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Title: Renaissance in Italy, Volume 2 (of 7) - The Revival of Learning
Author: Symonds, John Addington, 1840-1893
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Renaissance in Italy, Volume 2 (of 7) - The Revival of Learning" ***

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[Transcriber's Note: This e-book was prepared from a 1960 G.P.
Putnam's Sons reprint of the 1900 edition of _The Revival of
Learning_, originally published by Smith, Elder, & Co., London, as
Volume II of John Addington Symonds's _Renaissance in Italy_ series.

Obvious printer errors have been corrected without note; other errors
are indicated by a [Transcriber's Note]. Older spellings of Italian
names (e.g. "Lionardo" for "Leonardo") have been retained as they
appear in the original.]


_The Revival of Learning_

     At tibi fortassis, si, quod mens sperat et optat,
     Es post me victura diu, meliora supersunt
     Secula; non omnes veniet lethaeus in annos
     Iste sopor; poterunt, discussis forte tenebris,
     Ad purum priscumque jubar remeare nepotes.
     Tunc Helicona novâ revirentem stirpe videbis,
     Tunc lauros frondere sacras; tunc alta resurgent
     Ingenia atque animi dociles, quibus ardor honesti
     Pieridum studii veterem geminabit amorem.

     PETRARCHÆ _Africa_, _lib. ix_


[Footnote 1: To the original edition of this volume.]

This volume on the 'Revival of Learning' follows that on the 'Age of
the Despots,' published in 1875, and precedes that on the 'Fine Arts,'
which is now also offered to the public. In dealing with the 'Revival
of Learning' and the 'Fine Arts,' I have tried to remember that I had
not so much to write again the history of these subjects, as to treat
their relation to the 'Renaissance in Italy.' In other words, I have
regarded each section of my theme as subordinate to the general
culture of a great historical period. The volume on 'Italian
Literature,' still in contemplation, is intended to complete the work.

While handling the theme of the Italian Renaissance, I have selected
such points, and emphasised such details, as I felt to be important
for the biography of a nation at the most brilliant epoch of its
intellectual activity. The historian of culture sacrifices much that
the historian of politics will judge essential, and calls attention to
matters that the general reader may sometimes find superfluous. He
must submit to bear the reproach of having done at once too little and
too much. He must be content to traverse at one time well-worn ground,
and at another to engage in dry or abstruse inquiries. He must not
shrink from seeming to affect the fame of a compiler; nor, unless his
powers be of the highest, can he hope altogether to avoid repetitions
wearisome alike to reader and to writer. His main object is to paint
the portrait of national genius identical through all varieties of
manifestation; and in proportion as he has preserved this point of
view with firmness, he may hope to have succeeded.

For the History of the Revival of Learning I have had continual
recourse to Tiraboschi's 'Storia della Letteratura Italiana.' That
work is still the basis of all researches bearing on the subject. I
owe besides particular obligations to Vespasiano's 'Vite di Uomini
Illustri,' to Comparetti's 'Virgilio nel Medio Evo,' to Rosmini's
'Vita di Filelfo,' 'Vita di Vittorino da Feltre,' and 'Vita di Guarino
da Verona,' to Shepherd's 'Life of Poggio Bracciolini,' to
Dennistoun's 'Dukes of Urbino,' to Schultze's 'Gemistos Plethon,' to
Didot's 'Alde Manuce,' to Von Reumont's 'Lorenzo de' Medici,' to
Burckhardt's 'Cultur der Renaissance in Italien,' to Voigt's
'Wiederbelebung des classischen Alterthums,' and to Gregorovius's
'Geschichte der Stadt Rom.' To Voigt and Burckhardt, having perforce
traversed the same ground that they have done, I feel that I have been
in a special sense indebted. At the same time I have made it my
invariable practice, as the notes to this volume will show, to found
my own opinions on the study of original sources. To mention in
detail all the editions of the works of humanists and scholars I have
consulted, would be superfluous.

To me it has been a labour of love to record even the bare names of
those Italian worthies who recovered for us in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries 'the everlasting consolations' of the Greek and
Latin classics. The thought that I was tracing the history of an
achievement fruitful of the weightiest results for modern civilisation
has sustained me in a task that has been sometimes tedious. The
collective greatness of the Revival has reconciled my mind to many
trivialities of detail. The prosaic minutiæ of obscure biographies and
long-forgotten literary labours have been glorified by what appears to
me the poetry and the romance of the whole theme. It lies not in my
province or my power to offer my readers any adequate apology for such
defects as my own want of skill in exposition, or the difficulty of
transfiguring with vital light and heat a subject so remote from
present interests, may have occasioned. I must leave this volume in
their hands, hoping that some at least may be animated by the same
feeling of gratitude toward those past workers in the field of
learning which has supported me.

CLIFTON: _March 1877_.





  Formation of Conscious Personality in Italy -- Aristocracy of
  Intellect -- Self-culture as an Aim -- Want of National Architecture
  -- Want of National Drama -- Eminence of Sculpture and Painting --
  Peculiar Capacity for Literature -- Scholarship -- Men of Many-sided
  Genius -- Their Relation to the Age -- Conflict between Mediæval
  Tradition and Humanism -- Petrarch -- The Meaning of the Revival begun
  by him -- Cosmopolitan Philosophy -- Toleration -- An Intellectual
  Empire -- Worldliness -- Confusion of Impulses and Inspirations --
  Copernicus and Columbus -- Christianity and the Classics -- Italian
  Incapacity for Religious Reformation -- Free Thought takes the form of
  License -- Harmonies attempted between Christianity and Antique
  Philosophy -- Florentine Academy -- Physical Qualities of the Italians
  -- Portraits of Two Periods -- Physical Exercises -- Determination of
  the Race to Scholarship -- Ancient Memories of Rome -- The Cult of
  Antiquity -- Desire of Fame -- Fame to be found in Literature -- The
  Cult of Intellect -- The Cult of Character -- Preoccupation with
  Personal Details -- Biography -- Ideal Sketches -- Posthumous Glory --
  Enthusiasm for Erudition -- Piero de' Pazzi -- Florence and Athens --
  Paganism -- Real Value of Italian Humanism -- Pico on the Dignity of
  Man                                                                  1



  Importance of the Revival of Learning -- Mediæval Romance -- The
  Legend of Faustus -- Its Value for the Renaissance -- The Devotion of
  Italy to Study -- Italian Predisposition for this Labour --
  Scholarship in the Dark Ages -- Double Attitude assumed by the Church
  -- Piety for Virgil -- Meagre Acquaintance with the Latin Classics --
  No Greek Learning -- The Spiritual Conditions of the Middle Ages
  adverse to Pure Literature -- Italy no Exception to the rest of Europe
  -- Dante and Petrarch -- Definition of Humanism -- Petrarch's
  Conception of it -- His Æsthetical Temperament -- His Cult for Cicero,
  Zeal in Collecting Manuscripts, Sense of the Importance of Greek
  Studies -- Warfare against Pedantry and Superstition -- Ideal of
  Poetry and Rhetoric -- Critique of Jurists and Schoolmen -- S.
  Augustine -- Petrarch's Vanity -- Thirst for Fame -- Discord between
  his Life and his Profession -- His Literary Temperament -- Visionary
  Patriotism -- His Influence -- His Successors -- Boccaccio and Greek
  Studies -- Translation of Homer -- Philosophy of Literature --
  Sensuousness of Boccaccio's Inspiration -- Giovanni da Ravenna -- The
  Wandering Professor -- His Pupils in Latin Scholarship -- Luigi
  Marsigli -- The Convent of S. Spirito -- Humanism in Politics --
  Coluccio de' Salutati -- Gasparino da Barzizza -- Improved Style in
  Letter-writing -- Revival of Greek Learning -- Manuel Chrysoloras --
  His Pupils -- Lionardo Bruni -- Value of Greek for the Renaissance  37



  Condition of the Universities in Italy -- Bologna -- High Schools
  founded from it -- Naples under Frederick II. -- Under the House of
  Anjou -- Ferrara -- Piacenza -- Perugia -- Rome -- Pisa -- Florence --
  Imperial and Papal Charters -- Foreign Students -- Professorial Staff
  -- Subjects taught in the High Schools -- Place assigned to Humanism
  -- Pay of the Professors of Eloquence -- Francesco Filelfo -- The
  Humanists less powerful at the Universities -- Method of Humanistic
  Teaching -- The Book Market before Printing -- Mediæval Libraries --
  Cost of Manuscripts -- 'Stationarii' and 'Peciarii' -- Negligence of
  Copyists -- Discovery of Classical Codices -- Boccaccio at Monte
  Cassino -- Poggio at Constance -- Convent of S. Gallen -- Bruni's
  Letter to Poggio -- Manuscripts Discovered by Poggio -- Nicholas of
  Treves -- Collection of Greek Manuscripts -- Aurispa, Filelfo, and
  Guarino -- The Ruins of Rome -- Their Influence on Humanism -- Dante
  and Villani -- Rienzi -- His Idealistic Patriotism -- Vanity --
  Political Incompetence -- Petrarch's Relations with Rienzi -- Injury
  to Monuments in Rome -- Poggio's Roman Topography -- Sentimental
  Feeling for the Ruins of Antiquity -- Ciriac of Ancona              83



  Intricacy of the Subject -- Division into Four Periods -- Place of
  Florence -- Social Conditions favourable to Culture -- Palla degli
  Strozzi -- His Encouragement of Greek Studies -- Plan of a Public
  Library -- His Exile -- Cosimo de' Medici -- His Patronage of Learning
  -- Political Character -- Love of Building -- Generosity to Students
  -- Foundation of Libraries -- Vespasiano and Thomas of Sarzana --
  Niccolo de' Niccoli -- His Collection of Codices -- Description of his
  Mode of Life -- His Fame as a Latinist -- Lionardo Bruni -- His
  Biography -- Translations from the Greek -- Latin Treatises and
  Histories -- His Burial in Santa Croce -- Carlo Aretino -- Fame as a
  Lecturer -- The Florentine Chancery -- Matteo Palmieri -- Giannozzo
  Manetti -- His Hebrew Studies -- His Public Career -- His Eloquence --
  Manetti ruined by the Medici -- His Life in Exile at Naples --
  Estimate of his Talents -- Ambrogio Traversari -- Study of Greek
  Fathers -- General of the Camaldolese Order -- Humanism and
  Monasticism -- The Council of Florence -- Florentine Opinion about the
  Greeks -- Gemistos Plethon -- His Life -- His Philosophy -- His
  Influence at Florence -- Cosimo de' Medici and the Florentine Academy
  -- Study of Plato -- Plethon's Writings -- Platonists and
  Aristotelians in Italy and Greece -- Bessarion -- His Patronage of
  Greek Refugees in Rome -- Humanism in the Smaller Republics -- In
  Venice                                                             115



  Transition from Florence to Rome -- Vicissitudes of Learning at the
  Papal Court -- Diplomatic Humanists -- Protonotaries -- Apostolic
  Scribes -- Ecclesiastical Sophists -- Immorality and Artificiality of
  Scholarship in Rome -- Poggio and Bruni, Secretaries -- Eugenius IV.
  -- His Patronage of Scholars -- Flavio Biondo -- Solid Erudition --
  Nicholas V. -- His Private History -- Nature of his Talents -- His
  unexpected Elevation to the Roman See -- Jubilation of the Humanists
  -- His Protection of Learned Men in Rome -- A Workshop of Erudition --
  A Factory of Translations -- High Sums paid for Literary Labour --
  Poggio Fiorentino -- His Early Life -- His Journeys -- His Eminence as
  a Man of Letters -- His attitude towards Ecclesiastics -- His
  Invectives -- Humanistic Gladiators -- Poggio and Filelfo -- Poggio
  and Guarino -- Poggio and Valla -- Poggio and Perotti -- Poggio and
  Georgios Trapezuntios -- Literary Scandals -- Poggio's Collections of
  Antiquities -- Chancellor of Florence -- Cardinal Bessarion -- His
  Library -- Theological Studies -- Apology for Plato -- The Greeks in
  Italy -- Humanism at Naples -- Want of Culture in Southern Italy --
  Learning an Exotic -- Alfonso the Magnificent -- Scholars in the Camp
  -- Literary Dialogues at Naples -- Antonio Beccadelli -- The
  'Hermaphroditus' -- Lorenzo Valla -- The Epicurean -- The Critic --
  The Opponent of the Church -- Bartolommeo Fazio -- Giannantonio
  Porcello -- Court of Milan -- Filippo Maria Visconti -- Decembrio's
  Description of his Master -- Francesco Filelfo -- His Early Life --
  Visit to Constantinople -- Place at Court -- Marriage -- Return to
  Italy -- Venice -- Bologna -- His Pretensions as a Professor --
  Florence -- Feuds with the Florentines -- Immersion in Politics --
  Siena -- Settles at Milan -- His Fame -- Private Life and Public
  Interests -- Overtures to Rome -- Filelfo under the Sforza Tyranny --
  Literary Brigandage -- Death at Florence -- Filelfo as the
  Representative of a Class -- Vittorino da Feltre -- Early Education --
  Scheme of Training Youths as Scholars -- Residence at Padua --
  Residence at Mantua -- His School of Princes -- Liberality to Poor
  Students -- Details of his Life and System -- Court of Ferrara --
  Guarino da Verona -- House Tutor of Lionello d'Este -- Giovanni
  Aurispa -- Smaller Courts -- Carpi -- Mirandola -- Rimini and the
  Malatesta Tyrants -- Cesena -- Pesaro -- Urbino and Duke Frederick --
  Vespasiano da Bisticci                                             155



  Improvement in Taste and Criticism -- Coteries and Academies --
  Revival of Italian Literature -- Printing -- Florence, the Capital of
  Learning -- Lorenzo de' Medici and his Circle -- Public Policy of
  Lorenzo -- Literary Patronage -- Variety of his Gifts -- Meetings of
  the Platonic Society -- Marsilio Ficino -- His Education for Platonic
  Studies -- Translations of Plato and the Neoplatonists -- Harmony
  between Plato and Christianity -- Giovanni Pico -- His First
  Appearance in Florence -- His Theses proposed at Rome -- Censure of
  the Church -- His Study of the Cabbala -- Large Conception of Learning
  -- Occult Science -- Cristoforo Landino -- Professor of Fine
  Literature -- Virgilian Studies -- Camaldolese Disputations -- Leo
  Battista Alberti -- His Versatility -- Bartolommeo Scala -- Obscure
  Origin -- Chancellor of Florence -- Angelo Poliziano -- Early Life --
  Translation of Homer -- The 'Homericus Juvenis' -- True Genius in
  Poliziano -- Command of Latin and Greek -- Resuscitation of Antiquity
  in his own Person -- His Professorial Work -- The 'Miscellanea' --
  Relation to Medici -- Roman Scholarship in this Period -- Pius II. --
  Pomponius Lætus -- His Academy and Mode of Life -- Persecution under
  Paul II. -- Humanism at Naples -- Pontanus -- His Academy -- His
  Writings -- Academies established in all Towns of Italy --
  Introduction of Printing -- Sweynheim and Pannartz -- The Early
  Venetian Press -- Florence -- Cennini -- Alopa's Homer -- Change in
  Scholarship effected by Printing -- The Life of Aldo Manuzio -- The
  Princely House of Pio at Carpi -- Greek Books before Aldo -- The
  Aldine Press at Venice -- History of its Activity -- Aldo and Erasmus
  -- Aldo and the Greek Refugees -- Aldo's Death -- His Family and
  Successors -- The Neacademia -- The Salvation of Greek Literature  224



  Fall of the Humanists -- Scholarship permeates Society -- A New Ideal
  of Life and Manners -- Latinisation of Names -- Classical Periphrases
  -- Latin Epics on Christian Themes -- Paganism -- The Court of Leo X.
  -- Honours of the Church given to Scholars -- Ecclesiastical Men of
  the World -- Mæcenases at Rome -- Papal and Imperial Rome -- Moral
  Corruption -- Social Refinement -- The Roman Academy -- Pietro Bembo
  -- His Life at Ferrara -- At Urbino -- Comes to Rome -- Employed by
  Leo -- Retirement to Padua -- His Dictatorship of Letters -- Jacopo
  Sadoleto -- A Graver Genius than Bembo -- Paulus Jovius -- Latin
  Stylist -- His Histories -- Baldassare Castiglione -- Life at Urbino
  and Rome -- The Courtly Scholar -- His Diplomatic Missions -- Alberto
  Pio -- Gian Francesco Pico della Mirandola -- The Vicissitudes of his
  Life -- Jerome Aleander -- Oriental Studies -- The Library of the
  Vatican -- His Mission to Germany -- Inghirami, Beroaldo, and
  Acciaiuoli -- The Roman University -- John Lascaris -- Study of
  Antiquities -- Origin of the 'Corpus Inscriptionum' -- Topographical
  Studies -- Formation of the Vatican Sculpture Gallery -- Discovery of
  the Laocoon -- Feeling for Statues in Renaissance Italy -- Venetian
  Envoys in the Belvedere -- Raphael's Plan for Excavating Ancient Rome
  -- His Letter to Leo -- Effect of Antiquarian Researches on the Arts
  -- Intellectual Supremacy of Rome in this Period -- The Fall -- Adrian
  VI. -- The Sack of Rome -- Valeriano's Description of the Sufferings
  of Scholars                                                        284



  Special Causes for the Practice of Latin Versification in Italy -- The
  Want of an Italian Language -- Multitudes of Poetasters -- Beccadelli
  -- Alberti's 'Philodoxus' -- Poliziano -- The 'Sylvæ' -- 'Nutricia,'
  'Rusticus,' 'Manto,' 'Ambra' -- Minor Poems -- Pontano -- Sannazzaro
  -- Elegies and Epigrams -- Christian Epics -- Vida's 'Christiad' --
  Vida's 'Poetica' -- Fracastoro -- The 'Syphilis' -- _Barocco_
  Flatteries -- Bembo -- Immoral Elegies -- Imitations of Ovid and
  Tibullus -- The 'Benacus' -- Epitaphs -- Navagero -- Epigrams and
  Eclogues -- Molsa -- Poem on his own Death -- Castiglione -- 'Alcon'
  and 'Lycidas' -- Verses of Society -- The Apotheosis of the Popes --
  Poem on the Ariadne of the Vatican -- Sadoleto's Verses on the Laocoon
  -- Flaminio -- His Life -- Love of the Country -- Learned Friends --
  Scholar-Poets of Lombardy -- Extinction of Learning in Florence --
  Decay of Italian Erudition                                         324



  General Survey -- The Part played in the Revival by the Chief Cities
  -- Preoccupation with Scholarship in spite of War and Conquest --
  Place of the Humanists in Society -- Distributors of Praise and Blame
  -- Flattery and Libels -- Comparison with the Sophists -- The Form
  preferred to the Matter of Literature -- Ideal of Culture as an end in
  itself -- Suspicion of Zealous Churchmen -- Intrusion of Humanism into
  the Church -- Irreligion of the Humanists -- Gyraldi's 'Progymnasma'
  -- Ariosto -- Bohemian Life -- Personal Immorality -- Want of Fixed
  Principles -- Professional Vanity -- Literary Pride -- Estimate of
  Humanistic Literature -- Study of Style -- Influence of Cicero --
  Valla's 'Elegantiæ' -- Stylistic Puerilities -- Value attached to
  Rhetoric -- 'Oratore' -- Moral Essays -- Epistolography -- Histories
  -- Critical and Antiquarian Studies -- Large Appreciation of Antiquity
  -- Liberal Spirit -- Poggio and Jerome of Prague -- Humanistic Type of
  Education -- Its Diffusion through Europe -- Future Prospects -- Decay
  of Learning in Italy                                               372




     Formation of Conscious Personality in Italy -- Aristocracy
     of Intellect -- Self-culture as an Aim -- Want of National
     Architecture -- Want of National Drama -- Eminence of
     Sculpture and Painting -- Peculiar Capacity for Literature
     -- Scholarship -- Men of Many-sided Genius -- Their Relation
     to the Age -- Conflict between Mediæval Tradition and
     Humanism -- Petrarch -- The Meaning of the Revival begun by
     him -- Cosmopolitan Philosophy -- Toleration -- An
     Intellectual Empire -- Worldliness -- Confusion of Impulses
     and Inspirations -- Copernicus and Columbus -- Christianity
     and the Classics -- Italian Incapacity for Religious
     Reformation -- Free Thought takes the form of License --
     Harmonies attempted between Christianity and Antique
     Philosophy -- Florentine Academy -- Physical Qualities of
     the Italians -- Portraits of Two Periods -- Physical
     Exercises -- Determination of the Race to Scholarship --
     Ancient Memories of Rome -- The Cult of Antiquity -- Desire
     of Fame -- Fame to be found in Literature -- The Cult of
     Intellect -- The Cult of Character -- Preoccupation with
     Personal Details -- Biography -- Ideal Sketches --
     Posthumous Glory -- Enthusiasm for Erudition -- Piero de'
     Pazzi -- Florence and Athens -- Paganism -- Real Value of
     Italian Humanism -- Pico on the Dignity of Man.

The conditions, political, social, moral, and religious, described in
the first volume of this work, produced among the Italians a type of
character nowhere else observable in Europe. This character, highly
self-conscious and mentally mature, was needed for the intellectual
movement of the Renaissance. Italy had proved herself incapable of
forming an united nation, or of securing the principle of federal
coherence; of maintaining a powerful military system, or of holding
her own against the French and Spaniards. For these defects her
Communes and her Despots, the Papacy and the kingdom of Naples, the
theories of the mediæval doctrinaires and the enthusiasm of the
humanists, were alike responsible; though the larger share belongs to
Rome, resolutely hostile to the monarchical principle, and zealous, by
espousing the Guelf faction, to maintain the discord of the nation. At
the same time the very causes of political disunion were favourable to
the intellectual growth of the Italians. Each State, whether
republican or despotic, had, during the last years of the Middle Ages,
formed a mixed society of nobles, merchants, and artisans, enclosed
within the circuit of the city walls, and strongly marked by the
peculiar complexion of their native place. Every town was a centre of
activity and industry, eagerly competing with its neighbours, proud of
its local characteristics, anxious to confer distinction on citizens
who rose to eminence by genius or practical ability. Party strife in
the republics, while it disturbed their internal repose, sharpened the
intellect and strengthened the personality of the burghers. Exile and
proscription, the common climax of civic warfare, made them still more
self-determined and self-reliant by driving each man back upon his own
resources. The despots, again, through the illegal tenure of their
authority, were forced to the utmost possible development of
individual character: since all their fortunes depended on their
qualities as men. The plots and counter-plots of subjects eager for a
change of government, and of neighbours anxious to encroach upon their
territory, kept the atmosphere of their Courts in a continual state of
agitation. One type of ability was fostered by the diplomatic
relations of the several cities, yielding employment to a multitude of
secretaries and ambassadors; another by the system of Condottiere
warfare, offering a brilliant career to ambitious adventurers. In all
departments open to a man of talent birth was of less importance than
natural gifts; for the social barriers and grades of feudalism had
either never existed in Italy, or had been shaken and confounded
during the struggles of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The
ranks of the tyrants were filled with sons of Popes and captains risen
from the proletariat. The ruling class in the republics consisted of
men self-made by commerce; and here the name at least of Popolo was
sovereign. It followed that men were universally rated at what they
proved themselves to be; and thus an aristocracy of genius and
character grew up in Italy at a period when the rest of Europe
presented but rare specimens of individuals emergent from the common
herd. As in ancient Greece, the nation was of less importance than the
city, and within the city personal ability carried overwhelming
weight. The Italian history of the Renaissance resumes itself in the
biography of men greater than their race, of mental despots, who
absorbed its forces in themselves.

The intellectual and moral milieu created by multitudes of
self-centred, cultivated personalities was necessary for the evolution
of that spirit of intelligence, subtle, penetrative, and elastic, that
formed the motive force of the Renaissance. The work achieved by Italy
for the world in that age was less the work of a nation than that of
men of power, less the collective and spontaneous triumph of a
puissant people than the aggregate of individual efforts animated by
one soul of free activity, a common striving after fame. This is
noticeable at the very outset. The Italians had no national Epic:
their Divine Comedy is the poem of the individual man. Petrarch erects
self-culture to the rank of an ideal, and proposes to move the world
from the standpoint of his study, darting his spirit's light through
all the void circumference, and making thought a power.

The success and the failure of the Italians are alike referable to
their political subdivisions, and to this strong development of their
personality. We have already seen how they fell short of national
unity and of military greatness. Even in the realm of art and
literature the same conditions were potent. Some of the chief
productions of humanity seem to require the co-operation of whole
peoples working sympathetically to a common end. Foremost among these
are architecture and the drama. The most splendid triumphs of modern
architecture in the French and English Gothic were achieved by the
half-unconscious striving of the national genius through several
centuries. The names of the builders of the cathedrals are unknown:
the cathedrals themselves bear less the stamp of individual thought
than of popular instinct; their fame belongs to the race that made
them, to the spirit of the times that gave them birth. It is not in
architecture, therefore, that we expect the Italians, divided into
small and rival States, and distinguished by salient subjectivity, to
show their strength. Men like Niccola Pisano, Arnolfo del Cambio,
Alberti, Brunelleschi, and Bramante were gifted with an individuality
too paramount for the creation of more than mighty experiments in
architecture. They bowed to no tradition, but followed the dictates of
their own inventive impulse, selecting the types that suited them, and
dealing freely with the forms they found around them. Instead of
seeking to carry on toward its accomplishment a style, not made, but
felt and comprehended by their genius, they were eager to produce new
and characteristic masterpieces--signs and symbols of their own
peculiar quality of mind. Italy is full of splendid but imperfect
monuments of personal ability, works of beauty displaying no unbroken
genealogy of unknown craftsmen, but attesting the skill of famous
artists. For the practical architect her palaces and churches may,
for this reason, be less instructive and less attractive than the
public buildings of France. Yet for the student of national and
personal characteristics, who loves to trace the physiognomy of a
people in its edifices, to discover the mind of the artist in his
work, their interest is unrivalled. In each city the specific _genius
loci_ meets us face to face: from each town-hall or cathedral the soul
of a great man leans forth to greet our own. These advantages
compensate for frequent extravagances, for audacities savouring of
ignorance, and for awkwardness in the adoption and modification of
incongruous styles. Moreover, it must always be remembered that in
Italy the architect could not forget the monuments of Roman and
Byzantine art around him. Classic models had to be suited to the
requirements of modern life and Christian ritual; and when the Germans
brought their Gothic from beyond the Alps, it suffered from its
adaptation to a southern climate. The result was that Italy arrived at
no great national tradition in architecture, and that free scope was
offered to the whims and freaks of individual designers. When at
length, at the end of the sixteenth century, the Italians attained to
uniformity of taste, it was by the sacrifice of their originality. The
pedantry of the classical revival did more harm to architecture than
to letters, and pseudo-Roman purism superseded the genial caprices of
the previous centuries.

If architecture may be said to have suffered in Italy from the
supremacy of local characteristics and personal genius, overruling
tradition and thwarting the evolution of a national style, the case
was quite different with the other arts. Painting and sculpture demand
the highest independence in the artist, and are susceptible of a far
more many-sided treatment than architecture. They cannot be the common
product of a people, but require the conscious application of a
special ability to the task of translating thought and feeling into
form. As painters, the Italians hold the first rank among civilised
nations of the modern and the ancient world; and their inferiority as
sculptors to the Greeks is mainly due to their mastery over painting,
the essentially romantic art. The sensibilities of the new age craved
a more emotional and agitated expression than is proper to sculpture.
As early as the days of Ghiberti and Donatello it became clear that
the Italian sculptors were following the methods of the sister art in
their designs, while Michael Angelo alone had force enough to make
marble the vehicle of thoughts that properly belong to painting or to
music. The converse probably held good with the Greeks. What remains
of their work in fresco and mosaic seems to show that they were
satisfied with groups and figures modelled upon bas-reliefs and
statues; just as the Florentines carved pictures, with architecture
and landscape, in stone. More need not here be said upon this topic,
since the achievements of the Italians in painting and in sculpture
will form a main part of my history.

As regards literature, the subdivision of Italy into numerous small
States and the energetic self-assertion of the individual were
distinctly favourable. Though the want of a great public, such as can
alone be found in the capital of a free, united nation, may be
reckoned among the many reasons which prevented the Italians from
developing the drama, yet the rivalry of town with town and of burgher
with burgher, Court life with its varied opportunities for the display
of talent, and municipal life with its restless competition in
commerce and public affairs, encouraged the activity of students,
historians, statisticians, critics, and poets. Culture, in the highest
and widest sense of the word, was what Renaissance Italy obtained and
gave to Europe; and this culture implies a full-formed personality in
the men who seek it. It was the highly perfected individuality of the
Italians that made them first emerge from mediæval bondage and become
the apostles of humanism for the modern world. It may be regretted
that their force was expended upon the diffusion of learning and the
purification of style, instead of being concentrated on the creation
of national masterpieces. We seek in vain for Dante's equal among the
poets of the Renaissance. The 'Orlando Furioso' is but a poor second
to the 'Divina Commedia;' and all those works of scholarship, which
seemed to our ancestors the _ne plus ultra_ of refinement, are now
relegated to the lumber-room of erudition that has been superseded, or
of literary ingenuity that has lost its point. Now that the boon of
culture, so hardly won by the students of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, has become the common heritage of Europe, it is not always
easy to explain the mental grandeur of the Italians in that age. Yet
we should fail to recognise their merit, if we did not comprehend
that, precisely by this absorption of their genius in the task of the
Revival, they conferred the most enduring benefits upon humanity. What
the modern world would have been, if the Italian nation had not
devoted its energies to the restoration of liberal learning, cannot
even be imagined. The history of that devotion will form the principal
subject of my present volume.

The comprehensive and many-sided natures, frequent in Renaissance
Italy, were specially adapted for the dissemination of the new spirit.
The appearance of such men as Leo Battista Alberti, Lionardo da Vinci,
Lorenzo de' Medici, Brunelleschi and Buonarroti, Poliziano and Pico
della Mirandola, upon the stage of the Renaissance is not the least
fascinating of its phenomena. We can only find their parallels by
returning to the age of Pericles. But the problem for the Florentines
differed from that which the Athenians had before them. In Greece, the
morning-land of civilisation, men of genius, each perfect in his own
capacity, were needed. Standards had to be created for the future
guidance of the world in all the realms of art and thought. We are
therefore less struck with the versatility than with the concentration
of Pheidias, Pindar, Sophocles, Socrates. Italy, on the other hand,
had for her task the reabsorption of a bygone culture. It was her
vocation to resuscitate antiquity, to gather up afresh the products of
the classic past, and so to blend them with the mediæval spirit as to
generate what is specifically modern. It was indispensable that the
men by whom this work was accomplished should be no less distinguished
for largeness of intelligence, variety of acquirements, quickness of
sympathy, and sensitive susceptibility, than for the complete
development of some one faculty. The great characters of the Greek age
were what Hegel calls plastic, penetrated through and through with a
specific quality. Those of the Italian age were comprehensive and
encyclopædic; the intensity of their force in any one sphere is less
remarkable than its suitableness to all. They were of a nature to
synthesise, interpret, reproduce, and mould afresh--like Mr.
Browning's Cleon, with the addition of the consciousness of young and
potent energy within them. It consequently happens that, except in the
sphere of the Fine Arts, we are tempted to underrate the heroes of the
Renaissance. The impression they leave upon our minds at any one point
is slight in comparison with the estimate we form of them when we
consider each man as a whole. Nor can we point to monumental and
colossal works in proof of their creative faculty.

The biographies of universal geniuses like Leo Battista Alberti or
Lionardi [Transcriber's Note: Lionardo] da Vinci, so multiform in
their capacity and so creative in their intuitions, prompt us to ask
what is the connection between the spirit of an age and the men in
whom it is incorporated. Not without reason are we forced to personify
the Renaissance as something external to its greatest characters.
There is an intellectual strength outside them in the century, a
heritage of power prepared for them at birth. The atmosphere in which
they breathe is so charged with mental vitality that the least
stirring of their special energy brings them into relation with forces
mightier than are the property of single natures. In feebler periods
of retrospect and criticism we can but wonder at the combination of
faculties so varied, and at miracles so easily accomplished. These
times of clairvoyance and of intellectual magnetism, when individuals
of genius appear to move like vibrios in a life-sustaining fluid
specially adapted to their needs, are rare in the history of the
world; nor has our science yet arrived at analysing their causes. They
are not on that account the less real. To explain them by the
hypothesis of a _Weltgeist_, the collective spirit of humanity
proceeding in its evolution through successive phases, and making its
advance from stage to stage by alternations of energy and repose, is
simply to restore, in other terms, a mystery that finds its final and
efficient cause in God.[2]

[Footnote 2: The analogy of the individual might be quoted. We are
aware within ourselves of times when thought is fertile and insight
clear, times of conception and projection, followed by seasons of slow
digestion, assimilation, and formation, when the creative faculty
stagnates, and the whole force of the intellect is absorbed in
mastering through years what it took minutes to divine.]

Gifted with the powerful individuality I am attempting to describe,
the men of the Renaissance received their earliest education in the
religion of the Middle Ages, their second in the schools of Greece and
Rome. It was the many-sided struggle of personal character with
time-honoured tradition on the one hand, and with new ideals on the
other, that lent so much of inconsistency and contradiction to their
aims. Dante remained within the pale of mediæval thoughts, and gave
them full poetical expression. To him, in a truer sense than to any
other poet, belongs the double glory of immortalising in verse the
centuries behind him, while he inaugurated the new age. The 'Vita
Nuova' and the 'Divina Commedia' are modern, in so far as the one is
the first complete analysis of personal emotion, and the other is the
epic of the soul conceived as concrete personality. But the form and
colour, the material and structure, the warp of thought and the woof
of fancy, are not modern. Petrarch opens a new era. He is not
satisfied with the body of mediæval beliefs and intellectual
conceptions. Antiquity presents a more fascinating ideal to his
spirit, and he feels the subjectivity within him strong enough to
assimilate what suits it in the present and the past. The Revival of
Learning, begun by Petrarch, was no mere renewal of interest in
classic literature. It was the emancipation of the reason in a race of
men, intolerant of control, ready to criticise accepted canons of
conduct, enthusiastic in admiration of antique liberty, freshly
awakened to the sense of beauty, and anxious above all things to
secure for themselves free scope in spheres outside the region of
authority. Men so vigorous and independent felt the joy of
exploration. There was no problem they feared to face, no formula they
were not eager to recast according to their new convictions. This
liberty of judgment did not of necessity lead to lawlessness; nor in
any case did it produce that insurgence against Catholic orthodoxy
which marked the German Reformation. Yet it lent a characteristic
quality to thought and action. Men were, and dared to be, themselves
for good or evil without too much regard for what their neighbours
thought of them. At the same time they were tolerant. The culture of
the Renaissance implied a philosophical acceptance of variety in
fashion, faith, and conduct; and this toleration was no doubt one
reason why Italian scepticism took the form of cynicism, not of
religious revolution. Contact with Islam in the south and east,
diplomatic relations with the Turks, familiarity with the mixed races
of Spain, and commerce with the nations of the north, had widened the
sympathies of the Italians, and taught them to regard humanity as one
large family. The liberal spirits of the Renaissance might have quoted
Marcus Aurelius with slight alteration: 'I will not say, dear City of
St. Peter, but, dear City of Man!' And just as their moral and
religious sensibilities were blunted, so patriotism with them ceased
to be an instinct. Instead of patriotism, the Italians were inflamed
with the zeal of cosmopolitan culture.

In proportion as Italy lost year by year the hope of becoming an
united nation, in proportion as the military instincts died in her,
and the political instincts were extinguished by despotism, in
precisely the same ratio did she evermore acquire a deeper sense of
her intellectual vocation. What was world-embracing in the spirit of
the mediæval Church passed by transmutation into the humanism of the
fifteenth century. As though aware of the hopelessness of being
Italians in the same sense as the natives of Spain were Spaniards, or
the natives of France were Frenchmen, the giants of the Renaissance
did their utmost to efface their nationality in order that they might
the more effectually restore the cosmopolitan ideal of the human
family. To this end both artists and scholars, the depositaries of the
real Italian greatness at this epoch, laboured; the artists by
creating an ideal of beauty with a message and a meaning for all
Europe, the scholars by recovering for Europe the burghership of Greek
and Roman civilisation. In spite of the invasions and convulsions that
ruined Italy between the years 1494 and 1527, the painters and the
humanists proceeded with their task, as though the fate of Italy
concerned them not, as though the destinies of the modern world
depended on their activity. After Venice had been desolated by the
armies of the League of Cambray, Aldus Manutius presented the
peace-gift of Plato to the foes of his adopted city; and when the
Lutherans broke into Parmegiano's workshop at Rome, even they were
awed by the tranquil majesty of the Virgin on his easel. Stories like
these remind us that Renaissance Italy met her doom of servitude and
degradation in the spirit of ancient Hellas, repeating as they do the
tales told of Archimedes in his study, and of Paulus Æmilius face to
face with the Zeus of Pheidias.

As patriotism gave way to cosmopolitan enthusiasm, and toleration took
the place of earnestness, in like manner the conflict of mediæval
tradition with revived Paganism in the minds of these self-reliant
men, trained to indulgence by their large commerce with the world, and
familiarised with impiety by the ever-present pageant of an
anti-Christian Church, led, as I have hinted, to recklessness and
worldly vices, rather than to reformed religion. Contented with
themselves and their surroundings, they felt none of the unsatisfied
cravings after the infinite, none of the mysterious intuitions and
ascetic raptures, the self-abasements and transfigurations, stigmata
and beatific visions, of the Middle Ages. The plenitude of life within
them seemed to justify their instincts and their impulses, however
varied and discordant these might be. The sonorous current of the
world around them drowned the voice of conscience, the suggestion of
religious scruples. It is only thus we can explain to ourselves the
attitude of such men as Sixtus and Alexander, serenely vicious in
extreme old age. The gratification of their egotism was so complete as
to exclude self-judgment by the rules and standards they
professionally applied; their personality was too exacting to admit of
hesitation when their instincts were concerned; in common with their
age they had lost sight of all but mundane aims and interests. Three
aphorisms, severally attributed to three representative Italians, may
be quoted in illustration of these remarks. 'You follow infinite
objects; I follow the finite;' said Cosimo de' Medici; 'you place your
ladders in the heavens; I on earth, that I may not seek so high or
fall so low.' 'If we are not ourselves pious,' said Julius II., 'why
should we prevent other people from being so?' 'Let us enjoy the
Papacy,' said Leo X., 'now that God has given it to us.'

It was only under the influence of some external terror--a plague, a
desolating war, an imminent peril to the nation--that the religious
sense, deadened by worldliness and selfish philosophy, made itself
felt. At such seasons whole cities rushed headlong into fierce
revivalism, while men of violent or profligate lives saw visions, and
betook themselves to penance. Cellini's Memoirs are, on this point, a
valuable mirror of the age in which he lived. It is clear that his
ecstasies of devotion in the dungeons of S. Angelo were as sincere as
the fiery impulses he obeyed with so much complacency. Passionate and
worldly as men of Cellini's stamp might be, they could not shake off
the associations that bound them to the past. The energy of their
intense individuality took turn by turn the form and colour of ascetic
piety and Pagan sensuality; and at times these strong contrasts of
emotion seemed bordering upon insanity. Ungovernable natures, swayed
by no fixed principle, and bent on moulding the world of thought
afresh to suit their own desires, became the puppets of astrological
superstition, the playthings of mad lust. Much that appears
unaccountable and contradictory in the Renaissance may be referred to
this imperfect blending of ecclesiastical tradition and idealised
Paganism in natures potent enough to be original and wilful, but not
yet tamed from semi-savagery into acquiescence by experience.
Experience came to the Italians in servitude beneath the heel of

The confusion of influences, classical and mediæval, Christian and
Pagan, in that age is not the least extraordinary of its phenomena.
Even the new thoughts that illuminated the minds of great discoverers,
seemed to them like reflections from antiquity; and while they were
opening fresh worlds, their hearts were turned toward the Holy Land
of the Crusades. Columbus and Copernicus, the two men who did more
than any others to revolutionise the mental attitude of humanity,
appealed to their contemporaries on the strength of texts from
Aristotle and Philolaus. Conscious that the guesses of the Greek
cosmographers had stimulated in themselves that curiosity whereby they
made the motion of the earth a certainty, and found a way across the
waves to a new continent, these mighty spirits forgot how slight in
reality was their debt to the inert speculators of the classic age.
The truth was that in them throbbed a force of enterprise and
conquering discovery, a spirit of exploration resolute and hardy,
denied to the ancients.

How far this new and fruitful temper of the modern mind was due to
Christianity, is a problem for the deepest speculation. The conception
of a God who had made no part of His world in vain, of a Christ who
had bought with His blood the whole seed of Adam, and who imposed the
preaching of the faith upon His followers as a duty, wrought
powerfully on Columbus. The Crusades, again, had familiarised the
nations with distant objects and ideal quests; while chivalry was
essentially antagonistic to positive and selfish aims. The spirit of
mankind had marched a long stage during the Middle Ages. It was not
possible now to conceive of God as a tranquil thinking upon thought,
with Aristotle. There was no Augustus to set arbitrary limits to the
empire of the world in the interest of a conquering nation, or to make
the two words _orbs_ and _urbs_ synonymous. When Strabo hazarded the
opinion that there might be populous islands in the other hemisphere,
he added, with the sublime indifference of a Roman, 'But these
speculations have nothing in common with practical geography; and if
such islands exist, they cannot support peoples of like origin with
us.' Such language was impossible for a man educated in the Christian
faith, and imbued with the instincts of romanticism. Therefore, though
the study of Strabo and Ptolemy at Pavia impressed Columbus with the
certainty of the new route across the ocean, he owed the courage that
sustained him to the conviction that God was leading him to a great
end. 'When I first undertook to start for the discovery of the
Indies,' he says in his will, 'I intended to beg the King and Queen to
devote the whole of the money that might be drawn from these realms to
Jerusalem.' The religious yearning of the mediæval pilgrim added
fervour to the conviction of the student, who, by reasoning on antique
texts, guessed the greatest secret of which the world has record. At
the same time there was something more in Columbus than either
antiquity or mediævalism could provide. The modern spirit is distinct
from both; and though, in the Renaissance, creation wore the garb of
imitation, and the new forces used the organs they were destined to
outlive and destroy, yet we must allow to native personality the
lion's share in such achievement as that of Columbus. It is the
variety of spiritual elements in combination and solution, which he
illustrates, that makes the psychology of the Renaissance at once so
fascinating and so difficult to analyse.

While so much liberty of thought prevailed in Italy, it may be
wondered why the Renaissance, eminently fertile in the domains of art
and culture, bore but meagre fruit in those of religion and
philosophy. The German Reformation was the Renaissance of
Christianity; and in this the Italians had no share, though it should
be remembered that, without their previous labours in the field of
scholarship, the band who led the Reformation could hardly have given
that high intellectual character to the movement which made it a new
starting-point in the history of the reason. To expect from Italy the
ethical regeneration of the modern world would be to misapprehend her
true vocation; art and erudition were sufficient to engage her
spiritual energies. The Church again, though by no means adverse to
laxity in morals, was jealous of heterodoxy. So long as freethinkers
confined their audacity to such matters as form the topic of Poggio's
'Facetiæ,' Beccadelli's 'Hermaphroditus,' or La Casa's 'Capitolo del
Forno,' the Roman Curia looked on and smiled approvingly. The most
obscene books to be found in any literature escaped the Papal censure,
and Aretino, notorious for ribaldry, aspired not wholly without reason
to the scarlet of a cardinal. But even in the fifteenth century the
taint of heresy was dangerous, and this peril was magnified when the
Lutheran schism had roused the Papacy to a sense of its position.
Under the patronage, therefore, of ecclesiastics, in the depraved
atmosphere of Rome, the free thought of the Italians turned to
licentiousness; this suited the temper of the people, fascinated by
Paganism and little inclined to raise debate upon matters of no
practical utility. Those who reflected on religious topics kept their
own counsel. How purely political were the views of profound thinkers
in Italy upon all Church questions may be gathered from the
observations of Guicciardini and Machiavelli; how little the most
earnest antagonist of ungodly ecclesiastics dreamed of disturbing the
Catholic Church system is clear in the biography of Savonarola.[3] The
first satire of Ariosto may be indicated as an epitome of the opinions
entertained by sound and liberal intellects in Italy upon the relation
of Papal Rome to the nation. There is not a trace in it of Teutonic
revolt against authority, of pious yearning for a purer faith. The
standpoint of the critic, though solid and sincere, is worldly.

[Footnote 3: See Vol. I., _Age of Despots_, pp. 239, 350-356, 415-420,
where I have endeavoured to treat these topics more at length.]

True to culture as their main preoccupation, the Italian thinkers
sought to philosophise faith by bringing Christianity into harmony
with antique speculation, and forming for themselves a theism that
should embrace the systems of the Platonists and Stoics, the Hebrew
Cabbala and the Sermon on the Mount. There is much that strikes us as
both crude and pedantic, at the same time infantine and pompous, in
the systems elaborated by those pioneers of modern eclecticism. They
lack the vigorous simplicity that gave its force to Luther's
intuition, the sublime unity of Spinoza's deductions. The dross of
erudition mingles with the pure gold of personal conviction; while
Pagan phrases, ill suited to express Christian notions, lend an air of
unreality to the sincerest efforts after rational theology. The
Platonic Academy of Florence was the centre of this search after the
faith of culture, whereof the real merit was originality, and the true
force lay in the conviction that humanity is one and indivisible. Its
apostles were Pico della Mirandola and Ficino. It found lyrical
expression in verses like the following, translated by me from the
Greek hexameters of Poliziano:--

     O Father, Lord enthroned on gold, that dwellest in high heaven,
     O King of all things, deathless God, Thou Pan supreme, celestial!
     That seest all, and movest all, and all with might sustainest,
     Older than oldest time, of all first, last, and without ending!
     The firmament of blessed souls, of stars the heavenly splendour,
     The giant sun himself, the moon that in her circle shineth,
     And streams and fountains, earth and sea, are things of Thy creating,
     Thou givest life to all; all these Thou with Thy Spirit fillest.
     The powers of earth, and powers of heaven, and they in pain infernal
     Who pine below the roots of earth, all these obey Thy bidding.
     Behold, I call upon Thee now, Thy creature on earth dwelling,
     Poor, short of life, O God, of clay a mean unworthy mortal,
     Repenting sorely of my sins, and tears of sorrow shedding.
     O God, immortal Father, hear! I cry to Thee; be gracious,
     And from my breast of this vain world the soul-enslaving passion,
     The demon's wiles, the wilful lust, that damns the impious, banish!
     Wash throughly all my heart with Thy pure Spirit's rain abundant,
     That I may love Thee, Lord, alone, Thee, King of kings, for ever.

This is but a poor substitute for the Lord's Prayer. Hell and
purgatory are out of place in its theism. [Greek: Chrysothronos] and
[Greek: aitheri naiôn] are tawdry epithets for 'Our Father which art
in heaven.' Yet it is precisely in these contradictions and confusions
that we trace the sincerity of the Renaissance spirit, seeking to fuse
together the vitality of the old faith and the forms of novel culture,
worshipping a Deity created in the image of its own mind, composite
and incoherent.

Physically, the Italians of the Renaissance were equal to any task
they chose to set themselves. No mistake is greater than to suppose
that, because the summer climate of Italy is hotter than our own,
therefore her children must be languid, pleasure-loving, and relaxed.
Twelve months spent in Tuscany would suffice to dissipate illusions
about the enervating Italian air, even if the history of ancient Rome
were not a proof that the hardiest race of combatants and conquerors
the world has ever seen were nurtured between Soracte and the sea.
After the downfall of the Empire, what remained of native vigour in
the Latin cities found a refuge in the lagoons of Venice and other
natural strongholds. Walled towns in general retained a Roman
population. The primitive Italic races still existed in the valleys of
the Apennines, while the Ligurians held the Genoese Riviera; nor were
the Etruscans extinct in Tuscany. It is true that Rome had fused these
races into a people using the same language. Yet the ethnologist will
hardly allow that the differences noticeable between the several
districts of Italy were not connected with original varieties of
stock. To the people, as Rome had made it, fresh blood was added by
the Goths, Lombards, and Germans descending from the North. Greeks,
Arabs, Normans, and, in course of time, Franks influenced the South.
During the Middle Ages a new and mighty breed of men sprang into being
by the combination of these diverse elements, each district deriving
specific quality from the varying proportions in which the chief
constituents were mingled. It is noticeable that where the
Roman-Etruscan blood was purest probably from mixture, in the valley
of the Arno, the modern Italian genius found its home. Florence and
her sister cities formed the language and the arts of Italy. To this
race, in conjunction with the natives of Lombardy and Central Italy,
was committed the civilisation of Europe in the fifteenth century. It
was only south of Rome, where the brutalising traditions of the Roman
_latifundia_ had never yielded to the burgh-creating impulse of the
Middle Ages, that the Italians were unfit for their great duty. On
these southern states the Empire of the East, Saracen marauders and
Norman conquerors, the French and the Spanish dynasties, had
successively exercised a pernicious influence; nor did the imperial
policy of Frederick II. remain long enough in operation to effect a
radical improvement in the people. Even at Naples culture was always
an exotic. Elsewhere throughout the peninsula the Italians of the new
age were a noble nation, gifted with physical, emotional, and mental
faculties in splendid harmony. In some districts, notably in Florence,
circumstance and climate had been singularly favourable to the
production of such glorious human beings as the world has rarely seen.
Beauty of person, strength of body, and civility of manners were
combined in the men of that favoured region with intellectual
endowments of the highest order: nor were these gifts of nature
confined to a caste apart; the whole population formed an aristocracy
of genius.

In order to comprehend the greatness of this Italian type in the
Renaissance, it is only needful to study the picture galleries of
Florence or of Venice with special attention to the portraits they
contain. When we compare those senators and sages with the subjects of
Dürer's and of Cranach's art, we feel the physical superiority of the
Italians. In like manner a comparison of the men of the fifteenth
century with those of the sixteenth shows how much of that physical
grandeur had been lost. It is easy to wander astray while weaving
subtle theories on this path of criticism. Yet it cannot be a mere
accident that Vandyck's portrait of the Cardinal de' Bentivogli in the
Pitti Palace differs as it does from that of the Cardinal Ippolito de'
Medici by Pontormo or by Titian. The Medici is an Italian of the
Renaissance, with his imperious originality and defiance of
convention. He has refused to be portrayed as an ecclesiastic. Titian
has painted him in Hungarian costume of dark red velvet, moustached,
and sworded like a soldier; in Pontormo's picture he wears a suit of
mail, and rests his left hand on a large white hound. The Bentivoglio
is an Italian of the type produced by the Counter-Reformation. His
delicate lace ruffs, the coquetry of his scarlet robes, and the fine
keen cut of his diplomatic features betray a new spirit.[4] Surely the
physical qualities of a race change with the changes in their thought
and feeling. The beauty of Tasso is more feminine and melancholy than
that of Ariosto, in whom the liberal genius of the Renaissance was yet
alive. Among the scowling swordsmen of the seventeenth century you
cannot find a face like Giorgione's Gattamelata;[5] the nobles who
bear themselves so proudly on the canvases of Vandyck at Genoa lack
the urbanity of Raphael's Castiglione; Moroni's black-robed students
are more pinched and withered than the Pico of the Uffizzi. It will
not do to strain such points. It is enough to suggest them. What
remains, however, for certain is that the Italians of the fifteenth
century--and among these must be included those who lived through the
first half of the sixteenth--had physical force and character
corresponding to their robust individuality. Until quite late in the
Renaissance so much survived of feudal customs even in Italy that
riding, the handling of the lance and sword, and all athletic
exercises formed a part of education no less indispensable than mental
training. Great cities had open places set apart for tournaments and
games; in Tuscan burghs the _palio_ was run on feast days, and May
mornings saw the prentice lads of Florence tilting beneath the smiles
of girls who danced at nightfall on the square of Santa Trinità.
Bloody battles in the streets were frequent. The least provocation
caused a man to draw his dagger. Combats _a steccato chiuso_ were
among the pastimes to which a Pope might lend his countenance. Skill
in swordsmanship was therefore a necessity. For the rest, we learn
from Castiglione that the perfect gentleman was bound to be an
accomplished dancer, a bold rider, a skilled wrestler, a swift runner,
to shoot well at the mark, to hurl the javelin and the quoit with
grace, and to play at tennis and _pallone_. In addition he ought to
affect some one athletic exercise in such perfection as to beat
professors of the same on their own ground. Cesare Borgia took pride
in felling an ox at a single blow, and exhibited his marksman's
cunning by shooting condemned criminals in a courtyard of the Vatican.

[Footnote 4: It would be easy to multiply these contrasts, comprising,
for example, the Cardinals Inghirami and Bibbiena and the Leo of
Raphael with the Farnesi portraits at Modena or the grave faces of
Moroni's patrons at Bergamo.]

[Footnote 5: Portrait in the Uffizzi, ascribed to Giorgione, but more
probably by some pupil of Mantegna.]

That such men should have devoted their energies to intellectual
culture at a time when English nobles could barely read or write, and
when the chivalry of France regarded learning with disdain, was a
proof of their rich natural endowments. Nor was the determination of
the race to scholarship in any sense an accident. Throughout the
length and breadth of Italy, memories of ancient greatness spurred her
children on to emulation. Ghosts of Roman patriots and poets seemed
hovering round their graves, and calling on posterity to give them
life again. If we cannot bring back Greece and Rome, at least let us
make Florence a second Athens, and restore the Muses to Ausonian
vales. That was the cry. It was while gazing on the ruins of Rome that
Villani felt impelled to write his chronicle. Pavia honoured Boethius
like a saint. Mantua struck coins with the head of Virgil, and Naples
pointed out his tomb. Padua boasted of Livy, and Como of the Plinies.
'Sulmona,' cried Boccaccio, 'mourns because she holds not Ovid's dust;
and Parma is glad that Cassius rests within her walls.' Such reverence
for the great men of antiquity endured throughout the Middle Ages,
creating myths that swayed the fancy, and forming in the popular
consciousness a presentiment of the approaching age. There is
something pathetic in the survival of old Roman titles, in the freak
of the legend-making imagination that gave to Orlando the style of
Roman senator, in the outburst of enthusiasm for Rienzi when he called
himself Tribunus Populi Romani. With the Renaissance itself this
affection for the past became a passion. Pius II. amnestied the people
of Arpino because they were fellow-citizens of Cicero. Alfonso of
Naples received as a most precious gift from Venice a bone supposed to
be the leg of Livy. All the patricians of Italy invented classical
pedigrees; and even Paul II., because he was called Barbo, claimed
descent from the Ahenobarbi. Such instances might be multiplied
indefinitely. It is, however, more to the purpose here to notice that
in Italy this adoration of the antique world was common to all
classes; not students alone, but the people at large regarded the dead
grandeur of the classic age as their especial heritage. To resuscitate
that buried glory, and to reunite themselves with the past, was the
earnest aim of the Italians as a nation. A conviction prevailed that
the modern world could never be so radiant as the old. This found its
expression in the saying that Rome's chief ornaments were her ruins;
in the belief that Julia's corpse, discovered in the Appian Way,
surpassed all living maidens; in Matarazzo's observation that Astorre
Baglioni's body was worthy of an ancient Roman. In their admiration
for antiquity, scholars were blind to the specific glories of the
modern genius. Lionardo Bruni, for example, exclaimed that 'the
ancient Greeks by far excelled us Italians in humanity and gentleness
of heart.' Yet what Greek poem can be compared for tenderness with
Dante's 'Vita Nuova,' with the 'Canzoniere' of Petrarch, or with the
tale of Griselda in Boccaccio? _Gentilezza di cuore_ was the most
characteristic product of chivalry, and the fourth Æneid is the only
classic masterpiece of pure romantic pathos. This humility of
discipleship was not, however, strong enough to check emulation. On
the contrary, the yearning towards antiquity acted like a potent
stimulus on personal endeavour, generating an acute desire for fame, a
burning aspiration to be numbered with the mighty men of old. When
Virgil introduced Dante to the company of Homer and his peers, the
rank of _sesto tra cotanto senno_ rewarded him for all his labour in
the rhyme that made him thin through half a lifetime. Petrarch, who
exceeded Dante in the thirst for literary honour, turned from the men
of his generation to converse in long epistles with the buried saints
of Latin culture. For men of less ambition it was enough to feel that
they could raise their souls through study to communion with the
stately spirits of antiquity, passing like Machiavelli from trivial
affairs into their closet, where they donned their reading robes and
shook hands across the centuries with Cicero or Livy. It was the
universal object of the humanists to gain a consciousness of self
distinguished from the vulgar herd, and to achieve this by joining the
great company of bards and sages, whose glory could not perish.

Whoever felt within himself the stirring of the spirit under any
form, sought earnestly for fame; and in this way a new social
atmosphere, unknown to the nations of the Middle Ages, was formed in
Italy. A large and liberal acceptance, recognising ability of all
kinds, irrespective of rank or piety or martial prowess, displaced the
narrower judgments of the Church and feudalism. Giotto, the peasant's
son, ranked higher in esteem than Cimabue, the Florentine citizen,
because his work of art was worthier. Petrarch had his place in no
official capacity, but as an honoured equal, at the marriage feasts of
princes. Poliziano corresponded with kings, promising immortality as a
more than regal favour. Pomponius Lætus could afford to repel the
advances of the Sanseverini, feeling that erudition ranked him higher
than his princely kinsmen. It was not wealth or policy alone that
raised the Medici among the Despots so far above the Baglioni of
Perugia or the Petrucci of Siena. They owed this distinction rather to
their comprehension of the craving of their age for culture. Thus
though birth commanded respect for its own sake, a new standard of
eminence had been established, and personal merit was the passport
which carried the meanest into the most illustrious company. Men of
all conditions and all qualifications met upon the common ground of
intellectual intercourse. The subjects they discussed may be gathered
from the introductions to Firenzuola's novels, from Bembo's 'Asolani'
and Castiglione's 'Cortegiano,' from Guicciardini's 'Dialogue on
Florence,' or from the 'Camaldolese Discourses' of Landino. Society of
this kind existed nowhere else in Europe. To Italy belongs the proud
priority of having invented the art of polite conversation, and
anticipated the French _salon_ after an original and urbane fashion of
her own.

Under these conditions a genuine cultus of intellect sprang up in
Italy. Princes and people shared a common impulse to worship the
mental superiority of men who had no claim to notice but their
genius. It was in the spirit of this hero-worship that the terrible
Gismondo Pandolfo Malatesta transferred to Rimini the bones of Pletho,
and wrote his impassioned epitaph upon the sarcophagus outside
Alberti's church. The biographies of the humanists abound in stories
of singular honours paid to men of parts, not only by princes who
rejoiced in their society, but also by cities receiving them with
public acclamation. And, as it often happens that a parody reveals the
nature of the art it travesties, such light is thrown upon our subject
by the vile Pietro Aretino, who, because he was a man of talent and
unscrupulous in its employment, held kings and potentates beneath his
satyr's hoof. It is not, however, needful to go thus far afield for
instances. Some lines of our own poet Webster exactly describe the
Catholicity of the Renaissance, which first obtained in Italy for men
of marked abilities, and afterwards to some extent prevailed at large
in Europe:--

     Virtue is ever sowing of her seeds:
     In the trenches for the soldier; in the wakeful study
     For the scholar; in the furrows of the sea
     For men of our profession: of all which
     Arise and spring up honour.

The virtue here described bears the Italian sense of _virtù_, the
Latin _virtus_, the Greek [Greek: aretê], that which makes a man. It
might display itself in a thousand ways; but all alike brought honour,
and honour every man was bound to seek. The standard whereby the
Italians judged this virtue was æsthetical rather than moral. They
were too dazzled by brilliant achievement to test it in the crucible
of ethics. This is the true key to Machiavelli's critique of
Castruccio Castracane, Gianpaolo Baglioni, Cesare Borgia, and Piero
Soderini. In common with his race, he was fascinated by character, and
attached undue importance to the force that made men seek success even
through crime.

The thirst for glory and the worship of ability stimulated the
Italians, earlier than any other nation, to commemorate what seemed to
them noteworthy in their own lives and in those of their
contemporaries. Dante, within the pale of mediævalism, led the way in
both of these directions. His 'Vita Nuova' is a chapter of
autobiography restrained within the limits of consummate art. His
portraits of S. Francis and S. Dominic (not to mention other
medallions and cameos of predecessors or contemporaries--Farinata, for
example, or Boniface VIII.) record the special qualities whereby those
heroes of the faith were distinguished from the herd of men around
them. Boccaccio's 'Life of Dante' is a further step in the direction
of purely modern biography. Then follow the collections of Filippo
Villani, Giovanni Cavalcanti, Vespasiano, Platina, Decembrio,
Beccadelli, Caracciolo, and Paolo Giovio. Vasari's 'Lives of the
Painters' are unique in their attempt to embrace within a single work
whatever struck their author as most characteristic in the career of
one particular class of men. For historical precision the portraits
composed by Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Varchi, Pitti, and many of the
minor annalists leave nothing to be desired. Such autobiographies as
those of Petrarch, Cellini, Cardano, and Cornaro are models in their
kind; whether their object were simply self-glorification, or whether
a scientific and didactic purpose underlay the chronicle of a
lifetime, the result is equally vivid and interesting. Hero-worship
prompted Gian Francesco Pico to compose the 'Life of Savonarola,' and
Condivi to write that of Michael Angelo. Scorn and hatred impelled
Platina to transmit the outline of Paul II. to posterity in a
caricature, the irony of which is so restrained that it might pass for
sincerity. Machiavelli's 'Biography of Castruccio' is a political
romance indited with a philosophical intention. What motive, beyond
admiration, produced the anonymous 'Memoir of Alberti,' so terse in
its portraiture, so tranquil in style, we do not know; but this too,
like Prendilacqua's 'Life of Vittorino da Feltre,' is a masterpiece of
natural delineation. For these biographies the works of Plutarch and
Suetonius served no doubt as models. Yet this does not make the
preoccupation of the Italians with the phenomena of personality the
less remarkable.

Another phase of the same impulse led to special treatises upon ideal
characters. The picture of the perfect householder was drawn by
Alberti, that of the courtier by Castiglione, that of the prince by
Machiavelli. Da Vinci discoursed upon the physical proportions of the
human form. Firenzuola and Luigini analysed the beauty of women;
Piccolomini undertook to describe the manners of a well-bred lady; and
La Casa laid down rules for polite behaviour in society. The names of
treatises of this description might easily be multiplied. Enough,
however, has been said to show the tendency of the Italian intellect
to occupy itself with salient qualities, whether exhibited in
individuals or idealised and abstracted by the reflective fancy. The
whole of this literature implies an intense self-consciousness in the
nation, an ardent interest in men as men, because of the specific
virtue to be found in each. The spirit, therefore, in which these
authors of the Renaissance approached their task was wholly different
from that which induced the mediæval annalist to register the miracles
of saints, to chronicle the princes of some dynasty or the abbots of a
convent. Nor had it much in common with the mythologising enthusiasm
of romantic poets. The desire for edification and the fire of fancy
had yielded to an impulse more strictly scientific, to a curiosity
more positive.

The attention directed in literature and social intercourse upon great
men implied a corresponding thirst for posthumous glory as a
subjective quality of the Renaissance character. To perpetuate a name
and fame was the most fervent passion, shared alike by artists and
princes, by men of letters and by generals. It was not enough for a
man to show forth the vigour that was in him, or to win the applause
of his contemporaries. He must go beyond and wrest something permanent
for himself from the ideal world that will survive our transient
endeavours. When Alfonso the Magnanimous employed Fazio to compose his
chronicle, when Francesco Sforza paid Filelfo for his verses by the
dozen, when Cosimo de' Medici regretted that he had not spent more
wealth on building, when Bartolommeo Colleoni decreed the erection of
his chapel at Bergamo, and his statue on the public square of Venice,
these men, so different in all things else, were striving, each after
his own fashion, to buy an immortality his own achievements in the
field or Senate might not win. Dante, here as elsewhere the first to
utter the word of the modern age, has given expression to this thirst
for lasting recollection in his lines about the planet Mercury:[6]--

     Questa picciola stella si correda
     De' buoni spirti, che son stati attivi,
     Perchè onore e fama gli succeda.

[Footnote 6: _Paradiso_, vi. 112.]

At the same time Dante, imbued with the mystic spirit of the Middle
Ages, felt an antagonism between worldly ambition and the ideal of the
Christian life. There are other passages, where fame is mentioned by
him as a fleeting breath, a flower that blooms and fades.[7] In truth,
the passionate desire for glory was part of the Renaissance
worldliness, caught from communion with the classic past, and
connected with that vivid apprehension of human life which gave its
vigour to an age of reawakened impulses and positive ambitions. This
world was so much with them, so much to them, that these men would not
lose their grasp of it in death, or willingly exchange it for a
paradise of hopes beyond.

[Footnote 7: Notably _Purg._ xi. 100-117.]

The enthusiasm for antiquity coloured this desire for fame by forcing
on the Italians the conviction that in culture was the real title to
eternity. How could they have entered into the spiritual kingdom of
the Greeks and Romans, if it had not been for MSS. and works of art?
It became the fashion therefore, to seek immortality through
literature. The study of the classics was not then confined to men of
a peculiar bent. On all alike, even on women, there weighed the one
belief that to be a scholar was the surest way of saving something
from the wreck that is the doom of human deeds.[8] Only at rare
intervals, and in rare natures of the type of Michael Angelo, did the
Christian ideal resume its sway. Tired with the radiance of art or
learning, they turned to the Cross of Christ, and laid their secular
achievements down as vain and worthless. The time, however, had not
yet come when a disgust of culture and an exhaustion of the intellect
should make asceticism and monastic ecstasy acceptable once more. That
belonged to the age of Spanish tyranny, and what is called the
Counter-Reformation. For the real Renaissance Leo's memorable
_imprimatur_, granted to the editors of Tacitus, struck the true
key-note; while Sappho's solemn lines of warning to a friend careless
of literature might be paraphrased to speak the feeling of

     Lo, thou shalt die,
     And lie
     Dumb in the silent tomb;
     Nor of thy name
     Shall there be any fame
     In ages yet to be or years to come:
     For of the rose
     That on Pieria blows
     Thou hast no share;
     But in sad Hades' house,
     Unknown, inglorious,
     Mid the dim shades that wander there,
     Shalt thou flit forth and haunt the filmy air.

[Footnote 8: A curious echo of this Italian conviction may be traced
in Fletcher's _Elder Brother_.]

These words found no uncertain echo in Renaissance Italy, where lads
with long dark hair and liquid eyes left their loves to listen to a
pedant's lectures, where Niccolo de' Niccoli wooed Piero de' Pazzi
from a life of pleasure by the promise of a spiritual kingdom in the
world of books. Piero was 'a man born with thy face and throat, Lyric
Apollo!' His only object was to enjoy--_darsi buon tempo_, as the
phrase of Florence hath it. Yet these words of the student: 'Seeing
thou art the son of such a man, and of comely person, it is a shame
thou dost not give thyself to learn Latin, the which would be unto
thee a great ornament; and if thou dost not learn it, thou wilt be
nought esteemed; the flower of youth once passed, thou wilt find
thyself without virtue'--these words carried such weight, and sank so
deeply into the young man's heart, that, smitten with the love of
learning, he forsook his boon companions, engaged Pontano as
house-tutor at a salary of one hundred golden florins, and spent his
leisure time in learning Livy and the 'Æneid' by heart.[9] What he
sought he gained; his name is still recorded, now that not only the
bloom of youth, but life itself has passed away, and he has slept for
nearly four centuries in Florentine earth. Yet we, no less wearied of
erudition than Faust was, when he held the cup of laudanum in his hand
and heard the Easter voices singing, may well ask ourselves what Piero
carried with him to the grave more than Sardanapalus, over whom the
Greeks inscribed their bitter epitaphs. Disenchanted and disillusioned
as we are by those four centuries of learning, the musical lament of
Dido and the stately periods of Latin prose are little better,
considered as spiritual sustenance, to us than the husks that the
swine did eat. How can we picture to ourselves the conditions of an
age when scholarship was an evangel, forcing the Levis of Florence by
the persuasion of its irresistible beauty to forsake the tables of the
money-changers, tempting young men of great possessions to sell all
and give to the Muses, making of Lucrezia Borgia herself the Magdalen
of polite literature? Fortunately for the civilisation of the modern
world, the men of the Renaissance, untroubled by a surfeit of
knowledge, made none of these reflections. It was an age of sincere
faith in the goodness and the glory of the intellect revealed by art
and letters. When we read Vespasiano's account of the grey-haired
Niccolo accosting the young Pazzi on the steps of the Bargello, our
mind turns instinctively to an earlier dayspring of the reason in
ancient Greece; we think of the charm exercised by Socrates over
Critias and Alcibiades: and had an Aristophanes appeared in Italy, we
fancy how he might have criticised this seduction of the youth from
citizenship and arms to tranquil contemplations and the cosmopolitan
interests of culture.

[Footnote 9: Vespasiano, _Vita di Piero de' Pazzi_. Compare the
beautiful letter of Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini to his nephew (_Ep.
Lib._ i. 4). He reminds the young man that fair as youth is, and
delightful as are the pleasures of the May of life, learning is more
fair and knowledge more delightful. 'Non enim Lucifer aut Hesperus tam
pulcher est quam sapientia quæ studiis acquiritur litterarum.']

It is not without real reason that these Hellenic parallels confront
us in the study of Italian Renaissance. Florence borrowed her light
from Athens, as the moon shines with rays reflected from the sun. The
Revival was the silver age of that old golden age of Greece. In a
literal, not a merely metaphorical sense, the fifteenth century
witnessed a new birth of the classic spirit. And what, let us ask
ourselves, since here at last is the burning point of our inquiry,
what was the true note of this spirit, in so far as its recovery
concerned the Italian race? Superficial observers will speak of the
Paganism of the Renaissance, its unblushing license, its worldliness,
its self-satisfied sensuality, as though that were all, as though
these qualities were not inherent in human nature, ready at any
moment to emerge when the strain of nobler enthusiasm is relaxed, or
the self-preservative instincts of society are enfeebled. There is
indeed a truth in this rough and ready answer, which requires to be
stated on the threshold. The contact of the modern with the ancient
world did encourage a profligate and godless mode of living in men who
preferred Petronius to S. Paul, and yearned less after Galilee than
Corinth. The humanists were distinguished even above the Roman clergy
for open disorder in their lives. They developed filthy speaking as a
special branch of rhetoric, and professed the science of recondite and
obsolete obscenity. It was just this fashion of the learned classes
that made Erasmus mistrust the importation of scholarship into the
North. 'One scruple still besets my mind,' he wrote, 'lest under the
cloak of revived literature Paganism should strive to raise its head,
there being among Christians men who, while they recognise the name of
Christ, breathe in their hearts the spirit of the Gentiles.'
Christianity, especially in Italy, where the spectacle of the Holy See
inspired disgust, had been prostituted to the vilest service by the
Church.[10] Faith was associated with folly, superstition, ignorance,
intolerance, and cruelty. The manners of the clergy were in flagrant
discord with the Gospel, and Antichrist found fitter incarnation in
Roderigo Borgia than in Nero. While the essence of religion was thus
sacrificed by its professors, there appeared upon the horizon of the
modern world, like some bright blazing star, the ideal of that Pagan
civilisation against which in its decadence the ascendant force of
Christianity had striven. It was not unnatural that a reaction in
favour of Paganism, now that the Church had been found wanting, should
ensue, or that the passions of humanity should justify their
self-indulgence by appealing to the precedents of Greece and Rome.
Good and bad were mingled in the classical tradition. Vices,
loathsome enough in a Pope who had instituted the censure of the
press, seemed venial when combined with the manliness of Hadrian or
the refined charm of Catullus. Sin itself lost half its evil coming
from the new-found Holy Land of culture. Still this so-called Paganism
of the Renaissance, real as it was, had but a superficial connection
with classical studies. The corruption of the Church and the political
degeneracy of the commonwealths had quite as much to do with it as the
return to heathen standards. Nor could the Renaissance have been the
great world-historical era it truly was, if such demoralisation had
been a part and parcel of its essence. Crimes and vices are not the
hotbed of arts and literature: lustful priests and cruel despots were
not necessary to the painting of Raphael or the poetry of Ariosto. The
faults of the Italians in the age of the Renaissance were neither
productive of their high achievements, nor conversely were they
generated by the motion of the intellect toward antique forms of
culture. The historian notes synchronisms, whereof he is not bound to
prove the interdependence, and between which he may feel there is no
causal link.

[Footnote 10: It is enough to refer to Luther's _Table Talk_ upon the
state of Rome in Leo's reign.]

It does not, moreover, appear that the demoralisation of Italian
society, however this may have been brought about, produced either
physical or intellectual degeneration in the people. Commercial
prosperity, indeed, had rendered them inferior in brute strength to
their semi-barbarous neighbours; while the cosmopolitan interests of
culture had destroyed the energy of national instincts. But it would
be wrong to charge their neopaganism alone with results whereof the
causes were so complex.

Meanwhile, what gave its deep importance to the classical revival, was
the emancipation of the reason, consequent upon the discovery that the
best gifts of the spirit had been enjoyed by the nations of antiquity.
An ideal of existence distinct from that imposed upon the Middle Ages
by the Church, was revealed in all its secular attractiveness. Fresh
value was given to the desires and aims, enjoyments and activities of
man, considered as a noble member of the universal life, and not as a
diseased excrescence on the world he helped to spoil. Instead of the
cloistral service of the 'Imitatio Christi,' that conception of
communion, through knowledge, with God manifested in His works and in
the soul of man, which forms the indestructible religion of science
and the reason, was already generated. The intellect, after lying
spell-bound during a long night, when thoughts were as dreams and
movement as somnambulism, resumed its activity, interrogated nature,
and enjoyed the pleasures of unimpeded energy. Without ceasing to be
Christians (for the moral principles of Christianity are the
inalienable possession of the human race), the men of the Revival
dared once again to exercise their thought as boldly as the Greeks and
Romans had done before them. More than this, they were now able, as it
were, by the resuscitation of a lost faculty, to do so freely and
clear-sightedly. The touch upon them of the classic spirit was like
the finger of a deity giving life to the dead.

That more and nobler use was not made of the new light which dawned
upon the world in the Revival; that the humanists abandoned the high
standpoint of Petrarch for a lower and more literary level; that
society assimilated the Hedonism more readily than the Stoicism of the
ancients; that scholars occupied themselves with the form rather than
the matter of the classics; that all these shortcomings in their
several degrees prevented the Italians from leading the intellectual
movement of the sixteenth century in religion and philosophy, as they
had previously led the mind of Europe in discovery and literature--is
deeply to be lamented by those who are jealous for their honour. For
the rest, no words can be found more worthy to express their high
conception of man, regarded as a free yet responsible personality,
sent into the world to mould his own nature, and by this power of
self-determination severed from both brutes and angels, than the
following passage from Pico della Mirandola's 'Oration on the Dignity
of Man.' It combines antique liberty of thought with Christian faith
in a style distinctive of the Renaissance at its best; nor is its note
of mediæval cosmology uncharacteristic of an age that divined as yet
more than it firmly grasped the realities of modern science. Here, if
anywhere, may be hailed the Epiphany of the modern spirit,
contraposing God and man in a relation inconceivable to the ancients,
unapprehended in its fulness by the Middle Ages. 'Then the Supreme
Maker decreed that unto Man, on whom He could bestow nought singular,
should belong in common whatsoever had been given, to His other
creatures. Therefore He took man, made in His own individual image,
and having placed him in the centre of the world, spake to him thus:
"Neither a fixed abode, nor a form in thine own likeness, nor any gift
peculiar to thyself alone, have we given thee, O Adam, in order that
what abode, what likeness, what gifts thou shalt choose, may be thine
to have and to possess. The nature allotted to all other creatures,
within laws appointed by ourselves, restrains them. Thou, restrained
by no narrow bounds, according to thy own free will, in whose power I
have placed thee, shalt define thy nature for thyself. I have set thee
midmost the world, that thence thou mightest the more conveniently
survey whatsoever is in the world. Nor have we made thee either
heavenly or earthly, mortal or immortal, to the end that thou, being,
as it were, thy own free maker and moulder, shouldst fashion thyself
in what form may like thee best. Thou shalt have power to decline unto
the lower or brute creatures. Thou shalt have power to be reborn unto
the higher, or divine, according to the sentence of thy intellect."
Thus to Man, at his birth, the Father gave seeds of all variety and
germs of every form of life.'

Out of thoughts like these, if Italy could only have been free, if her
society could have been uncorrupted, if her Church could have returned
to the essential truths of Christianity, might have sprung, as from a
seed, the noblest growth of human science. But _dis aliter visum est_.
The prologue to this history of culture--the long account taken of
selfish tyrants, vicious clergy, and incapable republics, in my 'Age
of the Despots'--is intended to make it clear why the conditions under
which the Revival began in Italy rendered its accomplishment



     Importance of the Revival of Learning -- Mediæval Romance --
     The Legend of Faustus -- Its Value for the Renaissance --
     The Devotion of Italy to Study -- Italian Predisposition for
     this Labour -- Scholarship in the Dark Ages -- Double
     Attitude assumed by the Church -- Piety for Virgil -- Meagre
     Acquaintance with the Latin Classics -- No Greek Learning --
     The Spiritual Conditions of the Middle Ages adverse to Pure
     Literature -- Italy no exception to the rest of Europe --
     Dante and Petrarch -- Definition of Humanism -- Petrarch's
     Conception of it -- His Æsthetical Temperament -- His Cult
     for Cicero, Zeal in collecting Manuscripts, Sense of the
     Importance of Greek Studies -- Warfare against Pedantry and
     Superstition -- Ideal of Poetry and Rhetoric -- Critique of
     Jurists and Schoolmen -- S. Augustine -- Petrarch's Vanity
     -- Thirst for Fame -- Discord between his Life and his
     Profession -- His Literary Temperament -- Visionary
     Patriotism -- His Influence -- His Successors -- Boccaccio
     and Greek Studies -- Translation of Homer -- Philosophy of
     Literature -- Sensuousness of Boccaccio's Inspiration --
     Giovanni da Ravenna -- The Wandering Professor -- His Pupils
     in Latin Scholarship -- Luigi Marsigli -- The Convent of S.
     Spirito -- Humanism in Politics -- Coluccio de' Salutati --
     Gasparino da Barzizza -- Improved Style in Letter-writing --
     Revival of Greek Learning -- Manuel Chrysoloras -- His
     Pupils -- Lionardo Bruni -- Value of Greek for the

I have already observed that it would be inaccurate to identify the
whole movement of the Renaissance with the process whereby the
European nations recovered and appropriated the masterpieces of Greek
and Latin literature. At the same time this reconquest of the classic
world of thought was by far the most important achievement of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It absorbed nearly the whole mental
energy of the Italians, and determined in a great measure the quality
of all their intellectual production in the period I have undertaken
to illustrate. Through their activity in the field of scholarship the
proper starting-point was given to the modern intellect. The
revelation of what men were and what they wrought under the influence
of other faiths and other impulses, in distant ages with a different
ideal for their aim, not only widened the narrow horizon of the Middle
Ages, but it also restored self-confidence to the reason of humanity.
Research and criticism began to take the place of scholastic
speculation. Positive knowledge was substituted for the intuitive
guesses of idealists and dreamers. The interests of this world
received their due share of attention, and the _litteræ humaniores_ of
the student usurped upon the _divinarum rerum cognitio_ of

All through the Middle Ages uneasy and imperfect memories of Greece
and Rome had haunted Europe. Alexander, the great conqueror; Hector,
the noble knight and lover; Helen, who set Troy town on fire; Virgil,
the magician; Dame Venus lingering about the hill of Hörsel--these
phantoms, whereof the positive historic truth was lost, remained to
sway the soul and stimulate desire in myth and saga. Deprived of
actual knowledge, imagination transformed what it remembered of the
classic age into romance. The fascination exercised by these dreams of
a half-forgotten past over the mediæval fancy expressed itself in the
legend of Doctor Faustus. That legend tells us what the men upon the
eve of the Revival longed for, and what they dreaded, when they turned
their minds towards the past. The secret of enjoyment and the source
of strength possessed by the ancients, allured them; but they believed
that they could only recover this lost treasure by the suicide of
their soul. So great was the temptation that Faustus paid the price.
After imbibing all the knowledge of his age, he sold himself to the
Devil, in order that his thirst for experience might be quenched, his
grasp upon the world be strengthened, and the ennui of his inactivity
be soothed. His first use of this dearly-bought power was to make
blind Homer sing to him. Amphion tunes his harp in concert with
Mephistopheles. Alexander rises from the dead at his behest, with all
his legionaries; and Helen is given to him for a bride. Faustus is
therefore a parable of the impotent yearnings of the spirit in the
Middle Ages--its passionate aspiration, its conscience-stricken
desire, its fettered curiosity amid the cramping limits of imperfect
knowledge and irrational dogmatism. That for which Faustus sold his
soul, the freedom he acquired by magic, the sense of beauty he
gratified through visions, the knowledge he gained by interrogation of
demons, was yielded to the world without price at the time of the
Renaissance. Homer, no longer by the intervention of a fiend, but by
the labour of the scholar, sang to the new age. The pomp of the
empires of the old world was restored in the pages of historians. The
indestructible beauty of Greek art, whereof Helen was an emblem,
became, through the discovery of classic poetry and sculpture, the
possession of the modern world. Mediævalism took this Helen to wife,
and their offspring, the Euphorion of Goethe's drama, is the spirit of
the modern world. But how was this effected? By long and toilsome
study, by the accumulation of MSS., by the acquisition of dead
languages, by the solitary labour of grammarians, by the lectures of
itinerant professors, by the scribe, by the printing press, by the
self-devotion of magnificent Italy to erudition. In this way the
Renaissance realised the dream of the Middle Ages, and the genius of
the Italians wrought by solid toil what the myth-making imagination of
the Germans had projected in a poem.

It is impossible to exaggerate the benefit conferred upon Europe by
the Italians at this epoch. The culture of the classics had to be
reappropriated before the movement of the modern mind could begin:
before the nations could start upon a new career of progress, the
chasm between the old and new world had to be bridged over. This task
of reappropriation the Italians undertook alone, and achieved at the
sacrifice of their literary independence and their political freedom.
The history of Renaissance literature in Italy is the history of a
national genius deviating from the course of self-development into the
channels of scholarship and antiquarian research. The language created
by Dante as a thing of power, polished by Petrarch as a thing of
beauty, trained by Boccaccio as the instrument of melodious prose, was
abandoned even by the Tuscans in the fifteenth century for revived
Latin and newly-discovered Greek. Patent acquisition took the place of
proud inventiveness; laborious imitation of classical authors
suppressed originality of style. The force of mind which in the
fourteenth century had produced a 'Divine Comedy' and a 'Decameron,'
in the fifteenth was expended upon the interpretation of codices, the
settlement of texts, the translation of Greek books into Latin, the
study of antiquities, the composition of commentaries, encyclopædias,
dictionaries, ephemerides. While we regret this change from creative
to acquisitive literature, we must bear in mind that those scholars
who ought to have been poets accomplished nothing less than the
civilisation, or, to use their own phrase, the humanisation, of the
modern world.[11] At the critical moment when the Eastern Empire was
being shattered by the Turks, and when the other European nations were
as yet unfit for culture, Italy saved the arts and sciences of Greece
and Rome, and interpreted the spirit of the classics. Devoting herself
to what appears the slavish work of compilation and collection, she
transmitted an inestimable treasure to the human race; and though for
a time the beautiful Italian tongue was superseded by a jargon of dead
languages, yet the literature of the Renaissance yielded in the end
the poetry of Ariosto, the political philosophy of Machiavelli, the
histories of Guicciardini and Varchi. Meanwhile the whole of Europe
had received the staple of its intellectual education.

[Footnote 11: Poliziano, Pontano, Sannazzaro, and Bembo divided their
powers between scholarship and poetry, to the injury of the latter.]

It is necessary to repeat the observation that this absorption of
energy in the task of scholarship was no less natural to the Italians
than necessary for the world at large. The Italians were not a new
nation like the Franks and Germans. Nothing is more remarkable in the
mediæval history of Italy than the sense, shared alike by poets and
jurists, by the leaders of popular insurrections and the moulders of
philosophic thought, that the centre of national vitality existed in
the Roman Empire. It was this determination to look backward rather
than forward, to trust the past rather than the present, that
neutralised the forces of the Lombard League, and prevented the
communes from asserting their independence face to face with
foreigners who claimed to be the representatives of Cæsar. The
Italians, unlike any other European people, sacrificed the reality of
political freedom for the idea of majesty and glory, to be recovered
by the restitution of the Empire. Guelf and Ghibelline coincided in
this delusion, that Rome, whether Papal or Imperial, was destined
still to place the old Italic stock upon the throne of civilised
humanity. When the three great authors of the thirteenth century
appeared, each in turn cast his eyes to ancient Rome as the true
source of national greatness. The language of modern Italy was known
to be a scion of the Latin speech, and the Italians called themselves
_Latini_. The attempt to conform their literature to the Roman type
was therefore felt to be but a return to its true standard; the
'Æneid' of Virgil was their _Nibelungen-Lied_. Thus the humanistic
enthusiasm of the fifteenth century assumed an almost patriotic
character. In it, moreover, the doctrine that had ruled the Middle
Ages, interrupting political cohesion without acquiring the
consistency of fact, attained at last its proper sphere of
development. The ideal of Dante in the 'De Monarchiâ' had proved a
baseless dream; no emperor was destined to take his seat in Rome and
sway the world. But the ideal of Petrarch was realised; the scholars,
animated by his impulse, reacquired the birthright of culture which
belonged of old to Italy, and made her empress of the intellect for
Europe. Not political but spiritual supremacy was the real heritage of
these new Romans.

As an introduction to the history of the Revival, and in order that
the work to be performed by the Italian students may be accurately
measured, it will be necessary to touch briefly upon the state of
scholarship during the dark ages. To underrate the achievement of that
period, especially in logic, theology, and law, is only too easy,
seeing that a new direction was given to the mind of Europe by the
Renaissance, and that we have moved continuously on other lines to
other objects since the opening of the fifteenth century. Mediæval
thought was both acute and strenuous in its own region of activity.
What it lacked was material outside the speculative sphere to feed
upon. Culture, in our sense of the word, did not exist, and the
intellect was forced to deal subtly with a very limited class of

Long before the fall of the Roman Empire it became clear that both
fine arts and literature were gradually declining. Sculpture in the
age of Constantine had lost distinction of style; and though the
practice of verse survived as a rhetorical exercise, no works of
original genius were produced. Ausonius and Claudian, just before the
division of the Empire and the irruption of the barbarian races,
uttered the last swan's note of classic poetry. Meanwhile true taste
and criticism were extinct.[12] The Church, while battling with
Paganism, recognised her deadliest foes in literature. Not only were
the Greek and Latin masterpieces the stronghold of a mythology that
had to be erased from the popular mind; not only was their morality
antagonistic to the principles of Christian ethics: in addition to
these grounds for hatred and mistrust, the classics idealised a form
of human life which the new faith regarded as worthless. What was
culture in comparison with the salvation of the soul? Why should time
be spent upon the dreams of poets, when every minute might be well
employed in pondering the precepts of the Gospels? What was the use of
making this life refined and agreeable by study, when it formed but an
insignificant prelude to an eternity wherein mere mundane learning
would be valueless? Why raise questions about man's condition on this
earth, when the creeds had to be defined and expounded, when the
nature of God and the relation of the human soul to its Creator had to
be established? It was easy to pass from this state of mind to the
belief that learning in itself was impious.[13] 'Let us shun the lying
fables of the poets,' cries Gregory of Tours, 'and forego the wisdom
of sages at enmity with God, lest we incur the doom of endless death
by sentence of our Lord.' Even Augustine deplored his time spent in
reading Virgil, weeping over Dido's death by love, when all the while
he was himself both morally and spiritually dead. Alcuin regretted
that in his boyhood he had preferred Virgil to the legends of the
Saints, and stigmatised the eloquence of the Latin writers by the
epithet of wanton. Such phrases as _poetarum figmenta, gentilium
figmenta sive deliramenta_ (the fictions or mad ravings of Pagan
poets) are commonly employed by Christian authors of the Lives of
Saints, in order to mark the inferiority of Virgil and Ovid to their
own more edifying compositions. Relying on their spiritual
pretensions, the monkish scribes gloried in ignorance and paraded want
of grammar as a sign of grace. 'I warn the curious reader,' writes a
certain Wolfhard in the 'Life of S. Walpurgis,' 'not to mind the mass
of barbarisms in this little work; I bid him ponder what he finds upon
these pages, and seek the pearl within the dung-heap.' Gregory the
Great goes further, and defies the pedantry of pedagogues. 'The place
of prepositions and the cases of the nouns I utterly despise, since I
deem it unfit to confine the words of the celestial oracle within the
rules of Donatus.' 'Let philosophers and impure scholars of Donatus,'
writes a fanatic of Cordova, 'ply their windy problems with the
barking of dogs, the grunting of swine, snarling with skinned throat
and teeth; let the foaming and bespittled grammarians belch, while we
remain evangelical servants of Christ, true followers of rustic
teachers.' Thus the opposition of the Church to Paganism, the
conviction that Christianity was alien to culture, and the absorption
of intellectual interest in theological questions contributed to
destroy what had remained of sound scholarship in the last years of
the Empire. The task of the Church, moreover, in the Middle Ages was
not so much to keep learning alive as to moralise the savage races who
held Europe at their pleasure. Pure Latinity, even if it could have
been instilled into the nations of the North, was of less moment than
elementary discipline in manners and religion. It must not be
forgotten that the literature of ancient Rome was artificial in its
best days, confined to a select few, and dependent on the capital for
its support. After the dismemberment of the Empire the whole of Europe
was thrown open to the action of spiritual powers who had to use
unlettered barbarians for their ministers and missionaries. To submit
this vast field to classic culture at the same time that Christianity
was being propagated, would have been beyond the strength of the
Church, even had she chosen to undertake this task, and had the vital
forces of antiquity not been exhausted.

