Frank Leward: Memorials
Bampton to Mr. Saunders
Bampton to Mr. Saunders.
Dear Mr. Saunders When I got here on the sixth I found all bustle and confusion. On the way I met conflicting reports it was difficult to get any information I could rely upon. At Turin they told me the Pie-page 319montese army was marching on Naples to relieve Garibaldi, others said to protect Francesco secondo from Garibaldi. Some said Garibaldi was in danger, others that he had been defeated by the Neapolitan army and was flying, others that he had gone further than Cavour wished and others again that the King of Naples had massed his troops north of Naples and intended to give him a crushing blow there, that he had allowed him to come on so far without offering any but a nominal resistance intending to catch him in a trap.
At Florence I could see there was great anxiety and different stories were told varying with the political opinions of those who told them. But I passed on. At Rome the anxiety was greater. I restrained an ardent wish to see all that there is to be seen at Rome or at least some of the greater sights and again pushed on keeping my purpose fixed to reach our old friend and if possible bring him back with me. If we could start in time we might see something of Rome on our way back. The feeling among the people at Rome seemed on the whole sympathetic with Garibaldi, but doubtful of his ultimate designs. I fear lest with success he will grow more and more hostile to the Church. I fancy he has been playing a masked game getting all he can out of the Church while secretly determined to undermine it if not openly to attack it. The Italian character is complicated, convoluted, it hath many folds and is not simple.
The journey from Florence to Rome was difficult. But at length as all things have an end we got to the page 320frontier of the Papal states situated in a barren cold mountainous country. So at least it appeared to be to me when at dead of night we arrived there in the dilatory diligence after hours of excruciating torture by the way and in utter destitution as far as the animal was concerned within, making me more than ever convinced that nature never intended me to be destitute of anything.
At the frontier the good paternal government insisted upon our being fumigated before we were allowed to enter the States of the Church. Infection of liberalism or protestantism or both I suppose being dreaded in the Holy City. I pleaded guilty to the first heresy but stoutly denied the latter. I told the grim official of the Pope half a fumigation would be enough for me "nonsono Protestante sono lnglese e Catholico ma liberale" I said. He didnt see my point looked doubtfully at me and not liking my jocular air and wishing also I have no doubt to show off his French as I had been to show off my Italian, replied "Monsieur c'est grave."Grave it was standing in a small room half suffocated with the fumes of some abominable chemical compound, trying to breathe in a thick fog of nearly the same density as we enjoy in London every morning from November to March. Our baggage also was similarly fumigated to prevent the taint of light literature, but only the topmost things could have been much affected by the process the fumes could not possibly have reached far down among the under strata of shirts and trousers. This farce being over we escaped to have our baggage overhauled by page 321other officials. I soon got over that ordeal having nothing to conceal. Two fat degenerate monks fared worse a bottle of something probably Chartreuse verte was found upon each of their persons. They not having the means of redeeming them had to leave them behind a perquisite I presume for the officials.
At last we got to Civita Vecchia and then to Rome. It is very disappointing to one who has thought much about Rome, its ancient splendours, its mediaeval glories, and all its antiquities to discover you are really there, really at Rome itself, by seeing "Roma" written up in the most prosaic way in a railway station. I could scarcely realise so much of my pilgrimage was done when aweary and half asleep I was roused by a porter shouting out "Roma" and I looked out and there I really was. I had seen no Coliseum no Cupola of S. Peter's no Vatican, not one of the seven hills, not even the English burial ground where Keats lies buried in "a spot so sweet it would make one in love to be buried there," nor had I passed through one of Roma's many gates, but there we were in an ugly station just as one would be at Birmingham or Leeds or at any other unromantic unhistoric place, and I was told that ugly modern station was Rome, the eternal City, once mistress of the tangible world still mistress of the better part of the world's spirit How short of expectation fall the dull facts of life.
Still resisting all temptation to loiter by the way I hurried on and got at last to the dominions of worthy King Francesco and found that amiable monarch bidding page 322adio to his people in what was really a very dignified address. Who wrote it for him I can't tell. I can hear of no one among his ministers capable of forming or expressing such ideas, and he certainly couldnt himself. If he had only been made to act during his reign in anything like the tone of it he might still have remained King of the Two Sicilies. We met him going, like Hannibal, to Capúa, and I afterwards heard in spite of all his affection for his people, and the promises of reform contained in his address, he had not omitted to shoot a Parthian arrow at them by ordering both the Castello del Ovo and the fort of S. Elmo still occupied by his artillery to bombard the town if Garibaldi attempted to enter it. This seems to have been the general programme with that effete and monkey government, to retreat for fear of blows, and retreating to fire on their own towns and people, so as to get a small revenge.
Had this wretched order been carried out a worse destruction might have fallen upon Naples than if hot cinders from Vesuvius had surged up to and over the devoted city. For despotic governments however feeble in their proper art of governing are generally strong in providing means of destroying the people who are unhappily within their clutches. Naples was in a curious state scarce knowing what to do. Rid of a nightmare in the person of their king, hearing Garibaldi the deliverer was near at hand, but tremblingly afraid of S. Elmo and not knowing what brood of chickens in the shape of shells and curses Castello del Ovo might bring forth. But Garibaldi I heard was already at Salerno and I knew page 323Frank was with him so I got up early next day and was off by train before breakfast. All was silence and expectation. As I passed Vesuvius with its thin curly cloud of smoke ever ascending it seemed a type of this great city. No one could tell for no one knew what would happen next yet all did know that fires lay there ready to burst forth and overwhelm kings and tyrants if there was any one to cause sufficient friction by giving the necessary push. And as I went along near the spot where cities lay buried it seemed an awful power that had been given to this one man, this new Napou leon this lion of the desert. And would that providence which has evidently raised him up to fight give him wisdom and strength in council that he may turn his victories into lasting blessings for the people, or must a foolish policy turn them to the destruction of the bad old systems only, leaving nothing better in their place?
These thoughts were speedily dissipated as we got near Salerno. There I quickly jumped out and from among an idle crowd of sight seers and lion hunters forced my way to Garibaldi's head quarters, forced my way in and up stairs though some resistance was offered. I thought if I could find an official about Garibaldi he would be able to tell me where Frank was. I was arguing with a good natured red shirted fellow with a gun in his hand ready to go off and shoot any body, I had just made him comprehend who I wanted when at that moment a door opened and there stood Frank. I glared at him and he glared at me. What dull cold unimpassioned beings we are. Had page 324we been Italians, French, Spaniards even Germans or Russians we should have rushed into each others arms and in a long embrace poured out all we felt and which we two had no idea how to express. We only looked and were silent To shake hands and say how do you do is the Englishman's greeting when he meets another after any interval. It is what we say every where to every friend we meet whom we meet every day, and I believe it was what I said then to Frank. I hadn't seen him for twenty years and I know what I meant was not how do you do, that I could see, I meant how have you been all this time? what change has taken place in you what change within as well as without; are you the same? Not how do you do but how will you do? will you be the same, or have these changing years made you some other, with other interests and affections, shall thieving time prove himself to have been a robber of what we knew and loved when we were young and could know and love? that was what I meant by my prosaic how do you do. I think Frank said nothing at all. I remember he took me by the arm and led me to a chair and I sat down. It was a large barely furnished room after the Italian fashion in a big house or palace. As far as I remember there were only two or three chairs in it. Frank had been writing at a table in the middle of the room when he was interrupted by my altercation with the sentry. He sat down at the table put his elbows on it and his face in his hands. Those brown curls you remember were grown black but more grey than black. He had a short beard very very grey,page 325
"As though the sorrows he had known
Had stolen half his life away."
He wore the ordinary red Garibaldian shirt a big pair of boots loose trousers and beyond that I dont think he had anything, unless it was a broad scarf which helped to keep together the large collar of his red shirt but not very closely. His face was tanned by many suns and marked by many storms, but though it was a dark brown it still kept something of the old delicacy of complexion. If I had met him in the street I should not have known him but I think I should have stopped to look at him, as long as he was in sight, as one looks at a fine strong ship that has been tossed about in many seas and has weathered many storms, and has got to look oldish and weather beaten, but interests us more than the light luxurious pleasure crafts that sail more gracefully by.
At last he said I must take you to see the General. How curious it is, what compound creatures we are and what small creatures too we must be. I had been looking forward to this meeting for many years, often coming often put off, and now here it was and we had met under most strange surroundings, I had travelled far and fast to see him, put up with many inconveniences, and now when I heard the great dictator was going to have breakfast and I must come too, I felt glad. I had got up very early and come some way by train and had not broken my fast and was hungry, still I think nothing on such an occasion ought to have made me feel hungry. No sooner it seems do we meet an old friend after many years absence than we ask him to have something to eat, page 326or we expect him to ask us to feed. I fear we are only animals indeed, with strong affections but also with strong appetites, only animals and not quite such fine ones as some of those we conceitedly call the lower animals. Did you ever meet an old dog who had been yours once and had loved you and looked upon you as his master and you had ruthlessly given him away or sold him and after a long time had gone to see him or casually met him, and uttering a low sorrowful whine as you patted him did he put his head on your knees and look up into your face with feeling too deep for utterance, and did you then offer him a bone or something else to eat especially beloved by dogs? If you had done this to one worthy of the name he would have stayed gazing with his sad eyes right into your face wondering that he must part from you being only a dog while you in his imagination would go on forever, and he would have let any cur come to take the bone away then, a thing not to be endured at any other time by dogs.
So we went into the presence of the dictator. Franks own description of him is the best. Not big but robust with a diffident manner but frank and noble, rough as could be with a gentleness that is indescribable. I thought I had never seen so curious a mixture or a more extraordinary man. There were several others with him but he seemed glad to see Frank come, he is evidently fond of "Franko" as he calls him to me. He was very polite because I was Frank's friend "il mio amico fidelissimo" said Frank. I thought I could detect a little tinge of jealousy on the part of the dictator as though he page 327didn't care about any one coming who might take him away, but he was extremely courteous and talked to me much about the English Government and asked me how the popular feeling was in England about recent events in Italy. We had a long talk, and he treated Frank with something like deference and with a marked respect and consulted him on different matters, and asked his opinion as to the best time and how to enter Naples, and so on. It was a regular Italian collazione but the General eat little and drank only water. He seemed anxious to get to his coffee and cigarettes. I was not sorry to retire either and go out with Frank who made holiday for the rest of that day.
It was a warm jolly autumn day, more than warm but not too hot. The ice was broken and as we sat in a cafe with our excellent coffee and smoking our Cavour cigars, and then in our leisurely ramble over old Salerno ancient seat of medicine when Greek, Italian, Moor, once led the van of that empiric science which has made so little progress since the day its university was founded, we discoursed of many things that had come to pass since we two met last. It was not a day for gloomy thoughts, it was that delightful day that comes so seldom to us poor mortals in a lifetime, it will never fade from my memory while memory is.
He didn't speak then as he has since of his own sorrows, all seemed bright and happy, and the blue waves that washed the beach seemed to have a lulling sensation. We sat and gazed at the water and at the distance beyond. He spoke at last of his mother, I told him all page 328I knew and of his aunt's and his brother's death, and that it seemed to me to be clearly his duty to come back to look after his mother and nephew, and that anything else would be a selfish cowardice.
We wandered back when it was getting dusk and sat out again in the evening viewing the joyous scene. Caffés filled with sun-burnt warriors and a people just freed from an intollerable rule and knowing not how to express their joy. They somewhat resembled Frank and me I thought. We had many thoughts crowding on our minds which we could not express. Those poor people had been liberated by these good warriors and now they could hardly realise that they were free nor knew how worthily to celebrate the event. We went early to rest and to think over the events of the day and of all we had been talking of.
It was well we did retire early for at day-break every where was bustle and confusion, and after a slight repast we started in a special train for Naples. Garibaldi made Frank go in the carriage with him and Frank got me in too. I felt I had no business there but I wouldnt have missed the sight of the dictator's journey and entry into Naples for a great deal. There were only four carriages in the train but steps, roof, everything was crowded by eager veterans going on to the goal of their campaign. It was a flowery procession. At each station we passed crowds came down for all knew the dictator, the liberator, was passing through. We were smothered in fragrant flowers. Even the engine heaved beneath its burden of roses. At Portici we came to a standstill the people page 329must and would see him and if possible shake hands. The way was blocked by cheering happy crowds we could hardly get along, and when at last a way was cleared we could only go at a walking pace amidst the shouts and cries and evivas of joy all along the way.
How shall I describe our entry into Naples. For some time I had been a little anxious lest all this garlanding should be but a decoration of the victims going to slaughter. For if S. Elmo or the Castello had obeyed the king and saluted us with bursting shell immense destruction must have followed, and we knew what orders had been given by the kind retreating monarch.
But the whole world seemed mad. It was frantic jubilation at Naples. Those foolish people unable to keep up a feeling long enough to make them fight for freedom are just the ones to make high holiday when anyone else has won it for them. When the dictator got out of the train the shouts the screams the yells of joy were piercing. He was hardly allowed to get to the carriage which was waiting for him. The carnival that followed was mere childish foolery. They took him to the Toledo Palace and crowded the streets outside. He made Frank keep by him and Frank made me stay near so I saw all, and I noticed the weary look which after a time came over the wonderful man. He longed for rest. He had been up at four as his custom is and he invariably sleeps in the middle of the day. But all that day the people thronged the Toledo. Mazzini was there to join in the triumph and was requested to leave the city at once by the dictators dictates. Old Dumas was page 330there living in a royal palace as fussy as a fly round a sugar basin, and a number of others who know how to share in a triumph better than to fight for one.
The day was spent in wild huzzahs and frivolous tokens of delight. Only one piece of restraint I saw. When the general could stand it no longer and insisted on some repose an officer went out on a balcony of the palace and called to the roaring crowd "il dittatore dorme" they were hushed in a moment and went off to other parts of the town where they could make as much noise as they pleased.
I must finish now. There is more hard work a head for the fighting men yet I can see. As to the general his difficulty lies not in fighting but in being wise in his political management after victory.
I will write again in a few days to say how all goes on. I must get back soon but I wont come without Frank. Yours very affectionately
C. A. Bampton.