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ART. VIII.-Kreuz und Schwert. Vierte Abtheilung von • Um Szepter und Krone.' Zeitroman von Gregor SAMA
Vier Bände. Stuttgart : 1875. Four years ago we reviewed the first instalment of this ex
traordinary series of novels; and we must confess that when we did so we little imagined that Herr Meding, the exsecretary of the King of Hanover, writing under the nom de plume of Gregor Samarow, would find both the will in himself and encouragement from the German public for production in such abundance of a genre which he may be said to have created. For never, we imagine, have actors in political history found themselves dealt with so freely in the
freely in the pages of contemporary romance as they are by Herr Mediny. One cannot deny the freedom of his touch, the perfect ease and sometimes the aptness of the political arguments which he puts into the mouths of his heroes and heroines; yet what, in fact, is the value of this kind of writing? It is neither romance nor history. No man living could possibly have sufficient knowledge of all the courts and crowned heads he introduces to us, including the Vatican and the Pope, to enable him to represent thein fairly in the pages of romance; and perhaps as much truth may be looked for in the historic novels of a Scott or a Bulwer, dealing with kings and statesmen who lived centuries ago, as in a romance of this nature. Nevertheless, the success of Herr Meding's treatment of his subject is, considering the difficulty attending it, extremely remarkable.
This novel, like its predecessors, consists of two parts of very different merit; one half is political romance, so to speak, and one half unpolitical romance. This latter portion of the work is carried on from the beginning to the end of the volumes by merely intercalating the chapters in which the lovestories of the inferior personages are contained among the other chapters in which emperors and empresses, kings, popes, cardinals, and princes, and the other Dii Majores of Europe are made to act and talk with considerable verisimilitude and keeping as to character, and also with considerable artistic merit. The love-romance portion of the novel, however, may be dismissed in a short space. It commences in the autumi of 1869, and is concluded about a year later. The opening
, of the novel is very much in the style in which the late Mr. G. P. R. James used to commence his oft-told tales :
• The sinking sun of the autumn of the year 1869 sent its oblique beams over the simple and uniforın, but yet luxuriant landscape which
in the neighbourhood of Dusseldorf encloses the broad and quietly flowing stream of the Rhine. On the road which led along the dikes through the meadows and orchards rode two young officers in the green uniform of the Hussars. Neither of thein was at the most more than twenty-one or twenty years of age; but in spite of this equality of age their whole appearance was strikingly different. One sat comfortably on his fair grey steed, and his form, in spite of his youth, showed a certain tendency to fullness and corpulence, while his fresh countenance beamed with a careless cheerfulness. . . This young officer, from whose face was reflected the morning beams of a sorrowless happy life, was the Count Xavier von Spangendorf, the son and heir in tail of one of the richest and most considerable proprietors of the neighbourhood, whose family had possessed for almost immemorial ages the park nearly as large as a forest which surrounded the château of Rensenheim. Near him rude his friend and fellow-officer, Lieutenant von Rothenstein, the descendant of an old Silesian family. He sat on a black horse; his form was slight and thin-his face was long and pale -his fine sharply cut mouth, with his dark moustache drooping over his upper lip, seemed seldom likely to be moved with laughter.
The Herr von Rothenstein, in fact, is the caballero de le * triste figura' of the novel. His parents died when he was two years old ; his bachelor guardian, a cousin of his father's, had handed him over to be educated by professors; he had grown up among strangers--' a world of ice had ever surrounded him, through which he could not break-he was alone, always • alone!' He had the misfortune, moreover, to fall in love with the Gräfin Gabriele, the sister of Xavier von Spangendorf, who was beautiful as a Madonna of Carlo Dolce, but who looked like a novice of a holy order, and had indeed already secretly devoted herself to conventual retirement.
The family of Spangendorf was Roman Catholic, and had for chaplain a certain Father Dominicus, of eight-and-twenty years of age, of slight yet powerful frame, quiet in his movements, dignified, yet at the same time modest. The priest, whose closely-cut dark hair allowed the small tonsure to appear, and whose broad and high forehead denoted a clear and vigorous intelligence, was in love in more than spiritual fashion with Gabriele, the daughter of the house; and the intrigues, contrivances, and crimes also, with which he endeavours to prevent the happy issue of the love which the sadfeatured Rothenstein naturally conceives for Gabriele, the daughter of the house of Spangendorf, form some of the most dramatic incidents of the volume. The priest, indeed, even goes so far as to try to poison his rival when he is at death's door.
Two other love affairs draw their slow lengths along through VOL. CXLV. NO. CCXCVIII.
the volume; the one that between the young Graf von Span
' gendorf and his cousin Josephine, and the other that of Franz, a younger brother of Von Spangendorf, for Lorenza, the daughter of an Italian model-Franz von Spangendorf being, like his sister, a Catholic enthusiast, and having enrolled himself as a member of the Pope's Roman Guard. Nothing can be more feeble and mawkish than these details. But they afford easy vehicles for carrying the reader backwards and forwards from Rome to Vienna, Paris, and Berlin, and for conducting him to the battle-fields of France in 1870.