[Footnote 12: For the low state of criticism, even in a good age, see
Aulus Gellius, lib. xiv. cap. vi. He describes the lecture of a
rhetor, _quispiam linguæ Latinæ literator_, on a passage in the
seventh Æneid. The man's explanation of the word _bidentes_ proves an
almost more than mediæval puerility and ignorance.]

[Footnote 13: Most of the following quotations will be found in
Comparetti, _Virgilio nel Medio Evo_, vol. i., a work of sound
scholarship and refined taste upon the place of Virgil in the Middle

At this point an inevitable reaction, illustrating the compromise
thrust upon the Church by her peculiar position, made itself apparent.
In proportion as the dangers of Paganism decreased, the clergy, on
whom devolved the double duty of civilising as well as moralising
society, began to feel the need of arresting the advance of ignorance.
Knowledge of Latin was required for ecclesiastical uses, for the
interpretation of Scripture, for the study of the Fathers, and for the
establishment of a common language among many divers nationalities. A
middle course between the fanaticism which regarded classical
literature as worthless and impure, and the worldliness that might
have been encouraged by enthusiasm for the ancients, had therefore to
be steered. Grammar was taught in the schools, and where grammar was
taught, it was impossible to exclude Virgil and some other Latin
authors. A conflict in the monkish mind was the unavoidable
consequence. Since the classics alone communicated sound learning, the
study of them formed a necessary part of education; and yet these
authors were unbaptized Pagans, doomed to everlasting death because of
their impiety and immorality. Poets who had hitherto been regarded as
deadly foes, were now accepted as auxiliaries in the battle of the
Church against barbarism. While copying the elegies of Ovid, the
compassionate scribe sought to place them in a favourable light, and
to render them edifying at the cost of contradicting their plain
meaning.[14] Virgil was credited with allegorical significance; and
the strong sympathy he roused in those who felt the beauty of his
style, produced a belief that, if not quite, he was almost a
Christian. The piety and pity for Virgil as a gentle soul who had just
missed the salvation offered by Christ, found expression in the
service for S. Paul's Day used at Mantua:[15]--

     Ad Maronis mausoleum
     Ductus, fudit super eum
           Piæ rorem lacrymæ;
     Quem te, inquit, reddidissem
     Si te vivum invenissem,
           Poetarum maxime!

[Footnote 14: _Hoc est quod pueri tangar amore minus_, for example,
was altered into _Hoc est quod pueri tangar amore nihil_; for
_lusisset amores_ was substituted _dampnasset amores_, and so forth.]

[Footnote 15: The hymn quoted above in the text refers to a legend of
S. Paul having visited the tomb of Virgil at Naples:--

     'When to Maro's tomb they brought him
     Tender grief and pity wrought him
           To bedew the stone with tears;
     What a saint I might have crowned thee,
     Had I only living found thee,
           Poet first and without peers!']

Meanwhile the utter confusion consequent upon the downfall of the
Roman Empire and the irruption of the Germanic races was causing, by
the mere brute force of circumstance, a gradual extinction of
scholarship too powerful to be arrested. The teaching of grammar for
ecclesiastical purposes was insufficient to check the influence of
many causes leading to this overthrow of learning. It was impossible
to communicate more than a mere tincture of knowledge to students
separated from the classical tradition, for whom the antecedent
history of Rome was a dead letter. The meaning of Latin words derived
from the Greek was lost. Smaragdus, a grammarian, mistook _Eunuchus
Comoedia_ and _Orestes Tragoedia_, mentioned by Donatus, for the
names of authors. Remigius of Auxerre explained _poema_ by _positio_,
and _emblema_ by _habundantia_. Homer and Virgil were supposed to have
been friends and contemporaries, while the Latin epitome of the
'Iliad,' bearing the name of Pindar, was fathered on the Theban
lyrist. Theological notions, grotesque and childish beyond
description, found their way into etymology and grammar. The three
persons of the Trinity were discovered in the verb, and mystic numbers
in the parts of speech. Thus analytical studies like that of language
came to be regarded as an open field for the exercise of the
mythologising fancy; and etymology was reduced to a system of
ingenious punning. _Voluntas_ and _voluptas_ were distinguished, for
example, as pertaining to the nature of _Deus_ and _diabolus_
respectively; and, in order to make the list complete, _voluntas_ was
invented as an attribute of _homo_. It is clear that on this path of
verbal quibbling the intellect had lost tact, taste, and common sense

When the minds of the learned were possessed by these absurdities to
the exclusion of sound method, we cannot wonder that antiquity
survived but as a strange and shadowy dream in popular imagination.
Virgil, the only classic who retained distinct and living personality,
passed from poet to philosopher, from philosopher to Sibyl, from Sibyl
to magician, by successive stages of transmutation, as the truth about
him grew more dim and the faculty to apprehend him weakened. Forming
the staple of education in the schools of the grammarians, and
metamorphosed by the vulgar consciousness into a wizard,[16] he waited
on the extreme verge of the dark ages to take Dante by the hand, and
lead him, as the type of human reason, through the realms of Hell and

[Footnote 16: The common use of the word _grammarie_ for occult
science in our ballads illustrates this phase of popular opinion. So
does the legend of Friar Bacon. See Thoms, _Early English Prose

With regard to the actual knowledge of Latin literature possessed in
the Middle Ages, it may be said in brief that Virgil was continually
studied, and that a certain familiarity with Ovid, Lucan, Horace,
Juvenal, and Statius was never lost. Among the prose-writers,
portions of Cicero were used in education; but the compilations of
Boethius, Priscian, Donatus, and Cassiodorus were more widely used. In
the twelfth century the study of Roman law was revived, and the
scholastic habit of thought found scope for subtlety in the discussion
of cases and composition of glosses. The general knowledge and
intellectual sympathy required for comprehension of the genuine
classics were, however, wanting; and thus it happened that their place
was taken by epitomes and abstracts, and by the formal digests of the
Western Empire in its decadence. This lifeless literature was better
suited to the meagre intellectual conditions of the Middle Ages than
the masterpieces of the Augustan and Silver periods.

Of Greek there was absolutely no tradition left.[17] When the names of
Greek poets or philosophers are cited by mediæval authors, it is at
second hand from Latin sources; and the Aristotelian logic of the
schoolmen came through Latin translations made by Jews from Arabian
MSS. Occasionally it might happen that a Western scholar acquired
Greek at Constantinople or in the south of Italy, where it was spoken;
but this did not imply Hellenic culture, nor did such knowledge form a
part and parcel of his erudition. Greek was hardly less lost to Europe
then than Sanskrit in the first half of the eighteenth century.

[Footnote 17: Didot, in his _Life of Aldus_, tries to make out that
Greek learning survived in Ireland longer than elsewhere.]

The meagreness of mediæval learning was, however, a less serious
obstacle to culture than the habit of mind, partly engendered by
Christianity and partly idiosyncratic to the new races, which
prevented students from appreciating the true spirit of the classics.
While mysticism and allegory ruled supreme, the clearly-defined
humanity of the Greeks and Romans could not fail to be misapprehended.
The little that was known of them reached students through a hazy and
distorting medium. Poems like Virgil's fourth Eclogue were prized for
what the author had not meant when he was writing them; while his real
interests were utterly neglected. Against this mental misconception,
this original obliquity of vision, this radical lie in the intellect,
the restorers of learning had to fight at least as energetically as
against brute ignorance and dulness. It was not enough to multiply
books and to discover codices; they had to teach men how to read them,
to explain their inspiration, to defend them against prejudice, to
protect them from false methods of interpretation. To purge the mind
of fancy and fable, to prove that poetry apart from its supposed
prophetic meaning was delightful for its own sake, and that the
history of the antique nations, in spite of Paganism, could be used
for profit and instruction, was the first step to be taken by these
pioneers of modern culture. They had, in short, to create a new mental
sensibility by establishing the truth that pure literature directly
contributes to the dignity and happiness of human beings. The
achievement of this revolution in thought was the great performance of
the Italians in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

During the dark ages Italy had in no sense enjoyed superiority of
culture over the rest of Europe. On the contrary, the first abortive
attempt at a revival of learning was due to Charlemagne at Aix, the
second to the Emperor Frederick in Apulia and Sicily; and while the
Romance nations had lost the classical tradition, it was still to some
extent preserved by the Moslem dynasties. The more we study the
history of mediæval learning, the more we recognise the debt of
civilised humanity to the Arabs for their conservation and
transmission of Greek thought in altered form to Europe. Yet, though
the Italians came comparatively late into the field, their action was
decisive. Neither Charlemagne nor Frederick, neither the philosophy of
the Arabian sages nor the precocious literature of Provence, succeeded
in effecting for the education of the modern intellect that which
Dante and Petrarch performed--the one by the production of a
monumental work of art in poetry, the other by the communication of a
new enthusiasm for antiquity to students.

Dante does not belong in any strict sense to the history of the
Revival of Learning. The 'Divine Comedy' closes the Middle Ages and
preserves their spirit. It stands before the vestibule of modern
literature like a solitary mountain at the entrance of a country rich
in all varieties of landscape. In order to become acquainted with its
grandeur, we must leave the fields and forests that we know, ascend
the heights, and use ourselves to an austerer climate. In spite of
this isolation, Dante's influence was powerful upon succeeding
generations. The modern mind first found in him its scope, and
recognised its freedom; first dared and did what placed it on a level
with antiquity in art. Many ideas, moreover, destined to play an
important part in the coming age, received from him their germinal
expression. It may thus be truly said that Dante initiated the
movement of the modern intellect in its entirety, though he did not
lead the Revival considered as a separate moment in this evolution.
That service was reserved for Petrarch.

There are spots upon the central watershed of Europe where, in the
stillness of a summer afternoon, the traveller may listen to the
murmurs of two streams--the one hurrying down to form the Rhine, the
other to contribute to the Danube or the Po. Born within hearing of
each other's voices, and nourished by the self-same clouds that rest
upon the crags around them, they are henceforth destined to an
ever-widening separation. While the one sweeps onward to the Northern
seas, the other will reach the shores of Italy or Greece and mingle
with the Mediterranean. To these two streamlets we might compare Dante
and Petrarch, both of whom sprang from Florence, both of whom were
nurtured in the learning of the schools and in the lore of chivalrous
love. Yet how different was their mission! Petrarch marks the rising
of that great river of intellectual energy which flowed southward to
recover the culture of the ancient world. The current of Dante's
genius took the contrary direction. Borne upon its mighty flood, we
visit the lands and cities of the Middle Ages, floating toward
infinities divined and made the heritage of human nature by the
mediæval spirit.

In speaking of Petrarch here, it is necessary to concentrate attention
upon his claims to be considered as the apostle of scholarship, the
inaugurator of the humanistic impulse of the fifteenth century. We
have nothing to do with his Italian poetry. The _Rime_ dedicated to
Madonna Laura have eclipsed the fame of the Latin epic, philosophical
discourses, epistles, orations, invectives, and dissertations, which
made Petrarch the Voltaire of his own age, and on which he thought his
immortality would rest. Yet it is with these latter products of his
genius, not with the _Canzoniere_, that we are now concerned; nor can
it be too emphatically asserted that his originality was even more
eminently displayed in the revelation of humanism to the modern world
than in the verses that impressed their character upon Italian
literature. To have foreseen a whole new phase of European culture, to
have interpreted its spirit, and determined by his own activity the
course it should pursue, is in truth a higher title to fame than the
composition of even the most perfect sonnets. The artist, however, has
this advantage over the pioneer of intellectual progress, that his
delicate creations are indestructible, and that his work cannot be
merged in that of a continuator. Therefore Petrarch lives and will
live in the memory of millions as the poet of Laura, while only
students know how much the world owes to his humanistic ardour.

As I cannot dispense with the word Humanism in this portion of my
work, it may be well to fix the sense I shall attach to it.[18] The
essence of humanism consisted in a new and vital perception of the
dignity of man as a rational being apart from theological
determinations, and in the further perception that classic literature
alone displayed human nature in the plenitude of intellectual and
moral freedom. It was partly a reaction against ecclesiastical
despotism, partly an attempt to find the point of unity for all that
had been thought and done by man, within the mind restored to
consciousness of its own sovereign faculty. Hence the single-hearted
devotion to the literature of Greece and Rome that marks the whole
Renaissance era. Hence the watchword of that age, the _Litteræ
Humaniores_. Hence the passion for antiquity, possessing thoughtful
men, and substituting a new authority for the traditions of the
Church. Hence the so-called Paganism of centuries bent upon absorbing
and assimilating a spirit no less life-giving from their point of view
than Christianity itself. Hence the persistent effort of philosophers
to find the meeting-point of two divergent inspirations. Hence, too,
the ultimate antagonism between the humanists, or professors of the
new wisdom, and those uncompromising Christians who, like S. Paul,
preferred to remain fools for Christ's sake.

[Footnote 18: The word Humanism has a German sound, and is in fact
modern. Yet the generic phrase _umanità_ for humanistic culture, and
the name _umanista_ for a professor of humane studies, are both pure
Italian. Ariosto, in his seventh satire, line 25, writes--

     'Senza quel vizio son pochi umanisti.']

Humanism in this, the widest, sense of the word was possessed by
Petrarch intuitively. It belonged to his nature as much as music to
Mozart; so that he seemed sent into the world to raise, by the pure
exercise of innate faculties, a standard for succeeding workers.
Physically and æsthetically, by the fineness of his ear for verbal
harmonies, and by the exquisiteness of his sensibilities, he was
fitted to divine what it took centuries to verify. While still a boy,
long before he could grasp the meaning of classical Latin, he used to
read the prose of Cicero aloud, delighting in the sonorous cadence and
balanced periods of the master's style.[19] Nor were the moral
qualities of industry and perseverance, needed to supplement these
natural gifts, defective. In his maturity he spared no pains to
collect the manuscripts of Cicero, sometimes transcribing them with
his own hand, sometimes employing copyists, sending and journeying to
distant parts of Europe where he heard a fragment of his favourite
author might be found.[20] His greatest literary disappointment was
the loss of a treatise by Cicero on Glory, a theme exceedingly
significant for the Renaissance, which he lent to his tutor
Convennevole, and which the old man pawned.[21] Though he could not
read Greek, he welcomed with profoundest reverence the codices of
Homer and Plato sent to him from Constantinople, and exhorted
Boccaccio to dedicate his genius to the translation of the sovran poet
into Latin.[22] In this susceptibility to the melodies of rhetorical
prose, in this special cult of Cicero, in the passion for collecting
manuscripts, and in the intuition that the future of scholarship
depended upon the resuscitation of Greek studies, Petrarch initiated
the four most important momenta of the classical Renaissance. He,
again, was the first to understand the value of public libraries;[23]
the first to accumulate coins and inscriptions, as the sources of
accurate historical information; the first to preach the duty of
preserving ancient monuments. It would seem as though, by the instinct
of genius, he foresaw the future for at least three centuries, and
comprehended the highest uses whereof scholarship is capable.

[Footnote 19: See the interesting letter to Luca di Penna, _De Libris
Ciceronis_, p. 946, and compare _De Ignorantiâ sui ipsius_, &c. p.
1044. These references, as well as those which follow under the
general sign _Ibid._, are made to the edition of Petrarch's collected
works, Basle, 1581.]

[Footnote 20: _Ibid._ p. 948. Cf. the fine letter on the duty of
collecting and preserving codices (_Fam. Epist._ lib. iii. 18, p.
619). 'Aurum, argentum, gemmæ, purpurea vestis, marmorea domus, cultus
ager, pictæ tabulæ, phaleratus sonipes, cæteraque id genus mutam
habent et superficiariam voluptatem: libri medullitus delectant,
colloquuntur, consulunt, et vivâ quâdam nobis atque argutâ
familiaritate junguntur.']

[Footnote 21: _De Libris Ciceronis_, p. 949. Cf. his _Epistle to
Varro_ for an account of a lost MS. of that author. _Ibid._ p. 708.]

[Footnote 22: _Ibid._ p. 948. Cf. _De Ignorantiâ_, pp. 1053, 1054.
See, too, the letter to Nicolaus Syocerus of Constantinople, _Epist.
Var._ xx. p. 998, thanking him for the Homer and the Plato, in which
Petrarch gives an account of his slender Greek studies. 'Homerus tuus
apud me mutus, immo vero ego apud illum surdus sum. Gaudeo tamen vel
aspectu solo, et sæpe illum amplexus et suspirans dico.... Plato
philosophorum princeps ... nunc tandem tuo munere Philosophorum
principi Poetarum princeps asserit. Quis tantis non gaudeat et
glorietur hospitibus?... Græcos spectare, et si nihil aliud, certe
juvat.' The letter urging Boccaccio to translate Homer--'an tuo
studio, meâ impensâ fieri possit, ut Homerus integer bibliothecæ huic,
ubi pridem Græcus habitat, tandem Latinus accedat'--will be found
[Transcriber's Note: original missing 'in'] _Ep. Rer. Sen._ lib. iii.
5, p. 775. In another letter, _Ep. Rer. Sen._ lib. vi. 2, p. 807, he
thanks Boccaccio for the Latin version.]

[Footnote 23: _De Remediis utriusque Fortunæ_, p. 43. A plea for
public as against private collections of useful books. 'Multos in
vinculis tenes,' &c.]

So far the outside only of Petrarch's instinct for humanism has been
touched. How fully he possessed its large and liberal spirit is shown
by the untiring war he carried on against formalism, tradition,
pedantry, and superstition. Whatever might impede the free play of the
intellect aroused his bitterest hatred. Against the narrow views of
scholastic theologians, against the futile preoccupations of the
Middle-Age materialists, against the lawyers and physicians and
astrologers in vogue, he declared inexorable hostility.[24] These
men, by their puerilities and falsities, obstructed the natural action
of the mind; therefore Petrarch attacked them. At the same time he
recognised the liberators of the reason by a kind of tact. Though he
could not interpret the sixteen dialogues of Plato he possessed in
Greek, he perceived intuitively that Plato, as opposed to Aristotle,
would become the saint of liberal philosophy, surveyed by him as in a
Pisgah-view. His enthusiasm for Cicero and Virgil was twofold; in both
respects he proved how capable he was of moulding the taste and
directing the mental force of his successors. As an artist, he
discerned in their style the harmonies of sound and the proprieties of
diction, whereby Latin might once again become the language of fine
thoughts and delicate emotions. As a champion of intellectual
independence, he saw that, studying their large discourse of all
things which the reason and imagination can appropriate, the thinkers
of the modern age might shake off scholastic fetters, and enter into
the inheritance of spiritual freedom. Poetry and rhetoric he regarded
not merely as the fine arts of literature, but as two chief
instruments whereby the man of genius arrives at self-expression,
perpetuates the qualities of his own soul, and impresses his character
upon the age. Since this realisation of the individual in a high and
puissant work of art appeared to him the noblest aim of man on earth,
it followed that the inspired speech of the poet and the eloquence of
the orator became for Petrarch the summit of ambition, the two-peaked
Parnassus he struggled through his lifetime to ascend.[25] The ideal
was literary; but literature implied for Petrarch more than words and
phrases. It was not enough to make melodious verse, or to move an
audience with well-sounding periods. The hexameters of the epic and
the paragraphs of the oration had to contain solid thought, to be the
genuine outcome of the poet's or the rhetorician's soul. The writer
was bound to be a preacher, to discover truth, and make the truths he
found agreeable to the world.[26] His life, moreover, ought to be in
perfect harmony with all he sought to teach.[27] Upon the purity of
his enthusiasm, the sincerity of his inspiration, depended the future
well-being of the world for which he laboured.[28] Thus for this one
man at least the art of letters was a priesthood; and the earnestness
of his vocation made him fit to be the master of succeeding ages. It
is not easy for us to appreciate the boldness and sincerity of these
conceptions. Many of them, since the days of Petrarch, have been
overstrained and made ridiculous by false pretensions. Besides, the
whole point of view has been appropriated; and men invariably
undervalue what they feel they cannot lose. It is only by comparing
Petrarch's own philosophy of literature with the dulness of the
schoolmen in their decadence, and with the stylistic shallowness of
subsequent scholars, that we come to comprehend how luminous and novel
was the thesis he supported.

[Footnote 24: See the four books of Invectives, _Contra Medicum
quendam_, and the treatise _De sui ipsius et aliorum Ignorantiâ_. Page
1038 of the last dissertation contains a curious list of frivolous
questions discussed by the Averrhoists. Cf. the letter on the
decadence of true learning, _Ep. Var._ 31, p. 1020; the letter to a
friend exhorting him to combat Averrhoism, _Epist. sine titulo_, 18,
p. 731; two letters on physicians, _Epist. Rerum Senilium_, lib. xii.
1 and 2, pp. 897-914; a letter to Francesco Bruno on the lies of the
astrologers, _Epist. Rer. Sen._ lib. i. 6, p. 747; a letter to
Boccaccio on the same theme, _Epist. Rer. Sen._ lib. iii. 1, p. 765;
another on physicians to Boccaccio, _Epist. Rer. Sen._ lib. v. 4, p.
796. Cf. the Critique of Alchemy, _De Remediis utriusque Fortunæ_, p.

[Footnote 25: In comparing the orator and the poet, Petrarch gives the
palm to the former. He thought the perfect rhetorician, capable of
expressing sound philosophy with clearness, was rarer than the poet.
See _De Remediis utriusque Fortunæ_, lib. ii. dial. 102, p. 192.]

[Footnote 26: See, among other passages, _Inv. contra Medicum_, lib.
i. p. 1092. 'Poetæ studium est veritatem veram pulchris velaminibus
adornare.' Cf. p. 905, the paragraph beginning 'Officium est ejus
fingere,' &c.]

[Footnote 27: See the preface to the _Epistolæ Familiares_, p. 570.
'Scribendi enim mihi vivendique unus (ut auguror) finis erit.']

[Footnote 28: For his lofty conception of poetry see the two letters
to Boccaccio and Benvenuto da Imola, pp. 740, 941. _Epist. Rerum
Senilium_, lib. i. 4, lib. xiv. 11.]

Having thus conceived of literature, Petrarch obtained a standard for
estimating the barren culture of his century. He taxed the
disputations of the doctors with lifeless repetition unmeaning
verbiage. Schoolman after schoolman had been occupied with formal
trifles. The erudition of the jurist and the theologian revealed
nothing fruitful for the heart or intellect; and everything was
valueless that did not come straight from a man's soul, speaking to
the soul of one who heard him. At the same time he read the Fathers
and the Scriptures in a new light. Augustine, some few of whose
sentences had been used as links in the catena of dogmatic orthodoxy,
seemed to Petrarch no longer a mere master of theology, but a man
conversing with him across the chasm of eight centuries. In the
'Confessions,' 'running over with a fount of tears,' the poet of
Vaucluse divined a kindred nature; one who used exalted eloquence for
the expression of vital thoughts and passionate emotions; one,
moreover, who had reached the height of human happiness in union with
God.[29] Not less real was the grasp he laid upon the prophets and
apostles of the Bible. All words that bore a message to his heart were
words of authority and power. The _ipse dixit_ of an Aristotle or a
Seraphic doctor had for him no weight, unless it came home to him as a
man.[30] Even Cicero and Seneca, the saints of philosophical
antiquity, he dared to criticise for practising less wisdom than they

[Footnote 29: The references to Augustine as a 'divine genius,' equal
to Cicero in eloquence, superior to the classics in his knowledge of
Christ, are too frequent for citation. See, however, _Fam. Epist._
lib. ii. 9, p. 601; the letter to Boccaccio, _Variarum_, 22, p. 1001;
and _Fam. Epist._ lib. iv. 9, p. 635. The phrase describing the
_Confessions_, quoted in my text, is from Petrarch's letter to his
brother Gerard, _Epist. Var._ 27, p. 1012, 'Scatentes lachrymis
Confessionum libros.']

[Footnote 30: 'Sum sectarum negligens, veri appetens.' _Epist. Rer.
Sen._ lib. i. 5, p. 745. 'Nam apud Horatium Flaccum, nullius jurare in
verba magistri, puer valde didiceram.' _Epist. Fam._ lib. iv. 10, p.

[Footnote 31: See the letters addressed to Cicero and Seneca, pp. 705,

While regarding Petrarch as the first and, in some respects, the
greatest of the humanists, we are bound to recognise the faults as
well as the good qualities he shared with them. To dwell on these in
detail would be a thankless task, were it not for the conviction that
his personality impressed itself too strongly on the fourteenth
century to escape our criticism. We cannot afford to leave even the
foibles of the man who gave a pattern to his generation unstudied.
Foremost among these may be reckoned his vanity, his eagerness to
grasp the poet's crown, his appetite for flattery, his restless change
from place to place in search of new admirers, his self-complacent
garrulity. This vanity was perhaps inseparable from the position he
assumed upon the threshold of the modern world. It was hardly possible
that the prophet of a new phase of culture should not look down with
contempt upon the uneducated masses, and believe that learning raised
a man into a demigod. Study of the classics taught him to despise his
age and yearn for immortality; but the assurance of the honours that
he sought, could only come to him upon the lips of his contemporaries.
In conflict with the dulness and the darkness of preceding centuries,
he felt the need of a new motive, unrecognised by the Church and
banished from the cloister. That motive was the thirst for fame, the
craving to make his personality eternal in the minds of men. Meanwhile
he was alone in a dim wilderness of transitory interests and sordid
aims, where human life was shadowy, and where, when death arrived,
there would remain no memory of what had been. The gloom of this
present in contrast with the glory of the past he studied, and the
glory of the future he desired, confirmed his egotism. His name and
fame depended on his self-assertion. To achieve renown by writing, to
wrest for himself even in his lifetime a firm place among the
immortals, became his feverish spur to action. He was conscious how
deep a hold the passion for celebrity had taken on his nature; and not
unfrequently he speaks of it as a disease.[32] The Christian within
him wrestled vigorously with the renascent Pagan. Religion taught him
to renounce what ambition prompted him to grasp. Yet he continued to
deceive himself. While penning dissertations on the worthlessness of
praise and the futility of fame, he trimmed his sails to catch the
breeze of popular applause; and as his reputation widened, his desires
grew ever stronger. The last years of his life were spent in writing
epistles to the great men of the past, in whom alone he recognised his
equals, and to posterity, in whom he hoped to meet at last with judges
worthy of him.

[Footnote 32: 'Ægritudo' is a phrase that constantly recurs in his
epistles to indicate a restless, craving habit of the soul. See, too,
the whole second book of the _De Contemptu Mundi_.]

This almost morbid vanity, peculiar to Petrarch's temperament and
encouraged by the circumstances of his life, introduced a division
between his practice and his profession. He was never tired of
praising solitude, and many years of his manhood he spent in actual
retirement at Vaucluse.[33] Yet he only loved seclusion as a contrast
to the society of Courts, and would have been most miserable if the
world, taking him at his own estimate, had left him in peace. No one
wrote more eloquently about equal friendship, or professed a stronger
zeal for candid criticism. Yet he admitted few but professed admirers
to his intimacy, and regarded his literary antagonists as personal
detractors. The same sensitive egotism led him to depreciate the fame
of Dante, in whom he cannot but have recognised a poet in the highest
sense superior to himself.[34] Again, while he complained of celebrity
as an obstacle to studious employment, he showed the most acute
interest when the details of his life were called in question.[35]
Nothing, if we took his philosophic treatises for record, would have
pleased him better than to live unnoticed. His letters make it
manifest that he believed the eyes of the whole world were fixed upon
him, and that he courted this attention of the public with a greedy

[Footnote 33: See the treatise _De Vitâ Solitariâ_, pp. 223-292, and
the letters on 'Vaucluse,' pp. 691-697.]

[Footnote 34: See the discussion of this point in Baldelli's _Vita del
Boccaccio_, pp. 130-135.]

[Footnote 35: Compare the chapter in the dissertation _De Remediis_ on
troublesome notoriety, p. 177, with the letter on his reception at
Arezzo, p. 918, the letter to Nerius Morandus on the false news of his
death, p. 776, and the letter to Boccaccio on his detractors, p. 749.]

These qualities and contradictions mark Petrarch as a man of letters,
not of action. He belonged essentially to the _genus irritabile
vatum_, for whom the sphere of thoughts expressed on paper is more
vivid than the world of facts. We may trace a corresponding weakness
in his chief enthusiasms. Unable to distinguish between the realities
of existence and the dreamland of his study, he hailed in Rienzi the
restorer of old Rome, while he stigmatised his friends the Colonnesi
as barbarian intruders.[36] The Rome he read of in the pages of Livy,
seemed to the imagination of this visionary still alive and powerful;
nor did he feel the absurdity of addressing the mediæval rabble of the
Romans in phrases high-flown for a Gracchus.[37] While he courted the
intimacy of the Correggi, and lived as a house-guest with the
Visconti, he denounced these princes as tyrants, and appealed to the
Emperor to take the reins and bring all Italy beneath his yoke.[38]
Herein, it may be urged, Petrarch did but share a delusion common to
his age. This is true; but the point to notice is the contradiction
between his theories and the habits of his life. He was not a partisan
on the Ghibelline side, but a believer in impossible ideals. His
patriotism was no less literary than his temperament. The same
tendency to measure all things by a student's standard made him
exaggerate mere verbal eloquence. Words, according to his view, were
power. Cicero held the highest place in his esteem, because his
declamation was most copious. Aristotle, in spite of his profound
philosophy, was censured for his lack of rhetoric.[39] Throughout the
studied works of Petrarch we can trace this vice of a stylistic ideal.
Though he never writes without some solid germ of thought, he loves to
play with phrases, producing an effect of unreality, and seeming
emulous of casuistical adroitness.[40]

[Footnote 36: See the _Epistles to Rienzi_, pp. 677, 535.]

[Footnote 37: Epistle to the Roman people, beginning 'Apud te
invictissime domitorque terrarum popule meus,' p. 712.]

[Footnote 38: Epistle to Charles IV., _De Pacificandâ Italiâ_, p. 531.
This contradiction struck even his most ardent admirers with painful
surprise. See Boccaccio quoted in Baldelli's _Life_, p. 115.]

[Footnote 39: _Rerum memorandarum_, lib. ii. p. 415.]

[Footnote 40: This is particularly noticeable in the miscellaneous
collection of essays called _De Remediis utriusque Fortunæ_, where
opposite views on a wide variety of topics are expressed with great

The foregoing analysis was necessary because Petrarch became, as it
were, a model for his followers in the field of scholarship. Italian
humanism never lost the powerful impress of his genius, and the value
of his influence can only be appreciated when the time arrives for
summing up the total achievement of the Revival.[41] It remains to be
regretted that the weaknesses of his character, his personal
pretension and literary idealism, were more easily imitated than his
strength. Petrarch's egotism differed widely from the insolent conceit
of Filelfo and the pedantic boasts of Alciato. Nor did his enthusiasm
for antiquity degenerate, like theirs, into a mere uncritical and
servile worship. His humanism was both loftier and larger. He never
forgot that Christianity was an advance upon Paganism, and that the
accomplished man of letters must acquire the culture of the ancients
without losing the virtues or sacrificing the hopes of a Christian. If
only the humanists of the Renaissance could have preserved this point
of view intact, they would have avoided the worst evils of the age,
and have secured a nobler liberation of the modern reason. Petrarch
created for himself a creed compounded of Roman Stoicism and Christian
doctrine, adapting the precepts of the Gospels and the teaching of the
Fathers, together with the ethics of Cicero and Seneca, to his own
needs. Herein he showed the freedom of his genius, and led the way for
the most brilliant thinkers of the coming centuries. The fault of his
successors was a tendency to recede from this high vantage-ground, to
accept the customary creed with cynical facility, while they inclined
in secret to a laxity adopted from their study of the classics. By
separating himself from tradition, without displaying an arrogant
spirit of revolt against authority, Petrarch established the principle
that men must guide their own souls by the double lights of culture
and of conscience. His followers were too ready to make culture all in
all, and lost thereby the opportunity of grounding a rational
philosophy of life upon a solid basis for the modern world. Petrarch
made it his sincere aim to be both morally and intellectually his
highest self; and if he often failed in practice--if he succumbed to
carnal frailty while he praised sobriety--if he sought for notoriety
while professing indifference to fame--if he mistook dreams for
realities and words for facts--still the ideal he proposed to himself
and eloquently preached to his contemporaries, was a new and lofty
one. After the lapse of five centuries, few as yet have passed beyond
it. Even Goethe, for example, can claim no superiority of humanism
above Petrarch, except by right of his participation in the scientific

[Footnote 41: See the last chapter of this volume.]

We are therefore justified in hailing Petrarch as the Columbus of a
new spiritual hemisphere, the discoverer of modern culture. That he
knew no Greek, that his Latin verse was lifeless and his prose style
far from pure, that his contributions to history and ethics have been
superseded, and that his epistles are now only read by antiquaries,
cannot impair his claim to this title. From him the inspiration
needed to quicken curiosity and stimulate a zeal for knowledge
proceeded. But for his intervention in the fourteenth century, it is
possible that the Revival of Learning, and all that it implies, might
have been delayed until too late. Petrarch died in 1374. The Greek
Empire was destroyed in 1453. Between those dates Italy recovered the
Greek classics; but whether the Italians would have undertaken this
labour if no Petrarch had preached the attractiveness of liberal
studies, or if no school of disciples had been formed by him in
Florence, remains more than doubtful. We are brought thus to recognise
in him one of those heroes concerning whose relation to the spirit of
the ages Hegel has discoursed in his 'Philosophy of History.'
Petrarch, by anticipating the tendencies of the Revival, created the
intellectual milieu required for its evolution.[42] Yet we are not
therefore justified in saying that he was not himself the product of
already existing spiritual forces in his century. The vast influence
he immediately exercised, while Dante, though gifted with a far more
powerful individuality, remained comparatively inoperative, proves
that the age was specially prepared to receive his inspiration.

[Footnote 42: The lines from the _Africa_ used as a motto for this
volume are a prophecy of the Renaissance.]

What remains to be said about the first period of Italian humanism is
almost wholly concerned with men who either immediately or indirectly
felt the influence of Petrarch's genius.[43] His shadow stretches over
the whole age. Incited by his brilliant renown, Boccaccio, while still
a young man, began to read the classical authors, bemoaning the years
he had wasted in commerce and the study of the law to please his
father. From what the poet of the 'Decameron' has himself told us
about the origin of his literary enthusiasm, it appears that
Petrarch's example was decisive in determining his course. There is,
however, another tale, reported by his fellow-citizen Villani, so
characteristic of the age that to omit it in this place would be to
sacrifice one of the most attractive legends in the history of
literature.[44] 'After wandering through many lands, now here, now
there, for a long space of time, when he had reached at last his
twenty-eighth year, Boccaccio, at his father's bidding, took up his
abode at Naples in the Pergola. There it chanced one day that he
walked forth alone for pleasure, and came to the place where Virgil's
dust lies buried. At the sight of this sepulchre, he fell into long
musing admiration of the man whose bones it covered, brooding with
meditative soul upon the poet's fame, until his thoughts found vent in
lamentations over his own envious fortunes, whereby he was compelled
against his will to give himself to things of commerce that he
loathed. A sudden love of the Pierian Muses smote his heart, and
turning homeward, he abandoned trade, devoting himself with fervent
study to poetry; wherein very shortly, aided alike by his noble genius
and his burning desire, he made marvellous progress. This when his
father noted, and perceived the heavenly inspiration was more powerful
within his son than the paternal will, he at last consented to his
studies, and helped him as best he could, although at first he tried
to make him turn his talents to the canon law.'

[Footnote 43: It is very significant of Petrarch's influence that his
contemporaries ranked him higher, even as a sonnet-writer, than Dante.
See _Coluccio de' Salutati's Letters_, part ii. p. 57.]

[Footnote 44: Filippo Villani, _Vite d'Uomini Illustri Fiorentini_,
Firenze, 1826, p. 9.]

The hero-worship of Boccaccio, not only for the august Virgil, but
also for Dante, the master of his youth and the idol of his mature
age, is the most amiable trait in a character which, by its geniality
and sweetness, cannot fail to win affection.[45] When circumstances
brought him into personal relations with Petrarch, he transferred the
whole homage of his ardent soul to the only man alive who seemed to
him a fit inheritor of ancient fame.[46] Petrarch became the director
of his conscience, the master of his studies, the moulder of his
thoughts upon the weightiest matters of literary philosophy. The
friendship established between the poet of Vaucluse and the lover of
Fiammetta lasted through more than twenty years, and was only broken
by the death of the former. Throughout this long space of time
Boccaccio retained the attitude of a humble scholar, while in his
published works, the 'Genealogiâ Deorum' and the 'Comento sopra i
Primi Sedici Capitoli dell' "Inferno" di Dante,' he uniformly spoke of
Petrarch as his father and his teacher, the wonder of the century, a
heavenly poet better fitted to be numbered with the giants of the past
than with the pygmies of a barren age. The fame enjoyed by Petrarch,
the honours showered upon him by kings and princes, his own vanity,
and even the discrepancies between his habits and his theories,
produced no bitterness in Boccaccio's more modest nature. It was
enough for the pupil to use his talents for the propagation of his
master's views; and thus the influence of Petrarch was communicated to
Florence, where Boccaccio continued to reside.[47]

[Footnote 45: With his own hand Boccaccio transcribed the _Divine
Comedy_, and sent the MS. to Petrarch, who in his reply wrote
thus:--'Inseris nominatim hanc hujus officii tui escusationem, quod
tibi adolescentulo primus studiorum dux, prima fax fuerit.' Baldelli,
p. 133. The enthusiasm of Boccaccio for Dante contrasts favourably
with Petrarch's grudging egotism.]

[Footnote 46: Boccaccio was present at Naples when Petrarch disputed
before King Robert for his title to the poet's crown (_Gen. Deor._
xiv. 22); but he first became intimate with him as a friend during
Petrarch's visit to Florence in 1350.]

[Footnote 47: Salutato, writing to Francesco da Brossano, describes
his conversations with Boccaccio thus:--'Nihil aliud quam de Francisco
(_i.e._ Petrarcha) conferebamus. In cujus laudationem adeo libenter
sermones usurpabat, ut nihil avidius nihilque copiosius enarraret. Et
eo magis quia tali orationis generi me prospiciebat intentum.
Sufficiebat enim nobis Petrarcha solus, et omni posteritati sufficiet
in moralitate sermonis, in eloquentiæ soliditate atque dulcedine, in
lepore prosarum et in concinnitate metrorum.' _Epist. Fam._ p. 45.]

In obedience to Petrarch's advice, Boccaccio in middle life applied
himself to learning Greek. Petrarch had never acquired a real
knowledge of the language, though he received a few lessons at Avignon
from Barlaam, a Calabrian, who had settled in Byzantium, and who
sought to advance his fortunes in Italy and Greece by alternate acts
of apostasy, and afterwards at Venice from Leontius Pilatus.[48] The
opportunities of Greek study enjoyed by Boccaccio were also very
meagre, and his mastery of the idiom was superficial. Yet he advanced
considerably beyond the point reached by any of his predecessors, so
that he deserves to be named as the first Grecian of the modern world.
Leontius Pilatus, a Southern Italian and a pupil of Barlaam, who, like
his teacher, had removed to Byzantium and renounced the Latin faith,
arrived at Venice on his way to Avignon in 1360. Boccaccio induced him
to visit Florence, received him into his own house, and caused him to
be appointed Greek Professor in the University. Then he set himself to
work in earnest on the text of Homer. The ignorance of the teacher
was, however, scarcely less than that of his pupil. While Leontius
possessed a fair knowledge of Byzantine Greek, his command of Latin
was very limited, and his natural stupidity was only equalled by his
impudent pretensions. Of classical usages he seems to have known
nothing. The imbecility of his master could scarcely have escaped the
notice of Boccaccio. Indeed, both he and Petrarch have described
Leontius as a sordid cynic with a filthy beard and tangled hair,
morose in his temper and disgusting in his personal habits, who
concealed a bovine ignorance beneath a lion's hide of ostentation. It
was, however, necessary to make the best of him; for Greek in Northern
Italy could nowhere else be gained, and Boccaccio had not thought, it
seems, of journeying to Byzantium in search of what he wanted.[49]
Boccaccio, accordingly, drank the muddy stream of pseudo-learning and
lies that flowed from this man's lips, with insatiable avidity. The
nonsense administered to him by way of satisfying his thirst for
knowledge may best be understood from the following etymologies.
[Greek: Achilleus] was derived from [Greek: a] and [Greek: chilos],
'without fodder.'[50] The names of the Muses gave rise to these
extraordinary explanations:[51]--Melpomene is derived from _Melempio
comene_, which signifies _facente stare la meditazione_; Thalia is the
same as _Tithonlia_ or _pognente cosa che germini_; Polyhymnia,
through _Polium neemen_, is the same as _cosa che faccia molta
memoria_; Erato becomes _Euruncomenon_ or _trovatore del simile_, and
Terpsichore is described as _dilettante ammaestramento_.

[Footnote 48: _Epist. Rer. Sen._, lib. xi. 9, p. 887; lib. vi. 1, p.
806; lib. v. 4, p. 801.]

[Footnote 49: Petrarch's letter to Ugone di San Severino, _Epist. Rer.
Sen._ lib. xi. 9, p. 887, deserves to be read, since it proves that
Italian scholars despaired at this time of gaining Greek learning from
Constantinople. They were rather inclined to seek it in Calabria.
'Græciam, ut olim ditissimam, sic nunc omnis longe inopem disciplinæ
... quod desperat apud Græcos, non diffidit apud Calabros inveniri

[Footnote 50: _De Gen. Deor._ xv. 6, 7.]

[Footnote 51: _Comento sopra Dante, Opp. Volg._ vol. x. p. 127. After
allowing for the difficulty of writing Greek, pronounced by an
Italian, in Italian letters, and also for the errors of the copyist
and printer, it is clear that a Greek scholar who thought Melpomene
was one 'who gives fixity to meditation,' Thalia one 'who plants the
capacity of growth,' Polyhymnia she 'who strengthens and expands
memory,' Erato 'the discoverer of similarity,' and Terpsichore
'delightful instruction,' was on a comically wrong track.]

Such was the bathos reached by erudition in Byzantium. Yet Boccaccio
made what use he could of his contemptible materials. At the dictation
of Leontius he wrote out the 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey' in Latin; and this
was the first translation made of Homer for modern readers. The
manuscript, despatched to Petrarch, was, as we have seen already,
greeted with enthusiasm.[52] This moment in the history of scholarship
is so memorable that I may be excused for borrowing Baldelli's
extract from an ancient copy of Boccaccio's autograph.[53] Lycaon
addresses his last prayer to Achilles:--

     Genu deprecor te Achilles: tu autem venerare et me miserere.
     Vada Servus. Jove genite venerabilis.
     Penes enim te primo gustavi Cereris farinam,
     Die illo, quando me cepisti in bene facto viridario;
     Et me transtulisti procul ferens patreque amicisque
     Lemnon ad gloriosam. Hecatombium autem honorem inveni,
     Nunc autem læsus ter tot ferens. Dies autem mihi est
     Hæc duodecima, quando ad Ilion veni
     Multa passus. Nunc iterum me in tuis manibus posuit
     Fatum destructibile. Debeo odio esse Jovi patri,
     Qui me tibi iterum dedit, medio cuique, me mater
     Genuit Lathoi, filia Altai senis.

[Footnote 52: See above, p. 53, note 4.]

[Footnote 53: _Vita del Boccaccio_, p. 264. The autograph was probably
burned with other books of Boccaccio, and some of the unintelligible
passages in the above quotation may be due to the ignorance of the

Only by keeping firmly in mind that such men as Petrarch and
Boccaccio, the two chief masters of Italian literature, prized this
wretched stuff as an inestimable treasure, can we justly conceive how
utterly Greek had been lost, and what an effort it required to restore
it to the modern world.

Indefatigable industry was Boccaccio's great merit as a student. He
transcribed the whole of Terence with his own hands, and showed a real
sense of the advantage to be gained by a critical comparison of texts.
In his mythological, geographical, and historical collections he
bequeathed to posterity a curious mass of miscellaneous knowledge,
forming, as it were, the first dictionaries of biography and antiquity
for modern scholars.[54] Far from sharing the originality of
Petrarch's humanistic ideal, he remained at best a laborious
chronicler of facts and anecdotes. The author of the 'Decameron,' so
richly gifted with humour, pathos, and poetic fancy, when he wrapped
his student's robe around him, became a painstaking pioneer of
antiquarian research.

[Footnote 54: _De Genealogiâ Deorum_; _De Casibus Virorum ac Feminarum
Illustrium_; _De Claris Muliebribus_; _De Montibus, Silvis, Fontibus_,

One very important part of Petrarch's programme was eloquently
supported by Boccaccio. The fourteenth and fifteenth books of the
'Genealogiâ Deorum' form what may be termed the first defence of
poesy, composed in honour of his own art by a poet of the modern
world. In them Boccaccio expounds a theory already sketched in outline
by Petrarch. We have seen that the worst obstacle to humanistic
culture lay, not so much in ignorance, as in misconceptions based upon
prejudice and scruple. The notion of fine literature as an elevating
and purifying influence had been lost. To restore it was the object of
these earliest humanists. By poetry, contends Boccaccio, we must
understand whatever of weighty in argument, deep in doctrine, and
vivid in imagination the man of genius may produce with conscious art
in prose and verse. Poetry is instruction conveyed through allegory
and fiction. Theology itself, he reasons, is a form of poetry; even
the Holy Ghost may be called a Poet, inasmuch as He used the vehicle
of symbol in the visions of the prophets and the Revelation of S.
John.[55] To such strained arguments was the apostle of culture driven
in order to persuade his hearers, and to drag literature from the
Avernus of mediæval neglect. We must not, however, imagine that
Boccaccio was himself superior to a point of view so puerile. Allegory
appeared to him a necessary condition of art: only a madman could deny
the hidden meaning of the 'Georgics' and the 'Æneid;'[56] while the
verses of Dante and of Petrarch owed their value to the Christian
mysteries they shrouded. The poet, according to this mediæval
philosophy of literature, was a sage and teacher wrapping up his
august meanings in delightful fictions.[57] Though the common herd
despised him as a liar and a falsehood-fabricator, he was, in truth, a
prophet uttering his dark speech in parables. How foolish, therefore,
reasons the apologist, are the enemies of poetry--sophistical
dialecticians and avaricious jurists, who have never trodden the
Phoebean hill, and who scorn the springs of Helicon because they do
not flow with gold! Far worse is the condition of those monks and
hypocrites who accuse the divine art of immorality and grossness,
instead of reading between the lines and seeking the sense conveyed to
the understanding under veils of allegory. Truly, proceeds Boccaccio,
we do well to shun the errors of Pagans; nor can it be denied that
poets of antiquity have written verse abhorrent to the Christian
spirit. But, Jesus Christ be praised, the faith has triumphed. Strong
in the doctrines of the Gospel and the Church, the student may safely
approach the masterpieces of classic literature without fearing the
seductions of the Siren.

[Footnote 55: 'La teologia e la poesia quasi una cosa si possono dire
... la teologia niuna altra cosa è che una poesia d'Iddio.' _Vita di
Dante_, p. 59. Cf. _Comento sopra Dante_, loc. cit. p. 45. The
explanation of the Muses referred to above is governed by the same
determination to find philosophy in poetry.]

[Footnote 56: See Petrarch's letter 'De quibusdam fictionibus
Virgilii.' _Ep. Rer. Sen._ lib. iv. 4, p. 785.]

[Footnote 57: See the privilege granted to Petrarch by the Roman
senator in 1343, _Petr. Opp._ tom. iii. p. 6.]

This argument, forming the gist of the 'Apology for Poetry' in the
'Genealogiâ Deorum,' is repeated in the 'Comment upon Dante.' It is
doubly interesting, both as showing the popular opinion of poetry and
the prejudices Boccaccio thought it needful to attack, and also as
containing a full exposition of the allegorising theories with which
humanism started. For some time after Boccaccio's death the paragraphs
condensed above supplied the champions of culture with weapons to be
used against their ecclesiastical and scholastic antagonists; nor was
it until humanism had triumphed, that the allegorical interpretation
of the ancients was finally abandoned.

Independently of his contributions to learning, Boccaccio occupies a
prominent place in the history of the Revival through the new spirit
he introduced into the vulgar literature. He was the first who
frankly sought to justify the pleasures of the carnal life, whose
temperament, unburdened by asceticism, found a congenial element in
amorous legends of antiquity. The romances of Boccaccio, with their
beautiful gardens and sunny skies, fair women and luxurious lovers,
formed a transition from the chivalry of the early Italian poets to
the sensuality of Beccadelli and Pontano. He prepared the nation for
literary and artistic Paganism by unconsciously divesting thought and
feeling of their spiritual elevation. Dante had made the whole world
one in Christ. Petrarch put humanity to school in the lecture-room of
Roman sages and in the councils of the Church. A terrestrial paradise
of sensual delight, where all things were desirable and delicate,
contented the poet of the 'Fiammetta' and 'Filostrato.' To the
beatific vision of the 'Divine Comedy,' to the 'Trionfo della Morte,'
succeeded the 'Visione Amorosa'--a review of human life, in which
Boccaccio begins by invoking Dame Venus and ends with earthly love,
_Il Sior di tutta pace_.

The name given to Boccaccio by contemporaries, _Giovanni della
Tranquillità_, sufficiently indicates his peaceful temperament. He
was, in fact, the scholar, working in his study, and contributing to
the erudition of his age by writings. Another of Petrarch's disciples,
Giovanni Malpaghino, called from his birthplace Giovanni da Ravenna,
exercised a more active personal influence over the destinies of
scholarship. While still a youth he had been employed by Petrarch as
secretary and amanuensis. His general ability, clear handwriting, and
enthusiasm for learning first recommended him to the poet, who made
use of him for copying manuscripts and arranging his familiar letters.
In the course of this work John of Ravenna became himself a learned
man, acquiring a finer sense of Latinity than was possessed by any
other scholar of his time. Something, too, of the sacred fire he
caught from Petrarch, so that in his manhood the very faults of his
nature became instrumental in diffusing throughout Italy the passion
for antiquity. He could not long content himself with being even
Petrarch's scribe. Irresistible restlessness impelled him to seek
adventures in the outer world, to mix with men and gain the glory he
was always reading of. Petrarch, incapable of comprehending that any
honour was greater than that of being his satellite, treated this
ambitious pupil like a wilful child. A quarrel ensued. Giovanni left
his benefactor's house and went forth to try his fortunes. Without
repeating the vicissitudes of his career in detail, it is enough to
mention that want and misery soon drove him back to Petrarch; that
once more the vagrant impulse came upon him, and that for a season he
filled the post of chancellor in the little principality of
Carrara.[58] The one thing, however, which he could not endure, was
the routine of fixed employment. Therefore we find that he abandoned
the Court of the Malaspini, and betook himself to the more congenial
work of a wandering professor. His prodigious memory, by enabling him
to retain, word for word, the text of authors he had read, proved of
invaluable service to him in this career. His passionate poetic temper
made him apt to raise enthusiasm in young souls for literary studies.
Giovanni da Ravenna was in fact the first of those vagabond humanists
with whom we shall be occupied in the next chapters, and of whom
Filelfo was the most illustrious example. Florence, Padua, Venice, and
many other cities of Italy received the Latinist, whose reputation now
increased with every year. In each of these towns in succession he
lectured upon Cicero and the Roman poets, pouring forth the knowledge
he had acquired in Petrarch's study, and transmitting to his audience
the inspiration he had received from his master. The school thus
formed was compared a century later to the Trojan horse, whence issued
a band of heroes destined to possess the capital of classic learning.
As a writer, he produced little that is worth more than a passing
notice. His real merit consisted, as Lionardo Bruni witnessed, in his
faculty of arousing a passion for pure literature, and especially for
the study of Cicero. Among his most illustrious pupils may be
mentioned Francesco Barbaro, Palla degli Strozzi, Roberto de' Rossi,
Francesco Filelfo, Carlo Marsuppini, Poggio Bracciolini, Lionardo
Bruni, Guarino da Verona, Vittorino da Feltre, Ambrogio Traversari,
Ognibene da Vicenza, and Pier Paolo Vergerio. This list, as will
appear from the sequel of my work, includes nearly all those scholars
who devoted their energies to erudition at Venice, Florence, Rome,
Mantua, Ferrara, and Perugia in the fifteenth century. Giovanni da
Ravenna deserves, therefore, to be honoured as the link between the
age of Petrarch and the age of Poggio, as the vessel chosen for
communicating the sacred fire of humanism to the Courts and Republics
of Italy. None but a wanderer, _vagus quidam_, as Petrarch, half in
scorn and half in sorrow, called his protégé, could so effectually
have carried on the work of propagation.[59]

[Footnote 58: De Sade, in his _Memoirs of Petrarch_, gives an
interesting account of this romantic episode in his life. See too
Petrarch, _Epist. Rer. Sen._ lib. v. 6 and 7, pp. 802-806.]

[Footnote 59: _Epist. Rer. Sen._ lib. xiv. 14, p. 942.]

The name of the next student claiming our attention as a disciple of
Petrarch, brings us once more back to Florence. Luigi Marsigli was a
monk of the Augustine Order of S. Spirito. Petrarch, noticing his
distinguished abilities, had exhorted him to make a special study of
theology, and to enter the lists as a champion of Christianity against
the Averrhoists.[60] Under the name of Averrhoists in the fourteenth
century were ranged all freethinkers who questioned the fundamental
doctrines of the Church, doubted the immortality of the soul, and
employed their ingenuity in a dialectic at least as trivial as that
of the schoolmen, but directed to a very different end.[61] Petrarch
disliked their want of liberal culture as much as he abhorred their
affectation of impiety. The stupid materialism they professed, their
gross flippancy, and the idle pretence of natural science upon which
they piqued themselves, were regarded by him as so many obstacles to
his own ideal of humanism. He only saw in them another set of
scholastic wranglers, worse than the theologians, inasmuch as they had
cast off Christ. Against Averrhoes, 'the raging hound who barked at
all things sacred and Divine,' Petrarch therefore sought to stimulate
the young Marsigli. Marsigli, however, while he shared Petrarch's
respect for humane culture, seems to have sympathised with the
audacity and freedom of his proposed antagonists. The Convent of S.
Spirito became under his influence the centre of a learned society,
who met there regularly for disputations. The theme chosen for
discussion was posted up upon the wall of the debating-room,
metaphysical and ethical subjects forming the most frequent matter of
inquiry.[62] Among the members of the circle who sharpened their wits
in this species of dialectic, we find Coluccio de' Salutati, Roberto
de' Rossi, Niccolo de' Niccoli, and Giannozzo Manetti. The influence
of Marsigli in forming their character was undoubtedly powerful.
Poggio, in his funeral oration upon Niccolo de' Niccoli, tells us that
'the house of Marsigli was frequented by distinguished youths, who set
themselves to imitate his life and habits; it was, moreover, the
resort of the best and noblest burghers of this city, who flowed
together from all quarters to him as to some oracle of more than human
wisdom.'[63] His intellectual acuteness, solid erudition, and winning
eloquence were displayed in moral disquisitions upon Virgil, Cicero,
and Seneca. In this way he had the merit of combining the dialectic
method and the bold spirit of the Averrhoists with the sound learning
and polite culture of the newly-discovered humanities. The Convent of
S. Spirito has to be mentioned as the first of those many private
academies to which the free thought and the scholarship of Italy were
afterwards destined to owe so much.

[Footnote 60: _Epist. sine titulo_, xviii. p. 732.]

[Footnote 61: See the exhaustive work of Renan, _Averroès et

[Footnote 62: See Manetti's _Life_, Mur. xx. col. 531. Other
references will be found in Vespasiano's _Lives_. Boccaccio's library
was preserved in this convent.]

[Footnote 63: _Poggii Opera_, p. 271.]

It is my object in this chapter to show how humanistic scholarship,
starting from Petrarch, penetrated every department of study, and
began to permeate the intellectual life of the Italians. We have now
to notice its intrusion into the sphere of politics. Petrarch died in
1374, Boccaccio in 1375. The latter date is also that of Coluccio de'
Salutati's entrance upon the duties of Florentine Chancellor.
Salutato, the friend of Boccaccio and the disciple of Marsigli, the
professed worshipper of Petrarch and the translator of Dante into
Latin verse, was destined to exercise an important influence in his
own department as a stylist. Before he was called to act as secretary
to the Signory of Florence in his forty-sixth year, he had already
acquired the learning and imbibed the spirit of his age. He was known
as a diligent collector of manuscripts and promoter of Greek studies,
as a writer on mythology and morals, as an orator and miscellaneous
author.[64] His talents had now to be concentrated on the weightier
business of the Florentine Republic; but his study of antiquity
caused him to conceive his duties and the political relations of the
State he served, in a new light. During the wars carried on with
Gregory XI. and the Visconti, his pen was never idle. For the first
time he introduced into public documents the gravity of style and
melody of phrase he had learned in the school of classic rhetoricians.
The effect produced by this literary statesman, as elegant in
authorship as he was subtle in the conduct of affairs, can only be
estimated at its proper value when we remember that the Italians were
now ripe to receive the influence of rhetoric, and only too ready to
attribute weight to verbal ingenuity. Gian Galeazzo Visconti is said
to have declared that Salutato had done him more harm by his style
than a troop of paid mercenaries.[65] The epistles, despatches,
protocols, and manifestoes composed by their Chancellor for the
Florentine priors, were distributed throughout Italy. Read and copied
by the secretaries of other states, they formed the models of a new
State eloquence.[66] Elegant Latinity became a necessary condition of
public documents, and Ciceronian phrases were henceforth reckoned
among the indispensable engines of a diplomatic armoury. Offices of
trust in the Papal Curia, the courts of the Despots, and the
chanceries of the republics were thus thrown open to professional
humanists. In the next age we shall find that neither princes, popes,
nor priors could do without the services of trained stylists.

[Footnote 64: Salutato's familiar letters, _Lini Coluci Pieri Salutati
Epistolarum Pars Secunda, Florentiæ_, MDCCXXXXI., are a valuable
source of information respecting scholarship at the close of the
fourteenth century. See especially his letter to Benvenuto da Imola on
the death of Petrarch (p. 32), his letter to the same about Petrarch's
_Africa_ (p. 41), another letter about the preservation of the
_Africa_ (p. 79), a letter to Petrarch's nephew Francesco da Brossano
on the death of Boccaccio (p. 44), and a letter to a certain Comes
Magnificus on the literary and philosophical genius of Petrarch (p.

[Footnote 65: 'Galeacius Mediolanensium Princeps crebro auditus est
dicere non tam sibi mille Florentinorum equites quam Colucii scripta
nocere.' _Pii Secundi Europæ Commentarii_, p. 454.]

[Footnote 66: 'Costui fu de' migliori dittatori di pistole al mondo,
perocchè molti quando ne potevano avere, ne toglieano copie; si
piaceano a tutti gl'intendenti: e nelle corte di Re e di signori del
mondo, e anchora de' cherici era di lui in questa arte maggiore fama
che di alcuno altro uomo.' From the Chronicle of Luca da Scarparia.
These epistles were collected and printed by Josephus Rigaccius,
Bibliopola Florentinus Celeberrimus, in 1741. Among the letters
written for the Signory of Florence, that of congratulation to Gian
Galeazzo Visconti on his murder of Bernabo (p. 16), that to the French
Cardinals (p. 18), to Sir John Hawkwood, or Domino Joanni Aucud (p.
107), to the Marquis of Moravia (p. 110), and to the Romans (p. 141)
deserve to be read.]

While concentrating attention upon this chief contribution of Salutato
to Italian scholarship, I must not omit to notice, however briefly,
the patronage he exercised at Florence. Both Poggio Bracciolini and
Lionardo Bruni owed their advancement to his interest.[67] Giacomo da
Scarparia, the first Florentine who visited Byzantium with a view to
learning Greek, received from him the warmest encouragement, together
with a commission for the purchase of manuscripts. To his activity in
concert with Palla degli Strozzi was due the establishment of a Greek
chair in the University of Florence. Nor was this zeal confined to the
living. He composed the Lives of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio,
translated a portion of the 'Divine Comedy' into Latin for its wider
circulation through the learned world, and caused the 'Africa' of
Petrarch to be published.[68] When the illustrious Chancellor died, in
the year 1406, at the age of seventy-six, he was honoured with a
public funeral; the poet's crown was placed upon his brow, a
panegyrical oration was recited, and a monument was erected to him in
the Duomo.[69]

[Footnote 67: See the letter of Lionardo Bruni, quoted in _Lini Coluci
Pieri Salutati Epistolæ_, p. xv. Coluccio's own letter recommending
Lionardo to Innocent VII., ib. p. 5, and his numerous familiar letters
to Poggio, ib. pp. 13, 173, &c.]

[Footnote 68: 'Certe cogitabam revidere librum, et si quid, ut
scribis, vel absonum, vel contra metrorum regulam intolerabile
deprehendissem, curiosius elimare et sicut Naso finxit in Æneida,
singulos libros paucis versiculis quasi in argumenti formam brevissime
resumere, et exinde pluribus sumptis exemplis, et per me ipsum
correctis et diligenter revisis, unum ad Bononiense gymnasium, unum
Parisiis, unum in Angliam cum meâ epistolâ de libri laudibus
destinare, et unum in Florentiâ ponere in loco celebri,' &c.
_Epistolæ_, part ii. p. 80.]

[Footnote 69: Among the other _laureati_ who filled the post of
Florentine Chancellor may be mentioned Dante's tutor, Brunetto Latini,
Lionardo Bruni, Carlo Marsuppini, Poggio Bracciolini, and Benedetto
Accolti, of whom more hereafter.]

What Salutato accomplished for the style of public documents,
Gasparino da Barzizza effected for familiar correspondence. After
teaching during several years at Venice and Padua, he was summoned to
Milan in 1418 by Filippo Maria Visconti, who ordered him to open a
school in that capital. Gasparino made a special study of Cicero's
Letters, and caused his pupils to imitate them as closely as possible,
forming in this way an art of fluent letter-writing known afterwards
as the _ars familiariter scribendi_. Epistolography in general,
considered as a branch of elegant literature, occupied all the
scholars of the Renaissance, and had the advantage of establishing a
link of union between learned men in different parts of Italy. We
therefore recognise in Gasparino the initiator, after Petrarch, of a
highly important branch of Italian culture. This, when it reached
maturity, culminated in the affectations of the Ciceronian purists. It
must be understood that neither Salutato nor Gasparino attained to
real polish or freedom of style. Compared even with the Latinity of
Poggio, theirs is heavy and uncouth; while that of Poggio seems
barbarous by the side of Poliziano's, and Poliziano in turn yields the
palm of mere correctness to Bembo. It was only by degrees that the
taste of the Italians formed itself, and that facility was acquired in
writing a lost language. The fact that mediæval Latin was still used
in legal documents, in conversation, in the offices of the Church, and
in the theological works which formed the staple of all libraries,
impeded the recovery of a classic style. When the Italians had finally
learned how to polish prose, it was easy to hand on the art to other
nations; while to sneer at their pedantry, as Erasmus did, was no
matter of great difficulty. By that time their scrupulous and anxious
preoccupation with purity of phrase threatened danger to the interests
of liberal learning.

Hitherto, with the exception only of Boccaccio's Greek studies, I have
had to trace the rise of Latin letters and to call particular
attention to the cult of Cicero in Italy. It is now necessary to
mention the advent of a man who played a part in the revival of
learning only second to that of Petrarch. Manuel Chrysoloras, a
Byzantine of noble birth, came to Italy during the Pontificate of
Boniface IX., charged by the Emperor Palæologus with the mission of
attempting to arm the states of Christendom against the Turk. Like all
the Greeks who visited Western Europe, Chrysoloras first alighted in
Venice; but the Republic of the Lagoons neither understood the secret
nor felt the need of retaining these birds of passage. After a few
months they almost invariably passed on to Florence--the real centre
of the intellectual life of Italy. As soon as it was known that
Chrysoloras, who enjoyed the fame of being the most accomplished and
eloquent Hellenist of his age, had arrived with his companion,
Demetrios Kydonios, in Venice, two noble Florentines, Roberto de'
Rossi and Giacomo d'Angelo da Scarparia, set forth to visit him. The
residence of the Greek ambassadors in Italy on this occasion was but
brief; they found that, politically, they could effect nothing. But
Giacomo da Scarparia journeyed in their society to Byzantium; while
Roberto de' Rossi returned to Florence, full of the impression which
the erudite philosophers had left upon him. The report he made to his
fellow-citizens awoke a passionate desire in Palla degli Strozzi and
Niccolo de' Niccoli to bring Chrysoloras in person to Florence. Their
urgent appeals to the Signory resulted in an invitation whereby
Chrysoloras in 1396 was induced to fill the Greek chair in the
university. A yearly stipend of 150 golden florins, raised afterwards
to 250, was voted for his maintenance. This engagement secured the
future of Greek erudition in Europe. The merit of having brought the
affair to a successful issue belongs principally to Palla degli
Strozzi, of whom Vespasiano wrote: 'There being in Florence exceeding
good knowledge of Latin letters, but of Greek none, he resolved that
this defect should be remedied, and therefore did all he could to make
Manuel Grisolora visit Italy, using all his influence thereto and
paying a large portion of the expense incurred.'[70] We must not,
however, omit the share which Coluccio Salutato,[71] by his influence
with the Signory, and Niccolo de' Niccoli, by the interest he exerted
with the Uffiziali dello Studio, may also claim. Among the audience of
this the first true teacher of Greek at Florence were numbered Palla
degli Strozzi, Roberto de' Rossi, Poggio Bracciolini, Lionardo Bruni,
Francesco Barbaro, Giannozzo Manetti, Carlo Marsuppini, and Ambrogio
Traversari--some of them young men of eighteen, others old and
grey-haired, nearly all of them the scholars in Latinity of Giovanni
da Ravenna. Nor was Florence the only town to receive the learning of
Chrysoloras. He opened schools at Rome, at Padua, at Milan, and at
Venice; so that his influence as a wandering professor was at least
equal to that exercised by Giovanni da Ravenna.

[Footnote 70: _Vite d'Uomini Illustri_, p. 271.]

[Footnote 71: Cf. the letter quoted by Voigt (p. 130) to Giacomo da
Scarparia, which shows Coluccio's enthusiasm for Greek.]

The impulse communicated to the study of antiquity by Chrysoloras, and
the noble enthusiasm of his scholars for pure literature, may best be
understood from a passage in the 'Commentaries' of Lionardo Bruni,
whereof the following is a compressed translation:[72]--'Letters at
this period grew mightily in Italy, seeing that the knowledge of
Greek, intermitted for seven centuries, revived. Chrysoloras of
Byzantium, a man of noble birth and well skilled in Greek literature,
brought to us Greek learning. I at that time was following the civil
law, though not ill-versed in other studies; for by nature I loved
learning with ardour, nor had I given slight pains to dialectic and
to rhetoric. Therefore, at the coming of Chrysoloras, I was made to
halt in my choice of lives, seeing that I held it wrong to desert law,
and yet I reckoned it a crime to omit so great an occasion of learning
the Greek literature; and oftentimes I reasoned with myself after this
manner:--Can it be that thou, when thou mayest gaze on Homer, Plato,
and Demosthenes, together with other poets, philosophers, and orators,
concerning whom so great and so wonderful things are said, and mayest
converse with them, and receive their admirable doctrine--can it be
that thou wilt desert thyself and neglect the opportunity divinely
offered thee? Through seven hundred years no one in all Italy has been
master of Greek letters; and yet we acknowledge that all science is
derived from them. Of civil law, indeed, there are in every city
scores of doctors; but should this single and unique teacher of Greek
be removed, thou wilt find no one to instruct thee. Conquered at last
by these reasonings, I delivered myself over to Chrysoloras with such
passion that what I had received from him by day in hours of waking,
occupied my mind at night in hours of sleep.'

[Footnote 72: Mur. xix. 920.]

The earnestness of this paragraph is characteristic of the whole
period. The scholars who assembled in the lecture-rooms of
Chrysoloras, felt that the Greek texts, whereof he alone supplied the
key, contained those elements of spiritual freedom and intellectual
culture without which the civilisation of the modern world would be
impossible. Nor were they mistaken in what was then a guess rather
than a certainty. The study of Greek implied the birth of criticism,
comparison, research. Systems based on ignorance and superstition were
destined to give way before it. The study of Greek opened
philosophical horizons far beyond the dream-world of the churchmen and
the monks; it stimulated the germs of science, suggested new
astronomical hypotheses, and indirectly led to the discovery of
America. The study of Greek resuscitated a sense of the beautiful in
art and literature. It subjected the creeds of Christianity, the
language of the Gospels, the doctrine of S. Paul, to analysis, and
commenced a new era for Biblical inquiry. If it be true, as a writer
no less sober in his philosophy than eloquent in his language has
lately asserted, that, 'except the blind forces of nature, nothing
moves in this world which is not Greek in its origin,' we are
justified in regarding the point of contact between the Greek teacher
Chrysoloras and his Florentine pupils as one of the most momentous
crises in the history of civilisation. Indirectly, the Italian
intellect had hitherto felt Hellenic influence through Latin
literature. It was now about to receive that influence immediately
from actual study of the masterpieces of the Attic authors. The world
was no longer to be kept in ignorance of those 'eternal consolations'
of the human race. No longer could the scribe omit Greek quotations from
his Latin text with the dogged snarl of obtuse self-satisfaction--_Græca
sunt, ergo non legenda_. The motto had rather to be changed into a cry
of warning for ecclesiastical authority upon the verge of
dissolution--_Græca sunt, ergo periculosa_: since the reawakening
faith in human reason, the reawakening belief in the dignity of man,
the desire for beauty, the liberty, audacity, and passion of the
Renaissance, received from Greek studies their strongest and most
vital impulse.



     Condition of the Universities in Italy -- Bologna -- High
     Schools founded from it -- Naples under Frederick II. --
     Under the House of Anjou -- Ferrara -- Piacenza -- Perugia
     -- Rome -- Pisa -- Florence -- Imperial and Papal Charters
     -- Foreign Students -- Professorial Staff -- Subjects taught
     in the High Schools -- Place assigned to Humanism -- Pay of
     the Professors of Eloquence -- Francesco Filelfo -- The
     Humanists less powerful at the Universities -- Method of
     Humanistic Teaching -- The Book Market before Printing --
     Mediæval Libraries -- Cost of Manuscripts -- _Stationarii_
     and _Peciarii_ -- Negligence of Copyists -- Discovery of
     Classical Codices -- Boccaccio at Monte Cassino -- Poggio at
     Constance -- Convent of S. Gallen -- Bruni's Letter to
     Poggio -- Manuscripts discovered by Poggio -- Nicholas of
     Treves -- Collection of Greek Manuscripts -- Aurispa,
     Filelfo, and Guarino -- The Ruins of Rome -- Their Influence
     on Humanism -- Dante and Villani -- Rienzi -- His Idealistic
     Patriotism -- Vanity -- Political Incompetence -- Petrarch's
     Relations with Rienzi -- Injury to Monuments in Rome --
     Poggio's Roman Topography -- Sentimental Feeling for the
     Ruins of Antiquity -- Ciriac of Ancona.

Having so far traced the quickening of a new sense for antiquity among
the Italians, it will be well at this point to consider the external
resources of Humanism before continuing the history of the Revival in
the fifteenth century. The condition of the universities, the state of
the book trade before the invention of printing, and the discovery of
manuscripts claim separate attention; nor may it be out of place to
inquire what stimulus the enthusiasm for classical studies received
from the ruins of Rome. A review of these topics will help to explain
the circumstances under which the pioneers of culture had to labour,
and the nature of the crusade they instituted against ignorance in
every part of Europe.

The oldest and most frequented university in Italy, that of Bologna,
is represented as having flourished in the twelfth century.[73] Its
prosperity in early times depended greatly on the personal conduct of
the principal professors, who, when they were not satisfied with their
entertainment, were in the habit of seceding with their pupils to
other cities. Thus high schools were opened from time to time in
Modena, Reggio, and elsewhere by teachers who broke the oaths that
bound them to reside in Bologna, and fixed their centre of education
in a rival town. To make such temporary changes was not difficult in
an age when what we have to call an university, consisted of masters
and scholars, without college buildings, without libraries, without
endowments, and without scientific apparatus. The technical name for
such institutions seems to have been _studium scholarium_, Italianised
into _studio_ or _studio pubblico_.[74] Among the more permanent
results of these secessions may be mentioned the establishment of the
high school at Vicenza by translation from Bologna in 1204, and the
opening of a school at Arezzo under similar circumstances in 1215; the
great University of Padua first saw the light in consequence of
political discords forcing the professors to quit Bologna for a

[Footnote 73: Tiraboschi, _Storia della Letteratura Italiana_, vol.
iv. p. 42 _et seq._, vol. v. p. 60 _et seq._ Large quarto, Modena,

[Footnote 74: See Muratori, vol. viii. 15, 75, 372. Matteo Villani,
lib. i. cap. 8.]

[Footnote 75: 'Hoc anno translatum est Studium Scholarium de Bononiâ
Paduam.' Mur. viii. 372.]

The first half of the thirteenth century witnessed the foundation of
these _studi_ in considerable numbers. That of Vercelli was opened in
1228, the municipality providing two certified copyists for the
convenience of students who might wish to purchase text-books.[76] In
1224 the Emperor Frederick II., to whom the south of Italy owed a
precocious eminence in literature, established the University of
Naples by an Imperial diploma.[77] With a view to rendering it the
chief seat of learning in his dominions, he forbade the subjects of
the Regno to frequent other schools, and suppressed the University of
Bologna by letters general. Thereupon Bologna joined the Lombard
League, defied the emperor, and refused to close the schools, which
numbered at that period about ten thousand students of various
nationalities. In 1227 Frederick revoked his edict, and Bologna
remained thenceforward unmolested. Political and internal
vicissitudes, affecting all the Italian universities at this period,
interrupted the prosperity of that of Naples. In the middle of the
thirteenth century Salerno proved a dangerous rival; but when the
House of Anjou was established in the kingdom of the Sicilies, special
privileges were granted, restoring the high school of the capital to
the first rank. Charles I. created a separate court of jurisdiction
for its management. This consisted of a judge and three assessors, one
for the control of foreigners, another for the subjects of the Regno,
and the third for Italians from other states.

[Footnote 76: They were called 'Exemplatores.' See Tiraboschi, vol.
iv. lib. i cap. 2.]

[Footnote 77: Muratori, vii. p. 997. Amari, _Storia dei Mussulmani di
Sicilia_, vol. iii. p. 706.]

In 1264 we find a public school in operation at Ferrara. By its
charter the professors were exempt from military service. The
University of Piacenza came into existence a little earlier. Innocent
IV. established it in 1248, with privileges similar to those of Paris
and Bologna. An important group of _studi pubblici_ owed their origin
to Papal or Imperial charters in the first half of the fourteenth
century. That of Perugia was founded in 1307 by a Bull of Clement V.
That of Rome dated from 1303, in which year Boniface VIII. gave it a
constitution by a special edict; but the translation of the Papal See
to Avignon caused it to fall into premature decadence. The University
of Pisa had already existed for some years, when it received a charter
in 1343 from Clement VI. That of Florence was first founded in
1321.[78] In 1348 a place for its public buildings was assigned
between the Duomo and the Palazzo Pubblico, on the site of what was
afterwards known as the Collegium Eugenianum. A council of eight
burghers was appointed for its management, and a yearly sum was set
apart for its maintenance. In 1349 Clement VI. gave it the same
privileges as the University of Bologna, while in 1364 it received an
Imperial diploma from Charles IV. The same emperor granted charters to
Siena in 1357, to Arezzo in 1356, and to Lucca in 1369. In 1362
Galeazzo Visconti obtained a charter for his University of Pavia from
Charles IV., with the privileges of Paris, Oxford, and Bologna.

[Footnote 78: See Von Reumont, _Lorenzo de' Medici_, vol. i. p. 521.]

It will be observed that the majority of the _studi pubblici_ obtained
charters either from the Pope or the emperor, or from both, less for
the sake of any immediate benefit to be derived from Papal or Imperial
patronage, than because supreme authority in Italy was still referred
to one or other of these heads. It was a great object with each city
to increase its wealth by attracting foreigners as residents, and to
retain the native youth within its precincts. The municipalities,
therefore, accorded immunities from taxation and military service to
_bona fide_ students, prohibited their burghers from seeking rival
places of learning, and in some cases allowed the university
authorities to exercise a special jurisdiction over the motley
multitude of scholars from all countries. How miscellaneous the
concourse in some of the high schools used to be, may be gathered from
the reports extracted by Tiraboschi from their registers. At Vicenza,
for example, in 1209 we find the names of Bohemians, Poles,
Frenchmen, Burgundians, Germans, and Spaniards, as well as of Italians
of divers towns. The rectors of this _studio_ in 1205 included an
Englishman, a Provençal, a German, and a Cremonese. The list of
illustrious students at Bologna between 1265 and 1294 show men of all
the European nationalities, proving that the foreigners attracted by
the university must have formed no inconsiderable element in the whole
population.[79] This will account for the prominent part played by the
students from time to time in the political history of Bologna.[80]

[Footnote 79: In 1320 there were at least 15,000 students in Bologna.]

[Footnote 80: See Sismondi, vol. iii. p. 349.]

The importance attached by great cities to their universities as a
source of strength, may be gathered from the chapter in Matteo
Villani's Chronicle describing the foundation of the _studio pubblico_
in Florence.[81] He expressly mentions that the Signory were induced
to take this step in consequence of the depopulation inflicted by the
Black Death of 1348. By drawing residents to Florence from other
States, they hoped to increase the number of the inhabitants, and to
restore the decayed fame and splendour of the commonwealth.[82] At the
same time they thought that serious studies might put an end to the
demoralisation produced in all classes by the plague. With this object
in view, they engaged the best teachers, and did not hesitate to
devote a yearly sum of 2,500 golden florins to the maintenance of
their high school. Bologna, which owed even more than Florence to its
university, is said to have lavished as much as half of its revenue,
about 20,000 ducats, on the pay of professors and other incidental
expenses. The actual cost incurred by cities through their schools
cannot, however, be accurately estimated, since it varied from year to
year according to the engagements made with special teachers. At
Pavia, for example, in 1400, the university supported in Canon Law
several eminent doctors, in Civil Law thirteen, in Medicine five, in
Philosophy three, in Astrology one, in Greek one, and in Eloquence
one.[83] Whether this staff was maintained after the lapse of another
twenty years we do not know for certain.

[Footnote 81: Lib. i. cap. 8.]

[Footnote 82: 'Volendo attrarre gente alla nostra città, e dilatarla
in onore, e dare materia a' suoi cittadini d'essere scienziati e

[Footnote 83: Cf. Corio, p. 290. He gives the names of the professors
who attended at the funeral of Gian Galeazzo Visconti.]

The subjects taught in the high schools were Canon and Civil Law,
Medicine, and Theology. These faculties, important for the
professional education of the public, formed the staple of the
academical curriculum. Chairs of Rhetoric, Philosophy, and Astronomy
were added according to occasion, the last sometimes including the
study of judicial astrology. If we inquire how the humanists or
professors of classic literature were related to the universities, we
find that, at first at any rate, they always occupied a second rank.
The permanent teaching remained in the hands of jurists, who enjoyed
life engagements at a high rate of pay, while the Latinists and
Grecians could only aspire to the temporary occupation of the Chair of
Rhetoric, with salaries considerably lower than those of lawyers or
physicians. The cause of this inferiority is easily explained. It was
natural that important and remunerative branches of learning like law
and medicine should attract a greater number of students than pure
literature, and that their professors should be better paid than the
teachers of eloquence. Padua, Bologna, and Pavia in particular
retained their legal speciality throughout the period of the
Renaissance, and remained but little open to humanistic influences. At
Padua we find from Sanudo's Diary[84] that an eminent jurist received
a stipend of 1,000 ducats. A Doctor of Medicine at the same
university, in 1491, received a similar stipend, together with the
right of private practice. At Bologna the famous jurist Abbas Siculus
(Niccolo de' Tudeschi) drew 800 scudi yearly; at Padua Giovanni da
Imola in 1406, and Paolo da Castro in 1430, drew a sum of 600
ducats.[85] About the same time (1453) Lauro Quirino, who professed
rhetoric at Padua, was paid at the rate of only forty ducats yearly,
while Lorenzo Valla, at Pavia, filled the Chair of Eloquence with an
annual stipend of fifty sequins. The disparity between the
remuneration of jurists and that of humanists was not so great at all
the universities. Florence in especial formed a notable exception.
From the date of its commencement the Florentine _studio_ was partial
to literature; and it is worth remarking that when Lorenzo de' Medici
transferred the high school to Pisa, he retained at Florence the
professors of the liberal sciences and _belles-lettres_. The great
reputation of eminent rhetoricians, again, often secured for them
temporary engagements at a high rate. Thus we gather from Rosmini's
'Life of Filelfo' that this humanist received from Venice the offer of
500 sequins yearly as remuneration for his professorial services.
Bologna proposed an annual stipend of 450 sequins when he undertook to
lecture upon eloquence and moral philosophy. At Florence his income
amounted to 350 golden florins, secured for three years, and
subsequently raised to 450. With Siena he stipulated for 350 golden
florins for two years. At Milan his Chair of Eloquence was endowed
with 500 golden florins, and this salary was afterwards increased to
700. Nicholas V. offered him an annual income of 600 ducats if he
would devote himself to the translation of Greek books into Latin,
while Sixtus IV. tried to bring him to Rome by proposing 600 Roman
florins as the stipend of the Chair of Rhetoric.

[Footnote 84: Mur. xxii. 990.]

[Footnote 85: See Voigt, p. 447.]

The fact, however, remains that while the special study of antiquity
preoccupied the minds of the Italians, and attracted all the finer
intellects among the youth ambitious of distinction, its professors
never succeeded in taking complete possession of the universities.
Their position there was always that of wandering stars and resident
aliens. This accounts in some measure for the bitter hostility and
scorn which they displayed against the teachers of theology and law
and medicine. The real home of the humanists was in the Courts of
princes, the palaces of the cultivated burghers, the Roman Curia, and
the chanceries of the republics. As secretaries, house tutors,
readers, Court poets, historiographers, public orators, and companions
they were indispensable. We shall therefore find that the private
academies formed by the literati and their patrons, the schools of
princes established at Mantua and Ferrara, and the residences of great
nobles play a more important part in the history of humanism than do
the universities. At the same time the spirit of the new culture
diffused by the humanists so thoroughly permeated the whole
intellectual activity of the Italians, that in course of time the
special studies of the high schools assumed a more literary and
liberal form. The classics then supplied the starting-point for
juristic and medical disquisitions. Poliziano was seen lecturing upon
the Pandects of Justinian, while Pomponazzi made the Chair of
Philosophy at Padua subservient to the exposition of materialism. This
triumph of humanism, like its triumph in the Church, was effected less
by immediate working on the universities than by a gradual and
indirect determination of the whole race towards the study of

In picturing to ourselves the method pursued by the humanists in the
instruction of their classes, we must divest our minds of all
associations with the practice of modern professors. Very few of the
students whom the master saw before him, possessed more than meagre
portions of the text of Virgil or of Cicero; they had no notes,
grammars, lexicons, or dictionaries of antiquities and mythology, to
help them. It was therefore necessary for the lecturer to dictate
quotations, to repeat parallel passages at full length, to explain
geographical and historical allusions, to analyse the structure of
sentences in detail, to provide copious illustrations of grammatical
usage, to trace the stages by which a word acquired its meaning in a
special context, to command a full vocabulary of synonyms, to give
rules for orthography, and to have the whole Pantheon at his fingers'
ends. In addition to this he was expected to comment upon the meaning
of his author, to interpret his philosophy, to point out the beauties
of his style, to introduce appropriate moral disquisition on his
doctrine, to sketch his biography, and to give some account of his
relation to the history of his country and to his predecessors in the
field of letters. In short, the professor of rhetoric had to be a
grammarian, a philologer, an historian, a stylist, and a sage in one.
He was obliged to pretend at least to an encyclopædic knowledge of the
classics, and to retain whole volumes in his memory. All these
requirements, which seem to have been satisfied by such men as Filelfo
and Poliziano, made the profession of eloquence--for so the varied
subject matter of humanism was often called--a very different business
from that which occupies a lecturer of the present century. Scores of
students, old and young, with nothing but pen and paper on the desks
before them, sat patiently recording what the lecturer said. At the
end of his discourses on the 'Georgics' or the 'Verrines,' each of
them carried away a compendious volume, containing a transcript of the
author's text, together with a miscellaneous mass of notes, critical,
explanatory, ethical, æsthetical, historical, and biographical. In
other words, a book had been dictated, and as many scores of copies as
there were attentive pupils had been made.[86] The language used was
Latin. No dialect of Italian could have been intelligible to the
students of different nationalities who crowded the lecture-rooms. The
elementary education in grammar requisite for following a professorial
course of lectures had been previously provided by the teachers of the
Latin schools, which depended for maintenance partly on the State[87]
and partly on private enterprise. The Church does not seem to have
undertaken the management of these primary boys' schools.

[Footnote 86: Many of the earliest printed editions of the Latin poets
give an exact notion of what such lectures must have been. The text is
embedded in an all-embracing commentary.]

[Footnote 87: Cf. Villani's Statistics of Florence, and Corio's of

Since this was the nature of academical instruction in the humanities
before the age of printing, it followed that the professor had a
direct interest in frequently shifting his scene of operations. More
than a certain number of such books as I have just attempted to
describe could not be carried in his head. After he had dictated his
work on the 'Georgics' at Florence, he was naturally anxious to move
to Milan and to do the same. A new audience gave new value to his
lectures, and another edition, as it were, of his book was put in
circulation. In the correspondence which passed between professors and
the rectors of the high schools previously to an engagement, we
sometimes find that the former undertake to explain particular authors
during their proposed residence. On these authors they had no doubt
bestowed the best years of their lives, making them the vehicle for
all the miscellaneous learning they possessed, and grounding their
fame upon the beauty, clearness, and copiousness of their

[Footnote 88: For humorous but vivid pictures of a professor's
lecture-room, see the macaronic poems of Odassi and Fossa quoted by me
in vol. v. of this work.]

Having described the conditions under which professorial teaching was
conducted in the fifteenth century, it is now of some importance to
form a notion of the state of the book market and the diffusion of
MSS. before the invention of printing. Difficult as it is to speak
with accuracy on these topics some facts must be collected, seeing
that the high price and comparative rarity of books contributed in a
very important degree to determine the character of the instruction
provided by the humanists.

Scarcity of books was at first a chief impediment to the study of
antiquity. Popes and princes and even great religious institutions
possessed far fewer books than many farmers of the present age. The
library belonging to the Cathedral Church of S. Martino at Lucca in
the ninth century contained only nineteen volumes of abridgments from
ecclesiastical commentaries. The Cathedral of Novara in 1212 could
boast copies of Boethius, Priscian, the 'Code of Justinian,' the
'Decretals,' and the 'Etymology' of Isidorus, besides a Bible and some
devotional treatises.[89] This slender stock passed for great riches.
Each of the precious volumes in such a collection was an epitome of
mediæval art. Its pages were composed of fine vellum adorned with
pictures.[90] The initial letters displayed elaborate flourishes and
exquisitely illuminated groups of figures. The scribe took pains to
render his caligraphy perfect, and to ornament the margins with
crimson, gold, and blue. Then he handed the parchment sheets to the
binder, who encased them in rich settings of velvet or carved ivory
and wood, embossed with gold and precious stones. The edges were gilt
and stamped with patterns. The clasps were of wrought silver, chased
with niello. The price of such masterpieces was enormous. Borso
d'Este, in 1464, gave eight gold ducats to Gherardo Ghislieri of
Bologna for an illuminated Lancellotto, and in 1469 he bought a
Josephus and Quintus Curtius for forty ducats.[91] His great Bible in
two volumes is said to have cost 1,375 sequins. Rinaldo degli Albizzi
notes in his Memoirs that he paid eleven golden florins for a Bible at
Arezzo in 1406. Of these MSS. the greater part were manufactured in
the cloisters, and it was here too that the martyrdom of ancient
authors took place. Lucretius and Livy gave place to chronicles,
antiphonaries, and homilies. Parchment was extremely dear, and the
scrolls which nobody could read might be scraped and washed.
Accordingly, the copyist erased the learning of the ancients, and
filled the fair blank space he gained with litanies. At the same time
it is but just to the monks to add that palimpsests have occasionally
been found in which ecclesiastical works have yielded place to copies
of the Latin poets used in elementary education.[92]

[Footnote 89: See Cantù, _Storia della Letteratura Italiana_, p. 105,

[Footnote 90: 'Hodie Scriptores non sunt Scriptores sed Pictores,'
quoted by Tiraboschi, vol. iv. lib. i. cap. 4.]

[Footnote 91: See Cantù, loc. cit. p. 104.]

[Footnote 92: See Comparetti, vol. i. p. 114.]

