Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

many of his solitary hours, and the captive could have been sky threatened a thunder-storm.These superstitions may but little embarrassed to reply to accusations, where, amongst be received without a speer in a country where the magical other delinquencies, he was charged with invidiously omitting, properties of the hazel twig have not lost all their credit ; aná in his comparison between France and Italy, to make any perhaps the reader may not be much surprised to find that a mention of the cupola of St. Maria del Fiore at Florence. ! commentator on Suetonius has taken upon himself gravely The late biographer of Ariosto seems as if willing to renew to disprove the imputed virtues of the crown of Tiberius, by the controversy by doubting the interpretation of Tasso's mentioning that a few years before he wrote a laurel was self-estimation a related in Serassi's life of the poet. But actually struck by lightning at Rome. S Tiraboschi had before laid that rivalry at rest3 by showing, that between Ariosto and Tasso it is not a question of comparison, but of preference.

No. XIII. “ K’now that the lightning sanctifies below." - Stanza xli.

The Curtian lake and the Ruminal fig-tree in the Forum, No. XI. — ARIOSTO.

having been touched by lightning, were held sacred, and the The lightning rent from Ariosto's bust,

memory of the accident was preserved by a puteal, or altar The iron crown of laurel's mimick'd leaves."

resembling the mouth of a well, with a little chapel covering Stanza xli.

the cavity supposed to be made by the thunderbolt. Bodies Before the remains of Ariosto were removed from the

scathed and persons struck dead were thought to be inBenedictine church to the library of Ferrara, his bust, which corruptible'; and a stroke not fatal conferred perpetual surmounted the tomb, was struck by lightning, and a crown dignity upon the man so distinguished by heaven. 10 of iron laurels melted away. The event has been recorded Those killed by lightning were wrapped in a white garment, by a writer of the last century. 4 The transfer of these

and buried where they fell. The superstition was not consacred ashes, on the 6th of June, 1801, was one of the most

fined to the worshippers of Jupiter: the Lombards believed brilliant spectacles of the short-lived Italian republic; and in the omens furnished by lightning ; and a Christian priest to consecrate the memory of the ceremony, the once famous

confesses that, by a diabolical skill in interpreting thunder, a fallen Intrepidi were revived and reformed into the Ariostean

seer foretold to Agilulf, duke of Turin, an event which came academy. The large public place through which the pro- to pass, and gave him a queen and a crown. There was, cession paraded was then for the first time called Ariosto

however, something equivocal in this sign, which the ancient Square. The author of the Orlando is jealously claimed as inhabitants of Rome did not always consider propitious; and, the Homer, not of Italy, but Ferrara. 5 The mother of

as the fears are likely to last longer than the consolations of Ariosto was of Reggio, and the house in which he was born superstition, it is not strange that the Romans of the age of is carefully distinguished by a tablet with these words: “Qui Leo X. should have been so much terrified at some mis. nacque Ludovico Ariosto il giorno 8. di Settembre dell'anno interpreted storms as to require the exhortations of a scholar, 1474." But the Ferrarese make light of the accident by which who arrayed all the learning on thunder and lightning to their poet was born abroad, and claim him exclusively for prove the omen favourable ; beginning with the flash which their own. They possess his bones, they show his arm-chair, struck the walls of Velitræ, and including that which played and his inkstand, and his autographs.

upon a gate at Florence, and foretold the pontificate of one Hic illius arma,

of its citizens. 12 Hic currus fuit ...... The house where he lived, the room where he died, are designated by his own replaced memorial 6, and by a recent

No. XIV. — THE VENUS OF MEDICIS. inscription. The Ferrarese are more jealous of their claims since the animosity of Denina, arising from a cause which There, too, the Goddess loves in stone."- Stanza xlix. their apologists mysteriously hint is not unknown to them, ventured to degrade their soil and climate to a Baotian

The view of the Venus of Medicis instantly suggests the incapacity for all spiritual productions. A quarto volume has

lines in the Seasons, and the comparison of the object with been called forth by the detraction, and this supplement to

the description proves, not only the correctness of the porBarotti's Memoirs of the illustrious Ferrarese has been con

trait, but the peculiar turn of thought, and, if the term may sidered a triumphant reply to the “ Quadro Storico Statis

be used, the sexual imagination of the descriptive poet. The tico dell' Alta Italia.”

same conclusion may be deduced from another hint in the same episode of Musidora; for Thomson's notion of the privileges of favoured love must have been either very primi.

tive, or rather deficient in delicacy, when he made his grateful No. XII. — ANCIENT SUPERSTITIONS RESPECTING

nymph inform her discreet Damon that in some happier

moment he might perhaps be the companion of her bath :LIGHTNING.

