The Island of Maddalena: With a Distant View of Caprera

BEFORE leaving Florence for a trip to Corsica, in which I intended to include, if possible, the island of Sardinia, I noticed that the Rubattino steamers touchedat Maddalena, on their way from Bastia to Porto Torres, The island of Maddalena, I knew, lay directly over against Caprera, separated by a strait not more than two or three miles in breadth, and thus a convenient opportunity was offered of visiting the owner and resident of the latter island, the illustrious General Giuseppe Garibaldi. I have no special passion for making the personal acquaintance of distinguished men, unless it happens that there is some point of mutual interest concerning which intelligence may be given or received. In this case, I imagined there was such a point of contact. Having followed the fortunes of Italy for the past twenty years, with the keen sympathy which springs from a love for the land, and having been so near the events of the last unfortunate expedition against Rome as to feel from day to day the reflection of those events in the temper of the Italian people, I had learned, during a subsequent residence in Rome, certain facts which added to the interest of the question, while they seemed still more to complicate its solution. There were some things I felt an explanation of which (so far as he would be able to give it) might he asked of Garibaldi without impropriety, and which he could communicate without any necessity of reserve.

Another and natural sentiment was mingled with my desire to meet the hero of Italian unity. I knew how shamefully he had been deceived in certain respects, before undertaking the expedition which terminated so fruitlessly at Mentana, and could, therefore, guess the mortification which accompanied him in his imprisonment (for such it virtually is) at Caprera. While, therefore, I should not have sought an interview after the glorious Sicilian and Calabrian campaign, or when the still excited world was reading Nèiaton’s bulletins from Spezzia, — so confounding myself with the multitude who always admire the hero of the day, and risk their necks to shake hands with him, — I felt a strong desire to testify such respect as the visit of a stranger implies, in Garibaldi’s day of defeat and neglect.

“ I did not praise thee, when the crowd,
Witched with the moment’s inspiration,
Vexed thy still ether with hosannas loud,
And stamped their dusty adoration.”1

Of all the people who crowded to see him at Spezzia in such throngs that a false Garibaldi, with bandaged foot, was arranged to receive the most of them, there is no trace now. The same Americans who come from Paris chanting pæans to Napoleon III., go to Rome and are instantly stricken with sympathy for Pius IX., and a certain respect for the Papacy, temporal power included. They give Caprera a wide berth. Two or three steadfast English friends do what they can to make the hero’s solitude pleasant, and he has still, as always, the small troop of Italian followers, who never forsake him, because they live from his substance.

Before deciding to visit Caprera, I asked the candid advice of some of the General’s most intimate friends in Florence. They assured me that scarcely any one had gone to see him for months past; that a visit from an American, who sympathized with the great and generous aims to which he has devoted his life, could not be otherwise than welcome ; and, while offering me cordial letters of introduction, declared that this formality was really unnecessary. It was pleasant to hear him spoken of as a man whose refined amiability of manner was equal to his unselfish patriotism, and who was as simple, unpretending, and accessible personally, as he was rigorously democratic in his political utterances.

I purposely shortened my tour in Corsica, in order to take the Italian steamer which touches at Bastia, on its way to Maddalena. Half smothered in the sultry heat, we watched the distant smoke rounding the rocks of Capraja, and the steamer had no sooner anchored outside the mole, than we made haste to embark. The cloth was already spread over the skylight on the quarterdeck, and seven plates denoted six fellow-passengers. Two of these were ladies, two Italians, with an old gentleman, who proved to be English, although he looked the least like it, and an unmistakable Garibaldian, in a red shirt. The latter was my vis-à-vis at table, and it was not long before he startled the company by exclaiming: “ In fifty years we shall have the Universal Republic ! ”

After looking around the table, he fixed his eyes on me, as if challenging assent.

“ In five hundred years, perhaps,” I said.

“ But the priests will go down soon ! ” he shouted; “and as for that brute,” (pointing with his fork towards Corsica.) “ who rules there, his time is soon up.”

As nobody seemed inclined to reply, he continued : “Since the coming of the second Jesus Christ, Garibaldi, the work goes on like lightning. As soon as the priests are down, the Republic will come.”