Another obstacle to the diffusion of learning was the incompetence of
the copyists. It is true that at the great universities _stationarii_,
who supplied the text-books in use to students, were certified and
subjected to the control of special censors called _peciarii_. Yet
their number was not large, and when they quitted the routine to which
they were accustomed their incapacity betrayed itself by numerous
errors.[93] Petrarch's invective against the professional copyists
shows the depth to which the art had sunk. 'Who,' he exclaims, 'will
discover a cure for the ignorance and vile sloth of these copyists,
who spoil everything and turn it to nonsense? If Cicero, Livy, and
other illustrious ancients were to return to life, do you think they
would understand their own works? There is no check upon these
copyists, selected without examination or test of their capacity.
Workmen, husbandmen, weavers, artisans, are not indulged in the same
liberty.'[94] Coluccio Salutato repeats the same complaint, averring
that the copies of Dante and Petrarch no more correspond to the
originals than bad statues to the men they pretend to represent. At
the same time the copyists formed a necessary and flourishing class of
craftsmen. They were well paid. Ambrogio Traversari told his friend
Giustiniani in 1430 that he could recommend him a good scribe at the
pay of thirty golden florins a year and his keep. Under these
circumstances it was usual for even the most eminent scholars, like
Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Poggio, to make their own copies of MSS.
Niccolo de' Niccoli transcribed nearly the whole of the codices that
formed the nucleus of the Library of the Mark. Sometimes they sold
them or made advantageous changes. Poggio, for example, sold two
volumes of S. Jerome's 'Letters' to Lionello d'Este for 100 golden
florins. Beccadelli bought a Livy from him for 120 golden florins,
having parted with a farm to defray the expense. It is clear that the
first step toward the revival of learning implied three things:
first, the collection of MSS. wherever they could be saved from the
indolence of the monks; secondly, the formation of libraries for their
preservation; and, thirdly, the invention of an art whereby they might
be multiplied cheaply, conveniently, and accurately.

[Footnote 93: In Milan, in the fourteenth century, when the population
was estimated at about 200,000, the town could boast of only fifty
copyists. Tirab. loc. cit. cap. 4.]

[Footnote 94: _De Remediis utriusque Fortunæ_, lib. i. dial. 43, p.
42. The passage condensed above is so valuable for a right
understanding of the humanistic feeling about manuscripts that I shall
transcribe portions of the original:--'Libri innumerabiles sunt mihi.
Et errores innumeri, quidam ab impiis, alii ab indoctis editi. Illi
quidem religioni ac pietati et divinis literis, hi naturæ ac justitiæ
moribusque et liberalibus disciplinis seu historiæ rerumque gestarum
fidei, omnes autem vero adversi; inque omnibus, et præsertim primis
ubi majoribus agitur de rebus, et vera falsis immixta sunt,
perdifficilis ac periculosa discretio est ... scriptorum inscitiæ
inertiæque, corrumpenti omnia miscentique ... ignavissima ætas hæc
culinæ solicita, literarum negligens, et coquos examinans non
scriptores. Quisquis itaque pingere aliquid in membranis, manuque
calamum versare didicerit, scriptor habebitur, doctrinæ omnis ignarus,
expers ingenii, artis egens ... nunc confusis exemplaribus et
exemplis, unum scribere polliciti, sic aliud scribunt ut quod ipse
dictaveris, non agnoscas ... accedunt et scriptores nullâ frenati
lege, nullo probati examine, nullo judicio electi; non fabris, non
agricolis, non textoribus, non ulli fere artium tanta licentia est,
cum sit in aliis leve periculum, in hâc grave; sine delectu tamen
scribendum ruunt omnes, et cuncta vastantibus certa sunt pretia.']

The labour involved in the collection of classical manuscripts had to
be performed by a few enthusiastic scholars, who received no help from
the universities and their academical scribes, and who met with no
sympathy in the monasteries they were bent on ransacking. The new
culture demanded wholly new machinery; and new runners in the
torch-race of civilisation sprang into existence. The high schools
were contented with their summaries and glosses. The monks performed
at best the work of earthworms, who unwittingly preserve fragments of
Greek architecture from corrosion by heaping mounds of mould and
rubbish round them. Meanwhile the humanists went forth with the
instinct of explorers to release the captives and awake the dead. From
the convent libraries of Italy, from the museums of Constantinople,
from the abbeys of Germany and Switzerland and France, the slumbering
spirits of the ancients had to be evoked. The chivalry of learning,
banded together for this service, might be likened to Crusaders. As
the Franks deemed themselves thrice blest if they returned with relics
from Jerusalem, so these new Knights of the Holy Ghost, seeking not
the sepulchre of a risen God, but the tombs wherein the genius of the
ancient world awaited resurrection, felt holy transports when a brown,
begrimed, and crabbed copy of some Greek or Latin author rewarded
their patient quest. Days and nights they spent in carefully
transcribing it, comparing their own MS. with the original,
multiplying facsimiles, and sending them abroad with free hands to
students who in their turn took copies, till the treasure-trove became
the common property of all who could appreciate its value. This work
of discovery began with Petrarch. I have already alluded to the
journeys he undertook in the hope of collecting the lost MSS. of
Cicero. It was carried on by Boccaccio. The account given by Benvenuto
da Imola of Boccaccio's visit to Monte Cassino brings vividly before
us both the ardour of these first explorers and the apathy of the
Benedictines (who have sometimes been called the saviours of learning)
with regard to the treasures of their own libraries:[95]--'With a view
to the clearer understanding of this text ('Paradiso,' xxii. 74), I
will relate what my revered teacher, Boccaccio of Certaldo, humorously
told me. He said that when he was in Apulia, attracted by the
celebrity of the convent, he paid a visit to Monte Cassino, whereof
Dante speaks. Desirous of seeing the collection of books, which he
understood to be a very choice one, he modestly asked a monk--for he
was always most courteous in manners--to open the library, as a
favour, for him. The monk answered stiffly, pointing to a steep
staircase, "Go up; it is open." Boccaccio went up gladly; but he found
that the place which held so great a treasure, was without or
[Transcriber's Note: should be 'a'] door or key. He entered, and saw
grass sprouting on the windows, and all the books and benches thick
with dust. In his astonishment he began to open and turn the leaves of
first one tome and then another, and found many and divers volumes of
ancient and foreign works. Some of them had lost several sheets;
others were snipped and pared all round the text, and mutilated in
various ways. At length, lamenting that the toil and study of so many
illustrious men should have passed into the hands of most abandoned
wretches, he departed with tears and sighs. Coming to the cloister, he
asked a monk whom he met, why those valuable books had been so
disgracefully mangled. He answered that the monks, seeking to gain a
few _soldi_, were in the habit of cutting off sheets and making
psalters, which they sold to boys. The margins too they manufactured
into charms, and sold to women. So then, O man of study, go to and
rack your brains; make books that you may come to this!'

[Footnote 95: 'Commentary on the _Divine Comedy_,' ap. Muratori,
_Antiq. Ital._ vol. i. p. 1296.]

What Italy contained of ancient codices soon saw the light. The visit
of Poggio Bracciolini to Constance (1414) opened up for Italian
scholars the stores that lay neglected in transalpine monasteries.
Poggio's office of Apostolic Secretary obliged him to attend the
Council of Constance for the purpose of framing reports and composing
diplomatic documents. At the same time he had ample leisure on his
hands, and this he spent in exploring the libraries of Swiss and
Suabian convents. The treasures he unearthed at Reichenau, Weingarten,
and above all S. Gallen, restored to Italy many lost masterpieces of
Latin literature, and supplied students with full texts of authors who
had hitherto been known in mutilated copies. The account he gave of
his visit to S. Gallen in a Latin letter to a friend is justly
celebrated.[96] After describing the wretched state in which the
'Institutions' of Quintilian had previously existed,[97] he proceeds
as follows:--'I verily believe that, if we had not come to the rescue,
he [Quintilian] must speedily have perished; for it cannot be imagined
that a man magnificent, polished, elegant, urbane, and witty could
much longer have endured the squalor of the prison-house in which I
found him, the savagery of his jailers, the forlorn filth of the
place. He was indeed right sad to look upon, and ragged, like a
condemned criminal, with rough beard and matted hair, protesting by
his countenance and garb against the injustice of his sentence. He
seemed to be stretching out his hands, calling upon the Romans,
demanding to be saved from so unmerited a doom. Hard indeed it was
for him to bear, that he who had preserved the lives of many by his
eloquence and aid, should now find no redresser of his wrongs, no
saviour from the unjust punishment awaiting him. But as it often
happens, to quote Terence, that what you dare not wish for comes to
you by chance, so a good fortune for him, but far more for ourselves,
led us, while wasting our time in idleness at Constance, to take a
fancy for visiting the place where he was held in prison. The
monastery of S. Gallen lies at the distance of some twenty miles from
that city. Thither, then, partly for the sake of amusement and partly
of finding books, whereof we heard there was a large collection in the
convent, we directed our steps. In the middle of a well-stocked
library, too large to catalogue at present, we discovered Quintilian,
safe as yet and sound, though covered with dust and filthy with
neglect and age. The books, you must know, were not housed according
to their worth, but were lying in a most foul and obscure dungeon at
the very bottom of a tower, a place into which condemned criminals
would hardly have been thrust; and I am firmly persuaded that if
anyone would but explore those _ergastula_ of the barbarians wherein
they incarcerate such men, we should meet with like good fortune in
the case of many whose funeral orations have long ago been pronounced.
Besides Quintilian, we exhumed the three first books and a half of the
fourth book of the "Argonautica" of Flaccus, and the "Commentaries" of
Asconius Pedianus upon eight orations of Cicero.' Poggio, immediately
after this discovery, set himself to work at transcribing the
Quintilian, a labour accomplished in the brief space of thirty-two
days. The MS. was then despatched to Lionardo Bruni, who received it
with ecstatic welcome, as appears from this congratulatory epistle
addressed to Poggio:--

'The republic of letters has reason to rejoice not only in the works
you have discovered, but also in those you have still to find. What a
glory for you it is to have brought to light by your exertions the
writings of the most distinguished authors! Posterity will not forget
that MSS. which were bewailed as lost beyond the possibility of
restoration, have been recovered, thanks to you. As Camillus was
called the second founder of Rome, so may you receive the title of the
second author of the works you have restored to the world. Through you
we now possess Quintilian entire; before we only boasted of the half
of him, and that defective and corrupt in text. O precious
acquisition! O unexpected joy! And shall I, then, in truth be able to
read the whole of that Quintilian which, mutilated and deformed as it
has hitherto appeared, has formed my solace? I conjure you send it me
at once, that at least I may set eyes on it before I die.'

[Footnote 96: Mur. xx. 160.]

[Footnote 97: Petrarch in 1350 found a bad copy at Florence. Poggio
describes it thus:--'Is vero apud nos antea, Italos dico, ita
laceratus erat, ita circumcisus culpâ, ut opinor, temporum, ut nulla
forma, nullus habitus hominis in eo recognosceretur.']

In addition to the authors named above, Poggio discovered and copied
with his own hand MSS. of Lucretius and Columella. Silius Italicus,
Manillas, and Vitruvius owed their resurrection to his industry. At
Langres he found a copy of Cicero's oration for Cæcina; at Monte
Cassino a MS. of Frontinus. Ammianus Marcellinus, Nonius Marcellus,
Probus, Flavius Caper, and Eutyches are also to be ranked among the
captives freed by him from slavery. In exploring foreign convents
where he suspected that ancient authors might lie buried, he spared
neither trouble nor expense. 'No severity of winter cold, no snow, no
length of journey, no roughness of roads, prevented him from bringing
the monuments of literature to light,' wrote Francesco Barbaro.[98]
Nor did he recoil from theft, if theft seemed necessary to secure a
precious codex. In a letter to Ambrogio Traversari he relates his
negotiations with a monk for the fraudulent abduction of an Ammianus
and a Livy from a convent library in Hersfeld.[99] Not unfrequently
his most golden anticipations with regard to literary treasures were
deceived, as when a Dane appeared at the Court of Martin V. bragging
of a complete Livy to be found in a Cistercian convent near Röskilde.
This man protested he had seen the MS., and described the characters
in which it was written with some minuteness. At Poggio's instance the
Cardinal Orsini sent off a special messenger to seek for this, which
would have been the very phoenix of MSS. to the Latinists of that
period, while Cosimo de' Medici put his agents at Lübeck to work for
the same purpose. All their efforts were in vain, however. The Livy
could not be discovered, and the Dane passed for a liar, in spite of
the corroboration his story received from another traveller.[100]
Poggio himself, who would willingly have ransacked Europe for a MS.,
was jealous of money spent on any other object. In his treatise 'De
Infelicitate Principum' he complains that 'these exalted personages
[popes and princes] spend their days and their wealth in pleasure, in
unworthy pursuits, in pestiferous and destructive wars. So great is
their mental torpor that nothing can rouse them to search after the
works of excellent writers, by whose wisdom and learning mankind are
taught the way to true happiness.' This lamentation, written probably
under the unfavourable impression produced upon his mind by the Papal
Court, where as yet the spirit of humanism had hardly penetrated, must
not be taken in any strict sense. Never was there a time in the
world's history when money was spent more freely upon the collection
and preservation of MSS., and when a more complete machinery was put
in motion for the sake of securing literary treasures. Prince vied
with prince, and eminent burgher with burgher, in buying books. The
commercial correspondents of the Medici and other great Florentine
houses, whose banks and discount offices extended over Europe and the
Levant, were instructed to purchase relics of antiquity without
regard for cost, and to forward them to Florence. The most acceptable
present that could be sent to a king was a copy of a Roman historian.
The best credentials which a young Greek arriving from Byzantium could
use to gain the patronage of men like Palla degli Strozzi was a
fragment of some ancient; the merchandise ensuring the largest profit
to a speculator who had special knowledge in such matters was old
parchment covered with crabbed characters.

[Footnote 98: Mur. xx. 169. Cf. the Elegy of Landino quoted in the
notes to Roscoe's _Lorenzo_, p. 388.]

[Footnote 99: Voigt, p. 138.]

[Footnote 100: See Voigt, p. 139, for this story.]

The history of the foundation of libraries will form part of the next
chapter. For the present it is requisite to mention some of Poggio's
fellow-workmen in the labour of collection. Among these a certain
Nicholas of Treves, employed to receive monies due to the Papal Curia
in Germany, deserves a place, seeing that in 1429 he sent the most
complete extant copy of Plautus to Rome. Bartolommeo da Montepulciano,
following the lead of Poggio, pursued investigations while at
Constance, and discovered the lost writings of Vegetius and Pompeius
Festus. In 1409 Lionardo Bruni chanced upon a good MS. of Cicero's
letters at Pistoja, and about the year 1425 a magnificent capture of
Cicero's rhetorical treatises was made at Lodi in the Duomo by
Gherardo Landriani. The extant works of Tacitus, so ardently desired,
were not collected earlier than the reign of Leo.

While Poggio was releasing the Latin authors from their northern
prisons, and sending them to walk like princes through the Courts and
capitals of Italy, three other scholars devoted no less energy to the
collection of Greek MSS. Giovanni Aurispa, on his return from
Byzantium in 1423, brought with him 238 codices, while Guarino of
Verona and Francesco Filelfo both arrived in Italy heavily laden.
There is an old story that Guarino lost a part of his cargo at sea,
and landed with hair whitened by the grief this misfortune cost him.
Considering the special advantages enjoyed by these three scholars,
who were pupils of the learned Manuel Chrysoloras, and before whose
eager curiosity the libraries of Byzantium remained open through
nearly half a century previous to the fall of the Greek Empire, we
have good reason to believe that the greater part of Attic and
Alexandrian literature known to the later Greeks was transferred to
Italy. The avidity shown by the Florentines for codices and copies,
the opportunities afforded by their mercantile connection with
Constantinople, and the obvious interest which the Court of Byzantium
at that crisis had in gratifying their taste for such acquisitions,
contribute to render it unlikely that any of the more important and
illustrious authors were destroyed in the taking of the city by the
Turk.[101] It is probable that causes similar to those which slowly
wrought the ruin of Latin literature in the West--the apathy of an
uncultured public, the rancorous animosity of a superstitious clergy,
and the decay of students as a class--had long before the age of the
Renaissance ruined beyond the possibility of recovery those
masterpieces whereof we still deplore the loss.[102] The preservation
of Neoplatonic and Patristic literature in comparative completeness,
while so much that was more valuable perished, may be ascribed to the
theological content of these writings.

[Footnote 101: See the emphatic language about Palla degli Strozzi,
Cosimo de' Medici, and Niccolo de' Niccoli, in Vespasiano's _Lives_.
Islam, moreover, as is proved by Pletho's Life, was at that period
more erudite than Hellas.]

[Footnote 102: I have touched upon this subject elsewhere. See
_Studies of Greek Poets_, second series, pp. 304-307. In order to form
a conception of the utter decline of Byzantine learning after Photius,
it is needful to read the passages in Petrarch's letters, where even
Calabria is compared favourably with Constantinople. In a state of
ignorance so absolute as he describes, it is possible that treasures
existed unknown to professed students, and therefore undiscovered by
Filelfo and his fellow-workers. The testimony of Demetrius
Chalcondylas, quoted by Didot, _Alde Manuce_, p. xiv., goes to show
that the Greeks attributed their losses in large measure to the malice
of the priests.]

Not to render some account of the effect produced upon the minds of
scholars in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by the sight of
Roman ruins in decay, would be to omit an important branch of the
subject I have undertaken. Yet this part of the inquiry leads us into
a region somewhat different from that hitherto traversed in the
present chapter, since it properly belongs to the history of
enthusiasm. No small portion of the motive impulse that determined the
Revival was derived from the admiration, curiosity, and awe excited by
the very stones of ancient Rome. During the Middle Ages the right
point of view for studying the architectural works of the Romans had
been lost. History yielded ever more and more to legend, until at last
it was believed that demons and magicians had suspended those gigantic
vaults in air. Telesmatic virtues were attributed to figures carved on
temple-fronts and friezes, while the great name of Virgil attached
itself to what remained unhurt of Latin art in Rome and Naples.[103]
The Rome of the _Mirabilia_ was supposed to be the handiwork of fiends
constrained by poets of the bygone age with spells of power to move
hell from its centre. This transference of interest from the real to
the fanciful, from the substantial to the visionary, was
characteristic of the whole attitude assumed by the mind in the Middle
Ages. History, literature, and art alike submitted to the alchemy of
the imagination.[104] At the same time the very grossness of these
fables testified to the profound impression produced by the ruins of
the Eternal City, and to the haunting magic of a memory surviving
degradation and decay. When the Anglo-Saxon pilgrims returned from
Rome in the eighth century, the fascination of the great works they
had seen expressed itself in a memorable prophecy.[105] 'As long as
the Coliseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Coliseum falls, Rome
will fall; when Rome falls, the world will fall.'

[Footnote 103: The details of Virgil's romance occupy the first half
of Comparetti's second volume on _Virgil in the Middle Ages_. For the
English version of this legend see Thoms.]

[Footnote 104: See above, pp. 38-49.]

[Footnote 105: Gibbon, ch. lxxi.]

About the year 1300 a new historic sense appears to have arisen in
Italy. Instead of dreams and legends, the positive facts of the past
began to have once more their value. This change might be compared to
the discovery we make upon the borderland of sleep and waking, when
what we fancied was a figure draped in white by our bedside turns out
to be the wall with moonlight shining on it. Giovanni Villani, when he
gazed upon the baths and amphitheatres of Rome, was not moved to think
of the fiends who raised them, but of the buried grandeur of the Roman
commonwealth.[106] What Rome once was, Florence may one day become,
was the reflection that impelled him to write the chronicle of his
native town. Dante, who with Villani witnessed the Jubilee of 1300,
cried that the very stones of Rome were sacred. 'Whoso robs her, or
despoils her, with blasphemy of act offendeth God, who only for His
own use made her holy.'[107] The city was to him the outward symbol
and terrestrial station of that God-appointed Monarchy for ruling all
the peoples of the earth in peace. His most enthusiastic speculations,
as well as the practical policy set forth in his epistles, attached
themselves to Rome as a reality; nor did he ever tire of bidding
German emperors return and fix their throne upon the bank of Tiber. We
know now that this idealism was a delusion, no less incapable of
realisation than it was pernicious to the liberties of the Italians.
It haunted the imagination of the race, however, until at last, as I
have said above, the proper vent was found in humanism.

[Footnote 106: Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 200.]

[Footnote 107: _Purg._ xxxiii. 58.]

The same passion for Rome took different form in the mind of another
and less noble patriot. It impelled Rienzi to conceive the plan of
rehabilitating the Republic. The Popes were far away at Avignon. The
emperors seemed to have forgotten Italy. Yet Rome remained, and the
mere name of Rome was Empire. Why should not the _Senatus Populusque
Romanus_, whose initials still survived in uncial letters upon blocks
of travertine and marble, be restored to place and power? Wandering
among those spacious vaults, and lingering beneath the triumphal
arches, where the marks of chariot-wheels were traced upon the massive
paved work of the Roman ways, the young enthusiast conceived that even
he might live to be the Tribune of that people, born invincible, and
called by destiny to rule the world. With what energy he devoted
himself to studying the histories of Livy, Sallust, and Valerius
Maximus; how he strove to master the meaning of inscriptions found
among the wrecks of Rome; with what eloquence he moved his
fellow-citizens to sympathy--are familiar matters not only to
scholars, but to readers of romance. His vision of the restored
Republic seemed for a moment destined to become reality. The Romans
placed the power of life and death, of revenues and armies, in the
hands of the seer, who had stirred them by his rhetoric. Rienzi took
rank among the potentates of Italy. Even the Papal Court acknowledged

What followed proved the political incapacity of the new dictator, his
want of critical insight into the ideal he had set before himself.
There is something both pathetic and ridiculous in the vanity
displayed by this barber's son exalted to a place among the princes. Not
satisfied with calling himself Tribune and Knight, the style he affected
in his correspondence with Clement VI. ran as follows:--'Candidatus,
Spiritus Sancti Miles, Nicolaus Severus et Clemens, Liberator Urbis,
Zelator Italiæ, Amator Orbis, et Tribunus Augustus.' Like Icarus, he
spread these waxen wings to the sun's noontide blaze. The same
extravagant confusion of things sacred and profane, classical and
mediæval, marked the pageantry of his State ceremonials in Rome. On
August 15, 1347, in celebration of his election to the Tribunate, he
assumed six crowns--of ivy, myrtle, laurel, oak, olive, and gilt
silver. His arms were blazoned with the keys of Peter and the letters
S.P.Q.R. His senatorial sceptre was surmounted, not with the eagle or
the wolf of Romulus, but with a golden ball and cross enclosing the
relic of a saint. The poetic fancy could not have suggested a more
striking allegory to illustrate an undiscriminating reverence for the
Imperial and Pontifical prestige of Rome, than was presented in this
tragic farce of actual history. Not in this way, by a mixture of
Christian and Pagan titles, by emblematic pomp, by heraldry and
declamation, could the old Republic be brought to life again. The very
attempt to do so proved how far the mind of man, awaking from the long
sleep of the Middle Ages, was removed from the severe simplicity that
gave its strength to ancient Rome. Along those giddy parapets of fame
we watch Rienzi walking through his months of glory like a somnambule
sustained by an internal dream. That he should fall was inevitable.
With him expired the Utopia of a Roman commonwealth, to be from time
to time revived as an ineffectual fancy in the brains of a few

[Footnote 108: Stefano Porcari, for example. See Vol. I., _Age of the
Despots_, pp. 296, 302.]

The relations of Petrarch to Rienzi offer matter for curious
reflection, while they illustrate the part played by the enthusiasm
for ancient Rome in the early history of humanism. Petrarch and Rienzi
had been friends and correspondents before the emergence of the latter
into public notice; and when the Tribune seemed about to satisfy the
dearest desire of the poet's heart by re-establishing the Roman
commonwealth, Petrarch addressed him with an animated letter of
congratulation and encouragement.[109] In his charmed eyes he seemed
a hero, _vir magnanimus_, worthy of the ancient world, a new Romulus,
a third Brutus, a Camillus. The Roman burghers, that scum and sediment
of countless races, barbarised by the lingering miseries of the Middle
Ages, needed nothing, it appeared, but words and wishes to make them
once again _cives Romani_, no longer clamorous for bread and games,
but ready to reconquer all their ancestors had lost.[110] 'Where,'
cried Petrarch, 'can the empire of the world be found, except in Rome?
Who can dispute the Roman right? What force can stand against the name
of Romans?' Neither the patriot nor the scholar discerned that the
revival they were destined to inaugurate was intellectual. Though the
spirit of the times refused a political Renaissance, refused to Italy
the maintenance of even such freedom as she then possessed, far more
refused a resuscitation of ancient Rome's imperial sway, yet both
Rienzi and Petrarch persisted in believing that, because they glowed
with fervour for the past, because they could read inscriptions,
because they expressed their desires eloquently, the world's great age
was certain to begin anew. It was a capital fault of the Renaissance
to imagine that words could work wonders, that a rhetorician's
_stylus_ might become the wand of Prospero. Seeming passed for being
in morals, politics, and all affairs of life. I have already touched
on this as a capital defect in Petrarch's character; but it was a
weakness inherent not only in him and in the age he inaugurated, but
one, moreover, that has influenced the whole history of the Italians
for evil. Sounding phrases like the _barbaros expellere_ of Julius
II., like the _va fuori d'Italia_ of Garibaldian hymns, from time to
time have roused the nation to feverish enthusiasm, too soon succeeded
by dejected apathy. When the inefficiency of Rienzi was proved, all
that remained for Petrarch was to warn and scold.

[Footnote 109: _De Capessendâ Libertate_, _Hortatoria_, p. 535.]

[Footnote 110: See Petrarch's _Epistle to the Roman People_, p. 712.]

The interest excited in Petrarch by the sight of Rome's ruins was
important for his humanistic ideal. They stirred him as a moralist, an
antiquarian, and a man who owed his mental vigour to the past. He
tells how often he used to climb above the huge vaults of the Baths of
Diocletian in company with his friend Giovanni Colonna.[111] Seated
there among the flowering shrubs and scented herbs that clothed decay
with loveliness, they held discourse concerning the great men of old,
and deplored the mutability of all things human. Whatever the poet had
read of Roman grandeur was brought back to his mind with vivid meaning
during his long solitary walks. He never doubted that he knew for
certain where Evander's palace stood, and where the cave of Cacus
opened on the Tiber. The difficulties of modern antiquarian research
had not been yet suggested, and his fancy was free to map out the
topography of the seven hills as pleased him best. Yet he complained
that nowhere was less known about Rome than in Rome itself.[112] This
ignorance he judged the most fatal obstacle to the resurrection of the
city.[113] The palaces where dwelt those heroes of the past, had
fallen into ruins; the temples of the gods were desecrated; the
triumphal arches were crumbling; the very walls had yielded to decay.
None of the Romans cared to arrest destruction; they even robbed the
marble columns and entablatures in order to deck Naples with the
spoils.[114] The last remnants of the city would soon, he exclaimed,
be levelled with the ground. Time has been unable to destroy them; but
man was ruining what Time had spared.[115]

[Footnote 111: _Epist. Fam._ lib. ii. 14, p. 605; lib. vi. 2, p. 657.]

[Footnote 112: 'Qui enim hodie magis ignari rerum Romanarum sunt, quam
Romani Cives? Invitus dico, nusquam minus Roma cognoscitur quam Romæ.'
_Epist. Fam._ lib. ii. 14, p. 658.]

[Footnote 113: 'Quis enim dubitare potest, quin illico surrectura sit
si coeperit se Roma cognoscere?' _Ibid._]

[Footnote 114: 'Vi vel senio collapsa palatia, quæ quondam ingentes
tenuere viri, diruptos arcus triumphales ... indignum de vestris
marmoreis columnis, de liminibus templorum, ad quæ nuper ex toto orbe
concursus devotissimus fiebat, de imaginibus sepulchrorum, sub quibus
patrum vestrorum venerabilis cinis erat, ut reliquas sileam, desidiosa
Neapolis adornatur.' _Ibid._ p. 536.]

[Footnote 115:

     'Quanta quod integræ fuit olim gloria Romæ,
     Reliquiæ testantur adhuc, quas longior ætas
     Frangere non valuit, non vis, aut ira cruenti
     Hostis, ab egregiis franguntur civibus heu, heu.'

     Petr. _Epist. Metr._ lib. ii. p. 98.]

There is no doubt that, shortly before the date of Petrarch's visits
to Rome, the city had suffered grievously in its monuments. We know,
for instance, that the best preserved of the theatres, baths, and
tombs formed the residences and fortresses of nobles in the Middle
Ages; and when we read that in 1258 the senator Brancaleone found it
necessary to destroy one hundred and forty of these fortified
dwellings, we obtain a standard for measuring the injury that must
have ensued to precious works of classic architecture. The ruins,
moreover, as Petrarch hinted, had been used as quarries. What was
worse, the burghers burned the marbles, rich, perhaps, with
inscriptions and carved bas-reliefs, for lime. We shall shortly see
what Poggio relates upon this topic. For the present it will suffice
to quote an epigram of Pius II., written some time after the revival
of enthusiasm for antiquity:--

     Oblectat me, Roma, tuas spectare ruinas,
       Ex cujus lapsu gloria prisca patet.
     Sed tuus hic populus muris defossa vetustis
       Calcis in obsequium marmora dura coquit.
     Impia ter centum si sic gens egerit annos,
       Nullum hic indicium nobilitatis erit.[116]

[Footnote 116: It delights me to contemplate thy ruins, Rome, the
witness amid desolation to thy pristine grandeur. But thy people burn
thy marbles for lime, and three centuries of this sacrilege will
destroy all sign of thy nobleness.' Compare a letter from Alberto
degli Alberti to Giovanni de' Medici, quoted by Fabroni, _Cosmi Vita_,
Adnot. 86. The real pride of Rome was still her ruins. Nicolo and Ugo
da Este journeyed in 1396 to Rome, 'per vedere quelle magnificenze
antiche che al presente si possono vedere in Roma.' Murat. xxiv.

Poggio Bracciolini opens a new epoch in Roman topography. The ruins
that had moved the superstitious wonder of the Middle Ages, that had
excited Rienzi to patriotic enthusiasm, and Petrarch to reflections on
the instability of human things, were now for the first time studied
in a truly antiquarian spirit. Poggio read them like a book, comparing
the testimony they rendered with that of Livy, Vitruvius, and
Frontinus, and seeking to compile a catalogue of the existing
fragments of old Rome. The first section of his treatise 'De Varietate
Fortunæ,' forms by far the most important source of information we
possess relating to the state of Rome in the fifteenth century.[117]
It appears that the Baths of Caracalla and Diocletian could still
boast of columns and marble incrustations, but that within Poggio's
own recollection the marbles had been stripped from Cæcilia Metella's
tomb, and the so-called Temple of Concord had been pillaged.[118]
Among the ruins ascribed to the period of the Republic are mentioned a
bridge, an arch, a tomb, a temple, a building on the Capitol, and the
pyramid of Cestius.[119] Besides these, Poggio enumerates, as
referable chiefly to the Imperial age, eleven temples, seven _thermæ_,
the Arches of Titus, Severus, and Constantine, parts of the Arches of
Trajan, Faustina, and Gallienus, the Coliseum, the Theatres of Pompey
and Marcellus, the Circus Agonalis and Circus Maximus, the Columns of
Trajan and Antonine, the two horses ascribed to Pheidias and
Praxiteles, together with other marble statues, one bronze equestrian
statue, and the mausoleums of Augustus and Hadrian.

[Footnote 117: My references are made to the Paris edition of 1723.
The first book is sometimes cited under the title of _Urbis Romæ

[Footnote 118: 'Juxta viam Appiam, ad secundum lapidem, integrum vidi
sepulchrum L. Cæciliæ Metellæ, opus egregium, et id ipsum tot sæculis
intactum, ad calcem postea majori ex parte exterminatum' (p. 19).
'Capitolio contigua forum versus superest porticus ædis Concordiæ,
quam, cum primum ad urbem accessi, vidi fere integram, opere marmoreo
admodum specioso; Romani postmodum, ad calcem ædem totam et porticûs
partem, disjectis columnis, sunt demoliti.' _Ibid._]

[Footnote 119: Pp. 8, 9.]

We have to regret that Poggio's description was subservient and
introductory to a rhetorical dissertation. Had he applied himself to
the task of tabulating more minutely what he had observed, his work
would have been infinitely precious to the archæologist. No one knew
more about the Roman buildings than he did. No one felt the impression
of their majesty in desolation more profoundly. The mighty city
appeared to him, he said, like the corpse of a giant, like a queen in
slavery. The sight of her magnificence, despoiled and shorn of
ornaments as she had been, moved him daily to deeper admiration. It
was his custom to lead strangers from point to point among the ruins,
in order to enjoy the effect produced upon fresh minds by their
stupendous evidence of strength and greatness in decay.

The pathos of this former empress of the world exposed to insult and
indignity had not been first felt by Poggio. Petrarch described her as
an aged matron with grey hair and pale cheeks, whose torn and sordid
raiment ill accorded with the nobleness of her demeanour.[120] Fazio
degli Uberti personified her as a majestic woman, wrapped around with
rags, who pointed out to him the ruins of her city, 'to the end that
he might understand how fair she was in years of old.'[121]

[Footnote 120: _De Pacificandâ Italiâ, Ad Carolum Quartum_, p. 531.]

[Footnote 121: In the _Dittamondo_, about 1360.]

In this way a sentimental feeling for the relics of the past grew up
and flourished side by side with the archæological interest they
excited. The literature of the Renaissance abounds in matter that
might be used in illustration of this remark,[122] while nothing was
commoner in art than to paint for backgrounds broken arches and
decayed buildings, 'whose ruins are even pitied.' The double impulse
of romantic sentiment and antiquarian curiosity, set going in this age
of the Revival, contributed no little to the development of
architecture, sculpture, and painting. In the section of my work which
deals with the fine arts in Italy will be found the proper sequel to
this subject. Meanwhile the history of antiquarian research in Rome
itself will be resumed in another chapter of this volume.

[Footnote 122: Such, for example, as Boccaccio's description of the
ruins of Baiæ in the _Fiammetta_, Sannazzaro's lines on the ruins of
Cumæ, Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini's notes on ancient sites in Italy.]

Among the representative men of the first period of the Revival must
be mentioned an enthusiast who devoted his whole life to topographical
studies and to the copying of classical inscriptions. Ciriaco de'
Pizzicolli was born about 1404 at Ancona, and from this town he took
the name he bears among the learned. Like many other pioneers of
erudition, he was educated for commerce, and had slender opportunities
for acquiring the dead languages in his youth. His manhood was spent
in restless journeying, at first undertaken for the purposes of trade,
but afterwards for the sole object of discovery. Smitten with the zeal
for classical antiquity, he made himself a tolerable Latin scholar,
and gained a fair knowledge of Greek. In the course of his long
wanderings he ransacked every part of Italy, Greece, and the Greek
islands, collecting medals, gems, and fragments of sculpture, buying
manuscripts, transcribing records, and amassing a miscellaneous store
of archæological information. The enthusiasm that possessed him was so
untempered by sobriety that it excited the suspicion of
contemporaries. Some regarded him as a man of genuine learning; others
spoke of him as a flighty, boastful, and untrustworthy fanatic.[123]
The mistakes he made in copying inscriptions depreciated the general
value of his labours, while he was even accused of having passed off
fabrications on the credulity of the public. The question of his
alleged forgeries has been discussed at length by Tiraboschi.[124] To
settle it at this distance of time is both unimportant and impossible.
While we may well believe that Ciriac was a conceited enthusiast,
accepting as genuine what he ought to have rejected, and interpreting
according to his fancy rather than the letter of his text, his life
retains real value for the student of the Revival. In him the
curiosity of the new age reached its acme of expansiveness. The
passion for discovery pursued him from shore to shore, and the vision
of the past, to be reconquered by the energy of the present, haunted
his imagination till the moment of his death. When asked what object
he had set his heart upon in those perpetual journeyings, he answered,
'I go to awake the dead.' That word, the motto for the first age of
the Revival, explains the fanaticism of Ciriac, and is a sufficient
title to fame.

[Footnote 123: Filippo Maria Visconti is said to have denounced him as
an impostor. Ambrogio Traversari mentions his coins and gems with
mistrust. Poggio describes him as a conceited fellow with no claim to
erudition. On the other hand, he gained the confidence of Eugenius
IV., and received the panegyrics of Filelfo, Barbaro, Bruni, and
others. See Tiraboschi, vol. vi. lib. i. cap. 5.]

[Footnote 124: In the place just cited. The temptation, at this epoch
of discovery, when criticism was at a low ebb, and curiosity was
frantic, to pass off forgeries upon the learned world must have been
very great. The most curious example of this literary deception is
afforded by Annius of Viterbo, who, in 1498, published seventeen books
of spurious histories, pretending to be the lost works of Manetho,
Berosus, Fabius Pictor, Archilochus, Cato, &c. Whether he was himself
an impostor or a dupe is doubtful. A few of his contemporaries
denounced the histories as patent fabrications. The majority accepted
them as genuine. Their worthlessness has long been undisputed. See
Tiraboschi, vol. vi. lib. iii. cap. 1.]



     Intricacy of the Subject -- Division into Four Periods --
     Place of Florence -- Social Conditions favourable to Culture
     -- Palla degli Strozzi -- His Encouragement of Greek Studies
     -- Plan of a Public Library -- His Exile -- Cosimo de'
     Medici -- His Patronage of Learning -- Political Character
     -- Love of Building -- Generosity to Students -- Foundation
     of Libraries -- Vespasiano and Thomas of Sarzana -- Niccolo
     de' Niccoli -- His Collection of Codices -- Description of
     his Mode of Life -- His Fame as a Latinist -- Lionardo Bruni
     -- His Biography -- Translations from the Greek -- Latin
     Treatises and Histories -- His Burial in Santa Croce --
     Carlo Aretino -- Fame as a Lecturer -- The Florentine
     Chancery -- Matteo Palmieri -- Giannozzo Manetti -- His
     Hebrew Studies -- His Public Career -- His Eloquence --
     Manetti ruined by the Medici -- His Life in Exile at Naples
     -- Estimate of his Talents -- Ambrogio Traversari -- Study
     of Greek Fathers -- General of the Camaldolese Order --
     Humanism and Monasticism -- The Council of Florence --
     Florentine Opinion about the Greeks -- Gemistus Pletho --
     His Life -- His Philosophy -- His Influence at Florence --
     Cosimo de' Medici and the Florentine Academy -- Study of
     Plato -- Pletho's Writings -- Platonists and Aristotelians
     in Italy and Greece -- Bessarion -- His Patronage of Greek
     Refugees in Rome -- Humanism in the Smaller Republics -- In

The great difficulty with which a critic desirous of rendering a
succinct account of this phase of Italian culture has to deal, is the
variety and complexity of the subject. It is easy to perceive the
unity of the humanistic movement, and to regard the scholars of the
fifteenth century as a literary community with well-defined relations
to each other. Yet when we attempt to trace the growth of scholarship
in all its branches, the peculiar conditions of political and social
life in Italy present almost insuperable obstacles to any continuity
of treatment. The republics, the principalities, and the Church have
each their separate existence. Venice, Florence, Naples, Milan, Rome,
Ferrara, form distinct and independent centres, imposing their own
specialities upon the intellectual activity of citizens and aliens.
The humanists, meanwhile, to some extent efface these local
differences, spreading a network of common culture over cities and
societies divided by all else but interest in learning. To these
combinations and permutations, arising from the contact of the
scholars with their patrons in the several States of Italy, is due the
intricacy of the history of the Revival. The same men of eminence
appear by turns in each of the chief Courts and commonwealths, passing
with bewildering rapidity from north to south and back again, in one
place demanding attention under one head of the subject, in another
presenting new yet not less important topics for investigation. What
Filippo Maria Visconti, for instance, required from Filelfo had but
little in common with the claims made on him by Nicholas V., while his
activity as a satirist and partisan at Florence differed from his
labour as a lecturer at Siena. Again, the biography of each humanist
to some extent involves that of all his contemporaries. The coteries
of Rome are influenced by the cliques of Naples; the quarrels of
Lorenzo Valla ramify into the squabbles of Guarino; political
animosity combines with literary jealousy in the disputes of Poggio
with Filelfo. While some of the most eminent professors remain
stationary in their native or adopted towns, others move to and fro
with the speed of comets. From time to time, at Rome or elsewhere, a
patron rises, who assembles all the wandering stars around himself.
His death disperses the group; or accidents rouse jealousy among them,
and cause secessions from the circle. Then fresh combinations have to
be considered. In no one city can we trace firm chronological
progression, or discover the fixed local character which justifies our
dividing the history of Italian painting by its schools. To avoid
repetition, and to preserve an even current of narration amid so much
that is shifting, is almost impossible.

Some method may be introduced by sketching briefly at the outset the
principal periods through which the humanistic movement passed. Though
to a certain extent arbitrary, these periods mark distinct moments in
an evolution uniform in spite of its complexity.

The first, starting with Petrarch, and including the lives and labours
of those men he personally influenced, has been traced in a preceding
chapter. This was the age of inspiration and discovery, when the
enthusiasm for antiquity was generated and the remnants of the
classics were accumulated. The second may be described as the age of
arrangement and translation. The first great libraries were founded in
this period; the study of Greek was pursued in earnest, and the Greek
authors were rendered into Latin. Round Cosimo de' Medici at Florence,
Alfonso the Magnanimous at Naples, and Nicholas V. in Rome the leaders
of the Renaissance at this time converge. The third is the age of
academies. The literary republic, formed during the first and second
periods, now gathers into coteries, whereof the Platonic Academy at
Florence, that of Pontanus at Naples, that of Pomponius Lætus in Rome,
and that of Aldus Manutius at Venice are the most important.
Scholarship begins to exhibit a marked improvement in all that
concerns style and taste. At the same time Italian erudition reaches
its maximum in Poliziano. Externally this third period is
distinguished by the rapid spread of printing and the consequent
downfall of the humanists as a class. In the fourth period we notice a
gradual decline of learning; æsthetic and stylistic scholarship begins
to claim exclusive attention. This is the age of the purists, over
whom Bembo exercises the sway of a dictator, while the Court of Leo X.
furnishes the most brilliant assemblage of literati in Europe.
Erudition, properly so called, is now upon the point of being
transplanted beyond the Alps, and the Revival of Learning closes for
the historian of Italy.

Although the essential feature of this subject is variety, and though
each city of Italy contributed its quota to the sum of culture,
attention has now to be directed in a special sense on Florence.
Nothing is more obvious to the student who has mastered the first
difficulties caused by the intricacy of Italian history, than the fact
that all the mental force of the nation was generated in Tuscany, and
radiated thence, as from a centre of vital heat and light, over the
rest of the peninsula. This is true of the fine arts no less than of
Italian poetry, of the revival of learning as well as of the origin of
science. From the republics of Tuscany, and from Florence in
particular, proceeded the impulse and the energy which led to fruitful
results in all of these departments. In proportion as Florence
continued to absorb the neighbouring free States into herself, her
intellectual pre-eminence became the more unquestionable. Arezzo,
Volterra, Cortona, Montepulciano, Prato, and Pistoja were but rivulets
feeding the stream of Florentine industry.

What caused this superiority of the Tuscans is a problem as difficult
to solve as the similar problem with respect to Athens among the
states of Greece. Something may no doubt be attributed to ethnology,
and something to climate. Much, again, was due to the purity of a
dialect which retained more of native energy and literary capacity,
and which had suffered less from barbarian admixtures than the
dialects of northern or of southern Italy. The conquest of the
Lombards passed the Tuscans by, nor did feudal institutions take the
same root in the valley of the Arno which they struck in the kingdom
of Naples. The cities of Tuscany were therefore less exposed to
foreign influences than the rest of Italy. While they pursued their
course of internal growth in comparative tranquillity, they were
better fitted for reviving the past glories of Latin civilisation
upon its native soil. The free institutions of the Florentine
commonwealth must also be taken into account.

In Florence, if anywhere in Italy, existed the conditions under which
a republic of letters and of culture could be formed. The aristocracy
of Naples indulged the semi-savage tastes of territorial _seigneurs_;
the nobles of Rome delighted in feats of arms and shared their wealth
with retinues of _bravi_; the great families of Umbria, Romagna, and
the March followed the profession of _condottieri_; the Lombards were
downtrodden by their Despots and deprived of individual freedom; the
Genoese developed into little better than traders and sea-robbers; the
Sienese, divided by the factions of their _Monti_, had small leisure
or common public feeling left for study. Florence meanwhile could
boast a population of burghers noble by taste and culture, owing less
to ancestry than to personal eminence, devoting their energies to
civic ambition worthy of the Romans, and to mental activity which
reminds us of the ancient Greeks. Between the people and this
aristocracy of wealth and intellect there was at Florence no division
like that which separated the Venetian _gentiluomini_ from the
_cittadini_. The so-called _nobili_ and _popolani_ did not, as in
Venice, form a caste apart, bound to the service of a tyrannous
state-system. The very mobility which proved the ultimate source of
disruption and of ruin to the commonwealth, aided the intellectual
development of Florence. Stagnation and oppression were alike unknown.
Here, therefore, and here alone, was created a public capable
instinctively of comprehending what is beautiful in art and humane in
letters, a race of craftsmen and of scholars who knew that their
labours could not fail to be appreciated, and a class of patrons who
sought no better bestowal of their wealth than on those arts and
sciences which dignify the life of man. The Florentines, moreover, as
a nation, were animated with the strongest sense of the greatness and
the splendour of Florence. Like the Athenians of old, they had no
warmer passion than their love for their city. However much we may
deplore the rancorous dissensions which from time to time split up the
commonwealth into parties, the remorseless foreign policy which
destroyed Pisa, the political meanness of the Medici, and the base
egotism of the _ottimati_, the fact remains that, æsthetically and
intellectually, Florence was 'a city glorious,' a realised ideal of
culture and humanity for all the rest of Italy, and, through Italian
influence in general, for modern Europe and for us.

What makes the part played by Florence in the history of learning the
more remarkable is, that the chiefs of the political factions were at
the same time the leaders of intellectual progress. Rinaldo degli
Albizzi and Cosimo de' Medici, while opposed as antagonists in a duel
to the death upon the stage of the republic, vied with each other in
the patronage they extended to men of letters. Rinaldo was himself no
mean scholar; and he chose one of the greatest men of the age, Tommaso
da Sarzana, to be tutor to his children. Of Palla degli Strozzi's
services in the cause of Greek learning I have already spoken in the
second chapter of this volume. Beside the invitation which he caused
to be sent to Manuel Chrysoloras, he employed his wealth and influence
in providing books necessary for the prosecution of Hellenic studies.
'Messer Palla,' says Vespasiano, 'sent to Greece for countless
volumes, all at his own cost. The "Cosmography" of Ptolemy, together
with the picture made to illustrate it, the "Lives" of Plutarch, the
works of Plato, and very many other writings of philosophers, he got
from Constantinople. The "Politics" of Aristotle were not in Italy
until Messer Palla sent for them; and when Messer Lionardo of Arezzo
translated them, he had the copy from his hands.'[125] In the same
spirit of practical generosity Palla degli Strozzi devoted his
leisure and his energies to the improvement of the _studio pubblico_
at Florence, giving it that character of humane culture which it
retained throughout the age of the Renaissance.[126] To him, again,
belongs the glory of having first collected books for the express
purpose of founding a public library. This project had occupied the
mind of Petrarch, and its utility had been recognised by Coluccio de'
Salutati,[127] but no one had as yet arisen to accomplish it. 'Being
passionately fond of literature, Messer Palla always kept copyists in
his own house and outside it, of the best who were in Florence, both
for Greek and Latin books; and all the books he could find he
purchased, on all subjects, being minded to found a most noble library
in Santa Trinità, and to erect there a most beautiful building for the
purpose. He wished that it should be open to the public, and he chose
Santa Trinità because it was in the centre of Florence, a site of
great convenience to everybody. His disasters supervened, and what he
had designed he could not execute.'[128]

[Footnote 125: Vespasiano, p. 272.]

[Footnote 126: Vespasiano, p. 273.]

[Footnote 127: See Voigt, p. 202.]

[Footnote 128: Vespasiano, p. 275.]

The calamities alluded to by Vespasiano may be briefly told. Palla
degli Strozzi, better fitted by nature for study than for party
warfare, was one of the richest of the merchant princes of Florence.
In the _catasto_ of 1427 his property was valued at one-fifth more
than that returned by Giovanni, then the chief of the Medicean family;
and the extraordinary tax (_gravezza_) imposed upon it reached the sum
of 800 florins.[129] During the conflict for power carried on between
the Albizzi and the Medici he strove to preserve a neutral attitude;
but after Cosimo's return from exile, in 1434, the presence of so
powerful and rich a leader in the State seemed dangerous to the
Medicean party. It was their policy to annihilate all greatness but
their own, and to reduce the Florentines to slavery by creating a body
of dependents and allies whose interests should be bound up with
their own supremacy.[130] Palla degli Strozzi was accordingly banished
to Padua for ten years, nor, at the expiration of this period, was he
suffered to return to Florence. He died in exile, separated from his
children, who shared the same fate in other parts of Italy, while
Florence lost the services of the most enlightened of her sons.[131]
Amid the many tribulations of his latter years Palla continued to
derive comfort from study. John Argyropoulos was his guest at Padua,
where the collection of books and the cultivation of Greek learning
went on with no less vigour than at Florence.

[Footnote 129: _Ibid._ p. 276.]

[Footnote 130: See Von Reumont, vol. i. pp. 147-153, for the cruel
treatment of the Albizzi and other leading citizens.]

[Footnote 131: See Vespasiano, pp. 283-287.]

The work begun by Palla degli Strozzi at Florence was ably continued
by his enemy Cosimo de' Medici. Though the historian cannot respect
this man, whose mean and selfish ambition undermined the liberties of
his native city, there is no doubt that he deserves the credit of a
prudent and munificent Mæcenas. No Italian of his epoch combined zeal
for learning and generosity in all that could advance the interests of
arts and letters, more characteristically, with political corruption
and cynical egotism. Early in life Cosimo entered his father's house
of business, and developed a rare faculty for finance. This faculty he
afterwards employed in the administration of the State, as well as in
the augmentation of the riches of his family by trade. As he gained
political importance, he made it his prime object to place out monies
in the hands of needy citizens, and to involve the public affairs of
Florence with his own commerce by means of loans and other expedients.
He not only attached individuals by debts and obligations to his
person, but he also rendered it difficult to control the State
expenditure without regard to his private bank. Few men have better
understood the value of money in the acquisition of power, or the
advantage of so using it that jealousy should not be roused by
personal display. 'Envy,' he remarked, 'is a plant you must not
water.' Accordingly, while he spent large sums on public works, he
declined Brunelleschi's sumptuous project for a palace, on the score
that such a dwelling was more fitted for a prince than a citizen. In
his habits he was temperate and simple. Games of hazard he abhorred,
and found his recreation in the company of learned men. Sometimes, but
rarely, he played at chess. Contemporaries recorded how, like an
ancient Roman, he rose early in the morning to prune his own pear
trees and to plant his vines. In all things he preferred the reality
to the display of power and riches. While wielding the supreme
authority of Florence, he seemed intent upon the dull work of the
counting-house. Other men were put forward in the execution of designs
that he had planned; and this policy of ruling the State by cat's-paws
was followed so consistently, that at the end of his life his
influence was threatened by the very instruments he had created. At
the same time he exercised virtual despotism with a pitiless tenacity
unsurpassed by the Visconti. The cruelty with which he pushed the
Albizzi to their ruin, prolonged the exile of Palla degli Strozzi,
reduced Giannozzo Manetti to beggary, and oppressed his rivals in
general with forced loans--using taxation like a poignard, to quote a
phrase from Guicciardini--is enough to show that only prudence caused
him to refrain from violence.[132] A cold and calculating policy,
far-sighted, covert, and secretive, governed all the measures he took
for fastening his family on Florence. The result was that the roots of
the Medici, while they seemed to take hold slowly, struck deep; you
might fancy they were nowhere, just because they had left no part
unpenetrated. The Republic, like Gulliver in Liliput, was tied down by
a thousand threads, each almost imperceptible, but so varied in
quality and so subtly interwoven that to escape from the network was

[Footnote 132: Manetti's obligations to the commune were raised by
arbitrary impositions to the enormous sum of 135,000 golden florins.
He was broken in his trade and forced to live on charity in exile.]

Much of the influence acquired by Cosimo, and transmitted to his
descendants, was due to sympathy with the intellectual movement of the
age. He had received a solid education; and though he was not a Greek
scholar, his mind was open to the interests which in the fifteenth
century absorbed the Florentines. He collected manuscripts, gems,
coins, and inscriptions, employing the resources of his banking house
and engaging his commercial agents in this work. Painters and
sculptors, no less than scholars and copyists, found in him a liberal
patron. At the death of his son Piero the treasures of the Casa
Medici, not counting plate and costly furniture, were valued at 30,000
golden florins.[133] The sums of money spent by him in building were
enormous. It was reckoned that, one year with another, he disbursed
from 15,000 to 18,000 golden florins annually in edifices for the
public use.[134] Of these the most important were the Convent of S.
Marco, which altogether cost about 70,000 florins; S. Lorenzo, which
cost another 40,000; and the Abbey of Fiesole. On his own palace he
expended 60,000 florins, while the building of his villas at Careggi
and Cafaggiuolo implied a further large expenditure. Not a shilling of
this money was wasted; for while Cosimo avoided the reproach of
personal extravagance, he gave work to multitudes of labourers, who
received their wages regularly every Saturday at his office. To this
free use of wealth in the employment of artisans may be ascribed the
popularity of the Medici with the lower classes, which was more than
once so useful to them at a perilous turn of fortune.

[Footnote 133: See Von Reumont, vol. ii. p. 175.]

[Footnote 134: Vespasiano, p. 257.]

Comprehending the conditions under which tyranny might be successfully
practised in the fifteenth century, Cosimo attached great value to
this generosity. He used, in later life, to regret that 'he had not
begun to spend money upon public works ten years earlier than he
did.'[135] Every costly building that bore his name, each library he
opened to the public, and all the donations lavished upon scholars
served the double purpose of cementing the despotism of his house and
of gratifying his personal enthusiasm for culture. Superstition
mingled with these motives of the tyrant and the dilettante. Knowing
that much of his wealth had been ill-gotten, he besought the Pope,
Eugenius, to indicate a proper way of restitution. Eugenius advised
him to spend 10,000 florins on the Convent of S. Marco. Thereupon
Cosimo laid out considerably more than four times that sum, adding the
famous Marcian Library, and treating the new foundation of the
Osservanza, one of the Pope's favourite crotchets, with more than
princely liberality.[136]

[Footnote 135: Vespasiano, p. 257.]

[Footnote 136: _Ibid._ p. 252. Cosimo ordered his clerks to honour all
drafts presented with the signature of one of the chief brethren of
the convent. 'Aveva ordinato al banco, che tutti i danari, che gli
fussino tratti per polizza d'uno religioso de primi del convento, gli
pagasse, e mettessegli a suo conto, e fussino che somma si

Of his generosity to men of letters the most striking details are
recorded. When Niccolo de' Niccoli ruined himself by buying books,
Cosimo opened for him an unlimited credit with the Medicean bank. The
cashiers received orders to honour the old scholar's drafts; and in
this way Niccolo drew 500 ducats for his private needs.[137] Tommaso
Parentucelli was treated with no less magnificence. As Bishop of
Bologna, soon after his patron Albergati's death, he found himself
with very meagre revenues and no immediate prospect of preferment. Yet
the expenses of his station were considerable, and he had occasion to
request a loan from the Medici. Cosimo issued a circular letter to his
correspondents, engaging them to supply Tommaso with what sums of
money he might want.[138] When the Bishop of Bologna assumed the
tiara, with the name of Nicholas V., he rewarded Cosimo by making him
his banker; and the Jubilee bringing 100,000 ducats into the Papal
treasury, the obligation was repaid a hundredfold.[139]

[Footnote 137: Vespasiano, pp. 264, 475.]

[Footnote 138: Vespasiano, pp. 29, 264.]

[Footnote 139: _Ibid._ pp. 34, 265.]

The chief benefit conferred by Cosimo de' Medici on learning was the
accumulation and the housing of large public libraries. During his
exile (Oct. 3, 1433--Oct. 1, 1434) he built the Library of S. Giorgio
Maggiore at Venice, and after his return to Florence he formed three
separate collections of MSS. While the hall of the Library of S. Marco
was in process of construction, Niccolo de' Niccoli died, in 1437,
bequeathing his 800 MSS., valued at 6,000 golden florins, to sixteen
trustees. Among these were Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici, Ambrogio
Traversari, Lionardo Bruni, Carlo Marsuppini, Poggio Bracciolini,
Giannozzo Manetti, and Franco Sacchetti. At the same time the estate
of Niccolo was compromised by heavy debts. These debts Cosimo
cancelled, obtaining in exchange the right to dispose of the library.
In 1441 the hall of the convent was finished. Four hundred of
Niccolo's MSS. were placed there, with this inscription upon each: _Ex
hereditate doctissimi viri Nicolai de Nicolis de Florentiâ._ Tommaso
Parentucelli made a catalogue at Cosimo's request, in which he not
only noted the titles of Niccoli's books, but also marked the names of
others wanting to complete the collection. This catalogue afterwards
served as a guide to the founders of the libraries of Fiesole, Urbino, and
Pesaro, and was, says Vespasiano, indispensable to book-collectors.[140]
Of the remaining 400 volumes Cosimo kept some for his own (the
Medicean) library, and some he gave to friends. At the same time he
spared no pains in adding to the Marcian collection. His agents
received instructions to buy codices, while Vespasiano and Fra
Giuliano Lapaccini were employed in copying rare MSS. As soon as
Cosimo had finished building the Abbey of Fiesole, he set about
providing this also with a library suited to the wants of learned
ecclesiastics. Of the method he pursued, Vespasiano, who acted as his
agent, has transmitted the following account:[141]--'One day, when I
was in his room, he said to me, "What plan can you recommend for the
formation of this library?" I answered that to buy the books would be
impossible, since they could not be purchased. "What, then, do you
propose?" he added. I told him that they must be copied. He then asked
if I would undertake the business. I replied that I was willing. He
bade me begin at my leisure, saying that he left all to me; and for
the monies wanted day by day, he ordered that Don Arcangelo, at that
time prior of the monastery, should draw cheques upon his bank, which
should be honoured. After beginning the collection, since it was his
will that it should be finished with all speed possible, and money was
not lacking, I soon engaged forty-five copyists, and in twenty-two
months provided two hundred volumes, following the admirable list
furnished by Pope Nicholas V.' The two libraries thus formed by Cosimo
for the Convents of S. Marco and Fiesole, together with his own
private collections, constitute the oldest portion of the present
Laurentian Library. On the title-pages of many venerable MSS. may
still be read inscriptions, testifying to the munificence of the
Medici, and calling upon pious students to remember the souls of their
benefactors in their prayers[142]--_Orato itaque lector ut gloria et
divitiæ sint in domo ejus justitia ejus et maneat in sæculum sæculi._

[Footnote 140: See Vespasiano's _Life of Nicholas V._ p. 26.]

[Footnote 141: _Vita di Cosimo_, p. 254.]

[Footnote 142: See Von Reumont, vol. i. p. 578.]

Cosimo's zeal for learning was not confined to the building of
libraries or to book-collecting. His palace formed the centre of a
literary and philosophical society, which united all the wits of
Florence and the visitors who crowded to the capital of culture.
Vespasiano expressly states that 'he was always the father and
benefactor of those who showed any excellence.'[143] Distinguished by
versatility of tastes and comprehensive intellect, he formed his own
opinion of the men of eminence with whom he came in contact, and
conversed with each upon his special subject. 'When giving audience to
a scholar, he discoursed concerning letters; in the company of
theologians he showed his acquaintance with theology, a branch of
learning always studied by him with delight. So also with regard to
philosophy. Astrologers found him well versed in their science, for he
somewhat lent faith to astrology and employed it on certain private
occasions. Musicians in like manner perceived his mastery of music,
wherein he much delighted. The same was true about sculpture and
painting; both of these arts he understood completely, and showed
great favour to all worthy craftsmen. In architecture he was a
consummate judge, for without his opinion and advice no building was
begun or carried to completion.'[144]

[Footnote 143: _Vita di Cosimo_, p. 266.]

[Footnote 144: Condensed from Vespasiano, p. 258.]

The discernment of character, possessed by Cosimo in a very high
degree, not only enabled him to extend enlightened patronage to arts
and letters, but also to provide for the future needs of erudition.
Stimulated by the presence of the Greeks who crowded Florence during
the sitting of the Council in 1438, he formed a plan for encouraging
Hellenic studies. It was he who founded the Platonic Academy, and
educated Marsilio Ficino, the son of his physician, for the special
purpose of interpreting Greek philosophy. Ficino, in a letter to
Lorenzo de' Medici, observes that during twelve years he had
conversed with Cosimo on matters of philosophy, and always found him
as acute in reasoning as he was prudent and powerful in action. 'I owe
to Plato much, to Cosimo no less. He realised for me the virtues of
which Plato gave me the conception.' Thus the man whose political
cynicism is enshrined in such apophthegms as these:--'A few ells of
scarlet would fill Florence with citizens;' 'You cannot govern a State
with paternosters;' 'Better the city ruined than the city lost to
us'--must, by his relations to scholars and his enthusiasm for
culture, still command our admiration and respect.

Among the friends of Cosimo, to whose personal influence at Florence
the Revival of Learning owed a vigorous impulse, Niccolo de' Niccoli
claims our earliest attention.[145] The part he took in promoting
Greek studies has been already noticed, and we have seen that his
private library formed the nucleus of the Marcian collection. Of the
eight hundred volumes bequeathed to his executors, the majority had
been transcribed by his own hand; for he was assiduous in this labour,
and plumed himself upon his skill in cursive as well as printed
character.[146] His whole fortune was expended long before his death
in buying manuscripts or procuring copies from a distance. 'If he
heard of any book in Greek or Latin not to be had in Florence, he
spared no cost in getting it; the number of the Latin books which
Florence owes entirely to his generosity cannot be reckoned.'[147]
Great, therefore, must have been the transports of delight with which
he welcomed on one occasion a manuscript containing seven tragedies
of Sophocles, six of Æschylus, and the 'Argonautica' of Apollonius
Rhodius.[148] Nor was he only eager in collecting for his own use. He
lent his books so freely that, at the moment of his death, two hundred
volumes were out on loan;[149] and, when it seemed that Boccaccio's
library would perish from neglect, at his own cost he provided
substantial wooden cases for it in the Convent of S. Spirito. We must
not, however, conclude that Niccolo was a mere copyist and collector.
On the contrary, he made a point of collating the several MSS. of an
author on whose text he was engaged, removed obvious errors, and
suggested emendations, helping thus to lay the foundations of modern
criticism. His judgment in matters of style was so highly valued that
it was usual for scholars to submit their essays to his eyes before
they ventured upon publication. Thus Lionardo Bruni sent him his 'Life
of Cicero,' calling him 'the censor of the Latin tongue.'[150]
Notwithstanding his fine sense of language, Niccolo never appeared
before the world of letters as an author. His enemies made the most of
this reluctance, averring that he knew his own ineptitude, while his
friends referred his silence to an exquisite fastidiousness of
taste.[151] It may have been that he remembered the Tacitean epigram
on Galba--_omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperâsset_--and applied
it to himself. Certainly his reserve, in an age noteworthy for
arrogant display, has tended to confer on him distinction. The
position he occupied at Florence was that of a literary dictator. All
who needed his assistance and advice were received with urbanity. He
threw his house open to young men of parts, engaged in disputations
with the curious, and provided the ill-educated with teachers.
Foreigners from all parts of Italy and Europe paid him visits: 'the
strangers who came to Florence at that time, if they missed the
opportunity of seeing him at home, thought they had not been in
Florence.'[152] The house where he lived was worthy of his refined
taste and cultivated judgment; for he had formed a museum of
antiquities--inscriptions, marbles, coins, vases, and engraved gems.
There he not only received students and strangers, but conversed with
sculptors and painters, discussing their inventions as freely as he
criticised the essays of the scholars. It is probable that the
classicism of Brunelleschi and Donatello, both of whom were among his
intimate friends, may be due in part at least to his discourses on the
manner of the ancients.[153] Pliny, we know, was one of his favourite
authors; for, having heard that a complete codex of the 'Natural
Histories' existed at Lübeck, he left no stone unturned till it had
been transferred to Florence.[154]

[Footnote 145: What follows I have based on Vespasiano's Life of
Niccolo. Poggio's Funeral Oration, and his letter to Carlo Aretino on
the death of his friend Niccolo, are to the same effect. _Poggii
Opera_, pp. 270, 342.]

[Footnote 146: Vespasiano, p. 471. 'Le scriveva di sua mano o di
lettera corsiva o formata, che dell'una lettera e dell'altra era
bellissimo scrittore.']

[Footnote 147: _Ibid._ p. 473.]

[Footnote 148: See a letter of Ambrogio Traversari, quoted by Voigt,
p. 155.]

[Footnote 149: Vespasiano, p. 476. Poggio, p. 271.]

[Footnote 150: Vespasiano, pp. 473, 478.]

[Footnote 151: _Ibid._ p. 478. Poggio, p. 343.]

[Footnote 152: Vespasiano, p. 477.]

[Footnote 153: _Ibid._ p. 479.]

[Footnote 154: _Ibid._ p. 474.]

Vespasiano's account of his personal habits presents so vivid a
picture that I cannot refrain from translating it at length:--'First
of all, he was of a most fair presence; lively, for a smile was ever
on his lips; and very pleasant in his talk. He wore clothes of the
fairest crimson cloth, down to the ground. He never married, in order
that he might not be impeded in his studies. A housekeeper provided
for his daily needs. He was above all men the most cleanly in eating,
as also in all other things. When he sat at table, he ate from fair
antique vases; and, in like manner, all his table was covered with
porcelain and other vessels of great beauty. The cup from which he
drank was of crystal or of some other precious stone. To see him at
table--a perfect model of the men of old--was of a truth a charming
sight. He always willed that the napkins set before him should be of
the whitest, as well as all the linen. Some might wonder at the many
vases he possessed, to whom I answer that things of that sort were
neither so highly valued then, nor so much regarded, as they have
since become; and Niccolo having friends everywhere, anyone who wished
to do him a pleasure would send him marble statues, or antique vases,
carvings, inscriptions, pictures from the hands of distinguished
masters, and mosaic tablets. He had a most beautiful map, on which all
the parts and cities of the world were marked; others of Italy and
Spain, all painted. Florence could not show a house more full of
ornaments than his, or one that had in it a greater number of graceful
objects; so that all who went there found innumerable things of worth
to please varieties of taste.' What distinguished Niccolo was the
combination of refinement and humane breeding with open-handed
generosity and devotion to the cause of culture. He knew how to bring
forward men of promise, and to place them in positions of eminence.
Yet, in return for benefits conferred, he exacted more compliance than
could be expected from the haughty and unbending temper of
distinguished scholars. Opposition and contradiction roused his
jealousy and barbed his caustic speech with sarcasm. Chrysoloras and
Guarino, Aurispa and Filelfo, after visiting Florence at his
invitation, found the city unendurable through the opposition raised
by Niccolo against them.

Among the men of ability who adorned Florence at this period, no one
stands forth with a more distinguished personality than Lionardo
Bruni. In his boyhood at Arezzo, where his parents occupied a humble
position, he used, as he tells us in his 'Commentaries,'[155] to gaze
on Petrarch's portrait, fervently desiring that he might win like
laurels in the field of scholarship. At first, however, being poor and
of no reputation, he was forced to apply his talents to the study of
the law. From these uncongenial labours the patronage of Salutato and
the influence of Chrysoloras[156] saved him. Having begun to write
for the public, his fame as a Latinist soon spread so wide that he was
appointed Apostolic Secretary to the Roman Curia. After sharing the
ill fortunes of John XXIII. at Constance, and serving under Martin V.
at Florence, he was appointed to the Chancery of the Republic in 1427,
a post which he occupied until his death in 1443. His biography,
therefore, illustrates all that has been said concerning the
employment of humanists in high offices of Church and State. His
diplomatic letters were regarded as models in that kind of
composition, and his public speeches, carefully prepared beforehand,
were compared with those of Pericles. Florence was crowded with the
copyists who multiplied his MSS., dispersing them all over Europe; and
when he walked abroad, a numerous train of scholars and of foreigners
attended him.[157] He moved with gravity and majesty of person,
wearing the red robes of a Florentine burgher, using few words, but
paying marked courtesy to men of wealth. Among the compositions which
secured his reputation should first be mentioned the Latin 'History of
Florence,' a work unique in its kind at that time in Italy.[158] The
grateful Republic rewarded their chancellor by bestowing upon him the
citizenship of Florence, and by exempting the author and his children
from taxation. The high value at which Bruni rated his own Latin
scholarship is proved by his daring to restore the second Decade of
Livy in a compilation entitled 'De Primo Bello Punico.' His mediæval
erudition was exercised in the history of the Gothic invasion of
Italy, while his more elegant style found ample scope in Latin Lives
of Cicero and Aristotle, in a book of Commentaries on his own times,
and in ten volumes of Collected Letters. These original works were
possibly of less importance than Bruni's translations from the Greek,
which passed in his own age for models of sound scholarship as well
as pure Latinity. The erudition of the fifteenth century had to thank
his industry for critical renderings of Aristotle's 'Ethics,'
'Politics,' and 'Economics.'[159] The 'Politics' were dedicated to the
Earl of Worcester, and the autograph was sent to England. Some delay
in the acknowledgment of so magnificent a tribute of respect caused
the haughty scholar to transfer the honour of his dedication to
Eugenius IV. He cancelled his first preface, substituted a new one,
and received the praise and thanks he sought, in plenty from his
Holiness.[160] Of Plato Bruni translated the 'Phædo,' 'Crito,' and
'Apology,' the 'Phædrus' and the 'Gorgias,' together with the
'Epistles.' To these versions must be added six Lives of Plutarch and
two Orations of Demosthenes. Nor have we thus by any means exhausted
the list of Bruni's Latin compositions, which included controversial
writings, invectives, moral essays, orations, and tracts on literary
or antiquarian topics. If we consider that, in the midst of these
severe labours, and under the pressure of his public engagements, he
still found time to compose Italian Lives of Dante and Petrarch, we
shall understand the admiration universally expressed by his
contemporaries for his comprehensive talents, and share their
gratitude for services so numerous in the cause of learning. When
Messer Lionardo died in 1443, the priors decreed him a public funeral,
'after the manner of the ancients.' His corpse was clothed in dark
silk, and on his breast was laid a copy of the Florentine History.
Thus attired, he passed in state to S. Croce, where Giannozzo Manetti,
in the presence of the Signory, the foreign ambassadors, and the Court
of Pope Eugenius, pronounced a funeral oration, and placed the laurel
crown upon his head.[161] The monument beneath which Messer
Lionardo's bones repose is an excellent specimen of Florentine
sepulchral statuary, executed by Bernardo Rossellino.

[Footnote 155: Muratori, xix. p. 917. 'Erat in ipso cubiculo picta
Francisci Petrarchæ imago, quam ego quotidie aspiciens, incredibili
ardore studiorum ejus incendebar.']

[Footnote 156: See above, pp. 77, 80.]

[Footnote 157: See Vespasiano, p. 436.]

[Footnote 158: See Vol. I., _Age of Despots_, pp. 216-218.]

[Footnote 159: These last were then thought genuine.]

[Footnote 160: Vespasiano, p. 436.]

[Footnote 161: _Ibid._ _Vita di Manetti_, p. 452. Manetti was himself
a prior at this time.]

Facing Bruni's tomb in S. Croce is that of Carlo Aretino, wrought with
subtler art and in a richer style by Desiderio da Settignano. Messer
Carlo, who succeeded Bruni in the Chancery of the Republic, shared
during his lifetime, as well as in the public honours paid him at his
death, very similar fortunes. His family name was Marsuppini, and he
was born of a good family in Arezzo. Having come to Florence while a
youth to study Greek, he fell under the notice of Niccolo de' Niccoli,
who introduced him to the Medicean family, and procured him an
engagement at a high salary from the Uffiziali dello Studio. At the
time when he began to lecture, Eugenius was holding his Court at
Florence. The cardinals and nephews of the Pope, attended by foreign
ambassadors, and followed by the apostolic secretaries, mingled with
burghers of Florence and students from a distance round the desk of
the young scholar. Carlo's reading was known to be extensive, and his
memory was celebrated as prodigious. Yet on the occasion of this first
lecture he far surpassed all that was expected of him. 'Before a crowd
of learned men,' says Vespasiano, 'he gave a great proof of his
memory, for neither Greeks nor Romans had an author from whom he did
not quote.'[162] Filelfo, who was also lecturing in Florence at the
time, had the mortification of seeing the larger portion of his
audience transfer themselves to Marsuppini. This wound to his vanity
he never forgave. Through the influence of Lorenzo de' Medici
(Cosimo's younger brother), Carlo Marsuppini was first made Apostolic
Secretary, and then promoted to the Chancery of Florence. He was grave
in manner, taciturn in speech, and much given to melancholy. His
contemporaries regarded him as a man of no religion, and he was said
to have died without confession or communion.[163] This did not
prevent his being buried in S. Croce with ceremonies similar to those
decreed for Messer Lionardo. Matteo Palmieri pronounced the funeral
oration, and placed the laurel on his brows. Marsuppini's
contributions to scholarship were chiefly in verse; among these his
translations of the 'Batrachomyomachia' and the first book of the
'Iliad' were highly valued.

[Footnote 162: _Vita di Carlo d'Arezzo_, p. 440.]

[Footnote 163: See Tiraboschi, tom. vi. p. 1094.]

Matteo Palmieri, who pronounced the funeral oration of Messer Carlo
Aretino, sprang from an honourable Florentine stock, and by his own
abilities rose to a station of considerable public influence. He is
principally famous as the author of a mystical poem called 'Città di
Vita,' which, though it was condemned for its heretical opinions,
obtained from Ficinus for its author the title of _Poeta Theologicus_.
To discuss the circumstances under which this allegory in the style of
Dante was composed, the secresy in which it was involved until the
poet's death, and the relation of Palmieri's views to heresies in
vogue at Florence, belongs to a future section of my work.[164] He
claims a passing notice here among the humanists who acquired high
place and honour by the credit of his eloquence and style.

[Footnote 164: See Vespasiano, p. 500. Tiraboschi, vol. vi. p. 678.
App. iii. to vol. v. of this work.]

Giannozzo Manetti belonged to an illustrious house, and in his youth,
like other well-born Florentines, was trained for mercantile
affairs.[165] At the age of five-and-twenty he threw off the parental
control, and gave himself entirely to letters. So obstinate was his
industry in the acquisition of knowledge, that he allowed himself only
five hours of sleep, and spent the rest of his life in study. During
nine whole years he never crossed the Arno, but remained within the
walls of his house and garden, which communicated with the Convent of
S. Spirito. Being passionately fond of disputation, he sought his
chief amusement there in the debating society founded by Marsigli.
Ambrogio Traversari was his master in Greek. Latin he had no
difficulty in acquiring, and soon gained such facility in its exercise
that even Lionardo Bruni is said to have envied his fluency. He was
not, however, contented with these languages, and in order to perfect
himself in Hebrew he kept a Jew in his own house.[166] When he had
acquired sufficient familiarity with Hebrew, he turned the arms
supplied him by his tutors against their heresies, basing his
arguments upon such interpretations of texts as his superior philology
suggested to him. The great work of his literary leisure was a
polemical discourse 'Contra Judæos et Gentes,' for, unlike Marsuppini,
he placed his erudition solely at the service of the Christian faith.
Another fruit of his Hebrew studies was a new translation of the
Psalms from the original.

[Footnote 165: The sources for Manetti's Life are Vespasiano and an
anonymous Latin biography in Muratori. Besides the small Life of
Vespasiano in his _Vite d'Uomini Illustri_, I have had recourse to his
_Comentario della Vita di Gianozo Manetti_, Turin, 1862.]

[Footnote 166: 'Tenne in casa dua Greci et uno Ebreo che s'era fatto
Cristiano, et non voleva che il Greco parlasse con lui se non in
greco, et il simile il Ebreo in ebreo.'--_Comentario_, p. 11.]

Manetti was far from being a mere student. During the best years of
his life he was continually employed as ambassador to the Republic at
Venice, Naples, Rome, and other Courts of Italy. He administered the
government of Pescia, Pistoja, and Scarparia in times of great
difficulty, winning a singular reputation for probity and justice. On
all occasions of state his eloquence made him indispensable to the
Signory, while the lists of his writings include numerous speeches
upon varied topics addressed to potentates and princes throughout
Italy.[167] There is a curious story related in his Life, which
illustrates the importance attached at this time to public speaking.
After the coronation of the Emperor Frederick III., the Florentines
sent fifteen ambassadors, including Manetti, attended by the
Chancellor Carlo Aretino, to congratulate him. Manetti was a Colleague
of the Signory, and on him would therefore have naturally fallen the
fulfilment of the task, had not this honour been conferred, by private
machinations of the Medicean family, on Carlo. The Chancellor duly
delivered a prepared oration, which was answered by Æneas Sylvius in
the name of the Emperor. Some topics raised in this reply required
rejoinder from the Florentines; but Messer Carlo declared himself
unable to speak without previous study. To be forced to hold their
tongues before the Emperor and all his suite was a bitter humiliation
to the men of Florence. How could they return home and confess that
the rhetoric of their Chancellor had been silenced by a witty
secretary? In their sore distress they besought Manetti to help them;
whereupon he rose and delivered an extempore oration. 'When it was
finished,' says Vespasiano,[168] 'all competent judges who understood
Latin, and could follow it, declared that Messer Giannozzi's extempore
speech was superior to that which Messer Carlo had prepared.'

[Footnote 167: 'Se ignuna cosa difficile o cura disperata, la davano a
Messer Gianozo.'--_Ibid._ p. 22.]

[Footnote 168: _Vita di Gianozo Manetti_, p. 462. Compare Burckhardt,
p. 182. There is another story, told in the _Comentario_, of Manetti's
speaking before Alfonso at Naples. The King remained so quiet that he
did not even brush the flies from his face. P. 30.]

The Latin Life of Manetti contains innumerable instances of the
miracles wrought by his rhetoric.[169] Yet we should err if we
imagined that the speeches pronounced upon solemn occasions, by even
such illustrious orators as Manetti or Pius II., were marked by any of
the nobler qualities of eloquence.[170] They consist of commonplaces
freely interspersed with historical examples and voluminous
quotations. Without charm, without originality, they survive as
monuments of the enthusiasm of that age for classic erudition, and of
the patience with which popes and princes lent their ears for two or
three hours at a stretch to the self-complacent mouthings of a pompous

[Footnote 169: Muratori, vol. xx.]

[Footnote 170: For Pius II.'s reputation see Burckhardt, p. 182.]

Giannozzo Manetti became at last so great a power in Florence that he
excited the jealousy of the Medicean party. They ruined him by the
imposition of extravagant taxes, and he was obliged to end his life an
exile from his native land.[171] Florence never behaved worse to a
more blameless citizen; for Manetti, by his cheerful acceptance of
public burdens, by his prudence in the discharge of weighty offices,
by the piety and sobriety of his private life, by his vast
acquirements, and by the single-hearted zeal with which he burned for
learning, had proved himself the model of such men as might have saved
the State, if safety had been possible. He retired to the Court of
Nicholas V., who had previously named him Apostolic Secretary; and on
the death of that Pope he sought a final refuge with Alfonso at
Naples.[172] There he devoted himself entirely to literature,
translating the whole of the New Testament and the ethical treatises
of Aristotle into Latin, and carrying his great controversial work
against the Jews and Gentiles onwards to completion.

[Footnote 171: Vespasiano, p. 465. Muratori, xx. 600.]

[Footnote 172: Alfonso gave him a pension of 900 scudi. He wrote a
history of his life and deeds.]

Few men deserve a higher place on the muster-roll of Italian worthies
than Manetti. He was free from many vices of the Renaissance; his
piety and morality remaining untainted by the contact with antiquity.
Nor did he sink the citizen in the student. His learning was varied
and profound. Instead of applying himself to Greek and Latin
scholarship alone, he mastered Hebrew, and sought to acquire a
comprehensive grasp of all the knowledge of the ancient world. At the
same time he lived in constant sympathy with his age, sharing its
delight in rhetorical displays and wordy disputations, and furthering
the diffusion of knowledge by his toil as a translator. It may well be
wondered how it happens that a man in many points akin to Pico should
have fallen so far short of him in fame. The explanation lies in this:
Manetti was deficient in all that elevates mere learning to the rank
of art. His Latin style was tedious; his thoughts were commonplace.
When the influence of his voice and person passed away, nothing
remained to prove his eloquence but ill-digested facts and ill-applied
citations. Still the work which he effected in his day was good, and
the place he held was honourable. Posterity may be grateful to him as
one of the most active pioneers of modern culture.

A man of different stamp and calling claims attention next. Ambrogio
Traversari was far from sharing the neopagan impulse of the classical
revival; yet he owed political influence and a high place among the
leaders of his age to humanistic enthusiasm. Born in Romagna, and
admitted while yet a child into the Convent degli Angeli at Florence,
he gave early signs of his capacity for literature. At a time when
knowledge of Greek was still a rare title to distinction,[173]
Ambrogio mastered the elements of the language and studied the Greek
Fathers in the original. His cell became the meeting-place of learned
men, where Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici, the stately Bruni and the
sombre Marsuppini, joined with caustic Niccoli and lively Poggio in
earnest conversation. His voluminous correspondence connected him with
students in all parts of Italy; nor was there any important discovery
of MSS. or plan for library or university in which he did not take his
part among the first.

[Footnote 173: Niccolo de' Niccoli, it must be remembered, was not a
Grecian. Ambrogio used to insert the Greek words into his transcripts
of Latin codices.]

It seemed as though he were destined to pursue a peaceful student's
life among his books; and for this career nature had marked out the
little, meagre, lively, and laborious man. To be eminent in
scholarship, however, and to avoid the burdens of celebrity, was
impossible in that age. Eugenius IV., while resident in Florence, was
so impressed with his literary eminence and strength of character that
he made him General of the Camaldolese Order in 1431; and from this
time forward Traversari's life was divided between public duties, for
which he was scarcely fitted, and private studies that absorbed his
deepest interests. He presented the curious spectacle of a monk
distracted between the scruples of the cloister and the wider claims
of humanism, who showed one mind to his Order and another to his
literary friends. He made a point of never citing heathen poets in his
writings, as though the verses of Homer or of Virgil were inconsistent
with the sobriety of a Christian; yet his anxiety to round his style
with Ciceronian phrases, and to bequeath models of pure Latinity in
his epistles to posterity, proved how much he valued literary graces.
Having vowed to consecrate his talents to the services of
ecclesiastical learning, he undertook the translation of Diogenes
Laertius, at Cosimo's request, with reluctance, and performed the task
with bitter self-bemoaning. In his person we witness the conflict of
the humanistic spirit with ecclesiastical tradition--a conflict in
which the former was destined to achieve a complete and memorable

These men--Niccoli, Bruni, Marsuppini, Manetti, and Traversari--formed
the literary oligarchy who surrounded Cosimo de' Medici, and through
their industry and influence restored the studies of antiquity at
Florence. While they were carrying on the work of revival, each in his
own sphere, with impassioned energy, a combination of external
circumstances gave fresh impulse to their activity. Eugenius IV.,
having been expelled from Rome in 1434, had fixed his headquarters in
Florence, whither in 1438 he transferred the Council which had first
been opened at Ferrara for negotiating the union of the Greek and
Latin Churches. The Emperor of the East, John Palæologus, surrounded
by his theologians and scribes, together with the Pope of Rome, on
whom a train of cardinals and secretaries attended, now took up their
quarters in the city of the Medici. A temporary building at Santa
Maria Novella was erected for the sessions of the Council, and for
several months Florence entertained as guests the chiefs of the two
great sections of Christendom. Unimportant as were the results, both
political and ecclesiastical, of this Council, the meeting of the
Eastern and the Western powers in conclave vividly impressed the
imagination of the Florentines, and communicated a more than transient
impulse to their intellectual energies. Italy was on the eve of
becoming not only the depositary of Greek learning, but also the sole
interpreter of the Greek spirit to the modern world. Fifteen years
after the closing of the Council, the thread which had connected
Byzantium with Athens through an unbroken series of historical
traditions, was snapped; already it was beginning to be felt in Europe
that nothing but the ghost of Greek culture survived upon the shores
of the Bosphorus, and that if the genius of antiquity was to
illuminate the modern world, the light must dawn in Italy.[174]

[Footnote 174: See the emphatic words of Poliziano, quoted by Voigt,
p. 189, on the revival of extinct Hellenism by the Florentines, and on
their fluent command of the Attic idiom.]

The feelings with which the Florentines regarded their Greek guests
were strangely mingled. While honouring them as the last scions of the
noblest nation of the past, as the authentic teachers of Hellenic
learning and the masters of the Attic tongue, they despised their
empty vanity, their facile apostasy, their trivial pedantry, their
personal absurdities. The long beards, trailing mantles, painted
eyebrows, and fantastic headgear of the Byzantine sophists moved the
laughter of the common folk, accustomed to the grave and simple
_lucco_ of their own burghers. In vain did Vespasiano tell them that
this costume descended from august antiquity through fifteen centuries
of unchanged fashion.[175] The more educated citizens, again, soon
discovered that the erudition of these strangers was but shallow, and
that their magnificent pretensions reduced themselves to the power of
speaking the emasculated Greek, which formed their mother tongue, with
fluency. The truth is that, however necessary the Byzantines were at
the very outset of the Revival of Learning, Greek studies owed less to
their traditional lore than to the curiosity of Italian scholars. The
beggarly elements of grammar, caligraphy, and bibliographical
knowledge were supplied by the Greeks; but it was not Chrysoloras
even, nor yet Argyropoulos, so much as Ficino and Aldo, Palla degli
Strozzi and Cosimo de' Medici, who opened the literature of Athens to
the comprehension of the modern world.

[Footnote 175: See the curious passage in the _Vita di Eugenio IV.,
Papa_, p. 14.]

Some exceptions must be made to these remarks; for it is not certain
that, without guidance, the Florentines would have made that rapid
progress in philosophical studies which contrasts so singularly with
their comparative neglect of the Attic dramatists. Gemistos Plethon in
particular stands forth as a man who combined real knowledge with
natural eloquence, and who materially affected the whole course of the
Renaissance by directing the intelligence of the Florentines to Plato.
Inasmuch as Plethon's residence in Italy during the session of the
Council formed a decisive epoch in the Revival of Learning, to pass
him by without some detailed notice would be to omit one of the most
interesting episodes in the history of the fifteenth century. At the
same time, his biography so well illustrates the state of thought in
the Greek Empire at the moment of its fall, as well as the
speculations which interested philosophic intellects at that period
in Italy, that I trust the following digression will be judged

Georgios Gemistos was born of noble parents at Byzantium about the
year 1355.[176] During a long lifetime, chiefly spent in the Morea, he
witnessed all the miseries that racked his country through its
lingering agony of a hundred years, and died at last in 1450, just
before the final downfall of the Greek Empire. Of his early life
little is known beyond the fact that he left Constantinople as a young
man in order to study philosophy at Brusa. Brusa and Adrianopolis, at
that time the two Western seats of the Mahommedan power, out-rivalled
Byzantium in culture, while the mental vigour of the Mussulmans was
far in advance of that of their effete neighbours. The young Greek,
who seems already to have lost his faith in Christianity, was
attracted to the Moslem Court by Elissaios, a sage of Jewish birth.
From this teacher he learned what then passed for the doctrines of
Zoroaster. After quitting Brusa, Gemistos settled at Mistra in the
Peloponnese, upon the site of ancient Sparta, where with some
interruptions he continued to reside until his death. The Greek
Emperor was still nominally lord of the Morea, though the conquests of
Frankish Crusaders and the incursions of the Turks had rendered his
rule feeble. Gemistos, who enjoyed the confidence of the Imperial
House, was made a judge at Mistra, and thus obtained clear insight
into the causes of the decadence of the Hellenic race upon its ancient
soil. The picture he draws of the anarchy and immorality of the
peninsula is frightful. He also professed philosophy, and at the age
of thirty-three became a teacher of repute. The views he formed
concerning the corruption of the Greek Church and the degradation of
the Greek people, combined with his philosophical opinions, inspired
him with the visionary ambition of reforming the creed, the ethics,
and the political conditions of Hellas on a Pagan basis. There is
something ludicrous as well as sad in the spectacle of this sophist,
nourishing the vain fancy that he might coin a complete religious
system, which should supersede Christianity and restore vigour to the
decayed body of the Greek Empire. In the dotage of Hellenism Gemistos
discovered no new principle of vitality, but returned to the
speculative mysticism of the Neoplatonists. Their attempt at a Pagan
revival had failed long ago in Alexandria, while force still remained
to the Greek race, and while the Christian Church was still
comparatively ill-assured. To propose it as a panacea in the year 1400
for the evils of the Empire threatened by the Turks was mere
childishness. Perhaps it is doing the sage injustice to treat his
system seriously. Charity prompts us to regard it as a plaything
invented for the amusement of his leisure hours. Yet nothing can be
graver than his own language and that of his disciples.

[Footnote 176: I owe the greater part of the facts presented in this
sketch of Gemistos to Fritz Schultze's _Geschichte der Philosophie der
Renaissance_, vol. i.]

