The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 17, No. 490, May 21, 1831 online

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ruined to pay another man's debts, after a vast deal to do with law and
lawyers, and much heat on both sides.

I had taken great interest in the matter from the first, and it was with
deep feelings of sorrow that I saw this excellent family likely to be
driven from the home of their forefathers, by the merciless and often
unjust hand of the law. N - - was, I believe, generally liked, and no
person in need, in the district where he resided, looked up to the
_Laird_ for advice or assistance in vain. You may judge therefore
of the public sensation. While these matters were pending, N - - looked
with the deepest anxiety for the arrival of a letter from his son in
India; and every day did he send his servant express to the little
post-office at - - , but in vain.

At last the fatal day of sale arrived. N - - , in the depth of his
distress had early sent for me to consult whether even at the eleventh
hour something could not be done to avert the calamity. A sinking man
catches at a straw. It wanted less than three hours of the time of sale
when I entered the grounds of Fernlands. The gate was half off its
hinges, the posts plastered with advertisements of the sale; and people,
as always happens in such cases, were already pouring towards the house
more from a motive of curiosity than from an intention of purchasing
anything. As I advanced towards the scene of action, I could observe
that the shrubberies were injured, and the rare plants and flowers
which both N - - and his wife had valued so much - for they were fond
of the study of nature - exhibited evident tokens of the mischief of
the careless multitude thronging to the show. The day was clear and
beautiful, the breeze played through the leafy wilderness with a joyous
effect; the contrast between the peace and harmony of nature, and the
discord and tumult of man and his deeds, was affecting. But such
thoughts were soon chased away from my mind, as I advanced over a
portion of the lawn towards the stables, I saw N - - 's favourite mare,
and the old pony, Jack, (whom I recollected as the companion of N - - 's
boys, and as tractable as a dog,) in the hands of a rascally sheriff's
officer, who was showing them to a horse-dealer from a neighbouring
town. The lawn in the front of the house was covered with straggling
groups of people, either discussing the event of the day, or examining
some of the furniture which was strewed there.

"Eh, sirs!" said an old man, brushing a tear from his eye, "I never
thoucht to ha' seen the like o' this day's wark - and my forbears have
had a bit o' farm under the laird's a hundred an' saxteen year, and
better nor kinder folk to the puir man never lived."

Mr. Nibble, who was Messrs. Sharke's agent, was bustling about, and
I found him engaged with a fat, pompous little fellow, the auctioneer,
from a neighbouring town.

"Sad business this, Mr. - - ," said he, "Fernlands is in a sad taking
about it, I believe, but things of this kind will occur, you know; and
I always say what can't be cured must be endured, eh."

I turned with an ill-concealed expression of disgust from this man, and
entered the house in search of my friend, for N - - would not quit the
old place to the last. There is something melancholy in viewing a sale
at any time - the disarrangement of the furniture - the cheerless and
chilling aspect of the rooms - the dirt, the bustle, and the heartless
indifference one witnesses to the misfortunes of others - all come home
forcibly to the feelings. After stumbling and striking my shins amongst
piles of chairs, and furniture, and carpets, disposed in lots over the
now comfortless apartments, I at last reached the study door where I had
spent many a happy hour with N - - . I entered; the room was stripped of
part of its furniture, the books lying dispersed in heaps over the floor
or on the massive table, at the side of which N - - was seated on the
only chair left in the apartment. He was at first unconscious of my

"My dear sir, this is kind indeed," he said as I advanced, struggling
with his feelings, "but take a chair," and he glanced round the room
with a bitter smile, as he observed there was none, "my friends are kind
you see, they think chairs are useless things...."

The loss of his land affected him more than I can describe. He had been
brought up upon it, and it had become as it were part and parcel of
himself; it was not an ordinary loss. The noise and bustle in the house
and sundry interruptions from inquisitive eyes, warned us, as N - -
said, that "we must jog." As we were rising, I accidentally inquired
whether he had received his letters that morning. "Good God!" he
exclaimed, "I totally forgot, and poor Andrew I fancy is too much
occupied in bemoaning the fate of the horses, to have thought of it;
but we can get them when I return with you this afternoon."

