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MILAN AND VENICE SINCE
THE WAR OF
Translated from the “Revue des Deux Mondes” of 1st October 1865.
HE peace of Villafranca (1859) gave freedom
to Milan, but left Venice under foreign rule. Thus were suddenly separated two Italian cities, which for nearly half a century had been united under the government of the same German power. Six years have passed away since that unexpected separation took place. What are the respective conditions of Milan and Venice at the close of this short but significant period ? That is a ques* tion which facts (collected together during frequent and prolonged stays in the north of Italy) enable me to answer with the assurance of bringing to bear on this important subject, information that will interest the friends of the new kingdom of Italy, whether French or English. The contrast afforded by the material prosperity of Milan, as compared with the suffering and languor against which Venice struggles, is not, however, the only
object of these pages. Examples are not wanting to teach us the life-giving power of freedom, and the death-like effects of servitude. I desire, whilst pointing out a contrast so striking and so sad, to set forth also the points of resemblance, the similarity which may be remarked between Milan and Venice as regards their moral and political vitality. I wish to invite attention to the Italian character, exposed, as it were, to a double trial ; here in the best, there in the worst circumstances. If these facts and recollections afford ground for believing that Venice, when set free, will prove herself able to tread, like Milan, the path of progress, my object will be attained, and my conclusion be complete; for while a severe rebuke will thus be inflicted upon Austria, solid encouragement will at the same time be given to the young Italian nation.
In order thoroughly to appreciate the progress accomplished by Milan, some account must be given of the state of that city during the last years of Austrian rule. I shall never forget the impression produced upon me by the general aspect of Milan when I visited it for the first time, in October 1853. The unquiet and suspicious looks of the Austrian sentinels gave one the idea that the enemy was at the very gates. The sentinels had, however, good reason to be on the watch, for the enemy was in possession of a far more formidable position; he
was within the city itself. The enemy was the entire population. I soon remarked that the Austrians and Italians were never to be seen in the same café. I learned that they never met in the boxes of the Scala, or in private houses. An Austrian officer could not enter a room, without the Italians, who might happen to be there, instantly quitting it. But while the inhabitants of Milan thus proclaimed their detestation of Austrian despotism, the Viennese government was not slow in redoubling its rigour against those whom it styled “the seditious Milanese," (les frondeurs de Milan.)
One day I was loitering about in front of the magnificent cathedral, changing my place leisurely from time to time, the better to see the thousand details of the Duomo, when suddenly an Austrian sentinel came up to me, and gave me to understand by his gestures, accompanied by German phrases, (of which I comprehended not a word,) that I must no longer continue thus sauntering about. He seemed to fancy there was something revolutionary in the proceeding. Accordingly, I took myself off. Half an hour later I came upon one of the gates of the city, and the thought struck me that I would take a look at the neighbourhood outside. I was on the point of passing through the gateway, when my passport was asked for; I had left it at the hotel. As that necessary document was not forthcoming, I had to give up my country walk. From that day I never again separated myself from my passport. Having determined on a visit to the lake of Como,