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Glimpse of Corsica

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Something about Corte, the Capital of the Island.

The Place Designated for Captain Dreyfus' Imprisonment prior to His Pardon—Ancient Citadel Made Famous by Paoli.

[Special Correspondence.]

Corte, Corsica, Sept. 15.This ancient and sleepy city, about which there clings a flavor of romance and poetry, of heroism and brigandage, was awakened from its lethargy by the information from Paris that Captain Dreyfus, who has just been adjudged guilty of treason, was to be imprisoned here, probably in the old citadel which, in the days of Pasquale Paoli, was the seat of the Corsican government during the brief period of its independence.

There is very much to interest and attract one here on this historic island, brought again into prominence by the proposition to send hither Captain Dreyfus for imprisonment. This city, with a population of about 5,000, is in the center of the island, imposingly perched upon an abrupt bluff. The frowning mountains which surround the city, covered at this season of the year with a somber coat of deep brown, and the massive fortress placed on steep and well nigh inaccessible rocks give the city a decidedly stern appearance. Through the deep and rugged gorges between the mountain sides rush two rivers, the Rostonica [Restonica] and the Tavignano. At the point of their confluence lies Corte.

The citadel, where it is here understood Dreyfus is to be confined, was formerly a prison for captive Arabs. It stands on a precipitous rock overhanging the river Tavignano and in earlier days was regarded as an impregnable fortress. Associated with it is much of the history of the island, going back as far as the sixteenth century, when its foundations were laid by Vincentello d'Istria, who was the viceroy of Corsica, representing King Martin of Aragon.

The city and the citadel of Corte, however, derive their greatest interest from the association with them of Pasquale Paoli, the last and greatest of the Corsican leaders in their wars against the Genoese and the French, and here he held his court during the 14 years of his dictatorship, from 1755 to 1769. His statue stands in the market place, and his house can be visited. It is now used for a college, but the study and bedroom of Paoli are still kept as they were in his lifetime, the shutters of the windows lined with cork as a protection against firearms. It is a large, old mansion, looking like a fortress.

While brigandage in Corsica is practically at an end, one cannot help recalling the days of the picturesque brigands and the vendetta. The brigands of Corsica were attractive, at least from a romantic point of view. They were not common highwaymen and freebooters, urged by greed and idleness to live upon their fellow men, nor were they refugees from a despotic government.

Like Robin Hood and the Saxon outlaws, their existence was mainly the result of the terrible custom of la vendettathe private vengeance and hereditary feuds of the island families.

From one generation to another this custom has come down, and the result has been bloodshed and devastation to an incredible degree. No matter how the feud beganit might be by some slighting word, a trifling quarrelbut out would come the too ready weapon, and a murder was the result. This death must be avenged by the nearest relative of the deceased or indeed by any relative. If the murderer had escaped, some member of his family was slain. The connections took up the quarrel. Henceforth, to use the expressive phrase of the country, there was blood between the families.

Many romances have been written founded on this custom, as "The Corsican Brothers" and a tale of great interest by Professor Merimee, called "Colomba," the heroine of which was drawn from life, for even the women felt themselves bound to avenge the husband or son by their own hand or by their urgency or exhortations brought down the longed for retaliation. The dreadful results went beyond even the bounds of romance and were frequently the cause of civil war.

In Corte is still pointed out the house where once lived Charles Bonaparte, the father of Napoleon, whose birth at Ajaccio, some 80 kilometers southwest from here, gives the island of Corsica its greatest fame.

Emil Durant.