Sketches and Studies in Italy and Greece
by John Addington Symonds
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As may be imagined, the traghetti vary greatly in the amount and quality of their custom. By far the best are those in the neighbourhood of the hotels upon the Grand Canal. At any one of these a gondolier during the season is sure of picking up some foreigner or other who will pay him handsomely for comparatively light service. A traghetto on the Giudecca, on the contrary, depends upon Venetian traffic. The work is more monotonous, and the pay is reduced to its tariffed minimum. So far as I can gather, an industrious gondolier, with a good boat, belonging to a good traghetto, may make as much as ten or fifteen francs in a single day. But this cannot be relied on. They therefore prefer a fixed appointment with a private family, for which they receive by tariff five francs a day, or by arrangement for long periods perhaps four francs a day, with certain perquisites and small advantages. It is great luck to get such an engagement for the winter. The heaviest anxieties which beset a gondolier are then disposed of. Having entered private service, they are not allowed to ply their trade on the traghetto, except by stipulation with their masters. Then they may take their place one night out of every six in the rank and file. The gondoliers have two proverbs, which show how desirable it is, while taking a fixed engagement, to keep their hold on the traghetto. One is to this effect: il traghetto e un buon padrone. The other satirises the meanness of the poverty-stricken Venetian nobility: pompa di servitu, misera insegna. When they combine the traghetto with private service, the municipality insists on their retaining the number painted on their gondola; and against this their employers frequently object. It is therefore a great point for a gondolier to make such an arrangement with his master as will leave him free to show his number. The reason for this regulation is obvious. Gondoliers are known more by their numbers and their traghetti than their names. They tell me that though there are upwards of a thousand registered in Venice, each man of the trade knows the whole confraternity by face and number. Taking all things into consideration, I think four francs a day the whole year round are very good earnings for a gondolier. On this he will marry and rear a family, and put a little money by. A young unmarried man, working at two and a half or three francs a day, is proportionately well-to-do. If he is economical, he ought upon these wages to save enough in two or three years to buy himself a gondola. A boy from fifteen to nineteen is called a mezz' uomo, and gets about one franc a day. A new gondola with all its fittings is worth about a thousand francs. It does not last in good condition more than six or seven years. At the end of that time the hull will fetch eighty francs. A new hull can be had for three hundred francs. The old fittings—brass sea-horses or cavalli, steel prow or ferro, covered cabin or felze, cushions and leather-covered back-board or stramazetto, maybe transferred to it. When a man wants to start a gondola, he will begin by buying one already half past service—a gondola da traghetto or di mezza eta. This should cost him something over two hundred francs. Little by little, he accumulates the needful fittings; and when his first purchase is worn out, he hopes to set up with a well-appointed equipage. He thus gradually works his way from the rough trade which involves hard work and poor earnings to that more profitable industry which cannot be carried on without a smart boat. The gondola is a source of continual expense for repairs. Its oars have to be replaced. It has to be washed with sponges, blacked, and varnished. Its bottom needs frequent cleaning. Weeds adhere to it in the warm brackish water, growing rapidly through the summer months, and demanding to be scrubbed off once in every four weeks. The gondolier has no place where he can do this for himself. He therefore takes his boat to a wharf, or squero, as the place is called. At these squeri gondolas are built as well as cleaned. The fee for a thorough setting to rights of the boat is five francs. It must be done upon a fine day. Thus in addition to the cost, the owner loses a good day's work.

These details will serve to give some notion of the sort of people with whom Eustace and I spent our day. The bride's house is in an excellent position on an open canal leading from the Canalozzo to the Giudecca. She had arrived before us, and received her friends in the middle of the room. Each of us in turn kissed her cheek and murmured our congratulations. We found the large living-room of the house arranged with chairs all round the walls, and the company were marshalled in some order of precedence, my friend and I taking place near the bride. On either hand airy bedrooms opened out, and two large doors, wide open, gave a view from where we sat of a good-sized kitchen. This arrangement of the house was not only comfortable, but pretty; for the bright copper pans and pipkins ranged on shelves along the kitchen walls had a very cheerful effect. The walls were whitewashed, but literally covered with all sorts of pictures. A great plaster cast from some antique, an Atys, Adonis, or Paris, looked down from a bracket placed between the windows. There was enough furniture, solid and well kept, in all the rooms. Among the pictures were full-length portraits in oils of two celebrated gondoliers—one in antique costume, the other painted a few years since. The original of the latter soon came and stood before it. He had won regatta prizes; and the flags of four discordant colours were painted round him by the artist, who had evidently cared more to commemorate the triumphs of his sitter and to strike a likeness than to secure the tone of his own picture. This champion turned out a fine fellow—Corradini—with one of the brightest little gondoliers of thirteen for his son.

After the company were seated, lemonade and cakes were handed round amid a hubbub of chattering women. Then followed cups of black coffee and more cakes. Then a glass of Cyprus and more cakes. Then a glass of curacoa and more cakes. Finally, a glass of noyau and still more cakes. It was only a little after seven in the morning. Yet politeness compelled us to consume these delicacies. I tried to shirk my duty; but this discretion was taken by my hosts for well-bred modesty; and instead of being let off, I had the richest piece of pastry and the largest maccaroon available pressed so kindly on me, that, had they been poisoned, I would not have refused to eat them. The conversation grew more, and more animated, the women gathering together in their dresses of bright blue and scarlet, the men lighting cigars and puffing out a few quiet words. It struck me as a drawback that these picturesque people had put on Sunday-clothes to look as much like shopkeepers as possible. But they did not all of them succeed. Two handsome women, who handed the cups round—one a brunette, the other a blonde—wore skirts of brilliant blue, with a sort of white jacket, and white kerchief folded heavily about their shoulders. The brunette had a great string of coral, the blonde of amber, round her throat. Gold earrings and the long gold chains Venetian women wear, of all patterns and degrees of value, abounded. Nobody appeared without them; but I could not see any of an antique make. The men seemed to be contented with rings—huge, heavy rings of solid gold, worked with a rough flower pattern. One young fellow had three upon his fingers. This circumstance led me to speculate whether a certain portion at least of this display of jewellery around me had not been borrowed for the occasion.

Eustace and I were treated quite like friends. They called us I Signori. But this was only, I think, because our English names are quite unmanageable. The women fluttered about us and kept asking whether we really liked it all? whether we should come to the pranzo? whether it was true we danced? It seemed to give them unaffected pleasure to be kind to us; and when we rose to go away, the whole company crowded round, shaking hands and saying: 'Si divertira bene stasera!' Nobody resented our presence; what was better, no one put himself out for us. 'Vogliono veder il nostro costume,' I heard one woman say.

We got home soon after eight, and, as our ancestors would have said, settled our stomachs with a dish of tea. It makes me shudder now to think of the mixed liquids and miscellaneous cakes we had consumed at that unwonted hour.

At half-past three, Eustace and I again prepared ourselves for action. His gondola was in attendance, covered with the felze, to take us to the house of the sposa. We found the canal crowded with poor people of the quarter—men, women, and children lining the walls along its side, and clustering like bees upon the bridges. The water itself was almost choked with gondolas. Evidently the folk of San Vio thought our wedding procession would be a most exciting pageant. We entered the house, and were again greeted by the bride and bridegroom, who consigned each of us to the control of a fair tyrant. This is the most fitting way of describing our introduction to our partners of the evening; for we were no sooner presented, than the ladies swooped upon us like their prey, placing their shawls upon our left arms, while they seized and clung to what was left available of us for locomotion. There was considerable giggling and tittering throughout the company when Signora Fenzo, the young and comely wife of a gondolier, thus took possession of Eustace, and Signora dell' Acqua, the widow of another gondolier, appropriated me. The affair had been arranged beforehand, and their friends had probably chaffed them with the difficulty of managing two mad Englishmen. However, they proved equal to the occasion, and the difficulties were entirely on our side. Signora Fenzo was a handsome brunette, quiet in her manners, who meant business. I envied Eustace his subjection to such a reasonable being. Signora dell' Acqua, though a widow, was by no means disconsolate; and I soon perceived that it would require all the address and diplomacy I possessed, to make anything out of her society. She laughed incessantly; darted in the most diverse directions, dragging me along with her; exhibited me in triumph to her cronies; made eyes at me over a fan, repeated my clumsiest remarks, as though they gave her indescribable amusement; and all the while jabbered Venetian at express rate, without the slightest regard for my incapacity to follow her vagaries. The Vecchio marshalled us in order. First went the sposa and comare with the mothers of bride and bridegroom. Then followed the sposo and the bridesmaid. After them I was made to lead my fair tormentor. As we descended the staircase there arose a hubbub of excitement from the crowd on the canals. The gondolas moved turbidly upon the face of the waters. The bridegroom kept muttering to himself, 'How we shall be criticised! They will tell each other who was decently dressed, and who stepped awkwardly into the boats, and what the price of my boots was!' Such exclamations, murmured at intervals, and followed by chest-drawn sighs, expressed a deep preoccupation. With regard to his boots, he need have had no anxiety. They were of the shiniest patent leather, much too tight, and without a speck of dust upon them. But his nervousness infected me with a cruel dread. All those eyes were going to watch how we comported ourselves in jumping from the landing-steps into the boat! If this operation, upon a ceremonious occasion, has terrors even for a gondolier, how formidable it ought to be to me! And here is the Signora dell' Acqua's white cachemire shawl dangling on one arm, and the Signora herself languishingly clinging to the other; and the gondolas are fretting in a fury of excitement, like corks, upon the churned green water! The moment was terrible. The sposa and her three companions had been safely stowed away beneath their felze. The sposo had successfully handed the bridesmaid into the second gondola. I had to perform the same office for my partner. Off she went, like a bird, from the bank. I seized a happy moment, followed, bowed, and found myself to my contentment gracefully ensconced in a corner opposite the widow. Seven more gondolas were packed. The procession moved. We glided down the little channel, broke away into the Grand Canal, crossed it, and dived into a labyrinth from which we finally emerged before our destination, the Trattoria di San Gallo. The perils of the landing were soon over; and, with the rest of the guests, my mercurial companion and I slowly ascended a long flight of stairs leading to a vast upper chamber. Here we were to dine.

