Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Two memorials

In St. Anne's Gardens, in Wardour St (one of those churchyards now laid out as a small park), there are memorials to two characters who couldn't be more different.

On the one hand, William Hazlitt, a serious-minded essayist and man of letters, who (according to the imposing modern memorial tablet)
lived to see his deepest wishes gratified as he has expressed them in his Essay on the Fear of Death, viz.
'To see the downfall of the Bourbons and some prospect of good to mankind' (Charles X was driven from France 29th July 1830)
'To leave some sterling work to the world' (He lived to complete his life of Napoleon)

and so it continues with similar solemnity, concluding "He lived and died the unconquered Champion of Truth, Liberty and Humanity".

But on the other hand there is a plaque to Theodore, King of Corsica, who seems to have lived up to Soho's more familiar raffish reputation. He died some 40 years before Hazlitt's birth
immediately after leaving the Kings Bench Prison by the benefit of the Act of Insolvency in consequence of which he registered his Kingdom of Corsica for the use of his creditors.

You might think this indicates some eighteenth-century con-man of the kind that even cons himself, but apparently not. He was a German soldier of fortune who persuaded a band of Corsican rebels against Genoese control that he could lead their battles and free them - if they would make him their king, which they duly did. The enterprise didn't last for more than a few months, despite repeated subsequent attempts on his part to regain control of the island from the French and the Genoese; ultimately, the debtors' prison and death caught up with him. The bereft Corsicans went on to create their own republic, before discovering the Genoese had sold them to the French monarchy (and later that their French fellow-revolutionaries considered republicanism an even greater reason for considering them part of France, which led some Corsicans to support a British protectorate with George III as nominal King - whether anyone in Britain thought that might get Theodore's debts repaid, I have no idea).

Theodore, meanwhile, became the hero of an opera.

1 comment:

  1. Well, it seems some Corsicans just wanted to stay protected by a German, even a genuine Royal in the person of George III.

    I love Theodore, he could have lived at any time in history.

    PS: Did I tell you about 'Kaffee Muckefuck’ in my hometown?