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Chapter 16: letters between husband and wife.

By a happy fatality, the only Italian papers of Margaret Ossoli's that are preserved are the letters that passed between her and her husband, during their various separations, before and after the birth of their child. The originals are now, partially at least, in the possession of Miss Edith Fuller, in Cambridge; and a translation of the whole, made by Miss Elizabeth Hoar, is in my possession. I wish that they could all be published, for more loving and devoted letters never passed between husband and wife. Fragments of them appeared in the “Memoirs;” but I have avoided making use of any which are there printed, except in one or two cases where scattered portions alone have appeared. The preference has been given to those written about the time of her child's birth, because there is no period which tests more deeply the depth and the heroism of conjugal affection than those anxious weeks. At the birth of a first child, every mother knows, and her husband knows, that she is to meet much the same sort of peril with any soldier who marches up to a battery; except that this danger is to be met alone, [249] without trumpet-blast or the thrill of companionship in danger, and that it also involves the peril of a life unborn, and more precious than one's own. In the case of a mother past her first youth, the peril is doubled; and, where she is without skilled medical attendance or nursing, it is quadrupled. All these evils were combined in the case of Madame Ossoli; and she lived withal among ignorant and sordid mountaineers, whom she could not propitiate, for the want of money, in the only way that could reach them. This was the situation; the letters will speak for themselves. I have employed Miss Hoar's translation, with some modifications.

Ossoli. Between August 3d and 15th,
Dear wife,--There is nothing at the banker's but the journals, which I send you. I fear that it will be difficult for us to see each other again, because Pio IX. now wishes the Civic Guard to go to the frontiers and defend Bologna. I hope that I may at least be able to come and make a visit, and embrace you yet once more, but I cannot tell you anything certain. I have been trying to deliver the letter for the doctor; but his coachman assures me that he will be in Rome in September. To-morrow he will find some one to deliver your letter.

While I am awaiting good news of yourself, and of a beautiful and good child, adieu, my love, and believe me your

G. O.



Rome, 17th August, 1848.
Mia Cara,--My state is the most deplorable that can be; I have had an extraordinary struggle. If your condition were not such as it is, I could decide more easily, but in the present moment I cannot leave you; I cannot remove myself to a distance from you, my dear love; ah! how cruel is my destiny in this emergency. It is true that my friends would not advise me to go, hoping for me always a better fortune. But then must I always hope, and be always in the presence of my unkind brothers, at a moment when I might remove myself from their hateful sight. The heart, duty, cannot resolve it.

In your dear last of the 7th, I understand well how much you would sacrifice yourself for me. I am deeply grateful to you for it, but I cannot yet decide.

From Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, 18th August, 1848.
I feel, love, a profound sympathy with your torments, but I am not able to give you a perfectly wise counsel. Only it seems to me the worst possible moment to take up arms except in the cause of duty, of honor. The Pope being so cold, his minister undecided, nothing will be well or successfully done. As the intervention of France and England is hoped for, it is yet uncertain whether the war will continue. If not, you will leave Rome and the employment with your uncle for nothing.

If it is possible to wait two or three weeks, the public state and mine also will be decided, and you can [251] make your decision with more tranquillity. Otherwise, it seems to me that I ought to say nothing, but leave it to your own judgment what to do. Only, if you go, come here first. I must see you once more.

It troubles me much that I can tell you nothing certain of myself, but I am still in the same waiting state. I have passed a very bad night, my head is this morning much disturbed. I have bled a good deal at the nose, and it is hard for me to write.

Do not ask permission of your uncle, if it is so difficult. We shall know how to arrange things without that. If you do not come I shall expect a letter from you on Sunday; also (if there are any) from the banker's, and also the last of those Milanese papers. Poor friends, shut up there. I wish so much for some certain intelligence of their fate.

Adieu, dear; our misfortunes are many and unlooked for. Not often does destiny demand a greater price for some happy moments. Never do I repent of our affection, and for you, if not for me, I hope that life has still some good in store. Adieu, may God give you counsel and help, since it is now not in the power of your affectionate ...

From Madame Ossoli.

Sunday, 20th August
Mio Caro,--I expected you a little this morning, and had your coffee all ready, but I believe you had reason for delay. If there is nothing to the contrary, come next Saturday evening.

