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and in 1809, Gessner being dead, Nicolle, of Paris, published the next four volumes, and a new edition of the former ones. Three more appeared in June, 1815, and five others, which concluded the work, were issued at Paris in January, 1818.*
In the preface to the finished history, Sismondi speaks with honest pride of the consistency, in language and opinion, which he had maintained throughout. During the twenty-two years which he had given to this task, Europe had undergone the most violent convulsions ; the fall of the French republic, the rise and fall of Napoleon, the hundred days, and the final restoration of the Bourbons, were all comprised within this period; and of these events Sismondi had been no unconcerned, often not an inactive, spectator. But during this time, he says, “ I have followed but one direction, I have constantly used the same language, and the political principles which I avowed in the first volume are found without alteration in the sixteenth." His object had been, not to recommend to the nations of Europe any precise form of government, “but to make them feel the importance, the necessity, of liberty, in order to preserve the virtue and the dignity, no less than the happiness, of man. And this liberty," he adds, “may exist in monarchies as well as in republics, in confederations or in a city which is one and indivisible.”
The amount of labor which he had given to the work was immense. “In a task,” he writes, “which has continued for at least eight hours a day during twenty years, I was obliged constantly to read and think in Italian, or in Latin, and occasionally in German, Spanish, Greek, English, Portuguese, and Provençal.” He makes this statement, however, while apologizing for the faults of his style in French, and does not mean to assert that all this toil was devoted to the composition of his history alone ; for a portion of these twenty years, as we shall see, was occupied
* This account is taken from a postscript which Sismondi added to the preface when he had completed his work; and as elsewhere in this preface he speaks of having devoted twenty-two years to this history, which fixes the commencement of his researches for it in 1796, though he did not begin to write till 1803, it must be correct. Yet in the chronological list of his writings, which he drew up a few weeks before his death, he places the publication of the last five volumes, from the 12th to the 16th, in 1815.
by other literary undertakings. But these were of secondary importance, and all grew out of his studies in Italian history, or were suggested by them. Of the researches which he had undertaken, to secure the fidelity of his narrative, he speaks as follows :
“I have lived in Tuscany, the country of my ancestors, almost as much as at Geneva, or in France ; I have nine times traversed Italy in different directions, and have visited nearly all the places which were the theatre of any great event. I have labored in almost all the great libraries, I have searched the archives of many cities and of many monasteries. The history of Italy is intimately connected with that of Germany ; I have made the tour of the latter country also, in order to seek out historical documents. Finally, I have procured at any price the books which throw light upon the period and the people that I have undertaken to commemorate."
A work executed with so much zeal and industry, and pervaded by an excellent spirit, could not fail to obtain a high place in the public estimation. It is trustworthy, complete, and judicious; the writer's judgment is neither blinded by prejudice, nor warped by fondness for original speculations. M. Mignet's opinion of it is very favorable, and few will be inclined to make any deductions from the praise that he has awarded it.
“ M. de Sismondi has treated this subject in a manner at once learned and brilliant. He has gone back to the origin of those numerous cities, proudly erected into republics on the ruins of the imperial power, or of feudal establishments; he has described their constitutions, shown their interior existence, related their struggles, exhibited their end. Turbulent Genoa, heroic Milan, mournful Pisa, prudent and powerful Venice, democratic Florence, and all those republics which, confined in a small space, had during a short period more animated life, more intoxieating passions, more varying vicissitudes, than the kingdoms of the continent; and which have all fallen sooner or later under an ambitious usurper, because they were too free, or under the attacks of foreigners, because they were too weak; this is the long and grand history which has been retraced by M. de Sismondi. He has drawn it with vast knowledge, in a noble spirit, with vigorous talent, considerable art, and much eloquence. The interest which he gives to it comes, as it always does, from the interest he takes in it. He does not. VOL. LXVI. NO. 138.
merely relate the events; he passes judgment on them, he is moved by them ; we feel the heart of the man beat in the pages of the historian. He carries us on with animation, his coloring is free, his thoughts are judicious.”
During most of the time occupied in the composition of this work, Sismondi resided at Geneva, enjoying the society of that place and its vicinity, which was then very brilliant, and making frequent journeys to Paris and Italy. He was intimate with Necker, and was a frequent guest at Coppet, which the genius of Madame de Staël had then made a centre of attraction to the most distinguished literary and scientific men in Europe. Here he often found Benjamin Constant, and Müller, the learned historian of Switzerland, and the elder Schlegel, besides De Candolle and Cuvier, then occupied by those researches in the natural sciences which have since immortalized their names. Sismondi profited largely by intercourse with such men, without losing the simplicity of his character, or having his taste corrupted by the somewhat affected brilliancy and theatrical turn of mind which are the only drawbacks from the fame of the illustrious woman in whose house they assembled. His good-sense and sound discretion, which seemed to indicate that he was of English, rather than French or Italian parentage, remained unharmed by the petty vanities and jealousies, the love of glitter and tendency to display, which are apt to be manifested in a literary clique otherwise so splendid and imposing. He appreciated the talents and virtues of Madame de Staēl, without being blind to her faults; and she gave him her friendship and confidence without reserve, entering warmly into all his literary plans, and sustaining his spirits amid the many discouragements to which a young author is exposed.
