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POSTHUMOUS ADVENTURES OF PAGANINI.
"YTEVER was a life fuller of romance and origJ-« inality than Paganini's. It had scarcely an incident in common with those of ordinary men: every thing about it was strange, eccentrie, and *ut generis. From playing upon his violin to eating his dinner, nothing that he did was done as it would have been by others. All was singular and peculiar to himself.
And what was true of the celebrated musician living, held so of his body when his spirit had flown upward. It could not be buried in peace like those of other men, but must first go through as many strange adventures as the Catholic legends fable the dead bodies of some of their saints to have done.
Of these adventures we propose here to give an account. The particulars we shall relate concerning them, although left unmentioned by Paganini's professed biographers, may be relied upon as perfectly authentie. We gathered them during a recent sojourn in the hospitable mansion of the Count de Cessole at Nice, the one in which the great violinist breathed his last.
It was in the middle of the December of 1839 that Paganini, ill and feeble, came there to die. He was pale and thin, even to ghastliness, and so weak as to require to be carried to bis apartment. But though unable to stand alone—and indeed unable even to speak, excepting through the nostrils, since his larynx, if not entirely destroyed, no longer performed its functions—he did not himself believe in the nearness of his end. He spoke incessantly of tours which he yet intended to make in Russia and the United States, and of the rich harvests of roubles and dollars which he yet hoped to reap with his marvelous bow. Nevertheless, he was dying rapidly.
Confined to his bed, he lay surrounded by stringed instruments of all kinds, buried amidst heaps of violins and violoncellos, all of high value, and worthy of figuring in the hands of the greatest artists. Sometimes he called for his favorite instrument, and drew from it sublimer tones than even of old—tones like those which might have been uttered by a dying poet who was pouring out his soul in a last song. The exertions which he underwent on theso occasions, and the states of nervous excitement into which they threw him, rapidly exhausted his little remaining strength. But the weaker he grew, the greater became the impossibility of separating him from his instrument; and one day, in spite of the entreaties of all around him, he continued for between seven and eight hours improvising upon it the most delicious airs, melodies of a sweetness perfectly ineffable, which seemed like echoes of that other sphere toward which his soul was so soon to take its flight. Lost to all consciousness of earthly and material things, and utterly absorbed in the endeavor to translate into sounds audible to human cars the heavenly melodies with which his »oul seemed filled unto the overflow, he did not cease playing till entirely conquered by fatigue,
and forced by physical inability to desist, when he fell back upon his pillow in a swoon. Three days afterward, as the clock struck five on the evening of May 27th, 1840, he gently sank into the long last sleep.
After his death, a priest declared that he had refused to receive the last sacraments. This was not the truth. As we have seen, at the commencement of his illness, he fully believed that he should recover, and this belief did not forsake him till within a few minutes of his death. When, therefore, a day or two before its occurrence, a priest intruded himself into his chamber, he told him that he did not yet need the consolations of the Church, but-that when he should need them he would send for him. Death, however, surprised him so suddenly that this intention could not be fulfilled. According to the Catholic doctrine he had thus died in sin, and the clergy therefore ordained that Christian burial should be denied him.
Many influential personages, the king himself, Charles Albert, being of the number, sought to obtain a reversal of this decree. But those who issued it were deaf to all entreaties. Appeal had therefore to be made to an ecclesiastical court, and as it might be years before they gained a decision authorizing them to bury his body—or indeed a decision of any kind—the friends of the deceased resolved that they would embalm it.
When they had done so, they threw open the doors of the hall in which it was deposited to the publie, who flocked in crowds to gaze for a last time upon the features of the illustrious dead. From all parts of Italy came multitudes of all classes and all ranks, each vying with the other as to who should pay him the profoundest homage. But at this the clergy were exceedingly displeased. They felt outraged at seeing the corpse of this man, who they declared had died in impenitence, and whose ashes had been anathematized by the Church, the object of so much reverence and so many honors; they therefore demanded of the civil government that it should be sent out of the city, and it was accordingly removed, under military escort, to the lazaretto of Viflefranche.