The work in which he embodied his doctrine was called 'The
Laws'--[Greek: hê tôn nomôn syngraphê], or simply [Greek: nomoi]. It
comprised a metaphysical system, the outlines of a new religion, an
elaborate psychology and theory of ethics, and a scheme of political
administration. According to his notions, there is one Supreme God,
Zeus, the absolute and eternal reality, existing as homogeneous and
undiscriminated Being, Will, Activity, and Power. Zeus begets
everlasting Ideas, or Gods of the second order; and these gods, to
whom Gemistos gave the name of Greek divinities, constitute a
hierarchy corresponding to the abstract notions of his logic. With the
object of harmonising the double series of immortal and mortal
existences they are subdivided, by a singularly clumsy contrivance,
into genuine and spurious children of Zeus. First among the genuine
sons stands Poseidon, the idea of ideas, the logical _summum genus_,
who includes within himself the intellectual universe potentially.
Next in rank is Hera, the female deity, created immediately by Zeus,
but by a second act, and therefore inferior to Poseidon. These two are
the primordial authors of the world as it exists. After them come
three series, each of five deities, whereof the first set, including
Apollo, Artemis, Hephæstus, Dionysus, and Athena, represent the most
general categories. The second set, among whom we find Atlas and
Pluto, are the ideas of immortal substance existing for ever in the
world of living beings. The third, which reckons among others Hecate
and Hestia, are the ideas of immortal substance existing for ever in
the inanimate world. Next in the descending order come the spurious
offspring of Zeus, or Titans, two of whom, Cronos and Aphrodite, are
the ideas respectively of form and matter in things subject to decay
and dissolution; while Koré, Pan, and Demeter are the specific ideas
of men, beasts, and plants. Hitherto we have been recording the
genealogy of divine beings subject to no laws of time or change, who
are, in fact, pure thoughts or logical entities. We arrive in the last
place at deities of the third degree, the genuine and the spurious
children, no longer of Zeus, but of Poseidon, chieftain of the second
order of the hierarchy. The planets and the fixed stars constitute the
higher of these inferior powers, while the dæmons fill the lowest
class of all. At the very bottom of the scale, below the gods of every
quality, stand men, beasts, plants, and the inorganic world.

It will be perceived that this scheme is bastard Neoplatonism--a
mystical fusion of Greek mythology and Greek logic, whereby the
products of speculative analysis are hypostasised as divine persons.
Of many difficulties patent in his doctrine Gemistos offered no
solution. How, for example, can we ascribe to Zeus the procreation of
spurious as well as genuine offspring? It is possible that the
philosopher, if questioned on such topics, would have fallen back on
the convenient theory of progressively diminished efficacy in the
creative act; for though he guards against adopting the hypothesis of
emanation, it is clear, from the simile of multiplied reflections in a
series of mirrors, which he uses to explain the genealogy of gods,
that some such conception modified his views. To point out the insults
offered to the ancient myths, whereof he made such liberal and
arbitrary use, or to insist upon the folly of the whole conceit,
considered as the substance of a creed which should regenerate the
world, would be superfluous; nothing can be more grotesque, for
instance, than the personification of identity and self-determining
motion under the titles of Apollo and Dionysus, nor any confusion more
fatal than the attribution of sex to categories of the understanding.
The sole merit of the system consists in the classification of
notions, the conception of an intellectual hierarchy, descending by
interdependent stages from the primordial cause through pure ideas to
their copies and material manifestations in the world of things.
Dreams of this kind have always haunted the metaphysical imagination,
giving rise to hybrids between poetry and logic; and the system of
Gemistos may fairly take rank among a hundred similar attempts between
the days of Plato and of Hegel.

Such as it was, his metaphysic supplied Gemistos with the basis of a
cult, a psychology, a theory of ethics, and a political programme. He
founded a sect, and was called by his esoteric followers 'the
mystagogue of sublime and celestial dogmas.'[177] They believed that
the soul of Plato had been reincarnated in their master, and that the
new creed, professed by him, would supersede the faiths existing in
the world. Among the most distinguished of these neophytes was the
famous Bessarion, who adopted so much at any rate of his teacher's
doctrine as rendered him indifferent to the points at issue between
the Greek and Latin Churches, when a cardinal's hat was offered as the
price of his apostasy. Bessarion, however, was too much a man of the
world to dream that Gemistos would triumph over Christ and
Mahomet.[178] While using the language of the mystic, and recording
his conviction that Plato's soul, released from the body of Gemistos,
had joined the choir of the Olympian deities,[179] it is probable that
he was only playing, after the fashion of his age, with speculations
that amused his fancy though they took no serious hold upon his life.
It was a period, we must remember, when scholars affected the manners
of the antique world, Latinised their names, and adopted fantastic
titles in their academies and learned clubs. At no time of the world's
history has this kind of masquerading attained to so much earnestness
of rather more than half-belief. The attitude assumed by Gemistos and
his disciples is, therefore, not without its value for illustrating
the intellectual conditions of the earlier Renaissance. Practical
religion had but little energy among the educated classes. The
interests of the Church were more political than spiritual. Science
had not yet asserted her real rights in any sphere of thought. Art and
literature, invigorated by the passion for antiquity, meanwhile
absorbed the genius of the Italians; and through a dim æsthetic haze
the waning lights of Hellas mingled with the dayspring of the modern

[Footnote 177: See Schultze, p. 53.]

[Footnote 178: See Schultze, p. 77, note.]

[Footnote 179: _Ibid._ p. 107.]

The most important event of Gemistos's life was the journey which he
took to Italy in the train of John Palæologus in 1438. Secretly
disliking Christianity in general, and the Latin form of it in
particular, he had endeavoured to dissuade the emperor from attending
the Council. Now he found himself elected as one of the six champions
of the cause of the Greek Church. For the subtle Greek intellect in
that dotage of a doomed civilisation, no greater interest survived
than could be found in dialectic; and to dispute about the _filioque_
of the Christian creed was fair sport, when no chance offered itself
of forcing rationalistic Paganism down the throat of popes and
cardinals. Therefore it is probable that Gemistos did not find his
position at the Council peculiarly irksome, even though he had to
listen to reasonings about purgatory and the procession of the Holy
Ghost, and to suggest arguments in favour of the Eastern dogma, while
in his inmost soul he equally despised the combatants on either side.

The effect he produced outside the Council was far more flattering
than the part he had to play within the walls of Santa Maria Novella.
Instead of power-loving ecclesiastics and pig-headed theologians,
anxious only to extend their privileges and establish their supremacy,
he found a multitude of sympathetic and enthusiastic listeners. The
Florentines were just then in the first flush of their passion for
Greek study. Plato, worshipped as an unknown god, whose rising would
dispel the mists of scholastic theology, was upon the lips of every
student. Men were thirsting for the philosophy that had the charm of
poetry, that delighted the imagination while it fortified the
understanding, and that lent its glamour to the dreams and yearnings
of a youthful age. What they wanted, Gemistos possessed in abundance.
From the treasures of a memory stored with Platonic, Pythagorean, and
Alexandrian mysticism he poured forth copious streams of
indiscriminate erudition. The ears of his audience were open; their
intellects were far from critical. They accepted the gold and dross of
his discourse alike as purest metal. Hanging upon the lips of the
eloquent, grave, beautiful old man, who knew so much that they desired
to learn, they called him Socrates and Plato in their ecstasy. It was
during this visit to Florence that he adopted the name of Plethon,
which, while it played upon Gemistos, had in it the ring of his great
master's surname.[180] The devotion of his Greek disciples bore no
comparison with the popularity he acquired among Italians; and he had
the satisfaction of being sure that the seed of Platonic philosophy
sown by him would spring up in the rich soil of those powerful and
eager minds. Cosimo de' Medici, convinced of the importance of
Platonic studies by his conversations with Gemistos, founded the
famous Florentine Academy, and designated the young Marsilio Ficino
for the special task of translating and explaining the Platonic
writings.[181] When we call to mind the influence which the Platonic
Academy of Florence, through Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, exerted
over the whole thought of Italy, and, through Reuchlin and his pupil
Melanchthon, over that of Germany, we are able to estimate the impulse
given by Gemistos to the movement of the fifteenth century. It may be
added that Platonic studies in Italy never recovered from the impress
of Neoplatonic mysticism which proceeded from his mind.

[Footnote 180: [Greek: Gemistos] and [Greek: gemizô], [Greek: Plêthôn]
and [Greek: plêthô]. Both mean to be full. Plato, however, is said to
have been called [Greek: Platôn], because of his broad shoulders or
his breadth of eloquence.]

[Footnote 181: See the translation of Plotinus by Ficino, quoted by
Schultze, p. 76: 'Magnus Cosmus, Senatûs consulto patriæ pater, quo
tempore concilium inter Græcos atque Latinos sub Eugenio pontifice
Florentiæ tractabatur, philosophum Græcum nomine Gemistum, cognomine
Plethonem quasi Platonem alterum, de mysteriis Platonicis disputantem
frequenter audivit. E cujus ore ferventi sic afflatus est protinus,
sic animatus, ut inde Academiam quandam altâ mente conceperit, hanc
opportuno primum tempore pariturus.']

While resident in Florence he published two treatises on Fate and on
the differences between Plato and Aristotle. The former was an
anti-Christian work, in so far as it denied the freedom of arbitrary
activity to God as well as men. The latter raised a controversy in
Italy and Greece, which long survived its author, exercising the
scholars of the Renaissance to some purpose on the texts and doctrines
of the chief great thinkers of antiquity. Gemistos attacked Aristotle
in general for atheism and irreligious morality, while he proved that
the Platonic system, as interpreted by him, was deeply theological.
Without entering into the details of a dispute that continued to rage
for many years, and aroused the bitterest feelings on both sides, it
is enough to observe that Aristotle had for centuries been regarded as
the pillar of orthodoxy in the Latin Church, while Plato supplied
eclectic thinkers with a fair cloak for rationalistic speculations and
theistic heresies. The opponents of Aristotle were undermining the
foundations of the time-honoured scholastic fabric. The opponents of
Plato accused his votaries of drowning the Christianity they pretended
to maintain, in a vague ocean of heretical mysticism. It is indeed
difficult to understand how Ficino, who worshipped Plato no less
fervently than Christ, could avoid reducing Christianity to the level
of Paganism, while he attempted to demonstrate that the Platonic
system contained the essence of the Christian faith. This was, in
fact, nothing less than abandoning the exclusive pretensions of
revealed religion and the authority of the Church.

Before the year 1441 Gemistos had returned to Mistra, where he
continued to exercise his magistracy. His old age was embittered by
the fierce attacks directed by Gennadios,[182] afterwards Patriarch of
Constantinople, against the esoteric doctrines of the [Greek: Nomoi].
Gennadios accused him roundly of Paganism, continuing his polemic
against the book long after the death of its author. That event
happened in 1450. Gemistos was buried at Mistra; but five years later
Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, moved by ardent love of learning and by
veneration for the philosopher, exhumed his bones, and transferred
them to the Church of S. Francesco at Rimini, which Leo Alberti had
but recently built for him.[183]

[Footnote 182: Schultze, p. 92. His secular name was Georgios

[Footnote 183: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, pp. 134, 135, and
_Sketches in Italy and Greece_, article 'Rimini.']

Of Bessarion I shall have to speak elsewhere; but, in order to
complete the review of Greek studies in Florence at this epoch,
mention must now be made of two Greeks who filled the chair of the
University with distinguished success.

That John Argyropoulos, a native of Byzantium, visited Italy before
the fall of the Greek Empire, appears from Vespasiano's account of his
residence with Palla Strozzi at Padua during the first years of his
exile.[184] In 1456 Cosimo called him to Florence, secured him good
appointments from the _studio pubblico_, and installed him as public
and private teacher of Greek language and philosophy. Argyropoulos
laboured at Florence for a space of fifteen years, counting the most
distinguished citizens among his pupils. From Florence he removed to
Rome, where Reuchlin heard him lecture upon Thucydides in the
pontificate of Sixtus IV. Reuchlin's scholarship, if we may trust
Melanchthon, was rated at so high a value by this master that, on his
departure from Rome, he exclaimed, 'Now hath Greece flown beyond the
Alps!' A more commanding personage than Argyropoulos was Georgios
Trapezuntios, who came to Italy as early as 1420, and professed Greek
at Venice, Florence, Rome, and other cities. His temper was proud,
choleric, and quarrelsome; but the history of his disputes belongs to
the next chapter, which will treat of Rome. I may here mention that,
during the residence of the Papal Court at Florence, he gave
instruction both public and private,[185] without, however, entering
into intimacy with the Medicean circle. After Manuel Chrysoloras, it
can be said with certainty that the revival of Hellenism in the
fifteenth century at Florence was due to the three men of whom I have
been speaking--Georgios Gemistos, Joannes Argyropoulos, and Georgios
Trapezuntios. Of the labours of the last in Rome, as well as of
Theodoros Gaza, Demetrius Chalcondylas, Andronicus Callistus and the
Lascari, is not yet time to speak in detail. Each deserves a separate
commemoration, since to their joint activity in teaching, Europe owes
Greek scholarship.[186]

[Footnote 184: _Vita di Palla di Noferi Strozzi_, p. 284.]

[Footnote 185: See Vespasiano, p. 486.]

[Footnote 186: See long lists in Tiraboschi, vol. vi. pp. 812,
822-837, of foreign and Italian Grecians.]

Before passing from Florence to Rome, which at this time formed the
second centre of Italian humanism, something should be said about the
state of learning in the other republics. The causes that decided the
pre-eminence of Florence have been already touched upon. It is enough
to observe here that, while the Universities of Bologna, Siena, and
Perugia engaged professors of eloquence at high salaries, the literary
enthusiasm of those cities was in no way comparable to that of
Florence. Their culture depended on the illustrious visitors who fixed
their residence from time to time within their walls. Genoa remained
almost dead to learning. At Venice the study of the classics engaged
the attention of a few nobles, without permeating the upper classes or
giving a decided tone to society at large. Though the illustrious
Greek refugees made it their custom to halt for a season at Venice,
while nearly all Italian teachers of note lectured there on short
engagements, it is none the less true that the Venetians were backward
to encourage literature. They opened no public libraries, made no
efforts to retain the services of scholars for the State, and regarded
the pretensions of the humanists with cold contempt. In letters, as in
the fine arts, Venice waited till the rest of Italy had blossomed.
Bembo succeeded to Poliziano, as Titian to Raphael. Much good,
however, was done by men like the Giustiniani and Paolo Zane, who
furnished young students with the means of visiting Constantinople,
and who provided them with professorial chairs on their return. The
_gentiluomini_ could also count among their number Francesco Barbaro,
no less distinguished by his knowledge of both learned languages than
by the correspondence he maintained with all the scholars of his time.
While yet a young man, he had imbibed the Florentine spirit in the
house of Cosimo de' Medici. On his return to Venice he studied under
the best masters, and soon attained such excellence of style that
Poggio compared his treatise on marriage to the 'De Officiis' of
Cicero. The Republic of Venice, however, demanded more of patriotic
service from her high-born citizens than the commonwealth of Florence;
and Barbaro had to spend his life in the discharge of grave State
duties, finding little leisure for the cultivation of his literary
talents. It remained for him to win the fame of a Mæcenas, who, had he
chosen, might have disputed laurels with the ablest of the scholars he



     Transition from Florence to Rome -- Vicissitudes of Learning
     at the Papal Court -- Diplomatic Humanists -- Protonotaries
     -- Apostolic Scribes -- Ecclesiastical Sophists --
     Immorality and Artificiality of Scholarship in Rome --
     Poggio and Bruni, Secretaries -- Eugenius IV. -- His
     Patronage of Scholars -- Flavio Biondo -- Solid Erudition --
     Nicholas V. -- His Private History -- Nature of his Talents
     -- His unexpected Elevation to the Roman See -- Jubilation
     of the Humanists -- His Protection of Learned Men in Rome --
     A Workshop of Erudition -- A Factory of Translations -- High
     Sums paid for Literary Labour -- Poggio Fiorentino -- His
     Early Life -- His Journeys -- His Eminence as a Man of
     Letters -- His Attitude toward Ecclesiastics -- His
     Invectives -- Humanistic Gladiators -- Poggio and Filelfo --
     Poggio and Guarino -- Poggio and Valla -- Poggio and Perotti
     -- Poggio and Georgius Trapezuntios -- Literary Scandals --
     Poggio's Collections of Antiquities -- Chancellor of
     Florence -- Cardinal Bessarion -- His Library -- Theological
     Studies -- Apology for Plato -- The Greeks in Italy --
     Humanism at Naples -- Want of Culture in Southern Italy --
     Learning an Exotic -- Alfonso the Magnificent -- Scholars in
     the Camp -- Literary Dialogues at Naples -- Antonio
     Beccadelli -- 'The Hermaphroditus' -- Lorenzo Valla -- The
     Epicurean -- The Critic -- The Opponent of the Church --
     Bartolommeo Fazio -- Giannantonio Porcello -- Court of Milan
     -- Filippo Maria Visconti -- Decembrio's Description of his
     Master -- Francesco Filelfo -- His Early Life -- Visit to
     Constantinople -- Place at Court -- Marriage -- Return to
     Italy -- Venice -- Bologna -- His Pretensions as a Professor
     -- Florence -- Feuds with the Florentines -- Immersion in
     Politics -- Siena -- Settles at Milan -- His Fame -- Private
     Life and Public Interests -- Overtures to Rome -- Filelfo
     under the Sforza Tyranny -- Literary Brigandage -- Death at
     Florence -- Filelfo as the Representative of a Class --
     Vittorino da Feltre -- Early Education -- Scheme of Training
     Youths as Scholars -- Residence at Padua -- Residence at
     Mantua -- His School of Princes -- Liberality to Poor
     Students -- Details of his Life and System -- Court of
     Ferrara -- Guarino da Verona -- House Tutor of Lionello
     d'Este -- Giovanni Aurispa -- Smaller Courts -- Carpi --
     Mirandola -- Rimini and the Malatesta Tyrants -- Cesena --
     Pesaro -- Urbino and Duke Frederick -- Vespasiano da

In passing from Florence to Rome, we are struck with the fact that
neither in letters nor in art had the Papal city any real life of her
own. Her intellectual enthusiasms were imported; her activity varied
with the personal interests of successive Popes. Stimulated by the
munificence of one Holy Father, starved by the niggardliness of
another; petted and caressed by Nicholas V., watched with jealous
mistrust by Paul II.; thrust into the background by Alexander, and
brought into the light by Leo--learning was subjected to rude
vicissitudes at Rome. Very few of the scholars who shed lustre on the
reigns of liberal Pontiffs were Romans, nor did the nobles of the
Papal States affect the fame of patrons. We have, therefore, in
dealing with humanism at Rome, to bear in mind that it flourished
fitfully, precariously, as an exotic, its growth being alternately
checked and encouraged at the pleasure of the priest in office.

In spite of these variable conditions, one class of humanists never
failed at Rome. During the period of schisms and councils, when Pope
and Antipope were waging wordy warfare in the Courts of congregated
Christendom, it was impossible to dispense with the services of
practised writers and accomplished orators. As composers of diplomatic
despatches, letters, bulls, and protocols; as disseminators of squibs
and invectives; as redactors of state papers; as pleaders, legates,
ambassadors, and private secretaries--scholars swarmed around the
person of the Pontiff. Their official titles varied, some being called
Secretaries to the Chancery, others Apostolic Scriptors, others again
Protonotaries; while their duties were divided between the regular
business of the Curia and the miscellaneous transactions that arose
from special emergencies of the Papal See. Their services were well
rewarded. In addition to about 700 florins of pay and perquisites,
they, for the most part, entered into minor orders and held benefices.
Men of acute intellect and finished style, who had absorbed the
culture of their age, and could by rhetoric enforce what arguments
they chose to wield, found, therefore, a good market for their talents
at the Court of Rome. They soon became a separate and influential
class, divided from the nobility by their birth and foreign
connections, and from the churchmen by their secular status and avowed
impiety, yet mingling in society with both and trusting to their
talents to support their dignity. At the Council of Basle the
protonotaries even claimed to take precedence of the bishops on
occasions of high ceremony, arguing, from the nature of their office
and the rarity of their acquirements, that they had a better right
than priests to approach the person of the Sovereign Pontiff. Poggio
and Bruni, Losco, Aurispa, and Biondo raised their voices in this
quarrel, which proved how indispensable the mundane needs of the
Papacy had rendered these free-lances of literature. Through them the
spirit of humanism, antagonistic to the spirit of the Church,
possessed itself of the Eternal City; and much of the flagrant
immorality which marked Rome during the Renaissance may be ascribed to
the influence of paganising scholars, freed from the restrictions of
family and local opinion, indifferent to religion, and less absorbed
in study for its own sake than in the profits to be gained by the
exercise of a practised pen. There was a real discord between the
principles which the Church professed, and the new culture that
flourished on a heathen soil. While merely secular interests blinded
the Popes to the perils which might spring from fostering this
discord, humanistic enthusiasm had so thoroughly penetrated Italy that
to exclude it from Rome was impossible. Neopagan scholarship added,
therefore, lustre to the Papal Court, as one among the many splendours
of that worldly period which raised the See of Rome to eminence above
the States of Italy. The light it shed, however, had no vital heat.
Learning was always an article of artificial luxury at Rome, not, as
at Florence, part of the nation's life; and when the gilded pomp of
Leo dwindled down to Clement's abject misery and utter ruin, it was
found that such encouragement as Popes had given to literature had
been a source of weakness and decay. We may still be sincerely
thankful that the Pontiffs took the line they did; for had they placed
themselves in a position of antagonism to the humanistic movement,
instead of utilising and approving of it, the free development of
Italian scholarship might have sustained a dangerous check.

It was from Florence that Rome received her intellectual stimulus. The
connection began in 1402, when Boniface IX. appointed Poggio to the
post of Apostolic Secretary, which he held for fifty years. In 1405
Lionardo Bruni obtained the same office from Innocent VII. The
powerful personality of these men, in whom the energies of the
humanistic revival were concentrated, impressed the Roman Curia with a
stamp it never lost. Good Latinity became a _sine qua non_ in the
Papal Chancery; and when Gregory XII. named Antonio Losco of Verona
one of his secretaries, it was natural that this distinguished
scholar, following the Florentine example of Coluccio Salutato, should
compose a book of forms in Ciceronian style for the use of his
office.[187] During the insignificant pontificate of Martin V., while
the Curia resided in exile at Florence, the chain which was binding
Rome to the city of Italian culture continued to gain strength. The
result of all the discords which rent the Church in the first half of
the fifteenth century was to Italianise the Papal See; nor did
anything contribute to this end more powerfully than the Florentine
traditions of three successive Popes--Martin V., Eugenius IV., and
Nicholas V.

[Footnote 187: See Facius, _De Viris Illustribus_, p. 3, quoted by
Voigt, p. 278.]

Eugenius was a Venetian of good family, who inherited considerable
wealth from his father. Having realised his fortune, he bestowed
20,000 ducats on charitable institutions and took orders in the
Church.[188] In 1431 he was raised to the Papacy; but the disturbed
state of Rome obliged him to quit the Vatican in mean disguise, and to
seek safety by flight from Ostia. He spent the greater portion of his
life in Tuscany, occupied less with humanistic interests than with the
reformation of monastic orders and the conduct of ecclesiastical
affairs in the Councils of Basle and Florence. Though he did not share
the passion of his age for learning, the patronage which he extended
to scholars was substantial and important. Giovanni Aurispa received
from him the title of Apostolic Secretary, and was appointed
interpreter between the Greeks and Italians at the Council of the two
Churches. Even the paganising Carlo Marsuppini was enrolled upon the
list of Papal secretaries, while Filelfo and Piero Candido Decembrio,
who added lustre at this epoch to the Court of Milan, were invited by
Eugenius with highly flattering promises. The value of these meagre
statements consists in this, that even a Pope, whose personal
proclivities were monastic rather than humanistic, felt the necessity
of borrowing all the strength he could obtain from men of letters in
an age when learning itself was power. More closely attached to his
Court than those who have been mentioned, were Maffeo Begio, the poet,
and Flavio Biondo, one of the soundest and most conscientious students
of the time.[189]

[Footnote 188: See Vespasiano, p. 6.]

[Footnote 189: He was born at Forli in 1388, and died in 1463, the
father of five sons.]

Though Biondo had but little Greek, and could boast of no beauty of
style, his immense erudition raised him to high rank among Italian
scholars. The work he undertook was to illustrate the antiquities of
Italy in a series of historical, topographical, and archæological
studies. His 'Roma Instaurata,' 'Roma Triumphans,' and 'Italia
Illustrata,' three bulky encyclopædias of information concerning
ancient manners, laws, sites, monuments, and races, may justly be said
to have formed the basis of all subsequent dictionaries of Roman
antiquities. Another product of his industry was entitled 'Historiarum
ab Inclinatione Romanorum.' Three decades and a portion of the fourth
were written, when death put a stop to the completion of this gigantic
task. In estimating the value of Biondo's contributions to history, we
must remember that he had no previous compilations whereon to base his
own researches. The vast stores of knowledge he collected and digested
were derived from original sources. He grasped the whole of Latin
literature, both classical and mediæval, arranged the results of his
comprehensive reading into sections, and furnished the learned world
with tabulated materials for the study of Roman institutions in the
State, the camp, the law courts, private life, and religious
ceremonial. Obstinate indeed must have been the industry of the
scholar, who, in addition to these classical researches, undertook to
narrate the dissolution of antique society and to present a faithful
picture of Italy in the dark ages. Biondo's 'History of the Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire,' conceived in an age devoted to
stylistic niceties and absorbed by the attractions of renascent
Hellenism, inspires our strongest admiration. Yet its author failed in
his lifetime to win the distinction he deserved. Though he held the
office of Apostolic Secretary under four Popes, his marriage stopped
the way to ecclesiastical preferment, while his incapacity to use the
arts of the stylist, the sophist, the flatterer, and the translator,
lost him the favour his more solid qualities had at first procured.
Eugenius could appreciate a man of his stamp better than Nicholas V.,
whose special tastes inclined to elegant humanism rather than to
ponderous erudition.

The lives of all the humanists illustrate the honours and the wealth
secured by learning for her votaries in the Renaissance. No example,
however, is so striking as that furnished by the biography of Nicholas
V. Tommaso Parentucelli was born at Pisa in 1398. While he was still
an infant his parents, in spite of their poverty and humble station,
which might have been expected to shield them from political tyranny,
were exiled to Sarzana;[190] and at the age of nine he lost his father
at that place. Sarzana has consequently gained the credit of giving
birth to the first great Pope of the Renaissance period. The young
Tommaso found means, though extremely poor, to visit the University of
Bologna, where he studied theology and made himself a master in the
seven liberal arts. After six years' residence at Bologna, his total
destitution, combined, perhaps, with a desire for more instruction in
elegant scholarship than the university afforded, led him to seek work
in Florence. He must have already acquired some reputation, since
Rinaldo degli Albizzi received him as house-tutor to his children for
one year, at the expiration of which time he entered the service of
Palla degli Strozzi in a similar capacity. The money thus obtained
enabled him to return to Bologna, and to take his degree as Doctor of
Theology at the age of twenty-two. He was now fully launched in life.
The education he had received at Bologna qualified him for office in
the church, while his two years' residence at Florence had rendered
him familiar with men of polite learning and of gentle breeding.
Niccolo degli Albergati, Archbishop of Bologna, became his patron, and
appointed him controller of his household. Albergati was one of the
cardinals of Eugenius IV., a man of considerable capacity, and alive
to the intellectual interests of his age. When he followed the Papal
Court to Florence, Tommaso attended him, and here began the period
which was destined to influence his subsequent career. Inspired with
a passionate devotion to books for their own sake, and gifted with
ardent curiosity and all-embracing receptivity of intellect, the young
scholar found himself plunged into a society of which literature
formed the most absorbing occupation. He soon became familiar with
Cosimo de' Medici, and no meetings of the learned were complete
without him. A glimpse may be obtained of the literary circle he
frequented at this time from a picturesque passage in Vespasiano.[191]
'It was the wont of Messer Lionardo d'Arezzo, Messer Giannozzo
Manetti, Messer Poggio, Messer Carlo d'Arezzo, Messer Giovanni
Aurispa, Maestro Gasparo da Bologna, and many other men of learning to
congregate every morning and evening at the side of the Palazzo, where
they entered into discussions and disputes on various subjects. As
soon, then, as Maestro Tommaso had attended the Cardinal to the
Palazzo, he joined them, mounted on a mule, with two servants on foot;
and generally he was attired in blue, and his servants in long dresses
of a darker colour. At that time the pomp of the Court of Rome was not
by any means what it is nowadays. In the place I have named he was
always to be found, conversing and disputing, since he was a most
impassioned debater.'

[Footnote 190: So Vespasiano relates the cause of their removal from
Pisa. P. 20.]

[Footnote 191: P. 23.]

Tommaso was not a man of genius; his talents were better suited for
collecting and digesting what he read, than for original research and
composition. He had a vast memory, and was an indefatigable student,
not only perusing but annotating all the books he purchased. Pius II.
used to say of him that what he did not know, must lie outside the
sphere of human knowledge. In speech he was fluent, and in disputation
eager; but he never ranked among the ornate orators and stylists of
the age. His wide acquaintance with all branches of literature, and
his faculty for classification, rendered him useful to Cosimo de'
Medici, who employed him on the catalogue of the Marcian Library.
From Cosimo in return, Tommaso caught the spirit which sustained him
in his coming days of greatness. Already, at this early period, while
living almost on the bounty of the Medici, he never lost an
opportunity of accumulating books, and would even borrow money to
secure a precious MS.[192] He used to say that, if ever he acquired
wealth, he would expend it in book-buying and building--a resolution
to which he adhered when he rose to the Pontificate.

[Footnote 192: Vespasiano, p. 27.]

Soon after the death of Albergati in 1443, Eugenius promoted Tommaso
to the see of Bologna; a cardinal's hat followed within a few months;
and in 1447 he was elected Pope of Rome. So sudden an elevation from
obscurity and poverty to the highest place in Christendom has rarely
happened; nor is it even now easy to understand what combinations of
unsuccessful intrigues among the princes of the Church enabled this
little, ugly, bright-eyed, restless-minded scholar to creep into S.
Peter's seat. Perhaps the simplest explanation is the best. The times
were somewhat adverse to the Papacy, nor was the tiara quite as much
an object of secular ambition as it afterwards became. Humanism
meanwhile exercised strong fascination over every class in Italy, and
it would seem that Tommaso Parentucelli had nothing but his reputation
for learning to thank for his advancement. 'Who in Florence would have
thought that a poor bell-ringer of a priest would be made Pope, to the
confusion of the proud?' This was his own complacent exclamation to
Vespasiano, who had gone to kiss his old friend's feet, and found him
seated on a throne with twenty torches blazing round him.[193]

[Footnote 193: _Ibid._ p. 33.]

The rejoicings with which the humanists hailed the elevation of one of
their own number to the Papal throne may be readily imagined; nor were
their golden expectations, founded on a previous knowledge of his
liberality in all things that pertained to learning, destined to be
disappointed. Nicholas V., to quote the words of Vespasiano, who knew
him well, 'was a foe to ceremonies and vain flatteries, open and
candid, without knowing how to feign; avarice he never harboured, for
he was always spending beyond his means.'[194] His revenues were
devoted to maintaining a splendid Court, rebuilding the fortifications
and palaces of Rome, and showering wealth on men of letters. In the
protection extended by this Pope to literature we may notice that he
did not attempt to restore the _studio pubblico_ of Rome, and that he
showed a decided preference for works of solid learning and
translations. His tastes led him to delight in critical and
grammatical treatises, and his curiosity impelled him to get Latin
versions made of the Greek authors. It is possible that he did nothing
for the Roman university because he considered Florence sufficient for
the humanistic needs of Italy, and his own Alma Mater for the graver
studies of the three professions. Still this neglect is noticeable in
the case of a Pontiff whose one public aim was to restore Rome to the
rank of a metropolis, and whose chief private interest was study.

[Footnote 194: Vespasiano, pp. 25, 27.]

The most permanent benefit conferred by him on Roman studies was the
foundation of the Vatican Library, on which he spent about 40,000
scudi forming a collection of some 5,000 volumes.[195] He employed the
best scribes, and obtained the rarest books; nor was there anyone in
Italy better qualified than himself to superintend the choice and
arrangement of such a library. It had been his intention to place it
in S. Peter's and to throw it open to the public; but he died before
this plan was matured. It remained for Sixtus IV. to carry out his

[Footnote 195: _Ibid._ p. 38.]

During the pontificate of Nicholas Rome became a vast workshop of
erudition, a factory of translations from Greek into Latin. These
were done for the most part by Greeks who had an imperfect knowledge
of Latin, and by Italians who had not complete mastery of Greek. The
work achieved was unequal and of no great permanent value; yet for the
time being it served a purpose of utility, nor could the requirements
of the age have been so fully satisfied by any other method. Nearly
all the eminent scholars at that time in Italy were engaged in this
labour. How liberally they were rewarded may be gathered from the
following details. Lorenzo Valla obtained 500 scudi for his version of
Thucydides; Guarino received the larger sum of 1,500 scudi for Strabo;
Perotti 500 ducats for Polybius; while Manetti was pensioned at the
rate of 600 scudi per annum to enable him to carry on his sacred
studies. Nicholas delighted in Greek history. Accordingly, Appian was
translated by Piero Candido Decembrio, Diodorus Siculus and the
'Cyropædia' of Xenophon by Poggio,[196] Herodotus by Valla. Valla and
Decembrio were both engaged upon the 'Iliad' in Latin prose; but the
dearest wish of Nicholas in his last years was to see the poems of
Homer in the verse of Filelfo. Nor were the Greeks then resident in
Italy neglected. To Georgios Trapezuntios the Pope entrusted the
'Physics,' 'Problems,' and 'Metaphysics' of Aristotle. The same
scholar tried his hand at the 'Laws' of Plato, and, in concert with
Decembrio, produced a version of the 'Republic.' Gregorios Tifernas
undertook the 'Ethics' of Aristotle, and Theodorus Gaza the 'History
of Animals.' To this list should be added the Greek Fathers,
Theophrastus, Ptolemy, and minor works which it would be tedious to

[Footnote 196: The latter was intended for Alfonso of Naples.]

[Footnote 197: Tiraboschi is the authority for these details.]

The profuse liberality of Nicholas brought him thus into relation with
the whole learned world of Italy. Among the humanists who resided at
his Court in Rome, mention must be made of Lorenzo Valla, who was
appointed Apostolic Scriptor in 1447, and who opened a school of
eloquence in 1450. Piero Candido Decembrio obtained the post of
secretary and overseer of the Abbreviators.[198] Giovanni Tortello, of
Arezzo, the author of a useful book on the orthography of Greek words,
superintended the Pope's library. Piero da Noceto, whose tomb in the
cathedral at Lucca is one of Matteo da Civitale's masterpieces, was
private secretary and comptroller of the Pope's affairs. Of the circle
gathered round Bessarion I shall have occasion to speak later on. Our
present attention must be concentrated on a man who, more even than
Nicholas himself, might claim the right to give his own name to this
age of learning.

[Footnote 198: The more complete notices which Valla and Decembrio
deserve will be given in the history of scholarship at Naples and at

Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini is better known in the annals of
literature as Poggio Fiorentino, though he was not made a burgher of
Florence until late in life. Born in 1380 at Terranova, a village of
the Florentine _contado_, he owed his education to Florence. In Latin
he was the pupil of John of Ravenna, and in Greek of Manuel
Chrysoloras. During his youth he supported himself by copying MSS. for
the Florentine market. Coluccio Salutato and Niccolo de' Niccoli
befriended the young student, who entered as early as the year 1402 or
1403 into the Papal Chancery.[199] Though Poggio's life for the
following half-century was spent in the service of the Roman Curia, he
refused to take orders in the Church, and remained at heart a
humanist. With the Florentine circle of scholars he maintained an
unremitting correspondence, sending them notices of his discoveries in
the convents of Switzerland and Germany, receiving from them literary
gossip in return, joining in their disputes, and more than once
engaging in fierce verbal duels to befriend his Medicean allies. His
duties and his tastes alike made him a frequent traveller, and not the
least of the benefits conferred by him upon posterity are his pictures
of foreign manners. At the Council of Constance, for example, he saw
and heard Jerome of Prague, in whom he admired the firmness and
intrepid spirit of a Cato.[200] At Baden in Switzerland he noticed the
custom, strange to Italian eyes, of men and women bathing together,
eating, drinking, and playing at chess or cards upon floating tables
in the water, while visitors looked down upon them from galleries
above, as they now do at Leukerbad.[201] In England he observed that
the gentry preferred residence in their country houses and secluded
parks to the town life then, as now, fashionable in Italy, and
commented upon the vast wealth and boorish habits of the great
ecclesiastics.[202] Concerning his discoveries of MSS. I have had
already occasion to write; nor need I here repeat what I have said
about his antiquarian researches among the ruins of ancient Rome.
Poggio was a man of wide sympathies, active curiosity, and varied
interests--no mere bookworm, but one whose eyes and mind were open to
the world around him.

[Footnote 199: Of his debt to Niccolo de' Niccoli Poggio speaks with
great warmth of feeling in a letter on his death addressed to Carlo
Aretino: 'Quem enim patrem habui cui plus debuerim quam Nicolao? Hic
mihi parens ab adolescentiâ, hic postmodum amicus, hic studiorum
meorum adjutor atque hortator fuit, hic consilio, libris, opibus
semper me ut filium et amicum fovit atque adjuvit.'--_Poggii Opera,
Basileæ, ex ædibus Henrici Petri_, MDXXXVIII. p. 342. To this edition
of Poggio's works my future references are made.]

[Footnote 200: 'Stabat impavidus, intrepidus, mortem non contemnens
solum sed appetens ut alterum Catonem dixeris.'--_Opp. Omnia_, p. 301.
This most interesting letter, addressed to Lionardo Bruni, is
translated by Shepherd, _Life of Poggio Bracciolini_, pp. 78-88.]

[Footnote 201: _Opera Omnia_, p. 297. See Shepherd, pp. 67-76, for a
translation of this letter to Niccolo de' Niccoli.]

[Footnote 202: Cardinal Beaufort had invited him to England.]

In literature he embraced the whole range of contemporary studies,
making his mark as a public orator, a writer of rhetorical treatises
and dialogues, a panegyrist of the dead, a violent impeacher and
impugner of the living, a translator from the Greek, an elegant
epistolographer, a grave historian, and a facetious compiler of
anecdotes and epigrams. He possessed a style at once easy and pointed,
correct in diction and varied in cadence, equally adapted for serious
discourse and witty trifling, and not less formidable in abuse than
delicate in flattery. This at least was the impression which his
copious and facile Latin, always fluent and yet always full of sense,
produced on his contemporaries. For us its finest flights of rhetoric
have lost their charm, and its best turns of phrase their point. So
impossible is it that the fashionable style of one age should retain
its magic for posterity, unless it be truly classical in form, or
weighted with sound thought, or animated with high inspiration. Just
these qualities were missed by Poggio and his compeers. Setting no
more serious aim before them than the imitation of Livy and Cicero,
Seneca and Cæsar, they fell far short of their originals; nor had they
matter to make up for their defect of elegance. Poggio's treatises 'De
Nobilitate,' 'De Varietate Fortunæ,' 'De Miseriâ Humanæ Conditionis,'
'De Infelicitate Principum,' 'An Seni sit Uxor ducenda,' 'Historia
Disceptiva Convivialis,' and so forth, were as interesting to Italy in
the fifteenth century as Voltaire's occasional essays to our more
immediate ancestors. His controversial writings passed for models of
destructive eloquence, his satires on the clergy for masterpieces of
sarcastic humour, his Florentine history for a supreme achievement in
the noblest Latin manner. Yet the whole of this miscellaneous
literature seems coarse and ineffective to the modern taste. We read
it, not without repugnance, in order to obtain an insight into the
spirit of the author's age.

Two important points in Poggio's biography will serve to illustrate
the social circumstances of the humanists. The first is the attitude
adopted by him toward the churchmen, with whom he passed the best
years of his life in close intimacy; the second, his fierce warfare
waged with rivals and opponents in the field of scholarship. Though
Poggio served the Church for half a century, no one exposed the vices
of the clergy with more ruthless sarcasm, or turned the follies of the
monks to ridicule with more relentless scorn. After reading his
'Dialogue against the Hypocrites,' his 'Invective against Felix the
Antipope,' and his 'Facetiæ,' it is difficult to understand how a
satirist who knew the weak points of the Church so intimately, and
exposed them so freely, could have held high station and been honoured
in the Papal Curia. They confirm in the highest degree all that has
been written in the previous volume about the division between
religion and morality in Italy, the cynical self-satisfaction of the
clergy, and the secular indifference of the Papacy, proving at the
same time the proudly independent position which the talents of the
humanists had won for them at Rome. At the end of the 'Facetiæ'--a
collection of grossly indecent and not always very witty
stories--Poggio refers to the meetings with which he and his comrades
entertained themselves after the serious business of the day was
over.[203] Their place of resort was in the precincts of the Lateran,
where they had established a club which took the name of 'Bugiale,' or
Lie Factory.[204] Apostolic secretaries, writers to the Chancery,
protonotaries, and Papal scribes here met together after laying down
the pens they had employed in drafting Bulls and dispensations,
encyclical letters and diplomatic missives. To make puns, tell
scandalous stories, and invent amusing plots for novelettes was the
chief amusement of these Roman wits. Their most stinging shafts of
satire were reserved for monks and priests; but they spared no class
or profession, and made free with the names of living persons.[205]
Against the higher clergy it might not have been safe to utter even
the truth, except in strictest privacy, seeing that preferment had to
be expected from the Sacred College and the Holy Father. The mendicant
orders and the country parsons, therefore, bore the brunt of their
attack, while the whole tone of their discourse made it clear how
little they respected the religion and the institutions of the Church.
Such fragments of these conversations as Poggio thought fit to
preserve, together with anecdotes borrowed from the 'Cent Nouvelles
nouvelles' and other sources, he committed to Latin, and printed in
the later years of his life. The title given to the book was
'Facetiarum Liber.' It ran speedily through numerous editions, and was
read all over Europe with the same eagerness that the 'Epistolæ
Obscurorum Virorum' afterwards excited. Underneath its ribaldry and
nonsense, however, there lay no serious intention. The satires on the
clergy were contemptuous and flippant, arguing more liking on the part
of their author for scurrilous jests than any earnest wish to prove
the degradation of monasticism. Not a word of censure from the Vatican
can I find recorded against this marvellous production of a Papal
secretary's pen. Here, by way of illustration, it may be mentioned
that Filelfo, on his way through Rome to Naples, placed his
satires--the most nauseous compositions that coarse spite and filthy
fancy ever spawned--in the hands of Nicholas V. The Pope retained them
for nine days, read them, returned them with thanks, and rewarded
their author with a purse of 500 ducats.

[Footnote 203: _Poggi Florentini Facetiarum Libellus Unicus_, Londini,
1798, vol. i. p. 282.]

[Footnote 204: 'Mendaciorum veluti officina' is Poggio's own
explanation of the phrase.]

[Footnote 205: 'Ibi parcebatur nemini, in lacessendo ea quæ non
probabantur a nobis.']

The 'Dialogue against the Hypocrites' contains less of mere
scurrility and more that bears with real weight on the vices of the
clergy. Begging friars, preachers, confessors, and aspirants to the
fame of holiness are cited by name and scourged with pitiless
impartiality, while the worldly ambition of the Roman churchmen is
unmasked. The 'Fratres Observantiæ,' who flourished under Pope
Eugenius, receive stern castigation at the hands of Carlo Aretino.
Shepherd remarks, not without justice, on this dialogue that, had the
author 'ventured to advance the sentiments which it contains in the
days of Eugenius, he would in all probability have expiated his
temerity by the forfeit of his life.[206] Nicholas V., who appreciated
the pungency of its satiric style, instead of resenting its free
speech, directed his friend Poggio's pen against his rival Felix.
Raised to the Papacy by the Council of Basle in 1439, Amadeus, the
ex-Duke of Savoy, still persisted in his Papal title after the
election of Nicholas; and though the Sovereign of the Vatican could
well afford to scorn the hermit of Ripaille, he thought it prudent to
discharge the heavy guns of humanistic eloquence against the Antipope.
A ponderous invective was the result, wherein Poggio described the
unfortunate Felix as 'another Cerberus,' 'a rapacious wolf,' 'a golden
calf,' 'a perverter of the faith and foe to true religion,' 'a high
priest of malignity,' 'a roaring lion'--stigmatising the Council to
whom he owed his election as 'that sink of iniquity the Synagogue of
Basle,' 'a monstrous birth,' 'conventicle of reprobates,' 'tumultuary
band of debauched men,' 'apostates, fornicators, ravishers, deserters,
men convicted of most shameful crimes, blasphemers, rebels against
God.'[207] To such amenities of controversial rhetoric did even Popes
descend, substituting sound and fury for sense, and trusting to
vituperation in the absence of more valid arguments.

[Footnote 206: _Life of Poggio_, p. 423.]

[Footnote 207: _Opera Omnia_, pp. 155-164.]

Poggio, next to Filelfo, was the most formidable gladiator in that age
of literary duellists. 'In his invectives he displayed such
vehemence,' writes Vespasiano,[208] 'that the whole world was afraid
of him.' Even Alfonso of Naples found it prudent to avert his anger by
a timely present of 600 ducats, when Poggio complained of his
remissness in acknowledging the version of Xenophon's 'Cyropædia,'[209]
and hinted at the same time that a scholar's pen was powerful enough
to punish kings for their ingratitude. The overtures, again, made to
Poggio by Filippo Maria Visconti, and the consideration he received
from Cosimo de' Medici, testified to the desire of princes for the
goodwill of a spiteful and unscrupulous pamphleteer.[210] The most
celebrated of Poggio's feuds with men of letters began when Filelfo
assailed the character of Cosimo, and satirised the whole society of
Florence in 1433. The full history of Filelfo's animosity against the
Florentines belongs to the biography of that famous scholar. It is
enough here to mention that he ridiculed Cosimo under the name of
Mundus, described Poggio as Bambalio, Carlo Aretino as Codrus, and
Niccolo de' Niccoli as Outis,[211] accusing them of literary
imbecility, and ascribing to them all the crimes and vices that
disgrace humanity. Poggio girded up his loins for the combat, and, in
reply to Filelfo's ponderous hexameters, discharged a bulky invective
in prose against the common adversary. This was answered by more
satires, Poggio replying with new invectives. The quarrel lasted over
many years; when, having heaped upon each other all the insults it is
possible for the most corrupt imagination to conceive, they joined
hands and rested from the contest.[212] To sully these pages with
translations of Poggio's rank abuse would be impossible. I must
content myself with referring readers, who are anxious to gain a more
detailed acquaintance with the literary warfare of that age, to the
excerpts preserved by Shepherd and Rosmini.[213] Suffice it to say
that he poured a torrent of the filthiest calumnies upon Filelfo's
wife and mother, that he accused Filelfo himself of the basest vice in
youth and the most flagrant debauchery in manhood, that he represented
him as a public thief, a professed cut-purse, a blasphemous atheist,
soiled with sordid immoralities of every kind, and driven by his
exposed felonies from town to town in search of shelter for his hated
head. Filelfo replied in the same strain. All the resources of the
Latin language were exhausted by the combatants in their endeavours to
befoul each other's character, and the lowest depths of human nature
were explored to find fresh accusations. The learned world of Italy
stood by applauding, while the valiant antagonists, like gladiators of
the Roman arena, plied their diverse weapons, the one discharging
darts of verse, the other wielding a heavy club of prose.[214]
Unhappily, there was enough of scandalous material in both their lives
to give some colour to their accusations. Yet the virulence with which
they lied against each other defeated its own object. Raking that
literary dunghill, it is now impossible to distinguish the true from
the false; all proportion is lost in the mass of overcharged and
indiscriminate scurrility. That such encounters should have been
enjoyed and applauded by polite society is one of the strangest signs
of the times; and that the duellists themselves should have imagined
they were treading in the steps of Cicero and Demosthenes is even more

[Footnote 208: P. 422.]

[Footnote 209: _Ibid._ p. 423.]

[Footnote 210: See the correspondence between Filippo Maria and
Poggio, _Opp._ pp. 333-358. Letter to Cosimo, p. 339.]

[Footnote 211: 'The World, the Stammering Simpleton, the Execrable
Poet, and the Nobody.' See _Auree Francisci Philelphi Poete
Oratorisque Celeberrimi Satyre_. Paris, 1508. Passim.]

[Footnote 212: _Opp. Omn._ pp. 164-187. The first invective is the
most venomous, and deserves to be read in the original. The last,
entitled 'Invectiva Excusatoria et Reconciliatoria,' is amusing from
its tone of sulky and sated exhaustion.]

[Footnote 213: _Life of Poggio_, pp. 263-272, 354. _Vita di Filelfo._]

[Footnote 214: The language of the arena was used by these literary
combatants. Thus Valla, in the exordium of his _Antidote_, describes
his weapon of attack in this sentence:--'Hæc est mea fusana,
quandoquidem gladiator a gladiatore fieri cogor, et ea duplex et
utraque tridens,' p. 9.]

The dispute with Filelfo was rather personal than literary. Another
duel into which Poggio entered with Guarino turned upon the respective
merits of Scipio and Julius Cæsar. Poggio had occasion to explain, in
correspondence with a certain Scipione Ferrarese, his reasons for
preferring the character of Scipio Africanus. Guarino, with a view to
pleasing his pupil Lionello d'Este, a professed admirer of Cæsar, took
up the cudgels in defence of the dictator,[215] and treated Poggio,
whom he called Cæsaromastix, with supreme contempt. Poggio replied in
a letter to the noble Venetian scholar Francesco Barbaro.[216] Hard
words were exchanged on both sides, and the antagonists were only
reconciled on the occasion of Poggio's marriage in 1435. Rome,
however, was the theatre of his most celebrated exploits as a
disputant. It chanced one day that he discovered a copy of his own
epistles annotated by a Spanish nobleman who was a pupil of Lorenzo
Valla.[217] Poggio's Latinity was not spared in the marginal
strictures penned by the young student; and the fiery scholar, flying
to the conclusion that the master, not the pupil, had dictated them,
discharged his usual missile, a furious invective, against Valla. Thus
attacked, the author of the 'Elegantiæ' responded in a similar
composition, entitled 'Antidotum in Poggium,' and dedicated to
Nicholas V.[218] Poggio followed with another invective; nor did the
quarrel end till he had added five of these disgusting compositions to
his previous achievements in the same style, and had drawn a young
Latinist of promise, Niccolo Perotti, into the disgraceful fray.[219]
What makes the termination of the squabble truly comic is that
Filelfo, himself the worst offender in this way, was moved at last to
write a serious letter of admonishment to the contending parties,
exhorting them to consult their own dignity and to lay down arms.[220]
Concerning the invectives and antidotes by which this war was carried
on Tiraboschi writes, 'Perhaps they are the most infamous libels that
have ever seen the light; there is no sort of vituperation which the
antagonists do not vomit forth against each other, no obscenity and
roguery of which they are not mutually accused.'

[Footnote 215: See Rosmini, _Vita di Guarino da Verona_, vol. ii. p.

[Footnote 216: _Poggii Opera_, p. 365.]

[Footnote 217: 'Adolescens quidam auditor meus,' says Valla in the
_Antidotum_, p. 2. The story is told at length, p. 151. I quote from
the Cologne edition of 1527: 'Laurentii Vallæ viri clarissimi in
Pogium Florentinum antidoti libri quatuor: in eundem alii duo libelli
in dialogo conscripti.']

[Footnote 218: See Shepherd's _Poggio_, pp. 470, 471, for specimens of
the scurrility on both sides.]

[Footnote 219: The invectives against Valla fill from p. 188 to p. 251
of Poggio's collected works. Part of them is devoted to a defence of
his own Latinity, and to a critique of Valla's _Elegantiæ_. But by far
the larger part consists of vehement incriminations. Heresy, theft,
lying, forgery, cowardice, filthy living of the most odious
description, drunkenness, and insane vanity--such are the accusations,
supported with a terrible array of apparent evidence. As in the case
of Filelfo, Poggio does not spare his antagonist's father and mother,
but heaps the vilest abuse upon everyone connected with him. Valla's
_Antidote_ is written in a more tempered spirit and a purer Latin

[Footnote 220: Shepherd, _Life of Poggio_, p. 474.]

The inconceivably slight occasions upon which these learned men rushed
into the arena, and flung dirt upon one another, may be imagined when
we find Lorenzo Valla at feud on the one side with Georgios
Trapezuntios because the one preferred Cicero and the other
Quintilian, and on the other with Benedetto Morando because that
scholar doubted whether Lucius and Aruns were the grandsons of
Tarquinius Priscus. Sometimes private incidents aroused their wrath,
as in the curious rupture between Lionardo Bruni and Niccolo de'
Niccoli at Florence. The story, since it is characteristic of the
time, may be briefly told. Niccolo had stolen his brother's mistress
Benvenuta, and made her his concubine.[221] His relatives, indignant
at the domestic scandal, insulted Benvenuta in the street, and Niccolo
bemoaned himself to all his friends. Lionardo, to whom he applied for
sympathy, very properly observed that a student ought to be better
occupied than with the misfortunes of a kitchen wench. This tart reply
roused Niccolo's bile, and set his caustic tongue wagging against his
old friend; whereupon Lionardo Bruni launched a fierce invective _in
nebulonem maledicum_ against him, and the learned society of Florence
indulged in a free fight on both sides.

[Footnote 221: Ambrogio Traversari, General of the Camaldolese Order,
called her 'fidelissima foemina.']

Such quarrels were not always confined to words. There is no doubt
that the dagger was employed against Filelfo by the Medicean party,
while it now and then happened that the literary gladiators came to
actual fisticuffs. A scene of this sort occurred at Rome in public.
Georgios Trapezuntios complained that the credit of Poggio's
translations from Diodorus and Xenophon really belonged to him, since
he had done the work of them. Poggio shrieked out, 'You lie in your
throat!' Georgios retorted with a box on Poggio's ears. Then Poggio
came to close quarters, catching his adversary by the hair; and the
two professors pommelled each other till their respective pupils
parted them.[222] Such anecdotes might be multiplied indefinitely. Nor
would it be unprofitable to give some account of the vehement warfare
waged in Italy between the Platonists and Aristotelians, were it not
that enough has already been said to illustrate the acrimonious temper
of the times.

[Footnote 222: Tiraboschi, vol. vi. lib. ii. cap. 2, sect. 15.]

The animosity displayed by scholars in these disputes may be taken as
a proof of their enthusiasm for their studies. Men have always
quarrelled about politics, because politics furnish matter of profound
interest to everyone. Theology, for a similar reason, never fails to
rouse the deepest rancours, hatreds, and hostilities of which the
human breast is capable. Science, as we know from the annals of our
days, sets the upholders of antagonistic theories by the ears; and at
times when politics have been dull, theology dormant, and science
undemonstrative, even music has been found sufficient to excite a
nation. In the fifteenth century scholarship was all-absorbing. It
corresponded to science in our age, since it engaged the talents of
the strongest workers and supplied the sources of progressive
intellectual discovery. Moreover, it included both philosophy and
theology, and formed the most attractive topic in all conversation. No
wonder, therefore, that the limpid fountains of classical erudition
were troubled by the piques and jealousies of students.

It is pleasant to turn from Poggio's wrangling to more honourable
passages in his biography. Since the year 1434 he had owned a farm not
far from Florence. Here he built a country residence, vying, if not in
splendour, at least in elegance, with the villas of the Florentine
burghers. He called it his Valdarniana, and adorned it with the
fragments of antique sculpture, inscriptions, and coins, collected by
him partly in person on the Roman Campagna and partly by purchase from
Greece. In the following year (1435) Poggio, then a man of fifty-five,
married a girl of eighteen, named Vaggia, of the noble Buondelmonte
blood. In forming this connection he had to separate from a mistress
who had borne him fourteen children, four of them then living. His
biographer, Shepherd, indulges in some sentimental reflections upon
the pain this leave-taking must have cost him. Yet the impartial
critic will hardly be brought to pity Poggio, seeing that he cancelled
the brief whereby he had previously legitimised his natural children,
and responded with raptures to the congratulations of friends upon his
new engagement. He had already been admitted to the burghership of
Florence, and exempted from its taxes in consideration of his literary
services; so that, on the death of his friend Carlo Aretino, in 1453,
no one was found more fitting for the post of Chancellor to the
Republic. As an increase of dignity, Poggio fulfilled the office of
Prior, and sat among the Signory. The 'History of the Florentine
Republic,' written in continuation of Lionardo Aretino's, occupied the
closing years of his life. He left it still unfinished in the year
1459, when he died, and was buried in the Church of Santa Croce. I
cannot find that his funeral was accompanied by the peculiar honours
voted in the case of his two predecessors. The Florentines, however,
erected his statue on the façade of Santa Maria del Fiore, and placed
his picture by Antonio dal Pollajuolo in the hall of the Proconsolo.
The fate of this statue, a work of Donatello's, was not a little
curious. On the occasion of some alterations in 1560, it was removed
from its first station, and set up as one among the Twelve Apostles in
another part of the cathedral.

Any survey of the Court of Nicholas V. would be incomplete without
some notice of the Cardinal Bessarion. Early in life he rose to high
station in the Greek Church, and attended the Council of Florence as
Archbishop of Nicea. Eugenius IV., by making him a cardinal in 1439,
converted him to the Latin faith; and, as it so happened, he missed
the Papacy almost by an accident thirty-two years later.[223] His
palace at Rome became the meeting-place of scholars of all
nations,[224] where refugee Greeks in particular were sure of finding
hearty welcome. In obedience to the reigning passion for
book-collecting, he got together a considerable library of Greek and
Latin authors, the number of which Vespasiano estimated at 600
volumes, while Platina reckoned their total cost at 30,000 scudi. In
1468 he offered this collection to the Church of S. Mark at Venice.
The Republic accepted his gift, but showed no alacrity to build the
library. It was not until the next century that Bessarion's books
were finally housed according to their dignity.[225] The Cardinal's
own studies lay in the direction of theological philosophy. We have
already seen that in his youth he was a pupil of Gemistos, and he now
appears as the defender of Plato. Georgios Trapezuntios had published
a treatise in the year 1458, in which, on the pretence of upholding
Aristotle, he vilified Plato's moral character, accused him of having
ruined Greece, and maintained that Mahomet was a far better
legislator. Bessarion replied by the oration 'In Calumniatorem
Platonis,' vindicating the morality of the philosopher and supporting
him against Aristotle. This book was printed by Sweynheim and Pannartz
in the infancy of the Roman press. Theodoros Gaza,[226] who, on his
settlement in Rome in 1450, had been received into Bessarion's
household, entered the lists with a critique of Gemistos; to which
Bessarion replied: and so the warfare begun by Gennadios at Byzantium
was continued by the Greek exiles at Rome. The titles of the works
issued in this contest, among which we find 'De Naturâ et Arte,'
'Utrum Natura Consilio Agat,' 'Comparationes Philosophorum Aristotelis
et Platonis,' sufficiently indicate the extent of ground traversed.
The chief result was the rousing of Italian scholars to weightier
points of issue in philosophy than had at first been raised by
mystical Neoplatonists and pedantic Peripatetics.

[Footnote 223: Vespasiano, p. 146.]

[Footnote 224: See Platina's panegyric, quoted by Tiraboschi, vol. vi.
lib. i. cap. 3, 22. Platina and Perotti were among his Italian

[Footnote 225: A striking instance of the want of literary enthusiasm
at Venice.]

[Footnote 226: He first came to Italy in 1430, professed Greek at
Ferrara from 1441 to 1450, and died in Campania about 1478. He
translated many works of Aristotle. His own book on Grammar was
printed by Aldus in 1495.]

Among the Greeks protected by Bessarion, passing notice may be made of
Andronicus Callistus, whose lectures found less favour at Rome than
they afterwards obtained at Florence, where he had the great Poliziano
for his pupil. He was one of the first of the Greeks to seek fortune
in France.[227] Nor must Demetrius Chalcondylas be omitted, who fled
from Byzantium to Rome about the year 1447, and afterwards professed
Greek in the University of Perugia. A letter written by one of his
pupils, Gian Antonio Campano,[228] gives such an agreeable impression
of the effect he produced in the city of the Baglioni, that I will
translate a portion of it. 'A Greek has just arrived, who has begun to
teach me with great pains, and I to listen to his precepts with
incredible pleasure, because he is a Greek, because he is Athenian,
and because he is Demetrius. It seems to me that in him is figured all
the wisdom, the civility, and the elegance of those so famous and
illustrious ancients. Merely seeing him, you fancy you are looking on
Plato; far more when you hear him speak.' It was a young man of
twenty-three who wrote this, the companion, probably, of such
magnificent youths as Signorelli loved to paint and Matarazzo to
describe.[229] It is interesting to compare this letter with the
panegyric passed upon Ognibene da Lonigo five years after his death by
Bartolommeo Pagello in an oration delivered at Vicenza. The young men
of Vicenza, said the rhetorician, left their dice, their duels, their
wine cups, and their loves to listen to this humanist; his learning
wrought a reformation in the morals of the town.[230] Such were the
fascinations of scholarship in the fifteenth century.

[Footnote 227: Raffaello Volaterrano, quoted by Tiraboschi, vol. vi.
lib. iii. cap. 2, 16.]

[Footnote 228: See Tiraboschi, vol. vi. lib. iii. cap. 2, 17.]

[Footnote 229: See my _Sketches in Italy and Greece_, article

[Footnote 230: Tiraboschi, vol. vi. lib. iii. cap. 5, 46.]

The Greeks hitherto mentioned quitted their country before the capture
of Constantinople. It is, therefore, wrong to ascribe to that event
the importation of Hellenic studies into Italy. Their Italian pupils
carried on the work they had begun, with wider powers and nobler
energy. All the great Grecians of the third age of humanism are
Italians. Florence received learning from Byzantium at the very moment
when the Greek Empire was about to be extinguished, and spread it far
and wide through Europe, herself achieving by far the largest and most
arduous portion of the task.

In passing down to Naples, we find a marked change in the external
conditions under which literature flourished. Men of learning at the
Courts of Italy occupied a position different from that of their
brethren in the Papal Chancery. They had to suit their habits to the
customs of the Court and camp, to place their talents at the service
of their patron's pleasure, to entertain him in his hours of idleness,
to frame compliments and panegyrics, and to repay his bounty by the
celebration of his deeds in histories and poems. Their footing was
less official, more subject to the temper and caprices of the reigning
sovereign, than at Rome; while the peculiar advantages, both political
and social, which, even under the sway of the Medicean family, made
Florence a real republic of letters, existed in no other town of

At Naples there was no such thing as native culture. The semi-feudal
nobility of the South were addicted to field sports, feats of arms,
and idleness. The people of the country were sunk in barbarism. In the
cities there was no middle class analogous to that of the more
northerly republics. Nevertheless, the kingdom of the Two Sicilies
played an important part in the development of Italian literature.
While the Mussulmans held sway at Palermo, Sicily was the most refined
and enlightened state of Southern Europe. Under the Norman dynasty
this Arabic civilisation began to influence North Italy, and during
the reign of Frederick II. Naples bade fair to become the city of
illumination for the modern world. The failure of Frederick's attempt
to restore life to arts and letters in the thirteenth century belongs
to the history of his warfare with the Church. What his courtiers
effected for the earliest poetry of the Italians is told by Dante in
the treatise 'De Vulgari Eloquio.' For our present purpose it is
enough to notice that the zeal for knowledge planted by the Arabs,
tolerated by the Normans, and fostered by the House of Hohenstauffen
in the south of Italy, was an exotic which took no deep root in the
people. No national poem was produced in the golden age of Frederick's
brief supremacy; no stories are told of Neapolitan carters and boatmen
reciting the sonnets of his courtiers. As culture began, so it
continued to exist at Naples--flourishing at intervals in close
connection with the sovereign's taste, and owing to local influences
not life and vigour, but colour and complexion, suavity and softness,
caught from the surrounding beauties of the sea and shore.

Each of the dynasties which held the throne of the Two Sicilies could
boast a patron of literature. Robert of Anjou was proud to call
himself the friend of Petrarch, and Boccaccio found the flame of
inspiration at his Court.[231] In the second age of humanism, with
which we are now occupied, Alfonso of Aragon deserved the praise
bestowed on him by Vespasiano of being, next to Nicholas V., the most
munificent promoter of learning.[232] His love of letters was genuine.
After making all deductions for the flattery of official
historiographers, it is clear that Alfonso found his most enduring
satisfaction in the company of students, listening to their debates on
points of scholarship, attending their public lectures, employing them
in the perusal of ancient poets and historians, insisting on their
presence in his camp, and freely supplying them with money for the
purchase of books and for their maintenance while engaged in works of
erudition. Vespasiano relates that Beccadelli's daily readings to his
master were not interrupted during the campaign of 1443, when Alfonso
took the field against Francesco Sforza's armies in the March.[233]
The Neapolitan captains might be seen gathered round their monarch,
listening to the scholar's exposition of Livy, instead of wasting
their leisure at games of hazard. Beccadelli himself professes to have
cured an illness of Alfonso's in three days by reading aloud to him
Curtius's Life of Alexander, while Lorenzo Valla describes the
concourse of students to his table during the recitations of Virgil or
of Terence.[234] Courtiers with no taste for scholarship were excluded
from these literary meetings; but free access was given to poor youths
who sought to profit by the learning of the lecturers. The king,
meantime, sat at meat, now and then handing fruits or confectionery to
refresh the reader when his voice seemed failing. His passion for the
antique assumed the romantic character common in that age. When the
Venetians sent him one of the recently discovered bones of Livy, he
received it like the relic of a saint; nor could the fears of his
physicians prevent him from opening and reading the MS. of Livy
forwarded from Florence by Cosimo de' Medici, who was then suspected
of wishing to poison him. On his military excursions he never
neglected the famous sites of antiquity, saluting the _genius loci_
with pious thanks at Ovid's birthplace, and expressly forbidding his
engineers to trespass on the site of Cicero's villa at Gaeta.[235]
Alfonso was no less assiduous than his contemporaries in the
collection of books. The Palace library at Naples was his favourite
place of recreation; here Giannozzo Manetti found him among his
scholars on the famous occasion when the king sat through a long
congratulatory oration like a brazen statue, without so much as
brushing away the flies that settled on his face. His MSS. were
dispersed when Charles VIII. occupied Naples, and what became of them
is doubtful.[236]

[Footnote 231: I may refer to Petrarch's Letters passim, and to the
solemn peroration of the _Africa_.]

[Footnote 232: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, pp. 445, 446.]

[Footnote 233: _Vita di Alfonso_, p. 59. _Vita di Manetti_, p. 451.]

[Footnote 234: See Tiraboschi, vol. vi. lib. i. cap. 2, 17.]

[Footnote 235: Pontano, _De Principe_, and Panormita, _De Dictis et
Factis Alphonsi Regis_, furnish these anecdotes.]

[Footnote 236: The MS. of Livy referred to above is now in the library
at Holkham; see Roscoe's _Lorenzo_, p. 389.]

Among the humanists who stood nearest to the person of this monarch,
Antonio Beccadelli, called from his birthplace Il Panormita, deserves
the first place. Born at Palermo in 1394, he received his education at
Siena, where he was a fellow-student with Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini.
The city of Siena, _molles Senæ_, as the poet himself called it, was
notorious throughout Italy for luxury of living. Here, therefore, it
may be presumed that Beccadelli in his youth enjoyed the experiences
which he afterwards celebrated in 'Hermaphroditus.'[237] Nothing is
more striking in that amazing collection of elegies than the frankness
of their author, the free and liberal delight with which he dwells on
shameless sensualities, and the pride with which he publishes his own
name to the world. Dedicated to Cosimo de' Medici, welcomed with
applause by the grey-headed Guarino da Verona,[238] extolled to the
skies by Antonio Losco, eagerly sought after by Bartolommeo, Bishop of
Milan--this book, which Strato and Martial might have blushed to own,
passed from copyist to copyist, from hand to hand. Among the learned
it found no serious adversaries. Poggio, indeed, gently reminded the
poet that even the elegance of its Latinity and the heat of its
author's youth were hardly sufficient excuses for its wantonness.[239]
Yet the almost unanimous verdict of students was favourable. Its open
animalism, as free from satire as from concealment, took the world by
storm; while the facile elegance of fluent verse with which the sins
of Sodom and Gomorrha were described placed it, in the opinion of
scholars, on a level with Catullus.[240] When the Emperor Sigismund
crowned Beccadelli poet at Siena in 1433, he only added the weight of
Imperial approval to the verdict of the lettered public.

[Footnote 237: Published at Paris in 1791 among _Quinque illustrium
Poetarum Lusus in Venerem_, and again at Coburg in 1824, with
annotations by F.G. Forberg.]

[Footnote 238: A man of about sixty-three, and father of twelve
legitimate children.]

[Footnote 239: _Poggii Opera_, pp. 349-354.]

[Footnote 240: Poggio, while professing to condemn the scandals of
these poems, writes thus:--'Delectatus sum mehercle varietate rerum et
elegantiâ versuum, simulque admiratus sum res adeo impudicas, adeo
ineptas, tam venuste, tam composite, a te dici, atque ita multa
exprimi turpiuscula ut non enarrari sed agi videantur, nec ficta a te
jocandi causâ, ut existimo, sed acta existimari possint.'--_Poggii
Opera_, p. 349.]

The Church could not, however, tolerate the scandal. Ever since the
days of Petrarch and Boccaccio, monks had regarded the study of
antique poetry with suspicion. Now their worst fears were realised.
Beccadelli had proved that the vices of renascent Paganism were not
only corrupting Italian society in secret, but that a young scholar of
genius could openly proclaim his participation in the shame, abjure
the first principles of Christian morality, and appeal with confidence
to princes and humanists for sympathy. The Minorite Friars denounced
the 'Hermaphroditus' from their pulpits, and burned it, together with
portraits of the poet, on the public squares of Bologna, Milan, and
Ferrara.[241] Eugenius IV. proscribed the reading of it under penalty
of excommunication. Dignitaries of the Church, who found it in the
hands of their secretaries, did not scruple to tear it to pieces, as a
book forbidden by the Pope and contrary to sound morality.[242] Yet
all this made but little difference to Beccadelli's reputation.[243]
He lectured with honour at Bologna and Pavia, received a stipend of
800 scudi from the Visconti, and in 1435 was summoned to the Court of
Naples. Alfonso raised him to the rank of noble, and continually
employed him near his person, enjoying his wit, and taking special
delight in his readings of classic authors. As official
historiographer, Beccadelli committed to writing the memorable deeds
and sayings of his royal master.[244] As ambassador and orator, he
represented the King at foreign Courts. As tutor to the Crown Prince,
Ferdinand, he prepared a sovereign for the State of Naples. This
favour lasted till the year 1471, when he died, old, rich, and
respected, in his lovely villa by the Bay of Naples. A more signal
instance of the value attached in this age to pure scholarship,
irrespective of moral considerations, and apart from profound
learning--since Beccadelli was, after all, only an elegant
Latinist--cannot be adduced. The 'Hermaphroditus,' therefore, deserves
a prominent place in the history of Renaissance manners.

[Footnote 241: Especially Bernardino da Siena, Roberto da Lecce, and
Alberto da Sarteano. See the note to p. 353 of Vol. I., _Age of the

[Footnote 242: See Vespasiano, _Vita di Giuliano Cesarini_, p. 134.]

[Footnote 243: A curious letter from Guarino to Beccadelli (Rosmini's
_Vita di Guarino_, vol. ii. p. 44, and notes, p. 171) describes the
enthusiastic reception given in public to an impostor who pretended to
be the author of _Hermaphroditus_.]

[Footnote 244: _De Dictis et Factis Alphonsi Regis Memorabilibus._
Æneas Sylvius wrote a commentary on this work, in the preface to which
he says, 'Legere potui, quod feci, corrigere vero non potui; nam quid
est quod manu tuâ emissum correctione indigeat?'--_Opp. Omnia_, p.
472. This proves Beccadelli's reputation as a stylist.]

Those among us who have had the curiosity to study Beccadelli's
'Hermaphroditus' will find sufficient food for reflection upon his
post of confidence and honour at the Court of Alfonso.[245] Yet the
position of Lorenzo Valla at the same Court is even more remarkable.
While Beccadelli urged the levity of youth in extenuation of his
heathenism, and spoke with late regret of his past follies,[246] Valla
showed the steady front of a deliberate critic, hostile at all points
to the traditions and the morals of the Church. The parents of this
remarkable man were natives of Piacenza, though, having probably been
born at Rome, he assumed to himself the attribute of Roman.[247]
Before he fixed his residence at Naples, he had already won
distinction by a 'Dialogue on Pleasure,' in which he contrasted the
principles of the Stoics and Epicureans, making it clear, in spite of
cautious reservation, that he upheld the rights of the flesh in
opposition to the teaching of philosophies and Churches. The virtue of
virginity, so strongly prized by Christian saints, was treated by him
as a violence to nature's laws, an intolerable torment inflicted upon
man as God has made him.[248]

[Footnote 245: What the biographers, especially Vespasiano, relate of
Alfonso's ceremonious piety and love of theological reading makes the
contrast between him and his Court poet truly astounding.]

[Footnote 246:

     'Hic fæces varias Veneris moresque profanos,
       Quos natura fugit, me docuisse pudet.']

[Footnote 247: 'Romam, in quâ natus sum ... ego sum ortus Romæ
oriundus a Placentiâ.']

[Footnote 248: The naïve surprise with which Vespasiano records the
fact of virginity (see especially the Lives of Ambrogio Traversari and
the Cardinal Portogallo) shows how rare the virtue was, and what
mysterious honour it conferred upon men who were reputed to be

The attack opened by Valla upon the hypocrisies and false doctrines of
monasticism was both powerful and novel. Humanistic freedom of
thought, after assuming the form of witty persiflage in Poggio's
anecdotes and appearing as pure Paganism in Beccadelli's poems, now
put on the sterner mask of common sense and criticism in Lorenzo
Valla. The arms which he assumed in his first encounter with Church
doctrine, he never laid aside. To the end of his life Valla remained
the steady champion of unbiassed criticism, the living incarnation of
that 'verneinender Geist' to which the reason of the modern world has
owed its motive force.

Before leaving Rome at the age of twenty-four, Valla tried to get the
post of Apostolic Secretary, but without success. It is probable that
his youth told less against him than his reputation for plain speech
and fearlessness. In 1431 we hear of him at Pavia, where, according to
the slanders of his enemies,[249] he forged a will and underwent
public penance at the order of the Bishop. This, however, is just one
of those stories on which the general character of the invectives that
contain it, throws uncertainty. Far more to our purpose is the fact
that at this period he became the supreme authority on points of Latin
style in Italy by the publication of his 'Elegantiæ.' True to his own
genius, Valla displayed in this masterly treatise the qualities that
gave him a place unique among the scholars of his day. The forms of
correct Latinity which other men had picked out as they best could by
close adherence to antique models, he subjected to critical analysis,
establishing the art of style on scientific principles.

[Footnote 249: Poggio and Fazio are the authorities for this

When Alfonso invited Valla to Naples in 1437, giving him the post of
private secretary, together with the poet's crown, he must have known
the nature of the man who was to play so prominent a part in the
history of free thought. It is not improbable that the feud between
the House of Aragon and the Papal See, which arose from Alfonso's
imperfect title to the throne of Naples, and was embittered by the
intrigues of the Church, disposed the King to look with favour on the
uncompromising antagonist of Papacy. At all events, Valla's treatise
on 'Constantine's Donation,' which appeared in 1440, assumed the
character of a political pamphlet.[250] The exordium contained fierce
personal abuse of Eugenius IV. and Cardinal Vitelleschi. The body of
the tract destroyed the fabric of lies which had imposed upon the
Christian world for centuries. The peroration ended with a menace.
Worse chastisement was in store for a worldly and simoniacal
priesthood, if the Popes refused to forego their usurped
temporalities, and to confess the sham that criticism had unmasked.
War to the death was thus declared between Valla and Rome. The storm
his treatise excited, raged at first so wildly that Valla thought it
prudent to take flight. He crossed the sea to Barcelona, and remained
there a short while, until, being assured of Alfonso's protection, he
once more returned to Naples. From beneath the shield of his royal
patron, he now continued to shoot arrow after arrow at his enemies,
affirming that the letter of Christ to Abgarus, reported by Eusebius,
was a palpable forgery, exposing the bad Latin style of the Vulgate,
accusing S. Augustine of heresy on the subject of predestination, and
denying the authenticity of the Apostles' Creed. That a simple
humanist, trusting only to his learning, should have dared to attack
the strong places of orthodoxy--its temporalities, its favourite code
of ethics, its creed, and its patristic authorities--may well excite
our admiration. With the stones of criticism and the sling of
rhetoric, this David went up against the Goliath of the Church; and
though he could not slay the Philistine, he planted in his forehead
the first of those many missiles with which the battery of the reason
has assailed tyrannical tradition in the modern world.

[Footnote 250: _De falso Creditâ et Ementitâ Constantini Donatione._]

The friars, whom Valla attacked with frigid scorn, and whose empire
over the minds of men he was engaged in undermining, could not be
expected to leave him quiet. Sermons from all the pulpits of Italy
were launched at the heretic and heathen; the people were taught to
loathe him as a monster of iniquity; and finally a Court of
Inquisition was opened, at the bar of which he was summoned to attend.
To the interrogatories of the inquisitors Valla replied that 'he
believed as Mother Church believed: it was quite true that she _knew_
nothing: yet he believed as she believed.' That was all they could
extract from the disdainful scholar, who, after openly defying them,
walked away to the king and besought him to suspend the sitting of the
Court. Alfonso told the monks that they must leave his secretary
alone, and the process was dropped.

On the death of Eugenius, Nicholas V. summoned Valla to Rome, not to
answer for his heresies and insults at the Papal bar, but to receive
the post of Apostolic Writer, with magnificent appointments. The entry
of Valla into the Roman Curia, though marked by no external ceremony,
was the triumph of humanism over orthodoxy and tradition. We need not
suppose that Nicholas was seeking to bribe a dangerous antagonist to
silence. He simply wanted to attach an illustrious scholar to his
Court, and to engage him in the labour of translation from the Greek.
To heresy and scepticism he showed the indifference of a tolerant and
enlightened spirit; with the friars who hated Valla the Pope in Rome
had nothing whatsoever in common. The attitude assumed by Nicholas on
this occasion illustrates the benefit which learning in the
Renaissance derived from the worldliness of the Papacy. It was not
until the schism of the Teutonic Churches, and the intrusion of the
Spaniards into Italy, that the Court of Rome consistently adopted a
policy of persecution and repression.

A large portion of Valla's biography is absorbed by the history of his
quarrels with Poggio, Georgios Trapezuntios, and other men of mark.
Enough has already been said about these literary feuds; nor need I
allude to them again, except for the purpose of bringing a third
Court-scholar of Alfonso's into notice. Bartolommeo Fazio, a native of
La Spezzia, occupied the position of historiographer at Naples. In
addition to his annals of the life of Alfonso, he compiled a book on
celebrated men, and won the reputation of being the neatest Latinist
in prose of his age. Fazio ventured to criticise the style of Valla,
in whose works he professed to have detected five hundred faults of
language. Eight books of invectives and recriminations were exchanged
between them; and when both died in 1457, this epigram was composed in
celebration of their animosity:--

     Ne vel in Elysiis sine vindice Valla susurret,
       Facius haud multos post obit ipse dies.

The amusement afforded to Roman emperors by fights in the arena, and
to feudal nobles by the squabbles of their fools, seems to have been
extracted by Italian patrons from the duels of well-matched humanists.
What personal jealousies, what anxious competition for the princely
favour, such warfare concealed may be readily imagined; nor is it
improbable that Fazio's attack on Valli was prompted by the covert
spite of Beccadelli. Scarcely less close to the person of Alfonso than
the students with whom we have been occupied, stood Giannantonio
Porcello, a native of Naples. He was distinguished by his command of
versification: the fluency with which he poured fourth Latin elegiacs
and hexameters approached that of an improvisatore of the Molo.
Alfonso sent him to the camp of the Venetians during the war waged by
their general Piccinino in 1452-3 with Sforza. Porcello, who shared
the tent of Piccinino on this occasion, wrote a Latin history of the
campaign in the style of Livy, with moral reflections, speeches, and
all the apparatus of Roman rhetoric. Piccinino figured as Scipio
Æmilianus; Sforza as Hannibal. The work was dedicated to Alfonso.[251]

[Footnote 251: It is printed in Muratori, vol. xx.]

With the exception of Lorenzo Valla,[252] the scholars of the Court of
Naples were stylists and poets rather than men of erudition. Freedom
both of speculation and of morals marked society in Southern Italy,
where the protection of a powerful monarch at war with the Church, and
the license of a luxurious capital, released the humanists from such
slight restraints as public opinion and conventional decorum placed on
them in Rome and Florence.

[Footnote 252: The protection extended to Manetti and to Filelfo
ought, however, to be here mentioned. Nearly all the contemporary
scholars of Italy dedicated works to Alfonso.]

Owing to the marked diversity exhibited by the different states of
Italy, the forms assumed by art and literature are never exactly the
same in any two cities. If the natives of the Two Sicilies were not
themselves addicted to severe scholarship, the lighter kinds of
writing flourished there abundantly, and Naples gave her own peculiar
character to literature. This was not the case with Milan. Yet Milan,
during the reigns of the last Visconti and the first Sforza, claims
attention, owing to the accident of Filelfo's residence at the Ducal
Court. Filippo Maria Visconti was one of the most repulsive tyrants
who have ever disgraced a civilised country. Shut up within his palace
walls among astrologers, minions, and monks, carefully protected from
the public eye, and watched by double sets of mutually suspicious
bodyguards, it was impossible that he should extend the free
encouragement to learned men which we admire at Naples. Around despots
of the stamp of the Visconti there must of necessity reign the
solitude and silence of a desert, where arts and letters cannot
flourish, though Pactolus be poured forth to feed their roots. The
history of humanism at Milan has, therefore, less to do with the city
or the Ducal circle than with the private labours of students allured
to Lombardy by promise of high pay.

Piero Candido Decembrio began life as Filippo Maria's secretary. To
his vigorous pen the student of Italian history owes the minutest and
most vivid sketch now extant of the habits and the vices of a tyrant.
This remains the best title of Decembrio to recollection, though his
works, original and translated, if we may trust his epitaph in S.
Ambrogio, amounted to 127 books when he died in 1447. Contemporary
with Decembrio, Gasparino da Barzizza, of whom mention has already
been made,[253] occupied the place of Court orator and letter-writer.
This office he transmitted to his son, Guiniforte, who was also
employed in the education of Francesco Sforza's children. None of
these men, however, shed much splendour upon Milan; they were simply
the instruments of ducal luxury, part of a prince's parade, at an
epoch when even warlike sovereigns sought to crowd their Courts with
pedagogues and rhetoricians.

[Footnote 253: Above, p. 78.]

With Filelfo the case was different. His singular abilities rendered
him independent of local patronage, and drew universal attention to
any place where he might choose to fix his residence. Of all the
humanists he was the most restless in his humour and erratic in his
movements. Still Milan, during a long period of his life, formed his
headquarters; to Milan he returned when fortune frowned on him
elsewhere; and with Milan his name will always be connected.

Francesco Filelfo was born in 1398 at Tolentino, in the March of
Ancona. He studied grammar, rhetoric, and Latin literature at Padua,
where he was appointed professor at the early age of eighteen. In 1417
he received an invitation to teach eloquence and moral philosophy at
Venice. Here he remained two years, deriving much advantage from the
society of Guarino da Verona and Vittorino da Feltre, and forming
useful connections with the Venetian nobility. Young as he was,
Filelfo had already made his mark, and won the consideration which
attaches to men of decided character and extraordinary powers. The
proof of this is that, after being admitted citizen of Venice by
public decree, he was appointed Secretary to the Baily (_Bailo_, or
Consul-General) of Constantinople through the interest of his friend
Lionardo Giustiniani. Giustiniani having also provided him with money
for his voyage, Filelfo set off in 1419 for the capital of Greek
learning. Of the three Italian teachers--Guarino, Aurispa, and
Filelfo--who made this journey for the express purpose of acquiring
the Greek language and collecting Greek books, Filelfo was by far the
most distinguished. The history, therefore, of his adventures may be
taken as a specimen of what befell them all. The time spent at sea
between Venice and Byzantium was five months; Filelfo did not arrive
till the year 1420 was already well advanced. He put himself at once
under the tuition of John Chrysoloras, the brother of Manuel, whose
influence at the Imperial Court brought Filelfo into favour with John
Palæologus. The young Italian student, having speedily acquired
familiarity with the Greek tongue, received the titles of Secretary
and Counsellor, and executed some important diplomatic missions for
his Imperial master. We hear, for instance, of his being sent to
Sigismund, the German Emperor, at Buda, and of his reciting an
Epithalamial Oration at Cracow on the marriage of King Ladislaus. The
Venetian Baily, again, despatched him to the Court of Amurath II., in
order to negotiate terms of treaty between the Republic and the Turk.

The confidence extended alike by his Venetian and Greek patrons to
Filelfo may well have inclined Chrysoloras to look with favour on the
affection which now sprang up between the Italian stranger and his
daughter Theodora. Theodora was but fourteen years of age; yet her
youth probably suggested no impediment to marriage in the
semi-Oriental society of the Greek capital. That she was connected by
blood with the Imperial family made the alliance honourable to
Filelfo; still there is no sufficient reason to conclude for certain
that the match was so unequal as to justify the malignant suggestions
thrown out at a later date by Poggio.[254] Of ancient blood there was
enough and to spare at Constantinople; but wealth was wanting, while
the talent which rendered Filelfo serviceable to great states and
empires was itself sufficient guarantee for Theodora's maintenance in
a becoming station.

[Footnote 254: 'Itaque Chrysoloras, moerore confectus, compulsus
precibus, malo coactus, filiam tibi nuptui dedit a te corruptam, quæ
si extitisset integra, ne pilum quidem tibi abrasum ab illius natibus
ostendisset. An tu illam unquam duxisses uxorem si virginitatem per te
servare potuisset? Tibi pater illam dedisset profugo, ignobili,
impuro? Primariis suæ civitatis viris servabatur virgo, non tibi,
insulsæ pecudi et asello bipedali, quem ille domi alebat tanquam canem
aliquem solent senio et ætate confectum.'--_Poggii Opp._ p. 167. This
is just one of the tales with which the invectives of that day abound,
and with which it is almost impossible to deal. It may be true; for
certainly Filelfo, by his immorality and grossness in after-life,
justified the worst calumnies that his enemies could invent. Yet there
is little but Poggio's word to prove it, while Rosmini has shown that
Filelfo's position at Byzantium was very different from what his foe
suggests. Tiraboschi accepts the charge as 'not proven;' but he
clearly leans in private against Filelfo, moved by the following
passage from a letter of Ambrogio Traversari:--'Nuper a Guarino accepi
litteras, quibus vehementer in fortunam invehitur quod filiam Joannis
Chrysoloræ clarissimi viri is acceperit, exterus, qui quantum libet
homo bono ingenio, longe tamen illis nuptiis impar esset, queriturque
substomachans uxorem Chrysoloræ venalem habuisse pudicitiam,
moechumque ante habuisse quam socerum.' Vol. vi. lib. iii. cap. v.
21. All that can be said now is that Filelfo's own morality and the
corruption of Byzantine society render a story believed by Guarino and
Traversari, and openly told by Poggio, not improbable.]

Not long after their marriage Filelfo received an offer of the Chair
of Eloquence at Venice, with a stipend of 500 sequins. In 1427,
tempted by the prospect of good pay and growing fame, he landed with
his wife, their infant son, four female slaves, and two men servants
on the quay before S. Mark's.[255] The object of his journey to
Constantinople had been amply attained. After an absence of seven and
a half years, he returned to his native country with Greek learning,
increased reputation, and a large supply of Greek books.[256] His
proud boast, frequently repeated in after-life, that no man living
but himself had mastered the whole literature of the ancients in both
languages, that no one else could wield the prose of Cicero, the verse
of Horace and of Virgil, and the Greek of Homer and of Xenophon with
equal versatility, was not altogether an empty vaunt.[257] We may
indeed smile at his pretension to have surpassed Virgil because he was
an orator, and Cicero because he was a poet, and both of them together
because he could write Greek as well as Latin.[258] We know that his
Latin hexameters are such as not only Virgil but Cicero would have
scorned to own, that his Latin orations would have been hissed before
the Roman rostra, and that his Greek style is at the same time tame
and tumid. Neither he nor his contemporaries were sufficiently
critical to comprehend the force of these objections. They only saw
that he possessed the keys to all the learning of the ancient world,
and that, besides unlocking those treasures for modern students, he
was also competent to give to current thoughts a form that aped the
classic masterpieces each in its own kind. Taken at their lowest
valuation, the claims of Filelfo, well founded in fact, mark him out
as the most universal scholar of his age. A genius he was not: for
while his perceptions were coarse, his intellect was receptive rather
than originative. Of deep thought, true taste, penetrative criticism,
or delicate fancy he knew nothing. The unimaginable bloom of style is
nowhere to be found upon his work. Yet a man of his stamp was needed
at that epoch to act as a focus for the streams of light which flooded
Italy from divers sources, to collect them in himself, and to bequeath
to students of a happier age the ideal of comprehensive scholarship
which Poliziano and Erasmus realised.

[Footnote 255: This retinue shows that Filelfo was at least able to
support a large household.]

[Footnote 256: The catalogue of his library, communicated by him in a
letter to Ambrogio Traversari, shows so clearly what the most
indefatigable student and omnivorous reader of the age, to whom all
the museums and bookshops of Byzantium must have been open, could then
collect, that I will transcribe it:--'Qui mihi nostri in Italiam libri
gesti sunt, horum nomina ad te scribo: alios autem nonnullos per
primas ex Byzantio Venetorum naves opperior. Hi autem sunt Plotinus,
Ælianus, Aristides, Dionysius Halicarnasseus, Strabo Geographus,
Hermogenes, Aristotelis Rhetorice, Dionysius Halicarnasseus de Numeris
et Characteribus, Herodotus, Dio Chrysostomus, Appollonius Pergæus,
Thucydides, Plutarchi Moralia, Proclus in Platonem, Philo Judæus,
Ethica Aristotelis, Ejus magna Moralia et Eudemia, et Oeconomica et
Politica, quædam Theophrasti Opuscula, Homeri Ilias, Odyssea,
Philostrati de Vitâ Appollonii, Orationes Libanii, et aliqui Sermones
Luciani, Pindarus, Aratus, Euripidis Tragoediæ Septem, Theocritus,
Hesiodus, Suidas, Phalaridis, Hippocratis, Platonis et multorum ex
veteribus Philosophis Epistolæ, Demosthenes, Æschinis Orationes et
Epistolæ, Pleraque Xenophontis Opera, Una Lysiæ Oratio, Orphei
Argonautica et Hymni, Callimachus, Aristoteles de Historiis Animalium,
Physica, et Metaphysica, et de Animâ, de Partibus Animalium, et alia
quædam, Polybius, Nonnulli Sermones Chrysostomi, Dionysiaca, et alii
Poetæ plurimi. Habes qui mihi sint, et his utere æque ac tuis.']

