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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/31

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5
THE PRISONER OF CHILLON.

displeasure, and now again, as one who had greatly testified for truth and freedom, being taken back into favour and forgiven. There was a deal of human nature in Bonivard, with the result that, at times, conduct fell short of pretension and principle. Estimates of his character differ widely. From the standpoint of Catholic orthodoxy, "C'était un fort mauvais sujet et un plus mauvais prêtre;" and even his captivity, infamous as it was, "ne peut rendre Bonivard intérssant" (Notices Généalogiques sur les Familles Genevoises, par J. A. Galiffe, 1836, iii. 67, sq.); whilst an advocate and champion, the author of the Preface to Les Chroniques de Genève par François de Bonnivard, 1831, tom. i. pt. i. p. xli., avows that "aucun homme n'a fait preuve d'un plus beau caractère, d'un plus parfait désintéressement que l'illustre Prieur de St. Victor." Like other great men, he may have been guilty of "quelques égarements du cœur, quelques concessions passagères aux délices des sens," but "Peu importe à la postérité les irrégularités de leur vie privée" (p. xlviii.).

But whatever may be the final verdict with regard to the morals, there can be no question as to the intellectual powers of the "Prisoner of Chillon." The publication of various MS. tracts, e.g. Advis et Devis de l'ancienne et nouvelle Police de Genève, 1865; Advis et Devis des Lengnes, etc., 1865, which were edited by the late J. J. Chaponnière, and, after his death, by M. Gustave Revilliod, has placed his reputation as historian, satirist, philosopher, beyond doubt or cavil. One quotation must suffice. He is contrasting the Protestants with the Catholics (Advis et Devis de la Source de Lidolatrie, Geneva, 1856, p. 159): "Et nous disons que les prebstres rongent les mortz et est vray; mais nous faisons bien pys, car nous rongeons les vifz. Quel profit revient aux paveures du dommage des prebstres? Nous nous ventons touttes les deux parties de prescher Christ cruciffie et disons vray, car nous le laissons cruciffe et nud en l'arbre de la croix, et jouons a beaux dez au pied dicelle croix, pour scavoir qui haura sa robe."

For Bonivard's account of his second imprisonment, see Les Chroniques de Genève, tom. ii. part ii. pp. 571-577; see, too, Notice sur François Bonivard,... par Le Docteur J. J. Chaponnière, Mémoires et Documents Publiés, par La Société d'Histoire, etc., de Genève, 1845, iv. 137-245; Chillon Etude Historique, par L. Vulliemin, Lausanne, 1851; Revue des Deux Mondes, Seconde Période, vol. 82, Août, 1869, pp. 682-709; "True Story of the Prisoner of Chillon," Nineteenth Century, May, 1900, No. 279, pp. 821-829, by A. van Amstel (Johannes Christiaan Neuman).