17 MARCH 1866, Page 17

CONCLAVES.* Tars is about the most provokingly outrageous book we

have come across for a long while, for as a composition it is bad in every sense, and yet its contents are worth looking at. This apparent paradox finds explanation in the fact that this worth- less and too often disgusting production yet contains matter which, however dressed up, has been drawn from sources that here- before have been closed. But it can only be an inkling of the possible nature of these sources that the reader can derive from these pages. He can to some extent conceive from looking into them what a vast deal there must be to learn from certain archives recently opened to inspection, but this is all, for he can never venture to take a quotation or a statement on trust from the writer of these volumes. That individual is a Neapolitan, who spent several years in Paris in the character of a political refugee, acquired a certain mastery over the French tongue, and figured as a contributor to Paris newspaper feuilletons. Since the Revolu- tion he has distinguished himself in the Italian Parliament, only for the shameless effrontery with which he has delighted to shock by a glaring display of blasphemous sentiments. His efforts at oratory have always been directed to the expression of a tawdry imitation of Sans Culottes' rubbish and ribaldry, and now he has carried these exertions into the field of literature. It is not too much to say that the book in question is such as might entitle M. Petruccelli to the post of Scribe Laureate for Holywell Street. It is redolent of gross indecencies, written with revolting and de li- berate cynicism at full length, such as might have been worthy of the Bijoux Indiscrete. This precious acrobat of filthy performances evidently thinks that he has turned off a thrilling epigram when he prints an obscenity in full letters. But though Juvenal dealt in dirt, M. Petruccelli is not necessarily a Juvenal because he can merely exhibit himself wallowing in filth.

If we ask, then, the reader to look at these disgusting and trashy pages, it is certainly not on account of any intrinsic merit, but only to draw his attention to what may be considered a virgin subject for inquiry, and to the vast amount of information which now is to be found on it in the Italian Archives, so jealously closed from inspection before the Revolution, especially on topics con- nected with the Court of Rome. In this department they were indeed quite inaccessible. The Tuscan Government had a reputa- tion for exceptional liberality in allowing students admission to the Record Office. A couple of years before the Revolution, it happened to us that we sought to make some researches there. In spite of considerable protection, we found that we could never

* Eistoire Dipiontatique des Conektnes. Par F. Petruccelli dells Gattina. 2 vole. - Faris Librairie Internationale.

get sight of what we wanted, and we then learnt confidentially that it would be useless to waste time in further efforts, as the Government had given strict orders not to communicate any documents bearing on the Holy See. And yet it was true that no archives were then so free of access in Italy as those of Florence. It is self-evident that under such circumstances it was out of question for the history of Papal elections to be written_ The materials for that history are to be found in Italian archives alone, for although non-Italian Catholic States felt a natural in- terest in the creation of Popes, and did through their agents seek to exercise an influence on the election, the reality is that the effective influence as a rule was confined exclusively to the purely native agency of Italian princes, whose congenial temperament and more intimate acquaintance with the ground and individual members of the Sacred College enabled them to play, at an im- portant moment, the part in Popemaking which it was the am- bition of first-rate potentates to fancy they assumed. Moreover, all the Italian princes were devoured with a propensity for diplo- matic information, which made them keep up a service of news- mongering and institute a system of secret communications which are marvellous. The Italian sovereigns were the initiators.

of an universal system of correspondence, inspired by the uneasy feeling that existence depended on perpetual wakefulness to pene- trate the treachery that must be spread somewhere ; and by the passion for intrigue, which makes a prince think himself a. cipher unless he has for ever some object of personal ambition on the anvil. The Italian sovereign, peering curiously through the

eyes-of his envoy into the intricacies of some foreign policy, is to be distinguishedfrom other inquisitive sovereigns only perhaps in the

greater astuteness of observation acquired by his welltrained agent; but the Italian sovereign dealing with Cardinals in Conclave is to foreign princes what a stage familiar moving behind the scenes is. to a spectator, even though on the front row. Between the former and the actor in the Conclave there is the unceremonious intimacy of men who see each other daily in their shirt sleeves, and who are like adepts in a common thieves' slang. For the King of France or Spain distance still produced a nimbus around the thing called Sacred College, which was totally dispelled before the cynical shrewdness of the impassioned, yet so coldly remorseless and so impenetrably masked, gentlemen who lorded it over Italian princi- palities, had most of them a brother or other near relative in the Sacred College, looked on the tiara solely in the light of some family interest, to be achieved by obtaining from the Pope a par- ticular grant of value, and discussed the matter of creating this desirable Pope with the self-conscidiumess of men who had passed much time in the Pontifical Court, knew all its ins and outs, and had lost the notion of its possibly having anything in its nature that could be esoteric, or above very human motives.

Now no history is at once more unknown and more deserving of being made known than that of Conclaves. It has remained un- known for the simplest of reasons—the materials for writing it have hitherto been beyond reach; while it must necessarily be par- ticularly worth recovery, because the capital events of the Papacy in its most critical times have mainly turned upon accidents of individual origin and intrigue. The great facts of Papal history in the stirring period of the Reformation and the succeeding century have derived their character mainly from incidents of an individual nature, which through no other instrumentality than that of pure cunning, have succeeded in leaving more or less their- mark on the standing events of all time. The history of the Popes has to be studied therefore in the intrigues and counter machinations of a number of purely personal currents, that meet- each other in eddies out of which arise the successive figures of a, file of Pontiffs. It is this hitherto unwritten history which M. Petruccelli professes to furnish us with. " During two years," he tells us pompously, in his preface, "I ransacked the archives• of Italy in Turin, Parma, Florence, Naples, Modena, and the State papers in England. In Spain, Paris, Venice, Milan, and Bologna, wherever I could not go myself, I caused researches to be made." Two years' preliminary studies for so intricate a subject as the true " History of Papal Elections " is.

certainly a short period, but we must, moreover, observe that these much vaunted and pompously paraded investigations were of the slightest kind. In the whole book the only reference to our State papers (which the author expressly claims to have ran-

sacked in person) is one that could be furnished by a glance at the printed calendars. And yet, as we said, there is matter in the book which invites attention. This matter has been fur- nished the author without the slightest labour by the Italian Archives. He had only to enter, and taking down the volumes of Roman correspondence, to copy them, and he was sure to enrich,

the world with valuable information. But to have done this would have been to do the work of a meritorious compiler. M.

Petraccelli is none such ; his is a talent of the Porte St. Martin

stamp. Accordingly-he has recast, in what he considers to be his epigrammatic French; the stiff he found in these diplomatic docu-

ments, without giving any intimation of what is original and what is-his own, and scarcely anyreference, be it in the text or in a note, to indicate a means of controlling the statements inserted in the text. The book is thus reduced into an inferior production in the Alexandre Dumas style, -without his talent, a book essentially and provokingly useless for all serious purpose, since it is apparent on every page that M. Petrucedli has nowhere scrupled to bridle the licentiousness of his imagination in embroidering what are to his taste spicy arabesques upon the original documents, and print- ing them within the bracket that marks his always very free transla- tions as if they were as genuine as the remainder.

'We are not insinuating that the bulk of these quotations so largely introduced into. the text are inventions. To do so would

be to pay an undue compliment to the author's imagination. They bear on their face evidence of their origin in genuine documents, and it is.because we have this conviction that we are angry with

M. Petruccelli for affiguring them with the smudges of his stupid buffoonery. it-appears that the staple of these State papers is drawn from the archives of Modena and Florence. The Houses of Este and Medici were indeed foremost of all Italian ones in ambition, intrigue, and restless diplomacy. It is to the extracts, such as they are, from these records that we invite attention. It is evident that we are here furnished with a transparency which lets one look into the "innermost bowels of conclaves. Here we are admitted to a process .of dissection which lays open everything. 'To enter at length upon these revelations in the shape in which they are now given is impossible, for at every step we should have to go through a -preliminary course of critical investigation into their literal accuracy. But to give the reader an idea of the kind of thing he may expect to .find, we draw his attention to the correspondence Of Ferdinand :Medici. This prince began life as Cardinal, but was allowed to renounce the purple on succeeding to the inheritance ofTnscany upon the death of his brother, Fran- cesco, husband of Bianca Capello. In his capacity of Cardinal he took active part in the important conclaves which created Pius V., Gregory XIII., and Sixtus V., for he was therein the organ of his family's diplomacy. 'Before entering the second we find him informing "Doke Cosimo that he was without certain compounds, and- without a certain water against poison, and of his wish to have some against all contingencies. Such was in his opinion a necessary ingredient /or equipment on going into the work of Popemaking. Few Popes played a greater part than Sixtus V., yet his election was-due-to no recognition of his merits,, but solely to the whims and influence of the Medicis, who selected him as %heir creature. The immuring of the Cardinals was practically a sham, andTerdinand uninterruptedly communicated to his father _what be was doing. The bribery spoken to was beyond concep- tion. Spinola. "having dropped some words about expenses, I have Liven him 500 crowns, this not being the season for parsimony, but for securing friends." 'The Duke is asked to bestow 8,000 or 10,000 crowns on some .poor Cardinals. Altemps was a Cardinal Of high degree most important to canvass, but not favourable to the Medici's candidate. He tried to deter Medici " by reminding me that our brother-in-law, Paolo Orsini, had killed Montalto's nephew to get his wife, Vittoria Accorombona," but Medici understood how to humour him until Altemps promised to vote for 'Montalto, on condition " that the latter should acknow- ledge himself named by him." As for Este, a no less impor- 'tent personage, Medici secured his support by the promised mar- Ziage of his nephew with a niece of his intended Pope's. In this way he carried his end, and the Catholic world at a capital point Of time 'became confided to the direction of a Sixtus V. The experience acquired thus was turned to account when, from a `Cardinal, Ferdinand became Duke of Tuscany. To judge from what we .find in these, pages, he would seem to have been to his life's end the real Popemaker amongst princes. His correspond- ence with emissaries and agents during the numerous conclaves in his reign, for he lived _down to Paul V.'s time, is apparently ,.bewildering in its revelations. Amongst the- most memorable elections was that of Clement VIII., who gave absolution to IfenryIV. of Fnance. His elevation was a great historical event, for it involved.a 'capital check to Philip IL Yet that elevation,' as described in the despatches of the Tuscan sgents,- was the resultof nothing but merely personal intrigues, which were accom- pa.nied by incidents of personal violence that we should put down as inventions, bat. for_their corroboration -from other sources. The Spaniel party sought to carry their man, Santa Severina, by sur- prise, and having secured as they thought the requisite majority, proceeded with him to the chapel in which the enthronization is performed. 'The alarm having been given, the opponents hurried down from their cells to prevent the election. A most indecent scene ensued ; the fathers came almost to blows. An :attempt was made to close the chapel door in the face of the non-contents, and to consecrate the -candidate by force. Bat Colonna recoiled from this step, and bursting out of the- chapel, reduced those within it below the number requisite 'for an election. Then Santa Severina had to glide back to his cell. It was already bare, according to custom. His conelaviste had stripped it, thinking their master Pope—a memorable 'dash of the cup away from the very lip. All this and much more is recounted in these pages. We have already said -what' -kind of authority we are disposed to attach to them. 'But while we have the meanest possible opinion of M. Petrucelli's produc- tion, we are firmly persuaded that the nucleus of his book is genuine, and that the historian will get a hint of invaluable matter if he will look into the documents which are here given in so vile a travestie.