Birth and Childhood — Edinburgh — Frankfort-on-the-Main — Paris — The Revolution of 1848 — The Insurrection — Flight to Italy — Sympathy with Italy — The Insurrection in Genoa — A Student in Genoa — The Lad and his Mother.
Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin (Fleeming, pronounced Flemming, to his friends and family) was born in a Government building on the coast of Kent, near Dungeness, where his father was serving at the time in the Coastguard, on March 25, 1833, and named after Admiral Fleeming, one of his father’s protectors in the navy.
His childhood was vagrant like his life. Once he was left in the care of his grandmother Jackson, while Mrs. Jenkin sailed in her husband’s ship and stayed a year at the Havannah. The tragic woman was besides from time to time a member of the family she was in distress of mind and reduced in fortune by the misconduct of her sons; her destitution and solitude made it a recurring duty to receive her, her violence continually enforced fresh separations. In her passion of a disappointed mother, she was a fit object of pity; but her grandson, who heard her load his own mother with cruel insults and reproaches, conceived for her an indignant and impatient hatred, for which he blamed himself in later life. It is strange from this point of view to see his childish letters to Mrs. Jackson; and to think that a man, distinguished above all by stubborn truthfulness, should have been brought up to such dissimulation. But this is of course unavoidable in life; it did no harm to Jenkin; and whether he got harm or benefit from a so early acquaintance with violent and hateful scenes, is more than I can guess. The experience, at least, was formative; and in judging his character it should not be forgotten. But Mrs. Jackson was not the only stranger in their gates; the Captain’s sister, Aunt Anna Jenkin, lived with them until her death; she had all the Jenkin beauty of countenance, though she was unhappily deformed in body and of frail health; and she even excelled her gentle and ineffectual family in all amiable qualities. So that each of the two races from which Fleeming sprang, had an outpost by his very cradle; the one he instinctively loved, the other hated; and the life-long war in his members had begun thus early by a victory for what was best.
We can trace the family from one country place to another in the south of Scotland; where the child learned his taste for sport by riding home the pony from the moors. Before he was nine he could write such a passage as this about a Hallowe’en observance: ‘I pulled a middling-sized cabbage-runt with a pretty sum of gold about it. No witches would run after me when I was sowing my hempseed this year; my nuts blazed away together very comfortably to the end of their lives, and when mamma put hers in which were meant for herself and papa they blazed away in the like manner.’ Before he was ten he could write, with a really irritating precocity, that he had been ‘making some pictures from a book called “Les Francais peints par euxmemes.” . . . It is full of pictures of all classes, with a description of each in French. The pictures are a little caricatured, but not much.’ Doubtless this was only an echo from his mother, but it shows the atmosphere in which he breathed. It must have been a good change for this art critic to be the playmate of Mary Macdonald, their gardener’s daughter at Barjarg, and to sup with her family on potatoes and milk; and Fleeming himself attached some value to this early and friendly experience of another class.
His education, in the formal sense, began at Jedburgh. Thence he went to the Edinburgh Academy, where he was the classmate of Tait and Clerk Maxwell, bore away many prizes, and was once unjustly flogged by Rector Williams. He used to insist that all his bad schoolfellows had died early, a belief amusingly characteristic of the man’s consistent optimism. In 1846 the mother and son proceeded to Frankfort-on-the-Main, where they were soon joined by the father, now reduced to inaction and to play something like third fiddle in his narrow household. The emancipation of the slaves had deprived them of their last resource beyond the half-pay of a captain; and life abroad was not only desirable for the sake of Fleeming’s education, it was almost enforced by reasons of economy. But it was, no doubt, somewhat hard upon the captain. Certainly that perennial boy found a companion in his son; they were both active and eager, both willing to be amused, both young, if not in years, then in character. They went out together on excursions and sketched old castles, sitting side by side; they had an angry rivalry in walking, doubtless equally sincere upon both sides; and indeed we may say that Fleeming was exceptionally favoured, and that no boy had ever a companion more innocent, engaging, gay, and airy. But although in this case it would be easy to exaggerate its import, yet, in the Jenkin family also, the tragedy of the generations was proceeding, and the child was growing out of his father’s knowledge. His artistic aptitude was of a different order. Already he had his quick sight of many sides of life; he already overflowed with distinctions and generalisations, contrasting the dramatic art and national character of England, Germany, Italy, and France. If he were dull, he would write stories and poems. ‘I have written,’ he says at thirteen, ‘a very long story in heroic measure, 300 lines, and another Scotch story and innumerable bits of poetry’; and at the same age he had not only a keen feeling for scenery, but could do something with his pen to call it up. I feel I do always less than justice to the delightful memory of Captain Jenkin; but with a lad of this character, cutting the teeth of his intelligence, he was sure to fall into the background.
