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Seven years after the death of Louvois, St. Mars was promoted from the government of Ste. Marguerite to that of the Bastille,* and removed to Paris, still carrying with him his miserable burthen. The prisoner travelled this time in a litter; of the journey scarcely any thing is reported; but Voltaire says, that on one occasion when St. Mars halted at his own seignory of Palteau, the mysterious captive was seen coming out of his vehicle in a black mask, a circumstance still remembered in the neighbourhood. They entered the Bastille on the 18th of September, 1698, at three in the afternoon, and Matthioli, after remaining in a temporary place of confinement till night, was lodged in the third chamber, (on the middle floor of five,) in the tower' de la Bertaudière.' When the records of the Bastille were made public in 1789, the Register was in vain consulted for information respecting this prisoner; the leaf which should have contained it had been carefully removed. A journal kept by Dujonca, lieutenant of the fortress, and a paper subsequently drawn up by another officer named Chevalier, supply the only authentic notices on the subject, and these are very scanty. In the latter document the person brought in by St. Mars is thus described: Ancien prisonnier de Pignerol, obligé de porter toujours un Masque de Velours noir, dont on n'a jamais sçu le nom ni les qualités. The mask, to which this unhappy being owed so much of his celebrity, may have been, as M. Delort supposes, adjusted to his head with strong whalebones fastened by a padlock behind, and further secured by a seal, but that his features were ever cased in iron is a tale unsupported by any respectable authority. In the Bastille, according to M, Chevalier, St. Mars treated him with great distinction. No other person saw him except Rosarges, major of the fortress, who had followed St. Mars to Paris, and was entrusted with the peculiar care of the prisoner, the governor himself providing his table. His long confinement and submissive demeanour, and perhaps the death of Louvois, may have caused some relaxation of the decree that he should have nothing which could render life agreeable.'
After an imprisonment of twenty-four years and a half, and in the sixty-third year of his age, the deliverance of Matthioli came. upon him almost as suddenly as his loss of freedom. On a Sunday in November, 1703, he felt a slight illness at his departure
Constantin de Rennéville, who published an account of his imprisonment in the Bastille, under St. Mars's government, (Amsterdam, 1715,) represents him as a monster of tyranny, and relates of him the well-known story of the gaoler, who, perceiving that a solitary captive had found amusement in taming and feeding a spider, crushed the animal to death. But De Rennéville is an extravagant and evidently unscrupulous
Fragmens sur l'Histoire. Art. 25. Euvres, tom, xxviij.
from mass, and the next morning, without any apparently serious attack of disease, he died, so unexpectedly that the sacraments could not be administered. He was buried the following day in the neighbouring churchyard of St. Paul, and is registered in the books of that parish as Marchiali, aged about forty-five years.' Persons who died in the Bastille were not unfrequently interred under fictitious names, nor was that an uncommon precaution which was adopted in the present instance, of scraping and whitewashing the late prisoner's chamber walls; but M. Chevalier relates that, on the decease of Marchiali, his keepers used the more extraordinary diligence of burning all his furniture, reducing to ashes even the doors and window-frames of his apartment, and melting down all the metallic vessels, whether of copper, pewter, or silver, which had been appropriated to his service.