[Footnote 257: 'Unum Philelphus audet affirmare, vel insaniente
Candido, neminem esse hâc tempestate, nec fuisse unquam apud Latinos,
quantum constat ex omni hominum memoriâ, qui præter se unum idem unus
tenuerit exercuitque et Græcam pariter et Latinam orationem in omni
dicendi genere et prosâ et versu. Tu si quidem habeas alterum, memora.
Quid taces, homo miserrime?' Letter to Piero Candido Decembrio. Cf.
what P.C. Decembrio wrote to Poggio in 1453:--'Dixit (_i.e._
Philelphus) enim neminem litteras scire præter ipsum, alios
semilatinos et semigræcos esse, se autem principatum inter stultos
obtinere.' Rosmini, vol. iii. p. 150.]

[Footnote 258:

     'Quod si Virgilius superat me carminis ullis
       Laudibus, orator ille ego sum melior.
     Sin Tulli eloquio præstat facundia nostro,
       Versibus ille meis cedit ubique minor.
     Adde quod et linguâ possum hæc præstare Pelasgâ
       Et Latiâ. Talem quem mihi des alium?'

Lib. ix., _De Jocis et Seriis_. _Elegy to Alessandro Sforza._ Reported
by Rosmini, vol. iii. p. 149. One specimen of these boasts may stand
for thousands.]

Filelfo's reception at Venice by no means corresponded to the promises
by which he had been tempted, or to the value which he set on his own
services. The plague was in the city; the nobles had taken flight to
their country houses; and there was no one to attend his lectures. He
therefore very readily accepted an offer sent him from Bologna, and
early in the year 1428 we find him settled in that city as professor
of eloquence and moral philosophy, with a stipend of 450 sequins. He
was not destined to remain there long, however, for the disturbed
state of the town rendered teaching impossible; and when flattering
proposals arrived from the Florentines, he set off in haste and
transferred his whole family across the Apennines from Imola.[259] The
delight which he experienced in viewing the architectural monuments
of Florence, and the enthusiasm he aroused by his stupendous learning
in an audience of unprecedented variety and multitude, are expressed
with almost childish emphasis in his correspondence. 'The whole
State,' he writes,[260] 'is turned to look at me. All men love and
honour me, and praise me to the skies. My name is on every lip. Not
only the leaders of the city, but women also of the noblest birth make
way for me, paying me so much respect that I am ashamed of their
worship. My audience numbers every day four hundred persons, mostly
men advanced in years and of the dignity of senators.' These were the
halcyon days of Filelfo's residence at Florence,[261] when he was
still enjoying the friendship of learned men, receiving new
engagements from the University with augmentations of pay,[262] and
when as yet he had not won the hatred of the Medicean faction. His
industry at this epoch was amazing. He began the day by reading and
explaining the 'Tusculans' and rhetorical treatises of Cicero; then he
proceeded to Livy or Homer; after a brief rest at midday he resumed
his labours with Terence and a Greek author, Thucydides or Xenophon.
On holidays he read Dante to an audience assembled in the Duomo,
bestowing these lectures as a free gift on the people of Florence.
Amid these public labours, the weight of which may be estimated by
remembering what was required of professors in the fifteenth
century,[263] Filelfo still found leisure for private work. He
translated two speeches of Lysias, the 'Rhetoric' of Aristotle, two
Lives of Plutarch, and Xenophon's panegyrics of Agesilaus and the
Spartan institutions.

[Footnote 259: The invitation came from Niccoli, Lionardo Bruni,
Ambrogio Traversari, and Palla Strozzi.]

[Footnote 260: Quoted by Cantù, p. 128.]

[Footnote 261: He stayed there from 1429 till the autumn of 1434.]

[Footnote 262: Engagement renewed October 17, 1431, for two years,
with stipend of 350 sequins; again, in 1433, with stipend of 450

[Footnote 263: See above, pp. 90, 91.]

At the same time he had abundant energy for the prosecution of the
feuds in which he soon found himself engaged with the Florentine
scholars. So great was the arrogance displayed by Filelfo, his
meanness in private life, and his imprudence in public,[264] that even
the men who had invited him became his bitter foes. Niccolo de'
Niccoli, always jealous of superiority, and apt to take offence, was
the first with whom he quarrelled; then followed Carlo Marsuppini and
Ambrogio Traversari, until at last the whole of the Medicean party
were inflamed against him. Filelfo on his side spared neither satires
nor slanders; and when the political crisis, which for a time
depressed the Medicean faction, was impending, he declared himself the
public opponent of Cosimo. Already in the spring of 1433 he had been
stabbed in the face while walking to the University one morning by
Filippo, a cut-throat from Casale; nor does there seem any reason to
doubt that, as Filelfo himself firmly believed, the man was paid to
kill him by the Medici. When the same bravo afterwards followed him to
Siena,[265] Filelfo hired a Greek, by name Antonio Maria, to retaliate
upon his foes in Florence. It is not probable that a merely literary
quarrel would have run to these extremities. Even the foulness of
Poggio's invectives and the fury of Filelfo's satires fail to account
for the intervention of assassins. We know, however, that Filelfo had
not confined himself to calumnies and criticisms of his literary
rivals. During Cosimo's imprisonment he urged the Signory in open
terms to take his life; when he was living in exile at Venice, he
pursued him with abominable slanders; and now, on Cosimo's return,
though himself expelled from the city as a rebel and a proscript, he
kept stirring up the burghers of Florence and the Courts of Italy
against the tyrant.[266]

[Footnote 264: See Rosmini, vol. i. pp. 43, 48.]

[Footnote 265: _Ibid._ vol. i. p. 83, for the trial, torture, and
confession of this bravo.]

[Footnote 266: The original source of information concerning Filelfo's
quarrels with the Florentines is his Satires, divided into ten books
or decades, each consisting of ten satires or hecatostichæ of one
hundred verses each. In the copy of this book, printed at Paris, 1508,
by Robert and John Gourmont, these virulent libels are called 'Divinum
Francisci Philelphi Poetæ Christiani Satyrarum Opus.' As their motto
the publishers give these sentences:--'Finis laus Deo, Spes mea
Jesus.' For the abuse of the Medicean circle see Dec. i. Hec. 5; Dec.
i. Hec. 6; Dec. ii. Hec. 1, 3, 7; Dec. iii. Hec. 10; Dec. vi. 10; Dec.
viii. 5. For Filelfo's attack on Cosimo during his imprisonment, see
Dec. iv. Hec. 1. For his invective against Cosimo on his return from
exile, see Dec. iv. Hec. 9. For an appeal to Filippo Maria Visconti
against Cosimo, see Dec. v. Hec. 1. For a similar appeal to Eugenius
IV., see Dec. v. Hec. 2. For the episode of the assassin Filippo, see
Dec. v. Hec. 6. A political attack on Cosimo addressed to Rinaldo
Albizzi is contained in Dec. v. Hec. 8. A furious denunciation of
Cosimo's tyranny, in Dec. v. Hec. 9. Palla degli Strozzi, as an
opponent of Cosimo, is praised in Dec. iii. 1; Dec. vi. 4. In Dec.
vii. 8, Filelfo promises to moderate his fury. In addition to these
sources see the MS. invectives mentioned in Rosmini, vol. i. p. 47.]

The occasion of Filelfo's removal to Siena was this:--When his
position at Florence had become untenable, he received an invitation
from Antonio Petrucci to lecture for two years, with a stipend of 350
florins. Filelfo replied that he preferred small pay and quiet to a
larger income among the swords and poisons of his envious rivals.
Accordingly he took up his abode at Siena for four years in the
Piccolomini Palace. Like many greater and more admirable men, he had a
restless disposition, always pleased with what is new, yet always
grumbling when the taste of bitter mounted to his lips. The most
honourable invitations now began to shower upon him. The Council of
Basle, the Venetian Senate, the Emperor of the East, Eugenius IV., the
Universities of Perugia and Bologna, and the Duke of Milan applied for
his services. It was not, however, until the year 1439 that his love
of change, combined with the allurements of higher pay, induced him to
close with the offers of the Senate of Bologna. Once more, then, he
crossed the Apennines, and once more, after a brief sojourn of a few
months, he again quitted Bologna, and transferred himself to Milan.
His reception by Filippo Maria Visconti was most flattering. Placing a
diamond ring upon his finger, the Duke welcomed him among the nobles
of his Court on New Year's Day in 1440. Thus began Filelfo's
connection with the Lombard capital, which, though often interrupted,
was never wholly broken till his death.

The munificence of the Visconti exceeded that of any of Filelfo's
patrons,[267] while the mode of life at Milan exactly suited his
vainglorious temperament. He loved to throw his money about among
lords, to appear at high Court festivals, and to take the lead on
ceremonial occasions in his rank of orator. There was, moreover, no
rival strong enough to threaten the blasting of his popularity.[268]
We find him, during his residence at Milan, continually engaged in the
exercise of rhetoric. Public and private incidents of the most various
character employed his skill, nor is there any doubt that his large
professorial income was considerably increased by presents received
from patrons and employers.[269] In addition to the labours of his
chair, he engaged in various literary works. His Satires and Odes were
gradually growing into ponderous volumes.[270] Other fugitive pieces
in prose he put together under the title of 'Convivia Mediolanensia.'
Meanwhile he carried on an active correspondence, both familiar and
hortatory, with the scholars and the princes of his day.[271] There
was no branch of letters with which, sustained by sublime
self-approval, he was not willing and eager to meddle. As he had
professed Dante at Florence, so here at Milan, by ducal command, he
undertook to comment upon Petrarch, and actually composed a poem on S.
John the Baptist in _terza rima_. There is something ludicrous in the
thought of this Visconti, would-be Herod as in truth he was,
commissioning Filelfo, the outrageous Pagan, to versify the life of
Christ's forerunner. If Filelfo despised anything more than sacred
history, it was the Italian language; and if there was a task for
which he was unfitted, it was the composition of poetry.

[Footnote 267: His professorial stipend was soon raised from 500 to
700 golden florins.]

[Footnote 268: Vespasiano says that the concourse of people to Carlo
Aretino's lectures was the first cause of Filelfo's feuds at

[Footnote 269: Here are the dates of some of these displays:--

1440. Funeral oration on Stefano Federigo Todeschini.

1441. Epithalamial on the Marriage of Giovanni Marliani.

1442. Discourse on Duties of a Magistrate.

1446. Panegyric of Filippo Maria Visconti, and oration on the Election
of Jacopo Borromeo to the See of Pavia.

1450. Oration of Welcome to Francesco Sforza.

1455. Epithalamial on the Marriage of Tristano Sforza to Beatrice

1458. Epithalamials for Antonio Crivelli and Teodoro Piatti.

1459. Oration to Pius II. on his Crusade.

1460. Oration on the Election of the Bishop of Como.

1464. Funeral oration for the Senator Filippo Borromeo.

1466. Ditto for Francesco Sforza.

It is probable that all of these were not recited; but all were
conceived in the lumbering and pedantic style that passed for
eloquence at that period. With regard to rewards received on these
occasions, note the gift of a silver basin from Jacopo Antonio
Marcello in return for a consolatory epistle. Rosmini, vol. ii. p.
127. Cf. p. 197.]

[Footnote 270: The Satires, collected into ten decades, each satire
consisting of 100 lines, were dedicated to Alfonso of Naples in 1451.
Printed at Milan, 1446. The Odes, entitled _De Seriis et Jocis_, were
finished in 1465, and dedicated partly to Malatesta Novello of Cesena,
partly to Alessandro Sforza. There were ten books, each book
containing 1,000 lines. Never printed. Rosmini, who inspected the
MSS., reports that their obscenity exceeds description, and is only
equalled by the vulgarity of the author's fancy and the coarseness of
his style. In addition to these unpublished Latin poems, Filelfo
collected three books of Greek elegies and epigrams, amounting to
2,400 verses. It is significant that he measured his poetry by lines,
and trained his jog-trot muse to paces of 100 verses.]

[Footnote 271: The Epistle to Ladislaus of Hungary on his victories
over the Turks, for instance.]

During the second year of his Milanese residence Filelfo lost his wife
Theodora. He speedily married again, choosing for his bride a
beautiful young lady of good family in Milan. Her name was Orsina
Osnaga. Since I have touched upon this matter of Filelfo's private
life, it may be well to add that when he lost his second wife, he
took in wedlock for the third time Laura Magiolini. By each of his
marriages he acquired no inconsiderable property, and all his brides
belonged to highly distinguished families. The best thing that can be
said about Filelfo as a man is, that he was undoubtedly attached to
his wives and to the numerous children they bore him.[272] This
feeling did not, however, protect him from numerous infidelities, or
save his fortune from the burden of illegitimate children.[273] It is
even doubtful whether credence should not be accorded to suggestions
of worse debauchery, repeated with every appearance of belief by his
enemies, and on his side but imperfectly refuted. Filelfo was, in
truth, a man of great physical vigour, whose energies the mere labour
of the student was insufficient to exhaust. Loves and hatreds,
domestic sympathies and turbulent passions, absorbed a portion of his
superfluous force; nor was he at any time restrained by scruples of
religion or morality. What was good for Greeks and Romans was good for
him. It is also to be noted that the innate sense of delicacy which
sometimes forms the safeguard of excessive temperaments was altogether
alien to his nature.

[Footnote 272: He had twelve sons and twelve daughters. They did not
all live.]

[Footnote 273: A curious sign of current feeling is that Filelfo
frequently boasted of being [Greek: triorchês]. See Rosmini, i. p. 15,
and the verse quoted, _ib._ p. 113. He mentioned two natural children
in his will and had many more. Rosmini, vol. iii. p. 78.]

During the disasters that befell the State of Milan on the death of
Filippo Maria, Filelfo at first espoused the cause of the burghers. A
letter to the Florentines is extant, in which he exhorts them to aid
their sister commonwealth at the extreme hour of her peril. It was not
natural, however, that a humanist, who had no zeal for freedom, and
whose personal interests led him to desire a settled government at any
price, should continue staunch to a republic so unnerved as that of
Milan. When Carlo Gonzaga played the Milanese false by admitting the
troops of Francesco Sforza, Filelfo was the first to welcome the new
monarch with a set oration. He professed great admiration for the
general who, by careful management and double-dealing, had placed
himself at the head of the third state in the peninsula. Yet his
correspondence at this period proves that his mind was uneasy, and
that he desired a change. In an impudent letter addressed to Nicholas
V., he solicited ecclesiastical preferment, suggesting that the
promise of a bishop's mitre would secure his splendid talents for the
service of the Papacy.[274] However desirous the Pope might be to
engage Filelfo for his translation factory at Rome, the price demanded
was too great. He could not recognise a vocation so clearly inspired
by mercenary motives; and to receive into the high places of the
Church, at his own request, a man accused of many vices, who had twice
been married, would have established a dangerous precedent. Filelfo,
receiving neither substantial encouragement nor a flat refusal, turned
his thoughts to matrimony for the third time, and addressed a prayer
on this occasion to Dame Venus, in which he besought the mother of
Priapus to befriend her votary. The intelligent student of the
Renaissance will not fail to notice the state of mind implied by the
juxtaposition of this letter to the Holy Father and this ode to Venus.

[Footnote 274: Rosmini, vol. ii. p. 54. It may be remembered that
Pietro Aretino hinted he should like to be a cardinal.]

Filelfo was now fain to content himself with the patronage of
Francesco Sforza, a prince who had no natural turn for literature, but
who was wise enough to know that a _parvenu_ could least of all afford
to neglect the ruling fashions of his age. The letters he wrote at
this period abound in impudent demands for money, querulous outcries
over the poverty to which the first scholar of the century was
condemned, and violent menaces of retaliation if his salary remained
in arrears.[275] Not only Francesco Sforza, but all the patrons upon
whom Filelfo thought he had a claim, were assailed with reptile
lamentations and more reptile menaces. Alessandro Sforza, Lodovico
Gonzaga, and three Popes in succession may be mentioned among the more
distinguished princes who suffered from this literary brigandage.[276]
Not without strict justice did a contemporary describe him in the
following severe terms:--'He is calumnious, envious, vain, and so
greedy of gold that he metes out praise or blame according to the
gifts he gets, both despicable as proceeding from a tainted
source.'[277] Filelfo's rapacity is truly disgusting when we remember
that he received far more than any equally distinguished student of
his age. Not the illiberality of patrons, but his own luxurious
habits, reduced him to beggary. All the while that he was screaming in
bad Latin verse, he lived expensively, indulging ostentatious tastes,
and finding money for unclean indulgences. In order to confirm his
claim on the Duke of Milan's generosity, he began a gigantic Latin
epic upon the life of Sforza. Without plan, a mere versified
chronicle, encumbered with foolish mythological machinery, and loaded
with fulsome flatteries, this leaden Sforziad crawled on until 12,800
lines had been written. Only the first eight books of it were
published in MS., nor were these ever printed.[278]

[Footnote 275: As a specimen of Filelfo's Grub Street style of
begging, I transcribe the following elegy (Rosmini, vol. ii. p.

     'Hæc autem altisone dum carmina celsius effert
       Defecisse suo sentit ab ore tubam,
     Nam quia magnifici data non est copia nummi
       Cogitur huic uti carmine raucidulo.
     Quod neque mireris; vocem pretiosa canoram
       Esca dat, et potus excitat ingenium.
     Ingenium spurco suevit languescere vino,
       Humida mugitum reddere rapa solet.'

Francesco Sforza's anxiety to retain Filelfo in his service is
expressed in a letter to his treasurer (_ib._ p. 295):--'Noi per niuno
modo el vogliamo perdere, la qual cosa seguirebbe quando gli paresse
essere deluso, e non potesse seguitare per manchamento delli dicti 250
fiorini la nobilissima opera per lui in nostra gloria comenzata nè
suplire agli altri suoi bisogni.' The _tuba_ and the _nobilissima
opera_ both refer to Filelfo's Sforziad.]

[Footnote 276: I may call particular attention to Filelfo's behaviour
with regard to Pius II.--the free pension of 200 florins granted
(Rosmini, vol. ii. p. 106), the menaces because it is not paid (_ib._
p. 115), the scurrilous epigrams on the Pope's death (_ib._ p. 321),
the abusive letter addressed to Paul II. (_ib._ p. 136), the sentence
of imprisonment for calumny issued against him and his son Mario
(_ib._ p. 140), the final palinode in which he basely praises the Pope
whom he had basely abused (_ib._ p. 146). The whole series of
transactions is disgraceful.]

[Footnote 277: Letter of Gregorio Lollio to the Cardinal of Pavia,
reported by Rosmini (vol. ii. p. 147).]

[Footnote 278: The whole poem ran to sixteen books. Therefore,
according to Filelfo's art of poetry, the first eight contained 6,400

By fair means and by foul, Filelfo had managed to secure a splendid
reputation throughout Italy. His journey to Naples in 1453 resembled a
triumphal progress. Nicholas V. entertained him with distinction, read
his infamous satires, presented him with a purse of 500 ducats, and
offered him a yearly stipend of 600 if he would dedicate his talents
to translation. Alfonso dubbed him knight, and placed the poet's
laurel on his brow with his own royal hands. As he passed through
their capitals, the princes received him like an equal. At Ferrara he
enjoyed the hospitalities of Duke Borso, at Mantua the friendship of
the Marchese Lodovico Gonzaga; the terrible Gismondo Pandolfo
Malatesta welcomed him in Rimini, and the General Jacopo Piccinino in
his camp at Fossombrone. Nor was this fame confined to Italy. On the
fall of Constantinople he addressed a letter to the Sultan, beseeching
him to release his mother-in-law and her two daughters from captivity;
the humanist's eloquence obtained this favour from the Turkish
conqueror, who refused to accept a ransom for the relatives of so
illustrious an orator.[279]

[Footnote 279: See Rosmini, vol. ii. p. 90. The Greek epistle which he
sent is printed, _ib._ p. 305.]

Until the death of Francesco Sforza Milan continued to be the city of
Filelfo's choice. After that event he turned his thoughts to Rome.
Pius II., Paul II., and Sixtus IV., in succession, had testified their
regard for him, either by moderate presents, sufficient to excite his
cupidity and check his slanderous temper, or by negotiations which
came to nothing. At last, in 1474, he received from Rome the offer of
a professorial chair, with a stipend of 600 florins, and the promise
of the first vacant post in the Apostolic Chancery.

The old man of seventy-seven years once more journeyed across the
plains of Lombardy, ascended the Apennines, passed through
Florence,[280] and began his lectures with the 'Tusculans' of Cicero,
on the twelfth day of January, 1475, in Rome. The marks of favour with
which Sixtus had received him were highly honourable. Filelfo was
permitted to sit in the Pope's presence, and on Christmas Day he stood
among the ambassadors while Sixtus celebrated mass. The vigorous old
scholar at first felt that all his previous life had been a tedious
prologue to this blissful play. Soon, however, a cloud arose on the
horizon. The Pope's treasurer, Milliardo Cicala, was remiss in
payments. Filelfo retaliated by describing Cicala's vices in the most
lurid colours to Sixtus.[281] Though his style and eloquence were
always vulgar, the concentrated fury and impassioned hatred of these
invectives cannot fail to impress the imagination. Such a picture of
the dissolute and grasping treasurer, painted by Filelfo and sent to
Sixtus, has a sinister humour which might recommend itself to the
audience of an infernal comedy. It is only necessary to have some
knowledge of the three men in order to perceive its force. Nor did
Sixtus himself long continue in Filelfo's graces. Frequent journeys
prove how unsettled he became; at last he left Rome in 1476, never to
return. When the Pazzi Conjuration failed at Florence, Filelfo wrote
to congratulate Lorenzo de' Medici on his escape, and undertook the
task of composing a history of the whole intrigue. Two long and
violent letters addressed to Sixtus, accusing him of participation in
the conspiracy, and heaping on him charges of vice, were the result of
this determination.[282] These epistles were dated from Milan, whither
Filelfo had retired in 1476, to find his third wife dead of the
plague, and buried on the eve of his arrival. His sorrow on this
occasion was genuine; nor is it likely that he derived much comfort
from a curious epistle addressed to him by Paolo Morosini, who,
himself a husband and father, attempted to console the septuagenarian
professor by elaborate abuse of matrimony.[283] To such ridiculous
vagaries did the rhetorical spirit of humanism lead its votaries.

[Footnote 280: He had long since made peace with the Medici.]

[Footnote 281: See the original letters in Rosmini, vol. ii. pp.

[Footnote 282: Rosmini, vol. ii. p. 261, note.]

[Footnote 283: _Ib._ p. 248.]

Filelfo's last journey was undertaken in 1481. Ill at ease, and sore
of heart, the veteran of scholarship still longed for further
triumphs. All his wishes for some time past had been set on ending his
days at Florence, near the person of Lorenzo de' Medici; and when an
invitation to the Chair of Greek Literature arrived, it found him
eager to set forth. He was so poor, however, that the Duke's
secretary, Jacopo Antiquari, had to lend him money for the
journey.[284] He just managed to reach Florence, where he died of
dysentery a fortnight after his arrival, at the age of eighty-three.
The Florentines buried him in the Church of the Annunziata.

[Footnote 284: I cannot allow this mention of Antiquari's name to pass
without a note upon his life and services to letters. He was born and
educated at Perugia, entered the service of the Papal Legate Battista
Savelli as secretary at Bologna, and afterwards received the post of
secretary and diplomatic writer to the Sforza family at Milan. The
Duke Galeazzo Maria was his first master. At Milan he played the part
of an amiable and refined Mæcenas, while he carried on a
correspondence in Latin--still delightful to read--with Poliziano and
all the greatest scholars of his age. His biography, written at some
length, with valuable miscellaneous appendices by Vermiglioli, was
published at Perugia in 1819.]

The sketch which I have given of Filelfo's life, abounds in details
beyond the just proportions of the present chapter. This is due partly
to the copiousness and the excellence of the authorities collected by
Rosmini in his exhaustive biography, but more to the undoubted fact
that Filelfo ranks as the typical humanist of his age. The
universality of his acquirements and the impression they made upon
contemporaries, his enormous physical vigour and incessant mental
activity, the vehemence with which he prosecuted his literary warfares
and the restlessness that drove him from capital to capital in Italy,
are themselves enough to mark him out as the representative hero of
the second period of humanism. Not less characteristic were the
quality and the form of his literary work--ridiculously over-valued
then, and now perhaps too readily depreciated. There is something
pathetic in the certainty of everlasting fame that sustained the
student through so many years of unremitting labour. It makes us
wonder whether the achievements of the human intellect, in science and
discovery, acceptable as these may be to their own time, are not,
equally with Filelfo's triumph of scholarship, foredoomed to speedy
obscuration. Nothing is imperishable but high thought, to which art
has communicated the indestructible form of beauty.

The 'Age of the Despots'[285] contains a promise of further details
concerning Vittorino da Feltre, to redeem which the time has now come.
His father's name was Bruto de' Rambaldoni; but having been born at
Feltre in the year 1378, he took from his birthplace the surname by
which he is best known.

[Footnote 285: Pp. 138, 139.]

Like the majority of his contemporaries, Vittorino studied Latin under
John of Ravenna and rhetoric under Gasparino da Barzizza. His poverty
compelled him at the same time to support himself by taking pupils;
this drudgery, however, was so unremunerative that, when he wanted to
attend the mathematical lectures of Biagio Pelacane, he had to pay
that avaricious and eccentric teacher by personal service. As Haydn
got his much-desired instruction from Porpora by playing the part of
valet,[286] so Vittorino became the scullery boy of Pelacane,[287] in
order that he might acquire geometry. These early studies were carried
on at Padua, from which town he appears to have moved about the year
1417 to Venice. Here he entered into friendship with Guarino da
Verona, and having learned Greek, returned to his old university as
professor of rhetoric.[288] The bias of Vittorino's genius inclined
toward private teaching, and it is this by which he is distinguished
among contemporary humanists. Accordingly we find that, as soon as he
was settled in Padua, he opened a school for a fixed number of young
men, selected without regard to rank or wealth. From the richer pupils
he required fees proportioned to their means; from the poor he exacted
nothing: thus the wealthy were made to support the needy, while the
teacher obtained for himself the noble satisfaction of relieving
aspirants after knowledge from the pressure of want and privation.
Other gain than this he never thought of. Only genuine students were
allowed to remain in Vittorino's school; the moral rule was strict,
and high thinking and plain living were expected from all his pupils.
This generous devotion to the cause of learning for its own sake
contrasts strongly with the self-seeking and vainglory of other
humanists. When Filelfo was urged on one occasion to open a school for
promising young men, of noble birth, he asked disdainfully whether his
friends expected him to take rank as a licensed victualler.[289] He
was unable to comprehend the possibility of doing anything that would
not reflect lustre on himself or place him in the light of popular

[Footnote 286: Grove's _Dictionary of Music and Musicians_, vol. i. p.
704 b.]

[Footnote 287: 'Usque ad mundandam supellectilem quæ sumpto cibo
lavare consuerit.'--Rosmini, _Vita di Vittorino_, p. 38, note.]

[Footnote 288: In 1422 apparently.]

[Footnote 289: _Locandiere._ Rosmini, vol. i. p. 67.]

Vittorino found it difficult to govern his school at Padua as strictly
as he wished. The public Gymnasium was ill-ordered, and great license
of life was permitted to its students. He therefore removed to Venice
in 1423, where he continued his work as private tutor. By this time,
however, he had acquired considerable reputation as an educator, to
whose care the youth of both sexes might be entrusted with implicit
confidence--no small testimony to his goodness in that age of
ungoverned passions and indescribable vices. The Marchese Gian
Francesco Gonzaga was looking out for a master for his children, and
his choice fell on Vittorino. The admiration of antiquity was no mere
matter of fashion with this prince. He loved history for its own sake,
and professed a special reverence for the Roman Camillus. His
practical good sense made him understand that, if he wished his sons
and daughters to become thoroughly educated, not only in the
humanities and mathematics, but also in the republican virtues of the
ancients, which then formed the ideal of life in Italy, he must be
willing to commit them wholly to the charge of their appointed
governor. Vittorino, who would have undertaken the duty on no other
condition, obtained full control of the young princes and their
servants. An appointment of twenty sequins per month was assigned to
him, together with a general order on the treasury of Mantua. A villa,
called Casa Zojosa, which we may translate Joyous Gard, was allotted
to the new household, and there Vittorino established himself as
master in 1425. He had much to do before this dwelling could be
converted from the pleasure house of a mediæval sovereign into the
semi-monastic resort of earnest students. Through its open galleries
and painted banquet chambers the young Gonzaghi lounged with favourite
friends selected from the Mantuan nobility. The tables groaned under
gold and silver plate, while perfumed lacqueys handed round rich wines
and highly seasoned dishes, and the garden alleys echoed to the sound
of lute and viol. Without making any brusque or sudden reformation,
Vittorino managed, by degrees, and on various pretexts, to dismiss the
more dangerous friends and servants of his pupils. A strict
house-porter was engaged, with orders to exclude suspicious visitors.
Plain clothes, simple habits, and frugal meals became the rule of the
household, Vittorino contriving to render these changes no less
agreeable than salutary to his pupils. When complaints arose from the
former companions of the princes and their parents, he laid his plan
of training clearly before the Marquis, who had the good sense to
approve of all that he had done.

The eldest of Gian Francesco's children, Lodovico, was a youth of lazy
habits, inclined to gluttony, and already too fat for his age. The
next, Carlo, had outgrown his strength, and needed more substantial
food. Vittorino devised systems of diet and physical training suited
to their several temperaments, making it his one object to increase
their vigour, and by multiplying sources of rational enjoyment to
dispose them to the energetic exercise of their faculties. He by no
means neglected what we call athletics. Indeed, it was a fundamental
axiom of his method that a robust body could alone harbour a healthy
mind. Boys who sat poring over books, or haunted solitary places, lost
in dreaming, found no favour in his eyes. To exercises in the
gymnasium or the riding-school he preferred games in the open air;
hunting and fishing, wrestling and fencing, running and jumping, were
practised by his pupils in the park outside their palace. To harden
them against severities of heat and cold, to render them temperate in
food and drink, to train their voices, and to improve their carriage
was his first care. Since he could not himself superintend their
education in all its branches, he engaged a subordinate staff of
tutors; grammarians, logicians, mathematicians, painters, and masters
of riding, dancing, singing, swimming, fencing, began to crowd the
halls of Joyous Gard. Each had his own allotted task to perform, while
Vittorino surveyed the whole scheme. 'Perhaps,' says Rosmini,[290]
'the only sciences that were not taught in this academy were civil and
canon law and natural physics.'

[Footnote 290: P. 111.]

It must not be imagined that so extensive an apparatus existed solely
for the young Gonzaghi. Noble youths from all the Courts of Italy, and
students from remote parts of Europe, sought admittance to Vittorino's
school. The more promising of these pupils, who were fitted by their
rank and disposition to associate with his princely charges, the
master housed under his own roof; while for the rest he provided
suitable lodgings near at hand. Many were the poor students who thus
owed to his generosity participation in the most refined and
scientific culture their century afforded.[291] While paying this
tribute to Vittorino da Feltre, we must remember the honour that is
also due to Gian Francesco Gonzaga. Had this prince not been endowed
with true liberality of soul and freedom from petty prejudice,
Vittorino could never have developed a system based upon pure
democratic principles, which even now may rank as an unrivalled
educational ideal. If the master, again, was able to provide for sixty
poor scholars at a time--teaching, feeding, clothing, and furnishing
them with costly books, his friend the Marquis must, we feel sure,
have supplied his purse with extra funds for charitable purposes.[292]

[Footnote 291: Sixty poor scholars were taught, fed, clothed, and
provided with implements of study at his cost. He also subsidised
their families in distress. Rosmini, _Vita di Vittorino_, pp. 165,

[Footnote 292: Rosmini, _Vita di Vittorino_, p. 165. Vespasiano, p.
492, tells a story which illustrates these relations between Vittorino
and the Marquis. Cf., too, p. 494.]

The numerous biographers of Vittorino have transmitted many details in
illustration of his method of teaching. He used to read the classic
authors aloud, prefixing biographical notices by way of introduction,
and explaining the matter, as well as the language of his text, as he
proceeded. Sometimes he made his pupils read, correcting their
pronunciation, and obliging them to mark the meaning by emphasis. He
relied much on learning by heart and repetition, as the surest means
of forming a good style. Gifted with a finer instinct for language
than the majority of his contemporaries, he was careful that his
pupils should distinguish between different types of literary
excellence, not confounding Cicero with Seneca or Virgil with Lucan,
but striving to appreciate the special qualities of each. With a view
to the acquisition of pure principles of taste, he confined them at
first to Virgil and Homer, Cicero and Demosthenes. These four authors
he regarded as the supreme masters of expression. Ovid was too
luxuriant, Juvenal too coarse, to serve as guides for tiros. Horace
and Persius among the satirists, Terence among the comic poets, might
be safely studied. In spite of Seneca's weight as a philosophic
essayist, Vittorino censured the affectations of his rhetoric; and
while he praised the beauty of the Latin elegists, he judged them
ill-suited for the training of the young. Criticism of this kind,
though it may sound to us obvious and superficial, was extremely rare
in the fifteenth century, when scholars were too apt to neglect
differences of style in ancient authors, and to ignore the ethics of
their works. The refinement which distinguished Vittorino, made him
prefer the graces of a chastened manner to the sounding phrases of
emphatic declamation. His pupils were taught to see that they had
something to say first, and then to say it with simplicity and

This purity of taste was no mere matter of æsthetic sensibility with
Vittorino. Habits which brutalise the mind or debase the body, however
sanctioned by the usage of the times, met with little toleration in
his presence. Swearing, obscene language, vulgar joking, and angry
altercation were severely punished. Personal morality and the
observance of religious exercises he exacted from his pupils. Lying
was a heinous offence. Those who proved intractable upon these points
were excluded from his school. Of the rest Vespasiano writes with
emphasis that 'his house was a sanctuary of manners, deeds, and

[Footnote 293: P. 492.]

Concerning the noble Italian youths who were educated with the Gonzaga
family at Mantua, enough has been said in another place.[294] Appended
to Rosmini's copious biography will be found, by those who are curious
to read such details, the notices of forty more or less distinguished
pupils.[295] Beside the two sons of Gian Francesco Gonzaga already
mentioned, Vittorino educated three other children of his
master--Gianlucido, Alessandro, and Cecilia.[296] Wholly dedicated to
the cares of teaching, and more anxious to survive in the good fame of
his scholars than to secure the immortality of literature, Vittorino
bequeathed no writings to posterity. He lived to a hale and hearty old
age; and when he died, in 1446, it was found that the illustrious
scholar, after enjoying for so many years the liberality of his
princely patron, had not accumulated enough money to pay for his own
funeral. Whatever he possessed, he spent in charity during his
lifetime, trusting to the kindness of his friends to bury him when
dead. Few lives of which there is any record in history, are so
perfectly praiseworthy as Vittorino's; few men have more nobly
realised the idea of living for the highest objects of their age; few
have succeeded in keeping themselves so wholly unspotted by the vices
of the world around them.

[Footnote 294: Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 138.]

[Footnote 295: Pp. 249-476.]

[Footnote 296: See Rosmini, p. 183, and Vespasiano, p. 493, for the
record of her virtues, her learning, and her refusal to wed the
infamous Oddo da Montefeltro.]

By the patronage extended to Vittorino da Feltre the Court of Mantua
took rank among the high schools of humanism in Italy. Ferrara won a
similar distinction through the liberality of the House of Este. What
has already been said about Milan applies, however, in a less degree
to Ferrara. The arts and letters, though they flourished with
exceeding brilliance beneath the patrons of Boiardo, Ariosto, and
Tasso, were but accessories to a splendid and voluptuous Court life.
Literature was little better than an exotic, cultivated for its rarity
and beauty by the princes of the Este family.

The golden age of culture at Ferrara began in 1402, when Niccolo III.
reopened the university. Twenty-seven years later Guarino da Verona
made it one of the five chief seats of Southern learning. The life of
this eminent scholar in many points resembles that of Filelfo, though
their characters were very different. Guarino was born of respectable
parents at Verona in 1370. He studied Latin in the school of Giovanni
da Ravenna, and while still a lad of eighteen travelled to
Constantinople at the cost of a noble Venetian, Paolo Zane, in order
to learn Greek. After a residence of five years in Greece he returned
to Venice, and began to lecture to crowded audiences.[297] Like all
the humanists, he seems to have preferred temporary to permanent
engagements--passing from Venice to Verona, from Trent to Padua, from
Bologna to Florence, and everywhere acquiring that substantial
reputation as a teacher to which he owed the invitation of Niccolo
d'Este in 1429. He was now a man of nearly sixty, master of the two
languages, and well acquainted with the method of instruction. The
Marquis of Ferrara engaged him as tutor to his illegitimate son
Lionello, heir apparent to his throne. For seven years Guarino devoted
himself wholly to the education of this youth, who passed for one of
the best scholars of his age. Granting that the reputation for
learning was lightly conferred on princes by their literary parasites,
it seems certain that Lionello derived more than a mere smattering in
culture from his tutor. Amid the pleasures of the chase, to which he
was passionately devoted, and the distractions of the gayest Court in
Italy, he found time to correspond on topics of scholarship with
Poggio, Filelfo, Decembrio, and Francesco Barbaro. His conversation
turned habitually upon the fashionable themes of antique ethics, and
his favourite companions were men of polite education. It is no wonder
that the humanists, who saw in him a future Augustus, deplored his
early death with unfeigned sorrow, though we, who can only judge him
by the general standard of his family, may be permitted to reserve our
opinion. The profile portrait of Lionello, now preserved in the
National Gallery, does not, at any rate, prepossess us very strongly
in his favour.

[Footnote 297: See his Life by Rosmini, p. 11, for his brilliant
reception at Venice.]

Guarino, like his friend Vittorino, was celebrated for the method of
his teaching and for the exact order of his discipline.[298] Students
flocked from all the cities of Italy to his lecture-room; for, as soon
as his tutorial engagements with the prince permitted, he received a
public appointment as professor of eloquence from the Ferrarese
Consiglio de' Savi. In this post he laboured for many years,
maintaining his reputation as a student and filling the universities
of Italy with his pupils. A sentence describing his manner of life in
extreme old age might be used to illustrate the enthusiasm which
sustained the vital energy of scholars in that generation:--'His
memory is marvellous, and his habit of reading is so indefatigable,
that he scarcely takes the time to eat, to sleep, or to go abroad; and
yet his limbs and senses have the vigour of youth.[299] Guarino was
one of the few humanists whose moral character won equal respect with
his learning. When he died at the age of ninety, the father of six
boys and seven girls by his wife Taddea Cendrata of Verona, it was
possible to say with truth that he had realised the ideal of a
temperate scholar's life. Yet this incomparable teacher of youth
undertook the defence of Beccadelli's obscene verses: this anchorite
of humanism penned virulent invectives with the worst of his
contemporaries.[300] Such contrasts were common enough in the
fifteenth century.

[Footnote 298: See the details collected by Rosmini, _Vita di
Guarino_, pp. 79-87.]

[Footnote 299: Timoteo Maffei, quoted by Tiraboschi, vol. vi. lib.
iii. cap. 5, 8.]

[Footnote 300: He carried on literary feuds with Niccolo de' Niccoli,
Poggio, Filelfo, and Georgios Trapezuntios.]

The name of Giovanni Aurispa must not be omitted in connection with
Ferrara. Born in 1369 at Noto in Sicily, he lived to a great age, and
died in 1459. He too travelled in early youth to Constantinople, and
returned, laden with MSS. and learning, to profess the humanities in
Italy. His life forms, therefore, a close parallel with that of both
Guarino and Filelfo. Aurispa, however, was gifted with a less
unresting temper than Filelfo; nor did he achieve the same
professorial success as Guarino. In his school at Ferrara he enjoyed
the calmer pleasures of a student's life, 'devoted,' as Filelfo
phrased it, 'to the placid Muses.'[301]

[Footnote 301: 'Placidis Aurispa Camoenis Deditus,' _Sat._, dec. i.
hec. 5. Valla, _Antid. in Pogium_, p. 7, describes him as 'virum
suavissimum et ab omni contentione remotissimum.']

To give an account of all the minor Courts, where humanism flourished
under the patronage of petty princes, would be tedious and
unprofitable. It is enough to notice that the universities, in this
age of indefatigable energy, kept forming scholars, eager to make
their way as secretaries and tutors, while the nobles competed for the
honour and the profit to be derived from the service of illustrious
wits and ready pens. The seeds of classic culture were thus sown in
every little city that could boast its castle. Carpi, for example, was
preparing the ground where Aldus and Musurus flourished. At Forli the
Ordelaffi, doomed to extinction at no distant period, gave protection
to Codrus Urceus.[302] Mirandola was growing fit to be the birthplace
of the mighty Pico. Alessandro and Costanzo Sforza were adorning their
lordship of Pesaro with a library that rivalled those of Rome and
Florence.[303] In the fortress of Rimini, Sigismondo Pandolfo
Malatesta conversed with men of learning whenever his intrigues and
his military duties gave him leisure. The desperate and godless
tyrant, whose passions bordered upon madness, and whose name was a
byeword for all the vices that disgrace humanity, curbed his temper
before petty witlings like Porcellio, and carved a record of his
burning love for learning on the temple raised to celebrate his fame
in Rimini. To the same passion for scholarship in his brother,
Malatesta Novello, the tiny burgh of Cesena owed the foundation of a
library, not only well supplied with books, but endowed with a yearly
income of 300 golden florins for its maintenance. The money spent on
scholarship at these minor Courts was gained, for the most part, in
military service--the wealth of Florentine and Venetian citizens, of
Milanese despots, and ambitious Popes flowing through the hands of
professional war-captains into the pockets of booksellers and
students. It consequently happened that the impulse given at this time
to learning in the lesser cities was but temporary. With the fall of
the Malatesti and the Sforza family, for instance, erudition died at
Rimini and Pesaro.

[Footnote 302: Cf. Tiraboschi, vi. lib. iii. cap. 5, 58.]

[Footnote 303: Vespasiano, pp. 113-117, gives an interesting account
of these lettered and warlike princes.]

This might have been the case at Urbino also, if the House of
Montefeltro had not succeeded, by wise conduct and prudent marriages,
in resisting the encroachments of the Church, and transmitting its
duchy to the Della Rovere family. As it was, Urbino retained for three
generations the stamp of culture and refinement impressed upon it by
the good Duke Frederick. Of his famous library, Vespasiano, who was
employed in its formation, has given us minute and interesting
details.[304] During more than fourteen years the Duke kept thirty or
forty copyists continually employed in transcribing Greek and Latin
MSS. Not only the classics in both languages, but the ecclesiastical
and mediæval authors, the Italian poets, and the works of contemporary
humanists found a place in his collection. The cost of the whole was
estimated at considerably over 30,000 ducats. Each volume was bound in
crimson, with silver clasps; the leaves were of vellum, exquisitely
adorned with miniatures; nor could you find a printed book in the
whole library, for the Duke would have been ashamed to own one.
Vespasiano's admiration for these delicately finished MSS. and the
contempt he expresses for the new art of printing are highly
characteristic.[305] Enough has been already said by me elsewhere
about Federigo da Montefeltro and his patronage of learning.[306] The
Queen's collection at Windsor contains a curious picture, attributed
to Melozza da Forli, of which I may be allowed to speak in this place,
since it possesses more than usual interest for the student of
humanism at the Italian Courts. In a large rectangular hall, lighted
from above by windows in a dome, the Duke of Urbino is seated, wearing
the robes and badges of the Garter, and resting his left hand on a
folio. His son Guidobaldo, a boy of about eleven years of age, or
little more, stands at the Duke's knee, dressed in yellow damask
trimmed with pearls. Behind them, on a raised bench with a desk before
it, sit three men, one attired in the red suit of a prelate, the
second in black ecclesiastical attire, and the third in secular
costume. At a door, opening on a passage, stand servants and lesser
courtiers. The whole company are listening attentively to a
grey-haired, black-robed humanist, seated in a sort of pulpit opposite
to the Duke and his son. A large book, bound in crimson, with silver
clasps is open on the desk before him; and by the movement of his
mouth it is clear that he is reading aloud passages from some
classical or ecclesiastical author, and explaining them for the
benefit of his illustrious audience. To identify the scholar and the
three men behind Federigo would not be impossible, if the exact date
of this curious work could be ascertained; for they are clearly
portraits. I like to fancy that in the layman we may perhaps recognise
the excellent Vespasiano. Such conjectures are, however, hazardous;
meanwhile the picture has intrinsic value as the unique
representation, so far as I know, of a scene of frequent occurrence in
the Courts of Italy, where listening to lectures formed a part of
every day's occupation.

[Footnote 304: See pp. 94-99.]

[Footnote 305: P. 99.]

[Footnote 306: Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, pp. 136-142.]

This is the proper place to speak of Vespasiano da Bisticci, on whose
'Lives of Illustrious Men' I have had occasion to draw so copiously.
Peculiar interest attaches to him as the last of mediæval scribes, and
at the same time the first of modern booksellers.[307] Besides being
the agent of Cosimo de' Medici, Nicholas V., and Frederick of Urbino,
Vespasiano supplied the foreign markets, sending MSS. by order to
Hungary, Portugal, Germany, and England. The extent of his trade
rendered him the largest employer of copyists in Europe at the moment
when this industry was about to be superseded, and when scholars were
already inquiring for news about the art that saved expense and
shortened the labour of the student.[308] Vespasiano, who was born in
1421 at Florence, lived until 1498; so that after having helped to
form the three greatest collections of MSS. in Italy, he witnessed the
triumph of printing, and might have even handled the Musæus issued
from the Aldine Press in 1493. Vespasiano was no mere tradesman. His
knowledge of the books he sold was accurate; continual study enabled
him to overlook the copyists, and to vouch for the exactitude of their
transcripts.[309] At the same time his occupation brought him into
close intimacy with the chief scholars of the age, so that the new
culture reached him by conversation and familiar correspondence. As a
biographer Vespasiano possessed rare merit. Personally acquainted with
the men of whom he wrote, he drew their characters with praiseworthy
succinctness and simplicity. There is no panegyrical emphasis, no
calumnious innuendo, in his sketches. It may even be said that they
suffer from reservation of opinion and suppression of facts.
Vespasiano's hatred of vice and love of virtue were so genuine that,
in his eagerness to honour men of letters and their patrons, he
softened down harsh outlines and passed over all that is condemnable
in silence. He was less anxious to paint character in the style of
Tacitus or Guicciardini, than to relate what he knew about the
progress of learning in his age. The ethical intention in his work is
obvious. The qualities he loves to celebrate are piety, chastity,
generosity, devotion to the cause of liberal culture, and high-souled
patriotism. Of the vices that added a lurid lustre to the age in which
he lived, of the political rancours that divided the cities into
hostile parties, and of the imperfections in the characters of eminent
men, we hear nothing from Vespasiano. It is pleasant to conclude this
chapter with an expression of gratitude to a man so blameless in his
life, so charitable in his judgments, and so trustworthy in his record
of contemporary history.

[Footnote 307: In the register of his death he is described as
Vespasiano, Cartolaro.]

[Footnote 308: See Rosmini, _Vita di Filelfo_, vol. ii. p. 201. 'I
have made up my mind to buy some of those codices they are now making
without any trouble, and without the pen, but with certain so-called
types, and which seem to be the work of a skilled and exact scribe.
Tell me, then, at what price are sold the _Natural History_ of Pliny,
the three Decades of Livy, and Aulus Gellius.' Letter to Nicodemo
Tranchedino, sent from Siena to Rome, dated July 25, 1470.]

[Footnote 309: See this passage from a panegyric quoted by Angelo
Mai:--'Tu profecto in hoc nostro deteriori sæculo hebraicæ, græcæ
atque latinæ linguarum, omnium voluminum dignorum memoratu notitiam,
eorumque auctores memoriæ tradidisti.'--_Vite di Uomini Illustri_,
preface, p. xxiii.]



     Improvement in Taste and Criticism -- Coteries and Academies
     -- Revival of Italian Literature -- Printing -- Florence,
     the Capital of Learning -- Lorenzo de' Medici and his Circle
     -- Public Policy of Lorenzo -- Literary Patronage -- Variety
     of his Gifts -- Meetings of the Platonic Society -- Marsilio
     Ficino -- His Education for Platonic Studies -- Translations
     of Plato and the Neoplatonists -- Harmony between Plato and
     Christianity -- Giovanni Pico -- His First Appearance in
     Florence -- His Theses proposed at Rome -- Censure of the
     Church -- His Study of the Cabbala -- Large Conception of
     Learning -- Occult Science -- Cristoforo Landino --
     Professor of Fine Literature -- Virgilian Studies --
     Camaldolese Disputations -- Leo Battista Alberti -- His
     Versatility -- Bartolommeo Scala -- Obscure Origin --
     Chancellor of Florence -- Angelo Poliziano -- Early Life --
     Translation of Homer -- The 'Homericus Juvenis' -- True
     Genius in Poliziano -- Command of Latin and Greek --
     Resuscitation of Antiquity in his own Person -- His
     Professorial Work -- The 'Miscellanea' -- Relation to Medici
     -- Roman Scholarship in this Period -- Pius II. -- Pomponius
     Lætus -- His Academy and Mode of Life -- Persecution under
     Paul II. -- Humanism at Naples -- Pontanus -- His Academy --
     His Writings -- Academies established in all Towns of Italy
     -- Introduction of Printing -- Sweynheim and Pannartz -- The
     Early Venetian Press -- Florence -- Cennini -- Alopa's Homer
     -- Change in Scholarship effected by Printing -- The Life of
     Aldo Manuzio -- The Princely House of Pio at Carpi -- Greek
     Books before Aldo -- The Aldine Press at Venice -- History
     of its Activity -- Aldo and Erasmus -- Aldo and the Greek
     Refugees -- Aldo's Death -- His family and Successors -- The
     Neacademia -- The Salvation of Greek Literature.

In the four preceding chapters I have sketched the rise and progress
of Italian humanism with more minuteness than need be now employed
upon the history of its further development. By the scholars of the
first and second period the whole domain of ancient literature was
reconquered; the classics were restored in their integrity to the
modern world. Petrarch first inflamed the enthusiasm without which so
great a work could not have been accomplished, his immediate
successors mastered the Greek language, and explored every province of
antiquity. Much still remained, however, to be achieved by a new
generation of students: for as yet criticism was but in its cradle;
the graces of style were but little understood; indiscriminate
erudition passed for scholarship, and crude verbiage for eloquence.
The humanists of the third age, still burning with the zeal that
animated Petrarch, and profiting by the labours of their predecessors,
ascended to a higher level of culture. It is their glory to have
purified the coarse and tumid style of mediæval Latinists, to have
introduced the methods of comparative and æsthetic criticism, and to
have distinguished the characteristics of the authors and the periods
they studied.

The salient features of this third age of humanism may be briefly
stated. Having done their work by sowing the seeds of culture
broadcast, the vagrant professors of the second period begin to
disappear, and the republic of letters tends to crystallise round men
of eminence in coteries and learned circles. This, therefore, is the
age of the academies. Secondly, it is noticeable that Italian
literature, almost totally abandoned in the first fervour of
enthusiasm for antiquity, now receives nearly as much attention as the
classics. Since the revival of Italian in the golden age of the
Renaissance will form the subject of my final volume, the names of
Lorenzo de' Medici and Poliziano at Florence, of Boiardo at Ferrara,
and of Sannazzaro at Naples may here suffice to indicate the points of
contact between scholarship and the national literature. A century had
been employed in the acquisition of humanistic culture; when acquired,
it bore fruit, not only in more elegant scholarship, but also in new
forms of poetry and prose for the people. A third marked feature of
the period is the establishment of the printing press. The energy
wherewith in little more than fifty years the texts of the classic
authors were rendered indestructible by accident or time, and placed
within the reach of students throughout Europe, demands particular
attention in this chapter.

Florence is still the capital of learning. The most brilliant
humanists, gathered round the person of Lorenzo de' Medici, give laws
to the rest of Italy, determining by their tastes and studies the tone
of intellectual society. Lorenzo is himself in so deep and true a
sense the master spirit of this circle, that to describe his position
in the republic will hardly be considered a digression.

Before his death in 1464 Cosimo de' Medici had succeeded in rendering
his family necessary to the State of Florence. Though thwarted by
ambitious rivals and hampered by the intrigues of the party he had
formed to rule the commonwealth, Cosimo contrived so to complicate the
public finances with his own banking business, and so to bind the
leading burghers to himself by various obligations, that, while he in
no way affected the style of a despot, Florence belonged to his house
more surely than Bologna to the Bentivogli. For the continuation of
this authority, based on intrigue and cemented by corruption, it was
absolutely needful that the spirit of Cosimo should survive in his
successors. A single false move, by unmasking the tyranny so carefully
veiled, by offending the republican vanities of the Florentines, or by
employing force where everything had hitherto been gained by craft,
would at this epoch have destroyed the prospects of the Medicean
family. So true it is that the history of this age in Italy is not the
history of commonwealths so much as the history of individualities, of
men. The principles reduced to rule by Machiavelli in his essay on the
Prince may be studied in the lives of fifteenth-century adventurers,
who, like Cesare Borgia, discerned the necessity of using violence for
special ends, or, like the Medici, perceived that sovereignty could
be better grasped by a hand gloved with velvet than mailed in steel.
The Medici of both branches displayed through eight successive
generations, in their general line of policy, in the disasters that
attended their divergence from it, and in the means they used to
rehabilitate their influence, the action of what Balzac calls _l'homme
politique_, with striking clearness to the philosophic student.

Both the son and grandson of Cosimo well understood the part they had
to play, and played it so ably that even the errors of the younger
Piero, the genius of Savonarola, and the failure of the elder Medicean
line were insufficient to check the gradual subjugation of the
commonwealth he had initiated. Lorenzo's father, Piero, called by the
Florentines _Il Gottoso_, suffered much from ill-health, and was
unable to take the lead in politics.[310] Yet the powers entrusted to
his father were confirmed for him. The elections remained in the hands
of the Medicean party, and the _balia_ appointed in their favour
continued to control the State. The dangerous conspiracy against
Piero's life, engaged in by Luca Pitti and Diotisalvi Neroni, proved
that his enemies regarded the chief of the Medici as the leader of the
republic. It was due to the prudent action of the young Lorenzo that
this conspiracy failed; and the Medici were even strengthened by the
downfall of their foes. From the tone of the congratulations addressed
on this occasion by the ruling powers of Italy to Piero and Lorenzo,
we may conclude that they were already reckoned as princes outside
Florence, though they still maintained a burgherlike simplicity of
life within the city walls.

[Footnote 310: It may be useful to add a skeleton pedigree of the
Medici in this place:--

  Cosimo, Pater Patriæ
    Piero, Il Gottoso
            |                   |
         Lorenzo             Giuliano
            |                   |
            +------------+    Giulio, Clement VII.
            |            |
          Piero,      Giovanni,
        the exile      Leo X.]

In the marriage of his son Lorenzo to Clarice degli Orsini, of the
princely Roman house, Piero gave signs of a departure from the
cautious policy of Cosimo. Foreign alliances were regarded with
suspicion by the Florentines, and Pandolfini's advice to his sons,
that they should avoid familiarity with territorial magnates, exactly
represented the spirit of the republic.[311] In like manner, the
education of both Lorenzo and Giuliano, their intercourse with royal
guests, and the prominent places assigned them on occasions of
ceremony, indicated an advance toward despotism. It was concordant
with the manners of the age that one family should play the part of
host for the republic. The discharge of this duty by the Medici
aroused no jealousy among the burghers; yet it enabled the ambitious
house to place themselves in an unique position, and, while seeming to
remain mere citizens, to take a step in the direction of sovereignty.

[Footnote 311: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 190.]

On the death of Piero, in 1469, the chief men of the Medicean party
waited upon Lorenzo, and, after offering their condolences, besought
him to succeed his father in the presidency of the State. The feeling
prevailed among the leaders of the city that it was impossible, under
the existing conditions of Italian politics, to carry on the
commonwealth without a titular head. Lorenzo, then in his
twenty-second year, entered thus upon the political career in the
course of which he not only maintained a balance of power in Italy,
but also remodelled the internal government of Florence in the
interests of his family, and further strengthened their position by
establishing connections with the Papal See. While bending all the
faculties of his powerful and subtle intellect to the one end of
consolidating a tyranny, Lorenzo was far too wise to assume the
bearing of a despot. He conversed familiarly with the citizens,
encouraged artists and scholars to address him on terms of equality,
and was careful to adopt no titles. His personal temperament made the
task of being in effect a sovereign, while he acted like a citizen,
comparatively easy, his chief difficulties arose from the necessity
under which he laboured, like his grandfather Cosimo, of governing
through a party composed of men distinguished by birth and ability,
and powerful by wealth and connections. To keep this party in good
temper, to flatter its members with the show of influence, and to gain
their concurrence for the alterations he introduced into the State
machinery of Florence, was the problem of his life. By creating a body
of clients, bound to himself by diverse interests and obligations, he
succeeded in bridling the Medicean party and excluding from offices of
trust all dangerous and disaffected persons. The goodwill of the city
at large was secured by the prosperity at home and peace abroad which
marked the last fourteen years of his administration, while the
splendour of his foreign alliances contributed in no small measure to
his popularity. The Florentines were proud of a citizen who brought
them into the first rank of Italian Powers, and who refrained from
assuming the style of sovereign. Thus Lorenzo solved the most
difficult of political problems--that of using a close oligarchy for
the maintenance of despotism in a free and jealous commonwealth. None
of his rivals retained power enough to withhold the sceptre from his
sons when they should seek to grasp it.

The roots of the Medici clung to no one part of Florence in
particular. They seemed superficial; yet they crept beneath the ground
in all directions. Intertwined as they were with every interest both
public and private in the city, to cut them out implied the excision
of some vital member. This was the secret of their power in the next
generation, when, banished and reduced to bastards, the Medici
returned from two exiles, survived the perils of the siege and
Alessandro's murder, and finally assumed the Ducal crown in the person
of the last scion of their younger branch. The policy, so persistently
pursued for generations, so powerfully applied by Lorenzo, might be
compared to the attack of an octopus, which fastens on its victim by a
multitude of tiny tentacles, and waits till he is drained of strength
before it shoots its beak into a vital spot.

In one point Lorenzo was inferior to his grandfather. He had no
commercial talent. After suffering the banking business of the Medici
to fall into disorder, he became virtually bankrupt, while his
personal expenditure kept continually increasing. In order to retrieve
his fortunes it was necessary for him to gain complete disposal of the
public purse. This was the real object of the constitutional
revolution of 1480, whereby his Privy Council assumed the active
functions of the State. Had Lorenzo been as great in finance as in the
management of men, the way might have been smoothed for his son Piero
in the disastrous year of 1494.

If Lorenzo neglected the pursuit of wealth, whereby Cosimo had raised
himself from insignificance to the dictatorship of Florence, he
surpassed his grandfather in the use he made of literary patronage. It
is not paradoxical to affirm that in his policy we can trace the
subordination of a genuine love of arts and letters to statecraft. The
new culture was one of the instruments that helped to build his
despotism. Through his thorough and enthusiastic participation in the
intellectual interests of his age, he put himself into close sympathy
with the Florentines, who were glad to acknowledge for their leader by
far the ablest of the men of parts in Italy. According as we choose
our point of view, we may regard him either as a tyrant, involving his
country in debt and dangerous wars, corrupting the morals and
enfeebling the spirit of the people, and systematically enslaving the
Athens of the modern world for the sake of founding a petty
principality; or else as the most liberal-minded noble of his epoch,
born to play the first part in the Florentine republic, and careful to
use his wealth and influence for the advancement of his
fellow-citizens in culture, learning, arts, amenities of life.
Savonarola and the Florentine historians adopt the former of these two
opinions. Sismondi, in his passion for liberty, arrays against Lorenzo
the political assassinations he permitted, the enervation of Florence,
the national debt incurred by the republic, the exhausting wars with
Sixtus carried on in his defence. His panegyrists, on the contrary,
love to paint him as the pacificator of Italy, the restorer of
Florentine poetry, the profound critic, and the generous patron. The
truth lies in the combination of these two apparently contradictory
judgments. Lorenzo was the representative man of his nation at a
moment when political institutions were everywhere inclining to
despotism, and when the spiritual life of the Italians found its
noblest expression in art and literature. The principality of Florence
was thrust upon him by the policy of Cosimo, by the vote of the chief
citizens, and by the example of the sister republics, all of whom,
with the exception of Venice, submitted to the sway of rulers. Had he
wished, he might have found it difficult to preserve the commonwealth
in its integrity. Few but doctrinaires believed in a _governo misto_;
only aristocrats desired a _governo stretto_; all but democrats
dreaded a _governo largo_. And yet a new constitution must have been
framed after one of these types, and the Florentines must have been
educated to use it with discretion, before Lorenzo could have resigned
his office of dictator with any prospect of freedom for the city in
his charge. Such unselfish patriotism, in the face of such
overwhelming difficulties, and in antagonism to the whole tendency of
the age, was not to be expected from an oligarch of the Renaissance,
born in the purple, and used from infancy to intrigue.

Lorenzo was a man of marvellous variety and range of mental power. He
possessed one of those rare natures, fitted to comprehend all
knowledge and to sympathise with the most diverse forms of life. While
he never for one moment relaxed his grasp on politics, among
philosophers he passed for a sage, among men of letters for an
original and graceful poet, among scholars for a Grecian sensitive to
every nicety of Attic idiom, among artists for an amateur gifted with
refined discernment and consummate taste. Pleasure-seekers knew in him
the libertine, who jousted with the boldest, danced and masqueraded
with the merriest, sought adventures in the streets at night, and
joined the people in their May-day games and Carnival festivities. The
pious extolled him as an author of devotional lauds and mystery plays,
a profound theologian, a critic of sermons. He was no less famous for
his jokes and repartees than for his pithy apophthegms and maxims, as
good a judge of cattle as of statues, as much at home in the bosom of
his family as in the riot of an orgy, as ready to discourse on Plato
as to plan a campaign or to plot the death of a dangerous citizen. An
apologist may always plead that Lorenzo was the epitome of his
nation's most distinguished qualities, that the versatility of the
Renaissance found in him its fullest incarnation. It was the duty of
Italy in the fifteenth century not to establish religious or
constitutional liberty, but to resuscitate culture. Before the
disastrous wars of invasion had begun, it might well have seemed even
to patriots as though Florence needed a Mæcenas more than a Camillus.
Therefore the prince who in his own person combined all
accomplishments, who knew by sympathy and counsel how to stimulate the
genius of men superior to himself in special arts and sciences, who
spent his fortune lavishly on works of public usefulness, whose
palace formed the rallying-point of wit and learning, whose council
chamber was the school of statesmen, who expressed his age in every
word and every act, in his vices and his virtues, his crimes and
generous deeds, cannot be fairly judged by an abstract standard of
republican morality. It is nevertheless true that Lorenzo enfeebled
and enslaved Florence. At his death he left her socially more
dissolute, politically weaker, intellectually more like himself, than
he had found her. He had not the greatness to rise above the spirit of
his century, or to make himself the Pericles instead of the
Pisistratus of his republic. In other words, he was adequate, not
superior, to Renaissance Italy.

This, then, was the man round whom the greatest scholars of the third
period assembled, at whose table sat Angelo Poliziano, Cristoforo
Landino, Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Leo Battista
Alberti, Michael Angelo Buonarroti, Luigi Pulci. The mere enumeration
of these names suffices to awake a crowd of memories in the mind of
those to whom Italian art and poetry are dear. Lorenzo's villas, where
this brilliant circle met for grave discourse or social converse,
heightening the sober pleasures of Italian country life with all that
wit and learning could produce of delicate and rare, have been so
often sung by poets and celebrated by historians that Careggi,
Caffagiolo, and Poggio a Cajano are no less familiar to us than the
studious shades of Academe. 'In a villa overhanging the towers of
Florence,' writes the austere Hallam, moved to more than usual
eloquence by the spirit-stirring beauty of his theme, 'on the steep
slope of that lofty hill crowned by the mother city, the ancient
Fiesole, in gardens which Tully might have envied, with Ficino,
Landino, and Politian at his side, he delighted his hours of leisure
with the beautiful visions of Platonic philosophy, for which the
summer stillness of an Italian sky appears the most congenial
accompaniment.' As we climb the steep slope of Fiesole, or linger
beneath the rose-trees that shed their petals from Careggi's garden
walls, once more in our imagination 'the world's great age begins
anew;' once more the blossoms of that marvellous spring unclose. While
the sun goes down beneath the mountains of Carrara, and the Apennines
grow purple-golden, and Florence sleeps beside the silvery Arno, and
the large Italian stars come forth above, we remember how those mighty
master spirits watched the sphering of new planets in the spiritual
skies. Savonarola in his cell below once more sits brooding over the
servility of Florence, the corruption of a godless Church. Michael
Angelo, seated between Ficino and Poliziano, with the voices of the
prophets vibrating in his memory, and with the music of Plato sounding
in his ears, rests chin on hand and elbow upon knee, like his own
Jeremiah, lost in contemplation, whereof the after-fruit shall be the
Sistine Chapel and the Medicean tombs. Then, when the strain of
thought, 'unsphering Plato from his skies,' begins to weary, Pulci
breaks the silence with a brand-new canto of Morgante, or a singing
boy is bidden to tune his mandoline to Messer Angelo's last-made

There is no difficulty in explaining Plato's power upon the thinkers
of the fifteenth century. Among philosophers Plato shines like a
morning star--[Greek: outh' hesperos oute eôos ontô thaumastos]--an
auroral luminary, charming and compelling the attention of the world
when man is on the verge of new discoveries. That he should have
enslaved the finest intellects at a time when the sense of beauty was
so keenly stimulated, and when the stirrings of fresh life were so
intense, is nothing more than natural. To philosophise and humanise
the religious sentiments that had become the property of monks and
pardon-mongers; to establish a concordat between the Paganism that
entranced the world, and the Catholic faith whereof the world was not
yet weary; to satisfy the new-born sense of a divine and hitherto
unapprehended mystery in heaven and earth; to dignify with a semblance
of truth the dreams of magic and astrology that passed for
science--all this the men of the Renaissance passionately craved. Who
could render better help than Plato and the Neoplatonists, whose charm
of style and high-flown mysticism suited the ambitious immaturity of
undeveloped thought? For the interpretation of Platonic doctrine a
hierophant was needed. Marsilio Ficino had been set apart from
earliest youth for this purpose--selected in the wisdom of Cosimo de'
Medici, prepared by special processes of study, and consecrated to the
service of the one philosopher.[312]

[Footnote 312: Marsilio Ficino, the son of Cosimo's physician, was
born at Figline in 1433.]

When Marsilio was a youth of eighteen, he entered the Medicean
household, and began to learn Greek, in order that he might qualify
himself for translating Plato into Latin. His health was delicate, his
sensibilities acute; the temper of his intellect, inclined to
mysticism and theology, fitted him for the arduous task of unifying
religion with philosophy. It would be unfair to class him with the
paganising humanists, who sought to justify their unbelief or want of
morals by the authority of the classics. Ficino remained throughout
his life an earnest Christian. At the age of forty, not without
serious reflection and mature resolve, he took orders, and faithfully
performed the duties of his cure. Antiquity he judged by the standard
of the Christian creed. If he asserted that Socrates and Plato
witnessed, together with the evangelists, to the truth of revelation,
or that the same spirit inspired the laws of Moses and the Greek
philosopher--this, as he conceived it, was in effect little else than
extending the catena of authority backward from the Christian fathers
to the sages of the ancient world. The Church, by admitting the
sibyls into the company of the prophets, virtually sanctioned the
canonisation of Plato; while the comprehensive survey of history as an
uninterrupted whole, which since the days of Petrarch had
distinguished the nobler type of humanism, rendered Ficino's
philosophical religion not unacceptable even to the orthodox. The
speculative mystics of the fifteenth century failed, however, to
perceive that by recognising inspiration in the classic authors, they
were silently denying the unique value of revelation; and that by
seeking the religious tradition far and wide, they called in question
the peculiar divinity of Christ. Savonarola saw this clearly;
therefore he denounced the Platonists as heretics, who vainly babbled
about things they did not understand. The permanent value of their
speculations, crude and uncritical as they may now appear, consists in
the large claim made for human reason as against bibliolatry and
Church authority.

Ficino was forty-four years of age when he finished the translation of
Plato's works into Latin. Five more years elapsed before the first
edition was printed in 1482 at Filippo Valori's expense. It may here
be mentioned incidentally that, by this help, the aristocracy of
Florence materially contributed to the diffusion of culture. A genuine
philosopher in his lack of ambition and his freedom from avarice,
Ficino was too poor to publish his own works; and what is true of him,
applies to many most distinguished authors of the age. Great literary
undertakings involved in that century the substantial assistance of
wealthy men, whose liberality was rewarded by a notice in the colophon
or on the title-page.[313] When, for instance, the first edition of
Homer was issued from the press by Lorenzo Alopa in 1488, two brothers
of the Nerli family, Bernardo and Neri, defrayed the expense.[314]
The Plato was soon followed by a Life of the philosopher, and a
treatise on the 'Platonic Doctrine of Immortality.' The latter work is
interesting as a repertory of the theories discussed by the Medicean
circle at their festivals in honour of Plato's birthday. It has,
however, no intrinsic value for the critic or philosopher, being in
effect nothing better than a jumble of citations culled from antique
mystics and combined with cruder modern guesses. In 1486 the
translation of Plotinus was accomplished, and in 1491 a voluminous
commentary had been added; both were published one month after
Lorenzo's death in 1492. A version of Dionysius the Areopagite, whose
treatise on the 'Hierarchies,' though rejected by Lorenzo Valla, was
accepted as genuine by Ficino, closed the long list of his
translations from the Greek. The importance of Ficino's contributions
to philosophy consists in the impulse he communicated to Platonic
studies. That he did not comprehend Plato, or distinguish his
philosophy from that of the Alexandrian mystics, is clear in every
sentence of his writings. The age was uncritical, nor had scholars
learned the necessity of understanding an author's relation to the
history of thought in general before they attempted to explain him.
Thus they were satisfied to read Plato by the reflected light of
Plotinus and Gemistos Plethon, and to assimilate such portions only of
his teaching as accorded with their own theology. The doctrine of
planetary influences, and the myths invented to express the nature of
the soul--in other words, the consciously poetic thoughts of
Plato--seemed of more value to Ficino than the theory of ideas,
wherein the deepest problems are presented in a logical shape to the
understanding. The Middle Ages had plied dialectic to satiety; the
Renaissance dwelt with passion upon vague and misty thoughts that
gave a scope to its imagination. No dreams of poet or of mystic could
surpass reality in the age of Lionardo da Vinci and Christopher

[Footnote 313: Thus Ficino's edition of Plotinus, printed at Lorenzo
de' Medici's expense, and published one month after his death, bears
this notice:--'Magnifici sumptu Laurentii patriæ servatoris.']

[Footnote 314: See, however, Didot's _Alde Manuce_, p. 4, where
Giovanni Acciaiuoli is credited with this generosity.]

If Plato has been studied more exactly of late years, he has never
been loved better or more devotedly worshipped than by the Florentine
Academy. Who builds a shrine and burns a lamp before his statue now?
Who crowns his bust with laurels, or celebrates his birthday and his
deathday with solemn festivals and pompous panegyrics? Who meet at
stated intervals to read his words, and probe his hidden meaning,
feeding his altar-flame with frankincense of their most precious
thoughts? It was by outward signs like these, then full of fair
significance, now puerile and void of import, that the pageant-loving
men of the Renaissance testified their debt of gratitude to Plato. Of
one of these birthday feasts Ficino has given a lively picture in his
letter to Jacopo Bracciolini ('Prolegomena ad Platonis Symposium').
After partaking of a banquet, the text of the 'Symposium' was
delivered over to discussion. Giovanni Cavalcanti interpreted the
speeches of Phædrus and Pausanias, Landino that of Aristophanes; Carlo
Marsuppini undertook the part of Agathon, while Tommaso Benci
explained the esoteric meaning of Diotima. Was there anyone, we
wonder, to act Alcibiades; or did Lorenzo, perhaps, sit drinking till
day flooded the meadows of Valdarno, passing round a two-handled
goblet, and raising subtle questions about comedy and tragedy?

Among the academicians who frequented Lorenzo's palace at Florence
there appeared, in 1484, a young man of princely birth and fascinating
beauty. 'Nature,' wrote Poliziano, 'seemed to have showered on this
man, or hero, all her gifts. He was tall and finely moulded; from his
face a something of divinity shone forth. Acute, and gifted with
prodigious memory, in his studies he was indefatigable, in his style
perspicuous and eloquent. You could not say whether his talents or his
moral qualities conferred on him the greater lustre. Familiar with all
branches of philosophy, and the master of many languages, he stood on
high above the reach of praise.' This was Giovanni Pico della
Mirandola, whose portrait in the Uffizzi Gallery, with its long brown
hair and penetrating grey eyes, compels attention even from those who
know not whom it is supposed to figure. He was little more than twenty
when he came to Florence. His personal attractions, noble manners,
splendid style of life, and varied accomplishments made him the idol
of Florentine society; and for a time he gave himself, in part at
least, to love and the amusements of his age.[315] But Pico was not
born for pleasure. By no man was the sublime ideal of humanity,
superior to physical enjoyments and dignified by intellectual energy,
that triumph of the thought of the Renaissance, more completely
realised.[316] There is even reason to regret that, together with the
follies of youth, he put aside the collection of his Latin poems,
which Poliziano praised, and took no pains to preserve those Italian
verses, the loss whereof we deplore no less than that of Lionardo's.
While Pico continued to live as became a Count of Mirandola, he
personally inclined each year to graver and more abstruse studies and
to greater austerity, until at last the prince was merged in the
philosopher, the man of letters in the mystic.

[Footnote 315: See Von Reumont, vol. ii. p. 108.]

[Footnote 316: Fine expression was given to this conception of life by
Aldus in the dedication to Alberto Pio of vols. ii., iii., iv. of
Aristotle:--'Es nam tu mihi optimus testis an potiores Herculis
ærumnas credam, sævosque labores, et Venere, et coenis et plumis
Sardanapali. Natus nam homo est ad laborem et ad agendum semper
aliquid viro dignum, non ad voluptatem quæ belluarum est et pecudum.'
The last sentence is a translation of Ulysses' speech in the

     'Considerate la vostra semenza,
     Fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
     Ma per seguir virtude e conoscenza.'

Cf. Aldus's preface to Lascaris' Grammar; Renouard, vol. i. p. 7; and
again _Alde Manuce_, p. 143, for similar passages.]

Pico's abilities displayed themselves in earliest boyhood. His mother,
a niece of the great Boiardo, noticed his rare aptitude for study, and
sent him at the age of fourteen to Bologna. There he mastered not only
the humanities, but also what was taught of mathematics, logic,
philosophy, and Oriental languages. He afterwards continued his
education at Paris, the headquarters of scholastic theology. Pico's
powerful memory must have served him in good stead: it is recorded
that a single reading fixed the language and the matter of the texts
he studied, on his mind for ever. Nor was this faculty for retaining
knowledge accompanied by any sluggishness of mental power. To what
extent he relied upon his powers of debate as well as on his vast
stores of erudition, was proved by the publication of the famous nine
hundred theses at Rome in 1486. These questions seem to have been
constructed in defence of the Platonic mysticism, which already had
begun to absorb his attention. The philosophers and theologians who
were challenged to contend with him in argument had the whole list
offered to their choice. Pico was prepared to maintain each and all of
his positions without further preparation. Ecclesiastical prudence,
however, prevented the champions of orthodoxy from descending into the
arena. They found it safer to prefer a charge of heresy against Pico,
whose theses were condemned in a brief of Innocent VIII., dated August
5, 1486. It was not until June 18, 1493, that he was finally purged
from the ban of heterodoxy by a brief of Alexander VI. During that
long interval he suffered much uneasiness of mind, for even his robust
intelligence quailed before the thought of dying under Papal
interdiction. That a man so pure in his life and so earnest in his
piety should have been stigmatised as a heretic, and then pardoned,
by two such Popes, is one of the curious anomalies of that age.

To harmonise the Christian and classical tradition was a problem which
Manetti had crudely attempted. Pico approached it in a more
philosophical spirit, and resolved to devote his whole life to the
task. The antagonism between sacred and profane literature appeared
more glaring to Renaissance scholars than to us, inasmuch as they
attached more serious value to the teaching of the latter as a rule of
life. Yet Pico was not intent so much on merely reconciling hostile
systems of thought, or on confuting the errors of the Jews and
Gentiles. He had conceived the great idea of the unity of knowledge;
and having acquired the _omne scibile_ of his century, he sought to
seize the soul of truth that animates all systems. Not the classics
nor the Scriptures alone, but the writings of the schoolmen, the
glosses of Arabic philosophers, and the more obscure products of
Hebrew erudition had for him their solid value. Estimating authors at
the worth of their matter, and despising the trivial questions raised
by shallow wits among style-mongering students, he freed himself from
the worst fault of humanism, and conceived of learning in a liberal
spirit. The best proof of this wide acceptance of all literature
conducive to sound thinking, is given in a letter to Ermolao
Barbaro.[317] After courteously adverting to the Ciceronian elegance
of his correspondent's style he continues, 'And that I meantime should
have lost in the studies of Thomas Aquinas, John Scotus, Albertus
Magnus, and Averrhoes the best years of my life--those long, laborious
vigils wherein I might perchance have made myself of some avail in
polite scholarship! The thought occurred to me, by way of consolation,
if some of them could come to life again, whether men so powerful in
argument might not find sound pleas for their own cause; whether one
among them, more eloquent than Paul, might not defend, in terms as
free as possible from barbarism, their barbarous style, speaking
perchance after this fashion: We have lived illustrious, friend
Ermolao, and to posterity shall live, not in the schools of the
grammarians and teaching-places of young minds, but in the company of
the philosophers, conclaves of sages, where the questions for debate
are not concerning the mother of Andromache or the sons of Niobe and
such light trifles, but of things human and divine; in the
contemplation, investigation, and analysis whereof we have been so
subtle, searching, and eager that we may sometimes have seemed to be
too scrupulous and captious, if indeed it be possible to be too
curious or fastidious in seeking after truth. Let him who accuses us
of dulness, prove by experience whether we barbarians have not the god
of eloquence in our hearts rather than on our lips; whether, if the
faculty of ornamented speech be lacking, we have wanted wisdom: and to
trick out wisdom with ornaments may be more a crime than to show it in
uncultured rudeness.'

[Footnote 317: Dated Florence, 1485; in the Aldine edition of
Poliziano's Letters, book ix.]

During the period of his Platonic studies at Florence chance brought
Pico into contact with a Jew who had a copy of the Cabbala for sale.
Into this jungle of abstruse learning Pico plunged with all the ardour
of his powerful intellect. Asiatic fancies, Alexandrian myths,
Christian doctrines, Hebrew traditions, are so wonderfully blended in
that labyrinthine commentary that Pico believed he had discovered the
key to his great problem, the quintessence of all truth. It seemed to
him that the science of the Greek and the faith of the Christian could
only be understood in the light of the Cabbala. He purchased the MS.,
devoted his whole attention to its study, and projected a mighty work
to prove the harmony of philosophies in Christianity, and to explain
the Christian doctrine by the esoteric teaching of the Jews.[318]
Pico's view of the connection between philosophy, theology, and
religion is plainly stated in the following sentence from a letter to
Aldus Manutius (February 11, 1491):--'Philosophia veritatem quærit,
theologia invenit, religio possidet' ('Philosophy seeks truth,
theology discovers it, religion hath it'). Death overtook him before
the book intended to demonstrate these positions, and by so doing to
establish the concord of all earnest and truth-seeking systems, could
be written. He died at the age of thirty-one, on the very day when
Charles VIII. made his entry into Florence.

[Footnote 318: In the introduction to Pico's _Apologia_ may be read
the account he gives of the codex of the pseudo-Esdras purchased by

While accepting the Cabbala it was impossible for Pico to reject
magic. He showed his good sense, however, by an energetic attack upon
the so-called science of judicial astrology. Strictly speaking, the
spirit of humanism was opposed to this folly. Petrarch had long ago
condemned it, together with the charlatans who used its jargon to
impose upon the world; yet, in spite of humanism, the folly not only
persisted, but seemed to increase with the spread of rational
knowledge. The universities founded Chairs of Astrology, Popes
consulted the stars on occasions of importance, nor did the Despots
dare to act without the advice of their soothsayers. These men not
unfrequently accompanied the greatest generals on their campaigns.
Their services were bought by the republics; citizens employed them
for the casting of horoscopes, the building of houses, the position of
shops, the fit moment for journeys, the reception of guests into their
families, and the date of weddings. To take a serious step in life
without the approval of an astrologer had come to be regarded as
perilous. Even Ficino believed in horoscopes and planetary influences;
so did Cardan at a later date. It may be remembered that Catherine de'
Medici allowed the Florentine Ruggieri to share her secret counsels
during the reigns of three kings, and that Paul III. always obtained
the sanction of his star-gazer before he held a consistory. In
proportion as religion grew less real, and the complex dangers of a
corrupt society increased, astrology gained in importance. It was not,
therefore, a waste of eloquence, as Poliziano complained, when Pico
directed his attack against this delusion, accusing it of debasing the
intellect and opening the way for immorality of all kinds.[319]

[Footnote 319: Poliziano's Greek epigram addressed to Pico on this
matter may be quoted from the _Carmina Quinque Poetarum_, p. 412:--

     [Greek: kai tout' astrologois epimemphomai êeroleschais,
       hotti sophous Pikou moi phthoneous' oarous.
     kai gar ho endykeôs toutôn ton lêron elenchôn
       mounaxei en agrô dêron hekas poleôs.
     Pike ti soi kai toutois? ou s' epeoiken agyrtais
       antarai tên sên eutychea graphida].]

Since Pico's keen intellect discerned the shallowness of astrological
pretensions, it is the more to be deplored that he fell a victim to
the hybrid mysticism and magical nonsense of the Cabbala. We have here
another proof that criticism was as yet in its infancy. It was easier
for men of genius in the Renaissance to win lofty vantage-ground for
contemplation, to divine the unity of human achievements, and to
comprehend the greatness of the destiny of man, than to accept the
learning of the past at a simple historical valuation. What fascinated
their imagination passed with them too easily for true and proved. Yet
all they needed was time for the digestion and assimilation of the
stores of knowledge they had gained. If the Counter-Reformation had
not checked the further growth of Italian science, the spirit that
lived in Pico would certainly have produced a school of philosophy
second to none that Europe has brought forth. Of this Pico's own short
treatise on the 'Dignity of Man,' as I have said already, is
sufficient warrant.

As Pico was the youngest so was Cristoforo Landino the oldest member
of the Medicean circle. He was born at Florence in 1424, nine years
before Ficino, with whom he shared the duties of instructing Lorenzo
in his boyhood. Landino obtained the Chair of Rhetoric and Poetry in
1457, and continued till his death in 1504 to profess Latin literature
at Florence. While Ficino and Pico represented the study of
philosophy, he devoted himself exclusively to scholarship, annotating
Horace and Virgil, and translating Pliny's 'Natural Histories.' A
marked feature in Landino's professorial labours was the attention he
paid to the Italian poets. In 1460 he began to lecture on Petrarch,
and in 1481 he published an edition of Dante with voluminous
commentaries. The copy of this work, printed upon parchment,
splendidly bound, and fastened with niello clasps, which Landino
presented with a set oration to the Signory of Florence, may still be
seen in the Magliabecchian library. The author was rewarded with a
house in Borgo alla Collina, the ancient residence of his family.

Though the name of Cristoforo Landino is now best known in connection
with his Dantesque studies, one of his Latin works, the 'Camaldolese
Discussions,'[320] will always retain peculiar interest for the
student of Florentine humanism. This treatise is composed in imitation
of the Ciceronian rather than the Platonic dialogues; the 'Tusculans'
may be said to have furnished Landino with his model. He begins by
telling how he left his villa in the Casentino, accompanied by his
brother, to pay a visit to the hill-set sanctuary of S. Romualdo.[321]
There he met with Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici, attended by noble
youths of Florence--Piero and Donato Acciaiuoli, Alamanno Rinuccini,
Marco Parenti, and Antonio Canigiani--all of whom had quitted Florence
to enjoy the rest of summer coolness among the firs and chestnuts of
the Apennines. The party thus formed was completed by the arrival of
Leo Battista Alberti and Marsilio Ficino. The conversation maintained
from day to day by these close friends and ardent scholars forms the
substance of the dialogue. Seated on the turf beside a fountain, near
the spot where Romualdo was bidden in his trance to exchange the black
robes of the Benedictine Order for the snow-white livery of angels,
they not unnaturally began to compare the active life that they had
left at Florence with the contemplative life of philosophers and
saints. Alberti led the conversation by a panegyric of the [Greek:
bios theôrêtikos], maintaining the Platonic thesis with a wealth of
illustration and a charm of eloquence peculiar to himself. Lorenzo
took up the argument in favour of the [Greek: bios praktikos]. If
Alberti proved that solitude and meditation are the nurses of great
spirits, that man by communing with nature enters into full possession
of his mental kingdom, Lorenzo pointed out that this completion of
self-culture only finds its use and value in the commerce of the
world. The philosopher must descend from his altitude and mix with
men, in order to exercise the faculties matured by contemplation. Thus
far the artist and the statesman are supposed to hold debate on
Goethe's celebrated distich--

     Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille,
     Sich ein Charakter in dem Strom der Welt.

[Footnote 320: _Disputationum Camaldulensium_ lib. iv., dedicated to
Frederick of Urbino.]

[Footnote 321: The legend of the foundation of this Order is well
known through Sacchi's picture in the Vatican.]

The audience decided, in the spirit of the German poet, that a
fully-formed man, the possessor of both character and talent, must
submit himself to each method of training. Thus ended the first day's
discussion. During the three following days Alberti led the
conversation to Virgil's poetry, demonstrating its allegorical
significance, and connecting its hidden philosophy with that of
Plato. It is clear that in this part of his work Landino was
presenting the substance of his own Virgilian studies. The whole book,
like Castiglione's 'Courtier,' supplies a fair sample of the topics on
which social conversation turned among refined and cultivated men. The
tincture of Platonism is specially characteristic of the Medicean

The distinguished place allotted in this dialogue to Leo Battista
Alberti proves the singular regard in which this most remarkable man
was held at Florence, where, however, he but seldom resided. His name
will always be coupled with that of Lionardo da Vinci; for though
Lionardo, arriving at a happier moment, has eclipsed Alberti's fame,
yet both of them were cast in the same mould. Alberti, indeed, might
serve as the very type of those many-sided, precocious, and
comprehensive men of genius who only existed in the age of the
Renaissance. Physical strength and dexterity were given to him at
birth in measure equal to his mental faculties. It is recorded that he
could jump standing over an upright man, pierce the strongest armour
with his arrows, and so deftly fling a coin that it touched the
highest point of a church or palace roof. The wildest horses are said
to have trembled under him, as though brutes felt, like men, the
magnetism of his personality. His insight into every branch of
knowledge seemed intuitive, and his command of the arts was innate. At
the age of twenty he composed the comedy of 'Philodoxius,' which
passed for an antique, and was published by the Aldi as the work of
Lepidus Comicus in 1588. Of music, though he had not made it a special
study, he was a thorough master, composing melodies that gave delight
to scientific judges. He painted pictures, and wrote three books on
painting; practised architecture and compiled ten books on building.
Of his books, chiefly portraits, nothing remains; but the Church of S.
Andrea at Mantua, the Palazzo Rucellai at Florence, and the
remodelled Church of S. Francesco at Rimini attest his greatness as an
architect. The façade of the latter building is more thoroughly
classical than any other monument of the earlier Renaissance. As a
transcript from Roman antiquity it ranks with the Palazzo della
Ragione of Palladio at Vincenza. While still a young man, Alberti,
overtaxed, in all probability, by the prodigious activity of his
mental and bodily forces, suffered from an illness that resulted in a
partial loss of memory. The humanistic and legal studies on which he
was engaged had to be abandoned; yet, nothing daunted, he now turned
his plastic genius to philosophy and mathematics, rightly judging that
they make less demand upon the passive than the active vigour of the
mind. It is believed that he anticipated some modern discoveries in
optics, and he certainly advanced the science of perspective. Like his
compeer Lionardo, he devoted attention to mechanics, and devised
machinery for raising sunken ships. Like Lionardo, again, he was never
tired of interrogating nature, conducting curious experiments, and
watching her more secret operations. As a physiognomist and diviner,
he acquired a reputation bordering on wizardry. It was as though his
exquisite sensibilities and keenness of attention had gifted him with
second sight. The depth of his sympathy with the outer world is proved
by an assertion of his anonymous biographer that, when he saw the
cornfields and vineyards of autumn, tears gathered to his eyes. All
living creatures that had beauty won his love, and even in old persons
he discovered a charm appropriate to old age. Foreigners, travellers,
and workmen skilled in various crafts formed his favourite company,
for in the acquisition of varied knowledge he was indefatigable. In
general society his wisdom and his wit, the eloquence of his discourse
and the brilliance of his improvisation, rendered him most
fascinating. Collections of maxims culled from his table talk were
made, whereof the anonymous biography contains a fair selection. At
the same time we are told that, in the midst of sparkling sallies or
close arguments, he would suddenly subside into reverie, and sit at
table lost in silent contemplation. Alberti was one of the earliest
writers of pure Italian prose at the period of its revival; but this
part of his intellectual activity belongs to the history of Italian
literature, and need not be touched on here. It is enough to have
glanced thus briefly at one of the most attractive, sympathy-compelling
figures of the fifteenth century.

