him into the high and literary circle, where he speedily made himself the object of very general admiration. He obtained admission into those private academics, which had been instituted under the genial patronage of the Medici for the advancement of literature and for the cementing of friendships among its votarics. In these assemblies, in which “ it was the custom,”! as he tells


" that every one should give some proof of his wit and reading," many of his productions, either those of his younger years or “ those,' which he had shifted in scarcity of books and conveniencies to patch up among them,” were received with much applause, “and with written encomiums, which the Italian is not forward to bestow on men of this side the Alps."

It was at this time that Carlo Dati, a nobleman of Florence, and Antonio Francini, of a rank only one step lower, both men of talents and literary renown, presented our traveller with an offering of their respect, one in an Italian ode of considerable merit, predicting his future greatness, and the other in a Latin address, in which admiration is expressed in terms of extreme and almost extravagant panegyric.

9 The Reason of Church Gov. P. W. i. 119.


Beside the two whom we have now mentioned, the English bard could number on the list of his friends, conciliated by his learning talents and manners, the respectable literary names of Gaddi, Frescobaldi, Coltellino, Buonmattei, Clementillo, and Malatesti. The applause and respect which he obtained seems to have been unlimited; and the transalpine scholars appear to have been lost in surprise at the spectacle, presented to then, of a native of Britain, a country just emnerging, as they imagined, from barbarism, who to an acquaintance, not superficial, with all the sciences united a profound knowledge of classic and Italian letters; whose mind was at once sublime and deep, accurate and comprehensive, powerful and acute; patient to follow judgment in the gradual investigation of philosophical truth, yet delighted to fly with the more aerial offspring of the brain on the high and espatiating wing of imagination. Of all his rare accomplishments and talents however, none perhaps would more forcibly strike the attention and win the regard of the Italians than his absolute com

s A work called “ La Tina,” or the “ Wine-Press,” by An. tonio Malatesti, and dedicated to Milton while at Florence, was found on a bookstall and purchased by Mr. Brand. He gave it to Mr. Hollis, and Mr. Hollis sent it, with Milton's works and his life by Toland, in 1758 to the Academy della Crusca.

mand of their language and the affection which he discovered for it. So perfect was his knowledge of it that he was frequently consulted respecting its niceties by the Academy della Crusca, instituted expressly for its preservation and improvement. So strong was his attachment to Italian literature that, in a letter to Buonmattei, in which he offers some advice to that author then on the point of publishing an Italian grammar, he declares that "' neither Athens herself with her lucid Ilissus, nor ancient Rome with the banks of her Tiber could so entirely detain him, as to prevent him from visiting with fondness the vale of the Arno and the hills of Fesolé."

During this visit to Florence, he saw and conversed with the great Galileo, that memorable victim of priestly ignorance and superstition. For his philosophical opinions, which were supposed to contradict the assertions of the Holy Scriptures on the subject of the earth's figure and motion, this illustrious man had been imprisoned for five months by the Inquisition; and was now resident near Florence in a state of aggravated infirmity

? Nec me tam ipsæ Athena Atticæ, cum illo suo pellucido Ilisso, nec illa vetus Roma, suà Tiberis ripâ, retinere valuerunt, quin sæpe Arnum vestrum, et Fæsulanos illos colles invisere amem. Epis. Fam. P. W. vi. 118.

from age, sickness, and mental distress. Rolli, the Italian biographer of Milton, supposes that from his intercourse with the Tuscan astronomer the English poet gained those ideas, approaching to the Newtonian, respecting our planetary system which he has discovered in the Paradise Lost. If this supposition be just, it must be the subject of our surprise as it is of our regret that a system which, with its obvious simplicity, would enforce the conviction of any philosophic and acute mind even without the demonstration of Newton's mathematics, should not have obtained our poet's entire assent; and thus have saved him from that awkward halting between two opinions which incidentally disfigures a few pages of his immortal epic.

On his leaving Florence, where he staid, as we have observed, two months, our traveller proceeded through Sienna to Rome. In this city of old and of modern renown, the mistress of the world at one time by her arms and laws, and of Europe at another by her policy and the engine of perverted religion, he passed two months in the contemplation of the wonders of her ancient and modern art, and in the society made more interesting by the friendship of her scholars and her great men. The kindness of Holstenius, the learned keeper of the Vatican library, not only opened to him the curiosities of that grand repository of literature, but introduced him to the attentions of the Cardinal Barberini;* who at that time possessed the whole delegated sovereignty of Rome under his uncle, Urban VIII. At a great musical entertainment, which this opulent Cardinal gave with a magnificence truly Roman, he looked for our traveller among the crowd at the door, and brought him, almost by the hand, into the assembly." These benefits and favours were not forgotten by him; and the letter, which he addressed to Holstenius from Florence, constitutes their acknowledgment and requital.

4 “ There it was in Italy) that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for think. ing in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought.” A Speech for Unlicensed Printing. P. W.

1. 313.

* Tum nec aliter crediderim, quam quæ tu * de me verba feceris ad præstantissimum Cardin. Franc. Barberinum, iis factum esse, ut cum ille paucis post diebus expóqua illud Musicum magnificentiâ verè Romanâ publice exhiberet, ipse me tantâ in turbâ quæsitum ad fores expectans, et penè manu prehensum persanè honorificè intro admiserit. Epist. Fam. P. W. vi. 120.

y Mr. Todd, the industrious editor of Milton, has mentioned, on the authority of a MS. of Dr. Bargrave, that at this time every foreign nation had a particular guardian assigned to it at Rome in the person


one of the Cardinals; and that Barberini was the appointed guardian of the English. Todd's Life of Mil. p. xxviii,

* Holstenius.

« VorigeDoorgaan »