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Title: A Decade of Italian Women, v. II (of 2)
Author: Trollope, Thomas Adolphus
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Decade of Italian Women, v. II (of 2)" ***

[Illustration: BIANCA CAPPELLO.]

_From an Original Painting by Cristofero Allori in the Uffizi at








  VOL. II.




  [_The right of Translation is reserved._]





Born, about 1510. Died, about 1570.



My Lord Cardinal's daughter                                            1


Aspasia rediviva                                                      10


"All's well, that ends well"                                          21


Born, 1526. Died, 1555.


Good old times in Ferrara.—How a Pope's daughter became a
Duchess; bygones were bygones; and Love was still the lord of
all                                                                   30


Troublous new times in Ferrara.—How a French King's daughter
became a Duchess; bygones were aught but bygones; and Mitre
and Cowl were lords of all                                            54


How shall a Pope be saved? with the answer thereto.—How shall
our Olympia be saved? To be taken into consideration in a
subsequent chapter                                                    77


"The whirligig of time brings in his revenges."—Still
Undine.—The "salvation" question stands over                          92


Dark days.—The great question begins to be answered                  108


The question fully answered at last.—Farewell,
Ferrara!—Welcome inhospitable Caucasus.—Omne solum forti
patria est                                                           122


At Augsburg; and at Würzburg                                         143


The home at Schweinfurth                                             154


The makers of history.—The flight from Schweinfurth                  168


A new home in Heidelberg; and a last home beneath it.—What is
Olympia Morata to us?                                                182


Born, 1562. Died, 1604.

Italian love for the Theatre.—Italian Dramatic
Literature.—Tragedy.—Comedy.—Tiraboschi's notion of
it.—Macchiavelli's Mandragola.—Isabella's high standing among
her contemporaries.—Her husband.—Her high character.—Death,
and Epitaph.—Her writings.—Nature and value of histrionic art


Born, 1548. Died, 1587.


The pretty version of the story; and the true version
of the same.—St. Mark's Square at Florence.—Bianca's
beauty.—The Medici _en famille_.—The Casino of St. Mark.—The
proprieties.—"Cosa di Francesco"                                     220


A favourite's husband.—The natural course of things.—Italian
respectability.—The three brothers, Francesco, Ferdinand,
and Pietro.—The ladies of the court.—Francesco's temper—his
avarice—and wealth.—Frolicsome days at Florence.—The Cardinal
recommends respectability.—The Duke ensures it.—A court
dialogue                                                             234


Bianca balances her accounts.—Dangers in her path.—A bold
step—and its consequences.—Facilis descensus.—A proud
father.—Bianca's witchcraft.—The Cardinal is checkmated, for
this game                                                            257


The Duchess Giovanna and her sorrows.—An heir is born.—Bianca
in the shade.—The "Orti Oricellari."—Bianca entertains the
Court there.—A summer night's amusement in 1577.—The death of
Giovanna                                                             271


What is Francesco to do now?—The Cardinal and Bianca try
another fall.—Cardinal down again.—Francesco's vengeance.—What
does the Church say?—Bianca at Bologna.—The marriage privately
performed.—The Cardinal learns the secret.—The daughtership of
St. Mark.—Venetian doings _versus_ Venetian sayings.—Embassy
to Florence.—Suppose we could have her crowned!—The marriage
publicly solemnised                                                  284


Bianca's new policy.—New phase of the battle between the
woman and the priest.—Serene, or not serene! that is the
question.—Bianca protests against sisters.—Death of the
child Filippo.—Bianca's troubles and struggles.—The villa of
Pratolino.—Francesco's extraordinary mode of life there              303


The family feeling in Italy.—Who shall be the heir?—Bianca
at Cerreto.—Camilla di Martelli.—Don Pietro on the watch.—
Bianca at her tricks again.—The Cardinal comes to look
after matters.—Was Francesco dupe or accomplice?—Bianca's
comedy becomes a very broad farce.—A "Villeggiatura" at
Poggio–a–Cajano.—The Cardinal wins the game                          317


Three hypotheses respecting the deaths of Francesco and
Bianca.—The official version of the story.—The Novelist's
version of the story.—A third possibility.—Circumstances that
followed the two deaths.—Bianca's grave; and epitaphs for it
by the Florentines.—Ferdinand's final success                        333


Born, 1594. Died, 1656.

Pope Joan rediviva.—Olympia's outlook on life.—Her mode of
"opening the oyster."—She succeeds in opening it.—Olympia's
son.—Olympia at home in the Vatican.—Her trade.—A Cardinal's
escape from the purple.—Olympia under a cloud. Is once
more at the head of the field; and in at the death.—A
Conclave.—Olympia's star wanes.—Pœna pede claudo                     346


Born, 1638. Died, 1665.


Her life                                                             366


Her death                                                            379


Born, 1740. Died, 1800.


The apprenticeship to the laurel                                     393


The coronation                                                       403

APPENDIX                                                    417

NOTES                                                       429

INDEX                                                       437



(About 1510—about 1570.)



One remarkable circumstance among those which specially characterised
the great intellectual movement in Italy in the sixteenth century, was
the large part taken in it by women. The writers of literary history,—a
class especially abundant to the south of the Alps,—enumerate a
surprisingly long catalogue of ladies more or less celebrated for their
works. The list of poetesses registered by Tiraboschi as flourishing
during the first half of the sixteenth century, consists of some forty
names. And he intimates, that it might have been made much longer,
had he thought it worth while to record every name mentioned by the
chroniclers of such matters, who preceded him. A great many more are
noticed as having been "learned" or "skilled in polite literature."

Such facts constitute a very noteworthy feature of the social aspect
of the period in question; and doubtless influenced largely the
tone of society and manners, as well as the position and well–being
of the sex. But it is very questionable, whether certain theories
respecting the comparative value of modern female education, to which
all this sixteenth century galaxy has given rise, be not founded on
misconception partly of the value of the learning possessed by these
ladies, and more still of the circumstances and appearance, under which
it presented itself to them.

Intellectual culture in that day meant especially, almost exclusively,
what has been since more technically called "learning." The movement,
which was then once again stirring up the mind of the educated classes
arose mainly, as every body knows, from the discovery and resuscitation
of the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. To be, if not a good
Grecian, at least a competent Latin scholar, was the first step
absolutely necessary in the liberal education of either male or female.
Nay, it constituted very frequently not only the first step, but the
entire course. In Italy this was in an especial degree the case. Not
only the fashion of literature, but the general tone of the educated
mind became classical,—and pagan. And the rapidity with which the new
modes of thought and fashion of taste spread, and,—speaking of course
with reference only to the educated classes,—popularised themselves, is
very striking. But they did so, because they were eminently suited to
the proclivity of the minds to which they were presented.


For this new learning came to them as an emancipation and a licence.
Such learning as had been before in existence was dry, severe,
repulsive, associated only with ideas of discipline, sacrifice, and
renunciation of the world and its pleasures—the proper business of
ascetic priests and hermits. The new studies were the reverse of
all this. Elegant, facile, materialistic in all their tendencies
and associations, adapting themselves readily to the amusements and
passions of the young and gay, they must be compared, if we would
parallel them with aught of modern culture, with the lighter of
those accomplishments, which are now called ornamental. The total
unchristianising of Italian society, which the rage for classical
literature very rapidly produced, was such as strikingly to justify the
modern[1] crusade against classical culture preached by those who are
anxious to preserve such Christianity as that, which then went down
before the irruption of literary paganism. The exquisitely organised
æsthetic faculties of the southern mind eagerly imbibed and readily
assimilated the habits of thought, generated by a religion, whose only
real object of worship was material beauty. The extremely relaxed
morality of the time was subjected to a refining influence, but by no
means checked by a literature rich in poetical drapery for every form
of vice. And the lightest, gayest, freest portion of society, beginning
now to be awakened to a relish for the elegances of life by increasing
wealth and luxury, found exactly what suited them in the revived
literature of the forefathers of their race; a literature which was the
product of generations uninfluenced by the wholly irreconcilable ideas
of a philosophy and religion imposed on their descendants with very
partial success by men of differently constituted races from the east
and from the north.

Englishmen are wont to estimate the study of the literature of Greece
and Rome in a manner very much at variance with the ideas expressed
in the above sentences; and judging it, as of course we do, from its
results among ourselves, most justly so. It would take us much too far
afield to examine satisfactorily why these results should have been so
different in the two cases. The most important portion of the causes of
difference would probably be found to consist in the dissimilarity of
our northern idiosyncrasies to those of the ancient writers. In Italy,
the old tree bore its own natural fruit. With us, it was engrafted on
another stock. The southern mind became all classical. The northern
mind was modified only by contact with the ancient literature. Perhaps
also, some weight may be allowed to the greater difficulty of the study
in our case; whence it has arisen, that the thorough and analytical
study of the dead languages, has been deemed eminently profitable as
intellectual discipline, and as the best foundation of general mental

And these views of classic learning lead us to attribute almost
instinctively, as it were, a high degree of solidity, grave scholastic
laboriousness, and respectability to the acquirements of those who
possess it. A lady well read in Greek and Latin, appears to us to
have necessarily reached an intellectual elevation which places her
above the shallowness, superficiality, and frivolousness with which
modern female education is ordinarily reproached. And we sigh over the
supposed inferiority in this respect, of England in the nineteenth
century, to the brilliant Italy of the sixteenth. It is true, that in
the case of Vittoria Colonna, we have seen a product of the classical
training of that day, which—_mutatis mutandis_—we might be content to
reproduce. But the instance is wholly exceptional; and the qualities,
moreover, which we admire in Vittoria are to be traced, probably, as
far as they are independent on constitutional idiosyncrasy, to those
associations with some very remarkable men, which taught her to use her
ancient learning as a tool, and not a final object.


The subject of these pages is a less exceptional product of Italian
sixteenth century classical studies; but by no means a less curious and
suggestive exponent of one phase of the social life and manners of that

Among the grave and reverend seniors industriously busy at Trent, in
the year 1552, at their great work of constructing a dam to stop the
course of a perennial river, may be observed one Peter Tagliavia,
Archbishop of Palermo, a silver–haired and right reverend old man, very
prudent, wise, and sagacious, we are told, in the management of affairs
of all[2] sorts. There he is sagaciously dragging forward his bit of
stick to contribute to the formation of the great dam, undismayed by
the swift running of the stream the while. He is much puzzled by the
consideration of the manner and style in which it will be proper for
the assembled Fathers of the Church to communicate with heretics.
For it is quite clear, on the one hand, that _being_ heretics and
excommunicate, and damned already accordingly, all propriety and Church
etiquette would require that they should be treated and addressed as
such. But, on the other hand, there is reason to believe that their
arrogance will reach the height of expecting to be treated like
Christians, and that failing such treatment, no reply will be got from
them at all, and so all proceedings be stopped _in limine_.[3] Very

The sagacious Archbishop insisted much on this point, dragging up his
bit of drift wood to the dam with pertinacious industry. He was made a
cardinal in the following year for this and other merits; partly also,
because he had royal blood in his veins,—writing himself "Tagliavia
d'Aragona." He died five years later, in 1558, still busy in damming
that terrible river, which was already changing the face of things
around him. Even Rome itself was very unlike what he had remembered it
in the good old times, some fifty years ago or thereabouts. Ah! Rome
was worth living in and living for in those days! Happy days! when, as
His Eminence of Bibbiena used to say, we wanted nothing but a court
with ladies. Court, with ladies, quotha!

And with that our Archbishop's musings on the brave old days, when the
second Julius was Pope, and no heretical turbulence had yet disturbed
the sacerdotal empyrean, could hardly fail to recall a tolerably
brilliant galaxy of such ladies, as were especially attracted from all
parts of Italy, to a court whose numerous and wealthy courtiers were
all professionally and permanently bachelors.

"Poor Giulia!" sighed the Archbishop, "sometimes I wonder what became
of her?"

We will not ask for a reference to the accurate historian, who
overheard, and has chronicled these words. Roccho Pirro, in his learned
and voluminous history of the Sicilian prelates, it is true, omits
to mention them. Yet, I think, that if his Eminence, Pietro Tagliavia
d'Aragona, had been satisfactorily Boswellised, they must have been
recorded. For "poor Giulia" had been the mother[4] of the rising young
churchman's daughter some fifty years or so before the time at which we
find his Eminence working in his vocation at the great dam. And this
daughter was the celebrated Tullia (more or less) d'Aragona.


What _did_ become of poor Giulia? Giulia of Ferrara, the most
celebrated beauty of her day, in all Italy: the noted toast of
Rome,—the be–rhymed of ecclesiastical sonnetteers—the sighed–for
by purple–stockinged swains: Giulia, the Aspasia of many a frocked
Pericles, and the mother of a royal–blooded churchman's child! How
should respectable Mnemosyne know what becomes of such? Mnemosyne
mentions, with a blush, having just seen her once in the pride of her
beauty, flashing with cortège of horses and attendants, and glitter
through the streets of Rome.[5] And that is all. Mnemosyne begs to
be asked nothing more about her; and proceeds to relate with much
complacency the fortunes and preferments of the excellent Cardinal
Archbishop, the rules that he made for his clergy, and the privileges
and property he acquired for his Church.

Yet despite all this propriety on the part of respectable Mnemosyne,
despite her decent reticences, and official records of Palermo
chapterhouse doings, and Trent diplomacy, despite learned Roccho
Pirro's folios and immortality in the columns of Ciacconius,[6] the
fact is, that if the name of Archbishop Peter Tagliavia d'Aragona
is ever now spoken by the lips of living nineteenth–century men, it
is owing, incredible as the circumstance would have seemed to his
Eminence, solely to his relationship to little _nullius filia_ Tullia.
Not that the blood–royal young churchman, candidate as he was there at
Rome, under the immediate eye of infallibility for the Church's highest
honours—scarlet stockings, palliums, red hats, and what not—seems to
have felt any scruples and embarrassment about the matter. At all
events he provided abundantly for his "furtively received daughter,"
as Zilioli phrases it; and took care that she should receive an
education, calculated to make the most of the brilliant talents of all
sorts, manifested by her from her earliest childhood. "To the utter
astonishment of learned men," says Zilioli, "she was heard to carry on
a disputation in Latin while yet a child. She wrote also both in Latin
and in Italian compositions worthy of any literary man. So that, when
grown up, joining as she did, to her knowledge and worth, an exquisite
elegance of manner, she acquired the reputation of being the most
perfectly accomplished woman of her time. She appeared in public with
so much grace, with such beauty, and such affability of manner, that
when to all that was added the magnificence and adornment of dress,
calculated to set off all the charms of her person[7] to the utmost,
it is impossible to imagine anything more charming and exquisitely
finished than she was. Her musical touch was so exquisite, and she
managed her voice in singing so sweetly, that the first professors
were astonished at her performance. She spoke with grace and with rare
eloquence, so that whether in light conversation or serious discussion,
she delighted and captivated her hearers, like a second Cleopatra;
and at the same time, her lovely and ever cheerful features were not
wanting in those more potent charms, which admirers of female beauty
are wont to look for in a beautiful face."


So richly had nature endowed, and so successfully had art cultivated
the child of the rising churchman! Father and daughter were both,
during those early years of the sixteenth century, perfecting
themselves for their subsequent destinies in the strangely jumbled
social world of that wonderful old Rome; he duly progressing towards
scarlet stockings and hats; and she to the somewhat similarly coloured
promotion, in the enjoyment of which, painfully blushing Mnemosyne next
authentically falls in with her.



It is fancied, with small reason probably, that to grow old is
necessarily more disagreeable to women than to men. And dates are
therefore popularly held to be especially detestable facts to the fair
sex. If this be so, the world in this matter, as in most others, showed
itself excessively complaisant to our fascinating sixteenth century,
Aspasia. For her contemporaries have been most strangely silent on
the subject as regards her. The year of her birth, and more strangely
still, that of her death, are alike unknown and undiscoverable. Must
we therefore conclude, that the departure of the superannuated beauty,
was as little interesting to the world as the arrival of the "furtively
received" infant?

The literary historians content themselves with vaguely stating, that
Tullia "flourished" in 1550.[8] It is true, that a difference of
opinion may be supposed to exist as to the portion of her career best
deserving to be so characterised. But it is to be feared, that poor
Tullia herself must have considered her "flourishing" to be over and
gone for ever, by the time she reached that period. For in the total
silence and negligence of every regular clerk in Mnemosyne's office,
some not–to–be–baffled, Dryasdust, whom our brilliant Tullia would
doubtless have hated with instinctive aversion, has succeeded in poking
out a certain letter that blabs much. Ah! those old letters in dusty
yellow bundles, with the unimpeachable evidences of their signatures,
addresses, and dates, hoarded by some correspondent's preserving
instincts, in many cases little counted on by the writer, how much of
all we know about our predecessors on earth's surface is due to their
unforeseen tale–telling!


In the year 1531, Rome was settling down into her usual way of life,
after the dreadful catastrophes of 1527. Pope Clement the Seventh had
got over the most perilous and immediate of his troubles, but was,
as Popes are wont to be, very much in need of assistance from his
banker. Now, this necessary and important person was no other than
the celebrated Filippo Strozzi, who was then in Rome, busied in the
political as well as the monetary affairs of the papacy. But Strozzi
was one of those marvellous men, whose abounding vital energies
enable them to unite in their own persons, characters, pursuits, and
occupations, which might seem to belong to half a dozen most dissimilar
individuals. His political speculations and intrigues did not interfere
with his much–loved literary pursuits. His free–thinking philosophy did
not prevent his close intimacy with the Pope. And his vast commercial
and banking operations were somehow made compatible with the career of
a very notorious man of pleasure.

How nearly two of the manifestations of this multiform character
would occasionally chance to jostle each other, is indicated by
the conclusion of a long and important letter[9] on matters of high
political moment to Francesco Vettori. "Write to me in reply," he
says, "and be sure, that your letter shall be seen by no one but His
Holiness, as I desire may be the case with this of mine, written in
much haste, and with Tullia at my side." Dated, Rome, 28th January,

Was the bewitching Tullia close enough to his side to look over his
shoulder, as the plotting politician wrote matters to be shown only
to the Pope? Did she interest herself in schemes for the keeping
a Florentine oligarchy in check? Or did she sit patiently at the
writer's elbow, while he penned a letter of sixty–four lines of small
print, waiting till he was at leisure to bestow some attention on his
companion? In either case the degree of intimacy indicated is much
closer than an ordinary one. Yet the next letter,[10] written little
more than a month later to the same correspondent, seems in its sadly
Don–Juan–like tone, to afford very clear evidence that the writer,
if not already tired of his gifted Sappho, certainly considered his
_liaison_ with her in the nature of a "terminable contract."

After a few lines on political matters, this Don Juan of a middle–aged
banker[11] writes as follows:

"As for my own private affairs, I should be sorry, that you should
have believed certain silly stories of challenges and quarrels, about
matters which in truth passed amicably among friends here. For though
I do not pretend to take rank among your very prudent people, still
I don't want to be set down as a perfect fool, as truly I should
deserve to be, had I got into any such scrape for Tullia, or any other
woman. She is not, as you say, beautiful; but she is, if I am not
mistaken, highly gifted with talent and wit; and on that account, as
it is impossible to me to live without the society of women, I have
preferred hers to that of others.[12] And I have assisted her in some
of her necessities, to prevent her from going to the wall by unjust
oppression, during the period of my connection with her, which would
have been painful and discreditable to me."

[Sidenote: DATE OF HER BIRTH.]

The date of this letter is March the 2nd, 1531.

And as this date, with that of the preceding letter, are among the very
few of any kind discoverable with reference to Tullia's biography,
we must make the most of them. It is to be presumed, then, from the
above passages, that she must have been at least twenty, and probably
older, in 1531. But as her father died in 1558, and appears to have
been engaged in active business up to the time of his death, and as no
intimation is found of his age, as would probably have been the case,
if he had lived to be remarkably old, we can hardly be very far wrong,
in supposing him to have been about seventy at the time of his death,
and accordingly two–and–twenty in 1510. It would seem, therefore, that
Tullia could not have been born much before, and certainly not much
after that date.

In one respect, however, poor Tullia was assuredly wronged by the
wealthy and libertine Florence banker. He says that she was not
beautiful. Now, the testimony of a dozen enamoured poets might be
adduced in favour of her rare and fascinating beauty. And if it should
be thought that evidence of this kind, however abundant and concurrent,
needs confirmation, it has been supplied by the sister art. There is
an admirable portrait of her by Bonvicini, a contemporary of Raphael,
more generally known as Il Moretto da Brescia, which was engraved
very tolerably at Milan, in 1823, by Caterina Piotti. It represents a
very lovely face of the genuine regal type of Roman beauty. The brow
is noble; and the magnificently cut, but rather large and statuesque
features might perhaps seem somewhat hard in the firmness of their rich
contour, were not the expression softened by an eye eloquent of all the
tenderer emotions. Laurel branches fill the whole background of the
picture, in token of the lady's rank as a poetess.

How long after the date of the above–mentioned letters Tullia continued
her residence in Rome, there remain no means of ascertaining. Zilioli
says that she left it "after the death of her husband." And this one
phrase is the only intimation of any sort we meet with, that such
a person as Tullia's husband ever existed. It is true that such an
appendage is not of a nature likely to be dwelt much on in love verses
addressed to a lady. And to this category belong the greatest number of
the notices of her, which have come down to us. Yet it seems strange
that a wife should be celebrated from one end of Italy to the other,
and recorded, or at least mentioned, in the pages of every literary
historian of her country, and that she should have a husband whose name
even was never, as it should seem, alluded to by his cotemporaries,
and who has not left the slightest trace of his existence. It must
be supposed that, if ever spoken of at all, he was only known as "La
Tullia's" husband, a member of society discharging functions somewhat
analogous to those of a Ballerina's mama. It is, at all events, certain
that the lady was never known either among her contemporaries, or
subsequently, by any other name than that of Tullia d'Aragona, and
more commonly simply "La Tullia." And the strangeness of the view
of sixteenth century society offered to us by an examination of the
position "La Tullia" occupied in it, is not a little increased by the
fact of her having had a sort of behind–the–scenes husband, who appears
to have exercised about as much influence on her social standing as her

[Sidenote: HER HUSBAND.]

There is reason to suppose that her residence in Rome must have
continued till 1540 or 1541. For among the "Strozziane"[13] MSS.
preserved in the Magliabecchian library at Florence, there is a volume
containing the rules, members' names, transactions, &c. of the Academy
of the "Humidi," in which are entered three or four sonnets sent from
Rome to the Society by Tullia. They are not dated; but the Academy was
founded in 1540, and the volume bears at the end the date of 1541.
Nothing can be conceived more insipid and dry, than the lucubrations
of these "Humid" Academicians; and in truth the effusions despatched
to them by Tullia, and honoured by the Academy with insertion in
their solemn Archives, are quite worthy of their place in the Humid
annals. One is a sonnet in praise of Cosmo I. It begins "Almo pastor,"
and attributes to that lowminded debauchee and cruel tyrant all the
virtues that can possibly be packed into fourteen lines.

And this was written a couple of years after Filippo Strozzi (the
very particular friend and protector, by whose side it was a pleasure
to sit, while he wrote long business letters in 1531) put himself to
death in despair, in preference to remaining in the power of Cosmo, his
mortal and vindictive enemy. One might suspect that the fair Tullia
had had an opportunity of looking over his shoulder also when he was
writing that second letter, in which he had dared to say that she was
not beautiful!

Another of the sonnets sent by Tullia, and preserved by the "Humidi,"
is inscribed to Maria Salviati, and begins—

  "Soul pure and bright, as when thou cam'st from God!"

Whence it may be inferred that there was in those days no such yawning
abyss between the "monde" and "demi–monde," as to prevent a lady highly
placed in the former from being addressed acceptably by one who,
according to nineteenth century notions, must be deemed a denizen of
the latter.

It must be understood, however, that any such phrase applied to
Tullia's social position in her own sixteenth century, would give a
very erroneous idea of what that in reality was. The classic Hetaira
seems more akin to this Apollo–chartered libertine of an age bent on
being equally classical.

Accordingly we find that the house of La Tullia—_her_ house! no mention
or hint of that Junius–like individual (Il Tullio, shall we call him?),
who must nevertheless be supposed to have been at home there under
hatches somewhere, or acting perhaps as groom–porter, and shouting the
names and titles of the Monsignori and Eminences, as they arrived;—the
house of La Tullia was frequented by the "best society" in Rome.
Ludovico Domenichi of Piacenza, himself a poet and a curious specimen
of a sixteenth century professional literary man, who must have known
Tullia at Florence in the latter years of her life, has recorded some
of the sayings and doings of a company assembled at her house in


A party of "gentilhuomini virtuosi" there were discussing Petrarch;
and the question was raised, how far he had availed himself of ideas
suggested to him by ancient Tuscan and Provençal poets. While this
was being debated, "L'Humore da Bologna" came in. This personage is
mentioned frequently by Domenichi as a sayer and doer of eccentricities
and droll things; but I have not succeeded in finding any account of
him; and think it probable that "L'Humore" may have been one of those
nicknames which the Italians are so fond of bestowing on one another.
He at once showed himself to be quite at home, says Ludovico, laid
aside his cloak; and entering into the conversation, gave it as his
opinion that Petrarch had served the verses of his predecessors as
Spaniards serve the cloaks, which they steal in the night; put fresh
ornaments and trimmings on them, so that when they appear in them the
next day, they are no longer recognisable. Upon which a Spaniard,
who chanced to be among the company, attempted to call "L'Humore" to
account for this insulting mention of his countrymen. "What!" cried the
wit, "is your Excellency a Spaniard? Boy, bring me my cloak directly!"
And so saying, he put it on, and wrapped it closely round him, as
he sat, to the infinite amusement, says Domenichi, of the assembled

After the death of that mysterious phantom, her husband, says Zilioli,
Tullia left Rome in search of "fresh fields and pastures new." We can
only know that this was after 1540. But it must have been much after
this that she took up her residence in Florence. For the same writer
tells us, that she was then both in years and appearance pretty nearly
an old woman.[15] In 1562 she was, according to the date we have
assigned to her birth, only fifty–two or three, or thereabouts. And she
must have resided in Florence several years prior to that date. For
she lived there, we are told, under the patronage of Cosmo's Duchess
Eleonora of Toledo, who died in that year. So that she could not have
been much more than half–way between forty and fifty, when she appeared
to be "half an old woman."

Supposing her to have gone to Florence about 1555, and to have left
Rome not long after 1540, there is a space of some twelve or fifteen
years, during which we very nearly lose all sight of her.

Very nearly, but not quite; for we hear of long residences at Venice
and Ferrara; and can trace her to Bologna by a phrase in an epigram
too coarsely abusive to be reproduced, which Pasquin fired after her
when she quitted Rome. Little cared the brilliant poetess—errant
for pasquinades let off behind her back, while her course from one
pleasure–loving court to another was tracked, as Zilioli writes, by "an
infinite number of lovers, especially among the poets, who pursued her
like a pack of greyhounds, striving to bring her down by volleys of
odes and sonnets," to which our not insensible Sappho was ready enough
to reply in similar strain.

[Sidenote: A SONNET BY HER.]

Here, as a specimen of "her make," as the Italians say, is a sonnet
addressed by her to Pietro Manelli, of Florence, who was one of her
most devoted slaves:

  "Qual vaga Filomena, che fuggita
    È dall'odiata gabbia, ed in superba
    Vista sen va tra gli arboscelli e l'erba
    Tornata in libertate, e lieta vita;
  Ed io dagli amorosi lacci uscita,
    Schernendo ogni martir, e pena acerba
    Dell'incredibil duol, che in se riserba
    Qual ha per troppo amar l'alma smarrita;
  Ben avev'io ritolte, ahi stella fiera!
    Dal tempio di Ciprigna le mie spoglie
    E di lor premio me n'andava altera.
  Quando a me Amor; le tue ritrose voglie
    Muterò, disse; e femmi prigioniera
    Di tua virtù, per rinovar mie doglie."

Which may be Englished as follows, without, it is to be hoped, any very
cruel injury to the original:

  "As when from her abhorr'd captivity
    Fair Philomel hath fled, and proudly takes
    Her way through grassy meads and bushy brakes
    Restored to joyous life and liberty;
  So I, from amorous bonds escaping free,
    All torment scorning, and the poignant aches
    Of grief untold, which too much loving makes
    The doom of such, as love–bewilder'd be,
  Had borne (alas! my hapless stars!) away
    My garments from the Cyprian Goddess' shrine
    Proud of the feat, when Love to me did say,
  'I will transform that stubborn will of thine;'
    And so he made me captive to thy power,
    Renewing all my torments from that hour."

This sonnet is not worse than thousands of other such, which obtained
for their fabricators the name and reputation of poets in that age of
vaunted intellectual movement; and it is certainly better than the
majority of them.

And thus our brilliant Aspasia of the _renaissance_ fluttered from
court to court, everywhere received with open arms, everywhere the
cynosure of all eyes, everywhere the centre of a knot of poets and
_littérateurs_; and flashing off her sonnets and canzonets right and
left; now as offerings to be laid at the feet of some most illustrious
duke or duchess, and now in loving or saucy requital of those addressed
to her by her brethren of the guild.

But as

  "All that's bright must fade,
    The brightest still the fleetest,"

the inexorable years too soon brought poor Tullia to that period of
"half old–womanhood," as Zilioli so uncourteously terms it, which must
have nearly coincided with the date assigned by grave Mazzuchelli to
that period of "flourishing," which, it is to be feared, the "half–old
woman" would have fixed some five–and–twenty years earlier.

And what was to be done by a brilliant Apollo–chartered Aspasia, when
fallen into half old–womanhood?



One of two alternatives only, according to the well–known _dictum_ of a
judicious French philosopher, could be adopted by any Aspasia or other
"charming woman" whatsoever, when brought to that pass. She must either
take to cards, or "enter into devotion." Such would seem, according
to the authority alluded to, to be the law of nature, which rules the
destinies of charming women whose charms have gone from them. Tullia
appears to have chosen the latter alternative, and established herself
permanently at Florence under the special protection of the pious
Duchess Eleonora di Toledo.

The times were changed, too, in Italy, since the days of Tullia's
youth. Life in Rome, and hence in a somewhat less degree also in the
other centres of the peninsula, was very different under Popes Paul
IV. and Pius IV., from what it had been under Leo X., Clement VII., or
Paul III. Devotion was now the _mode_, especially in courts. Princes
had begun to understand, that the cause of despotism was bound up with
that of sacerdotal tyranny; and that reform in matters ecclesiastical
went hand in hand with freedom in matters secular. Popes and kings
had become aware, that their fight against mankind could only be
carried on successfully by strict offensive and defensive alliance.
Hence orthodox piety was one of the surest roads to court favour. And
thus considerations of all sorts united in pointing out to Tullia the
expediency of quitting _La Bohème_, and becoming at once a respectable
member of society, and a pattern of propriety.

Literature, however, of a courtly sort was held in much favour at the
court of Cosmo, who founded academies and kept historians in his pay,
to set him and his doings before posterity in a proper point of view.
Tullia, therefore, in quitting the "pays de la Bohème," did not leave
her muse behind her. On the contrary, her most important work was the
production of this period of her life.

"Guerrino il Meschino" is a poem consisting of some thirty thousand
lines, in thirty–six cantos of octave rhyme. The poetess states in her
preface, that it is a versification of a Spanish original; an assertion
which has given some trouble to bibliographers; for the story of
Guerrino was popular in Italian prose long before the time of Tullia,
and has indeed continued so, quite independently of her poetical
version, to such a degree as to have afforded the subject of popular
dramatic representation within the present century. Some importance has
been attached to the question of its origin from the circumstance of
its having been supposed to have suggested to Dante some part of the
plan of his poem.


In an article on Dantescan literature, by M. Charles Labitte, in the
31st vol. of the second series of the _Révue des Deux Mondes_, he
says, that "it has been maintained that Dante took directly from the
old romance of 'Guerrino il Meschino' the subject and the entire plan
of his work. The date and the origin of the Guerrino, whether French
or Provençal, are uncertain.... Hell is represented in it with the
concentric form attributed to it by Dante, and Satan in both cases
occupies the lowest part of the abyss. But it would be easy to show,
despite the weighty authority of Pelli and of Fontanini, that the
romance of Guerrino, so popular in the fifteenth century, is at least
in its present form posterior to the Divine Comedy."

The fact is, however, that the idea of describing the adventures and
sights encountered by a denizen of this world, or his travels through
the world beyond the tomb, was exceedingly common in the century
preceding Dante; and we find it reproduced in many different forms. And
in all probability the story of Guerrino was popular long before it was
written in the earliest shape in which we now have it.

The contents are of the ordinary staple of the romances of chivalry,
unreadable enough for the most part. Crescimbeni declares[16] that the
story is comparable to the Odyssey; while the more critical Mazzuchelli
finds it "full of improbabilities, utterly contrary to history,
chronology, and geography."[17]

Tullia's own view of her work, and her account of her motives in
writing it, as set forth in her preface, are more to our present
purpose. She begins by observing, that whereas all other pleasures
either require the ministration of others, whose services we may not
always be able to command, or are of such a nature as to be of short
duration, like eating and drinking, or again bring with them dangers,
expense, anxiety, and often mischief,—such as travelling, gambling,
love–making, and such–like; reading alone is open to none of these
inconveniences. Accordingly everybody above the lowest classes, says
Tullia, reads now–a–days; and for women it is a resource especially
useful and necessary, as Giovanni Boccaccio well knew, who informed
us that he wrote almost entirely for the ladies. And had he only done
one thing which he has left undone, and left undone one which he has
done, his book would have been all that could have been desired. The
first is to have put his tales into verse, which it cannot be doubted,
says our poetess, is much more pleasant reading than prose. The other
matter, which should have been avoided, is the quantity of "improper,
indecent, and truly abominable things which are found from one end to
the other of that book, in which no respect is paid to the honour of
married women, nor of widows, nor of nuns, nor of secular damsels, nor
of godmothers or godfathers, nor of friends, nor of priests, nor of
friars, and, lastly, not even of bishops. So that it is truly a thing
to wonder at that not only princes and superiors, but even thieves
and felons, who call themselves Christians, can bear to hear his name
mentioned, without signing themselves with the Holy Cross, and stopping
their ears as against the most horrible and abominable thing that human
ears could listen to. Yet so utterly corrupt is our nature, that not
only is this book not avoided as an abomination, but every one runs
after it."

Poor dear Tullia's virtue fresh taken up from grass, runs away with her
a little! It is quite clear that there are to be no more cakes and ale
for any body, now that her junketing days are done!

[Sidenote: HER PROPRIETY.]

She goes on to complain that all the romance writers, "even Ariosto
himself," are disfigured by the same fault. She therefore, intent on
finding some pleasant reading with no offence in it, met with this
"exquisite book in the Spanish tongue, in which so many and various
matters are treated of, that I assuredly know of none so pleasant in
that language or any other. And then it is throughout perfectly chaste,
perfectly pure, thoroughly Christian; and neither in the facts nor
diction is there anything which any respectable and holy man or woman,
married or single, nun or widow, may not read at all hours."

This treasure of a book therefore she determines to clothe with verse,
the only thing wanting to make it perfect. It is for you therefore,
"my gentle readers, to accept my good intention, and give all the
praise to God alone, from whom comes all good, and to whom alone I am
thankful for the great grace which has so enlightened me while yet not
over–ripe, but youthful and fresh in age,—_in questa mia età non ancor
soverchiamente matura, ma giovenile e fresca_,—as to bring back my
heart to Him, and make me wish and strive, as far as in me lies, that
all others, both men and women, may have like grace."

How delightfully the vein of natural womanhood crops out from under
the thick overlying strata of propriety and devoutness! Poor Tullia!
And to think of that wretch of a biography–man Zilioli, talking of
"half–old–womanhood in years and in appearance," in speaking of a
period anterior to this!

It might be supposed, on the principle of setting a thief to catch
a thief, that our Sappho sanctified, animated with the excellent
dispositions she manifests, would have avoided the faults she so
furiously inveighs against. But that hallucination of her "not yet
over–ripe age" would seem to have come upon her so strongly at
times, as to have caused her to think the old thoughts and talk
the old _Bohème_ talk of her youth, in total forgetfulness of her
present character, and all the promises of her preface. Mazzuchelli,
in noticing this preface of hers, briefly and gravely remarks that
certain passages of her poem, which he refers to, show that she has
not attained the object she aimed at. It is, however, difficult to say
what Tullia may have deemed proper reading for nuns and damsels at all
hours. And if any English readers wish to judge of this for themselves,
they may be satisfied by consulting the tenth canto of the poem; which
contains matters that would among us be considered very undesirable
reading for any section of the community at any hours.

To this reformed period of Tullia's life belongs also her dialogue "On
the infinity of Love." It professes to be the report of a conversation
that took place at her house in Florence, between herself and Benedetto
Varchi, the historian and philosopher; and it no doubt in a great
degree resembles the style of talk affected at the quasi–academic
meetings of friends, which constituted the then fashionable form
of social intercourse. It was first printed at Venice in 1547, in
a small volume of some two or three hundred pages, with a preface
by Girolamo Muzio, one of Tullia's most fervent and most constant
adorers. He commences his preface by drawing a distinction between
spiritual and material love, and declares that his affection for the
authoress of the dialogue is purely of the former kind. The work was
sent to him, he says, by Tullia, without any idea of publication; and
he had ventured to send it to the press without her knowledge. In the
manuscript, as it reached him, the name "Sabina" stood as Varchi's
interlocutor, in the place of "Tullia;" "doubtless," says Muzio,
"because the writer's modesty was shocked at writing in her own name
all the praises that Varchi is made to bestow on her in the course of
the work." But he, Muzio, thinking that a feigned name could not with
propriety be introduced in conjunction with the real name of Varchi,
had decided on inserting the name of Tullia.


The production itself is a truly wonderful proof of the amount of
difference that may exist between the average cultivated human
intellect in one age and country and in another. This dialogue on
the infinity and necessary durability of love, is one of hundreds of
similar writings on that and other such subjects, which constituted the
fashionable and much–enjoyed light reading of the educated classes in
Italy at that period. To a modern English reader, no dryest blue book,
no trashiest novel could appear so perfectly unreadable. The subject
presented to a man of our day as the theme for an essay, might seem
somewhat stiff and formal—_banal_, as the French say; but he would see
at once, that the consideration of it might lead to the discussion of
several questions closely touching some of the most interesting and
important problems of social polity. But Tullia and her contemporaries
saw nothing of the kind.

Nor let any saucy scapegrace imagine, that any experiences of the
different attributes of Eros and Anteros, which the authoress may
be supposed to have acquired in the course of her life, are in any
wise brought to bear on any part of her theme. The dialogue might be
innocently, if not profitably, read by any of those damsels and nuns
for whom Tullia specially prepared her less immaculate poem. There are
scholastically constructed argumentations, quotations from Petrarch and
Dante, syllogisms, with talk of major and minor premise, and plenty of
references to Aristotle, a little horribly _fade_ and mild raillery
between the lady and Varchi, and words—words—words, with such weary
going backwards and forwards over the same dry places paved with them,
as would make an admirable substitute for the treadmill in the case of
felons of education.

There are no means of knowing for how many years Tullia continued her
pleasant life of literary occupation and society, with all that was
most cultivated and agreeable in Florence. She would have published
other things on which she was engaged, says Zilioli, "had she not been
surprised by death before she had reached that extreme old age, which
Pietro Angelio of Barga, a most able astrologer, had promised her,
possibly with a view of acquiring favour in her eyes."

Her patroness, Eleonora of Toledo, who despite many virtues and
good qualities, was odious to the Florentines, on account of her
"insopportabile gravità," says Litta,[18] because, that is, she was
with her Spanish seriousness and gravity an intolerable bore to the
light–hearted Tuscans,—died in 1562. And in all probability Tullia did
not survive her many years.


The name of Tullia d'Aragona lives in the pages of Italian literary
historians, and in the memory of educated Italians as a poetess. But
she would not have merited presentation to the English reader as such.
As a remarkable social phenomenon, the product of the social soil of
the sixteenth century under the sun of the _renaissance_, the story of
her life, imperfect as it is, is well worth notice.




 Good Old Times in Ferrara—How a Pope's Daughter became a
 Duchess—Bygones were bygones—and Love was still the Lord of all.

A certain class of writers, probably among the most sincere and earnest
of the defenders of the Catholic faith, have been driven by the
social aspect presented by all those countries in which Catholicism
has power, to admit, accept, and justify the absence of material,
and even intellectual prosperity, as a necessary consequence of
catholic views of life here and hereafter. Material prosperity, say
these ascetics,—plenty to eat and to drink, good clothing, commodious
habitations, life–embellishing arts, and ministrations of all sorts
to corporeal well–being, are not the proper objects of man here on
this earth. Nay, the wisest of mankind have in all ages, they say,
recognised such things as highly inimical to the pursuit of that
better aim, to which all human endeavour should tend. While the fatal
consequences resulting from untrammelled intellectual culture, are
among the surest and saddest teachings of human experience. That the
true and faithful fashioning of life therefore in accordance with
the doctrines of a creed, the whole scope and tendency of which is
the undivided pursuit of that higher and better aim, should be found
unconducive to material and merely human intellectual advantages, is,
they urge, not only what might reasonably be anticipated, but is a
confirmatory proof of the correctness of those views, which it cannot
be denied have made Catholic countries what they are.


Such doctrine, though little likely to be deemed conclusive by
enlightened intelligence, or acceptable by the popular mind, has at all
events the advantage of moving the question into a strictly theological
court, into which the economist, the historian, the moralist, the
politician, and the philanthropist, are not obliged to follow it. For
their purposes it is sufficient, that the tendency of Catholicism
to produce poverty, squalor, ignorance, and depopulation, should be
admitted and registered. And they may well afford, at this period
of the world's history, to treat with a silent shrug, the theory of
those, who declare that these things are preferable to enlightenment,
abundance, and material prosperity.

But if it be indeed true, that intellectual and material decadence is
the proof and guarantee of a people's spiritual advancement; if the
desolating blight which marks unmistakeably every land overshadowed
by the wings of the Roman Church, be indeed an indication of its
ripeness for a better harvest than any to be garnered on this side
of the grave; then assuredly may we expect to find the purest and
brightest spiritual life ever yet manifested by a nation, among the
happy populations—_fortunati nimium sua si bona nôrint_—subjected to
the immediate sway of the successors of St. Peter. And should any
curious student of the _modus operandi_ and results of ecclesiastical
government, desire to know where he may advantageously examine such
phenomena in their most unmitigated form and perfect development, he
may be safely advised to bestow his researches on the city and district
of Ferrara.

There, indeed, the lesson he is in search of, is so written, that
he who runs, even though he speed on with the haste of the posting
traveller, eager to leave the abomination of desolation behind him,
may read it without fear of blundering. There indeed is a city and
people unmistakably marked by Holy Mother Church, as her own; silence
and solitude, decay, dilapidation, neglect, and sordid squallor,
characterise the impress of her paternal hand. And yet more forcibly to
point the moral of the spectacle, there remains sufficient traces of
what Ferrara was in the young ungodly days of her lay government, to
give all the force of contrast to her present condition. There is the
gaunt frame of a city calculated to house four times the amount of its
present population. The lofty walls of vast palaces enclose wide and
spacious streets, over which the green weeds are growing, and a dead
silence broods. In the centre is the moated castle of the old Dukes of
Ferrara, now the monstrously disproportioned residence of the priest,
who governs (!) Ferrara and its legation. Around this still lingers
what little of life and movement is left in the paralysis–struck city.
The more distant streets may be traversed from end to end without
the sight of a living creature, save perhaps a group of half–naked
mendicants basking in the sun, or the still more unpleasing figure of a
capuchin friar, sauntering along with his wallet over his shoulder, on
his daily quest, like some unclean reptile of ill omen crawling among
ruins which are its appropriate dwelling–place.


Such are the normal and necessary results as they lie developed
and palpable before our eyes, of that system which was inaugurated
at the period to which the subject of these pages belongs. But let
ascetic theologians console themselves, and defend the issues of their
handywork, as they may, it is undeniable, that, be they as sincere
as they will, all such considerations are but after–thoughts. The
production of a society vowed to apostolic poverty and heedlessness
of the morrow, was not the object which the sixteenth century popes,
and those misguided rulers who played into their hands, had in view.
They intended to bring about very different issues. Yet this, which we
see, was the only one in the long run possible, as the upshot of their
doings. Divine providence so over–ruled the matter, quite in accordance
with divine precedent, having very irreversibly laid down the law for
the regulation of all such cases, at the time of man's first creation.

Previously to the inauguration of this fatal policy, the rule of the
earlier dukes of Ferrara of the house of Este had aimed at, and in
very considerable degree attained, quite other results. Beginning with
old Borso the first duke, who was invested with that dignity in 1471,
and who left behind him so good a name, that when in after and worser
times, men grumbled in Ferrara,[19] they would say, "Ah, 'tis not now
as in Duke Borso's days," down to his great nephew Hercules the Second,
who ruled the duchy at the period to which our subject belongs; the
Ferrarese princes had been very favourable specimens of the Italian
sovereigns of those days.

As for good–old–times Borso, the just, though he had not the advantage
of book–learning himself, he honoured it in others. The fact of his
own deficiency in this respect, we gather from the amusingly frank
avowal of a contemporary chronicler, who in a dedication of his book
to his sovereign,[20] remarks that, "Fortune, ever the enemy of worth,
has not willed, that to your other singular accomplishments should be
added that of literature." From the records of his reign however, it
would seem, that illiterate as he was, he must have had talents, that
would make an invaluable chancellor of the exchequer. For the same
historians, who give us the most glowing accounts of his magnificence
assure us, that he never oppressed his subjects with unjust or grievous
taxation. He dressed we are told, even when in the country, in brocade
and cloth of gold; he never went without a chain about his neck of the
value of seventy thousand ducats (!!), kept seven hundred magnificent
horses in his stables, and dogs and falcons in proportion. Then his
buildings were on a scale that might rival the doings of Napoleon the
Third. But that collar! We have heard of the oppressive weight of the
trappings of state, but little thought of the terrible extent of the
reality. For seventy thousand ducats must be reckoned at the lowest
calculation to be worth at the present day thirty–five thousand pounds,
and to be equivalent to about two thousand two hundred and fifty pounds
weight of gold. Now, admitting that nine–tenths of this value was
represented by the exquisite workmanship of the celebrated Venetian
goldsmiths, still we must suppose, poor Duke Borso to have walked about
the world with upwards of two hundred weight of gold round his neck!


Borso's brother, Hercules the First, who succeeded to him in 1471, is
also spoken of with high praise by the contemporary chroniclers.[21]
They tell us, that his title to the dukedom was maintained against
a collateral pretender by seventy thousand inhabitants of Ferrara.
He signalised his accession by the remission of several taxes, which
seems somewhat incompatible with the praises previously bestowed on
Borso on that head; and still more so with the accounts we have of
his own magnificent doings. For he also was a mighty builder both of
palaces and villas for his own pleasure, and of improved and increased
dwellings for that of his people. Towards the end of the century, the
population of Ferrara, which we have already seen rated at seventy
thousand, had become so largely increased, chiefly in consequence of
the expulsion from Spain and Portugal of the Jews, who thronged in
great numbers into Italy, and especially settled themselves at Ferrara
under the then tolerant rule of its popular dukes, that a writer of the
time[22] declares, that no dwelling was to be found there for money.
Hercules, therefore, in 1492, undertook the herculean task of erecting
buildings to such a number as to double the size of his capital.

The work was commenced on such a scale, that the cautious Venetian
senators, his neighbours, were startled, and deemed it prudent to ask
what was intended by such vast preparations for construction. Duke
Hercules answered, that he was building houses for his subjects to
live in, and the Queen of the Adriatic seems to have been contented
with the reply. Various taxes were imposed, not on Ferrara only, but
on the whole of the Duke's dominions, including Modena and Reggio, to
supply the means of executing these works. But there is no indication
to be found of their having been considered grievous or excessive.
And we have no means of ascertaining whose property the newly–raised
quarters of the city were considered when built. Did they become crown
property, and thus enormously increase the already large means of which
the princes of the house of Este disposed, independently of taxation?
Or, as seems under the circumstances of the case hardly possible,
were any accounts kept, and means adopted to make the proceeds of the
new property available, in the shape of interest, to those who had
contributed to their expense?

Next to his ruling passion for building, spectacles of all sorts,
dramatic and others, and travelling, were the great delight of Hercules
I. All these were costly pleasures; and we find that, in contradiction
to the policy of the early days of his reign, want of money often
induced him to lay heavy burthens on his subjects. Nevertheless, he
had the art of making himself exceedingly beloved by his people. He
never hoarded money, but spent it almost entirely among the citizens
in making his court and capital the gayest and most splendid in Italy.
It was always "festa," always carnival at Ferrara. "Tournaments, races
of horses, of oxen, of asses, of girls and boys, shooting matches,
and hunting parties succeeded each other without interruption."[23]
Then the good Duke would sally forth o' nights, and looking in quite
unexpectedly take pot luck at supper with his loving subjects, in
genuine Caliph Haroun Alraschid fashion.


Neither then nor at any other time was any court in Italy so thronged
with men of learning and genius. For such, come they from what nation
they might, there was always a warm welcome, and assistance, if they
needed it. Then again the court of Ferrara was a noted resort of
noble knights, who had differences touching their honour, to put to
the arbitrement of the sword. For the sport–loving Duke was always
ready to afford a tilting–ground, and the countenance of his august
presence to champions in need of such accommodation. Many accordingly
were the celebrated duels which came off at Ferrara, to the infinite
satisfaction and diversion of the Duke and his subjects. Then as for
his piety, if all the churches and monasteries he built were not enough
to vouch for it, says Frizzi, piously, it is abundantly proved by
his habit of going to various churches accompanied by all his famous
band, there to have mass celebrated with all the attractions of music.
Besides, in holy week, he used to wash the feet of hundreds of old men!
What more would you have?

His son Alphonso, born in 1476, succeeded him in 1505. This prince's
first wife, Anna Strozzi, having died in 1477, he married in 1501 the
too celebrated Lucrezia Borgia. That such a marriage could have been
thought possible, that it should have been proposed to the court of
Ferrara, and accepted by Alphonso and his father, are facts which
very strikingly set before us the vastness of the difference between
the habits of thought and feeling of an Italian of the fifteenth and
an Englishman of the nineteenth century. The consideration of a gulf
of separation so impassable warns us of the exceeding difficulty of
so sympathising with the men of that time and country, as to form any
tolerably fair appreciation of their conduct; not merely in the sense
of morally judging of it, with reference to the responsibilities of
the individual, with which wholly impossible task we have fortunately
no need to meddle; but in the sense of comprehending the bearing and
weight of the motives which regulated it.

Lucrezia was twenty–five at the time of this her fourth marriage.
What the tenour of her life had been, and the nature of the scenes
she had passed through, the English reader is probably in some small
degree aware; in a very small degree, unless indeed he happens to have
sought out in the folio Latin columns of the contemporary chroniclers
the details of abominations wholly unreproducible in any modern
page. And yet this woman, whose moral nature, if judged according to
our habits of thought, must be deemed to have been saturated with
impurity, and hopelessly depraved and destroyed, is proposed and
accepted as the wife of a prince, whose character stands higher than
that of any of his contemporaries of the sovereign houses of Italy,
and whose family was already remarkable among them for enlightenment
and respectability!—accepted to be the mother of his children, and the
means of transmitting his unsullied name and crown!

A very noteworthy instance of the extraordinary incompatibility of
the moral feelings of those times with our own, or of our imperfect
appreciation of the exact value of the terms used, occurs in a passage
of the "Relazione,[24]" of the Venetian ambassador Paolo Cappello, who,
returning from Alexander the Sixth's Court in 1500, tells the Senate
that Lucrezia is "prudent and liberal"—_savia e liberale_—and adds
within five lines, without further remark, that it is said, that she
had an incestuous connection with her brother![25]


But perhaps the most extraordinary and interesting fact of Lucrezia's
history, is that after her marriage with Alphonso, not only was her
life blameless, but her conduct was such as to merit and secure her
high–minded husband's affection and esteem, and in all respects to do
honour to her station. Her marriage with Alphonso therefore divides,
as by an abruptly and suddenly drawn line, the life of Lucrezia into
two portions, the earlier all black with atrocities and abominations
unspeakable, the latter shining with purity and many noble virtues.
Such a statement has been deemed to involve an absolute moral
impossibility; and Roscoe has been induced by the consideration of it,
to attempt a denial of the charges which have made Lucrezia Borgia's
name a by–word of infamy.

"If the Ethiopian cannot change his skin," he writes,[26] "nor the
leopard his spots, how are we to conceive it possible that a person,
who had during so many years of her life been sunk into the lowest
depths of guilt and infamy could at once emerge to respectability and
virtue? The history of mankind furnishes no instances of such a rapid

But Roscoe's elaborate though weak defence signally breaks down. It
would extend what has already undesignedly assumed the proportions
of a digression far too much to enter into an examination of the
historical evidence on the subject. It will be sufficient to observe,
that Roscoe's "chivalrous" attempt, as somebody with infinite absurdity
somewhere calls it, was abundantly demolished by the "Edinbro' Review,"
January, 1806, at the time. And further evidence than was then
accessible to the reviewer, has since been made available to establish
the historical certainty, that the earlier portion of Lucrezia's life
was in truth all that it has been ordinarily supposed to have been.
On the correctness of the account of the latter portion, as stated
above, no doubt has ever been cast. So that we in reality have this
whitewashed–black–a–moor phenomenon before us, to make of it what we

Gibbon disposes[27] of the matter by observing, that "perhaps the
youth of Lucrezia had been seduced by example; perhaps she had been
satiated by pleasure; perhaps she was awed by the authority of her new
parent and husband," Alphonso, and his father Hercules. But the moral
philosopher will hardly deem any of these suppositions a satisfactory
explanation of the facts before him. And a more serious consideration
of them will perhaps lead him to the conclusion, that whatever of
strangeness or novelty they may present, is rather matter for the
historian's study than for his own.


Well convinced of the reality of the impossibility alleged, that any
human being should pass suddenly from such a moral state as that
indicated to our judgments by the facts of Lucrezia's early career,
to such an ethical condition as that presumed to accompany her later
life, while he in no wise seeks to invalidate the historical evidence
of the case, he will yet deny such change to have been accomplished.
Knowing how large a portion of the spiritual deterioration arising from
any outward acts, is dependent on the degree to which the conscience
of the agent is enlightened, he will deny that Lucrezia's moral state
during the first part of her life was such as we are apt to conceive
that it needs must have been. Aware how very much of the difficulty of
turning from evil to good, consists in the arduousness of the struggle
to rise from infamy to good repute, he will assert, that Lucrezia could
not have been sunk in that depth of infamy to which we suppose that the
admitted facts of her conduct must necessarily have consigned her.

For the moralist there will be nothing new or striking in all this.
The interesting significance of the phenomenon is for the historian.
That restoration and _rehabilitation_, it would appear, which would be
impossible in the nineteenth, was possible in the fifteenth century.
The gulf which would now be wholly impassable, did not then yawn
so wide as to make crossing it impossible. Here is to be found the
explanation, and herein consists the historical interest of the facts
of the case. The finely organised moral sense of the nineteenth century
would have been wholly killed by similar wounds, and the spiritual
destruction of the individual would have been irretrievable. But the
lower, coarser, more rudimentary moral sense of the "ages of faith"
was not wholly killed by such injuries. And the extraordinary social
phenomenon of the marriage is only explicable in the same manner.
The moral reprobation, which among us would doom such an offender
to the isolation of a leper, did not exist in that age and country.
When the aged Pontiff Paul III. characterised the even more horrible
atrocities of his son Piero Luigi Farnese as juvenile indiscretions,
though the respectable world of the sixteenth century was revolted,
the discrepancy between the moral judgment of Heaven's vicegerent and
that of his faithful people, was very far from being as monstrous
as that between his and our nineteenth century English feeling. The
career of Lucrezia was also doubtless deemed highly reprehensible by
her contemporaries. Indeed we find it made the subject of invective
and epigram. But it is clear, that none of the horror and the loathing
attached to it with which we now regard it. It is evident that she was
not deemed hopelessly and irrecoverably soiled and destroyed by it.

And such proofs of the enormous amount of the advance in the moral
sense of mankind, which has been accomplished in the world, that
according to theologians, has been staggering onwards amid tottering
creeds and ever–multiplying heresies towards a religious cataclysm, are
among the most important fruits of historical study.


When the marriage was first proposed to the court of Ferrara by
Alexander VI., both Alphonso and his father Hercules were extremely
averse to it[28]. The Pope induced Louis XII. to use his influence with
the Ferrarese princes; and the king deputed a posse of churchmen, the
Cardinal of Rohan, the Archdeacon of Chalon, and the Archbishop of
Narbonne, to persuade Hercules and his son of the desirableness of such
an union. Their arguments seem to have consisted entirely in setting
forth the dangers that would arise to Ferrara from refusal. The father
was thus first brought over. Alphonso still expressed the greatest
reluctance. But when his father declared, that under the pressure of
the circumstances, he would himself, were it not for his advanced age,
accept the hand of Lucrezia, the son consented.

The bribes administered by the Pope in the shape of dower, were very
considerable. The investiture of his Duchy, which had hitherto been
conferred by the Apostolic see for three generations only, was made
perpetual. The tribute payable on account of it was reduced from four
thousand ducats to one hundred florins. An hundred thousand ducats was
also paid down in gold; and the bride carried with her to Ferrara the
value of an hundred and seventeen thousand ducats in precious stones
and jewelry; besides a proportionate amount of property in dresses and
furniture. And it was especially provided in the marriage contract,
that, in case of Lucrezia's death, Alphonso should not be called on to
restore any portion of this property.[29]

The marriage was celebrated at Rome on the 29th December, 1501,
Alphonso's brother Don Ferrante standing proxy for the bridegroom.

On the 1st of February the bride reached Ferrara, where the
preparations for receiving her may be said to have been nearly the
sole occupation of the entire city, during the interval between the
marriage and her arrival in her new home. And although Donna Lucrezia
and her extraordinary marriage have already too much lengthened these
notices of the court of Ferrara, the only scope of which is to give the
reader some idea of the scene on which the subject of these pages is to
appear, yet some of the details of these preparations, as recorded by
the contemporary diarist above cited, afford so curious a peep at the
manners and customs of the period, that the somewhat undue extension of
a merely prefatory chapter will probably be pardoned for the sake of
the interest attaching to them.

On the 22nd of December, the diarist notes, that fourteen bushels of
comfits were already prepared, counting up to that night, and that
the ducal confectioners would continue to increase the store with all
diligence. It has been seen already how large a part preparations of
sugar played on all such occasions.

Then we have a very curious illustration of a custom, traces of which
still remain among the people in several parts of Italy. On the night
before the Epiphany, children are in these days wont to hang up a
stocking, or some other such receptacle outside their chambers, into
which their friends put little presents, which the child finds in the
morning, and considers, or makes fun of pretending to consider, as the
gifts of the fairy "Beffana;" for such is the popular conception of the
meaning of the term Epiphany! Now see of how mighty a wallet is the
poor child's stocking the dwindled representative. The enormous expense
of the wedding preparations made a few "Beffana" presents especially
welcome to the young prince Alphonso at the Epiphany tide of 1502. So
at nightfall he rode forth accompanied by twenty–five horsemen, with
drums and trumpets, and went through the city "per la sua ventura," in
quest of fortune, or, as we might say, to see what luck would send him.
"And he got for his fairing, 'di sua ventura,' three hundred head of
oxen, an equal number of large cheeses, upwards of a thousand couple of
capons, and other things to the estimated value of a thousand ducats."

[Sidenote: THE BEFFANA.]

In truth, the Beffana was something like a good fairy in the good old
times, especially when a gallant young prince sought her favour!

But the Beffana could not supply all that was needed. For on the
following Sunday came out the list of appointments to offices for
the year. "And every man in the list paid for his place through the
nose." Bonifacio Ariosto and Battista di Zilioli, among others, paid an
immense sum for the post of commissioners of customs. And Tito Strozzi,
the Latin poet, was continued in his place of judge, to the great
discontent of all the people, "but it cost him very dear."

Besides all this, the ducal palace was open to all loyal subjects, who
came with anything eatable or drinkable to assist their sovereign in
the coming tremendous call on his hospitality. It was counted that up
to the evening of the 27th, among other things, fifteen thousand head
of poultry had been brought in as presents. Indeed the zeal of the
Ferrarese outran the necessity of the case, great as it was; for a few
days later we find that a large quantity of game and poultry had to be
thrown into the Po, because it had become unusable.

From the 25th to the end of the month, all Ferrara was hard at work
adorning the streets, levelling places that were uneven, putting
up scaffolding for seats where the bride would pass on her entry,
preparing accommodation for the five thousand three hundred horses
which were expected, contriving as far as possible means of lodging
the "incredible number" of strangers, who were continually arriving
to witness the festival; putting new marble steps to the altar in the
cathedral; and, lastly, in erecting over the door of the palace a
blazonry of the Pope's arms, together with those of the King of France,
and those of the most illustrious House of Este, "with angels and
hydras, and other exquisitely beautiful ornaments."

But a most provoking thing was, that in the midst of all this bustle we
had to send out a party on horseback to meet a certain French cardinal,
who was coming to Ferrara on his way from the King of France to the
Pope. And they had their ride for nothing, "for his most reverend
lordship determined to stay the night where he was, because his most
reverend lordship had not got his clothes with him."

[Sidenote: A STOLEN VISIT.]

At last on the 2nd of February the bride and her immense cortège,
increased by the Duke and the bridegroom, together with all that was
either noble or learned in Ferrara, who had gone out to meet them,
made their triumphal entry into the city. Alphonso, whose aversion to
the match has been mentioned, was more than reconciled to his lot by
the sight of the bride,[30] whose rare beauty at once captivated him.
She passed the night of the first of February at a villa outside of
the city, in order to make her ceremonial entry on the following day,
when according to courtly etiquette she was to be duly presented to
her bridegroom with infinite laborious co–operation of bishops and
benedictions, trumpeters, heralds, court–ushers, and bell–ringers. And
doubtless when the appointed moment came, both the lady and gentleman
performed their part of the show, and made their first acquaintance
with each other in the presence of assembled Italy with all propriety.
But it did so happen that a certain lynx–eyed "gentleman of the press,"
(who was early afoot in the exercise of his profession on the morning
of the great day of the 2nd, picking up stray facts to present them,—if
not all hot to "our readers" at their breakfast tables in a second
edition of the Ferrara Times, yet embedded fossil–like in the vast
strata of Muratori's colossal folios, to us and all future generations)
did see a figure, whom he perfectly well recognised as the Prince
Alphonso, quietly slipping out from a side entrance of the villa, which
held the bride, and hastening back to the city to prepare himself for
his part in the coming pageant.

Early it must have been that "our reporter" was guilty of this
professional indiscretion, for both dame and cavalier had much to do in
preparation for their day's work. She had to dress her head with a cap
and jewels valued at fifteen thousand ducats, and her feet with sandals
worth two thousand. She had to get on her state dress of gold brocade
and black satin, heavy with such a vast quantity of precious stones
that the value of it was incalculable. Thus accoutred she had to get
upon a white jennet entirely covered with gold brocade, under a canopy
supported by all the doctors of the University of Ferrara, and manage
him as best she might, despite his starting (duly chronicled) every
time the salvos of cannon were fired. Last, and by no means probably
least, she had to get her following of ladies of honour stowed in
sixteen carts.

As for Alphonso, he had only to put on a cloak all of plates of beaten
gold, of the value of eight thousand ducats, and hang chains about
his neck to the value of almost as much more, then to mount his black
charger, and ride forth at the head of all the Ferrarese nobility.

Then followed Pantagruelian feastings and junketings for several days;
in which the usual order seems to have been to dance all day, and after
the feast at night, to see "comedies" and "Moresche" or morris dances.
Then there were most extraordinary feats of rope–dancing. Among others,
a certain youth—_uno zovene nominato cingano_—probably "zingaro" or
the gypsy, passed along a cord stretched across the whole _piazza_ of
Ferrara, from the summit of the bishop's residence to the summit of the
ducal palace, frightening all the ladies by pretending to fall when
half way across, and catching himself by hooking his foot on the cord!

After having narrated all that the Duke's lieges did for their
sovereign on this grand occasion, it would not be fair to quit the
subject, without recording what the good Duke did for them in return.
On the morning of 23rd, all Ferrara was gladdened by a proclamation
made with sound of trumpet throughout the city, to the effect that
his Highness had obtained from Pope Alexander, permission for all
the subjects of the Duke of Ferrara to eat eggs and milk on all days
whatsoever, no further dispensation being needed than that signified by
the present proclamation!


So old Duke Hercules was laid in the family vault in the early days of
1505, not unlamented by his people, leaving behind him a favourable
old–King–Cole sort of reputation, as the most junketing cake–and–ale
loving sovereign of his day. But he had pretty well seen the last of
the good cake–and–ale times in Italy, for many a long year to come. His
son Alphonso had his lot cast in very different days.

Italy begins to be overrun by the troops of the most Catholic Emperor,
and the most Christian King; and famine and pestilence follow in their
wake. Ferrara is afflicted by both scourges. And we catch a glimpse[31]
of the young duke striving at the opening of his reign to do his duty
by his subjects, by starting off himself in quest of corn. Carrying
with him good store of gold, he takes several of those huge ungainly
vessels, half ship half barge, such as may be still seen on the rivers
and canals of the Delta of the Po, goes to buy corn in Venice, and
returns with his fleet laden, with wretched stuff indeed, and bought at
an enormous price, but most welcome to starving Ferrara.

Then comes the pestilence, against which no ducal treasures avail
aught. Such general provisions, as fear and the rude science
of the time dictate, are enforced. Infected houses are shut up
absolutely,—none permitted to enter or come out from them. The great
convent of Franciscans is thus closed upon its wretched inmates. The
University is shut up; and all tribunals of whatsoever kind suspend
their business. But in five months the deaths amount to six thousand;
while other four thousand have saved themselves by flight.

But these are only the beginnings of misfortune. That terrible and
indomitable old man, Julius II., was on the papal throne;—a pope, who
really does seem to have had some idea of doing his duty as Heaven's
vicegerent on earth, on the theory that this was most effectually to be
accomplished by crying war to the knife against all who withheld from
St. Peter, dues, titles, or dominions, that should, could, or might be
his. Ferrara occupied a singularly provocative position on the map to
a Holy Father of this temperament. And what could be easier than to
find at Mother Church's need some flaw to a feudal title, among the
forgotten deeds of ecclesiastical archives, carefully hoarded, _ad
hoc_. Besides, if there were nothing else to be said, the Duke makes
salt in the marshes of Comacchio, to the damage of the apostolical
trade in that article; and is therefore hereby excommunicated, and
declared deposed from his Duchy, and his subjects released from their

A very hard struggle had Alphonso to hold his own against all the
spiritual and carnal weapons of the Church. It must be admitted, that
the latter seem to have troubled him by far the most. And more than
once it appeared as if he must have been overwhelmed by the superiority
of the force against him. But partly by his own military talents,
partly by the aid of the French, and partly by good fortune, he won
through, till the death of Julius allowed him, and the rest of the
world, a short breathing time of repose.

Not that his difficulties with Mother Church were at an end. Leo
X., though as mild a mannered Pope as ever launched a curse, had
no intention of abandoning all the Church's claims on a vassal in
disgrace. He relieved him from the excommunication, and permitted him
to hold Ferrara, but still maintained a claim on Modena, and made good
his hold on that city.


In 1519, Alphonso lost, and as it would seem, bitterly regretted, his
wife Lucrezia. "Her husband and his subjects," writes Frizzi,[32]
"all loved her for her gracious manners and for her piety, to which,"
as Giovio says, "having long before abandoned all worldly vanities,
she wholly dedicated herself. She used to spend the morning in
prayer; and in the evening, would invite the ladies of Ferrara to
embroidery–working parties, in which accomplishment she greatly
excelled. Her liberality to the poor, and to men of letters, which
generally means one and the same thing," says Frizzi, "was especially

Clement VII., if not so terrible an adversary as Julius II., was
one quite as difficult to deal with. Promises made only to delude,
negotiations entered on with no intention that they should lead
to anything, treaties made only to be broken, a dexterous playing
off of one potentate against another,—these were the arts by which
Clement sought to steer his devious and trimming course among the
difficulties of the time; and which at last landed him a prisoner in
his own fortress of St. Angelo, while his and the world's capital was
being sacked beneath his eyes. In this predicament Clement had by his
duly authorised representative, Cardinal Cibo, in consideration of
Alphonso's joining the French King in a league against the Emperor,
conceded all the points in dispute between them. The investiture of
Ferrara was to be renewed and confirmed; all claim of the Apostolic
See to Modena, Reggio, &c., was to be abandoned; Ippolito the Duke's
second son was to have a Cardinal's hat and the bishopric of Modena;
and Alphonso was to make as much salt at Comacchio as he pleased.

But hardly was the treaty signed before the Pope escaped from St.
Angelo to Orvieto, and thereupon unblushingly refused to perform any
one of the promises made. And Alphonso, who had incurred great risk of
the Emperor's displeasure by performing his share of the bargain, had
to turn about with all possible speed, break with the King of France,
and hope by humble excuses to be able to make it up again with Charles.

Thus in Ferrara, as indeed throughout Italy, things were very different
from what they had been during the latter half of the fifteenth
century. Men might with some show of reason talk of the good old times,
and look out on those around them with misgiving and despondency. And
yet the Phœnix was burning herself as usual; only, as must be admitted,
with more than ordinary amount of pestilential stench and stifling
smoke,—smoke so stifling, so pestilential, that but few of those, who
had to draw their life–breath, as best they might, in the midst of it,
attained to any remotest guess that all this so sulphureous smother,
and confused darkness of the air, was in truth but caused by that
Phœnix burning, and preparatory for a purer atmosphere when it was
accomplished. Few in any age can gain such Pisgah–glimpse of the coming
time; fewest in that of which this writing treats.


But of those few our Olympia, as it is hoped the reader will see reason
to believe, was one. Yet that terrible burning time,—such a Phœnix
burning as the world has once and once only seen since—was but on the
eve of beginning in the scene on which Olympia had to appear, at the
time of her appearance. Her mortal career had to be passed in the midst
of the very densest smoke–clouds of the funeral pyre.

Easy for us, looking back over the traversed maze with chart in hand,
to understand the plan of it! Easy enough to talk of renaissance and
glorious morning–tide spring of human thought! To those in the thick of
the sweltering struggle, it was as the eve of dissolution and universal


 Troublous new times in Ferrara—How a French King's daughter became a
 Duchess—Bygones were aught but bygones—and Mitre and Cowl were lords
 of all.

Previously to this celebrated era of "renaissance," all the business
of education, such as it was, had necessarily been in the hands of the
clergy. But the well–known circumstances which at the beginning of the
sixteenth century led to a new zeal for the study of the languages of
ancient Greece and Home, led also to the creation of a totally new
class of teachers. The most eminent professors of the new learning were
men, whose position made it necessary that their acquirements should
be made a means of gaining a livelihood. And they became therefore for
the most part professional teachers. They were also generally laymen.
A body of lay pedagogues was a new thing in the world; and surely one
of no small significance. For though these men professed simply to
give instruction in the Greek or in the Latin tongue and literature,
not to educate their pupils, yet the mass of idea, unstamped by the
ecclesiastical mint, which was necessarily thus circulated, must have
exercised an influence, which has perhaps not been estimated at its
worth, in inquiries into the causes of the mental tendencies of that


Among the number of learned laymen, thus independently exercising
the profession of teacher, we find a certain Peregrino or Pellegrino
Morato, a native of Mantua, established at Ferrara early in the
sixteenth century. He had, we are told, many of the nobility of Ferrara
for his pupils; and had already acquired considerable reputation by
his teaching in several cities of Italy.[33] All that has reached us
concerning him concurs to produce the impression that Morato must have
been an estimable and worthy man; among which testimonies may perhaps
be reckoned the fact of his continued poverty, notwithstanding his
success as a teacher, and the lofty position of some among his pupils.

The most noted scholars and teachers of that age would seem to have
led almost invariably wandering lives. They are heard of now holding a
chair in one university and now in another, or attached to several of
the princely houses of Italy in succession. And such appears to have
been the early life of Morato. But at Ferrara he fixed himself more
permanently, and soon anchored himself there in a manner, which made
"La gran Donna del Po," as Tassoni calls that city, his home, and the
centre of all this world's joys and sorrows for the remainder of his
life. There he married, and became the father of five children, of whom
Olympia appears to have been the eldest. There also he formed close and
durable friendships with most of the learned men, of whom a remarkable
band were gathered together in the court and university of Ferrara.

Among these, one of the most notable for his varied acquirements
as well as for the closeness of his intimacy with Morato, was Celio
Calcagnini, who occupied the chair of "belle lettere" in the university
of his native city. Antiquarian, mathematician, astronomer, poet,
scholar, and critic, Calcagnini was one of the most encyclopædic men in
an age, when students still dreamed of mastering the "omne scibile."
The numerous letters printed among his works prove his friendship with
Morato to have been of the most intimate kind. And, if these letters
had fortunately preserved their dates, instead of being printed in a
confused mass, we should have had the means of ascertaining much more
accurately than is now possible, the leading events of his friend
Morato's life.

Alexander Guarini the grammarian, professor in the university and
secretary to the Duke; Giglio Gregorio Giraldi, one of the most eminent
Greek scholars of his day, a man of vast erudition and the first writer
of any value on the ancient mythology; Bartolomeo Ricci, the learned
but amusingly vain–glorious and quarrelsome scholar and critic, whose
comedy in Italian prose entitled "the Nurses" is reckoned by Quadrio
among the best in the language, and who was brought to Ferrara in 1539,
on the recommendation of Calcagnini, to be tutor to Duke Hercules'
son Alphonso, then six years old; the two brothers Chilian and John
Sinapi, Germans, who occupied the chairs of Greek and Medicine in the
University of Ferrara, of whom the former was Olympia's master, and was
regarded by her as a second father; and lastly, but bound to Morato and
his family by a more intimate and closer friendship than any of the
others enumerated, Celio Secondo Curione,—all these, with others of
similar tastes and pursuits formed a society, which rendered Ferrara
at that time perhaps the most attractive and desirable residence for a
scholar, of any city in Italy.


Another circumstance occurred not many years after Morato's first
establishment in Ferrara, which very notably contributed to impress a
special character on the learned society there congregated, and to make
that city a rallying point for the free thought, which was beginning
yeast–like to heave the surface of Italian life.

The difficulties of protecting his dominions from the encroachments
and greed of the Church, which compelled Alphonso to be continually
oscillating between the friendship of the Emperor, or of the French
King, according to the ever shifting aspects of Italian affairs, and
the preponderance of the danger imminent from one side or the other,
necessitated in 1528 an alliance with the latter. And with this view
a marriage was arranged between Hercules, who was to succeed his
father Alphonso in the Duchy as second duke of that name, and Renée,
daughter of Louis XII. Hercules, then just twenty years old, went to
Paris, where the marriage was celebrated on the 28th of June, 1528, and
brought home his bride in the November of that year.

