Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE GRATUITOUS SCHOOL FOR POOR ITALIAN BOYS.

"The son of your king has come to beg a morsel of bread and a few hours' repose," said the proscribed heir to the British throne, when, forced by starvation and fatigue, he entered the house of an enemy, and confronted him. We were reminded of this touching story of the vicissitude of human fortune, by reading an "Address of the Society for the Protection and Education of Poor Italian Boys."-"Poor Italian Boys!" "Protection!" "Education!" The words are, indeed, capable of being amplified by the most ordinary imagination into an elegy over the "Lone Mother of dead Empires." Poor Italian Boys! The youngest children of that great Queen of the World, who, in the days of her glory, poured upon all Europe the blessings of civilization and knowledge, have come to ask us to ask the noble English people-to protect them from the cruelty of those who traffic in their young bodies; to give them the means of knowing that they have souls! "How are the mighty fallen!" Strange and lamentable changes of fortune in the case of an individual, however high his rank in the social scale, we can dismiss from our minds more easily than a reflection upon the vicissitudes of nations. The lives of the Pretender and his whole family, their sudden reverses from good to bad fortune, and vice versa, are chiefly interesting from the effect they produced upon their country; apart from that, they serve merely

"To point a moral or adorn a tale." But who, that is familiar with the grand story of the Roman empire, can gaze unmoved upon the remnants of the past glory of Italy-upon the evidences of her present prostration; or turn away quickly from the consideration of them, as too insignificant for more than a passing glance? Who can boast of his British blood, and forget what he owes to Italy, the nursing-mother of European civilization? Shall we, who are pressing forwards into "the foremost files of time;" we, who are free and prosperous-shall we not spare a moment to consider and to mitigate the distress of those whose forefathers gave us life, health, strength, and knowledge? Shall we talk without a tear, of giving "a gratuitous school" to the descendants of those who once taught the whole world in schools built by themselves, and inscribed with their name S. P. Q. R.?

Whatever were the errors of the great empire, it is not becoming in Albion to forget, that about eighteen centuries ago, she was rescued by its wise and powerful rulers from a state of the cruelest barbarism. The Romans taught our savage ancestors a nobler freedom than that of the beast of the field-the freedom which

[blocks in formation]

"O Roma! Roma! Non è come era prima.” The empire-broken, fallen-gone. Her original people, the brave and intellectual Italian tribes, have been crushed and broken. But again and again they have risen; and the histories of the small Italian republics of the middle ages are in keeping with that of the older republic, and of the empire of which it was their greatest pride to have formed a part.

Venice! Milan! Genoa! Florence! Ferrara! Lucca! Were they not all instinct with the spirit of their ancestry? No hierarchy could destroy nature; and these were, by nature, formed to teach the rest of Europe; at that time, in the raw season of early youth, and hungry for the bread of knowledge. They imparted freely all that they had learned of themselves, or regained from their past history; and thus Italy, in the middle ages, was our tutor, as Italy, in that old classic time, was our nursingmother. Our arms, arts, science, laws, and social institutions, are more indebted to our Italian teaching than we are always careful to

remember.

Our great men, too-whether they have animated us by poems or philosophy, by skill in science or art, or by success in arms or statesmanship-have all been nurtured at that Italian fount.

Chaucer and Shakspeare-Surrey and Sidney-Bacon and Milton-could they have been what they were without Italy? Search any page of their precious works, and we will venture to affirm that you will meet with a tribute, in some form or another, to the memory of Italy. If they could rise from their graves, how eloquently would they answer the question,

"Kennst du das Land wo die Citrouen blühn ?" They would tell us of its native beauty, and of its hereditary renown; of its wisdom and valour,

of its virtue and its knowledge: they would not, nected, viz. that established for the Protection dwell too long upon its crimes and its misfor- and Education of Poor Italian Boys." tunes, but would remind us that its claims upon our respect and gratitude belong to the same category as those of parents upon the respect and gratitude of their children.

But, as it would not be selon les règles to put forth these distinguished persons as patrons of the little institution which we wish to introduce to the notice of the benevolent, we must leave it to rest upon its merits, and we therefore subjoin a brief account of the "Gratuitous Italian School."

And let us, in return, tell them what is now the fate of that fair Ausonian land. Let us tell them that Italy is oppressed and poor; that many of her best children are driven forth to wander over the face of the earth, while the invader sits triumphant in their home. But we need not tell them that, in exile, these men do not forget their nationality. The Great Men of Britain will understand that no true Italian could sell his noble birthright for a mess of potage, or cease to regard with tenderness the meanest of his companions in exile. Surely, as the Talmud teaches, "the attachment of brethren in distress surpasses that of brethren by birth." It is this attachment which is the chief solace of the exile; this, and his faith in the regeneration of his country.

But if we should tell the spirits of our departed Great Ones that there are young children who come to our shores from Italy-helpless, ignorant, and destitute; that they are almost always the slaves of mercenary masters, who devote them to a life of misery and disease; and that an appeal has been made in their behalf to the British public; what opinion think you would they hold, concerning the duty of the British" public in this respect?

