Adelaide Ristori.

Studies and memoirs ; an autobiography online

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should succeed in carrying out my wishes.

But before my messenger could well have started,
Lord Burleigh entered, followed by Bacon. They
came to announce, with mournful looks, that the sen-
tence was already executed. For an instant I stood
as though petrified at their news ; then I dropped into
a chair, moaning in low tones

" Dead ! Dead ! "

In a little while, however, I rose, and with blood-
shot eyes and trembling lips, began the magnificent
passage which Giacometti puts into Elizabeth's mouth
at the close of this Act :

" Dead ! But before sunset the fatal bell shall toll once more,"

(alluding to the death of Nottingham, which she
meditated.) Pacing the stage in gathering excite-
ment, I cried furiously



288 ADELAIDE RISTORI.

" I must have within my hands the Earl of Nottingham's head ! "
Then, with a burst of desperate grief :

" My Robert is no more ! The only man I ever really loved,
and I have killed him ! No one said a single word to appease
my wrath ; they all hated him, and yet not one of them was
worthy to kiss the dust raised by his charger's hoof on a day of
battle ! "

At this moment I became aware of the presence of
Bacon, who was standing somewhat aside. I ordered
him to come forward, and poured forth my wrath
upon him, crying :

" And thou, base wretch, thou wast a nothing ; and if thou art
something, to him alone thou owest it. To him thou owest the
honors I have heaped on thee ! He who generously freed thee
from the shame of thy debts might have counted on thee for
his defence, and thou hast failed him ! It was thy sacred duty
to contend for his life with me ay, even with me. Thou should
have pointed out to me Ireland subjugated, Cadiz in flames !
Thou shouldst have torn open his cuirass, counted out one by
one his wounds, and offered them to me as a ransom for his
life ! And thou, on the contrary, infamous wretch, hast pre-
ferred to guide the hand of his judges when they drew up the
sentence, and mine when I signed it. Cursed be thou ! May
Cain's curse light on thee ! "

The attendants drew near to calm my fury.
" Let all retire : I do command it ! "

I cried in imperious tones. But when they obeyed
me and I was left alone, I crushed with grief, shaken
by such tremendous emotions, and not daring to lift
my eyes to that Heaven whose wrath I dreaded
cast myself, face downwards, upon the ground,
moaning :

" Here let me stay, alone ! Surrounded by a. pool of blood
alone with my remorse and with God ! "



QUEEN ELIZABETH. 289

Thus closes the fourth Act.

In the fifth Act, Elizabeth is approaching her end,
and, according to history, although prostrated by
failing strength, still her iron temperament manifested
itself prodigiously at times, and the fire which Circu-
lated in her veins during her past years still sent forth
a few sparks. Thus, when I came before the audi-
ence, I let them plainly see in my face and figure the
ravages that time and disease had made. Yet I
strove carefully to hide from my courtiers how much
I was suffering. I entered, leaning on the arm of
Burleigh a bowed and decrepit old woman still
wearing, however, the robes and crown of State in
which I had been present at the opening of Parlia-
ment. I tried, by my manner, to give the audience
an impression of some one in the greatest nervous
agitation, which had been caused by the excitement
of the debate I had just been hearing ; but as I re-
lated the details to my attendants I manifested a
clearness of intellect and strength of will, well calcu-
lated to surprise and deceive those who were listen-
ing to me. The careless arrangement of my hair,
however, the wrinkles and furrows on my face, the
slow movement of my hands, very plainly showed
the audience that some secret sorrow had aged me,
even more than the weight of years. Burleigh begged
me to sit down and take some needful rest. I re-
pulsed him, angrily exclaiming :

" No, no motion is life. I have had too much rest of late.
I thought I should have been stifled in my litter ! "

In truth, a strong impression had been produced



2QO ADELAIDE RISTORL

on my mind by the fact that when I returned to the
Palace from the House of Parliament, far fewer per-
sons than usual had assembled outside to give me
greeting. Yet I was resolute not to let my faithful
minister guess what a blow the apathy of my subjects
had been to me. So I assumed a careless, indiffer-
ent air, which was anything but a true index to my
feelings, and, with a scrutinizing look at Burleigh,
said :

" Tell me, hast thou ordained that our loving subjects should
not congregate too densely on our way, and should not greet us
with shouts ? "

When Burleigh replied in the negative I frowned,
unperceived by him, and heaved a deep sigh. Then
I remarked, with well-acted hypocrisy :

" No ! as I know that you, my good old Burleigh, deem me
in ill-health, and might have thought the sight of people crowd-
ing on my passage would tire me. But I am not so ; and, if I
have been, now I am cured."