It had been the gallery of some palazzo in old days, was above one hundred feet in length, fairly broad, with a roof of wooden rafters and large windows opening on a courtyard garden. I could see the tops of three cypress-trees cutting the grey sky upon a level with us. A long table occupied the centre of this room. It had been laid for upwards of forty persons, and we filled it. There was plenty of light from great glass lustres blazing with gas. When the ladies had arranged their dresses, and the gentlemen had exchanged a few polite remarks, we all sat down to dinner—I next my inexorable widow, Eustace beside his calm and comely partner. The first impression was one of disappointment. It looked so like a public dinner of middle-class people. There was no local character in costume or customs. Men and women sat politely bored, expectant, trifling with their napkins, yawning, muttering nothings about the weather or their neighbours. The frozen commonplaceness of the scene was made for me still more oppressive by Signora dell' Acqua. She was evidently satirical, and could not be happy unless continually laughing at or with somebody. 'What a stick the woman will think me!' I kept saying to myself. 'How shall I ever invent jokes in this strange land? I cannot even flirt with her in Venetian! And here I have condemned myself—and her too, poor thing—to sit through at least three hours of mortal dulness!' Yet the widow was by no means unattractive. Dressed in black, she had contrived by an artful arrangement of lace and jewellery to give an air of lightness to her costume. She had a pretty little pale face, a minois chiffonne, with slightly turned-up nose, large laughing brown eyes, a dazzling set of teeth, and a tempestuously frizzled mop of powdered hair. When I managed to get a side-look at her quietly, without being giggled at or driven half mad by unintelligible incitements to a jocularity I could not feel, it struck me that, if we once found a common term of communication we should become good friends. But for the moment that modus vivendi seemed unattainable. She had not recovered from the first excitement of her capture of me. She was still showing me off and trying to stir me up. The arrival of the soup gave me a momentary relief; and soon the serious business of the afternoon began. I may add that before dinner was over, the Signora dell' Acqua and I were fast friends. I had discovered the way of making jokes, and she had become intelligible. I found her a very nice, though flighty, little woman; and I believe she thought me gifted with the faculty of uttering eccentric epigrams in a grotesque tongue. Some of my remarks were flung about the table, and had the same success as uncouth Lombard carvings have with connoisseurs in naivetes of art. By that time we had come to be compare and comare to each other—the sequel of some clumsy piece of jocularity.

It was a heavy entertainment, copious in quantity, excellent in quality, plainly but well cooked. I remarked there was no fish. The widow replied that everybody present ate fish to satiety at home. They did not join a marriage feast at the San Gallo, and pay their nine francs, for that! It should be observed that each guest paid for his own entertainment. This appears to be the custom. Therefore attendance is complimentary, and the married couple are not at ruinous charges for the banquet. A curious feature in the whole proceeding had its origin in this custom. I noticed that before each cover lay an empty plate, and that my partner began with the first course to heap upon it what she had not eaten. She also took large helpings, and kept advising me to do the same. I said: 'No; I only take what I want to eat; if I fill that plate in front of me as you are doing, it will be great waste.' This remark elicited shrieks of laughter from all who heard it; and when the hubbub had subsided, I perceived an apparently official personage bearing down upon Eustace, who was in the same perplexity. It was then circumstantially explained to us that the empty plates were put there in order that we might lay aside what we could not conveniently eat, and take it home with us. At the end of the dinner the widow (whom I must now call my comare) had accumulated two whole chickens, half a turkey, and a large assortment of mixed eatables. I performed my duty and won her regard by placing delicacies at her disposition.

Crudely stated, this proceeding moves disgust. But that is only because one has not thought the matter out. In the performance there was nothing coarse or nasty. These good folk had made a contract at so much a head—so many fowls, so many pounds of beef, &c, to be supplied; and what they had fairly bought, they clearly had a right to. No one, so far as I could notice, tried to take more than his proper share; except, indeed, Eustace and myself. In our first eagerness to conform to custom, we both overshot the mark, and grabbed at disproportionate helpings. The waiters politely observed that we were taking what was meant for two; and as the courses followed in interminable sequence, we soon acquired the tact of what was due to us.

Meanwhile the room grew warm. The gentlemen threw off their coats—a pleasant liberty of which I availed myself, and was immediately more at ease. The ladies divested themselves of their shoes (strange to relate!) and sat in comfort with their stockinged feet upon the scagliola pavement. I observed that some cavaliers by special permission were allowed to remove their partners' slippers. This was not my lucky fate. My comare had not advanced to that point of intimacy. Healths began to be drunk. The conversation took a lively turn; and women went fluttering round the table, visiting their friends, to sip out of their glass, and ask each other how they were getting on. It was not long before the stiff veneer of bourgeoisie which bored me had worn off. The people emerged in their true selves: natural, gentle, sparkling with enjoyment, playful. Playful is, I think, the best word to describe them. They played with infinite grace and innocence, like kittens, from the old men of sixty to the little boys of thirteen. Very little wine was drunk. Each guest had a litre placed before him. Many did not finish theirs; and for very few was it replenished. When at last the dessert arrived, and the bride's comfits had been handed round, they began to sing. It was very pretty to see a party of three or four friends gathering round some popular beauty, and paying her compliments in verse—they grouped behind her chair, she sitting back in it and laughing up to them, and joining in the chorus. The words, 'Brunetta mia simpatica, ti amo sempre piu,' sung after this fashion to Eustace's handsome partner, who puffed delicate whiffs from a Russian cigarette, and smiled her thanks, had a peculiar appropriateness. All the ladies, it may be observed in passing, had by this time lit their cigarettes. The men were smoking Toscani, Sellas, or Cavours, and the little boys were dancing round the table breathing smoke from their pert nostrils.

The dinner, in fact, was over. Other relatives of the guests arrived, and then we saw how some of the reserved dishes were to be bestowed. A side-table was spread at the end of the gallery, and these late-comers were regaled with plenty by their friends. Meanwhile, the big table at which we had dined was taken to pieces and removed. The scagliola floor was swept by the waiters. Musicians came streaming in and took their places. The ladies resumed their shoes. Every one prepared to dance.

My friend and I were now at liberty to chat with the men. He knew some of them by sight, and claimed acquaintance with others. There was plenty of talk about different boats, gondolas, and sandolos and topos, remarks upon the past season, and inquiries as to chances of engagements in the future. One young fellow told us how he had been drawn for the army, and should be obliged to give up his trade just when he had begun to make it answer. He had got a new gondola, and this would have to be hung up during the years of his service. The warehousing of a boat in these circumstances costs nearly one hundred francs a year, which is a serious tax upon the pockets of a private in the line. Many questions were put in turn to us, but all of the same tenor. 'Had we really enjoyed the pranzo? Now, really, were we amusing ourselves? And did we think the custom of the wedding un bel costume?' We could give an unequivocally hearty response to all these interrogations. The men seemed pleased. Their interest in our enjoyment was unaffected. It is noticeable how often the word divertimento is heard upon the lips of the Italians. They have a notion that it is the function in life of the Signori to amuse themselves.

The ball opened, and now we were much besought by the ladies. I had to deny myself with a whole series of comical excuses. Eustace performed his duty after a stiff English fashion—once with his pretty partner of the pranzo, and once again with a fat gondolier. The band played waltzes and polkas, chiefly upon patriotic airs—the Marcia Reale, Garibaldi's Hymn, &c. Men danced with men, women with women, little boys and girls together. The gallery whirled with a laughing crowd. There was plenty of excitement and enjoyment—not an unseemly or extravagant word or gesture. My comare careered about with a light maenadic impetuosity, which made me regret my inability to accept her pressing invitations. She pursued me into every corner of the room, but when at last I dropped excuses and told her that my real reason for not dancing was that it would hurt my health, she waived her claims at once with an Ah, poverino!

Some time after midnight we felt that we had had enough of divertimento. Francesco helped us to slip out unobserved. With many silent good wishes we left the innocent playful people who had been so kind to us. The stars were shining from a watery sky as we passed into the piazza beneath the Campanile and the pinnacles of S. Mark. The Riva was almost empty, and the little waves fretted the boats moored to the piazzetta, as a warm moist breeze went fluttering by. We smoked a last cigar, crossed our traghetto, and were soon sound asleep at the end of a long pleasant day. The ball, we heard next morning, finished about four.

