Imagens das páginas


poem theology: but how preposterous such suppositions are, is, I flatter myself, made already quite apparent. I have quoted his own assertion that the Beatrice of his Convito, she who still was in possession of the 'fortress of his mind', was the selfsame Beatrice of whom he had spoken in his Vita nuova quella donna gentile di cui feci raenzione nella Vita nuova: one half then of the strange hypothesis is contradicted by Dante himself; and, if I cannot produce his own words to contradict the other half just as flatly, it is because he had no opportunity of speaking them, having never commented the Divine Comedy. But it follows clearly from analogy, that, if in two of his compositions is meant one and the same lady, she also is in the third. Nothing could overturn this argu meat but evidence either literally conveyed by some passage in the works of Dante, or strictly implied by it. This is so far from being the case, that all his expressions are not only consistent with the analogy but in general corroborate it. Beatrice therefore, in each composition of our poet, means, in a literal sense, the same object of his young love, Beatrice Portinari, and, in an allegorical sense, the same 'eldest daughter of Jehovah' ( whether denominated theology, or supreme philosophy) whom he had represented to himself in the shape

of his Beatrice e imaginava lei fatta come quella

donna gentile.

Francesco da Buti pretends she was a daughter

<U>tO II.

of an Emperor of Constantinople, adding with ludicrous presumption, that this discovery was entirely his own , not arising from any thing to that effect in the text, but from his recollecting that the said Potentate had a child of the said appellation—perche neltesto non n'eparola (0. But really the whims and perplexities of the commentators are too tantalizing to unravel them all. Chronology, the polar star of true criticism, is so far from serving as their guide that they appear to scorn attending to it; and the consequence is, that the only way to get clear of a labyrinth is to begin by expunging every one of their dates and setting out afresh with Dante's various works on one hand, and on the other the chronicles and legal documents of that time, along with a few of the very oldest comments or rather fragments of comments, which 1 noticed heretofore (»). For instance even the late Pelli, correct as he is esteemed by Ginguene who follows him without reserve, produces in a short passage such an assortment of palpable inconsistencies, as might pass for gross errors of the press, if they did not pervade both the text and the note attached to it, and if this note were not made for the purpose of taxing Boccaccio with negligence.'Beatrice died in her twenty-sixth year on the ninth of June iago (3)', is the text. This is the

(i) Prose antiche. Pref. xiv.

(a) Comment. Hell. Canto i. p. a5.

(3) .... met a6 anno delteta sua. Mem. per la vita <li Dante p. 65.


note appended to it: 'Boccaccio writes that Beatrice when she died was in her twenty-fourth year; but that is false ma cio e falso; for, considering that Dante fell in love with her towards the close of his ninth year, it follows that it was about April i:174, ne being born in May ia65; and the same Dante telling us that Beatrice had entered her ninth year a little before then, who does not clearly see that she must have been born in the said month of April iu65, and that in June ia90 she must have fully completed twenty-six years of age (0?' But, far from seeing clearly, I ask who can understand any thing of all this? In the text, she died in her twenty-sixth year; in the note, after having fully completed twenty-six years of age , ergo when she was in her twenty-seventh year. First, she is nearly a year younger than Dante entering her ninth when he was closing

his ninth year; secondly, as a month older than

him being born in April and he in May

of the self-same year ia63; thirdly, as a year older than him having fully completed twenty-six years when he was only entering them . The same identical page therefore represents him, and with the same tone of decision, as her senior by a year, as her junior by a month, and as her junior by a whole twelvemonth. Again, she is said to have entered her ninth year a little before April

(i) .... aveva »6 anni compiti. Mem. per la vita di Dante, p. 65.

turn it.

i274, when she would, on the contrary, have been on the point of closing it, were the other assertion not incorrect of her having been born in May ia65. But let that pass: and turn to the conclusion which undertakes to rectify Boccaccio this latter saying that when Beatrice died in June ia9o she was in her twenty-fourth year, and Pelli that she was twenty six years old . Dante was truly born in May ia65; so that Beatrice who was about a year younger (in Dante's words she was entering her ninth when he was closing his ninth year ) must have been born in or about May the first i266; but probably on the first itself, from the circumstance of the ball which, 1 before remarked (0, her father gave on that day, and which heing a usual birth-day commemoration in distinguished families, was more likely to be given on the anniversary of her birth than on any other day within the week or fortnight, and within the week or fortnight, either immediately before or after the first of May, she must have been born , according to that phrase of Dante's. Then from May ia66 to May ia67 she was still in her first year; therefore during the first four months of 1290 she was still in her twenty-fourth . She entered her twenty-fifth however in or about May the first, so that on the ninth of the following month she certainly had outlived her twenty-fourth by

(Op. 9*.

<:.\•to ii.

some days or weeks. Boccaccio then by saying she died in her twenty-fourth is not mathematically precise, but makes her a week or two younger than the truth; but the impugner, who accuses him of speaking false, makes her a couple of years too old by asserting she had then completed twenty-six years of age. The slightest correction of the press, and Boccaccio's date is geometrically exact: but, to correct the other's laboured incongruities the entire passage must be expunged. Yet I do not enter into these details, either to blame Pelli, or from any weight that I attach to the nice ascertainment of the dying lady's age; but I select his book to exemplify the inaccuracy, not to say slovenliness , of writers on Dante as to dates , exactly because I think Pelli a very satisfactory biographer in several other respects,and because he has obtained the reputation of being very accurate; and I trouble my readers with this digression, in order to merit their confidence for the future. For, if I show that such a man as Pelli who professedly undertakes to give a long, minute, chronological memoir on the life of Dante, is quite inexact on the very point on which he had chosen to display himself at issue with Boccaccio , I may reasonably hope, that on various future occasions I shall have credit for prefering Boccaccio to many modern critics and commentators of less reputation than Pelli, and for even frequently dissenting from these latter, without being always under the

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