This lazaretto is situated upon the sea-shore, at the distance of about a league from Nice. It crowns the summit of a rocky eminence, which forms one of the most remarkable features of the little peninsula of Villefranche, into whose narrow compass nature seems to have striven to crowd the greatest possible number of beauties. Every thing that is entrancing in natural scenery is there, and of at least one art—that of the architect—there arc masterpieces not a few. A lovelier spot the imagination could not picture. If Italy may be called the garden of the world, it may be called the garden of Italy.
But the lazaretto itself has nothing in common with the scenery which surrounds it. It is a gloomy building, and the corpse of Paganini was placed in its gloomiest apartment. Covered with an old sail, it was deposited in a dark corner, like a piece of merchandise suspected of capability to communicate some dreaded infection. Let us gaze on it, as it lies there still and quiet. It is no ordinary corpse that we see thus before us. It is that of a man whose skill won for him the enthusiastic plaudits of the multitudes, and awoke the wonder of the whole civilized world—a man who excited as much admiration among men as any hero, proud of his hundred victories! He lived for the multitudes, and sleeps his last sleep in the desert; he filled their cities with musie, and is denied one " De Profundis ;" he conquered a right to the Pantheon, and is refused six feet of earth by the side of the obscurest clown; he went through Europe' like a conqueror, princes and peasants alike crowding round to do him honor, and now there is not one to watch beside him, or to murmur in his car the faintest echo of the strains he loved! Once the delight of Europe and the admired of all men, he is become an object of fear, a thing of terror. The peasant 'crosses himself when he sees from afar the building within whose walls is his asylum; and the fisherman trembles and relates that, as he passed it, he saw before him a pale countenance, which fixed upon him a look of piteous supplication, and heard the air filled with harmonious sounds which shaped themselves into the accents of a wild cry for mercy.
The name a man is bom with will sometimes influence him through life. Paganini felt the effects of his even after death. Pagano, a pagan, paganini, a little pagan—how could a man so called be a true Christian? So, at least, argued the populace, till it came to the conclusion that the priest's course was the right one.
When the case was brought before the tribunals it was argued on both sides with eloquent zeal. The priests did all they could to make it appear otherwise, but Paganini was proved triumphantly to have been in all things a good Catholic. All was in vain, however. Had they proved him a saint, the bishop would still have denied him burial. Appeal must therefore be made to some higher authority.
The corpse bore the delay with exemplary patience. It waited uncomplainingly in its rude apartment in the lazaretto, seemingly determined, by passive resistance, to vanquish the hostile resistance of the clergy. But as it was perfectly idle, tho idea was formed of giving it employment. A Jew proposed to purchase it for exhibition in England. The price he offered was 2000/.
Every thing connected with Paganini, either alive or dead, was thus exceptional. Spumed by the Christian priesthood, his ashes were thus coveted by one of the children of the synagogue. Entrance into, a church forbidden them, permis# sion was sought to carry them from fair to fair, for exhibition side by side with giants, dwarfs, and children with two heads!
From the bishop of Nice, appeal was made to the archbishop. But he only confirmed the original judgment. From him in his tum, therefore, appeal was made to the pope. Fortunately, the tiara proved itself more tolerant than the mitre. The supreme pontiff reversed the two previous
decisions, and referred the matter for final decision to a council of three archbishops. But till this final judgment could be obtained, he authorized the provisional placing of the corpso in a Christian cemetery.
This authorization reached Nice on the 20th August, 1843, the quarantine of the maestro having thus lasted more than three years. An hour before midnight on the 21st, the Count de Cessole, bearing the necessary documents, and accompanied by two boatmen and two torch-bearers, presented himself at the lazaretto, and demanded that the body should be delivered op to him. Having received it, his companions bore it, by the light of the torches, into the skiff which had brought them thither, and then began to row in the direction of Genoa.