[ocr errors]

Some benevolent individuals in London for a long time observed the condition of those poor boys, who (after being entrapped in various parts of Italy by a class of men who live upon their earnings or beggings,) are sent into the streets of the metropolis and other towns, to sell plaster casts and to grind barrel-organs. We will not shock our readers with the detailed account of their observations. Let it suffice to say, in the words of a printed paper beside us, that “ Day after day, early and late, in the hottest time of summer, in the stormiest and most inclement time of winter, are these poor fellows forced to drag along their heavy organs from street to street; they have to live, as best they can, upon the casual charity of passers by; they are expected to bring home a certain sum daily, and too frequently towards nightfall, not daring to meet their masters without the stipulated amount, they may be seen begging piteously. Their clothes are filthy rags; their lodgings are of the most miserable and unhealthy description.”— From being so many hours a day under the weight of a heavy organ, (to say nothing of their long exposure, ill clad and ill fed, to our fickle climate,) they contract fearful disorders; such as hernia, varicose veins, diseases of the spine, &c.; and it has been calculated by a medical man, one of their own countrymen, that the average duration of time, during which they continue such occupation, is eight years, by which time their constitutions are utterly broken down. And they have no power of themselves to alter or alleviate this their horrible condition. They come here knowing nothing of our language, ignorant of all else. What can they do but appeal to the British public?"

66

Many of our charities are said to owe great part of their success to the distinguished names which appear in large letters at the head of their lists of subscribers. Her most gracious Majesty the Queen; his Royal Highness Prince Albert; Field-Marshal the Duke of Wellington; the Right Reverend the Archbishop of Canterbury. All these are good names; and we are glad to see them leading on a long succession of supporters of this or that school or benevolent society. But let us suppose for a moment that an advertisement were inserted in the public papers to-morrow, concerning " The Gratuitous School for Poor Italian Boys," and that at the head of the subscription list stood the names of Geoffrey Chaucer, gent.; Sir Philip Sidney, knight; Sir Francis Bacon, knight; and John Milton-would not these names, too, lead on a host of supporters? Yes; though we are a little given to flunkeyism here in England, we are, thank God, much more given to an honest admiration of greatness, when we have clearly come to an understanding that it is greatness. These time-honoured names would induce many to investigate the merits of the charity to which they were attached, and to subscribe to it accord-lows:- Imparting that necessary information ing to its merits. In all good faith we would which every man ought to possess; imprinting venture to assert that there are many great on their minds those moral principles which names, which figure as decoys in reports and should teach them to love God, their country, prospectuses, which are placed there upon less and all men; and of procuring for them some authority than we could find for placing Chaucer, place of general meeting where they might spend Sidney, Bacon, and Milton, at the head of a list their leisure hours usefully, feel themselves in of friends and supporters of the Italian Gratuitous the midst of friends, have instilled into their School, and the society with which it is con- hearts that concord which ought to subsist be

These kind observers of their sufferings have established a Society for the Protection and Education of the Poor Italian Boys." When this society was formed, they found one portion of their design already established. This was a gratuitous school for the instruction of these poor little exiles. Two years previously, on the 10th of November, 1841, a school-room had been opened in Greville Street, Hatton Garden, by means of the private subscriptions of a few Italian gentlemen and their friends. The objects they had in view they stated to be as fol

They Say this World is full of Ill.

229

fixed in attention upon the revered speaker, who
tells them in simple, animated words of their
native language, the story of a great historic
event, which affected their country and all
Europe. It was a ragged school truly, but it
was an intelligent one; and the speaker, eloquent
as he was, did not cast his pearls before swine.
They were not all boys; there were men, ay, old
men, who came to learn to read and write, and
to listen to the instructions of those who taught
them in their native tongue. In these accidental
visits, we saw enough to make us desire heartily
to do some service, however small, to the "Gra-
tuitous School for Poor Italian Boys." And we
shall have attained this object, if these inadequate
words should attract the attention of a few
among the thousands of benevolent individuals
who can afford to devote a little money and a
little time to the friendless exiles, whose an-
cestors gave to our country that which no money
and no time can ever repay. We need not seek
to discharge such a debt, if it were possible. It
is good for man to feel grateful; a well-consti-
tuted mind "by owing owes not, but still pays—
at once indebted and discharged;" but it is
graceful to show, when an opportunity occurs.
that we do not forget the benefits we have re-
ceived. Without interfering in the religious
or political principles of our neighbours, we can
give the means of education to these poor chil-
dren, and thus offer a slight token of our grati-
tude for the blessings which Italy was the means
of bestowing upon our brave but uncultured
forefathers.
J. M. W.

tween compatriots, though of different pro- | vinces, and enable them, if they required it, to ask counsel and advice without fear of repulse and deceit."

