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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/30

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4
THE PRISONER OF CHILLON.

information was common property. Be that as it may, Senebier's prose is in some respects as unhistorical as Byron's verse, and stands in need of some corrections and additions.

François Bonivard (there is no contemporary authority for "Bonnivard") was born in 1493. In early youth (1510) he became by inheritance Prior of St. Victor, a monastery outside the walls of Geneva, and on reaching manhood (1514) he accepted the office and the benefice, "la dignité ecclésiastique de Prieur et de la Seigneurie temporelle de St. Victor." A lover of independence, a child of the later Renaissance, in a word, a Genevese, he threw in his lot with a band of ardent reformers and patriots, who were conspiring to shake off the yoke of Duke Charles III. of Savoy, and convert the city into a republic. Here is his own testimony: "Dès que j'eus commencé de lire l'histoire des nations, je me sentis entrainé par un goût prononcé pour les Républiques dont j'épousai toujours les intérêts." Hence, in a great measure, the unrelenting enmity of the duke, who not only ousted him from his priory, but caused him to be shut up for two years at Grolée, Gex, and Belley, and again, after he had been liberated on a second occasion, ordered him, a safe conduct notwithstanding, to be seized and confined in the Castle of Chillon. Here he remained from 1530 to February 1, 1536, when he was released by the Bernese.

For the first two years he was lodged in a room near the governor's quarters, and was fairly comfortable; but a day came when the duke paid a visit to Chillon; and "then," he writes, "the captain thrust me into a cell lower than the lake, where I lived four years. I know not whether he did it by the duke's orders or of his own accord; but sure it is that I had so much leisure for walking, that I wore in the rock which was the pavement a track or little path, as it had been made with a hammer" (Chroniques des Ligues de Stumpf, addition de Bonivard).

After he had been liberated, "par la grace de Dieu donnee a Messrs. de Berne," he returned to Geneva, and was made a member of the Council of the State, and awarded a house and a pension of two hundred crowns a year. A long life was before him, which he proceeded to spend in characteristic fashion, finely and honourably as scholar, author, and reformer, but with little self-regard or self-respect as a private citizen. He was married no less than four times, and not one of these alliances was altogether satisfactory or creditable. Determined "to warm both hands before the fire of life," he was prone to ignore the prejudices and even the decencies of his fellow-citizens, now incurring their