And in proof thereof I began to recount, with con-
siderable vivacity, how the Parliament had been
defeated in its attempt to curtail the royal preroga-
tive.

I said all this with almost childish glee, adding :

" Well, what think you, my Lords ! "

in a tone of such entire satisfaction, that Burleigh,
who was before all things a courtier, hastened to ap-
plaud my argument. Then I addressed Bacon, and
ordered him to inform William Shakespeare that it
was my good pleasure he should give another repre-
sentation of Henry VIII. (because I delighted to



Q UEEN E LIZ ABE TH. 2Q I

see myself figure in the play as an infant in my
nurses' arms). I further gave orders for the prepara-
tion of a grand fete. Then I seated myself, and
asked for news. I was told that it appeared certain
that formidable Irish chief, the Earl of Tyrone, was
safe under arrest ; whereupon I exclaimed gayly to
Burleigh :

" Aha ! it seems to me that I have brushed away many flies
from the Crown of England ! "

Burleigh seized the opportunity to say

" Of a surety, your successor will receive it brilliant and
respected."

On hearing these words, I drew myself up, and gazed
long and searchingly at him, for I had suspected for
some time past he might be carrying on a secret cor-
respondence with James VI. Burleigh, guessing
what was in the Queen's mind, endeavored to explain
away his words by observing

" Before I die, I should like to see the succession determined
on."

I affected to accept this plausible explanation, and,
anxious to put an end to the farce, I replied

" Let us hear now on whom this sagacious choice of thine
falls!"

"On whom could it fall more appropriately than on the
young King of Scotland,"

Burleigh answered diplomatically. At this reply my
suppressed anger blazed forth, and I seized him by
the arm, crying

" Traitor ! I awaited thee there ! "
BURLEIGH. "Burleigh traitor?"



292 ADELAIDE RISTORI.

ELIZABETH. " Yes ! for thou hast a secret correspondence
with James."

BURLEIGH. "No; but he alone, me^hinks, has it in his
power to save England from civil war."

" Such too is my humble opinion,"

added Davison.

I turned upon them both with righteous indigna-
tion

" Civil war ! Eternal civil war ! this is the phantasm with
which ye compelled me to condemn to death, Suffolk, Babing-
ton, Mary, and Robert of Essex ! "

But at mention of the last dear name, I broke
down utterly, grief almost suffocated me. My eyes
filled with tears, and, unable longer to refrain from
weeping, I repeated the name of Robert amid my
broken sobs. The by-standers hastened to me, im-
ploring me to be calm, but their entreaties only made
my anger blaze up once more, and I ordered them to
leave me in peremptory tones, for their anxiety to
console me increased my agitation. Exhausted with
grief and physical sufferings, I had some difficulty in
calming my irritation.

After a slight pause, having made certain that
every one had left ; no longer obliged to dissemble,
body and mind appeared in all their sad reality
worn out. The remembrance that the death of Essex
had been my own doing, gnaws my heart, remorse
tears my soul, and, longing to throw myself on my
couch, I dragged myself towards it with the greatest
difficulty. As I staggered along with bent body, and
bowed head, I lifted my trembling hands to my
aching brow, and felt the crown which still rested
there.



Q UEEN E LIZ ABE TH. 293

" Ah ! a heavy weight is on it,"
I moaned, with a weary air,

" And yet for forty-four years I have worn it, and it seemed
so light to me."

I lifted it slowly from my head, and gazed at it with
deep emotion.

" Who will wear it after me? "

I questioned myself, then, pushing it suddenly away
from me, I added in a haughty tone

" I wish not to know."

But the springs of memory had been unloosed. I
returned, in thought, once more to the years of my
vanished glory, and began, in a voice that grew
gradually weaker and weaker, bitterly to bewail the
past.

" No one loves me now no one tells me I ride like Alexan-
der, walk like Venus, sing and play like Orpheus. No ! When
I present myself to the public, they no longer greet me with
cheers. This morning one would have thought that my litter
was a bier. Am I then so very old? Certes, I have seen
many fears pass away, but they have left no trace on me. Not
a thread of silver mingles with my beautiful golden hair."