"Delays are dangerous," I replied, "we will not throw a chance away."

We hastened to the stable, and I despatched the servant on my own horse,
with the utmost expedition to the post-office at - - .

N - - sauntered through a private path in the shrubbery towards the
entrance of the grounds, and I made my way through the careless throng,
who had no thought what their own fate might be perhaps to-morrow - to
Mr. Nibble, and urged him to delay the sale for an hour, but he said it
was impossible, he would not hurry it for half an hour or so, but that
they were already pressed for time. The landed property was first to be
brought to the hammer. I mechanically followed the steps of N - - , and
when I overtook him, we saw through a break in the wood, from the
increased density of the mob and the elevation of the auctioneer, that
the sale was commencing.

We gave up all for lost. At this moment I fancied I heard the noise of
a horse urged to full gallop. The blood rushed to our hearts; we sprung
through the trees towards the road; in another moment Andrew was in
sight, urging his horse to his utmost speed. The instant he saw us he
waved his hat, "A packet from abroad, sir," he sung out as he
approached, "from our young master, I'm sure."

"God be praised, you are saved," was all I could utter; poor N - - was
faint with sudden joy and hope. We tore open the envelope, which
contained bills from his son in India to a large amount. I saw N - - was
unable to think, and without more ado, I squeezed his hand, seized the
letter, and put spurs to my horse. The bidding had commenced when I
reached the wondering crowd, who rapidly fell back as they saw me
approach. But why should I tire you any longer; in a couple of hours
Fernlands remained unpolluted by one of the mob, or legal harpies who
had invaded it. You may guess the rest....

A friend related the preceding incident to me; the reader may suppose
him to be addressing myself. The leading circumstances are strictly
true, the names and some trifling matters alone being altered. The story
is invested with interest from its great similarity to a portion of the
plot of the "Antiquary;" I have the strongest reason to believe, from
the intimate acquaintance the great novelist possessed with the country,
that he drew Sir Arthur Wardour's similar escape from ruin, from a
recollection of the event briefly related above.


* * * * *


* * * * *


By aid of the _Foreign Quarterly Review_, we are enabled to submit
to our readers the following very interesting Memoirs of this eccentric

By the way, we are happy to find that the above work is enabled to
maintain the high character with which it started. It argues well for
the literary taste of this country, by cherishing acquaintance with
continental literature, and thus strengthening our resources at home.

Nicolo Paganini was born at Genoa, in February, 1784. We are not
informed as to his father's profession, if indeed he had any: all that
we are told is, that his chief pursuit was to improve his circumstances,
which were not the best in the world, by speculating in the lottery, so
that when his little son, Nicolo, began at an unusually early age to
give strong indications of musical talent, it seemed to him as if the
wheel of fortune had at last been propitious, and he accordingly lost
no time in setting to work to make the most of his prize. Having some
skill on the violin himself, he resolved to teach him that instrument;
and as soon as he could hold it, put one into his hands, and made him
sit beside him from, morning to night, and practise it. The incessant
drudgery which he compelled him to undergo, and the occasional
starvation to which he subjected him, seriously impaired his health,
and, as Paganini himself asserts, laid the foundation of that
valetudinarian state which has ever since been his portion, and which
his pale, sickly countenance, and his sunk and exhausted frame so
strongly attest. As his enthusiasm was such as to require no artificial
stimulus, this severe system could only have been a piece of cool and
wanton barbarity. He already began to show much promise of excellence,
when a circumstance occurred which not only served to confirm these
early prognostications, but to rouse him to exert all his energies.
This was no other than a dream of his mother, Theresa. An angel appeared
to her; she besought him to make her Nicolo a great violin player; he
gave her a token of consent; - and the effect which this dream had upon
all concerned, we sober-minded people can have no idea of. Young
Paganini redoubled his perseverance. In his eighth year, under the
superintendence of his father, he had written a sonata, which, however,
along with many other juvenile productions, he lately destroyed; and
as he played about three times a week in the churches and at private
musical parties, upon a fiddle nearly as large as himself, he soon began
to make himself known among his townsmen. At this time he received much
benefit from one Francesco Gnecco, who died in 1811, and whom he always
speaks highly of.