The family removed in 1847 to Paris, where Fleeming was put to school under one Deluc. There he learned French, and (if the captain is right) first began to show a taste for mathematics. But a far more important teacher than Deluc was at hand; the year 1848, so momentous for Europe, was momentous also for Fleeming’s character. The family politics were Liberal; Mrs. Jenkin, generous before all things, was sure to be upon the side of exiles; and in the house of a Paris friend of hers, Mrs. Turner — already known to fame as Shelley’s Cornelia de Boinville — Fleeming saw and heard such men as Manin, Gioberti, and the Ruffinis. He was thus prepared to sympathise with revolution; and when the hour came, and he found himself in the midst of stirring and influential events, the lad’s whole character was moved. He corresponded at that time with a young Edinburgh friend, one Frank Scott; and I am here going to draw somewhat largely on this boyish correspondence. It gives us at once a picture of the Revolution and a portrait of Jenkin at fifteen; not so different (his friends will think) from the Jenkin of the end — boyish, simple, opinionated, delighting in action, delighting before all things in any generous sentiment.
‘February 23, 1848.
‘When at 7 o’clock today I went out, I met a large band going round the streets, calling on the inhabitants to illuminate their houses, and bearing torches. This was all very good fun, and everybody was delighted; but as they stopped rather long and were rather turbulent in the Place de la Madeleine, near where we live’ [in the Rue Caumartin] ‘a squadron of dragoons came up, formed, and charged at a hand-gallop. This was a very pretty sight; the crowd was not too thick, so they easily got away; and the dragoons only gave blows with the back of the sword, which hurt but did not wound. I was as close to them as I am now to the other side of the table; it was rather impressive, however. At the second charge they rode on the pavement and knocked the torches out of the fellows’ hands; rather a shame, too — wouldn’t be stood in England . . . .
[At] ‘ten minutes to ten . . . I went a long way along the Boulevards, passing by the office of Foreign Affairs, where Guizot lives, and where to-night there were about a thousand troops protecting him from the fury of the populace. After this was passed, the number of the people thickened, till about half a mile further on, I met a troop of vagabonds, the wildest vagabonds in the world — Paris vagabonds, well armed, having probably broken into gunsmiths’ shops and taken the guns and swords. They were about a hundred. These were followed by about a thousand (I am rather diminishing than exaggerating numbers all through), indifferently armed with rusty sabres, sticks, etc. An uncountable troop of gentlemen, workmen, shopkeepers’ wives (Paris women dare anything), ladies’ maids, common women — in fact, a crowd of all classes, though by far the greater number were of the better dressed class — followed. Indeed, it was a splendid sight: the mob in front chanting the “Marseillaise,” the national war hymn, grave and powerful, sweetened by the night air — though night in these splendid streets was turned into day, every window was filled with lamps, dim torches were tossing in the crowd . . . for Guizot has late this night given in his resignation, and this was an improvised illumination.
‘I and my father had turned with the crowd, and were close behind the second troop of vagabonds. Joy was on every face. I remarked to papa that “I would not have missed the scene for anything, I might never see such a splendid one,” when Plong went one shot — every face went pale — R-R-R-R-R went the whole detachment, [and] the whole crowd of gentlemen and ladies turned and cut. Such a scene! — ladies, gentlemen, and vagabonds went sprawling in the mud, not shot but tripped up; and those that went down could not rise, they were trampled over. . . . I ran a short time straight on and did not fall, then turned down a side street, ran fifty yards and felt tolerably safe; looked for papa, did not see him; so walked on quickly, giving the news as I went.’ [It appears, from another letter, the boy was the first to carry word of the firing to the Rue St. Honore; and that his news wherever he brought it was received with hurrahs. It was an odd entrance upon life for a little English lad, thus to play the part of rumour in such a crisis of the history of France.]