As they passed the various customs' stations upon the coast, they were hailed by the officers in charge with the cry: "What carry you there!" "The corpse of Paganini—aquco que sonaba tan ben"—(him who sang so well)—was the reply. But it was not sufficient to content the officers, who insisted upon examining the body with all minuteness, tuming it over and over to assure themselves that it was not made to hide any contraband goods.
It was thus, then, that Paganini made his last voyage to his native city. He made it in the dead of night, in a simple fishing-boat, so small that it required to be rowed but by two men—he who had filled Europe with his fame, who had bequeathed fifty thousand guineas to his son, and whose ashes you would deem worthily transported only upon the deek of some huge man-of-war, hung with Crape, crowded with saddened countenances, and keeping time, by the sullen booming of its guns, to the moumful accents of some solemn funeral march! And as though it were not sufficient that his remains should be anathematized by the Christian clergy, refused the rites of Christian sepulture, coveted for exhibition by a Jew, and suffered to lie for more than three years in a dark corner of a lazar-house, they must now, on his last voyage toward the city of his birth, become objects of suspicion to petty officers of customs! Was not his destiny in every respect exceptional and peculiar?
In one respect, however, it was like that of all other genuises. Whatever honors his native city might have rendered him while living—dead, it paid no respect to his memory. He passed through it without receiving more notice than would have been given to a dead dog. And yet he had made it famous in the history of art, and had bequeathed to it his sword of Austerlitz—his favorite violin, the companion of all his glories, of all his triumphs.
It was in the duchy of Parma that the dead voyageur at last found the repose so long denied to his persecuted ashes. He was buried in a littlo chapel added on purpose to a villa which had been purchased some years before by his son. So it is always, with the living as well as the dead —rest may be long denied, but, as surely as men die, it comes at last!
FATHER AND SON. "mHEN let him die."
J- It was not the words, terrible as they were in their simplicity; nor was it the thought of death to one so young and manly, bitter as that thought was; nor yet was it the fact that any one could speak thus of a fellow-being; but it was the voice, the tone, the suppressed but determined anger that I heard in the words, and it was the horrible truth that it was a father speaking of his only son, that so shocked me.
"Let him die." And wherefore should he die? He was young, and not ready—by years or weariness—for death. He was not tired of living, nor had he sought the end himself. His eye was not dim, his voice was not broken, his ear was still attuned to the pleasant sounds of earth; and it was a beautiful earth, too, that in which he was born, and in which he had grown to be a stout, strong man; and he loved life, and knew how to enjoy it—and why should he die! He was not one of the worthless and useless men of this world either, living for self, and heedless of all others, unloving, unloved, in cold sensual selfishness. Not he. He was a noble man—young, ardent, affectionate, full of the love of life and of his fellows, beloved by all who knew him, and always ready to aid friend or stranger with purse, hand, and heart.
Why then should he die?
There were many reasons why Stephen Forster the elder was willing at that time that Stephen Forater the younger should die.
Twenty-five years before the time at which our history is dated, there lived in an obscure village in the country, not far from the Hudson River, a man, some thirty years of age, with a young wife, not more than eighteen or twenty. The latter was the daughter of the wealthiest man in the county; and, as it afterward proved, by the death of her brother, she and her children were his sole heirs. Stephen Forster was a lawyer, gifted with some powers of mind; not quick, but shrewd, in the true acceptation of that word; and making money rapidly by speculations in farms and farm lands. I shall not pause to relate the painful circumstances through which he won the hand of the young daughter of the old J udge; her heart he never had won. That was not hers to give him; and from the day he learned that fact, he hated her, with steady, persevering hate. But he married her nevertheless; and when the wedding ring was placed, I should say forced on her finger, she shuddered, and well-nigh fainted, for her eye caught at that moment the sad gleam of an eye that had once looked deeper into her own than had any other person's, and she knew then that as true a heart as man ever possessed was broken.
Broken hearts are not always followed by death. It is a romantic notion that supposes it necessary. I have known men that lived many years with what in common parlance would be called a broken heart. Nay, I have known men that had lived thus for scores of years, wandering restlessly, almost hopelessly, up and down the paths of this miserable world, yet bearing about with them Vol. IX.—N« 52 —Ll
cool, quiet faces, and eyes speaking no sort of passion whatever.
Very much such a man was William Norton after the marriage of Ellen Dusenberry, and he was never seen again in the little village, where he had been his father's clerk in the only store, until after all the events occurred which I am now about to relate.
As years crept along Stephen Forster's family increased, and four children sat at his board when he was forty years old. But there was no love between the father and his family. He was harsh, cold, stern, unforgiving in his treatment, and they rebelled, as children will. Once, when he was punishing the oldest boy for some fancied offense, a neighbor who was passing, and overheard the occurrence, entered and remonstrated with Foister for his brutality. The result might have been anticipated. He was turned out of doors without ceremony, and left to console himself by relating the story to his neighbors, whoso opinion of Forster was neither improved nor injured thereby.
Death came into the household, and the graveyard gate was opened three times within a year, to admit children of Stephen and Ellen Forster. When the first one died, the wife, broken down by the terrible blow, sought comfort in the sympathy of her husband, and lifted her eyes from the dead boy only to meet the cold, stony eyes of the man that hated when he married her, and she pressed back into her heart the feelings that were well-ni^h flowing toward him for the first time. When the next—her darling namesake—shut her eyes on life and love, and went the dark way whither no mother's love may prevail to follow until God permit, she sought no sympathy from her husband, but bowed her head in lonesome agony. And when the third blow came, she bore it with the firmness of the mother of old times who scorned to weep. There was something te»rible in her gaze, as she now looked into the face of her husband. That third trial, and his continued coldness and sternness, had made a new person of his once gentle wife, and she now repaid his scorn with scorn—his hate with unforgiving, unrelenting enmity.
In the brief limits assigned to this sketch, I can not pause to explain the mental process by which this gentle, lovely girl became transformed. It was no slow process. It was like a lightning flash. She had been calm, placid, bowed down with grief in the morning, when she stood by her dying boy, and talked with him of the land that was shining dimly through the clouds and mists of death on his eyes, that was shining even through her scalding tears on her own faithful vision; but the light of heaven was gone when the boy was dead, and the angels that had lingered around his couch were gone with the light, and fiends came in the darkness and possessed her; and she was changed—how changed!
Imagine if you can that household for the next ten years, while young Stephen grew up to manhood. It was in the most beautiful of valleys, with rich fields around it, and deep forests full of the forest glory close at hand, and a brawling stream dashing over rocks, and birds, and flowers, and all that God gave to Eden except only innocence. Yet there was one long war in that house, the father on the one side and the mother and son on the other—for she won the boy from him. They contended long for him and his love. Even in bis childhood he learned that he could not love both, and that he must select one or the other to attach himself to. He hesitated and varied from day to day, as children do, and it was months, even years, before he fully decided; but when he chose it was forever. Nothing could move, shake, or change him. At the first, after this determination became manifest, the father, with his accustomed malignity, sent him away to school a hundred miles from home. But the six months of his absence convinced the hard-hearted man that his house was unbearable if he and his wife were to have no one between them, and he recalled the boy, and contented himself with hating both him and his mother. And so the boy grew to manhood, ignorant, save as his mother had taught him, yet marvelously gentle and lovely. He at length became the light of the house to those who knew the family, and his presence was weleomed every where. In all the country gatherings he was the star; and at length he began to extend his limits, and once in a while ventured as far as the city. Here or somewhere, it matters not where, he began for the first time to appreciate the importance of knowledge, and to understand his own inferiority to young men of his class and standing. Grieved and abashed at the discovery of his ignorance, he set about repairing the loss, and for two years he was a book-worm, devouring every thing that came within his reach. It is astonishing how much an active mind may accomplish in so brief a space of time; and at the end of these two years he had learned as much as most boys would in ten. But he was not satisfied with this brief period of study. He had learned to love study for its own sake, and he confined himself now to his room; and strange stories got abroad of the events that were passing in the old house, to which no one had access.