The secret of the Masque de fer was long celebrated among those which have been most faithfully and successfully preserved. Marchiali had been dead almost fifty years before any writer pretended to relate his story. Voltaire, not the first who handled, but the first who rendered it famous, was unable, with his acknowledged acuteness and boasted accuracy of information, to arrive at even a just conjecture on the subject. And yet, such at best is human precaution, this secret, so profoundly buried and religiously guarded, had already, when M. Delort made his recent discoveries, been twice or thrice betrayed by those entrusted with it, and as often penetrated by others. We have seen that it was not faithfully kept by the persons attending St. Mars, at the château de Sainte Marguerite; and, if we may rely on M. Dutens, Louis the Fifteenth was beguiled of it as Samson was of his riddle; for Madame de Pompadour, at the duke de Choiseul's instigation, drew from the king a disclosure that the prisoner with the mask had been minister to an Italian prince. The person whose letter was published in the Histoire Abrégée possessed similar information. A statement of the same kind is said to have been found among the papers of a Marquis de Pancalier de Prié who died at Turin in 1782 or 1783. There appeared twenty years later, in the same city, a work containing all the principal facts now verified by M. Delort; the mission of Matthioli to France; the disclosures made by him on his return, both at Turin and to the governor of Milan; the snare laid for him by the French ambassador; his arrest on the second of May, 1679, within the French territory; his successive imprisonments in Piedmont and France; the date of his death and the age he had then attained.* The author, M. Keth, announced an intention
* See an account of this work (which is unnoticed by M. Delort) in the Nouveau Dictionnaire Historique of Chaudon and Delandine. Lyons. 1804.
of publishing the proofs on which his narrative rested, but we have not heard that the design was ever fulfilled.
It has been thought incredible, and may still seem strange, that a person of no greater importance than the duke of Mantua's agent should have been the object of those anxious precautions which distinguished the captivity of this unfortunate. Allowance must, however, be made for the false lights which have been thrown upon his fate by exaggeration and by pure fiction. That Louis the Fourteenth and such a minister as Louvois should doom Matthioli to perpetual imprisonment, and decree that no man should from thenceforth hear his story or even look upon his face, was, under the circumstances, not surprizing. His crime was peculiar : he had not only broken faith with the government of the great monarch, but exposed his baffled intrigue to the petty courts of Italy. Pride and resentment called aloud for his destruction, and policy concurred in the demand, if Louis still cherished his views of Transalpine encroachment. The sentence pronounced under these impulses was not likely to be revoked or essentially mitigated. He who could have told Europe how Louis had avenged his wounded dignity by an act of lawless and unworthy outrage, was never more to be trusted in free converse with mankind. He was to be as one dead, although the king's hand was kept free from his blood. To invent means of effecting this design was the business of inferior agents, whose whole ambition centered in the perfect fulfilment of commands. The expedients used by them (if we confine our attention to those authentically recorded) were not perhaps more complicated or elaborate than the service required, and even if they were so, the history of state prisons (of the Bastille especially) will supply many other instances of fantastic and curious precaution, harassing alike to captive and to keeper, adopted from the mere excess and refinement of jealousy; as if in the practice of oppression, as of better arts, men learned to seek an excellence beyond the immediate need, and approach an ideal standard of perfect cruelty.
Such then is the true story of Marchiali, a tale no longer romantic or mysterious, but still worthy of historical remembrance as a feature of the time to which it belongs. The anecdote of the Iron Mask will not now, as Voltaire foretold, be the astonishment of posterity, but it may still contribute to instruct them, although its hero has descended from the rank of princes, patriarchs and captains to that of an ordinary Italian adventurer, whose epitaph may be written in the words of Hamlet
'Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell,
I took thee for thy better!'
The account of this strange story, drawn up by Mr. Agar Ellis,
is not a translation from M. Delort; though founded almost entirely on the documents discovered by that author. Mr. Ellis was of opinion that Delort had arranged his materials in a confused and illogical manner; and that the history deserved to be, not rendered, but re-composed. Accordingly the reader may now put into his English library, an edition of the Man in the Iron Mask,' as complete in every respect as the French, and undoubtedly much better executed.
ART. III.-Oronzio di Bernardi's Vollständiger Lehrbegriff der Schwimmkunst aus dem Italienischen übersezt, und mit Anmerkungen begleitet von Friedrich Kries, Professor an dem Gymnasium zu Gotha. 1824.
THE question concerning the weight of the human body as compared with water, though one of no mean importance to mankind, and very easy to be determined by the test of experiment, is still permitted to remain obscured by doubt in the minds of many.