And now again, as six and twenty years before, when Alphonso brought
his Borgia home, there was to be a ceremonial entry of the heir
apparent's bride. But times were changed. And Ferrara, both court
and city, had other matters to think of besides gala processions and
festivities. The clergy, and the university doctors indeed went out
to meet her,[34] as in duty bound; and the citizens equally as in
duty bound, hung out of their windows their gay–coloured silk rugs
and curtains, as Italians do to the present day on the occasions when
anything royal or divine has need of such glorification. But we hear of
no preparations for Homeric feasting, nor of wonderful gold dresses,
and dancing all day, and morris dances at night. The entry of Louis
XII.'s daughter was a very tame affair. And then Renée herself was a
very different person from the splendid Lucrezia, who captivated all
eyes, as she sat superb in black and gold, on her proudly pacing steed.
Renée on the contrary came in on a litter; for "this one was by no
means handsome, as were the two Duchesses, who preceded her. On the
contrary she was, according to a MS. record of that period, somewhat
crooked. But this was compensated by her elevated mind, her intellect,
her literary culture, and her great partiality for learned men."[35]

Alas! Poor Renée must have valued these good gifts far more highly
than even those of her sex most rich in such are wont to do, if she
would not in her own heart have bitterly denied the value of any such
compensation! Lucrezia with a dower of infamy "compensated" by beauty,
became the happy wife of an affectionate husband. Renée with her store
of virtues, and rich intellectual qualities, found but a state prison,
heart–ache, and an unloving lord in this exile from her native France.


And then that "elevated intelligence," which was to compensate for
crookedness, was but little likely to contribute to the happiness
of one in the position of Renée of France at the court of Ferrara.
Elevated intelligence was a dangerous commodity just about that time
in Italy! For we have already seen the tendency of men's minds in those
days to think of things that it was far better not to think about at
all; a tendency which it very soon became necessary to extinguish and
trample out at whatever cost. Thus we find that Renée, not content with
having studied "the learned tongues, history, literature, philosophy,
mathematics, and even astrology," and "unable to bridle her fervid
intellect, gave herself over to the study of theology, and to complete
her misfortune selected for her instructor one of the most celebrated
of the new–fangled teachers who then infested Europe,"[36] no other
than one John Calvin. And the result was, that, whereas the beautiful
and catholic Lucrezia was able,—juvenile indiscretions and ardour of
pulse happily moderated and past—to spend her mornings in orthodox
devotion performed _secundum artem_, and her evenings in embroidery,
to such purpose as to have secured the good word of Popes, Cardinals,
Bishops, and learned Doctors, and the final general approval of
Mnemosyne in her official surplice and rochet,—poor Duchess Renée with
her "elevated intellect," and unhappy improprieties in the matter of
theological inquiry, is marked as a moral leper by the same consistent
ecclesiastical Muse, and finally consigned to a worse limbo than that
of their own sulphureous pages.

But it is not to be supposed that Renée came to her husband's court
branded as a heretic; though we find that she forthwith established in
her own apartments "a literary academy," or meeting of men of letters,
which, we are told,[37] was "much for the honour of literature, but
not at all for that of the catholic religion." Nor, though almost all
of those learned men, whom she patronised, turned out later to be,
as the historian says, tarred with the same brush, was the delicate
orthodoxy of her husband Hercules offended by any ill savour of heresy
at that time. For the Church–in–danger alarm bell had not yet rung in
Italy. Clement VII. having quite enough to do to hold his own among the
clashing of the perfectly material interests of quite satisfactorily
catholic, but very unscrupulous princes, thought of nothing less
than the smelling out of traces of heretical taint. And it needed
something more appreciable by the ducal mind than speculations about
justification by faith to stimulate its orthodoxy into activity.

So the Duchess for years after her marriage gathered around her the
best minds in her little capital, and talked her own talk with them,
unmolested and unsuspected.

Nor can it be concluded that Morato was not at this time imbued with
the new opinions, from the fact, that he evidently stood well in the
court society at Ferrara. In the absence of all ascertained dates
to enable us to fix with precision the leading events of his life,
we must content ourselves with concluding, that it must have been
between the years 1520 and 1525, in all probability, that he first
established himself in that city. We know that he there married a
Ferrarese lady, and that his daughter Olympia was born there in 1526.
Now it is clear from the letters of Calcagnini that he must about
that time have adopted at least those doctrines on justification by
faith, and on free–will, which a few years afterwards were stamped as
heretical and visited with persecution. But nobody on the southern side
of the Alps dreamed as yet that such opinions, must, or even might,
lead to that dreaded consummation, separation from the Church. Morato
was at this time a valued member of the learned society of Ferrara;
and though doubtless a frequenter of those academic meetings in the
apartments of the Duchess, which were afterwards discovered to have
been so heretically pernicious, he was as yet well esteemed by the most
unsuspectedly orthodox churchmen.


A little anecdote from the vast repertory of such supplied by the
"quarrels of authors," may serve to show that the favourable opinion of
Messer Peregrino Morato was no little valued among the set with whom he
lived. The celebrated Pietro Bembo, who was a few years after this time
called to the purple by Paul III., had passed some years at Ferrara in
the early part of his life, and having formed friendships with most
of the literary men there, never lost an opportunity of paying them
a visit, and was thus intimate with all the knot among whom Morato
lived. Now it seems that Bernardo Tasso, the father of the poet, who
was secretary to the Duchess Renée, had somewhat maliciously written
to Bembo that Morato had accused[38] him of plagiarising certain
grammatical speculations, from one Francesco Fortunio. Upon which
Bembo, writing in reply on the 27th May, 1529, manifests great anxiety
to convince Morato that he is in error. "On the contrary," writes
Bembo, "he stole these things from me, together with the very words as
I had written them in a small work of mine before he could speak, much
less write, badly as he does it. This work of mine he saw and had in
his hands many days; and I am ready to show it to him (Morato) whenever
he please; and he will then see whether I deserve to be thus branded
and cut up by him. Besides, I can introduce him to several great
personages worthy of all credit, who heard and learned from me all
the matters in question, long before Fortunio took to teaching others
what he does not know himself."[39] Bembo, ex–secretary to Pope Leo,
and presently to be a Cardinal, stood very much higher in the social
scale than the poor Ferrara schoolmaster; and would probably have cared
for his mistaken accusation as little as for the obscure Fortunio's
plagiarism, had not his standing in the world of letters given a very
different value to his opinion.

Olympia thus passed the first seven years of her life in the tranquil
prosperity of a humble home, maintained by the successful labour of
its owner, and cheered by the intimate society of congenial friends.
That the precocious child had already attracted the notice of the grave
and learned seniors who frequented her father's house, is indicated
by a passage in a letter from Calcagnini to Morato, when absent from
Ferrara, bidding him "to kiss for him the little Muse, whose prattle
was already so charming." And at a later date, when writing to her, and
recalling his remembrances of her infancy, he says, that the language
of the Muses was her earliest mother tongue, "which she had imbibed
together with the milk from the breast."[40]

[Sidenote: EXILE.]

The absence of Morato from Ferrara, which gave rise to the former of
these letters, occurred in 1533.[41] That it was involuntary, and
regarded by him and his friends as a great misfortune, is certain. It
is tolerably clear, also, that it was caused by the will of the Duke.
But beyond this we know nothing. Tiraboschi supposed, with a confusion
of dates and events, common to most of the Romanist writers, who ever
seem to imagine that heresy was always heresy, the same in 1533 as in
1553, that he was exiled for the heterodoxy of his religious opinions.
But that historian admits, that he afterwards saw reason to change his
opinion on this point.[42]

Whatever may have been the cause of a removal, which the nature of
Morato's connection with Ferrara make him feel as an expatriation, it
is certain that it lasted for six years,[43]—the six years that carried
Olympia from seven to thirteen years of age, a period in the life of
a girl of the southern blood on the sunny side of the Alps, which may
probably be equivalent to that included between the tenth and sixteenth
year of a child of our more tardily developed race.

The nature of her home in Ferrara, and of the influences that
surrounded it, have been indicated. But of those which had the forming
of her character during these important years of exile, we know
nothing. And Olympia's biographers, in dwelling on her progress under
the eyes of her father's learned friends at Ferrara, and attributing
to them, in great measure, the truly remarkable degree of classical
scholarship to which she attained, seem to have too much forgotten
the importance of this period, when she was withdrawn from their
instructions. The force of this will be more apparent, when we come to
see the extent of her attainments at the time of her return, in her
thirteenth year.

It is to the struggling father that this triumph of pedagogue
workmanship must be chiefly ascribed. That these six years were years
of difficulty and struggle to the poor scholar, who had to turn
his classical lore into bread for his wife and increasing family,
is sufficiently indicated by the wandering nature of the life in
which they were passed. From Venice to Vicenza, and from Vicenza to
Cesena,[44] the poor pedlar pedagogue had to hawk his learned wares,
and drive a very uphill trade. For though learning in many cases
enriched its professors in those days in such sort as might excite
the envy of their successors in our own, this was always the result
of princely patronage. That Jenkins in Belgrave Square received more
than the value of a curacy is small comfort to starving flunkies out
of place. Between living in clover as the retainer of some lay or
ecclesiastical grandee, and finding it very difficult to live at all,
there can have been hardly any middle path for a sixteenth–century
scholar, whose erudition was his patrimony. And then again, though the
poor scholar was a character well enough known through Europe from the
twelfth to the sixteenth century, a poor scholar with a wife and family
was a modern anomaly in 1533. And such incumbrances fatally put him out
of the way of profiting by any of those small aids which the charities
of that day, in accordance with its modes of life, afforded towards
keeping together the body and soul of many an indigent "clerk."

[Sidenote: CELIO CURIONE.]

But through all the vicissitudes of these hard six years, Morato
pursued unflinchingly the dear object of his heart, to make his
Olympia—the apple of his eye, whose precocious talents had already
awakened all the pride and ambition of the pedagogue father's bosom—a
perfect specimen of classical training.

Among the towns visited by Morato during these years of exile, was
Vercelli, in Piedmont; and there he formed a friendship with one who
was destined to exercise an important influence over his future life
and that of Olympia. This was Celio Secondo Curione, whose acts of
overt dissidence from the Church had even then made him an object of
persecution. Having become wholly alienated from Rome by the study
of the Bible, and of certain of the writings of Melancthon, he was
about escaping into Germany, when he was arrested, and thrown into
prison by the Bishop of Ivrea. At the intercession of a relative, he
was released, on condition of entering a monastery. There he finally
made the breach between himself and the Church irreparable, by an act
of audacity, which seems to have been more calculated to produce a
theatrical and epigrammatic effect, than to bring about any useful
result. Having quietly one day removed the relics from the high altar
of the convent church, he installed the Bible in their place; thus
indicating, more significantly probably than he intended, the tendency
of the new Church then springing into existence, to substitute a new
idolatry, less gross perhaps than that which it strove to supplant, but
equally destined to impede for long ages the progress of mankind to a
higher and purer theology.

Having fled to escape the consequences of this daring practical
protest, he committed, in Milan, about 1530, the yet more unpardonable
outrage of marrying a wife. Being by this act finally cast adrift
upon the world, with increased responsibilities and necessities,
he sought to obtain wherewithal to live, by publicly teaching the
learned languages and literature. He did this with such success, as to
attain not only that, but a very wide–spread reputation also, under
circumstances which made obscurity most desirable for his safety.
Driven, accordingly, from his occupation by the pursuit of his enemies,
and yielding to a strong desire to revisit his native Piedmont, he
appears, while travelling in that direction, to have fallen in with
Morato at Vercelli, and to have been received by his brother exile and
scholar in his temporary dwelling.

They did not part till there had been time for a friendship of the
most intimate kind to spring up between them. And though, doubtless,
there was plenty of congenial conversation between them on topics of
classical lore,—on the disputed authenticity of Cicero's rhetoric,
or the right interpretation of a passage of Plato,—we may be very
sure, that the talk which most served to bind them to each other was
on far more burning questions; on subjects which it was dangerous to
touch, but which it had already become impossible for their minds to
leave unprobed,—subjects, in speaking of which, either felt in his
heart, that each cautious word, that moved a beam of doctrine but a
hair's–breadth, might bring down a whole superincumbent fabric of
venerated creed–edifice in ruin; subjects, too, in the discussion of
which, the man who poured light into his neighbour's mind, was thereby
exposing him to danger in life and goods,—a danger proportioned to the
temperament of the mind enlightened.


Morato was, it would seem, not formed in the martyr's mould. There is
no reason to suspect him of hypocritical compliances or tergiversation.
But there are some men, in whom truth so works, that it cannot lie
hidden and dormant, who, despite all pains and penalties, must needs
testify to it, and publish it. Of such, as has abundantly been seen,
was Celio Curione. That Morato shared his convictions is certain. But
he lived and died in peace in the city of his adoption.

But there was a third mind there present at these pregnant
conversations, vivid, impressionable, unforgetting, and cast, as
appeared, when it reached its maturity, in the true heroic mould. And
though the seeds that then fell, unheeded, probably, by the sower, on
Olympia's young intellect, do not appear to have produced immediate
fruit of any kind, unless, indeed, we trace their consequences in a
total absence of all respect for the orthodox superstitions, they were
assuredly thrown on soil which received and treasured them.

The two scholars parted. Curione in Piedmont soon found that the
hostility of his family, outraged by his heretical manifestations, was
such as to make it necessary for him to seek safety in obscurity. And
this he succeeded in finding as tutor to the children of a nobleman,
who lived in the country, near Turin. Here, however, his zeal for
the truth did not allow him long rest for the sole of his foot. For
chancing once to be present while an itinerant Dominican was preaching
in a neighbouring church, and hearing him falsify in the course of his
sermon some extracts from the writings of some of the German reformers,
he publicly interrupted him to correct his statement. Seizure,
imprisonment in the dungeons of the neighbouring city of Turin, with
the prospect of a trial before the ecclesiastical authorities, which
would be sure to end in a capital condemnation, were the results, as
might have been anticipated, of this audacious testimony to the truth.
Having, by almost miraculous good fortune, succeeded in escaping
from his prison, he fled to Pavia, and there obtained a chair in the

The decree of the Senate of that city, conferring on him this
employment, is dated 9th of October, 1538.[45] And that such a body
should have made such an appointment, just after the candidate
for it had escaped from imprisonment for heresy in a neighbouring
city, is a curious instance of the utter severance in all respects
of one community from another, which a few miles of intervening
territory could in those days effect. It having been soon discovered,
however, adds Tiraboschi, who the new professor was, he would have
been arrested, if his pupils, already appreciating their teacher
at his worth, had not formed themselves into a bodyguard for him,
which for three years ensured his safety despite the efforts of the
ecclesiastical authorities to get possession of his person. And here we
have another very remarkable indication of the strange looseness of the
bonds which held society together at that period; and also, as it may
be fairly argued, of the general reluctance of the Italians to accept
these first manifestations of inquisitorial action, or to lend them,
if it could possibly be avoided, the assistance of the secular arm. At
length, however, urgent representations from Rome to the government of
Milan compelled the University senate of Pavia to advise Curione to
escape from their city, while it was yet possible to do so.

[Sidenote: CURIONE'S STORY.]

He was thus thrown once again upon the wide world. And it was then that
his friend Morato, who had by that time been restored to his home and
position at Ferrara, wrote to him to offer him an asylum under his own

"Come to us;" writes the Ferrarese pedagogue to his fellow–labourer;
"you will find your place at our hearth vacant. And especially there is
a corner for you in my library, where you may indulge _ad libitum_ in
the united blessings of solitude, silence, peace, and oblivion."

It cannot be doubted, that the persecuted scholar quitted these good
things occasionally to share in those meetings in the apartments
of Duchess Renée, which were found to be so pernicious to the true
religion. It was by her, that he was eventually sent with pressing
recommendations to the republic of Lucca, which city was from the first
one of the strongholds of the "novatori," as the Catholic historians
love to style the Reformers. The Luchesi at once provided him with a
professor's chair in their schools. But he had hardly been there a year
when there came a demand that he should be given up into the hands of
the Pope's officers. This the free republicans refused to do. But they
judged it prudent to advise him to fly. And as it was now clear that
there was neither safety nor rest for him in Italy, he determined on
abandoning it; and escaping first to Lausanne, where he taught with
credit and success for four years, was thence invited by the city of
Bâle to accept the chair of literature in that University; where he
remained leading a life of peaceful and useful literary labour till
his death in 1569.[46] The numerous works left by him, which may be
found catalogued by Schelhorn in his "Amænities," are some of them on
theological subjects, but chiefly treat of classical criticism and

Morato had returned to Ferrara. His wanderings were brought to an
end by the permission to do so in 1539. His colleagues, friends, and
pupils had never ceased to regret his absence. Calcagnini had written
to him in his exile, assuring him that "every one confesses how great
a loss the city has suffered by your departure," and that his scholars
refused to attend the lectures of any other professor.[47] Whatever
may have been the cause of his exile, it is evident that no prejudice
against him existed at the court on his return. When he left Ferrara
in 1533, Alphonso I. was still reigning. He died in 1534; and Morato
on his return found Hercules II. and his wife Renée on the throne.
And very shortly after this restoration to his home and his pupils
he was appointed tutor to the late Duke's two sons, Alphonso and

[Sidenote: MORATO'S RETURN.]

Now, therefore, all was once again well with our professor. His old
friends hastened to gather round him, and found in his modest home a
new attraction, in addition to those which had previously rendered
his society precious to them. Old Calcagnini found the "prattling
infant muse" to whom he had sent a kiss in her exile, grown into a
lovely girl, on the eve of blossoming into womanhood, with talents and
acquirements sufficient to make the reputation of a mature scholar. In
truth, the apparition among them of this bright–eyed and bright–minded
creature, enthusiastic in her love for that literature which had been
the object and business of their lives, animated with the very spirit
of the poesy of Greece and Rome, eloquent with the well–loved music
of Homer's or Virgil's tones, which fell mended from her lips, talking
their talk, interested in their discussions, and anxious to learn
more of all, that it was so delightful a task to them to teach, seems
nearly to have turned the learned heads of that knot of grey–beards,
who frequented her father's house. They seem at a loss how to express
their admiration in terms sufficiently glowing. Old Gregory Giraldi,
writing amid the tortures of the gout, which kept him bed–ridden
during the last ten years of his life, speaks of her as "a damsel
talented beyond the nature of her sex, thoroughly skilled in Greek
and Latin literature, and a miracle to all who hear her." Comparisons
with Diotima, Aspasia, the Muses, Graces, and everything feminine that
ever was wise, brilliant, or charming, were showered around her. If
it be possible that the head of a youthful beauty should be turned by
the flattery and admiration of grey–headed and gouty old gentlemen,
expressed in the most Attic Greek, and purest Ciceronian Latin, that of
Olympia could hardly have escaped.

This chorus of admiration must, at all events, have been gratifying to
the proud father. The home–coming, after his long wanderings, must have
been a happy one. His appointment at the court, too, must have been
a satisfactory assurance that no suspicion of heterodoxy had as yet
arisen to injure him. Yet mischief from this source had been busy in
Ferrara during his absence, and that in the innermost chambers of the
palace. The priest had, as usual, thrust himself between the husband
and the wife; and the Duchess Renée had become, on theological grounds,
an object of suspicion to her husband, whose political relations
with the Holy See made it expedient that he and his should enjoy a
reputation of unblemished orthodoxy.

Renée had, years before, as we have seen, consorted with those who
were _afterwards_ found to have been enemies to the Church; and she
must have been known to have held, ever since her first coming into
Italy, doctrines which were _afterwards_ pronounced heretical. But so
did Contarini, who was sent by the Pope to Ratisbon in 1541 to hold
conference, and, if possible, come to accord with the Protestants.
Meantime nobody knew exactly how the Church might peremptorily require
her sons to believe themselves justified. And Duke Hercules was by no
means likely to have any special personal susceptibilities on such
matters. So, as long as no offence was given to Rome, Renée might hold
her "academies," gather her spiritual friends around her, and talk
about faith and works, if she liked it.

But during Morato's absence events had happened which had changed
all this. One M. Charles d'Espeville had arrived at Ferrara in 1536.
The good Duchess, always eager to welcome, and assist if need were,
her countrymen, accorded the most hospitable reception to this M.
d'Espeville. He at once became one of her intimates, and was admitted
to conferences either secret, or shared only with a select few.

Now if lay sovereigns have, as has been said, long arms, Mother Church
has a piercing and most ubiquitous eye. Though Duke Hercules might not
see what was passing under his nose, vigilant Mother Church saw it, as
she sat far away in the middle of her spider's web there at Rome. And
she hastened to hiss into the ear of Duke Hercules the horror, that
there in his city of Ferrara, in the innermost chambers of his own
palace, in the closet of his wife, was crouched, hatching heresies and
treasons, the arch–heretic, the very emissary of the Evil one, Calvin


These, it must be admitted, were tidings of a sort to irritate a
ducal husband, troubled little about his "justification," but much
about his investiture parchments;—most orthodoxly willing to be saved
either by works or faith, or any other way Holy Church might deem
best for him; but extremely anxious about his "tail male," and the
securing of his temporalities against the strangely temporal appetites
of that spiritual mother. For of all the long disputes between Duke
Hercules and the Apostolic chamber, painfully prosecuted by envoys,
memorials, writings innumerable, by even personal riding to Rome,
and heart–wearying struggle with the obstructions, insincerities and
chicaneries of that most intolerable of human entities, the gist
was briefly this. My body, with its ducal cloak and trappings, its
dignities, possessions, and hereditaments to be mine, and the same
to pass to the heirs thereof lawfully begotten;—my soul, with all
thereunto appertaining,—of course carrying with it _sans mot dire_,
the souls of all my subjects,—to be yours in eternal fee simple, to
fashion, manage, and dispose of as to you shall seem fit. A fair
bargain surely this, proposed by Duke Hercules of Ferrara, by no means
a singular or eccentric prince, if indeed souls were what Mother Church
was specially eager after, as she said! And this agreement might have
been quickly and easily made, to be loyally observed by either party,
as agreements between honest folk are, had it not been that Holy Mother
Church, fully minded to keep tight hold of the souls in question,
would not give up the hope of laying her hand on the bodies also.

And now in the midst of all the uphill work of driving his negotiation
to a favourable conclusion, as he hoped, while promising largely, and
most sincerely, poor man! the complete cession of his own and subjects'
souls, here was his own wife, not only saying her soul was her own, but
disposing of it to Mother Church's most dreaded and detested enemy.

Swift remedy found the exasperated Duke for such domestic treason. And
here Mnemosyne begs to suggest as a subject for artistic presentment
the incident which followed. Scene—the private closet of the Duchess in
the castle of Ferrara. The persons assembled there have been engaged in
that sweet converse so delightful to persons bound together by common
thoughts and feelings in the midst of an unsympathising and hostile
world around them. There is the good Duchess, who has perhaps been
mingling with more serious discourse questionings of things in that
dear distant France, which she never ceased while absent from it to
regret. The elderly lady, somewhat austerely dressed in black to the
throat, with deep ruffle around her neck, and large hanging sleeves to
her dress, is Madame de Soubise, who came with Renée from France, and
who was, as is well known, "lame of the same foot," as the Catholic
writers phrase it. The great heresiarch himself might have been
recognised by those handsome but hard and severe features, the lofty
but not noble forehead, and the bright but domineering eye; but he
could not have been known from habiliments chosen to suit the character
of M. Charles d'Espeville. The Signeurs de Pons and de Soubise may also
have been present. But one other person was assuredly there;—a writer
of obscene French verses, as the orthodox Italians call him,[50] who
had an absurd mania for meddling in theology, and fancying that he
comprehended the original language of the sacred writers, one Clement
Marot,—he was there too, and "assisted Calvin much in saturating the
mind of the Duchess with pestilent doctrine."


"To them, enter" hurriedly and noisily the Duke in high wrath, and at
his heels, opera–stage fashion, a sufficient impersonation of "la force

A rapid glance of the angry eye indicates to those active officers the
duty in hand. And M. Charles d'Espeville, alias John Calvin, and the
luckless poet turned theologian, are marched off, with a very tolerable
prospect of martyrdom before them. "And as for you, Madame! ... &c."

Calvin and Marot were marched off under escort to Bologna. But the
terrible marital lecture, which it has been left to the competent
reader's imagination to supply, did not so terrify Renée as to prevent
her from promptly and secretly dispatching certain trustworthy
emissaries, who, overtaking the escort on their road,[51] liberated the
prisoners, and set them free to make the best of their way across the

This incident made a serious difference in the condition of the
Duchess. Constant suspicion and severity seem to have henceforth made
her life at Ferrara a very unhappy one. And the following lines[52]
addressed by Clement Marot to Marguerite, the sister of Francis I.,
speak touchingly enough the forlorn misery of her life:—

  "Ah, Marguerite! list to the bitter smart,
  That fills Renée of France her noble heart;
  And sisterlike some better aid impart
            Than hope alone.
  Thou knowest how she left her native shore,
  Leaving there friends and kin for evermore;
  But what in that strange land she doth endure
            Thou dost _not_ know.
  She sees not one, to whom she can complain;
  Her bright eye seeks her distant land in vain;
  And, as to quench all hope, the mountain chain
            Parts her and you."

Renée was henceforward a person marked as "infected," and subjected
to suspicion and severity accordingly; not because she held certain
opinions, which, as has been before insisted on, were not yet
condemned; but because she had been discovered to be the disciple and
friend of Calvin. He at all events was condemned clearly enough; and
to consort with him was overt heresy. And this happened in 1536. It is
impossible to suppose, therefore, that Morato could have continued in
the good graces of the court, had he been known to harbour beneath his
roof a fugitive from the ecclesiastical authorities, as Celio Curione
was in 1541, which must have been the epoch of his visit to Ferrara.
Nor could the Duchess have ventured, unless in strict secrecy, to have
received him, and sent him with her recommendations to Lucca.

The palace of Ferrara was thus at this time essentially divided against
itself. The Duke and the Duchess were pulling with might and main in
diametrically opposite directions; he by open exercise of authority,
every now and then irritated into violence: she by dissimulation and
secret intelligences.

And this was the state of that household, not pleasing in any home
however royal, when our Olympia was called to become a member of it.


 How shall a Pope be saved? with the answer thereto.—How shall our
 Olympia be saved? To be taken into consideration in a subsequent

The eldest child of Hercules and Renée was a daughter, Anna, born in
1531. Alphonso, the heir apparent, who succeeded to the Duchy in 1559,
was born in 1533. Then came another daughter, Lucrezia, born in 1535, a
third named Eleonora, in 1547, and lastly a second son, called Luigi,
in 1538. Thus Anna, the eldest, was eight years old at the time of
Morato's return to Ferrara; and her education, according to the newest
fashion then in vogue, was the chief pre–occupation of the Duchess. The
new learning was the fashionable mania of the day in ladies' bower,
as in the halls of universities. A delicate taste for the charm of a
Ciceronian style was as much necessary to the finished education of a
noble lady then, as the graceful carriage of the person in crossing
a room or entering a carriage is now. Male blockheadism had not yet
suggested to the prudent jealousy of the lords of the creation the
discovery, that learning tended to unfit women for the more special
duties of wives and mothers. Not to be classical was to be nothing. So
Anna d'Este was above all else to be a perfect Latinist and Grecian.

It was in 1540, when she was only nine years old (!) that Calcagnini
thus wrote to her, of course in Latin, only to be known from that of
the purest Augustan mintage by its greater difficulty and a certain
affected intricacy of construction, observable in most of the Latinists
of that period:—

"I have read the fables you have translated from the Tuscan into Latin,
in an elegant and ornate style, as becomes a royal hand. On finishing
the perusal I had only to regret, that it was so soon ended, and that
my curiosity was left unsatisfied. I trust that these essays may be the
seed of future compositions, which, when matured, will reflect honour
on your name. I have already the pleasure of applauding these first
steps on the path to fame."

What the very young lady's own composition may have been we have no
means of judging; but it must be presumed that she was at all events
competent to read readily the letter in which these compliments are
addressed to her; and we should now–a–days consider that much for a
young lady of nine years, or young gentleman either.

Other translations sent, as it seems, to Celio Curione in the following
year, are acknowledged by him in still more flattering and flowery
language. And the circumstance is remarkable on other grounds than
as a testimony to the Princess Anna's classical proficiency. Curione
was at that time, as has been seen, a refugee from ecclesiastical
persecution, finding shelter and concealment in the house of Morato.
Is it to be supposed that Duke Hercules would have tolerated his
daughter's correspondence with one so situated, and that, too, after
the unfortunate Calvin discovery? It seems to be but too clear, that
Miss Anna and her mamma must have come to the understanding that papa
was to know nothing about these literary intimacies with gentlemen
under a cloud.

[Sidenote: GOES TO COURT.]

We may be tolerably certain too, that had the Duke known all that his
wife knew of Messer Peregrino Morato, he would not have permitted
another step, which that lady took about the time of which we are
speaking, very soon after the return of Morato,—that is, and in all
probability not later than 1540. This was the invitation of Olympia to
court, to be the companion of her daughter, and sharer in her studies.
Renée well knew the power of emulation; and in her eagerness to
stimulate the efforts of her daughter, she determined to place beside
her one, just five years older than herself, of whose wonderful talents
and acquirements all Ferrara was talking.

So in, or very near about, 1540, Olympia left her father's humble home
and went to be an inmate of the court, in the dissenting interest, or
female side of the house. For dissension and dispute were ever more and
more openly manifesting themselves in that splendid dwelling. The Duke
and his councillors, lay and ecclesiastical, were becoming from day to
day more jealously and suspiciously orthodox; as tidings from all parts
of Italy showed that the Church was becoming alive to the dangers which
threatened it from the new ideas, and, having once realised this fact,
was suddenly convinced of their heretical nature, and determined to
exert its utmost power to extinguish them by violence.

Paul III., a politic and worldly wise old man, with considerable
desire to do such parts of a Pope's duty as could be accomplished
without interfering with his own projects and schemes of ambition, was
quite as much minded as any member of the sacred college to preserve
intact to Rome its bishops and high priests, the monopoly of those
sacerdotal emoluments and perquisites, which sacramental Christianity
was contrived to afford in abundance. Pius IX., a better man, as
living in better times than Paul III., found himself in front of the
same eternal difficulty. All hope and project of reform had to be
abandoned before the too–evident incompatibility of the fundamental
sine–quâ–non condition, that "I transmit to my successors intact the
power I have received from my predecessors." Thorough reform on the
condition, that nothing shall be changed! Poor Pius! So once again
Holy Church had to return to its vomit of St. Angelo and Paliano
prisons, arbitrary arrests, immaculate conceptions, winking virgins,
and concordats. And mankind finding finally, all hope of curing the
cancer vain, has to screw its courage to the truly painful and terrible
operation of excision;—as mankind silently and with naturally reluctant
procrastination, is even now doing.

Paul III. was as free from persecuting instincts as Pius IX. He had
been a man of the world, was the father of children, and had a natural
human heart within his bosom. But at his elbow stood one, who was all
priest. No merciful weakness, no natural affection, no human sympathy,
no shade of misgiving, ever checked John Peter Caraffa in his crusade
against free human thought. When Paul was doubtfully deliberating what
measures might best be adopted to check the progress of heresy in
Italy, Caraffa promptly decided for him, that the Inquisition was the
one thing wanted,—the Inquisition with fullest powers of imprisonment,
confiscation, and death, and he himself as Chief Inquisitor,—this, by
God's help, and that of fire and sword, and nothing else than this,
would succeed in victoriously crushing and extirpating hydra–headed
heresy. On the 21st of July, 1542, the requisite bull was obtained
from Paul III., and Caraffa rushed to his work, with the avidity of an
unleashed hound on his prey.


Such signs of the times were not lost upon Duke Hercules, and
reproduced themselves in sundry painful forms in the interior of the
palace. The Duchess is still found to have about her persons "of very
unwholesome smell;"[53] the flock of them have to be overhauled by the
Duke's new Jesuit director, Pelletario, and all those found "with the
rot upon them" are got rid of. A powerful stream of pure doctrine was
turned on upon the infected Duchess, and sacraments were prescribed
without much success. The "miserable woman" is found with flesh–meat
on her table on a Friday; and the justly exasperated Duke, at his
wits' end, has to shut her up in her apartment, with two attendants
only, and send her daughters to a convent. "Now, though Renée was
very astute," writes the historian, "far more so than the Duke and
all his counsellors, yet it is not permissible to attribute wholly
to her cunning the surprising conversion that was operated in her,
immediately after she was shut up."[54] The imprisoned lady, under
plainly miraculous influence, sent suddenly for her husband's priest,
made a full confession, placed her conscience entirely in his keeping,
and asked for the sacrament from his hands. So efficacious a spiritual
agent is a little persecution, that astute as the patient was, and
temporary as the conversion was proved in the sequel, the historian
cannot believe but that some genuine spiritual effect was produced by

It at all events had the effect of releasing Renée from her durance,
and restoring her daughters to her. For the Duke, delighted at the
success of his discipline, "admitted her to sup with him that same

But amid all this, in a family so constituted, and living under such
conditions, young Olympia must have been placed at times in strange
positions, have witnessed some suggestive scenes, and altogether have
had offered to her ripening intelligence matter for meditation on many
things. As to the disputed points, and antagonistic principles and
prejudices, which lay at the root of all these jars and difficulties,
she seems to have been at that time effectually preserved against all
the dangers of partizanship by thorough indifference to the whole
subject. The arrangement by which she had become a resident at the
court was to her a subject of unmixed rejoicing and exultation. The
household duties which the narrow circumstances of her father's home
had imposed upon her, had occasioned many a sigh over the hours thus
lost to her beloved studies. Now her whole life was to be devoted
under the most favourable circumstances to the prosecution of them.
"Henceforward," writes Calcagnini in a letter to her, "you may give
yourself up to your favourite pursuits, change the distaff for the
pen, house linen for books, and the exercise of the fingers for that
of the mind.... It will now be for you to preserve without flaw the
good gifts which you have received from your parents—modesty, candour,
and virtuous principles, and to add to them wisdom, elegance,
high–mindedness, and contempt for all that is base."[55]


She was, moreover, still to be under the tuition of her father in the
palace, and was to share with the Princess Anne the Greek lessons of

Several specimens have been preserved of her compositions about this
time, which indicate a very remarkable amount of acquirement. Various
passages have have been quoted by her biographers with perhaps more of
admiration than they merit. They were received by her contemporaries
with the most unbounded and hyperbolical applause; and the modern
narrators of her career seem to have taken the tone of the high–flown
eulogies of these productions which they have found on record. But in
reading things of this kind, of Cisalpine production, much allowance
must always be made for the prevalent habit of undiscriminating and
exaggerated laudation, arising from the ever–present influence of
municipal rivalry. The "nul aura de l'esprit, hors nous et nos amis,"
principle was always at work. To a Ferrara man, Olympia was _our_
Olympia,—"gloria Ferraræ; patriæ decus," &c., and was to be made the
most of accordingly. But, secondly, still more allowance must be made
for the strong tendency of the literary culture of that period in
Italy to regard the form rather than the matter. Artistic love for
the beauties of language leads the literary world of Italy, even at
the present day, to attach an undue measure of importance to diction
and style, at the expense of subject–matter. And at the flood–tide of
the classical mania of the sixteenth century, correctness of classic
phraseology, and perfection of mimicry of the ancients, was the alpha
and omega of excellence.

And in these respects the writings of Olympia are truly remarkable.
The amount of acquaintance with the classics then most in vogue, the
familiarity with their modes of thinking, and the mastery of their
language, attained by a girl of from fourteen to sixteen, are really
astonishing. Thus we have an essay on Mutius Scævola in Greek; a
defence of Cicero against some of his detractors; and, more remarkable
still, lectures (!) on the paradoxes of that author.

Of the whole picture, such as we are able to realise it, of this
bright and beautiful Olympia, ambitious of praise, triumphant, full of
fervid poetic enthusiasm, and love of the beautiful, enchanting all
eyes, and charming all ears,—approaching, one may fancy, in social
position, some Siddons or Mars more nearly than any other existence
known to our times; of the whole picture, these public lectures, or
declamations, seem to our notions the strangest feature. Let the
inmates of our "Establishments," "Colleges," "Academies," of the most
finished and "finishing" category, picture to themselves a young lady
of sixteen called on to lecture before an audience, composed of all
the court circle, and most learned Dons of Ferrara, on the Paradoxes
of Cicero!—improvising her declamation, too, in Latin and Greek, if we
may believe her friend Curio, writing many years afterwards, with the
enthusiastic admiration of these exhibitions still strong within him.

"Then," writes he, "we used to hear her declaiming in Latin,
improvising in Greek, explaining the paradoxes of the greatest orators,
and answering to all the questions addressed to her."[56]


It is evident that these public performances were considered among the
most important and valuable parts of a complete education, from the
instructions still extant, which Morato gave in writing to his daughter
about the time when she left his roof to reside under that of Duchess

Here are some of the admonitions which a fond and anxious father
deemed most important to be impressed on a daughter about to leave her
paternal roof for the first time.

"A matron, before leaving her bower, consults her mirror and her
favourite maid to know with what look and air she is about to appear in
society. The human voice ought to act in like manner. A speaker should
use his lips as bridles to his words, raising or lowering his tones,
and giving them delicacy or sonority as he opens his lips more or less.

"Virgil, Cæsar, Brutus, Cicero, excelled in the art of elocution.
Minerva, Mercury, the Muses, the harmony of the spheres, the chords of
the lyre, Apollo, the king of song, echo, which repeats our voices,—are
not all these images of the multiplicity of tone of which the human
voice is capable? What man does not listen with pleasure to accents
pure and harmonious? The guardian of the infernal gate, Cerberus
himself, is appeased by them. The wheel of Ixion at the sound of a
sweet voice stands still!"

Humph! It does not quite please one!—rings mighty hollow, at least on
the Teutonic ear, all this about Minerva, Mercury, Apollo, king of
song, and the wheel of Ixion! Was that worthy old sixteenth–century
schoolmaster really and truly scooped and hollowed out by perpetual
droppings from Helicon into an empty shell resounding classicalities,
and mere togaed simulacrum of a Roman of the Augustan age? To the
Teutonic imagination, the picture thus far realised of our Olympia,
seems to present an altogether scenic personage, prepared for
purposes of representation, slender, graceful figure, draped in long
white muslin robes, with beautifully eloquent upraised arm, "Andres
athenaioi" on her lovely lips, and background of gleaming marble
porticoes, and grey–green olive groves behind,—the cloudless blue
above, and bluer Egean in the distance! A truly charming picture! And
yet this nineteenth century of ours would be sorely puzzled to what
good use to put the original, if we had her among us, for any other
than mere academic drawing–school purposes.

Not a principal "in any establishment," of howsoever slight "finishing"
pretensions, but would at once, on most cursory examination, pronounce
our poor Olympia an entire failure as a specimen of female education, a
mistake from beginning to end, good only as an example of what should
be avoided.

Several of the lectures, or declamations, pronounced by her before the
learned world of Ferrara, have been preserved. Here is a specimen of
the introductory portion of one of them.[57]

"I well know the rarely equalled benevolence of my audience; yet the
timidity natural to my age, joined to the feebleness of my talents,
fills me with reasonable alarm. I tremble, and remain voiceless, like
the rhetorician who steps up to the altar at Lyons[58]—

  "'Ceu Lugdunensem rhetor dicturus ad aram.'

"However, you command, and I will obey; for no sacrifice is more
agreeable to God than that of a willing obedience. I submit myself,
therefore, to this trial for the third time, like an artist unskilled
in his art, who can make nothing of a coarse–grained marble. But if
you offer a block of Parian to his chisel, he will no longer deem his
work valueless. The beauty of the material will give value to his
production. Perhaps it will be so with mine. There are strains so rich
in melody and harmony, that even when reproduced by the most miserable
instrument, they yet retain all their charm. Such are the words of my
favourite author. Listen to them. They will lose nothing of their grace
and majesty even in passing from my lips."


Those who were present at those performances thought that the words
gained much, on the contrary, in passing from those lips. Nothing seems
to have excited the admiration and approbation of her contemporaries
more than these public declamations. "One might have fancied that one
was listening to one of the learned virgins of Greece or Rome, to whom,
indeed, she may be justly compared!"[59] cries one enthusiastic hearer.

"The young girls of thy age," writes another, "pluck spring flowers
from the meadows to weave them into many–coloured chaplets. But thou
gatherest no flowerets doomed ere long to fade and die, but selectest
the immortal amaranths from the abounding gardens of the Muses, whose
altogether divine privilege it is never more to wither, but gain beauty
from time, and flourish ever more greenly as it passes."[60]

Poor old Giraldi sends her Latin verses from his gout–tormented bed.

  "Thou'rt all fair and brightly glowest,
  As in years and lore thou growest,
  In the Virtue's court, young maid,
  Which Renée's fair virgins tread,
  And the sister Muses nine.
  Happy he, whom speech of thine
  Warms and gladdens! happier yet
  Parents that did thee beget,
  And named Olympia! happiest he—
  Should fate to man such bliss decree—
  Whose bride thou shalt consent to be.
  And e'en I, though old 'tis true,
  Have my share of pleasure too,
  While to soothe my gouty pains
  Such a damsel's smile remains."[61]

To all this homage was added the affectionate kindness and liking of
the Duchess, Olympia's sovereign and mistress. She had, apparently
after she had been at the court about a couple of years, an illness
which made it desirable for her to return to her father's house, though
it was with difficulty, we are told,[62] that Renée could make up her
mind to part with her. Her absence was not long, and the following
letter from the Greek professor, John Sinapi (he too, be it observed,
in passing, "of very unwholesome smell;" so vain were poor Duke
Hercules' efforts to keep a purely orthodox household), indicates the
high place occupied by Olympia in the favour of the court.

"All here are greatly delighted to know that you are re–established and
out of the doctor's hands. Settle at once with your father the day and
the manner of your return among us. The Princess has declared that it
will be a great pleasure to her to see you again, be it brought about
how it may. She places at your disposition the litter in which you were
carried to your father's house. Only arrange with your father your
return, in whatever manner you may find most agreeable and speediest."

[Sidenote: SPOILING.]

With her companion and fellow–student, the Princess Anne, she lived on
terms of the most affectionate intimacy. A durable friendship grew up
between them; and a letter written many years afterwards by Olympia to
her old playmate, gives a pleasing idea of the sort of companionship
which existed between the two young girls.

"You remember," she writes, "how familiarly we lived together,
notwithstanding you were my sovereign and liege lady, and for how many
years the companionship lasted; how all our studies were in common, and
how the pursuit of them continually increased the affection which had
grown up between us."

Surely here was enough to "spoil" any young lady in her teens, if
homage, flattery, applause, admiration, excited and gratified vanity,
had spoiling power!

And Olympia stepped upon the pedestal set for her with all the youthful
audacity of conscious genius. They all told her, that she was a tenth
muse, and she accepted the part with exulting confidence, that it was
in truth that for which kind nature had best fitted her. Hear her own
joyous profession of faith, as standing there in the pride and grace of
her beauty before a courtly, gay, and learned circle, she mouthed it
forth in sonorous Greek verse, harmoniously flowing with the pure young
voice amid a burst of enthusiastic applause, the echoes of which have
sounded across three hundred years.

Done into homely English the rhymes fall sadly flat. But the meaning
may correctly be gathered as thus:[63]

  "No joy is still a joy to all mankind,
  For Jove hath given to each a different mind!
  Castor and Pollux by a different aim,
  Though twin–born brothers, seek the path to fame.
  And I, though woman, womanly gear have left,
  Distaff and threads, and work–basket and weft!
  The Muses' haunts, Parnassus' flowery hill,
  These have been all my joy, these shall be still.
  For other pleasures other maids have sighed,
  These are my glory, these my joy and pride."

The hexameters and pentameters are quite as good, and no better, than
our English schools, after sufficient years spent in minutely copying
from the model, can supply, if need were, in any quantity to order.

Poor Olympia! The highly competent principle of that finishing
establishment, to whose experienced judgment we have already had
occasion to refer, would arch her awful brows more highly than ever
over her gold double eye–glasses, it is to be feared, at these
shockingly unfeminine sentiments, _τἁ θηλυκἁ λεϊπον_," "taken leave
of your feminalities"! Miss Morata! If I am rightly informed of your
meaning, unhappily it would indeed seem so! A very unfortunately
situated young woman! Altogether devoid too of religious principle, as
I am told; and as indeed might have been guessed without telling!

Not improbably there may have been ladies too in Ferrara who commented
on the young muse much to the same purpose. But Olympia trod her bright
path exultingly, scattering poesies and gathering triumphs, serenely
indifferent to the justification quarrels, and free–will perplexities
which were distracting the world around her, serenely worshipping
beauty amid her muse–haunted attic shades in undeniably heathenish and
pagan fashion.


Poor Olympia! "Malignant fate sate by and smiled." But some better
ruler of the destinies than any malignant fate smiled also. The
"Theluka" were after all not left very far behind. They will all be
forthcoming in due time, these saucily abused feminalities, at the
quickening trumpet–blast of the fairy knight appointed to the adventure
of breathing the soul of womanhood into our Undine–like muse.


 "The whirligig of time brings in his revenges."—Still Undine.—The
 "salvation" question stands over.

In the winter of 1542–3 Charles V. was in Italy, returning from his
unsuccessful expedition against Algiers. As usual, the sovereigns of
Italy were all on the alert to do homage to their great "barbarian"
master; buzzing about him, to beg "investitures,"—to plead for pardon
in respect of deeds done in contempt of their allegiance as soon as his
back was turned,—to complain one against the other, and in general to
kotoo the great man, and express by all means their own flunkyhood.

Even octogenarian Paul III. thought it necessary to travel in
mid–winter to meet the Emperor in the neighbourhood of Bologna. Paul
was anxious about the great council now at last in earnest on the point
of being summoned; was very desirous of sounding the Emperor's mind,
and getting, if possible, at his real views upon the subject; and
thought, perhaps, that some good might be done by having an opportunity
of ear–wigging him respecting sundry matters connected with it.

Charles had promised to meet him at Busseto; and the old Pope had
travelled as far as Parma towards the place of meeting. But the Emperor
kept him waiting there in vain, remaining himself the while in Genoa.

[Sidenote: TIME'S REVENGES.]

Very near the spot, where the octogenarian Pope was, in the depth of
winter, awaiting the pleasure of the Emperor, there had taken place,
some five hundred years before, another meeting between an Emperor and
a Pope, of which the circumstances had been somewhat different. And it
may be supposed that the vicinity of that world–famous Canossa castle
can hardly have failed to suggest some very disagreeable comparisons
to the mind of the pontiff. Then it had been the Emperor, who had
waited the good pleasure of the priest, standing there for three days'
space bareheaded among the snow. Those were the good old days, eh,
your Holiness! But then, that grand old Hildebrand, you see, really
did think and believe, without any manner of doubt, that he absolutely
_was_ God's vicar on earth;—in some sense, indeed, truly was so. And
that makes all the difference in the matter. Whereas your Holiness, in
this sixteenth century, you know, between ourselves ... must put the
best face you can upon the matter, swallow your indignation as best you
may, and turn your face homewards.

Pope Paul did so; and determined on returning to Bologna by way of
Ferrara, very much to the annoyance of Duke Hercules.[64] It was not
that there was not plenty of business to be transacted between the Pope
and the Duke. But the successor of St. Peter travelled in a manner that
made the honour of being his host a very serious consideration. Duke
Hercules was much given to splendid hospitality, was fond, generally,
of magnificence, and of occasions for display. But he had already borne
the entire expense of the Pope's passage through Modena on his way
northwards, and was not anxious to do the honours of his capital to
such a visitor on such a scale as he felt he must do them, if they were
to be done at all.

In the first place "Servus servorum" travelled with a suite of three
thousand persons, among whom were eighteen cardinals, forty bishops,
and a whole posse of ambassadors and princes. He brought with him
fourteen hundred horses, which seem few enough to drag and carry all
these ecclesiastical dignitaries and their followers over the roads
of Italy as they then were. Then festivals, gala doings temporal and
spiritual, spectacles and celebrations of all sorts must be provided,
and cash disbursed on all sides. A magnificent state barge,—a
bucentaur, as the chroniclers call it, such as that in which the
Venetian doge went out to wed the Adriatic—was sent up the Po to the
nearest point to Parma, together with a whole fleet of other boats to
bring the Pope and his enormous following down the river.

The famous villa of Belvidere was to be the Pope's resting place
the first night after entering the Duke's territories. This was a
pleasure–palace of the Dukes of Ferrara, built on an island in the Po,
which was entirely occupied by it and the superb gardens attached to
it. The recorders of the Ferrarese magnificences are never tired of
describing the splendours of Belvidere, its marble quays and stairs
from the water's edge, its courts, its fountains (which necessarily, as
Frizzi remarks, must have been worked by machinery), its walls, glowing
with the frescoes of the best masters of the Ferrara school, and, above
all, its enchanting—if not, as Tasso describes them, enchanted—gardens.
For these ducal pleasure–grounds furnished, it is said, the model
whence the poet drew his well–known description of the gardens of


The next day there is the usual ceremony of the state entry into the
city. The cannon fire, and the bells ring; the crown prince Alphonso,
with an hundred youths, chiefly of the students of the University,
bring the keys of the city in a golden basin to the feet of his
Holiness, who kisses the prince on the forehead. Then he has to hear
an oration, then to be carried in a chair on men's shoulders all round
the city, blessing all the way, till his arm is ready to drop off, then
to "attend service" at the Cathedral—(adorned for the occasion by four
pieces of arras belonging to the Duke, valued at sixty thousand crowns,
some three hundred thousand pounds sterling, at least, of our present
money!)—then to hear more orations; and then, it is to be hoped, to be
put to bed. For in truth, for an octogenarian Servus servorum, such a
day's work must have been harder than that of most of his masters.

The next day the Duchess has to do her share of the hard work, and with
seventy–two ladies all on horseback, and all dressed in black and gold,
and twenty–two cars full of other ladies following them, "made several
circuits of the city."

But the grand day was the third, which happened to be the festival of
St. George, the patron saint of Ferrara. The Pope had to do pontifical
mass in the cathedral to begin with. After dinner, he was present at
a tournament held in his honour. And after supper the "Adelphi" of
Terence was performed before him and all the great folks assembled, by
the sons and daughters of the Duke, and doubtless also by our Olympia.

Muratori, in his "Antiquities of the House of Este," rehearses the
different parts sustained by the three princesses and their two
brothers, but says nothing of the share Olympia had in the fête. But
this, of course, is quite in accordance with the natural instincts
of a court historian. It is likely enough, however, that the poor
schoolmaster's daughter, who would most assuredly have eclipsed
her fellow comedians, was not permitted to have the opportunity of
committing such a solecism. But it is impossible that such a business
could have been afoot in the court of Ferrara, and that Olympia should
not have had a leading share in the guidance of it, behind if not
before the curtain.

As a detached bit of sixteenth century life, brought up out of
the dark past, and made to flit for a moment before our vision by
history's magic lanthorn, it is a pretty and striking scene enough,
and interestingly characteristic of tastes and manners,—this venerable
(looking) octogenarian pontiff, with his eighteen cardinals and forty
bishops, &c., sitting there to hear a group of royal children, of whom
the youngest was only five years old, declaim the rough comedy of
ancient Rome! Little Luigi, sustained the part of a slave, Muratori
tells us; and had not, we must suppose, much to say.

Amid all these festivities and amusements the Pope and the Duke had to
find time for long colloquies, the subjects of which, we are told, were
kept secret, but which may be easily divined.

The old investiture difficulty was not settled yet; and the new
inquisition had to be established in Ferrara. Here, then, the proposed
body and soul arrangement, might, one would think, have been brought to
a settlement. But, as usual, the Duke assented to the proposed new and
more complete abandonment of his own and his subjects' right to their
own souls, but by no means obtained the temporal advantages he was so
desirous of in return.


There were other matters, too, of very really important, but
altogether material interest, to be debated between the Duke and
the father of the faithful. All the rich cities, with their fertile
territories, which are situated in the lower part of the great valley
of the Po, have suffered from the earliest historic times, and to the
present day still suffer from very great difficulty in getting rid
of the waters brought down to them from the higher country by the Po
itself, and sundry other rivers. As usual in the compensatory processes
of nature, the same causes have produced their prosperity, and the
circumstances which tend to diminish it. The whole of the wonderfully
fertile region in question is alluvial soil of extremely recent
formation. Very numerous and exceedingly curious discoveries, made
at different times within the last two centuries at various points,
extending over the whole district from Modena to the Adriatic, prove
that the country has been at former times inhabited, when the surface
of the soil was from four to ten or more feet lower than it is at the
present day. On the left bank of the Brenta, near Fusina, a mosaic
pavement, and other Roman remains, were found _in situ_ at a level now
two feet and a half below that of the mean height of the Adriatic. And
a great variety of similar facts have been placed on record,[65] which
satisfactorily prove that the level of the sea has been raised, _pari
passu_, with that of the adjoining low lands.

The result of the process thus always going on is, that an exceedingly
small margin of difference between the level of the land and that of
the sea remains to render possible the discharge of the waters from
the mouths of the different rivers. The fertilising materials, which
are brought down from the Apennines in vast quantities, not only
tend to raise the general level of the district, but also, and with
much greater rapidity, to raise the beds of the rivers, and obstruct
their course. From a very early period, this evil has been met by the
inhabitants by constructing lofty banks along the courses of their
rivers. The more the bed of the stream became raised in the process of
time, the higher these moles had to be built to follow it, till some
of the rivers now traverse large districts of country in a perfectly
artificial canal, constructed upon, instead of in, the face of the
soil. Near Ferrara itself, the surface of the Po is now higher, it is
said, than the highest building in the city.

In such a state of things, it may easily be imagined how important a
public concern was, and still is, the maintenance and regulation of
these vast artificial banks, and how vital a question the management of
the waters of those secondary streams, which contribute their volume to
the mass that threatens the lower country.

Then, again, the disputes inevitably arising from the conflicting
interests of adjacent districts, in this respect, were further
complicated by differences of an exactly opposite kind. For the waters,
which, under certain conditions, were agents of destruction, which all
were eager to escape at the expense of their neighbours, were, under
other circumstances, creators of fertility and wealth, which all sought
to appropriate to their own advantage.

Thus the Reno, which comes from the Apennines above Bologna, and is
one of the most important of the tributaries of the Lower Po, had been
modified in its course by embankments, which tended to divert its
waters from the extensive rice grounds of Bologna and Imola, and bring
them into the Ferrarese branch of the Po, which the people of that
city at that time feared would, from the encumberment of its bed, soon
become unnavigable.[66]


Here then was matter for interminable dispute and negotiation between
the two governments,—disputes, too, which, in the hands of their
more immediately interested subjects, gave rise to perpetual acts of
lawless violence, to quarrels, and, on more than one occasion, even to
pitched battles between commune and commune. For in the season of the
floods, when the ruin of a whole district from anticipated inundation
might be prevented by the cutting of an embankment, and thus averting
the devastation from one's own to one's neighbour's fields; or when,
in the summer, the fertilising stream, precious as a Pactolus, was
insufficient for all the demands upon it, it could hardly be expected
that such acts should not be resorted to, especially when, from the
undecided condition of all the questions concerning the law of the
case, either party honestly believed themselves to be in the right.

Thus, thrice in the course of the year 1542, the embankments of the
Reno had been cut through in the night–time,[67] and it was whispered
that the Duke himself was the instigator of the deed,—an opinion, which
was strengthened by the evident unwillingness of the authorities to
discover and punish the offenders.

But in this matter of the waters, as in the other affair, the Duke
had to concede all and obtain nothing. The Pope deferred his decision
till his return to Rome, and then gave sentence in his own favour, by
awarding to the Bolognese all the advantages in dispute.

Olympia continued to be an inmate of the palace for about five years
after the memorable visit of Pope Paul to Ferrara: five more happy
sunshine years of Undine–Muse existence. The public declamations,
the triumphs, the homage of the learned,[68] the interchange of
complimentary poetry, the heathen philosophisings on Scipio's dream,
and such like matters, went on as before. A more brilliant creature
than this beautiful young priestess in the Temple of Minerva, or a
sunnier existence, it is impossible to conceive. But had her life
reached its term before the end of this summer–tide period, she would
not have left behind her the fair claim to be remembered as one of
the noblest types on record of true womanly excellence, which she
afterwards made good. The depths of her moral nature slept like an
unstirred lake, while the intellectual portion of her being was in
full and energetic activity. And the subsequent completion of a noble
character by the awakening of her soul at that fire–touch, which is
woman's true Prometheus spark, shows us a psychological study of great
beauty and interest.

But a very noteworthy indication of the _genuineness_ of her nature,
of the sincere simplicity of her enthusiasm and Muse–ship, and the
sympathetic loveableness of her character, is to be found in the fact,
that in the midst of her triumphant career, while she was the cynosure
of all male eyes, and the object of so much male admiration, she formed
the most durable and loving friendships with all that was best and
noblest in the female world around her.


The attachment which existed between her and the companion of her
studies, Anne d'Este, has been mentioned. It must have been at an
early period of her residence at the court, that she and one of the
ladies of the Duchess, Francesca Bucyronia, were drawn together rather
by a similarity of qualities of heart than of intellectual pursuits.
The learned German, John Sinapi, Olympia's Greek master, and second
father, as she considered him, had also discovered the good qualities
of Francesca, and induced her to leave the sunny skies of her own Italy
and accompany him to Germany as his wife. The friendship which had been
formed between the two young women in the bright springtide of their
existence was life–long, and became strengthened in their after life
under less brilliant skies, and in less brilliant fortunes.

Another friendship, of perhaps a yet closer and more intimate kind,
was that which sprung up between Olympia and the Princess Lavinia
della Rovere. This daughter of the Ducal family of Urbino had recently
married Paolo Orsini, when, at the court of Ferrara, she became
acquainted with Olympia. Lavinia, says the historian of her husband's
family,[69] "was a lady of most excellent and cultivated mind,
inasmuch as, besides her other rare and excellent qualities, she was
devoted to philosophy and the other branches of profane literature;"
"alla filosofia, e all'altre belle lettere humane." This, too, was a
friendship for life; and, despite the wide difference in the social
standing and circumstances of the two friends, was one, in which the
most perfect equality of affection placed these two natures—highly
gifted both—in the relative position to each other, which their
respective calibre of intellect made the fitting and natural one, of
guide and guided, as is seen from the letters of Olympia in after life.

The remarkable limitation in Sansovino's above quoted eulogy to
excellence in philosophy and _profane_ literature, would seem to imply
that Lavinia, at the time of which the writer is speaking, had paid no
attention to the theological questions which were agitating the world.
It may be, that the orthodox historian of the house of Orsini merely
intended to indicate in a manner reflecting as little scandal as might
be on the family of his patron, that in the province of religion there
was little good to be said of the lady Lavinia. Either meaning on the
part of a good Catholic would have done her little wrong at the time of
her companionship with Olympia at the court of Ferrara.

The general movement of mind, and the ventilation of theological
questions which was stirring society from the monk's cell to the lady's
bower, had produced on both the friends a destructive, but as yet no
constructive result. They had ceased to believe the incredibilities
taught by the Church; and their emancipation had brought them to a
state,—if not of entirely comfortable and contented indifferentism, yet
to one of unanxious infidelity, in which their meditations were rather
curious speculations, than struggles for vital truth.

This state of mind is clearly indicated by passages of Olympia's
letters of an after period, joined to the traces yet left of her
pre–occupations and studies at that time. Writing after her own mind
had attained firm convictions, she exhorts her friend to "lay aside
that old error, which formerly induced us to think that, before calling
on God, it was necessary to know whether we had been from eternity
elected by him. Rather let us, as he commands us, first implore his
mercy, and then, when we have done so, we shall know of a certainty,
that we are of the number of elect."


It is needless now–a–days to stop to point out how this method of
defending the tenets of Calvinism consists in simply abandoning them.
The use of the passage quoted is only to show, that when the two
friends had talked of these things together at Ferrara, they had been
prevented from adopting the reformer's faith by these perplexities.

And this difficulty of finding the way to any firm standing ground of
conviction was not a cause of unhappiness or struggle to these pure
young hearts. Witness Olympia's subsequent opinion of her then state of

"Had I remained longer at court," she writes[70] to her earliest friend
Celia Curione, "it would have been all over with me and my salvation.
For never while I remained there, could I attain the knowledge of aught
lofty or divine, or read the books of either Testament."

The two young women talked of these subjects, soon discovered that
they sympathised in utter alienation from the faith of the Church,
compared their difficulties as to the new doctrines in vogue, and
turned to the more congenial subjects of pagan philosophy and Augustan
literature;—Olympia, for example, to the amusement of translating into
the language of Cicero a couple of the fables of Boccaccio.

They are the first and second of the entire Decameron; a circumstance
which looks as if it had been the translator's intention to proceed
with the work. But they are such as to make the selection of them, if
they were selected, sufficiently indicative of the tone of thinking
and speaking of Church matters in those secret inner women's chambers
of the Ferrara palace, which the Duke found it so impossible to purify
from the heretical smell.

In the first place it may be observed, that the two "Novelle"
in question are free from the indecency which marks so many of
the collection. But they are among those which hit hardest the
ecclesiastical shortcomings and absurdities of the age. In the first
Ser Ciappelletto, who is described as one of the most worthless
scoundrels who ever lived, sends for a friar when on his death–bed,
and makes such a confession of all sorts of virtues, under the guise
of remorseful dissatisfaction at the imperfection of them, that the
confessor has him buried in a costly tomb at the expense of his
convent, where his body forthwith begins to work miracles in the most
satisfactory manner. The author, as if afraid of the telling force
of his own satire, and the conclusions to which it naturally points,
finishes by remarking, that after all it is impossible to deny that
Ser Ciappelletto may have become San Ciappelletto in the other world
by force of a sincere, even though momentary repentance in the last
instants of his life!

The second story tells how a rich Jew was induced by a Christian friend
to go to Rome for the purpose of examining Christianity at its fountain
head, with a view to conversion in case conviction of the truth should
reach his mind. The Jew notes well all that he can see and hear in the
capital of Christianity, returns, and is baptised at once, alleging
that nothing but divine miraculous interposition could possibly enable
a religion preached and maintained by such men and such means to
subsist and find credence among mankind.


We can easily imagine, that such fun as this would be well relished
with all the zest of forbidden fruit in the young Muse's classical
version by the initiated set of erudite freethinkers, male and female,
that made the circle of the Duchess of Renée. But Boccaccio is not the
author, to whom Calvin, or even Celio Curione would have recommended
one struggling with religious doubts and difficulties to resort. Nor
can we doubt that Olympia, while thus occupying herself, was in that
state of religious indifferentism, which she subsequently as we have
seen, regarded as one of perdition.

Another extant fragment of her composition, which is marked by its
subject as belonging to the last year of her court life, places her
before us, still as the heathen Muse, drawing all her inspiration and
her imagery from pagan sources, even on an occasion which might seem
by its nature to require, if merely as a matter of art, a Christian

Cardinal Bembo died on the 18th of February 1547; and his loss, keenly
felt by the literary world in all parts of Italy, was especially
lamented in Ferrara, where he had been so well known and highly
valued by all the learned society gathered there. Bembo was, it is
true, a Churchman of the old school of Leo X.'s easy going days, who
found more pleasure in reading Plato than St. Paul, and liked Cicero
infinitely better than the vulgate. Though inclined in all ways to
liberal opinions, he probably would have had as little disposition to
meddle in the controversy between the old and new theology, as many a
greek–play–learned Bishop of George III's time, would have felt to be
made moderator between the "high" and "low" schools of our own day.
Cardinal as he was, he might no doubt have been permitted to be present
at any of those little gatherings of the unorthodox, under the rose,
in the apartments of the Duchess, without danger to any of the set;
and if he had there heard Olympia's Boccaccio translations, he would
have laughed at the fun, and been delighted with the classical latinity
as much as any there. And this aspect of very mildly ecclesiastical
literary Mæcenas–ship was doubtless that under which the amiable and
generally beloved Cardinal had appeared to Olympia.

Yet, had her mind not been still in 1547 wholly uninfluenced by any
deep religious impressions, she would not have written on the death of
a prince of the Church in so thoroughly a heathen spirit as that of the
following lines:[71]

  "Bembo, the great light of the sea–girt queen,
    The Muse's glory, Bembo hath gone hence;
  Nor left his equal 'mong the sons of men
    In noble deeds, or witching eloquence.
  For Tully's self, with Hermes by his side,
  Recross'd the Stygian flood, when Bembo died."

Such as may be gathered from these productions and occupations, and
from her own subsequent reminiscences, were Olympia's thoughts and
views of life and death up to this her twenty–first year. To her,
indeed, whose being had as yet been stirred by no deeper feeling than
gratified love of approbation, congenial friendship, and enthusiasm
for her favourite studies, the age in which she was living might have
appeared one of "renaissance," as it has since been discovered to have
been. Not because she was able to look out far, but because her view
was as yet so circumscribed. The social earthquake which was heaving
the world around her, had not yet awakened her from her dream–life
among "the haunts of the Muses."

[Sidenote: CHANGES AT HAND.]

Her talk with Lavinia della Rovere on the great topics which were
agitating the world, election, grace, free will, and justification, was
only such as may serve curiously to indicate how thoroughly the general
mind must have been saturated with speculations on such subjects, when
two girls, neither of them feeling strongly on the matter, could not
meet and make friends without diversifying their Boccaccio readings and
Ciceronian studies with chat on the difficulties of predestination. The
outside air must have been very highly charged with an electricity of
thought that boded stormful changes. For the meeting and shock of large
masses of human thought always is a portent indicating that much change
is at hand. Absence of much thought is an indispensable condition of

But the time was now come when Olympia was to be waked from her
Helicon dreams, and to be summoned very suddenly to descend from her
calm Parnassus heights, step out into this storm–atmosphere, and find
herself under circumstances wholly unknown to "Apollo and the Æonian


Dark days.—The great question begins to be answered.

In 1548 Peregrino Morato fell ill. The master's chair was empty; the
scholar's desks,—those school–like looking desks, which we may still
see sculptured on the monumental stones of old sixteenth century
professors in academic Bologna—were vacant; the last new edition
issued by Aldus, beautiful with the delicately–cut types of Francesco
de Bologna, and damp from the press of neighbouring Venice, remained
half–cut; and the wearied scholar, old, we are told,[72] and broken
down before his time, lay on his poor pallet.

Olympia hurried from the court to her father's bedside. It was the
first call to her of painful duty, a great epoch in every life!
Suddenly from the midst of her bright–hued dream–life, her "Muses'
haunts," and gay poetical imaginings, she was called to face some of
the sternest realities, that post themselves like sentinels inevitable
in the smoothest path of mortal existence. Suffering to be ended
only by dissolution,—the mysterious departure of the loved one for
that dim uncertain cloudland, the existence and nature of which have
hardly hitherto been realised, but which henceforward will be invested
with all the interest attaching to the home of those who have been
our home–mates,—the newness of that solitude that first teaches
the startled heart the meaning of those dreary words, never! never
more!—these are the divining rods that first reveal the hidden wealth
dormant beneath the flower–decked surface of many a gifted nature.

[Sidenote: MORATA'S DEATH.]

Olympia's loving watch by the bedside of her father was considerably
prolonged, as he sank gradually to his rest; and finally closed his
eyes tranquil in the assurance that the position which his Olympia's
rare talents and acquirements had attained for her, would enable her
to be the stay and protectress of her three young sisters and younger

But while this scene was passing in the humble home of the worn–out
scholar, events of a very different sort were in progress in the palace
home she had so recently left.

Anne D'Este, Olympia's friend and companion, though five years her
junior, was now seventeen. And her father, the Duke, who had in the
earlier part of this year been to Turin for the purpose of meeting
there Henry II. of France, the nephew of the Duchess Renée, had then
arranged with the King a marriage between her and Francis of Lorraine,
afterwards well known to history as the Duc de Guise. On the return
of Duke Hercules to Ferrara the marriage was solemnised on the 29th
of July, 1548, Louis of Bourbon standing proxy for the bridegroom.
"The citizens of Ferrara," we are told,[73] "were not altogether well
pleased with this marriage; but they constrained themselves to put on
an air of festivity." There was but little of this, we may be sure,
or we should have had the usual accounts of feastings and processions,
with the details of the dishes and the dresses, and the cost thereof.
The marriage seems to have been done with business–like simplicity;
and the young Princess, regretted by a whole city, "who," says
Muratori,[74] "loved and reverenced her beyond all belief," was sent
off, to find shortly enough,—she too, as well as her old playmate,—that
life had other things in store for her than classical philosophy
and dilettante poetry. The Duke, her father, accompanied her as far
as the frontier of his states, her mother and two sisters as far as
Mantua, and certain ladies of the court as far as Grenoble; and there,
the links of the chain that bound her to her home having been thus
gradually severed, she was launched into the strange life before her.

Thus, when Olympia had paid the last duties to her father, and returned
to the palace, her friend was no longer there, and she found herself
dismissed under circumstances that showed her to have fallen under the
displeasure of the Duke. This blow followed the other so closely that
Olympia admits herself to have been beaten down to the ground by them.
And in truth the burden suddenly laid on those young shoulders, which
had never yet learned that life had any burdens which could gall the
bearer, was a heavy one. A sick mother, three young sisters, and an
infant brother in that poverty–stricken mourning home, all looking up
to Olympia, the pride of the family, the admired, successful Olympia,
the inmate of the palace, whose friends and intimate companions were
the great ones of the land, and she driven forth into the cold shade
of disgrace, just at the moment when there was so much need that some
gleams from the brilliant sunshine of her prosperity should have
cheered the cold home of the widow and orphaned sisters;—the burden was
a heavy one for that young heart, making her first acquaintanceship
with sorrow.

[Sidenote: FIRST SORROWS.]

But Olympia struggled bravely with her difficulties.[75] "Haunts of the
Muses," and brilliant heathen Undine–life were all left far behind; and
that salvation question began to be answered.

The cause of Olympia's disgrace is not clearly apparent. M. Bonnet,
who writes her biography with the sympathy of a co–religionist,
attributes[76] it to the evil machinations of one Jerome Bolsec, a name
of very ill savour in the annals of Calvinistic Protestantism. The
suspicion that Bolsec had a hand in this, as in so much other mischief,
would seem to rest on some phrases from a letter of John Sinapi to
Calvin, cited by M. Bonnet from the inedited correspondence of that
intolerant Geneva pope. But the few words given do not seem at all
conclusive on the subject. It may be that the context is more so.

Jerome Hermes Bolsec was at all events a very sorry knave, capable
enough of any wickedness of the sort. He had been a Carmelite monk at
Paris, and having got into trouble by unorthodox preaching there, fled
across the mountains, says Bayle,[77] "to Renée of France, Duchess of
Ferrara, the common asylum of those who were persecuted for adhering to
the new doctrines." The Duchess made him her almoner, as we learn from
Sinapi. And Bayle says that he married and practised as a physician
at Ferrara, till he was exiled for some unknown cause. He went thence
to Geneva, and there had the fatal misfortune to differ from Calvin on
some points of doctrine. In one of his pastorals to the Swiss churches,
the latter recounts how one day at sermon time "this rogue got up and
said ... that men are not saved because they are elect, but are elect
because they believe, and that no man is damned by the mere decree
of God—_nudo Dei placito_—but those only who have by their own acts
deprived themselves of the election common to all." Whereupon, says
Theodore Beza,[78] Calvin "so confuted him, belaboured him, overwhelmed
him with testimony from holy writ, passages from St. Augustin, and
weighty arguments, that all present, except the brazen–faced monk
himself, were ashamed of the figure he cut." Plenty of reason for being
ashamed of themselves for all parties concerned doubtless. But Calvin,
who was not wont to be contented with mere argumentative belabouring of
those who disagreed with him, had him forthwith hauled off to prison,
and finally banished from the Canton, as he might have anticipated,
when he ventured on the dangerous enterprise of attacking the pet tenet
of the Geneva pope's tremendous devil worship.

Bolsec went to Berne, but Calvin's resentment followed him there, and
finally harried him out of Switzerland. So he returned to his old faith
to spite the reformers, and published lives of Beza and Calvin filled
with calumnies so gross that even the controversialists of the Romish
Church have admitted their falsehood, and given up Jerome Bolsec as a
discredit to either or any party.

[Sidenote: JEROME BOLSEC.]

It may be admitted then that this "most slippery fellow, Almoner to the
Court of Ferrara, by your leave," as Sinapi calls him,—_vaferrimus in
aulâ Ferrariense, si diis placet, Eleemosynarius_,—was capable enough
of making mischief, if his ill passions prompted him to do so. But as
he was on his Protestant tack when under the protection of the Duchess,
it hardly seems probable that he should have practised against Olympia
by denouncing her as a heretic to the Catholics. Yet it seems plain[79]
that her shortcomings in the matter of orthodoxy were the real cause
of her disgrace at court. The Duchess, who, as has been seen, was much
attached to her, did not, we are told, attempt to interfere in her
favour. And the most probable explanation of this abandonment is to
be found in the supposition, that the suspicion and ill–repute under
which the Duchess herself laboured in the matter of religion, made the
danger of openly defending an heretical delinquent greater than she was
willing to meet.

"The Duke," writes M. Bonnet,[80] "urged as he had been for some time
past to give proofs of his fidelity to the Apostolic See, watched with
a jealous eye the different movements of his court. He believed blindly
such calumnies as always find a ready echo in a palace. His wrath,
increased by the long suppression of his suspicions, burst forth in
violence the more terrible. Olympia was the first victim."

The Duchess was herself by no means in a secure position. When a little
after the period in question, one Matthew Ori, a Dominican monk, was
sent from Paris to Ferrara, as Grand Inquisitor, Henry II. "who knew
well enough which foot Renée was lame of,"[81] especially charged him
"to heal her." The monk came and did his best, "gaining some ground,
as it seemed by his efforts." For "the Duchess feared her husband, and
his terrible method of proceeding against those accused of offences in
matters of religion."

The Duke's "method" in spiritual affairs became indeed more and more
compendious and energetic, as Rome's fears and exigencies became more

Paul III. died on the 10th of November, 1549, and was succeeded by
the Cardinal del Monte, who took the name of Julius III.; an easy and
good–natured, though passionate old gentleman, who loved pleasure,
quiet, and luxury,—inscribed over the palace he built, "Honeste
voluptarier cunctis fas honestis esto!"—"Let all honest men enjoy
themselves decently without scruple!"—and troubled himself as little
about the business of life as might be.

This was not the sort of man for a persecutor. But the progress of the
Inquisition during his reign is a remarkable instance of the degree
in which the policy of the Church overrides the individual tendencies
of the man who may be the temporary occupant of St. Peter's chair,
whenever either the imbecility or the scruples of the latter may seem
to endanger the interests of the corporation over which he presides.
Whether the moderate, politic, and worldly–minded statesman, Paul
III., the poco–curante voluptuary Julius III., or the pure and saintly
sage Marcellus II., were pontiff, the crusade against free thought
knew no relaxation. Caraffa and his Inquisitors pursued _their_ work
at least with zeal and unflagging perseverance. Duke Hercules took
his cue readily enough as to the duties of an orthodox prince; and as
he had the misfortune of labouring under the ill–repute that attached
to a wife of notoriously heretical inclinations, it was all the more
necessary that he should prove his attachment to the Holy See by the
most unmistakeable zeal for the purity of the faith.


Under these circumstances the arrest of a young man named Fannio, at
Faenza, for holding and disseminating heterodox opinions, was a lucky
chance to be made the most of.

At first, however, it seemed that he would turn craven, and show no
sport. The unhappy man had a wife tenderly attached to him, and her
tears and entreaties induced him to recant, and accept his liberty as
the price of declaring that he believed what his persecutors and judges
knew perfectly well he did not believe. But his life became intolerable
to him under such conditions. Though he had forced his tongue to utter
the lying words that were the price demanded for his life, he could not
live up to his lie; so he "relapsed," was again arrested, and this time
thrown into the dungeons of Ferrara.

Some time elapsed, while his "trial" for heresy was going through the
regular edifying forms before the tribunal of the Inquisition at Rome.
Condemnation was of course perfectly certain; and the terror among the
numerous band of more or less suspected Protestants at Ferrara was
great. Yet, hazardous as it must have been to attract attention by any
such manifestation of sympathy, we are assured,[82] that many visited
him in his prison, and "were consoled by his exhortations." It seems
strange that such visits should have been permitted. The Inquisition
which had thrown him into prison for preaching, could hardly intend
that he should have the means of continuing the offence with all the
extra prestige of martyrdom. And the fact would seem to indicate, that
the "secular arm," or at least those subordinate executive officers of
its will who had not the same reasons for being in love with orthodoxy
that moved the prince, had little sympathy with the new persecuting
tribunal recently established among them, and seconded its intentions
as little as might be.

But it is still more surprising to find, that among these clandestine
visitors to this poor Fannio in his prison were the lady Lavinia
della Rovere and her friend Olympia. Lavinia then dared to remain
on terms of intimacy with the disgraced favourite, when all, as she
complains deserted her. Lavinia ventured to seek her friend out in her
humble home, and risk subjecting herself to the same suspicions which
weighed so heavily on Olympia. But surely this dangerous expedition
indicates a notable change of mind and feeling in both these young
women, since but a year or so ago. It is but a very little time since
those conversations, in which the difficulties of the doctrine of
predestination prevented the young friends from accepting the religion
of the reformers; and since Olympia's state of mind on religious
matters was such as to lead her subsequently to think that "it would
have been all over with her and her salvation," if she had remained
longer at court. And now, after the lapse of a few months, we find the
youthful pair sufficiently interested in the faith for which a martyr
is about to suffer, to visit him in his dungeon, and "find consolation"
from his exhortations!

[Sidenote: MARTYRDOM.]

Or should we rather suppose, that deeper thought, a more serious
interest, and ultimate complete adoption of the persecuted faith on the
part of Olympia and her friend, were the consequences, rather than the
cause of their visit to Fannio in his dungeon; and that mere female
compassion and sympathy with a fellow–unbeliever at least, if not as
yet a fellow–believer, led them to the prison. It is probable enough,
that the first heart–deep seeds of conviction fell into Olympia's mind
during that solemn and affecting prison conference. It is a property of
persecution to operate thus on generous and noble hearts. The desolate,
disheartening, and precarious situation of Olympia's own fortunes,
and the severe lesson she had so recently received on the vanity and
instability of worldly prosperity, were well calculated to prepare her
heart for the martyr's teaching, and open it to the emotional reception
of a faith, which, according to the avowal of its adherents, cannot
approve itself to the reasoning faculties.

With a strange and solemn authority,—almost as of one speaking from
beyond the awful boundary line, he was so soon to cross—the words of
that noble heroic man must have sunk deep into the hearts of the young
women. For noble and heroic,—let more ignoble natures chatter what
trash they may of gratified vanity, obstinacy, and such futilities in
the vain attempt to bring down the heroic to their own level,—noble
and heroic, with a heroism inferior to none other practicable by man,
and wholly unmodified by the intellectual value of the conviction for
which a martyr dies—is the soul, that true to its own indefeasible
independence refuses, in the face of all the worst the body and the
heart lacerated in its affections can suffer, to abdicate its right of

And like all noble emotions, it is a contagious heroism. While the
terrible circumstances of the place and scene, never to be forgotten
by either of them, spoke fearful warning of the not improbable
consequences of the nascent convictions even then rising in their
minds, their courage was stimulated to confront whatever danger might
arise from the exercise of free thought.

So Fannio and Duke Hercules both had their triumph. The martyr
hung, burned, and the ashes of his body thrown to the winds in the
market–place of Ferrara, died a free man, lord of his own soul, and
conscious of having implanted in many another breast the faith for
which he suffered. The Duke showed his subjects what came of presuming
to have an opinion on matters of faith, secured the approbation of his
own conscience, and approved himself a faithful and meritorious son of
Holy Mother Church.

It was not however till 1551, some three years after Olympia's disgrace
and ejection from the palace, that Fannio was, after long imprisonment,
burned on the Piazza of Ferrara, the first, but not the last victim
of the Duke's anxiety to conciliate the Church. And we have other
indications, besides this notable prison scene, that this time of
difficulty and tribulation was a period of rapid spiritual growth to
her. It is difficult to imagine a more violent contrast, than that
between the brilliant palace life which eight years had made habitual
to her, and the pale existence, made up wholly of those elements both
so new to her, duties and difficulties, which passed in the narrow
home overshadowed by the cloud of disgrace, and tenanted by a helpless
family of five women and an infant brother, whose education was one of
Olympia's most pleasing duties.


Small space in her day now for polishing Greek and Latin verses, or
composing dissertations on the Stoic philosophy! But two fragments of
four lines each, one in Latin, and one in Greek, have been preserved,
as the productions of this period of her life, passed in quite other
"haunts" than those of the Muses. The old classic "Grecian virgin" tone
is no longer discoverable in them; and the topics show that her mind
was busy with an entirely different order of ideas.

Olympia was now about twenty–three years old, and still single; and
interestingly enough the Latin quatrain above mentioned indicates
that her mind had been dwelling on the subject in connection with her
religious aspirations:—

  "Quæ virgo est, nisi mente quoque est et corpore virgo,
    Hæc laudem nullam virginitatis habet.
  Quæ virgo est, uni Christo nisi tota dicata est,
    Hæc Veneris virgo est, totaque mancipium."

Or, in lines as poor and flat as the original, but not more so:—

  "The virgin, who is not such in her soul,
    Small praise of her virginity can have,
  If Christ alone have not her being's whole,
    She is but Venus' bondsmaid and her slave."

Curious to note, that the mental daring which had led to rebellion
against Church authority on questions of justification and free will,
had not strength of wing or originality enough to see the truth in a
much simpler matter, detect the fallacy of the Church's entire system
of celibacy, and comprehend that there can be nothing meritorious in
_wilfully_ abandoning all the most sacred duties of womanhood.

The Greek lines mentioned compare the consolation that an afflicted
heart derives from the contemplation of a crucified Saviour, with the
healing virtue of the brazen serpent set up by Moses in the wilderness.

Thus passed two years of trouble and sorrow, which left our Undine–Muse
a very different being from what she had been before their discipline.
That it was painful enough may be read in a letter from her to Celio
Curione, in which she looks back on these dark days.

"After my father's death, I remained alone, betrayed, abandoned by
those who ought to have supported me, and exposed to the most unjust
persecution. My sisters were involved in my misfortune, and received
only ingratitude in return for the devotion and services of so many
years. How great was my grief under these afflictions you may easily
believe. Not one of those we had in other times deemed our friends,
dared to manifest the least interest in us; and we were in so deep a
pit of adversity, that it appeared impossible for us ever to escape
from it."

There was at least one friend who had been tried in the furnace of
adversity, and not found wanting, the brave and noble–hearted Lavinia
della Rovere. But this exception Curio was able to supply for himself.
He knew that Lavinia had remained, and was still the friend and
frequent correspondent of Olympia.

Our heroine has thus been brought to her twenty–fourth year. The
present is hard and unkindly around her. Suspicion, neglect, and
all the anxious ignoble cares attendant on poverty, had by a sudden
scene–shifting taken the places of luxurious ease, admiration,
flattery, and troops of friends. The future was dark and precarious.
The bad times were every day becoming worse for those on whom any
taint of heresy had ever rested.

[Sidenote: POOR MUSE!]

In short, our gifted Muse stood bare and desolate, and shivering in the
midst of a very unharmonious world in most sad and pitiable plight.

But the salvation question was beginning to be answered.


 The question fully answered at last.—Farewell, Ferrara!—Welcome
 inhospitable Caucasus.—Omne solum forti patria est.

Yes! the question was beginning to get answered; beginning, not more
as yet. The process of life–discipline, which was to "save" Olympia,
to rescue the fine moral gifts and capabilities from suffocation in
an element of unrealities, dream–life and Undine–Museship, and to
develope the latent capacities of nobleness in her nature, and set her
well forward in the Godward path, which shall be, Faith hopes, pursued
hereafter,—this was beginning to make its operation appreciable.
The baptism of tears had done much. Olympia herself thought that
the question had been already answered satisfactorily and in full.
She had "got religion," as certain modern sectaries phrase it. And
though the special peculiarities of her creed, as professed by her
hierophants, are as little calculated to elevate the heart, or enlarge
the understanding, as any theory of divine world–governance can well be
imagined to be, the religion she had got was a persecuted religion, and
derived from that fact an immense saving power, not naturally its own.

But creeds are shown unmistakeably enough to have their home and
fatherland in the brain, by the constant exhibition of their
powerlessness over the heart; which persists in willing good or evil
with most illogical independence of the brain's theories. And human
beings accordingly wear their creeds with a difference. Thus these
lamentable election and predestination theories, mad and ungodly
as they may be, as intellectual beliefs, yet, by the virtue of the
persecution with which they were visited,—a virtue addressing itself
directly to the heart—served to commence the work of Olympia's rescue
from heathendom. But other influences were needed for the maturing of
the noble picture of womanhood which her completed career offers us.
And these were now ready at her need.


Italy is still the home of art. The citizens of the transalpine nations
still flock to her schools of painting, sculpture, and music. But in
all else she must submit to be the scholar of her former pupils. It was
not so in the sixteenth century. In those days Germans, Englishmen, and
Frenchmen thronged the celebrated universities of Italy for instruction
in law, science, medicine, and "the humanities." Italy was still the
acknowledged leader of European civilisation, though on the very eve
of ceasing to be so. Already the orthodox prowess of Duke Hercules was
busy in bringing about the change. Human thought cannot be made to
advance straight along a path walled in on either side, however long
the vista within its narrow bounds may seem to be. Men whose occupation
is thinking, will not carry it on at all, while large fields of thought
are prohibited to them on penalties, such as those incurred by Fannio
of Faenza. So the students from the northern side of the Alps began
to find that Ferrara, celebrated as a seat of learning though it had
hitherto been, was no longer a home for them.

The learned Germans, John and Chilian Sinapi, were of this number, as
was also a young medical student, their countryman and pupil, who had
recently received from the University of Ferrara his degree of Doctor
of Medicine, named Andreas Grünthler. He was a native of Schweinfurth,
one of the Bavarian free cities on the banks of the Main; and was, we
are assured, of "honourable" birth, distinguished talents, and the
possessor of a modest patrimony. He had visited most of the cities of
Italy, and had acquired a reputation for Greek and Latin scholarship,
before he settled at Ferrara, and dedicated himself to the study of
medicine under the teaching of the brothers[83] Sinapi.

Having rehearsed these particulars, it is almost superfluous to add,
that Grünthler also was an adherent of the new theology. And for him,
too, Ferrara was no longer a safe residence. But the Protestant German
student had lost his heart to the brilliant Italian Muse;—lost it in
the time of her heathendom, and classical Grecian virginship! And
though Ferrara was deserted by his friends and countrymen, though it
was about to reek with the blood of martyrs, though it was falling more
and more from day to day under the blighting ban of the Inquisition,
how could poor Grünthler shake the dust off his feet against it, and go
forth, leaving behind him her who had become dearer to him than life,
country, or friends;—leaving her, too, now no longer in the pride and
prosperity of her Muse–ship, but in poverty, sorrow, and disgrace, and
in danger from the same causes, that made his own retreat expedient?
His friend and master Sinapi had loved, and wooed, and won an Italian
wife, who had accompanied him across the mountains to his northern
home. Why should not he do likewise?

[Sidenote: FIRST LOVE.]

But in the glowing Grecian–virgin days of court prosperity, the gulf
that seemed to separate the grave German student from the brilliant
creature who had witched his heart was too great, and the contrast
between her summer–day existence and the pale life which he could offer
to her to share, too strongly marked for him to hope that such an offer
would be listened to. It appears, indeed, that the offer had been made
and rejected; in terms, too, that would effectually have prevented
its repetition by a less devoted and self–forgetting lover. That such
was the fact may be gathered from a curious passage in the first
letter from Olympia to her husband, which, for some incomprehensible
motive, her recent French biographer, who gives a translation of the
letter in question,[84] has omitted, without giving any typographical
or other intimation, that any part of the sense of the original is
absent. After pouring forth her love in the usual delightful fashion
of honeymoon letters, she adds, "Were my feelings different I would
not conceal them from you, as formerly I plainly told you that I had
conceived an aversion to you;"—"_ut ante aperte me tui odium cepisse
significabam_."[85] It was necessary, it should seem, that that Undine
nature should be first exorcised by the touch of sorrow, before the
mightier wizard, love, could be allowed to enter, and complete the task
of purifying, humanising, and elevating it.

But the dark days came; sorrow did its appointed ministry; and then
love spoke, and was listened to. In that time of tribulation and trial,
when all the world had suddenly changed its welcoming smile to a frown,
when none of those she had once thought her friends dared to manifest
any interest for the disgraced favourite, then Andreas Grünthler dared
to woo, and succeeded in inspiring as devoted a love as ever woman's
heart felt. Olympia was deeply touched by the noble disinterestedness
of her lover's suit. "Neither the resentment of the Duke," she writes,
long afterwards, to her earliest friend, Celio Curione, "nor all the
miserable circumstances which surrounded me, could induce him to
abandon his desire to make me his wife. So great and true a love has
never been surpassed."

In Olympia, the unselfish affection of a noble heart evoked, as the
sequel of her story shows, a sentiment of equally ennobling devotion.
And thus, whatever issue from the predestination maze the puzzled brain
may have fancied it had found for itself, the purified heart furnished
the completion of the answer to the great salvation question.

The marriage was celebrated in 1550, probably in the last months of
that year. A "marriage prayer," in eight Greek verses by Olympia,
has been preserved among her works. Her latest biographer[86] says
of these lines, that they are a "chant of Pindar repeated by an echo
of the Christian revival at Ferrara"—a performance, one would think,
nearly equivalent to that of the well–known Irish echo that answered
"How do you do?" by "Pretty well, I thank you." The lines in question
touch, in very irreproachable Greek, on the analogy between marriage
and the mystic union of Christ with the souls of the faithful, and are
remarkable only as indicating how complete was the change in the tone
of the poet's mind, since she classicalised on death in the manner we
have seen in a former chapter.


Deep–felt and complete as we may suppose the happiness Olympia and her
husband felt at their union, the marriage must have partaken more of a
solemn than of a festive character. There were many difficulties and
uncertainties yet before them. To remain in Ferrara, heretics as they
were, whose heresy was every day becoming dearer to them, and the open
profession of it a craving desire; when Fannio was daily expecting to
be brought out of his dungeon to a martyr's death; when the Inquisition
was craving for fresh victims; and when the marriage itself was deemed
an offence by the Duke, was out of the question. Yet it was hard to
leave a mother and sisters; and that rough northern land across the
mountains, where freedom of conscience might indeed be hoped for,
nevertheless was not itself by any means in a condition to offer her a
secure and quiet home.

So far was this from being the case, that Grünthler deemed it necessary
to submit to a separation from his wife almost immediately after his
marriage, that he might, before taking her to Germany, go thither
alone to fix on, and prepare, a home for her. His hope was to obtain
a professorial chair in some of the medical schools of Bavaria or the
Palatinate, and to be able to return to Olympia in the spring of 1551.
In the meantime, he had the great consolation of leaving her under
the protection of Lavinia della Rovere; whose considerable influence,
though it seems to have been exercised in vain to obtain Olympia's
restoration to the good graces of the ducal family, yet probably
sufficed to prevent any measures of active persecution against her.

Here is the letter above mentioned in its entirety. Perhaps some reader
may like to see, that a young wife's honeymoon letter was in 1550
pretty much the same thing, word for word, as a similar effusion in
1850 might be. Of no letter on any other topic, three hundred years
old, could the same be said.

"Your departure," writes the lovely wife, "was a great grief to me, and
the long absence following it the greatest misfortune that could have
befallen me. For when I have you by my side, I am not tormented by the
anxieties that now beset me. I am always imagining that you have had
a fall, or broken your limbs, or been frozen by the extreme cold. And
perhaps I have not imagined anything worse than the reality! You know
the poet's saying—

  "Res est soliciti plena timoris amor."

  "Love is a thing compact of jealous fears."

Now, if you would alleviate this haunting anxiety, which I cannot shake
off, you will, if possible, contrive to let me know what you are doing,
and how you are. For, I swear to you, that my whole heart is yours, as
you know full well. Did I feel differently, I would not hide it from
you; even as I formerly owned to you that I had conceived an aversion
to you. Would that I were with you, my husband, if only the better to
tell you the immensity of my love. You would not believe how I pine in
your absence. There is nothing so difficult or so disagreeable that I
would not do to please you, my husband. But can you wonder that this
delay is hateful to me; for true love abominates and will not endure
delay. Any other trial to which I could be put would be better for
me than this. I beg and beseech you, therefore, to leave no stone
unturned to bring about our meeting this summer as you promised. I
know well that your affection is equal to mine; so I will not weary you
by urging this point further. Nor have I said thus much in any wise to
blame you, but only to remind you of your promise, though I know that
you are fully occupied with all these cares."


Thus much may be found in "the complete letter writer," under the
heading, "A young wife's first letter to an absent husband." What
follows is of more interest.

"As to my dresses, I do not think that it would be becoming to make
application for them to the court. The Duchess sent me word by one
of her women, that it was not true that the wife of the most noble
Camillo (Orsini) had said any thing to her about sending greetings to
her daughter. (Her daughter–in–law, Lavinia della Rovere, wife of her
son Paolo Orsini, seems to be intended.) She said, however, that she
would permit it to be done, since her daughter (that is the Duchess's
daughter, Leonora, apparently) wished it; but that she (Lavinia) had
begged one dress for me, which she (the Duchess) would not give me
before her (Lavinia's) return. I think that she answered thus: that I
might see that she did nothing for my sake, but for that of Lavinia;
and that she might gratify Lysippa, who was, I believe, with her at
the time. But it is better to be silent respecting a matter which is
plain to everybody. In any case, I scarcely think that I shall get the
dresses. Adieu."[87]

It is difficult to understand what the connection can have been between
the salutations sent or not sent by the wife of Camillo Orsini, and
the restoration of Olympia's dresses. Thus much, at all events, seems
clear however, that when Olympia fell into disgrace at the court, her
sovereigns stooped to, what to our notions would appear, the utterly
incredible meanness of retaining the dresses belonging to her that
happened to be under their roof! We may suppose that these dresses
had been probably enough supplied by the Duchess. It may be also
remembered, that such things were of very much greater value, both
absolutely and relatively to other property, than they are now. Yet, if
originally furnished by the Duchess, they had been given to Olympia as
a part of the remuneration for her services; she evidently considers
them as her own property. And this forcible detention of a dismissed
servant's wearing apparel cannot but be felt to indicate on the part
of these princes, in the midst of their ostentatious magnificence, a
degree of insensibility to any of the feelings that we compendiously
term gentleman–like, that makes the circumstance a very curious trait
of the manners of the period.

It would seem clear, also, that the Duchess Renée was actively hostile
to her former favourite. And if the phrase, in connection with Lysippa,
to the effect that it was better to say nothing of so notorious a
matter, is to be supposed to allude to some court intrigue in which she
was concerned, it would seem that Jerome Bolsec was not altogether the
contriver of her disgrace. It is remarkable that her old friend Curio,
in a letter written from Bâle to a friend of his, who had asked him
about Olympia, in giving a little sketch of her career, suppresses all
mention of this court disgrace,[88] merely saying that she had been
called to the court to share the studies of the Princess Anne, and
that she had after that married Andreas Grünthler.

[Sidenote: OTHER LETTERS.]

Her husband's absence was a sore trial to Olympia, which demanded all,
or somewhat more than all, her fortitude.

Her first letter to her husband was soon followed by a second,
imploring him to hasten his return. "The uncertainty of the time
fixed for your return, and for our departure from Ferrara, causes me
incessant torment." She beseeches him not to conceal from her any bad
news respecting their prospects. "Should you be called on to meet any
danger, which God forbid, I insist on sharing it with you. But above
all, my well–beloved, in these so difficult circumstances, be sure
that God is our most powerful protector." She exhorts him to remember
that God granted the prayer of Elias, so that no rain fell for three
years and six months, and to confide in him for support. "My days,"
she concludes, "are passed in tears; and I find no alleviation for my
sorrows but in invoking the Author of all mercies. May He be also your
refuge and your asylum. Write to me very soon, to let me know when I
shall see you, and do not set out on your journey without sure guides.

She writes five letters, following rapidly one after the other, to John
Sinapi, who was now established at Würzburg, urging him to accelerate
her husband's return. "I again and again implore you," she says in one
of these, "not to detain him, who is dearer to me than life, longer
than one month at the furthest. Send him back to me quickly, if you
would not have me, miserable as I am, pine to death of grief."

She reminds him more than once of a volume of her poems, which she had
sent to be presented to the King (Ferdinand, King of the Romans), and
to the great Augsburg merchant, Raymond Fugger, in hopes of interesting
them in her husband's favour.

The lady Lavinia had also promised to induce her husband and
father–in–law to interest themselves in Grünthler's favour; and there
is a letter from her, received by Olympia at this time, in which she
tells her friend, that she had after some difficulty succeeded in
accomplishing this. She was herself not happy. "As for me," she writes,
"understand that my affairs become more and more hopeless from day to
day." She concludes her letter by saying that she should have written
it in Italian, were it not that she knew that Olympia liked better to
read Latin.

Lavinia, however, was at Ferrara during the greater part of Grünthler's
absence; and her society was Olympia's greatest comfort. There is a
dialogue preserved in the volume of her works between the two friends,
which probably embodies the substance of conversations that really
passed between them.

"Will you always live then in the midst of your books," Lavinia begins,
"and never take any repose, Olympia? Rest awhile, and you will return
with renewed vigour to your favourite studies."

"Would to Heaven, my friend," says Olympia, after some few words on
her devotion to her study,—"Would to Heaven that I had not been so
long plunged in oblivion of the only truths worthy of occupying our
thoughts. I fancied myself learned, because I read the books of worldly
philosophers, and intoxicated myself with the poison of their writings.
But just when I was most puffed up with the praises of men, I made
the discovery of my profound ignorance. I had wandered so far from
the truth, as to imagine the universe to be the production of chance,
without governance and without God."...


"But Italy," rejoins Lavinia, "had before this rung with the fame of
your piety and your virtues."

"It is true;" answers her friend; "and perhaps this fame may have
reached you—

  "'Audieras et fama fuit;'

but if men only knew how to estimate at their just worth the flattery
addressed to princes and those around them, they would have judged me
less favourably. You at least, my friend, must know how far I then was
from having any sentiments of true piety."

Lavinia answers, that even so she cannot help admiring the constancy
with which Olympia had devoted to the acquisition of learning those
long hours which others employ "in adorning themselves, in arranging
their hair, and in running after vain pleasures. What especially
surprises me is, that you could remain faithful to those studies in the
years of your youth, in spite of the raillery of the men and girls, who
were always dinning into your ears that life had something else to do,
and that husbands would look more after what you possessed than what
you knew."

"It is the Lord who willed it so!" returns Olympia; and at this point
the dialogue, which it must be admitted has been composed by our Muse
in a rather egotistic tone, passes off into a kind of rhapsody, in
which the writer sets forth the vanity of earthly things, and the
inestimable price of heavenly wisdom.

Meanwhile Grünthler had been but very partially successful in the
objects of his journey. Germany was in no condition to offer, in any
part of it, a desirable home to a peaceful student and his wife. True,
that in many of its cities the profession of the reformed faith was a
recommendation instead of a sure title to the honours of martyrdom.
True, that the new theology had there acquired a respectability
of standing, that enabled it to enjoy a share occasionally of the
ecclesiastical luxury of persecuting its opponents. But the country was
distracted by war or rumours of war on all sides;—war of a different
kind, and productive of very different national results from the
miserable mercenary contests, which ruined Italy, and only prepared
the way for the slavery and degradation of the nation. For the gist
of the German fighting, however confused, barbarous, and devastating,
was to be found in the determination of men to resist authority and
oppression, to have souls of their own, and to say they were their own.

Though the division of the country into two camps by their religious
differences enabled princes to play off one part of the people against
another in the interests of their own rivalries and ambitions, yet the
contests were mostly made to wear the appearance of struggles for the
securing of spiritual or civil freedom. And all the misery brought
about by them was not therefore unfruitful of good. Though the points
in dispute between the rival creeds were often nugatory, though the
better sense was not invariably on the side of the reformers, and
though good men lamented that Church reform had quitted its proper
sphere and duties, when it allied itself with worldly policy and
descended from the pulpit into the camp and the battle field, yet even
so, and even then, the Reformation was preparing the great career which
it has run, and that still before it, from which no man can ever more
turn it back.

[Sidenote: THE INTERIM.]

Charles the Fifth was just then busy in imposing his "Interim" on the
German cities. The great council at Trent, which was to "heal the
wounds of Christendom," made but small progress in that business;
manifested, indeed, a fertility of resource in the discovery of
means how not to do any thing of the sort, perfectly marvellous. And
Charles, who was perfectly earnest in wishing that these wounds should
be healed, or at all events closed up in some sort, for reasons of
his own, very much of the nature of those which make a coachman wish
that his team may be coupled up, so as to draw well together, became
impatient. It struck his royal mind, that the thing must be easy enough
if one only went about it in a simple straightforward manner. So he
ordered three divines,—Julius Pflug and Helding, on the Catholic side,
and one Agricola, a "practical" man, inclined, when he got his cue,
to make things pleasant, on the Protestant side,—to draw up a scheme
of a good working religion, such as all men might accept without
objection,—or despite objection, if it came to that; and to be quick
about it. On the 15th of May, 1548, his Majesty was gracious enough
to lay the scheme so drawn before the diet; whereupon the Elector of
Mentz declared it to be as good a religion as any man need wish for;
and being an Archbishop, it was clear that he must know. And this was
the celebrated Interim; so named because it professed only to be a
provisional faith, for men to live and die—and pay their taxes—by, till
such time as what they really were definitively to believe could be got
settled for them in a more regular and formal manner.

The indignation and disgust felt at Rome by the regular practitioners
at such quack–Pope practice as this, may be easily imagined. The
regular–bred Pope examined his rivals' prescription, and found, as we
hear without surprise, "seven or eight heresies in it,"[89] all clear
and evident like so many false quantities in a school–boy's verse task.
Evidently a most unworkmanlike production!

As to the Protestant cities of Germany, they found the Interim religion
to be flat Popery. And the royal quack–Pope had to adopt the orthodox
practice in administering it. Augsburg, Ulm, Strasburg, Bremen, Lubeck,
Hamburg, Magdeburg, Constance, and many other towns would have none
of it. And Spanish soldiers had to be employed, with more or less
success in different places, in recommending it to their favourable
consideration. At Augsburg, Charles placed bodies of these troops at
the different gates, and in other commanding positions of the town,
then called the members of the municipal government to the town–hall,
dismissed them all from their functions, abolished "motu proprio" the
entire form of municipal government, and nominated a few creatures of
his own to govern the city, each man of whom had sworn to receive and
observe the Interim. Ulm he converted much in the same manner, sending
off in chains the Protestant preachers. The stout Magdeburgers shut
their gates, manned their walls, and stood a siege against the imperial
troops and the Interim. For a lay Pope's essay at persecution this was
zealous and energetic enough, though falling far short of the true
ecclesiastical practice of Inquisition, stake, and faggot.


It might be supposed that Charles would have been too sagacious a man
to have imagined that any successful issue could have come of this
Interim scheme of his. It seems hardly a thing to have been hoped,
that Germany had gone through all the sufferings and sorrows, spiritual
and temporal, incidental to a national change of religion, and kicked
off the authority of a real Pope, venerable with the prestige of
fifteen centuries, to submit quietly to a new quack Pope, whose whole
theological apparatus consisted of men–at–arms and gunpowder. If men
were to submit to an imposed creed, it was better to take one without
seven or eight heresies in it. No very profound knowledge of the human
heart, one would think, were needed to enable a sagacious ruler of men
to anticipate failure for such a plan; and Charles has the reputation
of having been such. But it strikes one, in considering this and a
hundred other similar mistakes by the Louis XIVths. and other great
masters of kingcraft, as doubtful how far it is practicable for such
personages to attain to any knowledge of the plebeian human heart.
Of the hearts of princes, ministers of state, popes, cardinals,
diplomatists, ambassadors, and such,—though hearts are not generally
supposed to be worn on embroidered sleeves,—a royal craftsman practised
in the business may know a thing or two; may, perhaps, if acute, obtain
some uncertain notion of the hearts of gentlemen–ushers, ladies of
honour, grand chamberlains, and other such samples of mankind: but it
would seem as if such knowledge were rather calculated to lead a royal
philosopher astray in dealing with humanity outside the palace gates.

The mistake into which the sagacious Charles was thus led in the matter
of the Interim, was causing throughout Germany the uncomfortable state
of confusion that has been described when poor Andreas Grünthler,
flying from persecution in Italy, came to seek for a home and the
means of supporting a wife in his native land.

The search, as we have seen, became prolonged, to Olympia's great
distress, far beyond what the young couple had calculated on.
Grünthler's profession, indeed, was one which the misrule of monarchs
has no tendency to render superfluous. On the contrary, he had
soon occasion to find that it provided him with work in more than
abundance. But then, as still, in Germany, the professional chairs
in the Universities afforded the most reliable prospect of bread,
with some small modicum of butter, to a studious and married man.
Grünthler's education and talents well fitted him to teach, and that
was his ambition. But town councillors turned violently out of their
offices, or in daily dread of being so, and burghers in distress,
consternation, and hot debate, between temporal and spiritual ruin,
had scant attention to give to such matter. Besides, the lecture–rooms
were empty, the students dispersed to their own homes, as the most
necessary place for a man in critical and perilous times, or joining in
resistance against the oppression that weighed on the country.

Andreas Grünthler could hear of no such position as he had hoped to
find anywhere. Still he had friends who were influential, and much
interested in his and his wife's fortunes. John Sinapi was now settled
at Würzburg and his brother Chilian at Spire; and both were eager to
assist their Ferrara friends in their projects. Hubert Thomas, of
Liège, secretary to the Count Palatine, was also their firm friend. But
a recommendation to George Hermann, of Augsburg, councillor to the King
of the Romans, which had been obtained for Grünthler by Lavinia della
Rovere from her brother–in–law Camillo Orsini, turned out the most
immediately valuable. In the impossibility of finding any permanent
appointment of the kind desired, this truly friendly man begged the
almost despairing professor to bring his wife in the first instance to
his house at Augsburg, there to wait till they should be able to see
their path in some degree before them.

[Sidenote: FAREWELL!]

The proposal opened a harbour of refuge when all the trouble–tossed
world seemed to refuse them a resting–place. So poor Andreas hurried
back across the Alps to his pining mate, overjoyed to be able to bring
her some better tidings than his previous disappointments had enabled
him to write to her.

It was decided that they should start from Ferrara for the promised
land of free consciences and true religion in the early summer of
1551. How constantly had Olympia been sighing during the months of
her solitary life at Ferrara for the coming of this hour! Yet now
that it was come, this departure was found to be a very sad business,
not to be accomplished without many a wrench of affections rooted in
the core of the heart. To leave a mother and three sisters, never in
all human probability to be seen again on this side of the grave, was
a hard task; and Olympia knew well that such was their parting. In
a letter written not long afterwards to Celio Curione at Bâle, she
expresses her conviction that she shall never again return to Italy,
"where Antichrist is raging with such power."[90] She would rather
indeed, she says, seek a refuge in the furthest and most inclement
north than re–cross the Alps. Yet that first quitting Italy—bright,
sunny, native Italy—and Ferrara, where she had known so much both of
happiness and misery—"Ferrara my ungrateful country," as she calls
it in another letter[91]—was a bitter moment. That crossing of the
mountains had, in those days of little travelling and roads dangerous
in all ways, something more alarming to the ideas of an Italian girl
than any possible migration on earth's surface could now suggest to the
most inexperienced traveller. She writes to worthy George Hermann,[92]
when there was a question of some distant appointment for Grünthler,
that having followed her husband across the Alps, she could have no
difficulty in crossing Caucasus—"inhospitalem Caucasum," in true
classic phrase—or accompany him to the uttermost ends of the earth,
if it were needed. "Omni solum forti patria est!" she adds. But the
greatest trial to her fortitude was the first step beyond the marshy
plains around persecuting, ungrateful Ferrara.

Painful partings are always most painful to those who are left behind.
The necessity of action, and the excitement of going forth to meet
new scenes and new fortunes, brace the nerves and give diversion to
the grief of those who are to depart; and Olympia was not leaving him
who was of all the world dearest to her. But what must the parting
have been to the poor mother! Her old friend and former guest, Celio
Curione, writing to her several years afterwards, recurs to the sorrows
of that time. "The pangs of that departure," he says, "must have been
even as the pangs of death when you felt that probably in this life
you would never see her again. And truly you might well feel that the
separation of death was not very different from that caused by so great
a distance."

[Sidenote: THE JOURNEY.]

In fact, the poor mother never did again see her Olympia. And she
was soon after left in entire solitude at Ferrara, in consequence of
what she was bound to consider the good fortune of each of her three
remaining daughters finding honourable positions. Lavinia della Rovere
took one of them with her to Rome. Another was attached to the Lady
Helena Rangona de Bentivoglio; and the third to that lady's daughter,
who was married at Milan. This last, as we learn from a letter from
Olympia to Curione, became the wife of a young man of that city, "an
only son, very well off in the world, who asked no dower with her."
With them, it would seem, the mother found at last a happier home than
she had known since she became a widow.

Worthy Andreas Grünthler took his young brother–in–law Emilio, then
eight years old, with him and his wife into Germany.

At length the last words were said, and the little party turned their
faces towards the mountains, and began their journey by the pass of
the Brenner. There were more points than one in their route which
might have been dangerous to them. At Trent the Council was sitting;
and all travellers through a city so occupied were likely enough to
be subjected to questionings that might lead known fugitives from
religious persecution into trouble. At Innspruck the imperial army was
quartered, which was not calculated to make the passage through it
agreeable or safe to such wayfarers as our friends.

"The beauty of the season, and the magnificence of the scenery that
discovered itself at each step to the eyes of the travellers," says
Olympia's French[93] biographer, "without doubt distracted them from
the sad thoughts that assailed them on their way to exile."

But it is to be feared that this is an anachronism. The snow–capped
mountains, the pine–clad valleys, the precipices, the tumbling waters,
and the craggy peaks, were all there then as picturesque–hunting
tourists find them now. But men, Italians especially, did not admire
such things in the fifteenth century. They only saw "inhospitalem
Caucasum" in such scenes. And to our little party it was Caucasus
infested with ravening bishops and their officials, with men–at–arms
and camp–followers. Under which circumstances it is to be feared that
they took small comfort from any appreciation of the picturesque.

But the mountains and all their dangers were happily passed, and the
hospitable roof of warm–hearted George Hermann in the good city of
Augsburg safely reached by the three travellers about the middle of the
year 1551.


At Augsburg,—and at Würzburg.

Augsburg, in the middle of the sixteenth century, had a fair claim
to be entitled the Athens of the North. Among the cities of Germany
it held a place similar to that occupied by Florence among those of
Italy. And in both instances the primacy attained in arts and letters
had depended on the fostering hand of successful commerce. That which
the Medici had done for Florence, the Fugger family had done for
Augsburg. The latter name has not at the present day the worldwide
celebrity of the former. But then the Fuggers never exalted themselves
to sovereignty on the ruin of their country; and flunkeydom has
accordingly less assiduously embalmed their memory.

In the sixteenth century, however, their name was celebrated throughout
Europe. Rabelais, writing from Rome to the Bishop of Maillezais in
the year 1536, tells him that Philip Strozzi was esteemed the richest
merchant in Christendom, with the sole exception of the Fuggers.
Charles V. was their guest when at Augsburg; and an anecdote has been
preserved of the fire in the imperial bedchamber under their roof
having been made of a faggot of cinnamon, lighted with an I. O. U.
of his majesty's to a large amount. It is true that the cinnamon may
probably have been the more costly part of the sacrifice. Towards the
end of the century Dominick Custos, an engraver of Antwerp, published
a magnificent folio volume of a hundred and twenty–seven portraits,
"Fuggerorum et Fuggerarum;" a somewhat cacophonous title, the strange
sound of which has amusingly caused the book to be classed in more than
one catalogue by un–historical bibliopoles among botanical works, under
the impression that the ladies and gentlemen of the great merchant
family were specimens of ferns.

When Olympia was at Augsburg, the heads of the family were the brothers
Anthony and Raymond Fugger. A contemporary[94] writer has left us a
curious account of the magnificence of their residence. He speaks of
the abundance of pictures by the great Italian masters; of a large
collection of portraits by Lucas Cranach; and especially of a most
extensive museum of antiquities,—mosaics and statues in bronze and
marble;—"all the divinities of Olympus, Jove with his thunderbolt,
Neptune with his trident, Pallas with her ægis." He mentions also a
collection of medals occupying one room. The number of fragments of
antique sculpture was wonderful. "We stood long in admiration before
a head of the God of Sleep, crowned with poppies, and having the eyes
closed. We saw several heads of Bacchus of colossal size, ornamented
with ivy and vine–leaves. We were told that these remains of antiquity
had been brought together from nearly every part of the world, but
chiefly from Greece and Sicily. For Raymond, though but very slightly
tinctured with learning himself—_litterarum minime expers_,—has so
great a love for antiquity, that he grudges no expense for the pleasure
of possessing these things; which indicates the truly noble and
generous character of the man." He possessed also, despite his want of
erudition, a library, of which the librarian, Jerome Wolff, declared in
Greek verse, that it contained more books than there were stars in the
heavens;[95] and he commissioned men who had the learning he wanted, to
compile a collection of ancient inscriptions, which was published in
folio at Ingoldstadt in 1534.[96]

It was to this munificent Raymond Fugger that Olympia had charged her
friend John Sinapi to present a volume of her verses. As they were of
course written in Greek or Latin, we must suppose, unless, indeed,
the "minime expers" of Rhenatus is to be very widely understood, that
the Augsburg Mæcenas could not read a word of them. Moreover, the
wealthy and worthy merchant would seem to have been far from coming
up to Olympia's standard in matters of religion. For the Fuggers were
among those to whom Charles committed the government of Augsburg,
when he turned out the old municipality; and all those so appointed,
we are told, swore to observe the papistical Interim. We are driven,
therefore, to the conclusion, that the religious world of the fifteenth
century was so totally dissimilar from that of the nineteenth, as not
to be extreme to mark the backslidings of men whose position, like that
of Raymond Fugger, put "so large a power for good" into their hands.

We have no means of knowing whether the presentation of the poems to
the great merchant was followed by any special result. But that the
reception of the wanderers at Augsburg generally was flattering and
satisfactory is recorded in a letter[97] from Olympia to Gregorio
Giraldi, the gouty old friend, now drawing very near his end, who used
to write verses to her in her girlhood. "We are still," she writes,
"with our excellent friend; and I am delighted with my stay here. I
pass my entire day in literary pursuits—me cum Musis delecto;—and have
no business to draw me away from them. I also apply myself to the study
of Holy Writ, which is so productive of peace and contentment. Nothing
can be more favourable than the reception my husband has met with in
this town. Our affairs are looking well, and, by God's help, will have
a happy issue."

A few months before the date of this letter, while Olympia was pining
on account of her husband's absence, she spoke in her dialogue with
Lavinia della Rovere, of her regrets at having "intoxicated herself
with the poison" of the classical writers. And now we find her again
"delighting herself with the Muses." The compatibility of classical
studies with a strictly Christian tone and habit of thought and
feeling, which many religionists have decided in the negative, seems
to have been mooted by Olympia, and by the advice of her learned and
devout friends affirmed. For in a letter to Curione written about this
time, she says that "since pious men approve it," she will continue her
classical studies and writings.

But it would seem, that these "delights with the Muses," however
classical, were henceforward for the most part religious in their
nature. For almost all that remains of her composition subsequent to
this period, with the exception of her letters, are translations from
the psalms into Greek verse. These her husband used to set to music,
and the singing of them would often form the evening amusement of their
little circle. One of these translations had been sent to Curione, who
was probably the chief of those pious friends who encouraged her to
continue to write. "I have read," he says, "the psalm that you have
translated into Greek, and I am delighted with it. I wish that you
would treat more of them in the same way. We should then have no cause
to envy the Greeks their Pindar. Persevere, then, my Olympia, in the
path to which the Muse invites you. Place upon your brow the sacred
laurel; for you have drawn your poetic inspiration from a purer fount
than Sappho of old."


The stay of Grünthler, his wife, and their young brother under the
roof of George Hermann, was prolonged for several months. The tranquil
security of her life there, after all she had gone through during the
last two or three years, was extremely soothing and delightful to
Olympia. The hoped–for professor's chair was not yet found; but she
seems to have been in good hope that it soon would be. In the meantime
Grünthler had an opportunity of repaying in some measure the generous
hospitality he and his family were receiving. For George Hermann fell
seriously ill; and his guest had the pleasure of restoring him to
health before he left him.

It was while still at Augsburg that Olympia wrote[98] to her friend
Lavinia urging her to exert herself in every possible way to save the
life of Fannio.

"A thousand thanks," she writes, "for your promise to do all you can
in favour of Fannio. Nothing could give me greater pleasure; and I have
great hope of what may be done on the occasion of your leaving Ferrara;
for I am well aware how powerful is your interest at Rome. Besides, I
cannot doubt that the Duke would be willing to gratify you when you are
taking leave of him. Entreat him then, if he wishes to do you a favour,
to release an innocent man, whose long captivity would have more than
expiated his faults, had he been really criminal. That will be the
moment to speak, without losing sight of the dictates of prudence, what
your heart shall suggest to you.

  "'Haud ignara mali miseris succurrere disces.'

Above all, I exhort you not to allow the malevolent representations of
designing men to influence your mind in matters pertaining to the pure
religion of Christ."

Olympia little understood yet the nature of the power against which
she hoped to prevail. How grimly Caraffa would have smiled at the
notion, that his prey could be thus taken from him. A Duke of Ferrara
release a convicted and relapsed heretic to pleasure a silly woman,
herself more than suspected of sympathy with his errors! Or that that
contemptible voluptuary at Rome, simoniacal usurper of Peter's keys,
dare to absolve him whom the Holy Inquisition has condemned! Not while
John Peter Caraffa keeps watch, as Inquisitor, over the interests of
the Church! As to the Duke, it would have been saying that his soul was
his own, contrary to all contract, and saying so in a most dangerous
and blasphemous manner. And had even indolent, easy–going Julius III.
dreamed of dipping the tips of his jewelled fingers in such troubled
waters, he would have found, as many a Pope has found, that powerful
as the _Servus Servorum_ might be while working in accordance with
the powers of the machinery of which he is a part, he was powerless
to stop the operation of it. Lavinia della Rovere, her sister–in–law
Maddalena Orsini, and the other generous and gentle souls, who dreamed
of attempting the absurd quixotism of speaking mercy to a Church in
danger, succeeded only in leaving to other and happier times a record,
still by no means unneeded, of womanly protest against priestly


In the same letter to Curione, in which Olympia speaks of her intention
not to give up her classical studies, she says that she and her
husband would willingly settle at Bâle if there were any prospect of
Grünthler's being able to obtain either medical practice or teaching
there. For still the future was all uncertain before them; and yet the
time was come when they determined on no longer trespassing on the
hospitality of their generous host. John Sinapi, now established as
physician to the prince–bishop at Würzburg, had pressed them to stay
awhile with him; and they accordingly removed from Augsburg to that
city. Sinapi had been the master of both husband and wife at Ferrara.
His wife, Francesca Bucyronia, had been Olympia's friend at court
there; and the reunion of the party, under circumstances so widely
different from all that surrounded them in Italy, must have brought
back many a recollection of those old times and brilliant scenes, which
every one of the party was so thankful to have exchanged for their
present pale, and sometimes difficult, northern life.

Sinapi and Francesca had several children. A niece, Bridget, also
lived with them; and in one of Olympia's letters of this time we find
a Leonora mentioned as one of the inmates of the family, and we get
a fleeting glimpse of the party gathered round the good physician's
hearth in the evening, with books and learned talk, while Leonora
taught the girls embroidery,—"docens ambas acu pingere."

The tenour of this quiet life was one day broken by an accident that
happened to the child Emilio. He fell from a high window to the ground
on some rough stones, and it was thought that he must be killed. He
was little hurt, however; and, as Olympia writes, "lives and is well,
to the great surprise of every one." But the incident is only worth
mentioning for the sake of Olympia's method of "improving" it. This
happened, she writes,[99] "that we might know by experience that God
hath given order to his angels to bear up his sons in their hands." And
again; "Thus God, who can raise up even the dead from the grave, is
wont to defend and preserve his own in safety."

It is painful to find one, for whose character we cannot but have the
warmest esteem, and with the feelings of whose heart we can always
sympathise, forming for herself such theories of the Divine government
of the world. How is it possible, we ask ourselves, that such a one
can have supposed the occurrences of life to be arranged by a constant
succession of miracles, so that there is no reason to anticipate
that similar causes will produce similar effects? How conceivable,
that an Olympia Morata should pronounce all those who fall, and _do_
break their bones, to be none of God's own? Her feelings towards her
fellow–creatures were assuredly not logically consistent with so
monstrous a theory of the Invisible. No! but the creed was held as a
creed of the brain; and not arrived at even by the brain by any process
of reasoning, but only by intellectual adoption of the theories of
others;—probably, even, to a great extent, of their phraseology only.
For the most entire sincerity is perfectly compatible with the use of
certain phrases imitatively adopted, and believed to be proper to be
said in certain conjunctures, the sense, bearing, and consequences of
which have never been realised or examined by those who use them.


Olympia and her husband remained with John Sinapi, at Würzburg, till
the latter part of October, 1551. It was shortly after the accident
of Emilio, that Grünthler received an invitation from the senate of
his native town of Schweinfurth to settle himself as physician to the
garrison of Spanish soldiers quartered there by the Emperor, when he
himself went into winter quarters at Innspruck. Though this was not
exactly the kind of employment that he would have wished, yet the
proposal was acceptable as coming from his own fellow–citizens; and
he was not in a position to allow any opportunity of employment in
his profession to escape him. He accepted it. And Olympia, for the
first time, was about to find herself in a woman's best and happiest
position, a home of her own.

It was but an obscure one to which she was going. But her name was
already sufficiently well known in Germany to ensure her carrying
with her thither the interest of a large circle of the learned world,
especially of such as professed her own faith. There is an amusing
indication both of the celebrity her name had acquired, and of the
uncertainty, that a small distance could in those days throw over
facts of the simplest kind, in a letter written about this time by
Curione to one Xysto Betuleio, which has been already cited. Curione's
correspondent had written to him to ask if the name Olympia Morata
was in reality that of a living woman; because it was very generally
asserted to be a fictitious _nom–de–plume_,—"De Olympia nostra scribis
te certiorem fieri cupere, quod plerique fictum nomen arbitrantur." And
thereupon he proceeds to give that sketch of her career, which has been
before quoted.

In the brilliant springtide of Olympia's career, when she stood
before us in Grecian virgin guise, fooled to the top of her bent by
the applause and flattery of an entire city, with syntax–laws for a
rule of life, a knowledge of words in the place of all experience of
things, classicality for a _summum bonum_, and æsthetic appreciation of
the beautiful as sole means of satisfying every need and capacity for
worship, the question was suggested, shaping itself into the words so
familiar, and, howsoever diversely understood, most important to every
man,—How is this Olympia to be saved? And the question has been dwelt
on, because the peculiar interest attaching to her story is to be found
in the particularly well–marked development of the saving process,
whether as studied by those who, like herself, deem it to have been
accomplished by her adoption of a special creed, or by those who find
it in the working of her awakened moral nature. Both to the religionist
and the moralist Olympia is a specially "well–marked specimen;" and
both will concur in affirming that, whatever may have been the saving
influence, a very noble specimen of womanhood was the result.

[Sidenote: SAVED!]

Now, to one looking from the moral stand–point, it seems, as has
been said in a former chapter, that the question was satisfactorily
answered, when the course of our story had shown the heroine under the
successive influences of sorrow and adversity, of a true and devoted
love, and of the adoption of a persecuted faith, be it a true or
false one. And we have now reached the time when this discipline will
show its fruit in a "saved" life;—a life fitted to make its close the
starting–point of further progress.


The home at Schweinfurth.

"An obscure town; situated at the extremity of Bavaria, and watered
by an unknown river—such, then was to be the asylum of this young
woman,"[100] writes her French biographer. But this is not a correct
description of Schweinfurth as it was in the sixteenth century.

Far from being an obscure town, it was a free imperial city, celebrated
and important as the greatest corn–market in all central Germany. Far
from being situated at the extremity of Bavaria, it was in the midst
of the most central district of German civilisation and progress, and
the Maine was not in the sixteenth, or, unless on the banks of the
Seine, is it in the nineteenth century, by any means an unknown river.
Nor were "silence" and "isolation" the doom of Olympia in her home
at Schweinfurth. Writing thence soon after her arrival to an Italian
friend, she says: "Besides, there are several good men in this place,
for whose sake we are glad to be here; and most gladly resign to you
your flesh–pots of Egypt;[101]—_istas ollas Egyptiacas_."

It may be admitted, however, that the contrast between life at Ferrara
and life at Schweinfurth was great, but not altogether to the
disadvantage of the latter residence. Freedom of conscience, liberty
of life, the interchange of thought and opinion without danger of the
Inquisition, and the independence of a home of her own, were well worth
the sacrifice of Italian sunshine, brilliant skies, and all the festal
out–door life belonging to them. And doubtless Olympia spoke from her
heart, when she declared, that she most willingly resigned all share in
such "flesh–pots."


The martyrdom of Fannio had dissipated the last hope that Rome might
be induced to adopt a more moderate policy towards those who dissented
from her doctrine. Soon after this event, and after being settled in
her new home, Olympia writes to Celio Curione at Bâle as follows:—

"You invite us to take Bâle on our way, in case we should be returning
to Italy. Alas! it is but too probable that we shall never return!
Indeed, we did not come into Germany with any hope of soon seeing
again my unfortunate country. You must know well all the dangers of a
residence in a land where the great enemy of our faith is all powerful.
The Pope is now so furiously persecuting our brothers in the faith,
and hunting them down so cruelly, that the sufferings of the reformers
under the last Pontiff were nothing in comparison to the persecutions
of the present one. He has filled all the cities of Italy with his
spies, and turns a deaf ear to all applications for mercy. I would far
rather seek a refuge at the most distant shore of the far west, than
return to a country so afflicted. Should, however, anything cause us to
quit my husband's native city, there is no place in the world I should
prefer to Bâle. Living near you, I should fancy myself once more among
my own people. I should at least be nearer Italy. I should be able to
write more frequently to my mother and sisters, the thought of whom is
never absent from my mind night or day. I could also receive news from
them more readily."

In another letter of this period from Olympia to the same Italian
friend,[102] to whom she abandoned the flesh–pots, we find a curious
indication of the degree to which Caraffa's inquisitors were pushing
their system of espionage, and minute watchfulness. Sending greetings
to a female friend, she cautions her correspondent to whisper them
in her ear, lest she or any other friends might get into trouble by
the mere mention of her name. Nor was it generally prudent to write
any such matter at all. "I send you these letters open on account of
the extreme suspiciousness of these days;—propter hæc suspiciosissima
tempora," says she in another place.

In a letter to Thomas of Lucca,[103] however, written about this
time, which accompanied some money she desired to remit to her
mother—"aliquot nummos aureos,"—she ventures to say of the Interim,
that "nobody has as yet been compelled to observe its provisions,
but, as before, all live according to their own conscience." So that
all the apparatus of men–at–arms, and forcible changes of municipal
governments, had effected but little; and the Emperor's attempt to
play Pope had issued very much in failure. So difficult is it to bring
persecution for conscience sake to bear upon a people, to all whose
habits, manners, and instincts, it is repugnant. Charles might issue
his decrees; and all those who heard them might receive them with
profound obeisance. But still it was the old story, "Water would not
quench the fire, fire would not burn the stick, stick would not beat
the pig," and Charles could not get his Interim to work.


One of the first letters Olympia wrote from Schweinfurth was to Lavinia
della Rovere.[104] "Your spiritual welfare," she writes to her, "is
a subject of my constant prayers; for I fear, lest, after your usual
fashion, you suffer your mind to be distracted, and its vigour used up
by worldly cares. Despite the various occupations which keep me busy, I
have composed the dialogue sent herewith for you, in the hope that the
perusal of it may divert your mind from your sorrows.[105] I suppose
that the war with France has separated you from your husband, and
that you are in consequence suffering the torment of anxiety. I have
therefore introduced into this dialogue some thoughts, which seemed to
me suitable to your situation. I send you also some of the writings of
Dr. Martin Luther, which have been useful to me, in the hope that you
also may find comfort from them."

It must have been by a right trusty and devoted messenger that writings
of Luther's could then be sent into Italy. The task of carrying them
thither was very far from being either an easy or a safe one. It is
satisfactory to observe, however, that Olympia's Calvinism was not
so strict as to prevent her from finding profit in the study of the
works of Luther: and still more so to note, that from the closeness
of her intimacy with Curione, and the high respect she frequently
testifies for his authority, she probably shared his opinions on a
subject on which they were diametrically opposed to those of the Swiss
theologians. In a work entitled "De Amplitudine beati regni Dei,"
Curione ventured to maintain that the number of the elect was greater
than that of the reprobate, a heresy of the most painful kind to the
Calvinistic mind. "It is a matter of great surprise," says Bayle,[106]
"that he could have dared to advocate such a doctrine in the midst of
the Swiss. For it is one extremely objectionable to orthodox members
of the Reformed Church; and I do not think that any preacher could
maintain it at the present day in Holland with impunity."

[Sidenote: LETTER TO M. FLACH.]

Leaving, then, to the pious Dutchmen all the satisfaction derivable
from the "orthodox reformed" doctrine, we may reserve to ourselves that
of believing, that a pure and noble womanly heart dared to be heretical
and human at least thus far.

In another letter, written about this time from Schweinfurth, she
noticeably recurs to Luther rather than to Calvin for the means of
converting Romanists to Protestantism. It is addressed to Flacius
Illyricus, the classical alias of Mathias Flach, who was one of the
writers of the centuries of Magdeburg, and author of a vast number of
controversial works. Olympia had never seen him; and writes to him
merely on the strength of his literary reputation. Having long been
anxious, she says, to find the means of providing for her beloved
Italy some share of that religious instruction so abundantly possessed
by Germany, she had at length determined on applying to him, whose
works were well known to her, to undertake the task. "No more would be
needed," she writes, "than to translate from German into Italian some
one of the writings of Martin Luther, in which the errors of the Roman
Church are refuted. I would not have shrunk from the labour myself,
were it not, that after two years' residence in this country, I am
still ignorant of the language. Perhaps, also, you might write some
work in Italian on the subject; which, with your profound knowledge
of those Scriptures which I have but dipped into, it would be easy to
you to do. It would be the means of enlightening many pious men, now
living in darkness. Should your zeal for the truth give you courage to
undertake such a work, you may rest assured that it would be received
on the other side of the Alps with infinite gratitude. But for the
success of such a book, it is essential that it should be written in
Italian; for only a few of my compatriots read the learned languages."

The dialogue mentioned in the letter to Lavinia della Rovere, cited
a few pages back, is one of the few compositions by Olympia which
have been preserved.[107] It is a conversation between Philotima and
Theophila, in which the former, who is meant to be Lavinia della
Rovere, complains of the sorrows caused her by the continual absence of
her husband; "for there is no greater happiness on earth than to live
with him we love. But this felicity is refused me; and my sorrow is
bitter in proportion to the eagerness with which I had looked forward
to happiness."

Thereupon Theophila, who is, of course, Olympia, lectures her friend
at considerable length, referring her to "the holy women in the Bible,
who sought not in marriage the realisation of their dreams of earthly
happiness, but the glory of God;" with several pages more in the
usual strain of those writers, whose ethical system is based on the
assumption, that every natural affection of the heart is in its nature
evil. It is curious to recognise in Olympia's nearly irreproachable
sixteenth–century Latin, the common stock phrases, similitudes, and
metaphors, still in vogue in the Zion meeting–houses and little Bethel
chapels. The well–turned sentences read very hollow; and though it
is impossible to doubt Olympia's perfect sincerity, or her desire
to school her own feelings into the unnatural quietism which she
recommends to her friend, yet we cannot forget the very different tone
of real feeling and earnestness manifest in those letters written from
Ferrara during her own husband's absence, when she talked of pining
to death unless he returned within the month! How came the glory of
God and the holy women of the Bible to be forgotten, when there was so
much need of the consolation to be derived from the meditation of such

Then there are letters indicating that the Scheinfurth dwelling
was beginning to take the semblance of a home, with the means and
appliances of a scholarly life about it. Thanks to the intervention
of good George Hermann, the box of books has arrived from Italy. The
dear old books from the little library at Ferrara, where Olympia had
passed among them so many, many solitary hours of ambitious girlhood;
where Curione had been invited to enjoy "the blessings of solitude and
peaceful study;" and in whose safe shelter many a dangerous talk on
grace, free–will, and absolute decrees, had been prolonged far into the
night! The dear old books, each individual of them bringing with it
the well–remembered physiognomy of a familiar friend! In these days of
unlimited literary supply, when books are made to be used like oranges,
hastily sucked and chucked away, it is difficult to appreciate
fully the reverential love felt by a sixteenth–century scholar for
the precious tomes produced with so much labour and difficulty, and
acquired at the cost of so much self–denial.


All the books came safely to their far northern home, except Avicenna,
which was no where to be found in the box! And Olympia writes to
a German friend at Padua,[108] thanking him for forwarding them,
and asking what was due for their carriage. She complains in the
same letter, that for fourteen months she has received no tidings
from Ferrara, all her letters to her relatives and other friends
having remained unanswered. "You have no doubt heard the news of the
deliverance and restoration of the Elector of Saxony—(John Frederick,
deposed, and long kept prisoner by Charles V.),—it is the great event
of the day."

Another indication that the home of Grünthler and Olympia had assumed a
certain amount of comfortable stability, as also of the high estimation
in which they were held by their friends, may be found in the presence
of Theodora, the daughter of John Sinapi, as an inmate of it. The
learned physician had begged his former pupil to receive her to be
educated together with Olympia's young brother, Emilio. The occupation
was one particularly well suited to her. Her whole life, and all her
associations, had been scholastic; and if, in the general tenor of
her compositions,—putting aside, of course, questions of religious
doctrine,—any tone grates possibly a little upon the ear of one who has
pictured her to himself as a young, lovely, and fascinating woman, it
is an occasional slight echo of pedagogue–ism, which is just the least
bit in the world suggestive of Minerva, with a birch in her hand, and
a pair of spectacles on her nose. She was herself childless. In one of
her letters to Curione, sending him some of her Greek translations from
the Psalms, she begs him to "accept these verses, the only offspring
to which I have given birth. And for the present I have no hope of any

In one of her letters to Sinapi, she reports favourably of Theodora's
progress. "Your daughter," she writes, "every day learns something, and
is thus, little by little, putting together her riches."

Look, reader; see, if by putting your eye to the magic glass, you
cannot discern the little party framed there in that autumn of the year
1552, in a rather large, but very low, wainscoted room of one of those
narrow high–peaked houses, with quaint gables, seeming to be almost
endowed with physiognomical expression, that wink and nod at each
other across the narrow German street. Doctissimus dominus Andreas is
abroad among his patients, of whom he has only too many, much disease
being generated, as usual, by the cramming of a number of ill–paid,
ill–fed, ill–lodged, and ill–lived soldiers into the narrow quarters
of a close–walled town. Olympia and her two pupils are sitting near
the small first–floor window which projects over the street, that they
may have all the little pale light there is, as the three heads bend
together over the small, but well–cut, type of that octavo volume of
the Iliad which Luke Anthony Giunta printed at Venice in the year
1537, and which poor Peregrino Morato, being an exile in that city at
the time, bought with so much difficulty. The precious volume is not
endangered by any easy–chair fashion of holding it in the hand, or
letting it lie on the lap, but reposes stately on a little wooden desk
in front of Olympia's chair, while Theodora and Emilio stand one on
each side the youthful matron's knee. The large low chamber, extending
over the narrow entrance passage, and two small rooms, one on each side
on the ground–floor, occupies the entire extent of the house on the
first floor, and has two narrow windows.


At the other of these sits, occupied in some household task, our maid
Barbara,—she alone of all the other maids–of–all–work, mending hose,
washing windows, or stewing saur–kraut, that day in wide Germany,
still extant,—a good servant enough, if "ipsius mores" could be
tolerated.[109] For Barbara's immortality, sad to say, rests mainly
like that of some other historical personages, on this questionability
of her moral character. Yes! there, clearly enough, sits Barbara at the
other window, doing what was to be done under the eye of her mistress,
who does not approve of her hand–maiden running out into streets filled
with Spanish soldiers, and who finds, as she says at the end of the
dialogue she sent to Lavinia della Rovere, that all goes wrong in a
house as soon as the mistress's back is turned.

In the background of the large room are two heavy wooden closed
bedsteads, looking more like huge chests of drawers than any other
modern piece of furniture, in which repose Olympia and her husband.
For this, the best and only good room in the house, is the lady's
bower and bedchamber. The two little damp rooms below serve, the one
as a kitchen, and the other as the family refectory. Above, in the
huge roof, two little narrow–windowed chambers held the pallet beds
of Theodora and Emilio; and above these, squeezed into the narrowing
roof, another cell, with its eye–like window, peering out under the
projecting eaves of the gable, afforded a dormitory for Barbara of the
intolerable morals.

Something like this, I fancy, must have been that quiet home, and the
way of life in that pine–wood furnished low–roofed chamber, where
the daily lessons occupied the morning; and where, in the evening,
when the good doctor had returned from his work, some one or two of
those "viri boni," for whose sake a residence at Schweinfurth was
agreeable,—learned Dominus Johannes Cremer, or learned Magister Andreas
Roser, the schoolmaster,—fortis Gyas, fortisque Cloanthus,—grave men
in stiff ruffles, large dark–coloured cloaks, and flat wide hats,
which they retained as they sat in the somewhat bleak room,—would
come in and hold sober discourse in Latin—(Olympia did not understand
German)—on the last new controversial work of some shining light, on
the probability of the provisions of the Interim being enforced, on
the certainty of the doctrine of election, or the uncertainty of the
movements of the Emperor, or other such topics; and finish the evening
by singing together one of Olympia's Greek Psalms, set to music by
her husband; wherein one may fancy that the pure Italian soprano
of Olympia, the childish treble of the two children, and the deep
voices of the musical German guests, as they joined in the sonorous
Greek syllables, under the guidance of Grünthler's bâton, produced a
performance altogether _sui generis_. And all is well, if only that
slippery ancilla, Barbara, had not taken the opportunity of running out
into the street, and left perchance the door on the latch.


A pale life, vulgar cares, and monotonous duties for our Court–muse,
so long accustomed to the flattering homage of a brilliant courtier
circle in the splendid Ferrara saloons, glittering with gilding,
and glowing with the colours of Dosso Dossi! The contrast must have
presented itself sometimes to Olympia's mind; but the recollection was
more calculated to produce a contented smile than a sigh of regret.
It is a noticeable development of a richly endowed moral nature,—this
change of one, who seemed so wholly and perfectly made and fitted
for the element in which she then moved, into a being at least as
thoroughly adapted to a life so violently contrasted to it in all ways.

Sometimes the perfect adaptation to her new position, as the learned
wife of a distinguished professor, not without authority in her circle,
shows itself amusingly in a little assumption of the birched Minerva
attitude, to which, it has been hinted, she had a slight leaning. As
when we find her writing to a divine,[110] whose name is discreetly
left in blank, in this strain:

"As I have good information that your backslidings are frequent, I have
thought it right to admonish you that you are acting in a manner at
variance with the high dignity of your office, and disgraceful to your
gray hairs, in giving way to your appetite as grossly as any Epicurus
could do!" The gray–haired preacher, it would seem, was addicted to
excessive potations; and Olympia's letter is long and eloquent enough
on the subject to have mended his habits, if it was in the power of
lecturing to do so.

Grünthler and his wife had hardly got settled at Schweinfurth before a
very eligible appointment to a Professor's chair at Lintz was offered
to him, through George Hermann. The position seemed to be all that
could be desired, if only a favourably reply were returned to one
question, which Olympia immediately writes[111] back to their kind
friend and patron to ask. "Is anti–Christ raging at Lintz? Shall we be
permitted, that is to say, to hold and to profess openly our own faith?
Because, having been enlightened sufficiently to see and give testimony
to the truth, our eternal happiness would be the price of any turning
back from the plough."

The answer on this point was unfavourable. All thoughts, therefore,
of the Lintz professorship were abandoned: and Grünthler and his wife
were contented to remain in their humble home in the free city of

But the little family circle there was in the beginning of 1553, broken
by the recall of Theodora to the death–bed of her mother. The premature
death of Francesca Bucyronia, who had been Olympia's friend at the
court of Ferrara, and whose destiny in life had been so singularly
the counterpart of her own, was almost as deeply felt in the home at
Schweinfurth as in her own at Würzburg. There is a letter from Sinapi
to Calvin,[112] in which he tells him of his loss.

"I had been absent," he writes, "from Würzburg; and my return, and
that of Theodora, our beloved daughter (whom we had confided to the
care of a matron as pious as she is erudite, Olympia Morata, whose
name is no doubt known to you), seemed to restore her" (his wife) "in
some degree. But soon all hope was gone * * * Oh! what a faithful and
tender friend I have lost in my Francesca. She had joyfully followed
me into Germany; and had quickly familiarised herself with the language
and manners of this country. She preferred the simple rusticity of my
countrymen, to the insincerity and calumny from which she had suffered
during the latter part of our residence at Ferrara."


This intimation that Francesca also had suffered from the displeasure
of the Court of Ferrara, at the same time that Olympia had fallen into
disgrace, would seem to add probability to the supposition, that the
same cause, their common Protestantism, was the motive of the Court
hostility in either case.

Olympia's French biographer[113] thinks that this period of her life at
Schweinfurth, was "one of sacrifice," and that "isolation and obscurity
were now her lot." It does not seem to me that this Schweinfurth home
is thus fairly described, or that Olympia so regarded it. I think that
it included a fair proportion of the elements of happiness, and that
she was perfectly capable of appreciating those elements.

If only the simple home, with its quiet round of congenial duties and
congenial pleasures could have been preserved to the physician and
his wife, their story might have ended more in the idyllic than the
tragic tone. From lyric girlhood to idyllic matronhood the progress is
normal, and need excite no pity for its "isolation and obscurity." But
the sequel of the tale, which remains to be told, renders it indeed a


The makers of history.—The flight from Schweinfurth.

Happy times, and prosperous people, it has been said, afford but small
materials for history. But great events, which were to shape the
history of Europe for centuries to come, were convulsing Germany in
those middle years of the sixteenth century. And the amount of misery
suffered by the hod–men and day–labourers in this history–building
business, was in proportion to the greatness of the work in hand.
That "great man" Charles V. was a notable provider of "fine subjects"
for history. Poor, gouty, narrow–minded specimen of humanity as he
was, rising up early, and late taking rest, at his weary kingcraft
and history–making, with a very unsound mind in a scarcely sounder
body; with "vast views," analogous to those of the sailor, who having
expended the first of his fairy–granted wishes on "as much rum as ever
he could drink," could only utilise the third of them by asking for "a
little more rum;" and with a "large intelligence," equal to the most
extended application of the theory of that wise monkey who drew the
chestnuts from the fire at the cost of other paws than his own: this
"great figure in history" was a scourge to mankind, useful after the
fashion of many other such scourges, to admonish men of the folly,
meanness, and absurdity of permitting earth to be harassed by such.

[Sidenote: CHARLES V. IN 1552.]

During the winter of 1552, this Charles, suffering much from gout, and
greatly troubled in mind about the proceedings of the great Church
Council, so necessary for "healing the wounds of Christendom,"—for
coupling up the unruly cattle of the great European team, that is
to say, so that he, Charles, might have a somewhat less desperately
difficult job of it, in driving them,—had taken up his quarters at
Innspruck. All paternal care having been well taken for the good
government of his German subjects, the Interim duly published,
refractory preachers chained up, and good faithful Maurice of Saxony
having brought the rebellious Magdeburgers to reason, the mighty
Imperial intellect flattered itself that all was safe behind in
Germany, and gave itself up to watching the goings on of the bishops
down the valley below there at Trent, and endeavouring to persuade them
to give such assurance of personal safety to the Protestant divines, as
might induce them to trust themselves on the southern side of the Alps.
For the smell of the blood of John Huss was strong on the threshold
of the council chamber, and the Protestant representatives, driven up
again and again to the doorway, could not be got to pass it.

But Germany was not in a loyal mood towards its Imperial master. The
princes were discontented at arbitrary infringements of the powers and
privileges of the Diet. They were angry at a recent attempt, inspired
by the "vast views," to impose upon them as successor to the Imperial
dignity that insolent, odious Philip II., who had come from Spain to
be presented to the Electors, and, having thoroughly disgusted every
one of them, had returned to that more congenial country. And they
were revolted by the Imperial cruelty, faithlessness, and tyranny in
the detention of the Landgrave of Hesse in prison; and by the general
prospect held out by the Imperial wisdom, that Germany would ere long
be as well and orderly governed a country as Spain. Then the burghers
were of course discontented enough. It is the nature of such people to
be so, as paternal rulers are too well aware.

In this state of things, Maurice of Saxony, whom the Emperor had made
Elector, when he deposed the unfortunate John Frederick, began to show
his real colour. That good faithful Maurice, of whose attached fidelity
to his fortunes, Charles in his Imperial sagacity, and the profound
political insight of the Imperial ministers had not the slightest
doubt,—crafty, able, Maurice thought that the time was now come for
throwing off a mask long carefully worn, and striking a blow for
himself and for Germany, that should effectually clip the "vast views"
and dangerous talons of the Imperial eagle.

So he suddenly drew together and put in motion the forces long
prepared, and kept afoot on various skilfully devised pretexts,
rendered specious by an abundance of "able" falsehoods, and made a dash
at the wholly unprepared Imperial eagle at Innspruck, which all but
caught him in his nest.

Charles had to escape as best he might across the snows in dreadful
weather, with gnashing of teeth, gout in his legs, and et tu Brute! in
his heart, to remote Villach among the Alps; where, with a foretaste of
the later St. Just mood of thought on life and king–craft, he had to
wait in very un–Imperial sort, till some accommodation could be come to
with his numerous enemies.


This was effected on the 2nd of August 1552, at Passau, by a treaty
of peace, which recognised, and in some degree secured the Germanic
liberties, destroyed the life's labour of that mighty Imperial
intelligence, and thenceforth limited very considerably the horizon of
those Imperial vast views.

But, "quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi." For monarch's
madness, subjects pay the smart. The law is inexorable. Despite
treaties of peace, with whatsoever oaths, parchments, and seals of the
Empire, the amount of misery due by normal action of cause and effect
for the "vast views," which Charles had passed his life in endeavouring
to carry out, had to be paid. And that particular little fraction of
suffering, with which the present story is concerned, was assessed and
levied in manner following.

Among the various allies whom able Maurice of Saxony had induced to
join him against the Emperor, was one Albert of Brandenburg, who,
having been Grand Master of the Teutonic Order of Knights, then the
rulers of a considerable portion of the country now called Prussia,
was so deeply moved by the doctrines of Luther, that for conscience
sake he was obliged to play false to his brother knights, and seize on
their territory as an independent state for himself. Now this Albert,
being at the head of a powerful force of mercenary soldiers, veterans
ready for anything,—except honest callings and peaceful labour,—and
being as M. Bonnet writes,[114] "one of those brilliant types of the
medieval soldier of fortune, brave, adroit, indefatigable, given to
plunder, cruel, faithless, and lawless," was by no means willing, when
his chief Maurice made peace at Passau, to allow all his _brilliance_
to be rusted for want of action. Peace to him was like a hard frost
to a fox–hunter. Besides his Protestant feelings were very strongly
stimulated by the contemplation of the rich and very defenceless
territories of those malignant Papists, the Bishops of Bamberg and

So he refused to join in, or be bound by the treaty of Passau, and
determined to carry on the war on his own account. Which he did after
so brilliantly Ishmaelitish a fashion, that a cry of mad dog was
raised, and he was put to the ban of the Empire. Being thus driven from
harrying the countries of the two prince–bishops, and obliged to look
round for some shelter from his pursuers, he dashed at neighbouring
Schweinfurth, seized it as a stronghold for himself and his troops; and
was there besieged by the bishops, in conjunction with the Nürembergers
and the Duke of Brunswick.

Which interrupted very disagreeably the morning Homer readings and the
evening Greek psalm–singing in the quiet little home we were just now
peeping into.

Deliration of princes indeed! Better, if fighting must needs be, to
have a quarrel of your own to fight for, like the bold Magdeburgers,
with Interim at their gates! But these hapless Schweinfurth citizens
had their city turned to the uses of a badger–baiting tub for neither
fault, quarrel, nor interest of their own. Let the upshot of the
struggle be as it might, they had only ruin and destruction to fear
from it. And this siege lasted for fourteen months! "For fourteen whole
months did we live in the greatest possible straits, while the city
was besieged;" writes Olympia to her sister. "If I were to attempt to
recount to you all we went through, I should send you, not a letter,
but a large volume. By day and by night we were in the midst of the
missiles of the besiegers." The lawlessness of the troops within
the town was a dreadful addition to their calamities. The homes of
the citizens were constantly liable to predatory visits from bands
of soldiers, whose "bravery, adroitness, cruelty, thievishness, and
faithlessness" were quite as "brilliant" as their master's.

[Sidenote: THE SIEGE.]

In the ordinary and fitting course of things, pestilence soon made
its appearance in a city thus circumstanced; and, together, with an
excessive scarcity of food, completed the misery of its inhabitants.
It now became Grünthler's duty to be found in the van of the struggle,
and in the hottest of the danger. And as usual in the annals of a
profession, which has, more rarely, probably, than has been the case
in any other department of human effort, been found wanting in the
high estimate and full discharge of its duties in times of danger and
difficulty, the physician was early and late at his post, struggling
hand to hand with _his_ enemy. But the fight had to be carried on
under great disadvantages. All the stock of medicines in the town
was exhausted. And drugs formed a larger portion of the means and
appliances at the command of the skilled physician in those days,
than is now the case. The sickness spread with fearful rapidity.
"By contagion among the soldiers," writes Olympia,[115] "who are
excessively crowded in the city, so malignant a form of disease has
attacked almost the entire population, that nearly one half of the
people have perished, terror and mental distress contributing no small
part to the result."

Before long Grünthler was struck down in the midst of his labours.
Help there was none. Every man was too much engrossed by his own
desperate fight with the misery around him. Medicine there was none,
food but little. And Olympia watched alone and helpless by the bedside
of her husband; sustained only by the belief that her fervent and
unceasing prayers might move Heaven to that miraculous interference
with the unseen working of the material laws, which even then mankind
had ceased to expect in cases where their operation is seen and
comprehended. Even Olympia, whose love for her husband poured itself
forth in such earnest supplications, that the fever in his blood might
not produce the effect upon his organism, which in other men it did
produce,—Olympia herself would not have prayed, that water closing over
his head should fail to drown him.

Not the less did her belief sustain her in those long hours of dreadful
desolation and sickening dread. She was comforted;—though at the cost
of a lower ideal of the nature of the Creator than she would have
attained had such comfort been impossible to her; and, therefore, at
the cost of a proportionate inferiority in her own moral nature.

But the physician's malady was not "unto death." He recovered. As
M. Bonnet writes;[116] "It required a miracle to save Grünthler....
Olympia's prayers and those of the Church of Schweinfurth were heard;
and Grünthler was saved!"

Amid the horrors of this time Olympia found means to send out of the
city a letter[117] to Lavinia della Rovere.


"What a good fortune is it," she writes, "in our misery to have found
an opportunity of telling you of our sorrows. Weep for us, my friend;
hut at the same time be thankful for our mercies. We are besieged in
this town, and shut in without escape, between two great armies. But
God has so kept us hitherto, that we have escaped from what seemed
certain death. He has fed us, and continues to feed us, in a time of
extreme scarcity. My husband, prostrated by disease, was on the brink
of the grave. But He hath deigned to recall him to life in mercy to
me, who could not have supported so heavy a blow.... In all these
afflictions we have had but one consolation, prayer and meditation on
the Holy Scriptures. Not once have I turned to look back with regret
on the riches of Egypt. And I have felt that to meet death here,
is preferable to the enjoyment of all the pleasures of the world
elsewhere." "Egypt," and "elsewhere" of course mean Ferrara, with the
necessity of concealing her religious faith. She concludes this letter,
written amid so great misery, with a burst of affection, which shows
how deeply the friendship of her early years had rooted itself in her
heart, and how profoundly she had felt the kindness shown to her in her
old time of distress.

"Once more, farewell! my own sweetest Lavinia, who livest ever in my
heart's core,—quæ mihi semper hæres in medullis,—and whom I can never
forget while life remains,—dum spiritus hos reget artus. Adieu! Adieu!
and may you live in happiness!"

As the besieging forces, irritated at the length of time the Margrave
had succeeded in holding the town against them, redoubled their
efforts, the condition of those within the city became continually
worse and worse. The houses no longer afforded the inhabitants shelter
from the fire of the enemy. "During the whole of that period," writes
Olympia to Curione,[118] of the latter part of the siege, "we were
obliged to lie concealed in a cellar."

At length, Albert's means of resistance were exhausted; and that
"brilliant" specimen of chivalry evacuated the town at the head of his
soldiery, with the intention of cutting his way through the besieging
forces. Great was the joy in Schweinfurth at his departure; but it was
of very short duration. For while one portion of the allied troops
pursued the flying Margrave, the forces of Nüremberg, and of the
two Bishops, entered the town the next day, determined to treat it
as a place taken by assault. They were all good Catholics, and the
Schweinfurth people were almost all Protestants, unarmed, worn out by
the long miseries of the siege, and much more than decimated by the

It was a good opportunity for indulging in every evil passion, under
the cloak of religious zeal. And Schweinfurth suffered all the horrors
of a sack, inflicted in cold blood by fellow–countrymen, the citizens
of neighbouring towns, divided from their victims only by some
speculative differences of creed!


Olympia has recorded some of the incidents of that dreadful day in
the letter to her sister, that has been already quoted. The soldiers,
rushing into the town in complete disorder, set fire to the houses in
many places. "In that moment of trepidation and panic terror," she
writes, "my husband and I were rushing to the church as the safest
asylum, when a soldier, altogether unknown to us, addressed us, and
warned us to fly from the city if we would not be buried beneath its
ruins. Had we remained in the church, we should have been suffocated
by the smoke, as many were. We followed the man's advice, and made
for the gate accordingly." But before they could reach it, the letter
goes on to say, they fell into the hands of a party of soldiers, who
stripped them of every thing, and took Grünthler prisoner. Escaping
from their hands, he was a second time seized before they could reach
the gate.[119] "Then, I can tell you, I knew what agony of mind is,
if ever I knew it; then I prayed with ardour, if ever I did so. In my
sore distress I cried aloud, 'Help me! Help me, Oh Lord, for Christ
his sake!' nor did I cease my cry until He helped me, and set my
husband free. I would that you could have seen in what a condition I
was, covered with fluttering rags, for my clothes had been torn from
off my back. In my flight I lost both shoes and stockings, and had to
run barefoot over rough stones and rocks, so that in truth I know not
how I won through. Again and again I said, 'Here I must fall and die,
for I can endure no more.' Then I cried to God, 'Lord, if thou wilt,
that I live, command thy angels that they carry me, for carry myself I

At length they reached the gate, and escaped from the horrors of
the town. "And having my husband with me," says the letter to her
sister, "I minded not the loss of all else, though I had only my
shift—subucula—left to cover me."

In that plight, the fugitives had to travel ten miles that dreadful
night, till they reached the village of Hammelburg. Olympia had been
suffering the whole time from tertian fever, and was absolutely unable
to proceed further. "Among the poorest of the poor," she writes to
Curione, "I might have been taken for the queen of the beggars." At
Hammelburg they met with scant hospitality. The people were afraid of
giving offence to their prince–bishop by harbouring fugitives from
Protestant Schweinfurth. Nevertheless, in the absolute impossibility
of dragging herself out of the town, Olympia and her companions were
allowed to remain there three days. On the fourth, though still very
ill, and hardly able to walk with the support of her husband, the
miserable wanderers were obliged again to take the road. But they were
still in an enemy's country, and surrounded by danger. At the next town
they reached, they were arrested and thrown into prison for several
days, while the authorities of the place applied to their superiors
for directions what was to be done with them. A general order had been
given to put to death all fugitives from Schweinfurth; and these days
were spent accordingly, as Olympia says in the letter already quoted,
in an agony of hope and fear. They were at length released, and met
with assistance of some charitable individuals, especially of one
who, without allowing them to know his name, gave them fifteen golden
crowns,[120] which enabled them to reach the residence of the Count de
Reineck on the Saal. There they were kindly received, and assisted to
continue their journey to Erbach, in the Odenwald.

The Counts of this picturesque little mountain town were at that time
three brothers, who lived together in the castle, which may yet be
seen there; and the eldest of whom had married the sister of the Count
Palatine, Frederick II., the principal builder of the magnificent
pile, still the boast and ornament of Heidelberg. They were zealous
Protestants, who had more than once risked life and fortune in the
cause, and enjoyed a very high reputation for their piety among their
co–religionists, and even among their opponents, for their virtues and


By these excellent men, and by the Countess, the wanderers were
received with open arms, and comforted in every way that their
miserable condition required. Olympia was not unknown to them by
reputation; and the tale of sorrows she had now to tell, was not needed
to make her a welcome guest at Erbach. She reached the hospitable roof
utterly prostrated and broken down, almost literally naked, and having
lost all that she and her husband possessed in the world. Worst and
most irreparable loss of all, her books, those much–loved books, which
had been the companions of her life, and with them a great quantity of
her manuscripts, had perished in the burning of Schweinfurth.

It needed all the motherly care and kindness of the good Countess of
Erbach, who insisted on ministering to her as she lay on a bed of
sickness for several days, with her own hands, to restore her to some
degree of convalescence.[121] Indeed, the shock which her system had
received from the sufferings and fatigue of that awful night during
the escape from the city, and the ten miles of weary wayfaring which
followed it, was ultimately, though not immediately, fatal to her. She
never recovered from the effects of it, though the repose and kind
cares of which she was the object in the castle of Erbach, apparently
restored her to some degree of health for the present.

Olympia and her husband and little brother seem to have remained
some considerable time with these kind and noble hosts. She had an
opportunity of observing the ordinary habits of their daily life, and
has left us an interesting little sketch of the patriarchal manners
prevailing in the pious household of a German country nobleman of that

"The Count," she writes, "maintains sundry preachers in the town, and
is always the first to be present at their sermons. Every day before
breakfast, he gathers around him the members of his family and his
servants, and reads to them a portion of one of St. Paul's Epistles.
Then he kneels in prayer, together with his whole household. His next
care is to visit his subjects, one by one, in their homes, when he
talks familiarly with them and exhorts them to piety. For he says, that
he is responsible before God for their souls. Would that all princes
and lords resembled him!"

Of the Countess she writes to her sister, that "she is a woman
religious before all else. Her conversation is ever of God and of the
life hereafter, of which she speaks with the greatest enthusiasm and

Grünthler's friends were meanwhile endeavouring to find some
independent position for him. There is a letter from one Hubert of
Heidelberg to him, among the collection of Olympia's letters,[123]
in which he tells him, that all the councillors of the Palatine's
court being then at Worms, "seeking means to avert, if possible, the
calamities that menace Germany," he has no immediate hope of being
able to obtain for him a chair in the University of Heidelberg. "But
be assured," he continues, "that my house is open to you and to your
family. Come to me without hesitation; and be sure that better days are
in store for you;—'Grata superveniet, quæ non sperabitur, hora.'"

[Sidenote: TO HEIDELBERG.]

But very soon after receiving this kind, though unsatisfactory letter,
Grünthler learned from the Count of Erbach, that he had obtained for
him the Professorship of Medicine at Heidelberg from his brother–in–law
the Elector. Thus, once more there was an assured life and sphere of
duty before them; and taking leave of their benefactors and the quiet
mountain home which had refitted them after the storm, they started
pilgrim–wise across the Odenwald, with full hearts and renewed hopes
towards their new home.


A new home in Heidelberg;—and a last home beneath it.—What is Olympia
Morata to us?

The distance to be traversed by the little family in their journey from
Erbach to Heidelberg, is about ten leagues, through a country of wooded
hills, then crossed by no roads except the bridle–paths that led from
village to village. They were accompanied by guides provided by their
noble hosts at Erbach, and made the little journey by easy stages.
Their more pressing necessities had been relieved by the generosity
of the same kind friends. Olympia especially records having received
as a present from the Countess a dress worth a thousand crowns.[124]
Moreover, it was in summer—the summer of 1554—fresh hopes were before
them; and the journey was probably not a sad one.


A letter from Grünthler's friend Andreas Campanus,[125] schoolmaster
at Mossbach, written to Curione at Bâle, after Olympia's death,
records a pleasing little incident of this journey: The travellers had
reached the little town of Hirschhorn, in the valley of the Neckar,
where they were to pass the night. And there, in the common room of
the inn, were the schoolmaster of the place, one Dominus Georgius
Treuthuger, and his scholars, practising part–singing in German
fashion. The "ludimagister" and his boys made, as it would seem, but
a lame business of it. Whereupon Olympia, coming forward, helped them
out of the difficulty, singing the notes with them, and encouraging
them. Ludimagister Treuthuger was delighted, as he might well be, at
so charming a "Deus ex machinâ;" and, entering into conversation with
the strangers—in Latin, of course—passed most of the evening in learned
discourse before discovering who the travellers were. On learning
their names, he rushed off to his house, and returned with several
pieces of Andreas Grünthler's music, which had, he said, long been
favourites of his; "which infinitely delighted and surprised the Doctor
and Olympia;"[126] the surprise, it must be supposed, being occasioned
by the fact that Grünthler's music should have found its way to the
obscure little town in the Neckar valley. "I have often heard him,"
says Campanus, "telling his scholars never to forget the lady who sang
with them so beautifully, and that at sight, too."

On the following day they reached Heidelberg safely, and Grünthler at
once entered on the duties of his office.

Hubert Thomas, who was secretary to the Elector Palatine, and a
friend, as we have seen, of Grünthler and his wife, has written[127]
that a professor's chair of the Greek language was offered to Olympia
by the Elector, at the same time that he appointed her husband to
one of medicine. He speaks of "Doctor Andreas Grünthler, whose wife
Olympia, to describe her justly, should be called Sappho of Lesbos;"
and goes on to say, that "Both of them were invited by our prince to
be the ornaments of his University; he to be professor of medicine,
she to teach the Greek language, which she hath hitherto deferred
doing, on account of ill health." M. Bonnet thinks, that this offer
of a Greek professorship must be deemed a mistake and rejected as
incredible, because Olympia does not speak of it in her letters to
the brothers Sinapi and Curione. These letters contain, he argues,
even the smallest details of her life, and would not therefore have
omitted a circumstance of such importance. But these letters, though
containing many a little incident which happened to be in the mind
of the writer at the moment, do not in any wise purport to give a
journal, or even a general view of the history of her life. And even
if they were of this nature, it appears to me far more easy to imagine
reasons why Olympia may never have mentioned this offer, than to
suppose that the Elector's secretary, writing annals at the time the
events were passing,—(for the word "hactenus" in the passage quoted,
"quod hactenus distulit (Olympia) morbo comprehensa," joined to the
date of her death, show that the passage must have been written within
a year, at least, of the circumstances recorded) could either have
been mistaken, or have written wilfully what was false. Olympia knew
but too well that she would never be able to avail herself of such a
proposal. Her health and strength had been too much shattered. Probably
enough, her reminiscences of public lecturing, and the applause of
large auditories, may have made the idea of again presenting herself to
such an ordeal altogether distasteful to her present tone of mind and
feeling, even had her health permitted her to hope that she might ever
again be physically able to do so. And she may have felt, that to give
the physical reason for refusing to her kind friends, was to sadden
them needlessly by dwelling on a subject which, in all her letters,
she touches as lightly as possible; while to assign such a moral
reason as has been suggested, would probably give rise to troublesome
remonstrances and persuasions. Besides, we have no apparent means of
knowing that she did not mention this circumstance to some one, or to
all of these friends. Curione's title–page to her works expressly tells
us that we have in that volume the writings of Olympia, "quæ hactenus
inveniri potuerunt." Many of her letters may have been, and in all
probability were, lost. To set aside, therefore, the direct assertion
of a perfectly competent and perfectly trustworthy authority, on no
other ground than the silence, on the subject, of these letters, seems
altogether unreasonable and contrary to every principle of historical


There is, then, I think, no reason to discredit the assertion of
Hubert Thomas, that a chair in Greek, which she was so eminently well
qualified to occupy, was offered to Olympia by the Elector, who,
finding that this celebrated and highly gifted Italian woman was to be
his subject, and a resident in his capital, probably thought that he
could in no manner contribute more to the renown and attractions of
his University, than by imitating a step for which Italy, the great
authority on matters of learning and literature, had already furnished
more than one precedent.

In a letter from Olympia to her sister, written immediately after
their arrival at Heidelberg, on the silence of which as to the Greek
professorship M. Bonnet, who erroneously supposes it to be written to
Curione, specially rests his disbelief of any such proposal having been
made, she thus announces to her correspondent their new prospects.

"My husband," she writes, "has been called to Heidelberg, where we
now are, by the most illustrious Prince Palatine, Elector of the
Empire, to teach medicine in the public schools; although in this time
of calamitous and turbulent tempest, arms are more in request than

Yet, had it not been for the consequences of the sufferings endured
that fatal night of the flight from Schweinfurth, the aspects of the
life now before them might have seemed brighter than any that had
hitherto been their lot. Heidelberg was at that time, perhaps the
most flourishing and important centre of intellectual movement and
learning in Germany. Its University held the highest rank, and its
professors numbered among them several of the most distinguished names
of Transalpine Europe. A professional chair among such colleagues was
no mean promotion.

Next to health, the most irreparable loss in the Schweinfurth
catastrophe was that of the library. And we find their friends exerting
themselves to repair, as far as possible, this disaster. By a singular
chance, one volume, the Lives of Plutarch, belonging to their former
library, was recovered to form the nucleus of a new collection. It had
been found among the ruins at Schweinfurth, with the name of Olympia
written on the last page; and John Sinapi had the pleasure of sending
it to her with a letter of consolations and exhortations to fortitude
under the calamities to which they had been exposed.


"Leave groaning," he says, "to those who have no hope save in this
world. Your treasure is in heaven, where thieves cannot steal it, nor
flames destroy it. Do you not, like the sage of old, carry all your
goods with you,—your learning, your piety, your honour, your virtue,
and your attainments? What are material misfortunes and ruin to such an
one? 'Si fractus illabatur orbis, Impavidum ferient ruinæ.'"

Curione, from Bâle, writes; "I send you, my dear Olympia, the Homer you
ask for, together with some publications of my own. The book of the
_Lamentations_ of Jeremiah you will receive from Frankfurt; and you
will all the more profitably study it, in the time of your mourning for
your husband's native city. It is for you now to return to the studies
which have been interrupted, to produce something worthy of Sophocles,
and to obtain the laurel which has so long been your due."

All such brave talk must have been received by Olympia with a sad
smile. For she felt surely enough, that her laurel–seeking days were
over, and knew well that the night, "when no man can work" was coming
very quickly. And, indeed, one can hardly help smiling now at honest
Curione's expectation that "something worthy of Sophocles" should be
generated by meditations on the Lamentations of Jeremiah!

But the misfortunes which had fallen on the learned physician and his
celebrated wife at Schweinfurth, had attracted, it would seem, such
attention, that others besides their own private friends were anxious
to contribute towards replacing what had been lost. For we find Olympia
charging Curione with her thanks to the eminent publishers, Oporinus,
Hervagius, and Frobenius, for the valuable presents of books they had
sent her. The incident is a pleasing trait of the feeling existing
among the members of the guild of learning in those old German days,
despite the volleys of sesquipedalian billingsgate, more or less
ciceronian, with which they assailed each other on most occasions. And
it is a proof of the high estimation in which Olympia was held, and of
the extended reputation her name had attained.

Yet it was an uphill task, this recomposing a home in a strange city;
and Olympia, weak and suffering as she was, had to busy herself with
far other cares and labours than such as had rivalling Sophocles for
their object.

One of her earliest letters from Heidelberg was to her old master
John Sinapi. "My husband," she writes, "is preparing for his public
lectures. I have been excessively busy all day in buying household
gear, that we may be able to get into our new house." Emilio too was
fully occupied "in domesticis negotiis," assisting his sister in her
preparations for recommencing housekeeping, or he would write to his
friend Theodora.

Then, from this and other letters of the same time, we find her much
troubled on the subject of serving–maids. Ladies suffering from the
same vexations in the nineteenth century, may extend their sympathy
across the chasm of three hundred years, from poor dear Mrs. Blank
in the next street, to poor dear Mrs. Grünthler in her home at
Heidelberg. They may, perhaps, find materials for consolation in their
torments, from the discovery, that "the pitch to which things have
come now–a–days," had been arrived at three centuries ago, by this
monotonously trundling world.


"The weakness of my health," she writes to John Sinapi, "has within
the last few days compelled me to engage the only woman I have been
able to meet with. She asks a golden florin a month, reserving too the
right to employ a portion of her time for her own profit. Under the
pressure of necessity I have been obliged to submit. But all the wealth
of Persia should not induce me to keep her any longer. I throw myself,
therefore, on your charity for assistance. Do try, if you can send me a
servant of some sort, young or old. I can give her five florins a year."

She had written to our friend Cremer at Schweinfurth to send her a
cook, thinking, that many women might be found anxious to obtain some
shelter among those unfortunates who had been made destitute and
homeless by the destruction of that city;—"ex miseris illis pauperculis
et vagis Suinfordiensibus." But another friend, only designated by
the initial N.,[128] writes from that misery–stricken place, to say,
that he finds it wholly impossible to send her either an old woman, or
a girl,—"anum aut ancillam." All at Schweinfurth are either dead or
dying. "The mother of your former maid Kungunga would come, but is laid
up with fever. Possibly she may come, should she recover."

We find our old acquaintance Barbara come to the surface again, after
the cataclysm which had submerged so much that was more valuable.
Barbara was willing to return to her old mistress; but then those
intolerable "mores" do not seem to have been mended by all that had
come and gone since the quiet Schweinfurth days. And this proposal,
even in Olympia's pressing need, seems to have been rejected. Though,
as she writes to Andreas Campanus, the schoolmaster at Mossbach, she
would rather be her own maid, than put up with any such as were to be
found at Heidelberg.

Are there no ladies recently come from their virtuous shires to
establish a home in the great Babylon, who can sympathise with her?
Heidelberg was the seat of a brilliant court, and a large university.
And, doubtless, the abigails partook of the vices and corruptions
incidental to both these phases of social life. The good "ludimagister"
of Mossbach would have sent Olympia his own maid under escort of the
postman, "cum tabellario," but that she too was down with sickness, as
indeed were also all the family of poor Andreas.

So difficult a matter was it to come by an eligible maid–of–all–work
in the year 1554! These domestic perplexities will, no doubt, be
to readers of her own sex, the one touch of nature that makes all
the world akin. But it may seem strange to them that Mrs. Grünthler
("Domina Grünthlera," as friend N. at Schweinfurth, writing on these
household matters, alone of all her other correspondents, addresses
her) did not communicate with other mistresses of families on such
matters, instead of always with the gentlemen. It must be remembered,
however, that Olympia understood no German, and the ladies around her
no Latin. Unlike her friend Francisca, John Sinapi's Italian wife,
she had never thought it worth her while to acquire the language
of her adopted country; betraying, one might fancy, thereby, some
little pedantic affectation of classicality, the lees of the old
Grecian–virgin nature. The result was, that when she wanted to speak
of the price of a gown, she had to talk unintelligible stuff about
"sestercium nummorum;" and when she wanted a maid, could only seek
assistance from bearded doctors as classical as herself.

[Sidenote: HER CHARITY.]

Still, let any reader of an un–hero–worshipping turn of mind take
notice, that our Olympia is no subject for quizzing of his, on the
score of any such little eccentricity of the spectacled Minerva kind.
A passage in the letter of N. of Schweinfurth proves,[129] that the
difficulties of her ciceronian idiom did not prevent her from visiting,
and with her small means comforting the misery in the poor–house at
Schweinfurth, during those fearful days, when every man's thought was
for himself; though she _did_ call the place a "Zenodochia." And when
the "res angusta domi" was pressing her so hard, that Grünthler had
to borrow money to meet the expenses of their first establishment at
Heidelberg, she still found means to think of the poor she had left in
miserable Schweinfurth. "If there is anyone in your neighbourhood,"
writes poor Grünthler to his friend the schoolmaster at Mossbach, "who
could lend me twenty golden florins, I would send him a gold chain as a
security, and would name a day for the repayment of the loan." Yet it
is about the same time that "N." writes to say, that the poor she used
to care for, had been all dispersed at the time of the sack and burning
of the city, and it was impossible to know what had become of them.
But he promises that the money sent shall be distributed in charity
according to her wish.

Yet despite small means, past losses, and domestic troubles, a happy
career of usefulness and honour might still have been before Grünthler
and his highly gifted wife, if only the latter had retained sufficient
vital force to have rallied from the Schweinfurth miseries. But the
physician had the infinite pain of seeing her fade and perish daily,
amid the manifold manifestations of the high place she occupied in the
esteem and regard of her contemporaries.

The Elector, failing in his wish that she should reflect a lustre on
his University by occupying one of its chairs, had wished to attach
her to his court, as lady of honour to the Electress. But Olympia had
had enough of courts! In a letter written in the year 1554 to her
old friend and playmate Anne of Este, then Duchess of Guise, after
regretting their total and inevitable separation, and wishing that she
could be near her, she adds; "Not that I would again pass my life in a
court; for I might have done so here had I wished it."

The same feeling is expressed in a letter to John Sinapi, written
during the first days of her residence at Heidelberg. He had proposed
again confiding his daughter Theodora to her care. Her presence will
be in every respect agreeable, Olympia replies. Send her at once, but
not with any idea of her frequenting the court; "for I purpose spending
my days far from courts." But she will do all she can for her; will
take her sometimes to the Countess of Erbach, where she may become
acquainted with the three charming daughters of that excellent woman.
She must bring her bed with her, "for we are unable at present to buy
more beds, and they are extremely dear here." ... "Salute from me all
your family, and the licentiate Faius, _if he has ceased to be a monk_."

In another letter to Chilian Sinapi, written about the same time,
she regrets her inability to give assistance to some persons whom he
had recommended to her. She had already charged herself with the
keep of some utterly destitute poor; would fain do so for all the
ruined unfortunates of Schweinfurth, were it possible. Poor Andreas
Rosarius, the schoolmaster, had written to her too to say, that he was
in great distress, and asked her whether there would be any chance of
his finding any lessons in Heidelberg. But Olympia could give him no
encouragement. There was no opening for a teacher in Heidelberg. It
would seem that "professions were too full" in the world before the
nineteenth century, as well as servants troublesome.


These letters, from which a stray fragment of biographical interest has
been gathered here and there, are mainly filled with fervent religious
exhortations, conceived in a spirit that can leave no doubt of the
heartfelt sincerity of the writer. They are for the most part free from
any advocacy of the more revolting doctrines of Calvinism, and insist
chiefly on the vanity of earthly interests, hopes, and pleasures, and
the necessity of God's free grace, to enable us to choose the better
path. Those especially to her sister, to Lavinia della Rovere, and to
Anna d'Este, are long, urgent, and affectionate exhortations to hold
all things nought for Christ's sake. They may be found at length,
translated into French, in M. Bonnet's work. But it has seemed to me
unnecessary to occupy the present pages with any specimen of these
writings, inasmuch as any page of them, divested of the names of
persons and places, which mark their authorship, would be absolutely
undistinguishable from many millions of pages which have been, and
are still being, written and printed on the same subjects. It may be
remarked, however, that the manner is more that of the evangelical
writers of the nineteenth than of the seventeenth century. It is wholly
undisfigured by the undue familiarity, low imagery, and grotesque
phraseology, which often marked the efforts of writers determined at
any cost to rouse, at least, the attention of their readers, if they
could not carry with them their intelligence.

As her health declined rapidly, she felt, and frequently expressed,
that desire to quit this world and its toils, and to be at rest with
God, which is deemed by religionists of the kind called evangelical, to
be the most sure and satisfactory indication of a healthy and desirable
condition of soul. Thinkers of a different class see only a proof of
failing bodily powers in those manifestations, which, to the former,
are assurances of increasing spiritual vigour. They find it quite in
accordance with all the recognisable operations of the Creator, that
in well–regulated minds the desire to live should become weakened,
together with the physical incapacity for life; but wholly out of all
analogy with His government of the world, that man's highest spiritual
excellence should coincide with, or even be compatible with, a diseased
condition of the machine, by means of which the spirit has to act and
develop itself; and still more, if possible, inconsistent with the ways
of God to man, that man's highest state of efficiency for duty should
be specially marked by his desire to leave the scene of it.

Olympia's willingness to die, normally and mercifully (a tautological
expression!) accompanied the increasing certainty that she could not
live. It is true, that the world around her, in all that most nearly
touched her affections, hopes, and fears, was becoming from day to day
more cheerless and distasteful to her. The prospects of the Reformers
were every where becoming more and more gloomy. Already internal schism
was vexing Rome's schismatics!


"I am not ignorant,"[130] writes Olympia to Vergerius, "that a great
controversy about the sacrament has arisen among the reformed. But this
would easily have been put an end to before this, if men would think
less of their own glory, and more of that of Christ, and the safety of
his Church." Pope Paul IV. would have re–echoed the sentiment with most
entire approbation!

Then, again, tidings of increasing persecution were coming in from all
parts. In England, Mary had succeeded to the throne. And Olympia hears
that Bernardino Ochino, of Siena, has been obliged to fly thence, and
take refuge at Geneva. From France the news was even worse and worse.
From Italy it was to Olympia the worst of all.

"My last letters from Italy," she writes to Chilian Sinapi,[131] "bring
me the sad news that the Christians at Ferrara—(this is not the only
passage of Olympia's writings in which she, by implication, denies
that the Romanists are Christians)—are suffering from the most cruel
persecution. The great and the little are equally exposed to suffering
for conscience' sake. Some are loaded with chains. Some are condemned
to exile. A remnant find their safety in flight. My mother has
continued firm amid the storm. All honour be to God therefor. I entreat
her to come out from that Babylon with my sisters, and to join me in
this country."

To complete the gloom of the material horizon around her, pestilence
broke out in Heidelberg in the early summer of 1555. And once again
it became the physician's duty to be found in the van of the battle
against it. Yet it was hard to be called on to leave the bedside of his
now evidently dying wife, at every daily and nightly call. But he was
strengthened in the path of his duty by the exhortations of Olympia.

Bad news also came from Curione. Both he and his daughter were struck
down by illness. He recovered shortly, however; and it would be
strange, if the inconsistency were not generic rather than peculiar
to Olympia, to observe, that she, who welcomed death as a spiritual
blessing to herself, and deemed her so welcoming it to be a mark of
spiritual grace, "wept with joy at hearing that her friend had been
snatched from the tomb."

In the same letter[132] she writes: "As for me, my dear Celio, I must
tell you that it is hardly probable that I should survive much longer.
Medical treatment can do nothing for me. Each day and hour my friends
see me perishing from before them. This letter is in all likelihood the
last you will ever receive from me. My body and my strength are worn
out. I have no appetite; and I am constantly, night and day, threatened
with suffocation by my cough. A burning fever consumes me; and pain in
every part of my body takes away the possibility of sleep. There is
nothing further for me but to breathe my last sigh. But up to that last
sigh I shall not forget those whom I have loved. Do not let the news of
my death afflict you. I know that the reward of the just is reserved
for me; and I long to quit this life to be with Jesus Christ."

[Sidenote: HER LAST HOURS.]

A letter from Grünthler[133] to Curione, gives a detailed account of
her last hours.

"A short time before her end," he writes, "she waked from a short
sleep, and smiled, as if moved by some pleasing thought. Hanging
over her, I asked the cause of this sweet expression. 'I saw in my
dream,' she said, 'a place illumined with the most brilliant and pure
light.'—(She had lucidity and clear honesty enough to distinguish
between 'dream' and 'vision.')—Her extreme weakness did not permit
her to say more. I said 'Courage, my best beloved! Very soon you will
be living amid that pure light.' She smiled again, and made a slight
sign of assent. A little afterwards, she said, 'I am happy, perfectly
happy;' and ceased speaking, just as her sight began to fail. 'I can
scarcely see you, my loved ones,' she said; 'but all round me there
seem to be beautiful flowers.' Those were her last words. An instant
afterwards she seemed to fall asleep, and breathed her last."

She died, the same letter tells us, at four in the afternoon of the
26th of October, 1555; having not completed her twenty–ninth year.

Grünthler felt his loss to be the loss of all that made life desirable
to him. But he had not to endure it long. The pestilence continued to
decimate Heidelberg. The University was deserted; and the town was half
emptied by death and by the flight of all who could escape. But the
bereaved physician had no motive to shun the pestilence, even if his
duty had not been to remain in the midst of it. He continued some two
months at his post after the death of his wife, was then struck down
by the sickness, and so followed her.

The boy Emilio, now in his thirteenth year, thus left alone in the
plague–stricken city, must in all probability have taken the infection
from his brother–in–law; for he also died within a few days.

All three were buried in a chapel of the Church of St. Peter at
Heidelberg, at the expense of a French professor in the University, one
Guillaume Rascalon; where the following inscription, recently restored,
M. Bonnet says, may yet be read:—

"Deo Inmortali Sacrum et virtuti ac memoriæ Olympiæ Moratæ, Fulvii
Morati Mantuani viri doctissimi, filiæ, Andreæ Grünthleri medici
conjugis; lectissimæ feminæ, cujus ingenium ac singularis utriusque
linguæ cognitio, in moribus autem probitas, summumque pietatis studium,
supra communem modum semper existimata sunt. Quod de ejus vita hominum
judicium, beata mors sanctissime ac pacatissime ab ea obita, divino
quoque confirmavit testimonio. Obiit, mutato solo, a salute DLV supra
mille, suæ ætatis XXIX. Hic cum marito et Emilio fratre sepulta."

The citizens of Schweinfurth resolved that the house Olympia had
inhabited among them should be rebuilt at the public cost, and
marked out to the respect of future generations by an inscription
commemorative of her having dwelt on that spot. The inscription
is indicative of the high esteem of the worthy burghers for their
celebrated fellow–citizen, rather than of any æsthetic appreciation
of her productions. For the hexameters and pentameters into which
Schweinfurth has painfully packed its sentiments, are of a kind to make
the classical ghost of Olympia shudder, if that erudite and gentle
spirit may be supposed to have cognisance of them.

[Sidenote: HER HIGH REPUTE.]

Olympia Morata had in the course of this short life acquired a high
European reputation. The loving care of Celio Curione, the editor
of her works, has collected and appended to them, after the fashion
of that day, an abundant selection of the "favourable notices" of
her learned contemporaries. And M. Bonnet has gathered some further
testimonies to the same effect. Many pages might be filled with the
laudatory sayings of these high authorities. But it will probably
be thought sufficient to state that the "eruditorum testimonia"
do certainly prove that Olympia was very highly esteemed by the
contemporary literary world of Europe. The most compendious and
undeniable evidence of this may be found moreover in the fact, that
four editions of her works were printed within twenty–five years after
her death.[134]

To the present writer's thinking, the greatness of this reputation
must appear to us of the nineteenth century a noticeable indication
of a past and gone phase of literary history, rather than as a result
that we should have anticipated from an examination of the works in
question. In Curione's dedication of the volume to Queen Elizabeth,
he says; "This book will prove the marvellous knowledge of Olympia,
her zeal for religion, her patience under severe trials, and her
unshakeable constancy in adversity." Understanding "marvellous
knowledge" to mean very remarkable accuracy of classical scholarship,
it is true, that the book _does_ prove all this. And there is every
reason to think that nothing more would be proved if we were in
possession of those other writings whose loss Curione and M. Bonnet
deplore. "She had composed," her old friend goes on to say in his
dedication, "many other writings which should have perpetuated the fame
of her faith and her talents, but which perished in the destruction of
her adopted country. That which remains will suffice to give you an
idea of that which has been lost." In another passage of the dedication
he tells us what these were.

"She had written observations on Homer; she had composed with great
elegance many verses, especially on divine themes; and certain
dialogues, both Latin and Greek had been elaborated by her with such a
perfection of imitation of Plato and Cicero, that not Zoilus himself
could have found any fault in them."

There is no reason to doubt that, as Curione says, the remaining
writings give a very sufficient idea of those which have perished; and
as little to question the very remarkable skill in classical imitation
which marked them.

Nevertheless, the world will hardly be persuaded that it has sustained
any loss by the destruction of these once so much prized manuscripts.
The loss of the letters, which form the bulk of the volume that good
Curione's care has given us, would have been more regrettable. These
have still an historical interest, as contributing many graphic touches
to the picture we are able to form for ourselves, of that complex,
seething, labouring time. It may be added, that they offer also an
ethical delineation which the world has still a use for. These letters
_do_, as Curione says, show a lively picture of the writer's "zeal
for religion, patience under trial, and unshakeable constancy in
adversity;" one of these pictures which the world cannot wisely allow
to be effaced.


But it was not the manifestation of these fine qualities which obtained
for Olympia that great reputation among her contemporaries which is
itself an historical phenomenon of no slight importance. It was not her
patience under trial, and constancy in adversity, that caused Europe
so to ring with her name that the echo of it has reached these days.
Fine and noble things as these are, the world has at no time been so
poor in them, as not to have possessed many noteworthy examples of
them, which fame has had no time to note. Olympia's reputation was due
to her learning, exclusive, be it observed, of any of the affectionate
sympathy with which she was regarded by her co–religionists on account
of her steady adherence to her religious convictions. For Tiraboschi,
Quadrio, and other Romanist writers, while lamenting her heresy, speak
as warmly as any of her literary merits. Her fame was the reward of
such skilful "perfection in the imitation of Cicero and Plato, that
not even Zoilus could pick out a fault in her compositions." Many a
scholar of mature age enjoyed the respect of his contemporaries in
that century, in virtue of a life spent in obtaining that proficiency
of which Olympia was mistress in her teens. And though such an amount
of admiration for scholarship must seem strange and excessive to an
age which considers similar proficiency in young gentlemen in their
teens quite sufficiently rewarded by the presentation of a handsomely
bound volume with some school–founder's arms stamped in gold on the
side; still it must be borne in mind, that the difficulties overcome
by the sixteenth century young lady were of a very far more formidable
kind, than those, which lie in the way of the nineteenth century young
gentleman. Corrupt texts, and scarcity of them, inexperienced and but
partially competent teachers, unsettled and very little understood
principles of exegesis and criticism, the absence of all that luxury
of philological apparatus, which waits on the modern scholar, made
the path of the medieval explorers into the jungle of the ancient
literature, a very different thing from that of the traveller along its
roads, cleared and embellished by the assiduous labour of three hundred

Much indefatigable industry, many long and weary hours passed in
bending over books, while others were spending youthful hours in
youthful enjoyments, and very considerable aptitude for appreciating
the beauties, analogies, and delicacies of language, must have gone to
the acquirement of that amount of scholarship which Olympia possessed
at sixteen. But the same amount of industry and talent expended on any
other subject would not have produced any such meed of enthusiastic
admiration. And the position she occupied in her own day, must be
considered as a curious indication of the avidity with which the
cultivated minds of Europe seized on the new field opened to them,
and seemed to think that it might be made to yield all that the human
intelligence was then thirsting for.

But Olympia's classical successes, her Greek psalms, her Platonic
dialogues, and her Ciceronian Latin, would not have made her more
to the nineteenth century than one of the remarkable figures in the
great picture of her time, worth preserving the outline of for the
sake of the completeness of the general representation. And in truth
she is something more than this;—something more interesting to us,
as a "representative woman," than a miracle of scholarly learning, an
example of adversity nobly endured, or even a sufferer for conscience'


The especial interest of Olympia Morata's story lies, for us, in the
very remarkable contradiction it gives to the theories of those who
object to learnedly—or as the habits of our time unfortunately make it
correct to say—masculinely educated women. If ever there was a case in
which adventitious circumstances contributed to bring about a result
which would have furnished a moral on the other side of the question,
it was that of Olympia. The advocates of the knitting needle and
Lindley Murray may well have thought that the case was going all their
own way, when that Greek verse exultation over abandoned feminalities
was declaimed to an applauding court circle. Learning surely never had
better vantage ground for effecting the mischief dreaded from it.

Yet how closely within call the while was all that is most valuable
and womanly in woman! How promptly it was all forthcoming at the first
touch of softening sorrow, or the first awakening thrill of maidenly
love—those master agents in completing and perfecting woman's moral
nature! Did Olympia's learning make her a less loving, or even a less
housewifely wife? Did her competency to correspond with the scholars
of Europe render her less capable of gaining the affection of friends
of her own sex? Her Homeric studies did not keep her from visiting the
poor in the plague–stricken poor–house of Schweinfurth; or detain her
from her solitary watch by her sick husband's bedside. No Ciceronian
paradoxes were running in her head when all her energies had to be
devoted to the reconstructing her own and her husband's home in a
strange city; nor did love of study make her forget that "a household
was sure to go wrong when the mistress's back was turned."

Vittoria Colonna was learned, and a good womanly woman to boot, though
she was far less learned, and of far shallower moral nature than
Olympia. But then Vittoria was a princess, and therefore much less to
the purpose as a sample of the compatibility of high education and
intellectual pursuits, with the exemplary discharge of all a woman's
ordinary duties. Olympia was the wife of a poor man, and one struggling
with difficulties of no ordinary kind. Yet it would be difficult to
imagine for him a fitter, more helpful, or more wifely helpmate than
Andreas Grünthler found in his reclaimed "Grecian virgin."



 Italian love for the theatre.—Italian dramatic
 literature.—Tragedy.—Comedy.—Tiraboschi's notion of it.—Macchiavelli's
 Mandragola.—Isabella's high standing among her contemporaries.—Her
 husband.—Her high character.—Death and epitaph.—Her writings.—Nature
 and value of histrionic art.

Isabella Andreini, say her Italian biographers,[135] was one of the
greatest actresses who ever lived. She was also a writer of dramatic
and other works, much esteemed by her contemporaries.

She was born in 1562, two years before the birth of Shakspeare; and was
therefore delighting the courts of Italy and France at the same time
that he was catering for the amusement of a more mixed audience at the
Globe. It is true that Shakspeare is ... Shakspeare, by virtue of his
creative genius, and not of his histrionic talent; while Isabella owed
the larger portion of her fame to the latter source. Besides, it would
be of course unjust to the Italian actress, as well as preposterous,
to dream of instituting any comparison between her and nature's unique
master–piece; though her reputation among her contemporaries was
probably greater and more noisy than any which testified that the
England of Elizabeth's time had a suspicion that a poet for all time
had been born among them.

No such comparison is meant even to be hinted. But the
contemporaneousness of the English and Italian dramatic artist suggests
an inquiry into the materials with which the latter had to work.

We know what quality of dramatic literature was provided for the actors
who plied their calling at the Globe and the Bankside. And it is
certain that no one of them has left that histrionic reputation among
us which Isabella Andreini has left in Italy.

With this in one's mind, then, one is surprised to find at the first
glance that Italian literature in its Augustan age was especially
weak in the department of the drama. Quite the reverse might have
been anticipated from the national characteristics. No people are at
the present day more passionately fond of theatrical representation.
The theatre is with them almost a necessary of life to all classes of
citizens, and takes rank among the articles of an Italian's budget,
if not absolutely side by side with sufficient food, yet in very
many cases, immediately after it, and always has precedence of very
many matters that with us would be considered necessaries. And the
impressionable nature of the people makes this very intelligible.
Every Italian is an actor more or less,—has a natural talent for
"externating" the feelings that are in him, to use a very expressive
Italian phrase,—a talent that Englishmen are perhaps more deficient in
than any other people under the sun. To us how often is it distasteful,
how often impossible to "externare,"—to make outwardly manifest—that
which is inside us. How frequently is the act of another doing so
revolting to us; especially in matters which touch the deeper and
more powerful sentiments of the heart! To an Italian it is never
either difficult or distasteful in real life; and he is ever ready to
sympathise with and be pleased by a very moderate amount of histrionic
skill on the stage.


It might naturally be expected that the dramatic literature of a people
so constituted would be a prominent feature in the intellectual produce
of the national mind at its period of greatest vigour; and would have
exercised a notable influence in the moulding and fashioning its habits
of thought and turns of expression. Such is, however, far from being
the case. The poets, the novelists, the historians, the moralists
of Italy in the sixteenth century time of its high tide, have all
left their marks deeply and visibly enough stamped on the national
character, while that of the dramatists of the same period is barely,
if at all, perceptible.

It needs but a cursory examination of the Italian drama of the
sixteenth century, to remove all wonder that its authors should have
exercised no such influence. The wonder is, that when literature in its
other branches was so vigorous and full of sap, drama should have been
so sapless and of such little worth. From the earliest years of the
sixteenth century there was no lack of either tragedies or comedies in
Italy. But the mention of them and their authors would be little more
for the most part than a roll–call of names forgotten, at least on our
side of the Alps, and destined never more to be remembered.

Tragedy was paralysed by the influence of the Greek models, which
the sixteenth century writers made it their chief aim to copy. The
servility of imitation, which was pernicious in every department of
literature, was fatal to that, which above all others needs to be
the expression of life, when it strove to force it into the forms of
a social existence long since dead. A very cursory examination of
the "Sophonisba" of Trissino, of the "Rosmonda" and the "Orestes"
of Rucellai, or of the more celebrated "Canacci" of Speroni—works
which attained a higher celebrity in their time than most of their
contemporaries or followers—will be sufficient to show why such
productions could never be to the Italians what the Elizabethan
dramatic literature has been to us.

As to comedy, Tiraboschi[136] complains that the comic writers and
actors of that period "strove to obtain that applause which they had no
hope of so easily gaining in any other way, by a brazen–faced impudence
of words, gestures, and action; so that in those free and dissolute
times, it was too much the case that a comedy was the more applauded
the more filthy it was." And Giglio Gregorio Giraldi (Olympia Morata's
gouty old friend) exclaims in one of his dialogues:[137] "O tempora! O
mores! Every abomination is again reproduced upon the stage. Everywhere
stories are represented, which the general feeling of the Christian
world had rejected, banished, and abolished. And these are now recalled
and placed upon the stage by prelates and bishops, not to speak of
princes!" But a more cogent reason why these indecent productions, as
well as those not deserving of condemnation on this ground, could never
have taken any real hold on the national mind, may be found in worthy
Tiraboschi's notion of what was necessary to make such works all that
could be wished.


"Comedy," says he,[138] "the personages of which are for the most part
plebeian, or at least of private station, and the action of which is
generally familiar and domestic in its character, is of its own nature
low and trivial. And if it is not sustained by a certain elegance
of style—which is all the more difficult to attain, in that it must
be natural—and by an ingenious, and at the same time probable plot,
abounding in movement and surprising turns, it altogether falls to
earth; and it is almost impossible to endure either the representation
or the perusal of it."

The learned historian of Italian literature does not seem to have the
remotest suspicion, that a large and deep knowledge of human nature,
that the wide and penetrating observation of its similitudes and
dissimilitudes, its contrasts, inconsistencies, and analogies, which
supply wit with its material, and the genial power of sympathising with
its thousand moods, which generates humour, may be either necessary or
desirable to a comic writer. If Tiraboschi may be accepted as spokesman
for his countrymen in this matter, we have an abundantly sufficient
explanation of the small share, which the Muses of the sock and buskin
have had in forming that portion of the national mind which takes its
shape from the national literature, and to which their sisters of the
Nine have notably contributed.

But even comedy, though not in the same degree as tragedy, laboured
under the additional disqualification inflicted on it by the prevailing
mania for classical imitation. In this case the model worked from was
Latin instead of Greek, and generally rather Plautus than Terence. An
instance worthy of note may be cited in the "Sporta" or "Money–bag"
of Giambattista Gelli, the celebrated Florentine shoemaker, who became
Consul of the Academy of Florence. In the prologue to this comedy he
urges, in excuse for all shortcomings, that "it is surely a wonder
that he has accomplished so much, having all day long to ply scissors
and needle, which, womanly tools though they be, were never, as far
as his reading tells him, taken in hand by the Muses." Here we have
a man of the people, from whom some original conceptions drawn from
native popular life might have been expected. But the shoemaker was
as classical as his superiors; and his "Sporta" is little more than a
disguisement of Plautus in Florentine costume.

Macchiavelli's well known comedy, the "Mandragola," is the most notable
exception to what has been said of the plays of Isabella Andreini's
day. A genuine type of character altogether belonging to his own time,
and full of the elements of high comedy, was embodied in Frà Timoteo,
the tartuffe monk, by the daring Secretary. But it is an exception,
which but proves the rule.

What then are the sort of characters, in which we are to suppose
that Isabella produced an effect so extraordinary? The testimonies
of the extent of her power over her audiences are abundant. Padua,
her native city, enrolled her at an early age in the list of the
"Intenti" academicians. Among these "Intent" votaries of literature,
her nickname, according to the puerile practice of such bodies, was
"l'Accesa"—"the Inflamed one." The company of comedians, to which she,
and her husband Francesco Andreini, also an actor and writer, belonged,
were called the "Gelosi"—"Jealous ones." So that Isabella's full style
and titles, as they stand in the title pages of her works, run thus;
"Isabella Andreini, Comica Gelosa, Accademica Intenta, detta l'Accesa."

[Sidenote: IN FRANCE.]

Her son, Giovanni Battista Andreini, himself an actor and voluminous
play–wright, has collected an entire volume entitled "Apollo's Lament,"
composed of the pieces of poetry by his mother's contemporaries,
written in her praise. Another numerous selection of such tributes from
most of the leading literary men and women of that day written on the
occasion of her death, is prefixed to a volume of her poetry, printed
at Milan in 1605.

Having acted with the greatest applause before most of the Italian
courts, we find that she passed with her husband's company of players
into France, where the "Gelosi" enjoyed under the patronage of the
French court a very high reputation, until Isabella's death deprived
them of their principal support and attraction. A letter from Henry IV.
is recorded,[139] in which he addresses her in the most flattering and
at the same time respectful terms.

A fine medal, not unfrequently met with in the cabinets of collectors,
was struck in her honour, having on the obverse her portrait, with the
words "D. Isabella Andreini, C. G."—_Comica Gelosa_, that is to say;
and on the reverse a full length figure of Fame with the legend "Æterna

The celebrated Ericio Puteano wrote the following inscription for her

      "Hanc vides, et hanc audis;
  Tu disputa, Argus esse malis ut videas
      An Midas, ut audias.
  Tantum enim sermonem vultus
  Quantum sermo vultum commendat;
  Quorum alterutro æterna esse potuisset,
  Cum vultum omnibus simulacris emendatiorem
  Et sermonem omni Suada venustiorem possideat."

"See her, and hear her!" as one may say; "and then doubt, whether you
would rather be Argus to see the more, or Midas to hear the more.
For face and voice contribute equally to increase the bewitchment of
either. Both should have been eternal; for the face was more perfect
than any likeness can present it, and the voice sweeter than that of
Persuasion's self."

Under another portrait was written; "You admire, reader, this portrait
of the histrionic Muse! What would be your feelings, if you could hear

The Cardinal Cinthio Aldobrandini, nephew of Pope Clement VIII., wrote
a number of poems in her praise, and dedicated his works to her.

Franciscus Pola of Verona, and Leonardo Tedesco, who wrote himself
"physician and philosopher," made Anagrams on her name, one discovering
that she was "Alia blanda sirena;" and the other questioning whether
she were "lira ne, an labris Dea." A panel was painted with Isabella on
one side and Pallas on the other; and of course the wits discovered in
verses more complimentary to Isabella than to Minerva, that

  "Utraque est Pallas, atq. Isabella utraque est."

Torquato Tasso wrote a sonnet on her; Charles Emanuel of Savoy, admired
and patronised her; and she was generally spoken of as "Decoro delle
Muse;" and "Ornamento dei Teatri." Ventura of Bergamo in a dedicatory
letter declares that she "joined beauty to propriety, freedom to
modesty, excellent speech with virtuous deeds, lofty intelligence with
affable manners, and in short all that is most charming to all that is
most solid." Of Italy she was, he says, "nothing less than the absolute
queen, seeing that she was the mistress (in no ill sense, _padrona_) of
the princes who ruled it." He adds that "the olive of Pallas was on her
lips, in her face the gardens of Adonis, in her bosom the banquet of
the Gods, around her waist the girdle of Venus, in her arms chaste love
and the celestial Venus. So that one must conclude," says this moderate
gentleman, that "she was the most choice product of all that the past
had brought forth, or the present was blessed with."

[Sidenote: HER HUSBAND.]

But what is more satisfactory and remarkable is, that Isabella's
husband entertained as high an idea of her merits as the rest of
the world, and when he lost her, was inconsolable. This Francesco
Andreini must have been a remarkable man in his profession himself. He
understood the French, Spanish, Polish, Greek, and Turkish languages;
and was the author of various plays, dialogues, &c. His professional
nickname was "Il Capitano Spavento," Captain Terror; and his favourite
parts, we are told, were swaggering and braggadocio swashbucklers. But
poor Capitano Spavento had no more heart for the business after he
had lost his Isabella. His occupation was gone; and the stage became
distasteful to him. The troop of the "Gelosi," went to the dogs, and
he took to writing instead of acting. In the preface to one of his
books he says; "after the death of my dearly loved wife Isabella, I was
advised by many of my friends to write and publish something that I
might preserve my name from oblivion, and might worthily follow in the
honoured steps of my wife."

All this gifted woman's contemporaries are unanimous in testifying
to her perfect propriety of conduct. In an age when the relaxation
of morals was extreme and general, when princesses led the lives of
courtesans, when nunneries were scenes of disorder, and princes of the
church were noticeable among other princes for greater dissoluteness,
this beautiful and universally flattered and courted actress won her
way through all the difficulties, dangers, and snares that must have
beset her path, without a stain on her character. We know that much
of what she must have been obliged to touch, was pitch; and yet she
remained undefiled. Mazzuchelli writes; "what was most remarkable
in her was, that in a profession universally judged to be dangerous
to female honour, she joined to a rare beauty, the most perfect
correctness, and a most blameless life." And he adds, oddly enough,
"the value of these good gifts was increased by her skill in singing,
and music, and by her knowledge of Spanish!"

On the 10th of June, 1604, Isabella died in childbirth at Lyons, in the
forty–second year of her age, and was buried by the municipality of
that city with much pomp, and all sorts of honours. Her husband placed
the following inscription over her tomb.

  D. O. M.

"Isabella Andreina, Patavina, Mulier magnâ virtute prædita, Honestatis
Ornamentum, maritalisque Pudicitiæ Decus, Ore facunda, Mente fœcunda,
religiosa, pia, Musis amica, et Artis scenicæ Caput, hic Resurrectionem
expectat. Ob Obortum obiit iv. Idus Junii, MDCIV. annum agens XLII.
Franciscus Andreinus Conjux mœstissimus posuit."

In English, freely rendered—

"Isabella Andreini, of Padua, a most highly gifted woman, the
Soul of Honour, a model of conjugal chastity, eloquent of tongue,
fertile of genius, religious, pious, beloved by the Muses, and a most
distinguished member of the histrionic profession, here awaits her
Resurrection. She died from a miscarriage on the 10th of June, 1604,
in the 42nd year of her age. Francesco Andreini, her deeply afflicted
husband, placed this monument."


Bayle remarks on the close juxtaposition of the statement of her
profession, and her expectation of resurrection; and observes that the
circumstance may serve to prove, that the severity of the Church on
the subject of the sepulture of comedians had been much exaggerated.
But it would be more correct to say, that it proves the action of the
Church in carrying out its views and principles to have been fitful,
irregular, and subordinated to circumstances, as it in truth ever has
been. In the long, ceaseless battle of the Church through century
after century, against all that is not–church, it has always known how
to retire temporarily from a point likely to be too hotly contested,
without by any means abandoning the hope of reconquering the ground at
a more favourable moment. Always pushing on the advanced posts of its
pretentions in accurate correspondence with the amount of resistance
it has been met by, the polemical battle–front which it has shown to
its enemies from Pekin to Peru, has never been straight drawn by the
rule of immutable principles, but ever a wavy line, with undulations
constantly in movement. And the startling fact that at Lyons, in the
year 1604, Isabella Andreini, avowing her calling, was at the same
time permitted to assert publicly, that she hoped for resurrection to
life eternal, shows only, that so audacious a solecism was overlooked,
because her standing in the public esteem, and the mood of the Lyons
world at the moment, made it unwise to select that occasion for
asserting the ecclesiastical claims.

Isabella's published works consist of a pastoral drama called
"Mirtilla," written when she was very young, and of which she herself
speaks slightingly at a later period of her life;—a volume of poems,
some of which are declared by Italian critics to have much merit;—a
collection of "Letters," (not real correspondence, unfortunately, but
essays written for the press);—and lastly, some dialogues collected, as
the title–page tells us, by "Francesco Andreini, comico geloso, detto
il Capitano Spavento."

In a dedication of the "Letters" to the Duke of Savoy, she says,
that they are the fruit of long vigils, and of hours snatched with
difficulty from the avocations of her most laborious profession, and
that her object in the composition of them was, as far as in her lay,
to preserve her name from oblivion after death. With this view she
has written some hundred and fifty little treatises on such subjects
as "The force of friendship," "Of the constancy of women," "Lovers'
prayers," "Prayers of an honourable lover," "Of jealousy," "Of
marriage," "Of love and war," "Of lovers' suspicions," and the like.

Poor Isabella! How desperately she must have struggled during those
long night hours, after the labours of the day, against weariness and
want of rest, as she toiled on in pursuit of immortal fame!

A given number of hours on the treadmill would probably be deemed by
most extant men far more endurable, than a similar number spent in
reading the pages thus industriously put together. Nevertheless, if
these sentences can help her on for a year or two more in her fight
against oblivion, she is heartily welcome to the lift.


The dialogues are on similar themes, and of exactly similar quality.
I have read one (being probably the only living man who has done
so), between Palamedes and Cleopatra, entitled, "An amorous dispute
respecting a fainting fit caused by love." It is truly wonderful to
consider, that human beings, with minds similarly constituted to
our own, did read these writings with admiration and delight! And
when one looks on the long, long road that human intellect must have
travelled over, since that was possible, one cannot but reflect on the
probability, that a yet more extended career must lie before it.

These are the means by which the beautiful Isabella Andreini sought to
"avoid death," as she phrases it in one of her prefaces, and to live
in the memory of mankind; means which have been successful, so far
as to insure the registering of her name in the folio pages of those
gatherers of literary crumbs, who have been more abundant in Italy than
in any other country.

But it is evident that in the day when she was really famous, her fame
was that of a great actress. Of all the modes by which one mind may
influence its fellows and obtain their admiration, it has been said
that that of the histrionic artist is, from its nature, necessarily the
most evanescent and perishable. The poet's song, the sculptor's statue,
the architect's building, the historian's history, the painter's
picture, remain to us, and their authors "being dead, yet speak" to
after generations. But the actor, whose immediate power over his public
is more intense, perhaps, than that of any of these! His triumphs,
however much involving the necessity of intellectual power, having
been achieved by means of a perishable machine, are condemned to be
equally mortal. The only manner in which some memory of his power, and
some conception of its working may be retained in the minds of men, is
by attaching his name to that of the characters he has represented. It
is thus that the great names of our own dramatic annals have still a
real meaning and significance.

But Isabella Andreini has left us no such memorial. Of all the very
numerous contemporaries who speak in rapture of her performances,
not one has recorded a single hint as to the characters in which
she enchanted them. The omission seems a most singular one, and can
be accounted for on no other supposition, than that the written
words which the actress was to speak were considered a comparatively
insignificant part of her performance: and the nature of the praises
lavished on her acting seem to point to the same conclusion. We hear
much of voice, action, grace, and charm of elocution, but nothing of
those higher matters of histrionic art which raise it to the level of
an intellectual profession. Nothing is said of the effect produced on
the minds of the audience, nothing of conception and interpretation of
character, nothing of empire over the sources of smiles and tears.

And these facts seem to furnish an explanation of the difficulty of
accounting for a great dramatic reputation, at a time when dramatic
literature was such as has been described.

[Sidenote: TASSO'S AMINTA.]

There was indeed one form of dramatic composition, not properly to be
classed with either tragedy or comedy, that has not been mentioned.
These were the pastoral pieces, "favole boschereccie," poems rather
than dramas, of which Tasso's "Aminta" is the great example, and to
which Isabella's own "Mirtilla" also belonged. From the circumstance
of her having herself written in that style, and more still from the
high place which the "Aminta" occupied in the public favour, it may be
deemed almost certain that the leading actress of the day must have
appeared in the part of Silvia. The superiority of this charming little
gem of Tasso's to the generality of the contemporary dramatic writings
is very marked. But its charms, its idyllic elegance, its Theophrastic
echoes, its melodious verse, are not dramatic charms. And though we may
fancy a beautiful woman, mistress of graceful elocution, and skilled in
drawing all its music from polished Italian verse, uttering Silvia's

  "Pianto d'amor non già, ma di pietade,"

with infinite charm of expression, still, any pleasure to be derived
from the stage presentation of such a poem as the "Aminta," and any
histrionic excellences to be manifested by the exponents of it, must
be deemed to be of a very inferior rank indeed, to aught that modern
times have learned to expect from those whom the world now considers
great actors. And on the whole, this record of a great Italian actress
contemporary with Shakspeare, must be considered to indicate that even
if the great master's works be left out of the question as exceptional,
drama stood higher, and was more appreciated in the great sixteenth
century among the "toto divisos orbe Britannos," than in Italy, the
metropolis of literary culture.




 The pretty version of the story;—and the true version of the
 same.—Saint Mark's Square at Florence.—Bianca's beauty.—The Medici _en
 famille_.—The Casino of St. Mark.—The Proprieties.—"Cosa di Francesco."

In one of the twelve million volumes[140] of the Archives of Venice,
preserved in the two hundred and ninety–eight rooms of the suppressed
convent of St. Maria dei Frari, there is one pointed out to our notice
by the learned and accurate Emmanuele[141] Cigogna, in which certain
passages have been blotted out; and in the margin opposite to them
are written, in clerk's Latin, the words, "Obliterated by order of
the Council of Ten." The volume in question is a register of criminal
processes before the court of the "Avvogaria" for the year 1563. But
the "Avvogadori" (members of one of the numerous magistracies of
Venice, whose attributions were partly those of police magistrates, and
partly such as belong to a public prosecutor), in obeying the commands
of "The Ten," did not reckon on the lynx–eyed curiosity of modern
peerers into the secrets of the past. "As this obliteration," says
Signor Cigogna, "was not effected by the knife, but only by drawing a
pen with a different ink over the lines, the passages scratched out
have been very clearly decyphered by the skill and sharp eyes of Signor
Marco Solari, the paleographer." And the secret, which the terrible
"Ten" thought to hide for evermore, thus divulged, and stripped of its
clerk's Latin dress, is to this effect.


"Whereas Pietro Bonaventuri of Florence, resident in this city with
his uncle Giovanni Batista Bonaventuri, close to the church of St.
Apollinore, hath been accused before the criminal court of the Forty;
that with audacious insolence and disrespect for the nobles of Venice,
he, knowing that Bianca, the daughter of Bartolommeo Cappello, was an
heiress of no small fortune, and thinking that he could get possession
of such property if he could in any way lead the girl astray—(_si
puellam ipsam aliquâ ratione falleret_)—dared to take her from the
house of her father in the night following the 28th day of November,
in the year 1563, having deceived her by many falsehoods, while she
has barely completed her sixteenth year, and afterwards to take her
with him from Venice, thus contaminating the race and house of a noble
Venetian, in contempt of the laws, and against the public morals of
this city; and whereas the said Pietro, notwithstanding diligent
search, hath not been taken into custody, it is ordered, that if at
any time he shall be arrested, he shall be brought to Venice, where,
at the accustomed hour, on a lofty scaffold erected between the two
columns on the piazza, his head shall be stricken from his shoulders by
the public executioner, so that he die." Then follows the promise of
a reward offered by Bartolommeo Cappello, the father, in addition to
that promised by the government, to any one who will bring in the body
of the culprit, alive or dead, or give satisfactory proof of having
killed him anywhere beyond the territory of the republic. Another long
judgment follows against those suspected of having aided the couple in
their flight, and specially against a certain Maria Donati, "for that,
being a serving–maid in the house of the noble gentleman, Bartolommeo
Cappello, she perfidiously and audaciously dared, at the instance of
Pietro Bonaventuri, to give him her aid[142] in seducing and enticing
away Bianca, the daughter of the aforesaid Bartolommeo, so that she not
only had intercourse with the aforesaid Peter, but fled away from her
father's house and from Venice."

Further, a MS. chronicle of the time, cited by Cigogna,[143] states,
"that Bianca left Venice under a disgracing ban, so that, if she
returned, she would be put to death."

These judicial records are terribly unmanageable material in a
biographer's hand. To think that a lynx–eyed paleographer, by poking
out one volume among twelve million, and therein decyphering what was
meant to be concealed for ever three hundred years ago, should have
utterly spoiled for us the pretty romantic story, with which Bianca's
adventures have generally been understood to commence. Romantic and
despairing passion of the young Florentine banker's clerk, shot to
the heart by glances darted across the narrow canal from the noble
palace opposite;—(alas! the same detestable registers prove, that the
Florentine bank in which Bonaventuri was employed was not opposite, but
in a line with the Cappello palace, and out of glance–shot;)—chance
meeting at matins; imprudent but innocent interviews at early dawn,
with palace door left ajar to secure the means of timely return;
unhappy stroke of destiny in the shape of the baker going his early
rounds, and, thinking to do well, shutting fatally the half–open palace
door, and cutting off all retreat from the unfortunate maiden thus
forced by terror and despair to sudden and unpremeditated flight with
her lover:—all knocked to the ground like a child's card house, by the
interference of a lynx–eyed, dry–as–dust paleographer!

[Sidenote: THE TRUE STORY.]

So the Florentine banker's clerk was a vulgar fortune–hunter, scheming
to carry off an heiress! Bianca herself was not only "no better,"
as the classic phrase goes, but very perceptibly worse, "than she
should have been!"—(another MS.[144] chronicle declares that, being
motherless, and not very sharply looked after, she took to "freer
habits of life than were usual among noble Venetian damsels"). The
flight from Venice was a planned and got up thing, not unaccompanied,
say some[145] authorities, by a carefully–selected trousseau of the
family jewels; and the baker, unconscious, but fatal instrument in the
hands of destiny, a myth!

All this pretty story, then, which shares with so many others still
prettier, the misfortune of not being in accordance with fact, has to
be regretfully abandoned. Regretfully also must be sacrificed all the
detailed account of Bianca's journey with Bonaventuri to Florence,
with various adventures on the road,—hiding at Ferrara, and narrow
escape there from the secret emissaries of the republic, &c. &c., which
adorns the more or less fictitious accounts of the matter, that have
been written in great number upon the "romance of history" plan. All
these things may have happened; but unhappily there is no authority for
saying that they did so.

A poor fact–bound biographer, therefore, having due fear of Dryasdust
before his eyes, finds himself obliged to shape his statement in this

One Pietro Bonaventuri, a young Florentine, employed in a Florentine
bank at Venice, found the means of becoming acquainted with Bianca, the
motherless daughter of the noble Bartolommeo Cappello, a young lady
then in her sixteenth year, but already noted for conduct none of the
strictest; and noted also as the heiress of a considerable fortune.
Giving her falsely to understand, as there is reason to believe,[146]
that he was a member of the great Salviati family, Bonaventuri induced
her to accord him secret meetings, and continued this intercourse till
Bianca found herself to be with child. The couple thereupon determined
on a secret flight to Florence, there to be married. And they did
accordingly leave Venice on the night of the 28th of November, 1563;
and did succeed, notwithstanding condemnation to death and large
rewards for their apprehension, in reaching Florence in safety.

That the journey was one of difficulty and danger, may also be asserted
without fear of error; for the roadless Apennine had to be crossed; it
was winter; and the sixteen–year–old fugitive was not in a condition
to perform such travel safely. But we get no distinct sight of the
pair, from the time of their flight on that 29th of November, till
we find them married and lodged in comparative safety in the poor
dwelling—"tugurio"—of the bridegroom's mother in the Piazza di San[147]
Marco at Florence. In comparative, but by no means in absolute safety.
For the Queen of the Adriatic had long arms, and, as treaties of
extradition had not then come into use, it was a common practice for
rulers to execute by the hand of a hired assassin in a foreign country,
the sentence, which the culprit's flight made it impossible for them to
carry out more regularly at home. Assassinations were extremely common
then in the streets of Florence; and the "brave ones," whose trade it
was to commit them, were not likely to neglect so good a job, as that
commissioned by the "most Serene" Republic.


So Bianca and her husband had to keep themselves close prisoners in the
little house in the square of St. Mark. She had found out by this time,
that he was no Salviati, but a poor clerk, now without a clerkship. And
he had found out, that he had calculated amiss on those six thousand
crowns, which Bianca inherited from her mother, and which, according
to the Venetian law–records, had been to him the maiden's chief
attraction. For the Republic declared them to be confiscated! A state
of things not calculated, it may be feared, to conduce to that mutual
affection, which must have been so necessary to make their misfortunes,
and imprisonment in the little "tugurio," endurable.

But while they were thus courting obscurity the story of their flight
was making much noise in Italy. The abduction of a Venetian noble's
heiress was a serious thing. All Venice felt the insult; and the
reward for Bonaventuri's head was published in every city. It thus came
to pass, that Francesco, Duke Cosmo's eldest son, the heir apparent to
the throne of Tuscany, heard the story, and, at the same time, that
the fugitives were then in Florence. And as rumour was also saying
extraordinary things of Bianca's beauty, he conceived a strong desire
to see the heroine of the story.

All the contemporary writers speak much of this same beauty and
fascination; but it must be admitted, that the portraits and medals,
which remain to show us what she really was, do not by any means
confirm their praises. It is true, that these representations of her
show her to us at a later period of her life, and that the coarse
strongly marked features may well have been less repulsive at sixteen.
Montaigne, in the course of his tour in Italy, saw her at the Tuscan
court, and has written that she was "handsome, according to the taste
of the Italians, having a cheerful and plump face, considerable
stoutness of person, and a bosom such as they admire." This description
of her face tallies very well with the portraits, and specially with
a medal which must have been struck in her later years. It is a face
well calculated to express jovial, convivial cheerfulness, but coarse,
vulgar, and insolent in the extreme. And to this must be added,
hair, which only a courtier's flattery could term "auburn," and an
ungracefully stout person. This, however, as Montaigne hints, is not in
Italy thought as incompatible with beauty as on this side of the Alps;
and hair, that we should term decidedly red, is often much admired
among the Italians.


Francesco was at the time of Bianca's arrival in Florence, in his
twenty–third year, and, as far as can be judged from the reports of
the contemporary writers, had up to that time distinguished himself
rather as a reader and student than in any less creditable way. The
Court of Cosmo, however, was by no means a favourable school for the
education of his children. Some of the scenes recorded by contemporary
writers as having been witnessed there are of a nature wholly
irreproducible here. And in the last year before that of Bianca's
arrival at Florence, the year 1562, had occurred one of those horrible
domestic tragedies, which seem to have been a peculiar specialty of the
Medicean race.

Cosmo's two sons, Giovanni and Garzia, the former nineteen and a
cardinal of two years' standing, and the latter fifteen years of age,
were hunting together near Leghorn. Some dispute arose respecting the
sport, on which the younger brother gave the elder a mortal wound
with his rapier. Giovanni died at Leghorn. Garzia presented himself
before his father to implore his pardon for the crime; and was killed
by a similar wound from his father's sword, as he knelt at his feet!
Of course other and unexceptionably legitimate causes were found
and published to account for both deaths. All which the respectable
classes pretended to believe; but jotted down their own notions of
the matter in "ricordi," destined to be safely buried in the family
muniment rooms; but destined also to infallible resurrection at the
summons of inevitable Dryasdust. While the unrespectable classes noted
to each other under their breath, that the bodies of the two princes
had not been exposed to the public view, as was the often inconvenient
custom with regard to dead highnesses; and muttered their conclusions
accordingly. The mother of the two princes, Eleonora di Toledo, died
of grief as was supposed, and as might well be, in the same year.

Shortly afterwards the more consolable father, having given in marriage
to a scion of the noble family of Panciatici his mistress, Eleonora
degli Albizzi, whom her noble father had sold to him, asked another
noble father of Florence for his daughter, the beautiful Camilla
Martelli, to be her successor. The honour was of course gratefully
accepted by the proud patrician, and Camilla Martelli became the mother
of Virginia de' Medici in 1568. But soon afterwards the lady began to
be troubled with scruples of conscience, and consulted his Holiness,
Pius V., upon the subject, who counselled _patience!_ meaning that
she should wait and see whether the sovereign might not be induced to
marry her. And accordingly as it happened, that state reasons made it
desirable for Cosmo to conciliate the pontiff, he decided on gaining
his heart entirely by marrying "La Martelli" in 1570, and by giving up
to the Church his subject Carnesecchi, to be burned as a heretic.

The other members of the family at the time of Bianca's arrival in
Florence, were Ferdinando, the second surviving son of the grand duke,
who at the age of fourteen had just been made a cardinal, and who
was generally at Rome; Pietro, a third son, aged nine; and Isabella,
Cosmo's daughter, who had been married to Paolo Giordano Orsini in
1553. She was, we are told, the life and brightest ornament of the
Tuscan court. She had refused to follow her husband to Rome; and as
Cosmo had supported her in her refusal, so far as manifesting his wish
that she should continue to reside in Florence, Orsini had left her
there, while he remained in his own city, and rarely or never troubled
his wife, who had no love for him, with his presence.

[Sidenote: CASINO OF ST. MARK.]

Such were the members of the Tuscan court in 1563–4; when Francesco
determined to gratify his curiosity by getting in some way a sight of
the beautiful stranger in Florence, who had been so much talked of.
It was not very difficult to accomplish this. Somebody was found to
suggest to Bianca and her mother–in–law, that they would do wisely to
seek an interview with the Marchesa Mondragone, the wife of Francesco's
Spanish tutor, who might very easily induce the prince to obtain from
the Republic of Venice a pardon for her husband and herself. The bait
was readily taken, and they were told that the Marchesa would receive
them in the Casino of S. Marco.

This small but remarkably elegant building, rebuilt as it now stands in
1775 by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, can hardly fail at the present
day to attract the attention of any stranger passing through the
Piazza of St. Mark. It was then a casino belonging to the Medici; and
is still the property of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. A "casino" was an
important portion of the social arrangements of those days. A "little
house" for the transaction of such matters as the "convenances"—Anglice
hypocrisies—did not allow of being conveniently carried on in the large
house, which was the noble family's residence, was found to contribute
very essentially to the maintenance of that propriety, which is so dear
to a people to whom seeming is ever more important than being. Most of
the wealthier members of the aristocracy had such conveniences, and the
proprieties of Italian life would hardly have been by any possibility
maintained without them.

Now this casino of the young Prince Francesco was, as has been seen,
very near the humble dwelling of Bianca. The "tugurio" of her husband
was on the south side of the small square facing St. Mark's church,
and the Prince's casino at right angles to it on the west side—not a
stone's throw distant. So that Bianca and her mother–in–law were able
to wait[148] on the kind Marchesa there, with very slight departure
from their rule of not quitting the shelter of their home.

The Marchesa Mondragone received them with the utmost affability;
inquired with most amiable interest into the particulars of Bianca's
story; and, when it chanced that her husband the Marchese entered the
room, she seized the opportunity of at once interesting him in the
case. The affability of the Spaniard exceeded even that of his wife.
He had not the least doubt of being able to induce his Excellency to
use his influence with the Republic;—she might consider the matter as
good as settled. Then the Marchesa suddenly bethought herself that
she wanted to know, whether some dresses of hers were made in the
right Venetian fashion. Would Bianca come with her and look at them,
while the Marchese did himself the pleasure of remaining with the
Signora Bonaventuri. So Bianca was walked off into another room with
her charming new Spanish friend, who, after showing her some of those
matters, which women, it seems, used to find amusement in looking at
some three hundred years ago, under pretence of seeking keys to open
other cupboards, or something of that sort, slipped away, leaving
her guest alone, but fully occupied in admiring the profusion of
magnificence that characterised the apartment she was in.

[Sidenote: THE INTERVIEW.]

In another minute a curtain was raised from before an opposite door,
and Bianca found herself alone with Francesco. The details of what
passed at that first interview between these two persons, who for the
remainder of their lives were to exercise so strange and so pernicious
a reciprocal influence, are recorded by more than one writer.[149] Yet
it is little likely that either of them should have afterwards repeated
the mere matters of course proper to "the situation," which are set
down as having been uttered by them. It is true, that "La Mondragone"
may be well supposed to have been watching the happy progress of her
handiwork within ear–shot. The only circumstance at all worth noting of
all that is said to have passed, whether true or fictitious, is that
Bianca is stated to have at once comprehended on seeing the Prince what
his errand was, and the whole motive with which she had been induced to
visit the Marchesa. She pleaded for "_her honour!_" He assured her that
it should be abundantly cared for, &c. &c.

Whether the relationship in which they were thereafter to stand towards
each other was finally settled there and then, or whether other such
interviews were required for the completion of their arrangements does
not appear. It was needful, it seems, even at Florence in 1564, that
some regard should be paid to appearances by a prince in Francesco's
position just at that time. A marriage was being arranged for him with
Joan of Austria, daughter of the Emperor Francis, which was eventually
celebrated in December 1565. And the German "barbari" might have taken
offence if the prince's wooing of his wife and his mistress had been
too openly simultaneous. It would have been _indecent_—would not have
looked well, which was, above all things, what was needful. Francesco
too was in that same year, 1564, entrusted with the reins of government
by his father, who, though he did not formally abdicate the throne, yet
left thenceforward all the management of State matters to his son.

So that under the circumstances the left–handed wooing had to seek
for awhile the shelter of the Casino;—furnishing thus an excellent
illustration of the utility of that convenient institution.

All then that the secrecy of that retreat has permitted us to know
with certainty as to the duration of Bianca's resistance to the Prince
is comprised in the fact, that everything was satisfactorily arranged
between them within six months of her arrival in Florence.[150] And as
after that arrival she gave birth to a daughter, named Pellegrina, it
must be concluded, that no very great length of time was consumed in
coming to an understanding.

And here it may be clearly stated that this was, as far as can be
gathered from the writings of her innumerable abusers, Bianca's last
fault _of this sort_. For the rest of her days she seems to have
been perfectly faithful as mistress and as wife to Francesco. It is,
perhaps, the only one word we shall have an opportunity of saying in
her favour;—so mercifully inclined readers may make the most of it.


But, by the bye, the lady's husband! He seems to have been rather
forgotten by us. But so he is also by the original tellers of the
story. None of them hints a doubt of the possibility of his making
any difficulty in the matter. We are shortly told, that the gracious
sovereign appointed him to a place of "guarda–roba," some keeper of
property of some sort. So things were made pleasant to all parties;
and the adventurous banker's clerk made no difficulty in admitting
that his wife was henceforward, as the chroniclers phrase is, "cosa di
Francesco;"—goods belonging to his Highness.