This man, so one of the passengers informed me, had come on board en bour‘geois, but, as the steamer approached Corsica, he suddenly appeared on deck in his red shirt. After we left Bastia, he resumed his former costume. In the capacity to swagger, he surpassed any man I had seen since leaving home. His hair hung about his ears, his nose was long, his beard thick and black, and he had the air of a priest rather than a soldier, — but it was an air which pompously announced to everybody : “ Garibaldi is the Second Christ, and I am his Prophet! ”

Over the smooth sea we sped down the picturesque Corsican coast. An indentation in the grand mountain chain showed us the valley of the Golo ; then came the heights of Vescovato, where Filippini wrote the history of the island, and Murat took refuge after losing his Neapolitan kingdom ; then, Cervione, where the fantastic King Theodore, the First and Last, held his capital ; after which night fell upon the shores, and we saw only mountain phantoms in the moonlight.

At sunrise the steward called me.

“We are passing the bocca,"— the Straits of Bonifacio,— said he, “and will soon be at Maddalena.”

It was an archipelago of rocks in which the steamer was entangled. All around us, huge gray masses, with scarcely a trace of vegetation, rose from the wave; in front, the lofty, darkblue, serrated mountains of Sardinia pierced the sky, and far to the right faded the southern shores of Corsica. But, bleak and forsaken as was the scene, it had a curious historical interest. As an opening between the islands disclosed the white rocks, citadel, and town of Bonifacio, some fifteen miles distant, I remembered the first important episode in the life of Napoleon. It was in the year 1792, while Pascal Paoli was still President of Corsica. An expedition against Sardinia having been determined upon by the Republic, Napoleon, after, perhaps, the severest struggle of his life, was elected second in command of the battalion of Ajaccio. A work2 written by M. Nasica, of the latter place, gives a singular picture of the fierce family feuds which preceded the election. It was the commencement of that truly Corsican vendetta between Pozzo di Borgo and the future emperor, which only terminated when the latter was able to say, after Waterloo : “ I have not killed Napoleon, but I have thrown the last shovelful of earth upon him.”

The first attempt of the expedition was to be directed against the island of Maddalena. A battery was planted on the uninhabited rock of Santa Teresa (beside which we passed), and Maddalena was bombarded, but without effect. Napoleon prepared a plan for its capture, but Colonna, the first in command, refused to allow him to make the attempt. A heated discussion took place in the presence of the other officers, and Napoleon, becoming at last indignant and impatient, turned to the latter, and said : “ He does n’t know what I mean.”

“You are an insolent fellow,” retorted Colonna.

Napoleon muttered, as he turned away: “We have only a cheval de parade for commander.”

At Bonifacio, afterwards, his career came near being suddenly teiminaied. Some Marseilles marines who landed there provoked a quarrel with the soldiers of the Corsican battalion. Napoleon interfered to restore order, whereupon he was seized by the fierce Marseillaise, who would have hung him to a lamp-post, but for the timely aid of the civil authorities. The disfavor of Paoli, who was at that time under the control of Pozzo di Borgo, finally drove Napoleon from Corsica ; so that the machinations of his bitterest enemy really forced him into the field where he was so suddenly and splendidly successful.

While we were recalling this fateful fragment of history, the steamer entered the narrow strait between Maddalena and the main-land of Sardinia, and at the same moment two stately French vessels made their appearance, crossing tracks on the route between Marseilles and the Orient. The rocky island of San Stefano, lying opposite Maddalena, forms a sheltered harbor, which Caprera, rising eastward against the sea, renders completely landlocked. But what a wild, torn, distorted, desolate panorama! A thin sprinkling of lavender, rosemary, and myrtle serves but to set off the cold gray of the granite rocks ; the summits rise in natural bastions, or thrust out huge fangs or twisted horns. There is nowhere any softening of these violent outlines. They print themselves on the farthest distance, and one is not surprised that the little village of Maddalena, the white house on Caprera, and two or three fishing-huts on the Sardinian shore, are the only signs of human habitation.

Beside the village, however, there was a little valley, near the head of which a cool, white villa, perched on a mass of rocks, shone against the rugged background.

“ That is my place,” said the old Englishman, “and I shall be happy to see you there.”

“ I shall certainly come, if we have time enough after visiting Caprera,” I replied.