The first volume of the work is the least interesting part of it. The political schemes of the ex-King of Hanover and of the late Emperor of the French and his Empress occupy the greater part of the political action. George V. is introduced to us surrounded by the faithful companions of his defeats and exile, intriguing for the recovery of his lost kingdom, for the repression of Prussia, and for the inauguration of an improved federal system in Germany; and he counts greatly on the financial aid which a certain Vienna bank, in which he is a large shareholder, will render him. We are not aware what foundation Herr Meding has for this episode of the Vienna bank, whose destinies are directed by a certain Doctor Elster. This personage is a sort of Viennese Law, and his speculations meet with the same sort of failure with those of his Scotch prototype, and involve in their ruin the hopes of George V. and his adherents. We know no more what basis of truth there may be for this part of the narrative than we do as to what foundation there may be for the scenes in which Napoleon III. is represented as holding long colloquies on the state of France and of Europe, and on the probability and advantage of the Prince of the Asturias being installed as king on the throne of Spain, from which his mother had lately been driven by revolution.
The beginning of the second volume introduces us to a series of scenes which are stirring enough, although as little here, too, we know what foundation the author may have for his inventions. The chapter which opens this volume describes a midnight meeting of the secret society of the Avengers, held in the recesses of the baths of Caracalla. Pietro Barghili, the
, model, the father of Lorenza, the beloved of the younger Graf von Spangendorf, and Barbarino Falcone, a ferocious Italian bandit, his rival, have arrived at the entrance of the cavernous hollow where the meeting is held.
• A deep voice sounded from beneath upwards—"Who seeks admittance to the Society of the Avengers ?
"" Barbarino Falcone,” replied the young man, while he bowed down his head over the opening and made a sort of speaking-tube out of both his hands, "and Pietro Barghili."
(6 What is the watchword ?" asked a voice from beneath.
""Death to priests and tyrants," replied Barbarino in the same voice as before.
""The Brothers admit you," was answered again from below upwards. ““ Follow me,” said Barbarino to Pietro Barghili, “I will direct thy
Pietro Barghili descends the rock-like sides of the hollow under the direction of Barbarino. When they arrived there, the darkness hardly allowed them to see anything. Soon, however, Pietro and Barbarino recognised a number of men, part of whom lay on the earth concealed in their mantles, part of them sat on fallen blocks of stone, and appeared to be, like Barbarino, labourers collected from the neighbourhood of Rome.
"A dark form advanced from one side and mounted a lofty square block of stone.
6" Are all assembled which were called to take part in this meeting of the chosen chiefs of the Society of the Avengers ?
"The dark figure drew a small dark-lantern from under his cloak, opened it suddenly, and then threw its bright flash momentarily around the assembly—which then was seen to be composed of about fifteen men-some wild-looking, bearded, and weather-burnt—some with the soft features of enthusiastic youth, yet with eyes flaming with fanaticisin -some with fine-cut, cold, distinguished quiet faces.
““Before I communicate my plans to you,” said the voice, "I have to make to you a serious and sad announcement: a traitor has crept amongst our society, which is consecrated to the liberation of our fatherland, to the liberation of all humanity from the fetters of priests and tyrants."
After a short allocution from the dark form on the block of stone, the assembly cries out:
6" We believe the master."
"" Now, then, my brethren,” the master continued, “what punishment does treason against the holy cause of the Freedom of Humanity deserve ?” 6“ Death
" cried Barbarino. "" Death” was echoed hoarsely and awfully all around.'
" The traitor was pointed out to the assembly with the aid of the dark-lantern, and to Barbarino was intrusted the duty of putting him to death, which he did with a bayonet-dagger carried in his stick, to the satisfaction of the whole assembly, who then proceeded to discuss the business for which the
Master had convened them, and which was no less than the elaboration of a Guy Fawkes scheme for the blowing up of the whole assembly then about to meet for deliberation on the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
The man whom the accusers had recognised as their master stepped slowly along the walls of the baths of Caracalla and reached the road leading to the Porta San Sebastiano. * Hidden deep in his mantle he had taken but a few steps on this road
a when a covered calèche, drawn by two strong horses, drove up slowly on the road towards the town. The coachmar, in the fancy livery of a job-master, pulled up his horses. The man in the mantle opened the door lightly and unperceived and disappeared in the interior of the carriage. The coachman drove his horses rapidly and after a short journey drew up his carriage before the Albergo di Europa in the Piazza di Spagna.
• The porter bastened to open the door. Signor Franceschino hiniself came officiously forward into the entrance lighted cheerily with gas. A man stept out of the carriage who might be from fifty-six to sixtyyears of age. He had a healthy face of white and red, with a straight, sharp-cut nose, and grey moustache drooping over his softly-cut pleasant mouth. The man wore an extremely neat and elegant pepperand salt costume, a round hat of fine white felt, and from under the brim of this hat looked forth eyes intelligent and observant but at the same time genteely repulsive and coldly phlegmatic.
• He went slowly with a powerful elastic step to his hotel.
«« To-morrow, two hours before dinner," he said, in a foreign somewhat guttural accent, to the porter, who repeated them to the coachman, and then he stepped into the hotel.
* With a slight nod of the head he greeted Signor Franceschino, who bowed low.
• " Has my lord any commands?” asked the obsequious hotel master in tolerably good English, whilst he accompanied his guest up to the staircase leading to the first floor.
My tea and dry toast as usual," answered the latter in the cold sharp tone of the well-bred Englishman.'
He ascended the stairs and entered a door on the first floor, which an old servant, in a black coat and white cravat, who had been waiting for him sitting on a chair in the passage, opened rapidly for him.
The distinguished-looking Englishman, who passes by the name of Mister Brooklane, was, we find later, a disguised Italian-obviously intended for a fancy sketch of the late Giuseppe Mazzini—who had cultivated the art of disguise so thoroughly as to conduct the most abominable conspiracies on a diet of tea and dry toast-a circumstance which reminds us of a passage quoted in our review of Herr Samarow's former novel,Um Szepter und Krone,' in which Bismarck resolved