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From The Athenæum. ant of the great Venetian Doges of his name. Virginie de Leyva; ou, Intérieur d'un Cou- Possessed of a small estate in the Apen
vent de Femmes en Italie, au Commence- nines, he retired from political agitations ment du Dix-septiè -Siècle, d'après les Doc-into solitude in 1850, to meditate under the uments Originaux, par Philarète Chasles, shade of the fir and chestnut trees on the Professeur au Collège de France, Con- history of his country in past times. Here, servateur à la Bibliothèque Mazarine. the descendant of the Doges, following his Paris, Poulet-Malassis et De Broise.
labor of love (as well capable of doing his MADEMOISELLE DE LEVE, as the French work in his own day and generation as were have called her, La Signora di Monza, as the Doges, his ancestors, to govern their rethe Italians style her, is a high person- public and conduct its foreign wars), reage in the world of drama and legend. Ex- stored and annotated the authentic docucept Beatrice Cenci, no woman of private ments of which M. Philarète Chasles has rank has entered so much into the poetry made use. and fable of modern Italy. She figures in Don Antonio de Leyva, born in the provan episode of Manzoni's great romance ince of Navarre, of an obscure but gentle “ The Betrothed,” and is the heroine of Ro- race, was a soldier by profession, a bandit sina's “
Lady of Monza.” But the true his- by nature. Pride and poverty had made him tory of this ardent and voluptuous woman a Free Lance, and at the bidding of Charles is more singular and dramatic than the wild- the Fifth he went into Italy, with hordes of est efforts of the Italian poets. Massinger his proud and impoverished countrymen, to should have told her story. A modern cut Italian throats and surprise Italian seignwriter is bound by the conventional laws of iories. Indeed, he was one of that race of probability even in his fictions; and what brigands which profited by the intestine fabulist could dream of presenting to his quarrels of Italy to establish in both north reader a young girl, pensive and charming, and south that Austro-Spanish influence vowed to a religious life, who would admit a which has just been swept away by the guns lover to her cell, who would corrupt her nuns of Solferino and Marsala. Don Antonio into becoming the accomplices in her crimes, was the man for his work. Danger was to and who would remove by violence every one him a delight, and exercised over him the who came across her guilty path? The line fascination of a personal vice. It is a trite of probability must be drawn. It may be at enough saying, that a man who cares noththe Château d'If, or in the Isle of Monte ing for his own life is the master of every Christo. It must be somewhere ; and wher-man who does care; but this respectable old ever it is drawn, it would be outside the truth is the secret of Don Antonio's success walls of the Convent of St. Catherine of in the Milanese. Contempt of death made Monza. A heroine who stood by, and saw him a great man. Brave, instant, unscrupumurders committed for the gratification of lous, his passions were restrained by neither her lust and her revenge, would be rejected love nor fear. At once sensual and ambiby every sense. Dumas himself would not tious, he cared little for persons and nothing adventure on such a figure. Such, however, for principles in the exercise of his great was the real Lady of Monza, whose story M. bodily and mental powers--for nothing inPhilarète Chasles, following the documents deed beyond the riotous joy of carrying his collected by the zeal and industry of Signor point against a friend, a mistress, or an enDandolo, has told in “ Virginie de Leyva," emy. No desperate wretch in the army of with deep philosophical insight and with sin- Bastard William or in the forlorn hope of gular literary power.
Pizarro set his life more completely on the Signor Dandolo, who has brought to throw of the dice than Don Antonio. But gether, as the workman brings brick and he won the game. In his own poor country, mortar to the architect, the materials on had there been no wars to draw him off, he which M. Chasles narrates and speculates, would have been a contrabandista or a matais not only an Italian author of many good dor. In the conquered province of the Mivolumes, an antiquarian and archeological lanese he became a powerful partisan warscholar, a searcher amongst the archives of rior and the Lord of Monza, that Richmond Milan, of Monza and Pavia, but a descend- 1 of Milan, in which until lately was preserved the Lombardic crown. Charles took care ia's will on such a point was law to Pirivaro. that his faithful servant should be well en- Osio went to thank her, and the young ascouraged. So Antonio de Leyva, the poor sassin fell in love with his beautiful beneNavarrese, was raised into the highest rank factress. Virginia was twenty years of age; of Italian nobles, and when he went to his by nature ardent, and by habit self-indulrest a sumptuous monument in the Church gent. She returned his passion. The difof San Dionigi of Milan recorded the vir- ficulty in the way of their meeting—not to tues and exploits of the heroic and exem- speak of its enormous immorality—had been plary Antonio de Leyva, Prince of Ascoli! very great; and only that the convent of
The family took root in their new home. St. Catherine was cursed with a most deDon Martino, son of Antonio, sent his praved confessor in Arrighone-a man who daughter Virginia, a girl of such rare and seems to walk visibly out of one of Boccacnoble beauty that her portrait (painted in cio's garden-gates,—the pollution that enafter life by Daniel Crespi) might be mis- sued upon their meeting would have been taken for an artist's dream of St. Catherine, impossible. Osio had gained Arrighone to to be educated at the convent of Monza. his interests; and the monk, who had been In her own right, she was Lady of the dis- repulsed in some dishonorable proposals of trict. The frugal family desired to retain his own to the beautiful and noble nun, had this rather splendid part of their property, shown the impassioned boy how he might and Don Martino left his son the Princi- approach the woman of his heart. Under pality of Ascoli, and placed his daughter the pretence of thanking her for staying the Virginia, as the fashion in the highest fam- process against him, he had counselled him ilies was, in the convent in which she had to make known his love boldly. “I saw herself been trained. This convent, which this young man,” said Virginia, in one of was at Monza, and within her own magiste- her many depositions, "for the first time rial jurisdiction, belonged to the order of St. from the window of my Sister Candida's Catherine. Its inmates gave their time to cell
, at which I happened to be standing. teaching, and among the pupils who came This window looked upon the garden. He to them for instruction was a young lady of made a polite bow, and signed that he had Monza, Isabella degli Ortensii. A hand- a note to deliver to me. I was very much some youth, Osio degli Osii, whose house incensed against Molteno's murderer, and looked down into the convent-yard, saw Is- resolved to follow him without pity. He abella and made love to her by signs. The had a very humble, suppliant, yet well-bred girl accepted his admiration. Sister Vir- air ; his bearing was so noble and distinginia, who caught Isabella making signs to guished that I could not refuse to receive Osio, not only reprimanded her for such the note.” When she had first seen the gay levity, but sent for Signor Molteno, notary and youthful figure, she had said to Canof Monza, and instructed him to inform the dida, “Oh, can any thing be more beautifamily of what she had seen. Isabella’s fa- ful ?” Candida confessed these words to ther took her from the convent and mar- Arrighone, and Arrighone repeated them ried her to a man of her own age and rank. over their wine to Osio. Osio, vexed with Molteno, struck a poniard Virginia struggled in the toils spread to his heart, went home to his house, armed around her by the gay seducer who was folhis servants, barricaded his doors, and stood lowing his pleasure, and the false confessor on his defence. Carlo Pirivano was the who was following his cupidity and revenge. magistrate of Monza, but Pirivano had a The force of her own passions made their most unwholesome dread of Molteno's fate. work but too easy. “It was a power,” she Osio was a gentleman, and the offences of said in her depositions," altogether devilish. gentlemen were not to be searched too For all the treasures of Spain, and for all strictly. Justice was blind. Virginia felt a the thrones of its princes, I would not have feminine compassion for a young lover who loved Osio. I would have made a pilgrimhad lost through her act a mistress, and had age. I beat myself with rods until the revenged himself upon the more immediate blood ran down my body. But the passion instrument of his loss. As feudal Lady of increased in vigor. I saw him in every Monza, exercising seigniorial rights, Virgin- thing. I no longer slept; I no longer lived. One day he begged that I would consent to | at St. Catherine was a vile scandal, and that kiss a gold box set with diamonds, which there had never been the slightest intimacy he at once took back and pressed to his between Osio and Virginia, being drawn up, lips ; it was an amulet which Arrighone had Osio was set at liberty, and in a few hours prepared for him, and which, being blessed after his return to Monza, Ranieri was shot. with holy water, would overcome all my Virginia hid her lover for fourteen days in scruples. Osio gave me a book from the her cell ; but the cry for pursuit and venlibrary of my Father Confessor, the same geance reached the Cardinal Borromeo, who Arrighone, in which it was written that a paid a visit to the convent of St. Catherine, layman might enter without sin into the cell had a long interview with Virginia, and, of a nun, and that the only sin consisted in startled by the frank audacity of her confesthe nun quitting her retreat. I was in sions of sin in the matter of love, ordered despair, and wished that I were dead.” the Lady of Monza herself to be arrested
The poor lady struggled with the coil; and sent to Milan. but the insolent audacity of Arrighone put
This interview would make a picture. an end to her scruples; for even in the cell The cardinal was an old man of princely of her convent, and in a province of which and saintly race. Virginia was thirty-two she was the feudal head, Virginia found that years old; her beauty brightened by passion she needed a protector against his arts. He and preserved by the cloister. The cardinal unmasked, or pretended to unmask, his face. received her gently; spoke of many trifles He sent her a short and insolent note, de- with the graceful ease acquired by long habit claring that he was the true writer of all the of dealing with high-born sinners ; glided letters signed by Osio ; that he loved her into more serious topics, religious and and would insist on some return. Virginia moral ; and chatted with her playfully about treated him with lofty and tragic scorn, and her duties to herself, her race, her profession, threw herself at once into her young lover's and her country. She saw his drift and a well, and then stabbed Homati, the witness Chasles is philosophically right in saying, of these new crimes. But the two nuns that in the monastic system “ the best eduwere not killed. By a miracle, the woman cation of man- -that which teaches him to was recovered from the well, and the one judge and then leaves him free to choose for thrown into the Lambro escaped with her himself
met him boldly. “You placed me," she The amour lasted long. A servant girl, exclaimed, “ against my will, in a religious Catherine de Meda, took the responsibility house ; you made me take the vow before I before the world of the children born of this was of age. I was bound to the altar by intrigue. Now and then the better mind of force. Therefore, my profession of a religVirginia returned upon her; when she shut ious life is null. I must marry. I have herself in her room, threw the secret keys made my choice. Unite me to the man that into a well, and had the passage from Osio's I have chosen.” The cardinal struck dumb house built up. But she soon repented of by this plain and prompt avowal, left the her virtue ; and the amour which began with room without a word. A carriage with four a murder soon grew into a strange familiar- mules came to the gates at night: Virginia ity with blood and crime. Meda was the was put into it, and it carried her to the confirst to fall. This girl, after going all lengths vent of the Bochetto, at Milan. to screen her mistress, threatened to expose The two nuns who had tried to kill Meda, her. Virginia, with the help of two of the trembling for their lives, sent to Osio; and nuns, tried to kill her, but failed. Osio the very next night after Virginia's departdashed her brains out. The two nuns as- ure, they escaped from St. Catherine's under sisted him to bury the body of the poor girl. his protection. Two of his servants, OttaAn apothecary, named Ranieri, spoke of via Ricci and Benedetta Homati, were near the disorders in the convent, and the Princes at hand, to aid him or avenge him. They of Ascoli, Virginia's kinsmen, hearing of arrived at the banks of the Lambro, a little the intimacy formed between Osio and Vir- mountain torrent, with which the tourist of ginia, and fearing lest political troubles Lake Como is familiar. Ricci hurled one of might fall upon them in consequence, had the nuns into the flood. Osio disembarhim arrested and confined in the state prison rassed himself of the murderer by a few of Pavia, on the charge of violating a relig- strokes under his mantle, and the remaining ious house. Virginia stirred herself to save three persons—the nun, the seducer, and her lover. A solemn protestation of the the servant-pursued their journey into a nuns, declaring that the rumor of disorders / wood, where Osio threw the second nun into
, is absolutely prohibited.” In the life, to become the chief witnesses against monastery the first of all virtues is obediOsio and Virginia.
ence, and the habit of obedience, our philosOsio had to fly into the forests which still ophers urge, is relaxing and destructive to cover the mountains at the foot of Lake the individual mind. This may be also true. Como. There he lived as an outlaw, with a Clear, very clear, it is that the education of band of followers desperate as himself. The a monk or of a nun is not the best training Conde de Fuentes, the Spanish governor of for a man or woman entering on the rough Milan, ordered his house at Monza to be duties of active life; but then it ought to be razed, a ruined wall alone being left to mark remembered, for the other side, that a monk the site. Foiled in every attempt to arrest is not meant for the life of a skipper, nor a him by stratagem or force, Fuentes pro- nun for that of a vivandière. A woman who claimed a reward for any one who would takes the veil, whatever may have been the bring him in, alive or dead. A companion cause, looks forward to a career of order, of his youth betrayed and murdered him, in calmness, and devotion ; one in which there a manner the most singular. This compan- should be no temptation to resist, no diffiion asked him to his house as a change from culties to be met. Dash, energy, and will his desolate life in the woods. Osio went. may be required in the world, even from In the midst of their excesses Osio told his girls and women, and when softened and friend how he had killed Catherine de Meda. mellowed by gentler qualities, these robust His host had an instrument made exactly and masculine virtues may become very atlike that with which Meda had been knocked tractive in the eyes of men, but the very then down, and when all was ready for the act, he ory of a religious life, which excludes all invited Osio to go down into the wine cellar contest, rivalry, and passion, also excludes, with him to drink a particular wine. A friar and that logically and necessarily, the teachwas below to receive his confessions; the ing which would make girls useful in a servants of the house seized him, and the booth or successful at a bazaar-rivals to master struck him in the nape of the neck Mrs. Jarley or Rebecca Sharp. Surely, it is precisely as he had struck the girl in the but fair to judge each system by its effect convent of St. Catherine. Next day his in producing what it is intended to produce. handsome head was fixed on the ruined wall It is no impeachment of the value of geomeat Monza.
