Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors]

MILAN, September 30th, 1844. The sixth annual meeting of the Scientific Association of Italy is over ;the Congresso Convocato in Milano,' so long looked forward to has come together and dispersed again, and Milan is returning to its-sooth to saysomewhat unscientific condition again. The first question to be asked and answered is-Has the meeting been a successful one? The partisans of the association point triumphantly in reply, to the list of members, amounting to nearly twelve hundred. It is a larger number than has assembled at any one of the previous meetings, and may fairly be assumed to indicate that an interest in scientific matters, and love for the pursuits of science is on the increase in Italy. The large number of members composing this sixth congress, is the more remarkable, say the managers of the Milanese arrangements, seeing that the eligibility of those who presented themselves for admission to its ranks, was far more severely scrutinised than has been the case at previous meetings. Thus it was laid down as a rule, that the mere fact of having been a member of any or all of the five former assemblies, was no title of admissibility. And much heart-burning, discontent, and jealousy, has arisen from the decision.

But is the mere enumeration of its members, granting them to be all honourable men in the roll of science, a sufficient answer to the inquiry-has the Milanese meeting been a successful one? We think not quite. What are the objects of these locomotive meetings in the different cities of the great nations of Europe? If the sole purpose is the assembling as large a number of men occupied in scientific pursuits, for the sake of intercommunication, and the advancement of science by the opportunity thus furnished them of comparing their experiences, the results which they have attained, and the doubts which have beset them ;-if these were the sole objects in view, it would seem a better plan to select some most central and otherwise convenient city as the permanent place of meeting. Many advantages would attend this method of organising the association. But there are other objects in contemplation, and those assuredly not the least important in the scheme of these associations, which all the leading nations of Europe have now copied from each other, that would be lost if their locomotive character were abandoned. Perhaps in Germany, England, and France, the most valuable result of these meetings is the influence they may be expected to exercise on the city in which they assemble. In Italy there can be no doubt that this is the case. Torpid, lethargic, and intellectually dead, as is the society of the cities of Italy for the most part, it is a great matter to awaken the public mind to the fact that there are interests and occupations other than the eternal round of intolerable insipidities offered by the boudoir, the theatre, the casino, and the corso. In a state of society such as that which many circumstances of long standing conspire to render the social life of Italy, where the votaries of science are, for the most part, poor, unappearing, recluse men, exercising absolutely no influence on the social world around them, it is of no small moment to exhibit science majestic in the imposing strength of its united forces, honoured by the world, and reverenced by the great and powerful.

This we conceive to be the most important object of these annual meetings in Italy. And having explained our views on this point we cannot but confess our opinion that the Milan meeting was not so successful a one as could have been wished.

The contrast indeed between the reception of the scientific men of Italy at Florence, a year or two ago, and at Milan this year was truly remarkable. It was not that the official reception was less distinguished for its cordiality and magnificence; though it is worthy of remark that the expenses of the meeting

The Scientific Congress of Milan.


were supplied from a different source in the two capitals in question. At Florence it was the grand duke, whose liberality and munificence were exerted to the utmost to make the meeting agreeable to its members, and to do honour to science in their persons. At Milan the government did scarcely any thing. Almost, if not quite, all the expense was borne by the municipality of Milan. This is an extremely rich body, and its expenditure has been very large on the occasion. Every thing was done by the corporation in the most liberal, indeed, magnificent manner. It was not in this point that the contrast showed itself; but in one of unfortunately far greater importance.

[ocr errors]

It was in the social reception which the Congress met with in either city; --not its individual members-that is another matter;-but the Congress as a body. In a word, it was at Florence the fashion; at Milan it was the reverse. At Florence every body,' all the noblesse, the ladies, with the grand duchess at their head, and the world of fashion,' took pleasure in mixing. with the world of science,' joining its meetings, its dinners, even attending its sectional discussions. The grand duchess attended several. At Milan a very different feeling was observable. As a body the nobility held themselves aloof. They did, indeed, give, it may be urged, one ball to the members of the congress at their Casino dei Nobili.' But, this duty done, they held themselves aloof. The evening meetings at the Ricardi Palace, in Florence, used to be crowded to overflowing with all the rank and beauty of the city. The rooms of the Palazzo Marino, in which the evening meetings were held in Milan, presented the melancholy appearance of a number of middle-aged gentlemen wandering through the half-filled and nearly silent rooms, with all the symptoms of being out of their element, dying of ennui, and any thing but enjoying themselves. No! the Milan belles would have nothing to say to the wise men. Milan is celebrated for the beauty of its women. But upon this occasion they decided it to be mauvais ton to show themselves. It may be very possible that the interests of science were advanced all the more uninterruptedly from the philosophers having been left to their own lucubrations. But the result certainly was that the Congress wore a dull and grim appearance compared to the festive, gala-like meeting of Florence.

Now, that the black-coated disciples of Urania should have been unblest at Milan by the presence of the gaily-decked votaries of Terpsichore, is a matter of infinitely small consequence. In all seriousness the Congress may have very probably served its purely scientific end all the better for the absence of a number of exclusive, illiterate nobles, and their, if possible, more illiterate and uneducated wives and daughters. But the spirit of the Milanese society, thus manifested, is of no small moment as regards the future hopes and destinies of Italy.

For it must be understood that it was not simply because the beaux and belles of Milan are almost wholly uneducated and illiterate that they, therefore, found nothing to attract them in the society of the philosophers, and for that reason did not go near them. Not a bit of it. They would have shown themselves, and 'talked of Shakspeare and the musical glasses, or of Galileo and hydropathy, like others under similar circumstances, IF the Congress had been a Congress of nobles instead of, for the most part, of roturiers. Here was the point of difficulty.

Yes! the Congress, whatever its other claims to consideration may have been, was deficient in 'quarterings,' and was, therefore, no company for the Milanese noblesse. Nowhere, in Europe, is the effete barbarism of 'castes' more in vigour than at Milan. The result, of course and of necessity is, that the exclusives there are the least advanced in social and moral civilisation of

all the great cities of Italy. Will it be believed that these noble blockheads have a Casino for themselves and their females, to whose festivities the more distinguished of their non-noble fellow-citizens are invited-after what manner does the civilised nineteenth-century Englishman think? Thus: A gallery has been constructed, looking from above into the ball-room. There such more distinguished roturiers, with their families, as the privileged caste may condescend to invite-not to share-but to witness their festivities, being duly fenced in with an iron grating, may gaze through the bars at the Paradise that they can never enter. It is at least something! They may there see what it is to be 'noble! The happy ones, thus permitted to feast their eyes, may, at least, boast of their less fortunate fellow-citizens, of the condescension with which they have been honoured, to and thus propagate, in some degree, the blessings of exclusiveness among the ranks of the swinish multitude! In their happy gallery, at the top of the noble ball-room, they may, at least, inhale the refuse breath steaming up from noble lungs-delicious gales from Araby the blest. Surely this is something. The wealthy citizens of Milan feel that it is; and they value the so condescendingly granted privilege accordingly.

Yes! the roturier citizens of Milan-incredible as it may seem to those whose more civilised social system has given them the feelings of men in the place of those of slaves-do gratefully and gladly accept these invitations. Yes! for one of the curses most surely attendant on the undue separation of a privileged caste, is the degradation of both parties-the real abasement of the pariah, as well as the fancied exaltation of the noble.

And these exclusive nobles pretend to feelings of patriotism !—pretend to hate the Austrians!-to sigh for the liberation of Italy from her oppressors! We strongly recommend them to change the tone of their aspirations. They should cling to the Austrian rule. That alone can preserve to them their present social position. They should welcome the domination of a social system, whose principles are their principles, and whose plans for the world's future are far more congruous with their own, than those of the men who hope for and await the regeneration of Italy. Of a surety these so aristocratically exclusive patriots are under the influence of a great mistake. If the day should come-or to speak more truthfully-when the day shall come, that shall see Italy once again what she has been, and what she may be, the change so difficult to make will not be made for their profit. The revolution which must be brought about by the enlightened minds and stout right arms of Italy's worthiest sons will not be brought about, they may rest assured, for the purpose of pushing backward the social system of young Italy to such a point of antiquated barbarism, as may suit their present privileges, pursuits, tastes, and notions. No! the nobles of Milan had better change either their social habits, or their politics, with as little delay as possible.

Having thus disposed of the social aspect and influences of the Congress at Milan, and expressed our opinion that it cannot be considered to have been successful in this point of view, we have a few words to say of it in its purely scientific capacity.

There were, as will almost always be the case in these things, several 'places in the middle where the pasty was not; but, on the whole, the meeting was not only a very full one, but highly respectable also from quality as well as quantity. Humboldt and Arago were among the regretted absentees to whom we have alluded. It was sought to mitigate our regrets by assuring us that they would be present at the next annual meeting, which is to take place at Naples.

Rüppel of Francfort, the well-known African traveller, a veritable German

The Scientific Congress of Milan.


Mungo Parke, was there, and read several papers in the Zoological section. Von Hammer Purgstall from Vienna, the historian of the Ottoman empire, was a member of the Geological section. Gräberg von Hemsö, whose name as a geographer has been made known throughout Europe, by his work on Morocco -the most authentic we have-and who is now librarian to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, read a long paper on the recent progresses of geographical science. Orioli, from Corfu, a Bolognese, exiled from his country for liberal opinions, was there, and communicated to the Physical section some remarkably curious discoveries respecting the laws which regulate electrical currents.

The astronomers Plana from Turin, and Amici from Florence, were there. The Cavaliere Schmidt of Berlin, who is the son-in-law of our celebrated entomologist Spence, and himself an enthusiastic votary of the same science, read a paper in the Zoological section, which was ordered to be printed in the acts of the Congress.

The Prince de Canino, Charles Lucien Buonaparte, was of course there, and was, it may be said, the soul of the meeting. He it was who first introduced these annual assemblies into Italy, his adopted country. He was president of the Zoological section.