The Englishman, an entire stranger, was very kind in his offers of service ; the Garibaldian was so pompous and arrogant in his manner, that I soon perceived that no assistance could be expected from him. Nevertheless, chance threw us into the same boat, on landing in the bttle harbor. I had ascertained that there was a hotel, kept by one Remigio, in .Maddalena; and although one of “ our mutual friends ” had advised me to go directly to Caprera, — Garibaldi’s hospitality being as certain as sunrise, or the change of the tide,—I determined to stop with Remigio, and forward my letters. When the Prophet of the Second Coming stepped on shore, he was accosted by an old veteran, who wore a red shirt and blue goggles. They embraced and kissed each other, and presently came up another weatherbeaten person, with an unmistakably honest and amiable face, who was hailed with the name of “ Basso ! ”

I knew the name as that of one of Garibaldi’s most faithful followers, and as the boat, meanwhile, had been retained to convey the party to Caprera, I stepped up to Basso and the Prophet and asked : “ Will one of you be good enough to take these letters to General Garibaldi, and let the boatman bring me word when it will be convenient for him to receive me ? ”

“ Certainly,” said the Prophet, taking the letters, and remarking, as he pointed to Basso, “ this is the General’s secretary.”

The latter made a modest gesture, . disclaiming the honor, and said : “ No ; you know that you are really his secretary.”

The boat shoved off with them. “ It is a queer company,” I said to myself, “and perhaps I ought not to have intrusted the letters to their care.” One letter was from a gentleman in a high diplomatic position, whose reputation as a scholar is world-wide, and who possesses the most generous, and at the same time the most intelligent, sympathy with the aspirations of the Italian people. The other was from a noble woman, who has given the best energies of her life to the cause,—who shared the campaigns of Sicily and Calabria, and even went under fire at Monte Rotondo and Mentana to succor the wounded. Probably no two persons had a better right to claim the courtesy of Garibaldi in favor of one, who, though a stranger, was yet an ardent friend.

The Hotel Remigio directly fronted the quay. No sign announced its character, but the first room we entered had a billiard-table, beyond which was a kitchen. Here we found La Remigia, who conducted us up a sumptuous staircase of black and white marble (unwashed) into a shabby dining-room, and then left us to prepare coffee. A door into an adjoining apartment stood halfopen. I looked in, but seeing a naked leg stretched out upon a dirty blanket, made a speedy retreat. In a quarter of an hour coffee came, without milk, but with a bottle of rum instead. The servitress was a little girl, whose hands were of so questionable a complexion, that we turned away lest we should see her touch the cups. I need not say that the beverage was vile ; the reader will have already guessed that.

We summoned La Remigia, to ascertain whether a breakfast was possible. “Eh, che vuole ? ” (" What can you expect ? ”) said she. “ This is a poor little island. What would you like to have ? ”

Limiting our wishes to the probabilities of the place, we modestly suggested eggs and fish, whereat La Remigia looked relieved, and promised that we should have both. Then, although the heat was furious, I went forth for a stroll along the shore. A number of bronze boys had pulled off their tow shirts, and were either sitting naked on the rocks, or standing in the shallow coves, and splashing each other with scallop-shells. Two or three fishingboats were lazily pulling about the strait, but the greater part of the population of Maddalena sat in the shade and did nothing.

The place contains about fifteen hundred inhabitants, but scarcely one half that number were at home. The others were sailors, or coral fishers, who are always absent during the summer months. The low, bright-colored houses are scattered along the shore, in such order as the huge, upheaved masses of granite will allow, anti each street terminates in a stony path. In the scanty garden-enclosures, bristling masses of the fruit-bearing cactus overhang the walls, repellant as the rocks from which they spring. Evidently the place supplies nothing except the article of fish ; all other necessaries of life must be brought from Sardinia. The men are principally pensioned veterans of the Italian navy, who are satisfied with the sight of blue water and passing vessels ; the women (rock-widows, one might call them), having the very simplest household duties to perform, usually sit at their doors, with some kind of knitting or netting, and chatter with their nearest neighbors. I had scarcely walked a quarter of a mile before the sleepy spirit of the place took hold of my feet, and I found myself contemplating the shadowy spots among the rocks, much more than the wild and rugged island scenery across the strait.

Garibaldi’s house on Caprera flashed in the sun, and after a while I saw a boat pulling away from the landingplace below it. I returned to the harbor to meet the boatman, and receive the answer which my letters required. It was a red-headed fellow, with a lace rather Scotch than Italian, and a blunt, direct manner of speech which corresponded thereto.

“ The General says he is not well, and can’t see yon,” said he.

“ Have you a letter ? ” I asked.

“ No; but he told me so.”

“He is sick, then ?”

“No,” said the boatman, “he is not sick.”