My nights become more and more disturbed, and this morning I was obliged to be bled again; since then, I find myself relieved, but weak, and unable to say more than that I am always your affectionate--. [252]

Inclosed is another order on the banker, in case you come Saturday. I write it now, being uncertain that I can write many days longer. I embrace you!

From Ossoli. Rome, 21st August, 1848.
Mio Bene,--I have received your dear letter, and am very sorry not to have found myself there to breakfast with you; but I am waiting a message from you to bring me directly to you, and I hope to find myself some day so situated that you will no longer have need of a companion. You tell me that you are not very well able to write, and I am sorry for you; but since it gives you so much fatigue, ask the master of the house to write, if nothing else, a little assurance of your health, since this is a great solace to me, and I wish you would at least put your seal ring upon it, for that is enough for me. Believe me always the same. I embrace you, adieu; thy affectionate

G. A. O.

From Madame Ossoli Rieti, 22d August, 1848.
I am a little better, dearest; but if I could thus pass a less suffering day! On the contrary, it troubles me that this seems rather an indication that I must wait yet longer. Wait! That is always hard. But — if I were sure of doing well — I should wish much to pass through this trial before your arrival; yet when I think that it is possible for me to die alone, without the touch of one dear hand, I wish to wait yet longer. So I hope for your presence on Sunday morning.

I see by the papers that the Pope suspends the departure of the troops. He acts as I thought he would, [253] and I am now very glad that you did not actually enter the service yet. In a short time our affairs will be more settled, and you can decide more advantageously than now.

Try if you can hear any particulars from Milan; would it not be possible in the Caffe degli Belli Arti? I am much troubled by the fate of those dear friends; how much they must suffer now.

I still think so much of you. I hope that you are less tormented. If we were together, it would be a consolation. Now everything goes wrong, but it is impossible it should always be so. Adieu, love; it vexes me that so many days must pass before your comingso many, so many. I am glad that I have the little picture; I look at it often. God keep you.

From Madame Ossoli Rieti, 25th August.
My Love,--I have this morning your letter of Wednesday. You do not say whether you are to come Saturday evening or no, but I hope for it confidently. I cannot wait longer, in any event, if I am not obliged to do it by your affairs. Nothing comes for me yet. I do not know what to think.

There is a beautiful spot near, where we can go together, if I am able still to go out when you come. I shall expect you on Sunday morning, and will have your coffee ready again. Nothing more now, because writing is really difficult for your affectionate ...

On September 5, 1848, her child, Angelo Philip Eugene Ossoli, was born. Two days after, she writes, by an amanuensis, only signing the letter herself:-- [254]

Dictated by Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, Thursday, 7th September, 1848.
Dear Husband,--I am well, much better than I hoped. The baby also is well, but cries much yet, and I hope that he will be more quiet when you come. For the rest, I desire that you should be without anxiety about me, and I will send you frequent accounts of myself, writing again very soon. You may send to the post, prepaid, the letter of mine for Paris, which you have.

All this family with whom I am staying salute you. Giving you an embrace and a kiss, in the person of this dear child whom I have in my arms, I am your affectionate

[in her own hand] Margherita.

From Madame Ossoli, in pencil. Her own writing.

My Love,--I write in bed, a few words only. I have received yours this morning, and hope for another for to-morrow. I have been ill with milk-fever, but am to-day better, and hope to gain strength daily. There is need of it; I am to-day obliged to send away Giuditta to Rome, I can do nothing with her now. I am taking one [a nurse], who also has milk, in case mine is not sufficient. The baby is very beautiful. All say so. I take much delight in watching him. He sends you a kiss, as also your



From Ossoli.

Rome, 14th September, 1848.
Mia Cara,--This morning I received your dear letter, and am always more comforted in hearing of the good condition of our dear baby, and likewise of yours. I have also great pleasure in hearing that he is so beautiful, our child. How much I wish to see him, the time seems very long to me, which must yet be passed. Meanwhile give him a kiss and a tender embrace from me.

From Madame Ossoli.

Friday, 15th September, 1848]
Mio Caro,--I received this morning your dear letters, and the papers. The news from Milan seems to be too good to be true, but I wait with anxiety to hear more.