We read in Borelli, De Motu Animalium- Homines ex sui natura inepti ad natandum, artificioso motu manuum et pedum id consequuntur.' A writer of a later period, Mr. John Robertson, F.R.S., who details a set of interesting experiments on the gravity of the human body, in a paper preserved in the 50th vol. of the Philosophical Transactions, seems to have been originally of the same opinion. He weighed, however, ten different individuals in water, comparing their weight with the quantity of water displaced by their bodies; and states the result as follows:Excepting two, every man was lighter than his equal bulk of fresh water, and much more so than his equal bulk of sea water;' consequently could persons who fall into water have presence of mind enough to avoid the fright usual on such accidents, many might be preserved from drowning.' In corroboration of this inference, Mr. Robertson narrates a circumstance connected with his own personal knowledge: a young gentleman of thirteen, little acquainted with swimming, who fell overboard from a vessel in a stormy sea, having had presence of mind enough to turn immediately on his back, remained a full half-hour quietly floating on the surface of the water, until a boat was lowered from the vessel. He had used the precaution to retain his breath whenever a wave broke over him, until he again emerged, but confessed that, at last, a fainting began to creep over him, and his eyes to become dim,--and that he thought himself on the verge of sinking.*
We may add to the above an incident from a late publication, Mr. Maude's Visit to Niagara in 1800.' The author was on board a sloop on Lake Champlain when a boy named
Dr. Franklin, in whose works a letter on the subject of swimming appears, while he considers the detached members of the body, and particularly the head, as of greater weight than their bulk of water, acknowledges our bodies in the aggregate to be of less specific gravity, by reason of the hollowness of the trunk. He thinks that a body immersed in water would sink up to the eyes; but that if the head were inclined back so as to be supported by the water, the mouth and nostrils would remain above, the body rising one inch at every inspiration, and sinking an inch at every expiration; and also that clothes give little additional weight in the water, although upon stepping out of it the case is quite otherwise. If a person could avoid struggling and plunging, therefore, he concludes that he might remain in the posture described long enough with safety. That the body is to a certain degree buoyant, he refers to the experience of every one who has ever attempted to reach the bottom of deep water; the effort required sufficiently proving that something resists our sinking.
The only other work on the Art of Swimming, which we have seen, is one which has not as yet appeared in an English dress. This is the production of a Neapolitan Canon, Oronzio di Bernardi, discursive and long-winded to excess, but at the same time containing many useful hints. The Canon expounds his system with all the circumstance of a new and important discovery, his chief claim to which seems to rest upon successfully adapting the habitual movements of the body on land to its progress in water. The German translation of this work, the named Katlin, who was on deck cutting bread and cheese with a knife, was knocked overboard by the captain gibing the boom. He missed catching hold of the canoe which was dragging astern, and an attempt of Mr. Maude's servant to untie or cut the rope which fastened it, that it might drift to his assistance, also failed. Katlin was known to be unable to swim, it was in the night and very dark, and it was with difficulty that the captain, who considered that there was no hope of saving his life, was at last prevailed upon to go in the canoe to attempt it. He succeeded in picking the boy up and brought him on board again in about a quarter of an hour. Katlin's relation,' proceeds Mr. Maude, almost exceeds probability. He had heard my exclamation to seize the canoe, which he was on the point of doing, when it gave a sudden swing and baffled him; but finding he could support his head above water, he dismissed all fear, expecting that the canoe would come every moment to his assistance. When he no longer heard our cheers from the sloop, hope began to fail him, and he was on the point of resigning himself to a watery grave, when he heard the captain's liferestoring voice. On telling Katlin, that we despaired of his safety, as we understood that he could not swim, he replied, Nor can I! I was never before out of my depth; but I am fond of bathing, and I have often seen lads what they call tread the water, and that's what I did.' The truth of this account was made manifest by the boy not only retaining his hat on his head, but its being perfectly dry; and what adds to the singularity of this event, the boy never quitted his grasp of the knife that he was eating his bread and cheese with. It now appeared that it was a most fortunate circumstance that my servant in his confusion could neither untie nor cut the tow-rope. Had he effected this purpose, the boy must have perished; for had there been light enough for him to have seen the canoe, he could not have swam to it.'