Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF Riga, the Greek Patriot.' Riga, the principal agent of the first insurrection which prepared the way for the present struggle for independence in Greece, was born in the year 1753 at Valestini, a small town in Thessaly. He studied with intense ardour at the best colleges of his country, and early distinguished himself by a great facility of conception, and an extraordinary activity of mind. As he was not sufficiently rich to be enabled to devote himself exclusively to the study of literature, he applied himself to trade, in order to acquire an independent subsistence. He went, while yet very young, to Bucharest, where he remained till 1790, dividing his time between commercial pursuits and his favourite studies. At Bucharest, which then contained many literary characters of all nations, and libraries rich in all the branches of literature, Riga, who was continually on the search for fresh information, acquired very extensive erudition. His imagination became excited by the ancient literature of Greece ;-the French, Latin, German, and Italian languages were familiar to him; he wrote equally well in French and in Greek; and was at the same time both a poet and a musician. His favourite study was that of comparative geography. To all these acquisitions he added a deep and passionate attachment to his beautiful but unhappy country, whose shameless bondage filled him with indignation, and whose liberation he meditated as the end of his most ardent desires. This all-pervading passion, which gave a romantic tinge to his intellectual faculties, inspired him with the daring and extraordinary scheme of forming a great secret society, whose object was to rouse the whole of Greece against the Porte, and to deliver his unfortunate countrymen from the yoke of their oppressors. Full of energy and activity, eloquent to an uncommon degree, and already possessed of the esteem and admiration of his countrymen, he was not long in forming such a society. He brought over to his party, the bishops, the archons, the rich merchants, the literati, the naval and military officers, and in short the flower of the Greek nation, as well as many foreigners of high reputation and power. Nay, he even contrived to do what might appear incredible to the rest of Europe, but may, nevertheless, be accounted for by the natural aversion which all men of all classes and nations must have to arbitrary power ; he actually enlisted in his party many powerful Turks, and, among others, the celebrated Paswan Oglou, who so long resisted the whole force of the Ottoman empire.

After the formation of this society, Riga established himself at Vienna, where a great number of Greek merchants resided, as well as many literary emigrants from that country. From this metropolis he carried on an extensive secret correspondence with his confederates in Greece, and other parts of Europe. He continued at the same time to cultivate literature very successfully. He published a Greek journal for the use of his countrymen. He translated the travels of Anacharsis the Younger ;-he composed and published a Treatise on Military Tactics; and an Elemens tary Treatise on Physics for the use of the unscientific; and translated several French works. But Riga obtained his chief celebrity and popularity from his patriotic songs, which, though written in a familiar style bordering on the vulgar, were eminently calculated to inflame the imaginations of the young Greeks, and to inspire them with love for their country, and resentment against the Turks. His imitation of the Mar

seillois Hymn,* which is still sung by Greeks in their camps, and before their battles, and his beautiful song,

Ως πότε παληκάρια να ζούμε στα βουνα.

How long will ye dwell on the mountains, ye brave? are those which excited the greatest enthusiasm, and produced the most powerful sensation on the minds of a nation, who still remembered the deeds of Miltiades, of Cimon, of Themistocles, and of Pericles. Riga also published a large map of all Greece, in twelve sheets, engraved at Vienna, at the expense of the confederates, in which he had designated all the most celebrated spots of his nation by their ancient as well as their modern names. This work spread the literary fame of Riga throughout Europe,

This indefatigable and extraordinary man, who, by the mere powers of his mind, had paved the way for the present Greek revolution, died a martyr to the cause, A treacherous member of the society, who desired riches at the expense of his honour, denounced Riga and eight of his companions to the government of Austria, as conspirators. The Emperor of Germany ordered them to be arrested, and surrendered to the Porte, with the exception of three, who were naturalized Austrians. Riga, some time before he was discovered, had removed from Vienna ; but he was taken at Trieste, where he stabbed himself with a poniard; but the blow was not mortal. In vain did he and his companions in misfortune entreat, as a special favour, that, instead of being delivered to the ferocious agents of the Turkish government, they might be pụt to death among their families, and their new friends. Their prayers were disregarded. But, fortunately for them, the guards appointed to escort them, fearing they would be rescued by the Bey Paswan Oglou, Aung them into the Danube, and thus delivered them from the lingering tortures they ex. pected from the Turks.

This catastrophe, which filled Greece with consternation and resentment, and excited the regrets of a great part of Europe, took place in 1798, about the middle of May, when Riga was not more than 45 years old.

C. S. J.

LOUIS XI. OF FRANCE,

When Louis XI. of France resided at his château of Duplessis, near Tours, he went one evening into the kitchen, where he saw a lad of fourteen or fifteen years old, occupied in turning the spit. The lad was well made, and his appearance altogether merited a better lot.

The King asked him, Whence he came, who he was, and what he earned? The turnspit, not knowing the King, answered without the least hesitation, “ I come from Berri, my name is Stephen, and I earn as much as the King."" How much does the King earn?” said Louis. living,” replied Stephen, "and I earn mine." By this simple and ingenuous answer he much pleased the King, who afterward made him his valet, and loaded him with favours.

6. His

* Lord Byron's translation, beginning “Sons of the Greeks arise," is well known.

MEMOIRS OF THE LIFE AND Writings of Mrs. Frances SheriĎAN. By her Grand-daughter Alicia Lefanu. Whittakers.

The lot of the softer sex is mostly cast in the retired scenes of life. . In the nursery, and the domestic circles ; beside the couch of the aged and afflicted, do female tenderness, innocence, and vivacity, display their most attractive forms; but these every-day occurrences afford few materials for biography. The kind and affectionate mother, the faithful wife, the dutiful daughter, are, happily for society, such common characters, that, in contemplating the sex, such amiable traits almost exclusively engage our attention. Females of a more conspicuous character, it is true, are occasionally presented to the observation of the historian ; but, in proportion as they claim our notice as public characters, they often lose the charm which makes them invaluable in private life. Perhaps it would be difficult to find a mother, whose worth in that relation has not been injured by the very event which tended to draw her into public view.

The subject of the work before us, was the daughter of an Irish clergyman, who entertained so great a horror of learned ladies, that he denied our heroine the privilege of learning to read. Harsh and violent measures commonly produce an effect the reverse, or nearly so, of that intended. Miss Chamberlaine, having learned to read and write by stealth, felt a wish to become an author, and wrote a Romance, and two Sermons, before she completed her fifteenth year. These met with the common fate of juvenile productions: the friends of the author pronounced them excellent, and the public remained satisfied with their decision.

Her father falling into a state of mental imbecility, Miss Chamberlaine found opportunities of occasionally visiting the Theatre, an indulgence withheld by her parent, who did

not approve of this sort of diversion. Here she saw and admired Mr. Thomas Sheridan. The latter was then manager; and becoming involved in some trouble from the disorderly behaviour of an irregular youth towards the celebrated actress George Anne Bellamy, which produced considerable riot and confusion, Miss Chamberlaine volunteered her literary services in his defence. Introduction followed as a matter of course; and the affair terminated in a matrimonial connexion.

There is a prudence which is valour's better half, but is evidently not inconsistent with firmness, without which it will never produce a happy result. During the riot, Mr. Sheridan received many letters threatening his life, if he appeared on the stage ; and he was ill-advised enough to absent himself, even after he had been announced to play Horatio, in the Fair Penitent. Some time after his marriage the disturbances were renewed, although from a different cause ; and when Mr. Sheridan perceived symptoms of disorder beginning to shew themselves, he very carefully put himself into a chair, and was carried home as privately as possible. The audience loudly called for the manager to explain or apologize for the offence. They were told that he was gone home : they required that he should be sent for, and gave him an hour to appear in. The hour expired, and he did not appear. The uproar then commenced with renewed violence. The Theatre was gutted ; and Mr. Sheridan suffered an injury in his property, which involved him in difficulties during the remainder of his life.

