Изображения страниц

grimace, or did he anticipate the destiny which awaited him at so distant a period ?

The beginning of his reign was very circumspect and commendable: but he soon afforded reason for complaint among the zealots, who had affected to regard him as their creature. They wished to make him the instrument of their particular views : but, instead of releasing Ricci, the General of the Jesuits, with some of his most violent partisans, who were confined in the castle of St. Angelo, Pius VI, had the courage to declare that, with respect to them, the law should have its course. This apparent courage in his Holiness, however, was the mere consequence of fear, inspired by the Spanish court; which, together with that of France, kept a watchful eye on all the proceedings of the Pope, that might have been interpreted to favour the Jesuits. He was, therefore, not a little embarrassed at the conduct of the King of Prussia. Frederic the Great, it scems, was somewhat piqued at not having been consulted on the suppression of the order of Jesuits, who were numerous in his dominions; and he therefore not only granted protection to that order, but set forth, in a Declaration, that the Pope would not oppose the continuance of the society in Prussia. When this Declaration was shewn to the Pope, he said that it was out of his power to revoke the decision of his predecessor, on account of the serious opposition of the catholic courts : but he solemnly promised never to denounce the society, forming in Prussia, as irregular. The ministers of Spain and France, informed of this singular promise, which militated against the above-mentioned Bull, reproached Pius with duplicity. Fre. deric, however, in return, did the Pope the honour of requesting to be acknowleged by him as king of Prussia.

The difficulties in which Pius VI. was involved with the Empress of Russia, on the same account, were equally distressing, and often humiliating. A noble Lithuanian, who was Bishop of Mallo (in partibus) and apostolic visitor, did not scruple to give to the powers conferred on him by the Pope the strongest extension, in permitting the Jesuits of White Russia to take novices; which, he pretended, was in con. formity to the inteutions of Clement XIV, and Pius VI. He had contrived to make the Empress espouse his cause with a tenacity, and even with an haughtiness, which she seemed to reserve only for affairs of greater importance. She once caused an answer to a letter from Pius to be inscribed « Catherine II. Empress of all the Russias, to Pius V 1. Bishop of Rome, and Pope in his district.” This business ended, as might be expected, by the Pope's acquiescence in the demands of the Empress, after the usual equivocations, qualifications, and mental reservations Q 43


of the holy see. The Jesuits being thus made the subject of a slight, though unequal, contest between so mighty a sovereign and the Bishop of Rome, they recovered a sort of existence, and enjoyed undisturbed the protection of Catharine ; who, in 5780, even condescended to visit their college, the foundation of which they owed to her munificence. • The author dwells more particularly on these circumstances relative to the Jesuits, because the principal features in the character of Pius V 1. are to be found in his conduct towards that order. He never consented to their proscription but by word of mouth, and never ventured openly either to protect or to persecute them. This conduct augmented his natural irresolution, and often forced him to that duplicity which is the consequence of weakness. Yet this pontiff had an excessive passion for glory, which was the principal source both of his faults and his misfortunes; for that passion, if not joined with strength of mind, often degenerates into puerile vanity, He was ambitious of illustrating his reign in every respect, and of attaching his name to all enterprises which attracted public attention. This unguarded self-love created for him frequent mortifications. Descended from a family scarcely nobl, he was extremely ambitious of elevating it. To a very modest coat of arms, which he had inherited from his ancestors, he

vainly added an eagle, fleurs-de-lys, and stars. The Italians, ; who are more apt, perhaps, than any other nation, with mer.

ciless avidity to seize all occasions for ridicule, made the fol. lowing bitter verses on these pompous armorial additions :

Redde aquilam imperio, Francorum lilia regi:.

Sidera redde polo; cætera, Brasche, tua. Wherever an opportunity offered of affixing his name together with his arms, he gladly availed himself of it; and the most trivial repairs of a building were not thought too unimportant for the display of this vanity,

It was calculated that, in the year 1786, this rage for seizing the slightest pretext for pepetuating his name had cost the state a very large sum; (200,000 scudi;) and to this incurable vanity, rather than to his piety or his taste for the fine arts, the public were inclined to attribute his idea of erecting a vestry near the church of St. Peter. He there displayed a magnificence which may dazzle at first sight, but never can conceal its numerous faults from the eyes of conipetent judges. It cost no less than * “ To the empire its eagle restore,

And to France let her lillies incline,
Place the stars in their orbits of yore,----
The remainder, good Braschi, is thinc."


sixteen hundred thousand Roman scudi. Inscriptions, as may be imagined, were not spared in this edifice. Over the principal entrance, is the following:

Quod ad Templi Vaticani ornamentum PUBLICA vota flagi. tabani, Pius VI. Pontifex maximus, fecit,&c. *

llow great must have been his chagrin, when he was informed that the following lines had been found written underneath :

Pullica? mertiris. Non publica vota fuére;

Sed tumidi ingenii quota fuêre tui. + 'The famous museum Pio-Clementinum, which, before the robberies committed by the French in Italy, formed one of the finest and most useful decorations of the Vatican, entitled Pius 17. to greater praise, and bore his name with more justice. It was is who first suggested to Clement XIV. the idea of forming, in the Vatican, a repository for antique statues; and, after le had himself ascended the summit of ecclesiastical greatness, he pursued that brilliant project. To embellish the Quirinal palace, where he resided during the fine season of the year, he, in 1783, at great expence, caused to be placed before it the pbelisk, which had long lain overturned near the Scala Santa. His fatterers made this the subject of many fulsome eulogies ; yet it was certain, that the sums expended on the occasion might have been far better employed in relieving the pressing wants of the people. A wag, therefore, thinking this a fair opportunity for giving a lecture to the most holy father, wrote the following scripture-text uiderneath the obelisk:

« Command that these stones be made bread." · The desire of placing his name every where, and having his munificence celebrated on the most trifling accounts, has occasioned hin more than one sarcasm of this sort. It is well known that, at Rome, no bread was baked but small round loaves of about two or three ounces weight, which were called pagnotta, and scid for two bajocs cach. The price never varied: but, in proportion as wheat was cheaper or dearer, the size of the pagnotta increased or diminished. At a time when the dearness of bread-corn rad compelled the Board of Provisions greatly to reduce the magnitude of the loaves, one of those malcontents, who are the less dangerous because their gail is vented in pleasantry, conceived the thought of placing in the hands of Pasquin a pagriolla of excessive smallness, and of writing beneath the statue those pompous words, so often repeated in Rome : MUNIFICENTIA Pui Sexti.'

