« ZurückWeiter »
they were repeated aloft in the dome, but with a sound of divine sweetness, as clear and pure as the clang of a crystal bell. Another pause, — and we heard them again fainter and sweeter, followed by a dying note, as if they were fading far away into heaven.” The person who can write like this will soon find echoes in the literary world which will delight to answer to his voice.
But it is not necessary to give much account of a popular work like this, which is already in the hands of many, and which many more might read with profit and pleasure, not merely for the animated and intelligent account of most interesting countries which it contains, but for the example of energy in the pursuit of improvement here presented, without the self-complacency with which that bold trait of character is too often attended. It is a new opening for that
a fearless adventure in which our country abounds ; there is not much money to be made in it, certainly ; neither, to say truth, is there much to be lost; but intellectual and moral improvement is a full compensation for all the effort and sacrifice required ; and we should not be at all surprised, if many others should follow. Mr. Taylor in his enterprising march, and secure the same advantages which he has so well improved. He says that much spiritual and mental experience was crowded into a short time, and though some of it was painful, it was all welcome. He passed through many changes of hope, anxiety, and aspiration, but despondency was a feeling which he was not condemned to know. He says,
-“Difficulty and toil give the soul strength to crush, in a loftier region, the passions which draw strength only from the earth. So long as we listen only to the pure promptings within us, there is a Power, invisible, though not unfelt, which protects us ; amidst the labor, and tumult, and soiling struggle, there is ever an eye that watches, ever a heart that overflows with Infinite and Almighty Love. Let us, then, trust in that Eternal Spirit, who pours on us his warm and boundless blessings through the channels of so many kindred human hearts."
Art. X. - La Guerra del Vespro Siciliano, o un Periodo
delle Istorie Siciliane del Secolo Decimo Terzo. Per MICHELE AMARI. Seconda Edizione. Parizi: Baudry. 1843.
2 vols. 8vo.
It is curious that some of the most important events of history have been so misrepresented by popular tradition as to be understood in their true light by only a few learned antiquarians. We are often taught to believe, that circumstances, in reality the result of a long series of secretly working causes, occur on a sudden, and without the slightest preparation; or that events which are manifested by spontaneous outbreaks of popular feeling - although these, too, have a deep root in the past - are but the result of some petty machination or ignoble conspiracy. The cause of these errors in historical traditions is, no doubt, to be found in that disposition of our nature which leads us to fix our attention upon some one simple and dramatic occurrence, whilst we throw into the shade the minor events which alone can furnish any explanation of the leading phenomenon. By thus reducing history to the simple narrative of those events which we consider as the most important, we lose many of its most instructive lessons. Providence often inculcates the most salutary truths by means of those circumstances which are too apt to escape our notice altogether. To its superintending care no occurrence is insignificant ; to us also none would seem so, if it were possible for human eyes to gain the same comprehensive view.
Of all the errors in history which may be attributed to this cause, few are more striking than those which have been propagated on the subject of the celebrated revolution, commonly known as the Sicilian Vespers. It has been generally believed, that this cruel massacre was the result of a conspiracy headed by Giovanni da Procida, in order to place Peter of Aragon on the throne of Sicily. In the work before us, Mr. Amari has endeavoured to show how erroneous is this view of a revolution which was equally just and noble in its origin and important in its effects. The whole aim of his book is to prove that the Sicilian Vespers, far from being the result of a conspiracy, was rather a popular outbreak, the immediate occasion of which was the insolent
behaviour of the French at Palermo, while its remote causes are to be found in the unhappy social and political condition of a people, who were neither accustomed nor disposed to suffer a tyrannical foreign dominion. He remarks in his Preface, that being a Sicilian by birth, and consequently well acquainted with the peculiar genius of his countrymen, he was more capable than any foreigner could be both of understanding and explaining to others the real nature of the Sicilian revolution of 1282, “a revolution wished for, but not planned, — resolved upon and executed in an instant.”
The family of Norman princes which reigned in Sicily had become extinct in 1186, on the death of William the Good. Resisting the pretensions of Constance, his aunt, who had married Henry the Sixth, emperor of Germany, the Sicilian nobles wished to raise Tancred, the illegitimate cousin of William, to the throne. On hearing of this design, the emperor hastened to Sicily, defeated Tancred, and took possession of the island. At his death, Frederic the Second, of the illustrious house of the Hohenstauffen, ascended the throne of Sicily, at first under the guardianship of his mother, but after the death of this princess under that of Pope Innocent the Third, who did not fail to take advantage of his situation in order to increase his own power. The long and bloody quarrels which arose between the Holy See and Frederic the Second, during which this prince was excommunicated, did not cease with his death, in 1250. On the contrary, no sooner had this event taken place, than the pope endeavoured to excite the whole of Italy against the house of Hohenstauffen. He partially succeeded in this design, and even prevented Conrad, the grandson of Frederic, from ascending the imperial throne, although he had already been named King of the Romans. In the southern provinces of the peninsula, the efforts of the pope were attended with less success, owing to the courage of Manfred, a natural son of Frederic. The heroic manner in which this prince defended the interests of his nephew enabled Conrad to take possession of the whole of Sicily. He lived, however, but two years to enjoy his conquest, and died, leaving an only son, named Conrad, but commonly called Conradin, on account of the brevity of his life.