In order to complete the picture of the Florentine circle, we have in
the last place to notice two men raised by the Medici from the ranks
of the people. 'I came to the republic, bare of all things, a mere
beggar, of the lowest birth, without money, rank, connections, or
kindred. Cosimo, the father of his country, raised me up, by receiving
me into his family.' So wrote Bartolommeo Scala,[322] the miller's
son, who lived to be the Chancellor of Florence. The splendour of that
office had been considerably diminished since the days when Bruni,
Marsuppini, and Poggio held it; nor could Scala, as a student, bear
comparison with those men. His Latin history of the first crusade was
rather a large than a great work, of which no notice would be taken if
Tasso had not used it in the composition of his epic. Honours and
riches, however, were accumulated on the Chancellor in such profusion
that he grew arrogant, and taunted the great Poliziano with
inferiority. The feud between these men was not confined to
literature. Scala's daughter, a far better scholar than himself,
attracted Poliziano's notice, and Greek epigrams were exchanged
between them. The dictator of Italian letters now sought the hand of
the fair Alessandra, who was rich not only in learning but in world's
gear also. When she gave herself to Michael Marullus Tarcagnota, a
Greek, his anger knew no bounds; instead of penning amatory he now
composed satiric epigrams, abusing Marullus in Latin no less than he
had praised Alessandra in Greek.[323]

[Footnote 322: Born at Colle in 1430.]

[Footnote 323: The following verses on Alessandra are so curious a
specimen of Poliziano's Greek style that I transcribe them here
(_Carmina Quinque Illustrium Poetarum_, p. 304):--

     [Greek: heurêch' heurêch' hên thelon, hên ezêteon aiei,
       hên êtoun ton erôth', hên kai oneiropoloun;
     parthenikên hês kallos akêraton, hês hoge kosmos
       ouk eiê technês all' aphelous physeôs;
     parthenikên glôttêsin ep' amphoterêsi komôsan,
       exochon ente chorois exochon ente lyra;
     hês peri sôphrosynê t' eiê charitessi th' hamilla,
       tê kai tê tautên antimethelkomenais.
     heurêk' oud' ophelos, kai gar molis eis eniauton
       oistrounti phlogerôs estin hapax ideein].

The satires on Mabilius (so he called Marullus) are too filthy to be
quoted. They may be read in the collection cited above, pp. 275-280.]

Angelo Poliziano was born in 1454. His name, so famous in Italian
literature, is a Latinised version of his birthplace, Montepulciano.
His father, Benedetto Ambrogini, was a man of some consequence, but of
small means, who fell a victim to the enmity of private foes among his
fellow-citizens, leaving his widow and five young children almost
wholly unprovided for.[324] This accounts for the obscurity that long
enveloped the history of Poliziano's childhood, and also for the
doubts expressed about the surname of his family. At the age of ten he
came to study in the University of Florence, where he profited by the
teaching of Landino, Argyropoulos, Andronicos Kallistos, and Ficino.
The precocity of his genius displayed itself in Latin poems and Greek
epigrams composed while he was yet a boy. At thirteen years of age he
published Latin letters; at seventeen he distributed Greek poems among
the learned men of Florence; at eighteen he edited Catullus, with the
boast that he had shown more zeal than any other student in the
correction and illustration of the ancients. As early as the year
1470 he had not only conceived the ambitious determination to
translate Homer into Latin verse, but had already begun upon the
second Iliad. The first book was known to scholars in Marsuppini's
Latin version. Poliziano carried his own translation as far as the end
of the fifth book, gaining for himself the proud title of _Homericus
juvenis_; further than this, for reasons unexplained, he never
advanced, so that the last wish of Nicholas V., the chief desire of
fifteenth-century scholarship--a Latin Iliad in hexameters--remained
still unaccomplished.

[Footnote 324: See Carducci, preface to _Le Stanze_, Florence, 1863,
and Isidoro del Lungo in _Arch. Stor._ series iii. vol. ii.]

The fame of this great undertaking attracted universal attention to
Poliziano. It is probable that Ficino first introduced him to Lorenzo
de' Medici, who received the young student into his own household, and
made himself responsible for his future fortunes. 'The liberality of
Lorenzo de' Medici, that great and wise man,' wrote Poliziano in after
years, 'raised me from the obscure and humble station where my birth
had placed me, to that degree of dignity and distinction I now enjoy,
with no other recommendation than my literary abilities.' Before he
had reached the age of thirty, Poliziano professed the Greek and Latin
literatures in the University of Florence, and received the care of
Lorenzo's children. If Lorenzo represents the statecraft of his age,
Poliziano is no less emphatically the representative of its highest
achievements in scholarship. He was the first Italian to combine
perfect mastery over Latin and a correct sense of Greek with a
splendid genius for his native literature. Filelfo boasted that he
could write both classic languages with equal ease, and exercised his
prosy muse in _terza rima_. But Filelfo had no fire of poetry, no
sense of style. Poliziano, on the contrary, was a born poet, a _sacer
vates_ in the truest sense of the word. I shall have to speak
elsewhere of his Italian verses: those who have studied them know that
the 'Orfeo,' the 'Stanze,' and the 'Rime' justify Poliziano's claim to
the middle place of honour between Petrarch and Ariosto. Italian
poetry took a new direction from his genius, and everything he penned
was fruitful of results for the succeeding generation. Of his Latin
poetry, in like manner, I propose to treat at greater length in the
following chapter.

The spirit of Roman literature lived again in Poliziano. If he cannot
be compared with the Augustan authors, he will pass muster at least
with the poets of the silver age. Neither Statius nor Ausonius
produced more musical hexameters, or expressed their feeling for
natural beauty in phrases marked with more spontaneous grace. Of his
Greek elegiacs only a few specimens survive. These, in spite of
certain licenses not justified by pure Greek prosody, might claim a
place in the 'Anthology,' among the epigrams of Agathias and Paulus
Silentiarius.[325] The Doric couplets on two beautiful boys, and the
love sonnet to the youth Chrysocomus, read like extracts from the
[Greek: Mousa paidikê].[326] What is remarkable about the Greek and
Latin poetry of Poliziano is that the flavour of the author's Italian
style transpires in them. They are no mere imitations of the classics.
The 'roseate fluency' of the 'Rime' reappears in these _prolusiones_,
making it manifest that the three languages were used with equal
facility, and that on each of them the poet set the seal of his own

[Footnote 325: Julius Cæsar Scaliger wrote thus about them in the
_Hypercriticus_:--'Græcis vero, quæ puerum se conscripsisse dicit,
ætatem minus prudenter apposuit suam; tam enim bona sunt ut ne virum
quidem Latina æque bene scripsisse putem.']

[Footnote 326: _Quinque Illustrium Poetarum Carmina_, pp. 299, 301.
These epigrams, as well as two on pp. 303, 307, are significant in
their illustration of the poet's morality. Giovio's account of
Poliziano's death was certainly accepted by contemporaries:--'_Ferunt
eum ingenui adolescentis insano amore percitum facile in letalem
morbum incidisse._' The whole _Elogium_, however, is a covert libel,
like many of Giovio's sketches.]

What has been said about his verse, applies with no less force to his
prose composition. Poliziano wrote Latin, as though it were a living
language, not culling phrases from Cicero or reproducing the periods
of Livy, but trusting to his instinct and his ear, with the facility
of conscious power. The humanism of the first and second periods
attained to the freedom of fine art in Poliziano. Through him, as
through a lens, the rays of previous culture were transmitted in a
column of pure light. He realised what the Italians had been striving
after--the new birth of antiquity in a living man of the modern world.
By way of modifying this high panegyric, it may be conceded that
Poliziano had the defects of his qualities. Using Latin with the
freedom of a master, he was not careful to purge his style of obsolete
words and far-fetched phrases, or to maintain the diction of one
period in each composition. His fluency betrayed him into verbiage,
and his descriptions are often more diffuse than vigorous. Nor will he
bear comparison with some more modern scholars on the point of
accuracy. The merit, however, remains to him of having been the most
copious and least slavish interpreter of the ancient to the modern
world. His very imperfections, when judged by the standard of Bembo,
place him above the purists, inasmuch as he possessed the power and
courage to express himself in his own idiom, instead of treading
cautiously in none but Ciceronian or Virgilian footprints.

As a professor, none of the humanists achieved more brilliant
successes than Poliziano. Among his pupils could be numbered the chief
students of Europe. Not to mention Italians, it will suffice to record
the names of Reuchlin, Grocin, Linacre, and the Portuguese Tessiras,
who carried each to his own country the culture they had gained in
Florence. The first appearance of Poliziano in the lecture-room was
not calculated to win admiration. Ill-formed, with eyes that had
something of a squint in them, and a nose of disproportionate size, he
seemed more fit to be a solitary scholar than the Orpheus of the
classic literature.[327] Yet no sooner had he opened his lips and
begun to speak, with the exquisite and varied intonations of a
singularly beautiful voice, than his listeners were chained to their
seats. The ungainliness of the teacher was forgotten; charmed through
their ears and their intellect, they eagerly drank in his eloquence,
applauding the improvisations wherewith he illustrated the spirit and
intention of his authors, and silently absorbing the vast and
well-ordered stores of knowledge he so prodigally scattered. It would
not be profitable to narrate here at any length what is known about
the topics of these lectures. Poliziano not only covered the whole
ground of classic literature during the years of his professorship,
but also published the notes of courses upon Ovid, Suetonius, Statius,
the younger Pliny, the writers of Augustan histories, and Quintilian.
Some of his best Latin poems were written by way of preface to the
authors he explained in public. Virgil was celebrated in the 'Manto,'
and Homer in the 'Ambra;' the 'Rusticus' served as prelude to the
'Georgics,' while the 'Nutricia' formed an introduction to the study
of ancient and modern poetry. Nor did he confine his attention to fine
literature. The curious prælection in prose called 'Lamia' was
intended as a prelude to the prior 'Analytics' of Aristotle. Among his
translations must be mentioned Epictetus, Herodian, Hippocrates,
Galen, Plutarch's 'Eroticus,' and the 'Charmides' of Plato. His
greatest achievement, however, was the edition of the 'Pandects' of
Justinian from the famous MS. of which Florence had robbed Pisa, as
the Pisans had previously taken it from Amalfi. It must not be
forgotten that all these undertakings involved severe labours of
correction and criticism. MSS. had to be compared and texts settled,
when as yet the apparatus for this higher form of scholarship was
miserably scanty. Though students before Poliziano had understood the
necessity of collating codices, determining their relative ages, and
tracing them, if possible, to their authoritative sources, he was the
first to do this systematically and with judgment. To emendation he
only had recourse when the text seemed hopeless. His work upon the
'Pandects' alone implies the expenditure of enormous toil.

[Footnote 327: 'Erat distortis sæpe moribus, uti facie nequaquam
ingenuâ et liberali ab enormi præsertim naso, subluscoque oculo
perabsurdâ.' Giovio, _Elogia_. Cf. Poliziano's own verses to Mabilius,

     Quod nasum mihi, quod reflexa colla
     Demens objicis.

     _Carmina Quinque Poetarum_, p. 277.]

The results of Poliziano's more fugitive studies, and some notes of
conversations on literary topics with Lorenzo, were published in 1489
under the title of 'Miscellanea.'[328] The form was borrowed from the
'Noctes Atticæ' of Aulus Gellius; in matter this collection
anticipated the genial criticisms of Erasmus. The excitement caused by
its appearance is vividly depicted in the following letter of Jacopus
Antiquarius, secretary to the Duke of Milan:[329]--'Going lately,
according to my custom, into one of the public offices, I found a
number of the young clerks neglecting their prince's business, and
lost in the study of a book which had been distributed in sheets among
them. When I asked what new book had appeared, they answered,
Politian's "Miscellanies." I mounted their desk, sat down among them,
and began to read with equal eagerness. But, as I could not spend much
time there, I sent at once to the bookseller's stall for a copy of the
work.' By this time Poliziano's fame had eclipsed that of all his
contemporaries. He corresponded familiarly with native and foreign
princes, and held a kind of court at Florence among men of learning
who came from all parts of Italy to converse with him. This
popularity grew even burdensome, or at any rate he affected to find it
so. 'Does a man want a motto for his sword's hilt or a posy for a
ring,' he writes,[330] 'an inscription for his bedroom or a device for
his plate, or even for his pots and pans, he runs like all the world
to Politian. There is hardly a wall I have not besmeared, like a
snail, with the effusions of my brain. One teazes me for catches and
drinking-songs, another for a grave discourse, a third for a serenade,
a fourth for a Carnival ballad.' In executing these commissions he is
said to have shown great courtesy; nor did they probably cost him much
trouble, for in all his work he was no less rapid than elegant. He
boasted that he had dictated the translation of Herodian while walking
up and down his room, within the space of a day or two; and the chief
fault of his verses is their fluency.

[Footnote 328: The first words of the dedication run as follows:--'Cum
tibi superioribus diebus Laurenti Medices, nostra hæc Miscellanea
_inter equitandum_ recitaremus.']

[Footnote 329: _Angeli Politiani Epistolæ_, lib. iii. ed. Ald. 1498.
The letter is dated Nov. 1488.]

[Footnote 330: In a letter to Hieronymus Donatus, dated Florence, May
1480, _Angeli Politiani Epistolæ_, lib. ii.]

It still remains to speak of Poliziano's personal relations to the
Medicean family. When he first entered the household of Lorenzo, he
undertook the tuition of his patron's sons, and continued to
superintend their education until their mother Clarice saw reason to
mistrust his personal influence. There were, no doubt, many points in
the great scholar's character that justified her thinking him unfit to
be the constant companion of young men. Whatever may be the truth
about the cause of his last illness, enough remains of his Greek and
Italian verses to prove that his morality was lax, and his conception
of life rather Pagan than Christian.[331] Clarice contrived that he
should not remain under the same roof with her children; and though
his friendly intercourse with the Medicean family continued
uninterrupted, it would seem that after 1480 he only gave lessons in
the classics to his former pupils.

[Footnote 331: The well-known scandal about Poliziano's death is
traceable to the _Elogia_ of Paulus Jovius--very suspicious authority.
See above, p. 252, note 2.]

Poliziano, proud as he was of his attainments, lacked the nobler
quality of self-respect. He condescended to flatter Lorenzo, and to
beg for presents, in phrases that remind us of Filelfo's prosiest
epigrams.[332] That a scholar should vaunt his own achievements[333]
and extol his patron to the skies, that he should ask for money and
set off his panegyrics against payment, seemed not derogatory to a man
of genius in the fifteenth century. Yet these habits of literary
mendicancy and toad-eating proved a most pernicious influence. Italian
literature never lost the superlatives and exaggerations imported by
the humanists, and Pietro Aretino may be called the lineal descendant
of Filelfo and Poliziano.

[Footnote 332: The most curious of these elegiac poems are given in
_Carmina Quinque Illustrium Poetarum_, p. 234. It is possible that
their language ought not to be taken literally, and that they
concealed a joke now lost.]

[Footnote 333: Poliziano's letter to Matthias Corvinus is a good
example of his self-laudation.]

It must be allowed that to overpraise Lorenzo from a scholar's point
of view would have been difficult, while the affection that bound the
student to his patron was genuine. Poliziano, who watched Lorenzo in
his last moments, described the scene of his death in a letter marked
by touching sorrow which he addressed to Antiquari, and proved by the
Latin monody which he composed and left unfinished, that grief for his
dead master could inspire his muse with loftier strains than any
expectation of future favours while he lived had done.

Two years after Lorenzo's death Poliziano died himself, dishonoured
and suspected by the Piagnoni. Savonarola had swept the Carnival
chariots and masks and gimcracks of Lorenzo's holiday reign into the
dust-heap. Instead of _rispetti_ and _ballate_, the refrain of
Misereres filled the city, and the Dominican's prophecy of blood and
ruin drowned with its thundrous reverberations the scholarlike
disquisitions of Greek professors. Poliziano's lament for Lorenzo was
therefore, as it were, a prophecy of his own fate:

     Quis dabit capiti meo
     Aquam? quis oculis meis
     Fontem lachrymarum dabit?
     Ut nocte fleam,
     Ut luce fleam.
     Sic turtur viduus solet,
     Sic cygnus moriens solet,
     Sic luscinia conqueri.

'Oh that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I
might weep day and night! So mourns the widowed turtle dove; so mourns
the dying swan; so mourns the nightingale.' Into these passionate
words of wailing, unique in the literature of humanism by their form
alike and feeling, breaks the threnody of the abandoned scholar. 'Ah,
woe! Ah, woe is me! O grief! O grief! Lightning hath struck our laurel
tree, our laurel dear to all the Muses and the dances of the Nymphs,
beneath whose spreading boughs the God of Song himself more sweetly
harped and sang. Now all around is dumb; now all is mute, and there is
none to hear. Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of

This at least of grace the gods allowed Poliziano, that he should die
in the same year as his friend Pico della Mirandola, a few weeks
before the deluge prophesied by Savonarola burst over Italy. Upon his
tomb in S. Marco a burlesque epitaph was inscribed--

  in hoc tumulo jacet
  Angelus unum
  qui caput et linguas
  res nova tres habuit.
  Sep. XXIV. Ætatis

[Footnote 334: 'Poliziano lies in this grave, the angel who had one
head and, what is new, three tongues. He died September 24, 1494, aged

Bembo, who succeeded him in the dictatorship of Italian letters,
composed a not unworthy elegy upon the man whom he justly
apostrophised as 'Poliziano, master of the Ausonian lyre.'

The fortunes of Roman scholarship kept varying with the personal
tastes of each successive Pope. Calixtus III. differed wholly from his
predecessor, Nicholas V. Learned in theology and mediæval science, he
was dead to the interests of humanistic literature. Vespasiano assures
us that, when he entered the Vatican library and saw its Greek and
Latin authors in their red and silver bindings, instead of praising
the munificence of Nicholas, he exclaimed, 'Vedi in che egli ha
consumato la robba della Chiesa di Dio!'[335] Æneas Sylvius
Piccolomini ranked high among the humanists. As an orator, courtier,
state secretary, and man of letters, he shared the general qualities
of the class to which he belonged. While a fellow-student of
Beccadelli at Siena, he freely enjoyed the pleasures of youth, and
thought it no harm to compose novels in the style of Longus and
Achilles Tatius. These stories, together with his familiar letters,
histories, cosmographical treatises, rhetorical disquisitions,
apophthegms, and commentaries, written in a fluent and picturesque
Latin style, distinguished him for wit and talent from the merely
laborious students of his age.[336] A change, however, came over him
when he assumed the title of Pius II. with the tiara.[337] Learning in
Italy owed but little to his patronage, and though he strengthened
the position of the humanists at Rome by founding the College of
Abbreviators, he was more eager to defend Christendom against the Turk
than to make his See the capital of culture. For this it would be
narrow-minded to blame Pius. The experience of European politics had
extended his view beyond the narrower circle of Italian interests; and
there is something noble as well as piteous in his attempt to lead the
forlorn hope of a cosmopolitan cause. Paul II. was chiefly famous for
his persecution of the Roman Platonists;[338] and Sixtus IV., though
he deserves to be remembered as the Pontiff who opened the Vatican
library to the public, plays no prominent part in the history of
scholarship. Tiraboschi may be consulted for his refusal to pay the
professors of the Roman Sapienza. Of Innocent VIII. nothing need be
said; nor will any student of history expect to find it recorded that
Alexander VI. wasted money on the patronage of learning. To the
Borgia, indeed, the world owes that curse of Catholicism, that
continued crime of high treason against truth and liberal culture, the
subjection of the press to ecclesiastical control.

[Footnote 335: 'Behold whereon he spent the substance of the Church of
God!' Vespasiano adds that he gave away several hundred volumes to one
of the cardinals, whose servants sold them for an old song. Vesp. p.
216. Assemani, the historian of the Vatican Library, on the contrary,
asserts that Calixtus spent 40,000 ducats on books. It is not likely,
however, that Vespasiano was wholly in error about a matter he
understood so well, and had so much at heart.]

[Footnote 336: See the Basle edition of his collected works, 1571.]

[Footnote 337: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 299.]

[Footnote 338: Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, pp. 302-303.]

Under these Popes humanism had to flourish, as it best could, in the
society of private individuals. Accordingly, we find the Roman
scholars forming among themselves academies and learned circles. Of
these the most eminent took its name from its founder, Julius
Pomponius Lætus. He was a bastard of the princely House of the
Sanseverini, to whom, when he became famous and they were anxious for
his friendship, he penned the celebrated epistle: '_Pomponius Lætus
cognatis et propinquis suis salutem. Quod petitis fieri non potest.
Valete._'[339] Pomponius derived his scholarship from Valla, and
devoted all his energies to Latin literature, refusing, it is even
said, to learn Greek, lest it should distract him from his favourite
studies. He made it the object of his most serious endeavours not only
to restore a knowledge of the ancients, but also to assimilate his
life and manners to their standard. Men praised in him a second Cato
for sobriety of conduct, frugal diet, and rural industry. He tilled
his own ground after the methods of Varro and Columella, went
a-fishing and a-fowling on holidays, and ate his sparing meal like a
Roman Stoic beneath the spreading branches of an oak on the Campagna.
The grand mansions of the prelates had no attractions for him. He
preferred his own modest house upon the Esquiline, his garden on the
Quirinal. It was here that his favourite scholars conversed with him
at leisure; and to these retreats of the philosopher came strangers of
importance, eager to behold a Roman living in all points like an
antique sage. The high school of Rome owed much to his indefatigable
industry. Through a long series of years he lectured upon the chief
Latin authors, examining their text with critical accuracy, and
preparing new editions of their works. Before daybreak he would light
his lantern, take his staff, and wend his way from the Esquiline to
the lecture-room, where, however early the hour and however inclement
the season, he was sure to find an overflowing audience. Yet it was
not as a professor that Pomponius Lætus acquired his great celebrity,
and left a lasting impress on the society of Rome. This he did by
forming an academy for the avowed purpose of prosecuting the study of
Latin antiquities and promoting the adoption of antique customs into
modern life. The members assumed classical names, exchanging their
Italian patronymics for fancy titles like Callimachus Experiens,
Asclepiades, Glaucus, Volscus, and Petrejus. They yearly kept the
birthday feast of Rome, celebrating the Palilia with Pagan
solemnities, playing comedies of Plautus, and striving to revive the
humours of the old Atellan farces. Of this circle Pontanus and
Sannazzaro, Platina, Sabellicus and Molza, Janus Parrhasius, and the
future Paul III. were proud to call themselves the members. It is only
from the language in which such men refer to Lætus that we gain a due
notion of his influence; for he left but little behind him as an
author, and used himself to boast that, like Socrates and Christ, he
hoped to be remembered through his pupils. In the year 1468 this Roman
academy acquired fresh celebrity by the persecution of Paul II., who
partly suspected a political object in its meetings, and partly
resented the open heathenism of its leaders. I need not here repeat
the tale of his crusade against the scholars. It is enough to mention
that Lætus was imprisoned for a short while, and that in prison he
wrote an apology for his life, defending himself against a charge of
misplaced passion for a young Venetian pupil, and professing the
sincerity of his belief in Christianity. After his release from the
Castle of S. Angelo he was obliged to discontinue the meetings of his
academy, which were not resumed until the reign of Sixtus. Pomponius
Lætus lived on into the Papacy of Alexander, and died in 1498 at the
age of seventy. His corpse was crowned with a laurel wreath in the
Church of Araceli. Forty bishops, together with the foreign
ambassadors in Rome and the representatives of the Borgia, who were
specially deputed for that purpose, witnessed the ceremony and
listened to the funeral oration. Lætus had desired that his body
should be placed in a sarcophagus upon the Appian Way. This wish was
not complied with. He was conveyed from Araceli to S. Salvatore in
Lauro, and there buried like a Christian.

[Footnote 339: 'P.L. to his kinsmen and relatives, greeting. What you
ask cannot be. Farewell.']

While the academy of Pomponius Lætus flourished at Rome, that of
Naples was no less active under the presidency of Jovianus Pontanus.
It appears to have originated in social gatherings assembled by
Beccadelli, and to have held its meetings in a building called after
its founder the _Porticus Antonianus_. When death had broken up the
brilliant circle surrounding Alfonso the Magnanimous, Pontanus assumed
the leadership of learned men in Naples, and gave the formality of a
club to what had previously been a mere reunion of cultivated
scholars. The members Latinised their names; many of them became
better known by their assumed titles than by their Italian cognomens.
Sannazzaro, for instance, acquired a wide celebrity as Accius
Syncerus. Pontanus was himself a native of Cereto in the Spoletano.
Born in 1426, he settled in his early manhood at Naples, where
Beccadelli introduced him to his royal patrons. During the reigns of
Ferdinand I., Alfonso II., and Ferdinand II. Pontanus held the post of
secretary, tutor, and ambassador, accompanying his masters on their
military expeditions and negotiating their affairs at the Papal Court.
When Charles VIII. entered Naples as a conqueror, Pontanus greeted him
with a panegyrical oration, proving himself more courtly and
self-seeking than loyal to the princes he had served so long.
Guicciardini observes that this act of ingratitude stained the fair
fame of Pontanus. Yet it may be pleaded in his defence that no
moralist of the period had more boldly denounced the crimes and vices
of Italian princes; and it is possible that Pontanus really hoped
Charles might inaugurate a better age for Naples.

He was distinguished among the scholars of his time for the purity of
his Latin style; to him belongs the merit of having written verse that
might compete with good models of antiquity. His hexameters on stars
and meteors, called 'Urania,' won the enthusiastic praise of his own
generation, and subsequently served as model to Fracastoro for his own
didactic poem. His amatory elegiacs have an exuberance of colouring
and sensuous force of phrase that seem peculiarly appropriate to the
Bay of Naples, where they were inspired. As a prose-writer it is
particularly by his moral treatises that Pontanus deserves to be
remembered. Unlike the mass of contemporary dialogues on ethical
subjects, they abound in illustrations drawn from recent history, so
that even now they may be advantageously consulted by students anxious
to gather characteristic details and to form a just opinion of
Renaissance morality. Throughout his writings Pontanus shows himself
to have been an original and vigorous thinker, a complete master of
Latin scholarship, unwilling to abide contented with bare imitation,
and bent upon expressing the facts of modern life, the actualities of
personal emotion, in a style of accurate Latinity. When he died in
1503, he left at Naples one of the most flourishing schools of
neopagan poets to be found in Italy; Lilius Gyraldus employs the old
metaphor of the Trojan horse to describe the number and the vigour of
the scholars who issued from it.

In the Church of Monte Oliveto at Naples there may be seen a group in
terra cotta painted to imitate life. Alfonso II., Pontanus, and
Sannazzaro are kneeling in adoration before the body of the dead
Christ. Pontanus, who represents Nicodemus, is a stern, hard-featured,
long-faced man, of powerful bone and fibrous sinews, built for serious
labour in the study or the field. Sannazzaro, who stands for Joseph of
Arimathea, is bald, fat-faced, with bushy eyebrows and a heavy cast of
countenance. The physical characteristics of these men and their act
of faith are in curious contradiction with the conception we form of
them after reading the 'Elegies' and the 'Arcadia.'

The Roman Academy of Pomponius Læetus and the Neapolitan Academy of
Pontanus continued to exist after the death of their founders, while
similar institutions sprang up in every town of Italy. To speak of
these in detail would be quite impossible. With the commencement of
the sixteenth century they lost their classical character, and assumed
fantastic Italian titles. Thus the Roman coterie of wits and scholars
called itself _I Vignaiuoli_. The members, among whom were Berni, La
Casa, Firenzuola, Mauro, Molza, assumed titles like _L'Agreste_, _Il
Mosto_, _Il Cotogno_, and so forth. The Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici
founded a club in Rome for the study of Vitruvius. It met twice in the
week, and was known as _Le Virtù_. At Bologna the _Viridario_ devoted
its energies to the correction of printed texts; the _Sitibondi_
studied law, the _Desti_ cultivated extinct chivalry. Besides these,
the one town of Bologna produced _Sonnacchiosi_, _Oziosi_, _Desiosi_,
_Storditi_, _Confusi_, _Politici_, _Instabili_, _Gelati_, _Umorosi_.
As the century advanced, academies multiplied in Italy, and their
titles became more absurd. Ravenna had its _Informi_, Faenza its
_Smarriti_, Macerata its _Catenati_, Fabriano its _Disuniti_, Perugia
its _Insensati_, Urbino its _Assorditi_, Naples its _Sereni_,
_Ardenti_, and _Incogniti_--and so on _ad infinitum_. At Florence the
Platonic Academy continued to flourish under the auspices of the
Rucellai family, in whose gardens assembled the company described by
Filippo de' Nerli,[340] until the year 1522, when it was suppressed on
the occasion of the conspiracy against Giulio de' Medici. Duke Cosimo
revived it under the name of the Florentine Academy in 1540, when its
labours were wholly devoted to Petrarch and the Italian language. In
1572 appeared the famous academy called _Della Crusca_, the only one
among these later societies which acquired an European reputation.

[Footnote 340: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 220, note.]

Those who are curious to follow the history of the academies, may be
referred to the comprehensive notices of Tiraboschi. From the date of
their Italianisation they cease to belong to the history of humanism;
what justifies the mention of them here is the fact that they owed
their first existence to the scholars of the third period. The worst
faults of Italian erudition--pedantry and stylistic affectations--were
perpetuated by coteries worshipping Petrarch and peddling with the
idlest of all literary problems, where so great a writer as Annibale
Caro thought it in good taste to write a dissertation on the nose of a
president, and where the industry of sensible men was absorbed in the
concoction of sonnets by the myriad and childish puns on their own
titles. During the following age of political stagnation and
ecclesiastical oppression the academies were the playthings of a
nation fast degenerating into intellectual hebetude. Not without
amazement do we read the eulogies pronounced by Milton on the 'learned
and affable meeting of frequent academies, and the procurement of wise
and artful recitations, sweetened with eloquent and graceful
incitements to the love and practice of justice, temperance, and
fortitude.' What he had observed with admiration in Italy, he would
fain have seen imitated in England, undeterred apparently by the
impotence and sterility of academic dissertations.[341]

[Footnote 341: See the _Reason of Church Government urged against
Prelaty_, and the _Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free

It remains to speak of the establishment of printing in Italy, an
event no less important for the preservation and diffusion of
classical learning than the previous discovery of MSS. had been
indispensable for its revival. What has to be said about the erudite
society of Venice may appropriately be introduced in this connection;
while the final honours of the third period will be seen to belong of
right to one of Italy's most noble-minded scholars, Aldus Manutius.

In 1462 Adolph of Nassau pillaged Maintz and dispersed its printers
over Europe. Three years later two Germans, by name Sweynheim and
Pannartz, who had worked under Fust, set up a press in Subbiaco, a
little village of the Sabine mountains. Here, in October 1465, the
first edition of Lactantius saw the light. The German printers soon
afterwards removed from Subbiaco, and settled, under the protection of
the Massimi, in Rome, where they continued to issue Latin authors
from their press.[342] In 1646 John of Spires established himself at
Venice. He was soon afterwards joined by his brother Vindelino (so the
Italians write the name) and by Nicholas Jenson, the Frenchman.
Florence had no press till 1471, when Bernardo Cennini printed the
commentary of Servius on Virgil's 'Bucolics.' The 'Georgics' and
'Æneid' appeared in the following year. To Cennini, however, belongs
the honour of having been the first Italian to cast his own type. Like
many other illustrious artificers, he was by trade a goldsmith; in his
address to the reader he styles himself _aurifex omnium judicio
præstantissimus_, adding, with reference to the typography, _expressis
ante calide caracteribus ac deinde fusis literis volumen hoc primum
impresserunt_. The last sentence of the address should also be quoted:
_Florentinis ingeniis nil ardui est_. Other printers opened workshops
in Florence within the course of a few years--John of Maintz in 1472,
Nicholas of Breslau in 1477, Antonio Miscomini in 1481, and Lorenzo
Alopa of Venice, who gave Homer with Greek type to the world in 1488.
Still, Florence had been anticipated by many other cities; for when
once the new art took root in Italy, it spread like wild fire.
Omitting smaller places from the calculation, it has been reckoned
that, before the year 1500, 4,987 books were printed in Italy, of
which 298 are claimed by Bologna, 300 by Florence, 629 by Milan, 929
by Rome, and 2,835 by Venice. The disproportion between the activity
of Florence and of Venice in the book trade deserves to be noticed,
though how it should be explained I hardly know. Fifty towns and
numbers of insignificant burghs--Pinerolo, Savona, Pieve di Sacco,
Cividale, Soncino, Chivasso, Scandiano, for example--could boast of
local presses. Ambulant printers established their machinery for half
a year or so in a remote village, printed what came to hand there, and
moved on.

[Footnote 342: From a memorial presented by these printers to Sixtus
IV. in 1472 we ascertain some facts about their industry. They had at
that date printed in all 12,495 volumes. It was their custom to issue
265 copies each edition; the double of that number for Virgil,
Cicero's separate works, and theological books in request. Cantù,
_Lett. It._ p. 112. See Cantù, p. 110, for details of the earliest
Latin books.]

While scholars rejoiced in the art that, to quote the word of one of
them, 'had saved the labour of their aching joints,' the copyists
complained that their occupation would be taken from them. The whistle
of the locomotive at the beginning of this century was not more
afflicting to stage-coachmen than the creaking of the wooden printing
press to those poor scribes. Yet, however quickly a labour-saving
invention may spread, there is generally time for the superseded
industry to die an easy death, and for artisans to find employment in
the new trade. Vespasiano, who during twenty-six years survived the
first book printed in Florence, could even afford to despise the
press.[343] The great nobles, on whose patronage he depended, did not
suddenly transfer their custom from the scribe to the compositor; nor
was it to be expected that so essentially a democratic art as printing
should find immediate favour with the aristocracy. A prince with a
library of MSS. worth 40,000 ducats hated the machine that put an
equal number of more readable volumes within the reach of moderate
competency. Moreover, a certain suspicion of subversiveness and
license clung about the press. This was to some extent justified by
fact, since the press was destined to be the most formidable engine of
the modern reason. Ecclesiastics, again, questioned whether the
promiscuous multiplication of books were pious; and Alexander VI.
stretched his hand out to coerce the printer's devil. To check the
spread of printing would, however, have overtaxed the powers of any
human tyranny. All that the Church could do was to place its
productions under episcopal control.

[Footnote 343: See above, p. 220.]

Though the copyists of MSS. were thrown out of work by the printing
press, it gave important stimulus to other industries in Italy. The
paper mills of Fabriano and of Colle in the Val d'Elsa became valuable
properties;[344] compositors and readers began to form a separate
class of artisans, while needy scholars found a market for their
talents in the houses of the publishers. When we consider the amount
of literary work that had to be performed before Greek, Latin, and
Hebrew texts could be prepared for the press, the difficulty of
procuring correct copies of authoritative codices, and the scrupulous
attention expended upon proof sheets, we are able to understand that
men who lived by learning found the new art profitable.

[Footnote 344: It is supposed that the earliest paper factory
established in Italy was at Fabriano. Colle, a little town near
Volterra, made paper from a remote period; by a deed, dated March 6,
1377, now preserved in the Florentine Archivio Diplomatico, one Colo
da Colle rented a fall of water there _et gualcheriam ad faciendas
cartas_ for twenty years. Both places are still celebrated for their
paper mills.]

Instead of having previous editions to work upon, the publishers were
obliged, in the first instance, to collect MSS. For this purpose they
either travelled themselves from city to city, or employed competent
amanuenses. Next, it was necessary to study the philosophers, poets,
historians, mathematicians, and mystics, whose works they intended to
print, in order that no mistake in the sense of the words should be
made. Orthography and punctuation had to be fixed; and between many
readings only one could be adopted. Giving a first edition to the
world involved far more anxiety on these points than the reproduction
of a book already often printed. No one man could accomplish such
tasks alone. Therefore we find that scores of learned men were
associated together for the purpose, living under the same roof,
revising the copy for the compositor, overlooking the men at work,
reading the text aloud, and correcting the proofs with a vigilance
that is but little needed nowadays. All this labour, moreover, was
accomplished without the aid of grammars, lexicons, and other aids.
Truly we may say without exaggeration that the Aldi of Venice and the
Stephani of Paris are more worthy of commemoration for services
rendered through scholarship to humanity than those modern castigators
of ancient texts, the Porsons and the Lachmanns, whose names are on
every lip. The enthusiasm of discovery, and the rich field for
original industry offered to those early editors, may be reckoned as
compensation for their otherwise overwhelming toil.

Teobaldo Mannucci, better known as Aldo Manuzio, was born in 1450 at
Sermoneta, near Velletri. After residing as a client in the princely
house of Carpi, he added the name Pio to his patronymic, and signed
his publications with the full description, _Aldus Pius Manutius
Romanus et Philhellen_, [Greek: Aldos ho Manoutios Rômaios kai
Philellên]. He studied Latin at Rome under Gasparino da Verona, and
Greek at Ferrara under Guarino da Verona, to whom he dedicated his
Theocritus in 1495. Having qualified himself for undertaking the work
of tutor or professor, according to the custom of the century, and
having made friends with many of the principal Italian scholars, he
went in 1482 to reside at Mirandola with his old friend and fellow
student, Giovanni Pico. There he stayed two years, enjoying the
society of the Phoenix of his age, and continuing his Greek studies
in concert with Emmanuel Adramyttenos, a learned Cretan. Before Pico
removed to Florence he procured for Aldo the post of tutor to his
nephews Alberto and Lionello Pio. Carpi had owned the family of Pio
for its masters since the thirteenth century, when they rose to power,
like many of the Lombard nobles, by adroit use of Imperial
privileges.[345] This little city, placed midway between Correggio,
Mirandola, and Modena, is so insignificant that its name has been
omitted from the index to Murray's handbook; nor is there indeed much
but the memory of Aldo and Alberto Pio, and a church built by
Baldassare Peruzzi, to recommend it to the notice of a traveller.
Under the tuition of Aldo the two young princes became excellent
scholars. Alberto in particular proved, by his aptitude for
philosophical studies, that he had inherited from his mother, the
sister of Giovanni Pico, something of the spirit of Mirandola. When
Aldus published his great edition of Aristotle, he inscribed it to his
former pupil with a Greek dedication, in which he styled him [Greek:
tô tôn ontôn erastê]. There can be no doubt that Alberto's knowledge
of Greek language and philosophy was far more thorough than that of
many more belauded princes of the age. Yet he had but little
opportunity for the quiet prosecution of classical studies, or for the
patronage of learned men at Carpi. Driven from his patrimony by the
Imperialists, he died at Paris in 1530, after a life spent in foreign
service and diplomatic offices of trust. The bronze monument for his
tomb may still be seen[346] in the Gallery of the Louvre. The princely
scholar, clad in rich Renaissance armour, is reclining with his head
supported by his right hand; the left holds an open book. The attitude
of melancholy meditation, the ornamental but useless cuirass, and the
volume open while the scabbard of the sword is shut, add to the
portrait of this prince in exile the value of an allegory. Such
symbols suited the genius of Italy during the age of foreign invaders.

[Footnote 345: Sansovino, in his _Famiglie Illustri_, after giving a
fabulous pedigree of the Pio family, dates their signorial importance
from the reign of Frederick II.]

[Footnote 346: Executed for the Church of the Cordeliers by Paulus

To Alberto Pio the world owes a debt of gratitude, inasmuch as he
supplied Aldo with the funds necessary for starting his printing
press, and gave him lands at Carpi, where his family were educated.
When Aldo conceived the ambitious project of printing the whole
literature of Greece, four Italian towns could already claim the
honours of Greek publications. Milan takes the lead. In 1476 the
Grammar of Lascaris was printed there by Dionysius Paravisini, with
the aid of Demetrius of Crete.[347] In 1480 Esop and Theocritus
appeared, with no publisher's name. In 1486 two Cretans, Alexander and
Laonicenus, edited a Greek psalter. In 1493 Isocrates, prepared by
Demetrius Chalcondylas, was issued by Henry the German and Sebastian
of Pontremolo. Next comes Venice, where, as early as 1484, the
'Erotemata' of Chrysoloras had been produced by a certain Peregrinus
Bononiensis. Vicenza followed in 1488 with a reprint of Lascaris's
Grammar due to Leonard Achates of Basle, and in 1490 with a reprint of
the 'Erotemata.' Florence, as we have already seen, gave Homer to the
world in 1488. Demetrius Chalcondylas revised the text; Demetrius the
Cretan supplied the models for the types; Alopa of Venice was the
publisher. It will be remarked that, with the exception of Homer and
Theocritus, no true classic of the first magnitude had appeared before
the foundation of the Aldine Press. I may also add that the Milanese
Isocrates was really contemporaneous with the Musæus, Galeomyomachia,
and Psalter issued by Aldo as precursors of his Greek library--[Greek:
Prodromoi tês Hellênikês bibliothêkês]. This fact makes his
thirty-three first editions of all the greatest and most voluminous
Greek authors between 1494 and 1515 all the more remarkable.

[Footnote 347: Poliziano's epigram addressed to these earliest Greek
printers may be quoted here:

     Qui colis Aonidas, Grajos quoque volve libellos;
       Namque illas genuit Græcia, non Latium.
     En Paravisinus quantâ hos Dionysius arte
       Imprimit, en quanto cernitis ingenio!
     Te quoque, Demetri, ponto circumsona Crete
       Tanti operis nobis edidit artificem.
     Turce, quid insultas? tu Græca volumina perdis;
       Hi pariunt: hydræ nunc age colla seca!]

It was at Carpi in 1490 that Aldo finally matured his project of
establishing a Greek press. His patrons desired him to found it in
their castle of Novi; but Aldo judged rightly that at Venice he would
be more secure from the disturbances of warfare, as well as more
conveniently situated for engaging the assistance of Greek scholars
and compositors. Accordingly, he took a house, and settled near S.
Agostino. This house speedily became a Greek colony. It may be
inferred from Aldo's directions to the printers that his trade was
carried on almost entirely by Greeks, and that Greek was the language
of his household. The instructions to the binders as to the order of
the sheets and mode of stitching were given in Greek; and many curious
Greek phrases appear to have sprung up to meet the exigencies of the
new industry. Thus we find [Greek: hina hellênisti syndethêsetai] for
'Greek stitching,' and [Greek: kattiterinê cheiri] for 'the type;'
while Aldo himself is described as [Greek: epheuretê toutôn grammatôn
charaktêros hôs eirêtai]. The prefaces, almost always composed in
Greek, prove that this language was read currently in Italy, since
Aldo relied on numerous purchasers of his large and costly issues. The
Greek type, for the casting of which he provided machinery in his own
house, was formed upon the model supplied by Marcus Musurus, a Cretan,
who had taken Latin orders and settled at Carpi, and from whom Aldo
received important assistance in the preparation of editions for the
press. The compositors, in like manner, were mostly Cretans. We hear
of one of them, by name Aristoboulos Apostolios, while John
Gregoropoulos, another Cretan, the brother-in-law of Musurus,
performed the part of reader. The ink used by Aldo was made in his own
house, where he had, besides, a subordinate establishment for binding.
The paper, excelled by none that has been since produced, came from
the mills of Fabriano. It may easily be imagined that this beehive of
Greek industry often numbered over thirty persons, not including the
craftsmen employed in lesser offices by the day.

The superintendence of this large establishment, added to the
anxieties attending the production of so many books as yet not edited,
sorely taxed the health and powers of Aldo. For years together he
seems to have had no minute he could call his own. Continual demands
were made by visitors and strangers upon his hours of leisure; and in
order to secure time for the conduct of his business, he was forced to
placard his door with a prohibitory notice.[348] Besides the more
ordinary interruptions, to which every man of eminence is subjected,
he had to struggle with peculiar difficulties due to the novelty of
his undertaking. The prefaces to many of his publications contain
allusions to strikes among his workmen,[349] to the piracies of rival
booksellers,[350] to the difficulty of procuring authentic MSS.,[351]
and to the interruptions caused by war. Twice was the work of printing
suspended, first in 1506, and then again in 1510. For two whole years
at the latter period the industries of Venice were paralysed by the
allied forces of the League of Cambray. The dedication of the first
edition of Plato, 1513, to Leo X. concludes with a prayer, splendid in
the earnestness and simplicity of its eloquence, wherein Aldo compares
the miseries of warfare and the woes of Italy with the sublime and
peaceful objects of the student. All the terrible experiences of that
wasteful campaign, from the effects of which the Republic of Venice
never wholly recovered, seem to find expression in the passionate but
reverent, address of the great printer to the scholar Pope. For two
years previously the press of Aldo had been idle, while the French
were deluging Brescia with blood, and the plains of Ravenna were
heaped with dead Italians, Spaniards, Gauls, and Germans, met in
passionate but fruitless conflict by the Ronco. Now, from the midst of
her desolated palaces and silenced lagoons, Venice stretched forth to
Europe the peace-gift of Plato. The student who had toiled to make it
perfect, appealed before Christ and His vicar, from the arms that
brutalise to the arts that humanise the nations.

[Footnote 348: See Didot's _Alde Manuce_, p. 417, the passage
beginning 'Vix credas.' In the Latin preface to the _Thesaurus
Cornucopiæ et Horti Adonidis_, 1495, Aldo complains that he has not
been able to rest for one hour during seven years.]

[Footnote 349: 'Tot illico oborta sunt impedimenta malorumque invidiâ
et domesticorum [Greek: kai tais tôn kataratôn kai drapeteuontôn
doulôn epiboulais].' Preface to the _Poetæ Christiani Veteres_, 1501.
Again in the 'monitum' of the same, 'quater jam in ædibus nostris ab
operariis et stipendiariis in me conspiratum et duce malorum omnium
matre avaritiâ quos Deo adjuvante sic fregi ut valde omnes poeniteat
suæ perfidiæ.']

[Footnote 350: The French publishers of Lyons, the Giunti of Rome, and
Soncino of Fano, were particularly troublesome. Didot has extracted
some curious information about their tricks as well as Aldo's exposure
of them. Pp. 167, 482-486.]

[Footnote 351: See especially the preface to Aristotle, vol. i. 1495;
vol. v. 1498.]

In the midst of these occupations, disappointments, and distractions,
Aldo, sustained by the enthusiasm of his great undertaking, never
flagged. Some of his prefaces, after setting forth the impediments he
had to combat, burst into a cry of triumph. What joy, he exclaims, it
is to see these volumes of the ancients rescued from book-buriers
([Greek: bibliotaphoi]) and given freely to the world![352] No man
could have been more generously anxious than he was to serve the cause
of scholarship by the widest possible diffusion of books at a moderate
price. No artist was ever more scrupulously bent on giving the best
possible form, the utmost accuracy, to every detail of his work. When
we consider the beauty of the Aldine volumes, and the critical
excellence of their texts, we may fairly be astonished at their
prices. The Musæus was sold for something under one shilling of our
money, the Theocritus for something under two shillings. The five
volumes which contained the whole of Aristotle, might be purchased for
a sum not certainly exceeding 8_l._ Each volume of the pocket series,
headed in 1501 by the 8vo. Virgil, and comprising Greek, Latin, and
Italian authors, fetched about two shillings. For this library the
celebrated Italic type, known as Aldine, was adapted from the
handwriting of Petrarch, and cut by Francesco da Bologna.[353] It
appears that, as his trade increased, Aldo formed a company, who
shared the risks and profits of the business.[354] Yet the expenses of
publishing were so heavy, the insecurity of the book market so great,
and the privileges of copyright granted by the Pope or the Venetian
Senate so imperfect,[355] that Aldo, after giving his life to this
work, and bequeathing to the world Greek literature, died
comparatively poor. Erasmus, always somewhat snarling, accused him of
avarice; yet it was his liberality to his collaborators, his
openhandedness in buying the expensive apparatus for critical
editions, that forced him to be economical.

[Footnote 352: See Preface to _Thesaurus Cornucopiæ_, quoted by Didot,
p. 80; and cf. pp. 210, 221, 521, for further hints about selfish
bibliomaniacs, who tried to hoard their treasures from the public and
refused them to the press. Aldo, as a genuine lover of free learning,
and also as a publisher, detests this class of men.]

[Footnote 353: See Pannizzi's tract on 'Francesco da Bologna,'
published by Pickering, 1873. He was probably Francia the painter.]

[Footnote 354: In a letter to Marcello Virgilio Adriani, the teacher
of Machiavelli, he mentions some books 'Cum aliis quibusdam communes,'
as distinguished from others which were his private property. Didot,
p. 233.]

[Footnote 355: On the subject of patents, privileges, and monopolies
see Didot, pp. 79, 166, 189, 371, 479-481.]

The first editions of Greek books published by Aldo deserve to be
separately noticed. In 1493, or earlier, appeared the 'Hero and
Leander' of Musæus, a poem that passed, in that uncritical age, for
the work of Homer's mythical predecessor.[356] In 1495 the first
volume of Aristotle saw the light, accompanied by numerous Greek
epigrams and a Greek letter of Scipione Fortiguerra, who deplores in
it the deaths of Pico, Poliziano, and Ermolao Barbaro. The remaining
four volumes followed in 1497 and 1498. In the latter of these years
Aldo, aided by his friend Musurus, produced nine comedies of
Aristophanes; the MSS. of the 'Lysistrata' and 'Thesmophoriazusæ' were
afterwards discovered at Urbino, and published by Giunta in 1515. In
1502, Thucydides, Sophocles, and Herodotus appeared, followed in 1503
by Xenophon's 'Hellenics' and Euripides,[357] and in 1504 by
Demosthenes. After this occurs a lull, occasioned in part by the
disturbances ensuing on the League of Blois. In 1508 the list is
recontinued with the Greek orators; while 1509 has to show the minor
works of Plutarch. Then follows another stoppage due to war. In 1513
Plato was published, and in 1514 Pindar, Hesychius, and Athenæus.

[Footnote 356: [Greek: Mousaion ton palaiotaton poiêtên êthelêsa
prooimiazein tô te Aristotelei kai tôn sophôn tois heterois autika di'
emou entypêsomenois]. This [Greek: prodromos], or precursor, appeared
without a date; but it must have come out earlier than 1494.]

[Footnote 357: John Lascaris had edited four plays of Euripides for
Alopa in 1496. This Aldine edition contained eighteen, one of which,
the _Hercules Furens_, turned up while vol. ii. was in the press. The
_Electra_, not discovered till later on, was printed at Rome, 1545.]

From the preceding account I have omitted the notice of minor editions
as well as reprints. In order to complete the history of the Aldine
issue of Greek books, it should be mentioned that Aldo's successors
continued his work by giving Pausanias, Strabo, Æschylus, Galen,
Hippocrates, and Longinus to the world; so that when the Estiennes of
Paris came to glean in the field of the Italian publishers, they only
found Anacreon, Maximus Tyrius, and Diodorus Siculus as yet unedited.

We must not forget that, while the Greek authors were being printed
thus assiduously by Aldo, he continued to send forth Latin and Italian
publications from his press. Thus we find that the 'Etna' and the
'Asolani' of Bembo, the collected writings of Poliziano, the
'Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,' the 'Divine Comedy,' the 'Cose Volgari'
of Petrarch, the 'Poetæ Christiani Veteres,' including Prudentius,
the poems of Pontanus, the letters of the younger Pliny, the 'Arcadia'
of Sannazzaro, Quintilian, Valerius Maximus, and the 'Adagia' of
Erasmus were printed, either in first editions or with a beauty of
type and paper never reached before, between the years 1495 and 1514.

The great Dutch scholar who made an epoch in the history of learning,
and transferred the sovereignty of letters to the north of Europe,
paid a visit in 1508 to the house of Aldo, where he personally
superintended the re-impression of his 'Proverbs.'[358] We have a
lively picture of the printing of this celebrated book in Aldo's
workshop. 'Together we attacked the work,' says Erasmus, 'I writing,
while Aldo gave my copy to the press.' In one corner of the room sat
the scholar at his desk, with the thin keen face so well portrayed by
Holbein, improvising new paragraphs, and making additions to his
previous collections in the brilliant Latin style that no one else
could write. Aldo took the MS. from his hand, and passed it on to the
compositors, revising the proofs as they came fresh from the press, or
conferring with his reader Seraphinus.[359] Erasmus had already gained
the reputation of a dangerous freethinker and opponent to the Church.
As years advanced, and the Reformation spread in Northern Europe, he
became more and more odious to ecclesiastical authority. The spirit of
revolt was incarnate in this Voltaire of the sixteenth century, nor
could the clergy raise other arms than those of persecution against so
radiant a champion of pure reason. All reprints of the 'Adagia' were
therefore forbidden by the bishops. Paulus Manutius had to quote it on
his catalogues as the work of _Batavus quidam homo_. To such an
extent were liberal studies now gagged and downtrodden by the tyrants
of the Counter-Reformation in that Italy which for two previous
centuries had been the champion of free culture for Europe.

[Footnote 358: The _Adagia_ were first printed in 1500 at Paris by
John Philippi. After the Aldine edition eleven were issued between
1509 and 1520 by Matthew Schürer, ten by Froben between 1513 and 1539,
while seven or eight others appeared in various parts of Germany.]

[Footnote 359: See the passage quoted by Didot, pp. 297-299.]

Before concluding the biography of Aldo Manuzio it may be well to give
some account of the more illustrious assistants and collaborators whom
he gathered around him in his academy at Venice.[360] The New Academy,
or Aldine Academy of Hellenists, was founded in 1500 for the special
purpose of promoting Greek studies and furthering the publication of
Greek authors. Its rules were written in Greek; the members were
obliged to speak Greek; their official titles were Greek; and their
names were Grecised. Thus Scipione Fortiguerra, of Pistoja, who
prepared the text of Demosthenes for Aldo, styled himself
Carteromachos: and Alessandro Bondini, the Venetian physician who
worked upon the edition of Aristotle, bore the name of Agathemeros.[361]
The most distinguished Greeks at that time resident in Italy could be
counted among the Neacademicians. John Lascaris, of Imperial blood,
the teacher of Hellenism in France under three kings, was an honorary
member. To this great scholar Aldo dedicated his first edition of
Sophocles. Marcus Musurus occupied a post of more practical
importance.[362] We have seen that his handwriting formed the model of
Aldo's Greek type. To his scholarship the editions of Aristophanes,
Plato, Pindar, Hesychius, Athenæus, and Pausanias owed their critical
accuracy; while, in concert with Nicolaos Blastos and Zacharias
Calliergi, two Cretan printers settled in Venice, he published the
first Latin and Greek lexicon.[363] It will be observed that the
Cretans play a prominent part in this Venetian revival of Greek
learning. Aristoboulos Apostolios, Joannes Gregoropoulos, Joannes
Rhosos, and Demetrius Doucas, all of them natives of Crete, were
members of the Neacademy. The first as a compositor, the second as a
reader, the third as a scribe, the fourth as editor of the Greek
Orators, rendered Aldo effective assistance. Among Italians, Pietro
Bembo, Aleander, and Alberto Pio occupied positions of honorary
distinction rather than of active industry. Those who worked in
earnest for the Aldine press were chiefly Venetians. Girolamo Avanzi,
professor of philosophy at Padua, revised the texts of Catullus,
Seneca, and Ausonius. Andrea Navagero, the noble Venetian poet,
corrected Lucretius, Ovid, Terence, Quintilian, Horace, and Virgil.
Giambattista Egnazio performed the same service for Valerius Maximus,
the Letters of Pliny, Lactantius, Tertullian, Aulus Gellius, and other
Latin authors. To mention all the eminent Venetians who played their
part in this Academy would be tedious; yet the two names of Marino
Sanudo, the famous diarist, and of Marco Antonio Coccio, called
Sabellicus, the historian of the Republic, cannot be omitted. Of
northern foreigners the most illustrious was Erasmus; to Englishmen
the most interesting is Thomas Linacre. Born in 1460 at Canterbury, he
travelled into Italy, and studied at Florence under Poliziano and
Chalcondylas. On his return to England he founded the Greek Chair at
Oxford, and died in London in the year 1524. His translation into
Latin of the 'Sphere' of Proclus was published by Aldus in 1499. To
him and to Grocin belongs the credit of having sought to plant the
culture of Italy in the universities of England.

[Footnote 360: Didot, pp. 147-151, 436-470, gives ample details
concerning the foundation, constitution, and members of the Aldine

[Footnote 361: We may compare the name of Melanchthon.]

[Footnote 362: A native of Rotino, in Crete (b. 1470, d. at Rome
1517). He acquired Latin so thoroughly that Erasmus wrote of him:
'Latinæ linguæ usque ad miraculum doctus, quod vix ulli Græco contigit
præter Theodorum Gazam et Joannem Lascarem.' John Lascaris was his

[Footnote 363: _Etymologicon Magnum_, 1499. Didot, pp. 544-578, may be
consulted for information about this Greek press. Musurus boasts in
his encomiastic verses that the work was accomplished entirely by
Cretans. [Greek: analômasi Blastou ponô kai dexiotêti Kalliergou] in
the colophon.]

During a severe illness in the year 1498 Aldo vowed to take holy
orders if he should recover. From this obligation he subsequently
obtained release by a brief of Alexander VI., and in the following
year he married Maria, daughter of Andrea Torresano, of Asola. Andrea,
some years earlier, had bought the press established by Nicholas
Jenson in Venice, so that Aldo's marriage to his daughter combined the
interests of two important firms. Henceforth the names of Aldus and of
Asolanus were associated on the title-pages of the Aldine
publications. When Aldo died in 1514 (1515 new style), he left three
sons--Manutio, in orders at Asola; Antonio, a bookseller at
Bologna;[364] and Paolo Manuzio. The last of these sons, born at
Venice in 1512, was educated by his grandfather Andrea till the year
of the old man's death (1529). He carried on the press at Venice and
at Rome, separating in the year 1540 from his uncles the Asolani, and
bequeathing his business to his son named Aldo. This grandson of Aldo
Manuzio, called by Scaliger a 'wretched and slow wit, the mimic of his
father,' began his career by printing, at the age of eleven, a
treatise on the 'Eleganze della Lingua Toscana e Latina.' He married
Francesca Lucrezia Giunta, of the famous house of printers, and died,
without surviving issue, at Rome in 1597. Thus the industry of Aldo
was continued through two generations till the close of the sixteenth
century. The device of the dolphin and the anchor, intended to
symbolise quickness of execution combined with firmness of
deliberation, and the motto _Festina lente_, which Sir Thomas Browne
has rendered by 'Celerity contempered with cunctation,' though changed
to suit varieties of taste from time to time, were never altogether
abandoned by the Aldines.[365] As years went on, however, their
publications became of less importance, and the beauty of their books

[Footnote 364: There is some discrepancy about this Antonio between
Renouard and Didot.]

[Footnote 365: 'Sum ipse mihi optimus testis me semper habere comites,
ut oportere aiunt, delphinum et anchoram; nam et dedimus multa
cunctando, et damus assidue.' Preface to the _Astronomici_, dedicated
to Duke Guidobaldo of Urbino, 1499. The observations of Erasmus on the
motto deserve to be read with attention. See Didot, p. 299.]

In tracing the history of Aldo's enterprise, I have been carried
beyond the limits of the period included in this chapter. Yet I knew
not how to describe the activity of the press in Italy better than by
concentrating attention upon the greatest publisher who ever lived.
Aldo Manuzio was no mere bookseller or printer. His learning won the
hearty praises of ripe scholars, nor did any student of the age
express more nobly and with fuller conviction his deep sense of the
dignity conferred by learning on the soul of man.[366] That he was
amiable in private life is proved by the intimate relations he
maintained with humanists, than whom even poets are not a more
irritable race of men.[367] To his fellow-workers he was uniformly
generous in pecuniary matters, free from jealousy, and prodigal of
praise. Seeking even less than his due share of credit, he desired
that the great work of his life should pass for the common achievement
of himself and his learned associates. Therefore he called his Greek
library the fruits of the Neacademia, though no man could have known
better than he did that his own genius was the life and spirit of the
undertaking. His stores of MSS. were as open to the instruction of
scholars as his printed books were given liberally to the public.[368]
'Aldo,' writes Erasmus, 'had nothing in his treasury but what he
readily communicated.' Those who read the estimate of his services to
learning made by eminent contemporaries, will find the language of
Nicholas Leonicenus, Erasmus, and Anton Francesco Doni not
exaggerated.[369] But, in order to comprehend their true value, we
must bear in mind that until the year 1516, when Froben printed the
Greek Testament at Basle, none but insignificant Greek reprints had
appeared in Northern Europe.[370] Finally, what makes the place of
Aldus in the history of Italian humanism all-important is the fact
that, after about 1520, Greek studies began to decline in Italy all
together. As though exhausted by the enormous energy wherewith
Florence had acquired and Venice had disseminated Greek culture, the
Italians relapsed into apathy. Posterity may be thankful that their
pupils, Grocin and Linacre, Reuchlin and Erasmus, the Stephani and
Budæus, had by this time transplanted erudition beyond the Alps, while
Aldo had secured the literature of ancient Greece against the
possibility of destruction.

[Footnote 366: See the passages from his letters and prefaces quoted
and referred to on p. 239, above, note 2.]

[Footnote 367: The prospect of his visit to Milan in 1509 called forth
these pretty April verses from Antiquari:--

     Aldus venit en, Aldus ecce venit!
     Nunc, O nunc, juvenes, ubique in urbe
     Flores spargite. Vere namque primo
     Aldus venit en, Aldus ecce venit.]

[Footnote 368: See above, p. 275, for his hatred of the [Greek:
bibliotaphoi]. He was the very opposite of Henri Estienne the younger,
who closed his library against his son-in-law Casaubon.]

[Footnote 369: Didot, pp. 89, 299, 423.]

[Footnote 370: _Priscian_, at Erfurt, 1501; _Alphabet_,
_Batrachomyomachia_, Musæus, Theocritus, Grammar of Chrysoloras,
Hesiod's _Works and Days_, Paris, 1507; Aristotle on _Divination by
Dreams_, Cracow, 1529; Lucian, [Greek: peri dipsadôn], Oxford, 1521,
are among the earliest Greek books printed out of Italy. The grammars
of the Greek humanists were frequently reprinted in the first quarter
of the sixteenth century in Germany.]



     Fall of the Humanists -- Scholarship permeates Society -- A
     New Ideal of Life and Manners -- Latinisation of Names --
     Classical Periphrases -- Latin Epics on Christian Themes --
     Paganism -- The Court of Leo X. -- Honours of the Church
     given to Scholars -- Ecclesiastical Men of the World --
     Mæcenases at Rome -- Papal and Imperial Rome -- Moral
     Corruption -- Social Refinement -- The Roman Academy --
     Pietro Bembo -- His Life at Ferrara -- At Urbino -- Comes to
     Rome -- Employed by Leo -- Retirement to Padua -- His
     Dictatorship of Letters -- Jacopo Sadoleto -- A Graver
     Genius than Bembo -- Paulus Jovius -- Latin Stylist -- His
     Histories -- Baldassare Castiglione -- Life at Urbino and
     Rome -- The Courtly Scholar -- His Diplomatic Missions --
     Alberto Pio -- Gian Francesco Pico della Mirandola -- The
     Vicissitudes of his Life -- Jerome Aleander -- Oriental
     Studies -- The Library of the Vatican -- His Mission to
     Germany -- Inghirami, Beroaldo, and Acciaiuoli -- The Roman
     University -- John Lascaris -- Study of Antiquities --
     Origin of the 'Corpus Inscriptionum' -- Topographical
     Studies -- Formation of the Vatican Sculpture Gallery --
     Discovery of the Laocoon -- Feeling for Statues in
     Renaissance Italy -- Venetian Envoys in the Belvedere --
     Raphael's Plan for excavating Ancient Rome -- His Letter to
     Leo -- Effect of Antiquarian Researches on the Arts --
     Intellectual Supremacy of Rome in this Period -- The Fall --
     Adrian VI. -- The Sack of Rome -- Valeriano's Description of
     the Sufferings of Scholars.

What is known as the Revival of Learning was accomplished before the
close of the fifteenth century, and about this time humanism began to
lose credit. The professional scholars who had domineered in Italy
during the last hundred years, were now regarded with suspicion as
pretentious sophists, or as empty-pated pedants. Their place was taken
by men of the world, refined courtiers, and polite stylists who
piqued themselves on general culture. This revolution in public
opinion was the result of various causes which I shall attempt to set
forth in another chapter. It is enough for my present purpose to
observe that the learning possessed at first by a few teachers,
acquired with effort, and communicated with condescension, had now
become the common property of cultivated men. In proportion as a
knowledge of the classic authors diffused itself over a wider area,
the mere reputation of sound scholarship ceased to form a valid title
to celebrity. It was necessary that the man of letters, educated by
antiquity, should give proof of his genius by some originality of
mind. The age of acquisition had ended; the age of application had
begun. To this result the revived interest in Italian literature
powerfully contributed. Writers were no longer, like Bruni and Poggio,
ashamed of their _cose volgari_. On the contrary, the most splendid
productions of the first half of the sixteenth century, the Histories
of Guicciardini and Machiavelli, the Epic of Ariosto, the 'Cortegiano'
of Castiglione, and the burlesque poems of Berni were penned in
powerful and delicate Italian. To what extent the influence of Lorenzo
de' Medici, who was always more partial to vernacular literature than
to scholarship, determined the change in question, is a matter for
opinion. That Florence led the way by her great writers of Italian
poetry and prose admits of no doubt.

At the same time the erudition of the fifteenth century had steeped
the whole Italian nation. Humanism penetrated every sphere of
intellectual activity, and gave a colour to all social customs. The
arts of painting and of sculpture felt its influence. A new style of
architecture, formed upon the model of Roman monuments, sprang up.
Science took a special bias from the classics, and philosophy was so
strongly permeated by antique doctrines that the Revival of Learning
may be justly said to have checked the spontaneity of the Italian
intellect. There was not enough time for students to absorb antiquity
and pass beyond it, before the mortmain of the Church and the Spaniard
was laid upon the fairest provinces of thought. To trace the course of
Italian philosophy, is, however, no part of my scheme in this volume.
The Aristotelian and Platonic controversies on the nature of the soul,
the materialism of Pietro Pomponazzo, the gradual emergence of
powerful thinkers like Bruno and Campanella, the theological
rationalism of Aonio Paleario, and the final suppression of free
thought by the Church, belong to the history of the Counter-Reformation.
To the same sad chapter of Italian history must be relegated the
labours of the earliest mathematicians, astronomers, and
cosmographers, who, poring over the texts of Ptolemy and Euclid,
anticipated Copernicus, impelled Columbus to his enterprise, and led
the way for Galileo. The infamy of having rendered science and
philosophy abortive in Italy, when its early show of blossom was so
promising, falls upon the Popes and princes of the last half of the
sixteenth century. The narrative of their emergence from the studies
of the humanists must form the prelude to a future work treating of
Farnesi and Caraffas, Inquisitors and Jesuits. Only by showing the
growth which might have been, can we demonstrate the atrophy that was.

It remains in this chapter to describe the fourth period of humanism,
when Italy, still permeated with the spirit of the classical revival,
laid down laws of social breeding for the nations of the North. Few
things are more difficult than to set forth without exaggeration, and
yet with sufficient force, the so-called Paganism of Renaissance
Italy. At first sight, and from certain points of view, it seems as
though the exclusive study of the classics had wrought a thorough
metamorphosis of morality and manners. When, on reflection, this
appearance is seen to be illusory, we incline, perhaps, to the
contrary conclusion that scholarship only set a kind of fashion
without taking deep hold even on the imagination of the people. A
more complete acquaintance with the period makes it clear that the
imitation of the ancients in thought, sentiment, and language was no
mere affectation, and that, however partial its influences may have
been, they were not superficial. In the first volume of this work I
tried to show to what extent the patriotism of tyrannicides and the
profligacy of courtiers were alike related to the prevailing study of
the ancient world. It was no small matter that the vices and the
virtues, the worldliness and the enthusiasm, of that many-featured
age, together with its supreme achievements in art, its ripest
productions in literature, should have gradually assumed a classic
form. The standards of moral and æsthetic taste were paganised, though
the nation at large remained unchanged in Catholicity. It was
precisely this discord between the professed religion of the people
and the heathenism of its ideal that inspired Savonarola with his

Classical style being the requirement of the age, it followed that
everything was sacrificed to this. In christening their children the
great families abandoned the saints of the calendar and chose names
from mythology. Ettorre, Achille, Atalanta, Pentesilea, Lucrezia,
Porzia, Alessandro, Annibale, Laomedonte, Fedro, Ippolito, and many
other antique titles became fashionable. Those who were able to do so
turned their baptismal names into Latin or Greek equivalents. Janus or
Jovianus passed for Giovanni, Pierius for Pietro, Aonius for Antonio,
Lucius Grassus for Luca Grasso; the German prelate John Goritz was
known as Corycius,[371] and the Roman professor Gianpaolo Parisio as
Janus Parrhasius. Writers who undertook to treat of modern or
religious themes, were driven by their zeal for purism to the
strangest expedients of language. God, in the Latin of the sixteenth
century, is _Jupiter Optimus Maximus_; Providence becomes _Fatum_; the
saints are _Divi_, and their statues _simulacra sancta Deorum_. Our
Lady of Loreto is changed into _Dea Lauretana_, Peter and Paul into
_Dii tutelares Romæ_, the souls of the just into _Manes pii_, and the
Pope's excommunication into _Diræ_. The Holy Father himself takes the
style of _Pontifex Maximus_; his tiara, by a wild confusion of ideas,
is described as _infula Romulea_. Nuns are Vestals, and cardinals
Augurs. For the festivals of the Church periphrases were found,
whereof the following may be cited as a fair specimen:[372] '_Verum
accidit ut eo ipso die, quo domum ejus accesseram, ipse piæ rei caussâ
septem sacrosancta Divûm pulvinaria supplicaturus inviserit; erant
enim lustrici dies, quos unoquoque anno quadragenos purificatione
consecravit nostra pietas._'

[Footnote 371:

     Namque sub Oebaliæ memini me turribus altis
     Qua niger humectat flaventia culta Galesus
     _Corycium_ vidisse _senem_.--Virg. _Georg._ lib. iv. 125.]

[Footnote 372: From the exordium to Valeriano's treatise _De
Infelicitate Literatorum_.]

It need hardly be added that, when the obligations of Latinity had
reached this point, to read Cicero was of far more importance than to
study the Fathers of the Church. Bembo, it is well known, advised
Sadoleto to 'avoid the Epistles of S. Paul, lest his barbarous style
should spoil your taste: _Omitte has nugas, non enim decent gravem
virum tales ineptiæ_.' The extent, however, to which formal purism in
Latinity was carried, may be best observed in the 'Christiad' of Vida,
and the poem 'De Partu Virginis' of Sannazzaro.[373] Sannazzaro not
only invokes the muses of Helicon to sing the birth of Christ, but he
also makes Proteus prophesy his advent to the river-god of Jordan. The
archangel discovers Mary--described by the poet as _spes fida
Deorum_--intent on reading nothing less humanistic than the Sibyls;
and after she has received his message, the spirits of the patriarchs
are said to shout because they will escape from Tartarus and Acheron
and the hideous baying of the triple-throated hound.

[Footnote 373: Lilius Gyraldus, in his dialogue 'De Poetis Nostri
Temporis,' _Opp._ vol. ii. p. 384, mentions a critic who was so stupid
as to _desiderare in Pontano et si deis placet in Sanazario
Christianam elocutionem, hoc est barbaram_!]

It might be reasonably urged against Milton that in the 'Paradise
Regained' he somewhat impairs the religious grandeur of his subject by
investing it with the forms of the classical epic. If he has erred in
this direction, it is as nothing compared with the pseudo-Pagan
travesty of Vida. God the Father in the 'Christiad' is spoken of as
_Superum Pater nimbipotens_ and _Regnator Olympi_--titles which had
their real significance in Latin mythology, being transferred with
frigid formalism to a Deity whose essence is spiritual, and whose cult
has no admixture of nature worship. Jesus is invariably described as
_Heros_; this absurdity reaches its climax in the following phrase
about the bad thief on the cross:--

     Ipse etiam verbis morientem heroa superbis

The machinery whereby the Jews are brought to will the death of Christ
is no less ridiculous. Instead of attempting to set religious or
ethical motives into play, Vida introduces a gang of Gorgons, Harpies,
Centaurs, Hydras, and the like. The bread of the Last Supper appears
under the disguise of _sinceram Cererem_. The wine mingled with gall,
offered to our Lord upon the cross, is _corrupti pocula Bacchi_. The
only excuse for these grotesque compromises between the Biblical
subject-matter and its mythological expression is, that in any other
way it would have been impossible to give the form of pure Latinity to
the verse. The poet failed to comprehend that he was producing a
masterpiece of _barocco_ mannerism, spoiling at once the style he
sought to use and the theme he undertook to illustrate. It was enough
for him to fit the Roman toga to his saints and Pharisees, and to
tickle the taste of a learned audience by allusions that reminded them
of Virgil. The same bathos was reached by Bembo when he invented the
paraphrase of 'heavenly zephyr' for the Holy Ghost, and described the
Venetian Council bidding a Pope _uti fidat diis immortalibus, quorum
vices in terrâ gerit_. It is not the profanity of these phrases so
much as their æsthetic emptiness, the discord between the meaning
intended to be conveyed and the literary form, that strikes a modern

When the same poets break out into honest Paganism, in the frank
verses written by Bembo for Priapus, in Beccadelli's epigrams, or in
the elegies of Acon and Iolas, we feel that they are more artistically
justified. The following lines, for instance, from Vida's 'Poetics,'
have a true ring and beauty of their own. He is addressing Virgil as a

     Te colimus, tibi serta damus, tibi thura, tibi aras,
     Et tibi rite sacrum semper dicemus honorem.

Or again--

                       Nos aspice præsens,
     Pectoribusque tuos castis infunde calores
     Adveniens pater, atque animis te te insere nostris.

There is no confusion here between the feeling and the language chosen
to express it. The sentiment, if somewhat artificial and unreal, is at
least adequate to the form.

I have entered at some length into the illustration of puristic
Latinisms, because they seem to represent the culminating point of
classic studies, in so far as these affected taste in general, and
also because they are specially characteristic of the period of which
I have now to treat. It was at Rome, among the great ecclesiastics,
that these Pagan fashions principally flourished. Eminence of all
kinds found a home with Leo X., assuming the purple of the prelate and
the scarlet of the cardinal at his indulgent hands. The genius of the
Renaissance seemed to have followed this first Medicean Pope from
Florence. Though Leo was a man of merely pleasure-loving and receptive
temperament, who left no lasting impress on his age, he knew at least
how to appreciate ability, and found the height of his enjoyment in
the arts and letters he enthusiastically patronised. This sybarite of
intellectual and sensual luxury gave his name to what is called the
golden age of Italian literature, chiefly because he attracted the
best wits to Rome and received the flatteries of men whose work
survived them.

History presents few spectacles more striking than that of Rome in the
pontificate of Leo. While the Papacy has become a secular sovereignty,
learning and arts have assumed the sacerdotal habit, and the boldest
immoralities of a society comparable to that of the ancient Empire
flourish in the petty Courts of ecclesiastical princes. The capital of
Christendom is full of priests; but the priests are men of pleasure
and the world--elegant Latinists and florid rhetoricians, raised to
posts of eminence by reason of their brilliant gifts. We have seen
already how the humanists made their way into the Roman Curia as
writers and abbreviators, and how liberally Nicholas V. rewarded
learning. Yet, however indispensable the scholars of the fifteenth
century became, they rarely rose above the rank of Apostolic
secretaries; while few of the professional humanists cared to take
orders in the Church. They were satisfied with official emoluments and
semi-secular benefices. All this was now altered. The most
distinguished men of letters made the Church their profession.
Sadoleto, Bembo, and Aleander, who began their career under Leo,
received the hats of cardinals from Paul III. Paulus Jovius was
consecrated Bishop of Nocera by Clement VII., and retired to Como in
disgust because he failed to get the scarlet in 1549. Marcus Musurus,
created Bishop of Malvasia, is said to have died of disappointment
when he saw the same dignity beyond his reach. Vida, the Latin poet,
obtained the see of Alba in Piedmont, and Giberti, the accomplished
stylist, that of Verona, from Clement VII. All these men had made
their mark at Leo's Court, who set the example, followed by his
Medicean successor, of rewarding mundane talents and accomplishments
with ecclesiastical distinctions. The question, seriously entertained,
of admitting Raphael to the Sacred College proves to what extent the
highest honours of the Church had come to be esteemed as prizes, and
justifies to some extent Pietro Aretino's arrogant offer to sell his
services to the Papacy in exchange for a cardinal's hat.

The biographies of these favourites of fortune offer strong points of
similarity. Whether born of noble families, like Bembo, or raised from
comparative obscurity, like Bibbiena, they early in life attached
themselves to some distinguished prince,[374] or entered the service
of a great ecclesiastic. Their literary talents, social
accomplishments, successes with women, and diplomatic service at the
centres of Italian politics brought them still further into notice.
Thus Sadoleto's Latin poem on the Laocoon, Bibbiena's 'Calandra,'
Inghirami's acting of the part of Phædra in Seneca's 'Hippolytus,' and
Bembo's friendship with Lucrezia Borgia might be cited as
turning-points in the early history of these illustrious prelates.
Having thus acquired position by their personal gifts, they travelled
to Rome in the suite of their respective patrons, and obtained office
at the hands of Leo. Sadoleto and Bembo became his secretaries.
Inghirami superintended the Vatican Library.[375] Bibbiena's versatile
abilities were divided between the duties of State minister and master
of the revels. As they had built their fortunes by the help of eminent
protectors, they now in their turn took the rank of patrons. In
addition to the Vatican, Rome displayed a multitude of petty Courts
and minor circles. Each cardinal and each ambassador held a
jurisdiction independent of the Pope, and not unfrequently in
opposition to the ruling power. To found academies, to gather clever
men around them, and to play the part of Mæcenas was the ambition of
these subordinate princes. During the pontificate of Leo the Cardinals
Riario, Giulio de' Medici, Bibbiena, Petrucci, Farnese, Alidosi, and
Gonzaga, not to mention others, entertained their own following of
flatterers and poets, who danced attendance at their levees,
accompanied them in public, and earned a meagre pittance by
compliments and dedications. Some of these priestly patrons affected
the arts, others the sciences; others again, and these the majority,
bestowed their favours upon literature. Ippolito de' Medici is said to
have maintained a retinue of three hundred poets, among whom are
mentioned the elegant Molza and the learned Valeriano. The fashion
thus set by Leo and the Sacred College was followed by all the eminent
men in Rome. The banker Agostino Chigi made himself a name not only by
his patronage of painters, but also by the private Greek press founded
in his house.[376] Baldassare Turini devoted himself to the arts of
building and of decoration. Baldassare Castiglione, as ambassador from
Mantua and Ferrara, and Alberto Pio, as prince of Carpi and ambassador
from France, dispensed the hospitality of their palaces to scholars,
among whom they held no inconsiderable rank on their own merits.

[Footnote 374: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 145.]

[Footnote 375: He held this post under Julius II.]

[Footnote 376: The first Greek book printed in Rome, an edition of
Pindar by Cornelius Benignius, 1515, issued from Chigi's press under
the superintendence of Zacharias Kalliergos of Crete. Concerning this
printer see Didot, _Alde Manuce_, pp. 544-578.]

Libraries, collections of statues and of pictures, frescoes painted
from mythological subjects, garden-houses planned upon the antique
model, Latin inscriptions, busts of the emperors, baths and banquet
chambers decorated in the manner of the Roman ruins--on such objects
the wealth of the Church was being prodigally spent. Posterity has
reason to deplore the non-appearance of a satirist in this Papal
society, so curiously similar to that of Imperial Rome. Horace would,
indeed, have found ample materials for humorous delineation, whether
he had chosen to deride the needy clients leaving their lodgings
before daybreak to crowd a prelate's antechamber, or the parasites on
whom coarse practical jokes were played in the Pope's presence, or the
flatterers who praised their master's mock virtues in hour-long
declamations. Fouler vices than vanity, hypocrisy, and servility
supplied fit subjects for invectives no less fiery than the second and
the sixth of Juvenal. At Rome virtuous women had no place; but Phryne
lived again in the person of Imperia, and dignitaries of the Church
thought it no shame to parade their preference for Giton.[377] In the
absence of a Horace or a Juvenal, we have to content ourselves with
Bandello and other novelists, and with one precious epistle of Ariosto
describing the difficulty of conducting business at the Papal Court
except by way of backstairs influence and antechamber intrigue.

[Footnote 377: The epitaph of Bella Imperia proves that the title of
Hetæra was thought honourable: 'Imperia, Cortisana Romana, quæ digna
tanto nomine, raræ inter homines formæ specimen dedit. Vixit a. xxvi.
d. xii. Obiit MDXI., die XV. Aug.' Berni's _Capitolo sopra un Garzone_
may be referred to for the second half of the sentence.]

To over-estimate the moral corruption of Rome at the beginning of the
sixteenth century is almost impossible. To over-rate the real value of
a literature that culminated in the subtleties of rhetoric and style
is easy. Nor is it difficult to mistake, as many critics have done,
the sunset of the fine arts for their meridian splendour. Yet, while
we recognise the enervation of society in worse than heathen vices,
and justly regard Rome as the hostelry of alien arts and letters
rather than the mother city of great men, we cannot blind our eyes to
the varied lights and colours of that Court, unique in modern history.
The culture toward which Italian society had long been tending, was
here completed. The stamp of universality had been given to the fine
arts and to literature by the only potentate who at that moment
claimed allegiance from united Christendom. As the eloquent historian
of the town of Rome observes, 'the richest intellectual life here
blossomed in a swamp of vices.' It was not the life of great poetry:
that had perished long ago with Dante. It was not the life of genuine
science: that was destined to be born with Galileo. It was not the
life of comprehensive scholarship: that slept in the grave of
Poliziano. It was not even the life of progressive art; for Raphael
died in this age, and though Michael Angelo survived it, his genius
had no successors. But it was the life of culture, rendering the
rudest and most vicious sensitive to softening influences, and
preparing for more powerful nations the possibilities of great

Amid political debility and moral corruption an ideal of refinement,
adopted from antiquity, and assimilated to modern modes of living, had
been formed. This was the most perfect bloom of the Renaissance,
destined to survive the decay of humanism, and to be for subsequent
civilisation what chivalry was for the Middle Ages. Through the
continued effort of patricians and of scholars to acquire the tone of
classic culture, something like antique urbanity had reappeared at
Florence and in Rome; while several general tions [Transcriber's Note:
likely 'generations'] devoted to polite studies had produced a race
distinguished above all things for its intellectual delicacy. The
effect of this æsthetic atmosphere upon visitors from the North was
singularly varied. Luther, who came to see the City of the Saints,
found in Rome the sink of all abominations, the very lair of
Antichrist. The _comitas_ and the _facetiæ_ of the prelates were to
him the object of unmitigated loathing. Erasmus, on the contrary,
wrote from London that nothing but Lethe could efface his memory of
that radiant city--its freedom of discourse, its light, its libraries,
its honeyed converse of most learned scholars, its large style of
life, and all those works of art that made of Rome the theatre of
nations. The Italians themselves, lessoned by the tragedy of 1527,
looked back with no less mingled feelings upon Leo's Rome. La Casa
mentions the _nimia humanitatis suavitas_--the excess of sweetness in
all that makes society humane--as a characteristic of the past age.
That excessive sweetness of civility, the final product of the arts
and scholarship of Italy, when diffused through Europe and tempered to
the taste of sterner nationalities, became the politeness of France
under Louis XIV., the _bel air_ of Queen Anne's courtiers.

The Roman Academy still continued to be active, meeting at the palaces
of more than one great prelate. The gardens of Angelo Colocci, Leo's
secretary, a friend of John Lascaris, and himself no inconsiderable
stylist, formed its headquarters. Sometimes the poet Blosius Palladius
received the associates in his villa by the Tiber; sometimes they
enjoyed the hospitality of Egidius Canisius, General of the Augustine
Order; at one time they sought the house of Sadoleto on the Quirinal;
at another they feasted in the vineyard of John Goritz, the Corycius
Senex. The festivals of this learned society, to judge by the
descriptions of its members, were distinguished by antique simplicity
and good taste, contrasting powerfully with the banquets of mere
mundane prelates.[378] When Agostino Chigi entertained the
Academicians in the Villa Farnesina, he chastened his magnificence to
suit the spirit of their founder, Lætus, and omitted those displays
of vulgar pomp that marked his wedding banquet.[379]

[Footnote 378: See Tiraboschi, vii. 1, lib. i. c. 2.]

[Footnote 379: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 342.]

The muster-roll of the Academy brings the most eminent wits of Rome
before us. First and foremost stands Pietro Bembo, the man of letters,
who, like Petrarch, Poggio, and Poliziano, may be chosen as the
fullest representative of his own age of culture. His father, Bernardo
Bembo, was a Venetian of noble birth and education. To his generous
enthusiasm for Italian literature Ravenna owes the tomb of Dante.
Pietro was born at Florence in 1470, and received his early education
in that city. Therefore the Tuscans claim his much-praised purity of
diction for their gift. He afterwards studied Greek at Messina under
Constantine Lascaris, and learned philosophy from Pomponazzo at Padua.
When his master's treatise on the 'Immortality of the Soul' was
condemned by the Lateran Council, Bembo used his influence
successfully in his behalf. Though he denied the demonstrability of
the doctrine, and maintained that Aristotle gave it no support,
Pomponazzo was only censured, instead of being burned like Bruno. This
good fortune was due, however, less to his pupil's advocacy than to
the nonchalance of Leo. Having completed his academical studies in
1498, Bembo joined his father at the brilliant Court of the Estensi.
When Lucrezia Borgia entered Ferrara in 1502 she was still in the
zenith of her beauty. Her father, Alexander, grew daily more powerful
in Rome; while her brother held the central States of Italy within his
grasp. The greatness of the Borgias reflected honour on the bride of
Alfonso d'Este; and though the princes of Ferrara at first received
her with reluctance, they were soon won over by her grace. Between the
princess and the courtly scholar a friendship speedily sprang up,
which strengthened with years and was maintained by correspondence at
a distance. To Lucrezia Bembo dedicated 'Gli Asolani,' a dialogue in
the Italian tongue upon Platonic love,[380] by far the freest and most
genial of his writings. The collection of his Latin poems contains an
epigram upon a golden serpent clasped above her wrist, and an elegy in
which he praises her singing, dancing, playing, and recitation:--

     Quicquid agis, quicquid loqueris, delectat: et omnes
       Præcedunt Charites, subsequiturque decor.

[Footnote 380: Written 1504. First printed by Aldo, 1505.]

This liaison, famous in the annals of Italian literature, gave Bembo a
distinguished place in the great world. A touching memento of
it--Lucrezia's letters and a tress of her long yellow hair--is still
preserved at Milan in the Ambrosian Library.

From Ferrara Bembo passed to Urbino in 1506, where Guidobaldo da
Montefeltre had gathered round him the brilliant group described in
the 'Cortegiano.' The climax of that treatise, our most precious
source of information on Court life in Italy, makes it clear that
Bembo played the first part in a circle distinguished above all others
at that time for refinement and wit. Many cities might boast of a
larger and more splendid concourse of noble visitors; but none
competed with Urbino for the polish of its manners and the breeding of
its courtiers. In his dialogue in praise of Guidobaldo, Bembo paid a
magnificent tribute to the prince from whose society he learned so
much, and in whose service he remained till the Duke's death.[381]
Giuliano de' Medici, with whom he lived on terms of intimacy at
Urbino, took him to Rome in 1512. The reign of Leo was about to shed
new lustre on the Medicean exiles. His victorious exclamation to his
brother,'_Godiamoci il Papato poichè Dio ce l'ha dato_,' had a ring of
promise in it for their numerous friends and clients. Even without
the recommendation of Giuliano, it is not likely that Leo would have
overlooked a man so wholly after his own heart as Bembo. The qualities
he most admired--smooth manners, a handsome person, wit in
conversation, and thorough mastery of Latin style, without pretension
to deep learning or much earnestness of purpose--were incarnate in the
courtly Venetian. Bembo was precisely the man to make Leo's life
agreeable by flattering his superficial tastes and subordinating the
faculties of a highly cultivated mind to frivolous, if intellectual,
amusements. The churchman who warned Sadoleto against spoiling his
style by study of the Bible, the prosaist who passed his compositions
through sixteen portfolios, revising them at each remove, the
versifier who penned a hymn to S. Stephen and a monologue for Priapus
with equal elegance, was cast in the same mould as the pleasure-loving
Pontiff. For eight years he lived at Rome, honoured by the Medici and
loved by all who knew him. His duties as secretary to Leo, shared by
his old friend and fellow-student Sadoleto, were not onerous; while
the society of the capital afforded opportunity for the display of his
most brilliant gifts. In 1520, wearied by nearly thirty years of
continual Court life, and broken down in health by severe sickness,
Bembo retired to Padua. The collection of a library and museum,
horticulture, correspondence, and the cultivation of his studied
Ciceronian style now occupied his leisure through nineteen most
disastrous years for Italy. The learned courtiers of that age liked
thus to play the Roman in their villas, quoting Horace and Virgil on
the charms of rustic life, and fancying they caught the spirit of
Cincinnatus while they strolled about the farm. Bembo's Paduan retreat
became the rendezvous of all the ablest men in Italy, the centre of a
fluctuating society of highest culture. Paul III. recalled him to
Rome, and made him cardinal in 1539. When he died in 1547 he was
buried not far from Leo in the Church of the Minerva. A fair slab of
marble marks his grave.