‘But now a new fear came over me. I had little doubt but my papa was safe, but my fear was that he should arrive at home before me and tell the story; in that case I knew my mamma would go half mad with fright, so on I went as quick as possible. I heard no more discharges. When I got half way home, I found my way blocked up by troops. That way or the Boulevards I must pass. In the Boulevards they were fighting, and I was afraid all other passages might be blocked up . . . and I should have to sleep in a hotel in that case, and then my mamma — however, after a long Detour, I found a passage and ran home, and in our street joined papa.
‘ . . . I’ll tell you tomorrow the other facts gathered from newspapers and papa. . . . Tonight I have given you what I have seen with my own eyes an hour ago, and began trembling with excitement and fear. If I have been too long on this one subject, it is because it is yet before my eyes.
‘It was that fire raised the people. There was fighting all through the night in the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, on the Boulevards where they had been shot at, and at the Porte St. Denis. At ten o’clock, they resigned the house of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (where the disastrous volley was fired) to the people, who immediately took possession of it. I went to school, but [was] hardly there when the row in that quarter commenced. Barricades began to be fixed. Everyone was very grave now; the Externes went away, but no one came to fetch me, so I had to stay. No lessons could go on. A troop of armed men took possession of the barricades, so it was supposed I should have to sleep there. The revolters came and asked for arms, but Deluc (head-master) is a National Guard, and he said he had only his own and he wanted them; but he said he would not fire on them. Then they asked for wine, which he gave them. They took good care not to get drunk, knowing they would not be able to fight. They were very polite and behaved extremely well.
‘About 12 o’clock a servant came for a boy who lived near me, [and] Deluc thought it best to send me with him. We heard a good deal of firing near, but did not come across any of the parties. As we approached the railway, the barricades were no longer formed of palings, planks, or stones; but they had got all the omnibuses as they passed, sent the horses and passengers about their business, and turned them over. A double row of overturned coaches made a capital barricade, with a few paving stones.
‘When I got home I found to my astonishment that in our fighting quarter it was much quieter. Mamma had just been out seeing the troops in the Place de la Concorde, when suddenly the Municipal Guard, now fairly exasperated, prevented the National Guard from proceeding, and fired at them; the National Guard had come with their muskets not loaded, but at length returned the fire. Mamma saw the National Guard fire. The Municipal Guard were round the corner. She was delighted for she saw no person killed, though many of the Municipals were . . . .
‘I immediately went out with my papa (mamma had just come back with him) and went to the Place de la Concorde. There was an enormous quantity of troops in the Place. Suddenly the gates of the gardens of the Tuileries opened: we rushed forward, out gallopped an enormous number of cuirassiers, in the middle of which were a couple of low carriages, said first to contain the Count de Paris and the Duchess of Orleans, but afterwards they said it was the King and Queen; and then I heard he had abdicated. I returned and gave the news.
‘Went out again up the Boulevards. The house of the Minister of Foreign Affairs was filled with people and “Hotel Du Peuple” written on it; the Boulevards were barricaded with fine old trees that were cut down and stretched all across the road. We went through a great many little streets, all strongly barricaded, and sentinels of the people at the principal of them. The streets were very unquiet, filled with armed men and women, for the troops had followed the ex-King to Neuilly and left Paris in the power of the people. We met the captain of the Third Legion of the National Guard (who had principally protected the people), badly wounded by a Municipal Guard, stretched on a litter. He was in possession of his senses. He was surrounded by a troop of men crying “Our brave captain — we have him yet — he’s not dead! Vive La Reforme!” This cry was responded to by all, and every one saluted him as he passed. I do not know if he was mortally wounded. That Third Legion has behaved splendidly.