“ Where did you see him ? ”

“ Out of doors. He went down to the sea this morning and took a bath. Then he worked in the garden.”

The first sensation of a man who receives an unexpected blow is incredulity, and not exasperation. It required a slight effort to believe the boatman’s words, and the next impression was that there was certainly some misunderstanding. If Garibaldi were well enough to walk about his fields, he was able to receive a visitor ; if he had read the letters I forwarded, a decent regard for the writers would have withheld him from sending a rude verbal answer by the mouth of a boatman. The whole proceeding was so utterly at variance with all I had heard of his personal refinement and courtesy, that I was driven to the suspicion that his followers had suppressed the letters, and represented me, perhaps, as a stranger of not very reputable appearance.

Seeing that we were stranded for three days upon Maddalena, —until the steamer returned from Porto Torres, — I determined to assure myself whether the suspicion was just. I could, at least, give the General a chance to correct any misunderstanding. I therefore wrote a note, mentioning the letters and the answer I had received through the boatman ; referring to other friends of his in America and Italy, whom I knew; assuring him that I had had no intention of thrusting myself upon his hospitality, but had only meant to desire a brief personal interview. I abstained, of course, from repeating the request, as he would thus be able to grant it more gracefully, if a misrepresentation had really been made. Summoning the red-headed boatman, I gave him the note, with the express command that he should give it into Garibaldi’s own hands, and not into those of any of the persons about him.

La Remigia gave us as good a breakfast as the house could furnish. The wine was acutely sour, but the fish were fresh and delicate. Moreover, the room had been swept, and the hands of the little servant subjected to a thorough washing. There was a dessert of cherries, brought all the way from Genoa, and then the hostess, as she brought the coffee, asked: “When will your Excellencies go to Caprera ? ”

“ If the General is sick,” I remarked, “ we shall probably not be able to see him.”

“ He was not well two or three weeks ago,” said she; “he had the rheumatism in his hands. But now he goes about his fields the same as before.”

A second suspicion came into my head. What if the boatman should not go to Caprera with my letter, but merely sleep two or three hours in the shade, and then come back to me with an invented verbal answer ? It was now high noon, and a truly African sun beat down on the unsheltered shores. The veterans had been chased from their seats on the quay, and sat in dozing, silent rows on the shady sides of the houses. A single boat, with sail spread, hardly moved over the dazzling blue of the harbor. There was no sign of active life anywhere, except in the fleas.

Leaving my wife in La Remigia’s care, I took one of the rough paths behind the town, and climbed to a bold mass of rocks, which commanded a view of the strait from Caprera to Sardinia. Far off, beyond the singular horns and needles of rock, cresting the mountains of the latter island, a thunder-gust was brewing; but the dark, cool shadows there only served, by contrast, to make the breathless heat on Maddalena more intense. Nevertheless a light wind finally came from somewhere, and I stretched myself out on the granite, with Caprera before my eyes, and reflected on the absurdity of any one human being taking pains to make the acquaintance of any other particular human being, while I watched the few boats visible on the surface of the water below. One, rowing and sailing, rounded the point of San Stefano, and disappeared ; another crept along the nearer shore, looking for fish, coral, or sponges ; and a third, at last, making a long tack, advanced into the channel of La Moneta, in front of Garibaldi’s residence. It was Red-head, honestly doing his duty. Two or three hours went by, and he did not return. When the air had been somewhat cooled by the distant thunder, we set forth to seek the English recluse! The path followed the coast, winding between rocks and clumps of myrtle in blossom, until the villa looked down upon us from the head of a stony dell. On three sides, the naked granite rose in irregular piles against the sky, while huge blocks, tumbled from above, lay scattered over the scanty vineyards below. In sheltered places there were a few pines and cedars, of stunted growth. The house, perched upon a mass of rock forty or fifty feet high, resembled a small fortress. As we approached it, over the dry, stony soil, the bushes rustling as the lizards darted through them, the place assumed an air of savage loneliness. No other human dwelling was visible on any of the distant shores and no sail brightened the intervening water.

The Englishman came forth and welcomed us with a pleasant, old-fashioned courtesy. A dark-eyed Sardinian lady, whom he introduced to us as his daughter-in-law, and her father, were his temporary guests. The people afterwards told me, in Maddalena, that he had adopted and educated a Neapolitan boy, who, however, had turned out to be a mauvais sujet. We were ushered into a large vaulted room, the walls of which, to my astonishment, were covered with admirable paintings,— genuine works of the Flemish and Italian masters. There was a Cuyp, a Paul Potter, a Ruysdael, a Massimo, and several excellent pictures of the school of Correggio. A splendid library filled the adjoining hall, and recent English and Italian newspapers lay upon the table. I soon perceived that our host was a man of unusual taste and culture, who had studied much and travelled much, before burying himself in this remote corner of the Mediterranean. For more than twenty years, he informed us, the island had been his home. He first went thither accidentally, in his search for health, and remained because he found it among those piles of granite and cactus. One hardly knows whether to admire or commiserate such a life.

Our host, however, had long outlived his yearning for the busy world of men. His little plantation, wrung from Nature with immense labor and apparently great expense, now absorbed all his interest. He had bought foreign trees — Mexican, African, and Australian — and set them in sheltered places, built great walls to break the sweep of the wind which draws through the Straits of Bonifacio, constructed tanks for collecting the rains, terraces for vineyards, and so fought himself into the possession of a little productive soil. But the winds kept down the growth of his pines, the islanders cut his choicest trees and carried them off for firewood, and it was clear that the scanty beginnings we saw were the utmost he would be able to keep and hold against so many hostile influences.

After we had inspected the costly picture-gallery, and partaken of refreshments, he took us to his orange-garden, a square enclosure, with walls twenty feet high, at the foot of the rocks. The interior was divided by high ramparts of woven brushwood into compartments about thirty feet square, each of which contained half a dozen squat, batteredlooking trees. I should have imagined the outer walls high enough to break the strongest wind, but our host informed me that they merely changed its character, giving to the current a spiral motion which almost pulled the trees out of the earth. The interior divisions of brushwood were a necessity. Above the house there was a similar enclosure for pear and apple trees. The vines, kept close to the earth, and tied to strong stakes, were more easily tended. But the same amount of labor and expense would have created a little paradise on the shores of Sorrento, or the Riviera di Ponente, — in fact, as many oranges might have been raised in Minnesota, with less trouble.

According to the traditions of the people, the whole island was wooded a hundred and fifty years ago. But, as savage tribes worship trees, so the first inclination of the civilized man is to destroy them. I still hold to the belief that the disforested Levant might be reclothed in fifty years, it the people could be prevented from interfering with the young growth.

When we reached Maddalena, the boatman had returned from Caprera. This time he brought me a note, in Garibaldi’s handwriting, containing two or three lines, which, however, were not more satisfactory than the previous message. “ Per motivo de' miei incomodi ” (on account of my ailments), said the General, he could not receive me. This was an equivocation, but no explanation. His motive for slighting the letters of two such friends, and refusing to see one who had come to Maddalena to testify a sympathy and respect which had nothing in common with the curiosity of the crowd, remained a mystery. In the little fishing-village, where nothing could long be kept secret, the people seemed to be aware of all that had occurred. They possessed too much natural tact and delicacy to question us, but it was easy to see that they were much surprised. Red-head made quite a long face when I told him, after reading the letter, that I Should not need his boat for a trip to Caprera.

Arter allowing all possible latitude to a man’s individual right to choose his visitors, the manner in which my application had been received still appeared to me very rude and boorish. Perhaps one’s first experience of the kind is always a little more annoying than is necessary; but the reader must consider that we had no escape from the burning rocks of Maddalena until the third day afterwards, and the white house on Caprera before our eyes was a constant reminder of the manner or mood of its inmate. Questions of courtesy are nearly as difficult to discuss as questions of taste, each man having his own private standard ; yet, I think, few persons will censure me for having then and there determined that, for the future, I would take no particular pains to seek the acquaintance of a distinguished man.

We were fast on Maddalena, as I have said, and the most we could make of it did not seem to be much. I sketched a little the next morning, until the heat drove me indoors. Towards evening, following La Remigia’s counsel, we set forth on a climb to the Guardia Vecchia, a deserted fortress on the highest point of the island. Thunder-storms, as before, growled along the mountains of Sardinia, without overshadowing or cooling the rocks of the desert archipelago. The masses of granite, among which we clambered, still radiated the noonday heat, and the clumps of lentisk and arbutus were scarcely less arid in appearance than the soil from which they grew. Over the summit, however, blew a light breeze. We pushed open the door or the port, mounted to a stone platform with ramparts pierced for six cannon, and sat down in the shade of the watchtower. The view embraced the whole Strait of Bonifacio and its shores, from the peak of Incudine in Corsica, to the headland of Terranova, on the eastern coast of Sardinia. Two or three villages, high up on the mountains of the latter island, the little fishing-town at our feet, the far-off citadel of Bonifacio, and — still persistently visible — the house on Caprera, rather increased than removed the loneliness and desolation of the scenery. Island rising behind island thrust up new distortions of rock of red or hot-gray hues which became purple in the distance, and the dark-blue reaches of sea dividing them were hard and lifeless as plains of glass. Perhaps the savage and sterile forms of the foreground impressed their character upon every part of the panorama, since we knew that they were everywhere repeated. In this monotony lay something sublime, and yet profoundly melancholy.