In his ninth year, being applied to by a travelling singer to join him
in a concert, he made his first public appearance in the great theatre
at Genoa, and played the French air "La Carmagnole," with his own
variations, with great applause.

His father now resolved to place him under the tuition of the well-known
composer, Rolla, and for that purpose took him along with him to Parma.
The particulars of their interview afford a striking proof of the
proficiency which he had by this time acquired. As Rolla happened to be
ill and lying in bed, the party were shown into the ante-chamber, when,
observing upon the table one of the composer's newest concertos, the
father beckoned to his son to take up his violin and play it, which he
did at sight, in such a way that the sick man immediately started up,
demanded who it was, and could scarcely be prevailed upon to believe
that the sounds had proceeded from a little boy, and his intended pupil;
but as soon as he had satisfied himself that that was really the case,
he declined to receive him. "For God's sake," said he, "go to Paer, your
time would be lost with me, I can do nothing for you."

To Paer accordingly they went, who received him kindly, and referred
him to his own teacher, the old and experienced "Maestro di Capella"
Giretti, from Naples, who gave him instructions for six months, three
times a-week in counterpoint. During this period he wrote twenty-four
Fugues for four hands, with pen, ink, and paper alone, and without any
instrument, which his master did not allow him, and, assisted by his own
inclination, made rapid progress. The great Paer also took much interest
in him, giving him compositions to work out, which he himself revised:
an interest for which Paganini ever afterwards showed himself deeply

The time was now come when Nicolo was destined, like other youthful
prodigies, to be hawked about the country, to fill the pockets of his
mercenary father, who managed to speculate upon him with considerable
success in Milan, Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Leghorn, and most of the
upper and central towns of Italy, where his concerts were always well
attended. Young Paganini liked these excursions well enough, but being
now about fifteen years of age, he began to be of opinion that they
would be still more agreeable if he could only contrive to get rid of
the old gentleman, whose spare diet and severe discipline had now become
more irksome to him than ever. To accomplish this desirable object, an
opportunity soon offered. It was the custom of Lucca, at the feast of
St. Martin, to hold a great musical festival, to which strangers were
invited from all quarters, and numerous travellers resorted of their own
accord; and as the occasion drew near, Nicolo begged hard to be allowed
to go there in company with his elder brother, and after much entreaty,
succeeded in obtaining permission. He made his appearance as a solo
player, and succeeded so well, that he resolved now to commence
vagabondizing on his own account - a sort of life to which he soon
became so partial, that, notwithstanding many handsome offers which
he occasionally received to establish himself in several places,
as a concerto player or director of the orchestra, he never could be
persuaded to settle any where. At a later period, however, he lived for
some time at the court of Lucca, but soon found it more pleasant and
profitable to resume his itinerant habits. He visited all parts of
Italy, but usually made Genoa his head-quarters, where, however, he
preferred to play the part of the dilletante to that of the virtuoso,
and performed in private circles without giving public concerts.

It was not long before he had amassed about 20,000 francs, part of which
he proposed to devote to the maintenance of his parents. His father,
however, was not to be put off with a few thousands, but insisted upon
the whole. - Paganini then offered him the interest of the capital, but
Signor Antonio very coolly threatened him with instant death unless he
agreed to consign the whole of the principal in his behalf; and in order
to avert serious consequences, and to procure peace, he gave up the
greater part of it.

It was early in 1828 when Paganini arrived at Vienna, where he gave
a great many concerts with a success equal, if not superior, to any
which had hitherto attended his exertions. His performance excited the
admiration and astonishment of all the most distinguished professors and
connoisseurs of this critical city. With any of the former all idea of
competition was hopeless; and their greatest violinist, Mayseder, as
soon as he had heard him, with an ingenuousness which did him honour,
as we ourselves have reason to know, wrote to a friend in London, that
he might now lock up his violin whenever he liked.

