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pay the severe mulct of the confiscation of all his property and outlawry for life for the part which he had taken in politics. Yet he wa3 never minister to an Emperor, in whose archives his letters (like those of one of his predecessors, Pietro della Vigna) might have been pre" served; nor ever condescended to become an avowed leader of any of the factions of the day, by whom his writings might have been enthusiastically treasured up. Scarcely half a dozen of his letters have come down to us; but these show, that he was in the habits of intimacy with great Potentates on every interesting question. To the Emperor, to the Cardinals, to the Republic of Florence, to the Lords of

Verona, and of Ravenna, etc. these were the

persons to whom the few of his letters, or scraps of letters, which are extant were addressed. Neither Guelphs, nor Ghibellines, nor Blacks, nor Whites could look to him as an implicit adherent, but were alike most conscious that he was ready to oppose their sanguinary acts; the Monarchu, though written in defence of the temporal superiority of the Emperor, could not have obtained his assent, since it denied him an armed authority and (what was worse) a right to levy taxes on the Italian municipalities; and the Pope, although devotion to his spiritual supremacy was most striking in Dante , could not forgive his opposition to his temporal pretensions: with all these more or less his foes, the wonder is not that so few traces of his political career remain, but that any of them do; and most extraordinary must his merits have been, who, depending on no faction at that factious period, could acquire universal reputation on his intrinsic worth alone. Nor do I speak of him as a poet. M. Sismondi is incorrect in stating that his political eminence was an exaggeration of after ages. He had barely expired, when that eminence was emphatically avowed in writings that are still in being: and it was, on the contrary, by those of after ages that it was called in question. When Boccaccio and his immediate predecessors and successors wrote, Dante's superiority as a Politician and Theologian was valued higher than as a poet; and for this, the spiritual parts of his works were explained in the churches, and the political in the public schools of Florence, Bologna, Pisa, Lucca all the free republics

of Italy. A slight sketch of his life may be a necessary preliminary to some, and no inconvenient one to most readers.

It was at a period when the Italian republics were in full possession of their boasted, though insecure, feverish independence — when the sanguinary struggle between Guelphs and Ghii)ellines and the Imperial and Papal factions was at its height — ere the modern literature was begotten, or the ancient had emerged from the hiding-places of the monasteries — while the fine arts, under Cimabue, were rather in the very first state of embryo than of existence

it was during this chaos of society, in ia65,

that the descendants of one of those old Roman families (the purest source from which any of our European nobility spring) who founded Fiesole, and, after its destruction, established themselves at Florence, produced a son, who was to have a wider and more beneficial influence over the world than any of his Latin ancestors ever had; for he was to give immediate birth to almost all arts and sciences, and to bring at least one of them (poetry) to a high point of perfection: a personage to whom mankind owes much, even in those improvements which appear to be of recent origin, and to whom it has never ceased, more or less, through so many successive centuries, to confess its debt of gratitude — Dante Alighieri . He was an eldest son, and had one brother and sister. How long his mother survived, is not known: but his father certainly died during his boyhood. He had however for preceptor, Brunetto Latini; so that he received as good an education as was then to be had. His love of letters ( which was so remarkable that he was known as an author, before he was ten years old) did not prevent his eager participation in the exercises and amusements of youth; so, that, he was a good musician, swordsman , horseman , falconer , etc. He was a warm admirer of the fairest portion of creation; and the individual for whom he felt the passion of Love, in all its most romantic Platonic purity, continued inseparably linked with most of his thoughts, words and writings, from even his infancy up to his death; so that, with the mere exception of his political and grammatical treatises and his translations from the Bible, it were not easy to find a single composition of his, in which she is not either directly named, or implicitly hinted at; and in all his grand productions she occupies the first post of honor. She however died before he was twenty-six: and he was at last induced to marry, in order not to be wanting as a citizen. He was (like most young Florentines) brought up a soldier; and had already risen to a distinguished post ere the battle of Campaldino, in 1290. This however did not prevent his diplomatic career; and, ere his thirty-second year, he had been

sent on ten or twelve different embassies

not only to various Italian courts, but into Sicily and France. Through the different gradations of office, he at last was elected a Prior, or head magistrate of Florence, in i3oo. He was then in his thirty-fifth year. Besides the Guelphs and Ghibellines , other sanguinary factions now appeared —the Blacks and Whites. These he endeavoured to restrain , but in vain: and the event was, that, on the Blacks becoming triumphant two years after, ( by the aid of the Pope, and of a French army) Dante was ejected for ever from his native city. From that period, he continued rambling up and down Italy and France ( once even he came into England); and at last died at Ravenna in r321. His earliest productions were songs; in his youth he composed his Vita Nuova, which is a mixture of prose and verse: so that he had acquired high literary fame before commencing his great poem, The Divine Comedy. This he began between twenty and thirty, and had scarcely finished when he died: so it occupied above twenty years in the composition. While composing it, however, he was not only engaged in wars, politics, and travelling, but wrote a variety of minor works — a long treatise on

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