 A favorite's husband.—The natural course of things.—Italian
 respectability.—The three brothers, Francesco, Ferdinand, and
 Pietro.—The ladies of the Court.—Francesco's temper—his avarice—and
 wealth.—Frolicsome days at Florence.—The Cardinal recommends
 respectability.—The Duke ensures it.—A Court dialogue.

Whatever considerations of decency may have at first thrown some
measure of concealment around Francesco's connection with Bianca, their
operation lasted but a very short time. The unfortunate Giovanna very
soon found, not only that the place, which she should have occupied
in her husband's affection, was already given away to another, but
that most even of the external tokens of respect and homage which
belonged to her position were usurped by the same audacious rival. The
ascendancy exercised by Bianca over the weak mind of Francesco soon
began to make itself manifest. It seems to have been at an early period
of their connection, that she induced him solemnly to promise, "before
a sacred image," that should a time come, when they should both be
free, he would marry her. The promise originally made, that Francesco
should use his influence to obtain the reversal of the sentence passed
by the tribunals of the Republic against Bianca and her husband, was
also duly performed, but ineffectually. The Senate of Venice refused
either to pardon the culprits, or to restore the six thousand crowns
of Bianca's inheritance.[151]


One, who stood in the envied and distinguished position of Bonaventuri,
however, could easily dispense with his wife's fortune. The husband of
the sovereign's mistress was in no great want of six thousand crowns.
Bonaventuri became, naturally, one of the distinguished members of the
Florentine "jeunesse dorée;" and soon showed himself fitted by nature
to shine in such society, despite his clerkly bringing up.

There was at that time among the ornaments of the society of Florence a
young and beautiful widow, Cassandra Bongianni; who was well inclined
to avail herself to any extent of the freedom from restraint such
a position secured to her. But Cassandra Bongianni had been "nata"
Cassandra Ricci, and that proud and powerful family had intimated to
the gay widow their intention not to permit any scandal to be cast
on the family name by irregularities of hers. And the warning had
been already significantly enough enforced by the assassination of
two pretenders to the widow's favour. A Cavalcanti[152] and a Del
Caccia had fallen in the dangerous pursuit, stabbed in the streets
of Florence. Here then was an enterprise worthy of the new aspirant
for fashionable distinction. Perhaps he imagined that two murders
committed unavailingly might have induced the Ricci to abandon the task
of protecting their kinswoman's fair fame at such a cost. Still more
probably he relied on the protection of court favour. In any case he
became the known lover of the dangerous widow.

But one night[153] as he was returning to his home in the Via Maggio,
accompanied by two servants, he was assailed by twelve men at the foot
of the Trinity bridge, over the Arno, which he had to pass. One of
the servants fled; the other was struck down dead at the first onset.
Bonaventuri however succeeded in fighting his way across the bridge,
killing one of his assailants, and was near his own house, when he
fell, and was dispatched by the daggers of the Ricci bravos.

Such an occurrence in the streets of Florence was very far from rare.
An hundred and eighty–six assassinations took place within the city
in the first eighteen months after the death of Cosmo.[154] So the
death of the favorite's husband excited but little notice. The murder
of Cassandra in her bed on the same night by certain masked men, who
entered the chamber and performed the execution as quietly as if it had
been a judicial sentence, was more notable. But she had had her two
previous warnings; and the "honour" of the Ricci family was thus made

Bianca demanded from the duke vengeance on her husband's murderers;
and it was promised. But the measures taken for that purpose were so
evidently such as to give the culprits every facility for escape,
that public opinion accused Francesco of having been privy to the
crime. And it is asserted that he confessed as much to a certain court
chaplain,[155] one Giambattista Confetti. But if, as seems probable,
this was really so, it is difficult to suppose, that Bianca was not
equally an accomplice before the fact in the murder. The demand for
justice was a matter of course. Not to have made it, would have
almost amounted to an avowal of at least approbation of the deed. The
complete subjection of Francesco's mind to his mistress, makes it
exceedingly improbable that he would have connived at such a design
without imparting it to her. And the only motive, that either of them
could have had for such a crime, beyond the possible wish to get rid of
one whose excesses and ill–conduct threw scandal on his connection with
the court, must be sought in that promise, which Bianca had extorted
from the Duke, to take effect in case they should both be freed from
the bonds of marriage. The removal of Bonaventuri overcame what was
likely otherwise to have proved the more insuperable obstacle to this


For the unhappy Giovanna, crushed beneath the audacious effrontery of
her rival, languishing from the neglect and open indifference of her
husband, solitary and apart amid the festivities of a court, whose
loose morals were to her Austrian correctness an abomination, and
whose recent sovereignty her Austrian pride despised; the mother of
daughters only to her husband's great regret, and increased dislike;
of unamiable, reserved manners, and of unlovely appearance,—this
unhappy Giovanna might very possibly, (even without any assistance from
such means as both Francesco and Bianca knew very well how to avail
themselves of, if need were,) not continue long to be an obstacle in
their way.

Meanwhile the young Princes Ferdinando and Pietro were becoming of
an age to exert an influence on the family history and fortunes.
Ferdinando the Cardinal, had lived chiefly at Rome. At an early age
he had already acquired the reputation of a well educated and well
informed man, a dexterous and prudent statesman, and a well–intentioned
and respectable prince.

Respectability, though many people are inclined to deem it a specially
British production, is yet now as three hundred years ago far more
specially an Italian virtue. No people in the world care so much
what is said of them by those around them. It is true that much is
respectable there, which would not be able to be respected here. But
this is only because all Italian society is more fully and unanimously
agreed on considering that seeming is more important than being. With
us, respectability must have no chinks nor crannies in its surface,
through which peering eyes can discover anything derogatory to its
character. But the Italian world declines to peer. Let only a good will
to show a fair outside be apparent, and the world will industriously
avoid looking beyond that outside. The state will overlook your
breaking the laws if you will seem to respect them. The Church does not
mind your infidelity if you will make believe to believe. Society will
take no notice of your neglect of social duties, if you will not fling
your defiance in its face. Break the commandments as much as you will.
But observe the "convenances" religiously.

Now Ferdinando was above all a respectable prince, holding an eminently
respectable position; and it was his great misfortune to have two
brothers, who were both audaciously, though in different degrees, and
according to their different natures, the reverse.

Francesco, his eider brother, assuredly did not fail in achieving
respectability from any too great openness or sincerity of character.
For a more dissembling nature has rarely perhaps existed. His hypocrisy
frequently exhibited itself in traits of so strangely profound a
kind, as to have the appearance of a hope to deceive either himself
or his Creator. For he would practise them upon his own confederates
in crime. Nor was ever any one less indifferent to the estimate his
fellows might form of him. The honour of the Medicean name, as he
understood the meaning of that phrase, was very dear to him. Yet he
made himself the common fable of the courts of Italy. He contrived to
earn the contempt of every crowned head in Europe; and was constantly
giving rise to that "scandal" which is a respectable Italian's greatest
horror. Strong passions, and an obstinate will exaggerated by the
possession of absolute power into something at times very like partial
insanity, joined to great weakness of all the higher intellectual
faculties, and a profound ignorance of the nature, beauty, and value of
real worth and nobleness, led him into all this mischief, and were a
source of never–ending sorrow and trouble to the Cardinal.

[Sidenote: PIETRO DE' MEDICI.]

Pietro, the younger brother, was almost an equal thorn in his prudent
and respectably ambitious brother's side. His was a nature as unlike
as possible to that of either the Duke or the Cardinal; and was not
without some indications, that under better circumstances, it might
have contained in it the elements of a finer character than either of
theirs. As it was, Pietro was an unmitigated and avowed scamp; the
centre and leader of all the most profligate young men in the city;
the terror of quiet citizens, the insulter of the impotent laws which
he braved, the despair of the Cardinal as a disgrace to the family,
and the dread of the Duke from his constant and insatiable demands for

Cosmo, the old duke, died in 1574; but before he went, he provided
his scapegrace son with a wife, after a fashion, which unfortunately
had not the effect of reclaiming him from his wild courses. There
was living in the court a certain Eleonora di Garzia, a niece of
Cosmo's first wife, Eleonora di Toledo. She was pretty, and pleased
Cosmo's eye. But being of a noble Spanish family, with interest at
the Spanish court, the "convenances" had to be assiduously attended
to. So when it appeared one day that Eleonora was likely to become a
mother, the exemplary sovereign and excellent father, suddenly struck
with the idea that marriage was just the thing to steady his runagate
son Pietro, handed over the lady to the young man, and bade him marry
her.[157] Pietro obediently did so; and the lady's "honour," and
Cosmo's "honour," and the Toledo family "honour" was all "saved" as
bright as ever; which was wholly satisfactory to all those honourable
persons. But beyond this very desirable result, the well–imagined
arrangement was not found to answer. Pietro led a worse life than ever;
and Eleonora had no inclination to be a faithful wife to a husband she
rarely saw. But Cosmo went to his grave under the dome of St. Lorenzo,
with his honour saved, and left his fatherly management to work to what
results it might.

There were thus five ladies belonging to the Medicean family party
at the time of Cosmo's death. 1. His widow Camilla Martelli. 2.
Francesco's wife, poor Joan of Austria. 3. The gay and dashing widow
bewitched, Isabella Orsini. 4. Pietro's neglected but equally gay wife,
Eleonora. And, 5. Bianca Capello.

Poor Camilla was very shortly eliminated, being sentenced by the new
Grand–duke to perform suttee, by being buried alive in a monastery;
where he with inveterate hatred kept her imprisoned during his whole
life, notwithstanding the reiterated intercessions of the Cardinal.


The position of his own wife, Giovanna, was not much better. She led
a lonely life in her own apartments, treated with all but insult by
the courtiers, who lavished on Bianca the homage which follows the
dispenser of court favours.

Remained the three younger ladies, the ornaments of Francesco's court,
the cynosure of Florentine eyes, the promoters and centre of all
festivities, and the devisers of all sorts of diversions and frolic
schemes. The general licence of the manners of the time, the high
social position of the fair bevy, and the special dissoluteness and
neglect of their natural protectors, permitted them to push their sport
unchecked very considerably beyond the boundary line, which separates
venial levity from conduct that leaves permanent and ineffaceable
stains behind it. Isabella had long since "thrown her cap over the
roofs," to use the classic French phrase—aye, over the topmost cupola
of the _Duomo_. Paolo Giordano Orsini was pursuing his own not very
dissimilar course at Rome, and took but little heed of the almost
unknown wife, who was off his hands under the care of her own family;
and Isabella had ingratiated herself with her brother Francesco in the
manner most acceptable to him, by taking kindly to Bianca from the
first;[158] the more so as she was the only one of his family who had
ever done so. Pietro's young wife, Eleonora, showed every disposition
to follow to the full extent the example he set her. And Bianca, though
her doings do not appear to have at any time taken such a shape as to
give Francesco any cause for jealousy, was ready to go all lengths with
the others of the trio as far as lavish extravagance, festivities of
which the details were more or less unfit to meet the scrutiny of the
public eye, and general "emancipation" from "prejudice," were concerned.

So that the Grand Duke Francesco found himself at the head of a
somewhat skittish court; a Capua of the _renaissance_, which was
beginning to attract unfavourable notice from the other courts of
Italy. When the pot chances to be a shade blacker than usual, the
kettle, we know, is ever loudest in abuse of it. Besides, the disorders
of the Tuscan court seem to have had a certain Tom–and–Jerry flavour
about them, which greatly scandalised and disgusted many Highnesses,
Eminences, and Excellencies of different degrees of Illustriousness
and Serenity, who would not have minded a few decently veiled
assassinations or any amount of respectably quiet poisonings. And
Francesco, who flattered himself, very mistakenly, that by dint of a
certain dose of Louis–Onze–like devoutness, he had contrived to keep
character enough for one, was painfully conscious of the fact that he
assuredly had not any to spare for covering the deficiencies of others.

Francesco, moreover, was not a man of a festive disposition. On
the contrary, he was almost always under the shadow of a black and
unwholesome melancholy. Not that he abstained from excess in many
ways. Indeed, all the habits of his life were especially marked by the
absence of all moderation. But a savage and ungenial nature showed
itself in his pleasures as in his more serious moments. His violence
of ill–temper, and sombre suspicious moodiness, must often have
taxed to the utmost all Bianca's powers of dissimulation, and all her
forbearance. The lot, which she sacrificed fair fame, peace of mind,
and ease of conscience to attain, was one which few would have endured
without flinching, had it been awarded to them to bear it. All the
contemporary accounts represent Bianca's powers of fascination and
persuasion to have been remarkable. And she had need of them all to
soothe the ill–governed mind, and calm the half–insane violences of the
Grand Duke's savage moods.


These had of late years been growing on him. He had no child to be
his heir; and this was a constant source of brooding discontent and
melancholy. His wife, Giovanna, had given birth to several infants; but
they were all daughters. Bianca had never presented him with a child.
To Francesco it was an odious and intolerable thought that either of
his brothers should be the successor to his throne. And it was as much
a matter of repining to him that Bianca was childless, as that his wife
should not have given him an heir. A subsequent marriage legitimises a
child born out of wedlock, according to the Romish code. Failing other
means, pontifical dispensations were always at hand to help orthodox
and Church–loving princes over such difficulties. And Francesco
would have deemed a son by Bianca almost as desirable as one by his
legitimate wife. But the years went on, and he continued without either.

All this contributed, as may be easily imagined, to make Bianca's task
a hard one, and her life a continued series of anxieties, contrivances,
plottings, and machinations.

But Francesco had another passion, which led him to look with a
discontented eye on the disorders and excesses of his court,—his
avarice. He, like his father, Cosmo, was rich, far beyond what might
have been supposed, from his rank and position among the sovereigns of
Europe. No mode of extracting money from his subjects was left untried
by him. Venal pardons, excessive taxation, and wholesale confiscations,
helped to fill his coffers. But he derived still larger revenues from
the trading speculations which both he and Cosmo carried on in almost
every part of Europe. There was hardly one of the great commercial
centres of the time, where the Grand Duke of Florence had not a share
in some banking concern. He was also interested as a partner in a great
variety of speculations of various kinds. And besides all this, he
traded largely with ships of his own in grain, wool, pepper and other
spices, silk and leather.

The vast wealth thus amassed he used in purchasing by large loans the
good–will and seeming consideration of the courts of Paris and Madrid.
In both he was despised and disliked. But both were so accustomed to
look upon him as a squeezeable money–dealer, that we find the French
court absolutely making jealous complaints[159] of the amount he had
furnished to that of Spain.

All these circumstances combined to make the mood of Francesco
dangerous to those about him in the years which immediately followed
his father's death. Don Pietro's recklessly scandalous life, and
much worse still his constant demands for money, annoyed him. The
remonstrances and preachments of the Cardinal Ferdinando from Rome
irritated him. But Francesco was perfect as a dissembler. No man or
woman was his confidant. Not even to Bianca did he show any sign that
his ill–humour was rising to a point above its usual mark.


So the reckless holiday–keeping court circle spun on in their usual
course around him. Isabella and Eleonora were busy with their
free–lance captains, and court pages. Bianca was hoarding money to send
to her greedy family at Venice, or was holding secret council with
some philtre–dealer or black–art professor of one sort or another.
Pietro was wilder, more lawless, and audacious in his debaucheries than
ever. And the highly respectable Ferdinand was anxiously, and almost
despairingly, watching them all from Rome, while they were continually
throwing down, by the disreputableness of their lives, the edifice of
the family greatness, which he was ever laboriously and dexterously
scheming to build up.

It must be admitted that his respectable Eminence the Cardinal had
enough to provoke and embitter him with his relatives. He and Bianca
had from the first been declared enemies. He deplored his brother's
weakness in becoming enamoured of this designing Venetian woman. He
was indignant at the publicity Francesco had permitted his connection
with her to assume. He remonstrated again and again with him on the
impropriety of allowing her to have the influence in matters of
government which it was notorious she exercised, and on the impolicy
of exposing himself to the contempt and ridicule of every court in
Europe on her account. But his exhortations had only had the effect of
producing a state of enmity between Francesco and himself, which Bianca
is accused of having used all her art to perpetuate and envenom.[160]

Such was the state of things in the Medicean domestic circle in the
summer of the year 1576; when the working together of all these
passions, and all these ill–conditioned and depraved wills culminated
in one of those catastrophes which have rendered the name of Medici
infamous throughout all time, and made it a beacon to warn off mankind
from any approach towards that condition of social system which
rendered the production of such hideous phenomena possible.

The Cardinal Ferdinand, though rarely seen in Florence, kept himself
accurately and minutely informed of all that passed in his brother's
court there. No nunnery wall was scaled by Don Pietro, no masked night
excursion planned by Donna Isabella, no assignation made by Donna
Eleonora, no secret colloquy held with some scoundrel black–art quack
and poison–dealer by Donna Bianca, no fresh outrage on his murmuring
subjects committed by the Duke, without speedy and detailed information
thereof reaching the much provoked Cardinal in his Roman palace. And
whether it so happened, that tidings of some more flagrant indecency
than usual had reached his Eminence just then, or whether it were
merely that the last drop had made the cup run over, it would seem that
Ferdinando—(who, to do him justice, never permitted[161] his resentment
against his brother to stand in the way of his efforts to support the
family interest, and to save Francesco from the consequences of his own
ill–conduct)—made, about the time mentioned, some communication to the
Duke, urging on him the absolute necessity of putting some stop to the
scandals caused by the conduct of the ladies of his family.


Many similar exhortations had produced no visible effect. But it would
appear that the irritating message this time fell on Francesco's moody
mind at a dangerous moment. His first step was to send off a summons to
Paolo Giordano Orsini at Rome, to come forthwith, and with all secrecy,
to Florence.[162]

Now, when Orsini had left his wife in Florence, he had placed one of
his relatives, Troilo Orsini, near her, as a sort of guardian and
mentor. Troilo, however, soon became one of Isabella's numerous lovers;
and limited the duties of his mentorship to insisting that he should be
her only one. But there was a certain court page, one Lelio Torelli, of
whom he was especially jealous. And as his efforts to induce Isabella
to give up this youth were vain, he performed his duty to his kinsman
by running the page through the body. Torelli unfortunately was the son
of a man of note, who had been one of Duke Cosmo's chief ministers; and
the murder, therefore, could not be easily hushed up or overlooked.
Criminal proceedings were instituted against Troilo Orsini, and in the
course of them a number of facts were revealed criminatory[163] of

All this Francesco poured into the ear of Paolo Giordano Orsini on
his arrival in Florence. No record has reached us of the details of
what passed between the Duke and his brother–in–law at the secret
colloquy that took place between them on this occasion. But the last
words that Francesco uttered, as Orsini left him, were overheard, and
have curiously enough been preserved.[164] "When you have satisfied
yourself of the odious truth, remember always that you are a Christian
and a gentleman!" said the Duke, who had learned his ideas of either
character in the school of Philip II. of Spain. He moreover lent Orsini
during his stay in Florence the villa now called Poggio Imperiale,
near the Roman gate of the city. To Isabella her husband assumed the
appearance of perfect cordiality and affection. He had brought her, he
said, a present of a couple of greyhounds, and begged her to accompany
him to the villa to try them. It is said that the unhappy woman
accepted the invitation with terrible misgivings. She went, however;
and the next morning Florence heard that the Lady Isabella had died
suddenly in the night; and the court physicians, who were called to
look at the body, testified that apoplexy was the cause of her death.
The cause of the apoplexy was not stated; but the general belief was,
and has been among Florentine historians ever since, that it was
brought on by a cord around her neck drawn tightly by the hands of her

The historians admit that there exists no direct proof that Francesco
and Ferdinando, both or either of them, were accomplices in this
murder. But they appear to have very little doubt upon the subject;
and, indeed, the circumstantial evidence seems almost conclusive,
especially as regards Francesco. There is the direct statement of the
Settimanni[166] chronicle, that Orsini was sent for from Rome that he
might consent to his wife's death. There is the general popular belief
at the time and ever since. And there is the fact that both Ferdinando
and Francesco continued on perfectly friendly terms with Paolo Giordano
after Isabella's death, and interested themselves, as they had not
before done, in the settlement of his numerous debts.


The unfortunate Isabella Orsini has been very leniently judged by
her countrymen. She was beautiful; carefully and highly educated, so
far as the phrase includes exclusively intellectual culture; was a
distinguished musician; spoke and wrote correctly several languages,
including that of ancient Rome; was a poetess in a small way; and some
philological treatise by her, still to be found in print in Italian
libraries, indicates that she was not _wholly_ given up to pursuits
little compatible with intellectual exercise. Impudicity had been from
her tender years instilled into her, both by precept and example, by an
authority which nature's earliest dictates teach a child to consider
as sacred above all others. With such a father and sovereign as Cosmo,
and living in such a state of society as that which surrounded her,
where the abundant practice of "religious duties" intertwined with,
and forming a large part of every–day life, was joined to a degree of
ignorance and neglect of "moral duties" unequalled, perhaps, in any
other age and country, could Isabella Orsini have been other than lost
as she was?

But the reforming hand which was to restore the court and family of the
Medici to respectability, was not satisfied with one victim. It was on
the 16th of July that Isabella Orsini was murdered; some days having
been lost, as may be supposed, between the remonstrance of the Cardinal
and the arrival of Paolo Giordano in Florence. The other victim,
therefore, whose destined executioner was at hand, perished exactly
one week earlier. When Francesco sent for his brother–in–law from Rome,
he also summoned his brother Pietro to an interview.

Here again we have no means of knowing what passed between the
brothers, other than such as can be gathered from the facts which
followed thereupon, and from the well–known and well–marked characters
of the actors. Drawing from these sources of knowledge, Guerrazzi,
in his Racconto, entitled "Isabella Orsini," has fashioned forth the
dialogue which may be supposed to have passed between them, with a
verisimilitude as to circumstances and words, and an absolute truth as
to character, so vividly illustrative of the men and the time, that an
extract from it will convey more historical truth than many a page from
a matter–of–fact chronicle.

Francesco begins by reproaching Don Pietro with his extravagances. "Don
Francesco," answers the scapegrace, "Remember that I have come hither
on the faith of your safe–conduct. Do not kill me with a sermon."

"Do I deserve this at your hands?" returned the elder, after some
further disputing. "Have I not given, and do I not continue to give,
proof of my love for my own blood?"

"As for your own, I don't know; but you certainly love blood...."

"I have to tell you then," said Francesco, "that you are the most
abject, the most shameless, and most infamous knight that lives this
day in Christendom."

"Strong language!" sneered Pietro. "Let us come to facts."

"Your wife is an adulteress."


"I am perfectly well aware of the circumstance."

"What! you know it! and have not avenged your shame!"

"We Medici have never been lucky in our wives."

Francesco, in fury, asks what he means to insinuate against either
the Grand Duchess or Bianca. And here the writer commits an error in
chronology. For he writes as if this conversation occurred after the
death of the Grand Duchess, which was not the fact. The circumstances
of this narrative took place in 1576, and the Grand Duchess lived till
1578. As to Bianca, in reply to the Grand Duke's assertion that she
must be considered as washed from all that had preceded his connection
with her, Pietro retorts:

"Such washing will not remove all stains. Sometimes a piece of the
stuff may sooner be destroyed than the spot on it. And on your hand
there must be a certain red mark that all Arno cannot wash away. It is
the stain of Bonaventuri's blood."

"Who says that I slew Bonaventuri? If my father asserted it, I would
tell him that he lied. I neither did nor ordered anything. I can swear

"Between ordering, insinuating, foreseeing, suspecting, conniving, not
seeing, and so forth, no doubt if the cause had to be tried before this
world's judges, the pettifoggers of the courts could find you so many
limitations and distinctions that you would be acquitted nem. con. But
before God one does not appear by means of one's attorney...."

"Ungrateful! How much have my enemies given you to make me die of
anger? Is this a way to speak to your liege lord, who if he would,
could break you like a reed. And that, too, when I am intent on
preserving your reputation!... I have discovered the infamous
destroyer of your honour, and have put him to death."

"Poor fellow! he deserved it, but he was a very worthy cavalier."

"Who told you that he was a cavalier?"

"What! Bernardino Antinori, whom you had strangled in prison! Who told
me? Well, that is good! Who told me, indeed? Francesco, let me say a
few words to you plainly and openly after my own manner. We can do what
we think fit; but on one condition, which is this; that we let others
talk as they think fit. The people we employ in matters of this sort
are vile and infamous from their birth upwards; and if they could find
some one to throw them a bigger sop for murdering us, than we give
them for murdering others, they would do so. Do you expect fidelity or
secrecy from such? In the taverns and in their low orgies, they vomit
forth their secrets of blood, often true, oftener exaggerated twofold,
till down there among the people, who know us but little, we find an
accumulated hoard of hatred that makes one shudder to look at it."

"Have you done?"

"One minute, and I have done. Add to all this the curse of the pen....
Who knows how many traders are at this hour writing in their ledgers
between the records of a purchase of wool, and a sale of silk: _Item_.
I record that on such a day in such a year from the Incarnation,
Francesco de' Medici caused the Cavaliere Bernardino Antinori to be
strangled for adultery with the lady Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Don
Pietro dei Medici.[167] And then, besides the merchants, there are the
moralisers, and the history–writers, and all the rest of the literary
generation, to whom I make a point of being civil, since we cannot
drive them out of the world.... But I see that I am putting you to
sleep. You were saying—what was it? Oh! that you had had the Cavaliere
Antinori strangled."


Francesco, continues Signor Guerrazzi, who was naturally and habitually
sparing of speech, and wont to come directly to his point, felt as if
his head was going round with all this flux of words. He needed to
recover himself a little; and it was sometime before he resumed his
discourse thus.

"Well then, if you know the treason of your wife, why is she still

"Because, if I come to my _confiteor_, I fancy that I have more sins on
my shoulders than she has; and, further, because I do not see clearly
who would save me from the vengeance of her uncle the Duke of Alva, and
her brother Toledo, who, between ourselves, are not altogether saints
to have to deal with."

"And can we not protect you against a viceroy and a duke...."

"In short, you want me to make you a present of the life of Eleonora;
and I am willing to do so. A wife is not worth falling out about. But
you on your part must be a good brother ... and let me have some forty
thousand ducats, that I am sadly in want of."

"All of you eaten up with debt! All out at elbows! You, the Cardinal,
and Orsini would swallow all Peru. Where am I to get all this money?"

"A squeeze well administered to the udders of the Republic would put
all to rights. But you have no need even to do that. Rumour says,
that what with gold in coin and in ingots, and in precious stones, you
have hoarded better than ten millions of money.... Besides, the public
revenue, after all expenses are paid, gives you more than three hundred
thousand ducats."

"And who dares to call me to account as to the amount?"

"You had better hang the multiplication table. Then, again, you make a
mine of money by your commerce in leather, precious stones, grain, and

"Losses upon all of them! I have made up my mind to give up commerce.
Perhaps,—I have not quite made up my mind,—perhaps I may continue to
trade in pepper. But no more leather!—no more grain! He who trades in
grain dies on straw."

"Do as you think best. But will you give me the forty thousand ducats?"

"Good heaven! where can you get rid of so much money?"

"Give it to me, and be sure that in so doing you lay it out well.
I employ it in making you friends. I spend it among the people in
festivities, in banquets, in pleasure. The rising generation is thus
habituated to expense and luxury. I enervate it to your hand; I degrade
it; I emasculate its intellect; I destroy its dignity of mind and its
strength of body. I prepare it to receive the seed; so that you may sow
it with what best suits your purpose."

"In truth, your humour is of a strange turn! You shall have the forty
thousand ducats. But you will sign me an obligation to repay them
little by little from your Pisan property."

[Sidenote: CAFAGGIUOLO.]

"As for obligations, I will sign you as many as you please."


"Oh dear me! now come the restrictions!"

"No! only you will undertake the removal of your infamous wife when and
where I shall command."

"This article is also agreed to. When am I to have the ducats?"


And in accordance with the characteristic scene thus painted for us
by Signor Guerrazzi, we find on returning from verisimilitude to
recorded fact, that on the ninth of July in the year 1576, just a week
previous to the murder of Isabella Orsini, the wretched Eleonora,—she
too another victim of Cosmo's atrocious profligacy—was put to death
by Don Pietro's own hand at the Villa of Cafaggiuolo. That ill–omened
place is a castle among the Apennines, some fifteen or twenty miles
from Florence, which the traveller thence to Bologna will hardly fail
to notice. Solitary and desolate as it stands now among the mountains
by the side of the high–road, it was yet more so, when no such road
existed. The dark naked stone tower standing there on the hill–side
turf, without tree or cultivation near it of any kind, strikes the
imagination as the very spot adapted for such a crime.

Of course, as usual, there were medical declarations of the cause of
her death, and the courts were duly informed that God had pleased
to take to himself our dearly beloved sister–in–law, &c. But it is
remarkable that to his agent at the court of Philip II., Francesco
wrote a private letter, which is still extant,[168] ordering him to
communicate the whole truth of the murder to that monarch. And Philip,
while expressing regret for the cause of the crime, manifested no
disapproval of it, and promised all secrecy concerning it.

It is recorded, that Don Pietro immediately after the perpetration of
the deed, with hands yet bloody from the task, took the precaution
of imploring pardon for it, from a figure of the Virgin Mary in an
adjoining chapel, promising at the same time, that as an expiation he
would thenceforth remain single;—a vow which he did not keep.

Thus were decency and respectability restored, it was hoped, to the
court life at Florence. Bianca's sins, as has been intimated, were
of a different kind, from those of the two murdered princesses. But
Francesco's gloomy temper and fits of violence, joined to such an
example of his mode of action when irritated, could not have been
re–assuring to the survivor of the trio court beauties.


 Bianca balances her accounts.—Dangers in her path.—A bold step—and
 its consequences.—Facilis descensus.—A proud father.—Bianca's
 witchcraft.—The Cardinal is checkmated, for this game.

But whatever other effect the untimely deaths of these two unfortunate
women may have produced, they had not that of removing the gloom from
the brow of Francesco. Surely, indeed, if he is to be considered human,
and in any degree sane, it may be thought, that such events must have
contributed no little to increase the irritability of his temper, and
the sudden melancholy, ever and anon bursting out into savageness. It
is likely enough that Francesco's education at the Court of Spain, the
obsequious casuistry of his own theologians, and the total absence
from cradle to grave of any one wholesome moral influence, of any one
ray of light to dissipate, however fitfully, the thick darkness of
an ignorance of right and wrong far deeper, more dangerous, and more
perverse than that of a savage;—it is possible enough, that all this
may have enabled him to say to his own heart, when kneeling at the feet
of his most favourite idol, that his act had not made him guilty within
the limitations of God's statute law, and the intricate modifications
of it made by subsequent legislation, in such and such acts of such and
such a year of this or the other Pope's reign.

Still, assure himself of this as he might, and fortify the assurance
by whatsoever most satisfactory "case," drawn up by the shrewdest
sacerdotal pettifogger who ever discovered a flaw in heaven's eternal
ordinances, it may be fancied that he did not sleep better of nights
after that July, 1576, and that Bianca's position and task were not
improved by what had happened.

Some thirty years or so ago, a Florentine publisher, happening to
have become possessed of the house which once belonged to Bianca,
in the Via Maggio, conceived the idea of pretending to have found
concealed in a wall therein a MS. containing her autobiography. A
prefatory notice stated, that unfortunately the chemical means used
for restoring the faded characters to legibility had had the effect
of entirely destroying them, so that the finder of these precious
papers could not have the satisfaction he had hoped of showing them to
persons interested in such matters! The forgery was an impudent and
ridiculously ill–executed one. A very superficial knowledge of the
language sufficed to convince any reader of the first two pages of the
silly catch–penny trash, that the phraseology was of the nineteenth and
not the sixteenth century, even had the tone of the narrative been at
all assorted to the character of the supposed writer.

But what a treat would such a find be, were it genuine! What a
psychological treasure would be a peep into the real feelings of such
a mind and heart! Did Bianca consider her career to be a triumphant
one, successfully achieving the "excelsior" of her ideal by painful but
victorious struggle with opposing fortune? Or did she look on herself
as the victim of a chain of unfortunate circumstances, entangled in
the meshes of a destiny, which drew her fatally on, and irresistibly
wrapped its darkening clouds around her. Few recorded careers
illustrate so exactly, regularly, and undeviatingly the lessons of the
moralist as that of Bianca. No invented story of progress from bad to
worse can better exemplify the law that compels evil to generate ever
new evil.


Thus far, supposing her not to have been guilty of her husband's
murder, her ill–doings have not been such as to put her beyond the pale
of human sympathies. She fled from a home made unhappy by a negligent
father and an unkind step–mother.[169] It was ill–done. Deceived by her
husband as to his position in the world, finding herself a prisoner in
a miserable cottage, where she was obliged to do the work of a servant
(because the poverty of her husband's family was such, that when she
was brought home to be fed and lodged, the drudge hitherto kept by them
could be no longer fed or lodged),[170] she listened to the seduction
of a prince, and left a husband, who was perfectly contented with the
arrangement. This was worse; yet far from unpardonable.

But now a career of darker crime had to be entered on. Bianca was now
the inmate of a court. Virtues and vices there are on a larger scale.
"Major rerum nascitur ordo." The interests and passions of despotic
princes are dangerous matters to meddle with, mostly leaving stains
and scars on the hands and hearts of those concerned in ministering to
them. Enough of both, one would think, must have fallen to Bianca's lot.

Let us see, then, if we can succeed in looking into her mind, as it
must at this period have contemplated her position, taking stock of the
gains and losses thus far realised.

"To exercise the most powerful influence in a splendid court; to
receive daily homage, and something more solid than homage, from all
who have favours to ask, justice to seek, or injustice to pay for; to
dispense promotions, reward friends and crush enemies; all this is
worth something. To be the courted patroness of the relatives who so
loudly complained of my having disgraced them, to dispense my bounty
to the father and brother who denounced me, and to be the means of
sustaining and advancing the grandeur of the family whose daughter
I am; all this is worth still more. To become, what, if fate do not
play me false, I will become, and make the Ten themselves bow before
the poor outlawed exile! Ay, that indeed would be more again. It
is something, too, by the blaze of my beauty and the glitter of my
magnificence, to thrust back that pale, proud Austrian woman into
cold obscurity. She, indeed, to think of being a wife to Francesco!
She to dream of taking in charge such a nature as his! She to attempt
the task of comprehending, sympathising with, soothing, managing, ay,
and mastering those surging passions, that wilful mind, and fitful
heart! She! It is a part cast, methinks, for an actress of other powers
than hers! But what if it should prove too difficult for my own? She,
indeed, is at least secure in the frozen dignity of her place. She is
the Grand Duchess, and needs to practise no such ruling of the storms
to hold her safe position. But for me! To rule them, or to perish in
them, is the only alternative. If I cease to rule but for a day, I
fall, and am crushed into the dust! That is the condition on which I
hold my place in Florence! And the Saints know how many waking nights
and anxious days the holding of it thus far has cost me! And the
task seems growing from day to day more arduous. The Duke's deepening
melancholy and discontent at his childlessness is dangerous—very
dangerous. May he not seek elsewhere for that which I have failed to
give him! Francesco loves me;—I think he loves me;—that is, he has need
of me. But should some more painfully felt need require that I should
be sacrificed, trampled into dust, burned at the stake, torn limb from
limb; my Francesco's love, methinks, would hardly save me. Had I but a
child, could I but be the mother of a son to stand between him and the
Cardinal, I should, I think, be safe!"

[Sidenote: A BOLD STEP.]

Somewhat to this tune, we may suppose, Bianca's ruminations must have
often run during the early months of that fatal summer of 1576; till
at length the urgency of the case, arising from the Duke's increasing
gloom and discontent, determined her to adopt the dangerous expedient
of counterfeiting the maternity which nature denied her.

From the earliest years of her connection with Francesco, it had been
her earnest wish to present him with a son. And when, as time ran on,
it began to appear unlikely that she should do so, she left none of the
means untried, to which the gross ignorance and superstition of the
time attributed the power of removing sterility. With this view, she
had constantly about her a number of the vilest vagabonds, impostors,
philtre–dealers, necromancers, poison–concoctors, spellmongers,
and quack–doctors in Europe. In all probability she practised with
love–philtres, to secure her ascendancy over the Duke. It may have
been, also, that she had occasion to dabble in the secrets of the
professors of the art of poisoning. But the grand object of her
medico–witchcraft was to become a mother. And it is exceedingly
likely, that some of the means used for this purpose may have actively
contributed to defeat the end in view, and have done much to injure
her health permanently, as we find hinted in the writings of the

The people, whom these schemes and pursuits had brought her into
connection with, were well calculated to serve as agents in the fraud
now contemplated. The first necessary step was to find a mother,
who could be induced to agree to part with her infant, when it
should be born. But as the great object of Bianca's ambition was to
present the Duke with a son, it was necessary to provide, as far as
possible, against uncertainty on this point. For this purpose three
women were found, who expected their confinement, as nearly as could
be calculated, at the same time; and who all consented for money to
give up their child, in case it should prove to be a male. But it was
further very necessary to the safety of all concerned in the business,
that these women should be ignorant that a similar bargain had been
made with others. Care had therefore to be taken that they should be
located in different quarters of the city, and should have no means of
corresponding with any one.

All these arrangements must evidently have required the co–operation of
no inconsiderable number of agents. But it is probable that one or two
of these only were allowed to know on whose behalf they were acting.

At length all these preparations were made, and the 29th of August,
1576, was fixed on among the confederates for the consummation of the
plan. Bianca played her part accordingly to perfection. Of course her
fictitious labour would have to endure, till the genuine labour of
whichever of the three unfortunate mothers should first produce a son,
should have come to an end. One only of the three had a male child; and
this was immediately conveyed, in a mandoline, say the chronicles of
the time, to Bianca's residence.

[Sidenote: A TRAGI–COMEDY.]

But it was yet further necessary, before the innocent object of
all this roguery could be allowed to appear upon the scene, that
Bianca should find the means of clearing her chamber of inconvenient
witnesses. And this was not altogether easy. For the Grand Duke, whose
rejoicing at the coming event had been excessive, insisted on being
himself present at the birth; and it was impossible to get him out
of the chamber. The only possibility of success lay in the chance of
tiring him out. And Bianca did her best to render the witnessing of
her pangs as disagreeable as possible. But Francesco's sensibilities
were not to be worked on in this manner. Let Bianca play her part
to the life, as she would, Francesco patiently awaited the result.
The long hours of the night wore on. Morning was at hand. Bianca's
lamentable groaning, kept up with admirable constancy in spite of no
little fatigue from her night's performance, became tedious, if not
heartrending to the princely watcher. He was very sleepy; the women,
with grave shakings of the head, feared that the patient would have
to suffer some hours yet; and at last his Highness, as morning was
breaking, gave in, and went off to his bed; leaving however some
trusted minister in his stead to await the happy moment, and give him
the earliest intelligence thereof.

The game was now an easy one. Some message to the Duke, or other such
commission was readily found to send away the deputy–watcher; and then
in a few minutes all was in order for the reception of Francesco,
who hurried from his bed to delight himself with the sight of the son
he had so long and so earnestly wished for. All passed with the most
perfect success. No shadow of a suspicion seems to have arisen in the
Grand Ducal mind. He immediately recognised the child formally as his
own; ordered that he should be considered a member of the House of
Medici; and received the congratulations of the court and city, as
if an heir to the throne had been legitimately born. The child was
christened Antonio, because, according to the pious declaration of
Bianca, it was to the intercession of St. Anthony that the favour of so
great a blessing was due.[172]

But the ridiculous side of this ignoble farce lies in too close
proximity to its tragic developments, to suffer that a smile should for
more than a passing moment replace the horror and reprobation which are
the standing moods of mind for the study of Medicean annals. Bianca's
triumph was complete for the moment. But on how many chances might the
continuance of it hang? How many of the most worthless beings had it in
their power to hurl her, with a word, from the height of her success!
Was she then never again to be free from perpetual terrors? Never to
lose for an hour the consciousness, that a random word, if not an
intentional and purchased betrayal, the repentance of a confederate,
or a death–bed confession might at any time suffice to throw down the
whole fabric built up with so much care, pain, and cost of guilt;
nay, might bring on her the same swift and sudden vengeance which had
overtaken the unhappy Isabella and Eleonora! Was there _no_ mode of
escaping from so hideous a thraldom?

[Sidenote: ESCAPE.]

Then again it was to be remembered that eyes and brains of a quality
very difficult to be eluded or deceived would leave no means untried
to ascertain the truth respecting this timely maternity after so many
years of sterility. The Cardinal was hardly likely to attribute much
efficacy to the intercession of St. Anthony. And who in Florence could
at any time feel sure that they were not at that very moment under
his special surveillance? Then again Don Pietro, equally injured and
enraged with his brother Ferdinando at this suddenly produced Medici!
his haunts and habits were such as to make it anything but unlikely
that he might stumble on the traces of the deception that had been

The Duchess, most nearly and cruelly injured of all! Pshaw! if she were
all, there could be small cause for alarm.

Was there _no_ way of escaping once and for ever from these haunting
torments; escaping once for all from fears and from plots and
conspiracies, and all underhand dealings and living honestly and
uprightly thenceforward? The safety, the happiness of such a freedom,
the possibility of carrying out such virtuous aspirations must be found.

Is there _no_ way?

There is but one way, Bianca thinks, as she spends the hours of the
pretended convalescence in no pleasing meditations on her position;—but
_one_ way.

  "She must—she must;—she will—she will,
  Spill much more blood; and become worse
  To make her title good!"

The thought once admitted, delay in the execution of it only risked
the possibility of doing the deed in vain. The greatest danger was to
be apprehended of course from the three mothers; inasmuch, as the mere
fact of the bargain made with them, joined to the exact date of their
confinement, would have been sufficient to raise a presumption which it
would have been easy to improve into certain proof of the real truth.

Two of these women therefore were put to death by disguised assassins;
the third, having obtained some warning of her danger, escaped out of

But the chief manager of the whole plot had been a Bolognese woman, in
whom Bianca placed implicit confidence. Still she could not feel safe
as long as it was in any human being's power to betray her. This woman
was therefore sent back to Bologna; or rather, the doomed creature
was made to believe that such was her destination. But as she and her
escort were crossing the Apennine, winding in single file along the
deep–cut bridle paths that threaded the chesnut[typo for chestnut?]
woods, a shot from behind a tree brought her to the ground. The
assassins thought that their work was done more thoroughly than was the
case. The wound indeed was mortal; but the unfortunate woman lived long
enough to reach Bologna, and there, being juridically examined, she
confessed at length the whole of the plot by which Bianca had foisted
a supposititious child on the Grand Duke, together with all details of
the execution of the fraud.

This confession, duly attested by the authorities at Bologna, was
forwarded to the Cardinal Ferdinando at Rome, and his feelings on
receiving it may easily be imagined. He must have thought that he had
at last in his hand the means of crushing the hated Venetian woman,
whose arts and spells had so enthralled his brother as to disgrace him
throughout Europe, and by whose infamous practices it seemed but too
probable that some base–born brat might be placed on the throne of
Tuscany to his nefarious exclusion. What then was his indignation and
disgust, when on hastening to lay before his brother the irrecusable
proof, as he supposed, of his mistress's foul treason and falsehood,
he found him obstinately determined neither to hear, see, nor give
credence to anything on the subject! The power and credit of Bianca
were greater than ever. A magnificent appanage was settled upon the
child Antonio, whom the Duke persisted, in spite of all evidence upon
the subject, in considering and treating as his son. He was called Don
Antonio dei Medici; and Francesco appeared to lavish on the infant all
a father's affection.


It must be admitted that there was wherewithal to embitter a
milder–minded man than the Cardinal. All the calculating policy which
had enabled his cautious nature to dissemble his disgusts for so many
years, so far as to avoid an open rupture with his brother, could not
prevent him now from speaking in a manner that for a time produced a
total estrangement between him and the Grand Duke. Such deplorable
blindness and imbecility as that manifested by Francesco, could only
have been produced, it was said, by the use of infernal arts, and drugs
of maleficent power. The belief in the efficacy of such agencies was
general. It is therefore extremely probable, that the Cardinal himself
may have supposed Francesco to have been bewitched in the literal sense
of the word. That Bianca was credited with extensive powers of the
kind by the popular opinion of Florence is certain. And it is equally
clear, that she herself, whatever may have been her private opinion of
her own proficiency in the art, believed in its existence and potency,
was continually dabbling in the secrets of its professors, and would
fain have been a witch, if she could have found out how to become one.

But the real witchery that Bianca had on this occasion practised on
her lover was not suspected by the Cardinal; though, as it would seem
from subsequent events, he must have become aware of it later. It was
the common witchery of a strong and unscrupulous mind over a weak one,
whose only force was the strength of the bad passions that stirred it.
But the spell used to evoke the demon that should give her the victory
in this perilous crisis of her fortunes was one of extraordinary
daring. And it was strikingly characteristic of the woman, and
curiously indicated how thoroughly she had studied the nature of the
man she had to practise on, and how securely she reckoned on the aid of
the evil spirit she had summoned from the dark depths of his own heart,
in the form of his jealous hatred of his brothers, and of the thought
that either of them should be his successor.

The bungling work of the bravo sent to make all safe by dispatching the
woman on the Apennines on her way to Bologna, which had allowed her
to reach that city alive, left small doubt on Bianca's mind, that the
whole story of Antonio's birth would soon become known to those from
whom it was most necessary that it should be kept secret.

The danger was a tremendous one. No philtres nor drug practice would
serve the turn now. But a bold stroke of a more truly black art might
do so. Now to raise a devil potent enough to make wrong triumphant
over all right and truth! Bianca knew that such a devil was within
call, and went bravely about the work.

[Sidenote: HER SPELL.]

Reminding Francesco skilfully of all that he had suffered from being
childless, subtly painting the triumph and rejoicing of his brothers
at this his bitter misfortune, and picturing to him as subtly the
downfall of their hopes in consequence of the birth of Antonio, when
she had made the idea of relinquishing this vantage ground sufficiently
intolerable to his feelings, she audaciously[173] narrated to him the
whole truth of her fictitious confinement, and Antonio's real birth. To
have had recourse to such an expedient was too evidently the sole means
of remedying the evil. To have deceived him in the matter was to save
his dignity, his conscience, to take upon herself all the odium, the
risk, the burthen, the sin,—if sin there were in securing the peace of
mind and happiness of her sovereign and lord. What but devotion to him,
his wishes and his interests, could have stimulated her to adopt, at
her own peril, the only possible means of abating the insolent triumph
of the disloyal brothers, who were rejoicing in his misfortunes!

The incantation worked well. The devil was evoked. Francesco could not
endure the idea of returning to the state of jealous misery in which
he had lived before Antonio's birth; above all could not endure the
thought of admitting to his prudent preaching brother that he had been
ignominiously and ridiculously cheated; that his loud triumph had been
premature; that the Cardinal's warnings and denunciations of Bianca
had all been wise and just; and that now he—the Cardinal—must again
step back into the position of the childless brother's heir. No! all
this was not to be thought of. Bianca was—not pardoned—but blessed, as
his best friend and helpmate. And the Grand Duke was thenceforward an
accomplice in the fraud of substituting a false heir.

Ferdinando, with his triumphant proofs in his hand, was met, as has
been told, with well–assumed impenetrable incredulity. He found the
Grand Duke busy arranging the purchase of a principality in the kingdom
of Naples for two hundred thousand ducats, to be settled on his darling
child. And the dexterous, diplomatic, able Cardinal, had to return to
Rome baffled and checkmated by a woman.


 The Duchess Giovanna and her sorrows.—An heir is born.—Bianca in the
 shade.—The "Orti Oricellari."—Bianca entertains the Court there.—A
 summer night's amusement in 1577.—The death of Giovanna.

The conduct of the Grand Duke in neglecting his wife, a daughter of the
proud house of Austria, while he abandoned himself to the seductions
of a comparatively low–born adventuress, had not failed to expose him
to urgent and very disagreeable remonstrances from the family of the
Duchess. At the death of her brother Maximilian, negotiations were
pending between the Imperial Court and that of Tuscany on two subjects.
The first had reference to the full execution of the Imperial diplomas
and decrees, which had conferred on the Grand Duke precedence over
the other princes of Italy. This had never been admitted by them,
especially by the house of Este. And Francesco ceased not to clamour
for the due recognition of his rank. The other matter concerned the
position of the Grand Duchess Giovanna. Rodolph, Maximilian's successor
in the Empire, was anxious to remain on good terms with Francesco. And
one of his first cares was to send an ambassador to Florence for the
purpose of arranging these matters amicably.

The grounds of complaint against the Grand Duke on the part of Giovanna
were sufficiently well founded. But she seems to have brought forward
one accusation, from which her husband was able to defend himself
satisfactorily. She complained that the pecuniary means allowed her
were most insufficient; and that the mortifications to which she was
thus exposed, were embittered by the lavish expenditure permitted to
the vile woman for whose sake her husband neglected her. Now the truth
was, that Giovanna was herself inordinately extravagant. It was easy
for her to show that she had been driven to pledge her jewels and other
valuables by need of money. But the Imperial lady did not seem to be
aware that any limits ought to be placed to her power of disbursing.
Living, as she did, wholly in a little court of her own Germans, her
principal pleasure seems to have consisted in enriching them. And
Francesco was able to show the Imperial ambassadors that if Giovanna
was in debt, it was because she had spent more than the abundant income
allowed her. As usual in all disputes, the Grand Duchess, by being
wrong in this one point, made it the more difficult for her friends
to insist upon right being done her in regard to those other matters,
concerning which her complaints were clearly just.

However, a certain amount of reconciliation was brought about between
her and Francesco; and what contributed far more than the exhortations
of the Imperial Court, to make it for the moment genuine, was the
birth of a son in 1577. This event was to the Grand Duke a subject of
infinite rejoicing, and to Bianca a proportionably great humiliation.
She found herself obliged to withdraw into perfect retirement, and even
to leave Florence for awhile. The immense difference in her position,
which was felt by herself and all Florence to result from the birth of
this legitimate heir to the Duchy, is a measure of the importance of
the fraudulent introduction of Don Antonio, and of the probability felt
by all parties that means would have been found to secure for him the
succession to the throne.

[Sidenote: UNDER A CLOUD.]

Philip II. of Spain graciously acceded to the Grand Duke's request that
he would be godfather to Giovanna's child; and it was accordingly named
after him.

During the first flush of the Grand Duke's triumph and rejoicing at the
birth of his son, Bianca remained prudently in perfect retirement; and
Giovanna flattered herself that she should at last hold the place in
her husband's affections and in his court which were her due. But the
hold that Bianca had established on Francesco's mind was too strong
for him to be able to free himself from it. The need of her had become
habitual to him, as is ever the case in associations between a weak
character and a strong one. The illusions of poor Giovanna lasted but
a very short time. Even the interest attaching to her boy, important
as he was to the fortunes of the house of Medici, could not avail to
prevent Bianca's re–appearance on the scene.

She returned to Florence, and soon found means of showing, by the
accumulated marks of the Grand Duke's munificence towards her and her
son, that the Florentines were mistaken if they had imagined that her
reign was over.

One of the most notable, and it may be said, one of the most
scandalous, manifestations of this renewed favour, was the gift of
a palace and gardens in Florence, which had already acquired an
historical celebrity of a widely different kind from that which was
now to be added to it as the scene of many of Bianca's more or less
disreputable orgies.

The property in question has since that time passed through several
hands, and the traveller who has visited Florence will be most likely
to remember it by the name of its last proprietor, as the Palazzo
Strozzi. He will probably not have forgotten the large gardens which
stretch behind it, and which through all changes have kept their
original name, being still known as the "Orti Oricellari." These
gardens, with the dwelling attached to them, were in the latter
years of the fifteenth century the property of Giorgio Rucellai, the
celebrated philosopher and historian. The house was then a "casino,"
belonging to the gardens, instead of being, as it now is, a palace,
to which they are an appendage. And the writers of the time, who have
frequently spoken of them, call them a "selva;" so that we must picture
the place to our imaginations as very different from the trim garden
which we now see.


It was to this spot that Lorenzo the Magnificent's Platonic Academy
moved its sittings at his death in 1492. It was there that the
brothers Palla and Giovanni Rucellai, sons of Giorgio, received Leo
X.[174] when he came to Florence in 1515, and performed before him
Giovanni's tragedy of "Rosmunda," composed in imitation of the Hecuba
of Euripides,—one of the first, if not perhaps the first, tragic
representation in Italy. It was there, too, that as times grew worse in
Florence, and the minds of good citizens had to occupy themselves with
matters more grave than Platonic philosophy and tragedies in imitation
of Euripides, Macchiavelli read those discourses on the first Decade
of Livy, which were so well calculated to rouse a spirit of patriotism,
with which the author himself seems to have sympathised so imperfectly.
It was there, also, that these readings bore their fruit in that
unsuccessful conspiracy against the Cardinal Giulio, afterwards Clement
VII., for which Jacopo da Diaceto lost his head; and in consequence of
which the Academy was extinguished, and its members dispersed. In these
gardens, also, Macchiavelli laid the scene of his dialogue on the Art
of War. He describes the thickness and vast height of the trees,[175]
several of which were of kinds unknown to Fabrizio Colonna, who is one
of the interlocutors in the dialogue. He commemorates the extraordinary
freshness of the herbage, the retired tranquillity and sylvan beauty
of the spot, enclosed as it was within the buildings of a walled city;
and speaks of this style of culture, contrasted with that which we call
Italian gardening, as the ancient manner of cultivation.

And now this pleasant place, which was on so many accounts classical
ground to the Florentines, was made the harbour of the very different
sort of "Academy" which Bianca assembled around her, and the principal
scene of their fooleries—to use a charitable term.

The details of one such night's amusement have been preserved by the
contemporary novelist, Celio Malespini,[176] who is well known to
have drawn all his materials from real history, and whose book may be
accepted as a perfectly accurate and trustworthy picture of the manners
of the time. Bianca's brother, Vittorio Cappello, was expected to
arrive in Florence with other Venetian gentlemen, and the diversion in
question was prepared for their especial delectation. The Grand Duke,
however, appears to have taken his full share in the performances.

There was at that time, we are told, a necromancer at Florence, who was
one of the most powerful performers in his profession. The garden had
been placed by Bianca at his disposition, and the sovereign and court
were invited by her to disport themselves as follows.

"When the hour was come, the Grand Duke and his companions repaired to
the garden and walked in the shade, waiting till the necromancer should
have completed his preparations. At last he came forth clad in a most
extraordinary manner, but quite in keeping with his character. On his
head was a mitre covered with pentagons and all sorts of extravagant
figures, so that he appeared a veritable new Zoroaster. With slow and
stately steps he advanced to a spot prepared for the purpose, and there
drew a circle on the sward with a knife. This circle corresponded in
size with a cavity which had previously been prepared beneath the
surface of the soil; and around he drew with the knife a quantity of
mystic signs, which, however, nobody saw, inasmuch as the place was all
covered with herbage. But this was done," says the shrewd Malespini,
merely for appearance sake,—'_per dare colore all'arrosto_.' "This
done, he fenced the circle around with a piece of a ship's cable,
leaving a narrow entrance, at which was placed a moderate sized
bell. On the right hand were two large brasiers filled with burning
coals; and on the left a filbert wand, and a vase full of drugs for
fumigations. When all this was arranged, he brought the Grand Duke
and the rest within the circle, imposing on them silence with solemn
gestures; and then requested that one among them would stand forward
and assist him in doing what was needed, assuring them, very seriously,
that no harm should happen to him."


"At this Signor Sansonetto d'Avernia at once stepped forward and
offered himself. The necromancer made him take off his shoes, and
caused all the others to lay aside their arms. He then placed
Sansonetto between the two brasiers, with the knife in one hand, which
had been previously used for the formation of the circle, and in his
other the filbert rod, which he directed him to hold stretched forth
threateningly, while he stood erect and drawn up to his full height.
Now Sansonetto was a very tall man, and extremely corpulent withal,
with a very red face, like another Bacchus. So that the Grand Duke,
seeing him standing there barefoot, with the knife raised in the air,
and the brasiers on either side of him, could not forbear laughing, in
which the necromancer had much ado not to join."

"When due gravity had been restored, the Grand Duke was placed in
the centre, on a black velvet cushion, and all the others around the
circle. All having taken their seats, the necromancer turning to the
east, uttered a very loud whistle, and repeated the same towards the
north, the south, and the west. It was now an hour and a half after
sunset, and quite dark, so that the scene was visible only by the
lurid light of the brasiers, which much favoured the effect intended
to be produced. The wizard then took the bell, and ringing it loud
and long, cried, 'Come hither! come hither! all spirits who owe me
obedience!' And turning to the north he called 'Bardicul! Stuflogor!
Solsibec! Graffaril! Tarmidar! Zampir! and Borgamur!' And when he had
called these ridiculous names, which were the first (says Malespini,
who seems rather an _esprit fort_) that came into his mouth, he turned
to Sansonetto, and bade him throw the drugs on the braziers. These
drugs were compounded of assafœtida, pitch, sulphur, and other stinking
and abominable ingredients, and the wizard's intention was, that a
small portion only should be thrown on the coals. But poor Sansonetto,
in his zeal, threw such a quantity into the braziers, and raised so
dreadful and fœtid a smoke, that all had to hold their noses, and it
was almost impossible to endure it. The dreadful stench filled all the
garden, and reached the nostrils of the lady Bianca, who, with some
of her most intimate friends, was placed so that they could see all
the sport without being seen. The necromancer perceiving, therefore,
that Sansonetto had overdone the thing, and that the Grand Duke could
hardly bear the stench and the smoke, judged it best to hasten to the
catastrophe of his performance, instead of prolonging it by various
other ceremonies, as he had intended. So he gave a concerted sign by
thrice clapping his hands; whereupon the devils (concealed beneath the
apparently unmoved surface of the soil) began to make such noises and
thunderings, that one might have thought the end of the world was at
hand, and the infernal regions opening beneath their feet. Dreadful
cries and lamentations, strange howlings, gnashing of teeth, clanking
of chains, sighs and groans, were heard; and innumerable flames of fire
burst forth from holes made in the earth, so that the grass was burned
by them. In truth, to anybody not in the secret, the scene must have
been," thinks Malespini, "shocking and terrible in no small degree."


"And, indeed, when the party heard all this horrible tumult, many,
I promise you, were frightened enough, and thought no more of the
stinking smoke in their alarm. Then the necromancer thought it time
to bring about his catastrophe. Stamping with his foot therefore, he
gave the sign agreed on for the letting go the chains that supported
over the pit beneath the platform with the soil and grass on which they
were all sitting. The brasiers and the knife were dexterously removed
outside the circle by the necromancer. But the whole of the party were
precipitated pell–mell one over the other into the pit; much of the
earth and sods which had been ranged on the platform falling on the top
of them. If the previous circumstances had frightened them, let anybody
judge," says our chronicler, "how much more they were terrified now,
finding themselves all precipitated, with the Grand Duke in the midst,
into the bowels of the earth. In short there was not one of them, as
they afterwards confessed, who did not firmly believe that they had
looked their last on the light of the sun."

"No sooner had they fallen thus into the pit, than the devils were upon
them, making noises more horrible than before, and looking fearfully
hideous in the lurid light of the flames that continually blazed forth.
So that in truth the poor fellows were beside themselves with terror,
and hardly knew if they were alive or dead."

"When they were thus in an agony of alarm and distress, there suddenly
appeared a number of beautiful girls, who in some degree mitigated the
stink of the smoke by delicious odours that they brought with them.
Taking the Grand Duke and the others by the hand, they led them out of
the horrible pit, comforting them," writes Malespini, "with amorous
gestures and pleasing manners, and conducted them to the arcades
that were in the garden. There they were restored by the exquisite
odour which proceeded from a large golden lamp, that cast a soft light
over all the arcade. And while they were admiring these beauties, who
were," as the author somewhat contradictorily writes, "all naked, with
gold brocaded mantles magnificently adorned with precious stones,
the music of various instruments was heard, and angelic and divine
voices carolled forth the words of certain hymns appropriate to the
matter in hand. So that it really appeared to all present, that the
whole hierarchy of paradise was there assembled. When the Grand Duke
and his companions looked about them and saw a magnificently arranged
banquet, with beautiful fruits of every kind, they could not but think
themselves in the Elysian fields. Then the nymphs with infinite grace
and charm of manner pressed them to rest and repose themselves; and
the Grand Duke pretended (observe), to recover himself and collect his
senses after so great an astonishment; and said to his companions,
the Count Santafiora, the two Strozzi, and Altoviti, 'Let the meaning
of all this be what it may, I think, for my part, that all these good
things are not to be despised, and still less so these charming and
amiable ladies.'"

"As for the others of the party, they had remained in the pit half
dead, lying there insensible, till they were carried to beds prepared
for the purpose, where they were properly attended by medical men
provided for that end."

"As soon as the Grand Duke had spoken as above, a voice was heard to
sing an ode," duly recorded by Malespini, but which the reader may
be spared, in which the flattery of his highness is piled as only
Italian hyperbole can pile it. "Meantime, the beautiful and elegant
girls," says the writer, "among whom was one of exceeding loveliness,
named Milla Capraia, did not cease to caress those noble knights; till
suddenly another strophe was heard beginning 'Depart, oh noble heroes!'
&c., and so the diversion came to a conclusion."


Such, considerably abridged, is the account of Bianca's mode of
entertaining her guests among the classic shades where Lorenzo's
Platonists had speculated, and Macchiavelli had stirred the patriotism
of the last free sons of Florence.

It is perhaps worth remarking, that the words to which the readers
attention was called,—"the Grand Duke _pretended_ to recover
himself"—seem to show, that _he_ was in the secret of the performances
all the time; and that the zest of the joke consisted in frightening
the silly courtiers out of their wits, while their magnanimous
sovereign should enjoy their discomfiture, himself _seeming_ to be
superior to all such terrors; and should be worshipped as a hero on
the strength thereof by Miss Milla Capraia, who was to _seem_ to put
perfect faith in his heroism.

But while Bianca and the Grand Duke and the court were thus amusing
themselves, a very different scene was passing in that corner of the
huge pile of the Pitti palace, which contained the private apartments
of the Duchess. At first the birth of her son had been a matter of
immense rejoicing and triumph to the unhappy woman. The consequent
retirement of Bianca had been a precious balm to her long mortified
pride; and she had flattered herself that at last brighter days were
before her, and that the mother of the heir to his crown would at least
be held of some account in her husband's court, if not in his heart.

But gradually all these hopes failed her. Not only did the odious rival
return, as we have seen, and recover all her previous ascendancy, but
the arrival of her brother Vittorio, and the marked favour immediately
shown to him by the Grand Duke, who received him as he might have done
a visitor of princely rank, seemed to prove, that there was no hope of
her being able to struggle against Francesco's infatuated affection for
his mistress. The unhappy princess was expecting to be again confined
in the spring of 1578, when these sorrows threw her back into the
melancholy from which she had been for a brief space roused by the
short–lived reconciliation with her husband. And there is little doubt
that they contributed[177] to produce the fatal result which put an end
to her joyless life on the 11th of May, 1578.[178]

Giovanna was not endowed with the qualities calculated to make her
popular with the people of her adopted country. The cold Austrian
nature, the absence of all personal charm, the pride of a scion of
the house of Austria, so different in its kind from the lighter
boastful vaingloriousness of their own princes, the haughty reserve
and stiff ceremonial manners of the daughter of the line of Hapsburg,
were uncongenial and disagreeable to the Florentines. A breaking
heart, moreover, whose sorrows had to be hidden under a veil of
courtly etiquette, was not calculated to improve these deficiencies.
Notwithstanding all this, however, the too manifest unhappiness of her
life, her dignified bearing under her misfortunes, the propriety of her
conduct under strong temptation to act otherwise, all conciliated to
her the sympathy and respect, if not the love, of all classes of the


It was known that on her death–bed she had repeatedly[179] implored the
Grand Duke, for his honour and conscience' sake, to separate himself
from the woman who had rendered her life so miserable, declaring at the
same time that she freely pardoned her for all the ill she had suffered
at her hands. And these circumstances, combined with the intense hatred
which all Florence nourished for her unworthy rival, "the witch"
Bianca, caused her death to be sincerely mourned by the entire city.
And almost every writer of the period has a word of sympathy and pity
for this one among the many victims of Medicean cruelty and crime.


 What is Francesco to do now?—The Cardinal and Bianca try another
 fall.—Cardinal down again.—Francesco's vengeance.—What does the Church
 say?—Bianca at Bologna.—The marriage privately performed.—The Cardinal
 learns the secret.—The daughtership of St. Mark.—Venetian doings
 _versus_ Venetian sayings.—Embassy to Florence.—Suppose we could have
 her crowned.—The marriage publicly solemnised.

What were Francesco's feelings on the death of his unloved wife? His
conduct towards her had more than once got him into serious trouble
with the Imperial Court. Little as he had heeded outraging her
feelings, and parading his neglect of her before the world of Florence,
still his intercourse with Bianca had been hampered by the necessity
of making some little show of decency in the eyes of foreign courts.
He had been obliged to have "riguardi," as the Italian phrase goes.
Then Giovanna had been an expensive wife; far more so than Francesco
liked. And now the cost of the magnificent obsequies, which were to lay
her dust under the gorgeous dome of San Lorenzo, would be the closing
article in that account.

Francesco was now free. Yet despite all these considerations, it may
be very much doubted whether the death of his wife was matter of
such unmixed contentment to him as it might at first sight seem to
be. Now became due that bill drawn on futurity, that fatal promise
to Bianca,—uttered "before an image," too, to make the matter
worse,—that, should the time ever come, when they were both free, she
should become his wife. It seems likely enough, that a feeling, which
he may have mistaken for repentance, came over him in these days, when
he thought on the slaughter of Bonaventuri.

[Sidenote: THE PROMISE.]

It was not that the Grand Duke felt any repugnance in his own heart to
perform his promise. His liking for his mistress seems to have been as
strong or stronger than ever, and he wished sincerely to be married to
her. But he hesitated to face the storm of disapprobation, which would
follow the perpetration of such a mesalliance throughout Europe—the
dismay of friends, the exultation of enemies, the discontent of his
subjects, the ridicule of all. As for his promise, image and all,
Francesco was not the man to be much troubled with any such bonds, if
it suited his convenience to break them. He would have been bold enough
to brave the resentment of any dead Saint in the calendar. But there
was a living sinner, of whom he stood in considerably greater awe. How
could he refuse to Bianca to keep the promise she had extorted, and the
performance of which she would assuredly not now be weaker in exacting.

When the personal wishes of such a man as Francesco, strong only in
wilfulness, and the determined will of such a woman as Bianca were on
one side, and on the other only the fear of consequences, which could
so far be kept at a distance, as never to be allowed to meet him face
to face, it was little doubtful what the upshot would be. The contumely
of Europe, and the reproaches of his family, might be effectually
prevented from reaching his ears. But how avoid the nearer annoyances
inseparable equally from living without Bianca, and from living with
her, yet not acceding to her just demands.

Still, for some time the disturbance of Francesco's mind seems to have
been extreme. Still, he let "I dare not wait upon I would;" and lived
the while in a condition of miserable uncertainty and agitation.[180]
His first step after the death of Giovanna was to leave Florence,
where the universal lamentation for his ill–fated wife disgusted him.
Perhaps, also, during this time of doubt and conflicting resolutions
he was glad to escape from the presence of Bianca. It seems probable,
indeed, from his conduct, that this was really his wish for the moment.
For instead of going to any one of the numerous residences belonging
to him in different parts of Tuscany, he kept continually moving from
place to place, wandering through the least frequented parts of his

The Cardinal, to whom the death of the Grand Duchess had been a cause
of serious grief and disquietude, was much reassured by this apparent
desire on the part of Francesco to avoid the seductress at this
conjuncture. He went to Porto Ferraio in the island of Elba in the hope
of finding the Grand Duke there, and thus getting the opportunity of
conferring with him at a distance from the influences with which Bianca
in general contrived to surround him. Francesco, however, avoided
any such interview with his brother; and the Cardinal had to content
himself with sending a secretary, in whom he could confide, to urge
those considerations on the Grand Duke, which he would fain have set
before him in person. The messenger caught the Duke in Serravezza, a
little hill village high up among the Apennines, and then one of the
most remote spots in the Duchy, though now well–known as giving its
name to the neighbouring marble quarries, which rival those of Carrara
in the quality of their produce.


The instructions of Ferdinand's envoy were to move Francesco by every
possible consideration to marry again, choosing his wife from among
the princesses of those sovereign houses whose friendship might
be useful for the sustaining of the family greatness.[181] It is
clear, therefore, that whatever may have been the case at a later
period, Ferdinand had not yet conceived the desire that his brother's
inheritance might fall on him. Up to this time he was evidently
labouring sincerely in the cause of Francesco's credit and honour, and
all his schemes for the aggrandisement of the family were centred in
the Grand Duke, and in the hope of his leaving legitimately born heirs
male of sovereign lineage to succeed him.

But his messenger brought him back an account of his interview with
the Grand Duke, which seems to have very much changed the course
of his policy and conduct for the future. Francesco would not hear
of contracting any such new marriage as was proposed to him. He
professed indeed his determination not to marry again at all. But the
secretary was able to detail to his master, certain little indications
gleaned from the phrases or the actions of the Duke, which led the
acute Cardinal to the conviction that Francesco had already made up
his mind to marry Bianca. And from thenceforth the Cardinal very
manifestly changed his conduct. He no longer made any attempt to
preserve even that outward appearance of family union, which he had
hitherto, despite all difficulties and provocations, succeeding in
maintaining. He quarrelled with his brother openly and publicly; and
in all the political manœuvrings for the petty objects arising out of
the jealousies of the Italian princely houses, which made up the life
occupation of the cardinals living in the Roman court, he thenceforth
took a line of his own, wholly distinct from, and in some respects
opposed to that of his brother, and the general Medicean family
interest. He, for instance, began to cultivate a friendship with the
court of France, between which and Francis, who had always inclined to
that of Spain, there had ever been enmity.

Just about this time especially, he was on ill terms with France, which
had been guilty of injuring him in one of the tenderest points in which
the feelings of a despotic prince such as Francesco can be touched. She
had accorded protection to fugitives from his vengeance. Several of
those who had been implicated in the Pucci conspiracy, such as Antonio
and Piero Capponi, and Bernardo Girolami, as well as Troilo Orsini,
with whose guilt we have had occasion to become acquainted, had escaped
thither, and lived unmolested under the protection of France. This
was intolerable to Francesco. It was not so much the feeling of pique
and jealousy which might exist between two governments on the subject
of harbouring each other's outlaws, and which may well be a ground of
legitimate remonstrance and discontent between neighbouring nations;
for such a grievance can be remedied only by inducing the offending
government to give up the refugees to the legal tribunals of their own
country. What rankled in Francesco's heart was simply the frustration
of his personal vengeance. And the measures which he adopted were
accordingly directed wholly to the gratification of that feeling.


One Curzio Picchena was at that time secretary to the Florentine
embassy at Paris, and to him was entrusted the execution of the Grand
Duke's hitherto baulked revenge. He was directed to hire assassins
to murder the above–named fugitives and others, at the price of four
thousand ducats per murder. And he was furnished from Florence with
poisons, the choice produce of the poison–laboratory established
by Cosmo in the Uffizi, as one of the necessary institutions of
statecraft, both for drugging the victims in case that should be found
the preferable mode of proceeding, and for poisoning the weapons of
the hired assassins if that course appeared more practicable![182]
So carefully provident was this Medicean proficient in the arcana of

Girolami was accordingly assassinated. But his fate warned the
others of their danger; and some fled into the provinces, and some
to England. It was then judged, says the Italian historian, that
Italian cut–throats would be found more capable in their calling. Of
these masters in their art then, some were sent into France, and some
to England; and these, unlike the French bunglers, soon gave their
sovereign all the satisfaction he craved.

Such were the cares of State, which contributed to burthen the Grand
Ducal mind, already sorely oppressed by the necessity of deciding what
was to be done in the matter of Bianca and her claims. The agitation of
his mind manifested itself in bodily restlessness; and he continued to
ramble about his dominions, while Bianca, thus prevented from seeing
him, kept up an unceasing battery of letters. At length he hit upon
the common refuge of imbecility, and determined to throw upon other
shoulders the task of decision, which he found too arduous for his
own. So he summoned an able theologian, reputed—undeservedly, as the
result clearly indicates—to be a thorough master of his business; and,
confiding to him his difficulties, the promise he had made, and his own
private desire to fulfil it, demanded to be told what it was his duty
to do.

Now it would surely seem clear enough to any one conversant with
the duties of court chaplains, what was the course to take after
such an exposition of the case as this. And to a plain man, ignorant
of canonical statute law, and incapacitated by his low estate from
comprehending the difference between princely honour and vulgar
individuals' honour, it would surely seem that Francesco's moral and
religious duty was to keep his promise and marry his mistress. But not
so judged the able theologian. He pointed out, with all the eloquence
of perfect climax, that such a marriage would be uncanonical, void,
disreputable, and inexpedient. And, forgetting the broad hint given him
by the gracious sovereign as to his own wishes in the matter, he pushed
his zeal for canon law and blood–royal propriety so far as to convince
the Duke against his will, with the ordinary result of such convictions.

But Bianca, as usual, showed herself in this crisis also, perfectly
equal to the occasion. As soon as ever she learned that Francesco had
taken it into his head to look at the matter in a theological point of
view, she took immediate means of insuring a supply of theological
support from the most influential and effectual source. Francesco's
own confessor was a Franciscan friar, he at least being the right man
in the right place. To him Bianca found means of pointing out that the
bishopric of Chiusi happened to be just then vacant. And the result of
that communication was, that the Duke was very easily led to see all
the professional mistakes committed by his previous adviser, and to
arrive at the desired conclusion, that the Church and his duty required
him to do exactly that which his own wishes prompted.


While theology was thus at work in her favour, Bianca was not idle on
her own behalf. She was continually writing to the Grand Duke, and
sometimes contrived to have news to tell him, tending to show how
entirely their connection was recognised publicly, and respected. Thus
we find from a MS.[183] record of the time, that she was at Bologna
in the course of this spring with her daughter Pellegrina, and her
son–in–law Ulisse Bentivoglio; and that she was received there with
public honours, having been escorted into the city by a large company
of the principal nobility, both cavaliers _and ladies_, "out of respect
for the Grand Duke of Florence, seeing that the said Bianca was
property of his—_sua cosa_." Surely it would be difficult to conceive a
more striking mark of the degradation of a people, of their fitness to
be slaves and unfitness to be anything else, than this going forth of
the patricians of a great city to do honour to a prince's "cosa!" This,
however, was of course not Bianca's reading of the incident, and its
significance. Surely a "cosa" so received was worthy to become a wife!
In short, writing sometimes in one tone and sometimes in another, she
ceased not to pour in a well–sustained fire of letters,[184] till at
last, just when her ally the friar was convincing his penitent that
it was his duty to marry her, she threw in a final missive, full of
pathetic resignation to his will, and intimations of her own intention
not to survive her disappointment.

The game so well played was won. Francesco finally agreed to the
marriage. But as Bianca was very strongly of opinion that, "if it were
done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly," and as it
was impossible to celebrate the marriage openly within a month or two
of the death of the Grand Duchess, it was determined that it should
take place privately, and be kept profoundly secret till the following

Accordingly, the marriage was duly performed on the 5th of June, 1578,
in the _Palazzo Vecchio_, by the same convenient Franciscan friar who
had worked so well to bring it about. The date of this event has been
erroneously stated by various writers; but it is ascertained with
certainty from a copy of the original certificate signed by "Frater
Masseus Antonii de Bardis," which is preserved in a MS. of the Marciana
library, cited by Cigogna.[185] The witnesses were a brother Franciscan
monk, and Don Pandolfo de' Bardi, a relative of the Duke's confessor.
The same document states that the ceremony was performed "in majori
palatio," in the _Palazzo Vecchio_, as it is now called. And if it
should chance that the reader has seen the chapel of that venerable
pile, it will recur to his recollection as a most fitting spot for the
celebration of any rite intended to be concealed from all eyes. It is
inaccessible, except through other apartments of the palace; so small,
as barely to admit the parties whose presence was necessary to the
ceremony; and, though most richly decorated, so dark, that the features
of those standing within it can barely be recognised by each other.


In this secret spot the Franciscan friar performed the rite which,
in homely English phrase, made an honest woman of Bianca; a feat
which—to recur to the words already quoted—"if it were done when 'tis
done"—surely deserved the reward of the bishopric of Chiusi, or any
other whatsoever.

So secret was the marriage kept, that even the lynx–eyed spies of the
Cardinal had no suspicion of it. And he still continued,[186] despite
his open quarrel with his brother, to make overtures in various Courts,
in the hope of arranging some suitable marriage for him, for months
after Bianca had made good her hold on him,—labours of her capable and
crafty enemy which must, it may be supposed, have amused that lady not
a little to witness.

In the early part of 1579 the Duke fell ill, and was at one time
supposed to be in some danger; which furnished a pretext and
opportunity to the Cardinal to visit his brother, with a view of
getting at the truth respecting his position. For Francesco's steady
refusal of the proposals made to him, and some other circumstances, had
led him to conceive suspicions on the subject.

He found his brother ill in bed, exclusively attended by Bianca, to
his great annoyance and disgust. And seized the first opportunity of
reading the sick man a strong lecture on the impropriety, and even
risk, of allowing that infamous woman to have the charge of his sick
room. Whereupon Francesco felt himself obliged to let the secret out,
and acknowledge that "the infamous woman" was Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

Ferdinand dissembled the excess of his sorrow and indignation at this
confession, and remained with his brother till he was out of danger.
But it is recorded, that when he repeated the fact to his confidential
secretary, he could not refrain from tears of mortification; and
he returned to Rome with a fresh accumulation of anger against his
brother, and of the bitterest hatred for the woman, to whom he
attributed the disgrace of his family, and the ruin of his well–plotted
and laboriously prosecuted schemes for its aggrandisement.

The Grand Duke meanwhile, having recovered his health, continued to
keep his marriage secret till the middle of April, when the year of
mourning for his former wife was completed. Then his first care was
to communicate the fact to his friend and patron, Philip of Spain,
intimating that he awaited only his approval to publish it to all
the courts. Philip, thinking probably that it mattered little whom
a trading, plebeian–descended Medici married, gave his gracious
approbation. But still one more step remained to be taken before making
the public announcement to all Europe. Anxious to find some means of
gilding a little, if possible, the ignoble object of his choice, he
sent an embassy to Venice, informing the senate of his intention, in a
highly flattering letter, to the effect that he considered the lady a
daughter of the Republic, and that it is his hope in uniting himself to
her, to become a son of Venice, and ever to show himself such to the


This embassy entrusted by Francesco to the Count Mario Strozzi of
Santafiora, was received with every possible demonstration of respect
and satisfaction by the Venetians. Santafiora was escorted into the
city with public honours. Forty senators were deputed to wait on him
in the name of the Republic. The Cappello palace was assigned to him
as a residence, and he was received at the door of it by the Patriarch
of Aquileia, the greatest man of the family connection. Bianca's
father and brother were made cavalieri, dubbed "illustrissimi," and
entitled to precedence over all other members of the order. In the gala
doings which accompanied these events the Queen of the Adriatic outdid
herself, we are told, in feasts and magnificence.[187] By a unanimous
vote of the Senate on the 16th of June, in consideration of "the Grand
Duke of Tuscany having chosen for his wife Bianca Cappello, of a most
noble family in this city, a lady adorned with all those most excellent
and singular qualities, which make her most worthy of any the highest
fortune, it is ordered that she be created a true and particular
daughter of the Republic."[188] The same decree orders a golden
chain of the value of a thousand dollars to be given to Francesco's
ambassador. Moreover, all unpleasant memorials of the time before the
lady's most excellent and signal qualities had been discovered, were
ordered, as we have seen, to be erased from the public registers.

It is difficult to understand all this excessive avidity of
toad–eating servility and flunkeyism in such a body as the Venetian
senate. But a few months previously they had manifested a very
different tone of feeling on the subject of Bianca's connection with
the Grand Duke, superior alike to any sentiments to be found among
the Florentine nobles, and to these their own subsequent acts. For
we read in a MS. chronicle of the time by Francesco Molino, cited by
Cigogna,[189] that Bartolommeo Cappello, her father, having purchased
the magnificent palace De' Trivigiani with money received from his
daughter, was so ill–looked on in Venice in consequence, that he was
solely on this account excluded from the senate; "inasmuch as it was
thought that the connection of that family with the Prince Francesco
arose from a base and disgraceful cause; and that though it might be
profitable, and might, perhaps, be deemed honourable for others, it was
not so for a Venetian gentleman."

That last touch of republican pride is magnificent; and it is a pity
that any reasons of policy, or other motive of any kind, should have
induced the senate to exhibit itself so lamentably false to all such
generous feeling so shortly afterwards.

Francesco was exceedingly delighted at the abundant success of his
embassy to Venice. Bianca now was—no, not _was_ exactly—but might be
supposed to seem to be, no longer a private individual, but a princess,
as being the daughter of a sovereign state. By metaphor, fiction,
parchment, and herald's trumpeting, Bianca was now a princess, of due
rank to mate with a sovereign duke; and Francesco accordingly announced
to the various courts on the 20th of June his forthcoming marriage
with a daughter of the republic of Venice. The ceremony was fixed
for the 12th of October, 1579; and immense preparations were made to
celebrate it with unusual pomp and splendour.


Meanwhile the Grand Duke sent his natural brother, Don Giovanni, a
boy of twelve years old, with a numerous train, to bear his thanks to
the Republic for the honours conferred on his bride. He was received
by eight–and–twenty Venetian gentlemen at the frontier, and by forty
senators outside the city, by whom he was processionally conducted to
the Casa Cappello, where Vittorio, Bianca's brother, was charged by
the senate to entertain him at the expense of the state, which granted
an unlimited credit for that purpose. Under these circumstances it may
be safely conjectured that the boy ambassador was received with such
holiday keeping, as left on his mind no mean impressions of Venetian
hospitality and magnificence.

On the 28th of September arrived in Florence the ambassadors sent by
Venice "to put," says Galluzzi,[190] "Bianca in possession of the
prerogatives which the daughtership of St. Mark produced to her." It is
rather difficult to understand what these prerogatives might have been;
but it is probable that if the baggage of the ambassadors had been
searched for them, they would have been found to consist in a certain
quantity of engrossed parchment and sealing–wax, cased in some more or
less splendidly adorned wrappage of velvet or cloth of gold.

The ambassadors, however, Antonio Tiepolo and Giovanni Michiel,
were assisted in bringing these "prerogatives" by a train of ninety
gentlemen of the noblest houses in Venice. It was apparently thought
necessary that the extrinsic pomp of this embassy should be in exact
proportion to the intrinsic meanness of the business it was engaged on.
For we are told that it outshone in taste and magnificence all former
doings of the kind, even in the most palmy days of Venice. And all the
ninety noble gentlemen who came to make _kotoo_ to Francesco's _cosa_,
vied with each other in efforts of ostentation for the manifestation of
their, own greatness.

Beside these ninety, there came also the bride's father and brother,
and the Patriarch of Aquileia, by no means behindhand, the holy man,
in availing himself of his scrap of relationship to the "cosa," for
the purpose of bringing his grey hairs into the sunshine of a princely
countenance. And with these came other eighty, all calling themselves
relations of the bride; and all were lodged in the Pitti palace, and
treated with all sorts of junkettings and diversions, banquets, balls,
tourneys, hunting–parties (with nets), bull–baiting, chariot races,
comedies, &c.

The task of thus entertaining his wife's relatives on this occasion is
computed to have cost Francesco three hundred thousand ducats,[191] a
sum which, allowing for the difference in the value of money, seems
almost incredible. It happened to be a year of great scarcity in
Tuscany. There was wide–spread and severe distress among the people,
who looked on at this lavish and useless expenditure; and the sight did
not contribute to conciliate the love of the Florentines to their new
liege lady.

[Sidenote: CORONATION.]

Meanwhile, in the interval between the arrival of the ambassadors
in Florence, and the day appointed for the ceremony, it occurred to
Francesco,[192] that the daughtership of St. Mark might be turned to
better account yet. There had been two other daughters of St. Mark, one
the wife of a king of Hungary, and the other Caterina Cornaro, Queen of
Cyprus. Now, why should not Bianca also be crowned, as a daughter of
the Republic. It would have a very good effect as part of the ceremony
at all events, and might very likely pass with many persons for more
than it really was. Crowning is crowning; and whether the crown to be
placed on Bianca's head was that of St. Mark's daughter, or _that of
a Grand Duchess of Tuscany_, might very easily be little observed or

The Venetian Senate on their part consented willingly to permit the
ambassadors at Francesco's request to perform this ceremony in their
name, but were quite awake to the same probability of error, and were
anxious that their crowning of their daughter should be known to be
their deed, and the dignity one of their bestowing. So the letter, by
which they authorise Tiepolo and Michiel to comply with Francesco's
wish enjoins, that in placing the crown on her head, "it shall be
proclaimed in a loud voice, that it is in sign of her being a true and
particular daughter of our Republic." And a second letter charges them
to take care, that those words are so said "as to be distinctly heard
by all around, and in such a manner that they be not drowned by any
noise of trumpets or otherwise."[193]

But there was also another person in Florence, who pricked up his
ears, and had a word to say in the matter, when he heard a talk of
crowning going on. This was the Pope's nuncio, who protested that all
crowning appertained to his master. And it was necessary to quiet him
by pointing out and declaring explicitly, that what was proposed was
no crowning of a Grand Duchess, but merely a token of the daughtership
of St. Mark. And he also was anxious that this fact should be clearly
avowed and understood.

Notwithstanding all this, however, many chroniclers contemporary
and other, have written that Bianca was crowned Grand Duchess of
Tuscany.[194] Perhaps the Florentine trumpets and shoutings contrived
to make the words of the Venetian functionary inaudible despite his
efforts to obey the senate and make himself heard.

The ceremony began on the appointed day in the great hall of the
_Palazzio Vecchio_—the same hall in which Capponi had persuaded the
Florentines to elect Jesus Christ for their king, and Savonarola had
instructed the great council of the nation to abstain from debating,
in order the more swiftly to act on his suggestion. In that famous old
hall, once the very cradle of Italian freedom, and the heart of the
popular life, a throne was built for the prince by right divine;—right
truly and absolutely divine of those eternal laws, which make such
princes the natural result of the lack of wisdom and worth, and excess
of evil and unruly passions which had been exhibited in the councils
of that council–chamber. The ungainly irregularity in the form of the
enormous hall may have in some measure marred the symmetry of the
upholstery magnificences. But Francesco and Bianca should have been
well content to pardon any such eyesore. For the fashion all awry of
that home of the old Republic, in which no wall makes a right angle
with its neighbour, commemorates literally, as well as typically, the
implacable internecine party hatreds of the Florentines.[195] And had
that stone embodiment of the spirit of the old Italian commonwealths
been able to be built straight, Florence would not have had that day to
stand abject, vicious, and degraded to bow before a despot and his ...

[Sidenote: THE CEREMONY.]

When the prince was seated, and all his military, legal and clerical
flunkeys in their proper liveries, duly ranged around him, Bianca was
led in by the ambassadors of Venice; and floods of speechifying, easy
to be imagined, but intolerable to read, were uttered by the various
functionaries of either nation. Probably if might be difficult for
the strictest analysis to detect one particle of truth in all that
was said. To Grimani, the old patriarch of Aquileia, it fell to make
an oration "on the utility of this marriage and the value of the
daughtership of St. Mark." The two ambassadors did their crowning; but
in some way or other failed to do it to the satisfaction of the Senate.
For when they, in accordance with Venetian law, asked permission to
keep the present of a ring worth fifteen hundred dollars, given to each
of them by Francesco, it was refused.[196]

When the business had been got through thus far, Bianca was
carried,—chaired, it should seem like a newly elected M.P.,—with
the crown on her head to the cathedral; and there were done "sacred
sacrifices," "divine services," and other such unbounded lying of
an intensified, infinite, and yet more pernicious sort than that
previously perpetrated in the lay part of the business.

And so Bianca was made a Duchess—nay Grand Duchess; and stepped
triumphantly on her _excelsior_ path, rewarded by success for her long
efforts, patient endurance, sleepless astute vigilance, courageous
battling with danger and difficulty, and unscrupulous daring.

Honesty the best policy! Policy, for what object? Not for scaling the
throne of a Grand Duchess apparently!


 Bianca's new policy.—New phase of the battle between the Woman and the
 Priest.—Serene, or, not serene! that is the question.—Bianca protests
 against sisters.—Death of the child Filippo.—Bianca's troubles and
 struggles.—The villa of Pratolino.—Francesco's extraordinary mode of
 life there.

The ninety embassy–followers, and the eighty kinsmen, were kind
enough to give Francesco the pleasure of their company for some time
after the marriage; but towards the end of October they returned to
Venice, carrying with them presents of collars of gold and jewels.
The Patriarch had his full share of gifts,[197] and all the swarm of
the relatives "proportionably." But father–in–law Bartolommeo carried
off not only very large sums of money, but a good pension for life.
Brother–in–law Vittorio declined to return to Venice any more at
all, purposing to devote himself wholly to the service of his august
kinsman. A large pension, not for life, but to him and his heirs for
ever (!), and a dower for his daughter, was the least that could reward
such zeal. Bianca's pin–money was fixed at an hundred thousand ducats,
to be invested in the mint of Venice.

What were the feelings being stored up the while in the breasts of the
Florentines in their dearth and famine time towards Bianca, may be
imagined. And when it is remembered, that one of Francesco's strongest
passions was avarice, the excess of all this munificence towards
Bianca, and her belongings, may help to give us the measure of the
influence that she had acquired over him. Yes! it must be admitted that
Bianca had decidedly succeeded!

Hitherto we have seen the Cardinal Ferdinando and his new sister–in–law
open and inveterate enemies; and the former at each critical point of
the war between them has been beaten. During the period of her struggle
to win her footing in the family, she judged it necessary to her
success, that Francesco and his brother should be at enmity. But now,
that her position as a member of the house of Medici was indefeasibly
won, and its interests were her interests, she was anxious to bring
about a reconciliation with her brother–in–law.

She opened her new campaign by inducing her husband to change his
manner towards his brother. Francesco had always manifested his
irritation under the politic Cardinal's sermons and remonstrances,
by treating him on all the occasions, when business matters made it
necessary for them to communicate, with the greatest rudeness and
discourtesy. Under Bianca's management, all this soon disappeared.
She was able also to bring about a change which affected Ferdinando
yet more sensibly. His magnificent and ostentatious habits caused him
always to be in difficulties; and he was very frequently desirous of
being allowed to anticipate a little his drafts on his Florentine
appanage. This Francesco, rejoicing in an opportunity of spiting his
respectable brother, had always, in the most disobliging manner,
refused. _Now_ it is intimated to our good brother, that if it should
be convenient to him to anticipate his revenues a little, the Grand
Duke will be delighted to accommodate him. Then the clever lady
finds the means of entering into an epistolary commerce with this
highly respectable churchman, who had so sedulously kept her and her
abominations from coming between the wind and his propriety. And it is
not without considerable elevation of the eyebrows that we find her
writing to him on the 24th of December,[198] 1580, in such terms as the


"I live," she assures him, "more for you than for myself. Indeed,
I live but in you, for I cannot live without you;"—which, as the
historian observes, are "very cordial expressions." We shall be
justified, however, in assuming that, despite their "cordiality," they
were not accurately expressive of the fact; even if we do not go the
length of supposing, as many narrators of Bianca's story do, that they
express the exact contrary of the fact, we may probably also safely
conclude further, that the Cardinal did not believe more of them than
we do. And, indeed, it seems difficult to suppose that Bianca should
have expected him to believe them. Nevertheless, the dexterous lady's
civilities, and _patte de velours_, did so far prevail, that to the
exceeding surprise of all Florence, and to the great dismay of the
anti–Medicean faction among the cardinals at Rome, Ferdinando made his
appearance in Florence to spend the "villeggiatura" with his brother
in the autumn of 1510. Francesco was all kindness and as generous as
his ungracious nature would permit him to be, and Bianca the perfection
of amiability and deferential affection. The Cardinal was perfectly
ready, and well pleased to sacrifice, if not the reality of his deep
resentment, at least the outward manifestation of it, to the political
objects which were interfered with by the open schism in the family;
and the reconciliation appeared to be complete.

But from this time forward, the vantage–ground in the long battle
between the woman and the churchman was no longer, as it had hitherto
been, on the side of the former. Whether it were, that the tactics
adapted to a state of open warfare were better suited to the violent
and daring, though by no means sincere nature of Bianca, while the
profound dissimulation of hatred, under the mask of friendship, was
more congenial to the habits of the politic and respectable churchman,
the fact is, that the Grand Duchess had gained her last victory, and
that at every subsequent turn of the game the Cardinal had the upper
hand, till her final discomfiture left him triumphant master of the

For the present, however, it perfectly suited both parties to act in
concert with reference to the great object of Medicean state policy,
which was then occupying Francesco, and may be, indeed, said to have
been the leading aim and interest of his life.

His father, Duke Cosmo, by dint of assiduous obsequiousness to Pope
Pius V., and as the price of the blood of his subjects, delivered
over to the Inquisition on charges of heresy, had obtained from that
pontiff the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany.[199] But, as Sismondi well
observes,[200] inasmuch as Tuscany was not, and had never been a fief
of the Church, the Pope could have no sort of right to change the title
of its sovereign. Accordingly, both the Emperor, whose prerogatives
were thus infringed, and the other Italian Dukes, above whom Cosmo
sought to take rank by virtue of this new title, refused to admit its
validity. And Cosmo died while negotiations with the Emperor were yet
pending on the subject. But Francesco succeeded in inducing the Emperor
Maximilian II. to confer on him the much desired title by a new decree,
taking no notice of the previous concession by the Pope.[201]

[Sidenote: MOST SERENE.]

But even then, the other sovereigns of Italy would not admit the
precedence thus established in favour of the Medici. Especially the
haughty and ancient house of Este could not brook that the plebeian
upstarts, whose fathers had been haggling for percentages, while
_their_ ancestors had been defending their ancient fiefs in the saddle,
should now take rank in Europe above them. The Duke of Savoy was
equally determined to dispute this promotion over his head; and the
Duke of Mantua thought the Gonzagas were as good as the Medici any day.

The style and title attached to the grand–ducal dignity, it seems, was
"Most Serene Highness;" and it was very easy for Francesco so to call
and write himself, and be called in his own duchy. But the misery of
the case was, that all the others forthwith began to do the same. Not
a dukeling of them would any more be content to be a "Most Illustrious
Excellency." One after another all called themselves "Most Serene" in
the coolest manner; and it was even feared, say the historians,[202]
that the little Republics would begin to think themselves serene too.

Venice had, time out of mind, always been "most serene," and was by all
parties admitted to be so. But the Queen of the Adriatic insisted upon
being not only most, but sole serene, and would give the coveted title
to none of the disputing parties. Once indeed, we read, the Cardinal
d'Este being at Venice, did somehow manage to betray the Doge into
speaking of his brother, the reigning Duke of Ferrara, as "his Most
Serene Highness;" and great was the triumph of the House of Este. But
it was short; for the assembled senate were much displeased at what
their Doge had done; and solemnly decreed that it was only a slip of
the tongue.

Meantime poor Francesco was, if anything, rather worse off than all
the illegitimate serene highnesses. For those wicked and unprincipled
confounders of all distinctions agreed together to call each other
serene, while nobody would call him so. It was a cruel case; and the
Grand Duke, we read,[203] shook with rage, at the thought of all the
trouble he had taken, and all the money he had spent in procuring this
title, only to find himself after all no serener than his neighbours.

But the cruellest cut of all was to hear that some of these vile
pretenders had obtained recognition of their false serenity at the
court of France, at the hands of a Medici, and she the head of his
house! He sent an envoy to Paris, who under pretext of asking payment
of certain moneys lent by him to Charles IX., was to see if the
queen–mother could be got to favour his views in the title question.
But Catherine replied to his first hint of the matter, that "she did
not see how she could do anything for the Grand Duke in that business,
seeing that he could give the King of Spain a million of gold at a
time, while with her and her son, on the other hand, he looked after so
small a matter as that which they owed." The envoy humbly observed that
the King of Spain had not done his master the ill–turn in the title
business which the Queen had done. "And I did it on purpose," rejoined
Catherine, "in return for the small respect the Duke has paid me and my
son, in committing assassinations beneath our eyes. And you may write
to your master, that he do nothing of the sort again, and specially
that he lay hand on no man within this realm; for the King, my son,
will not endure it." So Francesco took nothing by that motion.


He carried his complaints next to the Emperor Rodolph II.; begging,
that in the Diet shortly to be held, some curb might be put on the
usurpations and abuses, which threatened, he said, to make all equal,
and leave no distinctions of rank at all. The Duke of Urbino now
asserted that he too was as serene as his neighbours; and there was
reason to fear that the viceroy of Naples, and even the governor of
Milan, would soon be putting forth the same pretensions. He urged on
the consideration of the Emperor, that "the distinction of ranks and
precedences was so necessary and profoundly based in the very nature
of things, that even in hell there were found to be such distinctions
among the devils and the damned."[204] And one cannot but feel the
force of the argument in the mouth of Francesco, that what was good for
devils must be good for dukes.

But the Duke of Savoy was also making remonstrances to the Emperor.
He boasted his descent from the ancient family of Saxony; and argued,
remarkably enough, that this fact of German extraction ought to assure
him the primacy among all Italian dukes. And it is worthy of note, that
the Diet considered such a claim well–founded, and in their report
to the Emperor begged him "to remember that the Duke of Savoy was of
German origin, and for that reason to decree, that he should have
precedence over all the dukes of _that province_."—meaning thereby
simply Italy from the Alps to Calabria. The Duke of Ferrara also
sent envoys to the Emperor, imploring him to think a little of the
difference between his family and that of the Medici, and to let him at
least be "most illustrious," if he could do nothing better for him.

Rodolph, however, whose only object was, if possible, to keep them all
quiet, would say nothing further than, that in a matter of so great
importance, more mature consideration and longer thought was necessary.

Any attempt to unravel and detail all the intrigues, negotiations,
schemes, and machinations, to which this question of precedency gave
rise, would almost involve writing the official and court history of
Italy for nearly half a century. The election of popes was struggled
for, cardinals were created, royal marriages made and plotted,
alliances and hostilities entered upon, all with a view to this matter.
And treaties between one state and another chiefly turned on the
condition that one party should admit the "serenity" of the other.
Surely "low ambition and the pride of kings," never stooped to busy
themselves about "meaner things" than these silly and ridiculously
vain–glorious puerilities. It is curious to mark, how the means adopted
by the despots of Italy to enervate and degrade their people, acted
equally on themselves; and ensured, that the ruler of a nation of
fribbles and slaves, should be an eminent "representative man" of their
own order.


It is amusing to find, that Bianca had no sooner entered the magic
circle of the sacred brotherhood of sovereigns, than she too, as
though she had been "to the manner born," shaped herself to the ways
and thoughts of her new peers, and must needs have her troubles and
negotiations about her rank and style and dignity! If emperors could
smile at the ridicule of sovereign dukes, surely the commentary thus
supplied on Francesco's pathetic complaint, that even the devils in
hell have their proper rank and title, must have relaxed the grim
Hapsburg features a little! The case was this:—Don Cesare d'Este, it
was reported, was to marry the daughter of the Doge Niccolò da Ponte;
one of the conditions of the contract being that the bride was to be
crowned daughter of the Republic! Where was the use of giving Francesco
the title of "most serene," if every other was to be as serene as he?
And where was the compliment of making Bianca a daughter of St. Mark,
if the saint was going to have a whole family of daughters? Bianca sent
an envoy to Venice to remonstrate, and insist on her claim to be not
only the daughter, but the only daughter of St. Mark.

When Bianca's remonstrance was read by her envoy in the Senate,
those grave and reverend Seniors, Galluzzi[205] tells us, burst into
uncontrollable laughter. Reflecting, however, that the step taken
must be considered as a complaint of the sovereign of Tuscany against
their state, and that therefore some serious answer must be given to
it, they passed a censure on the secretary who had read this precious
document, for venturing to bring any such matter before them, declared
that they knew nothing of any such proposed marriage, and reminded
Bianca, that her quality of daughter of St. Mark did not confer upon
her any right whatsoever to interfere with the deliberations of the
Republic. The grand–ducal envoy strove to make the best of the matter
for his employers, by protesting that his mistress's jealousy on the
subject arose solely from the very high value she set on that honour,
and should be taken to indicate only the intensity of her affection and
respect for the Republic. But the Senate could not be restored to good
humour. The consciousness, perhaps, that a ridicule had been cast, even
by the laughter into which they had been surprised themselves, on the
daughtership of the Republic, helped to make them feel angry; and the
envoy was curtly answered, that his application was ill–considered,
untimely, and calculated to lead to unpleasant consequences. With which
almost menacing answer Bianca's messenger had to return to her.

On the 29th of March, in this same year, 1582, poor Giovanna's son
Filippo died in his fifth year. It was a severe blow to the Grand Duke.
But as, according to the etiquette of the Spanish court, Philip II. had
neither manifested nor permitted to be manifested any sign of grief
when _his_ first–born son died, Francesco thought that he would show
his royal breeding by imitating so bright an example. Bitter as the
loss was to him, therefore, he would not suffer a sigh to escape him,
and forbade all mourning whatsoever.[206] But the Tuscans, who had too
recently been made acquainted with a sovereign to have learnt the ways
and habits of the race, misunderstood their Duke's high–breeding; and
thinking simply that Francesco was not sorry for the infant's death,
proceeded to conclude, according to a course of things which _was_
familiar and intelligible to them, that Bianca had poisoned the child.

[Sidenote: A MOODY MATE.]

There is, however, not the slightest reason to suspect that anything of
the kind was the case. And it may even be doubted whether the death was
welcome to Bianca. It is true, that any hope she may have conceived of
being able to secure the succession for Don Antonio,—and she seems at
times to have formed schemes of the kind,—was rendered possible only by
this event. Barring any offspring which might afterwards be born either
to Ferdinando or Pietro, Antonio was now the only (reputed) descendant
of the house. But, on the other hand, the death of his son threw the
Grand Duke into a deeper gloom of melancholy and discontent than ever.
And Francesco was not an easy man to live with under such circumstances.

His repining often took the form of reproaches to Bianca for her
childlessness. And, assuredly, never were reproaches less deserved, if
an earnest desire for offspring, that would continue hoping against
hope, were any title to escape from them. Not a nostrum–monger was to
be heard of on either side of the Alps, that the unhappy woman did
not summon to her aid. With untiring perseverance and ever renascent
credulity, she essayed their prescriptions, whether mystical or
physical, with the result, it would seem, of very seriously impairing
her constitution. More than once she deceived her husband, and very
possibly was deceived herself, by false announcements of her pregnancy.
If, as it is stated,[207] she made Francesco believe that she had
suffered once or more from miscarriage during these years, she was of
course guilty of deceit, however much she may have been imposed upon by
the impostors who surrounded her. And the only intelligible motive of
such falsehood would seem to have been the notion, that by thus keeping
alive her husband's hope of having an heir by her, the danger that he
might perhaps seek to break his marriage with her, in order to unite
himself with some more fortunately circumstanced wife, might be avoided.

The principal residence of the unhappy couple at this period was
the solitary villa of Pratolino. The name will be familiar to most
travellers in Italy; for the pretty park on the slope of the Apennine,
with its magnificent view of the vale of Arno and distant Florence
far beneath it, has become a favourite haunt of Florentine pic–nic
parties. And the bright green glades, cool mountain air, and fine old
trees, make the scenery more like that of English pleasure grounds than
perhaps any other spot in Italy.

But the dwelling in which the moody Duke hid himself and his wife from
the hate–envenomed eyes of his subjects, exists no longer. Of the
pleasure villa, the title of which, like that of many another pleasure
scheme, turned out to be so mocking a satire on the designer of stone
and mortar happiness, not one block remains upon another. It was
situated about eight miles from Florence, in the direction of Bologna,
a distance sufficient to secure to Francesco perfect retirement, and
that total neglect of all state business and cares in which he indulged
during the latter years of his reign. The contemporary accounts[208]
which have come down to us of the manner of life he led, shut up
in his solitary villa with the unhappy Bianca, are so strange, as
to warrant us in concluding that some touch of insanity must have
mingled in the disastrously combined elements of his mental and
physical constitution. The extraordinary excesses recorded as having
been habitual to him are more like the freaks of a madman than the
indulgences of a voluptuary.

[Sidenote: DUCAL HABITS.]

We hear of his abuse of distilled waters and elixirs; his "immoderate
and pernicious familiarity[209] with oil of vitriol, and too frequent
use of distilled cinnamon water." His food was always compounded with
"hot spices, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper." He would take before
eating, during his meal, and after it, a quantity of raw eggs, filled
with the hot red pepper of Spain. He was fond of the most indigestible
kinds of food, and would eat to excess of raw garlic and capsicums,
raw onions, radishes, leeks, and roots of various sorts, with enormous
quantities of the strongest cheese. His wine was always of the most
fiery and heady sorts. And when he had heated himself beyond endurance
with inordinate quantities of such burning liquors and spices, and
loaded his stomach with such crudities, he would drink large quantities
of iced water, plunge his head and hands in snow, and go to bed in iced
sheets. This latter practice was his constant habit; and the writer of
the letter cited above says that he did so in imitation of Prospero
Colonna and other men of note of that time,—a not improbable trait
in the character of a man who refused to mourn his child's death in
imitation of another great man.

The characteristic manifestations of his mental condition the while,
were, if unhappily less extraordinary, yet quite as unhealthy as his
bodily habits. A dark heavy melancholy, ever and anon blazing out in
fits of savage ferocity, seemed to grow upon him from day to day. And,
upon the whole, he must at this period have been as dangerous and
intolerable an animal to live with as can well be imagined.

And if now, once again, we suppose Bianca to cast up her accounts and
"take stock" of her position, shut up in this lonely Apennine villa,
with a half–mad savage for her mate, conscious of having earned the
bitterest hatred and execrations of an entire people, and tormented
with unceasing repining for the one unattainable blessing, which should
have realised, or seemed to realise, some gain out of so much sin and
suffering,—perhaps she may have begun to have misgivings as to the
measure and value of her "success."


 The family feeling in Italy.—Who shall be the heir?—Bianca at
 Cerreto.—Camilla de' Martelli.—Don Pietro on the watch.—Bianca at her
 tricks again.—The Cardinal comes to look after matters.—Was Francesco
 dupe or accomplice?—Bianca's comedy becomes a very broad farce.—A
 "Villegiatura" at Poggio–a–Cajano.—The Cardinal wins the game.

The death of the child Filippo was a not less important event to the
Cardinal Ferdinando, than to Bianca and Francesco. Ferdinando would
have been well content to see the succession of his family pass in due
course to a legitimate heir of his elder brother, born of a mother of
princely rank. Possibly he might even have been contented if there
could have been a legitimately born heir by Bianca. His ambition was
wholly for the family, the clan, the race whose name he bore. The
excess of this vice, or virtue, is very remarkably characteristic of
the Italian idiosyncrasy. It marks every page of the entire course of
Italian history, and indeed may be said to constitute a large portion
of it. Ferdinando lived for the advancement of the Medicean fortunes
and greatness. His feelings and his crimes were prompted by this his
master passion; and his virtues, such as they were, of decorousness,
moderation, and long–suffering forbearance under his brother's
provocations, were practised for the same sake.

Bianca manifested, as we have seen, a similar tendency. The first
fruits of the great rise in the world, which made her a prince's
"cosa," were dedicated to promote the greatness of the Cappello family.
The large sums, grasped in Florence, as the price of degradation, fraud
and venality, were despatched to the still dear Venice, which had
outlawed her, and to the father, who had first neglected her and then
put a price upon her husband's head, not assuredly from tender filial
affection, but that a new Cappello palace might be purchased, and the
Cappello name be made great in Venice.

This constantly recurring feeling, which at bottom is but the
expression of an intensified individuality, will be found to lie at the
root of Italian national disaster; and to be an operating cause, to a
greater degree probably than any other circumstance, of the secular
impossibility—or extreme difficulty, let us more hopefully say—of
constructing a nation out of the materials bequeathed by the Italian
middle ages to modern times. The intense and exclusive devotion to
family in the men who have ancestors, and the same feeling translated
into devotion equally intense and exclusive to a municipality, in
the men who have none, act as a mutually repellent force on the
constituent parts of society, are a dissolvent instead of a uniting and
constructive influence, and are deadly to all national patriotism.

Ferdinando then asked only, that the name and greatness of his family
should be perpetuated by a regular duly born heir to his eldest
brother. And the death of the little Filippo was to him a misfortune
of the most fatal kind. For now again the danger that the wretched
purchased base–born brat they called Antonio, might become the
successor to all the honours, wealth, and greatness of the extinct
Medici, became imminent. And the idea was utterly intolerable. Rather
than that ... anything, that might be necessary to prevent it!

[Sidenote: DON ANTONIO.]

The conduct of Francesco with reference to Don Antonio after Filippo's
death was such as to justify in the strongest manner the Cardinal's
misgivings and suspicions respecting his brother's, and more especially
Bianca's intentions concerning him. The estates settled on him were
increased to the value of sixty thousand scudi a year. A magnificent
villa, and grand palace in the city were prepared for his use. Worse
still, Francesco had obtained from the king of Spain that the estates
purchased for this fortunate youth in the kingdom of Naples should be
erected into a principality. And Don Antonio accordingly, now took the
style and title of a Prince, and assumed palpably the next place after
the sovereign in the eyes of the Florentines.

These circumstances induced the Cardinal in the course of the year
1585, to think seriously of obtaining a dispensation, to enable him
to quit the priesthood, give up his cardinal's hat, and marry. Before
taking this extreme step however, he determined on endeavouring, if
possible, to persuade his brother, Don Pietro, to marry. This was very
difficult to do. For though Pietro hated his eldest brother and Bianca
quite well enough to be ready to do his best to counteract their plans,
he cared nothing for the family name or greatness; and the extreme
profligacy of his life made marriage extremely distasteful to him. He
alleged in reply to the Cardinal's instances, that the vow he had made
to the Virgin, on the occasion of murdering his wife, stood in the
way. He had solemnly promised not to marry again, and could not charge
his conscience with the breach of so solemn a vow. He added, to save
trouble, that no theologian would succeed in persuading him,[210] that
the engagement so undertaken was not valid. Nevertheless, he at last
consented to do as the Cardinal would have him; and accordingly set
on foot negotiations for obtaining the hand of a lady of the Spanish
court. Having done this much however, he seemed to be in no hurry to
conclude the matter, and continued his usual dissolute life in Florence.

At length, about the middle of November, 1585, he so far yielded to the
urgent representations of the Cardinal, as to announce his intention
of starting for Spain, to conclude in person the arrangements for his
marriage. But about a month later, while he was still waiting for the
passage of the Spanish galleons, the news was suddenly spread over
Tuscany, that the Grand Duchess had had a miscarriage while staying at
Cerreto. Cerreto was a remote villa belonging to the Grand Duke, in the
hills, near Empoli, in the lower Valdarno. Some writers assert, that it
was in this lonely old castle, and not at Poggio Imperiale, that Paolo
Giordano Orsini murdered Isabella. At all events, the place was well
adapted for the perpetration of such a deed; and it would seem to have
no recommendation save its remoteness, which could have induced Bianca
to select it as the scene of her confinement.

This new attempt convinced both the younger brothers of the absolute
necessity of keeping the strictest possible watch on Bianca and
the Grand Duke. It was pretty clear indeed, that the Grand Duchess
only awaited a good opportunity for a repetition of the farce so
successfully played at the birth of Don Antonio. This time it had
for some reason failed. The mother of the child provided for the
contemplated fraud may have miscarried;—the child may have died; or
some other accident of the kind have made it necessary that Bianca
should terminate her comedy thus ineffectually. But there was every
reason to fear that the attempt would be repeated, and very possibly
with better success.


Pietro therefore determined to defer his departure; and the Cardinal,
when he heard his reasons for doing so, fully approved of his remaining
in Florence, till they could have an opportunity of consulting together
on the subject.

This was furnished them early in the following year, 1586, on the
occasion of the marriage of Virginia de' Medici, the daughter of Cosmo
by his wife Camilla de' Martelli, with Don Cesare d'Este. Virginia was
thus half–sister to Francesco, Ferdinando, and Pietro, and the Cardinal
was to come to Florence to be present at the ceremony. The marriage was
accompanied by more than usual splendour. But the only circumstance
that excited[211] the interest of the Florentines in the matter, was
to see their old Grand Duchess, poor Camilla Martelli, still very
beautiful, appearing once again among them, as if risen from the grave.
Francesco had permitted her to come out from her nunnery prison, in
which he had kept her now twelve years, to be present at the marriage
of her daughter. And all Florence was disgusted and astonished, as far
as any fresh atrocity on the part of Francesco could astonish it, when
the unhappy lady was, at the conclusion of the ceremony, compelled to
return to her cell.

Ferdinando, who had frequently endeavoured in vain to induce his
brother to mitigate the rigour of her imprisonment, was much angered
by this new cruelty. His disgust was increased by the Duke's curt
refusal to lend him any money; and he returned to Rome with feelings
as hostile to his brother as they had ever been; but not before he had
arranged with Don Pietro that he should remain in Florence to watch
the proceedings of Bianca and the Grand Duke. The Cerreto event was
rendered much more important in their eyes, by the circumstance of the
Duke's having, by a formal circular, announced the pregnancy of the
Grand Duchess and its unfortunate termination to all the friends and
connections of the family. Of what use was it, they asked, to publish
the news of a misfortune of such a nature? Evidently it was intended
only to keep alive in the minds of those addressed, the expectation
that Bianca might have another confinement, and thus prepare the way
for a new fraud.

To guard against this was, as the Cardinal felt, paramount to all
other considerations. Anxious, therefore, as he had been that Don
Pietro should proceed to Spain, to conclude the arrangements for his
own marriage, he judged it yet more important that he should for the
present remain at Florence.

And it was not long before the suspicions, which had dictated this
surveillance, were justified by the event.

In the April of 1586, reports began to be spread that the Grand Duchess
was again pregnant. And on the 15th of that month Don Pietro wrote to
the Cardinal as follows:—[212]

[Sidenote: PIETRO'S LETTER.]

"I learned from a sure source that Pellegrina"—Bianca's daughter
by Bonaventuri, born, as the reader may remember, shortly after her
arrival in Florence,—"was with child; and that the fact was kept secret
with the greatest care. Some excuse has been found for sending abroad
the Count Ulisse,"—Pellegrina's husband, Ulisse Bentivoglio,—"in
order that his wife might naturally, and without giving any cause for
suspicion, be brought to stay in the palace during his absence. And
I have already found out, that in the rooms which it is intended to
assign to her, there are no end of hiding–places, and secret stairs
communicating with the chamber of the Grand Duchess. All which leaves
very little doubt as to this woman's intention. Now, having had ground
to fear that some knowledge of Pellegrina's being with child had got
abroad, they have told the public that she has miscarried. And this
circumstance leads me to feel the more sure of the game she is bent
on. And it strikes me, that they have so favourable a combination of
person, place, and good–will for the accomplishment of their end, that
my presence here can do little to prevent it. For, as to the place,
the numerous means of ingress and egress, render it the most adapted
for their purpose that could be imagined. As for the person, having
Pellegrina with child, ready there to their hand, they may accomplish
their object at any moment that is most convenient. And as for good
will, there can be no doubt that the Grand Duke would far rather be
succeeded on the throne by the grandchild of his wife, than by one in
whom he has no interest. It is for your Eminence to judge whether under
these circumstances my presence here can be of any use; and whether
indeed it may not be more harmful than otherwise; seeing that they will
assuredly bring their scheme to bear; and if I am compelled to be here
and to look on in silence, the world will consider that a ground for
believing the pregnancy of the Grand Duchess to be genuine."

The fact was that the Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess did everything
they could think of to make remaining at Florence intolerable to Don
Pietro. The courtiers were encouraged to treat him in every possible
way with disrespect and insolence. A Spanish mistress, who was living
with him at Florence, was continually insulted by Bianca. The Grand
Duke's own manner was so brutal to him, that Pietro avoided ever being
seen by him. All this torment kept Pietro, who was a passionate man,
and unused to the Cardinal's habits of self–command and dissimulation,
in such a state of irritation, that he was anxious only to escape
from Florence. "I remain here," he wrote to the Cardinal, "with such
loathing, that any other place however wretched would be a Paradise to
me in comparison." And he told him how his suspicions were confirmed,
and at the same time his presence rendered of small avail, by the
placing of new sentinels in various parts of the palace, the erection
of gates on the staircases, and the total inaccessibility of the Grand
Duke and Grand Duchess.

The Cardinal still urged him to arm himself with patience, and remain
at his post, till they should have an opportunity of consulting
together upon the subject in person. "The pregnancy of Pellegrina,"
he wrote, "gives me less suspicion than that of any other woman. For
her lying–in would be necessarily attended with so many circumstances
of publicity, with regard to time, place, number, and quality of
assistants, &c., that it would seem impossible to turn it to account
for the purpose in question. Nevertheless, it is well to keep a
watchful eye upon her; but not with such exclusive attention as to
prevent you from looking elsewhere. For those who are bent on similar
frauds have need rather of the aid of the lowest classes of society,
whose children come into the world at street corners."


At last, however, Don Pietro's letters urging the Cardinal to consent
to his leaving Florence became so pressing, concluding as they did
with a hint, that if he were kept there any longer, "something might
happen which his Eminence might be very sorry for, when it was too late
to help it," that Ferdinando thought it best to agree to his going to
Spain. It was determined, however, that before his departure he should
find some means of letting the Grand Duke and Duchess know that they
were watched, and thus warning them, that any attempt to tamper with
the succession of the Duchy would not pass unobserved or undisputed.

Accordingly, when it happened that Bianca, who was extremely anxious
to get rid of her brother–in–law, sent him notice that the Spanish
galleons were at Leghorn, and that, if he wished for a passage, it
behoved him to start, he took the opportunity of waiting upon her;
and in reply to her intimation, said that he should consider himself
failing in the duty he owed her Highness if he were not to wait until
her confinement were over, especially as the Cardinal had made a great
point of his paying her that attention. Bianca replied that she really
did not think for her part that she was with child; that the Grand
Duke indeed had got it into his head that she was so, and could not
be persuaded otherwise; that it was true enough that she was far from
well; but that, if she really were with child, she was certainly only
in the third month; and that whatever the event might be, she would
take care that he and the Cardinal should be made acquainted with it

In the letter, in which Pietro gives the Cardinal an account of this
interview,[213] he writes: "I watched most closely her manner and the
changes of her countenance, which were exceedingly visible. She changed
colour in the most violent manner. It seems to me that I have done my
part of the business, and have left such a fly in her ear, that she
will either find herself forced to declare herself shortly, or that
she will have the greatest difficulty in bringing her scheme to a good

It was not long before the Cardinal came himself to Florence, to see
how matters were going on, much to the annoyance of the Grand Duke.
He brought with him his cousin, Don Luigi di Toledo; and, by his
means, took care to pour into Francesco's ear all the sinister rumours
which were, he said, afloat respecting Bianca's pregnancy. He made
Don Luigi tell him, as from himself, that unpleasant things had been
said at the court of Spain; and pointed out to him, that, under these
circumstances, his honour absolutely required that the birth of a
prince, if, indeed, one was about to be born, should be so managed as
to remove all possibility of suspicion and slander.

The Grand Duke became more and more irritated from day to day, as
these rumours and observations were forced upon him. He grew restless
and agitated; and conceived a more bitter hatred than ever against
Ferdinando, who was, as he believed, with a near approach to truth,
the principal, if not the only mover of it all. But it is remarkable,
as Galluzzi observes, that the more the Grand Duke became savage and
brutal in his manner to the Cardinal, the more profuse was Bianca in
graciousness and affability, and in the apparent openness with which
she spoke to him of her hopes or fears.


Leaving matters in this train, the Cardinal returned to Rome; while,
according to Florentine court authorities, Bianca's pregnancy continued
to proceed towards its conclusion in the most satisfactory manner. The
Grand Duke's conduct during this time makes it very difficult to judge
whether he sincerely believed that the Grand Duchess was about to give
him an heir at last, or whether he was all the time contemplating a
second performance of the farce which took place at the birth of Don
Antonio, of which he had been at first the dupe, but in which he had
become afterwards the accomplice;—or, finally, whether both these
suppositions were true, so that, if his sincere hopes of a child by
Bianca should be disappointed, he was ready to supply the desideratum
by a fraud. He lived in a perpetual agitation of mind, and showed a
degree of irritation and annoyance at the notice which the Cardinal's
manœuvres had drawn upon the doings at the Pitti, that, joined to his
former conduct, is suspicious. On the other hand, he acted in many
respects as if he were sincere in the matter.

It is also to be observed that, possibly enough, Bianca may have been
sincere on this occasion; especially as we know she never abandoned her
hopes, and was always trying new means to bring about her desire. She
seems to have professed to be very doubtful on the subject to the last.
But some writers insinuate, that while she expressed doubts to the
Cardinal, she spoke in an entirely different manner to her husband.

Meantime, the daily reports in Florence were the amusement of
the citizens, and the bulletins made Francesco and his hopes the
laughing–stock of all Italy.

Francesco had ordered that all the chiefs of the different
magistracies, the Archbishop of Florence, and the Bishop Abbioso,
should be present at the birth. And this, it must be owned, looks very
much as if he were sincere in his expectations, either duped by Bianca,
as in the former case, or partaking in her error. He also wrote to the
Cardinal, though in very ungracious terms, to invite his presence at
Florence on the occasion. "Since the promotion (of Cardinals) is over,"
he wrote, "and there is nothing further to detain your Eminence in
Rome, I will not neglect to tell you that the Grand Duchess advances
in her pregnancy visibly from day to day, and with greater hope of a
fortunate issue than ever. You can therefore come, if it so please you,
and observe all that takes place. You have still the time to do so, and
cannot now say afterwards, that you were left in ignorance upon the

But in answer to this hostilely worded invitation, and to a second
letter written in the same tone, the Cardinal replied by an angry
letter, absolutely refusing to come or to send any one to Florence on
his behalf, "as he had no wish to see or hear more in the matter than
the Grand Duke did himself, seeing that his Highness was the person
chiefly interested."

That this was false we know with certainty from the Cardinal's
correspondence with his brother, Don Pietro. He had been extremely
anxious to obtain a better guarantee for the truth respecting the issue
of Bianca's pregnancy than the Grand Duke's testimony. What then
was the cause of this sudden change of tone? Are we to suppose that
he had already taken his measures for being informed of the truth so
satisfactorily as to feel that his own presence in Florence could be of
no further use? Or had he convinced himself that no fraud was on this
occasion intended?


And thus matters went on till December, in the year 1586, the time
when, according to Bianca's calculations, her confinement ought to be
near at hand. And all was still doubt and suspense. The four court
physicians held different opinions on the great question. The highest
obstetric authorities, summoned from all parts of Italy, were equally
far from being unanimous. The courtiers, however, daily perceived
increasing signs of the approach of the wished–for event. The Bishop
Abbioso certified to having felt the movement of the expected stranger.
His rivals in court favour strove to better his bidding for the
sovereign's good graces by boldly predicting twins. Francesco kept
horses ready saddled, and couriers booted, to carry the glad tidings in
different directions the instant his hopes should be fulfilled. And all
the Florence gossips the while were amusing themselves at the expense
of the much hated prince, and the still more detested "witch," his
wife, by unceasing volleys of satires, pasquinades, and unseemly jests.
Till one fine morning the horses were unsaddled, the couriers permitted
to retire, and the Florentines were informed that, after a fit of colic
which had been so severe as to endanger her life, the person of the
Grand Duchess had resumed its usual form.

It is impossible to arrive at any certainty of the truth respecting
this incident of Bianca's career. Bearing in mind, however, her
previous performances, and the very potent reasons she had to find in
some way an heir for the duchy,—remembering also Francesco's evident
annoyance at the attention drawn to the matter by his brothers, and
the arrangements made at the palace, the probability seems to be, that
it was intended to introduce a supposititious child, as on the former
occasion; that the vigilance and dexterity of the Cardinal compelled
the sovereign conspirators to abandon the scheme as too dangerous;
and that all Francesco's measures for security, publicity, and
authenticating the birth, were merely blinds, under cover of which the
tentative might be abandoned.

Soon after this event the Grand Duke and the Cardinal became once
more apparently reconciled by the good offices of the Archbishop of
Florence. Correspondence was resumed on a friendly footing; and now
that there was no further question of the Grand Duke's having an heir,
the two brothers could act together in schemes for the marriage of Don
Pietro, who was all this time at the court of Spain, getting deeper
every day into debt and into infamy by the outrageous profligacy of
his conduct, and pretending to be taking steps, but in reality doing
nothing, towards making some suitable marriage. Bianca, also, was,
as she had never ceased to be since her marriage, all amiability and
affability towards Ferdinando; and it was agreed that he should come to
Florence, to visit his brother and sister–in–law, at the time of the
"villeggiatura," the following September.


This "villeggiatura,"—the autumnal country–life portion of a
town–loving Italian's year, when landed proprietors leave the city
"palazzo," which is their family seat and residence, to spend a
month, or perhaps two, at their villa, and among their vineyards,
and invite their friends to pass the "villeggiatura" with them, as an
Englishman fills his house at Christmas,—this villeggiatura to which
Ferdinando was invited by Francesco and Bianca, was to take place at
Poggio–a–Cajano, one of the Grand Duke's numerous country residences.
Notwithstanding its name—"Poggio,"—a hill, it is a low–lying spot on
the banks of the Ombrone, at the foot of Monte Albano, about half
way between Florence and Pistoia. The pleasure–grounds around the
house are intersected by a great number of canals, many of which can
hardly be correctly called streams, and altogether there is a great
deal of water, more or less approaching to a stagnant condition in
the immediate neighbourhood. It is, in short, a place which would be
at once pronounced as very ineligible for an autumnal residence under
an Italian sun, by any one possessed of the smallest smattering of
sanitary science.

The Cardinal did not arrive in Florence till the beginning of October.
He was received with all demonstrations of the most affectionate
welcome; and the party proceeded at once, as had been planned, to
Poggio–a–Cajano. The Archbishop of Florence, who had on more than one
occasion acted as a mediator between the two brothers, accompanied
them. The days, we read, were passed in sport among the surrounding
hills and marshes, which abounded in game; and the evenings in
conversations, in which the Archbishop and Bianca, who strove,
apparently, in every way to render herself agreeable to her guest,
did all they could to conciliate and soothe the two evil, though so
different, natures of those brothers Medici.

The days that thus passed, however, could have been but very few. And
the remainder of the strange story, if restricted to such facts as are
certain, and universally admitted, may be told with a brevity that will
not appear more abrupt to the reader, than were the events sudden and
startling to those who witnessed them.

On the 19th of October, about nine o'clock in the evening, the Grand
Duke Francesco died. And on the following morning—(writers differ about
the hour)—Bianca followed him.

Ferdinando succeeded without disturbance to the throne. Francesco was
interred, by his orders, with all due pomp in the family mausoleum,
under the dome of San Lorenzo; and Bianca was, also by his orders,
thrown, wrapped in a sheet, into the common receptacle for the bodies
of the poor, under the nave of that church.

These are the entire ascertainable facts of the case. But it will be
interesting to examine the different opinions which have prevailed
respecting them among Florentine historians; and, after weighing their
conjectures, to judge for ourselves as to the balance of probabilities
for or against them.


 Three hypotheses respecting the deaths of Francesco and Bianca—The
 official version of the story—The novelist's version of the story—A
 third possibility—Circumstances that followed the two deaths—Bianca's
 grave; and epitaphs for it by the Florentines—Ferdinand's final

As the record of all that can claim to be undoubted fact in the
history of these strange events is startlingly brief, so would an
account of all the suppositions, speculations, and conjectures, to
which they have given rise, in perpetually succeeding crops from
that time to this, be interminably long. Historians, apologists,
antiquarians, archive–diggers, dramatists, novelists, have discussed
and re–discussed the matter, settled it in different ways, according
to their partialities or dispositions, and made up their minds to one
or the other theory. But the only real result of their labours is the
certainty, that the matter must rest in total uncertainty ever more,
and that each reader must estimate for himself the probabilities of the
case according to his own views and theories of human character, and
its springs of action.

The different opinions that have been held respecting these mysterious
deaths, may be reduced to the following three distinct hypotheses.

First. The Grand Duke died of a tertian fever, caught by exposing
himself to great fatigue under the autumnal sun, and rendered fatal by
his refusal to submit to proper medical treatment, and his adoption in
its place of a most preposterous system of ice–cold drinks and other
applications, all acting on a constitution already ruined by previous
excesses. Bianca died of a similar complaint, rendered fatal in her
case also by the permanent mischief her system had suffered from all
the tricks she had played upon it.

Second hypothesis. Bianca, who was in the habit of preparing, with her
own hands, a certain tart or pastry of which the Grand Duke was fond,
introduced poison into this dish, and, at supper, presented it to the
Cardinal. The Cardinal declined to eat of it, being warned of the
danger, add some, by the changing colour of the stone in a ring he wore
for this purpose. But while the attention of Bianca was occupied with
the Cardinal, the Grand Duke helped himself to some of his favourite
dish, and before his wife could interfere to prevent him, had eaten a
sufficient quantity to prove fatal. Bianca, seeing and comprehending at
a glance all the consequences of this fatal blunder, proceeded to eat
also of the poisoned food, thus at once creating a strong presumption
against her own guilt, and avoiding all the evils, which she knew but
too well would overwhelm her, if she survived her husband, by sharing
his fate.

Third hypothesis. Francesco and Bianca both died by poison. But the
poisoner was the Cardinal; who, while his victims were dying, prevented
all access to them, and who was the person chiefly and beneficially
interested in their death.


The first version is of course that of the accredited and official
historians.[215] Galluzzi, in mentioning the second supposition as
that which had been popularly believed, says, that it was so only by
those who were ignorant of the real facts of the case. But Galluzzi
wrote his history by commission of the Grand Duke Peter Leopold,
having been selected for the purpose, in consequence of the too great
freedom, and too indiscreet disclosures of the history written by
Martinetti,[216] and never published: because the Grand Duke being
displeased with it on the above account, withdrew his patronage from
the author, and transferred it to Galluzzi. And in histories written
under these circumstances, sovereign princes commit no murders; or, if
that is, as in the case of the Medici, unattainable by the most courtly
writer, at all events, as few as possible.

Galluzzi, however, prints the following letter, which, _he says_, was
written on the 16th of October to Rome. He does not tell us who was the

"The Grand Duke has had two tertian fevers, one after the other; in
fact, continual fever. He suffers from extreme thirst. Nevertheless,
thus far the symptoms are favourable as regards ultimate recovery. The
fourth and seventh days have been favourable, with a good perspiration;
and we hope to go on improving. But he must not commit any imprudence;
and, its being autumn, makes us fear that the recovery may be tedious.
Therefore, cause prayers to be put up; and the more, because the Grand
Duchess also has nearly the same malady, which increases the Grand
Duke's sufferings, because she cannot attend him, and see to nursing

If this is a genuine letter, written on the 16th, it would be worth
something towards deciding the question in favour of the first
hypothesis. But it seems to be contradicted by a passage in that very
curious document, previously cited, which Guerrazzi has printed at
length in the notes to his "Isabella Orsini." This author himself,
assuredly not prejudiced in favour of the Medici, speaking of this
very important letter, which he states to be previously inedited, and
generally unknown, and which is preserved in the Imperial Library at
Paris, under the No. 10, O 74, says, "From this letter, evidently
written by a person, satirical rather than otherwise, and but little
favourable to the Medici, and especially to Francesco and to Bianca
Capello, we learn how false is the notion that they were poisoned. The
kind of life led by them needed no aid to insure their speedy death,
since it is easy to perceive that they were in the habit of poisoning
themselves daily."

[Sidenote: THE DUKE'S DEATH.]

I cannot, however, admit that the document in question proves any
such thing. It proves certainly that its author, Giovanni Vettorio
Soderini, writing apparently very shortly after the events, professes
to accept, as it should seem, the statement officially put forth.
Yet even this is hardly clear from the very strange manner and
phraseology of the letter, which in its opening sentences appears
intended to convey some meaning to the writer's correspondent, which
is hidden from us. It runs thus: "When in these last days Death rode
on his thin and ill–conditioned charger to invest himself with the
title of Great.[217] Death obtained at Rome the title of Great, and
having obtained this most indecent title, he rode in haste towards
Poggio–a–Cajano, and there with irresistible force and equal valour,
assaulted the Great Tuscan of Florence and Siena, and brought him down
on the 19th of October, 1587, four and a half hours after sunset, and
at forty–seven years of age deprived him of life, after strange and
unusual writhings,[218] and much howling and groaning. He remained
speechless from after dinner till the moment when he was seized with a
most burning fever. Signor Pandolfo de' Bardi and Signor Troiano Boba
have always asserted that he had caught a pleurisy from too great and
unwonted fatigue,"[219] rendered fatal, the writer goes on to say, by
the strange and pernicious habits of life indulged in by the Grand
Duke, which the letter proceeds to describe at great length.

Now here, in any case, the writer only repeats what the two courtiers
Pandolfo de' Bardi, and Troiano Boba said, and does not pretend to
any original knowledge on the subject. But may it not be possible
that those strange opening sentences may be meant to convey a meaning
which the writer dared not express clearly. If Ferdinando poisoned his
brother, he rode from Rome to Poggio–a–Cajano to invest himself with
the title of Great. If poison was prepared, or other arrangements for
carrying out the crime were made at Rome, then he may be said to have
obtained at Rome the title of Great, and it may be added that the title
was "a most indecent one."

But further, this account of the death seems to contradict the
statement of the letter published by Galluzzi, and cited above.
The expressions seem to be incompatible with the supposition of an
illness of several days. Finally, the mention of "strange and unusual
contortions and much howling and groaning," seem to indicate that some
other cause of death than the natural result of a pleurisy was in the
writer's mind.

It is further stated, in support of the supposition, that the death
was natural, that the bodies were opened and examined after death;
that of Bianca in the presence of her daughter and son–in–law. To this
it may be remarked in the first place, that the medical science of
the time was wholly incompetent to ascertain the cause of death from
a post–mortem examination, as will be remarkably exemplified in the
following pages of the life of Elizabetta Sirani. In the next place the
examiners were the court physicians, in the pay and in the power of the
new sovereign. And as to the presence of Pellegrina and Bentivoglio,
the fact that Ferdinando should have sought to draw an evidence of his
innocence of any foul practice from a circumstance so utterly useless
and inconclusive as the presence of two persons wholly ignorant of
anatomy and the action of poisons on the body, is rather a presumption
against him than otherwise. He must have known perfectly well that had
Bianca died by any poison whatever, Pellegrina and Bentivoglio could
have been none the wiser for seeing the body opened.

[Sidenote: "LA PESSIMA BIANCA."]

In favour of either the second or third hypothesis there is no direct
evidence whatever. If Ferdinando de' Medici had to be tried for
the murder, he must according to all the evidence we have, be most
undoubtedly acquitted. But nobody at the time seems to have believed in
the two deaths having happened from natural causes. Then the popular
hypothesis was the second. Notwithstanding the certificates of court
physicians, the statements of the progress of the malady, and the
post–mortem examinations, people found it very difficult to believe
that two such opportune deaths should occur all but simultaneously
by natural causes, the assigned nature of which did not admit of any
question of contagion. If anybody was so unlucky as to have conceived
the idea, that this death might have "come riding" to Poggio–a–Cajano
from Rome, of course he very carefully suppressed all utterance of it.
But it was universally believed that Bianca was capable of any amount
of treachery, craft, and crime. The story of the poisoned pastry,
and the dramatic events it gave rise to, made exactly one of those
narratives, rich in varied emotions and in retributive justice, which
storytellers like to tell, and their audience like to hear. And it was
perfectly safe to cast as much odium as any brain could imagine on the
hated Bianca. To do so indeed was to fall in with the court humour, and
to share the feelings of the new sovereign, who would never speak of
her, or permit her to be spoken of as the late Grand Duchess, and who
never himself named her otherwise, than as "the wretch Bianca,"—_la
pessima Bianca_.[220]

The second hypothesis therefore was the popular one among those who
could not accept the official account of the matter as credible, and
has continued to be the received version with the numerous novelists
and dramatists who have made increment of the tragedy.

In favour of the third, it has been already admitted that no tittle of
_direct_ evidence can be produced. The value of the guess hazarded at
the meaning conveyed in those enigmatical phrases at the commencement
of Signor Soderini's letter will be different to different minds.
Signor Guerrazzi, the discoverer and first editor of this extraordinary
letter, has evidently not been struck by the idea that any such sense
could be seen in the words. On the contrary, he considers the letter
as conclusive against the poisoning, either by the Cardinal or by
Bianca. But it may be stated on the other hand, that the interpretation
above suggested has seemed probable to other Italians versed in the
history of the time, and practised in extracting their secrets from the
wrappages in which writers who lived under the survey of unscrupulous
despots were commonly wont to conceal their meaning.

Further, in a subsequent part of this same letter, which is of great
length, occupying no less than nineteen closely printed post octavo
pages, there are statements which seem hardly compatible with the
supposition that Francesco died of an illness, which gradually reached
its conclusion at the end of several days.

"He—the Grand Duke—made no will either before, or at this time.[221]
Only he signed an order for fifty thousand crowns to be distributed
among the court servants. Father Maranto confessed him; and he tells
me, that the Grand Duke did not specify the number of crowns to be
distributed, but desired in general terms, that the servants should
be remunerated, and that it grieved him that he could not live long
enough to do it himself. The confessor _was not in time_ to remind him,
by asking if he wished to make any further provision for his friends;
for he shut his eyes, and could neither move his tongue, nor shake his

Surely all these evidences of haste, and deficiency of time for the
arrangement of matters, which the dying man professes his wish to
have settled, if a few more moments had been allowed him, are scarcely
compatible with the supposition of an illness of several days.


At a subsequent page of his letter, Signor Soderini drops a few words
respecting the new Grand Duke's manner some hours after the death of
Francesco, which are not without their significance. He makes the
number of hours which elapsed between the two deaths eleven only.
Francesco's death at "four hours and a half after sunset," would have
taken place according to our mode of keeping time between nine and ten.
And at three in the morning, says the letter, the Cardinal left Bianca
still living, "and at half–past seven arrived at the Prato gate." (He
was therefore four hours and a half travelling twelve miles);—"where
meeting the first Captain of the Lancers, he said doubtingly,[222] with
fear, and a trembling voice,—as I suppose by reason of the suddenness
of the change,—'Henceforward, Captain, you must be as faithful to me,
as you have hitherto been to my brother.'"

Signor Soderini may attribute, since he deemed it safest to do so, the
new Duke's trepidation and fear–marked manner to an innocent cause. But
it can hardly but be felt, that such a manner is a weight in the scale
against a man, when the probabilities of his having come fresh from the
perpetration of fratricide are being balanced.

Then the question of motives must be taken into consideration; and it
must be seen at once that the reasons Ferdinando had for wishing Bianca
removed were of the very strongest nature. For the last ten years and
more, she had been a constant thorn in his side, the ever recurring
difficulty in all his schemes for aggrandising the family, the wreck
of all his strivings for the support of the decorum and respectability
of the Medicean name, and the ground of discord and hatred between
him and his brother. She had made the Grand Duke the laughing–stock
of Italy, and odious as well as contemptible to his own subjects.
Her blood–stained practising had succeeded in foisting one base–born
plebeian of alien blood into the family. She was continually attempting
still worse frauds to wrong him of his birthright; and though by the
exertion of extreme vigilance her schemes had been hitherto foiled,
what possible security, short of her death, could be had against
the success of future attempts of the same sort. A De Medici, and a
sixteenth century Cardinal may well have persuaded himself that he was
justified under the circumstances, in adopting the only possible means
of providing against such treason, pregnant with such results.

But his brother? Can it be shown that Ferdinando had sufficient motive
to wish his brother's death, as to favour the probability that he was
his murderer? It can only be said, that there was old hate between
them, constantly stimulated and embittered by fresh provocations of the
most galling sort on the part of the elder brother; hate, made more
dangerous by the necessity for carefully suppressing all manifestation
of it for long years of self–restraining dissimulation; that from
the manner in which Francesco had received the proposals of a second
marriage after the death of his first wife, there was very little room
to hope that Bianca's death would be followed by any marriage, which
might put the prospects of the family on a satisfactory footing; that
to have taken off Bianca and left her husband alive would have been an
exceedingly dangerous step, for _then_ the inquiries, the suspicions,
the post–mortem examinations, and the investigations, would, of course,
have been of a very different sort, and, under the circumstances, very
difficult to deal with; that, finally, last, though far from least,
Ferdinando was a De Medici.

[Sidenote: HER BURIAL.]

That shrewd and sagacious old man, Pope Sixtus V., saw at once,[223] on
hearing of what had happened, that suspicion of the double murder would
fall on the Cardinal; and it may perhaps be said, without much chance
of inaccuracy, that the balance of opinion among those most qualified
to judge, has, in modern times, inclined in that direction.

But to return from the region of conjecture to that of historical
certainty, a few words will suffice to tell all that remains of
Bianca's story. As soon as the breath had left her body, the Bishop
Abbioso, who had been left at Poggio–a–Cajano by Ferdinando, wrote to

"This instant, at eight o'clock—'quindici ore'—her Most Serene Highness
the Grand Duchess passed to another life. The present messenger is sent
in haste to receive the orders of your Highness as to the disposition
of her body."

Orders were sent back that the body should "_be kept intact till the
evening_," and then opened, as has been said. The same night it was
buried, "so that no memorial of her should remain;" the new sovereign's
reply to the application for orders on this head being, "We will have
none of her among our dead!"

The hatred of the Florentines for both Francesco and Bianca was
intense. If anything, the latter was yet more detested than her
husband. In addition to all the grounds of hatred common to both of
them, she was a foreigner, and "a witch," a practiser of black art. And
this accusation, more than aught else, made the burden of the abuse
that was heaped upon her. Of course, it was not safe to say much of the
deceased sovereign. But satirists, libellers, pasquinade–writers, and
epigraph–mongers, had full licence to exercise their wit at the expense
of the "pessima Bianca."

Here are specimens of their expressions of the popular estimate of her,
which were current in the city immediately after her death. They are
taken from the same letter of Signor Soderini, so often quoted:

  "Qui giace in un avel pien di malie
  E pien di vizi la Bianca Cappella,
  Bagasica, strega, maliarda e fella,
  Che sempre favorì furfanti e spie."

In English:

  "Here in a grave, brimful of vices foul
  And evil sorceries, Bianca lies,
  A huzzy, witch, and mistress of fell spells;
  In life the dearest friend of rogues and spies."

Another runs as follows:

  "In questa tomba, in questa oscura buca
  Ch'è fossa a quei che non hanno sepoltura,
  Opra d'incanti, e di malie fattura
  Giace la Bianca, moglie del Granduca."

Which may stand, if the absence of the rhyme be excused, in English

  "Within this tomb, this undistinguished hole,
  The grave of those who sepulture have none,
  That worker of black arts and evil charms,
  Bianca lies, the wife of our Grand Duke."


The Cardinal Ferdinando succeeded to his brother's throne without
disturbance or difficulty; slipped off his priesthood by dispensation,
seeing that it was for the benefit of mankind that he should do so;
manifested, as Sismondi says,[224] "as much talent for government as is
compatible with the absence of all virtue, and as much pride, as can
exist without nobility of mind;" merited the affection of his subjects
by taking off, among sundry mint and cumin dues, the tax upon cat's
meat;[225] married Cristina, daughter of Charles Duke of Lorraine, and
succeeded in accomplishing the great and beneficent task of preserving
the Medicean stock to Italy and mankind.



 Pope Joan rediviva—Olympia's outlook on life—Her mode of "opening
 the oyster"—She succeeds in opening it—Olympia's son—Olympia at home
 in the Vatican—Her trade—A Cardinal's escape from the purple—Olympia
 under a cloud—Is once more at the head of the field—And in at the
 death—A conclave—Olympia's star wanes—Pœna pede claudo.

In the ninth century, the outlying Catholic world to the north of the
Alps was horrified by reports, that a woman was occupying the chair of
Peter, and the office of Heaven's vicegerent. A fact so scandalous and
so extraordinary found ready credence among the monks and prelates of
Germany. The reports of pious pilgrims who had returned from Rome, and
testified that Christ's church was governed by a woman, were cited with
every appearance of good faith and authenticity. And the story of Pope
Joan, thus generated, rapidly acquired a worldwide acceptation, and
was for ages believed, both within and without the pale of the Church,
as a veritable historical fact. And a vast mass of learned, satirical,
controversial, scandalous, and antiquarian letter–press has resulted
from it.


But the huge fiction, which grew to be so large and so strong as to
require the united efforts of several able literary men armed with many
heavy volumes to kill it, was, like so many another dangerous mistake,
a very small and innocent error at its birth. The pious pilgrim _had_
come back from Rome. He _had_ brought with him a whole budget of
stories of the scandalous corruptions and wickedness he had witnessed
in the metropolis of Christendom. He _had_ asserted, and probably
frequently repeated, that a female ruled the Church. He _had_ asserted
the astounding fact, that a woman was now Pope of Rome. And the
scandalised reporter of the abominations he had witnessed in that far
distant southern land across the mountains, spoke with all sincerity.
He little dreamed of letting loose a falsehood, which as soon as ever
it had escaped from "the enclosure of his teeth," as old Homer says,
forthwith began to race with unovertakeable swiftness round the world,
like the unbagged demon of a mediæval goblin–story. He simply spoke
figuratively. And his simple–minded, untravelled, wonder–loving auditor
or auditors received his words literally.

That was all! But with what a mass of infinitely more deadly error has
that same little difference between the speaker and his hearers, filled
the world!

The ninth century pilgrim merely intended to convey to his hearers, in
the strongest manner he could, the fact that the Pontiff was so wholly
influenced and governed by a woman, that she held all the power in her
hands, and _might be said_, indeed, to be Pope herself, rather than the
weak puppet who was her slave.

And if in the seventeenth century communications between one part of
the world and another had been as rare and as difficult as in the
ninth; if men had been then as ignorant, as simple, and greedy of the
marvellous; if the press, which is to such error what a terrier is to
a rat, had not been in existence, the historians of Europe might have
chronicled a second she–pontiff, the "Pope Olympia," as having ascended
the papal throne in the year 1644. For assuredly no John, Benedict, nor
Boniface of the worst and darkest age of the Church ever lived more
scandalously under petticoat government, or gave greater occasion to
the assertion, that a woman was the real Pope in his stead, than did
Giovanni Batista Pamfili, who was elected in that year.

Pope Olympia was born in 1594, at Viterbo. A daughter of the noble and
ancient, but poor, family of the Maidalchini, she was, as the daughters
of impoverished nobles generally were, destined for the Church from
her infancy, and educated in a convent. But as this branch of the
ecclesiastical profession could lead to nothing, at the best, more
exalted than the station of a lady Abbess, Donna Olympia, who felt
herself to have a soul above bead–counting, intimated, with a firmness
and decision all her own, her intention of marrying. And an alliance
was accordingly formed for her with a provincial gentleman, as noble
and as poor as herself. As Giovanni Batista Pamfili, afterwards Pope
by the name of Innocent X., was past eighty when he died in 1655, and
must accordingly have been born in or before the year 1575; and as his
brother, Donna Olympia's husband, must have been an elder brother, it
follows that this poor noble, whom the ambitious and shrewd lady chose
to wed, rather than accept the nullity of a cloister life, was more
than nineteen years her senior. Nor does it appear that he had any
requisite, either of station, function, or talent, which might have
seemed capable of affording assistance to Olympia's views of rising in
the world.


But the noble Roman maiden, who had already, we are told, given a
specimen of her talent for governing, by exerting sway over her
companions in the convent seminary, had looked out on the Roman world
with a shrewd and observant eye, and knew well what she was about.
What had the poor country noble to render him worthy of Olympia's hand
and adapted to her views? He had a brother. Men who marry don't rise
in the ecclesiastical states. And you can't marry a Cardinal, nor
even a Bishop. Yet to hook yourself more or less indissolubly on to
something of this sort, is the only possible means by which "excelsior"
aspirations can be gratified in the world of Rome.

Man, even when tonsured and gowned, was not made to live alone. And
although sacerdotal policy has with marvellous success contrived
to cut off its priests from the great family of mankind, fence out
their hearts from all the most sanctifying and ennobling sympathies
of humanity, and make their interests, affections, prejudices,
ambitions, always distinct from, and often hostile to those of
their fellow–creatures;—though all this has with fatal skill been
accomplished by the ordinance of celibacy; still in this, as in every
other case of battle with the laws of nature, the measure of success
accomplished does not attain to the reversal of these laws; but is
limited to causing them to operate evilly instead of beneficially for

The priest–world of Rome accordingly, while deprived of the legitimate
and beneficial influence of woman, has in most ages been more subjected
than other social systems to her abnormal and mischievous power. And
Donna Olympia was perfectly well aware, that the needful hooking–on
process above mentioned might be accomplished with sufficient solidity
for her purpose without any coupling gear of Hymen's forging.

But, as injury, done to any wheel or spring of a beautiful piece of
mechanism, deranges the working of the whole, fatally in proportion
to the perfection of the entire contrivance, so the celibacy law in
its fight against nature turns other portions of human passion to evil
issues, which otherwise and elsewhere work to good. The sacred family
tie, which in other communities produces so much that is great and
virtuous, becomes the abomination of nepotism at Rome, and affords
the only other channel besides the one alluded to above, by which
the grandeurs and pomps and wealth of sacerdotal success can be made
available to the weaker sex.

To command, therefore, both these avenues to the temple of Fortuna
Sacerdotalis—to hang on to the gown by both these ties of connection—to
contrive by one step to obtain the means of action in both these
ways—this was the master–stroke, which the high–looking Roman maiden
accomplished by her marriage with the poor and no longer young noble to
whom she gave her hand. The husband with his poverty–stricken coronet
was in himself altogether useless to his aspiring wife's ambitious
views. But of a brother–in–law with the tonsure, something might be
made. A priest, noble, not without capacity, unburdened with scruples,
already employed in some subaltern affairs, of malleable material—give
her such an one for an ally, and the papal court for an arena, and
Donna Olympia felt, that she could do the rest.


It is curious, and characteristic of Roman life and literature, that we
are unable to ascertain what manner of man, as to outward appearance,
was this "onestissimo vice–marito,"[226] to whom Olympia thus united
herself. Hatreds run high at Rome. And though material daggers are not
wanting there on occasion, the natural instinct of gowned nature is to
_speak_ them. The Church, as we know, abhors blood, and her sons wear
no swords. But bloodless calumny is a quiet, decorous weapon, always at
hand, perfectly compatible with sacerdotal proprieties, and unsparingly
used accordingly to gratify partisan rancour, in a state of society
in which every man's hopes and fortunes depend on party successes
or failures. The historical value of Roman contemporary writers,
therefore, is often very doubtful. And even in a matter so unimportant,
so matter–of–fact, and so easily ascertainable as to the stature of a
Pope, we are left in uncertainty by the conflicting statements of his
contemporaries. While those, who profited by and therefore approved of
the election of Innocent X., represent him as a man of tall stature
and majestic port, dignified in bearing, and of venerable aspect, the
greater number who suffered by, and hated him, assure us that he was
short, deformed, and hideously ugly in feature.

The discrepancy in testimony is more valuably instructive than certain
information on the subject in dispute would have been.

No such doubt, however, obscures the fact, that his career abundantly
justified the wisdom of Donna Olympia's speculation. Between them they
accomplished what certainly neither of them would have been able to
do asunder. The partnership was a highly "successful" one. Acting
with wise docility, entirely by his able sister–in–law's advice, the
rising churchman soon became a man of note; was employed in various
affairs of state; charged with a diplomatic mission to Spain (which
though directed, as far as letters could avail, by Olympia, yet led
the diplomatist to complain, that things did not go so well with him
without her at his side); and, finally, was made Cardinal in 1629, when
he was about fifty–four, and she thirty–five years of age.

Olympia's foot had thus gained the first round of the ladder, which
might lead her to the consummation of her highest hopes. But the
climbing was arduous! Now was the time to put forth all her ability,
her knowledge of the Roman world, and of priestly nature.

It was fifteen years from Pamfili's nomination to the purple, to his
election to the papacy. And these years were to be spent, under his
guardian angel's tutorship, in carefully studied appearances and
unsleeping vigilance. His life was to be a continual canvassing,
without permitting the smallest appearance of overt candidateship for
the great prize to appear.

To be chosen the infallible head of Christ's church, to hold the
power of the keys, and be Heaven's vicegerent on earth, he of all the
Christians on it!—how was he to cause such a choice to fall on him?—how
appear to be the best, the most devout, the wisest, the most learned,
or even the ablest man for the purpose? Donna Olympia knew better than
to suppose that it was necessary or even desirable to appear anything
of all this. She knew that there would be candidates in the conclave
relying on none of such good gifts, but solely on the backing of the
great powers of Europe. She knew that her candidate would not be
looked to by either of these pope–making monarchs. But she knew also,
that their influence might neutralise the power of each other, and that
in such a case some man, who was obnoxious to no party, feared by none,
and deemed a safe compromise by all, might have a very promising chance
of finding himself elected, as many a Pope has been on the _pis–aller_


This was the game which the shrewd Olympia played and won. When
the great Barberini Pope, Urban VIII., died, after a long papacy
of twenty–one years, neither of the great parties in Europe, as
represented by their friends and creatures among the Cardinals,
was strong enough to make its own Pope in spite of the determined
opposition of its opponent. The Conclave was at a dead lock. And at
last a compromise was found in the election of Innocent X., then
seventy, or all but seventy years old. The real acting Pope, Olympia,
was just fifty.

There were eleven years of harvest–time before her for the gathering in
of the crop, which she had spent her life in assiduously preparing. The
time might easily have been less, and she could scarcely have expected
that it should be more; for the new Pope was already an infirm man, and
Olympia lost no time in making her hay while the Roman sun shone.

Her husband had died some time previously, leaving her one son, the
Prince Camillo, who was forthwith made a Cardinal. The step was a
strange one, and quite in discord with the ordinary traditions of Roman
family policy. For Camillo was the sole scion of the Pamfili race, at
least of the descendants of the Pope's father; and, though the purple
might lead to more immediate personal distinction, the continuation
of the family name was cut off by this means, and the usual master
passion of an ambitious Italian noble frustrated. The making Camillo a
Cardinal, moreover, seemed still more unaccountable, when the personal
qualities of the young man were considered. For he was so wholly
uneducated, and incapable, that not even a Papal uncle could succeed
in thrusting greatness upon him. His nomination thus took from him the
capability of serving the family interests in the only way in which he
was available, by continuing the race and the name; while it exposed
him and his uncle and mother to a host of mortifications arising from
his gross and even rustic incapacity. The total incompetence and
stupidity manifested by him, when it was attempted to entrust to his
hands any of the business that usually fell to the lot of a Cardinal
nephew, was such as to cause constant trouble and humiliation to
Innocent, who, we read, rarely met him without irritable chidings.

The motive of this ill–judged promotion is to be found probably in the
peculiar nature of Olympia's ambition. Unlike other Italian ambitions,
which almost always concentrated themselves on the building up or
aggrandising a family name, that of Donna Olympia seems to have been
wholly personal; the love of power, and still more strongly the love of
wealth, for the sake of her own individual enjoyment of them.

[Sidenote: AT THE VATICAN.]

Fifteen centuries of Papal government had habituated mankind to see
without surprise in Heaven's vicar on earth an amount of dereliction
of duty, and an enormity of distance between profession and practice,
such as has never been recorded in history, or exhibited to the world
in any other department of its affairs. Yet Europe was startled at the
novelty of the position assumed by Olympia immediately on Innocent's
elevation. When, according to Roman custom, as soon as the election
of the new Pope was known, the populace rushed to his palace to make
permitted plunder of its contents, the lady Olympia received them, and
flung open the doors to them—having, as we are told, first taken the
precaution of removing all that was of much value, in anticipation of
the event. She accompanied the new Pope to the Vatican, and established
herself there as its mistress! No step of domestic government or
foreign policy decided on, no grace, favour, or promotion accorded,
no punishment inflicted, was the pontiff's own work. His invaluable
sister–in–law did all. He was absolutely a puppet in her hands. The
keys of St. Peter were strung to her girdle; and the only function in
which she probably never interfered, was blessing the people!

The great object of her unceasing care and diplomacy was, to keep at
a distance from Innocent every person and every influence which could
either lessen her own, or go shares in the profits to be extracted
from it. For this, after all, was the great and ultimate scope of her
exertions. To secure the profits of the papacy in hard cash; this was
the problem. No appointment to office of any kind was made, except in
consideration of a proportionable sum paid down into her own coffers.
This often amounted to three or four years revenue of the place to be
granted. Bishoprics and benefices were sold as fast as they became
vacant. One story is related of an unlucky disciple of Simon, who, on
treating with the Popess for a very valuable see, just fallen vacant,
and hearing from her a price, at which it might be his, far exceeding
all that he could command, persuaded the members of his family to sell
all they had for the purpose of making this profitable investment. The
price was paid, and the bishopric was given him; but with a fearful
resemblance to the case of Ananias, he died within the year; and his
ruined family saw the see a second time sold by the insatiable and
incorrigible Olympia. The incident only served her as a hint always
to exact cash down; and not to content herself with a yearly payment
from the accruing revenue. The criminal judges in Rome were directed
to punish criminals of all degrees in purse instead of person; and
the fines all were paid over with business–like exactitude to the
all–powerful favourite.

As Innocent became older and rapidly more infirm, the incapability of
his nephew became more and more a source of complaint and annoyance to
him. And the young man himself seems to have been weary of a position,
which exposed him to ceaseless objurgations, and to the contempt of all
Rome. For the escape from it, which he effected, appears to have been
of his own plotting. This was nothing less than the resignation of his
Cardinal's hat, obtaining a release from holy orders, and marrying the
recently widowed Princess Rosano, one of the largest fortunes, and most
desirable matches in Rome. So anxious was Innocent, it would seem, to
get rid of his nephew from the court, that he dared to conspire with
him to effect this scheme without the knowledge of Donna Olympia. It
was accomplished with all speed and secrecy. And Camillo had to tell
his mother, that he was neither cardinal nor priest any longer, but
the husband of the beautiful and wealthy Princess Rosano. Olympia's
rage was extreme; the more so, because she feared that the Princess,
who was known as a woman of much capacity, as well as of great beauty,
might not impossibly supplant her at the Vatican. But Innocent had no
thought of liberating himself from his servitude; and was only too glad
to make amends for his share of what had been done, and obtain peace
by banishing his nephew and new niece from Rome. As there was nothing
in the marriage with the Princess that might not have naturally seemed
to the pontiff extremely desirable for his nephew, the Roman gossips
were not a little astonished at seeing the Pope's nephew, and the
favourite's son, an exile.


Meantime, the discontent of Rome, the remonstrances of the Cardinals,
and the contempt and indignation of foreign courts was beginning to
render the position of Innocent and Olympia hardly tenable. One day
a large medal was conveyed into the Pope's hands, on the obverse of
which was represented Olympia, with the pontifical tiara on her head,
and the keys in her hand: while the reverse showed Innocent in a coif,
with a spindle and distaff in his hands. Another day a report was
brought to him from England, that a play had been represented before
Cromwell, called "The Marriage of the Pope;" in which, Donna Olympia is
represented rejecting his addresses on account of his extreme ugliness,
till, having in vain offered her one of the keys to induce her to
consent, he attains his object at the cost of both of them. The Emperor
again had said to the Papal Nuncio, "Your Pope, my lord, has an easy
time of it, with Madame Olympia to put him to sleep."

Driven by these and many other such manifestations of public feeling,
Innocent determined to make a great effort. He announced to Olympia
with every expression of regret for the hard necessity, that she must
quit the Vatican; and knowing well what he would have to endure, if he
exposed himself to her reproaches and entreaties, he forbade her to
come for the future into his presence.

But the weak and infirm old man had far over–calculated his moral
strength. The prop, on which he had relied during the years of his
best vigour, could not be voluntarily relinquished now in the time of
his decrepitude. Very soon Olympia obtained permission to make secret
visits to the Vatican. These were made generally every night; and this
nightly secret coming and going at untimely hours, threatened to become
more ridiculous, if not more seriously scandalous, in the eyes of the
lampooning Roman world, than an acknowledged residence in the Vatican.
Besides they did not adequately meet the necessities of the case.
Olympia pointed out to the infirm old man that her constant care and
superintendence was necessary to his personal comfort—perhaps to his
safety. So Rome very shortly saw the "papessa" once again in her old
home at the Vatican.

And, as from the nature of the circumstances must necessarily have been
the case, her power and entire disposal of the functions and revenues
of the papacy was more absolute than ever.

But the rapidly declining health of Innocent warned her that her
time was short. And prudence might have counselled her to make some
preparation for the storm, which she must have well known she would
have to face after his death, by moderating, if not relinquishing
the corrupt and oppressive practices of all sorts, which were daily
added in the minds of the Romans to the long account against her. Her
observation of the world had however suggested to her a different
policy. If more danger had to be encountered, more money would be
needed to meet it. Donna Olympia's faith in the omnipotence of money
was unbounded. Only let her have money–power enough; and she doubted
not that she should be able to ride out the storm.


So she applied herself with more energy and assiduity than ever to the
two objects which shared her entire care—the collection of cash by the
most unblushing and audacious rapine and venality; and the keeping the
breath of life to the last possible instant within the sinking frame of
the old pontiff. The latter task was so important, that both for the
insuring of proper attention, and for providing against the danger of
poison, she kept the Pope almost under lock and key, attending to his
wants with her own hands, and allowing him to touch no food that had
not been prepared under her own eyes. During the last year of his life,
she literally hardly ever quitted him. Once a week, we read, she left
the Vatican, secretly by night, accompanied by several porters carrying
sacks of coin, the proceeds of the week's extortions and sales, to her
own palace. And, during these short absences, she used to lock the Pope
into his chamber, and carry the key with her!

It would be easy to collect from the many biographies that have been
written of Donna Olympia, a great number of anecdotes of her frauds,
simoniacal dealings, selling of pardons, and the like. But most
of these writings have very little of the character of historical
authority. Some of them are anonymous, and appear to be rather
collections of the scandal and gossip of the time in Rome, than
authenticated statements of facts. One there is by the well–known
Gregorio Leti, writing under the name of "the Abate Gualdi," which
has been translated into French. But the general outline of Olympia's
career is sufficiently certain; and the various stories in question are
all to the same purpose, and contribute no additional features to the

At last the end was visibly at hand. During the last ten days of his
life, the Pope's mind was wholly gone. And in these ten days, by
rapidly selling off for what she could get for them nominations to
vacant benefices and "Prelature," Olympia is said to have amassed half
a million of crowns! Her last transaction, was with a Canon who had
been some time previously in treaty with her for a "Prelatura." He had
offered fifty, while she had stood out for eighty thousand crowns; and
the bargain had gone off. In the last hours of Innocent's life, she
sent for this man, and told him she would take his fifty thousand. He
said he had dissipated twenty thousand of the sum since that time, and
had only thirty thousand left. "Well!" said the unblushing dealer,
"since you can do no better, hand them over, and you shall have the
Prelatura." So the money was paid, and the nomination obtained from the
dying Pope, _in extremis_.

Innocent died on the 7th of January, 1655. Olympia caused the proper
notices to be given to the officials, and immediately left the Vatican,
and retired to her own palace secretly. She had employed the two nights
previous to his death in transporting valuables thither to a great

[Sidenote: AT BAY!]

And now came for Olympia the great crisis of her fate. Her position
was certainly a terrible one. The instant the Pope's death was known, a
storm of long pent up hatred broke forth in execrations, accusations,
and threats, on all sides. Olympia was under no delusion, as to her
situation, and the general feeling of Rome towards her. She knew how
much and how justly she was hated. She knew that she had been guilty of
crimes abundantly sufficient to put not only her wealth, but her life
in danger; and that a thousand tongues were ready to bear undeniable
witness against her.

But Olympia was very far from giving up the game as lost. She had
enormous command of money; she was well acquainted with the secret
motives and wishes of parties in Rome; thoroughly skilled in the subtle
underhand tactics of trading on every evil passion, which is what is
meant by policy in that ecclesiastical world; and imbued with that
profound faith in the thorough meanness and baseness of the highest
as well as the lowest of mankind, which people of her stamp consider
to be knowledge of the world. Though hated by the great majority of
Cardinals as well as by the people of Rome, she was not without friends
and creatures. Corrupt motives of interest had enabled her some time
previously to Innocent's death, to make alliance with the powerful
faction of the Barberini. And thus strong in these arms and means of
defence, she sat in the privacy of her palace—(for to have appeared
in the streets of Rome, especially during the lawless period of an
interregnum, would have been extremely dangerous) and directed the
intrigues, by means of which she counted on escaping the consequences
of the universal indignation.

Three degrees of successful issue had to be striven for by her. The
first, of which she still nourished sanguine hopes, was that she might
again appear on the public stage influential and powerful. The second,
that the past might be buried in oblivion, and she might be left in the
quiet though obscure enjoyment of her immense wealth. The third, that
even if she were compelled to disgorge a great part, or even the whole
of it, she might yet be safe in person.

All these issues, of course, depended on the election of a new Pope.
And when the disposition towards her of the great body of the Cardinals
is remembered, it seems strange that she could have had any hope as
to the result. She contrived, however, to form an independent party
in the Conclave, which was known in Rome at the time as "the flying
squadron"—_squadrone volante_, the avowed object of which was, to
enable either of the other contending parties to elect any pope,
who would secure Olympia's safety, and to impede the election of an
enemy. And the clever management of this _squadron_ kept the Cardinals
imprisoned for three months.

At length wearied out by this long confinement, and convinced of the
impossibility of electing either of the favourite candidates of the
leading parties, the Conclave was driven in despair to the _pis–aller_
of electing one recommended only by his good character and apparent
fitness for the office. This was Fabio Chigi of Siena, who became Pope,
as Alexander the Seventh, with the consent of the squadrone volante,
who thought that, as he had been raised to the purple by Innocent, and
was considered a moderate man, he would not be likely to molest the
"relict" of his old patron.

[Sidenote: ALEXANDER VII.]

Olympia was well satisfied with the result of the election. It seems
never to have occurred to her or her friends, that the new Pope might
demand a strict account from her, merely from considerations of
abstract right and justice. She sent among the first to compliment him
on his accession; and shortly asked for an audience. The answer was not
calculated to reassure her. Alexander sent her word that it was not
his intention to receive ladies, except on urgent matters of business.
Still determined not to give up the game, she repeated her application
to be allowed to speak with his Holiness, with increased urgency; but
she only obtained the still more alarming reply, that "Donna Olympia
had had but too much conversation with Popes, and that she must
understand, that things would henceforth be very different."

So much time elapsed, however, before any step was taken with regard to
her, that Olympia, though convinced that all hope of further influence
on public affairs was out of the question, yet imagined that she was
to be let alone with her enormous hoards; but Alexander, unwilling to
incur the blame of acting passionately or hastily on the subject, was
listening to the innumerable proofs of her ill–doings, and quietly
making up his mind on the matter. Meantime it was debated by Olympia
and her friends, whether her most prudent course would be to quit Rome,
to go, say, to Loreto, on pretext of a pilgrimage; but the heirs of the
wretched woman, and especially her son Camillo, feeling that however
such a course might secure her person, it would in all probability lead
to the confiscation of her wealth, persuaded her that such a step was
an unwise admission of guilt, and that her case was not so hopeless.

Suddenly an order reached her to quit Rome within three days, and to be
at Orvieto within eight. It came upon her like a thunderbolt; for she
felt that it was the beginning of the end.

A commissary was sent after her thither to require a strict account
from her of all the state monies that had passed into her hands,
immediate restitution of the jewels and other valuables carried off by
her from the Vatican, and her answer to the innumerable charges against
her of selling offices, benefices, and pardons.

She answered by general denials, and by asserting, that whatever money
had passed through her hands had been paid over by her to Innocent.

The next step, it was expected, would have been her imprisonment. But
at this stage of the business an unexpected and terrible ally stepped
in to save—not the miserable woman herself—but at least her infamously
gotten wealth to the Pamfili family. This ally was the pestilence,
which invaded Italy, and especially Rome, with such violence, that it
threw other matters into abeyance, by concentrating on itself all the
care and attention of Alexander and his government.

But the pestilence, which thus saved her moneybags, did not spare her
to the enjoyment of them; for on its appearance in Orvieto, Olympia was
one of the first victims.

No further steps were taken by the government in the matter; and
Camillo Pamfili, her son, inherited quietly the almost incredible sums
she had amassed. It was said that, besides the vast estates which
she had acquired, and an immense amount of precious stones, and gold
uncoined, more than two millions of crowns in money were found in her


Such was the story of the second female Pope, who has grasped St.
Peter's keys. And if a similar scandal has not reproduced itself in an
equal degree of intensity, it is one to which the peculiar constitution
of the Papal government and society, must be ever especially liable.





In the vast and magnificent church of the Dominicans at Bologna, in the
handsome chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, there is a modest
sepulchre belonging to the ancient Guidotti family, which attracts
as large a share of the art–loving pilgrim's notice, as even the
world–famous shrine of the founder of the order with its statues and
bas–reliefs by Niccolò di Pisa, Afonso Lombardo, and Michael Angelo.
For there beneath the same stone were laid the bodies of Guido Reni
and Elisabetta Sirani; he full of years and honours, at the ripe age
of sixty–seven; she cut off untimely in the morning of her working
day at twenty–six. She was no "favourite pupil" of his, as has been
written,[227] for Guido died, when Sirani was four years old; but
her works are interesting to the art–student, as far more accurate
embodiments of the traditions of his school, than the pictures of
most of those who were his immediate pupils; and her short career is
especially worthy of the notice of such as are interested in observing
female capabilities for winning a right to a place on the roll of the
world's worthies.

[Sidenote: HER VOCATION.]

The art–critics assure us that her works are stamped with a vigour,
and bold free precision of outline, which have been rarely attained by
female artists. "It is indeed a wonderful thing," writes Lanzi,[228]
"that a young girl, who lived only six–and–twenty years, should have
painted the vast number of pictures recorded by Malvasia[229]; still
more so, that she should have perfected them with a care and finish
of the highest order; and most wonderful of all, that she should have
reached this perfection in historical pieces of large size, in a style
free from that timidity, which La Fontana, and other painters of her
sex, never got rid of."

It would be easy to multiply citations from the best authorities on
art, to prove the high degree of excellence in her vocation attained
by this girl, at an age when most of her competitors of the stronger
sex were climbing the first steps of the ladder. But taking this
for granted, and leaving the critical appreciation of her works to
those whose studies lead them specially in that direction, it will be
more interesting for us to endeavour to make out for ourselves some
tolerably life–like representation of the young worker as she lived and
laboured a couple of hundred years ago in her home at Bologna.

The picture ought to be, if presented aright, a singularly pleasing
one, healthy in its tone, invigorating in its suggestions, and
addressing itself vividly to the sympathies of every admirer of
honest energetic labour. Of all the types of female character and life
gathered in these volumes from various social conditions, differing
every one of them so widely from our own, this artist figure seems to
claim the closest kin to some living phases of the life around us, and
to be the most readily and advantageously transplantable into our own
social system.

The story of Elisabetta Sirani's untimely death has added a sort of
melodramatic interest to her name, which was not needed to make her
life a noticeable one. Every one who has heard her mentioned has heard
that she died by poison. Her contemporaries suspected that she might
have been poisoned; the following generation said and wrote, that she
probably had been thus destroyed; and Lanzi, and after him the manuals,
and other common sources of information, content themselves with simply
stating that she was poisoned, without expressing any doubt on the
subject. The reader of the following pages will see that there is every
reason to think that she died from natural causes. The circumstances of
her death, however, and the judicial investigations to which they gave
rise, will furnish some of those little traits of the artist–family's
home and mode of life, which, far too trifling ever to have been
recorded as such by contemporaries, are yet in every case more precious
in their suggestiveness than facts of greater importance to those who,
at a distance of a couple of centuries, seek to catch a glimpse of any
life as it passed amid its ordinary every–day environment.

[Sidenote: THE FAMILY.]

The records of the judicial proceedings to which Elisabetta's death
gave rise, were for many years sought for in vain by various writers on
subjects connected with Bolognese art–history. The name of the person
accused of the crime was unknown. And for want of this indication it
was, it seems, impossible, without searching the entire mass of the
archives in question, to find the required papers. At last, however,
in 1833, Signor Mazzoni Toselli had the good fortune to light on them,
and published the result of his discovery in a small pamphlet printed
at Bologna in that year. Since that time another fortunate discovery
has brought to light the "conclusions" submitted to the court by the
advocate employed for the prosecution, as we should say. This document
was not found in company with the records discovered by Signor Toselli;
but was put before the world by Signor Ulisse Guidi, in a pamphlet
printed at Bologna in 1854. So that, besides obtaining from the
evidence of the witnesses examined, those little hints above alluded to
of the manner of life led in the "Casa Sirani," we have now the means
of forming a tolerably well–grounded opinion as to the real cause of
the young artist's death.

The house of Giovanni Andrea Sirani in the Via Urbana at Bologna,
was the home of a family of artists. The father was himself at the
head of a considerable school, in which Guido's second manner was the
standard of excellence aimed at, and by the master himself and some
of his scholars attained with very respectable success. He had a son
who became a physician. But he was the only deserter from the family
profession. The three daughters, Elisabetta, Barbara, and Anna Maria
were all artists. The name of the elder has cast that of her sisters
and even of her father, into the shade. But his works are still well
esteemed in his own city; and there are pictures by Barbara and Anna
Maria Sirani in the churches of Bologna.

Giovanni's wife Margherita, and his sister, who cooked for the
family, together with a female servant, were the other members of his
household. We are told also, that Bartolommeo Zanichelli, Antonio
Donzelli, and Giulio Banzi, his pupils, lived with him upon the footing
of members of his family. The first had "frequented his school" for
fifteen years.

The house in the Via Urbana, which accommodated this numerous family,
and gave the seven painters, out of the ten persons who occupied it,
room to work in, must have been a good sized one. It consisted, we
hear, of two stories, with some large rooms above "for the school."

The sort of industry that prevailed in this hive of workers may be
estimated from the list of Elisabetta's works extant in her own
handwriting. Her rapidity, it is true, was marvellous, and the sureness
of her hand was only equalled by the overflowing abundance of her
thought. We must not, therefore, imagine that all the members of this
busy art–factory contributed to the general production in a similar
degree. Making due allowance for this, however, and remembering that
Elisabetta's works were always highly finished, her methodical and
business–like list will give us some idea of the family produce.

[Sidenote: HER WORKS.]

In the year 1655, which is the first that figures on her catalogue,—and
she was then only seventeen,—she painted two pictures, one for the
Marchese Spada, and one for the Municipality of Trassano. In the year
1656, five pictures. In 1657, seven pictures. In 1658, twelve pictures.
In 1659, ten pictures. In 1660, fourteen pictures. In 1661, fourteen
pictures, of which one ordered by the nuns of St. Catherine contained
half figures of the size of life of the twelve Apostles. In 1662,
forty–nine pictures! Either by an error of the pen these forty–nine
works were the product of two years' labour, which is probable, or the
year 1663 from some unexplained cause, produced nothing. In the year
1664, we find twenty–eight pictures registered. And in the first half
of 1665, the year of her death, she had completed nine works. In the
nine years and a half, from the seventeenth to the twenty–sixth of her
age, she had thus produced a hundred and fifty pictures,[230] many of
them of large size, and all of them carefully finished! Besides this,
she etched occasionally; and many works of this class from her hand are
known to, and much sought by collectors. A record of work honestly and
conscientiously done, as Lanzi may well say, truly wonderful!

Her rapidity of execution, and especially of throwing with a sure
unerring hand her first ideas upon the canvas, was so remarkable,
that to see Elisabetta paint was considered one of the sights at
Bologna most worthy of the attention of strangers. And we find that
few personages of distinction passed through the city without paying a
visit to the artist family in the Via Urbana.

"On the 13th of May, 1664," she records in the list of works, which
seems also to have served as a sort of journal, "His Serene Highness
Cosmo, crown prince of Tuscany, came to our house to see me paint, and
I worked at a picture of the Prince Leopold his uncle in his presence.
Alluding to the three special virtues of that great family"—(Poor
Elisabetta!)—"of Justice, Charity, and Prudence, I introduced figures
of them into the picture, sketching in the infant whom Charity is
nursing, very quickly, while the prince stood by. On leaving me, he
ordered a Holy Virgin for himself, which I executed in time for him to
take with him, when he returned to Florence. It is in an oval, with the
child in the mother's lap, who with his left hand is caressing her,
while the right, with an olive–branch in it, rests on the world; my
intention being to allude to the peace, which, by the negotiations of
his Most Serene father, is preserved to Italy!"

The Duchess of Brunswick, who "came to our house to see me paint, on
the 3rd of January, 1665," was treated, however, it would seem, with a
sly bit of satire, instead of the usual dose of flattery expected by
most personages when they condescend to stand by artists' easels. The
lady, it appears, had the reputation of being possessed by a somewhat
inordinate spirit of self–love. So "I painted her a Cupid, a year old,
looking at himself in the glass, and wounding himself with his own
arrow." And Malvasia, the historian of Bolognese art, who was intimate
with the family, recounts, that while painting this allegorical device,
the young artist kept repeating, "Let those comprehend that can. I know
my own meaning!"

It does not appear that the Duchess left any commission.

Then a visit from the Duca di Mirandola is mentioned; and another from
the Principe di Messerano. And then, "all the Princes and Princesses
who have passed through Bologna this spring, have come to look at my
pictures and to see me work."

We find mention of commissions from the Empress Leonora, from
Prince Leopold of Tuscany, who rewards the artist with a cross set
with fifty–six diamonds,—the most liberal recompense she had ever
received;—from the Duchess of Bavaria, who sends an order for another
picture the following year; from Cardinal Farnese; from the Legate; and
from the "Padre Inquisitore," who orders a Cupid crowned with laurel,
with a sceptre in his hand.

[Sidenote: STYLE OF LIFE.]

All the cash payments earned by this untiring industry, were handed
over to her father to go towards the general maintenance of the family.
But the presents which she received in jewellery and other such matters
were considered her private property, kept in a cupboard sacred to
them, and shown by her mother Margherita to her gossips and the friends
of the family on high days and holidays, with infinite pride and

It seems reasonable to suppose, that in a family of six
persons,—leaving the medical son, of whom we find no further mention,
out of the question,—in which four of the members are bread–winners,
and that by industry so energetic, a considerable ease of circumstances
ought to have been found. And perhaps the extreme simplicity of life,
indicated by a few of the circumstances which happen to have been
recorded, is to be attributed rather to the prevailing habits of
frugality of the time, than to poverty. Thus we find that the master's
sister occupied the position of cook in the family. The one other
servant received four pauls, about two francs, a month for wages. And
the family dinner, of which all the members of the household partook
in company, consisted, on one occasion,—recorded not for any special
reason, but accidentally, and therefore affording a sample of the
ordinary fare,—of toasted bread and a little fish. There is a trifling
circumstance also, which may be thought to indicate that it was not
always convenient to disburse cash for this lenten meal. For in the
list of Elisabetta's works, among the pictures executed for churches,
princes, and prelates, occurs one of "Saint Margaret, leading a dragon
with an azure ribband, painted for the fisherman who supplies our

Her music–master also,—for Elisabetta was extremely fond of music, and
a creditable performer,—was, we find, paid by a yearly present of a

Possibly the father Giovanni Andrea may have been touched with the very
common Italian vice of money–loving, and have been more niggardly in
his disbursements than he ought to have been. For we find that now and
then Elisabetta would sell some unimportant work of hers privately, in
order to supply some little unacknowledged expenses of her mother.

This poor Donna Margherita, who, while her husband and daughters were
at their busy easels, had nothing to do but to "rule her house," seems
to have been the principal cause of any little roughness which ruffled
from time to time the tranquil and cheerful course of successful and
appreciated labour in the industrious artist home. Donna Margherita, it
is to be feared, was afflicted with a sharp tongue; and there are very
unmistakeable symptoms of poor Lucia, the maid, not having earned her
annual four–and–twenty francs too easily.


Again and again she had been on the point of throwing up all the
advantages of her position under the provocation of her mistress's
continual fault–finding. The daily reproach, that she was not worth her
keep, was difficult to bear. Then she was accused of dressing her hair
when there was no due occasion for such display; the immutable rule of
Dame Margherita's house being that the maid was allowed to appear with
her head dressed only when visitors of distinction were expected to see
the Signorina Elisabetta at her easel. Then again, the unreasonable
Lucia wanted to go out occasionally,—gadding about the town, forsooth;
and in Bologna too, of all places in the world, swarming from morn to
night with idle university scholars! Dame Margherita would have no
such doings. Besides, she wished to know what was the reason Lucia was
always so anxious to go down herself and shut the ground–floor shutters
that looked into the street, at night. Idle enough in other matters,
why was she so anxious to perform this duty?

But when these provocations became more than she could bear, and the
poor girl had made up her mind to go, Elisabetta would soothe and
comfort her, with "Come, come, Lucia, don't leave us! Take time to
think of it. Sleep on it this night, and make up your mind in the
morning!" And as Lucia, like every one else in the house, was very fond
of the Signorina Elisabetta, she would be persuaded to think better of
it, and try to put up with Dame Margherita's tongue.

But all these reproaches of seeking occasion to go to the window at
nightfall, anxiety to go out into the town, and untimely indulgences
of hair–decking, were only grounds of suspicion, that Lucia was guilty
of the heinous offence (not even yet in these improved times wholly
extirpated from the race of Abigails)—of possessing a lover;—which
however permissible, under proper regulations, for young persons
inhabiting drawing–rooms, is, as every respectable person knows, most
abominable in those living in kitchens. Still there was nothing
stronger against Lucia than mere suspicion.

But then came one unlucky day a terrible discovery. There passed down
the Via Urbana a tinker in the exercise of his calling. Whereupon
this wicked girl,—who could have thought there had been such deepness
in her! as Dame Margherita (we may be quite sure) said,—bringing her
mistress an old kettle out of the cellar, asked whether it would not be
well to call in the tinker and have it mended. The tinker accordingly
was summoned, and sent under escort of this false serving–maid to do
his duty in such cellar, or outhouse, as may have been adapted to
the business in hand. But Dame Margherita "had her suspicions;" and
despatched two of her younger children to watch secretly the interview
between Lucia and the tinker. The result was a confirmation of the
mistress's worst fears. The first words overheard between them proved
that the tinker was an old love of Lucia's, who had known her when in
her mother's house.

Here was a scope for Mistress Margherita's eloquence! When it was
exhausted, the good man Giovanni Andrea was called on to "speak as he
ought" on the occasion. And he accordingly, we are told, "said some
severe words." Even Elisabetta laughed at poor Lucia, and asked "how
she could be so silly as to look after such a sorry knave?"

Now, to poor Lucia this seems to have been the last drop in the cup;
and she finally made up her mind to leave her place. Thereupon her
master, who was just then confined to his bed by a fit of the gout,
which interrupted his work at the easel from time to time, called her
into his room and remonstrated with her. "Don't you see, ungrateful
girl that you are," he said, "in what a condition you are leaving us?
Here am I unable to leave my bed. Margherita is unwell. Barbara has the
fever. And we have no one to help us." Lucia was inflexible. "Will you
not wait till we have found another servant?"

[Sidenote: LUCIA TRICKED.]

"No, Signor, I cannot!" was the provoked girl's answer.

"Go, then," rejoined her angry master, "wherever God may lead you!"

But Giovanni Sirani could not reconcile it to his conscience to let the
girl go forth unprotected into the city wholly left to her own devices.
And the steps he took to prevent this are curiously illustrative of the
manners of the time. He sent for two men, who were related to the girl;
and privately arranged with them, that they should tell her they had
found her an excellent place with a worthy family, to which they would
at once conduct her. The unsuspecting Lucia departed accordingly; and
was led by them to "the Hospital of St. Gregory, called the Beggar's
Home," where she was forthwith shut up a prisoner! So that it should
seem a master had the power to cause a girl guilty of nothing but
having no home, to be thus imprisoned for her own protection: and yet
that it was necessary to use a ruse to get her there!

The Sirani family were a good deal surprised at Lucia's determination
to leave them just at the time she did. For it wanted only a few days
of the annual fair held on the 24th of August. And a considerable item
in the value of her place consisted in the presents which it was the
custom to give her on this occasion. In the first year of her service
Dame Margherita had given her a muff, and Elisabetta a couple of pauls.
The next year the mistress had given her a shift, and the Signorina
a paul. And now, in the third year, she lost her fairings by abruptly
going away just before the time when they were due.

This was the uncomfortable state of matters in the Sirani family in
August 1665. Elisabetta herself had been for some time past out of her
usual health. But with her ordinary invincible industry, she stuck to
her work. With her father disabled by the gout, her sister Barbara
also down with fever, and unable to earn anything, it was more than
ever necessary that Elisabetta should take the labouring oar. And
fortunately a fresh order for a picture from the Empress Eleonora had
recently been received. And the young artist, answering her mother's
anxious inquiries about a pain, from which she had been suffering,
by saying that "the best way not to feel it was not to think of it,"
bravely set her canvas before her, and bent her mind to the composition
of the new picture.



Elisabetta, who had been all her life previously in the enjoyment of
sound and even robust health, had been feeling more or less unwell
ever since the Lent of that year 1665. She suffered from slight pain
in the stomach; and though she could with difficulty be got to speak
on the subject, her loss of colour and of flesh showed unmistakeably
that she was out of health. She was nevertheless as assiduous as ever
at her easel; and in the first days of August was just setting to work
on the picture ordered, as has been said, for the Empress Eleonora.
On the 12th or 13th of that month, the pain from which she suffered
became worse. And as Signor Gallerati, the medical man who attended the
family, called that day to see her sister Barbara, who was ill with
fever, Elisabetta spoke to him about herself. The learned doctor told
her that no medicine could be taken for the present, as the sun was in
the sign of the Lion; that her pain was caused by a cold; and that she
might take a little syrup of vinegar.

On the 24th she was able to go with her mother to see the fair.

But on the 27th, as she was working in an upper room at her picture,
the pain became so violent, that she with difficulty went down stairs
to the room where Barbara was ill in bed, and sitting down on the edge
of it, said, "Oh! sister, I have so dreadful a pain in my stomach, that
I feel as if I were dying!"

Barbara seeing the sudden changes in her colour, and contortions of
her features, feared that she really was about to die; and hurriedly
called their mother, who was in the next room. The mother immediately
got her into bed; and a succession of fainting fits, accompanied by
profuse cold perspirations followed. A messenger sent in haste to Dr.
Gallerati, not finding him at home, brought a Doctor Mattaselani,
who was, it appears, one of the leading physicians of the city. This
gentleman ordered her purgatives, and ointment for exterior use.

Her mother in the meantime had given her a dose of "Theriaca," that
time–honoured Venetian medicine, which was then celebrated all over
Europe. It is a very thick oily substance, compounded of some fifty
different ingredients, the receipt for which is said, with much
probability, to have been brought from the East by the Venetians at
a very early period. It was a specific adapted to the then state of
medical science, no doubt. But it is a curious fact worth noticing,
that this "triaca" as the Lombards call it, is still manufactured at
Venice from the old recipe, is still prepared by the principal—perhaps
only—manufacturer annually on the same fixed day set apart for
generations for this purpose; and quainter still, that on that day the
persons employed in the process, dress themselves in fifteenth century
costume, and thus accoutred make their fire, bring out their cauldrons,
and concoct their medicament on one of the open "campi" of Venice, amid
a concourse of people assembled to watch the annual ceremony. Theriaca
now–a–days hardly finds its way beyond Venice and the neighbouring
parts of Lombardy. But within those limits hardly a peasant's cottage
would be found without its bottle of the drug, in which their ancestors
placed their faith for so many generations.

[Sidenote: THERIACA.]

The Theriaca, however, as may be supposed, availed nothing to our
poor Elisabetta; and the treatment of Dr. Mattaselani as little.
The fainting–fits and cold–sweats continued the whole night. In the
morning of the 28th came Dr. Gallerati, and ordered more purgatives,
more ointment, and the application of the diaphragm of a sheep to the
stomach! And when no advantage was found to result from this, he gave
the patient the celebrated poison antidote "Bezoar," and the "Olio del
Granduca;"—the Grand–duke's oil;—an antidote prepared, it should seem,
in that Medicean laboratory of poisons in the Uffizi at Florence, which
may well be believed to have been more successful in the preparation of
them than in its providing antidotes against them.

When the Bezoar and the Grand–duke's oil failed to produce any
abatement in the symptoms, the parish priest was sent for! And thus
the young artist life, so rich in promise, and in dreams of beauty yet
to be embodied, of long years of labour, and praise to be won, was cut
short in its spring.

Elisabetta, intent only on her art, and habituated to a wholly
objective frame of mind, had made so little account of the symptoms
of malady that had manifested themselves during the last four or five
months of her life, that her death struck her bereaved family as a
wholly sudden and inexplicable calamity. Poison was the first thing
that occurred to them. Indeed the idea had already presented itself
to the physicians, as is evident from the treatment. The practice of
poisoning was so common in Italy in those ages, and the perpetration
of it was rendered so little hazardous by the prevailing ignorance
of pathological anatomy, that every death arising from causes not
understood, was immediately attributed to this crime. And as a medical
decision to that effect was a very convenient screen for medical
ignorance, the faculty were by no means backward in encouraging and
increasing the popular suspiciousness on the subject.

Poor Giovanni, therefore, was readily convinced that his daughter had
died by poison; and ordered a post–mortem examination of her body, as
the first step towards a judicial investigation. So the body was opened
by the hospital barber, the recognised operator on such occasions, in
the presence of Doctors Gallerati and Mattaselani, and other four of
the first practitioners of Bologna.

Gallerati, the family medical man, who had already, it is to be
observed, treated her case as one of poisoning, reported to the father,
as the result of the examination, that a hole was found in the lower
part of the stomach, large enough for a pea to pass, that around the
hole there was a livid circle appearing as if burned with a hot iron,
that the bowels were much inflamed, the diaphragm corroded, and that
these appearances could only have been produced by the action of a
corrosive poison. But on Sirani further questioning him on the nature
of the poison, he answered, that it was certainly corrosive, "but
whether administered to her, or generated naturally, was not a matter
to speak with him—the father—on, as he had already given his opinion in
the consultation of physicians."

[Sidenote: THE POISON.]

The subject of "veleno ingenito," poison developing itself from natural
causes within the organisation, was one much agitated in the medical
world at that time; formed an admirable occasion for the exhibition of
erudition; and was just in that state of partisan debateability least
favourable to the attainment of truth, and most conducive to obstinate
adhesion to foregone conclusions.

It having been thus decided, that poor Elisabetta had been poisoned; of
course the next question that arose was, who was the poisoner?

The Sirani family had no enemies, and many friends; and the number of
persons who could have had access to her or to the food she had taken,
was very small. The members of her own family were plunged in grief
at their bereavement. The three pupils had been sincerely attached to
Elisabetta, and were scarcely less so. There was an old woman, who, on
the day before she had been taken seriously ill, had been employed by
Giovanni to carry a picture to a patron in the city. Fearing that the
messenger might be long detained, he had desired that she might have
some food given her in the house, before she started on her errand.
Lucia had given her some soup from the pot preparing for the family.
The old woman said, that it was insipid. Whereupon, Lucia, who was that
same day, it will be remembered, about to leave her place, took, as the
old woman swore, a paper of powder from her bosom, and shook some of
its contents into the soup, saying "There! take a little cinnamon with
it!" She further deposed that the powder was reddish, but did not taste
like cinnamon; that she ate only a few spoonsful of the soup because
she felt something gritty between her teeth; and, finally, that she
was afterwards taken so ill, as to be obliged to go to the hospital.
The last fact was indubitably true; but it was equally so that she came
out cured, without it ever having occurred to the hospital doctors to
treat her for poison.

Under these circumstances it was decided, that Lucia must be the
poisoner. But she had always been particularly fond of the deceased.
Ah! but then she had a love affair with the tinker, which looked very
bad. She had obstinately determined to leave her place just before
fairing time. That was very suspicious. She had to all appearance
poisoned the old woman also; though nobody seems to have dreamed of
asking for what possible motive she should have committed this second
crime. Then, to clinch all, the reverend Dr. Masi, the Archbishop's
fiscal (a friend of the Sirani family), swore, that on his visiting
Lucia in prison, in order to examine her as to the state of her soul,
she said, "If you mean to hang me, do it at once. At all events, I have
given my soul to the devil!"

So that it was clear, that Lucia was the poisoner. She was arrested,
and the judicial investigations were commenced. Two of the medical men,
who had been present at the post mortem examination, Gallerati and
another, were examined; and, after giving a detailed account of the
appearances they had observed, declared it certain that Elisabetta had
died by poison, either administered to her or "naturally developed,"
but with strong probability in favour of the former hypothesis.

But at this point of the proceeding a curious and characteristic
incident occurred. The ecclesiastical authorities interposed a claim,
that the prisoner should be given up to them, as having been arrested
in a place subjected to ecclesiastical immunities; which was the case
with respect to the poor–house, to which Lucia was taken, as has been
seen, when she left the Sirani house. The claim was admitted; Lucia was
transferred to the hands of the Archbishop's officers, and by them set
at liberty.


According to the ordinary course of proceeding in such cases, had it
not been for this interposition on the part of the Church, Lucia would
have been put to the torture, to extract from her a confession of her
guilt. And it would seem that she was saved from this barbarity only by
that fortunate interference. But it appears, that all that had taken
place in the matter formed no bar to a new arrest, if the accused could
be caught on unprivileged ground. No further steps however were taken
in the business, till the following April, 1666; when Lucia, who does
not appear to have made any attempt at escape, either by flight or by
remaining in sanctuary, was arrested afresh, as she was walking in the
main street of the city.

The first question put to her was, whether she had any idea of the
cause of her arrest. She answered at once, "The death of La Sirani."

"Are you aware that any painter or other person had any feeling of envy
or hatred against the deceased?"

"I neither know, nor did I ever hear of any body hating the Signora
Elisabetta, from professional jealousy or any other cause."

"What was your reason for so suddenly leaving the family a few days
before the fair?"

"Because I was weary of hearing continual fault–finding."

"Were you then not treated well in the Sirani family?"

"By the gentlemen[231] of the family, I was always well treated; and
especially by the Signora Elisabetta. And if it had not been for her
kindness, I should certainly have left the house long before, so
insupportable were the annoyances of the Signora Margherita. But I
remained for love of the Signora Elisabetta, who was very fond of me."

She was then questioned about the tinker; although her conduct with
respect to him does not appear to have the slightest bearing on the
case. She admitted, that he had been an old sweetheart of hers, when
she lived with her mother, and he had been a lodger in the same house.

Then came the circumstance of the old woman, and the soup, and the red
powder. The woman, by this time, quite recovered from her illness,
swore positively that Lucia had taken the powder from her bosom, and
that it was red, and that she had said that it was cinnamon. Lucia,
confronted with her, swore that she took the powder from a box on a
shelf, that it was pepper, and she put it into the soup in presence of
Giacoma, Sirani's sister, who, as we have seen, was the family cook.

Now, according to the regular practice of the criminal courts, this
contradictory swearing required that the accused should be tortured.
Moreover, Giacoma ought to have been called as a witness. But neither
of these things was done. It seems however, that the judge had
conferred privately with Doctor Mattaselani, and had been satisfied by
him that the old woman had never been poisoned at all.

[Sidenote: LUCIA'S EXILE.]

Lucia was sent back to prison, and ordered to produce her defence in
three days. At the end of that time an advocate presented himself
on her behalf, and showed without difficulty, as may be judged from
what has been related of the accusation, that there was no tittle of
evidence against the prisoner; and he especially demanded that the
other medical men, who had made the post–mortem examination, should
be called to give their evidence. For two only, Gallerati, the family
doctor, and another, had hitherto been examined.

This was done. And Doctor Mattaselani and another, describing the
appearance of the body exactly as the others had done, gave it as their
decided opinion, that the death had been caused by an inflammatory
ulcer arising from natural causes; as any medical man of the present
day would, from the symptoms detailed above, conclude to have been in
all probability the truth.

It having thus become tolerably clear that there was no case whatever
against Lucia Tolomelli, for that was the unlucky girl's name, she was
not condemned as a poisoner, but banished from the Legation.

The Sirani family themselves, however, as well as the judicial
authorities, seem to have on reflection come to the conclusion, that
Lucia was certainly innocent, and her exile unjust. For there is
extant, an instance, signed by Giovanni Sirani, and dated 3rd January,
1668, wherein he formally declares, that he has no complaint to make
against her, and no opposition to offer to the remission of her
sentence of exile.

The amount of public feeling excited in Bologna by Elisabetta Sirani's
untimely death, was extraordinarily great. As usual in similar cases,
the popular regret took the form of indignation, and demanded an
expiatory victim. As usual, also, theories more or less melodramatic,
were invented to account for and adorn the misfortune. It was hardly
to be supposed that Lucia could have had any spite of her own against
her kind young mistress. She must have acted then at the instigation of
another; some powerful person no doubt; some great man, whom the young
artist had offended probably, by the rejection of amatory advances,
said some, or by a satirical use of her pencil, as others supposed.
This explained all the irregularity observed in the process. This was
why Lucia was not tortured, as by good right she ought to have been.
This made it clear why she was set at liberty for a while, till by
practising on the doctors, they could be induced to give such testimony
as would hush the matter up, with a verdict of death from natural
causes. This also, finally, accounted for Lucia's removal for awhile
by exile, till the excitement and curiosity of the public should have

And as such a theory comfortably explained much which the citizens
were at a loss to comprehend, as it supplied abundant food for gossip,
and under–breath speculations and guesses, and wise looks, as to the
concealed author of all this wickedness, and especially as it made a
good story to tell and to write, this became the accredited version,
till now it is stated, as a simple fact in artistic manuals and
guide–books, that Elisabetta Sirani was poisoned.


The real truth is, that there is not a tittle of evidence in favour of
such a supposition, to be opposed to all the insuperable difficulties
in the way of convicting Lucia, the only person whom it was found
possible to suspect. The only fragment of foundation to the entire
fiction consists in Dr. Gallerati's ignorant and learned trash about
administered poisons, and inborn poisons. Even he only ventured to
incline in favour of the probability of the former in this case. And
the direct testimony of Dr. Mattaselani and one of his colleagues,
agreeing as it does with the view which any modern medical man would
take of the case as reported, viz., that the deceased died of inflamed
ulcer in the stomach, may be rightly held to be conclusive on the

Some letters from persons at Bologna, including two from Giovanni
Sirani, written immediately after Elisabetta's death, to correspondents
at Florence, have recently been published in the "Rivista di Firenze."
The editor thinks that "no doubt remains at the present day, that
her (Elisabetta's) death was caused by poison given her by the maid,
Lucia Tolomelli, the instrument either of the despised love, or of the
offended pride of some powerful personage." To the present writer,
however, the opinion expressed above, which is also that of Signor
Toselli, to whom we are indebted for the discovery and publication of
the records of the trial, appears equally "undoubted."

One of the letters, six in number, is from the physician Gallerati, in
which he details the result of the post–mortem examination as we have
it in his evidence.

Another is from Count Annibale Ranuzzi to the Cardinal Leopoldo de'
Medici, in which he says, "The poor girl was poisoned according to the
unanimous opinion of the medical men, who to the number of seven or
eight were present at the examination of the body." This, as we have
seen, was not true.

A third letter is from Giovanni Sirani to the same Cardinal, in which
he says that his "daughter Elisabetta had been removed from the world
by poison, through envy."

A fourth letter from the same to the Cardinal, says, that he thinks he
shall be obliged "to quit his clime of Bologna, and go where justice
is not suffocated; for this enormous crime has been concealed under
pretext of ecclesiastical immunities."

We knew before that such were the opinions prevalent at Bologna at the
time. But we know also that Giovanni Sirani changed his opinion on the
subject. And it must be borne in mind, that criminal proceedings were
kept strictly secret in the Papal States; and that the public therefore
had not those means of enlightening its judgment on the subject, which
Signor Toselli's pamphlet has supplied to us.

The sorrow for the young artist's untimely death was general in
Bologna, and the manifestations of it may seem to us excessive. But in
that day, when art, though on the decline from its culminating period,
was all that retained any real life in Italy, the artist held a place
in the esteem and interest of his fellow citizens, which, however
honoured, he cannot hope to do in communities where his art is only
one of a hundred manifestations of intellectual life and energy. In
losing her young and rising artist, Bologna lost an important element
of her claim to take rank among her rival municipalities in the scale
of civilisation and renown.


Still this hardly seems to be sufficient to account for the outburst
of wailing and enthusiastic apotheosising which followed Elisabetta's
death. Greater artists died, were mourned, and celebrated with far
less universality of lamentation and eulogistic commemoration. And
on looking over the threnodic expression of Bologna's regret for "La
Sirani," it seems clear that the woman had captivated the affection of
her contemporaries, as much as the artist had excited their admiration.

Judging from the picture in the Ercolani gallery at Bologna, which
represents her in the act of painting a portrait of her father, and
which has been engraved for Signor Toselli's pamphlet, she must have
been very pretty. And it is recorded that her figure was tall and
elegant. She was a good musician, and her conversation is said to have
been witty and sprightly. Yet one of the innumerable sonnets on her
death begins:

  "Fui donna in terra, e non conobbi amore."

  "A woman while on earth, I yet knew nought of love."

And indeed it may be supposed that she had resolutely determined
to devote herself and her life and energies wholly and exclusively
to her art. For in Italy few marriages are made by women after the
twenty–sixth year.

Her funeral may be said to have been a public one, so extensive were
the absurdities of funeral pomp, and so general the participation in
the ceremony of all classes of the citizens. Malvasia, the historian of
Bolognese art, who was intimate with her and her family, has written
what he calls her life, in his "Felsina Pittrice," really in the tone
of a man beside himself. He is furious that Lucia was not tortured to
make her discoverer the instigator of her supposed crime; he regrets
that "being a Christian and a Priest," he cannot with propriety curse
all persons guilty of her death, as violently as he should like to do;
and altogether has written some score of pages in a style of monstrous
bombast, which seems a caricature of the well–known absurdities of the
Italian style of that epoch.

Finally, there is a volume, entitled, "Il Pennello lagrimato,"
published at Bologna in the year of her death, which consists of a
great variety of orations, odes, sonnets, anagrams, funeral conundrums,
and epitaphs, in Latin and Italian, by all the literary and learned
men of the city, proving the high place poor Elisabetta had held in
the affections and esteem of her contemporaries, and the extremity of
bad taste, puerility, and abasement, into which a century or so of
"orderly" despotism had plunged the nation.





In the Via della Forca, at Florence, the eye of an observant
traveller may remark a marble slab let into the front of an otherwise
undistinguished house, and bearing the inscription "Here lived La
Corilla in the eighteenth century." The laconic stone vouchsafes no
further word of enlightenment; those who placed it where it stands,
for the information of future generations, having evidently imagined
that nothing more would be necessary, and that posterity, on seeing the
brief announcement, would gaze on the dirty plaster–coloured tenement
with enthusiasm, while it exclaimed, "Ha! 'twas within these walls,
then, that the bright poet–spirit, the marvel of her age, the divine
Corilla, lived while she was in the flesh!" &c., &c. But posterity
unfortunately has already in the century next after the one so
illustrated begun to exclaim instead, "Corilla lived here! And who the
deuce was Corilla?" And then posterity, it is to be feared, would think
nothing more about the matter.

And yet the question is worth answering. For "La Corilla," forgotten as
she is, and in nowise worthy of being remembered on any other ground,
was the quintessential product and expression of the literary life of
her time and country. And, what is more important, that literature, and
those literary tastes and habits, which may be said to have culminated
in La Corilla, were the normal product, evolved according to certain
unchanging and ascertainable laws, of the general social system then
prevailing in Italy. And this again was with perfect regularity of
cause and effect brought about in due course of historical development;
so that from Dante, who was exiled, to La Corilla, who was crowned at
the Capitol, the march of Italy across the centuries may be traced
almost as surely in the history of its literature, as in that of its
material life and political changes.

Yes. The lady who lived in the Via della Forca in the eighteenth
century was crowned at the Capitol in Rome in the year 1776. This is
the principal fact of her story, tellable in very few words. But for
the reasons stated above, it is worth while to spend a few minutes in
examining what that crowning at the Capitol was and meant, and how La
Corilla came to deserve that remarkable distinction.

We find that she had three predecessors on that throne in the Roman
Campidoglio: Petrarch, Tasso, and "Perfetti." Petrarch and Tasso the
world knows, though it knows little of their Roman crowning. And
diligent Dryasdust researches will discover "Perfetti" to be the
name of a man—and a cavalier—who in that same eighteenth century was
similarly operated on, and whom not even Dryasdust could have dug out
from the underlying strata, had he not been so treated.

And here we are struck by the remarkable fact of the long abeyance of
the laurel crown. From Tasso in the sixteenth, to Perfetti and Corilla
in the eighteenth century, it should seem, none were found crownable in
Italy. Are we to consider that these recent crowned heads take rank in
their country's Pantheon next after the author of the "Gerusalemme"?
Or must it be supposed that the significance of Campidoglio crowning
became changed yet more rapidly than the national literature, fast as
it moved in the same direction, could follow it; so that the knight
Perfetti and the lady Corilla were the first who overtook the standard
of the crown conferrers, and came up to the modern mark?


Let us see whether any explanation of these puzzling circumstances can
be obtained from an examination of La Corilla's titles to her high

In the vulgar unpoetical world of baptismal registers, milliners'
bills, and such matter–of–fact trivialities, "La Corilla" was known
as Maria Maddalena Morelli. It was only "in Arcadia" that she was "La
Corilla Olympica;" for such was her full Arcadian style and title.

Maria Maddalena Morelli, then, in plain prose, was born of humble
parents at Pistoja, a Tuscan city some twenty miles from Florence, in
the year 1740, and was educated in a better manner than the means of
her parents could have commanded, by the kindness of a noble lady of
that city. When she was only ten years old, her lively gracious manners
and pleasing appearance obtained for her another and more important
patroness. This was the Princess Pallavicini, who took the engaging
child with her to Rome, and there completed her education according to
the best and most perfect literary methods known to an age and people,
who deemed Metastasio "the Prince of Poets."

While still at Rome she began to be favourably known to "the shepherds
and shepherdesses, who owned the gentle sway of the blond–haired god
of the silver bow," in that city for the quickness of her parts, and
inclination towards poetry. And there a third patroness took her by
the hand—the Princess Columbrano—who carried the blossoming muse with
her to Naples, there to rhyme "amore," "a tutte le ore," for the
amusement and admiration of the polite drawing–rooms, whose serene and
illustrious inmates were unable to perform such feats of intellect for

Her success in this occupation was great, and was attended by a rapidly
increasing and extending reputation. Amid these early triumphs the
youthful poetess was wooed and won by Fernando Fernandez, a Spanish
gentleman, whose entire biography, so far as recoverable from the
greedy maw of dull oblivion, is narrated in the above words. Having
given the "Zitella" Maddalena Morelli the social status of "La Signora
Fernandez," he retires behind the side–scene, and is no more heard of.

It may be as well to state at once, however, to prevent misconception,
that, notwithstanding the social circumstances which called Don
Fernando to live in the shade, while his wife pursued her calling in
the sunshine, there is no reason to doubt that La Signora Fernandez was
a very good wife to her husband, and devoted herself to her domestic
duties whenever she could get out of "Arcadia" for a season.

As for Don Fernando, the one sole fact of his biography will probably
authorise us to conclude that he was a shrewd gentleman, with a good
eye for the main chance; for in truth the marriage with "La Corilla"
was a very good speculation. And the great Mr. Barnum, had he lived
in those days, would assuredly have put himself into communication
with her, and made arrangements for working the Arcadian farm to their
mutual profit. However inferior to so great a master, Don Fernando
was no doubt awake to the Arcadian yield. And we may picture him
to ourselves as occupied in haunting the antechambers of princes
and cardinals with "programmes" in his pocket, signing and issuing
tickets, bargaining with fiddlers for their accompaniment to the Muse's
improvisation, and doing any other such Arcadian bottle–holding as
might assist in keeping his own and the Muse's pot boiling for the
comfort of their ex–Arcadian existence.


It is evident that Corilla's business was a very profitable one. The
highnesses, serenities, eminences, and other minor grandees were
condemned to dreadfully dull lives in those days, and were delighted
with any stimulant of a sufficiently mild nature and thoroughly safe
quality. The world's rulers had long since learned that it was good
to "patronise literature." It was in those days more than ever the
fashion to do so. But literature had of late been exhibiting symptoms
very disquieting to its courtly friends, who found it more than ever
necessary to take precautions for having their literature of the right

The "difficulty" between literature and princes is one of old date;
and, truth to tell, the connection between them has rarely been
creditable to either party. If Francis I. showed his paternal regard
for learning by limiting the printing–presses in all France to twelve
licensed machines, literature, even as represented by such men as the
historian Robertson, has been flunky enough to extol him as "the father
of letters!" How often has the clause—"but he protected literature and
loved learned men"—been accepted in a historian's summing–up of the
character of some royal scourge of humanity, as a set–off against a
host of abominations wholly incompatible with any real appreciation of
the value of human intellect! It is quite time that the historic claims
of many princely "fathers of literature" to the lenient consideration
of the world on this ground, should be more rightly appreciated. And
the dealings of several of the Italian princes during the last three
hundred years with those "dangerous classes" of their subjects, the
men of the pen, form a very instructive manual of the royal art of
patronising literature.

Cosmo I., Duke of Florence, by the grace of Charles V., was a most
able practitioner in this line. He founded the Florentine Academy,
and regulated its studies and duties in accordance with the great
discovery, that the exercise of men's minds on words might be quite
safe and harmless, if carefully disjoined from any application of
their thoughts to things; nay, might even not only be harmless, but
positively useful in promoting all those qualities which make men
good subjects. And it is quite curious to observe with what unity
of aim, means, and success, the policy so inaugurated by him has
been carried out by those who came after him. Hence the innumerable
"academies" which swarmed in every city of Italy, vieing with each
other in the absurdity of their appellations and the frivolity of their
pursuits. Hence the production of a literature which from generation to
generation grew ever safer and safer, till it culminated in Arcadian
shepherds and shepherdesses, and gave birth to a Corilla, who could be
warranted to produce, in whatever heat of poetical estro and fervid
flow of extempore song, only such strains as were fitted for noble
ears to hear, and were calculated to "encourage the best sentiments in
the masses."

[Sidenote: ARCADIANS.]

The literature thus produced to meet the special requirements of
enlightened princely protectors, and perfectionated by the dwindling
intellect of successive generations to a pitch of imbecility
scarcely credible, instructively illustrates its own birth, descent,
antecedents, and functions, by the consistent and intense falsity
which saturates and gives its character to the entire mass of it.
The exterior and avowed fictions, which turned companies of sober
middle–aged gentlemen, nobles, magistrates, lawyers, physicians, and
divines, into Arcadian shepherds, calling each other by such absurd
_aliases_ as "Parmenio Dirceo," "Prasilio Dedaleo," "Dorillo Dafneio,"
and a thousand such, were but the fitting corporeal manifestation of
a spirit as fictitious. The essence of "Arcadian" citizenship was to
think false thoughts, to speak no word which should be a representation
of any real thing, to cut off with jealous care all possible
communication between the world of "Arcady" and the world of reality,
and to take good heed that no stray tone of the voice of literature
should by chance address itself to any one genuine feeling of the heart
of man, evoke a sincere thought, or appeal to a real interest. It is
easy to see how admirably such a literature was adapted to fulfil the
objects of the princely founders and patrons of "Academies."

Our Olympic Corilla's business therefore throve, as every business does
that produces wares in demand. Shortly after her marriage, the now
celebrated _Improvisatrice_ made a professional tour through Italy,
and was listened to with delight in the patrician saloons of Bologna,
Modena, Parma, Venice, &c. Fresh triumphs, we are told, everywhere
awaited her; and her readiness, nimbleness of wit and tongue, and
facility, became the admiration of all Italy.

The land of the "dolce favella" still brings forth "improvisatori" and
"improvisatrice;" and those who have had an opportunity of hearing
performances of the sort will readily appreciate the quality and amount
of talent needed for the production of them. A dull, unimpressionable
or unimaginative mind would of course entirely fail at any such
exercise. But it is extremely probable, that a profound and suggestive
intellect richly laden with stores of thought, and habitually critical
in the marshalling and effective presentment of those stores, would
be found equally unsuccessful. A light nimble wit of exclusively
objective tendency, unburdened by deep views of things, and unimpeded
by habits of examination and reflection; a ready and copious memory,
well furnished with common–places, a good command of the language and
its inexhaustible rhyming capabilities—that mellifluous language,
of which it may be said, that every child born to the use of it,
"lisps in numbers, for the numbers come" naturally to its attempts to
talk;—and finally, perhaps the most essential qualification of all for
the exercise of the art, a practised dexterity in avoiding any such
treatment of a given subject as might lead to difficulty, a competent
degree of skill in keeping to generals, and in finding some thread of
connection, by virtue of which matter that can be easily said and sung
from the cut and dried assortment of common places in store, is forced
by a gentle compulsion to serve the purpose of more or less pertinently
illustrating the topic in hand;—these are the qualifications which
form the equipment of the "improvisatore." Practice will of course
infinitely increase the performer's capabilities. Of course, too, a
clever and bright professor of the art will string his rhymes with
more play of fancy, and a greater approach to some novelty of poetical
thought, than a stupid one. But it is difficult to believe that
anything worth even the value of the hour spent in hearing him was
ever produced by a practitioner of improvisation. And the habit of
encouraging and admiring such performances is doubtless, to a certain
degree, pernicious to a people who need every possible incitement
to lower their estimate of the value of words as opposed to that of
things, instead of additional temptations to accept mere verbiage in
the place of thought.


But among the "distinguished circles" which patronised our Corilla,
this was exactly the article wanted. Accordingly, when Pietro Leopoldo
was to be married to Maria Luisa of Bourbon in 1765, Corilla was
invited by the great Maria Theresa to go to Innspruck "to celebrate the
nuptials." And we can well understand that she did so, eminently to the
satisfaction of her imperial patrons. On returning well remunerated to
Florence, she was appointed court poetess, and received a pension. And
now her reputation had become clearly European in its extent, as far at
least as that could be conferred by the courts of Europe. For Catherine
the Second, thinking that she too would do the royal thing in civilised
style, and patronise literature, sent an invitation to the poetess to
come from Arcady to Russia, and be court poetess there,—not, it is
to be hoped, to sing the "res gestæ" of the sovereign! But Corilla
preferred to be a ducal poetess in "la bella Firenze," rather than an
imperial one in Russia. And Catherine, though refused, nevertheless
marked her appreciation of the claims of literature by conferring a
pension on its court representative. Another invitation came to the
happy shepherdess from Joseph the Second, who, radical reformer as he
was, yet was quite monarchical enough to admire and approve Arcadian
literature. Joseph was also refused; and he too sent magnificent
presents to the recalcitrant Muse.



The celebrated "improvisatrice" had been some time before this
solemnly admitted a member of their Academy by the Arcadians of
Rome. She entered Arcady as the "pastorella, Corilla Olympica;" and
was thenceforth better known by that name than her real one. The
Arcadians were exceedingly proud of their shepherdess; and to make
the most of her, and at the same time get an occasion of parading all
their pastoral absurdities, and obtaining each shepherd his share
of glorification, it was suggested to have a coronation on the old
Capitoline–hill, and try to make believe for a while, that the laurel
bestowed in that time–hallowed spot, had still a value, and represented
something in the eyes of Europe.

There were, however, difficulties in the way, of a nature which are
not apparent in the official records of the ceremony. These are all
to be found in a very handsomely got up volume, printed by Bodoni the
celebrated typographer, at the royal Parma press, in the year 1779.
The publication comprises also the numerous poetical compositions
produced in honour of the occasion, together with "A list of the
gentlemen poets"—"Indice de' Signori Poeti," who took part in the
proceeding. There are no less than sixty–six possessors of the "Os
magna sonaturum!" designed to unapprehensive posterity by such names
and titles as "Antilio Pireatide, a member of the Inextricables of
Parma, called Birdilio among the Academicians of Concord," and, among
vulgar men, professor of rhetoric in the College at Parma;—"Aglauro
of the Reggio Hypochondriacs" (this unfortunate person was a lady
known outside Arcady as the Countess Paradisi);—"Fidauro Tessalide,
a Dominican monk, called Lucio Lentulo among the Strong Academicians
of Rome;"—"L' Intronato, member of the Transformed Ones of Milan;"—"
Nivildo Amaranzio, a priest, called in the outer world, Giovacchino
Pizzi, member of the Academy of Inscriptions at Paris, a Della Cruscan
at Florence, and Custos–General of Arcadia!"—"Parmenio Dirceo of Parma,
called Philander of Crete among the shepherds of Emonia;"—"Telejo
Focidense, an Academician of Florence, Apathist, Vice–Custos of the
Alphean Colony of Arcadians," and among un–Arcadian men professor
of feudal law in the University of Pisa;—"Dr. Agnelli, secretary of
the Intrepid Ones, and Pro–vice–Custos of the Ariostean Colony of
Arcadians;"—and, finally, "Maria Forster, Poetess of the late Princess
of Tuscany, Violante."


These and a crowd of other strangely nick–named gentlemen and ladies
contribute to fill the superbly printed pages of a book, which, it
may be safely asserted, no human eye has ever perused in its entirety
since it was printed. The Custos–General of Arcadia himself would
probably have been unequal to the task. But the more strictly official
documents of the ceremony contained in the volume have, with toil and
much suffering from nausea, been read by the present writer. And it is
certain that no remotest hint of the difficulties that lay in the way
of this desirable recognition of merit, as mentioned above, is to be
discovered. The "Conservatori" of Rome, we are told, having "specially
observed the transports of affection demonstrated by La Corilla for
this favoured city, the seat of Religion and Virtue, and hearing the
praises into which she continually broke forth in her extemporaneous
songs, of the pacific and well–regulated government, of the greatness
of mind, the invincible justice, and rare piety of the sovereign
recently seated on the throne of St. Peter, on occasion of whose happy
exaltation she had frequently improvised, and finally seeing her so
much honoured, praised, visited, and distinguished by many noble and
conspicuous personages,"—the Conservatori of Rome, duly rating all
these meritorious circumstances, having first presented her with a
diploma of Roman nobility, thought fit to make application to the papal
government for permission to crown her on the Capitol. A most gracious
and benign answer was returned, forwarded to the Custos–General
of all Arcadia; and the whole matter is made to assume the aspect
of a spontaneous homage—if not exactly to merit—at least to those
unpremeditated lays in favour of papal government, and virtue. Pius
the Sixth is touched by the enthusiastic and ingenuous tribute of the
inspired singer, and at once falls in with the wishes of his subjects,
Arcadian and other, to award the laurel to so deserving a shepherdess.

Where is there any difficulty in the matter? Is it to be found
in the shrinking modesty of the poetess? Has any envious brother
shepherd;—(for Arcadia itself was not free from such passions);—raised
an opposing voice to the general wishes?

Not this. But that "amari aliquid," the bill. Benignant Pius and his
pacific government,—break forth into whatever unpremeditated praises of
him you may,—will not lend his Capitoline Hill for you to be crowned on
under forty thousand dollars! A consideration well calculated to make
an aspiring poet pause, and admirably adapted to keep the company of
laurel–crowned heads select! Where was Arcadia to get forty thousand
dollars? Forty thousand sonnets the shepherds and shepherdesses of
its tuneful vales would have gladly advanced at a short notice. But
dollars were another matter. And without the cash down, no crowning!
The encouragement of literature, Rome honouring herself before the
world, asserting ancient supremacy in letters and civilisation, was all
very fine; and the papal government was delighted to encourage merit
... at forty thousand dollars a head; would doubtless even have had the
liberality to crown a dozen for the four hundred thousand dollars; but
upon one single crowning no reduction could be made.

But the Arcadian shepherds, and the gentle "pastorella" more
specially interested had a friend;—one whose flocks were fed not in
Arcady, but on wide–spreading Tuscan pastures;—a man of money, who
was willing to invest the serious sum required in pageantry for the
eternal glorification of Arcadia,—and himself. This public–spirited
individual was the Senator Lorenzo Ginori, who paid the cash, and was,
therefore—to leave Arcady and speak plain truth for awhile;—the real
author and getter up of the entire affair. And the whole carefully
maintained appearance of spontaneity, the high–flown talk of the papal
admiration for the matchless poetess, and honourable encouragement
of letters, the floods of mutual complimentation between all parties
engaged in the grave farce, were all as utterly false and fictitious
as the "literature" to be encouraged, the sentiments expressed, the
designations of the mummers who uttered them, and everything else in
this idyllic Arcady. And everybody knew perfectly well, that everybody
else knew that the whole thing was a sham and a humbug. Yet they
mouthed out their speeches and their odes and sonnets, and said all
that could have been said if the thing had been genuine, with grave
decorum, without laughing in each other's faces; and found the doing so
an exceedingly agreeable pastime.


Not a hint of the real nature of the business is to be found in the
records of it, above mentioned. What does Arcady know of dollars?
Of "Phœbus the blond ruler of Parnassus," of Arcadian shepherds in
conclave, and of the lofty meed of glorious song, we read much. But of
the Senator Lorenzo Ginori and his forty thousand good dollars, not a
word; which seems rather hard on so munificent a patron of Arcadia.

The narrative of the proceedings on the occasion, ridiculous enough
even if they had been genuine, becomes infinitely more absurd when read
by the light of the real facts of the case. It was pretended that the
Academy of Arcadians were to adjudge and decree the crown. And they
were to make believe to subject the aspirant to a tremendously severe
ordeal; on which it was supposed their judgment was to be based. In
solemn Arcadian conclave accordingly it was arranged that the poetess
should be called on to extemporise on twelve "subjects of science and
art." And twelve experienced shepherds are gravely appointed by the
conclave to propose themes on the following subjects:—

   1. Sacred history.               7. Legislation.
   2. Revealed religion.            8. Eloquence.
   3. Moral philosophy.             9. Mythology.
   4. Physical science.            10. Harmony.
   5. Metaphysics.                 11. The fine arts.
   6. Heroic poetry.               12. Pastoral poetry.

When poor Corilla should have produced a sufficient extempore poem
on each of these subjects, she was to be declared worthy of the
laurel–crown! Sacred history was assigned to Bishop Giovardi, who was
"Dean of Arcadia." And the Archbishop of Apamea undertook revealed
religion. Physical science was entrusted to the Pope's physician; the
other subjects confided to equally able shepherds.

Three days were appointed for the solemn trial; four poems per day
being deemed as much as the poet or the audience could endure. And on
each of these, four of the appointed twelve examiners were to hand in
a theme in a paper carefully sealed, to show that it could not have
been communicated previously to the candidate. And of course everybody
pretended to consider this as proof perfectly conclusive on that point.

The first examination was to take place at the house of Prince Gonzago
di Castiglione; and all "the cream" of the Roman world was there.

"The improvisatrice," says the record, "entered the saloon with some
appearance of apprehension, seeing herself exposed to so arduous an
ordeal, and to the judgment of the public. The signal was given to the
violins to begin their harmonious sounds for the purpose of stirring
up the poetess—_per iscuotere la poetessa_—and while everybody was
expecting some well–considered exordium, she looked around as if lost
and stupefied; and seeing at that moment one of her Arcadian friends
enter, she burst into song imploring of him prompt and well–timed
aid. Then as if repenting of the weakness, and disdaining all human
assistance, she invoked the mighty name of God; which produced a tender
commotion in the audience. Then blazing up into a wonderful estro of
song, the poetess, continually changing her metre and rhythm, ran over
all the varied scientific topics proposed to her with an inexhaustible
vein of poesy."

[Sidenote: THE FIRST DAY.]

The tournament began with pastoral poetry. And the examiner appointed
for this subject handed in a sealed paper, which when opened in the
presence of the expectant company, was found to contain this novel and
difficult theme: "The advantages of a city life compared with those of
the country."

This topic having been most triumphantly disposed of, the examiner in
physical science stepped forward and requested—by intervention of a
similarly sealed paper—that the "pastorella" would favour the company
with a poem "on the properties of light, explaining at the same time
how the images of objects are painted in the eye."

The shepherdess made no more difficulty about this than she had about
the more manageable theme which had preceded it.

Then came the eloquence examiner, who "invited her to explain the
nature and degree of the fatal blow which eloquence received at the
violent death of Marcus Tullius Cicero." This, too, was successfully
despatched. And the harmony delegate next proposed a poem on the
properties of harmony, subjoining—with a malicious significance, one
might think, if it were possible for Arcadian souls to be guilty of
espièglerie—"an explanation why harmonious sounds, which delight us
for a while, bore us when too long continued."

This was explained to the perfect satisfaction of the company. And
then, the programme of that evening's business having been thus
completed, "after a short pause for a magnificent collation, Corilla,
without manifesting the slightest sign of exhaustion," and utterly
insensible to the great truth she had been illustrating in her fourth
poem, "demanded more themes!"

Whereupon an Abate among the company proposed, "Without religion there
is no true virtue." And this thesis was handled in such style that
"the audience were carried away with inexplicable (!) admiration and
delight at hearing with what grace, learning, eloquence and fire the
above theme was treated, in the poetical exposition of which the great
improvisatrice demonstrated how truly prodigious enthusiasm is the
animating spirit of poets."

On the second evening "all the magistracy of Arcadia" was present,
besides "many other illustrious Arcadians, most ornate prelates,
foreigners, distinguished by birth or learning" (the Duke of Gloucester
was one of the former sort), "renowned monks, and twelve virtuous Roman
ladies." On this occasion the four themes seem to have been given to
the fair candidate all together.

That on revealed religion was, "Of what nature and how revealed was the
first revealed religion?"

On sacred history: "The miraculous passage of the Red Sea."

On mythology: "Why does mythology represent Love to be blind, while at
the same time it gives him a bow and arrows to shoot a certain mark?"


On legislation: "An European endeavouring to instruct a savage in the
advantages of legislation."

On these subjects "the learned poetess fully satisfied with her sublime
song the utmost expectation of the public. She sang in various choice
Tuscan metres upon each of the enumerated topics, mixing them up
occasionally one with another;" which, considering the nature of them,
must have produced at all events some originality of treatment, it may
be supposed.