In estimating the labour which it must have cost a performer like
Paganini to have arrived at such transcendent excellence, people are
often apt to err in their calculations as to the actual extent of
time and practice which has been devoted to its acquisition. That the
perfect knowledge of the _mechanique_ of the instrument which his
performance exhibits, and his almost incredible skill and dexterity
in its management must necessarily have been the result of severe
discipline, is beyond all question; but more, much more, in every case
of this kind, is to be ascribed to the system upon which that discipline
has proceeded, and to the genius and enthusiasm of the artist. The
miraculous powers of Paganini in the opinion of his auditors were not
to be accounted for in the ordinary way. To them, it was plain that they
must have sprung from a life of a much more settled and secluded cast
than that of an itinerant Italian musical professor. It was equally
clear, from his wild, haggard, and mysterious looks, that he was no
ordinary personage, and had seen no common vicissitudes. The vaults of
a dungeon accordingly were the local habitation which public rumour, in
its love of the marvellous, seemed unanimously to assign to him, as the
only place where "the mighty magic" of his bow could possibly have been
acquired. Then, as to the delinquency which led to his incarceration,
there were various accounts: some imputed it to his having been a
captain of banditti; others, only a carbonaro; some to his having killed
a man in a duel; but the more current and generally received story was,
that he had stabbed or poisoned his wife, or, as some said, his
mistress; although, as fame had ascribed to him no fewer than four
mistresses, it was never very clearly made out which of his seraglio it
was who had fallen the victim of his vengeance. The story not improbably
might have arisen from his having been confounded with a contemporary
violin-player of the name of Duranowski, a Pole, to whom in person he
bore some resemblance, and who, for some offence or other having been
imprisoned at Milan, during the leisure which his captivity afforded,
had contrived greatly to improve himself in his art; and when once
it was embodied into shape, the fiction naturally enough might have
obtained the more credence, from the fact that two of his most
distinguished predecessors, Tartini and Lolly, had attained to the great
mastery which they possessed over their instrument during a period of
solitude - the one within the walls of a cloister, the other in the
privacy and retirement of a remote country village. At all events, the
rumours were universally circulated and believed, and the innocent and
much injured Paganini had for many years unconsciously stood forth in
the eyes of the world as a violator of the laws, and even a convicted
murderer - not improbably, to a certain extent, reaping the golden fruits
of that "bad eminence;" for public performers, as we too often see, who
have once lost their "good name," so far from finding themselves, in the
words of Iago, "poor indeed," generally discover that they have only
become objects of greater interest and attraction. How long he had lived
in the enjoyment of this supposed infamy, and all the benefits accruing
from it, we really cannot pretend to say; but he seems never to have
been made fully aware of the formidable position in which he stood until
he had reached Vienna, when the Theatrical Gazette, in reviewing his
first concert, dropped some pretty broad hints as to the rumoured
misdeeds of his early life. Whereupon he resolved at once publicly to
proclaim his innocence, and to put down the calumny; for which purpose,
on the 10th of April, 1828, there was inserted in the leading Vienna
journals a manifesto, in Italian as well as German, subscribed by him,
declaring that all these widely-circulated rumours were false; that at
no time, and under no government whatever, had he ever offended against
the laws, or been put under coercion; and that he had always demeaned
himself as became a peaceable and inoffensive member of society; for the
truth of which he referred to the magistracies of the different states
under whose protection he had till then lived in the public exercise of
his profession.

The truth of this appeal (which it is obvious no delinquent would have
dared to make) was never called in question, no one ever ventured to
take up the gauntlet which Paganini had thrown down, and his character
as a man thenceforward stood free from suspicion.

His whimsicalities, his love of fun, and many other points of his
character, are sometimes curiously exemplified in his fantasias. He
imitates in perfection the whistling and chirrupping of birds, the
tinkling and tolling of bells, and almost every variety of tone which
admits of being produced; and in his performance of _Le Streghe_
(The Witches) a favourite interlude of his, where the tremulous voices
of the old women are given with a truly singular and laughable effect,
his _vis comica_ finds peculiar scope.

