Rienzi The Last of the Roman Tribunes Page 01
Rienzi The Last of the Roman Tribunes
Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, Bart.
Then turn we to her latest Tribune's name, From her ten thousand tyrants turn to thee, Redeemer of dark centuries of shame - The friend of Petrarch - hope of Italy - Rienzi, last of Romans! While the tree Of Freedom's wither'd trunk puts forth a leaf, Even for thy tomb a garland let it be - The Forum's champion, and the People's chief - Her new-born Numa thou!
Childe Harold, cant. iv. stanza 114.
Amidst the indulgence of enthusiasm and eloquence, Petrarch, Italy, and Europe, were astonished by a revolution, which realized for a moment his most splendid visions. - Gibbon, chap. 1xx.
Dedication of Rienzi.
To Alessandro Manzoni, as to the Genius of the Place,
Are Dedicated These Fruits, gathered on The Soil of Italian Fiction.
London, Dec. 1, 1835.
Prefixed to the First Collected Edition of the Author's Works in 1840.
My Dear Mother,
In inscribing with your beloved and honoured name this Collection of my Works, I could wish that the fruits of my manhood were worthier of the tender and anxious pains bestowed upon my education in youth.
Left yet young, and with no ordinary accomplishments and gifts, the sole guardian of your sons, to them you devoted the best years of your useful and spotless life; and any success it be their fate to attain in the paths they have severally chosen, would have its principal sweetness in the thought that such success was the reward of one whose hand aided every struggle, and whose heart sympathized in every care.
From your graceful and accomplished taste, I early learned that affection for literature which has exercised so large an influence over the pursuits of my life; and you who were my first guide, were my earliest critic. Do you remember the summer days, which seemed to me so short, when you repeated to me those old ballads with which Percy revived the decaying spirit of our national muse, or the smooth couplets of Pope, or those gentle and polished verses with the composition of which you had beguiled your own earlier leisure? It was those easy lessons, far more than the harsher rudiments learned subsequently in schools, that taught me to admire and to imitate; and in them I recognise the germ of the flowers, however perishable they be, that I now bind up and lay upon a shrine hallowed by a thousand memories of unspeakable affection. Happy, while I borrowed from your taste, could I have found it not more difficult to imitate your virtues - your spirit of active and extended benevolence, your cheerful piety, your considerate justice, your kindly charity - and all the qualities that brighten a nature more free from the thought of self, than any it has been my lot to meet with. Never more than at this moment did I wish that my writings were possessed of a merit which might outlive my time, so that at least these lines might remain a record of the excellence of the Mother, and the gratitude of the Son.
E.L.B. London: January 6, 1840.
The First Edition of Rienzi.
I began this tale two years ago at Rome. On removing to Naples, I threw it aside for "The Last Days of Pompeii," which required more than "Rienzi" the advantage of residence within reach of the scenes described. The fate of the Roman Tribune continued, however, to haunt and impress me, and, some time after "Pompeii" was published, I renewed my earlier undertaking. I regarded the completion of these volumes, indeed, as a kind of duty; - for having had occasion to read the original authorities from which modern historians have drawn their accounts of the life of Rienzi, I was led to believe that a very remarkable man had been superficially judged, and a very important period crudely examined. (See Appendix, Nos. I and II.) And this belief was sufficiently strong to induce me at first to meditate a more serious work upon the life and times of Rienzi. (I have adopted the termination of Rienzi instead of Rienzo, as being more familiar to the general reader. - But the latter is perhaps the more accurate reading, since the name was a popular corruption from Lorenzo.) Various reasons concurred against this project - and I renounced the biography to commence the fiction. I have still, however, adhered, with a greater fidelity than is customary in Romance, to all the leading events of the public life of the Roman Tribune; and the Reader will perhaps find in these pages a more full and detailed account of the rise and fall of Rienzi, than in any English work of which I am aware. I have, it is true, taken a view of his character different in some respects from that of Gibbon or Sismondi. But it is a view, in all its main features, which I believe (and think I could prove) myself to be warranted in taking, not less by the facts of History than the laws of Fiction. In the meanwhile, as I have given the facts from which I have drawn my interpretation of the principal agent, the reader has sufficient data for his own judgment.