There were twenty-four Englishmen among the nearly twelve hundred members of the Congress. Among them may be specially mentioned Lord Northampton, Dr. Roget, Sir R. H. Inglis, and Lord de Mawley. But none of the twenty-four took any active share in the business of the meeting. Some of the qualifications assigned to our countrymen, in the printed lists of members, are strange enough, and imply strange misconceptions on the part of the admitting body. For instance, as one gentleman's title of admissibility to a scientific congress, he is stated to be The Director of the East India Company.'

Then we must by no means omit to record among the notables, that the Congress counted among its members two ladies-the Baroness Ernesta Kotz, and the Baroness Luigia Kotz, both canonesses, and both of Vienna. were members of the Physical section.


Lastly, the General President of the Congress was the Conte Borromeo, the lineal descendant of the sainted Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, whose tomb, in the centre of the magnificent duomo, is to the present day rarely unsurrounded by a group of worshippers. In fact the worthy president's ancestor is by far the most popular saint in the calendar at Milan. The business of the meeting was opened with a speech by the noble president, which had the effect of reminding the members in the outset, that they were on Austrian territory, under the surveillance of Austrian anthorities, watched with Austrian jealousy, and assembled by the grudging sufferance of Austria. In truth there were few there whose hearts or heads required any reminding of these humiliating facts; and the discontent to which the Count Borromeo's speech gave rise was very general, and deeply felt, if not loudly expressed. From the general tone of the speech, it might properly have been addressed to a number of schoolboys, whom their master chose to permit, once and away as an exercise of their ingenuity, to employ themselves on topics of their own selection, instead of on a set theme. He recommended them to give their attention to such and such subjects, and admonished them to shun such and such others. The Prince de Canino let fall some words in his inaugural address to his section, which were evidently intended to reply to the ungracious and ill-timed observations of the president. The speech was printed by Canino, and distributed to the members of the Congress; but the words which in the following extract are in italics, were not allowed by the Censor to be printed. We were enabled to obtain an MS. copy of them.

He had congratulated the assembly on the presence of Cardinal Gaisruck of Vienna, among them,―the first dignitary of the church who had attended any one of the meetings of the institution. And from this he took occasion to say: The alliance of religion with knowledge is not a command of human invention, but is the design of evangelical truth. And he who breaks or loosens their connexion, is not only the enemy of man, but the adversary of God! . But since the voice is ever useful, which is raised to maintain the inexpugnable right of free discussion for all men, I turn myself to you, my most worthy colleagues,--to you whose wishes are not for the limitation of thought, but are in favour of its unshackled conquests, and the progressive enlargement of its boundaries.


Canino's speech was received with immense applause. He has, in fact, almost all the qualities most necessary to ensure unbounded popularity among such a body as that composing the Congress-or indeed among any men. His scientific acquirements are well known throughout Europe. He may fairly be classed among the first zoologists of the day. But, if his science is not such as that of princes is usually found to be, the works published by him on his favourite pursuit are truly princely. He holds and professes openly republican principles. And his manners, habits, dress, and address, are far more in keeping with his opinions, than with the social rank which fortune has assigned him. Though somewhat corpulent, he is very active, and even alert. His figure and entire appearance are as far as well might be from that of the beau-ideal of miss-in-her-teens; but a physiognomist would pronounce him still extremely handsome. He wears an enormous beard and moustache, as black as a coal, which yet do not avail to conceal the play of his very expres sive and highly benevolent mouth. His eyes are black, bright, piercing, and never for an instant quiet. Every morning, a little before the hour of the opening of the section, he might be seen bustling about the quadrangle of the Palazzo Brera, with his quick but shuffling gait, a load of books, papers, and portfolios under his arm, the capacious pockets of his broad, and somewhat seedy, black coat, stuffed with copies of his yesterday's printed speech, or some new brochure of interest to his section, and entering into close confabulation with one or other of the members of it. He talks Italian, French, and English, with equal facility, and almost equal correctness. With all these qualities, it will be readily conceived that he was indeed the very life and soul of the Congress.

By his help, and that of several other kindred spirits, the Congress passed off pleasantly enough; and we contrived to enjoy ourselves very satisfactorily, despite the cold shoulder of the Milanese exclusives, and their ill-omened opening speech of our apparently thoroughly Austrianised president. There were geological excursions along the course of the Adda, and in the highly interesting neighbourhood of Varese for the geologists ;-several extremely curious chemical experiments, by Professor Schönbein for the chemists; and much information, many novel communications, various pleasant meetings, new acquaintanceships formed, and old friendships renewed, and much goodfellowship for all.

The Congress was divided into the following sections:

1. Medicine; with a subsection for Surgery. 2. Zoology; Anatomy; Comparative Physiology. 3. Botany; Vegetable Physiology. 4. Geology; Mineralogy; Geography. 5. Mathematics. 6. Chemistry. 7. Agronomy; Technology.

And the only instance we heard of all concerned not being perfectly contented with this distribution, was in the case of the members of the fourth section. The geographers complained loudly that the geologists took up all

« AnteriorContinuar »