At last fhe old Judge died, leaving his entire fortune to Stephen Forster the younger, subject only to a life estate of his mother in the real proparty. This was more than a year before Stephen entered his majority, and when his life was most closely devoted to his books and studies. And this brings us to the period at which I first became acquainted with the father and son.
A rumor flies in the country with windlike velocity. It was one of those soft spring mornings when the sky seems immeasurably deep, and the air is laden with life and health; when the birds sing loudest, and the wind's voice is softest, and the gurgle of the spring brook is most musical; it was on such a morning that a terrible rumor spread over county, and even on the opposite side of the river. The story was that Mrs. Forster had been poisoned by her son for the sake of having his fortune unencumbered, and that he had also poisoned his father in the same bowl.
The rumor added a thousand horrors to the tale, of which no more was actually established truth than the fact that Mrs. Forster was poisoned the evening previous, and was already dead.
The young man had returned lrom the city the day before with a package of various articles, which he had brought professedly for chemical purposes. It was supposed he had procured some deadly poison among these, for the eflect had been swill and certain.
Certainly the internal state of that household was no worse than it had been for years. For her, the care-worn, weary mother, doubtless that repose was profound and weleome alter the long storm. She seemed to be resting in peace as she lay there, and the angry waves of the sea of her life had heard the " Peace, be still" of a heavenly voice, and had obeyed. The husband stood near her while strangers came in and looked with far more interest than he on the placid countenance of the dead wife, and his countenance w ore a steady, motionless look, in which no trace of suffering, or of emotion, or regret could be lound. He neither wept nor smiled; but occasionally strode up and down the long room in which her body lay, and uttered some expression of discontent at the tardiness of the coroner and his jury, and then resumed his position near a window, and near his dead companion. Stephen was in strict confinement in an upper room by order ol his lather, and no one knew what was going on there. No one that knew him and his love lor that mother, would believe it possible that he had murdered her, and yet the case was said to be even clearer than circumstantial evidence, for the lather himself had seen the son mingling the fatal draught, and had not dreamed of its nature till the catastrophe proclaimed it.
I was visiting at a friend's house in the neighborhood and heard of the occurrence. I may he pardoned for adding that the daughter ol my friend was not visible that morning at breakfast, having heard the terrible history from a servant, and having been a very close friend of young Stephen.
Why need I disguise the truth. This is intended to be a simple history, without plot or plan, other than to relate each incident as it occurred, and I may therefore say at once that she loved him with a woman's adoring love, and that she was not unloved in return. 1 hat she scoined the story of his guilt you will not doubt, and it was at her suggestion that I rode over to the inquest.
I had never seen them before. Never heard of them indeed. Yet I was struck with both faces; of the father quite as much as that of the son. The latter was noble and manl)—a keen black eye gleamed with the look of conscious innocence, not unmingled with hatred of the father, who had suffered him to stand bound by his dead mother, accused of murdering her. The father's face was pale, calm, even lofty. But he avoided the eye of his son, and looked only where he was certain of receiving no answering look, even into the face of the sleeping woman who had been his wife and that boy's mother. She looked neither lovingly nor reproachfully at him now. It was never thus before, and somehow he had no difficulty in keeping his gaze fixed on her, so wonderful was that placid silence.
I shall not pause here to describe the curious evidence which was presented to the coroner's jury going to establish the guilt of the son. It is incredible to one not accustomed to these scenes, the amount of evidence that may be amassed against even an innocent man. And in this case, as step by step, without aid or suggestion, the testimony revealed itself, one by one the friends of young Stephen dropped away from him, and I was left, as lawyers often are, alone by the side of my client, for such he had now become.
