My Ten Years' Imprisonment/Chapter 17

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It was then I reflected upon my previous violence; I was angry at my own weakness and folly, and sought means of remedying them. I had recourse to the following expedient. Every morning, after I had finished my devotions, I set myself diligently to work to recall to mind every possible occurrence of a trying and painful kind, such as a final parting from my dearest friends and the approach of the executioner. I did this not only in order to inure my nerves to bear sudden or dreadful incidents, too surely my future portion, but that I might not again be taken unawares. At first this melancholy task was insupportable, but I persevered; and in a short time became reconciled to it.

In the spring of 1821 Count Luigi Porro {5} obtained permission to see me. Our warm friendship, the eagerness to communicate our mutual feelings, and the restraint imposed by the presence of an imperial secretary, with the brief time allowed us, the presentiments I indulged, and our efforts to appear calm, all led me to expect that I should be thrown into a state of fearful excitement, worse than I had yet suffered. It was not so; after taking his leave I remained calm; such to me proved the signal efficacy of guarding against the assault of sudden and violent emotions. The task I set myself to acquire, constant calmness of mind, arose less from a desire to relieve my unhappiness than from a persuasion how undignified, unworthy, and injurious, was a temper opposite to this, I mean a continued state of excitement and anxiety. An excited mind ceases to reason; carried away by a resistless torrent of wild ideas, it forms for itself a sort of mad logic, full of anger and malignity; it is in a state at once as absolutely unphilosophical as it is unchristian.

If I were a divine I should often insist upon the necessity of correcting irritability and inquietude of character; none can be truly good without that be effected. How nobly pacific, both with regard to himself and others, was He whom we are all bound to imitate. There is no elevation of mind, no justice without moderation in principles and ideas, without a pervading spirit which inclines us rather to smile at, than fall into a passion with, the events of this little life. Anger is never productive of any good, except in the extremely rare case of being employed to humble the wicked, and to terrify them from pursuing the path of crime, even as the usurers were driven by an angry Saviour, from polluting his holy Temple. Violence and excitement, perhaps, differing altogether from what I felt, are no less blamable. Mine was the mania of despair and affliction: I felt a disposition, while suffering under its horrors, to hate and to curse mankind. Several individuals, in particular, appeared to my imagination depicted in the most revolting colours. It is a sort of moral epidemic, I believe, springing from vanity and selfishness; for when a man despises and detests his fellow-creatures, he necessarily assumes that he is much better than the rest of the world. The doctrine of such men amounts to this:- "Let us admire only one another, if we turn the rest of mankind into a mere mob, we shall appear like demi-gods on earth." It is a curious fact that living in a state of hostility and rage actually affords pleasure; it seems as if people thought there was a species of heroism in it. If, unfortunately, the object of our wrath happens to die, we lose no time in finding some one to fill the vacant place. Whom shall I attack next, whom shall I hate? Ah! is that the villain I was looking out for? What a prize! Now my friends, at him, give him no quarter. Such is the world, and, without uttering a libel, I may add that it is not what it ought to be.