Since that evening I have had plenty of opportunities for seeing my friends the gondoliers, both in their own homes and in my apartment. Several have entertained me at their mid-day meal of fried fish and amber-coloured polenta. These repasts were always cooked with scrupulous cleanliness, and served upon a table covered with coarse linen. The polenta is turned out upon a wooden platter, and cut with a string called lassa. You take a large slice of it on the palm of the left hand, and break it with the fingers of the right. Wholesome red wine of the Paduan district and good white bread were never wanting. The rooms in which we met to eat looked out on narrow lanes or over pergolas of yellowing vines. Their whitewashed walls were hung with photographs of friends and foreigners, many of them souvenirs from English or American employers. The men, in broad black hats and lilac shirts, sat round the table, girt with the red waist-wrapper, or fascia, which marks the ancient faction of the Castellani. The other faction, called Nicolotti, are distinguished by a black assisa. The quarters of the town are divided unequally and irregularly into these two parties. What was once a formidable rivalry between two sections of the Venetian populace, still survives in challenges to trials of strength and skill upon the water. The women, in their many-coloured kerchiefs, stirred polenta at the smoke-blackened chimney, whose huge pent-house roof projects two feet or more across the hearth. When they had served the table they took their seat on low stools, knitted stockings, or drank out of glasses handed across the shoulder to them by their lords. Some of these women were clearly notable housewives, and I have no reason to suppose that they do not take their full share of the housework. Boys and girls came in and out, and got a portion of the dinner to consume where they thought best. Children went tottering about upon the red-brick floor, the playthings of those hulking fellows, who handled them very gently and spoke kindly in a sort of confidential whisper to their ears. These little ears were mostly pierced for earrings, and the light blue eyes of the urchins peeped maliciously beneath shocks of yellow hair. A dog was often of the party. He ate fish like his masters, and was made to beg for it by sitting up and rowing with his paws. Voga, Azzo, voga! The Anzolo who talked thus to his little brown Spitz-dog has the hoarse voice of a Triton and the movement of an animated sea-wave. Azzo performed his trick, swallowed his fish-bones, and the fiery Anzolo looked round approvingly.

On all these occasions I have found these gondoliers the same sympathetic, industrious, cheery affectionate folk. They live in many respects a hard and precarious life. The winter in particular is a time of anxiety, and sometimes of privation, even to the well-to-do among them. Work then is scarce, and what there is, is rendered disagreeable to them by the cold. Yet they take their chance with facile temper, and are not soured by hardships. The amenities of the Venetian sea and air, the healthiness of the lagoons, the cheerful bustle of the poorer quarters, the brilliancy of this Southern sunlight, and the beauty which is everywhere apparent, must be reckoned as important factors in the formation of their character. And of that character, as I have said, the final note is playfulness. In spite of difficulties, their life has never been stern enough to sadden them. Bare necessities are marvellously cheap, and the pinch of real bad weather—such frost as locked the lagoons in ice two years ago, or such south-western gales as flooded the basement floors of all the houses on the Zattere—is rare and does not last long. On the other hand, their life has never been so lazy as to reduce them to the savagery of the traditional Neapolitan lazzaroni. They have had to work daily for small earnings, but under favourable conditions, and their labour has been lightened by much good-fellowship among themselves, by the amusements of their feste and their singing clubs.

Of course it is not easy for a stranger in a very different social position to feel that he has been admitted to their confidence. Italians have an ineradicable habit of making themselves externally agreeable, of bending in all indifferent matters to the whims and wishes of superiors, and of saying what they think Signori like. This habit, while it smoothes the surface of existence, raises up a barrier of compliment and partial insincerity, against which the more downright natures of us Northern folk break in vain efforts. Our advances are met with an imperceptible but impermeable resistance by the very people who are bent on making the world pleasant to us. It is the very reverse of that dour opposition which a Lowland Scot or a North English peasant offers to familiarity; but it is hardly less insurmountable. The treatment, again, which Venetians of the lower class have received through centuries from their own nobility, makes attempts at fraternisation on the part of gentlemen unintelligible to them. The best way, here and elsewhere, of overcoming these obstacles is to have some bond of work or interest in common—of service on the one side rendered, and goodwill on the other honestly displayed. The men of whom I have been speaking will, I am convinced, not shirk their share of duty or make unreasonable claims upon the generosity of their employers.

* * * * *



There is a quarter of Venice not much visited by tourists, lying as it does outside their beat, away from the Rialto, at a considerable distance from the Frari and San Rocco, in what might almost pass for a city separated by a hundred miles from the Piazza. This is the quarter of San Polo, one corner of which, somewhere between the back of the Palazzo Foscari and the Campo di San Polo, was the scene of a memorable act of vengeance in the year 1546. Here Lorenzino de' Medici, the murderer of his cousin Alessandro, was at last tracked down and put to death by paid cut-throats. How they succeeded in their purpose, we know in every detail from the narrative dictated by the chief assassin. His story so curiously illustrates the conditions of life in Italy three centuries ago, that I have thought it worthy of abridgment. But, in order to make it intelligible, and to paint the manners of the times more fully, I must first relate the series of events which led to Lorenzino's murder of his cousin Alessandro, and from that to his own subsequent assassination. Lorenzino de' Medici, the Florentine Brutus of the sixteenth century, is the hero of the tragedy. Some of his relatives, however, must first appear upon the scene before he enters with a patriot's knife concealed beneath a court-fool's bauble.


After the final extinction of the Florentine Republic, the hopes of the Medici, who now aspired to the dukedom of Tuscany, rested on three bastards—Alessandro, the reputed child of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino; Ippolito, the natural son of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours; and Giulio, the offspring of an elder Giuliano, who was at this time Pope, with the title of Clement VII. Clement had seen Rome sacked in 1527 by a horde of freebooters fighting under the Imperial standard, and had used the remnant of these troops, commanded by the Prince of Orange, to crush his native city in the memorable siege of 1529-30. He now determined to rule Florence from the Papal chair by the help of the two bastard cousins I have named. Alessandro was created Duke of Civita di Penna, and sent to take the first place in the city. Ippolito was made a cardinal; since the Medici had learned that Rome was the real basis of their power, and it was undoubtedly in Clement's policy to advance this scion of his house to the Papacy. The sole surviving representative of the great Lorenzo de' Medici's legitimate blood was Catherine, daughter of the Duke of Urbino by Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne. She was pledged in marriage to the Duke of Orleans, who was afterwards Henry II. of France. A natural daughter of the Emperor Charles V. was provided for her putative half-brother Alessandro. By means of these alliances the succession of Ippolito to the Papal chair would have been secured, and the strength of the Medici would have been confirmed in Tuscany, but for the disasters which have now to be related.

Between the cousins Alessandro and Ippolito there was no love lost. As boys, they had both played the part of princes in Florence under the guardianship of the Cardinal Passerini da Cortona. The higher rank had then been given to Ippolito, who bore the title of Magnifico, and seemed thus designated for the lordship of the city. Ippolito, though only half a Medici, was of more authentic lineage than Alessandro; for no proof positive could be adduced that the latter was even a spurious child of the Duke of Urbino. He bore obvious witness to his mother's blood upon his mulatto's face; but this mother was the wife of a groom, and it was certain that in the court of Urbino she had not been chary of her favours. The old magnificence of taste, the patronage of art and letters, and the preference for liberal studies which distinguished Casa Medici, survived in Ippolito; whereas Alessandro manifested only the brutal lusts of a debauched tyrant. It was therefore with great reluctance that, moved by reasons of state and domestic policy, Ippolito saw himself compelled to accept the scarlet hat. Alessandro having been recognised as a son of the Duke of Urbino, had become half-brother to the future Queen of France. To treat him as the head of the family was a necessity thrust, in the extremity of the Medicean fortunes, upon Clement. Ippolito, who more entirely represented the spirit of the house, was driven to assume the position of a cadet, with all the uncertainties of an ecclesiastical career.

In these circumstances Ippolito had not strength of character to sacrifice himself for the consolidation of the Medicean power, which could only have been effected by maintaining a close bond of union between its members. The death of Clement in 1534 obscured his prospects in the Church. He was still too young to intrigue for the tiara. The new Pope, Alessandro Farnese, soon after his election, displayed a vigour which was unexpected from his age, together with a nepotism which his previous character had scarcely warranted. The Cardinal de' Medici felt himself excluded and oppressed. He joined the party of those numerous Florentine exiles, headed by Filippo Strozzi, and the Cardinals Salviati and Ridolfi, all of whom were connected by marriage with the legitimate Medici, and who unanimously hated and were jealous of the Duke of Civita di Penna. On the score of policy it is difficult to condemn this step. Alessandro's hold upon Florence was still precarious, nor had he yet married Margaret of Austria. Perhaps Ippolito was right in thinking he had less to gain from his cousin than from the anti-Medicean faction and the princes of the Church who favoured it. But he did not play his cards well. He quarrelled with the new Pope, Paul III., and by his vacillations led the Florentine exiles to suspect he might betray them.

In the summer of 1535 Ippolito was at Itri, a little town not far from Gaeta and Terracina, within easy reach of Fondi, where dwelt the beautiful Giulia Gonzaga. To this lady the Cardinal paid assiduous court, passing his time with her in the romantic scenery of that world-famous Capuan coast. On the 5th of August his seneschal, Giovann' Andrea, of Borgo San Sepolcro, brought him a bowl of chicken-broth, after drinking which he exclaimed to one of his attendants, 'I have been poisoned, and the man who did it is Giovann' Andrea.' The seneschal was taken and tortured, and confessed that he had mixed a poison with the broth. Four days afterwards the Cardinal died, and a post-mortem examination showed that the omentum had been eaten by some corrosive substance. Giovann' Andrea was sent in chains to Rome; but in spite of his confession, more than once repeated, the court released him. He immediately took refuge with Alessandro de' Medici in Florence, whence he repaired to Borgo San Sepolcro, and was, at the close of a few months, there murdered by the people of the place. From these circumstances it was conjectured, not without good reason, that Alessandro had procured his cousin's death; and a certain Captain Pignatta, of low birth in Florence, a bravo and a coward, was believed to have brought the poison to Itri from the Duke. The Medicean courtiers at Florence did not disguise their satisfaction; and one of them exclaimed, with reference to the event, 'We know how to brush flies from our noses!'