“ The time may come you need not Ay." " For the true laurel-wreath which Glory weares Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves.' - Stanza xli.

The reader will recollect the anecdote told in the Life of

Dr. Johnson. We will not leave the Florentine gallery The eagle, the sea call, the laurel, and the white vine, were without a word on the Whelter. It seems strange that the amongst the .nost approved preservatives against lightning: character of that disputed statue should not be entirely deJupiter chose the first, Augustus Cæsar the second, and cided, at least in the mind of any one who has seen a sarTiberius never failed to wear a wreath of the third when the cophagus in the vestibule of the Basilica of St. Paul without

[ocr errors]

1 " Contanto poté sempre in lui il veleno della sua pessima volontà contro alla nazion Fiorentina." La Vita, lib. iii. pp. 96. 98. tom. u.

6

" Parva sed apta mihi, sed nulli obnoxia, sed non

Sordida, paria meo sed tamen ære domu. 7 Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. il. cap. 55. Columella, lib. 1. Sueton. in Vit. August. cap. ic. et in Vit. Tiberii, cap. lxii.

2 La Vita di M. L. Arionto, scritta dall' Abate Girolamo Baruffaldi Giuniore, &c. Ferrara, 1807, lib. iii. p. 262. See “ Historical Illustra. Lions," &c. p. 26.

3 Storia della Lett. &c. lib. lit. tom. vii. par. lii. p. 1220. sect. 4.

4 Op di Bianconi, vol. iii. p. 176. ed. Milano, 1802 : lettera al Signor Guido Savini Arcitisiocrilico, sull' indole di un fulmine caduto in Dresda l'anno 1759.

5 " Appassionata ammiratore ed invitto apologista dell' Ownera Ferrarese." The title was tot given by Tasko, and is quoted to the confusion of the Tassisti, lib. iii. pp. 262. 265. La Vita di . L. Ariosto, &c.

8 Note 2. p. 403. edit. Lugd. Bat. 1667. 9 Vid. J. C. Bullenger, de Terræ Motu et Fulminib. lib. 1. cap. xl. 10 Ουδείς κιραυνωθείς άτιμος ίστι, όθεν και ως 9ος τιμάται. Plut. Sympos, vid. J. C. Bulleng, ut sup. 11 Puli Diaconi de Gestis Langobard. lib. lit. cap. xir.

12 1. P. Valeriani de fulminum significationibus declinatio, ap. Gireer. Antiq. Rom. tom. v. p. 593. The declamation to addressed to Julian of Medicis.

the walls, at Rome, where the whole group of the fable of Marsyas is seen in tolerable preservation; and the Scythian slave whetting the knife is represented exactly in the same position as this celebrated masterpiece. The slave is not naked; but it is easier to get rid of this difficulty than to suppose the knife in the hand of the Florentine statue an instrument for shaving, which it must be, if, as Lanzi supposes, the man is no other than the barber of Julius Cæsar. Winkelmann, illustrating a bas-relief of the same subject, follows the opinion of Leonard Agostini, and his authority might have been thought conclusive, even if the resemblance did not strike the most careless observer.' Amongst the bronzes of the same princely collection is still to be seen the inscribed tablet copied and commented upon by Mr. Gibbon.2 Our historian found some difficulties, but did not desist from his illustration : he might be vexed to hear that his criticism has been thrown away on an inscription now generally recognised to be a sorgery.

ever varied, and always pleased, the creator of which, dirested of the ambition and the arts of public rivalry, sbobe foreb only to give fresh animation to those around her. The mother tenderly affectionate and tenderly beloved, the friend unboundedly generous, but still esteemed, the charitable patroness of all distress, cannot be forgotten by those whom she cherished, and protected, and fed. Her loss will be mourned the most where she was known the best ; and, to the sorrows of very many friends, and more dependents, Day be offered the disinterested regret of a stranger, wbo, amids the sublimer scenes of the Leman lake, received his chief satisfaction from contemplating the engaging qualities of the incomparable Corinna.