‘I then returned, and shortly afterwards went out again to the garden of the Tuileries. They were given up to the people and the palace was being sacked. The people were firing blank cartridges to testify their joy, and they had a cannon on the top of the palace. It was a sight to see a palace sacked and armed vagabonds firing out of the windows, and throwing shirts, papers, and dresses of all kinds out of the windows. They are not rogues, these French; they are not stealing, burning, or doing much harm. In the Tuileries they have dressed up some of the statues, broken some, and stolen nothing but queer dresses. I say, Frank, you must not hate the French; hate the Germans if you like. The French laugh at us a little, and call out Goddam in the streets; but today, in civil war, when they might have put a bullet through our heads, I never was insulted once.
‘At present we have a provisional Government, consisting of Odion [sic] Barrot, Lamartine, Marast, and some others; among them a common workman, but very intelligent. This is a triumph of liberty — rather!
‘Now then, Frank, what do you think of it? I in a revolution and out all day. Just think, what fun! So it was at first, till I was fired at yesterday; but today I was not frightened, but it turned me sick at heart, I don’t know why. There has been no great bloodshed, [though] I certainly have seen men’s blood several times. But there’s something shocking to see a whole armed populace, though not furious, for not one single shop has been broken open, except the gunsmiths’ shops, and most of the arms will probably be taken back again. For the French have no cupidity in their nature; they don’t like to steal — it is not in their nature. I shall send this letter in a day or two, when I am sure the post will go again. I know I have been a long time writing, but I hope you will find the matter of this letter interesting, as coming from a person resident on the spot; though probably you don’t take much interest in the French, but I can think, write, and speak on no other subject.
‘There is no more fighting, the people have conquered; but the barricades are still kept up, and the people are in arms, more than ever fearing some new act of treachery on the part of the ex-King. The fight where I was was the principal cause of the Revolution. I was in little danger from the shot, for there was an immense crowd in front of me, though quite within gunshot. [By another letter, a hundred yards from the troops.] I wished I had stopped there.
‘The Paris streets are filled with the most extraordinary crowds of men, women and children, ladies and gentlemen. Every person joyful. The bands of armed men are perfectly polite. Mamma and aunt today walked through armed crowds alone, that were firing blank cartridges in all directions. Every person made way with the greatest politeness, and one common man with a blouse, coming by accident against her immediately stopped to beg her pardon in the politest manner. There are few drunken men. The Tuileries is still being run over by the people; they only broke two things, a bust of Louis Philippe and one of Marshal Bugeaud, who fired on the people . . . .
‘I have been out all day again today, and precious tired I am. The Republican party seem the strongest, and are going about with red ribbons in their button-holes . . . .
‘The title of “Mister” is abandoned; they say nothing but “Citizen,” and the people are shaking hands amazingly. They have got to the top of the public monuments, and, mingling with bronze or stone statues, five or six make a sort of Tableau Vivant, the top man holding up the red flag of the Republic; and right well they do it, and very picturesque they look. I think I shall put this letter in the post tomorrow as we got a letter to-night.
‘M. Lamartine has now by his eloquence conquered the whole armed crowd of citizens threatening to kill him if he did not immediately proclaim the Republic and red flag. He said he could not yield to the citizens of Paris alone, that the whole country must be consulted; that he chose the tricolour, for it had followed and accompanied the triumphs of France all over the world, and that the red flag had only been dipped in the blood of the citizens. For sixty hours he has been quieting the people: he is at the head of everything. Don’t be prejudiced, Frank, by what you see in the papers. The French have acted nobly, splendidly; there has been no brutality, plundering, or stealing. . . . I did not like the French before; but in this respect they are the finest people in the world. I am so glad to have been here.’