If fear for his personal safety did not urge him to this line of conduct,

[ocr errors]

190

LIFE OF MRS. SHERIDAN. he stands wholly inexcusable. There can be no doubt but that his immediate appearance, with a respectful explanation, would have immediately removed every discontent, and restored peace and order.

After this he withdrew from Ireland, visited London, and finally removed his family thither. Finding his circumstances not equal to the expenses of living in the British metropolis, he retired to France; but not experiencing the advantages he had hoped to derive from this plan, he returned to England soon after the death of Mrs. Sheridan, which happened in 1766.

The portion of this volume which most particularly introduces Mrs. Sheridan to our notice, is that which treats of her literary labours. A grand-daughter, in writing of her grandmother, can only exhibit her excellences, or record her merits. If neither of these offered themselves ; common piety towards a departed ancestor, would compel her to keep silence. The same principles must cause her to suppress

the recollection of every failing. It is very far from our intention to insinuate by this remark, that we have any knowledge of a single failing that can be imputed to Mrs. Sheridan. We believe her to have been an amiable and intelligent lady, and to have shewn that attention to the best interests of her husband and children, which constitutes a woman's highest praise ; but it must be obvious, that a memoir compiled by so near a relative, is much more likely to possess the character of panegyric than of biography.

A large collection of anecdotes appears in the work; and persons fond of light reading, will derive much amusement from it. It has been asserted, that the following lines by the late R. B. Sheridan were addressed to his first wife when Miss Lindley. Mrs. Lefanu asserts that they were addressed to Lady Margaret Fordyce.

But hark! did not our bard repeat
The love-born name of Margaret?
Attention seizes every ear;
We pant for the description here.
If ever dulness left thy brow,
Pindar, we say, 'twill leave thee now.
But oh! old Dulness' son anointed,
His mother never disappointed;
For after all we're left to seek ,
A dimple in Fordyce's cheek.
And could you really discover,
In gazing those sweet beauties over,
No other charm, no winning grace,
Adorning either mind or face,
But one poor dimple to express
The quintessence of loveliness?
Mark'd you her eye of sparkling blue?
Mark'd you her cheek of rosy hue?
That eye, in languid circles moving;
That cheek, abash'd at man's approving ;
The one, Love's arrows darting round,
The other, blushing for the wound;
Did she not speak ? did she not move?

Now Pallas, now the Queen of Love! Of Mrs. Sheridan's prose it is difficult to give an extract which would suit our limits and gratify the taste of our readers; we shall therefore close this article with her Ode to Patience.

ODE TO PATIENCE,

I.
Unawed by threats, unmoved by force,
My steady soul pursues her course,

Collected, calm, resigned.
Say ye, who search with curious eyes
The spring whence human actions rise,
Say, whence this turn of mind?

II.
'Tis Patience.--Gentle Goddess hail!
O, let thy votary's vows prevail,

Thy threaten'd flight to stay:
Long hast thou been a welcome guest;
Long reign'd an inmate in this breast;
And ruled with gentle sway.

III.
Through all the various turns of fate,
Ordain'd me in each several state,

My wayward lot has known-
What taught me silently to bear,
To curb the sigh, to check the tear,
When sorrow weigh'd me down?

IV.
'Twas Patience.- Temperate Goddess stay!
For still thy dictates I obey,

Nor yield to Passion's power ;
Though by injurious foes borne down,
My fame, my toil, my hopes o'erthrown

In one ill-fated hour.

y. When robb'd of her I held most dear, My hands adorn'd the mournful bier

Of her I loved so well; What, when mute sorrow chain'd my tongue, As o'er the sable hearse I hung,

Forbade the tide to swell?

VI.
'Twas Patience.--Goddess ever calm,
Oh! pour into my breast thy balm,

That antidote to pain;
Which flowing from thy nectar'd urn,
By chemistry divine can turn
Our losses into gain.

VII.
When sick, and languishing in bed,
Sleep from my restless couch had fled,

Sleep—which e'en pain beguiles :
What taught me calmly to sustain
A feverish being rack'd with pain,

And dress'd my looks in smiles?

« AnteriorContinuar »