No. XV. - MADAME DE STAEL. " In Santa Croce's holy precincts lie." - Stanza lis. This name will recall the memory, not only of those whose tombs hare raised the Santa Croce into the centre of pilgrimage, the Mecca of Italy, but of her whose eloquence was poured over the illustrious ashes, and whose voice is now as mute as those she sung. CORINNA is no more ; and with her should expire the fear, the Mattery, and the envy, which threw too dazzling or too dark a cloud round the march of genius, and forbad the steady gaze of disinterested criticism. We have her picture embellished or distorted, as friendship or detraction has held the pencil : the impartial portrait was hardly to be expected from a contemporary. The immediate voice of her survivors will, it is probable, be far from affording a just estimate of her singular capacity. The gallantry, the love of wonder, and the hope of associated fame, which blunted the edge of censure, must cease to exist. — The dead have no sex ; they can surprise by no new miracles; they can confer no privilege : Corinna has ceased to be a woman - she is only an author: and it may be foreseen that many will repay themselves for former complaisance, by a severity to which the extravagance of previous praises may perhaps give the colour of truth. The latest posterity, for to the latest posterity they will assuredly descend, will hare to pro. nounce upon her various productions; and the longer the vista through which they are seen, the more accurately minute will be the object, the more certain the justice, of the decision. She will enter into that existence in which the great writers of all ages and nations are, as it were, associated in a world of their own, and, from that superior sphere, shed their eternal influence for the control and consolation of mankind. But the individual will gradually disappear as the author is more distinctly seen : some one, therefore, of all those whom the charms of involuntary wit, and of easy hos. pitality, attracted within the friendly circles of Coppet, should rescue from oblivion those virtues which, although they are said to love the shade, are, in fact, more frequently chilled than excited by the domestic cares of private lise. Some one should be found to portray the unaffected graces with which she adorned those dearer relationships, the performance of whose duties is rather discovered amongst the interior secrets, than seen in the outward management, of family intercourse ; and which, indeed, it requires the delicacy of genuine affection to qualify for the eye of an indifferent spectator. Some one should be found, not to celebrate, but to describe, the amiable mistress of an open mansion, the centre of a society

No. XVI. - ALFIERI.

Here repose Angelo's, Alfieri's bones." - Stanza liv. Alfieri is the great name of this age. The Italians, witb. out waiting for the hundred years, consider him as “ a poet good in law." – His memory is the more dear to them because he is the bard of freedom ; and because, as such, his tragedies can receive no countenance from any of their sore. reigns. They are but very seldom, and but rery few of them, allowed to be acted. It was observed by Cicero, that nowhere were the true opinions and feelings of the Romans so clearly shown as at the theatre. In the autumn of 1816, a celebrated improvisatore exhibited his talents at the Operahouse of Milan. The reading of the theses banded in for the subjects of his poetry was received by a very numerous audience, for the most part in silence, or with laughter; but when the assistant, unfolding one of the papers, exclaimed The apotheosis of Victor Alfieri, the whole theatre burst into a shout, and the applause was continued for some moments. The lot did not fall on Alfieri ; and the Signor Sgricci had to pour forth his extemporary common-places on the bombard. ment of Algiers. The choice, indeed, is not left to accident quite so much as might be thought from a first view of the ceremony ; and the police not only takes care to look at the papers beforehand, but, in case of any prudential afterthought, steps in to correct the blindness of chance. The proposals for deifying Alfieri was received with immediate enthusiasm, the rather because it was conjectured there would be no opportunity of carrying it into effect.

No. XVII. – MACHIAVELLI. " Here Machiavelli's earth return'd to whence it rose."

Stanza liv. The affectation of simplicity in sepulchral inscriptions, which so often leares us uncertain whether the structure before us is an actual depository, or a cenotaph, or a simple memorial not of death but life, has given to the tomb of Ma. chiavelli no information as to the place or time of the birth or death, the age or parentage, of the historian.

TANTO NOMINI NVLLVM PAR ELOGIEN

NICCOLAVS MACHIAVELLI. There seems at least no reason why the name should not have been put above the sentence which alludes to it.

It will readily be imagined that the prejudices which have passed the name of Machiavelli into an epithet proverbial or iniquity exist no longer at Florence. His memory was per. secuted, as his life had been, for an attachment to liberty

1 See Monim. Ant. Ined. par. I. cap. xvii. n. ilii. pag. 30.; and Storia dell, Arti, &c. lib. Ii. cap. i. tom. ii. pag. 314. not. B.

2 Nomina gentesque antiquæ Italiæ, p. 201. edit. oct.
3 The free expression of their honest sentiments survived their liberties.
Titius, the friend of Antons, persented them with games in the theatre of
Pompey. They did not sutter the prilliincy of the spectacle to ette from
their nemory that the man who furnished them with the entertainment

had murdered the son of Pompey: they drove him from the theatre rib
curses. The moral sense of a populace, spontaneously erressed, retet
wrong. Even the soldiers of the triumviri joined in the eteration of the
citizens, hy shouting round the chariots of ledus and Plarcus, who
proscribedlincirlerothers, De Germaniam de Gullit du trimplest Can's;
å sving worth a record, were it nothing but a good pan. (t. V.L'. Paret.
culi Hi-t. lib. ii. cap. LXXI. pag. 75. edit. Elzevir. 1639. Ibail. wb.
cap. uri.

incompatible with the new system of despotism which succeeded the fall of the free governments of Italy. He was put to the torture for being a " libertine," that is, for wishing to restore the republic of Florence ; and such are the undying efforts of those who are interested in the perversion, not only of the nature of actions, but the meaning of words, that what was once patriotism, has by degrees come to signify debauch. We have ourselves outlived the old meaning of

liberality," which is uow another word for treason in one country and for infatuation in all. It seems to have been a strange mistake to accuse the author of " The Prince," as being a pander to tyranny; and to think that the Inquisition would condemn his work for such a delinquency. The fact is, that Machiavelli, as is usual with those against whom no crime can be proved, was suspected of and charged with atheism ; and the first and last most violent opposers of “ The Prince" were both Jesuits, one of whom persuaded the Inquisition “ benchè fosse tardo," to prohibit the treatise, and the other qualified the secretary of the Florentine republic as no better than a fool. The father Possevin was proved never to have read the book, and the father Lucchesini not to have understood it. It is clear, however, that such critics must have objected not to the slavery of the doctrines, but to the supposed tendency of a lesson which shows how distinct are the interests of a monarch from the happiness of mankind. The Jesuits are re-established in Italy, and the last chapter of “ The Prince" may again call forth a particular refutation from those who are employed once more in moulding the minds of the rising generation, so as to receive the impressions of despotism. The chapter bears for title, “ Esortazione a liberare la Italia dai Barbari," and concludes with a libertine excitement to the future redemption of Italy. "Non si deve adunque lasciar passare questa occasione, acciocchè la Italia vegga dopo tanto tempo apparire un suo redentore. Nè posso esprimere con qual amore ei susse ricevuto in tutte quelle provincie, che hanno patito per queste illuvioni esterne, con qual sete di vendetta, con che Ostinata fede, con che lacrime. Quali porte se li serrere. beno? Quali popoli li negherebbono la obbedienza ? Quale Italiano li negherebbe l'ossequio ? AD OGNUNO PUZZA QUESTO BARBARO DOMINIO."

muse.

lingered near Tuscany with hopes of recall ; then travelled into the north of Italy, where Verona had to boast of his longest residence ; and he finally settled at Ravenna, which was his ordinary but not constant abode until his death. The refusal of the Venetians to grant him a public audience, on the part of Guido Novello da Polenta, his protector, is said to have been the principal cause of this event, which happened in 1321. He was buried (“ in sacra minorum æde") at Ravenna, in a handsome tomb, which was erected by Guido, restored by Bernardo Bembo in 1483, prætor for that republic which had refused to hear him, again restored by Cardinal Corsi, in 1692, and replaced by a more magnificent sepulchre, constructed in 1780 at the expense of the Cardinal Luigi Valenti Gonzaga. The offence or misfortune of Dante was an attachment to a defeated party, and, as his least favourable biographers allege against him, too great a freedom of speech and haughtiness of manner. But the next age paid honours almost divine to the exile. Thc Florentines, having in vain and frequently attempted to recover his body, crowned his image in a church', and his picture is still one of the idols of their cathedral. They struck medals they raised statues to him. The cities of Italy, not being able to dispute about his own birth, contended for that of his great poem, and the Florentines thought it for their honour to prove that he had finished the seventh Canto before they drove him from his native city. Fifty-one years after his death, they endowed a professorial chair for the expounding of his verses, and Boccaccio was appointed to this patriotic employment. The example was imitated by Bologna and Pisa ; and the commentators, if they performed but little service to literature, augmented the veneration which beheld a sacred or moral allegory in all the images of his mystic