* " This ornament of the Vatican Church, which was demanded by the public voice, was begun and finished by the Sovereign PonBilf, Pius VI. in the year,” &c.

+ “ The public voice demanded ? 'Tis an egregious lie!
" No voice was heard, but that of thine own vanity."



... But it was particularly in the exercise of his papal functions that bis, vanity shone, and his self-love was gratified; and it must be owned that, in this respect, nature had favoured him as much as the ce. remonious pomp of the Roman Church. He was one of the land. soniest men of his time. To height of stature he joined dignified and engaging features, and a florid complexion, the brightness of which had very

little suffered by age. His papal robes be could put on and wear with so much dexterity, that they deprived him of none of his personal advantages. His forehead was bald: but behind, and on the sides of his head, he had some bushy locks of a dazzling whiteness, which were combed with so much care as to give him an air at once noble and venerable. He had also one of the best-shaped legs that Italy could produce, and was very vain of it. Always dressed in the neatest shoes and stockings, he was not willing that this part of his person should be entirely concealed from the view of others by his long papal garments. He therefore took care to lift them up oa one side, so that one of his legs was completely visible.'

His very enemies, however, allow that the purity of his morals was unquestionable ; otherwise, as this author observes, if the amours of a temporal sovereign cannot escape the curiosity of his numerous observers, how could a Pope, whose every step is counted, hide himself from the severe eye of scrupulosity, or the clear-sighted eye of malignity, and cover his secret intrigues with an impenetrable veil?

Pius VI. passed all his time between his religious duties, his ca. binet, his museum, and the Vatican library. He very seldom went out, and then was always attended. He had no taste for the country, nor for any of those innocent amusements which the gravest men allow themselves as relaxation. He spent the fine season in the Quirinal palace, and the remainder of the year in the Vatican. Given up to serious occupations, or to the functions of his office, le uniformly di-dained frivolous conversations; and he fled rather than sought the society of women.'

His conduct as lore, then, the author admits, was undoubtedly exemplary : but, as a man and a sovęREIGN, he was open to censure. He shewed himself exceedingly ignorant in the common concerns of life, and especially in politics. Yet what might be charged on him as duplicity was only irresolution and , natural inconsistency. No one of his secretaries of state could ever flatter himself with the possession of his entire confidence. Lively and impetuous, sometimes to excess, he required to be checked by fear, or induced to recollect himself by kind larguage ; which, while it proved the interest which the adviser took in his affairs, spared his pride, Cardinal Bernis, who ever was his sincerest friend, once said of him: I incessanti, watch over him, as a child of an excellent birt too lively disposition; wibich, if care were not isken, would throw itself out of the


window. Had Pius VI. even been unexceptionable in other respects, his long reign was never pardoned, either by the Cardinals or the Roman people.

It is universally allowed that his most meritorious work was the attempt at draining the Pontine marshes. The author, as may be expected, treats this subject at large: but our readers will not blame us for passing slightly over a topic which is discussed, more or less, by almost every Italian traveller who has published his observations. Pius certainly succeeded to a certain extent in this useful undertaking, by which the intercourse between Rome and Naples has been very considerably facilitated : but, --such is the ingratitude to which potentates are exposed--the people of modern Rome thought very meanly and spoke deridingly of the whole enterprise. It was a standing proverb in the Roman state, when mentioning any sums expended on extravagant projects : Sono andate alle paludi Pontine, « they are gone to the Pontine marshes.” In the streets of Rome, Pius has often heard himself called il secatore; a nickname of double import, alluding at once to his rage for draining these swamps, and to the vexations which resulted thence to the people. The fact is, indeed, that foreigners enjoyed, almost exclusively, the fruits of so much labour and expence. When traversing the magnificent via Appia, as restored by Pius VI., they did not see the sums which had been absorbed by the surrounding swamps; nor behold the number of wretched individuals, who, through the influence of the pestilential vapours thence exhaling, had perished by a lingering death.

· The principal object of this enterprise, which was to render the air healthful, is very far from being accomplished. Travellers perform with trembling the first six stages and a half, through which the Appian road extends; and especially the first, in going from Terracina ; yet nothing announces the danger that surrounds them. In. deed, the fresh verdure which meets the eye on both sides is scarcely any other than that of reeds, which occupy nearly all the space that is not covered with trees or underwood. By this indication alone, they sufficiently guess that they are traversing fens.

In other respects, the horizon appears to them as serene as it is in the rest of Italy. The air does not seem to them more charged with vapours than in more salubrious situations. They only see, at a distance, the tufty Appenine, covered with clouds, as the tops of high mountains generally are: experience, however, but too well-founded, puts them on their guard against deceitful appearances. This tract of country, where death seems to have established his empire, cannot be passed with too much rapidity. Above all, it is essential never to traverse the Pontine swamps by night, nor even at the wane of day: for woe to him whose eyes, at such times, should close in passing these fens; they might perhaps be closed for ever! The livid aspect of those, whon either want or habit fixes on this spot, sufficiently


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »