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in the answer which the translator of Ariosto evidently anticipates to the following question: Would a real lover of Raphael prefer a copy of one of his pictures, which, though well painted, did not convey a true idea of his colouring, or a print of it carefully executed, which would give at least a faithful idea of the design?'
But it may be said, is the translator, working according to Mr. Wiffen's system, and not dealing in equivalents, to copy closely every line, however hard to bend into another language; is he to render every thing literally? We say, No: this would be a real infraction of the precept of Horace; one, by the way, of which our favourite Ben Jonson has occasionally been guilty, as in his version of vultus nimium lubricus aspici, to wit,' a face too slippery to behold.' What then is to be the guide, and how far is such an author to be literal or not? We answer again, he is to be as faithful an interpreter as the idiom and construction of his own language allow; and (as example is always clearer than precept) we will cite, as the model of translation best agreeing with our notions of what is fitting, a great statesman's extemporaneous version of Tacitus's comparison of eloquence to fire. Eloquentia, sicut flamma, materie alitur, motu excitatur, et urendo clarescit:'Somebody having cited this passage after dinner as impossible to be rendered into English, Mr. Pitt instantly disproved the assertion by repeating; It may be said of eloquence as of a flame, that it requires matter to feed, motion to excite it; and that it brightens as it burns.' The example is short, but sufficient. We have here a version of Tacitus which is spirited, and yet close enough to assist a boy in the lower school of Eton in the construction of his task. If any rule can be considered as absolute, we conceive that which we maintain, is without exception; and if there be foreign authors, ancient or modern, who cannot be subjected to it, we aver that they may be paraphrased, but cannot be translated. Such is that exquisite idiomatic poet Catullus among the Latins; and such is Aristophanes among the Greeks, of whom we have seen most brilliant and successful imitations and no translation.
ART. II.—1. Histoire de l'Homme au Masque de Fer, accompagnée des Pièces authentiques et de Fac-simile. Par J. Delort. Paris.
2. The True History of the State-Prisoner commonly called The Iron Mask;' extracted from Documents in the French Archives. By the Hon. George Agar Ellis. London. 1826. THE debt of gratitude to a discoverer of historical truth is often more readily acknowledged than faithfully paid. Extorta voluptas'! is the secret murmur of the many against
those who remove cherished doubts and specious errors; and no work was ever more calculated to excite such inward repinings than M. Delort's treatise on the celebrated anecdote of the Man in the Iron Mask. By a research well directed and pursued under favourable auspices, he has divested this strange incident of obscurity and exaggeration, and, at the same time, destroyed the far greater part of its romantic effect.
Voltaire, who first gave the fact a place in history, delivered it, as rumour had conveyed it to him, inaccurately, and with embellishments well fitted to encourage wild surmises. It was, according to his narrative, some months after the death of Cardinal Mazarin, that an unknown prisoner, young and of noble appearance, distinguished stature, and great beauty of person, was sent in profound secrecy to an island on the coast of Provence. The unfortunate wore, while travelling, a mask, so contrived by means of steel springs, that he could take his meals without uncovering his face, a peremptory order having been given, that, if he disclosed his features, he should be instantly put to death. The minister, Louvois, paid him a visit, and spoke to him standing, and with an attention which implied respect. It was said that, during this period of his confinement, he one day traced some words with a knife on a silver plate and threw it from a window looking to the sea a fisherman brought it to the governor of the island, who, when he had ascertained by a rigid examination that the man could not read, dismissed him, with the remark, that he was very lucky in his ignorance. In 1690, St. Mars, who had been governor of Pignerol, was appointed to command the Bastille, and under his care the mysterious captive was transferred to Paris, masked as before. In the Bastille he was lodged as commodiously as the nature of the place allowed; his table was excellent, all his requests were complied with, and the governor seldom sat down in his presence. He played the guitar and had a passion for lace and fine linen. The physician, who frequently attended him, inspected his tongue but never saw his face. The very tone of his voice was said to inspire interest; no complaint ever escaped him, nor did he attempt, even by a hint, to make himself known. He died in 1703, and was interred, at night, in` the burying-ground of St. Paul. So great was the importance ascribed to this dark event, that M. de Chamillart (the unfortunate war-minister and successor of Louvois) was importuned even on his death-bed, by his son-in-law, the Maréchal de la Feuillade, to unfold the mystery; but he replied that it was the secret of the state, which he had sworn never to reveal.