And there one could wish to stop with this apotheosis of liberty and order read with the generous enthusiasm of a boy; but as the reader knows, it was but the first act of the piece. The letters, vivid as they are, written as they were by a hand trembling with fear and excitement, yet do injustice, in their boyishness of tone, to the profound effect produced. At the sound of these songs and shot of cannon, the boy’s mind awoke. He dated his own appreciation of the art of acting from the day when he saw and heard Rachel recite the ‘Marseillaise’ at the Francais, the tricolour in her arms. What is still more strange, he had been up to then invincibly indifferent to music, insomuch that he could not distinguish ‘God save the Queen’ from ‘Bonnie Dundee’; and now, to the chanting of the mob, he amazed his family by learning and singing ‘Mourir pour la Patrie.’ But the letters, though they prepare the mind for no such revolution in the boy’s tastes and feelings, are yet full of entertaining traits. Let the reader note Fleeming’s eagerness to influence his friend Frank, an incipient Tory (no less) as further history displayed; his unconscious indifference to his father and devotion to his mother, betrayed in so many significant expressions and omissions; the sense of dignity of this diminutive ‘person resident on the spot,’ who was so happy as to escape insult; and the strange picture of the household — father, mother, son, and even poor Aunt Anna — all day in the streets in the thick of this rough business, and the boy packed off alone to school in a distant quarter on the very morrow of the massacre.
They had all the gift of enjoying life’s texture as it comes; they were all born optimists. The name of liberty was honoured in that family, its spirit also, but within stringent limits; and some of the foreign friends of Mrs. Jenkin were, as I have said, men distinguished on the Liberal side. Like Wordsworth, they beheld
France standing on the top of golden hours
And human nature seeming born again.
At once, by temper and belief, they were formed to find their element in such a decent and whiggish convulsion, spectacular in its course, moderate in its purpose. For them,
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven.
And I cannot but smile when I think that (again like Wordsworth) they should have so specially disliked the consequence.
It came upon them by surprise. Liberal friends of the precise right shade of colour had assured them, in Mrs. Turner’s drawing-room, that all was for the best; and they rose on January 23 without fear. About the middle of the day they heard the sound of musketry, and the next morning they were wakened by the cannonade. The French who had behaved so ‘splendidly,’ pausing, at the voice of Lamartine, just where judicious Liberals could have desired — the French, who had ‘no cupidity in their nature,’ were now about to play a variation on the theme rebellion. The Jenkins took refuge in the house of Mrs. Turner, the house of the false prophets, ‘Anna going with Mrs. Turner, that she might be prevented speaking English, Fleeming, Miss H. and I (it is the mother who writes) walking together. As we reached the Rue de Clichy, the report of the cannon sounded close to our ears and made our hearts sick, I assure you. The fighting was at the barrier Rochechouart, a few streets off. All Saturday and Sunday we were a prey to great alarm, there came so many reports that the insurgents were getting the upper hand. One could tell the state of affairs from the extreme quiet or the sudden hum in the street. When the news was bad, all the houses closed and the people disappeared; when better, the doors half opened and you heard the sound of men again. From the upper windows we could see each discharge from the Bastille — I mean the smoke rising — and also the flames and smoke from the Boulevard la Chapelle. We were four ladies, and only Fleeming by way of a man, and difficulty enough we had to keep him from joining the National Guards — his pride and spirit were both fired. You cannot picture to yourself the multitudes of soldiers, guards, and armed men of all sorts we watched — not close to the window, however, for such havoc had been made among them by the firing from the windows, that as the battalions marched by, they cried, “Fermez vos fenetres!” and it was very painful to watch their looks of anxiety and suspicion as they marched by.’
‘The Revolution,’ writes Fleeming to Frank Scott, ‘was quite delightful: getting popped at and run at by horses, and giving sous for the wounded into little boxes guarded by the raggedest, picturesquest, delightfullest, sentinels; but the insurrection! ugh, I shudder to think at [sic] it.’ He found it ‘not a bit of fun sitting boxed up in the house four days almost . . . I was the only Gentleman to four ladies, and didn’t they keep me in order! I did not dare to show my face at a window, for fear of catching a stray ball or being forced to enter the National Guard; [for] they would have it I was a man full-grown, French, and every way fit to fight. And my mamma was as bad as any of them; she that told me I was a coward last time if I stayed in the house a quarter of an hour! But I drew, examined the pistols, of which I found lots with caps, powder, and ball, while sometimes murderous intentions of killing a dozen insurgents and dying violently overpowered by numbers . . . .’ We may drop this sentence here: under the conduct of its boyish writer, it was to reach no legitimate end.