His mother appears to have been doubtful about the value of the influence and advice which he was thus 'receiving ; perhaps she was a little pained by observing her son so much devoted to the society of another woman, however illustrious, though the source of attraction was only intellectual, founded on sympathy in common pursuits. “ Promise me,” she writes, " at least before you publish, to consult some clever person not of the court of Madame de Staël.” In 1805, it was arranged that Sismondi should be the companion of Madame de Staël in her excursion to Italy, a journey so well remem
bered from its having furnished the materials for her celebrated novel, Corinne. Madame de Sismondi was a little uneasy at this, though she saw that her son could not fail to profit from a journey performed under auspices so favorable. She did not discourage the project, but warned him against expecting too much from it, and against some of the dangers of travelling with so distinguished a companion.
“Ah!” writes she, “ you are going, then, to travel with Madame de Staël! You are only too happy to have such a companion. But take care, travelling is like a short marriage : always, always together, people see too much of one another; defects have no corner in which they can hide themselves ; the spoiled child of nature and the world, as she is, must have in the mornings moments of fatigue and ennui ; and I know who is revolted by a defect in those he loves. He should therefore be doubly atten. tive to open his eyes to his own defects, and to keep them steadily shut to those of his companion. How curious I am to know how she will get on in society in that country! No doubt she will form particular intimacies only with those who know French; for how can she express her thoughts in Italian ? she ! it is impossible. However well she may understand it, know it, read Dante better than three quarters of his countrymen, she will never find the means, in that language, of making conversation flow as it ought. How can words be found in the language, when opinions and ideas are yet unborn? You will see that she will not like the Italian prosody either. However, she will be admired, and she will excite fanaticism (fera fanatisma), as we say.” – pp. 34, 35.
It is amusing to find that her prediction was exactly fulfilled. Sismondi writes from Rome, Madame de Staël pleases everywhere, but she finds nothing which pleases her ; she is angry at this fine-sounding language, which says nothing. In the poetry of which they boast to her she finds no ideas, and in conversation no sentiment." She had certainly chosen her companion not because he could share her enthusiasm for the arts, or could lose himself in the poetic reveries in which she so much delighted when standing upon ground that was hallowed by the recollections of the past. Sismondi came to Italy, not as a student of the beautiful and the picturesque, not even to revive his classical associations, but as a philanthropist, to study the present condition of the Italians, to investigate the causes of the degradation and misery of
their lower classes, and to suggest plans for rescuing them from poverty and debasement. In the eloquent and gloomy picture, which he afterwards published, of the Roman Campagna, he frankly confesses his want of taste, and his lack of sensibility to the wonders of nature and art.
Painters,” he says, are thrown into ecstasies by the warm and rich tints which are reflected from these desert fields, and by the beauties which they lend to the landscape. I must confess that all these sensations, all these emotions, are unknown to me; defects in my organs of sense deprive me of nearly all the enjoy. 'ments which others find in the arts. The rich colors of the Campagna of Rome, that I hear spoken about, entirely elude my sight, as the red ray is invisible to my eyes. I am more impressed by the masterpieces of architecture ; but among the ancient monuments, though some of them remind me of the glorious period of wisdom and virtue, far the greater number, and those which are most imposing from their size, and even from their beauty, remind one only of the opulence of those masters of the world, who had subdued nature because they had enslaved man, and who thought the work of a hundred thousand arms was not ill employed, if it procured for them the enjoyments of a moment. Thus my defective sight and the thoughts which I am most accustomed to indulge act together in annihilating, so far as I am concerned, all the charm which allures other travellers to Rome." - Études sur l'Économie Politique, II. 8, 9.
This is a manly avowal, which shows the straightforward honesty of the man, and his hearty dislike of pretension and false sentiment. It is not wonderful that he should have written thus, though we are surprised that one like Madame de Staël should have chosen him for a travelling companion. But he had eyes to see and a heart to feel for the depopulation of the country, and the wretchedness of those who cultivated the soil, especially when he contrasted their condition with the general well-being of the peasants of Tuscany. The picture which he drew of the Campagna surpasses in moral effect the most glowing descriptions by his companion, the eloquent and all-gifted Corinne.
The travellers returned to Geneva in the summer of 1805, and after rather more than a year's interval devoted to their respective literary occupations at home, Madame de Staël invited Sismondi again to accompany her in a visit to Germany, an excursion no less fruitful than the former one, as in it she completed her preparations for that work which first raised