It is unnecessary now to examine the various conjectures that were grounded on these and other circumstances which disclosed themselves,
themselves, or were invented, as the story obtained celebrity.* The masked prisoner was from time to time pronounced to have been Fouquet, the disgraced minister of finance; a nameless person acquainted with Fouquet's secrets; an Armenian patriarch; Louis, Comte de Vermandois, son of Louis the Fourteenth, by Mademoiselle de la Vallière; and the redoubted duc de Beaufort, nicknamed, in the days of the Fronde, Le Roi des Halles. It is true, that the Comte de Vermandois was believed by his mother to have died in the camp before Dixmude, in 1683, and that his father had caused him to be, ostensibly at least, interred at Arras; it is also true that Beaufort was apparently slain and beheaded by the Turks at the siege of Candia; but, on the other hand, the unknown captive was named, in the register of his burial, Marchiali, which word, by a transposition of the letters, might be read Hic Amiral, evidently pointing out either Beaufort or Vermandois, both of whom were admirals of France! On grounds not less solid, it has been supposed, that the mysterious prisoner was James, Duke of Monmouth, whom the Londoners imagined they had seen executed on Tower-hill, in 1685.
But the most favoured hypothesis was that which made Marchiali a son of Anne, mother of Louis the Fourteenth. It was at one time boldly advanced that the prisoner was a twin brother of that monarch, brought into the world clandestinely a few hours after him, and concealed for reasons that are not strikingly cogent. A more plausible supposition was, that the queen had at some earlier period produced an illegitimate son, who, being born in wedlock, and senior to the acknowledged prince, might have disputed the succession, and was, therefore, to be buried in captivity. The adulterous father was, by some romantic persons, conceived to have been the duke of Buckingham; more feasible suspicions rested on Mazarin. Voltaire, who supposed himself better informed upon the subject than in truth he was, appears to have favoured this last opinion,† and it is openly maintained in a supplementary note on the Dictionnaire Philosophique, perhaps written, but at least known and uncontradicted by him.‡ The ingenious essay of Gibbons tends to nearly the same conclusion, but he refers Queen Anne's frailty to the period of her widowhood. The name, Marchiali, was made serviceable to these latter theories, as indicating an Italian father, and the pri
A work published in the beginning of the French revolution, entitled La Bastille dévoilée, contains (in vol. iii. livraison 9.) au ample digest of all that had, up to that time, been known, fancied, or fabled, on the present subject.
+ See the Dictionnaire Philosophique-Tit. Ana, Anecdotes. Euvres de Voltaire, tom. xxxvii. Ed. 1784. And Supplément au Siècle de Louis XIV. ibid. t. xxvii.
Euvres, t. lxx. p. 485.
Miscellaneous Works, 8vo. 1814. vol. v.
soner's love of fine linen greatly strengthened the presumption as to his mother, for Anne of Austria was known to abhor coarse drapery.
Amidst these various speculations, an opinion existed that the object of so much curiosity was the confidential agent of a duke of Mantua, and had incurred this strange and protracted imprisonment, by disappointing Louis the Fourteenth in a political intrigue. So modest a solution of that which Voltaire termed the most singular and astonishing of all historical mysteries was not likely to obtain general favour; it was early refuted, and would have been so again and again but that M. Delort has lately found out documents which prove it to be true. This gentleman produces, from the archives of France and those of the Foreign Office at Paris, a series of letters minutely developing the transactions of the French court with the Mantuan minister, and establishing, beyond any reasonable doubt, the identity of that personage with the Man in the Iron Mask. We proceed to take a short view of the correspondence thus collected, premising, however, that the principal facts discovered in its earlier part had been long before related with tolerable accuracy by the Italian annalist Muratori, of whose statements we shall, in some few instances, avail ourselves.