As we have now the whole island of Caprera full and fair before us, let us see what sort of a spot the hero of Italian Unity has chosen for his home. I may at the same time, without impropriety, add such details of his life and habits, and such illustrations of his character, as were freely communicated by persons familiar with both, during our stay in Maddalena.

Caprera, as seen from the Guardia Vecchia, is a little less forbidding than its neighbor island. It is a mass of reddish-gray rock, three to four miles in length and not more than a mile in breadth, its axis lying at a right angle to the course of the Sardinian coast. The shores rise steeply from the water to a central crest of naked rock, some twelve hundred feet above the sea. The wild shrubbery of the Mediterranean — myrtle, arbutus, lentisk, and box — is sprinkled over the lower slopes, and three or four lines of bright, even, green, betray the existence of terraced grain-fields. The house, a plain white quadrangle, two stories in height, is seated on the slope, a quarter of a mile from the landing-place. Behind it there are fields and vineyards, and a fertile garden-valley called the Fantanaccia, which are not visible from Maddalena. The house, in its present commodious form, was built by Victor Emanuel, during Garibaldi’s absence from the island, and without his knowledge. The latter has spent a great deal of money in wresting a few fields from the unwilling rock, and his possession, even yet, has but a moderate value. The greater part of the island can only be used as a range for cattle, and will nourish about a hundred head.

Garibaldi, however, has a great advantage ever all the political personages of our day, in the rugged simplicity of his habits. He has no single expensive taste. Whether he sleeps on a spring-mattress or a rock, eats filet or fish and macaroni, is all the same to him, — nay, he prefers the simpler fare. The persons whom he employs eat at the same table with him, and his guests, whatever their character or title, are no better served. An Englishman who went to Caprera as the representative of certain societies, and took with him, as a present, a dozen of the finest hams and four dozen bottles of the choicest Château Margaux, was horrified to find, the next day, that each gardener, herdsman, and fisherman at the table had a generous lump of ham on his plate and a bottle of Château Margaux beside it! Whatever delicacy comes to Garibaldi is served in the same way; and of the large sums of money contributed by his friends and admirers, he has retained scarcely anything. All is given to “ The Cause.”

Garibaldi’s three prominent traits of character — honesty, unselfishness, and independence — are so marked, and have been so variously illustrated, that no one in Italy (probably not even Pius IX. or Antonelli) dares to dispute his just claim to them. Add the element of a rare and inextinguishable enthusiasm, and we have the qualities which have made the man. He is wonderfully adapted to be the leader of an impulsive and imaginative people, during those periods when the rush and swell of popular sentiment overbears alike diplomacy and armed force. Such a time came to him in i860, and the Sicilian and Calabrian campaign will always stand as the climax of his achievements. I do not speak of Aspromonte or Mentana now. The history of those attempts cannot be written until Garibaldi’s private knowledge of them may be safely made known to the world.

It occurred to me, as I looked upon Caprera, that only an enthusiastic, imaginative nature could be content to live in such an isolation. It is hardly alone disgust with the present state of Italy which keeps him from that seat in the Italian Parliament, to which he is regularly re-elected. He can neither use the tact of the politician, nor employ the expedients of the Statesman. He has no patience with adverse opinion, no clear, objective perception of character, no skill to calculate the reciprocal action and cumulative force of political ideas. He simply sees an end, and strikes a bee-line for it. As a military commander he is admirable, so long as operations can be conducted under his immediate personal control. In short, he belongs to that small class of great men, whose achievements, fame, and influence rest upon excellence of character and a certain magnetic, infectious warmth of purpose, rather than on high intellectual ability. There may be wiser Italian patriots than he; but there is none so pure and devoted.