Four days of such a discipline had cured the family of Paris; the same year Fleeming was to write, in answer apparently to a question of Frank Scott’s, ‘I could find no national game in France but revolutions’; and the witticism was justified in their experience. On the first possible day, they applied for passports, and were advised to take the road to Geneva. It appears it was scarce safe to leave Paris for England. Charles Reade, with keen dramatic gusto, had just smuggled himself out of that city in the bottom of a cab. English gold had been found on the insurgents, the name of England was in evil odour; and it was thus — for strategic reasons, so to speak — that Fleeming found himself on the way to that Italy where he was to complete his education, and for which he cherished to the end a special kindness.
It was in Genoa they settled; partly for the sake of the captain, who might there find naval comrades; partly because of the Ruffinis, who had been friends of Mrs. Jenkin in their time of exile and were now considerable men at home; partly, in fine, with hopes that Fleeming might attend the University; in preparation for which he was put at once to school. It was the year of Novara; Mazzini was in Rome; the dry bones of Italy were moving; and for people of alert and liberal sympathies the time was inspiriting. What with exiles turned Ministers of State, universities thrown open to Protestants, Fleeming himself the first Protestant student in Genoa, and thus, as his mother writes, ‘a living instance of the progress of liberal ideas’ — it was little wonder if the enthusiastic young woman and the clever boy were heart and soul upon the side of Italy. It should not be forgotten that they were both on their first visit to that country; the mother still child enough ‘to be delighted when she saw real monks’; and both mother and son thrilling with the first sight of snowy Alps, the blue Mediterranean, and the crowded port and the palaces of Genoa. Nor was their zeal without knowledge. Ruffini, deputy for Genoa and soon to be head of the University, was at their side; and by means of him the family appear to have had access to much Italian society. To the end, Fleeming professed his admiration of the Piedmontese and his unalterable confidence in the future of Italy under their conduct; for Victor Emanuel, Cavour, the first La Marmora and Garibaldi, he had varying degrees of sympathy and praise: perhaps highest for the King, whose good sense and temper filled him with respect — perhaps least for Garibaldi, whom he loved but yet mistrusted.
But this is to look forward: these were the days not of Victor Emanuel but of Charles Albert; and it was on Charles Albert that mother and son had now fixed their eyes as on the sword-bearer of Italy. On Fleeming’s sixteenth birthday, they were, the mother writes, ‘in great anxiety for news from the army. You can have no idea what it is to live in a country where such a struggle is going on. The interest is one that absorbs all others. We eat, drink, and sleep to the noise of drums and musketry. You would enjoy and almost admire Fleeming’s enthusiasm and earnestness — and, courage, I may say — for we are among the small minority of English who side with the Italians. The other day, at dinner at the Consul’s, boy as he is, and in spite of my admonitions, Fleeming defended the Italian cause, and so well that he “tripped up the heels of his adversary” simply from being well-informed on the subject and honest. He is as true as steel, and for no one will he bend right or left. . . . Do not fancy him a Bobadil,’ she adds, ‘he is only a very true, candid boy. I am so glad he remains in all respects but information a great child.’
If this letter is correctly dated, the cause was already lost and the King had already abdicated when these lines were written. No sooner did the news reach Genoa, than there began ‘tumultuous movements’; and the Jenkins’ received hints it would be wise to leave the city. But they had friends and interests; even the captain had English officers to keep him company, for Lord Hardwicke’s ship, the Vengeance, lay in port; and supposing the danger to be real, I cannot but suspect the whole family of a divided purpose, prudence being possibly weaker than curiosity. Stay, at least, they did, and thus rounded their experience of the revolutionary year. On Sunday, April 1, Fleeming and the captain went for a ramble beyond the walls, leaving Aunt Anna and Mrs. Jenkin to walk on the bastions with some friends. On the way back, this party turned aside to rest in the Church of the Madonna delle Grazie. ‘We had remarked,’ writes Mrs. Jenkin, ‘the entire absence of sentinels on the ramparts, and how the cannons were left in solitary state; and I had just remarked “How quiet everything is!” when suddenly we heard the drums begin to beat and distant shouts. Accustomed as we are to revolutions, we never thought of being frightened.’ For all that, they resumed their return home. On the way they saw men running and vociferating, but nothing to indicate a general disturbance, until, near the Duke’s palace, they came upon and passed a shouting mob dragging along with it three cannon. It had scarcely passed before they heard ‘a rushing sound’; one of the gentlemen thrust back the party of ladies under a shed, and the mob passed again. A fine-looking young man was in their hands; and Mrs. Jenkin saw him with his mouth open as if he sought to speak, saw him tossed from one to another like a ball, and then saw him no more. ‘He was dead a few instants after, but the crowd hid that terror from us. My knees shook under me and my sight left me.’ With this street tragedy, the curtain rose upon their second revolution.