try that it will not teach you to swim. It is The parties were tried and condemned to no fault of a musical education that it will various penalties. Arrighone, the vilest not make you a dead shot. Geometry makes sinner of the whole, received three years in geometricians, music musicians, monasteries the galleys. Virginia was immured in a monks. When M. Chasles complains that convent. Once or twice we get glimpses of the monastic system takes away the right of her in the letters of Cardinal Borromeo. judging and choosing for one's self, he She passed her life, he says, in prayers and makes, we submit, an unphilosophical comtears; and she died at last in the very odor plaint. He might as well object to the earth of sanctity-as Borromeo says, Come una being round or sugar being sweet. It would santa!
be as proper to attack the Institute of Signor Dandolo and M. Chasles appear to France, because it has never produced a consider that the conventual system made great general, as to impeach the convent of Virginia what she afterwards became—the St. Catherine, because its system of training rival of Beatrice Cenci in shame and suffer- is not one that would strengthen a Malle. ing, as she was in the fatal gifts of beauty, de Mars to walk through her slippery world will, and individuality. We think, in snap- without a fall. The habit of submission ping at general conclusions on the influences may have a virtue of its own humble kind, of religious seclusion, they underrate the though such a virtue would be useless to force of personal character. Doubtless, M. Robinson Crusoe on his island, or to Gen
eral Bonaparte in his first Italian campaign. his literary life is such as to interest EngA more robust and active quality is re- lish readers in no common degree in his sucquired for success. But a nun does not wish cess. The son of a revolutionary general, to succeed. She aspires to no more than to who had been a professor of rhetoric before endure or to serve. Sworn from her youth he took up the profession of war, and of a to a career divided between charity and Huguenot mother, he was apprenticed in prayer, she puts away with the fascinations Paris to a printer. This printer, a disciple of womanhood, all need for the strength or of Rousseau, was arrested by the Governcunning which resists the tempter's arts. ment of the Restoration as a man of danThat in evil days temptation may intrude gerous opinions; and little Philarète, as his into the convent, as it intrudes into the apprentice, passed two months with him in home, there are too many facts in history to jail. Chateaubriand took pity on the child, prove. We know the stories of the Med- and procured his liberation. Philarète then ici. We have heard the scandals against came to London, where he remained for the regent. We have read Boccaccio and about seven years, completing his education, the imitators of Boccaccio in our own time. and acquiring our language and literature. But we are not aware that any body of facts From London he travelled into Germany. has ever been produced to show that, in On his return to Paris, a Saxon in culture, such evil days, the license has been greater a Gaul in spirit and style, he became secrein the convent than in the cottage,-each tary and assistant to M. de Jouy. Soon he measured, as is fair, by the opportunities won attention to himself; in 1827 he divided and immunities for vice which it presents. with M. Saint-Marc Girardin the prize of When the whole body of society is dissolved Eloquence proposed by the Academy for an in sensuality, it is impossible for even the Essay on the Sixteenth Century; and was best to escape some sort of contamination; immediately attached to the staff of the yet no man in his senses will maintain that, Journal des Débats, on which excellent paeven in the very worst periods of social dis- per he has continued down to the present order, the inmates of religious houses were day, very much to the profit of its readers, not better, measured by their temptations, and, among other things, very greatly to the than the women of the surrounding hamlets. advantage of English and German writers.
Our analysts, in their pride of science, He also began to write for the Revue des forget, we think, how much, in such a case Deux Mondes. Successively he became, as as that of Virginia de Leyva, is due to in- his power expanded and his fame enlarged, dividual character. In the world, as in the Doctor of Letters, Director of the Mazarine cloister, she would have fallen into lawless Library, Chevaliar of the Legion of Honor love. Had she not been Virginia, she would and Professor of Foreign Languages and probably have been Lucretia. The Borgias Literature in the College of France. His were De Leyvas on a grander scale and in literary works are of peculiar interest to a more splendid scene. Virginia was the an Englishman. More even than M. Guizot, true complement of Don Antonio ; with the M. Chasles represents English literature in same vigorous, daring, self-indulgent nature, France ;--and the election into the Academy carrying into the recesses of the convent the of the “ English candidate,” when it eventprinciples of a camp. The scene which M. ually occurs, may be taken as a compliment Chasles quotes from the interview between by the whole English nation. Among his the sinful lady and the cardinal destroys the printed works we have a volume of “Studies theory that her vicious life had been in any of the English Civil Wars,” two volumes way the result of the conventual system of “On the England of the Eighteenth Ceneducation, as established in Italy and exem- tury," a volume “On English Manners and plified at Monza.
Literature in the Nineteenth Century," and M. Victor Euphémion Philarète Chasles a volume “On Shakspeare.” These works (who dedicates this volume to the author of are not merely popular summaries, like
Pendennis” and “ Vanity Fair ") is under- some other works which we could name, stood to be a candidate for the honors of the thrown off by a learned Frenchman for the Academy;
English candidate” he is use of Frenchmen less learned ; but are procalled by his opponents : and the story of found studies of the several subjects, based