From all that was related to me of Garibaldi, I should judge that his weak points are, an incapacity to distinguish between the steady aspirations of his life and those sudden impulses which come to every ardent and passionate nature, and an amiable weakness (perhaps not disconnected from vanity) which enables a certain class of adventurers to misuse and mislead him. His impatience of contrary views naturally subjects him to the influence of the latter class, whose cue it is to flatter and encourage. I know an American general whose reputation has been much damaged in the same way. The three men who were his companions on Caprera during my stay in Maddalena were Basso, who occasionally acts as secretary; he whom I termed the Prophet, a certain Dr. Occhipinti (Painted-Eyes), a maker of salves and pomatums, and Guzmaroli, formerly a priest, and ignominiously expelled from Garibaldi’s own corps. There are other hangers-on, whose presence from time to time in Caprera is a source of anxiety to the General’s true friends.

Caprera formerly belonged to an English gentleman, a passionate sportsman, who settled there thirty years ago on account of the proximity of the island to the rich game regions of Sardinia. Garibaldi, dining with this gentleman at Maddalena in 1856, expressed his desire to procure a small island on the coast for his permanent home, whereupon the former offered to sell him a part of Caprera, at cost. The remainder was purchased by a subscription made in England, and headed by the Duke of Sutherland. I was informed that Garibaldi’s faithful and noblehearted friends, Colonel and Mrs. Chambers of Scotland, had done much towards making the island productive and habitable, but I doubt whether its rocks yet yield enough for the support of the family.

The General’s oldest son, Menotti, his daughter Teresa, her husband Major Canzio, and their five children, Mameli, Anzani, Lincoln, Anita, and John Brown, have their home at Caprera. Menotti is reported to be a good soldier and sailor, but without his father’s abilities. The younger son, Ricciotti, spends most of his time in England. Teresa, however, is a female Garibaldi, full of spirit, courage, and enthusiasm. She has great musical talent, and a voice which would give her, were there need, a prima donna’s station in any theatre. Her father, also, is an excellent singer, and the two are fond of making the rocks of Caprera resound with his Inno ai Romani.

Garibaldi was born at Nice in 1807, and is therefore now sixty-one years old. His simple habits of life have preserved his physical vigor, but he suffers from frequent severe attacks of rheumatism. The wound received at Aspromonte, I was told, no longer occasions him inconvenience. In features and complexion he shows his Lombard and German descent. His name is simply the Italian for Heribald, “bold in war.” In the tenth century Garibald I. and II. were kings of Bavaria.

In fact, much of the best blood of Italy is German, however reluctant the Italians may be to acknowledge the fact. The Marquis D’Azeglio, whose memoirs have recently been published says in his autobiographical sketch, “Educated in the hatred of the Tedeschi (Germans), I was greatly astonished to find, from my historical studies, that I was myself a Tedesco.” The “ pride of race” really is one of the absurdest of human vanities. I have heard halfbreed Mexicans boast of their “Gothic blood,” born Englishmen who settled in Virginia talk of their “ Southern blood,” and all the changes rung on Cavalier, Norman, or Roman ancestry. The Slavic Greeks of Athens call themselves “ Hellenes,” and Theodore of Abyssinia claimed a direct descent from Solomon. Garibaldi might have become purely Italian in name, as Duca di Calatafimi, if he had chosen. His refusal was scarcely a virtue, because the offer of the title was no temptation.

While upon the rocky summits of Maddalena, we made search for the former dwellings of the inhabitants, but became bewildered in the granite labyrinth, and failed to find them. The present village on the shore owes its existence to Nelson. Previous to his day those waters were swept by Barbery corsairs, and the people of the island, being without protection, lived almost like troglodytes, in rude hovels constructed among the rocks. Nelson, while in the Mediterranean, at the end of the last century, made Maddalena one of his stations, and encouraged the inhabitants to come forth from their hiding-places. On the altar of the church in the town which they then began to build there are still the silver candlesticks which he presented. This, and Napoleon’s previous attempt to gain possession of the island, are the two incidents which connect Maddalena with history.

We made a few other scrambles during our stay, but they simply repeated the barren pictures we already knew by heart Although, little by little, an interest in the island was awakened, the day which was to bring the steamer from Porto Torres was hailed by us almost as a festival. But the comedy (for such it began to seem) was not yet at an end. I had procured the return tickets to Leghorn, and was standing in Remigia’s door, watching the pensioners as they dozed in the shade, when two figures appeared at the end of the little street. One was PaintedEyes, the maker of salves, and I was edified by seeing him suddenly turn when he perceived me, and retrace his steps. The other, who came forward, proved to be one of Garibaldi’s stanchest veterans, — a man who had been in his service twenty-five years, in Montevideo, Rome, America, China, and finally in the Tyrol.

