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My dear Sir,-In the March number of the New Monthly Magazine appeared an article by me, entitled “ Modern Portugal,” in which the following paragraph occurred ;— “The very cavalier manner with which some of the principal men, when escaping from the rebels at Oporto, were treated by the commander of the British steamer then in the Douro, is spoken of with the severest animadversion by all parties." As I could not state what I did not believe to be the case, so am I anxious to make ample amends, should I by chance have injured the officer alluded to in public estimation. The very best vindication I can offer of the character of Captain Robb, of H.M.S. Gladiator, of whom I spoke, both as an officer and a gentleman is, that his conduct, while in the Douro has received the full approval, both of the Commander-in-Chief of H.B.M. squadron in the Tagus, and of the British Ambassador at Lisbon. Every naval man is aware of Captain Robb's gallantry at Navarino, and no one is more ready than I am to do full justice to his high professional qualities. I regret that I should have been led by the statements I reYour faithful servant, ceived to write of him as I then wrote.
WILLIAM H. G. KINGSTON.
THE MAY NUMBER OF
W. HARRISON AINSWORTH, ESQ.
I. JAMES THE SECOND; OR, THE REVOLUTION OF 1688.
AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE.
EDITED BY W. HARRISON
II. ALEXANDRE DUMAS IN SPAIN AND ALGIERS.
Chap. VII. The Queen Mother.-Chap. VIII. Storming of the Hostelry.
66 WHO IS THE HERO?"
A TALE OF ENGLISH INDUSTRY
IV. WITCHCRAFT IN FRANCE IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
BY ANNA SAVAGE.
H. G. KINGSTON, ESQ.
IX. AN EVENING WITH JUSTINUS KERNER.
X. LAUNCELOT WIDGE. BY CHARLES HOOTON, ESQ.
CHAPMAN AND HALL, 186, STRAND.
NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
THE SPIRIT OF DANTE.
BY L. MARIOTTI.
AUTHOR OF "ITALY, PAST and present."
LOFTINESS OF THE SUBJECT.
A POET's life may be written in one page. Not so the history of his after-life. His mortal career, like his mortal remains, occupies but six feet of ground. His genius, like his undying soul, can be circumscribed by no limits of time and space.
The contemplation of the achievements of a supreme intellect gives rise to sensations analogous to the raptures experienced by the Alpine traveller. The presence of a great mind has upon us the same effect as the view of the loftiest prodigies of nature. In both cases we become instinct with the greatness of surrounding objects. Our exaltation is commensurate with our speechless amazement. The air grows keener and lighter as the hills swell threateningly around. Our lungs dilate, our very frame and our whole being expand at every step we climb on that daring flight of heavenward stairs.
The study of Dante brings us to the summit of one of the most towering alps of human intelligence. The insight we obtain of the depth of his conceptions raises us in our own estimation, inspires us with new faith in the vastness and comprehensiveness, in the illimitedness of our human faculties. By the side of him, on the thousand fathoms' pedestal reared up to him by the reverence of after ages, we become, as it were, part of him-one with him.
BUT the reading of Dante is an arduous task. To comprehend the spirit of the poet we must lift ourselves up to a level with him. We need climb the mighty peak to perceive its gigantic dimensions. We are to strive and toil through the weary ascent, till we leave behind the gulf of time and space that yawns between us. We must strain all our powers of abstraction till we actually live in him.
To say nothing of its greatness and goodness, the Poem of Dante is the most curious of books. The register of the past, noting down every incident within the compass of man's memory-the Gothic edifice with its hundred niches, every niche a shrine or a pillory, consigning a name to endless futurity. The debating ground for all vital problems, for all futile questions, such as will equally haunt and harass the fancy of an ignorant and superstitious generation, on the first awakening of its almost childish inquisitiveness. The treasury of all learning, human or divine, May.-VOL. LXXX. NO. CCCXVII.
visible or invisible. The maze of deep-shrouded allegories, allusions, abstractions, puzzling sybilline riddles. Vast, recondite knowledge, set down in metrical hieroglyphics. Such is Dante: with such views must his spirit be searched in his time-hallowed pages. The annalist, the interpreter, the representative of the middle ages, Dante it especially identified with that most obscure, but most interesting period of human history. A rapid sketch of the leading ideas of mankind during that transitional era is the most natural introduction to the study of Dante.
