrupulous observer of the forms of devotion. His reputation was European, and procured him the esteem of our Henry VII., by whom he was named a Knight of the Garter. He died in 1482, in the sixtieth year of his age, while defending Ferrara against the united forces of the Pope and the Venetians.

Many provincial towns of Italy astonish the traveller with relics of a splendour apparently quite beyond the resources of a petty State and the ambition of a petty sovereign. The history of the period affords the explanation. Those palaces, libraries, and churches were raised by men who made a traffic of war, and not only taxed all Italy, but levied contributions from transalpine Christendom. Among the cities enriched by such means Urbino is not the least remarkable.

Situated among scarcely accessible mountains, it might seem to possess no requisite for a capital, nor indeed any other advantage except its remoteness and its security. Yet the ability and generosity of its princes rendered this solitude the chosen retreat of the refined and the intellectual, whose successes in art and letters spread the name of the tiny sovereignty over every part of the civilised world. Few of the cities of Italy, and none on this side of the Alps, contain a monument of such truly royal magnificence as the castle of Urbino. uilt in the middle of the fifteenth century, and hovering in style between the fortress and the palace, it possesses the characteristic beauties of both. The defensive accessories seem rather adapted to the dignity of the inhabitant than essential to his safety; while the spacious courts, staircases, corridors, and chambers indicate the peaceful residence of a sovereign dwelling in confidence among a cultivated and prosperous people. Occupying an imposing situation above the town, it casts its massive foundations deep down into the ravine over which it towers, and beyond which it commands an extensive view over the Apennines, far on to the notched rock of S. Marino and the lofty Monte Carpegna, the cradle of the Monte

feltro

« PreviousContinue »