I smoothed my auburn locks with girlish self-
complacency, and then, with an expressive gesture, I
made the audience perceive that I wanted to assure
myself of the truth of my words. I turned to the
mirror that hung near, but scarcely had I seen my-
self reflected in it than I shrank away in disgust,
perceiving the deep lines that furrowed my face, my
dimmed eyes, my livid hollow cheeks. My breathing
became labored, my eyes dark, my mind confused ;



294 ADELAIDE RISTORL

in terror I screamed for help. But a momentary
return of pride made me hastily stuff my handker-
chief into my mouth to stifle my cries. These suffer-
ings increasing, my mind began to wander. All
around me grew dark, out of the blackness I seemed
to see pale shadows and bleeding spectres coming
toward me. They drew nearer and nearer, they
almost touched me. Severed heads seemed rolling
about my feet. To escape them 1 curled myself up
in a corner of my couch, and, sinking down helplessly
among my pillows, I clasped my hands together, with
inarticulate appeals to Heaven for mercy.

After a long time my senses seemed to return.
Without opening my eyes I feebly called to Burleigh
to come and help me. Hastening at the Queen's
cries, he comes to her, followed by James VI., who
had been waiting in the anteroom ; he helps her to
rise without her recognizing him. Soon, standing
up, I perceive James ; terrified, I call my guards
-with loud cries. All rush in and surround me.
Gasping, in vain efforts to speak, I point inquiringly
at James. Burleigh explained :

" The King of Scotland has journeyed to London to inquire
for Your Majesty's health ! "

"But," [I cried] "why bears he in his hand his mother's
head? What will he do with it? Perchance dash it in my
face ! Look 1 Look ! "

At these words, James approached me to show me
he had nothing in his hands. I, alarmed, shrieking,
take refuge in the arms of my faithful friends, cover-
ing my face with both hands, as if to repel contact
with Mary's head. The reassurances of my courtiers,



Q UEEN ELIZABE TH. 2$$

as well as of James VI. himself, calm me. Veiling
my eyes with my hands, and with fearful hesitation,
I looked through my fingers to see if James was not
lying.

By degrees I took heart ; I breathed more freely.
A smile flitted across my pale lips ; telling them all
that it had been only a dream, I finished, saying :
" I am better ! I am better,"

At this point, Drake returned from his mission in
Ireland. He announced the arrest of the dreaded
Earl of Tyrone and, notwithstanding her physical
weakness, and the terrible emotion through which
she had just passed, Elizabeth uttered a cry of joy
at the news. Her indomitable spirit blazed up once
more. She was still sufficiently her old self to re-
joice at the humiliation of one who had sought to rob
her of her throne. She ordered Tyrone to instant
execution, when Drake hastened to remind her that
she would not probably have had her formidable
enemy in her power had fie not given himself up to
justice, trusting in the clemency and magnanimity
of the Queen. Touched by his words, and with a
sudden impulse of generosity, I hesitated for a
moment, consulting Burleigh with a significant look.
He responded by a sign that I ought to pardon my
prisoner. So I said to Drake, with great dignity :

" 'Tis well ! Whoever has deemed me great shall ne'er have
cause to think me less than my fame. He is pardoned."

But the Queen's last moments were drawing near.
Her malady increased, her strength failed rapidly;
Burleigh and his wife led her tottering back to her



296 ADELAIDE RISTORL

couch, place her upon it in an extremity of weakness.
Elizabeth, feeling herself dying, consented at last to
name her successor.

I gave James to understand, by a look, that my
choice perforce fell upon him, and motioned him to
kneel before me. Lady Burleigh handed me the
crown, and with trembling fingers I was about to
place it on his head, saying, unwillingly and with
difficulty,

" James, kneel ! I crown thee King ! "

But I spoke the words with a visible effort, as though
they were rent from my inmost heart. The crowd,
gathering outside the palace, at a sign made by
Davison from the balcony, set up a great shout of :

" Long live James I., King of England ! "

Their acclamations, however, irritated me almost
past endurance. I cried in my pain and anger that
my subjects were fickle and ungrateful. I tore the
crown from James's head? and, placing it once more
upon my own, held it there firmly with both hands,
while I shrieked :

" Ungrateful people, I yet live ! "

But this supreme effort exhausted my small re-
maining strength. I sank back once more on my
couch with the death-rattle in my throat, and with my
last conscious breath committed to my successor's
keeping

"The Bible and my father's sword."

