My Ten Years’imprisonment

Author: Silvio Pellico

Chapter LXXXIV.

Thrice, during my incarceration at Spielberg, there arrived persons of high rank to inspect the dungeons, and ascertain that there was no abuse of discipline. The first visitor was the Baron Von Munch, who, struck with compassion on seeing us so sadly deprived of light and air, declared that he would petition in our favour, to have a lantern placed over the outside of the pane in our dungeon doors, through which the sentinels could at any moment perceive us. His visit took place in 1825, and a year afterwards his humane suggestion was put in force. By this sepulchral light we could just catch a view of the walls, and prevent our knocking our heads in trying to walk. The second visit was that of the Baron Von Vogel. He found me in a lamentable state of health; and learning that the physician had declared that coffee would be very good for me, and that I could not obtain it, as being too great a luxury, he interested himself for me, and my old, delightful beverage, was ordered to be brought me. The third visit was from a lord of the court, with whose name I am not acquainted, between fifty and sixty years of age, and who, by his manners as well as his words, testified the sincerest compassion for us; at the same time lamenting that he could do nothing for us. Still, the expression of his sympathy—for he was really affected—was something, and we were grateful for it.

How strange, how irresistible, is the desire of the solitary prisoner to behold some one of his own species! It amounts almost to a sort of instinct, as if in order to avoid insanity, and its usual consequence, the tendency to self-destruction. The Christian religion, so abounding in views of humanity, forgets not to enumerate amongst its works of mercy the visiting of the prisoner. The mere aspect of man, his look of commiseration, and his willingness, as it were, to share with you, and bear a part of your heavy burden, even when you know he cannot relieve you, has something that sweetens your bitter cup.

Perfect solitude is doubtless of advantage to some minds, but far more so if not carried to an extreme, and relieved by some little intercourse with society. Such at least is my constitution. If I do not behold my fellow-men, my affections become restricted to too confined a circle, and I begin to dislike all others; while, if I continue in communication with an ordinary number, I learn to regard the whole of mankind with affection.

Innumerable times, I am sorry to confess, I have been so exclusively occupied with a few, and so averse to the many, as to be almost terrified at the feelings I experienced. I would then approach the window, desirous of catching some new features, and thought myself happy when the sentinel passed not too closely to the wall, if I got a single glance of him, or if he lifted up his head upon hearing me cough—more especially if he had a good-natured countenance; when he showed the least feeling of pity, I felt a singular emotion of pleasure, as if that unknown soldier had been one of my intimate friends.

If, the next time, he passed by in a manner that prevented my seeing him, or took no notice of me, I felt as much mortified as some poor lover, when he finds that the beloved object wholly neglects him.


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Chicago: Silvio Pellico, "Chapter LXXXIV.," 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 March 20, 2023,

MLA: Pellico, Silvio. "Chapter LXXXIV." 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 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Pellico, S, 'Chapter LXXXIV.' 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 March 2023, from