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spiacevole e villana,
Sì fatto morto giàm mai non si vide.' The tradition, at least, seems still to survive in the country ; and Mr. Tyndale adduces some evidence to show that the
ranunculus sceleratus' was the herb to which these exaggerated qualities were ascribed. Some insular antiquaries have found a different solution of the ancient proverb. The ancient Sardinians, they say, like many barbarous tribes, used to get rid of their relations in extreme old age by throwing them alive into deep pits; which attention it was the fashion for the venerable objects of it to receive with great expressions of delight: whence the saying of a Sardinian laugh - vulgò, laughing on the wrong side of one's mouth. It seems to us not impossible that the phenomenon may have been a result of the effects of intemperie,' working on weak constitutions and in circumstances favourable to physical depression - like the epidemic chorea, and similar complaints, of which such strange accounts are read in medical books. Mr. Tyndale mentions another nervous affection, possibly of the same family, as not uncommon in the unhealthy parts of the island. This is the timoria' (vol. ii. p. 246.),
violent panic terror, with prostration of strength and spirits,' which the force of the patient's imagination, infected with the popular belief on the subject, attributes to some particular person or object as its exciting cause. The same notion prevails in Sicily, where the complaint is called • lo scanto.' Of course it is regarded as of magical origin; and the Sardinian popular remedies are of so disagreeable a kind that it may suffice to refer those who are curious in such matters to Mr. Tyndale's account of them.
The mountain districts of the interior of Sardinia held out against the Romans, as they have held out against modern civilisation and centralised government almost to the present day. The wildest region is that round the highest mountain of the island Gennargentu (Janua Argenti, the Silver Gate or pass) Here Hampsicoras, the only native Sardinian hero, maintained the Carthaginian cause with great pertinacity against the conquering republic; nor were his countrymen ever fully subdued, -though put
down for the time with great slaughter by Tiberius Gracchus. The same mountaineers held out for many years against, and at last repulsed, the troops of Justinian; and it was at this time they are said to have acquired their name of
Barbaracini (Barbarians), from their language, unknown to the Greeks. The district is still called La Barbagia. Mr. Tyndale says the Barbaracenes became Christian under Gregory the Great; but their conversion must have been very incomplete; for the author of the Dittamondo' speaks of them as retaining their Paganism and their barbarous language 700 years later.
• Io viddi, che mi parve maraviglia,
In sicura montagna e forte stanno.' La Barbagia and the neighbouring district of Ogliastro, are to this day the most uncivilised and thoroughly Sardinian quarters of the island. Here the mountains are occupied by · banditi' or "fuorusciti;' not banditti, however, in the common sense of the word, but gentlemen who have fallen out with the law for various reasons, chiefly connected with the fearful vendetta, which here, as in Corsica, lasts from generation to generation, and literally depopulates whole villages and parishes; for no member of a clan subject to a vendetta is safe, until the original offence has been purged by some of the methods recognised by the unwritten Lynch law of the island. The king, the monks, and the fuorusciti, all take tythe of the peasant, and have each a prior claim on his little harvest. At Fonni, a town of 3000 souls, Mr. Tyndale found forty-six ecclesiastics, thirty acknow• ledged' fuorusciti, with a similar conjectural number of unacknowledged ones; and, in addition, six lawyers. Of the whole Fonnese population, one in fifty-seven could read and write. But the exactions under which these people live, though of course much complained of, do not seem to be very severe in the solitary and outlying districts. The Fonnesi, like other peasantry similarly circumstanced, appear to live in tolerable though rude affluence.
After various vicissitudes of fortune under the Greeks, Vandals, and Goths, Sardinia was overrun by the Saracens, and finally rescued from them by the Pisans and Genoese in the beginning of the 19th century. The few buildings of the middle ages extant in the island seem to have been chiefly of Pisan foundation; and are decorated with those doggerel Leonine inscriptions in which Tuscan taste was particularly fond of displaying itself, just before the • vulgar language' began to be reduced to writing. The institution of the Sarde · judges,' the most peculiar feature in the history of the island, is commonly
attributed to the Pisans. But this is a mistake. The · judges' are mentioned as early as the times of Gregory the Great. The reader will find the history of the title in a special chapter in Mr. Tyndale's appendix. The island was divided into four
giudicati.' The judges were not only what their name imports, but in fact kings of these provinces. Their title was hereditary, descendible to females; and many 'giudicesse reigned on different occasions in the island. Sometimes appointed by the Pisans, sometimes their feudal vassals, and sometimes at war with them, the judges exercised a considerable share in the sovereignty, until the Pisans transferred the island to Aragon in 1324.
Under the Aragonese Kings we find a complete feudal system established. The • Stamenti,' or feudal • Estates,' were convoked by Peter the Ceremonious, in the fourteenth century, after the model of those of Aragon. Sardinia from thenceforward formed a part of the great Spanish monarchy; until the grand plucking of the feathers of the double eagle which took place at the peace of Utrecht. By the first draft of that treaty it was assigned to the Elector of Bavaria ; afterwards it formed part of the share of the Spanish dominions allotted to the Emperor.
Victor Amadeus the Second, then Duke of Savoy, had even more than the inconstancy which has been sometimes attributed to his House in contracting and breaking political engagements.