His birth and his infancy were discovered to have been distinguished above those of ordinary men : the author of the Decameron, his earliest biographer, relates that his mother was warned in a dream of the importance of her pregnancy ; and it was found, by others, that at ten years of age he had manifested his precocious passion for that wisdom or theology, which, under the name of Beatrice, had been mistaken for a substantial mistress. When the Divine Comedy had been recognised as a mere mortal production, and at the distance of two centuries, when criticism and competition had sobered the judgment of the Italians, Dante was seriously declared superior to Homera, and though the preference appeared to some casuists “ an heretical blasphemy worthy of the flames," the contest was vigorously maintained for nearly fifty years. In later times it was made a question which of the Lords of Verona could boast of having patronised him, and the jealous scepticism of one writer would not allow Ravenna the undoubted possession of his bones. Even the critical Tiraboschi was inclined to believe that the poet had foreseen and foretold one of the discoveries of Galileo. — Like the great originals of other nations, his popularity has not always maintained the same level. The last age seemed inclined to undervalue him as a model and a study: and Bettinelli one day rebuked his pupil Monti, for poring over the harsh and obsolete extravagances of the Commedia. The present generation having recovered from the Gallic idolatries of Cesarotti, has returned to the ancient worship, and the Danteggiare of the northern Italians is thought even indiscreet by the more moderate Tuscans,

There is still much curious information relative to the life and writings of this great poet, which has not as yet been collected even by the Italians; but the celebrated Ugo Foscolo meditates to supply this defect, and it is not to be regretted that this national work has been reserved for one so devoted to his country and the cause of truth.

[blocks in formation]

Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar.” – Stanza lvii.

Dante was born at Florence, in the year 1261. He fought in two battles, was fourteen times ambassador, and once prior of the republic. When the party of Charles of Anjou triumphed over the Bianchi, he was absent on an embassy to Pope Boniface VIII., and was condemned to two years' banishment, and to a fine of 8000 lire ; on the non-payment of which he was further punished by the sequestration of all his property. The republic, however, was not content with this satisfaction, for in 1772 was discovered in the archives at Florence a sentence in which Dante is the eleventh of a list of fifteen condemned in 1302 to be burnt alive; Talis per. reniens igne comburatur sic quod moriatur. The pretext for this judgment was a proof of unfair barter, extortions, and illicit gains. Baracteriarum iniquarum, estorsionum, et illicitorum lucrorum ?, and with such an accusation it is not strange that Dante should have always protested his innocence, and the injustice of his fellow-citizens. His appeal to Florence was accompanied by another to the Emperor Henry; and the death of that sovereign in 1313 was the signal for a sentence of irrevocable banishment. He had before

1 Il Principe di Niccolò Machiavelli, &c. con la prefazione e le note Istoriche e politiche di Amelot de la Houssaye e l'esame e confutazione dell'opera ... Cosmopo.., 1769.

2 Storia della Lett. Ital. tom. v. lib. iii. par. fl. p. 418. Tiraboschi is in. cortet; the dates of the three decrees against Dance are A.D. 1302, 1311, and 1316.

3 So relates Ficino, but some think his coronation only an allegory. See Storia, &c. ut sup. p. 433.

4 Bv Varchi, in his Ercolano. The controversy continued from 1570 to 1616. See Stonia, &c. tom. vii. lib. lib. par. lii. p. 1250.

5 Gio. Jacopo Dionisi Canonico di Verona. Serie di Anedoti, n. 2. See Storia, &c. tom. v. lib. i. pur. I. p. 21.

No. XLX. TOMB OF THE SCIpios. Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore;

T'hy factions, in their worse than civil war, Proscribed, fc. - Stanza lvi.

Francis Maria II. Duke of Rorere proposed the question, “ which was preferable, the republic or the principality - the perfect and not durable, or the less perfect and not so liable to change," replied, “ that our happiness is to be measured by its quality, not by its duration ; and that he preferred to live for one day like a man, than for a hundred years like a brute, a stock, or a stone." This was thougbl, and called, magnificent answer, down to the last days of Italian servitude. 5

No. XX. - PETRARCH's Crowy.

" And the croten Which Petrarch's laureate brow supreinely wore

l'pon a far and foreign soil had grown." - Stanza Irii. The Florentines did not take the opportunity of Petrarch's short visit to their city in 1350 to revoke the decree which confiscated the property of his father, who had been banished shortly after the exile of Dante. His crown did not dazzle them; but when in the next year they were in want of his assistance in the formation of their university, they repented of their injustice, and Boccaccio was sent to Padua to entreat the laureate to conclude his wanderings in the bosom of his native country, where he might finish his imrortal Africa, and enjoy, with his recovered possessions, the esteem of all classes of his fellow-citizens. They gave him the option of the book and the science he might condescend to expound: they called him the glory of his country, who was dear, and who would be dearer to them; and they added, that if there was any thing unpleasing in their letter, he ought to return amongst them, were it only to correct their style. 6 Petrarch seemed at first to listen to the flattery and to the entreaties of his friend, but he did not return to Florence, and preferred a pilgrimage to the tomb of Laura and the shades of Vaucluse.

The elder Scipio Africanus had a tomb if he was not buried at Liternum, whither he had retired to voluntary banishment. This tomb was near the sea-shore, and the story of an inscription upon it, Ingrata Patria, having given a name to a modern tower, is, if not true, an agreeable fiction. If he was not buried, he certainly lived there."

In cost angusta e solitaria villa
Era 'l grand' uomo che d' Africa s'appella

Perchè prima col ferro al vivo aprilla. Ingratitude is generally supposed the vice peculiar to republics; and it seems to be forgotten that for one instance of popular inconstancy, we have a hundred examples of the fall of courtly favourites. Besides, a people have often re. pented - a monarch seldom or never. Leaving apart many familiar proofs of this fact, a short story may show the difference between even an aristocracy and the multitude.

Vettor Pisani, having been defeated in 1334, at Portolongo, and many years afterwards in the more decisive action of Pola, by the Genoese, was recalled by the Venetian government, and thrown into chains. The Avvogadori proposed to behead him, but the supreme tribunal was content with the sentence of imprisonment. Whilst Pisani was suffering this unmerited disgrace, Chioza, in the vicinity of the capital", was, by the assistance of the Signor of Padua, delivered into the hands of Pietro Doria. At the intelligence of that disaster, the great bell of St. Mark's tower tolled to arms, and the people and the soldiery of the galleys were summoned to the repulse of the approaching enemy: but they protested they would not move a step, unless Pisani were liberated and placed at their head. The great council was instantly assembled: the prisoner was called before them, and the Doge, Andrea Contarini, informed him of the demands of the people, and the necessities of the state, whose only hope of safety was renosed in his efforts, and who implored him to forget the indignities he had endured in her service, “I have submitted," replied the magnanimous republican, “ I have submitted to your deliberations without complaint; I have supported patiently the pains of imprisonment, for they were inflicted at your command ; this is no time to inquire whether I deserved them the good of the republic may have seemed to require it, and that which the republic resolves is always resolved wisels. Behold me ready to lay down my life for the preservation of my country." Pisani was appointed generalissimo, and by his exertions, in conjunction with those of Carlo Zeno, the Venetians soon recovered the ascendency over their maritime rivals.

The Italian communities were no less unjust to their citizens than the Greek republics. Liberty, both with the one and the other, seems to have been a national, not an individual object: and, notwithstanding the boasted equality before the laws, which an ancient Greek writer * considered the great distinctire mark between his countrymen and the barbarians, the mutual rights of fellow-citizens seem never to have been the principal scope of the old democracies. The world may have not yet seen an essay by the author of the Italian Republics, in which the distinction between the liberty of former states, and the signification attached to that word by the happier constitution of England, is ingeni. ously developed. The Italians, however, when they had ccased to be free, still looked back with a sigh upon those times of turbulence, when every citizen might rise to a share of sovereign power, and have never been taught fully to appreciate the repose of a monarchy. Sperone Speroni, when

No. XXI. — Boccaccio.
Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeath'd

His dust." Stanza lviii. Boccaccio was buried in the church of St. Michael and St. James, at Certaldo, a small town in the Valdelsa, which was by some supposed the place of his birth. There be passed the latter part of his life in a course of laborious study, which shortened his existence; and there might his ashes have been secure, if not of honour, at least of repose. But the “hyena bigots" of Certaldo tore up the tombstone of Boccaccio, and ejected it from the holy precincts of St Michael and St. James. The occasion, and, it may be hoped, the excuse, for this ejectment was the making of a new door for the church; but the fact is, that the tombstone was taken up and thrown aside at the bottom of the building. Ignorance may share the sin with bigotry. It would be painful to relate such an exception to the derotion of the Italians for their great names, could it not be accompanied by a trait more honourably conformable to the general character of the nation. The principal person of the district, the last branch of the house of Medicis, afforded that protection to the memory of the insulted dead which her best ancestors had dispensed upon all contemporary merit. The Marchioness Lenzoni rescued the tombstone of Boccaccio from the neglect in which it had some time lain, and found for it an honourable elevation in her own mansion. She has done more: the house in which the poet lived has been as little respected as his tomb, and is falling to ruin orer the head of one indifferent to the name of its former tenant. It

1 Vitam Literni egit sine desiderio urbis. See T. Liv. Hist. lib. xxxvii. Livy reports that some said he was buried at Liternum, others at Rome. Ibid. car.lv 2 Trionfo della Castità.