In 1677, when the grandeur of Louis the Fourteenth was at its highest pitch, and he was served in all departments by men of courage, genius, and industry, whose ambition lay in gratifying that of their master, the Abbé d'Estrades, ambassador of France to the Venetian State, formed the hope of acquiring for his sovereign, Casal, an important town and fortress in the territory of Ferdinand Charles, Duke of Mantua. This prince, who succeeded his father at a very early age, had arrived at manhood without attaining to power; his mother, a lady of the house of Austria, bore sway over his dominions, and they were wholly subjected, through her, to German influence. The duke himself was a debauched and uneducated young man, who dissipated his time and such money as he could command, in low company, degrading riot, and promiscuous amours.
D'Estrades selected, as his agent with the duke, Ercolo Antonio Matthioli, a native of Bologna, bachelor of laws in the university of that place, and a senator of Mantua. He had been secretary of state to the preceding duke, who graced him with the title of count: he enjoyed, also, the favour and confidence of Ferdinand, but without retaining his former station. As a displaced minister he still busied himself in observing the policy and relations of the Italian states; and appears to have cultivated an intercourse with the Spanish government at Milan, in some hope
of personal advantage; but the Spaniards, according to one of his own letters, knew not how to reward talents and industry. D'Estrades, having already found reason to believe this person` favourably disposed, addressed him through the medium of a subordinate intriguer, named Giuliani, lamenting the depressed and inglorious condition of Ferdinand, pointing out the ambitious designs of Spain and Austria on Casal and the Montferrat, as well as on the duchy of Guastalla, to which Ferdinand claimed a right of succession; and urging, that the only course to which that prince could resort for entire safety was to seek protection. from the king of France. The Mantuan confidant received these: overtures with eagerness, and procured Giuliani an interview with Ferdinand, who entered warmly into the projects of D'Estrades, and consented to negociate for the surrender of his fortress. Matthioli foresaw his own restoration to power in the establishment of his master's authority by French interference, and the duke was allowed to hope that Louis would send an army into Italy and place him at its head.
The Abbé d'Estrades submitted a narrative of his proceedings, to Louis, and dispatched with it a copy, in cipher, of a letter to the king from Matthioli. In this epistle (a composition equally officious and servile) the count represents Casal as the point d'appui which alone secured the Spaniards in their possession of the Milanese; observes that this territory ought to belong to the crown of France; and ( nescia mens hominum fati!') blesses his fortune for having procured him the honour of serving a monarch whom he reveres as a demi-god.
'Succederono dipoi varie commedie in esso affare,' says the Italian annalist. The duke, surrounded by persons in the Austrian interest, and closely watched by his mother and her spiritual director, Bulgarini, could not openly confer with D'Estrades, but promised to give him an audience in Venice at the ensuing carnival, when they could meet disguised and in masks without exciting curiosity. Louis wrote to the Abbé, expressing himself well satisfied that the Duke of Mantua had resolved to shake off the lethargy of pleasure, consult his own glory, and attach himself to French interests. He flattered the duke's hope of command, ing an army; desired the ambassador to keep up a belief that his master would send a strong force into Italy that year, and, at the same time, instructed him to maintain the negociation on such a footing that the king might advance or recede as he saw occa sion. Louis added a short letter of compliment to Matthioli. The ambassador found it no easy task to protract the business; 'elle va si vite,' he observes to the secretary Pomponne, que je suis réduit à être fâché de n'y trouver pas des difficultés.'