Having removed his cousin and rival from the scene, Alessandro de' Medici plunged with even greater effrontery into the cruelties and debaucheries which made him odious in Florence. It seemed as though fortune meant to smile on him; for in this same year (1535) Charles V. decided at Naples in his favour against the Florentine exiles, who were pleading their own cause and that of the city injured by his tyrannies; and in February of the following year he married Margaret of Austria, the Emperor's natural daughter. Francesco Guicciardini, the first statesman and historian of his age, had undertaken his defence, and was ready to support him by advice and countenance in the conduct of his government. Within the lute of this prosperity, however, there was one little rift. For some months past he had closely attached to his person a certain kinsman, Lorenzo de' Medici, who was descended in the fourth generation from Lorenzo, the brother of Cosimo Pater Patriae. This Lorenzo, or Lorenzino, or Lorenzaccio, as his most intimate acquaintances called him, was destined to murder Alessandro; and it is worthy of notice that the Duke had received frequent warnings of his fate. A Perugian page, for instance, who suffered from some infirmity, saw in a dream that Lorenzino would kill his master. Astrologers predicted that the Duke must die by having his throat cut. One of them is said to have named Lorenzo de' Medici as the assassin; and another described him so accurately that there was no mistaking the man. Moreover, Madonna Lucrezia Salviati wrote to the Duke from Rome that he should beware of a certain person, indicating Lorenzino; and her daughter, Madonna Maria, told him to his face she hated the young man, 'because I know he means to murder you, and murder you he will.' Nor was this all. The Duke's favourite body-servants mistrusted Lorenzino. On one occasion, when Alessandro and Lorenzino, attended by a certain Giomo, were escalading a wall at night, as was their wont upon illicit love-adventures, Giomo whispered to his master: 'Ah, my lord, do let me cut the rope, and rid ourselves of him!' To which the Duke replied: 'No, I do not want this; but if he could, I know he'd twist it round my neck.'

In spite, then, of these warnings and the want of confidence he felt, the Duke continually lived with Lorenzino, employing him as pander in his intrigues, and preferring his society to that of simpler men. When he rode abroad, he took this evil friend upon his crupper; although he knew for certain that Lorenzino had stolen a tight-fitting vest of mail he used to wear, and, while his arms were round his waist, was always meditating how to stick a poignard in his body. He trusted, so it seems, to his own great strength and to the other's physical weakness.

At this point, since Lorenzino is the principal actor in the two-act drama which follows, it will be well to introduce him to the reader in the words of Varchi, who was personally acquainted with him. Born at Florence in 1514, he was left early by his father's death to the sole care of his mother, Maria Soderini, 'a lady of rare prudence and goodness, who attended with the utmost pains and diligence to his education. No sooner, however, had he acquired the rudiments of humane learning, which, being of very quick parts, he imbibed with incredible facility, than he began to display a restless mind, insatiable and appetitive of vice. Soon afterwards, under the rule and discipline of Filippo Strozzi, he made open sport of all things human and divine; and preferring the society of low persons, who not only flattered him but were congenial to his tastes, he gave free rein to his desires, especially in affairs of love, without regard for sex or age or quality, and in his secret soul, while he lavished feigned caresses upon every one he saw, felt no esteem for any living being. He thirsted strangely for glory, and omitted no point of deed or word that might, he thought, procure him the reputation of a man of spirit or of wit. He was lean of person, somewhat slightly built, and on this account people called him Lorenzino. He never laughed, but had a sneering smile; and although he was rather distinguished by grace than beauty, his countenance being dark and melancholy, still in the flower of his age he was beloved beyond all measure by Pope Clement; in spite of which he had it in his mind (according to what he said himself after killing the Duke Alessandro) to have murdered him. He brought Francesco di Raffaello de' Medici, the Pope's rival, who was a young man of excellent attainments and the highest hope, to such extremity that he lost his wits, and became the sport of the whole court at Rome, and was sent back, as a lesser evil, as a confirmed madman to Florence.' Varchi proceeds to relate how Lorenzino fell into disfavour with the Pope and the Romans by chopping the heads off statues from the arch of Constantine and other monuments; for which act of vandalism Molsa impeached him in the Roman Academy, and a price was set upon his head. Having returned to Florence, he proceeded to court Duke Alessandro, into whose confidence he wormed himself, pretending to play the spy upon the exiles, and affecting a personal timidity which put the Prince off his guard. Alessandro called him 'the philosopher,' because he conversed in solitude with his own thoughts and seemed indifferent to wealth and office. But all this while Lorenzino was plotting how to murder him.

Giovio's account of this strange intimacy may be added, since it completes the picture I have drawn from Varchi:—'Lorenzo made himself the accomplice and instrument of those amorous amusements for which the Duke had an insatiable appetite, with the object of deceiving him. He was singularly well furnished with all the scoundrelly arts and trained devices of the pander's trade; composed fine verses to incite to lust; wrote and represented comedies in Italian; and pretended to take pleasure only in such tricks and studies. Therefore he never carried arms like other courtiers, and feigned to be afraid of blood, a man who sought tranquillity at any price. Besides, he bore a pallid countenance and melancholy brow, walking alone, talking very little and with few persons. He haunted solitary places apart from the city, and showed such plain signs of hypochondria that some began covertly to pass jokes on him. Certain others, who were more acute, suspected that he was harbouring and devising in his mind some terrible enterprise.' The Prologue to Lorenzino's own comedy of 'Aridosiso' brings the sardonic, sneering, ironical man vividly before us. He calls himself 'un certo omiciatto, che non e nessun di voi che veggendolo non l'avesse a noia, pensando che egli abbia fatto una commedia;' and begs the audience to damn his play to save him the tedium of writing another. Criticised by the light of his subsequent actions, this prologue may even be understood to contain a covert promise of the murder he was meditating.

'In this way,' writes Varchi, 'the Duke had taken such familiarity with Lorenzo, that, not content with making use of him as a ruffian in his dealings with women, whether religious or secular, maidens or wives or widows, noble or plebeian, young or elderly, as it might happen, he applied to him to procure for his pleasure a half-sister of Lorenzo's own mother, a young lady of marvellous beauty, but not less chaste than beautiful, who was the wife of Lionardo Ginori, and lived not far from the back entrance to the palace of the Medici.' Lorenzino undertook this odious commission, seeing an opportunity to work his designs against the Duke. But first he had to form an accomplice, since he could not hope to carry out the murder without help. A bravo, called Michele del Tavolaccino, but better known by the nickname of Scoronconcolo, struck him as a fitting instrument. He had procured this man's pardon for a homicide, and it appears that the fellow retained a certain sense of gratitude. Lorenzino began by telling the man there was a courtier who put insults upon him, and Scoronconcolo professed his readiness to kill the knave. 'Sia chi si voglia; io l'ammazzero, se fosse Cristo.' Up to the last minute the name of Alessandro was not mentioned. Having thus secured his assistant, Lorenzino chose a night when he knew that Alessandro Vitelli, captain of the Duke's guard, would be from home. Then, after supper, he whispered in Alessandro's ear that at last he had seduced his aunt with an offer of money, and that she would come to his, Lorenzo's chamber at the service of the Duke that night. Only the Duke must appear at the rendezvous alone, and when he had arrived, the lady should be fetched. 'Certain it is,' says Varchi, 'that the Duke, having donned a cloak of satin in the Neapolitan style, lined with sable, when he went to take his gloves, and there were some of mail and some of perfumed leather, hesitated awhile and said: "Which shall I choose, those of war, or those of love-making?"' He took the latter and went out with only four attendants, three of whom he dismissed upon the Piazza di San Marco, while one was stationed just opposite Lorenzo's house, with strict orders not to stir if he should see folk enter or issue thence. But this fellow, called the Hungarian, after waiting a great while, returned to the Duke's chamber, and there went to sleep.

Meanwhile Lorenzino received Alessandro in his bedroom, where there was a good fire. The Duke unbuckled his sword, which Lorenzino took, and having entangled the belt with the hilt, so that it should not readily be drawn, laid it on the pillow. The Duke had flung himself already on the bed, and hid himself among the curtains—doing this, it is supposed, to save himself from the trouble of paying compliments to the lady when she should arrive. For Caterina Ginori had the fame of a fair speaker, and Alessandro was aware of his own incapacity to play the part of a respectful lover. Nothing could more strongly point the man's brutality than this act, which contributed in no small measure to his ruin.

Lorenzino left the Duke upon the bed, and went at once for Scoronconcolo. He told him that the enemy was caught, and bade him only mind the work he had to do. 'That will I do,' the bravo answered, 'even though it were the Duke himself.' 'You've hit the mark,' said Lorenzino with a face of joy; 'he cannot slip through our fingers. Come!' So they mounted to the bedroom, and Lorenzino, knowing where the Duke was laid, cried: 'Sir, are you asleep?' and therewith ran him through the back. Alessandro was sleeping, or pretending to sleep, face downwards, and the sword passed through his kidneys and diaphragm. But it did not kill him. He slipped from the bed, and seized a stool to parry the next blow. Scoronconcolo now stabbed him in the face, while Lorenzino forced him back upon the bed; and then began a hideous struggle. In order to prevent his cries, Lorenzino doubled his fist into the Duke's mouth. Alessandro seized the thumb between his teeth, and held it in a vice until he died. This disabled Lorenzino, who still lay upon his victim's body, and Scoronconcolo could not strike for fear of wounding his master. Between the writhing couple he made, however, several passes with his sword, which only pierced the mattress. Then he drew a knife and drove it into the Duke's throat, and bored about till he had severed veins and windpipe.


Alessandro was dead. His body fell to earth. The two murderers, drenched with blood, lifted it up, and placed it on the bed, wrapped in the curtains, as they had found him first. Then Lorenzino went to the window, which looked out upon the Via Larga, and opened it to rest and breathe a little air. After this he called for Scoronconcolo's boy, Il Freccia, and bade him look upon the dead man. Il Freccia recognised the Duke. But why Lorenzino did this, no one knew. It seemed, as Varchi says, that, having planned the murder with great ability, and executed it with daring, his good sense and good luck forsook him. He made no use of the crime he had committed; and from that day forward till his own assassination, nothing prospered with him. Indeed, the murder of Alessandro appears to have been almost motiveless, considered from the point of view of practical politics. Varchi assumes that Lorenzino's burning desire of glory prompted the deed; and when he had acquired the notoriety he sought, there was an end to his ambition. This view is confirmed by the Apology he wrote and published for his act. It remains one of the most pregnant, bold, and brilliant pieces of writing which we possess in favour of tyrannicide from that epoch of insolent crime and audacious rhetoric. So energetic is the style, and so biting the invective of this masterpiece, in which the author stabs a second time his victim, that both Giordani and Leopardi affirmed it to be the only true monument of eloquence in the Italian language. If thirst for glory was Lorenzino's principal incentive, immediate glory was his guerdon. He escaped that same night with Scoronconcolo and Freccia to Bologna, where he stayed to dress his thumb, and then passed forward to Venice. Filippo Strozzi there welcomed him as the new Brutus, gave him money, and promised to marry his two sons to the two sisters of the tyrant-killer. Poems were written and published by the most famous men of letters, including Benedetto Varchi and Francesco Maria Molsa, in praise of the Tuscan Brutus, the liberator of his country from a tyrant. A bronze medal was struck bearing his name, with a profile copied from Michelangelo's bust of Brutus. On the obverse are two daggers and a cup, and the date viii. id. Jan.

The immediate consequence of Alessandro's murder was the elevation of Cosimo, son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, and second cousin of Lorenzino, to the duchy. At the ceremony of his investiture with the ducal honours, Cosimo solemnly undertook to revenge Alessandro's murder. In the following March he buried his predecessor with pomp in San Lorenzo. The body was placed beside the bones of the Duke of Urbino in the marble chest of Michelangelo, and here not many years ago it was discovered. Soon afterwards Lorenzino was declared a rebel. His portrait was painted according to old Tuscan precedent, head downwards, and suspended by one foot, upon the wall of the fort built by Alessandro. His house was cut in twain from roof to pavement, and a narrow lane was driven through it, which received the title of Traitor's Alley, Chiasso del Traditore. The price of four thousand golden florins was put upon his head, together with the further sum of one hundred florins per annum in perpetuity to be paid to the murderer and his direct heirs in succession, by the Otto di Balia. Moreover, the man who killed Lorenzino was to enjoy all civic privileges; exemption from all taxes, ordinary and extraordinary; the right of carrying arms, together with two attendants, in the city and the whole domain of Florence; and the further prerogative of restoring ten outlaws at his choice. If Lorenzino could be captured and brought alive to Florence, the whole of this reward would be doubled.

This decree was promulgated in April 1537, and thenceforward Lorenzino de' Medici lived a doomed man. The assassin, who had been proclaimed a Brutus by Tuscan exiles and humanistic enthusiasts, was regarded as a Judas by the common people. Ballads were written on him with the title of the 'Piteous and sore lament made unto himself by Lorenzino de' Medici, who murdered the most illustrious Duke Alessandro.' He had become a wild beast, whom it was honourable to hunt down, a pest which it was righteous to extirpate. Yet fate delayed nine years to overtake him. What remains to be told about his story must be extracted from the narrative of the bravo who succeeded, with the aid of an accomplice, in despatching him at Venice.[13] So far as possible, I shall use the man's own words, translating them literally, and omitting only unimportant details. The narrative throws brilliant light upon the manners and movements of professional cut-throats at that period in Italy. It seems to have been taken down from the hero Francesco, or Cecco, Bibboni's lips; and there is no doubt that we possess in it a valuable historical document for the illustration of contemporary customs. It offers in all points a curious parallel to Cellini's account of his own homicides and hair-breadth escapes. Moreover, it is confirmed in its minutest circumstances by the records of the criminal courts of Venice in the sixteenth century. This I can attest from recent examination of MSS. relating to the Signori di Notte and the Esecutori contro la Bestemmia, which are preserved among the Archives at the Frari.


'When I returned from Germany,' begins Bibboni, 'where I had been in the pay of the Emperor, I found at Vicenza Bebo da Volterra, who was staying in the house of M. Antonio da Roma, a nobleman of that city. This gentleman employed him because of a great feud he had; and he was mighty pleased, moreover, at my coming, and desired that I too should take up my quarters in his palace.'

This paragraph strikes the keynote of the whole narrative, and introduces us to the company we are about to keep. The noblemen of that epoch, if they had private enemies, took into their service soldiers of adventure, partly to protect their persons, but also to make war, when occasion offered, on their foes. The bravi, as they were styled, had quarters assigned them in the basement of the palace, where they might be seen swaggering about the door or flaunting their gay clothes behind the massive iron bars of the windows which opened on the streets. When their master went abroad at night they followed him, and were always at hand to perform secret services in love affairs, assassination, and espial. For the rest, they haunted taverns, and kept up correspondence with prostitutes. An Italian city had a whole population of such fellows, the offscourings of armies, drawn from all nations, divided by their allegiance of the time being into hostile camps, but united by community of interest and occupation, and ready to combine against the upper class, upon whose vices, enmities, and cowardice they throve.

Bibboni proceeds to say how another gentleman of Vicenza, M. Francesco Manente, had at this time a feud with certain of the Guazzi and the Laschi, which had lasted several years, and cost the lives of many members of both parties and their following. M. Francesco being a friend of M. Antonio, besought that gentleman to lend him Bibboni and Bebo for a season; and the two bravi went together with their new master to Celsano, a village in the neighbourhood. 'There both parties had estates, and all of them kept armed men in their houses, so that not a day passed without feats of arms, and always there was some one killed or wounded. One day, soon afterwards, the leaders of our party resolved to attack the foe in their house, where we killed two, and the rest, numbering five men, entrenched themselves in a ground-floor apartment; whereupon we took possession of their harquebuses and other arms, which forced them to abandon the villa and retire to Vicenza; and within a short space of time this great feud was terminated by an ample peace.' After this Bebo took service with the Rector of the University in Padua, and was transferred by his new patron to Milan. Bibboni remained at Vicenza with M. Galeazzo della Seta, who stood in great fear of his life, notwithstanding the peace which had been concluded between the two factions. At the end of ten months he returned to M. Antonio da Roma and his six brothers, 'all of whom being very much attached to me, they proposed that I should live my life with them, for good or ill, and be treated as one of the family; upon the understanding that if war broke out and I wanted to take part in it, I should always have twenty-five crowns and arms and horse, with welcome home, so long as I lived; and in case I did not care to join the troops, the same provision for my maintenance.'

From these details we comprehend the sort of calling which a bravo of Bibboni's species followed. Meanwhile Bebo was at Milan. 'There it happened that M. Francesco Vinta, of Volterra, was on embassy from the Duke of Florence. He saw Bebo, and asked him what he was doing in Milan, and Bebo answered that he was a knight errant.' This phrase, derived no doubt from the romantic epics then in vogue, was a pretty euphemism for a rogue of Bebo's quality. The ambassador now began cautiously to sound his man, who seems to have been outlawed from the Tuscan duchy, telling him he knew a way by which he might return with favour to his home, and at last disclosing the affair of Lorenzo. Bebo was puzzled at first, but when he understood the matter, he professed his willingness, took letters from the envoy to the Duke of Florence, and, in a private audience with Cosimo, informed him that he was ready to attempt Lorenzino's assassination. He added that 'he had a comrade fit for such a job, whose fellow for the business could not easily be found.'

Bebo now travelled to Vicenza, and opened the whole matter to Bibboni, who weighed it well, and at last, being convinced that the Duke's commission to his comrade was bona fide, determined to take his share in the undertaking. The two agreed to have no accomplices. They went to Venice, and 'I,' says Bibboni, 'being most intimately acquainted with all that city, and provided there with many friends, soon quietly contrived to know where Lorenzino lodged, and took a room in the neighbourhood, and spent some days in seeing how we best might rule our conduct.' Bibboni soon discovered that Lorenzino never left his palace; and he therefore remained in much perplexity, until, by good luck, Ruberto Strozzi arrived from France in Venice, bringing in his train a Navarrese servant, who had the nickname of Spagnoletto. This fellow was a great friend of the bravo. They met, and Bibboni told him that he should like to go and kiss the hands of Messer Ruberto, whom he had known in Rome. Strozzi inhabited the same palace as Lorenzino. 'When we arrived there, both Messer Ruberto and Lorenzo were leaving the house, and there were around them so many gentlemen and other persons, that I could not present myself, and both straightway stepped into the gondola. Then I, not having seen Lorenzo for a long while past, and because he was very quietly attired, could not recognise the man exactly, but only as it were between certainty and doubt. Wherefore I said to Spagnoletto, "I think I know that gentleman, but don't remember where I saw him." And Messer Ruberto was giving him his right hand. Then Spagnoletto answered, "You know him well enough; he is Messer Lorenzo. But see you tell this to nobody. He goes by the name of Messer Dario, because he lives in great fear for his safety, and people don't know that he is now in Venice." I answered that I marvelled much, and if I could have helped him, would have done so willingly. Then I asked where they were going, and he said, to dine with Messer Giovanni della Casa, who was the Pope's Legate. I did not leave the man till I had drawn from him all I required.'