The first week after this school was opened there were 100 scholars; the week following there were 150; and, "in spite of the violent opposition raised by a few prejudiced individuals under the specious name of religious zeal," the number in the first year increased to more than 230. But the outlay in that year amounted to £111, while the receipts were only £82. Since then, the numbers have increased; but the funds are not sufficient to enable the directors of the school to do half the good they could wish. The school-room is in an unhealthy, crowded neighbourhood, and so ill ventilated as to be quite injurious to the inmates, who are now very numerous. Some money was raised last year for the benefit of the school, by means of a Bazaar which was got up by its friends here and abroad, and which was held at the house of a lady who has been an active friend to this and many another good cause. This sum was increased by the proceeds of a Concert, which was held in Hanover Square, at which all the eminent Italian singers, and many other artists, gave their services gratuitously. But such occasional help will not supply the place of an annual income. Regular annual subscriptions are required, and such or any donations are received at all hours at the schoolroom. "The pupils are taught reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, elementary geometry, geography (particularly that relating to Italy), statistics, elementary drawing, modelling, and the English language. Every Sunday evening, from seven to eight o'clock, a lecture is given either upon moral duties, or else upon history; the hours of instruction being from eight to ten every evening in the week. The masters, with the exception of those engaged to teach reading and writing, give their services gratuitously."

It will be remembered that on week days the scholars cannot leave off work before eight o'clock; they are then worn out by the fatigues of the day, and by no means in a favourable state for mental culture; and yet the progress they have made has astonished all connected with the school. We must not forget to do justice to the masters of some of the boys, who have shown a laudable care for their improvement, and facilitated their attendance at the school. They have had their reward in the gratitude and increased industry of their dependents.

We ourselves were present, upon more than one occasion, (through a mistake,) at the Sunday evening lecture of this school. When our error was discovered by us, we were sorry for the intrusion, (the presence of visitors disturbs the attention of the pupils,) but we can never regret it entirely, for we had means of seeing then what we could have seen in no other way. A poor Italian with his organ never comes before us now, without recalling the scenes of those Sunday evenings. In the poor school-room, see the crowded rows of those eager, southern faces,

THEY SAY THIS WORLD IS
FULL OF ILL.

They say this world is full of ill,

And fraught with dark unlovely things;
That lips are false, and hearts are chill,

And grief her shadow o'er it flings;
That all deceitful is its bloom,
And nothing true but the cold tomb.
Believe it not, believe it not!

That like the tints of summer skies,

As fair but fleeting is its bliss ;
And all that's pure and holy dies

Within such tainted air as this;
That Friendship's cold, and Love is frail,
And e'en the angel Hope will fail.
Believe it not, believe it not!

For think'st thou, 'mid a vase of flowers,
There's the same loveliness in all ?
And must earth have no sunny hours,

Because on thee the shade may fall?
And shadows do not always stay-
The longest night must yield to day.

Then heed them not-oh, heed them not!
ANNE A. FREMONT.

[blocks in formation]

"La plus rebelle est souvent la plus tendre." GENTIL BERNARD. "Her well-remembered face, her angel voice, Recalled his scattered wits." BEAUMONT & FLETCHER.

J. 0. ALLMAN.

His son looked up with a flushed face, and merely said, "Proceed, sir: it shall never be said that I was wanting in duty to a father, even though that father should usurp more than the due privilege a son owes to him."

"But you have failed in your duty!" the Major fiercely replied-" you have failed! Was it consistent with it to bestow your affection on a poor and lowly-born girl? Was it, I say, consistent with your filial obligation to me to seek to entrap hers in return, without my sanction ?"

Harry burned with shame, and almost resentment, while his father proceeded to read with the most cutting irony, and a grandiloquently After the first outburst of Harry Hamilton's inflated expression, the following lines, which grief had been allowed by his father to settle Harry had perpetrated some days previously, down into a calm and death-like apathy, which, and sacrificed at the altar of his unrevealed however, it did not do till after a considerable love. But Dan Cupid had forsaken him in this lapse of time, that personage said, with a sub- instance, for, like many of the cross-gartered dued tone, accompanied by a peculiarly hissing swains who take especial care over some treasound, like that of suppressed rage-"When sure, he had lost it, and it thus gave the Major, Mr. Henry Hamilton is quite recovered from the who found it, a clue to what might probably ocmanly exhibition with which he has been favour-cur, so that he had therefore commenced a sysing me, I have a few words to say to him." tem of close espionage on his son's movements, Harry did not move. "Or perhaps Mr. Hamil- and in this had proved as successful as his heart ton spurns the authority, as he has already in- could wish. "Oh, prince of doleful lovers!" he jured the natural pride of a parent, and would began, "how charming, in the first place, is the therefore be unwilling to hear what he has to apostrophization of the title-so sweet, so tensay." derly couched By the way, Sir Poet, is it not Byron-who tells us he had a passion for the name of Mary-eh? So have you, Harry, as this effusion amply evidences."

"Not to entrap her!"

"How!-do you dare to cavil, sirrah? By the sword of Mars, let me hear no more of this! Listen," he continued, drawing a tiny piece of crumpled paper from his pocket-"listen. I have known your secret for this week past; for

look ye-do you recognize this effusion? Oh, thou doubty lover! sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress' eyebrow!' Oh rarest poet! Oh inspired scribbler! What dignity! what pathos! what elegance of diction! what imagination are contained in this tender lyric!"

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »