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Italy and the Italians.
Genoa, and Venice, as they partook of the same form of government, wearing the word Libertas traced in golden characters on their frontlet, so they were composed of the same materials as the old Roman Republic, animated by the same mind, imbued with the same virtue, prompted by the same public zeal, and the magnanimous spirit of the same stern patriotism. This is by no means the case. The history of these Republics (taken generally) is far from warranting any such assumption. Isolated instances of high and splendid character form, perhaps, exceptions in the annals of Florentine and Milanese warfare, while the long line of Venetian story often approximates, in more than a distant resemblance, the energy and decision of the ancient Roman councils.
The fact of the occupation of Italy during the middle ages, and down to the epoch of our own times, by the troops of Austria and Spain (to say nothing of the military interference of other claimants), is a sort of stigma in the history of Italian Republics, which, while it proves that the fair soils of Italy have always been an object of cupidity to the other powers of Europe, looks with rather a malign aspect upon the hypothesis which speaks of the liberty of her sons. Although it must be acknowledged that instances of bravery and good conduct have not only been known to distinguish their armies in the field, but to fire the resolutions of the Senate with zeal in the public cause, upon the invasion of a common enemy,-yet these occasional displays seemed more the sudden bursts of a patriotism which still retained a sense of glorious ancestry, than the uniform impulse of a people free from choice, and brave from a sort of energizing principle. Foreign podestas, as every one knows, were placed in her cities, and were regarded by all the citizens as the common and supreme arbiters of their differences. This measure, in the policy of Austria, doubtless had the effect of perpetuating the submission of her territorial possessions in Italy. Claiming, by right of conquest, what all saw they had not the shadow of pretension to by any other right, the princes of the Imperial House showed a subtle insight into the art of governing, by insinuating the badge of slavery under the precincts of their
domestic hearths and altars. Until the beginning of the thirteenth century, however, "Florence," says Percival," was governed by Consuls and a Senate of popular choice; but she then fell, like other cities, into the fashion of entrusting her government to foreign podestas." The early establishment and rise of the five beforementioned famous Republics, was auspicious to the cause of liberty in Italy and Europe; but, as Lady Morgan justly observes, "their existence was a solecism in the reigning system of Europe, and their example dangerous to its permanency.'
"The existence of liberty in Italy," says Lady Morgan, in the fitful metaphors of her style, was like the natural day of her brilliant climate; it rose in bursts of splendour, and sunk in sudden and unprepared darkness." "Italy," she adds, "her republics invaded, environed, overwhelmed by the successive armies of Europe, to the last gasp of her independence, exhibited the results of her free institutions; and, like the dying gladiator of her capitol, was sublime even in the last pang of dissolution. From the walls of Milan to the sanctuary of the Vatican, the loveliest country of Europe was desolated by acts of savage atrocity and brutal violation, from which, even at this distance of time, humanity shudders and recoils."
A summary of a few of the leading characteristics of the Italian Republics may now serve to substantiate what we have advanced, that the moderns had materially fallen from the great and noble lineaments of character which had once animated the ancient Republic. The history of all the transactions of the Italian States during the middle ages, do not assuredly prove that from HER soils alone emanated the wisdom which was to direct Europe. The rise and progress in riches, arts, and commercial grandeur of the five celebrated Republics of modern Italy, doubtless comprised within the period of their annals many illustrious deeds; and in the enterprise, activity, and greatness of view which occasionally distinguished them, they stood forth prominently to the admiration of all their continental neighbours. But there were periods, and those not unfrequent (especially in the Milanese and Florentine dominions), when neither their domestic
or their foreign policy betrayed much of wisdom, but was rather marked by laxness and incapacity. The eternal factions of the Guelphs (or, as Percival writes it, the Guelfs,) and Ghibelins which for two centuries afflicted the cities of Milan and Florence, and their dependencies, with all the calamities of rancorous though petty warfare, was doubtless inauspicious of that prosperity and unity which the free aspect of their constituted government, and other advantages, certainly promised. But that the citizens of so many noble and populous cities, inhabiting soils which rung with the deeds of ancestral glory,—with all the advantages which unity and a concentration of every thing which a superabundance of immense wealth threw into their hands,-should, instead of strengthening themselves against the common invader, on the other hand, exhaust themselves in the bitter animosities of party spite, proves certainly not that they were animated by courage and noble bearing, but rather by a malignant and degenerate spirit of jealousy.
Topographical notices of Ruerdean.
If, indeed, all the Italian Republics were perpetually distinguished by the magnanimity which some writers seem inclined to ascribe to them, history, in the accumulated experience of nations, affords us sufficient reasons for thinking that they would oftener have united for the defence of their own common liberties. For, though Eustace distinctly states himself of opinion that their private cabals and party feuds were from age to age the unhappy cause which prevented their thus uniting;" still that such cause should have continued to exist, proved that the high-minded patriotism of their ancestors had no longer an existence.
E. P. (To be concluded in our Supplement.)
June 10. MY neighbour Dr. Meyrick having called upon me, in your last Magazine (May, 1831, p. 403) to furnish some further explanations concerning the parochial chapelry of Ruerdean, I herewith forward such matters as are not included in my own or the other histories of Gloucestershire, and which
have come to my knowledge subsequently to my publication.
Yours, &c. T. D. FOSBROKE.
Dr. Meyrick objects to Sir Robert Atkyns's definition of Ruerdean by River Dean because it adjoins the Wye, and thinks that it was originally Rhiwyr-din, "a fortress on the side of a hill;" of which there are remaining earth-works and a small piece of wall, and groins, round, not ogee, and such as we ascribe to centuries preceding the fourteenth. I am inclined to Dr. Meyrick's opinion for the following reasons:
RUARDYN, or Rewardyne, is mentioned as the original orthography in several ancient records, quoted in my History of Gloucestershire, vol. ii. pp. 150, 154. In contiguity are MichelDean, Little Dean, and Deep-dean (in Walford). There is, too, reason to think, from the old records, that originally Dene was the generic term for all these vills; and Michel-Dean is still familiarly called Dean by the inhabitants. Abbenhall, Michel-Dean, and Little Dean, were but one vill in the times of Edward the First and Second. At neither of these places was there a castle, and Abbenhall, which adjoins Ruerdean on the west, was so named from the Abbot of Flaxley having lands and a mansion there. A close roll of the 7 Edw. II.* says, that "All the lands in the forest granted under the old castle of Dean to be assarted were then confirmed to the Abbot and monks of Flaxley. This abbey was founded by Roger, son of Milo Earl of Hereford, in 1140, and in the confirmation-charters of Henry the Second, it is said, that the above Roger gave to the abbey the whole land under the old castle of Dean to be assarted. Now, St. Briavel's could not be the old castle of Dean, for it was only erected by the father of the founder of Flaxley. William de AlbaMara, 40 Hen. III. held two carucates in the manor of Ruardyn, by a quitrent to the crown, and attending the summons of the constable of St. Briavel's-castle. Among his heirs was a William, son of William de Hatesway (whose estate is still called Hatha
Fosbroke's Gloucestershire, i. 86. + Dugd. Monast. i. 884, old edit.
Topographical notices of Ruerdean.
ways). Now, Hathways, according to an inquisition of the 4 Rich. II. lies both in St. Briavel's and Ruerdean; in another of 11 Edw. IV. in Ruerdean only. From these records I am inclined to think that the old castle of Dean was this of Ruerdean, but that after the erection of that of St. Briavel's, the services were transferred. It appears to have been a small square strong-hold, like a Norman keep, with a barbican. Several of the stones were removed for mending roads in memory of man; but I suspect that the chief dilapidation took place when the manor-house, not far off, was built, apparently, by the architecture, in the beginning of the sixteenth century. All that now remains of wall is a scrap about a yard or two in length, which belonged to the vault of a cellar; but it does not seem to have belonged to a round arch, and does not resemble the thick square Norman groins. I presume, therefore, that it was inhabited in the thirteenth century, for that is the date of the chief parts of the church. I also think, from earlier work in the latter, that both the castle and church underwent great alterations about that era.
As to the church, the figure of St. George engraved in the Magazine (p. 404) certainly belongs to a style of architecture older than any other part of the church, the pillars, arches, mouldings, and windows, bearing manifest tokens of the successive styles of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. As this figure of St. George forms an inner door-way, and is approached through an ancient porch with a pointed arch, above which is the bust of a female (called St. Cyr) it has been presumed that a later church was erected on the remains of an older one, to which the figure of St. George appertained. I have been of opinion, by the way, that these figures of St. George had an allusion to the crusades, and that the dragon may have typified the Mahometan religion. The old church had, according to presumption, no aisle, and one side of it forms the wall of the present aisle; the other wall being thrown down, and replaced by a row of pointed arch pillars, that the church might be enlarged by the addition of a new nave, communicating, with a tower and spire. The
latter fashion chiefly commenced in the reign of Henry the Third, and, according to Sir William Dugdale in his Warwickshire, spires were purposely annexed to churches in woody countries, that they might be landmarks, and such this spire remains to the present day. That arches were made anew in the wall of this old church of St. George, seems to be shown by a round thirteenth-century moulding, resting upon a corbel, placed in the wall sideways, as having been worked up. Under the whitewash are perceptible inscriptions in the stiff black-letter gothic of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; and I once saw the ostrich feathers of the Prince of Wales amidst the remains of old fresco paintings, so mutilated as to be undistinguishable.
The church is only a parochial chapelry of Walford, of which the festival-day is the first Sunday after New Michaelmas (of course St. Michael was the patron-saint), and that of Ruerdean the Sunday after Old Michaelmas. The rectory of both parishes belongs to the precentorate of Hereford; the vicarial tythes to myself, as incumbent. I heard from my predecessor that there are no ancient documents respecting either church in the registry of Hereford. It is possible that the endowment of Ruerdean was a gift of one of the family of Milo Earl of Hereford; but not Walford, which was parcel of the manor of Ross Foriegn, and belonged to the Bishops of that See.
We find that, in the wars of Charles the First, the republicans had a garrison at Ruerdean, to check the Welsh royalists from advancing to Gloucester by way of Monmouth.* Weston under Penyard had another castle, which in earlier times might have commanded the road to Gloucester. These adjacent castles of Penyard, Godrich, Wilton, Ruerdean, and another, as presumed, at Bicknor, seem to have had the same object, that of controling Welsh incursions.
The manor was vested, in the time of Henry the Third, in William de Alba Mara, who possibly made the alterations in the old castle and church before alluded to.
T. D. F.
Corbet's Milit. Govern. of Gloucester.