When you do not hear from me do not be anxious; [256] you know I must necessarily be very weak for some time yet; I am not always able to write, or to rise, and Ser Giovanni is not always here to write for me. It is a miracle that I am as well as I find myself; my circumstances were so difficult. Now that I find myself so content with my nurse, her child becomes ill; and if she is forced to leave me, the struggle begins againbut I hope not. If it is necessary to bear this too, I can only hope counsel from God.

From Madame Ossoli.

Sunday, 17th September
My Love,--This morning I have nothing from you --but the journal of Friday. I suppose now I shall have to wait till Tuesday to hear from you. as no post comes to-morrow.

The nurse's child is better, and I feel relieved. We must have courage, but it is a great care to be alone and ignorant with an infant in these first days of its life. When he is a month old, I shall feel more quiet. Then he will be stronger for the changes he will have to undergo. Now he is well, begins to sleep well, is very pretty for his age, and all the people around, without knowing what name I thought of giving him, call him Angiolino, because he is so lovely. He has your mouth, hands, feet. It seems to me that his eyes will be blue. For the rest, he is altogether a rogue (birbone), understands well, is very obstinate to have his will.

I shall have much to say when you come, and also we shall then have much to plan, because it will be too cold in this room for me to stay here late in the autumn. The forty days will terminate 15th October [257] and I wish to leave as soon as possible after that — the 20th or 25th, if I can. Adieu, love; always your M.

From Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, Saturday, 23d September, 1848].
Mio Caro,--I have received this morning the papers and your letter. I feel the truth of what you say, that there ought to be the greatest care in the selection of a nurse. I shall wait to consult with you about everything. Consider only, if the baby is out of Rome, you cannot see him often. Otherwise, the air of the country would be better, without doubt, for his health.

He is so dear, it seems to me sometimes, among all the difficulties and disasters, that if he lives, if he is well, he will become such a treasure for us two, that it will compensate for everything. I wish very much that you should see him again, but you must have patience with his frequent cry; he is an obstinate fellow. Also, I hope that by the time you come my shoulder will be cured again, and I strong enough to go out a little with you. Now it is fine weather, and I go out on the balcony. Ser Giovanni is good to me, but his sisters are detestable, meddling in everything, and so avaricious, so interested; they would save me money in order that they may get it for themselves. Yet I try to keep the peace with them; there are bad people everywhere, and these, so interested and vulgar, are at least not treacherous like Giuditta. Adieu, love.

Thy M.

[It illustrates the kind of people among whom Madame Ossoli was at this time living, that this Ser Giovanni, who was her scribe in illness and [258] the one person who was “good” to her, was all the time amusing himself with the effort to seduce Angelo's nurse, who was, according to another letter, “the loveliest young woman in the village,” and whose beauty was to Madame Ossoli a source of constant anxiety, in view of the neighborhood of Garibaldi's half-brigand troops, and those from Naples who were worse. It was amid such solicitudes and vexations that an inexperienced and exhausted mother had to struggle for life in behalf of her baby and herself.]

From Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, Tuesday, 26th September, 1848.
... Now we begin to be really well, my baby and I. He sleeps all night, and my shoulder, the last night, has not tormented me, so I have slept also. He is always so charming, how can I ever, ever leave him? I wake in the night, I look at him, I think, ah! it is impossible to leave him. Adieu, love; it seems that like me you are impatient for your arrival; then we can speak and again have a few happy moments more.

Thy M.

From Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, 7th October, 1848.
Mio Caro,--I have received this morning the paper and your letter. I am glad that at least you had a tranquil night for the journey. Yesterday it began again to rain here. All that I have said to Ser Giovanni was, that it would be pleasant to have some friend for a godfather. I am not very competent to give ad. vice in this matter of baptism, which I do not well understand, [259] but the godfather who would please me for the baby is try friend, the Pole. He knows of the existence of the child, is a devout Catholic, is a distinguished man, who could be an aid to him in his future life; and I wish for him to have some friend in case of accident to us. You can consider this unless you have some confidential friend whom you wish as a godfather, who could interest himself in the child if you were obliged to leave him.

It must be considered that your nephew will know this affair at last, by means of Catalane. But I do not know your relatives, nor if you can confide in one of them.

From Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, Thursday, 28th September, 1848.
... I have seen more bad people this last year than in all my life before, and I fear that I have not yet ended. I think of your letter which came on Sunday morning. How much I wish to see you! The baby does not grow much, but he is always so lovely — has really delicate little ways, like a dancer. For the rest I can speak so much better than write, that, while awaiting your visit, I will say no more now.

Your affectionate M.

From Ossoli.

Rome, 9th October, 1848.
Mia Cara,--I have received this morning your two dear letters, it makes me very happy to continue to hear from you often, and it is a great comfort for me to hear that the baby knows who I am; dear child, how I long always to press him in my arms. As to what I said of a godfather for our dear one, it would please me [260] also to have the Pole, as he is a distinguished person; but how to find him, the time being so short? Really I do not know what to do, and I requested you to take advice of Ser Giovanni, if you think best; to tell him that the person whom we decided on for a godfather is too far off for us to get him in season, and plan to inform me what can be done. If not, I will try to provide differently; as far as I see, it is a somewhat difficult matter. You say that you are surprised the doctor should leave Rome, but it was necessary, since there are absolutely no foreigners in Rome.

Saluting you dearly, and giving you, with our dear love, a kiss, I am your

From Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, 15th October, 1848.
... Think always in seeking a house for me, not to pledge me to stay in Rome. It seems to me often that I cannot stay long without seeing the baby. He is so dear, and life seems to me so uncertain, I do not know how to leave my dear ones. Take the apartment for a short time. It is necessary that I should be in Rome at least a month, to write, and also to be near you, but I wish to be free to return here if I feel too anxious for him, too suffering. O love, how difficult is life! But you, you are good; if it were only possible for me to make you happy!

From Ossoli.

Rome, 21st October, 1848.
Mia Cara,--I learn by yours of the 20th that you have received the ten scudi, and it makes me more tranquil. I feel also Mogliani's indolence in not coming to [261] inoculate our child; but, my love, I pray you not to disturb yourself so much, and not to be sad, hoping that our dear love will be guarded by God, and will be free from all misfortunes. He will keep him for us and give us means to sustain him.

From Madame Ossoli.

Saturday Evening, 28th October, 1848.
... It rains very hard every day, but to-day I have been more quiet, and our darling has been so good, I have taken so much pleasure in being with him. When he smiles in his sleep, how it makes my heart beat! He has grown fat and very fair, and begins to play and spring. You will have much pleasure in seeing him again. He sends you many kisses. He bends his head toward me when he asks a kiss.

From Madame Ossoli, after being in Rome.

Rieti, 22d December, 1848.
My love,--I made the journey comfortably, and arrived here at half-past 4. I find our darling little changed,--much less than I expected. What surprises me is, that he appears fat enough, seems to be perfectly well, but is not much larger than when I left him. He has the same ways, is very graceful, but otherwise he is better than with me, sleeps well at night, rarely cries, and then not so violently. He is diverted in this family, seeing so many persons, and all play with him and seem to wish him well. The house is dreadful, the wind coming in on all sides, but he does not seem to take cold, and I hope that he will be stronger for being exposed so much in his first months. He has had the small-pox terribly; his head, his body have been covered with [262] spots; it is wholly by the favor of Heaven that he has passed through it so well. The physician, Mogliani, never came to visit him; his family say that I am avaricious. I suppose he thought it not worth the trouble to save our baby. His face is not injured. They have not changed the house yet, and I do not know if they will. They talk, in this house, of receiving ten scudi a month for one room. These Rietines are all alike. If I can do it without injury to my health, I shall remain here. I have received nothing from you this morning, and the family here had not received on Wednesday the letter which was put in the post the Saturday before. My letters never failed so before. I suppose it is the fault of the post. I shall write every post-day.

The baby salutes you with many kisses. He seemed to recollect me; when I took him, he rested his dear head so long on my shoulder. I took so much pleasure in sleeping with him last night. In the daytime it does not go on so well, it is smoky and cold. Farewell, my beloved, I will write a few lines on Sunday; all the details I will tell you when I come. Always thy


From Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, 27th March, 1849.
Mio Caro,--I found our treasure in the best health, and now so good! He goes to sleep all alone in bed, day or night. He is asleep now, sucking his little hand. He is very fat, but strangely small, his hair does not grow at all, and he still wears those horrid black caps.