The attack on Spirito Santo, and the capitulation and departure of the troops speedily followed. Genoa was in the hands of the Republicans, and now came a time when the English residents were in a position to pay some return for hospitality received. Nor were they backward. Our Consul (the same who had the benefit of correction from Fleeming) carried the Intendente on board the Vengeance, escorting him through the streets, getting along with him on board a shore boat, and when the insurgents levelled their muskets, standing up and naming himself, ‘Console Inglese.’ A friend of the Jenkins’, Captain Glynne, had a more painful, if a less dramatic part. One Colonel Nosozzo had been killed (I read) while trying to prevent his own artillery from firing on the mob; but in that hell’s cauldron of a distracted city, there were no distinctions made, and the Colonel’s widow was hunted for her life. In her grief and peril, the Glynnes received and hid her; Captain Glynne sought and found her husband’s body among the slain, saved it for two days, brought the widow a lock of the dead man’s hair; but at last, the mob still strictly searching, seems to have abandoned the body, and conveyed his guest on board the Vengeance. The Jenkins also had their refugees, the family of an Employe threatened by a decree. ‘You should have seen me making a Union Jack to nail over our door,’ writes Mrs. Jenkin. ‘I never worked so fast in my life. Monday and Tuesday,’ she continues, ‘were tolerably quiet, our hearts beating fast in the hope of La Marmora’s approach, the streets barricaded, and none but foreigners and women allowed to leave the city.’ On Wednesday, La Marmora came indeed, but in the ugly form of a bombardment; and that evening the Jenkins sat without lights about their drawing-room window, ‘watching the huge red flashes of the cannon’ from the Brigato and La Specula forts, and hearkening, not without some awful pleasure, to the thunder of the cannonade.
Lord Hardwicke intervened between the rebels and La Marmora; and there followed a troubled armistice, filled with the voice of panic. Now the Vengeance was known to be cleared for action; now it was rumoured that the galley slaves were to be let loose upon the town, and now that the troops would enter it by storm. Crowds, trusting in the Union Jack over the Jenkins’ door, came to beg them to receive their linen and other valuables; nor could their instances be refused; and in the midst of all this bustle and alarm, piles of goods must be examined and long inventories made. At last the captain decided things had gone too far. He himself apparently remained to watch over the linen; but at five o’clock on the Sunday morning, Aunt Anna, Fleeming, and his mother were rowed in a pour of rain on board an English merchantman, to suffer ‘nine mortal hours of agonising suspense.’ With the end of that time, peace was restored. On Tuesday morning officers with white flags appeared on the bastions; then, regiment by regiment, the troops marched in, two hundred men sleeping on the ground floor of the Jenkins’ house, thirty thousand in all entering the city, but without disturbance, old La Marmora being a commander of a Roman sternness.