Thus spoke the Italian Judas. The appearance of La Casa on the scene is interesting. He was the celebrated author of the scandalous 'Capitolo del Forno,' the author of many sublime and melancholy sonnets, who was now at Venice, prosecuting a charge of heresy against Pier Paolo Vergerio, and paying his addresses to a noble lady of the Quirini family. It seems that on the territory of San Marco he made common cause with the exiles from Florence, for he was himself by birth a Florentine, and he had no objection to take Brutus-Lorenzino by the hand.

After the noblemen had rowed off in their gondola to dine with the Legate, Bibboni and his friend entered their palace, where he found another old acquaintance, the house-steward, or spenditore of Lorenzo. From him he gathered much useful information. Pietro Strozzi, it seems, had allowed the tyrannicide one thousand five hundred crowns a year, with the keep of three brave and daring companions (tre compagni bravi e facinorosi), and a palace worth fifty crowns on lease. But Lorenzo had just taken another on the Campo di San Polo at three hundred crowns a year, for which swagger (altura) Pietro Strozzi had struck a thousand crowns off his allowance. Bibboni also learned that he was keeping house with his uncle, Alessandro Soderini, another Florentine outlaw, and that he was ardently in love with a certain beautiful Barozza. This woman was apparently one of the grand courtesans of Venice. He further ascertained the date when he was going to move into the palace at San Polo, and, 'to put it briefly, knew everything he did, and, as it were, how many times a day he spit.' Such were the intelligences of the servants' hall, and of such value were they to men of Bibboni's calling.

In the Carnival of 1546 Lorenzo meant to go masqued in the habit of a gipsy woman to the square of San Spirito, where there was to be a joust. Great crowds of people would assemble, and Bibboni hoped to do his business there. The assassination, however, failed on this occasion, and Lorenzo took up his abode in the palace he had hired upon the Campo di San Polo. This Campo is one of the largest open places in Venice, shaped irregularly, with a finely curving line upon the western side, where two of the noblest private houses in the city are still standing. Nearly opposite these, in the south-western angle, stands, detached, the little old church of San Polo. One of its side entrances opens upon the square; the other on a lane, which leads eventually to the Frari. There is nothing in Bibboni's narrative to make it clear where Lorenzo hired his dwelling. But it would seem from certain things which he says later on, that in order to enter the church his victim had to cross the square. Meanwhile Bibboni took the precaution of making friends with a shoemaker, whose shop commanded the whole Campo, including Lorenzo's palace. In this shop he began to spend much of his time; 'and oftentimes I feigned to be asleep; but God knows whether I was sleeping, for my mind, at any rate, was wide-awake.'

A second convenient occasion for murdering Lorenzo soon seemed to offer. He was bidden to dine with Monsignor della Casa; and Bibboni, putting a bold face on, entered the Legate's palace, having left Bebo below in the loggia, fully resolved to do the business. 'But we found,' he says, 'that, they had gone to dine at Murano, so that we remained with our tabors in their bag.' The island of Murano at that period was a favourite resort of the Venetian nobles, especially of the more literary and artistic, who kept country-houses there, where they enjoyed the fresh air of the lagoons and the quiet of their gardens.

The third occasion, after all these weeks of watching, brought success to Bibboni's schemes. He had observed how Lorenzo occasionally so far broke his rules of caution as to go on foot, past the church of San Polo, to visit the beautiful Barozza; and he resolved, if possible, to catch him on one of these journeys. 'It so chanced on the 28th of February, which was the second Sunday of Lent, that having gone, as was my wont, to pry out whether Lorenzo would give orders for going abroad that day, I entered the shoemaker's shop, and stayed awhile, until Lorenzo came to the window with a napkin round his neck for he was combing his hair—and at the same moment I saw a certain Giovan Battista Martelli, who kept his sword for the defence of Lorenzo's person, enter and come forth again. Concluding that they would probably go abroad, I went home to get ready and procure the necessary weapons, and there I found Bebo asleep in bed, and made him get up at once, and we came to our accustomed post of observation, by the church of San Polo, where our men would have to pass.' Bibboni now retired to his friend the shoemaker's, and Bebo took up his station at one of the side-doors of San Polo; 'and, as good luck would have it, Giovan Battista Martelli came forth, and walked a piece in front, and then Lorenzo came, and then Alessandro Soderini, going the one behind the other, like storks, and Lorenzo, on entering the church, and lifting up the curtain of the door, was seen from the opposite door by Bebo, who at the same time noticed how I had left the shop, and so we met upon the street as we had agreed, and he told me that Lorenzo was inside the church.'

To any one who knows the Campo di San Polo, it will be apparent that Lorenzo had crossed from the western side of the piazza and entered the church by what is technically called its northern door. Bebo, stationed at the southern door, could see him when he pushed the heavy stoia or leather curtain aside, and at the same time could observe Bibboni's movements in the cobbler's shop. Meanwhile Lorenzo walked across the church and came to the same door where Bebo had been standing. 'I saw him issue from the church and take the main street; then came Alessandro Soderini, and I walked last of all; and when we reached the point we had determined on, I jumped in front of Alessandro with the poignard in my hand, crying, "Hold hard, Alessandro, and get along with you in God's name, for we are not here for you!" He then threw himself around my waist, and grasped my arms, and kept on calling out. Seeing how wrong I had been to try to spare his life, I wrenched myself as well as I could from his grip, and with my lifted poignard struck him, as God willed, above the eyebrow, and a little blood trickled from the wound. He, in high fury, gave me such a thrust that I fell backward, and the ground besides was slippery from having rained a little. Then Alessandro drew his sword, which he carried in its scabbard, and thrust at me in front, and struck me on the corslet, which for my good fortune was of double mail. Before I could get ready I received three passes, which, had I worn a doublet instead of that mailed corslet, would certainly have run me through. At the fourth pass I had regained my strength and spirit, and closed with him, and stabbed him four times in the head, and being so close he could not use his sword, but tried to parry with his hand and hilt, and I, as God willed, struck him at the wrist below the sleeve of mail, and cut his hand off clean, and gave him then one last stroke on his head. Thereupon he begged for God's sake spare his life, and I, in trouble about Bebo, left him in the arms of a Venetian nobleman, who held him back from jumping into the canal.'

Who this Venetian nobleman, found unexpectedly upon the scene, was, does not appear. Nor, what is still more curious, do we hear anything of that Martelli, the bravo, 'who kept his sword for the defence of Lorenzo's person.' The one had arrived accidentally, it seems. The other must have been a coward and escaped from the scuffle.

'When I turned,' proceeds Bibboni, 'I found Lorenzo on his knees. He raised himself, and I, in anger, gave him a great cut across the head, which split it in two pieces, and laid him at my feet, and he never rose again.'


Bebo, meanwhile, had made off from the scene of action. And Bibboni, taking to his heels, came up with him in the little square of San Marcello. They now ran for their lives till they reached the traghetto di San Spirito, where they threw their poignards into the water, remembering that no man might carry these in Venice under penalty of the galleys. Bibboni's white hose were drenched with blood. He therefore agreed to separate from Bebo, having named a rendezvous. Left alone, his ill luck brought him face to face with twenty constables (sbirri). 'In a moment I conceived that they knew everything, and were come to capture me, and of a truth I saw that it was over with me. As swiftly as I could I quickened pace and got into a church, near to which was the house of a Compagnia, and the one opened into the other, and knelt down and prayed, commending myself with fervour to God for my deliverance and safety. Yet while I prayed, I kept my eyes well open and saw the whole band pass the church, except one man who entered, and I strained my sight so that I seemed to see behind as well as in front, and then it was I longed for my poignard, for I should not have heeded being in a church.' But the constable, it soon appeared, was not looking for Bibboni. So he gathered up his courage, and ran for the Church of San Spirito, where the Padre Andrea Volterrano was preaching to a great congregation. He hoped to go in by one door and out by the other, but the crowd prevented him, and he had to turn back and face the sbirri. One of them followed him, having probably caught sight of the blood upon his hose. Then Bibboni resolved to have done with the fellow, and rushed at him, and flung him down with his head upon the pavement, and ran like mad and came at last, all out of breath, to San Marco. It seems clear that before Bibboni separated from Bebo they had crossed the water, for the Sestiere di San Polo is separated from the Sestiere di San Marco by the Grand Canal. And this they must have done at the traghetto di San Spirito. Neither the church nor the traghetto are now in existence, and this part of the story is therefore obscure.[14] Having reached San Marco, he took a gondola at the Ponte della Paglia, where tourists are now wont to stand and contemplate the Ducal Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. First, he sought the house of a woman of the town who was his friend; then changed purpose, and rowed to the palace of the Count Salici da Collalto. 'He was a great friend and intimate of ours, because Bebo and I had done him many and great services in times passed. There I knocked; and Bebo opened the door, and when he saw me dabbled with blood, he marvelled that I had not come to grief and fallen into the hands of justice, and, indeed, had feared as much because I had remained so long away.' It appears, therefore, that the Palazzo Collalto was their rendezvous. 'The Count was from home; but being known to all his people, I played the master and went into the kitchen to the fire, and with soap and water turned my hose, which had been white, to a grey colour.' This is a very delicate way of saying that he washed out the blood of Alessandro and Lorenzo!

Soon after the Count returned, and 'lavished caresses' upon Bebo and his precious comrade. They did not tell him what they had achieved that morning, but put him off with a story of having settled a sbirro in a quarrel about a girl. Then the Count invited them to dinner; and being himself bound to entertain the first physician of Venice, requested them to take it in an upper chamber. He and his secretary served them with their own hands at table. When the physician arrived, the Count went downstairs; and at this moment a messenger came from Lorenzo's mother, begging the doctor to go at once to San Polo, for that her son had been murdered and Soderini wounded to the death. It was now no longer possible to conceal their doings from the Count, who told them to pluck up courage and abide in patience. He had himself to dine and take his siesta, and then to attend a meeting of the Council.

About the hour of vespers, Bibboni determined to seek better refuge. Followed at a discreet distance by Bebo, he first called at their lodgings and ordered supper. Two priests came in and fell into conversation with them. But something in the behaviour of one of these good men roused his suspicions. So they left the house, took a gondola, and told the man to row hard to S. Maria Zobenigo. On the way he bade him put them on shore, paid him well, and ordered him to wait for them. They landed near the palace of the Spanish embassy; and here Bibboni meant to seek sanctuary. For it must be remembered that the houses of ambassadors, no less than of princes of the Church, were inviolable. They offered the most convenient harbouring-places to rascals. Charles V., moreover, was deeply interested in the vengeance taken on Alessandro de' Medici's murderer, for his own natural daughter was Alessandro's widow and Duchess of Florence. In the palace they were met with much courtesy by about forty Spaniards, who showed considerable curiosity, and told them that Lorenzo and Alessandro Soderini had been murdered that morning by two men whose description answered to their appearance. Bibboni put their questions by and asked to see the ambassador. He was not at home. In that case, said Bibboni, take us to the secretary. Attended by some thirty Spaniards, 'with great joy and gladness,' they were shown into the secretary's chamber. He sent the rest of the folk away, 'and locked the door well, and then embraced and kissed us before we had said a word, and afterwards bade us talk freely without any fear.' When Bibboni had told the whole story, he was again embraced and kissed by the secretary, who thereupon left them and went to the private apartment of the ambassador. Shortly after he returned and led them by a winding staircase into the presence of his master. The ambassador greeted them with great honour, told them he would strain all the power of the empire to hand them in safety over to Duke Cosimo, and that he had already sent a courier to the Emperor with the good news.

So they remained in hiding in the Spanish embassy; and in ten days' time commands were received from Charles himself that everything should be done to convey them safely to Florence. The difficulty was how to smuggle them out of Venice, where the police of the Republic were on watch, and Florentine outlaws were mounting guard on sea and shore to catch them. The ambassador began by spreading reports on the Rialto every morning of their having been seen at Padua, at Verona, in Friuli. He then hired a palace at Malghera, near Mestre, and went out daily with fifty Spaniards, and took carriage or amused himself with horse exercise and shooting. The Florentines, who were on watch, could only discover from his people that he did this for amusement. When he thought that he had put them sufficiently off their guard, the ambassador one day took Bibboni and Bebo out by Canaregio and Mestre to Malghera, concealed in his own gondola, with the whole train of Spaniards in attendance. And though, on landing, the Florentines challenged them, they durst not interfere with an ambassador or come to battle with his men. So Bebo and Bibboni were hustled into a coach, and afterwards provided with two comrades and four horses. They rode for ninety miles without stopping to sleep, and on the day following this long journey reached Trento, having probably threaded the mountain valleys above Bassano, for Bibboni speaks of a certain village where the people talked half German. The Imperial Ambassador at Trento forwarded them next day to Mantua; from Mantua they came to Piacenza; thence, passing through the valley of the Taro, crossing the Apennines at Cisa, descending on Pontremoli, and reaching Pisa at night, the fourteenth day after their escape from Venice.

When they arrived at Pisa, Duke Cosimo was supping. So they went to an inn, and next morning presented themselves to his Grace. Cosimo received them kindly, assured them of his gratitude, confirmed them in the enjoyment of their rewards and privileges, and swore that they might rest secure of his protection in all parts of his dominion. We may imagine how the men caroused together after this reception. As Bibboni adds, 'We were now able for the whole time of life left us to live splendidly, without a thought or care.' The last words of his narrative are these: 'Bebo from Pisa, at what date I know not, went home to Volterra, his native town, and there finished his days; while I abode in Florence, where I have had no further wish to hear of wars, but to live my life in holy peace.'

So ends the story of the two bravi. We have reason to believe, from some contemporary documents which Cantu has brought to light, that Bibboni exaggerated his own part in the affair. Luca Martelli, writing to Varchi, says that it was Bebo who clove Lorenzo's skull with a cutlass. He adds this curious detail, that the weapons of both men were poisoned, and that the wound inflicted by Bibboni on Soderini's hand was a slight one. Yet, the poignard being poisoned, Soderini died of it. In other respects Martelli's brief account agrees with that given by Bibboni, who probably did no more, his comrade being dead, than claim for himself, at some expense of truth, the lion's share of their heroic action.


It remains to ask ourselves, What opinion can be justly formed of Lorenzino's character and motives? When he murdered his cousin, was he really actuated by the patriotic desire to rid his country of a monster? Did he imitate the Roman Brutus in the noble spirit of his predecessors, Olgiati and Boscoli, martyrs to the creed of tyrannicide? Or must this crowning action of a fretful life be explained, like his previous mutilation of the statues on the Arch of Constantine, by a wild thirst for notoriety? Did he hope that the exiles would return to Florence, and that he would enjoy an honourable life, an immortality of glorious renown? Did envy for his cousin's greatness and resentment of his undisguised contempt—the passions of one who had been used for vile ends—conscious of self-degradation and the loss of honour, yet mindful of his intellectual superiority—did these emotions take fire in him and mingle with a scholar's reminiscences of antique heroism, prompting him to plan a deed which should at least assume the show of patriotic zeal, and prove indubitable courage in its perpetrator? Did he, again, perhaps imagine, being next in blood to Alessandro and direct heir to the ducal crown by the Imperial Settlement of 1530, that the city would elect her liberator for her ruler? Alfieri and Niccolini, having taken, as it were, a brief in favour of tyrannicide, praised Lorenzino as a hero. De Musset, who wrote a considerable drama on his story, painted him as a roue corrupted by society, enfeebled by circumstance, soured by commerce with an uncongenial world, who hides at the bottom of his mixed nature enough of real nobility to make him the leader of a forlorn hope for the liberties of Florence. This is the most favourable construction we can put upon Lorenzo's conduct. Yet some facts of the case warn us to suspend our judgment. He seems to have formed no plan for the liberation of his fellow-citizens. He gave no pledge of self-devotion by avowing his deed and abiding by its issues. He showed none of the qualities of a leader, whether in the cause of freedom or of his own dynastic interests, after the murder. He escaped as soon as he was able, as secretly as he could manage, leaving the city in confusion, and exposing himself to the obvious charge of abominable treason. So far as the Florentines knew, his assassination of their Duke was but a piece of private spite, executed with infernal craft. It is true that when he seized the pen in exile, he did his best to claim the guerdon of a patriot, and to throw the blame of failure on the Florentines. In his Apology, and in a letter written to Francesco de' Medici, he taunts them with lacking the spirit to extinguish tyranny when he had slain the tyrant. He summons plausible excuses to his aid—the impossibility of taking persons of importance into his confidence, the loss of blood he suffered from his wound, the uselessness of rousing citizens whom events proved over-indolent for action. He declares that he has nothing to regret. Having proved by deeds his will to serve his country, he has saved his life in order to spend it for her when occasion offered. But these arguments, invented after the catastrophe, these words, so bravely penned when action ought to have confirmed his resolution, do not meet the case. It was no deed of a true hero to assassinate a despot, knowing or half knowing that the despot's subjects would immediately elect another. Their languor could not, except rhetorically, be advanced in defence of his own flight.

The historian is driven to seek both the explanation and palliation of Lorenzo's failure in the temper of his times. There was enough daring left in Florence to carry through a plan of brilliant treason, modelled on an antique Roman tragedy. But there was not moral force in the protagonist to render that act salutary, not public energy sufficient in his fellow-citizens to accomplish his drama of deliverance. Lorenzo was corrupt. Florence was flaccid. Evil manners had emasculated the hero. In the state the last spark of independence had expired with Ferrucci.

Still I have not without forethought dubbed this man a Cinque Cento Brutus. Like much of the art and literature of his century, his action may be regarded as a bizarre imitation of the antique manner. Without the force and purpose of a Roman, Lorenzo set himself to copy Plutarch's men—just as sculptors carved Neptunes and Apollos without the dignity and serenity of the classic style. The antique faith was wanting to both murderer and craftsman in those days. Even as Renaissance work in art is too often aimless, decorative, vacant of intention, so Lorenzino's Brutus tragedy seems but the snapping of a pistol in void air. He had the audacity but not the ethical consistency of his crime. He played the part of Brutus like a Roscius, perfect in its histrionic details. And it doubtless gave to this skilful actor a supreme satisfaction—salving over many wounds of vanity, quenching the poignant thirst for things impossible and draughts of fame—that he could play it on no mimic stage, but on the theatre of Europe. The weakness of his conduct was the central weakness of his age and country. Italy herself lacked moral purpose, sense of righteous necessity, that consecration of self to a noble cause, which could alone have justified Lorenzo's perfidy. Confused memories of Judith, Jael, Brutus, and other classical tyrannicides, exalted his imagination. Longing for violent emotions, jaded with pleasure which had palled, discontented with his wasted life, jealous of his brutal cousin, appetitive to the last of glory, he conceived his scheme. Having conceived, he executed it with that which never failed in Cinque Cento Italy—the artistic spirit of perfection. When it was over, he shrugged his shoulders, wrote his magnificent Apology with a style of adamant upon a plate of steel, and left it for the outlaws of Filippo Strozzi's faction to deal with the crisis he had brought about. For some years he dragged out an ignoble life in obscurity, and died at last, as Varchi puts it, more by his own carelessness than by the watchful animosity of others. Over the wild, turbid, clever, incomprehensible, inconstant hero-artist's grave we write our Requiescat. Clio, as she takes the pen in hand to record this prayer, smiles disdainfully and turns to graver business.