At first all talked so loud, he looked at me all surprised, and cried a little. But when he was alone with me, he seemed to recollect me, and leaned and rubbed his forehead as in the first days.


From Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, 30th March, 1849.
... Yesterday the family were at dinner below, and our darling asleep above in bed. I was sitting at his side thinking how dear he was. Since I have bathed him and dressed him well, he has seemed like another child. Suddenly I heard tables and seats falling and the women screaming terribly, “Help!” I flew down, and there stood Niccola and Pietro [two brothers] trying to kill one another. I spoke to Niccola, he did not answer, but looked at me like a wild beast. The women held his arm so that he could not draw his knife; he seized their hair. Pietro, who had no knife, threw wood — a great piece just missed my head. All the neighbors ran in directly. The landlord of Niccola took away his knife, but if our baby had been below, he would probably have been killed. I am convinced that Niccola is a drunkard. I cannot tell you particulars in writing, but I want to see you.

From the same.-both in Rome.

Casa Dies, Friday, 4th May, 2 P. M.

Mio Caro,--I am going out at four, and return at six, and shall be here an hour. At half-past 7 I go to the hospitals, and hope to return at nine. If you come while I am gone out, wait for me, if possible, if not, come up and leave a word to say when you can come to-morrow morning. Do not fail to see me, I pray; it is terrible to pass so many uncertain hours without meeting. It is said that the Neapolitans do not advance, but all seems so uncertain. Always, always your M-. If ever you have need, send some one immediately, dearest; we can pay for this.


From the same.

Monday, June 5th [1849].
Mio Caro,--This morning I went to the garden of the Vatican at half-past 8; they sought you and said when they returned that you had gone out. I returned immediately home; but as you have not been here, I think it was a mistake. This evening I hope to be in the house at eight; if you come first, wait, I beg of you. Thank God that you are yet living. How much I suffered yesterday you can believe. Till we meet again, caro consorte, as that wicked Ser Giovanni always wrote. I go out, because I ought to go to the hospitals.

From the same.--no date.

How hard it was for me, love, to miss you yesterday, and possibly also to-day, if you can come. I am going to Casa Dies; if possible, inquire there, the last floor, if I am still there or have gone to the hospitals. God keep you! How much I have suffered in seeing the wounded, and I cannot know if anything should happen to you — but I must hope. I have received the letter from Rieti; our Nino is perfectly well, thanks for this. It does me good that the Romans have at least done something, if only you can remain. In event of the death of both, I have left a paper with a certificate in regard to Angelino, and some lines praying the Storys to take care of him. If by any accident I die, you can revoke this paper if you will, from me, as being your wife. I have wished Nino to go to America, but you will do as seems best to you. We ought to have planned this better, but I hope that it will not be needed. Always, with benedictions, your


If you live, and I die, be always most devoted to Nino. If you ever love another, think first for him, I pray, pray, love.

This last imploring caution was never needed.

1 Of these two brief notes,--the first dictated to a scribe and taken down by him more or less accurately, and the second written in pencil by herself,--I give the Italian originals, kindly copied for me by Miss Edith Fuller, the niece of Madame Ossoli.

Rieti, 7 Settembre, 1848.
Caro Consorte,--Io sto bene, molto meglio che io sperava il Bambino anche va bene ma piange molto ancora, e spero che saro piu tranquillo quando tu vieni. Per altro voglio che per me sei tranquillo, e ti daro spesso mie nuove, scrivendoti di nuovo ben presto. La mia lettera che hai per Parigi potrai affrancarla alla Posta.

Tutti di questa famiglia dove io mi trovo ti salutano. Dandoti un abbraccio, ed un bagio in questo caro Pupo che ho nelle braccia sono.

Vra affma Margherita.

Mio Bene,--Scrivo nel letto alcune parole solamente. Ricevo tuo questa mattina, e spero altro per domani. Son stata male col febbre di latte ma oggi meglio e spero tutti i giorni stare piu forte. C'e di bisogno; son d'obbligo oggi inviare Giuditta in Roma, lei non puo fare niente adesso. Io prendo una che ha anche latte si mio non basta. Il bambino e molto bello, tutti dicon cosi, Io prendo molto piacere riguardarlo. Lui ti da un bacio come anche tua


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