On this occasion, also, the inexhaustible shepherdess, having made an
end of this supply, demanded more. Whereupon one of the twelve virtuous
ladies suggested, "The death of Pyramus and Thisbe;" and another, "the
elegant problem, Whether constancy was most found in men or in women?"

"The new and spontaneous graces which Corilla manifested in singing on
these themes were truly prodigious; and by her treatment of the first,
several of the audience"—some of the renowned monks, perhaps—"were
visibly moved to tears."

On the third and last evening the audience was so great, that not only
the saloon prepared for the purpose, but the adjoining rooms were
"filled with literature and the nobility." And the following were the
subjects given.

On the fine arts: "Which among them is the most useful and delightful?"
"And a charming thing it was to hear how the able improvisatrice
extolled them all, but awarded the highest place to painting."

In epic poetry: "A specimen of the sublime style proper to epic poetry
in the delineation of the character of some luminous hero?" The
execution of this task was received with an outburst of applause when
it appeared that the most "luminous hero" the judicious poetess could
think of was His Holiness Pope Pius the Sixth!

In metaphysics she was required to set forth the physical and moral
proofs of the immortality of the soul.

The remaining twelfth examination, in moral philosophy, seems by
some error or accident to have been omitted. But the indefatigable
_pastorella_, "in nowise tired or exhausted," demanded, as on the other
occasions, fresh subjects. So the Countess Isabella Soderini proposed
to her, "The lament of a _pastorella_ abandoned by her _pastor_." And
when this had been duly sung, it was proposed to her by a bishop to
conclude her performances with "An invocation to the gods, entreating
them to be propitious on the day of her coronation, and to come down
all of them on the Tarpeian rock to render the solemnity more enviable
and immortal." We are assured that "no language can express the grace
with which the poetess gave a most unexpected turn to this argument,"
by declaring that she needed no other gods and goddesses at her
coronation than those now around her. And the wonderful effect produced
by this "is testified by those who had the good fortune to be present
at this last most marvellous extempore poem."

When it was done, the three hundred persons forming the audience
"partook of abundant refreshments. _So that_ nothing was wanting to
render these literary sessions, noble, brilliant, magnificent, and

A most satisfactory testimonial was of course drawn up in due form,
and signed by the examiners. It is dated, "From the shepherd's hut (la
capanna) of the magnanimous and erudite Arcadian shepherd, Emireno
Alantino;" and was formally presented to the Academy and government
as the motive and authorisation for the coronation ceremony. This was
fixed for the 31st of August. And we have next a minutely detailed
description of all the upholstery magnificences, and the preparations
for seats of various dignity; one eminently glorious reserved for the
Duke of Gloucester, "who deigned to come in from Marino" to be present
at the ceremony; and the musicians, and the "Magistracy of Arcadia,"
and that of Rome, &c. &c.


The nature of the ceremony itself may be easily imagined. The laurel
crown was placed on her head by the Conservatori of the city, as
she kneeled before them, with these words. "_Eximium hoc laudis
poeticæ decus, quod tuo capiti impono sub felicissimis auspiciis
sanctissimi Domini nostri Papæ Pii Sexti, Mulier egregia et nobilis
nostra Civis, sit publici non minus erga te studii argumentum,
quam obsequentissimi animi significatio erga amplissimam illam, et
plane regiam benevolentiam, qua decoraris._" To which she, still
kneeling, responded, "_Poetica laurus immeritæ imposita fronti,
excelsam sanctissimi Patris ac Principis Papæ Pii Sexti munificentiam,
effusamque Senatus Populique Romani erga me voluntatem testatur, quarum
utraque aut honore dignos invenit, aut facit_."

Then of course there was cannon firing and trumpet sounding ad libitum;
and recitations not equally ad libitum. For all Arcadia, as the record
says, would willingly have availed themselves of the opportunity of
indulging in the delight of reciting their compositions to an audience
who could not escape from them. It was therefore absolutely necessary
to stem in some degree the threatening flood of song; and it was
determined that, besides the performances of the _pastorella_ herself,
there should be permitted only one prose recitation, six sonnets, and
one ode. The latter was taken as the lion's share by the "Custos of all
Arcadia;" and the others distributed by lot among the Arcadians.

The prose man abused his opportunity shamefully, speaking sixteen
octavo pages, in which he resumed all the topics treated by Corilla in
her twelve examinations, and set forth how entirely she had satisfied
her Arcadian judges, "all of them," as he said, "swans of an immortal
wing"—"Cigni tutti d'eterne penne!" The sonnetteers were happily
restrained by the immutable rules of their craft. But the great Custos
indulged in some couple of hundred lines of "terza rima."

When all this had been got through, the _pastorella_ herself was called
on to "sing the praises of mighty Rome, and the honour of the laurel
crown." And when she had done this, it was proposed to her to set
forth "the falsity and injustice of the opinion of those, who maintain
that the Christian religion is, by reason of its being founded in
humility, not fitted to encourage talent or foster art." Finally, she
was required to point out "the superiority of modern philosophy to the

"With this last extemporaneous poem, the poetess determined to put the
seal to her glory, by running over with wonderful rapidity all the
philosophical systems of ancient and modern times (!), and finally
awarding the pre–eminence to the present age. In the whole course of
this last song, the sensibility and gratitude of the poetess for the
honour she had received carried her away; and in it the praises of
Rome, for the protection it accords to talent and the fine arts, held
the foremost place."

[Sidenote: THE LAST LAUREL.]

Then came universal congratulations from "the princes and princesses,
cavaliers, and noble foreigners, especially the magnanimous Duke of

And so terminated the last adjudication of the laurel crown on the
hill of the Capitol; a symbol which, once invested with true and high
significance, had dwindled in perfect sympathy with all around it,
till, like so many another superannuated embodiment of human thought,
it had become a mere trading imposture, symbolising nothing but the
utter hollowness and intense falsity of the social system, of which it
was an unhealthy excrescence.

But it must not be imagined, that even in Rome in 1776, the decorous
farce with which princes, and eminences, and Arcadian bishops, and
"renowned monks," amused themselves, was universally accepted at more
than its real worth in less polite circles outside the official and
Arcadian world. Old Pasquin asserted his immemorial privileges on
the occasion. An immense number of satires and libels were current
in Rome, in which our poor Corilla was treated in a way that she at
least seems in no degree to have deserved, for all that we hear of her
private life, represents her to have been a good and estimable woman.
Among other lampoons, the following is to be found recorded by Signor
Vannucci in an article on Corilla in the "Raccolta Biographica" of
Tipaldo. It marks the popular estimate of the value of Senator Ginori's
forty–thousand scudi bargain:—

  "Ordina e vuole Monsignor Missei
  Che se passa Corilla coll'alloro,
  Non le si tirin bucce o pomidoro,
  Sotto la pena di baiocchi sei."

Monsignor Missei was governor of Rome. And the ordinance attributed to
him by Pasquin, may be read somewhat thus:—

  "By Monsignor Missei's decree, whoever
  Shall pelt Corilla in her laurel crown
  With love–apples or parings whatsoever,
  Must pay the penalty of threepence down."

The innocent _pastorella_, however, soon withdrew herself from the
Arcadian honours and popular gibes of the Eternal City; and carried
her crown and her reputation home to her native Tuscany. The former
she devoutly dedicated to the Virgin, over one of whose altars, in the
city of Pistoja, it may yet be seen. The latter, as has been said,
had not been barren; but had procured for her the means of making a
comfortable home for herself and her husband in the Via della Forca in
fair Florence. She had one child, who died in its infancy. As for her
husband, it may be remarked, that on the great day of the coronation,
among all the detail of seats set apart for this and the other
functionary and notability, we do not meet with any mention of the
smallest stool appropriated to the Arcadian king–consort. He rises to
the surface no more, except to have his death chronicled in 1790. His
wife survived him only two years. But she had lived long enough to see
Arcadia desolate, and the literary fashions and traditions of her palmy
day, scattered before the morning wind of another epoch.





The Abate Baldassare Zamboni collected, chiefly from the muniment–room
of the Cappello family at Venice, upwards of 200 letters of Bianca,
for the illustration of a life of her, which remains unfinished in MS.
Of these Signor Federico Odorici has selected twenty–three, which he
has printed in a pamphlet entitled, "New Researches Concerning Bianca
Cappello," Milan, 1858. The chivalrous object of Signor Odorici's
labour is to "rehabilitate" poor Bianca, according to the fashion so
much in vogue in these latter days. I had no opportunity of seeing his
pamphlet till my life of Bianca was finished. But I cannot say that
it has led me to alter my estimate or conception of her character. I
am indebted to him, however, for the power of giving my reader the
following letters selected from his selection as the most interesting
among them.

 I.—_To the very magnificent Signor, Signor Andrea Cappello, my most
 respected Cousin, and as it were my Brother, at Venice._

  1572, February 21 (Venetian style).

I received and read your most welcome letter with the greatest
pleasure. I am well pleased with your prudent discourse, and if I
can judge therefrom how much you desire my return, think how greatly
I must wish to bring it to pass; and indeed I was resolved upon it
after the event[232] which has taken place, but fortune, not content
with persecuting me with unnumbered grievances, made my father–in–law
resolve on assuming the guardianship of my daughter, and depriving me
of it; and this he has been able to do, for so the laws and statutes of
this city direct; that if the father of one defunct be yet living, to
him rather than to any other be conceded the care of his grandchildren.
Now think what must be my state of mind, and how greatly displeased
must be the most noble Signor my father and the most magnificent Signor
my brother, to whom for their better information I have sent copies of
the contracts of such guardianship and of the laws, that they might
see how matters stand with me to my great sorrow, and that they might
not again fall out with me, who have no fault in the matter: and if it
were not for the hope that I have in the most worthy and illustrious
Lady Isabella, daughter of our Duke and my most kind patroness, I
should fear to get into some great trouble; yet I will not despair,
and will trust in our Lord God and in your illustrious excellency for
the finding of some remedy, because the world for the most part is all
out of order; and I thought I would inform you of these particulars,
because I know you have a hearty liking for me; and I entreat you to
keep me informed here of whatever may be needful, and to defend me, if
required, and to keep this our correspondence secret as usual; and may
it please you to commend me to the Signor Doctor Gardelino, to whom for
the present I do not write, and who I know was informed of everything
by my very illustrious family, although when he was here he saw all
that happened, and was informed respecting all that was thought likely
to follow in the matter, nor will I at present say more, &c.

From Florence, the 21st day of February, 1572.

  Your Magnificence's cousin, and as it were sister,


II.—_To the same._

  1573, January 9 (Ven. style).

... I must tell you, my Lord, that I was utterly astounded at the
answer given you by my most illustrious (_father_), for certainly such
words as those spoken by him do not agree with the letters which he
writes me. True it is that one cannot know the truth that is in men;
yet I put my trust in God, who will do with me as shall be best. As to
what my most illustrious father told you of me, that I wrote to him
telling him that I was mistress of thirty thousand crowns in real and
chattel property, it is true; but of this you must understand that I
have to leave some portion to my daughter as duty requires, and that
she may be honourably married as befits my daughter; and to quit this
subject that I may not trouble your Lordship further, I will conclude,
&c., &c.

From Florence, the 9th day of January, 1573.


III.—_To the same._

  1573, January 16.

... Your Lordship writes me that it has been said to the most
illustrious Bon[233] that I possess twenty thousand crowns in money;
but in this I think there has been some mistake, for I never wrote that
I had such a sum in money; it is very true that I wrote to my most
magnificent brother that in real and chattel property and jewels I have
more than thirty thousand crowns; and if I should go away in favour
with my most illustrious lady dognisabella (_Donna Isabella Medici_) I
should hope to take with me the greater part of the said property and
possessions; and you must consider that I ought to leave a part of this
to my daughter, therefore I think they have exaggerated in their offers
to the most illustrious Bon, for it had been better to offer less and
afterwards increase, than to offer more and perchance not come up to
the sum, &c....

... I have received a letter, my Lord and Brother, from the very
magnificent Francesco Moro, who writes me ... all the conversation
which you have had with my most illustrious father, but it differs
greatly from what your Lordship wrote me; because the aforesaid
Signor Francesco says that my illustrious father told your Lordship
that he would prefer me to marry here; so that these words seem to me
quite different from what you wrote me, &c., &c. And I should wish,
my dearest Lord and Brother, that this business be kept as secret as
possible, for if it were known to the most worthy and illustrious Lady
Isabella it would be very hurtful to me, and would overthrow all our
plans, &c.

Florence, the 16th day of January, 1573.

  Your Lordship's, &c.


I pray your Lordship to remember my birth (_certificate_) of which I
wrote to you, and send it me, whereby you will do me a great favour.

IV.—_To the same._

  1573, March 20.

I understand by your letter how that your Lordship has spoken with
my most illustrious father respecting the answer of that gentleman
from the most noble Bon, and I comprehend what that gentleman says;
nevertheless, I answer you that I trust in God's goodness to help me
by His infinite mercy, and that I put little faith in strangers, and
shall keep to the wishes of my most illustrious father, of my Lord
and Brother, and of your Magnificence; to whom I entrust all that I
possess, awaiting from you whatsoever decision may seem to you most
fitting for the satisfaction of both parties, &c., &c.

  Your Magnificence's, &c.


P. S. Most Magnificent Lord and Brother, I beg of you to do me the
favour to send me my Nativity, that is, the day and hour of my birth,
and let no one beside yourselves know of this thing, &c. And you will
also do me a favour if you will tell me who are they who seem to be my
friends and afterwards act in contrary fashion as you write me, that I
may know against whom I should be on my guard.

V.—_To the same._

  1573, March 28.

... therefore I entreat you with my whole heart, my Lord and Brother,
to persist in this good will towards me, and to help me, for without
you I think not that things will ever come to an end, and would to God,
according to what you tell me, that my most illustrious father had
discussed this matter with you; for then it would have had a different
ending; and since by your so loving letters to me, you have given me
courage to open my heart to you respecting the discourse that your
Magnificence held with Gardellino, you did very wisely in telling him
that my most illustrious father ought to seek out some fit person for
me to marry; and that certainly in that way everything would be brought
to an end, &c. And if this does not befall me, that is, if they do
not think about finding me a husband, so that the said husband may
come here for me with the most Magnificent Lord my brother, or with
your Lordship, &c.... I do not think that in any other manner I can
escape from hence, &c. It would be a serious matter, my lord, and very
ill–judged in me, to leave a place where I am as much, respected and
loved as if I were a queen, &c....

Florence, the 28th day of March, 1573.

  Your Magnificence's, &c.


P. S. And all that I have said to you about my marrying I say for the
safety of my life, for you must know that here there is no lack of
most honourable matches and gentlemen of note who would be glad to
have me and who are urging me to it all day long. Florentines as well
as foreigners; and if I would have consented my most illustrious lady
aforesaid would have given me awhile ago to one of her household, a
Roman gentleman with an income of four thousand crowns, a gentleman
of consequence, and distantly related to the aforesaid lady, and he
never stops from following my lady all day long that he may get me, and
this I only say to your Lordship that you may be well–advised of every
thing, and that I do not desire to go to Venice because I lack chances
of marriage here, but I only desire it in order to see my home, and
for the honour of our house, and that only, for here I am courted and
wished for, and there I should have to court and wish for others.

VI.—_To the same._

  1573, April 22.

... I was much grieved at heart by the discourse between my most noble
father and your magnificent Lordship, from which I conclude that he is
not at all well–disposed towards me, and that his only wish to have me
back at Venice is that he might bury me in a convent, which I will by
no means do, for I know for a surety that so I should be lost, soul
and body, and I do not choose, as I have often told your lordship, to
change from a mistress to a slave; but accepting that match of which I
spoke to your lordship, I will leave everything to return to my country
and my kin.

Florence, the 22 April, 1573.

  Your Lordship's, &c.


VII.—_To the same._

  May 1.

... If they (_her father and brother_) do not make up their minds to
settle me otherwise than they have yet done, I shall stay where I am,
and shall hold to your magnificent Lordship's counsel, which I see
comes from the heart; I only wish, my Lord and Brother, that you should
see that I have not failed and fail not to do all that is possible to
come home and stay with my family; but if they will not have it I can
do no more. I beseech you ... to undertake my defence, &c. ... that
they may not think it is my fault that I do not come, &c.

Florence, May 1st, 1573.

  Your Lordship's


VIII.—_To the same._

  August 1.

... Of your goodness you have informed me (_referring to some noble
Venetians who on their return from Florence had spoken ill of her_) of
the things which may be to my prejudice, &c. ... and if they be mere
scatterbrained folks you should put small faith in them, for they can
speak as they will about me, but that this talk or gossip of theirs
has any truth in it neither your Lordship nor others should believe,
&c.... And I must tell your Lordship that I have a matter of great
importance[234] to speak to you about, but I cannot put it into black
and white because there are some things which ought not to be put on
paper; but if you, my Lord and Brother, would of your courtesy honour
me by coming to see me, which I know is allowable to you as a man.... I
pray you to grant me this favour, which if I have I shall die content,

IX.—_To the same._

  August 15.

Another letter in the same strain in which she laments that he cannot
come to Florence, because she has something to tell him, "_di troppa
grande materia da mettere in carta_."

X.—_To the same._

  1573, Oct. 3.

I have received yours of the 26th of last month, &c. ... with infinite
joy and contentment, inasmuch as I understand from it the kind feelings
of my most illustrious father towards me.... As to the finding a
husband for me here, I thank your magnificent lordship for undertaking
so much trouble for me, &c. ... for perhaps I may be able to put an end
to my so great and grievous troubles, so that, my Lord and Brother, I
beseech you to act in this matter so that I may obtain my desire; and
your magnificence already knows by other letters of mine precisely what
is my desire on the subject, that no one may come in the way of our
just designs, &c.... Give me in return good news of him (her brother
Vittore), as likewise of my most noble father, that so I may put good
faith in them, and think myself in favour with them, hoping that
afterwards they may help me to return to my country and kindred.

Florence, the 3rd day of October, 1573.

  Your Lordship's, &c.


XI.—_To the same._

  October 17.

... I know not, dearest Lord and Brother, in what terms to thank you
for the great trouble that your Lordship has taken for me, and for the
great love that I see you bear me. True it is that to one who loves as
you love me, no trouble seems heavy; and I assure you, that if any one
should be loved for loving, you have good reason to love me for that I
adore you: (_and farther on she says_) as to what you tell me that I
ought to obtain from the aforesaid lady, (_Isabella Medici_) that she
should write a letter to my most noble father, I tell you, my Lord and
Brother, that this is not prudent, for I must make it appear to the
said lady as if your noble Lordship wished to remove me from hence, and
not as if I desired it myself &c.; but still if the time should come
as I wrote to my brother, she (the Medici), like a wise lady, will be
silent, not choosing to seem to rob me of my good fortune, although she
be grieved to the heart at the thought of letting me go, &c.

Florence, the 17th October, 1573.

  Your Lordship's, &c.


XII.—_To the same._

  October 31.

... I am grieved to the heart to hear of the illness of the magnificent
lady Loredana, your wife and my mistress, for I do certainly love her
as I love my life, belonging as she does to you my Lord and Brother,
whom I adore as I have good cause to do: (_and further on_) I see by
what you, my Lord and Brother, have written to me, that you cannot
induce my most magnificent brother to take any firm resolve, but
God grant that every one may agree in the will of your magnificent
Lordship, for I know it will be to the honour of all our house and my
contentment. I, dearest Brother, am heartily grieved that you cannot
come to see me, and I swear to you, by the life of my daughter, that
this would be the greatest joy I could have in the world more than if
my most noble father and magnificent brother were to come, &c. &c.,
and I could then tell you many things that by letter cannot be said,
because I too fear lest if by ill fortune some one of these our letters
were to miscarry, and fall into the hands of the most illustrious lady
donisabella (_sic_), I should be ruined if she saw that it is I who
seek to get away from hence, &c.

Florence, the last of October, 1573.

  Your magnificent Lordship's cousin, sister, and servant,


XIII.—_To the same._

  1573, Nov. 24.

... and this I will do (_i. e._, _Keep an eye upon the letters that
arrive_) with great care, in order that nothing may prevent my
returning to my country and my home, according to the intention I have
always had, and which I intend to fulfil; and God grant, that by his
will, this may soon come to pass, and I did not write to you sooner,
because, as I had the most illustrious lady donisabella (_sic_), and
Don Pietro, her brother, with his wife, dining with me in my garden,
they put out all my plans. (She then repeats her wish that he should
come so that they may speak freely about that which "_cannot be put on

Florence, 24 Nov., 1573.

  Your Lordship's, &c.


XIV.—_To the same._

  1573, Dec. 5.

... I have had a letter from my most magnificent brother, who tells me,
that if I do not make up my mind to go to Venice without being married,
these affairs of mine will become lengthy and impracticable; and I
tell you, my most honoured Lord and Brother, that the lady donisabella
(_sic_), will not hear of my going from hence, except on the conditions
which she wrote to my brother, i. e. if I am married; and I swear to
you, my lord, that I have been with her for more than two days to see
if I could move her; but she told me that if I went from here without
being married, she would by no means help me; therefore, you see, my
Lord, that without her help I could do no good, because I must leave
behind my goods and my flesh, by which I mean my daughter; and if I
leave one thing still I would not leave the other. My Lord, if you do
not bestir yourself to find or to make some friend of yours find a
match for me, I think that my business will never be concluded. (_At
the end she adds, that she cannot go on, because she is sent for by
Isabella Medici to accompany her and Cardinal Fernando to a grand
hunting–party at Pisa._)

Florence, the 5th day of December, 1573.



I am indebted also to Signor Odorici for the following important
extract from an anonymous chronicle of the life of Pope Sixtus V., the
MS. of which exists in the Quirinal library at Rome, and which is, in
his opinion, the work of a contemporary writer.

It will be seen that the statements made by the annalist are very
difficult to reconcile with the theory of Ferdinando's guilt in the
matter of his brother's death.

The reader must balance for himself the conflicting probabilities in
this very doubtful and mysterious matter.

... The Nuncio therefore wrote to the Pope and Cardinal Montalto, on
the 10th of October, in the following manner:—

"His Highness has been ever since last Thursday, laid up with fever
at the Poggio (a country pleasance of the Grand Duke's), an illness
brought on by the fatigue of a deer hunt in which his Highness joined
on Wednesday the 6th, when the weather was very hot. On the 7th he went
with the Cardinal Archbishop of Florence, in a carriage to Miasa, which
is five miles from the Poggio; during the journey he suffered much pain
in his back. In the afternoon, when he was wont to take some rest, he
went into the country and directed the cutting down of some trees to
open an avenue, and remained there in the sun and wind. On the 8th, he
returned to the Poggio and dined well as usual. After dinner, he was
seized with violent vomiting. In the evening, about two hours before
sundown he felt unwell, and in order to hide it he sate down to play
picquet with the Count of San Secondo; but as his illness increased,
he quitted his game, and retired to his chamber where he took some
bezoar[236] in broth, then he returned to the company, where, about the
time of the Ave Maria, he conversed with the Grand Duchess and others,
and so endured his suffering until two hours after sunset, when he was
forced to speak of it; whereupon having summoned the physician of his
brother, the Cardinal, who was there, he felt his pulse and pronounced
him to have fever, and ordered him to go to bed; and that night he did
not sleep, and the fever increased. On Saturday morning, the 10th, they
took from him fifteen ounces of blood, and in the evening, two hours
before sunset, four ounces more; nor did the fever at all diminish,
which is considered to be a double tertian without any very painful
symptoms, except a little dryness of the skin. It is thought, that the
Grand Duke's illness has been caused by his having eaten for several
days at his morning and evening meals, mushrooms cooked in various
ways, of which he was very fond. The illness of the Grand Duke has much
affected the Grand Duchess also, who has fever, but not to any great

On the 12th he writes again ... "The Grand Duke ... on the night
between Saturday and Sunday was quite easy, and remained so till dinner
time. After dinner he did business with his secretaries. Last night he
passed quietly enough, although he has had vomitings; but these were
occasioned by the medicines given him, and were not violent."

He adds in cypher on another sheet, "The improvement in the Grand
Duke's state is not so great as is supposed. The blame of this is
laid on his Highness's want of obedience to the physicians, for he
insists, contrary to their orders, on having not only snow and ice in
his chamber, but he will drink everything iced, even the syrups, and
does not abstain from transacting business to the displeasure of the
two Cardinals who dare not enter unless they are called." On Sunday
the 18th, which was the eleventh day of the Grand Duke's illness,
he writes:—"He seems better, but it is only the last flicker of the
candle which is going out. Yesterday morning, by order of the Cardinal
de' Medici, Monsignor San Giorgio, Ambassador from Mantua to Spain,
was refused an audience. The Grand Duchess is not well, but her fever
is much decreased," and in cypher, "the change for the worse in the
Grand Duke is not only an increase of fever, but he has convulsive
tremblings, which cause much alarm. The physicians are accused of
having weakened him by loss of blood &c.... At this moment I have
received news that the Grand Duke's Confessor was sent for in the
night to the Poggio, that he is still there this morning, and that
the Duke suffered much during confession. It is now two hours before
sundown, and I have just received news that he is _in extremis_, and
has received the most holy sacrament. So say the letters from thence,
dated two or three hours back." At nine in the morning he writes:—"The
Cardinal de' Medici is arrived, and has made known to me through
Signor Eneas Venini, his pleasure, and the death of the Grand Duke,
which took place last night, four hours and a half after sunset. He
commended his wife, children, and family, to his brothers, referring
as to other matters, to a will made by him two years ago. The city is
quite quiet, and there is no fear of any movement." Lastly, on the 20th
he writes:—"This morning about nine o'clock, the Grand Duchess died,
overcome by the malignity of a disease which carried her off suddenly.
Not on account of her grief for the death of her husband, which she
did not know of. She died after receiving all the sacraments, with
great firmness of mind. She made her son her heir. To her daughter she
has left a certain quantity of grain, and to her ladies five thousand
crowns. This evening at dusk, the body of the Grand Duke, in the
ducal robes, was carried with 150 torches, and escorted by Florentine
gentlemen, to the gate of San Lorenzo, where it was met by the bishop
and clergy."



1.—Page 7.

There is in the possession of M. Eugène Piot, of Paris, who has kindly
communicated it to me, a contemporary song in celebration of the beauty
and pomp of Giulia di Ferrara. It is of extreme rarity, and is a very
curious morsel of Roman social history in the sixteenth century. The
state, glory, splendour, and social standing of the celebrated Roman
courtesan are vauntingly set forth in verses put by the writer into her
own mouth. The intention, however, is evidently satirical.

2.—Page 13.

The phraseology of the original marks the nature of Strozzi's
connection with Tullia more unmistakeably than any permissible English
translation could do. The Italian words are, "Senza qualche pratica di
donne non saprei vivere; onde ho più volentieri praticato seco, che con
altra;" &c.


1.—Page 39.

The entire passage runs as follows; "Prima era in grazia del Papa
Madonna Lucrezia sua figlia, la quale è savia e liberale; ma adesso il
Papa non l'ama tanto, e l'ha mandato a Nepi; e le ha dato Sermoneta,
che gli costa ducati ottanta mila; benche il Duca—(her brother
Cesare)—ghiel' abbia tolta, dicendo, 'è donna; non la potrà mantenere.'
E si dice anche che esso duca ecᵃ.—(_sic_)—con la predetta sorella
Lucrezia; il qual Duca sarà, se vive, uno dei primi capitani d'Italia."

It is fair to observe, that the tenour of this ambassador's report
seems to acquit Lucrezia of having been her brother's accomplice in the
murder of her husband, Don Alphonso of Aragon.

2.—Page 70.

Olympia's biographers, M. Bonnet and Mr. Colquhoun, in a work entitled
"Life in Italy and France in the Olden Time," have supposed that Morato
was called to Ferrara by Alphonso to be tutor to his sons, and that
this engagement was previous to his exile; and the former of the above
writers names Ippolito and Alphonso as having been his pupils. The
authority he cites is a letter of Curione; in which, however, it is
simply stated that Morato educated two brothers of Hercules. Now, of
the two named by M. Bonnet, Ippolito was born in 1509, and Alphonso in
1527, facts which alone cast some difficulty on the statement. Further,
it is difficult to understand why, when Ippolito, the second son, and
Alphonso, the fourth son, were entrusted to Morato, Francesco, the
third son, born in 1510, should have been withheld from his care. But
the question is set at rest and all made clear by the authority of the
accurate work of Girolamo Baruffaldi, in vol. viii. of the Raccolta
Ferrar. di Opusc., in which, as well as in Frizzi's elaborate history,
Morato is stated to have been entrusted with the education of Alphonso
and Alphonsino, the sons of Duke Alphonso by Laura Dianti, who was his
wife—say the Ferrarese writers—his concubine, say the defenders of the
Apostolic chamber, who considered these sons as illegitimate—after the
death of Lucrezia Borgia. Alphonso was born in 1527, and Alphonsino in
1530. The elder would therefore have been six, and the younger three
years old at the time of Morato's departure from Ferrara; dates which
sufficiently prove that the tutorship in question must have commenced
after his return in 1539, when the lads were respectively twelve and
nine years old.

3.—Page 75.

Marot's lines run as follows:—

  "Ha! Marguerite, escoute la souffrance
  Du noble cueur de Renée de France;
  Puis comme sœur plus fort que d'esperance
  "Tu sais comment hors son pays alla,
  Et que parents et amis laissa là,
  Mais tu ne sais quel traitement elle a
          En terre estrange.
  "Elle ne voit ceulx à qui se veult plaindre,
  Son œil rayant si loing ne peut attaindre;
  Et puis les monts pour ce bien lui estaindre
          Sont entre deux."

4.—Page 88.

The original Latin of Giraldi's lines is given here in justice to the
author, and also in justice to the translator.

  "Tota es splendida et emicas nitore,
  Virtutum tenera educata in aula
  Inter Virgineum chorum Renatæ,
  Inter Pieridum chorum sororum.
  Felix cui famulatur hæc puella!
  Felices genuere qui parentes,
  Et te nomine Olympiæ vocarunt!
  Felicissimus ille, si modo ulli,
  Uxor contigeris viro fruenda!
  Hinc et non nihil ipse sum beatus,
  Inter articularios dolores,
  Cui talis faveat seni puella!"

5.—Page 89.

Here are Olympia's hexameters and pentameters in her own Greek:—

  _"Ούποτε μὲν ξυμπασιν ἑνὶ φρεσὶν ἢνδανε ταὐτὸ,
    Κ' οῦποτε πασιν ἰσον Ζεὺς παέδωκε νόον,
  Ἱππόδαμος Κάστορ, πὺξ δ' ἷν ἀγαθὸς Πολυδέυκης
   Ἓκγονος ἐξ αὐτης ὂρνιθος ἀμφότερος.
  Κἀγὼ μὲν θηλυς γεγυια τά θηλυκὰ λειπον,
   Νὲματα κερκίδιον, στὴμονα καὶ καλάθους.
  Μουσάων δ' ἆγαμαι λειμωνα τον ἀνθεμόεντα,
   Παρνάσσου θ' ελαρὸυς τον διλόφοιο κορούς.
  Ἄλλαι τέρπονται μεν ῖσος ἂλλοισι γυναικες,
    Ταυτα δὲ μοὶ κυδος, ταυτα δὲ χαρμοσύνη."_

6.—Page 99.

The few lines in the text on the subject of the watercourses of the
lower valley of the Po, may serve to indicate the nature of the matters
in dispute between the government of Ferrara and that of the Pope. But
they are very insufficient to give any competent idea of that very
curious and interesting subject. And any attempt to do so would lead to
a digression of most inordinate dimensions. The subject is not only one
of very curious historical interest, but is of the highest economic and
scientific importance at the present day. In one word, the remarkably
friable soil of large districts of the mountain chain of Upper and
Central Italy is in process of being moved away into the seas on either
coast of the peninsula. The large low flats, which have been already
formed by this process, make it difficult for the waters to transport
across them the materials they are heavily charged with. Hence
districts of extreme fertility, rice grounds, marshes, malaria, rivers
running in embankments above the level of the surrounding country,
inundations, malicious cutting of banks, fights, and demoralisation of
the riverain populations, old havens destroyed, and finally deserted
by the sea, commercial cities left commerceless, and a whole train of
ulterior consequences. The subject is a very large one, and to him who
would look beyond the mere temporary troubles of the Pope's despotisms,
and churches, the most vital one of any that affects the future of

7.—Page 106.

Olympia's Greek hexameters and pentameters run thus:—

  _"Κάτθανεν Ἀονίδων κυδος μέτα Παρθιενικάων
    Βέμβος ὁ των Ἐνετων φωσφρος εἰναλὶων.
  Ὄυπερ ἐνὶ βροτὲοισι το νυν ἐναλίγκιος ἐστι
   Ὀυδεὶς οὐτ' ἔργοις, οὐτ' ἐπεέσσιν ἀνέρ.
  Οὐ θανέοντος ἔδοξεν ἀμ' εὐετίν πάλιν αὐτὸς
   Εἰσίεναι στυγερὸν Τυύλλιος εἲς ἀίδον."_

8.—Page 129.

Here is the original of this curious and very obscure passage:

 "De vestibus, petere illas non decet. Nam nuper Princeps per quandam
 mulierem nuntiavit mihi, non esse verum quod nobillissimi Camilli uxor
 quicquam de salutanda filia illi dixisset. Attamen quia filia hoc
 vellet, se id permettere factum; illam vero petiisse mihi unam vestem
 quam non prius se daturam quam ipsa rediisset, dixit. Hæc respondisse
 arbitror, ut viderem illam nihil mea causa facere, sed illius; et ut
 (sed tacere melius est, quod omnes vident) Lysippæ satisfaceret quam
 secum tunc fuisse credo. Ut ut hæc sint, illas me habituram vix credo.

M. Jules Bonnet gives no assistance towards understanding this
difficult passage. He translates (?) as follows, without any remark.
"Il serait feu convenable de réclamer publiquement les objets que j'ai
laissés à la cour. La duchesse m'a fait dire, par une de ses femmes,
qu'il n'était pas vrai que l'épouse du noble comte Camillo Orsini l'eût
chargée de salutations pour sa fille. Elle a cependant ajouté qu'à la
sollicitation de cette dernière, elle consentait à ce que l'on me cedât
une de mes robes, ce qui ne pourrait avoir lieu toutefois qu'après son
propre retour à Ferrare. Cette réponse a été sans doute calculée pour
me montrer qu'on agit ainsi, par consideration pour une autre, et non
pour moi; ou plutôt elle a été inspirée par la haine de celle qui ne
nous veut que du mal, et qui est en ce moment au palais. Mais il vaut
mieux se taire sur un sujet, qui n'est un secret pour personne. Je
n'espère rien obtenir quoi qu'il arrive." It will be observed that here
is no attempt at translating "quia filia hoc vellet, se id permittere
factum," seeing that by no possible construction could "hoc" refer to
the giving of the robe, or to aught else than the salutation previously
spoken of. Then why should "Lysippa" be changed into "the hatred of one
who wishes us only ill"? Is it not more likely that Lysippa, whoever
she was, merely wanted the dresses for herself?

9.—Page 159.

The works of Olympia were printed under the supervision of Curione, at
Bâle, in 1570, with the following title:—

 "Olympiæ Fulviæ Moratæ, fæminæ doctissimæ ac plane divinæ, opera omnia
 quæ hactenus inveniri potuerunt, et quibus Cælii Secundi Curionis
 selectæ epistolæ ac orationes accesserunt."

The work is dedicated by Curione to Queen Elizabeth. It is a volume
of small octavo size, and that part of it occupied by the writings of
Olympia consists of 244 pages.

The contents are as follows:—

Three prefaces to lectures on the Paradoxes of Cicero.

An essay on Q. M. Scævola in Greek.

Translations into Latin of two fables of Boccaccio.

A dialogue between Olympia and Lavinia della Rovere.

A dialogue between Philotima and Theophila.

Two books of letters. Of these forty–seven only are by Olympia. They
are all in Latin, save one in Greek, written in her girlhood to her
master Sinapi, and one in Italian. The rest of the letters are mostly
from her correspondents to her. A few are from one of these to another
on matters relating to her.

After the letters there are translations of eight psalms into Greek

Five short pieces of a few lines of Greek verse.

Three equally short fragments of Latin verse.


1.—Page 222.

The original text of the judgment leaves no doubt of Bianca's
indiscretion previous to her flight. Maria Donati is condemned, "quod
fuerit adeo perfida et temeraria, quod dum esset ancilla in domo, v.
n. d. Bartol. Capello, ausa fuerit ad instantiam Petri de Bonaventuris
filii Zanobii Florentini, ut ejus animum et libidinem expleret
lænocinium præstare in fallendo, et ad id alliciendo Blancham filiam
prdict. v. nob. ex quo ipsa Blancha non solum habuit rem cum prædicto
Petro, sed etiam cum ipso ex domo ejus patris et e venetiis aufugit."

2.—Page 248.

The important chronicle written by Settimanni, a Florentine patrician
of the 16th century, and which contains more revelations of Medicean
secrets than perhaps any other of the numerous "ricordi" of that
period, is now at last being printed (it is said?) at Parma. Its
existence, and the important nature of its contents, have long been
well known by Florentine writers. But, for a long time, the only extant
copy, which is preserved in the "Archivio delle Riformagioni," was not
permitted to be seen.

3.—Page 299.

Galluzzi writes, that Francis consented to the wish of the ambassadors,
who desired to crown Bianca. But that this is an error, and that the
statement in the text is correct, is proved by the existence of a
letter extant in the registers of the Senate, under the date of the
6th October, 1579, from the senate to the ambassadors Tiepolo and
Michiel, ordering them to place a ducal crown on Bianca's head, "per
accondiscendere al desiderio delle loro altezze," etc., etc.

Galluzzi probably thought that it _looked better_ for Tuscany to
represent that Venice was the requesting, and Francesco the consenting

4.—Page 301.

Few who have visited Florence will forget the strange irregularity in
the plan of the "palazzo vecchio," and the legend which was, doubtless,
told them to explain it,—that the republic would not suffer its palace
to stand in any degree on ground accursed, by having been the site
of the mansions of a vanquished faction,—dubbed, of course, when
vanquished,—enemies of their country.

5.—Page 335.

There exists a tradition among the literary men of Florence, that the
MS. of this history by Martinetti was purchased in Florence by an
Englishman, and carried to England. The loss of it is much lamented by
them, as there is reason to think that it would be found to be a more
valuable history of the period of which it treats,—the reigns of the
Medicean Grand Dukes,—than any other extant.

6.—Page 337.

I have thought it as well to give the reader the original words of this
strange passage in Signor Soderini's letter, that he may be the better
able to judge for himself how far any such meaning as that suggested,
may, with any probability, be attributed to them. They run thus:

 "Quando, che alli giorni passati la Morte cavalcò sopra il suo
 destriero magro, e disfatto per investirsi del titolo di Grande. La
 Morte ottenne a Roma il titolo di Grande, e conseguita ch'ella ebbe
 cossifatta indecentissima intitolazione, se ne cavalcava frettolosa
 alla volta del Poggio a Caiano, e quivi con irresistibile forza e pari
 valore assaltò il Grande Etrusco di Firenze e Siena, e lo abbattè alli
 19 di Ottobre, 1587, a 4 ore e mezzo di notte, e di 47 anni lo privò
 di vita dopo strani e disusati scontorcimenti, e ululati e muggiti



  Abbioso, Bishop, his courtiership, 329

  Academies, tendency of, in Italy, 398

  Agricola, theologian, draws up the Interim, 135

  Albert of Brandenburg, 171
    throws himself into Schweinfurth, 172
    is driven out of Schweinfurth, 176

  Aldobrandini, Cardinal, dedicated works to Isabella Andreini, 212

  Alexander VII. elected, 362
    his replies to Olympia's advances, 363
    banishes Olympia to Orvieto, 364

  Alphonso I. Duke of Ferrara, 37
    rides through Ferrara at the Beffana, 45
    stolen visit to his bride, 47
    his difficulties with the church, 50

  Alternatives for an old lady, 21

  Aminta of Tasso, 218

  Andreini, Isabella, her birth, 205
    contemporary with Shakspeare, 206
    her titles, 210
    goes to France, 211
    medal struck in her honour, _ib._
    anagrams on her name, 212
    praises of, by her contemporaries, _ib._
    her irreproachable character, 214
    her death and epitaph, _ib._
    her "Mirtilla," 216
    her letters, _ib._
    her dialogues, 217
    no account of her characters, 218

  Andreini, Francesco, Isabella's husband, 213

  Andreini Giovanni Batista, Isabella's son, 211

  Angelio of Bargo, Astrologer, 28

  Anna d'Este, her birth, 77
    Calcagnini's letter to her, 78
    Curione's praises of her, _ib._
    her affection for Olympia Morata, 89
    her marriage, 109

  Antonio de' Medici, birth of, 264

  Arcadia and the Arcadians, 399
    nicknames, 404
    falsehood in the matter of Corilla's crowning, 406

  Assassinations, common in Florence, 225, 236

  Augsburg in the sixteenth century, 143

  Avvogaria, register of, obliteration in, 221


  Bâle, Olympia would willingly settle at, 155

  Baker, anecdote of, about B. Cappello, 223

  Barbara, Olympia Morata's maid, 163

  Bayle, his remark on Isabella Andreini's epitaph, 215

  "Beffana," curious custom, 44

  Belvidere, near Ferrara, gardens of, 94

  Bembo, anecdote of, 61
    his character, 105
    Olympia Morata's epitaph on him, 106

  Bianca Cappello, early character, 223
    her journey to Florence, 224
    confined to her husband's house in Florence, 225
    her personal appearance, 226
    receives promise of marriage from Francesco, 234
    probably cognisant of her husband's murder, 236
    her character, 241
    balances her accounts, 257
    fictitious autobiography of, 258
    her magical practices, 261
    plot to impose a false heir on the Duke, 262
    her fears, 264
    progress in crime, 266
    real nature of her witchery, 268
    her bold step with Francesco, _ib._
    goes into retirement, 273
    her ascendancy over the Duke, _ib._
    entertains the Court in the Oricellari gardens, 276
    suborns Francesco's confessor, 290
    her reception at Bologna, 291
    her marriage with Francesco, 292
    her coronation as daughter of St. Mark, 299
    becomes reconciled to the Cardinal, 304
    her claims respecting her daughtership of St. Mark, 311
    her repeated pregnancies, 313
    her unhappy life at Pratolino, 316
    her family feeling, 318
    at Cerveto, 320
    declares herself again with child, 322
    her interview with Pietro, 325
    her pregnancy again comes to nothing, 329
    her death, 332
    different theories respecting it, 333, _et seq._
    post–mortem examination, 338
    grounds of Ferdinando's hatred for her, 342
    her burial, 343
    pasquinades on her, 344

  Boccaccio, Tullia's opinion of his works, 24
    Olympia Morata's translation from, 103

  Bodoni's volume on Corilla's coronation, 403

  Bolsec, Jerome, 111
    his disputes with Calvin, 112

  Bonaventuri, Pietro, his condemnation, 221
    deceives Bianca, 224
    receives an appointment at Court, 233
    lover of Cassandra Ricci, 235
    murdered in the streets of Florence, 236

  Books, high value of, in the sixteenth century 160

  Borso, Duke of Ferrara, 34


  Cafaggiuolo, villa of, 255

  Calcagnini, Celio, 56
    his message to Olympia Morata, 62.

  Calvin at Ferrara, 72
    turned out from Ferrara, 75
    prosecutes Jerome Bolsec, 112

  Cappello palace, situation of, 222

  Caraffa, Cardinal, 80

  Casino, importance of, in Italian domestic economy, 229

  Catherine de' Medici, her severe answer to Francesco, 309

  Catherine II. of Russia, invites Corilla, 401

  Cerreto, Ducal Villa, 320

  Classical studies, female, in sixteenth century, 2, _et seq._

  Clement VII., Pope, his dealings with the Duke of Ferrara, 51, _et

  Collar, Duke Borso's golden, 34

  Columbano, Princess, takes La Corilla to Naples, 396

  Comedy, Italian, in the sixteenth century, 208

  Corilla, La, her real name and birth, 395
    drives a thriving trade, 399
    employed by Maria Theresa, 401
    invited by Catherine of Russia, 401
    by Joseph II., 402
    enters Arcady, 403
    proposals for her crowning, 405
    the difficulty in the way, _ib._
    subjects in which she was examined, 408
    her examination, 409, _et seq._
    her coronation, 113
    pasquinades on her retirement to Florence and death, 416

  Cosmo I., sonnet to, 15

  Cosmo de' Medici, court of, 227

  Cosmo I. of Florence, founds the Florentine academy, 398

  Creeds, affairs of head not heart, 122

  Curione, Celio, 56
    first acquaintance with Morato, 65
    his adventures, _ib._
    conversations with Morato, 66
    visit to Ferrara, 69
    his letter to Olympia's mother, 140
    encourages Olympia in her classical studies, 147


  Dante's obligations to Guerrino il Meschino, 22

  Death, the desire for, 194

  Demimonde and Monde in sixteenth century, 16

  Dialogue on Love, Tullia's, 27

  Diction, over–attention to, in Italy, 83

  Dominicans, church of, at Bologna, 366

  Domenichi Ludovico, 17

  Donati, Maria, B. Cappello's servant, 222

  Drama, Italian literature weak in, 206


  Eleonora di Teledo, patronises Tullia, 28
    her death, 228

  Eleonora di Garzia, 240
   her murder, 255

  Emilio, Olympia's brother accompanies her to Italy, 141
    falls out of window, 150
    his death, 198

  Erbach, counts of, 178
    receive Olympia, 179
    their mode of life, 180


  Family feeling in Italy, 317

  Famine in Ferrara, 49

  Fannio, the martyr, 115, 118

  Ferdinando de' Medici, Cardinal, 237
    his causes of discontent, 245
    his knowledge of all that passed at Florence, 246
    receives the confession of the woman who managed the introduction of
    Don Antonio, 266
    his indignation, 267
    his change of conduct after the death of the Duchess Giovanna, 287
    goes to Florence in 1579, 293
    his anger at leaving his brother's marriage, 294
    his pecuniary difficulties, 304
    his reconciliation with Bianca, 305
    his misgivings respecting Bianca's intentions, 319, _et seq._
    again in Florence, 326
    refuses his brother's invitation, 328
    visits Francesco for the Villeggiatura, 330
    suspected of poisoning Francesco and Bianca, 334, 337, _et seq._
    his conduct after the death of his brother, 341
    his probable motives, _ib._
    succeeds peaceably to his brother, 345

  Fernandez, Fernando, La Corilla's husband, 396

  Festivities at Lucrezia Borgia's marriage, 44, 48

  Filippo, son of Giovanna, his death, 312

  Flach, M. invited by Olympia to translate some of Luther's works into
  Italian, 158

  "Flourishing;" what is the period of a lady's, 20

  Forca, via della, in Florence, Corilla's home, 393

  Francesco de' Medici, 236
    his character, 238
    his court, 242
    his character, _ib._
    his temper, 243
    his wealth, 244
    his interview with Orsini, 247
    easily duped by Bianca's trick, 264
    becomes an accomplice in introducing a false heir, 270
    in the Oricellari gardens, 281
    feelings on the death of his wife, 284
    his wishes and fears to marry Bianca, 285
    his discontent with the court of France, 288
    sends poison and assassins into France, 289
    consults the church with reference to his marriage with Bianca, 290
    marries Bianca, 292
    entertains 170 Venetians, 298
    his munificence to them, 303
    his troubles about his title, 306
    why he showed no grief at his son's death, 312
    his life at Pratolino, 315
    his cruelty to Camilla de' Martelli, 321
    his suspicions and strange conduct, 327
    invites the Cardinal to Florence, 328
    his death, 332
    different theories respecting it, 333, _et seq._
    his illness, 335
    circumstances attending his death, 340

  Frari at Venice, Archives, 220

  Fugger family, 143
    ridiculous blunder respecting their name, 144
    their residence, _ib._


  Gallerati, Dr., his prescriptions for E. Sirani, 381
    his opinion on her death, 382

  Gelli, Giambatista, his comedy of the "Sporta," 210

  German cities refuse to accept the Interim, 136

  Gibbon, on Lucrezia Borgia, 40

  Ginori, Lorenzo, pays the cost of Corilla's crowning, 406

  Giovanni de' Medici, his embassy to Venice, 297

  Giraldi, G. Gregorio, 56
    his verses to Olympia Morata, 88

  Giulia of Ferrara, 7

  Gloucester, Duke of, present at Corilla's crowning, 410

  Grünthler, Andreas, 124
    his wooing, 125
    marriage, 126
    returns to Germany, 127
    his prospects in Germany, 133
    prolonged absence from his wife, 138
    returns to bring his wife to Germany, 139
    attends Hermann in his illness, 147
    settles at Schweinfurth, 151
    rejects appointment offered at Lintz, 166
    struck down by pestilence in Schweinfurth, 173
    obtains a chair at Heidelberg, 181
    obliged to borrow money, 19
    in the pestilence at Heidelberg, 196
    his death, 198

  Guarini, Alexander, 56

  Guerrazzi, his dialogue between Francesco and his brother Pietro de'
  Medici, 250

  Guerrino el Meschino, origin of, 23


  Hammelburg, Olympia's escape to, 177

  Heidelberg, in the sixteenth century, 186
    pestilence breaks out in, 196

  Hercules I., Duke of Ferrara, 35
    his reply to Venice, 36
    his piety, 37
    his death, 49
    resists the Pope, 147

  Hercules II., of Ferrara, his dealings with the church, 73
    his unwillingness to receive Paul III., 93

  Hermann, George, of Augsburg, 138

  Hirschhorn, evening in the inn at, 182

  History, happy times have little, 168
    the makers of, _ib._

  Hubert, Thomas, of Liège, 138

  Humidi, academy of, 15

  Hydrostatic difficulties of the Duke of Ferrara, 97
    disputes arising from, 98, _et seq._


  Improvisation, talents needful for, 400
    tendencies of, 401

  Indulgence to Ferrara, 48

  Innocent X., Pope, 351
    his early preferments, 352
    election to the papacy, 353
    his death, 360

  Innspruck, Charles V. in winter quarters at, 169

  Interim, the, 135

  Isabella Orsini, 228
    her character, 241
    her death, 248
    judgment of history on her, 249

  Italy loses her pre–eminence of civilisation, 123

  Italian nature, dramatic, 206


  Joan of Austria, marriage with Francesco de' Medici, 231
    her unhappy position, 237, 241, 271
    her extravagance, 272
    has a son, _ib._
    her death, 282

  Joan, Pope, story of, 346

  Julius II., Pope, designs on Ferrara, 50

  Julius III., Pope, 114


  Ladies, learned, their number in the sixteenth century, 1

  Lavinia della Rovere, her friendship with Olympia Morata, 101
    her religious inquiries and indifferentism, 102
    visits Fannio in his prison, 116
    her faithful friendship, 120
    not happy, 132

  Leo X., Pope, his designs on Ferrara, 50

  Letters, difficulty of sending from Germany to Italy, 156

  L'Humore of Bologna, anecdote of, 17

  Lintz, Chair of Medicine there offered to Grünthler, 165

  Literature, safe, princes who patronise, 397

  Lucia Tolomelli, the maid in the Sirani family, 374
    her troubles with her mistress, 375
    her escapade with the tinker, 376
    imprisoned in the poor–house, 377
    her fairings, _ib._
    suspected of poisoning E. Sirani, 383
    grounds of suspicion, 384
    claimed by the church, 385
    her second arrest and examination, _ib._
    her defence, 386
    her exile, 387

  Lucrezia Borgia, her marriage, 37, 42
    her previous character, 38
    defended by Roscoe, 39
    moral phenomenon, 41
    entry into Ferrara, 46
    evening of her life and death, 51
    contrasted with Duchess Renée, 59


  Macchiavelli, his comedy "Mandragola," 210

  Malvasia, his history of E. Sirani, 391

  Marco, St. Piazza of, in Florence, 225
    Casino di, 229

  Marot, Clement, at Ferrara, 75
    his lines on Duchess Renée, 76

  Martelli, Camilla, 228, 240
    comes out of her convent–prison, 321

  Martinetti, his history, 335

  Material prosperity disclaimed as an object by Catholic writers, 30

  Mattaselani, Dr., his evidence respecting E. Sirani's death, 387

  Maurice, Elector of Saxony, 170

  Medici family, domestic tragedy, 227

  Michiel, Giovanni, envoy from Venice to Florence, 297

  Mondragone, Marchesa, arranges meeting of Francesco and Bianca, 229,

  Montaigne, his description of Bianca Cappello, 226

  Morata, Olympia, her birth, 55–60
    early promise and beauty, 62
    first seeds of Protestant doctrine, 67
    her acquirements at thirteen years old, 70
    flattered by all Ferrara, 71
    becomes an inmate of the Court, 79
    her delight at her new position, 82
    her earliest compositions, 83
    her lecturing at sixteen, 84
    specimen of her elocution, 86
    verses to her from Giraldi, 88
    her Greek verses, 90
    her female friendships, 100
    early religious indifferentism, and subsequent strong convictions, 103, 107
    translations from Boccaccio, 103
    her Greek epitaph on Cardinal Bembo, 106
    at her father's death–bed, 109
    dismissed from the palace, 110
    visits Fannio in his prison, 116
    commencement of religious convictions, 117
    changed circumstances, 119
    her lines on virginity, _ib._
    letter to Curione on her time of disgrace, 120
    commencement of regeneration, 122
    her love, 126
    her marriage, _ib._
    separated from her husband, 127
    her letter to her husband, 128
    detention of her dresses by the Court, 130
    dialogue with Lavinia della Rovere, 132
    finally leaves Italy, 139
    her journey across the Alps, 141
    her letter to Giraldi, 146
    misgivings as to her classical studies, _ib._
    Curione encourages her, 147
    her stay with Hermann, _ib._
    urges Lavinia della Rovere to save Fannio, 148
    her stay with John Sinapi, 149
    her ideas of a special providence, 150, 174
    settles at Schweinfurth, 151
    her real name questioned, 152
    is an interesting character both to the religionist and the moralist,
    letter to Curione, 155
    sends money to her mother, 156
    letter to Lavinia della Rovere, 157
    moderation of her Calvinism, _ib._
    her dialogue between Philotima and Theophila, 159
    receives her books from Italy, 160
    receives Theodora Sinapi, 161
    lectures a backsliding divine, 165
    tends her husband in his sickness, 174
    her letter during the siege to Lavinia della Rovere, 174
    letter to her sister describing her flight from Schweinfurth, 176
    miserable journey to Erbach, 178
    her health destroyed, 179
    at Hirschhorn, 183
    is offered a chair of Greek at Heidelberg, 184
    receives letter and books from Curione, 187
    ignorance of German, 190
    declines to be at the Court of the Electress of Heidelberg, 192
    receives Theodora Sinapi at Heidelberg, 192
    theology of her letters, 193
    her desire for death, 194
    her last letter to Curione, 196
    her last moments, 197
    her epitaph, 198
    her European reputation, 199
    the basis of it, 200
    value of her story to us, 203

  Morato, Peregrino, fixes himself at Ferrara, 55
    his Protestantism, 60
    his criticism on Bembo, 61
    his exile, 63
    his training of his daughter, 64
    his difficulties, _ib._
    returns to Ferrara, 70
    appointed tutor to the Duke's sons, _ib._
    his instructions to his daughter, 85
    his illness and death, 108


  Ori, Matthew, inquisitor, 113

  "Oricellari Orti," their history, 274
    given to Bianca Cappello, 275
    a night's amusement there, 276


  Paganism of Italian society in the sixteenth century, 3

  Palazzo Vecchio at Florence, chapel in, 292

  Pallavicini, Princess, La Corilla's patroness, 395

  Pamfili, Camillo, created cardinal, 353
    his gross ignorance, 354
    his marriage, 356
    succeeds to his mother's wealth, 364

  Pamfili, G. Batista, Olympia's husband, 348

  Pamfili, Olympia, her birth, 348
    her marriage, _ib._
    her ambitious plans, 349
    her avarice, 354
    her venality, 355
    banished from the Vatican, 358 returns, _ib._
    her mode of life in the Vatican, 359
    her last simoniacal bargain, 360
    her plans after the death of Innocent, 361
    makes advances to Alexander VII., 363
    banished from Rome, 364
    her death, _ib._

  Pavia, Curione at, 68

  Pedagogues lay, a new social feature in the sixteenth century, 54
    their social position, 64

  Pellegrina, Bianca's daughter, birth of, 232

  Persecution increases, 195

  Pestilence in Ferrara, 49

  Petrarch, crowned at the Capitol, 394

  Philip II. of Spain, odious to the German electors, 169
    informed of Francesco's marriage with Bianca, 294
    approves of the murder of Donna Eleonora de' Medici, 256
    godfather to the Duchess Giovanna's son, 273

  Phœnix burning in Ferrara, 51

  Picchena, Curzio, envoy employed by Francesco de' Medici as a poisoner,

  Pietro de' Medici, 228
    his character, 239
    his marriage, 240
    urged to re–marry, 319
    stays at Florence to watch Bianca, 321
    his letter to the Cardinal, 322
    ill–treated by the Duke, 324
    his interview with Bianca, 325
    his report of it to the Cardinal, 326

  Po, river, difficulties connected with, 97

  Poetesses, Tiraboschi's list of, 1

  Poggio–a–Caiano, ducal villa, 321
    the Duke's death there, 332
    Bianca's death there, _ib._

  Pratolino, Ducal villa, 314

  Progress, moral, proofs of, 42

  Psalms translated into Greek by Olympia, and set to music by Grünthler,

  Publishers, eminent, send presents of books to Olympia, 187

  Puteano, Ericio, his inscription on Isabella Andreini, 211


  Rabelais on the Fuggers, 143

  Renée of France, her marriage with Hercules II., 57
    her person and character, 58
    her Protestantism, 59
    theological difficulties with her husband, 72
    secret reception of Calvin, 72
    scene in her closet, 74
    in durance, 81
    abandons Olympia, 113, 130

  Reno river, difficulties connected with, 98

  Respectability, prized by Italians, 238

  Riario family is founded, 166
    present family, ancestor of, 173

  Ricci, Bartolomeo, 56

  Ricci, Cassandra de, her murder, 236

  Roman history, society, means of rising in, 349

  Rosaria, Princess, Camillo Pamfili's wife, 357

  Rosarias, Andreas, poor schoolmaster out of employ, 193

  Roscoe's defence of Lucrezia Borgia, 39

  Rudolph, the Emperor, his reply to the Italian Princes, 310


  Salviati, Maria, sonnet to, 16

  Savoy, Duke of, his claim to pre–eminence over other Italian princes,

  Scandal in Europe, caused by Olympia Pamfili, 357

  Scenery, appreciation of, a modern sentiment, 142

  Schweinfurth, Olympia finds a home at, 151
    its condition in the sixteenth century, 154
    idea of Olympia's home in, 162
    siege of, 172
    pestilence in, 173
    destruction of the city, 176

  Serene, title of, squabbles about, 307

  Servants, Olympia's troubles with, 188

  Sinapi, Chilian, 56

  Sinapi, John, 56
    letter from, 88
    Olympia's letters to, 131
    settled at Würzburg, 149
    receives Olympia in his house, _ib._
    death of his wife, 166
    sends Olympia a volume recovered from the sack of Schweinfurth, 186
    his letter to Olympia, 187

  Sirani, Elisabetta, her artistic merits, 367
    story of her death, 368
    her home in Bologna, 369
    her catalogue of her works, 370
    her rapidity of execution, 371
    paints before Cosmo of Tuscany, _ib._
    before the Duchess of Brunswick, 372
    her disposal of her earnings, 373
    frugal life, _ib._
    falls into ill–health, 379
    her death, 380
    mourning in Bologna for her death, 380
    her personal appearance, 391

  Sirani, G. Andrea, Elisabetta's father, 369
    his conduct to Lucia Tolomelli, 377
    withdraws his accusation against Lucia, 387

  Sirani, Anna Maria, Elisabetta's sister, 369

  Sirani, Barbara, Elisabetta's sister, 369
    is ill with fever, 379

  Sirani, Margherita, Elisabetta's mother, 375

  Soderini, Giovanni Vettorio, his extraordinary letter, 336

  Strozzi, Filippo, his character, 11
    his connection with Tullia d'Aragona, 12

  Strozzi, Matteo, envoy to Venice, 295

  Squadrone volante, in the Conclave, 362


  Tagliavia, Peter, at Trent, 5
    his reminiscences, 6
    educates his daughter, 8

  Tasso crowned at the Capitol, 394

  Terence, Adelphi of, performed before Paul III. at Ferrara, 95

  Theodore, daughter of John Sinapi, a pupil of Olympia, 161

  Theology, Olympia's, 193

  Theriaca medicine, 380

  Tiepolo, Antonio, envoy from Venice to Florence, 297

  Tiraboschi, his notion of comedy, 208

  Torelli, Lelio, his murder, 247

  Toselli, Mazzoni, his pamphlet on E. Sirani, 369

  Tragedy, Italian, in the sixteenth century, 207

  Treuthuger, the schoolmaster at Hirschhorn, 183

  Troilo, Orsini, 247

  Tullia d'Aragona, her birth, and early talents, 8
    difficulties of dates respecting her, 10
    her beauty, 14
    her husband, 15
    scene at her house, 17
    leaves Rome, 18
    specimen of her poetry, 19
    quits "La Bohème," 22
    her translation of Guerrino el Meschino, _ib._
    her opinion of Boccaccio, 24
    her propriety, 25
    her Dialogue on the Infinity of Love, 26
    her death, 28


  Varchi, Bened., a personage in Tullia's "Dialogo," 26

  Venetian senate, their conduct on hearing the Duke's marriage with Bianca
  Cappello, 295
    their reply to Bianca's remonstrances, 311

  Villach, Charles V. at, 170

  Villeggiatura, Italian habit of, 330



[1] Gaume, ver Rongeur.

[2] Roccho Pirro. Sicilia Sacra, ad. art. Tagliavia.

[3] Sarpi., lib. iv. sec. 37.

[4] Zilioli, Storia di poeti Ital., cited by Mazzuchelli, art. "Tullia."

[5] Note 1.

[6] Vitæ Pontif. et Cardin.

[7] "L'ornamento degli abiti lascivi," is Zilioli's phrase.

[8] Mazzuchelli, vol. i. p. 928.

[9] Printed at p. 183 of the "Documenti Storici," appended by Signor
Bigazzi to Niccolini's tragedy of "Filippo Strozzi." Firenze, 1847.

[10] _Ibid._, p. 185.

[11] Strozzi was then forty–three.

[12] Note 2.

[13] MSS. Stroz., Clas. 7, Cod. No. 95, p. 75.

[14] Facetie, Motti, e Burle, Raccolte per M. L. Domenichi. Venetia,

[15] "Mezza Vecchia."

[16] Istor. di Volg. Poesia, vol. i. p. 341.

[17] Vol. i. p. 930.

[18] Fam. Med. Tavola, 14.

[19] Frizzi, Mem. per la Storia di Ferrara, vol. iv. p. 80.

[20] Frizzi, Mem. per la Storia di Ferrara, vol. iv. p. 80.

[21] _Vide apud_ Frizzi, Mem. Stor. di Ferrara, vol. iv. p. 184.

[22] Ancient Diary, cited by Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 164.

[23] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 217.

[24] Relazioni degli Ambasciatori Veneti, ser. xi. vol. iii. p. 11.

[25] Note 1.

[26] Appendix, on Lucrezia Borgia; Life of Leo X.

[27] Antiq. of the House of Brunswick.

[28] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 203.

[29] Diario Ferrarese. Anon. apud Muratori, tom. xxiv. p. 399.

[30] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 207.

[31] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 220.

[32] Vol. iv. p. 281.

[33] C. Secundi Curionis Epist., lib.

[34] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 307.

[35] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 307.

[36] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 329.

[37] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 307.

[38] Altogether wrongfully, it should seem.

[39] Opere di Bembo; Milano, 1810, vol. vii. p. 226.

[40] Letters of Calcagnini cited by Bonnet, in his Vie d'Olympia
Morata, p. 27.

[41] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 359.

[42] Tiraboschi, tom. vii. p. 1746.

[43] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 359.

[44] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 359.

[45] Tiraboschi, tom. vii. p. 2286.

[46] This brief account of the career of Curione has been taken from
Bonnet's Vie d'Olympia, supplemented, where necessary, by Tiraboschi.

[47] Tiraboschi, tom. vii. p. 1747.

[48] Note 2.

[49] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 329.

[50] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 329.

[51] Frizzi, _ibid._

[52] For the original, see Note 3.

[53] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 360.

[54] _Ibid._

[55] Calc. Opera., cited by Bonnet.

[56] Celio Curione, Epist., cited by Bonnet.

[57] Cited by M. Bonnet.

[58] A citation from Juvenal, alluding to certain rhetorical
jousting–bouts established by Caligula at Lyons.

[59] Curionis, Epist.

[60] Calcag. Opera.

[61] See Note 4.

[62] Bonnet, p. 37.

[63] Note 5.

[64] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 347.

[65] Frizzi, vol. i. p. 147.

[66] Note 6.

[67] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 342.

[68] The historian of Ferrara, Gaspar Sardi, dedicated to her, towards
the end of the period spoken of, his book "De Triplici Philosophiâ."

[69] Sansovino, Hist. de Casa Orsini, cited by Bonnet.

[70] Olymp. Mor. C. S. Curioni, cited by Bonnet.

[71] For the original Greek, see Note 7.

[72] Olymp. Mor. Oper., cited by Bonnet.

[73] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 348.

[74] Antiq. Esten., tom. ii. p. 371.

[75] C.S. Curionis Epist., lib. i. p. 11, cited by Bonnet.

[76] Vie d'Olympia, p. 69.

[77] Article Bolsec.

[78] Beza, in Vitâ Calvini.

[79] Bonnet, Vie, p. 69.

[80] Vie d'Olymp. _ibid._

[81] Frizzi, vol. iv. p. 359.

[82] Histoire des Martyrs, cited by Bonnet, p. 74.

[83] Melchior Adam, Vita Germanorum Medicorum. Art. Grünthler.

[84] Bonnet, Vie d'Olymp. p. 202.

[85] Olymp. Moratæ Opera. Bâle, 1570.

[86] Bonnet, Vie d'Olymp. p. 79.

[87] Note 8.

[88] C. S. Curione, Xysto Betulsio, 21st letter in the "Epistolæ,"
Opera Moratæ, Bâle, 1570.

[89] Mendoza. Letter to Charles of 10th June, 1848, cited by Ranke.
Book 3, sec. 1.

[90] Olympia, Curioni, 23rd epist. Op. Ol. Morat. Bâle.

[91] Olympio Laurentia Schleenvio. 27th epistle in her collected works.

[92] Olym. G. Hermanno. 34th of the collection.

[93] Bonnet. Vie. p. 90.

[94] Beatus Rhenanus in a letter, which is the 50th of the century of
Epist. Philolog. published by Goldast.

[95] Bayle, Art. Fugger. Note C.

[96] Bonnet, Vie d'Olymp. p. 93.

[97] The 19th of the collection, as printed at Bâle, in 1570. But
neither the dates affixed to these letters, nor the order in which they
are printed, are correct.

[98] Letter 17th of the collection.

[99] Olymp. Curioni et Georg. Hermanno. Letters 23rd and 34th of the

[100] Bonnet, Vie d'Olymp., p. 101.

[101] Olymp. Carchisio. Letter 29th of the collection.

[102] Olymp. Carchisio. Letter 32nd.

[103] Letter 31st.

[104] Letter 24th of the collection.

[105] Absence from her husband and continued ill health.

[106] Art. Curion. Note B.

[107] Note 9.

[108] Letters, 26, 27.

[109] Letter, No. 50.

[110] Olympia cuidam concionatori Germano. Letter 39.

[111] Letter, 28.

[112] Corresp. ined. de Calv. cited by Bonnet, p. 121.

[113] Bonnet. Vie d'Olymp. p. 103.

[114] Vie d'Olymp. p. 130.

[115] Letter 37.

[116] Vie d'Olymp. p. 133.

[117] Letter 37.

[118] Letter 58.

[119] Olympia a Madonna Cherubina. Letter 86. The only one of the
collection written in Italian.

[120] Letter to Cherubina.

[121] Olympia's letter to her sister.

[122] Letter to Donna Cherubina, already quoted.

[123] Letter 40.

[124] "Quin et pallam egregiam donavit, plus quam mille sestertium
nummorum æstimatam."—Letter to her sister.

[125] Letter. 74. of the collection of Olympia's letters.

[126] "Id quod doctorem etiam et Olympiam in summam admirationem

[127] Annales de Vitâ et Rebus gestis Federici II., Electoris Palatini
lib. xiv. Ann. 1554, quoted by Bonnet.

[128] Letter 50.

[129] Letter 50.

[130] Letter 56.

[131] Letter 46.

[132] Letter 68.

[133] Letter 69.

[134] All of them at Bâle, with the following dates, 1558, 1562, 1570,
1580. That of 1570 has been referred to in these pages.

[135] Mazzuchelli, tom. i. p. 711.

[136] Lib. III. cap. iii. sect. 61.

[137] Cited, _Ibid._

[138] Tiraboschi, lib. III. cap. iii. sect. 61.

[139] Mazzuchelli, vita.

[140] Venezia e sue Lagune. Vol. ii. part 2. Ap. p. 6.

[141] Bianca Capello. Cenni storico–critici. Venezia, 1828.

[142] Note 1.

[143] Cigogna, p. 26.

[144] Cigogna, _ibid._ p. 19.

[145] Siebenkees. Life of Bianca. Gotha, 1789.—Sismondi.

[146] Cigogna, p. 7.

[147] Litta. Famiglia Medici. Art.—Bianca.

[148] Litta. Fam. Med. Art.—Bianca.

[149] Litta, _ibidem_.

[150] Cigogna. Cenni storico–critici. p. 9.

[151] Cigogna. _Ibid._ p. 9.

[152] Litta. _Ibidem._

[153] See Appendix. Letter I.

[154] Galluzzi. Istoria del Granducato. Lib. 4, cap. 2.

[155] Cigogna. _Ibidem._ p. 10.

[156] Galluzzi. Istoria del Granducato. Lib. 4.—Litta. Famiglia Medici.

[157] Litta. _Ibidem._

[158] See Appendix. Letters I. and III.

[159] Galluzzi. Istoria del Ducato. Lib. 4.

[160] Galluzzi. Istoria del Ducato. Lib. 4, cap. 1.

[161] Litta. Fam. Med. Art. Ferdinando.—Galluzzi. Lib. 4.

[162] Cronaca MS. del Settimanni, cited by Guerazzi in his "Isabella
Orsini," p. 177.

[163] Litta. Fam. Med. Art. Isabella Orsini.

[164] MSS. Caponi, cited by Galluzzi. Isa. Orsini, p. 178.

[165] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, cap. 2.—Litta. Fam. Med. Art.
Isabella.—Ademollo. Mari. de' Ricci, Notes to, p. 810.

[166] Note 2.

[167] These words actually do occur in a book of memoranda of the kind
mentioned, which is still extant.

[168] Printed by Galuzzi. Lib. 4. ch. 2.

[169] Litta. Fam. Med. Art. Bianca.

[170] Ademollo. Mar. de Ricci. Notes, p. 628.

[171] Galluzzi. Ist. del Gr. ducato. Lib. 4, c. 2.

[172] Galluzzi. Ist. del Gr. ducato. Lib. 4. ch. 2.

[173] Galluzzi. _Ibid._ Lib. 4, ch. 3.

[174] Osservatore Fiorentino. Tom. 3, p. 106.

[175] Machiavelli. Op. Ed. Italia, 1813. V. iv. p. 194.

[176] Malespini. Novelli. Par. 2, nov. 24.

[177] Litta. Fam. Med. Art. Giovanni.—Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. iii.

[178] See Appendix. Letter VIII. and Note.

[179] Galluzzi. _Ibidem._

[180] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 3.

[181] Galluzzi. _Ibidem._

[182] Galluzzi. _Ibidem._

[183] MS. Rinieri, cited by Cigogna, Cenni Critico–storia, p. 42.

[184] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 3.

[185] Cenni. Storico–critici, p. 27.

[186] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 3.

[187] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, cap. 4.

[188] Registri secreti del Senato, cited by Cigogna.—Cenni,
Critico–storici, p. 28.

[189] Cenni, Storici, p. 44.

[190] Lib. 4, ch. 4.

[191] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 4.

[192] Note 3.

[193] Cigogna. Cenni, Storico–critici, p. 30.

[194] See Cigogna. Cenni, Storico–critici, p. 31.

[195] Note 4.

[196] Cigogna. Cenni, Storico–critici, p. 32.

[197] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 4.

[198] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 5.

[199] Adriani. Lib. 19.—Galluzzi. Lib. 3.

[200] Republiques. V. 16, p. 204.

[201] Galluzzi. Lib. 4.—Sismondi. Ch. 123.

[202] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 5.

[203] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 5.

[204] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 6.

[205] Lib. 4, ch. 6.

[206] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 5.

[207] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 6.

[208] Letter from Giovanni Vettorio Soderini to Signore Silvio
Piccolomini; printed in the Notes to Guerrazzi's "Isabella Orsini," p.

[209] "Familiarità con l'olio di vetriolo."

[210] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 6.

[211] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 7.

[212] Printed by Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 7.

[213] Printed by Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 7.

[214] Printed by Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 8.

[215] See, in confirmation of his view, Appendix, art. II.

[216] Note 5.

[217] The sentence is thus incomplete in the original.

[218] "Scontorcimenti."

[219] Note 6.

[220] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 8.

[221] "Non fece testamento prima, nè poi."

[222] "Rispettosamente;" which means literally "respectfully," and
not "doubtfully." But "respectful" does not describe the manner of a
sovereign to a captain of his guards. The author's meaning evidently is
"with a manner the reverse of security and boldness."

[223] Galluzzi. Lib. 4, ch. 8.

[224] Hist. Rep. Ital., ch. 123.

[225] Letter of Soderini.—Guerrazzi's Isabella Orsini.

[226] Giusti. The stinging satires of this Tuscan poet, who died a few
years since in the prime of life, should be read by those who wish to
obtain a just notion of the lights and shades of modern Italian life.

[227] Guide Book to Central Italy.

[228] Storia Pittorica, vol. v. p. 97, edit. 4to.

[229] Lanzi should have written "recorded by herself;" for Malvasia,
the historian of Bolognese art, merely prints a catalogue, left by the
artist in her own handwriting.

[230] The list, however, is not complete, as there are pictures by her
extant, which are not enumerated in it.

[231] This would seem to refer either to the medical brother or to the
pupils in the house.

[232] She alludes in all probability to the murder of her husband; if
so, the date of this letter would enable us to fix, with some approach
to accuracy, the time of that event, which the Florentine contemporary
writers have not mentioned, and which the subsequent historians have
not been able to fix.

[233] This appears to allude to some scheme of marriage, which Bianca
would seem to have in some degree encouraged.

[234] Signor Odorici thinks, in all probability correctly, that this
matter, of too great importance to be written, was her hope of being
married to the Duke after the death of the Duchess. He observes, that
even the seal attached by Bianca to this letter seems to have reference
to such an idea. It bore a Venus arming Cupid with arrows, with the
motto significative enough certainly as a device of Bianca, "_Aude et
fiet_." But if such a scheme of succeeding to the place of the Grand
Duchess appeared to be of such importance as to deserve the coming of
her cousin to Florence to discuss it, while the lady to be supplanted
was still alive and well, do not such plannings and discussions add
some degree of probability to the Florentine notion, that Giovanna's
welcome death was unduly hastened?

[235] It must be observed, that from this letter it would appear either
that the "matter which cannot be put on paper" was, after all, not what
has been conjectured, or that her wishes and intentions of returning to
Venice were insincere.

[236] An antidote to poison.

                          TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

-Plain text and punctuation errors fixed.

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