Then began the final agony, rendered all the more
terrible by my ever-present remembrance of the un-



Q UEEN E LIZ ABE TH. 297

fortunate Essex. I fancied I saw him stand before
me. I stretched out my arms towards him, as though
beseeching him to come and give me the kiss of for-
giveness ; and after a brief struggle with death I sank
to rest, and lay with glazed eyes, surrounded by my
courtiers, who in awe-struck tones pronounced the
words :

" She is dead ! Dead ! "

Behold how I have endeavored to interpret this
masterpiece of the lamented Giacometti. I have
studied, as aforesaid, within the rigorous limits of
history, that extraordinary character of a woman and
a Queen.

For myself, the last scenes, which are, one may
say, the epic of the drama, I went on developing with
firmness the conviction that all the bitterness of those
transitions, from dejection to energy, were the pre-
lude of a very bitter adieu to a long past of power ;
and all that I have studied to interpret and make
understood is a recapitulation of the fascination
slowly extinguishing itself and of the remorse in-
creasing to gigantic proportions as death was draw-
ing nigh.

THE END.




Messrs. Roberts Brothers Publications.



J^omen

MADAME DE STAEL.

BY BELLA DUFFY.
One Volume. i6rao. Cloth. Price, $1.00.



It is a brilliant subject, and handled in a brilliant as well as an intelligent
manner. The Independent.

The biography of this remarkable woman is written in a spirit of candor and
fairness that will at once commend it to the attention of those who are seeking
the truth. The author is not so much in love with her subject as to lose sight of
her faults; nor is she so blind to Madame de Stael's merits as to place confi-
dence in the many cruel things that have been said of her by her enemies.
The review of Madame de Stael's works, which closes this volume, exhibits
rare critical insight ; and the abstract of " Corinne " here given will be wel-
comed by those who have never had the patience to wade through this long
but celebrated classic, which combines somewhat incongruously the qualities of a
novel and an Italian guide-book. In answering the question, Why was not Ma-
dame de Stael a greater writer? her biographer admirably condenses a great deal
of analytical comment into a very brief space. Madame de Stael was undoubtedly
the most celebrated woman of her time, and this fact is never lost sight of in this
carefully written record of her life. Saturday Evening Gazette.

It treats of one of the most fascinating and remarkable women of history. The
name of Madame de Stael is invested with every charm that brilliance of intellect,
romance, and magnetic power to fascinate and compel the admiration of men can
bestow. Not beautiful herself, she wielded a power which the most beautiful
women envied her and could not rival. The story of her life should read like a
novel, and is one of the best in this series of interesting books published by
Roberts Brothers, Boston. Chicago Journal.

We have Messrs. Roberts Brothers to thank for issuing a series of biographies
upon which entire dependence may be placed, the volumes in the " Famous Wom-
en Series" being thus far invariably trustworthy and enjoyable. Certainly the
life of Madame de Stael, which Miss Bella Duffy has just written for it, is as good
as the best of its predecessors; of each of which, according to our reasoning, the
same thing might appropriately be said. Miss Duffy has little to tell of her sub-
ject that has not already been told in longer biographies, it is true ; but from a
great variety of sources she has extracted enough material to make an excellent
study of the great Frenchwoman in a small space, which has never been done
before successfully, so far as we know. Considering the size of the book, one
marvels at the completeness of the picture the author presents, not only of Ma-
dame de Stael herself, but of her friends, and of the stirring times in which she
lived and which so deeply colored her whole life. Miss Duffy, though disposed
to look at her faults rather leniently, is by no means forgetful of them ; she simply
does her all the justice that the facts in the case warrant, which is perhaps more
than readers of the longer biographies before referred to expect. At the end of
the volume is a chapter devoted to the writings of Madame de Stael, which is so
admirable a bit of literary criticism that we advise the purchase of the book if only
for its sake. The Capital, Washington.



Sold by all booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of
price, by the publishers,

ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.



Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications.



SUSANNA WESLEY.

BY ELIZA CLARKE.

ONE VOLUME. I6mo. CLOTH. PRICE, $1.00.