Nul prince,' says Voltaire of him, 'ne prenait plutôt son parti, quand il s'agissait de rompre ses engagemens pour ses intérêts.' It must, however, be confessed that a prince hemmed in between Louis the Fourteenth, Spain, and the Empire, could ill afford to be over-scrupulous in such matters. He was one of those bold calculators who keep the highest aims deliberately in view, while they are at the same time ever ready to seize the momentary chance afforded by every turn of the game. According to an early Whig draft of the Treaty of Utrecht, he was to have had Spain and the Indies; and it is said that a treaty of commerce between him, in that capacity, and the
Queen of England, were ready signed. But the accession of the Tory party to power dissipated his magnificent visions. Instead of Spain, he got Sicily for his share. It is worthy of notice that this cession of Sicily was afterwards made the ground of a distinct article of impeachment against Harley, as an injury done to our Austrian ally,
King Victor Amadeus celebrated his coronation at Palermo, on St. Thomas's Day, 1714, with a pomp of which the Sicilian annals had hitherto afforded no precedent. The nation, so long oppressed by Spanish dominion, seemed to welcome the arrival of a native Italian prince, with one of those treacherous bursts of popular feeling, which have so often heralded abortive attempts at independence in that quarter of the world. But in gaining his island, Victor Amadeus acquired also a lawsuit with the Pope. As Voltaire recounts the story, after his sarcastic fashion of deducing great events from little causes, a basket of green peas produced one of the most serious conflicts which have taken place of late times between the ecclesiastical and temporal powers. The question whether vegetables raised in the Archbishop of Lipau's garden should pay a market toll in the hands of a purchaser, ably ventilated by the Sicilian lawyers and churchmen, drew after it the whole disputed subject of ecclesiastical exemptions; set the tribunal of the monarchy in opposition to the bishops, the Pope against the tribunal, and ultimately brought an interdict on the greater part of the island. Victor Amadeus discovered, as many sovereigns have found before and since, that a mere diplomatic title to a kingdom is very far from conferring what the most ancient hereditary right, the most rooted national attachment, can scarcely give-power to engage in battle with the Church. Almost before the negotiators of Utrecht had closed their business and reached their homes, he felt his island slipping away from under his feet. It was said that he corresponded underhand with Alberoni, and that it was a knowledge of this fact which caused him to be altogether abandoned by the parties who concluded the Triple Alliance. However this
may be, he left the island in 1718, with scarcely a recollection of his brief pageant of royalty, to be once more the battlefield of Spain and Austria, and to be finally disposed of by the victorious flect of England. Sardinia was ultimately conceded to Victor Amadeus, in exchange for Sicily - perhaps the only negotiation, says Lord Mahon, which the House of Savoy had ever yet carried on without extracting from it some advantage. It was undoubtedly a poor acquisition. It was no loss to the empire, as the Sardinian historian of these transactions candidly avows, and no gain to the conqueror; but it enabled him to retain his station among the crowned heads of Europe - a distinction long and eagerly coveted by the House of Savoy, whose Oriental titles had never been recognised by European diplomacy;—for the kingdom of Cyprus was contested by Venice, and the kingdom of Jerusalem by Naples.
Ever since that time the name of the island has been connected with that of the celebrated family which wears its crown. Mr. Tyndale's chapter on its genealogy, though slight and deficient in particularity, will not be found without interest at a
time when the course of events has once more invested its fortunes with European importance.
Few distinct episodes in European history are read with more of that peculiar pleasure which arises from the contemplation of difficulties overcome, a strong policy courageously and successfully pursued, adversity patiently borne, and success converted into the insurance of future successes, than the narrative of the gradual advance of the Piedmontese monarchy, the Prussia of Southern Europe. The greatness which may be achieved with small means, through unity of purpose and the steady adherence to certain political maxims, was never more fully exemplified than in the Sardinian monarchy, such as it was before the outbreak of the first revolution. The historian Botta, when speaking of it, uses a comparison strange to our ears, but not so to those of an Italian versed in the annals of his own country, for whom the word Republic has scarcely yet acquired its latest meaning, or become a mere synonym of democracy. From various causes, he says, “ procedette in quello stato una opinione generale stabili, • che da generazione in generazione propagandosi, rendè questa * monarchia somigliante alle republiche, nelle quali, se cangiano
gli uomini, non cangiano le massime, ne le opinioni.' Much must be attributed to the position of the monarchy. For eight hundred years it has maintained its position, like Castle Dangerous on the Scottish marches, a stronghold fixed on narrow and precarious ground between the greatest monarchics of Europe.
E di prisco valor ripiena e calda,
Ponsi d'Italia, e tiensi ferma e salda.' But this peculiarity of political situation has been, singularly enough, coupled with a force of character almost unique in the reigning house itself; which in all that space of time has furnished a succession of men fit to undertake the conduct of so difficult a government: men of energy, counsel, and parsimony for the most part, and, with scarcely an exception, renowned for personal bravery. The problematic motto of the Green Count of Savoy, FERT, which has puzzled the brains of so many generations of Piedmontese antiquaries, might well be interpreted as expressing at once the patient qualities of the Savoyard people, and the peculiar characteristics of the dynasty; not to be shaken by adverse fortune; – enduring all things, and certainly hoping all things.
For the traditional ambition of the House of Savoy is closely connected with these its traditional virtues. It has been involved from generation to generation in the quarrels of France,