DANTE'S POLITICAL SPIRIT.
THE formation of human societies began under circumstances analogous to the phenomena of primitive creation. It was night upon the earth, and "darkness was upon the face of the deep." The nations of Europe were slowly emerging from chaos. Wave after wave, the flood of northern barbarism, had settled upon the surface of ancient civilisation, and the subsiding waters had left thick layers of bare and swampy, but, as it proved, not barren, alluvial soil.
The half-smothered plants of the former culture began slowly to struggle through and re-germinate, deriving fresh vigour from the fertility of the superincumbent stratum. The colossal ideas of the Roman world were reproduced on the very outset of medieval regeneration; among these towered the proud edifice of Roman ambition-universality of dominion.
Nothing more sublime or generous than this same social catholicitythis absorption of all kingdoms into one vast empire, of all human tribes into one family-this concentration of all local resources into one means of common welfare-this uniformity of law, of creed, and languagethis organisation of a state without limits, of a community without neighbours or strangers-without friends or foes!
This system of civilisation by unification, to which peace, free-trade, and education, are but too late, too slowly, too imperfectly, tending in our own days, the Romans had all but established eighteen centuries ago. Truly, they had achieved it by force of arms. But the law of the strongest was then also the law of the wisest, and civilisation invariably followed close on the steps of conquest.
In the middle ages, though a more difficult, it seemed yet a practicable scheme. The great Roman notion survived the final destinies of Rome. The barbaric chieftains, who had been so busy at the demolition of the empire, aspired now to its reconstruction. Their ambitious spirit caught fire from the smouldering ruins on which they had based their throne. Charlemagne and Otho of Germany had well-nigh laid the world beneath their rule.
Nor was the work of civilisation now to be effected merely by right of might. Universality of dominion was now to be cemented by catholicity of faith and worship. The world was, henceforth, to acknowledge " One God, one Pope, one Emperor."
Now, of this strange triumvirate one was in Heaven; but the Earth was too narrow to harbour the two others at once. Emperor and Pope, Church and State, were, ever after, pitted against each other for pre
Truly, Charlemagne and Otho, though crowned at Rome, had their home in the north. Still were they styled Roman emperors; they were by right kings of Italy, and Italy was still the centre of civilised lifeRome, still the metropolis of the Christian world. The centralisation and fusion of mankind into one people, the plenitude of the times-peace and order, could only take place when the successor of the Cæsars should be restored to his natural residence on the capitol. This restoration of the seat of empire at Rome, this return of the Eagle to its native eyrie, was the object of the ardent longings of the noblest spirits. No one dived deeper into that redeeming idea than the clear-sighted patriot, Dante. Only, against the futherance of this scheme, militated the ambition of the pontiff's. The high priest was unwilling to make room for the monarch.
Sovereigns, in the middle ages, reigned, but ruled not. Feudalism in France and Germany, municipal democracy in Italy, had stripped the sceptre of all substantial power. Emperors and popes were, in reality, at the mercy of their vassals. They were but a name and a standard-formidable or contemptible, according as the great tide of opinion set in for or against them. Every petty lord, every mean town had its own weight in that anarchic political scale. Papists, Imperialists-Guelphs, and Ghibelines the two parties perpetually shifted their ground, blending a thousand local interests with the great cause of mankind.
