My Ten Years’imprisonment

Author: Silvio Pellico

Chapter XXIII.

I followed the jailer in silence. After turning through a number of passages, and several large rooms, we arrived at a small staircase, which brought us under the Piombi, those notorious state prisons, dating from the time of the Venetian republic.

There the jailer first registered my name, and then locked me up in the room appointed for me. The chambers called I Piombi consist of the upper portion of the Doge’s palace, and are covered throughout with lead.

My room had a large window with enormous bars, and commanded a view of the roof (also of lead), and the church, of St. Mark. Beyond the church I could discern the end of the Piazza in the distance, with an immense number of cupolas and belfries on all sides. St. Mark’s gigantic Campanile was separated from me only by the length of the church, and I could hear persons speaking from the top of it when they talked at all loud. To the left of the church was to be seen a portion of the grand court of the palace, and one of the chief entrances. There is a public well in that part of the court, and people were continually in the habit of going thither to draw water. From the lofty site of my prison they appeared to me about the size of little children, and I could not at all hear their conversation, except when they called out very loud. Indeed, I found myself much more solitary than I had been in the Milanese prisons.

During several days the anxiety I suffered from the criminal trial appointed by the special commission, made me rather melancholy, and it was increased, doubtless, by that painful feeling of deeper solitude.

I was here, moreover, further removed from my family, of whom I heard no more. The new faces that appeared wore a gloom at once strange and appalling. Report had greatly exaggerated the struggle of the Milanese and the rest of Italy to recover their independence; it was doubted if I were not one of the most desperate promoters of that mad enterprise. I found that my name, as a writer, was not wholly unknown to my jailer, to his wife, and even his daughter, besides two sons, and the under-jailers, all of whom, by their manner, seemed to have an idea that a writer of tragedies was little better than a kind of magician. They looked grave and distant, yet as if eager to learn more of me, had they dared to waive the ceremony of their iron office.

In a few days I grew accustomed to their looks, or rather, I think, they found I was not so great a necromancer as to escape through the lead roofs, and, consequently, assumed a more conciliating demeanour. The wife had most of the character that marks the true jailer; she was dry and hard, all bone, without a particle of heart, about forty, and incapable of feeling, except it were a savage sort of instinct for her offspring. She used to bring me my coffee, morning and afternoon, and my water at dinner. She was generally accompanied by her daughter, a girl of about fifteen, not very pretty, but with mild, compassionating looks, and her two sons, from ten to thirteen years of age. They always went back with their mother, but there was a gentle look and a smile of love for me upon their young faces as she closed the door, my only company when they were gone. The jailer never came near me, except to conduct me before the special commission, that terrible ordeal for what are termed crimes of state.

The under-jailers, occupied with the prisons of the police, situated on a lower floor, where there were numbers of robbers, seldom came near me. One of these assistants was an old man, more than seventy, but still able to discharge his laborious duties, and to run up and down the steps to the different prisons; another was a young man about twenty-five, more bent upon giving an account of his love affairs than eager to devote himself to his office.


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Chicago: Silvio Pellico, "Chapter XXIII.," My Ten Years’imprisonment, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Roscoe, Thomas, 1791-1871 in My Ten Years’imprisonment (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed July 20, 2024,

MLA: Pellico, Silvio. "Chapter XXIII." My Ten Years’imprisonment, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Roscoe, Thomas, 1791-1871, in My Ten Years’imprisonment, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 20 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Pellico, S, 'Chapter XXIII.' in My Ten Years’imprisonment, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, My Ten Years’imprisonment, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 20 July 2024, from