[Footnote 381: 'De Guido Ubaldo Feretrio deque Elisabetha Gonzaga
Urbini Ducibus.']

Bembo succeeded Poliziano in the dictatorship of Italian letters. Like
Poliziano, he was both a scholar and a writer of Italian; but he was
far from possessing the comprehensive understanding or the genius of
his predecessor. Of all the 'apes of Cicero' scoffed at by Erasmus, he
stood first and foremost. His exclusive devotion to one favourite
author made his Latin stiff and mannered. Tuscan critics again have
complained that his Italian style lacks nerve and idiom. He wrote like
an alien, not one to the manner born. In his dread of not writing
correctly, he ended by expressing tame thoughts with frigid formality.
Even a foreigner can see that he used Italian, as he used Latin,
without yielding to natural impulse, and with the constant effort to
attain a fixed ideal. The mark of the file may be observed on every
period. Raciness and spontaneity are words that have no meaning when
applied to him. The decadence of Italian prose composition into
laboured mannerism and meticulous propriety should be traced in a
great measure to his influence. Yet Bembo deserves credit for having
braved the opinion of the learned by his cultivation of the vulgar
tongue; and on this point some verses from a Latin poem to Ercole
Strozzi deserve quotation in a note.[382]

[Footnote 382:

     Nam pol quâ proavusque avusque linguâ
     Sunt olim meus et tuus loquuti,
     Nostræ quâque loquuntur et sorores
     Et matertera nunc et ipsa mater,
     Nos nescire loqui magis pudendum est,
     Qui Graiæ damus et damus Latinæ
     Studi tempora duplicemque curam,
     Quam Graiâ simul et simul Latinâ.
     Hac uti ut valeas tibi videndum est,
     Ne dum marmoreas remotâ in orâ
     Sumtu construis et labore villas,
     Domi te calamo tegas palustri.

     _Carmina Quinque Illustrium Poetarum_, p. 25.]

Jacopo Sadoleto's career was not dissimilar to that of his friend
Bembo, though the two men offer many points of difference in character
and turn of mind. Born at Modena in 1477, he studied Latin at Ferrara,
and Greek at Rome, where he settled in the reign of Alexander VI. His
copy of hexameters on the newly-discovered statue of Laocoon made him
famous. Frigid and laboured as these verses may appear to us, who read
them like a prize exercise, they had the merit of originality when
first produced. Leo made the poet his secretary and Bishop of
Carpentras. Sadoleto passed a good portion of his life in the duties
of his see, composing moral treatises, annotating the Psalms, and
publishing a 'Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.'[383] Though
strongly tinctured with Ciceronian purism, his taste was more austere
than Bembo's. Nature had given him an intellect adapted to grave
studies, sincerity of purpose, and true piety. Living in the dawn of
the Reformation, Sadoleto was deeply conscious of the perils of the
Church; nor did he escape the suspicion of sharing the new
heresy.[384] His celebrated letter to Clement VII., after the sack of
Rome in 1527, shows that he viewed this disaster as a punishment
inflicted on the godless capital of Christendom. In 1536 Paul III.
recalled him to Rome, and made him cardinal. He died in 1547, and was
buried in S. Pietro in Vincoli. Sadoleto's correspondence may be
reckoned among the most valuable materials for the literary annals of
this period.

[Footnote 383: His most famous essays bore these titles: _De Liberis
Instituendis_ and _De Laudibus Philosophiæ_.]

[Footnote 384: His _Commentary on the Romans_ was placed upon the

Next to Sadoleto a place must be found for the grave and studious
Egidio Canisio. He was born at Viterbo in 1470, and was therefore an
exact contemporary of Bembo. His powers of Latin oratory gained him
the fame of a great speaker, and the address with which he opened the
Lateran Council in 1512 was committed to the press in that year.
Egidius was already General of the Augustine Order. Five years later
he received the red hat of a cardinal, and in 1518 he represented the
Holy See as Legate at the Court of Spain. He died in 1532, leaving a
vast mass of miscellaneous works on theology, philosophy, Biblical
criticism, and universal history. Few of these have been printed. It
is said that, besides Greek and Latin, he was a master of Hebrew and
Chaldee, Turkish, Persian, and Arabic.

A more brilliant figure is presented by the witty but unscrupulous
historian Paulus Jovius. He was born at Como in 1483, and came at the
age of thirty-three to Rome, with the beginning of his comprehensive
History already written.[385] Leo, who delighted in listening to
recitations of new literary works, declared that nothing had been
penned more perfect since the days of Livy. This high praise induced
Jovius to fix his residence at Rome, where Clement VII. made him
Bishop of Nocera in 1528. After spending twenty-one years in the
expectation, continually frustrated, of being received in the Sacred
College, he retired to Como, and died at Florence in 1552. Jovius was
the cleverest of all the Latinists produced by the Italians. His style
is fluent, sparkling with anecdote, highly picturesque in its
descriptive passages, and adorned by characteristic details. In
addition to the histories, he produced a series of biographies of
great and varied value, some of which are libels, others panegyrics,
while all are marked by acute observation and mastery of the matter in
hand. He was wont to say that he could use a golden or a silver pen at
will: the golden was exercised upon the Life of Leo; the silver,
dipped in ironic gall, upon the Life of Hadrian. The sketches of
eminent men, known by the name of 'Elogia,' were composed in
illustration of a picture gallery of portraits collected in his villa.
They include not only Italians, but Greeks, Germans, French and
English worthies, dead and living notabilities of every kind.[386] If
Brantôme had chosen Latin instead of French, he would have made a book
not altogether unlike this of Jovius. The versatility of the author
was further illustrated by a Latin treatise on Roman fishes, and by an
Italian essay on mottoes and devices.[387]

[Footnote 385: Like the History of Guicciardini, it opens with the
year 1494. It is carried down to 1547. A portion of the first decade
was lost in the sack of Rome, and never rewritten by the author.
Printed at Florence, 1550.]

[Footnote 386: _Elogia Virorum literis illustrium, quotquot vel
nostrâ, vel avorum memoriâ vixere_, and _Elogia Virorum bellicâ
virtute illustrium_, Basel, 1557.]

[Footnote 387: _De Piscibus Romanis_, Rome, 1524. _Ragionamento sopra
i Motti e Disegni d'Arme e d'Amore._]

Among the celebrities of the Roman Academy a place apart must be
reserved for Baldassare Castiglione; for though his biography belongs
to the political even more than to the literary annals of the period,
few men represent the age of Leo in its culture with more dignity and
grace combined. He was born in 1478 at Casatico, in the Duchy of
Mantua; his father's family held the county of Castiglione, and his
mother was a Gonzaga. In his youth he received an education framed
upon the system set in vogue by Vittorino and Guarino, and became the
living illustration of those varied accomplishments which he described
in the 'Cortegiano.' His scholarship was sound and elegant; as a
writer of Latin verse he distinguished himself among the best men of
his generation. Sensitive to the beauty of the arts, he proved an
excellent critic of modern painting and of antique sculpture, and
assisted Raphael in the composition of his famous letter to Leo on the
exploration of old Rome. At the same time he did not neglect the
athletic exercises which formed an indispensable branch of an Italian
nobleman's training. Cultivated at all points, he early devoted his
abilities to the service of princes; for at this period in Italy
there was no sphere for such a character outside the Courts. After
spending some time at Milan and Naples, Castiglione removed to Rome,
where Julius II. discerned the use that might be made of him in
furthering the interests of his nephew Francesco Maria della Rovere.
Federigo da Montefeltre, Duke of Urbino, had died in 1482, leaving his
son Guidobaldo in possession of his fiefs and titles; but it was known
that this prince could have no heirs. In him the male line of the
Montefeltri ended. His sister Giovanna had been married to Giovanni
della Rovere, a brother of the Pope, and Julius hoped that their son
Francesco Maria might be declared successor to the Duchy of Urbino.
Castiglione therefore attached himself to the person of Guidobaldo,
with the special purpose of making himself necessary to the princes of
Urbino and furthering the claims of Francesco, then a boy of about
fifteen. Of his residence at Urbino, and of the polished splendour of
Guidobaldo's Court, he has left an ever-memorable record in his
'Cortegiano,' that mirror of gentle breeding for the sixteenth century
in Europe. Guidobaldo received the Count of Castiglione with marked
favour, made him captain of fifty men at arms, and employed him in
several offices of trust. Not the least important of these was the
mission to England, undertaken in 1506 by Castiglione as Guidobaldo's
proxy for receiving from Henry VII. the investiture of the Garter.
After the death of Guidobaldo, Francesco Maria della Rovere was
proclaimed Duke of Urbino, and Castiglione continued to enjoy his
confidence until the year 1517, when Leo succeeded in placing his
nephew Lorenzo de' Medici upon the Ducal throne.

Castiglione was now deprived of what had become the necessity of his
life, a post of honour in the Court of a reigning sovereign. He
therefore transferred his allegiance to his natural lord, the Marquis
of Mantua, who appointed him ambassador at Rome. The first and most
brilliant period of the courtier's life was passed at Urbino; the
second, less fruitful in literary achievements, embraced his residence
among the wits of Leo's circle. At Rome Castiglione adapted himself to
the customs of the papal society, penning Latin elegiacs, consorting
with artists, and exercising the pleasant patronage of a refined
Mæcenas. His friendship with Raphael is not the least interesting
episode in this chapter of his biography. Substantial records of it
still remain in the epitaph composed by the courtly scholar on the
painter, and in Castiglione's portrait now preserved in the Louvre
collection. That picture represents the very model of an Italian
nobleman as culture and Court life had made him--tranquil, with grave
open eyes, and a mouth as well suited for urbane discourse as gentle
merriment. The owner of this face was not born to lead armies or to
control unruly multitudes, but to pass his time in the _loggie_ of
princes--self-contained and qualified to win favour without the
sacrifice of personal dignity. It forms a strong contrast to earlier
and later portraits--to that of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, for
example, and to the Spanish grandees of the next century. Castiglione
was still in Rome during the pontificate of Clement VII., who,
recognizing his great ability as a diplomatist, sent him to Charles V.
At Madrid the Pope's nuncio was unable to avert the disaster of 1527,
and Castiglione had the bitter mortification of hearing at a distance
how the Rome he knew and loved so well, had been ravaged by the
brigands of Germany and Spain. It is clear, however, from the
diplomatic correspondence of that memorable moment, and from the
letter addressed by Clement to Castiglione's mother in 1529, that he
never lost the confidence of his master; in spite of his failure to
negotiate between them, he was respected alike by the Pope and the
Emperor. He died at Toledo two years after the sack of Rome, worn out,
it is said, by disappointment and regret. Not only in his book of the
'Courtier,' but also in his life, Castiglione illustrated the best
qualities of an Italian gentleman, moulded by the political and social
conditions of the sixteenth century into a refined scholar and a
courtly diplomatist.

Of Alberto Pio, whose life in some respects may be compared with
Castiglione's, I have had occasion to speak in the last chapter. His
first cousin, Gian Francesco Pico della Mirandola, demands more than
passing notice. By no prince of that troubled period were the cruel
vicissitudes of Italian politics more painfully experienced. Few of
the scholars could boast of wider learning and a nobler spirit. He was
born in 1470, and succeeded his father, Galeotto, in the lordship of
Mirandola. In 1502 his brother Lodovico expelled him from his capital.
Julius II. restored him. After being dispossessed a second time by
Trivulzi, general of the French forces, he was once more reinstated,
but only for a brief period. His nephew, Galeazzo, murdered him in
1533 before the crucifix, together with his heir, Alberto. In the
intervals of his unquiet and unhappy life, Gian Francesco Pico devoted
himself to studies not unlike those of his more famous uncle.[388]
Early in his youth he had conceived the strongest admiration for
Savonarola; and the work by which he is best known to posterity is a
Life of his great master. Savonarola's principles continued to rule
his thought and conduct through life. During the pontificate of Leo he
composed a long address to the Lateran Council upon the reformation of
the Church,[389] and dared to entertain the friendship of Reuchlin and
Willibad Pirkheimer. His residence in Rome, and the dedication of his
treatise on 'Divine Love' to Leo, justify our ranking him with the
Roman scholars.

[Footnote 388: The titles of his philosophical works--_De Studio
divinæ et humanæ philosophiæ_, _De amore Divino_, _Examen vanitatis
doctrinæ gentium et veritatis Christianæ disciplinæ_, _De rerum
prænotione_--show how closely he followed in the footsteps of Giovanni

[Footnote 389: _Joannis Francisci Pici Mirandolæ et Concordiæ Comitis
Oratio ad Leon X. et Concilium Lateranense de reformandis Ecclesiæ

If Gian Francesco Pico and Sadoleto bring us close upon the threshold
of the German Reformation, we cross it in the company of Aleander.
Jerome Aleander was born at Motta, in the Marches of Treviso, in the
year 1480. His studies, more comprehensive than those of the stylists,
included theology, philosophy, and science, together with the Oriental
languages, in addition to the indispensable Greek and Latin culture.
Before he reached the age of thirty he travelled to Paris, and
professed Hebrew and the humanities at the University. French
scholarship may be said to date from the impulse given to these
subjects by Aleander, who rose to such fame that he was made Rector of
the University. After leaving Paris, he spent some time in Germany,
and came first to Rome in 1516 in the train of Erard van der Mark,
Bishop of Lüttich. Here Leo appointed him librarian of the Vatican.
The rest of Aleander's life was spent in the service of the Church.
Despatched as _nuntius_ to Germany by Leo in 1520, he vainly
attempted, as all students of the Reformation know, to quench the fire
of Luther's kindling. When he returned to Italy, Clement VII. gave him
the archbishopric of Brindisi, and Paul III. raised him to the scarlet
in 1538. He died in 1542, leaving in France the memory of his
unrivalled learning, in Germany the fame of an intolerant persecutor,
in Italy the reputation of a stanch though unsuccessful champion of
the Church.

Aleander's three predecessors in the Vatican Library--Tommaso
Inghirami of Siena, Filippo Beroaldo of Bologna, and Zanobio
Acciaiuoli of Florence--made their mark in Roman society by erudition
rather than by authorship.[390] Inghirami's eloquence won the
admiration of contemporaries, who called him the second Cicero; as a
writer he had no celebrity.[391] A fortunate find of MSS. at Bobbio
earned for him the post of Vatican librarian. Leo, like all the
members of the Medicean family, was bent upon the rediscovery of
buried classics. But the world had been already ransacked, and, though
he employed agents for this purpose in the East as well as Europe,
only one great treasure came to light. Gian Angelo Arcimboldi
disinterred the first five books of Tacitus's 'Annals' at Corvey, and
sold them to the Pope for 500 golden florins. Filippo Beroaldo, who
was entrusted with the task of editing this precious codex, received
the librarianship as his reward. Leo's privilege granted to the
printers of Beroaldo's edition expresses in truly noble language the
highest ideal of humanism, and reflects real credit on his patronage
of letters.[392] Of Acciaiuoli there is not much to say. His knowledge
of Hebrew and the classic languages gained for him a reputation for
singular learning. In his capacity as librarian he began to catalogue
the documents of the 'Secreta Bibliotheca,' founded by Sixtus IV. It
is worthy of notice that Acciaiuoli is the only Florentine whom we
have had occasion to mention among the learned courtiers of Leo.
Florence, always foremost in the van of culture, had shaken off at
this period the traditions of strict humanism. Her greatest writers,
Guicciardini, Machiavelli, Varchi, Segni, and Giannotti, exchanged the
Latin language for their mother speech, and sought for honour in
fields removed from verbal scholarship or Ciceronian niceties of

[Footnote 390: Inghirami, made librarian 1510, died 1516. Beroaldo
held the office two years, and died 1518. Acciaiuoli held it only for
a few months. Aleander succeeded him in 1519.]

[Footnote 391: '_Linguâ verius quam calamo celebrem ... dictus sui
seculi Cicero_,' says Erasmus. '_Affluentissimum eloquentiæ flumen_'
is Valeriano's phrase.]

[Footnote 392: See Burckhardt, p. 174. Roscoe's _Life of Leo X._ vol.
i. p. 357.]

The Roman Sapienza never held the same rank as the Universities of
Padua or Bologna; nor could it compete as an academy of culture with
the High Schools of Florence and Ferrara. The Popes of the
Renaissance, occupied with nepotism and political aggrandisement, had
but small care for the interests of education. Nor did Rome, always
overcrowded by foreigners, require the students who brought custom and
prestige to minor cities.[393] Leo X. resolved, as far as he was able,
to raise the studies of his capital from the decadence into which they
had fallen. In 1513 he reformed the statutes of the University,
increased the appointments of the professors, and founded several new
chairs. Yet, though scholars no less respectable than Janus Parrhasius
of Cosenza, Tommaso Inghirami, and Filippo Beroaldo were numbered
among the teachers, the Sapienza failed to take firm root in
Rome:--the most flourishing school of humanism at this period was
Ferrara, governed by Leoniceno, Celio Calcagnini, and Lilius Gyraldus.
To Hellenistic studies, just now upon the point of decadence in Italy,
Leo gave encouragement by the establishment of a Greek press, and by
the foundation of the Gymnasium Caballini Montis, where Joannes
Lascaris and Marcus Musurus lectured. Musurus we have already learned
to know as the inmate of Alberto Pio's palace at Carpi, and as Aldo's
most efficient helper. Soon after his elevation to the Papacy, Leo
invited the venerable Lascaris to Rome; but he did not long retain the
services of so illustrious a Hellenist. Lascaris, who had taught Greek
in Paris during the reign of Charles VIII., and who had long served
Louis XII. as ambassador at Venice, was induced by Francis I. to
superintend the library at Fontainebleau in 1518. He once more visited
Rome during the pontificate of Clement, and died there at the age of
ninety--the last of the Greek exiles who transplanted Hellas into
Latium. Between the visit of Manuel Chrysoloras in 1398 and the death
of John Lascaris in 1535 more than a century had elapsed, in the
course of which Italy,[394] after acquiring Greek literature and
committing its chief treasures to the press, had seen her learning
pass beyond the Alps and flourish with new vigour on a northern soil.
The epitaph composed by Lascaris for his own tomb in Santa Agata
touchingly expresses the grief of an exile for his country's
servitude, together with the gratitude of one who found a new home in
an alien land:--

     [Greek: Laskaris allodapê gaiê enikattheto, gaiên
       outi liên xeinên ô xene memphomenos.
     eureto meilichiên, all' achthetai eiper Achaiois
       oud' eti choun cheuei patris eleutherion].

[Footnote 393: See above, p. 86.]

[Footnote 394: Cf. Giovio, close of the _Elogia_.]

Any account of erudite society in Rome would be incomplete without
some notice of its antiquaries. While the Pope and his cardinals were
bent on collecting statues, coins, vases, and inscriptions, it was
natural that the scholars should devote themselves to their
illustration. Much of this industry was carried on by the
academicians, who discussed difficult readings and exchanged opinions
at their meetings. Treatises on Roman antiquities, topographical
essays, and commentaries on Vitruvius and Frontinus abounded. Amid a
multitude of minor works it will be enough to mention the cyclopædias
of Andrea Fulvio and Bartolommeo Marliano, the comprehensive
collection of inscriptions by Mazochi, and Valeriano's dissertation on
the hieroglyphics of the Roman obelisks.[395] The greater number of
these compositions were published by Jacopo Mazochi, bookseller to the
Roman Academy, and himself no mean scholar. Together with his
coadjutor, Francesco Albertini, he undertook what he describes as 'the
Herculean labour' of saving inscribed tablets from the lime-kiln and
the mason's hammer. Built into the walls of houses, embedded in church
pavements, mingled with the rubbish of the Forum, unearthed by the
mattock or the plough in vineyard and cornfield, these records of old
history encumbered Rome. To decipher them as best he could, arrange
them by the regions where they had been found, and incorporate his own
readings with the previous collections of Ciriaco and Fra
Giocondo,[396] was the object of Mazochi. His work formed the nucleus
of the ponderous collection known as the _Corpus Inscriptionum_.

[Footnote 395: _Andreas Fulvius Sabinus Antiquarius, Antiquitates
Urbis Romæ_, 1527. _Bartholomæus Marlianus, Eques D. Petri, Urbis Romæ
Topographia_, 1534. _Jacobus Mazochius, Epigrammata antiquæ urbis
Romæ_, 1521. _Johannis Pierii Valeriani Hieroglyphica seu de Sacris
Ægyptiorum_, &c., in his collected works, Ven. 1604.]

[Footnote 396: The architect of Verona who first edited Vitruvius, and
was employed by Lorenzo de' Medici in collecting inscriptions for him
at Rome.]

This is the proper occasion for resuming what has to be said about the
Roman ruins, and the feeling for them shown in the Renaissance period.
We have already listened to Poggio's lamentations over their gradual
decay through wanton injury and lapse of time.[397] Pius II., who had
a strong taste for topographical studies, endeavoured to protect the
Roman monuments from depredation by a Bull in 1462. But his successors
were less scrupulous. Even the scholarly Nicholas V. had shown more
zeal for building modern Rome afresh than true regard for the imperial
city. He levelled large portions of the wall of Servius Tullius, and
quarried the Temple of Peace for his own edifices. In his days Blondus
wrote that his life was embittered by the wholesale waste of ancient
reliques. That Paul II. should have used the stone wall of the
Coliseum for the Palace of S. Marco; that Sixtus IV. should have
pulled down the circular Temple of Hercules, and destroyed the oldest
bridge across the Tiber to make cannon balls; that Innocent VIII.
should have empowered his architects to take what antique masonry they
pleased--excites in us no wonder; these Popes were acting according to
the spirit that was in them. Nor can it be denied that for some of
their acts of Vandalism the excuse of utility or even of necessity
might have been pleaded. It is, however, singular that no steps were
taken to preserve in Rome the bas-reliefs and sculptures of the
monuments thus overthrown. Everyone who chose laid hands upon them.
Poggio scraped together what he could; Pomponius Lætus formed a
museum; Lorenzo de' Medici and the Rucellai employed agents to select
and ship to Florence choicer fragments. At last the impulse to collect
possessed the Popes themselves. The Capitol Museum dates from 1471.
The pretty statue of the boy pulling a thorn from his foot, the group
of the lion clinging to a horse, the urn of Agrippina, and the bronze
Hercules from the Forum Boarium formed the nucleus of this collection.
Soon afterwards the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius was unearthed
and placed where it now stands. The Vatican Museum was founded in
1523, when Julius II. erected the Apollo on a marble basis near the
entrance to the gardens of the Belvedere. It had been discovered some
years earlier at Porto d'Anzo, and was bought by Giuliano della Rovere
before he was made Pope. The Laocoon came to light in 1506 among the
ruins of the Baths of Titus in the vineyard of Felix de Fredis. How
Giuliano di San Gallo and Michael Angelo heard of it, and walked
abroad to see it disinterred, may still be read in the letter of
Francesco, nephew of the former. Julius bought this group for six
hundred golden crowns, and placed it in the Vatican. He also purchased
the statue of the sleeping Ariadne, which then passed for
Cleopatra,[398] together with the torso of Hercules, found near the
Palazzo Pio, and the statue of Commodus dug up in the Campo Fiore. Leo
X. further enriched the collection by the reclining statues of the
Nile and Tiber, found among the ruins of the Iseum near S. Stefano in
Caco, and the so-called Antinous discovered in the Baths of Trajan.

[Footnote 397: See above, p. 111.]

[Footnote 398: See Castiglione's verses.]

The feeling of professed scholars for these masterpieces of classic
art appears in Sadoleto's and Castiglione's poems, while a passage of
Ghiberti's Commentary expresses the enthusiasm of technical sculptors.
After describing an Hermaphrodite he saw in Rome, the Florentine
sculptor adds: 'To express the perfection of learning, mastery, and
art displayed in it is beyond the power of language. Its more
exquisite beauties could not be discovered by the sight, but only by
the touch of the hand passed over it.' Of another classic marble at
Padua he says: 'This statue, when the Christian faith triumphed, was
hidden in that place by some gentle soul, who, seeing it so perfect,
fashioned with art so wonderful, and with such power of genius, and
being moved to reverent pity, caused a sepulchre of bricks to be
built, and there within buried the statue, and covered it with a broad
slab of stone, that it might not in any way be injured. It has very
many sweet beauties, which the eyes alone can comprehend not, either
by strong or tempered light; only the hand by touching finds them
out.'[399] Meanwhile a genuine sentiment for the truth and beauty of
antique art passed downwards from the educated classes to the people.
Like all powerful emotions that affect the popular imagination at
epochs of imperfect knowledge and high sensibility, it took the form
of fable. The beautiful myth of Julia's Corpse is our most precious
witness to this moment in the history of the Revival.[400] At the same
time the real intention of classic statuary was better understood.
Donatello had not worked in vain for a public, finely tempered to
receive æsthetic influences, and cultivated by two centuries of native
art. The horsemen of Monte Cavallo ceased to be philosophers. Menander
and Poseidippus were no longer reckoned among the saints. In the age
of Leo, Carlo Malatesta could not have thrown Virgil's statue into the
Mincio;[401] nor would the republic of Siena have buried their antique
Venus by stealth in the Florentine territory, hoping thereby to
transfer to their foes the curse of heathenism.[402] The effect
produced on less impressionable natures by the Belvedere statues
transpires in a curious document penned by a Venetian ambassador to
Rome in 1523.[403] It is so valuable for illustrating the average
culture of the Italians at that epoch, that I may allow myself the
pleasure of rendering a full account of it.

[Footnote 399: _Terzo Commentario del Ghiberti, Frammenti Inediti_, in
Le Monnier's Vasari, vol. i. pp. xi.-xiii. I have paraphrased rather
than translated the original, which is touching by reason of its

[Footnote 400: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 17.]

[Footnote 401: See Rosmini's _Vittorino da Feltre_, p. 63, note.]

[Footnote 402: See Ghiberti's _Commentario_, in Le Monnier's Vasari,
vol. i. p. xiv.]

[Footnote 403: Alberi, _Relazioni Venete_, serie ii. vol. iii. p. 114,

Adrian VI., soon after his accession, had walled up eleven of the
twelve doors, leading to the Belvedere. The Venetian envoys, however,
received permission to visit this portion of the Vatican palace, and
the single entrance was unlocked for them. After describing the beauty
of the gardens, their cypresses and orangeries, the greenness of their
lawns and the stately order of their paved avenues, the writer of the
report arrives at the statues. 'In the midst of the garden are two
very large men of marble, facing one another, twice the size of life,
who lie in the attitude of sleep. One of these is the Tiber, the other
the Nile, figures of vast antiquity; and from beneath them issue two
fair fountains. On the first entrance into the garden, on the left
hand, there is a kind of little chapel let into the wall, where, on a
pedestal of marble, stands the Apollo, famous throughout the world, a
statue of incomparable beauty and dignity, of life size and of finest
marble. Somewhat farther on, in a similar alcove and raised on a like
pedestal to the height of an altar from the ground, opposite a well of
most perfect fashion, is the Laocoon, celebrated throughout the world,
a statue of the highest excellence, of size like a natural man, with
hairy beard, all naked. The sinews, veins, and proper muscles in each
part are seen as well as in a living body; breath alone is wanting. He
is in a posture between sitting and standing, with his two sons, one
on either hand, both, together with himself, twined by the serpents,
as Virgil says. And herein is seen so great merit of the artist, that
better could not be; the languishing and dying are manifest to sight,
and one of the boys on the right side is most tightly clipped by the
snake twice girdled round him; one of the coils crossing his breasts
and squeezing his heart, so that he is on the point of dying. The
other boy on the left side is also girdled round by another serpent.
While he seeks to drag the raging worm from his leg with his little
arm, and cannot help himself at all, he raises his face, all tearful,
crying to his father, and holding him with his other hand by the left
arm. And seeing his unhappy father more deadly struck than he is, the
double grief of this child is clear to view, the one for his own
coming death, the other for his father's helplessness; and he so
faints withal, that nothing remains for him but to breathe his last.
It is impossible that human art can arrive at producing so great and
so natural a masterpiece. Every part is perfect, except that Laocoon's
right arm is wanting. He seems about forty years of age, and resembles
Messer Girolamo Marcello of S. Tommaso; the two boys look eight and
nine respectively. Not far distant, and similarly placed, is a very
beautiful Venus of natural size, naked, with a little drapery on her
shoulder, that covers a portion of the waist; as very fair a figure as
can be imagined by the mind; but the excellence of the Laocoon makes
one forget this and the Apollo, who before was so famous.'

A systematic plan for exploring the monuments of old Rome, excavating
its ruins, and bringing its buried treasures of statuary to light was
furnished by Raphael in 1518. Leo had made him master of the works at
S. Peter's and general superintendent of antiquities.[404] For some
time previously he had been studying Vitruvius in the Italian
translation prepared for his use by Fabio Calvi of Ravenna. How
enthusiastically he followed in the traces of the ancients, the
arabesques of the Loggie, imitated from the frescoes of the Baths of
Titus, amply prove. He now, not long before his death, laid down a
ground-plan of the city, divided into fourteen regions, and set forth
his project in a memorable letter to the Pope. This epistle, written
in choice old Italian, has more than once been printed: it will be
found in Passavant's Life of the painter. Raphael begins by describing
the abandonment and desolation of the city, and by characterising its
several styles of architecture--classical, Lombard, Gothic, and
modern.[405] Some phrases that occur in this exordium deserve to be
cited for the light they cast upon the passion which inspired those
early excavators. 'Considerando la divinitate di quelli animi antichi
... vedendo quasi il cadavere di quest'alma nobile cittate, che è
stata regia del mondo, così miseramente lacerato ... quanti pontefici
hanno permesso le ruine et disfacimenti delli templi antichi, delle
statue, delli archi et altri edificii, gloria delli lor fondatori!
Quanti hanno comportato che solamente per pigliare terra pozzolana si
siano scavati i fondamenti! Onde in poco tempo li edificii sono venuti
a terra. Quanta calcina si è fatta di statue e d'altri ornamenti
antichi! che ardirei dire che tutta questa nova Roma, che hor si vede,
quanto grande ch'ella vi sia, quanto bella, quanto ornata di pallazzi,
di chiese et di altri edificii, sia fabricata di calcina fatta di
marmi antichi.'[406] He then observes that during his twelve years'
residence in Rome the Meta in the Via Alexandrina, the arches at the
entrance to the Baths of Diocletian and the Temple of Ceres in the Via
Sacra, part of the Foro Transitorio, and the larger portion of the
Basilica del Foro have been destroyed. Therefore he prays Leo to
arrest this work of the new Vandals, and, by pursuing a
well-considered scheme of operations, to lay bare and to protect what
still remains of antique monuments in the Eternal City.

[Footnote 404: By a brief dated Aug. 27, 1515.]

[Footnote 405: It may be observed that he calls the round-arched
buildings of the Middle Ages Gothic; the pointed style German.]

[Footnote 406: 'When we reflect upon the divinity of those intellects
of the old world ... when we see the corpse of this noble city, mother
and queen of the world, so piteously mangled ... how many Pontiffs
have allowed the ruin and defacement of ancient temples, statues,
arches, and other buildings, the glory of their founders! How many
have suffered their foundations to be undermined for the mere sake of
quarrying _pozzolana_, whereby in a short time the buildings
themselves have fallen to earth! How much lime has been made of
statues and other antique decorations! I should not hesitate to say
that the whole of this new Rome which now meets the eye, great as it
is, and fair, and beautified with palaces and churches and other
buildings, has been cemented with lime made from antique marbles.']

Raphael's own death followed close upon the execution of the first
part of a Roman map designed by him. Great interest had been excited
in the world of letters by his undertaking; and its failure through
his untimely end aroused the keenest disappointment. The epigrams
quoted below in a footnote express these feelings with more depth of
emotion than scholarly elegance.[407] How Raphael's design would have
been carried out it is impossible to guess. Archæological zeal is
impotent to stay the march of time, except by sacrifice of much that
neglect alone makes venerable; and it may fairly be questioned whether
it is wise to lay the hand of the restorer on these relics of the
past. We at least, who during the last few years have seen the
Coliseum and the Baths of Caracalla stripped of their romantic
vegetation, the Palatine ruins fortified with modern masonry, and the
dubious guesses of antiquaries placarded upon sign-posts for the
instruction of Sunday visitors, may feel, perhaps, that a worse fate
than slow decay or ruthless mutilation was still in store for the
majestic corpse of ancient Rome. Nothing, in truth, is less sublime or
more pitiful than a dismantled brick wall, robbed of its marbles and
mosaics, naked of the covering of herbs that nature gave it, patched
with plaster, propped with stonework, bound by girders, and smeared
over with the trail of worse than snails or blindworms--pedants bent
on restoration.

[Footnote 407:

     Tot proceres Romam, tam longa struxerat ætas,
       Totque hostes et tot sæcula diruerant;
     Nunc Romam in Româ quærit reperitque Raphael;
       Quærere magni hominis, sed reperire Dei est.

     Celio Calcagnini.

     Quod lacerum corpus medicâ sanaverit arte,
       Hippolytum Stygiis et revocarit aquis,
     Ad Stygias ipse est raptus Epidaurius undas;
       Sic pretium vitæ mors fuit artifici.
     Tu quoque dum toto laniatam corpore Romam
       Componis miro, Raphael, ingenio,
     Atque urbis lacerum ferro, igne, armisque cadaver
       Ad vitam antiquum jam revocasque decus,
     Movisti Superum invidiam; indignataque mors est
       Te dudum extinctis reddere posse animam,
     Et quod longa dies paullatim aboleverat, hoc te
       Mortali spretâ lege parare iterum.
     Sic miser heu primâ cadis intercepte juventâ:
       Debere et morti nostraque nosque mones.

     Baldassare Castiglione.]

The immediate and most important consequence of these antiquarian
pursuits was the adoption of classic forms by architects and artists.
Fresco-painters imitated the newly-discovered _grotteschi_ in their
arabesques.[408] Sculptors abandoned Christian subjects for antique
mythology, or gave the attributes of heroes to the saints of the
Catholic Church. The principles of Vitruvius were applied as strictly
as possible to modern buildings, and the free decoration of the
earlier Renaissance yielded to what passed for purely classic
ornaments. It would be incorrect to maintain that this reproduction of
antiquity in art only dated from the age of Leo. Alberti and
Brunelleschi, Bramante and Michellozzo, had, each in his own way,
striven to assimilate to modern use the style of Roman architecture.
Donatello and Michael Angelo at Florence had carved statues in the
classic manner; nor are the arabesques of Signorelli at Orvieto, of
Perugino at Perugia, less fanciful than those of Raphael in the
Loggie. What really happened was that the imitation of the ancients
grew more puristic and precise through the formation of a common taste
that imposed itself with the weight of authority on artists. Giulio
Romano's Palazzo del Te at Mantua may be cited as the most perfect
production of this epoch, combining, as it does, all forms of antique
decoration and construction with the vivid individuality of genius.
Giulio Romano comprehended the antique, and followed it with the
enthusiasm of a neophyte. But his very defects prevented him from
falling into the frigid formalism of Palladio.

[Footnote 408: See Benvenuto Cellini, i. 31.]

The causes of Roman pre-eminence in this last age of humanism are not
far to seek. By the policy of Alexander and Julius the Papal See had
become the chief power in Italy. Venice never publicly encouraged
literature, nor was the ambition of her nobles fixed on anything so
much as the aggrandisement of the Republic. In the beginning of the
sixteenth century their energy was needed no longer for the extension
of Venetian rule, but for its preservation under the attack of Europe
leagued against the city of the sea. Florence, divided between the
parties of the Piagnoni and the Ottimati, reserved her failing vigour
for the great struggle of 1529. The Medici, after absorbing what
remained of mental force into their own circle, had transferred the
Florentine traditions of culture with Giovanni and Giulio to Rome. At
Naples the Aragonese dynasty had been already shaken to its foundation
by the conspiracy of the Barons and by the conquest of Charles VIII.
Ferdinand the Catholic and Louis XII. were now intent upon dividing
the southern provinces of Italy between them. Little opportunity was
left, if inclination had remained, for patronising men of letters at a
Court suspicious of its aristocracy and terrified by foreign
interference. Milan, first among the towns of Lombardy, was doomed to
bear the brunt of French, and Swiss, and German armies. To maintain
the semblance of their dukedom taxed the weakness of the Sforzas to
the utmost, while the people groaned beneath the fiendish cruelty of
Spanish governors. The smaller principalities had been destroyed by
Cesare Borgia and Julius. Ferrara, Mantua and Urbino, at the beginning
of the century, alone continued the traditions of the previous age.
Rome, meanwhile, however insecure the Papal rule might be, still
ranked among the Powers of Europe, pursuing a policy on equal terms
with France and Spain. In Rome money abounded; nor had the sacred city
of Christendom felt as yet the scourge of war, that broke the spirit
of the Northern capitals. It was but natural, therefore, that the
political and intellectual energies of the Italians should find their
centre here.

Sad times, however, were in store for Rome. When Leo's successor read
the Latin letters of the Apostolic secretaries, he cried, '_Sunt
litteræ unius poetæ_;' and after walking through the Belvedere
Gallery, he gave vent to his feelings in the famous exclamation,
'_Sunt idola antiquorum_.' The humanists had nothing to expect from
such a master. The election of Giulio de' Medici restored the hope
that Rome might once more be as it had been beneath the sway of Leo.
Yet for Clement VII. was reserved the final bitterness of utter ruin.
In the fourth year of his papacy happened the catastrophe that closed
one period of Italian history, and opened a new era for Rome and for
the nation. The tale of the sack has been already told.[409] A fitting
conclusion for this chapter may be found in Valeriano's discourse upon
its consequences to the literary society assembled by the Medici at
the Papal Court.

[Footnote 409: Vol. I., _Age of Despots_, App. V.]

Valeriano's dialogue 'De Literatorum Infelicitate' opens with a
description of Rome in the pontificate of Leo.[410] Never since the
downfall of the Empire, he says, had letters flourished so freely or
had men of learning found more generous patronage. Of that brilliant
company Valeriano was himself an ornament. The friend of Egidius and
the favourite of Leo, he spent his time in the composition of Latin
poems, panegyrical and satiric, and in the exploration of antiquities.
Afterwards he became the protonotary of Clement, and supervised the
education of the Medicean bastards Alessandro and Ippolito. His good
fortune carried him to Piacenza in the fatal year of 1527. On his
return to Rome after the siege, he looked in vain for his old comrades
and associates. 'Good God!' he exclaims in the dialogue before us,
'when first I began to inquire for the philosophers, orators, poets,
and professors of Greek and Latin literature, whose names were written
on my tablets, how great, how horrible a tragedy was offered to me! Of
all those lettered men whom I had hoped to see, how many had perished
miserably, carried off by the most cruel of all fates, overwhelmed by
undeserved calamities: some dead of plague, some brought to a slow end
by penury in exile, others slaughtered by a foeman's sword, others
worn out by daily tortures; some, again, and these of all the most
unhappy, driven by anguish to self-murder.' John Goritz, captured by
his countrymen, had ransomed himself with the sacrifice of all his
wealth, and now was dying of despair at Verona. Colocci had seen his
house, with its museums and MSS., burned before his eyes. Angelo Cesi,
maltreated by the Spanish soldiers on a sick bed, died of his injuries
before the year was out. Marone, the brilliant improvisatore,
stripped of everything and deprived of his poems, the accumulated
compositions of years spent in Leo's service, breathed his last in a
miserable tavern. Marco Fabio Calvi, Raphael's friend and teacher,
succumbed to sickness in a hospital. Julianus Camers, maddened by the
sight of the torments inflicted on his servants, had thrown himself
from a window in his house, and was killed. Baldus, the professor,
after watching his commentary upon Pliny used to light the camp fires
of the soldiery, had died himself of hunger. Casanova, the poet, fell
a victim to the plague. Paolo Bombasi, another poet, was murdered in
the streets of Rome. Cristoforo Marcello had been tortured by the
Spaniards. Exposed naked on a tree, his nails were daily drawn from
his fingers by these human fiends; he only escaped their clutches to
die of his injuries at Gaeta. Laomedon Tardolus and John Bonifacius
Victor suffered similar indignities and torments. Francesco Fortunio
and John Valdes slew themselves. To enumerate all the scholars who
succumbed to fear, plague, famine, torture, and imprisonment in this
fatal year; to relate how numbers left Rome, robbed of everything, to
wander over Italy, and die of hunger by the wayside, or of fever in
low hovels; to describe the losses of their MSS., their madness,
beggary, mysterious disappearances, and deaths by hands of servants or
of brigands on the high roads, would occupy more space than I have
left at my command. The ghastly muster roll is told with terrible
concision by Valeriano, who adds divers examples, unconnected with the
sack, of early deaths by over-study, lingering illnesses, murders by
poison or the knife, and accidents of every kind, attributable more or
less directly to the shifting career of students at that time in

[Footnote 410: Printed at Venice, 1620.]

Though the wars in Lombardy proved scarcely less fatal to men of
letters than the siege of Rome, those disasters fell singly and at
intervals. The ever-memorable stage of the Eternal City was reserved
for the crowning tragedy of arts and letters. Whatever vicious seeds
had been sown in Italy by the humanists had blossomed and borne fruit
in Rome; and there the Nemesis of pride and insolence, and godlessness
of evil living, fell upon them like a bolt from heaven. In essays,
epistles, and funeral orations they amply recognised the justice of
their punishment. A phrase of Hieronymus Niger's in a letter to
Sadoleto--'Rome, that is the sink of all things shameful and
abominable'--might serve as the epitome of their conscience-stricken
Jeremiads.[411] All Italy re-echoed with these lamentations; and
though Clement VII. and Paul III. did their best to repiece the ruins
of Leo's golden house of fame, the note of despair and anguish uttered
by the scholars in 1527 was never destined to be drowned by chorus
hymeneal or triumphal chant again. What remained of humanism among the
Italians assumed a different form, adapted to the new rule of the
Spaniards and the new attitude of the Church. To the age of the
Humanists succeeded the age of the Inquisitors and Jesuits.

[Footnote 411: 'Quod Romæ, hoc est in sentinâ omnium rerum atrocium et
pudendarum deprehensi fuerimus.' Quoted by Gregorovius, _Stadt Rom_,
vol. viii. p. 598, note 3.]



     Special Causes for the Practice of Latin Versification in
     Italy -- The Want of an Italian Language -- Multitudes of
     Poetasters -- Beccadelli -- Alberti's 'Philodoxus' --
     Poliziano -- The 'Sylvæ' -- 'Nutricia', 'Rusticus', 'Manto',
     'Ambra' -- Minor Poems -- Pontano -- Sannazzaro -- Elegies
     and Epigrams -- Christian Epics -- Vida's 'Christiad' --
     Vida's 'Poetica' -- Fracastoro -- The 'Syphilis' --
     _Barocco_ Flatteries -- Bembo -- Immoral Elegies --
     Imitations of Ovid and Tibullus -- The 'Benacus' -- Epitaphs
     -- Navagero -- Epigrams and Eclogues -- Molsa -- Poem on his
     own Death -- Castiglione -- 'Alcon' and 'Lycidas' -- Verses
     of Society -- The Apotheosis of the Popes -- Poem on the
     Ariadne of the Vatican -- Sadoleto's Verses on the Laocoon
     -- Flaminio -- His Life -- Love of the Country -- Learned
     Friends -- Scholar-Poets of Lombardy -- Extinction of
     Learning in Florence -- Decay of Italian Erudition.

The history of this last period of the Revival would be incomplete
without a survey of its Latin poetry. I shall have failed to convey a
right notion of the tendencies of humanism, if I have not shown that
the Italians were seeking not merely to acquire a knowledge of ancient
literature, but also to effect a resuscitation of antiquity in their
own writings. Regarding themselves as the heirs of Rome, separated
from the brilliant period of Latin civilisation by ten centuries of
ignorance, they strove with all their might to seize the thread of
culture at the very point where the poets of the Silver Age had
dropped it. In the opinion of Northern races it might seem unnatural
or unpatriotic to woo the Muses in a dead language; but for Italians
the Camoenæ had not died; on the hills of Latium, where they fell
asleep, they might awake again. Every familiar sight and sound
recalled 'the rich Virgilian rustic measure' of the 'Georgics' and
'Bucolics.' Nature had not changed, nor did the poets feel the
influence of Christianity so deeply as to find no meaning in the
mythic phraseology of Fauns and Nymphs.

Latin, again, was far less a language of the past for the Italians
than for other European nations. What risk the Tuscan dialect ran,
when Dante wrote the first lines of the 'Divine Comedy' in Latin, and
when Petrarch assumed the laurel crown by right of his 'Africa', is
known to every student. The serious efforts of the greatest writers
were for centuries devoted to Latin composition, because they believed
that the nation, in the modern as in the ancient world, might freely
use the speech of Cicero and Virgil. Their _volgari cose_ they
despised as trifles, not having calculated the impotence of scholars
or of kings to turn the streams of language from their natural
courses. Nor was this blindness so inexplicable as it seems to us at
first sight. Italy possessed no common dialect; Dante's 'Italiano
Illustre,' or 'Cortegiano', was even less native to the race at large,
less universal in its use, than Latin.[412] Fashioned from the Tuscan
for literary purposes, selected from the vocabulary of cultivated
persons, stripped of vernacular idioms, and studied in the works of a
few standard authors, it was itself, upon the soil that gave it birth,
a product of high art and conscious culture. The necessity felt soon
after Dante's death for translating the 'Divine Comedy' into Latin,
sufficiently proves that a Latin poem gained a larger audience than
the masterpiece of Italian literature. While the singer of a dialect,
however noble, appealed to his own fellow-citizens, the Latin poet
gave his verses _urbi et orbi_. If another proof of the artificiality
of Italian were needed, we should find it in the fact that the phrases
of Petrarch are not less obsolete now than in the fourteenth century.
The English require a glossary for Chaucer, and even Elizabethan
usages are out of date; in other words, the language of the people has
outgrown the style of its first poets. But Italian has undergone no
process of transformation and regeneration according to the laws of
organic growth, since it first started. The different districts still
use different dialects, while writers in all parts of the peninsula
have conformed their style as far as possible to early Tuscan models.
It may be questioned whether united Italy, having for the first time
gained the necessary conditions of national concentration, is not now
at last about to enter on a new phase of growth in literature, which,
after many years, will make the style of the first authors more
archaic than it seems at present.

[Footnote 412: Cf. Filelfo, quoted in a note to the next chapter, who
says,'Tuscan is hardly known to all Italians, while Latin is spread
far and wide throughout the whole world.']

The foregoing observations were requisite in order to explain why the
cultivation of Latin poetry was no mere play-work to Italian scholars.
The peculiar direction given by Petrarch to classical studies at the
outset must also be taken into account. We have seen that he regarded
rhetoric and poetry as the two chief aims of humanism. To be either a
poet or an orator was the object of all students who had slaked their
thirst at the Castalian springs of ancient learning. Philology and
poetry, accordingly, went hand in hand through the periods of the
Revival; and to this first impulse we are perhaps justified in tracing
back the prominence assigned to Latin verse in our own school studies.

Poetry being thus regarded as a necessary branch of scholarship, it
followed that few men distinguished for their learning abstained from
versification. Pedants who could do no more than make prosaic elegiacs
scan, and scholars respectable for their acquirements, but destitute
of inspiration, were reckoned among the _sacri vates_. It would be a
weariful--nay, hopeless--task to pass all the Latin versifiers of the
Renaissance in review. Their name is legion; even to count them would
be the same as to number the stars--_ad una ad una annoverar le
stelle_. It may be considered fortunate that perhaps the larger masses
of their productions still remain in manuscript, partly because they
preceded the age of printing, and partly, no doubt, because the good
sense of the age rejected them. What has been printed, however,
exceeds in bulk the 'Corpus Poetarum Latinorum,' and presents so many
varieties that to deal with more than a selection is impossible.[413]

[Footnote 413: I purpose in this chapter to use the _Delitiæ Poetarum
Italorum_, two parts divided into 4 vols., 1608; _Carmina Quinque
Illustrium Poetarum_, Bergomi, 1753; _Poemata Selecta Italorum_,
Oxonii, 1808; and _Selecta Poemata Italorum_, accurante A. Pope,
Londini, 1740.]

The poetasters of the first two periods need not be taken into
account. Struggling with a language imperfectly assimilated, and with
the rules of a prosody as yet but little understood, it was as much as
they could do to express themselves at all in metre. Elegance of
composition was out of the question when a writer could neither set
forth modern thoughts with ease nor imitate the classic style with
accuracy. What he lost in force by the use of a dead language, he did
not gain in polish; nor was the taste of the age schooled to
appreciate the niceties of antique diction. Beccadelli alone, by a
certain limpid fluency, attained to a degree of moderate excellence;
and how much he owed to his choice of subject may be questioned. The
obscenity of his themes, and the impudence required for their
expression, may have acted as a stimulus to his not otherwise
distinguished genius. There is, moreover, no stern conflict to be
fought with phrases when the author's topic is mere animalism. The
rest of his contemporaries, Filelfo included, did no more than smooth
the way for their successors by practising the technicalities of
verse and exciting emulation. To surpass their rude achievements was
not difficult, while the fame they enjoyed aroused the ambition of
younger rivals. Exception to this sweeping verdict may be made in
favour of Alberti, whose Latin play, called 'Philodoxus,' was a
brilliant piece of literary workmanship.[414] Not only did it impose
on contemporaries as a genuine classic, but, even when judged by
modern standards, it shows real familiarity with the language of Latin
comedy and rare skill in its employment.

[Footnote 414: Bonucci's edition of Alberti's works, vol. i. Alberti's
own preface, in the form of a dedicatory letter to Lionello d'Este,
describes how he came to write this comedy, and how it was passed off
upon contemporaries as an original play by Lepidus Comicus. _Ib._ pp.

Poliziano is the first Latin poet who compels attention in the
fifteenth century; nor was he surpassed, in fertility of conception
and mastery of metre, by any of his numerous successors. With all his
faults of style and crudities of diction, Poliziano, in my opinion,
deserves the chief place among original poets of revived Latin
literature. Bembo wrote more elegantly, Navagero more classically,
Amalteo with a grace more winning. Yet these versifiers owe their
celebrity to excellence of imitation. Poliziano possessed a manner of
his own, and made a dead language utter thoughts familiar to the age
in which he lived. He did not merely traverse the old ground of the
elegy, the epigram, the satire, and the idyll. Striking out a new path
for himself, and aiming at instruction, he poured forth torrents of
hexameters, rough perhaps and over-fluent, yet marked by intellectual
energy and copious fancy, in illustration of a modern student's
learning. This freedom of handling is shown to best advantage in his

[Footnote 415: See above, p. 254, for the purpose fulfilled by the

The 'Nutricia' forms an introduction to the history of poetry in
general, and carries on its vigorous stream the weight of universal
erudition. From it we learn how the most accomplished scholar of his
century judged and distinguished the whole body of fine literature
possessed by his contemporaries. On the emergence of humanity from
barbarism, writes Poliziano, poetry was given to men as a consolation
for the miseries of life and as an instrument of culture; their first
nurse in the cradle of civilisation was the Muse:--

     Musa quies hominum, divomque æterna voluptas.[416]

[Footnote 416: 'Of men the solace, and of gods the everlasting joy.']

After characterising the Pagan oracles, the mythical bards of Hellas,
and the poet-prophets of the Jewish race, with brief but telling
touches, Poliziano addresses himself in the following lines to the
delineation of the two chief epic-singers:--

     ... etenim ut stellas fugere undique cælo,
     Aurea cum radios Hyperionis exeruit fax,
     Cernimus, et tenuem velut evanescere lunam;
     Sic veterum illustres flagranti obscurat honores
     Lampade Mæonides: unum quem dia canentem
     Facta virum, et sævas æquantem pectine pugnas,
     Obstupuit, prorsusque parem confessus Apollo est.
     Proximus huic autem, vel ni veneranda senectus
     Obstiterit, fortasse prior, canit arma virumque
     Vergilius, cui rure sacro, cui gramine pastor
     Ascræus, Siculusque simul cessere volentes.[417]

[Footnote 417: 'As from the heavens we see the stars on all sides
fleeing, when the golden torch of the sun-god rises, and the
diminished moon appears to fade; so with his burning lamp Mæonides
obscures the honours of the earlier bards. Him alone, while he sang
the divine deeds of heroes, and with his lyre arrayed fierce wars,
Apollo, wonder-struck, confessed his equal. Close at his side, or
higher even, but for the veneration due to age, Vergil entones the
song of arms and the hero--Vergil, to whom from holy tilth and pasture
land both Ascra's and Sicilia's shepherds yield their sway with
willing homage.'--_Quinque Illustrium Poetarum Carmina_, p. 167.]

Then follows the enumeration of lesser Greek and Roman epopoeists.
After them the lyrists and elegiac poets, among whom Pindar is
celebrated in the following magniloquent paragraph:--

     Aërios procul in tractus, et nubila supra
     Pindarus it Dircæus olor, cui nectare blandæ
     Os tenerum libâstis apes, dum fessa levaret
     Membra quiete puer mollem spirantia somnum;
     Sed Tanagræa suo mox jure poetria risit,
     Irrita qui toto sereret figmenta canistro;
     Tum certare auso palmam intercepit opimam
     Æoliis prælata modis atque illice formâ.
     Ille Agathocleâ subnisus voce coronas
     Dixit Olympiacas, et quâ victoribus Isthmos
     Fronde comam, Delphique tegant, Nemeæaque tesqua
     Lunigenam mentita feram; tum numina divum
     Virtutesque, virosque undanti pectore torrens
     Provexit, sparsitque pios ad funera questus.
     Frugibus hunc libisque virum Cirrhæus ab arâ
     Phoebus, et accubitu mensæ dignatus honoro est:
     Panaque pastores solis videre sub antris
     Pindarico tacitas mulcentem carmine silvas.
     Inde senem pueri gremio cervice repostâ
     Infusum, et dulci laxantem corda sopore,
     Protinus ad manes, et odoro gramine pictum
     Elysium tacitâ rapuit Proserpina dextrâ.
     Quin etiam hostiles longo post tempore flammæ,
     Quæ septemgeminas populabant undique Thebas,
     Expavere domum tanti tamen urere vatis,
     Et sua posteritas medios quoque tuta per enses
     Sensit inexhaustâ cinerem juvenescere famâ.[418]

[Footnote 418: 'Far off into the tracts of air and high above the
clouds soars Pindar, the Dircæan swan, whose tender mouth ye gentle
bees with nectar fed, while the boy gave rest to weary limbs that
breathed soft slumber. But him the maid of Tanagra derided, what time
she told him that he sowed his myths from the whole sack to waste; and
when he dared contend with her in song, she bore away the victor's
palm, triumphant by Æolian moods, and by her seductive beauty too. He
with his mighty voice, trained in the school of Agathocles, sang the
crowns of Olympia and the garlands wherewith the Isthmus and Delphi,
and the Nemean wastes that falsely claimed the moon-born monster,
shade the athlete's brows. Then, like a torrent, with swelling soul,
he passed to celebrate the powers and virtues of the gods and heroes,
and poured forth pious lamentations for the dead. Him Phoebus, lord
of Cirrha, honoured with food and drink from his altar, and made him
guest-fellow at his own board: shepherds too saw Pan in lonely caverns
charming the woods with a Pindaric song. At last, when he was old, and
lay with his neck reclined upon the bosom of the boy he loved,
soothing his soul in sleep, Proserpina with still right hand
approached and took him straight to join the shades and pace Elysium's
fragrant meads. Nay, more: long afterwards, the foeman's flames, which
laid seven-gated Thebes in ruins far and wide, these names dared not
to burn so great a poet's house; and his descendants, safe 'mid a
thousand swords, learned that his ashes still were young through fame
that lives for aye.'--_Carmina_, &c. p. 173.]

Sappho is described in the following lines:--

                                  lyricis jam nona poetis
     Æolis accedit Sappho, quæ flumina propter
     Pierias legit ungue rosas, unde implicet audax
     Serta Cupido sibi, niveam quæ pectine blando
     Cyrinnem, Megaramque simul, cumque Atthide pulchram
     Cantat Anactorien, et crinigeram Telesippen;
     Et te conspicuum recidivo flore juventæ
     Miratur revocatque, Phaon, seu munera vectæ
     Puppe tuâ Veneris, seu sic facit herba potentem:
     Sed tandem Ambracias temeraria saltat in undas.[419]

[Footnote 419: 'Ninth among lyric bards, Æolian Sappho joins the crew;
she who by flowing water plucks Pieria's rose for venturous Love to
twine in wreaths for his own brow; who with her dulcet lyre sings fair
Cyrinna's charms, and Megara, and Atthis and sweet Anactoria, and
Telesippa of the flowing hair. And thee, too, Phaon, beautiful in
youth's rathe flower, on thee she gazes, thee she calls again; such
power to thee gave Venus for her freightage in thy skiff, or else the
herb of love. Yet at the last, not wisely bold, she leaps into the
Ambracian waves.' _Ib._ &c. p. 175.]

Having disposed of the lyrists, Poliziano proceeds to the dramatic
poets. His brief notice of the three Attic tragedians is worthy of
quotation, if only because it proves what we should suspect from other
indications, that the best scholars of the earlier Renaissance paid
them little attention. The facts mentioned in the following lines seem
to be derived from the gossip of Athenæus:--

     Æschylus aëriæ casu testudinis ictus,
     Quemque senem meritæ rapuerunt gaudia palmæ,
     Quemque tegit rabidis lacerum pia Pella molossis.[420]

[Footnote 420: 'Æschylus, smitten by a tortoise falling from the air
above his head, and he whose triumph, justly won in old age, killed
him with excess of joy, and he whose body, torn by raging hounds, the
reverent earth of Pella hides.'--_Carmina_, &c. p. 176.]

Nor are his observations on the comic dramatists less meagre.[421] The
Roman poets having been passed in the same rapid review, Poliziano
salutes the founders of Italian literature in the following fine

     Nec tamen aligerum fraudarim hoc munere Dantem,
     Per Styga, per stellas, mediique per ardua montis
     Pulchra Beatricis sub virginis ora volantem:
     Quique Cupidineum repetit Petrarcha triumphum:
     Et qui bis quinis centum argumenta diebus
     Pingit, et obscuri qui semina monstrat amoris:
     Unde tibi immensæ veniunt præconia laudis,
     Ingeniis opibusque potens Florentia mater.[422]

[Footnote 421: _Ib._ p. 177.]

[Footnote 422: 'Nor yet of this meed of honour would I cheat
wing-bearing Dante, who flew through hell, through the starry heavens,
and o'er the intermediate hill of purgatory beneath the beauteous
brows of Beatrice; and Petrarch too, who tells again the tale of
Cupid's triumph; or him who in ten days portrays a hundred stories,
and lays bare the seeds of hidden love: from whom unmeasured fame and
name are thine, by wit and wealth twice potent, Florence, mother of
great sons!'--_Ib._ p. 178.]

The transition to Lorenzo at this point is natural. A solemn
peroration in praise of the Medicean prince, himself a poet, whose
studies formed the recreation of severer labours, ends the
composition. This is written in Poliziano's best style, and, though it
is too long to quote, six lines may be selected as indicating the
theme of the argument:--

     Quodque alii studiumque vocant durumque laborem,
     Hic tibi ludus erit; fessus civilibus actis
     Huc is emeritas acuens ad carmina vires:
     Felix ingenio, felix cui pectore tantas
     Instaurare vices, cui fas tam magna capaci
     Alternare animo, et varias ita nectere curas.[423]

[Footnote 423: 'What other men call study and hard toil, that for thee
shall be pastime; wearied with deeds of state, to this thou hast
recourse, and dost address the vigour of thy well-worn powers to song:
blest in thy mental gifts, blest to be able thus to play so many
parts, to vary thus the great cares of thy all-embracing mind, and
weave so many divers duties into one.'--_Carmina_, &c. p. 179.]

We possess the whole of Poliziano in the 'Nutricia.' It displays the
energy of intellect that carried him on bounding verse through the
intricacies of a subject difficult by reason of its scope and
magnitude. All his haste is here, his inability to polish or select,
his lava-stream of language hurrying the dross of prose and scoriæ of
erudition along a burning tide of song. His memory held, as it were,
in solution all the matter of antique literature; and when he wrote,
he poured details forth in torrents, combining them with critical
remarks, for the double purpose of instruction and panegyric. Taken at
the lowest valuation by students to whom his copious stores of
knowledge are familiar, the vivid and continuous melody of his leaping
hexameters places the 'Nutricia' above the lucubrations of more
fastidious Latinists. We must also remember that, when it was recited
from the professorial Chair of Rhetoric at Florence, the magnetism of
Poliziano's voice and manner supplied just that touch of charm the
poem lacks for modern readers; nor was the matter so hackneyed at the
end of the fifteenth century as it is now. Lilius Gyraldus, subjecting
the 'Sylvæ' to criticism at a time when Latin poetry had been
artistically polished by the best wits of the age of Leo, passed upon
them a judgment which may even now be quoted as final.[424]
'Poliziano's learning was marvellous, his genius fervent and
well-trained, his reading extensive and uninterrupted; yet he appears
to have composed his verses with more heat than art, using too little
judgment both in the selection of his materials and in the correction
of his style. When, however, you read his 'Sylvæ,' the impression left
upon your mind will be such that for the moment you will lack

[Footnote 424: 'Dialogus de Poetis nostri Temporis.' _Opp._ vol. ii.
p. 388. Edition of Basle, 1580.]

The second poem of the 'Sylvæ,' entitled 'Rusticus,' forms an
induction to the study of bucolic poets, principally Hesiod and
Virgil. It is distinguished by more originality and play of fancy than
the 'Nutricia;' some of its delineations of landscape and sketches of
country life compete not unfavourably with similar passages in the
author's 'Stanze.' To dwell upon these beauties in detail, and to
compare Poliziano, the Latin poet, with Poliziano, the Italian, would
be a pleasant task. Yet I must confine myself to quoting the last, and
in some respects the least imaginative, lines, for the sake of their
historical interest. Careggi and Florence, Lorenzo and his circle of
literary friends, rise before us in these verses:--

     Talia Fesuleo lentus meditabar in antro,
     Rure suburbano Medicum, quâ mons sacer urbem
     Mæoniam, longique volumina despicit Arni:
     Quâ bonus hospitium felix placidamque quietem
     Indulget Laurens, Laurens haud ultima Phoebi
     Gloria, jactatis Laurens fida anchora Musis;
     Qui si certa magis permiserit otia nobis,
     Afflabor majore Deo, nec jam ardua tantum
     Silva meas voces, montanaque saxa loquentur,
     Sed tu, si qua fides, tu nostrum forsitan olim,
     O mea blanda altrix, non aspernabere carmen,
     Quamvis magnorum genitrix Florentia vatum,
     Doctaque me triplici recinet facundia linguâ.[425]

[Footnote 425: 'On themes like these I spent my hours of leisure in
the grottoes of Fiesole, at the Medicean villa, where the holy hill
looks down upon the Mæonian city, and surveys the windings of the
distant Arno. There good Lorenzo gives his friends a happy home and
rest from cares; Lorenzo, not the last of Phoebus' glorious band;
Lorenzo, the firm anchor of the Muses tempest-tost. If only he but
grant me greater ease, the inspiration of a mightier god will raise my
soul; nor shall the lofty woods alone and mountain rocks resound my
words; but thou--such faith have I--thou too shalt sometime hear, kind
nurse of mine, nor haply scorn my song, thou, Florence, mother of
imperial bards, and learned eloquence in three great tongues shall
give me fame.' _Carmina_, &c. p. 196.]

The third canto of the 'Sylvæ' is called 'Manto.' It relates the birth
of Virgil, to whom the Muses gave their several gifts, while the
Sibyl of Mantua foretold his future course of life and all the glories
he should gain by song. The poem concludes with a rhetorical eulogy of
Rome's chief bard, so characteristic of Renaissance enthusiasm for
Virgil that to omit a portion of it from these pages would be to
sacrifice one of the most striking examples of Italian taste in

     At manet æternum, et seros excurrit in annos
     Vatis opus, dumque in tacito vaga sidera mundo
     Fulgebunt, dum sol nigris orietur ab Indis,
     Prævia luciferis aderit dum curribus Eos,
     Dum ver tristis hiems, autumnum proferet æstas,
     Dumque fluet spirans refluetque reciproca Tethys,
     Dum mixta alternas capient elementa figuras,
     Semper erit magni decus immortale Maronis,
     Semper inexhaustis ibunt hæc flumina venis,
     Semper ab his docti ducentur fontibus haustus,
     Semper odoratos fundent hæc gramina flores,
     Unde piæ libetis apes, unde inclyta nectat
     Serta comis triplici juvenalis Gratia dextrâ.[426]

[Footnote 426: 'Nay, but for everlasting lives our poet's work,
abides, and goes forth toward the ages late in time. So long as in the
silent firmament the stars shall shine; so long as day shall rise from
sun-burned Ind; so long as Phosphor runs before the wheels of light;
so long as gloomy winter leads to spring, and summer to autumn; while
breathing ocean ebbs and flows by turns, and the mixed elements put on
their changing shapes--so long, for ever, shall endure great Maro's
fame, for ever shall flow these rivers from his unexhausted fount, for
ever shall draughts of learning be drawn from these rills, for ever
shall these meadows yield their perfumed flowers, to pasture holy bees,
and give the youthful Graces garlands for their hair.'--_Carmina_, &c.
p. 207.]

Not less ingenious than the poem itself is the elegiac introduction.
Poliziano feigns that when the Minyæ came to Cheiron's cave on
Pelion, and supped with him, Orpheus sang a divine melody, and then
the young Achilles took the lyre, and with rude fingers praised the
poet's song. The Minyæ smiled, but Orpheus was touched by the
boy-hero's praises. Even so will Maro haply take delight in mine:--

     Finis erat dapibus; citharam pius excitat Orpheus,
       Et movet ad doctas verba canora manus.
     Conticuere viri, tenuere silentia venti,
       Vosque retro cursum mox tenuistis aquæ.
     Jam volucres fessis pendere sub æthera pennis,
       Jamque truces videas ora tenere feras.
     Decurrunt scopulis auritæ ad carmina quercus,
       Nudaque Peliacus culmina motat apex.
     Et jam materno permulserat omnia cantu,
       Cum tacuit, querulam deposuitque fidem.
     Occupat hanc audax, digitosque affringit Achilles,
       Indoctumque rudi personat ore puer.
     Materiam quæris? laudabat carmina blandi
       Hospitis, et tantæ murmura magna lyræ.
     Riserunt Minyæ: sed enim tibi dicitur, Orpheu,
       Hæc pueri pietas grata fuisse nimis.
     Me quoque nunc magni nomen celebrare Maronis,
       Si qua fides vero est, gaudet et ipse Maro.[427]

[Footnote 427: 'Supper was over; Orpheus awakes the lyre, and sings a
melody to suit the tune he plays. The men were silent; the winds
hushed; the rivers held their waters back to hear; the birds hung
motionless in air; and the wild beasts grew calm. From the cliffs the
oaks run down with listening ears, and the top of Pelion nods his
barren head. And now the bard had soothed the whole world with his
mother's song; when he ceased from singing and put down the thrilling
lyre. This bold Achilles seizes; he runs his fingers o'er the strings,
and chaunts an untaught lay, the simple boy. What was his theme? you
ask. He praised the singing of the gentle guest, the mighty murmurs of
that lyre divine. The Minyæ laughed; but yet, so runs the tale, even
all too sweet, Orpheus, to thee was the boy's homage. Just so my
praise of mighty Maro's name, if faith be not a dream, gives joy to
Maro's self.'--_Carmina_, &c. p. 197.]

The fourth poem, bearing the name of 'Ambra,' forms a similar
induction to the study of Homer. The youth of Homer is narrated, and
how Achilles appeared to him, blinding him with the vision of his
heroic beauty, and giving him the wand of Teiresias. Then follow
descriptions of both 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey,' and a passage of
high-flown panegyric; the whole ending with these lines on Lorenzo's
villa of Cajano:--

     Et nos ergo illi gratâ pietate dicamus
     Hanc de Pierio contextam flore coronam,
     Quam mihi Cajanas inter pulcherrima nymphas
     Ambra dedit patriæ lectam de gramine ripæ;
     Ambra mei Laurentis amor, quem corniger Umbro,
     Umbro senex genuit domino gratissimus Arno,
     Umbro suo tandem non erepturus ab alveo.[428]

[Footnote 428: 'We also, therefore, with glad homage dedicate to him
this garland twined of Pieria's flowers, which Ambra, loveliest of
Cajano's nymphs, gave to me, culled from meadows on her father's
shores; Ambra, the love of my Lorenzo, whom Umbrone, the horned
stream, begat--Umbrone, dearest to his master Arno, Umbrone, who now
henceforth will never break his banks again.'--_Carmina_, &c. p. 224.]

Taking into consideration the purpose fulfilled by Poliziano's 'Sylvæ'
in his professorial career, it is impossible to deny their merit. The
erudition is borne with ease; it does not clog or overload the poet's
impulse. The flattery of Lorenzo is neither fulsome nor unmerited. The
verse flows strongly and majestically, though more variety of cadence
in the hexameter may be desired. The language, in spite of repetitions
and ill-chosen archaisms, is rich and varied; it has at least the
charm of being the poet's own, not culled with scrupulous anxiety from
one or two illustrious sources. Some of the pictures are delicately
sketched, while the whole style produces the effect of eloquent and
fervid improvisation. For fulness and rapidity of utterance, copious
fancy, and wealth of illustration, these four poems will bear
comparison with Roman work of the Silver Age. The Florentines who
crowded Poliziano's lecture-room must have felt as in the days of the
Empire, when Statius declaimed his periods to a Roman audience, and
the patrician critics clapped applause.[429]

[Footnote 429: Cf. Juvenal, _Satire_, i. 9-14; vii. 81-87. Persius,
_Satire_, i. 79-82. And cf. Petronius Arbiter for a detailed picture
of these Roman recitations.]

Among Poliziano's minor poems it is enough to mention the elegiac
couplets on some violets sent him by his mistress, the verses
descriptive of a beautiful girl, and the lamentation for the wife of
Sismondo della Stufa.[430] They illustrate the delicacy of his style
and the freedom of his fancy in the treatment of occasional themes,
and are far superior to his epigrams and epitaphs.[431] The numerous
encomiastic elegies addressed to Lorenzo de' Medici and other patrons
are wholly without value. Poliziano was a genuine poet. He needed the
inspiration of true feeling or of lively fancy; on a tame occasion he
degenerated into frigid baldness. Yet the satires on Mabilius, where
spite and jealousy have stirred his genius, are striking for their
volubility and pungency. A Roman imitator of Catullus in his brutal
mood could not have produced abuse more flexible and nauseous. Taken
altogether, Poliziano's Latin compositions display the qualities of
fluency and abundance that characterise his Italian verses, though
they have not the exquisite polish of the 'Giostra.' Their final merit
consists in their spontaneity. No stylist of the age of Leo knew how
to use the language of classic Rome with so much ease.

[Footnote 430: _Carmina Quinque_, &c. pp. 250, 272, 276.]

[Footnote 431: The epitaphs on Giotto, Lippo Lippi, the fair
Simonetta, and others, are only valuable for their historic interest,
such as that is.]

Jovianus Pontanus deserves a high place among the writers of Latin
verse, whether we regard his didactic poems on astronomy and the
cultivation of the orange, his epigrams, or the amorous elegies that,
for their grace, may be compared almost with Ovid.[432] Even during
his lifetime Pontanus became a classic, and after his death he was
imitated by the most ambitious versifiers of the late Renaissance.[433]
The beauty of South Italian landscape--Sorrento's orange gardens and
Baiæ's waters--passed into the fancy of the Neapolitan poets, and gave
colour to their language. Nor was Pontanus, in spite of his severe
studies and gravely-tempered mind, dead to the seductions of this
siren. What we admire in Sannazzaro's 'Arcadia' assumes the form of
pure Latinity in his love poems.[434] Their style is penetrated with
the feeling for physical beauty, Pagan and untempered by an
afterthought of Christianity. Their vigorous and glowing sensuality
finds no just analogue except in some Venetian paintings. It was not,
however, by his lighter verses so much as by the five books called 'De
Stellis' or 'Urania' that Pontanus won the admiration of Italian
scholars. In this long series of hexameters he contrived to set forth
the whole astronomical science of his age, touching upon the mythology
of the celestial signs, describing the zodiac, discussing the motion
of the heavens, raising the question of planetary influences, and
characterising the different regions of the globe by their relation to
the sun's path across the sky. He seems to have taken the
'Metamorphoses' of Ovid for his model of versification; and though we
miss the variety of Ovid's treatment, great ingenuity is displayed in
adorning so difficult a subject with poetical episodes.[435] Personal
interest is added to the conclusion of 'Urania' by the lamentation
poured forth for his daughter Lucia by the poet:--

     Ornabam tibi serta domi; Syriumque liquorem
     Ad thalamos geminæ, geminæ, tua cura, sorores
     Fundebant. Quid pro sertis Syrioque liquore
     Liquisti? Sine sole dies, sine sidere noctes,
     Insomnes noctes.[436]

[Footnote 432: I shall quote from his _Collected Poems_, Aldus, 1513.]

[Footnote 433: See the Elegy of Sannazzaro on the writings of
Pontanus, _Poemata Selecta_, pp. 1-4, and Fracastoro's _Syphilis_, ib.
p. 72.]

[Footnote 434: _Delitiæ Poetarum Italorum_, pt. ii. pp. 668-712.
Specimens may also be read in the _Poemata Selecta Italorum_, pp.

[Footnote 435: See, for instance, the tale of Hylas, lib. v. p. 103;
the tale of Cola Pesce, lib. iv. p. 79; the council of the gods, lib.
i. p. 18; the planet Venus, lib. i. p. 5.]

[Footnote 436: Lib. v. pp. 105-108. 'For thee I hung the house with
wreaths; and thy twin sisters poured forth Syrian perfumes at the
marriage chamber. What for our garlands and our perfumes hast thou
left? Days without light, nights without a star, long sleepless

Lucia died before her marriage-day, and her grey-headed father went
mourning for her, fooled by memory, vainly seeking the joy that could
not come again. Had she become, he asks, a star in heaven, and did the
blessed gods and heroines enjoy her splendour? No voice replied when
he called into the darkness, nor did new constellations beam on him
with brightness from his daughter's eyes. All through the wakeful
night he mourned, but when dawn went forth he marked a novel lustre on
the sea and in the sky. Lucia had been added to the nymphs of morning.
She smiled upon her father as she fled before the wheels of day; and
now the sun himself arose, and in his light her light was swallowed:
Hyperion scaled the heights of heaven with more than his own glory.
With this apotheosis of his daughter, so curiously Pagan in feeling,
and yet so far from classical in taste, the poem might have ended, had
not Pontano reserved its final honours for himself. To Lucia, now made
a goddess, he addresses his prayers that she should keep his name and
fame alive on earth when he is dead:--

     Fama ipsa assistens tumulo cum vestibus aureis,
     Ore ingens, ac voce ingens, ingentibus alis,
     Per populos late ingenti mea nomina plausu
     Vulgabit, titulosque feret per sæcula nostros;
     Plaudentesque meis resonabunt laudibus auræ,
     Vivet et extento celeber Jovianus in ævo.[437]

[Footnote 437: 'Fame herself, seated by my tomb with golden raiment,
mighty-mouthed, mighty-voiced, with mighty wings, shall spread abroad
among the people my names with mighty sound of praise, and carry
through the centuries my titles, and with my glory shall resound
applauding airs of heaven; renowned through everlasting ages Jovian
shall live.']

Sannazzaro's own elegies on the joys of love and country life, the
descriptions of his boyhood at Salerno, the praises of his Villa
Mergillina, and his meditations among the ruins of Cumæ, are marked by
the same characteristics. Nothing quite so full of sensual enjoyment,
so soft, and so voluptuous can be found in the poems of the Florentine
and Roman scholars. They deserve study, if only as illustrating the
luxurious tone of literature at Naples. It was not by these lighter
effusions, however, that Sannazzaro won his fame. The epic on the
birth of Christ cost him twenty years of labour; and when it was
finished, the learned world of Italy welcomed it as a model of correct
and polished writing. At the same time the critics seem to have felt,
what cannot fail to strike a modern reader, that the difficulties of
treating such a theme in the Virgilian manner, and the patience of the
stylist, had rendered it a masterpiece of ingenuity rather than a work
of genius.[438] Sannazzaro's epigrams, composed in the spirit of
bitterest hostility towards the Borgia family, were not less famous
than his epic. Alfonso of Aragon took the poet with him during his
campaign against the Papal force in the Abruzzi; and these satires,
hastily written in the tent and by the camp-fire, formed the amusement
of his officers. From the soldiers of Alfonso they speedily passed, on
the lips of courtiers and scholars, through all the cities of Italy;
nor is it easy to say how much of Lucrezia Borgia's legend may not be
traceable to their brief but envenomed couplets. What had been the
scandal of the camp acquired consistency in lines too pungent to be
forgotten and too witty to remain unquoted.[439] As a specimen of
Sannazzaro's style, the epigram on Venice may here be cited:--

     Viderat Hadriacis Venetam Neptunus in undis
       Stare urbem, et toto ponere jura mari:
     Nunc mihi Tarpeias quantumvis, Jupiter, arces
       Objice, et illa tui moenia Martis, ait:
     Si Pelago Tybrim præfers, urbem aspice utramque;
       Illam homines dices, hanc posuisse deos.[440]

[Footnote 438: 'Lilius Gyraldus,' loc. cit. p. 384, writes about this
epic, 'in quibus, ut sic dicam, statarius poeta videri potest. Non
enim verborum volubilitate fertur, sed limatius quoddam scribendi
genus consectatur, et limâ indies atterit, ut de illo non ineleganter
dictum illud Apellis de Protogene Pontanus usurpare solitus esset, eum
manum de tabulâ tollere nescire.']

[Footnote 439: See _Delitiæ Poetarum Italorum_, second part, pp.
713-761. The following couplet on the death of Cesare Borgia is

     Aut nihil aut Cæsar vult dici Borgia; quidni?
     Cum simul et Cæsar possit et esse nihil.]

[Footnote 440: 'When Neptune beheld Venice stationed in the Adriatic
waters, and giving laws to all the ocean, "Now taunt me, Jupiter, with
the Tarpeian rock and those walls of thy son Mars!" he cried. "If thou
preferrest Tiber to the sea, look on both cities; thou wilt say the
one was built by men, the other by gods."']

I have already touched upon the Virgilianism of Sannazzaro's 'Partus
Virginis.'[441] What the cold churches of Palladio are to Christian
architecture, this frigid epic is to Christian poetry. Leo X.
delighted to recognise the Gospel narrative beneath a fancy dress of
mythological inventions, and to witness the triumph of classical
scholarship in the holy places of the mediæval faith. To fuse the
traditions of Biblical and secular antiquity was, as I have often
said, the dream of the Renaissance. What Pico and Ficino attempted in
philosophical treatises, the poets sought to effect by form. Religion,
attiring herself in classic drapery, threw off the cobwebs of the
Catacombs, and acquired the right of _petites entrées_ at the Vatican.
It did not signify that she had sacrificed her majesty to fashion, or
that her tunic _à la mode antique_ was badly made. Her rouge and
spangles enchanted the scholarly Pontiff, who forthwith ordered Vida
to compose the 'Christiad,' and gave him a benefice at Frascati in
order that he might enjoy a poet's ease. Vida's epic, like
Sannazzaro's, was not finished during the lifetime of Leo. Both the
'Christiad' and the 'Partus Virginis' reflected lustre on the age of

[Footnote 441: See above, p. 288.]

Vida won his first laurels in the field of didactic poetry. Virgilian
exercises on the breeding of silkworms and the game of chess displayed
his faculty for investing familiar subjects with the graces of a
polished style.[442] Such poems, whether written in Latin, or, like
the 'Api' of Rucellai, in Italian, gratified the taste of the
Renaissance, always appreciative of form independent of the matter it
invested. For a modern student Vida's metrical treatise in three books
on the 'Art of Poetry' has greater interest; since it illustrates the
final outcome of classic studies in the age of Leo. The 'Poetica' is
addressed to Francis, Dauphin of France, in his Spanish prison:[443]--

     Primus ades, Francisce; sacras ne despice Musas,
     Regia progenies, cui regum debita sceptra
     Gallorum, cum firma annis accesserit ætas.
     Hæc tibi parva ferunt jam nunc solatia dulces;
     Dum procul a patriâ raptum, amplexuque tuorum,
     Ah dolor! Hispanis sors impia detinet oris,
     Henrico cum fratre; patris sic fata tulerunt
     Magnanimi, dum fortunâ luctatur iniquâ.
     Parce tamen, puer, o lacrymis; fata aspera forsan
     Mitescent, aderitque dies lætissima tandem
     Post triste exilium patriis cum redditus oris
     Lætitiam ingentem populorum, omnesque per urbes
     Accipies plausus, et lætas undique voces;
     Votaque pro reditu persolvent debita matres.
     Interea te Pierides comitentur; in altos
     Jam te Parnassi mecum aude attollere lucos.[444]

[Footnote 442: _Bombycum; Libri duo. Scacchia, Ludus; Liber unus._
Pope's _Poemata Italorum_, vol. i. pp. 103-130; pp. 190-210. The
former poem is addressed to Isabella Gonzaga, née d'Este.]

[Footnote 443: _Poemata Selecta_, pp. 207-266. It will be remembered
that Francis I., after Pavia, gave his two sons as hostages to Charles

[Footnote 444: 'Thou, Francis, art the first to answer to my call.
Scorn not the sacred Muses, scion of a royal line, to whom the sceptre
of the kings of Gallia in due season of maturity will pass. Their
sweetness even now shall yield thee some slight solace, exiled from
home and fatherland by fate impiteous on the Spanish shore, thee and
thy brother Henry. So the fortunes of thy mighty-hearted father
willed, condemned to strive against unequal doom. Yet spare thy tears:
perchance hard fate will soften, and a day of supreme joy will come at
last, when, after thy sad exile, once more given to thy nation, thou
shalt behold thy country's gladness, and hear the shouts of all her
cities and the ringing songs of happiness, and mothers shall perform
their vows for thy return. Meanwhile let the maidens of Pieria attend
thee; and, with me for guide, ascend into the groves of high

After this dedication Vida describes the solace to be found in poetry,
and adds some precepts on the preparation of the student's mind.[445]
A rapid review of the history of poetry--the decline of Greek
inspiration after Homer, and of Latin after Virgil; the qualities of
the Silver Age, and the Revival of letters under the Medici at
Florence--serves to show how narrow the standard of Italian culture
had become between the period of Poliziano, who embraced so much in
his sketch of literature, and that of Vida, who confined himself to so
little. The criticism is not unjust; but it proves that the refinement
of taste by scholarship had resulted in restricting students to one or
two models, whom they followed with servility.[446] Having thus
established his general view of the poetic art, Vida proceeds to
sketch a plan of education. The qualities and duties of a tutor are
described; and here we may notice how far Vittorino's and Guarino's
methods had created an ideal of training for Italy. The preceptor must
above all things avoid violence, and aim at winning the affections of
his pupil; it would be well for him to associate several youths in the
same course of study, so as to arouse their emulation. He must not
neglect their games, and must always be careful to suit his method to
the different talents of his charges. When the special studies to be
followed are discussed, Vida points out that Cicero is the best school
of Latin style. He recommends the early practice of bucolic verse, and
inculcates the necessity of treating youthful essays with indulgence.
These topics are touched with more or less felicity of phrase and
illustration; and though the subject-matter is sufficiently trite, the
good sense and kindly feeling of the writer win respect. The first
book concludes with a peroration on the dignity and sanctity of poets,
a theme the humanists were never weary of embroidering.[447] The
second describes the qualities of a good poem, as these were conceived
by the refined but formal taste of the sixteenth century. It should
begin quietly, and manage to excite without satisfying the curiosity
of the reader. Vain displays of learning are to be avoided. Episodes
and similes must occur at proper intervals; and a frugal seasoning of
humour will be found agreeable. All repetitions should be shunned, and
great care should be taken to vary the narrative with picturesque
descriptions. Rhetoric, again, is not unworthy of attention, when the
poet seeks to place convenient and specious arguments in the mouths of
his personages.

[Footnote 445:

                            tibi digna supellex
     Verborum rerumque paranda est, proque videnda
     Instant multa prius, quorum vatum indiget usus.

     _Poemata Selecta_, p. 209.]

[Footnote 446: After mentioning the glories of Virgil, Vida adds:--

            Sperare nefas sit vatibus ultra.
     Nulla mora, ex illo in pejus ruere omnia visa,
     Degenerare animi, atque retro res lapsa referri.
     Hic namque ingenio confisus posthabet artem;
     Ille furit strepitu, tenditque æquare tubarum
     Voce sonos, versusque tonat sine more per omnes;
     Dant alii cantus vacuos, et inania verba
     Incassum, solâ capti dulcedine vocis.

_Poemata Selecta_, p. 213. Cf. the advice (p. 214) to follow none but

     Ergo ipsum ante alios animo venerare Maronem,
     Atque unum sequere, utque potes, vestigia serva.]

[Footnote 447:

     Dona deûm Musæ: vulgus procul este profanum.

_Poemata Selecta_, p. 224; and again, _ib._ p. 226:--

     Tu Jovis ambrosiis das nos accumbere mensis;
     Tu nos diis æquas superis, &c.]

It is difficult in a summary to do justice to this portion of Vida's
poem. His description of the ideal epic is indeed nothing more or less
than a refined analysis of the 'Æneid;' and students desirous of
learning what the Italians of the sixteenth century admired in Virgil
will do well to study its acute and sober criticism. A panegyric of
Leo closes the second book. From this peroration some lines upon the
woes of Italy may be read with profit, as proving that the nation,
conscious of its own decline, was contented to accept the primacy of
culture in exchange for independence:--

     Dii Romæ indigetes, Trojæ tuque auctor, Apollo
     Unde genus nostrum coeli se tollit ad astra,
     Hanc saltem auferri laudem prohibete Latinis:
     Artibus emineat semper, studiisque Minervæ,
     Italia, et gentes doceat pulcherrima Roma;
     Quandoguidem armorum penitus fortuna recessit,
     Tanta Italos inter crevit discordia reges;
     Ipsi nos inter sacros distringimus enses,
     Nec patriam pudet externis aperire tyrannis.[448]

[Footnote 448: 'Ye native gods of Rome! and thou, Apollo, Troy's
founder! by whom our race is raised to heaven! let not at least this
glory be withdrawn from Latium's children: may Italy for ever hold the
heights of art and learning, and most beauteous Rome instruct the
nations; albeit all success in arms be lost, so great hath grown the
discord of Italia's princes. Yea, one against the other, we draw
bloody swords, nor feel we any shame in calling foreign tyrants into
our own land.'--_Poemata Selecta_, p. 245.]

The third book treats of style and diction. To be clear and varied, to
command metaphor and allusion, to choose phrases coloured by mythology
and fancy, to suit the language to the subject, to vary the metrical
cadence with the thought and feeling, and to be assiduous in the use
of the file are mentioned as indispensable to excellence. A peroration
on Virgil, sonorous and impassioned, closes the whole poem, which,
rightly understood, is a monument erected to the fame of the Roman
bard by the piety of his Italian pupil. The final lines are justly

     O decus Italiæ! lux o clarissima vatum!
     Te colimus, tibi serta damus, tibi thura, tibi aras;
     Et tibi rite sacrum semper dicemus honorem
     Carminibus memores. Salve, sanctissime vates!
     Laudibus augeri tua gloria nil potis ultra,
     Et nostræ nil vocis eget; nos aspice præsens,
     Pectoribusque tuos castis infunde calores
     Adveniens, pater, atque animis te te insere nostris.[449]

[Footnote 449: 'Hail, light of Italy, thou brightest of the bards!
Thee we worship, thee we adore with wreaths, with frankincense, with
altars; to thee, as duty bids, for everlasting will we chaunt our holy
hymns. Hail, consecrated bard! No increase to thy glory flows from
praise, nor needs it voice of ours. Be near, and look upon thy
votaries; come, father, and infuse thy fervour into our chaste hearts,
and plant thyself within our souls.'--_Poemata Selecta_, p. 266.]

Vida's own intellect was clear, and his style perspicuous; but his
genius was mediocre. His power lay in the disposition of materials and
in illustration. A precise taste, formed on Cicero and Virgil, and
exercised with judgment in a narrow sphere, satisfied his critical
requirements. Virgil with him was first and last, and midst and
without end. In a word, he shows what a scholar of sound parts and
rhetorical aptitude could achieve by the study and imitation of a
single author.

Since I have begun to speak of didactic poems, I may take this
opportunity of noticing Fracastoro, who seems to have chosen Pontanus
for his model, and, while emulating both Lucretius and Virgil, to have
fallen short of Vida's elegance. His work is less remarkable for
purity of diction than for massiveness of intellect, gravity of
matter, and constructive ability. Jeronimo Fracastoro was born in 1483
at Verona, where he spent the greater portion of his life, enjoying
high reputation as a physician, philosopher, astronomer, and poet.
During his youth he studied under Pomponazzo at Padua. The strong
tincture of materialistic science he there received, continued through
life to colour his thought. Among modern Pagans none is more
completely bare of Christianity than Fracastoro. As is well known, he
chose the new and terrible disease of the Renaissance for his theme,
and gave a name to it that still is current. To speak of Fracastoro's
'Syphilis,' dedicated to Bembo, hailed with acclamation by all Italy,
preferred by Sannazzaro to his own epic, and praised by Julius Cæsar
Scaliger as a 'divine poem,' is not easy now. The plague it celebrates
appeared at Naples in 1495, and spread like wildfire over Europe,
assuming at first the form of an epidemic sparing neither Pope nor
king, and stirring less disgust than dread among its victims.[450]
Whether the laws of its propagation were rightly understood in the
sixteenth century is a question for physicians to decide. No one
appears to have suspected that it differed in specific character from
other pestilent disorders; and it is clear, both from contemporary
chronicles and from Fracastoro's poem, that the _mal franzese_, as it
was popularly called, suggested to the people of that age associations
different from those that have since gathered round it. At the same
time more formidable and less loathsome, it was a not more unworthy
subject for verse than the plague at Athens described by Lucretius.
Treating the disease, therefore, as a curse common to his generation,
the scientific poet dared to set forth its symptoms, to prescribe
remedies, to discuss the question of its origin, and to use it as an
illustration of antagonistic forces, pernicious and beneficent, in the
economy of nature. To philosophise his repulsive subject-matter was
the author's ambition. His contemporaries admired the poetic graces
with which he had contrived to adorn it.