“ Where is the man who was with you ? ” I asked.

“ He was coming to the locanda,” said he; “but when he saw you, he left me without explaining why.”

The veteran knew so much of what had happened that I told him the rest. He was no less grieved than surprised. His general, he said, had never acted so before; he had never refused to see any stranger, even though he came without letters, and he was at a loss to account for it.

There was a stir among the idlers on the quay; a thread of smoke arose above the rocky point to the westward, and — welcome sight! — the steamer swept up and anchored in the roadstead. La Remigia, who had been unremitting in her attentions, presented a modest bill, shook hands with us heartily, and Red-head, who was in waiting with his boat, carried us speedily on board. The steamer was not to leave for two hours more, but now the certainty of escape was a consolation. The few islanders we had known parted from us like friends, and even the boatman returned to the deck on purpose to shake hands, and wish us a pleasant voyage. I found myself softening towards Maddalena, after all.

In one of the last boats came the same Occhipinti again, accompanied by Guzmaroli, the ex-priest. The former was bound for Leghorn, and the prospect of having him for a fellow-passenger was not agreeable. He avoided meeting us, went below, and kept very quiet during the passage. I felt sure, although the supposition was disparaging to Garibaldi, that this man was partly responsible for the answer I had received.

A fresh breeze blew through the Strait of Bonifacio, and we soon lost sight of the rocks which had been the scene of our three days’ Robinsoniad. The only other passenger, by a singular coincidence, proved to be “ the Hermitress of La Moneta,” as she is called on Maddalena, — the widow of the gentleman who sold Caprera to Garibaldi, and herself one of the General’s most trusted friends. Through her, the island acquired a new interest. In the outmost house on the spur which forms the harbor lay an English captain, eighty years old, and ill ; in the sterile glen to the north lived another Englishman alone among his books and rare pictures; and under a great rock, two miles to the eastward, was the lonely cottage, opposite Caprera, where this lady has lived for thirty years.

In the long twilight, as the coast of Corsica sped by, we heard the story of those thirty years. They had not dulled the keen, clear intellect of the lady, nor made less warm one human feeling in her large heart. We heard of travels in Corsica on horseback, nearly forty years ago ; of lunching with bandits in the mountains ; of fording the floods and sleeping in the caves of Sardinia ; of farm-life (if it can be so called) on Caprera, and of twenty years passed in the cottage of La Moneta, without even a journey to the fishing-village. Then came other confidences, which must not be repeated, but as romantic as anything in the stories of the Middle Ages, — yet in all, there was no trace of morbid feeling, of unused affection, of regret for the years that seemed lost to us. Verily, though these words should reach her eyes, I must say, since the chances of life will scarcely bring us together again, that the freshness and sweetness with which she had preserved so many noble womanly qualities in solitude, was to me a cheering revelation of the innate excellence of human nature.

“ Yet,” she said, at the close, “ I would never advise any one to attempt the life I have led. Such a seclusion is neither natural nor healthy. One may read, and one may think ; but the knowledge lies in one’s mind like an inert mass, and only becomes vital when it is actively communicated or compared. This mental inertness or deadness is even harder to bear than the absence of society. But there always comes a time when we need the face of a friend, — the time that comes to all. No, it is not good to be alone.”

After all, we had not come to Maddalena in vain. We had made the acquaintance of a rare and estimable nature, which is always a lasting gain, in the renewed faith it awakens. The journey, which had seemed so wearisome in anticipation, came rapidly to an end, and there was scarcely a regret left for Caprera when we parted with the Hermitress of Maddalena at Leghorn, the next afternoon. A few days afterwards she sent me the original manuscript of Garibaldi’s “ Hymn to the Romans,” which he had presented to her. I shall value it as much for the giver’s, as for the writer’s, sake.

Our friends in Florence received the news of our adventure with astonishment and mortification; but, up to the time of this present writing, the matter remains a mystery. One conjecture was made, yet it seemed scarcely credible, — that Garibaldi was getting up a new expedition against Rome.

  1. Lowell, Ode to Lamartine.
  2. Memoircs sur Penfance ct la jeunesse tie Napoleon. Ajaccio, 1853.