3 See Yo. VI. page 172. 4 The Cirect boasted that he was isorot. See the last chapter of the first book of Dionysius of Halicarnassus.

5" E intorno alla magnifica risposta," &c. Serassi, Vits del Tasso, lib.ui. pag. 149. tom. ú. edit. 3. Bergamo.

6" Accingiti innoltre, se ci è lecito ancor l'esortarti, a compire l'im. mortal tun Africa ... See ti arriene di incontrare nel nostro style cosa che ti dispiaccia, cio del b' essere un altro motivo ad esaudire i desiderj della tua patru." Storia della Leti. Ital. tom. 8. par. i. lib. 1. pag.76.

consists of two or three little chambers, and a low tower, on well as the verses, abound,' have doubtless been the chief which Cosmo II. affixed an inscription. This house she source of the foreign celebrity of both authors; but Boccaccio, has taken measures to purchase, and proposes to devote to it as a man, is no more to be estimated by that work, than Pe. that care and consideration which are attached to the cradle trarch is to be regarded in no other light than as the lover of and to the roof of genius.

Laura. Even, however, had the father of the Tuscan prose This is not the place to undertake defence of Boc. been known only as the author of the Decamerou, a considecaccio ; but the man who exhausted his little patrimony in the rate writer would have been cautious to pronounce a sentence acquirement of learning, who was amongst the first, if not the irreconcileable with the unerring voice of many ages and first, to allure the science and the poetry of Greece to the nations. An irrevocable value has never been stamped upon hosom of Italy; - who not only invented a new style, but any work solely recommended by impurity. founded, or certainly fixed, a new language ; who, besides The true source of the outcry against Boccaccio, which the esteem of every polite court of Europe, was thought began at a very early period, was the choice of his scandalous worthy of employment by the predominant republic of his personages in the cloisters as well as the courts; but the own country, and, what is more, of the friendship of Pe. princes only laughed at the gallant adventures so unjustly trarch, who lived the life of a philosopher and a freeinan, and charged upon queen Thcolinda, whilst the priesthood cried who died in the pursult of knowledge, - such a man might shame upon the debauches drawn from the convent and the have found more consideration than he has met with from the

hermitage ; and most probably for the opposite reason, priest of Certaldo, and from a late English traveller, who namely, that the picture was faithful to the life. Two of the strikes off his portrait as an odious, contemptible, licentious rovels are allowed to be facts usefully turned into tales to writer, whose impure remains should be suffered to rot with- deride the canonisation of rogues and laymen. Ser Ciappel. out a record. ! That English traveller, unfortunately for letto and Marcellinus are cited with applause even by the those who have to deplore the loss of a very amiable person, decent Muratori. 3 The great Arnaud, as he is quoted in is beyond all criticism ; but the mortality which did not pro- Bayle, states, that a new edition of the novels was proposed, tect Boccaccio from Mr. Eustace, must not defend Mr. of which the expurgation consisted in omitting the words Eustace from the impartial judgment of his successors. " monk,” and “ nun," and tacking the immoralities to other Death may canopise his virtues, not his errors; and it may be names. The literary history of Italy particularises no such modestly pronounced that he transgressed, not only as an edition ; but it was not long before the whole of Europe had author, but as a man, when he evoked the shade of Boc

but one opinion of the Decameron; and the absolution of the caccio in company with that of Aretine, amidst the sepulchres author seems to have been a point settled at least a hundred of Santa Croce, merely to dismiss it with indignity. As far years ago : " On se feroit siftler si l'on prétendoit convaincre as respects " Il fagello de' Principi,

Boccace de n'avoir pas été honnête homme, puis qu'il a fait

le Décameron.” So said one of the best men, and perhaps n divin Pietro Aretiuo,'

the best critic, that ever lived - the very martyr to imparit is of little import what censure is passed upon a coxcomb

tiality.* But as this information, that in the beginning of who owes his present existence to the above burlesque cha.