The " Famous Women Series," published at a dollar the volume by Roberts
Brothers, now comprises George Eliot, Emily Bronte, George Sand, Mary Lamb,
Margaret Fuller, Maria Edgeworth, Elizabeth Fry, the Countess of Albany, Mary
Wollstonecraft, Harriet Martineau, Rachel, Madame Roland, and Susanna Wes-
ley. The next volume will be Madame de Stael. The world has not gone into
any ecstasies over these volumes. They are not discussed in the theatre or hotel
lobbies, and even fashionable society knows very little about them. Yet there is
a goodly company of quiet people that delight in this series. And well they may ;
for there are few biographical series more attractive, more modest, and more profit-
able than these *' Famous Women." If one wanted to send a birthday or Christ-
mas gift to a woman one honors, whether she is twenty or sixty years old need
not matter, it would not be easy to select a better set than these volumes. To
be sure, Americans do not figure prominently in the series, a certain preference
being given to Englishwomen and Frenchwomen; but that does not diminish the
intrinsic merit of each volume. One likes to add, also, that nearly the whole set
has been written from a purely historical or matter-of-fact point of view, there being
very little in the way of special pleading or one-sidedness. This applies especially
to the mother of the Wesleys. Mankind has treated the whole VVesley family as
if it was the special, not to say exclusive, property of the Methodists. But there
is no fee-simple in good men or women, and all mankind may well lay a certain
claim to all those who have in any way excelled or rendered important service to
mankind at large. Eliza Clarke's life of Susanna Wesley tells us truly that she
was " a lady of ancient lineage, a woman of intellect, a keen politician," and
profoundly religious, as well as a shrewd observer of men, things, and society at
large. . . . Her life is that of a gifted, high-minded, and prudent woman. It is
told in a straightforward manner, and it should be read far beyond the lines of the
Methodist denomination. There must have been many women in Colonial New
England who resembled Susanna Wesley ; for she was a typical character, both
in worldly matters and in her spiritual life. The Beacon.

Mrs. Wesley was the mother of nineteen children, among whom were John,
the founder, and Charles, the sweet singer, of Methodism. Her husband was a
poor country rector, who eked out by writing verses the slender stipend his cleri-
cal office brought him. Mrs. Wesley was a woman of gentle birth, intense reli-
gious convictions, strong character, and singular devotion to her children. This
biography is well written, and is eminently readable, as well as historically valuable.
Cambridge Tribune.

Sold by all booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of
the price, by the publishers,

ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.



Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications.



MRS. SIDDONS.

BY NINA H. KENNARD.
One Volume. i6mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.

The latest contribution to the " Famous Women Series" gives the life of Mrs.
Siddons, carefully and appreciatively compiled by Nina H. Kennard. Previous
lives of Mrs. Siddons have failed to present the many-sided character of the great
tragic queen, representing her more exclusively in her dramatic capacity. Mrs.
Kennard presents the main facts in the lives previously written by Campbell and
Bpaden, as well as the portion of the great actress's history appearing in Percy
Fitzgerald's " Lives of the Kembles ; " and beyond any other biographer gives the
more tender and domestic side of her nature, particularly as shown in her hitherto
unpublished letters. The story of the early dramatic endeavors of the little Sarah
Kemble proves not the least interesting part of the narrative, and it is with a dis-
tinct human interest that her varying progress is followed until she gains the sum-
mit of popular favor and success. The picture of her greatest public triumphs
receives tender and artistic touches in the view we are given of the idol of brilliant
and intellectual London sitting down with her husband and father to a frugal
home supper on retiring from the glare of the footlights. Commonwealth,

We think the author shows good judgment in devoting comparatively little
space to criticism of Mrs. Siddons's dramatic methods, and giving special at-
tention to her personal traits and history. Hers was an extremely interesting
life, remarkable no less for its private virtues than for its public triumphs. Her
struggle to gain the place her genius deserved was heroic in its persistence and
dignity. Her relations with the authors, wits, and notables of her day give
occasion for much entertaining and interesting anecdotical literature. Herself free
from humor, she was herself often the occasion of fun in others. The stories of
her tragic manner in private life are many and ludicrous. . . . The book abounds
in anecdotes, bits of criticism, and pictures of the stage and of society in a very
interesting transitional period. Christian Union.

A fitting addition to this so well and so favorably known series is the life of the
wonderful actress, Sarah Siddons, by Mrs. Nina Kennard. To most of the pres-
ent generation the great woman is only a name, though she lived until 1831 ; but
the present volume, with its vivid account of her life, its struggles, triumphs, and
closing years, will give to such a picture that is most lifelike. A particularly
pleasant feature of the book is the way in which the author quotes so copiously
from Mrs. Siddons's correspondence. These extracts from letters written to


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Online LibraryAdelaide RistoriStudies and memoirs ; an autobiography → online text (page 19 of 21)