His command of the back-string of the instrument has always been an
especial theme of wonder and admiration, and, in the opinion of some,
could only be accounted for by resorting to the theory of the dungeon,
and the supposition that his other strings being worn out, and not
having it in his power to supply their places, he had been forced from
necessity to take refuge in the string in question; a notion very like
that of a person who would assert, that for an opera dancer to learn to
stand on one leg, the true way would be - to have only one leg to stand
upon. We shall give Paganini's explanation of this mystery in his own

"At Lucca, I had always to direct the opera when the reigning family
visited the theatre; I played three times a week at the court, and every
fortnight superintended the arrangement of a grand concert for the court
parties, which, however, the reigning princess, Elisa Bacciochi Princess
of Lucca and Piombino, Napoleon's favourite sister, was not always
present at, or did not hear to the close, as the harmonic tones of
my violin were apt to grate her nerves, but there never failed to be
present another much esteemed lady, who, while I had long admired
her, bore (at least so I imagined) a reciprocal feeling towards me.
Our passion gradually increased; and as it was necessary to keep it
concealed, the footing on which we stood with each other became in
consequence the more interesting. One day I promised to surprise her
with a musical _jeu d'esprit_, which should have a reference to
our mutual attachment. I accordingly announced for performance a comic
novelty, to which I gave the name of 'Love Scene.' All were curiously
impatient to know what this should turn out to be, when at last I
appeared with my violin, from which I had taken off the two middle
strings, leaving only the E and the G string. By the first of these
I proposed to represent the lady, by the other the gentleman; and I
proceeded to play a sort of dialogue, in which I attempted to delineate
the capricious quarrels and reconciliations of lovers - at one time
scolding each other, at another sighing and making tender advances,
renewing their professions of love and esteem, and finally winding up
the scene in the utmost good humour and delight. Having at last brought
them into a state of the most perfect harmony, the united pair lead off
a _pas de deux_, concluding with a brilliant finale. This musical
scena went off with much eclat. The lady, who understood the whole
perfectly, rewarded me with her gracious looks; the princess was all
kindness, overwhelmed me with applause, and, after complimenting me upon
what I had been able to effect upon the two strings, expressed a wish to
hear what I could execute upon one string. I immediately assented - the
idea caught my fancy; and as the emperor's birthday took place a. few
weeks afterwards, I composed my Sonata 'Napoleon' for the G. string, and
performed it upon that day before the court with so much approbation
that a cantata of Cimarosa, following immediately alter it upon the same
evening, was completely extinguished, and produced no effect whatever.
This is the first and true cause of my partiality for the G. string; and
as they were always desiring to hear more of it, one day taught another,
until at last my proficiency in this department was completely

We know no one who has been more cruelly misrepresented than the
subject of this notice. In reality a person of the gentlest and most
inoffensive habits, he is any thing rather than the desperate ruffian
he has been described. In his demeanour he is modest and unassuming;
in his disposition, liberal and generous to a fault. Like most artists,
ardent and enthusiastic in his temperament, and in his actions very much
a creature of impulse; he is full of that unaffected simplicity which we
almost invariably find associated with true genius. He has an only son,
by a Signora Antonia Bianchi, a singer from Palermo, with whom he lived
for several years until the summer of 1828, when he was under the
necessity of separating from her in consequence of the extreme violence
of her temper; and in this little boy all his affections are
concentrated. He is a very precocious child, and already indicates
strong signs of musical talent. Being of a delicate frame of health,
Paganini never can bear to trust him out of his sight. "If I were to
lose him," says he, "I would be lost myself; it is quite impossible I
can ever separate myself from him; when I awake in the night, he is my
first thought." - Accordingly, ever since he parted from his mother, he
has himself enacted the part of the child's nurse.

* * * * *


Online LibraryVariousThe Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 17, No. 490, May 21, 1831 → online text (page 2 of 3)