With the return of quiet, and the reopening of the universities, we behold a new character, Signor Flaminio: the professors, it appears, made no attempt upon the Jenkin; and thus readily italianised the Fleeming. He came well recommended; for their friend Ruffini was then, or soon after, raised to be the head of the University; and the professors were very kind and attentive, possibly to Ruffini’s Protege, perhaps also to the first Protestant student. It was no joke for Signor Flaminio at first; certificates had to be got from Paris and from Rector Williams; the classics must be furbished up at home that he might follow Latin lectures; examinations bristled in the path, the entrance examination with Latin and English essay, and oral trials (much softened for the foreigner) in Horace, Tacitus, and Cicero, and the first University examination only three months later, in Italian eloquence, no less, and other wider subjects. On one point the first Protestant student was moved to thank his stars: that there was no Greek required for the degree. Little did he think, as he set down his gratitude, how much, in later life and among cribs and dictionaries, he was to lament this circumstance; nor how much of that later life he was to spend acquiring, with infinite toil, a shadow of what he might then have got with ease and fully. But if his Genoese education was in this particular imperfect, he was fortunate in the branches that more immediately touched on his career. The physical laboratory was the best mounted in Italy. Bancalari, the professor of natural philosophy, was famous in his day; by what seems even an odd coincidence, he went deeply into electromagnetism; and it was principally in that subject that Signor Flaminio, questioned in Latin and answering in Italian, passed his Master of Arts degree with first-class honours. That he had secured the notice of his teachers, one circumstance sufficiently proves. A philosophical society was started under the presidency of Mamiani, ‘one of the examiners and one of the leaders of the Moderate party’; and out of five promising students brought forward by the professors to attend the sittings and present essays, Signor Flaminio was one. I cannot find that he ever read an essay; and indeed I think his hands were otherwise too full. He found his fellow-students ‘not such a bad set of chaps,’ and preferred the Piedmontese before the Genoese; but I suspect he mixed not very freely with either. Not only were his days filled with university work, but his spare hours were fully dedicated to the arts under the eye of a beloved task-mistress. He worked hard and well in the art school, where he obtained a silver medal ‘for a couple of legs the size of life drawn from one of Raphael’s cartoons.’ His holidays were spent in sketching; his evenings, when they were free, at the theatre. Here at the opera he discovered besides a taste for a new art, the art of music; and it was, he wrote, ‘as if he had found out a heaven on earth.’ ‘I am so anxious that whatever he professes to know, he should really perfectly possess,’ his mother wrote, ‘that I spare no pains’; neither to him nor to myself, she might have added. And so when he begged to be allowed to learn the piano, she started him with characteristic barbarity on the scales; and heard in consequence ‘heart-rending groans’ and saw ‘anguished claspings of hands’ as he lost his way among their arid intricacies.
In this picture of the lad at the piano, there is something, for the period, girlish. He was indeed his mother’s boy; and it was fortunate his mother was not altogether feminine. She gave her son a womanly delicacy in morals, to a man’s taste — to his own taste in later life — too finely spun, and perhaps more elegant than healthful. She encouraged him besides in drawing-room interests. But in other points her influence was manlike. Filled with the spirit of thoroughness, she taught him to make of the least of these accomplishments a virile task; and the teaching lasted him through life. Immersed as she was in the day’s movements and buzzed about by leading Liberals, she handed on to him her creed in politics: an enduring kindness for Italy, and a loyalty, like that of many clever women, to the Liberal party with but small regard to men or measures. This attitude of mind used often to disappoint me in a man so fond of logic; but I see now how it was learned from the bright eyes of his mother and to the sound of the cannonades of 1848. To some of her defects, besides, she made him heir. Kind as was the bond that united her to her son, kind and even pretty, she was scarce a woman to adorn a home; loving as she did to shine; careless as she was of domestic, studious of public graces. She probably rejoiced to see the boy grow up in somewhat of the image of herself, generous, excessive, enthusiastic, external; catching at ideas, brandishing them when caught; fiery for the right, but always fiery; ready at fifteen to correct a consul, ready at fifty to explain to any artist his own art.
The defects and advantages of such a training were obvious in Fleeming throughout life. His thoroughness was not that of the patient scholar, but of an untrained woman with fits of passionate study; he had learned too much from dogma, given indeed by cherished lips; and precocious as he was in the use of the tools of the mind, he was truly backward in knowledge of life and of himself. Such as it was at least, his home and school training was now complete; and you are to conceive the lad as being formed in a household of meagre revenue, among foreign surroundings, and under the influence of an imperious drawing-room queen; from whom he learned a great refinement of morals, a strong sense of duty, much forwardness of bearing, all manner of studious and artistic interests, and many ready-made opinions which he embraced with a son’s and a disciple’s loyalty.
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