Conrad had recommended this child to the care of the pope, which did not prevent Innocent from persecuting VOL. LXIV. No. 135.
the Hohenstauffen as before. In order to overthrow Conradin, he flattered the passions of the Sicilians, who soon rose against their sovereign and dethroned bim. A sort of republic was then established in the island ; but Manfred succeeded once more in reconquering the kingdom of bis nephew. For a short time, he contented himself with governing in the name of this prince; but he soon caused a rumor of the death of Conradin to be circulated, and on the 11th of August, 1259, he was crowned at Palermo, as sole heir and successor of Frederic the Second, thus usurping the throne of his nephew. The pope, finding himself not sufficiently strong to resist the heroic Manfred, resolved to offer the Sicilian throne to some foreign prince. He accordingly proposed it successively to Richard, Duke of Cornwall, brother, of Henry the Third of England, to Charles, Count of Anjou and Provence, brother of Saint Louis, and at last to Edmund, grandson of Henry. The king of England would willingly have accepted this offer for his grandson; but the exactions of the pope were so excessive, and his proposed conditions so unreasonable, that the parliament refused to sanction any act of the king in this affair. Louis the Ninth, on the contrary, refused the crown for his brother Charles ; but the pope — who excited the ambition of Charles, and endeavoured to convince the king of the necessity of establishing a powerful government in Sicily, in order to resist the progress of heresy and rebellion in that part of Italy — succeeded in vanquishing his scruples. For the good of the Church, Louis the Ninth, who was sincerely attached to his religion, consented to enter upon an arrangement which at heart he probably disapproved ; for he was too good and too wise a prince not to see that it was an act of manifest injustice.
On the 25th of February, 1265, all the preliminary arrangements being terminated, Pope Clement the Fourth, a Frenchman by birth, published a bull
, which declared that the territory extending from the Straits of Messina to the frontiers of the Papal States, with the exception of Benevento, should be granted to Charles of Anjou, as a vassal of the Holy See, upon condition that he should pay annually eight thousand ounces of gold to the pope, and lend him military aid in case of necessity. Thus, under the pretence of defending the interests of the Church, was the kingdom of Naples and Sicily sold to Charles of Anjou. As soon as he could muster an army, this prince hastened to Italy, where, after he had been crowned with his queen at the Vatican, he lost no time in endeavouring to meet his enemy, Manfred, in the field. An occasion soon presented itself; the armies of the two princes encountered each other at Benevento, on the 26th of February, 1266. The French were victorious, and Manfred, finding that all was lost, threw himself into the ranks of the enemy, and found the death which he desired.
But the death of this prince did not deliver Charles from all his enemies. The party of the Ghibellines soon resolved to resist the usurpation of the house of Anjou. Conradin, and one of his relatives, Frederic of Austria, took part in this design ; and they hastened to Sicily, followed by a large number of German barons. But they were defeated at the battle of Tagliacozzo, on the 23d of August, 1268. Conradin and Frederic were both made prisoners, and led to Naples, where they were beheaded on the public square, in violation of every principle of justice and public law, even as understood in that barbarous age. This act of tyranny was but the first of a long series of cruelties which were destined to render the reign of Charles of Anjou sadly memorable.
Scarcely had the king got rid of his enemies, when he forgot all the promises he had made to the pope before his accession to the throne. Instead of restoring to the papal government the property which the princes of the house of Hohenstauffen had wrongfully seized, he took possession even of those ecclesiastical lands which his predecessors had lest untouched. Avarice alone seems to have guided the new king in most of the acts of his reign. Taxes were imposed, not for the public use, but under pretence of the necessity of reducing by this means an arrogant and dangerous people, and really for the sole purpose of enriching the royal treasury. These taxes were so onerous, and frequently levied in so arbitrary a manner, as to excite great discontent among the nobles and the people. Clement the Fourth wrote twice to Charles to remind him of bis engagements, but without effect. Not satisfied with ruining the people by many and heavy exactions, Charles went so far as to seize their lands, and distribute them among the numerous adventurers who had followed him to Italy, and who, for the most part, had been