* * * * *


There are few contrasts more striking than that which is presented by the memoirs of Goldoni and Alfieri. Both of these men bore names highly distinguished in the history of Italian literature. Both of them were framed by nature with strongly marked characters, and fitted to perform a special work in the world. Both have left behind them records of their lives and literary labours, singularly illustrative of their peculiar differences. There is no instance in which we see more clearly the philosophical value of autobiographies, than in these vivid pictures which the great Italian tragedian and comic author have delineated. Some of the most interesting works of Lionardo da Vinci, Giorgione, Albert Duerer, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Andrea del Sarto, are their portraits painted by themselves. These pictures exhibit not only the lineaments of the masters, but also their art. The hand which drew them was the hand which drew the 'Last Supper,' or the 'Madonna of the Tribune:' colour, method, chiaroscuro, all that makes up manner in painting, may be studied on the same canvas as that which faithfully represents the features of the man whose genius gave his style its special character. We seem to understand the clear calm majesty of Lionardo's manner, the silver-grey harmonies and smooth facility of Andrea's Madonnas, the better for looking at their faces drawn by their own hands at Florence. And if this be the case with a dumb picture, how far higher must be the interest and importance of the written life of a known author! Not only do we recognise in its composition the style and temper and habits of thought which are familiar to us in his other writings; but we also hear from his own lips how these were formed, how his tastes took their peculiar direction, what circumstances acted on his character, what hopes he had, and where he failed. Even should his autobiography not bear the marks of uniform candour, it probably reveals more of the actual truth, more of the man's real nature in its height and depth, than any memoir written by friend or foe. Its unconscious admissions, its general spirit, and the inferences which we draw from its perusal, are far more valuable than any mere statement of facts or external analysis, however scientific. When we become acquainted with the series of events which led to the conception or attended the production of some masterpiece of literature, a new light is thrown upon its beauties, fresh life bursts forth from every chapter, and we seem to have a nearer and more personal interest in its success. What a powerful sensation, for instance, is that which we experience when, after studying the 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,' Gibbon tells us how the thought of writing it came to him upon the Capitol, among the ruins of dead Rome, and within hearing of the mutter of the monks of Ara Coeli, and how he finished it one night by Lake Geneva, and laid his pen down and walked forth and saw the stars above his terrace at Lausanne!

The memoirs of Alfieri and Goldoni are not deficient in any of the characteristics of good autobiography. They seem to bear upon their face the stamp of truthfulness, they illustrate their authors' lives with marvellous lucidity, and they are full of interest as stories. But it is to the contrast which they present that our attention should be chiefly drawn. Other biographies may be as interesting and amusing. None show in a more marked manner two distinct natures endowed with genius for one art, and yet designed in every possible particular for different branches of that art. Alfieri embodies Tragedy; Goldoni is the spirit of Comedy. They are both Italians: their tragedies and comedies are by no means cosmopolitan; but this national identity of character only renders more remarkable the individual divergences by which they were impelled into their different paths. Thalia seems to have made the one, body, soul, and spirit; and Melpomene the other; each goddess launched her favourite into circumstances suited to the evolution of his genius, and presided over his development, so that at his death she might exclaim,—Behold the living model of my Art!

Goldoni was born at Venice in the year 1707; he had already reached celebrity when Alfieri saw the light for the first time, in 1749, at Asti. Goldoni's grandfather was a native of Modena, who had settled in Venice, and there lived with the prodigality of a rich and ostentatious 'bourgeois.' 'Amid riot and luxury did I enter the world,' says the poet, after enumerating the banquets and theatrical displays with which the old Goldoni entertained his guests in his Venetian palace and country-house. Venice at that date was certainly the proper birthplace for a comic poet. The splendour of the Renaissance had thoroughly habituated her nobles to pleasures of the sense, and had enervated their proud, maritime character, while the great name of the republic robbed them of the caution for which they used to be conspicuous. Yet the real strength of Venice was almost spent, and nothing remained but outward insolence and prestige. Everything was gay about Goldoni in his earliest childhood. Puppet-shows were built to amuse him by his grandfather. 'My mother,' he says, 'took charge of my education, and my father of my amusements.' Let us turn to the opening scene in Alfieri's life, and mark the difference. A father above sixty, 'noble, wealthy, and respectable,' who died before his son had reached the age of one year old. A mother devoted to religion, the widow of one marquis, and after the death of a second husband, Alfieri's father, married for the third time to a nobleman of ancient birth. These were Alfieri's parents. He was born in a solemn palazzo in the country town of Asti, and at the age of five already longed for death as an escape from disease and other earthly troubles. So noble and so wealthy was the youthful poet that an abbe was engaged to carry out his education, but not to teach him more than a count should know. Except this worthy man he had no companions whatever. Strange ideas possessed the boy. He ruminated on his melancholy, and when eight years old attempted suicide. At this age he was sent to the academy at Turin, attended, as befitted a lad of his rank, by a man-servant, who was to remain and wait on him at school. Alfieri stayed here several years without revisiting his home, tyrannised over by the valet who added to his grandeur, constantly subject to sickness, and kept in almost total ignorance by his incompetent preceptors. The gloom and pride and stoicism of his temperament were augmented by this unnatural discipline. His spirit did not break, but took a haughtier and more disdainful tone. He became familiar with misfortunes. He learned to brood over and intensify his passions. Every circumstance of his life seemed strung up to a tragic pitch. This at least is the impression which remains upon our mind after reading in his memoirs the narrative of what must in many of its details have been a common schoolboy's life at that time.

Meanwhile, what had become of young Goldoni? His boyhood was as thoroughly plebeian, various, and comic as Alfieri's had been patrician, monotonous, and tragical. Instead of one place of residence, we read of twenty. Scrape succeeds to scrape, adventure to adventure. Knowledge of the world, and some book learning also, flow in upon the boy, and are eagerly caught up by him and heterogeneously amalgamated in his mind. Alfieri learned nothing, wrote nothing, in his youth, and heard his parents say—'A nobleman need never strive to be a doctor of the faculties.' Goldoni had a little medicine and much law thrust upon him. At eight he wrote a comedy, and ere long began to read the plays of Plautus, Terence, Aristophanes, and Machiavelli. Between the nature of the two poets there was a marked and characteristic difference as to their mode of labour and of acquiring knowledge. Both of them loved fame, and wrought for it; but Alfieri did so from a sense of pride and a determination to excel; while Goldoni loved the approbation of his fellows, sought their compliments, and basked in the sunshine of smiles. Alfieri wrote with labour. Each tragedy he composed went through a triple process of composition, and received frequent polishing when finished. Goldoni dashed off his pieces with the greatest ease on every possible subject. He once produced sixteen comedies in one theatrical season. Alfieri's were like lion's whelps—brought forth with difficulty, and at long intervals; Goldoni's, like the brood of a hare—many, frequent, and as agile as their parent. Alfieri amassed knowledge scrupulously, but with infinite toil. He mastered Greek and Hebrew when he was past forty. Goldoni never gave himself the least trouble to learn anything, but trusted to the ready wit, good memory, and natural powers, which helped him in a hundred strange emergencies. Power of will and pride sustained the one; facility and a good-humoured vanity the other. This contrast was apparent at a very early age. We have seen how Alfieri passed his time at Turin, in a kind of aristocratic prison of educational ignorance. Goldoni's grandfather died when he was five years old, and left his family in great embarrassment. The poet's father went off to practise medicine at Perugia. His son followed him, acquired the rudiments of knowledge in that town, and then proceeded to study philosophy alone at Rimini. There was no man-servant or academy in his case. He was far too plebeian and too free. The boy lodged with a merchant, and got some smattering of Thomas Aquinas and the Peripatetics into his small brain, while he contrived to form a friendship with an acting company. They were on the wing for Venice in a coasting boat, which would touch at Chiozza, where Goldoni's mother then resided. The boy pleased them. Would he like the voyage? This offer seemed too tempting, and away he rushed, concealed himself on board, and made one of a merry motley shipload. 'Twelve persons, actors as well as actresses, a prompter, a machinist, a storekeeper, eight domestics, four chambermaids, two nurses, children of every age, cats, dogs, monkeys, parrots, birds, pigeons, and a lamb; it was another Noah's ark.' The young poet felt at home; how could a comic poet feel otherwise? They laughed, they sang, they danced; they ate and drank, and played at cards. 'Macaroni! Every one fell on it, and three dishes were devoured. We had also alamode beef, cold fowl, a loin of veal, a dessert, and excellent wine. What a charming dinner! No cheer like a good appetite.' Their harmony, however, was disturbed. The 'premiere amoureuse,' who, in spite of her rank and title, was ugly and cross, and required to be coaxed with cups of chocolate, lost her cat. She tried to kill the whole boat-load of beasts—cats, dogs, monkeys, parrots, pigeons, even the lamb stood in danger of her wrath. A regular quarrel ensued, was somehow set at peace, and all began to laugh again. This is a sample of Goldoni's youth. Comic pleasures, comic dangers; nothing deep or lasting, but light and shadow cheerfully distributed, clouds lowering with storm, a distant growl of thunder, then a gleam of light and sunshine breaking overhead. He gets articled to an attorney at Venice, then goes to study law at Pavia; studies society instead, and flirts, and finally is expelled for writing satires. Then he takes a turn at medicine with his father in Friuli, and acts as clerk to the criminal chancellor at Chiozza.

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