[Footnote 450: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 433, note.]

The exordium of the first book states the problem. Whence came this
new scourge of humanity? Not, surely, from America, though it is there
indigenous. Its diffusion after the disasters of 1494 was too rapid to
admit of this hypothesis.[451] To the corruption of the atmosphere
must be referred the general invasion of the plague.[452] The theory
of infected and putrescent air is stated in a long Lucretian passage,
followed by a scientific account of the symptoms of syphilis. At this
point the poet diversifies his argument by an episode, narrating the
sad death of a young man born on the banks of the Oglio, and leading
by gradual transitions to a peroration on the wars and woes of
Italy.[453] Over all the poets of this age the miseries of their
country hung like a cloud, and, touch the lyre as they may at the
beginning of their song, it is certain ere the ending to give forth a
dolorous groan. In the second book Fracastoro enters on the subject of
remedies. He lays stress on choice of air, abundant exercise,
avoidance of wine and heating diet, blood-letting, abstinence from
sensual pleasures, fomentations, herbs, and divers minute rules of
health. By attention to these matters the disease may be, if not
shunned, at least mitigated. The sovereign remedy of quicksilver
demanded fuller illustration; therefore the poet introduces the
legendary episode of the shepherd Ilceus, conducted by the nymph
Liparë to the sulphur founts and lakes of mercury beneath Mount Etna.
Ilceus bathed, and was renewed in health. The rigorously didactic
intention of Fracastoro is proved by the recipe for a mercurial
ointment and the description of salivation that wind up this
book.[454] The third opens with an allusion to the discovery of
America, and a celebration of the tree Hyacus (Guaiacum). It is
noticeable that, with such an opportunity for singing the praises of
Columbus, Fracastoro passed him by, nor cared to claim for Italy a
share in the greatest achievement of the century. Mingling myth with
history, he next proceeds to tell how the Spaniards arrived in the
West Indies, and shot birds sacred to the Sun,[455] one of which spoke
with human voice, predicting the evils that would fall upon the crew
for their impiety. Not the least of these was to be a strange and
terrible disease. The natives of the islands flocked to meet the
strangers, and some of them were tettered with a ghastly eruption.
This leads to the episodical legend of the shepherd Syphilus, who
dared to deride the Sun-god, and of the king Alcithous, who accepted
divine honours in his stead. The Sun, to requite the insolence of
Syphilus, afflicted him with a dreadful sickness. It yielded to no
cure until the nymph Ammericë initiated him in the proper lustral
rites, and led him to the tree Hyacus. The poem ends with a panegyric
of Guaiacum.

[Footnote 451:

               quoniam in primis ostendere multos
     Possumus, attactu qui nullius hanc tamen ipsam
     Sponte suâ sensere luem, primique tulere.

     _Poemata Selecta_, p. 67.]

[Footnote 452:

     Quumque animadvertas, tam vastæ semina labis
     Esse nec in terræ gremio, nec in æquore posse,
     Haud dubie tecum statuas reputesque necesse est,
     Principium sedemque mali consistere in ipso
     Aëre, qui terras circum diffunditur omnes.

     _Ibid._ p. 69.]

[Footnote 453: _Ibid._ pp. 79, 80.]

[Footnote 454: _Ibid._ pp. 95, 96.]

[Footnote 455: These phrases he finds for a fowling-piece:--

                        Cava terrificis horrentia bombis
     Aera, et flammiferum tormenta imitantia fulmen.

     _Poemata Selecta_, p. 101.]

I have sketched the subject of the 'Syphilis' in outline because of
its importance not only for the neo-Latin literature of the
Renaissance, but also for the history of medical opinion. As a
didactic poem, it is constructed with considerable art; the style,
though prosaic, is forcible, and the meaning is always precise.
Falling short of classic elegance, Fracastoro may still be said to
have fulfilled the requirements of Vida, and to have added something
male and vigorous peculiar to himself. His adulatory verses to
Alessandro Farnese, Paul III., and Julius III. might be quoted as
curious examples of fulsome flattery conveyed in a _barocco_ style.
They combine Papal cant with Pagan mannerism, Virgilian and Biblical
phraseology, masculine gravity of diction and far-fetched conceits, in
a strange amalgam, as awkward as it is ridiculous.[456]

[Footnote 456: Cf. the passage about Alessandro Farnese's journeys--

     Matre deâ comitante et iter monstrante nepoti--

and the reformation in Germany. _Poemata Selecta_, p. 125. The whole
idyll addressed to Julius III., _ib._ pp. 130-135, is inconceivably

Another group of Latin versifiers, with Bembo at their head,
cultivated the elegy, the idyll, and the ode. The authors of their
predilection were Catullus, Propertius, and Tibullus. Abandoning the
attempt to mould Christian or modern material into classic form, they
frankly selected Pagan motives, and adhered in spirit as well as style
to their models. Two elegiac poems of Bembo's, the 'Priapus' and the
'Faunus ad Nympeum Flumen,' may be cited as flagrant specimens of
sixteenth-century licentiousness.[457] Polished language and almost
faultless versification are wasted upon themes of rank obscenity. The
'Priapus,' translated and amplified in Italian _ottava rima_, gained a
popular celebrity beyond the learned circles for whom it was
originally written. We may trace its influence in many infamous
Capitoli of the burlesque poets. Bembo excelled in elegiac verse. In a
poem entitled 'De Amicâ a Viro Servatâ,' he treated a characteristically
Italian subject with something of Ovid's graceful humour.[458] A lover
complains of living near his mistress, closely watched by her jealous
husband. Here, as elsewhere, the morality is less to be admired than
the versification; and that the latter, in spite of Bembo's scrupulous
attention to metre, is not perfect, may be gathered from this line:--

     Tunc quos nunc habeo et quos sum olim habiturus amicos.

[Footnote 457: _Carmina Quinque Illustrium Poetarum_, pp. 4 and 9-11.]

[Footnote 458: _Ib._ pp. 18-23.]

After reading hexameters so constructed we are tempted to shut the
book with a groan, wondering how it was that a Pope's secretary and a
prince of the Church should have thought it worth his while to compose
a poem so injurious to his reputation as a moralist, or to preserve in
it a verse so little favourable to his fame as a Latinist. More
beautiful, because more true to classic inspiration, is the elegy of
'Galatea.'[459] The idyllic incidents suggest a series of pretty
pictures for bas-reliefs or decorative frescoes in the manner of
Albano. Bembo's masterpiece, however, in the elegiac metre, is a poem
with 'De Galeso et Maximo' for its title.[460] It was composed, as the
epigraph informs us, at the command of a great man at Rome; but
whether that great man was also the greatest in Rome, and whether
Maximus was another name for Leo, is matter of conjecture. The boy
Galesus had wronged Maximus, his master. When reproved, he offered no
excuses, called no witnesses, uttered no prayers to Heaven, indulged
in no asseverations of innocence, shed no tears:--

     Nil horum aggreditur; sed tantum ingrata loquentis
       Implicitus collo dulce pependit onus.
     Nec mora, cunctanti roseis tot pressa labellis
       Oscula coelitibus invidiosa dedit,
     Arida quot levibus florescit messis aristis,
       Excita quot vernis floribus halat humus.
     Maxime, quid dubitas? Si te piget, ipse tuo me
       Pone loco: hæc dubitem non ego ferre mala.[461]

[Footnote 459: _Carmina Quinque Illustrium Poetarum_, p. 7.]

[Footnote 460: _Ib._ p. 23.]

[Footnote 461:

     None of these things he tried; but only ran,
     And clasped with his sweet arms the angry man;
     Hung on his neck, rained kisses forth that Heaven
     Envied from those red lips to mortals given;
     In number like ripe ears of ruddy corn,
     Or flowers beneath the breath of April born.
     Still doubting, Maximus? Change place with me:
     Gladly I'd bear such infidelity.]

Bembo's talent lay in compositions of this kind. His verses, to quote
the phrase of Gyraldus, were uniformly 'sweet, soft, and delicate.'
When he attempted work involving more sustained effort of the
intellect and greater variety of treatment, he was not so successful.
His hexameter poem 'Benacus,' a description of the Lago di Garda,
dedicated to Gian Matteo Giberti, reads like an imitation of Catullus
without the Roman poet's grace of style or wealth of fancy.[462] Among
Bembo's most perfect compositions may be reckoned his epitaphs on
celebrated contemporaries. The following written for Poliziano,
deserves quotation.[463] Not only is the death of the scholar,
following close upon that of his patron, happily touched, but the last
line pays a proper tribute to Poliziano as an Italian poet:--

     Duceret extincto cum mors Laurente triumphum,
       Lætaque pullatis inveheretur equis,
     Respicit insano ferientem pollice chordas,
       Viscera singultu concutiente, virum.
     Mirata est, tenuitque jugum; furit ipse, pioque
       Laurentem cunctos flagitat ore Deos:
     Miscebat precibus lacrymas, lacrymisque dolorem;
       Verba ministrabat liberiora dolor.
     Risit, et antiquæ non immemor illa querelæ,
       Orphei Tartareæ cum patuere viæ,
     Hic etiam infernas tentat rescindere leges,
       Fertque suas, dixit, in mea jura manus.
     Protinus et flentem percussit dura poetam,
       Rupit et in medio pectora docta sono.
     Heu sic tu raptus, sic te mala fata tulerunt,
       Arbiter Ausoniæ, Politiane, lyræ.[464]

[Footnote 462: _Carmina Quinque Illustrium Poetarum_, pp. 26-34.]

[Footnote 463: _Ib._ p. 38.]

[Footnote 464: 'When Lorenzo was dead, and Death went by in triumph,
drawn by her black horses, her eyes fell on one who madly struck the
chords, while sighs convulsed his breast. She turned, and stayed the
car; he storms and calls on all the gods for Lorenzo, mixing tears
with prayers, and sorrow with his tears, while sorrow suggests words
of wilder freedom. Death laughed; remembering her old grudge, when
Orpheus made his way to hell, she cried, "Lo, he too seeks to abrogate
our laws, and lays his hand upon my rights!" Nor more delay; she
struck the poet while he wept, and broke his heart-strings in the
middle of his sighs. Alas! thus wast thou taken from us, ravished by
harsh fate, Politian, master of the Italian lyre!']

More richly endowed for poetry than Bembo was his fellow-countryman
Andrea Navagero. Few Latin versifiers of the Renaissance combined so
much true feeling and fancy with a style more pure and natural. Some
of his little compositions, half elegy, half idyll, have the grace and
freedom of the Greek Anthology.[465] There is a simple beauty in their
motives, while the workmanship reminds us of chiselling in smooth waxy
marble; unlike the Roman epigrammatists, Navagero avoided pointed
terminations.[466] The picture of Narcissus dead and transformed to a
flower, in the elegy of 'Acon,' might be quoted as a fair specimen of
his manner:--

     Magna Parens, quæ cuncta leves producis in auras,
       Totaque diverso germine picta nites;
     Quæ passim arboribus, passim surgentibus herbis,
       Sufficis omnifero larga alimenta sinu;
     Excipe languentem puerum, moribundaque membra,
       Æternumque tuâ fac, Dea, vivat ope.
     Vivet, et ille vetus Zephyro redeunte quotannis
       In niveo candor flore perennis erit.[467]

[Footnote 465: Notice especially 'Thyrsidis vota Veneri,' 'Invitatio
ad amoenum fontem,' 'Leucippem amicam spe præmiorum invitat,' 'Vota
Veneri ut amantibus faveat,' and 'In Almonem.'--_Carmina_, &c. pp. 52,
53, 54, 55.]

[Footnote 466: Paolo Giovio noticed this; in his _Elogia_ he writes,
'_Epigrammata non falsis aculeatisque finibus, sed tenerâ illâ et
prædulci priscâ suavitate claudebat._']

[Footnote 467: 'Mighty mother, thou who bringest all things forth to
breathe the liquid air, who shinest in thy painted robe of diverse
budding lives, thou who from thy teeming bosom givest nourishment to
trees and sprouting herbs in every region of the earth, take to
thyself the fainting boy, cherish his dying limbs, and make him live
for ever by thy aid. Yes, he shall live; and that white loveliness of
his, each year as spring returns, shall blossom in a snowy
flower.'--_Carmina_, &c. p. 57.]

The warnings addressed to his mistress in her country rambles, to
beware of rustic gods, and the whole eclogue of 'Iolas,' are written
in a rich and facile style, that makes us wonder whether some poet of
the Græco-Roman period did not live again in Navagero.[468] Only here
and there, as in the case of all this neo-Latin writing, an awkward
word or a defective cadence breaks the spell, and reminds us that it
was an artificial thing. A few lines forming the exordium to an
unfinished poem on Italy may be inserted here for their intrinsic

     Salve, cura Deûm, mundi felicior ora,
     Formosæ Veneris dulces salvete recessus:
     Ut vos post tantos animi mentisque labores
     Aspicio, lustroque libens! ut munere vestro
     Sollicitas toto depello e pectore curas![469]

[Footnote 468: 'Ad Gelliam rusticantem,' _Carmina_, &c. pp. 64-66.
'Iolas,' _ib._ pp. 66-68.]

[Footnote 469: 'Hail, darling of the gods, thou happiest spot of
earth! hail chosen haunt of beauty's queen! What joy I feel to see you
thus again, and tread your shores after so many toils endured in mind
and soul! How from my heart by your free gift I cast all anxious
cares!'--_Carmina_, &c. p. 84.]

Navagero, we are told, composed these verses on his return from a
legation to Spain. Born in 1483, he spent his youth and early manhood
in assiduous study. Excessive application undermined his health, and
Giovio relates that he began to suffer from _atra bilis_, or the
melancholy of scholars. The Venetian Senate had engaged him to compose
the history of the Republic in Latin; this work was already begun when
illness forced him to abandon it. He was afterwards employed in an
unsuccessful mission to Charles V. and in diplomatic business at the
Court of France. He died at Blois of fever, contracted in one of his
hurried journeys. He was only forty-six when he perished, bequeathing
to immediate posterity the fame of a poet at least equal to the
ancients. In that age of affectation and effort the natural flow of
Navagero's verse, sensuous without coarseness and highly coloured
without abuse of epithets, raised a chorus of applause that may strike
the modern student as excessive. The memorial poems written on his
death praise the purity of sentiment and taste which made him burn a
copy of Martial yearly to the chaste Muses.[470] One friend calls
upon the Nereids to build his tomb by the silent waters of the
lagoons, and bids the Faun of Italy lament with broken reeds.[471]
Another prophesies that his golden poems will last as many years as
there are flowers in spring, or grapes in autumn, or storms upon the
sea, or stars in heaven, or kisses in Catullus, or atoms in the
universe of Lucretius.[472]

[Footnote 470: See the Hendecasyllabics of Johannes Matthæus,
_Carmina_, &c. p. 86.]

[Footnote 471: Basilius Zanchius, _Carmina_, &c. p. 85.]

[Footnote 472: M. Antonius Flaminius, _ib._ p. 85.]

A place very close to Navagero might be claimed for Francesco Maria
Molsa, a nobleman of Modena, who enjoyed great fame at Rome for his
Latin and Italian poetry. After a wild life of pleasure he died at the
age of forty-one, worn out with love and smitten by the plague of the
Renaissance. The sweetest of his elegies celebrate the charms of
Faustina Mancini, his favourite mistress. In spite of what Italians
would call their _morbidezza_, it is impossible not to feel some
contempt for the polished fluency, the sensual relaxation, of these
soulless verses. A poem addressed to his friends upon his sick bed,
within sight of certain death, combines the author's melody of cadence
with a certain sobriety of thought and tender dignity of feeling.[473]
It is, perhaps, of all his compositions the worthiest to live. The
following couplets describe the place which he would choose for his

     Non operosa peto titulos mihi marmora ponant,
       Nostra sed accipiat fictilis ossa cadus;
     Exceptet gremio quæ mox placidissima tellus,
       Immites possint ne nocuisse feræ.
     Rivulus hæc circum dissectus obambulet, unda
       Clivoso qualis tramite ducta sonat;
     Exiguis stet cæsa notis super ossa sepulta,
       Nomen et his servet parva tabella meum:
     Hic jacet ante annos crudeli tabe peremptus
       Molsa; ter injecto pulvere, pastor, abi.
     Forsitan in putrem longo post tempore glebam
       Vertar, et hæc flores induet urna novos;
     Populus aut potius abruptis artubus alba
       Formosâ exsurgam conspicienda comâ.
     Scilicet huc diti pecoris comitata magistro
       Conveniet festo pulchra puella die;
     Quæ molles ductet choreas, et veste recinctâ
       Ad certos nôrit membra movere modos.[474]

[Footnote 473: _Poemata Selecta_, pp. 203-206. An elegy written by
Janus Etruscus, Pope's _Poemata Italorum_, vol. ii. p. 25, on a
similar theme, though very inferior to Molsa's, may be compared with

[Footnote 474: 'I ask for no monument of wrought marble to proclaim my
titles: let a vase of baked clay receive these bones. Let earth,
quietest of resting-places, take them to herself, and save them from
the injury of ravening wolves. And let a running stream divide its
waters round my grave, drawn with the sound of music from a
mountain-flank. A little tablet carved with simple letters will be
enough to mark the spot, and to preserve my name: "Here lies Molsa,
slain before his day by wasting sickness: cast dust upon him thrice,
and go thy way, gentle shepherd." It may be that after many years I
shall turn to yielding clay, and my tomb shall deck herself with
flowers; or, better, from my limbs shall spring a white poplar, and in
its beauteous foliage I shall rise into the light of heaven. To this
place will come, I hope, some lovely maid attended by the master of
the flock; and she shall dance above my bones and move her feet to
rhythmic music.']

The Paganism of the Renaissance, exchanging Christian rites for old
mythologies, and classic in the very tomb, has rarely found sweeter
expression than in this death song. We trace in it besides a note of
modern feeling, the romantic sense of community with nature in the
immortality of trees and flowers.[475]

[Footnote 475: For the picture of the girl dancing on the lover's
grave, cf. Omar Khayyam. Cf. too Walt Whitman's metaphor for
grass--'the beautiful uncut hair of graves.']

Castiglione cannot claim comparison with Navagero for sensuous charm
and easy flow of verse. Nor has he those touches of genuine poetry
which raise Molsa above the level of a fluent versifier. His Latin
exercises, however, offer much that is interesting to a student of
Renaissance literature; while the depth of feeling and the earnestness
of thought in his clear and powerful hexameters surpass the best
efforts of Bembo's artificial muse. When we read the idyll entitled
'Alcon,' a lamentation for the friend whom he had loved in youth--

     Alcon deliciæ Musarum et Apollinis, Alcon
     Pars animæ, cordis pars Alcon maxima nostri--[476]

we are impelled to question how far Milton owed the form of 'Lycidas'
to these Italian imitations of the Græco-Roman style. What seemed
false in tone to Johnson, what still renders that elegy the
stumbling-block of taste to immature and unsympathetic students, is
the highly artificial form given to natural feeling. Grief clothes
herself in metaphors, and, abstaining from the direct expression of
poignant emotion, dwells on thoughts and images that have a beauty of
their own for solace. Nor is it in this quality of art alone that
'Lycidas' reminds us of Renaissance Latin verse. The curious blending
of allusions to Church and State with pastoral images is no less
characteristic of the Italian manner. As in 'Lycidas,' so also in
these lines from Castiglione's 'Alcon,' the truth of sorrow transpires
through a thin veil of bucolic romance:--

     Heu miserande puer, fatis surrepte malignis!
     Non ego te posthac, pastorum adstante coronâ,
     Victorem aspiciam volucri certare sagittâ;
     Aut jaculo, aut durâ socios superare palæstrâ.
     Non tecum posthac molli resupinus in umbrâ
     Effugiam longos æstivo tempore soles:
     Non tua vicinos mulcebit fistula montes,
     Docta nec umbrosæ resonabunt carmina valles:
     Non tua corticibus toties inscripta Lycoris,
     Atque ignis Galatea meus nos jam simul ambos
     Audierint ambæ nostros cantare furores.
     Nos etenim a teneris simul usque huc viximus annis,
     Frigora pertulimusque æstus noctesque diesque,
     Communique simul sunt parta armenta labore.
     Rura mea hæc tecum communia; viximus una:
     Te moriente igitur curnam mihi vita relicta est?
     Heu male me ira Deûm patriis abduxit ab oris,
     Ne manibus premerem morientia lumina amicis.[477]

[Footnote 476: 'Alcon, the darling of Phoebus and the Muses; Alcon,
a part of my own soul; Alcon, the greatest part of my own
heart.'--_Carmina Quinque Poetarum_, p. 89.]

[Footnote 477: 'Alas! poor youth, withdrawn from us by fate malign.
Never again shall I behold thee, while the shepherds stand around, win
prizes with thy flying shafts or spear, or wrestle for the crown;
never again with thee reclining in the shade shall I all through a
summer's day avoid the sun. No more shall thy pipe soothe the
neighbouring hills, the vales repeat thy artful songs. No more shall
thy Lycoris, whose name inscribed by thee the woods remember, and my
Galatea hear us both together chaunt our loves. For we like brothers
lived our lives till now from infancy: heat and cold, days and nights,
we bore; our herds were reared with toil and care together. These
fields of mine were also thine: we lived one common life. Why, then,
when thou must die, am I still left to live? Alas! in evil hour the
wrath of Heaven withdrew me from my native land, nor suffered me to
close thy lids with a friend's hands!'--_Carmina_, &c. p. 91.]

Castiglione's most polished exercises are written on fictitious
subjects in elegiac metre. Thus he feigns a letter from his wife, in
the style of the 'Heroidum Epistolæ,' praying him to beware of Rome's
temptations, and to keep his heart for her.[478] Again he warns his
mistress to avoid the perils of the sea-beach, where the Tritons

     Os informe illis, rictus, oculique minaces,
       Asperaque anguineo cortice membra rigent:
     Barba impexa, ingens, algâ limoque virenti
       Oblita, oletque gravi lurida odore coma.[479]

[Footnote 478: _Ib._ p. 100.]

[Footnote 479: 'Hideous is their face, their grinning mouth, their
threatening eyes, and their rough limbs are stiff with snaky scales;
their beard hangs long and wide, uncombed, tangled with sea-weed and
green ooze, and their dusky hair smells rank of brine.'--_Ib._ p.

In these couplets we seem to read a transcript from some fresco of
Mantegna or Julio Romano. Two long elegies are devoted to the theme of
marine monsters, and the tale of Hippolytus is introduced to clinch
the poet's argument. Among Castiglione's poems of compliment, forming
a pleasant illustration to his book of the 'Courtier,' may be
mentioned the lines on 'Elisabetta Gonzaga singing.'[480] Nor can I
omit the most original of his elegies, written, or at least conceived,
in the camp of Julius before Mirandola.[481] Walking by night in the
trenches under the beleaguered walls, Castiglione meets the ghost of
Lodovico Pico, who utters a lamentation over the wrongs inflicted on
his city and his race. The roar of cannon cuts short this monologue,
and the spectre vanishes into darkness with a groan. During his long
threnody the prince of Mirandola apostrophises the warlike Pope in
these couplets:--

     O Pater, O Pastor populorum, O maxime mundi
       Arbiter, humanum qui genus omne regis;
     Justitiæ pacisque dator placidæque quietis,
       Credita cui soli est vita salusque hominum;
     Quem Deus ipse Erebi fecit Coelique potentem,
       Ut nutu pateant utraque regna tuo![482]

[Footnote 480: 'De Elisabetta Gonzaga canente,' _Carmina_, &c. p. 97.
Cf. Bembo's 'Ad Lucretiam Borgiam,' _ib._ p. 14, on a similar theme.]

[Footnote 481: _Ib._ p. 95.]

[Footnote 482: 'O father, O shepherd of the nations, O great master of
the world who rulest all the human race, giver of justice, peace, and
tranquil ease; thou to whom alone is committed the life and salvation
of men, whom God Himself made lord of hell and heaven, that either
realm might open at thy nod.']

When the spiritual authority of the Popes came thus to be expressed in
Latin verse, it was impossible not to treat them as deities. The
temptation to apply to them the language of Roman religion was too
great; the double opportunity of flattering their vanity as Pontiffs,
and their ears as scholars, was too attractive to be missed. In
another place Castiglione used the following phrases about Leo:--

     Nec culpanda tua est mora, nam præcepta Deorum
       Non fas, nec tutum est spernere velle homini:
     Esse tamen fertur clementia tanta Leonis
       Ut facili humanas audiat ore preces.[483]

[Footnote 483: 'I do not blame thee for delaying thy return, since
neither is it safe nor right for man to set at naught a God's command;
and yet so great is Leo's kindness said to be that he inclines a ready
ear to human prayers.'--_Ib._ p. 102.]

Navagero called Julius II. _novus ex alto demissus Olympo Deus_ (a new
God sent down from heaven to earth), and declared that the people of
Italy, in thanksgiving for his liberation of their country from the
barbarians, would pay him yearly honours with prayer and praise:--

     Ergo omnes, veluti et Phoebo Panique, quotannis
     Pastores certis statuent tibi sacra diebus,
     Magne Pater; nostrisque diu cantabere silvis.
     Te rupes, te saxa, cavæ te, Maxime Juli,
     Convalles, nemorumque frequens iterabit imago.
     At vero nostris quæcumque in saltibus usquam
     Quercus erit, ut quæque suos dant tempora flores,
     Semper erit variis ramos innexa coronis;
     Inscriptumque geret felici nomine truncum.
     Tum quoties pastum expellet, pastasve reducet
     Nostrum aliquis pecudes; toties id mente revolvens
     Ut liceat, factum esse tuo, Pater optime, ductu;
     Nullus erit, qui non libet tibi lacte recenti,
     Nullus erit qui non teneros tibi nutriat agnos.
     Quin audire preces nisi dedignabere agrestes,
     Tu nostra ante Deos in vota vocaberis omnes.
     Ipse ego bina tibi solenni altaria ritu,
     Et geminos sacrâ e quercu lauroque virenti
     Vicino lucos Nanceli in litore ponam.[484]

[Footnote 484: 'Therefore shall all our shepherds pay thee divine
honours, as to Pan or Phoebus, on fixed days, great Father; and long
shalt thou be celebrated in our forests. Thy praise, Julius the Great,
the cliffs, the rocks, the hollow valleys, and the woodland echoes
shall repeat. Wherever in our groves an oak tree stands, as spring and
summer bring the flowers, its branches shall be hung with wreaths, its
trunk shall be inscribed with thy auspicious name. As often as our
shepherds drive the flocks afield, or bring them pastured home, each
one, remembering that he does this under thy protection, shall pour
libations of new milk forth to thee, and rear thee tender lambs for
sacrifice. Nay, if thou spurn not rustic prayers, before all gods
shall we invoke thee in our supplications. I myself will build and
dedicate to thee two altars, and will plant twin groves of sacred oak
and laurel evergreen for thee.'--_Carmina_, &c. pp. 58, 59.]

It will be remembered that the oak was the ensign of the Della Rovere
family, so that when the poets exalted Julius to Olympus, they were
not in want of a tree sacred to the new deity. To trace this Pagan
flattery of the Popes through all its forms would be a tedious
business. It will be enough to quote Poliziano's 'Sapphics' to
Innocent VIII.:--

     Roma cui paret dominusque Tibris,
     Qui vicem summi geris hic Tonantis,
     Qui potes magnum reserare et idem
              Claudere coelum.[485]

[Footnote 485: 'Thou whom Rome obeys, and royal Tiber, who wieldest
upon earth the Thunderer's power, whose it is to lock and open the
gates of heaven.'--_Ib._ p. 260.]

A more quaint confusion of Latin mythology and mediæval superstition,
more glibly and trippingly conveyed in flimsy verse, can hardly be
imagined; and yet even this, I think, is beaten by the ponderous
conceits of Fracastoro, who, through the mouth of the goat-footed Pan,
saluted Julius III. as the mountain of salvation, playing on his name
Del Monte:--

     Hoc in Monte Dei pecudes pascentur et agni,
     Graminis æterni pingues et velleris aurei;
     Exsilient et aquæ vivæ, quibus ubera capræ
     Grandia distendant, distendant ubera vaccæ.[486]

[Footnote 486: 'In this mountain of the Lord shall flocks and herds
feed, fat with eternal pastures and golden-fleeced. Living waters too
shall leap forth, wherewith the goats shall swell their udders, and
the kine likewise.'--_Poemata Selecta_, p. 132.]

The mountain soon becomes a shepherd, and the shepherd not only rules
the people, and feeds the sheep of God, but chains the monsters of the
Reformation to a rock in Caucasus, and gives peace and plenty to

     Æternis illum numeris ad sidera tollent,
     Heroemque, deumque, salutiferumque vocabunt.[487]

[Footnote 487: 'Him with immortal verse the poets shall exalt to
heaven, and call him hero, god, and saviour.'--_Ib._ p. 133.]

Returning to Castiglione: I have already spoken of his epitaph on
Raphael and his description of the newly-discovered 'Ariadne.'[488]
The latter exercise in rhetoric competes with Sadoleto's laboured
hexameters on the Laocoon. These verses, frigid as a prize poem in our
estimation, moved Bembo to enthusiasm. When they appeared he wrote to
Sadoleto, 'I have read your poem on Laocoon a hundred times. O
wonder-working bard! Not only have you made for us, as it were, a
second statue to match that masterpiece; but you have engraved upon my
mind the very statue itself.' This panegyric stirs a smile when we
compare it with Sadoleto's own prolusion, the fruit of a grave
intellect and cultivated taste rather than of genius and

[Footnote 488: See above, pp. 312, 317.]

[Footnote 489: See _Carmina Quinque Poetarum_, pp. 318-336.]

Time would fail to tell of all the later Latin poets--of La Casa's
polished lyrics in the style of Horace, of Amalteo's waxen eclogues,
of Aonio Paleario's fantastic hexameters upon the 'Immortality of the
Soul,'[490] of Strozzi's elegies, of Ariosto's epigrams, and
Calcagnini's learned muse. When I repeat that every educated man wrote
Latin verses in that century, and that all who could committed their
productions to the press, enough has been said to prove the
impossibility of dealing more than superficially with so vast a mass
of meritorious mediocrity.

[Footnote 490: A didactic poem in three books; Pope's _Poemata
Italorum_, vol. i. pp. 211-270. The description of the Resurrection,
the Last Judgment, and the entrance of the blessed into Paradise,
forming the conclusion of the last book, is an excellent specimen of
_barocco_ style and bathos. Virgil had written, '_Ite domum pasti, si
quis pudor, ite juvenci!_' Paleario makes the Judge address the damned
souls thus: '_Ite domum in tristem, si quis pudor, ite ruentes_,' &c.
How close Milton's path lay to the worst faults in poetry, and how
wonderfully he escaped, may well be calculated by the study of such
verse as this.]

One name remains to be rescued from the decent obscurity of the
'Delitiæ Poetarum Italorum.' Marcantonio Flaminio was born at
Seravalle in 1498. He came, while yet a young man, to the Court of Leo
armed with Latin poetry for his credentials. No better claim on
patronage from Pope or cardinal could be preferred in that age of
twanging lyres. At Rome Flaminio lived in the service of Alessandro
Farnese, whose hospitality he afterwards repaid with verses honourable
alike to poet and patron by their freedom from vulgar flattery. The
atmosphere of a Court, however, was uncongenial to Flaminio. Fond of
country life, addicted to serious studies, sober in his tastes, and
cheerful in his spirits, pious, and unaffectedly unambitious, he
avoided the stream of the great world and lived retired. Community of
interests brought him into close connection with the Cardinals Pole
and Contarini, from whom he caught so much of the Reformation spirit
as a philosophical Italian could assimilate; but it was not in his
modest and quiet nature to raise the cry of revolt against
authority.[491] The most distinguished wits and scholars of the age
were among his intimate friends. Both his poems and his correspondence
reflect an agreeable light upon the literary society of the late
Renaissance. The Latin verses, with which we are at present occupied,
breathe genuine piety, healthful simplicity, and moral purity, in
strong contrast with the neopaganism of the Roman circle. These
qualities suit the robust style, clear, terse, and nervous, he knew
how to use. It is pleasant to close the series of Italian Latinists
with one who combined the best art of his century with the temper of a
republican and the spirit of a Christian.

[Footnote 491: This epigram on Savonarola shows Flaminio's sympathy
with the preachers of pure doctrine:--

     Dum fera flamma tuos, Hieronyme, pascitur artus,
       Relligio, sacras dilaniata comas,
     Flevit, et o, dixit, crudeles parcite flammæ,
       Parcite, sunt isto viscera nostra rogo.]

The most prominent quality of Flaminio as a poet is love of the
country. Three little compositions describing his own farm are
animated with the enthusiasm of genuine affection.[492] We feel that
no mere reminiscence of Catullus makes him write--

     Jam vos revisam, jam juvabit arbores
       Manu paternâ consitas
     Videre, jam libebit in cubiculo
       Molles inire somnulos.[493]

[Footnote 492: 'Ad Agellum suum.'--_Poemata Selecta_, pp. 155, 156,

[Footnote 493: 'Now shall I see you once again; now shall I have the
joy of gazing on the trees my father planted, and falling into gentle
slumber in his little room.']

Nor is it an idle prayer he addresses to the Muses in these lines:--

     At vos, o Heliconiæ puellæ,
     Queis fontes et amoena rura cordi,
     Si carâ mihi luce cariores
     Estis, jam miserescite obsecrantis,
     Meque, urbis strepitu tumultuosæ
     Ereptum, in placido locate agello.[494]

[Footnote 494: 'Maidens of Helicon, who love the fountains and the
pleasant fields, as you are dearer to me than the dear light, have
pity now upon your suppliant, take me from the tumult of the noisy
town, and place me in my tranquil farm.']

He is never tired of contrasting the pleasures of the country with the
noise and weariness of Rome:--

             Ipse miser tumultuosâ
     Urbe detinear; tibi benignus
     Dedit Jupiter in remoto agello
     Latentem placidâ frui quiete,
     Inter Socraticos libros, et inter
     Nymphas et Satyros, nihil profani
     Curantem populi leves honores.[495]

[Footnote 495: 'I, poor wretch, am prisoned in the noisy town. Kind
Jupiter allows you, secluded in your distant farm, to take the joys of
peace among Socratic books, among the nymphs and satyrs, unheeding the
light honours of the vulgar crowd.'--'Ad Honoratum Fascitellum,'
_Poemata Selecta_, p. 178.]

Flaminio's thought of the country is always connected with the
thought of study. The picture of a tranquil scholar's life among the
fields, diversified by sport and simple pleasures of the rustic folk,
gives freshness to his hendecasyllables, whether addressed to his
patron Alessandro Farnese, or to his friends Galeazzo Florimonte and
Francesco Torriani:[496]--

                       Inde ocellos
     Ut primum sopor incubans gravabit,
     Jucundissime amice, te sub antrum
     Ducam, quod croceis tegunt corymbis
     Serpentes hederæ, imminensque laurus
     Suaviter foliis susurrat: at tu
     Ne febrim metuas gravedinemve;
     Est enim locus innocens: ubi ergo
     Hic satis requieveris, legentur
     Lusus Virgilii, et Syracusani
     Vatis, quo nihil est magis venustum,
     Nihil dulcius, ut mihi videtur.
     Cum se fregerit æstus, in virenti
     Convalle spatiabimur; sequetur
     Brevis coena; redibis inde ad urbem.[497]

[Footnote 496: _Poemata Selecta_, pp. 153, 169, 173.]

[Footnote 497: 'Then, when sleep descends upon your eyes, best friend
of mine, I'll lead you to a cave o'ercurtained by the wandering ivy's
yellow bunches, whereby the sheltering laurel murmurs with her gently
waving leaves. Fear no fever or dull headache. The place is safe. So
when you are rested, we will read the rustic songs of Virgil or
Theocritus; sweet and more charming verse I know not; and after the
day's heat is past, we will stroll in some green valley. A light
supper follows, and then you shall return to town.'--_Ib._ p. 174.]

One of Flaminio's best poems is written from his friend Stefano
Sauli's villa near Genoa.[498] It describes how he spends his time
between the philosophy of Aristotle and the verses of Catullus, while
Sauli at his side devotes himself to Cicero. The fall of evening lures
them from their study to the sea-beach: perched upon a water-girded
rock, they angle with long reeds for fishes, or watch the white sails
on the purple waves. The same theme is repeated in a copy of
hexameters addressed to Sauli.[499] Flaminio had fallen ill of fever
at Rome. To quit the city was his cure:--

     Scilicet ut Romæ corruptas fugimus auras,
     Et riguos patriæ montes saltusque salubres
     Venimus, effoetos venit quoque robur in artus:
     Diffugit macies, diffugit corpore pallor;
     Et somnus vigiles irrepsit blandus ocellos,
     Quem neque desiliens crepitanti rivulus undâ,
     Nec Lethea mihi duxere papavera quondam.[500]

[Footnote 498: 'Ad Christophorum Longolium,' _Ib._]

[Footnote 499: _Poemata Selecta_, p. 163.]

[Footnote 500: 'No sooner had I left Rome's tainted air for the clear
streams and healthful forests of my native land, than strength
returned into my wasted limbs; my body lost the pallor and emaciation
of disease, and sweet sleep crept upon my wakeful eyes, such as no
waters falling with a tinkling sound or Lethe's poppies had induced

Sauli, for his part, is congratulated on having exchanged the cares of
Church and State for Ciceronian studies among his laurel groves and
gleaming orange gardens.

Flaminio's intimate relations with the ablest men of the century,
those especially who were engaged in grave and Christian studies, add
extrinsic interest to his fugitive pieces. In one poem he alludes to
the weak health of Cardinal Pole;[501] in another he compares Plato's
description of the ideal republic with Contarini's work upon the
magistrates and commonwealth of Venice:--

     Descripsit ille maximus quondam Plato
     Longis suorum ambagibus voluminum,
     Quis civitatis optimus foret status:
     Sed hunc ab ipsâ sæculorum origine
     Nec ulla vidit, nec videbit civitas.
     At Contarenus optimam rempublicam
     Parvi libelli disputationibus
     Illam probavit esse, plus millesima
     Quam cernit æstas Adriatico in mari
     Florere pace, litteris, pecuniâ.[502]

[Footnote 501: _Poemata Selecta_, p. 162.]

[Footnote 502: 'Plato, the greatest of sages, once described in his
long volumes the best form of a State; but this from the beginning of
the world till now hath never yet been seen, nor will it afterwards be
seen in any city. Contarini in his little book has proved that the
best commonwealth is that which now for more than a thousand years has
flourished in the Adriatic with peace, letters, and wealth.'--_Poemata
Selecta_, p. 162.]

When Vittoria Colonna died, Flaminio wrote a lamentation on the loss
he had sustained, and on the extinction of so great a light for Italy.
These verses are remarkable for their sobriety and strength:--

     Cui mens candida, candidique mores,
     Virtus vivida, comitasque sancta,
     Coeleste ingenium, eruditioque
     Rara, nectare dulciora verba,
     Summa nobilitas, decora vultûs
     Majestas, opulenta sed bonorum
     Et res et domus usque aperta ad usus.[503]

[Footnote 503: 'Ad Hieronymum Turrianum,' _ib._ p. 168. 'Her mind was
pure, her manners pure; her virtue lively, her courtesy without a
taint of earth; her intellect was heavenly, her learning rare; her
words sweeter than nectar; her nobility the highest; her features
beautiful in their majesty; her wealth liberally open to the use of
good men.']

The same firm and delicate touch in the delineation of character gives
value to the lines written on his father's death:--

     Vixisti, genitor, bene ac beate,
     Nec pauper, neque dives, eruditus
     Satis, et satis eloquens, valente
     Semper corpore, mente sanâ, amicis
     Jucundus, pietate singulari.
     Nunc lustris bene sexdecim peractis
     Ad divûm proficisceris beatas
     Oras; i, genitor, tuumque natum
     Olympi cito siste tecum in arce.[504]

[Footnote 504: 'Well and happily hast thou lived, my father; neither
poor nor rich; learned enough and eloquent enough; of vigorous body
and of healthy mind; pleasant to thy friends, and in thy piety
unrivalled. Now, after sixteen lustres finished, thou goest to the
regions of the blest. Go, father, and soon greet thy son, to stay with
thee in heaven's high seat.'--'Ad Patrem morientem,' _Poemata
Selecta_, p. 157.]

At the risk of extending this notice of Flaminio's poetry beyond due
limits, I must quote from a copy of verses sent to Alessandro
Farnese, together with a volume containing the Latin _prolusiones_ of
the North Italian scholars:--

     Hos tibi lepidissimos poetas
     Dono, tempora quos tulere nostra,
     Fortunata nimis, nimis beata
     Nostra tempora, quæ suos Catullos,
     Tibullos, et Horatios, suosque
     Marones genuere. Quis putasset,
     Post tot sæcula tam tenebricosa,
     Et tot Ausoniæ graves ruinas,
     Tanta lumina tempore uno in una
     Tam brevi regione Transpadanâ
     Oriri potuisse? quæ vel ipsa
     Sola barbarie queant fugatâ
     Suum reddere litteris Latinis
     Splendorem, veteremque dignitatem.[505]

[Footnote 505: _Poemata Selecta_, p. 166. 'These most graceful poets I
give you, the offspring of our too, too happy times, which have
produced their Catullus and their Horace, their Tibullus and their
Maro. Who could have thought, after so many ages of such darkness, and
all the ruin that has weighed on Italy, that so many lights could have
arisen at one epoch in one little region of the land above the Po?
They alone are enough to put to flight the gloom of barbarism, and to
restore its antique glory and own splendour to Latin literature.'
After this he goes on to add that these poets will confer eternal
lustre on Italy. Not only the northern nations of Europe, but America
also has begun to study Latin; and races in another hemisphere will
take their culture from these pages. The Cardinal is finally reminded
that immortality of fame awaits him in their praises.]

There is the whole of humanism in this passage--the belief in the
unity of Italian civilisation, the conviction that the Middle Ages
were but an interruption of historic continuity, the confidence in the
restoration of classic literature, and the firm hope that Latin would
never cease to be the language of culture. Flaminio says nothing,
unless parenthetically, about the real woes of his country. The
tyranny of the Spaniard and the violence of the German are reckoned
with the old wrongs of the Goth and the Vandal in one phrase--'_tot
graves ruinas_.' He does not touch upon the dismemberment of Italy
into mutually jealous and suspicious States: for him the Italian
nation, even in a dream, has no existence. He is satisfied with a
literary ideal. Too fortunate, too blessed, are these days of ours, in
spite of Florence extinguished, Rome sacked, Milan devastated, Venice
curbed, because, forsooth, Bembo and Fracastoro have made a pinchbeck
age of poetry. Here lay the incurable weakness of the humanistic
movement. The vanity of the scholar, determined to seek the present in
the past, building the walls of Troy anew with borrowed music, and
singing in falsetto while Rome was burning--this blindness to the
actual situation of Italy was scarcely less pernicious, scarcely less
a sign of incapacity for civil life than the selfishness of the
Despots or the egotism of the Papacy. Italy was foredoomed to lose her
place among the nations at the very moment when she was recovering
culture for the modern world; and when that culture was recovered
through her industry and genius, not she, but the races of the North,
began to profit by the acquisition--not her imitations of the Latin
Muse, but the new languages of Europe were destined to prevail and
lead the age.

Another point for observation is that the centre of humanistic studies
has shifted.[506] Florence, disillusioned, drained of strength, and
sucked dry by the tyrants, holds her tongue. The schools of Naples and
of Rome are silent. Lombardy is now the mother of poets, who draw
their inspiration no longer from Valdarno or the myrtle groves of
Posilippo, but from the blue waves of Garda.[507] The university where
science still flourishes is Padua. The best professors of the
classics, Celio Calcagnini and Lilius Gyraldus, teach at Ferrara.
Bembo, the dictator of letters for his century, Navagero, the sweetest
versifier, Contarini, the most sober student, are Venetians. Stefano
Sauli, the author of a Ciceronian treatise on the Christian hero, is a
patrician of Genoa. Sadoleto and Molsa are Modenese. Verona claims
Fracastoro and the Torriani. Imola is the mother city of Flaminio.
Castiglione and Capilupo are natives of Mantua; Amalteo and Vida of
Forli and Cremona; Bonfadio and Archio of Lake Garda. If we seek the
causes of this change, we find them partly in the circumstance that
Venice at this period was free, while Ferrara still retained her
independence under native princes; partly also in the fact that
Florence had already overtaxed her intellectual energies. Like a
creeping paralysis, the extinction of liberty and spiritual force was
gradually invading all the members of the Italian community. The
Revival of Learning came to an end, as far as Italy was concerned, in
these Transpadane poets.

[Footnote 506: 'Tam brevi regione Transpadanâ.']

[Footnote 507: Cf. Bembo's _Benacus_, Bonfadio's _Gazani Vici
Descriptio_, Fracastoro's _Ad Franciscum Turrianum Veronensem_, &c.]

To trace the history of philosophic thought, set in motion by the
Renaissance and stamped out by the Counter-Reformation, and to
describe the aftergrowth of art and literature encouraged by the
Catholic reaction, must form the subject of a separate inquiry.

I hope, if I have time and strength, after the completion of my work
on the Renaissance, to trace this sequel in a volume on 'Italy and the
Council of Trent.' To this chapter of Italian history will also belong
the philosophy of the sixteenth century, the poetry of Tasso, the
painting of the Bolognese masters, and the new music of Palestrina.



     General Survey -- The Part played in the Revival by the
     Chief Cities -- Preoccupation with Scholarship in spite of
     War and Conquest -- Place of the Humanists in Society --
     Distributors of Praise and Blame -- Flattery and Libels --
     Comparison with the Sophists -- The Form preferred to the
     Matter of Literature -- Ideal of Culture as an end in itself
     -- Suspicion of Zealous Churchmen -- Intrusion of Humanism
     into the Church -- Irreligion of the Humanists -- Gyraldi's
     'Progymnasma' -- Ariosto -- Bohemian Life -- Personal
     Immorality -- Want of Fixed Principles -- Professional
     Vanity -- Literary Pride -- Estimate of Humanistic
     Literature -- Study of Style -- Influence of Cicero --
     Valla's 'Elegantiæ' -- Stylistic Puerilities -- Value
     attached to Rhetoric -- 'Oratore' -- Moral Essays --
     Epistolography -- Historics -- Critical and Antiquarian
     Studies -- Large Appreciation of Antiquity -- Liberal Spirit
     -- Poggio and Jerome of Prague -- Humanistic Type of
     Education -- Its Diffusion through Europe -- Future
     Prospects -- Decay of Learning in Italy.

In tracing the history of the Revival, we have seen how the impulse,
first communicated by Petrarch, was continued by Boccaccio and his
immediate successors. We have watched the enthusiasm for antiquity
strike root in Florence, spread to Rome, and penetrate the Courts of
Italy. One city after another receives the light and hands it on,
until the whole cycle of study has been traversed and the vigour of
the nation is exhausted. Florence discovers manuscripts, founds
libraries, learns Greek, and leads the movement of the fifteenth
century. Naples criticises; Rome translates; Mantua and Ferrara form a
system of education; Venice commits the literature of the classics to
the press. By the combined and successive activity of the chief
Italian centres, not only is the culture of antiquity regained; it is
also appropriated in all its various branches, discussed and
illustrated, placed beyond the reach of accident, and delivered over
in its integrity to Europe. The work thus performed by the Italians
was begun in peace; but it had to be continued under the pressure of
wars and national disasters unparalleled in the history of any other
modern people. Not for a single moment did the students relax their
energy. In the midst of foreign armies, deafened by the roar of cannon
and the tumult of sacked towns, exiled from their homes, robbed of
their books, deprived of their subsistence, they advanced to their end
with the irresistible obstinacy of insects. The drums and tramplings of
successive conquests and invasions by four warlike nations--Frenchmen,
Spaniards, Germans, Swiss--could not disturb them. Drop by drop, Italy
was being drained of blood; from the first the only question was which
of her assailants should possess the beauty of her corpse. Yet the
student, intent upon his manuscripts, paid but little heed. So
non-existent was the sense of nationality in Italy that the Italians
did not know they were being slowly murdered. When the agony was over,
and the ruin was accomplished, they congratulated themselves on being
still the depositaries of polite literature. Nations that are nations,
seek to inspire fear, or at least respect. The Italians were contented
with admiration, and looked confidently to the world for gratitude.
The task of two toilsome, glorious centuries had been accomplished.
The chasm between Rome and the Renaissance was bridged over, and a
plain way was built for the progressive human spirit. Italy,
downtrodden in the mire of blood and ruins, should still lead the van
and teach the peoples. It was a sublime delusion, the last phase of an
impulse so powerful in its origin that to prophesy an ending was
impossible. Yet how delusive was the expectation is proved by the
immediate history of Italy, enslaved and decadent, outstripped by the
nations she had taught, and scorned by the world that owed her

The humanists, who were the organ of this intellectual movement,
formed, as we have seen, a literary commonwealth, diffused through all
the Courts and cities of Italy. As the secretaries of Popes and
princes, as the chancellors of republics, as orators on all occasions
of public and private ceremony, they occupied important posts of
influence, and had the opportunity of leavening society with their
opinions. Furthermore, we have learned to know them in their capacity
of professors at the universities, of house-tutors in the service of
noblemen, and of authors. Closely connected among themselves by their
feuds no less than by their friendships, and working to one common end
of scholarship, it was inevitable that these men, after the enthusiasm
for antiquity had once become the fashion, should take the lead and
mould the genius of the nation. Their epistles, invectives, treatises,
and panegyrics, formed the study of an audience that embraced all
cultivated minds in Italy. Thus the current literature of humanism
played the same part in the fifteenth century as journalism in the
nineteenth, and the humanists had the same kind of coherence in
relation to the public as the _quatrième état_ of modern times. The
respect they inspired as the arbiters of praise and blame, was only
equalled by their vast pretensions. Eugenius IV., living at the period
of their highest influence, is reported to have said that they were as
much to be feared for their malice as to be loved for their learning.
While they claimed the power of conferring an immortality of honour or
dishonour, no one dared to call their credit with posterity in
question. Nothing seemed more dreadful than the fate reserved for Paul
II. in the pages of Platina; and even so robust a ruler as Francesco
Sforza sought to buy the praises of Filelfo. Flattery in all its
branches, fulsome and delicate, wholesale and allusive, was developed
by them as an art whereby to gain their living. The official history
of this period is rendered almost worthless by its sustained note of
panegyrical laudation. Our ears are deafened with the eulogies of
petty patrons transformed into Mæcenases, of carpet knights compared
to Leonidas, of tyrants equalled with Augustus, and of generals who
never looked on bloodshed tricked out as Hannibals or Scipios. As a
pendant to panegyric, the art of abuse reached its climax in the
invectives whereby the scholars sought to hand their comrades down to
all time 'immortally immerded,' or to vilify the public enemies of
their employers. As in the case of praise, so also in the case of
blame, it is impossible to attach importance to the writings of the
humanists. Their vaulting ambition to depreciate each other overleaped
itself. All their literature of defamation serves now only to throw
light on the general impurity of an age in which such monstrous
charges carried weight. Unluckily, this double vice of humanism struck
deep roots into Italian literature. Without the scholars of the
fifteenth century, it is hardly possible that such a brigand as Pietro
Aretino, who levied black mail from princes at the point of his
venomous quill, or such an unprincipled biographer as Paolo Giovio,
who boasted that he wrote with a golden or a silver pen, as pleased
him best, could have existed. Bullying and fawning tainted the very
source of history, and a false ideal of the writer's function was
established by the practice of men like Poggio.

It is obvious and easy to compare the humanists of the Renaissance
with the sophists of antiquity. Whether we think of the rivals of
Socrates at Athens, or of the Greek rhetoricians of the Roman
period,[508] the parallel is tolerably close. From certain points of
view the Italian scholars remind us of the former class; from others,
again, they recall the latter. The essence of sophism is the
substitution of semblance for reality, indifference to truth provided
a fair show be made, combined with verbal ingenuity and practice in
the art of exposition. The sophist feels no need of forming opinions
on a sound basis, or of adhering to principles. Regarding thought as
the subject-matter of literary treatment, he is chiefly concerned with
giving it a fair and plausible investiture in language. Instead of
recognising that he must live up to the standard he professes, he
takes delight in expressing with force the contrary of what he acts.
The discord between his philosophy and his conduct awakes no shame in
him, because it is the highest triumph of his art to persuade by
eloquence and to dazzle by rhetoric. Phrases and sentences supply the
place of feelings and convictions. Sonorous cadences and harmonies of
language are always ready to conceal the want of substance in his
matter or the flimsiness of his argument. At the same time the
sophist's enthusiasm for a certain form of culture, and his belief in
the sophistic method, may be genuine.

[Footnote 508: 'Græculi esurientes.' Lives written by Philostratus.]

The literature of the Revival is full of such sophism. Men who lived
loose lives, were never tired of repeating the commonplaces of the
Ciceronian ethics, praising simplicity and self-control with the pen
they used for reproducing the scandals of Martial, mingling impudent
demands for money and flatteries of debauched despots with panegyrics
of Pætus Thrasea and eulogies of Cincinnatus. Conversely, students of
eminent sobriety, like Guarino da Verona, thought it no harm to
welcome Beccadelli's 'Hermaphroditus' with admiration; while the
excellent Nicholas V. spent nine days in perusing the filthy satires
of Filelfo. It was enough that the form was elegant, according to
their standards of taste, the Latinity copious and sound:--the
subject-matter raised no scruples.

This vice of regarding only the exterior of literature produced a
fatal weakness in the dissertations of the age. If a humanist wanted
to moralise the mutability of fortune or the disadvantages of
matrimony, he did not take the trouble to think, or the pains to
borrow illustrations from his own experience. He strung together
quotations and classical instances, expending his labour on the polish
of the style, and fancying he had proved something by piquancy
displayed in handling old material. When he undertook history, the
same fault was apparent. Instead of seeking to set forth the real
conditions of his native city, to describe its political vicissitudes
and constitutional development, or to paint the characters of its
great men, he prepared imaginary speeches and avoided topics incapable
of expression in pure Latin. The result was that whole libraries of
ethical disquisitions and historical treatises, bequeathed with proud
confidence by their authors to the admiration of posterity, are now
reposing in unhonoured dust, ransacked at rare intervals by weary
students with restless fingers in search of such meagre scraps of
information as even a humanist could not succeed in excluding.

The humanists resembled the sophists again in their profession to
teach wisdom for pay. What philosophy was for the early Greeks,
classic culture was for Italy in the Renaissance; and this the
scholars sold. Antiquity lay before them like an open book. From their
seat among the learned they doled out the new lore of life to eager
pupils. And as the more sober-minded of the Athenians regarded the
educational practice of the sophists with suspicion, so the humanists
came to be dreaded as the corrupters of youth. The peculiar turn they
gave to mental training, by diverting attention from patriotic duties
to literary pleasures, by denationalising the interests of students,
and by distracting serious thought from affairs of the present to
interests of the past, tended to confirm the political debility of the
Italians; nor can it be doubted that the substitution of Pagan for
Christian ideals intensified the demoralisation of the age. Many
arguments used by Aristophanes and Xenophon might be repeated against
these sophists of the Renaissance.[509]

[Footnote 509: Aristoph., _Clouds_, Speeches of Dikaios Logos; Xen.,
_On Hunting_, chap. xiii.]

On this point it is worth observing that, though humanism took the
Papal Court by storm and installed itself in pomp and pride within the
Vatican, the lower clergy and the leaders of religious revivals, in no
mere spirit of blind prejudice, but with solid force of argument,
denounced it. S. Bernardino and Savonarola were only two among many
who preached against the humanists from the pulpit. And yet, while we
admit that the influences of the Revival injured morality, and gave a
cosmopolitan direction to energies that ought to have been
concentrated on the preservation of national existence, we are unable
to join with these ecclesiastical antagonists in their crusade.
Humanism was a necessary moment in the evolution of the modern world;
and whatever were its errors, however weakening it may have been to
Italy, this phase had to be passed through, this nation had to suffer
for the general good.

The intrusion of the humanists into the Papal Curia was a victory of
the purely secular spirit. It is remarkable how very few scholars took
orders except with a view of holding minor benefices. They remained
virtual laymen, drawing the emoluments of their cures at a distance.
If Filelfo, after the death of his second wife, proposed to enter the
Church, he did so because in his enormous vanity he hoped to gain the
scarlet hat, and thought this worth the sacrifice of independence. The
only great monastic _litteratus_ was Ambrogio, General of the
Camaldolese Order. Maffeo Vegio is the single instance I can remember
of a poet-philologer who assumed the cowl. These statements, it will
be understood, refer chiefly to the second or aggressive period of
the Revival. Classic erudition was so common in the fourth that to be
without a humanistic tincture was, even among churchmen, the exception
rather than the rule. In the age of Leo, moreover, the humanists as a
class had ceased to exist, merged in the general culture of the
nation. Their successors were for the most part cardinals and bishops,
elevated to high rank for literary merit. This change, however, really
indicated the complete triumph of an ideal that for a moment had
succeeded in paganising the Papacy, and substituting its own standard
of excellence for ecclesiastical tradition.

This external separation between the humanists and the Church
corresponded to their deep internal irreligiousness. If contemporary
testimony be needed to support this assertion, I may quote freely from
Lilius Gyraldus, Battista Mantovano, and Ariosto, not to mention the
invectives that record so vast a mass of almost incredible
licentiousness. A rhetorical treatise, addressed to Gian Francesco
Pico by Lilius Gyraldus, himself an eminent professor at Ferrara,
acquaints us with the opinion formed in Italy, after a century's
experience, of the vices and discordant lives of scholars.[510] 'I
call God and men to witness,' he writes, 'whether it be possible to
find men more affected by immoderate disturbances of soul, by such
emotions as the Greeks called [Greek: pathê], or by such desires as
they named [Greek: hormai], more easily influenced, driven about, and
drawn in all directions. No class of human beings are more subject to
anger, more puffed up with vanity, more arrogant, more insolent, more
proud, conceited, idle-minded, inconsequent, opinionated, changeable,
obstinate; some of them ready to believe the most incredible nonsense,
others sceptical about notorious truths, some full of doubt and
suspicion, others void of reasonable circumspection. None are of a
less free spirit, and that for the very reason I have touched before,
because they think themselves so far more powerful. They all of them,
indeed, pretend to omniscience, fancy themselves superior to
everything, and rate themselves as gods, while we unlearned little men
are made of clay and mud, as they maintain.' Having for some space
discoursed concerning their mad ways of life, Gyraldus proceeds to
arraign the humanists in detail for vicious passions, want of economy,
impiety, gluttony, intemperance, sloth, and incontinence.[511] This
invective reads like a paradoxical thesis supported for the sake of
novelty by a clever rhetorician; and, indeed, it might pass for such
were it not for the confirmation it receives in Ariosto's seventh
satire addressed to Pietro Bembo.[512] The poet, anxious to find a
tutor for his son, dares not commit the young man to the care of a
humanist. His picture of their personal immorality, impiety, pride,
and gluttony acquires weight from the well-known tolerance of the
satirist, and from his genial parsimony of expression. To cite further
testimony from the personal confessions of Pacificus Maximus would
hardly strengthen the argument, though students may be referred to his
poems for details.[513]

[Footnote 510: _Progymnasma adversus Literatos._ _Op. Omn._, Basle,
1582, vol. ii.]

[Footnote 511: 'Pudet me, Pice, pigetque id de literatis afferre quod
omnium tamen est in ore, nullos esse cum omnium vitiorum etiam
nefandissimorum genere inquinatos magis, tum iis præcipue, quæ præter
naturam dicuntur,' &c.--_Progymnasma adversus Literatos_, p. 431.]

[Footnote 512: Lines 22-129.]

[Footnote 513: _Quinque Illustrium Poetarum Lusus in Venerem_,
Parisiis, 1791, p. 107.]

The alternations of fortune to which the humanists were
exposed--living at one time in the lap of luxury, caressed and petted;
then cast forth to wander in almost total indigence, neglected and
derided--encouraged a Bohemian recklessness injurious to good manners.
Their frequent change of place told upon their character in the same
way, by exposing them to fresh temptations and withdrawing them from
censure. They had no country but the dreamland of antiquity, no laws
beyond the law of taste and inclination. They acknowledged no
authority superior to their own exalted judgment; they bowed to no
tribunal but that of posterity and the past. Thus they lived within
their own conceits, outside of custom and opinion; nor was the world,
at any rate before the period of their downfall, scrupulous to count
their errors or correct their vices.

Far more important, however, than these circumstances was their
passion for a Pagan ideal. The study of the classics and the effort to
assimilate the spirit of the ancients, undermined their Christianity
without substituting the religion or the ethics of the old world. They
ceased to fear God; but they did not acquire either the self-restraint
of the Greek or the patriotic virtues of the Roman. Thus exposed
without defence or safeguard, they adopted the perilous attitude of
men whose regulative principle was literary taste, who had left the
ground of faith and popular convention for the shoals and shallows of
an irrecoverable past. On this sea they wandered, with no guidance but
the promptings of undisciplined self. It is not, therefore, a marvel
that, while professing Stoicism, they wallowed in sensuality, openly
affected the worst habits of Pagan society, and devoted their
ingenuity to the explanation of foulness that might have been passed
by in silence. Licentiousness became a special branch of humanistic
literature. Under the thin mask of humane refinement leered the
untamed savage; and an age that boasted not unreasonably of its mental
progress, was at the same time notorious for the vices that disgrace
mankind. These disorders of the scholars, hidden for a time beneath a
learned language, ended by contaminating the genius of the nation. The
vernacular _Capitoli_ of Florence say plainly what Beccadelli, Poggio,
and Bembo piqued themselves on veiling.

Another notable defect of the humanists, equally inseparable from the
position they assumed in Italy, was their personal and professional
vanity. Battista Mantovano, writing on the calamities of the age in
which he lived, reckons them among the most eminent examples of pride
in his catalogue of the deadly sins. Regarding themselves as
resuscitators of a glorious past and founders of a new civility, they
were not satisfied with asserting their real merits in the sphere of
scholarship. They went further, and claimed to rank as sages,
political philosophers, writers of deathless histories, and singers of
immortal verse. The most miserable poetasters got crowned with
laurels. The most trivial thinkers passed verdict upon statecraft.
Mistaking mere cultivation for genius, they believed that, because
they had perused the authors of antiquity and could imitate Ovid at a
respectful distance, their fame would endure for all ages. On the
strength of this confidence they gave themselves inconceivable airs,
looking down from the height of their attainment on the profane crowd.
To understand that, after all, antiquity was a school wherein to train
the modern intellect for genuine production, was not given to this
epoch of discovery. Posterity has sadly belied their expectations. Of
all their treatises and commentaries, poems and translations, how few
are now remembered; how rarely are their names upon the lips of even
professed students! The debt of gratitude we owe them is indeed great,
and should be amply paid by our respectful memory of all they wrought
for us with labour in the field of learning. Yet Filelfo would turn
with passionate disappointment in his grave, if he could know that men
of wider scope and sounder erudition appreciate his writings solely as
shed leaves that fertilised the soil of literature.

Before turning, as is natural at this point, to form an estimate of
the humanists in their capacity of authors, it will be right briefly
to qualify the condemnation passed upon their characters. Taken as a
class, they deserve the hardest words that have been said of them.
Yet it must not be forgotten that they numbered in their ranks such
men as Ambrogio Traversari, Tommaso da Sarzana, Guarino, Jacopo
Antiquari, Vittorino da Feltre, Pomponius Lætus, Ficino, Pico, Fabio
Calvi, and Aldus Manutius. The bare enumeration of these names will
suffice for those who have read the preceding chapters. Piety,
sobriety of morals, self-devotion to public interests, the purest
literary enthusiasm, the most lofty aspirations, fairness of judgment,
and generosity of feeling distinguish these men, and some others who
might be mentioned, from the majority of their fellows. Nor, again, is
it fair to charge the humanists alone with vices common to their age.
The picture I ventured to draw of Papal and despotic manners in a
previous volume, shows that a too strict standard cannot be applied to
scholars, holding less responsible positions than their patrons, and
professing a far looser code of conduct. Much, too, of their
inordinate vanity may be ascribed to the infatuation of the people.
Such scenes as the reception of the supposed author of 'Hermaphroditus'
in Vicenza were enough to turn the heads of even stronger men.[514]

[Footnote 514: See above, p. 185, note 4.]

It is difficult to appraise humanistic literature at a just value,
seeing that by far the larger mass of it, after serving a purpose of
temporary utility, is now forgotten. Not itself, but its effect, is
what we have to estimate; and the ultimate product of the whole
movement was the creation of a new capacity for cultivation. To have
restored to Europe the knowledge of the classics, and to have
recovered the style of the ancients, so as to use Latin prose and
verse with freedom at a time when Latin formed an universal medium of
culture, is the first real merit of the humanists. Nothing can rob
them of this glory; however much we may be forced to feel that their
critical labours have been superseded, that their dissertations are
dull, that their poems at the worst fall far below the level of an
Oxford prize exercise, and at the best supply a decent appendix to the
'Corpus Poetarum.' Nor can we defraud them of the fame of having
striven to realise Petrarch's ideal.[515] That ideal, only partially
attained at any single point, developed in one direction by Milton, in
another by Goethe, still guides, and will long guide, the efforts of
the modern intellect.

[Footnote 515: See above, Chapter II.]

The most salient characteristic of this literature was study of style.
The beginners of the humanistic movement were conscious that what
separated them more than anything else from their Roman ancestors, was
want of elegance in diction. They used the same language; but they
used it clumsily. They could think the same thoughts, but they had
lost the art of expressing them with propriety. To restore style was
therefore a prime object. Exaggerating its importance, they neglected
the matter for the form, and ended by producing a literature of
imitation. The ideal they proposed in composition included limpidity
of language, simplicity in the structure of sentences however lengthy,
choiceness of phrase, and a copious vocabulary. To be intelligible was
the first requisite; to be attractive the second. Having mastered
elementary difficulties, they proceeded to fix the rules for
decorative writing. Cicero had said that nothing was so ugly or so
common but that rhetoric could lend it charm. This unfortunate dictum,
implying that style, as separate from matter, is valuable in and for
itself, led the Italians astray. To form commonplace books of phrases
culled from the 'Tusculans' and the 'Orations,' to choose some trivial
theme for treatment, and to make it the occasion for verbal display,
became their business. In the coteries of Rome and Florence scholars
measured one another by their ingenuity--in other words, by their
aptness for producing Ciceronian and Virgilian centos. Few indeed,
like Pico, raised their voices against such trifling, or protested
that what a man thought and felt was at least as important as his
power of clothing it in rhetoric.

The appearance of Valla's 'Elegantiæ' marked an epoch in the evolution
of this stylistic art. It reached its climax in the work of Bembo.
What the humanists intended, they achieved. Purity and perspicuity of
language were made conditions of all literature that claimed
attention; nor is it, perhaps, too much to say that Racine, Pascal,
and Voltaire owe something of their magic to the training of these
worn-out pedagogues. Yet the immediate effect in Italy, when
Machiavelli's vigour had passed out of the nation, and the stylistic
tradition survived, was deplorable. Nothing strikes a northern student
of the post-Renaissance authors more than the empty smoothness of
their writing, their faculty of saying nothing with a vast expenditure
of phrase, their dread of homely details, and the triviality of the
subjects they chose for illustration. When a man of wit like Annibale
Caro could rise to praise the nose of the president before a learned
academy in periods of this ineptitude--'Naso perfetto, naso
principale, naso divino, naso che benedetto sia fra tutti i nasi; e
benedetta sia quella mamma che vi fece così nasuto, e benedette tutte
quelle cose che voi annusate!'[516]--we trace no more than a burlesque
of humanistic seeking after style. It must, however, be admitted that
it is not easy for a less artistic nation to do the Italians justice
in this respect. They derived an æsthetic pleasure from refinements of
speech and subtle flavours of expression, while they remained no less
conscious than we are that the workmanship surpassed the matter. The
proper analogue to their rhetoric may be found in the exquisite but
too unmeaning arabesques in marble and in wood, which belong to Cinque
Cento architecture. Viewed as the playthings of skilled artists, these
are not without their value; and we are apt, perhaps, unduly to
depreciate them, because we lack the sense for their particular form
of beauty.

[Footnote 516: 'Perfect nose, imperial nose, divine nose, nose to be
blessed among all noses; and blessed be the breasts that made you with
a nose so lordly, and blessed be all those things you put your nose
to!' The above is quoted from Cantù's _Storia della Letteratura
Italiana_. I have not seen the actual address.]

If the most marked feature of humanistic literature was the creation
of a Latin style, the supreme dictators were Cicero in prose and
Virgil in verse. That Cicero should have fascinated the Italians in an
age when art was dominant, when richness of decoration, rhetorical
fluency, and pomp of phrase appealed to the liveliest instincts of a
splendour-loving, sensitive, declamatory race, is natural. The
Renaissance found exactly what it wanted in the manner of the most
obviously eloquent of Latin authors, himself a rhetorician among
philosophers, an orator among statesmen, the weakness of whose
character was akin to that which lay at the root of fifteenth-century
society. To be the 'apes of Cicero,' in all the branches of literature
he had cultivated, was regarded by the humanists as a religious
duty.[517] Though they had no place in the senate, the pulpit, or the
law court, they were fain to imitate his oratory. Therefore public
addresses to ambassadors, to magistrates on assuming office, and to
Popes on their election; epithalamial and funeral discourses;
panegyrics and congratulations--sounded far and wide through Italy.
The fifteenth century was the golden age of speechification. A man was
measured by the amount of fluent Latinity he could pour forth;
copiousness of quotations secured applause; and readiness to answer on
the spur of the moment in smooth Ciceronian phrases, was reckoned
among the qualities that led to posts of trust in Church and State.
On the other hand, a failure of words on any ceremonial occasion
passed for one of the great calamities of life. The common name for an
envoy, _oratore_, sufficiently indicates the public importance
attached to rhetoric. It formed a necessary part of the parade which
the Renaissance loved, and, more than that, a part of its diplomatic
machinery. To compose orations that could never be recited was a
fashionable exercise; and since the 'Verrines' and the 'Philippics'
existed, no occasion was lost for reproducing something of their
spirit in the invectives whereof so much has been already said. The
emptiness of all this oratory, separated from the solid concerns of
life, and void of actual value, tended to increase the sophistic
character of literature. Eloquence, which ought to owe its force to
passionate emotion or to gravity of meaning, degenerated into a mere
play of words; and to such an extent was verbal cleverness
over-estimated, that a scholar could ascribe the fame of Julius Cæsar
to his 'Commentaries' rather than his victories.[518] It does not seem
to have occurred to him that Pompey would have been glad if Cæsar had
always wielded his pen, and that Brutus would hardly have stabbed a
friendly man of letters. When we read a genuine humanistic speech, we
find that it is principally composed of trite tales and citations. To
play upon the texts of antiquity, as a pianist upon the keys of his
instrument, was no small part of eloquence; and the music sounded
pleasant in ears greedy of the very titles of old writings. Vespasiano
mentions that Carlo Aretino owed his early fame at Florence to one
lecture, introducing references to all the classic authors.

[Footnote 517: The phrase is eulogistically used by F. Villani in his
_Life of Coluccio Salutato_.]

[Footnote 518: See Muratori, vol. xx. 442, 453.]

The style affected for moral dissertation was in like manner
Ciceronian. The dialogue in particular became fashionable; and since
it was dangerous to introduce matter unsuited to Tully's phrases,
these disquisitions are usually devoid of local colouring and
contemporary interest. Few have such value as attaches to the opening
of Poggio's essay on Fortune, to Valeriano's treatise on the
misfortunes of the learned, or to Gyraldi's attack upon the humanists.

Another important branch of literature, modelled upon Ciceronian
masterpieces, was letter-writing. The epistolography of the humanists
might form a separate branch of study, if we cared to trace its
history through several stages, and to sift the stores at our
disposal. Petrarch, after discovering the familiar letters of the
Roman orator, first gave an impulse to this kind of composition. In
his old age he tells how he was laughed at in his youth for assuming
the Latin style of _thou_ together with the Roman form of
superscription.[519] I have already touched upon the currency it
gained through the practice of Coluccio Salutato and the teaching of
Gasparino da Barzizza.[520] In course of time books of formulæ and
polite letter-writers were compiled, enabling novices to adopt the
Ciceronian mannerism with safety.[521] The Papal Curia sanctioned a
set of precedents for the guidance of its secretaries, while the
epistles of eminent chancellors served as models for the despatches of
republican governments.

[Footnote 519: _Epist. Rer. Senil._ xv. 1. 'Styli hujus per Italiam
non auctor quidem, sed instaurator ipse mihi videor, quo cum uti
inciperem, adolescens a coætaneis irridebar, qui in hoc ipso certatim
me postea sunt secuti.']

[Footnote 520: See above, pp. 76-78.]

[Footnote 521: Gian Maria Filelfo, son of the celebrated professor,
published an _Epistolarium_ of this kind.]

The private letters of scholars were useful in keeping up
communication between the several centres of culture in Italy. From
these sources too we now derive much interesting information
respecting the social life of the humanists. They seem to have avoided
political, theological, and practical topics, cultivating a style of
urbane compliment, exchanging opinions about books, asking small
favours, acknowledging obligations, recommending friends to
favourable notice, occasionally describing their mode of life,
discussing the qualities of their patrons with cautious reserve, but
seeking above all things to display grace of diction and elegant
humour rather than erudition. The fact that these Latin epistles were
invariably intended for circulation and ultimate publication, renders
it useless to seek for insight from them into strictly private
matters.[522] For the historian the most valuable collections of
Renaissance letters are composed in Italian, and are not usually the
work of scholars, but of agents, spies, and envoys. Compared with the
reports of the Venetian ambassadors, the correspondence of the
humanists is unimportant. In addition to familiar letters, it not
unfrequently happened, however, that epistles upon topics of public
interest were indited by students. Intended by their diffusion to
affect opinion, and addressed to influential friends or patrons, these
compositions assumed the form of pamphlets. Of this kind were the
letters on the Eastern question sent by Filelfo to Charles VII. of
France, to the Emperor, to Matthias Corvinus, to the Dukes of Burgundy
and Urbino, and to the Doge of Venice. The immortality expected by the
humanists from their epistles, has hardly fallen to their lot; though
much of Poliziano's, Pico's, Antiquari's, and Piccolomini's
correspondence is still delightful and instructive reading. The masses
extant in MS. exceed what has been printed; while the printed volumes,
with some rare exceptions, among which may be mentioned Poliziano's
letter to Antiquari on the death of Lorenzo, are only used by

[Footnote 522: Francesco Filelfo, quoted in Rosmini's Life, vol. ii.
pp. 304, 282, 448, writes, 'Le cose che non voglio sieno copiate, le
scrivo sempre alla grossolana.' 'Hoc autem scribendi more utimur iis
in rebus quarum memoriam nolumus transferre ad posteros. Et ethrusca
quidem lingua vix toti Italiæ nota est, at latina oratio longe ac late
per universum orbem est diffusa.' ('Matters I do not wish to have
copied I always write off in the vulgar. This style I use for such
things as I do not care to transmit to posterity. Tuscan, to be sure,
is hardly known to all Italians, while Latin is spread far and wide
through the whole world.')]

[Footnote 523: See Voigt, pp. 421, 422, for an account of Filelfo's,
Traversari's, Barbaro's, and Bruni's letters.]

Since Cicero had left no specimen of history, the humanists were
driven to follow other masters in this branch of literature. Livy was
the author of their predilection. Cæsar supplied them with a model for
the composition of commentaries, and Sallust for concise monographs.
Suetonius was followed in such minute studies of character as
Decembrio's 'Life of Filippo Maria Visconti.' I do not find that
Tacitus had any thoroughgoing imitators; the magniloquence of
rhetoric, rather than the pungency of sarcasm, suited the taste of the
age. The faults of the humanistic histories have been already pointed

[Footnote 524: See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, pp. 216, 217, and
above, p. 377.]

The services of the humanists, as commentators, translators, critics
of texts, compilers of grammars and dictionaries of all kinds,
collectors of miscellaneous information, and writers on antiquities,
still remain to be remembered. Their industry in this field was quite
different from the labour they devoted to the perfecting of style.
Whatever we may think of them as men of letters, we are bound to give
their erudition almost unqualified praise. Not, indeed, that their
learning any more than their literature was final. It too has been
superseded; but it formed the basis of a sounder method, and rendered
the attainment of more certain knowledge possible. It is not too much
to say that modern culture, so far as it is derived from antiquity,
owes everything to the indefatigable energy of the humanists. Before
the age of printing, scholars had to store their memories with
encyclopædic information, while the very want of a critical method, by
preventing them from exactly discerning the good and the bad, enabled
them to take a broader and more comprehensive view of classical
literature than is now at any rate common. Antiquity as a whole--not
the authors merely of the Attic age or the Augustan--claimed their
admiration; and though they devoted special study to Cicero and Virgil
for the purposes of style, they eagerly accepted every Greek or Latin
composition from the earliest to the latest. To this omnivorous
appetite of the elder scholars we are perhaps indebted for the
preservation of many fragments which a more delicate taste would have
rejected. Certainly we owe to them the conception of the classics in
their totality, as forming the proper source of culture for the human
race. The purism of Vida and Bembo, though it sprang from more refined
perceptions, was in some respects a retrogression from the wide and
liberal erudition of their predecessors. Discipleship under Virgil may
make a versifier; but he who would fain comprehend the Latin genius
must know the poets of Rome from Ennius to Claudian.

Finally we have to render the tribute due to the humanists for their
diffusion of a liberal spirit. Sustained by the enthusiasm of
antiquity, they first ventured to take a standpoint outside
catholicity; and though they made but bad use of this spiritual
freedom, inclining to levity and godlessness instead of fighting the
battle of the reason, yet their large and human survey of the world
was in itself invigorating. Poggio at the Council of Constance
regarded Jerome of Prague not as a heretic, not as a fanatic, but as a
Stoic. In other words, he was capable of divesting his mind of
temporary associations and conventional prejudices, and of discerning
the true character of the man who suffered heroically for his
opinions. This instance illustrates the general tone and temper of the
humanists. Their study of antiquity freed them from the scholastic
pedantries of theologians, and from the professional conceits of
jurists and physicians. There is nothing great and noble in human
nature that might not, we fancy, have grown and thriven under their
direction, if the circumstances of Italy had been more favourable to
high aspirations. As it was, the light was early quenched and clouded
by base vapours of a sensual, enslaved, and priest-corrupted society.
The vital force of the Revival passed into the Reformation; the
humanists, degraded and demoralised, were superseded. Still it was
they who created the new atmosphere of culture, wherein whatever is
luminous in art, literature, science, criticism, and religion has
since flourished. Though we may perceive that they obeyed a false
authority--that of the classics, and worshipped a false idol--style,
yet modern liberty must render them the meed of thanks for this. When
we consider that before the sixteenth century had closed, they had
imbued the whole Italian nation with their views, forming a new
literature, directing every kind of mental activity, and producing a
new social tone, and furthermore that Italy in the sixteenth century
impressed her spirit on the rest of Europe, we have a right to hail
the humanists as the schoolmasters of modern civilisation.

As schoolmasters in a stricter sense of the term, it is not easy to
exaggerate the influence exercised by Italian students. They first
conceived and framed the education that has now prevailed through
Europe for four centuries, moulding the youth of divers nations by one
common discipline, and establishing an intellectual concord for all
peoples. In spite of changes in government and creed, in spite of
differences caused by race and language, we have maintained an
uniformity of culture through the simultaneous prosecution of classic
studies on the lines laid down for teachers by the scholars of the
fifteenth century. The system of our universities and public schools
is in truth no other than that devised by Vittorino and Guarino. Thus
humanism in modern Europe has continued the work performed during the
Middle Ages by the Church, uniting in one confederation of spiritual
activity nations widely separated by all that tends to keep the human
families apart.

Until quite recently in England, the _litteræ humaniores_ were
accepted as the soundest training for careers in Church and State, for
the learned professions, and for the private duties of gentlemen. If
the old ideal is yielding at last to theories of a wider education
based on science and on modern languages, that is due partly to the
extension of useful knowledge, and partly to the absorption of classic
literature into the modern consciousness. The sum of what a cultivated
man should know, in order to maintain a place among the pioneers of
progress, is so vast, that learners, distracted by a variety of
subjects, resent the expenditure of precious time on Greek and Latin.
Teachers, on the other hand, through long familiarity with humane
studies, have fallen into the languor of routine. Besides, as
knowledge in each new department increases, the necessity of
specialising with a view to adopting a professional career, makes
itself continually felt with greater urgency. It may therefore be
plausibly argued that we have outgrown the conditions of humanism, and
that a new stage in the history of education has been reached. Have
not the ancients done as much for us as they can do? Are not our minds
permeated with their thoughts? Do not the masterpieces of modern
literature hold in solution the best that can be got from them for
future uses?

These questions can perhaps be met by the counter-question whether the
arts and letters of the Greeks and Romans will not always hold their
own, not only in the formation of pure taste, but also in the
discipline of character and the training of the intelligence. Just as
well might we cease to study the sacred books of the Jews, because we
have incorporated their ethics into our conscience, and possess their
religion in our liturgy. No transmission of a spirit at second or
third hand can be the same as its immediate contact; nor can we
afford, however full our mental life may be, to lose the vivid sense
of what men were and what they wrought in ages far removed from us,
especially when those men were our superiors in certain spheres.
Again, it may be doubted whether we should understand the masterpieces
of modern literature, when we came to be separated from the sources of
their inspiration. If Olympus connoted less than Asgard, or Hercules
were no more familiar to our minds than Rustem, or the horses of the
Sun stood at the same distance from us as the cows of Indra--if, in
fact, we abandoned Greek as much as we have abandoned Scandinavian,
Persian, and Sanskrit mythology, would not some of the most brilliant
images of our own poets fade into leaden greyness, like clouds that
have lost the flush of living light upon them?

It is therefore not improbable that for many years to come the higher
culture of the race will still be grounded upon humanism: true though
it be that the first enthusiasm for antiquity shall never be restored,
nor the classics yield that vital nourishment they offered in the
spring-time of the modern era. For average students, who have no
special vocation for literature and no æesthetic tastes, it may well
happen that new methods of teaching the classics will have to be
invented. Why should they not be read in English versions, and the
time expended upon Greek and Latin grammar be thus saved? The practice
of Greek and Latin versification has been virtually doomed already;
nor is there any reason why Latin prose should form a necessary part
of education in an age that has ceased to publish its thoughts in a
now completely dead language. Our actual relation to the ancients,
again, justifies some change. We know far more about them now than in
the period of the Renaissance; but they are no longer all in all for
civilised humanity, eager to reconstitute the realm of thought, and
find its nobler self anew in the image of a glorious past,
reconquered and inalienable. The very culture created by the study of
antiquity through the last four centuries stands between them and our
apprehension, so that they seem at the same moment more distinct from
us and more a part of our familiar selves.

When we seek the causes which produced the decay of learning in Italy
about the middle of the sixteenth century, we are first led to observe
that the type of scholarship inaugurated by Petrarch had been fully
developed. Nothing new remained to be worked out upon the lines laid
down by him. Meanwhile the forces of the nation, both creative and
receptive, were exhausted in the old fields of humanism. The reading
public had been glutted with epistles, invectives, poems, orations,
histories of antiquities, and disquisitions of all kinds. The matter
of the ancient literatures had been absorbed, if superficially, at
least entirely, and their forms had been reproduced with wearisome
reiteration. The Paganism that had so long ruled as a fashion, was now
passing out of vogue, because of its inadequacy to meet the deeper
wants and satisfy the aspirations of the modern world. The humanists,
moreover, as a class, had fallen into disrepute through faults and
vices whereof enough has been already said. Nothing short of the new
impulse which a new genius, equal at least in power to Petrarch, might
have communicated, could have given a fresh direction to the declining
enthusiasm for antiquity. But for this display of energy the Italians
were not prepared. As in the ascent of some high peak, the traveller,
after surmounting pine woods and Alpine pastures, comes upon bare
grassy slopes that form an intermediate region between the basements
of the mountain and the snowfields overhead, so the humanists had
accomplished the first stage of learning. But it requires a fresh
start and the employment of other faculties to scale the final
heights; and for this the force was wanting. Erasmus, at the opening
of the century, had, indeed, initiated a second age of scholarship.
The more exact methods of criticism and comparison were already about
to be instituted by the French, the Germans, and the Dutch. It was too
much, however, to expect that the Italians, who had expended their
vigour in recovering the classics and reviving a passion for
knowledge, should compete upon the ground of modern erudition with
these fresh and untried races.

What they might have done, if circumstances had been less
unfavourable, and if the way of progress had been free before them,
cannot be conjectured. As it was, all things contributed to the
decline of intellectual energy in Italy. The distracting wars of half
a century told more heavily upon the literati, who depended for their
very existence upon the liberality of patrons, than on any other
section of the people. What miseries they endured in Lombardy may be
gathered from the prefaces and epistles of Aldus Manutius; while the
blow inflicted on them by the sack of Rome is vividly described by
Valeriano.[525] When comparative peace was restored, liberty had been
extinguished. Florence, the stronghold of liberal learning, was
enslaved. Scholarship no less than art suffered from the loss of
political independence. Rome, terror-stricken by the Reformation,
turned with rage against the very studies she had helped to stimulate.
The engines of the Inquisition, wielded with all the mercilessness of
panic by men who had the sombre cruelty of Spain to back them up,
destroyed the germs of life in science and philosophy.

[Footnote 525: See above, p. 321.]

To some extent, again, the Italian scholars had prepared their own
suicide by tending more and more to subtleties of taste and
affectations of refinement. The purism of the sixteenth century was
itself a sort of etiolation, and the puerilities of the academies
distracted even able men from serious studies. It was one of the
inevitable drawbacks of humanism that the new culture separated men of
letters from the nation. Dante and the wool-carders of the fourteenth
century understood each other; there was then no thick veil of
erudition between the teacher and the taught. But neither Bembo nor
Pomponazzi had anything to say that could be comprehended by the
common folk. Therefore scholarship was left in mournful isolation;
suspected, when it passed from trifles to grave speculations, by the
Church; viewed with indifference by the people; unsustained by any
sympathy, and, what was worse, without a programme or a watchword. The
thinkers, whose biography belongs to the history of the
Counter-Reformation in Italy, were all solitary men, voices crying in
the wilderness with none to listen, bound together by no common bond,
unnoticed by the nation, extinguished singly on the scaffold by an
ever-watchful league of tyrants spiritual and political.

Before the end of the sixteenth century Greek had almost ceased to be
studied in Italy. This was the sign of intellectual death. All that
was virile in humanism fled beyond the Alps. This transference of
intellectual supremacy from Italy to Germany was speedily
accomplished. 'When I was a boy,' said Erasmus,[526] 'sound letters
had begun to revive among the Italians; but by reason of the printer's
art being as yet undiscovered or known to few, no books had reached
us, and in the deep tranquillity of dulness there reigned a set of men
who taught in all our towns the most illiterate learning. Rodolph
Agricola was the first to bring to us from Italy some breath of a
superior culture.' Again, he says of Italy, 'In that land, where even
the very walls are both more learned and more eloquent than men with
us; so that what here seems beautifully said, and elegant and full of
charm, cannot be held for aught but clumsy, stupid, and uncultivated
there.' Less than half a century after Erasmus had gained the right to
hold the balance thus between the nations of the North and South--that
is, in 1540 or thereabouts--Paolo Giovio, at the close of his 'Elogia
Literaria,' while speaking of the Germans, felt obliged to confess
that 'not only Latin letters, to our disgrace, but Greek and Hebrew
also have passed into their territory by a fatal simultaneous

[Footnote 526: See the passages quoted by Tiraboschi, vol. vi. lib.
iii. cap. v. 71.]

Thus Italy, after receiving the lamp of learning from the dying hands
of Hellas, in the days of her own freedom, now, in the time of her
adversity and ruin, gave it to the nations of the North. Her work was
ended. Three centuries of increasing decrepitude, within our recent
memory at length most happily surmounted, were before her. Can
history, we wonder, furnish a spectacle more pathetic than that of the
protagonist of spiritual liberty falling uneasily asleep beneath the
footstool of the Spaniard and the churchman, while the races who had
trampled her to death went on rejoicing in the light and culture she
had won by centuries of toil? This is the tragic aspect of the subject
which has occupied us through the present volume. At the conclusion of
the whole matter it is, however, more profitable to remember, not the
intellectual death of Italy, but what she wrought in that bright
period of her vigour. She was the divinely appointed birthplace of the
modern spirit, the workshop of knowledge for all Europe, our mistress
in the arts and sciences, the Alma Mater of our student years, the
well-spring of mental freedom and activity after ages of stagnation.
If greater philosophers have since been produced by Germany and France
and England, greater scholars, greater men of science, greater poets
even, and greater pioneers of progress in the lands divined by
Christopher Columbus beyond the seas--this must not blind us to the
truth that at the very outset of the era in which we live and play
our parts, Italy embraced all philosophy, all scholarship, all
science, all art, all discovery, alone. Such is the Lampadephoria, or
torch-race, of the nations. Greece stretches forth her hand to Italy;
Italy consigns the sacred fire to Northern Europe; the people of the
North pass on the flame to America, to India, and the Australasian

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