But parties, in the middle ages, however hostile, were never bent on utter extermination. They loved fighting for its own sake, they warred for the assertion of unmeaning claims, for the vindication of idle privileges, for the enforcement of vain forms of vassalage. The most arrant Guelph, the most inveterate Ghibeline, were equally penetrated with the idea of the necessity of the co-existence of a pope and emperor. The great difficulty arose in the nice definition of their respective powers, in the equitable settlement of their mutual demands. Dante was borne a Guelph, in a city zealous in the support of that cause. After his banishment, he was compelled to take refuge with Ghibelines, and thought to have adopted the maxims of these latter. He has been, therefore, charged with apostacy; the name of "fierce Ghibeline" has been applied as a by-word to him-designating him as a partizan of a foreign despot, a foe to popular freedom.
But Dante never was at heart Guelph or Ghibeline. With views widely above the notions of his brawling contemporaries, he made, as he bravely expressed it, his own party, and aimed at a reconciliation of all parties, under what seemed to him the only practical social system.
The empire was for him an abstract principle. He revered the crown -no matter on what brows it was laid by Providence-as the rallying point for all the factions of distracted Italy. Nothing but the iron hand of a supreme ruler, he urged, could heal the wounds of that bleeding country. He evinced no hostility to popular freedom; but he thought that streams of civil bloodshed, proscriptions, banishments, all the atrocities of intolerance and misrule, were but indifferent symptoms of rational liberty. He beheld all the cities of Romagna and Lombardy fallen from excess of licentiousness into the hands of the most unlimited, galling tyranny. One legitimate master was for him preferable to a hundred despots. Imperial authority never had been, never, by its organic constitution, could be despotic in Italy. An emperor-no matter where he was
born-could be no French or German prince. He was the emperor, that is something by virtue of his office essentially Italian and Roman. The estrangement of the crown from Italian heads, the absence of the Cæsar from Italy was the result of national degeneracy; it was in its turn the source of all national calamities. On the restoration of the ancient order of things, rested all hopes for future harmony and peace, all hopes for Italian independence, greatness, and happiness in after ages; all hopes for that preponderance which Italy was still destined to exercise for the enlightenment of the human races-for that social and moral ascendency, for that intellectual dominion which Rome would once more assert on the gratitude, not on the terror, of subdued nations.
Unity of church and state in Italy-peace and civilisation to the world. -such were the great, and, at contrary events too fatally averred, prophetic views of Dante's loyal patriotism. Had the stubborn republicans of his own times never lost sight of his awful warning, had they all been Ghibelines, in Dante's own sense of the word; had they all joined under the standard of such men as Frederic II., or Manfred of Puglia-the cup of misery which ages of bondage and abjection have not yet thoroughly drained, might have been suffered to pass from the lips of their guiltless posterity.
DANTE'S RELIGIOUS SPIRIT.
AGAIN. Dante was a staunch Papist, a believer in one Catholic, apostolical Roman church. He showed everywhere the same instinctive dread of division. He abominated religious sectarianism as he detested political faction. Christianity and unity of faith and worship were indissolubly associated in his mind. He thought the empire itself, originally, eternally intended to body forth the universality of the church. He was for an unlimited centralisation of ecclesiastical hierarchy. There was to be a high priest on earth as there was a Supreme Being in Heaven. No man ever entertained a more overweening sense of the sacredness of pontifical ministry.
And it was precisely this transcendent reverence for the indelible character of the vicar of Christ, that rendered him so implacable against the hideous specimens of papal holiness, whom he beheld seated on the chair of St. Peter. Dante's pope must be a priest, a Levite, a "king of prayers, lord of the sacrifice," far removed from the turmoil of human passions, for the sake of his own dignity, placed beyond reach of the tempests of political life.
LEIGH HUNT ON DANTE.
Few men's works have been more widely and more intensely read than Dante's; and yet no man's character has been more egregiously mis-understood. From Boccaccio to Leigh Hunt, his friends, no less than his adversaries, have dwelt on the poet's "ferocious hates and bigotries," and painted him as a man narrow-minded in his views, implacable in his enmities, blind in his partialities.
Dante was, undoubtedly, a man of strong convictions, of a proud, disdainful spirit, of violent passions; but his uprightness and conscientiousness were always commensurate with the extreme excitability of his feelings. He was a fearless, uncompromising lover of justice and truth; led