the last century one would have been hooted at for pretend. racter given to him by the poet, whose amber has preserved ing that Boccaccio was not a good man, may seem to come from many other grubs and worms: but to classify Boccaccio with

one of those enemies who are to be suspected, even when they such a person, and to excommunicate his very ashes, must of

make us a present of truth, a more acceptable contrast with itself make us doubt of the qualification of the classical

the proscription of the body, soul, and inuse of Boccaccio may tourist for writing upon Italian, or, indeed, upon any other

be found in a few words from the virtuous, the patriotic con. literature ; for ignorance on one point may incapacitate an

temporary, who thought one of the tales of this impure author merely for that particular topic, but subjection to a

writer worthy a Latin version from his own pen. “ I have professional prejudice must render him an unsafe director on

remarked elsewhere," says Petrarch, writing to Boccaccio, all occasions. Any perversion and injustice may be made

" that the book itself has been worried by certain dogs, but what is vulgarly called " a case of conscience,” and this

stoutly defended by your staff and voice. Nor was I astonpoor excuse is all that can be offered for the priest of Cer. taido, or the author of the Classical Tour. It would have

ished, for I have had proof of the vigour of your mind, and

I know you have fallen on that unaccommodating incaanswered the purpose to confine the censure to the novels of

pable race of mortals, who, whatever they either like not, or Boccaccio ; and gratitude to that source which supplied the

know not, or cannot do, are sure to reprehend in others; and muse of Dryden with her last and most harmonious numbers

on those occasions only put on a show of learning and elomight, perhaps, have restricted that censure to the objectionable qualities of the hundred tales. At any rate, the re

quence, but otherwise are entirely dumb."'S

It is satisfactory to find that all the priesthood do not repentance of Boccaccio might have arrested his exhumation,

semble those of Certaldo, and that one of them who did not and it should have been recollected and told, that in his old age he wrote a letter entreating his friend to discourage the

possess the bones of Boccaccio would not lose the opportunity

of raising a cenotaph to his memory. Bevius, canon of reading or the Decameron, for the sake of modesty, and for

Padua, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, erected at the sake of the author, who would not have an apologist Arquà, opposite to the tomb of the Laureate, a tablet, in als ays at hand to state in his excuse that he wrote it when

which he associated Boccaccio to the equal honours of Dante young, and at the command of his superiors. It is neither the licentiousness of the writer, nor the evil propensities of

and of Petrarch. the reader, which have given to the Decameron alone, of all the works of Boccaccio, a perpetual popularity. The establishment of a new and delightful dialect conferred an immor

No. XXII. - THE MEDICI. tality on the works in which it was first fixed. The sonnets of Petrarch were, for the same reason, fated to survive his

What is her pyramid of precious stones?" - Stanza lx. self-admired Africa, the “ favourite of kings." The inva- Our veneration for the Medici begins with Cosmo and ex. riable traits of nature and feeling with which the novels, as pires with his grandson ; that stream is pure only at the

1 Classical Tour, chap. Ir, vol.ii. p. 355. edit. 3d. "Of Boccaccio, the modem Petronius, we say nothing; the abuse of genius is more owlous and more contemptable than its absence; and it imports little where the impure remains of a licentious author are consigned to their kindred dust. For the same reason the traveller may pa's unnoticed the tomb of the malignant Aretino." This dutrious phrase is hardly enough to save the tourist from the suspicion of another blunder respecting the burial place of Aretine, Whave tomb was in the church of St. Luke at Venice, and give rise to the famous controversy of which some norite is taken in Binle. low the words of Mr. Eustace would lead us to think the tomb was at Florence, or at least was to be somewhere recognised. Whether the inscription so much

disputed was ever written on the tomb cannot now be decided, for all inemorial of this author has disappeared froin the church of St. Luke.

2 " Non enim ubique est, qui in excusationem meam con-urgens dicat, juvenis susit, et na oris coactus inperio." The letter * as adrese to Si ghinard of Cavalcanti, marshal of the kingdom of Sicily. See Tira. boschi, Storia, &c. tom. . par. ii. lib. iij.

3 Dissertazioni sopra le Antichità Italiane Diss. Iviii.

4 Eclaircissement, &c. &c. p. 435. edit. Basle, 1711, in the Supplement to Bavle's Dictionary.

Upp. tom. i. p. 310. edit. Basil,

« AnteriorContinuar »