26 DECEMBER 1863, Page 19


Mu. RIMINI is one of the few writers who have successfully mastered the difficulty of writing in a language which • vismuo; oe, Betaken Boas. By Juba MAW. /anemia= and co, Landon and Ciunbridge.

is not their own. He has grasped not only the turn of the English language, but the turn of the English mind ; while at the same time, his foreign birth and breeding give him a width and depth of view not common amidst our insular authors. Dr. Antonio, Lorenzo Benoni, and Lavinia, are not more remark- able as pictures of Italian life than as portraitures of English lire in Italy, We suspect, however, that, for most English readers, the descriptions of our countrymen and country women abroad were more interesting than the purely Italian portions of these stories. It is very rarely that a novel of foreign life has any great success in England. Novels like " yillette " are simply descriptions of English character as developed under foreign conditions, and do not therefore correspond to our definition of a foreign novel. The truth is, that to the bulk of readers, Continental thoughts and habits are too different from their own for them to sympathize very warmly with personages placed in a medium of which they have no knowledge. The old familiar landmarks are wanting. Heroes, who are neither earnest, nor muscular, nor clerical ; heroines, who are married without preliminary passages of love to gentlemen whom their parents have selected, hardly commend themselves to Eng- lish sympathies. The abbe is a poor substitute for the consump- ti re curate, the nun scarcely passes muter for the traditional maiden aunt, and blue skies form an insufficient substitute for the green fields and shady lanes in which our novelists delight.

Now, Vincenzo is purely and solely an Italian novel. No single English personage is introduced into it ; the characters, the scenery, the plot, are all Piedmontese. We are not surprised, therefore, if this book has proved less immediately successful than Mr. Ruffini's former works. It is scarcely, too, we think, of an order fitted for periodical publication. The descriptions are too delicate, the story too simple, and the absence of any " sensational " element too marked for the novel to .be read with advantage in monthly instalments. But if anybody takes and reads it as a compact work he will have a very genuine pleasure. More especially will this be the case if Italy is personally known to him. The rich Italian colouring hangs over the book from beginning to end. You are transported to the land where the skies are blue, and where life is bright, in spite of sorrow,-and where existence itself is a pleasure. You live again amongst that kindly people, whose tastes are so simple, and whose enjoyments are so keen ; and you leave behind you the atmosphere of doubt, and bustle, and impatience in which our English lives are battled out to the end.

Vincenzo, indeed, unlike most Continental novels, has a moral, but it is emphatically an Italian one. Its object is to show the domestic misery created by the antagonism between the political views of the priesthood and the national aspirations of Italy. Yet an enthusiastic Protestant could hardly claim Mr. Ruffini as an exponent of the evils of Catholicism. On the contrary, the Pope, the confessional, and the celibacy of the priesthood are accepted in his pages as existing facts, which are no more to be grumbled at than the course of the seasons or the formation of the soil. Italian-like, he has no wish whatever for a religious revolution ; he objects, indeed, to the unpa- triotic tactics adopted by the clergy, and comments severely on the iniquity of the Papal persecution of Piedmont. He is quite prepared to suppress the convents, sequestrate the domains of the clergy, and destroy the temporal power of the Papacy ; but to the Pope, as a theological authority, he has no objection whatever. In fact, he is inclined to consider the Papacy as good an institution as could be devised for the settlement of abstract religious points, about which he cares singularly little. We do not mean to say that these are Mr. Ruffini's own opinions, we only mean that they are those which we gather he intends his hero to have entertained; and if he designed to paint an ordinary Italian Liberal be was correct in this view of his character. The absolute and almost contemptuous indifference or Italians about what may be called spiritual subjects is a feet which it is hard to realize without personal experience.

The story of Vincenzo is that of a young Piedmontese Liberal, who takes a very active part in the national movement from 1848 to 1861, and whose career in life is constantly interfered with and finally cut short by the narrow superstitions of his wife. The obligations under which Vincenzo is placed towards his wife's family, the difficulties of his position, the errors by which he gradually forfeits his independence, and the manner in which he is thwarted in all his efforts by the petty, sullen op- position of a narrow-minded, selfish, and bigoted woman, are described with extraordinary ingenuity. Everything is done to secure our sympathy for Vincenzo's sorrows ; but still, we are never able to shake off the impression that his misfortunes were his own fault after all. A man who cannot be Master in his own household will never be a favourite with English readers.

Apart, however, from its literary defects or merits, Vincenzo has real value as a contribution to contemporary history. The state of feeling in Piedmont during the different phases of the Italian Revolution is described with a graphic power, which leads us to hopo that some day Mr. Ruffini may write the history of an era he knows so well. If he is to be believed, more credit is to be assigned to Charles Albert for the inauguration of constitu- tional government in Sardinia than the world " has given him. The middle classes had little faith in the possibility of free government; the nobles were entirely opposed to it ; the priests were only in favour of it so long as it was sanctioned by the Pope ; and the peasantry dreaded the conscription which fol- lowed as a tonsequence of the stainto. The universal loyalty to, the King alone outweighed the general hostility. " What his Majesty had willed, what his Majesty had undertaken, must be right." This resolution of time King's bore the test of adversity. Such, at any rate, is Mr. Ruffini's opinion of the position of public affairs after 1848.

"Truth to say, even from quarters less prone to groundless fears than tho Signor Avvocato and Co., arose indications of uneasiness of the newly-born public liberties. These came from those who had watched the growing tide of discontent pervading the ranks of our soldiers, at the far from friendly reception given them by some of the elated popu- lation of Lombardy ; at the taunts launched at them of coming to reap the fruit of a victory not their own (as if, with the quadrilateral in the hands of the foe, there remained nothing to be done) ; and at the sys- tematic hostility of a considerable part of the press, never wearied of denouncing the King and the generals as incapable, and worse. Those, we say, who knew all this, and knew also what a ready engine for re- action an army embittered by ill-success and injustice is apt to be, wore anything but cheerful countenances. Nor were the feelings of the Sovereign, as far as they might be prejudged, likely to differ much from those of his army. If man had ever had provocation, that man was Charles Albert. Of all those who figured in the campaign of 1848, not one had, been more misconstrued, reviled, cursed, bespattered with contumely and insult, than Charles Albert. But a few days before the armistice the palace ho inhabited at Milan had been fired upon and violently broken into by the mob. All the blood in his veins must have been turned to gall. And this man had only to nod his head to have all opposition silenced. It seemed almost impossible that he should not give the signal ; the very certainty of success was an inducement_ Diplomacyurged him, old and tried friends implored him with tears to put the Statute aside, at least for a while. Plausible reasons were not wanting to give weight to the advice. It was the only means of keep- ing his hold on the army; it was the only means of re-composing the unsettled minds of his people ; it was for the good of the country at largo, a, temporary remedy, no opposition to be apprehended, no blood, to be shed—a coup d'etat a Neu de rose. It is to the eternal honour of Charles Albert that he did not will it—that he willed the contrary. He had sworn to the Statute, and he would hold to it for better for worse."

The author of Vincenzo is a decided Cavourian ; of the party of action, of which we hear so much in England, he hardly makes mention, and we are afraid that Garibaldi himself cannot number Mt.. Ruffini amongst his admirers. The truth is, that to. an Italian, or at any rate to a Piedmontese, the share of the hero of Caprera in the foundation of Italian liberty is by no means so overwhelming as his English admirers are prone to.

imagine. Unfortunately, English views of contemporaneous Italian history have been taken almost exclusively from the opinions of a small anl noisy minority. Any Englishman who goes to Italy and desires to learn anything of Italian politics is almost certain to be introduced to the little clique of Mazzinians, revolutionists, and professional agitators, who trade upon Gari- baldi's popularity ; and from their mouths he learns about as much truth concerning Italy as a foreigner would learn concern- ing England if his letters of introduction threw him into the circle of Mr. David Urquhart's fallowers. If anybody wishes to learn what an intelligent Italian, not a political personage, and identi- fied with no party, thinks about the history of the Italian Revo- lution, he has only to read Vincenzo and he will know more than if he had lived for a month at Caprera. Cavour, in Mr. Ruffini's eyes, is the author of Italian liberty, not only the greatest of the liberators of his country, but the liberator. It is thus that Vincenzo writes to a friend immediately after Cavour's death :— "But I have not taken up the pen to complain. Even had I the in- clination, the moment would be ill chosen to do so. The insignificant insect shorn of its wings in a cobweb has no right to be querulous when the king of the forest lies struck down in all his might. All individual woes lose their claim even to utterance in the face of the immense calamity which weighs down a whole nation—the death of Cavour. Prepared for it, as we were for the last four-and-twenty hours, we could not believe it—it could not be realized. But yesterday we had heard his voice in Parliament; but yesterday we had felt the impress of his large mind on the course of European events ; and that to-day there should be nothing left of him ! It seemed incongruous, unnatural, im- possible, that, so long as his work was not done, the great workman should be missing. Alas! it is even so. Providence has such thunder- bolts among its ways. Was the task of Italian redemption too easy

with such a man ? And was he taken from us that we might grope in the dark, and stumble, and earn, through further suffering, the entrance into the promised land ? This is the secret of the Almighty—it only remains for us to bow our heads."

We wish that we had space to quote some of the exquisite desciiptions of Italian scenery and life, with which the pages of Vincenzo are filled. Those who look in a novel for something more than mere amusement will, we think, sympathize with the pleasure which these volumes have afforded us.