On my word, I believe that but for the clear, confident tones of Mary Wilson's voice assuring me of his innocence, I should have believed the story myself, and left the matricide to his fate.
The jury adjourned till evening, to allow a postmortem examination to take place, and during this interval I sought a meeting with the father. The result of it is given in the words with which this history commences. It was my last argument to a father's heart, that attempt to move him, by the love of his son, to some exertion on behalf of the boy.
"If you do not aid him he will perish."
"Then let him die."
I looked suddonly into the man's countenance. He was a tall, thin man, of even commanding appearance, and the eye did not dispute the stories I had heard of his former life, that he had been dissolute, and that of late he had resorted again at times to the companions and employments of his younger years. As I looked into his face the idea came over me with lightning force that the motive for murder was quite as great on his part as on that of the son, for could he but kill the mother and hang the son, the inheritance of ample farms and funds would be his alone. Could it be possible' It was a terrible thought, but the life of a city practitioner had even then accustomed me to such ideas, though it was in the younger years of my practice.
I returned to Stephen, and talked with him. His astonishment at his position had by this time given way to grief for his mother, and he was weeping bitterly, yet such tears as no murderer ever wept. I paused while ho recovered calmness, and the deep serenity of his grief overpowered me for a moment, while I looked at him. The conviction of his innocence grew on me as I talked with him, but the weight of evidence against him was overpowering, and the examination, which was now concluded, had confirmed the worst aspect of the case. Ft needed only the proof, furnished within a few days, of the chemist in New York from whom he had purchased the article, to complete as strong a chain of evidence as ever bound a man to the prospect of ignominious death.
I pass over all the incidental history in connection with this sorrowful affair. The effect in
the family of my friend Wilson—where, if I desired it, I should go to find a spice of romance and sentiment to add to this history—I shall leave for the imagination of those who have defended friends against the verdict of a harsh world. Let me therefore pass on immediately to the courtroom and the trial of Stephen Forster, which took place some two months after the death of the mother.
It was a hot summer day. The day was oppressive at the early hour when I was roused to go over to the court-house, and as I rode across the country, the sultry air was exceedingly dispiriting. I had not taken charge of the defense myself. Two eminent counsel were engaged, familiar with criminal practice, men of keen intellect, and whose experience in that branch of the profession enabled them to catch at every chance for life, and to detect every flaw, however minute, in the links of the evidence opposed to them.
It was a very old court-room in which the trial took place. The bench for the court was at the end opposite to the entrance, and consisted of a raised platform, with a table on it, and a rail in front of it, which looked as if it might have done service in a colonial court. On each side of the doorway the seats were elevated one above the other, rising toward the rear of the room, so that you entered between two walls which grew lower as you advanced to the bar. The only bar was a high, close board fence—I can call it nothing else—sweeping in a semicircle around the room, inclosing the seats and tables for the gentlemen of the profession. The prisoner's box was outside of this fence, elevated above it, and arranged with due reference to the impossibility of an escape. The audience occupied the elevated seats in the rear, and some vacant places behind the jury box, which was on the judge's left. The latter mentioned space was generally occupied by ladies, when any case was on trial which interested them.
On the occasion of which I now write there was not room there for them. Long before the hour of opening, the court-room was thronged with the female population of the county, almost to the exclusion of the men who came from all quarters to attend this, the first murder trial in their neighborhood. The jurors were in their places an hour before the time, as if they feared that the crowd would prevent their being admitted. The bar was, as usual, thronged with lawyers and their clerks, chatting, laughing, and joking, as if the most important question of the day were how to keep cool, and no one had any thing to do with the life or death of a young, strong man.
The prisoner was brought in before the court was opened, and took his seat in the box. He turned his gaze for a moment around the crowded room, catching the eyes of many that he had known and loved for years. There was one face that he knew as thatof one of his mother's friends, a kindly woman who had held him on her knees a hundred times. She looked into his face with a longing gaze, that asked him as plainly as if he had heard the words, whether indeed he were